How do you move on?

I have been at a crossroads for quite a few months, really trying to define my priorities and the priorities for my family. As a result, I have been silent here, not knowing what direction I want to move in. I find the best thing to do when you don’t know which direction to go in is to sit still. Not real good at sitting still. lol…

To give you a quick follow up – I have checked my potato towers – and NOTHING! It was an epic failure! But, next year I will go and try a different method.

We have been crazy busy this summer, and I have TONS of new things to share from our journey.

That’s all for now! I guess the best way to start to move again, is to just take a step.

See y’all soon!

Anatomy of a Blizzard – 2013 Edition

It’s 4:30 pm, and the snow has only just changed over from the fine powder to a heavier snow. This morning we all slept in – except for Kev, who was working from home – taking advantage of an unplanned day off. OK, nix that, I had to go in and work at the gym for 4 hours today, but still…

This morning we were pretty lazy. Mads made a breakfast sandwich. This was a feat considering her right hand is in a cast from a basketball injury:

Maddie's morning creation

Maddie’s morning creation

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Work In Progress Wednesday

All over the blogoshphere, Bloggers host WIP Weds. Today I am taking a crack at it, but with a slightly different approach.

It is amazing how only 3 days in to this challenge, I am looking at things completely differently. I am finding double and triple purposes for everything. (As a side note, I can’t tell you how many times my van almost pulled into Dunkins for a Pumpkin Spice!)

Last night I made this amazing Chicken noodle soup. It was from the Cooking Light Magazine.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

This morning I was running errands, but when I came home I dove right into making the Strawberry Jam – Super simple – 3 ingredients – Sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and strawberries.

First, Zest the lemon, and squeeze the juice out of the lemon into a saucepan. Add the sugar and heat over low for 10 minutes. At first it will look like this, and you will wonder where you went wrong:

Messy lumpy mix

Messy lumpy mix

 

But then after you keep heating it, and checking it because you are sure it is wrong, then trying to decide if you need to add more lemon juice, all of a sudden it becomes this fabulous liquid…

Fabulous Liquid!

Fabulous Liquid!

While this magical transformation was occurring, I was sorting through a huge thing of strawberries – tossing out probably 1/4 of them – and then hulling and chopping them. At that point, I tossed them (very carefully, the sugar is HOT!) into the sauce pan.

Gorgeous strawberries

Gorgeous strawberries

After cooking them for 20 minutes, they were at a low boil and looking B-E-A-U-TIFUL!

Strawberries Ready for the Jar

Strawberries Ready for the Jar

And Voila – 35 minutes from start to finish!

YUM

YUM

 

Now… for all you canning fanatics… I know all about food safety. These are both going right into the fridge and will be consumed this week, one jar here and one jar at moms. Otherwise, I would have boiled the jars, filled them to the top, checked for the proper headspace, finished with a hot bath, yadda yadda yadda.

*NOTE: If you are planning on making jam for preserving – or any other canning, please be sure to follow proper canning techniques – a great resource is Ball Canning.*

I think this weekend I am going to try my hand at making homemade Brioche Bread.

And… Just in case you want to keep track of our cashless month – today is day #3, and I have spent NO MONEY! Tomorrow I have to go to Shaws and will pick up some basics, but am hoping to keep it under $30.

Are you joining me here? Are you up for the challenge? Let me know how you are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How’s Your Summer – Mine? CRA-ZY!

It is no secret that I have been silent on the blog this summer. Man, it just crept up and swept me away! Not only the blogging, but I haven’t been taking many pictures either. I really don’t know where to begin, except to say that we have been BUSY! WE have already had a week at Basketball Camp, 2 kids had a week at Church Camp, another is finishing her second week of band camp, next week we will be in Rockport, and then one kid off to a second week at basketball camp and the other will be at a pretty elite band camp (I love to brag about my tallented kids, and she has got SOME talent!). Then we’ve got field hockey camp/practice for middle school field hockey team and volleyball camp… Did we ever do this much stuff? I think the worst part is that most of these things are “camps” that we drive to each day – some are half day things, some full day.

The rest of the time we have been doing this…

Kids at Sunappe

I have been ordered by my Dr NOT TO KNIT for 6-8 weeks… I mean REALLY???? Does he even know me????? lol… So, what am I doing in the mean time? I am working on quilting! I went over and my mom helped me to baste the whole thing together. I am so lucky that her friend, Sue, also came over and helped.

