Friday, May 31, 2013

Last Day to Sign Up - Blogelina FREE 4 Week Online Blogging Class!

Just a reminder - Today is the last day to sign up for the FREE 4 Week Online Blogging Class from Blogelina!  This offer comes with a FREE year of web hosting :)

Go here to sign up for the FREE 4-week blogging class.

Mary Ellen

Thursday, May 30, 2013

{Recipe Repost} Strawberry Vanilla Jam

strawberry vanilla jam, strawberry jam

It's strawberry season!  On Mother's Day, we took a trip out to Vollmer Farm in Bunn, NC, to pick local, organically grown strawberries.  The kids always enjoy spending time at the farm (especially the Back Forty playground!).  And back home, I enjoy turning some of our fresh picked bounty into yummy Strawberry Vanilla Jam!

Rinse, hull and slice your strawberries.  You will need 5 cups of crushed berries for the jam.  I add the sliced strawberries to my Vitamix and pulse quickly, working in several small batches until I have the needed amount.  

Add the crushed strawberries to a stainless steel saucepan along with 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, a 1/2 teaspoon of butter (helps to reduce foaming) and half a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise.  Whisk in pectin (1 - 1 1/2 boxes or 9 tablespoons).  Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently.   

Next, add 7 cups of sugar (all at once), stirring constantly.  Return the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Using a large slotted metal spoon, skim off any foam.  Remove the vanilla bean.

Nota Bene:  Visit the Fresh Preserving website for instructions on how to prep jars and lids and for basic water bath canning procedures.

Add hot jam to prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Process jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.  When processing time is done, turn off heat and remove the lid from canner.  Allow jars to rest in canner for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove jars from canner without tilting.  Place jars upright on a towel in a draft-free area and let cool, undisturbed for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, check lids for seal before placing in pantry.  If jars did not seal properly, refrigerate immediately or reprocess.  

Mary Ellen


Monday, May 27, 2013

In the Kitchen - Red, White & Blue Strawberries


The kids joined me in the kitchen for a fun Memorial Day treat - Red, White & Blue Strawberries!  I found the idea and recipe on Pinterest, of course!

Ashleigh & Reed dipping our strawberries in melted white chocolate

The strawberries set aside to harden after the first dipping

I didn't have the blue sprinkles as called for the recipe.  But, sugar mixed with a few drops of blue food coloring work just the same!

Clayton adding the blue sprinkles

After we finished dipping the strawberries, it seemed a shame to let the leftover melted chocolate go to waste.  So, I took some store bought crème filled cookies and dipped them in the white chocolate!

Waste not, want not :)

Happy Memorial Day!

Mary Ellen

Memorial Day


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Life is certainly like a roller coaster - ups and downs.  I've shared a good number of downs lately.  So, here is an UP - and a picture of Ashleigh when she was 2 years old just because :) 

Dave was called into another meeting with the head of his agency again this morning.  The word as of now is all positions are safe.  There will be no eliminations!!!!  Praise God!  With all that has been going on lately, part of me is holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But, I'm going to stand in faith and rejoice in this moment!

Thank you all for your heart felt prayers and well wishes!

Mary Ellen

Monday, May 20, 2013


The last few months have been such a tumultuous season for our family.  Now, another curve ball has been thrown our way.  As you may know, my husband works for the State government.  Apparently, there is a measure before the State House of Representatives that would eliminate several positions within his department - including his.  Nothing is certain at this point as voting and such still needs to take place.  But, by the end of June, it's possible Dave would be out of a job.  We've walked this path before.  Even though I find myself fighting to hold back tears, I know we will persevere.

While this was completely unexpected, looking back over the last few weeks, I can see God's hand moving behind the scenes.  When my Mother was first hospitalized back in April with internal bleeding, we went into financial emergency mode.  Dave cut back some budget categories and directed the surplus to our emergency fund.  The thinking at the time was to have extra on hand should we need to find last minute summer care for the children.  So, we're already in financial storm cloud/bare budget/savings mode.  Just now, it's a different storm cloud!  And recently, I began feeling the need (call) to pray for my husband.  I've always prayed for my husband, my kids and our families.  But, this calling is different.  It's a call to pray with more intention specifically for my husband.  I'm constantly amazed at how God knows all our needs even before we become aware of them!

Mary Ellen

Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Hospital Drama

Once again, my Mother is in the hospital.  This time, it was a scheduled procedure.  A bypass in her left leg to help increase blood flow and thus aid in the healing of the pyoderma gangrenosum wound.  Prior to the procedure, her doctor informed us she would need a one or two day stay in the hospital for recovery.  But, he wanted her up and active and back home as soon as possible.  That's what we were expecting.  What is happening at this moment is completely different. 

