Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm Flying - With the Occasional Detour to Sty Central

So, what does media do to our homemaking? I can think of some very clear examples off the top of my head. One category has had a very positive impact on our lives and the other is something I need to work on. As I've mentioned before, I use the Flylady system to help me organize my day to day homemaking tasks. Were it not for the internet, I would never have discovered this website and this system has made a huge difference in how I manage my home!

In addition, I am able to use the internet to search for tips on things I didn't previously know how to do such as making my own cleaning products (Christian HomeKeeper Network is wonderful for this), putting together a big spring clean, creating my own raised bed for a garden and so on. It's also wonderful to be able to connect with other likeminded women online for support and fellowship. In addition to the many great individual blogs I love to read, the community over at At the Well is very good for this for this and I am fortunate to be able to guest blog with a wonderful and encouraging group of women over at Desiring Virtue. And then there are the linkups such as this one for Media Mondays! I have discovered some wonderful resources, "met" lovely people and learned new things from what I read in posts at the various linkups. These are all things that not only encourage me, but help me to improve my homemaking abilities.

And, like most other things having to do with media, there is a flip side. While social media does enhance my homemaking skills and help me to recharge my batteries a bit, I have to be mindful of how I use it. After all, there are plenty of places online that disparage homemaking and a steady diet of that does nothing to improve my mindset or to help me see the importance of what God has called me to do.

One must also consider the use of time. Just as one can spend hours on the computer and neglect one's spouse, one can also get wrapped up in surfing the internet and neglect one's house. I will confess that I fall prey to this on occasion. Decluttering is my least favorite task of all time. To reward myself for each spot I successfully declutter, I will often take a break and play online for a bit. However, I need to watch myself or before I know it, "a bit" has turned into a significant chunk indeed! If I spend too much time online reading and not enough doing the work I need to do, my house quickly gets piled up to the degree that no one would ever believe this home has a keeper.

As with many things in life, computer media itself is neutral and our use of it makes it a positive or a negative. Used well, the computer can be a very helpful homemaking resource and source of encouragement. However, if we do not exercise self-discipline, we can end up spending so much time plugged in that we cannot do the homemaking that is our calling.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Made Me Laugh

For years, I've been using the little NIV Bible my parents gave me when I formally joined my childhood church as a member back when I was 13. However, I've been wanting a study Bible, so after saving up coupons, I picked out an English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible and brought it home.

And here's the part that made me laugh: As I went through the box my new Bible came in, I saw a card that one can send in for a two-year guarantee. God's Word is in need of a human company to guarantee it? Oh, really?! Somehow I don't think perfection really needs any kind of guarantee from us. To be fair, this is probably not the message the publisher intended to send, but it cracked me up nevertheless.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Easy Tomato Provolone Chicken

WARNING: You may laugh when you see where I came up with the idea for this one!

When I was in college, dining hall food ranged from mediocre to dismal. However, my school did have a rare few dishes that were actually pretty good. One was a chicken/provolone/tomato combo that was pretty tasty. The original was a little bland and came on bagels. However, in my adaptation, I made it a little healthier by switching out the bagels for a dredging in bread crumbs and I added a little zing to it with some basil and parsley. This is a quick, easy dish to make, and it's very good served with a salad or some of the fresh bell peppers in season right now.

Note: I only made a half recipe (2 chicken breasts) since I was cooking for two. If you follow recipe exactly, you'll need a bigger casserole dish to accomodate four.

Easy Tomato Provolone Chicken

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start with 4 boneless chicken breasts and flatten them slightly. I do this by putting each chicken breast between 2 sheets of wax paper and pounding them with a heavy can(cheaper than buying a mallet or meat tenderizer, I suppose).

2. Press bread crumbs into both sides of each flattened chicken breast.

3. Oil a casserole dish with light olive oil and place chicken breasts inside it. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Slice a tomato or two and place 2-3 tomato slices on top of each chicken breast.

