keeping salad healthy {food on friday}

I'm so excited to post each week about food (and fitness)! I love sharing my favorite recipes and things with my friends, and now it has it's own place here on the blog! So fun!

Last week, we looked at the motives behind the way we eat, and this week we're going to look at some actual food! I'm going to show you guys my favorite go-to meal.


I love salad. I remember only a few years ago, I would feel seriously deprived (mentally) if I had to eat a salad. I wanted food! It might have had some to do with the fact that I was pregnant or nursing for about 6.5 years straight. :)  But at the moment (being neither!), I have no problems with eating salad for most meals. It's a much easier thing to do when you aren't feeding another human. (Lots of salad and nursing for several months is not a good combo, by the way...)

I believe that salad is one of the quickest, most filling, low calorie options you have to eat. Whether it's a side dish or the entree, you can eat a big portion of good, healthy greens, and fresh vegetables for very few calories. God gave us all these fresh foods to eat that are low in calories and packed with nutrients. It's so amazing!

In my salad, I have organic spring mix, cherub tomatoes, fat-free feta cheese, and croutons. I sometimes add 3-4 ounces of chicken breast to complete my meal. (Next week, I'm going to show you how to batch cook and freeze your chicken for easy meals! I love my quick chicken... chicken...mmm... never mind...either way it sounds alive doesn't it?.... :P)

In my big quart bowl of salad I am estimating that I have about 175 calories- 40 calorie of greens, about 40 calories of tomatoes, about 35 calories in feta, and about 60 calories in croutons. The croutons are definitely the splurge of the salad- I eat these for the extra carbs.

If I add a 3-4 oz chicken breast, about the size of a deck of cards, I add about 150 more calories.

So without dressing I am at about 325 calories. Dressing becomes the tipping point on whether the salad stays healthy or becomes a calorie bomb. I think this is one of the easiest places to go overboard on calories. You feel like you're eating very well, and so you choose any old dressing to top it off with. Ranch, italian, caesar dressing. Very tasty, but they completely cancel out the low-calorie effect of the salad. You might as well pour some butter on top of your salad! :P

Salad dressing is one of the easiest places to make healthier changes. These days, you have more reduced calorie options than ever before. Salad dressing choices take half of the length of an aisle at Wal-Mart these days. It's pretty unbelievable, really!

So let's do a dressing swap example:
Ranch dressing- for 2 tbsp- 140 calories and 14 grams of fat
Fat-free ranch dressing for 2 tbsp- 30 calories and 0 grams of fat

The difference is 110 calories for just 2 tablespoons of the same stuff. If you're thinking, but I can't give up my ranch for fat-free, it's terrible, My suggestion is that you change types of dressing. Don't stay with the same category of your favorite- go with a sweet dressing or something completely different you have no preferences in. If it makes you miserable or you feel deprived, you won't be able to stick with it long-term, so make sure you keep looking until you find something you like well enough to eat again and again.

Here are my current lower calorie favorites:

Raspberry chipotle- technically not a dressing- it's a marinade sauce. I add an equal part of white or red vinegar and mix it together. 2 tbsp- 45 calories, 0 fat.

Light raspberry vinaigrette- 50 calories, 3.5 grams of fat per 2 tbsp. (see that oil at the top? I pour it out before I use it). The calorie count has the oil included.

Light asian toasted sesame- 50 calories per 2 tbsp, 2.5 grams of fat.

One thing to remember-  almost all store-bought dressings are made with high fructose corn syrup- including those above. The first few times you put your dressing on, make sure to measure it out in actual tablespoons and pour it on so you can get an idea of how much you are actually eating. Full-fat or low-fat, if you don't know how much you are consuming, you can easily add far too much dressing and take away all the good you're doing with eating better foods.

One of my projects next week is to create a tangy low calorie dressing without lots of sugar. Homemade dressing is so much cheaper too, you can save a ton of money by making your own. I have a few ideas I'm going to test out and if they work I will share them here with you! In the meantime, I found these recipes for ranch, french, and asian that sound yummy if you want to give them a try.