We just received a call from the attending physician (an associate of the doctor she sees in office, but one we've never seen before).  Right away, the doctor went into how some patients need to go into a "rehab facility" before going home.  I could hear my Mother in the background and the doctor harshly responding, "I know you don't want to go".  At that point, I began to feel numb and breathless.  I asked the doctor if he wouldn't mind speaking with my husband and rushed the phone upstairs to Dave.  Then, I literally collapsed in the nearest chair from sharp spasms in my back (panic/anxiety attack?).  I could tell Dave was getting the run around from the doctor.  The doctor told him to speak with the nurses about discharge orders as it was out of his control.  But earlier this morning when Dave was visiting my Mom, the nurses told him it was the doctor's call.  The doctor then went into some nonsense about Obama and Obamacare.  Which led Dave to inquire if we should contact the White House about my Mother's discharge!  After Dave hung up the phone, we were both in shock.  Trying to process the information and taken aback by the doctor's behavior and manner.  Apparently the doctor told Dave he didn't care one way or the other if my Mother ever came home!  My husband's stepfather is a physician in private practice.  His mother is a former nurse and currently works in the IT department of a hospital.  In his time growing up around doctors, nurses and others in the medical field, my husband has never encountered a medical professional that spoke of a patient or to a patient's family in this manner.  Dave left for the hospital shortly after his call with the doctor.  My sister called me right after Dave left because she had received a call from my Mom.  Momma told her the doctor left the room in a huff and threw the phone down on the bed.

Sigh...I don't understand why these people seem so intent on pushing my Mother into a nursing home!  Never mind the fact my mother walked into the hospital last week for the procedure under her own strength!  She was also up and walking the day after.  Physical therapy was supposed to visit in her room yesterday and today, but never came.  Still, my Mother has been up and walked around her bed to the bedside commode and to the recliner in her room.  Understandably the nurses don't want her attempting to walk too much on her own due to risk of fall.  When the doctor came in today, she just happened to be in bed.  My Momma told my sister he didn't even check her stitches from the procedure.  Just looked at her in bed and declared she should be sent to a "rehab facility"!

I just don't understand....It's not as if this is some elderly woman that lives alone with no assistance from family.  It's not as if my Mother doesn't already have in-home physical therapy.  Just last week, she was walking around the house, doing laundry and cleaning up in the kitchen.  It's probably the best she's been in awhile.  Now, again they are pushing for a nursing home!

UPDATE (5/20):  Momma is coming home!  I spoke with her hospital case manager this morning, and she's being discharged later today.  The case manager was so much more pleasant than the doctor yesterday.  And, there was no talk of sending her to an inpatient rehab facility.  They are just going to order her to continue with the at-home physical therapy already in place. 

Mary Ellen   


Saturday, May 18, 2013

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Darius Rucker - Wagon Wheel

Heading down south to the land of the pines
I'm thumbing my way into North Caroline
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights
I made it down the coast in seventeen hours
Picking me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I'm a-hopin' for Raleigh, I can see my baby tonight

So rock me momma like a wagon wheel
Rock me momma any way you feel
Hey momma rock me
Rock me momma like the wind and the rain
Rock me momma like a south bound train
Hey momma rock me

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Duck Dynasty's Phil & Kay Robertson on 700 Club

Yes, I admit it - I LOVE Duck Dynasty!  I started watching the show after hearing a coworker rave about it and have been hooked ever since!  While some of the scenarios on the show come across as scripted (as my husband likes to point out!), it is still very entertaining and genuinely funny.  Plus, it's something we can watch together with the kids.  A refreshing departure from your standard reality TV show!

One of my favorite parts of the show is the interaction between Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson and his wife, Miss Kay.  In the interview above with Terry Meeuwsen of 700 Club, Phil and Kay discuss the early years of their marriage.  And, they have quite a testimony!

I can't wait for the fourth season of Duck Dynasty!  According to Phil and Miss Kay, even their beardless son will take part in the show.

Happy, Happy, Happy!
Mary Ellen 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Wifely Submission & Working Outside of the Home

The following excerpts are from the blog, Sunshine Mary:

"My great-grandmother worked, but she was not a career woman.  Her purpose in working was to serve her family, not to serve her own ego or materialistic desires.  The Proverbs 31 woman worked both inside and outside the home:

She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. (verse 16)
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant. (verse 24)
She worked outside the home, but this was her motivation in doing so:

She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. (verse 27)
A woman’s primary concern, whether she is working at home or outside the home, is for the well-being of her household."

