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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Perfect Treat

Need a last minute "something" to offer your holiday guests while waiting on the turkey dinner? These little beauties might just do the trick. Very little prep for such wonderful presentation AND taste. Serve them along with some mixed nuts and they make the perfect little introduction to dinner.

Though the title suggests the perfect Christmas treat, they clearly are just as lovely as a Thanksgiving treat as well. And now, from my former blog, I present to you THE PERFECT TREAT!

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

DEFLATED

When I was 12 or 13 years old, my sister and I decided that we weren't willing to wait any longer to get noticed. The "associated press" images in the newspaper always intrigued us. We wondered aloud together, "Aw, look at that dog cooling himself down in a kiddie pool in Iowa." Or, "Those kids are having a blast playing jump rope in Atlanta." We couldn't figure out how one gets to enjoy the notoriety of "associated press" image status, and since we knew nothing of the interworkings of a newspaper, we came up with our own plan to get noticed ourselves.

"You call the Chronicle Telegram and tell them there's a kid out walking a rabbit on a leash."
"I don't want to call. You call."
"I can't call. I'll be walking the rabbit."
"Oh. Okay. Heeeeey, wait a minue. Why can't *I* walk the rabbit?"
"Because it's my rabbit, silly. And besides, they'll listen to you better because you're younger and it'll sound cute to them."
"Oh, yeah. That's true. But,...why should I do all the work if you're the one who'll get to be in the paper?"
(Got me there.)
"I'll tell you what. You just call, and then you can join me on my rabbit walk and we'll both get in the paper."

Smiles.
Deal.

And our little plan worked like a charm. We went outside in the chilly rainy weather (yes, we planned this gig on a rainy day) and proceeded to walk my French Lop rabbit on a leash down the sidewalk. Not 15 minutes later, along came the photographer and snap- snap, he took a few shots of us, got our names, and was on his way again. Ah, so proud.

Imagine our sheer delight when our photo ran on the front page of section B a day or two later.

Now imagine our major let down when, on the front page of section A, we saw the neighbor kid from across the street, huge photo I might add, smiling away. Apparently, after the photographer snapped a shot of us, he also got a shot of her playing outside in the rain. How convenient for her that we made the phone call that got HER on "the cover" (hmmmf!) All that plotting and planning and don'tch know it, we were living life on the "B" list in the shadow of the neighbor kid. Clearly, pride does come before a fall.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Adoption Sunday

My husband and I were asked if we would be interested in speaking about our adoption experience as part of our church's "Adoption Sunday" service yesterday. Our pastor desired, through our stories (ours, as well as othersin our church body whose lives have been touched by adoption) to bring greater understanding to us regarding what it means to be adopted as sons and daughters into the body of Christ.
Talk about adoption? You bet.
It's obviously near and dear to my heart so I was immediately on board. My husband had to work, so it would be up to me to speak on our behalf.

I began with how we came to the decision to adopt, which unlike many Christian couples, was not based on a calling we felt God had placed on our hearts. Rather, we felt lead, through our personal circumstances, to
-open our home to children in foster care,
-to help families in crisis,
-and to adopt if God desired us to do so.
In that order.

I went on to explain that, through various circumstances over time, God showed us His will for us regarding family. Some doors were opened, while others closed, all while He moved us forward to what He ultimately had in store for us, a family formed through adoption. It was kind of like seeing a puzzle come together, realizing how each "piece" fit in a specific way to form something wonderful.

I was asked, too, to share how adoption blessed us as a family. The obvious answer to that is that we get to be called "Mom" and "Dad" by four of God's precious children, yes? Definitely, YES!

But there were other blessings I mentioned as well. The blessing of greater patience, for example. During the years in which we waited on God to show us when, how and if we would have a family, I often felt as though He were asking me, "Am I enough?" God definitely taught me patience while I waited.

And we've grown in compassion too. Compassion for other couples struggling with fertility challenges. Compassion for single women who wonder if God will bless them with a loving marriage and family. Compassion for families in crisis. Compassion for the children in those families.

