{Homemaking Journal} New Spring Recipes

Five months into this whole mommy thing, I’m still loving the extra time I have to cook proper, delicious meals for my little family. Granted, this week included two nights back-to-back where I got precisely nothing on the table due to completely packed apartment days, but under average circumstances, I have the time and the energy to put yummy food in front of my hubby each night and I love it! Here are a few favorite new recipes from recent weeks. Please pardon the language in one of these blog URLs. It’s an unfortunate blog title but the food is scrumptious! My new favorite cooking blog for sure.

As always, I made numerous changes to these fine recipes…including altering them to be gluten free. Sorry for the poor photo of the Bang Bang Chicken! I always forget to get my Nikon out after I’m done cooking. =)

Trader Joe’s Spaghetti Squash Carbonara – I personally loved this more than the Cheesecake Factory version. To die for!

Cheesy Enchilada Rice Skillet – Nothing earth-shattering flavor-wise, but SO easy.

bangbangchickenBang Bang Chicken – I’ve made this twice already! DELICIOUS! Worth the fuss!

Cauliflower Chowder – I’m honestly not a big fan of cauliflower, but I absolutely loved this soup. And it was sooooo simple.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Panini – These satisfy that occasional and obsessive craving for something toasted with cheese.

Natural Beauty & Hygiene Products for Pregnancy

TeaTreeOilConcealerWhen I learned I was pregnant, I immediately stopped using a lot of mainstream products and replacing them with organic or more natural alternatives. In my mind, due to hormone imbalances and some small but present health concerns, I was a pretty good candidate for problems. If simple lifestyle adjustments had even the slightest chance of helping our baby’s wellbeing, I wanted to make them!

I usually only wear mascara, but I cut that completely for the first trimester. I have stayed 100% pain-med or other medication-free for the duration of pregnancy thus far, and replaced all moisturizers with coconut oil or Booda Butter. I thought I’d share three affordable products that I’ve discovered and been pleased with.

Note: be sure to do your own research to decide what ingredients, etc. you are comfortable using during pregnancy. 

NaturOli Shampoo – This shampoo has been wonderful! I don’t use any conditioner with it and I have far less frizz than I’ve ever had in my life, without a straightener or product. It doesn’t have any scent, which I miss, but it does the job and I can go 2-3 days without washing my hair if I want to. I’m about halfway through the bottle after almost six months, so it’s not as expensive as it seems.

Body Shop Tea Tree Concealer – When I finally resigned myself to the fact that acne would be my friend at least until baby arrives, I set out to find a harmless, natural concealer for my poor chin. This stuff is amazing! It goes on really well, especially with a light coconut oil base, and stays all day, and best of all, many of the ingredients are also recommended remedies for acne, so I don’t feel like I’m exacerbating the issue by using this. Multiple shades available!

Organic Island Deodorant – For being organic and harmless, this stuff works really well, and that’s coming from someone with a huge perspiration issue. Because of the coconut oil, I often have to run hot water over this for a few seconds to soften before applying. If I’m going to wear a black or sleeveless top, I try to let it “set” before I put on the shirt, as it does tend to rub off onto my clothes. (Comes out easily with a wet cloth though.) I have to apply it twice a day for it to stay effective, but I had to do that with other deodorants, too, and it is definitely better than nothing and so much safer than all the aluminum and chemical-filled options out there!

From Lazy Reader to Book Worm

Photo courtesy of elizabethannedesigns.com.

Photo courtesy of elizabethannedesigns.com.

Five weeks into my 2014 reading challenge (forty-seven to go, haha…check back with me next month) and I’m having a blast. I thought I’d offer some encouragement and tips to anyone else who wants to read but finds it a difficult discipline. I’ve been there for, oh, the last six years or so. Here are a few things that have helped me leave the lazy reader behind and start working toward becoming a book worm.

1. Make a list of what you want to read.

If you know ahead of time what you’d like to read, and you’ve even written it down, you won’t waste time in between books.

2. Get lost in several books simultaneously, preferably of varying genres or depth levels.

I wasn’t always in the mood for Paul David Tripp last month, and that was okay. I could take up I Will Carry You or Creative Counterpart instead and carry on with Tripp another day, without “losing” those opportune moments.

