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Showing posts from June, 2008

Kids in Service

I led another Volunteer Camp for fourteen 2nd-6th grade girls at Harpeth Hall School last week. It was so much fun! You could these ideas with your family, if you are looking for a way to get involved in your community. Children are so eager to make a difference in the world - and they have so much energy to do it! I'd love to hear if you use any of these ideas - or if you have your own ideas for family service. :)

Here's an excerpt from the letter I sent to parents, describing the week's events:

We will visit Warner Parks to learn about taking care of the environment and help do our part to keep the park a beautiful place. Then we'll make jewelry – from recycled materials – to take home with us. Come ready to explore and have a great time on the wild side of Nashville.

We will visit older adults in the daycare program at Senior Citizens Inc. You will fall in love with this sweet folks as we ha…

Top 10 Tips for Improving Your Fuel Economy

Edited from a longer article by Tara Baukus Mello
It's full of practical advice without using a lot of mechanical jargon. I added thoughts in italics.

Follow the Recommended Maintenance
A vehicle that is well maintained means it will operate with greater efficiency. Fouled spark plugs, a dirty air filter or clogged fuel filter will all affect your fuel economy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), replacing a clogged air filter can increase your mileage by 10 percent, while replacing an oxygen sensor could result in an improvement as high as 40 percent.

Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated
Underinflated tires require more energy to roll, which translates into more frequent fill-ups. You can improve your fuel economy by about 3.3 percent if you keep your tires inflated properly, according to the DOE. The psi number noted on the sidewall of your tires is the maximum pressure of the tire and is not the proper inflation level for your car. Your vehicle manufacturer will list th…

Date Swap - for the Weekend!

We're having a great date swap weekend.

Last night, my sweetheart & I went on a 7th anniversary date to see a concert, to enjoy happy hour appetizers and a decadent dessert. Our friends kept the kids overnight, so we had an extra long date!

Today the friends brought our kids to our house, and stayed to visit for the day. We live 30 minutes away, so we don't see each other as often as we like. A day of visiting was quite a treat! We made lunch together, enjoyed a bit of leftover rum cake, and played chickenfoot dominoes. They even watched our two minute wedding video, in honor or our anniversary, and we had a great time laughing at the cake smashing. :)

They left their kids with us for the afternoon/evening, and we'll meet them at church with the kids tomorrow.

It has been relatively easy (5 kids make a big mess!) and lots of fun (the kids are similar ages and they love each other so much!), so I hope we'll make a tradition of our date swap weekend. It's fi…

Easy Crockpot Meal - Italian Beef

4lb roast
2c water
2T Italian seasoning
1t each salt, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, dried parsley and pepper
1 bay leaf
14 French rolls or tortillas

Cut roast in half; place in a slow cooker.
Combine the water and seasonings; pour over roast.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is very tender.
Discard bay leaf and shred beef with a fork. Return to slow cooker to soak up more juices.
Serve on French rolls or serve with cheddar cheese in tortillas.

Gramma Mary's Rum Cake

My sweetheart's birthday is tomorrow, so we're making one of his favorite cakes. It's a rum cake that his grandmother (Betty Oliver) used to make. His mom just sent me the recipe, so I'm going to make it with the kids this afternoon. I can't wait to taste it!! And I love continuing the tradition of family recipes, so that will make the cake extra special!

Gramma Mary's Rum Cake

1 Duncan Hines Yellow Cake mix
4 eggs
1 C. water
1/2 can Eagle Brand condensed milk
1/2 C. softened butter
1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
1 tsp. rum or rum flavoring

Grease bundt pan and dust lightly with flour. Add all ingredients except pudding mix and eggs. Add eggs one at a time. Beating after each egg is added. Add vanilla instant pudding and beat well. Pour into pan and bake until done. (About one hour.)

Scavenger Hunt for the Needy

My church is sponsoring a food drive for Charis Ministries this month. Our family is going to participate in several ways. We'll give food from our pantry, but the kids are also going to invite our neighbors to participate through an alternative scavenger hunt. I've done it with volunteer groups in the past, and it's always a lot of fun. Here are the directions:

Invite a few friends to participate and split into two or more teams. With an adult chapreone watching, knock on the door, and explain that you are collecting food for people that are hungry. You might say, "We're doing a scavenger hunt, to see how many food items we can collect. Would you like to help?" Show them the food list, and invite them to donate food. Thank them for their help (or kindly accept their answer of no), then visit your next neighbor. After 30 minutes, tally your points and see which team collected the most points. Treat both teams to ice cream and talk about the importan…

Tex-Mex Layered Salad

My sister shared this recipe with me a few years ago - it's always a big hit at potlucks and picnics. I'm sharing it with you as part of Frugal Upstate's collection of Frugal Foods, where this week's focus is beans. Enjoy!

