Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When Life is Less Than Glorious

When Life is Less Than Glorious - The Cozy Nook

I woke up this morning with an achy body and a slow mind.

“Ugh. Is it really time to start the day?”

That’s how I felt. There was no anxiousness or excitement to get my day going.

I pushed myself through my morning responsibilities and routines and prodded the kids multiple times to get out of bed.

Soon after they awoke, my role as the pony motor and task master set in.

“Do this.
Do that.
Stop doing this.
Stop doing that.”

Fighting a good dose of attitudes and laziness, I was slowly making progress in my home when the announcement came:

“The toiled is plugged and is about to overflow….”

“Oh, great!” …. Just what I needed.

As I plunged my life away with no success, my thoughts spiraled downward. I came to the conclusion:

Life is less than glorious.

Sure, there are times when life feels absolutely wonderful, but there are a lot of times when life feels hard and lacks glory.

It is during these often, earthly moments of life that a choice is put before us. Will we choose life or death?

When life is less than glorious, we must make the choice to persevere, do what’s right, be thankful, think positively, trust God, and be joyful.

Does your life feel less than glorious?

Don’t let it get the best of you.
Instead make the best of it.

And let the God of peace rule in your hearts…
and be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Monday, May 18, 2015

Glimpses of His Goodness: Strength for Our Days

Glimpses of God's Goodness - The Cozy Nook

The month of May has been a whirlwind. For us, May is one of the busiest months of the year. Soccer practices and games. Violin, piano, and flute recitals. Ballet classes, rehearsals, and recitals. Mother’s Day, birthdays, our anniversary. The calendar is definitely packed.

Although I have been trying hard to live in the present moment and take one day at a time, I admit, life has felt more difficult.

In the midst of all of our busyness, we are still finishing school of course, and my mind is already gearing up for next year regarding curriculum, classes, and activities.

As you can also see, I have hardly been able to get to my blog lately. Life has got me going full speed, and the extra time I do have is usually spent regrouping or with my family or friends.

In the midst of the frenzy, sometimes life feels very difficult – juggling so many balls while also maintaining my home, training my children, keeping my marriage a priority, etc. The list goes on; doesn’t it?

A few days ago I was in bed, fighting illness. I had an interesting episode where I got really hot, my ears turned red, and I felt woozy. Then came the terrible headache! I spent a couple hours in bed. As I was trying to regain my health, my four year old daughter was very busy making me a craft. She drew a heart design on each paper, rolled it up and taped it. All of those beauties were for me. A sincere gift.

In the midst of my suffering a work was being done in my little girl’s heart, a work that reminded me that God is good and remembers us.

Fast forward to a couple days later when it was my wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, my husband was out of town that day, and I had to spend the day alone. I tried hard to be a good wife, to support him, and not to think about spending my anniversary alone. However, it proved to be difficult. I felt lonely and sad at times. Combine that with the struggles in my home that day, and I felt depleted. Nonetheless, there were bright spots in the day.

My four year old daughter again was busy at work and she made me these hearts.

Hearts

At the end of the night when I was feeling quite drained and defeated, my eleven year old daughter made a special trip downstairs, after we had already said our “Good night”, to give me a hug and said, “Good night, Mom. Happy Anniversary.”

That moment hit me. I felt loved. I felt remembered. I felt grace and strength.

Every day provides glimpses for us, glimpses of God’s goodness that help give our hearts the encouragement we need and help carry us through our days.

Our days may be long and hard. Discouragement may wait for us on every side. Pressures may mount up. But in the midst of it all, the goodness of God remains.

Today and tomorrow and the next day… as you are living your life, watch for the goodness of God to reveal itself in small ways. Remember the blessings of the little things in life and let them strengthen your heart!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Soft and Chewy Granola Bars

Soft and Chewy Granola Bars - The Cozy Nook

My 11 year old daughter made these recently, and they were yummy! All of us enjoyed them.

The recipe calls for mini chocolate chips, which we didn’t have on hand at the time, so she used regular chocolate chips. It was a tough decision.

I am posting the recipe here, but the web site, Inspired Taste, does a great job of explaining the recipe with much clarity and even has a video you can watch.

Soft and Chewy Granola Bars
Printable Version

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 T mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Line bottom and sides of an 8 or 9 inch square pan with aluminum foil. Oil the pan with oil or cooking spray.

Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes. Stir and bake a few more minutes, until the almonds are lightly toasted. Transfer to large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.

Pour butter mixture into a bowl with the toasted oats and almonds. Mix well. Let cool for 5 minutes. Then add cranberries and 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips. Stir to combine.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan and press mixture into the pan with damp fingers or a rubber spatula. Press hard, to be certain the bars are firmly in place and will stay together once they are cooled and cut.

Scatter remaining 2 T of chocolate chips over the pressed granola mixture and gently press them into the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Remove block of granola from the pan and peel off the foil. Cut into 12 bars.

Store bars in an airtight container for up to one week. For soft bars, keep at room temperature. For harder bars, store in the refrigerator.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How to Live a Less Distracted Life

How to Live a Less Distracted Life - The Cozy Nook

First, let me state the obvious. In order to live a less distracted life, you must get rid of distractions.

