Homemade Hibiscus Tea

Yesterday my husband came in the house with 4 big hibiscus flowers that had just shriveled up but weren’t dried out enough to fall off of the plant yet. He said, “Here, maybe you could make some hibiscus tea out of these.” I all but rolled my eyes, thinking he was crazy because I was sure I would need about 50 pounds of petals to make one 8 oz. glass. Boy was I wrong! It was so easy to make and really fun because the colors change a couple of times when you make this tea. If you have a hibiscus plant (that you don’t fertilize) in your yard you could make this. I’m not kidding. Try it and leave me a comment about your success🙂

First off, call over a friend who would enjoy a nice glass of iced tea and who would think this experiment was as cool as you do. I called over my friend Kelly. She is one of those people who loves everything about nature. She marvels at God’s hand in nature like a child would; examining and enjoying every little detail. She’s an awesome person to have in my life. If you don’t have a friend in your life who urges you to stop and smell the roses and who literally does that on a daily basis, then you need to seek one out. Kelly adds so much to my life that I don’t know what I’d do without her.

So, let’s get on to the tea making!

First, you gather up about 2 cups of hibiscus petals. This was 4 big dinner plate sized flowers and about 8 smaller ones. I only had the 4 so I called up my neighbor, Kristie, and asked if I could use her dried flowers that had just fallen. Sounds like a creeper, huh? I felt like a creeper. Like one of those psycho movies where people bottle up single hairs or eyelashes that fall off of the unsuspecting victims. Okay, I didn’t feel that creepy, but still, asking for dead flowers was a new one, even for me. The funny thing is, she knows how weird we are and happily obliged! Thanks Kristie!

So, the first step is to cut out all of the stigmas, which are the pretty little antenna looking things where all of the pollen germinates. I found it easiest to basically push the stigma up like I was folding it inside out and cutting it off.

hibiscus stigma

 

Next, you need to rinse off all of the pollen. Use cold water and make sure you don’t let them sit in the water for too long or the color will start to come out.

hibiscus rinse

After they’re rinsed, throw them in a big pot. Add 4 cups of boiling water and watch in amazement at how immediately the color leaches out of the petals and into the water.

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Stir, put the lid on and let steep for about 15 minutes. You will have a really nice deep red color. Take the petals out and set aside.

Add 3/4 Cup of agave and stir.tmp_22184-20160727_123953-367421318

After it cools down for a few minutes, add the juice of 2 limes. Now, just throw in 4 cups of cold water and, viola, you’re ready for a delicious cup of tea!

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I tossed a sprig of fresh mint in the glass with the ice. This tea is so delicious and easy! There’s so many different colors of hibiscus. My husband and oldest son were on a bike ride and found these gorgeous purple flowers in someones landscaping. Don’t worry, they were just laying on the ground.

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I made a tea out of them as well and it tasted the same. It was odd when I was steeping them though because the color came out of the petals but the water basically turned a light grey color. Amazingly enough, I added the lime juice and all of a sudden the water turned bright pink!! This might have been my favorite part of this whole process! It was gorgeous!

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Happy tea making!

 

Teachable Moments; Being Grateful

“Mom, I’m hungry.”

“Mom, can I have a snack that’s not a fruit or vegetable?”

“Mom, he’s                    .” Annoying me, in my space, touching my blanket, chewing in my ear, showing me his eyeballs, looking at me!

Seriously, this is what my children complain about every day. I feel like I try so hard to encourage them to be thankful. We talk about what we’re thankful for every night before bed and every opportunity we can find. Don’t they understand that they have built-in best friends?! I mean, 3 brothers born within 4 years of each other. They should be connected at the hip! Running around the back yard, swinging each other on the swings, kicking a soccer ball to each other, making forts together, coloring treasure maps and finding buried treasure together. This should be their every day adventures. This is what brothers were made for.

