Butternut Squash Lasagna

There's a restaurant in town that makes Butternut Squash Lasagna and it used to be Mark's favorite thing to eat. That is, until we discovered the Butternut Squash Ravioli at our favorite Italian restaurant. Delish. Every time I've eaten either one, I spend a good deal of time savoring each bite and trying to determine *exactly* what is in it and how I can replicate it at home. (Does anyone else do that?)

For years I have determined to come up with a butternut squash recipe that is at least similar to one of those two entrees.  I stumbled upon a recipe last week for Roasted Butternut and Sweet Potato Whole Wheat Lasagna and decided to try it.

It was amazing.

And if you try to tell me that you do not like squash, I.will.not.listen.  This was SO yummy and you must try it.

I made some changes to the recipe.  We didn't have whole wheat noodles, I used more mozzarella cheese, etc.  So the recipe below is how I made it, but it is adapted from this recipe from How Sweet It Is.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

12 cooked lasagna noodles

1/2 large roasted butternut squash (Slice it lengthwise, bake @ 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until it's soft when you poke a fork into it.)  I bake my squash face up on a cookie sheet, and brush squash with a little melted butter.)

2 medium sweet potatoes (Cut in half, lengthwise and stick these on the pan with the squash- they will likely be done before the squash, though- so watch them.)

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (Trader Joes has this)

3 T butter

1-2 shallots, thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

a bunch of fresh sage leaves, chopped

When the squash and sweet potatoes are cooked, scoop out the insides and puree or blend or mash somehow- whichever method you'd prefer.  (You can do this step earlier in the day or the night before, too.)

Saute shallots and garlic in the butter for a few minutes.  When cooled, add mascarpone cheese, sage and half of the parmesan.

Layer lasagna in a 9x13 pan.  First mashed squash/sweet potato mix, then noodles, then cheese.  Repeat until you run out of ingredients.  (When I got to the cheese layers, I spread the mascarpone blend and then sprinkled a bit of mozzarella and parm.  Make sure to save some to top it all off.)

Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes.

Eight: a happy birthday

Dear Isaac,

Early yesterday morning you bounced into our room and said, "I'm eight years old!"  Never have I seen anyone so happy about a birthday.  All day long you were positively wiggly with excitement over turning eight.  :)

You opened presents shortly after that trip to our room-- some LEGO mini figures, a model, a LEGO set, a game, a book, some treats chosen by your sisters~ and then you were off to play with it all.

You chose homemade doughnuts* for breakfast.  You had seen a picture on the cover of a magazine I had lying around and decided- months ago- that that's what you wanted for your birthday meal.  (Later, I baked your other request: chocolate cake with lime frosting.  ;))

You stood next to the back door so that we could mark your height, and you were so smiley about the fact that you are taller than Ella was at the same age. 

You are growing, my boy.  So often when I look at you now I am struck by how tall you are, and how my little boy just isn't so little anymore.

You still like building LEGO creations- and you're a really inventive builder, daddy says- but many days the LEGO bins stand untouched because you're on the couch with a book in hand.  Your favorite books are The Narnia series.  Daddy read those aloud a couple of years ago, but you read them on your own in just a few weeks.  You love to ride your bike, too.  It's one of your favorite things. You like to climb (trees! on top of the swingset!) and find bugs (not spiders) and explore.  You love the woods: there's so much to see and find and so many things to climb.  :)

You are silly and imaginative and are always ready with a "What if...?" question.  You smile often.  You laugh just as often.  You are a kind older brother.  Audra has learned to ask you if she needs help making something or finding something: you are always happy to drop what you're doing and help.  You are thoughtful and willing to play things the little girls might like to play, even if you're not very interested in it yourself.

You ask me- several times a day, always in the kitchen- "Mommy, what can I do to be your helper?"  You know that mealtimes can be a busy time for me- getting everything ready and on the table- and you are always there, waiting for me to tell you what you can do.  You offer to take groceries in for me all the time and you *always* take the biggest load- even when I try to talk you out of it.  ;)

You love Bible time- and especially the Old Testament stories.  You are truly captivated by what God can do and how big He is and how He chooses to work.  I love how much you love that.  As I prayed for you today, I asked God that with each new year, you would love Him ever more than you did the previous year.  That is my heart's desire.   You think eight is good?  I can't wait to see what God has for you in the years to come!

