Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Game-Day Wings

With family and friends gathering over the next few days, here's a super-easy and super-tasty chicken wing recipe. The combination of soy sauce and orange marmalade makes these wings messy and fabulous all in one! They're perfect for an appetizer or as a game-day meal.

The following are approximations of the amounts I use - after a while you'll play around with them to find the combination you like best. Now I go by sight and smell rather than measured amounts. Have fun with it!

1 cup sweet orange marmalade
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
30 chicken wings
(I've used both whole wings and separated drumettes and wings - we personally prefer the separated.)

1. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl, separating half into a ziplock bag. Add wings to the bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate 2-4 hours, turning the bag occasionally. Cover and refrigerate the remaining glaze.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line glass dishes with two layers of foil and spray with nonstick spray. (The double layer is super-important because they WILL leak.) Place wings in a single layer. Discard the bag and contents.

3. Bake 10 minutes, then turn and brush with reserved glaze. Bake 10 more minutes, then brush on more glaze. Bake 10 final minutes, for total of 30 minutes baking time. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve with remaining glaze and your favorite dressings for dipping sauces.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Creating A 2009 Time Capsule

We may never meet exactly this way again.

There are people close to us who were alive this time last year, but are no longer living. There are new babies, new spouses and new friends who weren't with us a year ago. We have no idea what faces will surround us when 2010 is over, and but for the grace of God we may not be here ourselves.

So let's put together a family time capsule, something that will show exactly who we are today and who and what we love. It's often hard to put into words what's important to you, but we all have pictures and mementos that can be sealed away for the future.

For your capsule itself you'll need a box, coffee can, cookie tin or other container that won't get crushed (just in case you forget where you store it). You can decorate it like I did here, or just write the date, year, and when you'd like it to be opened on the top.

Decorating the time capsule can be a great kids' project! Give them the supplies and let their creativity run wild.

Then decide what means the most to you and tuck it away in your capsule. Here are some ideas:

* Current family photo
* Front page of the newspaper
* Current issue of TV Guide
* Grocery store receipt with the current prices
* Pictures of places in town you enjoy
* Note cards with each family member's personal feelings, memories and prayers for the future
* Tape or CD of your favorite songs
* Children's drawings and writings
* Calendar with year's milestones
* Menus from favorite restaurants
* Your favorite Bible verses
* New recipes you discovered this year
* Road maps of significant trips you took
* Sampling of this year's birthday, get well, Christmas and Valentine cards
* Ticket stubs from movies, museums and plays you've attended this year

Don't include anything of monetary value, just sentimental and perhaps historical value. Seal it up and tuck it away somewhere in the house. You can either decided on a time to open it or open it as a family someday down the road when you stumble across it again.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Where's Your Self-Control?

When I'm writing, scrapbooking, working on the computer or even cleaning the house, I tend to have something to snack on nearby. That's my little reward for accomplishing something.

What I've learned over the years, though, is that I have to ration out what I eat or I'll consume the entire package, bag or box. You'd never tell it by looking at me, but I truly love to eat. Only by exercising portion control can I outsmart my appetite and keep my body healthy and happy.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls. Proverbs 25:28

Imagine your heart having a wall around it, a wall of self-control that protects us and shields us from temptation, laziness and gluttony. With dedicated cleaning and maintenance we can keep this wall standing tall and intensely guarded.

Without self-control, our emotions, desires and appetites take over and we feel like we are useless to stop them. We often say we were powerless against our hunger, so we ate too much. Or we just couldn't overcome our laziness today so we stayed on the couch. This is taking the power away from where it belongs and giving it to some "thing" or feeling that is meaningless.

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Corinthians 9:27

How often have you heard yourself say: I can't...I just don't have the...That's just how I'm made...I guess I'm just that way. Excuses like these get in the way of living a victorious Christian life because we're not allowing God's power to rule every part of our lives.

With God's grace, I rule my body and mind - my body and mind do not rule me. Paul is a great example of this idea: he taught others to defeat these misconceptions about what we are and are not forced to do, so he lived to be a testimony of God's power in his body.

Making excuses for our lack of willpower is like telling the Lord that we don't trust in His power to strengthen us. In truth, it is Christ's example and teachings that show us just how to turn a lack of self-control into the beauty of self-denial.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

To allow ourselves to be controlled by temptations, anger or fear means we are too busy with our own selves to be of use to God. Only when we take ourselves, our own minds and bodies, out of the equation can God truly use us in service for Him.

Self-denial and self-control lead us down a precious path with the Lord. There are areas in each of our lives that we have given up on simply because "that must be how I'm made." The reality is that God's power in our lives can help us be victorious over anything the world throws in our path. Praise His holy name!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chores To Do In 10 Minutes

Time is a precious commodity these days. It seems like we can never get on top of all the chores around the house that have to get done, plus make a dent in some of the those we'd like to do.

Do you have 10 minutes? Somewhere in between work and dinner, cleaning and errands, tackle one of the following tasks that will take just 10 minutes of your time.

1. Empty and sort one drawer in the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom.

2. Sort out your old magazines.

3. Vacuum or sweep and mop one room's floors.

4. Fold and sort the laundry.

5. Clear off one counter top, dresser or chest.

6. Grab a basket and clear out one room of all things that belong in other rooms. In your next 10 minutes, put them in their appropriate places.

7. Clean and shine all your mirrors.

8. Fill and run the dishwasher.

9. De-gunk the microwave.

10. Wipe down your fan blades.

And this is just the beginning. If you've only got 10 minutes at a time, you can really do a lot. Look around and see what needs to be tackled, then work for those few minutes and move on. Nobody said you have to spend entire days cleaning - it's about working efficiently and using the time you have, whether it's 10 minutes or a couple of hours.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Take Time For Yourself

Think back on the past month of holidays - did you concentrate all of you time and effort on cleaning, cooking, decorating and shopping for other people? Did you stay as busy as humanly possible just so you could get everything done that you wanted? Are you now stressed, tired and physically drained?

The holiday season isn't the only time we get spread so thin and make ourselves half-crazy. Most women feel like we're not accomplishing anything if we're not busy all the time. We want to experience life to its fullest, which means double-scheduling ourselves and our families.

This is a great time to relearn how to take time for yourself. This may seem like a silly idea when you're already stretched to the limit, but if you don't take time to rest and rejuvenate now, your body and mind can develop bigger problems. It's pretty common knowledge that stress leads to heart disease and depression, and makes you susceptible to other illnesses. A little time set aside now can prevent issues later.

So how and when can you make time for yourself and your own interests?

* Schedule time for yourself just like you would a dentist's appointment or ball game. Write it down on your calendar every day - seeing it will help you do it.

