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Menu Plans | July 2016

July 2016 Menu Plan

Summer is for salads. No less than three main dish salads plus three side salads planned for the month of July. I will make extra Sunday morning Elevate breakfasts of Cowboy Quiche and Monterrey Sausage pie for us to munch on through the week for our own breakfasts. Lots of sandwich-type meals in store: Reubens, an old favorite - and super easy, Patty melts to die for, and a new recipe: a steak sandwich with grilled onions and arugula - yum! Simple fare like the new recipe of Shrimp with Honey Garlic sauce with a loaf of crusty bread for scooping up the sauce and a salad; easy on the budget with salads and breakfasts for dinner, easy on the preparation, or cooking like Jalisco Taco Salad, and just plain ole' good.

I decided not to shake things up this month because our lives are already shaking up elsewhere. Amidst the rampant changes, simple fare sounds just fine to me and adds to my calm.


Italian Tortellini Salad


Inspired by Will Cook For Smiles and From the Pod. Aside from a dressing debacle, which I refashioned from Will Cook For Smiles and thought was quite bland and oily, and will redefine the ingredients for next time because the dressing could have made this salad something special, the combined ingredients to this Italian-flared tortellini salad was delightful. Silky smooth mozzarella balls, with bursting organic cherry tomatoes, al dente cheesy tortellini's, a mild zing of pepproncini peppers, and hearty Italian meats of Genoa salami and thick-sliced pepperoni combined to make a filling side dish - or main dish for the summer. Once I refine that dressing, probably going with more of a dressing like From the Pod, I'll definitely be making this again. Perfect for a small group get together when we gather for fellowship - and food!



French Onion Pork Chops


These were seriously delicious! Divine, really. As a lover of beef-based onion gravies I was inspired by The Midnight Baker's recipe and quickly added it to our monthly menu plan served with Sour Cream and Chives mashed potatoes and Spicy Steamed Broccoli it was a delightful dinner fit for the meat and potatoes kind of guy. Which is it? Pork or Beef? Yes, it's true this is a pork dish but with the added flavor dimension of a dark, rich, beefy onion gravy. It has a hint of the French Onion soup flavor as it's filled with onions and smothered in swiss cheese and with Vidalia onion's in full season the sweet onion was the host for the gravy with the finishing touch - a bunch of finely diced green onions - whites and stems. I used a pre-made beef stock, but a beef consomme would be wonderful as well, or a beef broth. I have moved almost completely from broth's to stocks for the full-bodied flavor, as well as for its lower sodium qualities. 


52 New Books in 2016 | 35


The Liar by Nora Roberts

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …(Amazon)

While J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts' nom de plume, is my all-time favorite book series, I've never been much of a fan of Nora Roberts books. Her The Witness was exceptionally good and when I came across The Liar in Walmart so I thought I'd give Roberts another shot. Unfortunately, I guessed the ending at the very beginning - first chapter even. Rather disappointing there. But, it isn't a total loss or disappointment. It had 'cutsie' characters centered in a quaint little town, but maybe just a bit too cute, overdone - unrealistic. As someone who has gone through tremendous difficulty - relationally - in an abusive marriage, and how long it took me to get over the baggage that ensued, and that was resting in the strength of the Lord, there is no way the character in the book can bounce back from disillusionment and emotional abuse, as quick as the female lead bounces back, a tad bit unrealistic - even for fiction. And, and, I even guessed where the goods were. It was either in the picture frame or Fifi? Not very original!

What I did like (well, not like but found to be really good work) was how Roberts' carried out or portrayed a young, impressionable, gullible, unsuspecting female at the hands of a controlling insidious sociopath - and how it is so very possible to be deceived so effectively. While the world may think it might be obvious, to a clever, dastard sociopath, they are renowned illusionists.

So, all this to say, I give The Liar,

Rating: 2 Stars

Stories 2016 | Graduates


This may - or may not - be the last of the graduation pages I make of the really cool graduation of my homeschooled twin boys, John and Jarrod. This page is all about This I Know For Sure #001 - 005 from Ali Edwards' Story Kit Believe. I created a 12 x 12 page with gray cardstock and covered it with photos of the boys' graduation pictures which are a mix of the professional photos we had done and those we took around the house and at the church where the boys graduated. Mostly, just John and Jarrod but I included a couple with Kirsten, their best friend from homeschool co-op. I LOVE how it and the additional 6 x 12 journal page turned out. 


Ali's kits a very versatile and the Believe kit was perfect for a graduation page. I did use a template by Yin Designs which I modified heavily (mostly enlarging all of the photos). I love her templates for the simple fact she includes so many photos.

This pages' journal talks about how homeschooling the boys from 7th grade through their Senior year was one of the best decisions we've ever made regarding the kids and we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. While I didn't say it here it truly was God moving, allowing everything to fall into place, every step of the way, year after year, how each year was a little different but He worked it ALL out. Even their Senior year when I moved to day shifts and they moved up into Dual Enrollment at Point University. 


