Saturday, September 29, 2007

Smart Habit Saturday

This week, I'm going to continue working on the habits I mentioned last week. I can't honestly say that I did very well this past week, but better than if I didn't have something to aim for, I suppose. Posting the chart up on my bathroom mirror gives me a daily reminder of what my goals are.

I know that most people probably think it's better to work on just one or two things at a time, but trust me when I say that I seriously am so out of whack right now that I need to improve every area of my life pronto! Having a list of 20 different things that I'm working on is helping me to try to find balance in my life - everything from my relationship with God to having pretty feet is covered!

I have to admit that I've been neglecting myself for quite some time now. I think that after my kids were born, I went into some kind of depression (though I'm not sure that's the right word) wherein I just didn't really care about myself at all - all my energy went into my kids. I put myself on the back burner. Now, many pounds and a lot of self-pity later, I have dug myself into a deep, deep pit I'm trying to climb out of.

As a reminder, here's the 20 habits I'm working on:

  1. Devotions each morning
  2. Vitamin each morning
  3. Bed by 11:00
  4. Bedtime Routine (wash face, moisturize, brush teeth, floss)
  5. No Sugar
  6. At least 5 Servings of Produce
  7. Shoes on in the House
  8. Mini-Pedi each night (file calluses and slather with Vaseline)
  9. No Binging
  10. No Food After 8 pm
  11. 5 Min. Stretching
  12. Walk at least 20 Min
  13. Breakfast
  14. Calcium Tablet
  15. Floss
  16. Strength Train
  17. No Soda
  18. Don’t Salt Food
  19. Drink 64 Oz. Water
  20. 1 Hour of Quiet (No tv, no radio, no yelling kids - just time for my mind to be quiet)

For more ideas of what other women around the world are working on, be sure to stop by The Lazy Organizer!

What Should We Expect From Church?

I think this video is, unfortunately, a fairly accurate representation of how many Christians in America view church these days.

Church is not about us. It's about God - we are there to worship Him. But many of us only look at whether or not "our needs" are being met. Do I like the music? Is the pastor friendly enough? How does it measure up to the church down the street? Do my kids have fun? Is the pastor exciting?

It's as though the purpose of church is to entertain us, to make us feel good.

But the purpose of believers coming together is to worship, to learn about God, to minister to each other. I understand that the questions posed above have some validity. But when we take our focus off of God and put it squarely on us, we have gone far, far astray.

We should be actively seeking to meet the needs of others, not just to have our needs met. Remember Jesus said that true religion is to help the poor, the widows, the orphans. Nothing in there about making sure we are being entertained. Nothing about being on a pumped-up emotional high.

If you want an emotional high, spend time with God in prayer. Sing praises to Him when you are alone and in a quiet place. Help someone who needs it. This is how God wants us to get our joy - not from stuffing ourselves full of the meeting of our own needs.

Acts 2 gives us a model for a healthy gathering of believers:

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."

Do you see it?!? It's all about giving of yourself, both to God and to others. It's about denying yourself. It's about this: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant." Phillipians 2:3-7

In your church, are you a servant, or are you expecting to be served?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, For the Love of Pete, Just Leave Me Alone!!

Do you ever feel like this? Just when you settle in with a good book the phone rings. Or the doorbell. Or your cell phone.

Or maybe you're in the powder room, soaking in a bubble bath or, ahem, attending to other needs. Suddenly, a child's voice is demanding your attention from the other side of the door.

Or you come home from a busy day out to find your answering machine full of calls for you to return. No matter that you don't really want to talk to any of these people - the mere fact that they left you a message means that you are now obligated to return the call. To not do so would be rude.

In today's look at Dr. Richard Swenson's book, The Overload Syndrome we will look at how constant accessibility contributes to a sense of, well, being overloaded. Technology that has brought us the ability to keep in contact at any given time and any given place has also removed much of the privacy and the ability to take advantage of moments of solitude. It's a double-edged sword.

I often tell my husband (when I'm in the midst of complaining about not having enough time to myself!) that I envy the fact that he gets to drive to and from work every day. All. Alone. 90% of the time that I spend in the car, the children are with me. Now, my dear friend Laurie has children who get in the car and sit quietly and look out the windows. Everyone just chills out for a bit.

Not my son.

It's as if all the questions in his adorable, 10 year old mind suddenly rise to the surface and come spilling out. "Mom, if Darth Vader and Superman had a fight, who would win?" "Do you think are lizards in Dubai?" "Why is Pluto no longer considered a planet? And why don't we hear about the newly discovered planet UB-something or other (he knows the name and loves to bandy it about - me, I almost inadvertently called it Planet UB-40 before I realized that they probably don't have any Red, Red Wine there)?

But I digress.

All of these things make it impossible to just be alone; to have time with our thoughts. It used to be that one would have natural bits of quiet built into the day. Driving from one place to another. Meandering through a store. Going on vacation. But now you can check your email, make a phone call and check your messages from home. We are very rarely unplugged these days.

Now sometimes this is a good thing. But usually whatever we are emailing or calling about could certainly wait. Our society has made everything so urgent, that we fill up every moment trying to get it all done. The truth is, the tyranny of the urgent has blotted out what is truly important. A wonderful article on this subject is here. Reading it will help you see how Jesus stayed true to His priorities in the midst of constant demands on His time.

So what are we to do? How can we disconnect, if only for a short time, and regain some of that lost solitude that we all so desperately need? Here are some steps you may want to take:

  1. Be discerning - recognize that all technology will have both positive and negative consequences. Understand this and make decisions based on which consequence dominates. Look at both sides of the coin, not just how beneficial it is.
  2. Set boundaries - Protect your home and your family from unwanted intrusions. Turn the phone off during the dinner hour. Feel free not to answer the door if you aren't expecting someone. Hubby and I have declared Sunday afternoons until 4:00 as rest time. The neighborhood children know not to come over, the phones get turned off. We may nap or swim or whatever we choose to do, but it's OUR time.
  3. Control interruptions - Choose to go to a quieter room. Maybe head to the library for a while to work or study. Work later or night or earlier in the morning when you are less likely to be disturbed.
  4. Control the telephone - It is not against the law to not answer your phone. Turn it off or unplug it temporarily. Or just let the answering machine get it. Use caller id so you don't get trapped talking for hours with your neighbor when you need to be focusing on another task.
  5. Deactivate the answering machine - If it's truly important they will call back. This way the responsibility is on them, not you. This also prevents annoying games of telephone tag!
  6. Retreat - Once in a while try to get away. Maybe just an overnight at a local hotel. Or maybe declare a retreat at home with your family. Tell people you are taking a family vacation for the weekend, shut off the phones, order pizza and just hang out together.
  7. Actively seek solitude - Use it for rest. Use it to build your relationship with God and yourself. Cultivate a contemplative life. Don't be afraid of it. If you can be content when it's just you and God, you will never suffer from loneliness. Hey, if Jesus needed to go away for solitude, how much more do we?
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thankful Thursday

"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

I've been convicted lately when Thursday comes around. I wonder, "what can I say thanks for that I haven't already said every other Thursday?"

