Thursday, May 31, 2007

Slow Cooking Thursday for May 31

Here's what we ate for lunch this past Sunday:

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (for the crock pot)

6 cups chicken broth
12 to 15 1/2-ounce frozen meatballs (or 6 to 8 1-oz. ones)
1 small boneless skinless chicken breast (may be frozen)
Sliced celery to taste (I usually use a cup or two)
Cut-up carrots to taste (I usually use baby carrots and quarter them --
again, about a cup or two)
Spinach to taste, stems removed (can use up to a bunch of spinach -- I
have used part of a bag of baby spinach leaves or of frozen cut leaf
Garlic powder to taste
Lemon pepper to taste
1/4 cup tiny pasta, like alphabets or orzo (add during last hour of
Parmesan or Romano cheese to taste

Put the meatballs on a microwave safe plate and defrost them for a
minute or two, so you can quarter them. If using the larger (1 oz.)
meatballs, cut them in eighths.

Put in crock pot along with broth, chicken, vegetables and seasonings.
Cook all day on low or 3 hours on high.

Add pasta during the last hour of cooking. (In the case of alphabets, I have added them 10 or 15 minutes before serving and they cook just fine.) Before serving, remove the chicken
breast and cut it or shred it in small pieces. Return chicken to the soup.

Serve with Parmesan or Romano cheese for people to add to taste.

Probably makes about 6 servings.

This is one of my crock pot standbys! So easy with homemade bread from the bread machine!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tomato Eggplant Bake

This was a new recipe I was trying out from a Taste of Home magazine of a couple years ago. As I prepared it, though, I realized that except for the baking time and temperature, it was almost exactly like another recipe (with the odd name of Baked Eggplant Sandwich) I'd copied from a cookbook at a friend's house at least 25 years ago. So to share the recipe here, I've sort of merged the two recipes together. It is a very tasty way to enjoy eggplant!


1 medium eggplant
2 large or 4 small tomatoes (I used 4 small plum tomatoes)
1 onion
1 green pepper
Salt & pepper
Dried basil
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
3 Tblsp. olive oil*
Grated parmesan cheese to taste (a couple of tablespoons or less)
4 to 6 slices mozzarella cheese, or about a cup of shredded mozzarella

Heat the oven to 350º. Line a 13x9-inch baking dish with foil, or grease it lightly. Wash the vegetables and slice the eggplant about 1/2 inch thick. Slice the other vegetables about 1/4 inch thick. Layer the vegetables in the baking pan, sprinkling with salt, pepper and basil as you go. Combine the crumbs and olive oil; sprinkle over the vegetables. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over crumbs. Cover dish with foil and bake at 350º for 1 hour. Remove foil; cut sliced mozzarella into quarters and arrange over top of crumbs. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes more until cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes about 4 servings as a main dish.

* Original recipe calls for 1/2 cup melted butter. I leave it to your conscience.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for May 28

Another Monday, and here in the U.S. a holiday too! Here's my plan for the week:

MONDAY: (Memorial Day cookout) Grilled Steak, Hot Dogs, Baked Beans, Potato Salad, Baby Carrots, Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

TUESDAY: Tomato Eggplant Bake, Green Beans, Salad

WEDNESDAY: Turkey Sausage Subs, Black-Eyed Pea Salad

THURSDAY: Pineapple Chicken Lo Mein, Asparagus Stir-fry Vegetables

FRIDAY: Overnight Spinach Manicotti, Salad, Bread

SATURDAY: Veggie Burgers, Pasta or Potato Salad

SUNDAY: (Potluck at church) Greek Pasta Salad with Chicken, Parmesan Breadsticks, Frozen Strawberry Pie

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Marshmallow Brownies


 I don't know how many other people do what I do with my cooking magazines like Quick Cooking, Taste of Home, and Cook & Tell, but I like to get out all of the past issues for the particular time of year -- for instance, now I'm beginning to get out the ones for May/June and June/July -- and use them to help plan my menus. Almost always, I find some great new recipes I've never tried before or rediscover an old favorite. 

