Elf on a Shelf Alternatives?

Not Elf but Mouse ~ Lifeofjoy.meI have to admit that it seems as if families have a lot of fun with the Elf on a Shelf. But I have a hard time with the concept behind the Elf on a Shelf. Basically, from what I’ve read, the concept is that the elf reports back to Santa every night about whether the child has been good or not. Seeing as I don’t like making Santa seem any more real that people and television already make him.

A few weeks ago I found Shepherd on the Search, which is a way to get in on the good fun of the Elf on a Shelf without supporting the lie of Santa. But I recently found a few more ideas here on this blog: BlessedBeyondADoubt.

The first link she has it to a site that shared the idea of A Christmas Mouse. In the explanation she shared that his great uncle is Reepicheep. Oh, now this makes this even more fun for those fans of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She shares some ideas for things you can do with your mouse.

Jill shared some other links and ideas but my other favorite was the journey of the magi, where after Thanksgiving a wise man figurine is located in different places every day until he ends up under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Of course, I’d have to turn this around to still having him wandering around until Epiphany, when it is celebrated that the magi found the child Jesus. But I really like the idea and will be thinking on how I will do this for my grandkids in the future. (Right now Liam is too young and lives a bit far for a daily or even weekly hunt . . . but I’ll be thinking on this.)

Jill even shared several more idea links. Do go check it out, if you’d like to find some alternatives to Elf on a Shelf.

Well, that’s it for today.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Festive Tile

This week’s diva challenge is the last one for the year. I’ll be sharing a tile each week, even though there will be no challenge, so I hope you’ll stop back by each week.

So anyway, the challenge this week is to draw a festive tile. The Square One: Purely Zentangle focus tangle is Seawave. It looks easy enough but I have to tell you that I could sure benefit from watching someone draw this one. I did NOT do it justice at all. Also, Seawave isn’t exactly what I think of when I think of a festive/holiday tangle.

I thought about a star because of the star that shone and the wise men followed. I checked the tangle of the day over on pattern-collections (yesterday) and found it to be stargem. I have not yet ventured into gems but liked the tangle and it is a star or at least it is supposed to be a star. ;)

I decided to draw stargem right in the middle of my tile, sans the gem. Then I decided to go ahead and add in seawave. It turned out looking more like a life preserver and an ocean. :D Oh well, it is what it is. I’ll probably attempt some more festive tiles in the next several weeks. ;)

So here it is before shading.

DC#345 ~ Lifeofjoy.meAnd here it is after shading.

DC#345 ~ Lifeofjoy.meNow, you really should go look at the lovely tangle Stargem to see how it is supposed to look. :D And if anyone knows of a tutorial video for Seawave, please share it with me, because I really need it. ;)

I’m going to give the festive/holiday tile another go next week.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that you’ll stop by again next week. Thanks also to those that take the time to leave a comment. It is really appreciated!!!

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Kefir step 7 ~ Lifeojfoy.me

Double Fermented Kefir

Good for your gut health and yummy too! When it is double fermented and sugar free, it is even better for you.

This is so easy! It is actually harder to explain than it is to do. Let’s start with how to pronounce it. Yes, really because I have pronounced it two different ways and both are wrong! Yep both are wrong. It is pronounced kuh-FEAR. Yeah, I’m probably going to have to correct myself another couple dozen times or so. ;)

Basically you start with kefir grains. Kefir grains are soaked in milk. If you have a good source of grass-fed dairy cows, go ahead and use full fat milk for all the lovely health benefits it provides. But if you don’t have that good source, just use skim milk because the toxins are stored in the fats, so you won’t be getting the toxins from grain-fed cattle. I use skim milk from Aldi.

So, If you get your kefir in a jar with milk, the person giving it to you will tell you how long it’s been fermenting (what time it needs to be strained). I’m told you don’t want to use metal. So I use my glass measuring cup, a nylon strainer, and a smaller rubber spatula.

Kefir Step 1 ~ Lifeofjoy.meThis one was in the cabinet a little longer than I intended but it’s still good.

I cannot get the whole quart poured into my strainer, so I pour as much as I can and stir and then add the rest.

Straining Kefir ~ Lifeojfoy.meSwish it back and forth around the strainer, getting all the milky part through the netting. I scrape it off the bottom of the strainer, so I don’t waste any of it.

Step 2 Kefir ~ Lifeofjoy.meThen you put the kefir grains back in the jar it came out of.

Step 3 Kefir ~ Lifeofjoy.meAnd fill it with skim milk about an inch from the top of the jar.

