Sunday, February 28, 2010

Meal Planning Monday-Sunday Edition

Monday: Grilled hot dogs, steamed veggies, and baked Doritos in honor of Bailey's 7th Birthday. He gets the regular duck and potato routine, but I bet his daddy sneaks in a small nibble of hot dog.

Tuesday: Family Dinner with my parents and grandparents.
Wednesday: Roasted Veggie Mac & Cheese. It's a new recipe, so I'll post it later if it's good.
Thursday-Saturday: TMSA in Arlington for me; Isaac has a fridge and freezer full of options.
Sunday: Santa Fe Chicken with Rice and Beans courtesy of TGI Fridays' Skillet Meals.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Between August of 1996 and June of 1998, 26 wonderful, beautiful, godly young men from Kalinglinga, Zambia came to the States. They were the members of Zambian Acapella Boys Choir, the younger version of Zambian Acapella. Most of these 26 boys were cousins or brothers of each other, and all had grown up together. Our church was their first stop. We 'hosted' Jeff and Yona, who were 18 and 11 at the time.

Well, we didn't just 'host' these boys for long. Mom, Dad, David and I fell in love with them. By the end of the weekend, we were all hanging all over each other, goofing around, and acting like normal siblings.

God blessed us with countless opportunities to have Jeff and Yona in our home over the next 20 months. Also, two other boys, Kelvin and Fred, also became brothers to David and me when the mom of their host family started suffering from severe migraines. I have so many fun memories to share about our time with those 4, but it's several posts' worth, so they can wait.
All 26 boys, their director, the director's daughter, David, and me at a church somewhere in Dallas, cir 1997.
Sadly, the boys had to leave the country in a not so nice way. Happily, FBC of Colleyville picked up where ZABC's sponsors left off, and built a school in Kalinglinga so the guys, and their siblings and neighbors, could finish their secondary education.

In my naive, barely 13 year old mind, I made a HUGE promise to one of the guys. I told Felix that I would come to Zambia some day to teach. We were standing in the middle of DFW international terminal (pre-9/11 days, folks), all crying, all of the boys' 'moms' trying to stuff extra vitamins and medicines in their carry-ons. and I just said I'd come.

Fast forward 12 years. I've never forgotten my promise. I've been teaching for 3 years. I'm married. I have no idea how receptive the local teachers of Chifundo would be to me showing up for a couple of weeks, or even a month, of the summer (their winter) to help. I haven't seen most of the boys since the left, though a few are back in the States. However, thanks to Facebook, I'm in touch with many of them. Some times, the internet is such a blessing! For nearly a year, I've been tossing around the thought of going for a piece of my summer vacation so I can keep my promise. I don't want to take over the classroom, I just want to be the hands and feet of the body of Christ, and help around the school and the town however I can be most useful. Honestly, I have no idea what that would look like. I ran my hair-brained idea past a couple of the guys. If email could be more expressive, I'm sure they were jumping up and down at the thought! They said to get in touch with the wonderful lady from FBCC whose family is in charge of the American end of things that happen at Chifundo.

That conversation happened months ago. All Fall, that actual action of sending the inquiry email has haunted me. This week, the Lord, in all His might, got in my face, and more or less said the following:

"Young lady, if you do not obey me, My trust in your faithfulness to me is going to be shaken. I need you to be obedient to the desires I've placed in your heart. This doesn't mean your answer will be yes, but it does mean that I need to find you faithful."

Whoa! Big wake up call! Yes, Lord, I hear You, loud and clear!

Yesterday, I sent the scariest email of my life. While I haven't received a response yet, I have complete peace. I know that I've been obedient in what God wants of me (at least up to this point), and I know that being told 'no' is going to be ok with me, even though there is tons and tons of anxious anticipation that the ball might have just begun rolling for me to have the journey of a lifetime back to the arms of my brothers (and their growing families!) that I love so dearly and ache for so terribly.

Lord, I praise You for Your commands and Your patience, and I beg that Your will be done.

The last photo of the 8 of us ever taken. June 1998.
Dad, Jeff, Mom, David, Yona, me, Kelvin, and Fred

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh, Say Can You See?

