Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful For

I am thankful for all the requisite things: my family, my friends, a warm home, food on my table. You get the picture. One thing though, this season, stands out to me above all the others.


I don't know how I would make it through my life without it. The older I get, the more and more people whom I love are going through heartbreaking times:





Sometimes, when I hear of friends going through trying times, I feel so inadequate in knowing what to say. I wish I could, dear friend, craft the perfect sentence to ease your pain, speak words of Life into your aching heart. I may not use the right words, but I can tell you there's hope. With Jesus, there's always hope. There's a song called Hope Now by Addison Road, which expresses much of what I mean to say, in such a way, that it always puts me in a state of worship upon hearing it. A snippet of the lyrics in case you haven't heard it...
When my life is like a storm
Rising waters all I want is the shore
You say I'll be ok and
Make it through the rain
You are my shelter from the storm
Everything rides on hope now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free
I think, given enough time, we all eventually will find ourselves at a place where everything rides on
hope. No more security from a good paying job, or a stable marriage, or happiness in "things". When situations defy logic, when loved ones fail us, when what we were counting on doesn't come to pass, I am thankful for hope. Hope for a life beyond this one, hope for healing from brokenness, hope and confidence that He is still in control & has a plan for me. And for you too, whoever you are.

I'd love to read your "Thankful For" posts throughout the week. Please add your specific post {not a link to your main page} so we can enjoy each others sense of gratitude! If you don't have a blog, I'd love to read about what you're thankful for in my comments section.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

7 Days

...til T-day. My head count is {so far} 14 adults. Sometimes I feel like passing out at the thought, but other times I'm fine. Anyone else want to RSVP? Did I mention 6 children too? Well, two of them are babies & one is a little toddler. There is one thing that is keeping me from hyperventilating: my plan. My very detailed, {hopefully} well-thought out, plan. If you've never hosted Thanksgiving before or have done it many times, I believe a plan is the key to reducing your stress, making sure all your desired dishes will actually be able to be completed, and getting the meal to the table in a timely manner. How I assemble my plan is this: first, compile all the recipes & have each one photocopied or printed out. I then write out a detailed timeline, starting several days before the event. In this case, much of the work will be done on Thanksgiving day, but I try to do whatever possible before hand, such as pre-measuring ingredients, chopping herbs & vegetables, making the cranberry sauce, etc. Today, I will be making & freezing pie crusts, already rolled out & in the pie pan. Timeline snapshot:

1:00 pm

Remove ham from oven & let rest. Tent ham loosely w/foil. Turn up temperature to 375° F

Put turkey breasts in oven for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Add broth to bottom of pan.

1: 15 pm

Stir stuffing.

Start water boiling for macaroni.

1:30 pm

Check turkey pan if needs more broth.

Add noodles to pot. Set timer.

1:45 pm

Start potatoes in water to boil. Reduce heat to medium simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Stir stuffing

Turn on lower oven to 350° F.

Assemble macaroni & cheese.

I remind myself of every little thing, when to turn the oven up or down & to what temperature, when to stir, when to glaze, when to check if something is done. I think I'll remember to do all those commonsense things, but on the day of, I'll be glad I wrote it all out for myself. You will now be able to see whether or not what you've actually planned can be executed. Oven space is the trickiest part of the whole deal. This year, I will be able to use my two (!) ovens to make everything run a bit more smoothly, but believe me, it *can* be done with only one. Next I go through each recipe and transfer all the ingredients to a grocery list.

I count butter in sticks and make little tick marks for the eggs and just write down everything else. Hopefully nothing will get forgotten! I print out a copy of my menu & write down the type of serving dish I'll need for each recipe, then I can see what needs to be borrowed.

The night before, I like to write the recipe names on post-its and attach it to the proper serving dish so I don't forget which one is for which recipe. And that, my friends, just about sums up my planning technique. I did manage to send out invitations. I found sets of invitations complete with little sticker seals at Woodman's on clearance for 25-cents each. The kids made the thumbprint turkeys & helped with the assembly. See:

I really want to have a Mary heart on, what could easily be for me, a Martha day. The people around my table are more important than a perfectly executed meal. I keep reminding myself & others around me of this truth. Every time someone says, "I know you might be busy, but....", I say that I am not too busy for the people I love. I don't want to be so caught up in stirring the stuffing & glazing the ham that I don't get to enjoy my guests. If someone offers to help, I will reply with a resounding "YES!" and put them to work. On Thanksgiving Day, I plan to be ready with a hug, a smile & some kind words for everyone who walks through my door. Oh...and maybe a little taste of whatever has been cooking.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Spending Habit

I'm sure it's just one of many, but I noticed something curious the other day. When I have more money, I tend to spend more. When I have less, I spend less. This should not be! What if, when I had more, I spent less! Then I really would be set! Shouldn't my spending be based on some sort of conviction or spending plan rather then the amount of money in my bank account? In a practical sense, it might go something like this:

If my budget allows, I will limit myself to one premium coffee per month {Starbucks}. Period. If my income miraculously doubles, I will still stick to this limit.

Maybe this sounds just plain ridiculous? Maybe there should be some sort of "until" in my scenario, ie. until I reach such-and-such financial goals or until my budget is in need of revision. Maybe people would think I'm crazy to "only" limit myself to X, even if I were bringing in a 6-figure salary {
I meaning my husband, in my case}. I guess I'm just thinking that when I'm making more, I could limit myself to X and Y and A through G, and occasionally H, I, J, and once in awhile K and L, oh, and M & N only on special occasions. Then I be sitting there wondering why I am poorer than when I made half as much! I'm sure it has happened to many of you who, when going from higher amounts of income to drastically lower amounts of income, asked yourself, "If only...". Now that you find yourself actually able to live on less {even cheerfully, at that *shocking, I know*} you wonder...If only I had lived on this amount when we were making more, my savings account would be bigger or my debts would be paid off or....