Salads are a great option for filling, healthy meals, but don't forget to pay attention to the little extras- quantity matters when it comes to croutons, cheeses, and especially salad dressings!

Do you have a favorite dressing or salad topping? I'd love to mix up my salad a little!

laundry devotion {on sharing the gospel with loved ones}

Today we're talking about sharing the Gospel with others- why it's so hard for us to do, why we need to do it, and how to start sharing the Good News with our friends, family, and even strangers.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts! Has it been difficult for you tell your loved ones about God?

Press play for audio here:
About Laundry Devotions:
I tend to think of my laundry room as my prayer closet. I spend a lot of time in there where I get away from everything else while folding clothes (laundry for six keeps a girl busy ;). It's awesome because my hands are busy doing what I'm called to do and I get to spend time with God at the same time. I realized maybe that would work for others who are in a super busy stage of life like me. Maybe you are in the car, or at the kitchen sink, or prepping dinner. Either way, I hope this short audio format helps you give you a chance to focus on God even in an unlikely setting, like the laundry room! :)

Grab the Laundry Devotions button!
Just copy and paste the code below into your blog sidebar or post's html!

BH Web Round-up:: {free printables, DIY play kitchen, & raising daughters}

Here are a few of my favorite links going around the web right now:

Free DIY project downloads from Amy Butler- I want to do all of these!

Adorable DIY play kitchen- Why spend $200 at the toy store? Love it!

Listen to Them or Lose Them-  great article on raising daughters. I need to keep this one handy for the next 18 years or so!

Free printable birdcage notecards- how cute are these?

Check back for a new Laundry Devotion later today! Have a great Thursday!

our very old house + more before pics! {part 2}

the girl's room
Read {part 1} here.

It was the house of our dreams. At an unbelievable price. And the timing couldn't be anything but God's doing.

We had committed to doing what God wanted for us. And if we chose the house, it meant that we wouldn't be going ahead with the new business venture like we had planned.

But there was that one issue in the whole thing that made us pray harder than we ever had. And it wasn't giving up the new business.

the master bedroom- maybe a parlor in 1895?
The house was in a neighborhood we would have never considered before, surrounded by lower-income apartments and houses. It was a neighborhood everyone warned us against.

The house was amazing, but if it came down to safety, it wouldn't be an option. At least that's what we thought at first.

We wanted God's will to happen more than anything. Our long term goal was to become foreign missionaries. We'd felt that desire since we were first married, in fact, our plans were to pay off our consumer debt (which we did in 2008), and create an ongoing income so that we could make short-term trips then transition to full-time missionary work.

As we prayed about the house, we felt that God was telling us if we truly wished to be missionaries, how could we go to a dangerous foreign land to tell other people about Jesus if we couldn't be faithful to do the very same thing in slightly questionable neighborhood in a nice town, in a safe and comfortable country?

If we didn't trust God for our personal safety, then did we really trust Him at all?

the boys room- and basketball court floor!
We felt God had given us the exact house we needed- at the price we could afford (lower than any rent, even!), so that we could do His will- telling people around us about Jesus. We were to be lights for Him in a neighborhood full of people without jobs, without cars, and without money.

We had never seen God's hand move so visibly in our life. We prayed for months before that our house would sell in His timing, that we would make wise decisions, and live for Him instead of our own desires. And He guided us right off of our own path and directed us to what He wanted for us.

We saw it one business day after it went on the market, and we were the first to put an offer on the house. It took days to hear back from the bank if they had accepted our offer. I would have been so stressed before, but I had the most unusual peace about the house. If it was supposed to be ours, it would be ours. Our God is bigger than all of this, we thought. And if He doesn't want us to have this house, we don't want it in the least.

the upstairs landing
A few days later, we got the exciting news that the house was ours! We were so blown away. It was incredible. It was so providential- so not our own doing. Nothing had ever gone so smoothly for us like buying this house did. It was just so amazing to see God's work in our life. I still get chill bumps thinking about it!

