Saturday, April 30, 2011

Prey Without Ceasing?

That's not a misprint.

Do you plan to attend church tomorrow? If not, why not?

Tomorrow is the Sunday following the the one designated on the calendar as Easter. You know, those of us who regularly attend church to worship the risen Savior do so in celebration of the resurrection each week and not just on one Sunday. For us, it's Easter every week when we gather to acknowledge the God-man who died to pay the penalty we owe for our sin and give thanks for His resurrection.

You really should go to church tomorrow and the next week, too.

Some might say, "I'll stay home and worship privately." Okay, I won't argue with you about your sincerity. But I must warn you that it's hunting season and you're fair game.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (KJV)

I've watched enough nature programs to know that the ploy of the hunting lion is to separate one member of the flock from the others. It usually chooses one of the weak as its victim. Get the picture?

Is it any wonder that support groups follow the Biblical leading found in the Book of Hebrews? They know that those recovering from any form of trial or addictive behavior don't stand a chance of successful acceptance of critical circumstances or will receive healing if they try to make it alone. As my friend said in her comment in my last post, there are many times that she has felt so alone. That's exactly when we're the most vulnerable to Satan's attacks. There's relative safety in numbers.

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Heb 10:24-25 (KJV)

But we're not meant to be alone. We're meant to be part of a herd. We'll stop being "prey" without ceasing if we'll get together and "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17) as the Bible exhorts us to do.

We're all being hunted. Some of us just don't want to admit it so we wander off and try to make it on our own. Take a friendly word of advice and get back into the safety of the flock.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Secret No Longer

One of the sweet young mothers that I've been privileged to meet over the Internet is Stephanie Hanes. We haven't met in person but I read her blog, I've broken bread with her (well, I've broken the delicious home made bread that I won through her blog and that's the same thing as far as I'm concerned), and I've bought items from her Etsy shop.

Last year her beloved grandpa died on the anniversary of my grandpa's death. We shared several private emails about our losses that shall remain private. (Private conversations are not the kind of secret that I'll reveal. Ever.)

And her youngest child was born on my 50th birthday. I joked that Little "A" and I could schedule a mutual party for my 100th and his 50th birthday. Well, that might be a little hard to do. He lives in Wisconsin and I live in Ohio. :)

Okay, I feel like I know a bit about Stephanie. And she knows a bit about me, too, including my real name. That would be necessary for mailing me the Etsy purchase and the bread.

Anyway, there was something that drew me to this gal. I believe it is the Holy Spirit. I heard Him say a couple of years ago, "You need to be friendly to her." As mentioned, there are many reasons why I think this is so. But today another reason came to light.

Today Stephanie revealed that she suffers from depression. She shared her story on her blog. (Read it here.) As I told her, I think it is time for the stigma of depression to go away. I have no clue why anyone would think that another person would want to feel this way (to get sympathy?) or why they don't just "snap out of it." Oh, if only it were that easy. People with depression are not misbehaving children. There are very real physical and spiritual reasons behind it.

Like Stephanie, I talked to my doctor about depression. That was several years ago. And we found a physical cause ("female problem," and I won't elaborate). Once it was corrected, my life got a whole lot cheerier. Oh, I still had some spiritual causes to deal with (like feelings of inadequacy and perfectionistic tendencies) but correcting the physical and spiritual triggers restored my emotional health significantly. (This was totally unrelated to the Horrible Spring of 1989 for which I should've at least gotten a survivor's t-shirt. Understandably, grief is also a very real source of depression.) I know that seeking proper treatment will restore Stephanie's health also.

Thanks for sharing your story, Stephanie. I'm praying for you and for all of us who think that if we could just be "a better person" we could rid ourselves of this "problem."

The Great Physician often uses a human physician to restore us to health. But we can't be restored if we don't ask for help.

(I'd like to thank our friend, Travis, for the enlightening sermon on Psalm 42 last summer.  You have no idea how encouraging it was for me to learn that the psalmist, David, suffered in like manner.  In fact, I keep the notes I took that night on my desk next to this computer.  "Where's your God?" is the taunt.  "My hope is in God!" is the answer.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Early Warning Systems

Nothing is a greater object lesson of the need for early warning systems than the events of recent weeks. Just look at the horrendous destruction in Japan due to earthquakes and tsunamis. Here in southern and mid-America we've been hit by floods several times over the past three months due to tremendous storms. Cars and houses have been damaged by water or tornados or lightening strikes.

We are safe on this High Hill but we are also being effected by the storms. I'm not sure when the last time was that we had a full night's sleep. We have two weather alerts and one or both of them have sounded an alert every night recently. The first is an alarm hooked up to NOAA radio. The second is a terrified dog afraid of thunder storms. She alerts us to their approach long before we can actually hear anything.

We can ignore these alarms or we can take precautions accordingly. It's our choice. I, for one, tend to take both alerts, including the dog, seriously. She might be only a cowardly canine or she might have God-given instincts that could save our lives. I'm not willing to chance that her senses are false alarms.

We could also turn off the weather alert beside the bed and go back to sleep. We've been tempted to do that a few times, but that would kind of defeat the whole purpose of having one, wouldn't it?

Where am I going with this?

Well, did you know that most in America have access to spiritual warning systems but they rarely avail themselves of them? Most have a Bible and live near a local church but do not see the need for either. They are like the individuals who ignore the warnings of a weather alert. The Bible tells us to flee from the wrath to come but most people just ignore it and spiritually go back to sleep. Or they ridicule the preacher who tells them that the storms in life (this one and the next) are coming. To them, he's like the dog whose foolish yapping disturbs them. Oh, sure, they'll attend Easter services to keep Mama happy, but they'll tune out the day's message: death is coming; seek shelter in the Savior that conquered death!