Anyone else tend to spend more when they have more & spend less when they have less?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top 10 Thanksgiving Recipes

Since it is only 2 weeks away *gulp*, here are, in my opinion, the Top 10 Thanksgiving Recipes from Allrecipes. I chose one from each of the categories outlined in my Thanksgiving planning post here, that could easily be served at your Thanksgiving table: turkey, potato, sweet potato, green vegetable (2), stuffing, condiments (2), desserts (2). And here they are, including personal comments from the peanut gallery me in parentheses. *drumroll please*

#1: Homestyle Turkey, the Michigander Way (I know there's a couple of you out there!)

#2: Traditional Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole II

Grandma's Green Bean Casserole (not your usual canned soup & fried onion variety)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (never had 'em, but can 544 good reviews be wrong?!)

Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing (hmmm, may have to reconsider my old standby.....)

Savory Turkey Gravy (I am anti-gravy, but to each his own.)

Cranberry Sauce (Now THIS condiment I can stand behind! Love turkey & cranberries!)

#9: Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake (double YUM!)

Carrot Cake III

And because we're all gonna have 'em, my top Turkey Leftover recipe:

Turkey Pot Pie

This creates a pretty straight-forward, old-fashioned style Thanksgiving meal. If you're adventurous/eclectic like me, stay tuned for the Top 10 Not-Your-Grandma's Thanksgiving Recipes!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

C-RAZY Question

This might seem a little bizarre, but does any one else use Real-Time Pricing for their ComEd bill? I was inspired to see if we had something like this based on a frugal tip I came across. In a nutshell, instead of paying a fixed price per Kilowatt hour for energy, you pay the going market price for that particular hour. In the off-peak hours, the energy costs less. I am looking into this option for our family & was wondering if/how it has saved money for other families. If no one responds, I guess I might just be the guinea pig.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Snapshot

Of life at the moment.

Thinkin' about: Thanksgiving, what else?

Not looking forward to: Hubby being out of town.

Totally diggin': Cookthink {might I add that this is super genious?! Searching for something that you're craving instead of/in addition to specific recipes?}

Reading: A Woman's High Calling {It's so good, I might just get the growth & study guide....}

Working towards: Making my home a haven {I'm considering this} and a losing a few pounds

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Weekend of Celebrating

October 16th marked our ten year wedding anniversary and this last Saturday was Hubster's birthday, so what to do other than.....celebrate!! It was really amazing the way God provided so many little things for us throughout the weekend, so I'll try to highlight those as I go along.

We dropped the kiddos off with our babysitting service {a.k.a. family - praise God for great families} on Thursday & then acted like wild & free teenagers as we went for dinner {leftover Red Lobster gift card} & cruised the strip. I was able to hit the thrift store where I picked up a dressy black top from Kohls and a pair of brand new jeans from New York & Co. with the price tag still on {$44.95} for just $7.80! I ran into Kohl's and used $10 Kohl's cash that my mother-in-law gave me to purchase a half-price nightie for just $4.31. SWEET! We then waited for some friends of ours to get out of work and invited ourselves over to their place where we enjoyed a late night snack & lots of great conversation. {After staying up a little too long past our bedtime, I was dragging a bit on Friday.} I had a killer headache on our drive, but was blessed by my wonderful hubby who drove the whole way. {God spoke to me through a message I heard during the drive by Nancy Leigh DeMoss on "self-control" out of Titus 2. Everywhere I turn I am hearing the same "message", which is just blowing me away. I'm thinking I might wake up and see some writing on the wall, it is THAT obvious.}

I was wishing that we could have traveled someplace far & exotic, especially as it was our 10 year milestone, but lack of funds dictated our destination. I was still able to plan a lovely weekend stay in Door County. It was right as "off-season" was starting so that meant lower rates for everything. I choose the Lodgings at Pioneer Lane and was blown away at our room. Loved. It. It was more than I expected, with a fireplace, in room whirlpool, plush bedding, a walk-in shower, and a quaint balcony looking out over Ephraim and Lake Michigan. Lots of little details make this place special like hand-painted room number/pictures on each door, Hershey's kisses which were replenished throughout our stay, STASH brand teas, a selection of magazines/games, a DVD player with movies to borrow, free Wi-Fi, and they recycle! A couple of shots...

There are many small towns dotted along the Wisconsin peninsula and we barely skimmed over three of them. The colors were still beautiful, although from what I hear, not as intense as they were a few weeks ago. We walked a lot, explored many different shops, and mostly enjoyed one another's company. Friday night we had a hard time deciding on where to eat {wanted to save our money for Saturday} and God amazingly led us to a restaurant that would be closing the following day, so all the meals were half off! We could hardly believe it! We paid, for our entire meal, what just one entree cost at several nearby restaurants.

Saturday, we shopped til we nearly dropped, rested up in the whirlpool for a bit followed by an afternoon nap, and then splurged on a stellar dinner at T. Ashwell's. It was worth every penny {quite a few of them}! Can't even explain how much we both enjoyed it! We had a reservation, canceled it {we were too tired from the day}, then remade our reservation. I am so thankful that God didn't let us miss it. The restaurant is housed in a converted old home & the hospitality made us feel like we were their guests, as opposed to customers. The food was just out of this world.

Sunday we did a bit more stopping & shopping & then it was back to reality to pick up our children {although I did miss them while we were gone}! We had felt so pampered while we were away that we were both left feeling a little down {post-vacation depression}! I guess that is a sign that we both had a wonderful weekend.

Hope yours was wonderful too!