Thursday, November 29, 2012

What's this fork for? Mother Prude's Guide to Table Paraphernalia

Prudes who are busy, terribly and earnestly busy keeping the world at large in order, sometimes realize they have neglected their own households.  While, say, faithfully encouraging France to wash its hands after burning upended vehicles, a Prude may one day waken to discover her beloved children have no idea what a serviette is.

Generally, however, she will not discover this oversight until AFTER she has thrown a lavish holiday banquet, gone into the highways and byways to invite guests, and polished up Grandma’s 900 piece silver service, her thinner-than-an-onionskin crystal glasses and set the table according to the rules of table etiquette.

Her fatal error in judgment? She allows her husband and children to eat at this formal table without remembering the Developmental Stages of Table Paraphernalia Usage. If she had taken a moment to peruse the following chart she could have avoided humiliation and heartburn.

So before you sit your loved ones down to an elaborate table (with witnesses) read through the following and learn where your loved ones fall in the

Age 5:  Used to cover all food on plate
Age 10: Used to snap at brother’s leg in attempt to raise welts
Age 15: Used to frantically clean soup he spilled on neighbor’s trousers. Want to die of humiliation.
Age 45: Embarrass wife by flapping it and asking,”What’s this honey? A diaper?”

Salad/dinner/dessert fork
Age 5: Grasp one firmly in each hand. Mash food before covering with napkin
Age 10: Choose most lethal. Aim at brother’s forehead and hope it sticks.
Age 15: Eat entire meal and dessert with salad fork. Want to die of humiliation.
Age 45: Embarrass wife by proclaiming in public ‘Hey honey! I didn’t even know we owned this many forks!”

Butter plate/speader
Age 5: Butter all food including meat, cheese and beverage before mashing and covering with napkin.
Age 10: Challenge brother to duel with spreader, use plate as shield
Age 15: Place roll on dinner plate, spread butter with dinner knife, tell Mother she must have given you little kid’s plate by accident. Want to die of humiliation
Age 45: Embarrass wife by layering four rolls atop each other and proclaiming, “Look honey! Dagwood sandwich!”

Dinner knife
Age 5: Try to hide under napkin before mother sees it and takes it away
Age 10: Ask brother if he thinks it is sharp enough to draw blood. Attempt to draw brother’s blood.
Age 15:  Eat chicken leg with fingers. See everyone else cutting it off bone with knife. Want to die of humiliation.
Age 45: Embarrass wife by proclaiming, “Gee honey, this meat is a little tough. Got anything sharper?”

Teaspoon/soup spoon
Age 5: Use to take any food not covered by napkin and transport to water goblet
Age 10: Use as catapult to direct peas into brother’s ear
Age 15: Vigorously stir soup. Resulting tidal wave splashes over rim. Want to die of humiliation..
Age 45: Embarrass wife by telling guests, “Usually we just drink soup straight from the bowl.”

Water goblet
Age 5:  Forget water goblet was receptacle for unwanted food. Gulp water. Choke. Up erp into napkin on plate. Immense relief when mother proclaims your meal uneatable and gives you cereal in the kitchen
Age 10: Run finger around rim at speed of sound, hoping resulting sound waves will render  your brother temporarily deaf. Get sent to room.
Age 15: Reach gingerly for goblet. Due to unfamiliar and top heavy shape, upend it. It spills onto meat platter. Go to room to die of humiliation
Age 45: Embarrass wife by rubbing vigorously at a water spot with napkin. Sleep on sofa that night.

Wine glasses
Prude Age: Sit alone at table surrounded by shambles of dinner party. Realize you unintentionally gave your children a glass of wine each, which, through a series of providential events, they did not imbibe.

Reach for nearest glass of white wine. Grasp firmly at stem. Raise to 110 degree angle. Resist temptation to gulp. Sip slowly and rehearse tomorrow’s lecture on Correct Use of Table Paraphernalia.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Deer Hunting Weekend

Note: Starting next month we welcome Pamela S. Meyers in this spot.

