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FAMILY MATTERS: TREADING NEW TERRITORY


Recently my husband and twin daughters decided they wanted to go camping. This would not seem unusual except that we did not own a tent and had never been camping before. I am not sure what brought on the new adventure, but it was definitely just that. They ordered a tent and started making plans for what to take and what to do while at the lake. As they prepared, they pulled out their bicycles, fishing poles, chairs, etc. and made their pile of things to take. The trip to the grocery store to get their food came next. Three people would only be spending two nights, but it took a full-sized plastic tub to hold just their snacks. Their reason being that you never know what you might be hungry for and there is not a grocery store nearby. 

When Friday came, they were so excited to pack the truck and off they went. A few hours later I received a text with a photo of the tent set up and ready to go. They had their camp looking like home and had already gone for a bike ride. Another daughter and I went out that afternoon to join in the fishing. Within about an hour, we caught a handful of fish, and I had gotten hooked in the lip but not from my fishing pole! Why does it always happen to mom?

After fishing, they decided to cook their hot dogs and S’mores over the open fire (which if it had not been 98 degrees would have been fun!). By that time, I was ready to head back to the air conditioned house and my nice comfortable bed. They proceeded to watch scary movies after dark (I still don’t understand that decision) and talked until they fell asleep. When they returned home two days later, our girls talked non-stop about everything they did while they were gone and wanted to know when they could do it again. 

This trip was treading new territory, and even though I did not understand them wanting to sleep in a tent on the ground, it was such a wonderful experience. What memories they now have of a “first” camping trip with their dad, something they will always treasure! We are already planning another trip (in cooler weather, of course) with the whole family this time.   Count your blessings daily, and give thanks for the time you have to share with your family.  

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Family Matters: Twice the Fun


Last week, my twin daughters turned 14 and decided they wanted to decorate their own cake for their birthday. I make cakes for family parties and have the decorating tips and coloring, so they have watched me prepare cakes for years. I was excited they wanted to decorate their own cake, knowing this would save me hours of work…nice break! I baked a large cake, mixed their desired colors of icing and let them go. 

First came a long discussion of what each was doing on “their side” of the cake. They wanted to make sure whatever the other one was doing would not make their side look bad. A line was then drawn across the center to mark boundaries. Now, picture two teenage girls in the kitchen working beside each other for hours…not all fun and games. Immediate frustration came from them both trying to decorate at the exact same time and needing to turn the cake closer to them. This was followed by the critical evaluation of the other’s decorating skills (and impact it was having on their side). I finally decided that mowing the lawn would be a good escape from the kitchen trials.

The funny thing is that after it was all said and done, the cake looked great. Apparently,  they actually learned something from watching mom over the years. They worked together to accomplish a task and realized how much hard work, time and effort it takes, and according to both, their back and feet were throbbing (all along I thought it was my old age!). They have never volunteered to help me on a cake, and I am pretty sure after doing their own, that will still be the case!  We laughed as we listened to them tell their friends at the party how much fun it was to decorate. Even after all the drama, the end results brought much joy and trials were soon forgotten. The next life lesson will be how to clean up the kitchen after you get through decorating a cake! 

Homemade Cake Icing

Ingredients:
1 Crisco Stick
2 Food Club Butter Sticks
2 tsp vanilla
3-4 Tbsp  milk
1 bag powdered sugar (sifted)

Directions:
Mix Crisco, butter and vanilla well, and then slowly add sifted powdered sugar. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.   

Schedule a time to try this icing and encourage your kids to work together to decorate a cake of their own – life lessons learned. Count your blessings daily, and give thanks to the Lord for the time you share with your family. It “bakes” a difference!      

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Family Matters: Hand-Me-Downs


I don’t know about your family, but our kids love to get “hand-me-downs.” It is getting new things without the hassle of shopping and it costs nothing…what could be better! When we get a bag of hand-me-downs from a friend, our girls put it in the middle of our living room and tear through the bag to see what fits and what looks good on them, and then they claim it as their own. Of course in a house where three of the girls wear the same size clothes, nothing is really ever your own, but it feels good at the moment to think it is all yours!

