To Iowa With Love

In honor of my home state hero this weekend, Kurt Warner, I thought I would chime in with my thoughts about the big game and then with some recipes from one of my favorite Iowa menus.  Oh yeah, I know people, brace yourselves for a rockin Friday night with Stephanie!!

As you can see, we will be cheering for the Arizona Cardinals this weekend, and specifically for #13.  Why is that?  Simply because we LOVE Kurt Warner.  Not only is he an Iowan like me, but he's also a fellow alumni.  That's right, we both graduated from the same college, the University of Northern Iowa.  In addition to those two important facts, he also happens to love the Lord and has very faithfully and consistently walked with integrity despite the roller coaster of fame and fortune in the NFL.  He has quite a story, which I'm sure will be re-told in all the pre-game coverage, but he's also the real deal in "real life."  He is someone who has done "celebrity" well.  
Plus, he also has a beautiful family, as seen above, and a great wife.  So we will be cheering him on and hoping that the Cardinals will upset the favored Steelers.  Of course you are free to choose whomever you'd like to cheer for, but if you're not cheering for the Cardinals, I don't want to hear about it!!  You can read a great article from the New York Times here about Kurt and Brenda Warner and their family.  And below I have posted his personal bio from the official Arizona Cardinals website.  Go Kurt!!

Full name Kurtis Eugene Warner … he and his wife, Brenda, have seven children: sons Zachary, Kade and Elijah and daughters Jesse, Jada and twins Sienna and Sierra … graduated with a degree in communications … attended Cedar Rapids Regis High in Iowa, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball … Des Moines Register all-state selection in football during his senior season ... established the First Things First Foundation in the spring of 2001 with wife Brenda to promote Christian values and bless the lives of those less fortunate with projects such as trips to Disney World for ill children, building recreation centers in children’s hospitals, helping single moms achieve the dream of homeownership and teaching Special Olympians the football basics. All projects are centered on Kurt and Brenda’s life theme: faith and family come first … official website is

Ok, on to my "Ode to Iowa Menu."  Before I begin, I feel I must mention that many people do not know very much about Iowa, so I will enlighten you about one of our best by-products: pork!  We are one of the country's largest pork producers and thus we have lots and lots of great dishes that involve pork of some kind.  I heard someone say once that there are more pigs in Iowa than people....I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that if you want a good pork chop or a wonderful juicy ham, Iowa is the place to get it!  So, in honor of our abundance of pork, I would like to introduce you to a family favorite....

"Sticky Iowa Hamballs"

Is that not the worst title you have ever heard of??  I know, it's not a good name and it doesn't sound appetizing, but for the sake of your loyalty, I am asking you to trust me because actually, they are wonderful!!   And they feed a big crowd.  They would make a yummy dish on a cold Super Bowl night in fact...I'm just saying... 

You will need the following ingredients:  1 lb. ground ham, 1 lb. ground pork.  I have no idea what the difference is, but that's what the recipe calls for.  You need to get this at a meat counter with an actual butcher.  They will have it.  Sometimes, they'll offer you a "hamloaf" which is the same thing.  Just make sure to get 2 lbs and have it ground together.  You also need 2 C of fine graham cracker crumbs, 2 eggs (slightly beaten) and 1 1/2 C of milk.  
Combine the meat, crumbs, eggs, and milk in a bowl and mix well.  As with all things that taste good, the best way to do this is to actually mix it with your hands.  Then you make 1" balls and place them in a 9x13 pan, pictured below.
This is how many hamballs 3 lbs. of meat makes, 60 balls.  The original recipe calls for 4 lbs of meat, but that is crazy unless you have 10 or more people to feed.  I chose 3 lbs for 6 of us and we had PLENTY left over.  Next time I would definitely use 2 lbs.  
For the sauce that goes over the hamballs, you need the above ingredients.  1, 10 oz. can of tomato soup, 1 1/2 C of brown sugar, 1/2 C of vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar), and 1 tsp. of dry mustard.  Combine all the ingredients and mix well until creamy.  Pour over the hamballs.  Because I used 3 lbs. of meat, I needed more sauce to cover all those hamballs.  I just made two batches of the sauce and that was enough.  
Bake at 350 for approximately 1 1/2 hours.  Cover for the first half hour, then baste and uncover for 1 more hour.  Baste again before serving.  They will smell so sweet and so good while they are in the oven!  They could be called Bar-b-que Hamballs, because essentially that's what they taste like.  Remember that pork is still pinkish when it's fully cooked.  An hour and a half is plenty of time for them to be done however, so you'll be fine.    
Hamballs are best, served over wild rice.  The combination goes so well together.  I also like to serve them with a green bean casserole and cinnamon apples.  Do you know that easy, kid friendly recipe??  Here is it below...

