Saturday, February 27, 2010

Time to Tailgate

Baseball Season is quickly approaching.  We are getting ready to stock up on sunflower seeds and sun block.  It's the crack of the bat, the cheer of the crowd - the "Safe" yelled by the umpire that we long for.  What else does this mean......?

Concession stands, and hot dogs, long days at the ball field and a general lack of nutrition.  Over the last 7 years of baseball teams and tournaments our family has become known as the ones who bring the crazy food.  You know, protein shakes and gluten free cupcakes, chicken salad and carbonated juice, just in case anyone gets hungry.  My children do not always appreciate the effort and we have been known to receive some funny looks depending on what comes out of the cooler, but I cannot in good conscience allow my family, on a repeated basis, to be subject to the lack of nutrition that is provided by the concession stand.

I am not putting down the concession stands, I think they have their place, I just do not believe that 3 meals a day coming from a box is the best choice.  So, it is once again time to practice what I preach.  There are many times I wish I could just relax and let my kids eat whatever was convenient, that I would be ok with running through the drive through on the way to practice or game, but I can't and I'm not.  So it is time to pull out the cooler, ready the tailgate paraphernalia and begin the season of outdoor dining.

Below are some tips if you would like to join me in the quest.
1.  Always think ahead - it is very hard to prepare for a 6-hour day, and meet everyone's needs at the last minute.
2.  Staples to have on hand - sandwich meat, fruit, nuts, and healthy protein bars.  We like Clif bars.  I try to keep sugar and corn syrup out of the mix.
3.  Use your crock-pot and your thermal containers.  For early morning games we pre-make breakfast burritos, roll them in foil and keep them hot in a thermal container.
4.  I also like to make baked potatoes and keep them warm in a crock-pot - my suburban has a plug that will keep the crock-pot on - if you don't have this you can get a converter from Radio Shack and use your cigarette lighter.  I then make several toppings and keep them in the cooler.  
5.  Pack a plastic tablecloth and plenty of paper goods, once people see what you have they will want to join you.  I also bring extra food.
6.  Sodas are the biggest downfall at the games because the kids get tired of water, load the cooler with 100% juice boxes and fruit juice soda.  We like Izze brand.  
7.  Give in once in a while - I let them splurge with a snow cone - but only at the end of the day.  It keeps the asking to a minimum when I have already said yes and set the time line.

Baseball is a great tradition and a season looked forward to in our home.  With proper preparation we can enjoy it even more knowing that we are building our immune systems with the food we eat.  

So take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks (once in awhile) 
And enjoy the game!   PLAY BALL!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A cheerful heart

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Laughter is good medicine - how many times have we heard this - and then ignored the advice that is given through King Solomon?  There is nothing I enjoy more than hearing the sound of my children's laughter - I rejoice deep in my soul as I hear true genuine laughter.  From the time they were little and would giggle with a deep belly laugh to the age they are now, and have been known to spew liquid from their mouths that could not contain the enjoyment, this has given me great joy.

I have been challenged, in the last few months to not pick and choose those parts of verses that I enjoy but, to read and understand in context. Originally, I thought that this blog would be a reflection on Laughter, as the best drug, from a more medical point of view but upon reading of this verse in context it is the 2nd half that stirred my soul.  "A crushed spirit dries up the bones", ugh my heart is heavy and a sinking feeling begins.

How often as a mother have I crushed the spirit of my children, how often have I caused them to dry up, how many times have I sucked the laughter from their souls? 
What began as a light hearted reflection of laughter, brought me to my knees as I seek forgiveness for not restraining my selfishness, anger and lack of patience.  

As I studied "crushed spirit", that term is also translated as downcast, driven by guilt and shame. And again my soul was sorrowful.  

After the sorrow, my heart is lightened by the fact that there is a great healer, Jesus Christ.  That no matter what we have done, or what life has put in our path, Jesus can heal.  He can heal the relationships I have cast down; he can heal the hurt caused by my inadequacies as I struggle to be a wife, mother, and friend.  

I am rejuvenated with the fact that I can stand in the face of difficult circumstances and belly laugh, knowing that any wrong I have done can be healed and we can laugh together as a family and as friends.

