Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Fast Tip Friday...but a Giveaway!

Last week you saw a sneak peak into what was brewing in Mama Cook's Kitchen.

After much trial and error, I present to you: Harvest Spice Tea!

Here is the beautiful reveal...

This tea is reminiscent of Pumpkin Pie with all of those same yummy spices in a Vanilla Rooibos Tea. 

Naturally caffiene free, and all organic!

To gain the pumpkin flavoring, simply add a teaspoon of Pumpkin Butter! Mix with a splash of cream {or Rice Milk, in my case} and a sprinkling of nutmeg.  Ahhhh...dessert in a cup!

So onto the giveaway...

This week there will be two winners! Each will receive a package containing: a bag of Mama Cook's Harvest Spice Tea, a jar of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter, and a tea strainer.

To enter, simply post a comment on a question or topic you would like to see me blog about!  You can enter as many times as you wish!  If you share a link to my blog via Facebook, you receive an additional entry!

Winners will be randomly selected and announced next Friday!

Be Refreshed!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let me introduce myself...

Today I’m joining the Women Living Well Blog Bash {See link below}…

The assignment is to write a blog post introducing ourselves and posting a relevant picture.  So here goes…

Lora… Lora Cook, but you can call me Mama! 

Actually, years ago I was delivering  Meatball Subs for a “Blessings Meal”, and needed a catchy name for them…along came Mama Cook’s Meatball Subs.  Fast forward a few years, I was delivering another meal, only this time pizza!  Well, the friend I was delivering to was so astounded that I was delivering homemade pizza, that she termed it Mama Cook’s Pizza.  That was when it stuck!  Word got around, and pretty soon even my kiddo’s friends were calling me Mama Cook.

So, what is the inspiration for the blog?  Life!  Well, actually a Victorious Life!  With 9 kiddos, 1 {soon to be 2} grandbabies, one terrific son-in-law, and the world’s best husband…I’ve learned {and am still learning} a lot along the way! Why re-invent the wheel, right?  Over the years I have looked for inspiration from those who have gone before me, and you will still hear me say, “9 babies later and I’m finally figuring this out!” 

Along the journey, God has really shown me the meaning of the verse: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 
This blog is not about me, but the One who created me and His workings in my life...poured out in order to minister to others!
I want my readers to feel like they just stepped into my home and can glean a quick tip or moment of refreshing.

So, stop on by, and Be Refreshed! 

{Oh – and don’t forget that I love giveaways!  They are a tangible piece to “take home!”  So look for those here too!}

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Under Attack...

Well, The Cottage has been hit with strep throat!  {OK - only one of us, but still!} 

With a household our size, if an illness takes over, it can keep us out of commission for weeks.  In 2010, we spent 5 weeks not going anywhere because one child after another got sick!

Not this year!  This year I have a tool in my belt that will, hopefully, prevent the rest of us from getting strep - or at least speed up the recovery process.

"What is this incredible tool," you ask?

From                                                          Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, hence the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.
Elder Berries!

Well, Elder Berry Syrup to be precise! 

I actually had a dear friend introduce me to Elder Berry Syrup a couple of years ago, and our family has used it with great success.  You can purchase this product premade at a local natural food store. But - it can be VERY expensive for a family our size to take a daily dose.  So, I researched how to make my own!
Here is my recipe - hopefully you will find the same success our family has! 
Elder Berry Syrup
1/2 Cup Dried Elderberries
3 Cups Water
1Cup Honey

{Adds more flavor, but causes mix to only last 2 weeks!}
1 Clove
1Cinnamon Stick
1 Tsp. Ginger

Heat berries, water and optional ingredients to boil, simmer 30-40 minutes.
Mash berries, and strain into bowl.
Add one cup of honey.
Transfer to storage container.
{Our family takes 1 Tbs. per day/ 2Tbs. per day when sick. You should do your own research for what will work for your family!}

Thanks for stopping by! Be Refreshed {and well}!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fast Tip Friday...

One thing that people always say to me is, "You must be so organized!"  Well, not by gifting...but God does give me inspiration...

Here is some inspiration for what would be a mountain of towels:

It's simple: Eight Towels, Eight Bumble Bee Towel Hooks - mounted to one white painted board {created by my hubby} decorates our bathroom wall.  There is also a single Bumble Bee Towel Hook mounted to a matching smaller white plaque hung by the sink for the hand towel.

