Sunday, December 31, 2006

Welcome 2007!

Just today I journaled about how glad I am to see 2006 roll on out, and yet I have to say I feel God drew me closer to him through it. Funny how we can remember whatever we choose.

A new year lies before me. I do love a new year. It's right up there with new notebooks and new pens or pencils. In fact, it's kind of like a blank page in a new journal, only that's just how I see it. I know that God already has every detail of this coming year inscribed in his mind - how reassuring to know he is directing my every step.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions but I do feel the Lord has placed some desires on my heart which I need to pursue. More directions than goals.

Tonight we spent a few fun hours with some family and friends. Tomorrow - we'll relax and watch the parade and bowl games. Oh, and eat shrimp! And I need to go shopping for a few new clothes too. All in all, a relaxing way to see the old year out.

Just a few random thoughts as we pass from 2006 to 2007. My mind doesn't function so well after 11 pm, hence the randomness of this post.

Happy New Year to you, my blogging buddies - old and new. I look forward to blogging with you all again this year and seeing where God takes us.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Of Styrofoam and Rubber

Nope, this is not about all the ridiculous packaging manufacturers use to delay our enjoyment of our Christmas gifts. It is about how things have tasted to me the past 3 days! Somehow, I have managed to contract a pretty nasty cold that started about Friday, peaked yesterday and has left me feeling pretty wiped out today. So much for bragging about never getting sick - I can't believe I was sick on Christmas Day. So much good food . . . so little taste.

Do you know that texture does not really contribute to taste? I swear the only thing that really "tasted" like anything to me was the delicious leg of lamb my sister prepared for our family gathering yesterday. Oh, and the more than few ginger cookies I've eaten - I'm telling myself they're for medicinal purposes!

Thank goodness the joy of reading does not diminish when one has a cold. What I've missed eating, I've put a lot of effort into making up in reading (and sleeping) today!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

This Christmas . . .

Lord as I seek to keep in mind "God With Us" throughout this holy season, help me remember:

When I'm jostled by the crowds who seem so unaware of what we're really celebrating . . . that the crowds which must have rubbed shoulders with Mary and Joseph as they travelled to Bethlehem were no less aware that their King was about to come.

As I partake of gift giving with my family and friends . . . how Mary must have felt when presented with myrrh, a foreshadowing of your death.

As I sing the oh-so familiar songs heralding your birth . . . bring to mind the angels who announced your arrival from the heavens.

As I greet friends and relatives during the holidays . . . remind me of the shepherds who came to welcome you with joy on that holy night.

As I think about travelling on Christmas day just 50 miles round trip in a warm car to cozy homes . . . remind me of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, a long and difficult one but filled with promise.

As I make my last minute preparations, focus my mind on those preparations you made from the foundation of the world to redeem mankind and make possible my relationship with you.

Mostly help me remember, as I look for the meaning that the world tries to obscure, that Christmas is more than just another day off work or appointed time for family gathering - it's a holy day, set apart to celebrate your coming to be with us. God With Us - the greatest gift.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

And Mary pondered all these things . . .

That's what we do, right? We women. We ponder things. I've come up with no less than 5 posts of a Christmas nature that I'm just not through pondering yet. So in the meantime, some thoughts about Mary and Joseph.

Do you ever wonder what Mary might have been pondering? I don't just mean when the wise men presented her with those foretelling gifts. I wonder what went through her mind when the angel told her she would bear a son, not conceived by man. And when she had to face her family with the truth? And when she raced, maybe in fear, to her cousin Elizabeth's house. I wonder if she missed her maidenhood friendships when she was thrust into the throes of womanhood so unexpectedly? Did she worry about what kind of mother she would be? What did she think about travelling to Bethlehem so close to the birth of her child, so far from her family and all she knew?

Maybe you've wondered about some of these things. If so, you should think about going to see The Nativity Story. I went with my parents and husband to see it this past Sunday. This well-written screenplay took us into the minds of Mary and Joseph during those months prior to Christ's birth. Believable characters combined with breathtaking scenery and a timeless storyline to bring the story to life.

And if you enjoy a behind the scenes peek at things, you'll probably enjoy Angel Hunt's blog entries relating to her novelization of the screenplay. Scroll down to to the entries beginning around December 9th.

Whatever you do, I hope you take some time to ponder the Christmas story anew this year, and that it's fresh with meaning for you. In the meantime, I'll go back to my ponderings and hopefully come up with some things to share between now and Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What Ever Could It Be?

Is it a reindeer?


Or a deformed turkey?


Or an angel?


Nope, it's just my puppy-boy MacGyver looking awfully cute in his too-big antlers someone gave him as a gift. He was mighty disappointed this was not a squeaky furry thing for him to terrorize and kill. But he posed for me so well while I snapped about a dozen pictures so he got a treat!!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We Have A Tree!


A tree, prelit and complete with ornaments. And snowmen. Lots of snowmen. After years of my husband making fun of our Charlie Brown tree, I splurged last year and bought a prelit one from Walmart and I love it. I also opted to ditch the handmade garland and bows that I'd used in the past and go with ribbon and more glass ornaments that he prefers instead.

Did I mention I like snowmen? My mom got me this first little guy, and the Snowbuddy one was a vacation souvenir one year. They make a Snowbuddy Nativity set now but something just doesn't seem right about that!





A few years ago I started collecting the Mitford snowmen stuff that Hallmark was making, in conjunction with Jan Karon's beloved Mitford series. If you look carefully, you can see the ornaments are skiing on shovels and garden spades.







Topping our tree is the first ornament we ever bought together - at a craft show five weeks before we were married. You can't see the detail but it's an angel made out of cornhusks and it's something I'll always treasure.



And lastly - someone obviously can't wait until Christmas! The funny thing is - MacGyver never gets into anything but somehow he "knows" when a bag or something (like this stocking) contains a toy or treats for him. It's uncanny, but he has to wait for the Fat Guy like the rest of us!!

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Blaahgy Tour of My Yet to be Christmas House

While everyone else in the blogosphere is touring Boo Mama's Bloggy Tour of Chrismas homes today, I'm just waking up to the fact that Christmas is indeed almost here. Ten days to be more or less exact, depending on when you happen to read this post. Ten days. And no tree up here yet. A few Christmas decorations out. And a few - just a few - cookies baked.

I started off with my favs this year. Giant Ginger Cookies and Shortbread. I've found two recipes that are in my opinion equal to or better than the same offerings by Starbucks, and much cheaper, ha! Here's the link to the Shortbread cookie recipe. I roll the dough into 2 logs, roll in raw sugar, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Then I slice and bake - make sure you let them get a little brown around the bottom edge. Mmmm!

And here's the recipe for the Ginger Cookies.

4-1/2 cups flour
4 t. ginger
2 t. baking soda
1-1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
1-1/2 c. shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco)
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. molasses
3/4 c. coarse or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, stir together first 6 ingredients. In another large bowl, beat shortening for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups granulated sugar and beat until combined. Beat in eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture gradually. Using a med. scoop, shape dough into balls. Roll in coarse sugar and place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 12 minutes, until cookies are light brown and puffed and starting to crack. Do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. The original recipe calls for using 1/2 cup scoop, which makes 4" cookies. I prefer smaller one; mine are about 2-1/2 inches.

And while not much Christmasy has been going on inside the house, my husband has been busy stringing lights outside. Unfortunately someone (me) failed to get the lights OUT of storage while we had 60F days around Thanksgiving and so he spent several hours outside in 30F weather one night last week. No pictures of those efforts yet but to give him credit, he's also been busy ensuring we have that fire for which to roast chestnuts by throughout the holiday season and then some! Here are pictures of his growing woodpile(s). And remember, "you can never have enough wood!" (This is for Bev - yes, we're into the wood thing!)



