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Showing posts from August, 2008

Date Night on Youtube

My DH took my on a Youtube date night last night. We watched "The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," by Randy Pausch. I'm so glad we took time to watch it. It's a dynamic picture-filled lecture given by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who died last month of complications from pancreatic cancer.

It's a 76 minute talk about understanding your passions, and reaching for goals. It's about the brick walls that interupt our paths, and how they are just there to test how much we really want to achieve our goals. It's about accepting feedback and criticism, because it's a sign that people actually care about your work. It's about living life to the fullest - with passion, determination, and fervor. It's just a really good talk.

I think you and your spouse would enjoy watching it together. It's a great reflective piece on life, marriage and raising children.

Purposeful Living

I drove through our little local coffee shop, Java Jacks, to get a chai for my sweetheart this morning. Posted on their drive through window was a great scripture that jumped out at me. Here is Eph 1:11 from the Message:

It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
What great affirmation for moms! God works his purposes in us and in our children each day. He knew before we were born what glorious plans he had for our lives and he designed us to perfectly bring those plans to fruition. What an awesome and personal God we have! So go find a few quiet minutes to spend with your Heavenly Father, and ask him to continue to reveal who you are in Christ and what you are to live for. I think He will be delighted to answer you!

Ideas for Breakfast and Lunch

Shannon just shared a great article with me from USA Today. It has a whole page of ideas for healthy and quick breakfasts and lunches for kids in (and out!) of school.

Here are two of the breakfast ideas that my kids would love:
•Yogurt parfait: Layer 1 cup low-fat yogurt, 1 cup berries or ¼ cup raisins, and 1 cup whole-grain cereal in a tall glass.
• Smoothie: Place 4 ounces plain low-fat yogurt, 1 cup berries or 1 medium banana, ½ cup of 1% low-fat milk and 2 ice cubes in a blender or food processor. Serve with one or two pieces of whole-grain toast.

You'll have to read the article to find out about "Banana Ants-Under-The Dog", but I don't know if I could fix those!!!

Back to School - Games Style #2

I finally added a paypal link to the blog, so you can buy our Great Group Games book directly from here! Thanks to Joanne Heim for coaching me through the process.

Here's another warm-up for a new group during this back-to-school season:

It’s Your Birthday
Time: 10-15 minutes
Supplies: music

“Today is your birthday and this is your party! As hostess/host of this party you have to introduce as many of these people to each other as you possibly can.” After people have had a chance to mingle, do a quick hand count of who introduced the most people. To make it more like a party, play some music as the people mingle.

Assets: support, social competencies, safety

Notes from Angie

I just finished reading the book, "Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit", for the second time and I just love it so much. It really should be called Mothering with a Meek and Quiet spirit. I love this excerpt from her book:

The author has 8 children and she tells of one time that she was having a rough morning with her children. She walked into the bathroom and discovered an entire roll of toilet paper unrolled throughout the bathroom. She says that she sat on the floor and cried because it was the last straw of a rough morning of testing from the kids. But she states that she wishes this was her reaction instead and I just love what she says.....

"Lord, these little guys are at again. Thank you for giving them to me to love, teach, and train. Please, Lord, give me the energy I need to deal sweetly with them. Also, grant me the courage and wisdom to discipline them. I love them so much, Lord."

I just love how she says, "deal sweetly with them". I try s…

Back to School - Games Style

Back to School time equals start-up time for clubs, classes, sports teams and youth organizations. Playing GAMES with PURPOSE is a great way to kick off your year to a great start. You can find 175 ideas in our GREAT GROUP GAMES BOOK, but here is one name game to help your participant's (and you!) learn everyone's names:

Names in Action
· Time: 10 – 30 minutes
· Supplies: none
· One by one, each participant introduces herself to the rest of the group by putting a motion to each syllable of her name as she says it out loud. (For example: Crystal has 2 syllables in her name, so she puts her hands on her hips with “Crys” . . . and bobs her head with “tal.”)
· The group, in turn, repeats back the name with the action motion (affirming the person and solidifying the name in their heads).
· The next person goes. The group repeats their name/action and then repeats the name of the first person again.
· And so it goes until all action names have be…

The Secret Garden of the Soul

“Every soul that is truly alive has a garden of which no other holds the key; and in hours of weariness, when it is breathless with the hot race of life, and harassed by a babble of voices, it slips through the gates and walks at peace among the flowers.”