I wonder how many paid lip service to Earth Day last week by honoring the so-called "Mother Earth" while totally ignoring the Father God in Heaven who sent His Son? When it comes down to a question of which one is worthy of worship, it just makes sense to honor the one who will ultimately redeem creation rather than the creation that requires redeeming from its continual groaning and travailing (cf. Romans 8). The creation can't be redeemed no matter how many trees we plant or cardboard boxes we recycle. There's nothing wrong with recycling supplies but to think it will save the earth is a mockery in light of recent weather-related tragedies! The earth is dying. People are dying!

Heed the early warning systems. The storms are coming!Flee from the wrath to come!

Don't turn off the message of the resurrected Jesus and go back to sleep. The results promise to be disastrous.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's In A Name?

Apparently, a lot of enjoyment!

Did you know that we all like to hear someone say our name? I've read several studies that say it's true. Somebody years ago found a way to capitalize on this. And since we're heading into "birthday month" around here (three of my four offspring were born in May; no jokes please about the August celebrations: I think we've heard them all and if not, I'm not interested in the rest) it seemed like the perfect time to give CAPTAIN ZOOM some free advertising.

Our first encounter with this birthday-greeting-singing-spaceman was when Karen was two years old. That's when a church friend gave her a copy as a gift. We've taken very good care of it these last 28 years. Um, was I allowed to say that? I guess it's safe since she's advertising on her own blog that her 30th birthday is approaching. Funny how one's kids can pass up the mother in age. :)

Well, of course, when Lisa came along a few years later (and not in May!) we just had to find one of these little personalized plastic records for her. We found a rack of them at Toys 'R Us. This was pre-Internet. Oops! Am I allowed to make my grown kids sound ancient? Sorry!

All was fine until the Princess came along several years later.  We just had to have one for her so we got in the car, drove to Nashville to the closest Toys 'R Us, and bought . . . nothing. They had stopped carrying them. Boy were we the bad guys for years to come! Try explaining to your third child that you can't buy that super-duper personalized birthday song like her older sisters have. That child just knows it is a conspiracy against her and that it is somehow your fault!

Okay, I'm kidding a little. Or maybe the Princess has gotten over it by now. Or maybe she finally realized we did the best we could and bought her a long (and boring) substitute from a mall kiosk because it was the best we could do at the time. Whatever.

Or maybe Al Gore finally invented the Internet and we discovered that the song could be bought in a new-and-improved CD-R version!

Okay, it took awhile to find this (actually, we were grandparents by the time we did) so we were able to order one for each: Princess, The Bear, and Polly. The names are covered in the picture since our two youngest kids aren't named, um, Princess and The Bear. Polly's copy is unavailable to be photographed because it is at her house.

Princess and The Bear do not have names that are totally out of the ordinary. In fact, as much as I love, love, love their names I would not say that I am exactly creative when it comes to naming my children. Their names on the CDs sound normal because they were probably covered by the original batch of recordings. Polly's real name is not "different" but it was not a popular name back in 1976, the year this song was copywritten, so the name dubbing is a bit obvious. It's okay, but obvious.

Okay, now assume . . . just assume . . . that Polly doesn't remain our only grandchild. (She didn't.) Assume, in fact, that she has three younger sisters and a cousin. (All true.) And now assume that a couple of these younger ones wonder why they don't have Captain Zoom birthday songs of their own.

As a further assumption, assume that one of the granddaughters has an unusual name. (She does.) Well, for a small fee Captain Zoom will make her a personalized song. All it takes (besides a few extra bucks) is the proper spelling and phonetic pronunciation on the order form. I did this! And just to make sure that he was pronouncing the name correctly Captain Zoom called me on the phone one morning. What a guy!!!!!

A few days later I received my order. I was very pleased with the new digitized edition of the specially ordered name!

As you can see, we're big fans of Captain Zoom and his birthday greetings. They also do personalized wedding and anniversary songs and have branched out into DVD products. If you know someone who would enjoy a personalized gift visit their on-line shop here. And tell them "Gram*" sent you!

* Speaking of names, did you notice that I changed mine again? Well, my blog name, anyway.

When I began blogging I used "Karabeth" because that is our homeschool name. Then so many people starting assuming that this was my given first name that I had to clarify it.

So I changed to the full name of "Karabeth Baptist Homeschool." The problem became that I do not limit my Internet participation to strictly homeschool blogs and posts consequently some of the blogs where I leave comments either delete them or rewrite and post my comments under the "Anonymous" heading.

Therefore, I have chosen to be called "Gram in the blogosphere. It is what my grandkids call me and is generic enough to fit any situation.

I'm sorry for the confusion. I'm really not having an identity crisis anywhere else.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Modeling the Season's Finery

If you were hoping to see pictures of the kiddos in their new Easter finery, forget it! I neglected to get out the camera yesterday. Someone else will need to supply those.

I did have it out just long enough this weekend to catch a male goldfinch on the feeder. He isn't quite done exchanging his brownish winter wear for the yellow wardrobe of warmer months but I thought he was beautiful all the same. I caught a glimpse of him during one of the brief periods when there was no rain falling - a rarity these days - and my mood was somehow lifted by his appearance.

Having bird feeders in my yard really is a "cheeper" investment (get it? cheaper) for helping me out of the doldrums than any counselor. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Resurrection Cookies

This is a recipe that we have used for many years. It was shared throughout the homeschool community beginning in the early '90s. We've been making these since The Bear was a little scrapper, if not before his birth.

