Monday, June 22, 2009

$100 winning cookies

Back in 1997 when I was trying to prove myself as a homemaker and farmer's wife, I entered the "Land o' Lakes Cookie Contest" at the Spokane Interstate Fair. The cookies were judged on taste, of course, but also on presentation. I made white chocolate / macadamia nut cookies and presented them in a hand-stamped gift bag. I hovered and hovered and hovered (much to the dismay of the judges) and when I saw that the judging was finished I asked, "Who won?" and she pointed to my entry! MINE! Not only that, but my little 8-year-old Elizabeth won 3rd place in this youth and adult contest.

The local newspaper did a little story and a picture, but sadly, the recipe was misprinted. I'm sure a lot of women tried to make the cookies and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Recently I made a batch for my pregant stepdaughter, Rebecca (and her husband and unborn baby), and she opened the bag before ordering her Spaghetti Factory dinner and ate one (or two?).

I thought I'd share this yummy, yummy recipe with you. By the way, you'll be amazed at the ingredients. I've never figured out a calorie or fat count, but hey, it's the price you pay for such excellent cookies!

Mix 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 can sweetened condensed milk (LOL), and 1 t. vanilla. Add 1-3/4 cups flour, 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. baking soda. Then stir in 3 cups quick oats, 1 bag white chocolate chips, and 1 cup chopped mac. nuts. Use the larger Pampered Chef cookie scoop and place cookies 2" apart and flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-13 minutes. They won't be brown but need to be set. Cool on rack.

Make sure you give some of these away. You'll eat way too many! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Putting out the welcome mat

By now, most of you know that the reason I want to have a well-run and simplified home is so that I have more time to spend with Jesus and then go out and love my world. I said, Go out and love my world. And I've compartmentalized my life quite well this way.

You see, my home is my sanctuary. My place of peace and quiet rest. And while I haven't gone so far as to put out one of those silly "welcome" mats that reads, "Go Away!" that phrase definitely expresses what's in my heart.

I've been good at practicing the discipline of silence and solitude and then going out to serve, but then I come home and bolt the door. No company allowed! But shutting the door doesn't always work, and neither is it appropriate. So this morning God brought to mind that I need to be more open about opening my home.

In Mark 6, after a busy season of ministry, Jesus told his disciples, "Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile. So they left by boat... where they could be alone." But the people went ahead and were waiting on the other side. When Jesus saw them, He felt compassion on them. When the disciples saw them, they simply tolerated the people until dinnertime. Then they tried to send the people away.

This story made me stop and think: Am I more like Jesus? Desiring a rest and quiet time but being available when I see a greater need? Or, am I like the disciples, trying to figure out how to "send them away" before they inconvenience me or steal my quiet time. I don't need to think long and hard about that one. I've "roped off" my house for years lest anyone intrude on my place of quiet rest, but now? For Jesus' sake, I'm willing to put out the welcome mat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

White is the new black

Years ago I decided to stock my kitchen with colorful Fiesta Ware. I was always buying assorted dishes because there are some many great dishes out there. I went with the Fiesta Ware hoping it would satisfy my need for variety. Now that about fifteen years have passed and my dishes were getting pretty scratched up, I made a change. To white.

Oooh, the white dishes are so pretty. I bought salad and dinner plates at IKEA and am now adding to the collection with various pieces from Goodwill. Just yesterday I picked up two pristine, clean-lined mugs for .25 each and one bowl. Often I find Crate & Barrel, Pier 1, and Excell (a product made in China that looks great!).

The white is useful for every event and holiday. Last weekend I used the salad plates for my stepdaughter's baby shower. I added yellow and purple decorations, napkins, and flowers, and it was stunning. Soon it will be Independence Day. My white dishes will be beautiful with touches of red and blue added. Yesterday in a magazine I saw two great ideas: (1) attach pre-made frosting stars (with a dab of more frosting) around the border of a platter to make a festive serving piece, and (2) hot glue tiny streamers around the bottom of a pedestaled cake plate.

I love my white dishes. It lets the food and the holiday be the star. Maybe you're more of a "cream" person, but either way, they are cheap and readily available at thrift stores. What fun!

Monday, June 8, 2009

My husband's alter ego: Clinton Kelly

"Did you see what that lady was wearing?"

Now, I've heard that question come out of my daughters' mouths or even my own mouth many times, but yesterday afternoon, I heard it from the most unlikely source: my husband. I don't remember Jeff ever saying anything like that before.

So I asked him exactly what she was wearing that made him notice and make such an unusual comment. "She was wearing Ugg boots (I didn't know he even knew what Ugg boots were) and sweat pants rolled up above her knees." Then he said, "Just call me Clinton." I think Jeff's been around a house full of girls for too long.

