Thursday, April 28, 2011

Layered Lettuce Salad

A salad that looks like spring ... I love the looks and the taste of this delicious layered veggie salad. We enjoyed it again for Easter Dinner this year. I found it years ago in a Taste of Home magazine, and have made it many times. It takes a bit of time with the various ingredients, but it is so worth the effort ...

Layered Lettuce Salad

1 head lettuce, torn
1 cup minced fresh parsley (or some sprinkles of dry parsley)
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped (or often I use just one)
1 package (10 oz.) frozen peas, parboiled
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 small red onion, chopped

1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dill weed
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Fresh dill springs, optional

In a large salad bowl, layer the first eight ingredients in order listed.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, basil, salt and pepper.  
Carefully spread on top of salad.
Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Garnish with dill sprigs if desired.

Yield:  12 servings

I usually serve this salad in the glass bowl, pictured above. Also recently I made up a recipe of the salad and divided it into two smaller containers ... perfect for giving one away as part of meal for a new mother, leaving the other one here at home for the two of us.

Linking up to Ultimate Recipe Swap, sharing salad recipes.

Photo Gallery of Joy

Linking up with others sharing a photo gallery of things that bring me JOY ... 

sweet grandkids ... 

Our three youngest grandkids ... blessed with nine altogether!

enjoying "empty nest" days with my "mr." ...

Sweet gifts from my husband on Valentine's Day ...

quiet moments with God ...

My greatest source of joy, peace, and strength ... 

taking photos for scrapbooking & blogging ...

Capturing beauty ~ last week at Mulhalls Garden Center ...

grown kids home to visit ...

So blessed to have four daughters, two sons, and four sons-in-law ... love them all!
In this photo: three daughters home for a freezer meal day ... another one planned for this Saturday!

holidays and special meals together ...

The whole family home this past Christmas!

the beauty of sharing good food ...

Lemon Bars ~ made last week ...

A glimpse into some of the many sources of joy in my life ... many more; too many to count. A fitting time for me to link up with others at Faith Barista to share joy through photos. It has been easy for me to focus on the trials of life in recent weeks/days ... and always, God gives us joy in the midst of the daily challenges. Some words I read this morning:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!"
(Psalm 37:8)


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Great Joy

The Cross was a prelude for the Resurrection. There would be no Resurrection without the Cross. The pain came before the joy. Death came before Life. 

And in this cross, this death, this pain ... a way is opened to us for Joy, and for Life.

Sometimes my finite mind and heart focus on the pain, and the trials of the broken, messed-up world we live in. But all because of Jesus and the pain He went through ... we can look beyond, to the Life He came to give. Life and Joy even amidst our trials.

"Dear brothers and sisters, 
when troubles come your way, 
consider it an opportunity for great joy
For you know that when your faith is tested, 
your endurance has a chance to grow." 
(James 1:2-3)

Thank You, Lord. Thank You for the Joy, Love, and Peace You give to us in the midst of difficult times. All because of You, and all because of what You endured for us before the Resurrection came on that first Easter morning. And our earthly trials are also our way to Joy and Life, for they cause us to run to You, the source of all that we long for.

Linked to Walk with Him Wednesdays, sharing thoughts on The Practice of Living Easter: Practicing the Resurrection.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Made with Love in April

Several special days in April ... opportunities to show love with a handmade card. I've been taking time in recent years to try to make more cards instead of purchasing them. Partly possible because of the supply of scrapbooking paper & embellishments that I have collected over the years. And partly because it is hard for me to pay $3. or more to purchase a card. And I like to feel like I have given some time and love into the giving of a card, putting a little of my heart into it. (I do love all cards, though, store bought or handmade ... I treasure all the cards I have received, and usually save them!)

As life is full and my time is limited, though, I do not get as fancy as some do with their card-making ... thankful for ribbon and embellishments that you can use to make something special in very little time. Here are some that I made this past month:

Such an exciting event ... the arrival and adoption of a sweet baby boy for good friends of ours!

