Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

What if American Christians had a paradigm shift?  What if, instead of organizing our lives around the fundamentals of the American dream, we began to rearrange our lives according to the principles the Bible lays out?  What if an emphasis on sacrificial giving replaced our cultural emphasis on financial security?  What would the world think?  Would Christ’s love be more evident?  In Radical, David Platt raises these questions and more, and he invites American Christians to examine the ways in which we have allowed the American dream to revise the call Christ has placed on our lives.

I found this book to be challenging and thought provoking.  In what ways am I bringing the Gospel to the nations?  How am I sacrificing for the poor?  Am I actively engaging in redemptive community?  In the busyness of life, we too often can become complacent in our faith.  This book asks us to take a hard look at how we are “ to work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling”  (Phil. 2:12), instead of taking it for granted on a daily basis. At the end of the book,  Platt even includes a specific plan for recalibrating the direction of our lives. Especially as the new year approaches, this book has been a helpful tool, causing me to consider which characteristics I want to define my life in 2011. I definitely recommend this book.  

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Menu

Both of my sisters were in town this weekend, so we had an early Thanksgiving meal of sorts.  Of course, it was anything but traditional as we ate in shifts while the guys helped move Grandma into a house right across the street from Mom and Dad.  The move in itself is a reason for giving thanks. Having Grandma that much closer to Mom will make things easier for everyone, and her new house is really nice.  All of the cousins enjoyed spending time with one another, and we were able to swap kids clothes, too!   Anyway, I made a really easy and yummy dessert to share with everyone, and I thought I'd include the recipe here.

The menu plan is week is shortened for the holiday:

Tuesday--Sloppy Chicken  (crockpot)
Wednesday--Soup and Sandwiches
Thursday--for my part of the Thanksgiving meal, I'm thinking fruit, Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie, and possibly bacon wrapped feta-almond stuffed dates  (yes,  I have a stockpile of dates left from the Daniel Fast:)

The rest of the weekend we'll be hanging out with the Blocks!

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your holiday be filled with many opportunities for gratitude!

Black and Tan Chocolate -Pumpkin Trifle  (From Rachael Ray)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
One 7.5 ounce jar marshmallow cream
Six 1.4 ounce Heath bars, chopped
One and a half 9 ounce boxes chocolate wafer cookies  (such as Nabisco Famous)

1.  In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate with 1/2 cup cream over med.-low heat, stirring until smooth.  Let cool
2.  Meanwhile, using an electric mixer with an whisk attachment, whip 2 cups cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla until stiff but not dry.
3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and marshmallow cream. Fold in the whipped cream in 2 parts; refrigerate.  Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups heavy cream to the mixer bowl and whip until thickened.  With the machine on, slowly add the chocolate mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until stiff but not dry.
4.  Spread one-third of the chocolate cream in a 4 quart clear glass trifle bowl.  Layer with one-third of the toffee bars.  Stand 8 cookies on their edges around the perimeter of the bowl.  Make 1 stack of 4 more cookies sandwiched with some pumpkin cream, topping with more cream.  Repeat with the remaining cookies and more pumpkin cream to make a total of 14 cookie stacks.  Place 7 stacks in the trifle bowl.  Top with the remaining pumpkin cream and half of the chocolate cream.  Sprinkle with another third of the toffee bars.  Top with the remaining 7 cookie stacks and chocolate cream.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.  To serve, sprinkle with the remaining toffee.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

This weekend I was able to spend some time in the kitchen with my mom and grandma making some meals to stick in the freezer.  I love the feeling of having some easy meals ready to go!  Here's the menu for this week:

Tuesday-- Pizza Casserole
Wednesday--Cranberry Chicken with Rice
Thursday--out to eat
Friday--Tortellini Pesto Soup
Saturday--family dinner

Have a great week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

On the Menu

For better or worse, here it is: this week's menu.  The strata was actually on the menu last week, but we didn't get around to eating it, so I made it and stuck it in the freezer for a quick and easy meal this week.

