The Best Gifts

December 21, 2016

I love CHRISTmas. I am grateful that God choose to come to earth as a man. Sometime that love gets lost in the buying, wrapping, cooking, decorating, hosting, cleaning, driving and every-other-thing-ing.

This year, I didn’t feel like putting up decorations when I typically do it. But I heard God say in my heart, “you like it when people celebrate your birthday. I like it when you celebrate My half-birthday.” (Jesus was likely born in the spring.) I laughed, because He is right. My birthday is on Halloween and I always say that everything that happens – is happening – for me. So this season, I tried to remember that everything I did was for Him.

I put wreaths in the dining room, garland on the stairs, and fresh evergreens in vases. We put up two trees. The small one is in our family room. It’s pretty and delicate, but had no gifts under it. One morning while sitting near it, I came across a Bible passage that noted how God gives us grace and peace and boy do I need grace and peace.

It dawned on me that the very best gifts I have are not things at all, but salvation, hope and love.

So I decorated empty boxes with oversized tags that remind me of the gifts God gave me in sending His son, and placed them under that tree.

I encourage you to strategically place a few “labeled” boxes in your home to remind yourself of His great love. I know you will be blessed for it.

Wishing you a Merry CHRISTmas & Joyous New Year

Kelly

 

Thanksgiving Top Ten 2015

November 17, 2015

TG

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holiday celebrations. It is a combination of things I love: I get to cook, eat, and host my family and friends. And best of all – tell God and hear others tell Him how grateful we are.

Here is my 2015 Top Ten list of Thanksgiving tips and ideas…

  1. The week before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to clean out your refrigerator and freezer. You are going to need that space for the feast and leftovers. I typically plan our pre-Thanksgiving week menu to eat whatever is currently in the frig/freezer food. Sometimes there are some creative combinations…
  1. If you are making a dish for the first time, or one you haven’t made in a long time, make it this week as a practice dry run. That way you will be confident when the big dinner arrives.
  1. If you are hosting the dinner, layout the serving dishes that you plan to use a few days in advance. That way you will know what you have and what you might want to borrow.
  1. Take pictures of the preparation and throughout the big day. Don’t worry about posting them anywhere. Just keep them, the good, the bad, the ugly, like the dozen uncooked yeast rolls that my dog pulled from the table before I got a chance to bake them, to savor during future holidays. (And if you must share just do a quick air drop to people in the house.)
  1. Create a cooking schedule. I always do some cooking the weekend before Thanksgiving. (That’s why I need my freezer to be ready.) I start by making a list of everything we are having. Then I type the person who is making or bringing the item. For the things I will be preparing, I add the day I am planning to cook it. That way I can pace myself.
  1. If you are a house-guest, ask how you can help. Men folk, maybe you can keep an eye on all the garage cans in the house and be the emptier/bag replacer. My favorite guests help clean the mountain of dishes from dinner. That is one of the best gifts.
  1. Our dining room table isn’t big enough for all our guests to sit there. So we dress-up the kitchen table and add a cute table in the family room, so the football heads can watch the game while they enjoy the meal after we say grace. Each is decorated and set with plates and utensils that guests can carry through the buffet line.
  1. Consider setting up the food buffet style. We sit the serving dishes around our kitchen counter-tops so folks can serve and get seconds easily. I try to make it attractive while self-sustaining once the eating begins.
  1. Make it a priority to enjoy the process of cooking, cleaning, visiting, laughing, etc. Play music or listen to books on tape/CD while you cook and clean or pack if you are traveling. Watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Make popcorn if you dare. Gather up some board games to play when dinner is over.
  1. Starting today, tell God how grateful you are for His grace and mercy in your life. Be thankful and don’t stop. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Kitchen Table

Kitchen Table

TG4

 

 

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Countdown to Thanksgiving

November 1, 2012

I’m singing… “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There are tables to set, groceries to get, clutter to clear… It’s the most won-der-ful time of the year.”

