Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rediscovering an old friend…


My mother taught me how to clean the house. She did a very good job teaching, I just usually wasn’t in the mood to learn. I always hated cleaning until Mr. U and I married and I wanted to take the best possible care of him and our home. Aaaaah, love!!!!

My mother always taught me to clean using a washcloths. Cleaning kitchen or bathroom counters, cleaning the toilet, dusting shelves, nightstands, side tables, etc. She taught me to use a washcloth and to simply launder them when I was finished. No waste. I, of course, thought I new better. I would go through tons of paper towels simply so that I wouldn’t have to rinse out washcloths or bother laundering them. I wonder just how many paper towels I’ve wasted over the course of all these years?

Recently, I discovered my old friend- the washcloth. I’ve realized what a waste it is to use paper towels and how much BETTER washcloths clean!! I clean the counters, hand mop the bathroom floor, scrub shower walls, clean the toilets and sinks- all with a washcloth!!!! When finished with my cleaning, I simply rinse it out and throw it in the washing machine!!

Also, I’ve recently had problems with my hands getting exceptionally dry in some areas. I decided to stop using harsh cleansers and now I clean with a bucket full of hot water and add some liquid hand soap to the water. Not only does this clean well and smell good, too, but it also is less harsh on my hands. When I rinse out the washcloths once I’m finished cleaning, I don’t have to worry about making sure all those harsh chemicals are out because I’m just using hand soap, water and good, old-fashioned elbow grease!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

What Christmas is Really About


This post was shared this week by my pastor (see "about me" in side bar). Thank you, Pastor U!!!



What Christmas is Really About

Isaiah 9.6- For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Those of us that are Christians spend a lot of our time telling our children and families that Christmas is about giving instead of receiving. But according to the Scripture above that is not what Christmas is all about.

Giving is much better than receiving. It teaches us not to be so hedonistic, materialistic and selfish. Giving is a good character trait. Giving is a worthy goal to teach our families. Giving is a good thing but it is not what Christmas is about.

John 1.29- The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

The people of Israel were familiar with lambs for the sacrifices. At Passover, each family had to have a lamb; and during the year, two lambs a day were sacrificed at the temple altar, plus all the other lambs brought for personal sacrifices. Those lambs were brought by men to men, but here is God's Lamb, given by God to men! Those lambs could not take away sin, but the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) can take away sin.

We all are born separated from God. We do not get to God by good works, stopping a bad habit or cleaning our life up. The only way that our hearts will find forgiveness, peace, and contentment is to acknowledge that we are sinners and we need forgiveness.

God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born of a virgin, live as He was born (in perfection), die upon a cross and three days later conquer the grave. We as sinners are to acknowledge that:

We are sinners and need forgiveness
Call out to Jesus Christ for that forgiveness
Commit yourself to following Him as your Lord and King

Christmas is about God sending His Son so that our salvation would be possible.

That is God’s gift to us. He is the giver. We just need to receive Jesus as the Gift that has been given.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Caroling...


On Tuesday night, a big group from our church went Christmas caroling!! We've been doing it for several years now and it is just so much fun!! We all bundle up, squish into vans and off we go!! We sing at several different homes and share about 5 Christmas hymns at each home.

When we are done, we return to our church for homemade cookies and hot cider!! I made Gingerbread Men Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Cranberry Orange Cookies. To drink, I served Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider. Yum! Two sweet young ladies in our church volunteered to make cookies, too!! They showed up with chocolate peanut butter cookies, brownies, German shortbread and MORE!! We had a feast of cookies!! Wish all of y'all could have been here for the fun evening.


Gingerbread Men
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
Royal Icing (optional)

In a mixing bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed 30 seconds. Add next 6 ingredients and beat till combined, scraping bowl. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar till combined. Carefully beat in most of the flour with the mixer. By hand, stir in the rest of the flour. When mixed thoroughly, cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough mixture until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Baked at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes or until the edges of the cookie turn golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute and then transfer to wire cooling rack.

Cool completely before decorating.

This is the recipe for royal icing, but PLEASE decorate however your family wants!! Any kind of icing is good as long as you and your family like it!!


