Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Christmas Sanity Plan – Part 2

I know it’s only February but I’m thinking this month about the Christmas Card thing. I never seem to get my cards out on time and really, I’m o.k. with that. What I’m not o.k. with is how nuts I get when I’m stuffing envelopes on December 22, or worse, December 27! So, I’m starting early.

Now first of all, there is the issue of “to send or not to send” cards. I mean, it isn’t cheap to send cards out and that is something to consider in our current economic situation. I figure it’s about $1.00 - $2.00 per card sent, depending on the type of greeting you choose. I received a number of “e-cards” this past Christmas, and that is great because I like to hear from people, and at least I can find out what is going on in their lives.. One person I know posted her Christmas letter and pictures in her blog. Finances were tight and she generally sends out over 500 cards so under those circumstances, I’d say she made a very wise choice. One family, who are friends of my daughter-in-law, decided to do a You Tube video Christmas card. It was hysterical and unique. Of course, a You Tube video can be seen by more than just your immediate friends and family so consider that before you decide to do one.

After this year’s cards were in the mail I gave some consideration to the whole electronic card idea, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Here’s why. I LOVE to get letters in the mail. When the Christmas season rolls around, I look forward to seeing what’s in the mailbox every day. My favorite thing is to grab a cup of tea, sit in the recliner, read the news in people’s letters, and ooh and aah over their kids’ pictures. I don’t care if their letters are typed, I just love to read about their lives. So, for as long as I can afford to, I will send out a real Christmas letter with some sort of picture. (I love those pictures, too and I save them from year to year.)

You’ll need to make your own decision on the Christmas card issue, of course (and if you’ve gotten this far into my blog, I’m assuming you are at least considering joining me in my Christmas Sanity Plan.) Here is what I’m doing now to prepare for next year’s Christmas letter. I printed plenty of return address labels to have on hand when the time comes. It seems silly I know, but last year this became an issue just as they were ready to mail. I just purchase Avery return address labels and use them. You can order pretty ones if that is important to you.

I also went and purchased stamps today. They will get put away in a very special place for next year’s mailings. No, they won’t be Christmas stamps BUT they are cheaper now than they will be next Christmas. I heard the other day that the cost of stamps is going up again in May so I purchased the “forever” stamps. They have liberty bells on them. Not Christmasy, but then again, Christ came in the form of a baby to set us free from sin, so . . . liberty, . . . liberty bell, we’ll make it work. And, I’ll save a whopping $3.00 on my 150 stamps!

In addition to the stamps and return address labels, I am seriously contemplating buying self-adhesive envelopes. We usually just send a picture card with a printed letterhead so a regular size envelope will work just fine to mail it in. And, if I don’t have to lick 150 envelopes, all the better. Once I have the envelopes, I can actually go ahead and address them either with labels, by hand, or by running them through the computer.

I need to touch on one more issue before I finish up this very long blog. How do you decide who gets a Christmas letter from you? Generally, here is how I choose. If someone sends me a card, I try to reciprocate. My family members get cards regardless of whether they send one to me or not. And, I will usually keep people on my list unless I haven’t heard from them in years. Then, I figure they just don’t like me anymore and aren’t interested in my letters. Their loss. However you make this decision, now is a good time to review your list of recipients.

If you know me at all, you know this whole “thinking ahead” deal isn’t really my thing. I’m a total procrastinator. My Christmas Sanity plan is simply that; my attempt to have ONE Christmas season where I’m not nuts. If it works, yippee! Then, I’ll try it again. Please feel free to join me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Little Word about Triple Chocolate Cake

In my last post I mentioned, and gave the recipe for, my Triple Chocolate Cake. I can't really call it "my" recipe, as I got it from my friend, Diane. She told me this weekend that she got it from her friend, Molly. So, I don't know the actual origin of the Triple Chocolate Cake, but still, you can be sure an original recipe will never come from me. I'm just not that gifted in the kitchen.

Anyway, I made a mistake in my original typing of the recipe, leaving out the flour, which happens to be a key ingredient in most cakes. This is not intended to be a flourless cake. Thanks to my friend, Karla, for discreetly pointing that out to me. It has been fixed in my original post. I apologize if you already tried to make it without the flour.

Also, as I mentioned previously, the recipe calls for chocolate frosting as the third part of the "Triple Chocolate." I made mine using Betty Crocker's 7-minute frosting. Though it tasted fine, I wouldn't say it was great, and seriously, when you are eating cake, why waste your calories on "fine." In other words, stick with the chocolate frosting.

The great thing about cake is that regardless of how bad it is, unless you substitute salt for the sugar, it's almost always eaten.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Birthday Celebrations

I’ve had a bit of a blogging lapse lately. Vacation knocked off one week of blogs, and the vacation recovery seems to be affecting this past week. Who knew it could be so exhausting to relax? Please forgive my lapse. I promise to get back at it.

Today marks the birthdays of two very important people in my life. First off, it’s my mom’s 82nd birthday! You would never guess she’s 82. In fact, when I called her this morning she was on her way out the door for her weekly golf game. (She lives in California.) I’ll probably never play golf but I hope to be just as active by the time I reach 82, or even 62 for that matter.

Next on the list of important birthdays is that of my husband. He’s 59! (I’m much younger, should you be trying to guess my age.) I told my mother this morning that it makes me feel rather old to be married to a man who is approaching 60. She said that having a child who is 55 (again, not me) is worse. I’m sure! I hated to remind her that my brother is actually 56 (hope he doesn’t read this and find out I’m disclosing his age!)

So, our discussion at bedtime last night was all about the birthday cake. I asked my dear, sweet husband what he’d like for his celebration. “Well,” he said, “if you’re making it for me, I like chocolate cake. Maybe you could throw in some chocolate morsels. Then, put on some white frosting. If it has marshmallows in it, that would be nice.” I wasn’t expecting quite such a specific response.

