Thursday, December 31, 2015

Favorite Christmas posts countdown: 2

This week I'm sharing some of my favorite Christmas posts.  This post was originally published in December of 2011.

Christmas Greetings


Let me just preface this by saying I didn't mean to send our Christmas cards out this year after Christmas.  I put a great deal of thought and effort into our Christmas newsletter each year, and this year, I just wasn't inspired until after the big day.  I thought this would be the year without a letter, which saddened me tremendously, because over the years the letter has evolved from something I did for you, my friends and family, to something I did for me.  Which is not to say that I don't think of all of you as I'm writing, just that I've come to realize that while you enjoy the letters, I treasure them.  It is such a treat to read through our previous letters each year to remember again where we've been.

I didn't mean to send our Christmas greetings after Christmas, but I think you'll see why I think it worked out perfectly.

Read on...

Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas!

When I (Scarlet) was in high school, I used to go around saying, “Merry Christmas” all the time.  If you’ve known me long enough, maybe you remember.  I think it must have been my I-am-unique-remember-me response to being one among hundreds of students in my high school.  Oh, yeah, and there was also the turbulence inherent in adolescence—that makes people do strange things.  It didn’t matter what time of year it was—always, my standard greeting was, “Merry Christmas.”  Kind of silly.

            Now that I’m older, and (presumably) wiser, I’ve come to realize that maybe it wasn’t so silly after all.  You see, every day can and should hold a little bit of Christmas, because God, first in the form of Christ, the Son, and now in the presence of the Holy Spirit, has come to live among us.

            And so, I think it’s fitting to remember, after the hustle and bustle and excitement, after the anticipation and build-up, followed by the inevitable let-down of the busy holiday season, that God is here with us. Every day.  And that is why we celebrate.

            We hope that you have found peace and joy in this truth, even through the busyness of the season which often masks the truth.  We pray that you will be blessed by God’s presence, and experience Christmas joy,every day in the coming year.

Love and peace,
The Bluefield Family

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favorite Christmas posts countdown: 3

This week I'm sharing some of my favorite Christmas posts.  This one was originally posted in December of 2010.

Room for a Little One


One of my favorite ways to count down to Christmas is to wrap up all of our children's books that have Christmas or winter themes, and then open and read one as a family each day in December until, on Christmas day, we open a wrapped Bible and read the Christmas story, as told in Luke 2.  It's so nice to take time, in the busy-ness of the season, to sit quietly (or, some of us sit not so quietly) together as a family, reflecting on what it's really all about, and this practice ensures that we don't miss out on reading any of our favorite Christmas stories in December.  We're actually not counting down this way, this year, so I've been bringing a couple of the books out at a time here and there.  It warms my heart to see our older boys reading and sharing these treasured stories with their younger brother.

One of my favorites is Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale, written by Martin Waddell, and illustrated by Jason Cockcroft.





In this book, the animals in the barn make room in the stable for others, including their enemies, to come in and find shelter from the cold night, saying, "there's always room for a little one here," until Tired Donkey comes along, led by Joseph, carrying Mary.  The book reads, "Joseph was cold and Mary was weary, but there was no room at the inn."  And then,
"Come inside," Kind Ox called to Tired Donkey. "There's always room for a little one here." Tired Donkey brought Mary into the stable.  Joseph made her a warm bed in the straw, to save her from the cold of the night.  And so Jesus was born with the animals around Him; Kind Ox, Old Dog, Stray Cat, Small Mouse, and Tired Donkey all welcomed Him to the warmth of their stable. 
The book ends with these words: "that cold winter's night, beneath the star's light...a Little One came for the world."

I always tear up as I read those words.  The welcoming kindness of the animals is so touching, especially in contrast to the cruelty of the world.  No room.  There was no room in the inn, as Jesus entered our earthly world, and it seems, in many ways, many still declare "no room" in our world for Jesus, in countless ways, unintentional and intentional.

The words of this song, "While You Were Sleeping," from the album "Peace on Earth," by Casting Crowns, have been running through my head this month.  Please enjoy (if you read my blog via facebook or email, you will need to visit my blog at http://bluefield5.blogspot.com/ to view the video):



My friends, my prayer for each of you this season is that you will make room in your heart for a Little One, who came to save the world.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Favorite Christmas posts countdown: 4

This week I'm sharing some of my favorite Christmas posts from over the years.  This one was first published in December of 2008.

What do you give the Guy who has everything?


A few times during past weeks, one of the announcers on the radio station I listen to the most has posed this scenario: imagine that you go to a birthday party, and everyone there receives gifts, except the birthday boy. The implication is that this is exactly what we've done with Christmas, which is, after all, a celebration of Christ's birth. I remember thinking about that and mentioning it in one of our past Christmas newsletters, but the first thing I thought when I heard about this birthday party was, "but what do you give the Guy who has everything?" (I think that comes from the Christmas musical I was in when I was 7 or 8: there was a song that went, "what can we give to the King? Give to the One who has everything?") I think we've probably all been in that situation, right?