Dice 3 or 4 apples, depending on how many people, toss them in plain vanilla yogurt and sprinkle them with cinnamon.  So easy and really, really good.  I always like to serve these apples with pork dishes.  They make a sweet tasting compliment.  

So there you have it!  Hamballs, wild rice, green bean casserole, and cinnamon apples.  A very yummy, Iowa meal!  If you try this, you will be pleasantly surprised at how good it is!  And if you're needing to feed a crowd of people, this is an easy meal to make :) So, enjoy!!  

And go Cardinals!!


A Stronghold in Times of Trouble

Today has been one of those hard days that has made our hearts sad.  Due to the plummeting economy and the uncertainty of when it might turn around, our Church had to lay off 19 staff members today.  We are personally very, very grateful that Travis' job was not affected, but many of our friends were included in the lay-offs and are at home tonight with an uncertain future.  

This has been an agonizing few weeks for our leadership and for the Pastors in each department.  Nobody wanted this to happen, but when you work for a non-profit, the budget is dependent on giving.  With so many families also losing their jobs, giving is down and our leadership had to act pro-actively to keep us from going into debt when our fiscal year ends.  I can personally attest to the stress level the leadership has endured for the last few weeks, trying to decide what to do.  It is very difficult on all of them and they have spent much time in prayer, asking the Lord for wisdom and for grace in how they handle this...

I also know our church is not alone.  There are many, many churches all over the country, struggling to bear the burden of this economy.  These are not easy days and who knows how long they're going to last.  In our own city tonight, we've just learned that Target (headquartered here) has also announced lay-offs today, joining the ranks of all the other companies that are eliminating jobs.  It's so easy right now to look at our bleak economic future and panic, wondering how we're going to survive as a country with so many people out of work.  BUT, there is hope that is available for all of us beyond any false security money may offer.  Our God is still on His throne and He is still in control.  These are the days when you either believe that or you don't.  

Jesus told us in John 16:33, 

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."

We firmly believe that our future is secure with our Savior and our peace is only because of the freedom He bought for us with His blood.  These words are more than just words, they are life to us.  Will we have troubles still?  YES!  He told us we would and so we should expect it.  But He doesn't leave us with bleak news and no hope. He reminds us that He holds the future in His hands and He will overcome this world one day and "right every wrong."  Travis is currently teaching in Junior High on the end times and the promises we have to look forward to as believers in Christ.  One day time will be up and He will be back for His church.  I have to say, it's been a good reminder for me and a good dose of perspective.  This world is ultimately not our home and our hope is not anchored here.  We trust and believe in the life we have eternally with Christ.  

But tonight, our hearts are heavy for our staff friends.  We are praying for peace to wash over their anxiety and for God to meet their needs in radical ways.  We are hopeful for the future and we are trusting the Lord with every detail.  It's no accident that my memory verses for this week speak directly to this subject of trust in the midst of trouble.  Our God is good all the time, even when the times aren't good.

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.  Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.  For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted."  
Psalm 9:9-12


Misc. Monday!

I bet you thought I forgot about my Monday post :) Nope, just haven't been able to get to it until now! I only have a few minutes to blog however, so it's going to be a pretty quick list....

#1- "Who is this?" you might be wondering...

...this is Travis' uncle Ron, working on Ava's crib!!  I just got these sent to me tonight and they made me giddy :) Ron is so talented and I know this crib will be beautiful.  Plus, the sappy sentimentalist in me LOVES that he and Peggy would give this sweet gift to us for our kids to have.  What a precious heirloom that we will always treasure.  

#2- Now that Ryley is back home with us, he is getting lots of attention from 2 people who are ready to love on a baby :)  I keep finding him in Ava's room, on the guest bed, snuggled all the way at the top on the pillows!  
...I might be irritated that he's laying on clean sheets, but since his days are numbered to be sleeping on a bed, and soon this bed will be gone, I keep letting him :)  Isn't he so sweet curled up on that pillow??  He's not dumb!  He knows how get comfortable like the best of them!!  


