Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Did You Hear Today?

Today's guest post is by my friend, Karen Elliot. Listen to the insight and love she expresses as she reminisces about raising her children. 

We have guarded our family supper time together for the past 25 years!  Over the years, we have often enjoyed inviting others to join in with us, and now with our new daughters-in-law we are glad we have that set aside time to interact and get to know each other.
 Our oldest son, not one to be willing to sit and chat for hours often thought it was his responsibility to get the family moving. After finishing his meal and feeling like he had adequate interaction, he would get up from the table and clear his plate. It was a little battle going on of who is in charge! My husband and I caught on to this and worked with our son on the concept of being patient, waiting for those in charge to lead. It is still funny today, to see him get up when he is done at a meal, clear his plate and then ask others why they are not done! Some personalities can stay seated only so long, and then they have to move. He is one of them.

One way we tried to interact with our children’s life in public school when they were in Junior High and Senior High, was listening to them answer the question: “What did you hear today that you didn’t agree with?” We wanted to know what went on in class discussions, in the teaching in the classrooms, and in their conversations with friends. It was a wonderful tool to help them look for things to point out to us as they went through their school day. It made them more aware that they don’t have to agree with everything being said.

We would discuss some of these topics at dinner, and come up with a good idea as to why they didn’t agree, and talk about how it is okay to disagree. It taught them not to fight with a teacher, but to come home, discuss it in our family setting, find answers and then own it as their own conviction, opinion or decision.

We have had a wonderful experience around our supper table for 25 years. We have appreciated teaching our children the value of meal time spent together. We have had numerous guests ask to return to our table because of how special the time has been for them. Now as we expand to In-Law children and grand children, we are maintaining our family meal times and the conversations that flow from them. We wouldn’t change this special time spent together for anything!

Karen graduated with her Bible Certificate and was working in the dental field when she married Bill Elliot. They worked together to create the opportunity for Karen to be a stay at home mom while raising their three children. Karen spent that time focused on raising, training and nurturing her children and loving her husband. She also obtained her certificate in Biblical counseling and, together with Bill, worked to enrich many lives and marriages. Bill and Karen are enjoying their first year of being grandparents to two wonderful granddaughters.

If you are interested in ordering the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes you can go to the Home Educators Review page and follow their instructions for ordering for a 25% discount!

If you have the book, you can add your honest review to their page as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Still Talking

One of the joys of having our kids be older is conversing with them on a whole new level. They are (mostly) past the squabbling stage and enjoy talking to us and each other.

A while back, Jim was out of the country, so it was just Samuel, Christina, and I at the dinner table. The conversation flowed from politics to current news stories to what insurance Samuel should get on his new (to him) car.

After a short pause, Samuel asked, “If you know someone with a problem with pride, would you confront them about it.”

I smiled and said, “I, personally, probably wouldn’t because I don’t like to confront,” then added, “but it might be a good idea.”

"I know, right. But people who are proud don't like to be told about it. At least I don't," Samuel said.

I answered, “I remember someone who had a pride problem, but if anyone confronted her, she would cut them down so fast they wouldn’t know what happened.”

Samuel nodded, “That explains a lot.”

Puzzled, Christina said, “I don’t get it.”

“I can’t tell you any more without giving away who it is. And you don’t need to know,” Samuel told her.

I joked to Christina, “Don’t be nosy.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sense of curiosity,” she said smiling.

Remembering something that came up not too long ago, I said, “In Colombia when Dad was a church elder, and even recently in other situations, he has had times when he hasn’t been able to tell me things. Sometimes he’s said, ‘I can’t answer that’. And I have to squelch my curiosity.”

Christina frowned, “Shouldn’t a husband tell his wife everything?”

I answered, “But maybe it’s private and none of my business or would be something I really don’t need to know about the person.”

Samuel said, “I personally would find that hard. When I have a situation I’m dealing with it helps me to talk it out with someone I’m close to.”

