January 31, 2012

Tidbit Tuesday (sunshine & compliments)

Today was the first day in a long time that I didn't just lay the day away. It's been most challenging lately to just get out of my PJ's. I wrote a post last week about being cold and can you believe it's been anything but cold these last few days. I like to think it's God's way of shining down his love for me. The sun has been so bright and warm! Yesterday it reached 69 degrees, in Nebraska, in January! I forced myself to spend a little time in the sun today and took Blanca for a walk. The sun really warmed my soul and made me feel so good I decided to go to the grocery store.

I thought it would help out the Cookie Monster since he's been working hard all day. I was in the produce aisle loading up on $1 Avocados when a man shouted out at me, "you are delicious!" I looked up and I was the only one around. I couldn't help but crack a smile. Then he turned away and looked at his friend and said, "she's just BAM in the face."  O my nelly, I couldn't stop laughing. I suppose that was a compliment? Boy did it shock me. Here I was feeling lousy wearing the baggiest clothes I could find in my closet and somebody says something like that to me. I'm still laughing about it.

In summary the tidbit for today is: 

I challenge you to compliment a stranger today, you might be surprised how much it might mean to them, even if it's a bit of a crazy compliment. I hope that it's sunny where you are and that you are able to spend at least a few minutes in it.

P.S. I know y'all have some great ideas. I would love for you to to share them! E-mail me your Tidbits, include a picture if you have one and I'll feature you in an upcoming Tidbit Tuesday post that I will link up to your blog. I even created a new button that you can grab!

January 30, 2012

Feeling Icky

These last few weeks I have felt just plain terrible. I'm very in tune with my body, I know when just the slightest thing is different. This can be a good thing but generally not for those that are around me. I start talking about it and discussing it out loud. Bouncing ideas off everyone, wondering if they can help me solve whatever mysterious change is happening in my body.

About 3 weeks ago I shared a post about getting the flu and my battle with depression. As far as depression goes I've never felt this way for such a consistent period of time. I feel lost with what to do and what it means. I received a few encouraging responses from readers and some advice from loved ones. I know one thing I need to do is continue to strengthen my relationship with the Lord. I also need to work on building relationships with those around me. Of course it's easier said than done but I'm working on it. So I bounced back from the flu and have been working hard to stay positive but soon after the flu I found myself VERY emotional and bloated. My stomach felt so strange. I knew something wasn't right but I managed to keep these thoughts to myself for almost a week. My husband started noticing my lack of enthusiasm and motivation. I was just plain tired and grumpy.

Our friends from Minnesota decided that they wanted to come for a visit. I feel so blessed by their friendship and so happy that they are expecting their first child! Honestly though I was in no mood for visitors and didn't really want them to come. That's terrible isn't it! I felt so grumpy and the bloating was getting worse and now I was feeling nauseated and my back hurt. Our friends did come for a visit and I couldn't have been happier to see them. I tried to act normal but apparently I didn't do a good job, with all my questions about pregnancy and my complaints about my stomach I think I led my friends to believe I thought I was pregnant.

Yes that was in the back of my mind but I really thought that the first weeks of pregnancy weren't gonna feel so freaky. Sick yes, freaky, no. I told my husband that it felt like an alien was growing inside me, not a baby. We aren't planning on children for a couple more years still but we know that it would be a blessing to have one at any time, even if it's unexpected.

After our company left I took a pregnancy test and the results were a clear negative. Strange because a few more days passed and my stomach felt swollen and I didn't want to wear anything but my biggest, stretchiest, pants. The nausea and exhaustion was also worse. So after a few days I took another pregnancy test and still it was negative. That's when I decided setting up a doctors appointment was something I had to do. Unfortunately I couldn't be seen for a week but I figured I could wait.

This last Friday I was on the phone with my mom and I was telling her how it hurt to even sit and that it's getting worse. She advised me to call the doctor and see if they could squeeze me in that day, that I shouldn't wait. Thankfully they could get me in. I wondered if it could be an appendicitis since that runs in my family and my pain was becoming more localized. But could you have discomfort for so long?

