Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis the Season for Comfort Food

The weather is cooler, days are shorter and visions of comfort food are dancing in my head. But what's a girl to do when the family wants something warm, yummy and satifies the soul as much as the stomach when time is short? Feed the hungry crowd grilled cheese for supper. Yeah, for supper. Now if your husband is like mine I'm already losing you...hang in there for a few more minutes. The last thing my man wants to do after a long day at work is eat a sandwich. However, if that sandwich becomes a gourmet treat, then he's all in! Which brings me to grilled cheese again. Gourmet grilled cheese I should say. By taking this comfort food favorite and taking it up a notch it goes from yum to YUM! Doing so is super easy, too. Simply take two kinds of cheese and add something with them. There are many types of cheese on the market in sliced form now-a-days. Experiment until you find what your family likes best. Same with bread. Supermarket bakeries have many choices beyond boring white or wheat. Then think about what kind of add-ins your family likes. Every/any thing goes...from pepperoni to mushrooms and black olives.  Our current family favorite is chipotle cheddar, American and carmelized onions and garlic. To put the sandwich together you'll put some butter in a pan, place a slice of bread down add one slice of cheese to the top of that, put the add-in on top of the cheese, then put the second slice of cheese on top of that and finish up with the second slice of bread. I do recommend keeping the burner a bit lower than you normally would when cooking a grilled cheese and add a little more butter to the pan when it comes time to turn the sandwich over. Add a side soup and wa-la...a meal with a twist that satifies .

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jump, Sink or Swim

There comes a place in one’s life where they find they are standing at the edge of a precipice, not sure of what is below. The temptation to look back at all that has brought the journey thus far draws one to stop and retrace the footsteps of the beautiful experiences that lie behind while being thankful the ugly ones do not need to be relived. Knowing that there is no use in lingering to look back for long, one’s gaze must again focus upon that precipice and to what lies before them. Again, the unknown swoops in. Just what is at the bottom of the precipice? Should I jump? Sit on the edge and sink in despair at the unknown? Or should I embrace the sea of uncertainty and go for a swim?

Too often during these times we choose to sit too long on the edge, dangling our feet as the time slips by. We waste opportunities while we are waiting to hear God’s voice telling us exactly what to do;  we waste time. Time that is once spent is gone forever. Just sitting and waiting fruitlessly while forgetting that it is by the Holy Spirit living and breathing inside of us that God leads us. He does not lead us continually by sending down orders from Heaven as if we are mindless soldiers who will not move unless each individual step is an order. He does not want a group of puppets upon which He must manipulate each individual string to make us move. It is by the peaceful, gentle drawing of the power that created the universe, living inside of us, that we move. We breathe. We think and feel. It is only by staying continually plugged into the source of this power (John 15:5) can we find our direction. We then find the strength to believe. Find the strength to move. Discover the desire to trust. Then the precipice does not appear to be scary after-all.

Once we embrace the One who knows the unknown we find we are able to get up and walk into His will. Walk securely. Walk confidently. Walk joyfully. For by moving forward are we able to live beyond the past as we are told to by Paul (Phil 3:13). Those days are finished. Complete. Never to be lived again. The only thing left are the lessons we’ve learned while they were being lived. For God’s work for us is not found there. God’s work for us is found in the present and the future. This is where we encounter a living, breathing God. This is where we encounter tasks yet to be done. This is when we discover the full power of the Holy Spirit within us. This is when we decide to stop dangling our feet and choose to jump in and swim. We make the choice to live out the destiny God has called each of us to. A destiny that only you can fulfill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thief On The Loose!

There's no other way to say this: I've been robbed! Yes, robbed! Somebody has brazenly walked in and stole Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from me this week. Oh how I wish they'd have the decency to return them to me. I had such big ideas as I woke up Monday morning...things to do, blog postings to write. Sigh. And here I sit on Wednesday evening wondering where the time went. I guess I could blame it on the most perfect weather ever that we're having right now. I mean, seriously, who can get anything much done when the sky is the most brilliant sapphire blue while the sun shines warmly as the wind rustles through the trees? All I want to do is walk along the beach and dig my toes into the sand. Or maybe I could blame it on the Dust Fairy. Crazy old woman won't come back and get all the dust she's sprinkled all over my house so I've had to clean it up myself. Whatever the culprit is does not change the fact that the days are gone. Soon to be forgotten. Glorious sun drenched days with birds singing...ones that end with crickets chirping as the sky goes from deep blue to a glorious orange on the horizon. But as another one fades I think of all the neat things I was going to post this week and realize I had best get off we go...

Christmas Countdown, Week Three:
This week is fairly simple. It involves a calendar and your favorite beverage. Yeah, that's it! Take a few minutes to look ahead at the month of December and think of the various extra activites this month holds. Having out of town company? Going out of town yourself? Office party? Church social? Family get together? Etc, get the idea. Now, get them on the calendar. Seeing it laid out will help with the planning process of getting it all pulled off without a hitch. Taking the time now to line up a house sitter or dog sitter helps insure your top pick will be availble. Or knowing which weekend will be better to host the family get together keeps your stress level down as you will be sure to not double book yourself. As you sit and relax now with your favorite beverage in hand you can look at the month ahead with less stress and actually get to look forward to all the fun times December's celebrations will hold!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thankful Leaves

I must start this post by saying I love, love, love, love, love Thanksgiving! Taking a day to devote to unashamed thankfulness to our God is to me, the best day of the entire year. Spreading that thankfulness out through an entire month is golden! Relishing in old ways to celebrate while making new ones is a never ending quest...oh, and did I mention how much I LOVE Thanksgiving?...

As our family has grown up (okay, so the girls have grown up...not so much for the dad...) many things have changed along the way. We find new ways to put an updated spin on old traditions. We enjoy new activities that we could not do when we had a toddler/younger child in the house, especially around the holidays. There is, however, one tradition we have not changed or modified over the years. A little over ten years ago we started putting up "thankful leaves" in November. At the beginning of each November a basket *appears* that contains different color paper leaves, markers/ink pens, and tape. For each day thereafter...right up to Thanksgiving day...each member of the family puts one thing they are thankful for on a leaf and we tape our leaves on a window or door, depending on where we are living that year. In our current home we have a large sliding glass door that we use. This way we get to publically see all that we are privately thankful for...making it a good way to let each other know how much we love and appreciate each other though we forget to say it all too often. We have even encouraged guests in our home to join in and add their leaves to ours while they are here. Last year I began archiving the leaves in a notebook when it was time to take them down...sure wish I had thought to do that from the beginning. Each family member has their own page... 
These are my leaves from last year.

After several years go by it will be fun to look back and see where our family has been, the changes we've been through, what our God has done in our lives. Last year was a harder year on our family, thus fewer leaves on my part on the door. This year brings more reason for us to celebrate our thankfulness to a faithful telling how many leaves I'll be putting up this month!

Preparation for the thankful leaves is super easy. First I make copies on my printer with yellow, red and orange colored paper (purchased at Walmart). Here's the template I use:   Then I cut a few at a time while relaxing in front of the tv. No need to stress and wear my hand out by trying to cut them all out at once. My girls like to help cutting the leaves out, too. (Note: we also cut off the stems of the leaves.) Then I choose a basket, put the cut out leaves inside, along with tape and writing utensils, and place it close to the door we put them on and we get started:

The first leaves of this year.
Before you write this idea off because you do not have children living at home...this is not just a family activity to do with the kiddos. Last November  as I was teaching a Bible study  I made copies of these leaves and handed them out, encouraging the women to use them. One of the older members of the group said her husband really enjoyed doing this, he even had their kids and grandkids fill out leaves while at their house, and they were going to make this a new tradition for themselves. So, no matter what season of life we find ourself in we never get too old to praise our God for all He has done/is doing in our lives!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Christmas Countdown, week two

Last week we talked about gifts...hope you made your list, checked it twice and then got busy. I did and knocked out two homemade items along with purchasing a third one! This week will see the completion of several more homemade gifts. Just think about how good it is going to feel when the mad rush to complete shopping is in full swing and you are sitting home sipping hot chocolate instead of fighting the crowds!

This week let's look ahead and think food. Begin by making a list of goodies you'll want to bake. Then, list the ingredients you'll need to purchase to do so (extra flour, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.). Don't stop there, though. Think about what you'll want for your Christmas meal, too. Along with considering any special snacks your family will want or that you'll want to take to parties, church socials, etc., etc. Be sure to think about what food items you'll be making to give as gifts (cookies, breads, mixes in a jar, etc.) Include the ingredients for all these on your master ingredient list as well. Before setting your pencil aside, think about Thanksgiving...and think about what you will want to prepare for it as well. Now, compare your Thanksgiving food plan with your Christmas food plan. Any menu items overlap? Will the items freeze well? If so, plan to make a double batch at Thanksgiving, freezing the second batch to be pulled out and used at Christmas.  This can seem overwhelming when thinking of this planning as a whole so break it down into individual lists on seperate pieces of paper with only one master list of ingredients. Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! So by taking a few small bites this week you can be asured of having what you need on hand when you need it and save the frustration of running out for one ingredient.

Now that you've planned, made lists and know what extras you'll need to purchase work those items into your grocery budget over several weeks. Make sure you'll get what you need for Thanksgiving first with the over-all goal of having all your food items purchased by the end of November, if possible. Take note of what is on sale each week to help stretch your food dollars. Before you know it you'll have all you need on hand!

One of the extra items I usually purchase each year for the holidays is chicken stock. For some reason I just do not seem to use it during the year but when November hits it becomes necessary. Last month I came across a super idea on making it homemade. Frugally, too, I might add. It uses things one normally would throw away or compost. However, it is not a quick process and is best done on cooler days when you don't mind running the stove and generating a little extra warmth in the house.  Check it out here: . We have a bag in the freezer collecting our scraps and will be making the stock this week so I'll post an update after we've done this.

As you begin your process of food planning this week, break it up if you need to. Not many of us have a few hours in a row to devote to this. Make plans for goodies one day, meals the next, gifts the following get the idea. The whole idea of planning ahead is to save us from being overwhelmed later on and not to overwhelm ourself with the process of planning.

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