This I know For Sure #001 - Reading Aloud to John and Jarrod

This I know For Sure #002 - The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring trilogy were our most favorite books read from 7th - 12th grade.

This I know For Sure #003 - SAXON Math, while a really good move for John and Jarrod, and the way they learn, Math was their least favorite subject even though the made it through Pre-Calculus and Advanced Math plus College Algebra. And their not that bad at math, either.

This I know For Sure #004 - Joining Kingdom Builders Co-op in their 8th grade years was another great move for us with regards to homeschool. They took some great classes with some super Mom-Teachers, met some great kids, and I got to teach Meteorology.

This I know For Sure #005 - Dual Enrollment their Senior year was another good move. And with 19 college credit hours already under their belt they're off to a great college start.


50 States 50 Recipes | Arizona


Arizona was tough. One the one hand I have to prepare a food that 1) my family can eat. This means nothing with beans because, one, Joan is allergic to beans, and two, unless the beans are mashed to the point of - well - mashed, then I won't eat beans, except maybe green beans, of course, and garbanzo beans are okay, and I can handle refried beans if they are - well - mashed without any remaining bean texture whatsoever, and 2) my family won't eat the slightly strange I've come to realize. When I began exploring iconic foods of Arizona I kept coming across Sonoran Hot Dogs, a bacon-wrapped hot dog, grilled to perfection, crispy, not burnt, with a 'slightly strange' topping. Bacon-wrapped hot dog - yes. Slightly strange topping - not so much.

But, I wanted to try these Tucson-created and classic hot dog with a bit of twang and delight for my Arizona, 50 States 50 Recipes - recipe. Still, they have beans in their recipe. That, of course, is a simple fix. Remove said beans from the recipe. True, it won't, strictly speaking, be an iconic Tucson, Arizona Sonoran Hot Dog, but I'm all about creating my own recipes. And Joan can't eat beans and I. just. won't. Unless they're mashed without any remaining bean texture whatsoever. Thus, I had to remove this, increase that, add this, double that, change this. The result is Susan's Arizona Sonoran Hot Dogs. 

They were delicious. The flavor combinations were sublime. 

But, here is the unfortunate part: While everyone loved the bacon-wrapped hot dogs (duh!) (Hello! It's bacon!), and Joan ate the Avocado salsa, a layer of beautiful summer, sweet and tangy; only I ate Susan's Arizona Sonoran Hot Dog as the dish was meant to be devoured and enjoyed. 

Still, it was good! Quite honestly, I will make this again. I liked the flavor combinations, and even if the men in the house only eat the hot dog wrapped with bacon smothered in ketchup, mustard and relish - how, un-, un-, un-adventurous, I will delight myself in Susan's Arizona Sonoran Hot Dog. 


(Find all my 50 Recipes 50 States recipes below) 

Alabama |  Alaska  |  Arizona  |  Arkansas  |  California  |  Colorado  |  Connecticut  |  Delaware  |  Florida  |  Georgia  |  Hawaii  |  Idaho  |  Illinois  |  Indiana  |  Iowa  |  Kansas  | Kentucky  |  Louisiana  |  Maine  |  Maryland  |  Massachusetts  |  Michigan  |  Minnesota  |  Mississippi  |  Missouri  |  Montana  |  Nebraska  |  Nevada  |  New Hampshire  |  New Jersey  |  New Mexico  |  New York  |  North Carolina  |  North Dakota  |  Ohio  |  Oklahoma  |  Oregon  |  Pennsylvania  |  Rhode Island  |  South Carolina  |  South Dakota  |  Tennessee  Texas  |  Utah  |  Vermont  |  Virginia  |  Washington  |  West Virginia  |  Wisconsin  |  Wyoming

currently | june 2016


Photo taken by Lynne Leftwich (a friend who goes to our church)

reading aloud to John and Jarrod the Harry Potter series, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerers (Philosophers) Stone. This is a great time! The boys spent their last year of high school at Point University with other responsibilities and no time for Mom to read aloud, even for enjoyment. As they are taking a year off before college we are making the time to do something we enjoy immensely. Me reading aloud is something we enjoy!

creating pages and pages of Project Life for May. It was a busy, eventful, fascinating month. Looks like I'll be able to call it good at 6, 2-page spreads

slowing down this month from a busy, eventful, fascinating month of May.

inviting peace into my home. Desperately need some peace.

struggling at times with various pain levels in my back and hip which sometimes translates down my leg. And then there are the headaches from pinched nerves. Nuts! But, the days of recently...such bliss and


running on emotional upheaval lately. 

celebrating a grandson's birthday and Father's Day. Ian received his gift and flipped (in a really good way), but for Jeff - hum? Maybe new work boots

missing tremendously good hearty gut-wrenching, stomach-aching laughter brought on by my seriously hilarious and quick-witted daughter, Ashley.

studying The Children of the Day, a Beth Moore study. We only have two weeks next. We're not sure what we're going to do next. I just ordered A Women's Heart by Beth Moore. It is a study on the Tabernacle. Really looking forward to it. A Women's Heart was my first Beth Moore study I ever did - so it's been awhile and will be fresh and new.

