Posted in Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints Thursday: Advent Devotional

Yes, I’m shamelessly promoting my wonderful husband because I think he’s awesome!

I know we’re several days into the advent season so you’d have to catch up, but if you’re looking for a daily devotional to use between now and Christmas, Doug’s advent book might be just what you’re looking for. It is based on the gifts of the wise men – well, at least for the first three weeks. The fourth week focuses on the other people of the Christmas story.

The book is available from Amazon for Kindle for 99 cents. Click on this link to purchase.

Advent Reflections 2011: The Gift Cycle

Don’t have a Kindle, but still interested? You can always install a Kindle reader on your computer or phone. But, the book is also available (for free) in PDF format. I only ask this: if you download it for free and if you like it, will you click on the Amazon link and review it for Doug? Of course, it would be great for you to do that if you purchase it as well! Also, if you have any suggestions for how to improve the format or content for next year, will you send Doug an email? (His email address is included in the book.)

Happy reading!

Posted in Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints Thursday: Meals

The kitchen can be an intimidating place for me. If it’s not about baking cookies, breads, granola bars, etc., it’s just not fun. I can cook. That’s not a problem. If I have a recipe in front of me, I rarely have a problem creating something palatable. And, I’ve learned enough from my mom and hubby that I can sometimes even prepare meals without recipes. But, there is one major thing that paralyzes me: figuring out what to fix. And frequently when I finally come up with something that sounds good, I find I’m lacking a key ingredient to fix it. With the grocery store 15 minutes away, there’s no way to run out and grab that ingredient quickly and make our noon meal at any decent time, especially considering we need to be doing certain school tasks while I’m working on dinner.

The solution for me is two-fold.

1) Plan ahead. Make a list of meals, post them in slots on the calendar, and post the calendar on the fridge. I also list it in my school planner. That way it’s in front of me all the time. I know exactly how much effort needs to be put into the meal, and I don’t spend all my prep time staring into the pantry with a glazed look on my face.

2) Cook ahead. Even if I know what I’m supposed to prepare, I don’t have a lot of time in the mornings to make a meal. I do all of my teaching in the mornings, except for a little one-on-one time with the girls after lunch. I essentially have thirty minutes before lunch to devote to being in the kitchen once the breakfast dishes are cleaned up. That would automatically exclude some of my kids’ favorite meals like quiche, pot pie, parmesan chicken cordon blue, and peachy chicken. So, I will cook ahead. Right now I have enough meat sauce in the deep freezer, subdivided into meal-size portions, to make six to eight meals of lasagna and spaghetti. I have four meals worth of peachy chicken, and five or six of parmesan cordon blue. I have three and a half dozen balls of frozen pie dough ready to thaw and roll out for quiche or pot pie. And, next time I make a pot pie filling, I’ll at least double it so I can freeze a bag or two of that as well.

When I take the time to do this, it makes a HUGE difference in our week. When I don’t, well, our meals are just not pretty. Or healthy, for that matter.

If this sounds helpful to you, do you need some recipes and tips for planning ahead? I recommend 30 Meals in One Day. About a year ago I posted about our first experience with the program on my family blog. Here’s part one and part two. We don’t typically follow the plan to a “T”, but some of our favorite recipes (such as the peachy chicken and parmesan cordon blue) come from that book, and I learned so many freezer tips as well.

Posted in Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints Thursday: Chop Stir

Today’s helpful hint is a kitchen gadget. We have only had this handy tool for a couple of years at the most. But, now that we have it (actually, them – we have two!), I have no idea how we lived without it!

The gadget is the Chop Stir. (Click on the name to see a picture.) It is a handy little tool that does exactly what it says it does – chops and stirs at the same time. The description in the above link talks about using it for ground meat, which we do. But, there are so many more uses! Mixing up juices from frozen concentrate. Blending chunky items in a pot. Cutting up casserole on a child’s plate. Mixing the different components of fruit salad. Just to name a few!

The “blades” are pointed to give them a cutting edge, but the entire utensil is solid plastic. So, it doesn’t scratch surfaces.

So there you have it. A new and very necessary kitchen gadget. You’re welcome!

Posted in Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints Thursday–Schooling

This week’s edition of Helpful Hints Thursday is all about education – and not just homeschool education, either!

First, an article entitled “Homeschool Blindspots”. (Click on the title to read the article.) This article was originally published in Virginia Home Educator Magazine and then reposted on Josh Harris’ blog, and I think it’s a great article for parents in general, not just homeschoolers. Good reminders for me, for sure.

Second, a book recommendation. First, let me say that I have not read this book. But, I want to. And, if it is what I expect it to be, I want to have a couple of copies always on my shelf to share with other families. The book is entitled Going Public, and I first read about it in a review written by Tim Challies. (Click here to read the review.) Going Public deals with Christian families raising godly children while educating them through the public school system. I hunger to encourage all families in the education of their children. But, I personally have very little knowledge of how to encourage families whose children are in government schools. David and Kelli Pritchard, however, do have that experience, and they share it in Going Public. Like I said, I haven’t read the book yet, but I trust Tim Challies’ perspective enough to share it as a “probably worth checking out” title.

Posted in Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints Thursday

I’ve been wondering for a while what I might slip in the Thursday slot on this blog. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I try to post a thought of some sort. Tuesday is book review day. Thursday was a little lonely! So, I thought I’d go with a totally different approach on Thursdays: some sort of helpful hint.

Well, at least sharing something that’s been helpful to me and my family. Hopefully at least someone else will find each suggestion helpful!

There’s no telling what will end up in these posts. Books that don’t make the review schedule. Links. Product suggestions. Activities. Ideas and suggestions.

I’m going to start with a link. And yes, I’ll go ahead and confess that I’m a little biased. But, other people do like this link, too!

I recommend to you my darling husband’s blog.


  1. If he has an opinion, he can clearly back it up. Reading his blogs, whether you agree with him or not, can open your eyes to see another side of an issue, help you solidify why you do or do not agree with an issue, or simply teach you more about how to clearly express your opinion. I love that about him – always have. You can disagree with him, but it’s hard to flat out argue with him because he articulates so well.
  2. His topics are varied. One day he might write on thoughts from Scripture. Another day on sports. Another on politics. Another on random life. If you don’t find something that’s up your alley one day, come back the next. He’s well-spoken on many topics!
  3. This one is the most fun for me. Doug posts his sermons and their outlines every week, but then he goes beyond that as well. Have you ever wondered what gets left out of a sermon? What things come up in the course of study and preparation but just aren’t shared from the pulpit for whatever reason? Well, Doug blogs about those things.
  4. He is very well read and posts a book review a week like I do. But his genres are a little more diverse. His reviews are great and worth the read!

Now, keep in mind that he is a full-time pastor and carries a decent load of seminary classes as well. So, there are weeks that you will only see the sermon podcasts/outlines and the book reviews. But even then, it’s a good read.