Quilt all basted

OK, Oreo may have helped, too…

Then we went up to the sewing room, and unearthed the coolest quilt frames ever – my Dad made them for my mom long ago. They are adjustable and really cool… and somehow my pictures no longer want to load to my blog….. *sigh* so I will leave you now and try and figure out my computer!

 

What are you and your family doing this summer????

 

 

Break My Heart For What Breaks Yours… An Interview…

A couple of years ago God was on a mission to bring Kevin and I together with two very special people, Matt and Nikki Newbauer. We met, and have been family ever since. Now, Matt and Nikki moved away *insert sad tears here*, but we are still family. A few months back, Nikki began sharing with me the desire God had placed in her heart. My friend Nikki has a heart for women, she is probably one of the strongest women-of-faith that I have ever met. So when she told me that God was moving she and Matt to do something about the child trafficking in India, it really came as no surprise. We spent close to an hour on the phone that day as she told me the history of this call, and all the events leading up to she and Matt just KNOWING this is what they were going to do. So, they stepped out on faith alone and will be taking a trip to India in September, knowing that God will provide for their needs, and guide them in the ways to go in doing His work in India.

I knew I had to do something to help, so a few weeks ago I asked her if I could interview her here. She responded in her best southern belle voice (because she is from the south, not because we just like to talk like that to each other… I mean, we do and all… but that is just really how she speaks… because, you know, that’s where she grew up.) anyways… she said “I’d love to y’all” (Ok, maybe she didn’t say the y’all part, but I just love the word, and I am writing this story, so there).

So… without further ado – here is Nikki:

Nikki

Hey Nik, please introduce yourself to the Marcaritaville Readers… What are 5 things we should know about you?

Nikki:

We are Matt and Nikki Newbauer!

Matt and Nikki

5 Things:

1)      We met in Birmingham, England on August 30th, 2006 while beginning a Bachelor of Theology Degree…and got married exactly three years later on August 29th, 2009!

2)      We met the beautiful Marcy and her husband Kevin in 2009 while attending a small Bible study group.  We were honest one week when we told the group that we needed friends, and Marcy and Kevin agreed to hand out with us!

3)      We currently live the greater Washington DC area.  Matt is a Police Officer and Nikki is currently a full-time student with Regent University

4)      Matt enjoys all things outdoors and adventurous, as well as playing the piano

5)      Nikki has a passion for creative writing, drinking hot cups of tea and loves to explore places she’s never been to before.

Marcy:    When did you first feel the pull to India, and why?

Nikki:     Our calling to India is something that has been years in the making.  Starting in 2004 when Matt was working with YWAM in Seattle and preparing for a missions trip to Tibet, he felt like God showed him that he would go to India one day, following God’s calling on his life to fulfill his life verse of Isaiah 61, “To preach good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to release those in captivity…”.  Matt kept this calling to himself for years.  He eventually went to England where he met Nikki in 2006.  About a month after he met Nikki, they were praying about something unrelated and Matt felt like God spoke to him again about India.  He took a piece of paper, wrote down a note and passed it to Nikki. “You are supposed to go to India with me.  Think and pray about it; and look at this note often”.  He dated it and gave it to her.  Imagine Nikki’s surprise when this boy she hardly even knew passed her a note like that!  Luckily for both of us, we began dating about a year later and got married.  After this, it was not mentioned again until recently.

It is no secret that the past three years of our lives have been very difficult.  Shortly before we got married, Nikki began to feel ill.  At first she thought she had a cold that wouldn’t go away.  Then she thought she had bad allergies.  Eventually, she became so exhausted and ill that it was difficult to work.  Nikki and Matt got married in August 2009 and she moved to New Hampshire with him. Eventually, Nikki’s health worsened and she could not work regularly anymore.  She began to have cognitive impairments, muscle weakness and dizziness almost all of the time.  This continues to this day.  In November 2009, Nikki unexpectedly lost her father at 43 years old.  This brought immense pain as her relationship with her father was not conventional and they had just only reinstated their relationship about 5 years prior.  Due to finances, Nikki had to attend the funeral without Matt.

Over the next two years, Nikki’s health became the focus of her and Matt’s lives.  They visited over a dozen specialists and none of them could give her a diagnosis.  She actually was hospitalized several times.  Matt was excelling in his job as a police officer and actually was given a position within domestic and family violence investigations.  This meant that Matt worked A LOT and Nikki, who eventually could not work anymore, was home alone much of the time.   One time when Matt was at work, Nikki was in need of immediate medical assistance so she called Marcy who brought her to the hospital and stayed by her side the whole time.  Marcy and her family were a rock for Matt and Nikki.

