Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Mostess for the Hostess Gifts

Hostess gifts are always well received. If you are going to a dinner or staying a few nights, giving a small gift to the hostess lets them know they are appreciated. Of course, you should match your gift to the effort put forth by the hostess and something that compliments the occasion. For instance, it wouldn't be appropriate to give a silver wine bucket for a BBQ dinner. It would be great to give a colorful tub to hold iced drinks in. 

Here are some of my favorite gift ideas. Some I have received and appreciated or I have given personally. Hint: if they hostess has given you a gift, she would probably appreciate a similar gift herself. I have collaborated with my sweet friend Melissa (who is the hostess extraordinaire).

Nice dinner at a friends house:
Bird Measuring SpoonsA bulb in a pot is so nice. She can enjoy it for weeks to come!
Flowers in a vase (say they are for her kitchen, so that she doesn't feel compelled to put them on her carefully set table.)
Coffee or tea (say for her to enjoy the next day)
Pretty apron
Fancy teaspoons
A fun party game
A fancy foam soap for her kitchen
Pretty salad tongs or serving spoons
Is she a gardner? New gardening gloves, garden shears and plant labels
Pretty paper napkins
Pretty Coaster Set
Cookie cutters (ornate metal ones are best)
Pretty notebook
Pretty sticky notes or stationary with stamps
Ice bucket
Kitchen towels (plain colors are good)

Overnight stay:
Gift certificate to her favorite restaurant
Gift certificate for movie tickets
Gift certificate to a book store
Paper Guest Towels and Towel holder
Serving platter or bowls
Pretty salt & pepper set
Bird or hummingbird feeder with food
Napkin rings
Picnic basket
Pizza stone
Cake plate (crystal matches everything)
Frame Set
Pretty Tote bag
Starbucks gift certificate with cookies
Specialty food delivered to the hostess (Louisiana pecans for holiday baking are wonderful!)

Bailed you out of jail:
First rights to your kidney

What not to bring: 

Lets skip the bath products, candles, hand lotion and fancy soaps. They have been overdone and most of us have tons of this stuff laying around anyway.

DO NOT bring food as a hostess gift unless you have been asked to contribute to the menu. And then you should see what the menu is and take suggestions from her.

A word about giving wine. My wise friend Shannon once told me that we never know what secret struggles someone has. They may say "yes" to a glass of wine at your house, but inwardly struggling with alcoholism. I took those words to heart. I don't want to cause a friend to stumble. My new rule: Unless I know the person well and have spoken with them about the topic, they will not be served wine in my home and will not receive such a gift from me. As a side note - I am fine with receiving wine as a gift and being offered a glass of wine at a dinner. My limit is one glass, so you will save a bundle if you have me over for dinner!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Preparing for a Fall Square Foot Garden

a few baby carrots from our garden
I have had several friends over this Spring/Summer to view our garden and gather some goodies to take home. We were glad to share the bounty and our limited and beginning knowledge of Square Foot Gardens. Our garden is in its summer slump - finished with its spring bounty and not yet ready to be planted for fall. Our tomatoes have mostly run their course. Some were looking scrawny and the worse for wear so out they came. I left two tomato plants that looked decent. If they survive our August weather, they may get their second wind in the cooler fall weather. If not, something else will be planted in their place. It is survival of the fittest in our garden. If they don't do well, out they come. I won't waste water or time on them.

My wish is that every friend would plant just one Square Foot Garden this Fall. Many have told me they will be. If you could learn from my mistakes, please start your compost boxes now. Here is a little goofy story about mine. It isn't fancy, but it is working. We are up to three boxes now and thinking about adding three more. We labeled them Box No. 1, 2 and 3. We start off the box with some manure compost from the store. We continue to dump kitchen scraps and yard clippings and every few weeks, dump some more manure. When No. 1 gets full, stop dumping things into it. Turn it every once in a while and spray it with the hose if it looks dry. Start using No. 2 until it gets full and then stop dumping things into it. Now you use No. 3. You get the idea. It takes about 6 weeks after you stop dumping new stuff in it to turn to usable compost. Faster in the summer. Slower in the winter. When I pull out an old plant, I put a few spades full of compost, mix it up and plant the new plant.

We had a calcium deficiency caused by using just store bought compost and manure. Healthy calcium levels in the soil help the plant keep nice healthy leaves and keep rot from forming on the fruit. Homemade compost will help with this. Egg shells are like gold. Put as many as you can in there. Crush them up before putting them in the compost. You can also add bone meal. My sweet and knowledgeable friend Bonnie also recommends adding blood meal.

Be careful about coffee grinds. It changes the acidity of your compost and thus your soil. Put some but not tons in your compost. I usually just sprinkle them right on the plants that like them best... tomato, parsley & strawberry.

My sweet friend told me that they were keeping a bucket under their sink to collect their kitchen scraps but that it was attracting bugs. My suggestion is to just get a large 32 oz yogurt container with a lid, label it and keep it in the fridge.When it gets full, get some unsuspecting person who just happens to walk into your kitchen  to dump it in the compost box outside. Easy, clean and no stink.

Speaking of stink, my compost piles do not stink. That is, unless I put onions in them. They are not pretty though. I opened it up the other day to see a bunch of maggots on an old cantaloupe. I just closed it quickly and remembered that was the natural process. My only problem right now is that the ants think that it is a cafeteria. I'm working the problem with DE.

So, start your compost and start dreaming of your fall crops!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Parenting Extremes

After church, our family visited a local pizza joint. It's a small place frequented by families in the area. I got a front-row seat to two extreme parenting styles. It made me lose my appetite.

I-phone parenting: At one table, we had two parents whose noses were in their I-phones. Their oldest son (who was probably 5) was running around the restaurant causing havoc. He was destroying restaurant property, going behind the bar, into the kitchen, trying to go out of the door, scribbling all over everything with crayons, going to different tables to looking at what people were eating. I had my back to the buffet, so Lord only knows what he was doing to the food there. (One reason I refuse to eat at a buffet). Their youngest child was in a child seat spilling his drink on the floor as the parents did nothing to stop him. Then the mother said to the youngest child (who was maybe 2), "You want to be free too?" and proceeded to turn him lose on the guests. I am sure my mouth was hanging open at this point. The parents sat at the table playing on their phones as their children ran wild in the restaurant. They were disturbing the restaurant guests and causing problems for the staff. The mother laughed and made excuses for her children when their behavior was awful. They never corrected their children when they clearly needed it. It made me want to shake these parents.

Martyr Mom: At another table, we had two parents with two children (probably 2 and 8). The mother's bottom never touched the seat. She hovered over her children serving them, cleaning them, giving them something to drink. The mother looked exhausted. Her hair hadn't seen a brush that day and looked like she didn't care about herself. I wanted to just give her a hug and some direction.

Both of these parenting styles, while they seem completely opposite, are in fact both "child worship" with the exact same sad outcome to their children. The first set of parents don't want to upset their children, they want to be best friends with their children, so they don't discipline their children. The second set of parents' (notably the mother) world revolves around their children to the exclusion of caring for themselves. 

Tragically, if these parents don't change their parenting styles, their children will become a burden to those around them. Spoiled, demanding their own way, ignoring rules and authority. They will become a burden to themselves. Never satisfied with what they have, unable to hold a job because they cannot submit to the authority of their boss, undisciplined and friendless. These parents are not doing their children a favor.

Parenting takes a lot of work, especially at the front end. Will your kids make mistakes? Yup. We all do. But good parenting gives them the tools to make corrections along the way and gives them the best shot at fulfilling God's plan and purpose in their life.


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