Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Even Santa Needs a Savior...

Those are the words I remember each time I see this picture. It's from a card that I received over 20 years ago.

 I have no idea who gave it to me or who wrote it as there is no reference, but I have saved it all this time because it spoke to my heart in such a powerful way. I clearly remember the words "Even Santa Needs A Savior." Although they are not written on the card itself... maybe they were spoken to me by whoever gave it to me. I don't remember.

But one thing I do know... it will always remind me to teach my children the real meaning of Christmas.

I'll never know how Santa became the center of Christmas. Probably by the world's need for a Savior, but it's refusal to receive the One that's been given. How else could you explain it?

Oh, yes. I could say that the devil has used Santa to be a distraction from Jesus. And that would be true. But... we can't be distracted if we aren't willing.

I have been right there with everyone else... waiting in long lines, spending money I don't have on things we don't need. I'm no different. 

I've made it all about getting the best gift. The right gift. It's been about the decorations. And it's been about the entertaining.

Now, if I want to make myself sound a little better... I can say that it's all about family time and giving. Putting others first. And that wouldn't be a lie. It happens. More often now that I'm older. Or should I say... 'grown up'.

When I was younger I would strive to be more selfless. And I was to a point. But when the last two shopping days before Christmas get here... forget it. The all demanding 'to-do' list is now at 'priority' status. 

Last minute gifts to wrap (even though it will all be un-done in a matter of hours), last minute plans for dinner, and a whole lot of feeling like I forgot something. BUT... at least I helped someone else. Right?

All the giving, loving, and putting others first is great. It's not a bad thing. But if you're only doing it at Christmas... you're missing the point. God doesn't want us to obey Him for a season. He wants our obedience all year long. Or are you even doing it for Him?

I hope that we love because He loved us...and He commands us to love one another. Not for some self-serving satisfaction.

I can be as selfless as ever at Christmas. I can give until I have nothing left to give. And people would say that's the spirit of Christmas.

But it's not the MEANING of Christmas.

Jesus Christ was born... to die. To be the Savior of the World! There would be no holiday without Jesus. HE is the reason we celebrate. Santa may be fun. But he can't save anyone. Christmas belongs to Jesus. It's the day we celebrate His birth. The birth of our Savior.

Please don't think I'm bashing Santa. I just want to keep our perspective of who the holiday is really for and not elevate Santa to a position that belongs only to Jesus.

One final note from the inside of the card...

"God wants you to have a life worth living, not just at the holidays and so-called "good times." The life He gives has a peace that passes all understanding. Jesus says, "In the world you will have tribulation [trouble], but in Me you have peace."

"Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. This Christmas do as the Wise Men did, seek Him! And then you can join the rest of the family of God in "looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." The real reason for the season!"

John 16:33, John 14:27, Titus 2:13

Merry Christmas!
...and God bless!

Mary Ann :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Social Network Christmas

I thought this was a powerful video and wanted to share it with you. I guess this is what it might look like if Mary and Joseph had Facebook...

Hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks for visiting and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Delicious Cran-apple Pie

Cranberries and apples... what could make a better pie? This is by far my favorite. And while it makes a great summer treat, it also goes well with my Christmas menu. It just seems like a holiday dessert to me... hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top... amazing. I hope you enjoy it!

Delicious Cran-apple Pie

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons apple cider or water
1 (15-oz.) package Pillsbury All Ready Pie Crusts (or homemade)
5 cups (4 large) sliced peeled apples
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon milk
2 teaspoons sugar

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and apple cider. Bring to full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently; boil gently 5 minutes. Cool 15 to 20 minutes.

Prepare pie crust according to package directions for two-crust pie using 9-inch pie pan.

Heat oven to 425 F. In large bowl, combine apples, 2/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch; toss to coat apples. Stir in cooled cranberry mixture; toss lightly. Spoon into pie crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal and flute edges. Cut slits in top crust; brush with milk and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar.

Bake at 425 F. for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and apples are tender. Cover edge of pie crust with strips of foil after 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. 8 servings.

*This recipe is from and old cookbook that I've had for years...
"Pillsbury Harvest Time Baking & Cooking", Classic Cookbooks #129, November 1991.

Mary Ann :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Important Message... Feeling Suicidal?

I know this is a serious message and some of you would like it to be a little more lighthearted... but this is a very important and very REAL problem around the holidays.

No one should ever feel as if they are completely alone OR that there is no other option but to end their life. If this is you.... please continue reading.

There IS hope. People DO care. And you did NOT find this page by chance. You are here for a reason...

Please read the message below from Here you will find encouragement and help in the right direction. Take a look around their website. It was made for you!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

O Christmas Tree!

Setting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving has been a long time tradition in our family. Some may say it's too early... but I say that Christmas is a season... and Thanksgiving helps to bring it in. I mean, what more can we be thankful for? We've be given a Savior! 

This is our tree from last year. I would post a picture from this year... but it will look pretty much the same. That's what makes it special. 

Our tree has ornaments from 20 years ago and even older than that. I have every ornament that my children have made me over the years, and my oldest is 25. Beginning in Kindergarten, each of my kids would bring home a special ornament they made in school.

The angel above was made by my oldest son "Little Boy" when he was in the first grade. He will be 25 next week... and his angel is still on our tree. It has had to be repaired a couple of times. But it's hanging in there.