“Well,” I said, “If it were a problem the elders were dealing with, he could talk it over with the other elders. Dad might be protecting me. I don’t need to think of some mistake someone made every time I think of them.”

Later that night after prayer meeting I wrote down the conversation as I remembered it. It may have ended there, or gone on a moment or two longer, but that’s the gist. As I was writing it down, I realized that once again, we’d been able to talk about things on a deeper level without “sitting down for a serious conversation.”

My kids could be in a class lecture at Bible college and hear that elders need to be very careful in what they share of what they hear in confidence. Or they could have an example living in their home and a few words about it. 

I wouldn't have always responded like this. When we were newly married I thought Jim should tell me everything—no secrets between us. I like to think I’ve matured and learned to trust him to tell me what I need to know—that usually includes letting me know guests are coming for dinner. J

I didn’t really give Samuel an answer to his original question and I still have no idea who or exactly what he was talking about—and don’t need to, unless he wants to talk about it more.

What I appreciated about the conversation that evening was that my kids lingered a while at the table and talked with genuineness. They are both busyafter school jobs, ministries, homework—but they were willing to sit and talk to me and to each other. I like to think that is one of the rewards of the lifelong habit of family mealtimes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Around Aussie Tables

Before we went to O'Hare, we met Daniel, Abby, and Anna for pizza. We didn't give Anna any pizza.
Then we ate on our heads.
Coffee on the Redcliffs shore with John and Ethel--Jim always finds the coffee shop!
Coffee at Bundaberg Beach with former Colombian missionary friends. Won't heaven be fun!
Well, not really. But Jared wanted sausages instead of curried prawns. His loss.
Some of the guests at the Queensland state 60th ECS Bible Course celebration. The ECS Bible Courses have been used in Australia since 1952!
Lunch in Sydney--a lamb kebob! Delicious!
Fish and chips at Manly Beach--very manly!
Sydney, New South Wales dinner commemorating 60 years of ECS Bible Courses in Australia.

Sunday Snapshot

Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Mealtimes Down Under--With Shelley

We met our friends, Allan and Shelley shortly after we moved to Colombia from Peru. At that time we both had three young children (and later both had four). They were on “holiday” (vacation) where they were missionaries in the western, coastal jungles of Colombia and were enjoying “civilization.” We were down in “coffee country” (where the world famous Colombian coffee is grown) from the highlands of Bogota for Jim to speak at a camp.

During our mutual 15 years in Colombia we were able to see them many times. Jim led teams of city Colombians to the jungles to see a bit of missionary life inside their own country and the Mosses came up for missionary retreats and health breaks. Two of our daughter became good friends and visited each other when they could.

After Shelley contracted tuberculosis, they had to leave the jungle and worked for a while in the city of Medellin until God moved them back to Australia, about a year and half before He moved us to the states. So it was great to connect up with them again in their homeland.

While Shelley and her oldest daughter fixed curried prawns for dinner, I asked her a few questions.

Around the Table-- What are your memories of your childhood mealtimes?
Shelley: There was always meat and three vegetables as Dad was a butcher. Often it was the meat not sold to customers so we got sick and tired of meat sometimes. My mum was the story teller telling us about when she was growing up as a child in the country and all the funny things they used to do with her eight siblings as poor country farmers.

AtT: What were your expectations for your family mealtimes as you and Al established your home?
Shelley: My dad’s dad died when Dad was 12 and his mother was a strong woman, so Dad wasn’t a leader in the family. We wanted Al to lead the family in happy mealtimes and devotions. We wanted to always invite people 'round for meals as well.

AtT: How did those expectations change over the years?
Shelley: We needed lots of patience with the children as some were really slow, others were really picky with their food.

There were times when Allan wasn’t there and I took over the devotional side of things. This was agreed on, not negligence on his part.

There were happy times, story times, lots of laughter. Sometimes it felt like it was a correction time for our Asperger’s Syndrome son and we’ve had to fight that and work to make it a happy time.

