Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heaven in Her Arms: A BookSneeze Review

Catherine Hickem certainly knows the struggles Christian women face today.  As mothers the struggles are even more intense: when to push our kids harder and when to back off, when to trust and when to doubt, when to hold on and when to let go.

Mary, the mother of Jesus is not much mentioned in the Bible and certainly not as her own person. She enters the Bible when it is time tell of Jesus' miraculous conception and birth. Little is talked of his upbringing, the day to day struggles Mary faced knowing her child was of God, God's own son, and how that impacted her personally as a woman, as a believer, as a mother.

I cried a lot while reading this book because Mrs. Hickem shares some fabulous insight into what God wants of us women who believe, who follow Him, who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and she also shows us how to find the answers to our deepest questions.  The section which touched me the most was "Love in the Rearview Mirror: Mary Knew God Looks at the Heart." Our hearts are often spoken of as something that leads women down a sinful path or gets us into trouble. It is also the repository of our deepest feelings: joys, triumphs, fears, longings, anxieties and tragedies we often think they are stored in our head but they are truly written upon our hearts.

The second most impacting for me was "There Are No Accidents" which states that Mary knew God as Master Designer. This is so very true. Sometimes when God shows us His plan for us, for our life, we think "but I don't want that! That's not what I planned." We don't control our lives, God works everything--good and bad--for our good. Sometimes it is hard to see that in a tough moment such as the loss of a loved one or economic uncertainty but that is what we have to remember.

Excellent read which I recommend to any woman who struggles with her faith or wants a deeper relationship with God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nearing the end of another school year

As I strolled down our main street in Guilford today, enjoying the nearly 70° temperature, the sun pouring down and a gentle breeze I marveled at the number of older teens lounging in their yards doing the same, enjoying the Spring Break to the fullest just soaking up the sun and hanging out with their friends. I substitute teach in our town on occasion and know many teens and preteens because of 4-H, subbing, and friends who are parents of tweens and teens.

It hit me that many of the kids I know will be heading off to college next fall and more still in the fall of 2013. A lot of these kids are brilliant, funny, creative kids who have no idea what they want to do in life. Most are excited about college but are a little scared of taking the PSAT, SAT, and ACT tests. Most of the parents I know and am familiar with are not college educated and are worried that coaching their kids for these tests themselves may have damaging results instead of positive ones. That is where Studypoint's SAT tutor and ACT tutor programs can make a world of difference. Colleges rely on student's scoring on these tests to determine whether they are accepted or not and if accepted which courses they must take based on achievement level.

I shared these programs with one of my closest friends and her 17 year old daughter who is a junior in high school this year. The daughter has testing anxiety and her mom left school to become a mom in her senior year. K, the mom, was very worried about trying to help S, the daughter, with her SAT prep studies. SAT Tutor has been a blessing and I hope it will help others out, as well.

These are definitely two programs I am going to be recommending to every student I know!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Five Dollar Dinner - Weeknight wowzers!

♥♦Please excuse the lateness of this post, I usually post $5 Dinner entries on Monday but this week I had a computer malfunction & didn't get my new laptop up and running until this morning. So, without further ado, here I give you TWO Weeknight Wowzers for $5 Dinners this week ♦♥

Tonight I made a family favorite, a not quite lasagna that uses black beans instead of sausage or hamburg, enchilada sauce rather than Italian red sauce and a Mexican five-cheese blend in place of mozzerella and parmesan. It also replaces lasagna noodles with corn tortillas so there is no boiling to do ahead of time. The only thing that requires pre-cooking is the black beans and I do suggest, to stick within the $5 budget limit AND make the tastiest beans that you use dried and spice them to your own family's liking as they cook. The recipe is easy and requires few ingredients. Here it is: 
  • 1 pound dried black beans, sometimes called black turtle beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 1 package corn tortillas
  • 1 large can enchilada sauce
  • 1 package Sargento brand Mexican cheese blend
Put the dry beans in a large stockpot, cover with water, bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover pot and let beans sit one hour. Drain beans, cover with fresh water and boil 1 1/2 to 2 hours until beans are tender. Drain liquid then add the corn, onion, cumin, chili powder and garlic.
Preheat oven to 350°. Pour about 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish. Line with a layer of corn tortillas, cutting to fit as necessary. Spread another 1/4 cup of sauce on tortillas and top with a layer of beans, then cheese. Repeat layers until beans are used, ending with a tortilla layer. Cover the top layer with the last of the sauce and cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Serve with a tossed salad and Spanish rice: 2 cups instant rice cooked according to package directions, a teaspoon of taco seasoning (I buy Old El Paso's shaker container. It's got TONS of uses!) and a 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa.

