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

 

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Like many people at this given moment in time, my circumstances have caused my well-intentioned plans for Thanksgiving to go awry.

I am grateful to God that none of my problems have been major, just time consuming and stress producing. Hopefully these situations will increase my thankfulness and force me approach our family celebration in a more relaxed way.

Her are some tips for people who are hosting/cooking…

  1. Determine the people who are planning to have dinner with you.
  2. Decide on the menu. Get 80-90% of it determined. This year I will have to make fewer dishes, but more of each one. And I will be asking for more help.
  3. Make a list of the people who have confirm for dinner. Consider sending an email (or evite) to confirm the start time and assignments for folks who are bringing a dish/beverages. Ask if anyone has any dietary needs that need to be kept in mind.
  4. Make a list of what you will be making and create your grocery list. Decide when to shop – keeping in mind how much freezer/refrigerator space you have. I might do two medium sized trips instead of one mega shop, so I can start cooking some items over this weekend.
  5. Think about the best day/time to prepare the various menu items. Perhaps you can do some cooking after church on Sunday and freeze those things.
  6. Clean out your refrigerator, by eating the stuff you have on hand over the next few days. That will give you space for the feast items.
  7. On Monday or Tuesday of this week, spend some time cleaning and de-cluttering your home. If you need help, this might be something you can hire out or assign to family members. My oldest son asked to have a female friend over to visit two weekends ago – and he and his brother scrubbed down the whole house in advance. I was pleasantly surprised how good a job they did when properly motivated.
  8. If you want to try a new or difficult recipe, maybe you can make a “test” batch this weekend. That is one of the few things I did do for preparation last weekend. I tested my great-grandmother’s sweet dinner roll recipe and was thrilled that I could still do it a whole year later. I also remembered that these have a lengthy prep time, so I need to set aside enough time to make them.
  9. Think about the serving dishes that you will use for each menu item. Stage them close to the cooking action on Wednesday, so they are ready when needed. Consider setting all of the food up buffet style. That might make it easier to serve everyone upfront and for folks to have seconds.
  10. I usually enjoy the splurge of using cloth napkins for Thanksgiving, along with a “seat” card that has a Bible verse on it. I place the place near the napkin so that folks have a beneficial memento of our gathering. Here is a template to print cards for your table. Just print on 8 ½ x 11 paper, cut out the seat cards, fold and arrange on your table. Home-ista’s 2012 Thanksgiving Seat Cards

Grace & Peace

Home-ista Kelly

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

 

Silk…

September 28, 2012

I love Whole Food Markets. The products are great and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. At the store near my house I met a team member who was helpful and brutally honest, in a good way.

On a trip last year, I was looking around with a puzzled expression as I searched for a popular powered version of coffee creamer. The young woman stocking the shelved asked, if she could help me find something. I told her I was looking for my regular brand of the creamer. She said in a dry, but alarmed voice, “You mean white death.” I said, “I beg your pardon.” She repeated the phrase and went on to explain why my former favorite brand wasn’t the most healthy choice I could be making then pointed me toward a liquid soy coffee creamer. She finished with, “Try it and of you don’t like it, we’ll give you your money back.”

That started my love affair with Silk Coffee Creamer. It is smooth, rich with a hint of sweetness and the calorie count is reasonable.

I admit that it has helped me shave calories off of my beloved morning cups of coffee goodness. Try it. I think you will like it. And now as it has grown in popularity you can buy it at conventional and health focused grocers.

Because it need to be refrigerated it can lower the temperature of your hot cup of Joe. I typically poor a couple of tablespoons into a glass server and microwave for 30 seconds on defrost. This takes the chill off without affecting the composition. And that time of microwaving gives me a moment to do a plank core strengthening exercise. A bonus for my tummy.

I hope you will enjoy the soy…

Home-ista Kelly

A symbol of home…

August 5, 2012

What if we starting thinking about our homes as the pot that holds the soil where our lives grow?

Would we do things differently?

I thought about this idea after two summer windstorms destroyed two different sets of cachepots.

On the first incident, I was leaving our house and saw from the street that one of a pair of brown triangular pots was broken. The beautiful red Sun Parasol plants and the soil they were growing in was all over the ground and I was sad. But the clay pots were old and probably not intended for outside use, so I said, “Oh well” and cleaned up the mess, when I got home. A few days later I bought two new cachepots and added more soil to the plants.

The second set of pots was made of a heavy a terra-cotta. They were painted brick-red and had a cream-colored medallion embossed on them. They were inexpensive but well made. I liked these even more than the old ones.  And ironically I wasn’t too concerned that they would break; the storm was a fluke for this time of year. But they did, less than a week after being on the stairs.

This time I opened my front door to do a quick once-over before my mom and her friends arrived and I found my plants thrown out of the cachepots and onto the ground again. Some of the branches were going the wrong direction and now I have gotten mad.

