Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Practicing Hospitality: Overnight Guests

For years, my husband and I have purposed in our hearts that this home isn't ours.  Sure, we pay the bills, do the cleaning, and keep up with the general maintenance.  The title has has our name on it and it's our cars parked in the driveway.  But it's really not ours.  (Shh!  Don't tell)

A long time ago, we decided that no matter where we lived, the place would belong to God.  Whether it be  a two bedroom apartment, sharing a house with a friend, or now living in our home, ... wherever we make our bed and make our bread belongs to the Lord.  So having an open door is just a natural extension of that philosophy.

In a hurried pace world, neighbors don't know each other.  Friends keep in touch via text.  Families are living farther away than ever  So when the opportunity arises, we determine to lay aside our agenda and welcome others into our home.

Because our families live so far away, one of the ways we do this is by offering our home whenever they come to visit.  Our home is small, but again, it's not about us.  It's about blessing others.  So whether we have much or little, we desire to use what we have to the glory of our Lord.  These are just a few ways we try to bless our overnight guests:

*Clear an personal space for your guests.  Even if your guests are stay in a kid's room, try to give your guests a place to relax and call their own.  Be sure to clear as much clutter as possible, and layout clean sheets and towels.

*Stockpile some extra toothbrushes, shampoo, and conditioner in case your guests has forgotten something.

*Try to reserve a bathroom specifically for your guest.  If that's not possible, as is in the case of our 3/1 home, take an early shower to clear the bathroom as guests wake up.

*Prepare muffins or an overnight casserole for the next morning.  Try to make it something special, but something you can do ahead as well.  This way you have more time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with your guests.  Sometimes I will mix up a batch of Gingerbread Waffles the night before and make them the next morning.

*Plan your meals ahead.  Include lots of variety.  This past 4th of July weekend, we hosted 6 guests as well as additional guest for the holiday.  By planning our meals ahead, I was able to buy supplies on sale and prepare items for the freezer.  We also planned in a few meals out for the families favorite spots.

*As the evening winds down, turn down the volume and turn on some music.  I love Pandora's Classical Piano music.  Brew up a pot of yummy coffee with favored creamer or steep a yummy hot tea, and enjoy the evening in conversation.  And when you've talked yourselves out, then pull out the favorite movie.

Practicing Hospitality with overnight guests takes just a little time, a little forethought, and a willingness to open your home.  And let me tell you, you won't be sorry.  Opening our home has blessed us more than we could ever recount.

How are you Practicing Hospitality these days? 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teach Your Child To Read...

It's the question that has always haunted me...

If we were to homeschool, how would I ever teach my children to read?

Although confident that I could teach history, spelling, science and even algebra when I had to, how would I ever get through the difficult and crucial task of reading?

So when I saw this book suggested on several sites, it seemed worth the time to see if it would work.  The summer before Noah started Kindergarten, he was getting restless for a challenge and I was anxious to see if this system could really work.

Broken into 100 lesson, each approx 20 minutes long, the book focuses on sounds and blending.  Within just a few lessons, Noah was reading simple words and within 20 lessons, he was reading sentences.  It ended up being a pleasant experience that kept him motivated to learn from lesson to lesson.

After the 100 lessons are complete, there's also a list of books to keep the kids growing and practicing.  These books include Hop on Pop, Go Dog Go, and Whose Mouse are you?  Also included are tips for using these books to further vocab and new sound combinations.

A year and a half later, we've found the time investment to be well worth it.  Noah's reading is above grade level and it all started with a very simple strategy.  Plus we were lucky enough to find this book at the library, making it a perfect fit for our budget.  This is a book we will return to again and again as our children grow.

Wordless Wednesday--Princess Dreams

Where in the world do you find this statue?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Play it again, Mama: 52 First Dates Challenge

* The following was posted one year ago.  Enjoy the challenge!

I had to throw in a photo of my honey and I.
This was our wedding photo taken over nine year ago!
Crazy... we were so young.