The gun-deer season in Wisconsin is truly a mixed bag around the state as the Department of Natural Resources attempts to control the deer population. I read Wisconsin histories of how early residents and later, settlers, starved because there were few animals to hunt. Wisconsin was once vastly and thickly forested, leading to a lower animal population. As the state was settled and cropland carved out of the woods, the animal population rose. Dramatically. Then came car-deer incidents.

The shooting season traditionally runs the last ten days of November, over two weekends. I used to relish the first weekend alone in my house when the boys were old enough to go with their dad to hunt on Grandpa's farm. Yes, I did have a license one year and shot...but spent the rest of the time being a mom in one form or another chose not to go out during that time. Now that I'm home alone pretty much all day, that weekend isn't quite the thrill it used to be.

The second weekend, the one after Thanksgiving, is cleaned up, we've been going, en masse, out to the pole barn we built on farmland we purchased when the hunter vs. territory  figures shrunk on Grandpa's farm. It's a cozy weekend in front of the woodstove, in rocking chairs. Hot tea. Games. Leftover turkey and mashed potatoes. Bunkbeds, cold blasting in when someone opens the door, fixing the fire in the middle of the night. Sleeping bags, the outhouse. We have electricity, though, and I get a kick seeing all our electronic devices plugged in, clashing with the "rural" atmosphere.

Last weekend my daughter-in-law accompanied me to a book festival a ways south, in Mineral Point. The event exceeded my expectations, and it was good, at least for me, to spend some time with my daughter-in-law. I think she attracted customers my way much more than I would have gotten had I been there alone. I was disappointed to learn the festival will be held ten weeks earlier next year, as we managed to wiggle out of butchering the one deer the men brought in.
More than anything, though, that time in the woods is bonding time, no matter what we're doing. Whether or not we see or hunt game, the time spent together is treasured, memories built, secrets shared. Even after the house is built, I may have to join the guys, at least for one night, in the hunting shack. But I'll be close enough to use the indoor bathroom. I look forward to that. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Behold the Thanksgiving Peanut!

By Robin Steinweg

Next year’s Thanksgiving dinner…



 …will it be peanut butter?

Here in my corner of the Midwest I am grateful.

*Grateful the turkey didn’t explode this year.

*Grateful it didn’t take more than an extra hour for it to reach the safe 180 degrees.

*Grateful for a microwave in which to reheat the many side dishes that got done on time but cooled completely during that extra hour the turkey needed.

*Grateful family members didn’t have to leave until the turkey got done.

*Grateful there weren’t any pairs of clean underwear hiding in the tablecloth this year.

*Grateful no one got the napkin too close to the candle this year.

*Grateful for peanut butter, because I’m considering making it the main dish and side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner next year.

I love peanut butter.

*It comes in a jar, any size I want.

*It can be baked into things or spread over things.

*It provides protein.

*It can come salted or unsalted.

*It does not require timing or heating.

*It does not intimidate. It does not require the total commitment of any creature. I don't need to watch a cooking show to know how to prepare it.                           

*A newlywed can handle it with grace.

*A not-so-newly-wed can handle it with grace. I can handle it with grace.
What’s your vote for Thanksgiving Dinner next year?

--Robin Steinweg--It’s Sweet in the Middle!

Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolution: Grandma Cheryl Will Learn to Text in 2012 No Matter What

MY 2012 New Year's Resolution - "I will learn to text."

(Even if it's December 31, 2012 at midnight. Yes, I can do this.)

Megan and MacKenzie, our two youngest daughters, volunteered to be my teachers (in exchange for a trip to Forever Twenty-One.)

Reading my cell phone directions book was not working.

MacKenzie said, "Mom you are going to have to learn texting language. For example, 'C U @ the pole.' It's kind of like 2012 shorthand. It's a unique language like French or Chinese. You can't speak British or American English if you want to be in the "texting club."
Megan encouraged me, "Mom, you're an intelligent person. So, take concepts you have already mastered in life and transfer them to texting." "What like baking a Barbie doll shaped cake, mopping a floor, cleaning up vomit or changing a diaper? That helps you with texting and how?"

