Help Them “Do the Most Good”

Did you see the folks standing outside the stores ringing bells next to a Salvation Army Red Kettle? Did you help the organization out by chucking in a few coins or a bill or two? If not, I have an opportunity for you to help them right now. In fact, even if you did, you can participate in this challenge.

As of this moment and until December 31, 2017, I’ll make a donation to The Salvation Army for every new follower or every “Like” I get from someone. The Salvation Army is one of my favorite non-profit organizations. Not only have I served in a local soup kitchen (Sally’s Kitchen) for almost 15 years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of the people who come there to eat because I join them on many days to get a hot meal too.

The Salvation Army impresses me as a non-profit also because I got a look at their pie chart which shows how their funds are spent. Every year, between 80-82% of the monies taken in (completely through donations) go directly to programs to serve people in various programs. That takes in the soup kitchens, after school programs for kids, summer camp, addiction recovery programs, emergency assistance and disaster assistance. The rest of the money pays for staff and marketing.

I get shivers even thinking about that.

So, here’s what you do. If you already follow my blog, find the “reblog” button (it should be there at the bottom) and then all the people who follow you have a chance to see this and consider following me. And let me set the record straight on followers: that’s never been a big deal to me. I honestly hope to be able to make a respectable donation to TSA. I do anyway, but wouldn’t it be cool to make it even bigger?

If you’re one of my followers, hit the “like” thingy. If this came up in your reader because of a search, you can “like” it as well. That counts too. Neat, huh?

I’m also posting this on Twitter so if you want to upload the URL to your Twitter feed, great. My challenge will be to do that in 140 characters.

Thanks so much; you guys rock. Be a blessing to someone today. Whether you decide to reblog this, like it, or do nothing.

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The Rogue: A Review

The Rogue: Planets Shaken by Lee W. Brainard; 2017 by Soothkeep Press

The Rogue is the first volume of the Planets Shaken series about a dystopian future. It combines biblical prophecy, ancient history and government conspiracy in a story about scientists who have discovered a planet-sized comet on a collision course for Mars.

Astronomer Irina Kirlenko finds the comet but is stymied in her work in pursuing its path and imminent arrival. She believes those higher up who could investigate further and do something are hiding the discover to avoid panic when what the public needs is the truth. So, she sends her findings in coded language to her fellow astronomer, Ariele Serrafe. More people than this pair of women are in danger of being discovered with information the government will kill for.

Brainard writes the book with chapter openings as day/date/location entries. It’s an effective tool, creating that countdown feel which would probably happen if Earth was facing destruction and we knew how and when.

Brainard’s first installment is Christian fiction, but none of the characters is overtly religious. He’s only included a few references to their respective lives of faith. I found this refreshing since, although I’m a Christian, don’t read much inspirational fiction and don’t appreciate trite and obvious ploys to take me down an author’s path. The Author Himself, God, will draw me where He wants me to go; I prefer human authors be subtle in their approach, not leading me by the nose.

The characters in the book are either the kind you sympathize with or want to shake, and it’s easy to know which is which. Professor Goldblum is an opportunist, for instance, and out for glory. Other characters will seem selfless, but only the next volumes may tell if they truly are.

The story is peppered with acronyms I had to keep referring to and finally decided to pencil them in the back cover so that I wouldn’t have to search for the term again. I know what a planetarium is, and I understand constellations, but I had no idea what NEO meant. I do now. A glossary might have helped. I realize those are unusual for fiction, but I’ve seen it done and appreciated it when one was included. The book is enjoyable, and I might even be on the lookout for the next installation of the series. This was a fast read because the story itself moves fast. I wanted to know what was happening next to the characters (except for those meanies).

The cover is attractive as well and I’m one of those who pays attention to such things. This one is nice and clean; not all cluttered up. Be sure to read the qualifier written by the author on the copyright page regarding the novel being a work of fiction. I thought it was cleverly written.

The book is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

This review appears as a courtesy to Bookcrash and the author in exchange for an honest review and a copy of the book.

Drink Up, Foodie

Most of us like parties. We don’t even need a good reason to celebrate or get together. My best friend and I would often say at the end of the school day, “Let’s go celebrate.” That meant we’d be stopping on our walk home to have a soda in a corner booth at the family restaurant on main street.