5. Use about 1/4 tsp. dried or fresh basil to sprinkle on top of the tomato slices.

6. Top each chicken breast with a slice of provolone cheese and then garnish each with fresh chopped parsley.

7. Bake the chicken in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked throughout.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Electric Nanny

Today's Media Mondays theme is Media and Parenting. I do not have children of my own, but I certainly know a lot of parents and I've worked with children in various capacities over the years. When I was in college, I worked in the afterschool care program at a local public school for 2 years. The kids were a lot of fun, but there was one aspect of the program that really made a strong impression on me. And it was not a good one.

The children would get 15-20 minutes of outdoor play and then for the remaining time, which could be up to 2 hours, what do you think they did? I and some of the other workers wanted crafts, storytime, play sports in the gym, some kind of activities to engage the children. Instead, the director would let kids go off in the corner to do homework and if they didn't do homework, she would turn on the tv in the center of the gym/auditorium. This meant that all these kids from age 5 to 10 or 11 would just sit there in front of the screen and while away the afternoon until parents got off work to take them home. It bothered me a lot because even though I didn't have extensive schooling at the time, I knew instinctively that this was not helping these children to develop and grow in the way that they should. And it made me sad.

While I am not a parent, I do tutor and I think that my college experience shaped the methods I use. I find myself consciously relying on hands on experiences, and I also love using living books as teaching tools. I try to focus more on interaction and less on the use of computer media or movies.

This is not to say that media has no place in developing children. Movies can show things in visual form that will elicit reaction and understanding differently than if one read the same scene on the page. For that reason, it can be good not only to read a play like Henry V, but also to show a scene from the movie. Moderation and discernment are key here, I think. After all, it's one thing to use a movie to enhance a lesson and quite another to park one's children in front of Nickelodeon all day long.

So, does this mean I think parents shouldn't expose their children to electronic media? Of course not. Someone out there may be raising the computer inventor of tomorrow who comes up with amazing ideas to change our world. Or perhaps someone is raising a budding filmmaker who will bring a Christian worldview to Hollywood movies. Or simply the children who will faithfully raise families and use the wonderful inventions of Facebook, Skype and text messaging to stay in touch with family members near and far. Far from banning children from using various forms of computer media, I think parents and any of us who spend time with children need to be vigilant about what those children access and how they spend their time rather than simply handing them a computer device or TV remote and sending them off into the virtual world.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My First Five Minute Friday: Full

I love to write, so when I saw links to The Gypsy Mama's; Five Minute Fridays on various bloggy friends' blogs, I decided to jump in and try it.  After all, what dullness is life if we don't try something new every now and again?

This week's theme is "Full" and here is what I wrote for five minutes with no editing:

Life in Christ is the fullest life can get. We were created to worship our God and there is no one and nothing that fills every space of my life like that relationship. There was a time in my life when I was far too self-centered to see it, but as I look at my life, I see it brimming over with the fullness of God's blessings.

I have been given a loving extended family, a wonderful husband, true and deep friendships, and a life spent learning more about God and about the world each day. Lately when I think of fullness, I think of Scripture and prayer. When my reserves are low, I can turn to these and feel my hunger and thirst satisfied. Sometimes a light is shown into parts of my life I would just as soon leave unillumined, but even so, my life is made fuller as my relationship with God grows deeper and more honest each day.

They say we have to be careful not to pour ourselves out for others. But I have noticed that when I give and do for others as Christ commanded, as I pour out I am also filled up.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Single Step

"She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." - Proverbs 31:27

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

"Rome wasn't built in a day."

Note: not my actual house - but you get the idea!

We all know the feeling. That sinking feeling one gets upon walking in the door and instantly spotting eleventy gazillion tasks that need doing. So many tasks in fact that one scarcely knows where to begin.

My husband and I are in the midst of fixing up our house, so I have lots of these moments as I keep our home these days. Each new home project requires the moving of furniture, sorting of papers, etc... And after the project itself is finished, the straightening up begins. I may have a lovely new coat of paint on the walls in the entryway, for example, but in order to get there, I had to take the contents of the entry hall and move them all into the den.

