Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Artisan Bread- in a crockpot!

So it's been preeeeeetty hot this week! We changed our 4th of July plans because of the heat, and ended up staying at my in-laws house (w/ central air!) for the rest of the week! It was so nice to sleep in comfort and not worry about keeping the kiddos cool! Now we're home and trying to cool down our house that feels more like an oven! When we got home Friday night, we turned on our window units, barricaded all four of us in our room, and slept pretty well all night. But our house had to wait for cooler weather until it could catch up! We finally got a relief from the heat over the weekend!

I noticed I had a bunch of bread dough in the fridge. I'd made a couple loaves to take with us for the week, but we'd already eaten those up and wanted to use up the rest of the dough. My neighbor found this crockpot version of the artisan bread I shared on here a couple weeks ago, and I've been itching to try it.

photo credit

This heat wave has been the perfect opportunity! It been sooo hot and I was definitely NOT going to turn on my oven especially to 450 degrees, while we've been trying to cool our house down... So I decided now was the perfect time to try this crockpot version!

This is SO easy!

Form the dough into a ball
place on parchment paper
lower into crockpot and cover
set on high
wait an hour*

It was even quicker and easier than the already quick and easy baked version!
What I love about it being in a crockpot is that it comes out very soft, like a big roll! :)

I have to admit that it took me two tries to get this right! The first time was over the hot weekend! I ended up overcooking it because it just didn't look or feel done. It felt too soft on top so I thought it wasn't done and ended up leaving it in too long! We cut the bottom crust off and were still able to eat the rest. Other than a crispy bottom, it turned out fine. I think the top of the bread just looks lighter than I was expecting, but for more color on the bread or for more crispiness, just stick it under the broiler for a few.

Last night I tried again. I was determined to see if it would work! *It ended up taking closer to two hours, even though her recipe says 1 hour. There could be many reasons for this. One is the amount of dough used (i might've used a bit more than she did). Also, every crockpot is different. I had to get a new crockpot a couple months ago, and I notice that it doesn't cook as fast as my old one did. So keep an eye on your bread the first time, and let me know how long it takes your crockpot.

photo credit

So the crockpot bread was a SUCCESS, and we had it today for lunch! :) It's so much better for sandwiches than the baked version. The crustier, baked bread is still yummy, but can be a little too chewy for sandwiches at times.

I think I might slow-cook my bread more often than baking bread now!! :)
And one of the best things about it is..... you don't have to clean the crockpot!!!! whoo hoo!

Let me know what you think, and if you try it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

DIY Rustic Garden Stakes

So we finally got our garden planted!

The weather's been so funny this spring, and it's seemed for a while like we can't shake these overnight frost advisories. So on the last day of May, we got it all planted! This year we used not only our little corner plot in the backyard, but Tim also made a raised bed for our herbs and lettuces. It all looks so great! There's just something so satisfying about getting your garden planted and working outside in the dirt! I love strolling through the yard to check on the plants and water them. With a really shady yard, it makes time spent outside very refreshing and enjoyable.

We've really enjoyed gardening as a family, taking care of it together and teaching Titus where our food comes from. We even let him plant his own bean in a cup and it sprouted SO quickly, which was super exciting for him! He goes out of the deck everyday and checks on his bean. He knows it needs water and sun!

I'd been wanting to make some cool garden stakes/markers ever since the end of last summer, but I wanted to wait until we planted our garden. I'd found alot of cool ideas on Pinterest, so I already had some things in mind. But I decided I want to make something easy, that wouldn't take alot of time or effort. I combined a couple ideas and then added my own flair !

These are thick sticks that I cut to size and then scraped the bark off of the top.

For the lettering, I just used a Sharpie, but you could also use an alphabet stamp set.

Then to add a little color and visual appeal, I tied some fabric scraps to the tops!

And that's all there is to it! I like how rustic and earthy they look in our garden, with just that little pop of color. They look even cooler now that the garden is beginning to look more green! :) I love watching it grow a little more everyday!

Have you made any easy garden projects??

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Easy Artisan Bread 5 mins a day

So it's been awhile! We've been so busy with our families and new babies, and just focusing a little more on our role as mothers! We'll let you know when we decide to open the shop back up. (There are still some goodies in the shop that we have available!)

While I've been busy adjusting to staying home with two kids, I've had this desire to lead a more simple life. It might sound like a totally antiquated way to look at things, but I would love to have less stuff, and make more things from scratch for the sake of our health and frugality!

My hugest inspiration has come from Tsh Oxenreider's books "Organized Simplicity" and "One Bite at a Time." I've been purging our house over the past several months and incorporating a lot of her budgeting, scheduling, and organizational advice into our lives. I've enjoyed trying new things, especially when we love the outcome and they make our lives better! I hope to share what I've been up to in upcoming posts!

