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Monday, October 27, 2014

Scraps


I've had feedback that you guys like it when I just share ordinary stuff from my ordinary days-- the books I'm reading, the things I'm seeing, the recipes I'm cooking, etc. But I never know quite where to put it all. Do I blog about little random things all willy-nilly like? Do short snippets count as whole blog posts? Because lately short random bursts are about the only blog posts (for lack of a better term) that I seem capable of.

My mind is a hodgepodge of thoughts that seem to zigzag around inside my head, careening into each other and sometimes getting knocked out. Just last week I forgot my stepfather's birthday, my mom reminded me, I said I would call him later (since clearly I was past getting a card to him through the mail) and... that was the last time I thought about it. On Friday I received a text that said "Hey is your daughter still coming?" And I got that heart-seizing thing that is forgetting something and letting someone else down. I had told a neighbor up the street that I'd send my 14yo up to talk with her about babysitting, committing her to Friday after school. And after I sent the "I'll send her up" text I... never thought about it again. (It all worked out, she ran up there and met the neighbor but still... I hate forgetting things.)



And so you see why putting out cohesive, insightful, relevant blog posts on a semi-regular basis is probably not gonna happen. But scraps? Scraps I can do. And so on Mondays it will be my aim to pull together a post of scraps-- random thoughts, links I think you'll like, recommendations for products that help me (sort of) hold it all together. I will start today with these scraps, and hope that in some way they serve you well.

I am making this this week. I will also probably make chocolate chip banana bread because I have two sad looking bananas that need to serve a greater purpose.

I made these last week to take to some friends' house. They asked that I bring dessert and that it be something pumpkin. These were like pumpkin pie if it were on a shortbread-type crust with a really good topping. I am thinking they might make it onto my Thanksgiving menu.

This woman's blog is just lovely. I loved her reading lists and general discussion of lovely things. I can't believe I've never heard of her before now, but I'm glad I finally did.




I'm participating in this this coming Christmas. I love love love Shellie Tomlinson and I'll pretty much do anything she tells me to. So, expect to see five days of posts about her Heart Wide Open Christmas blog hop here. There's a link on the post to sign up if you'd like to participate. This is going to be fun so don't wait! (PS. Please don't hate me for bringing up Christmas in October.)

And finally I liked this article. It's about how print books are better than ebooks. Yes. They are.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dinner Without Daddy


Whether you have a husband who travels or are a single mom, you still have to get dinner on the table for yourself and the kids. But if you're like me, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to put a full course meal on the table. Because typically kids don't care like grown men do. At least, that's been my experience.

I usually see nights when my husband travels as a night off from serious cooking. But the thing about kids is they still get hungry and expect a meal around dinner time. And I'm concerned with not spending a ton on constant ordering out and providing a (at least semi) nutritious meal. So today I'm sharing some of my go-to meals for those nights when I want to get a decent dinner on the table with minimum input on my part. I hope these quick and easy meals will inspire you!



Rice Bowls: shred the meat from a rotisserie chicken, cook up some brown rice, heat up some black beans and open a jar of good salsa. Put out various favorite toppings (avocado, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, black olives, sour cream etc.) and let the kids assemble their own bowls. So quick and everyone loves it.



Baked potato bar: bake some large potatoes (I do mine for one hour at 500) and put out a bunch of toppings (margarine, jarred gravy, chopped broccoli, cheese and sour cream are faves at our house) to let everyone make their own potato. If the potatoes are large enough these are quite filling.

Breakfast for dinner: I do this in a variety of ways. Sister Schubert's Sausage or cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and grits with some cut up fruit is pretty common for us. I've even got my 12yo son making the scrambled eggs now so all I have to do is pop the frozen rolls in the oven and microwave some grits. Super easy!



Salad with chicken tenders on top: Get some frozen popcorn chicken (you could also do grilled if  you wanted to be healthier) and add it to a bagged salad. Put out a variety of toppings and dressings to let everyone construct their favorite salad. If you want to get real fancy you can prepare some French bread to go with it.

