Friday, May 31, 2013

Apricot Pepper Jelly; My First Homemade Batch

From this (with a few other ingredients):
 To This:

 **None of the links in this post are affiliate links. Just my own links to things I thought would be helpful**

I had always stayed away from pepper jelly of any kind thinking it sounded like a horrible combination and would be too hot. Then in Door County, WI, where they have tons of samples I tried my first batch and was hooked! I found them delightful! They had a really nice sweetness to them with a little kick of spice. My sister introduced me to Apricot Pepper Jelly and that has quickly become my favorite. She gave me a couple jars with my Christmas gift last December since she knew I liked it so much. The problem is, the jelly doesn't last long. I love to eat it on toast and the jar goes quickly. My grocery store only carries a mint pepper jelly which doesn't appeal to me, so I started scouring Amazon and the internet. Unfortunately, pepper jelly is expensive! The Apricot Jelly my sister buys (I filled her 13.2 oz jar above) would cost me $9.95 on Amazon and $7.99 for shipping! Even after checking eBay, it would cost me over $10/jar just to get some pepper jelly.

So, I started researching whether I could just make my own. I am so glad I did. I've never canned anything before, so I thought jam or jelly would be out of the question. I found some recipes that make a relatively small batch (about 4-5 jars). That would mean I could store it in the fridge and I'm sure they'd be gone within a month or two.

These are the recipes I saved for trying out:

Apricot Pepper Jelly from Cook, Eat Share
Apricot Jalapeno Jelly from CD Kitchen
Hot N Sweet Pepper Jelly from

I ended up making the one from Cook, Eat, Share and it turned out wonderful! It includes minimal ingredients; just jalapeno peppers, red and/or green peppers, dried apricots, cider vinegar, pectin and sugar. It's amazing to me that you cook all these things together and come up with jars of yummy jelly!

I remember reading the jars needed to be sterilized, so I did that step even though I'm keeping mine refrigerated. I found a website that said you could put the jars and lids in the oven and bake at 225 degrees for 10 minutes to sterilize them. I did that since I don't have any canning tools.

After this experience of successfully making jelly, I'm now inspired to look into canning and preserving! I've always wanted to learn how to can and preserve, but I thought it would be too much for me. My mom often made homemade jam and my dad to this day still cans his tomatoes and Coho salmon that he catches during his fishing season, so it's part of my heritage that I'd like to carry on. I found a great website too that has several resources. It's called Pick Your Own and I found a wonderful tutorial for making jam. I spent a lot of time on that post since she includes a lot of wonderful links for canning supplies, books on preserving and FAQ about jam making.

I have several books I've put on hold at the library and will hopefully come back to blog more about it. My hope is to purchase a canning kit to get started. Here are the books I'll be skimming through:
*Ball Blue Book of Preserving
*The Beginner's Guide to Preserving Food at Home
*Canning & Preserving; All You Need to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys and More
*Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
*Food in Jars

Do you can or preserve your food? What websites or books are your favorites?

As always,

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Original Recipe: Cheesy Tuna Casserole

We like variety in our home, and adding something fish-related to the menu helps us rotate our meals while getting some heart-healthy Omega-3's in our diet. Tuna casserole is a regular for us, yet I'm always looking for new ways to spice it up. In the past several months, I've moved away from using cream-based soups (because they are often full of sodium and preservatives) after learning how to make a roux (a butter-flour mixture)!  Today I experimented with a couple new add-ins (Velveeta and extra spices). This turned out really tasty. The blend of Lawry's Garlic Salt, Paprika and Curry Powder worked well together. I'll be keeping this recipe for sure!

Let me know if you try it ;)

What is your favorite go-to Tuna Casserole recipe?