I was the last patient seen that day and they saw me in a hurry. Of course they told me the symptoms I was describing were very similar to what women say when they are newly pregnant. They wanted to make sure I wasn't pregnant and to their surprise, I wasn't. I told them I hoped pregnancy wouldn't feel so strange... They took my blood to see if my white blood cells were high. They called me later with the results and said everything about my blood-work was normal. So my doctor said to come back in a few weeks if the problem persists that maybe I'm lactose intolerant or something.

I thought that was strange because it's literally uncomfortable for me to sit and bend and even just lay, even though that's better than sitting or bending. The next day I decided to fast in hopes my stomach would be less bloated and swollen feeling. I just drank hot tea and rested all day. Towards the end of the day I realized nothing was changing, if anything it felt worse and actually was starting to feel painful and in an even more localized area. Apparently it can be hard to tell if someone is having an appendicitis.  Was this happening to me, how would they know for sure just from blood-work? I'm not a doctor so I don't know these things but I do know my body and something wasn't right.

My husband decided to take me to the E.R. It was actually so quiet when we arrived and we didn't have to wait at all. I think telling them my pain was getting worse in the lower right side might have helped them move quickly. I was so thankful that they cared and were making an effort to find out what was wrong. The doctor pressed on me and ordered blood-work, he quickly ruled out an appendicitis because he said the discomfort would not last more than a week.

It's hard to put into words the level of discomfort I feel, it's just plain strange and miserable. I got my first sonogram done and it actually hurt. I asked if it was normal for it to hurt, it's not. Thankfully they were able to figure out what's wrong with me. I have a cyst on my ovary. Which is common for most women and usually you don't even know it's there. The problem with me is that my cyst is large at 7 cm. My mom has suffered from ovarian cysts in the past and has warned me that they can  be quite painful especially if they rupture. The doctor gave me some information but I still have lots of questions.  He said they can leak and when they're that large they can twist around. Usually they are able to shrink back down on their own. He's not sure if mine will shrink or if it will rupture. They want to monitor it, so I have to go back to the doctor in a few days.

I'm so happy to have this blog to distract me from this miserable pain. It's hard to find any position that's actually comfortable. I have found that a heating pad helps some. Thank you for listening and providing an outlet for me! Please share any advice or helpful hints for pain management you might have. I don't know much about this kinda thing except it makes me feel miserable. I appreciate you more than you know.

P.S. I know there is hope for me and others who may be dealing with ailments of their own!

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forgot not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases
{Psalm 103:2-3}

January 25, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

Here's my go to recipe for blueberry muffins. I love the crunchy streusel topping. Don't forget you can keep them from drying out by placing a piece of bread in the container with them.

*MAKES 12 


3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (you can use frozen or canned)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons firm butter



1.) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray.
2.) In large bowl, beat milk, oil, and egg with a fork or wire whisk. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon all at once just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). 

3.) Fold in blueberries and divide batter evenly into the muffin pan.  I use a large ice-cream scoop for this, it makes it much easier. Make streusel by combining all dry ingredients and using a pastry blender or fork to pull butter through until crumbly.

4.) Sprinkle each muffin with about 1 tablespoon of streusel. 

5.) Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes in pan then remove muffins from pan to wire rack.

Wish we could enjoy one together!

January 24, 2012

Tidbit Tuesday (keeping baked goods moist)

There is nothing worse then putting your heart and soul into baking something delicious and it drying out way too fast. If you've had this problem before then I have a solution for you, BREAD. All you need to do is rip a piece of bread in half and place it with whatever you don't want to dry out. I do this with my cookies, when I remember, and I recently did this with some blueberry muffins I made. I just ripped some bread in half and slid it between the rows of muffins. The bread will dry out and your baked good won't! Come back tomorrow for my Blueberry Muffin recipe.

January 23, 2012


The weather here in Nebraska is getting COLD. According to the locals it's been a "mild" winter so far. It's actually been bearable, at least until the wind blows. I like to think it's been a "mild" winter because I'm here and I was really hoping that the winter wouldn't be bad at all. It sure is starting to get really COLD though.

I know it's really COLD and that I don't want to be outside because two things happen:

#1 When I go outside icicles instantly form inside my nostrils.

#2 When I take Blanca on a walk she goes potty much faster than usual and then wants to go right back inside.