"A Christian wife is concerned with pleasing her husband, not herself; she is concerned with her family’s well-being, not her own preferences.  She doesn’t fight against her husband; she submits to him."

"Your obedience to your husband is more pleasing to God than whether you spend your day at home or in the workplace."

I encourage you to read the post in its entirety - Traditionalist Marriage versus Christian Marriage Exemplifies Selfish Rebellion versus Selfless Obedience.


 As a Christian and (far from perfect!) submitted wife that works outside of the home, the above really resonated with me.  I'm not working to climb corporate ladders or to maintain a lifestyle.  I work simply because my husband feels it is best for our family to have two incomes at this time.  In the Bible, Ephesians 5:22-24 speaks of wives submitting to their own husbands in everything.  For me the "everything" includes working outside of the home!  It should also be noted, the passage says, own husband.  While one husband may feel that it is best for his wife to be at home, another may feel differently.  However in each instance, the husband is doing what is proper for their household.  It is challenging at times to be somewhere other than where your heart desires.  Yet, I know in doing so, I'm honoring my husband and looking well to the ways of my household.  

Mary Ellen   

Friday, May 10, 2013

What I'm Reading - Simple Abundance


"Many women today run businesses but don't have a clue how to run their own households competently, which is one of the reasons we are run ragged.  The time has come for us to look deep within.  Reconsider how caring for our homes can be an expression of our authenticity....It's not too late for us to rediscover the sacred soulcraft of homecaring.  Creating a comfortable, beautiful, well-run home can be among our most satisfying accomplishments as well as an illuminating spiritual experience.  Like sweat equity , channeling your time and creative energy closer to home will produce a big emotional return for yourself and those you love."

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Momma Bear in Me Is Coming Out! - Kindergarten Bullies

Days like this, I wish we were a homeschooling family...

Upon dropping the kids off from school this afternoon, Dave informed me that during recession, Reed was punched in the face and stomach by one of his classmates.  The incident was witnessed by the teacher, who made the offender walk the track for the rest of recess, wrote the child up and contacted the parent(s).  Thankfully, Reed wasn't hurt and doesn't seem the worse for wear.  He even said he had a good day at school!  

But, this Momma Bear is seething.  It's not just the incident today.  But, incident after incident that has been happening since the beginning of the school year.  Usually by the same one or two boys in the class that don't seem to know how to behave.  It started with poking.  Then, pushing while in line.  At that point, we went to the teacher and expressed to her our concerns.  We also spoke to Reed about standing up for himself and going to his teachers when someone pushed or poked him.  But, things really came to a head when Ashleigh happened to witness a group of boys pulling on Reed and pushing him to the ground repeatedly as her class passed by the playground.  Angered and upset, we requested a meeting with both the school principal and Reed's teacher immediately.

The principal was very attentive and took the matter very seriously.  Like us, he wanted to make sure Reed felt comfortable and safe at school.  He also (as tactfully and as PC as he could) stated most of the school's discipline issues resulted from boys in homes without fathers.  He noted those boys seemed to lack the understanding of when roughhousing is appropriate and when it's not.  Dave and I left the meeting very satisfied with the measures the principal and teacher put in place to stop the harassment.  And for awhile, Reed did not report any troubling incidents from school.

But, now this...sigh.  It's just frustrating!  While it's unfortunate this boy comes from a "challenging" home environment, that's not my concern.  My primary concern is for MY child!  I'm sure the teachers are frustrated as well.  They've already placed this particular boy to a table by himself due to his disruptive behaviors in the classroom.  And, I guess in today's world, kids aren't sent to detention anymore.  I guess it hurts their self-esteem or someone might accuse the school of racism. {rolls eyes}

I hate that my baby's first year of elementary school has been like this.  I remember telling Reed when he was in preschool how exciting big kid school would be.  And, that he would finally get to go to the same school as Ash & Clay.  They both had absolutely wonderful, positive kindergarten experiences.  It saddens me that Reed's has not been the same. 

Mary Ellen

Sunday, May 5, 2013

{Repost} Easy Guacamole for Cinco de Mayo!


We'll be enjoying some easy Mexican inspired dishes today!  The Pioneer Woman's very easy - and very delicious - Beef & Bean Burritos.  And of course, I'll be making homemade guacamole using this recipe from the Gluten Free Goddess.   This guacamole is light and fresh and has no onions, which is a bonus because our little Ashleigh Girl avoids anything with onions or even the hint of onions! 
For the gauc, I add 2 -3 diced avocados, 1 garlic clove, 10 grape tomatoes (halved), lime juice and some fresh cilantro to my Vitamix and blend until slightly smooth.  Then, it's ready to enjoy!
Mary Ellen