Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Collection: Indoor Herb Garden, Essential Oils, and New Planners

I actually forgot about this type of post that I tried out in mid-2018. And I liked doing it! But then life happened ... summer, then the fall season came, and with it our big trip out east, then the holiday season. And I forgot all about it.

But here I am again, sharing a few random things that I have been enjoying recently!

Indoor Herb Garden

The first, is that we've experimenting with an indoor herb garden! We loved growing herbs last summer, and loved using them in food preparations. So very tasty! Last fall, we got the idea to see how they would grow indoors, throughout the winter. 

Our patio doors face south, which is the perfect direction to catch the best of the winter sun. We purchased a two-tiered plant stand which fits just right by the patio doors, and bought some pots, and a few fresh herbs from Mulhall's. I love having these herbs indoors, and it has been fun to snip a few leaves here and there. I admit we're still in the process of learning, as the plants are not doing quite as well now in January as we had hoped. But it has still been a fun project for the cold winter months.

Essential Oils
Another new venture for me this winter is ... trying out essential oils! I've been intrigued for awhile with all that I've heard about essential oils, and in the fall listened to a podcast that brought a lot of clarity to my mind about the benefits of their use. So ... at my suggestion, my dear hubby gave me the Young Living Premium Starter Kit for Christmas!


January has been a month of fun experimenting with my new oils. I've been diffusing different blends many mornings and evenings, and have also purchased some little roller bottles to use the oils topically, as well. My starter kit was purchased through Melissa Michaels of The Inspired Room, and I am loving all the tutorials on the Dwell Well Collective website, as well as on the private facebook group that Melissa and her daughters provide for those who purchase through them. You'll likely hear more as I continue to learn along this new venture.

Click here to listen to the podcast that brought clarity to my mind about the benefits of using essential oils. And click here for a great place to purchase your oils through, also a source of many very helpful tutorials.

New Planner for 2019

And what would a new year be without sharing about my planners? I love planners, as they are so very essential for me. Writing things down takes the burden of tasks and responsibilities off my shoulders. It also helps me keep on target with the things that are most important for me.

It seems that I mix up my planner routine every few years or so, as I like variety, and also, as there are many types of fun planners to use. I used Emily Ley's Simplified Planner for three years in a row recently, and really do love it. 

However, for variety, I'm trying a new idea this year. Using some fun notebooks that I purchased at Target (sold in packs of three and in a variety of patterns in 5.75 x 8.25 size), I'll be using one notebook for each month. I started this for the month of December, and am loving using a fresh notebook each month, and also am loving being able to create my own pages, using washi tape to add some color to the pages, and also adding a few printed charts I've made on my laptop.

Above are just a few of the pages that I've been preparing for the new month of February ... a monthly calendar printed from an online source, weekly calendar pages, and a chart to track good health habits. Other pages track a variety of projects and responsibilities. And the main portion of each notebook holds weekly task pages, plus daily pages. It also holds my prayer journal for the current month. 

One of the biggest benefits of using these notebooks is that they are very portable, fitting very easily into my bag when leaving home.

What has been new for you recently?

We are all made uniquely by our Creator, and it's been fun for me to share a few of the things that have given me joy at the start of this new year! I'm so thankful for the beauty all around us ... of indoor herb gardens, the scents and health benefits of essential oils, and the creativity we can use with new planners. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Digital Scrapbooking: January

Capturing the memories of a brand new year with digital scrapbooking!

Our first family birthday ... grandson Cruz turned 10 years old! He is such a joy, and it was a delight to make the 4 1/2 hour drive to be part of his birthday party in McCook! Here's one page with memories from that very special weekend earlier this month.

I also took time during January to gather photos from our very special Family Christmas on Dec. 29th with ALL of our family home! It was such an incredible joy to have each of our six grown children home ... from Dallas, San Francisco, New York City, and McCook, joining those of us who live in the Omaha area. Together with our sons-in-law, our grandkids, a son's girlfriend, a granddaughter's husband, and another granddaughter's boyfriend, we were 25 here for Christmas. I especially love this scrapbook page of photos of our six sweet grown kids. Such a gift to be together ... aren't they the sweetest?