Even though they can be rather inconsistent, I love watching Clinton and Stacy on "What Not to Wear." They really do have some great advice regarding looking age appropriate and wearing clothes that are flattering rather than revealing.

Locally, Rebecca Mielke looks at fashion at her website I'm glad she's interested and gifted in the area of clothes and fashion because I'm not! Check out her website so that one day you're not walking out of Walmart and causing the heads of normally fashion-dead husbands to turn and say, "Did you see what she was wearing?"

Friday, June 5, 2009

Whatever Friday: Don't Ask Me for a Good Recipe

Yesterday on Facebook, my husband's cousin's daughter posted the following on my page: "So since you seem to be really good at food/home stuff, I'm trying to figure out an inexpensive but plentiful recipe... to take to a picnic."


This is the risk I run branding myself as a home organization and time management speaker and writer. I am not really good at food and home stuff. In fact, everything I teach is in response to my frantic attempt to actually carry out this Titus 2 role as the "maker of my home." Naturally, I stink at it and, in some ways, I'm not all that interested.

I teach what I teach for one reason: to get Christian women to stop making their homes an idol. Yes, I said an idol. To stop spending all their time and money shopping and decorating and cleaning, and get on with the more important things: loving God and loving people.

I've learned some things over the years, like how to make a great cheesecake and wrap nice-looking packages, but mostly I've learned that there's nothing like spending time with Jesus. Jesus told Martha that her sister, Mary, had discovered the one thing worth being concerned about, and that it would not be taken away from her. Our housework doesn't last, but the time we spend with Jesus does.

I couldn't give Jayleen a good answer to her recipe question but I couldn't tell her that. Instead, I found one at for Greek Pasta Salad. (Note: I'd substitute Kalamata olive for black and rotini for elbow mac.) But she opted for someone else's cornbread recipe. Humph!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

'Tis the Season

Ah, spring. The flowers are blooming, capris are coming out of storage, and our mailbox is overflowing -- with announcements and invitations.

Yes, 'tis the season for graduations and weddings. These events, of course, are fun to celebrate, but the added expense (literally of both time and money) demands I stop and make a plan. Otherwise, I'm going to end up overspending and rushing at the last minute to throw something together. And so...

Graduation: It happens every year. Like clockwork. May or June. So, rather than scrambling at the last minute, I'm going to stamp a pile of cards. (You can also buy cute packages of them at Walmart.) Recently I bought a cool dandelion stamp. It's a mature dandelion with some of the "fluff" still in a ball at the top of the stem, and some of the seeds flying off into the wind. Think about it. It's a perfect symbol for the graduate. They've learned what they've learned for twelve years, and now they're "blowing" out into the world. Typically a graduate enjoys $$$ over a gift, so a card and a check is our standard gift for most graduates. Usually, because of the amount of annoucements we receive, we give $10. If it's a relative or someone special, we'll give more.

Weddings: Although wedding registries are widely available and very appreciated by those who are stuck wondering what the couple could use, I think it's much easier to give a really great cookbook. Every bride needs a cookbook, so I've stocked up on a few classics. I bought reversable toile wrapping paper (google it if you don't know what 'toile' is) in black/white and red/white, and I'm stamping a pile of matching cards. Besides being a great gift, cookbooks are easy to wrap. No need to find a box or gift bag.

As you can tell by my blogs so far, I'm always trying to simplify and save when I can. Maybe you have some great wedding and graduation gift ideas. I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Cook, or Not to Cook?

"What's for dinner?" It's a question we're asked (or we ask ourselves) 365 days a year. Now for some of you, it's no big deal. Open a can, thaw a pound, boil a bag, and voila! Dinner is on the table! But for women like me... it's not so easy.

When I was first trying to learn how to cook for a family of nine, I did what anyone like me would do: I subscribed to cooking magazines, like Bon Apetit and Gourmet. Yes, I did. And I learned something all right: I learned that I love to read cooking magazines! They never actually helped me get anything onto the table.

For years I've tried planning my meals, but I think I've finally come up with a winner. Based on meat categories (for the most part), I have three favorite recipes for each and simply rotate the menu. It looks like this:

Monday: chicken (Greek pita packets, BBQ, roast chicken)
Tuesday: ground beef (meatloaf,tacos, lettuce wraps)
Wednesday: Papa Murphy's pizza (my going-to-town day)
Thursday: pork or fish (pulled pork - mmmm, salmon, frogmore stew)
Friday: pasta (carbonera, clam, pesto and asparagus tortellini)
Saturday: (summer) BBQ/salad (hamburgers, steak, or pork chops)

So, are you a Pampered Chef or a Hampered Chef (like me)? And what's for dinner tonight?