Emily Herman, 1876-1923
The Secret Garden of the Soul and other Devotional Studies

Practice the Presence of God

That's the quote that I wrote on a coaster that I made at a retreat with women from my church last spring. It summed up the message of our women's retreat on solitude, but the quote actually came from something I read by Brother Lawrence years ago.

The practice of the presence of God...” (Brother Lawrence, 17c)

This isn’t easy. Creating a stillness in your body, mind, and spirit takes amazing discipline and time. And it can only under the fountain of grace that flows onto the child who sits humbly at Jesus’ feet.

“The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as that is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea)

So that's what I'm seeking today, amidst lots of little & big stressors on our family this week. I want to practice being in God's presence, sitting with him, sharing with him, listening to him, and absorbing his amazi…

Shannon's Tips

Aldi has just released their generic version of Fiber One bars (We love how filling they are compared to other bars of this type). I just tried the generic version today and they taste almost exactly like Fiber One. They were $1.89 for 5 bars, which I think is quite a bit cheaper than I can get them at Sam's.

If your children like granola bars, you might try the homemade fruit and cereal bars I made last week. They were a bit hit (My DH said last night that I needed to make them again!). Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 T lemon juice
2 1/2 cups whole grain cereal (corn flakes, bran flakes, etc.)
6 oz. dried fruit

-Line 8" square dish with foil & spray with nonstick.
-Heat PB, honey, milk powder & lemon juice in a microwave safe bowl for 4 minutes or until bubbly.
-Remove & stir in cereal and fruit until well mixed
-Scrape into prepared dish and press into even layer
-Cool completely, then cut i…

German Pancakes

We had a yummy breakfast this morning - pancakes with strawberry syrup and peach smoothies. Such a yum-yum breakfast made me feel like a queen!

My sweetheart found ripe peaches in our community peach tree, then blended them with vanilla yogurt and a little bit of sugar for the smoothies.

Then I made regular pancakes from batter with homemade strawberry syrup. I stole the syrup recipe from the German Pancakes link below, just blending 1cup of frozen strawberries with 1.5cups of sugar, then boiling it in the microwave. The syrup was great, so next time I'll try the whole recipe from Lara at The Lazy Organizer.

Happy Birthday!

I just looked at my blog dashboard and realized that I just posted my 500th entry on mommysecrets. I guess that's not an official birthday, since birthdays are usually more calendar-ish in nature. But I still wanted to celebrate, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY blog! I think I'll need to find some chocolate to celebrate!! :)

Saving Time in the Kitchen

I love multipurpose cooking - it saves SO much time in the kitchen.

This week I broiled a chicken, then shredded it to put in the freezer for casseroles. I saved the broth and made chicken noodle soup with some of the shredded chicken. We had some for dinner, and I'll freeze some for later.

After making Shrimp Skewers a few nights ago, I had leftover spaghetti sauce and pasta. So I used the leftovers to make a chicken tetrazini. I simply mixed together the spaghetti sauce, pasta and some of the frozen chicken from earlier in the week. I added some italian seasoning, basil, oregano and garlic powder. When I cook it, I'll top the dish with monterey jack cheese. This will make a super easy dinner on a busy night in the next few weeks.

Happy time-saving cooking!

Asking Hard Questions

My husband showed me this article from his "Desiring God" weekly email. It's not the typical sermon, but rather a story of how a christian family is dealing with the impending death of his mother. It doesn't focus on the sadness, but it focuses on being well-prepared and honoring God through the last season of life. Since most of us will experience the death of a parent, I think it's a good issue to think through ahead of time. If you want to read the full article, visit the link above.


My mother has entered what I call “the frowning season.” These are the times of discouraging diagnoses, meds by the bulk, and medical appointments as full-time employment. Like leaves dropping off a maple tree, we are watching her independence slip one small incident at a time. The long winter of dependence approaches and, beyond that, the steep valley of dying and death itself.

There is nothing praiseworthy about my siblings and I gathering together this past weekend to…

Dinner Tonight - Shrimp Skewers

I tried a new recipe tonight and we LOVED it. If you like shrimp, you need to try this recipe next time fresh/frozen shrimp is on sale!!