Did I mention that my dog Blanca is what we like to lovingly call a Lusky or Labsky? She's a lab, husky mix. Shes loves the snow and ice! She makes sure to run as fast as she can when we're putting ice in our drinks in hopes of getting a piece. She almost always does. I've never heard of a cheaper dog treat before. I know if Blanca doesn't even want to be outside then I certainly don't.

My husband A.K.A. the Cookie Monster and I were discussing this change in weather. I was of course complaining about how cold I was. He mentioned that his employees were complaining about the same thing all day. He said that he finally looked at them and said, "It makes you feel alive, doesn't it"? It's amazing that such a simple statement can stop and make you think.

I've actually been thinking it about it quite a bit the last few days. Each time a negative thought or complaint pops into my mind I think to myself, "It  makes you feel alive, doesn't it"? Maybe the cold weather stinging our ears, the winter blues, the aching in our bones and all the other things we feel are just reminders that we are alive and we should live life to the fullest.

It's great to feel alive!

If only we knew what Blanca was thinking? This picture was taken on a cold day in Colorado.

January 19, 2012

4 Ingredient Cookies

Say what? It's true, a cookie that only takes 4 ingredients! Okay I made some of mine with 5 ingredients. I wanted to see what they would taste like with a Gingerbread Marshmallow in the center. The results are a chocolaty, fudge dream of a cookie. If you're a Nutella fan then you will LOVE this cookie. For some reason I've only gotten 16 cookies out of the recipe below, apparently you should get 24. So if you want to have plenty, and you do, then you might want to double the recipe.

4 Ingredient Nutella Cookies (click here for printable recipe)

1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 whole egg

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.) Blend all ingredients together well. The dough will be crumbly. Form 1 inch balls and then place them on the cookie sheet. 

3.) Flatten the cookies down with the bottom of a glass (I usually just use my hands).

I decided to add a Gingerbread Marshmallow to some of them before baking. It was a good choice!

4.) Bake for 7 minutes or until set.

These didn't last long. THANKS Pioneer Woman for sharing the recipe!

January 17, 2012

Tidbit Tuesday (egg size)

What size eggs do you normally buy? I usually get large or extra large. I recently found out that the standard size here in the U.S. is LARGE.

It's very rare when I come across a recipe that actually specifies egg size so I always wonder if I'm using the right size egg. Since the standard is large that means when you're making a recipe that calls for an egg but doesn't say what size, large is the safest bet. Of course if the recipe does specify egg size you should do what it says.

January 16, 2012

Homemade Cheez-Its

When I saw this idea on Pinterest I just knew that I had to try it. Cheez-It Crackers are terrific but homemade ones are off the charts good. Not to mention it's nice to know what ingredients you're putting into your body. I'm pretty sure that there are some ingredients listed on the box of Cheez-It Crackers that I don't even know how to pronounce!

After looking over quite a few recipes online I decided to mostly follow one from Katrina's Kitchen where she lays the process out beautifully. Making these crackers is a similar process to making a pie crust. So if you're comfortable doing that then you should have no problem with these crackers. They do take work but if you involve the kids or a friend it will be so much fun you won't even realize there was work involved.

Homemade Cheez-Its (click here for printable recipe)


8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and a dash of hot sauce
1 cup flour
2  Tablespoons ice water 
Coarse salt for sprinkling

  • Combine cheese, butter, shortening, salt and pepper in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  • Slowly add the flour then the ice water. You may add a few more drops of water to help it come together but be careful not to add to much. The dough will be a similar consistency to pie crust. If you're like me it will be hard to resist trying the dough, it is so good even at this stage. 
  • Pat the dough into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Using parchment paper or a silicone mat roll out each disc to about 1/8 of an inch and cut into 1 inch squares. A pastry or pizza wheel is the best tool to use. A pastry wheel will give the crackers fun edges, I don't have one yet, so I just used a pizza wheel. 
  • Use a toothpick to punch a hole into the center of each square. If the squares are difficult to get off the mat you can return them to the refrigerator to cool while you roll out the second disc.
  • Once the squares are transferred to a baking sheet bake them for 10-15 minutes or until puffed and browned on the edges.
  • If you happen to pull them out too soon and the crackers don't have the desired crispiness you want then simply return them to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes.
You should get about 7 dozen crackers from this recipe. 

