Quick and Easy Patriotic Fruit & Pretzels

I had to throw together a quick dessert for a party recently.  I wanted it to be on the healthy side since I knew there would be lots of other sweets at the party.  So I went to where I usually get most of my ideas, Pinterest! I am a bit of a Pinterest addict and I am always so happy when I actually make something from the hundreds of ideas I’ve pinned.  My dessert is a variation of this one I found on Pinterest.  If I made it again, I would try to use strawberries or watermelon for a brighter red color, but the cherries were what looked best at the market so we went with that!

This is a super easy dish to make and it was wildly popular at the party!  You can’t beat fresh, Michigan cherries!  I just washed the fruit, arranged it on a tray with yogurt covered pretzels and it was ready to go!

Fruit and pretzels

So if you find yourself scrambling for an idea for a 4th of July party, give this a try!  Simple, easy, healthy and delicious!  A perfect combination!

Happy 4th of July!   I hope you enjoy some good food, family, fireworks and fun!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

Just Do It Anyway

Hi All,

It has been a while.  Jules and I continue to deal with our own unique health problems which has taken up much of our spare time lately.  We appreciate you not giving up on us!  I have been thinking about this blog post for a while and I have been wanting to write about one of the most inspirational people I know in my life, my Aunt Mary.  Aunt Mary turned 90 last year and you would never know it.  Here she is taking her new birthday present for a spin-yes she cuts her own grass, changes the oil in her car, does more yard work than Jules and I put together just to name a few things.

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She is truly an amazing woman!  She has been on her own for many years after losing the love of her life, my Uncle Henry, when she was quite young.  The fact that she has more energy than most people much younger is impressive, but what I find truly inspiring is how she uses that energy.  She regularly visits many elderly folks in her community and drives a friend who cannot drive to church and takes her grocery shopping.  She also faithfully visited and brought dinner to my Uncle Claude who we recently lost this winter.  I remember talking to her about this at his funeral and she said, “You know, it wasn’t always easy to visit and make conversation with him because he was so quiet, but I did it anyway.”

This really resonated with me because I realize how often I shy away from doing things, or visiting people because it might be hard or slightly uncomfortable.  I know those visits meant the world to my Uncle Claude and I’m sure he appreciated the time she took to just sit with him and chat.  Her spirit of “doing something even if it is hard”, is something I want to imitate in my own life.  Thank you Aunt Mary for being such an inspiration!

How about you?  Do you shy away from doing things that are hard or uncomfortable?  What is something you have wanted to do but avoided?  We would love to hear from you!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

Turkey White Bean Chili

We are in the midst of another “Polar Vortex” here in Michigan and it looks like much of the country is experiencing some abnormally chilly temps, so I thought it would be nice to share one of our family’s favorite healthy recipe for chili. This Turkey White Bean Chile is guaranteed to warm you up from the inside out!   I clipped this recipe from a magazine a long time ago (not sure which one, so unfortunately, I can’t give credit to the source).  I have adapted it slightly adding a bit more water and whole organic tomatoes instead of canned.  I also use a little less onion than is called for in the original recipe, it depends on your preference for onions.   I usually double the recipe and save for leftovers or freeze for another meal.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!  So gather the family around the table and enjoy a hearty, healthy bowl of chili!

~Blessings,

Jen

Turkey chili

Total Time: 25 minutes

Makes: 4 main dish servings

Ingredients:

1 tbs. olive oil

1 lb ground turkey (93% lean)

1 med. onion chopped

4 tsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes in juice chopped (or about 4 whole organic tomatoes chopped)

1 can (15 to 19 oz.) white kidney beans (cannelloni), rinsed and drained

1.The recipe calls for cooking the chili in a 12 inch skillet, but I use a large stockpot so I can double the recipe.  Heat oil on medium-high until hot.  Add turkey and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until turkey loses pink color throughout, stirring to break it up with side of spoon  Add onion and cook 4 minutes.  Stir in chili powder and cumin; cook 1 minute.

2. Add tomatoes, with their juice, beans and 1/2 cup water (I usually add 1 cup or 2 cups of water if doubling.)  Heat to boiling on high.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Ladle chili into serving bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt or low fat sour cream.

