Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Party Anyone?

I prepare for company tomorrow. Friends and family travel from Louisiana to Texas trying to outrun Hurricane Gustav. We will have my sister-in-law, husband, two kids. They will stay in a hotel in town at night. We have the MIL and her dog staying at our house. My friend is also coming with her husband and three kids. We are awaiting word from more family members. We have heard that the travel time is horrendous. Four times the normal travel time. Please pray as so many families will be on the road in the next few days. They are distracted, upset and some are panicked. We welcome our guests with open arms. We pray they find our home a sanctuary and a place of peace. We will try to be upbeat and keep a fun atmosphere in our home. We will also try and keep the TV off most of the time. Pray for our family that we will have wisdom in how to deal with our guests and give them comfort.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gustav not a welcome Anniversary reminder

This is the three year anniversary of Katrina. What a flurry of work we were doing three years ago at this time. Our church housed many survivors including two extended families. We had over 100 people housed on our church grounds. I called one family we had particularly bonded with to find out their plans for this hurricane. You could hear in their voices that they were scared, but trying to prepare for another round. Ms. B told me that their entire family would leave New Orleans tomorrow and head for Arkansas. We had offered for them to stay with us in Katy, but they didn't want to split the family up with one part going one way and another going another way. That was part of the nightmare three years ago when Ms. B hadn't heard from her eldest son for days after the hurricane hit. We prayed and she patiently waited. Finally word came that he was in Texas and he was safe. Ms. B ended up losing everything. A single parent recovering from cancer treatment, she was a rock. She put her faith in God and knew that her needs would be taken care of. She was able to weather this immeasurable amount of stress. She lived in her FEMA trailer on her property in New Orleans for almost three years before funds were available. They were to be released just days ago. Now another storm comes and she must wait for the funds again. We pray for our friends as they travel to Arkansas. We pray for New Orleans once again.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Look what I woke up to this morning...

My husband thought it was funny to write "Happy Birthday Lordy, Lordy, Look who's 40. I used all your lipstick. Luv, Big Daddy" on the bathroom mirror this morning. I'm glad he used the lipstick I didn't like! BTW, he calls himself "Big Daddy". I don't call him this. It's a little too "southern plantation" if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rice Pilaf - another recipe for the Microwave Rice Cooker

I am making this tonight and thought I would post it. It is another great recipe for my favorite microwave rice cooker. It is adapted from a wonderful cookbook we got while visiting the historic City Tavern in Philadelphia on our vacation last year.

Rice Pilaf (adapted from "City Tavern Cookbook" by Walter Staib)

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 carrot chopped (I also get the frozen carrot rounds)
4 mushrooms sliced
2 Tbl. butter
1 1/2 cups Basmati Rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 Tbl. chopped parsley

Put all in microwave cooker for 15 minutes. You can also cook on stove top in covered pot. After broth comes to a boil, put on cover and cook on low to medium heat for 25 minutes.

Gluten/Dairy Free Option:
Substitute 2 Tbl. of olive oil for the butter
Make sure your chicken stock is gluten free. You can use CENTRAL MARKET ORGANICS FREE RANGE CHICKEN BROTH from HEB. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Are you a scooper?

There is a really powerful story in Judges 7 about fear. Gideon was going into battle. He had an army of men ready for battle. Or at least they thought they were ready for battle. God told Gideon that his army was too big. If he defeated his enemy with that number of soldiers, God wouldn't get the glory. Now the enemy they were facing was huge. The Bible says the camels the enemy had with them were without number. That's a huge army!

Well God doesn't work like we do. He didn't look at the size of the army. God told Gideon to tell everyone that had fear to just go home. Well a huge chunk of them left.

Then God told Gideon to take everyone to the water to drink. He told Gideon to observe how they drank. Those that got on their knees and put their face in the water to drink should go home. Those that used their hand to scoop water and drink could stay. The "scoopers" were vigilant. They could see the enemy sneaking up. The ones that put their face into the water were vulnerable because the enemy could sneak up on them. There were 300 scoopers who got to stay.

Well, God knew that there was fear in Gideon's heart. He told him to sneak down to the enemy's camp and spy. He told Gideon that he would be encouraged by what he heard. Gideon overheard while spying that there was fear in the enemy camp because of a dream someone had that God had delivered the Midianites into Gideon's hand. The enemy ended up killing themselves. God got the glory.

We all have battles we are fighting. Sometimes we don't feel up to the task. That is exactly where we need to be. Banish fear. Know what the Bible says about the promises God gave you. Let it encourage your heart. Be as prepared as you can for battle. Know that the enemy (Satan) is running scared. Be vigilant and then be prepared to give God the glory for your success.
God has put this story on my heart for the past few weeks. I thought I would share what he revealed to me about this story on my blog. I hope it encourages your heart.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What rhymes with Zucchini?