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas on the Funny Farm

I know someone did a Christmas memory post and invited everyone to link there, and I obviously missed that one. Nevertheless I wanted to share a few memories of Christmases gone by here.

Although my parents made Christmas wonderful for us as kids, my memories are interspersed with times spent at my Gram's house in the country, that big multi-acre homestead we affectionately called the Funny Farm due to its lack of animals beyond the occasional mouse.

Christmas eve was always spent at my aunt's house, and my parents would get home and get their two anxious little girls to bed and begin assembling toys and arranging our presents in the livingroom. Christmas mornings were spent in front of that ever-so-bright light on my dad's 8mm camera, as he taped his little girls expressing glee at the site before him (or faking it, if I was up several hours prior, rearranging the presents to my benefit - see my previous post here if you want to wise up to what your kids might think of!)

Sometime around noon I guess, we'd don our new turtlenecks and holiday best and head for the country for Christmas with Gram. I swear she must have spent hours making those celebrations almost magical for me and my cousins. There must have been at least twenty-five people crowded into her diningroom and she usually had tables extending into the livingroom as well. After dinner, it was time for presents. But not just presents. One year she had a grab bag and we cousins all pulled numbers out of a bag and got a different gift. I think that was the year I ended up with a $5 bill hidden in an empty wrapping paper tube. Another year she made a pinata and we all took turns swinging at it in the basement, waiting for the candy to spew all over the floor.

When I think about it, the gifts really weren't much. There was the year she gave me and my sister really nice perfume sets. One year it was a Nothing Book - much like a blank journal nowadays. The adults exchanged practical presents such as dishtowels, pot holders and Maxwell House coffee. The men would usually end up sitting around, solving the problems of the world in raised voices, while the women played cards and we kids played with our gifts. It was the togetherness, not to mention the wonderful food, that made the holiday special.

As we grew into our teens, the big get-togethers dwindled as some of our cousins and aunts moved away. My one favorite aunt, my gram's sister, continued to come. Presents continued to be silly and practical. My sister was becoming an accomplished pianist and we'd look forward to her performing for us after dinner. Then everyone would get in on the act, my Gram and her sisters singing goofy songs or playing Charades.

In 1977, our family spent the entire Christmas week and then some at Gram's, because our house next door burned down and we had no where else to go. My memories that year are mostly of generous church families making sure our family had the basics as we started our lives from scratch. I still have my Bert & Ernie pillowcase I was given back then.

During my college years and my twenties, we continued to spend much of Christmas day at Gram's, but sometime in my thirties, we started gathering at my mom's instead (which was just across the field from Gram's place). When my Gram broke her hip one year, and started feeling the effects of osteoporosis, my husband and brother-in-law would carry her across the field in a chair. I guess it was easier than getting her in and out of a car. The gift-giving seemed to center around Gram too - she was our little queen (she was less than 5' and weighed less than 100 lbs). I usually bought her clothes in the children's department!

Our last Christmas with Gram was back at her house. We gathered in the livingroom that was rarely used anymore, and she gave each of us something from her house. I can't remember what she gave my mom or sister, but she gave me a set of Norman Rockwell teacups, which I'll always cherish.

When the presents have outlived their usefulness, when the bubble bath and Maxwell house coffee are gone, when the chocolate's all been eaten and we've outgrown the toys, we realize what lasts from year to year are the memories we make together. I hope you and your family make some wonderful memories for keeps this year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

WFMW: Google Homepage


Several months ago, my friend Katrina at Callapidder Days introduced me to Gmail, a Google web-based email program. I have to say, I love being able to search my emails instead of organizing them all into folders. You can set filters and apply labels, and finding that email from your second cousin once removed is super easy - just search on her name instead of worrying where you filed it. There are lots of other beneficial features, not the least of which is not downloading your mail onto your hard drive, thus remaining a little more protected against the Microsoft Outlook Express-spawned viruses. Oh, and I love webmail - I can access it from anywhere.

Not too long ago, I started using Google Reader, an alternative to Bloglines. If you suspect Bloglines is not always registering updated blogs, you may want to give Google Reader a try. Takes a while to set up because you don't get that neat little "Sub with Bloglines" button but it's not that hard.

Now for the neat part. I have Google as my home page and I can add all sorts of personalized features by simply dragging and dropping title bars. So when my home page opens up, I can view my email, Google Reader, the weather, Quote of the Day, and other useful bits of info all at once. Oh and they have a calendar I started using, since I can enter birthdays and have email reminders sent to me. How cool is that? And again, I love that this info is available to me anywhere.

Google Homepage - it works for me. For lots more cool ideas, visit Shannon's place at Rocks in my Dryer.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Evening Review

I’m a practical sort of person. Perhaps that’s why I had such a difficult time with student teaching. While my advisory teachers were content to have me just present a lesson for their review, I felt compelled to really teach the students something.

So as a follow-up to my previous post, God With Us, I felt compelled to share how God is helping me put this into practice.

Lately I’ve started looking back over my day before I go to sleep, and ask God to help me be aware of his presence throughout that day. It’s not always easy to be aware of his presence when I’m in the midst of things, but when I think about it after the fact, it becomes very clear to me. It’s kind of like reminiscing about an evening with a friend – while you’re with them, you’re not thinking about how much you appreciate them. But later on you start thinking about what a good friend they are.

This is not an original idea – it’s something I’ve come across in my reading recently, and there are many ways of doing this. There are whole books on the subject, I'm sure, but I'm a "keep it simple" kind of girl. I don’t write anything down, and it’s not necessarily meant to be a time of thanksgiving or praise – just seeking to be aware of God’s presence. But I always end up thanking him and praising him!

I find it not only helps me be a little more aware of his presence and working in my life the next day, it helps form my prayers, both for myself and for others. It’s making my relationship with God more of a reality than a formality. When I think about it – perhaps this equates to the “listening” part of prayer. You know, that conversation we’re supposed to be having with God that usually ends up being pretty one-sided!

I only share this because many of you left comments on my previous post indicating that you were also challenged to become more aware of God’s presence throughout this Christmas season. If you’re finding other ways to do that, I’d love for you to share them in the comments!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Same but Different

I expressed to my sister just the other day how much I appreciate the ways my husband is different from me. It hasn’t always been so. For example, when we first got married, I couldn’t come to terms with his sense of urgency. I’m pretty laid back, and here comes this guy (living in my house) panicking over things like running out of cereal and flipping the laundry at just the right time and the dog choking. When he kicked it into high gear, something in me automatically went into neutral or practically reverse! Now, however, I realize how much I appreciate that about him. As I said to my sister, if our house were ever to catch fire, thanks to him, we’d probably make it out alive. I’d most likely burn, waiting to be sure it was a true emergency!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve wondered if perhaps we get it backwards sometimes when it comes to the uniqueness and commonality of man. Don’t get me wrong; I know that I’m unique and there’s no one like me (for which many people are thankful!) But should the emphasis be on me – on my uniqueness? Or should I instead seek to embrace the uniqueness of others? When I go shopping, when I’m at church, when I pass my co-workers in the hall - do I see a blurry grey sea of mankind? Or do I see a sweet older woman who’s paid her dues and deserves to take a few extra minutes at the check out to be sure her receipt is correct? Or a hardworking dad committed to serving his fellow Christian? Or a co-worker who always seems to be concerned with helping a friend?

