Too Much of a Good Thing

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook.

Now I’m not a chef by any stretch of the imagination. I just like to cook good home cooked food. My only culinary training was from my mother and grandmothers, all of whom were women who knew their way around a kitchen. There was no technique to creating their Southern cuisine … just a little bit of that and a dash of that.

My brother used to say that if you liked something our mother cooked you had better eat until you had your fill because you’d never get it exactly the same way again. She never followed a cook book, but rather threw together dishes by instinct. Like my mom, I rarely follow recipes. I just dump and stir and generally something tasty comes out. At least, no one I feed ever complains. (Of course, that could be because I’ve banned it, but seeing as that fact has nothing to do with this blog post I see no point in brining it up for further discussion.)

Anyway, it’s that time of the year when I start to avoid the kitchen.

You see, Louisiana summers are so hot that I can barely stand the thought of cooking dinner, standing around in a hot kitchen. I’d be totally fine with eating thick slices of tomatoes sprinkled with feta cheese all the way from mid-June straight through until late August. The rest of my crew does not share those feelings. Those growing teenage boys of mine want meat, and lots of it!

crock-pot-black

That’s why I love my crockpot. I can start that lovely contraption in the morning and by supper time I’ve got a lovely pot roast or tender pork chops. It’s fantastic for summer cooking! Of course, I love it for winter stews and soups, for Sunday lunches ready to eat when we walk in the door from our church service, and for busy days when I literally have no time to prepare a hot supper. I’ve got lots of great kitchen gadgets, but by far that crock post is my most loved kitchen appliance.

However, crockpots do not like me.

Jon and I have been married for 4 1/2 years and I’ve had at least SIX crockpots during that time. One quit heating properly. The next two crockpots bit the dust when the stone insert cracked. The final three crockpots met their demise when the lids were systematically smashed by our foster toddlers.

The first time a lid broke, I just went out and bought a new crockpot and gave the base and insert away to Goodwill. (Looking back, I feel sort of guilty about that. What an awful solution, giving away a broken thing when I could have fixed the problem. But I’m all about honesty and that is the gospel truth … as terrible as it makes me feel.)

The second time the lid broke, I decided to circumvent the guilt and buy a replacement lid from an online supplier. But before I placed the order, I happened upon a large sized 7 quart crockpot on sale for just $8.  Naturally, I just had to buy it.

For the past couple of months, I’ve had two crockpots … but only one lid.  I have to admit, that there were some advantages. For example, I could cook an overnight meal to serve at lunch and still be able to put something else in the crockpot for dinner that night.

Yet, the situation made me a little bit sad as well. After all, how much easier it would be if I had two working crockpots?  I cook for a family of nine, and all but our two foster toddlers eat adult-sized portions. Let me be real for a moment and share a truth: One pot roast does not feed my family.  Having just one crockpot often puts a strain on me simply because I am limited in how much I can prepare.

For example, if I make chili in my extra-large 7 quart crockpot, I typically have one large or two small servings left over. There is nothing for an extra meal later in the week. Nothing to put back in my freezer. But imagine for a moment that I made two crockpots full of chili on the same day. The prep work wouldn’t be much different, but I would have two night’s worth of meals.

I spent the last couple of months toying around the idea of ordering an extra lid, but never go around to actually doing it. I just couldn’t fully justify the extra expense when there were so many other things we needed more than an extra fully-functioning crockpot.

Then two weeks ago it happened … a foster toddler managed to get a hold of my one crockpot lid and before I knew it glass was everywhere. Of course, our first reaction was to make sure the screaming baby wasn’t hurt. To our relief, there was not a single cut. Her tears were just a reaction to the loud crash of glass and metal on our kitchen’s stone floor.

You’d think I would have gotten on my computer immediately and ordered crockpot replacement lids … but I didn’t. Remember, I am mom to seven kids. Most of what I do all day long is cook, laundry and chase around toddlers. I barely check my email, much less order anything online. Days passed by with good intentions, but I just never got around to taking care of it.

Finally, Jon took pity on me. “Paige,” he said one night as we finished up dinner, “I’m going right now to my office where I will personally order you two crockpot lids. Are both crockpots the same make and model?”  As I beamed at my hero-husband with relief, I had no idea that my crockpot fiasco was only getting to its climax.

Ordering crockpot replacement lids should be a simple enough procedure. Jon sat down, found the lid to match my crockpot and placed an order for two lids. Immediately afterwards, a message box popped up stating the order could not be completed as there were not enough lids in stock. Boo!