The dates lined up so crazily (perfectly!), that we had one day to move out of the other house and into the new one.

And then the work began. Our first project was the main bathroom...

this was taken after a little remodeling-
imagine no wall, and no door header.
also after we put in a new sink/cabinet.
it had an oak cabinet/sink combo that was falling apart.

Next week- more of the story and the big bathroom reveal! :)

how to tailor clothing- the quick and easy way!

If you are like me, you probably have a stack of clothes in your closet that you like but refuse to wear because they don't fit just right. And after a few months, you'll probably donate them to Goodwill or give them away to your sister.

The good news is, my friends, you can save so much money by keeping those clothes and altering them yourself!

It's so easy
to alter your clothes!
In my very first "what I wore" post a few weeks ago- I saved my favorite post-partum shirt from the Goodwill pile by altering it with a quick seam to take it in. I had a couple more tailoring projects to do this week, so I wanted to show you here how you can tailor your own clothes too! It's so, so easy! 

And what do you have to lose since you're getting rid of them anyway? :)

I had this yellow shirt from our women's clothes swap back in the fall (the very best way to get "new" clothes! it was free!) and this pair of Hudson jeans I bought from Goodwill that were too big for me. I love Hudson's and they are hard to find, so I decided to risk $7 to see if I could tailor them to fit me. I wanted a bell-bottom style of trousers, so these wide legs were perfect for that.

Now, I'm not a professional seamstress at all. What I'm going to show you is the quick and dirty way of tailoring from a busy momma! I prefer the faster, imperfect style of sewing to the baby's crying and I'm going to pull my hair out trying but this will be a perfectly straight seam if I have to do this 'til I die style. I've nicknamed myself the lazy seamstress. :) Allow yourself that luxury too! 

(So if you are one of those really amazing seamstresses, you now have my permission to point and laugh at your screen. I don't mind at all! :P )

Here's the before (thanks to my 6 year old, Noah!).
Pants and shirt are both too big- mostly too wide, but not too long or short.

First, turn the clothes inside out and put them on. 

Have a pin cushion ready to go, and grab where you want to take in the item.

Pin vertically along the distance of the shirt. 

Carefully remove it. (I've totally gotten stuck a time or two!)

Sew using one of the guides on your machine, following the pins along the shape and length of the shirt. The most important thing is to try to keep the top and bottom lined up while you sew. Do both sides.

Try it on to see if it fits! If it doesn't, pull out the handy seam ripper. If it does, cut off the extra.

And that's it!! 
Shirts are so easy to do, especially sleeveless ones. Don't be afraid to try it! Pick out your least favorite shirt to practice on first. You can do pants and even jeans too. 

Jeans are a bit more complicated, but not difficult to do. Turn them inside out, put them on, and grab and pin vertically along the inside length (the inseam) of your leg where you'd like to take them in. 

Pin one side or both. I wanted to make sure both sides were exactly the same, so I measured and pinned only one side while I was wearing them, and took them off to pin the other side.

Pin along the length of the jeans, making sure you have a visible pathway to sew. Keep in mind what shape you wish your pants to have. You can even turn your old bootcut jeans into the popular skinny ones by tapering your pins to the ankle. Now there's no need to go buy new ones! Love it!

  Line up the jeans at the bottom and measure the distance from inseam to pin, 
and pin the same on the other side.

Go the entire length of the jean.

I took a colored pencil and drew a line on the outside of the pins to use as my sewing guide. I lined up the edge of the machine's foot on the inside of the line.

Start sewing at the top of the seam, in the crotch area, and reverse stitch your first few stitches to reinforce at the top. Sew along the existing seam until you reach where you need to take in. I didn't need to take it in much around the inner thigh area here, just lower in the thigh. 