Add skim milk ~ Lifeofjoy.mePut a coffee filter on top.

Step 4 Kefir ~ Lifeofjoy.meSecure in place with a rubber band or hair tie or ribbon or something.

Kefir ~ Lifeofjoy.meGive the liquid that you pour out of the jar (and into the bowl or measuring cup) a stir.

Kefir Step 5 ~ Lifeofjoy.meAnd pour it into a clean, freshly rinsed jar.

Kefir step 6 ~ Lifeofjoy.mePut on the lid and put back into the cabinet with the jar of kefir grains and milk for twenty-four hours (or so).

Kefir step 7 ~ Lifeojfoy.meNow tomorrow, give the lidded jar a shake and put it into the refrigerator until you are ready to drink it. We like it best when it is cold.

It is okay if either jar substances separate into whey and the thicker part on top. If it is lidded, just shake it. If it is the other jar with the coffee filter, you can remove the coffee filter and give it a stir but I don’t mess with it until the next day and then I just pour it into the strainer and stir it through.

I’m told that by double fermenting the kefir (remember it is kuh-FEAR) it is getting rid of all of the milk sugars making it very low carb . . . of course I don’t know how low carb but I don’t need to know.

I’m told that it tastes much better by second fermenting it but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never drank single fermented kefir; it just smelled like runny yogurt and I’m not really a fan of yogurt either.

I’m told that second fermented kefir has more probiotics, so it is better for gut health, has more B vitamins, and that the calcium and magnesium are more bioavailable, which means it can be used more readily. There are also more enzymes and it has less lactose. :)

This one doesn’t really have a recipe. Just steps listed above. I’ll share some ways we drink our kefir on some future Tuesdays.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Is it Apparent that You are Happily Married?

What do you value ~ Lifeofjoy.meOne of the ministers at church yesterday reminded us that when you are in love, every thought and conversation always goes back to the one you love. For some time I’ve had a bit of a confusion with some of my online facebook friends. I hadn’t seen them or heard from them in over a dozen years, so it was nice to reconnect with them on facebook. But I had a bit of a difficulty, some of my friends who had been married when I went to church with them, never post about their husbands.

It usually takes a while before I realize that I hadn’t heard them mention their husbands. By . that time it seems more like prying, so I don’t mention it. But to ask someone else, seems like gossip, so I’m left with a quandry. In light of this situation, I make sure to mention Michael on occasion.

I wonder how I compare to younger me. Did I talk about and think about Michael much more when we first fell in love than I do today? I really hope the answer is no. I tend to be careful not to be boastful, so it can be hard to decide. I wonder if, when I do talk about him, I talk about him in a positive, negative, or neutral manner. I try to be respectful and honest in what I say, especially about our relationship.

I know you wouldn’t know it from my blog, but I’m kind of a private person, so I don’t post much on facebook. Here on my blog, I have daily topics that focus my conversation, so not even my blog is a good judge of this.

I guess I don’t really have much of a point today but to bring up the subject for thought. Would someone you haven’t been in contact with for a very long time, know that you are still in love with your hubby (without being gagged by syrupy posts to and about each other–because you can definitely take this to the opposite extreme) and happily married by what you talk about? Or do they know more about your children, work, or hobby than your spouse? Again, not that any of that is wrong to talk about, but if you share much more frequently and with more enthusiasm about other things than your spouse, maybe you are in need of giving your marriage some special loving care and attention. What better time of year than this wonderful season, to make your beloved know that they are very dear to you.

I hope  my rambling today gives you food for thought.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Friends, Food, and a Project

The week is nearly gone and I have not even begun to wrap gifts yet! Yep, the other room is overrun with boxes. I’ve got to get in there and get things condensed and begin wrapping because Liam is coming to spend a few days and he sleeps in that room. :o

I made an amazing cake last weekend! No! Really! It was delicious. So much so that I am planning to make another this weekend. I’ll share more about it later.

Chocolate Cake ~ Lifeofjoy.meEven though you cannot tell it very well in this picture, it is a two layer cake and uber moist!!! Delicious! I hope it turns out as well next time.

On the day we moved into our home in Oklahoma, a family moved in next door that night. We lived beside each other for eight years. I was honored to be a part of their lives. This week I got a message from one of the daughters, now married, that she was in town and would like to visit. Not only that but she had her ~3 month old son with her AND her sister and her 1yos were there too!

