Monday, July 27, 2009

I've become a big fan of casseroles. While they aren't considered to be very sophisticated cooking, they certainly meet my needs at this stage in life. Here's why:

1. They are easily made ahead and can be thrown in the fridge to cook later (or sometimes the freezer for another day). In my case this often means during nap time.

2. I can get the kitchen cleaned and dishes washed up while they are baking in the oven. It is nice sitting down to a meal knowing that you don't have a huge mess waiting for you.

3. They often combine all the food groups in one dish - or can be tweaked to do so.

4. We tend to not eat meat-heavy meals, so casseroles are a great way to stretch smaller portions of meat.

5. They are also a good way to sneak in vegetables for those who would typically avoid such things.

6. They are about the easiest meals to take to other people or share in a potluck.

7. They are incredibly versatile.

8. They can be quite economical.

Some of my favorites are:

Broccoli Chicken Delight served over pasta or rice
Spaghetti Pie with a salad or steamed veg

Just recently I discovered another casserole that we all loved. In the spirit of eating more seasonally, this one is perfect for the summer. Below is my adaptation from the original recipe on allrecipes.com.

Zucchini Herb Casserole

A good portion of cooked rice (I probably had 4-5 cups worth)
1 - 1 1/2 cups of sausage (I used the crumbly, breakfast-type, but probably any kind would work.)
2-3 med zucchini, cubed
several green onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika (I didn't have any, so it works without as well)
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook the rice ahead of time. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Cook up the sausage. Add the zucchini, onions and garlic and stir-fry until tender. Mix in seasonings, then add rice, tomatoes and half the cheese. Cook until heated through. Transfer to a casserole dish, sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly (about 20 min). Serve hot. YUM!

You could probably add different vegetables to this dish depending on your preferences. Yellow squash and leeks are two that come to mind. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When we moved into our semi-furnished house, we were happy to discover that the couch hiding up in the bedroom was also a pull-out bed. The only problem was its intense pink color. Nonetheless my husband struggled it down the stairs so that we would have SOMETHING in the living room. Our hope was to get it covered eventually.

Well, thanks to fabric donated by my lovely aunt, great sewing done by my mother while she was here and a staple gun loaned from church, it is done (except that I should probably iron it)! I hope that slowly I can decorate the room in brown and teal. Thanks, mom, for the pillows...and all the sewing.

I also discovered that using a staple gun is rather therapeutic and potentially addictive.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Having lived for a few years in "Land of the Chopsticks", I've found out they are very useful little tools. It is pretty impressive watching the Chinese eat spaghetti or hamburgers with them. We used to have challenges to see who could pick up the most peanuts in one pinch. But besides eating, these little sticks can have other interesting uses:

1. Stirring - Two chopsticks make a great whisk (and much easier to clean). Whether it is scrambling eggs, mixing wet ingredients or stir-frying, they can get the job done. A single chopstick works well for stirring hot drinks.

2. Flipping - For most of us, tongs would be the easiest way to turn meat in the frying pan or vegetables on the grill, but those adept at using chopsticks will probably get the job done quicker.

3. Retrieving - After dropping vegetables down inside the fore-mentioned grill, chopsticks are a great way to solve the problem by picking up things just out of reach or in hot places.

4. Serving - There are as many serving uses for chopsticks as there are meals to eat (almost), but one particularly helpful tip I learned in China is to use chopsticks to serve the shredded lettuce in taco meals. (But if you are just at home with your family and not squeamish, then go with the fingers... They're even easier.)

5. Styling - A nice pair of chopsticks look very pretty holding up long hair.

6. Disciplining - A single chopstick makes a good "rod of correction" - especially in the very early stages when you're mostly dealing with little swats to the hand or bottom. I had a friend who kept one in her back pocket all day as she trained a particularly willful child.

So, if it is not a part of your kitchen yet, go buy yourself a pair of chopsticks and get creative with using them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Being a parent of two for a grand total of four weeks now, I decided to write down my impressions as we welcomed a new little one into our home. These were some of my first, and often repeated, thoughts in the past month:


1. In comparison I can't believe how big my firstborn is and how far he's developed physically and mentally in two years.

2. I love having a baby in the house again! - especially since she is so easy.

3. There is far less time to just enjoy and dwell on my second child compared to my first. I miss it.

4. Days are going to seem to go by a whole lot faster this time around.

My mom reminded me that this will probably be one of the busiest stages of my parenting life with a baby needing all that babies do and a second child looking to me for entertainment, training and correction. Most moms say it gets easier once they can start playing together. I look forward to that time, but I'm enjoying now too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

With a new baby in the house, it was time to put my Tummy Tub to the test. Mei Li's first bath was in the sink and she cried the whole time (probably because there wasn't enough water to keep her warm). Here is a video of her enjoying either her first or second time in the Tummy Tub (I can't remember which).

video

After several more bathes under our belts, we are learning how to make it work. My impressions?...

Plusses:
In our cold climate, it is really nice to have the baby in enough water to keep her warm (I've added more water since the video). She loves it as well. Again, it is extremely economical in water usage compared to other bathing methods. The rounded bottom makes it comfortable for the baby, and by placing it in the sink, comfortable for mom (or grandma) to do the bathing.

Minuses:
As in most cases with a baby this age, it is awkward to keep her head up until she develops more muscle control. As you can see, washing her lower regions can be difficult though I've found that pulling her up out of the water, turning her face-down and supporting her chest with my arm allows me to get a fairly good clean down there - she isn't keen on this because it's cold out of the water.