3. Choose to make reading your new go-to leisure activity.

I’m picking up my phone a lot less and grabbing a book a lot more these days. If I have ten spare minutes in between commitments, I squeeze in a chapter instead of scrolling Facebook.

4. Tell your friends about what you’re reading and encourage them to do the same!

Selena and I have formed an unofficial book club of two, and it’s motivating both of us to read more. You could also have a formal accountability partner if you’re really struggling.

5. Use Good Reads.

This is a great, free system for tracking what you’ve read, what you’d like to read, and what you’re currently reading. You can also create a reading challenge for yourself, and as you complete books, your challenge completion percentage will increase. Talk about incentive!

6. Watch for Kindle deals and use your library system and friends’ bookshelves.

You don’t have to pay list price for everything you pick up. I watch Amazon’s Monthly Kindle Deals for savings, buy their books used, and borrow from the library or a friend when I can.

7. Mark up those pages. 

I find that highlighting a book helps me get more out of it and remember more when I’m finished, and provides me with an easy way to go back to what I appreciated afterward. This makes reading feel more worthwhile and also makes writing book reviews less painful.

8. Remember that man’s words never trump God’s Word.

What we read, including devotional books, should never replace consistent time directly in the Bible. This is for many reasons, one of them being that if we are not in the Word regularly, we will lose our ability to discern truth from error in the books we read. We must make the Bible the standard against which we measure everything else we take in.

In conclusion…

If you’re someone who, like me, has wanted to read more but simply hasn’t made it happen, I hope some of these tips will help you carve out the time. Remember to keep reading in balance with the rest of life. Even a good thing can become an idol when we let it grow too important or cop an attitude when we can’t have it.

Happy reading! =)

What I Read in January

Hello, world! I’m back. I enjoyed a one-month break from blogging, but more on that later. One of the things I did while away was set a reading goal for the year. I hope to read 48 books by December 31. Why 48? Seems like a random number. It comes to four a month, which seemed a little more forgiving than the 52 book challenge, which is one a week.

This is a big jump for me, since I read somewhere around six books last year, and maybe three the year before. But it’s been a great goal this semester. With Andrew under a much heavier homework load, I appreciate having my own “assignments” to work on at 11:00 at night when he’s still plugging away and I’m tempted to throw a pity party.

I can’t wait to review at least some of the following books that I completed in January.


Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung – This short book seemed like a good foot to begin the new year on, and I was not disappointed!

A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You by Paul David Tripp – I appreciated this book, but realized partway through that it was largely What Did You Expect, but non-specific to marriage. A little redundant, but challenging nonetheless.

I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith – I cried a lot, but this story is well worth the read.

When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada – Coming from this woman, a book on suffering has a lot of credibility. It was definitely good, but fell a little flat theologically compared to similar books such as Trusting God (which I’m currently reading).

Creative Counterpart : Becoming the Woman, Wife, and Mother You Have Longed To Be by Linda Dillow – Watch for a review, this is a great book for any wife! I started this in the fall, so technically I didn’t read the whole thing in 2014 but I’m counting anything I finish in my list.

Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman – My sister-in-law gave this to me for Christmas and I’m looking forward to reviewing it. My copy is full of highlights!

Up Next:

Reckless Abandon: A modern-day Gospel pioneer’s exploits
First We Have Coffee

{Reading Report} Alone, Yet Not Alone

{Pre-written and scheduled post.}

Alone Yet Not Alone: Their Faith Became Their Freedom by Tracy Leininger Craven

1-4-2014 12-03-24 PMI read Alone Yet Not Alone as a girl of twelve or so. A gripping story from the beginning, Alone Yet Not Alone takes place in 1755 during the French and Indian War. A band of Indians sweeps into Buffalo Valley, where they burn the Leiningers’ cabin and take young sisters Barbara and Regina captive. The two are quickly separated and the story follows Barbara, the older of the two, as she becomes like one of the Indians’ daughters. Although cared for by the tribe, escape is constantly on her mind. She must find a way to locate her little sister. But even if she manages to escape, she’ll have countless other obstacles to overcome. She’ll be lost in a vast wilderness without food or sense of direction, and still in danger of being recaptured. It’s clear that she’ll have to rely on something more than her own strength and determination if she’s to survive. As her painful journey continues, Barbara learns first-hand of the power of a God Who never leaves nor forsakes, a God Who comforts when there is no human love to be found, a God Who is enough in and of Himself. Follow Barbara as she experiences God’s compassion and love through severe trials that would be unbearable without Him.

