Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bring out the best: Robes, Rings, and Sandals

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.’ (Luke 15:22 NKJV)

You are the Lord's special treasure*. The Father brings out the best for you.

Last May, Naomi** told us her story about finding a ring when she was a little girl on a walk with her mother and grandmother. Her story brought back memories of several ring stories I have. Rings have been milestone markers during my life and marriage, and this story is about the ring that marks my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

I really enjoy rings. They're beautiful and fun, and they have their place in the schemes of things. They are a signet, a sign for me. Every ring I wear has meaning and reminds me of a story behind it. But rings are simply things. The rings on my fingers are re-creations of all that is God's. He created the beauty of rubies and the brilliance of diamonds and the subtle gleam of gold. If it were not for Him, rings wouldn't circle my fingers at all. To me, they're tiny reflections, reminders of His glory.

Speaking of glory, this little tale tales place in Loafers Glory, North Carolina, in June of 1999. Loafers Glory is a tiny place that had its fifteen minutes of fame in the 70s as a feature of the National Geographic magazine. But it's also a place I've spent many wonderful summers.

On the way to pick up a pizza in nearby Bakersville, my husband, Jerry, and I planned to stop by the recycle center to take the trash and recyclables. We'd been painting the house and my hands felt dry and chapped. So just before we reached the recycle center, I took off my ruby ring and laid it in my lap for a moment to put lotion on my hands. (Yes, that's definitely an "Oh, no!" moment.) Distracted as we drove into the center, I totally forgot that I hadn't put it back on. The ring was hidden in the folds of my long sundress as I got out of the van to drop off the trash and bottles. We waved and spoke to Paul, the older man in charge of the center, and I never heard a sound as the ring fell from my dress onto the driveway. We did what we came to do and left.

Deep breath and long pause . . .

It wasn't until we returned home, finished our pizza, and began to relax, that I suddenly realized my ring was gone! I did a frantic pocket and purse search and did remember to pray. And it's a blessing to look back, because when I recall all that happened, those fervent prayers coincided with the time it was found. (I really do try hard to remember to pray about everything!)

In the midst of searching the van, I vividly recalled the moment when I must have lost it. So, back to the recycle center we drove, squealing tires and all (I can just see my guardian angel above us with wildly flapping angel-wings, panting to keep up with us!), where I searched the hot tarmac to no avail. I was devastated until Paul looked over at me-with-my-nose-to-the-ground, searching, and grinned. "Did you lose something?" He pulled out a business card and handed it to me. It could have been gold-plated, I was so thrilled! Well, poor guy, Paul found himself on the receiving end of a joyful hug and a bunch of appreciation. He just grinned from ear-to-ear and chuckled.

But I still had to claim my ring. A young woman, I'll call her Mary, who'd just lost her husband the week before, found it. She later told us that she'd prayed about what to do. She had her business cards with her an decided to write a note on the care: Found, lost ring. Call and describe. Then she left the card with Paul. She'd seen the ring in the recycle center driveway, sparkling in the afternoon sunshine, and thought some little girl must have lost her Cracker Jack® box ring. But when she picked it up and looked closer, she quickly realized that it was certainly no Cracker Jack® box ring!

And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' (Luke 15:9 NKJV)

I called Mary and left her an excited message that I was the ring's owner. She later returned my call to verify that the ring was mine, and Jerry and I drove up to her home at the tip-top of a mountain. Mary was as happy as I was, and since no way would she accept a reward, the Gideons ended up handing out some Bibles in her honor and name. We drove home, marveling at the gorgeous sunset, thankful and elated to have found that which was lost.

Be encouraged! God is in the details of our lives, caring for us in all things, great and small.

O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. (Isaiah 25:1 NKJV)

* * *

* Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5 NKJV)

* Naomi Rawlings, Encouragement for Mothers and Daughters, May 16, 2011 Making Home Work Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Books

 Let's Get Real About Money

Social Media Marketing with Established Technologies

A Beginner's Guide to Using your iPhone for Business Productivity

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Challenge Week!

Happy Monday everyone!

It's time for another challenge week. If you're new to our challenge week, here's what you do. In the comment section below, leave yourself a goal for the week. It could be anything from organizing your junk drawer, to cleaning out your inbox, to washing your kitchen cabinets, to writing another three thousand words on your novel. Spend the next four days busily accomplishing your goal. Then check back in on Friday, and add another comment letting us know if you were successful. If you DID manage to accomplish that daunting, ugly task, then you'll be eligible to advertise on our blog. Last Challenge Week's winner was Andrea Strong. Do you see her lovely little blog advertisement over to your right? That could be your blog or other item of your interest being advertised for the next three months. So give yourself a goal this week an get busy accomplishing it.

My goal is to clean out the guest bedroom before my mom comes on Wednesday. The guest bedroom should be clean, since I'm rarely in there and I keep the door closed. However, my kids see that shut door and think beyond it's barrier lies a treasure of gold, or at least a cache of candy and toys. Then my dog, who KNOWS she's not allowed on furniture, has deemed the mattress her own personal doggie bed. Plus robbers must have sneaked into the house sometime during the last month and ransacked the linen closet, because its once-folded towels, neat sheets, and organized crayons now contribute to the mess covering the floor.

