Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Practical Ways to Help after a Natural Disaster

We've all watched the latest natural disasters with horror. The devastation and destruction left by tornadoes and earthquakes is unimaginable. It seems like every time we turn around, another disaster occurs.

I felt helpless as I saw people in my own county lose everything they owned. What could be done to help them? FEMA and local authorities can only do so much. And even then, the "big" things like shelter and food are considered while other comforts are not.

When helping out our friends and hearing from others who had pitched in with clean-up efforts, I compiled a list of things to do to help. Some of these things aren't necessarily for survival, but they do make things a bit easier on people affected by natural disasters. You might not be able to rebuild a house, but these little things can bring comfort to people who are in need.

1. Offer to babysit. Children are naturally curious and digging around in a pile of debris is very alluring. Alluring and dangerous. While a family is struggling to find any remainders of their life in a heap of rubble, they don't need to worry about their children getting hurt.

2. Donate storage containers. When they do find something salvageable, where can they put it? Volunteer to store their things until they can get a more permanent location.

3. Wash their clothes. Often disaster areas are without power or water so there's no way to clean salvaged clothes. They can mildew very quickly. If nothing is salvageable, take them shopping for basic necessities.

4. Buy a disposable camera and give it to the affected family. Often insurance companies require photographic proof of damage. But if the family's camera has been destroyed by the disaster, taking pictures is impossible. Get the pictures developed, too.

5. Keep bottled water handy. Cleaning up debris is hard work and takes a lot out of a person. Help yourself and the people you're assisting stay hydrated.

6. Bring along extra work gloves and sunscreen. No one wants to dig through debris without gloves and chances are, if they've lost everything else they won't find a pair of gloves lying around. Under a hot sun with little shade (cause the trees are gone), it doesn't take long to get sunburned, so the sunscreen will come in handy.

7. Fill a can of gas to supply generators or gas-powered equipment. With no electricity, this is very helpful. Our friends were able to save a freezer full of food by running a generator off and on until power was restored.

8. Buy several boxes of garbage bags. Believe me, there are never enough garbage bags when you're cleaning up the mess a tornado leaves behind. Other cleaning supplies are helpful, too - bleach, Clorox wipes, a wet-dry vac if you have one.

9. Put together a personal hygiene kit for the whole family. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, nail clippers, shampoo, soap, wash clothes - anything that will help them feel human again. Don't forget feminine products, too.

10. Home cooked meals and snack items are a huge blessing. It's stressful having to worry about what you're going to eat when everything's gone or the power is off for who knows how long. Having someone care enough to prepare a nutritious meal is a great encouragement.

No kindness is too small in situations like this. Don't let fear of doing the wrong thing keep you from doing anything.

For more tips and hints, visit We are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.

White Chocolate Berry Pie

This no-bake pie is the perfect summer dessert. It's light and creamy and so tasty. You can use other berries besides strawberries - blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. You can even use peaches!

Here's what you need:

1 graham cracker crust
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1 cup whipped cream
sliced strawberries

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth.

Stir in the melted white chocolate, then fold in the whipped cream.

Spread the filling evenly in the pie crust. Top with the sliced berries.

To add a special touch, melt another tablespoon of white chocolate chips and drizzle over the pie.

Chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Menu Plan May 29-June 4

It's almost June! Wow! Is this year zooming by or what? We had a fantastic weekend with friends and church. Now on to a busy week.

Here's the plan:

Leftover from Saturday's cookout

Pulled pork - slow cooker

Penne pasta with sausage

Sausage veggie calzones

Enchiladas verdes, beans and rice

Pot roast with potatoes -slow cooker

Homemade pizza

For more yummy menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Surprised My Husband!

I started planning this months ago. His fortieth birthday was approaching and I wanted to throw a party. But honestly, the logistics of getting several people over to the house or another location without him knowing was going to be a real obstacle.

Then he suggested that we have a cook-out for friends around Memorial Day. He suggested! I all too willingly agreed! The very people I would have invited to a surprise party were invited to join us for burgers and hot dogs. And of course, I told them all this would also serve as a surprise party. Everyone delightedly joined in the fun!