Monday--Leftovers of Spicy Soup and Sandwiches
Wednesday--Spinach/Mushroom Cheese Strata--I added the mushrooms to the linked recipe.
Thursday--Pumpkin Ravioli  (This is a new recipe--I'll let you know how it turns out.)
Friday--Orange/Pine Nut Chicken
Saturday--Dinner with friends

I've been on a pumpkin kick lately, and one of my favorite breakfast treats right now is to add some pumpkin puree in with my oatmeal, top with some brown sugar and cinnamon, maybe some pecans or raisins.  Yummy!!  I tried it on the kids, but somehow they just don't love the pumpkin flavor like Joel and I do.  Hopefully, they'll grow into it!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

I haven't done this in a while, but I'm trying to get back into the swing of planning, and eventually freezing, meals more than a day or two in advance, so here goes:

Monday--White Chicken Chili
Tuesday--Bourbon Chicken
Thursday--Spinach and Cheese Strata
Friday--Baked Ziti
Saturday--Eating out

Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Dessert Squares

These bars are delicious!! They taste like a pumpkin version of gooey butter cake, and the best part of all is that they are easy to make.  The original recipe is from Williams-Sonoma and calls for their pumpkin pecan butter.  I substituted regular pumpkin butter and the results were wonderful.  

Pumpkin Dessert Squares

  • 1 (18 ounce) box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 13 ounces pumpkin butter 
  • 3 eggs
  • tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • tablespoons milk
  • teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. Reserve 1 cup of cake mix and set aside.

  3. Mix remaining cake with with 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 egg. Press mixture lightly into the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish.

  4. Mix one jar of pumpkin pecan butter with remaining two eggs and milk, and pour over cake mixture in pan.

  5. Mix remaining 1 cup cake mix with flour, sugar, remaining 1/4 cup butter, and cinnamon, and crumble over the top of the pumpkin layer.

  6. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden.

  7. Cool to room temp and serve.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Review: The Least Among You

The Least Among You, starring Louis Gossett, Jr., relates the true story of a young black man, Richard Kelly (Cedric Sanders), who is arrested during race riots in the 1960s and as a result finds himself enrolled in an all-white seminary according to the terms of his probation.  Although the seminary president (William Devane)--for political reasons--encourages Kelly to take a leadership role at the school, Kelly faces hostility from his classmates and professors.  Only when Kelly forges a relationship with the older black custodian of the school, Samuel Benton (Louis Gosset, Jr.), does Kelly begin to develop the spiritual depth required for him to truly step out in leadership at the seminary.

This movie provides an interesting portrait of the racial turbulence that pervaded even the religious institutions of the period. Although at times, the storyline was complicated and distracted from the overall message of the movie, Kelly's story of personal growth and conviction is truly inspiring.

Thomas Nelson provided a complimentary copy of this DVD for review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Recent Recipes

Ok, instead of grading papers, I decided that I really, really needed to bake some cookies--[for my next-door neighbor who just had surgery, of course!!  Not for us--;)  ]   This is my newest favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe--I'm making the pretzel/chocolate chip variety with some toffee bits thrown in for good measure.  I love the salty/sweet combination, and these are delicious!

Another yummy recipe I've tried lately is Sloppy Chicken.  It's a great crockpot dinner and is super easy:

Take 1 lb. of chicken, 2 cans of chicken broth and 2 cans of reduced sodium/low fat cream of chicken soup and throw it in the crockpot on high for 4-5 hours.  Just before serving, shred chicken; then crumble a sleeve of crackers and toss in with the chicken.  This can be served on buns or with rice, noodles or potatoes.  

Finally, here's a recipe that I've promised to send to several people:

Poppyseed Ham and Cheese Melts

1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 packet Lipton onion soup
1 1/2 lbs.  thinly sliced deli ham (turkey works well, too)
1 lb. Provolone cheese, sliced
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
pinch of salt and pepper
1 package Hawaiian sweet rolls

Poppyseed sauce:  Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir in brown sugar, poppy seeds, garlic powder, soup mix, salt/pepper and Worcestershire sauce.  Layer meat and cheese on buns and place in baking dish.  Top with poppy seed sauce and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  Uncover and broil for 1 minute.

These are so good.  They would be perfect for a luncheon or shower.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book Review: Fearless by Max Lucado

In Max Lucado's book Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear, Lucado examines thirteen of the most common causes of fear for Christians and provides a Biblical perspective for dealing with them.  In characteristic Lucado style, the book deals head on with issues such as "Fear of Disappointing God" to "Fear of Worst-Case Scenarios." Although the book is not terribly in-depth, I appreciate Lucado's reminders to turn my eyes back on the Savior in times of distress.  Lucado also emphasizes that while Jesus never promised Christians a comfortable life, "[w]e can trust Him.  'Everything will work out in the end.  If it's not working out, it's not the end'" (160).

