Hot Cranberry Apple Cider







This is a favorite in my family ~ we have it several times a week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. So simple to throw together, it does well in the crock pot.

2 quarts apple cider
1 quart cranberry juice
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 seedless oranges, cut into wedges
8 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves

In a crock pot, mix cider and cranberry juice. Add brown sugar; stir.

Add orange wedges to cider mix. Place spices in a spice bag and add to cider.

Cover and turn crock pot on high. Allow cider to heat fully, then enjoy!

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Chicken Cheese Melts

  • 3 C cooked, chopped chicken
  • 1/2 C mayonnaise
  • 1 (14 oz) jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped ~ plain or marinated, whichever you like best
  • 1 TBS cooking sherry
  • 1 tsp. dried chopped basil
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 C shredded mozzarella cheese or shredded mozzarella & provolone cheese blend
  • 1/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 12 slices Italian bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except Italian bread. Mix well. Lay Italian bread slices out on a sheet pan; top with chicken and cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread crust is crunchy dry.


Before baking, you can also try these suggestions:

  • sprinkle a little extra shredded cheese on top of the bread/chicken cheese mixture
  • add a small can of chopped, drained black olives
  • top with shredded or grated Parmesan cheese



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Oven-Fried Chicken

This isn’t so much a healthier version of fried chicken ~ I haven’t done the stats on it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not much “healthier” than regular fried chicken ~ but it’s certainly a tasty alternate version of regular fried chicken. Super simple, I can whip this up in 30 minutes with only about 10 minutes of work on my part. The rest is cooking time.

As with all recipes, your cooking time may vary. Always insure chicken is fully cooked ~ white meat all the way through, no pink juices ~ before serving and eating.

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 1/2 cups flour (I use organic white whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

salt & pepper to taste

cooking oil of your choice

Wash chicken breasts in cold water; pat dry. In a shallow glass casserole dish, lay out chicken pieces and cover with buttermilk. Marinate chicken with buttermilk in refrigerator, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning chicken over occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a shallow pie pan or bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Remove chicken from buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with flour mixture.

Heat about 1 inch of oil in large, heavy skillet on medium high. Once oil is hot, cook chicken in oil about 3 minutes on each side, until coating is light brown (the pieces will continue to cook and brown in the oven). Work in batches if necessary; don’t crowd the chicken. Remove chicken from oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan covered with foil. Bake chicken for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear. Bake a couple of minutes extra if you desire a crispy coating.

There are a myriad of ingredients used to make the coating on fried chicken. Feel free to experiment by adding chili powder, cayenne pepper, basil, oregano, sage, adobo seasoning, seasoned salt, or any other herbs or seasonings you like.


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Cleaning with Vinegar and Other Natural Items

Vinegar, baking soda and kosher salt are some of the most versatile items in the household. They have a multitude of uses. Here are a few I personally use frequently:

  • Pour a cup of distilled white vinegar into the toilet bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Then gently clean the bowl with a toilet brush and flush.
  • If you have a particularly tough toilet bowl stain, pour half a gallon of distilled white vinegar into the bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Brush with toilet brush and flush. The stain should be gone. If not, you can try it again.
  • If you like the “Scrubbing Bubbles” action, pour a cup of distilled white vinegar and half a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl. The combination of vinegar and baking soda will create a chemical reaction that should foam up and bubble ~ this is a completely harmless reaction! Once the bubbling has finished, clean the bowl with a toilet brush and flush.
  • The same combination of vinegar and baking soda can be used in the sink and the bathtub (with the stopper closed). Rinse well.
  • If more scrubbing is needed once the bubbling has finished, use more baking soda or kosher salt and a damp cloth or sponge. Scrub, then rinse sink or tub well.
  • Clean countertops in the kitchen and bath with a 3:1 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar. Combine in a spray bottle, mist lightly, and wipe with a damp cloth. Or mix in a bucket, dip your cloth into the mixture and squeeze it out well, then use to wipe counters.
  • Baking soda will clean glass top stoves perfectly without scratching. Just sprinkle some on, then wipe or lightly scrub with a damp cloth.
  • Baking soda can be used to scrub the bottoms of pots and pans, especially if you have a gas stove that leaves soot and/or scorch marks on your pans.
  • In an open glass container or bowl, mix 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda. When foaming has finished, add a couple of drops of castille soap (or dishwashing soap) and a cup of warm water. You can also add a few drops of an essential oil if you desire. Use with a cloth to clean toilet bowl rim, seat, and tile/linoleum floor area immediately under toilet (especially if you have males in the house!).
  • For cleaning wooden cutting boards: sprinkle area with baking soda or kosher salt. Cut a lemon in half and use cut side of one half to scrub the board.
  • You can also use the cut side of half a lemon and a sprinkle of baking soda or kosher salt to clean bathtubs and sinks.