I found a recipe on to use up some Zucchini and sausage. I purchased the Zucchini before my oven died fully intending to make some Zucchini boats. Well, I didn't want them to go bad. They were organic and not cheap. I dug around and found a recipe on allrecipes that looked ok, so I tweaked it a bit. The boys and I were trying to think of a name for it. It just came to me. Houdini Zucchini, because it disappears so fast! Get it??? OK, its late. Give me a little credit!

Houdini Zucchini

2 Zucchini chopped
1 lb. of smoked sausage sliced
2 cans of organic Muir Glen tomato chunks (or you could cut up enough tomatoes to make about 2 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes.
1/2 cup of chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Rotini Pasta
1 cups of grated Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Brown the sausage. Add the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic to saute. Add the zucchini until it starts getting soft (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, basil & oregano. Let cook together while you start the Rotini. Start your water and cook the Rotini. Right before you serve, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Add the Mozzarella cheese until it melts. Serve over the Rotini. It was rockin! We served it with some hot bread straight from my bread maker.

Isn't it pretty cooking!

I love my breadmaker

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Fall"ing for Autumn Decorating

I just love Autumn! I love the colors, the pumpkins, the leaves, the cool weather. A stranger stopped my friend and I in the store the other day and asked when it would appropriate to start decorating for fall. My answer was as soon as the kids were back in school. Seeing the fall decorations just gets my mind in gear for school. Goodbye to the free wheeling days of Summer. I'm glad to leave them behind. The heat, the high electric bills, the sweating (because of the heat and the high electric bills). The boys are very excited about our studies this year. They are chomping at the bit to start. We'll get started on September 4th.

I've got a little jump on decorating and started today. Here is what I've got done so far.

The dining room table:

Look at how cute these little guys are:

The china hutch: (I adore this pumpkin soup tureen from Cracker Barrel)

I also hit the front door and front porch with a little fall color.

My summer garden flowers are still blooming. I have all purple and blue flowers. My snapdragon is from last year and still blooming. I just trimmed it back and I'm expecting more blooms soon. My Pentas are also blooming beautifully. My passion flowers are getting ready to have some more blooms and I'll take pictures when I have a pretty one. Enjoy looking at the last of my Summer Garden.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rice Dressing - an easy and delicious dish

I made rice dressing today for lunch. This is a dish my Mamon would make only at holidays. I would beg to bring some home and eat on it for days and days. Of course, I've tweaked her original recipe, but I'm still going to give her credit. The recipe makes enough to feed a football team. I usually make a batch and send some to the neighbors. Today I halfed my regular recipe and still had enough to send home with my guest for her husband and put some in my fridge for another lunch later. This is a good dish to make for a potluck or for someone that has just had a baby. Nice alternative to stuffing. Leftovers heat up nicely in the microwave. I just add a Tbl. of water and cover with a paper towel or wax paper to steam the rice.

OK - and let me just get this out there... we DO NOT call this "dirty rice". No real Cajun calls this dish "dirty rice". This is "Rice Dressing". OK, stepping down off of soap box. ;)

Here is our super secret recipe:


2 lbs ground beef
1 lb Jimmy Dean All natural breakfast sausage (HEB)
1 Tbl. butter
1 clove garlic
2 medium yellow onions chopped
small jar chopped pimento
1/2 bellpepper chopped
3 c. Basmati Rice and 6 c water
chopped green onions
salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper

Always use a heavy pot. A thin pot will only make the rice burn at the bottom. Brown all the meat. Add garlic to the oil in the pot till slightly brown. Add onions till they turn clear. Add bellpepper & pimento. Add rice & water. Add chopped green onions. Add 3 tsp. pepper & 1 Tbl. salt. Let water start boiling. Turn heat low. Cook for 25 min. Add more seasonings to taste.

Make this dish and feed the neighborhood!

Gluten/Dairy Free Option:
this is gluten free and msg free

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monthly Menus Make Life Easier

Many people have asked me about my monthly menus. So I thought I would blog about it here. I cook and shop from a monthly menu. I have one for the hot months and one for the cold months. I also have weekly rotating menu for lunch and breakfast. I am not a slave to these menus. They are my helpers. If we feel like something different, we stray.

You can make a monthly menu. It isn't as hard as you think. Just sit down with a piece of paper. Make two columns, one for the meal and one for the ingredients. Flip the paper over and write down every meal that your family likes that you make. Dig through your cookbooks to jog your memory. Ask your family. Shoot for 20 meals. Yes, you CAN think of 20 meals. You probably have more than you think.