Our family takes all of our hand-me-downs to a local clothes closet that benefits less fortunate families.  We can take clothes, shoes, toys or anything that is still in good shape and donate it to be used for the good of others. We have a saying at our house: “Your hand-me-downs can raise someone else up.” This means that something we can no longer use or wear can be given to someone who is in need, and it will bring them comfort and a sense of joy. What is more rewarding than knowing you are helping others by just giving — something that cost you nothing? 

Don’t throw good, used clothing away for there is always someone who can benefit from items that your kids have outgrown. If you can’t find a local charity that takes used clothing, I promise there is some friend with kids that would love to have them, just ask. Rule of thumb: don’t donate items that have holes in them or stains (things that your kids would not wear).  When you want to raise someone else up, make your hand-me-downs something they will be proud to wear. A great time to do this is right before your kids go back to school. If they are like mine, they grow out of everything by the next school year. Clothes and shoes are expensive so this is a great way to teach your kids how to give to others.

Count your blessings daily, and give thanks to the Lord for the time you have to share with your family and the opportunities you have to raise others up!



Family Matters: Collage of Times Past


As I near the high school graduation of yet another child, my family and I have begun gathering items to celebrate this special occasion. We pull out our large plastic containers of family photos from birth to present and begin the process. As the family sits on the living room floor and thumbs through the photos one by one, what memories it brings back. First we laugh, then I cry, then we laugh (rolling on the floor), I cry again and it goes on for days.  My family finally told me if I did not stop with the tears, I was not going to be allowed to look at any more photos! 

In my defense, I am the mother, and the photos bring back so many happy and sad times of our life together as a family. The pictures of my children when they were young and photos with them doing silly things makes me laugh, but also brings tears for how they have grown into beautiful young ladies, not babies anymore. Seeing photos of loved ones we lost floods my heart with sadness, as they will miss this special time of graduation. How quickly time passes us by and so many times we fail to slow down and savor the memories as they are happening.

I will use the photos we gather to make a photo collage slide show that we will share with extended family and friends after graduation as we celebrate her life. What a great thing she will then have to share with her kids one day. Our future grandchildren will be able to see their mother as a child up through graduation and see the joy that she has brought us as her parents. 

Our life is but a collage of events that make up who we are as an individual. Every moment from the time we are born, our accomplishments, our failures, each and every life decision we make determines who we become. Remember to take pictures and capture moments that define your family. Though life is not perfect, our children are a blessing sent from God, and we should give thanks daily for what they bring to our life.

Take time with your kids to sit and go through family photos; it is a great way to bring you together for a special time of laughter…and tears. You will be amazed at the feeling you will have sharing so many memories together. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you have to share with your family. 

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Family Matters: Family Recipes, Fond Memories


One of my fondest memories, when I was young, was getting off the school bus every afternoon knowing that my grandmother had cake ready for us to eat. My MeMaw made the most delicious old-fashioned loaf cake, and it was wonderful with a big glass of cold milk from our dairy farm. It never got old eating the cake each afternoon. Maybe it was the sitting around the table telling her about our day at school that made the cake taste that much better. My grandmother taught me so many memorable things like crocheting and cross-stitching, but the one I treasure the most was learning to cook from scratch. The recipe I am sharing is one that my family loves, and each time I make it, I am overwhelmed with the special memories of standing in my MeMaw’s kitchen, by her side, baking.  I have many of her recipes that are old, torn and faded, but the memories of her taking such care to teach me will never disappear.  These recipes will be passed down to my four girls for them to share with their families one day. 

1-2-3-4 Loaf Cake

         1 cup shortening
         2 cups sugar
         3 cups flour, sifted
         4 eggs
         1/4 tsp soda

 Mix with the flour:

         1 tsp baking powder
         1 tsp salt

 Mix Together:

         1 cup buttermilk
         1 tsp vanilla

Mix ingredients in the order given and pour in bundt pan.  Bake 1 hour at 350° F. Enjoy the cake just like it comes out of the oven. Bet you can’t eat just one slice…it is addicting! You can also add fresh strawberries and whipped cream and have strawberry loaf cake dessert. 

