Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Around the Table with My Family

I have my parents visiting now. On Saturday our out of town kids are coming to stay for 10 days. We'll have extended family and future extended family with us during the holidays, too. I want to make this time special.  

Because I want this for you, too, I won't be posting until after the first of the year so we can both enjoy our families and our times around the table--eating, playing games, and visiting. 

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

We're going to have a white one!

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Remember to like the Around the Table Book Facebook page to get a conversation starter question every week day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I did Right Last Christmas (part 2)

Last Christmas the example of a friend motivated me to get organized for the arrival of our family. Read part one here.

The 8 days our house was full of people went fabulously. I had time to sit and hold the baby, visit with my daughter-in-law, play the complicated board games my family prefers (one game took well over 2 hours), go on outings for “light-seeing” and coffee, and bring 10 people home for dinner!

My sister-in-law had to sleep on a bed we pumped up every night in the family room which is right off the kitchen in our house. We draped curtains over the opening and she said she was staying in the “Taj Mahal”.

We had my parents-in-law over several times as well as a couple of movie viewing nights with friends. I guess we should now call our family room “The Taj Theater” as that is where we “show” our movies.

Two hour-plus Carcassone game!

We included a stop to visit my 90 year old friend, Marion, on Christmas Eve and sing carols with her for an hour at the retirement home where she lives. We left there and went straight to the Christmas Eve service and were home and eating supper by 6:30!

Below is the menu I made up. In italics are the comments I wrote down during the week and after to remember for this year.

Wednesday, December 21
Dinner – Left over Autumn Pork Stew, salad (lettuce, orange slices, sweet pepper, poppy seed dressing)

Thursday, December 22
Dinner – Asian Salmon, baked potato, salad (Jim and I)
Frozen pizza for youth group boys game night

Friday, December 23 (Daniel, Abby, and Anna arrive)
Lunch – Pumpkin Soup (freezer); Orange slice salad with poppy seeds and oil and vinegar on lettuce leaf; bread rolls; Christmas cookies

Dinner – at Stiles and dessert at Debi’s

Saturday, December 24
Breakfast – cheese strada, fruit,

Lunch – cheese, summer sausage, and crackers, orange and apple slices

Dinner – taco soup (crock pot), coleslaw, cookies

Sunday, Christmas
Breakfast – scrambled eggs, Christmas ring, sausage

Christmas Dinner – Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, Waldorf salad, (brown and serve rolls) – (family brought rest of the meal) 12 lb turkey is too small. Pay more for a bigger one! Didn’t have rolls, no complaints on that.

Evening – snacks – Ate at 3:30, so didn’t really need snacks.

Monday, December 26
Breakfast – Cereal, bananas, milk, coffee – everyone likes homemade granola, lots of yogurts were good addition

Lunch – potato cheese soup w/leftover mashed potatoes – good use of leftovers! ("Smashed Potato Soup", Family Circle Slow Cooker Meals, p. 143)

Dinner – Turkey & Dressing casserole, salad – good use of leftovers! Added boxed sweet potato casserole and fed 8

Tuesday, December 27
Breakfast – oatmeal, fruit, nuts

Lunch – quesadillas, with peppers, chicken, black olives, and mushrooms – 4 star idea!!! Served “buffet” style; 2 large frying pans on medium-low to heat; chips and salsa

Dinner – Spaghetti and Spicy Meatballs (freezer), salad – everyone loves the spicy meatballs! Need at least 4 per person, 5 would be better.

Wednesday, December 28
Breakfastcereal – Thankgiving French Toast – the make-the-night-before breakfast dishes are great, I get to do my exercises before breakfast!

Lunch – sandwiches, fresh veggies, pretzels – lunch meat and tuna

Dinner – Chicken Enchiladas (freezer), salad – 0 stars. Family prefers beef and bean enchiladas

Thursday, December 29
Breakfast – oatmeal, fruit, nuts, milk

LunchGarlic Chicken Vegetable SoupDaniel and Abby went to Grandma and Grandpa’s for lunch, we ate leftovers.