The constant rearranging and putting things to rights can be overwhelming. And one doesn't need a home renovation in order to feel this way. We all have times when the clutter piles up a bit, we move the furniture around, or the house simply needs freshening up beyond the normal cleaning routine. I know my instinct when faced with piles of cleaning and endless tasks the need to be done is to hide away in bed and pull the covers over my head.

However, hiding from the work doesn't get it done. I may not get every renovation-upended spot in my house back to normal in one day (but oh, was today ever a day!). However, we all must start somewhere. I have found that the best plan of attack for me is to break things down into smaller tasks and to start with the first thing that greets me as I walk in the door.
And so I give thanks that I even have a home to care for, say a little prayer, pick up that stack of filthy, ripped painting rags in the entryway and put them in the trash where they belong. And that first step has been taken. Far from eating the bread of idleness, I walk with God and He gives me the strength and patience I need to perservere to the end of the task laid before me.  And the next.  And the next....

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midweek Links - Healthy Living

I try to buy organic where I can because I want my husband and I to be able to take care of the bodies God gave us. To help do this, I keep track of the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists put out every year that remind us which 12 items we should buy organic if at all possible, and which 15 are safer if we must get them from conventional farming sources. This year's list has been reproduced at Vignettes and I've already copied it to take to the markets with me.

I try to eat healthy, but I also follow my doctor's advice and take multivitamins. I have had problems in the past because a lot of vitamin tablets really upset my stomach. I finally found the perfect solution at a local health food store, so I wanted to share. I now take gummy vitamins! I use the regular multivitamin, but Vitafusion seems to have a whole line of different vitamins available.

I generally stay active by going on long walks, hiking - just generally getting out and staying in motion. However, I also sometimes use more structured exercise routines to stay in shape and take care of the body God has given me. After all, we are not our own. I try to vary up my exercise routine and sometimes browsing these at Woman's Day helps. NOTE: This is not a Christian site, so use discernment here.

I've also been curious about Candice Cameron Bure's book with Darlene Schacht, Reshaping it All. I've read over some of the related blog, but haven't read the book itself yet. I'd be curious to hear what others think so please comment below if you've read it!

Last but not least, in my quest to make life more healthy and nutritious in our home, I found this helpful guide to making recipes more healthful over at Passionate Homemaking.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Peach Crumble

The peaches are at their peak now and peach crumble is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. My grandmother remembers eating this as a special treat during the 1930s and 1940s. Peaches grew plentifully in the orchard, but other items were expensive or even rationed. This dessert lets the flavor of the fruit shine through while using much less flour and sugar than a standard cobbler.

Peach Crumble
First preheat oven to 350 degrees. Next, peel and slice 12 peaches and mix them in a bowl with 1/4 cup of sugar. Then lightly oil a 3 quart baking dish [I've found that a good way to do this is to put vegetable oil on a paper towel and then run it along the inside of the baking dish. I prefer this to using cooking spray.] Spoon peaches into greased baking dish and set aside.

Next combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and 3 Tablespoons softened butter. Use 2 knives or forks to work butter into dry ingredients until you get something resembling coarse bread crumbs.
Spread this mixture over the peaches. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden. Enjoy!

Too yummy to keep to myself, so I'm spreading the word here:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Married a Man, Not an ISP

When my husband and I first married, neither one of us watched much TV and we decided to cut costs by going without internet. This probably made us a rarity in the 21st century, but we still made it for the first couple years with no internet and so until fairly recently, we didn't have much by way of media keeping us from each other.

Now that we have internet (and smart phones and so on), I find that I must be more purposeful in protecting the time my husband and I have together. His job already takes a great portion of his time and I try to structure my days so that whatever time he has at home is not time that I am spending on the internet. However, I'll be the first to admit that this is hard to do!

For example, when I think of a question, it's so easy to want to google the answer. And of course, when you start jumping across all of those internet links, it's so easy to just keep on reading. Before I know, precious time that I could spend on my husband has been lavished on my laptop and that's just not how God would have me order my life.