It is as easy as 1,2,3,4. Prepare the cake this week, sit together at the table with your family and delight in the goodness of building your own fond memories. It can be the smallest things that make the greatest memories for your children or grandchildren. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family.  

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Family Matters: First Times


Remember the first time your child smiled, their first tooth, their first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten?  These are moments as parents that we will always remember and cherish.  As our children continue to grow, they experience the first day of middle school, first boy or girl friend, first broken heart, first day of high school, etc…  No matter how old our children are, they will continue to have “first times” in every area of their life.  As parents we should hold these times close to our heart and not take these moments for granted.

I remember the first time our 18-year-old daughter played Little Dribbler basketball in third grade and the laughter there was in watching her attempt to dribble the ball (or run with it).  As years passed she continued to play, and each year, as she progressed, the more exciting it was to watch her play.  She loves the game of basketball, and in doing so, it taught her leadership, perseverance, hard work and dedication. This year she is a senior, and watching her play was even more extraordinary. We cherished the moments of each game (win or lose) knowing it was her last time on the court.  Senior night was a special time for her to be recognized for her hard work and love of the game and a moment that we were honored to stand by her side. 

Now, as she moves forward, there will be the first time she attends college, first time to hold a full-time job, first time…first time…and life goes on.  As parents, we will continue to be there for all the “first times” she encounters and encourage and support her. 

Life is unpredictable and “first times” will never come again.  Don’t let your children’s “first times” in life be something you take lightly.  Let them see you smile (or laugh), give them hugs and always tell them “I love you.”  These moments are times they will remember, and it will make a difference in their lives.  Focus on your children and all the “first times” you are blessed to be a part of.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them.  

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Family Matters: A Touch of Strawberry


Our family loves strawberries and we are always looking for new ways to prepare them.   We experiment to see how they taste in different recipes or prepared with different toppings.   Our favorite recipe is for Strawberry Bread…it is delicious for breakfast, snack time or a bedtime treat.  

You can heat a slice in the microwave and add a little butter – my husband’s favorite thing to do!  A friend shared this recipe with me back in 1986, and I have been making it ever since.  It is a family tradition each year to bake loaves of the Strawberry Bread and give as gifts to close friends, teachers, and serve at family gatherings.   If you enjoy strawberries, this is a must try recipe!

Strawberry Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs Beaten
1 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Chopped Pecans (optional)
2 – 10 oz. Strawberries

Directions:
Mix sugar, eggs and oil well and then add strawberries.  Sift together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon and then add to the mixture.  Add nuts (optional) and stir together until moist.  Put in greased and floured loaf pan.  Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.  After it is cooled sprinkle top with a little powdered sugar (optional). 

When strawberries are in season, it is nice to use fresh strawberries mashed up in place of the frozen.  Also, you can bake it in a Bundt pan for a fancy look and it is a great party item.  

Take time and try this bread recipe – time in the kitchen with your kids is an opportunity to talk and bond with them.  It may become a family tradition that you can pass on for generations to come as I have with my girls.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family!      



Family Matters: Friends and Family


When you think about friends and family, some people may consider them separate, but to many of us, our friends are part of our family.  We all have people in our lives who are more than just a friend; they are sometimes even closer to us than some of our own family.  When you find that special friendship, it is something that you cherish and hold tight too.  

As years pass, we find ourselves in situations we thought we would never see ourselves in and face things that seem impossible.  It may be something with a spouse, a child, our health, church, work or life in general.  It is during these times that we rely on our friends to pick us up, dust us off and help us put one foot in front of the other and make some sense out of what has happened.  If you stop and think, for just a moment, you can remember a time when one of your friends did this exact thing for you.  Think now…have you done that same thing for them?  It is great to have a friend, but even more so to be that special friend to someone else. 

A friend is someone who helps you move forward when you think it is not possible, gives you a hug, a shoulder to cry on, listens when you talk, believes in you when others don’t, and someone that no matter what, is there to support you in any situation.  Most importantly, a friend is someone who will pray for you daily, pray with you when you need it and gives thanks for you and what you mean to them.  We are blessed with extraordinary friendships during our lifetime and it is up to us, not to take them, for granted.  Having a special friend(s) is a true gift from God. 