Dinner (celebrate Samuel’s birthday)
Tender Chuck Roast, Mashed potatoes, green beans w/almonds, carrot salad, angel food cake, - this chuck recipe is very good, but roast needs to warm to room temp. before placing in oven, or it doesn’t get done!

Friday, December 30 (Samuel leaves)
Breakfastcereal, bananas, coffee, yogurtused second Swedish (Christmas”) ring

Lunch – Chili, cornbread, salad

Dinner – honey curried chicken, rice, stir fried broccoli with peppers – did rice in oven with chicken—worked great; cover chicken with foil to keep moist.
(Daniel, Abby and Anna leave)

Saturday, December 31
Breakfast pancakescereal, yogurt, and fruit

Lunch sloppy joes, (freezer) raw veggies – left over taco soup

Dinner stuffed shells, salad – Grandma and Grandpa took us out to Bishops for last time, it closes Sunday.

Sunday, January 1
Breakfast ­– Paneton (Peruvian Christmas Bread), eggs, oranges

Lunch – Pork roast, boxed scalloped or sweet potatoes, green beans w/peppers
(Lois leaves)

Dinnerfrozen pizza popcorn and apple slices

Taco Soup – 3 servings
Smashed Potato Soup – 3 servings
Pumpkin Soup – 4 servings

Still have on hand
Garlic Chicken Vegetable Soup – 8-10 servings
Frozen pizzas – 4
Stuffed shells – 4 servings
Sloppy Joes – 5-6 servings

My goal with all this menu information was to give you some inspiration and ideas. I hope it did, and I'm wishing you a wonderful and organized holiday season!

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Linking with these blogs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Adventing Around the Table

When my oldest son was going to have his third Christmas, I wanted a fun way to go through the Christmas story with him that year and for years to come. That was back in the heyday of counted cross stitch, so I decided to create an "heirloom" advent calendar to tell the story of Christmas to him, and hopefully, future siblings.

My sister-in-law, Lois, designed cross stitch patterns and made up kits to sell for extra money, so that made me brave enough to work on my own design. I finished it all that year except the background--which took the next 22 years and the advent of a grandchild to motivate me to finish!

I chose ten different people and events from the Biblical Christmas story to highlight that I hoped would help our children understand the true reason for Christmas and who Jesus is. I created a design for each person or event to be put up on a ten day advent calendar that included a Bible passage to read. I also found a Christmas carol that reinforced the message to sing after we did the reading.

When the kids were little we had to be very careful about keeping track of whose turn it was to attach the figure to the background via the Velcro stickers or there could be some very un-Christmas-like attitudes! In their teen years apathy was "cooler" than excitement about it, but even when we had all grown kids and no grandchildren, they wanted us to do the devotionals. 

Most years we fell behind on the daily readings one or two days because of some other Christmas related activities but we just doubled up on a other days. That didn't matter, the point was to remember and reflect on the Biblical Christmas story.

I'd like to encourage you to consider creating your own Christmas advent devotional to help your children think more about Christ than presents. Even if you don't cross stitch or do other crafts, this kind of devotional would be easy to set up, using a hobby store or Christian bookstore. You could buy a shadow box to fill with nine, ten, twelve, or, if you are really energetic, twenty-five items that you find in the hobby story or Christian bookstore. At my granddaughter's Sunday school they had ten stickers they put on paper key tags to hang on a small tree. Another way to work this would be a nativity scene that you add one figurine to each day. One friend has the wisemen start out in another room and slowly advance through the house each day till they arrive at the stable.

How ever you do it, your kids will love the novelty and listen more attentively to the original Christmas story. And don't forget the carols, even if you can't sing, (I can't at all!). Some we really enjoy and some we laugh our way through when my voice cracks (which is often), but those words will stick with your children all their lives and will be an important part of their Christmas, no matter how far they stray.