I can see a blurred mess of colors, shapes, and sizes. Well, from my left eye at least. Here's what happened:

Two weeks ago today, something, or maybe my contact, made several small cuts on my cornea, but I didn't know this for nearly a week. That day, my eye stung like alcohol on a paper cut every time I put in drops. It was awful. The next day, I begrudgingly wore my glasses to school, hoping it was simply a bad case of allergies. On Saturday, the stinging was mostly gone, so I was back to my contacts. However, I noticed that my vision seemed off. Last week at school, I'd look down the hallway, and things were fuzzy. The kids were getting away with stuff, and I had no idea. I couldn't see what was happening on my left side. In other words, my peripheral vision was shot! By Wednesday, I'd had enough and got an appointment with my eye doctor. He put in pressure drops and discovered I had corneal abrasions near the top and left side of my cornea: hence the blurred vision and lack of peripheral vision. Lovely. No contacts for at least 2 weeks, and maybe never again if this happens again after I slowly re-adjust my eyes to contacts.

My frustration is that my vision in my left eye has not improved in the past two weeks. Yes, I'm still on glasses restrictions for one more week, but it doesn't matter if my glasses are on or off; my left eye is a blurred mess. Of course, those poor eye muscles are straining to see through my glasses, so I've had the worst headaches by each evening. My other senses are compensating, and the kids aren't getting away with stuff anymore, but I'm a bit skeptical about how quickly my vision is really going to return. Lots of prayers are being said, especially after I almost rammed my truck through the garage/house wall because my depth perception is off. Oops. I've learned how to judge that better, and that hasn't happened in nearly a week now, so I think I'm good there.
Come on, little cuts! I know you can heal. You can do it! You WILL do it! :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Last night was the first session of the new Bible study I'm doing. We're studying Esther with the help of Beth Moore. I'm super excited to be part of a study with older women. I'm back to being the baby of the group, which I love, love, love! I know God is going to teach the 8 or so of us in the group so much through Beth's wisdom, each other, and of course, Himself! And who better to get you pumped to study God's Word than Beth Moore, especially on a Monday evening?!

Most of the ladies in the group are/were involved in education in some way, shape or form, and nearly all of them have husbands associated with NASA. It's always so intriguing to me to watch God form together a group of (mostly) strangers who end up having lots in common. To top it off, two of the ladies are moms of old high school friends, and one lady is the aunt to one of my current students. Again, thank You God for caring about details.

Beth titled the study "It's Tough Being a Woman". She surveyed 400 women online about the top 3 things they struggle with as a woman. One lady's response went a little like this:

"I wear panties. We're supposed to wear panties, and yet, there is so much pressure to make it look as if I'm not. Why, oh why?!? I say we bring pantylines back!"

I was nearly rolling at that response, but how true! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meal Planning Monday

To make room for the year's worth of Girl Scout cookies I purchased from my students (I'm a sucker for their sweet faces!), it's time to clean out the freezer! With a new Bible study starting tonight and lots of other activities this week, it'll be nice not to be doing a bunch of cooking.

Monday: Frito Pies from my homemade chili.

Tuesday: Left over Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole and roasted asparagus

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken Baked Potatoes

Thursday: Spaghetti and garlic bread

Friday: Veggie Beef Soup with sliced cheese and crackers

Saturday: Marinated grilled chicken and steamed veggies

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner (we've both been wanting this lately)

Sunday, February 21, 2010


This is my mom's chili recipe. I love it because it's not too spicy. My favorite way to eat it is with Fritos and cheese!

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped, frozen onion
2 tsp minced garlic
2 can chili beans
2 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatos
1/4 cup chili powder
Pinch of cumin
1/4 cup jalepenos and juice

1) Brown beef and saute onions, draining the grease once cooked.
2) Combine all ingredients into a crockpot.
3) Cook on low at least 4 hours.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This is from my mom and my favorite sauce out there!

1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup chopped, frozen onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 jar mushroom slices
2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 3 oz can tomato paste
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1) Brown ground beef.
2) Drain the grease.
3) Saute vegetables with meat.
4) In a large saucepan, combine remaining ingredients.
5) Add the beef mixture
6) Let simmer over low heat...this is best the next day, but tastes good the first day too.
7) Serve over pasta of your choice.

Coca Cola Cake

This recipe is one of David and Laura's favorites, and has been quite a hit with our friends as well.


1 cup Coke

1/2 cup buttermilk (I mix 1/2 cup of milk and 1 tbsp of lemon juice together and let sit for 10 minutes)

1 cup butter, softened

1 3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten in separate bowl

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

1) Combine coke and butter milk in medium sized bowl. Set aside.

2) Beat butter in a large bowl until creamy.

3) Add eggs, sugar, and vanilla to butter. Beat at low speed until blended.

4) Combine flour, cocoa, and soda in a medium sized bowl.

5) Add dry mixture and coke mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until well blended.

6) Stir in marshmallows.

7) Pour into a 13x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Pour the frosting onto the cake while the cake is still warm.


