Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1 John 2:1-6

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation** for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

Propitiation - the act of appeasing God, a Spirit, or a person; atonement, especially that of Jesus Christ

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Virtuous Veggies and Legumes Part II


Sprouts are a terrific superfood! They are packed with nutrition and add a nice crunch to sandwiches, salads, and stir fries. I like to keep mung bean sprouts around for eating in the winter when we get fewer fresh vegetables to eat. I bought mine in bulk from Whole Foods - you don't need many - just a couple of tablespoons will make over a cup of sprouts. Sprouting your own sprouts will save you a LOT of money over buying them from the store, and they will taste better than the soggy old ones in the produce department. Plus, it's fun and easy to do - kids will especially enjoy watching the beans transform in just a matter of days. They might even be fascinated enough by the process to eat them! ;)

Nice tasting seeds for sprouting:
  • alfalfa
  • radish
  • mung bean
  • broccoli
I'm sure you can find instructions for sprouting all over the internet, but I'll share my sprouting technique here. You can buy a fancy sprouting contraption, but it's really unnecessary. I just use a washed out spaghetti sauce jar, a square cut off of an old pair of pantyhose, and a rubber band. I add about 2 tbs. of seeds for sprouting to the jar. Cover the jar with the hose to make a sort of sieve, securing it with a rubber band. Run fresh cold water into the jar, and rinse the beans well. Strain out the water. You will need to rinse the seeds in fresh cold water several times a day. I leave the jar by the sink and tend to do it every time I find myself working in the kitchen, which is a LOT! Basically, you just don't want them to dry out. After they are sprouty enough for you, it's best to eat them right away, but they will keep in the fridge for about a week.

You can see how my sprouts transformed here:

Day 2 -

Sprouts Day 2

Day 3 -

Sprouts Day 3

Day 4 -

Sprouts Day 4

Day 5 - Ready to eat!

Sprouts Day 5

My favorite thing to make with sprouts is Egg Foo Young. I got this recipe out of a vegetarian cookbook years ago, but I have tweaked the recipe many times. I wanted to be able to make it out of ingredients I had on hand, so that is the version I will share with you. This recipe is a delicious and simple meal for lunch or dinner. It is also a terrific use for leftover rice!

- 3 eggs
- salt & pepper
- generous pinch five spice powder (opt.)**
- 3 Tbs. oil
- 1 small onion, diced (original calls for scallions, but I don't have them very often)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 small green pepper, seeded & chopped (I keep some diced green pepper in the freezer.)
- 1 c. fresh bean sprouts
- 3 c. cooked white rice
- 3 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1 Tbs. sesame oil (look in Asian section of your grocery store - this will really add good flavor!)

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large frying pan or wok. Scramble the eggs with the salt, pepper, and five spice powder. Set aside in a bowl or plate. Heat remaining oil and stir fry the onion, garlic, pepper & bean sprouts. Stir in the rice and heat thoroughly. Add soy sauce & sesame oil & mix well. Return egg to pan & mix well. Serve immediately.

Serves 4
(Errrr... actually, Preacher man, and the two little and I polished off the entire thing for dinner. We WERE extra hungry though... Preacher Man and I had three bowls each!)

**Five Spice Powder - this is the only recipe I have where I use this spice. I DO really like it in there though. I went to the Whole Foods bulk spice section and bought about a teaspoon in an itty-bitty bag. I think I paid about $.40 for it! Anyway, it has lasted me a very, very long time since I only use a pinch.

If you are extra hungry like we were and you have extra ham lying around, a bit chopped up is nice in this also.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Virtuous Veggies and Legumes

Feasts are a delight, but I'm feeling a deep need for cleansing, simple foods, so that is what I will be (mostly) fixing this week. (Homemade pizza is still on the menu. :) I've been soaking mung bean sprouts for a couple of days in anticipation of this and will throw them in a dish of egg foo young tomorrow evening. Mmmmm...

Items to purchase this week when you go to the grocery store:
1) Black Eyed Peas
2) Your favorite greens (kale, mustard, collards, swiss chard etc...)
3) Cornbread fixings (if you don't already have them)

It's tradition to serve black eyed peas on New Year's Day, which will be Saturday. Growing up, my parents told us that in the coming year, we would get a dollar for every black eyed pea we ate on New Years Day. Of course, this was just an old folk tale, but it did encourage us to eat up!

I make my black eyed peas just like I describe here: Cooking with Dried Beans. We like to season them with cajun seasoning, Frank's Red Hot sauce, and eat them with greens and cornbread. 1 pound of dried beans will feed about 6 people.

My favorite greens are mustard greens while my husband prefers kale. We both enjoy them cooked in this way: Trim two large handfuls of greens and chiffonade them. In a large skillet, heat a couple of Tbs. olive oil or coconut oil and saute a diced onion. Add a clove of minced garlic. Cook the onion and garlic until it is golden brown. Add the greens and toss them around in the pan a bit. They will wilt a lot. Add about 1/2 cup of broth, some salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. This will make about 6 servings.

Finally, to make some good southern style corn bread, I give you my favorite recipe:
- 1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 c. flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c. butter or bacon grease
Preheat oven to 450*. Melt the butter or bacon grease in a 10-12" cast iron skillet. Mix all of the other ingredients, then add in the melted fat and mix again. Pour into the skillet and bake for about 20 minutes.

I make this for people with food allergies fairly frequently, so here are the variations that have been really successful:
Dairy free: If you just can't stomach the bacon grease, use Fleishmann's unsalted margarine. Instead of the buttermilk, use plain rice milk with a splash of lemon juice OR if your dairy intolerant person can have it, goats milk (I most often use powdered) works very well.
Gluten free: Instead of the all purpose flour, use Bob's Red Mill gluten free mix. It works best to increase the fat to 1/2 c. to make it less crumbly.
Southwestern Style: Add a cup or two of grated cheddar and a small can of green chilies.

I love leftover cornbread slathered in butter for breakfast. My grandfather used to eat cornbread crumbled up in a glass of buttermilk. It's good eating!