I am now working on one for my first two grandchildren. It's in year two of work, but I hope to finish before the oldest's third Christmas next year.

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Don't forget to like the Around the Table Book Facebook page to get a conversation starter every weekday!

Linking with these blogs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What I did Right Last Christmas (part 1)

Last Thanksgiving good friends bravely invited all three generations of our family to the north woods. Our hostess was incredibly organized. Over a month before we came she sent me a copy of her menu for every meal during the time we would be there so I could choose some things to bring to fit her plan. I was amazed at that amount of organization.

I was also motivated.

When we came home I started scouring my cookbooks for meals I could freeze to make ahead for Christmas. My slow cooker cookbook was great for this. So I made huge quantities of food, most of which I fed to my freezer.

Then about 5 days before Christmas I sat down and took stock of what I had in the freezer and came up with a 12 day menu from then through New Year’s that would cover from that day until the last guest left. (Do you also find it ironic that the very last meal, after all that planning, was “frozen pizza”.)

It took me two hours to organize every meal. (They didn’t all come from the freezer, but there was enough of that and easy meals to make time for me to enjoy my then 7 month old granddaughter.) This included meals of an unknown quantity of people (anywhere from four to nine on a regular basis) plus 15 on Christmas at our house.

Having so much food on hand and a complete menu enabled me to go grocery shopping and get everything I would need for a week and also make up a list for shopping the next week of things I didn’t want sitting around too long before we ate them.

I’m sure Karen would have planned her menu and then cooked for her freezer. But we can’t all be super organized. This was an amazing step ahead for me.

I'm hoping to repeat this feat this Christmas with even more people around--my parents will be here, we'll include our future daughter-in-law in many meals, I hope her family can come at least once, and a new grandchild (you knew I'd have to mention him!) 

I also hope that my success will inspire you to do all you can so you can truly enjoy mealtimes with your family this Christmas, and everyday.

In two weeks I'll post the menu and my comments on how it went. I'd love to hear from you. Tell me what you are doing to get ready for Christmas!

For part 2 click here.

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Linking with these blogs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Today Around My Table I'm Thankful For

Twenty-seven years of daily family meals do reap the reward of all that planning, shopping, slicing, dicing, and washing mountains of dirty dishes. Here are some of the things I'm thankful for that are the result of that consistant (and hopefully cheerful) work.

Girls in my kitchen--One of my favorite holiday activities is the day before when we all work together in the kitchen chopping, baking, decorating, and getting everything ready for the big day. I love it that these girls--daughters, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and I get along so well!

Samuel back at the table--Our son Samuel left home mid August for an internship at my cousin's company in Houston. It was something that could have led to a full time job, but God showed him many things while he was there including a totally different direction for his work and that he definitely wanted a lifetime with a certain young lady and that they wanted to settle (for now at least) near us. We're glad he's back--till January 19 when he'll start sitting at the head of his own table!

Noise and disruption at the table--November brought our second grandchild born by emergency c-section. They literally ran his laboring mother through the hospital corridors yelling at people to get out of the way and delivered him 10 minutes after arriving in the operating room! I spent 2 weeks at their house afterwards helping take care of  1 1/2 year Anna, newborn Kenneth, and daughter-in-law, Abby. So, yeah, the table was noisy and disrupted at times, but we were glad he's here!

Internet at the table--Sometimes you just have to know the answer to what you are discussing and sometimes the way to find out is to Google® it! Not only that, but the last three weeks my husband has been ministering in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam, so sometimes the only way to have him at the table "with" me was to read his letters online. (Just for the record: normally, I still say no technology at the table!)

Laughter at our table--We've had our share of trials and tears this past year, like every family has, so when we can just laugh together, I love it so much. Laughter releases tension, begins healing, and tightens bonds of love.

Maybe you are in the middle of the chaos of pre- and intra- dinner times when the kids meltdown, spill the milk (although that was usually Jim and I spilling it), and argue or turn their nose up at the vegetables. I want to encourage you to plug away. If tonight's not great, tomorrow could be better! 