At the same time, I’ve found a certain comfort in knowing that I’m not so different from the next guy (no, make that “woman”). In spite of my tendency to pepper my stories with superlatives (I had the roughest day, the worst headache, the most unbelievable thing happen . . . oh and of course I have the worst job), how many times have I been relieved to learn I’m not the only woman struggling with a certain issue? God assures me no temptation can seize me but that which is common to man. (I Cor. 10:13) And I think part of that assurance comes from the commonality we share with mankind. Not only that, but Jesus as my high priest (Heb. 4:15) faced every kind of temptation imaginable – he understands. He sympathizes with my weakness. And yet as God, he did not succumb to sin.

When I stop and see others as individuals created by God, with strengths I can learn from and weaknesses I can relate to, the picture comes to life in vivid color. And when I see the big picture in such a way, it humbles me and helps put things in perspective. Yes, I’m unique and special to God, but it’s not all about me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

God With Us

This last year has been, well, just one of those years for me. I guess it was just my turn. Needless to say, I haven't exactly been looking forward to Christmas. I'm the kind of person who can just go through the motions, and have been bracing myself to do just that to "get through" this season.

I guess God wants me to do more than just "get through it." It seems like he's trying to "get through" to me. Practically every book I've been reading lately has touched on the subject of the presence of God. During my quiet time, I've been meditating on Psalm 139, where the psalmist reflects on the fact that, no matter where he goes, he can't escape God's presence.

Then tonight, I went to a Point of Grace concert hosted by my church. I'll admit I'm not very familiar with most of their music. But tonight the message in the music was ever so clear: Emmanuel, God With Us. As I sat there listening, I realized that God wants me to celebrate more than just his birth. He wants me to celebrate his presence with me day in, day out.

So as I enter into this season, that is my prayer - to be conscious of God's presence throughout, and to share that presence with those around me.

Matthew 1:23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us.

WFMW: Loving your local library


In a recent poll (okay, perhaps it was a meme), I asked how often you visit your local library. The responses varied from "never" to at least twice monthly. So on the heels of that post, I offer a few tips for maximizing your local library.

  1. My local library is part of a network of libraries in our area. This means I can search online for titles, and request them for pickup at my location. Of course, I can do this from the comfort of my own home. I just requested 3 or 4 titles tonight. Since I generally read by author, this makes it easy for me to find and read my favs.
  2. I've signed up for e-notices, which means I get a friendly little reminder a day or so before my books are due. If I don't have the time or am not quite ready to return them, I can renew them all online.
  3. I love being able to check out a DVD for an entire week for free! I usually save this for those multi-disc specials that I know will take me 3 or more hours to watch.
  4. There's nothing like a good library sale! However, there's nothing worse than the last day at said sale, when all the good bargains have been picked over and they're practically paying you to haul their discards away in the "bag sale." Avoid this frustration by making friends with your library and knowing when the sale is coming so you can be there when the doors open - literally.
  5. I'm sure my husband just loves the library, because, although he never visits except to ride me by to drop off books, he knows well that a trip to the library is one less trip to the bookstore!
  6. I should mention that my local library is actually pretty rinky-dink, so I frequent the library of the next community over. One card works for all libraries in the network!
  7. Not that I do a lot of research these days but the online reference is a great starting point for a wealth of resources, including job searches, genealogical links and much much more.
  8. I hate paying ridiculous newstand prices for magazines, so occasionally when the magazine bug hits, I'll check out the offerings at the library, which can be checked out, or I can photocopy recipes or articles I want to keep.
  9. The library I visit recently remodeled, and has several nice reading rooms in which COFFEE IS ALLOWED! It doesn't get any better than this!
SOooooo hopefully this will help you, if you don't already make good use of your local library. It works for me!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitudes

  1. For sixty degree days as November winds down.
  2. A long quiet Sunday afternoon walk on my favorite trail.
  3. Getting about a third of my Christmas shopping done on a relatively peaceful Sunday afternoon.
  4. Six days in a row off work.
  5. A Colts game on Sunday night after a disappointing Steeler game (gimme Peyton & Tony any day!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So that's why Gram did that (and other holiday observations)!

When I was a kid, I liked running next store to Gram's in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I just loved being a part of the preparations. In fact, much of what I do now I do just as I learned from her. She would always set the table several days in advance. And in each serving bowl there would be a little slip of paper noting what scrumptious delight would soon fill that dish. Tonight as I set my table for dinner tomorrow, I began to panic. I don't have enough serving dishes! Finally, I grabbed a slip of paper and jotted down a list of items . . . stuffing (1), stuffing (2), sweet potatoes . . . etc. Then I cut them up and placed them in each bowl on the table and it occurred to me - perhaps Gram didn't think she had enough serving dishes either?? Well the other good thing about this is it keeps you from forgetting to put everything you've made on the table. Which is a real bummer after you go to all the time and trouble and then come across it as the guests are leaving!

This year, I'm taking it easy. Bought a pumpkin cheesecake at Costco. I did opt to make homemade rolls. I'd rather bake bread than make dessert. Bought Watkin's Roasted Turkey Gravy mix online and it just came yesterday. No making turkey stock from scratch ahead of time and thawing it the night before and laboring over the pan drippings tomorrow! Just add water, mix and stir! Mostly everything else is made and hiding in the fridge, waiting to go into the oven or microwave tomorrow.

Last night I thought there was no way I was going to pull this one off. I got home from work late as usual and, as usual, was too tired to do much. I usually tell myself to get my cleaning done first, and as a reward for doing so, then I get to cook! Well that just didn't happen this year. And you know what, I still didn't get all the cleaning done. Tomorrow I (we) still need to vacuum, dust and ugh, clean the bathroom! But you know what else? It will get done because that's all I really need to do tomorrow.

So from here on out, I free myself from silly restrictions such as "clean first." It will get done, even at the last minute. And what if a cleaning fairy showed up to surprise me (no, Mom, I'm not hinting here!) and there was nothing for her to do? See, it makes total sense to me - from here on out, leave the cleaning till last. Plus if the food is really good, it won't matter if my ceilings are decorated with cobwebs or if guests can write their names in the dust, right?

And now, really, I am signing off and pausing to reflect on my many blessings - before the mayhem starts tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Book Poll

It's Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season and what's this? A book post? Well, believe it or not, I'd rather read than eat. It's actually a toss up between reading and cooking, but since much of my cooking involves reading cookbooks, those remain tied, ahead of eating. Oh, collecting books is way up there too! So with a bit of extra time on my hands this weekend (after Thaksgiving day), it goes without saying part of that time will involve books.

I've been curious about the book habits of my fellow bloggers. So here are a few questions I thought would be fun to ask. Feel free to answer them in the comments below, or on your own blog.

  1. Where do you most often buy your books? Online? Secondhand stores? Big name bookstores? I'll admit, I probably buy more books at the big name bookstores. There's just something about a book in your hand which screams "take me home" - a cry I have a hard time resisting.
  2. If you buy online, which do you prefer - B&N or Amazon.com? Ebay? Christianbook.com? or elsewhere? If I do buy online, I usually prefer Amazon.com. I've gotten some good deals off eBay though.
  3. Do you put your name in your books? If so, are you a bookplate or stamp person? I usually do put my name in my books. And I've been looking for a cool bookplate or book stamp. I used to have one but lost it somewhere along the way.
  4. How do you feel about loaning books to others? I know a lot of first time moms have a hard time leaving their kids with sitters. Perhaps that's how I am with books. I used to be terrible in college, but that's because you'd loan them to people who'd end up using them to level the table in their dorm room with them. I like to loan them to people who give them back sometime that year. (Yes K you are still on my approved loan list and oops, I think I may have had one of Chad's Clive Cussler book a bit too long!)
  5. Do you highlight or mark your books as you read? Oh, yes. Been doing that since college. In fact, that might be when the whole book-buying thing kicked in for me.
  6. How often do you visit your local library? Usually every 3-4 weeks. More if I'm broke!
  7. Do you collect any certain kind of book? Old history, literature and poetry books.
  8. What do you do when you're done with a book and no longer want it? I took stuff to a half-price bookstore once and got about $5 for a huge pile of really nice books. That devastated me. That was the only time I did that. Now I prefer to unload them on someone else if I can. As a last resort, I'll donate them to Goodwill.
  9. Do you keep a list of or catalog the books you own? This is a great idea but something I'll probably never get around to in my lifetime. There's this site, librarything.com, that is a neat online feature but if I ever find time to do that, I'll be sipping something on the beach!
  10. Any other weird book habits you'd like to share?
Okay, so let's hear it from you other book lovers!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Holiday Meme

