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About Amanda Brown

If you are new to AmandaJaneBrown, I would love for you to subscribe for free updates! You can subscribe via Email or RSS Feed. I would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for stopping by!

Simple Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

SimpleSalmonCreamyDillSauce

SimpleSalmonCreamyDillSauce
If you are a salmon-lover like me, you will love this simple version topped with a delicious, creamy dill sauce! My husband is allergic to fish (not shellfish, thankfully!), so for most of our marriage, I’ve given up preparing fish at home. We were craving shrimp recently and stopped by a local seafood market, Indianola Fresh Market.  If you live in Oxford, it’s well-worth a visit! The salmon was so beautiful, we couldn’t pass it up!  I was a little pushed for cooking time that night, and stumbled upon post after post of Pioneer Woman’s instructions for perfect, embarrassingly-easy salmon.  Whip up a quick batch of dill sauce, and you have most of your dinner prepared!

Simple Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

Salmon Filets
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Lemon wedges for table

Dill Sauce:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 T. chopped fresh dill
1-2 t. prepared horseradish (I omitted)
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1/4 t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle each salmon filet with olive oil, coating entire filet.  Sprinkle both sides of filets with salt and pepper.  Arrange filets on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Place baking sheet in a COLD oven, then turn oven on to 400°.  Bake for exactly 25 minutes.  Remove perfect salmon from your oven!

To make dill sauce, mix all ingredients well and refrigerate before serving.

Serve each filet with dill sauce and a lemon wedge.  Garnish with fresh dill sprig, if desired.  Enjoy!

Printable Recipe
SimpleSalmonCreamyDillSauce

First Day of School…for Moms

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First Day of School '14
With the addition of social media to our world, we all now get the privilege of seeing all the adorable Back-to-School photos of friends near and far.  I particularly love all these photos, as they are truly mile markers in our lives as families, as kids, as parents. As a mama who has experienced years and years of “First Days of School,” I now know there are many stories behind the fresh tennis shoes, new backpacks, and front door smiles.

For some of us, it is pure, 100%, unadulterated relief that the kids are back at school.  I read an hysterical post on Facebook last week from friend who admitted singing “I Got One Less Problem Without You” as she dropped each child off.  Dying!  For some, it’s a start of a complete new season of life…sending the first or the last child to kindergarten or college.  Tears of relief and grief and joy.  For others, perhaps it is a returning to work after being at home for years or off for the summer.

If you are mom of school-aged kids, no matter their age, the first day marks the beginning of a new chapter, another year passed, another inch closer to launching them into the world.  And it’s so many emotions for a mom…exciting, terrifying, joyous, sad, lonely, yet connected in spirit to mamas everywhere.

For me this particular year, our “first day” today was good.  Just really good. And I rejoice, because past years have been so difficult for me. Today, I did not come home and “go to pieces,” as my mom calls it:), all three kids were ready on time (miracle), they all walked themselves in (out of necessity since David was out of town), and none of my kids were “brand new” to their school district, friends, and Oxford. Thank.You.Lord.  Nobody wants a repeat of moving to a new town and starting school 4 days later ever again like last August.  Not recommended to a worst enemy.

I know for some of you out there, though, the recent “First Day of School” was or is going to be really, really difficult.  I’ve been there.  And I promise it gets easier. Especially if you are sending your first to kindergarten…or your last to kindergarten. I can’t speak to college send-off, but I am reading posts from veteran mamas who assure us that we’ll survive that, too.  I have been praying this morning for all of us mamas…for God to reach down and rain down His grace for where we think we’ve not done enough, for tender mercy when it’s just plain hard, for comfort if we grieve them leaving, and renewed strength and energy if we’re singing Ariana Grand lyrics today.

Here’s to another “First Day of School” in the books!!

I’d love to hear what the “First Day of School” is like for you and yours.  Have a great week.

Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad 1

Greek Pasta Salad Main
I was sitting at the pool recently with my sweet friend, Anna Dabbs, and we agreed that deep into summer, it becomes harder and harder to want to cook, especially with the temps so hot!  The thought of heating up your kitchen when it’s sweltering outside…boo!  Anna mentioned a cold pasta salad that her family has loved for years, and I gave it a try the next week. If you love Greek flavors, this pasta salad is for you! Below is the base for the dressing, but you can make additions to suit your taste! Enjoy!

