Friday, December 30, 2011

For the New Year

"A Morning Wish". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . W.R. Hunt

The sun is just rising on the morning of another day, the first day of the New Year. What can I wish that this day, that this year, may bring to me?

Nothing that shall make the world of others poorer,

nothing at the expense of others;

But just those few things which in their coming do not stop with me

but touch me rather, as they pass and gather strength:

  • A few friends who understand me, and yet remain my friends.
  • A work to do which has real value without which the world would feel the poorer.
  • A return for such work small enough not to tax unduly anyone who pays.
  • A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed.
  • An understanding heart.
  • A sight of the eternal hills and unending sea, and of something beautiful someone has made.
  • A sense of humor and the power to laugh.
  • A little leisure with nothing to do.
  • A few moments of quiet, silent meditation to sense of the presence of God.
  • And the patience to wait for the coming of these things, with the wisdom to know them when they come."

Borrowed and adapted from Guide words: An Anthology of Inspiration and Humor, p. 13

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Wrong End of the Telescope

Long ago and far away

We all know what a telescope does. We look through it at things far away and they appear large and clear and immediate.
But turn that same telescope around and take a gander.
Everything looks small and distant.

The Prude spent much of her life looking through the wrong end of the Time Telescope.
Young Prude, told by her parents that she had 30 minutes to clean her room, would grab her Time Telescope, peer through the wrong end, and note that 30 minutes was so far in the future that she had time to read another chapter­–possibly 2 or 3–of Nancy Drew.  Imagine her shock when, after half an hour, she would hear a knock on the door of her disheveled room.
The correct end of the telescope displayed, up close and personal, the stern and glowering eye of a parent.

Homework assignments hovered unobtrusively in the distance and never loomed ominously till the proverbial 11th hour.
Then Teen Prude would feel the hot Deadline breath blasting through the right end of the Time Telescope.

Adult Prude had 10 months–such a vast expanse of time!– to prepare her wedding. She crammed most of it into the morning she said her vows. She had to hold off the birth of her first-born a week to get his nursery ready.

Parties she planned remained pleasantly in the far and distant future. The Prude would merrily go about her business until the morning of said party, when the relentless Time Telescope, looked through in the manner in which it was intended, showed guests heading for a half-cleaned house and a half-cooked meal.

When The Prude was young she looked at her parents’ mortality through the wrong end of the telescope too. It always remained, small and distant and unthreatening, in the future.

And then suddenly her parents were old. Time, cold and unheeding of her protests, thrust it’s Telescope into The Prude’s hands. What she thought was so distant was a present reality. Her father was gone.

Then five years ago tomorrow, December 30, Time softly closed the door on her mother’s life. Both ends of the telescope looked black. But blackness doesn't last forever.

Today one end of the Time Telescope shows a past horizon of love and the other a future glowing with hope.  And those beloved parents have no need of a Time Telescope anymore.
They see their Savior face to face.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Long Winter's Nap

No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap.
- Carrie Snow

I love to nap. Especially at this time of year. When Midwest days are short and the weather a bone chilling cold what could be better than curling up with an afghan and dozing off for a few minutes?

I used to think that sleeping was a waste of time. I have successfully recovered from that faulty thinking. I've learned that some days a power nap is exactly what I need.

One study has shown that a twenty minute nap in the afternoon is more refreshing than twenty extra minutes of sleep in the morning. Some scientists believe we were designed to need a nap.

That is all the encouragement I need.

We can learn some lessons from some famous "nappers." President John F. Kennedy routinely took an hour long afternoon nap - even in the White House. Thomas Edison had the ability to nap anytime and anywhere. There are photos of the inventor sound asleep on a workbench.

Perhaps the most famous napper was Winston Churchill. He claimed he would not have been able to handle the pressures of WWII without his nap.

Churchill was so committed to his afternoon nap that he would get under the blankets and sleep at least an hour each afternoon. "You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do."

I love the idea of what one blogger called A Proper Churchill Nap. Maybe intentionally taking some time to rest each day would rejuvenate us and relieve some stress. Could it be that a proper nap would not only be good for us physically but also be good for our souls? "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8 NIV)

Do you ever take "a long winter's nap?" Do you have a napping routine? Do you have a favorite spot for forty winks? Are your siestas reserved for weekends, or are you able to sneak in a power nap once in a while?

I look forward to hearing your suggestions for a proper nap time. But first, grab that favorite afghan, put on those fluffy slippers and take a little snooze.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Michigan Food and Trivia

I love my new cookbook, The Best of the Best from Michigan.