The little gingerbread man was made by my second oldest son... we'll call him "Kid". (He got that name because my youngest son could never pronounce his name. After many attempts... he began calling him "Kid"... and that is what he called him for many months.) He made this ornament in elementary school. He is now 23 and his ornament is still on the tree every year.

Not sure about Rudolf the Red-Nosed 'Milk Bone'... but he's been around for years. My kids can always remind me when I forget who made one of the ornaments.

This one is special because my Grandmother made it. She actually made 3 for me and they have been on the tree every year since. I didn't know her for very long and my kids were too young to know her... but her memory lives on each year on our tree.

When my oldest daughter "Little Lady" was in Kindergarten, there was a Carl's Jr. right down the street from us. The kids and I would walk over for lunch. It was a fun treat for us. Back then they had pretty cool toys in the kids' meal boxes. This ornament is one of them. We also have a Carl's Jr. reindeer star ornament as well.

This is one of our newest additions to our tree. I want to always remember the true meaning of Christmas. The gift of Jesus. It reminds me of a picture I once saw that said... "Even Santa needs a Savior".

These and more are the ornaments that adorn our tree. They are many. Just as we are. They have seen many years and show signs of wear... just as we do. Our tree tells the story of our family. Our history...

Handmade ornaments from my mother and my grandmother... special ornaments from my husband's mother...the first ornaments that my husband, children, and I picked out together the first year we were married... the first ornaments (at least the ones that survived) that I bought when I first set out on my own... and all the special ornaments that each of my children have made over the years hang there... and will as long as they last. To me... they are priceless.

I actually started to take photos of each ornament just in case one of them didn't make it to the next year. That way... we will always have the memories.

Yes, I could go out and buy new things and they would be beautiful. But they don't have a story to tell. They don't have the history that these do. It took us many years to get our tree to tell our own story... and I plan to keep adding to it. As long as the Lord allows.
Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :) 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Mail For Heroes

Have you started addressing those Christmas cards yet? Wait right there...
I have someone to add to your list!

Here's your chance to share a little Christmas Cheer with our Heroes who are serving our country. Many of them can't be home to celebrate with their families. Wouldn't it be wonderful to let them know that we support them and are thinking about them during this Christmas Season by sending them a Christmas card?

The Red Cross has a great program called "Holiday Mail For Heroes" that allows us to do just that. Follow the links on the top or at the bottom of this post and it will take you directly to their site. There you will find all the information you need to make a difference. And believe me... it is the little things that make a difference.

And while you're there, please read the guidelines carefully. They give the address to send the cards to, as well as information on how to address your card(s), what to include, what not to include, and whatever else you may need to know.

Have the little ones help! My kids love doing things like this and it teaches them early on that we should always think of others. It only takes a few minutes of your time... but the feeling that someone cares could last a lifetime. Won't you please send that gift to a soldier?

Oh... did I mention that your cards need to be postmarked by December 10th? We better get started!  :)

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life with Lord Byron by Peggy Nelson

If you're a fan of golf... or not, I think you will enjoy this wonderful story of Byron Nelson. "Life with Lord Byron" is written by his second wife, Peggy Nelson.

Peggy shares so much about the person that Byron Nelson was, it makes you feel as if you know him as well. From their first meeting to their wedding, from life on the ranch to traveling on golf tours, Peggy gives us a glimpse of this sports hero at his best. And it is not dissappointing.

Byron Nelson was not just an amazing golf pro. He was a great friend. A loving husband. Many who knew him share their stories of how he touched their lives. And the stories, which are many, are all consistent. They show a man who had great talent, yet remained humble. A man who was a well known celebrity yet lived his life like an ordinary Joe. Kind, caring, compassionate, giving... and he loved people.

I loved this book. Everything about it. The way Peggy told it made me feel like I was a part of the story. And like I wanted to be in the story. I love this great man of golf. He was a caring and gentle soul. True. Authentic. He not only shared his faith but he lived it. He didn't have to stand on a pulpit and preach... his life spoke volumes to those he came to know and love. He is someone I would have loved to meet.

Thanks, Peggy, for sharing your wonderful story with us! It really was a Cinderella Story. :)

*I received this book from Kathy Carlton Willis Communications in exchange for my honest review. You can check out their website at

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann  :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chicken 'n Dumplings... the ULTIMATE Comfort Food

If I had ONE meal that I could not go the whole winter without... this is it! Nothing like the fluffy dumplings in that wonderful chicken stew. Mmmm, mmm, good!

I never thought of posting the recipe for my chicken 'n dumplings... mostly because I don't have an actual recipe. But... I'm finding that not everyone makes it or has even tried it before. So I want to share it with you.

Some of my family members cannot have salt and other spices so I don't add any to the recipe. It's fine for us... we just add our own salt and pepper as we serve it. (And it looks much better than in the picture.) Feel free to add your favorite spices.

Chicken 'N Dumplings

1 whole chicken, boiled and shredded
1 bunch celery, diced  (add more or less)
5-6 carrots, sliced  (add more or less)          
flour (to thicken)
Dumplings (recipe below)

Here's how I do it:

Place the chicken in a large pot (I use an 8-qt) with enough water to cover. While the chicken is cooking, slice the celery and carrots into a medium bowl, set aside. When the chicken is done... (I usually boil it until it starts to fall apart... a sure sign it's done), remove the chicken from the pot to a plate or bowl to cool.

While the chicken is cooling, I like to strain the chicken broth to remove all the bones, skin, etc. at the bottom of the pot. You don't have to run it through a strainer, a slotted spoon works great, I'm just picky.