* Try to remember all the activities you enjoyed before you got too busy to enjoy them. Do you read, craft, garden, window-shop, write, watch movies, go for a walk or play computer games? Take a few minutes each day for one of your favorite pastimes just to regroup for the rest of the day.

* Look at your daily schedule and see what's zapping your time and energy. Eliminate all nonessential activities and people and use that time for yourself.

* Do something out of the ordinary. Go to a museum. Browse the library. Brew a cup of tea or make some cocoa. Pull out a book you've been putting off reading. A change in schedule can boost your spirits quicker than chocolate. Maybe.

* Consider a technology-free day. Don't answer the phone (unless it's your husband), don't worry about e-mail and don't surf the Internet. Stress can enter our homes and lives in many technological ways, so nip them in the bud for a day.

* Change your surroundings. If you normally stay home all day, take a drive. If you're on the road or at work all day, schedule an afternoon at home. If you always eat breakfast at home, treat yourself at a restaurant. Sometimes the most fun comes when you do something unusual.

* Take a class - cooking, exercise, crafts. Scheduling something regularly will help you make the time for yourself a priority.

* Choose exercise. Not only can you get a great workout, you can work off some calories and feel fabulous when you're done.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let's Make It Caturday!

I watched yesterday while the girls and Cayenne enjoyed their Christmas gifts. We filled a plastic stocking with toys and cans of cat food for Cay and gave Bailey and Sadie rawhide toys and a big bag of treats. Whoever said Labs think with their stomachs was on the right track. All three of them had a fabulous day and slept incredibly well last night.

That's when I realized, they don't even know it's a holiday. Friday, December 25, 2009, was just another day to them. True, we gave them more to eat than usual, but other than that it was business as usual. And usual means eating, sleeping, running outside and cuddling with their humans.

Animals live in the moment - they don't worry about much, except that it's time for their next meal and it hasn't magically appeared in their bowls.

They aren't concerned about receiving gifts or having the biggest, newest or shiniest "whatever." All they want today and every day is love and attention.

When they get overwhelmed, they don't stress out or have a nervous breakdown. They find a place all of their own and take a nap.


It's not about how much you spend, it's about how much love you give.

Today is the best day ever because it the one you've got right now. This is the best walk ever because it's the one you're on right now. This is the best treat ever because it's the one you have right now.

Unconditional love can't be wrapped, but it's the best present ever! We so blessed to be able to share it with our pets every day, not just on Christmas. May your today with your fur babies be the most special ever - just because it's today!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was
governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she
should be delivered.
And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen. as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:1-20 KJV

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Slow-Cooker Poppyseed Cake

This is my all-time favorite slow-cooker dessert from the Crock-Pot cookbook. It's perfect for a quick, last-minute event.

You can cut it into blocks, like we did here for our ladies' Christmas tea at the church, or into wedges.

1 1/2 cups biscuit baking mix
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp grated orange peel

1. Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a waxed paper circle to fit inside of slow cooker. Spray lightly. Set on high heat.

2. Whisk baking mix, sugar and poppy seeds in large bowl. In another bowl, mix sour cream, egg, milk, vanilla and orange peel. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

3. Spoon batter into slow cooker and smooth the top. Place double layer of paper towel under lid. Cook on high 1 1/2 hours. Cake is done when top is no longer shiny and toothpick comes out clean.

4. Invert cake on cooling rack, peel off waxed paper and cool completely.

1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp poppy seeds

1. Whisk orange juice into powdered sugar.

2. Cut cake in wedges (or small squares) and arrange on serving dish.

3. Drizzle glaze over top and sides of cut cake. Sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fun Place Cards That Double As Gifts

While you're waiting for dinner to cook or watching one of those wonderful Christmas specials on television, put together some fun and creative place cards for your Christmas table.

You can use some pretty simple, around-the-house items and create something your guests can take home at the end of the meal (if they haven't already eaten them!).

Dress up a small votive candle holder with some ribbon, then fill it with candy, tiny ornaments or some decorative beads. The attach your name card to a straw or craft stick and tuck it in.

This easy tree decoration can double as a place card. Check out the post from December 2 for the instructions. Then write or print out a name to attach to the star.

Pine cones are a great winter theme - bake them at 200 degrees for 20 minutes before using. Once they're cooled off, embellish them with ribbon, glitter and a name card.

To make a sweet peppermint candy place card, cut an oval out of decorator paper and punch a hole in either end. String pretty ribbon or yarn through the holes.

Since they come in several sizes, you can use fancy paper clips to make name cards. Cover the black part in decorator paper, print out a name and decorate with stickers.

For a sweet little dessert (or an appetizer for some of us!), tuck your place card into a cupcake.

A great take-home treat is a candy bar with your guests' names on them. Wrap decorator paper around each bar, then spell out their name on it. Make sure you don't use candy with nuts in case any guests are allergic. Match the paper to the theme or colors of your party.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Should We Pray For Patience?

As human beings, we are not often blessed with an abundance of patience. Most ladies don't wait well in trying situations, but we live in a "hurry up and wait" society. Put a woman in a doctor's office, grocery store line or busy intersection and you'll see what she's made of! One thing I've discovered over the years is that if you pray for patience, God will put you in situations where you have to practice patience.

We don't wait on each other very well and we definitely don't wait on the Lord very easily. This is especially true in those instances when we feel that God has not met our expectations. For some reason or another we figured out how things were supposed to be, we wrote everything out in ink and then something fell through the cracks. Now we're out of patience and ready to take matters into our own hands.

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Did you ever mail a letter to a friend and then go out the next day to see if she'd written you back yet? It would be physically impossible for this to happen, but we get so excited and so impatient that time and space don't matter when it comes to our immediate happiness.

We project that same impatience onto God all the time, expecting Him to fit His grand scheme into our limited time frame. When we pray and don't see immediate results our human impatience gets riled up and we begin to think the unimaginable: God's not listening. He went out to lunch, left the machine on, had His secretary take a message and can't get back to me until later.

Now we know this isn't true, but the mind is the first place the devil attacks. This verse from Micah is just one of the multitudes of Scripture that God placed throughout the Bible to remind us that it's all about Him.

God's timing and God's plan...all parts of His "Big Picture" that we certainly can't see. When life's series of events don't fit our scenarios and in our idea of the right time, we automatically question the validity of His design.

In order for the Lord to have glory and honor through our lives, we have to be willing to wait and allow His timing to work itself out. Our human patience may run thin at times, but God's never will. He has already seen the final chapter of our lives and the completion of His story. The key for the Christian woman is to wait upon the Lord and give Him the opportunity to renew our patience, our strength and our hope.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Monday, December 21, 2009

Putting Your Pocketbook In Order

You may have a lot resting on your shoulders, but it should be responsibilities, not in your purse. As we head into the New Year, now is the perfect time to purge, fix and organize your pocketbook. You'll lighten your load and probably find some things you forgot you had!