Sitting here now, I realize my foolishness, of course.

It's foolish, first of all, to think that the whole point of Thankful Thursday is to have a great post that others will read and be impressed by. How unbelievably self-centered is that? I mean, in the midst of supposedly expressing my thanks to the Lord, Creator of all, I'm still trying to get some of the attention. How like a child I am, wanting to be the star of the show.

Secondly, it's foolishness to think that saying thanks once is enough. As if I could ever thank God enough for all His marvelous gifts - for my life, my family, all the material gifts. I could say, "Thank You" a million times over and still not scratch the surface. I mean, each breath, the beauty of the world, my children - I am responsible for none of these things. I have no control over any of them.

And so today I am most thankful for the ability I have to give thanks. Not just by rote or for show, but out of a heart of pure gratitude for who He is. For His inherent goodness and mercy. For His generosity. For His sacrificial love. For His forgiveness when I am so undeserving. For His holiness and righteousness.

I could thank Him forever and it still wouldn't be enough.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Random Bits of Life

Well, I have no deep thoughts today, just a collection of things that are going on in my mind. Hope you don't mind peeking in there with me!
  • Today my 3 1/2 month old niece, Anna Beth, goes in for a biopsy. A previous biopsy revealed "atypical" cells in a mole she has. They will be doing a more comprehensive biopsy. If you wouldn't mind, please pray for her health and for her parent's peace of mind. I'll let you know when we know the results.
  • I learned today that our local Christian radio station is going off the air after 37 years. It was sold to a group who is going to convert it to a classical music station. While I'm happy that Miami will once again have a classical station, we have come to depend on that station so much and I'm deeply, deeply sad to see them go. Besides enjoying the wonderful music, we so enjoy other programs they offer - I especially love Focus on the Family as well as Family Life Today. My son is heartbroken that he won't be able to listen to Adventures in Odyssey every night anymore. This is a huge loss to the Christian community here in South Florida.
  • Financially, things have been pretty tight around here. I'm finally breaking down and resorting to returning to eBay. I used to sell a lot of curriculum there - things that we were done with or that we just didn't "click" with, but I haven't done it in ages since it's quite a hassle to deal with all the shipping and everything. So I'll be busy doing that in the next couple of weeks. And, hey, if you are looking for anything check out my listings. My eBay user name is AprilFamily - so far I've only posted Sonlight's Core 3, but I'll also be posting Core 4, maybe Core 5 and lots of other random homeschool materials.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The More Things Change...The More Stressed Out We Are!

Continuing with my study of "The Overload Syndrome," by Dr. Richard Swenson, today I'd like to look at the effect that change can have on our stress levels and what we can do about it. We'll also look at ways we can reduce the effects stress has on us.

The world has changed dramatically in the last 150 years. More so than at any time in history. Think about it - for thousands of years, people travelled in much the same way - by foot or by horse. We communicated by hand-writing (and having hand-delivered) with pen and paper. People tended to stay within their community for their entire lives, meaning that they had extended family nearby.

Change that did occur happened gradually, slow and controlled. Now change happens before our eyes. We can be on the other side of the world in a day. We can speak to people anywhere in the world, or send them an instant message and get a reply instantly.

In a 5 year period, 40-50 percent of Americans will move. A typical American will live in 12-13 homes over their life, twice as many as the average European. America has the highest divorce rate in the world. All of this leads to instability - in our homes and in our churches. In fact, the average American will change churches every four years.

Besides all this, there have been profound moral and social changes in the last 50 years, devastating traditions, rewriting the rules, upsetting moral structures. Just a few of the affected areas include: poverty, parenting styles, day care usage, birth control and sexuality mores, medical ethics, music, movies, and television.

So how do we combat all of this? After all, everything I've just mentioned is systemic - we can't change it by ourselves. We don't have the ability to turn the clock back to a simpler time, a time when life revolved around family and church. However, there are some steps we can take to protect our families from the tidal waves of change.
  1. Slow the rate of change - If you have been thinking about moving, put it on hold for 6 months. Stay at your church - if there are problems, be part of the solution. Don't give up on it so easily. Just the very state of continuity (having the same home, friends, school, church, etc.) can help to prevent stress.
  2. Don't overvalue newness - Just because the companies come out with something Improved! or Better! doesn't mean it is. Don't feel compelled to throw out something you have that works perfectly well, just to spend money on the newest gadget that comes on the market. Often new products only offer novelty, nothing else. Seriously consider if what you are buying will improve your life.
  3. Find a safe haven - This could be a place, a belief, a person or group - anything that is constant over time, regardless of other changes. Maybe it's a routine of having devotions. Or a favorite spot you go to where you can think and connect with God. A small group where you feel safe sharing your life. The safe havens provide safe harbors in a storm.
  4. Realize you have more control than you think - Can you control everything that happens to you? No. But you can control your response to it. You decide if you will react by "freaking out" or by trusting God. I once read that Amy Carmichael said this, "A cup of sweet nectar will never spill a bitter drop, no matter how hard it is knocked." The idea is that no matter what comes along, what's inside of you (be that sweetness or bitterness) is what will spill out.
  5. Spread goodwill - By helping others, you deflect the attention you pay to yourself. Focusing on others allows us to forget our own problems. Plus, you are building a network that will be there to help you when you need it.
  6. Don't worry - Corrie ten Boon said, "I had to learn that worry is sin before I could get rid of the worry." Christ told us not to worry. We cannot accomplish anything by worrying and it has detrimental physical effects to our body. Turn your troubles over to God.
  7. Learn to laugh.
  8. Play music that relaxes your spirit.
  9. Rest.
  10. Breathe deeply.
  11. Exercise.
  12. Limit your time with negative people.
  13. Remember that the biggest problem of all was solved at the cross. "In this world you will have tribulation," said Jesus. "But be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."