Return the chicken broth to the stove on med-high heat. If there is an excess of fat on top of the broth, remove most of it with a ladle or the dumplings will soak it up. Add the carrots and celery and bring to a boil. After boiling, turn heat down to medium. While the vegetables are cooking, carefully remove the skin from the chicken. Shred the meat and return to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are almost tender.

At this point, you will now want to thicken the broth. Take about 2-3 tablespoons of flour and mix with cool water. If you have a 'shaker'... even better. Now slowly pour into the pot, stirring constantly so it doesn't clump together. Stir often until broth is thickened to desired consistency.

Then... turn the heat so the broth is just bubbling. Now we add the dumplings.

Easy Dumplings

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons cold butter

Mix all the dry ingredients together with a wire whisk. Next, rub in the butter. Using your hands is best. Then add the milk and stir with a fork until it forms a stiff dough.

Now, drop the dough carefully by teaspoonfuls onto the bubbling stew. Cook for 10 minutes covered then remove the lid and cook 10 minutes longer. They are done when they are light and fluffy in the middle.

These are pretty foolproof. Just take note... this is a stiff dough. If you add too much liquid they will be too heavy. You don't want them to sink... but float on the top of the stew.

And that's it!

I hope you like it! My family loves this recipe. So much that we usually are too quick to eat it before cooling off. After it boils the dumplings for 20 minutes it tends to be extremely hot. But we never learn... we do it every time. LOL!

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Thanksgiving Tree

Last year, my kids and I started a new family tradition. It's our "Thanksgiving Tree".  My daughter brought home a project from school using a leaf pattern and I thought it would be a great decoration, so I make a pattern of my own. My first thought was to hang them randomly around the kitchen with things that we were thankful for written on each leaf. One of my kids suggested hanging them around our new family photos and then another one said "Hey, lets put a tree trunk on it and make it real tree!" So we did.

This is our tree from last year. We have already begun our tree for this year and I'll try to post a photo of it when we're finished. 

We each write something we are thankful for on a leaf and hang it on the tree. Everyone really enjoyed it. Most of us put up more than one leaf and everyone who came to our house made one as well. It was nice to see what we were all thankful for and it's a great reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about.

I'm sure our tree will be much bigger this year as we will have about 35 people over for dinner. All of whom I am tremendously thankful for. Family and friends, old and new. There are some who can't spend the day with us, but who are just as much a blessing to me... and I am thankful for them as well. I will be sure to put a leaf on the tree for them.

I love traditions. The old ones I can share from my childhood... and the new ones we will make together as a family. What traditions do have?

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

...and thanks for reading!
Mary Ann :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Apple Valley couple asking world: birth or abortion? -

This photo is not the baby in the article. The photo is from a public sharing site.

I have to ask myself... has it really come to this?

Has human life become so worthless that we could actually have an internet poll to decide if a child should live or die?

Is the idea of wanting a family and having children so obsolete... that we would take it so lightly... and we would ask the advice of perfect strangers who have no interest, no concern, no investment and would not be affected if the child lives or dies?

Apparently so. I just heard the story of a couple who is doing just that.

In the article Apple Valley couple asking world: birth or abortion? -, it talks about the 30-year-old couple who are undecided about giving birth to their baby boy, who is now at 17-weeks. They have posted ultrasound photos.... detailing his progress and even calling him "Wiggles". They see this precious child and yet they are still asking the public if they should let him live or abort.

I find this incredibly disgusting. Are we so far from family values that there is no longer the parental instinct to protect your child from all harm? To keep him safe and do your best for him? Have we really become so selfish that a child is no longer a blessing... but an inconvenience? So selfish that we would lay down the life of an innocent child to make our own more comfortable? God help us!

I pray for this couple and their unborn child. For salvation, wisdom, knowledge and the courage to do what is right. They may be the first to put a poll on the internet, but I doubt they are the only ones to feel and think this way. We need to pray diligently for the future generations. Will you pray with me?

God bless,
Mary Ann

Thursday, November 18, 2010

American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

As a history lover, I was excited to review "The American Patriot's Almanac" by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb. I am happy to say it was more than I expected. It's actually set up in a 'devotional style' format, giving bits of American history for each day of the year. Just look up the current date and find out what happened 'on this day in history'. But it's so much more than that.

It's a fairly good sized book, very sturdy, and one that would be great for keeping on your coffee table. It has a lot of information yet it's easy to read and not too much to take in all at once. It is definately something my 11-year-old son would not hesitate to pick up. I think the daily format makes it more appealing to young readers. They can learn some interesting history in a short time. I think they will return to it often.

It has a lot of useful information included in sections, such as; Flags of the Revolutionary War, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, State Flags, Facts, and Symbols, and much more. It's really a great tool. And while it's set up in a daily format, you may just want to read it through like any other book, or even refer back to it often as a reference. Either way, I think you'll enjoy it.

*Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.-Thanks Thomas Nelson! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seriously???... or 'Sorry kids, no celebration for you!'

I am soooo irked!!! I just picked up my kids from school only to find out that their Thanksgiving celebration for their classrooms has been canceled. Why? Because the Health Department said they couldn't bring in outside food. Apparently there is no way for them to check our kitchens to see if we wore hair nets.

Are you kidding me??? I can't remember the last time I saw ANY public food worker wearing a hair net! I even asked my kids when they last saw someone wear a hair net... my 7-year-old said "My lunch lady is the only one I've ever seen in a hair net." That ought to tell you something!