Got this great Holiday meme from Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane and thought I'd give it a whirl. By the way, there's lots of great recipes and reading lists at her place - not at all mundane!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Neither. I'll take a skim decaf Peppermint Mocha, half the syrup please!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa doesn't come to our house (no we're not anti-Santa!) - the "Fat Guy" does. The Fat Guy always wraps the presents. And he always sneaks the presents under the tree - never let the other person see you put a gift under the tree!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored, I think. Although for a few years I was into the white lights, red bow & popcorn them. But whatever color they are, they absolutely must not twinkle!

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. And I feel quite good about this, since I recently learned the origins of the misteltoe plant: Origins of its name - The common name of the plant is derived from the ancient belief that mistletoe was propagated from bird droppings. This belief was related to the then-accepted principle that life could spring spontaneously from dung. It was observed in ancient times that mistletoe would often appear on a branch or twig where birds had left droppings. "Mistel" is the Anglo-Saxon word for "dung," and "tan" is the word for "twig". So, mistletoe means "dung-on-a-twig". So hey, if you want to kiss your sweetie under bird dung, be my guest!!!

5. When do you put your decorations up? Whenever I get around to it. It's not a priority. I start with the tablecloth and kitchen stuff the week after Thanksgiving. If I have it all up a week before Christmas, I feel good. (And maybe treat myself to Starbucks!) One year I was still making decorations on Christmas eve! The goal is to get them down as quickly as possible afterwards - ideally by New Year's. One year my sister and I left our tree up until Valentine's Day!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Hmmm. This is hard. My gram used to make lamb at Christmas sometimes, and that's probably my favorite. Nowadays, I prefer Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing - to most of what I get at Christmas.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Wellll . . . I was always the investigative type of child. I just had to try and figure things out. My mom never wrapped our presents, instead she'd put them in the livingroom on Christmas eve after my sister and I went to bed. We each had our own beautifully color-coordinated arranged array of presents - matching of course. A doll for each of us. Pajamas. Etc. Once I figured out how they got there, I started getting up early Christmas morning and going out and switching gifts around. I wanted the blonde-haired doll this year. Or that Nancy Drew book. I was very quiet and very good at it because my mom never realized this was going on until I told her about it years later! Poor mom - she was always second-guessing herself on Christmas morning and chalking it up to the late night!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When I found the boxes from the life-sized dolls in the gameroom one year. Those dolls were a little freaky too - they were about 36" high!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? My husband and I always do. And we go to my dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve and that always used to involve a gift exchange too.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? The last few years it's been with raffia bows and a wooden bead garland I made myself. But Mike hinted last year that he prefers the shinier stuff - he likes those old-fashioned glass-blown ornaments so I've been collecting them and will try something new this year. I thought about doing two trees - NOT!

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it when I'm inside with nowhere to go and a fire in the woodstove!

12. Can you ice skate? Yes. I have a rather unique style I developed myself. I hang on to the side of the rink and try to avoid falling down (I'm paranoid of falling, for some reason) or getting knocked over by some little three-year old Olympic-champion in the making! (I hate ice skating, really!)

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? When I was a kid, my gram bought my sister and I each a perfume and powder set. Really nice stuff - Elizabeth Arden or something. But the most useful gift has to be the set of good knives my parents got me one year.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Gotta ditto Stacy here: Being with family and remembering the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Hands down, give me a shortbread cookie or two!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Mike and I give each other a nice card every year. That's the first thing we open on Christmas morning. We always date the back and write a silly note there. I put them away with the Christmas decorations each year and we read through them again the following year as I put up the decorations. Big deal huh?

17. What tops your tree? A little cornhusk angel we bought at a craft fair the week before we got married.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? All time favorite has to be The Carpenter's Christmas Album. But last year I bought myself a new CD and the music really spoke to my heart. I can't wait to start playing it this year.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?? Yuck and Yum. I hate sticky old candy canes that have been hanging on the tree for too many years. I like a candy-cane in my hot chocolate though!

Open tag here: if you want, share on your blog and post a comment here so I can go check out how you celebrate Christmas!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Let's Hear It For Naomi

I'm reading an awesome book right now on, among other things, friendship. And of course, what would such a book be without a tribute to the story of Ruth of the Bible days. But as I read and reflected on that story, it occurred to me that perhaps Naomi deserves some acclaim also. Just a bit.

Her husband and sons dead, she has nothing left to live for in that strange land of Moab. And so she sets out with her daughters-in-law to return to the land of her people. She heads for home . . . and family. But before doing so, she releases Orpah and Ruth from any obligation to her. Wow. Those are really the only ties she has to her sons. But she realizes for them to follow her would mean leaving all they know behind. And so she bestows upon them the blessing of the Lord and gives them the gift of release.

This is a gift that's well within our power to give, but so often we hold back. Whether because of fear or insecurity or for whatever reason, we sometimes hesitate to just let things go. Let go of bitterness. Of obligations. Of expectations.

The beauty of this gift is that when we give it, we're free to focus on the gifts God has given us. When I cease to expect things from others, I can turn to God in whom my expectations are never disappointed. When I release others from a sense of obligation, I am reminded that Christ already obligated himself for me on the cross.

But the story of Naomi doesn't end there. Willing as she was to make the long journey back to Judea alone, she was blessed by Ruth's unselfish gift of friendship. Two women. One willing to give up her rightful expectations of the other. One willing to sacrifice all she knew. Both exhibiting important facets of friendship. Both blessed beyond measure.

With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband." Then she kissed them and they wept aloud (Ruth 2:7-10)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Christmas on the Tails of Halloween

Silly me. Happy me. I posted a goofy picture of myself on Kailani's Halloween costume contest, and thanks to you for indulging me in votes, won a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com.

Jennifer encouraged me to spend it on myself and you know what? I did just that. It was burning a hole in my pocket and I haven't bought any books in - oh goodness - at least 3 weeks! (It's a problem, people - I know!)

First up: Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life Ooh baby, nothing but nothing beats the lady on writing! This is just a simple collection of some of her profound thoughts on writing, intelligently organized and bound into a beautiful little volume. My new goal (one of them - I'm always making new ones!) Collect every single work by Madeleine L'Engle, as old a version as possible. It was here when I got home from work tonight - yippee. It's almost like a little daily calendar for writers (and readers).

Next: Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts and Reflections Oops, what have we here? Yes, another MLE special - this being a devotional of sorts featuring some of her thoughts on the spiritual life. I'll confess, when I first read some of her works a few summers ago and then began to do some research on her life, I was a bit taken aback by her approach to God. Definitely not your traditional out-of-the-box testimony. But as I began to read more, I was blessed by how she humbly acknowledged what she did not know about God and that humility drew me to her writing even more. It's when we stand in awe of God that we can begin to truly know him. Anyways, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this little book.

