· linkups

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

So I stumbled onto Modern Mrs. Darcy this week. How have I been missing her? Anne with an ‘e’, loves books, mom of four….I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know we’re soul friends. I’ll have to work on that. But she had this post about what’s saving her life, just all the random little goodies that make days easier, those thousands of gifts I count inconsistently but bow my head in gratitude for when I remember that He didn’t have to make this easy.

Saving my life right now? My chaotic, doctor appointment, insurance debacle, temper tantrum (me, not kids) life? These little fun gems. Necessary? No. Blessings? Yes. Reminders that I really do have it good and that’s the life I need to share.

Gilmore Girls on Netflix. 


I totally justify my current Loreli-Rory-Luke binge by telling myself that it’s a dialogue study. It is. Rachel Hauck wrote a post about what writers can learn from the Gilmore girls, and besides that, a girl needs background distraction when folding laundry. Right?

The iPad for the littles. They’ve taken over my iPad for their own Netflix binges that include Harry and the Bucket Full of Dinosaurs and anything with a dump truck or train. Don’t judge. It’s winter and cold and trust me, we get our fair share of imaginary play and outside time. But letting them watch what they want so the big girls can watch what they want? Sometimes that’s called saving my life and saving dinner.

Chai tea latte. It’s my new Starbucks fave. Alas, my gift cards have run out, and I’m having withdrawals. I made a version at home a few weeks ago, but sometimes it’s just worth it to cough up the few bucks and have someone else do the work. Hot, sweet, low-cal and soothing me through tough days. Thank you, Starbucks in my local Ingles.

Chic-fil-a giftcards. 


Speaking of gift cards, friends keep sending us these. They want to help at a time when we don’t know what we need, and here in the South, it’s figured that food’s always a safe bet. So we fill up on waffle fries and nuggets for them, salads and sweet tea for me, and then we head to the doctor/physical therapy/test appointment a little less stressed.

Birthday plans. Amelia’s birthday is the 19th. She’s been talking about it for months. We’re planning a little party with all her favorite things (and it’s quite a hodgepodge, let me tell you). She makes a new plan everyday. We’re also planning something special since we’ll be in Birmingham at the specialist for her birthday….maybe a pool at the hotel? To add to the birthday fun, mine’s two days after hers. There’s a cousin, an uncle, my sister, an expected baby, and my daddy’s birthday all in February too. We like to cram it all in the shortest month possible.

Chocolate. I’m taking myself to Trader Joe’s after our next neurologist appointment and buying the dark chocolate caramel popcorn my mom gave Joshua for Christmas. He didn’t mind a bit I ate it all. These days just a little chocolate hit at nap time keeps me going.



The above would be one of the reasons I keep going to class. That and the 30 in 35 days challenge that has the cutest shirt for a prize! Jazz keeps me up to date on music too. That’s not my forte, but after an entire class of Katy Perry yesterday, I must confess, I think I might be a fan. for the email subscriptions. If you don’t do this, stop reading and sign up now. is the personal assistant I’ve always needed. All my various subscriptions (blogs) now come in one email that I can read at my leisure. Changed my life. And my inbox.

Tsh’s ’round the world adventure. Except Tsh. I didn’t roll her up because I don’t want to miss an update of where in the world the Oxenreiders (#worldwideox) are now. Follow on Instagram for an instant passport and dream of what it would be like to go around the world with your kids. Then dream of what it would be like without them! (Probably not as fun.)

Bloggers who confess the truth about blogging. Read this today: My Slower Paced Blog from Micha Boyett. Got the link from a Tsh email, just so you know. Spoke to me profoundly. I’m not a big blogger. I’m jealous of them, I confess, but I don’t want to be a big blogger. I don’t want to have to comment on every piece of news media that’s getting twitter feed or Facebook views. I don’t want to be controversial just to get views. I don’t want to write about things that don’t inspire me. So if you’re still sticking with me, I thank you for appreciating this slow little blog that’s leading to a slowly written little novel. Because I’m a writer first and a blogger way behind all that.

