Monday, January 31, 2011

In A Food Mood: Last Soup Recipe

As January draws to a close, I am posting my last soup recipes. I hope you guys have been inspired to try some of the recipes. Thanks to those of you who have written to me, commented on Facebook or left comments here letting me know that you tried them and your families liked them. That means a lot.

For my last recipe, I decided to post a few links to some good soup recipes I've found around the internet:

First off is Renee Swope's Chicken Noodle Soup. I've written about this soup before and our fun winter day we spent together when she made this. My kids loved it. Try it-- it's easy, quick and delish! Plus chicken soup is supposed to be good for you.

This is the soup I made with our leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. You could also use leftover chicken or just tear apart a rotisserie chicken like Renee does for her soup.

Here's a recipe for white chicken chili. This is a favorite at our house. (Scroll down to get to the recipe... it's there.)

And finally, here's a recipe for a hamburger vegetable soup made in the crockpot that looks super good. I am putting this on my menu plans for this week!

Next week I will be back with some suggestions for Valentine's Day goodies-- which of course means chocolate!! See you then!
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Fiction Friday: Saying The Same Thing In Different Ways

I like what Donald Maass has to say about conveying our passionate opinions: “They are always stronger in the mouths of characters than in the prose of the author.”

I started out writing non-fiction and quickly discovered that I struggled with the teaching style that came with writing a non-fiction book. Obviously my struggle came through in the writing and I only got one book contract out of the countless ideas I pitched over the years. I think it became painfully obvious that I was not cut out for this kind of writing. I needed to follow my heart.

But did that mean that my days of having something to say had to end? Nope. It just meant I wasn't going to be the one saying it anymore. Now my characters got to do it.

In my new novel (coming in June) my main character has some hard lessons to learn about pedestals and authenticity and striving for perfection. Now, I could've written a non-fiction book about these same things but honestly-- truly-- I know that I said it better by telling you a story about someone who was struggling with these things than by writing an essay about my own struggles.

I will close with this quote:
If you want to tell people what to think, write non-fiction. If you want to show them who you are, write fiction.

I hope to keep showing people who I am-- and what I'm learning about life-- through the stories I tell. I'll let my characters do the talking for me.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Thought: The Best Thing I Do For My Marriage

Once a month Curt and I go and sit in front of a counselor. This person is trained to help couples learn how to talk through issues and deal with things constructively. Now, Curt and I aren't in trouble. In fact, as I write this we're very very happy. But we do have struggles and issues. And we need a third party sometimes to help us sort through those struggles and issues. Because if left to our own devices we choose some very dumb ways-- ways that hurt the other person.

The other day our counselor gave us a sheet of "losing strategies-- things that keep you from getting what you want most in your marriage." Things on the list included making a case like a lawyer, striving to get the facts right, bullying or somehow attempting to control the other person, verbal escalation, thinking you're entitled to vent, passive aggressive behavior, put-downs, shutting down or withdrawing, etc. I am ashamed to admit how many of those things on that list I have done in the past or present. Some are lifelong habits, some are heat of the moment mistakes. But I do a lot of 'em. And I don't want to anymore. Our counselor is helping us learn how to change our behavior, reprogram ourselves. Listen effectively. Communicate effectively. Big stuff. Necessary stuff.

The more I am married the more I learn that marriage is hard work. But if you're willing to do the hard work (including investing the money and taking the time to sit in front of a counselor as much as it takes), you can have a great marriage. I feel like going to sit in front of a counselor and learn from him what we don't inherently know is like scheduled maintenance on a car. It's the smart thing to do-- and it saves you from breaking down in the future. I am glad we do this and I would urge any of you who feel like counseling would benefit you (hint: I would be willing to bet this is most of you-- especially if you're raising kids and dealing with all the financial, emotional, etc. stress that comes with that) to make yourself an appointment. Seeking counseling isn't admitting weakness, it's positioning your marriage for greatness.
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Psalms For Moms

Those who know your name trust in you. You, Lord, never forsake those who seek you.
Psalm 8:9

Are you seeking Him? He promises that if you seek Him, He will never (strong language) forsake you.

If you're feeling forsaken right now, press in. Trust. He isn't far away even if He seems like it. Believe. He's working it out even in the silence.

Hang onto that truth today. And keep seeking Him.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday... A Little Late

Top Ten Reasons Why Buying A Car Is A Pain...