* Empty it out. I have several pocketbooks in a basket in our closet. Every time I switch purses I clean everything out, discard the trash, sort the receipts and put all my loose change in a jar. There's no reason to carry around (or store) extra stuff.

* Fix a travel bag. I also have a little bag that goes from purse to purse. It contains all those essentials like a lint roller (we do have two dogs and a cat), a Tide-to-Go pen, brush, feminine products and some mints. This bag is all fixed up so I can pull it out of yesterday's pocketbook and put it into today's. It's a quick, easy way to keep things together and keep them organized.

* Process all your papers. Do you hate carrying around 27 receipts, a handful of lists plus the paperwork for the errands you're running? Instead, carry a small accordion folder that you can easily file everything away in. This will keep your papers neat and prevent them from getting crumpled, plus you'll know exactly where to look to find the ones you need.

* Utilize pockets. You've got them, flaunt them! The quickest way to organize your purse is to make use of every little space it was designed with. Figure out what works best and where, and then always return that particular item to that spot. This will make the larger areas more organized and you'll save tons of space.

* Don't try to carry it all. There is a limit to what your back and shoulders can handle, so don't try to carry everything you own in your pocketbook. The essentials like your wallet, a calendar, coupon organizer and a small amount of make up are fine. Year-old receipts, old candy and broken pencils are not.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Carefully Plan Your Planner

What kind of calendar do you use? Is it a wall calendar for everybody to write on? Do you carry a planner in your pocketbook? Maybe you have a tiny calendar on the table or a scratch piece of paper does the trick.

Whatever you've chosen, it's about to run out. In less than two weeks 2009 will be over and you'll need a new planner. Would you like to try something different this year and be more organized, more efficient and less frazzled? Here are some characteristics of a great calendar system.

1. Versatility - Look for a planner that has day, week, month and year views. You don't have to write a certain event on every single one of them, but having them all handy can help you see into the future, so to speak. You can keep any long-range plans in writing and still see what you have to do this afternoon.

2. Portability - It doesn't do you much good to have a huge desk calendar filled with everything you need to do this week, but it's so huge that you can't carry it with you. Decide what works best for you: pocket-sized to tuck in your purse, a notebook that fits in your wallet or a planner with handles that can function as your pocketbook. There are too many choices out there to not have it with you.

3. Adaptability - Can you change out the 2010 pages for 2011 pages and keep the cover? Would you like to have just the calendar and not the address book? Look for something that suits exactly what you need. Having lots of ways to personalize your information is the mark of a great planner.

4. Functionality - I really like having the year-at-a-glance pages in my planner, but I rarely use them. You may not need the day broken down into hours or the address book in the back. There are lots of planners that allow you to mix-and-match parts to create just the right combination of pages and uses. Find a calendar that fits your personality, your daily needs and your style.

5. Multiple capabilities - Calendar, address book, calculator, pockets, pen holder, birthday list...if you're carrying around all of these items separately, you need to find a new planner. Imagine how much more organized life would be if you had one place to keep all these things and be able to take it with you wherever you go. Yes, you can multitask and be organized at the same time.

Armed with some great ideas, head to the store and start exploring your planning options. And don't settle - you'll have this calendar for a whole year, so you want it to be functional, stylish and absolutely fabulous. Then you won't have any excuses!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Let Me Introduce You...

If you're having any type of gathering during the Christmas and New Year's seasons, you will probably have children in your home. If your pets are unfamiliar with the pitter-patter of little feet, now is the time to prepare everyone for the interaction.

Consider the preparation in three parts: your pets, the visiting children and what you yourself need to do differently.

The pets:
If you don't have children, try to socialize them with some neighborhood children. Have them and their parents meet you on the porch when you're going for a walk.

* Begin being more touchy-feely with your pets. Chances are the children visiting will want to love and hug on them, so start preparing them for it now.

* Keep mealtimes on schedule. One of the biggest problem areas between kids and pets is mealtime, so maintain your schedule and keep the children away from food bowls.

The children:
Have a talk about respect - don't surprise animals, poke at them, pull anything or harm them in any way.

Explain to them how to speak calmly around your pets and move slowly.

* Show them how to hold your cat or pet your dog. They will learn by example.

* Arm them with some treats and teach them how to have your dogs "sit" on command.

* Let them know that your pets will tell them when they want to be picked up or petted - no chasing allowed!

Never leave a pet and child in the room alone. This is asking for disaster. All interaction should be supervised.

* Have plenty of fun and games planned. A bored child (or a bored pet for that matter) can instigate all sorts of trouble. If the children want to interact with your dog, have some balls or a squeaky handy. Give them some jingle bells or yarn to play with the cat. Don't leave them to find something on their own.

* Have the camera handy. The play time, or nap time as the case may be, will be precious memories for your family. Record them and the children will have wonderful keepsakes of their time spent with your pets.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where Is Your Money Going?

In the midst of a time filled with spending, charging and more spending, I'm going to ask you to sit down for just a few minutes and take a look at your finances.

What??? During the week before Christmas???

There is no better time to examine where your money is going every month than right before the new year begins. When you're ready to fill in the amounts listed below, gather up all the bills you'll need and make sure your husband sits down with you. You shouldn't do it without him and it will give you both insight into your home's finances.

Grab a calculator and figure out your monthly payments for the following:

Mortgage/rent _____
Auto loans _____
Personal loan _____
Credit card debt _____
Estimated taxes _____
Utilities _____
Food _____
Home repairs _____
Automobile expenses _____
Auto insurance _____
Homeowners/renters insurance _____
Medical insurance _____
Entertainment _____
Restaurants _____
Travel _____
Clothing _____
Hobbies _____
Gifts _____
Child care _____
Education _____
Misc expenses _____

Surprised? Sometimes it takes seeing your money in black and white to understand your money in red and black. Are there areas that you're spending more in than you thought? Are there places you can cut back on your spending so you'll have extra money elsewhere?

Pray about your spending for the upcoming year. Use these figures to set up a budget, and then stick to it. This isn't a New Year's resolution, but a way of being a good steward of what God has blessed you with.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pasta with Turkey Sausage and Veggies

Are you looking for a simple, quick recipe for this week before Christmas? Here's the solution when you have many mouths to feed, no time and little energy! The whole meal takes about 20 minutes to make and is incredibly satisfying.

Pair it with some fresh fruit and with a little dessert to follow. There will only be two pans to clean and you can move on to the rest of your evening.

