Our Favorite Lasagna

Cooking is not my favorite thing. I often find myself procrastinating starting dinner so it takes me much longer than it should to make a meal. I get tired of the same meals, yet I have little time to scour the internet or cookbooks.

Lasagna is a meal I rarely make because in my mind it takes way too long to prepare and far too many ingredients. However, several nights ago I found myself craving lasagna and decided to simply go for it without a recipe, combining what I’ve used in various recipes we’ve enjoyed.

Pioneer Woman and Joanna Gaines make amazing lasagna recipes, which I’ve used for the last several years. But when I made lasagna recently my family requested that I never make any other lasagna than this one.

When I realized how much they enjoyed it, I quickly wrote down a recipe because I knew I’d never remember what I did.

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1 TBS Italian seasoning

1 TBS garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp pepper

4-5 garlic cloves minced

3 cans Italian diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

1 block cream cheese

8 oz cottage cheese

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 eggs

Fresh mozzerella cut into small pieces

lasagna noodles

Brown meat, add spices, garlic, tomatoes.

In a large bowl mix cream cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, and 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese.

In a cast iron dutch oven (I’m convinced this makes the best lasagna) layer meat, noodles, cheese mixture, fresh mozzarella cheese. Repeat for 3 layers. Top with 2 cups shredded cheese.

Cover and bake 350 for 1 and 1/2 hours. Uncover 10-15 minutes until browned. Let sit to firm up at least 30 minutes.

Even better as leftovers. Cast iron is the only way to cook. And did you know you don’t need to boil lasagna noodles? Simply throw those babies in and they will cook up perfectly!! I wish I had known this the last 20 years I’ve made lasagna. You don’t even need to buy “no bake” noodles.

A Safe Smart Watch For Kids

We’ve been a happy Gabb Wireless family for a couple of years now. Two of our three sons had/has a Gabb phone. When our middle son was nearly 16, we allowed him to transition to an iPhone. Honestly, I miss the Gabb for him as much as I knew I would.

Andrew lost his phone a few months ago. He has to use his own money for a phone and decided he could live without one. What we found is that we missed knowing where he was, that he arrived somewhere safely, or simply being able to send him quick messages.

So we bought him a Gabb watch. And I am in love with this watch. I’ve never liked smart watches because they were too connected. The Gabb watch is only what they need and nothing more.

The ease of use is perfect for a kid on the move. He can voice record his text to us. The sound and clarity of the voice calls is exceptional. And the best part, it stays on his wrist.

Through the month of October, you can buy any Gabb devices for 30% off. Use promo code RENEEROBINSON.

It would be a great Christmas gift and you can go ahead and beat the rush and check that baby off the list!

Family Movies in the Teen Years

One of our favorite family activities are movie nights. When we bought our home in Nebraska, the room that sealed the deal was the theater room.

When they were younger, they’d watch anything we put on. We did lots of christian movies, the really cheesy ones even, and they loved them. However, once they are teens, those movies don’t fly. It’s so hard to find movies the entire family can enjoy equally.

Recently, we’ve watched 5 movies as a family that we all really liked. Definitely these suggestions are not intended if you have young children. Our youngest is a month away from 13, and all these movies are PG-13. Also there may be some language, so be aware of that. I can’t tolerate much language, but it’s almost impossible to find movies with zero.

Each of the movies I’m sharing were suggested by our teens that already watched them with friends.

5 Movies to watch with teens on family movie night

  • Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio

“A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster.”

This was a really great movie. My family followed it better than I did. It’s super confusing. I can’t follow the Bourne movies, and this had that feel to me with lots of complication and fast paced action. I don’t typically like Sci-Fi but enjoyed this one.

  • Knives Out

“A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.”

Definitely kept you trying to solve. No humor, but not scary. Just a classic mystery, which I totally appreciate. Also very little language. Just a few words.

  • Murder Mystery with Jennifer Anniston and Adam Sandler

“New York cop and his wife go on a European vacation to reinvigorate the spark in their marriage, but end up getting framed and on the run for the death of an elderly billionaire.”

What an underrated movie. A big cast, a fun plot, some definite laughs. And obviously a murder to solve.

  • A Quiet Place with John Krazinski and Emily Blunt

“In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.”

I never watch scary movies. And anything in the horror genre I’m out on. While this is classified as horror, it is no more horror than Gremlins, but without the cheesy humor. It’s incredibly suspenseful and a few jump scares. No bad language. Actually not much language of any kind as they are mostly silent.

I can’t give anything away in this movie, but if you follow me on IG or FB, you saw my spoiler alert. I made a very strong Jesus correlation in this movie that brought me to tears.

  • A Quiet Place 2

“Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.”

We enjoyed part 1 so much, we watched part 2 the following night. Again very suspenseful and not realistic, but well done and easy to enjoy with our teens.

Go make some popcorn, grab some candy, and cozy up with your teens! Happy watching!