Focus on your friends and family. It is time well spent and most rewarding.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them.  

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Family Matters: Patchwork of Memories


We all go through daily routines of things “we must get done” in order to feel like our day was a success.  In reality, sometimes we find out too late that it is really time with our family that matters the most and where our time should be focused.  

My dad recently passed away and my days now are not as busy as they used to be, because some things don’t seem to matter like they did.  I constantly encourage my kids to treat each day like it may be their last – speak kind words, help others, be a good friend, give a hug, share your faith and always tell those you love how much they mean to you.  We get so busy and wrapped up in things that we fail to speak the words “I love you” to those we care for the most. Words are powerful and can make a difference in the lives of people around you.  You may not think you need to hear it, but be assured there is someone you come in contact with each day that those three simple words are exactly what they need to hear. 

I was very close to my dad and talked to him every day, and I always made sure the last thing he heard was “I love you”.  I was (and will always be) a “daddy’s girl” and my life is forever changed without him in it.  I have great memories and stories to share but I wanted something more that would give me a sense of him being with me always – unlike photos that fade and memories that grow vague over time.  I had a quilt made of my daddy’s shirts and it will be a keepsake to be passed down for years to come.  It will keep me warm, bring me comfort and will help me feel closer to him.  When others see it, it will only look like a quilt, but to me it is a patchwork of memories…each square a beautiful reminder of my dad. 

I spent the last two weeks of my dad’s life at his hospital bedside caring for him.  I did not know it at the time, but looking back I know now, that it was a precious “gift from God” and I will be forever thankful for that special time.  The last words he heard me speak were “I love you”, so I have no regrets.  My family matters and I let them know daily…what about you?  

Focus on your family and tell them what they mean to you.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them. 

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Family Matters: Smothered Steak & Potatoes Time


This is a meal that our family loves to make together. My two young daughters like to prepare the steak while I handle the potatoes. I believe they enjoy the “dipping” of the steak because of the mess it makes by the time they are finished cooking! Of course, they disappear when it comes time to clean up, but it is fun to watch them enjoy themselves while learning to cook… it gives them a sense of being needed and teaches them to be self-reliant. 

By the time they leave our home they will be ready to cook for their families and hopefully remember all the fun, so they will choose to make these same kinds of memories with their own kids.    

Smothered Steak with Brown Gravy

Ingredients:
Tenderized round steak
Flour
Vegetable oil
2 packages Food Club Brown Gravy Mix

Directions:
Take tenderized round steak and cut the pieces to individual portions.  Dip the steak in water and then in to a bowl of flour and repeat two times.  Place the steak in a shallow frying pan with oil (you do not want to cover the meat) and cook on medium heat until each side is brown on the outside. 

Take all finished meat and put in a large glass cake pan.  Mix as directed two (2) packages of Food Club Brown Gravy Mix and pour over the meat, cover the pan with foil and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes; then uncover for about 5 minutes.  Pull from the oven and cover until ready to eat.  The meat will be so tender it will melt in your mouth.  

If you put two layers of meat in the pan you will need to add an additional package of Food Club Brown Gravy Mix to make sure the meat is completely covered. 

Baked Sliced Potatoes

Ingredients:
Russet potatoes
Garlic powder
Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning
Colby-jack cheese, grated 

Directions:
Peel as many potatoes as needed for your family. Rinse the potatoes and then slice in 1/4-inch thick, round circles into a large bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder and Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning, and mix thoroughly so the seasonings get on all the potatoes. 

Pour the slices into a glass baking dish, add small amount of water in the bottom and cover with foil.  Cook on 350 degrees until the potatoes are tender, then remove the foil and let the potatoes get slightly brown on top. Pull the pan out of the oven and add grated cheese; turn the oven on broil and place pan back in for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and crunchy. You may enjoy them as is, or you can add bacon, sour cream, ranch dressings or chives to the potatoes once you get them on your plate. 

Make a green salad (or green vegetable) to go with the meal and you are all set.  

I hope you find the meal enjoyable while taking time this week to sit together at the table as a family. Savor the moments you have together. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family. 



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