I just have this picture in my mind of being able to make bread for my family everyday. I guess that sounds like the ultimate stay at home mom practice. But I hate to bake bread because of the the time it takes and all the steps, and I would never get up early to make it!  I had kindof given up my dream of daily bread baking as unrealistic for today's mom (especially since I don't like the process of making bread anyway!) But while reading blogs a couple weeks ago, I followed a bunch of links that lead me to a blog that share a bread recipe that claimed to only take 5 minutes a day! SO, I tried it out and I'm thrilled to say I've made bread almost everyday since... And I don't plan on stopping...

Get a load of this...

...Only 4 ingredients (You probably already have them!)
...mix the ingredients, let is rise and stick it in the fridge for when you're ready to bake!
... it can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks!
...It's DEE-licious!

So this is the picture off of the blog because I haven't taken my own. But this is exactly how my bread looks too!

The recipe makes four 1 lb loaves, so I probably make bread about twice a week. It seriously takes 5 minutes to mix the ingredients, then when you want bread, you just go to fridge and cut the dough you need! SO easy!

Now let me tell you how amazing this bread tastes! It smells soooo great while its baking, and the cuts you make on the top of the dough before it bakes makes the final product look like you're a real professional baker! :) It's a crusty bread: chewy crust, and super soft inside! The one word I used to describe it the first time I ate it was "Rustic." Because of the very basic ingredients and the fact that we were tearing pieces off, it felt like something you'd eat in Europe! :) Tim said he's only tasted bread like this when he is overseas! Just a simple, rustic bread and very tasty!!

I read another blogger who said she uses it for pizza crust, so I plan to try that, and I'd also like to experiment with a 2 lb loaf since the 1 lb loaf is a little small. I went to GFS to buy a bigger container (like what's pictured on her recipe) because I didn't have one big enough that would allow for all the rising.

So, you really really reeeeeally need to try this bread! Let me know if you do and what you think!!

What other things do you  make from scratch?? Enlighten me with your tips and recipes!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stolen Child - A Book Review

Today, I am delighted to share the second book, of Kimberly Rae's 3 part series on human trafficking, "Stolen Child: Do You Know Who You Are?"

Stolen Child was released in December 2011, but between pregnancy and new babies arriving for each of us, Mary Beth and I have just now had the chance to enjoy reading the sequel to Stolen Woman.  If you haven't read Stolen Woman yet, I highly suggest you do.  You can read our review on that book here.

Stolen Child is just as exciting, adventurous, romantic and heart gripping as the first book.  Again, it was a book I could barely put down.  Each chapter drew you further into the story and the excitement.  You'll travel with Asha, back to Bangladesh, where she searches for the truth of her birth family.  What she finds will surprise and shock you.  I of course, loved the ever deepening love story of Asha and Mark.  I don't want to spoil any of it, but boy is it exciting and romantic!

But Kimberly's real mission and passion behind the story of Stolen Child is awareness of human trafficking. In Stolen Woman, we see the older, adult, woman side of human trafficking.  In stolen child, our eyes are opened to the horrifying, gut wrenching nightmare of children....babies being trafficked.  There was one chapter near the end, that absolutely brought me to tears.  I was half sick to my stomach at the realization that this is such a reality.

If you follow along with WAR International, they are are currently fasting and praying for the rescue of baby Sweetie, who is a real life baby that is tied to pole near a filthy sewer, full or rats and used condoms.   The goal of her enslavement is to make sure that she never knows love, so it will be easier for her to serve in prostitution.  My mind still has a difficult time believing that there are really humans out there that can treat a small and helpless child so cruelly.   Kimberly does a fantastic job in her book, presenting the reality of the issue, and placing the burden on our hearts to pray and do what we can to make people aware and stop human trafficking.

If you loved Stolen Woman, you will absolutely love reading Stolen Child!  It's available for purchase through Amazon.com and it's also available on Kindle for an amazing price!

We thank Kimberly again for sharing her amazing book with us and giving us the opportunity to share with you, our thoughts on her story and how it's changing our hearts and lives.    We know it will touch your life as well, when you read it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

WAR Int'l // enslaved baby, prayers needed

So it's been awhile since we've posted anything on Women At Risk, International (The organization that rescues women and children from human trafficking and sexual slavery that we have such a burden for), and we have a very heart-wrenching story to share with you today! Your prayers are needed!!!

