Saturday, December 26, 2009

What Not To Bake

This post was not originally going to have this title. I thought it would be so cool to try to be like The Pioneer Woman and feature a fabulous holiday recipe, complete with step-by-step photos of the entire process from start to finish so that you could be inspired to make it yourself! If you've ever visited PW's blog, especially the cooking section, you'll see the similarities immediately - minus the fabulous photography, modern appliances, really cool cooking utensils and the sparkling oven.

Our sad story begins when I found a recipe at the Tasty Kitchen blog. It is called Soda Cracker Toffee. I know 'soda cracker' and 'toffee' sound a little weird together. I've even seen it called Redneck Toffee or Trailer Trash Toffee. Don't let that scare you - I've had this before and it's delicious. You can't even tell there are crackers in it! At least you shouldn't be able to tell.

Let's start with what it is supposed to look like:

photo courtesy of television

With that mouth-watering image firmly in mind, let's start baking, shall we?

Step 1 is to line a jelly roll pan with foil and then lay a sleeve of crackers to cover the bottom. Except my jelly roll pan must be bigger than the recipe-writer's because it took more than one sleeve of crackers. This was my first red flag. The recipe did say 10x15 but who can be bothered with measuring your pans?

Measure 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup butter into a saucepan.

Bring the sugar and butter to a gentle boil, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes. (Blurry - I know. But look at the focus on that adjacent burner!)

Carefully pour the hot butter and sugar over the crackers. So far, so good!

Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

Turn off the oven. Sprinkle a 12 oz. package of chocolate chips over the top of the cracker mixture and return to the oven for 4 -5 minutes. (Red flag #2 - this still looks like a bunch of Saltines. Hmmmm.)

Remove from the oven and spread melted chocolate chips over the entire top of the cracker mixture. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Let set.

Here is where it gets ugly.

It was extremely difficult to separate the 'candy' from the foil. I may or may not have whined and moaned at this point.

I was finally able to do it but the result was a whole mess of buttery, sticky crackers that still just looked like soda crackers and not candy at all. Notice the legs of a few sympathetic family members who came running when they heard me crying gathered around to offer support.

Does this look mouth-watering to you? It wasn't. Trust me.

So in conclusion:
  1. You would most likely have more success than I did with this recipe.
  2. I am not Pioneer Woman. I must accept this and go back to my boring old blog.
  3. I may be a redneck.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Find a comfy chair...

Hey there! I hope you're finishing up with everything there is to do so that you can sit down with a cup of coffee or cocoa, put your feet up and read a good story to your kids, watch a Christmas movie or just SIT! I love to do that in the evening with all the lights out except the Christmas tree.

Here are the links I'd recommend for some encouraging reading...

9 Words That Changed My Life -
I love this about our God.

The Christmas Bonus
Spontaneous, irrational affection.

Pretending We Have Boxes
It's pretty hard to keep sin from leaking.

I was going to do a list like this - still think it's a good idea!

Getting sassy with God.

Excellent from Beth on answered prayers for healing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One thing.

I think it's always good to slow down and remember what's really important.

  • It's not important how many gifts are under the tree for each person in the family or that they are 'even.'
  • It's not important that there's one burned out blue lightbulb on the roof (even though it tends to drive me crazy).
  • It's not important how the cookies look. It's not. (see previous post)
  • It's not even important whether we go to the 4:00 or 6:00 candlelight service.
These things are SO not important. I started writing this with the idea of copying another blogger and listing the 20 things I'm most looking forward to this Christmas. I still may do that someday. But when I started thinking about it, I realized I've fallen back into my old habit of majoring on the minor things. The outward stuff instead of what's in my heart.

Remember Martha? She and I are kindred spirits. She was working so hard to make things nice for everybody but getting a little bugged that her sister didn't seem to care enough about all of the things that were important to her.

I love Jesus' words to her in Luke 10. They are also spoken to me. “My sweet Becky, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over all these details. There is only one thing worth being concerned about."

That 'one thing' is Christ Jesus.

What is important is to ask 'Who am I trying to please?'
Is it someone else's real or imagined expectations?
Is it my own self?
Or is it Him?

