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A Modern Day Betty Crocker

How did my grandmother do it? How did she raise 8 children and make her own bread, can vegetables from the garden, volunteer at church, and keep her house free of dirt and cobwebs?

Yesterday, I had guests for dinner. Preparing was an all-day affair. Although I multi-tasked and did plenty of other things, I was amazed by how much time a woman can spend in the kitchen if she makes a meal from scratch. Here's how the time-absorbing vortex of home cooking can suck up a woman's time:

In the morning, I set out a roast from the freezer to thaw and by noon, I popped it in the crock pot. Before the Today show went off air for the morning, I had already picked apples off the tree in the back yard, cut them up, put them on the stove to boil for applesauce.

While that was simmering, I ran out to the garden and picked some fresh tomatoes and basil to go with the cucumbers I'd scored from my mom's garden. I diced those up and made a salad. After I strained the applesauce and sweetened it, I ran out to the tree to pick some more apples for a pie. My son picked 8 ears of corn and shucked them for me and I boiled those and cut the kernals from the cob.
As I pulled my grandmother Betty's falling-apart Betty Crocker cookbook from the shelf to hunt for the pie crust recipe, I felt very Betty Crocker-esque. The mess on the counters proved it. I had traces of corn kernals here and there, apple peelings spilling over the sides of a bowl, pans piled up by the sink, and the aroma of beef roast wafted from the crock pot.
In the afternoon, I tidied up the house and started setting the table for our dinner. I peeled the potatoes and put them in water on the stove, ready to boil when the time came. Just before the guests arrived, I whipped off my red and white striped apron (which makes me feel more like Betty Crocker). I dashed to the bedroom to check my hair and added a beaded necklace to my outfit.

Back in the kitchen, as I gave the pots one more stir, I thought of my grandmother again. I glanced down at my jeans and flip-flops. I guess I've given the Betty Crocker thing a modern twist.
All I can say is, this is why we have frozen pizza and convenience foods. I'd never be able to do this every day. But my grandmother did. And I wish she'd still been around to see me do it yesterday. I think I did her proud.


The Best Investment You Can Make in a Recession

The stock market doesn't look good these days. I don't like ripping open the statements on our retirement account because they aren't very encouraging. I don't like watching the news because it isn't very encouraging. Come to think of it, I don't find it very encouraging to open the mailbox and find a pile of bills there either. We're in a recession and the reality hits us in the face every day.

Photo from CBS News
This week, someone on the news said we might have a double-dip recession on our hands. Although the double-dipped part sounds yummy, I don't think it's supposed to. I think it's bad. Really bad. As a parent, it's easy to get discouraged by the lack of leftover cash.

We don't take vacations to Disney or Hawaii, or spend a week at a dream destination. We don't go out to eat at sit-down restaurants very often. We don't go to theme parks or water parks, or buy our kids the latest gaming systems. We don't own a High-def or flat-screen TV. We didn't invest money in a college savings fund for our boys because we just didn't have it.

But we did make one big investment and it's the best one anyone can make in the midst of a recession.

You see, we aren't only in a financial recession in our country. We're also in a spiritual recession. So many people are just plain apathetic about Jesus. They are so caught up in acquiring stuff that they have forgotten about the Provider of everything they have. Too many parents believe that if they can just provide their children with the latest of everything those children will be happy. Sadly, they're wrong.

In this financial and spiritual recession the best investment you and I can make is in our children. We can spend time teaching them biblical truth and modeling it for them. We can teach them to trust in God when finances fall apart. We can teach them to live with less and worship God more. We can help them understand that good character and godly actions are more valuable than anything a platinum Visa can buy.

I hope that someday when I look back at our investment, I'll see boys who have become men of integrity. Men who give generously and love like Jesus. Honest men who put others before themselves and do what is right even when it isn't popular. 

Come to think of it, I'm already beginning to see dividends on that investment. Boys, you make your mama's heart swell with joy. I don't give a hoot what's in the bank as long as I have you guys.


Homeward- A Book Review

Just a few days ago, I introduced you to a new book from author Melody Carlson. Now, I'd like to introduce you to another of her books. This book is a RITA award winner.

HomewardIn Homeward, by Melody Carlson, Meg Lancaster discovers it’s never too late to come home. Meg has avoided her family for twenty years, but now, she’s ready to return to her Oregon hometown before her grandmother passes. She’s also about to discover that her mother, whom Meg has never understood, has changed in unexpected ways. As Meg renovates her grandfather’s overgrown cranberry marsh back into a producing farm, the cranberry bogs aren’t the only things that undergo a major transformation. By facing the past square on, Meg discovers things aren’t always as they seem, and she finds the emotional healing she’s needed for so long.
I enjoyed the story and I thought the details related to growing cranberries were accurate. Since my husband worked for a cranberry grower for 11 years and we lived right in the bogs, I was impressed with the attention to that detail. I also enjoyed the characters and the interactions between them. The story had a touch of mystery too, and that made the story interesting.

I think what makes this and Melody Carlson’s other books so great is that she knows how to write a story with characters that are real and flawed. They experience tragedy, they question their faith, they grieve, and they let stubborn pride get in the way of relationships. This story is no different. But the permeating theme of the book is grace. Anyone who has ever experience the need for forgiveness, grace and healing will enjoy this story.

I received a free Kindle version of the book from Glass Road PR for review purposes, and it’s been re-released since the print novel first came out 14 years ago. 
You can purchase the Kindle version of this book for just $2.99 right now. Other e-book formats available for $2.99 as well.


