Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Well Stocked Kitchen

Or Making It Easy to Get a Meal to the Table (Part 1)

Frantically I pulled all the bottles and jars out of the cupboard to the left of my stove. Canola oil, olive oil, cooking spray, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and Worcestershire sauce. I ran downstairs to the garage pantry and scanned the shelves, moving some salad dressings, cans of diced tomatoes, and even flour out of the way. No, no soy sauce.




Now I had to decide what to do. We needed to eat in an hour and the recipe I had all the ingredients for, well almost all the ingredients for, required soy sauce. Could I substitute something I did have? Was there time to run to grocery store? Would my husband be able to stop at the store?


I hate to admit how often this kind of thing has happened to me. My husband is a gem about running to the grocery store for me. I sometimes feel like a failure at planning. I can spend an hour making a menu and grocery list and be defeated by the simplest ingredient. 


That is understandable when making a special meal, but on a day to day basis, it can make it too stressful to have family meals at home because coming up with something you for which you have all the ingredients isn't easily possible. I try to have my kitchen stocked with basic ingredients, then I can to make dinner tonight for whoever is eating at home and we'll all enjoy it more if the cook isn't stressed--especially the cook!




Here's how I keep a basically stocked kitchen and my plan to maintain it. I can't make a fail proof list for  your cooking style, but I can give you a list to start with and you can take it from there along with my ideas on how to keep a supply of those things on hand.


The Basic List (printable)

I did a fair amount of research as to what others consider required as basic kitchen staples and I went through my own cupboards and pantry as well. I realize the list will change for different households, tastes, and needs. (For example you may prefer only whole grain rice, flour, and pasta, or may need gluten-free items.) This is not even exactly the list I consider essential, but we like lots of spicy ethnic food and I have to eat sugar-free.



Here's how I suggest you keep what you need on hand:


  1. Print out this list of long shelf-life staples.
  2. Read through it and cross off anything that you have never used and/or never remember being called for in a recipe you've made.
  3. Go through your favorite 12-20 recipes and add anything to the list that is a staple, but is not on this list.
  4. Now go through your pantry, cupboards, fridge, and freezer and check off the things you DO have on hand.
  5. Start a grocery list of items you have run out of that you know you will need and buy as many of them as you can the next time you go grocery shopping. 
  6. Any you don't pick up this time, keep transferring to a new grocery list. You might do this with certain items that you know go on sale from time to time or you know you won't need until a certain recipe.
  7. If it is practical, keep two of each item on hand. When you open the second item, write the first on your weekly grocery list. If not, add it to your shopping list when it gets to below half full. 
  8. To avoid buying things you may never use again, see if you can make a reasonable substitution by consulting a site like this, or Google the ingredient along with the word "substitute".
  9. Keep track of "use by" dates. While foods are often safe well after the date, they may lose some of their nutritional and taste value. Spices that are years old, for example, may need to be doubled to give the desired flavor.
  10. Keep a mental track of what staples you do use frequently and stock up on several when they are on sale.
About every other year we go on a six to seven week ministry trip and in between we we often take trips that last three weeks. In the time leading up to these trips and when we first arrive home, I depend on what I have in stock to feed us as I don't want to be buying food that will have to be thrown out or arrive back to a house with nothing to eat.

If I can basically organize to do this, I know you can, too. And don't kick yourself if you run out of something. No one ever died for lack of soy sauce.




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Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Tables of our Life

In 2008, after 26 years of marriage, we bought our first new table.

When we were first married, we knew we'd be leaving for the mission field soon and Jim's parents had an extra table that his dad had picked up somewhere and refinished. Great! We started having company right away, just two weeks after we were married. A habit we've continued.

My brother and husband in our Monopoly Tournament, first Christmas married.
























During our eight years in Peru we rented two different furnished houses. The good thing about the tables was we could seat a lot of friends at them, but the not-so-good-thing was we'd had no choice in the tables. The first table was "early missionary" style. That's okay. That's what we were!

That was the first table our first child sat at with us. How exciting to start growing our family. What sweet memories of first bites, spilled food, and smiles!