I've only made these once and they went very fast, so I'm not sure how long they will last. But I'm looking forward to making them again in the future and experimenting with the flavors.

P.S. they make a scrumptious chili topper


January 12, 2012

Self-pity & other Random Ramblings

I think I have the flu. My entire body aches, my head and neck hurt worse than I can ever remember them hurting before. It feels like a battle is taking place inside my stomach! I spent the entire day yesterday sleeping off and on and being board out of my mind. I feel better when I lay down but when I stand up I suddenly remember, I'm very sick. Unfortunately I had to cancel my subbing jobs 2 days in a row. That's definitely a down side to subbing is that you don't get paid sick days.

This is one of those viruses that make you feel very weak. Which makes you feel like you should eat something but just the thought of eating makes my stomach erupt in violence. My mom always says to stick to the  A B C diet. Apples, bananas, crackers and other bland foods. That would have helped if I had those items available. Lucky for me my husband finally came home from work around 6:00 last night with groceries in hand. I really wanted some warm, healthy, fresh soup. Would that fit into the  A B C diet? Well he brought soup but not what I was expecting. So I threw myself in the bed and stayed in a little ball the rest of the night. That apparently left my husband in confusion and he just stayed away from me. All I wanted was for someone to take care of me :(

On top of having the flu I've been struggling with depression. It seems to be getting worse and I don't know what to do about it. I'm pretty sure it must be circumstantial depression. If there is such a thing... when we took our road trip to Virginia I started feeling much better. I can't believe I've been living in Nebraska for 9 months! I was under the impression that our move to Nebraska was supposed to be a temporary move, maybe 6 months at the most. Even though I knew it would be temporary I was determined to make investments and still live life.

One of the first things we did was start visiting churches. After visiting many we thought we finally found one even though it's size was out of our comfort zone. This church is huge! We got involved with a smaller group but we still feel very disconnected from this HUGE church. It definitely doesn't feel like what church family has felt like in the past. We've gone many times and not even spoken with one person. I don't think we've even seen the same face twice. I come from churches where if I didn't go one week I would get a phone call or a note from someone just checking on me and letting me know they missed me. This is not the case with this church, I've lost track of when the last time I went was. 

Everyone has basic human needs that need to be met. One of them is meaningful contact with others. I walk into a school to substitute and nobody knows my name and I walk into church and nobody knows who I am. I feel so lonely. I know it's partly my own fault, I should probably keep trying harder. I'm just burned out and I keep wondering in the back of my mind. Will we be moving sometime soon? To a place that will be more permanent. My husband's company keeps jerking us around. One minute we're moving in the next 30 days, the next minute we might move within the next 5 months.

The worst part is we were already set up with a real estate agent to get a feel for the area where we might be moving and he actually found us a lovely house to live in. I feel like the walls in this apartment I'm currently living in are closing in around me. I'm done trying to come up with creative solutions for all the stuff. Trying to fit a homes' worth of stuff into a tiny apartment is not fun. Sure things appear fine and dandy but they are so not. Things are really falling apart around here and I don't know what to do about it. I really can't imagine living here for another day let alone months! I'm ready to pack up and move on and start over fresh. I want to have my own indoor and outdoor space. I want to have an interesting place to walk my dog on a regular basis. I want to be within driving distance of fun places to explore. I want to be within driving distance of family. I want to be a part of a community!

I think I'm really starting to loose it. The flu on top of being depressed might just be the last straw. I don't know how to get out of the deep, dark place I feel stuck in. I read back over the last few paragraphs and I thought to myself, is it really that bad? No it's not. I've actually been through way worse circumstances and didn't feel this depressed for this amount of time. So that leaves me asking myself, is this circumstantial or is there something else going on here? I'm not familiar with depression. I just know that something is not right inside me. I just don't feel healthy and haven't for a while. I always thought depression was something that you can just push through something you had control over. Now I'm not so sure...

I know I have a lot to be thankful for and have been blessed in many ways. I realize this is something I need to focus more on but it just doesn't seem to help. I'm glad that I have this opportunity to vent and get some things out in the open. I'm thankful for the outlet this blog has created for me. A place to inspire and be inspired. Hopefully I can muster up some good things to share in the future. I'm feeling a little like a caged animal, the space I have to create in is starting to make me feel limited. The environment around me is feeling anything but inspiring....