Keep the seam as straight as possible along your line-guide. Any sudden jaunts off the path will become big funny bumps when you put them on. Also- you want to make sure you keep the bottoms lined up the entire time you sew. Go slowly. (I always make more mistakes when I go too fast!).  Reinforce with a reverse stitch at the bottom.

Try them on and see if they fit. If they do, then do the other leg. Trust me, you don't want to do both sides before you try them on. ;)

If you're happy with the fit on both sides, cut off the extra. Reinforce the crotch area by running another seam on top of the first one. You can reinforce with a second seam the entire length of the leg, if desired. 

Don't worry if it's not entirely perfect. Do what you can if there are big issues, but no one is going to notice your inseam having a tiny bump or wrinkle. Trust me, it's not worth the time to fix it. Sometimes we feel like we have to do it perfectly or not at all, but the reality is that no one will notice little imperfections. You'll save years of your life by letting go of perfectionism! 

And, how many brand-new clothes have you purchased that you noticed weren't perfect later? Right?

Look, so close to done!!

Iron the new seam flat. 

And enjoy your "new" clothes!!

  It's just so cool to have clothing tailored to fit your body, instead of a random sample size! 

What items in your closet can you save by tailoring? :)

Linking up @ Home Stories AtoZ

The Lettered Cottage

examining our hearts in eating {food on friday}

Image: Piyachok Thawornmat /
Healthy eating is important to most of us. We often desire to change our eating habits for the better. But why?

Before we can change the way we eat, I think we have to examine our hearts.  

Eating is necessary for life, and I believe God gave us food for our enjoyment, and for His glory. Did you realize that eating is referenced 700 times in the Bible? Food is the stage around which many Biblical stories in both the Old Testament and the New are set. And eating is specifically addressed in I Corinthians 10:31, where it says, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 

So eating is important for our bodies - not only physically, but spiritually, and it's for God's glory.

Food is necessary for our existence, but we are so busy that we don't stop to really think about what we are putting in our body. Is it healthy? Is it good for my body? Or is it harmful to me? Will this particular food be helpful to supplying my energy needs? Will it make me feel sluggish and bloated and keep me from doing what I'm supposed to do?

Then to the spiritual side- am I thanking God for the food he has so abundantly provided? Or, am I turning to food to replace God as my comfort? How do I think of food? Do I obsess about what I'm going to eat so that I won't gain a pound- has food itself become my god?

So we can see there is definitely more to food than just eating for survival. 

We need to examine what relationships we have with food before we can change our eating habits. What is our motive for healthy eating? Do we seek approval from others for our looks? Do we deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of food so that we can gain recognition or acceptance for our size?  Or, on the other hand, do we enjoy food too much, and rather than having self-control, we allow food to reign over our bodies, making what we are going to eat the focal point of everyday life? 

Our bodies are temples of the Lord, and He created us for His purpose.

In 1 Cor. 6:19-20 it says, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

Sadly, sometimes we make the very feeding of the temple itself an idol. We seek to maintain and feed our bodies, but when we take it to one extreme or the other, we've gone too far, seeking our own glory and not His.

God wants our focus to be on Him, not on our own appearance or desires. For women, this is a huge struggle as we seek to do His will but find our focus on weight loss or weight gain instead of what He wants for us. It's a battle that's not black and white; the war is internal, and it's not one we like to talk about.

I face the battle myself- I find myself far too worried about an extra inch or two, and what I'm going to eat or not going to eat. I want to be real with you guys- I'm as guilty as anyone else. God has been gracious to start showing me my faults in this area and is changing my heart, and I'm so grateful for it! Oh, it is amazing to serve the Lord. He is so, so kind and patient with us, even though we don't deserve it.

It's a delicate balance- one of desiring to honor the body that God has given us, and being thankful and enjoying the food He has given us. It's easier said than done, of course. But God gives us so much grace. Being thin isn't a sin. Being overweight isn't a sin. It's the focus of our hearts- are we letting food control us either way? Pray through this. And don't be afraid to let God take over the stronghold eating and your appearance has in your heart.