1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup Coke

3 tsp cocoa powder

1 box powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1) Mix first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the butter has melted.

2) Remove the pan from heat and whisk in sugar and vanilla.

3) Pour over warm cake.

Chocolate Malt Cheesecake Bars

This recipe was in the Houston Chronicle in early February. I made it for Isaac and me for Valentine's and then for a work potluck. I've adjusted it just a bit, and everyone has been loving it!

3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (one time I used chocolate animal crackers, another time I used Oreos, both times it was great!)

4 tbsp of sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 baking pan with foil, extending beyond the short ends. Combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Press mixture evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 8-10 minutes, until set. Let the pan cool on a wire rack.

1 cup sugar

1 cup malted milk powder (this can be found on the hot chocolate mix aisle)

3 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sour cream

2 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips

1) Whisk sugar and malted milk powder in a medium bowl.

2) Beat cream cheese in a large bowl for about 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

3) Beat sugar mixture into cream cheese until well blended.

4) Beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

5) Beat in eggs until combined.

6) In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate.

7) Remove 1/2 cup malt batter and stir into melted chocolate until combined.

8) Pour remaining malt batter over cookie crust.

9) Pour chocolate batter over malt batter in a zigzag fashion, and swirl them together with a thin knife or spatula.

10) Bake for 35 minutes or until top is set. Let cool on a wire rack

11) Cover lightly and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Veggie Beef Stew

Veggie Beef Stew
From my Nanny, Pat Molloy
1 pkg. of Beef Stew Meat
4 cups Water
1 bag of frozen Pictsweet Seasoning Blend
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tblsp Patti's (Restaurant outside of Paducah, KY) Seasoning, or seasoning blend of your choice
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 12 oz bags frozen Mixed Vegetables
1) Rinse beef, then add 4 cups of water to beef in large pot. Cook until meat is tender. Take meat out of pot. Let the meat cool, and then shred it.
2) While meat is cooling, add the frozen Pictsweet Seasoning Blend and potatoes to the beef broth. Cook until the potatoes are tender.
3) Then add the tomatoes, frozen vegetables, and Patti's seasoning.
4) Put the shredded beef back into the pot and add 1 bay leaf.
5) Let simmer at least 2 hours. More water can be added if it's not of soup consistency.
6) This soup always tastes better the next day, so make ahead when possible.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meal Planning Monday

Monday: Dinner out with Ashley, Isaac has leftovers to eat.

Tuesday: Chicken Fingers from a blog I found off of Katy's Meal Planning Links with steamed veggies.

Wednesday: Ranchero Enchiladas from Katy's blog with Uncle Ben's Mexican Rice.

Thursday: Dinner out with Meredith in Sugar Land! (Isaac will have plenty of leftovers!)

Friday: Shrimp Casserole from a blog I found off of Katy's Meal Planning Links with roasted asparagus.

Saturday: Eggs, Bacon, and Biscuits

Sunday: Leftovers

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day 101

How to Ensure Your Wife Enjoys Valentine's Day
Step 1: Decorate the kitchen to look like a fancy restaurant. Ensure that the first thing that will catch her eyes as she walks through the door is a trail of rose petals. The glowing candles in the dark room with greatly add to this effect.

Step 2: Have her favorite flowers and a card waiting for her. Notice the lack of candy.

Step 3: Make sure she sees the continuation of the petal trail, but don't allow her to follow it yet.

Step 4: If she asks for photos, willing smile until the self timer captures just the right shot of the two of you.

Step 5: Serve a simple yet tasty meal. Linger over it, catching up on the day's events and just enjoying one another.
Step 6: Allow her to follow the rest of the rose petal trail.

Step 7: Have candles glowing, champagne chilling, and dessert waiting in a rose petal covered bedroom. Ensure that the scent of the candles compliment one another and that the petals adequately cover all surfaces, including the bed.

Step 8: Enjoy the dessert on the bed full of rose petals, while cuddling your sweetie and your pup. Appreciate the conversation that flows. If desired, throw in a good romance movie for an extra measure.

Step 9: End the evening with a back massage that will send her off to dreamland in peaceful, relaxed bliss, preferably with a darling pup snuggled at her side.

Dress Shopping!

I realized this morning as I was loading pictures onto my computer that I didn't take a single picture yesterday approved for public viewing before Laura and David's wedding. I can't believe I did that, so you'll have to simply enjoy the story of our fun girls' day since the photo are top secret until 5-21-11!