Sometimes it seems as though the world is moving at light speed. I know in my home, I'd like to just shut the world out. I can't do it 100%, but I can try to limit the impact on my family.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Our menu plan for this week is still a little hectic. $$ has been tight so Hubby asked me to use up as much as I have around here and spend as little on groceries as I can. Some things we might have just had recently, but they are generally family favorites that no one minds seeing pop up frequently on the table.
Monday - Cauliflower Soup with fresh-baked bread
Tuesday - Chicken Divan, tossed salad
Wednesday - (won't be cooking since we'll be at church)
Thursday - Bezella, rice, salad
Friday - Scallops Charleston (bringing this to our small group meeting)
Saturday - Chicken and Veggie Lasagna (courtesy of Stouffer's - I do this about 1x a month)
Sunday - Chicken Fajitas
Monday - Koosa Mahshi (zucchini hollowed out and stuffed with a ground beef & rice mixture - sort of like the American stuffed peppers we are all used to)
For more ideas for your dinner table, be sure to visit The Organizing Junkie.

A Stay-At-Home Mom Never Actually Stays Home!

You know how it is - you need to go to playgroup, the doctor's appointment, soccer practice, piano lessons, Wednesday night church, play rehearsal, park group, gymnastics, the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the library, Scouts, and on and on and on....

Whoever came up with the name "stay-at-home mom" obviously wasn't one!

Our society is a society made up of busy people. Everyone feels the pressure to have a full calendar; to keep themselves (and their children!) occupied. It's very often how we measure the value of a person these days. The busier you are, the more important you must be.

I think this is a trap that mothers especially can fall into. Mothers, especially those who do not have outside-the-home careers, very often find their sense of worth in their children. The more accomplished our children are, the better mother we must be, right?

Honestly, how many of us can say that when we hear another mother bragging on her kid (Johnny just won the science fair! Suzie took 1st place at the gymnastics meet! Mikey hit the winning home run! Jane got the lead part in The Nutcracker!) that we don't feel as if we aren't doing enough? That our children need to somehow be doing more?

This feeling of getting our worth through what we do, rather than who we are, is addressed in "The Overload Syndrome." I think we need to recognize two things - that God values us for who we are (His children) not what we do and, secondly, that God created both activity and rest and considers both to be good.

So how, then do we know where to draw the limits? Here are some ideas from Dr. Swenson:

  1. Be active in self-examination and intentional in correction. Remember that nobody is truly locked into anything. You must re-establish control of your life and schedule. Just as a tree needs to be pruned to have the biggest yield, so our activities need to constantly be reviewed and some things may need to be pruned from our life in order for their to be fruit in our life.
  2. Prioritize - get your priorities from the Word of God. Seek His kingdom first and everything else comes after that. Remember that people are more important than things.
  3. Accept that sometimes you must say no to good things. It's easy to say no to bad things, but it's hard to say no to things you enjoy. Now, this is not an excuse for non-involvement or laziness. Rather it's a tool for learning to allow God to direct our lives and living by the priorities you set. You must learn to preserve your energy for the things that really are important to you.
  4. Do less, not more - But choose to do the right things. Assess all activities for spiritual authenticity - is this really what you want to do (as opposed to feeling like you have to do)? Is this what God wants you to do?
  5. Create space in your schedule. It's not healthy to be jam-packed.
  6. Restore the practice of Sabbath rest. Use the Sabbath to both rest from busy-ness and to remember God's great deeds.
  7. Allow yourself time to lie fallow. Farmers often allow fields to lie fallow in order to give the soil time to regenerate and heal. In the same way, I think we often need a sabbatical of sorts wherein we step back from what we do and just BE. Be with God. Be who God created. Be quiet.
  8. Remember that it is God who gets things done. If we are faithful to do what He has called us to do, more will be accomplished than we could ever imagine. But we must be available to hear His voice - something we can't do if we are so busy with our own priorities.

Over the course of the next few days I will be seriously examining my life. I've already begun some of this process - I stepped down from teaching kids at church, Hubby and I have resigned leadership of our small group, I resigned from some of my duties with our homeschool support group.

I look forward to finding a more restful, Spirit-led life.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Because I Care...Run and Get This Book!

Y'all...I have to tell you. I am reading a book that I honestly think will change my life. It may even change yours.

It's called The Overload Syndrome by Richard Swenson, M.D. And I have been completely engrossed in it since I started reading it yesterday. On every page, I find myself saying, "Yes, that's me!" or, "Exactly!" or, "What a great idea!" Lots of thoughts with exclamation points at the end of them.

This book is all about how most of us in today's society struggle with trying to handle life's demands. You know what I mean - the feeling that you just barely make it through the day, that you don't have time to really live the life you know you are meant to live.

Dr. Swenson meets us head on, right where we are, and addresses every issue that prevents us from having the time and the space we need to be restored and to rest and heal. A few of the many issues he addresses that particularly spoke to me were "Activity & Commitment," "Change & Stress," "Choice & Stress," and "Hurry & Fatigue," and "Media Overload."

One thing that he points out early on is that God, our Creator, created us with limits - it's the way we are designed. And yet we so often try to ignore those limits, pushing our selves farther and faster than we were ever meant to go. Constantly trying to squeeze in "one more thing" is not the way God wants us to live our lives.

We must remember that we are called by God to do His will. Not our own. Not anyone else's. We so often try to live up to the expectations of other people (spouses, children, parents, neighbors, bosses, fellow church members - the list goes on and on). We must learn to trust in Him. He is the one who is really accomplishing things anyways. He's the one who is truly in charge of getting things done. It's our own lack of faith that makes us believe we must work so hard - that it's really up to us and not God.

I'll be sharing more of what I learn from this. I'm so excited about all the things I've read already, I can't wait to bless your socks off with them!
Friday, September 21, 2007

Smart Habit Saturday

I got a terrific idea from Charity this week! What she has done is a great idea - one I'm going to do for myself.

She's made up a chart of Healthy Habits that she's working on. Each day, she checks off those habits that she's maintained that day. At the end of each month, she gives herself 10 cents for every check mark she's earned.