1. It takes Too. Much. Time. Three whole entire days were swallowed up by our searching. Today I am scrambling to get stuff done and feeling very behind the eight ball.

2. It costs Too. Much. Money. There is no "inexpensive way" to replace a vehicle. My van died of old age quietly in the driveway after nearly dying on the side of the road and scaring my children and me. We managed to get home as she valiantly got us one last time where we were going. But attempting to get her out on the road one more time was just too risky after that. She just can't be trusted anymore. The old girl had 200K miles on her. It was time to let her go. And yet, I wasn't ready to replace her. Are we ever truly ready?

3. There are a lot of people who do not take care of their cars. Curt is very picky about what car he gets-- it needs to be clean. Really clean. That crossed a LOT of cars off our list.

4. There are a lot of people selling used cars who are shifty. We met a few along the way. We did not buy their cars.

5. It feels more urgent when you're buying a car under the gun as we were. We need two vehicles for our 8 member family. My son has a car but it's for his use for school and work and social. He helped us out some but he's gone in his car a lot. So that left Curt's car functioning as transportation for 7 people. When they were going in two different directions at the same time, it got dicey. Plus his car doesn't fit us all. We couldn't all go to church on Sunday. We need two cars and we need at least one of those cars to fit us all. That would be mine.

6. SUV's are big. And they guzzle gas. And I drove a Suburban for years before I got my van. I didn't want another SUV. Yet they are one of the obvious options for transporting as many people as we have. But I wasn't feeling an SUV this time. Can't explain why except it just wasn't "me."

7. Vans are great. They hold a lot of people and they aren't bad on gas. Plus they aren't expensive in the grander scheme of things. But I've driven a van for a great many years. And I knew that whatever vehicle I am getting I will also drive til it dies of old age. I didn't want to be in a van for the next ten years as my kids are getting driving licenses and I am no longer a minivan mom but transitioning out of that phase of my life. Wanted to think beyond that.

8. Which led us to crossovers. They are pretty cool, not bad on gas, and fit us all. They are also pretty expensive-- and yet, I kept coming back to them. Curt just shook his head and said "It's your car. You need to be happy in it because you're going to drive it for a long, long time. Choose wisely." I kept saying, "I just wish the van hadn't died." And he kept saying, "Well it did, so pick something already!"

9. People that work in car dealerships are pretty nice. Especially the guy who sold us our vehicle last night as we slumped into chairs at his desk, looking relieved to have found "the one" we'd been searching for high and low. He told us about his new baby who is 8 weeks old. And about his 23 year old. We laughed about the dichotomy of raising young adults and little ones all at the same time. He's nearly 50 and his wife is 43. My hat's off to him and we were even happier to give him the commission off our sale. We knew how much he needed it.

10. What kind of car did we get? A 2007 GMC Acadia. It's "cool" according to my kids. We're happy. Mostly I am just happy that it's done. Lord willing, I don't intend to go through that for another ten years. Phew!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

In A Food Mood

Still hanging in there with the soup posts. Hope you guys are liking these...

Is chili soup? It's served in a bowl, eaten with a spoon and served in cold weather months. I say that qualifies. This is my own recipe after hodge-podging several different recipes into one. Since I made it up I get to call it whatever I want. I named it after my alma mater. You can name it whatever you want. Serve it with cornbread or over yellow rice or with tortilla chips and shredded cheese. However you serve it, it's good!

Wolfpack Chili

(NC State's colors are red and black and you use red and black beans)

2 lbs ground beef

3/4 cup of chopped onion

2 (16 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes, chili style

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 cans (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 cup beef broth (bouillon cube dissolved in one cup boiling water)

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. black pepper

red pepper to taste

2 tsp. salt

Brown ground beef and onion together. Drain well. Mix all ingredients with drained beef and let simmer for several hours. Dee-lish!
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Fiction Friday: Writers Of A Certain Age

Here’s another thing to consider. If you always wanted to write, and now you are
A Certain Age, and you never got around to it, and you think it’s too late…do
please think again. I watched Julia Glass win the National Book Award for her
first novel, “The Three Junes”, which she began writing in her late 30’s. I
listened to her give her moving acceptance speech, in which she told how she
used to lie awake at night, tormented as she worked on her book, asking herself,
“Who do you think you are, trying to write a first novel at your age?” But she
wrote it. And as she held up her National Book Award, she said, “This is for all
the late-bloomers in the world.” Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s
not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never
too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you
write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers
it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age.
At least try.