I’m reading a book called “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World”by Kristen Welch. This woman gets it. She’s been in these same situations, heard the same grumblings, and asked the same questions. Why don’t these kids get it? Why don’t they realize how much they have? Why don’t they understand how incredibly blessed (not to mention spoiled!) they are?

Our boys are pretty darn good in front of other people. I mean, every time we go to church, a restaurant, or a family outing, we receive multiple compliments about how well behaved they are, how respectful and polite they are and how they are so sweet to each other. Ummm, GULP! I literally have to choke down the lump in my throat and hold back tears. Half because I’m so proud and the other half because it’s maddening that they don’t behave like that at home, with each other.

Seriously, is there like a secret code that I don’t know about? A word that I’m not saying, or a word that I’m saying too much? A discipline I’m not putting into practice? Am I too hard on them? Am I too easy on them? Do I have too much structure or not enough? Ahhhhh! My brain may explode! I can’t figure out the perfect formula. Hold up. I just said “perfect.”

In our house, I don’t say “perfect”. I used to tell Harper that his letters and numbers and shapes were, you guessed it, perfect. All to have him be so upset with himself when something wasn’t perfect. He’d cry or throw a fit. All until one day he said to me, “Mom, I have to keep doing it until it’s perfect.” I think it was writing his initials or something silly like that. It’s been from that day on that I decided to be very intentional about how I respond to his actions, whether it be school work, a soccer goal kick or saying a Bible verse. I’ll tell him that he did a great job or that I’m proud of him and he should proud of himself, too. When he asks if something is perfect I tell him that practice makes progress, not perfection. This is a very important staple in our house.

All of the whining, complaining, fighting, bickering, pleading, etc. that comes out of their mouths is an opportunity for just that. Progress. Not perfection. It’s a teachable moment and I’m confessing to you, right now, that I’m not always good at seeing these. I let my emotions get in the way. I let my lack of sleep and that darn witch that comes every month get in the way of seeing the moments that I have to teach my kids valuable lessons. I’m stuck in a rut of yelling. It’s just the truth. I’m not proud of it at all, but I want you to know the real me. I need Jesus to pull me back to reality every day and remind me that my small children should not determine what kind of mood I’m in. I need Him to remind me to give my children grace because he first gave it to us. When I’m reminded of that, it helps me to love my children better.

The other day we started our garden. Oh, the parables that can come out of planting a garden together! The kids helped Steven pull weeds and till the soil, plant greens, water and even pick out grubs for our turtle to eat. It was such a fantastic tool in so many arenas. Teaching your children that food doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store, or better yet, your refrigerator, is priceless. Helping them to realize that many people work very hard to help grow a crop is a wake up call. Reminding them that yucky stuff in our soil, like grubs, doesn’t help our garden grow, but depletes our soil of nutrients. They worked together, had fun and are very much looking forward to reaping the benefits.

Garden

Our children are growing and learning every day. It’s our responsibility to teach them. I will never be perfect at it but thanks to God’s grace, I don’t have to be. Phew! That’s a huge weight off my shoulders! I am finding little nuggets in this book to help me help my kids to be more grateful, though. I just have finally come to the realization that there is no secret or magic potion. I’m figuring out ways to make every teachable moment valuable. I’m working on talking to my kids more and reprimanding less. Reminding them that many people go to bed with an actual empty belly and not a “I only ate one helping of supper and now I’m starving because my parents won’t let me have a banana before bed,” belly. Instead of getting upset and annoyed that they didn’t eat more supper and now are complaining right after we had a great prayer time, I’m quietly reminding them of that and leaving the room.

Like I said, they’re great when we’re in pubic. I need to hold on to that and be encouraged that they are learning and listening to us. I think with time I’ll learn how to teach them to be thankful for each other. They do have their moments when they play so wonderfully together. I want to freeze those moments.