MacKenzie commented, "You're a "try hard" at other things. I wouldn't give up if I were you, unless you never want to communicate again with any human under the age of 80." "

So, if you can't text, no one will talk to you."


I soon learned that my text lessons needed to be from other 13 year olds, not my own. Kind of like not taking stick shift driving lessons from your husband.

I lost friends my first month of texting because according to MacKenzie, "Mom you 'Overtexted!!!!!!!!!!"'.

Megan gasped, "Mom, you are making our family look bad. There's rules, mom, in the world of texting and you are breaking them."

I only knew how to text to people who had texted me, so that brought me up to a number towering of five. To practice, I kept texting them 92 times throughout the days with things like, "IIIIIIIILIKEORANGEJUUUUICE."
 My "First Text" Exhibit at the Smithsonian (behind glass)

At first my five texty friends thought I was funny, but then they started ignoring me not just on texts, but also on land lines and at the grocery store.

Finally, a random 22 year old girl in Chipotle showed me how to use friends' phone numbers to text to them. I felt like a twentysomething, if only for a moment.

Still some of my friends did not answer back. Why?

MacKenzie said, "Mom you are ruining NASA research, some of the phone numbers you are texting are land lines, not cell phones, and your messages are out near Saturn."

Megs said, "Mom, you still have a lot to learn about texting, but texting has benefits. If you get kidnapped Christmas shopping, you can text to let us know."

by Cheryl Moeller, Momlaughs
Read More Here
Hope you all have a wonderful Christ filled Christmas celebration.  May we be desirous and desperate for the Christ Child's Glory during the month of December.  Let's not trade the Glory of the Christ Child for the mundane.  Click here to read more from Momlaughs

Please leave a comment here and share with us the nicest thing that someone ever did for you at Christmas that did not cost financially. We would love to hear about it. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shop Till You Drop at Southdale Center

Minnesota. The land of 10,000 lakes and just about as many malls. My kids and I did our capitalist materialistic duty and hit the stores at 3:30 a.m. on Black Friday, but we didn't go to just any mall.

And no, we didn't go to Mall of America (the largest mall in the U.S.), even though we live about 2 miles from it.

So where did we go?

The very first indoor, controlled-climate shopping mall in America...SOUTHDALE.

Southdale Center is located in Edina, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis). It first opened in 1956. Over the years, stores have come and gone, but it's always got something for everyone.

So next time you're in the Minneapolis area, don't just make it a point to visit the Mall of America...make sure you see the very first mall IN America.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Journeys to Christmas

     Thanksgiving is past and our thoughts turn toward Christmas. I still remember the year the ornaments shrank. Perhaps it was the year my myopia was corrected or maybe my perspective had simply matured. The tag-a-long in a family with six kids, I was basically an only child and used to amusing myself. I remember watching dark steal over the room as the sun set. My parents were sitting at the table in the kitchen, their voices and yellow light spilling through the hallway into one corner of the living room. At the other end, the large colored lights on the Christmas tree glowed, reflecting off of the ornaments. How amazed I was that the year before each bulb had seemed to be the size of a softball and now they’d shrunk to the size of a tangerine. I sat in the warm comfort of home, wondered, and watched them gleam.
     Our tree always looked the same, always bore the same ornaments. There were colored balls, semi-circles with sparkly indentations, and pastel angels with fragile golden wings and beautiful adult faces that spoke of the peace of Christ. There were also red, blue, yellow pinecone birds that one of my brothers had made in Boy Scouts. They were fragile too, in a down home way. These ornaments of childhood will always seem brighter, more special, more mysterious than any others.

     As an adult, I acquired other favorites. One, a silvery glass ornament featuring the three kings and the star of Bethlehem, is special enough to make the cover of “Journey to Christmas.” Both fiction and poetry, this book a wonderful exploration (in everyday language) into the thoughts and feelings of those who were part of Christ’s birth, a great prompt to spiritual meditation during advent.
     I’ve always liked the idea of advent, preparing the way of the Lord, making straight the paths that lead to Christ, welcoming Jesus wholeheartedly. As I studied the gospel of Matthew, I wondered how much Mary, thought about preparing for Christ before Gabrielle visited her—and how much she thought of it afterward.

