Cooking and Food Family Ties

Oatmeal Spice Bars

Thirteen years ago and still newlyweds, dh and I traveled to Oklahoma City to attend the World Quarterhorse Show. Little did I know back then, *wink*, that all our future “vacations” would have in some way or another to do with horses or dogs, whether it was selling/buying stock or participating in cattledog trials…that is, until this summer’s camping trip to South Dakota. *Smile* Now dh agrees with me, there really is more than the destination when planning a road trip!

Anyway, while at this World Quarterhorse Show, dh gave in to temptation and frequented a cookie booth in the vendor area. He came back to the stands with this huge thick oatmeal cookie.

(He goes weak in the knees for oatmeal cookies.)

When we got home, I determined if he was going to go weak in the knees for cookies, they better be *my* cookies.

I never could get my oatmeal cookies as thick as the ones he bought in Oklahoma City, so I tweaked a couple recipes and made the whole batch into bars.

These Oatmeal Spice Bars have become the absolute favorite, he’ll-do-anything-for-me, treat! And my 9 yo has perfected the process now, so he gets twice as many as ever before. I’ve been meaning to share it here for a long time. I hope you try them, ‘specially if you have a man in the house that loves old-fashioned oatmeal cookies.

Oatmeal Spice Bars

  • 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TB milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 ½ cups quick or old-fashioned oats

Heat oven to 375*F. Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well. Stir in oats. Mix well. Press dough into bottom of ungreased 9×13” baking pan.

Bake about 35-40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool and cut into bars, about 3 dozen yield.


Modesty and the Older Woman

Modesty. So many values tied up in that one little word.Summer's Day in the Flower Garden

A woman comes to my mind when I think of modesty. She’s an older woman, one almost through rearing her children. She’s a pastor’s wife, a real lady, gracious and intuitive with kind brown eyes and long dark hair. At first glance you know this woman has class, and exchanging a few sentences with her confirms it.

She puts her faith and her family first, which translates to a whole lot of compassion and genuine caring about the rest of us.

As a younger mom, I want to be like a woman like this. I want to get to know her and have it rub off on me. As we get to know each other, I observe her in this order:

  • what does she wear to church?
  • how do her children behave?
  • how does she juggle all her responsibilities?
  • how does she respond to her husband in the good and bad times?

I notice a couple things up front:

  1. She’s extremely feminine, always wears dresses to church w/o drawing attention to herself or appearing dowdy
  2. She’s content

Then I find out she homeschools. So I watch her children and am convinced. I want to be like this woman.

Because I was attracted to all these outward expressions of modesty, I got to know this woman, who thirteen years ago was my pastor’s wife. I soon realized that her attractiveness was directly related to her relationship with her Heavenly Father.

And I learned an important lesson about modesty. It’s not confined to how we dress, it’s a heart-response to a desire to downplay us and in doing so, let His light shine however it may bring Him glory.

We can try in our flesh to be modest, to dress the “right” way, but if we’re not doing it in the right spirit, what difference will it make to those watching?

Trends have changed…little girls wearing Daisy Kingdom aren’t the rage anymore…nor are the dainty Laura Ashley type dresses we all used to wear.

I look around on Sunday morning and believe me, I notice who decided to wear a dress/skirt. I don’t notice from a judgmental perspective, but from a mother-raising-three-daughters perspective, and maybe, if I’m honest, there’s a little bit of that younger woman still in me that needs an older woman to hold the standard high.

Because with the standards all around us dipping low and riding high, doesn’t the church need to stand firm?

Whether we realize it or not, we’re sending a message and my little girls, among others, are watching.Young Girls Dressing

Next Sunday, join me in something. Search out a young girl wearing a dress and admire her choice. Reinforce her modesty and her desire to dress “up” for church by telling her how nice she looks.

In this jean and Capri-clad fashion-dictated world, you might be the only one who does.