Then flip your paper back over to the two columns and divide the meals up into 5 choices for each week. 4 weeks for each month. You could also do just a 31 day menu if that works better for you. I don't plan for weekends because we get Angel Food Ministries food ( and cook off of what we get in our box for the month. We also eat out from time to time on the weekend.

The benefits of a monthly menu...

Making your grocery list is a snap. You already have the list, just check your kitchen to see what is missing. I use coupons and look for sales. I buy more than one if it is on sale and then it is in my pantry for next month.

There isn't that nagging question all day about what you will cook. You can even do a little prep in the morning and defrost your meat or chop one of your vegetables. If it is crock pot friendly, start your meal. You won't ever go to the grocery store and come back with nothing to eat. You will eat healthier because you will eat out less. You will save money because you will buy just what you need and avoid spending money on eating out as often.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Make Perfect Rice in your Microwave

My oven kicked the bucket this weekend. I've having to rely heavily on my microwave and my stove burners until my oven is fixed. One cool gadget I've found is the Progressive microwave rice cooker. It is worth every penny. We cook a LOT of rice around here. The old fashioned rice cooker always has a tough film at the bottom that is a pain to get off. The microwave cooker is awesome. Does a perfect job every time and it goes into the dishwasher. 

We use Basmati rice in this rice cooker. When using Basmati you double the amount in water (e.g. 1 cup of Basmati rice to 2 cups of water). We also add a little Kosher salt and vinegar. I know what you are thinking, "gross, vinegar???" Vinegar helps the rice stay fluffy and separated. You don't taste it! We only use about 1 tsp. or less.
I found a great recipe for Spanish Rice in "A Taste of the Missions" a cookbook from the Spanish Missions in San Antonio. I've adapted it for the Microwave Cooker. It is so good with tacos or fajitas.


1 ½ c. Basmati Rice
2 Tbl. Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz.) can Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes + enough water to make 3 cups liquid total
1 Tbl. chicken bouillon cube
Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
1 small onion chopped
2 dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
One tiny dash of cayenne pepper

(If you don’t use Basmati Rice, use 1 cup long grain rice and add enough water to the fire roasted tomatoes to make 2 cups of liquid)
(If you don’t have fire roasted tomatoes, use a can of regular diced tomatoes or Rotel would be good)

Sauté rice in olive oil until the rice is lightly browned. Add the garlic during the last 2 or 3 minutes. Crush the tomatoes and put them with the juice into a large measuring cup. Add enough water to make 3 cups of liquid. Toss everything into the microwave rice cooker. Cook for 15-18 minutes. If it is too moist, cook for 3 more minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Making Guests Feel Special

This Summer has been dubbed the "Summer of Guests". We have had so many out-of-town guests this summer. Mind you, I'm not complaining! I love guests. I could open a B&B and be perfectly content. I try to keep my guest room like a B&B. Here are some of the touches I put on the room to make my guests feel welcome.

I iron the bedsheets with lavender water. (I mix a few drops of lavender oil in water in a spray bottle. I spray the sheets and iron) This helps the room smell nice and the guest sleep better.

I have a basket of small toiletry samples like soap and lotions that I got at either a hotel or in the mail. My guests can try a new shampoo or indulge in a bubble bath and it doesn't cost me a thing! Another good source of samples is the Wal-Mart website.

I put in an alarm clock, a bedside lamp and make available a nightlight to those younger guests. I also try and provide some reading material.

I turn the nightlight on in my kitchen and guest bathroom so guests can find their way at night if needed.

I also show them where the thermostat is and how to work it in case they get uncomfortable. My husband also installed a ceiling fan in the room (he's so amazing). Before that, we made available a box fan.

For some of my guests that I know wake up early, I put in a glass bowl with a few pieces of fruit, napkins and a few baked goodies in a plastic bag. I also put in a bottle of Perrier.

 I always put in a bedside water carafe filled with fresh water.

I make sure there is space in the closet for a few hanging clothes. This is my storage closet, so sometimes that is an Olympic feat.

I make a special menu just for their stay. If I know what they have liked in the past that I cooked, I will put this on the menu. I will also ask about allergies and work around this. I make sure I have their favorite tea or other favorite treats in the house.

My guests come back often, so I think I am succeeding in making them feel welcome. I have a particular Aunt who has been back 3 times this summer. She is a joy and I wish she would come back more often. She is one of those guests that you miss the moment they step out the door. She has a saying that fish and guests go bad after 3 days. It is a good saying. There is an even better one in the Bible. Yes, the Bible is a great source for etiquette.