Mary's Growing Dilemma
Doubt will peck at faith when we predetermine how God will work. Faith grows only as we cling like a branch to the life-giving vine.

I thought surely God would announce it at temple aloud,
reveal it to good men by an angel on a cloud,
give insight to neighbors in an awestruck crowd,
at least that my parents and Joseph would be allowed.

Why are you silent, God?

Must I bear all the burden, all the shame,
and the ridicule of my good name?
How in the world can I explain
things are not the way they seem?

The child inside wasn't conceived
by manly force or a husband's need.
No, God himself did a miraculous deed
when the angel's words I dared believe.

Yet rejection will become my lot
for though I'm pure, they'll think I'm not
and the promises of prophets are quickly forgot
when the handmaiden chosen is the girl down the block.

Why are you silent, God?

This God- child inside stirs, a fluttering hello.
It's just you and me with the whole world our foe
I know I said yes, but where can I go
to be safe, to keep you safe, until everyone knows?

Gabrielle said Elizabeth was with child, too.
Another miracle! Perhaps she'll see me through.
Perhaps she'll understand and teach me what to do,
until everyone knows what once only I knew.

                        --From “Journey to Christmas” by Mary Allen

     I love the poems that came like a gift to me. I’ll think of them whenever I hang the ornament that proclaims the message of Christ that was special enough to attract distant kings. And me. Christ attracted me. He lives in me and makes me whole. How I love him. Merry Christmas, all!

To purchase your own copy of “Journey to Christmas” for $6.99 contact Or give the gift of inspiration to someone you care about this Christmas.

For $25.00 she will gift wrap and mail “Journey to Christmas” and a compilation of miracles from around the world, “Kernels of Hope" ($13.99).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Live Generously

You Can’t Take It With You                                      
by Lori Lipsky

You can’t take it with you
I’ve heard the wise say,
You can’t take it with you
So give it away                                                                                                                 

Listen over coffee
Slow the rush, stay
Give time when you’re able, but
Do not delay

Be generous with others
Host a party buffet
Share with your neighbors
Make somebody's day  
You can’t take words with you
Share kind ones today;
Be generous with others
Give something away                                                                 

photos by Sue Vick Finley

Read more of Lori's poetry on the Poetry Patio
Twitter @LoriSLipsky

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

City Fella Turned Country Boy

Editor's Note: Boyd Sutton spent his youth overseas with his family, moving frequently throughout Europe and the Middle East. A graduate of Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University), the Program for Senior Executives in Government at Harvard University, and the National War College, he retired from the Senior Intelligence Service in 1997. He spent 11 years in the U.S. Army and 26 in the Central Intelligence Agency. He and his wife of 44 years now live on what used to be her family’s farm near Siren where their life is enriched (and controlled) by two horses, two dogs, a cat, acres to mow, fences to maintain, gardens and flower beds to weed ...

Coming to Wisconsin– Making a Choice (Part 2) 

