China Soup Bowls and Plastic Spoons – Hospitality gone wrong

Our sweet, elderly neighbor passed away two years ago and her children are in the process of selling her house. In their cleaning out and packing things up the daughter asked me if I would like her Mother’s china. I was so honored and thrilled to be gifted with this beautiful 12 piece place setting of  china.

Did you notice the totally adorable soup bowls? They have two handles. I’ve never seen such cuteness! I’ve had the china all of one week and we used it for the first time tonight. And totally not in the right way. Like for real.

We ate ice cream in the cutie patootey soup bowls.

With our new’ish neighbors.

I know. Tacky.

Here’s what’s tackier. I do dinner invites all wrong. First of all I have to get over myself and thinking everything has to be perfect before we have people over. And then when I finally do that I still don’t do it right. How’s this for a dinner invite: Show up at door step of neighbors at 6:15pm and say, “Ya’ll want to come over for dinner? Like right now. If you do we’d love to have you. If you don’t it’s okay too. We have to pick our kid up at 7:00pm so we don’t have long.”

Somebody slap me and say, “awkward.”

But my friend Amy Lively  has taught me much about loving our neighbors and I haven’t quite learned the “not being weird” part yet but I’m getting there. I hope she would just say, “Nah, not awkward or weird – you’re just inviting people where you are and where they are. Keep at it!”

My neighbors stared at me for a few seconds and then looked at each other and said, “Yeah, sure, we’ll come. Give us 5 minutes.”

I walked across the yard and back into our house and Randy said, “Melody, you don’t have enough food. That’s a tiny pork tenderloin. You need two.” And I realized he was so stinking right. There were three guests and four of us. We didn’t have enough. What the world was I thinking?!!

I’d heard of missionaries swearing their spaghetti had  multiplied at large gatherings where they didn’t have enough food. Of course I’ve read about the loaves and fishes in the Bible but I’ve never personally prayed and ask God to multiply our food before. But tonight I found myself praying for the multiplication of pork tenderloin. All I could do was pray and hope for the best.

I’m happy to say it worked out perfectly. I’m not sure if God shrank our appetites or multiplied the food. Either way, the food was enough. There were no leftovers but to my knowledge nobody went to bed hungry tonight. We had a great time talking and just being together. I left and picked up our son and came back and we talked for another hour and a half. And it was enjoyable.

Then I brought out the china soup bowls and told them about our former next door neighbor and how this was her china.

I scooped up the ice cream and went to grab spoons when I realized they were all dirty. I debated which was worse – using plastic spoons or taking dirty spoons out of dishwasher to wash and then dry. I made the rapid response of going plastic.

So there we were eating ice cream in 50 year old, gold-plated china with plastic spoons. I held up my soup bowl and said, “This is in honor of old neighbors and new neighbors.” And we all had a good laugh. And even though there was a quite a bit of awkward and risk getting there I was glad we pushed through it all.

 

 

 

 

Front Porch Tales

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Summer nights are the best. They land us on the front porch eating dessert and telling stories. Just the other night we somehow found ourselves in the middle of a conversation that began with, “Things to never tell the future boyfriend/girlfriend when you bring them over.”

We covered all kinds of hilarity – like the time one of them escaped from their bath and just randomly started hula hooping buck-nekked in the living room.  Yeah, we decided that would be a story NOT to tell when the new friend comes over to meet the family. Of course there were a lot more stories we exchanged. And it was fun. We laughed and cried and we’re enjoying this story telling time on the front porch.

Tonight’s question was, “What was the scariest day of your life?” 

I was shocked by Sophie’s answer and I felt so.bad. It was the April Fool’s day when we woke the kids up at 3am and told them a tornado was coming and we had to hide in the basement. You don’t even have to slap me to tell me that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. This was her scariest day. Oh my word my heart hurts so bad. And just for the record we were only down there like 2 minutes before we told them it was April Fool’s Day.

And I was surprised by Randy’s answer to this question as well. It was a day I came close to seeing Jesus face to face before an emergency surgery – I didn’t realize how serious this was until later – but it was his scariest day of his life. I had no clue.