First table in Peru. So many things I notice about this picture: that great baby chair that attached to the table and folded completely flat; the toy that he couldn't throw on the floor!; the fresh flowers that were so inexpensive in South America; the formica table--"early missionary!"





Our second home had a beautiful dining room set with hutch and buffet and very large table of heavy, real wood that termites loved! In spite of them boring through the wood once in a while, we added two more children while living there and the table was messy, noisy, and full of love.






When we moved to Colombia we went to a second hand shop and found a gorgeous refinished oval table and six lovely chairs. Of course, this was probably not the most practical purchase for a family three and then four little ones!


It was a beautiful set--our fourth table. This one we owned!


Then a single friend bought an expanding table that came with twelve chairs. Even though it was homemade and awkward to use, we decided it was logical to trade. She would probably never have more than five guests and since we were six already; there wasn't a lot of room for extra people at our table. That table was the center for many birthdays, guests for dinner, and, of course, family dinner every night.


This table had two leaves and we could angle it in the living/dining room and squeeze in 14--which we did on many occasions!

When we left Colombia to live in the states again, we needed yet another table. Just before signing on the house we went to a local furniture store to see what was available and saw a rectangle oak table on a closeout sale. We had already decided we wanted rectangle so we could "extend" it even more than it's two leaves did by adding other square sided tables to either end.

We left to sign the papers and check the house again, but the area where the table would go looked too small. Jim measured the space by counting steps across the floor.


Would the table fit in the eating area?

We went back to the shop and tried to compare steps with steps. Was it too long? We weren't sure. Smiling, the sales lady tossed us a measuring tape and said, "Go measure it!" We did. It fit.

A group of men from our new home church helped us on moving day.


Moving day





We had our first meal at the table that day with our son, daughter-in-law and youngest daughter. That is the table we eat around now. We love that now we have four generations around this table regularly. Six grands and all four of our parents have joined us at this table. We are thankful.
First meal on our current table of eight years, the longest time we've had one table!































Do your tables tell the story of your life? I'd love to hear them!


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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who Prays for You?

One of my favorite questions to ask my Christian friends is, "Who do you know was praying for you before you became a Christian?" I have yet to find someone who can't name someone who was praying for them.


I'm wondering if I should ask my Christian friends, "Who do you know who prays for you now?"

About a year and a half ago a friend and I started a ministry at our church that we call Titus 2 Alive! You might recall the verses in Titus 2:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

The goal was a ministry of facilitating older women mentoring and discipling younger women in the faith, but we started with prayer partners. We had a sign up sheet for anyone who wanted a prayer partner for the summer. If they wanted to choose their prayer partner, they could. If they didn't have someone in mind, we would find a prayer partner for them.

When we got our list of names together we looked at each other and asked, "Who are we to decide who is paired up with whom?" So we prayed that God would decide. Then we put all the names in a bag and she pulled one out and I pulled one out and those two were partners. Next two names, the same. And so on.

It ended up that I had a prayer partner, but she didn't. I told her I wanted to be prayer partners with her, too. So I had two prayer partners--both more than 25 years younger than me! I also started discipling another young woman who wanted to go to the mission field. She has since gone and we still "meet" every other week by Skype.


Most of those partners kept it going as well. Would it surprise you to know that many of us meet "around the table" over lunch or coffee? One pair even overcame living 50 miles apart and working opposite shifts by using video calls, email, and texts!

So if you asked me "Who do you know who is currently praying for you?" Besides my husband and family, I can list three women who know me well, pray for my weaknesses, my ministries, my fears, my health, and my spiritual life. And those relationships have evolved into mentorships--the question is, I don't know who is teaching whom more!

Wouldn't you like to have someone like that?

Take the risk. Ask someone to pray with you weekly. You can set a time limit if you want. I'd suggest a minimum of eight weeks and a maximum of six months to start. You can reevaluate at the end of that time. If it's not clicking, taking too much time, or whatever the hitch is, you can part friends and try again. But if it is, keep it going!

Meeting with my prayer partners is the highlight of my week! 

So, tell me, who is praying for you?




For more of my thoughts on prayer click here.


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