Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday Words

February 14, 2012

On Sunday during Relief Society, Kelsie mentioned a quote from C.S. Lewis about the Savior.  I have included in today’s post that complete quote plus two others.   Enjoy the words of a very wise and inspired man. Pam


Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: Compromising the Case for Christianity, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality


“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”
C.S. Lewis
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: Compromising the Case for Christianity, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality

Tuesday Tips

February 14, 2012

Yesterday Kelsie and I were vacuum sealing Oreos, the Doublestuff kind.   I don’t really like Oreos because I don’t like the cream filling, but Kelsie and Wade love them, and they have been on sale at Market Basket lately.  Unfortunately, the more Oreos there are in the house, the more Wade eats them. So Kelsie and I vacuum sealed them in wide mouth quart jars to keep Wade from eating them all in a matter of days.    How did we do that, you might ask? With a FoodSaver vacuum sealer.

About 5 or 6 years ago, a sister from Utah gave our stake a demonstration on food storage techniques, and vacuum sealing food was one of them.   There are many kinds of foods that are hard to store over a long time like brown rice, nuts, raisins, chocolate, etc.   Using a vacuum sealer allows  you to store these kinds of foods over a long period of time, increasing the number of foods you can add to  your food storage and allowing you to stock up on good sales.

You will have to purchase a vacuum sealer, and FoodSaver is one brand that provides many styles.   You can buy them online or at many department stores, including Walmart.   The kind to buy is one that will allow you to vacuum seal canning jars.  These kind have a little port which allows you to attach a tube that is then attached through a special attachment made especially for both wide mouth and regular mouth jars.   The company also sells plastic bags and containers for vacuum sealing meat and other foods that you store in the freezer and  the refrigerator.

This little appliance will open the door to improved food storage. And you can use it to protect your supply of Oreos, too.

You can find information from the FoodSaver company at




Monday Menus

February 12, 2012

I love pot pies, especially chicken or turkey, but they are so expensive to buy if you want the good ones, and they are soooo fattening, too.   I wanted to make my own pot pie, but the recipes I usually found required using a Campbell’s cream of something soup and then a biscuit type crust, which was good, but not what I really wanted.   This year I finally found a recipe that is easy and yummy and tastes just as good if not better than the store bought kind.  The original recipe is for turkey since it was for those leftovers at Thanksgiving, but you can make it with chicken, too, or beef even, I suppose.  The recipe makes two pies, so you can eat one right off and freeze  the other one for later.  Pam

Here it is:

Turkey/chicken Pot Pie


2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch slices

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery rib, diced

2 T butter

1 T olive oil

6 T all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth (If you want a beef pie, use beef broth.)

4 cups cubed cooked turkey or chicken or beef

2/3 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup plus 1 T heavy whipping cream, divided

1 T minced fresh parsley or 1 t dried parsley flakes

1 t garlic salt

1/4 t pepper

1 package refrigerated pie pastry or your own favorite recipe  (I  made my own.)

1 egg


In a Dutch oven, saute the potatoes, carrots, onion and celery in butter and oil until tender. Stir in flour until blended; gradually add broth.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in the turkey, peas, 1/2 cup cream, parsley, garlic salt and pepper.

Spoon into two ungreased 9-inch pie plates. Roll out pastry to fit top of each pie; place over filling.  Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut out slits in the pastry  for steam to escape.  In a small bowl, whisk egg and remaining cream; brush over pastry.

Cover and freeze one pie for up to three months.  Bake the remaining pie at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or  until golden brown.  Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

To use frozen pie: Remove from the freezer 30 minutes before baking.  Cover edges of crust loosely with foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove foil, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

Recipe from the Taste of Home Magazine

Children’s Literature Resources

February 12, 2012

Here is the hand-out from last Wednesday’s Mid-Week Activity.


The Read-Aloud Handbook Jim Trelease

100 Best Books for Children Anita Silvey

500 Great Books for Teens Anita Silvey  Anita Silvey’s daily recommendations the social media of book sharing

Link to the Caldecott list:

Link to the Newbery list:

Link to the Great Stone Face Awards:

The Horn Book, a publication about books for children and young adults

The March Madness of Children’s Books


Early Readers:

Anna Hibiscus series, Atinuke

Mercy Watson series, Kate DiCamillo

Bink and Gollie, Kate DiCamillo

Ting and Ling, Grace Lin

Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel

My Father’s Dragon series, Ruth Gannett Stiles

Elephant and Piggie, Mo Willems

Minnie and Moo, Denys Cazet

Little Bear, Else Holmelund Minarik

Henry and Mudge, Cynthia Rylant

The BOB books


The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes

The Littles series, John Peterson


For younger boys:

