Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Archive for May, 2010

The end of the beginning

27th May 2010

Back in August, I was surprised to find how emotional the start of kindergarten was for me as a mom. I’d looked forward (regretfully) to getting some of “my” time back, and on long days with toddlers and preschoolers, I imagined how eventually I’d happily wave goodbye and start tackling my perpetually procrastinated “to do” list. But I quickly realized that kindergarten was the beginning of the end… from here on out, every day, she’s less and less mine. More independent, more expressive, more articulate, more mature, less my baby girl and more of a beautiful young lady.  School is 8 hours in her own world, being her own person, stepping away from mine.  She’s loved every minute of this year, while almost every morning was reminiscent for me as I watched her step out of the car, pull on her backpack, and confidently stride into school, without a glance back.  Those rare looks back to smile at me as she headed in were the sweetest part of my morning.

So of course, I was surprised to find today’s last day of kindergarten tugging strongly at my heart, because I thought August was the real milestone . In what seems like a blink of an eye, this monumental year is behind us. She’s learned to read and write really well, she’s an amazing artist, she’s stopped sucking her thumb (cold-turkey, in one night!), learned to ride a bike without training wheels (in one short day!), lost 6 teeth! And above all, she’s grown into a person I really enjoy being with.  Today, we celebrate an amazing year, a fabulous teacher, Mrs. Moran, and close the door on kindergarten, the end of the beginning of letting go.

Last day of school with her teacher Mrs. Moran

Analise and Brian walking down the street to school on her first day of school

Analise on the street ready for her first day of school

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What’s Cookin’ – Darn Good Chocolate Cake (for the Glad to Give Virtual Bake Sale)

14th May 2010

It’s unbelievable that I haven’t ever posted this recipe. It’s a highly requested and anticipated dessert at Clearwater Community Church events.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I make it probably 3x a month, sometimes once or twice a week, depending on what events our schedule holds. It is fail-proof. Seriously moist, and super-chocolatey, without being too rice. Be sure to have a gallon of milk on hand to wash it down. And some friends who’ve taken leftovers might have mentioned having it for breakfast, and I might or might not have tried that myself 🙂

I’m linking to one of my favorite blogs, The Motherload, who is hosting the Glad to Give Virtual Bake Sale. She’s got a great recipe posted for Honey Nut Granola, and there are plenty of other great bake sale treats linked on her page. Click on over!  (**And if you were going to make this Darn Good Chocolate Cake for a bake sale, wrap it in Saran Wrap and sell it whole, or cut it into big chunks, and bag it up on small paper plates.)

Back to the best (and easiest!) chocolate cake you’ll ever make or…

Darn Good Chocolate Cake from The Cake Mix Doctor

  • Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
  • Flour for dusting the pan
  • 1 pkg (18.25 oz plain devil’s food or chocolate fudge cake mix (preferably NOT the pudding-in-the-mix kind)
  • 1 pkg (3.9 oz) chocolate instant pudding
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.

Place cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water, and oil in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with a mixer on low for 1 min. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, and increase mixer speed to medium for 2-3 more minutes.  Batter should be thick and well combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Pour into prepared pan, smoothing out top.

Bake 45-50 min, until cake springs back when lightly touched, and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from oven, cool on wire rack for 20 min.  Invert onto rack or plate to cool completely.  Serve on a gorgeous cake plate, and dust with powdered sugar for a perfectly fancy (and crazy easy) dessert.  Or better yet, serve while warm.  It doesn’t even need vanilla ice cream.

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What’s Cookin’ – Asian Slaw

12th May 2010

Not a great name for this tasty salad, so leave me any suggestions you have!

Asian Slaw

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1 pkg ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (toss the flavor packet)
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds

Melt butter in a skillet.  Saute all until toasted and golden. (Be warned… turns the corner to burned very quickly!)

  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Shake or stir together.  Just before serving, toss noodle mixture and dressing with 1 bag of coleslaw mix.