We actually only have enough bathroom towels for each person in the house.  The two not shown are hung on the back of the door when they are used. {Claire and Hudson are not bathed everyday.}

A place for everything...everything in it's place!

{Here is a sneak peak at something I'm brewing up for next week's give away!}

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed {and inspired}!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm a Nut...

At least that is what I've been told my whole life...

It started with elementary see, my maiden name is Alcorn, and kids {being kids} always changed it to Acorn...
"Lora Acorn - you're a nut!"

Well, there IS power in the tongue...most people that know me would say I'm pretty "nutty"!  You almost have to be to have so many children!  I have other quirks too...but, I'm not sure I should confess them all right here, right now!

So, when I was a kiddo, I really hated being called a nut.  Simply, I just wanted to be like everyone else and even though they really didn't mean anything by it, I didn't want to be teased.

Now as an adult, I'm proud to say, "I'm a nut!"  You will find acorn decorations scattered around our home as a personal icon that reminds me of something that I believe in...

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."   John 12:24

{Some Bible translations use the term "seed" for "grain of wheat"}

Think of the acorn, it falls from the mighty oak, to die to itself, that it might sprout a new life and grow anew into another mighty oak, which in turns produces more and more acorns...bearing much fruit!

I believe this is how we as mothers need to be; dying to ourselves that we might bear much fruit. It goes against our selfish nature to give up what pleases us - our personal time, our figures, the cleanliness of our homes, our finances, our careers, our friends.  But in order that we might not "remain alone", we need to be willing to die to this selfishness and sacrifice ourselves in order to "bear much fruit." 

Our children will reflect our attitude towards them - like it or not!

Is it easy?  No!  Is it worth it?  Every last minute, penny, and pound!

Now, set down your computer and go play with those precious kiddos!  Or get some sleep so you're ready for them in the morning!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Day at The Farm...

I know lots of people are blogging about pumpkin patches these days, but I just couldn’t resist…

This past weekend the Children’s Department at our church organized an outing at a local farm. Approximately 20 families showed up to “brave the maze”!

A fun time was had by all…

Or at least some great memories were made!

While I have your attention, I have to rave about Bob’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm.  This is the 4th year our family has ventured to Bob’s!  Some years we have been successful to finish the maze and other years we’ve cut through the corn and gone around the outside!!! 

What I LOVE about Bob’s is that it is family owned and operated.  Yep, you will see the same young Abi that is in the brochure, supervising the Cow Train.  Every member takes part in some fashion and if you watch closely, you will see their great camaraderie!  Bob’s offers many fun activities, refreshments, and best of all, they LOVE large families!  Maybe because they are one, or maybe because they are sympathetic to the cost of entertaining a massive group like ours, but their maximum pricing for families (2 adults and ALL of their children) reflects this attitude and is one reason we keep coming back year after year.
Harvest time is a fabulous opportunity for creating some fun, family memories…
Visit a farm, check out the animals, take some great photos with the pumpkins, enjoy a picnic or cider and if you are feeling brave – test your navigation skills in the corn maze!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be refreshed!

(No compensation {beyond muddy boots} was received for this endorsement!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If it looks good on the outside...

{aah, the "big lie"} - it must be good on the inside! 

This sentence alone has so many implications.  We have all seen it: the seemingly happy couple with the marriage falling apart, the "Sunday Morning Smile" when the person's world is upside down, the beautiful home and cars with a debt ocean so deep there is no hope of getting above water.

Yet, many of us still walk this way.  Of course no one likes to be the "Debbie Downer", but when we put on our happy face and never share what's troubling us, it leads to isolation, depression, and ultimately destruction! 

Now, hear me say this, "I love the motto - Fake It 'til You Make It!"  But, what I am saying is we DO need to practice the chords of contentment rather than the chords of bitterness, envy and discontentment!  Practice makes perfect...perfect habits that is!  When we focus on negative, we are negative.  When we focus on positive, we begin to form the habit of looking for the positive!

But, should we hide our deepest troubles?  I say, "absolutely not!"  Someone out there has been through what you are going through!  Everyone needs encouragement now and again.  When we allow our lives to only be viewed as perfect, we perpetuate the cycle of devastation not only in our lives, but in those who are watching and thinking they wish the artificial turf on our side of the fence was the grass on theirs.