I shared a story that my kids didn’t know – a scary time when a man tried to lure me and a friend by offering candy to us in a burlap bag from inside his truck. CREEPY!!!! A great short conversation followed about safety and what to do. What I did – rode my white Huffy home so fast the chain almost flew off. And prayed the entire way never looking back.

So it’s good these times of sitting on the porch and sharing stories. Story is good. If truth be known it’s what our ancestors did more of on their front porches back in the day.

Whether it’s the back porch, stoop, grassy backyard or your dinner table – tell more stories. They bring a family together.

A few prompters to get you going……

Talk about a time you tried something new. What was it? What happened?

Talk about a person you admire, famous or otherwise, who has fought or fights for the freedom of others.

Talk about a time something changed for you, something beyond your control. Have your feelings about this event evolved over time?

Tell about the best day of your life.

When the preacher’s family gets bored at dinner – this is what happens

So it started out as just a normal dinner but somehow this is where we landed between dinner and Upwards Basketball Practice.

Mind you this balloon was a Star Wars birthday balloon for Randy the second week of December. This is what was leftover.

And now for Mitchell……

And the Daddy-O

And the Helium Mom

Hope for Hospitality – Easy Recipes

I’m sharing three easy recipes that will never fail you in cooking for a group of 6-8 people. You might could set it on fire by covering it in gas and lighting a match but other than that you really can’t mess this up.

Missionary Chicken

6-8 pieces chicken, 1 1/2 c. long grain rice, *1 stick butter melted, *1 can crm mushroom soup, *1 can cram celery soup, *1 can crm chicken soup, *1 can of milk.

Combine *soup mixture together and pour about 1 cup on bottom of greased deep dish. Dip chicken in *soup mixture, lay on top of rice in deep dish. Pour remaining soup mixture over chicken. Add slivered almonds to top. Bake at 300 for 2 hours. Or 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.

I’ve only made this the 2 hour on 300 way so I can’t attest to how it comes out with the 45 min. cook time. But I assure you the 2 hour cook time makes this the most tender chicken and fabulous rice.  It’s okay to layer the chicken on top of each other a little bit so don’t worry about that. And yes, the rice is uncooked rice when it goes in your dish. It’s called Missionary Chicken because typically when missionaries come to speak at a church the service goes long and therefore whatever your cooking cooks longer and might burn. But this recipe can really keep cooking over the 2 hours and not get tough. Your friends will enjoy this dish.

Randy’s Rice 

In deep dish greased casserole combine the following:

2 cups long grain rice,  1 can consommé soup, 1 can french onion soup, 2 cans water, 1 stick butter (not melted)

Cook on 300 for 3 hours or 350 for 1 hour. I always cook on 300 for 3 hours.

Okay, listen carefully because I couldn’t believe this either. You just dump it all in the dish – no need to mix it, stir it, or anything. Even the stick of butter just floats on top. This comes out looking like brown rice and the top & sides have a crunchy layer. I don’t care for rice but I really like this stuff.

Pot Roast

Snag whatever roast is on sale – sirloin or chuck roast is what I get. Put in your crock pot with dry Lipton Onion soup mix on top and any veggies you want. Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

These are excellent Sunday meals because they cook while you’re at church and you pull it out when you get home. Only need to heat up the beans or whatever sides you serve with it. Easy meal! I usually put my roast on late at night Saturday and set my timer for 6 hours. I check it in the morning and add time to it if I need to. It stays warm in the crock pot until ready to eat.

Okay, so clearly these are not the healthiest meals in the world but they are easy, nice meals to serve your family and guests. If you don’t make it a habit to eat like this ALL the time you’ll be okay.

 

Road trip hilarity

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So this is what happens when you say we’re traveling to the Mountains old school style with no electronics. You see the excitement. I was hoping it might spur on some great sibling conversations in the backseat. The best we got was Sophie saying, “Hey, Mitch, is that hair I see on your upper lip?” Mitchell all manlike says, “Why yes it is.” With her eyes rolling and a sigh she says, “You got puberty!”