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a review copy of this book.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review: The Devil in Pew Number Seven

In this book Rebecca Nichols Alonzo relates the harrowing account of the terrorism she and her family encountered when her pastor father was targeted by a controlling church attendee who disliked the direction in which her father was guiding the church.  As Mr. Watts’s anger increased, he escalated his attacks on the Nichols family:  prank phone calls gave way to bombs and snipers.  Through all of the terrifying attacks, Rebecca’s parents, Robert and Ramona Nichols, held tightly to their faith in God and refused to compromise.  They even taught their children to pray for and forgive their attackers.  When an armed gunman entered the Nichols’s home, the family was shattered, and Rebecca, her brother and their extended family had to learn to rely on the forgiveness Rebecca's parents modeled.  
This is a remarkable book.  Alonzo openly and honestly describes the heartache and difficulties she experienced as she picked up the broken pieces of her life.  Her heart for the Lord and her spirit of forgiveness weave an amazing tapestry of beauty and strength out of immense suffering and loss.  Her testimony is powerfully instructive; this is a book I didn’t want to put down.

Thanks to Tyndale House for a review copy of this book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The First Day and a Meal Plan

Well, today was a day of firsts: our middle son's first day of kindergarten and my first day of teaching a class of high school literature.  There is something tangibly exciting about the first day of a new school year; something that seems to promise a fresh start: a new routine, new knowledge, and new relationships.  I love the freshness of books waiting to be read and people waiting to be known.  It's very exciting.  My sweet little redhead enjoyed his first day of school and I survived mine.  NoBro, our third grader is a seasoned pro at school who tolerated his day with a laid back enthusiasm.  Tinkerbell jumped in with both feet, packing her lunch box and begging to be left at school with her brothers.  Even the weather cooperated with a break in the oppressive humidity we've had for weeks.  Yay for a fun summer and for the routine of fall.

Part of my revised routine is to jump back on the meal planning bandwagon.  Having a plan makes dinner so much less stressful around our house.  So, here it is, the back-to-school, let's-get-organized, weekly menu plan.  Enjoy!

Monday--Fresh Tomato Pasta
Tuesday--Turkey Breast Tenderloin
Wednesday--Stir fry
Thursday--Eating out
Friday--Tomato, Basil Pizza
Saturday--Grilled Chicken with Pine Nuts

This Fresh Tomato Pasta is excellent.  It comes from a Bible study I did this summer called Ruth: Loss, Love and Legacy by Kelly Minter.  I highly recommend both the recipes and the study!

Fresh Tomato Pasta
1 (12oz) package dried linguine
4 large tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 big leaves of fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (2 1/2 oz.) can sliced ripe olives, drained  (We don't care for olives, so I omitted these.)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

While pasta water is boiling, combine tomatoes and next 5 ingredients.  Salt the mixture and let the tomatoes soak up the salt for a few minutes, this will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.  Drain pasta and place in a large bowl.  Top with tomato mixture, and sprinkle with olives and cheese.          

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Monday Again?

Here's the plan for this week:

Monday:  Pasta--At the last minute I made this recipe with a few substitutions, and it was really easy and good!  I loved that it was a one dish meal!
Tuesday:  Stuffed Mexican Shells
Wednesday:  Honey Lime Chicken Wraps
Thursday:  Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas--This meal has been on the menu before, but I've never actually made it.  I'm not sure the kiddos will love it, but it looks yummy to me.
Friday:  Burgers on the grill
Saturday:  Monterey Jack Chicken
Sunday:  I Love America--an amazing July 4th event our church sponsors.  We'll be grabbing something to eat out there.  

Have a great week everyone! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hermie: Who is in Charge Anyway--Review

In this 30 minute DVD, God teaches Freddie the flea that even the smallest of God's creatures is special and God has a specific purpose for everyone.  This video incorporates flashbacks from previous Hermie videos.

My 3 year old loves Hermie, so when this DVD appeared in the mail, she was very excited.  Both she and my 5 year old enjoyed watching this episode, and I appreciated the lesson that no matter how unimportant our job/life/duty may seem at times, God has a purpose for us in every season in which we find ourselves:  an important reminder at any age.

While Thomas Nelson provided this copy for review purposes, the opinions are my own.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Well, I haven't posted our weekly menu for a couple of weeks; our summer schedule has been somewhat busier than I expected.  I'm learning that I really need to season my expectations with a measure of reality, which is unreasonably difficult for me to manage.  :)

On the menu this week, we have:
Tuesday--Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken
Thursday--Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas
Saturday--Eating out
Sunday--Blueberry Pancakes and eggs

Here's one of our favorite pancake recipes:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2  tsp.  baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1 large egg, fork-beaten
1 1/2 tbsp. cooking oil
2 cups buttermilk

Stir first 6 ingredients together in bowl.