Ultimately only Christ can heal those hidden areas in our lives where we find ourselves longing.  His word says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me." Revelation 3:20 

It's a promise!  He is there, waiting for us to open the door! If He says it, He will do it!

WOW!  So, I started this post in reference to a muffin recipe that I tried that turned out horrible!  But, as I started typing it took on a life of it's own!  That's my intention, to be led by the Spirit, and hopefully many of you will be blessed along the way!

So here they are:

You can practically taste these ~ moist fall-spiced pumpkin muffins with cream cheese filling and crunchy crumble topping! 

Only, in reality, they were HORRIBLE...seriously - my kiddos wouldn't even eat a second one!  They were actually too moist and the cream cheese tasted like cream cheese you would put on a bagel {not the sweet gooey filling I was imagining}! I have to admit, the crumble topping was actually pretty good though.

Maybe someone would be willing to take a look at the recipe and see if they can figure out where I went wrong?

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our chair wears a shawl?

Those were the words spoken by my husband last night as I was directing our daughter on how to place the blanket over both the arm and the back of the chair simultaneously.

You see, I love this chair!  It adds seating and definition to my living room, it fits Mama comfortably, and I have fond memories of MANY sleepless nights, nursing this sweet little girl.

But one day, said child, put this not so sweet little mark on the arm…

{“yep, that’s permanent ink”}

And so – not having the heart to kick the chair to the curb (bleach, peroxide and Goof Off haven't removed the spot), “our chair wears a shawl”!

Just one little way I've made do with what we have...I'd love to hear about some of your household "spots" and how you've dressed their imperfections!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Monday, October 10, 2011

And The Winner Is...

~Tammy Q~
(I will package these bottles up and send them your way! Congratulations!)

On another subject, today I want to talk about a ministry that is dear to my heart...Meal Ministry!  Today I had the wonderful privilege of providing a meal to a new mommy and her family to celebrate the arrival of their baby girl. 

Meal Ministry is one of the easiest areas to serve in as a family and can be such a HUGE blessing to the recipient!  Creating a meal to deliver is a perfect opportunity to train your children to be thinking of others and what needs they may have that your family can fulfill. We have been on the receiving end on many occasions as we have welcomed new blessings into our home.  We also have been on the delivering end as we have celebrated new babies, provided relief during times of sickness, and comfort during times of loss.  This is actually one area that shouldn't take much extra time out of your current family schedule - if you are making a meal for yourself, make bigger portions, package them up, write a sweet note, and deliver it with a smile!  No need to stay long, most recipients are needing their time to rest and recuperate so a few minutes of encouraging conversation, and you're back on the road again!

Don't think you're a great cook?  Pick one simple meal and practice until you are ready to bless a family with it! (I'll post a quick and easy one below!)

Here is a list of my favorites:

BBQ Pork Ribs
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Salmon in Foil Packets
Chicken Noodle Soup w/ Crunchy Bread
Mama Cook's Pizza {this one is actually the meal that earned me the name Mama Cook}
and the one we delivered tonight...

Mama Cooks Meatball Subs! 

I had intended to take a picture of all of the subs before they were eaten, but alas, when I remembered this was all there was left!  Needless to say, this is a favorite in my house and I usually receive rave reviews! 

So, here is the recipe:
Mama Cook's Meatball Subs

Meatballs - I use Costco's premade ones
Diced Onions
Tomato Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese - grated
{Maybe a bit of Parmesan - if you have it on hand}
Sandwich Rolls

Throw the frozen meatballs and diced onions in a pot. Cover with tomato sauce. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Let cook approximately 20 minutes or until cooked through. 

To Assemble: Sprinkle some grated mozzarella on each bun and broil for 1 minute.  {Putting the cheese in first prevents the buns from falling apart.}  Add 4-5 meatballs with sauce per roll.  Sprinkle some more cheese on top.  Broil a second time - 1 to 2 minutes, and they are done! 

Package all items separately, throw into a bag with assembly instructions, add a side salad and perhaps a dessert, and your meal is complete!  Simple, right?

Depending on the circumstances, you may also want to include breakfast or snack items...

Get creative, have your kiddos draw pictures or make puzzles for kiddos in the recipients home to color or solve.  Add some flowers from your garden.  Share a book your family loves...this one is especially great for those families with new babies so the older kiddos have some time to sit next to mom and enjoy being read to while she is feeding the baby.

What other ideas or recipes do you have to share?  I'd love to hear them!