The question remains, what can I, a lowly, imperfect, unworthy human, give to the One who gave me everything I have? What could I possibly have, that God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, could want? This Christmas, we, along with my husband's family, bought gifts for a family we don't know, who are unable to buy their own Christmas presents. We did this because we are Christ-followers, but is this really a gift for Jesus? We tend to give more money to charities around Christmas time as well. We do this because we are Christ-followers, but is that really a gift for Jesus? I suppose, based on Jesus' words in Matthew 25:40: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me," we can say these gifts are for Jesus, but I think what Jesus really wants for His birthday is...us. Our very lives. Our hearts, minds, and souls. Everything we have and everything we are. As Margie Palatini wrote in Mooseltoe,it's "so simple. So easy. So...perfectly perfect." Right?

Unfortunately, Moose's Christmas preparations didn't turn out to be so simple, so easy, or so perfectly perfect, and that happens with our gift to our Savior as well. We have the perfect gift to give to our King, and it is so simple, but so often we mess it up anyway. It is so much easier to give Jesus the parts of our lives we feel good about, or feel comfortable giving up control over, and to hoard to ourselves the darker places, or the things that bring us earthly security. We pick and choose the parts of our gift for Jesus, rather than surrendering all.

So, my friends, what gift will you bring to Jesus this Christmas? What are yougonna give the Guy who has everything?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Favorite Christmas posts countdown: 5

This week I'm sharing some of my favorite Christmas posts from over the years.  This one was first published in December of 2008.

The Hunt

One of our favorite parts of getting ready for Christmas is going Christmas tree hunting. 

On our way to the tree farm, we saw several folks traveling south with 500 pointers on the roofs of their vehicles, so we knew we were getting close to good huntin' grounds. To pass the time, we made up a little song. It went like this (sort of to the tune of O Christmas Tree):

It's Christmas day, it's Christmas day,
we're gonna catch a big one.
[silence--that was Bubby's part]
fa la la la la la la la la
Ummm

It's a fun little song, doncha think? Kinda catchy.

When we arrived, we set off. Luckily, those trees don't move very fast, because we're not very speedy all bundled up in our snow gear.

Here's a picture of our tree in the wild...


And here's a picture after we felled it...
After all that hard hunting we decided to take a hay ride,

drink some hot apple cider,

and sit by the fire (but I didn't get a picture of that).

After we returned home, we turned on the Christmas carols, ate popcorn, and drank hot chocolate to celebrate our successful hunt. Everyone was eager to help put our trophy on display. Here is Bubby explaining the best way to get it in.

MC helped with the lights

Everything was going well, until we had a minor set-back.

But we overcame all obstacles, and it was time for the ornaments. Here are the first few going on the tree.


Let me leave you with the words of my new favorite Christmas song: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Casting Crowns

I heard the bells on Christmas day; 
Their old familiar carols play; 
And mild and sweet their songs repeat; 
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing; Like a choir they're singing; 
In my heart I hear them; Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head; 
There is no peace on earth I said; 
For hate is strong and mocks the song; 
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing; Like a choir singing; 
Does anybody hear them?; Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep; 
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail; 
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way; 
The world revolved from night to day; 
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, 
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing; Like a choir they're singing; 
And with our hearts we'll hear them; Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?; 
The life the angels singing; 
Open up your heart and hear them; 
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth; Peace on earth, Good will to men...



Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry!

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Yeah.  I blurred out our names.  Except maybe I went a little too far...


2015 Highlights

Family: Began 2015 ice fishing in northern Minnesota.  On the down-side, it was cold and windy.  So.  Cold.  On the up-side, we used our sled & picnic blanket to go ice-sailing ~ Visited family in Michigan & Illinois in June ~ Met Scarlet’s brother’s family for a fun vacation in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota ~ Boys-only Boundary Waters Canoe trip in August

Bubby: 8 years old—2nd grade ~ Played basketball in the winter and soccer in the spring. ~ (with his Mama) read all of the Magic Tree House books in order—now he’s working on The Boxcar Children ~ Climbs walls; loves ultimate Frisbee

MC: 12 years old—7th grade ~ Played basketball in the winter, soccer in the spring/summer, and football in the fall ~ Boy Scout camp in June/July ~ Loves watching and playing sports and video games

AKD: 15 years old—10th grade ~ Joined mountain biking team in the fall ~ Boy Scout camp in June/July; Mountain T.O.P. mission trip in July ~ 2nd in age group at Wolfman Triathlon ~ Entered STEM+ Academy at school ~ Confirmed in October ~ Began drivers training ~ Loves kayaking & biking

Scarlet: Mama & wife ~ Mystery shopper ~ Blogger ~ Moms’ Bible Study Sisterhood ~ Embarked on “positive project” ~ Enjoys baking ~ Discovered a love of caring for chickens (but was (mostly) cured of wanting her own)


Sawblock: Dad, husband, Technical Advisor ~ Traveled to Mexico, New York, Ohio, Connecticut for work ~ Fishing trip to Hubbard & Crystal lakes with Dad ~ Mountain T.O.P. mission trip ~  Enjoys kayaking & biking

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

On the way to the cross

It's just how our family devotions have worked out.