It's a simple reward system, but that is appealing to me. I like to know that I'm working for a goal - and not something that is so far away I lose my motivation (like how long it will take me to get to my goal weight!!). With this system, reward is never more than a few weeks away!

So, I've come up with a list of things I would like to work on; things that will improve my health, both physically and mentally. Here's what I have:

Devotions each morning
Vitamin each morning
Bed by 11:00
Bedtime Routine
(wash face, moisturize, brush teeth, floss)
No Sugar
At least 5 Servings of Produce
Shoes on in the House
Mini-Pedi each night
(file calluses and slather with Vaseline)
No Binging
No Food After 8 pm
5 Min. Stretching
Walk at least 20 Min
Calcium Tablet
Strength Train
No Soda
Don’t Salt Food
Drink 64 Oz. Water
1 Hour of Quiet
(No tv, no radio, no yelling kids - just time for my mind to be quiet)

That adds up to 20 habits - for a possible reward of about $60 each month. I could use this for a manicure or pedicure, or some new books or cds, new clothes, etc. I know from the outset I won't manage to get every check mark every day, but I'll let you know how I do!

To see what other Smart Habits others around the world are working on, visit The Lazy Organizer!

Whatever Happened to Being a Lady?

Edited to Add: Please see the Comments section for additional clarification of my thoughts on this subject.

I have something to confess.

I'm a lady.

I admit it. Whatever happened to us? Where is this dying breed?

Our society has become one big toxic waste dump, it seems. The poisonous fumes seep through cracks, under doors and into our homes, no matter how hard we try to shut them out.

Just a couple of examples from this past week's Emmy Awards show:

Katherine Heigl, a truly stunning actress on Grey's Anatomy, won the award for Best Supporting Actress. I don't watch the show, so I can't comment on her talents, but I was stunned to see a woman of such beauty utter foul language upon her win (and then repeat it later during interviews). It was like watching mud flow from the Mona Lisa. Just wrong and made me think so much less of her.

Sally Field, in a political speech she gave upon her win, took the name of the Lord in vain as a curse word. Regardless of your feelings on the war, again, this just lowered my opinion of her so much.

Kathy Griffin, who won during the creative Emmys for a comedy show she did, got up and announced that while "many people thank Jesus for their award, no one had less to do with this award than Jesus." She later held up the statuette and proclaimed, "This is my god now."

(I just read that Ray Ramone, of Everybody Loves Raymond fame, used the F-word, but as I'm focusing on ladies, I won't comment on that other to say it makes me really sad.)

There was once a day when gentlemen didn't swear in the presence of a lady. When we were treasures to be protected.

We have fallen down the slippery slope of trying to be equal. In an effort to be regarded as just as capable as men, we have tried to prove it in all the wrong ways. We can curse like them, drink like them, and sleep around like them.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm not condoning this behavior in men either. But at least, in years past, ladies understood that this was not behavior which enhanced their reputation nor their attractiveness.

I'm tired of men using foul language when they speak with me. I'm tired of being subjected to it as I go through the grocery store. I'm sick to death of my kids having to hear it because people are trying to impress other people with their swearing abilities. Guess what, people? It doesn't really show that you are smart! It actually demonstrates that you aren't smart enough to come up with a better word.

And it's not just the swearing - it's the ads for erectile dysfunction and for herpes medications and for sexual arousal aids. It's the fact that even if I'm selling toothpaste, I'm going to use sex to sell it. It's the total hedonism that pervades our society - "If it feels good I'm going do it and I don't care how it affects you."

How do you protect yourself, and your family, from the constant onslaught?
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recipes, As Requested!

A couple of people had requested some of the recipes I posted during this week's Menu Plan Monday, specifically for Jambalaya and Curried Shrimp.

Now, I have to be very clear up front that these are not be your traditional recipes because they are recipes based on the Michael Thurmond diet, 6 Week Body Makeover. Consequently, they have no salt and no fat (well, besides what is in the shrimp). Even so, I think both recipes are still delicious - I served the jambalaya to guests once and they loved it!


2 large onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 small green peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup no-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 cups raw, peeled shrimp
2 cans (14 oz. each) diced, no salt added tomatoes
red pepper sauce to taste

Cook onion, bell pepper and garlic in small amount of water until tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

Curried Shrimp

1 lb. peeled & deveined shrimp
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot!)
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 - 1 tsp. curry powder (to taste - a little goes a long way)
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Add all ingredients in bowl, mix and marinate covered for one hour in the refrigerator. Heat a non-stick pan to med-high. Place shrimp in a single layer for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side or until that side turns pink, then flip and repeat. Serve immediately over rice, garnished with parsley.

So there you go - healthy updates of classics. Let me know if you try them!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday

Ok, continuing on the whole sugar theme, I've got another sugar related tip for you this morning.

On the eve of my wedding, my best friend whipped up this concoction for me. Maybe many of you have already heard of this tip, but I hadn't so it was really good for me. Now, even though I'm talking about sugar, it's not something edible. It's a body scrub.

Take 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix into it some olive oil, until it's the consistency you like (I personally like to do just a little less oil than sugar). The sugar will not dissolve in the olive oil.

Jump in the shower and massage your sugar-oil mix onto your skin. The sugar will exfoliate your skin and the oil will seal in the moisture. Rinse off, and when you get out of the shower, you'll have skin as soft as a baby. It's a great, cheap way to give your skin that soft, dewy glow.

For more Works for Me Wednesday, be sure to stop by Rocks in My Dryer!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Starting a New Day


After discussing the whole homeschooling-fiasco that was yesterday with Hubby, he had some interesting points to make. (Side note: Why don't husbands get that we are often just looking for someone to listen and offer support, instead of solving the problem? Sigh...)

  • One is that children in "school" work significantly more hours than my children do - nearly twice as much, when you factor in homework. He wants to see them spending more time on their schoolwork.
  • Another point he brought up is that if they don't finish their schoolwork, they shouldn't be allowed to watch tv/use the computer or participate in any other "recreation" until it's done.
  • He asked me for a "scope & sequence" so he could see exactly what they are supposed to be doing at this age. I pulled out my copy of "What Your Child Needs To Know When" by Robin Scarlata (which I had forgotten I had) and he really liked it. He's going to go through it and spend some time with the kids each night, going over different areas.