Laughter, a merry heart, is good medicine - and comes as I strive to not crush the spirit of those around me. I delight in knowing that I will not be perfect and Jesus the healer will fill my heart will joy and laughter.  

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from…the Father.” James 1:17

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lessons from the Marshmallow Kitchen

Sometime mid- December I began to dream of a White Christmas.  Now, living in Texas I was not envisioning the cold, white stuff that falls from the sky.  No, this white Christmas would be white and fluffy, and very sweet and sticky.  I was ready to embark on the amazingly awesome task of homemade marshmallows.  The recipe looked simple enough, there are not that many ingredients so I gathered them up - cranked up the Bing Crosby- and began.

I was so excited; I am a big fan of the marshmallow.  I followed the instructions, I turned on my Kitchen-Aide mixer and I watched, with much anticipation.  Then it happened, the clear sticky mass began to change color - it went from clear to white.  The mass then began to grow like Mt. Everest rising out of the ground.  It was glorious, it was spectacular, it was .........marshmallow heaven.  

Oh, visions of marshmallows danced in my head.  Unfortunately, I would have to wait 6 hours or overnight, before I could indulge.  The next day I jumped from my bed, grabbed my children and we danced through the kitchen.  I broke out the knife and began to cut. We tasted. These little nuggets of sugar were amazing!  As amazing as they were, they were sticky, so we decided to roll them in chocolate, sprinkles and candy canes.  Oh what joy, oh what delight, to be so thrilled with sugar of white.

Well, I was very proud of my little endeavor and began to think of ways to use this white fluffy cream, even before it had time to become a marshmallow.  I could sandwich it between two mint chocolate cookies, I could frost a cake, I could decorate a gingerbread house.  The options were limitless.

I thought how great these would taste if I added peppermint to the marshmallow and dipped them in chocolate.  Oh my, I could just taste them now.   Not so fast my little pretty.   Homemade marshmallows lack the substance of those found in your local grocery aisle.  Adding the peppermint worked out okay, but the dipping of the chocolate - another story altogether.  As I began to dip these little morsels - the heat overtook their fragile state and they began to melt. No, not melt, disappear.  

It was a sad, sad day in the marshmallow kitchen, one that we do not want to repeat too soon.  Because yes, you can take a good thing too far and yes, some things are just better left alone. Which brings me to the moral of my tale.........

Experiment if you must, but leave the marshmallow alone.

***Health disclaimer*** Marshmallows should be eaten sparingly and only if consumption is to be followed with vigorous exercise.

Recipe for homemade marshmallows
2 tsp butter
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
1 c light corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1tsp. clear vanilla extract

Line 9 x 13 pan with foil and grease foil w/ butter - set aside
In large metal bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water; set aside
In large heavey saucepan, combine sugar,corn syrup, salt and remaining water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer reads 240 degrees.
Remove from heat and gradually add gelatin. Beat on high speed until mixture is thick and the volume is doubled, about 15 minutes. Beat in vanilla (or other favorite flavors). Spread into prepared pan. cover and let stand for 6 hours or overnight.
Using foil, lift marshmallows out of pan.  With a pizza cutter coated with cooking spray, cut into 1 inch squares.  Dip, Drizzle or roll in your favorite toppings.  
Store in airtight container in a cool dry place.

Cook's note - the ingredients in this recipe go against all that I know to be true for a healthy diet - and sometimes you just have to step outside the rules.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Suffering Well

“Well done my good and faithful servant.”   This is a verse I have heard many times in my life and I have to admit have struggled with it.  What does this mean? How do I practically apply this?  How will this affect my day-to-day life?

In the last several months I have been witness to a man who is personifying this verse and who is "suffering well” you can read his story at 

As great and as inspiring as his story is, I have come to a point in my life where I realize I am not able to fully live my life if I chose to live through someone else's experiences.  Do I know how to suffer well?  Am I able to stand in the face of opposition and say as Job did - you can take it all but you will NOT take my faith in God nor the joy I have through knowing His son Jesus Christ. (Italics are my words not Job’s)

I am blessed to say that in my life I have not have had extensive trials that actually demanded suffering well - and I begin to wonder do I live for the day that I will have something large enough to overcome that I can then say I was able to suffer well - or should I not "suffer well" in my day to day of dealing with a spouse, children, job or whatever affliction I may have and be able to say, I strive to suffer well.  If I am not able to "suffer well" in the day to day, how can I even come close to the "suffering well" when something is truly a struggle.  When life becomes bigger than the problems I can handle on my own, when I get to the end of myself and find that there is nothing there but the wickedness I have created.  How then will I "suffer well”?