I vividly remember making these the night before Easter in the year 2000 because The Bear began asking spiritual questions while we made them together. It was then that he first became aware of his sin and his need for a risen savior. The cookies are tasty, but the gospel message is even more appetizing so do not skip the most important ingredient: reading the Bible passages!


To be made the evening before Easter.

Ingredients and supplies:
1c. whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch of salt\
1 c. sugar
zipper baggie
wooden spoon,

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 300 BEFORE BEGINNING.   This is very important!

Step 2:  Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.

Step 3:  Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.

Step 4:  Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.

Step 5:  Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.

Step 6: So far the ingredients are not very appetizing.  Add 1 c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know this and how to belong to Him. Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16.

Step 7:  Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

Step 8:  Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matt. 27:57-60.

Step 9:  Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.  Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matt.27:65-66.

Step 10:  GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.

Step 11:  On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty! Read Matt. 28:1-9

Friday, April 22, 2011

When Easter Matters

As I stood in a funeral home yesterday evening mourning with people who are so precious to me - my granddaughters, my son-in-law, and a dear friend who lovingly stroked the quilt draping her mother's casket - I was thankful for the coming Easter.

No, delightful as they all are - not candy, or new clothing, or the spring season, or even the beautiful anthems that soloists and church choirs sing - are the reasons why Easter matters.

What matters is that death is not forever.

Like the disciples and women who followed Jesus, these dear ones stood in shock as one they love was unexpectedly taken from their presence. How could this be? Some of them had just spent the day with her! Didn't they have plans for the days ahead?

Yes, they did. But God had others plans for their loved one. And for them.

The calendar says that today is "Good Friday." It is the day that anyone remotely associated with Christendom acknowledges the death of Jesus Christ.

Can you feel the grief of the onlookers at the crucifixion? Does it make you weep for them? Or like so many others, do you think those people are just characters in some story?

Oh, no! They really lived, and breathed, and grieved their loss. His death seemed so final.

But in a matter of days their tears of sorrow were changed to those of pure joy! Their Beloved was alive! He had conquered death, the grave, and Hell itself! And because He did those whose sins were paid for by the blood that He shed that mournful day will also one day be resurrected!

Today is a dark day of grief for one dear family that I know. Today they placed their loved one in the grave. But Easter is coming. And Easter matters because that first Resurrection morning Jesus arose from the grave. And on that final Resurrection Day their loved one will also arise!

When you've just placed a loved one in the grave, that's when Easter matters!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tongue-in-Cheek Rules for Dealing with Anger

The following points are not aimed at anyone in particular so please don't take this personally. Case in point: #2 below. I don't even have a daughter-in-law! And my mother-in-law and I get along just fine, in case you're wondering.

Someone once said that the dog that yelps is the one being hit by the rock thrown in the dark. If you find yourself yelping, do it quietly because I'm neither aiming my shots nor listening for the cries of the injured. Even Pastor Dad is exempt from attack, although it is his fault for encouraging my quirkiness.

I'm not your mother - or in a few instances (four, to be exact) - maybe I am. Either way, these are some rules you should follow when angry. Your mother would approve, I'm sure.

I'm not your wife either, although I'm certain there are days when Pastor Dad would gladly lend me to you just so you could personally bask in my words of wisdom while I unceasingly extol them. Well, here's the best of both worlds! I can share my opinions and Pastor Dad doesn't need to listen read if he chooses not to do so! We all win!!!! :)
  1. If you are a married woman who is mad at her husband, do not call your mother complaining about said husband. Most likely, she already has to deal with your father and doesn't need to listen to your diatribe entitled Male Misbehavior. She could probably launch into one of her own. And that two-way conversation might take more time than you've allotted for the call.
  2. If you are a married man who is mad at his wife, do not call your mother complaining about your wife. Your mom is already having a hard enough time liking this female interloper without you giving her more reasons why she shouldn't.
  3. If you are a blogger angry with one of your readers, by all means write that piece! There now! Feel better? Now hit the "delete" instead of the "publish" button. Trust me. You still got to put your fiery missive into words and since you're the only one who really wants to read it, everyone is happy!
  4. If you are a social media aficionado angry with, oh, I don't know, anyone, anywhere, do not delete your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, or email contact list. This maneuver will not achieve the desired effect of hurting your victim. Ever heard the one about cutting off the nose to spite the face? Same principle.
  5. If you are a "Christian" social media aficionado who uses profanity or inflammatory words to flame, spam, or stalk someone with whom you are angry don't be surprised when several people block, "unfriend," unfollow, or just plain ignore you and take your enemy's side without actually hearing that person's version. The Biblical way to solve a dispute is to go to the person who offended you and handle the situation privately. Then take it to witnesses, and then the elders of your church if the problem remains unresolved. Anything short of this is unchristian. See Ephesians 4:26a for help: "Be ye angry, and sin not: . . ." and Matthew 18:15-17.
  6. If you are SOMEONE who EVER gets angry (that should cover almost 100% of us) you might need to get up earlier in the morning or wait until spring or summer when the days are longer and Daylight Savings Time has taken effect in order to meet the Biblical standard of Ephesians 4:26b-27, " . . . let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil." Or you could just choose not to hold a grudge quite so long. I'm just saying.
  7. If you are an adult who insists upon throwing angry temper tantrums, no one is going to take you seriously. In fact, most people will consider such a person to still be a child, even if the fit-thrower has recently celebrated an "Over the Hill" birthday (not to be confused with those of us who celebrate "On A High Hill" birthdays, which could be one-in-the-same at certain times.) :) I Corinthians 13:11 says, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Some people need to grow up as they grow old.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if the be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pork Chops and Stuffing Recipe (Frugal Sunday 4/10/11)

Okay, it wasn't fair to put a picture of the main course here and then not put the recipe or the cost analysis. I'm about to correct that.