You guys already know, that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Even though the whole “event” can be stressful with all of the traveling and cooking. There might be strained relationships and the challenge of old family traditions vs. new ways of doing things. There is a lot of work to do and maybe not enough help to do it. But nonetheless I am still counting down the days.

This year I want to enjoy not only the final destination of dinner at 3:30pm on November 22, but I am hoping to enjoy the journey to get there.

Over the next several posts, I’ll be sharing tips, ideas, strategies and recipes to encourage you in your preparations.

Today’s tip:

Grab your calendar and begin to map out what “big” things needs to be done to have an enjoyable and meaningful time of giving thanks over a shared meal.

Do you need to travel? If yes, what’s the mode of transportation, the logistics needed to make it work. If you are headed to parts of the country that have been affected by the storm what adjustments need to be made.

If you are hosting guests, could some part of your home, benefit from a spruce up before the holiday season get going?

Where are you planning to eat? Is a plan in place for the location and guests?

If you are the primary cook for the big meal, what is on the menu? Can others help by bringing dishes? Will you try to offer healthier options? Doe you need to brush up on a dish you don’t make very often by preparing it over the upcoming weekend.

And the biggest question of all – how will I set aside time to spend time daily with God in prayer and thanksgiving remembering…

I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 (New King James Version)

Once you start answering the big questions, you can begin to fit these and the support activities on your calendar. The support would be if I want to be in Chicago by Tuesday afternoon, when do I need to leave to drive or fly or get there by train, and then secure the tickets, etc.

My calendar has been extremely useful for Thanksgiving preparations.

Happy Planning & Preparing

Home-ista Kelly

The song “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year was written by EDDIE POLA, GEORGE WYLE, JOHN MOSS

 

Even as one-third of the Eastern United States braces for a big storm, I can’t help but hope that our community gets to go Trick or Treating on Halloween night. I guess part of it is because October 31st is my birthday and I love the idea that so many kids are celebrating. And, more importantly, it is a perfect opportunity to show the love of Christ to the people who ring our doorbell.

Before you start typing a rebuttal email, I ask you to consider two passages from the Bible:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

  • The enemy has not created any days. Every day belongs to God and October 31st is no different. So I am going to rejoice by giving out candied blessings to the people who come to Trick or Treat.
  • God has given His followers the ability and responsibility to share the good news of His love with other people so that they can be fully connected with Him. One simple way to share this message is with the treat you giveaway.

This year our church staff made it super easy for us. They provided stickers that read “Because God Loves you BIG! (Not just fun sized.)” And they encouraged us to buy large-sized candy bars to give away. You can create your own version on your computer, just tape them to the candy and maybe include the website URL for the place where you worship.

Our family usually gives a sample Adventure in Odyssey CD to the first 20 families along with some candy. (Adventures in Odyssey is an outstanding children’s radio program that teaches faith-based concepts in a creative storyline. Check your local radio station for air times, or listen online at http://www.whitsend.org.)

If you have already bought a bunch of fun sized candy packs, maybe you can bundle them with a note that says – Here’s some Fun Sized Candy to say, “I love you” from a Super Sized God.

I hope you will share your stories of how you are putting the meaning into Halloween.

Blessings to you and yours,

Home-ista Kelly

Like Butta…

May 11, 2012

I like butter. It makes things taste better.

Last year I came across a dish that allows me to have softened butter for toast or dinner rolls, right when I want it.

Made by Silvermark, the porcelain server has three parts. Two are familiar; they include the dish where you place the butter and the lid that covers the dish. The last piece holds cold water and the butter dish sits inside of it.

Porcelain Butter Dish

Want proof that this dish is the bomb? My mom was visiting and said she wanted a set for her house. (Of course, I ordered one for her.)

The dish can sit right out on the counter, just refresh with cool water on warm days.