If anyone has any advice for bouncing back from the flu faster or any advice for getting out of this depressed hole I'm finding myself in I would sure appreciate it.

January 10, 2012

Tidbit Tuesday (Stamping)

Next time you plan to use your stamps, think outside the box. You can stamp on just about anything! You are not limited to that special scrapbook paper. You can use newspaper, pages from an old calendar, tissue boxes, pages from an old book or magazine, paint chips, used envelopes...  The possibilities are endless. It's fun to add texture and life to your stamped images. Check out these cute elephants I made for a friend a while back. I stamped the elephant onto the illustrations of an old, unloved book and then cut them out.

Happy Stamping!

January 6, 2012

5 layer Mexican Pizza

It's true that we have pizza at least once a week. It's easy, cheap and yummy. I also like to think I'm meeting my food group quota with just a slice :) We're always experimenting with our toppings. What's your favorite pizza topping? Sometimes we are more successful than others. I would say this turned out to be a yummy success that we will have to make again soon.

Layer 1: Pizza Crust with 1 can of refried beans spread over top. (click HERE for my pizza crust recipe)

Layer 2: Nacho Cheese Sauce and yes I make my own. You can find the recipe HERE.

Layer 3: Pico de Gallo (diced tomatoes, garlic, red onion, jalapenos, and the juice of a lime). Any other favorite salsa will work. 

Layer 4: Sausage, Chorizo, ground beef or any other meat you like.

Layer 5: Fresh cilantro and shredded cheese.

Doesn't that sound DELICIOUS? I hope you'll try it to see for yourself. Enjoy!

January 4, 2012

Crock-Pot Hot Chocolate

When I spotted gingerbread marshmallows in the store the other day I couldn't resist them. They are absolutely adorable and I knew I had to make some hot chocolate for them to adorn. Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean the gingerbread men have to go away. No I would say they are safe to be out and enjoyed all winter long. Not only are these marshmallows cute but they are so tasty, I would venture to say better than plain marshmallows. Who ever thought up these marshmallows is brilliant!

Crock Pot Hot Chocolate
serves 8
Ideal slow cooker size: 3 qt

1/2 cup dry baking cocoa
12 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Marshmallows, as many as you want

1.) In crock-pot combine milk, water and vanilla.
2.) Add dry cocoa and salt, stir until smooth.
3.) Cover and cook on high 2 hours or on low for 4 hrs or until very hot.
4.) Top each serving with marshmallows, I also love whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon

  • To speed things up, heat the water before adding it to the chocolate mixture.
  • Add a mocha flavor by stirring in instant coffee in step 2. 
  • Add a cinnamon stick for a delicious twist.
  • If the edges burn you might want to cook it at a lower temperature next time. The hot chocolate isn't ruined you just don't want hit the sides when stirring and serving so that the little bits wont float in your drink. 

January 3, 2012

Tidbit Tuesday (road trips)

Well we made it back safely to Nebraska. What we thought would be a 16 hour drive somehow turned into a 19 hour drive. It always seems easier driving to the destination instead of returning. I have 2 tips for taking road trips.

#1  If you can, drive through the night. You will practically have the road to yourself and generally construction can be avoided. This is great for interstate driving not scenic driving.

#2  Have at least 2 drivers and plan to switch every 4 hours. For some reason 4 hours seems to be the perfect stopping point and perfect amount of time to rest. Even if you feel like you can go longer than 4 hours make yourself stop and switch. 

Do you have any other road trip advice to share? I'm always looking for anything helpful to get me through a long drive.

This is one of my favorite pictures taken in 2008 on a road trip from Colorado to Utah. You might want to be extra cautious driving through the night in these parts. Of course there is much beauty to be enjoyed by driving through the day!

January 1, 2012

Bringing in the New Year

This is how we bring in the New Year. It's my mamma's tradition that was passed down to her by her momma and her mamma's momma. Greens, black eyed peas and rice with a side of corn bread. Details will have to be saved for a later date since we are about to embark on our 19 hour journey homeward. Maybe I'll try making it myself next New Year.