Candy-free Easter Egg Hunt

If you are tired of filling plastic eggs with unhealthy and costly candy and little trinkets for the annual Easter egg hunt, here is what we do:

Fill the eggs with Monopoly money and allow the kids to do the hunt. The child who ends up with the most money, wins the grand prize. That means that someone can find the most eggs but still lose, and it gives the younger ones still an opportunity to win. I like to take an ordinary egg and stuff it with a few $500s as the “golden egg”. We typically do a $10 gift card to a kid-friendly spot, and the kids aren’t overloaded on sugar or leaving little toys all over. Happy hunting and counting!

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Our “NYC Rooftop” Garden

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The other day while we were at Lowe’s, Joel decided he wanted to plant watermelon and cantaloupe seeds. While it is a little late to be planting, how could I say no to him? He was desiring to do that which I love which goes hand-in-hand with my passion for fresh, whole foods. So off to the fabric store we went to get burlap for our milk crate garden boxes.

The milk crate garden was an idea I stole from a NYC restaurant that utilizes their rooftop for a garden. Here we are constructing the garden boxes and planting the seeds. He was so patient as we cut, filled, planted, and watered. We even played “name that decomposing food” as we scooped out compost from our bin. (We have about 5 baby avocado trees thanks to our compost pile!)

Here is how we make each crate:

  • Line with burlap (I use 1 1/2 yards)

  • Tie burlap to the crate with string 

  • Place organic soil one third of the way up

  • Place in compost for the next layer

  • Fill to near the top with more organic soil

  • Plant seeds according to package directions 

The burlap helps hold in the soil and then naturally breaks apart towards the end of the growing season (notice the bright green crate…the burlap has disintegrated along the sides, but since my sweet potato vine has grown over into it, I have left it alone). I use the remaining burlap to line the very bottom of the next batch of milk crates before placing the new burlap in and draping it over the sides. I set the crates on brick to keep them off the ground and the bugs out as much as possible.

My garden isn’t grand, but I love my little garden. I haven’t bought tomatoes in 3 months, and I’m looking forward to harvesting my sweet potatoes and even possibly some melons 🙂

Grape and Strawberry Christmas Tree

10698554_925985044079417_3008334579085086101_nAlong with our gingerbread muffins we made today, I put this festive tree together with the last of the strawberries the kids picked at Avalon U-Pick Hydroponic Farm that’s just down the street from us. It’s all gone now 🙂

 

Chocolate Nut Bars (No Bake!)

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I made these yummy bars this morning, and my kids and mother-in-law ate them up after our lunch of homemade pizza, Caesar salad , and seared chicken. A small handful of ingredients, a food processor, and a wax paper-lined pan is all you need!

Chocolate Nut Bars

-1 cup of nuts (I used almonds and cashews)
-2 cups of dates
-1/2 cup organic Cocoa powder
-1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place nuts into a jar. Add just enough water to cover nuts. Allow them to soak for at least 30 min. Line an 8×8 pan with waxed paper, allowing paper to hang over edges. Place nuts (and soaking water) into a food processor. Process until thoroughly chopped and paste like. Remove into the lined pan. Place dates into processor and process until dates are also thoroughly chopped. Add in cocoa, vanilla, and nut mixture. Once again, process until mixed. Add in chocolate chips and pulse until evenly distributed. Press mixture into lined pan until smooth on top. Place in fridge for about 30 min. Slice into desired size bars and serve. Keep covered in the refrigerator.

Joel’s Thanksgiving Recipes – How a 5 Year Old Would Cook Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Cooking 101: Meal prep through the eyes of my son. I love how he watches me and incorporates what he knows into the recipes. Thanks to his wonderful preschool teacher, Mrs. Sink, for putting this together.

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Anna’s “Summer Meets Fall” Dessert

 

IMG_1148Today, on the way home from school, Anna said she had been thinking and wanted to make a dessert for us. Since Central Florida is sopping wet, football practices and games have been canceled for week #2, so we had the whole evening at home  together as a family! After backyard playing, showers, and dinner, Anna joined me in the kitchen to make this “Summer (Cherries) Meets Fall (Apples)” Dessert.

  • 2 cups organic whipped cream (about 1 cup organic cream and 1 Tablespoon honey whipped together until soft peaks form)

  • 1 organic apple, chopped

  • Cherry sauce (We had this leftover already in the fridge – click here for the recipe – just substitute the cherries for the berries)

  • Mini Chocolate chips

    Place a dollop of whipped cream on the bottom of a bowl. Add a large spoonful of cherry sauce, followed by chopped apples, more whipped cream and then the chocolate chips. This made 3 kid-sized servings and 1 adult serving. IMG_1149-0.JPG