Each serving: About 380 calories, 33 g of protein, 35 g carbohydrate, 13 g total fat (3 g saturated), 10 g fiber, 81 mg cholesterol, 875 mg sodium (I imagine sodium would be less if you used free tomatoes)

 

God Speaks To Us

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

                                                                                                                            John 10:27

Have you ever wished God would speak to you directly, like we read about in the Old Testament of the Bible?  When I pray, sometimes I wish I would hear a deep, booming voice that clearly answers my prayer or gives me words of wisdom and comfort.  We may not hear a concrete voice, but I’m convinced that God still speaks to us in a variety of ways.  I was witness to this over the past two weeks, as I grieved the loss of two very special Uncles.

My Uncle Claude had been admitted to the hospital and despite bouncing back many times, it seemed that he was getting weaker.  I was not ready to say good-bye and I felt so sad one evening.  It was then it came, a text out of nowhere, with a number that was not in my contact list,  saying, “Hey, how are you?”  I almost didn’t answer, but decided to ask who it was.  It turned out to be an old childhood friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while.  She was always around my family growing up and she knew my Uncle and even cleaned his house, so she was in the loop with what was going on with him, probably more so than me.  That night we texted back and forth and she shared some things with me about my Uncle and some conversations that they recently had that truly brought me so much comfort.  I knew that it was no coincidence that she texted me that night, she was sent to me by God to bring words of comfort and peace.

The next day, my Uncle Claude passed away.  I learned the news while I was at work and I did my best to hold it together.  Once my students had left for the day, I sat at my desk and was gathering my things to go home.  I wanted to make it to my car before I started crying.  Then my desk phone rang.  My phone hardly ever rings, unless it is an emergency and I had a silent debate in my head whether or not to answer it.  I decided to answer it but knew it was a mistake when my voice cracked and the tears I had been holding back all afternoon poured out.  Again, God sent his special message of comfort to me though this phone call.  It was my teaching partner I had worked with for five years, who was now at another school calling to say hi and see how I was doing.  She was just the person I needed at that moment to give me words of comfort and cheer.

I lost my Uncle Herb a few days later.  When we got the news, it was the same day we were going to the funeral home for my Uncle Claude.  We were all together as a family, grieving this loss and I could feel God there so close in the hugs from loved ones, the words spoken and the shared memories.  Being with my family helped sooth my heart.  Again, God provided comfort when I needed it most.  At my Uncle Herb’s funeral, the Pastor read many passages from the Bible that I felt spoke to me and offered comfort admist my grief.  The words were like a balm to my hurting heart.

I will miss both Uncles so much.  They were such kind, happy,  hard working men.  Both were farmers, treasured family and loved God.  I know they are at peace, home with the Lord and re-united with those who have gone before.  I find comfort in the promises of God during this time of grieving and am thankful for the way He sent a message of love and comfort to me during this difficult time through some very special people and His Word.

A few days before this loss, Little One and I saw this phenomenon, I later learned is called a Sun Dog, on our way to work and school.  It was like a rainbow coming right out of the frigid morning sky next to the rising sun.  It was brilliant and beautiful and looking back, I realize it was just another way God was letting me know He loves me and He is in control.  What an awesome God we have to give us such beauty to enjoy!  I also like to think that just maybe this was Heaven preparing a big party and celebration to welcome my Uncles home.

IMG_3655Blessings,

Jen

 

Christmas Moments to Treasure

Hi All,

It has been a busy month with Christmas preparations and the celebration of Little One’s 9th birthday.  I can’t believe it is Christmas Eve already!  As I was laying awake early this morning and thinking of all of the things I had to do today, the idea for this blog post came to me.

I was thinking how every year I wait and every year it happens, that special Christmas feeling!  Sometimes it comes earlier than others, but it always comes, that special moment when it really feels like Christmas!  For me this year, it was yesterday.  I had a mile long list of things to do and at the top of the list was baking and preparing treats for our Christmas parties.  My Mom arrived yesterday to stay with us and I was so happy to have her here with us.  She dug in and got right to work helping me and Little One bake up a storm!  Oldest, unfortunately had her wisdom teeth out and wasn’t up for baking this year.