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We made it to the Mountains to meet up with our dear friends and pastor associate at our church. We didn’t talk church or theology. We just enjoyed time together. It was so refreshing.

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The cheese shop and the Honey Shop were awesome in West Jefferson. Quaint shops, good eating’ and breathtaking scenery.  Even better fellowship around the table outside each night for dinner.

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On our way back from our trip we stopped for lunch at Apple Bee’s and ended our time with yet another interesting family conversation. It started with the kids fighting and being mean to each other which led to the oldest yet greatest parental comeback ever, “Now you get to say 5 things you love about the other person.”  This stirred up about as much excitement as the no electronics thing on the way to the Mountains.

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Sophie thinks for a very long time. Mitchell is waiting with baited breath to hear his 5 great things. Meanwhile he’s thinking of his 5 things that he loves about Sophie. Sophie finally comes up with something.

“Mitchell, I love that hangy-downy tooth thing you got going on. And I like that you can whistle with it.” We all bust a gut laughing.

That’s not exactly the kind of thing we were after but fine that will count. You got 4 more to go. They both end up sharing their 5, hugging and making up. All is well again. We’re at peace and the food is about to come. Yay.

At this point Randy mentions something about school starting soon. Sophie asks when exactly it starts and we told her Monday. Her eyes got all bug eyed and her jaw dropped to the table and her lower lip starts quivering. Tears start coming down. We all start laughing again. She starts laughing at herself between the tears.

And there we were – going from fighting, to making up, to crying, to laughing. And then we rode the rest of the way home doing the same thing all over again.

And people, that’s how we roll. It’s not always lovey dovey peachy family time. It’s “I’m gonna kill you if you do that onemoretime” kind of a thing sometimes. But we love each other. We really do. Sometimes we just have to count the reasons why.

*More on hospitality on Monday – I have a few easy but great recipes to post for you.

 

Hope for Hospitality

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed at the thought of having people over to your house for dinner? Like you want to really bad but you’re pretty certain you’ll burn the beans, send the twice baked potatoes flying across the room (true story) or forget to put out silverware along with sending your guests home with salmonella?

Confession: I do.

I haven’t always felt that way but in the last few years I’ve grown more inhibited in the area of hospitality. It took a few epic kitchen fails to put me in a, “I’m not good at this anymore. I can’t do this” attitude.

A few weeks ago I was thanking a sweet lady in our church for the ice cream dessert she brought us when I was down with my leg and asked her for the recipe. She said, “Melody, I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you the recipe but I’ll also make it for you when you have company over sometime.”

I said, “Yeah, well, about that…. I’ve not been doing much of that lately because I’ve lost all confidence in cooking and being a good hostess. But I really want to get back into it. Will you pray for me in this area.” She agreed to do that for me. I thanked her for the offer to make dessert and told her I would take her up on it hopefully sooner than later.

Since that conversation we’ve had several families over for Sunday lunch and guess what – I didn’t kill any of them! I found a few things that made it easier on me to serve and lessen the stress. I purposed in my heart ahead of time that this was not about the food or how I entertained. It was simply about being with people and enjoying the time together. And it worked out just fine. Sure, I forgot to put out the napkins but someone else got them for me. And actually the green beans needed more salt but it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t make a dessert but someone showed up with two pies. It all worked out.

So a few things come to mind:

1) God hears our prayers. Even the simple ones from the kitchen sink.

2) Hospitality comes in all forms – sometimes it’s offering to make a dessert for someone else’s  dinner party. And sometimes it’s inviting people over for a simple meal.

3) Having people over doesn’t have to be a huge deal especially when we get our thinking right.

Check back for more on hospitality this week. We’ll talk about easy recipes, ways to keep it simple and alternative meal options. Hope you’ll join us and always feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Linking withKristinHolley and Jennifer today.