A quick and easy meal tonight because of my women's meeting at 5:30. Pineapple glazed pork chops, butter and herb mashed potatoes and broccoli with a kick: 
Pineapple glazed pork chops: 
  • 1 package pork chops (one chop per family member)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 can crushed pineapple (you're only using 2 tablespoons for the chops. Serve the rest over a sliced pound cake for dessert!)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
Lightly brown the chops on both sides in a non-stick frying pan. Add the apple juice and simmer until chops are done, 10 minutes for boneless chops, 20 for bone-in thicker chops. Pour off water and remove chops to a plate. Keep them warm. Add the pineapple, brown sugar, and water to the skillet. Warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Cook down until the sauce thickens, about five minutes. Return chops to pan to warm through and coat with the sauce.
Butter and herb mashed potatoes: 
  • 2 pounds new red potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped, OR green onions, chopped, only the top green part
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain water off and mash, with skins. Add a little milk to thin out if potatoes are too dry for your liking. Add the butter, chives or onions, and parsley and stir to combine well.
Broccoli with a kick:
  • 1 head fresh broccoli, or 1 one pound bag frozen florets
  • 3 tablespoons water if using fresh broccoli only
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoons red chili flakes (sometimes called crushed red pepper)
Cook the broccoli until tender if fresh, just til warmed if frozen. Drain any water and return to pan over low heat. Add olive oil, garlic, and red pepper and toss to combine. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Funnies

This week I'm going to start doing something a little different to get back into the hang of writing a Friday Funnies post. I'm going to TRY to explain my thinking process to you all...maybe then it'll make sense to me after all these years...or not...either way, here goes:
Most people have a thought process something like this:
  • See jellybeans at store, think Easter, buy Easter stuff...don't forget the jellybeans!
  • See jellybeans @ store, look further, see Sour Patch Kids and Starburst fancier jellybeans and have lots of fun on Easter showing the kids/grandkids new beans.
  • MINE: See jellybeans, think, "ooh, I LOVE JELLYBEANS!" Look for Jelly Belly beans because I like their different flavors...see fave Buttered Popcorn HUGE bag. Then think how fun popcorn making is. Buy popcorn kernels. Take home. Pop corn. Think how pretty popcorn strings look on Christmas trees. Start stringing popcorn. Think about other homemade decorations. Make clay ornaments, bread dough ornaments, and apple cinnamon ornaments to kill the string of rainy, windy, wet days. Wake up this morning and realize EASTER is TWO DAYS AWAY...and while I have a ton of CHRISTMAS ornaments now I have done NOTHING for EASTER! ROFLMBO!! So, I pop in the newest Alice in Wonderland...and think how cute Johnny Depp is as the Mad Hatter. And remember having a crush on another Mad an earlier 2000's Alice...who on earth was it? Google madly til I discover it was Martin Short...and then wonder where this weird fascination for Mad Hatters came from...and realize, while listening to my Cleaning Mix was TOM PETTY WHO STARTED IT ALL!! Yep, when he played the Mad Hatter in his 1985 "Don't Come Around Here No More" video. One of the first music vids I remember watching when I was younger (all of FOUR years old, haha) and one of my faves always. So, here's my Friday Funny because parts of this vid are LOL hilarious!