Friends ~ Lifeofjoy.meFriends 2 ~ Lifeofjoy.me

I was so excited to have the opportunity to meet their children and hug their necks and visit for a while! So, Tiffany and I left early on errand day to have breakfast with this beloved family. I took THM Cinnamon Bundt Cake with me. I was a bit nervous sharing it because it is sugar-free and has no wheat either. Unfortunately I ran low on butter extract so it did not taste as glorious as it did on Thanksgiving morning but it was gobbled up all the same. I did manage to get a couple slices home for Michael and Sean to enjoy.Cinnamon Bundt Cake ~ Lifeofjoy.meThat’s the picture from Thanksgiving morning. The glaze was darker when I made it this week. As I said, everyone liked it, sugar-free and all. :) It was a nice, well-rounded breakfast complete with strawberries & bananas, a veggie fritata, bacon crumbles, and cheese. As usual, we dine well together. :)

It was so nice to catch up with them, hold their children, and love on them all. It was a good morning and over all too soon. I’m already looking forward to the next time we will be able to visit, even though I know it will be a long way off. Of course, I would like to commit to keeping in touch but realistically, it’s not going to happen–I’m just not good at that sort of thing. Their mother and I don’t stay in touch and we live in the same state. :D These two girls live out of state.

Afterward Tiffany and I ran errands in record time. I tried to spend a lot less this week and am sad that I only manage to shave about off about twenty-five percent of what I usually spend. We made breakfast last until 2:30 and we got a rotisserie chicken from Wal-Mart and devoured that poor bird in the car.

Michael finally got around to refinishing our kitchen table. That poor thing has been so abused. We have had it for twenty years though. It had burn marks and scratches and who knows what else. He had trouble getting the surface clear enough to stain it. We went with a reddish stain. And I have to admit, it looks much richer than it ever did before.

Refinished Table ~ Lifeofjoy.meThey were putting the legs back on it here. I didn’t get a picture of it after they’d finished. Michael is making us baby it though. He even had me dig out some place mats. I hope this doesn’t last too long, although I completely understand.

Well, I’ve rambled enough and have a lot to do today. So I’ll run for now.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

A Few Christmas Ideas

Christmas Ideas ~ Lifeofjoy.meI have a few Christmas ideas I found online to share with you today.

The first is a sweet little verse a day  countdown for kids, specifically for younger children. It is a free printable pdf. She also has it in KJV here, if you prefer. She also shared about a darling product that appears to have come out last year but I didn’t see it (of course my kids are all grown, so there’s no wonder). It is call Shepherd on the Search. I really like this idea. I know it is a knock off of Elf on the Shelf but I always thought that seemed more like bribery, whereas a shepherd searching for Jesus is inline with my beliefs.

Here are 14 ornaments to print out. You can choose colored ones or ones to color. I think these drawings appeal to a little bit older child. They are really quite nice. It is a shorter version of a Jesse Tree.

This one looks like a fun activity. It is a photo scavenger hunt Christmas countdown. It has a scripture verse to read and a word to take a photo of. The first of December was a Road with John 14:6 as the verse. This could be a fun activity for pre-teens and teens to do. I noticed that pinterest had a couple others that could be fun too.

Then there is this Christmas story scripture reading plan. I saw several on pinterest. They are also called advent reading plans.

I hope these things give you some good ideas for ways to make this month special and keep the focus off of the gifts they will receive.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Tangled Ornament

This week’s diva challenge is to use Carole Ohl’s tangle Afterglo. Since there were no other guidelines, I also incorporated the Square One: Purely Zentangle focus tangle of Hypnotic by Elena Hadzijaneva and the stepout is here.

Finally I checked Pattern-Collections daily tangle and weekly string. The weekly string is a circular ornament shape, which I did draw freehand and it is wobbly but fine. :) The daily tangle is Zipfelmuetz by Marion Manke. I’m a little slow because I only saw this as a design, nothing more. Then I got the bright idea to translate the tangle name. Low and behold! It is is German for stocking cap. My eyes were opened and I could see it. LOL Yes, sometimes I am a bit slow. ;) I even watched the video of the stepout being drawn and when she colored in the triangular sections, I just thought she was adding depth. :D Yep, slow today.

Well, at first I thought I’d put Afterglo right on the ornament but remember doing that with some similar tangle before and it didn’t turn out very well. So then I thought to put Stocking Cap on the ornament and felt that was a good way to go.

I ended up putting Afterglo up in the top corner like a star or a light shining down on it. And I have a very knotty table or floor under the ornament by using hypnotic there. I tried to get some decent shading and hope I blended it well, but I need to get my glasses updated and will probably see unblended areas once I see the scan on here but by that time it will be too late to do anything about it because I need to get this ready to post.

