Monday, March 30, 2015

I Said Yes!!

Twenty four years ago the love of my life asked me to marry him...and I said "YES!!" 
It is one of the best decisions I have ever made! 

We only have a few pictures of our engagement and the ones we do have were not taken by a professional.  Neither Martin or I had a camera and it was back in the day before cell phones!  Yikes!  That makes us sound really old!
Thankfully, the success of a relationship is not hinged on the perfect picture!

I remember thinking it wasn't possible to love anyone more than I already loved Martin.  I was wrong!  The love we shared 24 years ago was indeed rich and genuine.  However, it wasn't the kind of love we share now.  This love we have now is so much deeper, so much stronger, and so incredibly beautiful!
According to statistics, our marriage should have dissolved years ago.  We dated for 5 months before our engagement and were married less than a year after we started dating.  I was the tender age of 19 and Martin was 24.  We were both far too young and na├»ve to really know what we were doing.
So what makes our marriage work?
It's actually a fairly simple concept.
Yup!  That's it! 
Basically what that means is this...God is the center of our marriage.  Even before we started dating, God was at the center of our lives and we committed our relationship to Him.  We spent many, many hours praying and seeking God's will even before we started dating.
Simply put...I love God.  Martin loves God.  God loves us.  So if I love Martin as I love myself, and Martin loves me as he loves himself and we both love God, it's next to impossible to allow a disagreement, or those irritating qualities to become something that tears us apart. 
It means that both of us give 110% to our relationship.  It means we put the other before ourselves. It means that we are committed for the long haul.  The big D isn't an option.  So we either live a miserable life or we work at making our marriage a safe and beautiful place to be.
Now that doesn't mean we don't face our fair share of problems.  Trust me, we do drive each other batty!  There are days when we really do not like each other.  We get rip roaring mad at each other!  And for good reasons too!
But the good news is that with God, we can work things out.  With God, we can forgive.  With God, we can grow stronger.
You may wonder what all of this actually looks like in our day to day life.  Here are a few practical things that have served us well.
* NEVER, and I mean NEVER go to bed angry, or without resolving an issue...even if it means you stay up till 3 am!
*Make greeting each other at the end of the day a priority.  A 15 second hug or kiss says a lot to your partner.  It says "I missed you! I love you! I'm so glad you're here!"
*Communicate!  About everything!  That means both of us have to listen carefully!
*Take time for each other...every day!  It's very difficult for us to have dates or alone time.  Most evenings we try to sit down and chat for at least a few minutes or hang out together...even if it is watching a TV show.  We love to cook up some yummy shrimp or make a delicious cracker dip, add some wine and make a date of it!  We love going for walks together.  Not only does it give us some exercise, but it's the perfect time to talk about all those things we can't talk about when the kids are around.
*Flirt with each other!  Seriously!  Who doesn't like to feel wanted and attractive!?!
*Look for ways to make your spouse feel special.  A simple chocolate bar can be the perfect way to say, "I love you!", without spending a pile of money...and it doesn't take a lot of time to buy a chocolate bar!
*Make your relationship with God a part of each others life.  By that I mean pray together.  Share what God has been teaching you.  Study the Bible together.
*Say "I'm sorry" and mean it!
*Compliment each other.  About the little things and the big things. 
*When you think about the past, focus on the good things and never forget why you fell in love in the first place!
Happy 24th Engagement Anniversary Martin!! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cooking Without Meat...and Tofu!