Add remaining ingredients.  Stir just to moisten.  Add a bit more milk if needed for a thinner pancake.    Makes 14 pancakes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Ransomed Dreams by Sally John

Sally John's novel, Ransomed Dreams, tells the story of Sheridan Montgomery, the wife of the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, whose life changes in an instant when an assassin murders her colleague and seriously injures her husband. As Sheridan and Eliot, her husband, attempt to redefine normalcy in the wake of their emotional and physical handicaps, Sheridan's high-profile, politician father dies, triggering further scandal that shakes Sheridan's faith and her relationships.

Although this novel opens with suspense and drama, the heart of the book focuses on the evolution of relationships through different seasons of life and the ways in which faith better equips us to persevere through relational difficulties.  When relationships take the forefront in the novel, the elements of suspense fade, only to reappear later in moments of heightened drama, making the pace of the novel a bit uneven.  I did, however, think that John tackles some interesting issues about marriage and commitment, making the book worth the read.

Tyndale provided me with a copy of this book for review purposes, but the opinions expressed are mine.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review --Billy Graham: His Life and Influence--by David Aikman

In Billy Graham: His Life and Influence David Aikman contextualizes Billy Graham's rise as "America's Pastor" within the changing historical, political and religious climate of Graham's life.  While Aikman touches on Graham's personal life, this book settles on the intersection of Graham's religious and political rhetoric, tracing changes in Graham's viewpoint and style across his lifetime.  Aikman depicts the trajectory of Graham's theological rhetoric as "softening" and illustrates this with examples from Graham's approach to theology and communism, among other issues.

I enjoyed Aikman's account.  He depicts the experience-rich history of Graham's life in a manner calculated to provoke a thoughtful understanding.  While Aikman does point out the controversy attendant to the shifts in Graham's thinking, he does so in a way that is sensitive to Graham's immense--and largely positive--legacy on Christianity and on the world at large.  If you are interested in the life of Billy Graham or in a deeper understanding of Christianity's impact on recent American politics, this is definitely a worthwhile read.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! What a blessing to live in a country with the freedoms that we enjoy! Thank you seems so small in light of the costly sacrifices of so many.

For us this weekend has been a good mix of working around the house and hanging out with friends. On Friday evening, we modified our normal book club meeting by watching a movie, Emma and catching up. For our movie night, I made Samantha's "Perky Popcorn" recipe, which took me back to our days in Columbia--that seems like a lifetime ago.

On Saturday, my Grandma came to spend some time with us while her air conditioning is out. The kids have absolutely loved having her here and are keeping her busy playing games, coloring, playing dolls, reading and blowing bubbles. I have a sneaking suspicion that Grandma's enjoying herself as well.

Today for our BBQ, I made a simple trifle with a patriotic look. I baked a pan of brownies, and when they cooled, I cut/crumbled them into pieces then topped that layer with whipped cream and cherry pie filling. I repeated the layers adding blueberries to the cherries for the top. Very good and very easy and fed a crowd of nearly twenty!

And now, let summer begin!!

For Sam:
Perky Popcorn

10 cups popcorn
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup M&M candy
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Butter the sides of a large bowl well. Mix popcorn and M&Ms in a large bowl. Butter the sides of a saucepan. Add sugar, honey, and corn syrup. Stir until boiling. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. When peanut butter is melted, pour over the popcorn mixture and spread to cool.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring Things

As school came to an end this year, our oldest finished second grade with a "Red Carpet" party. Each student was acknowledged for his contribution to the class. The girls were given tiaras and the boys had bow ties. Our son promptly utilized his costume to turn himself into a rap star. :O (Joel finds it infinitely amusing that our boy loves Toby Mac as did his mother oh, so many years ago!)

The following week, our little red graduated from preschool. Although I'm not sure that I'm ready for him to move up to kindergarten, he certainly is ready. What a cute little graduate.

This pic of Tinkerbell epitomizes her pixie princess attitude. The other day I told her that she was spoiled rotten to which she replied, "Yes, I am!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

I love when the farmer's market opens and fresh produce is available--yum! The last couple of Saturdays we've headed out to the local market, buying some of my favorites, including asparagus and strawberries. I've been trying to work these into "normal" meals although I do think there was one night last week when the majority of my dinner was sauteed asparagus ;)

Here's the general plan for this week's menu:

Monday--Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad
Tuesday--Mexican Stuffed Shells
Wednesday--Chicken Alfredo Lasagna
Thursday--Spicy Chicken and Mango Stir fry
Friday--dinner out
Saturday--Chicken Enchiladas

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Menu Planning Monday (Almost)

This week I'm actually getting a head start on planning our weekly menu. Yep, school is definitely out for our oldest. I forget how much time the homeschooling part of our week actually takes until we have a break--yay for summer! We're headed to St. Louis for part of the week, so I have an abbreviated meal plan here--another reason why I have it together a bit earlier than usual.