AtT: What was the most unusual meal you’ve ever had?  
Shelley: Smoked Caiman. I had no idea how to make it, didn’t know that you have to soak it to get the salt content out. I just cooked it straight up and it just burnt our throats. It probably hardened our arteries straight away, but it was what God had provided when the banks had run out of money in the jungles and we couldn’t access our funds from Australia so we had to eat it.

AtT: What’s unusual about your family and mealtimes?
Shelley: Our kids felt let down that there was no one to invite to a meal on Sundays, especially when we left Colombia and came back to Australia. Lifestyles here are different. 

AtT: How were your family meals an example to others on the mission field?
Shelley: Sometimes in our jungle town when we’d been having young people around for meals often, the young people would say, “This is what I want when I have a family” because they might not even have a table or never sit ‘round it together for a meal.

AtT: If you could put anything in a spray bottle and spray it over your dinner table, what would it be?
Shelley: A special spray that is called “Offers to Do the Dishes After the Meal.”—a spray of initiative!

AtT: If you had to embroider the phrase most often used at your  family table,what would it be?
Shelley: When the kids were young it was, “Sit up and eat!” Now it would probably be:  “Change of Topic Please. Don’t talk about that while we’re eating!”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Learning to Serve

Today's guest post is by my friend, Karen Elliot. Listen to the insight and love she expresses as she reminisces about raising her children. 

We have guarded our family supper time together for the past 25 years, and it became a time of getting to know our children, teaching them, and sharing in the chores.

One of the things we tried to teach during this special time each day was how we could serve each other through this event. Having three children, it made sense to me to have one set the table, one clear the dishes after the meal, and one rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher.
Photo credit: SPI516
 Keep in mind we are talking about a 4, 6 and 8 year old. Just getting the dishes down out of the cupboard proved challenging! It was fun to see the inventive ways they came up with to get the dishes out and to the table. When the 4 year old was loading the dishwasher, she often had to pull a nearby stool over to reach the faucet, then climb down and place the dishes inside the dish washer.

We stressed that in setting the family table, we wanted it to look nice, be set straight, with all the accoutrements we might need. It was fun to see the children take on evaluating if a sibling was ready for a glass rather than plastic cup, or if the size needed to be increased, as they needed more to drink as they grew in age. I enjoyed teaching them the art of setting a proper table, and then watching them add their own touches. It was during this time that one of the children chose to rearrange how the family sat at the table, moving the older two next to each other, while keeping the youngest within reach of Mom.

Clearing the table brought more challenges! It meant putting left over food away in a proper manner. So not only did the clearing person need to be diligent to get the dishes off the table in a timely manner and safe manner, they must also begin to estimate the size of storage container needed to store left over food. Then it must be placed in the refrigerator, and those serving dishes taken to the counter for the dish rinse.

Sometimes, the children would interact with each other as the chores were done, sometime, music was on and there was singing. It was interesting to hear the prods from one or another, to hurry up, we have to do such and such tonight, or please get that over here so I can finish up my job.

My daughter loved doing rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, and sometimes even helped wash the dishes that didn’t go into the dishwasher. Once I remember it was mid-January and below 0 outside. My daughter came into the kitchen to do her dishwasher duty dressed in her swim suit! When I asked why she wanted to be wearing that on the coldest day of the year, and she said, “So I can swim in the soapy water after I am done with the dishes!”

On another occasion I vividly remember receiving a phone call while out running errands. My middle son had started the dishwasher, and there were bubbles coming out of everywhere! We later realized he used the dishwashing detergent, rather than the dishwasher detergent! Another treasured memory was walking into the kitchen and catching my junior high son singing songs while rinsing the dishes.

At one point, my oldest son was showing signs of not being willing to serve his siblings, so he was put on rinsing the dishes for a whole year, to learn to have a servant’s heart. He did it for a whole year, and at the end of it he asked if he now had a servant’s heart! His vocation is Youth Ministry…you tell me…if that job doesn’t take a servant’s heart, I don’t know what does!