And can you believe it? My mom expects a clean place to sleep when she arrives Wednesday night. (Mothers can be so hard to please.) So I will be back on Friday, with nice picture of the clean guest room. What will you accomplish between now and then?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recipe ~ Cauliflower Salad

Recipe ~ Cauliflower Salad
A Healthier Alternative to a Summer Favorite!!

Cauliflower (2 heads, chopped)
1/2cup lowfat mayonnaise
2Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1Tsp Capers
1Tbsp Dill Pickle Juice
1Tsp Relish
1/2cup Chopped Scallions
3 Hard Boiled Eggs
Salt & Pepper

Boil cauliflower until soft, falling off of a fork

Combine ingredients and salt & pepper to taste. Once you have done this, you may add mayonnaise to reach your own personal desired consistency.

If you usually like a creamier potato salad, you could choose to mash some ingredients separately ahead of time, such as the eggs and cauliflower.

*If you like this, also substitute cauliflower in your favorite mashed potato recipe!! 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Free Kindle Business Book

Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC (or iPhone or Android, etc) so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Continuing Education

How do you stay on the leading edge? Whether you're an author, photographer or doula there's always something new to learn. Continuing education is an important step to staying at the forefront.

As a doula, every three years I re-certify to keep my credentials up to date. I don't have to, but thus far I have wanted to, in order to stay fresh in my mind. This re-certification process requires me to be active in the community, to read relevant literature, and of course work with laboring women.
Here are a few ways we all can stay active and learn something to help further our career goals.
  • Take a college class. The subject need not be limited to one area. Explore. Be creative. Enjoy the learning experience. Then apply what you have learned to your area of expertise. There are many classes available for free online. Check with your local community college and see what special tuition plans they may have.
  • Volunteer. If you have a skill, such as photography, volunteering can be a great way to get some time behind the lens. Plus it helps with your people skills and networking.
  • Tutor. Help a young person with their schoolwork. Homeschooling a child fits into this category as well.
  • Read a good book (or more) on your specific career. Write a report about it, this will help you to retain the knowledge you've learned and come in handy if you need a book review in the future.
  • Write an article and submit it to a magazine for publication. The research will do you good!
  • Start a blog, one that requires you to post relevant information about your specific field. This will keep your mental juices flowing to be sure! (this is a great idea, wonder where it came from....)
  • Create a portfolio of your work. Not only can this be used to show prospective clients, but it is a review of your career to date, which you can asses your progress and see where you need to apply your energy to improve or change something. We often think of a portfolio in regards to photography, but we need not limit a portfolio to only the arts, apply it to your other businesses as well. Make a list of your published books (with a photo of the cover) and short summary of each one. Think about putting together a multi-media presentation, like a Power Point, that can be shared with civic or school groups. Share your story with people, or offer then something educational that you have learned in your research.
  • Attend a Seminar/Conference. There is a wealth of information to be gathered at business or specialized seminars. Take plenty of notes and bring them home to share with others in your business.
  • Take a Tax Class. B.O.R.I.N.G. I know, but hear me out... We all have to file our annual love letter to the IRS, being up to date on current tax trends or changes can't hurt, right? It may not help you write a better novel, or learn new laboring techniques, but it can keep you in business!
When we think of continuing education, most people limit that to college courses or business seminars both of which are excellent sources. Think outside the box in this realm, anything that increases your knowledge base or enhances your business skills is continuing education! Your imagination is your only limit. Be sure to share your experiences with our MHW readers!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Roasted Chicken With Spices

If you read my Wednesday post, you probably know I love to use my slow cooker. This recipe is my go-to meal when I'm feeling tired or have a lot to pack in my day. I usually buy whole chickens on sale and freeze them, so I have a bird on hand when I need it. You can also use chicken breasts, legs or thighs if you don't have an entire bird. Leftover chicken makes a yummy chicken salad with a little chopped red onion and mayonnaise.

Roasted Chicken With Spices

Whole chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons of Chicken Spice Mix

Chicken Spice Mix
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon paprika
½ tablespoon cayenne pepper

Mix spices together in a small bowl. Store in airtight container, such as a small jar. Remove insides of chicken (gizzards, etc.). Rinse chicken under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels. Put chicken breast-side up in crock pot. Rub with olive oil, then rub in 1 ½ teaspoons of the spice mixture. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, depending on the size of the bird.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes

I’m in love with my slow cooker. Perhaps I should be in therapy, but I find it amazing that you throw a bunch of stuff into the slow cooker, set the correct cooking time or degree, and then, voila!. Dinner is ready hours later.

If I had to only keep on kitchen appliance, it would be my slow cooker. To me, this is the busy woman’s best friend. I’m frankly amazed at how many women I run into who never take their slow cookers out of the cabinet.

My favorite cookbook for slow cooker recipes is Better Homes and Gardens “Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes.” It’s been around for several years, but is still in print and available on

The recipes are unusual and nearly every one has been a winner with my brood (husband and four kids). This book is organized by category and even has two bonus chapters on five ingredient entrees and one-dish dinners. The instructions are clear and concise, nutrition information is given and the number of servings is accurate.