Don't forget to start soaking your beans on Thursday!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"My Hope Is Built"


Isn't this cross stitch gorgeous? This was a very special gift from a loved one this year and I will always treasure it. It especially means a lot because the maker knew that it was my favorite hymn as a child and that is why she chose it.

Looking at the words of this hymn as an adult, I see deeper meaning and significance. We sing such bold statements of faith. Do we mean each and every word? I can say with confidence, "Lord, I believe! You are my Rock and my Redeemer!"

My Hope Is Built
by Edward Mote, 1834

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.


On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ms. Clara's Butter Rolls


This recipe was passed on to me and it passes my test for rolls... puffy, yeasty, lightly fluffy inside and crispy outside... just like Grandma used to make! Mmmmm... This recipe is a WINNER! Just don't make the mistake that I always make and forget that they need 3 HOURS to rise + baking time! Plan ahead for these!

Ms. Clara's Butter
(they are called this because they are soaked in so much butter!)
2 c. warm water
2 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
7-7 1/2 cups of flour
2 or 3 sticks of butter

Combine water, yeast, sugar, salt, and oil. Mix until smooth. Add the egg and mix. Add 3 cups of flour and mix well. Work in another 4 cups or so of flour, stopping just when it is no longer sticky. (I do this in my KitchenAid with the dough hook, then I knead it a bit by hand.)


Ms. Clara's technique: (using 3 sticks of butter) Divide into 3 pieces - roll out into a rectangle (a little smaller than a cookie sheet). Cover each rectangle with 1/3 c. softened butter and roll up like a jelly roll. Cut in 1 inch pieces and arrange in two 13x9 pans. Pour 1 stick of melted butter over each pan of rolls. Cover and let rise at least 3 hours. Make sure that they are not moved around much or they will fall. Bake at 400*. Start checking after 20 minutes of baking every few minutes and take out when nicely browned.

Church Mouse's technique: (using 2 sticks of butter) Divide dough in half. Pull off pieces about the size of a golf ball and roll gently. Set each ball into a 13x9 pan. Pour 1 stick of melted butter over each pan of rolls. Cover and let rise at least 3 hours. Make sure that they are not moved around much or they will fall. I try to bake them at 400*, but I often have them in the oven with another dish, so I have baked them at any temperature between 350* and 400*. I just check them from time to time and take them out when they are nice and brown.

Chritmas Dinner Countdown


I wrote this in the afternoon: In just a few hours, we'll be enjoying a delicious dinner around the table with loved ones. What a BLESSING!

I typed out this one single sentence and then I got MAJOR interruptions by both littles waking up, and it was craziness all afternoon, cooking up a storm and tending to needs until the family arrived and it was time to sit down at the table! It may be too late for my menu/countdown to be of much use to any of you, but I am going to record what I did anyway as I know it will be a major benefit to me next year when I'm trying to remember what I did and how I did it! And this way, you can enjoy a picture of the feast!

We actually enjoyed two feasts this year with different sides of the family on different days. I failed to make a time line for Feast A, and dinner way MAJORLY delayed and things did not come out hot at the same time. I decided that winging it just wasn't going to fly with my distracted brain and for Feast B, I'd better do a bit more planning! Live and learn, right?

Feast A Menu:
- Cranberry Chicken with Brown Rice (I really need to post this recipe - it's a family favorite!)
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, and Asparagus
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Ms. Clara's Butter Rolls
- Mini Cheesecakes

Feast B Menu/Game Plan:
- Ham glazed with honey and orange juice
- Ms. Clara's Butter Rolls
- Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries
- Corn Pudding
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts
- Southern Style Green Beans
- Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie - Yummy, but I think I put in a bit too much cinnamon. I used a pat in the pan recipe which was so nice and easy. I'll have to share that recipe here later too.

The night before: Make pumpkin pie, boil sweet potatoes, thaw green beans

4 1/2 hours before: Put the ham in the oven - cover with foil, bake at 325*, plan to cook for 20 minutes per pound. Make the rolls, set them out to rise.

In the meantime: Prepare the brussel sprouts, the sweet potato cranberry dish, and the corn pudding.

2 hours before: Start cooking the green beans on the stove - saute one small diced onion in a Tbs. of bacon grease. After the onions are brown, add the green beans and some water.

1 1/2 hours before: Mix up some honey, orange juice, dash of cloves and some cinnamon. Baste the ham and remove the foil. Continue to cook the ham for another 30 minutes.

1 hour before: Remove the ham from the oven. Baste with the pan juices a few times while it is sitting out on the counter. Raise the oven temperature to 400*. Put the corn pudding in the oven (it will cook faster at this higher temp - watch it!), the rolls, and the brussel sprouts.

1/2 hour before: Lower oven temperature to 350*. Take out the rolls and put in the sweet potato cranberry dish to warm up. Enlist a volunteer to slice the ham.

Set the table, and pour the drinks! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why Blog?

Why blog? Why do I invest my precious time in this way?

I've been gently questioned about this, especially lately, and I think it is because I started Church Mouse back in October and admittedly have invested many hours into writing and sharing here. Even Preacher Man asked me at one point in a very kind way, "Just what are you trying to accomplish?"

I've done a lot of personal reflection on this because I want to be a good steward of my time and resources. My best answer is that I am better for it.

It has taken some time and effort to figure out a good balance in regards to my computer time. I have two good times of the day that I can spend on the computer - nap time/quiet time and evenings when the Littles go to bed. Unless I am looking up information I need at the moment or taking care of important business, I try not to spend time on the computer while the Littles are awake. I use my time with them to play, read, nurse, feed, diaper, do chores with them, train, etc... When nap time/bed time come, I am sooooooo ready for a little decompression time. I think most mamas can identify with that feeling.

Some mamas zone out with TV. Some get out for play dates and chat with other moms there. Some go out for "retail therapy". Some join mom's clubs. There are many, many ways that mamas get a little time for an escape from the 24/7 job that is being a mama. Blogging is MY outlet. We don't have TV, "retail therapy" is stressful for me, I'm an introvert and thrive more on alone time to recharge, and I don't leave my Littles. Ever. They are always with my husband or I. It's just what we prefer. Blogging has been very, very good for me to connect with other people, to organize my thoughts, and to provide some organization to my spiritual needs without having to ever leave my home or family.