I'm sure you're all following Harper's progress on Kelly's blog with me.  Isn't it amazing to watch her sweet little body heal and to see the thousands of prayers being offered on her behalf get answered??  I knew the Lord would use this little girl to touch so many lives when I saw how many people were following Kelly's story on the day of Harper's delivery.  Obviously I am touched by this because I'm pregnant, but also because Kelly has been such a sweet encourager to me personally.  I was a wreck with her the night Harper was born, it scared me to watch how quickly something could go wrong and how your world be turned upside down in a matter of minutes.  It's also been a great reminder that Ava's days are not in our hands.  The same God who created her, has numbered her days and knows each and every hair on her head.  Although He's chosen to give her to Travis and I to raise, ultimately, we give her right back to Him and we'll be trusting Him with every detail of her future.  We have no idea what lies ahead for Ava, but we know who will be with us and who will guide us in the way that we parent her.  We are CLINGING to the promises of His word and to the nature of His character and we will praise Him for His sovereignty no matter what we face.  Please keep lifting little Harper up to the Lord.  He has been so good to her and has used her already to bring glory to His name.  I can think of NOTHING better than God's peace in the midst of trials.  His grace is sufficient!!  

#4- I have to run because my Bible study girls are coming over tonight and I need to go through our lessons one more time before they get here.  I love getting together on these nights, it's been awhile since we've met because of the holidays and some other things going on, so it will be great to catch up again and talk through the lessons we've been studying.  We're going through a study on women in leadership and it's been a great source of training and wisdom.  

Happy Monday to you all!  I hope your night is full of something fun :) 


29 Weeks

We have officially reached 29 weeks today...only 77 days to go now!  As you can see, Miss Ava is starting to give me a whole new figure.  She is getting so active now, I feel her all day long, moving and kicking.  I love it :) 
According to, she is the size of a butternut squash, pictured above and 2 1/2 pounds.  She's also almost 15 inches long, which is amazing to me since most babies are around 19-21 inches when they are born!  That seems huge to me already...I can't imagine how I'm going to feel in a few more weeks!  Travis told me today that I look like I'm going to pop...I guess he's going to be amazed when we hit 40 weeks :)  

I am feeling ok at this stage in the game, although this past week I've really started to notice how tired I am again.  I thought it was just because we were so busy last weekend, but I have done nothing but relax for the last few days and I'm still exhausted.  It could also be that Ava is now keeping me up at night with her constant kicking and waking me up in the morning, keeping me from doing any kind of sleeping in!  Seriously, this must be God's way of preparing us for what is to come, huh??  I have also started to feel quite uncomfortable lately, lots of places on me "ache" these days.  I'm realizing this is a normal part of pregnancy and inevitable when your body is stretching and changing to accomodate a little growing person in there.  I've just had to learn to adjust my schedule and take the time to sit and rest when I can.  Which is hard to do when I have a list a mile long of things I'd like to do before she gets here :)  But, I know resting is more important for her sake and mine, than getting stuff done.  It's kind of liberating actually to sit with my feet up and know that I'm doing exactly what I should be doing...
This however, is not what we should be doing!  We got the bug to make some cupcakes tonight...
And since I'm always craving chocolate these days...
Here I am on my second batch of icing.  For some reason the first batch was not good, it didn't look right, but we did get it right (perfect actually) on the second try...
And we ended up with all of these cupcakes, which we shared with our neighbors and saved for ourselves.  Not good for me, but ohhh so yummy!!  I hope Ava gets all the nutritional value out of them that she can :)  I'm hoping to pass the nutrition her way and keep all the sugary goodness for myself!!  Wait, is there any nutrition in an iced cupcake???  Don't tell me!  I don't want to know!!  


More Food, What Did You Expect??