And for those of you who may be thinking, "Gee, I wish my husband would be more involved with our homeschooling endeavors," let me assure you, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME HE'S EVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS! Normally, he tells me what I'm doing wrong and let's me continue muddling along.

So this morning, I sat down with both children and discussed their attitudes, their workload, expectations, etc. I explained to them that as they grow older, their workload is only going to get more demanding as they prepare for college. We discussed their complaints about doing work that they don't like and I explained that ALL kids (heck, all adults too!) have to do things that they may not like, but it's just part of life. I told them that they were perfectly entitled to feel that way, but that I did not want to be bombarded day-after-day with complaints that a book is boring or too long or stupid or anything else.

One thing I've decided to change is that I will no longer have them do their assigned reading during our "official school time." This is probably the biggest consumer of their time and it has increased dramatically this year. I'm going to assign this for them to do later in the day. One helpful thing would be to get a second copy of the reading book so they can both read at the same time, so I'll try to do that for the books that are available through the library.

A big part of the solution is something only I can change. I must resolve to be more disciplined and not just throw up my hands when I get too frustrated (though, occasionally, this can be a good thing). I have to learn to work through the problems and encourage my kids to do the same. After all, they are getting their example from me, right?

Monday, September 17, 2007

This is one of those days

You know, one of those days when...

I hate homeschooling.

I feel like I'm talking to two brick walls, neither of whom are interested in listening to anything I have to say.

I just feel like leaving the house and driving aimlessly around for hours.

Does anyone else have these feelings?

Why is it so hard for a 5th grader to understand indenting paragraphs? Or spacing words so that they don't all run together into one big huge word that really looks like a paragraph?

Why is it so hard for a 7th grader to remember breaking numbers down into factors, something she's been doing for over a year? Or to even have her times table memorized, for goodness' sake!?

I feel like an utter failure as a mom/teacher on days like this. I feel like I'm not getting anywhere - not getting through. I just get to the point where it absolutely exhausts me to continue to try to get them to listen/understand/apply all that I'm talking about.
I'm not saying that I want to stop homeschooling. In truth, I love homeschooling my kids. Most days are wonderful. But every so often a day comes along that just beats me down. That makes me feel incompetent, inept, in-oh, whatever else begins with "in" that means I'm failing.
I know that in the end, my kids will be fine. I know that I freak out a few times every year, only to have my kids do wonderfully on their testing. But still - today I'd like to just go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.

Yep, it's still me!

I got a little bored with the old template, so I've switched it up. Hopefully, I'm going to be getting a total blog makeover sometime soon, but until then, I thought I'd play around a little bit.

Menu Plan Monday

Ok, so due to life being totally crazy last week(sick kids, church starting up, Moms Night Out, Small Group, etc.), I really ended up not cooking very much. Consequently, I still have tons of food in my freezer. While this makes my wallet happy, it kind of throws off my whole 8 Week Menu Plan. Nevertheless, here's what we're having this week:

Monday - Roasted Chicken, mashed potatoes, corn

Tuesday - Roast beef, baby carrots, roasted potatoes

Wednesday - Mezze (hummus, pita bread, tabbouleh, pickles, deli meats, veggie tray - I'll be at church, so this is really for Hubby)

Thursday - Wild rice, Scallops Charleston

Friday - Grilled chicken kebabs with rice

Saturday - Curried Shrimp, rice, veggies

Sunday - Jambalaya, rice, steamed veggies

As you can see, most of these are repeats from last week - sorry I'm not able to give you all kinds of new ideas! Next week we should be all eaten out of house and home and I'll have to get back on Menu Plan. Until then, you can find other great ideas at The Organizing Junkie - home of Menu Plan Monday!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Link Love

Hey everyone,

Well, Hubby and I have been struck down by a stomach bug (me for the second time in two weeks!!) so we are at home recuperating this morning. In the meantime I thought I'd share with you some neat things I've read this week.

I have to tell you that Jana over at The Joy Box is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit in the blogosphere. She has done some really great series, the latest of which is The Joy in Motherhood, which is amazing. She's also done one on Overcoming Laziness and another on Overcoming Depression. Be sure to check her out.

Lady Lydia has a post up that includes a checklist of questions to ask yourself if you are bored at home. While I certainly don't meet many, or even most, of the questions, I certainly think that it's a good reminder of things we can do to make our homes places of refuge for our family. Often, I find myself using my time unwisely because I get overwhelmed and don't know where to start - this list could help me think of specific ways to make my home a better place.

Jess has written about her quest for the perfect calendar here. It's so funny and so true of many of us. Go read her post to learn about how technological advances are not always a good thing.

Over at The Sparrow's Nest, there's an explanation of both praise songs and hymns that will make you laugh. It's really good to realize that, while we may have a favorite style of worship, both are important and valid.

Ok, that's it for me. I'm off to bed to try to get some sleep before the kiddos come back from church. Hopefully, I'll be up and about tomorrow!
Friday, September 14, 2007

Bring the rain

This goes with the post below - sorry, I haven't quite figured out all the technicalities of doing the YouTube thing yet!

It's a new day!

This morning the sun is shining brightly; all the children in my house are happy and, most importantly, healthy; no cop killers roam through nearby neighborhoods; life is good.

Another thing I should make note if is that our small group will be continuing. As I mentioned here and here, Hubby and I had really been struggling in regards to whether or not continuing to lead it was what God wanted us to do. After my flubbed email, one couple stepped up and offered to serve, not as leaders, but as coordinators. They suggested that we rotate both leading and hosting duties amongst the group so no one would be too overwhelmed. That idea was met with pretty positive responses from within the group, so we will be meeting tonight to set up all the details.

All of this is to say that God always makes something new. Even when it's dark or scary or sad, He is able to re-form your situation into something He can use.

"Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."
Psalm 30:5b

I know that the situations I mentioned above are not life-transforming things - a sick child, a criminal on the loose, a Bible study fraught with misunderstanding. This doesn't even come close to what you may have gone through in your life - the loss of a child or spouse, life-threatening illness, serious financial trouble.

But God's promises hold just as true in the big situations as they do in the small ones. Somehow, if one looks for it, you can see God's hand at work. You'll understand, though sometimes only through hindsight, how God used a terrible, horrible situation to accomplish something that will bring about His glory.

