Sunday, November 27, 2011


Right now, I am sitting down and writing down my homeschooling plans for the week.  Yesterday, I made a list of all the things I need "to do" for our move this week.  It's a big list.  I also have to keep up homeschooling in the midst of it.  So, I thought I'd write this post and say there's a ton of things running through my head that I wish I had time to write about.  But, I don't think much of it is going to get written before January between moving, unpacking, homeschooling, the refinance, my inlaws coming for a visit, my brother and his wife coming for a visit...  So, if you read my blog, please don't think I'm disappearing permanently.  It's just for a little while.  I'll be back in a few weeks.  

PS To whoever reads my blog:  Thank you...  I say very humbly...  Thank you for listening and reading my musings.  

PPS I'd really appreciate your prayers that I make it through all of this in one piece! ;)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sweet and Sour Sauce and Egg Rolls

A while back a friend of mine asked for this recipe and it slipped my mind!  I like to make egg rolls once in a while.  I get the egg roll wrappers from the produce section and make a vegetable filling.  Sometimes I add tofu or shredded chicken to the vegetable filling.

Egg Rolls
I will chop a mixture of some of these vegetables:
green cabbage
green onions (to taste)
snow peas

I stir fry the mixture and then add this mixture:
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp. water
Heat the mixture.

When it's done, you can add in the shredded cooked chicken and/or some bean sprouts.  I used to add water chestnuts or bamboo shoots, but the last few times I've bought them they tasted funny from the can.  

Put about 1-2 Tbsp. filling in the center of the paper and roll.  I follow the directions on the package.  My mom likes to fry them in canola oil on the stove.  I have to admit this is the yummiest way to eat them.  But, if you still want egg rolls and can't handle the oil, I often bake them.  Put them on a cookie sheet with parchment and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes till they're crispy.

Here's the Sweet and Sour Sauce my mom and I've always made to go with them:

Sweet and Sour Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. ketchup
2 Tbsp. sherry cooking wine or apple juice
Place in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil then add cornstarch mixture:
2 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup water
Heat and stir until sauce is thickened.

I like these much better than at restaurants, because I get to choose the filling I want.  I also don't like the filling to be too finely chopped.  I discovered that it is important that the filling is chopped into small pieces, but I don't want it to be mushy!

If you try them, I hope you like them!

Not Spending Money

I'm sure there's an old saying about this, but the truth is--if you don't want to spend money, then don't go shopping.  Don't go.

Every month I do our budget.  This past month I'd been so busy, I didn't make many extra grocery shopping trips.  I realized that I hadn't gone garage saling much or spent much time in stores at all.  I was quite surprised when I did our budget at the end of the month and realized that we'd spent as little as we did.

My mom has been living with us now for a month and she is probably the most frugal person I know.  She's always been a good influence on me in that way.  One of the blessings of who she is, though, is that she doesn't make me feel guilty for what I do spend money on for my family.  She simply makes me aware that I don't need to spend by her quiet presence and her contented heart.

It was funny because yesterday she brought up spending money on her grandchildren and I told her she didn't need to.  She commented that they are happy with anything--the littlest of gifts in fact.  I agreed and am very thankful for this.  I was not a contented child or young adult and I have deeply desired such a heart for my children.  I have taught them to say thank you whenever they receive a gift and write a thank you note.  When they had their first birthday parties, I made a big deal that everyone would sit down and the girls would open their cards first and then the presents.  When they are upset about something they don't have, I point out what they do have.  

One of the biggest reasons they probably are the way they are is also because we don't watch television, we don't regularly go through the toy aisle at stores, and they don't get to pick out a little thing each time we go to the store.  I have noticed that these practices (especially television) have started to lead us down the road to the "Gimmes" as the Berenstain Bear family would call them.  I'll have a weak moment and give in and go to the toy section two trips in a row--and then I later regret it.  I love the Berenstain Bear story about the "Gimmes".  I think it made a bigger impression on me than on the kids when we read it together a few years ago!

But, there is an even bigger reason than all of these that I see as the heart of the matter.  It is God and how we feel about money.  All that we have is really His.  What we believe shapes what we teach our children about money and things.  It also shapes how tightly we hold onto money.  We have to guard our own hearts when it comes to spending money on needs and wants and then protect our children's hearts in this matter as well.  I feel very responsible for this.  

It's rather ironic to me that I'm finally getting these thoughts posted on Black Friday.  A few years ago, I used to love to go shopping on Black Friday.  Even last year, I went and bought a shop-vac at Home Depot.  But, when I went, I found that I cringed.  As I heard stories about the crowds and saw the merchandise that was very cheap being sold even cheaper, I was sad.  I began to think that Black Friday has started to become a day in which we buy gifts for ourselves instead of gifts for others.  I do have friends that enjoy this day and do buy gifts for others.  But, as I've looked around the stores the past few years I've noticed that that just doesn't seem to be the case for a lot of folks.  So, today, I'm not going.  Part of me wishes I could and that it was like it used to be 15 years ago without the mobs and intense frenzy.  But, that's not the way it is today.  So, I'm going to go get a cup of coffee and sit down with a cookie instead!