Proverbs 25:17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor's house, lest he be weary of thee and so come to hate thee.

In other words, don't stay too long! Thankfully, none of my guests are like this. But, it is a good thing for me to remember. Keep 'em wanting more of you!


Note: Check out this post for another treat for your guests.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Legacy of Giving Lavishly

I'm working hard on heading up putting together our homeschool group's cookbook. I found an awesome website to help me in my efforts. I love it because members just sign in and type their own recipes. That was really appealing. The price are reasonable too. It will probably end up being under $9 each to print, but it just depends on how many recipes we get. I just added mine and we are already at 70 pages. We will sell them for a profit to benefit our homeschool group's benevolence fund. I thought it was poetic that our family recipes will help feed those in crisis.

Going through all the recipes gave me memories of my childhood. I could almost taste some of the candies! My Mamon was the best cook. Family gatherings were always at her house during the holidays. All of her sisters and brothers and their kids would show up. The house was always packed and we had a wonderful time.

But my favorite memories are when my sister and I would go and spend the night at her house. I loved to organize her pantry. I know, that sounds weird, but I just loved to do it. I loved to see what she had in her pantry. My mother was on a health food kick, so our pantry foods were different from hers. My Mamon was also a crafter and had an entire room devoted to this. Every so often she would go through her room and clean it out and we would get the leftover crafting items. Boy were we in heaven!

My Papa loved to garden and he had the most amazing garden that took over their whole back yard and the whole empty lot beside their house. We always came home with bags and bags of fresh produce. You name it, he grew it and grew it well. My parents declared bankruptcy during my Junior year in high school. I know for a fact that my Mamon and Papa gave money and groceries to keep my family going on. My grandparents did this for many family and friends. They both worked in education all their lives. My Papa was a principal and my Mamon worked in the office. They were not rich, but saved well and had a very comfortable retirement. They helped put many of their children and grandchildren and other family members through college. They touched countless lives.

My Papa has gone on to his reward in heaven. I know this for sure because I prayed the prayer of salvation with him one day at his kitchen table. My Mamon is in an assisted living home. After years of serving others, now others cook and clean for her. She is enjoying her retirement years.

I now get to pass on this wonderful legacy of caring to my friends and family. I learned about giving lavishly from my Mamon. She never held anything back. She is a jewel and I love her!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I get my feelings hurt easily. I'm working on this. I'm not trying to get a "thicker skin" or anything like this. I'm working on forgiving quickly. One trick I've learned in the car is making up a "story" for why someone is driving erratically. For instance, I say "Wow, they probably have diarrhea and have to get to a bathroom." or "they just got a call that their cousin's dog is in labor." When a cell phone rings in church, my husband and I joke that "the kidney transplant just came through" (maybe a brain transplant might be better) Trying to be empathic to the plight of others is helping. However, it is harder in other areas.

For instance, this weekend we sat for a friend's elderly father and her adult brother who is mentally challenged. They are both absolute dolls and we love them like they were our own family. I feel especially in love with her dad who reminds me so much of my Papa who passed away many years ago. I wanted everything to go right while my friend was away so she wouldn't worry. We had a great time playing games, baking, talking and watching movies. Well, things went well until the evening when we were expecting them home. Her father complained of being dizzy and her brother checked his blood pressure. It was through the roof. We immediately gave him his medicine. He quickly seemed to be getting better. A check of his blood pressure confirmed this. However another check later revealed that it was going up again to dangerous levels. We had no explanation for this as he said he felt better. I called my friend for instructions. She asked that we check his blood pressure and if it didn't come down that we should immediately call the on-call nurse to ask if he would come by and see what was wrong. We called the nurse only to receive an accusatory reprimand that we were not medically trained to take a blood pressure check and we were just scaring her father with the blood pressure checks. I agreed that we were not medically trained and we requested he come and out and check for himself. He spoke with her father and then said he would not come out. I was flabbergasted with how I was treated so severely. It hurt me that anyone would accuse me of trying to scare this sweet old man.

It took me a while to get over my hurt feelings and start thinking about this nurse. What made him behave this way to me? I think about one of my favorite movies "It's a Wonderful Life". I remember the scene when George Bailey spoke rudely on the phone to Zuzu's teacher, Mrs. Welch. He was at a bad place in his life and he really let Mrs. Welch have it. She didn't deserve it and had no idea what was going on in the life of Mr. Bailey at the time. He was normally a wonderful person who was thoughtful and kind. She just caught him at a bad time.