I closed by mentioning the old Wayne Watson lyrics that stated, "God aint gonna stay in the little box I put Him in." Our mighty God is soooo much bigger than the box we often try to squeeze Him into. And I believe that God defines family in a similar way. Biological families are a beautiful part of His design, but they are not the only way He forms families (consider Jesus growing up as Joseph's son, for example). His definition is soooo much bigger than biology.

And so I'll leave you with the same closing thoughts I shared in church today.
Have you opened your heart to the possibility of loving outside the box?
My husband and I have never regretted capturing God's vision for us regarding family. And we want to encourage you to consider God's "bigger than the box" view if you too are feeling pulled toward adoption.
If you have ever been curious about it, if your heart has ever been stirred to consider it, or if you find yourself in a situation of childlessness and you desire a family, will you fully open yourself to where God may desire to lead you?
Because sometimes when we lay down our plans, our will, or our hearts desire and simply walk with Him, He reveals unforseen beauty and purpose beyond our wildest dreams.

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cheeseless mac-n-cheese


Former blog readers, this is an oldie (but such a goodie). Newer blog friends, you may or may not know that I am vegetarian, and vegan-minded (though not a strict vegan). You may or may not know that my gall bladder is kaput (thus the switch to a vegetarian diet, which has done wonders for my digestive health). You may or may not know that you can make delicious mac-n-cheese without so much as an ounce of cheese. And the sauce is delicious on other things as well, liked steamed broccoli for example.

So without further ado, here is the recipe I use for making cheeseless mac-n-cheese. It's a "most requested" kid-preferred meal in our home. And it's GOOD!

4 quarts water (to cook the pasta)
1 tablespoon sea salt (I eliminated this as it was for boiling the noodles only)
8 ounces macaroni (I used whole wheat)
4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces (I used whole wheat)
2 tablespoons PLUS 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (ie. Earth Balance or Smart Balance LIGHT)
2 tablespoons green onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used 1 large yellow potato)
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed (I used bottled juice)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon paprika


In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente.

In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and the 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cover pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne, adding softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and processing all until perfectly smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated.

Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared bread crumbs, and dust with paprika.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let's laugh with Tim Hawkins

If you're not familiar with Tim Hawkins, he is a Christian comedian and homeschool dad who was homeschooled himself. He is also, imho, hilarious! Enjoy.



Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

NUMBER RECOGNITION

Teaching your little ones how to identify and write their numbers?
These little tricks have worked well in our homeschool, so for what it's worth, I thought I'd share them.

0.
"Around we go, it's not an "o", but zero is my hero."
(we shorten this to, "Zero is my hero," as soon as my kids learn that zero is round.)
1.
"A straight line down and one is done."
2.
"Around, down, and back on the choo-choo track. Two! Two! Two!"
3.
"Around the tree, around the tree. That is how we make the 3."
(a few of mine learned it better with, "One belly, two bellies, just like B. That is how we make the 3.")
4.
"Down, across, and down some more. That is how we make a 4."
5.
"Here's a back. Here's a tummy. Put on a hat and 5 looks funny."
6.
"Down, around, and in like this. That is how we make a 6."
7.
"Walk across and down from heaven. That is how we make the 7."
8.
"Make an "S" but do not wait. Come back up to make the 8."
(If your child does not yet know the letter "S", you might show them how "S" looks like a snake, as seen HERE. Once they get the "S" snake association, you can draw a large "S" as you teach number 8.)
9.

"A balloon and a line make number 9."
10.
"One stands next to circle friend. That is how we make a 10."



Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Gratitude (Thanksgiving prelude)


HOORAY!
My most favorite holiday of the year is officially on the horizon.
I absolutely l-o-v-e Thanksgiving.
I love everything about it.

I love the handwritten letter my mom snail-mailed me back in 2005 when we had to move out of state and away from family due to a job displacement. At that time, my husband had spent every single Thanksgiving with me and my family since 1982, the year we started dating.
There I was in another state, and to say that I had NO IDEA how to plan and prepare for a full Thanksgiving meal was an understatement.
Not only had I never cooked a turkey in my entire life, but nary a pumpkin pie either.