Thanks again for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Refreshing...{with a Giveaway}

Years ago, my friend Janice brought a post baby meal – tacos!  But, let me say, these were no ordinary tacos…they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious!  Seasoned meat, refried beans, shredded cheese, diced onion, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, and sour cream, with a warm tortilla to wrap it in. 

I hear what you’re thinking, “those sound like ordinary tacos.” 
Well, one thing {among many} Janice taught me was, “presentation, presentation, presentation”!  My husband went on and on about how delicious everything looked!  This secret has served me well over the years…Wednesday Night Oatmeal never tasted SO GOOD!  {Seriously, my kiddo’s friends love joining us on Oatmeal Night – I’m positive it looks better than it tastes!)

So here’s a budget sparing idea that will add some charm to your dinner table and save a bundle in beverage costs, not to mention it’s “green”!  There is something so grand about drinking out of these bottles that everyone will be clamoring for the “fancy water”!

I took these ordinary beverage bottles that previously held some fancy–schmancy juice and turned them into our nightly beverage {we were previous milk drinkers}.

 I purchased these at my local Grocery Outlet for $2.49 each.  You can also find similar bottles at stores like Pier One or World Market, but these were a bit more sturdy and ¼ the price!

4 Simple Steps …
*Consume bottled beverage
*Remove labels {I used Goof Off or WD-40}
*Wash bottles thoroughly and refill with tap water
*Refrigerate for a refreshing beverage anytime – dinner table, picnic, park date…

and Voila!

I LOVE giveaways! So, as promised, here’s one!  The winner will receive the two bottles filled with juice pictured above! To enter, leave a comment below before Sunday @ midnight and one will be chosen randomly!  I will announce a winner on Monday! {If you have troubles posting a comment, you may need to adjust your cookies settings.}
Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

To Shower or Not to Shower...

No!  I'm not talking about my morning routine {I'll save that for another day}! 

Today I ran across a survey on whether or not moms should be given a shower on subsequent babies after their first.  I was surprised to see what a controversial topic this can be!

I recently attended a shower for my sweet friend Cristina to celebrate the impending arrival of her 5th baby.  It was an intimate gathering with these lovely ladies.

To recognize Cristina, each woman brought a bead and spoke a prayer or scripture over the future of her newest son, Isaiah James. The beads would then be made into a bracelet and worn during the upcoming birth. Each prayer had also been hand written and bound together as a keepsake.

To celebrate Isaiah, each woman also brought baby items to be donated to the local food bank!

I have also been honored to have others celebrate with me in this way as we've anticipated the arrival of a new blessing.  During my last two births I was honored to wear both a Bead Necklace and Bead Bracelet that were a reminder to me of the prayers and support that my sweet friends had spoken over me. 

These birth experiences were more peaceful as I concentrated on the verses and prayers that brought Christ to the center of my mind instead of the pain of labor!

"I  can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" ~Philippians 4:13

My thoughts are that each child is a blessing and should be celebrated!  There are so many options for what this could look like:

Spa Party
Blessing Shower
Freezer Stocking
Monogram Themed Gift Giving
Food Bank Pantry Pounding
The list goes on...

I'd love to hear your opinions and ideas!  Are subsequent showers an etiquette "no-no"?

Be Refreshed!

PS - Those flowers in each ladies hair were a little take home gift, hand made by me!  I'll be giving some away in the upcoming weeks, so come back for your chance to win!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother...

Today I am sharing a letter I wrote to my dad a few years ago for Father’s Day. All of us walk through different seasons in our lives, and have to come to a place where we accept our past for better or for worse. Accepting my past for the better was part of a refinement process God walked me through!  For me, this letter came from a place of healing, contentment, and belief in God’s Sovereignty. I meant it then and I mean it now!

H a p p y   B i r t h d a y   D a d! ! !

Dear Dad,
I have been praying that God would show me a way to honor you for Father's Day. In a way that would be more than just a Hallmark card, phone call, or tie that you would never wear. If I were with you today, I would buy your round of golf, take you out to a nice steak dinner and sit on the back porch with you and share conversation as you refresh yourself with some nice cold “little buddies”.

Let me start by saying what you are to me...
You are my dad!  My hero! My warrior! My cheerleader! When I was a little girl I wanted to call you Pa, because it was something different, something more, something special that you mean to me. It never really fit, but my heart was in it!