One more thing about butter – many people say that butter is not good for you. But of the alternatives, butter intuitively seems better, if for no other reason than it was created naturally as food, by God.  Rather than the man-made margarine.

The book “What the Bible says about Healthy Living” by Dr. Rex Russell talks about butter. It includes the following statement on page 222 of the second edition (2006). “Butter is a saturated fatty acid and contains cholesterol, a fact that has resulted in butter’s being condemned by most nutritionists. However, butter is a good food, when eaten in moderation. Butter does not raise cholesterol level or harmful fats in the blood. Both olive oil and butter are digested by humans in a way similar to the way complex carbohydrates are digested. Complex carbohydrates are also healthful.”

The butter boat can be found at specialty cookware stores and online. I got mine at chefscatalog.com.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Mother’s Day-

Home-ista Kelly

It’s the final stretch for us home-istas as we prepare to visit or welcome loved ones into our homes. Every time I get to this point in the celebration I say to myself, “why did I think this would be a good idea? I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I can’t get everything done.” But God is always faithful and He tells me what to do, not do, and when our guests arrive and we are all having a great time, I confirm that it is worth the effort that goes into preparing the sustenance and establishing a place and where people can connect in a meaningful way.

Tips!

CLEANING – Felicia “Lady” Hawkins is the owner of Changing the Atmosphere (CTA) Cleaning Service. She is a dear friend and valuable resource. I asked her to give me her last minute tips on getting our homes ready for guests.

If time is too short for a deep clean, focus on the public areas. She says we can do a “light dusting in the living/family/dining rooms. She suggests using a Swiffer Duster on tables, shutters, blinds, or any surface where particles are visible. If there is clutter, I say grab a big laundry basket and place items there to be sorted on Friday or Saturday. (This will be a less expensive activity than a Black Friday spending spree.) After the dusting is complete, vacuum the carpet or rugs or damp mop wood floors with plain water.

Another must for Lady, is to clean the bathroom(s) that guest will use. Make the shiny surfaces sparkle with an all-purpose cleaner like Formula 409. Fabuloso is another good all-purpose cleaner and it smells great and really freshens toilet bowls, bathtubs, and tile floors.

Lastly, the kitchen needs to be clean for cooking in a safe and sanitary way and if it is open to other public areas – we need to cook in neat way – like we are on a TV Show. Clean the space as you go and put away items that are not in use at the moment to reduce visual clutter.

CUTE ATTIRE – I often say that Thanksgiving is like the “Superbowl” for home-istas. I believe that my “uniform” can help me play well. My goal is to look elegant still being comfortable so that I can get all of the last minute preparation done. I describe the outfit as something that is part “Jackie O dress” and part Nike workout gear.

I have found that a hip or waist length tunic (in a cotton or a nice blend) over slacks or modest yoga pants give me a good balance. I can move easily and still look nice and it is breathable so I don’t get too overheated. I especially love a patterned top over solid bottoms because spills are not so noticeable and the tunic and dressier yoga pants are fairly forgiving in case I eat a little too much. I do choose comfortable and stylish 1½ inch heels. I’m short and the day is better when I am 5 feet 1½ inches tall.

GREAT GUESTS – The best guests are people who are coming to enjoy the party and to help. My mom, sisters and sister-in-law’s are awesome. All are home-istas. When they come to visit, especially at Thanksgiving, each one pitches in to help me do whatever ever needs to be done. They corral kids, they set tables, they keep their eyes on the powder room and restock the TP and soap. They wash and dry dishes after dinner is finished. They tell me that the food is great and mean it. They bring a dish to share and label it so I know to whom the serving platter should be returned. They don’t take over, they support. They come to visit me, not to inspect the condition of our home. They laugh and smile. They have my back! Remember to be thankful for the great guest who come to your home or for being a great guest yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving – And may God be greatly praised during your celebration!