Grilled chicken in marinara sauce over whole wheat pasta: I use Perdue Short Cuts (I get them when they're on sale) and toss them in jarred marinara sauce, then cook up some whole wheat pasta (bonus if it's in a fun/different shape) and dinner is served. I make sure to have some good parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top for my cheese lovers. (Bonus: same idea except you buy some frozen meatballs and serve the marinara and meatballs on subs.)

Subs with chips and salsa and fruit: Speaking of subs, I get a couple of half pounds of various favorite meats, buy some good dill pickles and sub rolls, along with cheese and the bagged shredded lettuce. Cut up a tomato, put out all kinds of condiments and let them go to town making their own. (Make your own is very big with me, if you can't tell.) The nice thing about this meal is there's usually enough to take for lunch the next day. I serve the subs with some good salsa and tortilla chips, and some of the pre-cut fruit they sell in the produce section. Or sometimes I'll just serve it with apple wedges. If I'm feeling especially generous, there might even be some of those big deli chocolate chip cookies for dessert.




Rotisserie Chicken, baked potatoes, and corn: Buy a rotisserie chicken, throw some potatoes in the oven, and heat up some frozen corn. Doesn't get any easier.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: I'm pretty sure this needs no explanation.

And for those nights I am just really over the whole thing, there is always the frozen stuff-- lasagna, corn dogs, pizza, burritos, etc. It's not something you want to do all the time but every so often it's gonna happen. At least, if you're anything like me it is. Happy (minimum) cooking!


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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Weekend Report



I didn't make this this weekend, but I thought I'd include the recipe because it is fun. And colorful. And ever so fallish. It's simply one jar of dry roasted peanuts, one bag of M&M's, and one bag of candy corn. Mix it all together and put it out for your family to grab a handful as they pass by. Or bag it up and give it to friends or neighbors as a little fall gift. (Of course, not if they have a peanut allergy in their house. That would be bad. My daughter is in a peanut free classroom this year and I have gotten an impromptu education on what is safe and not safe for people with nut allergies.)

This weekend we did nothing and everything. We slept in both days due to several people in the house who are fighting off colds. We cleaned the house. We lectured children on grades and respect for others and using time wisely (ie, get off the social media) and all the same sermonettes we seem to need to repeat with alarming regularity. (Why don't they ever learn? Oh yeah, they are eat up with the sin nature just like we are.)

We went over to some friends' house on Friday night and ate takeout sitting on their lovely covered patio, had those same friends over Saturday night, and had another friend over Sunday night. (Hence the house cleaning.) Inspired by my own cookbook post last week, I made ranch chicken sandwiches on Saturday night. Sunday night I made comfort food-- chicken pie, slow cooked green beans, buttered corn and apple crisp served warm with vanilla ice cream. I've been eating healthy lately (no flour, sugar, starches, etc.) but it's possible I indulged a bit on Sunday night. Who could resist?

Most importantly, we were all home this weekend-- all 8 of us. With our second child/first daughter off to college, we hadn't had that happen in two months. It was so nice to all be under one roof and gather around the table and share stories and laugh. I don't think I'll forget our discussion of personality types or my sons' dual impressions of "Seth Galifianakis" any time soon. We are a family of storytellers and jokesters and nowhere else does that come out more than after the meal is eaten and we stay seated.

We don't always get parenting right, or do it well, but I hope that as these kids of ours grow up and launch into their own lives, it will be these moments they recall, the hours spent lingering at the table, with guests or without, just talking, laughing, catching up and enjoying time together. Just knowing such moments are possible keeps me going.


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Some Friday Fun


It is Thursday night as I write this and, after a l-o-n-g week with my husband gone, a sick child, just general mom duties (taxi driver, cook, counselor, etc.), coupled with teaching and writing, well... let's just say I'm ready for the weekend. Though I don't have high hopes for it to be as fun as last weekend. But you never know. Life is full of surprises, right?