Pasta with Turkey Sausage, Broccoli and Peppers:
1 lb whole wheat penne
1 1/4 coup broccoli florets
3 tbsp olive oil
4 links turkey sausage
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped (or red and yellow combination)
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

1. Cook pasta as directed. Add broccoli for the last 3 minutes. Drain.

2. Brown sliced sausage in 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat, 10-12 minutes.

3. Return pasta and broccoli to pot, add sausage, red peppers, oil, parsley and crushed red pepper. Toss to combine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two-Tone Stamping for Christmas

One of the prettiest stamping techniques involves using a background and a foreground stamp to create layers of colors and patterns. In the Good Old Days of wood-mounted rubber stamps, this was super tricky because you couldn't see exactly where you were stamping. Since the creation of clear stamps and blocks, though, this technique is easier.

This stamp set from Close To My Heart, Make It A Simple Christmas, is a great example of stamps designed to layer. Each one has a foreground and a background stamp.

For this bookmark, random stamp pine tree branches around the edges. Make sure to stamp some over the edge to look more finished.

Always stamp a lighter color for your background stamp so the darker color will show on top of it. The background stamps will be solid shapes and the foreground stamps will have the detail.

In coordinating colors, stamp lights and bulbs hanging from the branches. With the clear blocks you'll be able to see exactly where your darker foreground stamp will go.

When you're done decorating your tree, add some texture with 3D leaves and holly. Repeat the stamping process on another piece of paper, cut them out and attach to the bookmark with a glue dot. Then stamp your greeting. Finish the bookmark by matting it with one or two coordinating colors and a ribbon at the top.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is Your Pride In The Way?

If jealousy is the green-eyed monster, I wonder what color eyes pride has. This sin is so tempting for the human flesh and it is one of the things we hate most in others. How much easier it is to see pride in someone else and not even notice it in ourselves.

In the KJV Bible, three Hebrew words were translated to our word "pride." They meant glory, height and excellence. Combined, these words give us a clear picture of the sinful, destructive nature of pride. Pride puffs us up and we begin to compare ourselves to those around us, putting us on a higher and higher pedestal. This evil thinking drives a wedge into our relationship with others and tears us away from fellowship with God.

Now there is a difference between being proud of someone for their accomplishments and the work they do for the Lord, and the feelings of superiority that Satan wants to use to control our thoughts. The sin is the lifting up of self, not the support and love of someone else.

Have you ever stopped to think about the number of times you talk about yourself during a single day: what you feel, how you feel, what you're thinking, what you've accomplished and what your plans are? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34) and when your speech is full of "I, me, my and myself" it's pretty clear what the abundance of your heart is.

An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin. Proverbs 21:4

Pride craves the spotlight, seeks recognition and acts in ways that will be noticed. It may surface when given responsibilities others don't have, when God blesses us with success or when others fail. In any of these circumstances, the sin of pride is hateful and destructive. Not only can we lash out at other people, but we allow evil to eat away at us from the inside.

Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest. And Jesus, preceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. Luke 9:46-48

Can you imagine learning from Jesus Christ every day and still feeling the need to lift yourself up above others? With everything they were watching Jesus do and despite the words of truth He spoke of, they were not grasping the concept of humility.

The polar opposite of pride, humility calmly and sweetly lifts up other people for their accomplishments and their walk with the Lord. There is no need to talk about self or even talk about how humble we are trying to be. There is no effort required in humility - it simply means shining the spotlight on God's work in our lives, telling what He has done to change us.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8

We can't say, I will "humble myself" so that I can be lifted up. God looks upon the heart and knows the truth of our thoughts. True humility looks beyond the possible benefits and chooses to be obedient to God first. Pride originates in the flesh, which is a far cry from obedience, and blinds us to the real work God wants us to do for Him.

If pride is in the way in your life, I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal these areas to you. Sometimes we need to quiet ourselves for a little while so God can deal with our hearts and help us grow in Him. The fleshly sin of pride can make seeing and hearing these convictions difficult. The blessings come when we take ourselves out of the equation so Jesus and His saving truth can shine through.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Winter Skin Therapy

Just when we figure out the perfect combination of facial cleansers, toners, moisturizers and cosmetics, it happens - the winter weather sets in. Then we have to contend with dry skin, chapping and peeling.

Colder temperatures make your skin much more sensitive and delicate. It's also likely more dry than normal. If this sounds like what you're dealing with this December, think about a few simple changes that can make a dramatic difference in the condition of your skin.

1. Think gentle. When it's cold outside, you need a more gentle cleanser and moisturizer. You may not need a toner at all, but if you do make sure it's a more gentle version.

2. Apply some lip balm. We've all felt the effects of dry, chapped lips in the cold wind. Make sure you use a lip balm or gloss with an SPF of 15 or higher and use it before and after you're outside. Prevention is much easier than healing.

3. Use a moisturizer with sunscreen. It may be cloudier and stormier than usual, but this is the perfect weather for damaging your skin. Use an SPF 15 or higher protection, preferably one built into your moisturizer.

4. Use a humidifier. Fight that dry indoor air by using a room-sized humidifier. Some even have a spot for liquid medication specifically designed for humidifiers and vaporizers. If you're sick as well as suffering from dry skin, this is a great fix.

5. Shorten and cool off your shower. Dry skin is increased by hot water. If you take a 10 minute shower in fairly warm (not hot) water and follow up with a great moisturizer, you can minimize the discomfort of dry skin.

6. Dress in layers. While we tend to bundle up when the temperatures drop, but this can make sry, itchy winter skin even worse. Dress in several layers that you can shed as you get warm. This will keep you from getting too sweaty and itchy.

7. Check in with your dermatologist. They are the greatest resource for winter skin therapy specifically for your skin type and issues. Take any questions or concerns you have about issues and products straight to the expert.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Respect Me, Respect My Time

There are 27 things to do today, and yet we wasted time turning down a telemarketer. At what point do you stop a phone conversation with someone because you need to get back to work? Should I keep waiting for that person who's late or move on to something else?

Psalm 90:12 says: So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

If I am to apply my time to learn more about God and use that knowledge and understanding to serve Him, I cannot waste any of my time while I have it. This goes for all Christian women - the time we have to serve the Lord is precious and we must use each moment of it. These are the treasures we store up for ourselves in Heaven.

With this in mind, how can we use our time wisely and respect other women who are trying to do the same thing? If each minute of our Christian service is so incredibly important, how can we treat each other wisely and respect our time?