Monday--Taco Soup
Tuesday--Chicken Alfredo Lasagna
Wednesday--Chicken Pasta Salad
Thursday--out of town
Friday--out of town
Saturday--out of town

Have a great week!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ballerina Birthday

While we were gone on a family vacation, our little girl turned three!! I can hardly believe that we don't have a baby any longer. When we got home, we had a ballerina birthday bash for a few of Tinkerbell's friends, and as a special treat, a couple of her cousins came to town to celebrate her birthday and Mother's Day. My cousins, Alex and Erica, had a little dance class and the girls enjoyed themselves.

For the treats, I made Black and White Cupcakes--as requested by Tinkerbell herself--and this delicious Strawberry Shortcake Cake from the Pioneer Woman. If you have some fresh strawberries on hand, I highly recommend this recipe!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

In this memoir, Kirkby describes growing up in a reclusive, religious Hutterite community in Canada. She enjoys her childhood and the community around her, until her parents decide to leave their close-knit communal life, causing Kirkby to reevaluate her security and identity in light of a sometimes hostile outside world.

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the Hutterite community, but Kirkby's detailed descriptions made this communal life come alive. Her journey to embrace her history as an integral part of her identity is representative of the journey we each take in varying degrees--to make sense of our past and to determine how that past will inform our present and future. At times her use of the Hutterite language seems awkward and interrupts the flow of the text, but overall, I found the book enjoyable.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson, but the opinions are mine.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: An Army of Ordinary People by Felicity Dale

In this revised and updated version of An Army of Ordinary People, Felicity Dale provides an anthology of stories detailing the lives of average people who adopt the "simple" church model, open their homes for ministry, and witness changes in their communities. Dale documents powerful stories of real people who lead others into relationship with God outside of the "traditional" church setting.

I appreciate the way that Dale expands common notions of ministry, arguing that ministry is the job of laypeople even as they go about the routine of normal life. Our relationship with God should not be confined to a designated schedule of church attendance but instead should impact the relationships we develop with those in our sphere of influence.

I also appreciated how Dale addresses some of the unique challenges of the "house" church paradigm. Although Dale's intent in this book is to encourage the growth of "simple" or "house" churches, she does so without disparaging the "legacy" church model. I'm not ready to abandon the traditional church format, but many of the strategies Dale espouses in this book could be modified to fit within a "legacy" church context, giving her message a broad appeal.

Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

This week is one of those weeks I'm thankful for a freezer stocked with meals. We're leaving for Florida next Tuesday, and I'm trying to organize a birthday party for Tinkerbell for a couple of days after our return. Of course, I had to make time to attend the Beth Moore simulcast this weekend, so there's really not much time for cooking. :)

Yesterday morning, I realized we were going to be at church later in the afternoon than usual, so I pulled the Maple Glazed Chicken out of the freezer and stuck it in the crockpot as we were headed out the door. As we were headed home at 1:15 with hungry, tired kids, I wondered out loud if the chicken would be ready, so Joel suggested we grab some Qdoba. I readily agreed, but when we got home the sauce on the chicken was a bit overcooked. :( The recipe wasn't for the crockpot, and my experiment didn't turn out as beautifully as I had hoped. This evening, however, we shredded the chicken, added some bbq sauce and put it on top of a salad--and it turned out quite good--lucky save!

Anyway, here's the rest of the plan for the week--minus any catastrophes!

Monday--bbq chicken salad
Tuesday--four cheese Italian minestrone with bread
Wednesday--spaghetti pie
Thursday--church gathering
Friday--stir fry with fruit
Saturday--steak--if I can convince Joel to grill :)

For other great menu plans, be sure to check out

Never Let You Go by Erin Healy

Lexi Solomon is a single mom working two jobs barely holding everything together when the foundation of her carefully constructed life is shaken by the appearance of three men from her past: Grant Solomon, her husband who disappeared seven years ago; Norman Von Ruden, her ex-lover who murdered her sister; and Warden Pavo, an old acquaintance who claims Lexi owes him an unpaid debt. At the center of the storm swirling around Lexi stands her daughter, Molly. Lexi’s relationship with Molly is threatened by Grant’s renewed interest in being a father to their daughter, by Warden’s threats to reveal the secrets of Lexi’s past to her daughter and most frighteningly by unseen supernatural forces that convince Lexi that Molly’s life is at stake. When Lexi finally learns to release the bitterness in her heart and to forgive others, she is able to defeat the evil that seeks to overcome the love she has for her daughter.