Here is a letter from Becky MacDonald, founder and president of WAR Int'l:

Some of you have been following my emails about the baby in captivity in South Asia.  On this circle tour, we learned from WAR partners about a baby being raised in the red light district.  She was placed in a box and is not allowed to be held so that she will "grow up to be a prostitute" and not expect normal affection.  Her mommy is also in captivity and bought and sold between different areas of the country so that she is constantly in a state of upheavel.  Her baby is owned along with her.  They call her "Sweetie" because she is fair of skin.  The red light districts of the world are very racist.  The whiter the skin, the higher the price on the market. 

My partners have been going to a red light district where no others are allowed in.  You have to get there by crossing a bridge and no one is allowed across the bridge that isn't "buying".  With the amazing blessing of a brothel there, they led 9 women to Christ (told you that before) but there is an infant baby there named "Sweetie".  Sweetie is a newborn that is chained and put in a box and not allowed to be held because it is being raised to be a prostitute.  They want no touch so she'll learn to be accustomed to a lack of love.  The brothel owner allows our team to rock her when they come.  So we have all been praying over her frantically while we rock and while they rent a "room for sex" but use it for a Bible study with the owners permission.  No other groups are allowed in the brothel.  The mom (a trapped prostitute scared to death of the owner) came to them today (putting herself at risk) and showed them "Sweetie" all black and blue from a beating because she cried.  They asked the owner if they could take the baby and she said, "no she should not become a Christian".

I was approaching another org to do a "rescue"...but now my partners are afraid they will be exposed as behind the rescue and want to halt the rescue or know what to do.  Sigh..........I asked if the mom would ever be allowed (not likely) to take a visit with the baby outside the brothel and "disappear".  We could get her to my partner in a neighboring country safe house....so so complicated.  Makes me want to scream, spit, and go blind.  I'm just so sad.  I don't know where else to turn.  I keep trying things only to be "put on hold" due to the serious danger and exposure that our partners will be blamed.  We have to step back and reconsider our options.  This is a true statement and a truely dangerous situation.  
I tell God "this is now Your problem...You are a Father to the fatherless...You have to be true to Your name and hear the cry of Sweetie AND her mommy....not much more than a child herself."   As I prayed, "Okay God...it's all up to You"....I suddenly heard myself.  Then I repented, because it was always God's problem.  It's not like God needs me and my efforts.....like it was ever anything but up to Him.  I just want to be His hands, His feet, His tender arms of love to rock a baby that deserves to grow up and be all God created her to be. 
Meanwhile...I got a picture of Sweetie.   I am not sending them to you unless my partners give me the go ahead.  They are really inflammatory.  She is now crawling and sitting up and in the pictures, she is tied by her foot to a pole so she can not crawl away.  There is a sewer behind her that is full of condoms.  We cannot go and buy the baby ourselves although trust me it is tempting.  That is illegal and would make us a trafficker and subject to imprisonment.  Do not ask if you can adopt Sweetie.  The American gov't decides who americans can adopt.  I cannot override that much less rescue this baby right now. 
So, I have an idea.  I am setting aside every Tuesday from now till end of April as a fasting and prayer day.  I want anyone that is interested in fasting and prayer for the solution to the Sweetie and mommy problem to email the WAR website back.  We will make a circle of emails.  I will keep you posted if I know anything. 
This is not the time for me to give you my workshop on fasting and prayer.  Suffice it to say, several years ago I read every book on the subject and scripture and discovered interesting things about this long abandoned discipline.  It was after a period of fasting and prayer of other people for me when I saw dramatic results and God broke my heart and got my attention.    I returned home from a trip and began a serious study of this.   I am ashamed that we as Christians gave this up to the monks.  Shame on us.  I will attach a handout that I use when teaching this workshop....if you do not know about fasting and prayer I simply suggest you do the lent type fast where every Tuesday you give up something of value to you (coffee, tv, meals, whatever) and while you would be doing those activities...instead you fast and pray for Sweetie. 
The other night I was babysitting my 4th grandchild...now a few months old.  She is developing a sense of humor.  If you tilt your head and look at her the way her daddy does, she tilts her head forward and peeks at you with sparkle and mischief and makes the same pursed mouth as her daddy...she is a mimic with mocking intent and delightful humor.  She has also developed a dislike for bed  time.  Her happy disposition instantly goes ballistic.  She rears back and screams not with baby crying but in sheer undiluted frustration.  I've been at this chore of winning against a tiny person for a long time.  I know all the tricks and if there is one thing I can't survive it is a crying baby.   I instantly have boundless patience and empathy....No baby should cry, or so I tell myself.   Poor baby.  She didn't stand a chance.  I do love it that her daddy is getting his just desserts.  As I stood at her bed long after she was sweetly asleep, I sobbed for Sweetie.   I couldn't take my eyes off this baby in front of me. Al night I spent staring into her eyes, talking, singing, and rocking.  I prayed that God would not take his eyes off his Sweetie!  I wanted Him to quiet her screams with tender loving care, singing over her as I would, as a parent does, not black and blue beatings. 
So will you pray with me for a miracle for Sweetie.  I don't know what it looks like.  I leave that in God's hands.  I ask the Holy Spirit to groan with groanings that cannot be uttered (has it ever occurred to you that that is the way we cry and pray for our children....with deep groans...wonder if that is the eternal parent coming through?. 
I comfort myself with the words of Oswald Chambers, "When men work, men work...when men pray, God works."  I so want the work of the Miracle working God...not the puny work of my hands.  I hate not being "hands on" and that is always when God says, "sit back and let me work....you be still and know that I am God." 
Circle the Cradle with me:
Becky McDonald
Women At Risk, International