This true story reminded me of what a blessings I had in the comfort and security of North American living and a family that is never threatened with forced separation. It gave me perspective on trials, and most importantly it taught me truths of God’s love and faithfulness no matter what our circumstances may be.

Recommended read-aloud age: all ages
Recommended read-alone age: 10 and up

What I Read in 2013

In August, I turned a corner in my reading habits. It’s been years since I’ve faithfully read anything but my Bible. Up through high school, I read quite a bit, but then I got busier and I let books get crowded out of my schedule almost entirely. Next year, I hope to at least double the number of books read. I’d finished a few chapters in two of these titles previous to August, but that’s when I really started reading regularly.

What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp
This was an excellent book on marriage–fundamental, but challenging and encouraging. I’d highly recommend it. Review coming in the new year.


Matched (audio book) by Ally Condie
I’m kind of into these futuristic novels right now. They’re not for everyone, but I personally find them absolutely fascinating!

How to Worship Jesus Christ by Joseph Carroll

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman
My review.

When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper
My favorite quotes.

Catching Fire (audio book) by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (audio book) by Suzanne Collins


Unplanned by Abby Johnson
My review.

Good Intentions: Reaching Out During the Holidays


I’m a girl of a million good intentions. It’s said that “it’s the thought that counts.” That’s partially true. But what if I thought of offering to help my new neighbor move in, but never did? That thought was lovely while it dwelt in my apartment, but it didn’t do much good staying there.

I’m writing this post for two reasons.

  1. As a sort of accountability for myself and extra motivation to follow through with good intentions I have for reaching out this holiday season.
  2. To encourage you to consider doing something similar for your neighbors or others.

We live in a low-income area, in a fairly trashy apartment complex. I say “fairly” because “trashy” is oh, so relative. There are much worse places to live in LA, but there are also much better ones. Our complex houses very few Caucasians and lots of smokers, broken families, single moms, and at least one pot addict who, apparently, hangs out in close proximity to our bedroom window. All these ingredients combine into one perfect recipe for an awesome evangelistic opportunity, right down the hall.

Over the summer, I had a few opportunities to connect with neighbors at the pool, a popular hangout spot on hot afternoons. I shared the gospel with one and followed up with a home cooked meal for her a few days later. And my evangelistic efforts ended there. That was September. It’s now midway through November and I’ve done little more than smile and say “hello” to smokers on my way to the laundry room. I’m ashamed and convicted. So I’m going to use Christmas as an excuse to knock on my neighbors’ doors.

My plan is to make a bunch of Christmas cookies (hopefully with my Christian sem wife neighbor, Masha) and distribute them along with a solid tract and an invitation to our church, which is conveniently only a mile away from where all these people live. I’ll post after the Christmas season about whether or not I followed through with this. (That’s the accountability part.)

How about you? Do you know unbelievers who might be easier reached over the holidays? It’s a rather sad, empty time for many, especially those with rough relationships or broken families. Consider how you might use a little Christmas cheer as a tool in sharing the hope and salvation found only in Jesus Christ.

I know it seems a little early, but these things take forethought or they’re often never more than good intentions.

A Christmas Puzzle (And Other Traditions)


Christmas is only 44 days away and I can hardly wait. If you missed my advent book, family holiday movies, and children’s Christmas story recommendations, be sure to check them out. It’s never too early to start planning ahead for jolly family memories.

We have a few Christmas traditions coming up, many of which are adopted from things our families did when we were growing up. Some of my favorites:

1. We build this puzzle together and eat chocolate chip cookies. I usually contribute about ten pieces and Andrew does the other four hundred and ninety. Consider picking a Christmas puzzle to bring out every December!

