Friday, November 30

Christmas decorating in real life

Today I'd like to show you what I've already accomplished with decorating for Christmas.

That's what I would like to show you.  The problem is, I haven't really accomplished anything yet.

It's not that I'm not excited about decorating for Christmas.  And it's not that I haven't started.  It's just that I am disorganized and messy.  So here's the truth about Christmas decorating at my house:

That's my guest room.  Here's what it looked like last week before our Thanksgiving guests arrived:

Well, it looked almost like that.  Actually, I had to take out the beautiful rug because the dog peed on it, so things weren't quite this pretty even when we had company.

It can be so tempting to try to present only magazine-worthy loveliness on my blog.  And I do love to make things pretty and to share ideas.  But a little thing happened last week that really got me to thinking.

I was talking to a good friend who told me that there had been a mix-up with her utility bill and that her gas had been shut off.  This was not an emergency--she lives in a comfortable home and was able to pay her bill; there had just been an organizational issue that hadn't been resolved in a timely way.

I sympathized with her having to deal with this inconvenience, but secretly I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to kiss her feet.  I wanted to jump up and down and say, "Thank God!  I'm not the only one!"

Maybe you don't have any organizational issues.  Maybe you're a person who is naturally tidy and put-together.  If so, I admire you greatly.  The truth is that I wish I were like you.

But here's another truth, one that I need to learn more fully:

God doesn't wish I were like you.  He doesn't wish that I were like anyone but me--messy, disorganized me.  He loves me just the way I am.  He'll take me just like this--piles of stuff and dirty rugs and all.   He wants to transform my heart so that I'm more and more like Jesus--but He still wants me to be me.  The real me.  And that's how He feels about you, too!

So here's to real life.  The beautiful and the messy.  The organized and the disorganized.

I hope that by next week I will have some beautiful Christmas decor to share with you.  For now, I'll just share a beautiful thought:

Tell me--are you the organized type?  Or do you struggle like I do?  Do you have "real life" scenes that aren't so pretty?  I'd love to know!

I'm joining Vanessa and Heather At the Picket Fence for Inspiration Friday and
Amanda at Serenity Now for her Weekend Bloggy Reading party

Tuesday, November 27

A Season of Serenity

Do you ever struggle with maintaining your serenity during the busy-ness of the Christmas season?

Me, too.

I want to think about these things, especially during this holy season:

Staying Joyful During the Holidays

But the hustle and bustle of Christmastime can make that hard.

My friend Amanda at Serenity Now is running a whole series of posts on this very topic, and I'm proud to be guest posting for her today as she kicks off this series, "A Season of Serenity at Home."  Please join me at Amanda's today!

Christmas Series of Projects, Recipes, Tips, and more at Serenity Now!

Monday, November 26

Grace for Dinner: Slow Cooker Spaghetti

Happy Monday, friends!  I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is officially upon us!  I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and full of time to give thanks for all your blessings.

If you're like me, you're ready to eat something very different from traditional Thanksgiving fare.  As much as I love turkey and dressing and all the trimmings, I'm ready for something else.  Today's Grace for Dinner recipe definitely fills the bill.

Today's recipe is from my friend Tonya from Love of Family and Home.  Tonya is one of the loveliest souls in the blogosphere.  She works part-time as a registered nurse and full-time as wife to a wonderful husband and mother of two of the cutest little boys you've ever seen.  Her blog is packed full of inspiration--everything from craft projects to room makeovers and all points in between.  I'm thrilled to have Tonya here today to share a simple dinner recipe.  Here's Tonya!

Hey friends!  I don't know about you, but cold weather always makes me CRAVE comfort foods!  One of those comfort foods for me is my great-grandmother's slow-cooker spaghetti sauce recipe.

Oh yeah....did I forget to mention that you make it in the crock pot?!  Delicious and easy! Woot woot!!

2 pounds ground beef (uncooked)
6 Tbsp minced onion
16 oz. can tomato sauce
4 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 cup water
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves (dried)
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp basil
4 tsp parsley flakes

Place uncooked ground beef into crock pot.  Add onion, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and water.   Add in seasonings.  Stir ingredients thoroughly until mixed well.  Cook for 3 1/2 hours on high.  Remove bay leaves before serving.  Serve with your favorite pasta.  Enjoy!

Thank you so much, Tonya!  This spaghetti sauce looks delicious, and it's just the kind of food I'm craving.

Now a prayer for your dinner:

Dear God, You are so good and kind.  You've given us so many blessings, and we are grateful that we had a special chance last week to stop and count those blessings.  Will you please help us to hold onto that attitude of gratitude as we move now into a the very busy Christmas season?  Help us always to be thankful, God.  We thank You now for this food, and we ask that you bless it to nourish our bodies.  Amen.

Monday, November 19

Grace for Dinner: Busy Day Soup

Can you believe that Thanksgiving week is upon us?  The days are flying by so quickly!  If you're like me, you have a long list of things to accomplish this week, but our families still need to be fed today.

