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Showing posts from September, 2008
I just read Meredith's article, "Cheerful Frugality Faces Financial Meltdown". I started leaving a comment about her great article, then realized that I was writing enough for a long blog post!

I was grateful the time our church gave to one of our elders, also a financial investor, to educate our congregation on Sunday. He explained some of the 'whys' of the economic streses, but also took time to remind us that God is bigger. Everything in life will shift and change, but our hope should be grounded in God's love and God's promises, which never fail. I believe that it's our job, in uncertain and scary times, to gently point people to the quiet hope in our hearts.

But I also think it's time for us to encourage people in tangible ways.
Teach your friends, neighbors and family members to live frugally. Gather a group of women to teach about budgets, pinching pennies at the grocery store, cooking inexpensive meals, living simply... My friend Shanno…

Cooking Between Carpools - Brushetta Chicken

When we're craving Italian, but we don't have a lot of time, I like to default to this Brushetta Chicken Bake recipe that I found from Amy the Aldi Queen. If you cook the chicken ahead of time, you can assemble the dish in a few minutes, then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes to cook. That's just enough time for homework, so it's perfect for us!

Back to School - Games Style #3

Here's another excerpt from our book, Great Group Games: 175 Boredom Busting Zero Prep Team Builders for all Ages.

Hidden Hands

Time: 15 – 25 minutes

Supplies: one comic strip panel (make a copy of the strip for each group of 3-4 participants), one envelope for each group


This activity is good to give participants practice in communicating with other team members and in making group decisions. You will need a comic strip (duplicated so each work group has a copy), and one envelope for each subgroup. To prepare, photocopy enough copies of the comic strip to provide one for each work group. Cut each strip into separate panels and place the panels in an envelope.

Instruct the participants to form work groups of three to four members each. Distribute one envelope containing a set of comic strip panels to each team.

Direct the members of each team to open the envelope, place the panels of the comic strip face down without examining them, and shuffle them around the table. While t…

Game Day Snacks - Peppermint Brownies

Jenn at Frugal Upstate is collecting Game Day Snack ideas. Here are my recipes for her carnival, but check the link to see lots more ideas from her faithful readers.

Peppermint Brownie Surprise
Mix regular brownie mix according to instructions. (Aldi brownies are cheap and work well).
Layer half of the mix in the baking dish, then chopped up peppermint patties (or Symphony chocolate bars), then the remaining half of the mix. Bake as directed.

Mom's Frosted Peppermint Brownies
Bake brownies from a regular mix.
Mix frosting ingredients
2T margarine
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1T milk
¾ t peppermint extract
Refrigerate frosting until set, then frost the cooled brownies.
Mix glaze: 1 square chocolate and 1 T margarine.
Dribble glaze over frosted brownies.

Praising God in the Busyness

Sorry for the slower posting this month. I have been slammed at work, so I haven't had very much extra time for fun hobbies like blogging. I've been constantly reminding myself to THANK God for the rushing waterfull of work, instead of complaining that I'm tired. I am so grateful for the really cool work God has provided us this month:
doing ongoing consulting with the staff team of a Christian after-school care group, leading 160 youth and adults to plan service-learning projects in 5 southern states, giving 70 service-learning teachers from across TN tools to help their k-12 students assess community needs, equipping 80 Coordinated School Health teachers to engage youth as leaders in their school reform efforts, and dreaming about a new partnership with youth pastors from across the country.I love my work. I get to spend 15-20 (usually!) hours/week using my skills and talents to empower schools, churches and community organizations across the country to nurture young peop…


We love salmon. I tried a new recipe tonight (tweaked from allrecipes), and we really liked it. It was very very easy, so it's going to stay in our frequent recipe file.

Baked Salmon
1/8 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons spicy mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (I didn't have time to chop them finely tonight)
3 teaspoons dried parsley
4 (4 ounce) fillets salmon
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, stir together the liquid ingredients - butter, mustard, honey and salt/pepper. In another small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients - bread crumbs, pecans, and parsley.
Brush each salmon fillet lightly with honey mustard mixture, and sprinkle the tops of the fillets with the bread crumb mixture.
Bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until it flakes easily with a fork.

Discovering Your Children's Gifts

I found a new book for parents to read, "Discovering Your Children's Gifts" by Don and Katie Fortune. I first discovered the Fortunes with their adult version of the book about 15 years ago. I'm fascinated by the way God has gifted us to be so uniquely different, and I'm excited about having this new tool for parenting.

Here's how the authors describe the book on their website:

Discover Your Children's Gifts: A parent's handbook to recognize and develop your children's God-given gifts

Biblical handbook to help you discover . . .
How gifting formulates a child's personality
How to encourage development of your child's gifts
New insights for effective communication
How to enhance your child's education
Ways to work well with teens
Insights for those who work with children

Did you know that your children's behavior patterns and personality traits are influenced by their motivational gifts? Maybe you're troubled because you son seems t…
I just discovered a new feature on Southwest Airlines. If your travel dates are flexible, you should explore alternate fares using their Southwest Shortcut. It gives you a calendar with the lowest fares available on various days.

That's a lot faster than researching the old way - changing dates one at a time to hunt for lower fares.

Feels Like Fall!

I've wanted to put up my fall decorations for about 2 weeks, but I made myself wait 'til the middle of September. So this morning we opened all the windows (the high is supposed to be 74 today), and pulled down the decorations from the storage area.

I pulled items on the box, and sent the kids around the house to decorate. We put little plastic pumpkins on the stairs, pumpkin window clings on the French doors, and hung pumpkin towels. I changed our seasonal wall plate to say "Happy Fall" with a fall ribbon. Next is hanging up favorite children's art from past falls.