*Would be fabulous with shredded or leftover chicken!

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What’s Cookin’ – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

11th May 2010

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for this delicious recipe! (Click over for her photo!) It’s a big batch, but great for freezing.  And don’t let the pumpkin turn you off… It’s just a sweet cake-y chocolate chip muffin with a hint of cinnamon.  Yum!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 (16 oz.) can pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups oil
3 cups flour (half white whole wheat flour works great!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 package chocolate chips (mini chips would be perfect!)

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil until smooth. Add in dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 1/2 full. Bake 16-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes 24-30 muffins.

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What’s Cookin’ – Farmhouse Chicken

11th May 2010

I tried this yummy chicken recipe last night, and it was a huge hit with all of us!

Farmhouse Chicken by Kraft Foods

1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 small bone-in chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.), skin removed
1/4 cup KRAFT Light Zesty Italian Dressing
2 cups baby carrots
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 cups instant brown rice, uncooked
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

MIX flour and pepper in shallow dish. Add chicken; turn to coat both sides of each piece. Gently shake off excess flour. Heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken, meat-sides down; cook 5 to 6 min. or until golden brown. Turn chicken. Add carrots, onions and 1 cup broth; cover. Simmer on medium-low 20 min. or until chicken is done (165°F).

MEANWHILE, cook rice as directed on package; spoon onto platter. Use slotted spoon to remove chicken and vegetables from skillet; place over rice. Cover to keep warm.

ADD Neufchatel and remaining broth to skillet; cook on high heat until Neufchatel is melted and sauce is well blended, stirring constantly. Simmer on medium-low heat 3 to 5 min. or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Spoon over chicken and vegetables; top with parsley.

*My notes: I used 1.75lbs of boneless skinless breasts, split lengthwise.  There were lots of extra carrots, so maybe less next time. It was DELICIOUS!

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What’s Cookin’ – Garlic Herb Braid

10th May 2010

I came across this recipe, and immediately made it for Life Group.  It was AMAZING!  Perfect with any meal, and it looks so fancy!  But it’s so easy, too!  It’s definitely going to be made again and again! Thanks, Dine & Dish!

Garlic Herb Braid from Taste of Home’s Simple & Delicious

(click over for a great pic!)

16 ServingsPrep: 20 min. + rising Bake: 20 min. + cooling
  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons dill weed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and
seasonings. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and cubed
butter to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until
moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining
flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about
4-6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into thirds. Shape each into a 15-in. rope. Place ropes
on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck
under. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with
melted butter. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 1 loaf
(16 slices).

To make life easier, put all the ingredients except the final melted butter, in your bread machine and let your dough cycle do all the initial work.

*My notes: I’ve made this in the KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook (works fine!), and also in the bread machine.  It’s a bit too much dough for my machine, but it rises better, and it’s easier.  If you don’t want the whole braid loaf, it would work fine to split the dough into 2 loaf pans.  Great if you’re taking dinner to someone!

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A glimpse of Mother’s Day

9th May 2010

A sweet day of church, family, and lots of love.  I am a blessed woman!

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1 Corinthians 13 for Moms

8th May 2010

I searched all over the internet to see if I could find someone to credit this beautiful piece of writing to, but alas… no luck.  Grab a tissue, be encouraged and be inspired.

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper–not a homemaker. If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness – not godliness.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys. Love is present through the
trials. Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.

Love is the key that opens salvation’s message to a child’s heart.

As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.

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7th May 2010

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. – Deuteronomy 7:9

(One thing that’s stopped me from blogging is that I feel like I haven’t had time to pull my thoughts together and make them all neat and tidy.  Well, I’m never going to get around to it, and I’m sure there are plenty of others who can relate.  And some of the thoughts I’ve been mulling over might nudge/encourage/inspire/make you think a little too, so I’ll just toss them out there)

Our Life Group is going through Power of a Praying Wife (for the women) and The Power of a Praying Husband (for the men).  It’s been a great experience.  There’s something so encouraging about finding it open in the morning, knowing my husband has been praying specific prayers for me.