I'm grateful that during the month of January I was able to finish scrapbooking all the pages for our Family Christmas! Little by little in small pockets of time during the month, memories are preserved with digital scrapbooking. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

I always love make-ahead dishes, especially when serving a big group. And especially when it's for something as delicious as mashed potatoes. Making mashed potatoes can be a bit time-consuming, so finding a way to make them ahead of time, and even a way to make ahead and freeze them several weeks ahead of time ... well, that is quite amazing. 

For years I've made mashed potatoes ahead of serving day, by using this recipe ... click here. It works great to prepare the mashed potatoes a few days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator before baking, and we love this recipe. But this past month I came across a way to make them even a few weeks ahead of time, freeze, and then thaw and bake on serving day! The idea came from Jen Schmidt (, and I combined her recipe with a few other recipes I found. 

We loved these mashed potatoes, served alongside our main dishes of ham, and creamy meatballs, with multiple sides, for our Family Christmas last month. It's a recipe that I'll use all through this calendar year, as well. Who doesn't love mashed potatoes?

Add to Plan to Eat

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

(This original recipe came from Jen Schmidt (, and I made a few changes and additions, combining several recipes.)

Course: Side Dishes
  • 10 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 12 tsp salt
  • 12 tsp pepper
  1. Peel potatoes, cut into same-size pieces, and then boil the potatoes until a fork spears them easily.
  2. Mash potatoes with a potato masher.
  3. Add together in a 2-quart container: melted butter, sour cream, cream cheese, milk, and cheddar cheese.
  4. Cream together as you warm it all together in the microwave.
  5. Add the creamy mixture to the mashed potatoes; also adding salt & pepper.
  6. Mix together with the potato masher, or a spoon.
  7. Place in a buttered baking dish. (This recipe is enough to fill my large oval white baking dish plus a square baking dish.)
  8. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for about half an hour, or more if needed.
 To Bake Later
  1. Prepare and assemble up to two days in advance of serving; refrigerate. 
  2. Let stand at room temperature before baking as directed.
To Freeze and Bake Later:
  1. Prepare as directed, then place in freezer bags. Freeze for up to six months. Make sure the bag or dish is airtight, to prevent freezer burn.
  2. (Note: I first put prepared mashed potatoes in the casserole dishes that I will bake them in later, then transfer to freezer bags that will hold the correct amount for the specified dish. This makes it easier on baking/serving day, as I simply empty the bag into the designated casserole dish.)
  3. Remove from freezer the day or night before, and thaw in refrigerator.
  4. Place in buttered dish, and bake as directed. (Pour out any water first, if it has collected during freezing. The consistency may appear to be watery, but it will turn to the correct consistency as it is baking.)
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Some photos of the various steps of prep ...

Cream together in a microwaveable bowl: melted butter, sour cream, softened cream cheese, milk, and cheddar cheese. I like to heat up slightly in the microwave to cream it together well.

Add the creamed mixture to the mashed potatoes, either with a potato masher, or a spoon, also adding the salt and pepper.

Butter a baking dish, and add mashed potatoes. Either bake right away, or keep in refrigerator for a few days before baking. Or  you can choose to freeze the mashed potatoes in bags and bake later (see recipe).

I like to freeze in bags and also mark which baking dishes they will be baked in at a later time.

This recipe is a life-saver for me ... and is so very delicious!

Friday, January 18, 2019

In the Kitchen: Make-Ahead Dishes

I absolutely love make-ahead dishes, especially at holiday time! Recipes that can be made ahead of time and either stored in the freezer or the refrigerator until the day of serving are a life-saver for me.

This is true especially at Christmas-time. We were so very blessed to have our whole family home for Christmas ... twenty-six precious family members around our table(s)! It is essential that I can prepare some dishes ahead of time so that I am not completely worn out on our special day. I want to be able to be fully present that day with those I love the most.

Here are a few of the dishes that I was able to make ahead of time.

Clockwise from the top left photo:

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (first two photos) ...
For years I've been making a Mashed Potato dish that can be made up to two or three days in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and then baked the day of serving. I've used this recipe - click here. But this year I combined several recipes and ideas I found online, and made Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes that could be made even a week or more ahead of time, and then stored in the freezer until the day of baking it to serve. It was amazing! Click here for the original recipe where I got the idea, and click here for my most recent recipe which I used for our Christmas 2018. I really loved being able to do all the work of this dish a week and a half before our Christmas! And by the way, it makes a great mashed potato dish - we loved it.