 

 

3 lessons learned & random miscellany

Lesson #1: Don’t recycle bird nests for bird use

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If you have ever wondered if you could trick a fallen baby bird by putting it into a nest that’s not it’s own just know it doesn’t work. The rescue attempt is a kind hearted move but the bird will fly out immediately and make a beak dive and injure it’s other wing. We have six bird nests that we’ve recovered from our ferns on the front porch. So we tried recycling them. Didn’t work. Yeah, just don’t try to be green when it comes to bird nests. Unless you want to use it as a candy dish and that’s just gross. I’m pretty sure that’s how people get the bird flu.

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On a happier note we had a great time with church/school staff on July 4th cooking out and doing fireworks with the kids in the front yard. About the time a bottle rocket landed on a roof at the same time a policeman drove by we decided we should be done. But it was fun while it lasted.

Lesson #2: Save the bottle rockets for the beach or the country. Not the city limits.

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This week Mitchell was at a lego robotics camp at our local community college. It was a lot of fun for him although he really enjoys building more than programming. This was a great experience for him.

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While he was doing his lego thing Sophie and I had some special girl time. We got our nails done one day and walked our little downtown and got ice cream. It was a fun time together.

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I found this adorable whicker basket in one of my favorite little shops called Mish Mosh. I’m thinking I may go back and get it if it’s not already sold. It would be so cute with long twigs coming out or some lighted stalks of something. But I’m being budget girl right now so I’m not spending money on things that aren’t needs. I don’t know though, sometimes you just need a whicker basket.

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 Lesson #3: Don’t try to explain what a Mammogram is to your children. 

I was praying with someone over the phone this week who was about to have a mammogram and she was very anxious about it. We prayed and apparently I used the word “mammogram” enough times for our seven year old to ask me about it when I got off the phone. Ironically she was content to accept my simple answer of, “It’s a test that helps Doctors determine if you have cancer.”

But it was our teenage son that asked a million questions. What kind of test? How do they do the test? Where do they do the test? Have you had the test? Do men have the test? Is it a shot? I tried so very hard to avoid specific answers for whatever reason. Maybe because I just found it awkward? But finally I was pressed so hard with the questions that I just unloaded and gave the full description.

Mitchell’s eyes were are as wide as saucers and Sophie is belly aching with laughter. Mitchell is horrified at the thought and in pure shock. He asks if Sophie would ever have to have one and when I replied in the affirmative her laughing suddenly came to an abrupt halt. I told her she had to grow them first and then wait for like 25 years before she had to have one so she didn’t need to worry about it.

When Randy got home for dinner the kids revisit the mammogram conversation and start telling Randy, complete with sound effects and charade type gestures, what a mammogram is.  I’m pretty sure Randy was in about as much shock as the kids were because after 21 years of marriage this is one topic we’ve never really discussed.

I’m just hoping it doesn’t come up in church or school as a prayer request soon. I can just see my kids requesting prayer for all the 35 year old women and up that will have to endure a mammogram. Nice.

Alrighty then, that’s what we’ve learned the last two weeks. What about you? Learning anything practical you’d like to share with the rest of us?

 

Crammed dishwashers and other cool stuff

Mitchell and Sophie are learning how to load the dishwasher these days. Emphasis on learning hence the entire 12 piece place setting of glasses crammed into one load. Randy and I were talking away at the kitchen table soaking up the great feeling of having our children clean the kitchen. This is totally new for them. They’ve helped with setting and clearing the table for a long time but the rinsing the dirty dishes and loading the dishwasher is new. It never occurred to me to explain that you can’t just stack glasses on top of each other.

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So when I opened this up this morning I cracked up and realized I’ve got to take the time to instruct a little better. But we were just so excited that they were doing it. I think we discovered a few weeks ago that they knew how to do this. They were keeping it a secret from us this whole time. Ha!

We are taking a “Financial Peace” class by Dave Ramsey and we are re-learning some good stuff. One of the things he encourages is for parents to give “commissions” instead of allowances to kids. Commissions (or money) for certain chores.