Lastly: A Carol for Christmas I rarely buy fiction. I read it way too fast to justify the expense, although I do respect that's how authors make their living, so I purchase a lot of it for gifts, which I read first (hey, you gotta taste the sauce to make sure it's good enough, right?) Hehe. AND I have a hard and fast rule about indulging in anything Christmasy until Friday following Thanksgiving. No Christmas music. No Christmas movies. No Christmas decorations. And definitely no Christmas books! But I made an exception this year and bought Robin Lee Hatcher's A Carol for Christmas. After an exceptionally long week at work, it was a treat to come home tonight and find this one waiting for me. I won't tell you how long it took me to finish it but I got home from work at 9:00 and it's 12:30 am and I did manage to make pizza and do dishes in that bit of time also.

A Carol for Christmas is the sweet story of a couple of newlyweds, Jonathon and Carol Burke, as they struggle through a difficult first year of marriage. Carol's musical talent and Jonathon's determination to prove himself to his father threaten to drive the young couple apart. It's a beautiful reminder of how God uses the desires of our heart to draw us to him, not to mention a quick read and a great gift. (Christmas shopping prior to Thanksgiving is highly encouraged, so long as I can stay out of stores!)

I guess it's time to start thinking of next year's Halloween costume!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thirteen Favorite TV Shows

I don't watch a lot of TV. But reading Maribeth's post at dackelprincess.com today reminded me of some of my past favorite TV shows so I thought I'd post just for fun. Now these are all shows I enjoyed as they were running, not as reruns (not that I wouldn't watch reruns today).
  1. MacGyver - my all time fav show, even my dog is named MacGyver
  2. Magnum P.I. - Tom Selleck, what can I say
  3. Little House on the Prairie - this was about the only TV show we were allowed to watch as kids, besides the Waltons
  4. The Waltons
  5. Full House
  6. Cheers
  7. Jeopardy
  8. Monk - current favorite #1
  9. JAG
  10. NCIS - current favorite #2
  11. Stargate SG1
  12. Commish
  13. Young Riders

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the books they read; I say the same is true about the TV shows someone watches! As you can see, there is not one reality show on my list - LOL! By the way, I had a hard time coming up with 13. No, not limiting the list to 13. Coming up with 13!

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Word Fitly Spoken

If you're blogging, there's a chance it's because you like to write. Put me in that category. I find it hard sometimes to verbalize what I'm really thinking or feeling. But give me a nice Bic mechanical pencil and some college-ruled paper, or a computer, and words just flow. (Well, usually! Sometimes they get stuck!)

So what are you doing with your words? Do you, like me, just enjoy writing for the sake of writing? For the mere opportunity to express yourself? Or, also like me, do you long to be published (okay, do church newsletters count?) Do you feel like when pen (or pencil) hits the paper, you're fulfilling your purpose in life?

Whatever your intent in writing, consider the fathomless realm of words .I once heard someone propose that somewhere in the time/space dimension, all words that have ever been spoken still exist. Remember that email you sent in haste or blog post you deleted? Chances are it's still hanging around in cyberspace today. Likewise you've been influenced either for good or bad by something someone said years ago.

Consider that the word "word" appears over 500 times in Scripture. And consider that when Christ came to dwell in the flesh, John explained that it was the very Word of God choosing to abide with us. The eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing Word of God. And of all his creation, we are the only ones God has chosen to share this power with. Not that our words are all powerful, but they certainly possess a power beyond our understanding. The power to lift up or tear down. The power to heal. The power to nurture and encourage. That God chose to make us partakers of his creation in this way simply astounds me.

The opportunities to use our words in ways to bless others are many, and yet I know I miss opportunities right and left when I'm focused on that next blog post or writing project. So here's a challenge for all of us: picture yourself as a master craftsman and your words as the tools of your trade. In addition to our blogging, how can we use our words in upcoming weeks to bless someone and build them up? I've listed just a few ideas below; I'm sure you can think of many more ways.

  1. Drop someone a handwritten thank you note.
  2. Take a minute to let someone know specifically how they've encouraged you.
  3. Take a minute to specifically encourage someone else.
  4. Leave a comment on a new blog you've discovered.
  5. Speak a word of praise about someone to someone else.
  6. Drop your pastor and his wife a note of gratitude.
  7. Let a ministry leader in your church know how their efforts have blessed you.
  8. Make someone laugh. Go ahead and share that funny story on yourself!
  9. Look up someone who influenced you in some positive way in years past and thank them for allowing God to use them in your life.
  10. Send a card to someone on your church's prayer list whom you really don't know and let them know you're praying for them (assuming, of course, you will pray for them).
Psalm 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

If you love me . . .

Just kidding. No, seriously, if you liked my doggie Halloween getup (see post below), then could you go vote for me at http://pinkdiary808.com/? You have to leave a comment on her site with your vote. Hey it's just a book but I never win anything! So . . . if you love me - vote!  And that's the extent of my begging! 

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday: Cooking Ahead


I don't know what I'd do if I didn't cook ahead a bit and put it in the freezer. I mentioned a few of these tips in a post several months ago, but not as an official WFMW tip and with the holidays approaching, it seemed appropriate.

About every six weeks or so, I buy a couple bags of chicken breasts and10-12 lbs. of ground meat (we use turkey). One bag at a time, I thaw and dice the chicken, and cook it in my big fryer skillet (little or no oil needed, it will kind of poach itself). That goes in freezer bags for soup, stews, quick chicken salad or any other chicken recipe I get inspired to make. A bag lasts our family of two 3-4 weeks usually. On another night, I cook the ground meat. I usually brown three pounds, make meatloaf with a couple pounds and either meatballs or burger patties with the rest. What I brown, I dump into a collander in the sink and run hot water over it to remove any bit of grease (then follow with a bit of dish detergent down the drain!) That goes in 1 qt. freezer bags for adding to spaghetti sauce or whatever.

I know I'm going to be making lots of nut rolls for the holidays so when I see bags of walnuts on sale, I'll buy several and grind them in my food processor as soon as I get home. It saves me from the hassle of the food processor when I'm ready to bake.

Speaking of the holidays, you gotta have gravy. Pretty soon, I'll buy some turkey parts at the store, bring them home, toss 'em in a pot and make stock for the gravy. It's just nice to get that out of the way.

Lastly, we make our stuffing ahead of time and freeze it. Nope, we don't use eggs in ours - just onions, celery, mushrooms and fully cooked sausage with the bread cubes. We stick it in freezer bags and flatten them. Put it in the fridge the night before Thanksgiving and into the bird it goes in the morning. Well, half of it goes in the bird; the other half goes into a buttered casserole dish and gets baked. Some of us like it in the bird - moister, some like it not, so we do it both ways. And then fight over the leftovers -mmmm!

So what are you waiting for? Get cooking! But first get over to Shannon's place at Rocks in My Dryer for a host of other great WFMW ideas.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

If this doesn't scare you . . .


Didn't know how my dog would take to me dressing him up so I decided to dress up like my dog! He still looks less than thrilled - go figure.

Check out Kailani's Halloween contest at Pink Diary, and there are prizes! You can cast your votes for this entry via comments, or head on over to Kailani's site and check out this post for lots more entries for your viewing and voting pleasure.

Monday, October 30, 2006

God Loves Me

Pretty simple concept, huh? I mean, haven't I known this since I was a young girl singing "Jesus Loves Me"? Yet I think what I've always known is "God so loved the world." That he love his entire creation so much that he sent his Son to die for us. To be honest, I haven't thought much about the fact that he loves me. I've been too busy trying to ensure my own worthiness of his love. Or something like that. Quite unsuccessfully I might add.

It's funny. We hear the same truth from both God's word and that old deceiver, Satan: "we are not worthy." But whereas Satan seeks to beat us down with that ugly truth, God simply steps in and solves the problem. He makes us worthy. The amazing thing is, nothing I do takes him by surprise, makes him regret his "before the foundation of the world" decision, or is beyond the scope of his love.