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
2 pounds shrimp with tails

1. Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a large ziplock bag, and mush to stir. Add shrimp, and massage until evenly coated. Refrigerate for 1 hour, massaging the bag periodically.
2. Spear shrimp onto skewers and grill over medium heat for 3 minutes/side.
3. Boil discarded marinade for pasta sauce, if desired.

Time Savers for Packing Lunches

A great tip contributed by my friend Shannon:

As school starts back, I have a mommy secret to share. Yesterday, I spent a little less than half an hour making 22 PB & J sandwiches. With two of my daughters in school, this is a little over two weeks of lunch entrees. I freeze the sandwiches in individual ziploc bags and just pull two out every morning. They are well defrosted by lunch and I only have to add a fruit and another side or two (rice cakes, yogurt or string cheese are common accompaniments for us) to make it a complete meal. I try to let my girls buy lunch at the school cafeteria once each week to give myself (and them) a break from homemade lunches, but I find that making the sandwiches ahead of time like this makes it much easier to pack lunches!

**When Shannon first told me about freezing PB&Js I admitedly thought she was a little bit crazy (in the nicest way!). But I tried it, and now I love the tip. I don't freeze them all the time, but I do make them a…

Still cooking from the garden - Easy Tomato Tart

Friends have been sharing their bountiful tomato crops, so I've been trying to cook with tomatoes. Last weekend I made Tomato Pie for brunch. It was good, but I've found a recipe I like even better.

This is the Tomato Tart recipe that I fixed for Bible study Sunday night. It's a recipe that my friend Shannon put in our church cookbook, "The Good to Give Cookbook". The tart was easy to make and I really liked it!

1 premade pie crust
2T olive oil
2c mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2t garlic powder
1t dried basil
3-4 plum tomatoes, sliced

Place pie crust in pan and brush with olive oil. Put 2c cheese in crust. Sprinkle with spices. Place tomatoes on top of cheeses and spices. Brush tomatoes with more olive oil and add salt/pepper. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.

What else do YOU like to make with summer tomatoes?

Saving Precious Time - a great link

Family Focused Fun just sent me to discover a great post titled, The Art of Spending Minutes to Save Hours. It's not intended for home management, necessarily, but it has lots of tips for finding the shortcuts that make life easier to manage.

Make Your Own Cardboard Kitchen

We've been playing with big boxes a lot this week - making houses with curtains, submarines with periscopes, and trains going to Gramma's house. So it was perfect timing to see this post from Forty-Two Roads.

Look at this great cardboard kitchen, made completely from recyled materials! There are pictures of several super-cute kitchens on her blog, and you can by blueprints to make your own cardboard kitchen on Etsy.

Thanks to the Crafty Crow for sharing such a great link!!

Bike the Beautiful TN Countryside

Wanna ride this year's Jack & Back with me & my sweetheart? We'd love to have YOU on our team!!

I know 115 miles sounds like forever, but it's actually very doable over a two-day period, and it's such a fun date with your sweetie. And it's for a great cause!

If you're not in middle Tennessee, there might be a ride in your area - there are 16 similar rides across the country.

Here's more info from the MS website:


October 4 & 5, 2008
Jack Daniel's "Bike to Jack and Back"
Bike MS 2008

The Jack Daniel's "Bike to Jack and Back" starts in Franklin, TN and
finishes in Lynchburg. This is a beautiful scenic ride through
Tennessee's countryside just on the brink of fall. Enjoy a tour of
the incredible Jack Daniel's Distillery; feast on all of the Jack
Daniel's fixin's that you can eat, as well as some Lynchburg Lemonade.
Get to know Jack!

The National MS Society and local sponsors wil…

Great Picture Book!!

I've fallen in love with a new picture book: The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst

This clever author turns letters around to see different shapes in the letters A-Z. It’s like watching for designs in the clouds, but in a book! It’s an awesomely creative book! Click here to see an excerpt.

My six year old son says, "I love this book because it’s just a funny book. They turn every letter they have upside down and around and around. My favorite was the letter K because it turned into a picnic table."

After reading it, see if you can write your own alphabet, turn the pictures around, and see what pictures you can see!