 This week I tried this great recipe to take to a picnic-themed lunch with friends. These brownies were a hit! 


 1 cup butterscotch chips 1/2 cup butter or margarine 2 eggs 2/3 cup packed brown sugar 1 tsp. vanilla 1 - 1/2 cups flour 2 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 2 cups miniature marshmallows 2 cups chocolate chips 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I left these out) In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butterscotch chips with the butter. Cool for 10 minutes, then beat in the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the butterscotch mixture and mix well. Stir in the marshmallows, chocolate chips and the nuts if you are using them. Spread mixture into a greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 325º for 25-30 minutes or until brownies test done. Cool before cutting. Yield: 2 to 3 dozen, depending on how large you cut the squares. This recipe is adapted from one in a Taste of Home magazine from 1997. I had never tried the recipe until this year -- 10 years later! These brownies are yummy and different and perfect for a picnic.

Household Hint of the Day

I probably won’t do this often, because I’m still learning and growing in this area. But every now and then I may share a housekeeping idea. Here is one I wish I’d learned much earlier:

Overflowing wastebaskets/trash cans make a room look much messier than it may actually be. (I thought of this one today because my kitchen trash is near to overflowing, and I didn’t follow my own household hint until today this week!) Part of FlyLady’s weekly home blessing (done on Mondays) is to empty the trash cans in each room. Here’s how I do it:

Once a week, I take a tall kitchen trash bag around to every room that has a wastebasket (excluding the kitchen; obviously, that’s an area all its own). In my house that means 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and the computer room. I empty these wastebaskets into the trash bag and stash the bag in the basement until the next week, because it’s not full yet. You could stash it in any out of the way place like a laundry room, utility room, even a closet. And I check the wastebasket in the downstairs bathroom (the one guests are most likely to use) every day, putting any trash from it into the kitchen trash.

Probably a lot of people already do this. Others, though, may think this is unnecessary or even odd. But give it a try. You will probably notice, as I have, that your rooms look much neater for such a small amount of effort.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

8 interesting things about me

Carrie has just tagged me to do this. Oh my, I don’t know if I can come up with 8 interesting things. But I’ll try.

1. As a child (pre-school) I used to be able to cut paper using scissors WITHOUT putting my fingers in the holes. Don’t ask me how -- I couldn’t do it now if I tried.

2. I taught myself to read at the age of 4, mostly by looking at newspaper comics and asking my parents what different combinations of letters spelled. Kindergarten was not required in my state, so I didn’t go. In first grade, the teacher would often let me go to the library during reading class.

3. I wear glasses to drive and see things at a distance, but it drives me crazy to wear my glasses while trying to do anything else, like reading or cross-stitching. It’s not exactly interesting, but a lot of people don’t even realize I wear glasses.

4. I have had several recipes and craft ideas published in magazines and in Gooseberry Patch books. This has resulted in getting some free Gooseberry books and some free annual volumes from Light & Tasty and Quick Cooking. Fun!

5. I have a very hard time remembering left from right. As a child, I learned that my right wrist was the one with a mole on it, so I would glance at my wrist when I needed to tell left from right. Still do sometimes.

6. All 3 of my kids have nice singing voices and all 3 have been church pianists at some time in their lives. I, however, can’t read a note of music.

7. I have a gigantic cookbook collection. In the hundreds, for sure.

8. I do not have a green thumb by any stretch of the imagination. I have killed off more plants than I care to remember.

Okay, now that everyone is probably half asleep -- I guess I need to tag someone for this. How about ... Susan? (Or have you already done this one?)

Slow Cooking Thursday for May 24

Sandra had mentioned this feature of hers and so I decided I would try and join in this week by sharing a recipe I tried on Sunday. I love doing a crockpot meal on Sundays and having everything all ready when we return from church. I found this recipe originally on FlyLady's site; it was one of many sent in by her readers -- and adapted it to our tastes.