Karen graduated with her Bible Certificate and was working in the dental field when she married Bill Elliot. They worked together to create the opportunity for Karen to be a stay at home mom while raising their three children. Karen spent that time focused on raising, training and nurturing her children and loving her husband. She also obtained her certificate in Biblical counseling and, together with Bill, worked to enrich many lives and marriages. Bill and Karen are enjoying their first year of being grandparents to two wonderful granddaughters.

Coming Up!
Friday morning look for an interview from down under!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mother Language Day

Did you know that tomorrow, February 21, is Mother Language Day?

Me either.

This day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations. Here is why they thought it was important to set aside a day honoring the mother tongue of each person and people group on our planet:
International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.

Here is why I believe it is important to talk with our children, around our tables, about people who speak different languages.

I'm not advocating any specific mission, I'm promoting getting information and praying for these people who do not have anyone who speaks their heart language who can tell them the gospel.

How about a switch up in your family devotions tonight or tomorrow night? Why not show your family this video and talk about what you can do for these unreached people groups.

One thing you can do is pray. And that's a big thing!

If you click on the box below, you will be taken to a website where you can find other short videos to watch and a place to sign up to receive information about an unreached people group each day so that you and your family can pray for them.

Maybe you won't remember to pray for an unreached group every day, but you could make one day each week--Mother Language Monday or World Wednesday for example--the day when your family looks up the website and prays for the people group being featured that day.

We have a map on the wall near our table which would enable us find where in the world they live. We refer to our map often during our meals. It might be worth it to you to have a map or globe so you can get some idea of the part of the world you are talking about.

Then you and your family can be alert to hear news about their nation. God will be at work as a result of our prayers and it's exciting to see!

Tell me how you talk about the spiritual needs of the world with your family.

Friday, February 17, 2012

National Pancake Week

Pancakes are . . .
  • delicious
  • fun
  • kid friendly
  • inexpensive
  • easy
  • sweet
  • a great "breakfast for dinner"

According to our library, February 20-25 is National Pancake Week. So how about pancakes for breakfast or lunch or dinner?

When my kids were small, our Saturday morning pancake ritual, included a "Mickey Mouse" pancake for each one.

Then the kids started asking for special pancakes. Daniel was fascinated by airplanes.
I always thought they looked more like whales.

Rosana wanted a heart.
I discovered that by doing a "check mark" motion, I could come up with a reasonable heart. On at least one Valentine's Day we had pink heart pancakes. J

Samuel asked for a helicopter.
(Full disclosure: to make this I did two parts, the body of the helicopter and the rotor and put them together on the plate. )

Then I remember Christina asking for Winnie the Pooh.
I always thought it was a good thing they had  imaginations. Though when Christina helped me make these, she said, "You did those really well. I didn't need to use my imagination at all." To do this, use a teaspoon to make the eyes, then the nose, then the mask around the nose. Pour batter over it all to make the head and then use the teaspoon to add the ears last.

My friend, Rachel, had more meaningful pancakes. For her daughter's third birthday she made flower pancakes with Nutella "frosting". 

But what I liked best was how she reinforced the family devotions with the pancakes. After acting out the story of Abraham offering up Isaac and God's provision of a lamb...
...she made lamb pancakes for her children!

So have a pancake. And don't be afraid to take requests for designs. Experiment a bit. It takes a little practice. Maybe you can even teach a lesson while you are at it!

Happy National Pancake Week!
Send me a picture of your favorite pancake here!

Don't Forget! The book giveaways:
  1. I am giving away a copy of my book here between the first 100 members of my blog. To enter, become a member of this blog. In this drawing you will have about a one out of 100 chance of winning the book.
  2. The Home Educating Association Reviews site is choosing five people to win copies of my book. Go to their website to fill out the entry form. The last day for this contest in Monday, February 20. In this drawing you will have about a one out of 200 chance of winning. While you are there, add your review, if you've already read the book!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Table Follows You

Today's post is guest written by Glenys Hicks who lives in Australia. I thought it was especially appropriate that her post be today as Jim and I are, as you read this, en route to Australia on a ministry trip. Never fear, all my posts are already scheduled and ready to go, so keep coming back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for more Around the Table ideas! Perhaps I will also be able to include some "down under" sights and sounds as we travel.