We started reading this book several months ago during our family devotions.  We liked how it is actual scripture, but it leaves out some of the boring/repetitive/gory parts, and the text is easy to understand.  About a month ago, we had completed the Old Testament and started reading about Jesus' birth story. Hubby suggested that maybe we should put this book aside, and read about Christ's birth later.  Like around Christmas time.  But we didn't really have another devotional book to read that we liked, so we kept plugging away.

We've read on, and this week, as the world prepares to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, we are reading about His death.

It's a jarring juxtaposition.  At this time of year, we see representations of Jesus everywhere, but He's cute.  And little.  And surrounded by furry, cuddly barn animals.  We get so caught up in celebrating baby Jesus that we don't remember why he was born, what he was born to do, what it's all leading up to.

We forget that Jesus is more than just that cute little baby snuggled into a feeding trough.  Jesus is also the man who performed miracles, tore up the temple, called religious leaders a brood of vipers, sweated blood, and died an excruciating death.  That's what Christmas is about.  Christmas is about God loving us enough to be with us, to experience life and death through our eyes, to forgive and redeem even our darkest parts.

Jesus was born to die.  For us.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hanging with the girls

I'm hanging with the girls again this week.  Just for a couple of days.  And by girls I mean hens.  Love those silly chickens.

{Image Source}
Those lucky birds now have a fenced-in yard.  They used to be able to just roam free, that is, when my girlfriend let them out, which was nice for the chickens, but not so nice for the people, who were constantly stepping in chicken poop and subsequently tracking it into the house.  It's just kind of...unavoidable.

Anyway, one of the girls likes to fly out of the fenced yard, and then she can't get back in.  Apparently, she panics and flies back out again if she is then let back into the enclosure.  I guess she's afraid she won't be able to find the opening back into the coop.  Old habits die hard, and this whole back door/fenced yard thing is less than 2 months old.  She's only happy if you let her in the front door.  Of the coop.  This family loves their chickens, but not that much!

So when I arrived bright and early Monday morning, this poor chicken was out.  She had probably been out all night, and probably a good portion of the day before as well.  Poor thing.  She saw me and ran over to me like, oh, thank God you're here, chicken lady!  When I got within a few steps, she squatted and did her little "pet me" thing, which is actually kind of rare, and totally adorable, and shows just how relieved she was to see me.  I let her back into the coop, by the front door, of course, and she cooed thankfully at me.

After that, I decided I needed to stop by again at sunset to make sure everyone was safe and settled and in the coop.  Wouldn't want that poor bird to have to survive out in the wild for a second night.  And I definitely wouldn't want to walk up to a scene of carnage if she didn't survive out in the wild.  When I arrived, however, all half-dozen of my bird-friends were in their yard, pecking away.  They all ran to greet me, through the back door into the coop, so I guess she found it.

I wonder if my wayward chicken friend has been cured of her wandering tendencies?  Time will tell...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Score

Remember when I said I might need to invest in some wide-mouth jars?  Guess what I found at my friendly neighborhood thrift store?

Uh huh.  Five wide-mouth quart jars with bands--non-rusty bands--and lids that look unused.  For forty-nine cents each.  Yes!  Score!  These jars look brand new, and based on the fact that there are 5 of them, and the average canner holds 7 quarts, I'm thinking their previous owner bought them, canned one load, and decided no more canning for her (or him).  Their loss is my gain.  Now I can can some more beans.  Because one wouldn't want to risk running out of beans.

That's exactly what I was thinking as I walked up to the counter with 5 jars balanced in my arms.  When will I have time to can a load of beans?

As I was standing there in line, waiting for a box, of all things, for another customer, the lady ahead of me turned to me and said, I bet I know what you're doing with those!  And I thought, but did not say, I bet you don't!  She didn't.

Because really, who expects a young-ish looking mama to be hoarding jars so she can can beans?  Nobody, that's who.

***********

Additionally, on the score!-front, the first 2 pairs of pants that I inadvertently ordered for AKD have arrived.  And guess what?  He loves them!  Even the wrong color pair.  He wants to keep them, which leaves us with one more pair of pants to deal with.  The third pair, also a wrong-color pair, the ones I ordered in the store, were shipped to the store.  If I never show up to claim them, the order will automatically be canceled and refunded.  Which means I don't have to do anything else with regards to the pants.  Halleluiah, it's a Christmas miracle.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I made a pie

Bubby had a friend over yesterday after school and I made a pie.

When Bubby's friend walked into the kitchen, here's how the conversation went.

Bubby's Friend: Are you making a pie?
Me: Yes.
BF: What kind?
Me: Chicken pot ...
Me (again): ... pie.
BF (sounding disappointed): Oh.
Me: You don't like chicken pot pie?
BF: It's not my favorite.
Me: What is your favorite?
BF: Apple

Next time, Buddy.