In April 2011, Matt found out that his mother, whom he had just reconciled with after a long period of no contact, ended her life.  Matt and his sister had to go to Charleston, SC and deal with all of the arrangements, actually having to pay for the funeral.  Clearly, both Matt and Nikki were exhausted mentally and spiritually after all of this.  Matt eventually found a job in the Washington DC area and he took it to be closer to both Nikki and Matt’s family.  We moved in June 2011 and ironically Matt’s family moved away to Georgia the same week they moved to Virginia!

We felt like being here in this area, with a new job and new place, was almost like rest for us.  Matt began working for a reputable police department and Nikki was able to FINALLY receive a diagnosis for her illness- Primary Sjogren’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder.  Nikki’s health improved slightly, but both she and Matt were still at a point of physical exhaustion and need help. We began attending a church in the area, The Life Church DC, and were able to be connected to good influences that lifted us up.  In February 2012, we visited some friends in the Virginia Beach area.  While there, Nikki was approached by Matt’s friend Jonathan who began to pray with her and tell her things that Nikki hadn’t told anyone.  Nikki had an awesome experience with God where she felt like God came in and healed many of her spiritual wounds regarding her father, her health and her future.  Matt was so happy for her, but did not share in the healing.  We returned home, and over a period of two weeks felt like he was wrestling with God- wrestling to give up hurt and disappointment, and to accept God’s direction over his life. Eventually Matt gave in to God’s persistent and patient call for healing, and Matt was able to experience the healing that had eluded him for years.  In this healing, God reminded him of the time He spoke to Matt about India.  Matt immediately felt like God was saying, “ Push the doors.  See what opens.”  Matt shared this with Nikki, who confirmed this with what she was feeling in her spirit and they decided to e-mail a friend in India who runs an awesome ministry called Crosspoint of India.

Me:      What will your trip in September look like?

Nik:      Through our contact with Crosspoint of India, we were invited to come visit the ministry, assist with their efforts and learn more about the culture and people we feel called to.  Nikki has been having dreams of people and places that she has never been to.  Nikki specifically will be using her gift of creative writing to interview the women being assisted by the ministry and tell their stories.  Matt will assist with the Bible college and both Matt and Nikki will help with the orphanage.  Matt and Nikki’s calling to India is guided by Isaiah 61.  Both Matt and Nikki feel specifically called to fight injustice and specifically human sex trafficking.  Through our trip to India and in addition to assisting this Crosspoint of India, we are in contact with ministries and organizations who specifically combat human trafficking and have an opportunity to meet them.  This trip, in addition to doing missions work, is to explore the avenues for a specific long-term commitment.  This is what we feel God calling us to and many contacts need to done in person.  We hope to come home with a clear direction for our goal of being missionaries to India with the mission of combating human trafficking and caring for those rescued from that lifestyle.  We are still believing for Nikki’s full physical healing and for doors to ministries to be open.  We feel God’s call get stronger and louder every day.  We are so excited to visit India and see where we feel will be our future “home”.

 

Thanks Matt and Nikki!

Matt and Nikki have a fabulous Blog, Rebuild the Ruins,  detailing their preparations for the trip, giving information on India, sharing their hearts, and they will blog from India once they ar there.

If you feel led to donate to Matt and Nikki to help with their costs, follow the instructions in this post , all donations are tax deductible and appreciated.

 

Stay tuned for Part II of the interview next week.

A Project Kinda Weekend… and you?

Weekend… A magical word… 2 little days… and soooo many projects!

Kevin decided he was going to make us a patio! So, while he toiled outside in the almost-90-degree-heat, I decided to get the sewing machine and actually started on our Anniversary Quilt!

Kevin Laying the Third Row

Anniversary Quilt… The Opening Hours…

As Sunday moved on, I had to break to go to my cousin’s baby shower. Now that I have wrapped and given her the gift, I can show you the final product! I made the Leaf Blanket by Spud & Chloe…

Once we got home, Kevin and I got to patio-making and quilt-sewing!

Section #1 Complete!

And then we did more patio-making and quilt-sewing!

The Work of the Ort’s

It is wonderful that we each have our own skill set!

Sections 1 & 2 done!

40+ Dinners in an afternoon? Hack ya…

… But then I had to clean it up! lol

What am I talking about? Well, a couple of months back I was reading some blogs (you know how that can happen…) and clicked links from blog to blog, and ended up at this one blog. The author (and I really wish I could give credit, but I can’t find it again!) had posted a blog about how she prepped for her summer by filling her freezer with fabulous yummies so she could just go out and about enjoying summer with her kids without stressing about what to put on the table that night.