And what fun to celebrate our two little grandsons, twins, turning 2 years old!

And our oldest granddaughter, turning 15!  Where have the years gone?  She is the sweetest ...

A big day ... my father turned 90 this month!  A bigger celebration coming in July when all my brothers and their families will be here.  We took him out to eat on his actual birthday and gave him this card.

Linking up to A Bowl Full of Lemons, sharing creative projects.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Life Out of Emptiness

Photo Source

"How precious 
are Your thoughts about me, O God. 
They cannot be numbered! 
I can't even count them; 
they outnumber the grains of sand! 
And when I wake up, 
You are still with me!" 
(Psalm 139:17-18)

On this day after Easter, these are the words that I read. Because of the Resurrection, we can have close connection with this God whose thoughts are on us constantly, the One who gave His life to give us Life.  He brought Life on that Day of Resurrection, and He can bring Life to all the difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in ...

"Make Me your focal point as you move through this day. ... Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure." (Jesus Calling)

Instead of gazing at circumstances that can bring confusion, I am choosing to fix my gaze on Him, and to count His gifts ... Thank You, Lord ~

375 - for lifting my gaze from some confusing circumstances ... and helping me fix my eyes on You.

376 - that You can bring Life out of emptiness ... and that You can transform trials into good.

377 - for all the Hope, Joy, and Peace that we can experience in the midst of trials ... all because of You.

378 - for teaching from Your Word Easter morning ... life-giving, and spoken to my soul.

379 - for fourteen family around our table for Easter Dinner.

380 - four grandsons ready for an Easter Egg hunt ... and missing our three year-old granddaughter who was home sick, (and also missing our four grandkids in Texas!).                    

381 - three two-year old grandsons after the hunt ... what fun they had!

382 - a few belated birthday gifts from a great-uncle for two two-year olds ... 

383 - and thankful again for a son, home from a three-month job at sea ... and uncle to these boys.

384 - and time to celebrate my father's 90th birthday, again, this time with family ... and his great-grandsons helping him with the candle-blowing.

 385 - for meeting another son's special friend ... so thankful they could join us later in the afternoon.

386 - for family who live close by, able to join us for Easter.

387 - beautiful, sunny weather in the afternoon.

388 - memories to carry with us ...  

(One Thousand Gifts #375-388)

holy experience

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Beauty of Simplicity

My 90 year-old father gave us these beautiful Easter Lilies yesterday. He had won them at a drawing at the retirement community where he lives. Their sweet fragrance filled our Honda as I drove home last night, with the potted lilies in the back seat. They are very intricately made by our Creator, and yet, there is such a simplicity about them. Quietly opening up in bloom, and spreading fragrance to those nearby without even a sound. 

This morning as I picked up My Utmost for His Highest to quickly read today's words before I did my exercises, my mind was drawn to that word again ... simplicity.

"Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us - astounded at how "un-simple" we are." (My Utmost for His Highest)

It is so easy to make this keeping company with God into a complicated thing. But it really is so simple; so simple that we miss it at times. Just as we keep in close connection with those we love here on this earth, so we can keep in close connection with our Creator, our God. He has made the way for us. But we are the ones who can make it a difficult thing. And I am one who needs to learn this over and over again.

Nurturing our earthly relationships takes time, takes a concentrated effort in our busyness to stay connected ... but it is quite simple, really. A text, an email, a phone call, a time to talk heart-to-heart. The only roadblock to this nurturing is our busyness and our lack of taking time. And it is the same in our relationship with our Maker. It is not out-of-reach. Jesus opened up the way by His sacrificial death and His resurrection ... He did the work, the agonizing work, and we need to just make room in our hearts and take time in our days to keep company with Him. But sometimes the simple things become the hardest things to do.

We need to put on simplicity ... simply connecting, listening, and walking together. Taking Him at His Word, reading His Words, walking in the Truth of His Words ...