1 can lite coconut milk (made by Taste of Thai)
1 can cream of chicken soup
A few tablespoons of apple juice concentrate
1 tsp. curry powder
Sliced mushrooms to taste
Baby onions to taste
Baby carrots to taste
Frozen peas to taste
Boneless chicken breasts to feed your family
Salt & pepper

Mix together the coconut milk, soup, juice, and curry powder in the bottom of your crock pot liner. Add remaining ingredients and sprinkle with salt & pepper. (You might think this isn’t necessary along with the curry powder -- that’s what I thought --but I found that it was.)

Cover crock pot and turn to high for an hour or two, then turn to low for 3 to 4 hours. (Or you could simply cook it for 8 hours or so on low.) Serve over rice or pasta.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

The vegetables and cream soup on this can be varied -- use whatever kinds you like, have on hand, or think would taste good. This is just what I used. If you’re going to serve it over rice, I think this would be nicer if it was thickened a bit with cornstarch. It was just a little too soupy. But the flavor is delectable. It is a very, very mild curry flavor as the coconut milk really mellows it out. If you really love curry, you will probably want to consider adding more curry powder.

For serving this right after church, I used the Uncle Ben's Ready Rice -- the brown rice. (90 seconds in the microwave!) I served it with a bagged romaine salad -- quick and easy!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Riding a Mountain Railway

Patty has asked if I would post some of the thoughts from my newest summer devotional book for kids. Here is the first page, which the kids in our church would have done on May 16.

"For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death." (Psalm 48:14)

This year's summer devotional book is all about trains and railroads. We will learn many, many things about the history of railroading and also about what trains and train travel are like today. It will be lots of fun to "ride the rails" together!

There are many songs about trains and railroads, and some of them are Christian songs. We will learn about some of these railroad songs through the summer.
One old song is called "Life's Railway to Heaven". This song says that living the Christian life is sort of like traveling on a mountain railroad. Our journey begins when we ask Jesus to be our personal Savior and we are born again. Our journey ends when we get to heaven someday. But our journey is not just a straight, simple trip from here to heaven, is it? All sorts of things can happen along the way. We have good times and bad times. We have sad times and happy times. We have times when we are healthy and times when we are sick or hurt. We have times when we are walking with God faithfully and times when we do not walk with Him as we should.

The chorus to the song "Life's Railway to Heaven" says:

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,

Till we reach that blissful shore,
Where the angels wait to join us

In God's praise forevermore.

And it is true that God will be our guide all along our journey through life. Our verse tells us that He will be our guide for ever and ever, even until death. What a faithful God He is!

* If you are a Christian, thank God that He will be your faithful guide through your whole life. Ask Him to help you follow Him each day. If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, you can do that today!

As you can see, each day's page begins with a Bible verse; for the kids, I leave blanks in the verse for them to fill in some of the words. This ensures that they will read it. At the end of each page are some prayer suggestions for them to use.

I'll post some more pages as time goes on!

Better late than never...

On Saturday I finally got around to spending some time working in Zone 3, the bathroom. Here's what I did:

* Washed the shower curtain & tub mat

* Scrubbed the tub/shower with Greased Lightning.

* Took out the hamper/laundry baskets (the hamper went to the dump)

* Replaced the above items with a spiffy new laundry sorter

* Thoroughly vacuumed the floor

* Washed the floor under where the hamper had been with Tilex

And that's about it. But I was pleased to have accomplished so much.

On to Zone 4 this week!

A delicious seafood chowder

I've made this recipe a couple of times now, and we really, really like it a lot. Hope others enjoy trying this as well!


1 small onion, chopped
1 Tblsp. canola or olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
2 to 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/4 cup Clamato® juice
1/4 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning (or use more to taste)
1 cup frozen salad shrimp
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 can crabmeat, drained and flaked (I used about 4 ounces imitation crabmeat, flaked)

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, saute´the onion in the oil until tender. Stir in the broth, potatoes, celery, carrots, Clamato® juice and lemon-pepper. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the salad shrimp.

In a jar or plastic shaker, shake the milk and flour together until smooth. Stir into soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until soup is thickened. Add the cheese and crab; cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

What a delicious chowder this is, and so quick to make. I found the recipe in Taste of Home magazine, but I’ve adapted it quite a bit to reduce the fat.