Greek Pasta Salad

16 oz pasta (colored rotini or your choice)
4-6 green onions, chopped fine
2 oz. jar chopped pimiento (I chop even smaller from jar)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
3 T. mayo
2 T. Cavenders Greek Seasoning
1 can petite diced tomatoes

Optional additions:  Shredded Rotisserie chicken, crumbled feta cheese, olives, etc.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients with pasta.  Add any additional ingredients to suit your taste. Wal-Mart carries my favorite Rotisserie Chicken-Traditional flavor.  I shredded roughly half the meat from one chicken.

Chill overnight or at least a few hours before serving to allow flavors to marry.

If you prefer a sweeter version of pasta salad, be sure to try this Summer Pasta Salad that is an all-time favorite from my sister.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a favorite cold pasta salad to share!  Happy last days of summer!

One Year in Oxford and Pine Cove Family Camp

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Hey friends!  I sure have missed being here regularly this past year!  Hope you all have enjoyed your summer…can you believe school supplies are on the feature aisles at Wal-Mart?  Where did the weeks go? Hopefully, you have found some time to let your soul rest with the slower pace. We just returned from our favorite vacation, Pine Cove Family Camp, which could not have come at a better time for our family.  This month marks one year since we uprooted our kids and moved to Mississippi.  Not the easiest year, so we were counting the days til the start of camp this summer!

If you are not familiar with “family camp,” it’s basically just what it sounds like! Summer camp for the whole family. But do not be fooled if your first thoughts are to click away because you hated camp as a child or wonder if there is AC! Pine Cove Family Camp is the ultimate vacation for moms. I am convinced the Lord, in His tender mercy towards mothers, created Pine Cove.  Servant leaders, aka counselors, are there loving on families, meeting needs, and fulfilling requests before you even know you have a need or request! They unload all your luggage, cut your kids’ meat at the table, hold them if they as much as make a peep, refuse to let you pour your own coffee, and demand that you get up and walk away from every meal without lifting a finger! They also spend countless hours with our children, loving on them, pouring into them, and being sweet examples of Christ to them. Priceless. If you’d like to read a past post about what else Pine Cove offers, click HERE. Not to mention, all three of our kids swear it’s better than Disney.  And I sorta don’t love Disney, so this is good news for me.

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Last 3 photos: Pine Cove Photographer

Ten summers ago, when we first pulled onto the property of Pine Cove Woods, I was a much younger wife and mother of only two very little people, tired but not overly worried about much other than nap schedules and disciplining kids who hadn’t started school yet. Both challenging, mind you, but life’s a bit more complex now, putting it mildly. This year, as we pulled onto the property at Pine Cove, I was excited to be there, as we have dear friends who come the same week every year, I knew my kids would be well cared for, and I would NOT think about, shop for, cook, or clean up 17 meals! But also this year as we pulled in, there was a secret place in my heart brimming with worry, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and fear.

Just a few short months ago, I found myself in a pretty low place. In typical Southern fashion, I had learned the art of hiding the hurt places, not asking for help, and just hanging on til whatever it was went away, got better, or more likely, got covered up with another fine layer of distraction.

Our move last August from Arkansas to Mississippi was extremely difficult on so many levels. Watching my children grieve when the move was still fresh…I’m talking all-out wailing a few times, making me seriously consider getting in my car and driving back to Arkansas at 10 pm on a Tuesday. Living in a bare rental house and moving twice in six months. Transitioning from a smaller Christian school to a huge public school setting…scary to say the least, but it’s been such a great experience. Sending my youngest baby to kindergarten after having a small person at home for 13 straight years…I was unprepared for the sudden, very real grief. Parenting a teenage girl from my heart that was running on fumes…not recommended. Visiting and searching for a church home…if you’ve done it, you know it is low on the fun list. Feeling disconnected from David as he struggled to understand my feelings…not much changes for husbands during a move. They just go to work, whereas moms are the primary cultivators of networks with neighbors, new friends, doctors offices, and schools, among a thousand other connections necessary for running a family!)  More than a few times this past fall, I came home to our impersonal, rented kitchen and wept.