Honestly, writing a Sunday Hymn Post, Meditations for Mondays, Wednesdays with the Word, and Thankful Thursdays means that I am writing about spiritual things four days a week, and it has been so very, very good for my soul. I spend a good amount of time with The Word for each of those posts, and frankly, I really, really needed that. I am doing so much better all around as a result. I also just really love sharing with other people and love to help another person whenever I can. Blogging fulfills these desires for me. I have been a more refreshed, balanced, joyful mama since I started writing here in October, and all the while, I have been there for my family. It may not be for everyone, but it works for me, and I am better for it.

Thankful Thursdays - Answered Prayers

I am so thankful that prayers made yesterday were answered so favorably for the tiny baby man and his surgery. Mrs. DH posted here in The Common Room if you want to read the update yourself. They still need prayers and I plan to continue them, but I'm just so thankful and joyful that the surgery went well.

Ephesians 3:14-21 - For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)

THANK YOU GOD for answering our fervent prayers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Offering

I would like to post something profound, something witty, something useful, or something with spiritual insight... I confess, I'm highly distracted today. We have family visiting, yes, but the main source of my distraction is that dear friends in The Common Room are dealing with their tiny baby/grandbaby having surgery today at less than a month old. The details of the wee baby man are all on The Common Room blog, but today I have committed to "pray without ceasing" for the little one, the doctors, and all of the family, and I just can't think of much else.

Please say an extra prayer for this very sweet little one and his family today. This family knows God, and God knows them. They need extra love and prayers today.

Psalm 32:6-7 - Therefore let all the faithful pray to You while You may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Matthew 19:13-14 - Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 21:21-22 -
And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith."

1 Timothy 2:8 - I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

1 Peter 3:12 - For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.

Revelation 8:3-4 - And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Have Thine Own Way, Lord"

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

by Adelaide Pollard

I read this interesting information today on "Cyber Hymnal":

Miss Pollard died on De­cem­ber 20, 1934, in New York City. As seven­ty-two year old Miss Adelaide was en­route from her New York Ci­ty home to a New Jer­sey town dur­ing the Christ­mas Hol­i­days in 1934 where she was to hold some re­li­gious meet­ings, she be­came cri­ti­cal­ly ill in the New York Ci­ty rail­road sta­tion. She was rushed to a near­by Y.W.C.A. home where she died short­ly there­af­ter, death be­ing at­trib­ut­ed to a rup­tured ap­pen­dix.

Pol­lard be­lieved the Lord want­ed her in Af­ri­ca as a mis­sion­a­ry, but she was un­a­ble to raise funds to go. In an un­cer­tain state of mind, she at­tend­ed a pray­er meet­ing, where she heard an el­der­ly wo­man pray, “It’s all right, Lord. It does­n’t mat­ter what You bring in­to our lives, just have Your own way with us.” At home that night, much en­cour­aged, she wrote this hymn:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

"Have Thine own way, Lord..." This is a very hard lesson. I needed this today. I hope spending some time meditating upon these words will be an encouragement to you also.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 - The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Isaiah 64:8 - But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Half Price Groceries

If you followed my personal blog before the advent of Church Mouse, this is a re-post from two years ago, just slightly edited.

What I'm about to share is a result of my research on how to save money on groceries that has been over eight years in the making! It seems like I've tried it all, and for the past two years have been using a system that is really working for us. Using this system, I finally came the the point where I was really making a big difference in our grocery bill.

What has NOT worked - menu planning. I tried all kinds of variations and used this method for many years. I planned an entire month of meals at a time, I planned two weeks at a time, one week, 12 meals to last two weeks, etc... This never saved us any money. BUT, it did help me learn how to become a pretty good cook, and to get to the point where I am today. Honestly, I don't think I was skilled enough at cooking to use my current grocery shopping/cooking method when we first got married.

So, how do I do it? I got many of my current ideas from the "Tightwad Gazette" book series. You will probably find it at your local library. No use spending money to save money, right? :) It isn't difficult to find it used, though, and if you are committed, it is a very worthwhile investment. I HIGHLY recommend these books for really creative ways to save money. I made a price list that I keep updating based upon the system recommended by The Frugal Zealot herself. It is amazing what a difference it makes when you really know what things cost! Based on my price list, I only buy things when they are at their lowest prices, and then I really stock up. I usually buy a dozen of something or if there is a limit, up to the limited number. If it is a really good deal, I'll hit the store a second time that week to get more up to the limited number. If something isn't at the lowest price I can find it, then I do without until it goes on sale. (Before, I was buying probably MOST of my groceries full price, because I was basing my shopping list off of menus I made up, so this makes a huge difference for us!)

Now I live in an area where groceries cost a bit more than most places in the U.S., but I would say that the average price per pound for many items is about $2. I can regularly find ground beef and most cuts of pork and beef, butter, various fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, even things like mayo, a loaf of bread, etc... That is my baseline price. (Yours may be different - hopefully LOWER!) Anything above $2 a pound is generally too much, so I don't buy it (though there are a couple of exceptions, such as nuts, which I still buy but use sparingly). This has helped me realize what is NOT a bargain. This is especially true of deli meats and cheeses. We just don't buy those anymore (or only for company).

A good bargain is something around $1 a pound. I look for fresh veggies on sale around $1 a pound. Chicken is regularly around that price. Anything less than $1 a pound and something hovering around $.50 is a REAL bargain item that I try to use heavily in my cooking - potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicken leg quarters, carrots, bananas, pork shoulders, cabbage, onions, dried beans, rice, etc...

So I have not done too well keeping up with my hard copy price book since Little Littles was born, but I try to keep it updated as I hunt for bargains, and I have a good ballpark price for most items memorized.

I also do a modest amount of couponing using Coupon Mom. It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but I do pretty well with coupons, saving enough money on items we would have purchased anyway to cover the newspaper subscription + some. I always look for items that are better than 50% off and almost every week there are a couple of things that are 90% off or free! Using coupons, I regularly get really good bargains on frozen veggies, condiments, toothpaste and toothbrushes, other personal items, canned goods and paper goods.

(I know many are into the CVS deals, but our one CVS is thirty minutes away, and I discovered you only do well if you get out first thing on Sunday. I really can't do that since Sunday is our busiest day of the week and I usually don't even look at the paper until Monday, but I still do amazingly well just using our local grocery store.)

I find many deals are seasonal. For example, during the Super Bowl is a great time to stock up on snack foods and condiments and you can often find these items free. Holidays are also key times for good deals, the prime example being the free Thanksgiving turkey and the Easter ham. I also find free matzo coupons during Jewish holidays, free ketchup and mustard around Memorial Day/4th of July, etc...

So, after I bring home my amazing deals and put away the crazy amounts of the items I'm stocking up in my cabinets and basement shelves, THEN I figure out what we are going to eat. This is why I think I needed to build up years of skill to do this - I look around at what we have and what needs to be eaten and I plan our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) around that. I try to think a couple of meals in advance because some meals require extra prep (like soaking beans), but often, I'm kind of working "on the fly". I rarely waste any food - all leftovers are either consumed as is or are made over into something else, and we enjoy tasty, simple meals. This requires having some recipes memorized, or at least the framework for constructing dishes like soups, casseroles, and other dishes, as well as being skilled in the art of ingredient substitution, but it sure saves us a lot of money!

So there you go! I know with the economy, many are looking for ways to save money. This is what I've learned so far. I'd be happy to hear other ideas for grocery savings from all of you - I'm always learning after all! I'm just excited that we are finally spending so much less on groceries while still eating well. It's a good thing! :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Craft: EASY Ornaments Using Recycled Cards


Isn't this gorgeous? I made half a dozen of these in an afternoon with Big Littles meddling with stuff and Little Littles pulling up on my legs and playing by my feet! I has so much fun making them too!

The pictures are fairly self-explanatory, but I thought I'd pass on a few tips I figured out... the slick card material doesn't work as well as matte paper as it slides around pretty easily when done. If you are having trouble fanning them out, gently squeeze the top and bottom brads. You can store these flat! For this reason alone, I'm seriously considering converting from all of our old glass ornaments!! :)

To make a single ornament, you will need: a Christmas card to cut into strips, scissors, two brads, some ribbon for hanging, a hole punch

If you want to make it a project for your kids, you can draw lines on the back of the paper to help them know where to cut. I think it could work for ages 6+.

Now I've been saving pretty cards for years but it seems that the tradition of sending out holiday cards is going the way of cassette tapes and pagers. :( If you are short on suitable cards, you can use plain paper, or get some of that pretty scrapbooking paper. I also think they would make a very nice gift for mailing, as they can be kept flat and you can give the recipient instructions on how to fan them out into an ornament. Don't you think grandma would just love to get some homemade ornaments from her grandkids?

Here are the pictures of the process, step by step:






Thursday, December 16, 2010

Food for Thought

I have a feeling many of my Thankful Thursday posts may have to do with food/grocery shopping, as it is the day I usually go do my shopping. :)

Today I am most thankful for the abundance and variety of food that we have, both in our cupboards, and at the store. We have so much more than what we need for our "daily bread" and basic nutrition. We can buy and enjoy food from almost any country in the world! Sweets and treats are abundant! I customarily eat foods that are in season, but If I'm in the mood for fresh tomatoes and raspberries in December, I can buy them! If I want really fancy food, I can buy it! Incidentally, I saw lump crab meat ON SALE for $15 per pound!!! ACK! But if I wanted some, I could buy it! I usually have many choices for each item, too: generic, store brand, several name brands, organic, low sodium, low fat, low sugar, etc... Our ancestors did not grow up with such luxury. Sometimes I wonder if we are so spoiled with our abundance so that we no longer appreciate the bounty of our blessings. Most of us probably pray before each meal to thank God for our food, but has it become just a matter of habit, or are we TRULY thankful? I try not to take any of these blessings for granted.

Some spiritual food for thought:
Matthew 6:11 - Give us this day our daily bread

Matthew 6:25-26 -
"Therefore I tell you,do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

vs. 31-33 - Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

And let us pray that we do not become ungrateful like the children of Israel:

Numbers 11:4-6 - Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, "Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."

Deuteronomy 8:15-17 -
Who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sweet Potatoes Three Ways


'Tis the season for sweet potatoes and yams! Right before Thanksgiving, I found sweet potatoes at the grocery store for as low as $.20 per pound! Throughout the year, they run about $1 per pound regular price. I snatched up 15 pounds! You will see similar amazing deals on sweet potatoes around Christmas and Easter, though $.40 per pound is more typical. Get them while you can!

So what to do with all of those sweet potatoes? Here are my three favorite recipes:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
(shown in the picture above)
This is my favorite method because the roasting brings out the vegetable's natural sweetness, eliminating the need for any extra sugars.
Preheat your oven to 450*. Using a vegetable peeler, scrape off the skins and rinse them. Cut into french fry shapes. (We like ours the size of Wendy's fries... McDonald's fries are a little too small. ;) Toss in some extra virgin olive oil, spread on a cookie sheet, sprinkle on some salt and any seasoning you like (cajun is surprisingly good!) and roast until they are nicely browned and soft all the way through. The amount of time this takes depends upon how small you cut your potatoes, but you can expect about 40 minutes to an hour. I always use a silpat on my cookie sheet, so if you don't have one, you might consider using parchment paper to prevent sticking.


Sweet Potato Casserole
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • mini marshmallows
Scrub the sweet potatoes and place them in an oven safe covered dish, adding a little water to the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350* for one hour, or until the potatoes are very soft. Allow the potatoes to cool. Leaving the water in the dish, remove the skins from the potatoes and mash. Add the other ingredients and mash together thoroughly. Spread evenly in the baking dish and sprinkle a layer of marshmallows on top. Return to the oven and bake until golden on top.

Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries
This is an elegant dish that is nice for your holiday table. It can be made up ahead of time and heated just before serving. It is a real favorite around here!
  • 5-7 sweet potatoes
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 c. maple syrup
  • 1 bag of cranberries
Scrub your sweet potatoes and boil them in their jackets until they are fully cooked, but still a bit firm. Peel off the skins and slice them into rounds around 1 cm thick. (Think the width of your pointer finger.) Spread the rounds in a buttered 13x9 pan. While the potatoes are cooking, boil the butter, maple syrup and cranberries on the stove until the cranberries start to pop. Pour the cranberry mixture over the sweet potatoes. Warm in the oven if needed.

I also made a similar concoction by mixing up mashed sweet potato with some leftover cranberry sauce. It was yummy too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meditations: Live By Faith

A good students knows that when the teacher repeats something, it will probably appear on an upcoming test. When God says anything, we ought to sit up and take notice, but when God repeats something, or says something a third time, we'd better pay attention!

Hebrews 10:35-39 - Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Romans 1:16-17 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

Habakkuk 2:4 - Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

I'm sure we all want to be counted among the righteous. Psalm 11:7 - "For the LORD is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face." To be righteous, we have to live by faith. A quick look through the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of the righteous and faithful:
  • vs. 4 - By faith Abel...
  • vs. 5 - By faith Enoch...
  • vs. 7 - By faith Noah...
  • vs. 8 - By faith Abraham...
  • vs. 11 - By faith Sarah...
And the list continues as the Hebrew writer lists more great heroes of faith from the Old Testament.

But just how do we LIVE by faith? Living by faith is more than just a vague set of beliefs or moral code that we attempt to follow. Living by faith is an active pursuit. The author of Hebrews further describes our efforts in 12:1-2 and 12-15:
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...

Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord; looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.
We are given a wonderful visual aid here to assist us in our understanding. Even those as nonathletic as I am can mentally picture this race... this is not a sprint, it is a marathon, maybe even a cross-country style marathon where we come across muck and mire, hurdles and obstacles. But if we keep our eyes ahead, we can see Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith". He ran the very same race, and after paying the ultimate sacrifice, he sits crowned in glory at the right hand of God, cheering us on as we race to the finish. There is no one winner in this race, rather everyone who finishes will receive the reward. But how do we get there?

Matthew 7:13-14 - "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Go the way of Wisdom: Proverbs 8:20 - "I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice."

And just how do we live by faith?
  • vs. 1 - lay aside every weight and sin
  • vs. 1 - run with endurance
  • vs. 2 - keep your eyes on Jesus
  • vs. 12 - strengthen yourself, don't drag along behind! (re: "Roll the Gospel Chariot")
  • vs. 13 - make straight paths for your feet
  • vs. 14 - pursue peace and holiness
  • vs. 15 - look carefully - avoid bitterness and trouble, don't let yourself be defiled
See how much of this list uses active verbs - run, strengthen, make straight, pursue... We cannot be casual, remember this is a race!

Hebrews 10:35-39 - Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hymn: Wondrous Love

Wondrous Love

Words: At­trib­ut­ed to Al­ex­an­der Means

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Potluck Saturday: Southern Iced Tea


Every good GRITS girl (girls raised in the South), ought to know how to make a gooooooood pitcher of sweet tea! I don't often claim my southern roots, but when it comes to my cooking, it is hard to deny them. The story handed down through the generations is that my great-grandmother made her iced tea so sweet that the wooden spoon would stand up in the pitcher!

Did you know that sweet tea is a supersaturated substance?

You won't ever see the awful instant tea served in my home. ;) A sweet tea afficionado like myself knows which restaurants serve instant (don't even bother ordering it) and which serve fresh brewed! I like to bring a gallon jug of sweet tea to potlucks because 1) it's a frugal addition to the drink table 2) no one around here makes it just right.

There are probably thousands of ways to make sweet tea. I know girls who make it in a coffee pot, or who make a concentrate, but this is the way I like it, and this is the way my mama taught me to do it, so that means it's the right way: :)
  • Only Lipton black tea will do (cheap brands leave more dregs in your tea - yuck!)
  • The correct sugar/water ratio is 1 c. per gallon
  • The correct tea bag ratio is 6 per gallon
  • 20 minutes is the proper steeping time
The process:
  1. I get out my big stock pot and pour in about 1 gallon of fresh cold water. Filtered is best.
  2. Boil the water on the stove. Putting a lid on the pot will help it boil faster and will save energy.
  3. Once boiling, turn off the heat and if you have an electric stove, move the pot to a cold burner. Steep your 6 tea bags for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the tea bags with tongs and gently squeeze out the tea. (Compost your tea bags!)
  5. Measure 1 c. of sugar and pour into the tea. (Now I admit, I use less for daily drinking. I always use 1 c. for company though!) Gently stir with your tongs until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  6. Allow the tea to cool, then pour into your pitcher for refrigeration.
  7. Sip over ice and enjoy!
See how easy that is? Don't waste your money on gallon jugs from the store - just make it yourself!

I really am very interested in the methods other people use for making sweet tea. I'd love to hear your tips, techniques and methods. Even though this is the "right way", I'm still open to new ways of doing things, so please share!

Paradigms In Frugality


Several posts ago, I explored the idea of paradigms in our spiritual lives. I described the concept of a paradigm shift: describing a profound change in our frame of reference. Now I'd like to examine how to break out of our current habits in an effort to create new, more frugal habits.

So many of the things that we do are just habits. Some habits are very good. Most of us were probably trained as children to "close the door behind you when you come in the house." There are many reasons why this is a good habit.
  1. Save energy - don't let the heat out in the winter or the heat in during summer
  2. Keeps critters out and babies in. :)
In almost every case, developing a good habit takes work and purposeful thought. Good habits don't just happen. Bad habits, do. It's the law of entropy at work in the world around us. If we just let life carry us, we slip into bad habits like wastefulness and overspending. It is not an easy thing to do, but in order to really change our lives and create more frugal habits, we have to have a shift in our paradigms.

I have found that the best way to create new, purposeful, frugal habits is to consciously think about what I am doing and why. Here's an example: Instead of always turning the dial on my clothes dryer to the 70 minute timed cycle that it takes to fully dry a load of clothes, I tried turning it to 60 minutes. About 95% of the clothes were fully dry at the end of that cycle. A few things were slightly damp, but hardly enough to even bother hanging them out. Then, I tried drying a load of clothes in 50 minutes. Amazingly, about 90% of the clothes were fully dry! The items that were not dry were my thicker towels that easily dried out hanging on the towel bar in the bathroom from whence they came, and clothes with thicker waistbands or layers. In my laundry room, I keep a large drying rack and a stash of hangers hanging on a pipe near the ceiling. I simply hung up the couple of items that needed extra drying time and got them the next day. Now, I always set the clothes dryer on 50 minutes. This paradigm shift, this VERY simple change in my habits saves 20 minutes of electricity in our dryer. Our electricity is rather expensive compared to our other utilities, and it's like buying 3 loads of drying time and getting one free!

That was an example of money saved and only a little bit of time spent, here is an example of TIME and SANITY saved, which are extremely valuable in our busy lives. All of this for being willing to learn from others:

At the Grocery Store - Preacher Man recently accompanied the Littles and I to the grocery store. He was driving the car and was getting ready to pull in and park in the nearest space by the door. I stopped him and asked if he could park in a different area. He asked why and I explained that while the spot was relatively close to the door, it was a long, long walk to retrieve the cart we would need, and with two littles and many grocery bags in tow, it would make life difficult. He saw the advantage immediately and parked nearest the cart return, which is what all of us moms do, right? :) After we finished checking out, Preacher Man started steering a fully loaded cart the OPPOSITE way of what I was used to going. I followed him rather confused, not sure what he was meaning by that. Once we got to the door, I realized that he was leaving out the pharmacy door, which was directly across from our parking spot. All this time, I had been going through the front door, nearly doubling the time it took me to get back to my car. This is not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but when the weather is yucky, little ones are needing to get home, or the parking lot is full of snow as it will be in coming months, it makes a significant difference! I started laughing and explaining to him what a genius he was for seeing something I had been missing for all of these months.

Observing how others do things and even asking them to explain what they do and why is another excellent way to learn how to break out of our current paradigms. Other people see things differently, and sometimes better. Being open to new ideas and living life as an observer and a constant learner will be a great advantage.

Sometimes I wonder if the things that I am blogging about seem too elementary, especially to some of you seasoned homemakers out there. Then it dawns upon me that most of these ideas were new to me at one time, and I was happy to learn them when I did. Sharing and learning from others is the only way I have gotten to the place where I am today, and I hope you, my readers, will be eager to share your ideas and methods with me, as I post tips and ideas that I have picked up along the way.

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Stained Glass" decorations


This is one of those crafts where a picture is worth a thousand words, so here I give you a picture tutorial! It is so simple to do, a three year old will enjoy the lesson in fine motor, while an older child will enjoy learning about blending colors. Older children can do the prep work, but with preschool children, you will need to prepare the craft yourself.

You will need:
- tissue paper in many colors cut up into squares. (You do save and recycle tissue paper, right? Here is a great use for it!)
- construction paper
- scissors
- clear contact paper
- markers (if you wish to write a Bible verse or message on it)


If you do not have a stash already, cut up some tissue paper into squares. The easiest way to do this is to cut long strips of folded tissue paper, and then snip off the squares. You can store these in a flat packed ziploc, but it is easier to have them in a large bowl while working on the project.


Draw the shape you desire on a piece of construction paper. Cut out the inside. Leave plenty of border around the shape to help stabilize the picture. Now would be the time to write any sort of verse or message on the front.


Cut out a piece of contact paper the same size as your construction paper. Peel off the back and lay flat with the sticky side up. Carefully lay your cut out design with the message side down on the sticky part of the contact paper. If you are doing this in advance, you can re-stick the paper part you peeled off back on the sticky area to keep it clean.

If you turn it over, it will look like this:

Ready to decorate?


Lay your project on the table with the sticky side up. Start pressing tissue paper squares down flat onto the sticky area. Be sure to cover every little corner. Overlapping pieces is fine... even encouraged! The colors will blend together in such a pretty way.


That's it! Now you can hang it in a sunny window, and enjoy it until you are ready to make a new one. We make these for all seasons, and they make nice crafts to send in a card for a shut-in. They also make a good "Coat of Many Colors" if you are talking about the story of Joseph. Other simple shape ideas: hearts, flowers, an umbrella (make the handle from a separate piece of construction paper), a butterfly... possibilities are endless.

Happy crafting!

Linking up with the Four Moms - Quick and Easy Holiday Crafts

Thankful Thursdays

Today I'm thankful for magnets! Magnets are such useful things! I really love my magnetic pin cushion as it has saved many a lost pin that is later found by a foot. I love the magnets that hold up the artwork on the fridge. Today, I am especially thankful for the magnetic key holder we stuck underneath the car, the spare key kept there, and for my wonderful Father for insisting upon such a thing when I was young in the pre-cell phone days.

While loading my groceries at the store, in the parking lot in the below freezing WINDY weather with the littles, I put my purse inside the trunk with the groceries. I never do that. I don't know why I did it today. I just wasn't thinking. I also wasn't thinking when I slammed the trunk shut. Oh, but I very quickly started thinking when I realized what I had done! I still don't have a cell phone, and we are a one family car, so I was in a bit of a pickle. Poor Preacher Man would have had to ride his bike in the freezing weather to bail me out with a spare key were it not for my handy magnetized key stashed underneath the car. I admit, this is not the first time I have been seen crawling under my car in a skirt to find the spare key!

So today, I'm thankful for magnets. :) It's the little things, you know?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meditations: Stubbornness

For more than two decades of my life I was a stubborn person, and a bit proud to be one. You see I grew up in a family with a long history of obstinacy. When I was about 10 years old or so, it became evident to my Father that I had inherited much of his personality - hot temper, stubbornness and all! He talked to me about learning to control my temper and I took this very seriously. I worked on learning to deal with anger in the proper way for years and years, until now it is hardly a problem for me anymore, and if I told you I had a temper, you would never believe it.

But as I said, there was always a bit of pride in the stubbornness. You see, it can be a used for good. Stubbornness had gotten me through some tough times and kept me rock-solid in the faith. But, it also caused problems in my life, and when I married Preacher Man, stubbornness got in the way of my being the kind of Godly wife that I need to be. So, years ago, I resolved to do something about it. Just the way I learned to control my anger when I was 10 years old, I also learned to be peaceable, submissive, and meek. Admittedly, it was much, much more difficult to change my habits at that point, as they had become more ingrained. After several years, I still find myself fighting this battle on occasion.

The thing that convicted me that I needed to change was when I looked in the Bible for examples of people being stubborn. God doesn’t use that word. He uses words like, “stiff-necked”, “hard-hearted”, “rebellion”, and “self-will”. Those are very ugly terms, and God uses them to describe the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites when they refused to obey him, and the Jews just before they stoned Stephen. That’s pretty humbling. Stubbornness is nothing to be proud of.

II Chronicles 30:8 – “Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.” King Hezekiah spoke those words to the children of Israel.

Stubbornness is not a Godly trait, and it is not an attractive feminine trait either. After I asked God, I asked my husband to forgive me for being so stubborn, and I told him of my effort to change. He was shocked, but surprisingly happy and pleased. He said, “You would be so beautiful… not that you aren’t now, but you would be so much more beautiful to me!” Whether you are married or not, you are in submission to somebody. You are either in submission to your parents, or to your husband. If you are a woman who is no longer under her parent’s roof, yet not married, then you are in submission to God. God wants us to have “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. It is precious to Him! (I Peter 3:4) We must be obedient, which is yielding, willing and EAGER to accomplish the desires of God, our parents, or our husband while abstaining from the things that displease them. Do you eagerly obey? Or do you grudgingly obey?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23

I seriously doubt that I am the only one with this challenge in my life. Crucify that old stubborn person, and become a gentle, peaceful woman with self-control!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hymn: Precious Lord, Take My Hand

This one brings tears to my eyes almost every time - such a powerfully written song. May your Lord's day be blessed and may you be a blessing to others in return.

Precious Lord Take My Hand

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone,
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall:
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near,
And the day is past and gone,
At the river I stand,
Guide my feet, hold my hand:
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

Thomas A. Dorsey

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Better Baby Mittens


How to upcycle baby mittens that don't fall off!!!

If my babies are like your babies, they really don't like to keep mittens on their hands! We got some that were attached by a piece of yarn that you could string through their coat sleeves, and that kept us from LOSING the mittens, but it didn't keep the baby from pulling them off the very instant we got them on his hands and running around with dangling mittens! So I brainstormed and came up with this idea, and we've been testing it for a few weeks now. I'm happy to say that it works brilliantly! We put the extra long mittens over a shirt, and the coat goes over the top of that. This layering system keeps the little mitties in place and even our precocious little one hasn't figured out how to get them off yet!!


Chose your baby mittens and find a coordinating pair of old adult size socks that you don't mind cutting up. This pair had several holes in the heal and toe.


Cut the sock straight across at the ankle.


With your sock WRONG side out, and your mitten RIGHT side out, slip the mitten inside the sock and make the edges nice and even.


Sew the sock and mitten together on your sewing machine - first go around with a straight stitch, then use a zig-zag stitch over the edges.


Turn right side out, and you are done! Now do the other one! Nice and simple, and your baby will have nice toasty fingers when playing in the snow!

(If you're like me, and you are really, really frugal, you can save the holey sock for dusting!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lifting Holy Hands

Ever had an experience like this?

Life is going along just fine. Feeling content, feeling satisfied, feeling like I can look to the future and smile... Out of the blue, an event comes along that shakes us to the very core. It's like a tornado suddenly descended and whirls us around like a shake in a blender, and then sets us down again. Only instead of being set down where we once were, we are in a new and unfamiliar place, a place where we never imagined we would be. Everything has changed. "Looks like we aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto" is about all you can say if you are even able to speak or put together coherent thoughts. You may be so shaken that you can only cry out to God and count upon the Holy Spirit to intercede. (Romans 8:26) You look across the chasm in front of you and wonder how you can even take one step forward.

Church Mouse is not presently in this situation, but I have been there before, and I have dear ones who are facing such a test of faith. It is easy to feel completely alone as we look upon our plight and contemplate our future and our course of action. It is easy to feel utterly immobilized. Once we get our bearings though, we have to start taking steps. Tiny ones are ok... just steps... steps towards God. Did you see God there? Perhaps you were blinded by your tears. Look again. He is there! He is standing on the other side of the chasm reaching out with open arms. Do you hear Jesus there whispering to you, "I understand. I have walked this road before you. You can do it too!" Did you feel the Holy Spirit there, lifting you up, supporting you, keeping you from sinking to your knees? The Spirit is there too, bearing you up with each and every step. Did you look behind you? There is a HOST of people there too! They are your brothers and sisters in Christ and they are eager to bear your burdens (Galatians 6:2). Just like Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands while Israel battled against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-13), you have friends and loved ones there holding up your hands.

I find tremendous encouragement in Romans 8, but the passage is rather long, so I will give some excerpts here:
14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I know this post is already long, but I cannot help but also consider this beautiful song:

Each Step I Take by W. Marcer

Onward and upward as we journey on to higher ground... He ever leads us on!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gifts for the Neighbors

For the holidays, we like to take baked gifts to our neighbors. Does anyone else notice how rare home baked treats are anymore? These recipes both freeze well, and we tell our neighbors that in case they are overwhelmed with treats at the time. These are the things we have made that are most appreciated:

Cherry Eggnog Bread
-3/4 c. maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
-2 1/4 c. flour
-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
-3/4 tsp. nutmeg
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1 c. sugar
-3/4 c. butter, softened
-3 eggs
-1 c. eggnog

-1/2 c. powdered sugar
-3-4 tsp. eggnog
-1/4 c. toasted, sliced almonds**

Chop cherries and dry as best you can on paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and butter, beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add 1/3 of the dry ingred. and mix, then add 1/2 the eggnog and mix. Add another 1/3 dry, then the rest of the eggnog, finally adding the remaining dry ingredients. Gently fold in the chopped cherries and pour the batter into a greased pan. ***Bake at 325* for 1 hour and 15 min. or so until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, loosen the sides, and turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

GLAZE: Mix the powdered sugar and eggnog until smooth. Drizzle about half onto the completely cooled loaf. Sprinkle evenly with the toasted almonds. Drizzle the remaining glaze over the almonds.

*This is a wonderful gift bread! It is beautiful and festive and tastes delicious! To make in advance, freeze the loaf before adding the glaze for up to a month.

**To toast the almonds, put them in a skillet and toast the dry over medium heat, stirring frequently until they turn golden brown. Watch them carefully, once the start to brown, they turn pretty quickly, so be careful not to burn them! Turn them onto a plate and cool them completely before using. (To hurry this up, you can stick them in the freezer for a few minutes.)

***Cooking times and temperatures are given for baking in a stoneware loaf pan. For metal and glass loaf pans, you may need to turn up the heat to 350* and cook for less time. Watch it carefully. For a bake sale or for gifts I like to use mini loaf pans - you'll have to just watch carefully and guess on the baking time though because I can't remember how long I ended up baking them.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Really works best if you use a heavy duty stand mixer. This is a very stiff dough! The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. We also enjoy the almond biscotti recipe.
Makes 4 dozen
2 1/4 c. flour, plus more for dusting (I use part whole wheat)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
12 oz. (about 2 c.) semi-sweet chocolate chunks chopped to pea size (mini chocolate chips work great!)
1 1/2 c. (8 oz.) hazelnuts, chopped to pea size
4 eggs
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350*. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly grease, and set aside. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add 1 c. of the chocolate chunks, and all of the hazelnuts. In an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the four eggs until the mixture holds a ribbon-like trail on the surface for a few seconds when you raise the whisk. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, then the remaining chips, and beat until just combined.


Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface. Work in extra flour until the dough is tacky, but holds together. Divide into three equal pieces, and shape into an 18" long log. Transfer the logs to your prepared baking sheet, and press the top down lightly to flatten slightly. Brush some egg white over the logs and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until logs are just firm to the touch, 20-24 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 20 min.


Place logs on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut thick slices on the diagonal. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the slices on the rack. Bake until biscotti are firm to the touch and completely dry, 10-12 min. Remove pan from oven; let biscotti cool completely on the rack. Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temp. for up to a week (if they last that long!) and they also freeze well.


This post is a part of the Four Moms Cookie Exchange - check this link for more recipes!

Also linking up with the 2012 Four Moms Food for Gift-Giving link-up.  Didn't try them the first time around?  Pin this post so you don't forget about it!

Cookie Exchange

Sugar Cookies

Best Sugar Cookies EVER!
These are so thinly crisp and delicious! My favorite cookie recipe for rolling out and using cookie cutters. The orange zest is the secret ingredient that makes them so perfect!

- 2 sticks butter at room temp.
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 lg. egg (room temp.)
- 1 tbs. vanilla
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 c. flour
- 2 tbs. finely grated orange zest

Directions: Cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla & salt and mix well. Add flower in two batches mixing well. Add orange zest and knead it in with your hands. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours (and up to a week).

Preheat oven to 350*. Roll out the dough to about 1/8" thick. (If you need to use a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking, it is o.k.) Cut out shapes and place on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Gather together the scraps and reroll & cut, until you've used all of the dough. Decorate the cookies with sprinkles if you wish. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes until golden around the edges and firm to the touch. Let them cool completely and store in sealed containers for up to 5 days.

Number Of Servings: about 4 dozen cookies


Variation: Hawaiian Snowballs

These will melt in your mouth! One of Preacher Man's friends said he would eat these for every meal of the day if he could – that’s how good they are! Hint: use a nut grinder to chop both the macadamia nuts and the pineapple.


- 2 c. salted, roasted macadamia nuts, finely chopped

- 1 1/3 c. finely chopped dried pineapple

- ½ c. confectioner’s sugar for dusting

- sugar cookie dough from the recipe above

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350*. On a clean work surface, toss nuts with dried fruit. Sprinkle over the dough and knead until just blended. Form into 1” balls, place on cookie sheet. Bake until barely golden – about 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. When slightly cool, roll the cookies in confectioner’s sugar in a small ziploc bag and return to cooling rack until they are completely cool.

Number of Servings: about 4 dozen cookies

This post is a part of the Four Moms Cookie Exchange - check this link for more recipes!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Recipes

What to do with the leftovers... that is the question.

We honestly don't have much in the way of leftovers this year. Some turkey and some stuffing. That's about it! Here are two recipes that you can use to remake some of your leftovers if they are still lurking around in your fridge.

First - the carb-overload recipe: (This was our lunch today.)
Turkey Gravy
Inspired by one of my favorite school cafeteria meals! ;)

How to make it - It's very simple really... just chop up lots of turkey into little bits and mix it in the gravy. Remember, you can never have too much gravy! To serve, put a scoop of mashed potatoes on one side of a bowl, a scoop of stuffing on the other, and ladle the gravy on top. It's like a KFC bowl, only lots better! I freeze this for a quick meal later - one ziploc with the gravy/turkey and one with the stuffing, rubber band the two together so they don't get separated in the freezer. I usually fix fresh mashed potatoes, and some sort of green vegetable with it. At school, they also made hamburger gravy, which was hamburger meat in a beef gravy served over mashed potatoes. I didn't like that one at all, but I think roast beef would be absolutely delicious!


Second - a meal to help you feel virtuous again: (This was our dinner.)
Salmon Patties
I served them with roasted broccoli and roasted sweet potato fries. Both of the littles devoured these, so I'm thinking this one will be appearing on our table much more often in the future! This is also a very frugal meal - less than $5 to feed a family of 5. We stretched the salmon patty recipe into two meals, as we got 14 patties out of the recipe.
  • 1 1/2 c. cold mashed potatoes
  • 14 oz. can salmon
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
Mix these ingredients and form into tightly packed patties on a plate. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  • 1 c. crushed saltines
  • 1 egg beaten with a little milk or water
  • butter for frying
Melt a stick of butter on medium heat. Dip each patty in the beaten egg and then in the cracker meal. Fry in the butter for about 6 minutes on each side. (Try not to mess with them too often or flip them too many times. They will keep their shape better if you leave them alone.)

We like these served with ketchup!
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