Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cornbread Apple Mac n' Cheese

The long-awaited event is here - I am posting the recipe for Cornbread Apple Mac n' Cheese! I first trial-ran this dish at a barbecue this fall, and it went over as a big hit! Jim took the leftovers into church the next day and the dish went over just as well. In fact, I have yet to meet a person who had tried this dish and not loved it. Jim's mouth waters just thinking about it!

So here is the recipe... enjoy!

Cornbread Apple Mac n' Cheese

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 cups cornbread muffin crumbles
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup half and half
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 lb (16 oz) extra sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cup diced Granny Smith apples

-Melt 2 Tbsp butter and olive oil in skillet. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add cornbread crumbles, remove from heat.
-Cook noodles according to package.
-In saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook until golden (about 2 minutes).
-Slowly whisk in half and half and milk, stir until thickened and slightly darkened (about 3 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon.
-Slowly add cheddar cheese and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
-Mix in cooked noodles and apples, stir until combined.
-Pour into greased 2 1/2 qt casserole dish and top with cornbread mixture.
-Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes until bubbly and golden on top.

*Note: Jim can't eat onions, so I skip the whole first step and place the cornbread crumbles by themselves on top. I also have yet to have whole milk or half and half on hand when making this, so I substitute evaporated milk and water (according to the recommended amounts) instead.


When Jim and I first began Dave Ramsey, we agreed to cut our expenses as much as possible to pay off our debt. Besides losing my closing allowance, we cut our weekly grocery budget down. I've made our grocery budget work for us through strategic planning involving menus. Each week, I planned out our weekly menu and inventoried our pantry to determine what items I needed from the store. At the store, I only bought those items that made the list. This allowed us to eat well and stay within our grocery budget, plus I began to enjoy cooking. As far as Jim is concerned, this is a win-win situation!

And then, right before the holidays, I began to work full-time. I found I didn't have as much time to plan weekly menus and do the grocery shopping. We began to shop as needed and strayed away from menus. I also used my Yoke's coupons to spend our grocery budget stocking up our pantry in December. Fortunately, after months of careful planning and shopping, I had enough practice sticking to our budget that we were able to keep to it without menus.

Now here we are, three weeks away from moving again. With a fully-stocked pantry from four wild trips to Yokes. The thought of moving again is overwhelming to me, and I definitely do not want to pack up our pantry if I can help it. So Jim and I agreed to not buy groceries for the next few weeks and eat up what we have on hand. I wrote down everything we have on hand and planned out meal ideas from that list. Here's my list of what we'll be eating for the next three weeks (or until the food runs out, which ever comes first!):

-Corn chowder with Cheddar-garlic biscuits
-Macaroni and cheese with tuna
-Breaded Parmasean tilapia filets with fettuccine Alfredo
-Lasagna with garlic bread
-Marinated steak with rice and mashed potatoes
-Chicken chili with cornbread
-Waffles with the Eslinger's Homemade Syrup
-Spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread

Looking at that list, I'm wondering if we will be able to stretch that out over the next three weeks. I guess we'll see!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fun Fact #5

Fun Fact #5: I am allergic to Aspartame.

What is aspartame? It is a synthetic amino acid compound found in sugar substitutes, particularly Equal and NutraSweet. Amino acids (aka proteins) require enzymes to be broken down and metabolized in the body. This works well as a sugar substitute because proteins, unlike carbohydrates, can not be converted into fat. However, research is showing us that the body can not regularly break down this synthetic compound and must work harder and use more enzymes to achieve metabolism. The Catch-22 is that while your body is working so hard to metabolize this sugar substitute, it is too busy/tired to metabolize any carbohydrate you are ingesting and thus that carb is being converted to fat. The lesson to learn from this? Don't expect that by simply switching from regular soda to diet soda and making no other diet or exercise changes you will lose weight. Most likely, you'll end up gaining.

Why is aspartame particularly bad for me? I apparently do not possess the right enzymes to break down aspartame, so my body rejects it, as it would reject any other substance I can not break down (such as dairy). This results in a myriad of symptoms for me, the most common being migraine headaches.