This past Wednesday, we discussed the men’s chapter on “Her Priorities”.  Our discussion stemmed from the question for us women, “What are your top 3 priorities?”  Well, I know what I WANT them to be.

  1. Loving God
  2. Sharing His love with (#1) my kids
  3. Sharing His love with other moms, other women, and other people.

But right now, I feel like I’m pulled in so many directions that I can’t give good efforts to any of them.  Instead, my priorities are, in no specific order:

  • Run to the store
  • Get the coupons clipped and sorted, and pulled out for shopping trip (hey, maybe this should go before the store trip! But to my frustration, it often doesn’t.)
  • Mail this, pay that.
  • Wash these 5 loads of laundry, don’t forget the bucket of stained items soaking. FOLD laundry, PUT AWAY laundry (in CAPS bc those are the most procrastinated!)
  • What’s for dinner? Take something out of the freezer?
  • Should’t I be making dinner/dessert for someone?
  • Hey it’s Wednesday (hypothetically)! Yay I get to host Life Group again! I’d better to get to cleaning…
  • Stop by this store, return something to that.
  • Call these people, email this group, order that, post/submit/print those…
  • Read some Word.
  • Pray.
  • Play with kids! Read with kids!
  • Run. Go to Curves.
  • Go to this meeting, don’t miss that meeting.
  • Wait… no mention of my husband here!  Hang out with him! Show him some love! (Thankfully, the yummy meals, clean dishes and laundry, and mostly happy kids speak some love to him.  I do love you, Brian! More than all these things except Christ!)

I know that I’m not as busy as some moms! I can name some of you who are juggling way more balls in the air (and kids! though not in the air!) than I am, and doing an amazing job.  But I’m struggling to to keep the most important things first, so I know you must be as well!

One thing I have learned, though.  We’ve traveled a lot, and stayed with all great people, visited wonderful families, seen awesome moms. One family sticks out in my memory though.  The hospitality was so gracious. The house was lived in, comfortable, cluttered but happy, by no means perfect. But the priorities were perfect.  The kids argued, but forgiveness was granted. Parents disagreed with each other occasionally, but grace flowed freely.   Bedtimes/bathtime were a struggle, feelings got hurt, people got grumpy, and hours could have been spent organizing the house (just like mine!!!).  But more importantly, God’s word was shared, prayer was spoken, and love abounded.

This is what I want for my family. When all else fails, my house will not be here, our blog will be forgotten, photo albums will fade.  But God’s love in the life of my children will grow faith that will last for generations.

And so, I’m praying each and every morning that God would direct my moments, that I would know exactly where He wants me to direct my efforts and time. And maybe my day will look a bit more like this (realistic idea):

  • Run
  • Pray on the walk home.
  • Get kids up, share our Bible memory verses over breakfast
  • Take Analise to school, pray for her day.
  • Shower.
  • Make a cup of tea. Read some Word.
  • Pray.
  • Get the coupons clipped and sorted, and pulled out for shopping trip (if we’re being realistic, this might not get done…)
  • Run to the store
  • Play with Josiah. Trains?
  • Mail this, pay that.
  • What’s for dinner?
  • Hey it’s Wednesday (hypothetically)! Yay I get to host Life Group again! I’d better to get to cleaning… Pray for other Life Groups as I’m cleaning up. Pray for our Life Group. Keep my heart reminded of what a joy this is, and how my Life Group notices the atmosphere of my home rather than whether I’ve dusted or not (I haven’t).
  • Read with kids. Play the piano with Analise.
  • Above all, love deeply. Let grace reign. Share forgiveness freely. Keep a heartful of thanks.

And I know each day will have it’s own battles and stumbling blocks.  But my heart is where the battle is won. And I’m determined to try to keep it focused on what matters. And He will not let me down.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you,we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. – Colossians 1:9-14

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