* Be punctual. Early is even better.
* Be prepared for meetings/lessons/classes. If someone has taken the time to prepare for this gathering, take the time to be ready, on time and excited.
* Don't interrupt, as if your ideas are more important.
* Avoid sending non-essential e-mails, like thanking someone for thanking you.
* Also avoid silly fill-in-the-blank e-mails that most people don't have time to participate in.
* Follow through with your promises and responsibilities.
* Don't assume you understand or already know. Ask questions.
* Don't underestimate the time it will take you to complete projects or travel somewhere.
* Tell someone if you're not going to be there, couldn't get something finished or have forgotten something.
* Go out of your way to do more than the bare minimum.
* Listen for cues that you might be overstaying your welcome. "Well, it's about that time," "I hate to keep you," and "I have a lot to do today" are pretty clear ones.
* Do the projects you've promised for other people before you do your own. This not only gets them out of the way, but it shows that you genuinely care about what they need.

Remember that our service to the Lord is the most important work we'll ever do. If other women have the same mentality, we can help each other do their best by respecting their time. And don't forget to make the most of your own time, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Puppy Lovin' From My Oven

This picture looks like a tasty little muffin that you might serve at your next Christmas party - but it's not! They're actually not even for you!

The girls got something very special recently - I went completely out of my comfort zone and made them treats.

No different than making muffins for people, these Crunchy Apple Puppy Muffins are super easy, super inexpensive and super tasty. (Yes, Danny and I tried them, too. They're actually pretty good.)

You will need:
1 large and 1 mini muffin pan
1 tbs baking powder
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 tbs honey
2 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup diced apple

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet to the dry bowl slowly, mixing thoroughly.

3. Pour mixture into muffin tins. Bake for 1 1/4 hours and until a toothpick comes out clean. This recipe made 24 mini muffins and 8 large muffins. Store in an air-tight container.

The girls tore into these. Bailey had been watching me make them and I made the mistake of telling her they were for her. Even now she's eye-balling the bag to make sure they don't go anywhere. Spoiled babies!

If you want to give these as gifts you can seal them in Christmas treat bags or fill up a Christmas-themed plastic jar and put a pretty bow on top. Add a homemade gift tag and you're all set!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Celebrate Christmas Without Spending A Dollar

For eleven months out of the year everyone will profess that money, happiness and love aren't connected. Then all of a sudden December hits and thoughts turn to presents, trips, decorations and parties. We get caught up in showing our live through what we buy.

It's as if winter and Christmas trigger some type of spending spree of the heart. People are so focused on what to give that they forget about budgets. Savings deplete and credit overflows.

I want to spend just a few minutes centering back in on the Christmas traditions that don't cost a penny - the ways to celebrate the birth of our Lord without even once tapping into the bank account.

* Choose time over gifts. Your family may never remember that they received socks, a tie and a new video game after a couple of weeks, but they will remember singing Christmas carols, reading the Bible on Christmas morning and baking cookies from scratch. Time is fleeting and we will never be together like this again. Take pictures, talk and enjoy every precious moment.

* Visit a live nativity. While some ask for donations, most churches have free nativities throughout the month of December. Check your local paper for the week's activities. Take your Bible with you and read the passage for each part of the story. Roll down your windows and just listen to the hymns for a few minutes. Slowing down may be the best part of your Christmas season.

* Have a "raid-the-refrigerator-and-watch-movies night." With all the get-togethers and large meals you'll be preparing over the next couple of weeks, you're probably going to have tons of leftovers crammed in the fridge. Set aside one night to finish them all off in a relationship-building way. Let each family member choose a movie and pile up their plates with leftovers. Then spend the whole evening on blankets and pillows enjoy time together.

* Attend a Christmas concert. There will be boatloads to choose from - churches, schools, military installations, kids, adults, professionals and beginners. Find one that fits your schedule and your listening tastes and then pile the family into the car. Flooding your senses with the beautiful music of the Christmas season will not only bring you joy, but make you forget about the outside world for a little while.

* Visit the library. With some time off from school, use that time wisely and head to the library. Find all the books on each person's favorite subjects (animals, crafts, cooking, jokes), find some Christmas stories and have a reading day. Make some cocoa and cookies and then share in the joy of reading together. Plus while you're at the library you'll learn about all kinds of other free events they'll be hosting in the upcoming weeks.

* Go for a Christmas lights tour. For just the price of a little gasoline, you can entertain your family for hours just driving through your own neighborhood. Put a Christmas CD in and take in all the twinkling, chasing and dancing lights you can handle. There's nothing more relaxing than enjoying someone else's hard work and appreciating the time together.

While doing your searching you may find craft make-and-take days at local stores. There are church bazaars and activities at the community center. Or you may decide to stay home for one day out of the month and take a couple of deep breaths. However you decide to celebrate Christmas with those you love, please remember that you can do so without focusing on finances.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eat Well, Celebrate Well

The month of December is possibly the worst month of the year for eating right. For those of us trying to stick to a nutrition plan, it's terribly tempting to just give up for a couple of weeks, but your body will thank you in January if you put in the effort now.

But how do you avoid packing in the food and packing on the pounds? It seems like there are treats and sweets everywhere during the Christmas season! These are the ways I have found that work for me. See what might work for you.

1. Portion control. This is the most important rule all year-round. It's OK to have some casserole, just not half the pan. Desserts are a great treat, but don't fill a dinner plate with them. Balance your plate with small portions of the things you love, as well as the healthy foods, and your body will thank you.

2. Steer clear of the tempting trays. If you know everyone at the office has treats in the break room, don't go in there unless it's really necessary. If there's an office or church party, go toward the end when much of the food will be gone. Take the long way around people's desks or rooms that have Christmas candy or cookies on the corner, begging you to help yourself.

3. Drink more water. We should be doing this already, but water fills you up and helps you eat less. Aim for eight 8 oz glasses each day.

4. Don't graze. It's so easy to stand over a tray of cookies while you're talking and end up eating half a dozen. You go to get another glass of water and you pick up some cheese ball and crackers on the way back. You get something from the vegetable tray, but end up with some cheesecake, too. Try to limit yourself to what you put on your plate and never wander around table just to see what might still be there.

5. Send leftovers home with other people. You can be a blessing to your guests by sending them home with tomorrow's lunch, and you don't have to worry about eating it all tonight. It's sad, but willpower is easier when the temptation isn't in the house. Bless yourself and your loved ones by sending bags home with everyone.

6. Stick to "one-ingredient" foods. Cheese spread, condensed soups and chocolate cake are not one-ingredient foods. Fruit salad, turkey sandwiches and green beans are. Look for those dishes that are made from the least-processed foods you can find. The fresher and simpler the ingredients are, the better they are for you and the faster they'll fill you up.

7. Make sure there are healthy alternatives. Instead of crackers and cheese balls, serve whole wheat chips and salsa. Have plenty of fresh veggies and fruits with some amazing dips. Find the leanest cuts of meat you can and fix them with the healthiest techniques possible. If you're looking out for your own nutrition, somebody else probably will be, too.