I took this of the screen at the theater the other night. Somehow you were supposed to crouch down in the corner of the movie screen and it was supposed to appear that the family is reacting to you. My kids and I never could figure out how that would work scale-wise since the screen is so massive and we would appear so small, but they weren't about to go up there and play along anyway. Anyone else have kids like this? Just me? Ok.

And speaking of surprises, it was no surprise to me that my kids loved the movie Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. I was able to take them to a sneak preview on Wednesday night and the 9th grader, 7th grader and 3rd grader all gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up. (They really didn't actually put their thumbs up, but verbally they gave it their glowing, gushing endorsement.)

The filmmakers were smart in that they had a range of ages in the movie so that meant there were a range of ages to appeal to. The 9th grader liked the "get the drivers license, go to prom" storyline. The 7th grader totally identified with Alexander since he's also 12. The 3rd grader just loved the nonstop hijinks. And me? I totally identified with the overwrought, stressed out parents who just want this to happen:

That's a sunset, in case it's not obvious.


Just keepin' it real.

My favorite quote from the movie? "Sometimes you have to have bad days so the good days seem even better." Amen, Alexander. Amen.

If you're looking for something fun to do tonight or this weekend-- something that will appeal to the whole family (how rare is that?)-- give Alexander a chance. He's had a very bad day. He could use it.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

My Go-To Cookbooks


This is my cookbook shelf. It is full. Overfull.
This should stop me from buying new cookbooks but...


This post inspired me to write my own roundup of favorite cookbooks, because cookbooks are some of my favorite things. They have often been the perfect bedtime read for me and, when I'm in the right mood, I find them just as riveting as any novel.

I linked all of these to Amazon and was really surprised to find several of them (the more obscure local ones) available this way-- many of them used for rock bottom prices. If you can pick up a used copy, do yourself a favor and do so! These are the cookbooks I've relied on for years:



Gooseberry Patch cookbooks: Especially A Pinch of This A Dash of That, Come on Over and Superfast Slow Cooking. I also love their Christmas and Fall cookbooks. Spend some time on their website just perusing the goodness they have to offer!

Pioneer Woman cookbooks: I have them all! (But I linked to the first one as it's a good place to start.) I love all the photos and find they help me to know if I'm doing "it" right. Her cinnamon rolls and her ranch chicken sandwiches have become family favorites.


The Cake Mix Doctor: I can usually always find something to bake using this cookbook-- and it's not all cakes, though cake mixes are the basis for most every recipe. She's got some wonderful icings and glazes too. I find myself using this cookbook as a resource when I'm in the mood to bake.

Fix It and Forget It Recipes For Entertaining: With a family our size, it's like I'm throwing a small dinner party every night so I use this cookbook regularly. It's a wonderful slow cooker resource. I love the chicken cacciatore and white chicken chili recipes from this cookbook.

Cooking With Class: This is a classic cookbook in my neck of the woods, and it's the best kind because it's a collection of recipes collected from real mothers at a local private school. My beloved banana bread recipe is in here, as is beer bread and a lot of other delicious stuff.

Cooking With Class, A Second Helping: This is part deux of this collection. I have and use both of these. My banana pudding recipe is in here.

Granny's Drawers: This was put together by a member of a family we actually know so that makes this cookbook extra fun. But you don't have to know the family to enjoy this collection of distinctly southern recipes. There is a recipe for how to cook a turkey breast from frozen that makes the whole book worth buying. I also make the Consomme Rice again and again. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Supper's At Six And We're Not Waiting! This cookbook is chock full of good country recipes, with little stories about the author's family too. Favorites are her apple crisp and her chicken pie. She's Moravian, which is part of my heritage, so there's lots of good stuff for my family in this cookbook.

Southern Living Comfort Food: I'll include this one because Pat Conroy wrote the foreword. That should be all you need to know. And also the words "Comfort Food" and "Southern."

I hope this roundup has been fun for you!
What are your favorite cookbooks?
Which ones are you going to consider buying?