"I have told you these things so that 
you will be filled with My joy. 
Yes, your joy will overflow!" 
(John 15:11)

Lord, help me to walk in simplicity, keeping in step with Your Spirit within, listening, walking with You each day, moment-by-moment. Slow us down so we can really live ... 

Linked to Imperfect Prose

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Has Come

Photo Source

Five weeks ago I had a yearning for spring, for a freshness to come to my soul in the weeks leading up to Easter Week. Also encouraged by a special 40-day focus that Campus Crusade for Christ asked all their staff to take part in (in any way we chose), I have felt the fresh winds of spring coming.

The daffodils in our yard are blooming, the leaves are budding on our trees and bushes, the grass is turning green ... and my heart is experiencing some new life from these 40 days leading up to Easter. The dry, dull shades of the outdoors are turning into the soft, refreshing colors of spring.

This taking time to focus, to spend time listening is bringing spring to my soul. 

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to Me. Get away with Me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with Me and work with Me - watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with Me
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

We are made for intimacy with our Maker, and sometimes we need to make a conscious effort to slow ourselves down, and to keep company with Him. This keeping company, this walking with, and working with Him takes on different forms for each of us. For me, I decided to purposefully connect with Him more throughout the day by taking extra moments to read His Words, to listen. Not just in the mornings, but throughout the day. Slowing my work from time to time, pulling out my Jesus Calling book, or my Face to Face book, my Reading through the Bible Plan, or just sitting down with my journal. Having His Spirit within all through the day, as always, but taking time to pause in my daily activities, and to read and listen. Often a real effort, as I have to stop other things I am involved in. 

And I will not stop this connecting, this keeping company throughout the day. This pausing of my work to check and read His texting, or to read a post He has written, or to pick up the phone and hear His voice. For His Word is "alive and powerful"  (Hebrews 4:12) ... and most every time I stop to listen, I am drawn into deeper intimacy. Receiving just what I need for the moment, receiving fresh insight, hearing His heart regarding the situation I am finding myself in. And also, a two-way communication ... sharing my thoughts with Him as I listen. Connecting all through the day, just as I do with my family and close friends. I drop everything to read their texting, their posts and emails, to listen to their phone calls ...

Spring is in the air ... all because of Jesus, who made it possible for us to have connection with God. And also made possible by the gift of His Spirit within. My heart is experiencing Easter ...  

Loving Lord, thank You that we can walk with You, keep company with You, every day and all day ... that You long to shower Your Love and Peace on us each day, every moment. In every season and every day ... even today. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Dinner

These beautiful desserts are a picture of spring! I couldn't resist taking this photo at Le Madeleine's while we were visiting our daughter & family in Dallas last month. I love photos of food ... so beautiful, and so motivating to prepare delicious meals.

Instead of posting a weekly menu plan this week, I am posting my plans for our Easter Dinner. We are expecting to have quite a few family members around our table ... there will be 15 of us for Easter Dinner, with two more joining us later in the afternoon! And I am working on the menu plan ...

Here is what I have so far ... and my wonderful daughters will be bringing some of these dishes!


Mashed Potatoes (my make-ahead recipe)


Nebraska Corn

(possible a dish using fresh green beans)

Layered Lettuce Salad

Deviled Eggs

Fruit Salad


Creamy Pistachio Dessert

Birthday Dessert (my father's 90th!) 

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Wonderful Week

Sometimes my mother heart is scattered all around, in six places all at the same time. Parts of my heart walking around with each of my six grown children. And about three months ago part of my heart left for a three month job on a fish processing vessel in the Bering Sea. 

This past Monday we went to the airport to pick up our youngest son. We enjoyed five wonderful days together, hearing of his adventures on the Bering Sea, eating and talking together, having family over, cherishing spending time with our son.  

A precious gift ... five days together. Love given and love received. And now he is off again (though nearby) earning money for future adventures. My prayers follow him, my heart always with him, and I hold these five days of memories close ...

365 - Thank You, Lord ... for safety, for valuable experiences, for strength given ...