There was a minor glitch when he walked in while we were decorating with black balloons and over-the-hill banners. But he hadn't seen the best part - the cake! Made by my friend Paige, it has a red Prevost bus on the front, the exact same bus hubby used to drive for our church! He was thrilled with it!

The way his face lit up when he saw the cake made my whole evening! I love that man and am so glad God's given him forty years on this earth, thirteen of them with me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Easy Freezer Jam

I remember the days when my grandma canned homemade jams and jellies. She'd boil jars and lids, cook down the fruit, add sugar, and use wax to seal the jars. It was a long, long process. And a hot one, too! Her kitchen was not air-conditioned and the heat from the stove made it almost unbearable. But still I look back on those days fondly.

When Ball came out with their BPA-free freezer containers along with a recipe for no-cook jam, I was in heaven! It couldn't be easier now to get the goodness of homemade jam without sweltering in the kitchen. The most difficult part is hulling the strawberries. No kidding.

Here's what you need:

4 cups of crushed berries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 envelope of instant fruit pectin (sold right beside the containers)
5 (8 oz) freezer jars (or you could use glass jars that have been sterilized)

Mash up enough berries to equal four cups. You can make this chunky or smooth. I like mine a little chunky.

Mix the sugar and instant pectin together in a bowl.

Add the crushed berries and combine thoroughly.

Ladle the mixture into the jars, leaving a little room at the top.

Screw on the lids and you're done! Oh, don't forget to freeze. The jam will be good for up to three weeks in the fridge or a year in the freezer. I wouldn't know, because it never lasts that long around my house, but that's what the back of the pectin package says.

I love how these jars stack up nicely. Save so much room in the freezer! And you can use this same recipe for any kind of soft, crushable fruit. I can't wait for peach season!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Strawberry Picking!

This is how I spent my morning - picking delectable, juicy strawberries! The Princess and Mr. Lego ate as many as they put in their buckets, I think. And we still ended up with three full buckets!

Freshly picked berries are so sweet and delicious. I'll be sharing some yummy recipes as I use up these wonderful red delights - strawberry cobbler, strawberry pie, and freezer jam, too!

I love this time of year!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bacon Cheeseburger Roll-up

We like cheeseburgers around here. Especially with bacon. Doesn't bacon make everything better? Except for your cholesterol! This recipe combines everything you like about cheeseburgers and wraps it up neatly into a yummy sandwich.

Here's what you need:

Dough for one pizza - I use my own homemade version or you could buy refrigerated dough like Pillsbury
1 lb ground beef or turkey, cooked and drained
2 TBSP ketchup
1 teas prepared mustard
1 teas pickle relish
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 teas onion powder
1/2 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Combine the cooked beef or turkey with the ketchup, mustard, relish, bacon and seasonings.

Roll the pizza dough out onto a greased jelly roll pan. Spread the meat mixture over the dough, then sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

Starting with a long side, roll the dough up, tucking the sides in as you go.

Pinch the seams closed. Carefully turn the entire roll over so the seam side is down.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Slice diagonally into 8-10 slices.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Menu Plan May 22-28

We finished our fourth year of homeschooling last week and now it's on to a busy summer! We're going to kick it off by hosting a cook-out with friends on Saturday, kind of a pre-Memorial Day get together. Lots of grilling, laughing and enjoying each other's company!

Here's the plan for the week:

Ham and white bean soup - recipe to come

Taco casserole, cheesy fiesta potatoes

Spaghetti, salad

Po-boy sandwiches, lemon pepper broccoli

Indian butter chicken, rice

Chicken stuffed shells, mashed potatoes

Cook out

Head over to Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Faith Renewed

I'm generally a cheerful person. Cup half full kind of gal. But last week was difficult for me. Just one thing after another.

My cousin lost her only child on Mother's Day and all week my heart was so burdened for her and her family. I just can't even imagine. Still I pray for her as she learns to cope with the unthinkable.