Menu Plan Monday for May 21

Well, it's Monday again. I have quite a few repeats from last week owing to menus not used.

MONDAY: Leftovers from the past few nights -- Creamy Chicken Vegetable Soup (made from the remnants of Sunday's Changeling Chicken) and Golden Seafood Chowder (from Sat.); Whole Wheat Bread

TUESDAY: Spinach-Stuffed Pizza; Five-Bean Salad

WEDNESDAY: Salmon Salad Sandwiches; Five-Bean Salad; Baby Carrots

THURSDAY: Alphabet Vegetable Soup; Cornbread

FRIDAY: Picnic meal with other ladies for lunch (postponed from last week) -- I'm bringing Cucumber Sandwiches, Honey Mustard Potato Salad, Marshmallow Brownies. Supper will be probably leftover potato salad and Crock-Pot Ribs.

SATURDAY: Overnight Spinach Manicotti, Salad, Bread

SUNDAY: Italian Wedding Soup, Multigrain Ciabatta

Friday, May 18, 2007

A tasty sandwich recipe

I made these sandwiches on Wednesday night to serve with potato salad as a quick supper before prayer meeting. We liked them a lot! Maybe someone else would like to try these, too.


4 English muffins (we use wheat ones)
1 pound ground beef (85 to 90% lean is good)
2 tsp. ketchup
2 tsp. mustard, any kind
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Garlic powder to taste
Thyme to taste (substitute another herb if you prefer)
Pepper to taste

Split the English muffins and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake them in a 425º oven until lightly toasted, probably 8 to 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients. Divide the meat mixture into 8 equal portions. Form each portion into a ball and flatten it into a patty that will be just a little larger than the English muffin. Press the patties onto the muffin halves. Set the oven control to Broil and broil the burgers to the desired doneness. (My broiler doesn’t work, so I cooked these at 450º for about 15-20 minutes and they were fine.)

Yield: 4 servings.

I’ve adapted this recipe from my favorite cooking newsletter, Cook & Tell. I have no idea who Aunt Ned is, but her burgers are very tasty! If you don’t care for thyme, substitute another herb or even a seasoning blend like Montreal Steak, etc. I haven’t tried doing this, but the recipe states the burgers can be frozen before broiling and then kept in the freezer for later use.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 1

Okay, I've reached the end of my 21-day back on track challenge. Has it been successful? Not entirely. However, I have re-established the habit of exercise -- the habit I'd really fallen down on and was most concerned about. To me, that's a huge victory! One way I've motivated myself to exercise daily is to reward myself after exercising with an opportunity to post on my Christmas Kitchen blog. It's worked beautifully.

For today, here's what got done:

* Bible study -- just worked on my Sunday School lesson. Almost done! This has been a very challenging lesson.

* Creativity -- spent some time researching crafts for Vacation Bible School. Brought home all the craft materials from church to see what we already have that can be used. Started going through the materials and have thrown away some junk already.

* Homemaking -- just the basic routines. Did some baking for a tea party with friends (rescheduled until next Friday). Finished my menu planning and grocery list. Cooked a meal for my parents and did their grocery shopping.

* Health & energy -- did pretty well drinking water, kept up with BCI. Exercised; went for a walk.

In other news: I got a call tonight from a church in another state interested in purchasing some of the kids' summer devotional books I've written. Exciting stuff!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 2

Another busy day with time spent out of the house. Here's what little I got done:

* Bible study -- just time spent on my Sunday School lesson.

* Creativity -- posted here at my kitchen table; created a graphic to use on the post; did a bit of cross stitch

* Homemaking -- Just basic routines. Worked on my grocery list.

* Health & energy -- drank water, exercised, ate healthy, kept up with BCI -- guess that's about it.

Sure hoping for a more productive day tomorrow!