For more submissions on modesty, visit Rebecca, this month’s modesty carnival hostess, at Between My Peers


Email Accounts and Flash Drives

At the last writer’s conference I attended, Deb Raney shared that sometimes, as an extra precaution, she emails herself her latest book chapters. This way they’re backed up in more than one spot.

If you have a web-based email service like gmail or yahoo, this works great. Even if your computer crashes, you still have your WIP available from another computer. Flash drives aren’t eternal, and nothing is failsafe, so this is a great option. Plus, it’s free.

So I spent some time last night and set up an email account just for my writing. Got all the important stuff nicely organized by chapters and notes. Now I just have to remember to login to that account every 4 months so it’s not all deleted!

I saved everything to a flash drive a few months ago, but the revisions are going so well I decided it was time to update all my saves and take Deb’s great advice.

My trilogy update: I’ve got two completed books in various stages of editing and a third that’s shelved for the time being. I “label” them as women’s fiction, because though there is strong element of romance, they all deal with a variety of difficult issues from health to loss to alcoholism to marriage and divorce. They’re Christian contemporary and all set in the mid-west.


A Fun Exercise With Femininity

Prom DressIn my last post, The Church’s Influence on Modesty, an interesting point in comments was made: the distinction that femininity is not synonymous with modesty.

What do you immediately think of when you are asked to describe “femininity”? Lace? Denim jumpers? Not me.

I picture a mother with longish hair and a flowing dress. Her beauty isn’t reliant on make-up, and she has her hair twisted back into some graceful style. When she fixes supper for her family she’s barefoot (no June Cleaver image here!) and has a white halter-style apron protecting her dress. The apron has delicate flowers embroidered on the bib and pocket.

Susie mentioned yesterday in comments,

“I am so thankful that current fashions are much more feminine than they were a few years ago. Remember the grunge/military fad?! At least you can buy clothes that have lace and frills now. Does anybody else struggle with the balance between looking feminine and being modest?”

Waving my hand! For instance, I just love Laura Ashley dresses…but I’d have to wear a light sweater with most of them because the bust is so emphasized. Their summer line is gorgeous, ultra feminine, but the materials just stroke each and every curve above the waist. Or they show a bit too much cleavage…

Do you have a favorite source for modest and feminine clothing? Share it in comments! Here’s mine for those of you with little girls: Practically Pretty Design.

Now it’s your turn to paint a word picture for us: What comes to mind when you envision “femininity”?

Christianity Culture Parenting

The Church’s Influence on Modesty

My experiences with modesty over the years have had their upswings and down.

If you’d asked me about modesty in my early married years, I would have defined it differently than I do now. Back then I didn’t see anything wrong with wearing tight jeans, etc. I figured if my husband liked me in them, what was the problem, right?

Remembering how blasé I was keeps me humble. After all, I was 18-21 years old, a Christian, active in church, etc. Sure, I didn’t wear my tight jeans to church, but some of my blouses dipped a bit lower than they should have, and I had at least two long skirts with slits that weren’t quite innocent. At all.

When I was 19, my husband and I started attending a church where most all of the women wore dresses. Conservative, matronly dresses. *Smile* Or at least they seemed so to me.

So I started teeter-tottering on the age old “what to wear to church” question. I did my best to conform to the standards of those around me.

Fast forward several years. We left the above church in order to attend one that my dad had recently accepted a position in as Associate Pastor. Because of something I misconstrued at the first church as a strike against modesty, I spent three years wearing only dresses/skirts in public. Anywhere in public. I admit it was mostly a pride thing at that point, though I’ve always loved the femininity of dressing in long flowing materials.

After this three years of “dresses only”, my dad and mom moved out of state to a different church, and hubby and I moved back to our original church. And dress codes there had changed with the times.

I began slacking off (to me) on Sunday mornings, eventually joining the “dressing down” crowd at church, and wearing mostly slacks.