(Quote from this article:

I read this quote and this article on the same day. Both resonated with me, the thought that it really is never too late to try your hand at your artistic passion-- whether it's singing, writing, painting, sculpting... whatever. I believe when we create we are doing what we were created to do. We were made in the image of the Creator, after all. If we bear His image, it stands to reason that we would also, then, be compelled to create.

Age shouldn't matter when we're doing what we were called to do, and striving to take hold of what God has promised. Reading this passage from the Bible about Caleb-- who had to wait til he was 85 to see his calling come to fruition-- was encouraging to me. Perhaps it will be inspiring to those of you who are writers of a certain age.

Joshua 14:10-14
10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Thought

"Home is any four walls that enclose the right person." Helen Rowland

I am taking some time to work around my house today (cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other such exciting tasks) so I don't have time for a long blog post. Will be back tomorrow with a post about writing fiction for those "writers of a certain age."

In the meantime, enjoy your home today-- whatever it looks like, wherever it is.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psalms For Moms: A Good Verse For This New Year

Lead me in the right path, O Lord...

Make your way plain for me to

Ps 5:8 NLT

What mom doesn't need this verse posted on her fridge, her bathroom mirror, and her dashboard?

A) I need help knowing the right path.

B) I need the way to be plain. Cause I am not the fastest horse in the gate.

Plain and simple, I need a lot of help. And I am glad I know the source for the help. God is always faithful to lead me to the answers I need, pointing me to the right path, no matter how far off it I wander.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books You Should Read This Year

A few weeks ago, I shared a top ten list of books I want to read in the coming year. Because I love fiction, most all of mine were novels-- with some writing books thrown in for good measure. Later, I must confess, I sat down with my Amazon cart list, my library hold list, and my jotted down titles and created a more encompassing list... and came up with 38 novels I want to read this year. Call me ambitious, but I think I can do it. Of course, it will mean less tv this year but that's ok.

Mark Hamby, a speaker I love, says that the only things that will have changed us years from now are the people we meet and the books we read. That is so true.

And so, this week I thought I would share a top ten list of books that have changed me. Books that made me think differently after having read them. These books are important books-- books that, if you are looking for something to read and haven't read them, you should put on your list.

And so, here they are (in no certain order):

1. A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller: This was a book from last year that is one I will most likely re-read once a year, going through it slowly. It's about living a better story, which appeals to me both as a writer and a person.

2. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott: I could list all of her books but I won't. I will just pick this one because I love it the most if I have to pick a favorite. I love Anne Lamott and have ever since I first read Operating Instructions back when my 18yo was a baby. For the record, I also love Bird By Bird. And Plan B. But Traveling Mercies is the book I went with for this particular list.
3. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller: This book was so good for me to read. I inhaled it. It's the perfect blend of great writing and gripping truth.

4. Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson: This is the only novel on the list. This book made me think long and hard about who I am and what I commit to... and why.

5. In The Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. This book inspired me big time. I read it last year and this year am going through it again with a group of writer friends online. Just as powerful the second time.

6. What Happens When Women Say Yes To God by Lysa TerKeurst. This was the book that started me on the journey of listening to God and doing what He tells me to do. I am still on the journey and amazed at the adventure it has taken me on thus far.

7. Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick: My pastor. Powerful book. I get this kind of teaching every week and feel very blessed for it. If you can't live in Charlotte and go to Elevation you can buy this book and get a dose of it.
8. Battlefield Of The Mind by Joyce Meyer: This one is about the way you think-- and how to change your thought life. Powerful stuff. As one of my friends said, she could read this one every six months and still not get out everything in it.
9. Love And Respect by Emerson Eggerich: Curt and I went to his marriage weekend two years ago and love the message of this book. Men want respect, women want love. How can both parties get what they want? Life changing way to look at marriage. Also, a bonus book along these same lines is The Five Love Languages. Another life-changing book that makes you think differently about marriage. And no mention of marriage books would be complete without mentioning my friend Melanie Chitwood's book What Every Husband Needs From His Wife. A great, easy read full of good info.
10. Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey: Ok, so I didn't actually read this book but Curt did. And I sat through his 6 hour class based on this book. And it's the book that started our journey out of debt, so I count it as life-changing.
What books would go on this list for you, if you were to make one?
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Monday, January 17, 2011

In A Food Mood: Soup Is Good Food

Here's a fast beef stew you can make in the crockpot.

