Monday, August 27, 2012

A Christmas Gift to Add to Your List

Christmas is less than 4 months away and I have the PERFECT gift for you to give away.  This gift is so perfect you will want to add one for every person on your list.  Children, parents, grandparents, teachers, the mailman, even your hairdresser!

All during the month of September, I am teaming up with Compassion in an attempt to get blog readers everywhere to sponsor 3, 108 children!  Our goal is to beat all of our previous September goals in Compassion's history!

For just $38 a month, you can provide food and clean water, medical care, educational opportunities, a Bible in your child's native language, and life-skills training.  But even more important than these, your sponsored child will hear the good news of Jesus Christ and be invited into a relationship with Him!

So pray about it with your family, I'll be sharing all kinds of wonderful things with you over the next month.  Jesus' gift to us wasn't meant to be wrapped in pretty paper and kept inside our homes, don't our children have enough toys and gadgets and doo-dads?  Let's encourage our children to give and sacrifice of themselves.  And while you're at it, look over your own wish list and see if there is something you can do without so a child can have the opportunity to know Jesus.

Check back soon for more!

P.S. If you are a blogger and want to join in sharing the work of Compassion, this is a great time to join the network of bloggers and get in on the blessing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

House Guests 201

As I shared yesterday, we recently hosted a family over the weekend and I want to share what & how I did, for my own future reference and also perhaps to help another reluctant host.  Today I'll share what I served for food.

For as many pictures as I had in the last post, this post is drastically missing any.  I didn't have an extra moment to snap pictures of any of our food.  All the pictures in this post are borrowed from the Internet.

I made up as much food ahead of time as possible.  I did not want to be in the kitchen all weekend and I definitely did not feel like I was.

For drinks, I made tea syrup from a recipe that Deborah shared with me.  Then I froze it in pint size servings, which make 1 gallon each.  I had a galvanized 1 gallon cooler with iced tea and a 2 gallon cooler with water available at all times.  We drink filtered water so over the month prior to their arrival, every time we emptied a gallon jug I rinsed it well, filled with filtered water and popped it in the freezer.  This way we didn't have to constantly refill the water filter or wait for filtered water.
In the mornings I made coffee and heated up hot water.  I laid out a variety of tea bags and a container of hot cocoa mix which was a huge hit with the children.

I had a meal planned for Friday evening but our company didn't arrive in time for dinner.  So Friday evening before we left for church I put the dessert, apple crisp, in the oven and put it on time bake so the house smelled so comforting and homey when we arrived home.  I served it hot with ice cream but the most delicious part of the snack was the fellowship!

Saturday breakfast: Sausage & egg casserole (I made the day before but I often make and freeze this as long as 2 months ahead of time), watermelon & cantaloupe, orange and apple juices, hot drinks

Saturday lunch: Grilled Chicken in the Crockpot (this is a recipe that Jill shared with me, it was so simple and so delicious) served with barbeque sauce, Corn on the Cob in the Cooler, Frozen Berry Cups (another recipe shared by Deborah...I feel like I should say this post was brought to you by the King girls, tee hee), Lemon Cake

Grilled Chicken in the Crockpot
Chicken Breast (the recipe didn't specify amount, I used a double recipe of marinade for 5 pounds of tenderloins)
1/4 c butter 
1 c vinegar
1/8 c salt 
2 T water
1/2 t pepper 
1 t poultry seasoning
1 c b sugar.  

Boil all ingredients together, pour over chicken, marinade 2 hours.  Grill chicken for 5-10 minutes (chicken will NOT be cooked, I cooked tenderloins for 5 minutes since they are small).  You can freeze at this point.  Make a fresh batch of marinade WITHOUT the salt this time, thaw chicken, put chicken and fresh marinade in crockpot, cook on HIGH for 2 hours.

I was very leary of the amount of salt and vinegar in the marinade recipe but it was not overly salty (make sure to omit the salt from the second batch of marinade) and the vinegar really helped to make the meat tender.  Also the fat from the butter in the marinade helped the chicken to not stick to the grill.  This chicken was very tasty, tasted fresh off the grill but neither Mr. Steady nor I had to take time away from our guests to stand over a grill!

I was also not certain how the corn-in-the-cooler idea would work so I tried it out several days ahead of time.  You simply boil water, husk your corn and put it in a large cooler, pour the boiling water over it and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.  Mr. Steady was afraid it would ruin the cooler.  I used a different cooler each time (because of amounts) and both times I heard a distinct *pop* but neither cooler seemed damaged in any visible way.  I haven't used either one for cold items since but if I have a problem, I'll report back.  The first attempt I tried husked and non-husked corn.  Both cooked and tasted great but since we were serving a lot of children and you have to handle the corn hot if you cook it in the husk I decided to husk it ahead of time.  That's a great job for the children to do.  Make sure you rinse out & wash the cooler immediately because I read that it can get pretty funky pretty quick if you don't.

The family was at another home for supper Saturday night.

Saturday evening snacks:  Cheese & crackers, cookies

Sunday breakfast: Vanilla yogurt, homemade granola with a variety of stir-ins such as raisins, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips, zucchini bread (made ahead of time and froze), orange and apple juices, hot drinks.  I knew this meal might be more rushed as we attempted to get 15 people up, dressed, fed and out the door for church so I made it very simple and pretty much self-serve.