Royal Icing
3 eggs whites
1 pound powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Beat 5 to 7 minutes.

Put icing mixture into a piping bag and decorate your cookies!!!

This dries VERY fast!!! Work quickly.




Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

3 eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup PLUS 4 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
Sifted powdered sugar

Stir all the ingredients together (except for powdered sugar) and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Shape into 1 inch balls and roll into powdered sugar. Place balls 1 inch apart on cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or till the edges are set and tops are crackled.

Also, I stuck Hershey's Kisses in the middle of each cookie just as they came out of the oven. I LOVE chocoalte, but these Kisses are FILLED WITH CARAMEL!! I LOVE caramel!!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Quiet Bag

Don't you just LOVE finding wonderful new blogs? Heaven only knows just how many blogs are out there, but I love finding encouraging blogs as well as blogs that will help me grow!!!

You know recently I've mentioned Mrs. B's Cottage and I always find challenging articles The Dead Theologian. But just the other day, I came across A Place of Quiet Rest. The blog as a whole is absolutely wonderful!!!! The article that stood out the most to me (probably because we are expecting to find out about our little Elizabeth any day now!!) is the article entitled The Quiet Bag. Just grab yourself a cup of tea and read what Heather has to share with us!! What a blessing!!!

Every so often I have an inspiration that proves to be very helpful to my family. One of my inspirations has been 'The Quiet Bag' and over the years it has been a wonderful blessing and 'mother's helper'! I have shared this idea with other moms of young children, and I wondered if it might be something helpful to some of you as well - or even a gift idea for some young family.

Last night we had two functions in a row where the children were required to sit quietly for long periods of time, our Dreamer's piano recital and the children's Christmas Program at church. It was definately a night to grab 'The Quiet Bag'. Not only was it helpful for our family, but several children in the pew with us enjoyed the contents of the bag - we were the quietest row in the church, I think!

Our bag is an old used leather 'one shoulder' backpack style bag which we used to use as a diaper bag, but anything durable and 'husband friendly' will do. The contents vary occasionally as I 'trade out' less popular items and try to keep a rotation of fresh things to do.

The rules are simple, everything in the bag must be 'quiet', not too heavy, and requires no parental instruction. There is no playing with the contents of the bag at home or even in the car, unless we are on a long trip. It is reserved for special occasions like sermon time, funerals, the Doctor's waiting room, a fancy restaurant, or an 'adult' function where they need to be seen, but not heard. At 9, The Dreamer is expected to listen to the sermon and take brief notes, follow in the Scripture reading and sing in church, but there are still times when it is too much to expect her to be still for the length of time needed, so she enjoys "The Quiet Bag' too.

Now for the contents! We have a variety of things, but these are our favorites. Many have been purchased at the gift shop in Cracker Barrel's Old Country Store, at Wal*Mart, the Dollar Store and in educational type toy stores. There are no batteries or sound producing toys, nothing sticky, messy or glittery. Most of what we have was inexpensive, and of course has changed to be 'age appropriate' as the children have grown.

*Wikki Stix (these are so fun, but get sticky in warm weather, so they only get added to the bag in cooler months)

*Mini Etch-A-Sketch

* Mini Magna-Doodle

*Silly Putty

*Felt Story People, Fuzzy Felts or Felt Kids (a small felt board)

*Magnetic books (Construction set, Thomas the Tank Engine, Horses etc.)

*Sticker books (we like the little Dover books)

*Magnet face 'Willy' - where you use a 'wand' to put 'hair' on Willy

* 1/2 sheets of cardstock paper and mini paint sets (for in restaurants)

*Fun Pad, mini coloring books, maze books

*Fabric Activity Books

*Flip-A-Fish and The Peanut Game ( they are pretty quiet ;0)

*Magnetic Car Bingo

*Brain Quest games

*A mini photo album of family and friends

* Hand sanitizer, a small first aid kit, kleen-x, and dried fruit snacks complete the bag

We have had hours of quiet fun with this bag. When I was describing our use of 'The Quiet Bag' to the young mom beside us last evening, she was very positive and encouraging. I think she was planning to put together a bag for her own young boys. I decided that since she thought it was such a great idea, you might find it useful information too!