I made a pie yesterday.  Because Hubby suggested I make a chicken pot pie to use up some roasted chicken left over from a Boy Scout event, and Hubby and AKD are the only ones in our household who love chicken pot pie.  One other person thinks it's OK, and the others are reduced to tears at the thought of having to eat it.  I figured making the pie when we have a guest will not only assure that more of the pie will be eaten (or at least dished out onto plates and pushed around enough that we don't feel as bad scraping it into the garbage), but it might also temper the tearful reaction.

I was right, on both counts.  Win.  Even though it's not BF's favorite.

When I was first married, I had a goal.  I had decided previously that new year's resolutions don't work, and I had replaced them with goals: silly, fun goals.  One year my goal was to make paper.  Another year, it was to make ravioli from scratch.  That particular year, 1995, my goal was to make a pie crust and get it into the pan without it cracking or breaking.

A lofty goal, you must admit.

For years, I had watched my mom struggle with pie crust.  She tried various methods of getting it into the pan, but nothing worked.  It always cracked.  Mind you, there's nothing wrong with cracked crust--it's easy to patch, and it tasted just as good.  It was just ... a struggle.

I tried lots of methods.  I think I probably even tried a pat in the pan pastry that was just atrocious. 

The winning method came from my mother in law, of all places.  I say, of all places, because my mother in law has not, to my knowledge, made her own pie crust in all the years I've known her.  Why would she, with ready-made crusts, and even ready-made pies, so readily available?  

Beaver-ly suggested that I roll the crust out between two pieces of wax paper, then use the wax paper to lift the crust into the pan.  

It worked!  I made a pie crust and got it into the pan without it breaking or cracking, and then I declared that I was never going to make another pie crust again.  But before I could never make another pie crust again, I had to do it once more to prove it was repeatable.

So I did.  That was 20 years ago, and I have used wax paper to roll out every crust I've made since then.  And there have been more than a few over the years.  It's so easy, and tastes so much better, why wouldn't I make my own crust?

I've used wax paper to roll out every crust I've made since then, that is, until yesterday.

I forgot.

How could I forget something so important, so essential?  How could I forget something that I've been depending on for so many years to make my pie-baking experience go smoothly?

I blame it on the fact that I had made Dutch-style pigs in blankets a few days previously.

Well, you can probably guess what happened. 

That's right.  I rolled out that crust and got it into the pan without it breaking or cracking and without the added crutch of wax paper.

Amazed.  I am simply ... amazed.

I made a pie.  I made a crust, rolled it out, and got it into the pan without it breaking or cracking.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The pants-ordering saga

AKD requested a certain kind of pants--not necessarily a specific brand, but a certain style, cut, and material.  And these are definitely a style of pants that are available...if I'm willing to pay $75 for them.

Keep in mind: underwear, socks, and shoes were the only clothing I bought new for my children until very recently--until AKD started needing clothes from the men's department, in fact.  I'm used to paying no more than $4 for pants for my kids, usually less.

I am not willing to pay $75 for pants that AKD will likely outgrow relatively quickly.  His request was complicated by the fact that AKD is not willing to go shopping with me so he can get exactly what he wants, nor is he willing to try on clothes to make sure they fit.  *Sigh*

I found some pants that I thought fit his specifications at what I thought was a reasonable price.  But they didn't have his size in the store.

I don't like shopping.  I may have mentioned that before.  But I need you to know.  I really, really do not like shopping.  And I had already been on my feet for several hours knocking out multiple errands.  It was Saturday--two Saturdays before Christmas--and all the world was intent on reminding me why I don't shop on weekends, and why I avoid stores from Thanksgiving on through December.  I was done.  So, so done.

But the pants.

So I brought the wrong size pants to the internet order pick-up counter, and asked if the lovely salesperson would order some for me in the correct size.  And there was a stool there.  I was able to sit.  It was kind of like experiencing the kingdom of heaven on earth.  And the salesperson was my angel.  Not only did she order the pants in the right size, but she gave me an additional discount.

I kind of floated out of there.  Except my feet hurt, and my legs were cramping, so it was more like limping.

And then I got home, checked my email, and realized that my angel had ordered the wrong color.

And there was no way for me to cancel the order myself and order the right ones.  So I called Joel at the service center.

Joel was a nice enough fellow, but he was certainly no optimist, and he didn't seem very competent or efficient.  He did seem very impressed by my patience and cheerful attitude, though.  And I gotta tell you, for the very first time in my life, I felt like I was living out the lyric, "and they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll know we are Christians by our love..."

I was on the phone with him for 20 minutes before he was able to complete a corrected order.  Twenty.  Minutes.  There was a lot of deep breathing and mental pep-talks and reassuring noises on my part, and a lot of clicking at the keyboard and complaining about how the system was out to get him, on his.  And then I got my email confirmation, and ...

HE HAD ORDERED THE EXACT SAME PANTS IN THE EXACT SAME WRONG COLOR.

Ten minutes later (30 minutes total, if you're keeping track), he read off my new order number for the right pants in the right size and in the right color.  I asked him to confirm that he had canceled the other 2 orders, and he assured me that he had.  And I believed him.  What else could I do?

Until the next morning when I got an email saying that my WRONG PANTS orders, BOTH OF THEM, had shipped!