On the practical side, are there little daily decisions we could make that would make us healthier for His glory? Sure, I think so- like replacing fake foods with the foods He has provided naturally gives us healthier bodies. Instead of eating processed and preservative-injected chicken nuggets, you can choose to eat a fresh grilled chicken breast. It's just about being thankful and enjoying the naturally-occurring food God has provided for us here on the earth.

Image: Ambro /
So do we have to make every food decision perfectly? Should we go all-natural everything? No, it's about moderation and healthy decisions, focusing on what God has for your family.  It's not a legalistic system where you have to drink hormone-free milk or you're not living for Jesus. Absolutely not. It's about seeking God's will, and God's glory as we enjoy the wonderful blessing of food, not focusing on ourselves and our pleasure, but what He wants for us. 

And do we have to be perfectly fit or in shape? No way. It's about taking care of our bodies so that we can do what He wants. Are people who don't exercise sinners? No. Are people that enjoy exercising often sinners? No. It's all about the heart and motive of the person doing it. And there's grace to be found there- each person is different and unique, and no woman will be exactly the same as another. 

Pray over what God would have you to do in this area. He gives us so much help if we ask for it, and turn our burdens over to Him. It's truly amazing that He cares, even about what we eat and our inner struggles with appearance. Isn't that cool?!  :)

What parts of eating do you struggle with? Do you feel the inner battle raging too?

Linking up at Encouraging Words!

laundry devotion {on approval seeking}

Today we're talking about seeking the approval of others and it's dangers for those who wish to follow Jesus.

This is a tough topic for me, and one God is continually teaching me. God has been so merciful to start to show me what this looks like in my heart, and how He can overcome it! And He's definitely not done teaching me just yet. I'm so glad He's willing to help us, aren't you?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts! Is this an issue for you too? Can you see obvious ways that you seek the approval of others? How about the not-so-obvious ones?

Press play for audio here:
About Laundry Devotions:
I tend to think of my laundry room as my prayer closet. I spend a lot of time in there where I get away from everything else while folding clothes (laundry for six keeps a girl busy ;). It's awesome because my hands are busy doing what I'm called to do and I get to spend time with God at the same time. I realized maybe that would work for others who are in a super busy stage of life like me. Maybe you are in the car, or at the kitchen sink, or prepping dinner. Either way, I hope this short audio format helps you give you a chance to focus on God even in an unlikely setting, like the laundry room! :)

Grab the Laundry Devotions button!
Just copy and paste the code below into your blog sidebar or post's html!

our very old house- before {part 1}

Our home built in 1895- before 
Until last year, we had only lived in brand new homes- we had two homes custom built, and we picked out everything- counters, floors, light fixtures, bricks. Low maintenance, shiny, new houses! Those were the easy days! ;) They were nice- except they both had high monthly mortgage payments.

Two years after we became debt free (except for the house- thank you Dave Ramsey!), we decided to sell our home and rent for a few years until we saved up for cash to build our dream home. It was our plan, but God had a different one. 

We thought we were going to use the cash we had saved for starting a new business venture. We were praying hard that God's direction would be obvious to us. We wanted to do what God had for us, and not to miss His will trying to do our own.

Our house went on the market in 2010 and three weeks later sold for about what we asked. We searched hard and heavy for a good rental and couldn't find a single good one. On a whim I decided to look at homes for sale in our city (not our intention in the least!), and found this one that just had gone on the market, a foreclosure at a ridiculously low price. 

A few before pics:
The dining room!!
This was my favorite room in the house when we bought it. 

The kitchen! My dream kitchen!
 The appliances had been removed.

One of the bedrooms-
 currently the sewing/guest room.
Our family closet/pantry!
 The Lord knew exactly what we needed!
Bathroom- yuck! It was in the worst shape of all. 

The office, before. See the after here.

The living room and cool marble fireplace!