Why is this my fun fact for the week? After grocery shopping today, I was extremely thirsty so I stopped by a drive-thru to grab a quick lunch on the ride home. I ordered regular soda and instead was given diet. I knew this as soon as I tasted the soda, but I was so thirsty I kept drinking. That was the most aspartame I have had in years, and 10 hours later, I am still paying for my terrible judgement. Next time, just stick with water!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


It's a cold night in the Tri-Cities, and Jim and I are wrapping up three delightfully-free days. Since he returned home Wednesday night, we have done NOTHING except relax and enjoy each other's company. This is a very rare treat for us, as our lives seem to get busier and busier!

Jim made it home safe and sound, despite having been awake for 30-some hours. He went straight to bed and woke up right before his scheduled endoscopy on Thursday. I'm happy to report the endoscopy went well. The doctor did take a few samples of his stomach and small bowel to biopsy, and we will know those results next week. I'm also happy to report that Jim thoroughly enjoyed his first-ever round of fentanyl and versed! He had the poor nurse in stitches over the things he was saying during his recovery period.

We also just celebrated our one-year-anniversary at Quinault Baptist Church. It's amazing to me to think that a year has passed by already. Jim and I have been so blessed by his position and the group of believers we serve at Quinault, and we are so thankful that God placed us here!

Jim and I are also preparing to make some big changes in our life together. The main change is our address. Our apartment lease is up in February, and we have a few options open to us. We are spending time in prayer and carefully considering our budget to make this decision, and we hope to know what we are going to be doing in the near future!

Speaking of budget, our second Financial Peace University class has begun. Jim and I are excited to watch the class grow and see people from outside our church attend. We are so thankful for what Dave Ramsey's teachings have done for our financial situation, and we can't wait to see others likewise affected. Jim and I have experienced such peace and blessing as we've aligned our financial decisions with God's will, and we hope (depending on our upcoming housing decision) to have the rest of our debt paid off by October of this year.

I'm working nights right now. This worked out well when Jim came home, as I am 12 hours off and Jim has been 16 hours off. We've pretty much been up all night and sleeping all day. That is coming to a crashing halt tomorrow as we return to our normal schedules again! I work two weeks of night and one week of days for the rest of the month, and then I hope to finally have a little more stability in my schedule.

Jim and I are going to be busy with upcoming youth events in February. Our church's Disciple Now (a weekend retreat dedicated to disciplining the youth of our church) and our church association's "True Love Waits" retreats are both taking place in February. We are also going to be focusing on fundraising for the two mission trips coming up this summer.

Like I said, Jim and I are thoroughly enjoying our time right now when we can relax at home, because we know that time is short. And most likely we will not have days like this until this time next year!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 10

Jim's home! And in one piece!

With that said, you'll have to forgive me for ending my post here. I'm off the spend time with my husband!

Cries had: 4.0
Days to go: 0*

*Apparently I can't count, because my countdown says I should have one day left, but in reality there are no days left. But that's why I'm a nurse and not a mathematician. Or an accountant.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 9

I'm back at work, my final night on for the week. Jim is on his way home! He flew into the capital city of his destination tonight and, after a five hour layover, will be on his final flight back to the States! He's hoping the flight will arrive home earlier than originally expected.

Please pray for continued safety for the rest of the trip. He told me today that his stomach has been giving him problems for the past day or so now. Pray that he will stay healthy for the rest of the trip as well. I imagine stomach discomfort will not feel any better on an 11-hour flight in those tiny seats!

Jim's original schedule puts him back home in the Tri-Cities late tomorrow night. We are both hoping it will be a little earlier, but knowing international flights and customs, I'm not holding my breath. Nevertheless, he will be home soon!

Cries had: 3.0
Days to go: 2

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 8

Tonight is looking to be a better night at work, which is why I am able to sit here and post this update before midnight! Today I received Jim's final email from his destination. He will begin his long journey home on Tuesday morning (our time). Pray his trip home will go smoothly and that he will return safely!