Overall, I'm not sold-out enough to say that it is worth the $30-45.00 you would have to spend in the states. I look forward to seeing how my experience changes as Mei Li develops and requires less support.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I haven't been in this blog world too long, and recently I've started to question my motives and purposes in blogging. I think that some of my reasons that I stated at the beginning are valid, but I see there also a pitfall - which I will elaborate on in a minute.

In the past month, a couple things have come up (I'm not referring to a baby.. =). First, there was a good sermon series done at our church about blogging, facebook and the internet world. I referred to it here. One of the points the pastor kept re-emphasizing is the temptation to use these medias to promote ourselves. It is so easy to make it be about "ME". One thing I don't like about blogging - both mine and others - is that it is so easy to talk about my strengths and play down my weaknesses... Or address my weaknesses in a way that sounds godly and pious. A great struggle for women is comparing ourselves to others - whether we consider ourselves falling short of someone's example or whether we consider ourselves and our choices to be "above" or "better" than another's. I enjoy reading blogs when they inspire me to be a good mother or homemaker, but I have to guard my heart that they are not inspiring me towards jealousy or feelings of inadequacy. I have been convicted that my blogging has been too much about "ME"... The pitfall I referred to is my desire to impress people. I want people to consider me well-informed, interesting, amusing, on top of my game, etc... And so, I try to write to that aim. I hope for comments on my posts or my facebook because they affirm me. Of course this is all sinful, ugly and needs to be changed.

Secondly, I've considered the effects of blogging on my role as a mother. I have a new baby in the house who needs mama - a lot. My son is also leaping forward developmentally, and with this growth I've seen areas of sinfulness and foolishness that need my focus and energy to correct and train. Reading parenting advice on the Raising Godly Tomatoes website has reminded me just how full-time this role is and how vital that it be my priority. While I've tried to limit blogging to nap time or night time, it still takes time and energy that I could better use in my home, for my home. Recently, I read a blog that reinforced something I was already feeling regarding blogging and it's effects. Crystal at BiblicalWomanhood is a much more seasoned blogger with a following, but there were a few things she said that hit home for me:

I'd rather just focus on quietly loving the Lord and loving my family.
The longer I live, the more I'm learning just how little I know. Someday, Lord-willing, I'll be able to teach younger women in the spirit of Titus 2, but for now, this is the season for me to quietly live, learn, and practice that which I believe.
So true.

Where does this leave me? Well, I don't want to shut down my blog.... yet. I think I will focus on using it just for family updates (as originally intended) and perhaps throw in a recipe or something that excites me here and there. I probably will post less - maybe not, but mostly, there needs to be a change of heart on my part. If I find this isn't happening, then I will shut down entirely. I do not want to sacrifice my husband, children and especially, my Lord for an "outlet".

Saturday, July 4, 2009


"Oh that God would give every mother a vision of the glory and splendor of the work that is given to her when a babe is place in her bosom to be nursed and trained! Could she have but one glimpse in to the future of that life as it reaches on into eternity; could she look into it's soul to see its possibilities; could she be made to understand her own personal responsibility for the training of this child, for the development of its life, and for its destiny,--she would see that in all God's world there is no other work so noble and so worthy of her best powers, and she would commit to no others hands the sacred and holy trust given to her." -JR Miller

Photo courtesy of allposters.co.uk

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This is day five of our "Simple Ways to Support Missionaries" series. To catch up please click on the following links: Praying, Communicating, Volunteering, Care Packages.

Day five is about welcoming missionaries back to their home countries. Different organizations have different policies regarding "home assignment", but typically missionaries have spent 2-4 years out of their home countries and are going to experience a level of readjustment or "culture shock".

There are some ways that we can help them through these transitions:

1. Start before they show up. Be in communication, ask their needs. One concern I've heard from missionary parents is finding friends for their children during this temporary stay in their home country. If you have children of similar ages, getting them in touch before hand might help to give them friendships to look forward to. Often returning missionaries have a slew of logistics to work through - housing, transportation, schooling for children, speaking engagements, medical check-ups, etc... Learn their needs and be on the look out for ways to meet those needs.

2. Educate them. By this I mean, let them know what is happening in your church, the neighborhood that they are moving into, the school they intend to send their children to, local politics or whatever you think might be significant to their time at home. Send them newspaper clippings or church bulletins, fliers about upcoming activities or local fairs. The list goes on and on.

3. Prepare for them. My parents always felt so blessed to show up, exhausted after long flights, to our church's mission home with beds already made and a well-stocked fridge and pantry. See if there are ways you can provide for their basic needs. Most families might not be ready for a meal invitation in the first week (or maybe they would?), but taking over a frozen meal or homemade bread might be just the right thing.

4. Welcome them. Depending on your relationship and their family situation, descending en mass to the airport to greet them might not be the best idea, but have a welcome card waiting for them. Include a list of helpful phone numbers. Fresh flowers are also an uplifting greeting.

Today was our last day, and while this is in no way an exhaustive list of how to support missionaries, I hope it has helped to inspire you to be more purposeful in using your time, finances and creativity to encourage those living and ministering in foreign countries. I know I have been challenged to face my short-comings. With the way the world's economy seems to be headed, it is not going to be easier to make these choices, but it will be more necessary than ever. May God bless you as He uses you to bless others.

Photo from flickr.com