Fortunately, or so we thought, lids came with two different handles. Red or black. So Jon just ordered two lids of the opposite color. After all, as long as the lid fit the crockpot base, who cared if the handle actually matched. Again, he placed the order for two crockpot lids only to have the same message box appear.

Sighing, Jon went back to searching for another website that carried replacement lids for my crockpot. Soon the order was complete for two crockpot lids and to our delight everything seemed to go through just fine.

That was a week ago.

Yesterday, I found this on our doorstep:

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Y’all, I now am the proud owner of six crockpot lids! Four with black handles and two with red. What’s a girl to do?!

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Last night as I was lying in bed, I kept thinking about those crockpot lids. Even with my terrible crockpot track record, keeping all six lids would be a bit excessive.

Yet, when I stop to really think about it, somehow my life often feels like one of excess. My closets are stuffed with clothes and shoes. My pantry is overflowing with good food. The children have more toys than they know what to do with. I never think of us as being wealthy, but by the world’s standards my American middle class home is among the top 1% of the richest people on earth.

I recently read the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. The book chronicles her experiment with eliminating excess and drawing closer to God. For seven months, she tackles one area each month, limiting herself to just seven choices. The first month it was seven foods. The second month, seven articles of clothes. And so forth, until she covers the areas of possessions, media, waste, spending and stress.

My take away from this book can be found in this quote from the last chapter:

What we treasure reveals what we love.

I love God, so I want my life to reflect that … not some version of the American Dream. To be honest, now that I am at this point in writing this blog, I am not at all sure what any of this has to do with my excess of crockpot lids, but I do know this:

God doesn’t care about giving me a life of excess. He is still the same Holy God who only provided enough manna daily for the wandering Israelites. So if He promises to watch over the sparrows of the field, then I can trust Him to provide me with enough crockpot lids  … and whatever else I might need on this side of Heaven as well.

Give us today our daily bread. ~Matthew 6:11

And now, with that prayer ruminating in my heart, I’m off to the post office so that I can return four crockpot lids for a refund.

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Versus: Books and Movies

 The book is always better than the movie.

This is true for me, however I am not a visually-driven person. I’m one of those people who is much more drawn to books than to movies.

Today I am reblogging a post I wrote several months ago about one of my favorite books and the only movie I’ve ever watched  that truly equals the written story. In honor of Jonathan Crombie (who starred as Gilbert Blythe and tragically passed away earlier this month), this is my review of Anne of Green Gables, both the book and the movie.

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In the fall of 1986, two important things happened in my life.  The first event was the start of my high school education. The second was my introduction to Anne Shirley, a kindred spirit if there ever was one.

It was at my mother’s insistence I became acquainted with Anne.

When PBS announced it would be airing the 1985 version of the film Anne of Green Gables (starring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe), my mom encouraged me to watch it with her.  When I resisted, she forced me to watch it announced it would be required watching for me, whether I liked it or not.

Naturally, I crossed my arms, set my jaw, and decided under no circumstances would I enjoy anything at all about watching Anne of Green Gables. Stoically, I sat down for the first night’s segment, already dreading the five more nights yet to air.

Less than ten minutes after the opening credits, I was enthralled … with Anne Shirley, with kindred spirits, and with Prince Edward Island, Canada.

As soon as school let out the next day, I rushed to the library to get the only copy of Anne of Green Gables on the shelf. Before the next segment aired, I was more than halfway through the novel.

images-13

Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1908. The main character, Anne Shirley, is a young teen-aged orphan, who has spent all of her life living between foster homes and orphanages, never being loved.  When elderly, unmarried siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert fetch for an orphan boy to come live with them and help tend to the farm, Anne shows up by mistake. At first, Marilla wants to send Anne back and get the boy they originally requested, but in the end decides to give Anne a try.

From the outset, it seems stubborn Anne, despite her longings to remain at Green Gables, will be sent back to the girls’ home. Within hours of arriving, Anne meets Marilla’s dear friend Mrs. Rachel Lynde, who makes a snide comment about Anne’s red hair. Anne vehemently retorts, “You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling old woman! … How would you like it if I said you were fat and clumsy and probably hadn’t a spark of imagination in you?”   When Marilla forces Anne to apologize for her rudeness or return to the orphanage, it takes quiet, gentle Matthew Cuthbert stepping in to save the day.  