Bright Spots on a Dreary Day

It’s raining today -- not pouring, but a light steady rain that doesn’t look like it wants to quit anytime soon. Yesterday was also a dreary day, although it wasn’t actually raining most of the time. And on that dreary day, I was involved in a dreary task -- washing dishes in my parents’ kitchen. My mother is ill and I had gone there to stay while my dad went to the dentist. There was plenty to do, so I kept busy. One of the tasks I accomplished was washing up the morning’s dishes. It was as I stood there at the sink. looking absently out of the window, that I noticed three beautiful bright spots in a very dreary day.

First it was the bluebirds. Eastern bluebirds are absolutely breathtaking in their beauty. Two of them perched on the clothesline posts out back. That would have been enough to lift my spirits right there. But as I watched, one of them flew down to the ground and briefly lighted there. And for just a moment there was the most glorious juxtaposition of colors -- the bright blue bird, the bright green grass, and a bright yellow dandelion. What an amazing sight it was! As I said, it lasted only a moment. But wasn’t God good to allow me to look out the kitchen window at that very moment?

In thinking about it later, I found spiritual applications in what I’d seen. First, is that in every situation, no matter how dark and dreary, God will give us glimpses of His love and sovereignty if we will only take the time to look.

Second -- and this is something I’ve noticed before -- is that God wants believers to shine, to glorify Him, no matter how dark and dreary a time they are going through. Things show up brighter and more beautifully against a dark background -- think of diamonds against black velvet, or glowing fall leaves on a dull autumn day, or bright dandelions and violets on a gray afternoon in spring.

Elizabeth George expands upon this theme in her wonderful book God’s Garden of Grace. It is worth hunting for this book just to read her encouraging words. Words like these: “True spiritual joy shines brightest against the darkness of trials, tragedy, and testing and the blacker the background, the greater the brilliance. Similarly, life’s dark struggles make Christian joy more intense and our heartfelt praise more glorious.”

My bluebird, dandelion and green grass on a dreary day are simple reminders of a very complex and remarkable truth. I was so encouraged! I hope you will be, too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 3

Well, I'm getting down to the wire on this challenge. Have I been successful in re-establishing my good habits? In some areas, yes, definitely. In others, I'm still struggling. Today was a very busy day with time spent out of the house. Here's what got done:

* Creativity -- basically nothing. I'm doing a little thinking about a cover I want/need to make for a laundry sorter I bought.

* Bible study -- worked on this week's Sunday School lesson and my memory verse.

* Homemaking -- basic routines only.

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, but at very odd times. My digestion has noticed the difference (and has not been happy). Drank plenty of water, maybe not quite enough. Exercised but had no time for a walk.

In other news: the kids' devotional books came back from the printer's today. Hurray!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 4

Another busy day! I didn't get as much done with this challenge as I'd have liked, but it wasn't too bad. Here's what happened:

* Bible study -- read a couple of sections in A Place of Quiet Rest; worked on my Sunday School lesson.

* Homemaking -- did several loads of laundry, planned menus for the week.

* Creativity -- spent some time researching crafts for Vacation Bible School.

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, drank plenty of water, went for a walk, exercised, kept up with BCI, read a chapter in Body Clutter.

Menu Plan Monday for May 14

It's Monday again! I have a lot of repeat menus this week. Last week was unseasonably hot and so I changed my menus around. Here's my plan for this week (always subject to change):

MONDAY: Cannellini Comfort Soup, Cornbread

TUESDAY: Lemon-Dill Chicken Popover, Cranberry Jello Salad, Winter Squash

WEDNESDAY: Aunt Ned's Hamburgers, Potato Salad

THURSDAY: Fish Fillets with Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes, Candied Carrots

FRIDAY: Overnight Spinach Manicotti, Salad, French Bread -- also, at lunchtime on Friday I'm getting together with some other ladies for a picnic -- I'm going to bring cucumber sandwiches, potato salad, and either cupcakes or bars for that.

SATURDAY: Vegetarian Curry, Couscous, Coleslaw

SUNDAY: Changeling Chicken, Rice, Salad

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 5

Not a very good day for staying on track! I did have a very nice Mother's Day, however! Carrie invited us over for lunch -- Crock-Pot Lasagna, salad and bread, then delicious strawberry shortcake for dessert. As Carrie commented, "You won't be able to report that you 'ate healthy' today!" True, but it was a special day!

