WUT's Up--Weekend's Useful Tip

Making sure your purse gets cleaned out

  1. Buy a large iced tea for the long ride home.

  2. Place drink in flimsy cup holder.

  3. Position purse on floor of car on passenger side.

  4. Take the final turn just before home a tad faster than necessary, ensuring that the centrifugal force flings the drink precisely upside down in purse.

  5. Pull into driveway, remove drink from purse.

  6. Dump entire contents of purse on car seat, pull lining inside out to free the last bits of soggy receipts and tissues, sticky m&m's and un-sticky postage stamps.

Voila! One completely empty, cleaned out purse.

Why I don't write humor

Here's a little trade secret for you...humor writers exaggerate. Yes, the essence of the story is probably true. But there's something in the telling that adds an extra catastrophe here and a dash of embellishment there.

I learned this a few years ago at a writer's conference. I was sitting in a room with some of the funniest writers (and editors) around, being entertained by their tales and contributing my much weaker attempts when appropriate. At one point, someone asked if their lives are really that much funnier or full of calamity than the rest of us. I was surprisingly disappointed to find out that no, they don't really live a life full of hilarity; but they can take a simple embarrassing moment, add some color and create a side-spliting story that leaves the rest of us mere mortals in stitches.

(Sorry, I probably should have added a "spoiler" disclaimer to this post, although many of the funny bloggers have owned up to the same detail.)

I used to read a lot of fiction when I was growing up. I even have a couple of stories in me that seem to want telling, but I'm somewhat deficient in the ability to create details where none exist. The bottom line is that I'm not a good exaggerator.

Now, it's not to say that I don't try to be funny. I do. Sometimes with more success than others, I'm sure. But in the bloggy world, mine would probably not garner a nomination for anything in the "humor" category.

So, if you encounter a mildly amusing post about a disastrous day, or something funny that my kids said, you can be pretty sure that that's just about how it happened.

Introducing RefreshMom Reviews!

The blogging world is filled with all kinds of perspectives and purposes and points-of-view. I think one thing every blogger has in common with every other is that we all like sharing our opinions. I mean, we're here writing whether anyone is reading or not; maybe cause we like to share?

Anyway, I'm opening another venue for my opinions of a more material sort. RefreshMom Reviews will be mostly book reviews. I'm blessed to be friends with many real (read "published") writers and would love to share their books with you. I'm also a reviewer for Thomas Nelson publishers, so I'll be posting my reviews of the books I review for them as well. And from time to time there might be an interesting product or movie or website that I want to share.

So if you're looking for something to read or just want to hear more of my opinions, stop by!

Welcome to the "No Food in the House" Club

This post is especially for my guests who found this blog by putting "no food in the house" into their search engine. Ever since I made my "You can't cook if there's no food in the house" post, I've gotten many visits a week from people who haven't got a stocked pantry. With the worldwide economy in its' present state, I have a feeling that I'll be getting even more visits in the months to come.
So, in order to better serve those who need something to fix tonight, I'm going to offer a few suggestions. I'm also listing some resources that might be helpful in the future. And I'd love comments from any of you who have ideas to share as well.

Soups are a great option when you've got little in the way of ingredients. A few cans of veggies (whatever you have can work together), some pasta or rice and any bits of leftover meat can be stretched a number of ways. Mix together some quick biscuits or cornbread (we like the Jiffy mix best and it's usally under .50 a box; follow the "johnny cake" recipe and bake in a round pan) and you've got a warm, filling, comforting meal.

Here's a good overall outline for making quick soup (ignore the title on the post; he does a good job breaking down the basic ingredients in soup so you have a nice starting point working with whatever you have).

A take-off from soup that is a great source of protein and doesn't taste like the economy meal it is. My favorite recipe is really easy:

From the Better Homes and Gardens website (and red checkered cookbook)

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper (1 small)
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, undrained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Chopped onion (optional)
Dairy sour cream (optional)
Crushed red pepper (optional)

1. In a 3-quart saucepan cook and stir ground beef, sweet pepper, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and the garlic over medium heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.