8. Never go to a party hungry. You'll make poor choices, load your plate and regret it all later. Have a small, filling snack before you go and you'll make better eating decisions.

9. Don't stress over every little thing you put on your plate. The Christmas season is about family, memories and celebrating the birth of our Saviour. If we are more concerned about a piece of cake or salad we consume, we're missing the point of the event. Give yourself a break, enjoy the fellowship and thank God for the blessings of a multitude of food.

10. Treat yourself. If you don't normally eat sweets, have a small piece. If you steer clear of soda pop, have a small glass. If you generally avoid sour cream, have a dollop. This is a great opportunity to practice portion control and treat yourself for treating your body so well the rest of the year. Just keep the word "moderation" in mind.

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Colossians 3:17

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Creative Gift Wrapping

If there was an award for best gift wrapping, I would never even see it, much less get to take it home. I guess I don't have the skill, but I have the interest.

So I'm always looking for ways to make my gift presentation both easier and prettier, whether it's by using (or reusing) something I already have or learning so way to save money and still make something cute. Here are a few ideas.

* Experiment with different papers: sheet music, an old sewing pattern, hand-stamped paper or the comic section of the Sunday paper. You can even branch off from paper and use a new shirt, vintage fabric or a hand-sewn gift bag.

* Don't buy ribbon. Use what you have around the house like twine, raffia, beads on a cord, recycled bows from years past or embroidery floss.

* Add some extras. Tie a set of measuring spoons on a gift for a cook. Attach a sheet of stickers or a pair of decorative scissors for a crafter. Add a pen for a writer. Or just tuck a Christmas floral pick into the ribbon for some festive spirit.

* Use what you already have. If you're a scrapbooker or paper crafter, use your scraps to decorate gift containers. Clean out oatmeal boxes, coffee cans and empty jars, then cover them, wrap them and tie them. Then fill them with tissue paper, gifts and candy. This makes it so easy to personalize your gift.

* Make them coordinate. If you have several gifts for the same person, wrap them in identical paper, stack them and tie them together with coordinating ribbon.

* Give a keepsake. When you're done wrapping and ready to put ribbon on, tie on a Christmas ornament. They'll get two presents in one: the gift in the box and the ornament to hang on the tree.

* Create your own gift tags. Cut a 3"x6" piece of paper and fold to make a square. Decorate with stickers, stamps and other embellishments. Have the whole family sign the inside to make it even more special.

* Skip wrapping altogether. Make a gift basket instead. Find several items along a single theme (kitchen, baby, pets) and tuck them all into a basket with some cookies, chocolate and cocoa. Tie a huge bow to the front and you're ready to go!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Turn The World Upside Down

Think about the last few church services you've attended. Did you prepare for them with joy in your heart or did you have to talk yourself into going? Were you looking forward to worshipping the Lord, or were you going through the motions? It's so easy to get stuck in a rut and routine when it comes to our attendance, our prayer life and our fellowship. It's even easier to come up with excuses, and that's all they are, as to why we aren't focused on serving God.

When we get saved, we aren't immediately raptured. We're left on earth for one simple purpose - to lead unbelievers to salvation. If God meant for us to struggle through life living for ourselves, there would be little to look forward to each morning. The reality is that we are required to stay in our mortal shell simply to share our testimony. So...what have you done today?

Simple question, right? You got up, hopefully did some Bible study, took a shower, had breakfast, went to work, did the house cleaning, raised your children, kissed your husband, ate dinner, watched television and went to bed. Pretty typical day, but what did you do for the Lord? Could anyone - family member, friend, acquaintance, person you met at the store - honestly say that they knew you were on fire for God? Was it obvious in your dress, your speech and your manner that you are a child of the King?

And when they had found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also. Acts 17:6

In this chapter of Acts, Paul is preaching the Word of the Lord, that Jesus is the Christ, having suffered and died, only to rise from the dead. Jews, Greeks and women were all being convicted and converted. They didn't just pass through town with their heads down, hiding their faith so no one could identify it. They were openly on fire with the need to share the Gospel. Can you name one time in the past week when you've been observed in that condition, let alone felt that way?

These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also!

"These people," believers in the true and living God, were clearly present. Once just stories of what was happening outside their own city walls, the reality was now in their midst. Think about the early days of your salvation. Do you remember the fire, the passion, the need to tell others of the saving grace that had moved into your life?

Talk about upside down! Our world today cringes at the thought of changing their way of life when it's not their own idea. Tell them that Jesus is the Way, and they explain that they've gotten by this long without Him. Try to show them that Christ is the Door, and they tune you out. They are living the life they've been told is perfect - live for yourself, enjoy the day and die happy. The Christian life doesn't even enter into this picture because it is the exact opposite of the world's concept.

Those that have turned the world upside down are come hither also!

There was no mistaking the attitude adjustments of those early Christians began to put God first, then others, then themselves - an upside down view from the world's perspective. The "Me Generation" is now raising little "Me" girls, who learn about spending money and wearing skimpy clothes instead of how to share the miraculous grace of God.

Today is our opportunity to take the world by storm and turn it upside down! We are in the middle of a lost and dying world every day - shopping, working, enjoying fellowship. How many of the people you interact with today will not be Christians? What are their concepts of a Christian life? Is this your opportunity to share the Gospel? And more importantly, are they seeing Christ through your words, actions and attitudes?

Those that have turned the world upside down are come hither also!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Best Home Gadgets Ever!

Now I'm not usually one to rave about gidgets and gadgets and new stuff that comes out. However, there are a few products available right now that have changed how I clean my home and I just have to share them with you.

I don't have any ties to any of these companies or their products, but they really and truly work so hopefully you'll love them, too.

* The Pledge fabric sweeper for pet hair: This is possibly the most wonderful invention since sliced bread. When you have two black dogs and a partially white cat, the hair shows up no matter what color furniture you have. The hand-held sweeper is simply two rollers housed in a plastic cover. They rotate back and forth, gathering loose hair and trapping it inside the cover. When it's full, you throw it out and get a new one. You never have to touch the hair, try to peel it off anything or gather it by hand. Plus it works on many kinds of fabrics, except for vinyl and leather. And since it's portable you can take it out to the car as well! This one gets an A+!

* The Tide to go pen: This instant stain remover comes in a travel size for those times when you can't just throw your soiled clothes in the washer. We passed one of these all around the Fellowship Building during a church dinner recently. It will get out lots of different fresh food and drink stains - we used it for spaghetti sauce and it worked great. It is not designed for grease blood or ink, but think BBQ sauce, ketchup and grape juice. So many stains, so little time! A for sure!