I think Paul explains it best in Romans: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6,8)

We may not always feel loveable, but we are always loved. Period.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Book Review: Straight Up

Nothing beats a new Lisa Samson release for a good excuse to curl up on a cold, wet Saturday and do absolutely nothing but read your heart out. Emphasis on heart. Meet Georgia Bishop, a talented musician, and her uptight cousin Fairly, as they reunite with their only living relative, Uncle Geoffrey, and face some truths about their pasts.

Lisa Samson has once again created real characters living real lives. The picture isn't always pretty, but God can make beautiful things of the ugliest situations. Straight Up does not disappoint.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Momisms

Whole wheat bread is all I'm buying; it's better for you than that junky white bread.

If you want pop, you buy it.

You're not putting that thing together in here! Not in my livingroom!

We don't need that!

Where'd the money go I gave you yesterday?

What happened to these pants? You go through more clothes!

You may recognize the above as "momisms" - those familiar things all moms say on a regular basis. The only thing is, those statements weren't momisms! Those were "wife-isms", cleverly created by yours truly. The scary thing - we don't even have kids! What was I thinking? I was so sure of myself as I flung those statements at my husband, never realizing the daggerlike effect they had on him. But I'm sure I read somewhere "train up a husband in the way he should go . . . "

Thank goodness, somewhere along the way, God allowed me to hear myself. Ouch. My marriage vows came back to mind. “To love and to cherish, to have and to hold;” not “to mind and to train, to boss and to scold.” Oops.

This doesn’t mean I never speak my mind to my husband. But over the past few years, God has helped me think about not just what I say, but how I say it. Sure, it might not be a good idea to put a lawnmower together in the livingroom, and it’s to both our benefit if his pants last more than a month. Here are some things I try to keep in mind:

1) Questions go over better than imperative statements (i.e. commands). “Do you want some old clothes to take with you if you’re cutting wood after work?”

2) “We” is more fair than “you.” “How much cash do we have on hand?” sounds like less of an attack than “what happened to the money I gave you?”

3) How would I like to be spoken to? Better yet, is this how I would speak to my co-workers or my boss?

I still catch myself with “momisms” on the tip of my tongue from time to time, but hopefully my husband today feels I treat him more like a cherished spouse than a disobedient child.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

But What About Moses?

So I'm on this personality kick. Blame it on Jennifer for this post. It's not a bad thing though. It seems like at the same time I was reading Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado, several other posts and thoughts on the topic came my way. Hmmm, could this be something God wants me to think about?

Besides finding the personality studies absolutely fascinating, personally they have made Psalm 139 come alive for me. I've always loved that Psalm, even memorized it in its entirety one year with my Pioneer girls. However, I think I've focused on verses 23-24 a lot: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting, and skipped over verses 14-16:  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

But as I've read and thought about this topic, the biblical example of Moses came to mind. Certainly here was a man who, when tasked by God with the responsibility for leading the Israelites out of Egypt, did not immediately acknowledge his unique personality and abilities as the perfect preparation for such a large undertaking. I think his response was more like, "Excuse me, God, I can't even communicate with my wife. How am I going to talk to Pharoah and millions of my Jewish brothers?"

So I'm just throwing this out there. It's something I've been mulling over in my mind but I'd like your thoughts as well. Does God always call us to do what he's equipped us to do? Where's the balance between our God-given abilities and the places in which we find ourselves absolutely inadequate?

Thank you for your prayers!

I had an update from my friend I wanted to share with you all. (Most of this is directly from her email, a bit condensed).

Plan A was to do a procedure on the intestine they thought would take at least 8 hours, but doubted they'd be able to do. Plan B  was to disconnect the intestine and give Johnny a bag. When the doctors opened him up, they found one portion of the intestine very bad; the doctor had felt it was questionable during surgery when he was three days old but thought it might regenerate itself. Well that portion was the problem. He removed that portion (which was much smaller than he thought it would be) and felt that the rest of Johnny's intestines (though maybe small in quantity) looked very healthy - - - - soooooooooo --------- away with Plan B and onto Plan C.  They reconnected the intestines that were left in the hopes that this will get him back on track.  He was in surgery and recovery for a total of about 5 hours and is in quite a bit of pain.  This was a major surgery and he again has to be restrained - - adding insult to injury. His mom is not allowed to hold him right now due to the surgery.

He will be in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks and then have to have his line replaced.  God certainly works in wondrous ways - - who'd of thought there'd be a Plan C.  If all goes well during his recovery with a bit of time he may be back to progressing much as he was before all these problems hit.  God is certainly good.  Who knows what the future will bring, but once again God has shown us that he is in control!  Thank you so much for all your prayers - -- they continue to make such a difference.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Please pray today . . .

My neighbor's 19 mo. old grandson is having surgery today. He was born without enough intestines, causing all kinds of complications and will eventually require a transplant of small intestines and possibly a liver. He was doing better than expected for a while, enough to move him down the transplant list, but recently has been dealing with more complications, including a very severe infection, the result of his intestinal problems. My neighbors are godly Christians and the parents have seen firsthand the results of prayers and God working over these last months. The mom has been at the hospital around the clock lately, just holding the little guy in her arms.

Please keep this little family in your prayers today.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gimme Some Space!

Are you the kind of person who needs their space? I chuckled yesterday as I escaped from work for a precious 30 minutes in search of some peace and quiet. My chosen space? The cushy couch in front of the gas fireplace at Caribou Coffee. I've been reading Pride & Prejudice with great enjoyment as often as I can get away from work for a bit. There's something relaxing reading about people whose greatest worry in life was whether they'd be invited to the neighbor's soiree.

Yesterday I read this passage, where Mr. Bennett (the father) was entertaining a rather obnoxious relative.

" . . . and Mr. Collins was to attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennett, who was most anxious to get rid of him and have his library to himself, for thither Mr. Collins had followed him after breakfast, and there he would continue . . . talking with Mr. Bennett, with little cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings discomposed Mr. Bennett exceedingly. In his library he had always been sure of leisure and tranquility, and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house, he was used to be free from them there [in the library]." Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813). Great Reads Edition, pg. 72.

Sounds like a guy who not only needed his space but needed his particular space. Here's a shot of my space. I guess my spaces are rather seasonal. During the spring and fall, you can usually find me curled up in my blue chair. As soon as it gets a mite chilly, I head for the reclining sofa in front of the fireplace in our gameroom. Now that our back porch is opened up, I'm sure I'll be spending many summer mornings and evenings out there. As far as what I do in my space, it's a bit of everything. It's where I sit with my planner (when I get around to that). It's where I read my Bible before work in the morning. It's where I read mostly, and it's where I"m blogging from right now.

So I'm wondering, do you have a space? Where is it? What does it look like? Is it somewhere in your home or somewhere outdoors? Do you have more than one space, such as a summer space or winter space? Moreover, what do you do in your space? Is it just your devotional place, or is it your reading-writing-thinking-praying spot? Care to share a peek or some thoughts on your space? If you want to share on your blog, just leave a comment with your thoughts and I'll pop over to see. (Sorry - no Mr. Linky; I'm too afraid of messing with my template right now).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't Go There!

I have been following with interest the discussion at Blest with Sons regarding our thought life. One thing I am learning is that there are certain areas I have to tell myself, "Don't go there." Meaning, right now if I "go there," I'm going to go down a road of negative thinking that I am not prepared to handle. This may be something as innocuous as a real estate website or homes catalog. How so, you ask? Well, if my house is in it's typical looking-like-a-tornado-hit-it mode and I'm feeling like it's closing in on me, surfing the real estate website that night will only serve to further contribute to that closed-in feeling. Likewise, if I'm feeling overwhelmed at work, it's probably not a good day to be searching the want ads for another job. That's because doing do would tend to open up a whole can of worms about my career capabilities.
 