I'm excited to share this recipe with you.  I got it from my sister, who is a wonderful cook.  It's easy, fast, and delicious.  Best of all, you can keep the ingredients in your pantry so that you can whip this up in a jiffy on a really busy day.

Now, I know that some of you avoid any kind of processed foods, including canned soup, and you won't care for this recipe.  I avoid some processed foods, but I grew up on Campbell's soups, so those red and white cans are staples in my pantry.  If you're like me, you really should try this recipe.

Brown one pound ground meat (turkey or beef, your choice) along with some diced onion and garlic (if desired). Drain off fat.

Into soup pot, dump the contents of these eight cans:

1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans Campbell's chicken gumbo
2 cans Campbell's minestrone
1 can chicken broth
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce plus one tomato sauce can full of water

Add meat to pot and stir together. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until ready to serve.

That's it!  No measuring, no seasoning, no wondering--just combine the contents of those cans and you'll love the results. Rich and hearty and delicious. It will warm you body and soul.

And now, a prayer for your meal:

Dear Lord, this is the week when we'll follow the tradition of pausing to give you thanks for all our blessings.  But our thanks to you can't be confined to one day, God.  We are grateful for everything You provide every day.  Help us to keep our hearts focused on you even as we are busy this week with all our holiday preparations.  You are so good and generous; help us to be more like You.  Amen.

Sunday, November 18

It's Thanksgiving week!

May your day be blessed with reminders of the One we thank.

Every blessing to you and your loved ones!

Wednesday, November 14

Christmas party announcement:
Home for the Holy Days

Last year I hosted a "Home for the Holy Days" party to celebrate the ways we keep our Christmas focused on Christ. Let's do that again this year, shall we?

Mark your calendars for Monday, December 17, and join me here for a party to celebrate all the ways we keep Christ in Christmas!

I'm sharing this with the Organizing and Decorating for Christmas Pinning Party.

Organizing Made Fun

Monday, November 12

Grace for Dinner: The Best Potato Casserole

Every Monday, I'm featuring a post called called "Grace for Dinner."  Each of these posts will include a recipe for a simple, delicious dinner food and a  prayer of blessing for you. My hope is to impart grace to you body and soul with these posts.

Today is a special Monday.  It's the official observation of Veteran's Day in the U.S., so for today's Grace for Dinner I'm going to share a recipe that I've served a number of times to my very favorite veteran--my Uncle Richard.
Uncle Richard at the airport on his way overseas

My uncle served in Viet Nam when I was a small girl.  He was badly wounded, and the memories of him as he fought his way back to health are imprinted on my mind.  What a kind and good man he is! He has always been my hero.

Uncle Richard and his beautiful family have shared several Thanksgivings with Jack and me, and this casserole is something I made every time they joined us.  Paired with any simple meat, it makes an amazing meal.

I know there are lots of hash brown casserole recipes floating around out there.  I've tried several of them.  This one is a little different.  A friend gave me the basic recipe over 20 years ago, and I've changed and adapted that into this recipe.  I think it's the very BEST potato casserole recipe ever.

To make it, you need a 32-ounce package of Southern-style (the little chunks) hash browns or 2 pounds of potatoes cut into small cubes.  Spread these evenly into a 13x9 pan.

Then grate 12 ounces American (yes, American) cheese.  American cheese has a mild flavor and is very creamy, so it works beautifully in this dish. You can buy this at the deli or do as I do and use 18 slices of cheese.  Press them together and grate.

Melt 1 stick butter or margarine.  Into that mix 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 8 ounces sour cream OR plain Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon salt, and the cheese.  If you like, also stir in 1 teaspoons dried minced onion.  This will add just a tiny bit of onion flavor; too much onion would overwhelm the flavor of the potatoes.  Spread this mixture evenly over the potatoes.

And for the crowning touch, crush some corn flakes.  You need 2 cups of corn flake crumbs.  Sprinkle these evenly atop the casserole.  Then melt another stick of butter and pour it evenly over the corn flakes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until corn flakes are golden brown and potato mixture is bubbly.

You won't believe how delicious and creamy this is.  Don't think about the fat grams; this is comfort food!

The Best Potato Casserole

32-ounce package frozen Southern-style hash browns OR
2 pounds potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 stick margarine or butter, melted
2 cans cream of chicken soup
12 ounces American cheese grated
8 ounces sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried minced onion (optional)
2 cups crushed cornflake crumbs
1 stick butter, melted

Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Spread potatoes evenly in pan.  Mix 1 stick melted butter, soup, cheese, sour cream, salt, and minced onion together.  Spread mixture evenly over potatoes.  Sprinkle cornflake crumbs evenly over soup mixture; drizzle 1 stick melted butter evenly over top.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

A blessing for the meal:

Dear Lord, we thank you for all that you've given to us.  We are grateful, God, for all the men and women who have served in our country's military forces.  Help us always to be thankful for service offered on our behalf, God.  Help us never to take such service for granted.  Please bless this food to nourish our bodies, and may we use our bodies to serve and honor You.  Amen.


Sunday, November 11

Courage for today

I have set the Lord always before me:
Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

Tuesday, November 6

A prayer for today

a bit of beauty from my garden

Whatever happens in my home country of the United States today, here's what I'm praying for myself.