Yesterday, Weddings by Debbie was having a big trunk show of the designer Laura was using for her wedding gown. Her mom Paula came in from Canada, her best friend Anna drove down through Dallas' foot of snow, and her roommate and good friend Lauren were here to offer moral support. Laura was also sweet enough to invite Mom, Nanny, and me to join them. Paula and Laura are already my family, and I was very excited to have a family ladies' day, in addition to Lauren and Anna, who just couldn't be sweeter girls!

This was my first visit to Weddings by Debbie since they moved to their new location in Katy. WbD is where I bought my wedding gown, and there is not a nicer group of ladies in Houston from whom to have a most incredible wedding dress shopping experience. However, the old shop was just that: old! The new location is incredible! If you are a fan of TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress", then you are familiar with Kleinfelds in New York. The new shop is a slightly smaller copy of Kleinfelds. I told my mom I wanted a wedding gown do-over just so I could experience *the new shop myself. It's stunning! If you or someone you know is looking for a gown, don't bother with other Houston shops. If WbD doesn't have it, no one does, and you won't find a more congenial group of ladies to help make the most of your experience.

Back to Laura. She had tried on dresses in several shops, so she knew which dress she wanted. It is stunning on her, and I can't wait to see the ook on my brother's face at their wedding. :) Laura modeled a few other dresses for us, just for fun, and we enjoyed watching her. Let's face it: the woman looks great in everything she puts on her body! Laura's bridal consultant found her a lovely necklace, veil, and headpiece to accent her dress perfectly.

Laura asked Lauren, Anna, and me to look through the bridesmaid dresses there. We thought we were just window shopping, but after we had all tried on a couple, there was one that Laura just loved, and we all liked it too. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it's a keeper!

By 2:00, we were all hungry, so off to Panera we went. After a refreshin lunch, Laura and Mom wanted the rest of us to see the Crystal Ballroom downtown where David and Laura have decided to have the reception. I had seen pictures, but it's such a cool place! I love the history behind Rice Hotel, and so many famous people have graced the Crystsal Ballroom with their presence. I know the wedding is over a year away, but I can't wait!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Meal Planning Monday

First of all, I borrowed this cute meal tag from Katy's blog. Thanks, Katy!

Since I cooked so much last week, we get to have lots of leftovers this week. Hopefully that means I'll have time to add some of my favorite recipes to my blog too. :)

Monday: Left over Veggie Beef Stew

Tuesday: Left over Spaghetti

Wednesday: Left over Chili from last night's Super Bowl Party

Thursday: DiGornio Pizza

Friday: Not sure yet. It looks like we'll have our three favorite kiddos over for dinner, so I'll be planning around them.

Saturday: Valentine's Dinner out (I hope!)

Sunday: Probably left overs from Valentine's dinner. I never seem to eat a whole meal. Restaurant portions are so large these days. Also, with handbell practice, it's hard to cook on Sunday evenings.

Happy Cooking, everyone!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


While so much of the country was blanket (ok, let's be honest-drowned) in snow yesterday, Houston was blessed with clear, bright blue skies, warm sun rays, and high near 60 degrees. Wow! What a show of God's blessings!

I'm apart of CCISD's Teaching American History Grant, and yesterday was our monthly training session. It was a lot of fun (I love DBQs!), but it wasn't fun being inside all day with the above mentioned weather taunting me from the windows.

Isaac, being the amazing husband that he is, told me to meet him at Clear Lake Park for lunch. He packed a delicious picnic, brought Bailey, and we had a lovely 45 minute visit in the park. Bailey was so excited to see the sun that he ran and ran! I had to join was too pretty not too! After lunch, we walked the concrete path around the playground and watched the wind playing with the water on the lake. A couple of times, Isaac and I both had to stop to just say, "Thank You, Jesus!". It was sooooooo pretty!

To top off such a treat weather wise, Isaac took me for hibachi for dinner. Yum, yum!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


My great-grandmother (my mom's dad's mom) was to us "Mama". Today, she would've turned 95.

Until her death on February 1, 1993, Mama was my best friend. I loved her to pieces. We all did.

She had a home office that, today, would be called very old fashioned. Mama let me peck away at her type writer, write and 'mail' letters covered with 'stamps', staple together perfectly good sheets of paper, and take phone messages. I thought being Mama's secretary was very big girl stuff.

My favorite game with Mama was to go camping. Mama would line the bath tub with sheets and a blanket, pack a snack and a flashlight, and turn her guest bathroom into the coolest camp ground. We'd pretend to make a fire by turning on the flashlight and setting it just right so that there was a 'full moon' shining down on us. Mama would cuddle me up in my 'sleeping bag' and close the 'tent' by pulling closed the shower curtain. Then she'd tell me story after story, some make-believe, and some true.

