Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012: Priorities and Goals

"Lose weight".
"Read more".
"Visit a new place".

These are just three of the many hits I received when I did a search on Google for "New Year's Resolutions". I don't know about you, but those seem like pretty vague resolutions to me. They are great ideas, but are unclear and lack concrete steps to make them a reality. One thing my husband and I have been trying to work on in our life together is being intentional in all that we do. This manifested itself in our lives most recently when we decided to make concrete and attainable goals for the new year rather than weak and non-committal resolutions. We went on a date on Wednesday night with the specific plan of coming up with our goals for 2012. Here is what goal setting looks like for our family:

We first discussed and identified our priorities. Here is my priority list:
  • Maintaining a passionate, strong and growing relationship with the Lord
  • Maintaining a fantastic, open and honest relationship with my husband
  • Training Julian in the Lord, lavishing him with love and enjoying him fully
  • Staying healthy, fit and seeking to expand my knowledge
  • Keeping a clean and organized home
  • Ministering to people around us, especially those in our church
  • Sticking to our budget and financial plan
Based on these priorities, we came up with six categories for our goals. These categories are:
  • Personal
  • Work (my list says Kitchen/Home, since I work in the home)
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Ministry/Friendships/Extended Family
  • Financial
We then worked together to come up with specific, achievable goals for the last four categories, leaving the first two for us to identify individually. After prayer and long conversation, we came up with our goals for 2012. I share them with you here both to provide you with motivation to be intentional in your own life, as well as to keep myself accountable to the goals that I have set and committed to for 2012.

2012 Goals

  • Exercise at least three times a week
  • Read through the Bible chronologically
  • Read twelve enriching books
  • Drink one gallon of water daily
  • Memorize twelve Bible passages
  • Attempt four new cooking projects (freezer jambread, greek yogurt and salsa)
  • Continue to "all natural-ize" our cleaning and personal care products
  • Serve fish for dinner once a week
  • Create and maintain a cleaning schedule
  • Do a seasonal Goodwill/garage sale sweep
  • Once a month out of the house dates with my husband
  • Once a week in house dates with my husband
  • Read six books together
  • Encourage each other daily
  • Have a weekly family night
  • Read from The Jesus Storybook Bible together daily
  • Write in Julian's journal at least once a month
Ministry/Friendships/Extended Family
  • Have one family or friend over for a meal at least once a month
  • Send a handwritten note to a friend or family member once every two weeks
  • Start and maintain monthly get-togethers with extended family
  • Continue to teach Sunday School at our church
  • Continue to tithe 10% of our weekly income
  • Continue to support a missionary family
  • Have once a month budget meetings
I plan to blog about our goals frequently over this year and to unpack some of them a little more in the coming weeks. Hopefully this encourages and inspires you to live intentionally in 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 12/26-1/1

We had a lovely, albeit busy, Christmas. I can't help but share a picture with you all since it was Julian's first Christmas!

As for our menu plan this week, I did my usual routine of planning and shopping for this week last week, however, we were the blessed recipients of TONS of Christmas leftovers, so we will be eating through those this week and filling in the gaps with what I have on hand. I will be back to sharing our normal menu plan next week.

Here is a recipe that I brought to share at our family Christmas gatherings. I am sure it would be a hit at New Year's Eve or New Year's celebrations, too!

Sweet Potato Garlic Spread
(Makes about 8 cups of spread)
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp.lemon juice
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tbs. parsley (fresh is best, but dried works great, too!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place peeled sweet potatoes in a glass baking dish with a little bit of water in the bottom. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then mash. Add garlic, oil and lemon juice and continue to mash. Sprinkle oregano, parsley, salt and pepper in and give it one final mash to combine everything. Refrigerate and serve with crackers or bread.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How I blessed my husband this Christmas

I was inspired by this post this Christmas season and, therefore, have been doing the "Twelve Days of Christmas" for my husband since December 13th. Of course, I know that the real "Twelve Days of Christmas" begins with Christmas day and counts down to Epiphany, but, for the purpose of blessing my husband, I started it on the 13th of this month and will end on the 24th.