Glenys' childhood was the opposite of mine, but I feel her situation and her plea need to be voiced. Please read this carefully and prayerfully and make certain that you do all you can to help the children in your life grow up healthy and balanced.

My childhood was an unhappy one. We children were abused in every way except sexually.

We grew up in a household of alcoholics who made our lives hell. Especially at dinner time. We would scoff our food whilst keeping an eye open for the kitchen door to open with either Dad or our live-in bachelor uncle angrily bursting in. Or worse still, Dad would hurl the dinner at Mum and sulk in the living room and our uncle would sit in his place and glare at us as we tried to eat.
Photo credit: Sarah
 It made us nervous and of course, little hands shook and peas would go rolling onto the table. And then we would have the "hummmmphs" and "tut- tuts"and lectures on table manners from uncle. (Only one with no children can bring other peoples' kids up of course) If Dad burst into the kitchen during our meals, he would often argue with Mum and a fight would erupt and we would have to flee the house with dinner left uneaten. Mealtimes were always a time of anxiety.
Chris, my husband now, is mild-mannered and sees mealtimes as a time of togetherness, chat and enjoyment. In theory, I agree with him. Now the problem is that I can be sitting eating with him when suddenly I get a flashback, feel anxious and I need to leave the table. This upsets Chris. I have discussed this with him and asked him if he thinks I have bad table manners— he doesn't. I just can't seem to get past this wave of anxiety that sitting at the dining table for a prolonged time creates.

I have prayed. I pray silently after I give thanks for my food. But 43 years after leaving home, this wave of flashbacks causes me problems. Chris is offended when I leave the table immediately after eating. Even though there is nothing to fear with Chris, the fear I feel can be overwhelming.

Please ensure that mealtimes are peaceful at your home, for your children’s' sake as well as yours, because some things don't go away.

Glenys Hicks is an Australian Christian married to Chris. She is the mother/stepmother of 6 adults and is grandmother to 13 children. Glenys loves encouraging women in the spirit of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. A sufferer of much ill health, Glenys writes to encourage women that they can still be Proverbs 31 women in spite of illness and pain. You can find her blog Morning Cuppas With Glenys at Morning Cuppas

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By the time you are reading this, Jim and I will have left on ministry our trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji visiting the ECS Bible Course offices in these countries. If you would like to follow our travels, you can go to our travel blog. Look for the blog "The Word Down Under." We appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, Honey

In honor of the day and of our 29 ½ year anniversary, I would like to salute the man who sits at the head of our table.

Top Five Reasons I Love My Husband

5. His dirty socks always find their own way to the hamper.

4. He changed (some) diapers, played that endless game called "Chutes and Ladders," took his kids on french fry dates, helped with their math homework when they were crying, built models with them, let them take buses in Latin America [they would have not done this till they were 30 if I had been their only parent!], taught them to drive, and has spent hours and hours praying for them.

3. A wink from him across a room sends good shivers all through me.

2. He'd rather preach from the minor prophets than watch the major leagues. [I actually prayed for a man like this!]

And best of all, the TOP reason I love Jim Fleming

1. Sometimes, when he's meditating on the love and goodness of God, I see moisture in his eyes.

Happy Valentines Day, Honey!
I love you!
Now and Always.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Questions, Answers &

I received a question from a friend who is a missionary in South America where the main meal is somewhere near noon (really anywhere from 12-3 or even 4!) Her husband’s ministries take him out in the afternoon and evening. She was wanting to find a time when they could have a family meal together.

Dear Sharon,
Do you have any suggestion on how to get at least one meal together with different school schedules, a hungry baby and a busy father? We are hungry at noon. Lisa comes home at 2. Roland leaves the house mostly around 2 p.m and doesn´t come home before 9:30....???
A country home in Daniela's mission field
 Wow, Daniela, that is a dilemma!