Our Travels, Our Food, Our Mission

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and baking. This ensures that my family is being well-fed AND that we are saving money. My reward for all this work is knowing that when we go out to eat, we can do it well. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be fresh and real. So, on our 2 day excursion to Asheville, we took advantage of our time there. We love to eat, and the following pictures show it.Our favorite spot to visit is Sunny Point Cafe. They specialize in breakfast, but have some great main dishes too. They also grow a number of their veggies in the garden that sits alongside of the cafe (that’s where my “bee on the flower” photo was shot). Scott loves their carrot pancakes (that I did a “remake” of at home), and I love their Ahi tuna burger and their bean and veggie burger. And their local grits with local goat cheese also tops my list.
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Ahi Tuna Burger from Sunny Point Cafe
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Shrimp Ceviche from Tupelo Honey Cafe
We also headed to Tupelo Honey Cafe where I ordered shrimp ceviche – excellent flavor and very filling. On our last night there, we tried a new spot for us – Carmel’s. The salad I ordered was loaded with fresh berries, almonds, and goat cheese (there are a lot of goat farms around which is fine with me!). We all know how easy it is to overcook a chicken breast, but this one was super moist. I ate every bite of the entire salad 🙂 After our 6 mile hike, we went to Neo Burrito and I ordered the Spinach Cotija Burrito – rice, black beans, mushrooms, spinach, pesto, cotija cheese, and salsa. Did I mention a salsa bar for all your salsa needs? 20140918-184842.jpg
The Berry Salad with Blackened Chicken from Carmel’s – blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries galore!
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Spinach Cotija Burrito from Neo Burrito
Our final destination was Spartanburg for the RecSpo Conference. This event took place in the new Star Center which hosts Upwards Sports. What an awesome facility! The purpose of Upwards is to teach students the skills and sportsmanship of various sports while teaching them about the love of Jesus. And that is in part why we were there. While this began as a trip to earn credit for Scott’s seminary degree, it soon became an event we looked forward to attending since fitness and sports are highly valued by us. And even more importantly, we knew we would be learning how to reach people for Jesus through sports. Our hearts were blessed, contacts made, and prayers begun as we seek to see what God is calling us to do through the recreational activities we are involved in. While I know God has something specific He is calling me to do, and I am seeking Him on this, the one thing He did reveal to me while I was there is that I must be intentional about sharing Jesus with others where He currently has me – schools, ballet, football, grocery stores, and with friends and family. Please pray for me as I head forward with this truth and with whatever it is God is directly calling me to do. I am humbled and excited to see what’s in store for me (and my family)!20140918-184904.jpg
The BRAND NEW Star Center for Upwards Sports

 

The Best Things in Life Are Free Part 2 of 2

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From the veggie/flower garden of our favorite Asheville restaurant- Sunny Point Cafe

Yes, the best thing in life are free. My husband and I had the opportunity to get away for the week. We spent a couple of days in Asheville and then headed over to Spartanburg for the RecSpo Conference in the new Upwards Facility. This was part of his seminary degree, and I had the chance to attend as well. For two people that have a heart for fitness/sports and ministry, this was SWEET! Now to reflect and hear what God is leading us to do…

While on our trip we were able to take a hike through Graveyard Fields outside of Asheville. We were supposed to do a 3 mile hike, but we missed a turn and doubled it- oops! That’s okay because it made our post-hike burritos taste that much better. The sights, smells, cooler air, and heart-pumping walk were free…and wonderful!

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The beginning of our hike of Graveyard Fields

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From the top of Graveyard Fields

At our conference, legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden gave a great talk to all the attendees. I plopped myself outside the upper room where I knew he was and waited patiently for him to emerge. I asked for a photo because “I’m an FSU alumni” I told him, and he gave me a GREAT, BIG squeeze. (I think that’s a  smile on my face!) Yes that was free too – and a memory I will hold onto forever!20140918-184603.jpg

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The BRAND NEW Upwards fields where Scott was playing ultimate Frisbee

Then there is this photo of the soccer field. Scott was able to get out on a gorgeous afternoon and play some ultimate Frisbee while I was jiving with the ReFit Revolution ladies. There is something incredibly refreshing when you can move and feel alive! Yep. That’s free too.

The Best Thing in life is Jesus. He’s free. And the other best things in life – family, friends, creation, and simply enjoying life- are free too, so celebrate all things free this weekend!

The Best Things in Life Are Free Part 1 of 2

I’ve been a bit quiet here on my blog recently. This is because my time has been spent elsewhere- namely on my mom. My stepdad’s health has been poor, but about a month ago it began to deteriorate quite rapidly. And one and a half weeks ago, it plummeted to the point that even the doctor was surprised by his decent and hospice was called in. Then, just several days after hospice came on the scene, my stepdad peacefully left this earth. My mom has been amazing through it all. And she would be the first to tell you that it isn’t through her strength, but only because God’s strength is being made perfect through her weakness.

We were out to dinner the other night, and our waiter was telling the tourists next to us that the best things are free. He was referring to taking advantage of the nature that the area has to offer as opposed to spending money on other activities. That phrase – “the best things are free”- struck a cord with me because The Best Thing in life is free! I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to tell you of “That Thing”. We all have a void in our hearts that we seek to fill with countless “things” – money, people, fanfare, prestige, etc. But that void was created by a God who wonderfully created us, and it can only be filled with Him. But our sin seals our hearts and keeps Him out. It is only by God’s sacrifice of His son, Jesus, that that sin can be melted away and our fellowship with our Creator can be restored. Jesus is our gift from God – free and without strings. Yes. Free. We simply extend our hands of surrender to God, and He gives us forgiveness through Jesus. Then we have an amazing well spring of life that allows an unimaginable love and joy to flow out of our hearts and into the lives of others, bringing glory to God. I pray that you know Jesus and, if you don’t, please ask me Him because I want you to be with me in Heaven for eternity!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

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Summer Snap Shots

My girls started school last week, and my son AND husband (who graduates with his MDIV in May!!!!) start tomorrow. Here are some of my favorite memories of our summer…

 

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Sunrise run on Daytona Beach
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Sunrise run on Indialantic
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Sunrise run on Hilton Head
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Hiking the falls at Dupont State Park, NC

 

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Rafting the Pigeon Forge

 

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Eating fresh and delicious food with…
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my favorite little food connoisseurs!