 

When your teenager sees the power of prayer

Backstory: Zachary is doing high school through Liberty University Online Academy. To say it’s an adjustment is an understatement. High school math online is crazy hard. He’s been struggling through it, several weeks behind, secured a tutor for one week to get unstuck. And then I basically gave him permission to fail the test and quiz so he could move to the next modules, which looking ahead I realized were concepts he’d easily understand.

Why did I give him permission to fail? Because he was trying as hard as he possibly could. I don’t want performance based kids. I want my kids to work as if unto the Lord, yet realizing sometimes the results aren’t always what we want. Did he give his best attitude and effort? That’s all that matters.

“Zachary, just take the test and fail it. You’ve worked with the tutor. We can’t lose anymore time.”

He seemed relieved as he picked up his computer to take the test.

“Wait! Let’s pray first.”

I sat next to him on the sofa and prayed, “Lord, thank you that you are always with us. You care about what we care about. Please help Zachary to have understanding he doesn’t have on his own. Give him answers only You can give him. Give him clarity of thought and a calm heart. And Jesus, please give Zachary a C on this test.”

Zachary laughed, “Mom, a C is impossible. The practice test and the quiz were Fs.” Side note, I high-fived him for a 48 quiz grade because I fully expected a 10 on that module.

He took the test on the family room sofa while I worked at the kitchen table. 20 minutes later I heard his laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“Mom, I got a 70.”

Exactly what we’d prayed for, a C.

I squealed and blurted, “Shoot!!! We should’ve asked for an A!”

I knew it was God’s direct answer to our prayer.

Fast forward a week, Zachary began making 100s on his lessons. He totally understood the next concepts as I knew he would. Then he reached a lesson prior to the quiz that stumped him. Again his lesson grade was an F. The concept was a stinker to understand. But we don’t have much time to spare. So I encouraged him to do the best he could and take the quiz.

This time when we prayed we asked God for an A. 20 minutes later I see him emerge from test taking. With a smirk on his face, he said, “Mom, I got a 91.”

“Shut up!!!!!!” Yes, what a godly response. But, I can’t even contain myself when I see my kids experiencing the power of prayer.

Zachary did the work to the best of his ability and he asked God for what only God could give. The results. And it exceeded our expectations.

I want my kids to see the reality of Christ in their everyday life. He’s not some faraway God. He is right here. He cares about every detail of our lives.

While the Lord gives me these kids in this home, I will do everything I can to counteract culture in their lives. God is real. God is love. God is the God of the impossible. They need to see their deep need for Him. Life is better when surrendered to Him.

And God answers our prayers!! Not always how we ask or expect, but always in ways that are what we need over what we want. Thank you, Jesus!


If you want visual reminders for your kids of God’s great love and mercy over their lives, then give them God’s Word to rest their heads on. Scripture pillowcases are a tool in your parenting toolbox to get more of God’s Word into their minds and hearts. It’s one way to counteract the lies of the world.

Giving the Holy Spirit space to work in my child’s life

I took a walk and prayed, “God, fill me with your Spirit. I’m losing strength. Use me as an instrument of your grace in my children’s lives.” I love that phrase Paul Tripp uses, instrument of grace.
Parenting is refining. Homeschool is next level refining. Nothing I’ve ever done has exposed my need for Jesus more.
Andrew and I had to wrestle through some hard moments. I’ve learned something over the years. Love + consistent discipline is necessary. And so is space. So I took a walk, which made room for the Holy Spirit to speak and work in his heart. And mine.
When I came home, we started fresh with our day at a time we’d normally be done, we were just starting. He offered the sweetest apology that no lecture from me could have produced. Only God could do that.
As I told him I forgave him, he exhaled a sigh of relief and said thank you. “I’ll always forgive you. And I see God working in your life growing you into a young man more everyday.” He smiled, and we carried on with “school”. But the real lessons are in the heart.
When we see parenting challenges from the place of opportunity, everything changes. I have the opportunity to point my child to his need for Jesus. To confront sin and turn to God for love, mercy, and forgiveness. When we stop seeing the hard moments as interruptions or impacts on our selfish desires, everything changes.

One of the most influential parenting books I’ve ever read is by Paul David Tripp. I’ve read it three times. It quite literally offered me the greatest perspective shift I’ve ever experienced in my parenting journey. The most eye opening statement he made was that God never tasked the job of heart change to parents. I’d been white knuckling parenting, fearful I was screwing up or that my kids would wander away. This book was a deep sigh of relief. My one job is to love Jesus wholeheartedly, pray consistently, and point my kids back to the cross over and over and over again.

I stopped being so concerned about right now outcomes and focused on making the gospel real in their lives. It’s a must read in my opinion for all parents at every single stage.

Click image to go to Amazon.