And may you have help, many, noise, dialogue, and laughter at your table this Thanksgiving and every day.

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Remember to get a conversation starting question nearly every day *like* the Around the Table Book Facebook page. And also follow me on Twitter by using the button above right or this link.

Linking with: Ni Hao Yall, Weekend Blog Hop

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Giving Thanks vs. Being Thankful

Recently I was at a friend's house for a meal. Before we ate she gave thanks. I mean she really expressed her thankfulness to God, not just for the food she was about to eat, but for His presence in her life and all He gives her. She didn't go on and on. The words were simple, but rich and deep in meaning. I could tell she was talking to Someone to whom she was truly grateful.

Photo Credit: Wee Sing Bible Songs

I can remember when our oldest child first starting giving thanks at mealtimes. He always said, "Thank you for this nice day and this good food. Amen." He was three at the time and was probably more interested in eating the food than saying thank you for it. That's natural.

But I know adults who haven't gotten any farther than that perfunctory "Thank you" before they dig in. 

And I know I've been guilty of that too. 

That's why my friend's prayer was so refreshing. She wasn't a child being prodded by her mother, "What do you say?" She was truly grateful.

Her prayer has me paying more attention to what I say when I pray before meals. I stop and think a minute about what I'm thankful for and then I tell God about it. I don't take a long time I just express my gratefulness to God for all He has given me and does for me. <<Tweet This!

Photo Credit: Wee Sing Bible Songs

In this month when we are concentrating on thankfulness lets not just make lists of all the blessing we have, but think about those things, "look" at the Giver and tell Him from our hearts how much we appreciate it all.

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Remember to like the Around the Table Book Facebook page to get a conversation starting question almost every day!

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My wonderful son just fixed a Twitter button so you can follow me on Twitter now (above right)! If you are Twitter user, please follow me.

Linking with House on the Way, Create With Joy, Ni Hao Yall

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful Feathers

"Oh, Mom! You always put our names on your feathers."

"That's because I'm thankful for each one of you."

Photo Credit: Second Chance to Dream

During the month of November when our kids were living at home, we had a construction paper turkey on the wall. The poor bird started out bald, but "grew" feathers as the month went on.

Every night at dinner we each chose a construction paper turkey "feather" and wrote on it what we were thankful for. Then we each told what we were thankful for and why. After we read the Bible each one would pray in turn, giving thanks for whatever they had been thankful for.

Some years we used a tree instead and wrote on the leaves. On Thanksgiving Day all of our guests were given a feather or leaf as well. It's good to remember to be thankful--and it allows the dinner to settle before we dig into Aunt Debi's famous pies!

One of our most exciting Thanksgiving Turkeys was a couple years ago when we went around the room and our daughter-in-law said she was thankful for her baby! Jim and I had known, but the rest of the family erupted in spontaneous joy at the news of a first niece or nephew, grandchild, and great grandchild!

It's not too late in the month to start your Thanksgiving Turkey or Tree and help your family to remember to be thankful for all they have.

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Don't forget to "like" the Around the Table Facebook Page to see frequent conversation question suggestions to help you connect with those you love!

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Our second "thankful feather" a grandson made a grand entrance on Wednesday, November 7, after 6 hours of labor he was born by emergency c-section.

Kenneth James 
(after his maternal and paternal grandfathers)
7 lbs. 12 oz.
21 inches

Praise God with us that all are well.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Post is Linked With

Every day I link up my post at these wonderful host blogs. I hope you will check out some of these link ups yourself for more great ideas or to link up too. 


Grandma's Grand Briefs Social
Inspire Me Monday
Busy Monday





Friendship Friday (Create with Joy)
The Pin Junkie

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Food for Conversation

"What's for dinner tonight?"

Does that question strike fear into your heart? There are times when it does mine. As much as I'm "into" dinner and family mealtimes, there are those days when I just don't know what to make. Maybe it's because I'm feeling lazy. Maybe I took just a little too much time for myself. Maybe an appointment ran late, a friend needed help, or I forgot to defrost food. 