Taco Bell, Arbys, Burger King, Subway, etc....  why aren't they keeping up with them? You know... the ones people actually PAY to get food from? Oh... maybe that's why we can't bring in outside food. No one is making money from it! Hmmm... Instead of making the real businesses keep up with the rules, lets target the little kids who just want to have fun and enjoy the holiday!

I think the main reason this really bothers me is that we are doing a private get together. No one has to pay, no tickets are being sold, and no one outside of the students and parents are invited. All the parents agree to cook and bring in food, we give permission for our kids to share what they brought AND to eat what the others are sharing. Why is this anyone else's business... other than the few who are involved?

What's next? Is someone going to tell me that I can't have guests for Thanksgiving? I mean, you really don't know if I wore a hair net. Erggg...

Sorry for the rant... I just get so tired of more and more rules to tell us what we can and cannot do. Not only are there more rules than ever... they are only enforced on the "little people". Am I the only one bothered by this? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

"Almost Heaven" by Chris Fabry is the fictionalized story of a man named Billy Allman. Set in the backwoods of Dogwood, West Virginia it tells of a young man who endured many hardships beginning in his early childhood. His story is also told from the view of his guardian angel Malachi.

It was interesting to imagine what a guardian angel would think of the events that happen in a humans life, all the while knowing full well that God is at work and only He knows the reason for and the outcomes of the trials and heartaches that they endure.

Almost Heaven is a heartwarming story that gives encouragement to those who think they can't make a difference or be used by God. One of my favorite lines from the book is when young Billy's mother is trying to encourage him as they are both still in pain from a past tragedy "...I don't think God trusts just anybody with so much heartache. The world has not yet seen what God can do with a man who gives both halves of a broken heart to him. And I don't doubt that a man like that can change the world... or at least a little part of it." I just love that!

I really enjoyed this book. It was heartwarming, as well as thought provoking. It also surprised me at times... had a few twists and turns just as I thought I knew what was going to happen. It's the first I've read by Chris Fabry, but it won't be the last. I will be looking to read his other titles. I hope you give this one a try. :)

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chelsea Clinton's Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole

Thanksgiving is on the way! I was going to post this later in the month... but if you're like me, you'll need time to plan ahead. So, I'll start posting holiday recipes now in case you find one you'd like to try. I'm so excited for the holidays!

This is a recipe I found in the "Winter 2004 PEOPLE Magazine". I tried it once and have made it every Thanksgiving since. Now, I'm still a big fan of the old-fashioned sweet potatoes that I had growing up... cut up in big chunks and served with marshmallows and a brown sugar - Karo syrup sauce on top. Ok... I love them any way they come. But these are like a special treat... just try them. You'll see. :)

Chelsea Clinton's Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole

5 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter -- melted
1/2 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs -- well beaten

1 cup brown sugar
2 cups mini marshmallows
5 tablespoons butter -- melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one or more baking dishes (recipe fills to top a deep 9"x13" dish) and reserve.

In a large bowl, mix together mashed sweet potatoes, melted butter, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Spread sweet potatoes in baking dish.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and marshmallows. Sprinkle mixture on top of sweet potatoes. Drizzle melted butter over marshmallow topping.

Bake until sweet potatoes are heated through and topping is puffy and browned.

*My Note: I've always made these with fresh, mashed sweet potatoes - not canned. Probably good with canned as well. I just wanted to remind you to allow time for peeling, dicing, boiling and mashing the fresh sweet potatoes if that's what you use. Holidays are hectic enough without starting a dish too late.

I hope these make your holiday just a little more special!

                                                                    Happy Thanksgiving!

God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Prayer For Richie

Photo from:

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet a young man named Richie. I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, waiting for my son to finish orientation for his new job. (Thank you, Lord, for giving him a job!)

I thought I'd be waiting for about half an hour... but it quickly turned into 2 hours. I had left my cell phone at home, so when my son tried to tell me he'd be longer, I had no idea.

I did, however, go to a payphone to call home and see if he had called... someone might have answered my phone. (By the way... do you have any idea how hard it is to find a payphone these days?) Anyway, no one answered and I had to leave a message. I also had no more change and there was no way for anyone to call me back. So, I returned to the parking lot to wait for my son.

I decided to make the best of it. I could read my Bible that I leave in my car. I also happened to have a book with me that I wanted to read. And I have my iPod filled with music and podcasts. I've learned to keep things in my car for times such as these.

I read for a while... the message was about being a woman of influence. It pointed out that we influence peoples lives whether we like it or not and whether we know it or not. It talked about having a mentor or being a mentor to someone else. I got a great message from it. That's when Richie came up to me.

At first, I was a little apprehensive. Here is this young man on a bike, in a not-so-great neighborhood, approaching a woman sitting alone in a near empty parking lot. My first thought... what's gonna happen? 

He proceeded to tell me that he was homeless and the bag in his hand was all that he had to make a bed. He had come to this city following a girl. She shortly dumped him and now he has no way to get home to his family. He's 32 years old, he tells me. Seems that a 32 year old would know better, but I can't judge. I've done some pretty stupid things at many ages.

He asked me if I had any money to give him. I looked. But I knew I didn't have any. I don't usually carry cash. In that very moment... I had all these thoughts. What should I do? I don't just want to send him away. What CAN I do? All the words I had just read leaped back into my current thoughts. I can be an influence.