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea--
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

                        --Kate B. Wilkinson

--What's your prayer for this day?

Monday, November 5

Grace for Dinner: Lemon Chicken

Every Monday, I'm featuring a post called called "Grace for Dinner."  Each of these posts will include a recipe for a simple, delicious dinner food and a  prayer of blessing for you. My hope is to impart grace to you body and soul with these posts.

Today I'm so happy to be featuring Melissa from 320 Sycamore.  320 Sycamore is chock-full of helpful posts--from small projects to whole-house renovations, from great deals to words of encouragement.
 Melissa is one of the bloggers I admire most, and I'm proud to be able to call her a blogging friend and a real-life friend.

october 2012 177
As the mom of five children, Melissa knows a thing or two about getting dinner on the table!  Here's Melissa:

I am honored to be over at Imparting Grace today~Richella makes everyone feel at home here! This is one of my family’s favorite, do-able recipes~if I ask what they want for dinner, most of the time they yell, “lemon chicken!” We have made it for birthdays, company, Sunday dinners, missionaries, and grandparents. It’s a winner in our book!

 Lemon Chicken

from Remedies for the "I Don't Cook" Syndrome~this is so easy; yet it can pass for gourmet. :)

4-6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 5 cups cooked rice
Pound chicken breasts flat with a mallet (or just choose thin breasts or cutlets)
Put flour in a plastic bag, add chicken breasts, and shake to coat. Melt butter and oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken breasts on moderately high heat, approximately 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place chicken in an ovenproof dish; keep warm in oven set at 250 degrees. Prepare lemon sauce.
Lemon Sauce
(this is the BEST with fresh parsley and fresh lemon, but if you don’t have them on hand, bottled lemon juice and dried parsley will work)
3 Tbs butter or margarine
3 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 ½ Tbs lemon juice)
Add butter to skillet and melt, scraping up brown bits in pan. Remove from heat; add parsley and lemon juice. Pour hot sauce over chicken. Serve with rice.

Melissa, this looks absolutely delicious!  Thank you so much for sharing the recipe with us.

Now a blessing for the meal:

Dear Lord, we are so grateful to gather at the table.  We are grateful to be fed by You--our bodies with physical food, our souls with spiritual food.  Sometimes we feel anxious by all that's going on our world, but we know that You are good.  Help us always to trust You to provide just what we need.  Amen.

Friday, November 2

NOËL sign inspired by Pottery Barn

Last Christmas I created a sign inspired by Pottery Barn's NOEL wall art.  A number of people have asked how I created it, so I'll share my simple technique with you.  You might want to buy your materials now so that you'll have plenty of time to make this before the Christmas season.

I love decorations that include the word Noël, which is French for Christmas.  Noël is derived from the Latin word natalis, which means birth.  For me, using the word Noël is a little proclamation of what Christmas is all about!

It struck me as funny to make this Pottery Barn knockoff, because the Pottery Barn version is a knockoff of the famous "LOVE" design by Robert Indiana from the 1960's.  His design skyrocketed to fame when it was incorporated into a postage stamp in 1973.  Does anyone else remember that stamp?

I guess imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery!

Making your own is simple.  You'll need some kind of lightweight letters. I used pressboard letters from Hobby Lobby because the shape is so similar to the Pottery Barn sign. Other craft stores should also carry similar letters. If you can't locate the letters elsewhere, you may be able to order them from, but they'll be a bit more expensive. You'll also need balsa wood strips, and spray paint.

First, spray paint your letters thoroughly.  Mine took several coats to achieve a smooth finish.  I painted them with several coats of black, then sprayed a coat of Oil Rubbed Bronze on top.  Allow the letters to dry completely.

Once dry, arrange your letters face down in a rectangular grid on a smooth surface.  To mimic the Pottery Barn design, place the N and the O side by side, then place the E and L directly underneath.  Now tip the O sideways.  Be sure to place the O so that the top of the letter is angled out.  Then cut your balsa wood strips into pieces that will span across your letters, like this:

Hot glue the strips in place.

You may want to spray paint the back of the sign at this point.  I recommend this if you'll be hanging it over a mirror.

This sign is so lightweight that it's very easy to hang simply by placing one or more nails in the holes between the letters.  I hung mine from a single nail in my kitchen window frame.  You can't even see the nail--it's nestled in the space between the N and the O.

Note:  I used very thin, lightweight letters to make my sign, so the letters are not actually attached to one another at all; they're simply glued to the balsa strips.  If you have letters that are thicker and heavier, you might want to glue them together at some points.  You may also want to use a stronger adhesive than hot glue.  For these very thin letters, hot glue is plenty strong enough.

This was my kitchen window last year, wearing a garland instead of its usual faux Roman shade:

And a wider-angle shot:

The sign would also look good sitting in a windowsill, propped on a tabletop, or on a shelf or mantel.  Best of all, it costs only a few dollars and a bit of time to make.

What do you think?  Are you ready to create some Christmas crafts?

I'm joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading 

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