I received some other news I'm not at liberty to share. Though it wasn't unexpected - in fact, it was a relief in some ways - it still hurt my heart. I wondered why it had to be this way. And realized that maybe I'll never know.

Then Wednesday night I taught a lesson at our kids' Bible club and felt like I was hitting a brick wall with the kids. After the prayer and preparation I put into it, I felt like a failure.

What I really wanted to do was jump into bed and stay there, covers pulled up. Shut out the world and just cry. What I did was what I always do - get up, go about my daily tasks and paste a smile on my face.

Then on Sunday came a bigger blessing than I was expecting. A reminder of what I already knew to be true - God can do anything. His grace is amazing! One of the kids from Bible club who has given me a lot of trouble these last months (and specifically this past Wednesday) accepted Christ as his Savior!

I was humbled and rebuked by my lack of faith. But renewed at the same time. God took my discouragement and turned it in to joy. To Him be the glory! And I know that in these other situations that test my faith, He will prove Himself. Like He always does.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Menu Plan May 15-21

Another busy week is upon us. We're hoping to finish up our schoolwork, I'm administering achievement tests to the child of a friend, one of my old 7th grade classes graduates from high school and wants me to be there, and we're having a children's worker appreciation banquet at church! Whew! That's a lot going on!

I'm using my crockpot to relieve some of the stress, as well as relying on favorite recipes that I can throw together quickly.

Here's the plan:

Honey glazed ham, mashed potatoes, green beans

Beef burritos (using leftover roast from last week), Mexican rice

Homemade pizza

Ham and white bean soup, homemade bread

Bacon Cheeseburger roll-up, fries

Grilled chicken, mac and cheese

Banquet at church

For more menu plan ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Macadamia White Chocolate Chip Bars

Have you ever had a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie at the Great American Cookie Company? Or one from Subway? They are so yummy! I adore macadamia nuts, but they're expensive and I rarely use them in baking.

Once Charles brought me some honey roasted macadamias from Hawaii after a business trip. I ate the whole can myself. I think I might have grudgingly offered him one or two, but he gallantly turned me down. He didn't want to deprive me of any of the bliss that is honey roasted macadamias!

If you don't want to splurge on macadamia nuts, then you can substitute walnuts in this recipe. But my advice is to splurge.

Here's what you need:

1 pkg sugar cookie mix - I used Betty Crocker
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1/4 cup flaked coconut

In a bowl, combine the cookie mix, butter and egg.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Press into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Cool and cut into bars.

Charles told me he didn't like these very much. Because once he started eating one, he wanted another. And another. Ha! Hope he doesn't like the rest of my cooking just as much.

For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saving Time in the Kitchen - bake your pancakes!

My family loves to eat pancakes. We rarely have them for breakfast. Mostly just for lunch or dinner!

I don't love standing over the griddle waiting for them to cook. My griddle is big enough to hold 3 pancakes at a time, but it seems like it takes forever to cook them.

My solution to cut the cooking time in half - bake them!

Mix up your favorite pancake recipe. You don't have to add anything special to it, just mix it up as if you were using a griddle. Pour the batter into a greased 9x13 pan and spread it out evenly.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cut into squares and serve with butter and syrup or whatever pancake toppings you like.

The pancakes will be fluffier, almost cake-like - which my kids adore! It is so much easier and quicker, too. When serving a crowd, double your recipe and use two pans. In no time, you'll be sitting down to eat with your family instead of flipping pancakes all morning. That definitely works for me!

To find more helpful hints and tips, visit Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

Tasty Meatloaf

I was never a lover of meatloaf growing up. I don't know why. But my husband liked it, so I tried making it. And it turned out okay. I used a very simple recipe that included a packet of onion soup mix, so there was a lot of flavor. Unfortunately, there was a lot of MSG and other unpronounceable ingredients, too!

So I started trying to recreate the flavors of the onion soup mix without the yucky stuff. This recipe is the closest I've come to it.