Using vinegar, baking soda, kosher salt and lemons for cleaning is something the folks of my grandmother’s generation and generations before her knew. Only in the last few generations has using store-bought cleaners and chemicals become the popular method of cleaning and disinfecting. And really, using baking soda, vinegar and a toilet bowl brush to clean my toilets doesn’t take any more time than using a pre-made chemical I can buy at the store.

If you have any favorite old-timey, natural cleaning tips, I’d love for you to share them here in the comments section!


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Laundry Detergent

Many women are looking for ways to cut spending and/or save money these days. One of the best ways to cut spending is to make for yourself some of the things you currently spend excessive amounts of money buying in the store. Laundry detergent always seems to make the list of things to cut when people evaluate their spending habits. More and more people are making their own laundry detergent. It’s super easy and very inexpensive, and I wanted to share my recipe with you.

To make your own laundry detergent, you will need:

1 bar Fels-Naptha

1 cup washing soda

1 cup borax

Grate the Fels-Naptha using a standard box grater or food processor with grating disc. Line a shallow, sided baking pan with towels or paper towels; spread grated Fels-Naptha on lined baking sheet and allow to dry for a couple of days. You’ll want to put the baking sheet somewhere cool and dry (we put ours on top of the refrigerator because we live in a very humid state ~ putting it outside just wouldn’t work well).

Once the Fels-Naptha has dried out a bit, combine the grated bar with washing soda and borax in a dry blender or food processor. I have a Vita-Mix, and I use the dry container meant specifically for grating/chopping dry items like nuts and seeds. Run blender/pulse food processor a few times to mix the ingredients together, but don’t blend/pulse too much. The mixture becomes very powdery and difficult to work with if over-blended.

Store in a lidded, airtight container.

In a high efficiency washer, use about 1/2 tablespoon of detergent per load. If not using a h.e. machine, you may need to use more detergent (about 1 tablespoon should do the trick).

We have tried a few different soap options over the years, but we’ve found Fels-Naptha works the best. It may be difficult to locate Fels-Naptha, but it’s worth calling around your local area to find it. Occasionally they stock Fels-Naptha at one of the big box stores in my area, and I always buy 10 or more bars at a time when I can get my hands on it. 10 bars will make a LOT of laundry detergent, and the bars are not expensive (last time I bought a bunch they were $1.50 each).

Also, please note that washing soda is NOT the same thing as baking soda. Arm & Hammer makes them both, but baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, whereas washing soda is sodium carbonate. You should be able to find all of these products ~ Fels-Naptha, borax and washing soda ~ in your local grocery store’s laundry products aisle.

Just a couple more tips:

Instead of using fabric softener in the washing machine, use a small amount of distilled white vinegar. A small amount won’t make your clothes smell vinegary as long as it’s used in the rinse cycle. By small amount, I mean less than a quarter cup. A great solution to trying to catch the rinse cycle is to use a Downy ball. Just put some distilled white vinegar in the Downy ball (less than the “fill line” mark), close it and throw it in the machine with the clothes before you start the wash cycle. Easy peasy.

Instead of using dryer sheets, combine water and apple cider vinegar in a 3:1 solution in a spray bottle. Lightly mist the load of laundry with the ACV mixture once it’s piled up in the dryer. Dry as usual.

I have found when I wash a load that contains only 100% cotton articles, I don’t need to use anything in the dryer to avoid static cling. It’s only when there are artificial textiles in the mix that static is a problem.

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Handling Challenges ~ A Few Suggestions

Do you have any situations in your life that you find especially challenging? I certainly do. They’re not the kind of challenges I ever expected to encounter, either.

So what do you do? That’s an honest question ~ I don’t have the answer. All I know is that when everything in my life seems to be one gigantic mountain of a challenge after another, I have to work really hard not to get discouraged. Or to give up. Or to blow up.

Striking a balance can be very difficult. There are a couple of things that are easy enough to do that can help:

  • Listen to praise and worship music. It doesn’t matter what kind of praise and worship music ~ from hymns to rock ‘n’ roll genre, it makes no difference. Listen to what you like, what moves you, what uplifts you and reminds you that we worship a very big God.