Whatever the reason, there's a solutions! 

Not only that, you can make it a topic of discussion for dinner tonight, a conversation that might enlighten you, and lighten your "load" when it comes to meals.

The goal is to have list of 12 meal ideas that your family loves so you don't have to do a brain scan to come up with an idea. Then, when "What's for dinner?" catches you off guard, you can go to this list to figure out what's for dinner.

To get started, at dinner tonight, ask: what are some of your favorite meals that I make?

Have a piece of paper and pen at hand to write down the suggestions. Perhaps you could have some ideas in mind to get them to keep listing meals they really like until you have at least 15 (hopefully more). This list might surprise you. 

When my children were little it probably would have started with:

  • macaroni and cheese from a box
  • hamburgers
  • grilled cheese (withOUT tomato soup!)
  • burritos

Thankfully, I kept pushing veggies and a wider variety of meals, so today the list is more like:
  1. honey curried baked chicken
  2. parmesean crusted tilapia
  3. chef salad
  4. omelette
  5. vegetable and cheese foccacia
  6. pork roast
  7. pancakes or waffles
  8. sub sandwiches
  9. walnut chicken
  10. South African curried meat and vegetables
  11. baked potatoes with chili
  12. hamburgers
After you have your list, choose 12 that you enjoy making, you usually have most of the ingredients on hand, and are makable in an hour or less. The time limit would definitely remove numbers 6 and 10 from this list. Write out this list and tape it inside one of your kitchen cupboards.

Now you have an "emergency meal list" for those days when--for whatever reason--you don't know what to make for dinner. Just open the cupboard and scan the list to get a great idea for dinner!

(If you are interested in any of the recipes for foods I mentioned above, write the name in a comment below and I'll make it the subject of a future blog post.)

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Check out my Facebook page frequently. I'm going to start posting suggested conversation questions frequently. If you "like" the page, you'll see the questions in your newsfeed. They'll give you ideas to start meaningful conversations with others and help you connect with your family!
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Exciting things are happening in our family! Saturday night, our younger son, Samuel, took his girlfriend, Laurie, to a candlelit gazebo, sang a song to her while playing the guitar, and then got down on one knee to ask her to marry him. She said, "Yes!"

I am currently in Chicago with my other son and his wife awaiting the arrival of their son any day now. In the meantime, I'm having a ball playing with their 17 month old daughter!

Linking with: My Turn (for us)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eating Spaghetti with Your Hands

I spoke recently with a young woman who finished her undergrad degree in Inter Cultural Studies by doing an internship among the Saharawi people living in refugee camps in the Sahara desert in Algeria about the mealtime practices there. Some members of this people group live in a part of their own nation, Western Sahara, that was occupied by Morocco in 1975. Those who fled the occupation and persecution have lived in the refugee camps since then, surviving with the help of international aid. 

Why did you choose to go to the Saharawi people?
I wanted to experience a Muslim/Arabic people group. I liked the idea that here I would be teaching English, living and interacting with the people. Our goal was to live everyday life with them as true followers of Christ.

Tell me a little about your living arrangements there.
Six of us Americans lived with a Saharawi family as part of the family. We were in a house built around a courtyard. People slept in about every room in the house. We would just lay out blankets on the floor and blankets on top of us. It was really cold at first so we appreciated having a big group of girls on the floor of our room.

What were mealtimes like? 
All the girls worked in the kitchen, even though we Americans didn’t make the food. We helped bring things out and it had to be in the right order: juice, then the wash basin, before the rest of the food. We carried the wash basin to the guests first in order of importance and poured water over their hands so they could wash. 

The food was served on large trays, one for women, one for men, with the rice or couscous on the whole tray and meat and vegetables in the middle. First came the men’s tray. There was always a big scramble in the kitchen, but it was brought out calmly and the tray set down carefully. Sitting cross legged on the floor around a low table, we all ate out of the communal trays, eating only out of the section in front of us. If the meat was on the bone and we wanted some, we had to divide it up, placing a portion in each person’s section.