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Monday, October 06, 2014

The Weekend Report


We had a fabulous weekend with weather that couldn't be topped. This weekend started early for us, with a trip down to Charleston to see David Gray one last time in concert before he leaves the states, not to return for who knows how long. Last time it was two years! We had a late lunch/early dinner at Fleet Landing Restaurant on the water, then headed over to North Charleston for the concert. We enjoyed the evening so much. David Gray concerts are our favorite date nights, hands down.

The next day we headed home in time to get our kids from school, wishing we could make a whole weekend of the lovely city of Charleston. But duty called, and a fun event awaited-- celebrating the birthday of a 24 year old young lady who I have known since she was 2. Our 22 year old son joined us, as she was one of his first friends, and it was a great evening with old friends.

David Gray, looking serious.
Saturday was low key-- errands in preparation for our 14 year old's school barn dance and household stuff. Curt grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and we spent a quiet evening in after two nights out. We were ready for S-L-O-W by then! The only time we left the house was to take and pick her up from her dance.

Sunday brought church with a wonderful message. I will admit when I heard the two verses the pastor was preaching from I thought "Now how is he going to make a whole message out of this?" Well he did. And how. The worship was done by the high school band and watching those kids brought me great hope for our future. So, so good. I was so glad we went to church. I always am.

After church we came home and had leftover hot dogs and hamburgers, I threw together some Taco Soup in the crockpot, then went to see Gone Girl with friends. Not to be a spoiler here but if you've heard they changed the ending, DO NOT BE FOOLED. They did not. I hated the ending of the book so you can imagine how I felt about the movie. All in all we enjoyed seeing the book brought to life on the big screen and it brought up some great discussion for the car ride home. (Keep in mind: It is rated R, and it earns every bit of that rating.)

After the movie we came home and ate the soup with the kids, then putzed around getting ready for a new week. I even found a few minutes to sit out on our deck with a glass of wine and read a book I'm loving. We finished the weekend with the double-header premiere of Homeland. Much as I said I wasn't going to watch it this season, I caved. I was bitter over Brody, but I had to see how Carrie was adjusting to motherhood. Answer? She can take on terrorists but a tiny baby? Not so much.

Homeland, season 4 sans Brody
I was sad to see this particular weekend go, as it was chock full of great couple time, family time, fabulous weather, and fun. Not all weekends are like that. But the ones that are keep us going.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A New Book You Won't Want To Miss


My dear friend Lisa Whittle has a new book out-- one that is perfect for your morning quiet time, a small group study, or to give to a friend with a pretty journal and a pen that writes great. I invited her to share here about the book. I think you'll find her words compelling and inspiring.

1) What led you to write I Want God?

I wrote I Want God at a time when I was really sick of my struggles, my fears, myself, basically – I call it the heartcry of the sick of me life. It was at a point of desperation and wanting to quit the ministry that my heart just cried out for God to consume me more than my life currently was and what started out as a blog post turned into an anthem for many of my readers who wanted God in that way, too. (That blog post, by the way, is included as a little bonus in the back of the book.) I remembered that the only way I’ve ever gotten better about anything in life is to focus on God harder, and that is really what I Want God was and is for me.

        2) What’s different about I Want God, compared to the other books like it out there?

                    You know, there are so many great books out there. Truly. I think what makes I Want God so beneficial is that it is very bottom line, simple even, and tells the reader specifics rather than a lot of fluff they have to figure out. Maybe it’s because I’m basic and straight forward, but I just think people crave some core truth in a world where there is so much information out there it causes us to be on overload. I Want God is a book I still pick up for myself to see where I am off when I find myself in a place I don’t pursue God like I should.

      3) Your book is filled with Scriptural truth. Can you share a favorite Scripture from the book and a unique perspective God gave you about it?

            Wow. That’s tough. I love the passage in Haggai (1:3-6) that God gave me for the book because it shows how other things we chase have failed us…I love the Revelation passage in chapter 6 that shows us how to have a soul revival from Jesus’ own red letter words…I love John 1 where Jesus asks the question, “what do you want?” because I have realized it is maybe the most important question He ever asked. A favorite is the verse I share in the intro, Psalm 142:5, “Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” It’s really my heart’s cry and my prayer for the readers of the book.