  • 4 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  •  1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 4 oz Velveeta
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar 
  • 1 bag frozen peas (cooked)
  • 1 large can tuna (drained)
  • 1/2 lb box macaroni noodles (cooked)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Few dashes of Lawry's Garlic Salt
  • Dash or two of Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Curry Powder



  • Cook macaroni noodles according to package directions.
  • In a nice deep pan, melt the butter.
  • Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir for 1 minute keeping the heat on medium low.
  • Slowly add milk a bit at a time while stirring with a whisk.
  • Continue stirring until all milk is added, then wait until mixture starts to thicken and comes to a low boil (over medium heat). Make sure it's not too high, or it will burn.
  • Add Velveeta and minced garlic; stir until melted in.
  • Add Shredded Cheddar and stir until melted in.
  • Add the various spices and stir until combined.
  • Once the noodles are done, add the tuna (flaked with a fork) and cooked peas.
  • Pour the melted cheese mixture over the noodles.
  • You can either eat it as is (which we did) or bake uncovered on 325 for 15 minutes or so.

As always,
Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Trying Out New Products for Free (Lysol Touch of Foam)

As a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, I'm always looking for new ways to save and earn money but most of all I love to get things for free  :) . In addition to doing online surveys for a little money on the side, I've joined up with a few companies seeking people to review their products. One company is called BzzAgent. My first review was for Garnier Fructis Miracle Oil. I had fun trying it out. So when we were selected for our second campaign, I was happy to again try something new. This time the Bzz Campaign was for Lysol Touch of Foam Hand Soap.

I received the product a few weeks ago, so we've had plenty of time to try it out. I have to say, it's become our favorite soap in the house. The packaging itself was really appealing, since my favorite color is purple. It also has a wonderful fragrance, Creamy Vanilla Orchid. It is a nice floral fragrance, but at times the fragrance was a little too intense for me. I really like the pump style that dispenses a nice amount of the foamy soap in your hands. The lather is pretty thick too. It ended up leaving my hands feeling nice and soft.

My 4-yr-old son also enjoyed trying this out with me. The soap was great for his little hands. The pump was very easy to press down and the lather was so full that he always had enough soap for washing. He told me to write the company with these words: "Thank you for the soap. We like it. Hope you enjoy the pictures."

Overall, I give this a 4 out of 5 stars. We really liked it and would purchase it for our family.

As always,
Thank you for visiting!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tribute to Bob and Bettye, dear friends in Christ

My heart was impacted in a huge way this past week. A dear woman who is a cherished friend of mine lost her husband on April 27th after a long illness period. They were married for 57 years and raised four beautiful children and have lots of wonderful grandchildren. After the memorial service today, I sat at my computer to write about it and the Lord gave me a sweet tribute to share. I posted it on our church's Facebook and community pages and I'd like to share it here on my blog as well. I hope you are blessed by it.


I attended the Memorial Service today for Bob Barnes here at Blackhawk Church and am still aglow from how much my heart was touched and encouraged in the celebration of his life. I am moved in a way that's hard to put to words but I am compelled to share.

When I joined Bettye Barne's bible study in 2006, I had no idea how much impact she and her husband Bob would have on my life and the life of my family, especially in ministering to me during a very traumatic postpartum depression time. It's not often that I've met a couple with such love and devotion for Jesus, in living for Him and sharing their faith with those around them.

I stopped by Bettye's home yesterday to offer my sympathies. I knew it was the day of her bible study, but I thought it would be cancelled and that the cars must be of her extended family. I was touched to find out she was still holding her bible study and looked truly radiant as she recounted to me all that happened in this week of preparation after Bob's passing. It was not until this morning, when I was getting ready for Bob's funeral, that something hit me in such a powerful way. After 57 years of marriage to Bob, I expected to see Bettye deep in grief. What blew me away was that instead of being lost in grief, she was singing God's praises. That Bob is no longer suffering and in pain, for her incredible family who have stayed all week making all the arrangements and taking care of every little detail including legalities ... she shared how she had seen the Lord's hand at work again and again within the minutiae of plans, arrangements and legal things. She told me this had truly been a glorious week. Wow.