Click here to go visit Heather!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cooking essentials- the can opener



Yes, I use a hand crank can opener. Call me old-fashioned, I don't mind. I just simply CANNOT get any other can opener to work!! And I am not kidding!! My mother has some fancy kind that you just hold the can up to it and it's supposed to automatically "catch" and take over. Not for me! No sir!! Either my mom or my sister has to come to my rescue every time.

However, I DO love my can opener. It opens quickly every time. I've had this one for 8 years now and have only had 1 problem. I used to wash it after each use, but it started getting rusty and eventually didn't want to turn as easily. A friend told me that it was rusting because I washed it too much. Too much?? What??? She said that unless I was going to dry it off completely right after each washing, then I shouldn't wash it every time. She said this is what caused it to rust.

I have since stopped washing it after each use and there is no rusting going on at all!! Yippee!!!

What did we do about the part that WAS rusting? A little elbow grease and some olive oil took it off and lubed it up!! I'm sure I'll get years more use out of this!

What kind of can opener do you use??

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dirty Toilets and Drop In Visitors

Mrs. B has written a marvelous post entitled "Dirty Toilets and Drop in Visitors". I had to chuckle when I first read it because I have been there!!!!

Mrs. B offers some great ideas about doing little things each day to keep the house tidy and ready for visitors at a moments notice. Thank you Mrs. B!!

Here is the article, but be sure and stop by her blog to pay her a visit!!

Once, many years ago, some friends of ours stopped by to say goodbye on their way to a vacation out of state. Before they left, my friend's husband asked to use our bathroom. Those were the days before I had any daily cleaning routines set up for myself, and I cleaned whenever I felt like it-or not. Well, this happened to be one of the "or not" days, and my bathroom was rather a wreck. I *had planned to* clean the bathroom, but hadn't gotten around to it yet when my friend needed to use it. Needless to say, I was mortified, and to this day, I still remember the embarassment of that moment.

Last night after supper our pastor called to see if he might drop by for a spur of the moment visit with us. Of course we told him to come on over.

I was so glad then that, over the years, I have learned to keep to some basic daily cleaning routines. I am no longer embarassed when someone asks to use our bathroom, and I don't find myself scurrying around, a stress-filled mess, when someone drops by unexpectedly.

Last night all I had to do to get ready for the pastor's visit was finish washing the supper dishes and put on a pot of coffee. We had a very enjoyable visit with him, very relaxed because I wasn't worrying about the state of my house.

Here are some of the absolute basics that I try to do every day in order to keep our home presentable:

*make beds
*do dishes, clean counters
*make sure bathroom is presentable (swish toilet and wipe counters daily or every other day)
*sweep floors
*put anything away that has been left out in kitchen or living room

After these things are done, I can go on to other projects, resting assured that I could welcome someone in to our home that day with no need to be embarassed. You don't have to strive for PERFECT; you just want to have it comfortably neat, clean, and attractive.

What things do you do in your own home to be ready for drop in visitors?

Have a wonderful day, friends!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gingersnaps- YUM!!!


On Monday night, at our monthly ladies fellowship at church, we had a cookie exchange!!! We all showed up with at least 6 dozen cookies and we went home with lots and lots of different cookies to share with family and friends over the Christmas holidays. What fun!!! I took gingersnaps and here's the recipe...

Gingersnaps

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup shortening
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
1/3 cup granulated sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ of the flour plus the brown sugar, shortening, molasses, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and white pepper. Mix well until combined. Stir in remaining flour.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the extra sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are set and the tops are crackled. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet and then move to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 48 cookies.

*These aren't very "snappy". I always thought that gingersnaps were to be thin and hard. These are a little puffy and soft. But they are sooo YUMMMMYYY!!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SLOW COOKING THURSDAY!!!


Every year at Christmastime, I make Crock-pot Chicken with Cranberries-but only on one certain day. It's a family tradition!! The day we go out to buy our Christmas tree, we fill up with this warm and delicious meal and then head out into the cold to pick out just the right tree.