Over the past 20 years I have had the privilege of working with my husband to help heal and give hope to those with physical need.  More often than not the physical need is just a symptom of the emotional or spiritual void that has occurred throughout one’s life.  We have seen people who are able to "suffer well" and then those that just suffer.  What is the difference, where is the dividing line that enables one to "suffer well".

I contend it is in the knowing... the knowing that there is more to you than you.  We are a small piece of the bigger puzzle.  It is facing the fact that no matter how good I try to be, I am evil, wicked and decrepit.  Without the grace, love, mercy and constant forgiveness of Jesus Christ, without the miracles that occur in our life every day big and small I would dissolve into the mud pile that I truly am.

Even as I write this I am becoming aware that I am not the one who has made this all happen, I am not the one that can be congratulated for all my successes - I can only fall at the feet of my Lord and Savior and say thank you for giving me all that you have, thank you for my giftings, thank you for giving me the willingness to share them, thank you that I can stand witness on a daily basis to your goodness and mercy.  Without which, I would be as dung.

So do I "suffer well" – I strive to.   I am learning and practicing “suffering well” - in the big and the small, so on that great and faithful day I will be able to hear the words that daily bring me hope and life.  
"Well done, my good and faithful servant."  Matt. 25:21 & 23

Monday, February 1, 2010

Let them Help - It's good for your health

This past weekend we put together a birthday party for my youngest who is  6.

A little background is probably necessary.  I love parties, I am a huge theme party person and tend to channel a little Martha Stewart when it comes to parties.  I also like to be in control and have things go a specific way - which at times comes in very handy.  These traits also lend themselves to not wanting to delegate.

In the process of planning for this party we came up with a Lego-Knight theme.  As the planning evolved we had determined that we would have a knight training camp of sorts, with different stations to prove the party-goers knighthood.

The day of the party - there were many things left to do - frost and set up the cake and determine how to pull off the stations.  I didn't say I was good with time-management.

That morning I had 3 very eager helpers - who wanted to help decorate cakes and set up what they had determined to be Quest obstacles.  It was at this moment that I took a deep breath, stepped outside my normal character, and my need to have it "perfect", and said,  "sure go ahead."

The party began - my helpers greeted the guest, helped them with their craft and led them on a quest.  An awesome time was had by all, especially me - who for once had the opportunity to enjoy the adults present because I was not in the middle of it all.

I learned a great lesson - let them help, it may not be "perfect" - but it will be fun - when the wrapping paper is thrown away and the candles no longer burn - the memories for all involved will be cherished.  Those memories are much more important than the cover of any Martha Stewart magazine.

Let them help - your stress levels will be lower- its good for your health.

These are just some ideas - let your helpers come up with their own.

Knight Party: Planning Tips
Arrival activity:  Create crowns and Goblets - using paper crowns and plastic goblets - sticker gems and foam stickers as desired.

Story Activity:  Begin reading Squire and the Scroll by Jeannie Bishop - on pg. where dragon is killed- (have older child come in and steal the "lantern")

Begin Quest: Armed with (plastic) swords and scrolls - 1.  Lava jump (river of pillows) 2. Horse course (stick horses and cones) 3. cliff jump (window seat) 4. Swamp (jump rope tied between 2 chairs) 5. bubble goblins ( armed with swords chop bubbles) 6. break the code (easy math problems) 6. Dragons Lair (gently attack the older child - with swords and rescue the lantern)

Complete Story activity: Finish reading story - followed by a knight ceremony

Celebratory Feast: We had Dragon claws (drumsticks), Dragon Scales (chicken tenders), Dragon blood (ketchup), fruit, vegetables and cheese.  The kids used their goblets that they had decorated.

Party Guest received - thank you notes with a photo of knight ceremony and a certificate of knight hood.

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