Never Let You Go is a fast-paced book with an intriguing storyline. It tackles some pretty heavy topics such as the role of the supernatural within the natural world as well as the issue of generational sin. Healy makes the important point that taking the hard steps toward forgiving those who have harmed us ultimately leads to our own freedom. Although the end of the book tends toward predictability, for the most part I found this book to be entertaining and thought-provoking, particularly if you enjoy the fiction of authors such as Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Recent Reads

Every so often I have three or four books that I've requested from the library that happen to arrive at precisely the same time; that happened this week. Several books for which I've waited literally months all arrive at the same moment and I find myself with three weeks in which to read them. So, I'm in the midst of squeezing in some marathon reading, compounded this time by the fact that these books are due during our upcoming vacation, so I really have to finish them in the next week. I really couldn't request them again and wait! :) Here's a quick synopsis of some of what I've been reading recently:

Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel--This book isn't a comprehensive system for child discipline, but it does have some techniques that I've been implementing with our kids with some success. I really appreciated how Welchel indexes Scriptures that apply to various infractions.

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler--Jane Eyre is a favorite of mine and I recently reread it, so this book was a timely read for me. Kohler weaves together biographical information from the lives of the Brontë sisters with her interpretations of how these events may have played into their novels. I loved it!! This book made me want to read the lesser known works of these fascinating sisters.

Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin--We read this book as our most recent book club selection and had an interesting discussion about it. This book tells the story of two brothers with an abusive past who overcome largely because of the prayers and sacrificial love shown them by a black woman who was employed by their father--interesting storyline with sound themes.

Now it's back to the books!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

On the Menu This Week

Wow! Can it really be Monday again?

I think the hit from last week's menu was the Garlic Parmesan Chicken; it's so moist and flavorful--and easy, of course.

This recipe is adapted from the Don't Panic More Dinner's in the Freezer. I've found the recipes in this cookbook to be quite tasty.

Garlic Parmesan Chicken
6 boneless chicken breasts--(or the equivalent in chicken tenders)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
2 cloves, garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix together cheese, garlic, and Italian dressing mix. Dip chicken breasts in olive oil, then coat with cheese mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 45- 60 minutes until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Another treat we had this week was this Strawberry Bread also found on Once a Month Mom's April menu. Yummy!

We have an abbreviated menu again this week: Joel will be out of town for a couple of nights, so I'm packing up the kids and heading to Arkansas to visit my sister. :) Here's the plan for this week's menu:

Wednesday--Chicken Bruschetta Bake
Thursday--out of town
Saturday--Poppyseed Chicken

Happy Spring everyone!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday's Menu Plan

After a busy, enjoyable weekend with family and friends--along with several tasty meals that I didn't have to plan--today it was back to the normal routine.

Mom, Grandma and I spent a couple of hours this morning replenishing our freezer meals. The cooking went quickly with three of us working, and I particularly enjoyed having extra hands to help out with Tinkerbell. We were able to put together four meals: spaghetti pie, enchilada pie, poppyseed chicken and maple glazed chicken--this last one is from Once a Month Mom's April freezer menu.

Although we don't always follow my meal plans, having a plan makes dinner time much, much simpler for me. So, here's the plan for this week:

Monday--Enchilada Pie
Tuesday--Garlic Parmesan Chicken
Wednesday--Crockpot Roast
Thursday--Pizza at school
Saturday--Joel and I will be attending a banquet, and the kids? leftovers?
Sunday--Whole wheat pancakes

For more great menu ideas check out

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snack Time

Around here, snack time would be all the time--if the boys had their way. We try to limit snacks to twice a day, and I often run out of easy nutritious snack options. Today we tried a new snack that was a big success: chocolate, banana and peanut butter smoothie.

Here's the version we used:

1 large banana
1 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp. chunky p.b.
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder

Blend until smooth.

We had to add ice, but I'm planning on freezing my bananas next time. YUM!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Menu Plan

And here it is, the menu for the week:

Monday--Leftovers, salad, fruit salad
Tuesday--Sassy Chicken Pasta Salad and fruit
Wednesday--Homemade pizza with mushrooms, tomato and carmelized onion
Thursday--Caesar Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Friday--out of town
Saturday--out of town
Sunday--family lunch then a Passover supper with our small group. I'll be trying my hand at Matzo Apple Kugel or Crystal's Squares for Passover.