Life for me this past year was a constant paradox…internal conflict hovered as I experienced all of the above mentioned scenarios, yet many days I felt filled up, energized, cared-for.  Go figure. Nevertheless, we were in the middle of several of “Life’s Most Stressful Events” list simultaneously.  As the year went on, so many contributing factors helped and to continue to help me get back to “myself.” Although there are a thousand little things, these are just a few of the biggies…a husband willing to enter into the hard stuff with me (he has the patience of Job and really deserves a medal), a wonderful counselor to help me unpack my junk (I’m convinced we all need therapy haha), exercise (which I loathe but it helps), a handful of friends to be real with, Oxonians who welcome newcomers with dear hospitality, embracing the intrinsic pride of our new community, knowing David is enjoying his work, and time away with my family this summer, namely Pine Cove.

PineCoveDiningHall

I so appreciate the authenticity of the families and staff at Pine Cove and the sweet spirit that abides there.  While Pine Cove itself is merely a location on a map, we have seen lives changed, family legacies restored or start brand new, and the world getting put on hold for a glorious week.  Pine Cove is not a magical week where God waves a wand and life is suddenly easy and ordered, but it is a week where we can safely share the stuff of life and hit the “reset button.”  We leave filled up and commissioned to go back home with hope, courage, and Truth. We like to say “the start of our spiritual fiscal year.” I’ll take that any day over Disney;)

As always, I’d love to visit with any of you who are interested in hearing more about Pine Cove!  Praying for us mamas as the start of school and the promise of busy, action-packed weeks awaits us.  May we not lose sight of what’s most important, even in the midst of homework, activities, dinner, baths, and bedtime.

I’d love to hear ideas on how YOU keep your faith, relationships, marriage, family time, and yourself a priority when life is hard or schedules are demanding!  Here’s to August…!!

Linking to: Weekend Bloggy Reading

Craigslist Dresser Makeover with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Craigslist Dresser 5

Craigslist Dresser Main
After moving recently, we are still in “settling in” mode…perhaps will be for some time…making furniture work in each room, making decisions about what to keep or give away or purchase, making time for the ever-dreaded task of hanging pictures.

For our master bedroom, I had been searching for a long dresser as an anchor for a tv above, and Craigslist did not disappoint!  I’ve found several pieces on Craigslist to redo, and it’s a fun challenge to find terrific deals!  (To date, this Craigslist Hutch Makeover remains my favorite redo!)

Thankfully, David tagged along on the ride to pick this puppy up.  We pulled into the driveway of what resembled a scene from Breaking Bad.  Or Cops…the Mississippi version.  Glaring reminder to always take a buddy on Craigslist adventures:).

It wasn’t until we got the dresser home that I realized how bad of shape it was actually in.  A bit disappointing, but I loved the lines of the piece and knew paint would bring it back to life in no time.  Although the photos do not do justice to the terribleness, trust me, it had been used and abused, and it showed.

See here below, she’s deceivingly pretty!  
Craigslist Dresser 3
But ohhhh no.  Just a few of her battle scars here.  Perhaps “Adam” was  a 4th grade crush…Craigslist Dresser 1
For the final look, I wanted fresh, simple, and clean.  After a few trials of mixing Annie Sloan’s French Linen and Old White, I landed with the combo of 3/4 French Linen and 1/4 Old White.  I highly recommend mixing as much as you think you’ll need for the whole project in an airtight container (tupperware or ziploc container). This way, you can seal the container during your project and come back to the paint without having to remix.  Also, another tip I read on some blog…place your wet paintbrush in a ziploc bag and refrigerate it.  It keeps beautifully, and you avoid washing brushes every time you take a break from your project.
Craigslist Dresser 5
The final finish shown is two good coats of the French Linen/Old White combo and two coats of clear Annie Sloan Soft Clear Wax.  For the hardware, I removed each piece for painting the drawers, but loved the finish the way it was and did not change it.  Oil-rubbed bronze spray paint or black spray paint (the kind for painting metal) are good options for refinishing hardware easily.  Just be sure to sand the hardware with steel wool before spray painting.

After the paint cured and the hardware was back in place, the insides of the drawers were begging for a fresh look.  The previous owners must have eaten meals in the open drawers. I found this adhesive drawer liner on Amazon Prime for about $12!