1 ½ cup ranch dressing
½ chopped fresh cilantro
1 teas. Ground cumin
2Tb. Fresh limejuice
2 cups chopped tomatoes
8 scallions, chopped
1 package- 10 oz. Iceberg lettuce salad
8 oz. Package shredded Mexican style cheese
15. Oz. Black beans, rinsed and drained
11. Oz. Mexi-corn, drained
4 cups crumbled Jiffy corn bread, cooked

Place the dressing, the cilantro, cumin and limejuice in a small mixing bowl. Wisk to combine and set aside.

Place the tomatoes and scallions in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Prepare the garnish: Set aside, in separate containers, ½ cup each of lettuce and cheese and ¼ cup each of beans, corn and tomato and scallion mixture. You’ll use these for garnish.

Make the salad: Place half the remaining lettuce in the bottom of your serving bowl. T…

10 Ideas for Water Balloon Fun

Gramma & Papa brought two bags full of water balloons when they came to visit last month.  Each bag ($1 from the Dollar section at Target) provided 90 minutes of fun for the kiddos.
They attached the water balloon funnel (which came in the water balloon package) to the outside hose, then sat down in patio chairs to fill balloons by the kiddie pool.  They let the extra water between balloons fall into the kiddie pool, so the pool slowly filled up along with the water balloons.  It took a long time to fill up the balloons, but the kids played in/around the assembly line the whole time.  Then playtime started.  
1.  My 3yr old liked dropping balloons on his feet - or the feet of anyone around him - to watch the splash.  (I've heard of having a balloon splash competition.  Everyone holds the balloon in front of his nose, then drops it to the ground - whomever's balloon leaves the biggest splash mark is the winner.)

2.  My 21 month old liked to pick up the balloons out of the pool…

Grilled Salmon

We grilled with this salmon recipe last night & loved it! It's super easy to prep & clean - my 3yr old enjoyed pouring the spices into the bag. And it's very yummy. We served it with couscous (on clearance at Big Lots) and broccoli.

4 small salmon fillets (I used the frozen pack from Aldi)
1t lemon pepper to taste
1t garlic powder to taste
1t salt to taste
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Mix everything but the salmon together in a large ziplock bag, until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate.
3. Place salmon on the preheated grill, and discard marinade.
4. Cook salmon for 6-8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

We're trying to cook more fish, so if you have favorite fish recipes, I'd love to borrow them!

Summer Fun - Four Squares

I've been thinking a lot about summer fun for kids, so I'm going to start posting ideas for spontaneous playtimes in the yard. Easy & fun kids games to play with supplies you have around the house.

Today's is an old school-yard game. Do you remember playing four square? I used to love it!

All you need to play is a bouncy ball and sidewalk chalk to mark out the boundary lines. Here are directions.

Let me know if YOU have a summer fun idea - you can write it as a comment or send me a link to your blog. :)

Blogging Fun

Thanks for Chocolate on My Cranium for helping me update my blog a little bit. She has great tutorials on:

Customizing Your Blog - Part 1 Gathering Patterns and Colors
Customizing Your Blog - Part 2 HTML Code
Customizing Your Blog - Part 3 Fonts
Customizing Your Blog - Part 4 Creating a New Header
Customizing Your Blog - Part 5 Adjusting Columns and Margins
Customizing Your Blog - Part 6 Adding a Signature and Personlizing Comments

I first found her 6th post, so it's the only one I've played with thusfar. I look forward to experimenting with her other tips.

All The Tiny Toys

Little tiny knick-knack toys (aka party favors and happy meal toys) drive me crazy! When I'm on a clean-the-clutter streak, I've been known to secretly bundle them up for goodwill or the trash. But Meredith pointed me to a great blog post with really good ideas for using these tiny toys. Check out these ideas from Zakka Life:

Awesome Flip Flops - I saw something like this in a fancy-shmancy store a few months ago, and I've been wanting to make them ever since.Ice Treasures - I showed this to my kids & we immediately went to the kitchen to freeze some treasures.The Attribute Game - I'm going to add this to my collection of kid's learning games.I Spy Bottles - these could also make great gift-in-a-bottle ideas for far-away friends.Toy Bowling - so cute, and it promotes hand-eye coordination!