366 - For five wonderful days together, our son here at home ...

367 - For the joy of being mom ...

368 - For two daughters (with their three two year-olds) home one night ...

369 - For another daughter (with her two children) home another night ...

370 - For more progress on a daughter and son-in-law's brand new home, just 5 1/2 miles away ...

371 - For time at a nearby consignment sale with two daughters and three grandkids; one grandson discovering a fun workbench toy ...

372 - For a Silent Auction put on by some of our fellow staff members, raising funds ... and for the joy of helping out by bringing a few food items ...

373 - For hearing my prayers and giving us a wonderful week, filling this mother's heart to overflowing.

374 - Thank You, Lord, for Your faithful promises ~ "As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength." (Psalm 138:3)

holy experience

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicken Alfredo Bake

An easy, and delicious dish to serve for guests ... I have prepared this recipe many times. We've had family or friends over each day this week while our 20 year-old son is here for a visit, and this is the menu that I used for one of the meals. 

Chicken Alfredo Bake

1 pkg. penne pasta (5 cups dry), boiled
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar white alfredo sauce
1 cup chopped spinach 
    (or 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry)
chopped green onions
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/2 jar of water poured over top

Layer all the ingredients in order in a 9x13 inch pan.
Cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until warmed through.

Serves 8-10

Layering the pasta, cheese, alfredo sauce, spinach and green onions ...
adding the cooked chicken, and then the 1/2 jar of water was the next step.

Delicious even the next day ... one of my favorites!

Linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap, sharing company dinners.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ham & Vegetable Soup

A new recipe I have tried recently, and it is a "keeper" for my recipe collection ... Ham & Vegetable Soup. I was looking for a new recipe to use up the left-over ham & bone that I have had in the freezer for awhile, and found this one in my "Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups" magazine. Also is a good recipe to keep in mind for that left-over ham bone after Easter Dinner.

Ham & Vegetable Soup

2 pounds smoked ham shanks (or left-over ham & bone)
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cups water
2 1/2 cups diced unpeeled red potatoes 
     (Note: I chose to peel the potatoes.)
1 cup each: frozen corn, peas, and cut green beans
1 can (11 1/2 ounces) condensed bean and bacon soup, undiluted
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place ham shanks, carrots, celery, onion and water in a Dutch oven or soup kettle; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours or until meat starts to fall off the bones.

Add potatoes and vegetables; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove shanks; allow to cool. Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-size pieces; discard bones. Return meat to kettle. Stir in the bean and bacon soup and pepper; heat through.

Yield:  14-16 servings (4 quarts)
(These must be small servings ~ for the main dish of a meal, probably would be about 7-8 servings.)

Linking up at TidyMom's SoupaPalooza

And linked to Tasty Tuesday

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan ~ April 11-17

It has been a little while (too long) since I have made bread, and it was so good to take one afternoon this past week to make up another batch of bread with my Bosch machine. It only takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, including grinding up the grain in my Whisper Mill. With our 20 year-old son coming home for the week, I knew that I needed to take time for bread-making ... he loves this homemade bread!

I've also been taking some time these weeks to learn a little more about using coupons and anything else that I can start implementing to keep the grocery budget down. Prices are going up ... not a fun thing. One of the foodie bloggers that I have come to appreciate is hosting a focus at the beginning of each week, along with eight other bloggers, called "Eat Well / Spend Less". You might want to check out their blogs for helpful ideas ... click here for the posts from last week, and here for the one this week. 

My menu plan for this week, being flexible, but yet wanting to have some recipes selected:

Main Dishes
Cheesy Chicken Subs
Chicken Alfredo Bake
Pizza Loaves
Saucy Pork Chops

BLT Sandwiches
Beef & Bean Burritos
Chicken Wraps

Orange & Feta Salad with Almonds & Balsamic (New)
Pesto & Feta Pasta Salad with Cranberries (New)

Egg Quiche

Banana Cream Dessert