And of course there’s this kid. He kills me. Makes me crazy. But gracious, I’m beginning to think God gave him to me because he makes me laugh all the time.

So what’s saving your life these chilly winter days? And where’s all that snow that was persimmon-seed forecast down here? 35 degrees is not worth it unless there’s snow.

Linking up at The Modern Mrs. Darcy. · living local

Crockpot Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup

Yes, that says peanut butter. And it’s amazing.

I discovered this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks from one of my favorite living simply bloggers: Jane over at Thy Hand Hath Provided. It’s healthy, frugal, delicious and usually can be made with whatever I have on hand.

My version is just a little different from hers because I am so passionate about my crockpot and our CSA has enough butternut squash to survive Armageddon, so I’m using it in everything. You can adapt this version for the stove and make it a quick meal on a cold winter night as well. To keep it super simple, just buy all your veggies precut at the store. I won’t tell!

Crockpot Peanut-Butter Vegetable Soup (adapted from

2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
4 cups water
2 cups diced sweet potato or butternut squash (or a combo!)
1-2 cups chopped zucchini and/or yellow squash (I use my freezer stash)
4 tsp chicken flavored bouillon granules
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)
1 pint stewed or canned tomatoes, chopped (again, I use tomatoes from my freezer)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Saute carrots, onions, and garlic in 1 tsp butter or olive oil until softened. Transfer to crockpot. Add water, diced potatoes/butternut squash, zucchini/squash, bouillon, tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook on low 4-6 hours until all vegetables are soft and soup is bubbly. 30 minutes before serving, turn up to high heat and stir in peanut butter. You want to add it last when the soup is already hot so it will dissolve completely.

Serve with bread, salad, or just in a soup mug all by itself and savor. · living local

That Time We Didn’t Grocery Shop for a Month {guest post}

One of my few paying gigs as a writer is the marketing I do for Red Dust Ranch. Each week my family participates in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and receives a paper grocery sack full of fresh vegetables. Lately, that sack hasn’t been able to contain all the squash and watermelon that the farm’s abundance is blessing us with. It’s been a banner farm year, for sure, and when we were hanging out with our Red Dust friends and making barbecue pizza with their pasture-raised pork, I got to hear Sandi and Tim’s story. She tells it best, and I hope it inspires your family to appreciate the food that’s on your table.

BBQ chicken, potato salad, slaw, squash and zucchini, green beans, pickles. Nearly every thing on this plate came from our CSA one week this summer.
My husband, Tim, and I had tried gardening ourselves for two years. The first year was great. We had a robust garden with lots of veggies that we begged people to take it off of our hands. The second year was awful. We made our plot bigger, we added variety, and we did everything we did the year before. Our garden got flooded out and next thing we knew we had a forest and no veggies.
This year, we decided to try a CSA per the suggestion of my husband’s wonderful coworkers. They led us to Red Dust Ranch and it was the best decision we ever made. Not only do we get veggies weekly for a great price, but we have made some great new friends and are stocking up on frozen veggies for winter. Oh yeah…we didn’t go grocery shopping for a month and a half.
I know what you’re thinking…what about bread, milk, and eggs? It sounds daunting, but in reality it was actually really liberating. Every week we went to get our veggies and we got creative. We had meat in the fridge from Sam’s Club and enough other things to keep us from starving. When we ran out of something, we wrote it on a list and we improvised.
Every morning, I like to eat a cup of Greek yogurt. Well, I eventually ran out and was left with the decision to go to the store or find something else. I found something else. We had a lot of oatmeal and grits that had not been eaten and I am not above a simple toast breakfast. Until we went to the store upon returning from vacation, we ate what was in the house.
The week before our vacation was the hardest. We had run out of just about everything. We had no milk, no eggs, no yogurt, no orange juice, etc. The fridge was bare and our grocery list was massive to say the least. But why should we go to the store if we are days away from leaving the state? So, most breakfasts became the raisin bread that was lost in the back of the freezer, lunches were leftovers of dinner, which usually consisted of rice, a veggie, and a meat. Sometimes there was sauce, sometimes there wasn’t.
But we made it to vacation and then went shopping when we got back. We got enough to be able to go another month or more. This time we MIGHT go back for milk.
What this experience did for us?
  • Made us appreciate all that the Red Dust Ranch CSA is and all that it has done for us in a short time
  •  Made us realize we don’t have to rely so heavily on a store to survive
  •  Forced us to be creative
  • Forced us to eat the often ignored items in the pantry
  • Gave us a clean fridge and pantry to start anew. We realized what we do like eat and what we don’t. So now we make sure not to buy those unnecessary things.
I tell others that joining this CSA has been better than couponing from a money saving stand point. I used to clip coupons and desperately hunt through various websites looking for the best deals. It was incredibly time consuming, it was stressful, and honestly it was a giant pain.
So not only are we eating better, we are eating smarter in every way.
Thank you Red Dust Ranch!