A few posts ago I mentioned that we often eat a meatless meal.  I was asked to share some of our favourite recipes.  If you're hoping to find some meals made with the disgusting, jiggly stuff called tofu, you've come to the wrong place.  Lol!  I really don't like tofu!  If you're thinking all of these meals are packed with protein, you'll be disappointed.  These are some simple meal ideas that are somewhat nutritious, but not all of them are packed with protein.  I honestly don't think that eating one meal a week without protein will harm us.  Having said that, I do try to pack in as much protein and nutrition as possible.
Eating meatless meals is not something we initially set out to do.  It just happened.  Actually it started as a "Oh!  I forgot to take the meat out to thaw.  I'm starved!  What's the fastest thing I can make for supper?"  This usually happened after Martin and I had both worked a full day.  The days before kids.  So, it started more as a "lets fill our tummy's" than a desire to spend less on groceries.  And we certainly weren't concerned about eating all that healthy. Over the years, it's become a way to save money on groceries and still eat healthy...for the most part.
You'll notice I use whole wheat flour for almost everything.  I grew up eating only white bread and everything was made with white flour.    Over the years, I slowly switched to using mostly whole wheat flour.  I started using only 1/4 whole wheat flour and worked my way up to using 100% whole wheat.  It's not easy to switch to whole wheat, but once you do, you'll never regret it.
Some of our all time favourite meals are actually generally thought of as a breakfast meal.  Truth is, who has time to make a big breakfast?  We usually don't.  So we have these meals for supper instead.
I triple this recipe for my family and usually we'll have enough left over to pop into the toaster to enjoy the next morning for breakfast.  They also freeze very well and can be popped into the toaster straight from the freezer.  Make sure you place a piece of wax paper between waffles. 
I make these using only whole wheat flour.  We find that whole wheat flour fills us quicker and the feeling of "I'm hungry" 30 minutes after having waffles, doesn't happen when I use whole wheat. 
Waffles With Vanilla Sauce and Strawberries
1 2/3 cups Whole Wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, seperated
3 2/3 cups milk, divided
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fresh or frozen strawberries
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bow, beat egg yolks lightly and add 1 2/3 cups milk and oil.  Stir into dry ingredients.  Set aside 1/4 cup batter in a saucepan.  Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold into remaining batter.  In sauce pan, heat sugar, the remaining milk and the 1/4 batter you set aside earlier. Boil until thickened and add vanilla. (Note: If using whole wheat flour, you will want to add extra white flour to your sauce, about 2 tbsp., to help the sauce thicken better)
Top waffle with white sauce and strawberries.  Enjoy!
We also like to add some not so healthy pudding and whipped cream to this meal.  There is nothing better than a piping hot waffle loaded with homemade chocolate pudding and whipped cream!  I use my mother-in-laws chocolate pudding recipe.  I make several batches of this and store it in an air tight container and use as needed.
Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
Combine ingredients and store in airtight container
To make pudding simply combine...
1 cup pudding mix
2 tbsp butter (optional)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cook until thickened.  We prefer to have our pudding warm for serving on top of waffles.
I'm not a big breakfast person, but do enjoy omelettes for supper.  I don't follow a recipe for omelettes.  I simply use what I have on hand, but will usually include the following.
6 eggs
2 tbsp milk
green, red, or yellow peppers
hot peppers
favourite Epicure Spice
Mix eggs and milk.  Pour into greased frying pan.  Sprinkle with veggies and spices. Cover and cook until fluffy.  Flip and sprinkle cheese on top.  Cook until done.  Serve with a slice of homemade whole wheat bread.
For those Friday nights when we feel like eating out, we turn to this delicious and simple meal.
Italian Bread Wedges and Salad
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Parmesan Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese (or whatever cheese you happen to have on hand)
1/3 cup Italian dressing
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp thyme or pizza spice
Mix first 6 ingredients in a large bow.  Knead in additional flour if needed.  Form a ball; cover.  Let rise for 30 minutes.  Spread dough on a greased pizza pan.  Mix topping spices in a bowl.  Brush onto dough.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.
Serve with your favourite salad.
I like to add this salad as it has some protein in it and it compliments the meal nicely.
Corn Chip Salad
Chopped lettuce (use your favourite)
kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
corn, cooked, cooled and drained (optional)
Catalina dressing.
Mix all ingredients and serve.
My youngest 3 kids LOVE Chinese food!  Actually we all do!  So one of our all time favourite meals is...
Vegetable Stir Fry
4 cups sliced vegetables
broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, carrots, peppers
peanut oil
1 cup broth ( I use chicken bouillon and water)
2 tbsp soya sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
2 tsp cornstarch
Optional:  add almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds
Heat oil in wok.  Add chopped/julienned veggies; stir fry for about a minute.  Add liquid and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until veggies are the desired tenderness.  Add all or desired options.  Serve over rice or your favorite Chinese noodles. 
I'll share a few more recipes in the next couple of weeks.  Hope you can enjoy a meatless meal!...even if you don't like beans or tofu!  ;)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

This Boy!