Do We Use "God is In Control" to Cover Up Our Neglect?

Today, I'm adding a new feature to the blog. I thought I'd tackle a hot topic (or maybe it's more of a hot-button issue) to get you thinking. I'll be bringing up some topics for thought on Thursdays in the future too.

I hear the phrase "God is in control" often, but sometimes, it seems as though we use it to cover up our own lack of prayer and planning. For example, let's say I procrastinate a project that's as big as Mount Rushmore, and then the night before it's due, I sit down and try to extract an idea from my dried up brain. Now, let's imagine I beg for sympathy from my friends about my time dilemma, but when one of them asks why I didn't budget my time better and plan ahead, I respond with, "God is in control. It will all work out."

Really? Will it all work out if I haven't used my God-given ability and organized the project in such a way that it would be completed long before the deadline? Is it okay to give less than my best knowing that God is all-powerful? Can I expect God to be the fixer of my intentional neglect? Of course, He can fix anything. But is it right to use "God is in control" as the antidote to my irresponsibility.

I don't see how it's any different than driving towards a cliff with the throttle wide open with every intent of flying right off the edge and hoping God will scoop me up before gravity takes its toll. On the way down, bystanders call out their warning, but only hear my, "It's okay...God is in control," echo off the canyon walls right before the big explosion.

On the other hand, I very much DO believe God is in control. Thank goodness He knows what's up when we receive bad news from the doctor even when we've lived a healthy lifestyle. Thank goodness He's there when projects and plans go awry despite careful planning and organizing. And thank goodness He's all-knowing, because I'm so forgetful I can't even remember that the last place I had my glasses was right on top of my head.

So, tell me what you think of all this rambling. Do you think we ever toss the phrase around when trying to cover up our own irresponsibility? Maybe you disagree with my analysis. Or if you agree, how can we respond when someone uses that expression on us to seemingly discount a legitimate concern?


Get Creative: Free Printable Cards & More

If you're looking for something cute and creative, but you're fresh out of ideas, How Does She has some really fun printable projects. Just subscribe to the newsletter (see the pink box at the bottom of her blog page) and you'll receive the password for the downloads.

At the top of the list, you'll find some back to school printables. If you're like me, you take pictures on the first day of school. Just print the appropriate sign for your child's grade and have him or her hold it in the picture.

Here is an example from How Does She:
And don't forget to scroll down through the seasonal downloads to the other school download for some cute lunchbox notes you can print. All designs have been created by Chickabug for How Does She.


Book Review- River's Song by Melody Carlson

Head back to 1959 and experience life in a rustic and serene place where wounded hearts can begin to heal in Melody Carlson’s latest book, River’s Song. Anna has a tender heart: she just lost her mother, she’s a widow with a daughter just about to head off to college, and she’s virtually a slave in her own home. She’s tolerated her mother-in-law’s cruelty and racial slurs for long enough. At 40, she’s ready for a change.

Anna decides to head to the rustic home where she grew up on Oregon’s Siuslaw River to sort through the estate and sort through her own emotions. Once she’s there, a dream begins to emerge and she begins to rediscover hope and reconnects with her Indian heritage. When she meets Hazel, a woman researching for a thesis paper, Anna connects with a woman who loves and appreciates her for who she is.

I loved this book! It’s well-written and the characters are complex. Anna has so much emotional pain and I cheered each time something good happened to this precious woman. I like that Carlson has tackled topics related to Anna’s Indian heritage and her parent’s mixed marriage. The author artfully develops the plot while addressing issues such as second marriage, the financial devastation of widowhood, post war trauma, strained parent-teen relationships, and much more.

Some of Melody Carlson’s books would be classified as chick-lit, but this one is deeper and it’s more serious fiction. It’s a rare occasion that I give a book 5 stars, but this one makes the grade. I can't wait to read the second book in the series.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Glass Road Public Relations for review purposes.

About the Author  

Melody Carlson published her first book in 1995 and she has been writing prolifically ever since. To date, Melody has published over 200 books, making her one of the top 20 most prolific authors of all time. With total sales of over 1.4 million her award-winning books include: Homeward, Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon; Limelight; the Diary of a Teenage Girl series; the True Colors series; and the Charter House Girls series.

In her professional life, Melody has worn many hats: from pre-school teacher to political activist to senior editor. Currently, she writes full-time, and freelances from her home. She has two grown sons and lives in Sisters, Oregon with her husband, Chris, and Bailey, her chocolate lab. They enjoy skiing, hiking, and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

What People Are Saying

"Melody Carlson's River Song eased through me gently layer by layer, deeper and deeper. This story of re-awakening or renewal appears deceptively simple but wields great emotional power. I look forward to book 2 in The Inn at Shining Rivers series."
- Lyn Cote, Author of Her Abundant Joy
River's Song - The Inn at Shining Waters Series
"In River's Song, Melody Carlson beautifully tells a generational story of a family living alongside the banks of Oregon's Siuslaw River. Told with sensitivity and insight the story includes a Native American thread, deals with issues of abuse, and weaves an ending full of redemption and grace. I can't wait to read the next novel in the series!"
- Leslie Gould, Beyond the Blue and co-author of The Amish Midwife and The Amish Nanny with Mindy Starns Clark


Muted Monday - Photo of the Week

Today's Muted Monday photo is one I doctored up using Picnik, an online photo editing program. It's fun to use the "posterize" feature to make a photo into art that can be framed, even if it wasn't that fabulous to begin with.


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