Here are some tidbits from Jim's final email:

"Everything here has been an extraordinary experience. The people group that we are trying to befriend is an amazing one; truly good people. I can't really go into detail, but I can tell you this: God is showing up in amazing ways here, He's working in the hearts of the people group here, some of them have already accepted the truth and are making an impact in their community, and there continues to be progress in the language development area! I have to tell you that when I said rural, that didn't really begin to depict where they're at as far as development. They are SO behind. It's actually pretty alarming. The worst part is that it's not the peoples' fault. The priority here is definitely not people development... it's about control. The people here have to do what they're told or they have to answer for it. The sad thing is that it's been that way for so long that everyone just goes with it. What you saw on TV IS NOT what it's really like. That was all propaganda, and it's scary to think that people like the ones we're trying to reach, are being held from advancement just because the people in charge of the country won't let them advance. In fact, if a family begins to gain too much land, or stock (pigs, cows, etc), houses, or anything of the sort, the powers that be will come in and redistribute everything. It's disgusting. My heart hurts for the people here. Such oppression should not be allowed to exist, but it does... and there's really nothing we can do about it!

What am I talking about? Well... let's put it this way, I was shocked to find that I had cell phone reception in the middle of nowhere! I'll tell you that much! But did we have clean running water to drink from or wash dishes in? Nope! Was electricity readily available? Kind of, but in a very limited manner! It seriously looked like they ran uber-long extension cords from village to village, and we only went about 100-150 kilometers. Cell phone signal available, but paved roads? Not for most of the trip! Any sort of indoor plumbing? Not a chance. Outdoor plumbing? A little, but it was only what the people in the villages could round up and make themselves. It's a sad, sad state of condition, and my heart breaks for a generally kind people who are oppressed by those who, literally, RULE them."

Once again, thank you all so much for your continued prayers and support. There is a definite reason why God has Jim in this place, and I know your prayers and support have aided Jim in being available to be used by God in this way.

I hope to soon report (in a few days!) that Jim has made it home safely. Until then, I will keep the updates coming.

Cries had: 3.0
Days to go: 3

Day 7

I know Day 7 has been over for 36 minutes now, but I'm working nights so I'll try to update when I can. Today began with church, which was exactly what I needed. Praise God for meeting me and filling me with His peace this morning! After church, I went home to take a much-needed nap before returning to church to run a preview for Financial Peace University. Jim and I are starting our latest class this week. Unfortunately, Jim will not be back in time for the first class, so it's up to me to run the class smoothly Wednesday.

After the preview, I received a wonderful surprise - Jim called me! I was not expecting a call from him until he returns to the States Wednesday night, especially since he's been in a rural area without much reception. Thank you God for providing reception for that important call - it was crystal clear! The sound of his voice made me cry. Apparently I'm very emotional these days - I blame it on being tired. He didn't have much time to talk to me, but he did get a chance to say that he is having an amazing eye-opening time and can't wait to share everything he's seen when he gets back. It was 9:00 AM Monday morning there, 5:00 PM Sunday night here when he called. You do the math!

I'm still at work with another 5.5 hours to go. It's been a very busy night (this is the first chance I've had to sit down!) but at least it's going by fast. Thank you all AGAIN for your continued prayers and support. It's been difficult for me to have him gone, but I am so thankful to see how God has provided for us both during this time.

Cries had: 3.0
Days to go: 4

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 6

I'm amazed at how fast the time is going for me during the last leg of Jim's trip. Tomorrow I return to working nights, which means for the next four days all I will be doing is working and sleeping. Jim will be home before I know it!

Since Jim's been gone, I have come to realize more each day how much I depend on him. While it's been fun to spend time with friends and family, it feels incomplete without him here. Speaking of friends and family, I am so appreciative of how they have taken care of me while my husband has been gone!