2. Stir in tomato sauce, undrained beans, undrained tomatoes, chili powder, salt, basil, and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. To serve, ladle chili into bowls. If desired, top each serving with cheese, chopped onion, and/or sour cream and pass crushed red pepper. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

This is a very forgiving recipe that you can adapt to suit your tastes. I don't like chunks of tomatoes, so I just use tomato sauce and two cans of kidney beans. You can make it without the meat if you don't have any, or use less to make what you do have go farther. It also freezes well for future use.

What about when you're down to your last two eggs and you've got a family to feed? How about quiche? It's another way to use whatever bits of meat and veggies and cheese you have on hand to become something more substantial.

My favorite mock-quiche comes from the Bisquick site. It only takes two eggs and one cup of milk, so it's a good option when you're down to next-to-nothing.

I like a turkey ham/broccoli/cheese combo the best, but they offer lots of interesting combinations for any leftovers you might have. Some of the variations under the "Impossibly Easy (fill in the blank) Pie" label include, Cheeseburger, Ham 'n' Swiss, Quesadilla, Salmon and Asparagus...check out the site for something that suits you.

If you don't have Bisquick or a baking mix (here's a do it yourself version you can always have on hand), you can make a quick crumb crust using whatever crackers you have (not graham crackers though):

1 1/2 cups crushed crackers (wheat thins, Cheez-its, Ritz, saltines, etc)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Combine cracker crumbs and melted butter or margarine until crumbs are well coated. Press evenly into a 9 inch pie plate. Pour in desired filling and bake according to filling recipe.

Links to the real thing:
All Recipes.com quiche recipes

Here's another quick way to make a filling meal with things you probably have in the back of the cupboard. While most of us are spoiled with having a jar of sauce around, it's almost as easy to make something from scratch once you know how to make a basic white sauce and a basic red sauce.

Once you've got a sauce going, the same ingredients you had for the quiche go well with the pasta. Add some cheese to the white sauce for a quick, tasty mac 'n' cheese. Leftover chicken and cajun seasoning makes one of my favorite restaurant dishes; quick, easy and cheap.

It's all about mixing and matching
Once you get used to seeing bits of various things as ingredients for other dishes, you'll find that no matter how bare the pantry seems, if you have a couple cans of something, meat of some sort (or not), pasta or rice, you can create a nourishing and satisfying meal.

You'll also find that you can make a ham or roast or turkey feed you for most of the week. So, the ham you fixed on Sunday can be served as leftovers Monday, be cut up and made into a quiche with broccoli on Tuesday, and a pasta dish with frozen peas or any other canned/frozen vegetable Wednesday or Thursday, and soup on Friday. Each meal is different enough you won't really face the "What? Ham again?" complaint.

Finally, here are some resources for you to find other options.

Recipe search engines where you can list the ingredients you do have:
Betty Crocker recipe finder
All Recipes Ingredient Search (lets you say ingredients you don't want too)
Kraft Foods (also lets you exclude ingredients)

Other good recipe sites for inspiration:
Better Homes and Gardens recipes (LOVE this one)

I'd love to hear what worked and what didn't, what you did to improvise. If you have other resources you use when you're stumped on what to fix, list those too. And I want you to know that I pray for each of you that happens across my blog by way of "no food in the house."

A Battle of Wills

"Stupid." Boo says with a sly grin as he runs past me to stay out of arms reach.

At a loss for 'worse' words (because he doesn't know any) he throws 'stupid' around with a true sense of defiance. It wasn't in response to anything or provoked in any way, he's just testing me.

The truth is, sometimes he gets the better of me. My hands are full, I'm busy with something else, I don't want to take time and energy away from Bug, and Boo kind of gets away with stuff like that.

But tonight, I had nothing better to do than engage in a battle of wills with my three year old. And while his energy level may surpass mine most of the time, when I set my mind to it, I still always have the capacity to "win" if I so choose.

So we did this dance for the better part of an hour. He, running past, alternately shouting and whispering his insult; I, correcting, catching, time-outing, "you deal with him Dad"ing, etc.

Finally, all other avenues of correction exhausted, I pulled out the trump card. I put him in my lap, wrapped my arms around his, crossed my leg over the top of his and held him close. It wasn't tight by any means. It didn't even require any true effort to keep him there. Like a well-executed wrestling hold, there was just no way for him to escape no matter how much wriggling, fighting and crying he put forth. As much as he craves this kind of attention many times throughout the day, when struck by the urge to run, there is nothing he hates more than to be confined, even in loving arms.