When I got home from work on Tuesday, I found this sweet gift waiting for us at our door.  Amanda sent us this ADORABLE little security blanket for miss Ava Page!  It is so soft and absolutely precious.  I know Ava will love snuggling with it because I already do!  
I think my favorite thing is that her first and middle name are monogrammed on it!  It's her first and only thing that says Ava Page!  And Page is even spelled correctly!!  Amanda, thank you so much. We love it and are so touched that you would do that for our baby girl, who isn't even here yet!  :)   Thank you Amanda!  It's so darling...
Now, on a totally un-related note, here is what we had for dinner tonight, one of my favorite chicken dishes.  I like to call it, get ready for some creative titling,  "Chicken with Dried Beef", but you may know it as something else, because it's most commonly called "Chicken Supreme."
I love it because it tastes so good, but also because it's so easy and it requires almost no work.  You just need chicken breasts, 8 oz of sour cream, 1 can cream of celery and dried beef.  I always use this jar from Hormel.  You can find it at almost every grocery store I've tried.  
I line the bottom of the pan with dried beef...
Then I put the chicken on top of the beef.  In the most common recipe, the chicken is wrapped with bacon, but I usually don't make it with bacon because I'm not a big bacon eater and it's kind of turned my stomach lately... I just put more dried beef on top of the chicken.
After you mix the cream of celery and sour cream, you pour it over the chicken and spread it out a little.  Cover it and bake at 350 for about 45-60 minutes. 
This is what it looks like right out of the oven.
Typically, I always serve it over a bed of wild rice, but we're having rice tomorrow night and I had a few potatoes I needed to use, so mashed potatoes were on the menu instead :)  It was very good however with a little of the sauce poured over the potatoes instead of gravy.  And you can see, for Travy, more corn!  

Can you tell I'm pregnant or what??  Lately 75% of all my posts involve food!!  I think it's because I'm preggo and because it's winter, but I am all about staying home every night and cooking.  Today I even got wild and crazy and made cupcakes with homemade icing with the boys!  Ooohhh, they are so good.  It's a good thing I made them at their house and left all but 4 of them there.  I do NOT need that kind of stuff around me right now :)  Lately, I can't get enough chocolate in my body...not good for the 3rd trimester weight plan!!  Anyway, we are home tonight enjoying a quiet evening and gearing up for a new episode of the office!  I hope you have a great Thursday night and wonderful Friday!  


In God We Trust

Did you watch history unfold today?  I have been eating up all the coverage tonight.  Some of the events I watched live, some of it I missed, but it is impossible to let this day go without recognizing the historic choice our country made.  President Obama is now our nation's commander in chief and we are ushering in a new era, ready or not.  I was refreshed in my commitment to pray for him and for his family.  They are walking into a huge responsibility and a tremendous burden.  President Obama needs our support and more than that, our prayers. 
I loved this image of the First Lady holding Lincoln's Bible during the oath.  Isn't that amazing that they have his Bible??  I love when our country gets it right and does stuff like this...
My absolute favorite moment of the day.  I had tears in my eyes watching Michelle Obama look at her husband while he took that oath.  You could see the pride and the love in her face for him.  I loved that.  It made me think of all the times that I've watched Travis speak or minister to someone and my heart swells with pride.  This picture does not do that moment justice, but the video coverage of that moment was pretty amazing.
And who does not think those girls are the cutest little things??  I love this picture.  It's fun to have little girls in the white house :) 
Isn't this picture stunning?  Gotta love the pomp and circumstance!
And way to go Rick Warren.  Loved his prayer, loved that he ended with scripture.  How great that he was asked to do this and that he stuck to his convictions and honored the Lord.
Kind of interesting to watch the "transfer of power" take place in real time...
I have to say, this scene made me a little sad.  I know President Bush wasn't perfect in all his decisions, but I think he is a man of integrity and that is a rare thing in Washington.  I also think He sought the Lord while he was in office and we are indebted to him for that.
On a totally different note, what is Aretha Franklin thinking with this hat?  I love that she wore a hat on a cold day, but THIS particular hat was not a good choice.  In my humble opinion :)  
Do you like it?
Leave it to the Texans to welcome one of their own back home.  My husband is so proud!  Thank you President and Mrs. Bush for 8 years of faithful service to our country.  Welcome back to civilian life :) 


Misc. Monday, Ava Edition!

Well, Monday is here again and I'm full of misc. things! However, this is going to be mostly about about Ava :) I have lots of fun things to show you, I'm just going to warn you though, this is a long one!

#1- Look who's back home...Ryley!  My parents brought him back from his vacation in Iowa this weekend and we are thrilled to have his big hairy self around again :) 

It took him all of 30 seconds to jump up on "his bed" after my parents left this afternoon!  He loves to spend most of the day in here, and we're letting him because his time is limited!  That bed will only be there for about 2 more months :) 

#2- While my parents were here this weekend, we went out for dinner with almost all of my cousins (we missed you Robyn and George!).  It was my cousin Jenny's birthday too :) 

Amy and Joe

Brian and Rhonda

Jenny and Chris

My Mom and Dad, although I'm bummed that this picture is blurry :(

Trav and I

When we got home, we had some dessert and coffee and we got some help with the curtains in the nursery.  