You are so loved, my sweetest budders.  You are truly a gift, and I am so thankful God made you!


*Doughnut recipe here.


One day last week I woke up with a really bad sinus headache.  So... we skipped school for the day.  I spent 20 minutes in the kitchen that morning making playdough and it provided the kids with a good hour and fifteen minutes of fun (and respite for mama). :)

Three batches of playdough

= happy kids.

If you haven't made playdough, it's super easy and fun!


1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water w/ food coloring of your choice
1 T oil
2 tsp cream of tarter

Combine all ingredients in a pan and stir.  Cook on med-low heat.  The mixture will form into a ball after about 3-5 min.  Cool and store in a sealed container or a ziploc bag.


I took the kids to the vegetable store today- at 5:00pm- to get some celery that I needed for the cornbread stuffing I was making for dinner.  Once there, I couldn't resist those happy orange pumpkins, so I told the kids they could each choose a small sugar pumpkin.  They were delighted.

Each pumpkin cost me a little more than a dollar and the kids were over the moon about them.  

Isaias, in awe: "I've never gotten to choose my own pumpkin before!"  In fact, he has.  He just doesn't remember.  And usually we have pumpkins growing in our garden, so we don't always buy them.  But not this year. 

Shortly after I took this picture, I handed out Sharpie markers and they drew faces (and scribbles) on their pumpkins. 

I look at this picture and I feel so, so blessed to be mother to these five.  I love them so much and I truly just delight in who they are and who they are becoming.  I see God's faithful hand leading me as their mama and I am so thankful for His provision and for the ways He answers prayers in my life and in theirs.

I think about how Isaias prayed tonight at the table: "God, I thank You that daddy and mommy know about Jesus so that they can teach me about Jesus" and his earlier comment about how he's glad we adopted him so that he didn't have to stay in the orphanage and so that he could have the joy of playing with Adelia and Audra and be trained and taught about Jesus. 

I think about how when Mark came home from work, the kids all shrieked and ran over to him to tell him about their pumpkins and that when he came in, Audra clung to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist.

I think about how Ella has posted a song sheet by the washer and dryer- so that when she does her laundry chore she can sing songs of praise.  I heard her today, joyfully singing as she worked.

I think of my hard-working husband who comes home each night to us.

I think about how we all remained at the table after dinner for family worship and then we prayed together and how much I love that.   

I think of all these little moments that string together to make our days and how each one is a gift from God, and I am so thankful.

{Thank you, Lord!}


"Oh, Marilla," Anne exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it? Look at these maple branches. Don't they give you a thrill-- several thrills? I'm going to decorate my room with them."

* * *

{Things I like in October}

-apples, especially honeycrisp
-clean, brisk air
-huge maple leaves
-crunchy leaves to step on while walking
-pumpkin-y candles
-chex mix
-living in a neighborhood with trees all around us
-the colors of the trees: reds, yellows, oranges, browns, and fading greens
-leaves falling into our yard
-the return of socks and slippers
-cozy hats

-blustery days
-butternut squash
-pumpkins on porches
-wearing these shoes again
-homemade bread (which I have yet to make, but I have every intention to do so, and soon.)
-pumpkin-y baked goodness (breads, cookies, scones, cakes)
-how pretty the grass looks with the colored leaves on it
-1000-piece puzzles

(#'s 1679- 1705, One Thousand Gifts)

What would make your list?

The Four Stages

I've decided there are four stages* of communicating with your spouse when you have children:

Stage 1: You talk often and freely, because your children are so young, they can't understand a thing you're saying anyway.

Stage 2: You talk a little less often, because now your children are in the chattering stage.  Sometimes you speak in code: you omit names and you wish your husband was better at reading your lips across the room, but it's hopeless: he cannot do such a thing.  (Every time you try, he looks at you like you're speaking Russian.)