So how did your One Word experiment go?  Were there any surprises?  There were some fun words in there huh?  I have to admit that we were a bit stumped on some of them and wanted to give further explanation for our answers.  We found ourselves laughing pretty hard in the end.  This one was a lot of fun and one that I'd love to do again.  I think as we go through every stage in our lives, answers will change.  People will change.  And that's what makes some of these 52 First Dates so great.  They can be easily adapted to ages and stages of life.  Rich, poor, young, old... we can all find ways to invest in our marriages.

Are you ready for the next one?

This one is a bit more serious, but oh, so important.  I'm not one to easily express my emotions.  My husband is actually much better at giving me hugs and saying he loves me.  But even then, we have times where it just goes unsaid and we start to resent the time that's passed.

So your challenge this week is to write a love letter to your spouse.  It doesn't have to be long (but do put some effort into it).  It doesn't have to be mushy (but it should be sincere).  And be real with how you care for that person.  Remember the specific ways they've made you feel loved.  Mention the little things that remind you how much you love them.  Speak in your authentic voice.

Now you can take this one as far as you want to, but I would suggest reading them out loud to each other over dinner or dessert.  Love letters are incredible, but try to read them to each other and they become even more powerful.

Are you up for the challenge?

*Linked to these Parties

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monday Muddle

How can it be Monday already?  Another week and the end of Aug.  My kids are already happily in the routine of school and I'm still missing the mornings of sleeping in.  Our weekend was quick and spent at home.  We did some yard work, lots of baking, and some house cleaning. 

I had a good laugh at myself on Saturday night.  I took the sewing machine out which I do every Aug and thought about what I could possibly sew for Christmas.  Funny thing is I can't sew a straight line to save my life.  This scene has repeated itself for the past 4 or 5 years.  Always Aug, always great plans,... always still working on Christmas eve.  The irony of the situation quickly came to me as just a few minutes into what I was creating, I broke a sewing machine needle.  Hum... maybe I'll learn my lesson this year and quit while I'm ahead.

So what have you been up to?

Our menu this week:

Yogurt and fruit
Apple oatmeal
Zucchini muffins

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Fruit and veggies
Pasta salad
Black bean nachos

All served with green salad and veggies

Grilled Veggie sammies and Greek Spinach Orzo Salad
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Dinner out-- Lydia at a birthday, Noah skating, and small group
Fri-Sun--Family reunion

Soft Pumpkin cookies
Pumpkin bread
Homemade wheat thins and hummus

Projects I'm working on this week:
Mario Brothers invitations
Paint backdrop for bean bags
Finish book

Posts coming up this week:
Marriage challenge
Homeschool reading tip
Hospitality ideas
and more

Lee's To Do List

Quick list for you guys this week... lots of yummy looking recipes and fun crafts!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stained Glass Hearts {Review}

Patsy Clairmont is a name well-known in Christian circles.  A co-founder and speaker for Women of Faith, her wit and humor have found their way into many of our lives.  I've only been to one Women of Faith conference, but Ms. Clairmont is a dynamic speaker and well-worth your time.

For a woman so engrained in Christian culture, I thought I knew what to expect from this book.

I was wrong.

Written with her typical wit and dry humor, Clairmont immediately hit me over the head with this truth:

"I'm so grateful for a light-bearing Savior who came to redeem me from my self-absorbed viewpoints and my broken glass perspective, lest I give in to my childish whims and miss my calling, my potential, and the opportunity to make legacy-bearing contributions." (pg 4)

and again just a few pages later:

"While you're here, I'll share my tattered life with its crashes and recoveries because I believe in community wellness; we each contribute to others by sharing our successes and most certainly our failures." (pg 7)

As I read through Stained Glass Hearts, I was amazed by Clairmont's ability to make truth so accessable, so lively, and yet, so real.  She writes in such a way that you feel like you're sitting across from a true friend.  With a gentle voice, she brings to light the beauty of a broken life.  An easy read, Clairmont makes you want to savor the meat of each word.  And as I savored, I heard myself audibly digesting her words with a satisfied "MMM!"