Sunday lunch was a carry-in at church

Sunday evening we had pizza and snacks at the church afterwards but I set out veggies and dip and zucchini bread for a snack before we headed out the door to church.

Monday morning: Crockpot Egg Casserole, watermelon & cantaloupe, orange and apple juices, hot drinks.

I cannot find the link to the recipe I used for this but there are a lot of different recipes online for this idea.  I can tell you the basics.  It was 1 pound of cooked & crumbled bacon, 1 (32 oz) bag of frozen hash browns, 4 cups shredded cheese (I used a variety of sharp cheddar and co-jack), 12 eggs, 1 cup of milk, salt & pepper.  The recipe also suggested onions, peppers, and mushrooms but I omitted and stuck to the basics.  You start with your meat, then layer the hash browns and cheese, repeat layers to the top.  If you want to add veggies, layer those as well.  Then mix the eggs, milk and seasonings and pour over.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  This was so perfectly cooked and it served everybody with seconds plus Mr. Steady had a nice amount to take for his lunch.

I served all the meals buffet-style in the kitchen.  I used our regular dinner plates with disposable cups, napkins and silverware for each meal.  This way it was easy to keep up with dishes but we didn't create a huge amount of trash.  I bought some fun colored cups from GFS and had a lot of fun matching different napkins from my stash to the cups.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

House Guests 101

This post may seem pretty innocuous and straight forward, even basic and juvenile, for some of you.  You might entertain all the time and have overnight company twelve times a year.  But when Mr. Steady and I invited a family of 10 to stay for 3 nights with us recently, I wasn't sure exactly what to do.  I searched the Internet for ideas and suggestions on how to host house guests and found the results either quite shallow or overwhelming.  So I thought, for my own journaling purposes and record keeping, I would share what I did to prepare.

First off, a little background.  We have only had houseguests three times previously, we have hosted my mother-in-law twice and a pastor and his wife.  I had a lot of fears of inadequacy and insufficiency but I remembered the words of a mentoring friend who shared with me some time ago, "It's about hospitality, not entertaining".  Opening your home up to someone is not about impressing them, it's about loving them, sharing life with them, giving them a soft, warm place to sleep and food that comforts and sustains.

Dad & Mom and their youngest son (in a pack & play)slept in our room.  The Reader enjoyed putting Hershey's kisses on each pillow.  Because the family arrived late in the evening after church services, I made sure to turn on lamps before leaving the house for the night. 
 I also left a small gift (a package of pretty tissues, a notepad, special chocolates, and almonds) and a note on their bed, thanking them for visiting us.
 Because we have a limited number of towels (our family used beach towels for shower time), I laid out a towel for each guest so they would know which one was theirs.  I also filled a small basket with necessities that might have been forgotten.  I get free samples from different companies of shampoos, body washes, and other things and hold onto them for traveling. 
 I put fresh flowers on the night stands of all the ladies.  Mr. Steady picked up $12 worth of flowers from the grocery store and I was able to make 3 medium sized bouquets and 3 tiny bouquets for various places around the house.  Current reading materials were placed on the bottom shelf of our nightstands.
 This love seat is in our bedroom and I made it up for their youngest daughter to sleep on.  She ended up deciding she'd rather sleep with her sisters, which allowed her parents to have a private place to relax and Mom to nurse the baby.
 I tried to personalize each bed a little bit, putting out reading material that would suit each person.  I also tried to pick out a special blanket for each person.

The girls slept in the boys' bedroom.  Luckily we haven't done any decorating in this room so it's pretty neutral.  I spent some time at the library picking out books for young girls - I am not sure if they read them or not but I have been in places where I would have *loved* something to read.

 I took off the boys' blankets and replaced them with more feminine ones and put pretty flowered pillowcases on for the girls. 
 This picture cracks me up, I had a little more organization in mind for the boys, who slept on the floor of schoolroom.  But then I guess when you let them make their own beds - you get what you get.  The school table is where the children took their meals so the boys had to pile all of their blankets and pillows back into the blue totes every morning.  Then they pulled the table out, put the chairs around, and ate their meal.  Then, because this was also their play area, they had to put the table back and fold up the chairs until the next meal.  Not exactly ideal but I never heard anyone complain.
 This is the beautiful family that stayed with us, on their last morning.  They don't look too starving or tired, do they? :o)
I will post tomorrow about how I fed everybody!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gooey Caramel Cake

The Reader dislikes chocolate about as much as The Thinker and I like it.  He will eat it but prefers caramel or vanilla over chocolate.  So for his birthday he requested a "vanilla cake with caramel sauce drizzled over it and vanilla icing".  Antithesis of chocolate?  So I found this pin and thought it would suit him well.

I don't have round cake pans (which you will see why in a future blog post) so I used one 9x13 and one 8x8 square.  I cut the 9x13 in half and stacked them all together.  The cake is really super moist and you stack it while it's still hot which made for a mess stacking them.  So it's not so pretty (click on the link above and see how pretty the original cake was).  But the end result?  Even this self-proclaimed choco-holic was enamored with it.

I had to add about double the amount of powdered sugar to the frosting to get it to spreading consistency, maybe I didn't follow the directions carefully and missed something, not sure.

Try this cake very soon, you will not be sorry.