There was a moment, when I was sitting there on my heavenly stool in the store, rolling my sore neck and stretching my aching back, and my angel of a salesperson seemed to be having difficulty placing my order, when I wondered if it would be easier for me to just go home and place the order myself.  But I shook it off.  I told myself, let this lovely person order the pants for you.  It's easier this way, and you'll know you're getting exactly what you want.  And the sitting.  It was so good.  Ha.

So on Thursday, 3 pairs of pants will be arriving on my doorstep, and I will have to make the trek to the store to return at least 2 of them.  That'll teach me.  No more pants shopping for me.

And now, I'm kind of afraid to hit publish on this post, because I'm pretty sure this ordeal is not over.  Surely there will be additional complications... Oh well.  Here goes...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Holiday Baking 2015




I just know that y'all have been waiting, holding your breath in anticipation of this year's holiday baking list.

I know this, because no one has asked me about it, and of course you wouldn't, because you can't, because you're holding your breath.  Kind of hard to talk in that situation.

I'm going simple this year.

OK, I guess simple is relative.  I'm going simple this year in relation to past years.

Once again I asked my boys what Christmas treats they wanted me to make, and once again, all three of the ones who came from my body said they wanted snickerdoodles.

One more time, and for the record, snickerdoodles ARE NOT CHRISTMAS COOKIES!  They are, most definitely, anytime of the year cookies.  Which means they can also be enjoyed at Christmas-time, that's true.  But boys.  Seriously.  Use a little imagination.  There are so many other great cookies out there.  Cookies that have chocolate in them.

Anyway, when encouraged to come up with cookie suggestions that were not duplicated by any brothers, they said (in order of age, youngest to oldest):

SnickerdoodlesClassic Sugar Cookies




That's more like it.  Even though only one of them includes chocolate.  Boys.

The oldest boy hasn't conveyed his choice to me yet.  I was assuming it would be little cookies, but I really shouldn't.  Assume, that is.  It surprises me that this man I married continues to surprise me after 20+ years of marriage.

I also have to make (but these aren't cookies, so it's ok) peppermint bark** and nutter butter reindeers.

In addition, I am participating in a cookie exchange this year. I'm having a little trouble deciding what I want to make, but here are the contenders:


What holiday treats are you making this year?


* Traditional, white chocolate coated, and peppermint traditional/white chocolate coated oreo truffles.  The recipe itself is super easy, so we have to complicate it somehow...

** Super easy, super delicious peppermint bark:

  1. Melt some chocolate, dark, milk, whatever you prefer, and spread it in a thin layer on something it won't stick to (like parchment paper or a silpat mat).  Allow to harden and cool.  
  2. Melt a similar amount of Wilton's Candy Cane Colorburst candy melts (you can get these at craft stores--I actually got some at Aldi), and spread over the top of your chocolate.  The chocolate might melt a bit.  That's OK. 
  3.  Immediately sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy (I use candy canes), and press the candy into the candy melts a bit.  Allow to cool and harden, then break into bite sized pieces and enjoy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Menu plan for the week of December 7 and beyond

It's December, y'all.  And didja know?  We have a kid in training to be a driver.

What?!

I mean, I know my goal in life is to work myself out of a job--I'm hoping to take on more of a hands-off, very-part-time consulting role when my children reach adulthood.  Kind of like the guys Hubby works with.  They retire, but they're never really gone: just extremely part-time, working a few hours when they want to on projects they hand pick.  That's going to be me with regards to this mama gig.  But yowza.  Nothing like a big milestone to remind a mama how fast time passes.

Anyway, since the kid in training is not yet a driver, the driver's training means the mama is driving more.  To pick up the driver in training.

And it's December, which I believe I've already mentioned.  I'm not as busy as most in December.  No parties to attend, no special performances, not a whole lot of gifts to be purchased, not too much baking (I really wish there was more baking...).  But it is so dark in December.  Sunset is right around 4:30 p.m. these days.  And the dark saps my energy more than any of the running around or extra December activity.

All that to say, this is my last menu post for 2015.  I know there's about ... one of you ... out there who relies on these posts to inspire your own menus, but don't dismay!  I've got 2 plus weeks planned.  Just add veggies, repeat once, and you're good for the rest of the year.

Here ya go:

Supper this week:
  • Hot beef sandwiches (this recipe without the mushrooms) with 30 minute rolls & provolone, mixed steamed veggies
  • Chicken bundles (similar to this recipe), carrots, mandarin oranges
  • Nachos with guacamole and taco toppings
  • Quinoa (or rice) burgler (browned lean beef mixed with quinoa or rice and mixed veggies, topped with a sprinkle of cheese)
  • Pizza (crust, sauce), salad
  • Dutch-style Pigs in Blankets, green beans, applesauce
  • Grilled pork chops, grilled broccoli, brown rice

And beyond:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Breakfast

We do this thing every morning, Bubby and I.

He wakes up and gets dressed, then we check the lunch and snack calendar and he tells me whether he wants school lunch and snack that day or wants to bring them from home.

And then I ask him what he wants for breakfast.