I want them to be reminded of how great of a life they have. A garden, siblings, a 2 parent home, good food to eat every day and a house they can come home to and feel safe in. Yeah, they have it pretty darn good. WE have it pretty darn good. We are living examples for our children. If we are ungrateful, they likely will be, too. Take a moment to thank God for providing for your needs and wants. Try to thank Him daily. You could even write it on a chalk board or your calendar. The more you show your kids how grateful you are, the more they will show it and the world will thank you.

Is There a Perfect Time for Prayer?

It’s been a minute since I’ve written a new post. I lost my Friday morning sitter and up until today the kids have been on opposite napping schedules. I didn’t mind it though. I absolutely love having one-on-one time with Azlyn. She is so stinking precious. I can not stop kissing that child! I kept wanting to sit down and write at night but our night time routine leaves very little room for “frittering”anymore. We start putting the kids to bed at 8. After all of the bathroom stuff we read the Bible and ask the kids questions and then all 5 of us take a turn in prayer. On most nights that leaves me with an hour to watch tv with my husband and then it’s straight to my room to spend some qt with God. It doesn’t always go that way, but I’m trying.

I’ve been struggling for years to find a consistent time and place to read my Bible and pray. Everyone and their moms suggests to do it first thing upon waking up in the morning. For years I tried that. I would try to go to bed at the same time every night, set my alarm clock so I’d wake up before the kids, buy bunches of different devotional books just so I’d always have something that I could relate to. It just didn’t work for me. I was always feeling like a failure and when I lacked that personal time with Him, I could just tell. I felt “lukewarm”. The scripture tells us in Rev. 3:16 : “So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Our God is a jealous God. He doesn’t like ‘lukewarmitis”. I wanted that passion back, and I needed that strong steady flame. The flame that I could feel burning inside of me because I knew I was in the Word. I knew I had an open dialogue with God and I was sharing Jesus with everyone around me. (Well, most people. I tend to be a little introverted.) You know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t then I’m  glad you are reading this. Making the choice to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus is a life changer. Seriously! My life has done a complete flip flop since 2003 and I am eternally grateful for that.

Now, I’m sure you could call me an excuse maker, but honestly, I don’t care. Not, because I don’t care about you, but because my prayer time is all about me and God. He has blessed me with these 4 (CRAZY!) wonderful children but waking up in the middle of the night, every single night for the past 6 years has taken it’s toll on me. I used to consider myself a morning person. Since I was a little girl, I loved waking up really early with my dad and eating cream of wheat with butter and jam and smelling his coffee. I miss that. I miss wanting to be up before the rooster crows. Now, I can’t even think about it without at least 2 more gray hairs popping through! Now, I’m the one drinking coffee, mostly so my eyes will actually open and I won’t be running into walls all day and stubbing my toes on the dining room chairs. I’m lucky if I get to eat a bite of food before 10:30 and get to finish my coffee before I have to wipe 3 kids’ butts! How gross is it when you just make your coffee, take a sip and hear “Mom, I’m done!”. Off to the bathroom to clean up poop mess #1 of the day. Mmm, now that poop smell has wafted up my nostrils my coffee tastes better than ever…NOT! Mornings around my house are full of to-do’s, as I’m sure yours are too. Sometimes I sneak into my front room and read a little on the Bible app and pray while the kids are eating. My time usually comes to an abrupt halt when I hear screaming or crying or “Mom, he’s                        on my food!”. That blank is different all of the time, and boy, sometimes it can be weird!

So, for me, by the end of the day I NEED JESUS! It’s all I can do to not walk down to the bar at the end of our street to get “loosened up”. I know everyone thinks I’m so lucky to be able to be a stay at home mom. Believe me, I’m very glad to be able to raise my children how I want to, but man, by the end of the day I’m jealous of all of you working moms. I just want to miss my kids. I want to walk through the door and have my kids running into my arms kissing me and telling me how much they missed me. I want to be so excited to spend the evening with them and soak up every minute I can. Instead, I’m counting down the hours, no make that minutes, until bedtime. After an entire 14 hours of screaming, crying and disobedience my ears feel like they could bleed. Stick a fork in me-I’m done!