From childhood, I learned that the relationship of husband and wife mirrors that of Christ and his beloved church. To my way of thinking, spending too much time on the computer or downloading music to my iPod takes time away from what should be the deepest, most intimate human relationship of my earthly life. In that sense, if we do not examine our bahaviors and prayerfully manage our time spent with social media, that media can become an idol in our lives and it can come between us and our husbands. This is something I earnestly try to avoid - hence my attempts to limit computer usage to times when my husband is not home.

However, as with many things, social media can be a positive in marriage, too. I can send my husband little love emails during the day or forward him something I think he will find uplifting or amusing when he has breaks between tasks at work. In that sense, media helps strengthen the bond between us. As with so many things in life, social media is neither intrinsically good nor inherently evil. We simply need to exercise discernment in how we use it.

Written as part of

Friday, July 15, 2011

Well, THAT was Certainly an Adventure!

Today I went for a routine allergy test and got a powerful reminder that no matter what we may plan, we're not the ones in control. I've had allergy tests before, so I'm used to the little pinpricks all down my arm. However, this time they also tested some foods instead of just pollen and I was definitely not used to the sudden dizziness, hives and mouth swelling. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with really good doctors! I'm fine now, just a little shaky and tired after all of that. Hopefully my writing makes sense. :)

As I've transitioned home from the outside workforce, I've gotten used to learning new homemaking skills (and improving the old ones)and as I plan out my days, it's very easy to get an illusory sense of control. This morning was not something I would ever wish on anyone, but it did shake me out of that complacency I had started to develop and reminded me that I am not my own and I do not control my own little corner of the world. And through it all I could feel God's presence and comfort so the reminder was powerful, but not unbearable.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tortellini Soup

There are days when I savor that feeling of accomplishment that comes from successfully putting together a complex recipe or making a fancy dinner for my husband. However, there are other days when I just need to get something on the table and I don't have a lot of time. I had repairmen tromping through the house almost all day today, so it was definitely one of those times. This quick soup is good any time of year, is nutritious, and takes almost no time to make.

Tortellini Soup

2 minced garlic cloves (dried minced garlic works in a pinch)
1 T. butter
40-45 ounces vegetable broth (can be homemade or boxed - I try to avoid boullion because it can be very high in sodium)
1 pkg refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 pkg (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained

1. Take thawed spinach out of package and squeeze it dry. Set aside.
2. Saute garlic in butter in a large saucepan until tender.
3. Stir in broth and bring to a boil.
4. Add tortellini; cook 5-6 minutes or until tender.
5. Stir in tomatoes and spinach and heat through.

Note: This is good with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Another note: As usual, this recipe is for 4-5 servings, but it's easily expandable.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Midweek Links - Bloghop Style!

I'm going to do something a little bit different this week. First of all, I have exciting news! Even though I am not even close to computer literate, after much online research, I finally figured out how to make a button and here it is:


Please feel free to grab it!
And since I have this, instead of me providing the links this week, I'm going to rest, celebrate and do my first-ever blog hop. Instead of my highlighting what I think has been interested to read online this week, I want YOU to show me what you think is worth reading. Please link an article below and link back here with my button. Thanks and I can't wait to see what great reads await!

Transitioning From the Workforce to Home

I'm over at Desiring Virtue today, blogging about the practical considerations involved in making the transition from the paid workforce to homemaking.

Last time I was here, I talked about how I began my journey to homemaking. Once I came to the decision to be a homemaker full time, what was I to do? Obviously, I couldn’t just jump up from my desk chair shouting, “God is sending me home now! Nice knowing y’all!” I have the sort of job where others depend upon me, so just deciding to go home one night and never coming back would hurt others in my office as well as hurt clients.

What I needed next was a plan. Today I am going to share that plan with you in the hope that it might aid someone else wondering “What’s next?” in their journey home.

You can find the rest HERE. Please come over and join the discussion!