* The Bounce dryer bar: One nagging annoyance for me is dryer sheets. They get stuck in everything so they end up not doing their job. The solution is this dryer bar, which sticks inside your dryer. The same fabric softener from the sheets is in a bar that rubs off as the clothes pass over it. Depending on which one you get they last from 2 months to 4 months - just stick it up inside your dryer and forget about it. The word "replace" will be revealed when the bar wears away. It makes our clothes smell wonderful - and I don't have to think about when to change it! That in itself gets an A+!

* Pledge Multi Surface cleaner: I ran across this simply by accident one day. The store I went to didn't have my regular dust stuff, so I got this instead. It's a little more expensive, but that's because it not only dusts, but it cleans wood, glass, mirrors and several other kinds of surfaces. It's anti-static, too, which is great this time of year. And you only have to carry one bottle in your basket around the house instead of a dust spray, window cleaner and smudge remover. It's streak free and leaves no residue of any kind. (I know this for a fact: the first week I used this a bird flew into our front door because it couldn't see the glass. Sad ending, but it proved that the cleaner works!) Definitely an A!

There are many, many other great products I could mention, but the point is that there are useful items out there that make keeping our homes a little easier and more enjoyable. Give some of them a try and help make your house a little sweeter to come home to.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Banish Laziness

While I'm sure you've never had this problem, I've been fighting laziness lately. It's not to the point where I'm sacked out on the couch all day, but I feel like there are many areas of my life that I could be more productive. It all comes down to my laziness preventing me from doing what I know I could (or should) be doing.

Ecclesiastes 10:18 says: By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. I can vividly picture my home, my family and my church falling apart brick by brick if I give in to laziness. Yes, there is a time and place for rest and relaxation, but there is also a need to follow through on my responsibilities.

So can we overcome the urge to lounge or look for entertainment before it affects our service?

1. Are you truly lazy? Or are you just distracted, bored or disinterested? There may be no good reason why I stray from the task at hand except that something else catches my attention and it seems better at the time. That isn't being lazy, it's being drawn away when I should be productive. This can be attacked by setting time limits on how long you have to stay at each task. It may also be as simple as having a written list so you can visually see what you're crossing off. It may not be laziness at all, but a silly mental block.

2. Is this truly important? If you're discouraged about starting a project or dreading have to get involved in a chore, decided then and there if it's something that has to be done right now. If it's something you can't afford to ignore, get to it. If it's a chore you've given yourself, there's some wiggle room to rethink deadlines and plans of attack. There's clearly a reason you're being lazy in this case - think it through.

3. Can I set up a reward system? Bribery works with dogs and little children, so why not with grown women? If I get something done that I really didn't want to do, I reward myself with some reading time or a big cup of cocoa. When I'd rather be writing than cleaning the bathroom, I promise myself that I can have both - but the cleaning comes first. Most times that's all I need to get out of that laid-back mindset.

4. What is my deadline? If you have no deadline for a project you're feeling particularly lazy about, then set one. Tell someone what that deadline is and ask them to help keep you accountable. Sometimes we just need a little oomph to get us headed out of laziness and in the right direction. If there is a deadline, break your task up into manageable pieces. Sometimes frustration comes from feeling overwhelmed and not true laziness.

5. Isn't the task fun too? Try talking to yourself - in a healthy way. If you can convince yourself that there is true joy in whatever you're about to do, you can face it without the laziness creeping in. When we're in a better mindset, like realizing how great that room will look when it's organized, the journey to get it that way is much easier. We often think about the effort involved and not about the service we're providing or the actual need for it to be done.

6. Am I prepared for the effort? Put on some inspirational music. Gather all the necessary tools for the job. Set your time limit for the first portion of the chore. Have a reward in mind. Get rid of distractions. Then dig in.

7. Am I just being a frump? Is there something else going on besides laziness? You can't be too hard on yourself if you're not feeling well, have too much on your plate or feel a little depressed. Take some time in prayer, get your attitudes settled with God and then see how productive you can be.

The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. Proverbs 21:21

Saturday, December 5, 2009

All We Want For Christmas

Bailey: Hey, is this how you work this thing?

Sadie: How did you get a picture on here?

Bailey: Like we haven't watched Mommy do it a hundred times...

Sadie: Do you think she'll mind that we took over her computer for the day?

Bailey: Nah...she's scrapbooking. She'll never even know we were here.

Sadie: Did you watch her putting up Christmas decorations today?

Bailey: Yeah, but none of it was edible. I lost interest after about a minute.

Sadie: I can't wait until she starts putting our presents out.

Bailey: Oooh...I forgot about presents! Remember a couple of years ago when we both got new beds?

Sadie: They smell like trees on the inside. I think she called them cedar or something. Plus she can take the covers off and wash them so they don't smell like us anymore!

Bailey: Best present ever.

Sadie: But last Christmas we got stockings full of rawhide treats!

Bailey: Oh, that's right. I guess I ate them so quickly I forgot about them.

Sadie: And since there are two of us they got two of everything.

Bailey: Best present ever.

Sadie: Have you snooped yet to see what we're getting this year?

Bailey: Me? Snoop? Never.

Sadie: Seriously?

Bailey: No. But I've heard talk of homemade doggie treats.

Sadie: Mommy's awesome in the kitchen! I bet they'll taste like the brisket they didn't share at Thanksgiving.

Bailey: I'm drooling already! But then there was mention of new collars and tags.

Sadie: As long as they're not those floofy, silly party collars that make us look ridiculous. I'm so not into wearing any kind of clothing.

Bailey: Not even a Santa hat? No...I heard the words leather and classy. I distinctly remember my ears perking up then.

Sadie: Whew. Got me scared there for a second...I was having visions of having to wear a red dress with all sorts of white trim and bows. (shiver)

Bailey: Do you have warm fuzzy feelings toward rawhide boxes filled with even more rawhide? You have to eat your way in to get the little ones out!

Sadie: We've had those before! Awesome! Have you seen them in the house yet?

Bailey: Sadly, no. But Mommy said there's three more weeks to wait, so there's still time.

Sadie: Do you think they might replace our squeaky toys? I think there's a hole in mine...and you tore the squeaker out of yours.

Bailey: I was just curious. And they might find new ones, like maybe a duck to go with Mr. Squirrel.

Sadie: And balls??? Maybe a whole bag full of balls??? I love balls!!!

Bailey: Yes...we know. Not my thing, but they might spring for some just for you.

Sadie: And as if hiding them in the closet on the top shelf makes it a surprise! I just follow my nose. Don't they know we can smell stuff a mile away?

Bailey: Speaking of which, I think I smell dog food!

Sadie: I hear it hitting the bowl! Time to shut 'er down!

Bailey: Do you think Mommy will like the blog we wrote?

Sadie: I think she'll be amazed that we did this without opposable thumbs!

Bailey: I'll bet everyone who reads it will rush out to find great gifts for their dog, too.