Tim and Sandi Suda live in Demorest, Georgia with their two dogs Mattie and Courtney. The two met at Piedmont College over seven years ago and were married on December 31, 2010. Neither grew up in the north Georgia area, so it’s a wonder how a military brat and Atlanta native found each other and settled in a city with a population less than 2,000. Tim is a Technology Specialist for the Banks County School System and Sandi is a Communications Specialist for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. · living local

Ten Things To Do With All That Zucchini

We went to the beach last week. It was great but more on that at a later time.

Anyway, due to some miscommunication, I came home to a fridge full of my CSA produce including plenty of this year’s bumper crop.

Do you know what all locally home-grown farmers (and gardeners) are picking right now?

Yellow squash and shiny green zucchini.

I love it. But I’ve heard some folks don’t. Or maybe they’re just tired of always eating squash covered with cream soup and cheese.

Hopefully, trying one of these new ways to eat your vegetables will turn you on to these humble veggies that can grow as big as a baseball bat if left alone. Those are only good for scooping out the inside and being stuffed with some delicious concoction involving cheese and sausage. This ideas are more on the simple side.

Funny story. Sometimes my kids just eat the zucchini while I’m slicing.  Then they say things like, “Mama, that was a funny tasting cucumber.”


1. Shred it and freeze it. Add it to soups, chilis, tacos, spaghetti…all winter long. They’ll never notice.

2. Make Blueberry-Zucchini Muffins. (Recipe for 2-4 below.)

3. Make Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread.

4. Make plain zucchini bread. There might be a theme here.

5. Try Squash and Potato Au Gratin. I made this the other night and my picky no-squash eater said, “Hmm…this is actually good!”

6. Make pizza crust. Pinterest has at least a gazillion pins for this.

7. Shred it. Add it to cooked rice with black beans and salsa. Mix well. Stuff tortillas and top with cheese.

8. Roast it with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. 425 for about 15 minutes.

9. Roast it with a sprinkle of parmesan, some sliced olives, and maybe some thinly sliced purple onion. Same as #8. Add leftovers to pizza.

10. Shred it (if you’re going for disguise) or chunk it (if you’re going for hearty). Add it to the Best Tomato Sauce Ever and top your favorite pasta or that spaghetti squash that came with this week’s CSA delivery.

Zucchini Bread (or Muffins) Adapted from Thy Hand Hath Provided

3 eggs
1/2 c brown or granulated sugar
1 c honey
2 c grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all your wet ingredients including zucchini. In another, smaller, bowl combine the dry ingredients. Sift the dry into the wet. (Yes, it’s necessary. Yes, it’s a pain.) Fold in blueberries (2 c) or chocolate chips (2 c) or some of both. Divide into two greased loaf pans (9x5x3) or into 24 muffin cups. I recommend using liners because I hate to wash muffin tins. Sometimes I get a little more than 24. Sometime I get a little less. It’s what happens when you don’t measure precisely. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (bread) or about 35 minutes for muffins. You want a knife inserted in the center to come out clean. I make muffins because I can never get the center of the bread to get done. Also, I think muffins keep better. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

See original recipe here.