And if you're linking in from Women Living Well or Far Above Rubies - welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy it and keep returning.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Walking with God - and my Wi-Fi

The internet opens up so many doors for us. Some of them are really good - I can download and listen to sermons from the church where I grew up, for example. As we have been searching for a new church home, my husband and I could also research churches on our area. I can also study just about any topic imaginable, not to mention being able to compare Scripture across translations without have a gazillion Bibles open around the dining room table. Probably my favorite aspect of the internet has been the world of both wisdom and fellowship it has opened up from me. I enjoy writing and sharing online, and I also like reading what other Christian women have to say because oftentimes when I am in a quandry, someone I follow has been there already and I can learn from her. When used wisely, the internet allows us to build one another up.

However, I also find myself drawn a little too much into the internet. It's easy to start researching a topic, going from link to link, and then find that hours of my day are gone. And these are hours that I could have spent in prayer and meditation with God, getting chores done at home, spending time with my husband and so on. I noticed this not long after I first started my transition home from working full-time and I've prayerfully started to combat it because I could feel it affecting my walk with God.

First and foremost, I do not even turn the computer on until I have had time to pray and to read Scripture. Rushing through a devotional while booting up the laptop just doesn't strike me as the ultimate model of worship. I am Christ's disciple and in order to live that life, I need to come before Him daily, infettered by a half-written blog piece and various emails awaiting my attention.

In order to limit my time online, I've deliberately stayed off Twitter and I haven't put my blog up on Facebook either. I really enjoy interacting with the wonderful folks I've met online through reading their blogs and writing my own. However, I know that I need to live my offline life and I don't want to be a cause for others not living their lives fully either.

In moderation, the internet and social media can be wonderful. There are so many bloggers out there whose company I suspect I would enjoy were we to meet in real life. However, without time unplugged from the computer and at the feet of God, we cannot walk that Christian walk of ours that way that it's meant to be done.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Crunchy Chicken - Yum!

I'm from Virginia. My parents are from Virginia. Generation upon generation of my family is from Virginia. And with that much Southern in me, it probably shocks no one that I love my fried chicken! However, I am trying to be mindful of what I eat and to serve God by treating the body he has given me in a healthful manner. This means that fried chicken has become a rare treat.

I've been trying to come up with a substitute, but so many of the "oven fried" chicken recipes seem to end up soggy or tasteless. After some experimentation(thanks for eating all that chicken, sweetie!) and research online, I think I may have found a good, crunchy chicken recipe that will not clog my arteries from here to kingdom come.

Crunchy Unfried Chicken

Note: This recipe serves 4-5, but can be very easily increased.

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

2. Mix 1/2 cup buttermilk with salt and pepper in a bowl (do not use a metal bowl!).

3. Crush 1-2 cups of unsweetened cornflakes or whole-grain cereal flakes. I do this by putting the cornflakes in a gallon storage bag and going over them with a rolling pin until they're good and crushed up.

4. Place the crushed cereal in a shallow container. I usually use a Pyrex baking dish for this.

5. Cut up 1 pound of chicken breast into bite-size pieces. Dip them first into the buttermilk and then into the cereal.

6. Place the coated chicken on the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden.

7. Enjoy! This chicken is really good dipped in barbeque sauce. I also like to mix mustard, honey and a touch of BBQ sauce to taste, and use that for dipping. I usually serve the chicken with a green salad, and some fresh berries or peaches for dessert.

Too good to keep to myself, so linking it at:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

From My Library - The Way Home by Mary Pride

Do you ever read books that have a few chapters that really inspire you, but then at other points the author states things in a way that you find overly harsh? This 1985 book is one which I have in my library because parts of it really have inspired me as I transition from work to home. However, it's one about which I also have very mixed feelings because there are some ideas stated in here which: (a) I think should have been phrased in a way that leaves a little more room for grace and (b) could cause those who struggle with an overly legalistic approach to faith to stumble.

First, the good part - and it's really good. The book starts off talking about why married woman should be home and why married couples should have children. More about those chapters later. However, it is what comes next that really stays in my mind most vividly for it is at this point that Pride discusses home life.