I'm sure Mama had her fears, but I never knew it. She seemed fearless. She had traveled the world and EVERYONE in town knew my Mama.

Most of all, my Mama loved Jesus. I'm sure she's having a ball in Heaven, and I can't wait to hug her neck again!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chicken BBQ in the Crockpot

I love my Easy Weeknight Favorites Southern Living cookbook. It's a time saver on those busy evenings. I'm trying a new recipe tomorrow.

Chicken Barbecue

1 medium onion, sliced (I'm using frozen diced onions)
1/2 lemon, sliced and seeded (I'm using lemon juice)
6 skinned chicken breast halved
1 18oz bottle thick bbq sauce (I'm using Masterpiece)
1/2 cup cola-flavored beverage (how PC!)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water

Place onion and lemon slices in a 3 1/2 or 4 quart electric slow cook. Add chicken. Combine bbq sauce and cola; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on High 3 1/2 to 4 hours OR on low 7 hours. Remove chicken to a serving platter, reserving sauce in slow cooker (discard lemon slices).

Combine flour and water, stirring well with a wire whisk; stir into sauce in slow cooker. Cook, uncovered, on HIGH 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened, stirring twice. Spoon sauce over chicken. Yield: 6 servings.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Heart for Haiti

I probably should've blogged about this story last Monday. I've been telling everyone about it because I'm so darn proud of my students, so I don't know why I didn't think to put it here.

Today, KSBJ (Houston's Christian radio station) is promoting organizations that have been working in Haiti for years and asking listeners to donate to the Christ-based organizations. One of them is World Vision. My students donated $321 to World Vision last Monday, so I emailed Jon and Susan, the morning DJs, to tell them my kiddos' story.

I never expected for the story to be put on the air. My goal was just to let KSBJ know that some 6th graders knew that World Vision was a great group of people to give money for Haiti. However, Susan decided to read the entire email on air (as I was driving to work...tears and driving aren't a good combination folks!). I was so proud of my kids for being an encouragement to others. Many of them heard their story on the radio this morning, so of course we've talked about it a lot today.

Here's the email I sent to KSBJ:

Good morning, Jon and Susan,

I teach geography to 140 awesome 6th graders down in Clear Lake. The earthquake in Haiit hit close to home for me as one of my college roommates spent a long time in Haiti as a teacher. So, the day after the earthquake, my students and I talked aobut what had happened. For 12 year olds, they need a comparison that they could relate to, so we talked about how Ike damaged our schools and home and how much worse Port-au-Prince is right now. As we looked through photos that were age appropriate of the suffering and destruction, they began to ask what they could do. I knew that question would come, and I had an answer prepared for them.

Clear Lake is fairly affluent, though many of my students' families barely m ake rent each month. I didn't want any of my students to feel that they couldn't participate, so I challenged them to ask the their parents, grandparents, older siblings, and adult friends for chores they could do for pocket change. They were given one and a half weeks, could do as many chores as they had time, but couldn't ask for more than $1 per chore (I requested they stick with .25 or .50).

On Monday, January 25th, they money was due. Knowing that I had set pretty touch limits on my kiddos, I wasn't expecting what they gave me. In their desire to help kids just like them, but had lost it all, they bought me $320.56. WOW! God had stirred theirs hearts to clean closets, walk dogs, wash cars in the cold, help little siblings with homework, mow yards, sell baked goods, and more to earn pocket change for Haiti!

That afternoon, we donated the money online to World Vision. We talked about how this organization works with children and their families, and was meeting the needs of people in Haiti for decades, while sharing the Gospel of Christ. Even though I teach many Muslim students, they were all excited about helping World Vision meet the needs of Haiti's people. I think suffering transcends religious boundaries and differences.

Our God is good. He uses His littlest to meet the needs of other, and I haven't stopped praising Him for all He does.


Laura Ozinga

Meal Planning Monday

Ok, kids! Here is this week's 'menu'...I say that lighlty because this week we are going to be all over the place! Assuming plans don't change:

Monday: Meat loaf leftovers for Isaac; movie date with my mom for me.

Tuesday: Carabbas at my parents' for Mom's birthday dinner.

Wednesday: Veggie Beef Stew

Thursdasy: BBQ Chicken in the crock pot

Friday: Leftover of his choice for Isaac; party for my friend Meredith for me.

Saturday: Left over soup or go out...whatever I can talk Isaac into doing. I have a grant training all day Saturday.

Sunday: Super Bowl Party at Church
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