What do you do with all your zucchini and squash? · living local

It’s CSA Wednesday! {Chicken Kale Enchiladas}

It’s finally CSA season! I’m so excited about fresh, local, organic produce coming to my doorstep every Wednesday afternoon that I almost can’t wait to get home from my writer’s conference and whip up a batch of these great Chicken Kale Enchiladas.

But at home there’s no nice conveyor belt that bears my dirty dishes off to a place where I don’t have to wash them, so I think I’ll wait a bit longer to come home.

In the meantime, tell me what you’re cooking up this week with your CSA or Farmer’s Market finds. Remember, one of the best ways to be both frugal and local is to shop your farmers in season. We’re getting lots of kale this week with our delivery so here’s one of our favorite ways to eat it. Enjoy!

Chicken Kale Enchiladas
8-12 oz fresh kale (cut leaves from stems and dice stems finely, roll leaves and chop)
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or pull from a rotisserie chicken)
small onion, diced
8 oz block cream cheese (can dice for faster melt)
8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp taco seasoning
2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
8 soft whole wheat tortillas

Saute kale stems and onion in butter until soft. Stir in kale leaves until wilted. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add chicken, taco seasoning, and mix well. Spoon onto tortilla and roll. Place seam down in a 9×12 baking dish. Spread shredded cheese over tortillas, drizzle with cream, and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Sometimes I add black beans. Sometimes I top the tortillas with diced tomatoes. Sometimes I add salsa to the filling. Sometimes I serve this with salad or guacamole. It’s never the same twice. Perk of being the chief cook and bottle washer. · summer

Finding that Summer Niche (and my Reading List)

We took them to camp yesterday. I miss them already, which is a conundrum because last week when they were home I yelled a little too much. It’s that whole adjusting to summer routine that takes about two weeks. But if I send them off for a week, I’m afraid we’ll never get adjusted.

Too late now.

They’re at Camp Strong Rock this week because I won a raffle. So Annabelle got to go after all, and I’m a little panicky over that. I mean she’s a tough kid. And by tough, I mean picky. I’m trying really hard not to be that parent, so instead I texted my friend Kristi because her husband is the camp director.

See, totally not that parent.

I’m lucky I have friends who put up with me.

In the meantime, I’ve got paperwork for the arts camp they attend and I lead in a couple weeks, VBS volunteers to wrangle, and a beach trip menu to plan.

Because naturally I’m concerned about what we’ll have besides low country boil and homemade pizza.We’re going to Edisto with some friends this year and I’m pretty sure they’ll wish they hadn’t agreed to vacation with the menu planner who is currently writing a novel set at the vacation destination. I plan to get my toes in the sand, and my fingers on a keyboard in the history museum.

Speaking of that novel, I learned at my writer’s conference that one of the most important things you can do as a writer is read.

Gosh, this job is so hard sometimes.

So here’s a smidge of my summer reading list.

I actually already finished The Road to Testament (and it was fabulous).  It was written by Eva Marie Everson, whose encouragement at Blue Ridge made me believe this might actually happen someday. The Wedding Dress is by Rachel Hauck who made me feel so welcome over breakfast one morning that I couldn’t wait to read one of her stories. So far, I’m rounding out novels this summer with a little Barbara Kingsolver, because I really like her style and The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor, which is for my book club.

I’m also finishing A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman. It’s one of those books I pick up and put down because I like to ponder in between. And I can’t wait to finally crack open Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch. Someday I’d love to be a part of the Mercy House Ministry the Lord has given her.