This morning I made my way through my recipe file in search of my recipe for Triple Chocolate Cake. My recipe file is in a bit of a jumble so it took quite a bit of patience as I made my way past Broccoli Salad, PfeffernÏ‹sse, Cranberry Cupcakes, Bran Muffins, and the like. I was nearing the back of the recipe box and was about to give up when the Triple Chocolate Cake recipe showed up. I thought since I went to so much effort to find this recipe that I’d share it with my blog readers. It really is quite good, and I plan to top it with Betty Crocker’s 7-minute frosting (which tastes almost like marshmallows – only better.) Technically, chocolate frosting is the third part of the “triple” but it won’t really matter. It’ll be yummy, and it’s a small sacrifice for my wonderful husband on his birthday.

Triple Chocolate Cake
3 eggs
¾ C. buttermilk or sour cream or combo of the two
1 C. water
1 C. butter or margarine (no wonder it tastes so good!)
¼ C. unsweetened cocoa
2. C. flour
2 C. sugar
½ t. salt
1 t. baking soda
6 oz. package of chocolate chips (1 C.)

Combine eggs and buttermilk in small bowl; beat lightly. Combine water, butter, cocoa in saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer 2 minutes. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and soda in large bowl. Stir – mixing well. Beat in buttermilk mixture. Stir in chocolate chips (A tip from my friend, Martha – shake them in some flour first to prevent them from sinking to the bottom.) Gradually add hot cocoa mixture and beat just until blended. Bake in 9” x 13” pan at 350° for 40 – 50 minutes.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Enjoy the Journey

I’ll admit it. I had absolutely no intention of telling you about the book, Simply Strategic Stuff. It’s not because I thought it would be a bad book, it’s just because I didn’t think it would be all that interesting. You see, it was more of a reading assignment for me. I am one of the deacons at our church and my pastor gave all the deacons this book by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan, and asked us to read it. He actually gave us two books, the other being In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. Since I’d already read In a Pit . . .” I concentrated on Simply Strategic Stuff. Oh, and did I mention that the subtitle of this book is Help for Leaders Drowning in the Details of Running a Church?

My immediate thought when I got the book was “seriously, Pastor Rob, I don’t want to run the church.” But, it has really short chapters, large print, and only 200 pages so I figured why not? (That, plus I admire Pastor Rob’s leadership and he would never ask me to read a stupid book.) I am so glad I took the time for this assignment. First off, I’m even more convinced than ever that I don’t want to run a church, but besides that, these guys had a couple of really interesting insights on life in general.

Just a little side note here – you know you’ve been in church leadership too long when you walk into a new church, look around and start counting the number of chairs the worship center holds! It’s sad, but I actually did that last weekend!

My favorite part of this book comes in Chapter 46 titled, The Journey is as Important as the Destination. I love that title. How often do we concentrate so hard on what’s going to happen in the future that we forget to enjoy the present? Tim talks in this chapter about the talk he gives his kids when they are starting out on a long road trip. Here’s what he says “Here we go kids! The fun begins today. The adventure starts right now. Don’t wait until we get there to have fun. It won’t get any better than this. Let’s take our fun with us, starting this very minute!”

I wish I’d thought to tell my kids that when we were taking road trips with them. Actually, I wish I’d thought to tell myself that. My thinking was more along the lines of “let’s just see if we can get there without any bloodshed in the back seat.”

More importantly, I wish I’d always had that attitude about life in general. But we all can, and should. We can start today by determining to enjoy this spot on the journey and not wishing it away waiting for the next big trip, or promotion, or fun event.

So, do I think you need to read this book? If you are involved with church leadership, it’s definitely worth your time. If you’ve been trying to figure out why things happen the way they do at your church you might find this to be a good resource. But, if not, you can probably skip this book, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey that is your life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Really cool fish!

John and I are currently on vacation in Florida. Before you get jealous, you need to know that the high tomorrow is expected to be in the 50's with lows in the 30's. But still, there is no snow or ice on the ground, so I'm not complaining. We are having fun with some friends.

On Sunday, we visited a local church. After a time of worship, a man and woman went up on the stage and took turns reading from Psalm 104. Let me be honest here and tell you that I was only vaguely aware of the fact that they were reading a Psalm. I actually had to call the church today to determine which Psalm it was! You see, there was a huge distraction. Showing on the screens found on both sides of the stage was a video with some of the most captivating pictures of God's creation I've ever seen. As I half listened to the reading I found myself looking at the scenes thinking, "I wonder where that beautiful waterfall is? Oh, that mountain is gorgeous." I knew that I should be listening to the words of the reading, but I just couldn't concentrate.

At one point, it became quite clear that I was not alone in my distraction. Here's what happened. The view on the screen was of a bunch of fish. There was this rather large black fish and a school (it would seem) of little silver fish. Suddenly, the big black fish opened her mouth and all the little fish swam right in! This was when I knew I wasn't the only one distracted because, as they swam into the big black fish's mouth, the entire audience gasped. Seriously, how stupid would a fish have to be to volunteer to be dinner?

But here's the cool part! When the pastor came up to preach after the video he explained that the larger fish was actually the mother to all those little silver fish and they swim into her mouth for protection when the big mean fish come along. Isn't it amazing how God created that form of protection for those baby fish? As soon as the predator was out of the way, the mother opened her mouth and out swam all her babies. Sometimes God's creation just leaves me breathless! (I was going to say speechless, but who are we kidding?)

By the way, once I found out which Psalm was read in church I looked it up and read it myself. It's a pretty cool description of God's incredible creation. You might want to check it out.