Exciting news. The boys have real jobs! A friend of Jeff's who goes to our church owns a large lawn care company and hired John and Jarrod on his irrigation team and ground maintenance team, respectively. They start today!

Driving lessons for John and Jarrod. We decided rather than put ourselves through the emotional turmoil of teaching the boys how to drive we'd let the professionals do it. Thus far, both boys have received rave reviews by their various instructors with their knowledge of rules of the road and all-around driving knowledge. They are doing so well! We are using and I can't say enough about this amazing service. Plus, they get to drive around in a Cooper Mini!

Worshiping God in our new 2100-seat worship center for the first time - fabulous! Welcome to our new home!



Stories 2016 | Remember This


Using an Ali Edwards' 12 x 12 Remember This template I tell a story about a girl, my oldest girl, I want to remember. We struggle sometimes. Better now than years ago, but still months of silence when I miss her so. But, this I'll remember: Elizabeth drove in from Maryland, where she is stationed, with her kids, our grandchildren, a couple days before John and Jarrod's graduation. She took off very early in the morning so that Noah and Ella could sleep part of the way making driving by herself easier. Here's the deal: Elizabeth does the hard stuff. She takes care of her family. She's their sole support. My heart aches for her tremendously. Because I know what it's like to not be able to count on someone - or on somethings. I am so thankful she came down for her brother's high school graduation. I know they will always remember their time together especially since it had been years since all our kids were together under one roof. I know what I want to say, but not sure how to say it; I'm so proud of Elizabeth! She works hard as an Air Force airman, as a momma (especially as a mom), as a wife and I want her to know how much she is loved and appreciated. I love her sly, sneaky wit; it's such a playful side of her heavy introvert self. She has a big heart, can laugh at herself, and is beautiful - simply beautiful! As a mom I want so much for her. Mostly, I want her to return to Jesus. It's my hearts desire because I know from experience that He'll be her Rock if she'll but let Him. He'll be her security when she is unsure and insecure. When all else fails around her Jesus will not!

Stories 2016 | Triumph


With the focus on the photos, I made this page with a couple photos from our CJ Photography season the day the boys graduated. Jarrod is very photogenic just like his dad. Rarely does he(they) take a bad picture. I modified a digital template in my stash only slightly to accommodate a larger second photo as it originally had a smaller photo at the bottom. Several months ago when I was creating the Save the Date announcements for their graduation I had purchased a digital kit that had the graduates' cap, those great stars, and the Key to Success. I do prefer more photos to my pages but I really like this one now that it has all come together.

As a family we began the homeschool process later in their education, the 7th grade, probably at one of the hardest times, and we had know idea for how long we'd undertake this educational endeavor. But, year after year it was a good fit. God worked things out that I could work full time even in their high school years and still homeschool and teach a our homeschool co-op. And this last year, their senior year, when Jarrod and his brother John took dual enrollment classes, everything they needed to graduate plus earn college credit we were still able to make everything fit nicely.

Granted, there were some struggles all the way to the end. And this made the boys realize they needed a break from school for a year. Earn some money. Take a couple more SATs to boost their scores. Change a mindset. It's ok. As a parent I wish so much for my kids but as my husband told me this morning, "They're almost 19; we can give them guidance and advice but we can't do it for them. They may had to learn some lessons the hard way." Like this morning, we told them when their dad was walking out the door to drop them off at their new job (we're doing this for them until they get their drivers license). They have to eat breakfast and pack a lunch, fill camobaks, and grab work gear. At 4:30 we hadn't seen them or heard them stir. They would be out the door at 5:15. Jeff and I were dumbfounded! So - their first morning of their new job was rushed. But, it wouldn't have had to be if they'd taken our advice. Hard knocks.

On the other side of one triumph there is usually a failure. Or, at least, a misstep - or setback. Sure, there are some who seemingly never fail - but, I doubt that is true. And while they (John and Jarrod) woke up late today for their first day of work, just last week during their driving education their instructors raved about their rules of the road and general driving knowledge and abilities. 

Stories 2016 | I believe in US


There is a fine line often with what to share and not to share. This page tells enough of the story that I'll remember the pain and difficulty, but years down the road when we even have more years under us, I'll be able to say, "We are overcomers!" So, I told our story. And even in the midst of the struggle, I realized that, yes, we did still go on date nights - no matter what - and God's got us. He believes in us and I believe in us.

I think we might be climbing out of the valley now heading upward to the mountain - closer, ever closer to each other - and to God. It is my daily walk with God that kept me, and Jeff's relationship with God that kept him - us - together. So, we're good! Tough things can be talked about openly, shared, maybe so we can find all the good out of the bad because with every good we find, it's not so bad. 

So, digitally speaking, I used Ali Edwards Story kits, mostly the Believe kit, but a few pieces from others and a Paislee Press paper.