This Sassy Chicken Pasta Salad comes courtesy of my friend Karie. It's super yummy!!
1 C cherry tomatoes--halved
1/2 C mayonnaise (I use light miracle whip)
1 T. honey
2 C cooked chicken breasts cubed
1 C thinkly sliced celery
1 C red grapes halved
2 C cooked spiral pasta
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C nuts (pistachios, cashews, almonds whatever you have!)

1. Combine all ingredients
2. Serve Chilled

How simple is that!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go by Lucille O'Neal

The mother of NBA basketball superstar, Shaquille O'Neal, Lucille O'Neal chronicles her life story in the memoir Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go. O'Neal describes the challenges she faced growing up with divorced parents and relates how personal struggles with feelings of inferiority ultimately led to teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse. Brought up in the church, O'Neal recounts how God drew her back to her faith through the ups and downs of marriage and parenting and how faith empowered her to change her life.

Overall, I found the book interesting, but the finer points of her message were a bit troubling. O'Neal's story is inspiring because of the hope it offers to those, particularly women, who find themselves without the resources to achieve their dreams. Her emphasis on the role faith played in her transformation was key for me because obviously, very, very few people will experience the meteoric rise in fortune that O'Neal did once her son joined the NBA. I did find myself wondering how much of her optimism and change in self-esteem came from her new status. I was also concerned by O'Neal's willingness to leave her marriage when she didn't feel that she was in love anymore. While she acknowledges her husband's support in the raising of her family, she, unfortunately, paints a picture of marriage as an institution that stifles personal fulfillment. Despite these issues, I enjoyed reading about O'Neal's life, and her primary message about the power of faith is certainly an important one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Break

Thankfully, the sun reappeared today to kick off spring break. Yay for the sun!! We were able to squeeze in a couple of fun days of camping by heading just far enough east to miss the snow and sleet that blanketed the area. Instead, we were able to spend Friday evening and most of the day Saturday enjoying the outdoors. I'll try to post some pics in the next couple of days. We did stay in a cabin, which while not equipped with central heat, did have two stone fireplaces, requiring quite a bit of attention throughout the night--yes, we were happy to return to the warm comforts of home.

While the kiddos are on spring break, we try to incorporate something fun into each day. Today we spent part of the day with Nana and Papa; then Joel decided to surprise the boys with a new basketball hoop. They were so excited.

With Spring Break this week, I'm trying to use up many of the meals from my freezer cooking earlier in the month, so without further ado, here's the weekly menu:

Monday--Four Cheese Italian Minestrone
Tuesday--Monterey Jack ChickenAdd Image
Thursday--Creamy Chuck Roast with Mushrooms
Friday--date with Joel :)
Saturday--Garlic Parmesan Chicken
Sunday--Pancakes and Broccoli Quiche

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weekly Menu

This week is fairly low key in terms of menu planning because Joel has a meeting on Tuesday night and will be away for dinner, so the kids and I may eat out. Then on Friday we're going camping and will be sharing some meals with friends. If you have any good ideas for camping foods, I'd love to know what they are!

Tuesday--Eating Out
Wednesday--Crockpot Stroganoff
Thursday--BBQ Chicken Pizza
Friday-Sunday--Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Snacks, etc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


We started out the weekend on Friday with the second grade history banquet at Gloria Deo. Grandma helped with Augustus Caesar's costume. I am always impressed with the presentations given by these students. They do such an amazing job!!

Saturday, little Tinkerbell's cold worsened and the weather was cold and dreary, so we stayed indoors for most of the day, giving me a chance to make these wonderful mini apple pies.

They took a little bit of time to make, but they were yummy! I had never used sucanat before, and I would assume you could just substitute brown sugar. I liked the rich, molasses flavor the sucanat added. The whole wheat crusts were not as tender as a pastry crust made from white flour, but I enjoyed the texture and liked serving the kids something sweet that was more nutritious.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Story of Easter--Story Retold by Gwen Ellis, Illustrated by Steve Smallman

The Story of Easter is a children's book that tells the Easter story from Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem at Passover through His ascension. The book is divided into short two-page sections; each of these is colorfully illustrated and includes a comprehension question to help children think more deeply about the story. The book comes with a short DVD that follows the Biblical account into the the early church period. The book and DVD are suited for preschool and early elementary children.

My five-year-old and two-year-old both enjoyed both the book and the DVD, and I appreciated the fact that both the book and DVD contain details of the Biblical account that aren't always found in children's materials. Ellis writes the story in an engaging manner, and I liked how the questions make the children think about what they're hearing. I thought it was a great book!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fear and Confidence

Recently, I've been reading two books that highlight the enormous pressure that our culture places on women. Vicki Courtney's 5 Conversations You MUST Have with Your Daughter emphasizes the challenges facing young girls today and encourages mothers to think proactively about ways to address these issues and equip their daughters for strong and virtuous living. The other book I'm reading that deals with particularly feminine concerns is Beth Moore's So Long Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us. After being reminded in Courtney's book about the intensity of the expectations society places on young women, how could I be surprised when Moore describes that "in a recent survey of more than 900 women . . . [she] found that 78 percent [of the women] admitted to having feelings of insecurity at or above a level that bothers them" (16).