Here's what you need:

1 small onion, diced
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
1 teas garlic salt
1/2 teas sea salt
1/2 teas black pepper
1 TBSP worchestershire sauce or steak sauce
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground turkey

For the glaze:
1/3 cup ketchup
2 TBSP mustard
1 TBSP honey

In a skillet, melt about a tablespoon of butter. You can use olive oil instead. Fry the onions until brown and soft. While the onions are frying, mix the egg, breadcrumbs, milk, seasonings and worchestershire sauce in a large bowl. Add the fried onions.

Crumble the ground beef and turkey over the crumb mixture. Using your hands, combine everything until well mixed.

Pat into a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Combine the glaze ingredients while the meatloaf bakes.

After 30 minutes, remove from the oven. Using a turkey baster, drain off as much grease as possible. Spread the glaze over the top of the meatloaf and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the loaf pan onto a serving plate. I do this by using two spatulas, one at either end.

Use a serrated knife to slice.

It might seem strange to bake the meatloaf for 30 minutes, then put the glaze on top. I do this because I found if I glazed it and left it in the oven for an hour, the fat bubbling up from the meatloaf made the glaze runny and it slid off the top. By draining some of the grease halfway through baking and then glazing, the yummy stuff stays on the top where it belongs!

If your crew doesn't like ketchup or mustard, you can use barbecue sauce or steak sauce as a glaze. It's equally tasty! Customize it to fit your family's preferences.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Tragedy

I just received word that my cousin Tracie lost her 14-year-old son today in a motorcycle accident. I haven't seen Tracie for years. We drifted apart as we grew older and our lifestyles really didn't have much in common.

But what we did have in common was our deep love for our children. Tracie tried for years to have a baby before Tanner came along. He was her world. I can't even imagine the depth of her grief. Please pray for her and her family. Pray that God will give me words to speak and write to her. As far as I know, she does not share my faith, though we've had many discussions about it especially when we were younger. My heart is just breaking for her right now.

Menu Plan May 8-14

Last week was spent getting to meet my newest nephew, who is an absolute angel. He's the youngest of six and already loved beyond belief. And though it was a blessing to spend time with family, including my lovely mom, it is good to be home.

Now back to some meal planning!

Outback - we ordered online before we left for church, then picked it up on the way home! Beats waiting for a table on Mother's Day!

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans

Sesame chicken over rice, broccoli

Sausage veggie calzones

Girls' Night Out - pizza for the men and kids

Savory roast, herbed potatoes

Lemon garlic tilapia, roasted garlic cauliflower

Please visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday for more meal planning ideas.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Newest Member of the Family!

We are thrilled to welcome my newest nephew born May 4, 2011. He weighed 7 lbs, 12 oz and was 20 1/2 inches long. Aren't those chubby cheeks and double chin just adorable? His five older siblings are in love, as are his parents, grandma, cousins and Aunt Marsha!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Plan for the Week

I haven't posted a menu plan for this week because the kids and I are traveling to South Carolina tomorrow to await the arrival of our newest family member. My sis-in-law is going to be induced on Wednesday with baby #6. You can read more here on her blog.

Of course, we're all very excited, especially the kids. They love spending time with their cousins and best of all, Grandma will be there too! I'll stay with all the kiddos when it's time for the hospital so Grandma can be there for the baby's arrival. Of the 10 grandchildren so far, she's only been able to present at the hospital with the Princess who was a scheduled c-section. With all of the others, she was either too far away to get there in time or she was watching the older siblings. Since it's very likely this baby is the last grandchild, I really want her to be there for the birth.

We spent most of Saturday helping our dear friends with some clean-up of their property. They are still without electricity but have been able to get low-pressure water service back. Here's a picture of what used to be their children's play house.

The devastation in this area is great. It hasn't received a lot of news coverage because it's a rural area, but I can say firsthand that I've witnessed a spirit of kindness and compassion from strangers that is truly heartwarming. The communities have banded together to help one another with no government funding, no expectation of anything in return. That's loving your neighbor.

Hope y'all have a great week!