As I was thinking about all this, being blown away by her faith in the midst of her loss, the song "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin came on the radio; a song I've listened to and sung many times - but today I really heard the words for the first time. It makes me look forward to the day when I too, will be called home, into the wonderful arms of my Savior.

"And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagle's wings
Before my God fall on my knees And rise, I will rise"

Thank you for reading this. I hope you enjoy the video and the picture above of Bob and Bettye when they came to my son's dedication/2nd Birthday celebration.

Thank you Lord for the B's!


As always, 
Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm Now a BzzAgent ... Garnier Fructis Miracle Dry Oil

I don't remember where I found out about BzzAgent, but I heard that you could try out products for free as long as you were willing to use social media to review them. So I applied, did a whole bunch of surveys, waited, got denied, then finally was selected for my first campaign, Garnier Fructis Miracle Dry Oil.

I had fun with this! Even though it was horrible on my hair, I did end up liking it as a lotion. Here is an overview of how Garnier describes it:

  • Combines three weightless oils – olive, avocado and shea – to transform dry hair and skin
  • Made for everyday use on your hair, body and face
  • Instantly absorbs in a touch with no oily residue
  • Can be used on damp or dry hair
  • Available for suggested price of $5.99

I received my kit with a free bottle of the oil along with over a dozen coupons I could pass out to friends. The thing I liked most about the oil was the smell. It was a bit fruity and kind of exotic. I have a funny story about the day I tried it on my hair. I sprayed it on while my hair was wet and then we left for church. Don't ask me why I did that. I guess I really didn't think it would leave my hair greasy, but unfortunately it did. I came home and looked in the mirror and started laughing. I looked like one of the greasers straight from Happy Days. I had to rinse it out of my hair and rewash it. It was that bad.

I decided I'd only try it as lotion after that, and I really liked it. It left my skin really soft and shiny. My skin is usually not very dry, but winter is really hard on it and it gets all dry and flaky. The oil really moisturized my skin and took away the dryness. It felt a little greasy putting it on and because of that I think I'll stick with my regular lotion for the long term. But this was really fun to try. I enjoyed getting this new product to try for free and I look forward to my next campaign.

As always,
Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Memories of My Mom

I don't think I've written here much about my mom ... and how I lost her to breast cancer just before my senior year in college. Although that was one of the hardest things I've had to endure, it is actually what brought me to knowing the Lord. As my mom grew weaker from cancer, her faith in Jesus grew only stronger. I was blown away by her faith, but after she died the seed was planted in my heart that I wanted that kind of faith.

Last month on February 17th, it would have been my mom's 70th birthday. It is hard to believe sometimes that she has been gone for over 20 years ... in fact, 22 years this June 28th. As her birthday passed, one of my sisters shared an email with many questions like "If she were still alive what would mom be doing now?", "What would she look like?" and sharing how proud she would be of her four daughters and in love with all her grandchildren. It leaves me wondering and feeling such a void.

Over the past few weeks, she's entered my mind a lot. Then suddenly all these pictures of her just started floating in my head so I had to write them down. All the many ways I remember her ...

  • Playing the piano in our living room filling the house with music
  • Singing while she played the piano, often in preparation for leading worship for her role as director of music at our church
  • Plucking keys on the piano as she wrote her own music note by note
  • Making coffee in her glass coffee pot on the stove and watching the clear water turning brown, then her adding cool whip to it once it was done 
  • Hustling and bustling about the kitchen cooking with one of her lovely aprons on
  • Brushing my hair when I was little and making pigtails or braids for me, something she loved to do
  • Putting her four daughters in matching dresses for holidays when we were little
  • Watching her playing the organ at church while her whole body swayed with the music
  • Loving having her hair brushed for minutes on end
  • Watching birds come to the feeder out the big picture window while she quizzed me on bird names
  • Watching her put on her makeup in the morning
  • Getting one of her warm, squeezy hugs
  • Calling me a green thumb and encouraging me in growing plants (something I still enjoy to this day)
  • Encouraging me to own a parakeet which I trained to talk, furthering my love of nature and animals
  • Speaking words of life to me when I was at a low point with pressures to fit in at school
  • Always holding my hand when we went somewhere together (and not enjoying it once I was a teenager)
  • Reading to my four sisters and I every night while we were growing up (and a favorite was going through the whole Box Car children series)
And a favorite memory ...I remember a time my mom walked me to the school bus across the field behind our house. This must have been for kindergarten since my little sister tagged along and she was not yet in school. It was snowing so badly that the bus never actually came so we all built a giant snowman together before finally going home and enjoying a snow day.