So I said to myself “Self? This is an AWESOME idea!” and I loved her suggestions for foods. I used many of them, and then added my own as well. She did hers (and again, I really wish I could give her a credit her and link to her blog. If I find it, I will write it up, promise!) in only 4 hours. Now, I am a good cook, but I thought there was no way in hell I could do that all in 4 hours. But decided to give it a whirl.

Those who know me and have been reading my blog know that I LOVE me some good bargains, so off Kevin and I went in search of good meat deals… On Memorial Day… The mother of all grilling days… And we found some!

Without further ado – here is what I did…

First off, prepping is KEY! If you need chopped onions, chop ALL your onions at the same time. Browned meat in several dishes? Do it all at once.

Make sure you have pots big enough – I was doing recipes times 3 and 4. I found myself having to move into bigger pots halfway through to accommodate all the ingredients – which made for more washing in between, which equals added time and effort.

Anyways – I decided to not make ENTIRE meals, but to make “meal starters” – things that can be added to little extras to make a finished product.

To start, I prepped by chopping up onions, green peppers and celery.

Prepped Veggies

Then, I set out to make all of my chicken. I had 24 split boneless skinless chicken breasts to simmer. I split that into 2 batches, covered with water, and added a rough chopped carrot, onion and celery, plus some whole black pepper corns and brought to a simmer. I simmered (DO NOT BOIL! This will make your chicken so tough! It will be ruined) for between 10 – 15 minutes. Be sure to check it frequently.

While the chicken was simmering, I took out my big frying pan, added 2 pounds of hamburger, a handful of each of my chopped veggies, and set that to browning.

Awesome Meat Mixture

Once browned, cool and store in quart sized zipper FREEZER bags. Trust me on this – after going through all of this work, use the freezer bags – splurge of the best brand – anything less will leave you sad and with freezer burned food stuffs later on! I made 2 cup portions. This can be pulled out later and made into sloppy joes, it can be added to plain spaghetti sauce, nachos, whatever!

Rinse, and repeat! This time, to the 2 pounds of ground beef  and the chopped veggies (after browning) I added 2 cups of salsa, a can of diced green chilis, 2 Tbls of Chili powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 2 cups of water, cumin, brown sugar, and garlic. (this was a recipe from the same site that I was inspired by) – she originally called it taco mix, but we loved it as a beanless chili!!!! so flippin good!

Incredible Bean-less Chili

Oh – snap! I forgot about all of the potatoes! After I put the chicken on the stove top, and while the first batch of meat was browning, I washed a TON of potatoes! and got them into a 350 degree oven to bake for an hour!

Carbs, anyone?

These will become some fabulous twice baked potatoes. Once they are done baking, take them out of the oven and set aside to cool until you can handle them… Then, cut them in half and scoop out the centers into a mixing bowl. Add melted butter, half and half, milk, cream cheese, chives, lots of salt and pepper, and mix it all together! I then put this mixture into a large piping bag, cut off the end and piped it back into the skins. After wrapping each half separately in plastic wrap, I put them into Gallon freezer bags.

OK… back to the chicken… Once it was cooked through, I pulled the chicken out of the water, and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. While the chicken was cooling, I strained the liquid and cooled that. Once it was cooled enough, I separated it into 2 and 4 cup servings – these are the usual amounts of stock I use for different recipes. Then, I repeated the process with the remaining chicken breasts.

Once the chicken was cooled enough to handle, I brought out my trusty Kitchenaid, plopped in 4 breasts, covered the mixer with a cloth so I wouldn’t end up wearing shredded chicken and blended it for about 10 seconds – and there you have it – shredded chicken!

I shredded quite a bit of the chicken, cubing only about 1/4 of all I had. I froze the cubed chicken as is – in 2 cup portions. I also froze several portions of the shredded chicken plain. Then? I did something awesome!

I made some simple Buffalo sauce (a jar of Franks hot sauce simmered with 2 sticks of butter)

How to make Buffalo Sauce

After making the sauce, I added it to some of the shredded chicken, which I then split into 2 cup portions to be eaten on buns, added to pizza, made into buffalo chicken salad… and then I held some aside to make in to Calzones.

I then repeated the process with more shredded chicken and BBQ sauce.

(I have to thank the blogger who started this for me, as this is almost exactly what she did and blogged about. This is totally NOT an original idea!)

After this, I was exhausted, it was diner time, and I cleaned up so I could start with the soup, pulled pork and pasta sauce.

Come on back tomorrow for part 2 – the soups, pulled pork and sauce… recipes to be shared!!!!!

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