We're starting to make plans for a neighborhood pumpkin carving and chili party, based on a tradition that my sister has had in her neighborhood for several years.

I love fall!

Cooking Between Carpools - 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
French rolls or tortillas

Cut roast in half; place in a 5qt slow cooker.
Combine the water and seasonings; pour over roast.
Cook on low for 8 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.

I love Pazookie!

Pazookie is a big cookie in a pizza pan. It's one of my favorite desserts to make, adapted by my husband from Oreganos restaurants in Arizona.

You bake Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough in a pizza pan at 450 until the outside of the cookie is golden brown & a tiny bit crispy. The inside will still be gooey, but warm. Put a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the cookie dough, grab a couple of spoons, and dig in with friends!

You can also make single servings of pazookie by using mini loaf pans or small oven-safe dishes.

The Magic of Children's Art

From Gia Giasullo, a graphic designer and mom:

In my house, drawing has always been a form of our family’s ‘home entertainment.’ Alongside
markers, pencils and watercolors, there is an ONGOING pile of drawings on our kid’s
art table. Periodically we sort through them, putting aside favorites to send to grandparents
or stick on the fridge. And some . . . gulp . . . head for the trash bin.

One day, a particular drawing in the pile caught my eye. When I asked my daughter
why she seemed to have stopped the drawing mid-way, she answered, “The pony tail is TOO
BIG.” “Mmmm”, I thought, “this is exactly what makes this drawing so wonderful.” My
curious attachment to this image grew.

Out of further curiosity, I began to set aside all of my kids’ rejected drawings. Some were
scribbled over or torn in half, and some were simply abandoned mid-way. What I saw was
that for whatever reason WHY, or in some cases HOW these images were rejected, they
were abstract, humorous, weird and beautiful. And I began to won…

Great Grocery Shopping Tips

Amy at the Motherload has done it again - she's posted a collection of her best articles about saving money on grocery shopping. See the full article here.

Some of my favorites:
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.

Amy has TONS of great articles on managing the home - take a night to play around on her website!

Cooking Between Carpools - Mandarin Salad

Mandarin and Spinach Salad

Combine spinach, sliced red onions, mandarin oranges and almonds. Pour raspberry walnut vinaigrette over the top and toss. If you need protein with the salad, grilled chicken (grilled the night before) would be a great addition!

Kelly's Thoughts on Great Group Games

Kelly Curtis from Pass the Torch just made my day! She just read our Great Group Games book, and look what she had to say!! You can also enter her free giveaway for your own copy of the book!

By the way, if you don't already know about Kelly's blog, she has great things to say about nurturing young people, including her own new book, Empowering Youth. Take a look at her great stuff!

Baby shower games

I'm helping to plan baby shower games for my sister-in-law's shower. Here are some games I found at babyshower101, but I'd love to hear if you have other favorites!


How Many Baby Items Can You Name: (Materials- pad of paper and pen for each woman). Have each woman write down as many baby products as they can name (bottle, blanket, pacifier, etc) within 5 minutes. Sure it is easy at the beginning, but towards the last few minutes, the women will start racking their brains for more :) Give a prize to the woman who gets the most baby products named!

Guess The Gerber's: (Materials - Gerber's infant food, pads of paper and pens). Take the labels off of the baby food jars and have the women at the baby shower guess the food (carrots, peas, sweet potato). Most fun to play up to 10 jars of different kinds of foods. If there is a tie, blindfold the women and have them taste one of the jars and guess the right flavor to win their prize.

Guess the baby item: (Materia…

Your Mommy Moment for the Day

My DH just shared a great sermon with me from John Piper. If you can sneak away for 5 minutes to read it, I think it will bless your day.

This is part of Piper's series on being a 'relational church', where they seek God's "wisdom for our personal priorities and our families and our citizenship in ways that are God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-fashioned, people-helping. "

For mom's who are tirelessly serving others, it's a great reminder for the SOURCE of our strength!


I invite you to turn with me to Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:4 ... My prayer is that you will join me in making this your prayer: “Lord, work so deeply in my heart that I am freed from the bondage of self-centeredness and given the disposition to look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Looking Out for Others’ Interests

Look at verse 4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The word intere…

Cooking Between Carpools - Summer Lasagna

My friend Susan likes to make Summer Lasagna. If you're cooking between carpools, you could slice and layer the veges ahead of time, then pop it into the oven as soon as you get home. You could probably even lightly steam the zucchini and squash ahead of time to reduce the oven cooking time by 10 minutes.

Layer zucchini, squash, tomato and mozzarella cheese in a baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes
**I bet fresh basil would be great with this too!

Cooking Between Carpools - Red Beans & Rice

Here's an easy prepare-ahead meal from my southern friend Noel. It's a yummy version of Red Beans & Rice without lots of prep time.

2-3 cans red beans, drained
1-1.5 cups salsa
healthy choice sausage, cut into slices
steamed brown rice

Mix together in a skillet, heat, and serve.

Cooking Between Carpools!

Do you have any ideas for this mommy friend?

OK - so we have a bit of a crazy schedule now as daughter #1 has ballet Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other Saturday, daughter #2 has soccer on Tuesdays and Saturdays and daughter #3 has ballet on Mondays and Thursdays and soccer on Thursdays and Saturdays. (I color coded my planner to keep it all straight.)

Here's my question: do you have any secrets for a working mommy to make for dinner on crazy nights such as these?

I recently bought a crockpot (on sale, of course), so that's a plan for when weather is cooler - soups, casseroles, etc. Tonight, I made pasta salad between school and leaving for practices, so we were able to eat as soon as we got home.

For me, variety is essential in cooking - I get bored so easily. So I would love any other ideas for meals that make it work when soccer and/or ballet run to 6:30 and everyone's not home until 7:00.

Any thoughts, my …