Since we had already committed to not spending anything on each other this year, I had to get creative with my gifts. I took the liberty of spending some of our food money on him...I figured that money would be spent either way, so I did not feel as though I was violating our "no spending" commitment! I made a card with the words "On the ________ day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..." on the front and drew a picture hint of what the gift would be on the inside. I put each of these in an envelope with the number on the front and wrote "Merry Christmas" on the back. I gave him the envelope for the day at breakfast each morning (with the exception of day two, which I attempted to hide in his lunchbox...he ended up not eating lunch that day...oops!). It has been so fun for me to give these to him and he has enjoyed this new treat. I hope to make it a tradition every Christmas!

Here is the list of what he received thus far:
  1. One polo shirt (I had returned something to Kohl's and was able to get this off the clearance rack for the exact price of what I returned)
  2. Watching "Lord of the Rings: Two Towers" together after the baby went to bed (I did not realize how LONG this movie was, so Kerry was gracious and let us watch something else instead!)
  3. Singing "We Three Kings" as a family
  4. Four fun and flirty (!) text messages throughout the day
  5. Five haikus written just for him
  6. Six Reese Peanut Butter Trees
  7. Seven encouraging Bible verses
  8. Eight scotcheroos
  9. Nine love notes hidden throughout the house
  10. Ten significant songs from our relationship
Today is day eleven and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly praise my husband by posting...

Eleven Reasons Why I Love You
  1. You are an incredibly intelligent and life-long learner. I am constantly amazed at the sheer volume of subjects you know about. If ever I have a question about something, I can be pretty confident that you will know the answer. You are always striving to learn new things and to better understand the things you already know.
  2. You love Jesus with all your heart. You make time to be in His Word on a regular basis. You make a point to pray with me before we go to bed at night and at the table before our meals. You are an example to others, especially in your family, as evidenced by the fact that you are called upon to pray when we gather for family celebrations. 
  3. You spend time with our son. Despite your busy schedule, you make it a priority to get down on the floor and play with Julian every chance you get. I love to see his face light up and hear his little laugh when daddy tickles him or throws his up in the air. You are a wonderful daddy to our little boy. 
  4. You remember the little things. You do this on a pretty regular basis, but the example that will always stick in my mind is from when we first started dating. I had told you how my dad celebrated my half birthday when I was growing up by making me half of a birthday cake and writing "Hap Birt Fa" on it. You remembered this and made me half a pan of scotcheroos, complete with "Hap Birt Fa". 
  5. You love to read. I devour books. I am so glad that you enjoy reading, too, because we can spend the evening cuddling on the couch, reading our own books and enjoying time together. I can't wait to read some books together with you this coming year. 
  6. You are a hard worker. You personify Colossians 3:23 for me. No matter what you are doing, whether it be changing a diaper or learning the codes for your new job, you do it to the best of your ability and with all your heart. 
  7. You recognize and appreciate the work I do in our home. Not every stay at home mom has a husband that sees the value in her working at home. I am so thankful that you value my role as homemaker and caretaker of our son. 
  8. You are patient with me and others. This is an area in which I struggle. I am not very patient sometimes (okay...most of the time!). I think God purposefully matched us together so I can learn to be patient by your godly example.
  9. You encourage me to be a better person. Whether in regards to exercising consistently or making it possible for me to join a mom's group, you are always looking out for ways to encourage and strengthen me, inside and out.
  10. You put up with my harebrained (sometimes!) ideas. Everything from getting rid of conventional toothpaste to making stock with chicken feet. You take it all in stride and don't complain or make fun of my experiments. What sticks in my mind is the time I made brussel sprouts and they were awful, really awful. You choked one down without complaining, so I figured they turned out great! Not so much. I took my first bite and spit it out :)
  11. You are easygoing and excited about our future. Whenever I start to get worried or begin to panic about our future, I think about how God has it all planned and how you never seem to get worked up over it. Certainly, you have worked hard to prepare to enter medical school, but you have done so with an open heart and a calm spirit, knowing and trusting that "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21)
Thank you, Kerry, for loving and leading me these past 16 months. I can't imagine my life without you, my love. 
photo credit: Samantha Lynn Photography

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

photo credit: Kelsey Sliger

Some highlights from 2011:

Welcoming Julian Arthur Storms into our family. Kerry and I became parents on May 5th, 2011 and are loving learning how to care for, love and teach this little life the Lord has entrusted to us.
Finishing school, at least for this season. I finished up my undergrad requirements a week after Julian was born. I will get to walk in graduation at Moody in May of 2012. Kerry finished up his post-undergraduate work at Bradley just a few weeks ago. We will enjoy this semester off from school before jumping back into it (at least for Kerry) with medical school in the fall.
Moving to a new apartment. We moved to our new apartment in June and are SO happy with the place. We have two bedrooms, space for a kitchen table and outlets all over the place! We are living by a beautiful nature center where Julian and I spent many hours throughout the summer and fall. We will always remember our first apartment together, but are definitely happy to be out of there.
Learning more about trusting the Lord. Our life is pretty up in the air right now. Kerry has three interviews for medical school scheduled for January. We have absolutely no idea where we will be 6 months from now. That is a scary thought, especially for a micro-managing planner like myself, but I know that the Lord knows where we will be and that is enough for me. This passage has been and will continue to be our anthem as we move forward, placing our worries at the foot of the cross and sitting back to enjoy the wild ride the Lord has planned for us.

Matthew 6:25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of your by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.

Have a blessed Christmas in the Lord!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 12/19-12/25

Merry Christmas week! Our menu plan this week is simple, easy and short, since we have Christmas meals with family a few times this week.

My husband has a soft start (only two shifts) to his new job this week with variable shift times, so you will begin to see some variation on when our "big" meal happens. This will certainly take some getting used to for me, but we are VERY grateful for this new job, so I can deal with the slight schedule change :)

Since hubby is home way more than usual this week, we are doing leftovers and smoothies for both of us for lunches. If I run out of leftovers, we will have eggs and smoothies, although I seem to always have an abundance of leftovers, much to hubby's chagrin!

Here is our menu:

  • Dinner: Mom's Night Out (leftovers again for hubby!)
  • Dinner: Salmon patties,sweet potato wedges and fruit
  • Dinner: Lentils and Spinach, biscuits and fruit (discovered this recipe thanks to Blessed Roots!)
  • Dinner: Chicken tortilla soup, biscuits and fruit (soup recipe below)
  • Dinner: Leftovers
  • Breakfast: Soaked whole wheat pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Lunch: Car snacks 
  • Dinner: Christmas dinner # 2 (# 1 was yesterday!)
  • Lunch: Christmas dinner # 3
  • Dinner: Christmas dinner # 4
Chicken Tortilla Soup

1/2 tsp. garlic, minced 
1 tbs. butter
5-6 c. chicken bone broth
3 tbs. homemade taco seasoning
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can tomato sauce
2 c. cooked shredded chicken
2 handfuls tortilla chips
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can green chiles

Dump everything in the crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and crushed tortilla chips on top.

I linked up to menu plan monday

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 12/12-12/18

Thanks for coming by from Modern Alternative Kitchen! CLICK HERE to see the recipe linked to the menu plan this week on my new site!

Whew! There are 14 days left until Christmas and the decorations (humble as they may be!) are finally up at the Storms house.

Kerry finally spoke up and requested something other than oatmeal for breakfast on Saturday. Thankfully, he told me Friday afternoon, so I had plenty of time to prepare our favorite homemade pancake recipe. I certainly missed Saturday morning pancakes this past month while we were having oatmeal every single day, so I was glad for the request. If you have been following our menu for the last few months that I have been posting them, you may notice that we no longer have pizza on Saturday nights. I had been struggling for a long while with finding a good pizza dough recipe. In my search for a recipe, I came across a recipe for homemade calzones. I decided to try it out last week and, as it turns out, we LOVED it (not to mention it was so EASY!). So, no more pizza for the Storms family on Saturday nights. We have moved on to bigger and better things :)

Here is our menu for the week, along with a recipe!

  • Dinner: Leftover soup, homemade whole wheat biscuits and fruit 
  • Dinner: Hamburgers, sweet potato wedges and fruit
  • Dinner: Lentil Shepherd's Pie (AKA Lentil Bake, since my hubby claims to HATE Shepherd's Pie, but loves this dish, as long as I don't call it Shepherd's Pie...), homemade whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Dinner: Sausage, beans and potatoes (recipe below), homemade whole wheat biscuits and fruit
  • Dinner: Bringing this pear salad to Family Group 
  • Breakfast: Soaked whole wheat pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Lunch: Hot dogs, chips and fruit
  • Dinner: Homemade calzones and fruit
  • Lunch: Cracker Barrel (celebrating Christmas with my parents and sister)
  • Dinner: Popcorn and smoothies

Sausage, Beans and Potatoes (adapted from this recipe)
1 lb. fresh green beans ( of course, fresh is better, but I used frozen ones I bought at the Farmer's Market this summer...they were fresh once!)
1 lb. organic fingerling potatoes (I like fingerling potatoes better than baby red, just a personal preference)
1/2 lb. sausage links, cooked (I buy our sausage from the local health food is local, nitrate free and from pigs that live the good life)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 c. chicken bone broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash the green beans and potatoes thoroughly. If the green beans are fresh, snap the ends off. Depending on how long they are, snap them in half, as well, otherwise they will not fit in your crockpot (experience speaking here!). Cut the potatoes in half, or if they are shaped odd like my potatoes usually are, cut them in half-like pieces. Chop the cooked sausage links in approximately one inch pieces. Place all ingredients in your crockpot. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-9 hours.

I linked up to menu plan monday at Organizing Junkie

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Julian: 7 months

Julian turned 7 months old on Monday. He is getting so BIG! We went to the doctor today to see the nurse for his second to last round of shots, so they did not do the full stats, but I was able to get him weighed. He weighed in at 16 lb. 13 oz.!

Seven months old

We officially started solid foods with him on Monday, as well. We are taking the baby-led weaning  approach to feeding him. Our mantra, as is the case with most baby-led weaning families, is "food before one is just for fun". The only traditional "rules" we are following is avoiding peanut butter and honey, especially since we eat raw honey, for at least the first year. I am still nursing Julian on demand, which comes out to be about 6 or 7 times in a 24 hour period. I am not at all concerned about how much (or, in this case, how little!) solid food he is actually eating. If he wants to eat what we put in front of him, he will! That being said, he has LOVED what we have given him so far. On Monday, he had sweet potato and roast at dinner. Tuesday he had a few chunks of banana at breakfast. Wednesday we gave him some ground beef and cucumber at dinner. I do wonder how much of it he is actually consuming, even though it doesn't really matter. I get my reassurance when I find little chunks of food in his dirty diapers :)

I will (and already do!) DEFINITELY miss the seven months of nothing but breast milk, particularly when it comes to his dirty diapers. They were much easier to clean up when he was EBF because I could throw the diaper, poop and all, into the wet bag and, subsequently, into the washing machine. Thankfully, my wonderful husband installed our diaper sprayer on Saturday. I know plenty of cloth diapering mommas who do it without a diaper sprayer, but this is one momma who is VERY thankful for the person that invented that contraption :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Three Things I No Longer Buy

Like many families right now, we are trying to simplify our life and save money any way that we can. We also try to be intentional about not only what we are putting in our bodies but also about what we are putting on them.

I will be honest and say that we are NOT a "go green, save the earth, whales, llamas etc." family. However, many of the choices that we make do fall in line with the "go green, save the earth, whales, llamas etc." crowd, but not because of that. Our primary focus is to be a good steward of that which the Lord has entrusted us. To me, this means not only keeping a close eye on our purchases and, therefore, stewarding God's money well, but also keeping a close eye on what is going in and on the bodies the Lord has given us, thereby stewarding God's dwelling place well. As a homemaker, one of my jobs is to do my homework and make sure that I am providing my husband and son with the best possible choices for meals and other areas of daily life.

This has been a slow process for us, mostly because my husband stopped me from throwing everything we owned away when I began looking into this natural way of living, so please don't think that we have it all figured out or even that we are doing everything right. Don't take my word for it. Do the research yourself and decide what is best for your family. These are simply some things that we have decided are best for our family.