First of all, is eating together something that is important to both you and Roland or do you have another family time that is important? To me meals seem like the natural time to be together, but there may be seasons in our lives when it’s just not possible. If it is important to both of you, you can find a solution.

What about breakfast? Would that work as a family meal for you or does Lisa have to leave too early?
Daniela  and Roland when Lisa was the only one.

Can Roland wait until 2:30 or 3 to leave, at least some days? If he could, you could all have a good snack at noon and then eat the meal together as soon as Lisa gets home.

Another option I can think of would be: those of you who are there eat at noon. Then whoever can, eats again with Lisa when she gets home—either a snack, or save part of lunch. (This might be a way to get your preschooler to finish her meal, if she’s a dawdler.)

A big part of the problem is that South American life doesn’t care about family meals; everyone just has almuerzo [translated lunch, but meaning the big meal of the day] when they arrive home, any time from noon through to evening and each one serves himself from the pot on the stove and eats alone.
Our family enjoying raclette with Daniela and Roland in 2007
Another problem is that in missionary life, the “hours” are mostly evening.

If you want to do one of these things, or come up with your own solution, you and Roland need talk about it and to be in agreement, realizing it won’t be ideal for everyone, or possibly even for anyone, but it is better than never being together around the table.

We didn't have this problem much until coming to the states. I have redefined "family meal" for us: whenever two or more people in the family eat together! (We usually get to be three or four and sometimes import those who don't live in the house.)

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You told me!

Last Wednesday, I asked you what you had on your table. Here's what some of you told me:

Lisa, from TexasMy table has sprouting seedlings on it :). Because we homeschool and we have no table in the schoolroom, it has become the multipurpose table. Someday I will reclaim it, but for now, it serves as a craft table (and in fact, has no finish on it due to the damage inflicted on it). It is a great place to fold laundry, paint, glue, and throw schoolbooks. The throwing of miscellaneous items on it is now banned, but still happens occasionally. There have been too many evenings where we have eaten elsewhere because the multipurpose table was slated for something else other than dinner. So, I can only dream of the day when I have a scary Indian lady on our table while we eat our curry-coconut stir fry!!

Nikki, from Ecuador: No red roses here, they are exported to other countries. I'm enjoying my $2.50/dozen roses and my $1 worth of astromelias!

Lisa, from Pennsylvania: A laptop!
Rachel, from Connecticut: Tools, light fixtures...All for working on our new house! How God provides!! :)

Thanks for answering, ladies! Why don't you write to me and maybe I'll share your ideas too!

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A special welcome to readers who have surfed over from Home Educating Association Reviews where they are featuring my book this week! There is a special discount if you follow their directions for ordering the book, so check that out! 

Sadly, the reviewer said, "Her personality and mine vary greatly, and many of her suggestions really wouldn’t “click” with my family." If you've already read my book, perhaps you'd like to add your two cents. Go to the review page and scroll to near the bottom (below the information about the reviewer) and click on "comments" and fill it out as you believe is appropriate. Thanks! 

They are also holding a FIVE book giveaway!

And a shout out (that's American for salute) to my Australian readers! Lord willing, I will begin heading your way on Wednesday (February 15)! And to honor that, I will have a special post written by an Aussie! Her entry is a reminder of how long our "growing up" table stays with us--not always in a good way. Come see what she has to say and spread the word to your friends.

The blog goes on! I have all the posts set up and ready to go for while I'm gone, but I'm also hoping I'll have the opportunity to bring you some ideas and news from families "down under" as well, so keep coming back for more inspiring ideas!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Snapshots

Here's a glimpse at life around our table today. 

We celebrated Valentines with the extended Fleming family here in town. 
I set the table with Valentine's napkins and confetti before I left for church.