I'll write more posts of my mom, but it's been so nice spending time thinking of her and these sweet memories I will always cherish.

As always,
Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!!

In keeping with my son's favorite theme, I'm sharing with you the Valentine's card I made for him. It was hard to keep this a surprise! He kept wanting to know what I was doing ... I told him mommy was working on a surprise project!

Hope you are enjoying a sweet Valentine's Day!

As always,
Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Happy Blogoversary To Me!!

I can't believe today is my 3-year blogging anniversary! I am amazed at all the Lord has brought me through from the time I started this journey until now. This blog began as a sort of therapy as I emerged from what was an 18-month journey from the depths of postpartum depression, anxiety, and (at the beginning) psychosis which included two hospitalizations. I truly have so much for which to be thankful!

This blog was my therapy on my journey to being a healthy mom for this little guy. I never even knew what a blog was until after reaching out and joining a MOPS group one of the moms sent me a link to hers, Neener Girl and Family. Thank you Renee! My blog started out as a daily journal to chronicle my victories, and it evolved from there.

Here I am in the beginning of my 18-mo. postpartum "sickness" journey;
I can remember distinctly the depths of despair I was feeling with the overwhelming
 thought that there was no way I could capably raise this child.

And in this picture, finally emerging from it victoriously, and experiencing some of the first true joys of motherhood as I took my then 20-mo-old on his first sledding excursion.

 And here is the now 4-1/2-yr-old face of this sweet little boy 
that is the greatest gift the Lord has ever bestowed upon me.

Boo at the Zoo 2012 with my little SuperHero

I am so thankful for all of you who stop here. You have blessed me in more ways than you know!

As always,
Thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cheesy Chicken & Kale Casserole

We have a new recipe that will be added into our rotation ... this delicious chicken casserole with kale, rice and mushrooms. I found it on the blog Peas and Crayons while I was searching for yummy kale recipes. A few of my modifications were the addition of chicken, using a coconut oil/olive oil/butter blend when she used butter alone and not using red pepper flakes.

Over the past several months, one of my favorite snacks has been Kale Chips. I love to eat them warm and fresh from the oven. They are SO good. Since I've enjoyed them so much, I decided to try kale in other dishes like omelets and now this casserole. I think I'm ready to replace my spinach dishes with kale since it is so tasty sauteed and mixed in.

Let me know if you try it!


  • 1.5 cups dry rice (I used a mixture of Jasmati and long grain) cooked
  • 3 to 4 good-sized chicken breasts quartered and dredged in flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
  • Good-sized bunch of Kale, torn up into little pieces
  • Container of fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 2-3 T of butter/olive oil/coconut oil mixture
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup Shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese


  • Cook rice until done.
  • Saute kale and mushrooms in the butter/olive oil/coconut oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Brown the dredged chicken on both sides. Once browned, add chicken broth and simmer on medium high heat for about 20 minutes.
  • Once chicken is done, mix in the rice, kale/mushroom mixture along with the cottage cheese, garlic powder and half the Parmesan cheese. 
  • Transfer mixture to a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle shredded cheddar and the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top.
  • Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil for 5 minutes until top is browned. Be careful top doesn't burn!
  • Enjoy!

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More To Come .... Soon!

I've returned from my extended family time over Christmas and getting a new post prepared ... 
I'm taking some time to reflect on my vision and goals for the New Year and hope to post about it soon.

Blessings to you!

Thanks for visiting!