Without further adieu, here is the tile before shading.

Unshaded Tangled Ornament 1 ~ Lifeofjoy.meYep, I really appreciate shading. Makes my lines look so much better. :)

Here it is after shading.

DC#344 #Ornament1 ~ Lifeofjoy.me

Once again, it looks a bit better a little smaller.

DC#344 #Ornament1 ~ Lifeofjoy.meYes! The imperfections are less obvious. ;)

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you will leave me a comment and share any tips you have for improving. I really appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment.

Have a great week!

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Serving of Soup ~ Lifeofjoy.me

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Smooth, creamy, and comforting delicious soup! This one is a THM E soup which means it is low in fat and has some good healthy carbs in there but it tastes anything but low fat. :)

I was looking through the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook looking for something new to add to my menu one week shortly after starting THM. We had the promise of a few cooler days, which to me means soup. :) This one sure didn’t let me down.

So here’s what I do:

I finely dice about 3 or 4 stalks of celery and a large onion. Then I put them in my dutch oven with a little water, about a tablespoon or two. You don’t want so much that the veggies are swimming in it but enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Saute Onions and Celery ~ Lifeofjoy.mePeriodically stir them and add more water as needed, until they have lost their crunch. They don’t have to be too well done because they are going to be cooking for over an hour so they will soften even more. You see, my family is picky about veggies, they should be melded into the flavor of the soup and not heard/crunched on. ;) Yes, this increases the amount of time required to cook this recipe but it is worth it for us.

Now we need to get the cauliflower cooked. So, sometimes I remove the veggies and others I just add the broth and cauliflower. Once the cauliflower is fork tender, use a slotted spoon and remove it from the pot to the blender, along with two cups of the broth. If some of the onions and celery makes the trip with the cauliflower or broth, no big deal. :)

Remove Cauli to the Blender ~ Lifeofjoy.meNow add carrots. I like to slice them on my mandolin. Again, we don’t like crunchy veggies so having these sliced thinner is better for us. ;)

Mandolin and Carrot Slices ~ Lifeofjoy.meAdd the wild rice as well.

Wild Rice Blend ~ Lifeofjoy.meAlso add in the salt

Pink Himilayan Salt ~ Lifeofjoy.mefreshly ground pepper

Broth with Ground Pepper on top ~ Lifeofjoy.meand herbs. We do not care for thyme so I use oregano. :)

Oregano ~ Lifeofjoy.meSimmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Add three ounces of Neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese) to the cauliflower in the blender and blend until smooth. Then add it to the simmered soup.

Add creaminess ~ Lifeofjoy.meStir it in well; then add pre-cooked chicken. I like to use chicken I cooked in the crockpot earlier in the week but you could always just take a large breast and saute it in a pan while the soup was simmering.

Stir it all together and let it heat up and meld the flavors at a simmer for about 15 minutes. You want the rice to break apart but it is ready as soon as it is hot. :)

Serving Soup ~ Lifeofjoy.meCreamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup ~ Lifeofjoy.meBowl of Soup ~ Lifeofjoy.meYummy and creamy and oh so good!!!

Closeup Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup ~ Lifeofjoy.meSo there you have it, a delicious bowlful of creaminess. :) In order to respect the copyright of the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook and the creator of this yumminess, Rohnda, I will refer you to page 100 of the cookbook or direct you to Rohnda’s website or to her new website here, where you will find her original recipe. I used the version from the cookbook. :)

Here are the tweaks I made:

  • less celery
  • substituted yummy oregano for the thyme
  • sautèd the onions and celery to ensure they were not detectable in the final soup
  • sliced the carrots on the mandolin so they too would be completely cooked
  • I did not measure the chicken, veggies, or black pepper
  • Oh! And I mistakenly used rice blend instead of just wild rice.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we have. Oh! It can be served with a slice of sprouted grain bread (warm from the oven is delightful) and still be an E.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Asking or Demanding

Ask or Demand ~ Lifeofjoy.meRiding to church yesterday, I took a moment and looked at my hubby as he was driving. I was just struck with how blessed I am. Moments before I had just told him that he needed to do something to fix my chair so that we don’t get pricked by a piece of metal on the bottom any more.

You see, I’ve gotten pricked by it twice in the last week on top of him getting pricked by it several times over the last month. He got “bit” by it before I did and I didn’t think much about it until I got hurt by it twice in one week. Then I nearly demanded that he fix it. 😯

As soon as I said, you need to fix my chair, I realized what I had said and said, No, that’s not right. Honey, could you fix my chair soon so that it stops ‘biting’ people? Stated that way, it was much better received than how I had brought it up.