Throughout the novel, fiesty, imaginative Anne is prone to finding trouble. Her antics include dying her red hair green by mistake, getting her best friend drunk by mistaking currant wine for raspberry cordial, and nearly feeding her beloved teacher a pudding contaminated by a dead mouse.  But Anne also endears herself to the reader as she searches for and finds many “kindred spirits” in her new home in the small community of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Canada, including bosom friend Diana Barry and handsome arch rival Gilbert Blythe.

images-13

The 1985 Sullivan Entertainment movie adaptation of Anne of Green Gables is very true to the book. Throughout the movie, the characters’ lines remain, for the most part, unchanged from the way they were originally written by the book’s author. The enchanting music and exquisite scenery simply add an extra dimension to the already heartwarming story of an orphan girl finding her place in the world at last.

images-14

Anne of Green Gables has become something of a classic chick-flick in recent years, but many of my friends who adore the movie have never actually taken the time to read the novel. If you haven’t read or watched this lovely story, let me encourage you to do so.

I’ve read the novel Anne of Green Gables at least eight times, perhaps more. I’ve watched the four-hour movie an equal number of times. Amazingly, I’ve never grown tired of Anne Shirley whether I read her story or watch it acted out. Perhaps that’s because my favorite part is the simply finding a kindred spirit in the main character.  Her spunk and enthusiasm for life are contagious. Once you meet Anne Shirley (either on the pages of the novel or as acted out on the movie screen), she becomes as real as any person … a sign of both excellent writing and acting.

As an avid reader, I typically find the book to be better than the movie, although occasionally I’ve enjoyed a movie much more than the book.

But every once in a blue moon, if you are lucky enough, you’ll find a book and a movie adaptation which you’ll find to be equally enjoyable. For me, this would be the story of Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

A “Great Dates” Review … along with My Very First Give Away!

Walmart is not exactly high on the list of places to go for a great date.

Yet, believe it or not, Jon and I spent part of our very first date at Walmart picking up a few items one of us needed … perhaps school supplies for a child’s project or maybe it was to replace necessary household gadget or gizmo. I can no longer recall the exact purpose. All I remember was wandering through Walmart thinking how natural it felt to shop with this man and how strangely odd it was for a first date.

Even stranger is that our second date included a trip to the grocery store. And please don’t think it got more exciting from there because on our third date we spent time together searching for Christmas gifts for our children. (At the time, we didn’t know much more about each other’s kids than their names and ages. We actually learned quite a lot on that date … not that we had any idea at the time that someday these would be our future step-children!)

During the 14 months Jon and I dated, we did a lot of “errand dating” as we tried to make the most of our time. As single parents, we both understood it was infinitely easier to take care of business without our children in tow. While it may have created some rather strange and mundane “dates,” in the end I believe it was those every day sort of activities that really helped us get to know each other in a more realistic way than if we had just gone out for fancy dinners or to the movies.

photo credit: artemisinthecity.com
photo credit: artemisinthecity.com

To this day, “The Errand Date” is still the most frequent type of outing Jon and I share without the kids. It’s a quick way to get in time alone without spending a lot of money.  Often we will end by grabbing a cup of coffee or a smoothie, which makes it feel a little more like an official date while still keeping to our tight budget. But still, for the most part, we just take care of business in our time alone.

While I must admit that I love running errands with my husband and much prefer that than doing those same errands alone, I sometimes wish we had more money to spend on date nights. Between the cost of childcare, dinner out and any other activities we plan to enjoy, one night out can easily cost over $100. That’s a lot of money for most couples with children!

The bitter truth is dating your spouse on a budget is hard.

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Recently, Bethany House Publishers gave me a free copy of the book “$10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage and Fun on a Budget”  (written by two couples, Peter & Heather Larson and David & Claudia Arp) in exchange for my honest review.   While I was excited about the opportunity to review a book on my blog, I had very low expectations about the book itself. I figured this would be another book filled with the same old tired suggestions for dates on a small budget.

I am happy to report that what I expected was not at all what I got when reading this book.

Photo Credit: Baker Publishing Group
Photo Credit: Baker Publishing Group

In fact, I was so delightfully surprised at the ingenuity and creativity of this book that I couldn’t wait to share it with my husband. Together, we spent several hours reading through the 188-pages which were filled with interesting ideas for dates and practical ways to grow closer to each other and God through marriage.

Writing especially for married couples, the Larsons and the Arps share 52 fun date ideas, giving you and your significant other a year’s worth of weekly dates.  The great date suggestions are creative and flexible, taking into account that certain activities may not be readily available in all areas. The various ideas really do take into account the $10 budget. The authors also included a section at the back of the book with fresh ideas and timely suggestions for ways to find inexpensive or free childcare.

The book is divided into eight categories of dates, such as adventure dates, at-home dates, romantic dates and even seasonal dates. Many of the date ideas are simple enough to plan and enjoy on the same evening, but others will require prep work which is why there are lists of things to do before going on the date to help with planning. There is also a list of things to keep in mind while enjoying your date, as well as ideas to further spice up the activity should you have more than a $10 budget.