This boy continues to amaze me!  He is so incredibly happy...except when he's not!  If he's not happy, he's sure to let the entire world know!  He's a confusing mixture of tough big boy and soft as mush mama's boy.
He loves all things boy.  He loves his plasma car!  He dreams of playing hockey (like Morgun does!).  He constantly talks about skateboarding.  He loves anything related to cars!  He loves to climb, sing at the top of his lungs, and giggle!
His Daddy is his hero!  He loves helping out whenever he can, and grins from ear to ear the entire time.  There is no one that can make this boy feel so proud of himself as his Daddy can.  And there's no one that can hurt his feelings like his Daddy can.  When Daddy has some firm words for Jackson, the tears tumble out and the sobs begin...and don't want to stop!

Jackson despises the girl's dressup clothes, but loves to wear their necklaces and fairy wings.  He loves playing with his sisters, especially if he can pretend to cook and serve food.  I'm thinking that's a wonderful skill for him to have!  Can't wait to have him cook for me...hopefully!
He still loves to color, loves stickers and loves puzzles.
Jackson really has us stumped on one issue...sleep!  He's never been a really good sleeper.  He often cries, or wails at night.  As in make you jump out of your skin wail.  Sometimes it's 1-2 times a night and sometimes it's 4-5 times a night...or worse.  Initially we thought he was simply adjusting.  Things seemed to get better for a bit and then he'd get an ear infection and cry again.  We finally figured it out and got an antibiotic ear drop prescription to be used any time he had an infection.  If we caught the infection early enough, the crying only lasted 1-2 nights.  We also began using a variety of vitamins, probiotics, etc to help him calm down.  He stopped crying in pain every time I lifted him to change his diaper.  His crying at night was cut down by more than half.  We thought we were on the right track!  He still cried or wailed several times a week, but we could usually trace it back to him watching something Curious George!  Seriously!  He has nightmares from watching almost anything!  He's now limited to watching Diego, Dora, Berenstain Bears, and Franklin.  All in all, we felt we had it mostly figured out.
And then...I left home for 5 nights to go to my Grandma's funeral and Jackson had ear surgery.  I was away for 1 night due to Malia's surgery shortly after that.  That was at the end of January, beginning of February.  Jackson has only slept through the night a handful of times since then.  And we are at a loss! 
So to all my fellow adoptive  Any ideas or suggestions as to what is going on?  Could my being gone for a few nights set him back that far?  Could it be related to his surgery? (He shut down completely on the day of his surgery and it took about a week for him to be back to his normal daytime self)  Could it be connected to Malia's surgery?  Or all of the above?
We welcome your input and prayers!  This mama needs her sleep!
PS:  I'm working hard to invent a caffeine capsule so I don't have to drink more coffee to stay awake!  I really don't like coffee! :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


 You ever have one of those days where you find it hard to not be discouraged? 

Today is one of those days for me.

The day started well enough.  A soft white snow was falling this morning, creating the perfect opportunity to enjoy a mocha and the warmth from the woodstove.  We started with school work, laundry and other mundane household tasks. The kids were all having a relatively good day.  I decided to start a craft while the kids played outside.  Sounds pretty ideal if you ask me!

And then came the anticipated phone call from the surgeons office.  I was expecting to book a day for a follow up surgery for Malia to sever the graft.  That's not what happened.

Instead of a surgery date, we now have an appointment (in 3 weeks) with the surgeon to see if the graft actually took. The surgeon is not confident at all that the graft will actually take! 

So hard not to sit down and cry! 

So I'm managing not to cry, but I'm so incredibly discouraged!  Sometimes it seems as though nothing works out for us!  I know that's a complete untruth, but when I'm down in this ugly space of discouragement, it's hard not to listen to that lie.

Instead of crying, I'm going to keep reminding myself of these verses...ALL day and week long if I have to!!

So for now I will make every effort to, soft white snow, mochas, content kids, but mostly God's faithfulness and unfailing love.
Romans 12:12 ESV    
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
 Philippians 4:4-6 ESV
    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I will pray without ceasing, not forgetting to be thankful!
            Colossians 4:2 ESV    
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Psalm 55:22 ESV
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
2 Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith, not by sight.

I will cling to HIS promises for He is with me!  He will never leave me!  He gives me strength!  He will make even this into something beautiful!  He will make a way!