Stage 3: You talk, yes- but every third word you spell.  So you have to be a good speller for this stage.  And you have to be a quick study to be able to decipher which word is being spelled.  Also, in this stage, you learn the trick of doing any serious talking while driving in the van: with the music turned up just enough so that your kids in the back can't hear what you're saying.

Stage 4: Talk to your husband?! What is that?  Because there are all these other little people talking or interrupting CONSTANTLY.  You can't even think, let alone have a conversation. 

We're in Stage 4.  What stage are you in?  (And do let me know if I've missed any stages you happen to be all too familiar with.)

Don't worry.  It's not as desperate as it sounds.  I'll post soon on how and what we're doing to survive this stage.  ;)

*So far.  I'm sure there are many glorious stages to come in the years ahead!

How God is Filling our Africa Jar

A few months ago I was talking to my kids about a book I was reading and we also talked about the famine in Africa right now.  My generous Ella (9) suggested we begin saving money in a jar for Africa. (You can read that post here if you missed it.)

Ella decorated the jar and we have been adding money ever since.  I've been excited to tell you how God has worked in our family to fill our little jar!  Right away two of our kids nearly emptied their piggy banks into the jar.  I worried a bit initially about how our Africa fund would grow.  (It's not like our kids get money on a regular basis.  They get some on their birthdays from great-grandparents and that's it- and birthdays were still months away at that point.)

I rarely have cash on hand and felt bad that I wasn't adding to our jar, too.  Then God reminded me of this: Every single time I go to the grocery store, I use my debit card.  And every time I do that, there's a prompt that asks if I want cash back.  So I started pressing "YES" and began adding more money to our jar.  (I will often hand that money to Ella to add to the jar-- she gets so much joy from doing so.)

Then there's Mark's story.  He agreed to write it out for you:  "For those of you who don't know, I am a mail carrier, walking from door to door.  Whenever I find coins or a dollar on the sidewalk or in the street, I pocket the money.  (And I usually leave it in my shorts pocket as a reward to our laundry washer, Ella.)  When we started our Africa jar, I decided to put any money I found on my route into the jar.  Recently, I was out on my route and saw a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk.  I was thrilled, because I never find so much; it's usually just change. I've found a $5 bill once or twice in over ten years of delivering the mail, but $20 -- unheard of.  I pocketed it and then set it on top of the fridge when I came home that night, thinking briefly about putting it in the jar, but selfishly not doing so.  I left it there for a week, every now and then wondering what I could treat myself to with this unexpected cash.  I mean, it was something extra, outside of our budget... was there a CD I'd been pining after or ...?  Then one night before going to bed, I saw the money on top of the fridge and God reminded me that I had committed to giving 'whatever I found' to the Africa jar.  Not only did He remind me of my commitment, but He also squelched my selfish resistance by saying, "Trust me on this.  I'll take care of your needs; so just put the money in the jar and watch what I do."  I promptly dropped the money in the jar.  The very next afternoon, I was back on my route and as I stepped from my truck to go into a business, I was shocked to see another $20 bill in the street!  I probably had a pretty silly grin on my face for the rest of the day, amused and amazed at how quickly and specifically God responded.  The first thing I did when I got home that night is to have Stacy drop that $20 into the jar."

[Stacy here again.]  Isn't that great?!  ;)  I love that story.  The kids said they're going to start praying that daddy will find hundred-dollar bills from here on out.  :)

We've decided as a family that we are going to give our jar money to Make Way Partners.  The president of Make Way Partners, Kimberly Smith, is the woman who authored the book Passport Through Darkness (linked to earlier in the post.  You can read about their ministry here if you are interested in learning more.)  Recently I read on Kimberly's blog that their annual orphan-food-purchase quote is a staggering half-million U.S. dollars. (Two years ago they paid about $90k. Last year the price was $150k). This year, the drought has made the food prices escalate.  Our contribution is a very tiny part of what they need, but we're praying that God will use it and multiply it and we are so grateful that we are able to give even that small part.