We ate only with our right hands, rolling the food into a ball with and popping it into our mouths. Macaroni and spaghetti is the hardest to eat this way! 

What else is considered good manners?
When rice stuck to our hand we couldn’t flick rice off, but had to use our fingers to rub it off. Then we licked our hand before putting it into the wash basin so there wouldn’t be any bits of food left in the basin. All the crumbs we’d dropped were gathered into little cups and saved for the goats—nothing was wasted.

Was it hard to get used to eating with your hands?
It was hard  not to make a mess. Spaghetti was especially hard to not have all over my face with a trail of spaghetti leading to it, but I thought it was kind of fun. Some days we had guests. If they were European guests we’d get forks for the salad. Inevitably we kids wouldn’t realize and would dig in and get scolded. But they liked it that we were willing to eat like them.

Tell me about their hospitality practices.
Their homes are always open. Visiting isn’t planned, they just show up. They always serve guests three glasses of tea and that takes about two hours. If someone arrives near meal time, they make extra food and expect them to stay. 

At one home a brother-in-law brought his friends and a chicken for lunch. Even though lunch was already made they had to start over and make chicken for them.

Even though the outward expression is very gracious, and sometimes that’s not what’s expressed in the kitchen, they consider the guest to be honoring them by visiting. If the guest stays overnight, they just throw another blanket on the floor.

Overall, what can Americans learn from the Saharawi mealtime practices?
They always ate together, always waited for everyone who was there. Often most of the family is home, so you would see everyone at mealtimes.

I think we can learn hospitality—without missing a beat they serve anyone who comes by. A guest never feels like he is imposing. 

How were you changed by your time there?
I got a different perspective of how to treat people. They were always hospitable and welcoming. Their value is: whoever is in front of me is most important; <tweet this! my plans aren’t as important. We lived life together and valued friends and neighbors and spending time together. I learned to be happy about surprise visits and make the meal expand. 

(For the sake of security no names or faces were used.)

Photo credits: Saharawi refugee camptray of food

Linking with:


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Manners Mimic

I've learned so much from my friend, Adriana--about God, loving our husbands, loving our children, studying, and life.

Recently I was able to visit her at her home in Colombia for 9 days.  We sensed a kindred spirit when I was still living in Colombia, but both of us were busy with our four children (each) and working in our local churches, so time together was short and seldom, so this visit to speak at a conference with her was a real treat and a gift from God.

The country of Colombia isn't too hard to take, either!

Of course, I learned many things from her on this visit, but one was another fun way to teach manners. 

While I was there her niece and nephew were visiting to play with her youngest son for a couple of days.

At the table one day one of them put their elbows on the table. Suddenly Adriana put her elbows on the table in a rather exaggerated gesture. The culprit, unaware that someone was playing copy cat with him, shifted to resting his head on one hand, elbow still on the table. Adriana, sitting across from him did the same. The movement caught his attention and he looked at his aunt, changing to the other hand and elbow. When she did the same, a light bulb went on. Suddenly he sat up straight, lowered his hands, and smiled at his aunt. 

What a fun way to be gently reminded of good manners! (<--tweet this) Far better than being scolded or nagged. 

Variation: If you have a good humored adult who sometimes forgets his manners, you could team up with one of your little ones to play copy cat with the adult when his manners are momentarily forgotten. The children would have a great time being the manners police, and would be reminded to watch their own p's and q's.

For more ideas on manner click here.

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Remember I'd like to get pictures from you of a table centerpiece you make out of things from around your house. Perhaps they are items that are a bit different than one would normally think to use for a centerpiece, but grouped together they make a fun and interesting conversation piece. Send your photo here.