Joshua 1:9 ESV    
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV    
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed
Philippians 4:12-13 ESV    
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Romans 8:28 ESV    
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
 Psalm 34:17-19 ESV
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

And I am confident in this...that in the end I will still praise, glorify and honor HIM!

1 Peter 1: 6-9
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

PS:  Please keep in mind that we have not, nor do we have any intention of telling Malia this turn of events.  So please do not talk to her about it.  Thanks!

Monday, March 23, 2015

After "The Drop Box"

It's been a few weeks since we went to see The Drop Box.  I've been trying to process all that I saw. Truthfully, I'm having a hard time. 
During the movie I felt rather numb.  Initially, the lack of "feeling" bothered me.  Until I realized that it is a completely normal response.  Or at least for me it is.  When I witness something tragic, sad, or horrific, I tend to absorb what I am seeing or experiencing in a numb state.  It's my way of not becoming overwhelmed and losing it.  It's my bodies way of dealing with hard stuff.  I suppose it's the "fight, flight or freeze" response. 
 And all hit me like a ton of bricks!  The whole documentary still tears at my heart and I can't help but get emotional when I think about it all.
So why the heart wrenching, pain in my gut kinda feeling weeks after watching the documentary?
Well, you see, there are several reasons. 
First of all it really bothered me that Pastor Lee and his wife do not have enough support.  I know there is a huge body of believers in Korea and around the world that more than capable of helping out.  But the reality is that most people either don't truly understand the need, or they know of the need and promptly forget because life takes over (it's actually called selfishness...and how do I know that, you may ask?...I know because I see it in my own life!), or they don't know where to start, and give up, or they decide to do the "biggest" and most "godly" thing they can do...pray and leave it at that.    You see, prayer is fantastic!  It's communicating with God! But when all we do is pray...well, quit honestly it's usually quite ineffective. The heartfelt, fervent prayer produces much.  (James 5:16) It produces action of some sort.  And then there are those that have the misguided belief that "God cares for the orphan" or that we have a government system in place to care for these kids.   I think it's time too call all of this what it really is...sin!
It may feel like a slap in the face (aka...conviction of the heart), to hear it said that our inaction is sin and that it's high time we ALL step up and do more! 
Now that doesn't mean we should all adopt, foster, or go into "missions".  What it does mean is that we all start doing more than just pray.  It's time to step out of our comfort zone, and prayerfully ask God to show us where and when to take action.  It's time to defend the less fortunate with words and actions.
The second reason for this sick feeling in my gut weeks after watching the movie... in so many ways, our story and that of our kids, is so similar to The Drop Box.  In so many ways it is our reality.  I can hardly stand the knowing.  Knowing that my kids' birth parents made gut wrenching and heart breaking decisions.  Knowing that my kids have experienced incredible loss that will always be a part of their story.  Knowing that what we see daily in our kid's lives is a direct reflection of that loss.  Knowing that I can never completely replace that which was stolen from my kids.
You see, when you ask God to break your heart for what breaks'll never be the same!  There is incredible pain.  There is incredible struggle.  There is incredible loss.  This pain, struggle, and loss comes in so many forms...relationships, emotional, spiritual, physical, fact every aspect of life. I see it in our life and I saw it in the movie.  All the opposition Pastor Lee faced.  Losing vital support for his disabled son.  Losing his health to fight for these kids. Perhaps Pastor Lee's son summed it up best when he described their home as "heaven", and when asked what it's like when the bell in the drop box rings, he said something along the line of "hell coming into heaven".  It about took my breath away.  You see, when you do something for the less fortunate, especially the most vulnerable of people...little kids...satan really does work extra hard to try to destroy.  He really does try to make our "heaven" a living hell.
 But that's not where the story ends.  There is redemption!  There is grace!  And there is beauty! 
I also saw this in the movie.  In each of the faces of Pastor Lee's kids.  In Pastor Lee's face.  And in the face of the director, Brian Ivie.  (As you may know, Brian Ivie accepted Christ as his Saviour during the making of this film)  You can check it out here.
 I see this beauty in my life.  I see it daily as I parent my precious kids.  I see this beauty in their faces.  I see how they love and are loved.  I see how they are growing in love for God.  I see how their love for God impacts their daily decisions and actions.  I see how this decision to adopt has impacted my homegrown boys.  They are better young men for it.   I see their fierce protection of their younger siblings.  I see how they are willing to give of themselves even when it costs them something. 
I see it in Martin and I see it in myself.  Our priorities and goals have changed.  Our life's dreams have changed.  And this thing called love is beginning to not only make more sense to us, but I can feel it slowly growing and growing in us.  Growing in love for our God.  Growing in love for others.
Morgun (my 13 year old son) wrote about The Drop Box in his journal.  Here is a bit of what he had to say.
"It was probably one of the most interesting movies I have ever seen.  It meant something. Most movies are pointless; just there to waste your time.  A person can research and watch stuff like "The Drop Box", but you can't fully understand what those people go through until you go through the same thing."
My prayer is that this movie will be the catalyst for moving people to action.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Surgery (Second Attempt)