How many men does it take to hang a curtain rod?  I'm so thankful for these 2 who helped us! 

#3- Remember when I told you a few days ago that we had already been so blessed in this nursery?  Well, this glider and ottoman are one of those "surprise blessings" we recently received.  The parents of a 7th grader in our ministry found Travis a couple of Sundays ago, with pictures of this glider and offered it to us, if we wanted it.  Little did they know that I was already in a hot pursuit of some kind of rocker or glider for the nursery.  However, I was not thrilled over the price tags I kept finding.... This was such a sweet gift from the Lord to us because not only is it what we needed, but it was something that I liked and that matched the nursery!  Well, the wood matches.  The cushions we are replacing, so that it will match and so that we can use it for years to come.  We are so grateful for this.  It's in beautiful condition and it is sooo comfortable.  Gliders are so smooth and we have all taken turns this weekend snoozing and reading in it!  I know this will be one of our favorite things in the months to come and I know I'll be logging lots of hours in it :) How sweet for us to sit in it and praise the Lord for His provision.

Here are some of the fabric samples I sent for from the company that makes the cushions.  We decided on the 2nd swatch from the left, a soft, tan corduroy that will match Ava's nursery, as well as any future nurseries!

#4- I've stared to collect lots of great things for the room in the last few weeks.  Here is the bumper and skirt that came last week, as well as some crib sheets I found.  I LOVE all of it and can't wait to see it in the crib!!

These are some cute stacking baskets with toille liners that I found.  They are so sweet and will be perfect for Ava's toys!

Today my Mom and I opened up 2 bins of clothes that we have had for several years.  When we left North Carolina and I was done nannying for Olivia, her parents gave us so many of her things, including all these clothes!!  Look at all of those...I was so excited when we found out Ava was a girl, especially because I knew that meant we could use these clothes!!  When my Mom comes back over spring break, we will be washing and organizing and sorting out all these clothes!  What another great blessing from the Lord. 

Yesterday we found this great bookcase that will be perfect for Ava's books.  We have started collecting some, but I'm hoping to fill this lots more!  I love children's books and we will be reading lots to her.  Right now it's full of random gifts, but I love it and think it will be so cute next to her crib.

Here are some more sweet boxes for her stuff and those houses are containers that were in my Grandma's kitchen.  I want to use them somewhere, but I'm not sure how or where yet.  

Here are the curtains we hung, which I think are so sweet!  They are crushed velvet and so soft.  
#5- Finally, I have been promising for a long time so show you Ava's haul from Christmas.  Well here it is...

Receiving blankets, a music player for her crib and a great book from the aforementioned, Miss Olivia :) 
2 sweet pink outfits from Trav's Mom.  She'll be soft and warm in those!

The cutest little shirt and sparkly jeans from my sister's in-laws.  Thank you Jim and Deb, we love them!!

Is this not the cutest little dress you have ever seen??  My friend Amber sent this to me and I totally squealed out loud when I opened it!  

She also sent these little bloomers to cover her diaper...Ok, soooo adorable!!

And she also sent us another cute Iowa Hawkeye onesie.  Her Grandpa will be so proud when she wears this one!

Not to be outdone, my sister Stacie also gave us such a darling monogrammed gift!  Isn't this onesie so fun???  I can't wait to put her in this one!!

She also gave us this sweet outfit, which reminds me of my aunt Bette, because it looks like a cross-stitch design, which she used to do all the time!

She also gave us this cute little frame for the nursery, it's very cute and true!

My other sister Jennie found this sweet little tutu for Ava!  How fun will that be??  And because Jennie has never turned down a pair of shoes she liked, she also gave some to Ava :) 

My parents gave us these cute onesies, a hooded towel, and this pink sweater that is so cute!!

They also gave us a Hawkeye sippee cup to match our Hawkeye pacifier....

....and my Mom found this precious cable knit sweater....

....these patent leather shoes....

...and this curious george toy with some books!  I used to love curious george when I was a little girl, so I'm sure Ava will too!

And finally, my "other parents" Kirk and Joan, gave us this amazing little hat!  I think she should wear that home from the hospital, don't you??  It could be her first Easter hat, depending on when she's born!!  

So there you go, lots of misc. things for you to view today!  Travis is off from work and my parents are on their way back to Iowa, so we are headed to a movie in a few minutes.  Hope you're having a great day today, happy Monday everybody!!