Stained Glass Hearts isn't about feel good theology.  It isn't a self-help book.  It isn't even about "pull yourself out of the pit" mentality.  Rather it's about perspective.  A change of lenses.  And a book that you will want to return to again and again.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Stained Glass Hearts from BookSneeze for review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Practicing Hospitality: Tips Link Up

Welcome to our Link Up for Practicing Hospitality!  Over the past eight weeks, we've read through this book by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock, learning what it means to open our homes as a place of ministry.  Whether you've read the book or not, please join us in sharing a few tips for how YOU practice hospitality.  May you be blessed!

These are just a few ways we practice hospitality in our home:

*We prayerfully consider which families the Lord would have us invest in for a season.  Usually this adds up to one family from school, one from the YMCA, one from church, and some times one from my husband's work.  

*I consult my kids when planning our menus for the week.  As long as their requests are within reason of nutrition and budget, I try to include a meal of their choice or maybe a special snack in the week.  I want them to feel like special things aren't only for company, but for them too.

*Freezer meals have yet to make their way into our home, but freezer desserts,... I can do that.  I keep our freezer stocked with cookie dough, homemade popsicles, snack breads, and special treats.  Whenever I make cookies with the kids, I make an extra batch for the freezer.   This way we're always prepared with an extra dessert or treat for a meal on the go.

*When we provide a meal for another family, I always ask if there are any dietary restrictions or aversions.  We require our kids to try everything, but for children visiting, we find it simpler for our guests if we provide a meal they will enjoy.  I want the kids to feel like this is a treat as much to them as it is to their parents.

*On Sunday mornings, I always try to have a crockpot meal planned.  This provides us with the freedom to invite others into our home for lunch without the expense of a meal out.  Plus I don't have to rush home wondering with I'm going to feed everyone.  

*Invite others to bring part of the meal, especially if you're hosting several families.  Most friends are happy to bring something and remember, the goal of hospitality isn't a perfectly prepared meal, but encouraging others.

Now it's your turn!  Do you have a favorite tip to share with us?  A freezer meal?  A easily doubled recipe?  A way of remembering your gorals in hospitality?

Link up below with your post sharing what you're learning about hospitality.  And be sure to link back here so others can join in.

*Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading

Now we lay you down to rest

Now we lay you down to rest
In a metal box seemed best

Some bullets for your gun
And a horseshoe for luck
Tools from your box
And parts for your truck

Pictures on a wall
Sum of a life
Memories from the past
Cut like a knife

Flowers and roses, 
Candles galore
Family and friends seated
And spilling out the door

Shadow memories
Taunt and hide
Christmas mornings
And a summer Slip 'N Slide

Games of Monopoly
Mischievious deeds
Sitting on Grandma's back porch
Spitting watermelon seeds

A scar on my brow
A reminder of when
We laughed and we played
Oh, to be young again

Today we sit in pain
But dreading the end
Silent tears fall
Hearts left to mend

The moment crescendos
As we say a final good-bye
A hug from the family
And a last heavy sigh

Now we lay you down to rest
In a metal box seemed the best

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stewarding Your Story: Let God Do the Work

Sometimes the hardest part of sharing your story is the concern of what others will think.  Will they understand?  Will they be able to relate?  Will they be touched?

What if you end up standing alone?

Recently I was mulling over these thoughts on a Sunday morning.  What happens in those times we share and it doesn't seem to make a difference?  What then?

I was thinking through this thought when the Lord spoke to me.  He was saying that stewarding your story isn't as much about miraculous transformation, but more about obedience.  

My obedience.


Sharing MY story is about obedience to the Lord?  How does that work?

That's because IT'S NOT MINE.  Sharing my story is all about being obedient when the Lord calls on me.  Changing hearts is the Lord's work, not mine.  In a lot of ways, it takes the pressure off.  Suddenly it's not about how eloquent I am, what details I share or  how I speak.  While it's important to be prepared, the Lord is the one doing the work.  Stewarding my story is more about opening my mouth and getting out of the way.