I can't wait to try the Country Tomato Pie or the So-Creamy Sweet Potato Soup or Bev's Strawberry-Pecan Salad or the Bengal Lime Curry.

But I also love all the Michigan trivia that it includes.

Like these.

The state of Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world--over 3200 miles of it.

The first state capital was located in Detroit and moved to Lansing in 1847.

Ernest Hemingway's family owned a house called Windemere on Walloon Lake.

Michigan leads the nation in blueberry production, producing 32% of the blueberries eaten in the United States.

The Soo Locks are the busiest locks in the world, even though they're closed from January through March when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes.

Holland is home to the world's largest pickle factory (operated by the H.J. Heinz Company.)

Celery was first commercially grown in the United States in the Kalamazoo area in the 1850s, earning it the name of "Celery City."

Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state--more than 130.

Sault Ste. Mare is the oldest city in the state.

Vernors ginger ale was created in Detroit and claims to be the first soda pop made in the United States.

The Upper Tahquamenon Falls is known locally as "Root Beer Falls" because of the brown water caused by the tannins leached from the cedar swamps that the river drains.

In Michigan, you are never more than six miles from a lake or stream, and always within 85 miles of a Great Lake.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is the only international vehicular underwater border crossing in the world.

Detroit has teams in each of the four major professional sports leagues--Detroit Lions (NFL), Detroit Pistons (NBA), Detroit Red Wings (NHL), and the Detroit Tigers (MLB).

Michigan is the only place in the world with a floating post office. For more than 100 years, the J.W. Westcott II has delivered mail to ships on the Great Lakes while they are still underway. (Note: A rope and bucket is lowered from ship to boat where mail and messages are placed. It's called "mail in a pail.")

Now I'm off to make a Cherry-Walnut Couscous Salad.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Your New Year's Resolution: Solve Your Dinner Dilemma

Creative Slow Cooker Meals finally answers the proverbial question, "What's for dinner?  Using two slow cookers to make dinner gave me back my life and it can do the same for you.  This plan is just perfect for a frazzled mom with no time in her day.  It also works for my single friends that just want to cook once a week. So, whether you are a career woman, stay at home mom, home school mom, retired or out playing tennis; your dinner dilemma is now solved.

                                         With this crowd, Mama Moeller needs a brilliant plan.

There are lots of Midwest recipes in my soon to be released cookbook because I am hopelessly Midwestern, but, I also feature chapters such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, international cuisine, super simple, and breakfast.  Some of my chapters solve your real life problems such as recipes to make from the groceries you bring home from warehouse shopping trips or local farmer's markets.  I also give you recipes of what to make if your kitchen seems to have a revolving door with family members coming in and out all day.    

I not only give you a variety of perfect recipes, but I also plan your entire dinner menu for each day.  I'm a wife, mom of six, grandmother, sister, daughter, granddaughter, cousin, niece, aunt, and friend just like you.  I can't make more time in my day; it just doesn't exist.  But, I can use Creative Slow-Cooker Meals to solve my dinner dilemma early in the day, every day.

I feel really smart, like I have beat the system when my complete dinner is cooking in two crock pots in the morning or at least by noon.  Here's one easy "inside secret tip" for slow cooker meals prep.   I suggest setting up your two slow cookers at breakfast or lunch so you can clean up the counters as you do the breakfast dishes or lunch dishes.

Creative Slow Cooker Meals is a new kind of cookbook because it's a new positive attitude toward planning meals. I teach you to use two Crock pots to easily create easy, economical, healthy, homemade dinners.  You will be saving money and helping the environment because this doable dinner prep plan using slow cookers uses less electricity than if you were preparing dinner in a traditional oven. 

Don’t worry about your dinner always being reduced to a mushy stew. Crock pots are not just for soup or stew anymore.  Each of the more than 250 recipes has been personally cooked in my kitchen and taste-tested at my large dinner table. My family loves the results, so join them as you dig into:
  • Harvest-time Halibut Chowder
  • Salmon and Gingered Carrots
  • Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
  • Indian Chicken Curry
  • Apricot-Pistachio Bread
  • Shrimp Creole
  • Rhubarb Crisp
... and many more!  Click here to pre-order on paperback spiral or kindle

Get a two sample recipes from the first two chapters here.