I only accomplished a very few things toward this challenge.

* Health & energy -- drank water, exercised, took vitamins, kept up pretty well with the BCI.

* Bible study -- began my study for next week's Sunday School lesson; finished memorizing Romans 12.

* Homemaking -- basic routines only.

* Creativity -- just a few stitches on my cross-stitch.

Hoping for a more productive day tomorrow!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 6

Today I was out of the house most of the day. We went out for breakfast with friends, then spent a lot of time doing some necessary shopping. Mr. T took a jaunt to Home Depot while I spent time in Kohl's. We also visited a couple of shoe stores -- he needed work boots and dress shoes, while I needed some black sneakers. I also had fun shopping in Cracker Barrel, where we ate breakfast -- love their clearance corner! Did manage to accomplish a bit toward this challenge:

* Bible study -- spent time reading in A Place of Quiet Rest; polished up my memorization of Romans chapter 12.

* Homemaking -- planned the upcoming week; tweaked my weekly calendar page ( an invaluable printable of my own design) so it is even more helpful.

* Creativity -- did a bit of cross stitch; creatively packaged a Mother's Day gift for my mother.

* Health & energy -- exercised; did a lot of walking at the outlet mall; ate relatively healthy throughout the day.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 7

Today was a very busy day, beginning with company for breakfast and ending with a family birthday party. Still, I stayed on track in some areas:

* Bible study -- read more in A Place of Quiet Rest and finished up my Sunday School lesson.

* Creativity -- made some cute gift tags to use on little Mother's Day gifts for my daughter and daughter-in-law.

* Homemaking -- kept up with my routines pretty well. Vacuumed upstairs. Had two of the grandkids for a couple of hours, so put the house back together when we returned from the birthday party. Did some updating in my Household Notebook.

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day (except for birthday cake & ice cream); exercised; drank plenty of water, went for a walk. Got up early.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 8

This was an extremely busy day, what with people stopping by, preparing a meal for my parents, and then grocery shopping at night. I managed to stay somewhat on track.

* Bible study -- began reading another chapter in A Place of Quiet Rest; worked on my Sunday School lesson.

* Creativity -- spent a few minutes cross-stitching.

* Homemaking -- Kept up with my homemaking routines pretty well; planned next week's meals and shopped for groceries.

* Health & energy -- Ate quite healthy all day; drank plenty of water; exercised; went for a walk (even though it was a blisteringly hot day); kept up with the BCI. Another thing I've been trying to do is get to bed a little earlier and get up maybe 15-20 minutes earlier.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 9

A busy day and one in which I spent a lot of time out of the house. But still, a few things got done toward this challenge:

* Bible study -- finished up the questions for the chapter I was working on in a Place of Quiet Rest; worked on my Sunday School lesson.

* Health & energy -- ate healthy, drank plenty of water, kept up with the BCI, exercised.

* Homemaking -- kept up with my routines fairly well.

* Creativity -- spent a few minutes cross-stitching.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 10

Today wasn't a super day, but I stayed on track quite well:

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, kept up with BCI, drank plenty of water, exercised, went for a walk

* Bible study -- worked on Sunday School lesson, spent time going over Psalm 119.

* Homemaking -- kept up with most of my routines, made homemade hamburger buns to freeze.

* Creativity -- did a tiny bit of cross-stitch, tweaked my tea-time display on the dining room hutch.

In other news... finished up all of the printing, proofing and organizing on the kids' devotional book. Lord willing, it goes to the printer tomorrow!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 11

A very busy day, but a few things stayed on track.

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, kept up with BCI, drank plenty of water, exercised, went for a walk, did some raking.

* Bible study -- managed to get in a few minutes in Psalm 119 and A Place of Quiet Rest. Did some work on my Sunday School lesson.

* Homemaking -- did 4 loads of laundry, got it all put away. Kept up with most of my routines.

* Creativity -- found a place in the wildflower garden for the stepping stones our granddaughters made for us for Christmas. Redecorated my dining room hutch for spring. Spent a few -- very few -- minutes cross-stitching.