Congregational Prayers

My church rarely has responsive prayers, but I've always loved them. My friend Susan shared this prayer from her church:

Leader: Let us join our hearts in prayer, responding in song: Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. I just want to thank you, Lord.
For the blessing of children—from newborn to almost grown, and for the sacred charge to nurture and protect them, let us lift our hearts to God:
People: Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. I just want to thank you, Lord.
Leader: For the love or parents, a love shown in its perfect form in God, let us pray:
People: Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. I just want to thank you, Lord.
Leader: For the families who work hard yet struggle every day to make ends meet and provide for their families:
People: Bless them, Lord. Bless them, Lord. Bless them, Lord. Help us be a blessing, too.
Leader: For the children who are beaten down by poverty and homelessness and hunger and suffer in immeasurable ways:


Our friends Scott and Amy came over for dinner last night. We had chicken enchilada casserole, then we played Sorry with the boys. After putting the boys to bed, they taught us to play Chickenfoot, a dominoes game. It was super easy to play - a game with a little bit of skill and a lot of luck. Fast-paced without requiring a lot of strategic thinking. It should be an easy game to play with elementary age kids up to adults.

Orange Julius at Home

I've been craving sunrise smoothies from Sonic or Orange Julius smoothies for 2 days, so we made some for lunch today. This homemade recipe hit the spot perfectly!

1 cup milk (or powdered milk)
1 cup ice water
6 ounces of frozen OJ
12 cubes of ice (more ice = thicker shake)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup sugar or Splenda

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Capturing Little Moments of Prayer

I found this article in the Focus on the Family magazine last month. I cut it out to share, because it has some great ideas for simple prayers. Not sit down & meditate for 20 minute prayers, but quick little conversations with God throughout the day. I especially like her suggestions for laundry, elevator and phone prayers. Thanks, Rhonda, for the great ideas!

Stick to It
Practical tips to unceasing prayer.
by Rhonda Maller

Bible verses about continual prayer typically gave me visions of robed men who pray night and day. I certainly didn't fit in that category. As a wife and mother, juggling home school, part-time work and active roles in my church and community, I found it hard to pray once a day. So I hid those verses in the "for other people" file.

But I soon realized that my "busy" schedule interferes with nurturing relationships. So acting upon my love for my family and God becomes a deliberate choice.

The Bible encourages me to pray continually and be f…

Another Glimpse into my Service-Learning World

I led a really cool Service-Learning Camp for Harpeth Hall School’s Summer Program last week. Fourteen girls in grades 2-6 signed up to volunteer each morning for five days.

Through direct service, activities and reflection games, we explored how we can make a difference in our communities – and we had a lot of fun doing it. Here is a sample of our schedule.

Monday - Educational Opportunities and Healthy child Development
We’ll be talking about the importance of providing a safe, nurturing and educational environment for all children, and we’ll be helping Preston Taylor Ministries get ready for their summer camp. Then we’ll talk about how we can encourage younger children in our lives with words and actions.

Tuesday - Care for the Sick and their Families
We will visit Ronald McDonald House, learn how they serve others, help with house beautification projects, and encourage the residents with creative and yummy gifts. Then we’ll think about ways we can help sick or hurting people in our own…

The Incredible Edible Egg

Frugal Upstate is hosting a carnival on Frugal Foods. Currently she is collecting egg-based recipes, because eggs average about 17 cents each. My favorite egg recipe is Breakfast Casserole. I often make it for company or for Bible study brunches. It's easy, quick & super yummy!

· 1 pound mild pork sausage
· 1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent roll dough (or stale bread crumbs)
· 8 eggs, beaten
· 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
· 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano or italian seasoning
Brown sausage in a skillet. Drain, crumble, and set aside. Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish with crescent roll dough, and sprinkle with crumbled sausage. In a large bowl, mix beaten eggs, mozzarella, and Cheddar. Season the mixture with oregano, and pour over the sausage and crescent rolls. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 325 degrees.

63 Things to Do With Your Kids Before They Grow Up

This is an excerpt from a Southwest Airlines article that I loved. You can read the whole article full of fun ideas at Spirit Magazine.
2. Destroy a toaster. Next time you replace an appliance, give the old model to your kid. Together, you can dissect the machine and examine its parts. Don’t know much about circuitry? offers a primer.11. Camp out.
Pitch a tent in the backyard, grab sleeping bags and flashlights, and spend a night under the stars.13. Go guerrilla. Commit random, anonymous acts of kindness with your child, like leaving flowers in mailboxes, shoveling your neighbor’s driveway after a hard snow, or clapping in public.14. Get lost in a snow globe. Not literally. Instead, make a homemade snow globe with a miniature winter scene starring your family. Find step-by-step instructions by searching for “snow globe” at Explode a volcano. Baking-soda volcanoes are a staple of science fairs for a reason. They appeal to budding chemists, volcanologists…

Double Professions - Playing Hard

I thought I would give you a glimpse of my other professional life, since I usually just talk about the profession of motherhood.