Think of what distracts you.

Facebook?
Other projects and “to do” items?
Your phone and its features, in general?
Circumstances in life?
Lack of focus?

Write down what you think is keeping you from FOCUSING, and try to eliminate those hindrances.

  • Make rules for your screen time.
  • Plan a time for that other project.
  • Hide your phone for a while.
  • Write down things that are bothering you or need to be done.
  • Concentrate on the task at hand.

Second, segment your time.

Establish certain hours or segments of time for various things:

  • homeschooling
  • housework
  • family time
  • errands
  • social media

If you set apart times for tasks and activities, you can keep your primary purpose for the present moment in mind while you attempt to achieve your goal.

For me, I am refining my own system. I need to focus on homeschooling during the major part of the day time hours during the week, planning chores for break times, evenings or weekends. Otherwise, the needs of the house start to invade my homeschooling efforts and things start to feel overwhelming.

Social media has its way of creeping in throughout the day. If you set particular times of the day to check your social media, you can try to prevent losing valuable moments to the web of the internet.

Third, keep a “To Do” list.

My “To Do” list keeps me in check.

When you start thinking about something you need to do, you can write it down so you don’t forget, keep rehearsing, or feel immediately pressured to accomplish the task.

When you get distracted, you can look at your “To Do” list to remind yourself of the things you need and would like to achieve to help guide you.

Lastly, set your mind on productivity.

When you start to get distracted, reel your mind and day back in and tell yourself, “Wait… I want to be productive. Stop this activity and get to work.”

Living a less distracted life is not easy in this world, but it is important for the well-being of our days, our families, our homes, and ourselves.

It takes a constant, conscious effort
but it is well worth it!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Are You Feeling Alone? Exhausted? Empty? He Sees You.

Remember He Sees You - The Cozy Nook

The other night I sat at my kitchen table. And cried.

I felt alone. I felt misunderstood. I felt mistreated.

No one saw me... no one, except God.

I sat there, feeling so alone.

As I cried, my heart yearned for God, 

"God, You see me. Help me".

That's about all I could express.

In the midst of my pain and my emptiness, I cried healing tears and uttered a prayer that comforted my soul.

He sees me. He can help me!

Are you feeling alone? Exhausted? Empty?

He sees you. He can help you!

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.

Psalm 34:15

Monday, April 13, 2015

Deep Clean Your Dishwasher, Drain, and Sink

Deep Clean Your Dishwasher, Drain, and Sink - The Cozy Nook

Recently I have had a funky smell coming from my sink/dishwasher area. I thought it was in the garbage disposal, but I also noticed it when I opened the dishwasher (after a cleaning cycle!). YUCK!

Time to do a deep cleaning!

I was simply going to tackle the dishwasher, but when I got some good info from TidyMom.net about how to clean my dishwasher and more, I decided to take it further!

I cleaned my dishwasher, drain, and sink, all at once and here’s how:

Dishwasher:

  • Fill a sink halfway with hot water and add a cup of vinegar. Use this water as your cleaning solution.
  • Scrub all removable parts.
  • Wipe down the entire inside.
  • After you clean the drain and sink, pour a layer of vinegar (about 1 cup) into the bottom of the dishwasher and do a quick, rinse cycle. The dishwasher will smell like vinegar when you are done, but that smell will go away after the first wash cycle you do.

Drain:

  • Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain and cover immediately. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, while you are cleaning the sink.
  • After it sits, you can run hot water down the drain for a couple minutes to do a good flush.

Sink:

  • Drain the water you used to clean the dishwasher.
  • Start filling the sink with hot water. While it is filling, pour in a layer of vinegar and a layer of baking soda and essential oil if you wish (I used lemon). Use a wet rag to wipe down the sink basin and surrounding areas with the water in the sink.
  • Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Drain the water. Wipe, rinse, and dry.

Voila!

Clean Sink - The Cozy Nook

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet Casserole

Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet Casserole - The Cozy Nook

I have to say, “This is delicious.”

Vegetarian. Full of flavor. Packed with nutrition.

Oh, and topped with cheese of course!

The original recipe, from “This Gal Cooks”, asked for some specialty items that I decided to work around, and my final product was still scrumptious!

I hope you try it!

Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet Casserole
Original Recipe
Printable Version

1 cup white rice
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 red pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, cored and diced
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 4 oz. can of diced green chilies
1/2 c frozen corn
1 14.5 oz can Petite cut tomatoes with chipotle chilies (not drained)
2 10 oz. cans of red enchilada sauce (or ~2 cups homemade, can use half red and half green)
1/4 cup water
2 oz. cream cheese
1 cup colby jack or Mexican cheese, shredded
1/2 T olive oil
cilantro, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sweet potato. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the zucchini and red pepper and saute for a few more minutes.

Reduce heat to medium low and stir in the rice. Cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the enchilada sauce, water, tomatoes, green chilies, black beans, and corn. Mix well and bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally.

Once the rice is done cooking, stir in the cream cheese.

Top with the shredded cheese and turn on your broiler. Broil until the cheese is bubbly.

Garnish with cilantro.