I had to think about what was going on with this nurse. Had he just lost a favorite patient? Was he being accused of not properly doing his job? Was he going through a hard time financially in his life? I don't know. I have to give the poor fellow the benefit of the doubt. I am praying for this man.

Matthew 5:44-45 But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven.

Ephesians 4:32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

These are hard words to do in our own power. We aren't supposed to. Pray for the strength of the Holy Spirit. I'm praying that in the future I can crawl over my hurt feelings a little more quickly and get to forgiveness. I'd like to sprint over them eventually.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Batten down the hatches

OK, I'll admit it, I love a good storm. The frenzy of getting ready for the storm and watching the wind and rain outside my window. Tropical Storm Edouard is on his way! Last night we had a little pocket of weather and were bringing in our patio furniture and securing our patio cover in pouring rain. Watching the weather today, that little storm last night was probably the worst of it. Rats! It's so funny to watch the media try to make a bigger deal out of the weather than it really is. Standing out in the rain, panning to trees moving around... anything to make it exciting. It just looks pathetic.

While I enjoy a brief weather event, I don't enjoy stormy periods in my life. I've had my share of them. Nor do I enjoy seeing close friends going through stormy periods. The best way to weather those storms is to prepare. Be in the Word. Know what the Bible says about healing, marriage and finances so if those storms come, we will be prepared. If they don't hit us, they might hit someone you know and you will be prepared to pray with them and encourage them. Where do these storms come from? Our Enemy of course, Satan. We live in a fallen world and Satan loves to attack us. God does not afflict us dear friend.

John 10:10 says "The thief (Satan) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Anything that is stealing, killing or destroying your life is NOT from God. God does not want you to be sick. He doesn't want marital problems. He doesn't want you to struggle financially. But, in speaking the Word over your situation, turning these things over to Him, God can turn it around. Romans 8:28. I've seen it happen so many times in my life. God has taken the impossible situations and turned them on their ear. Marital impossibilities, miscarriage, financial problems... He wants the same for you dear friend.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Impromptu dinner with friends

What's better than an unplanned dinner with friends? I called my friend to go with me for a quick visit to Nelson's Water Garden It didn't take much arm twisting to get her to come over for a cappuccino first. She likes them how I make them... dark and rich with a little cinnamon on the top (Community Espresso Blend). I had one at lunch today and now another one with her. Guess I'll be up late tonight! LOL Anyway, we got to talking and finally buzzed out the door. As soon as we walked into Nelson's they informed us we they would be closing in 5 minutes. Do you think that stopped us? No way! She is a blue ribbon shopper like myself so 5 minutes to shop didn't phase us. We power shopped and picked up 5 beautiful plants for my back yard including some green miniature roses. And... ta da... we hit a huge sale in the process! We were in such a rush that I didn't notice it until later! This place has the best plants anywhere. Mercedes, their plant lady, is a walking encyclopedia of plants. We came back home much to everyone's surprise in 10 minutes. We love to linger over the ponds and feed the koi and ohh and ahhh over all the new and strange plants. Today it wasn't to happen. Don't fret, we will definitely go back.
They agreed to stay for supper and I threw together a quick Spaghetti with meat sauce. Then we all went for a family walk behind our neighborhood on the walking trail. I love a family walk. My Grandmother told me that when she was growing up in Holland, it was a tradition for her whole family to walk and talk in the evening. I'm beginning to enjoy and embrace the traditions of my ancestors. There is such wisdom in them. Tea time, family walks, home births...
My recipe for spaghetti is posted with the Crockpot Lasagna, so you can find it there if you like.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Yummy Quick Lunch

I found this recipe on a while back. I've tweeked it a bit.

This is a cheap and easy recipe. It is now a favorite and on our regular rotating weekly lunch menu (more on my menus later).

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich with Garlic Mayo

1/2 cup mayo
1 clove garlic minced or in garlic press

1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 slices of Steak-umms (I get them at HEB or Kroger)
1/2 chopped onions or onion rings
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
4 hoagie rolls
1 cup of shredded mozzerella
Dash of Worchester sauce
Lettuce (we use organic baby lettuce)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano

In a small bowl combine mayo and garlic. Set aside for use later.

Heat olive oil in skillet (I use my huge electric skillet for this). Cook Steak-ums on one side. Flip over and add mushrooms & onions. Add salt, pepper and a dash of Worchester sauce.

Break up the Steak-umms into strips with two pancake turners.

Spread each bun with garlic mayo. Divide meat mixture into buns. Top with cheese and sprinkle with oregano (don't forget the oregano, yum!). Add lettuce. Wolf them down!


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