I want to add, here- before I finish this post- that I hesitated to even write this.  I don't want it to seem at all like I'm "tooting our own horn" by sharing about this.  And I am mindful of the verse in Matthew that talks about giving in secret.  I earnestly hope and pray that God is glorified through this.  My motivation for writing this here is twofold: 1) Maybe you will be encouraged to start a giving jar with your kids and 2) Perhaps someone reading this would be encouraged to give to Make Way Partners or another such organization(Or maybe you can just start praying with us that Mark will find a stash of cash on his route!  ;)) 

Thoughts on planning meals

I forgot how simple making dinner was each night if I just have a plan.  It's not like this is an entirely new concept to me.  I did it this way for years, but these past couple years it's been more of a struggle.  The girls were more demanding of my time during that dinner-making hour (and- let's face it- all the other hours, too!  ;)), so meal-planning become more sporadic.  I cooked, and we ate- but meals were thrown together, last-minute, and we were relying more-than-usual on others (hello Papa Murphy's, Trader Joes, and take-out Thai food!) to make our food for us.  ;)

Also, summertime is always a little more challenging for me to think up meals, so autumn is a good time to get reorganized.

Just writing it down and posting it where I can see it throughout the day is enough.  That posted plan serves as a reminder to me.  My children, too, will see it and say, "Oh!  We're having _________ for dinner tonight?" And I think, Oh yeah.  I should take that meat out right now while I'm thinking about it.

I'm three weeks into this new system and I'm thankful.  Thankful for the food God provides, thankful that I am able to cook for my family (and enjoy it so much), thankful that I can bless Mark by having a hot meal ready(ish) for him when he comes home from work.

Here's what my list looked like this week:

Monday | Tortellini -from Costco, we add pesto & parmesan cheese.  (I was gone, Mark did dinner.)
Tuesday | Chicken fried rice, sliced apples and almond butter, greek salad (peppers, sundried tomatoes, cucumbers, some greek yogurt, lemon juice, and feta cheese)
Wednesday | Butternut Squash & White Bean soup, cornbread
Thursday | Shipwreck Casserole
Friday | Italian Chicken Soup (Pioneer Woman), a side that I will come up with when inspiration hits
Saturday | Breakfast (my list says: waffles? sausage? omelettes? yogurt biscuits?)
Sunday | Pot roast with carrots and potatoes

My goal is to start posting either our meal plan or a recipe once a week.  I really enjoy seeing other peoples' meal plans or links to recipes, as it helps me get fresh ideas.

I hope you all have a great day!

Current read-alouds

Mark has been reading Little Britches to us in the evenings, and we're all *really* enjoying it. 

Here is a portion of what we read tonight:
But first: The background to this excerpt is that the narrator, Ralph, a boy of eight~ has lied to his mother.  When she finds out, she makes him stand with his face in the corner and wait-- missing supper-- until his father comes home.  His mother briefly fills his father in on the situation, and then this:
When he spoke, his voice was deep and dry, and I knew he must have been coughing a lot on the way home.  "Son, there is no question but what the thing you have done today deserves severe punishment.  You might have killed yourself or the horse, but much worse than that, you have injured your own character.  A man's character is like his house.  If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin.  If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn't do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin.  A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth."
I loved that illustration about the house, and I intend to use that in the future.

For the past few weeks I have been reading the.most.annoying.book.on.the.planet.  I know.  I thought this one took the cake.  But oh no.  This is far, far worse.  Surely you've heard of it:  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?  Oh my goodness gracious, it's no wonder I never read this as a child.  Do not ever read it.  Trust me.  It's just... odd.  All of it.  For some reason the kids want me to finish it, though I can barely stand to.  But I think we're now two chapters away from being done with it so I will.

In the meantime I've also begun reading this to them

...because it's my all-time favorite book and I used to want to be Anne in the worst way.  I wanted to be Anne Shirley even more than I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, and that's saying a lot.  (And- truly: who doesn't want a Matthew Cuthbert in their life?)  So ~*happy sigh*~ that is making up for the insufferable Lewis Carroll book.  (My apologies to anyone who adores that book.  I simply do not.)  

What are you reading these days?