2. We go to a U-cut farm and pick the perfect Christmas tree. We give him a name (past names are Stanley, Burton Guster, and Maurice) and drink hot cocoa while we decorate him.

3. We put on pajamas and drive around to look at Christmas lights.

4. We watch Elf and as many of the Christmas movies referenced above as possible.

There are others, but those are a few of my favorites. I’m so excited to be hand making several Christmas gifts this year, too. Nothing like getting crafty around the holidays! I may ban Andrew from my blog for a few weeks and post how his gift turns out. =)

44 days…

{Reading Report} Choosing to SEE

Choosing to SEEA month or two ago, I finished Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman. Many of you are familiar with the story of the (Steven Curtis) Chapman family’s young daughter, Maria, who was killed in a fluke accident. (Her brother accidentally hit her when pulling into their driveway.) In this raw account, Mary Beth (Maria’s mom) conveys her long, hard journey of unthinkable grief and inexpiable hope.

Time and again, God’s faithful presence was made known through small things only He could have orchestrated, from a coloring Maria left behind, to a stranger encountered at Disneyland.

I’ll be honest, I hoped for a little more straightforward gospel message in this book. There’s undeniably plenty of emphasis on God and His sovereignty, love, and care. I would have appreciated a more specific look at the cross and the Person of Jesus Christ in the midst of this trial.

That said, Choosing to SEE gave me an excruciating window into grieving the loss of a child. Christian or not, there are no words for a tragedy like this. I could feel the pain and begin to visualize the anguish through Mary Beth’s candid descriptions. It made the challenges I face pale in comparison, and, I trust, better prepared me to be as empathetic as possible with people I encounter who have experienced similar loss. For that reason alone, I’m glad to have read it.  It’s a well-written, honest look at the gaping hole left in the wake of a child’s death.

Here’s a taste of the book, via part of a letter that Mary Beth wrote to Steven and included in Choosing to SEE:

I know this is a difficult process for you, but please trust me when I say that the world will SEE and hear and many will put their trust in the Lord. Not because of you or your abilities, but because you have been a willing, broken vessel into which you’ve allowed God to pour Himself. You have set an example for your family on how to allow God to leak out of the broken pieces of our lives.

Again, I don’t like it one bit. I would be just fine with a perfectly unbroken vase, especially one that wasn’t broken over the loss of a child. But I’m trusting that God saw fit to entrust us to steward this catastrophic loss well. May He be honored with all us Chapmans as we do our best to let the world SEE that He alone is the Author of our salvation, the Mender of our hearts, the Healer of souls.

Choosing Gratitude Challenge

Would you like to join me in a 30-Day Choosing Gratitude Challenge?

I’m so excited to be sharing this project with my sem wives discipleship group and I’d love for you to hop on the band wagon, too! Each day includes a passage of Scripture (usually quite short), a few devotional thoughts, and a specific challenge or prayer prompt. For example, today’s suggestion is:

Ask the Lord to cultivate in you a more grateful heart over these next thirty days. If you have realized that your “Gratitude Quotient” is not what it should be, confess your ungrateful spirit to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you and to transform you into a truly thankful person.

What could come of this but good? Additional reading from God’s Word and encouragement in the area of gratitude to Him. Sign this ungrateful heart up!

Here’s the link: Growing In Gratitude 30 Day Challenge


I’ll kick off this challenge with a public thank you to the Lord for providing Andrew as my life partner. Recently I have been working through a handful of challenging circumstances and Andrew has been right there next to me in each one, encouraging, counseling, listening, and gently correcting me as I stumble along. He chooses to take the time I need to talk through issues that arise even though the demands of the semester are expanding rapidly as December draws near. He’s making the conscious decision to prioritize me and my emotional and spiritual needs above homework and other responsibilities. That’s love in action. And that’s just one of the gazillion reasons I’m grateful for him.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for matching me up with a man perfectly suited to do life with me! I am blessed far beyond what I deserve!

Your turn. What are you thankful for? Direct your gratitude to the One Who deserves it all!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)