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The drawer liner makes these drawers pop when you open them up!  I love how they turned out.

Craigslist Dresser 2
Transformed beauty in our master bedroom!
Craigslist Dresser 5
Amazing what the simple act of paint will do to completely change a piece of furniture!  Now on to my next project…:)

Linking to:

Weekend Bloggy Reading 

Easy July 4th Centerpiece

Fourth of July Centerpiece

This past week, I was getting ready for two of my college friends to visit and wanted something easy, fresh, and patriotic for the kitchen table.  In just a few minutes and a few dollars, a festive, July 4th centerpiece is born!July4thCenterpiece2

These blue mason jars are some of my favorites that can be used all year long.  You can find them many places now…Michael’s, Amazon, and Target, to name a few.

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Browse through your local grocery florist department for fun color combinations.
July4thCenterpiece
For interest, group odd numbers of containers together.  If you have mini American flags, they would be a fun addition to this easy July 4th centerpiece!

Happy 4th to you and yours!

Easy Coleslaw

Coleslaw Recipe

Coleslaw Recipe
I don’t know about you, but the people at our house are glad it is summer!  For months now, the blog has taken a back seat due to a move, new schools, and three kids, and I am thrilled to be back at one of my favorite happy places today!

With summer in full swing, I’m sharing an Easy Coleslaw recipe!  I have never been a fan of coleslaw until I made it at home, and now it is a staple when we eat BBQ or cook out.  David and I tried and tweaked several versions, and this coleslaw recipe has risen to the top as the favorite.  Enjoy!

Easy Coleslaw (make a day ahead if possible)

1 pkg prepared Angel Hair Coleslaw
1 cup shredded carrot..about 2 whole carrots  **omit if using bag of regular coleslaw that contains carrots)
1 cup real mayo
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 t. celery seed
1/4 cup sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Using a food processor with shredder attachment, shred carrots.  In a large bowl, mix together coleslaw and carrots.

In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together mayo, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Pour dressing mixture over coleslaw and mix well.  Chill until ready to serve. If your coleslaw has too much extra liquid, drain a small amount with a strainer before serving.

Coleslaw Recipe 2

Coleslaw Recipe

 

Tay Morgan Easter Egg Giveaway

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I love Easter.  Everything about it.  The colors, the food, the traditions, the promise of new life!

One of our family’s favorite Easter traditions is collecting Tay Morgan Designs personalized wooden eggs.  You may recognize her trademark design as these adorable keepsakes have quickly become a Mississippi Easter tradition.  Tay is giving away one of her eggs here at the blog this week!  The winner can choose between these two designs, and Tay will personalize the egg and ship it straight to your home!

1) Snuggle Bunny and Bee or 2) Hearts with Bible Verse
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A few of our favorites…

Ballerina
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Pine Cove Family Camp egg!

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Tay’s eggs are so fun display in a fishbowl in the middle of your kitchen table or coffee table.  Our kids love to peek through to find their special eggs every year.

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This year I changed it up a bit and put a few in this wooden box and love the sweetness it brings to my kitchen hutch!

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So…I’d love to give away one of Tay’s eggs to you!  Entering to win is super simple!

Just one requirement to enter and you will receive two entries for it…

“Like” Tay Morgan Designs and Amanda Jane Brown on Facebook and simply leave me a comment here at the blog saying you did (or already do!).

For an extra TWO entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let me know you did.

Giveaway ends next Tuesday, April 8th, at noon.

Start your Tay Morgan Designs Easter egg tradition this Easter!  You can order your school logos, sports or other activities, favorite camp, or other design.  Visit Tay’s Facebook page to see her work!

Seasoned Chicken Wraps

SeasonedChickenWraps

SeasonedChickenWraps
Many years ago when I was a newlywed learning to cook, and Pampered Chef parties were all the rage, a friend shared these Seasoned Chicken Wraps with me, and we’ve been eating them ever since!  It was so long ago, I cannot remember who gave this to me, but I believe the original recipe was from Pampered Chef.  The following version is a bit different from the original, so you feel free to tweak the seasonings to your family’s taste as well!

Seasoned Chicken Wraps

Preheat oven to 375°.