I spent this morning having a late breakfast with Shauna, Codi, and Christine after our sleepover last night at Codi's house. What fun! Then I spent some time with my mom and sister shopping at the mall (ALWAYS an enjoyable experience!). Finally, I wrapped up the day having dinner at Olive Garden and playing three rousing games of Moose Farkel with my parents. I love how, as the years have gone by, I have come to enjoy spending time with my parents more and more!

I was blessed to receive one text message from Jim. As I reported yesterday, Jim is in the mountains for the next couple of days and didn't know if he would be able to communicate with me. His text message was brief, but to summarize: Jim misses the creature comforts of the States. The rural mountains must be more "rural" than he originally thought!

Cries had: 2.0
Days to go: 5

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 5

Jim has been gone for five days now. It's been a very long five days, and I can't believe I still have 6 to go.

I spent today with two friends and three babies. What a wonderful way to spend the day! Shauna and Jordan were delightful to talk to and Alivia, Luke, and Emily definitely put a smile on my face! Tonight I'm headed to have dinner and a movie with my girlfriends.

I only received one message from Jim today. He's headed off to the mountains and will not be in contact with me for the next three days. Please keep praying for his health and safety!

Cries had: 1.5
Days to go: 6

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 4

Sorry for the pathetic post yesterday! I literally came home from a LONG day at work, fell asleep on the couch, and forgot to eat dinner. Reason #47 why God gave me Jim - he takes care of me when I can't take care of myself!

On a happier note, Jim sent me TWO emails and TWO text messages today! Here are some tidbits from those messages:

"So... let me tell you about taxi rides. First of all, the fact that I am alive today tells you that they were successful trips. That being said, safety is not the feeling that one gets while riding in a taxi cab or hotel bus. The '100% Perfect Hotel' was anything but perfect, but the bus/shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel was worth however poor the hotel accommodations were. So awesome! I feel like I could make an awesome video game out of that kind of ride... truly amazing. People don't use cross-walks, nor do the vehicles slow down for them. I can't tell you how many times we almost killed someone. And I'm pretty sure the rules of the road are 'if you have the larger vehicle (or crappier one) then you get the right-of-way.' So, to sum up... truly unique experience with a heightened sense of fear, but in the end coming out OK. Pretty fun!

And let me tell you a little bit about 'hot-pot'... I'm at about 6500ft above sea-level, so it's fairly chilly, but the "hot-pot" experience warms you right up. Basically it's a HUGE bowl of soup that they bring out (I have a picture), and then you throw stuff in it while it boils. Stuff you throw in it includes: ginger, bean sprouts, lotus root, carrots, squash, lettuce, bakchoi, mini-mushrooms, and then a giant carp-looking fish (complete with fish head and eyes) that was alive about 4 minutes prior to throwing it in. Fun stuff."

I can't post everything his email said, but I do want to let you all know that his meetings have been very successful, and he is very encouraged by the work that is being done there.

As for me, I wrapped up my last day of work for the week and am very much looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow! After work, I enjoyed a delicious dinner made by our dear friends Reece and Shauna at their house and played with their baby girl (who gets more delightful everyday!) To top it off, I received some much-needed updates from my husband. I can't express how thankful I am to know that he is well and having a successful trip!

All in all, what a great day! Thank you all for your continued prayers, encouragement and support - and for feeding me!

Cries had: 1.5
Days to go: 7

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 3

Today's summary: more work for me, no updates from Jim.

Cries had: 1.5
Days to go: 8

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 2

I can't believe what our weather is doing here. This time yesterday it was 20 degrees outside with snow and ice everywhere, and now it is almost 60 degrees with severe winds that have succeeded in blowing away all the snow, ice, and many of the neighboring building's roofs. I even managed to get two tumbleweeds stuck in my car on the way home tonight. This is the Tri-Cities we know and love!

I spent my second day without Jim hard at work at the hospital. Later, I enjoyed a delicious dinner and the wonderful company of my parents and sister at their house.