It's a simple question, really.  Some of us start thinking about what we're going to have for breakfast as soon as the supper dishes are cleared away.  We're forward thinkers, in that way.  Especially those of us who use things, like egg whites and berries, that need to be thawed before they are consumed.  Some of us have the same thing for breakfast every day so we don't have to make that decision.  But even those of us who don't plan ahead think about food constantly or have to thaw things should be able to answer that question without too much difficulty.

Poor Bubby.  Every day, he struggles with this simple question of how to break his fast.  Since he doesn't know what he wants, he stalls for time, telling me he's not hungry yet.  And I let him.  I've figured it out after 8+ years of being his mama.  He needs a little time in the morning.

So we set a timer to remind us to ask again.

And when the timer rings, Bubby says, "I want toast with peanut butter for breakfast."

Every morning.

{Source}
It's comforting to have our routines, isn't it?  I don't know if Bubby honestly doesn't know the first time I ask that he will have toast, or if he just likes the give and take and the pauses of the routine.  Doesn't matter.  I will continue to ask my boy what he wants for breakfast, and he will continue to not be hungry, and I will continue to set a timer, and he will continue to ask for toast with peanut butter.

Until he doesn't anymore.  And that will be ok, too.

Good morning, friends.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Free gifts to bless others

Here's what I like about Bing Rewards and Swagbucks.  Both of these websites reward me with points for doing things I would normally do (like running web searches), and then I can exchange those points for gift cards.

Swagbucks        

Which is a wonderful thing.  I mean, who doesn't want free gift cards?  But the even better thing is what I can do with those gift cards.  I can give them away.

I have a friend whose mama is in the hospital.  Things are not looking good, and answers are elusive.  My friend is understandably distraught, and I just want to wrap her in a hug and tell her I love her.  Which I could totally do if she would spend more than 5 minutes in one place in between visiting her mama in the hospital, working full time, and managing a household and 3 children, two of whom have developmental challenges.  I also want to take this burden away from her, but that's something I can't do.

Enter Bing Rewards.  I had enough points in my account to redeem for a $5 Starbucks gift card.  It's not much, but that coffee will mean more to her than I can know.  It lets my dear friend know that I am with her, praying for her, loving her, sharing her burden in a small way.

$5 Starbucks Card

And it doesn't cost me a thing (well, except I'm not going to get to enjoy that cup of coffee, but since I don't like coffee, it's all good).

I like Bing because points are rewarded for each search you do (there are a couple of other ways to earn points as well), but the points are limited to a certain number per day.  I generally earn enough Bing Rewards points to redeem for one $5 gift card per month.

Swagbucks search rewards are random, but you can earn points in lots of other ways, and the number of points you can earn in a day are unlimited.  Swagbucks also has a much greater variety of rewards.  I generally earn enough swagbucks to redeem for one $25 gift card per month (if you want to give away smaller amounts, you can get smaller gift cards, or use your $25 gift card to buy ... gift cards ... in whatever denomination you want).

So anyway, I would like to encourage you to at least consider signing up for one or both of these services.  Since I don't earn an income, it is such a wonderful feeling to be able to bless others in small, tangible ways, without spending anything out of pocket.



**Another way to earn points is through referrals, and yes, those are my referral links up there.  If you do decide to sign up, and use my links, I will get some points, which I will then turn into gift cards and most likely give away**

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ah-maze-bars

I made these bars.  Cookies.  Am I the only one who feels a little strange leaving the "cookie" part off of the whole "bar cookie" thing?  I actually remember the first time I heard someone refer to bar cookies as just ... bars.  It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about.  Bars?  What kind of bars?  Like the kind you put on windows?  Prison bars?  Or the kind where you go to order a drink?  Why would we make either of those things for a meal served to homeless folks?  Bars must be a regional thing?  Like how in WV they say "covered dish" instead of potluck.  Or not?

Anyway, I made these bar( cookie)s.  And I knew, just looking at the list of ingredients, that they would be good.  I mean, it's a chocolate chip cookie base with a little bit of peanut butter and a little bit of oatmeal in it.  Just that by itself would be good.  But then you add peanut butter chips and heath bits, in addition to the full 2 cups of chocolate chips.  Very good.  Then you fill them with a gooey caramel sauce.  Amazing.

So I knew they would be good.

But then I tasted them.

And I could not believe just how good they were.  Ah-maze-zing.

And it's not just me.  Every person who tried them said the same thing (and a lot of people tried them, because I had to get them out of my house before they all decided to throw a party in my tummy).  I would tell my unsuspecting victim what was in the bar( cookie)s, and they would say, oooh, that sounds good, and then they would taste them, and their face would lift and eyes would widen and they would stare at me and say, these.  are.  amazing.  And I would say, I know!  I am amazed at how amazing these taste.

Try these at your own risk, my friends, because these things are dangerous.