If you like a certain post in my blog, would you take a second to *like* or repost a link on facebook so others could see it too? Thanks!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Makable" Menus

When I wrote the book Around the Table I always made weekly menus the night before I went grocery shopping so I could make lists of what I would need for the week’s meals and go shopping just once. (Shopping once was the goal, anyway.)

At some point over the years, I did the menus less and less. It took me so long to come up with 7 main meals I wanted to cook and eat. Some nights when I was planning the menu nothing sounded good so I would search out new recipes, seeking the illusive taste I was looking for. Plus, it had to be things my family would appreciate, within our budget, and doable in South America. (There were many, many substitution possibilities, but how much time did I want to invest in one meal?)

I got to the point where I planned menus for special meals (guests, birthdays, etc.) but just bought basic staples and “came up with something” each night. From time to time I would make out a week’s menu, but not often.

Photo credit: Terren in Virginia

Not too long ago I was motivated to do it again. The motivation was visiting my friend, Karen. We were there for 3 ½ days and she sent me the menu a month ahead to make sure it was things everyone could eat and so I could choose things to bring. A month ahead! I was seriously impressed.

Not only that, but I saw how things worked out so easily for her during the days we were there. She had everything on hand and a plan set so she could enjoy our visit as well.

As soon as I got home I sat down to make out our menu for us. It was so wonderful to have the menu on hand. I felt released from the concern of what was for dinner! Every day I would look at my list and take out of the freezer or pantry what I needed to have on hand for dinner. 
The ingredients were all there;
 no energy was spent worrying about 
what I could make for dinner.

I also made liberal use of my slow-cooker and of freezable recipes to have some meals partially prepared for an upcoming visit from our married son, his wife, and our granddaughter. Anything that lets me have more time with the family is a good thing!

I don’t have these recipes posted, but just to give you an idea of our main meal menu for one week, I’ll write it out for you, along with my notes from the changes I made.

Monday – leftover stuffing, sweet potatoes, and gravy (frozen from a church potluck); roasted chicken breasts, salad greens with red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing

Tuesday – Spanish tortilla (p. 226-227, Time for Dinner), Fruit and Broccoli salad (Slow Cooker Meals, p. 248; no, it’s not slow cooked, just under the “sides” section.)

Photo Credit: Iriskh

Wednesday – Easy Italian Chicken, (p. 74, Slow Cooker Meals), green salad, store bought breadsticks

Thursday – Hot and Spicy Sloppy Joes (p. 42, Slow Cooker Meals), coleslaw, (freeze half for lunch with "kids")

Friday – Pasta with Pesto, green salad (this was changed to a roasted vegetable soup I made up and put in the crockpot)

Saturday – lunch: grilled cheese, carrot sticks, apple slices (some foods kids never tire of!)
Supper: hamburgers, baked sweet potato wedges, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles

Sunday – Pork stew with Teriyaki Sauce (p. 59, Slow Cooker Meals), rice, frozen mini egg rolls, apple dumplings for dessert

Monday – Bean and Corn Burritos (p. 130, Slow Cooker Meals), green salad

Quite a few of these recipes are from the Family Circle Slow Cooker Meals, (I tend to go in cycles like that) so I just want to insert a caveat that I have found quite a few I like in this book since my sister-in-law gave it to me about 5 months ago, but our family likes things more “tasteable*” so I would double almost all the seasonings, unless it is called “Hot and Spicy”, and I think they generally put in too much liquid so I plan to try lowering the amount and testing it.

*The first time I served something a bit spicy to then 3 year old Daniel, he took a bite and said, “This is very tasteable!”

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Get Creative! Can you make a centerpiece from things already in your house? Knick-knacks, teapots, silk or dried flowers, a collection of something, photos, souvenirs, flags, toys, games...are all possible ideas.

Maribeth used these teacups, teapots, candles and a jug with silk flowers to create a summer centerpiece. I'd like to see what you come up with. Look around your house and collect some things to make a centerpiece for your table. Arrange it how you like and send me a photo to this email. I'll publish it in a future post!


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