In other news -- got all of my devotional book pages printed out and proofread and organized. Discovered I had forgotten to write a page for July 1! That will be tomorrow's project...

Periwinkle Thoughts

... or, Reclaiming a Garden

I think I’ve mentioned before about the wonderful wildflower garden my daughter planted as a young teen. She did virtually all of the work herself -- clearing the ground, laying out brick paths, and transplanting wildflowers. It was a thing of beauty... and so special because she had done it all herself. Some of the flowers she transplanted were from our woods; others she dug up along the roadside. Family and friends who knew of the project were generous and shared plants with her. Her grandfather, in particular, was thrilled with her interest. He was a lifelong observer of nature who kept a “wildflower list” of plants he saw each year. He often brought her plants he had found in his ramblings through the woods and fields near his home.

One of the plants was called periwinkle. With glossy green leaves and charming purply-blue flowers, it made a lovely addition to the wildflower garden. “It will spread,” Grandpa promised. I didn’t think too much about it at the time; the garden was new, with lots of empty space, and the idea of a plant that would spread didn’t sound too bad. Then too, I had been given plants in the past by friends who told me the plants would spread, and they hadn’t spread very much. I figured our soil was just too poor and that’s why the plants had not spread.

Well, Grandpa was right about the periwinkle -- and I had sadly misjudged it. It spread... and spread... and spread. At first it was charmingly attractive. When the first leafy tendrils crawled across the brick paths, they looked lovely. Those leaves stayed bright and glossy even in the driest droughts and the coldest temperatures. But before many years had passed, periwinkle was everywhere in that garden. There wasn’t much room for the other plants to breathe. The brick paths were almost obliterated by leafy green vines.

Grandpa is appreciating the beauties of heaven now, and my daughter has long since moved to her own acreage. The garden remains here, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it other than raking off the leaves in the spring and enjoying the flowers that still bloomed here and there.

Last fall I became aware of just how much the periwinkle had taken over the garden. I set about to eradicate it. What a task it was! Those plants trailed hither and yon over the garden, putting down roots as they went. And in many cases the roots were deep! It took days and days of pulling, ripping, and tugging at those plants to get them all out. Even then I couldn’t be sure I had them all. I knew that spring would reveal whether or not I’d actually gotten rid of them.

Sure enough, when I raked the leaves off a few weeks ago, there were still occasional sprigs of the glossy green periwinkle. They were quickly pulled out, however, and I feel optimistic that I can keep them under control now. I tossed the uprooted plants far away, in a completely separate area, over an ugly embankment where we could use some ground cover. That way, if they should happen to take root, they would serve some purpose.

The whole project reminded me so much of how sin takes root in our lives. At first it may look attractive and harmless, even desirable. The first periwinkle plant was so pretty. Even when it began crawling over the bricks, I still liked it. But before I was even aware of how much it was spreading and how it was putting down its roots, it was everywhere, choking the life out of the garden. In the same way, sin will choke out our spiritual life. And it happens so subtly we may not even notice. Then what a task we face when we determine to deal with our sin! We think we have it uprooted in one area, but then it pops up somewhere else. This reminds me of the vital importance of keeping short accounts with God and dealing with our sin each and every day.

Menu Plan Monday for May 7

Another Monday -- and a new month!

Here's my plan:

MONDAY: Leftovers from the weekend

TUESDAY: Orange Chicken Salad, Multigrain Ciabatta Rolls

WEDNESDAY: Tuna Pasta Salad, Broccoli Salad, French Bread

THURSDAY: Vegetable Lasagna, Italian Bread

FRIDAY: Lemon-Dill Chicken Popover, Cranberry Jello Salad, Winter Squash

SATURDAY: Cannellini Comfort Soup, Cornbread

SUNDAY: Changeling Chicken, Brown Rice, Coleslaw

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 12

Today was Sunday and a busy one at that, so I didn't stay on track too well. Here's what I did do:

* Health & energy -- drank plenty of water, exercised, took a 2-mile walk.