And isn't that what we are here for? To bring glory to God? If He can use me to glorify His name, I'm open to it. I know it won't always be easy. It will often be painful, more painful than anyone might expect. But I know that God will sustain me - just like He will sustain you - through whatever He calls us to go through.
Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ok, so this is why God reminded me this morning that He's in charge.

Edited to add: The suspect was found overnight in an apartment complex in the next county up. After opening fire on officers trying to arrest him, he was shot and killed.

Just a short time ago, three police officers were shot about 20 blocks from our home. The schools in the area (including the one that Daniel would have been at for speech therapy this time tomorrow) are on lock-down. Police, Fire Rescue, even Homeland Security- they've all been flying over head continually. It's pretty scary.

They've found the suspect's car about 20 blocks west and 6 blocks north of here, in residential area. Please pray that they find this man quickly and with no further injury to anyone else.

I'm thankful that this man drove north instead of east into our neighborhood. But still a little on edge until he's found.

Again, please pray that he's found and for the three officers who have been shot. I'll keep you updated.

Edited to add: Actually now they are saying that at least 4 officers, perhaps more, were shot. One was killed, another is in surgery in critical condition. No sign yet of the shooter.

Thankful Thursday

Well, today I had exciting plans. I was scheduled to go with our homeschool group down to the local PBS station's Resource Center. They were offering us the opportunity to use their materials, just like public schools. Videos on basically every subject imaginable. I was so excited. Until about 3:30 this morning.

That's when a nasty flu bug hit Emily. She's been throwing up ever since and she's miserable. The sweet thing told me I could leave her here alone and still go, but I can't leave her when she's so sick.

So today I choose to be thankful that God knows better. Even though I was very excited about this opportunity, for whatever reason, it wasn't where God wanted me this morning. Perhaps it's so I can get more schooling done with Daniel. Maybe because my house is a disaster and really needs work on. It could be that we would have been involved in an accident if we were on the roads at that time. I just don't know.

But I know that God knows.

I'm so thankful that, when my plans don't work out, I always know that God's plan is working out. I'm disappointed, yes. It's a great opportunity for we homeschoolers to be given access to such a vast resource. I'll miss the introduction to it and the instruction, but I'll still be able to figure it out, I suppose. But I'm strangely not disappointed.

It's good to have the assurance that whatever happens in life, big or small, is from the Lord. Today's switch in plans is a small thing, I know. But, because of God's promises, I know that every day of my life is ordained of the Lord. He knows it all. It's all part of His plan.

And that makes me feel so safe, so secure, knowing that I'm always in the palm of His hand. And there's no better place to be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Jess has written an excellent post that anyone who is wondering who to vote for still needs to read. With Senator Fred Thompson throwing his hat into the ring, many people are looking to him to be the salvation of the Republican party. But his delay in entering the race has meant that we don't really know where he stands; we haven't had the opportunity to learn much about him.

The Senator stated on Fox News that he felt the current process of presidential primary debates was not "designed to illuminate people's thoughts, feelings." He praised Newt Gringrich's idea to bring back the Lincoln-Douglass style of debating, one on one, in-depth discussions.

When presented with this opportunity by Governor Mike Huckabee, though, Thompson declined. Hmmm.

Go read more about it over at Making Home. Go Mike!!

Works For Me Wednesday

Ok, so my daughter is having a sleepover party of about 8 girls. Two of her guests, twins, won't actually be sleeping over because her parents do not allow sleepovers, so they are being picked up 11:00. Her mom is pretty over-protective, so I'm just thrilled the girls were allowed to come at all. Meanwhile, Hubby and I are hosting a Bible Study. The girls all decide to go swimming - no problem, we can keep our eyes on them through the French doors. As the study is wrapping up and the adults are hanging out having coffee and dessert, I hear a scream. From the patio. From one of the twins.

Dang it!

Sure enough, sweet little girl had run on the wet patio, slipped and busted her lip open - half an hour before mom was to come. Of all the girls for it to happen to, it had to be one of the twins, right? Blood's everywhere, she's crying, I'm panicking.

My dear friend Ivis (pronounced Ee-vee) whips out the sugar bowl and proceeds to pour sugar on the poor girl's lip. Now, Ivis (I think to myself) I know you want her to feel better, but I don't think giving her a sugar overdose is the answer. But no, it's not an attempt to make her feel better -the sugar stopped the bleeding. Like that! Amazing!

Apparently this is an old Cuban remedy. We use it quite often now. Just yesterday Hubby cut himself shaving badly, so he stuck some sugar on the wound and the bleeding ceased. So the next time you or your little one get a boo-boo, just pour sugar on it and watch the miracle of the sugar. You might end up looking like a sugar donut, but hey, it works for me!

For more great ideas, visit Rocks In My Dryer for more Works For Me Wednesday tips!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Do you remember?

Six years ago today, the world changed.

I was preparing myself for my women's Bible study later that morning when I heard on the radio that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. Out of curiosity, and in my naivete, I assumed it had been a small plane and pilot error and went to turn on the tv. I stood there agonizing for those who had been on the plane as well as those who had been in the building.

Then, as the world watched, the second plane hit. I thought there must be a problem with air traffic control. It honestly never occurred to me that anyone could have done this intentionally. That it was a terrorist attack. That there were people who hated us THAT much.

And then, as the day grew on, the news went from bad to worse. The Pentagon. A plane down in a field in Pennsylvania. How many more planes were there? Buildings collapsing. People leaping out of skyscrapers. False, fortunately, reports of bombs. The growing realization that no one would be found in the rubble.

I remember thinking that the world would never be the same. That life will never be normal again.

But it is. Oh, there are markers. Changes in how we fly. Changes in how we open bank accounts.

Thousands of young people lost in battle.

But in effect, for the majority of us, life has gone on.

Just take a moment and remember what it felt like afterwards. We felt so unified as a country. We were so careful to be kind, to be patient. Maybe, just for today, we could try to be like that again. Remember that we are one nation. That we are going through this life together, in one way or another. Let us treat one another with care and with gratitude for our very lives.

And let us never forget.
Monday, September 10, 2007

Ok, it's desperation time

Yesterday I realized that my 15th wedding anniversary is less than 6 months away. Yikes!! I've been telling myself for years that I won't let myself stay at this weight, and that by the time my 15th anniversary comes around, I will be able to fit back into my wedding dress. Well, I'm not sure if that's going to happen, but I'm at least going to try.