In the middle of the baking mess, I was starting to feel  little stressed that I was running out of time and energy when I glanced back and saw this:

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And that is when it hit me, the Christmas feeling!  I realized it didn’t matter if I didn’t finish any of the baking or how it all turned out.  It was this time together with my Mom and my daughter that was the cherished outcome of this day!  I took a minute to soak in the feeling, how thankful I was to have my Mom here with me baking when just a year ago she was enduring some major medical struggles.  To have Oldest recovering and doing well.   To have my family with me, whole and healthy and happy, I am so thankful.  That special, wondrous feeling washed over me and I could feel the Christmas Spirit come alive!

So this Christmas Eve, I write to you with a full and grateful heart for all of the blessings in my life and reflecting on the biggest gift of all, the miracle of the Baby Jesus, born to us this night.  May all of you have an abundance of the  Christmas “feeling” this year and I wish you a Christmas filled with peace and love.

~Merry Christmas,

Jen

State Championship Moments

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The happy couple!

 

IMG_3001Our brother during the “Father-Daughter” Dance

A few weeks ago, my niece got married on a spectacular, fall day.  It was a day filled with celebration, love, fun and family.  At the reception, our brother surprised us all with a very poignant speech for the bride and groom with the theme of “State Championship moments”.  It was an amazing speech and he so graciously agreed to be be a guest writer for us and let us share his inspirational words with you!  I hope you enjoy this message as much as we did and it inspires you to look and be thankful for your own “State Championship moments” in life!

 

“…Now for a moment, I want to take you back in time to early fall 1979.  Myself and some of my friends  that are here tonight sat in our high school gym before our season opener and listened to our football coach tell us we had the talent to go all the way to a State Championship.  It was an awesome feeling to hear that.  To envision what that joy would be like was amazing.  Could it be?  Could it really happen?  We had some really great players but could we make it all the way to the Silver Dome?

Well as my friends will tell you… that was not to be.   I won’t bore you with the details but we ended up that season 0-9 -yes- ouch.  Potential State Champions 0-9.  One crushing loss after another.  Needless to say it was very disappointing.

Fast forward to 2009 and Katy introduces us to Scotty.  We found out Scotty went to the same high school as Katy  and played football there.  Not only that, but he was on the 2003  football State Championship team.   Of course, I am not thinking about whether this young man is suited to date my daughter or not.  I ‘m thinking WOW.  He experienced a state championship! HOW COOL! He experienced a State championship moment!  How lucky to experience that euphoria at one defining moment in your life.

Now as great as that experience would have been for my friends and I, I have come to realize that State Championship moments don’t always have to happen on the playing field.  I think back over my life and although I wasn’t  able to achieve the elation Scotty and his teammates had that day on the field, our family has had many State Championship like moments.

Of course there was a moment something like tonight back in 1988 when I married my wife.  It seems like just yesterday and it was a State Championship moment!

-There was another on April 15, 1990 when we welcomed Katy into this world.  It seems like just yesterday, that I was being scolded for eating in the delivery room while Sue was in labor.  But oh what a feeling to bring that beautiful baby girl into our life.!   Of course these moments were repeated by the birth of our two sons….For our youngest, I was scolded for watching the Bulls win the championship on TV while my Sue was in labor….a bit of a pattern there but  All State Championship moments!

Sometimes these State Championship moments aren’t momentous like weddings and births though. Sometimes they can be little things like our family get togethers on Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas, a family Christmas Celebration in Charleston where we all got to spend time with Grandpa,  before we lost him the next year.  Things like spending time with close, lifelong friends …just hanging out and enjoying each others company and sharing each others joys and concerns.  The importance of these friendships is something I learned from my father, spending many Saturday mornings at Kenny’s restaurant with him and his buddies having coffee.  Spending Quality one on one time with your daughter having lunch together over the years. Seeing your kids turn into amazing adults and making you proud beyond your imagination and just spending time with those you love and who matter the most to you.  These are all State Championship moments.

Katy and Scott, I want you both to have many of these moments in your life. Tonight is one for sure, more will follow.   Enjoy them all, both large and small.   Faith, Family, Friends, and your love for each other are the most important things.  Pay attention to those things and they will all be State Championship moments.

I’d like to raise a toast to Katy and Scott wishing them health, happiness, and many State Championship moments in the future.”

Well done big brother and thanks for sharing!!!

~Blessings,

Jen