The original recipe was one that I discovered on an old computer recipe program that I had back in the '90s. Back in those days I didn't modify the recipe because my family liked it "as is." And then one day I came to the conclusion that I really didn't like it so I started experimenting. Here's my recipe for pork chops and stuffing. A doubled portion of chops is shown in the picture because I intended to feed 10 people.

You'll need the following:

4 or 5 porkchops
1 box of cornbread stuffing mix
1 can of creamed corn
brown sugar
Dijon mustard
chopped celery, and more chopped onion and/or spices to taste (optional)

Stuffing: Open the box and take out the packets of stuffing and herbs (they might be separate packages depending on brand). Mix these with the creamed corn and any additionals you wish to add. Spread these dry ingredients on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. The stuffing box tells how much water to use. Measure the water and pour it over the stuffing mix in the pan.

Pork chops: Lay pork chops over the stuffing. Mix enough brown sugar with the Dijon mustard to make a glaze. The amount will depend upon the number of chops in the pan. I use a ratio of 3:1 of brown sugar to mustard for each pork chop. Usually this equates to 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to 1 teaspoon of mustard for each piece of meat. Slather the glaze generously over the chops.

Bake uncovered in an oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees. Check the meat after 45 minutes for doneness. There should be no pink. If they aren't completely cooked put them back in the oven and check every 5 minutes until they are done.

This is a tasty recipe. The pork juices soak into the stuffing and add just a bit of flavor and a touch of a crust to the cornbread. (In my opinion the original unmodified recipe resulted in a stuffing that was too dry and crunchy.) The glaze on the chops helps to seal in the moisture of the meat and yet add a tart-sweet flavor.

The bottom line for cost? Believe it or not, I know almost to the penny.

The meat is the expensive component (as always!) and I paid $13.78 for the ten big chops that were on sale last week. I used 2 boxes of Stove Top Stuffing that I bought on sale and combined with coupons several months ago. This made the name brand cheaper than the store brand (which is $1.59) because they cost me $1.29 each for a total of $2.58. The canned corn was $0.50 a few weeks ago. The cost of the brown sugar and mustard were negligible in such small portions. So $13.78 + 2.58 + 0.50 = $16.86. Divide this by 10 and the cost of the main entry was less than $1.70 per portion.

We had a couple of vegetable dishes and home made (scratch) rolls as sides. I made yellow cake with fudge icing for dessert. The meal came in well under my target of $2.50 per person and those who got to eat it here (Pastor Dad, The Bear and his buddies, and myself) plus our own Meals on Wheels delivery service (Princess and her family) seemed to enjoy it. The Bear was especially impressed by the fact that I'd made homemade rolls.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rough Weekend

Yes, it was. I think it was because there were a couple of busy weeks preceding it.

First there were income taxes to be finished. No, not ours. Those have been filed for several months. Other people's taxes. Doing them is one of the things Pastor Dad does for fun. Well, for a bit of spending money anyway. If you are familiar with the company that advertises that "you got people" then now you know who one of those "people" is.

Then there's basketball. The Bear's team is playing in a spring league one night a week and the games can start anywhere from 5-9 p.m. It is hard for all of the players to get to the early games on time due to interstate traffic so last week they began the game with only 4 of our guys on the court until more players arrived. The late games never start on time because those scheduled before them take longer than the time alloted which means the 9 o'clock games usually start at 9:30 putting us home at 11 p.m. or later.

I had a great meal prepared for last Sunday's dinner but some were sick, some were out of town, and some were here to eat-and-run so I didn't feel like blogging about it. Here's the picture of the pork chops and stuffing to feed ten that I took. The food was good, even if the meal was a lot of work for a 5 minute gulp. At least I got the kitchen cleaned in record time.

We also attended a mission conference in Kentucky last Monday-Wednesday. It was great, but at some point I became acutely aware of a headache. This stuck with me most of the rest of the week. We finally determined that I was straining to understand the words of those talking to me. Now, lest you think I'm going deaf (which I probably am to some degree) let me reassure you that it wasn't that I couldn't hear sounds. It was that I couldn't understand anything being said to me. We think it is because of the low ceiling in the room where we were eating and conversing. The painted acoustic tiles blended all of the 75 or so voices into one big roar. Some people strain their eyes and get headaches (and I've been known to do that, too) but I think I strained my ears, if there is such a thing.

When The Bear and I returned home from his late basketball game Thursday we found Pastor Dad in bed with a fever of 102 degrees. No telling where he got it or what it was, but it was gone by the next day. It left fatigue in its wake.

Then on Friday The Bear and I were doing school together. We were sitting on the couch reading when Pepper decided to jump from her perch in the window and onto me. Her front paw hit the fleshy skin between my neck and collarbone. The pain brought tears to my eyes. The next day I started having chest pains when I moved a certain way. Evidently I pulled a muscle when I jerked in an involuntary reaction to having a 55 lbs. dog landing on my neck.

I didn't feel much like going to the store on Saturday or doing any of my normal stuff. It was cold and rainy to boot and I felt as blah as the weather. I went, but I wasn't really into the experience, so to speak. I haphazardly planned for yesterday's Sunday meal. Turns out, it wasn't necessary.

