Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours

a very
Merry Christmas to one and all

May you have love and laughter 
around your table
on Christmas
and all through the year!

(Come back in January to get some great ideas to stop procrastinating!)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three Great Ideas to De-Stress Christmas!

How is your Christmas season going?

A. Overwhelming
B. Cozy
C. Worshipful
D. Stressed Out

If you said "A" or "D" or "A and D" could you possibly just take the evening off to make it B or C tonight? Come on, this is supposed to be a happy, loving, joyful time of year. Pull back a little. Turn off the Martha Stewart recording in your head. Close down Pinterest. Put your to-do list aside for a few hours. I have some fun ideas for you.

Let's Be Tired Together
A few years ago my husband was traveling the beginning of December. My daughter was involved in a Friday night ministry and I was going to spend another December Friday night alone. 

So I decided not to. 

I wrote in my Facebook status "If you are reading this, you are invited over tonight to watch A Christmas Carol with me." I had some expected guests and some I wouldn't have guessed would come. We were a small group. I made popcorn and we just relaxed together and got into the season.

Cookie Baking Night

Are you and your friends behind on your baking?
What's that? You can't face the work and mess?
Besides you want some accountability on cookie dough snitching?

Whip up 2 double batches of sugar cookie dough, wrap them well and stick them in the fridge. Get a hold of some friends and ask them to come over and bake cookies with you. Bribe them by telling them they can take 2 dozen they choose home with them.

Play Christmas carols and cut, bake, and decorate. Your friends will help you wash the pans and wipe the counters I'm sure. If you don't have disposable plates, tell them to bring their own dish to take their cookies home in.

(Cheat: Buy ready made cookie dough at the grocery store!)

Carol Sing

Our brother-in-law started this. There was a very musical college student attending our church whom our brother-in-law invited over along with anyone who could come for a carol sing. But even if you don't have a musician handy, you just need someone who's not afraid to start the song and can basically carry a tune. Get copies of the words from somewhere (we sometimes borrow hymn books from church) or only sing first verse. 

Ask everyone to bring along some plate of snacks to share if they can, but come even if they can't. Provide coffee, tea and water if you can. Remember, we are trying to relax here!

And sing yourself into the joy of the season!

Do you find yourself saying, "But my family..." Get into the spirit yourself, get some other people over who enjoy it, too, and you'll be surprised what your family will do.

You might not be around the table, but you'll be connecting in a great way!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Home Depot (DIY) Meals: The Panini Episode

Over Thanksgiving we had three of my children, two of my in-law children, and my two grandchildren with us for almost all meals. What's not to love?!!

Whenever we get together we have one meal where we can each make our own. This year's suggestion came from my younger son and his wife and they also contributed some of the goodies including the bacon. What's not to love?!!

Panini sandwiches go for big bucks in restaurants...and do you ever really get the combination you want? It's easy to do at home and everyone enjoys making their own, wandering around the kitchen, puttering, examining what others are putting together, and, of course, eating!

This could be a great, relaxing way for you to get together with family or friends over the holidays.

For added fun, you can ask everyone to come up with a creative name for the sandwich they are making. That ought to be a conversation starter!

It's really easy, too. Just set up all the possible ingredients you have in your fridge and pantry on an island or peninsula counter top or on a table people can walk around. Have a couple of panini makers, sandwich makers, or indoor electric grills set up and hot. (Make sure you won't be blowing a fuse with a trial run. If they do, find out which outlet is on a separate fuse and plug the second one in there.) Then call your guests to the kitchen and let them go to work!

Panini Bar Suggestions (but not limited to these)

  • White bread
  • Sourdough bread
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Rye bread
  • Cranberry artisan bread
  • Your favorite bread
  • Yellow mustard
  • Spicy mustard
  • Horseradish
  • Chili sauce
  • Mayo
  • Butter
  • Plain yogurt
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Italian dressing
  • Balsamic vinegar dressing
  • Olive oil
  • Ranch dressing
  • Thousand island dressing
  • Your favorite dressing
  • Minced garlic
  • Black olives
  • Green olives
  • Banana peppers
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Dill pickles
  • Bread and butter pickles
  • Fresh sliced peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados 
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh or dried oregano
  • Fresh or dried basil
  • Garlic salt
  • Salt and pepper
  • A variety of lunch meats
  • Cooked bacon!
  • Lots and lots of cheese slices--these make the sandwich gooey and stick together!
We had a great time. My son called his sriracha sauce, garlic, and banana pepper combo "Hot, Hot Garlic!" I called mine "Aristotle Gomez" for it's Greek (black olives) and south of the border (peppers) combination. What's not to love?!!

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Five Tricks I Learned in China!

Last month my husband and I had the enormous privilege of traveling around a large part of eastern China on a ministry trip.

I have to confess that I didn't expect to like China...the crowds, the pollution, the food. I thought that the food would be strange and extremely spicy. Well, I did see some strange food...

but most of what I saw, and all of what I ate, was delicious! 

I certainly didn't expect to learn anything from China about family mealtimes. The government requires that visiting foreigners stay in hotels, so we didn't have any time in Chinese homes. But I still got some great ideas to help families connect at mealtime. So here are--

Five Tricks I Learned about Meals While Traveling in China

1. Soup is fun to eat... if you get to tear bread into your bowl first! We ate paomo, a Muslim soup of rice noodles, chopped greens, and beef or lamb. First, though, you have to tear up a dense piece of pita bread into the bowl. Then the server whisks it away to the kitchen with a number on the bowl and a number for you. About 5 minutes later it reappears full of broth and other goodies. It was fun to sit around the table and "break our bread" into the bowl before we ate. I think even the kids who dislike soup the most would have fun with this and there's something about wanting to eat something one had a part in making. One way to do this would be a "mexican" flavored soup that they break corn tortillas or tortilla chips into.

2. Ethnic experiences can mean easy clean up. With stir-fry there's no need for lots of different courses. Rice and the veggie-meat stir fry can be served at the table in two simple bowls. Add to the experience by learning to eat with chopsticks out of a rice bowl. The Chinese and Japanese bring their bowls close to their mouths to avoid dropping. What kid wouldn't love to try that?

3. Small plates and shared serving bowls make a meal intimate. Often we were brought multiple serving dishes and a little "side plate" sized plate for ourselves. We used one color pair of chopsticks for serving ourselves and a second for eating. (I admit that sometimes I got it mixed up.) Somehow having to sit close enough to reach the serving dishes to repeatedly serve yourself and eating little bits at a time off your plate make it easier to get to know the people around you.

4. A lazy Susan can make the meal an opportunity to build cooperation. At round tables, all the serving dishes were placed on lazy Susans so when you wanted something you didn't have to ask, you just starting moving it along toward you. But you had to look around first, because someone else might be in the process of serving themselves and you needed to wait until they were done to move your choice toward you. Kids might have too much fun with this!

5. Letting someone else choose the menu will get you to try new foods. We can't read Chinese, and even if we could, we wouldn't have known what the various foods were. We always told our companions to choose the dishes--"We eat long as it's dead!" That way we had the opportunity to try a whole lot of different foods that we never would have known about. How can you do this in a family? Perhaps have a "choice" night once a week when one member gets to ask for the menu. Or invite someone over and ask them to teach you to cook one of their favorites. Extra points if you ask someone from a different culture or ethnicity!

We had some fascinating non-food experiences in China as well, that I wish I could tell you about, but the Internet is not the place. (That's why some people's faces are blurred, too.) I'd love to tell your ladies' group about some of what God is doing there. Just invite me!

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