Cinnamon Rolls ...
It's a tradition to have this cinnamon roll recipe on Christmas morning. You can see the recipe by clicking here. These cinnamon rolls freeze well after baking, and just need to be thawed and warmed up in the microwave (or oven) before serving.

Christmas Goodies ...
Pictured are three of the goodies that I made this year: 
Date Pinwheels, a favorite recipe passed down from my mother. They take a bit of time, as there are several steps to making them. I'm so grateful they freeze well, as I was able to make them in early December. Click here for recipe.
Wheaty Thumbprints, another favorite, also takes a bit of time. They freeze very well, too, which is great. Click here for the recipe.
Brownies topped with white frosting and Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips, a new idea that I used this year. It's so very easy, using a favorite brownie mix (I actually use two boxes of brownie mix - fudge and chocolate chunk together, baked in a jelly roll pan, then spread with a can of white frosting, and topped with the peppermint chips). It works well to make ahead of time, cut into squares, and freeze. (These baking chips were a bit hard to find, but I eventually found them at Target.)

Bacon Green Bean Casserole ...
You can imagine how happy I was to find this recipe a few weeks before Christmas! A fresh green bean dish that can be prepared up to two days in advance of serving. I prepared the dish two days before our Christmas, and then stored it in the refrigerator. On our Family Christmas Day, I allowed the dish to come to room temperature, reheated the sauce and poured it over the baking dish of green beans/bacon, and cooked as directed. It is easy, can be made ahead of time, and very delicious! You can find the recipe by clicking here.

Creamy Meatballs ...
This is a favorite recipe of mine, that I have made for two Christmases in a row now. I like serving it alongside the main dish of ham that we always have for Christmas. And, of course, the only way that I can serve it for Christmas, is that I can make it ahead of time, and freeze it! I made it several weeks ahead of time, froze it, and then heated it up in a slow cooker, which left the oven for other dishes. I usually add another can or two of cream of mushroom soup, and also more evaporated milk before heating up in the slow cooker when I have frozen it. You can read the details by clicking here.

I must also add that so much of the fun of the holiday meals is also involving the whole family with getting our feast on the table. Our daughters help with bringing sides, and our kitchen is filled with family as we prepare, and also as we clean up ... daughters, sons, sons-in-law, a son's girlfriend this year, and also grandkids. I absolutely love it all!

It's been fun for me to share these make-ahead recipes with you! And now, for another year of cooking, baking, and trying out new ideas "In the Kitchen"!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Word(s) of the Year for 2019: Undivided Heart

In the midst of resting up, cleaning up, and treasuring the memories from our wonderful and very memorable Family Christmas - just three days ago - I am thinking about this brand new year  ...

In a world of so many things, so much to pay attention to, so much to do, how can I (and you) keep a clear focus? How can we use our precious days and moments to nurture what is most important to us? How can we keep from becoming frazzled and used up? How can we care for our own souls, and in turn, be able to give our best to those we care for the most? 

How can I live with an undivided heart
for what matters the most?

What is it that matters the most to me? To you? Our lists may be different, but the core will be the same ... what matters the most is what makes us come alive. What is life-giving, what feeds our souls. Maybe even, what we are created for.

What matters the most to me ...

Immanuel: God with us. 
Living each day experiencing the greatest love there is: God's love and presence with us. This is what we are made for, and what is most soul-feeding, and life-giving ... walking closely with God. Our greatest gift, our greatest privilege.

My precious husband and family.
Every year that passes I grow more in love with Gary, and also with the family God has blessed us with, gifts beyond measure. I don't want to be too busy for the people I love the most.

Kindred friends, and all those God brings us to love.
The gift of friends becomes more precious with each passing year. We are made for community, for loving and caring for others, and I want to make room in my heart and my days for them.

Our home, a place of refuge, of belonging.
Home matters to me; it's where we spend so many moments, where we are refreshed and energized for all that God has for us. It's a place to share life with others, a place of rest.

Encouragement and care through words, through writing.
Writing is how I process my thoughts, how I learn and grow, and often, how I encourage those around me. Using our words is how we communicate, how we seek to grow and understand, and how we share things of the heart. 

What are the things 
that matter the most to you?

Today, at the start of this New Year 2019, I am asking God to show me, to lead me through the year, each day, each moment, towards what matters the most.

I am asking for an 
"undivided heart".