This year I've been pained to discover that I am a Pharisee (I plan to write more of my thoughts on that in the new year) and that I often feel pretty self-satisfied. That conclusion is reached without an honest look inside. Why do I like to try to fix everything/everyone else except my own heart? Because I don't want to face what I'll find there. I might have to admit to some really ugly motives or do the work of a major attitude adjustment.

So... the one thing is really something that I can give to Him: Me. My attention. My rights to this or that. My willingness to love when it's hard. My expectations. My time. For Him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apparently I have issues

Happy Wednesday! Are you enduring or embracing these wonderful days leading up to Christmas? Are you making time to be quiet? To enjoy your loved ones?

I made Christmas cookies with my daughter the other day - I was scooping and she was plopping the balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. When I asked her to flatten them, she took the tips of her fingers and squished them down, leaving dents the size of lunar craters in the tops of the cookies that were supposed to look like perfectly round disks (the operative word being 'perfect'). Aaachh! I screeched mildly and her eyes widened with a look that said, 'Mother, chill! It's cookie dough.' (She may have even laughed at me for being so freaked out.)

Lindsey says she doesn't remember but I've always been terrible about cooking with my kids. The mess! The fingers in the mouth! The not-doing-it-my-way. Ugh - it's embarrassing even putting that fact in writing for all three of you to read. I'd much rather you think of me as one of those mothers who loves having their kids sit on the counter while they bake, chuckling warmly at the way they lick the beaters and smear frosting in cute, unrecognizable patterns on sugar cookies. What is wrong with me??

So Lindsey and I had a talk about ways we're alike and different. About strengths and weaknesses. About my tendancy to be a wee bit controlling. About how I want to change. So I let her finish squishing the cookie dough however she wanted. She is 18, after all. As it turned out, it didn't matter one bit because when they baked, the cookies spread and flattened to 1/16" thick chocolate shortbread wafers. Ah well. Que sera sera, I always say.

So I'm trying to take a deep breath and lighten up. I thought I'd share a few of the Christmas pics I've found in Blogland this month...

The dreaded family Christmas photo session... Fly Through Our Window

A flowerpot Nativity set that just seems to get it right when it comes to illustrating "God With Us" - especially the 'us' people there with baby Jesus... Big Mama

A racetrack Christmas tree... Not So Random Stuff

Chocolate Nutella Turnovers. Well, YUM!... Bake at 350

And finally, you need to stare at this one for a minute to catch all that's going on. The four year old knew she only had a very limited amount of time to get all of her requests in so she wasn't wasting a second. The two year old, poor thing, never got a word in. Just look at his sweet face.

And then there's Santa.

It's not Christmas unless...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Born That We May Have Life

No reputation, no stately bearing
No palace bed for royalty
But a star in the heavens, a sign full of wonder
Announcing the coming of the King of kings

Rejoice, O world,
Your Saviour has come
Through the love of a virgin’s womb
Son of God, Son of man,
Born that we may have life
You were born that we may have life

A throne in a manger, the cross in a cradle
The hidden revealing this glorious plan
Of a Child who would suffer, a Child who would conquer
The sin of every woman, the sin of every man

Rejoice, O world,
For the King of kings
And the Lord of lords
Rejoice, O world,
A Saviour is born
Who brings us life and brings peace
Born that we may have life
You were born that we may have life
You were born that we may have life

words and music by Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher & Ed Cash
Glory In The Highest

Play song from

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hunting the Live Christmas Tree

I usually love to get the Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving - it means we get to enjoy it longer! This year, we waited until our two college girls got home after finals before going to cut our tree. Because Amy wasn't with us, it just didn't feel quite right. One day, I hope she lives close enough to get in on these family traditions again. (Are you reading this, Peanut?)

I love a real, live Oregon noble fir! I heard about a tree farm not too far from our house (thanks Katy!) that sells only nobles and every tree is $25! So we braved the cold temps (it was 24 degrees - yikes) and tromped through the tree farm, hunting for the perfect Christmas tree.

Well, I'm sure you'd like to see how our tree looked once we got it in the stand, in the house and all decorated, right?