In the midst of reading these books, I stumbled back across Proverbs 14:26, a verse I memorized several years ago. Here's the ESV, "In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge." I also like the Message Version: "The Fear-of-God builds up confidence, and makes a world safe for your children."

I am struck by the paradox this verse offers. In fear, there is confidence. Not only confidence but strong confidence. Fear seems to be the antithesis of confidence. Generally speaking, fear contributes to insecurity. Fear of what others think or perceive of me drives me to engage in behaviors that might not be the best. The beauty of this verse is that fear of God drives out fear of others. Fear of God builds strength and security into our lives. As an added benefit, we create a place of safety and security for our children when we rightly reverence the Lord. If we don't allow our fear of the Lord to determine our view of ourselves, we will teach our children to live in insecurity as well.

Both of these books discuss how we can allow the Word of God to guide us through the cultural traps women face today, to live as strong and virtuous women. I highly recommend both!!

Beth Moore. So Long Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2010.

Vicki Courtney. 5 Conversations You MUST Have with Your Daughter. Nashville: B&H, 2008.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Weekly Menu

Monday--Dinner with Family
Tuesday--Chicken Black Bean Burritos
Thurday--Pita Pizza
Friday--History Banquet at School
Saturday--Marinated Chicken
Sunday--Pancakes and Eggs

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Freezer Cooking

I love having a freezer full of meals to pull from on those too busy evenings when even planning what to cook seems like an enormous chore. I don't, however, have a very good system for getting meals into the freezer. Although like the idea of once a month cooking, I never seem to have an entire day to set aside for a marathon in the kitchen. I've settled instead for making an extra meal or two over the course of several days, but this often means that for those days I spend quite a bit of extra time in the kitchen, which has happened this week. Thanks to some help from my Grandma, I did end up with quite a few meals to use this month, so hopefully that translates into less time in the kitchen for the rest of March.

Here's what I have in the freezer:
Sauced Baked Meatballs
Chicken Bruschetta Bake
Four Cheese Italian Minestrone x4
Garlic Parmesan Chicken x2
Creamy Chuck Roast with Mushrooms
Browned Hamburger Meat for Chili x2
Cooked/Cubed Chicken for Pizza
Chicken Black Bean Burritos
Lasagna x3
Monterey Jack Chicken x2
Chicken for Crockpot Stroganoff

I used several recipes from Don't Panic More Dinner's in the Freezer by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia. I'm particularly excited to try the Monterey Jack Chicken. I made a couple of minor changes, but here's the basic recipe:

6 fresh, boneless chicken breasts
10 oz Monterey jack cheese with jalapenos
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup bottled salsa (not chunky) or taco sauce, mild or medium
1/4 t. salt
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 t. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. dried oregano

Serving day
1/4 cup butter
sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, sour cream and salsa

Mix together eggs, salsa, and salt. In a separate pan, combine the panko breadcrumbs, chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, and oregano. Dip each chicken breast in the egg mixture to coat, then dip the breast in the panko crumb mixture. Place coated breasts in a shallow baking dish. Freeze.

Serving day
Drizzle thawed chicken with melted butter--turn to coat. Bake uncovered about 35-40 minutes, topping with cheese just before the last 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately and garnish with a side of salsa sour cream, avocado slices and tomatoes.

I actually wish those were on the menu for tonight! :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

One of the fun aspects of starting my own blog is joining some of the blogging forums that I enjoy perusing. One of these is Menu Planning Monday. So today I'm posting my menu for the week:

Monday--Incredible Pizza for a birthday party

Tuesday--Chicken Bruschetta Bake

Wednesday--Stir fry

Thursday--Chicken Ranch Pizza

Friday--Mediterranean Lasagna

Saturday--Four Cheese Italian Minestrone

Sunday--Egg Casserole and Cranberry Upside Down Coffee Cake

I'm also working on some freezer cooking this week. I'm hoping to get some Parmesan Garlic Chicken, Monterey Jack Stuffed Chicken, and Creamy Chuck Roast with Mushrooms in the freezer tomorrow while my grandma is here to help out. I'll let you know how it turns out!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweet little Tinkerbell with her snowman.