However, my little girls loved dresses and would ask me each week why I didn’t wear my dresses to church anymore. Well, for one thing, a lot of my straight skirts didn’t fit so well back then after having just given birth to baby #3. But they really wanted their mommy back in dresses. And that among other things propelled me to make a stand on one side or the other of this seeming Divide.

Also, I realized after all these years of feeling pulled to dress “appropriately” on Sunday mornings, I finally saw it as a way, in obedience to God, to stand up to the culture. To be “in this world but not of it”.

I look at it this way. It’s too easy to reason away the choices we make in dress. I’ve worn skorts that look like mini-skirts because I’ve thought it was “more modest” than wearing shorts. It’s even easier to reason this way when everyone you appreciate and look up to is doing the same thing.

So I decided almost two years ago that I’d always wear skirts/dresses on Sunday morning. I still wear jeans or Capris for helping in AWANA, and for other evening church functions. I have no problem with the vast majority of modest Christians out there today that wear pants and shorts to church services.

But my line in the sand has been drawn, and at this point, there’s no crossing back over. That said, I think everyone has to come to this decision on their own. It’s intensely personal, and the best way to get across your point, is, in my opinion, by following your convictions and letting your actions speak for themselves.

Most everyone is pretty hip at our church now, and I’m the one in danger of feeling dowdy wearing skirts and dresses each Sunday morning. Especially in a church full of beautiful young chicks all slender and svelte and wearing the latest fashions.

But finally I know I’m doing it for the right reason. I may go back to wearing dresses/skirts even to evening church events, if I’m so convicted.

Only God knows. And that’s all that matters to me.

For more submissions on modesty, visit Rebecca, this month’s hostess for the modesty blog carnival, at Between My Peers


My Baby is Three Years Old

brandnew.jpgRecently I had reason to believe I might be pregnant…took a test…it was negative. But my mind had already retraced babyfeet.jpgto those baby days…those ultra-precious brand new moments interspersed with baby spit-up and bleary-eyed mornings, teensy toes and fuzzy-edged baby blues.

I don’t want to be 32 and finished with that time of life, but it’s in God’s hands. I’m grateful for the three beaubeauty.jpgtiful children I’ve got.

This morning I brought the baby book out and sat with my youngest. We enjoyed a trip churchbaby.jpgdown baby-day’s lane.

Best thing we ever did was our decision to have her at a non-medical birth center with the help of a fabulous midwife. All 9 lbs 2 oz of her with no anesthetic–hoo-rah. I’d go through it again in a heartbeat, all you mothers know the feelinghappygirl.jpg. Four hours later we were on our way home.

She’s grown up so much…and today she’s celebrating her third birthday!

Happy Birthday little one! Mama loves you.

These pictures are all out of her baby book…

Cooking and Food

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

Friday is Bible class day at my house…my dad feeds us spiritually at 9 A.M. and my mom physically at 11 A.M. Dad taught on the Father’s glorification of the Son, and mom brought tossed salad, seasoned cukes, grilled cheese and Dungeness crab on wheat and stuffed grilled zucchini! Yum…I’m so spoiled by both of them!

She was kind enough to send me the following recipe.


Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 5 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 TB chopped red onion
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs*
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella* cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4 inch shells. Brush shells with 2 teasp olive oil, set aside. Chop pulp in large skillet, saute pulp and onion in remaining oil. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer Add bread crumbs, cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, mint and salt. Spoon into zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Grill, covered**, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until zucchini is tender. 4 servings

* I substituted other ingredients and omitted mint which I did not have

** I put in oven instead of grill



Another tasty way to use up all that zucchini in your garden! Besides being delicious, they’re beautiful…little boats of zucchini fluff!

Happy Summertime!

Mega Cooking

Mega-cooking for Camping Trip

When I mention campsite cooking, I get the same response from almost everybody:

“When I’m on vacation, I don’t want to cook!”