Please leave, as a comment, your favorite crock pot recipe and share the love.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Shattered Dreams

I am NOT dreaming of a white Christmas. In fact, I'm kind of enjoying the freakish brown landscape in my neck of the frozen tundra. No idiot drivers to deal with. I can wear my cutesie shoes instead of clunking around in Sorels. Time is better spent with family around the Christmas tree instead of out shoveling.

But that's not to say a lot of folks around here weren't dreaming of one. In fact, I'd bet most were. And I'd also wager that a whole lot of people suffer today from shattered dreams than are larger than snow...

Loss of a loved one.
A prodigal who's not returned home.
A nonexistent bank account and continual loss of employment.
Marriages that are broken and lying in sharp pieces on the floor.

Christmas isn't always merry here on planet earth. Suffering through labor in a barn after having ridden a donkey for days likely wasn't on the top of Mary's wish list. And what about Jesus, having left heaven to arrive in this sin-infested rat hole?

But let's flip over this Christmas coin. The point is Jesus did come, bringing our only hope to escape the coming wrath.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
Isaiah 53:5

Not every Christmas is yuk-it-up merry. But if you believe Isaiah to be true, no matter what happens, peace with God is one gift you shouldn't return.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Midwest Holiday Memories

Oh, Holy Night...

The favorite Christmas traditions of Midwesterners include some of the following. Be sure to download our Holiday traditions eBook: A Very Merry BarnDoor Christmas, and our recipe book (in the "freebies" tab above) as our gifts to you.

We have pajama parties to celebrate the season and fend off the cold by having fun!

We knit sweaters.

"One Thanksgiving Grandma whispered to my mom
she was knitting cardigan
sweaters for all 12 of the grandchildren for Christmas. Grandma was way before her time, being cool with knitting.

I overheard the conversation and told my three sisters, we were all getting knitted kangaroos. Being the youngest sister, I felt very cool and important that I had the inside information.

I was shocked Christmas morning, when we received knitted cardigan
sweaters instead!"

We cook a lot - mostly stuff to keep us warm.

Wisconsin Cheddar Chowder
A nice hearty soup with garden vegetables, ham and cheese. Serve as a meal or a first course.
For six-ten servings – very easily adjustable according to desired amount.

Have all the ingredients ready before you begin cooking.

2 very large or 4 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
4 baking-size potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups either fresh or frozen broccoli flowerets
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 gallon milk or more
1 cup chopped cooked ham, if desired
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup or more flour, depending on desired thickness of soup

Salt, pepper, other herbs as taste such as: caraway, rosemary, savory, parsley, chives, celery seed; can also add mushrooms, parsnips, rutabaga, peppers, cauliflower or adjust any of the above vegetables

Roux: in a dutch oven or largest size sauce pan over medium heat melt 1/3 cup butter or margarine, 1/4 cup flour, 1 T. salt and 1/2 tsp white pepper.

As the mixture thickens, very gradually add a little milk to make a sauce. Gradually add, alternating, cheese and milk, slowly, so that a smooth sauce forms. Stir constantly—do not let the mixture stick or boil. When all the cheese is added and there’s about three cups of sauce, begin adding prepared vegetables and ham. When all the ingredients are incorporated, add as much remaining milk as needed to cover the vegetables. Turn heat down to very low, cover and cook up to an hour or until vegetables are soft. Stir often – do not boil or the milk and cheese tend to curdle. Whisk if this happens. Adjust seasonings before serving. Good with a rye bread and a salad. Doesn’t keep very well in the refrigerator as the potatoes tend to turn dark if not completely covered with sauce.

We often harvest our own trees. (Naomi and Lisa)

And decorate them with natural ornaments.

We share everything--including the flu.

My brother-in-law started it. He got sick a week before Christmas. The human incubator carried that bug across the country, through two airports, and into my parents’ house. We took turns celebrating, feasting, and trying to avoid the sickies. It didn’t matter. The virus hit in waves, crashing into one person after another. That year I discovered that when Matt and I have kids, he will not be the parent holding the puke bucket. (Karin)

But most of all, we celebrate the reason for this Holy Night with our families and friends and faith.

I think of my mother in that hospital every Christmas. She was away from the baby she got after five miscarriages, as well as family and friends. She was fighting for her life. And all she got for Christmas was a letter her mother-in-law sent along with this photo. And my birthday was exactly two weeks before Christmas and she missed that, too. She wept. (Crystal)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Filling the Stockings

My husband’s aunt likes to knit. When our boys were born, she made each of them a gigantic knit stocking, individual, cutest things with their initials – AJL and a couple of years later, KWL. When they were a little older, I filled the stockings with little things, toys and games and funky stuff I found at craft fairs, like animal-painted rocks and candy trains (have you seen those? Rolls of Lifesavers with caramel wheels and candy kiss stacks?), Yoyos, pencils with NFL or NBA teams, flashlights, that sort of thing.