Either Pastor Dad forgot to tell me, or I missed the memo but we were having a visiting missionary family with us. (Really? Am I exhibiting symptoms of senility or is this part of that hearing thing I mentioned earlier?) Whatever. I didn't have enough food for the extra guests. Lunch wasn't happening here.

Turns out lunch didn't happen there either, for me anyway. I came home after church with a headache and went to bed. I slept most of the afternoon on the couch and part of the evening, too. Then I went to bed last night and still didn't have any problems sleeping! I guess I needed it.

I got up this morning feeling a bit stronger and it turned out that Chicken Little (that would be me) was wrong about the sky falling!

Only big dogs fall on heads around here.

A Perspective on Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

This year I’ve made it my mission to look at things in their proper perspective. I found that this is not as easy as I thought it would be. After all, I’m an old dog and we all know how hard it is to teach one new tricks.

Or is it?

What if success in putting things in proper perspective depends more upon the Master than the dog? Wouldn’t an omnipotent Master be able to teach the dog anything He wants if the dog has the willingness to please its Master?

“Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17).

When reading this verse in context - as it should be read - it is seen that the Apostle Paul was teaching the church at Corinth what was expected of them after they were under new ownership. Keeping with the dog analogy let’s say that he was telling them that they had recently been rescued by a new master. They need to understand a few things about their relationship to him.
  • The new Master will provide a whole new indestructable dog house when He comes, but in the meantime the temporary one in His earthly kennel would be adequate.
  • The Holy Spirit had been sent with a new collar with the Master’s insignia on it to prove His ownership.
  • A nourishing diet and patient training would be provided through the instruction manual that the Master had written.
  • A complete bath and proper grooming would be paid for by the Master’s Son.
  • The dog would be the Master’s mascot everywhere.

This old dog is still being taught some new tricks while “unlearning” some of the old ones I've known for many years. It never ceases to amaze me how uneducated this old educator really is! In the meantime, as an old dog I’m going to try to live up to the expectations of my Master and to be the proper mascot that He deserves.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More eBooks for Me (and You!) to Enjoy

I'm really into eBooks and audiobooks as you can probably tell. :)

Free advertising for one of my favorite bookstores, otherwise known affectionately as CBD! I can't wait to download some of the Christian books I want to read that aren't available through my library, or the Ohio eBook Program, or even at

Maybe you're not interested in physically reading your books on a device. Well, they have audiobooks, too.

What? You don't like that either because you don't want someone to read aloud to you? You were a kid once, right? Okay, just checking.

Or you don't own a compatible device? Yeah, right. You're reading this message on something whether it be a computer, your phone, or an iPod.

Gotcha! :)

Okay, so you really don't want to read and/or listen to your books because you're old fashioned and like traditional paper and ink pages. Yessiree! Me, too! But reading books doesn't need to be either/or. It's like when the hostess has two desserts: cake and ice cream. You can have some of each. No one will mind.

And what about your kids?

Gotcha again!

Many kids and teenagers love, love, love having a book read to them and since teens' portable devices seem to be ever present they can be listening to some great literature or inspirational material while they do whatever else it is that teenagers do (around here that would be sleep, eat, and play video games on the computer when not being interrupted by a nagging mother who insists that chores and schoolwork be completed).

Reading good books has never been easier. And that's a great thing for all concerned.

* I am NOT a affiliate but I do highly recommend them for Christian books and homeschool curriculum.

An End to the Freezer Cleanout

We had not reached the bottom of the freezer when I decided to call a halt! to the proceedings. Oh, we're still eating out of our freezer, but the method that was being used to achieve the goal was not working fast enough. No matter how many meals I fixed it seemed as though we were making very little headway.

It's a very good problem to have. Can you imagine being so blessed with abundant stores of food that even after you've eaten two weeks worth of meals from the freezer's innards you're still pulling more and more and more out of it? There's a Bible lesson in there and our cup was obviously running over!

To get to the end of my cleaning task I utilized our cooler and the upstairs freezer to store all of the frozen meat and bread until the time that I had the chest freezer defrosted and sanitized. This worked well.

Then I took inventory. What I found amazed me! I still had enough meat to make 30 meals for Pastor Dad, The Bear, and me. If I hadn't sped things up a bit the Great Freezer Cleanout would not have been completed for another whole month!
It sure doesn't look like there's any food in this freezer!

Okay, maybe just a little bit of food is in there!

Why, yes!  There really is food in there.  And the contents really is enough to feed this family of three adults for a whole month!

I learned a lot from this. First, as mentioned, we are abundantly blessed!

Second, I can see that meat is really not one of the things that I need to be concerned about buying except when it comes to having enough of something to feed the gang on Sunday. Maybe I should think about replenishing the dismal supply of frozen fruits and vegetables instead.   :)  Just a thought.

Third, it is time to get busy cleaning my pantry shelves. Then I'll have an ideas of the recipes that can be made from combining the pantry items with those in the freezer.

Fourth, my grocery receipts from the last 3 weeks total $98.46! That's the combined total for three weeks not the total for any one week. These expenditures included basics like paper supplies, staples, supplemental items for three different Sunday meals, and some junk food for The Bear (who kept asking, "Really, Mom, when are you going to the store again?!!!!")

Overall, I'm pretty happy with all of this. Cleaning the freezers helped put our home economy into proper perspective. ^o-o^

Now, on to tackle the pantry shelves!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Books of March 2011

This post has been modified slightly.  My apologies to my readers.