Mom rescued me.

She wrote down an entire Thanksgiving grocery list, a day-by-day plan of advance preparations, and how to pull it all together on the big day. I still follow that plan every single year. And yes, I absolutely do pull out that handwritten list, written lovingly by my mom, as my guide.

So, what else do I so dearly love about Thanksgiving?

  • breaking bread with my kids for homemade stuffing, and placing it on a very old, retro-print tablecloth that my grandmother sewed for her home so many years ago

  • being at the center of my family; homemaker and home manager, wife and mother

  • the smell of turkey as it roasts in the oven

  • the Macy's Day thanksgiving parade (wouldn't miss it for the world)

  • my children, all bed-headed, as they sit in pj's to take in the first hour of parades before scampering off to change into comfortable clothes for the day

  • the muted straw-yellow appearance of the land before winter takes hold and forces us all into a slower time of reflection and togetherness

  • the quiet calm that comes to the normally busy road that I can see from our backyard window

  • the glow of lights in other homes, knowing that families are gathered together as they should be

  • my husband's presence near me, as he relaxes in the overstuffed eggplant-colored recliner he received on Father's day

  • the roar of the crowd as football entertains later in the day

  • heaping whipped cream on homemade pumpkin pies

  • bringing out our special dishes that belonged to my mother-in-law who sadly passed away in 1995

  • Seeing my family enjoying the meal I so enjoyed preparing for them


Thanksgiving, to me, is a day when I am able to really reflect on what matters most. It's not about traveling or shopping. It's not about anything in the way of materialism at all. It's glass half full, seeing the blessings that are a part of my life because God the Father loves me so much that He lovingly gave them to me. How special it is to me to have an entire day to simply reflect on that and to surround myself with the reality of it. A day to thank Him for what I am able to reflect on.

To that end, I want to share an idea with you, one that requires minimum effort on your part but yields maximum impact.

Consider starting a Gratitude jar for your family.

Here's all you have to do:

  1. Decide on a small container with a lid. The medium size Yankee candle jars are perfect for this project, but you could use any pretty jar with a fitted lid, or even a small, pretty box-shaped tin.

  2. Add any decorative elements you desire. If you're a scrapbooker, this will be easy and fun. Wrap it in your favorite paper and add some dimensional elements to the lid, like flowers. Non-scrappers, you could tie a simple ribbon around the neck of the jar and simply attach a handprinted "Gratitude" tag. Or you might even purchase some letter stickers to spell "Gratitude" directly on your jar. You can find examples HERE and HERE.

  3. Place some small strips of paper and a pen by the jar, and place it in a convenient location, one where all family members have access to it.

  4. Each day, encourage your family members to jot down something they're thankful for from the past year and place it in the jar. You might alternate family members each day if you have a larger family, to keep the number of notes in the jar manageable.

  5. On Thanksgiving Day, include the jar as part of your table decorating. When your meal is over and pie is served, take turns pulling out a slip and reading it to the family.


See? What did I tell you? Thanksgiving is a most wonderful day to reflect on all the blessings God brings forth in our lives. The gratitude jar is a simple way to bring due focus to those blessings as a family.

Oh, and by the way, these jars make meaningful gifts for Christmas as well. Just alter the theme slightly, making a memory jar for a specific loved one. You might write down 52 special memories you have of your parent(s) and place them in a memory jar to give as a Christmas gift. If you can find a mini easel, you can include it so they can place your special memory on the mini easel on a kitchen windowsill. Each week, they would select a new memory to enjoy and to perhaps display, to remind them of how their efforts impacted your life, and of how you lovingly remember that effort.

There are probably several ways to do a gratitude or memory jar. For example, I know of one person who did a gratitude tree for Thanksgiving. She used a mini decorative tree and simply attached the notes to the tree. But whether you decide to take up this reflective project or not, do take the time to recall the blessings in your life, both recently and in the past year. Great strengthening for the journey ahead is possible if we purpose to see how His mighty hand was on our lives in days past.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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