I am happy to report that Jim has made it safely to his destination! Praise God! He sent me an email this morning containing this message:

"The plane ride was brutal for the first couple hours. Terrible turbulence that didn't stop for almost 2 hours. Several people got sick. Anyhow, after that it was pretty much smooth flying, but the whole 12 hours in an airplane is absolutely brutal on my extra-large body. The seats were no bigger, if not smaller, than the seats we had on our way back from Tampa. Like I said, brutal!

However, I did survive the plane ride, and now I have to survive the '100% perfect hotel' (that's actually the name of it) through the night. Should be exciting! :)

So far everything is good. I am absolutely exhausted, as I resolved not to sleep (as did everyone else) on the plane ride. We're hoping to shock our systems into the current time, but we'll see how that works out."

Jim also let me know that his phone has not worked since he arrived, so the best way to contact him would be to send him an email to his personal account. He will be checking that account whenever he gets access to a computer.

Thanks for your continued prayers and support! I will keep adding updates as I get them.

Cries had: 1.5
Days to go: 9

Monday, January 5, 2009

Day 1

I spent Day 1 without Jim getting a lot accomplished - errands ran, house cleaned, boxes put away from Christmas gifts, etc. I also enjoyed a shopping trip and lunch with Shauna and Alivia (my dear friend and her nine-month-old baby girl) which included finding awesome sweatpants for Jim, snuggling with a cuddly baby girl, and Blizzards from Dairy Queen.

Jim spent today flying, first from snowy Portland to snowy Seattle, and then embarking on a 12.5 hour flight. Both Portland and Seattle experienced snow and freezing rain last night, so praise God he made it safely to Seattle, and his final flight was on time! I was able to speak to him on the phone before he left Seattle, and he was sad to report that the seats on the international flight were just as small as the seats on the domestic flights we took to Florida. Pray that he does not go stir-crazy sitting in a cramped seat for 12.5 hours!

I will most likely not get to speak to Jim again until he returns to the States as international calling rates are really expensive. He is hoping to send me a few text messages along the way, and if he has access to a computer some time I may get an email. I will keep everyone updated as I find out more information!

In the mean time, thank you for your prayers and support. I especially have been overwhelmed with the generosity of our friends and church family during this time. What a blessing it has been for Jim and I both to know that I will be taken care of while Jim is away!

Cries had: 1.5
Days to go: 10

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jim's out of town...

Jim's out of town for the next week and a half. It's the longest we've been apart since our marriage two years ago, and the furthest distance (as Jim is going half way around the world!). I will virtually have no contact with him during this time, but I promise to try and post updates if I get any.

Cries had: 1.5
Days to go: 11

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Our New Year's Resolution - 2009

Oh, for celebrating the New Year... that one special time of the year where we make resolutions to do something for our benefit, like losing weight or eating healthier. Last week, Pastor Keith encouraged us to make the best New Year's Resolution we could make - reading our Bible.

How do you get to know someone? By spending time with them, of course! So what better way to get to know God more than spending time in His Word? To accomplish this, Pastor Keith is encouraging us to read through the Bible in one year. Our church is following a chronological reading plan and each Sunday Keith will preach on one of the readings from the previous week. If you would like to follow along with us, you can access our daily readings and Keith's weekly sermons at There is a direct link to the day's reading with an audio file that will even read it out loud to you!

Pastor Keith doesn't just stop at daily readings - he encourages us to read through the Bible more than once in a year. He shared with us the story of a man who began to read his Bible from front to back, as much as possible in one sitting, like you would a good book. This man read through the entire Bible in two months, and has continued to read it this way ever since, averaging reading the entire Bible five times in a year. Can you imagine how close this man is to God? How easy would it be to know the will of God when making decisions when you've read through the Bible that many times?

Jim and I have decided to make this our New Year's Resolution for 2009 - to read through the Bible in a year. We encourage you to make this your New Year's Resolution too!

Our other New Year's Resolution? To stick to our budget, use cash for our purchases, and pay off the rest of our debt. You can join us in this quest in our next Financial Peace Class, beginning January 11 at 6:30 at Quinault Baptist Church. To learn more, visit or

Happy New Year!