I’ve come to the realization that I need that hour after they are in bed to get the noise of the day out of my head. Television does a really great job of that for me. My husband and I really like to watch “our shows” together but in the last year or so have weened out many that we were convicted not to indulge in anymore. Gosh, there’s so much CRAP on tv, isn’t there?! So, with one hour that gives us time to watch 1 or 2 shows. Just enough time for me to sit down, relax my body and clear my brain of all the disappointing, crazy, loud, and even the good from the day. You know when you show up late for coffee or lunch with a friend and are so frazzled by the time you get there that your time spent together just isn’t what you’d hoped it’d be? That’s why I need that time between putting the kids down for bed and quality time with my Maker. After that I’m ready. Ready to be still. Ready to read God’s love story that He wrote for me. Ready to have a great conversation with my closest friend.

I challenge you to find “your time”. Find what works for you and watch God work in and through you like He never has before.

 

 

 

 

Stressed or Blessed?

I love days when I can look back and know that I honestly learned something. I gained a little bit of wisdom and hopefully that will help me to be the best version of myself. Today was one of those days. There have probably only been a hand full of those days in the past couple of years. Definitely not something I’m boasting about, but I’m going to be honest here.

Stress. That is what has kept me from being the best version of myself. Not my 4 kids, husband, never ending chore list, soccer, homeschooling, serving at church, mom’s groups, small group, migraines, incredibly high expectations put on myself by, well, myself. It’s stress. Now, some of you are saying that all of those things I just mentioned induce stress. You are right. Now it’s my choice to change the way I used to think.

Since I can remember, I wanted to be a mom and a stay-at-home wife. [Well, that and have a singing career. Let’s be honest, you all knew I wasn’t going to be a famous singer but you were so supportive and wonderful that I really thought for a minute that I was going to be. I laugh at that now.] I loved being around kids. I would pray when I was falling asleep, that God would answer my prayer and I would wake up to my baby doll, Annie, as a real live human baby. Every morning when I awoke, I would feel a bit of disappointment  but then slowly remember that I was 5 years old and jumping on the trampoline with my neighbor friends was way more fun than changing diapers! It still is!😉

For these things I prayed. I asked God to put a wonderful man in my life who would ask me to be his wife. Check! I prayed that He would open the door for me to serve where I was needed at church. He did that, too. I cried many nights in fervent prayer that God would bless me with some really amazing friends. Umm, He did that 10 fold! It’s actually very difficult to keep up with, but sooooooo worth it!! I have the most wonderful people in my life!!! And kids? I obviously have wanted them since I could hold my own baby doll, Annie. I get lots of looks, “you’re crazy”, “you’re one brave mama”and “wow, you didn’t waste any time, huh?”. The truth is, there was a time where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to have my own children. After 2 1/2 years of trying to have a baby, I gave up. My life had revolved around conceiving a child. No longer was God the center and my obsession. Checking my basal temperature, charting, freaking out over everything I put in and on my body, obsessing over lines that weren’t. Even. THERE! That was my obsession. Then, one day, I gave up. There I was in my living room with my computer shut, no more charting and no more tears. The white flag waved. I couldn’t do it anymore. I boldly came to God and told Him that if He didn’t want me to carry my own child then I was finally okay with adopting. The next month, I was pregnant. I really should trust God more and trust that His timing is what really matters.

So you see? I wanted all of these things. I fell on my knees and practically begged God for them. Well, not the migraines, but everything else. Why  do I blame all of these wonderful things for the stress I put on myself? I can choose to be stressed or choose to be relaxed. Now, I get it. I know what you’re thinking. Believe me, when my 2 year old doesn’t aim his privates down and pee shoots in my eye and all over my hair, when my dog eats a towel and has to have emergency surgery 3 days before Christmas or when I’m frantically crawling around on all fours sniffing the carpet, because I can’t figure out where that smell is coming from, that causes a bit of stress. But, my point is that I have a choice in how I handle those situations.