A bit late, but here are the books that I read last month:

  • Life in Defiance by She Reads recommended author, Mary E. Demuth.  This is Book 3 in the Defiance, Texas trilogy.  (The two previous books in the series, Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn were reviewed in prior months.)
This book was the completion of the saga about the disappearance of a young girl named Daisy from the small town of Defiance, Texas. And now I can say that I know the whole story.

Mary E. Demuth is a superb crafter of words.  Her choices evoke a sense of presence.  You are in Defiance. And you are one of the individuals frantic for the discovery of the young girl's fate.

The third book in the series is written from the perspective of pastor's wife, Louise Pepper. Ouisie, as she is called, is a repressed soul who carries many secrets.  The first book is written from the perspective of her son, Jed, and the second book is written from that of her friend, Emory Chance.

There was a year's pause between my reading of the first book and the second and third so I had regrettably forgotten a few of the details.  When you begin this saga make sure you have all three of the books on hand so that you can digest the story in its entirety.  This is a story about hurting individuals and God's redemptive love that you'll want to read straight through from beginning to end.    A visit to the author's website reveals that Ms. Demuth is no stranger to suffering herself.  It is most likely her own journey through pain via grace that provides the acute pathos in her writing.  Even though I knew these books comprised a work of fiction I still cried after reading them because I instinctively knew that this was written by a woman who was no stranger to pain.  And let's face it.  At the time I needed a good cry.

  • The Inheritance of Beauty by Nicole Seitz.  This is the She Reads book of the month.
Like the Defiance trilogy above, this book is about individuals whose lives hold secrets.  In this case, the individuals have grown old and have kept their childhood secrets hidden deep within them.  What happens when some of them suddenly find themselves residing in the same care facility?  Read the book to find out!

This is a charming story that explores the personalities and heritage of a few individuals from their childhood through to their days in an assisted living home.  Besides the issues of beauty, aging, and the loss of independence, it touches on what can result when people try to hide sin.  More than one generation in this book is guilty of trying to weave deception into truth.

A couple of cultures ride separate tracks throughout the story only to cross at unexpected junctures. We are provided glimpses into the superstitions of the white inhabitants of the town and that of their Gullah neighbors, all residents of the Bible belt. 

We are also afforded a look at the real beauty that emerges from inside a person as their outward beauty fades.  One can only hope that the decency that the caregiver in this novel shows to the residents in her care is mirrored in nursing homes everywhere.  

There are a few fanciful scenes in the story but they work well within the context of mental stability of the elderly and the tricks that the mind can play as a result of trauma and selective memory as well.  I enjoyed the book and recommend it.

  • Buckeye Presidents: Ohioans in the White House by Philip Weeks. 
I read this book as part of my study and preparation for the Ohio History class that I was teaching to a group of homeschooled students in grades 4-6.  I found it to be helpful in preparing brief biographical sketches.  This book was published by Kent State University so I am assuming that Mr. Weeks is a professor and fellow Ohioan.  It was refreshing to read about Ohio's contributions to the Presidency by someone who knows Ohio, her politics, and her people.  Frankly, some of the other works I consulted were broad-spectrum presidential tomes that barely scratched the surface on the topic and I understand that a manuscript that covers the complete period of U.S. government of necessity must be brief.  I, on the other hand, wanted to provide my students with meatier tidbits than the appetizers afforded in the other books.  Buckeye Presidents helped me give them some pieces to chew on.

  • Oddball Ohio by Jerome Pohlen 
Ah, yes!  More Ohio research.  This "odd" volume provided a bit of levity along with history.  It is also an unofficial tour guide of some of the stranger places in Ohio.  The author's humor is a bit, um, risque in places so I edited judicially whenever I read something aloud to my students who otherwise were appropriately amused by both the author's humor and the tawdry places he was extolling.

  • Adam Bede by George Eliot.
It took me a lot longer to listen to this classic novel than what I intended.  But once I was well into it I kept going.  There were things about the story that I enjoyed (the clear presentation of the gospel) and things I didn't (the ending, for one).  Yes, I know that Eliot was a woman and that she embraced agnosticism, but she still managed to have several sermons preached by a few of the story's characters.

I didn't think much of the book's ending.  Since this is a classic there is surely no "spoiler alert" in effect so I'll just wade right in.  The fact that Adam married his brother's longed-for love at the end to make what Eliot saw as a happy ending didn't make me happy at all.  I suspect that in real life it would not have made Adam's brother, Seth, happy either even if Seth did get to be the doting uncle to several fine children.  Really?  I waded all the way through the story just to feel like the author gave up and slapped any old convenient outcome on as the ending?  Why yes, I did.

I have never read Silas Marner and am now wondering if I should do so.  Or perhaps, that is the story I should have read in the first place.  Anyone else have an experience with the writings of Eliot and care to share your opinion?

  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. 
This was one of the audio books that I downloaded through the Ohio eBook program.  Like all of the Narnia saga that I've read (actually heard) so far, I liked the story.  Lewis's wit and humor (should I spell it h-u-m-o-u-r) are especially evident through the voice inflections of the British individuals who have so far been utilized to narrate this chronicle.  Like all the Narnia tales, I found this one to be engaging and easily digested in a day's time.  The brevity of the eBooks (4 hours on average) make for a fine afternoon of "reading" while doing housework.  The fact that this book has not been made into a movie meant that it was all new material to me also.