      But retire to where? As I said earlier, while I worked in the city, I’d become a confirmed country boy. We lived on 11 acres way back in the woods off the beaten path in the foothills of Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. It was plenty of property to support two horses, two dogs, and a cat, though it was mostly wooded, so no pasture for the horses. We both liked the remote location, one-and-a-half miles from the nearest paved road, but only three miles from I-66 and a straight shot to built-up areas and their advantages. One option was to stay put.
      Another option we considered, but not hard enough, as it turned out, was to move elsewhere in Virginia to get closer to the wonderful horse trails in the state and national parks. That would entail a substantial cost for purchase of land, on top of whatever we’d have to do for a house and outbuildings. We added up our assets and decided that was probably not affordable.
      On the other hand, my wife’s family in Wisconsin owned a former dairy farm on 160 acres, plenty of pasture, and lots of shoreline on a large, deep lake. Lots of room for horses and easy access to fishing, boating, and swimming, which, at the time, really appealed to me.
      The horse trails we enjoyed in Virginia were gradually being cut off as city folk bought small properties in the countryside and immediately put up fences. These weren’t fences to keep in horses or other animals. They surrounded their properties, like dogs marking their territory.
      When we first moved there in 1975, we could saddle up at home and ride the trails for hours, freely crossing friendly folks’ properties. By 1997, most of the trails had been cut off by fences put up by displaced, largely unneighborly, city folk.
      Our area of Wisconsin didn’t offer many trails—unless you trailered to them—but the many unpaved roads at the time weren’t a bad substitute. And, on 160 acres of mixed woods and fields, there’d be plenty of room to ride close-by. And, we would not have to buy land.
      Virginia had hot, humid summers, with temperatures routinely at 98 degrees and equal humidity. It’s winters were relatively mild, with normal temps in the 30s and 40s (and still humid).
      Our research on Wisconsin’s weather was encouraging. Lots of 68 degree, sunny days in the spring and fall, relatively mild summers, with lower (than Virginia) humidity. When we looked at the data in 1996, the summers near Siren included an average of only 12 days with temps at or over 90 degrees. (That turned out to be bad data.) Yes, the winters were cold—really cold—but, as a retired couple, we didn’t have to get outside much. And we both preferred excessive cold to excessive heat.
      The lure of more land, pasture, a home by a lake, and all that 68 degree, sunny weather was strong. And I really wanted to put as much space between myself and Washington, D.C., as possible. I guess we decided to move to Wisconsin and leave Washington in about equal measure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thoughts on Life

Recent events in my life have me thinking a lot about . . .

The blessed life of a kingdom kid.

It’s one of those phrases that we look at and immediately think (or I do) of someone who seems to live a charmed life. No struggles. Perfect health. Family’s intact. Financially comfortable.

Make sense?

Lately, though, I’ve seen something quite different. Sincere people who love their God and serve Him faithfully, follow their dreams to bring glory to Him, seek Him diligently, are also facing trials, trauma, death, divorce, family crises, financial struggle (sometimes ruin), or whatever else that might threaten to rob them of peace and joy.

Sound like anyone you know?

Often, I hear the question: If God is so loving and good, why . . .?

Maybe this isn’t the place or the time. Maybe I’m out of line. Or Maybe I can encourage someone today.

Scripture tells us that we will be reviled, persecuted, and beat down for Jesus’ sake. We will face tribulation. We will see the glory of God revealed in our difficulties. And He truly does love us to greater measures than we’ll ever be able to fathom. Whenever I've needed encouragement from Him, it's been there.

He gives strength. Hope. Grace. Without which, I'd certainly fall apart, give up.

There is an adversary who desires to destroy and kill and steal. He works diligently to strike us where it will cripple us. If he can bring us, like Job, to the place where we’ll curse God, then he’s won a battle. Satan wishes to squelch the message God’s put on our heart. Like Job, we can choose to trust in the faithfulness of God and cling to His goodness. In the end, all will be restored, even better than it was before.

This week, I had the privilege of reading a book that shares a message my heart resonated with. I could relate to the main character. In the end, I cried as the character struggled with faith, love, and hope. God.

Like Job, the protagonist came through with an understanding of who God is. The answer is no longer, "I've heard about You." It is now, "I've seen You."

I  have also  been blessed with the opportunity to pray for the author. Life weighs heavily on the author’s life. Discouragement would love to strangle the message(s) birthed in the imagination. It does for all of us, in varied degrees.

Connecting the dots between this author and the call of God on their life has reaffirmed in me what I’ve sensed for some time now. Those gifts, desires, talents, hopes, dreams that God has so lovingly and meticulously placed inside each of us has eternal value and must be guarded. Struggle, heartache, loss, discouragement, or distraction will come along and attempt to derail our purpose.

Anyone who knows me also knows what I face on a daily basis . . . or at least a portion of it. I won’t give in. I won’t let go. Not of God’s purpose for my life, nor of His purpose for yours.

I can relate to Peter when I ask, "Where else would I go and find hope?"

You’re worth fighting for.

You are a child blessed by the King who we will one day see face-to-face.


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