Here's to new beginnings....

One of the things we did while I've been away was to witness the beginning of a new family.

Our friend Doug has been waiting a loooong time for the right woman to come along. He finally met her in Nicole, and they were married this weekend, just a couple days shy of the anniversary of their first date, January 1, 2008.

Moments like this give me hope for the future. '08 was bleak for many people in many ways, and if you watch too much nightly news (I try to avoid it), 2009 holds the possibility of being even worse. And yet, there is joy and optimism to be found if you take the time to look for it. Happy things like the beginning of a new life together, or the beginning of a little life ( other families, not in mine!).

It reminds me of the writer of Ecclesiastes who points out that "to everything there is a season..."

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

There will be times of abundance and times of little. One follows the other sooner or later. So, with the dawn of a new year just around the corner, let's toast to new beginnings and the hope they offer that things will indeed be better.

I know at least two people who will say they already are.


S-i-l-e-n-t Blog, Lonely Blog

S-i-l-e-n-t Blog, Lonely Blog,
Sorry I've been gone so long.
Hurrying, scurrying hither and yon,
Preparing for family, "here we come"
Crazy time of year, busy time of year.

S-i-l-e-n-t Blog, Q-u-i-e-t Blog,
Trying to get everything done.
Shopping, cleaning, family time,
Not much time for thoughts of mine.
Crazy time of year, busy time of year.

S-i-l-e-n-t Blog, Q-u-i-e-t Heart,
Keeping things straight from the start.
Radiant smiles on Bug and Boo's face
Learning to see God's abundant grace.
Special time of year, holy time of year.

(My apologies to Joseph Mohr, the composer of the original and much better carol.)
I'm sure you can relate--for the past three weeks my lists have had lists and the countdown to Christmas seems to have happened at double-time. With everything else to be done (especially when I tend to procrastinate in direct proportion to the degree I'm overwhelmed with it all), it didn't seem appropriate to spend much time here.
So I'll spend the rest of this week trying to keep our focus where it belongs (at 3 and 5, it's not easy to keep the boys perspective in the right place this time of year!). This weekend we'll be attending the l-o-n-g awaited wedding of Hub's last unmarried college roommate. And after that, hopefully things will fall back into the old rhythm where I can manage to get some thoughts down a couple times a week.
In the meantime, I hope you're having a blessed Christmas week, and that whatever else you may be doing, you'll have some time to remember the babe whose birth changes the world forever, one heart at a time.

Twice a year...

I love these guys. (Well, I love these guys all the time, despite how the title makes it look!)

And I can't imagine my family made up of any other people.

But twice a year I wish I had a reason to shop for these...

I don't even think of it until I happen past the children's department this time of year. Rack after rack of shiny, floaty confections and no one to inflict my nostalgia upon. Even my niece is all grown up and past the frilly dress stage. I need someone to shop vicariously for!

What do YOU cook...?

...when there's no food in the house?

According to StatCounter, one of the searches that has brought the most people to my blog in the past few weeks is "What to cook when there's no food in the house." It leads people to my previous post about stocking a pantry.

I know having a stocked pantry is a great philosophy and it really does work to always be able to pull a meal together, but I've been thinking...what do you cook if your pantry isn't stocked and you can't manage a trip to the market? What can you whip up when you're scanning the cupboards and the fridge for whatever remnants you can find that can be turned into something tasty (and hopefully filling and nutritious too!)? In this economy, I think there will be days when supplies are lower than we're used to and we still need to pull off something to feed the family.

I know a lot of people do breakfast for dinner--eggs, pancakes, french toast. I'm not a hot cereal fan, but there is a returning interest in oatmeal--an oatmeal bar with various toppings could be fun...brown sugar, butter, cinnamon sugar, raisins or other dried fruit (apples, berries, dates, etc) nuts...other suggestions?

If you learn to make a basic white sauce from scratch (butter, flour, milk), you can always throw together something to serve over pasta or rice. For a pasta sauce, you can add garlic and/or herbs, or melt a couple of ounces of any bits of cheese. To make it a meal, you can add leftover chicken and/or veggies. My mom would make creamed tuna or creamed chipped beef on toast, both with the same basic sauce. Here's a link to a 5-star version on; if you read the comments, you'll get lots of ideas of ways to use this sauce.

In one famous story of "what to cook when there's no food in the house," in the midst of a famine, a widow had just enough for flour and oil for one final meal for herself and her son. In fact, she encountered Elijah when she was gathering sticks to use to cook what she expected to be her final meal. Elijah told her to use her meager supplies to make bread to share with him. God blessed her faithfulness and she had enough for the three of them until rain returned to the land and the famine was over.

Times can seem (or actually be) very bleak right now, but as we follow His leading to share what we have with others in need, God will be faithful to meet our needs as well.

So, what do YOU cook when there's "no food in the house?" Can you make a great soup from odds and ends? Do you have a formula for a casserole to feed a family? What's your go-to meal when the cupboards are bare? Where do you find ideas or inspiration?

Here are a couple of sites that might be helpful:

  • Kraft Foods site--lets you type in ingredients you have (and don't have) and it will suggest recipes
  • The Betty Crocker website does the same thing--list ingredients you have and what meal you're trying to prepare.
  • Recipeland--I typed in 'kidney beans, tomato sauce, cheese' and it came up with 195 recipes. 48,000 recipes in their database. There's a good chance you can find something to make with whatever odds and ends you have.
Feel free to share a recipe or share a link of your own.

The Advent of Advent

Did it sneak up on you? I knew it was coming but it's still hard for me to be 'ready' right on the heels of Thanksgiving (especially since we were out of town all of last week).

Last year was the first time we did anything specific with Advent in mind. Bug was four, and while not wrapped up in the Santa thing (which we've never told him about but it really can't be avoided altogether), had caught on that he was going to get presents on Christmas. I wanted to do something to help them understand the real reason for the whole season of celebration.

So I started an advent/nativity set/Christmas tree tradition that walks us to Christmas a little at a time. The kids got more excited than I expected them to about pulling out the ornament for the day and putting it on the little tree.

With the state of the economy--the state of the world!--it seems even more appropriate this year to take the focus off the shopping and the wrapping and the going and the doing, and bring it back to a stable in Bethlehem where the greatest gift of all time was revealed to a waiting world.

I love hearing other ideas for finding the meaning in this special time that is sooo full of meaningless. Kristen at We are THAT Family posted the unique advent schedule she's planning with her family. She shared it in .pdf format so you can use it or adapt if for your own family. Have you seen any other good advent ideas out there in the blogosphere?
What are some of the things you'll do this year to keep the meaning in the moment?
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