So... out of the ordinary for me, I said "I don't have any money, but if you're hungry, I'll go next door with you and buy you a meal." Now usually, I don't do this. Especially if I'm alone or it's just me with my kids. You just never know these days. But for some reason, I felt a peace.

So Richie said "Really? You'd really do that? Wow, you're such a blessing." And I drove next door to meet him. We walked inside and I asked him what he wanted. He said anything is fine, so I just ordered the usual fast food 'value meal'... super-sized.

He said again "You're such a blessing to me." I told him that God had blessed me so much and He wants us to pass it along. We sat down at a table and talked a bit more. I told him everything I knew about where to get help and even invited him to church. I told him to find a church. God knows his needs, loves him, and He will provide. I truly believe that.

Now... I can't say whether Richie was telling me the truth or not. I can't say he is or is not a drug addict or alcoholic. He didn't give off that impression, but I'm no expert. I don't know if he is from another state or if he's lived here all along. I have no idea.

But one thing I do know... he has a knowledge of God. Maybe he knew him as a child and has since turned away. Maybe some tragic thing has happened to turn him from God. Or maybe... like many of, he has a hard time walking with God in his everyday life.

Whatever the reason or circumstance, I'd like to ask anyone who reads this, to stop and say a prayer for Richie. Will you do that? I may never see this young man again, but I can still help him by praying for him. God's Word says in 1 John 5:14-15 that if we ask according to God's will, He hears us! Would you take the time to talk to God about this young man and help change his life? There is such power in prayer!

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sesame Chicken Breasts

My mom gave me this recipe, not sure where she found it. It has become one of our favorites. I often make it using diced chicken, and I serve it with steamed broccoli and rice. It's a keeper!

2 t. sesame seeds
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 T. honey
2 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 t. ground ginger
Vegetable cooking spray

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add sesame seeds, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until seeds are toasted. Remove seeds, and set aside.

Place chicken breast halves between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Coat skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken, and cook 3 minutes on each side, or until chicken is lightly browned.

While chicken cooks, combine toasted sesame seeds, honey, soy sauce, and ginger. After chicken browns, add sesame seed mixture to skillet, and cook 3 additional minutes, turning chicken to coat with sauce. Serve sauce over chicken.

I usually double the sauce because we like a little extra on the rice. My whole family loves this meal... and since I usually keep diced chicken in the freezer (I buy 20 lbs. or more when there's a great sale, dice it up and freeze in 1 lb. portions in freezer bags)... I can make this in about 20 minutes. Start the rice first... and all is done at the same time. Simple.

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta

This dish will inspire compliments for its taste and colorful appearance. This is my favorite recipe from the book "Quick Meals for Healthy Kids and Busy Parents". I serve this over egg noodles and my family loves it. I usually add more vegetables than the recipe calls for.... I just go by what looks good to me.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup broccoli - chopped
1/2 cup onion - chopped
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 carrot - thinly sliced
1 celery stalk - thinly sliced
2 cups cooked chicken - cut up
16-oz. can chopped tomatoes
4 cups cooked pasta (any shape)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon parsley - optional

In large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Stir-fry broccoli, onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Add chicken and tomatoes. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Spoon chicken and vegetables over hot pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley, if desired.

Copyright: "1995 by Sandra K. Nissenberg, M.S., R.D., Margaret L. Bogle, Ph.D., R.D., and Audrey C. Wright, M.S., R.D."

Plain, simple, healthy... and great flavor. I serve this with simple dinner rolls. Makes a great meal. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Government. If I Could Change The Rules...

I get so frustrated when I watch the news. And the political ads... don't even get me started! Now, no matter what side you are on, there are a few things that I believe should change. This is only my opinion based on what I see going on today. You may not agree with me. That's ok. I may be wrong... I'm not a professional. Just an average American citizen who would like things to run a little different. Sometimes I would love to boot them all out and start over. But I can't. So....

If I could change the rules... this is where I'd start.

  • Candidates would run their campaign by telling me how they can make our country better. They would tell me what qualifies them for the job... yes, JOB... that they were running for. Fill me in on their ideas and how they intend to accomplish their goals. They would NEVER say anything negative about another candidate. They would be required to be professional! Have a little class and respect for their competition and for themselves. Didn't their mom's teach them anything. "If you can't say something nice... don't say anything!" I'm not stupid and I'm not blind. I can figure out who the bad guys are for myself. And if I can't... then I need to educate myself a little more on the subject.
  • Campaign promises... they would NEVER make promises they can't or don't intend to keep. They would be forced to think of what they're planning to do... beyond getting elected. If promises were made, they would have a set time period that they were required to follow through, or at the very least, show that they were actually working on fulfilling those promises. If neither happens... Bye, bye!
  • There would be a limit on advertising. It wouldn't go on for what seems to be FOREVER... just for a pre-determined time period. Political ads are the new 'spam'... you can't get away from them no matter where you go. (They aren't selling anything, and frankly, I don't want to buy anything they have to offer.) They would spend more time interacting with the real people they claim to want to represent. If they're up for re-election, then their record of the time they spent in office should be enough to get the votes to keep them there. If not, then apparently they don't deserve an extended time in that position.
  • There would be a limit on what a candidate could spend on a campaign, weather it be personally funded or from donations. A realistic limit. (The first one who says the money can be put to better use gets my vote!) Money would not be an issue and elections would NEVER be bought! I'm sure there are many 'poor' candidates who could better relate to the 'average Joe'. Our government should not be run only by those who can AFFORD it, yet haven't got a clue how to budget like the 'little people'. If we can take care of ourselves and our families on the little we make, there is no reason they can't make it work with what they have. They're just used to having so much, that cutting back on the 'little' things seems like it's not worth the effort.
  • Term limits. Every position would have term limits. Just because they're doing a great job today... doesn't guarantee they'll be doing it tomorrow. They need some accountability! They need to EARN their spot!
  • Health insurance. Our government is part of 'we the people.' Even if they don't think so. They would have the same health insurance that we do. If that were the case, I'm sure the health care offered to the public would be much better.
  • And who in the world thinks it's a good idea that they can vote to give themselves a raise? They want a raise... put it on the ballot. Let the people decide if they deserve it. We would know... they do work for us!
  • What about their pension plans? Why do these people get paid when they leave office? Ok... maybe if they put in 20 years or more, maybe. But once you're out, you're out. America can't afford to pay you when you aren't working for us anymore.
You know the kind of candidate I would vote for? The one who says... "We're going to cut back. We pay ourselves way too much and we're allowed too many luxuries. We're going to tighten our belts and be the example of what we are asking all Americans to do!" Or the one who says..."I just don't know the answer." instead of making empty promises and giving false hope. I want leaders who will do what is best for our country.