Crock-pot Chicken with Cranberries

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons flour mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Place all ingredients (except the flour/water mixture) in the crock-pot. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours, until chicken is tender. Add flour mixture in the last 15 minutes before serving and cook until the sauce has thickened. Serve over rice, pasta or (my family's preference) couscous.

Don't be scared when you peek in your crock-pot after it's been cooking a bit and the cranberries are still staring back at you. The longer this cooks, the cranberries will heat up and start to "pop". By the time I serve this, I cannot tell that cranberries were ever in this. They simply melt into the sauce and become yummy and delicious!! Mr. U who, does not like cranberries at all, LOVES this dish!!!

You can find more mouth-watering recipes over at Sandra's blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Carmelitas


Oh boy!! Did I ever find a GREAT recipe in my new Christmas Cookie cookbook that I won from Susan P.!!!! Mr. U chose a recipe called Carmelitas. It is really, REALLY good. Whatever diet you are on, throw it out the window when you eat these!!! My, oh my!!!!

Carmelitas

18 ounce tube refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
6 counes semi-sweet chocolate chips
32 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup half and half

Slice cookie dough 1/4 inch thick; place slices in the bottom of an ungreased 9x9 baking pan. Pat to make an even crust; bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly; sprinkle with chocolate chips and set aside. Melt caramels and half and half together in a double boiler over hot water. Spread caramel mixture on top of chocolate chips. Refrigerate for one to two hours; cut into squares. Makes 3 dozen.

Okay... now here's the truth... I did not follow this recipe exactly. tee hee (anyone who knows me is not surprised by this fact). I just HATE to buy pre-made cookie dough. So, I made half a batch (and used only 1/2 a bag of chocolate chips) of the Nestle Toll House cooke recipe that I have here. I pressed that into the bottom of a pie plate (didn't have a 9x9 available) and you can see that in the picture. I baked it at 375 for 25 minutes and then sprinkled the other half of the chocolate chips on top. Then I put the caramels and the half and half in a microwave safe bowl and microwaved on high for 2 minutes- stopping every 30 seconds to stir. At the end of two minutes, it had turned to a creamy caramel sauce. I then poured it all ove the pie. I let it come to room temperature and then put it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. I cut them into little bitty triangles (think tiny pie piece) and ate them. They are TO DIE FOR.

If y'all make this, be sure and let me know!! And if I gain weight at my Weight Watchers meeting on Monday, I figure I can just blame Susan P.!!!!! :) HAHAHA!!! Just kidding, Susan!!!!

Note: I was SUPPOSED to share a picture with y'all of what a piece of the carmelitas looked like when it was cut. But... well... they just disappeared too fast!! Oops!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Anniversary, Mr. U!!!


I LOVE MR. U!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eight years ago today, December 12, 1998, Mr. U and I were married. I am so blessed to be married to such a wonderful, loving, godly man.

We met December 9, 1997 and we both quickly knew that the Lord was leading us to marriage. Truly the Lord has spoiled me with such a fantastic husband.

Happy 8th anniversary, sweetie! I love you soooo very much and am sooo very honored to be called Mrs. U!!!!

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine..." Song of Solomon 6:3

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cooking essentials- hand mixer



The hand mixer is an absolute necessity in my kitchen. Our kitchen is very small and I don't have room for one of those big leave-on-your-counter stand mixers. They are QUITE nice, though, so please don't think I don't like them. I really would love to have one someday, but it's just not practical in this home.

This hand mixer is my favorite!! Why? Because I burned out the motor in two previous hand mixers and this guy is the only one that's been able to keep up with me!!!

Hand mixers are great for mixing up cookies, quick breads, muffins, brownies, cake batter, icing. The list goes on and on. I just pull mine out (another benefit- I can just store it in a cabinet!!!), pop in the beaters and away we go!! I don't have to practically break my arm to make chocolate chip cookies for Mr. U, I just plug this in, mix up the cookies and presto!! Mr. U's got a plateful of warm cookies!!!

Do you have a hand mixer? If so, do you use yours often?

Friday, December 08, 2006

A sweet surprise...