Sadie: But not the cat. Cats don't need Christmas presents. Save your money and buy more dog toys!

Bailey: Nice plug.

Sadie: Thank you...Cayenne doesn't read this does she?

Bailey: Who ever knows what the cat's doing? Let's go have dinner.

Sadie: Okey-dokey! You're welcome Mommy! Love you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Planning the Frugal Way

Can you believe the first week of December is almost over? There are many things that we would like to have in our homes, give as gifts and serve at our tables this Christmas season, so save some money by doing your shopping at the dollar store. You can feasibly find most anything you need for entertaining, gifts and more all in one stop and for a fraction of what you'd pay elsewhere. Check out what I found in one trip this weekend:

Gift Wrapping:
* Wrapping paper
* Gift tags
* Scissors
* Tissue paper
* Tape
* Bows
* Gift bags
* Plain and decorated boxes
* Gift card holders
* Christmas cards
* Mailing supplies

* Stockings
* Santa hat
* Table top decorations
* Ornaments
* Garland
* Extension cord
* Craft supplies

* Table cloth
* Napkins
* Plates
* Glasses
* Silverware
* Place mats
* Towels
* Zipper baggies
* Roast pans
* Kitchen gadgets

* Socks
* Pencils and erasers
* Candy
* Toys
* Candle
* Picture frame
* Calendar
* Pens, crayons and markers
* Scrapbook supplies
* Notepads and stationary
* DVDs
* Personal radio
* Cell phone case
* Cosmetic bag
* Bath and beauty
* Clear containers

Children's Activities:
* Sun catchers
* Paint sets
* Puzzles and puzzle books
* Coloring books and crayons

Before you head elsewhere for more expensive holiday supplies, head to the dollar store and stock up there first. Then you can adjust your December budget and plan some special shopping with your new-found money.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Many Ways With Corn Muffins

Do you ever get tired of fixing the same meals over and over again? Are you in a cooking rut and want to yank yourself out of it?

The easiest way I've found to experiment with new tastes is to add different flavors to something you already make and like.

Case in point: we love cornbread at our house. But having the same pan of the same cornbread mix too many times makes us not like it so much anymore. Instead, we've decided to doctor up the old standby and give it some new life.

This recipe is adapted from one I found in a magazine a couple of months ago. The major difference is that I used a box mix to make the cornbread while they wanted me to make it from scratch. Lately I do not have the time nor the energy to do this, so out came the box of Jiffy mix. If you don't have some of these on hand at all times...shame on you!

Cranberry Streusel Corn Muffins
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line or spray nine cups of a muffin tin.
2. For streusel topping, combine 6 tbsp all purpose flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar and 1/4 tsp allspice. Then cut in 1/2 stick cold butter until well combined.
3. Prepare cornbread mix as directed.
4. Fill each muffin cup 1/2 way with batter, then top with 2 tsp whole berry cranberry sauce. Top liberally with streusel mix.
5. Bake about 15 minutes, until edges are brown and they are done all the way through.

There are probably a hundred and a half different ways to adjust cornbread to fix your taste, personal preference or the season. Try one of these combinations next time:

* shredded Mexican blend cheese and chopped green chiles
* shredded cheddar cheese and chopped cooked broccoli
* shredded or grated Parmesan cheese and diced red, yellow and green peppers
* finely cubed cream cheese and chopped green olives
* cottage cheese and chopped scallions
* shredded mozzarella cheese, pepperoni slices and Italian seasoning
* shredded Muenster cheese, chopped bacon and diced tomato

Then this plan of attack can cross over into other foods: What can you do differently with your pasta sauce? How can you update your favorite cookie recipe? Is there something you could add to your slow cooker meals? Experiment, have fun and enjoy reaping the benefits of trying something new in the kitchen this week!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trimming Your Napkin With a Tree

Apparently I am in a napkin frame of mind lately. I couldn't resist sharing the adorable Christmas napkin tree with you. It's a great little craft for kids or you can make it more elegant for an adult party. Tailor it for your personal tastes.

You will need:
2 colors of construction paper
Double stick tape or glue dots
Regular tape
Glitter or gel pens
Paper napkins
Water glass

1. Using the mouth of the water glass, draw a circle on one piece of construction paper. If you have white napkins, use green paper. If you have green napkins you can use white or red paper.

2. Cut out the circle. The start cutting a 1/2" spiral around the edge of the circle, working your way in. Leave a small circle in the middle.

3. Cut two stars out of the other color of paper using a template for a guide. (I used one of my scrapbooking templates.) Decorate with glitter or a gel pen.

4. Glue the stars back-to-back on the little circle you left in the middle of the spiral.

5. Roll your napkin into a cone and secure with a small piece of tape. Set it over the top of the water glass and thread the spiral onto it.

6. With the napkin standing upright like a tree, you can write names on the star to use for place cards or alternate colors and patterns around the table.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Is The Spirit Of Christmas?

Today is the first day of December (that's right - I said it!) and so begins the most exciting time in a Christian woman's year. And it's not because of the shopping or the presents or even the cooking and decorating - this is the season to celebrate our Saviour's birth!

Before we get wrapped up in wrapping gifts and wrapping our house in decorations, I think we need a dose of truth to prepare us for the upcoming month.

Thus saith the LORD, Learn ye not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of the heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. Jeremiah 10:2-4

Have we turned our preparations for the Christmas season into a less-than-meaningful ritual rather than a way to bring honor to God? Are we more focused on taking pictures and staging events than on the miracle that was Christ's birth? Has cutting down a tree for our living room become more important that worshiping at the feet of our Lord?

In sharp contrast, I think about the excitement those shepherds must have felt receiving the Good News in that field.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. Luke 2:8-14

First of all, can you even imagine being surrounded by angels and having them tell you of this greatest of all joys? The glory of the Lord was present, shining brighter than any tiny bulbs we might buy. This is the same overwhelming feeling we had the day we were saved, but that joy and glory fades unless we use this Christmas time as a rejuvenating boost.

And secondly, once they had this news they didn't run to the store to buy presents for each other. They didn't string up their tents with lights. They probably didn't even have a big meal - they made haste to the stable to greet their Saviour. The shepherds were more interested in beating a path to the manger instead of to the grocery store.

The Christmas spirit isn't about purchases, cards or decorations. There is nothing wrong with sharing the sentiments of our Christian joy, but only if our joy over Christ comes first. The Christmas spirit is about a Saviour Who was all man and all God coming to earth in the lowliest of ways to make the most extraordinary of sacrifices.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year because it was the fulfillment of promise for our salvation and the day that led to our eternal life with the Lord. Those are the motivations for the Christmas spirit. I pray we'll keep them in mind over the next 25 days.