Up until now I have let stress run me over. My to-do list just gets longer and I feel like I’m never crossing off a line. You know what? If my to-do list ever ends that means that I’m dead and I sure am thankful to be alive! I am ready to embrace the stress of this season in my life and call it good. Instead of  saying I’m “stressed” I’m going to say I’m “busy”. Busy isn’t always a bad thing. Busy with the right things is just how I like it.

I like to have some down time and allow God to work in and through me, as well. I’ll definitely leave time for that. (Thank you Friday morning babysitter!)

I want to challenge you to embrace the stage of life you are in right now. Embrace the middle of the night feedings, 9am soccer games, snotty noses and pukey babies. What would it look like if God took all of the “stress” off of our plates? If my kids, friends, family and church cause it, then I definitely don’t want it taken away! God cares how you handle it and that’s what I’m realizing. Take it for what it is…a blessing. YOU ARE BLESSED!

 

 

Chocolate pecan fudge with rosemary and sea salt

final fudge 1

I’m so excited to share this fudge recipe with you! I have a mild obsession with rosemary and well..a HUGE obsession with chocolate. I’ve been putting off my huge Christmas cookie baking day for the past 2 weeks because, let’s face it, baking cookies while having to stop and wipe butts and snotty noses sounds less than appealing. More like appalling. I keep telling myself I’ll stay up late and bake but by the time the kiddos are finally asleep soundly enough to sleep through the noise of the mixer, the kitchen is clean (enough!), and I throw in a load of laundry, it’s time for me to hang out with the hubs, eat a bowl of ice cream and forget to move the stupid elf…AGAIN!

So, this year I said forget it! I really want to like baking Christmas cookies, but I just don’t. If I could whip up a double batch of chocolate crinkles in 15 minutes, I’d gladly make those delicious little gems.

Then I started thinking about fudge. I remembered my friend Lindsey saying how they only took like 3 ingredients. Now, that’s my kind of baking!

I started with a basic chocolate recipe and added in goodness…make that greatness! Here’s how I did it.

Step 1) Melt 2 cups of chocolate chips in a double boiler. I used only 1/2 cup of semi-sweet and the rest Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips.

choco chips

 

Step 2) Remove from heat and add 1 can (14 oz.) of sweetened condensed milk and 1 tsp. vanilla extract and mix well.

milk

 

Step 3) Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans and about 1-2 Tbs. fresh chopped rosemary. It depends on your liking of this beautiful Christmas-y herb.

chopping rosemary

 

Step 4) Spread it in a brownie pan lined with foil.

spread in panjhhh

 

Step 5) Decorate with pecans and rosemary for a little more pizazz🙂

adding pecans

Step 6) Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

salt

Step 7) Throw it in the fridge for at least an hour, then turn it upside down and peel off the foil. It could not be easier!

pelling foil

 

Step 8) Cut in up and shove it in your face…I mean share it with all of your friends, of course!

final fudge 2

Lessons from Elias

My husband and I have been having a particularly hard time with our 3 1/2 year old, Elias. He is so sweet and caring and snuggly when he wants to be but lately he has taken us off guard and turned into a very difficult child. Putting him down for bed has proven to be the most stressful part of our day, as he constantly talks over people, makes rude noises or starts laughing when we are praying, and just downright doesn’t respond to any reprimanding. It’s enough to make my blood boil. I’ve found myself saying, “I just don’t know what to do with him anymore.”, on multiple occasions. People respond with, “He’s a 3 year old boy, what do you expect?”. On one hand there is a little part of me that likes that response because it alleviates some of the pressure. Phew! He is just a normal 3 year old boy! On the other hand, I don’t want my kids to be “normal”. I want my kids to be patient and loving, generous and selfless. Then it hits me. “I want!” “I want!” “I want!” I should really be asking myself, “What does God want for His children?”