In the meantime, I’m finding new little niches of my own this summer. The kids and I were planning a lazy July, but then the big girls and I got cast in The King and I, so we’ll be hanging out at the theater a good bit. But we’re going to make time for hiking and swimming and picnics and reading since that was all they wanted when we made our bucket list last week.

I officially stepped down from MOPS in May, and am fully embracing the call to write and freelance. I’ve got several projects in the works and the kids are starting to see this as mommy’s job, so that’s helping. In addition to the novel, I’m working on some pieces for magazine submission, marketing for my friends Chris and Heidi’s farm, and of course, still musing at the local paper. I’m telling you all this because I want you faithful blog readers to know that while this is certainly not going away, I am going to slow it down for summer and get caught up on begin mom first and writer second. My goal is to write here at least twice a week. I’ve got some more giveaways planned too, so don’t go away!

As I slow down posting, I’m going to be taking the time to employ some of the great blogging advice I received at Blue Ridge as well.  Hopefully it will make my site more user friendly and keep you coming back. Until then, have a beautiful week and enjoy all the beauty summer has to offer….fresh vegetables…ice cream…starry nights….mildewing bathing suits because someone forgot to hang it up….

you get the idea.

Did you read about how my kids were all in a wedding? I’m still a puddle over the adorableness. · whole foods

10 Easy Homemade Recipes

We’re getting our homemade on around here. That’s really my version of whole foods living. If I can make it myself, I do. I’m hoping this counts is a baby step toward cutting back on refined sugar and maybe even less grains.

But maybe not. We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s ten easy recipes for homemade versions of everyday goodness. Enjoy!

1. Rice-a-Roni 
Honestly, rice-a-roni isn’t one of my favorite dishes, but my husband and kids love it. Yes, it’s already pretty cheap and coupons abound, but I’m giving that control up, remember? And they eat it in such great quantity the couple of times a month I rotate it into our menu (usually alongside a saucy piece of chicken) that I was having to make at least two boxes to keep up with the demand. Then I stumbled upon this recipe from The Prudent Homemaker and was hooked. So easy, ingredients I already keep on hand, and the best part? Smashing the vermicilli is a great stress reliever.

Chicken Flavored Rice
Mix equal parts white rice with vermicilli broken into tiny bits. (I make a large quantity of this to have on hand). Saute one cup of the rice mix in 2 tbsp butter. Add 2 cups water mixed with 5-6 tsp chicken flavored bouillon granules (depending on your taste) and 1 tsp dried parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Coffee Creamer
This one is still in the experimental stage although we’ve gone through an entire bottle of hazelnut syrup in the past six weeks trying to find the perfect ratio of cream-milk-flavoring-sugar to suit our highly caffeinated and super sweet taste buds. (This would be where trying to cut the sugar comes in.) I’ve pinned several recipe pages, and my friend Abigail swears by the one with sweetened condensed milk (which is my next experimental homemade recipe), but so far, what I like best is blending equal portions of milk and cream with sugar and flavoring to taste. The best part is, again, these are usually ingredients I have on hand anyway, so I no longer feel the stress of being out of International Delight and needing a grocery run at 10 p.m. before the 5 a.m. alarm.

3. Cream Soups
I’m loving this one. In the past year, I’ve probably bought canned cream of chicken soup twice just because I was in a hurry to get a meal done and didn’t have ten extra minutes. But this recipe is definitely better!

Cream of Chicken Soup (adapted from Simply in Season)
2 cups dry milk powder
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken flavored bouillon granules
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp onion powder (optional)

Mix ingredients together. Store in a tightly covered container in fridge until ready to use. To prepare amount equal to one can, mix 1 1/4 cup cold water with 1/3 cup of mix in a saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. (Will take about 10 minutes and will burn if it gets too hot.) **I like to use a saute pan because I can achieve consistency faster and often I’m adding in other ingredients to make a casserole, so I’m conserving my dirty dishes.