  • Read and/or recite Scripture that speaks to you. Different Scriptures can apply to different situations. For example, when my temper begins to flare and I feel as though I may explode, it usually helps me to remember the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.


  • Step back, take a moment and a couple of deep breaths. Talk to God for a moment ~ in your head is fine, or you can say a quiet prayer. He hears you, whether your prayer is spoken or unspoken.


  • Remember that everyone goes through rough patches ~ some patches are rougher than others, and some people have many more rough patches than others. Nonetheless, we all have them.


  • Confide in a friend, mentor, spiritual leader or pastor. Choose someone who you know to be wise and trustworthy.


  • When people ask how you’re doing or what’s new in your life, it’s not necessary to tell them all of the details. Be genuine, but remember it’s okay to simply say you’re facing some challenges and would appreciate them remembering you in their prayers.


  • If you’re comfortable with sharing the details, do so.


  • Do your best to drink plenty of water, get the right amount of sleep, eat well and get some exercise. If that means skipping your mid-day Ding Dong or Twinkie fest (and I only say that because I am guilty of those!) and taking a walk around the block, do it. Small steps are better than no steps.

Will doing the above suggestions get rid of your problems or challenges? Probably not. But they might help you to deal with them better, get some perspective, shed some light, and restore at least a small amount of peace in your head, heart and soul.

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Joy and Peace

I love this photo. Two of my favorite people are in it. In the foreground is Reyna, the beautiful redhead. Reyna is one of those amazing young women who doesn’t really know how truly incredible she is. Reyna is now in college, majoring in interior design. I’ve known Reyna since she was 7 years old, and I’ve watched her grow and change in many ways. Most of all, she has grown in her love for Jesus. She is a beautiful young woman on the outside, but it’s the inside love of Jesus that shines so brightly through her that makes her one of the most beautiful girls I know.

Next to Reyna is my youngest son, Sawyer. This photo is “a keeper” for me (although I didn’t take it) because that smile on Sawyer’s face is genuine. He and Reyna were having a great time when this photo was captured on Reyna’s camera by some unknown person. I don’t know what they were doing ~ probably something related to a youth group activity ~ and to be honest I don’t even know when or where the photo was taken, but someone did an amazing job of capturing the two of them having a great laugh together.

Sometimes I wonder…if someone were to snap a photo of me without my knowledge, how would that photo turn out? Would I have a joyful or peaceful look on my face, or would I appear grumpy? Or even worse, would I have an angry look on my face? My husband calls it my sour puss face. I’ve caught glimpses of my sour puss face in the mirror, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty look.

Am I always happy? No, of course not. But I can be joyful, despite my circumstances. Am I always calm, cool and collected? Not by a long shot. But I can be peaceful, no matter what is going on around me. Humans have emotions ~ they allow us to feel, to empathize, sympathize, to laugh and cry, to be excited, and to handle moments of great happiness and great sadness. We’re meant to experience a wide range of emotions. It’s the way God made us.

I find myself wanting more peace, more joy in the Lord. I want the large majority of those candid snapshots to show the joy and peace my Lord brings to my heart. My life will never be perfect, but my God is ~ and He can handle whatever emotions I feel at any given moment. And in return, He fills me with peace and joy beyond understanding.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. ~James 3: 13-18


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4: 4-7


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Anniversary Drawing Winners!

Thank you to everyone who commented or sent an email to enter our First Anniversary Giveaway. The winners names and gifts are below. Congratulations!

Spa Set (2 winners): Kelly, Brenda

2-book set by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn: Meeghan

3-book set of children’s books: Jacquelyn

Devotional by Gary Chapman: Rachel

I Do Again: Christie

Travis Cottrell CD: Carol

Starbucks gift card: Jo

Michael’s gift card: Emily

More Hours in My Day: Dana

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: Becky Jo

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Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness.

Psalm 119: 33-40

Work through Psalm 119, verses 33 to 40. You’ll see:

  • God teaches, we follow
  • God gives understanding, we keep and obey
  • God directs, we find delight
  • God turns our heart and eyes from selfishness and worthless things
  • He will fulfill His promises
  • He takes away disgrace and dread
  • He gives good things
  • He gives us His righteousness, we long for His words

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Joyful gratitude and love yield obedience, a deep devotion to the Lord, and a longing to move closer to God. No legalism here; just a desire of heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) to know the Lord, follow Him, love Him and obey His commands.


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