Peanut Butter Caramel Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars | MomOnTimeout.com
Photo courtesy of Mom On Timeout

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wide Mouth

Whew!  My* pressure canner has been getting quite a workout lately.  First there were the 7 quarts and 7 pints of turkey stock (3 loads!) on Saturday, and then I canned 5 quarts of pinto beans yesterday (and I'm thinking of doing another load while I have the canner and all the stuff out).  I am amazed at how nonchalant I am these days about canning with pressure, especially considering how I felt 3 short years ago.  I used to plan for weeks for my canning sessions.  These days, it's no big deal.  If I'm doing beans, I soak them the night before, but other than that, I just go.


But you may recall that I mentioned I have trouble with seals on my pressure canned jars.  I don't think I've ever had any of my water bath seals fail, but I don't think I've ever had a pressure canned load that all sealed perfectly (maybe green beans, but those were pints.  Oh, and my pints of black beans sealed, too...hmmm, interesting), including my turkey stock a couple of days ago.  In fact, the last time I canned pinto beans, only 20% of the jars sealed.  Not a passing grade.  I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong, and I was feeling quite discouraged.  I mean, 80% failed seals!  But in the past few days, I've gotten a clue.

I ran out of lids.  Well, not really.  I ran out of regular-mouth lids, so I had to go to plan B, which was using wide-mouth jars and lids.  I don't have as many wide-mouth jars, because regular jars and lids are cheaper, and it's just more convenient to have all the jars the same.  In fact, when I give away jars to people who probably won't return them, I always make a point to give them a wide-mouth jar.

Now I'm going to have to rethink that policy.  Because every single one of my pressure canned wide-mouth jars sealed.  One hundred percent.  That's 8 jars, in 2 separate loads.

Hmmm.  Is it a coincidence?  Or do wide mouth jars really seal more consistently in the pressure canner?  I don't know, but for now, I think I'm gonna have to buy some wide-mouth jars.


*Not actually my pressure canner.  It's on indefinite loan from my parents.  And if I keep talking about how wonderful it is, they might want it back...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Menu plan for the week of November 30

We had turkey last week.  You?  I don't really care for turkey, and in fact, I didn't eat any of this year's Thanksgiving turkey.  What I do like about turkey is I can use the carcass to make stock.  With no sodium.  Which I then use year-round for soups and other stock or broth containing yummies.  I love using things most would consider garbage to make something useful.

This year I made and canned 2 5/8 gallons of stock.  I think that's about a 2 year supply, considering how my family claims to feel about soup.

I'll be using the first quart of this batch on Monday for chicken noodle soup, because one of my soup-hating children recently declared that he likes chicken noodle soup.  If that's true (and I have my doubts), that means that at least 4/5 of the family will eat the soup.  Which is a passing grade.  Which means we might have a less than 2 year supply of turkey stock.  I'll keep you posted.

What's on your menu this week?

Here's ours:

Supper:

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup
Courtesy of YummyMummyClub

Other:
Cinnamon Swirl Bread.  Yum!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

The following is an excerpt from our family's 2004 Christmas newsletter.  MC was a year and 2/3 old; AKD was 4 1/2.

I think about this particular letter at this time of year, for perhaps obvious reasons.  It is so easy to fall into the habit of complaining about our blessings.  All it takes is a change in perspective to change the attitude of our hearts from griping to gratitude.

Happy thanksgiving, my friends.  I pray that this present spirit of thankful gratitude permeates your life, long after the leftovers are gone.

Love and peace.

* * * * *

It's 5:30 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, and our little alarm clock (MC) didn't get the memo that today is a holiday so we should all sleep in, at least until 6 a.m., so here we are.  It occurs to me that there's no time like the present to reflect on what I'm thankful for, so here goes.

I'm thankful that Hubby's still sleeping because that means at least one of us won't be cranky later on, and maybe I'll be able to take a nap.  I'm thankful for the endless piles of laundry and dishes that need to be washed and put away and for the floors that constantly need sweeping because that means our family has food and clothing and everything we need.  I'm thankful for all the work that goes into maintaining our home because that means we have a safe warm place to live.  I'm thankful that Hubby has been working long hours because that means he has a job to support us.

I'm thankful that our children get into everything and climb into precarious spots (and subsequently require rescuing) because that means they're healthy and curious.  I'm thankful that at the end of each day I have a humongous pile of toys to put away because that means our children are happy and imaginative.  I'm thankful that my children need me so intensely right now, because I know in a few years they won't need me in quite the same way anymore.  I'm thankful that I have the resources to be my kids' mom instead of giving them to strangers to raise.  I'm thankful to have a husband, and father for my children, who loves us very much.

Most of all, I'm thankful that a man died a horrible and tortured death 2000 years ago, because that means I will live forever.  And it means that all of those things I'm thankful for will pass away, leaving in their place God's perfect grace, peace, and love.