All my fears about who is going to respond or understand wash away in the light of bringing God glory.  Maybe the friend before me won't be able to identify with my situation.  Maybe something will be lost in translation.  But to a hurt and dying world, why would I remain silent?  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Building a Blog is like Building Muscle

Monday Muddle

Things have gotten a bit away from us over the last couple of weeks.  Summer's coming to a close and I can't believe my babies are returning to school.  Nothing makes me want to home school as much as back to school time.  We had a great summer together and it's hard to see it go.

In addition to the normal craziness of summer, we were still trying to squeeze in an Anniversary trip and a trip to Grandma's when my cousin passed away unexpectedly.  So for the past few weeks, we've been scrambling to get everyone ready for a new routine, all the while feeling like we're in a haze.  It's amazing how time marches on when you're still gathering your wits about you.

As I look around my house, I've not been a very good homemaker these last few weeks.  There are library books strewn about, random bits of paper on the dinning room table, a messy desk, laundry waiting to be folded, and general chaos in my home.  As the memorial service was this past weekend, I'm hoping that will signal a transition into finding some normalcy.

So speaking of normalcy, here's our menu for the week:

Yogurt (got a great deal this week)
Oatmeal and toppings
Zucchini muffins

Peanut Butter and Jelly
Fruit and Veggies
Lentil Tacos
Pasta Salad
Green Salad

All served with green salad and veggies

Stuffed Bell Peppers
Spinach Calazone
Veggie Pasta with Shrimp
Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia
Homemade Burgers and potato salad
Taco Salad
Homemade Vegetarian Pizza

Projects I'm working on this week:
Strawberry bean bags
Birthday invitations

Posts coming up this week:
Building a blog
Stewarding your story
Hospitality Link Up!
Being a Yes Mom
and MORE!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day of School 2011

My little ones start school this week and our glorious carefree summer came to a screeching halt.  Sad to see it go.  We've had a wonderful summer, soaking up every moment with my kids.  They really are very special and we love them very much.

Still school is here and I can't believe how quickly they are growing up.  Here's my awesome 1st grader:

And my precious little preschooler:

So how was the first day of school at your house?

Practicing Hospitality: Hospitality and Ministry

Welcome to our chapter eight discussion of Practicing Hospitality.  For eight weeks, we'll take a chapter and open it up for discussion.  I'll start us off with a summary of the chapter and then open the linky for questions and thoughts.  Even if you're not reading the book, feel free to add to the conversation.  May you be blessed!

Previous chapters:

Chapter Eight: Hospitality and Ministry
The majority of this chapter covers tips, ideas, and thoughts contributed by former home economic alumni.  These were a few of my favorites:
*having a crockpot meal ready on Sunday's after church
*relax and be yourself--the more comfortable you are, the more free your guests will feel to open up
*remember that your greatest desire is to point others to Christ
*play music
*look for opportunities to have hospitality on the road
*practice freezer cooking
*look for ways to include family and children in hospitality opportunities
*lower your expectations and maintain a sense of humor
*greet your guests with a smile
*ask your guests if you can pray for them

And I would add this final thought.... PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!  In today's fast paced society, if you don't PLAN for these hospitality opportunities, they won't happen.  No one stops by on each other's doorsteps any longer.  They wait for an invitation.  So have an open heart and PLAN for hospitality.  

This Week's Discussion:
1.  How do you define hospitality?  Support your definition with Scripture.

2. Describe your season of life and the unique opportunities it OFFERS for you to extend biblical hospitality.

3. Evaluate your current involvement in biblical hospitality by responding to the following questions:
* What traditions do you practice in your home that support your lifestyle and marital status?
* How do you use your hospitality skills in ministry?
* If you have opportunities to entertain individuals of a different culture, how can you blend their hospitality traditions with yours?
* How can you expand your borders if you currently do not entertain individuals of a different culture?
* How have you used your home as a center for evangelism (how do you share Christ with others in your home)?
* What goals will you set to love friends and strangers more faithfully?

Next Week:
Come back next week and share your greatest tips for extending hospitality in your home.  So join us next Thurs Aug 25th for a special hospitality link up!