The outside. I love it.
It was amazing and totally my dream house, far below what I would ever imagine the price could be. It was built in 1895, was over 3300 square feet, two stories, with a huge kitchen, wrap-around porch, pecan trees, a big yard, and it was beyond perfect for us. Too-good-to-be-true perfect.

Well, perfect...if you like gigantic remodeling projects. And we did. We were excited to renovate a house ( young, so inexperienced! ;). There was only one issue with it that we had to consider. And it was a definitely a big one. be continued with more pics next week! :)

Read {part 2}!
and see our bathroom before and after reveal!

free printable chore cards & tutorial

As a mama of four little ones (all seven years and under), I've seriously tried a ton of different chore systems. Big charts, little charts, chore cards, internet chore systems, schedules and more- I can't even remember them all! 

Maybe it was them or maybe it was me, but we just didn't see eye to eye, if you know what I mean. Like the time the star stickers somehow escaped from their special spot and ended up Mmmhhmm. After that, I was sooo done with charts and stickers.

I decided to take matters into my own hands with the whole chore system thing. I wanted cute and functional- so I made my very own little chore system (and I'm giving it to you too! yay for free stuff!).

I modified a chore system based on what works best for us- the kids have different chore times throughout the day, so they flip their card on the ring to see the next chore until they complete them all. My kids love it so far.

If you have littles, you can have them leave the chore cards at the table and come back to see what's next. Or if they are bigger, they can clip it to their belt to take with them.  Either way, the cards aren't flying all over the house like they were before! 

Another big plus of the whole thing- it was cheap and fast! If you want to try it out, you can finish this project in less than 20 minutes. 

Here's what you need:
Scissors, hole punch, printed chore cards, book rings (found in the office supplies section at Wal-Mart- 8 for less than $2), and optional 8.5x11 inch laminating pouches (these are about $1 per page
 or .17 per card).

First, print out the chore cards.
You can use paper if you intend to laminate, or 110 lb. cardstock if you want them a bit sturdier.

Cut out the cards. Don't worry about perfection,
your little one won't notice! ;)

One of the cards has a blank spot for adding your child's name.
This will be your first card on the ring.

One sheet of chore cards is empty so you can glue or draw on your own chore. 

The hubs got in on the drawing action on this one. I think I really like his chore card. In fact, I think I would totally let him take over all chore supervision if he wanted. (wink, wink, honey!)  
"A project so easy,
even your husband will do it!" heheh.
Option: Laminate. One easy idea would be to use clear packing tape to cover both sides (which makes it a really inexpensive DIY project!). The best option, if you have the time, would be to go to an office or Christian book store that has a laminating machine, and have them done there (they are very reasonably priced from what I understand). 

I used self-laminating sheets you can buy at Wal-Mart, and one important thing to note is that they need a generous 1/4 -1/2 inch border so that they will stay sealed.

Lay six cards upside down on the transparent side of the sheet, remove the directions/back cover and push the two sides together. Press out any bubbles (I used the hole punch to do that here). Cut one card out (leaving that generous border), using it as your cutting template to hold on top of the others.
Rub out those bubbles!
The cards are best arranged end to end
going from top to bottom of the page.

Hole punch the cards lining up the end of the hole punch on the edge of the aqua line
and the punch's outer edge with the paper's edge.
If cards are laminated, prepare for a serious hand workout. :)

 Place the cards on a book ring, and you're done! 

One more thing we do with the cards- after my kids use them in the morning, afternoon, and evening,  they are to put them back on the fridge each time, so I just bought a little magnetic pencil/locker box to hold them! Easy. When you have four little kids, easy is good. Very good.

I have to say my favorite part about the whole thing is that they are so cute and striped and aqua(!)- I definitely won't mind seeing them on my fridge all day. :) 

Do you have morning and evening chores? 
What chores do you have your kiddos do?  Do tell, I'd love to think of more jobs for my kids to take off my hands! ;)

Linking up at:

Pink Paper Paradise