  • Lady in Waiting by She Reads author, Susan Meissner.
This historical novel by one of the Christian authors whose works I've recently encountered thanks to the efforts of the She Reads ladies is probably my favorite of her works.  Like The Shape of Mercy and White Picket Fences this story is based upon a token object that ties the past with the present.  In this case, it is a ring with an inscription, including the name Jane, that sets the story in motion.  The present-day Jane is intrigued by the discovery of her name in an antique ring and sets upon a journey to solve the mystery of the long-ago Jane's identity. 

There are actually two mysteries in this story.  Besides the owner of the ring, there is the puzzle of the modern day Jane's marriage.  The confusion over the broken marital relationship seemed believable as did Jane's relationship with her parents, sibling, and coworkers.  Life really isn't two dimensional, is it?  Most of the characters were sufficiently complicated and rounded.

The plot providing the historical theme is a fictitious account of the life of Lady Jane Grey, a niece of King Henry VIII.  If you are familiar with that period of world history then you are aware that many of the people surrounding Henry and his offspring were unusual indeed if they died natural deaths.  I enjoy studying the period but am mighty glad not to have lived in it!  The peasants and gentry alike were likely to suffer cruelly as the world experienced religious and monarchical upheaval.

March was a good reading month for me.  So far, April is proving to be even more promising!  And I'm ever so grateful to the fine folks who make eBooks available to me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Let Them Eat Quiche

I had all of those lovely bread crumbs from the dried out hamburger buns that I'd run through the food processor the week before and I didn't know what to do with them.   I didn't want to coat any more meats or fish before frying them and I certainly didn't want to throw the crumbs away. Wasting food is definitely not frugal!

I had the idea of using them to make a pie crust but I wasn't sure that this was possible.  I found this site here which told me that it most assuredly is.  Armed with this knowledge, I pressed on!  (Pun intended.)

I had 3 cups of crumbs that I combined with 3 tablespoons of melted butter in the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate.  I then froze the resulting shell.

Later, I took a basic quiche recipe of 4 beaten eggs combined with 3/4 cups of half and half and modified it.  I didn't have half and half but I did have a carton of heavy whipping cream (thanks Karen and Philip) that I used instead.  I did this by combining 1/2 cup of skim milk with 1/4 of the cream.

I had never made a quiche before.  We only have real men around here so I'd never attempted one.  (What?  You don't remember that book?  Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, I think it was called.)  Anyway, real men or not, mine were in for a somewhat kitschy quichey meal.

The big decision was what to put in the quiche.  We were out of all cheese except for a slice of American and none of the usual quiche filling ingredients were available either so I improvised again.  It turns out that we had a couple of banana peppers in the freezer and a jar of chunky salsa in the refrigerator.  Hmm. That salsa would definitely add some veggies to this meal!   I took about 1/2 cup of the salsa and slices of one pepper and added them to the egg batter.

I then poured the batter into the frozen shell and set my concoction into a preheated 350 degree oven.  It took about 45 minutes to bake and that was with me checking often after the first half hour to see if it was done.  I did this by inserting a bamboo skewer into it often (we're out of toothpicks, too).  When the skewer was clean, the dish was done.

The final touch was to tear up that piece of cheese and place it on top of the warm quiche.  It promptly melted and I spread it as best I could with a knife.

The Bear looked at my concoction with a skeptical eye.  Evidently he has also heard that real men don't eat quiche even though he wasn't even alive when that book first came out.  He asked me what this dish is called.

Not to be outdone I told him that it is called "Scrambled Eggs With Salsa On Buttered Toast."  (Hey!  I can call it anything I want!)  He loves scrambled eggs.  He loves buttered toast.  He ate it and he liked it!  Adding a serving of bratwurst sausage complemented the um, scrambled eggs, and used up another meat found at the bottom of my freezer.

Frugal Sunday Menu 4/3/2011

We returned home from the funeral in Tennessee last Saturday evening and had to prepare many things for the next day, including Sunday dinner.  As part of my Great Freezer Cleanout of 2011 I checked to see what was available to fix our crowd. 

I was very blessed.  One of the things in the freezer was a 3 lb. bag of skinless, boneless chicken breasts that I'd bought on sale a few weeks earlier.  A check of the pantry showed canned chicken bouillon.  Using these ingredients I was able to make a stock-pot full of chicken and dumplings.  The dumplings were made from scratch which helped to keep the cost down significantly and to improve the taste (in my opinion).

Bags of store-bought vegetables (corn and broccoli) were added, as were frozen rolls.  The big splurge of the day was a frozen store-bought turtle pie (also bought on sale) because I had no time to make a dessert. 

I have a pretty good idea of what I spent on the chicken  a few weeks ago ($5.99) and each of the veggie bags ($2.00 each).  The pie cost about $3.00.  So for about $13 I fed 11 people on Sunday and had enough chicken and dumplings left over to make lunches for 2 days.  Also, 7 of Sunday's 11 people were adults. 

Price per person on Sunday was less than $1.20 each.  Factoring in the leftover lunch portions would make the cost considerably less (below $0.90 per portion).

And the best part was that everyone liked the meal and was pleasantly surprised that we weren't forced to go out to eat due to our unexpected funeral trip.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Great Freezer Cleanout Continues

Guilty! I confess that I took the picture of the geese at the neighborhood Frisch's Big Boy during the week when we were cleanning out the freezers, pantries, and cupboards.

But not guilty for eating dinner there. We just dropped by for coffee and dessert. (I had the coconut cream pie. Yummy!)

As for food, well, we're still cleaning out the freezer. As my blogging buddy, Karin, pointed out occasionally the thing needs to be emptied and restocked. Something that was originally bought as a bargain might end up being totally wasted otherwise. Not. Good.