Democrat, Republican, Nonpartisan... whatever they may be... I want a candidate who is there first and foremost to serve our country. Not themselves. Is that really so much to ask?

As I said before, these are just my opinions. What do you think?

Oh... and don't forget to get out and vote! :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tagged... I'm It.

I was recently tagged by Mary on her beautiful blog, Mary's Heart, to answer the following questions. Tough ones at that... I actually had to think. :)

1. Why do you blog?

I blog because I love to write. Share my thoughts. I want to help people, and mostly... I want to be used by God and share what He has taught me and what He has done in my life. (A work in progress...)

2. What traits should a church look for in a pastor?

Well, if I were choosing a pastor, I think I'd be looking for someone who is faithful and honest... someone who will teach the Word of God with no apologies and no watering down the truth... weather I like it or not. Someone who has a thankful and compassionate heart so he can show mercy and grace to others.

3. Do you believe in Global Warming?

No. Here's a great article Why I Don't Believe In Man-Made Global Warming. And that's my best answer.

4. Do you think health food people are any healthier than other people?

No. I've known vegetarians who are sick often and I've known people who eat only 'organic' foods and take many vitamins who still get sick and have physical problems. I haven't really seen any difference. I believe all things in moderation.

5. Do you believe in the Rapture? If yes, do you think it will be soon?

Yes. I pray it will be soon. I keep thinking "How much worse can it get?" But I'm sure every generation before me thought the same thing. It's all in God's timing. We just need to 'watch and pray'.

6. Do you like to watch any TV preachers?

I don't watch any one on a regular basis, but I do enjoy hearing Charles Stanley and Chuck Swindoll (he's on the radio, does that count?). I think they are great Bible teachers. I also enjoy Joyce Meyer for her teaching Christians how to 'grow up' in the Lord. And I like Joel Osteen... although I believe his gift to be more of an encourager than a biblical teacher.

7. Do you go for yearly check-ups at the doctor and dentist?

No. Trying to get into the habit now that I'm getting older. I've always made sure to keep up with the kids appointments though.

8. Do you like to talk to friends on the telephone or would you rather write or e-mail?

I like to talk on the phone... it just seems that I'm always pressed for time. Get me on the phone and I'm likely to be on for an hour. (Love adult conversation!) But mostly it seems I just send a quick email or facebook message after the kids go to sleep.

Thanks Mary... this was a challenge! But a fun challenge! :)

Please visit Mary's blog...  Mary's Heart. It's a beautiful blog that I'm sure you'll enjoy as she share her heart with you.

God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homemade Chili

When the weather is cold outside there is nothing like a nice bowl of chili. Especially if it's been cooking in the crock pot all day and has the house filled with it's delicious aroma.

Sunday is my favorite day to have a crock pot meal. Start it early in the morning... dinner's done. No more wondering what to make for dinner and you're free to enjoy the morning at church and time with family.

This is really easy to make because you just eyeball it... add the ingredients to suit your own taste. Use as much or as little as you like. More veggies, or less. More beans or ground meat, that's ok too. If you like mild chili use less seasoning. Or use more if you want to spice it up a bit.

This is the chili I've been making for years. I don't have an actual recipe... the amounts are just approximately what I use for my 5 quart crock pot. You can cut it in half if you'd like, but it freezes very well... you could freeze the rest for another meal.

Homemade Chili

3 lbs. ground turkey
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, diced
2 large green peppers, diced
3 large cans chili beans (or... I buy the bulk size can, use what I like, and freeze the rest)
2-3 8oz. cans tomato sauce
1-2 6oz. can tomato paste
2 pkgs. chili seasoning (recipe below)

Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet. Add garlic, onions and green pepper and cook until veggies are beginning to soften. Drain if necessary.

In your crock pot, add the meat with the veggies. Add the chili beans, with their juice, to the pot. More or less is fine... just add what you prefer. I like to stir the beans into the meat mixture to be sure I have enough. Next, add 2 cans of tomato sauce and 1 can of tomato paste. Add the chili seasoning and mix well.

At this point, I like to leave it and let it cook on low for a few hours before I add more tomato sauce or paste. Sometimes there is more liquid in the pot than you realize when it cooks down. If after a few hours it seems too thin, add more tomato paste. If it's too thick, add tomato sauce or a little water.