In the past, I have had success using Michael Thurmond's (the guy on Extreme Makeover) 6 Week Body Makeover. In fact, a year or two ago, I lost over 20 pounds in the course of just 4 weeks (and that includes plenty of cheating!). Unfortunately, I quit rather than continue and have now put that weight back on and then some.

But I've read a lot of the success stories on their website and see repeated over and over that cheating makes the cravings never really go away and that at a certain point (around 4 weeks), you realize that you really can live this way. So I sabotaged myself. By cheating, I thought, hey, I'm still losing weight and I'm still having my cake, er, potato chips. But really I was setting myself up for failure by refusing to kill that voice inside me that tells me I NEED all this food that really do nothing but make me miserable in the end. This time, I plan on really not allowing myself to cheat and see if that helps it to become second nature more quickly.

So the basics of the plan are to eat 6 small meals a day, suited to your body type (my body type isn't really supposed to have beef, but I have it in the house so I'm going to use it up!), no salt, no added fat, no sugar, no dairy, no wheat. It's not easy to do, but I've found some recipes that are delicious so here's what we'll be having this week:

Monday - Baked Tilapia, steamed veggies, rice

Tuesday - Roast beef, baked potatoes w/salsa, steamed baby carrots

Wednesday - Scallops sauteed in white wine and garlic, rice, green beans

Thursday - Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, salad

Friday - Mezze (hummus, pita bread, tabbouleh, pickles, deli meats, veggie tray - I'll stick to just the veggie tray and low-sodium deli meats)

Saturday - Shepherd's Pie

Sunday - Jambalaya, rice, steamed veggies

I'll let you know my progress!!

For more great menu ideas, jump over to The Organizing Junkie to see what tons of other bloggers are having this week!
Sunday, September 9, 2007

Smart Habit Saturday

Better late than never, right?! Sorry this is so late getting posted, but it's been a busy day for us over here.

I'm happy to report that last week's goal of really clearly having a "line of demarcation" between school time and non-school time worked really well. We got so much accomplished this week, school-wise. And that's accounting for the fact that we had a three-day weekend, started back to our support group (losing 1/2 a day), resumed speech therapy, and had a "mom was really sick so kids had to work by themselves day." I'm really, really pleased that things went so well. Everyone seemed much happier with less stress and also with the new curriculum that we began.

For this week, I'd really like to continue working on this habit, as it is a constant source of stress for me, plus I'd really like to work on dealing with my children in a more positive way. I've gotten to the point, or maybe THEY'VE gotten to the point, where relations are strained because they are constantly fighting, which means I'm constantly on edge. Rather than just yelling at them to stop, I need to find better ways to handle my own anger and frustration, while helping them learn to deal with their conflicts in a more productive manner than lashing out at each other.

So, specifically, what should I work on? Well, first, I'd like to stop yelling. Even if I'm frustrated, yelling only serves to upset me, and my kids, more. It's counter-productive, even if it lets me blow off a little steam. Instead, I should take a second to pray and ask for wisdom when there is a conflict boiling over between them.

Secondly, I need to go back to Lisa Whelchel's book Creative Correction and look for some constructive ways to help siblings deal with their conflict. I personally always liked the "making them hold hands" technique. They hate that! But seriously, in order to be productive, healthy adults, they have to learn conflict resolutions skills which do not involve pulling each other's hair or throwing things. I'm just sayin'. Cuz their boss in the future might not like that, they'll get fired and come back to live with me. So it's really MY future on the line here, people!

For more wonderful ideas if you are looking for ways to change the habits in your life, pop over to The Lazy Organizer to see what others are working on. Who knows, you may find some inspiration there to Save your Money, Associations, Resources, and Time!

Catching Up!

Well, I started this post this morning around 8 am. Then Hubby invited me on a walk with him and by the time I got back and managed to return to the computer, the kids had closed it. But I've decided to try to slip this in before Saturday is officially over!

Sorry I haven't posted in the last couple of days. We've just been in the process of life - getting back into the groove of fall, you know? Daniel began speech therapy at the local public school this week. He's been going for a few years now and really enjoys it. He was very happy to see his speech pathologist and especially happy to see his friend, David, back in his group. The speech pathologist made a special effort to keep them together and I really appreciate that.

After I dropped him off, I walked over to the school library, oh, they are called "Resource Centers" now. I spoke with the librarian about having materials (mostly videos) delivered to me there from the center which supplies materials to teachers. She was so kind and gracious and agreed not just to do that, but to allow us to check out any resource they had there as well. I've been really happy with the cooperation I've received from the school.

We've been busily polishing up Hubby's resume to get it ready to send out. It's taken us longer than we had hoped to finish it up, but I think we are finally done and just need to prepare a cover letter now. He learned yesterday that the partners in his firm will be holding a meeting on Tuesday to inform the associates (of which he is one) that the situation is looking pretty bleak for the foreseeable future. In his industry, you generally know at least a year in advance what's coming down the pike and right now there's nothing on the horizon. There will probably be another round of layoffs in the next few weeks. It's the same everywhere right now, so it's really looking like this is a good time for us to make the move to Dubai if we are going to do it.

Last night we had a fun evening. A cockatiel flew into our yard. When Daniel and I went out to investigate it, it flew onto my shoulder. We brought him in and kept him for a few hours, enjoying watching it fly around the house (mostly into my hair! it seemed to prefer long, brown hair). Finally after the kids screamed enough when it tried to land on their shoulders, I took it outside and let it go. It was fun, but we aren't ready to add any new pets right now!

I'm off to make dinner now, but I am planning on posting my Smart Habit Saturday later this evening. I know it will be late, but better late than never!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Feeling better - except for my brain

Well, I seem to have overcome the whole food-poisoning-by-coleslaw episode. Except for the lack of sleep which seems to have left my brain a little fuzzy. Around 3:30 I decided to drag my sorry self out of bed (but not before the pool guy looked through my french doors and waved at my pajama-clad, stringy-haired sorry self - good thing I was wearing the pajamas!) and get a shower. Once there, I poured a nice glob of shampoo into my hands and proceeded to rub it all over my face. In my fog I had confused it for my face cleanser.