Linky Party:
Feel free to link up below if you're discussing Practicing Hospitality on your blog.  We love hearing your thoughts and being encouraged in this journey together.  Can't wait to hear what you're thinking.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Developing a Bedtime Ritual with Baby

Do you struggle to put your baby to sleep without nursing or a bottle? Is it an ordeal to tuck in your toddler at night? Do you find yourself returning to their bedside time after time each night?

We have been there and there is a better way. Although it's a refining process, and there will be ups and downs, developing a bedtime ritual will save you a lot of heartache in putting your children to bed at night.

Try to chose a time of night (or daytime nap) that is consistent with your child's sleep needs. If you try to put your child to bed too early, he will be frustrated by still needing to expend energy. And if put to bed too late, your child may be agitated and find it hard to settle himself down from exhaustion. Take note of when your child starts to become cranky. Is there a consistency from day to day? Try to put your child down 5-10 minutes before that crankiness each day. And remember to put a baby to bed when she is calm, but not asleep. This way she will learn to self-sooth and not depending on you to put her back to sleep when she wakes in the middle of the night.

Evaluate what you value. For our family, we value reading, dental hygiene, and some prayer time. So our bedtime ritual looks something like this:
  • Using the potty one last time
  • Snuggling up with 2-3 books with Mommy and Daddy
  • Brushing teeth
  • "Rock a bye baby" song
  • Prayers
  • Tucked into bed
The whole thing takes about 30 minutes which may seem like a long time, but it helps us accomplish all the things that we find important. And there are a few variations. When we're away from home, we can't do prayers in the rocker. But we still try to keep as many of the elements in place as possible.

Remember the comfort items. My son has a couple of lovies and a special blanket. While he'll always sleep better in his own bed in his own home, having these few select items with us makes bedtime easier.  I can't count the times I've heard him say, "I want my lambie" on a long drive as he's ready to doze off in the car or climbing into bed.

If your child is in daycare, try to establish a naptime routine that is consistent with your childcare providers routine. Many daycare providers will darken a room, run a fan, or play music. Check with your child's teacher and work out a routine that will work for you.

And be consistent. It's hard on the weekends or those mornings when I really need to run several errands. But being as consistent as we can be with our kids pays off in dividends. We have happy, confident, secure child because of the time we've taken to be consistent and provide the predictability they crave.

So what is part of your bedtime routine?

Lee's To Do List

Did a little blog hopping this week and found some fun resources.  Hope you enjoy!

6 Ideas for your Sizzling Summer Spread

Got 2 Minutes? Make a Bracelet!

Banana Split Milkshake

Amazing Greek Salad Recipe

Follow His Lead

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Summer Photo Challenge: Photograph Something Wet

Noah's Swim Lesson.
He's the little head on the right.

Lydia's Swim Lesson.
Getting brave enough to jump in.

Barely big enough to hold the new water gun from Grandma.

Having a water fight on July 4th.

Backyard sprinklers.

She's so happy.

Photograph those Water Activities!

I love the summer.  And I love raising little swimmers.  It was hard not to just fill this post with swimming photos as we've had such a great time at the pool this summer.  Lydia's finally understanding and getting braver.  And I've had no fear about Noah running off to swim with his friends.  Living where we do, our temperatures easily top 100 degrees from May through Sept so water play is a big part of our lives. 
Besides the pool, we spend lots of time in the sprinklers and Grandma bought the kids new water guns this year.  Lydia's barely big enough to actually hang on to hers.  But boy is she sneaky.  I'll be going after Noah and she'll be sneaking up behind me.

So Photograph those Water Activities! Did you take pictures this week?  Join us as we chronicle our lives this summer and document what makes each of us special.  Link up to a specific post below and don't forget to invite others to join us.  The more of us that get involved, the more fun!

*Linked to these Parties and Weekend Bloggy Reading

Happy Anniversary!

