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 Ebay? or elsewhere? If I do buy online, I usually prefer 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,, 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

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 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 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.