During high school and college years I bought more practical but still fun stuff. Maybe it was more fun for me… Things like fancy deodorant, toothbrushes and paste, socks. Bandaids. Ties. A video game or CD. Macaroni and Cheese. Gift certificates to fast food. Stamps.

When we added to the family, Aunt Kathy generously made stockings for the lovely women my young men married – JL in 2007 and KL in 2010. As I get to know them better I find things for them that are hopefully fun and funky, silly and occasionally needed. I never shopped for girls before, so it was quite stressful that first year. I decided no to clothes again. Even the sweater choices were too nerve-wracking. I usually get silly, or sometimes practical, socks (socks in stockings—I know), organic stuff for the one girl and pink stuff for the other. Jewelry, coffee, cocoa or tea. Something that represents a complaint or triumph of the previous year, like the time we went camping and the boys got out their cap lights so we could play cards in the twilight at the picnic table. The girls had none-until that Christmas.

I like this part of Christmas best—opening the stockings. It’s so different now, from the Christmas mornings of childhood. My husband and I are usually the first ones up and we have to wait for sleepyheads to arise. They torture me with their lack of elementary-school enthusiasm. I suppose if and when grandchildren join us, I’ll shift the tradition back to giggly kids who might get up first and race to the tree or the stockings.

We’ll most likely be in a different home by then. Hmm…I’ll have to make sure there’s a place to hang the stockings.

A Very Joyous Noel to all of you, and thank you for visiting with us at the Barn Door!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Whatever the Color

One of the joys of living not just in the Midwest, but in the southern part of the Midwest is that we never-ever know what to expect in December...

This is NOT what we have for Christmas this year. Much to my three sons' dismay.

Nor is this what we have this year, much to my daughter's delight. Now that she's driving she's no longer a fan of icy hills... unless of course there's no where to go and we set up a sled run.

This year, we have green. It's even warm enough for a deck hot dog roast, if we didn't have a cold blazing through our house.

I have to admit, having a green Christmas sounds wonderful to me! Now, if we just had some palm trees, balmy breezes and sunshine. Oh well. I'll take the green and savor it knowing it probably won't last for long.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Here in the Haines' house, we can't celebrate this season without Bing Crosby's rendition of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."  In fact as part of marking our 33rd anniversary, my wife and I watched the movie -- actually she watched and then laughed when my snoring startled me.  I'd love to share pictures of the snow in our yard but what falls simply melts too fast.

Finding houses lit up with all kinds of decorations is another holiday tradition for our family.  That was another part of our anniversary celebration.  It seems less people are putting up the lights.  We did more driving around town searching than we did in actually enjoying them.  Here are few pictures from our light viewing tour.

May your Christmas be white as the Light of the World shines on you and yours.

Pastor Mark Haines

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Under the Tree

The gifts were wrapped, and placed carefully under the tree. My tired bones ached and begged for me to allow them a respite from all the preparations of the season.

My husband had implored me to come to bed hours ago, but he had to know I just could not. “It’s for the children.” I reasoned. “Christmas is for the children.”

He sighed wearily as he turned and trudged up the stairs to our room. I waited silently as his heavy footsteps slowed and softened until at last there was nothing. He was in bed. I resented him for that; he just did not understand what Christmas was all about apparently.

One day, our children will be grown and gone with their own families. Christmas will be over for us. You’ll see…I promised the chair that once occupied my husband as though he were still there listening.

I feverishly went about baking cookies for Santa, wrapped every present in shiny silver, red and gold, followed by intricate bows on each package. I made sure the candies were made, ambrosia salad and pistachio pudding. The kids just love those and their colors were just so festive. The ham and turkey were dressed and ready to go in the oven come morning.

Pride filled my heart. I scanned the room before turning out the lights. The children will be so happy when they see all that I’ve done. Dan will be sorry one day that he was not here helping more. I just know he will.

The stairs mocked me when I pondered the climb.  Deciding against it, I turned to where the recliner welcomed me with open arms. I fell into it gratefully and allowed my eyelids their rule as they sealed shut for a much needed midnight nap.