Ten Years and Going Strong!
I love you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Practicing Hospitality: Postponed Last Chapter

Well, I'm sorry guys.  We're wrapping up the end of summer vacation around here and this last chapter will have to wait.  I was going to get it down earlier this week, but I was called home as there was an unexpected death in the family.  So with all the activity of the summer and family that needs us right now, the final chapter won't be ready till next Thursday Aug. 18th.  Sorry!  Hope you're enjoying your summer.

A Fresh Look at Adoption

Love You More

Jennifer Grant always knew adoption would be part of her journey.  But with three kids five years old and under, parenthood was all about survival of the fittest.  She and her husband aptly characterized this time as "Mowing the Lawn in the Dark:" too much to do, too little time.

Adoption lands smack on her doorstep when 5 year old Theo asks: "Well if that is the thing (adopting orphans) that makes God happy, why aren't we adopting a baby, too?" (pg 74).  Written with wit and humor, Grant explores the heartache and excitement of adoption.  Her "no holds barred" attitude gives an honest look at the process and the emotional journey of one mother searching for her daughter.

Although written from a Christian perspective, the book is far from preachy and very relatable.  Well-written, Love You More is a quick read that will keep you wanting more.  In addition to adoption, this book explores many topics related to the question of family and parenthood.  Grant celebrates all that it is to be a mom.

*Disclaimer: I received this book as part of a review program from BookSneeze.  I was not monetarily compensated for this review and all opinions are my own.

School Time Sides

Making school lunches is a true labor of love.  I love making my children the best lunch I can personally provide.  We still have a long way to go, but I get excited about putting together a meal that I know will be both nutritous and yummy for my little man.  It's just one small way I can bless his day.

But as every mother knows, coming up with nutritious and fun meals every day can be a daunting task.  And it has to be portable.  Where are we going to go from here? 

In case you missed yesterday's post on Sandwiches, check that one out too.  So what do we put with it?  I like to always include a veggie, a fruit, and something extra.  Here's a few ideas to get you thinking...
*Carrots and Hummus--My personal favorite is the Roasted Red Pepper Feta Hummus, but any hummus will do.  Be sure to cut fresh carrots and avoid the processed baby carrots.

*Sliced bell pepper, quartered cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas--With or without dip, these vegetables are sweet enough to please most kids. 

*Triscuts and White Bean Dip-- I personally love Triscuits while my kids would rather have wheat thins.  If you want to avoid the processed crackers, there's a great recipe at Kitchen Stewardship.  This bean dip is mild enough to go with any of these.

*Any fresh fruit--My kids love apples.  But don't forget about cut up pears, mango, pineapple, or peaches.  There are so many options available; your kids won't get bored.

*Roasted Corn Salad--I love this salad and it's a great addition for the end of the summer.  It's easy to throw those extra veggies on the grill over the weekend and have plenty for the entire family.

*4th of July Sparklers (as a salad)--These 4th of July Sparklers are so yummy, why not serve them year round?  Skip the Kebab sticks and mix it up as a fruit salad.  Plus you just scored points for being the mom who sent marshmallows in your kid's lunch.

*Broccoli Slaw--Again, a super easy salad to mix up and you have plenty for the whole family.  It's sweet enough to tempt your kids and healthy enough to send in a school lunch.

*Home Canned Applesauce--Use up those second apples for a huge batch that will last you for months.  We like ours pretty basic, but mix it up with some extra cinnamon. red hots candies, cranberries or chopped nuts.

For more lunch ideas, check out Healthy Eating on the Road and School Time Sandwiches

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

School Time Sandwiches

*The following was originally posted on Aug 31, 2010...