Thoughts on Giving Gifts

Two weeks ago, I was a part of an interesting discussion among several husbands and wives about gift giving.  It's always one of those interesting things to find out how other couples have sorted out how they would handle Christmas together... who they would give gifts to...  how much they would spend...  which family traditions from their own families they would keep.

My husband and I have sorted all these things out over the years.  But, little things change every year.  I love to give gifts.  It's something I simply love to do.  I don't do it out of obligation or any feeling that I have to do it.  I simply want to.

This year is hard for me.  Normally I would be working on our Christmas cards right now.  I try to have them done before Thanksgiving because there's so much to do after Thanksgiving.  I usually have a special spot where I collect little gifts I want to give people.  But, this year we're going to send change of address/New Year's cards in January.  And I have no idea how fast I'm going to get things unpacked and sorted in our new house.  The plan is that we're going to move Dec. 10th.  There will be a lot to do just to get settled and enjoy as much as we can of the Christmas holiday.

I want to share a story with you about me and why giving gifts matters so much.  When I was a senior in college, I was living in an apartment and paying most of my bills--all except my car insurance.  I had taken extra credits all the way along so that I could graduate early and save my father some tuition.  I was living on $30/month for groceries.  I went home for Christmas.  My aunt had asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I don't remember what I said but I remember wanting a cookbook.   I opened a gift from my aunt.  It was a pair of trivets.  I had no idea what they were.  I behaved very poorly.  I cried.  It wasn't until years later that I was able to fully apologize to my aunt for my rude behavior.  You see, I had so little that Christmas.  I was working part-time, going to school full-time, scraping by.  It was like giving a homeless person a food processor when they longed for groceries.  My aunt didn't know this until years later because she thought I was well taken care of at the time and didn't know many details about my life then.

For a long time, my behavior that afternoon grieved me.  I realized how ungrateful I must have seemed to my family.  The fact that they didn't know or understand my financial situation didn't excuse me.  It also stuck with me and changed my heart.  I resolved to always be thankful for any gift that was given to me--even if I didn't need it or want it.  So, when I have received gifts I haven't needed I have always found another use for it or found another home for it where it was often needed and wanted.  I don't feel bad about regifting because I receive a gift in the process.  It gives me joy to give a gift to another that they want.

Several years later, I did have the opportunity to tell my aunt the full story and she forgave me and understood.   But, that event had forever changed me and changed how I view giving and receiving gifts.

Cynthia Heald wrote in one of her Bible studies that a gift isn't given unless it is received.  If we don't accept someone's offer to give us a gift--whether a tangible object or an act of service, then the giver doesn't truly get to "give".   It is not a gift until it is received.  Even before I read that, I had come to that conclusion.  Early in my marriage, we lived on very little.  God stretched everything we had in amazing ways.  I was the one who had little, so I searched for ways to give of what I had.  I made gifts and garage saled.  I wanted to thank others with a gift because they blessed me with their generosity.  That practice continued on even after we could afford more.  When the tables flipped, I wanted to be the one to give to others in the way that my friends had given to me.  Over that time, I found that I just love to give gifts. It's something I enjoy doing.

So, if you're one of my friends and you ever receive a gift from me, please know that I do not expect a gift in return.  I do simply love to give gifts to those in my life.  As for the trivets... they made it through about 12 moves before they were broken.  They were well loved and used.  I remember when one of them broke.  One of my daughters had dropped one of them.  I was sad, but also realized that my aunt knew how handy those trivets would be!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Family's Snickerdoodle Recipe

A friend of mine asked me this weekend if I was willing to part with my family's snickerdoodle recipe.  Since there is no likelihood that I will ever write a cookbook of my own ;)  I don't mind sharing it at all.  I am glad to share it actually and glad that my friend asked for the recipe!  It was a great compliment that her family likes them enough to ask for the recipe.  One woman who works with my husband once told me that they are like a drug!  

So, here's the recipe...


1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
Cream well.  No lumps.

Add 2 eggs and mix together well.

2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Add and mix together to stir into above.

Chill dough for 2-3 hours.  Roll dough into balls the size of small walnuts.  

Roll in a mixture of 
2 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon

Bake on ungreased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet for 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  
Play around with how long you bake them--less if you like chewy cookies, more if you like crispy ones.

Note:  The cookies puff up at first, then flatten out with crinkled tops.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas Toys

There's a funny little thing I've noticed about Toys R Us and the months of November and December.  I've had a theory for a few years now and I've watched to see if it held true.  

Here's my theory:  The toy specials in November are better than the ones in December.  For a few years, I waited in November thinking there would be better sales in December.  But, I watched.  The sales seemed to consistently to be better in November.  So, if there's a special toy you're thinking of buying for your child for Christmas and you see it go on sale in November. It is probably be a good time to get it!