We’ve always had our kids do chores but they’ve never been paid for them. Their only source of money is for grades (we pay for A’s and B’s) and Birthday or Christmas. So this will be a new thing for them and us. We’re having to “budget” a category to pay our kids for their chores. Ha! That is just wrong feeling. But we’re going to do it. It won’t be a lot but it will be more than what they’ve ever had before.  We ordered this kit and will be talking about it with the kids at our next Family Meeting. I’m very impressed with it and think for the $20.00 that it cost it’s totally worth the life long principles our kids will be learning.

I want to share with you a huge provision of the Lord through some friends of ours. The rug you see below is a new rug that got damaged in delivery (the backing of the rug was cut). The company replaced it with a perfect condition one and told our friends to keep the other one or do whatever they wanted to with it. So they called us up and asked if we wanted it. Oh.my.word!

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Such a huge blessing. It is beautiful and we are still in shock over the whole thing. The kids pretty much just rolled around all over it the night they brought it over to us. You’d think their bare feet had never felt carpet before but indeed we do have a few other rugs in our house. We are just still thanking God for this gracious gift given to us.

Kitchen Table Talk – sharing the Gospel with others

We’ve been talking about ideas for our families at their kitchen tables this week. And I’m pretty sure that part of this next idea is something you might already do with your family. Dye Easter eggs. But what I want to get us thinking about is how we could do this and bring in some neighborhood kids or unchurched school friends to do it with us because what better time of year to start a conversation about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ than Easter!

I’m sure you’ve heard of Resurrection Eggs right? You can get them here or here or here. I love these eggs and have found them to be an incredible evangelistic tool not only for me but for my kids as well. Let your kids listen to you tell the story and then give them the chance to tell part of the story or the entire story. It’s why we’re here on this earth – to spread the Good News! And it can happen at our Kitchen Tables after school one day or on a Saturday. Doesn’t even have to be Easter weekend. So maybe this year consider dying Easter eggs at your kitchen table and then telling the story of Easter with Resurrection eggs. I’ve been amazed at the last few years how God has brought people into our path to share these eggs with. I’m not sure what this will look like for us this year but I’m praying and anticipating the opportunity to share Jesus with some neighboring kids.

 

Kitchen Table Talk – the power of affirmation

I was cooking dinner one night when I was struck with an idea as I thought about an area in which our son had shown great improvement. We would have a Family Awards Night at the dinner table and he would receive an award for this area of growth.

It sounds ridiculous but it really is fun. You think of something one of your children has accomplished, excelled at or did that you want to affirm and recognize and you give them a small award. We do this for one of the kids at a time because we want them to learn to be happy for each other and not feel like they “have to get an award” just because the other one did. This is hard to do because you see the disappointment in the beginning of the one who didn’t get an award but how many times in life are they going to face this very thing? Why not help prepare them at the kitchen table for it in a tiny way. Seriously, the kitchen table is such an incredible training ground.

The award is meant to be sort of silly. Like one time I made an award out of tin foil and straws and it was stupid looking but Mitchell loved it. Of course he would. He’s my eccentric, quirky one. And then one time I gave Sophie a pack of gum because she would’ve rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out at the freak-show tin foil creation. You could do whatever you wanted for the award and the award could be for anything positive you want to point out. It could be for catching your child sharing or serving another family member. It could be for a great test grade or improvement in a certain area. I use an index card or construction paper and write out a name for the award in chicken scratch “Creativity Award” or “Standing up for what’s right Award”  presented to: ____________   on such and such a date. One time we did it and someone yelled, “Speech, Speech!”  Mitchell stood on his chair and thanked everyone for coming out (the whopping four of us) and how happy he was to receive the award. Ha! Impromptu moments are the best, are they not?

Something like this is especially good for those of us who are not natural affirmers. I am one of those people. I’m working on it though and this is just one way that forces me to communicate what I see and think in my head but don’t always say out loud. A lot goes on in my head but it stays there. And sometimes that’s a really good thing. Ha! Because I could give all the material a joke writer would need for blond jokes. Seriously, it’s not even funny how true that is. But at least I know it’s true.

Let me leave us with this reminder from scripture today:

“The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

What are we speaking over our children at our tables?