Here’s my take on each chapter, with my favorite recipes.

Appetizers/Beverages: A wide range of dips and spreads, plus some unusual and flavorful beverages. The Asiago Cheese Dip really stands out, and is great for parties (has a great “Wow” factor). I also serve the Mulled Cranberry Cider at an annual winter party that is fantastic.

Soups/Stews: A good variety of both, with different meats used. Lamb & Barley Vegetable Soup and Argentina-Style Stew are standouts in this section.

Side Dishes: From Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Parsnips to Cranberry-Orange Sauced Beets, this section helps me get my kids to ask for seconds on veggies.

Beef, Pork & Lamb: This is the meatiest section (no pun intended!) and has saved dinner at my house more times than I can recall. Curried Pot Roast, Country-Style Pork Ribs and Barley Lamb Shanks are some of my family’s favorites.

Poultry: How many ways can you cook chicken in a slow cooker? More than 20 make their appearance in this book, including the tasty Chicken With Artichokes and Olives. Tune in Friday when I give an easy slow cooker chicken recipe.

Meatless Main Dishes: I’ve been trying to serve one vegetarian meal per week and this section has definitely come in handy. Pasta With Eggplant Sauce is the only way one of my kids will eat eggplant.

Five Ingredients: I must confess that this is my least-favorite chapter, mostly because in order to only have five ingredients, a few of them are packaged, processed foods like soups or flavor mixes, which I prefer not to use. But I do love the Pork Roast With Apricot Glaze recipe.

One-Dish Dinners: The recipes in this section are not necessarily slow cooker ones, but some are quite delicious. The Sicilian-Style Meat Roll and the Mu Shu-Style Beef & Cabbage Wraps are both popular at our table.

Desserts: These recipes all sound delicious, but I haven’t actually made one because I’m usually using my slow cooker for the main meal instead. But since I’ve purchased a second slow cooker at a yard sale, I’m planning on trying out the Berry Compote or the Pear-Caramel Pudding Cake soon.

I hear that America’s Test Kitchen has a slow cooker cookbook out that I hope to acquire soon. But until then, I’m very happy with the Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Should I Put on a Business Card?

The annual conference of one of my professional organizations is less than two months away and everyone is scrambling for all the material they need to bring. One of the most handy items is a business card. Whether you design them yourself or have someone else do so, I thought I'd share my thoughts on business cards.

1. What are you selling? Yourself? Products? Services? Make it evident at first glance with a picture/icon. (Don't make someone wonder why they have your card)
  •  If you are selling you, have a good headshot
    • The one on my card is of myself in my woods clicking my self-timer--granted it took 60 pictures to get something good since I couldn't see myself in the viewfinder, but you can get something without a professional--look around facebook and find people just starting out with photography and see if you can strike up a deal if you can't afford professional headshots or get a friend to help.
    • Your photo should look like you. No glamour shots, unusual hairdos, makeup you don't usually wear, extreme photoshopping, costumes, etc. As much as you wish you looked like something else, you want the person you handed the card to recognize you the next time he sees you in your normal get-up.
    • If you are using these for networking and want people to recognize you, then make your picture as large as possible.
  • If you are selling a product or service make sure the picture makes that very evident. I've seen business cards selling cloth diapers, and they've got a teddy bear as a picture. I get that it's babyish, but you don't want someone to have to read your card to know that you're selling organic cotton diapers and not stuffed animals.There really is no excuse for not being able to procure a picture of cloth diapers to use. If you are going to pay for cards, then pay for a picture if necessary, or take a picture yourself and see if you can make it look nice on
  • If you have an icon for your business, make sure you use it on everything to tie it all together so it is recognizable no matter what marketing material your customer is looking at.
 2. Do not make your card busy. Do you ever land on those web sites with a hundred flashing animations, ads that come in from the side, tons of different boxes and font etc? Same thing with a crammed card, the person is going to flick it away before paying attention. No more than two pictures or a picture and a decorative background please.

3. It needs to be readable. As much as you want to cram every bit of information on it as possible, clip it down to the most necessary. Can all your websites be accessed from one? Then just put one. Do you have two businesses that do not dovetail well together? Make separate business cards and hand out two if someone just happens to be interested in both. (Have small links to your other non-related sites on each website if you want to make sure someone can find everything you do.)

4. Extra information can be printed onto labels and stuck to the back. If what you are selling changes (like an author has a different book to sell at different times), you can buy envelope labels and print off the title and short blurb onto these labels and stick it onto the back. Then you can buy a larger run of cards, and use them even when information changes. Or you can keep your physical address/phone number on labels and only stick that on cards you give to people you trust need it instead of allowing anyone to get that information from discarded cards.

I used PrintsMadeEasy to make my own cards last year. I like that they allowed me to upload my own pictures, not tie me into a template and I could print my design off on paper immediately to see if I liked what I'd made before I paid for it.

Any other tips you have for business cards? What has made you go "wow" or "sheesh" when you've looked at someone's business card?