Some of my favorite dates were:

~The Workshop Date: Find a free workshop on a topic that interests one of both of you.

~Parade of Homes Date: Go check out local homes for sale by attending an open house showing or even a larger parade of homes.

~Gifts on a Budget Date: Go together to a department store. Separate and shop for a set amount of time. Each person has $5 total (including tax) to use to buy a gift for the other. At the end of the date, find a special location or time to give your gifts.

However, my favorite part of this book was not the date suggestions.

Wait … don’t get me wrong! The date ideas were fabulous. In fact, there are so many great suggestions, I honestly don’t know where to start! Yet this book is much more than a list of ideas.

The Larsons and the Arps put together a complete resource to help couples strengthen both their marriage and their faith in God. For each date, there is a list of suggested talking points to help couples delve into a deeper relationship as well as to extend the date. These questions and discussion topics may be enjoyed during the date or at some point afterwards. Furthermore, each date suggestion ends with a “Great Date Takeaway” in which the authors share a truth from God’s word or an application for improving your marriage relationship that could be learned from the date.

This book is priced exactly right  … just $10!  Perhaps your first “great date” could be reading through the ideas with your spouse and deciding upon which date to try first. You can purchase this book at a number of online stores such as Amazon, Christian Book Distributers, and Mardel, among others. You can also order it directly from Baker Publishing Group.

With 52 great dates to choose from, there is something for every couple in this fantastic resource!

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Now for the fun part … my very first give away!

One lucky reader will receive a copy of $10 Great Dates (by Larson & Arp), along with a crisp $10 bill  which will cover the cost of a great date for you and your spouse.

All you have to do to enter is write about your favorite date. It can be your first date, a special date, a funny date, or a really bad date that somehow brings back fond memories. Share your date story on your blog.  Please be sure to ping back to me or put a link in my comments so that I can read your story on your blog.

(I know, I know … some of you are saying, “But I don’t have a blog!”  That’s okay. You can share your favorite date by writing about it in my comments section. Do this and I’ll enter you into the contest as well.  See … I am looking out for you non-bloggers too!)

Feel free to share my book review and contest with others you know who may need some fun, creative ideas for dating on a budget. (Yes, this is a shameless ploy to attract more readers to my blog, but I am offering the chance to win a great book so in reality it’s a win-win for all of us.)

Please note: This is not a random drawing type of give-away.  My husband, children and I will enjoy reading about all the great dates and then will vote on the winner.  Therefore, please only share family friendly versions of dates.

Entries are due by August 31st. Winner will be announced Sept. 1st.

Good luck!!!

Book vs. Movie: Anne of Green Gables

In the fall of 1986, two important things happened in my life.  The first event was the start of my high school education. The second was my introduction to Anne Shirley, a kindred spirit if there ever was one.

It was at my mother’s insistence I became acquainted with Anne.

When PBS announced it would be airing the 1985 version of the film Anne of Green Gables (starring Megan Follows), my mom encouraged me to watch it with her.  When I resisted, she forced me to watch it announced it would be required watching for me, whether I liked it or not.

Naturally, I crossed my arms, set my jaw, and decided under no circumstances would I enjoy anything at all about watching Anne of Green Gables. Stoically, I sat down for the first night’s segment, already dreading the five more nights yet to air.

Less than ten minutes after the opening credits, I was enthralled … with Anne Shirley, with kindred spirits, and with Prince Edward Island, Canada.

As soon as school let out the next day, I rushed to the library to get the only copy of Anne of Green Gables on the shelf. Before the next segment aired, I was more than halfway through the novel.

images-13

Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1908. The main character, Anne Shirley, is a young teen-aged orphan, who has spent all of her life living between foster homes and orphanages, never being loved.  When elderly, unmarried siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert fetch for an orphan boy to come live with them and help tend to the farm, Anne shows up by mistake. At first, Marilla wants to send Anne back and get the boy they originally requested, but in the end decides to give Anne a try.

From the outset, it seems stubborn Anne, despite her longings to remain at Green Gables, will be sent back to the girls’ home. Within hours of arriving, Anne meets Marilla’s dear friend Mrs. Rachel Lynde, who makes a snide comment about Anne’s red hair. Anne vehemently retorts, “You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling old woman! … How would you like it if I said you were fat and clumsy and probably hadn’t a spark of imagination in you?”   When Marilla forces Anne to apologize for her rudeness or return to the orphanage, it takes quiet, gentle Matthew Cuthbert stepping in to save the day.  