Yes, God wants us to be patient, loving, generous and selfless. Of course He does, He even told us that in Corinthians. Does He force us to act like that? Yell, spank and put us in time-out? I’m not saying reprimanding is bad. Some children respond well and learn their lesson from these things. Elias, however, does not. He responds best when we spend extra time with him, love on him and build that relationship up. Sounds familiar, huh? God responds best to us when we make time for him every day, come to him in prayer, carve out time to listen and be still,be happy and content with what we have and have a relationship with Him just as we would our best friends.

I took Elias for some (much needed!) one-on-one time this morning to a coffee shop where he ordered his own drink,sat quietly and wonderfully and even went up and asked the barista for a water all by himself. I was so proud of that boy. He sat and colored and played with toys while I was adjusted by my chiropractor and had acupuncture done. We then went to 3 different stores to pick up some gifts and he was so well behaved, using his manners without prompting and listening to every word I said. I was so happy and so was he. Elias

It really got me thinking how amazing it is that God allows trials like the one we are in now, to teach us and grow us. My 3 year old is teaching me how to be more patient, loving and understanding. I want that for my children and I’m just a human. How much more does the God of the universe want that for us?! I want my kids to be patient, yet I lose my cool…a lot. I desire for them to be understanding and selfless, especially to their siblings, yet I don’t give them very much grace because my expectations are incredibly high. I crave for them to be thankful when we give them something, but I know I don’t always throw up a “Thank you” to God first thing when I receive something I want.

In order to better teach my children, I need to be a more teachable child, myself.

God, I desire to be a better mother and a better daughter for you. Help me to be patient and loving, kind and generous, selfless and full of joy. Help me to show my children, by example, how to live and succeed in this life. Thank you for the gift of them. Please help me to take advantage of every teachable moment. Thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus, whose birth we will soon celebrate. Thank you for being the ultimate example of a great parent. Amen.

No-fuss November; Lara Balls

Do your kids eat everything better if it’s shaped like a meatball or a french fry? Mine do! I even cut cucumbers and carrots up to look like a fry. It’s funny, you’d think we eat fast food a lot or something. We don’t. I think it’s just one of those things that kids are programmed to like. If we do eat fast food, it’s Chick-fil-a. I don’t think I’ve eaten at McDonalds in about 12 years, yet my kids know what it is every time we pass one. Thanks to commercials taking up more programming than the actual show itself, my 3 young boys can sing the jingle to pretty much any popular chain on earth.

In our house, we love Lara Bars. I love how easy and delicious they are. They are thrown in the diaper bag to keep hangry children at bay, screaming obnoxious children quiet at the grocery store and myself happy. They awesome thing is that they are literally made with 3 or so ingredients. My favorite one, peanut butter cookie is made with dates, peanuts and sea salt. No joke! It tastes like a cookie!

Since these wonderful little bars are made with so little ingredients I decided to start making them myself. I was making them into bars but decided to try them in a ball, instead. There’s something about a little kid sized snack in the shape of a ball that keeps them coming back for more.

The first recipe I will share with you is the classic; peanut butter cookie.

  1. Cut 30 pitted dates in half and throw in the food processor.
  2. Add about 2 cups of peanuts.
  3. Add a dash of sea salt.
  4. Process until it comes together like a dough, stopping every couple of minutes and scraping down the sides.
  5. Roll into balls and snack without guilt!

The cool thing about these “Lara balls” is that you can throw so many different ingredients in and make them to your liking. Just start with the base of dates and some sort of nut. You can add dried fruits, chocolate, coconut, cayanne pepper, really anything!

Here’s another one that’s probably my favorite. I call this one;        choco-coconut.

  1. Cut 30-40 pitted dates in half and throw in the food processor.
  2. Add about 2 cups of peanuts and 1 cup of cashews.
  3. Add 1 cup of dark chocolate chips and 1/2-3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut.
  4. Process until it comes together like a dough, stopping every couple of minutes and scraping down the sides.
  5. Roll into balls and enjoy!

Lara balls