2 packages of frozen vegetables for stew
1.5 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can tomato soup
1 envelope onion soup mix

Place veggies in slow cooker. Brown beef in oil on all sides in skillet. Add meat to slow cooker. Combine soups and mix and pour over top. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or until beef is tender. Remember that the longer the cooking time, the more tender the beef will get because you are breaking down the connective tissue that makes the beef tough. So if you like meat you can cut with a fork (I do!) don't skimp on your cooking time.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Fiction Friday: Many Or Few

Today I have a devotion running at Proverbs 31 Ministries. Thanks to all of you who stop by after reading. On Fridays I talk about fiction since I write fiction and Fiction Fridays has a nice ring to it. :)

Today I thought I would attempt to tie the subject matter of my devotion to the craft of writing fiction. We'll see if I can pull it off.

The devotion talks about nothing hindering God from saving us, whether by many or by few. I gave some real-life examples of the lack (the few) and the abundance (the many) we all face that might make us feel hindered at times.

I know as a writer, I've felt both the many and the few in my career. I have had times of many ideas. I have had times of few contracts. I have had times of many opportunities and times of few moments to write. I've had times of many deadlines and times of few inspiration. I know what it means to swing back and forth on the writing pendulum, living in the place of never enough.

In my devotion today, I talked about how God can save us whether by many or by few. He has met me in my times of many and my times of few. He has saved me when I lacked inspiration or time, provided connections when I had none, helped me meet impossible deadlines and keep track of the inspirations that strike me.

God will save us, whether by many or by few. He does it in life, and in writing-- providing resources where we have none and stacking the odds so He can show Himself strong.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday Thought

Today I am not here. I know I seem like I am here, but I am not. I am actually in a tiny town called Jefferson TX living my wildest fiction writing fantasy. I am getting to hang out with some writers I have loved for a long time and meet some writers I've always wanted to meet. I am getting to meet some new writer friends and meet a bunch of women who love to read. In other words, I am at Girlfriends Weekend!!
Next week I am hoping to post pictures of my adventures in Jefferson TX with the Pulpwood Queens. I can't wait to share about my experience at this weekend that I've heard described as crazy and unreal and most of all FUN. Anytime a bunch of writer types gather with a bunch of reader types you're guaranteed for hilarity and hijinks to ensue.
I am sure this weekend will not disappoint. Stay tuned for updates...
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 119:71 (MSG)

My troubles turned out all for the best--
They forced me to learn from your textbook.

For some reason when I was posting this verse I thought of lyrics to the old Garth Brooks' song, The Dance. In the song he says, "I would've missed the pain, but I'd've had to miss the dance." In a way that's what this verse is saying.

January is a month for focusing on what's to come, like yesterday when I wrote about choosing a word for the coming year. But it's also a month for thinking about the year that's just passed. Perhaps 2010 was a painful year for you. Perhaps your troubles-- as today's verse says-- forced you to turn to God's textbook, His Word. As you faced things too big for you to handle, you went to Him for guidance, comfort, wisdom. You grew closer to God as a result. As my pastor said in a recent sermon, "Trouble will make you look for God."

My friend Rachel shared with me that she has always looked back at the year that was and named it. Maybe as you evaluate what your year was like and what you learned from it, you can name your year as well. With half of 2010 spent without Curt's income, I would name our year the year of Reliance. We went to Him with our every need, and found Him faithful. Our troubles turned out all for the best. We looked for God harder than we ever have. And we found Him in His promises, His peace, and His people.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Words For The Year

This past weekend at an event I spoke at, I encouraged the participants to choose a word for this new year and let that word be the focus in everything they do. This whole concept is much simpler than a list of resolutions and becomes the filter through which you approach everything. I got this idea from my friend Ann Voskamp, who wrote a challenging post about her tradition of naming her year.

After I talked about it, my friend Rachel Olsen, who was there, shared with me that this concept was begun by her pastor Mike Ashcraft six years ago. There is even a website called I was excited to find out there are resources available to us. If you are choosing a word for this year, this site is worth visiting.

So today I thought I would share ten ideas for words you might want to choose. These are words I've read about other people choosing. I think they will get your brain going and hopefully inspire you to choose a word of your own. If you'd like to, you can comment and share what your word is.