I spent last night at the beautiful Barefoot Republic Camp in Kentucky with a group of 28 teens, college students and adults working to build unity among teens in Nashville through a series of worship events called Fusion. We had the best time singing, planning, and hanging out together.

My job was to create a sense of community among these volunteer leaders who will carry out 3 events for 200 teens this summer. They wanted me to lead games from our Great Group Games book because “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” (Plato)

So we played – lots! Our first session was focused on getting to know each other. We bounced, finger fenced, searched for commonalities, sang, played with balloons, and scavenged for treasure. We learned the stories behind the names of people from teammates around the world.

The se…

Gas Buddy

My friend Mary called today, asking if I knew of a website where she could find the cheapest local gas. I laughed when she added, "I thought if any of my friends would know that kind of info, Ann would be the one to know!" I was excited to know the answer to her question.

GASBUDDY is a great website for comparing gas prices in your geographical region. You type in your zip code, and it gives you a list of local prices reported by readers along with the time they spotted the price.

It can be a great tool to keep you from getting gas station at the pump that is 10 cents higher than another pump on your daily route.

Italian Breaded Pork Chops

I love! Here's the pork chop recipe we made for dinner tonight. How did we find it in the middle of 800 pork chop recipes? I typed in "baked pork chops", then asked the search engine to sort the recipes by rating (5 stars, then 4.5 stars, all the way down to 0 stars). I read through the first dozen recipes with high ratings & high review #s. With 316 4.5 star ratings, I guessed this would be a pretty good recipe! And it was - we all enjoyed it. :)

Brownie Pie

This recipe for Brownie Pie comes from an article Jeannie Murray (my sister's sweet mother-in-law) wrote for the Truth Seekers Fellowship newsletter. We made it for my husband's early birthday party last night. It was super easy and really good. We suggest serving it warm with vanilla ice cream.

2 beaten eggs
1c sugar
1/2 c flour
1/2 stick melted butter
3 1/2 squares of Bakers unsweeted cocoa
1t vanilla
1/8t salt

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium size bowl. Add other ingredients and mix together. Pour into a greased pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It's really easy to make with kids!


Truth Seekers is an outstanding ministry, founded by the father of my brother-in-law. I am most impressed with their MilktoMeat discipleship curriculum, a phenomenal group resource that explores the basic tenants of Christian faith. Here are some other resources they highlight on their homepage:

>To find out more about Truth Seekers Fellowship, go here.
>To listen to their Summer …

Teaching Children to Pray

I read a great article on quick prayers in Focus on the Family's magazine. When I was googling to find it online, I stumbled upon some interactive ideas for teaching children (or adults!) to pray. This website gives ideas for prayers individually, as families or with children. Here are their ideas for children's groups:

Passing the Bible : Gather the group into a circle. Pass a bible round the circle, starting and ending with a leader, who can open and close with a brief prayer. On receiving the bible, each group member has the option of saying a prayer aloud, saying a prayer silently, or passing the bible straight onto the next person. This can be done gathered around a lighted candle or some other focal point.

Praying Round the World Gather the group around a large atlas, or world map, with a arrow pointer made out of card. Encourage each group member before the session to find out somewhere in the world that needs our prayers, and to write a brief prayer. They then briefly …

White Bean Chili

My husband clipped this recipe for Chili King's White Bean Chili from a magazine. I can't remember which magazine to give credit, but I thought you would like this quick & easy & yummy chili recipe. I know it's getting a little hot for chili in some parts of the country, but maybe my northern friends can make it before it gets too hot. The rest of us can save the recipe for next year.

2 cans northern beans, drained
2 cans black beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes (with juice)
3 cans chicken broth
1 can beer
2 4oz cans chiles (drained)
2-3lbs chicken tenderloins
1lb chorizo
olive oil
1 chopped white onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
1T cumin
1T chili
1/2t oregano
1T Cajun seasoning

optional: sour cream, tortilla chips, fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

Cut the chicken into small pieces and saute in the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Cook the chorizo in the same saucepan. Drain.

Put all other ingredients (including meats) in a large pot. Bring the …