4. Alfredo Sauce
I don’t make a lot of white sauces, but one pizza night Joshua had a friend coming who doesn’t like tomato sauce, so I gave this one a try. Oh my goodness. It was awesome. So easy, so cheesy, so delicious on the homemade pizza dough.

Alfredo Sauce (adapted from Simply in Season)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
Heat butter in saucepan and then add flour. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes then remove.
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Add and return to heat. Bring to a boil, stir constantly until thickens. Add 1/2- 1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese. Remove from heat. Spread on pizza dough or if too thick, add more milk and serve with pasta.

5. Pizza Dough

The Pioneer Woman will show you how to make this with great photographs and witty comments. Or you can wait for me to get around to posting a tutorial, but you’ll probably have to order takeout a few more times first because I’ve had a draft for this post in my account for a year. This is the simplest and most foolproof pizza crust recipe ever. Sometimes I even use whole wheat flour and pretend it’s very healthy under all that cheese.  If you really want to know how to do it and you live local to me, just stop by one Friday night and we can knead together. Or you can check out some of my pizza recipes here.

6. Waffles
“Affle” was one of Gus’s first words. Might be a commentary on how often I make this recipe. Honestly, at least once a week. So lego my eggo and give it a try. Yes, it really is better with whole wheat flour. I like to slice fruit and top the waffle but my kids just prefer syrup. Or a fried egg. Or a piece of sausage. Then they eat the unwashed strawberries straight from the container while I’m cooking. Seriously, mornings at my house require coffee with lots of cream (see #2).

Whole Wheat Waffles (from Simply in Season)
2 eggs
2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt OR 1 cup milk and 1 cup yogurt
Beat eggs and stir in yogurt mixture in large bowl.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Mix in a small bowl and then add to wet ingredients. Stir until just moistened.

1/4 cup oil or melted butter
Add and stir until just blended. Overstirring makes tough waffles. I bake mine in a Belgium waffle maker that makes four 4×4 waffles at a time using about 1/4 cup batter per waffle. I usually get 16 waffles out of this recipe. I usually have none left.

7. Oatmeal
As in baked with lots of goodies like blueberries or peanut butter or chocolate chips for a special treat. My family loves instant oatmeal but can eat through a box of ten little packets in two days, so I started trying this. Jane over at Thy Hand Hath Provided has a great recipe that they all like and is quick to whip together. It makes a lot, too, so I usually just half it. This is the perfect breakfast for chilly mornings!

Might I recommend a bib before feeding the baby?

8. Tomato Sauce
This is another one of those things I almost never buy anymore. It’s so easy to make a homemade version and it’s good even if tomatoes are out of season and I use canned. I’ll be making huge batches of this all summer to freeze. We use it as our pizza sauce as well. Sometimes I even use it as a base for vegetable soup. Or best of all, I just dip a hunk of homemade bread right in the pot. It’s awesome and worth the time. I promise. You can find the recipe on a post I did right here.

9. Salad Dressing
With all the varying recipes out there, why wouldn’t you make your own? I like the simplest versions and am forever stuck on this version of balsamic vinegarette.  Yes, sugar, I know. That’s what makes it good.

Balsamic Vinegarette (adapted from Thy Hand Hath Provided)
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup sugar or honey
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Mix together well and serve with spinach salad and homemade bread. Or drizzle over bruschetta.

10. Apple Dip
This is one of our favorite snacks right now and I feel like super healthy mom when I serve it. So simple that the recipe was told to me by my friend Kelly on the yogurt aisle of Ingles one Saturday morning. Super yum.

Apple Dip
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp peanut butter
1-2 tbsp honey
Mix together and serve with sliced apples. May need to adjust quantities to taste.  The first time I made this I used vanilla flavored yogurt. That was really good, too.

Want more great recipes like these? Check out the food shelf of ebooks available now as part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle! One low price gets you these and so many more to help you organize, simplify, and enjoy the tasks of homemaking. But hurry the sale ends soon!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks so much for reading! Read the fine print about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle here.