I have your dark, curly hair. Your brown eyes. Your tenacity. Your determination. Your fight (sometimes that's a good thing)! You showed me how to catch fireflies, ride roller coasters, put salt on my watermelon, eat corn, be wise with my money, make my bed every morning and not care what other people think, but to follow my heart. You taught me to work hard, be tough, to have pride in all I do, and to have integrity. You raised me to believe that in life you might be down, but your never out!

There are two times in life that I remember seeing you cry...
~When life took you back to Ohio, and you had to leave your kids behind.
~When life took me back to Washington, and I had to leave you behind.
There are times when I miss you so much my heart aches and every man I see on the street looks just like my dad - Ken always thinks I'm crazy when I say that!

Some of the things I love about you are...
*Your “furry” arms.  *Your tan legs with sock marks.  *The way you wear loafers with no socks. 
*Your constant venture for a good bargain.  *The way you love to do and see everything in one day.           *Your love for searching for treasures.   *Your presence.    *Your passion for race horses (I hope I turned out to be your best bet)!    *Your work ethic.  *Your intelligence.  *Your GE belly (which you haven't had in a while, by the way).   *Your strong arms.    *Your confident voice.    *Your smile!   *The way you’re tough on the outside, but I know your soft on the inside.    *I could go on forever!!!!!

I know there are times when I haven't always made choices that you understood; I will probably make many more of those choices, but I hope that I will continue to make you proud.

I want you to know today that I am proud of you!  I am proud to be your daughter! I am thankful to have you as my dad ~ I couldn't have asked for anyone better!

Know that I am praying for you every single day! That God would continue to give you good health and happiness (but not too much that you wouldn't seek Him). That you would continue to honor your wife, and have children and grandchildren that make you proud. Mostly I pray that He would reveal Himself to you in special way that you would KNOW that He is your Father that looks down on you and is proud of who you are.  He created you with a purpose and plan for prosperity and hope! (Jeremiah 29:11)

I Love You More Than Words Can Express!

And Happy Anniversary! Now go buy your wife some flowers, she’s worth it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Longest Days...Shortest Years!

People hear me say this often. Why? Because I KNOW it is true!  This saying has become reality for me on both ends,

as I rock my precious baby girl at 2AM...

then welcome my other precious 22 year old girl through the door at 9AM.

Being the mother of 9 has taught me many things…one of the biggest being: Slow down, enjoy EACH precious moment! I consider it such a blessing to know this truth while I am still raising little ones.

Those sleepless nights quickly become a distant memory as you watch their first ballet recital, soccer game, choir concert, driving lesson, boxes packed up for college, wedding, arrival of the first grandbaby!

I remember the first time I heard Longest Days…Shortest Years, I thought, “Easy for you to say, you’re not dealing with a fit throwing toddler that you aren’t sure how to discipline while your infant is screaming to eat! You have your hands free to make beds, dinner, projects… Surely your children didn’t behave quite as difficult as mine!”

But now I GET IT! I actually cherish those precious rosy cheeks at 2AM. I can laugh over the tantrums! I want to relish every moment while they are still mine!

{And just so no one thinks things are always peachy at my house…yes, I was up from 1AM-2AM…repeating the phrase, “longest days…shortest years, longest days…shortest years…”}

 Thanks again for stopping by! Be Refreshed!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's A...

Starting a blog is somewhat like starting a family!
First is the conception of the blog.  Once you have decided that you are going to take the plunge into parenthood {Blogdom}, you begin thinking of names, and what your parenting {blogging} philosophies will entail – I mean you want to be sure this baby makes it to college, right?
So, today starts my first post for what will, by God’s grace, be an exciting journey – likely with labor and growing pains along the way!  Drop by for a moment of quick inspiration, encouraging conversation, and a breath of fresh air.
And what celebration would be complete without “presence”?  We have a “no presents” policy when it comes to playmate parties at our house because we want to teach enjoying the presence of the guests who come to celebrate!  Now, before I start a controversial, Mommy Dearest conversation – our children do receive gifts from Mama and Papa and sometimes siblings…but onto the “presence” reference above…
To celebrate my very first blog post, the first 5 people to post a comment will receive a little gift from me!  A package of my favorite tea!

 And since the first 5 comments will probably be from family or close friends, I probably already have your address, but, just to be on the safe side shoot it to me via email anyway!

Thanks for dropping by and come again soon!
{I promise there will be plenty of give aways!}