My family likes this with shredded cheddar cheese on top and served with saltines, oyster crackers or cornbread. It's great that way. We also like to make taco salads.... spoon chili over chopped lettuce, top with diced tomatoes, sour cream and cheddar cheese and serve with tortilla chips. Makes a great meal.

And if you'd like to make your own chili seasoning... here's the recipe. It's from the book "Marnie's Kitchen Shortcuts".  It's a great little book that I've had for years, and I still return to it often.

Chili Seasoning
1 1/8 c. flour
3/4 c. onion flakes
3 T. chili powder
2 T. salt
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. sugar
2 t. Cayenne pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder

Mix together. Store in a cool, dry place. Makes 30 Tablespoons.

3 T = 1 pkg. seasoning mix.

I buy spices in bulk and save the containers when they're empty. I use them to keep similar spice 'mixes' in. I use an index card to write the ingredients on and the book I got the recipe from, and I tape it to the outside of the container. Works great!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hope For A Child

A couple of weeks ago we had a 'Ladies Tea' at our church. It was a great time of fellowship with lots of great food. The picture below is just a portion of what was available and it was all delicious.

See the little mini tart in the upper right-hand corner? That was my absolute favorite! Everyones favorite! It was a pastry shell filled with the best chicken salad EVER. I am going to hunt down the recipe and hopefully share it here. You will love it!

The 'Tea' was actually a kick-off for the annual Operation Christmas Child event through Samaritans Purse. Those who wish to participate fill a shoebox with items for a young boy or girl. Choose an age group, follow a list of recommend and restricted items, write a note or enclose a picture if you'd like, label it and send it off. After we finished with our meal, it was time for the guest speaker. A beautiful young lady named Oksana Nelson.

Oksana was an orphan in Russia until the age of ten. She spoke of her life there... She told how all of the kids in the orphanage had to share the same toothbrush. They didn't have one of their own. She told how they could only take a bath every other week and when they did... they had to boil and carry water from next door that would most often be frozen on top before they got it into the tub. A place so dark and void of love that none of them had any hope for their future.

That is until some missionaries came and delivered shoeboxes filled with gifts for each of them. For the first time, Oksana had something that was her own. She had her own toothbrush. Doesn't seem like a big thing to us... but to a child who has nothing, it means the world to them. For once in her life, Oksana felt that she was loved and that she had a future.

And God gave her a future. She was soon adopted by a couple in Texas, has been living with them for almost 10 years, and now she is involved in blessing other children with Christmas shoeboxes the same way she had been blessed herself. Below is a short video of her story. Please watch...

If you would like to get involved and send a Christmas shoebox of your own, please visit Operation Christmas Child for more information. This is a great way to give hope to a child. I encourage you to get involved today.
If you'd like to learn more... please watch this promotional video from Operation Christmas Child from Samaritan's Purse. It's just a few minutes... but it can make a lifetime of a difference.

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Illegals" by Darrell Ankarlo

Illegals by Darrell Ankarlo takes an in-depth look at the cost of not controlling our American borders. Not only the cost to us, but to the illegals and their families as well. Darrell Ankarlo, a radio talk show host, goes inside the Mexican border to discover the true story behind the millions who would risk their very lives for a chance to live in America.

This book was very well written and informative. In the past I have only seen the burden that the illegals place on Americans, which is reason enough to enforce our laws already in place. But after reading this book and now knowing what goes on on the other side of the border... I can hardly imagine why anyone would support the coming of illegals into America.

Ankarlo gives true accounts of people who give money in return for a promise of freedom and prosperity... only to be left to die in the desert. Or those who were promised protection on their journey to the border only to be kidnapped and ransomed for an even greater amount of money. Unimaginable to me is the fact that this is allowed to happen. Allowed by our own government because they won't protect our borders, and allowed by their government because it is such a huge money-making industry.

If you really want to be educated, read this book. Not that it will be the last book you read on the subject... but if you want to know the facts on both sides of the border, start here. It is a well written, well researched, and easy to read. Lending your support to anyone coming to this country illegally may not be in their best interest... or ours.

*Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.-Thanks Thomas Nelson! :)

Thanks for reading!
Mary Ann :)

Now more than ever before...

"Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature....If the next centennial does not find us a great will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces." 

                                                           --President James Garfield, 1877

So much to say... but I'll leave it at that. Kind of speaks for itself.

Have a great day!
Mary Ann :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Which None Can Shut" by Reema Goode

What an amazing story Reema Goode has to tell. Many stories actually. And while the actual names of people and places were changed for the safety of all those involved, it by no means took away from the truth of how God is changing lives in the Arabian Peninsula.

With so much attention on Muslims in the news today, and negative at that, "Which None Can Shut" sheds some much needed light and truth. This was not a book of facts. It is a book that brings personality to the Muslim people themselves. It tells of their daily lives and makes them 'real'. Reminds us that they are human, people, just like us... only with different beliefs. God loves them and wants them to be saved as well as you and I. I was amazed page after page at what God is doing through Reema and her family.

Not only that, but I feel I have a greater understanding of the Muslim community and their beliefs. Reema did an amazing job of portraying the views of the Muslim people. They truly are an unreached people group. I could never imagine not having the freedom to choose my own religion, my own beliefs, and be restricted from hearing the truth of God's word. Thank God for missionaries like Reema and her family who are willing to go and bring Jesus to these places where many of us would be afraid to go. They are truly called by God... it is by His grace that they can do what they do.