Please join us in fasting and prayer for this little baby! As I care for my own baby girl, I find myself thinking of Sweetie and praying for her rescue! Visit WAR's website to learn more about them and their ministry. Also, email them to join the circle of prayers on Tuesday and to receive updates: newsletter@warinternational.org.

 Also, learn more about The Blue Ladybug Mamas heart for WAR, and check out our WAR page by clicking the WAR button on the left-side of the blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Repurposed Crib > Chalkboard art table

How many of you have dozens of craft ideas pinned on your Pinterest boards, but have yet to try them? Me too! Here is one that I DID do though... :)

I came upon this DIY tutorial on Pinterest last year using an unused crib and turning it into a kids art table, complete with a chalkboard table top!

At the time, we were planning to move Titus up to a toddler bed soon, and also purchasing a new crib for Norah (still in the womb) because of the condition of Titus' crib. I was slightly sentimental about getting rid of the old crib. But when I stumbled across this idea, I decided this would be a perfect way to preserve it. I kept it in Titus' room where the crib has always set, and I think it will be a great piece for both kids to grow into! It will easily fit two kids at, and I'm especially exciting about how homeschooling friendly this will be (since we're leaning that direction). I'm excited to add more elements to the table (such as the lady has shown in the pictures- hooks for scissors, etc) as the kids get older and able to use more supplies (ie markers, scissors, glue, etc). I'm also considering painting it white this spring!

The table has been in Titus' room for about a month now and he's pretty much left it alone, having no idea what it is! :) So this morning, I set up all the art supplies on it and showed him what it was for! He especially LOVED his introduction to the chalkboard! What kid wouldn't love to be able to actually draw ON the table! :) Now I realize this will probably be another thing in his room to play with when he's supposed to be sleeping. I'm going to have to brainstorm today some ideas for dealing with his potential problem! :)

(Please excuse my not-so-great pictures :( )

(Paper Roll- Ikea, plastic cups- Hobby Lobby, Green Bin- Target)

And since I have GOBS of chalkboard paint left over, I have all kinds of other projects up my sleeve! :)

What Pinterest project would you love to complete? Browse your boards and pick just one, then make it a goal to complete in the next month! :) Let us know about it!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Birthday Blues

It's the eve of my 26th birthday.

My birthday has always been a big deal to me. My mom made each one special, so I've always had huge anticipation every year for my birthday. But each year that I age more and more into adulthood, with marriage and children filling my life, I realize that birthdays just aren't the same.

Several things in life are overshadowing my birthday this year, and honestly I'm bummed. Of course, I knew a while ago that my birthday was on a Sunday, which is the busiest day of the week for us since my husband's a pastor. Add also that it's the Superbowl which will be spent at a youth party I'll stay for half of because I have to come home to get the kids to bed. My husband is a week away from a missions trip he's taking to Africa, we just had an emotional week of making some difficult financial decisions, and our home is really chaotic right now with a newborn... Life is just happening... So there probably won't be any celebration tomorrow, and I'm pretty bummed.

I talked to a friend and my mom about it today, and it seems to be something that must be universal for moms? So now I find myself at a point where I'm trying to figure out how to lower my somewhat childish expectations for my birthday every year while still looking forward to it without being disappointed. This being an adult thing isn't always fun.

My mom said that for her birthday one year, she woke up early and went shopping for some new clothes as a treat for herself. So it just got me thinking about what things I could do every year to make it special...

But as I look at our crazy life, I realize that I have some pretty amazing gifts (besides my Kindle! Thanks, Babe!). Two beautiful children, an amazing husband, the Lord's constant provision and blessing, my salvation, and all the years of family memories to look forward to... Who can complain? I'm beyond thankful!

So tomorrow, I'll work to combat disappointment by seeing all the everyday things in my life as my birthday gifts. I will celebrate them! To recognize and celebrate a birthday is to celebrate a life... And my life is full to overflowing with gifts. I will celebrate my life by celebrating all that my life is filled with!

Now I'm off to make my birthday cake! ;)