Finally, after two bouts with me and one with Daddy there was no fight left in him. He went and got some books for me to read and then said he was ready to go to sleep.

Such a lot of effort over something so ridiculous!

I wonder how often God has felt that way about me. He wants to help me see that my attitude is getting off track. I don't listen to his correction as I wander back and forth through my day spouting the very things I've been corrected for so many times. I'm not on my own in my defiance even though I feel so independent and detached from what I know to be right.

Finally, all other avenues exhausted, he wraps His arms around me, holds me close and reminds me yet again that he wants my best and I am choosing to wander from it.
As I stop wriggling and fighting for my own way I realize that I am snuggled and supported and loved. Exactly what He wanted for me from the start.


Rules vs. Relationships

"Can you do me a favor?" came the question as I opened the door to my neighbor.

"It depends..." I mean, does anyone automatically say 'yes' to such an open-ended question?

"Could you give me a ride to the store?"

A few weeks ago it was a ride to work. The day before that, she came over because there was a "domestic disturbance" at her house and she wanted me to get her keys. It turns out she'd been drinking and her family wouldn't give her the keys (there's always two sides, isn't there?). Since then she's been grounded from driving.

Sadly, my first response is not to grab my keys and head cheerfully for the door. She needed eggs "for the children's breakfast." Honestly, I'd rather have shared my eggs had she asked.

There is a selfish part of me that doesn't want to become her private taxi service. Gas is expensive, I'm busy and the last thing I want to do so close to dinner time is load the boys into the car to drive to the grocery store (or wherever).

But there's another side that wants to be a good neighbor--even though I've never lived in a neighborhood where I've seen real neighborliness. I want to make the most of every opportunity to be a witness to a family that comes from another culture and is at least loosely attached to a religion that's often antagonistic (even hostile) to ours.

I looked at my watch. I did have more than an hour until we were supposed to head to our small group tonight; the kids were fed and Hubs was just meeting us there. I had no real reason to deny the request. So, I did overrule my initial "not right now" response and we loaded up and went to the store.

My Bible study recently was about the Ten Commandments. It was explained that the Ten Commandments and the other "Civil Laws" were given just to the Hebrews, not to other cultures of the time. One of the questions was "How do you feel about being held to a higher standard?"

That was an easy one for me. I've always been kind of a rule-follower by nature. I'm all for avoiding bad consequences by not doing wrong things to begin with. That's not to say I always had a great attitude about it, but for the most part, doing the right thing comes pretty easily.

When it comes to rules that is. Now that we're "under grace" rather than under the law, we don't have that big ol' checklist of things to do/not to do/what-to-do-if-you-did-what-you-weren't-supposed-to-do. That should make it easier.

It was all summed up with "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment."

So why is that part harder for me sometimes?


Kids Inspiration--The Potters Clay

Note: From time to time I'll be posting a RefreshMoments-type devotion intended to be shared with children. It will include a recipe or craft-type object lesson, a scripture passage and a short devotion to help communicate something about God.

The Potters Clay

But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Do you like to be creative? Maybe you like to draw, or build things with Legos. Maybe you sing or dance or write stories.

Did you know that the desire and ability to be creative comes from God? You probably know that He made the world--the animals, the trees, the ocean and everything in it. He even made you just the way you are. The Bible tells us:

Then God said, “Let us make human beings n our image, to be like us...”
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:13
Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good. Genesis 1:31

One of God's own characteristics that He gave to you is the ability to create and to find pleasure in what you can dream up and make. Whenever you play with play clay, enjoy the ability He gave you to be creative too. And think of God forming every bit of you--from the hair on your head to the nail on your little toe. Remember that He loves you and is happy that He made you just the way you are.

A grown-up needs to help make this play clay; it needs to be cooked on the stove.
Homemade Play Clay
1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cream of tartar*
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup salt
food coloring

Mix all ingredients, adding food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth. Place in plastic bag or airtight container when cooled. Store in refrigerator. Lasts for weeks.
*You can often find cream of tartar at health food stores or in the bulk spice department for less than the tiny jars in the grocery store.

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