1 pkg Crescent rolls (8 count)
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 box chicken-flavored Stove Top stuffing mix
3 T. melted butter, divided
Salt/Pepper to taste

First, boil the chicken breasts.  For quick meal prep, cook these ahead of time. To get tender, flavorful boiled chicken, bring a large pot of water with a stalk of celery and 1/2 an onion to a rolling boil.  Add chicken breasts and boil uncovered 12 minutes.  Turn heat off, cover, and allow to sit for one hour.  Or boil it plain using same instructions, just without celery and onion.

Shred cooked chicken.  In a mixer, combine chicken, softened cream cheese, 6-8 T. or more (fine crumbs) of Stove Top stuffing mix, 1 T. melted butter, and salt and pepper to taste.  If you feel it needs more flavor for your taste, add desired seasonings now.

Roll crescent dough out and separate into the 8 perforated triangles.  Spoon about 1/2 cup of chicken mixture onto each triangle.
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Roll each triangle starting from the long end.  Brush each wrap with remaining melted butter.  Then, sprinkle each wrap with more Stove Top mix, fine crumbs and some bigger, crunchy pieces.  Transfer wraps to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until crescent rolls are lightly browned.

Serve immediately and enjoy!
SeasonedChickenWraps
Printable Recipe

Linking to:  Weekend Bloggy Reading

Getting Back to Normal

HeMakesAllThingsNew

HeMakesAllThingsNew
Hey there!  It’s been quite a while…I’ve sure missed being here and look forward to being back!

2013 was all over the map for me, literally and figuratively.  Indescribable joy, then grief. Sure and confident and prayerful in big decisions, then unsure, scared, and frighteningly far from God. Marriage connected and clicking, then disconnected and discombobulated. Expectant and proud and loving as a mama, then hopeless and discouraged and harsh. Satisfied, at-peace, and ever-so-thankful to be back in Mississippi, then grieving, restless, and overwhelmed over leaving Arkansas, especially as I watched my oldest children weep before bed.  Connected and filled up in friendship, then lonely and longing for connection.  Deeply satisfied in my work through the blog, then feeling like a fraud because my house was gross, dinner had consisted of frozen waffles and pizza for untold days, and a spirit of discord loomed in our home.  The roller coaster of the mind.

But alas, the start of a new year.  I know, I know, it’s already March, but nevertheless, 2014 has been a fresh start in so many ways…the hope of settledness that my heart has longed for here in Oxford after leaving our life in Arkansas.   I love the start of a new year.  And whew, am I glad it is here.  After renting for many months with all our “things” in storage, we bought a home, and my heart rejoices having our bed, our dishes, Lainey’s kitchen and costumes, our swing set, books, McCarty pottery, our bikes, favorite blankets, winter clothes (that we didn’t pack!), and Annie Sloan painted furniture…all the things that make us “us.”

We’ve also had a pretty emotional transition to a new town, a new house, new schools, new friends, new church, new, new, new.  And “new” gets old.  In addition this year, parenting has been particularly hard for me.  Unforeseen challenges that we’ve faced that have sapped me of energy and joy, yet a new year brings the reminder that God has not cut me loose to do this thing on my own.  Eternally grateful for that promise.

One of the biggest holes in my heart over these last months is being away from the blog…creativity, cooking, and most of all, the community.  Yet…my family needed me to take the break, not to mention every supply that I used to create a blog post was in storage…craft supplies, cookware, dishes, everything.  And although it is always fun to find out another family’s favorite recipe is from the blog, I’ve learned over the last year that there are seasons when I have to pull back and give everything to my people at home.  

Rest assured that easing back to the blog does not mean I’ve “arrived” as a parent of a middle-schooler (hardly), or that my house is decorated or even clean, or that there aren’t days I still struggle.  I simply want to get back to doing something I really love.  And God, in his gracious love for me, has granted me a *few* successes with my 7th grader, I’m tired of waffles and pizza, and I simply miss blogging as a hobby and part-time work.  My people here at home love the blog, they love the food that appears when I post recipes, and they love random holiday decorations:).  It has become their normal…so I am ready to get back…to normal.

So thanks for sticking with me.  And if you have a favorite recipe or seasonal decor idea you’d love for me to share here, please contact me!  I’m in the process of collecting fresh ideas and content, and readers and friends like you are who have the best input anyway!

Love,
Amanda
HeMakesAllThingsNew