Throughout the novel, fiesty, imaginative Anne is prone to finding trouble. Her antics include dying her red hair green by mistake, getting her best friend drunk by mistaking currant wine for raspberry cordial, and nearly feeding her beloved teacher a pudding contaminated by a dead mouse.  But Anne also endears herself to the reader as she searches for and finds many “kindred spirits” in her new home in the small community of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Canada, including bosom friend Diana Barry and handsome arch rival Gilbert Blythe.

images-13

 

The 1985 Sullivan Entertainment movie adaptation of Anne of Green Gables is very true to the book. Throughout the movie, the characters’ lines remain, for the most part, unchanged from the way they were originally written by the book’s author. The enchanting music and exquisite scenery simply add an extra dimension to the already heartwarming story of an orphan girl finding her place in the world at last.

images-14

Anne of Green Gables has become something of a classic chick-flick in recent years, but many of my friends who adore the movie have never actually taken the time to read the novel. If you haven’t read or watched this lovely story, let me encourage you to do so.

I’ve read the novel Anne of Green Gables at least eight times, perhaps more. I’ve watched the four-hour movie an equal number of times. Amazingly, I’ve never grown tired of Anne Shirley whether I read her story or watch it acted out. Perhaps that’s because my favorite part is the simply finding a kindred spirit in the main character.  Her spunk and enthusiasm for life are contagious. Once you meet Anne Shirley (either on the pages of the novel or as acted out on the movie screen), she becomes as real as any person … a sign of both excellent writing and acting.

As an avid reader, I typically find the book to be better than the movie, although occasionally I’ve enjoyed a movie much more than the book.

But every once in a blue moon, if you are lucky enough, you’ll find a book and a movie adaptation which you’ll find to be equally enjoyable. For me, this would be the story of Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.

This blog post was written as part of a contest. To read more book/movie reviews from other bloggers, or to find encouragement, check out The Artistic Christian blog.

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Books or Movies? Which do you prefer?

Irreplaceable

The phone rang at 7:30 am, but I didn’t hear it. Ten minutes later, I saw the missed called notification, indicating my husband had called but left no voicemail.

Immediately I called back, asking if he was needing me to do something for him.  “No,” he answered. “I was just calling to ask you on a date … for tonight. How about going with me to watch a movie?”

Jon and I rarely get to go to movies. Truthfully, I’m not much of a movie person. (I realize this is a strange fact, but the honest truth is I hardly ever desire to see a film.) Jon, however, loves movies and would probably like going to the theater on a regular basis. Yet, as the parents of five kids, we don’t often have the extra money in the budget to afford soaring ticket prices. Movies, for us, are a rare treat.

So when Jon asked me on a movie date, I immediately knew Jon for some reason felt this movie was important for us to see.  I had to say yes.

It turns out the movie Jon wanted to take me to see was a Focus on the Family one night event at movie theaters across the nation.  The name of the film was Irreplaceable, documentary-style  movie exploring the idea of family and why it matters in light of history, psychology, religion and today’s culture.

I was captivated from the moment the film started. Tim Sisarich, the New Zealand director and host, asked honest questions about the importance of family to society, especially in light of how the idea of family has changed in recent years and with the direction our culture is declining. Sisarich examines how the devaluing of sex led to the decline of traditional, long-lasting marriage, which further the idea that parenthood (particularly fatherhood) wasn’t a role to desire or take seriously. All of this has led to the demise of the family and ultimately the weakening of our culture.

Initially, it seemed Sisarich was going to just serve as a host, asking questions to the various experts and providing dialogue during transitions. But soon we catch a glimpse of Sisarich’s background … and as the documentary moves forward, Sisarich’s personal story unfolds as well. As a viewer, I felt even more engaged with Tim Sisarich as he walks through his personal story of a broken family.

Following the movie, Jon and I were able to talk deeply about our own past failures (both of us having been divorced and Jon also being the child of a broken home), our struggles (with step-parenting), our desires (in our marriage, as parents and step-parents and for the future of our family). For this reason alone, Irreplaceable was a film worth seeing.

My favorite part of this documentary came toward the end when Sisarich comes to the conclusion there is really no such thing as a perfect family. However, there is such a thing as a redeemed family, one which despite the brokenness of life on earth chooses to love God and love each other.

This is what Jon and I are striving for together. No perfect, but perfectly redeemed by the grace of God.

In case you missed the one night showing of Focus on the Family‘s documentary Irreplaceable, there will be an encore showing on May 15th.  The Focus on the Family blog has more information about the movie and the encore theater showing of the film. Click here to find out if there is a theater near you hosting this film.

Not sure if you would be interested in viewing Irreplaceable? Here’s the trailer.