So don’t cook while you’re on vacation, cook ahead of time, like I did, and let your husband do the grilling and reheating! Honestly, our biggest worry was keeping ice in the coolers, the meal-fixing was a cinch.

And look at it this way, if you’re camping, and eating food you would have eaten at home anyway, you’re only out finances-wise for gas and any sightseeing expenditures you decide to splurge on.

Here are a few things I did that would be classified under mega-cooking, in the weeks before our trip:

  • Every time I browned hamburger I put aside some in a container in the freezer. By the time we left I had enough browned meat to use for the biscuits and hamburger gravy.
  • The campsite manager warned us ahead of time that South Dakota nights are cold, so I decided to make chili and beef stew–something to stick to our ribs. I just doubled these meals ahead of time, and stuck the extra portions in the freezer. They reheated great in a cast iron skillet over the campfire.
  • In the same way I baked extra cornbread, muffins and biscuits to accompany our meals. I froze the muffins because I made them 2 weeks prior to our trip. The unfrozen cornbread and biscuits reheated in foil on the grill were as good as fresh from the oven!
  • Take some mixes along…I bought a McCormick’s homestyle white gravy mix that only needed water added. I also took a box of pancake mix that only required water to mix up.

I took some frozen yellow cake, planning to serve it with blackberries and whipped cream. Unfortunately, the gallon-sized bag I had the cake stored in was punctured and let melted ice in…ruined the cake. But we enjoyed the sugared blackberries over crumbled blueberry muffins.

My mom gave me a bagful of clean peanut butter jars…these were perfect for transporting eggs. I cracked them into the jars ahead of time and just stuck them in the cooler. Mix and pour for scrambled eggs to eat plain, or mixed with foil-cooked potatoes, or in breakfast tacos. Then toss the jar!

I also packed canned peaches, grapes, applesauce, raisins/craisins/dried blueberries and way more snack items than we were able to consume. (You just never know with my dh, the self-proclaimed snack king) and took dry cereal along as a breakfast back up.

We had milk that needed used up by its expiration date, so I filled two peanut butter jars up and took them instead of the powdered milk I’d planned on taking. Worked great!

Of course, you’ve got to take along hot dogs and ground meat for hamburgers and my girls’ favorite: MARSHMALLOWS to roast…

We ate well, and had food leftover. And by lining the pans with foil before cooking, I saved myself a lot of clean-up.

Have I convinced you yet? 🙂

Book Recommendations Health

Enzyme Therapy

An hour at the health food store is always time well spent,  and recently I enjoyed an uninterrupted Q&A session with the store manager.

Health is such a fascinating topic, unless you’re face to face with an M.D. who believes drugs are the only answer. I’m thinking in terms of autism, or ADHD, and the epidemic we have in this country of children on Ritalin, and other controlling substances.

Anyway, while there, I found this book on enzyme therapy–a  resource telling what enzyme deficiencies different problems are derived from. The author, Karen L. DeFelice, has a website and her book is Enzymes: Go With Your Gut–More Practical Guidelines For Digestive Enzymes.

She also wrote: Enzymes for Autism and Other Neurological Conditions. Her website has a most helpful forum.

First and foremost, this author was a mom raising two autistic sons. She was desperate for answers, and the medical community wasn’t helping. One of her sons banged his head on the wall all day long every day. The other had several different autistic issues. Today, with enzyme therapy, they’re completely normal young men. Amazing story.

I guess this mother/author did a book signing at our health food store and she told the owner that she always replied to emails from people searching for answers. It might take her a week, but she would reply in person. I really want to encourage you to get this book, read it and form your own conclusions. I’ve since ordered my own copy, and read it from cover to cover. It makes perfect sense.

I fully believe that we shortchange God by subscribing to the drug theory all the time as the cure-all when He’s provided so many natural resources for us to use instead.

At any rate, I wanted to share this find here in the hopes that it might help someone. Enzyme deficiencies can cause many problems and aggravate many more.

This is a great step in taking charge of your own family’s health.