So what kind of pot is going to be suited to do the job? Thinking about this, I realize that the plants were probably too top-heavy for the first two sets of pots. It made sense the wind was slinging them to the ground. And the pots were easily breakable. Maybe next time I would get a pot that looks like clay or stone, but isn’t. And yes I want the pot to be attractive, but it needs to protect the plant from damage, because it has the important job of holding the soil that nurtures the life of the plant.

Can this analogy help you think about something that you can do this week, month, year to make your home more functional because home contains the physical, emotional and spiritual soil that your life is growing in? And of course you want that life to be the best it can be…

Home-ista Kelly

P.S. I did get more pots. They are made of a resin that looks like stone.  Hopefully they will last. But even if they don’t this whole episode has given me a greater appreciation for the power of the pot… I mean the home.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; by knowledge its rooms are filled with all kinds of precious and pleasing treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

Father’s Day Punch

June 18, 2012

It has been a long good day. I am grateful to God, for gracing me to marry a great dad for my children. Kenneth Vance Wilson, Sr., is doing big things with the arrows in his quiver.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.

Psalm 127:3-5

Today, we tried to show him how much he means to us, in a meaningful way. But I also believe in showing love in the little every day things. Like making my husband’s favorite punch recipe to enjoy with a bowl of popcorn during the basketball game or watching the next episode of America’s Got Talent.

Ingredients:

One 6oz can of Dole Pineapple Juice

1 and 2/3 Cups of Cranberry Juice*

1/4 Cup Sugar

Two 12oz cans of Sprite

(I usually keep can of frozen cranberry juice on hand. So I thaw the can in the microwave and use 1/3 of the concentrate plus 1 and 1/2 cups of cold water.)

Mix the first three ingredients together in a pitcher then add the soda slowly. The punch will have a cool purple fizz. It keeps overnight in the refrigerator just fine, but I suspect you won’t have any left.

Enjoy a glass with your family soon.

Home-ista Kelly

P.S. I am want to acknowledge my husband’s dad, and to honor the memories of my dad, Allen Tyrone Smith, Sr., my mom’s second husband Tommie Boyd, and our grandfathers who have all gone on to be with the Lord.

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

Like many of you, I am often pressed for time. So I multitask. One Saturday morning, around 11am, I was cooking dinner for guests who would be coming for Bible study that evening. I was also doing miscellaneous household chores. Koah, our then five-year-old comes into the room and says, “I’m bored.”

Okay, let’s give you a quick bath and then you’ll be ready to go out and run errands later. In typical doing too-many-things fashion, while browning ground beef for chili I run upstairs and fill the tub about one-third full of warm water. I reach into the cabinet beneath the sink grab the Mr. Bubble Sensitive Skin and pour in a couple of squirts. “Koah! Come and get into the tub please.” Miss Independent says, “I can do it by myself mom.” So I say “good” to myself and go back downstairs to the sautéing meat.

I’m listening from the kitchen and I had asked our teenage son to listen out for her from the room next to the bathroom. It’s all good. Ten minutes later I think, let me grab Koah’s clothes and get her out and dressed. I knock on the door, open it and see suds everywhere. They’re on the floor. The shower curtain. The walls. The kid. Yikes!

I immediately look behind me. I messed up. I forgot to re-latch the child safety lock on the cabinet doors. Ai-yi-yi… This has happened before, but not to this degree. The last time, Koah was chided for adding soap to the bath water she said “I was so tempted. The Mr. Bubble is so good, so much fun. You better remember to lock those doors, mom.” I vowed to lock them from then on.

This time I am not happy. “Ko-wah. You know that you are not supposed to add more bubble bath to the bath water. I already told you this.” Torn between the glee of 3 feet of bubbles and the guilt of disobedience she says, “I’m sorry.” Then starts to tear up. My guilty parent conscience speaks up, “It’s your own fault. You should have reset the lock.” The regular me thinks, “Thank God there are no heavy-duty cleaning products under the sink, only bath bubbles and bath time crayons, baby wipes, and a few magazines.”

Koah - After the fact...

I catch myself and try to keep this negative parenting moment from becoming worse than it already is. “Did you have fun?” I ask. Koah cracks a smile and says “Yes!” It was obvious she was a having a blast because she was swirling the water around like a washing machine when I opened the door. “It’s okay, I’m not mad. It did look like fun. But what are you going to do when the temptation of something else is that strong? Are you going to do the wrong thing?”

Before she can answer, Mrs. Guilty-Parent-Conscience resurfaces and says “like the temptation of multi-tasking more than you should.” Hmmm. She has a point.

There are times when I suffer so much from the desire to get more and more done, that I end up enjoying life less and less. Rather than cooking on a different floor than Koah, maybe I could have sat on the floor outside of the bathroom with the laptop and worked on my next blog or planned the menu for the upcoming week. I could have folded laundry in her room, which is right down the hall.

Being close by might not have prevented the suds situation, but if I weren’t in such a harried state of mind, I might have remembered to re-lock that child safety device. (Parenthetically I must say, as long as the parent remembers to engage it, the Cabinet Slide Lock by Safety 1st, works really well.)