That's not to say I avoid dealing with issues or act like they don't exist. I certainly do enjoy dreaming about a new house and I do plan to get into a different career at some point. It's just that I've started to recognize that allowing myself to think about whatever, whenever, will almost certainly lead me down a wrong path. It's almost as if these thoughts are weighted, and thrown into the deep blue sea of my thought life, they are certain to sink to the bottom, dragging me with them.
 
That said, this reiterates to me the value of praise and worship. The practice of purposefully focusing on the never-changing attributes of God, and his marvelous love towards me seems to help counteract these negative thoughts by ensuring that there's not much room left for these thoughts to take hold and drag me down.
 
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

 

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Simple Things

A few weeks ago I posted my birthday/anniversary wish list, mostly for my husband's sake. I have to say, so far he is coming through pretty good. Today he sent me an email saying we'll take a drive on Saturday if the weather warrants. It may seem silly but that's about my favorite thing to do on my birthday! Partly because when we're home, he's either got his nose in a book, studying for an upcoming test or working on a homework project. Or vegging in front of the TV (he's a self-proclaimed news junkie!) which he deserves full well after all the studying.

Anyways I really like when we just go for a drive. I don't care where it is. I even like getting lost. And I sleep better in his truck than about anywhere else, so there's always that bonus truck nap on the way home. I knew Mike was the one for me when he put up with my compulsive vehicle napping early on in our dating.

Speaking of getting lost though, tonight we found ourselves in our least favorite place (I'll give you a hint, it ends in "mart" and is "wall-to-wall" people). We started out looking for a wallet for Mike, since he lost his MAC card somewhere out of his old dilapidated one. You know how those trips go. You suddenly think of a hundred things you need (well we really were out of shampoo and a few other basics). Anyways, I have this little fear of getting lost, especially in big places like malls and super-center stores. So when he says "wait here a minute," I do just that. Isn't it usually husbands who lose their wives on shopping trips? Well, it's not that way here. I will wait ten - fifteen - twenty minutes in the same exact spot ,for fear of him not finding me. That happened twice tonight, while he went in search of a restroom and shopped for who knows what! At one point I decided a proper and fitting punishment for him losing me would be putting another item in the cart every five minutes I waited. I waited and waited and waited. Happy Birthday to me! Hehe!

Clarifying for Barb, yes, today's my b-day!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

News Flash: Callapidder Days Transforms Unfinished Work!

That's right, folks. The beautiful transformation you see here in front of you is a direct result of my dear friend Katrina of Callapidder Days who surprised me in August with an early birthday gift of a new blog design from Bluebird Blogs. And perfect timing too - Susie completed the masterpiece just in time for the big day (Saturday)!

I wish all of you had the privilege of having Katrina for a FIRL (friend in real life). We laugh because we have a rather odd relationship. See, we don't get to spend an awful lot of time together (even though we go to the same church, I work and she's a busy mom of two little boys) but we chat often via email. I was good friends with her family growing up and was tickled that Chad married such a nice girl.

Over the years, we've found that we have a lot in common, including our love of writing (or at least talking about it!) I love the colors in my new look because they remind me of the warm cozy feeling I have among my many friends in Bloggyland. But they especially make me thankful for a friend like Katrina with whom I just be myself. I hope I can be half as good a friend to her as she is to me! Thanks, K!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cure for the Common Life (by Max Lucado)

I just finished Cure for the Common Life last week. This book is classic Max and I enjoyed every minute of it. Short summary: Max examines how, when our God--given gifts work in conjunction with our God-ordained purpose, we operate in our "sweet spot" - a place far too many of us have never been.

I'm glad I limited my Fall Reading Challenge list, as I'm not tempted to rush into another book but rather (for once) am lingering in the study guide questions provided at the end of the book.

Last night, these questions hit me in the face:
Who is the master of your house? and Do you view your work as a kingdom work? In the chapter related to these questions, Max explores the parable of the talents, and in particular, how the servant who hid his one talent viewed his master. When the master metes out his punishment, he repeats that servant's own words, with the exception of one phrase "thou art a hard man." Max notes that this phrase, although it was the servant's perception of his master, was untrue and therefore not accepted by the master.

This brought to mind my own job, and in particular, how I view my boss. My current boss was a personal friend before becoming a manager. I trust her integrity and feel like I'm working harder than I have in years, in order to make her look good and out of gratitude for the good leadership she provides our group. Quite a refreshing difference from a previous situation where the mere sight of an email from my manager could send me spiralling into a bad day and that was before I'd even read it. 'Nuff said.

After reading Max's book though, I thought about how I relate to God as the One I serve. I know that a proper response to his love and care for me is to serve him eagerly and with joy, not as a "hard taskmaster" but out of love and a desire to please him. I believe the key lies not in focusing on my work but on the Master.

I might have to buy this book if I plan to get through all the questions. Then again the name being "unfinished work," perhaps I should just renew it from the library for another three weeks! If you're seeking to clarify your God-given purpose or struggling with a less than desirable work situation, I highly recommend Cure for the Common Life.
--
Dianne

You gotta read this!

In lieu of any brilliant or mind-boggling thoughts from yours truly, I invited you to check out this post by writer & photographer Bonnie who also has a column at Christian Women Online. Leave her a comment if it speaks to you. Don't worry about leaving me one!

--
Dianne

Monday, October 09, 2006

Other People's Books


Well, they're not really other people's books now - they're mine, all mine! Yesterday morning, bright and early, I headed for the library sale of a neighboring community. I've been anticipating this sale for weeks; I even got up last Saturday to go before realizing it was still a week away. I was surprised to find a line of people yesterday at 9:00 am waiting for the doors to open. A good sign, indeed, except I hate crowds. And not many crowds are worse than the ones you encounter at a book sale! Experienced book-salers will unashamedly plant themselves in the aisle as they scan tables or shelves in search of that perfect buy or push past you to reach for that prize find. Yesterday was no exception. I only lasted about 30 minutes before I felt the crowd closing in around me.

Nevertheless, I managed to snatch up a few treasures before escaping in search of fresh air. Believe it or not, I have a lot of restraint when it comes to book sales. (Good thing, my husband says or it could be ugly!) I rarely buy fiction. I usually look first for old books. Books on writing are always a winner (hey, if you can't write 'em, read 'em!) I always check out the religious non-fiction section, and then scout around for a classic or two. It's not beyond me to pick up a gift or two at a book sale.

Anyways, here's what I came away with; not bad for $25, considering the three old books were $5, $3 and $3.

3 books for my nine year old niece:

  • Mandy (Julie Edwards)
  • Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)
  • The Quilt Trilogy: A Stitch in Time (Ann Rinaldi)
For me:
  • Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis)
  • Quiet Moments for Working Women (Mary Welchel) (This one's going to work with me!)
  • Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Ann B. Ross)
  • Writing Down The Bones (Natalie Goldberg)
Also a couple old books:
  • Longfellow's Poems - no date noted
  • A Cricket on the Hearth - 1928 (anything old & Dickens works for me; this is the 2nd Christmas volume of his I own but I couldn't resist)
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1898)
For Gifts
  • Quilting by Machine (you're welcome, Mom!)
  • Heartfelt Sampler (a little daily calendar of quotes and verses)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Word Association

I used to love word association games when I was a kid, and also when I taught school. Jennifer at Snapshot has tagged me for this meme, which is great because my blogging brain is in a state of drought right now.