Parties with a Twist

Everybody likes a good party! But parties don't always have to revolve around selfish interests – listen to these party ideas that have a volunteer twist. The ideas were generated by a group of 2nd-6th grade girls participating in the Care Bears Volunteer Camp at Harpeth Hall School.

Two of the girls shared how they had hosted a joint birthday party for the Ronald McDonald House. They asked their guests to bring new gifts for either a boy or girl for RMD. They were excited that they had generated 50 presents for other children! In sharing with others, these girls also educated their friends about RMD and the hospitality it offers others.

This conversation led to a brainstorming session about party possibilities with the agencies where we were volunteering. See ideas below AND look back at Summer Fun for even more ideas for philanthropic parties.

**Host your party at an animal shelter. For playtime, walk the dogs and play with the cats. For craft time, make toys for the animals out …

Cooking from the Garden: Tomato Pie

I just found this recipe at HomeEc101 - it looks fantastic and I can't wait to make it for my tomato-loving parents this weekend!

If you haven't ever visited HomeEc101's site, make a point to visit today. It's a great place to learn everything you need to know about keeping your home in top notch shape without the Martha Stewart stress. I love reading their almost daily posts.

1 9" pie crust
4 very ripe tomatoes ~peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 medium onion
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
3 slices bacon crumbled
3 TBSP mayonnaise
1 tsp dried basil divided
salt/pepper to taste

Place the peeled and sliced tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl or the sink, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to sit while preparing the other ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Slice the onion very thinly.
In a bowl combine the cheese, bacon, and 3TBSP mayo. Mix thoroughly.
Carefully lay the bottom pie crust in a 9″ pie plate. Arrange a layer of tomat…

Prayer and Praise on Parent's Night

I'm not one who usually frets and worries too long about things, but the anticipation of finding great teachers for my children has caused much anxiety in my little heart. I know that my children's teachers will greatly influence their development - socially, emotionally, and academically - so having a good match for my child has been a huge priority to me.

So I've been praying for my son's 1st grade teacher since we graduated from kindergarten. Thankfully not too much fretting, but off/on praying. I know that's what I'm supposed to do when I get worried - admit my worry, acknowledge God's hugeness, ask him to provide, and ask him to work in my heart.

Tonight I'm singing praises. I met my son's new teacher at Parent's Night tonight, and she seems great. A 19-year veteran teacher with passion for education and warmth for people. Very organized, yet welcoming.

We already know about 30% of the kids in his class, and they're great! There w…


I walked out of the room and heard a huge splattering crash.
Yep, the crystal bowl my mom gave me for a wedding gift.
My 22m daughter had pushed it off the island and it shattered on the kitchen tile.
Very sad.
It was almost comical when my mom called as I was cleaning up the mess.

Learn from my mistakes:
Keep a pretty fruit bowl on your kitchen island, but not a valuable one. You never know when it's going to be shattered.Keep a level head when things break. It's just stuff - even if it is special stuff.Cleaning. I've never read anything on the best way to clean up glass/crystal, but here's what I did: Put shoes on and gate the children out of the are. Sweep up the mess (including a very wide radius around the bowl). Put all the glass pieces into a thick cardboard box. Sweep again, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies, carefully looking for sparkly pieces of glass. Vacuum the area with a handheld vacuum. Mop the area with a wet swiffer mop.The good n…

Summer Fun - Volunteering with Friends

My colleague Susan & I had a lot of fun leading 28 girls in two Care Bears Volunteer Camps at Harpeth Hall School. The goal of the camp was to simply involve the girls in service each day, opening their eyes to the needs around them and how they can make a difference.

Here is what 28 rising 2nd – 6th graders can do!
• painted 21 pictures with senior citizens for their benefit auction,
• worked in the Nashville Urban Harvest gardens,
• cut out 300 masks for Cheekwood children’s programs,
• divided 300 bags of rice for Charis Food Ministries,
• prepared for Preston Taylor Ministries’ Summer Camp,
• collected 14 bags of trash at Warner Park, and made 14 bracelets out of recyclable materials.
• at the Ronald McDonald House, we stocked 242 boxes of tissue for them, sorted 9 huge bins of pull tabs for their fundraising efforts, and assembled 22 miniature houses for collecting pull tabs.
• made 8 bags of playdough and 36 heart cards for patients at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.
• made 200 a…