The school year is here and it's lunch packing time once again. And if you're anything like me, you probably tired of the ole peanut butter and jelly. I don't think my kids will ever out grow it, but I certainly have. I need something new, something tasty, and something to shake it up a bit.
And it has to be nutritious! If there's anything I want to give my kids, it's the ability to try new foods and always evaluate what's going into their body. I truly want to give them the gift of good health.
So we're finding new ways to accomplish that. These are just a few of them:
*BLAT'S: Like I said yesterday, this is my new favorite sandwich... whole wheat bread, a little REAL butter, bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and sprouts. I kept the lettuce off, but everything else was a wonderful combination.
*Peanut Butter and Jelly (obviously): We substitute the cheap peanut butter for Adam's or the freshly ground peanuts and use homemade jelly or homemade apple butter.
*Veggie Quesadillas: Quesadillas are an easy choice for lunch and we load ours with olives, tomatoes, artichokes, bell pepper, green onion, everything we can cram in there. And the cheese seals it all together to make it perfect for a school lunch.
*Granny Smith Quesadillas: Some yummy melted swiss cheese and granny smith apples make these quesadillas smooth and tart. Perfect contrast.
*Turkey Club Wrap: Whole Wheat wrap or tortilla filled with some nitrate free turkey, tomato, cheese, lettuce, and smoothed out with spicy brown mustard.
*Jazzed Up Tuna: Basic tuna is easy. So start with the basics: tuna, mustard, and a little mayo. Chop up some celery and onion. Toss in some slivered almonds and cranberries. And season with a little lemon pepper. Plus there's your fish recipe. Very yummy!
So what are you cooking up in your kitchen? And stay tuned for more lunch ideas coming soon!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Streamlining Your Mornings

With school coming up, mornings are about to get hectic around here.  Noah is starting 1st grade and Lydia will be entering preschool.  Where has the time gone?

Our summer mornings have been pretty scheduled, but always with the thought that we could just throw it all out and enjoy a lazy day at home.  But next week, we start back into the routine of school and with that, we’re looking for ways to streamline our morning craziness.  Here are just a few ideas to get us both started:

1.    Start the night before—Every successful morning routine I’ve ever had started the night before.  Things like musical instruments, homework, and backpacks can be so easily forgotten in the mad dash to the car.  Get yourself and your children in the routine of packing up the night before.  We try to have backpacks and shoes by the door, tomorrow’s clothes laid out on the dresser, and lunches started in the fridge.

2.    Check the calendar—The older my kids get, the busier they are.  So it’s important to keep and check a calendar where everyone has access to it.  This way, children can learn to be responsible for remembering violins for lessons, a water bottle for the field trip, or that grandma’s picking them up on Friday.  This will save you both time in your day and gas in your tank if you’re not making multiple trips to deliver forgotten items.

3.    Count backwards—Think about the time you have to get your kids to school and then count the time backwards for every minute you need to get ready.  Don’t forget to include time to make a last minute potty break and put on shoes.  And add an extra 15 min for incidentals.  This is the time your kids need to get out of bed.  No later.

4.    Think about what’s really important in your morning—Can’t live without your morning cup of coffee?  Prep it the night before.  Have a morning meeting? Make sure to schedule in time for a shower.  For each of us, there will be different priorities in our morning routine.  Since I head straight to the gym after drop off, a morning shower isn’t a priority.  But packing the gym bag is.  Know what’s important to you and trim down your time.

5.    Stop to pray—One thing that’s become essential to our morning routine is prayer.  Yes, it seems counterproductive to add one more thing to the morning schedule.  But we’ve found that our family functions completely different between the mornings we play and those we don’t.  Taking that time to be together, take a deep breath, and turn our hearts toward God allows us to remember why we’re doing all this.  Morning prayer is a priority for us.

Lee's To Do List

First Sunday of the Month...


I wanna throw one of these Pajama Glam Slumber Parties (@ Kara's Party Ideas).  This looks like so much fun!

Or how about this Spa Party (@ The Birthday Blog)?

This Zoe Baby Shower (@ Wendy Updegraff Photography) is just stunning.  The color combination is perfect and there's so many ideas to get you started planning.

What little boy wouldn't love a Barnyard Birthday Bash like this one at Brown Paper Packages?  The cake is incredible!

And with fall coming, this Harvest Pumpkin Triffle (@Better Homes and Gardens) looks wonderful for a fall party. Yummy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

2011 Summer Photo Challenge: Summer Color

What Color Says Summer to You?

My summer color used to be Green.  The rich green of summer gardens and front lawns.  But the truth is we spend so much time at the pool.  My new summer color is Blue.  Slip 'n Slides, Swimming pools, Sprinklers... What's more refreshing than that on a hot summer afternoon?