1. JOY: This is my word for the year. I chose it because it is something that keeps coming up with me-- choosing joy, or finding it, in all circumstances. I don't naturally do that, but I want to. When a coordinator for an event I did several weeks ago sent me a handmade pewter ornament with the word JOY on it at the very same time I was praying about what word would be the right one, I knew this was the word for me! Instead of hanging the ornament on my tree, it is now hanging in my kitchen window, where I can see a reminder every day.

2. PAUSE: Maybe you need to slow down and savor this life of yours. Choosing pause would be a good reminder to do just that.

3. BELIEVE: Do you need to believe God's promises even as you journey through a dark time? Then believe might be the word for you. You could even read a book like Beth Moore's Believing God to kick off the year and inspire you to believe fully.

4. IMPERFECT: Do you struggle with perfectionism? Then maybe you need to view everything this year with this word as your focus. Maybe you need to remember that it's ok to be imperfect and that God doesn't expect perfection out of you-- He loves you even when you mess up... and He knows you will. It is in your imperfect state that His perfection shines.

5. CONSISTENT: This is my husband's word for the year. I think he should be consistent in giving me whatever I want and attending to my every whim but somehow I don't think that's what he had in mind.

6. STORY: This is a friend of mine's word for the year and I had word envy after I heard it. Oh well, there's always next year! If you've been thinking of living a better story this year (read A Million Miles In A Thousand Years to be inspired in this department) then this might be the word for you. If music is more your thing, then maybe your word could be SONG.

7. ACTION: Do you desire to be a woman of action? Then this might be the word for you.

8. SIMPLIFY: Does clutter dominate your life-- household clutter, commitment clutter, etc? Simplify might be what God is speaking to your heart. Maybe He wants to help you clean house-- physically and emotionally-- this year and discover the freedom and peace that comes with simplifying your life.

9. SURRENDER: Maybe God's been speaking to you about surrendering your life to Him-- letting go of the control you crave. Maybe you need to surrender in all areas-- your marriage, your parenting, your home, your heart. If that's true of you, surrender will define this coming year for you.

10. THRIVE. This is a friend of mine's word for the year. She said she's been living life on autopilot too long and she wants to stop. She wants to live beyond surviving and thrive instead. I loved this.

And finally, if you want to get a reminder for what your year's theme is, you can visit this website and have it put on a necklace! Love this!!

What will your word be for this year? Feel free to comment and share it if you know what it is. And remember, your word for the year isn't something you have to have figured out by a certain deadline-- it's something you can take time to discover, listening to the themes that keep cropping up in your life, paying attention to what God wants to say to you about who you are, and who He is leading you to be.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

In A Food Mood: Soup Is Good Food

Baked Potato Soup

Our family will be having this soup sometime this week. Not only is it fairly fast to assemble, it's hearty, filling, and cheap!

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 can chicken broth, plus one can water
3 large potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk

Peel and dice potatoes. Cover them with water and boil until tender. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in dutch oven (large, deep pot) over low heat. Whisk in flour til smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for one minute. Stir in onion and cook for two minutes or until tender. Add chicken broth and water. Stir. Simmer. Add potatoes that were cooked, salt and pepper. Stir in milk. Cook until heated through.

Serve with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon bits, a dollop of sour cream, sliced green onions, etc.
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Friday, January 07, 2011

Fiction Friday

For today I am not going to share. I am going to let two more experienced, wiser writers do that for me.

James Scott Bell's post on 10 Writing Tips for Writing Fiction is dead on. He puts into writing several things I've discovered through writing these two novels and as I've worked on this third one I am playing around with. He just says it better than I could.

Mary Alice Monroe's post You Mean I Can Be A Writer When I Grow Up? is worth the read. It got me thinking. It'll get you thinking/reflecting, too.
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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Thursday Thought: My Own Little World

If you read my devotion that's running at Proverbs 31's Encouragement For Today, you will read of my propensity to want to be alone... it's something that God-- who has a sense of humor-- has challenged me on by surrounding me with a husband and six children!

Instead of pontificating on this subject any further I am going to share this video instead, because Matthew West has said it better than I could:

Is it just me or does anyone else struggle with living in their own little world, population of one?
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Psalms For Moms

"But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head." Psalm 3:3

He protects us, shields us, surrounds us.

He bestows glory on us. We don't gain it for ourselves.

When we are down, He lifts our heads, helping us refocus on what's necessary, what's important. He doesn't let us navel gaze... instead He redirects our sights on serving, giving, loving others. I love the picture of Him cupping our chins and lifting our heads.