I L-O-V-E Christmas. The music. The lights. The time together. This year I'm wanting so much to L-O-V-E the One who loves me. I've been reading 1 John in the mornings.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Do I really grasp how much God loves me? Christmas is His lavish demonstration of love. God - because He couldn't bear the thought of me having to suffer the consequences of my own selfish pride - came to earth in human skin, was born in blood and pain, all the time destined to die in the same way.
For me.
He came in ultimate, real, lived-out love.
Chosen love.
Chosen to be His child.
Adopted into His family.
Heir to all that He has.
It's fantastic, over-the-top, unconditional LOVE.

Those are the 'wonders of His love' I'm singing about this year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Links

I've never cared for the classical paintings depicting the Nativity - probably because I have no taste for fine art - but I like to think it's because they don't even come close to depicting what it really must have been like.
Here is an interesting version of Mary's birth story. In all its blood and pain.

Feeling stressed out or behind in your holiday preparations? Here are Six Ways to Simplify and Refocus during this season.

What a cute way to display Christmas cards! And there are a few more too.

I loved these ideas for creating your own ornaments - to keep or give away. Beautiful!

Time to reread a holiday favorite with a pretty good message!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Give Presence

Have you heard of it? The Advent Conspiracy. I first heard about it last year at church and it immediately caught my attention because I've always struggled with wanting Christ to be at the very center of my celebration of Christmas but somehow never feeling like I'd been too successful.

The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope and a revolutionary love. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas? What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

I especially identify with "this empty feeling of missed purpose." Because while I totally enjoy everything about the whole Christmas season, I'm often left knowing I've missed what God had for me to do. Ways He wanted to use me for His purpose. Sure, I've worshiped while singing carols and I've been very grateful for Emmanuel - God with us! But have I successfully communicated to my children that God's gift to us in Jesus prompts us to give back to Him? Giving Him all of ourselves. Our love. Our time. Our everything.

Here is the essence of The Advent Conspiracy...


I have to work at this because I can so easily focus on enjoying a feeling or finding the right gift instead of actually giving myself to God and others. It's much easier to buy a present than to give my time. To crank out 100 cards than to find ways to bring encouragement to someone who is hurting. To check things off my list than to stop and ask whose need I could meet today.

We're changing some things about how we do Christmas this year. Our Christmas budget needs to be less about gifts under our tree and more about giving with purpose. Worship to start off each day. Asking whether or not to spend on this or that. Looking for more ways to serve.

I'd love to hear how you will spend yourself this Christmas!

Since you excel in so many ways...
I want you to excel also in this
gracious act of giving
2 Corinthians 8:7

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Your Name

As morning dawns and evening fades
You inspire songs of praise
That rise from earth to touch Your heart
And glorify Your Name

Your name
Is a strong and mighty tower
Your name
Is a shelter like no other
Your name
Let the nations sing it louder
'Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your name

Jesus in Your Name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord give us strength to live for You
And glorify Your Name

© 2006 Integrity's Hosanna! Music Vertical Worship Songs
Words and Music by Paul Baloche

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lotsa Links

Bake at 350: Christmas cookies that look impossibly gorgeous. I WISH I had the time and whatever else it takes to create something so beautiful! I like this kiwi green.

Handmade Christmas Tags - These are made by a mother of five so I have no excuses. Love these! (Note the same green - is there a pattern here?)

Lights on Display - Click on any of the video years to see a pretty awesome show.

The Once Toxic Coffee Table - Would you have purchased this table at Goodwill?
You will not believe the 'after' picture.

Seeing Your Pastor in the Wild - I got a good chuckle out of this one, then I sent it to my pastor.

And two from a favorite blog writer of mine, Antique Mommy, because she says what so many of us feel:

The Red Sofa - Getting perspective on our 'stuff'

Big Things - Planning what goes under the tree this Christmas

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for...

The LORD is my strength and my shield.
My heart trusts in Him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.

Psalm 28:7

Today I'm thankful to God for:

  • all of my girls home for the weekend - our nest is full again!