Friday's Fave Five April 6, 2012

Okay, wow, has it been a LONG time since I posted a Friday Fave Five! I am so thankful for my new laptop that makes blogging a pleasure. I am getting out in the community more (Wi-Fi, haha!) and making new friends and renewing old connections...I hadn't realized how central to my life my PC was...But, I digress. Today's fave five is not going to be about my computer. Nope, I am going to share my favorite five family classic movies for Friday Family Movie Night in my house. See, with three kids aged 11, 9, and 7 it can get pretty harrowing choosing family game night games, radio stations in the car, pizza toppings and, of course, movie night flicks...BUT I have a stash of classic faves, which are listed in a slideshow over, um, yeah, there!! To the right of this entry ------> is a widget in my sidebar called Family Favorite Films. Click on it to see our whole family classics library! Our five favorites that everyone can agree on are:

  1. The 1980's version of "Annie" starring Aileen Quinn as adorable Annie and my fave, Tim Curry as Rooster. I think this version far surpasses the mid 2000's remake and always will. Thankfully my kids and hubby agree and well, a fabulous time is had by all especially when my dh and A7 sing "Anything But You" together at the end complete with dance routine. 
  2. Disney's animated "Robin Hood" with Brian Bedford voicing Robin Hood and the terrific Phil Harris voicing Little John...but growing up a child of older parents I was raised on "classic country" and Roger Miller was always a fave of mine and my dad's when I was growing up, and still is. Therefore, my favorite character of all time has been Allan-a-Dale, the minstrel rooster. This classic is so funny and sweet at the same time no one fails to be enthralled. 
  3. Old Yeller...not much to say. Even though we all KNOW by now what happens to Yeller, it doesn't take away from the rest of the film. What many don't know is that a sequel was made, called "Savage Sam" and is the story of the pup given to Arliss by Elizabeth Searcy in the original film...also great! We do these as a double header and make it a long night in the summer. 
  4. Classic chick-flick "Pollyanna." The Disney version of course, with Hayley Mills as Pollyanna. Did she ever do a film that wasn't terrific? I've always loved her and even my "guys" love this one. Great story and many awesome lessons. I am just sad that Disney never did a follow up when Pollyanna returns from her hospital trip...
  5. Disney's Cars. Yes, its newer but its going to be a classic. I can even watch this one when the kids are away and LOVE it. Never a fight during it, sometimes we have to rewatch some scenes two or three times because the kids love it so much. A ton of fun!!
That's my fave five for this Friday. Feel free to share your own fave films via comment. I'd love to find some new films!!

Jump on over to Living to Tell the Story and join in the fun! Don't forget to add yourself to Mr. Linky so we all can find you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I am so glad to get back to blogging on a frequent basis! I've  missed my meme themes and am grateful life has settled into some kind of calm normalcy once again.

Without further ado, here is my Top Ten list for this week!
  1. Fresh in season and very inexpensive. TOTALLY DELICIOUS!
  2. Mocha Nut Fudge coffee from Green Mountain Coffee. I was getting a little burned out on the Winter seasonal selections and it doesn't quite seem time Wild Blueberry and Island Coconut. MNF totally fills that weird Winter-to-Spring flavored coffee gap!! FAB!
  3. Flirty Girl Fitness. Working out is 100% fun again!!
  4. $2 value boxes from KFC. Once in a while you just NEED popcorn chicken and potato wedges or a thigh and mashed with gravy...budget conscious even if its not on my diet plan...hehe! Guilty pleasures, what can I say?
  5. Finding my iPod in my neighbors yard after losing it 5 months ago...and having it dry out fine...and work perfect!! AMEN!!!
  6. AriZona Sweet Tea and their Jack Nicklaus Half Tea Half Lemonade...both thirst quenching and totally sippable...or chuggable if, like me, you  just did a full Yoga routine followed by a three mile walk lol!
  7.  Rib Eye steak on the bbq with radicchio, bell peppers, portobello slices, and yellow squash also on the grill.
  8.  Discovering you're NEVER too old for Kool-Aid and graham crackers!
  9.  A super sweet date night with my hubby last night...gotta happen more often!
  10. Lyric Legend on the iPod. Back to my addiction....sorry!
If you would like to join in Top Ten Tuesday, follow me to Angie's blog Many Little Blessings to get a handle on the format, write your own blog entry and make sure to include a link to Angie's site! Also add your link on her site so others can come and read!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sunrise on the Battery a BookSneeze review

I was very, very pleased with "Sunrise on the Battery" by Beth Webb Hart. As you can see from my earlier reviews I love Christian fiction and even non-fiction but this book was a new high for me.