This past Thursday Malia had yet another surgery.  This surgery was suppose to involve severing the FAMM flap. It was supposed to be the final step in closing the fistula in the roof of her mouth. Unfortunately, the graft didn't take.  About 10 days post surgery, Malia had a huge gob of dead tissue come out of her mouth.  We could still see the hole.  There was nothing that could be done until the surgery day that was already booked.  So all we could do was wait and pray.
All week we had been dreading hearing that the graft would have to be redone.  We had no idea what that would involve.  Would it simply mean redoing the graft with the existing healthy tissue?  Or would there be enough healthy tissue to redo the graft?  Would it mean completely redoing the FAMM flap?  Would she have to heal first before the graft could be redone?  Would this add additional weeks or months to this procedure?  Would Malia have to stay in the hospital overnight?  So many unknowns.
Although we were stressed and disappointed that the graft wasn't successful, we soon saw there were many things to be grateful for!
We truly do have the best surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses! 
Our surgeon was incredibly wise and didn't let Malia know that the previous graft didn't work.  She personally came to take us down to surgery and chatted and joked with Malia, putting her at ease. 
Our anesthesiologist was incredibly patient, taking time to listen to Malia's questions and comments.  Malia wanted to know if he attended church.  He said he did and then asked Malia if she did and where she attended.  Her answer..."Yes!  We go to the Galaxy Theatre!"   Hahaha!  That made me chuckle!  Honestly!  Who attends church at a theatre!?!  Ummm...we do! He was rather puzzled, so yes, I did explain that our church service is at the Galaxy Theatre!  Later that day, Malia explained that "I just wanted to know if he knew Jesus!"  Love that girls heart!
The patient booked ahead of Malia was a no show, so she was taken straight to surgery after we were done at admitting. For those of you who spend hours in doctors' offices and hospitals, you know that not having to wait is an incredible treat!
As you know, this was Malia's third time in the hospital in 6 weeks.  The first surgery was cancelled.  The second surgery was incredibly painful.  Malia has always been nervous about surgeries, but has been fairly calm as she is put to sleep.  However, with each procedure, she is becoming more and more worried and agitated.  Her behaviour (at home) prior to surgery is becoming more and more disruptive.  We joked with Malia as we walked into the OR and she seemed ok.  I knew she was afraid and nervous when she looked at the anesthesiologist and said, "You're tall!   And creepy!" (He is tall, but not at all creepy!  He has the most gentle eyes and great PR skills!)  Thankfully, the entire room erupted in laughter!  She was ok until we tried to put the mask on her face!  She completely flipped out!  She clung to me, with her face against my chest, sobbing.  The sobs quickly turned to top of the lungs screaming.  Our anesthesiologist quickly decided to administer the anesthetic via an IV.  Malia screamed bloody murder the entire time...until she fell asleep...and somewhere in the screaming she managed to yell, "I HATE ALL OF YOU!!"
Thankfully, this wasn't my first time in the OR.  It wasn't my first time trying to calm a nervous child.  But it was my first time seeing my child so completely terrified and angry!  I know I was shaking in the OR, but I managed to be mostly calm, talking to Malia, trying to sing to her, trying to calm her.  In the end, all I could do was hold her.  Thankfully, I was able to quit shaking half an hour after leaving the OR.
I suppose it may sound rather odd, but I am thankful that Malia is flipping out and screaming.  It means she is trusting us more and more.  It means she knows that it's ok to let us know just how afraid and angry she really is, instead of bottling it all up inside.  When she bottles it up, it comes out sooner or later.  It always comes out in some negative way.  So I guess, I'd rather listen to her scream bloody murder for 5 minutes, than deal with behavioural issues for the next 3 weeks!
Fortunately, there was enough healthy tissue from the flap that the surgeon was able to use to redo the graft.  
Fortunately, Malia has had very little pain and the pain she does have is easily managed with Tylenol.  Malia's time in recovery was short.  She was hilarious!  She was a little loopy, making funny comments.  Inspite of being a bit loopy, she still managed to tell her nurse about Jesus!  She recited the verses we have been memorizing.  Her nurse was completely in awe of Malia and kept saying she was so very glad to have met her.  I think Malia made her day!
While Malia was in surgery, I met several wonderful people who were such an amazing encouragement to me.  To have complete strangers voice their support, with understanding, really means the world to me!  I will never forget how all 3 of these people got up to meet Malia as we were headed to the Pediatric they blessed us with their words...wearing their hearts on their sleeves.  I will forever remember the gentleman with tears in his eyes, squeezing my shoulder, not saying a word.  All I could think is...God is here!!
Thankfully, we were able to go home that day.  Sitting in a room with 3 sick toddlers is not fun!  Between the 3 of them, someone was crying the majority of the time.  Somehow sitting in the hospital for a day, seeing what other kids and parents endure, makes me realize how "little" we have to deal with.  I think I'd go nuts if I had to spend more than 1 night in the hospital!  