My scripture pillowcases were born out of desire to get more of God’s Word into the hearts of my children. I wanted to really teach them to turn to His Word for every single thing. In a world that bombards them with lies and fears, they need to be grounded in the truth that the God of the universe holds them steady. I want His Word instructing them night and day.

A truly safe phone for kids – 24 hour deal

Once you open the door to smartphones, it’s hard to close it. Once the door is opened, you begin the process of continually learning no amount of restrictions and monitoring are effective in truly keeping our kids safe.

As I’ve shared before, we’ve tried dumbed down smartphones, flip phones, iPods, and have found none to be truly safe. When I found the Gabb phone, I knew I’d found a parent’s dream to a phone they can put into their kid’s hands with no worries.

For 24 hours only, you can get this phone for $49 using my promo code RENEEROBINSON49

Purchase Gabb phone here

(This link will begin working Monday November 23rd at midnight MT)

These phones are expected to sell out fast. Monday November 23 12:00 am-11:59pm MT.

My 15 year old told us a story recently about someone asking what kind of phone he had. His response made us laugh. “I have a ‘my mom loves me phone’.”

The Gabb phone utilizes phone, text, calculator, calendar, music, gps, and camera. No internet, no apps, no games, no social media. No danger. No worries. Truly a peace of mind phone at a perfect price point. I’m not big on putting a $1,000 phone in my kids’ hands anyway.

There’s a new movement of parents waking up to the effects and harms of smartphones and screens on our children. In an effort to do our part in keeping kids safe and saving their innocence and childhood, the Gabb phone is a step in the right direction.

 

 

 

A check in on the year’s goals

At the end of 2019 I made two decisions. First, I would be purposeful in key areas in 2020. Second, I would read 100 books in 2020. This week I decided to check in on these goals to see how I’ve fared as we round the corner towards the final 2 months of 2020. Many of us singing praises to put this year to bed.

I printed off from Ann Voskamp’s website this document titled 2020: This is the Year I Purpose To:

Living intentionally doesn’t happen by accident.

We must decide what we want and where we plan to go. I also believe it’s good to go back and assess. Did we move in the direction we hoped? Did we reach our goals?

Noting progress is important.

I checked in on my Purpose to declarations. A few worth noting:

EMBRACE:

First on my list was to choose something to embrace this year. I chose my curly hair. My hair likes to rebel, and I fight it with blow drying and straightening. This is the year I packed up my styling tools and went all in. This one act added hours to my life each week. I also realized how freeing it was to spend less time in front of the mirror. My hair is healthier. I have only dried my hair about 5 times this year. Miracle.

ENGAGE:

in nighttime conversations with my boys even when I’m tired. Success. I’ve always seen how my boys open up at night, especially one on one. I’ll miss this one day. At the same time, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep one day.

LEARN:

to meal plan better and love the kitchen duties. Ok, this one is a biggie for me. My family loves to eat. I DON’T love to cook. I dislike meal planning and the act of cooking. I don’t love grocery shopping. It’s the one area, if money weren’t a factor, I would hire a personal grocery shopper, meal planner, and chef. My sister sent me a free Hello Fresh box. With that one gift, my kitchen life changed drastically.

Here’s what I love. It’s whole, real ingredients. The meals come with everything you need. Those random ingredients I never have on hand are not a problem anymore. The portion sizes are right on (they even have meal kits for 2!). Seems I don’t have picky eaters anymore. I’m not even kidding. Every meal is devoured. One of my sons recently told me that he loves when I cook a Hello Fresh Meal because he knows it’s going to be amazing. We try recipes I’d never try off Pinterest. One too many experiences of Pinterest fails has me a bit hesitant to spend so much time and money on a recipe that likely won’t live up to it’s Pin.

Ok, now for my favorite. The recipe cards come with step by step instructions. Not like your typical recipe. I mean it tells you literally the order to do each step in, which I have found is priceless for me. These meals are gourmet meals I can have on the table in 30 minutes flat. Even my most simple meals, I’m slow in the kitchen. I’ve discovered I’m not very efficient when it comes to cooking. Often a simple meal might take me an hour. At the end of this post, I’ll link a code to receive $70 off your first Hello Fresh Box. Also I have 4 free boxes to give away.

A discovered theme

I guess a theme for me has been reclaiming time this year. Reclaiming time from my hair, from cooking, and giving it to areas that matter most to me.

Now your turn. Have you noticed a theme in your 2020 progress? Did you set goals, resolutions, or purposes? Is there an area you want to reclaim in your life?

It’s never too early to start thinking about what area we want to focus on. I’m a bit addicted to growth. I love seeing God’s work as we allow Him to stretch and mold us along the paths He’s planned for us.


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I have 4 free Hello Fresh boxes to give away. First come first served! The first 4 people to respond with your email address will receive a free box.

I also have promo codes for $70 off! Click here to redeem. (You will need to copy the link and paste in a new browser window. The link is not working properly at the time of this post.)  Hello Fresh $70 off