When I got home I got the salad ready--always have to have a salad. Today's was coleslaw. The meat was ready in the slow cooker in the background.
Grandma--my mother-in-law--and I were passing out Valentines after the meal while my father-in-law and sister-in-law had a good laugh.
Then we started reading. I don't think you can see it, but we had a glass of water spill just as we were sitting down to eat, so we had towels under the tablecloth. And my homemade floating candles sputtered out one by one, until I believe none are lit in this picture! Oh well. 
It's a fun way to share love in the family. We're having Valentines with our three in-town kids on Tuesday night after work and an evening class.

Sunday Snapshot

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake!

Here is the promised rich and decadent and oh so Valentine-y dessert recipe that my family loves and my husband suggests whenever we are having people over just dessert. 

It's also easy to prepare when I'm having guests for a meal as I discovered a way to complete the measuring parts first and then one last step and put it in the oven just before we sit down to eat.
A word of warning: it does not contain anything of value to your physical health, though it might make your mental health jump a few points.

1 cup flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (not pictured)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cup hottest tap water
ice cream
Heat oven to 350F.
Mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, the baking powder, and salt in an ungreased 9x9 square pan.
I used my silicon pan this time, but it wasn't deep enough and dripped. Be sure your pan is 2 inches deep!
Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with a fork until smooth. Spread evenly in pan.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder.
The cake can be made ahead to this point and left sitting on the counter while you prepare the rest of dinner. Just before sitting down, you can do the next step and pop it in the oven. Soon a tantalizing smell will permeate the room, promising a delectable dessert!

Pour hot water over batter. Bake 40 minutes. While warm, spoon into dessert dishes and top with ice cream. Spoon hot fudge sauce from pan onto each serving. Enjoy!
This makes 9 scrumptious servings!

This is the third and last of my Valentine's entries. If you missed part one or part two, take a minute to click on the links for The Flemings' Annual Valentine's Party! and Real Valentines (on showing your kids how to love) to read those posts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What's on My Table

My table is part of my home decoration, a calming clear spot tastefully decorated (I hope!), that is a pleasure to look at whether we are eating at it or between meals.

Well, that's the goal. 

Now that I have no little ones at home, I do actually have 3 or 5 uninterrupted minutes all in a row to think about the table and put something together on it that shows off some of my international curios, the season, a holiday, or whimsy.

When the kids were little, I usually had something simple like a large doily and a silk flower arrangement, fresh flowers (which were cheap in South America), or a candle or two.
Circa 1986, I had a placemat and fresh flowers on our table in Lima, Peru.
If you asked my kids what my motto is, they might say "Don't play with the centerpiece!" Maybe I've had successfully fun centerpieces that have just been too cute to resist. Or maybe the kids are bored and want something to fiddle with! Honestly, they don't try to annoy me--I don't think!

That makes me realize a centerpiece has to be "child friendly". This long runner I use now, wouldn't work if there were toddlers around who could reach up and pull it, sending my decorations crashing to the floor.
Autumn center piece includes leaves I picked up on my
walks and ironed between waxed paper to preserve longer
 Come to think of it, I might not have had ceramic figurines within easy reach of young diners, either!
Whimsical detail from Autumn table decorations

Since I have a pretty table, I usually have a table runner on it, showing off the wood while dressing it up a little. Jim's job has him traveling around the world and he's very good at picking out table runners that match the house, our dishes, or the seasons! That may be because I have sometimes been able to go with him and point out what I like! Quick study, that man!

I've been known to match my centerpieces to the menu.

These people grace our table when we eat Mexican (or Tex-Mex) food.

This woman from India spooks my kids a bit when I serve curry.

Though I change frequently, right now, I have a Valentine's motif on my table. The cloth is an old one that belonged to Mrs. Tidmarsh, who was a missionary in Ecuador with her husband for many years. Her husband, Dr. Tidmarsh, was the one who first heard of the Auca Indians and told Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming and the others about them. (You can read about them in Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot). I made the heart shaped floating candles with my daughter-in-law. As you can see, I haven't trimmed the wicks yet.

Leave a comment and tell me what's on your table right now. Or send me a picture of your table here


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