And as Karin also pointed out, the occasional mishap will happen. The last time our freezer was emptied was when we were hit by Hurricane Ike back in 2008. Grills all over the area were fired up to cook the contents of electricity-starved freezers: The Great American Barbecue as hosted by Hurricane Ike!

I was a bit remiss in my efforts to keep you posted, but I had good reason for it. There was a convention in town and a funeral out of town that we attended. I'm working my brain to remember what I cooked last week. Oh, wait! It's coming back to me.

  • Wednesdays are always busy days.  I boiled eggs for our lunch and The Bear and I had ours as egg salad sandwiches.  Pastor Dad just ate his with a pinch of salt.  Some of us ate fruit.
  • For supper that evening I used my food processor to grind a package of dried out hamburger buns into crumbs.  I then coated flounder fillets from the freezer with some of the crumbs that were mixed with Italian seasoning spices. Olive oil was drizzled in the pan and over the tops of the fillets before baking to make a crispier crust.
  • Thursday's lunch consisted of hotdogs from the freezer and some buns that were NOT dried out or freezer burnt.
  • Dinner that night consisted of a whole chicken (previously cut into halves before freezing) being roasted in the oven.  Canned vegetables were served as a side dish.
  • There was enough of the chicken left to make sandwiches for Friday's lunch. 
After lunch our family went downtown to the homeschool convention.  We didn't get to go as early as we would have liked or stay as late as we intended because we were either home packing for our travels or traveling itself.  Pastor Dad had a funeral to preach in Tennessee.  We left after Tim Hawkins' show (and were mighty thankful that we had tickets for the early one!) to drive south, reaching our destination around midnight our time.  We returned home the next day and made preparations for Sunday dinner, which DID happen as scheduled (much to everyone's surprise, including mine!).  I'll tell about that meal in a separate post.

In conclusion to last week's great freezer cleanout let me state that due to unforeseen circumstances (a funeral) and the fact that we barely made a dent in the contents of the downstairs freezer, I will continue the Great Freezer Cleanout this week also in a somewhat modified manner. (Meaning that there are a few things that I absolutely must, muST, MUST buy at the store this week!)

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Few Frugal Tips For Couponing & Grocery Shopping

I don't usually buy a Sunday paper. And I don't always shop with coupons. We won't go into all of the reasons why (I'm too lazy?) but we will look at a few ways that I coupon when I coupon.  And I'll throw in another hint at the end just for the fun of it. :)

It's true that we don't subscribe to the paper. We have in the past but found that it usually was recycled or composted unread. That's not a good value. However, if I happen to want a Sunday paper, I stop and buy one on the way home from church.

"Well, it looks like you're not much of an expert when it comes to couponing then," you say? Maybe not. Or maybe I've learned to maximize my time and effort. Here are a few tricks I use while living a frugal,lazy life.

  1. Only buy the newspaper when there are coupon inserts. Here's one site that lists what and when.  No need to stop for a paper when no coupons are scheduled!
  2. Start your own coupon swap between girlfriends, family, or church members. All it takes is one gullible, er, willing individual to keep the donations and to organize them into a usable fashion. In our family, it is my mom who passes her dissected coupon inserts down to me and my married daughters. We, in turn, share our own with each other before cutting everything out and passing on any we don't want to the willing coupon coordinator at our church who sorts and files them in a huge binder. We have access to that binder after church. (I stress "after" because there better not be anyone going through the book during the worship services!)
  3. Besides printing additional coupons from Smartsource and Red Plum directly from a home computer you may wish to purchase popular coupons for a nominal fee from a clipping service. This site offers a review of some of them. More may be found via Internet searches. (When I did a search of my city I found that there is a service in my neighborhood! Who knew?!) If you find one in your area you might be able to pick up your selections saving the postage and cutting the wait time.
  4. Once you've got your coupons there is the problem of organizing them. This is where my program always broke down. I hate searching through my folder or envelopes while in the store so I devised a workable solution for me. File the coupons by store rows. Then it doesn't matter that my store hides the toilet paper& in the same row as the cereal. Those coupons are in the same pocket. And I'm only dealing with one pocket at a time, moving my finger from pocket-to-pocket as I progress through the store. (If I go to a different store I need to remember that the toilet paper coupons are in with the cereal ones, but that's never been a problem for me.)
*I've got one more tip for helping to stay on track in the grocery store. Put the allotted grocery budget on a store gift card. I used to shop with cash (a la the Dave Ramsey method) but was astounded at the things that we might designate as "groceries" in a financial pinch. I might get to the store and find that the envelope money bought dog food at the pet store. (Hey! I thought we were trying to keep us from eating Alpo!) Putting the money onto a reloadable store gift card put a stop to that. And I'm especially careful with my purchases knowing there is a finite amount on that card. (Can you say, "No, son, there isn't enough on the card to purchase that big bag of beef jerky"? I can now.)

As an added bonus, since I shop at Kroger and our church participates in their Neighborhood Reward Program my reloads mean the company will make a 4% donation toward church summer camp for children who can't afford to pay their way. Check with your retailer to see if they have a similar program and then ask your church or charitable organization to participate.

Okay, I don't just shop at Kroger. But I do buy about 75% of my groceries there.  I reload my card 3 weeks out of each month and use the money for the 4th week to shop elsewhere. Someone else might need to put 75% and save 25% as cash each week for other expenditures, like dog food from the pet store or sales at other markets. Whatever works best for you. This is just how I budget to make sure only one "member of the family" is required to eat dog food. :)