You see, the first time was demanding but the second time I asked for his help. He agreed to help me out much more happily when asked. It makes me take a look at myself and how I talk to him and others, in a different light. I aim to be nicer and less demanding. :)

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

This Week’s Goings-On

Well, this week was Cyber Monday. Usually I have my Christmas shopping nearly completed by Thanksgiving but we got a very late start this year and it seems that Thanksgiving is a little earlier. I think we have an extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I’m giving myself grace in getting my shopping done this week.

Monday was Cyber Monday and generally I don’t do any shopping on that day but this year Trim Healthy Mama was having a big sale. I knew they’d start it at midnight but I didn’t want to stay up that late. Sean is a sweetie and likes to buy in bulk, so he gave me some money to get some much needed stuff.

I was like a kid at Christmas. When I awoke at four in the morning and went to the restroom,  couldn’t get back to sleep. I was so worried that the products I wanted would be out of stock. Silly me!

I finally stopped fighting myself and trying to get to sleep and just went ahead and got up. I prepared my THM order and shortly thereafter the household started waking. I got my order placed before six thirty.

After I got Sean fed and his lunch made and him sent off to work, I started working on my online Christmas shopping. It took a while but I got it mostly all done. There are a few things I have yet to work out but I’m in a much better position than I was this time last week. It’s tiring to online shop! Just sayin’.

Christmas is Coming ~ Lifeofjoy.meYes, Sean spoiled me with an Instant Pot Monday as well. I used it last night for dinner. The roast was good and I loved that I could sear it in the pot before closing it up. It should have cooked a little longer to be as tender as I like but it was still really good.

Brian revised his Christmas list and included a lot of Xbox games that had to be purchased on the Xbox to get the best deal. I’ve not done much on the Xbox, so ordering his games was a true act of love. ;) And no, it does not matter that I’m writing about this here, before Christmas, because you see, other than a vest coat, there is nothing else on the list. So he knows he’s getting games from most of us. :D

But Tuesday morning was spent figuring out how to purchase his stuff. Michael got me logged into his account and then Tiffany ended up connecting a keyboard so I wouldn’t be quite so frustrated with searching for the games and stuff. I finally got it done and moved on to other things. However I was very slow getting my menu done this week! I only got the grocery list done the morning of errand day, which generally means I don’t leave very early and thus don’t get home very early as well.

Tiffany is in crunch mode writing her next novel, so she stayed home, so Michael decided to go with me since he was didn’t have work that day. I picked up a few ordered gifts, that I’d had delivered to their respective stores for free shipping, stopped at the library to switch up some books, and then got groceries from four stores.

I have been so tired the last couple of nights. I’ve been on my feet a bit more than usual and that makes me a bit achy. No worries though, I just need to plan my days a bit better and make sure I elevate my feet spread throughout the day rather than just morning and evening.

I don’t know what made me think that this was a good idea.

Cabinet Cleaning ~ Lifeofjoy.me Yes, that is all the contents of my cabinets, both pantry items and things like crock pots, storage containers and such. I didn’t get started doing this until around one pm. What was I thinking?!

Well, I got a bunch of stuff tossed that is probably stale by now since we don’t eat things like that any more . . . boxed crackers, pasta, etc.

I managed to get the pantry stuff put back relatively neatly.

Neater Cabinets ~ Lifeofjoy.me No, it isn’t all pretty and organized like so many I see online but this is what I can do with the space I have. :)

My spice rack broke a few weeks ago and I had to finally settle with this.

Spice Cabinet ~ lifeofjoy.meThis will not work! I have had a round rotating spice rack for over twenty years. But the top rack broke and I’d been making do with spice bottles falling constantly, for too long. I finally took out the crazy thing.

Well, Michael thought he might be able to put a new top piece on it for me. And today he did just that!

Spice Rack ~ Lifeofjoy.meI was just too tired last night to get it put in the cabinet yet but I’m so glad I’ll be able to have them more readily available again. :) I have such a sweet man.

Well, this is has been a very tiring week. I’m so glad it is Friday! I may even play a little Toontown this weekend. ;) But one thing I know for sure, I’m going to start wrapping my gifts next week!!! No more Christmas Eve eve wrapping the majority of my gifts for me! And all my kids breathe a sigh of relief. :D

Well, I’m going to run. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope to paint my nails this weekend as well as finally getting Tiffany’s book cover fixed.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº