Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Coffee Talk Thursday: Why I Share My Recipes

image by Muffet

It is not only Coffee Talk Thursday, it is also the first of the month, so that means it's our Once-A-Month Cooking Festival, where we celebrate all things food. Today I thought I'd share something I wrote for the foreword of our church cookbook. It explains why I believe the best recipes are meant to be shared.

Food nourishes our bodies, provides comfort, ministers to physical needs, and brings families and friends together. It allows us to fulfill God’s command to show hospitality, as we invite friends as well as strangers in for a meal; and provide food for the hungry, the sick, and those rejoicing over a new birth or grieving the loss of a loved one. It also offers a unique platform for artistic expression for those who love to cook and bake.

God designed us to enjoy food. Consider the vast diversity in color, texture, flavor, smell and shape—all for our delight. As the late Edith Schaeffer observed in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, there is the smoothness of the green avocado, the grainy feel of a red strawberry, the crispness of the pink watermelon, the crunch of orange carrots, and much more.

Cooking should not be thought of as a drudgery but an art.” -- Edith Schaeffer

Finding delightful new recipes is a treasure. The most cherished are usually those which come from a good friend or family member. You know it’s tried-and-true, but it’s about so much more than the food itself: the recipe becomes sentimental as you consider all that the person means to you.

Sharing a favorite recipe with a friend connects families together, as you enjoy the same meal, separately in your own homes. By passing on cherished recipes, you send the message: “This recipe has ministered to my family. May it also delight yours.”
That's why I don't believe in keeping recipes a secret.
Do you share yours or are they family secrets? If so, could you explain the mindset behind that for those of us who don't think the same way?
If you have a kitchen tip or cooking hint you'd like to share, or even a recipe (wink) as part of our Once-A-Month cooking festival, please link up to your post. As a courtesy, please link back to
One final note, it wouldn't be right to talk about sharing my favorite recipes without sharing my favorite recipes. So I am giving away one copy of our church cookbook, filled with 700 recipes from around-the-world. I will post the winner next Thursday. Good luck! It's a great one!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Super Parents are Just Ordinary People, Part 4

Part Four: Teach Kids How to Handle Money Wisely

“Don’t leave home without it.” I’m not talking about an American Express card, but rather the know-how to handle money wisely. I’m sure we can all think of people who did leave home without it and are paying the price now. That’s why teaching our children about money-management--beginning at a young age--is such an ordinary, yet important part of being a super parent.

A simple way to raise money-wise kids is to start them on an envelope system as soon as they’re old enough to grasp the concept. An article in the latest issue of Thriving Family magazine suggested using the 5-envelope system: Give, Save, Spend, Clothes, Gifts. Then help them to divide any money they earn into those envelopes (10% in give and 10% in save as a general guide).

That begs the question: how do kids earn money? The same way we as adults earn money—work. If I want to buy something but don’t have the money for it, I have to save for awhile, or I have to find additional work. Most of the money problems adults face are because they failed to do either. So I think it is helpful to prepare our children for the real world by helping them learn early that if they want something but don’t have the money, they have to patiently save what they earn, and they probably have to find additional work as well.

Children can find plenty of work for which they can earn money right under their own roof. Doing certain chores is just a necessary part of being a member of the family; but extra jobs can be a source of revenue. Dave Ramsey said this approach worked for his family. In addition to mandatory chores, there were other jobs: if the kids did them, they earned a small allowance each week; if they didn’t, they didn’t get paid. I like that idea. It is good training for the life in the real world.

Some practical notes on the envelope system—it would take my 3-year old months to save up five dollars in his clothes' envelope. Does this mean he is relegated to one shirt from Walmart for the next year? Of course not. My husband and I will still be buying our children most of what they need (and probably want, too—within reason). But when we go clothes' shopping, for example, I’ll take their envelopes with us, so they can see how buying stuff works, and they can contribute. As they grow (and earn more), I’ll probably expect them to pick up more on their own.

Toy shopping is another ballgame. They don’t need more toys, so anything they want in addition to what they already have, they are going to have to save for and pay for out of their own funds. Unfortunately, they usually see something they want at a strange time when I don’t have their envelopes with us, so this isn’t a perfect system yet. But it’s a good place to start.

Even if we make some mistakes here and there, by ingraining good money habits in our kids, we’ll send them out on their own not needing a bail-out.

The rest of the "Super Parents are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently" series:
Part One: Teach Them about Jesus and the Word
Part Two: Be Who You Are
Part Three: Teach Children to Work

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Messy Monday: Just Do It Anyway

Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be. We can come up with lots of reasons and excuses for why we can’t seem to get around to what we really need to do. Sure, the reasons can be valid; but often, regardless of the reason, we just need to pony up and do it anyway.

This simple lesson really hit home recently when I was asking one of my kids to do something. An all-too-common response is, “But Mom, I don’t feel like it right now,” or, “Mom, I don’t want to.” And what do we as moms say in response? “Just do it anyway.”

This Messy Monday, may we find help for getting it together by following our own advice. Even when we don’t feel like it, let’s give ourselves a dose of our own medicine: “Just do it anyway.”

If you have a tip for getting it together, please link below to your post. As a courtesy, please link back to Moms In Need of Mercy. Have a great day!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Super Parents Are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently Pt. 3

(Sorry this up a little late today. Having some Internet problems, and now having some Blogger problems).

Part Three: Teach Children to Work

Work is not play. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be any fun. However, working hard and cheerfully is quite counter-cultural these days. Society has begun to see play as the highest good; when viewed that way, work is drudgery--necessary, but something to be shunned, not enjoyed. It wasn’t always this way though.

Since the beginning of time, work is the norm—not play. Play is sandwiched into the day when work is finished. Most cultures do not fit work (begrudgingly) into a day of play.

Yet, we are becoming a society of play, where no one really knows how to work—really work—anymore. The other day, I was at a business where the teenager behind the counter was so busy texting on her phone she could hardly assist me. She was working—at her texting, not at her paid position.

It is no wonder she didn’t know what it meant to be a good employee. Children are raised without chores; they’re not learning to work. Consequently, a strong work ethic is going out the window. I don’t want my boys growing up that way; I want them to grow up working hard and cheerfully, with a higher standard (Col. 3:23). That’s why I am teaching them to work.

Work is not play. But that doesn’t mean it steals our fun. I have had to evaluate, and say goodbye, to the subconscious thought that making my children do chores is somehow robbing them of fun they could be having. I have come to realize that not training children to work creates more problems later and sets them up for failure.

Often, play involves work (building a fort, scrapbooking, sailing...). Why not make work involve also involve play? We have to do it. In fact, it’s the undercurrent of our day—much more than play—so let’s enjoy it.

In offering some practical suggestions in this post, I consulted with our pastor’s wife, Linda Olsen. She is incredibly wise and offered some extremely helpful tips for training our children to work.

How to Teach Our Kids to Work:

As soon as kids are old enough to ask for stuff at the store, they can start doing chores. Make some chores necessary, simply for being part of the family, and other chores “extras” that they can do if they want to earn extra money. For example, Linda paid 10 cents for dusting (compensate accordingly for inflation).

• Teach your children to give 10% of what they earn, and save 10%.

• Train them by doing the job alongside them. In our house, my boys are by my side practically all day long. Has it ever annoyed me to try to mop the floor with three little boys trying to play in the water, or put a load in the washer with a bunch of little helpers trying to put dark clothes in a load of whites? Sure. Many times, well-meaning people have told me to put them in a playpen, or in a room so I can do my work myself.

But guess what? The other day, my son saw me mopping the floor and wanted to take over and do it for me. He’s four (well, almost five). My boys already have a good idea about how to do laundry, so they’ll be able to do it on their own easily in a few years. Working with kids alongside you takes longer (and can be frustrating in the early years), but I am learning it is worth it! Plus, you’re still spending quality-time with your kids.

• Training does take time, but reaps great rewards. A friend of nine children told me her children have been so well trained, she hardly has any housework to do now—they do it all! So while it takes awhile to patiently demonstrate how to do a job, it will save tons of time down the road.

• Moms, we can really struggle with finding the balance between being a good home-manager and a good mom. Do we drop the work to play with our kids? Do we keep working and interact with our children through the work? I’ve really wrestled with this one.

Linda’s advice was especially helpful to me here—

When her children were at home, they homeschooled from 8am-12pm, then had lunch, little ones went down for a nap, everyone else read for 30 minutes to an hour, then everyone worked for an hour, had free time for about a half hour, and then worked for another hour before dinner. Their actual “play” time was with Dad when we got home, plus on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. They looked forward to this time, knowing it was a special time to play together as a family.

In the meantime, during the week, Linda wasn’t feeling bad or guilty that she wasn’t playing with her kids. She knew there would be a time for that on Sunday. Monday through Saturday, she was managing her home. (Plus, as a teacher now in the public school system, she counseled that kids need to learn to play properly and creatively by themselves. This builds their imagination and creativity).

• On that note, as I’ve reflected on, and prayed about, the whole play-with-the-kids/do-the-housework balance, I find it interesting that we don’t really read in the Bible about people playing with their kids. We read about them doing various kinds of work, often with their families. The Proverbs 31 woman was praised for all the work she did, not all the play.

I’m not trying to say we should never play with our kids; I love being with mine (most days) and dislike being inside folding laundry while they’re outside playing (I folded outside today). But what I am trying to say is we shouldn’t feel guilty for doing the work. Realizing this freed me from a lot of Mommy guilt and allowed me to better embrace my role as a home-manager.

When we shift our perspective to view work as the norm, and play as the exception, we can wholeheartedly embrace—and seek to enjoy—what we need to do each day. Giving our children a solid work ethic by teaching them to work hard and cheerfully is one more ordinary thing we can do to make a super impact on this generation, and generations to come.

Part One: Teach Kids about Jesus and The Word
Part Two: Be Who You Are

Since it's Coffee Talk Thursday, let's talk about teaching our kids to work. How do you do it? How do you view the balance between home-management and play?

Training kids to work is indeed a fine thing!
Also linked to Works for Me Wednesday

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Super Parents are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently Pt. 2

Part Two: Be Who You Are

Hearing about what other moms do in their homes all day can be both inspiring and depressing. Inspiring because it can give us new ideas to try; depressing because it can make us feel so downright ordinary. “Look at that mom. She reads stories to her kids at 10, bakes bread at 11, does a craft at 1, has a spotless house by 3, and then makes a gourmet dinner—ready at 6. Meanwhile, I’m struggling just to get the laundry in the washer by 5. What is wrong with me?” Wrong mindset.

As the title of this series suggests, super moms are just ordinary people doing very ordinary things day in, day out. Because it feels so “daily,” it is easy to imagine that we are the only ones feeling this way—that surely everyone else’s experience in their homes is whimsical, while only ours feels dull. It is easy to lose sight of the magic that happens right under our own roof every single day. It is happening. We just have to shift our perspectives to observe it.

Strive to simply be who you are. God created each of us with unique talents. Faithfully using these strengths will make a super impact on your children, as well as anyone else around you. Plus, God gave your children to you for a purpose. He knew you had what it’d take to shape them into the people He plans them to be.

So ask yourself what it is that you do well. Be intentional about doing your “one thing,” as Dr. Randy Carlson says. For example, I’m not crafty, but I love to bake. Our memories involve the kitchen, not the craft room. I could feel badly about what I don’t do, or I could celebrate what I do well. We also love to read books together and spend time outdoors--taking walks, riding bikes, gardening and camping in the summer. These are the ingredients in the tapestry of our family legacy.

Be who you are. Be confident about who you are. Be faithful to do the unique things for which God has equipped you. They feel very ordinary, but they make a super impact.

Part 1--Teach them about Jesus and the Word
Part 3--Teach Children to Work
Linked to Works for Me Wednesday

Monday, March 22, 2010

Frugal, Easy, Delicious: Tortilla Espanola

Spanish tortilla

This recipe in our church cookbook comes from a missionary serving in Spain. I've been wanting to make it for quite some time; tonight was the night (emergency plan b on the menu plan). It would also work great for breakfast or lunch. I love it because it only required four simple (and inexpensive) ingredients and a few easy steps. Plus, it allowed me to feel like I was in the middle of Spain once again (at least for a few minutes). :)

The note in the cookbook says the Spanish bring this to church potlucks, slice it to use as a sandwich filling (especially for picnics), and as a mid-morning snack with a piece of bread and a strong cup of coffee. They're also popular in tapas bars.

Here's the recipe:
-6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (I used 4, that I baked in the oven for awhile first, with the skins rubbed with butter. They come off fairly easily when slicing)
-4 eggs (I used 5 or 6)
-olive oil
-salt and pepper to taste
-chopped garlic clove, optional
-1 small onion, chopped

Cook the sliced potatoes with the chopped onion, salt and pepper, and optional garlic clove in a frying plan in a good amount of olive oil until potatoes are soft (you can cover them on medium-low heat to help steam them). In a bowl, beat eggs briskly, then pour over the potatoes and continue cooking slowly until the eggs are firm. Turn the tortilla over by placing a plate over the frying pan and turning it upside down, allowing the tortilla to land in the plate, and then slide it (top side down) back into the frying pan. Cook for a few more minutes and serve when cooled slightly. The tortilla should be golden brown on both sides.

Rave reviews at my house! Pretty easy, economical, a keeper!

Visit Tasty Tuesday for more recipe inspiration!

Menu Plan: Cookin' From the Church Cookbook!

Awhile back, I wrote about the church cookbook I was working on. It's here! I am extremely proud of it. It's filled with just under 700 family-favorite recipes (698, to be exact) from great cooks within our church. Plus, missionaries serving in Spain, Mexico, Germany, and beyond contributed authentic recipes from their regions: Arroz con Pollo (chicken with rice/Mexico), Paella (Spain), Flammkuchen (Germany), Thai Chicken Rice soup, lettuce wraps, and more.

Proceeds from the cookbooks ($17 each) support our church's million-dollar building expansion, which we are aiming to reach mortgage-free. So far, families within the church have pledged more than $600,000 toward the building costs. If you would be interested in learning more about the cookbook, or would like to order one, please email me and I can get you the details.

Needless to say, as with any great new cookbook, I can't wait to try out the recipes! Almost every meal on my menu plan this week comes from the church cookbook. Perhaps I'm being too ambitious and will only end up making a few, but here is my ambitious plan as it is now: :)

Yeast waffles, cottage cheese, triple berry blend
Coco Wheats hot cereal
Cranberry orange scones, fruit
Baked oatmeal
Ann's Breakfast Bake, salsa
Sunday Morning breakfast

Leftover goulash, sugar snap peas
Honey Chicken Salad on Crossaints, mandarin oranges
PB & J's, fruit

Marinated flank steak, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli and cauliflower
Chicken pecan fettucine, french bread, roasted asparagus
Slow cooker mac and cheese, maybe hot dogs (?), mixed vegetables
Lentil soup, bread, cheese
Beef Tips in gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans
Roasted Chicken with Rosemary, red potatoes, carrots, spring mix salad

That's what I'll be cooking up this week! Visit for more menu plan ideas.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Messy Monday: Use Your Saturdays!

“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working.” (Exodus 23:12, NLT).

A light bulb went off when I read this verse the other day. For so long, I’ve been ingrained in the 5-day workweek. Five days on, two days off. I worked it for years, and now that I’m home, I still abide by it. Sure, I do a little work on Saturday, but for the most part, I look at it as a leisure day--my day off. Perhaps you view it the same way.

What if we didn’t? What if we looked at our week as six days of work, with only one day off (Sunday), instead of two? How much more productive would we be? How much more would we enjoy and truly savor our day of rest?

So this Saturday, I set out to go about my day just like I do Monday through Friday. The routine was a little looser, but I still accomplished the usual daily work. It actually felt kind of good to have more structure on Saturday. I am really enjoying resting on Sunday.

The drawback of using Saturday as another workday is less leisure time with our families. My husband (also on a day off) told me he felt like he hadn’t spent much quality time with me the whole day. So balance is called for. Take lots of breaks to visit with your spouse. If you want to take the entire day off for family fun, go for it. But if you want to use the bulk of your Saturday to get some work done (and save the family fun for Sunday), you’ll enjoy the increased productivity—and you’ll really enjoy a day of rest!

Do you use your Saturdays for work or play, or a little of both?

If you have a Messy Monday tip for getting it together, please link to your homemaking post. As a courtesy, please link back to Moms In Need of Mercy. I will leave links open for 24 hours. Have a great day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Focus on the Family Leaves The Tough Questions Unanswered

For several days now, I have been mildly irritated with the new tone of interviews airing on Focus on the Family. I've listened for as long as I can remember and have been so blessed by the content of broadcasts under the former leadership of Dr. James Dobson. My husband and I support the ministry financially, as we are able. Now it's just different.
Now that Dr. Dobson is off-the-air, I am really struggling with getting used to Dr. Juli Slattery as a host. Her training is in psychology--not communications. I have no doubt she is a brilliant psychologist, and I have enjoyed listening to her as a guest, but why she was chosen as a daily host is beyond me.

Interview questions for on-air broadcasts are much different than the kind of questions you ask a patient sitting in a chair in your office for a session. You only get so much time in a broadcast. The questions have to be relevant to what the majority of the audience wonders, you have to make the guest sound like the expert (not yourself), and you have to move. You need to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

All that aside, I am shocked at irresponsible interviewing of late. You may have heard the interviews with Chantel Hobbs, author of Never Say Diet: Make Five Decisions and Break the Fat Habit for Goodand the new release The One-Day Way: Today Is All the Time You Need to Lose All the Weight You Want.

Apparently, her broadcasts were the most popular of 2009. I listened to all four of them the other day. Never once did I hear anyone ask her about her choice to undergo a "breast lift and augmentation." She writes about it in her book, Never Say Diet. (She also writes about liposuction and body sculpting, and when she believes they can be appropriate).

Here's what she wrote:

"I honestly did not consider any surgery until I had my last child, more than three years into my transformation. Once I had maintained my weight loss and continued to get even more fit, I realized I had excess skin that had lost its elasticity and wasn't going back, and there was nothing I could do myself to change that. I decided to have a breast lift and augmentation, and this was a difficult decision. I understand that we need to accept our bodies as God created them, but God did not intend for me to balloon up to 350 pounds. There were ramifications from this that I knew could be fixed. I fixed everything I could through clean eating and exercise, then got help from experts for what I couldn't do on my own...

Yes, I discussed it with my husband first and then my mom and daughters. I wanted them to understand the frustration of losing a lot of weight, becoming superfit, and then being disappointed with my body as a result. They...understood this was not simply vanity. But as I moved forward with this decision, I wanted to consider the message I was sending my children. I wanted my girls to know their mom was fixing a problem that she had created herself, that this was not simply a matter of wanting bigger breasts.

My problem is not that she underwent plastic surgery (although I personally don't agree with it), but that Focus on the Family failed to tell its audience this key piece of information while touting her story and books. In my old news days, if I left out such a huge key to someone's story in an interview, I would be hauled into my news director's office for irresponsible journalism. And I would deserve the chastisement. I would have failed to have done my job.

So if you listened to the Focus broadcasts and heard Chantel's story and were inspired to eat better and exercise more, remember--as you look at pictures of her, you will not have identical results...unless you, too, "get help from experts," in Chantel's words, for what you can't do on your own. I think Focus on the Family owed it to its listeners to tell us all this key piece of information. Either somebody didn't do decent research, or Focus just chose not to bring it up. But what message does this really send to young women and moms who are working on losing baby weight--all women, really? "Time to get some plastic surgery, honey, because this belly just ain't going back."

I will be writing a letter to Focus, and I encourage you to as well.
Now back to regularly scheduled posting... :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Over-the-Counter Remedies for Nausea and Other Ills

Coffee Talk Thursday

Gosh, sorry--I realize talking about barfing over coffee (well, not literally over coffee--that would be extra gross!) isn't too appealing. Disclaimer aside, last week my sons and I had a cleanse--and I'm not talking about the kind you pay big money for. I don't know if we ate something that wasn't quite right, or just came down with an intestinal bug, but three out of the five of us spent a day sick--really, really sick. After the vomiting was over, I still felt nauseous for several days (I'm sure my little guys did, too).

Needless to say, all this got me thinking about various over-the-counter remedies that help fight nausea and other sicknesses. Here's some that work for me:
  • Flat Coca-Cola. A pharmacist told my husband that this really helps people who have been unable to keep anything down start keeping stuff down. Test a sip. Give it about a half hour. Try again if it stayed down.
  • Avoid water. While you're obviously, understandably, quite thirsty from getting rid of everything in your system, our doctor has told us that water makes vomiting worse. Don't quite know why. But you want to stay away from it in the throws of throwing up.
  • chips do not cause the same problems. Sucking on a few may help.
  • Sprite/Ginger-Ale/7-Up and/or Gatorade (when things start staying down)
  • I remember my mother giving us Jello water to drink when we were sick. (Prepare your Jello, and instead of refrigerating it, drink the liquid).
  • The BRAT diet for a few days after the upheaval. Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast.
Wondering what over-the-counter remedies you turn to when your tummy's turning over...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Super Parents are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently

Part One: Teach them about Jesus and the Word

Image courtesy Jacob and Kiki Hantla

As our pastor’s wife says, “If you’re too busy to teach your kids about Jesus, you’re too busy.”

Since the word of the Lord is one of the few things that will remain forever, it follows that we should make knowing the Bible and teaching God’s ways to our kids a priority in our lives. This instruction is not the kind we can check off in a neat little box and be “done” for the day. Instead, it is to be woven into the fabric of everything we do.

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 6:7).

While reading the Bible to our kids seems very ordinary on the surface, it yields extraordinary results. It may seem like nothing is happening as we faithfully read the Word to our kids each day, but under the surface, a seed is taking root. Just as tulips break through the hard ground--frozen by winter, faithfulness in planting the Word into the soil of our kids’ spirits will result in visible results in their lives through time.

Plus, unlike any other book in the entire planet, the Bible is living and active. An older, wise man from our church said once that when we read the Word to our children, it communicates to them on a different plane--Spirit to spirit. I thought that was a profound way to put it.

So what are some practical ideas for feeding our kids with the Word?

• Start when they’re little. Read to them from the Bible. Bible storybooks are colorful and certainly have their place, but nothing should replace the actual Word of God. The Beginner's Bibleis not “living and active,” whereas the Holy Bible is.

• When they’re little, read them a few sentences out of the Bible and talk about what those verses teach us. Build from there.

• Read them real stories from the Bible. These fascinate my boys.

• As they learn to read, encourage them to read out of the Bible on their own in addition to your family Bible reading.

By modeling a love for God’s ways and His Word, we lay a strong foundation for our kids to build on in their own lives. Personally, I want my boys to make a solid habit of turning to the Word first when they have a problem or question in their lives. I’m not going to be with them every single day for the rest of their lives, but God—and His Word—will. It’s my job to prep the course. Sure, it feels ordinary—some might even say boring—day in, day out; but this ordinary act yields unbelievable results when done faithfully, day in, day out.

Part 2: Be Who You Are!
Part 3:  Teach Children to Work

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Messy Monday: Weariness Works Against Us

Image Courtesy Mi Pah

From Merriam Webster:
Main Entry: wea·ry

Pronunciation: \ˈwir-ē\
Function: adjective
Date: before 12th century [People have been feeling this way a long time!]
1 : exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness

2 : expressing or characteristic of weariness

3 : having one's patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted —
wea·ri·ly \ˈwir-ə-lē\ adverb

— wea·ri·ness \ˈwir-ē-nəs\ noun

Weariness takes the pep out of our step. While feeling weary can be caused by many things, and can vary in length from a few days to several months, the end result is the same: we feel like doing little more than the bare minimum--and sometimes even the bare minimum is tough. The nature of motherhood alone--despite all its joys--easily fits definition number three of weary, "having one's patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted."  Once your "patience, tolerance, or pleasure" is exhausted, you'll have little "strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness" (definition number 1) to give to anything else--especially housework.
Realizing that weariness works against us when it comes to getting housework done regularly and well is helpful. It's helpful because, once you understand what the problem really is, you can begin to form some realistic solutions. There are definite seasons where weariness (and thus, low productivity) are quite natural: sickness, the birth of a child, a death in the family, a major life or job transition. In these seasons, cut yourself some slack. (In all honesty, I am just now starting to feel more consistently energetic--and I had my baby 16 months ago...but I also have three under five who just about exhaust my patient and tolerance every day--good thing we get a new dose daily!).

In wearisome seasons, identity your bare minimum housework goals and aim to reach those--and really only those--each day. At least you'll feel successful for having done that. They will be different for every person, but for the sake of an example, let's say they are: having a clean sink at the end of the day, sweeping the kitchen floor, and wiping the kids' boogers off the walls (for a little humor). :) I encourage you to talk to your husband and figure out what his basics are--if everything else is undone, what few things does he need to be sure are done to be happy? Go from there.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sunshine In The Sandwiches

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22,23).

Everyday, because of the steadfast love and mercy of God, there are moments when your soul feels warmed by rays of sunshine.  These moments, if noticed and savored, can give you a good jolt of joy to carry you through the rest of the day when the sunshine starts to fade and the clouds roll in.

Standing in the kitchen, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my boys for lunch one day, was a glorious moment. The light spilling in from the window made me feel as carefree and happy as if I were on a tropical beach in an exotic place, instead of in my kitchen in the middle of winter.  One could view making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as mundane, but to me, it was glorious.

While the sunshine may not kiss your face as you prepare lunch, God gives us all glorious moments each day to celebrate and cling to. We just have to pay attention and shift our perspective to find glory in the grind, sunshine in the sandwiches. As Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote in her book In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms"Think about it less as 'Is that all there is?' and more as 'I can't believe how much I have.'"
holy experience

Let's Talk Makeup!

Coffee Talk Thursday

This is a true girl talk topic this Coffee Talk Thursday! Sorry it's up a little late--I have a pukey baby. :(
Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the makeup products and brands we love; maybe we can all gain some fun new ideas and money-saving tips. Here are my favorite things:

I skip toner and love Mary Kay TimeWise Age-Fighting Moisturizer Sunscreen SPF 15moisturizer. When I can afford it, I like the Time Wise Day Solution Sunscreen & Night Solution. Personally, I don't always think it's worth it to spend a a lot of money on expensive moisturizing/line-minimizing products. I think the most important key is to keep your skin soft and supple with a decent moisturizer period. It doesn't have to cost oodles and oodles.

Foundation: My mother is a lifelong Estee Lauder user. She bought me my first bottle of Estee Lauder Lucidity Light-Diffusing Makeup SPF 8foundation as a teen; off and on, I have been using it ever since. I buy Estee Lauder makeup when they're in gift, or when I have a gift card.

I have also used, and recommend, Mary Kay's mineral makeup as well as Bare Minerals makeup (my mother-in-law uses Bare Escentuals bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation exclusively).
I have bought foundation from the drug store, including fragrance-free Cover Girl, and Almay, and I am happy with them.
What kind of foundation do you use, and do you love it? (Always looking for good drug-store brands to save money!)

Powder: Since I use mineral makeup a lot of the time, I tend to skip this step. But if I had to buy it, I've always love Clinique's loose powder. I bought Maybelline pressed powder and use it with a loose powder brush (that's a good tip, by the way!).

Eye shadow:
I used to sell Mary Kay in college. I think their eye shadows are some of the best. They wear really well. I like Clinique's too. My mother-in-law has bought me several Bare Minerals' shadows, and they're good too (they're a loose powder, though). Some have a lot of glimmer, so you have to watch that if you don't want it, but  I like them.

Eye Liner: I like Clinique's pencils with the smudge sponge. Do you have one you like? I'm always looking for good (and cheap!) recommendations here!
Mascara: Lancome has a great mascara, Lancome Definicils High Definition Mascara . Did you know that Loreal is the drug-store offshoot of Lancome? Loreal Voluminous mascara is very similar to Defencils--for a fraction of the price.

I also recently tried Maybelline's Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal - Classic Black and really like it as well.

And then, who can beat the tried and true Great Lash mascara?

I am not at all picky here. I use a bunch of various brands I have received as free gifts with purchase. Having sold Mary Kay, I do like the MK brand. I recently bought a Maybelline blush on sale. I think it works fine (although I had to take the first one back, because the color wouldn't show up--it was defective). For me, finding a good color that is a close match to the natural blush of my skin is more important than using a particular brand (so I would buy a blush at Target I liked, rather than spending a lot of money at the makeup counter for one).
I like Mary Kay lipstick. It's nice and creamy. But recently, I discovered Maybelline Color Sensational lipstick and love it! I really like the "Nearly There" and "Totally Toffee" colors (it's not a reddish toffee--more of a nice neutral shade that I think just about everyone could wear nicely).
Those are some of my faves! What are yours?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And The Winners Are...

Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boysand a 1/4 pound of Rooibos tea.

The winner of Mad Hungry, generated by is #22: sclevenger. I will send you an email to get your address. The publisher will be mailing your book.

The winner of the tea is comment #14: Anonymous, who wrote "Tea is my favorite. This sounds delicious." However, since I have no way to contact you, if I do not hear from you by noon Thursday (mountain time), I will draw and post another winner. You can contact me at

Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Discover the Many Fun Uses of Freezer Paper

I've written before about how I like to buy several pounds of meat when it's at its lowest sale price. I usually divide it up into freezer bags, or plastic wrap ground beef and then wrap it in tin foil. Despite my best efforts, within a few weeks, ice crystals start to form around it in the freezer. But not anymore!

That's because I've discovered freezer paper. A friend of mine who meat in bulk (as in a whole cow) and freezes the meat recommended it. Found near the tin foil and freezer bags, it's a little pricey (more than $6) but worth every penny.

Not only can you use it to wrap your meats, it's great paper for arts and crafts. The shiny side is perfect for finger painting; the dry side works well with water-color paints. I think it is less expensive than buying finger painting paper.

The package says you can also use it to:
  • Wrap packages for mailing or gifts (I am not sure the post office allows wrapped packages anymore).
  • Make a disposable tablecloth for picnics or barbecues
  • Line shelves and drawers throughout the house.
  • Use to catch spills in refrigerator drawers or bins, under pet dishes, when painting or potting plants.
  • Protect kitchen counters; juices from raw meats won't leak through. Grate cheese or roll dough.
  • Make banners for school functions, welcome greetings or parties. 
Freezer paper works for me!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Secret of Being a Super Mom

This design contains artwork that is © 2006-2008 FunDraw.Com.

The first few days of last week were rough. Real rough. My husband was out of town for a few days, and my kids were just acting incorrigible. They fought (complete with biting and hair pulling) and I had to pull them off each other several times a day, for several days in a row. One threw horrible tantrums. It was wearing on me, to say the least.

I totally reached the end of my rope, and I wondered what, as a parent, I was doing wrong that I wasn’t getting through to my kids to cease their bad behavior. Then it dawned on me: I forgot the secret of being a super mom.

The secret is simple really, and yet very profound. It is God’s empowering strength. It is He who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil. 2:13). I was giving myself too much credit, and taking too much responsibility for my boys.

What I’m trying to say is—ultimately, these are God’s children. They are His creation, given to my husband and I to care for, train, love and point to the Savior. That is hard work. But ultimately, the responsibility for them lies with God. I have to trust that God takes my efforts—however humble they seem at times—and uses them to produce the fruit that He desires in my son’s lives.

Super Mom gives God more credit than she gives herself. This approach provides much needed mercy. We all fail in many ways, and it is reassuring to know, that despite our failures, God—in His sovereignty—has a plan for each of our children’s lives.
"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." (1 Cor. 3:7)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Messy Monday: Women Who Love Too Much

Today we’re looking at habit #4 of my post, the “Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Housekeepers”. They’re ruthless when it comes to getting rid of stuff. They would rather err on the side of getting rid of something that’s cluttering up space now—even if they have to buy it again later, instead of hanging onto it for that “maybe-someday” possibility later.

image courtesy Joe Shlabotnik

When I was packing to leave London after my semester there in college, I ran out of room in my suitcase, but I still had a bunch of stuff I wanted to take back with me. There was Toblerone chocolate, and these really good sandwich cookies, and other non-edible souvenirs. I couldn’t bear to leave any of it behind, but I had to—it just wouldn’t fit. A friend had to help me make the hard decisions in the wee hours of the morning before our plane left.

Sometimes, the clutter control mantra of “only keep what you love” is just not helpful for those of us who love too much. We have a lot of stuff, and we love it all. So what’s a girl to do?

In these situations, I think it’s helpful to play a little mind-game with ourselves. Pretend that you’re getting advance notice that in a few hours, your home will be destroyed by a natural disaster. You need to pack up your favorite belongings and get moving. You have a very limited amount of time to make some hard and fast decisions about what you love the most.

What would you grab? What would you leave behind? If you’re ok with leaving it behind, you don’t really love it as much as you think you love it. Everyday life does not call for such drastic measures, but if you want to find more white space in your home, you need to take dramatic steps.

Once you decide what you really want to keep, then you have to follow through. This can be just as hard. If you decide, for instance, that you would only grab certain clothes in an evacuation, these really are the ones you love the most. Your existence would go on just fine without the lesser-loved items. Decide to pack these up, and donate them to the nearest thrift store, a friend, or take them to a consignment store if you want to earn some money for them. Do it fast, before you start thinking about how much you really do love that green sweater your sister got you two Christmas’ ago, even though you’ve never worn it…yet.

This Messy Monday, I encourage you to start by picking one manageable area to sort through. Maybe it’s a shelf in the closet, or a drawer in the kitchen. Sort through it ruthlessly, and let go of some of the loves in your life. You’ll feel much freer once you let them go.
Do you have a Messy Monday tip for getting it together? If so, please enter a link to your post. As a courtesy, please leave a link back to this post in your post. Thanks and have a great, not-so-messy Monday!

(linked to Frugal Friday)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Cup of Tea a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

Have you heard about Rooibos Tea? It's from South Africa, and is rich in vital minerals and Vitamin C--and it's 100% caffeine free. It was reportedly discovered during recent university research,that this "miracle tea" contains high levels of an agent that fights free radicals that can cause aging. Research also shows that Rooibos tea has more antioxidant action than green tea.

An informational sheet I have says that Rooibos tea is now clinically prescribed for nervous tension, allergies, and stomach/digestion problems. It has reportedly been found to relieve insomnia and stomach cramps and has a soothing affect on skin when directly applied. It offers relief for diaper rash (add lukewarm brewed tea to bath water) and other skin irritations, and is especially helpful for babies with colic (I think you would just give them 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp., much like the "gripe water").

Some of my friends have given up coffee for Lent, and I've encouraged them to turn to Rooibos tea as a delicious alternative. You can even brew a pot in your coffee pot. I've tried it; it works great! (You can use 1 tsp.-1 T. per cup, depending on taste preference.).

Whether hot or cold, it's a delicious thirst-quencher, and a healthy option for all members of the family. In Mad Hungry, Lucinda Scala Quinn writes,
"Soda? Don't. Obviously if you never keep soda at home, your kids won't drink it all the time because it won't be there. Instead, teach them to drink plain and sparkling water and other fresh and delicious beverages, such as fresh, natural juice, cold sweetened herbal infusions, and various milks and nectars. As long as something good is there to quench their thirst, they'll avoid loading their bodies with too much sugar and empty calories. "
Ms. Quinn's recommendation is to prepare a large batch of rooibos tea and leave it chilled in the refrigerator as an alternative to soda or juice. I especially love that my kids can drink this, since it's caffeine free (they don't need any more energy than they already have--trust me!). They love a small cup in the morning with milk (you can add honey if you want). (The recipe in Mad Hungry is: (1/4 c. loose tea, 5 c. boiling water, 2 T. honey; steep for 4 minutes and strain. Stir in the honey. Serve hot or cold over ice.)

Now what kind of friend would I be if I left you hanging after making you thirsty for some Rooibos tea? :)
I purchase my loose Rooibos tea from a local coffee roaster (I recommend their fresh-roasted coffee as well; they roast it when you order it, so it is as fresh as you'll find anywhere!). They generously agreed to give away a quarter-pound bag of Rooibos tea to one lucky reader. The winner can choose the flavor of her choice. For future orders, P. Hawk Coffee and Tea can be reached via email at, or phone (307) 234-6073. They ship within the continental United States.

The flavors are:
Plain, anise, Belgian chocolate (this is great!), black currant, blueberry, creme au caramel, masala chai, cranagrante, cranberry, earl grey, sunshine lemon, lemon ginger, mango, Florida orange, Dutch licorice, Georgia peach, corsica pear, pina colada (this is one of my favorites!), Provence, rainbow, raspberry, Segovia muffin, Sgt. Peppers, Le Marche Spice, strawberry, bourbon street vanilla, and wild berry

Leave a comment to be entered to win. I'll draw a winner Wednesday. (Due to possible customs complications with shipping loose tea, the winner must be in the continental U.S. Thanks for understanding!)

Saturday Evening Blog Post: February 2010

It is time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post hosted by Elizabeth Esther.
I chose "The Topic of 'Me' Time" as my favorite post of last month.
However, these were close runner-ups! If you haven't read them yet, I encourage you to check them out!

Head on over to Elizabeth Esther's site and link up your own favorite post from February!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys--Review and Giveaway

“Feeding my four guys has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I’ve had more fun in the kitchen and at the dinner table with them than almost anywhere else. Eating is something we have to do, so why give it short shrift? If you have to do it, make it beautiful and spread the beauty.”

So begins Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn. This mother of three guys knows a lot about food. She’s been cooking professionally since she was a teenager and now serves as Executive Food Director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and co-hosts PBS’ Everyday Food.

I have written before about how picky I am about books; I don’t endorse them lightly. But I am absolutely “mad” about Mad Hungry. Lucinda gets it: the joy that comes from feeding our families good food, the importance of making home-cooked meals, the importance of teaching our boys to cook. “Create a legacy,” she writes. “Serve old-fashioned—meaning simple—meals, the kind moms everywhere have always made. When I was a kid, meals were predictable, comforting, familiar, tasty and most of all consistent…Anyone who grew up with someone cooking regular meals remembers those dishes as if they were eaten yesterday.”

 She encourages us to build our own recipe collection out of what appeals to our family’s tastes, and then serve those meals frequently to build a “sensory food bank.” These smells and tastes are what our guys will remember when they’re out on their own. They’ll beckon them home.

In addition to delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert recipes, Mad Hungry is chock-full of cooking help, such as choosing knives and pans; shopping with kids; tips for cleaning up (and teaching boys to help); and “ten tenets" for "how and why to feed your guys” (I loved this section).

While I aim to feed my family healthfully, I am also always looking for new ideas to save money without compromising quality. Ms. Quinn offered a cost-saving menu-planning idea. She intersperses three evenings of meat with a pasta night, a soup night, and a bean night. Yet, she encourages us to keep food spending in perspective:
 “What you consume on a daily basis is your first line of defense against ill health…My philosophy when it comes to what food I buy, consume, and serve others is I’d rather invest my dollars on best-quality food choices than on new clothes or a new car.”
On that note, people always joke about how expensive it is to feed teenage boys (or growing boys of any age, for that matter). In Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys, you’ll find snack ideas to fill them up healthfully and frugally, such as:
  • Sweet potato wedges (recipe in the book)
  • Popcorn with parmesan cheese
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Vegetables: “When your kids are young, keep many varieties of colorful crunchy and crispy vegetables available for snacks instead of sugary, salty choices. Sliced cucumber, red bell peppers, and celery can fill up a boy and boost his energy until dinner without ruining his appetite. This should be the first response to the common cry, ‘I’m starving.’ Just cut a load of raw vegetables into different shapes and pile them into a bowl.”
  • Increase beans, grains and starches to make meals go further
Reading this book cover-to-cover benefited me much, and I love to re-read portions when I have a few extra minutes—it gives me a warm feeling, as if I was cooking in my Grandma’s kitchen again. I know you’ll love it too. Courtesy of Artisan Press, I am giving away one copy to a reader (U.S. only please, and no P.O. boxes).

To enter, simply leave a comment with a way to contact you if you’re the winner. The winner will be randomly drawn and posted next Wednesday, March 10.

But of course, no cookbook review would be complete without a few recipes. So again, courtesy of Artisan Press, here are three mouth-watering, healthy, and filling recipes straight from Mad Hungry for you to try:

italian fries

serves 6 (if you are very lucky)

copyright Artisan Press

"My oldest brother, Jim, is proof positive that if you cook well for a boy, he’ll want to cook for himself. Presently this six-foot-five father of three strapping teenage boys effortlessly turns out delicious meals day in and day out for his own family. His sons are athletes who eat a ton—but their meals are always fresh and prepared with love. When our extended families gather to prepare a meal, their father is always at the forefront, planning and executing. My parents taught all three of my brothers to cook and eat well, but Jim has perfected my mom’s specialty—a twist on oven fries originated by our Italian relatives. Everyone goes crazy for them, and there are never enough!"
  • 6 or 7 Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1⁄3-inch-thick French fry–style strips, soaked in cold salted water
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or
  • some combo of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, and basil
  • 2 cups freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, cut into 6 cubes
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Drain the potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on each of 2 rimmed baking sheets and spread out the potatoes. Overlapping is fine.
Sprinkle the dried herbs evenly over the potatoes. Liberally spread the cheese and parsley on top. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the cheese. Scatter the cubed butter around the pans.
Bake until the potatoes are golden brown, rotating the pans after 30 minutes, for 45 to 50 minutes total. Use a spatula to lift off the potatoes with all the crusty cheese adhered to them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. ★

savory chicken pocket pies
makes 10 pocket pies
copyright Artisan Press
"One of the kids came home from school one day asking for Hot Pockets, saying he’d eaten them at a friend’s house. A supermarket freezer item, Hot Pockets come two in a box, and one boy could easily gobble up two boxes in one sitting. They are processed, laden with preservatives, and expensive, and I loathe them. Still, their utility is undeniable. So I decided to re-create a similarly attractive homemade version—something the kids could quickly heat up by themselves and snack on. The idea was to replicate the convenience, but use the best ingredients according to the boys’ specifications. I came up with a spinach version and a chicken one. For younger children, bake the pockets first, then cool and freeze (Step 5) so they can simply be heated up in the microwave. For older boys, freeze the pockets unbaked (Step 4); the boys can bake the pockets themselves, straight out of the freezer into the oven."

  • 1 3-pound chicken (to get 1 heaping cup of shredded meat; you can freeze remainder for other recipes)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery (1 large stalk)
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot (1 carrot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (from the reduced poaching liquid)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 recipe (2 disks) Cream Cheese Pastry (recipe in book)
  • 1 large egg, for egg wash
Place the chicken in a pot and add water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 50 minutes. Skim and discard any foam as it rises to the surface. Remove the chicken to cool. Continue to boil the broth to reduce and concentrate to about 1 quart. Remove the meat from the chicken and shred.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a medium-sized hot skillet and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the salt and flour and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken broth and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 heaping cup shredded chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Cool in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or line a baking sheet.
To form the pocket pies, work with half of a disk of dough at a time, rolling it out on a floured surface. See page 65 for rolling instructions. Using an overturned bowl (about 5 inches across), cut out circles about 3 at a time from each piece of dough. After cutting out all your circles, gather all dough scraps, rer0ll, and cut out a final time. Place ¼ cup filling on one side of a dough circle. Wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough over to form a half circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all the filling is used. The pocket pies can be frozen at this point.

Place the pocket pies on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. When ready to bake, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over each pocket pie. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The pies can be cooled and frozen to reheat in the microwave. ★

mexican egg scramble
serves 6
copyright Artisan Press

"For anyone on the go, this is a hearty, portable breakfast—eggs wrapped in tortilla and twisted up in foil on the fly have satisfied my boys for twenty years. At home, just place the pan with the eggs and toasted corn tortillas in the center of the table. Everyone can make their own taco at the table or just use the tortillas as a fork-shovel. Alternatively, salted tortilla chips also make a crunchy contrast to the soft eggs, crumbled over the top. I love these eggs very spicy, but the chilies can be adjusted to taste. If you’re cooking for one, use two eggs and adjust the other ingredients accordingly."

  • 18 corn tortillas or 1 bag salted tortilla chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 scallions (both white and green parts), chopped, or ½ cup chopped onion
  • 4 to 6 serrano or jalapeño chilies, minced
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1¼ teaspoons coarse salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 dozen large eggs

If using corn tortillas, toast individually over a gas flame on low or in a pan for about 40 seconds per side. Stack on top of each other and wrap in foil or a clean kitchen towel. This will steam the toasted tortillas for pliability.Heat a 14-inch skillet and then add the oil and swirl it around in the pan. Stir in the scallions and chilies. Add the tomatoes, salt, and cilantro, if using. Stir over high heat for about 2 minutes. Crack the eggs one at a time into the skillet and stir. Cook just until the eggs are set, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately: scoop a portion of eggs onto each plate and offer 3 tortillas each, or crumble tortilla chips over the egg mixture. ★

“So no matter how busy you are, sauté that onion, rip up fresh basil, or slow-roast a pork shoulder. That’s all it takes to fill their sense memory and make your family feel good for a lifetime.”--Lucinda Scala Quinn