Home-ista Kelly

As I think about the countdown to Thanksgiving, I feel great excitement and smidge of trepidation. In a sense this event is like the “super bowl” for people who like to cook and entertain. Similar to the players in the big game, I have the desire to execute with excellence and the nerves that go along with the desire.

One of the things, besides prayer, that helps me manage the nerves is to plan and plan some more. Over the many years of eating, helping and observing my mom, mother-in-law, great grandmother and a myriad of friends and co-workers at Thanksgiving, I have learned some of the things that make for a good plan.

My plan starts by asking and answering some key questions in early November.

I talk with my loved ones and friends about their plans for dinner? Where are people planning to dine? If I am hosting, I confirm who is available to attend? What is the menu? Who will bring which family favorites? Who will prepare new recipes? Will anyone be staying overnight or through the weekend? Does anyone have a food allergy or situation that I need to keep in mind? Etc, etc, etc.

As I address these questions, I typically write the answers down. And… then four years ago when I hosted my large extended family for first time, I set up an Excel spreadsheet that includes my cooking plan and other to-do’s. Though I don’t really use the matrix to do any math computations, it was an easy way to document my decisions and to-do’s in a way that I could easily see what was what. The extra benefit is that I could re-use it the next year by making a few modifications. Here’s a sample of the sheet I use…

Thanksgiving Sample – Menu & Cooking Plan
Dinner Dishes Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Turkey Breast 1 KLW – Wednesday Mom’s white platter
Turkey Breast 2 Mom Loraine Done
Dressing Monday In Freezer White server with lid
Mashed Potatoes Wednesday White server with lid
Mac & Cheese Gerri Glass dish with lid
Candied Yams KLW – Mon Done Mom’s slow cooker
Green Beans Tanya
Pick up Turkey Ham Wednesday Glass platter Heavenly Ham
Gravy Thursday AM White gravy bowl
Cranberry Sauce Monday Glass bowl
Corn Bread/Muffins Tuesday Red ceramic platter
Rolls Tuesday/Wednesday Bread warmer
Tossed Salad Thursday Wooden bowl
Desserts Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Sweet Potato Pie Kathy Y
Chocolate Cake KLW – Wednesday
Pound Cake Mom
Brownies Tanya
Vanilla Iceream Uncle Randy
Beverages Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Bottled Water Allen & Tyna Bronze Bev tub
Soda Kathy Y Bronze Bev tub
Sparkling Wine Kelly Bronze Bev tub
Other To Do‘s Who & When Status Notes
Extend Invites Kelly 11/5/11 Done
Print Thanksgiving Verses Kenny 11/22/11
Set-up & Set Tables Boys 11/23/11
Set-up beverage station on desk Kenny TGD
Participants/Guests Notes
Wilson Tribe 5 Kenny – watching sugar intake
Smith’s 2
Boyd’s 2
Files’ 5
Peters’ 5
Kathy Wilson 2 Tori is watching her salt intake
Randy Wilson 2
Total 23

I know this is not the easiest to read, but maybe an excel matrix like this could help you in your planning?

Here are two more ideas for those who are saying the spreadsheet is just too much.

1.      The next two weeks are a great time to eat the food that is currently taking up space in your freezer. You will likely need that valuable kitchen real estate for items that you prepare ahead and or for leftovers. This would be a good time to use the “menu planning” suggestions from my first post to creatively use those frozen jewels. This exercise can be a test of your creativity as you try to figure out how to use three different packs of ground beef, a bag of frozen shrimp and two bags of smoothie strawberries.

2.      Early November also provides a choice opportunity to make a “sample” batch of any recipe that is temperamental. Last weekend I baked two “test” batches of homemade rolls. I don’t make them very often and I didn’t want to have a snafu on the big day. I’m glad I did because now I know which recipe works best and I can have confidence that this item will be yumm-o. The cost of making a batch of homemade rolls – about $7.00. The benefit of working the kinks out in advance – priceless.

Wishing blessings on your preparations!

Home-ista Kelly