“You don’t remember, do you Sarah?”

“What? Who are you? What do you mean?”

“Sarah, I miss you.”

“How can you miss me, I don’t even know you.” I searched about, seeing no one. The voice was familiar, but I’m sure we’ve never met.

“I’m over here, Sarah…” I followed the voice. I searched and searched. Becoming frustrated, I decided to give up and go back to bed. “Sarah, I miss you.”

My eyes fell on the nativity beneath the tree. There they were, that little family, the wise men, the shepherds, and all those little animals, all present and accounted for. My gaze moved from them to the figure of a man standing just beyond a cross. Was he crying?

I knelt down to get a closer look. “Sarah, I miss you,” he said.

“I don’t understand. I’m right here…” I began then realized I had been preoccupied with activity and forgot about him. I began to weep. “I’m sorry, I’ve missed You too. Please forgive me.”

“Mommy, what are you doing?” Tommy, my six year old stood over me, hands on his hips.

I ran a hand through my hair, rubbed my eyes and struggled to sit up. “Why?”

“You were sleeping under the tree!” His tone took on that of a prosecuting attorney.

I glanced around, trying to get my bearings straight. Apparently he was right. “I don’t know how I got here.” I confessed.

“Mommy loves Jesus!” my two year old exclaimed her finger pointing at my hand where I was holding a figure of Jesus tightly.

“Yes I do. And do you know why?” fully awake now, I realized why I was laying under the tree sleeping.

“Why?” I heard Dan louder than the children.

“Well, it was because of Him that we celebrate Christmas. He came to earth to redeem us from sin and give us life. No one really knows what day He was born, so we celebrate on this day. His birth isn’t the end of the story; would you like to hear all of it?”

google images
“YEAH!” They all shouted. Dan brought over his Bible and read the story from Luke and told of Jesus death and resurrection.

He finished, closed his Bible and looked over at me, eyes glistening. “So, Christmas still for the children?”

“No, it’s for all of us.” I walked over and wrapped my arms around his neck. “Thank you for your patience.” There we held each other as we watched the children tear through their presents.

 Have a blessed Christmas and throughout the Year to come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Season in Ohio

by Sharon A. Lavy

 Christmas and snow, or at least frost seem to go together in Ohio
Can Christmas Caroling be far away?
Friends gather around the room.
 Men, women, and children,
And bring tidings of Great Joy.
Which shall be to all people.

Q4U. What is your favorite Christmas memory?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last week I snapped my yearly Christmas photo of the wigglies.

Herding a group of three legged pigs up the sand dunes would have been an easier task.
As I sat with finger poised over the magic button, three moms danced, made faces and threatened lives behind me. Going to bed early and Christmas presents taken away didn’t seem to be of concern with this boisterous bunch. They were cranked tighter than a cat with his tail caught in the dryer door.

Once we were sure we had a picture that didn’t have any kids looking like they were possessed we gave up the battle.
We had two birthdays to celebrate. Son #2 and Wigglie #2 birthdays are a day apart. Wiggle #2 is son of Son #2. Now that you are all confused, see pictures below.
Wigglie #2

Son #2

Wigglie #2 wanted a “snake” cake. This was my poor attempt at the reptilian recipe. All were impressed and the wigglies wanted to eat the rocks.

Son #2 always requests Red Velvet Cake for his birthday. And, he always eats enough of it to feel sick afterwards – another family tradition we continue.

After the cakes were devoured a group effort ensued in pooch photog. I thought it would be so cute to have the three goldens dressed in their Christmas cheer have a group photo for our Christmas card.

Charlie, the dad, is laid back and will do whatever you tell him. In fact, this year he made his acting debut in our church Christmas program (which I happened to co-write with my gal pal Lynda Vermeer Schab)

Bella, the mom mongrel is somewhat compliant. She will settle down and wasn’t too bad.

Then, there’s the son, Zeus, who is as squirmy as a worm on a hook. He’s not even a year old so his idea of sit still is nonexistent.

Son #2 put forth a valiant effort with dogged (sorry) determination to get the photo.

It didn’t help much that all the cake filled wigglies were bouncing around off the furniture and climbing the draperies while we were working at catching the furry family’s perfect expression.

The families left two by two and four by five until they were all out the door.

It was so quiet I could hear my heart beating. I actually enjoyed it, for a few minutes. But, I think I am wired for my wigglies. Can’t wait for the door to fly open and hear “Grama! I’m here.”

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