Nate the Great

Encyclopedia Brown

Hugo Cabret

Shannon Hale’s graphic novels

Dick King-Smith

Roald Dahl




Middle Grade:


Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert O’Brien

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

101 Dalmatians, Dodie Smith

The Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte’s Web E.B. White

The Underneath, Kathi Appelt

Rabbit Hill, Robert Lawson

A Cricket in Times Square, George Selden

The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford


One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams Garcia

A Year Down Yonder, Richard Peck

The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary Schmidt

The Invention of Hugo Cabret/ Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick

Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Twenty-one Balloons, William Pene du Bois

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi

Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery



More Middle Grade:


From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson

Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

Rules, Cynthia Lord

Framed/ Millions Frank Cottrell Boyce

Room One, Andrew Clements

Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo

Shiloh, Phyllis Naylor


Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken

The Borrowers, Mary Norton

Savvy, Ingrid Law

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

The Giver, Lois Lowry

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (beware of some initial violence, can be a bit intense for younger readers)

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin

Peter Pan, JM Barrie

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming

Tom’s Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce


The Amaranth Enchantment/Secondhand Charm, Julie Berry

Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt

Airborn, Kenneth Oppel

Octavian Nothing, MT Anderson

The Wednesday Wars, Gary Schmidt

Holes, Louis Sachar

Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer

Mary Stewart

Terry Pratchett

J.R.R. Tolkien

Georgette Heyer


Contains some mature elements

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary E. Pearson

Unwind, Neal Shusterman

A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly

The Braid, Helen Frost (verse novel)

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean



Favorite authors:   Especially for boys:
Dick King-Smith Katherine Paterson Frank Cottell Boyce
David Macauley Madeleine L’Engle Rick Riordan
Brian Selznick Shannon Hale Kenneth Oppel
C.S. Lewis Grace Lin Gordon Korman
Hilary McKay Beverley Cleary Andrew Clements
Edward Eager Kate DiCamillo Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan series)
Russell Hoban Geraldine McCaughrean Clete Barrett Smith (Aliens on Vacation)
JK Rowling LM Montgomery 39 Clues series
Susan Cooper Linda Sue Park Gary Paulsen
Lloyd Alexander Joan Aiken Robert McCloskey (Homer Price)
Laura Ingalls Wilder Natalie Babbitt  



Friday Favorites: Prezi

February 10, 2012 is a presentation software, similar to powerpoint, but with more action and more capabilities. If you’d like to see the prezi that I did for our last mid-week activity, go to, and search “children’s books” and my full name. That will bring you to the presentation. Push the play button on the bottom, and sample a prezi.


Thursday Thoughts: Love at Home

February 8, 2012

There are few things more valuable than a sweet, peaceful feeling in our homes. The lesson in Relief Society was based on a talk given by Harold B. Lee called “Love at Home.”

Wednesday Words: Elder W. Craig Zwick

February 8, 2012

“We all want to be on the right road. We all desire to move effectively down that highway of life with the least amount of detours and delays. We all have moments when we get slightly confused and need additional help in making correct choices. We are frequently at a crossroads where we must choose one of two highways: the lower road leading to spiritual delays and sorrow, or the higher road leading to spiritual progress and happiness. It is very important for us to always choose the higher road.

“It is an eternal truth that through the choices we make, we shape our own destiny. Our success or failure, peace or discontent, happiness or misery depends upon the choices we make each day. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a built-in navigation system. We have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost to direct us in all things. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (D&C 8:2).”

-Elder W. Craig Zwick from a devotional given at BYU-I. The full text can be found here.

Tuesday Tips: T-shirts

February 7, 2012

-Ginger Johnson

I’ve been in “up-cycling” mode that past couple of weeks. When the new year comes, it’s as if an internal switch is flipped, and the down-sizing Ginger comes out. However, the downsizing Ginger has internal warfare with the “waste-not-want-not” Ginger, so the multiple personalities turn to up-cycling.

If you’re not familiar with the term “up-cycling,” it’s recycling an item to make something nicer out of it. For example, you can take old hard-cover books and turn them into a purse, or a book wreath even.

Recently, I’ve been on the hunt to up-cycle t-shirts. Did you know you can make yarn out of old t-shirts? Here is a tutorial. From that yarn, you can knit dishcloths, shawls, bags, or even sweaters.

Here’s a link for the most adorable little girl’s skirt made with ruffles of old t-shirts.

And the ubiquitous t-shirt bag here.

I’ve also seen tutorials for making woven rug out of t-shirt yarn, if you’re feeling ambitious.

Monday Menus: Corn bread and Veggies

February 6, 2012

-Ginger Johnson

Here are a few recipes that I’ve been making a lot lately, and are great seasonal side dishes.