Which None Can Shut was very well written. I read it in just a couple of hours... didn't want to put it down. I'm so glad I choose to review this book. It really blessed me. I highly recommend it.

*Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. -Thanks Tyndale House!  :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicken and Broccoli Chowder

Fall is here!!! Are you as excited as I am?

I love the Fall and Winter! Sweaters, cozy pj's and hot chocolate. Yesss!

Oh, and don't forget all the great meals... soups, stews, and chowders.
                                                                                           Mmm, mmm, good!

And did I mention the holidays? Yep. Don't forget about the holidays.

To celebrate the new season and all the coming months of cool weather, I thought I'd begin sharing some of my favorite recipes for this time of year.

To begin with...

One of our most anticipated meals of the season is a nice chowder with a Swiss cheese and potato base. It is definitely a family favorite! (Right up there with Chicken 'n Dumplings!) I like to serve it with homemade dinner rolls. Mmmm...

Chicken and Broccoli Chowder

2 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. chopped onion
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli
1 1/3 c. dry instant mashed potatoes flakes
2 c. cut-up cooked chicken
2 c. shredded Swiss cheese (8 oz.)
2 c. milk
1/2 tablespoon salt

Heat broth, onion, and broccoli to boiling in 3-quart saucepan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 min. Stir in potatoes until well blended; stir in remaining ingredients. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and cheese is melted, about 5 min.

Note: I prefer to make this using a whole chicken. I just boil it and shred the meat. That way I have fresh chicken broth as well. Shredded or diced... it's a great meal.

*I've had this recipe for so many years that I have no idea where it came from... otherwise I would give credit.
Even the kids like this chowder. It's great for leftovers in their lunchboxes. Just ask my youngest daughter. She'll take it to school every day until it's all gone.

And another bonus... it freezes very well.

Mary Ann :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 – Plog Photo Blog

I absolutely LOVE American history. Well, most history in general. I guess I'm quick to say American history since I am an American.

Color America

When I was younger, I could sit and listen to stories from my Grandpa about the days when he was a young boy during the depression, and even now I enjoy listening to my Dad share stories of his own. His childhood, the family farm, grandparents and great-grandparents that I'll never meet. I can still learn about them.

Take me anywhere and I'll probably make friends first with the older folks. I love them. I love hearing what they have to say... what they think about life... what they've experienced. I mean... they're living history! What could be better than that!

As a child, my mother took us kids for regular visits to a convalescent home to visit a family friend. We befriended several of the 'tenants' there and I've been hooked ever since. Work, school, wherever... I always made friends with people much older than I.

The younger generations of today will miss something great if not taught to value those who have lived before them. Those who have worked so hard and endured the hardships of life. There is so much to learn.

These are some amazing pictures that capture our American history. I love them! If you love history... or even if you don't... take a minute to check them out! You might enjoy them as well. Just click on the link below:

Thanks for reading,
Mary Ann :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dogs Don't Bark At Parked Cars

It's been a great morning! God has been giving me so many things to write about. So much that I was a little late getting out the door to take my kids to school. I just couldn't stop typing. Thankfully my kids are used to getting to school just at the bell (...I know... I'm working on that!) and they are such troopers! Gotta love 'em!

Anyway, I had to make a quick run to the bank before I headed home. And often I'll stop at the little park on the way home to have my Bible time before I get started with my day. I decided not to do that today. Which was fine because I wouldn't have been listening to the radio this morning. I heard such a great message... it was one of those quick 5 minute messages, but it was packed! Exactly what I needed to hear.

The speaker (wish I could remember who is was) said that his father used to say

                    "Dogs don't bark at parked cars!"

What does that mean?...
Well... he went on to say that as long as we do nothing, there is no opposition. If you are doing nothing, going nowhere, stagnant... then no one cares. They have no reason to oppose you or disagree with what you are saying or doing.

But once we start moving, all the 'barking' begins. We are met with opposition. People who tell us we'll fail, we won't succeed. People who say we're waisting our time.

Often I'd be doing just what I know God called me to and I'd be happy doing it... and then someone would come and offer their 'opinion' as to what I should be doing. Or how they would do it. Or how I could do it better. Sometimes they even tell me that what I'm doing just doesn't work... when it really does. Or maybe I just shouldn't do it at all.

Sometimes the 'barking' gets so loud that I can't ignore it... I begin to listen... and I slow down. As I back off of what I should be doing, the 'barking' decreases. Life becomes a little quieter. I begin to savor the quiet. So I slow down some more... until I STOP doing what the Lord has led me to do. And that's when I begin to feel like a failure. Why? Because I took my focus off of God, and put it instead on the opposition.

Remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bike? Most likely your parents (or whoever taught you) were telling you to keep peddling... you can do it. And they were right. You did it. But then as you gained your confidence... here come the 'dogs'! Did you do anything wrong? No. You did it right. Just like you were supposed to. But here they came barking at you anyway. It's was tempting to look back and pay attention to them. I mean... did you see the size of those teeth! But you didn't. You kept looking ahead for fear of falling off your bike... and becoming a snack. You stayed focused.

And that's what we need to do. Stay focused on God and what He's called us to do. Let me encourage you to keep going. Keep doing what you're called and gifted to do. No matter what anyone says. The only one we need to please is God. We need to keep our focus on Him.

Are there gifts and talents that God has given you but you don't use them because of all the 'barking'? The opposition? Other people's opinions? USE THEM! Don't let yourself become stagnant. Let God use you!

Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Ann :)


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