  • being able to have everybody in the family over for Thanksgiving dinner

  • the start of the Christmas season (now I don't have to hide the fact that I'm listening to Christmas music)

  • an awesome church that makes giving a priority and a pastor who God uses to speak to me

  • precious friendships that span many years

  • my job - I can't believe I get to be a part of something big God is doing in Ethiopia

  • the auto-start timer on my coffee maker

  • the book of Isaiah

  • eyes that see, ears that hear, limbs that move!

  • the real, living, accomplishing Word of God

    How about you? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gettin' Ready

Hey there! Jeff and I are trying to get this place in some sort of shape for all the family coming for turkey on Thursday. Jeff's been working on the broken garbage disposal (he's always been very resourceful with tools) and I'm in charge of baking and decorating. You like my apron?
Am I the only one who drives myself crazy over this kind of stuff? Raise your hand if your name could be Martha (and I don't mean Stewart). I start one project - like dusting the bedrooms - then I think "I should hang some Christmas lights in here so it feels homey and cozy for the girls!" So I start digging through the Christmas boxes where I find a wreath that needs a new ribbon. So I go to the box in the garage where my ribbon is and I see the rake I left out to finish the pile of leaves I started gathering...

You see where this is going. Nowhere. Fast.
I want to enjoy having my girls home, my dad, mother-in-law, brother and family here. And I know I won't if I'm stressed about things being 'just so' and my back is killing me. I've done it WAY too many times in the past and I hope I'm learning from my mistakes.
So... I'm writing a blog post instead of doing anything to get ready. Hey, I got the Christmas lights up in the bedrooms! It will all get done. And in the end, it won't matter if everything isn't perfect. I'm so glad! I hope you're enjoying this holiday - even the gettin' ready part!
Happy Thanksgiving!

"Freedom From Want" by Norman Rockwell
The Saturday Evening Post 1943

Thursday, November 19, 2009

As the Rudes Get Ruder, the Scolds Get Scoldier

In this morning's Oregonian, there was a NY Times article titled "Battle lines blur over irksome behavior in public" written by Douglas Quenqua. Here's how it started:

Amy Alkon, a syndicated advice columnist and self-described “manners psycho,” recently encountered “Barry,” a loud cell phone talker at a Starbucks in Santa Monica, Calif.

“He just blatantly took over the whole place with his conversation, streaming his dull life into everybody’s brain,” Ms. Alkon recalled in a telephone interview. Among the personal details Barry shared that day — errands to run, plans for the evening — was his phone number, which Ms. Alkon jotted down. “I called him that night and said, ‘Just calling to let you know, Barry, that if you’d like your private life to remain private, you might want to be a little more considerate next time,’ “ she said.

So there.

The gist of the article is that while people are fed up with rude cell phone users, isn't it just as rude to exact revenge or deliver a public scolding? Some examples:

  • A McDonalds patron, irritated with another customer's loud cell phone chat, placed a small recording device on the table next to the offender. When asked what he was doing, he responded "Well, since you obviously want me to hear your conversation, I’d better keep a copy of it."
  • A woman riding on a commuter train recently had to listen to a stranger complain loudly by cell phone about his group therapy. The next time she saw him, about a week later, she asked how the therapy was going.
  • Ms. Alkon has a blog where she often posts the personal information shared by loud cell phone talkers.

I'll admit I've been shocked by how clueless people seem to be when they're talking on a cell phone. In public. I've had a conversation or two in my head with those folks and believe me, I got my point across.

But in reality, I lean more towards the solution offered by a company that makes cards you can hand to strangers with sayings like, "Can you please take your conversation elsewhere?" These cards come in a cute little drawstring bag and they cover a few different scenarios such as: inappropriate ringtones, talking too loudly and volume set on 'stun.' Their website says they "offer a gentle way to let the guy in the elevator who’s having an affair or the woman in the next cube who’s checking in with her therapist know that everyone is getting an earful. It's a wake-up call with humor and tact."

Some would call that a more passive-aggressive way to shame someone into being considerate of others. But I keep thinking about some of the thoughtless things I've done - in public - and of how thankful I am that no one turned a spotlight on me.

So I'm going to try to be less scoldier - even in my head.

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