Some of y'all will remember my post the other day about handkerchiefs. Do you know what sweet Kelli over at There is No Place Like Home did? She sent me a handkerchief!! Is she kind or what??

Kelli, it is a LOVELY handkerchief and I am oh-so-thankful for such a thoughtful gesture.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Here is it!!!


Susan P. over at A Place Called Home had a contest a few weeks ago and I WON!!! I won a Gooseberry Christmas cookie cookbook!! YUMMMM!!! When the package arrived in the mail, not only was I ecstatic to find the cookbook, but she also included a Yankee Candle tartlet for the tart warmer in Mistletoe and a tooo cute gingerbread man cookie cutter!!! Adorable!! She tied it all up with a beautiful christmasy (can I say that?) bow. What a wonderful gift to receive in the mail!!

Thank you for the fun contest, Susan!!! And thank you for the lovely prize!! :)

Now... off to baking some of those cookies!! :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New blog worth noting...

The author of this new blog, The Isle Of Hope, is really wanting to focus on the Lord and serving Him. He had another blog, but this one really seems to show his heart more. I appreciate people sharing what the Lord is doing in their life- the good and the hard.

I have much to learn in my walk with the Lord and sooo appreciate the encouragement of fellow Christians like this man.

Peanut Butter Pie


What is wrong with this picture? Look closely. Got it yet? It has no PIE in it!!!! We've GOT to do something about that!!!

My sister and I were discussing yummy recipes yesterday and this one came up. Boy, is it DELICIOUS!! So, I figured if we loved it so much, y'all might, too!!


Peanut Butter Pie

1 (3 oz) pack cream cheese, softened
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
¼ cup milk
1 carton (8 ounces) frozen Cool Whip, thawed
1 graham cracker pie crust(9 oz)

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in peanut butter and sugar. Gradually add milk; mix well. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into pie crust. Refrigerate overnight.

I think this is supposed to be 8 servings, but when it's THIS good... good luck making the slices that small and not hearing complaints!!! :)

Enjoy!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cooking essentials- the garlic press



Okay, I promise this is not another lecture from me about the health benefits of garlic.

This IS a post about how wonderful garlic presses are!!! What IS a garlic press? It's a gadget that's used to press garlic cloves through a perforated grid to extract the pulp and juice from the garlic.

Look at the picture...



See those little holes? The garlic clove gets pushed through there and out it comes all mashed up and ready to use!!

I will often use my knife to chop my garlic, but sometimes I don't feel like chopping and pull out my garlic press. I just LOVE it!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Get out in the sunshine



When the days get shorter and the nights get longer, the absence of the sun makes me sad. No, I don't deal "officially" with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but I do get tired. I asked my doctor about it and he said that the sun has a huge part to play in the function of our bodies. His perscription to me? Get out in the sun about 10 minutes each day!! Hey, that's easy!!!

I found this article online and found it very interesting. I figured y'all might find it interesting as well.

Happy sunning!! :)

Get out in the sunshine

The importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for good health that comes in its largest quantities from the sun. Some foods have been fortified with the vitamin, such as milk, but a US study proved that only 30 per cent of the samples tested contained a sufficient recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D.

Diseases such as rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia are kept at bay with a healthy dose of sunshine-induced vitamin D. However, with a lifespan of only one week, vitamin D must be topped up regularly. But even when using sunscreen has been found to hinder vitamin D production, it must still be safely maintained.

The low light levels of winter can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a prolonged psychological state much like depression. Symptoms are often a poor appetite, considerable weight loss or vice versa, insomnia, agitation or inertia or feelings of worthlessness, guilt and indecisiveness.

SAD can only be relieved by sunlight (via vitamin D) as the sun can raise serotonin levels– the body’s natural happiness chemical. Regular indoor light does not produce the same effect as it does not supply vitamin D.

Vitamin D from the sun’s rays is also essential in building strong bones and teeth. Research also suggests that low vitamin D levels could potentially increase type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain.

Women may find that sunshine can relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which include stomach bloating and cramping, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, mood swings and appetite shifts.

Read the entire article here...

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