Three Things I No Longer Buy
 1. Toothpaste. I was always intrigued by the suggestion on the back of the baking soda box that it could be used as toothpaste, but I never tried it. After doing a bit of research and concluding that I don't really want my family ingesting flouride or sodium laureth sulfate, I decided to go ahead and try to make our own toothpaste. I tried an adapted version of this recipe first, using a few drops of tea tree oil. My husband did not care for the tea tree oil taste, which I should have known would happen considering he could not stand the smell when we were using it to treat Julian's yeast infection. So, I finished up that batch while he used up the very last trial size Crest we had in the house. I went back to the internet and finally came up with a new homemade toothpaste recipe adapted and compiled from several different sources. 

Storms Family Toothpaste
2 tbs. coconut oil
3 tbs. baking soda
1 tbs. hydrogen peroxide
15-20 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix all ingredients together in small glass jar.

2. Shampoo. The idea of making our own shampoo stemmed from the fact that we were spending at least $10 a month on shampoo. I looked at that figure and decided that was on area we could cut back. But, I was 7 months pregnant when I made that decision, and did not really have the motivation to make shampoo myself. So, I started couponing and signing up for free samples. We very quickly had a BIG stockpile of free shampoo bottles and samples. Then I started reading about sodium laureth sulfate and decided I did not want our family to use products with that ingredient any longer. Enter the homemade shampoo. This is not an original recipe. In fact, type the ingredients in Google and you will find myriad people that are using this method to wash their hair. Are you ready?

Storms Family Shampoo
1 tbs. baking soda
1 c. water

Mix the ingredients together in a pump or squeeze bottle. Wet hair and pump or squeeze onto scalp. Comb through with a wide tooth comb and rinse. UPDATE: Apparently, this does not work out so well with hard water. Since we are currently apartment dwellers, we cannot do anything about softening our water. For the time being, we have, unfortunately, switched back to regular shampoo. I would like to get some sulfate and paraben free organic shampoo, but $8+ a bottle is not feasible right now! If you have started using this and have soft water, hopefully it is going well for you! We did this for about three months and it was just in this last month that it started leaving a film on our hair. I will definitely try this again once we have soft water.

3. Lotion. After I started cooking with coconut oil, I came across blogs and articles that praised it for all sorts of different uses. We started out using it as diaper rash cream for Julian and that evolved into the whole family using it as daily moisturizer. It works great and does not have unrecognizable ingredients, like your typical Jergens or Vaseline moisturizer. 

So, there you have it. Like I mentioned, this has been (and continues to be!) a slow process for us. There are still things that we are currently using (such as my husband's shaving cream and my deodorant) that I want to find natural replacements for. We are by no means done figuring out this natural living thing!

Menu Plan Monday 12/5-12/11

I finally figured out how to make tabs on my blog! This has been bugging me for about a week, but now I have tabs. So go check them out :)

Anyways, here is our menu plan for the week! I am going to start posting one recipe a week from our menu plan. You can easily access the recipes by clicking on the handy dandy recipe tab at the top of my blog. As has been the custom the last few weeks, I am only posting our dinners and lunches, if lunch deviates from the usual Storms family lunch. Breakfast is still soaked oatmeal every morning until hubby decides otherwise!

  • Dinner: Roast, sweet and fingerling potatoes, pearl onions and carrots, biscuits and fruit
  • Dinner: Keema (recipe below), biscuits and fruit
  • Dinner: Ground beef gyros, sweet potato wedges and fruit
  • Dinner: Chicken taco chili, cornbread and fruit
  • Lunch: Methodist volunteer Christmas party
  • Dinner: Leftovers
  • Lunch: Hot dogs, chips and fruit
  • Dinner: Calzones and fruit
  • Lunch: Church lunch
  • Dinner: Popcorn and smoothies
Keema ( adapted from

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons tomato paste
3/4 cup beef bone broth
1/2 cup peas (my husband HATES peas, so I replace them with chopped tomatoes or carrots, depending on what we have around)
cooked brown rice (I make LOTS of rice at once and freeze it, so I don’t have an exact measurement for this. Just make enough rice to feed your family!)

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until evenly brown. While cooking, break apart with a wooden spoon until crumbled. Transfer cooked meat to a bowl. Saute onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and saute 1 minute. Stir in garam masala and salt, and cook 1 minute. Return the browned beef  to the pan, and stir in tomato paste, beef bone broth and veggies. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until meat is fully cooked through, and liquid has evaporated. Serve over brown rice. Enjoy!

I linked up to menu plan monday at Organizing Junkie.