        4) Who did you write your book for? Who can benefit from its message?

                    I wrote it for the person in a place of lack – starving, desperate, need-God-to-consume-them-more-than-what-is-currently-consuming-their-life. I wrote it for the person who lives in a place of plenty but it’s still not enough. I wrote it for the searcher and for the one on the spiritual roller coaster – wanting God one minute then not as much, the next. I wrote it for the spiritually dead – the believer who is stifled in their relationship with God and can’t figure out why.

        5) What was your goal when you started writing I Want God? Was it achieved?

                    My goal for this book is that it would be a guide for years to come to help readers see where they are when they find themselves spiritually off course.  I wanted it to convict, inspire, and most of all, help the reader remember their God. My biggest hope is that someone will read it and need to stop and put it down and get on their face before God. To hear that it has done those things for early readers means a great deal. One of those early readers, Jill, calls I Want God “a wrecking and a revival and a resurrection, all at once.”

        6) What was the most personally meaningful thing to you in the book? How has God used it in your life?
                        Again, this is a tough one – it’s like asking me to pick between my kids when I love them all! J God spoke to me so loudly in the writing of this book I actually mourned it when I was through. (Usually, I’m honestly just grateful to have met my book deadline!) I think chapter one will always hold a special place for me because it still convicts me just as powerfully everytime I read it.  Several of the stories – the one of my tattoo is meaningful to me in a big way.


But I probably cry the most when I read the beginning and end of chapter 6. Chapter 6 opens with a huge vulnerable story from me and ends with a story of my dear friend, Jennifer, who passed away. It reminds me that no matter what, God is Who I always want most.

        7) What do you feel is the greatest obstacle people must overcome in order to make a deep desire for God a priority?

                    You know, that’s a good question. My first instinct is to say that everyone has different obstacles. For me, it is my desire for comfort. For others, it may be a desire to have people’s approval. So to a degree, we all have a different “issue” we face that most keeps us from God. But as I think about it, probably it can boiled down to a universal issue of self. Self is our greatest obstacle and most often keeps us from God.

8) What is your prayer for anyone who reads I Want God?

Absolutely, that God will use it to change them in some way. We have enough stirred believers, and that is a spiritual waste because it doesn’t have lasting impact. I pray that their prayer will become that of David’s in Psalm 142:5.  That right in their living room, on the beach, wherever they read it, a soul revival will begin. I’m trusting God for that to happen!

 
9) What are some practical ways your readers can implement the principles found in I Want God?

I think daily choice is super important. So if they will first find out what they struggle with the most (I have questions in the back of each chapter to help them identify this for themselves.), go into every day with that awareness and just be honest about it, and then choose that day – each day – to do something that lessens that grip, I believe over time they will see change.  And of course, prayer. I mean, prayer is everything, and that will always be the most important.

10) Is a soul revival really possible? How does that happen?

Yes. For sure it is. Jesus talks about this soul revival – which is really just a renewed passion for God, in Revelation 2, which I explain in the last chapter of the book. I believe all revival happens first in individual hearts. I believe it can happen in your office at work, carpool line, in the middle of Starbucks…that place where you know God is messing with you and you stop telling Him no and giving excuses and finally let Him. And yet I believe that a soul revival is ongoing. I don’t believe we have a quick moment, are stirred and then it’s over.  Many believers swing from one high spiritual experience to another but never see their life change. The kind of soul revival I’m talking about is the one where be become aware of God again, our life is altered, we confess the places that need to change, and then we stay with God daily to see the revival fires continue to be fanned.
 
To learn more about Lisa Whittle, her book, and her ministry, click on the links below:

 
To order the book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0736959203/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1412070400&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX110_SY165_QL70

To read more about I Want God: www.IWantGod.me
Link to Blog: www.lisawhittle.com 

 
 
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