So What Color Says Summer to You? Did you take pictures this week?  Join us as we chronicle our lives this summer and document what makes each of us special.  Link up to a specific post below and don't forget to invite others to join us.  The more of us that get involved, the more fun!

Next week's challenge: Photograph Something Wet!

*Linked to these Parties and Weekend Bloggy Reading

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Practicing Hospitality: Hospitality and Culture

Welcome to our chapter seven discussion of Practicing Hospitality.  For eight weeks, we'll take a chapter and open it up for discussion.  I'll start us off with a summary of the chapter and then open the linky for questions and thoughts.  Even if you're not reading the book, feel free to add to the conversation.  May you be blessed!

Previous chapters:

Chapter Seven: Hospitality and Culture
Chapter Two was all about showing hospitality to strangers.  But a serious consideration in that topic is culture.  You have to understand the culture of those you are hosting and your own culture in order to fully utilize your opportunities.  In our little community, we frequently interact with a variety of cultures: East Indians, Mexican, Asian, etc.  When we lived in the city, we were surrounded by a huge Russian population.  As near as my own family, we embrace the Native American culture and lifestyle of small town America.  We can escape the impact of culture all around us.

Some important areas to consider include religion, food, relationships, manners, customs, language, values, work ethic, jus to name a few.  In the Native American culture, for example, elders are highly valued.  When serving an elder from this culture, I would make sure they were served first and offered the finest items that we have available.  

The purpose of this chapter was largely to get us thinking about culture and how it affects our relationships.  Practicing hospitality is a great tool in showing Christ's love.  However, if we unknowingly offend others, our witness has been compromised.  It would be impossible to seamlessly integrate one's self into another culture.  But by taking the time to consider the various aspects that affect how we see the world, we can go a long way in extending hospitality cross-culturally.  

Four areas that we specifically discussed include:
*Time orientation-- matters like RSVP or arriving on time many carry different meanings from culture to culture.
*Task/Goal Focus-- remember that relationships are your goal.  Never leave a guest alone; incorporate them into your evening.  Take the focus off the meal and have a flexible plan for your evening that will facilitate relationships.
*Etiquette-- Etiquette falls under three areas: gift-giving (research the symbols of given countries), table etiquette (take an informal approach), and conversation (be an active listener and avoid slang).
*Food-- Simple recognizable foods are the best.  Be aware of dietary restrictions.

The authors offer this last thought: "... international students are tomorrow's leaders!Many countries closed to missionaries are sending students to study in the United States.  Believers need to catch the vision for the world impact they can have by extending friendship and hospitality to international students" (pg 212).  That's quite a thought and one I need to think on more.  What are your thoughts?

This Week's Discussion:
1. Do you do all things for "the sake of the gospel" (I Cor 9:23)?  Evaluate how you would respond to the cultural differences we discussed: time orientation, task/goal focus, etiquette, and food. Ask the Lord to mature you in patience, flexibility and love towards others who are culturally different, for the sake of the gospel.

2.  Do you know how to share your faith with someone from another religion?  Take the time to develop answers for the following questions.  Find three or four specific Scriptures to support each of your answers.  Pray that that Lord will give you the opportunity to share your faith.  Finally, consider memorizing several of the verses you have selected.
  How would you describe your God?  What are his attributes?
  How does your religion define sin?
  How does your religion view death?  What happens when you dies? 
  Who is Jesus?
  What is the meaning/purpose of life?

3. Consider reaching out as a family to an international student.  Make a list of routine family activities suitable for including an international student.  Use the list below to get you started.
  Athletic events or family hobbies
  Family celebrations
  Family day trips
  Family shopping trips to become familiar with the community

Next Week:
Join us next Thursday Aug 11th for chapter eight: Hospitality and Ministry

Linky Party:
Feel free to link up below if you're discussing Practicing Hospitality on your blog.  We love hearing your thoughts and being encouraged in this journey together.  Can't wait to hear what you're thinking.

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