Grace - For some reason, Max Lucado comes to mind. Didn't he write a book on the subject? Ah yes, a quick check at Amazon.com reveals not one but two books on the subject. In the Grip of Grace contain's Max's unique approach to the book of Romans. Some friends and I read this together a few years ago for a Bible study. I don't think I ever noticed the subtitle before tonight: Your Father Always Caught You. He Still Does. Wow, isn't that a powerful thought? He also wrote Grace for the Moment, which I might have to check out as soon as I'm finished with Cure for the Common Life, which is proving to be a most excellent read.

Brother - My sister and I always wished for a brother. Even in our twenties, we thought my mom should have another baby and of course, we'd hope for a little brother. Well, we never got our little brother but my sister is having fun with three of the cutest little boys you ever saw. I think though, that we always wished for a big brother! You know, someone to beat up the kids who picked on us, etc.!

Snow
- Before you know it, it will be snowing and we'll be putting our wood stove to good use once again. I can't wait for cozy nights on the reclining sofa in front of the fire!

I'm horrible at tagging but how about Barb and Jeanine? And your words are: crochet, photographic and library. Go to it, girls!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style: Nut Rolls


Overwhelmed with Joy
is graciously inviting us to "gather" at her place and share our best holiday recipes. I think this is a great idea and am looking forward to trying out some tried and true recipes from my friends in Bloggyland.

This is one of my favorites, and I must admit, I take some pride in having mastered this recipe. See, I remember my gram always in search for the perfect nut roll recipe. Either the dough wasn't to her liking or the filling left something to be desired. Her old cookbook is filled with cuttings and scraps of recipes. Of course, we (except for my allergic-to-nuts sister) willingly tried them all but I never managed to learn which she considered "the one." Several years ago, a co-worker brought in some nut roll his mother made and I shamelessly begged the recipe from him. So here it is, compliments of my friend Nick, and as good as any Gram ever made.

Nut mixture: Combine 1-1/2 lbs. ground walnuts, 2 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add just enough hot milk to make a paste. Set aside.

2 envelopes yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 lb. butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
6 cups flour

Combine yeast with warm milk, allow to sit. Combine butter, salt, sugar, eggs and cream. Add part of the flour, then yeast/milk mixture. Mix in remaining flour. Blend well. Divide into 4 equal parts. One at a time, roll into 12x8 rectangle. Spread with nut mixture to within 3/4" of edges and roll up from long side, sealing edges with a bit of water and tucking ends under. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm (80 deg) oven for about an hour. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle tops with sugar if desired. Bake at 350 deg. for about 35-40 min.

For lots more great recipes, click on the graphic above.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

WFMW: Cooking Instructions

I'm a big fan of using canisters in my kitchen, partly for decoration and partly because it's more practical than keeping a lot of open boxes in my pantry. But I was forever forgetting simple things, like the Bisquick biscuit recipe or how to cook rice. I finally started cutting out the directions and either taping them to the lid or tossing them in the bottom of the canister (I often put the contents into a ziploc bag before putting them in the canister). It works for me.

For lots more clever ideas, check out Shannon's post today at Rock's in My Dryer.

Oh Look - A Meme!

Katrina tagged me for this meme that Jules at Everyday Mommy started and it's a different kind of meme - a bit more contemplative than miscellaneous. I had fun trying to pick a favorite memory for each, since my mom saw to it that we made plenty of memories!

1. Favorite memory of your mother? This was the hardest. I had to leave it and come back to it. I'd have to say it was when I was in college and she'd come to visit me and we'd go off and do fun things. One time she surprised me with a pizza party for my birthday at this really cool pizza place. That was a feat because it was quite difficult to get a pass to go off-campus and she somehow arranged to get a bunch of my friends there!

2. Favorite memory of your father? Once while I was in college, I came home to surprise my dad for his birthday. That morning, I hid in a large box which was wrapped like a gift. I was in the kitchen, crouched and cramped in that box and you know how you kind of shake when you're stooped in an uncomfortable position? Well, I was shaking - first of all from stooping, then from excitement, and then I realized my dad was fishing for his pocket knife to open the package in his neat perfectionist way - yikes! And then I guess I was shaking because I was more claustrophobic than I realized. Anyways, the surprise was a big hit with my dad! I'll never forget how happy he was to see me - made me feel really special.

3. Favorite memory of your sibling(s)? Goodness, when as a toddler you look forward getting your very own baby sister, and then you share your growing up years with that one and only sibling, it's hard to pick one favorite memory. I think my favorite memories are of the years we shared an apartment together as schoolteachers. Even though she was younger than me, she was always the boss. She paid the bills (I contributed but she hit me up every month). She reminded me to get gas in my car and helped me find my keys when I lost them (conveniently about every other morning, as I hated driving and was usually out of gas anyways!) One time we got home late from a basketball game and somehow I managed to drop my keys down the elevator shaft. Now me with my laidback personality quickly figured that as long as sis had her keys so we could get to work in the morning, we were fine. I was tired (read: exhausted) and ready to head to bed. SHE (the motherly one) on the other hand insisted that we retrieve the keys that night! Unbelievable, but we (I) (the clever one) wired several coat hangers end to end and fished the wayward keys from the dungeon below. Other goofy things happened there like seeing some of the tenants wearing some of the things we put out for the trash. We were always giggling in hushed tones there for one reason or another!

4. What one skill would you like to wake up tomorrow and be able to do (though you'd never learned it)? I'd like to wake up tomorrow and be a computer graphics art guru!

5. Which one of your dreams has come true? Well, this has to be getting married since at one point I convinced myself that I was destined for singlehood.

Just for fun, I'm tagging Stacy, my mom, and Cindy.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

My Old Book Collection



All this talk about books lately got me thinking about my old book collection. When I was in college, I used to go to a lot of book sales. I'm sure my roomies dreaded seeing me return from the "bag" sales! Somewhere along the way, I got interested in old books. Mostly old English, literature and history textbooks. But I also have a thing for old poetry books and literary classics. I have a few more scattered around the house but here's a picture of the majority of them. One of them, on the life of President Andrew Jackson, was published around 1872.

The shelf is not bowed; it just looks like it, the way the light hits it. And aren't the bookends just adorable? A little Chinese boy and girl set I picked up at a flea market years ago.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Five Ingredient Friday: Spaghetti JMW


Spaghetti JMW is a longtime family favorite around our house. Growing up, my mother often made this dish which she referred to as "Spaghetti John's Mother's Way" - the way my dad's mom used to make spaghetti. At some point, I decided the name needed to be shortened, hence Spaghetti JMW. It's quick, it's easy and it works with a variety of pastas & meats. (To my knowledge, we've never written this down before so pardon the estimates)

1 lb. cooked pasta (spaghetti works, but I've also used penne and macaroni)
1 large can whole tomatoes (stewed tomatoes also work but I prefer the chunkier whole ones)
1/4 - 1/2 lb. Velveeta cheese, sliced (the light version works just fine)
1/2 lb. bacon cooked and coarsely chopped (1-2" pieces) (do not overcook!) (I've also used kielbasa or turkey kielbasa)

Empty tomatoes into a bowl and crush by hand. Cover the bottom of 9x13 pan with some of the juice. Layer pasta, tomatoes and cheese until pan is full. Sprinkle chopped bacon over the top. Cover and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, then baked uncovered a few more minutes until bacon is crispy.

I've also made this in a crockpot, and I think it's equally delicious with turkey sausage or kielbasa, sliced into 1/4" medalions. My mom used to use cover the top with whole sliced bacon and then drizzle the bacon drippings over the top before baking. I think it's easier to serve and it with chopped bacon and I skip the bacon drippings.

Now I'm hungry but it's 2:00 am.