The story of "Sunrise on the Battery" is one we all can learn very important lessons from. From reading about fictional married couple Jackson and Mary Lynn Scoville we glean insight that material goods do not make a good life. You can own everything you want, have tons of money, and still feel empty and hollow.

We also learn that when you ask God for mighty things, as Mary Lynn did when she became a Christian and prayed for Jackson to find the Lord as well, God will do mighty things. The unsurprising part of this is that sometimes you don't really realize what you are asking for until God does it. When Jackson comes to Christ, he starts making changes in their family life and trying to instill morals and values that are Christian centered and live a life pleasing to God...and suddenly Mary Lynn finds herself wishing she had not become a Christian at all due to the sweeping changes and what she sees as their perfect, comfortable life start falling apart.

As Christians none of what happens or the life lessons imparted should be surprised. Matthew 16:25 says we must lose our life in order to gain it and if we try to gain our life, we will only lose it. This is the main theme of the story and it is a fabulous one to remember. I found myself questioning my motives, my life plans and goals and the way I am living now all because of reading this excellent book. I highly recommend it!

NOW, do you want your own copy of "Sunrise on the Battery?" Comment, tweet about this post, share it on FB then come back and share in another comment where else you talked up the giveaway! On April 1st I'll choose a random entry to receive a copy of this terrific book!

~~~I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. I did NOT have to give a positive review in exchange, this is just how I genuinely feel about this title.~~~

Spring, sprung and unsprung

Here in Maine we had an extremely mild winter, not much snow to speak of. Occasional storms of 4" to 6" but sunny warmer than usual days along with rain kept the snowpack to a minimum in my town. Spring officially started on March 20th and voila! This week we have clouds, high winds, and two days of snow. Yet today it is nearly all melted again. VERY unusual and my husband and I along with some other farmers/growers are concerned about what the strange winter will mean for our already short growing season here in Maine. I have heard comments ranging from there will be no impact right up to "pack away the seeds til next year. The lack of snow means lack of groundwater and its going to be a bad growing year." I think it will most likely be a little harder than usual but it all falls under the "wait and see" category, doesn't it? One day at a time and let go, let God. That's all I can do for now.

This is premium time for ASPARAGUS and if you love asparagus or have never tried it and are thinking about it, now is the time. It is in season from late February to June here in the U.S. and April is the prime month for harvesting. This is the time to try new recipes (bacon wrapped asparagus spears, anyone?) or classic dishes (asparagus with hollandaise) that star the tasty young great stalks. If you have tried asparagus before and weren't a huge fan, try WHITE ASPARAGUS. These stalks are protected from the sun while they grow so they mature white, more tender and much sweeter than the classic green stalks. If the white creeps you out, as it does my 12 year old daughter, look for the gorgeous purple varieties that are sweeter than green but not as tender as white. Here's one of my favorite ways to do asparagus right now:

Oven Roasted Spring Veggies
1 to 2 bunches fresh asparagus, tough part of stalks cut off or snapped off and tender tops cut to 2" pieces
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
1 pound pre-washed bagged baby carrots
1 large RED onion
1 head garlic (yes, head!) all cloves peeled and left whole
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400*. Toss all veggies together in a large mixing bowl with the EVOO. Spread out in a single layer on one or two cookie sheets depending on the size of the sheets you have. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until potatoes are tender and slightly browned and all other veggies are lightly caramelized. 

This is an excellent dinner main course with some pita crisps and hummus alongside OR as a side dish to your family's favorite meaty main dish!