Corn Bread (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Sept/Oct 2002)

2 c flour

1 c fine-ground cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

3/4 c sugar

8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 c sour cream

1/2 c milk

Butter-flavored shortening or vegetable oil

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon about 1/4 shortening or oil into a 12 inch cast iron skillet*, and place in the oven to heat.

2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk eggs in a second bowl until well combined, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter. Add sour cream, then milk, and whisk until combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; mix gently until batter is just combined and evenly moistened.

3. Very carefully remove skillet from oven, and spoon batter into it. Return to oven, and bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

*Note: if you don’t have a 12 inch cast iron skillet, you can make muffins instead, using a standard muffin tin (12 cups) sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts (from

I have always hated Brussels sprouts. Yuck. As an adult, I really thought I should conquer this bias. I tried them braised with bacon. Still yuck. As an adult–and a vegetarian–I felt I should try again. When I found this recipe, I gave it a whirl, and BINGO! I found a way to think kindly of those little twerps. Serves 4 as a side dish

1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 can broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Trim sprouts and halve lengthwise. In a large, heavy 12-inch skillet heat butter and oil over moderate heat. Arrange halved sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook sprouts, without turning until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. [Updated to note: If your sprouts don’t fit in one layer, don’t fret! Brown them in batches, then add them all back to the pan, spreading them as flat as possible, before continuing with the shallots, wine, etc.]

Add the shallots, wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low (for a gentle simmer), cover the pot with a lid (foil works too, if your skillet lacks a lid) and cook the sprouts until they are tender can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the lid, and scoop out brussels. Add cream and simmer for two to three minutes, until slightly thickened. Whisk in mustard. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary with more salt, pepper or Dijon. Pour sauce over brussels, sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve immediately.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower
A simple but delicious way to make cauliflower.
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/3 c parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a jelly-roll sheet or a large casserole dish.
2. Mix cauliflower, garlic, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onto baking pan and roast for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Sprinkle parmesan on top, and broil 3 to 5 minutes.

Friday Favorites (totally random)

February 3, 2012

— by Donna Mitchell

I am feeling a little brain dead this week, so this will not be very profound, but just a few personal favorites.

My favorite necessary piece of information on a blog: Who wrote it. This especially applies to this blog where we have multiple bloggers. It just helps to have a reference point, to have some idea of where the blogger is coming from. And it helps to get to know that person a little better.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Black raspberry, also a fave of my husband. For those new to this area, this flavor can be found at ice cream stands all over New England. We have missed it when we are out of the area because it is a very regional specialty, unbelievable as it was to me when I first figured it out, trying unsuccessfully to find it in the West.

Favorite type of books: Actually, I like so many types that I really can’t pick one type from novels, mysteries, fantasy, young adult, historical novels, some do-it-yourself books, biographies, and the list goes on.

Favorite pastime: Reading, in case you couldn’t tell.

Favorite online store: They have nice (expensive) pens, paper, high-end office supplies, furniture, some books and games. I only buy their stuff on sale. Mostly I wish I had more money.

Favorite women’s clothing store, where I also buy on sale (my standard MO for clothes shopping): Christopher and Banks. Their clothes fit me. I read an article once that explained that different manufacturers design for different body types. You just have to figure out which manufacturers are designing for your type. I think there is a website somewhere that talks about who designs for which type, but I haven’t tried to find it. I just lucked into this one by wandering into one of their stores while killing time while one of my daughters was at a rehearsal. There’s one in our mall in Newington.

Favorite color: This is a hard one, because as a designer, I tend to think in terms of color combinations. It’s easier to say what’s not a favorite: orange, olive, chartreuse, fushia (clothing). But they all have their uses. White is overused on houses in the Northeast, especially Victorians, which were not usually white originally (just a personal pet peeve, since I want the landscape to be more interesting and the details to show up). Trim shouldn’t be the same color as the basic house.

Favorite outdoor activity (sort of): Going for road trips to look at the beautiful scenery we have in New England. Terry and I both grew up on road trips and subjected our kids to several cross-country trips to bring them up in the way they should go. One favorite type of short road trips with the family used to be visiting ancestor graveyards in New England on Sundays after church. Unfortunately, we were only stationed here (eastern Mass) with the Air Force for four years while our kids were at home. When they come to visit us now, they’re eager to explore.

Favorite season: Fall.

Favorite holiday: Probably Halloween. It’s not too expensive, expectations are not too high, and it’s an opportunity to be very creative on a small scale. I was even willing to sew costumes for my kids.

I hope this hasn’t been too personal or boring. I’ll look for something more useful for my next turn.