She starts with the idea that home life is boring and that keepers at home are not necessary, and refutes the idea of the idle housewife who need not use her brain. Instead she paints a vision of what home can be, showing how it is the center of family life as well as showing how women in the home put their families first but still pursue home industry(the word "homeworking" is used fairly often). Her keepers at home are vibrant women who keep their minds alive with study and teaching their children as well as helping to bring income into the home. Her vision of the home as a center of culture and learning is one that I have found inspiring, and she explains it in terms that make it seem achievable. That part of her writing can be very empowering and inspirational as she explains that God's plan for wives is not mindless drudgery. For those of us who grew up with little idea of what the Titus 2 "keeper at home" could look like, she gives us plenty of ideas and it's not exactly the life of a downtrodden doormat either.

The parts I took issue with came primarily in the early chapters of the book. At times, the author makes clear that she believes no married woman has any business working outside the home. Given that I have known women with disabled husbands or women who had to return to work because their husbands had been laid off or had had a business fail, I felt that the failure to make allowances for individual circumstances was unfair. Also the strident tone in which some of these declarations are delivered seemed a harsh to me. I might want to share the chapters on homeworking with acquaintances, but I'm not sure that this earlier part of the book would do much to lift them up or encourage them.

And then there were the author's view on intimacy. The debate over whether or not Christians should use birth control is one that has been going on for some time. I'm not going to rehash all the points in this post, except to point out that this author does not believe that married women should be using birth control. However, it wasn't so much what the author said at this point(she actually makes some good points) but how she said it. The tone in these chapters was blunt and almost sarcastic, and it really didn't need to be so. An explanation of Pride's viewpoint accompanied by Scripture supporting it would have been much more helpful, particularly for those readers who may have been looking for information because they had not already made up their minds on this issue. Even where my opinions line up with those of the author, I found myself cringing a little because her tone seemed almost to mock those who did not agree with her and I find that a very unloving and unhelpful way to speak to others.

Because of the sometimes harsh nature of the author's tone in this book, particularly in the earlier chapters, I would hestitate to recommend it without reservation. However, while I may have wished that some ideas with regard to marriage, children and pro-life issues could have been expressed a little more lovingly, I do think that Pride excels in painting an inspirational picture of all the many things that home life can be. For that reason, I've held on to this book simply because that inspiration has been meaningful to me. I may not return to the early chapters of this book very often but her vision of homeworking has been quite a help to me in shaping what I want to see my own household become.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Midweek Links - Comfort Reads

I've been sick all week so far, so both online and offline, I've been hauling out my comfort reads. Here are a few of the online variety that I will share with you:

1. I love hymns and I was thrilled to find a huge online selection of hymnals. My favorite has long been the Trinity Hymnal, and I will thrilled to be able to read over my favorite worship songs here. Since I don't own a paper copy of this hymnal (yet!), it's a wonderful devotional tool. The main menu is also a good way to search songs from other Christian churches all over the world.

2. When you're a little ruffled around the edges, Courtney's bubble bath primer is great for setting up a healing relaxation time with God.

3. This one's cheating a little because it's not strictly an online read, but sometimes when I'm sick, I want something that will make me smile and laugh. The Grandma's Attic series which starts here is wonderful! Yes, I know they're children's books. I read them as a child and I reread them now on occasion because they're good.

4. Sometimes I also just like to be inspired by reminders of the wonder of God's creation. The National Geographic photo archives are wonderful for that. Just check out this gallery!

5. And last but not least...since I love fruit and chocolate combos, this strawberry pie with chocolate crust from Far Above Rubies is something I have been craving for days!


And in other news, keep an eye out on Mondays. I am joining the Media Mondays series hosted by Women Living Well, and I'll be blogging here about how the "Silent Addiction" to social media can affect us as keepers at home.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day and Back Soon

Due to travel and illness, I've been somewhat absent lately. However, I look forward to catching up on posts and will be back and writing soon!

In the meantime, Happy Independence Day to all my American readers. Don't forget to pray for and to take time to remember those in our armed forces who sacrifice so much to preserve our freedom. Freedom isn't free!