Safety 1st Cabinet Slide Lock

So, fellow home-istas, we probably have to multi-task sometimes, but we definitely plan our multiple activities carefully and wisely. That way the dual tasking helps us be a few steps ahead, rather than several steps behind.

Hugs-

Home-ista, Kelly

P.S. I never left my kiddos in the bathtub alone when they were young, not even for a minute. That is an absolute no-no, but you already know this, and will behave accordingly.

P.S. P.S. The ground beef came out fine, it was simmering on a very low cooking temperature, throughout the whole bathroom adventure.

“Are you really going to make mommy bake cookies with you tonight?” I said. “You promised,” said Koah, my persistent five-year old with a memory of steel. “It’s almost 7 o’clock, which is way too late to start making cookies. We’ve got to get ready for school tomorrow.” She looked at me with hope mixed with resolve. “You promised.”

It was Monday January 16, 2012 the day we celebrate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had taken vacation time to be at home with our kids. When the day was young, I did promise to make celebration cookies. But, that was before I was before I knew that my husband would need to have me follow him to take his vehicle for a repair and that kiddo #2 would need to have his glasses replaced after losing them at a wrestling meet and that kiddo #1 would need some “supervision” to complete a writing assignment that I thought was already done. At this point in the evening, I really didn’t feel like making cookies.

But Psalm 15:4 was in my head from the daily Bible passage and it including this phrase in the New Living Translation, (the godly) keep their promises even when it hurts.

I took a deep breath, then got the ingredients out and told Koah to wash her hands. She was thrilled. She began to select several small shakers of colored sprinkles from the cookie decorating stash. We made the dough, using two-thirds all-purpose and one-third oat flour. (It makes me feel better about eating sugar cookies if whole grain is included.) We rolled and cut out the cookies. They are baked, cooled and decorated. Working side-by-side, smiling, laughing, enjoying each other and even the process we are finished after an hour. Koah chose two of the cookies she decorated and drank a small cup of milk. I decided to leave the kitchen in the state of cookie production mess, and got her cleaned up and into bed. While the teenager finished his assignment at the desk nearby, I worked on the kitchen. It was late – but I still ate a couple of cookies with milk myself. They are probably the best tasting cookies we have ever made.

Several days later, the true lesson begins to emerge, as I see a message on my computer about deleting computer cookies. According to wisegeek.com, “a computer cookie is a small text file which contains a unique ID tag, that placed on your computer by a website.” As I understand it, cookie technology allows users to keep track of information entered at a site for future reference. For example, if you submit a registration form, the site associates the information you filled in, with you, as you travel through the site’s pages. If there were no cookie file, every time you clicked on a different page in the site, the site would lose the information that is attached to you, forcing you to re-enter it.

Interesting. Maybe… the making of “sugar cookies” gave me a vehicle to leave some “positive memory cookies” on the hard drive of my daughter’s heart. Hmmm. How amazing that God can use something so simple as an evening spent, baking, laughing, talking, and sharing to potentially reinforce important things that I want her to know.

Like: 1. Mom loves Koah. I like to spend time with her, even though the many demands on my time sometimes keep me from doing what I set out to do.

And 2. To the best of my ability, mom wants to be a “promise-keeper.” If I say it, for the most part, you can trust it.

So… from today on I will try to remember that small things can really be big things in disguise. And now that I have this new analogy, I want to intentionally deposit positive relationship cookies into my friends and loved ones… along with the sugar variety.

Koah & Kyler Making Cookies at CHRISTmas

Our Cookie Recipe (It is based upon Sugar Cookie Cutouts, from Better Homes and Gardens, New Cook Book, 1989.)

Ingredients

1/3 cup Butter

1/3 cup Crisco shortening

1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 cup Oat Flour (We typically use Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour)

1 Egg

¾ cup Sugar

1 Tablespoon Milk

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon Vanilla

Cream the butter and shortening with an electric mixer for one minute. To this add the sugar, half of the flour, baking powder, the egg, salt and the milk. Mix again until the ingredients are combined, and you have a loose batter. Add the vanilla and then mix in the balance of the flour. Shape the dough into a flat disk. Chill in the refrigerator wrapped in waxed paper for at least 15 minutes. If you have time, chill for a few hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour a flat surface and roll out half of the dough to a depth of 1/8 or ¼ inch. Use floured cutters or a knife to make cookies that are about the same size, so they will cook evenly. Bake cookies on an ungreased baking sheet for 8-10 minutes, or till the edges are lightly browned and the centers are firm. Cool on a clean brown paper bags, or a baking rack if you have one.

Decorate with icing made from powdered sugar mixed with milk until it is the consistency that you want for spreading or piping. We add a bit of fresh lemon juice for great flavor and use plastic condiment bottles (from Walmart) to make designs. And we usually sprinkle with nonpareils for added bling.

Kyler making swirls with a condiment bottle

We hope you will enjoy, 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