* Homemaking -- pretty much kept up with daily routines.

I also got a fair amount of proofreading done and printed out quite a few pages -- until my printer ran out of black ink! Mr. T obligingly sped to Wal*Mart for another one, which I'll install tomorrow.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 13

Well, today was a busy day, and I was out of the house for a lot of it, so I didn't get as much done with this as I'd have liked. But it wasn't a bad day. Here's what happened:

* Bible study -- started the study for next week's Sunday School lesson; spent time in Psalm 119 with A Place of Quiet Rest.

* Creativity -- just cooking, today. Made a pasta salad for the luncheon today and cooked for tomorrow's potluck at church -- Orange Angel Squares for a dessert and a Cannellini Bean Salad. Also loaded the crockpot for tomorrow -- Italian Sausage & Vegetables.

* Homemaking -- kept up with almost all of my regular routines. Actually left the house pretty neat and the dishes done when I left for the luncheon.

* Health & energy -- Exercised, drank plenty of water, kept up with the BCI, went for a 2-mile walk.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 14

Well, it was a very busy day, and at first it didn't look too good for this challenge. But things took a turn for the better!

* Bible study -- managed to carve out a little time in Psalm 119 with A Place of Quiet Rest.

* Homemaking -- managed to accomplish my regular routines. Doesn't sound like much, but for as far off track as I'd gotten, it's a big accomplishment!

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, walked 2 miles, drank plenty of water, kept up with the BCI, exercised.

* Creativity -- finished my tea bag favors for tomorrow's luncheon. Made some stickers (with great difficulty) to hold the tea bag envelopes closed. And if you believe, as I do, that cooking is a creative pursuit, I did plenty of that. Made some fancy raspberry almond cookies and some mini spinach frittatas for the luncheon, and an asparagus beef stir-fry and a fruity green salad for supper.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 15

Another very busy day! I didn't do so well on this challenge today.

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, exercised, kept up with BCI, drank plenty of water, went for a walk.

* Bible study -- no extra study today -- I put that time into getting my Sunday School lesson finished up.

* Homemaking -- did a bit of decluttering in the living room, kept up with routines (except I never did get to the swish & swipe in the downstairs bathroom), went grocery shopping.

* Creativity -- potted some plants, worked for a bit on some tea bag holders for luncheon favors.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 16

A decent day but a very busy one.

* Bible study -- spent a few minutes in Psalm 119 with A Place of Quiet Rest.

* Health & energy -- exercised, ate healthy all day, kept up with BCI (forgot to mention this yesterday), drank plenty of water, went for a walk.

* Homemaking -- very little got done here, but I did keep up with my daily routines, also did a load of laundry and worked on my menus & shopping list.

* Creativity -- spent a few minutes cross-stitching; added some gorgeous ribbons to the bookmarks I made for the upcoming ladies' luncheon.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Back On Track Challenge, Day 17

A good day! Here's how it went:

* Bible study -- continuing in A Place of Quiet Rest. What an encouragement!

* Health & energy -- ate healthy all day, went for a 2-mile walk, exercised, drank lots of water.

* Homemaking -- kept up with routines, and cleaned up a hot spot in the living room. Worked on my grocery list.

* Creativity -- spent an hour or so cross-stitching on the sampler.

Also spent time proofing and printing devotional book pages.

Ranch French Bread

Here's a recipe I tried today. It's originally from a Taste of Home magazine, but I adapted it in a major way.


1 1/4 cups warm water
4 Tblsp. buttermilk powder
2 Tblsp. canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tblsp. ranch dressing mix
1 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine. Choose the dough setting and press the start button.

When dough is finished, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll each portion into a 14-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal and tuck the ends under. Place seam side down on a parchment-lined (or greased) baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make 5 shallow slashes across the top of each loaf. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush lightly with butter. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves

I adapted this recipe (which originally made 4 loaves) so I could make the dough in the bread machine. I love the way the machine produces perfectly kneaded, perfectly risen dough to work with.

We were pleased with how wonderfully this bread turned out. It’s delicious, with a lovely texture.