* * * * *

Huh.  Seems like not much has changed over the years ... still thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve y'all.  The kids don't have school today, so I'm enjoying a lazy morning at home.  I'm sitting at our dining table, still in my PJs (which is not all that unusual), with the delicious scent of cinnamon and cloves gently wafting through the kitchen to my grateful nose (which is most definitely not a usual occurrence).  I've got pumpkin pie in the oven, and cake almost ready to go.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, my friends, because as much as I love spending time with extended family, there is nothing I like more than lazy days at home with just my favorite people.  Expectations are a breeding ground for disappointment, and when I spend time with others, even family and friends whom I love, I find myself mired in expectations that are spoken and unspoken.  It's stressful, y'all, like navigating a minefield.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  And the next day, and the next, because the five of us, me and my favorite people, will navigate these days together with love and grace.  We will bake and eat.  We will play football and watch football.  We will most likely go tree hunting and catch a thousand-pointer.  We will spend time outside.  These few days are a welcome respite from the ever-increasing demands of daily life.  For these few days, we will enjoy each other.  And ponder our blessings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Flaky

I'm a mystery shopper.  That means I go in to businesses anonymously and evaluate their customer service and quality.  It's a fun way to earn a little extra money.  Emphasis on little.  But I do enjoy it, and I do it in my spare time, so it's all good.

Lately I've been doing a lot of internet shops.  I love these, because I don't have to leave my house or exit my pajamas.  There are two types of internet shops that I do; for one of them, I need to make an appointment for an oil change and tire rotation.  I have to make an appointment, but I don't have to keep the appointment.  I don't even necessarily have to own or have access to the vehicle I'm making an appointment for.  But I do need to cancel the appointment so they're not holding a time slot for a vehicle that will never show.

As I've said, I've been doing a lot of these lately.  The limit is 1 per day, and these shops are available 4 days a week.  I am currently in the middle of a 5 week streak of doing these shops almost daily.  Ten down, 8 to go, and new shops being added daily, so who knows how long this will go on.  That's not even counting the 14 shops I did in September and October.

So I've been canceling a lot of appointments.

And even though I go into each and every one of these shops knowing that I'm going to be canceling an appointment, even though there's no way these folks know that I'm making and canceling an appointment every day, I feel like such a flake.

What kind of a person makes and cancels 18 appointments in a month?  A flake, that's who.

Or ... a mystery shopper.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

On another note, I am so very excited.  The company that offered my very favorite mystery shop ever lost the contract.

That's not what I'm excited about.  That was a very sad day, when I heard the news.  I gathered with friends and family and a fellow mystery shopper (who happens to be all 3 of those rolled up into one awesome package) to mourn the loss.

What I'm excited about is I found the company that won the contract.  Oh, happy, happy day!  I might be back doing my very favorite shop by Wednesday (if no one else takes it before then).  Yahoo!

The End

Monday, November 23, 2015

Menu plan for the week of Happy Thanksgiving

Hello, my friends, and welcome to Thanksgiving week.  This is the week we celebrate a national day of thanks here in the U.S.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?  What's your favorite Thanksgiving food?

When I asked my family if there was any food in particular they would like for Thanksgiving, my middlest child said he wanted asparagus and brussels sprouts.  I think he would be happy to skip the turkey and all of the other traditional fare in lieu of cruciferous veggies.  I am happy to indulge that boy's wants, in this case.

It strikes me as slightly ridiculous that we celebrate how thankful we are for all we have by stuffing ourselves as full as we possibly can with as much food as we possibly can, instead of sharing our bounty with others who don't have as much as we do.

Anyway, I am thankful for you.  And for food, because food is yummy.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:


Other:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Awake

The following is an actual transcript of a real conversation held between my husband and me at 4:18 a.m. earlier this week as he was preparing to head out of town.

Hubby:  Why are you awake?
Me: Because I woke up.

As if I had chosen to be awake.  As if I had a rational reason.  As if I actually wanted to be awake.  No, no, no, a thousand times no!  At that point, I had already been awake since 3:02 a.m., and by no means did I want to be.  Or even need to be.

I have no idea why my son, my husband, my other son, random house and weather noises, and my bladder feel the need to wake me up at all hours of the early morning, but they do.  {OK, I do know why my bladder needs me to be awake...}  In the middle of the night, they need me to be awake.  Sometimes, I wake up for no discernible reason at all.

And then I can't get back to sleep.  But they, the serial mama-waker-uppers, slip right back into blissful slumber.  Job done: mama woken, they can rest in peace.

It's a curse.  It's a blessing.  It's just the way I am.

A blessing, you say?  How is that a blessing?  Well, yes, a blessing.  Sometimes, God wakes me up, usually so I can pray for someone, but sometimes to encourage me to do something.  God doesn't speak louder in the middle of the night, but it is easier for my imperfect human ears to hear, because there's nothing else for me to do in the still quiet besides listen.

Waking up before I want to, and subsequently staying awake longer than I need to, sometimes makes me cranky, sometimes sets the stage for a day-long headache, but the middle of the night is when God does some of his best work in my heart.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

P.S. Having once again woken before I wanted to, I was typing this post in the early morning with my laptop propped on my knees while lying down in bed.  Not sleeping.  Bubby came in and asked if he could lie in bed with me, and I said sure, but to be careful of my mouse.  My wireless computer mouse.  He thought I had an actual mouse in bed with me!  Funny boy.

P.P.S. Just in case you didn't already know, I have a don't-talk-about-Hubby-being-out-of-town-until-he's-back-in-town policy, so he's already back, safe and sound, waking me in the early hours for no good reason.
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