We couldn't be prouder of our little trooper!  Here she is with her first attempt at a smile post surgery.  Isn't she just the cutest!?!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beans n' Rice

Today Dairy Queen was offering free ice cream.  I had no intention of taking the kids because the nearest Dairy Queen is about a 25 min drive from us.  It really didn't make sense to spend more on gas than on what we would save with the free ice cream.  Or so I thought.  However, my very smart 13 year old was quick to remind me that the lovely town where we go skating each Monday recently opened a Dairy Queen.  So, after skating our hearts out we went for a free ice cream!  There's something about "free" that makes me smile!  How wonderful to be able to treat my kids to ice cream at no cost to me!! 

Anyhow, it reminded me that I have been meaning to post about one of the newer ways I have found to save $$$!!

As I've mentioned before, I'm always looking for ways to decrease our grocery bill.  All of our married life, we have eaten meat free meals about once a week.  Now that I'm trying to beat this anemia thing, I've had to double my protein intake.  So no room for too many meat free meals, unless I'm able to incorporate beans.
I've always wished I could make more meals with beans. Lots of beans. However, my kids have never been fond of beans...not any beans...not in anything.  But...being the mama I am, I have always made things with beans in them, insisting my kids always give it a try, and hoping that someday my kids would acquire a taste for them.  The same is true about least for my oldest 2 boys.
Anyhow, what happened while I was away at my Grandma's funeral is a truly amazing! 
Martin decided to make one of his favourite meals from his bachelor days...Beans n' Rice!  And believe it or was a hit!!!  Not simply an
 "it's ok" kinda meal, but a big ole "we LOVE it!" kinda meal for my kids!!
Now, granted Martin added bacon.  As you know, that makes an inexpensive meal an expensive meal.  So, we opted to make the bacon a garnish.  Even with the bacon as a garnish, a meal for all 7 of us costs approximately $5.00!  It doesn't get much cheaper than that!  And it's loaded in all the protein my anemic body needs!

Here's the recipe....
Baked Beans
4 cups white beans
4 bay leaves
2 diced onions
2 tsp salt (or more as needed)
1 tsp pepper
4 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 cups molasses
1 1/2 cups ketchup
6 tbsp. brown sugar
1 bottle beer (optional)
liquid smoke to taste
crumbled bacon (optional)
Place beans in large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes, making sure there is at least an inch of water above the beans.  Cover and let sit for 4-16 hours.  I usually soak the beans overnight.  The next morning, drain and rinse beans. Place beans in slow cooker and add all the other ingredients, making sure beans are completely covered with liquid. Cook for 6 hours and serve over your favourite rice. (If you find the beans are getting too dry and you didn't add enough water, simply add  more water as the beans cook.)  Garnish with a bit of  crumbled bacon.  Enjoy!