Once I rinsed that off and managed to apply shampoo (AND CONDITIONER TOO!!) to the right part of my anatomy and got out of the shower, I somehow convinced Emily to brush my hair. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have my hair brushed. So she's brushing it and giving me a really cute swept over bang and tells me, "Mom, this hairstyle makes you look 30." I shoot daggers at her with my penetrating eyes. 30! How rude?! I mean, why would I want a hairstyle that makes me look 30? And why is she looking at me with such confusion? Um, that would be because 30 is actually good for me, seeing as I'm 39 and all. Yep, that's right - apparently food poisoning, while it makes you feel really horrible, can remove, oh, say 15 years from your life - in your head, at least!

Hopefully I'll be more on the ball tomorrow. But I wouldn't count on it.
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Do you feel invisible? Read this!

Updated to add: Lindsay posted the original source for this wonderful post. Please visit Heidi at her blog and be sure to leave her a note thanking her for her wonderful words of encouragement!

I seem to have gotten a touch of food poisoning, so I'm not up to writing up anything myself, but I found this lovely, amazing story at Lindsay's blog Enjoy The Journey. Thanks to her for sharing it - it's just what I need lately!

I'm invisible.......

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Pick me up right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She's going ... she's going ... she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress;it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read -- no, devour -- the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals-- we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it."

And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home.

And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Works for me Wednesday - Brand Loyalty

Shannon is hosting a special-edition Works for me Wednesday today all about brand loyalty. Now, I must admit, there are very few products that I care about which brand I buy. Generally I go for what's on sale, what's cheapest. Like most one-income family, pennies count. I buy lots of generic products and have noticed a difference in only a few types of products. But there are a few products that I willingly splurge on just because I've found it really makes a difference or because they make me happy for whatever reason. In the interest of opening my life up like a book you can't wait to put down, here they are:

Crystal Light Lemonade - Oh, there's nothing like lemonade when you are hot. But real lemonade takes forever to make, frozen just leaves something to be desired, IMHO, and then there's all that sugar. But with Crystal Light, it's easy and only 5 calories a serving. It's also a great way to up your water intake. I go through this like, well, water.

Downy Fabric Softener - I grew up in a house that used dryer sheets. Never thought a thing about it. Then one day, on a whim, I thought I'd try Downy just to see if there was a difference. Oh my goodness, was there a difference! I swear with every item of laundry I folded for the next month I would swoon at the fresh scent. I'd rub everything up against my cheek. Towels became more fluffy. Life just became sweeter. Funny how sad my life must be to be so impacted by fabric softener, but it is what it is. Just consider that I had two children under 4 at the time! Little things count!

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers - These things work miracles, people. Miracles. You can get just about anything clean with them. Resin lawn furniture, step stools that have had years of dirt ground into them, sharpies on laminate countertops, red wine on laminate countertops, smudges on walls, you name it. I use them all the time. I even bought my mother-in-law a few packs to send home with her since they don't have them there. She loved them too and she's a total cleaning freak.

So that's really the big three that I can think of. Like I said, I'm usually searching out the best deal. I won't sacrifice quality for a little savings, but I do feel that these products are worth the money.

Be sure to check out other ideas at Rocks In My Dryer. Maybe you can find a new wonder product for your home!

Why, it's a veritable smorgasbord of recipes!

So, I realized a little while ago that I forgot that I promised to give you a couple of Paula Deen dessert recipes today. Then I remembered that there were a couple of recipes people had asked for as a result of my most recent Menu Plan Monday posting. And so today, you are getting, four, count 'em, FOUR delicious recipes!

First up we'll do the entree recipes asked for from
Menu Plan Monday. The first recipe, Roast Sticky Chicken, is a favorite here in this house. It's cooked low and slow and develops the most amazing crispy, spicy coating. To die for!!! I got this recipe from one of my dear friends, either Pam or Melissa, but I can't for the life of me remember which one. You know who you are - please step up and claim your rightful place as Roast Sticky Chicken recipe queen!

Roast Sticky Chicken

4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chopped onions
1 large roasting chicken

Rinse & dry chicken. Combine spices and mix well; rub onto chicken, both inside and out. Place chicken in a large, resealable bag and chill overnight. Place in shallow pan and roast uncovered at 250 degrees for 5 hours. After the first hour, baste every half hour with the pan juices.

Next up is the recipe for Bezella. This is an Arabic stew my mother-in-law taught me. It is the only Arabic dish my husband actually requested that I learn, so you know it must be good! The spices are not ones we Americans usually use for stews, but trust me, they are delicious! The word "bezella" is actually Arabic for peas. Arabs are very simple and straightforward when it comes to naming their food, I've learned!


1 onion, chopped
1 lb. stew meat, cut into 1/2" pcs.
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 tomatoes, finely diced
1 bag of frozen peas and carrots

Mix spices together well. Brown onions until they are soft; add stew meat and saute until meat is browned. Stir in spice mixture and stir; allow to cook for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and frozen veggies. Top with water until mixture is covered. Cook until tender (the longer the better). Serve over rice.

Now on to the desserts from
Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook. The first goodie I'll be sharing with you I've never heard of before, but it looks absolutely decadent! They are called "Low Country Cookies."

Low Country Cookies
Yields 15-20

One 16 oz. box graham crackers
12 tablespoons butter (hey, this is Paula Deen after all!!!)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut

Line a 13x9 pan with whole graham crackers. Melt butter in a saucepan and add the sugar. Beat egg and milk together; add to butter mixture. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add nuts, coconut and 1 cup graham cracker crumbs. Pour over crackers in pan. Cover with another layer of graham crackers. Prepare topping.

2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk

Beat all ingredients together and spread over top layer of crackers. Chill. Cut into squares to serve.

Finally, a recipe for those of us out there who really don't like chocolate. Don't throw things at your computer screen - there are just some of us who don't get what all the fuss is about, ok? But a blond brownie? Now that sounds like heaven. Here's a recipe Paula serves at her restaurant.

Aunt Glennis's Blond Brownies

Yields 6-7 dozen

3 eggs

8 tablespoons butter

One 16-oz box brown sugar

2 cups self-rising flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup shredded coconut

One 6 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat eggs and butter together; add sugar. Gradually add flour; mix well. Stir in vanilla. Fold in nuts, coconut and chocolate chips. Bake in greased & floured 13x9 sheet pan for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

So that concludes the feast! Please let me know if you try out any of these recipes and what you think. I'm off to bed - I've made a commitment to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. so I can get up and exercise in the morning. Have a great night!


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