This spoke to me today.

Perhaps it will speak to one of you, right where you're at. That's what the Psalms do for me.
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ten Books I Plan To Read This Year

I am changing a couple of my reading habits this year. I am going to keep a reading journal for the first year ever. Every year I say I am, this year I am. I always regret that I can't remember what I read in a given year. I want to keep a record of that. Books are important to me, this is a way of marking that importance in some way.
I am also stopping my holds at the library until I have read the books in my house that I want to read. This is huge for me, as my holds list is usually maxed out. But I fall victim to putting off reading the books I own because the library books are on a deadline. This creates a never-ending cycle of having some really good books languish in my book basket by my bed, while pop fiction books get read and returned again and again. This year I am trying to read books that will make me a better writer by reading great writers. And so, the list:

1. All of Anne Tyler's works starting with the book she considers her best, Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant. (yes, that's more than ten but did you really want me to just list ten of her titles?? didn't think so) I see her referenced as inspirational to a lot of writers, so I figured I'd work my way through her body of work. Incidentally, I find it extremely comforting that she didn't feel she'd hit her stride as a writer til her 9th book. Gives me great hope that maybe... just maybe... I will feel like I've produced something good in another 7 books. :)

2. Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and South of Broad. I read Prince of Tides in 1988 and haven't read the other two. It's time, especially considering I am going to get to meet him at this in just a few weeks!

3. Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts. I plan to read that this month and then begin logging my own 1000 gifts. (Read most of it in the fall but want to read it slowly and take it all in this time... it's one of those kinds of books.) This book will be a whole post unto itself in the near future. Perhaps the dear Ann will visit with us here and talk about this amazing book.

4. The Truth That Tells A Lie by John Dufresne

5. The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

6. Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

7. Deep and Wide by Susan May Warren

8. The Hero's Journey by Michael Hauge (this is actually a dvd but I am including it)

(#4-8 are all writing books)

9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This was available at Books Alive that I went to back in November. I picked it up because it talks about Hemingway in Paris. I can't wait to dive into it. I got an advanced copy but it comes out in February. I love Hemingway and I still count A Farewell To Arms as one of my all-time faves.

10. TBD-- leaving a spot for that one that sneaks in and demands to be attended to.

I know I will read a lot more than ten books this year. These are just the ones at the top of my list right now. What about you? What's on your top ten list of books to read this year?
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Monday, January 03, 2011

In A Food Mood: Soup Is Good Food

This month I am going to share my favorite soup recipes because it's January, and no month (other than February) calls for a once a week pot of soup more than January. The best part about soup is there are so many different varieties! And it's a meal in a bowl! Veggie, starch and meat... oh my!

The other day I tweeted (my tweets can be found in the top of the sidebar on the right of this blog or you can follow me on Twitter @marybethwhalen) that I was making Italian Chicken Stew and cornbread for dinner. I had a lot of responses from twitter followers and Facebook friends (my tweets post as my status to Facebook-- how clever that they offer that!) for the recipe. So I am sharing that first because apparently a lot of people like the sound of Italian Chicken Stew.

Step 1) Boil a package of chicken breasts (2 pounds) for about an hour. Take the meat out and shred it. (You can do this any time. You can freeze or refrigerate the meat depending on how far in advance you do it.) You can also buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and peel all the meat off it. See all the options you have??

Step 2) Pour a tablespoon of oil in a pot and heat it. Add some diced up onion (about a cup) to it. Stir it around for about 5 minutes-- til the onion becomes translucent, which is a fancy word for see-through. (Can you tell I've been reading Fancy Nancy books to my 5yo?)

Step 3) Add to the onion 2 large cans of diced tomatoes (the 28 oz size). These can be plain or with spices. I like the kind with spices. Add 3 cans of Veg-All (drained) or a bag of mixed frozen veggies. Add a box of chicken broth. (I also added some chicken bouillon cubes and 2 cups of water because I wanted more soup than stew-- totally up to you.) Then add the chicken and a tsp of Italian seasoning, some garlic salt and pepper and two bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for several hours. If you want to boil some noodles separately and add at the end, you can.

Voila! You have Italian Chicken Stew (or Soup, if you do what I did). We ate off this for days so if you have a smaller family than mine-- most people do-- you might want to give half away or freeze half for a meal in February, which as I said, is also good soup weather. This soup is good food. And it's especially good with cornbread crumbled on top of it. Just sayin.
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