What were we celebrating? That school let out; that we’d done well on a test; that we hadn’t been sent to the principal’s office; anything; or nothing at all. We just enjoyed each other’s company and it called for a “celebration.”

This time of year, however, many of us find ourselves celebrating something. A holiday; the beginning of a new calendar year; a break from school; anything. And we want to celebrate those things with people we enjoy.

If you’re inviting friends in or attending a get-together elsewhere, you know from experience that the drinks are a big part of the celebration. This week, Foodie Friday is designated to holidays and party drinks. (And speaking of “designated,” if you intend to drink alcoholic beverages at your celebrations, plan for a designated driver. Please.)

This first recipe is traditional for Christmas. It’s a British beverage dating back to the 1400s. The word ‘wassail’ means “Be well.” So, it’s the perfect beverage for drinking to one another’s good health. I got this recipe from my community theater buddy, Valerie VanderMark.

Wassail

  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. water
  • 6 c. grapefruit juice
  • 3 c. orange juice
  • 1 quart cider
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

In a saucepan combine sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes. Strain the mixture. Add juices, simmer to blend flavors and serve hot. Garnish with orange slices. It makes approximately 26 servings

This recipe is for a very different kind of drink and I got it from a lady, Nina Bale, who lived in my home town. I remember Nina well because, like me, she was petite. And, goodness, she dressed with impeccable taste.

Nina Bale’s Slush

  • 46 oz. pineapple juice
  • 12 oz. can frozen lemonade
  • 1 fifth Vodka
  • 1 large can crème of coconut or coconut milk

Combine all ingredients and freeze in a large container. For the party, taking out as much as you need, blend in batches at low speed in a blender. Pour into glasses or a chilled punch bowl.

Other seasonal drinks include eggnog, with or without the alcohol; hot buttered rum; and glogg, a traditional Scandinavian drink. If you like your buttered rum sans alcohol, but want the taste of it, add a bit of rum extract. Glogg can be prepared without alcohol as well.

And don’t forget the great old stand-by, hot chocolate. There are so many ways to flavor it if you want to experiment. Drink up! And say a toast to Foodies everywhere.

Be a blessing to all you meet during this holiday season.

 

Good News For All

Are you sharing the good news about Jesus with others?

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'” Luke 2:10-11

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:17-18

 

Christmas Songs We Know: A Review

“Mary Did You Know?:17 Inspirational Christmas Songs From Today’s Top Country Artists;” 2007; Word Entertainment (Warner/Curb)

This CD, with just over one hour of traditional sacred music, wouldn’t have been my first choice. However, because it boasts such a variety of artists, I couldn’t resist. While not a fan of country music, I still found this offering enjoyable.

Most of us have favorite singers or musicians. Most of us are on the lookout for a CD by that person. In this instance, I was in the mood for variety so when I saw it in the library display, I gathered it up.

Overall, the songs provide as much variety as the selection of artists. And, for the most part, they’re songs we know. Or at least have heard over the years playing in elevators or while shopping at the mall. It’s called inspirational music because the songs included are about the Christ child, Jesus. Only a couple of them hint at something other than Jesus’s birth and the event of Christmas and the night he was born.

My Favorites are “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Diamond Rio; “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)” by Vince Gill; “What Child is This?” by Jo Dee Messina; and “The Christ (A Song For Joseph)” by Billy Dean. And while no one sings “Mary, Did You Know?” like the song’s author, Mark Lowry, Kenny Rogers and Wynonna did a more than respectable job.

The only track I didn’t care for was Leann Rimes’ rendition of “O Holy Night.” That’s a difficult song to sing, for sure. But her arrangement sounded to me more like someone wringing every note of the (USA’s) National Anthem up and down the scale. Perhaps Leann is an acquired taste, but I like to be able to sing along. Especially with Christmas music.

Rather astonishing to see how many of these songs are in the public domain.

The mix on each track is great. No one’s voice – no matter how much I may have disliked it – was overpowered by the background music. Nice blending of voice to music. My ear detected violins (or does ‘country’ music make that fiddles?) a couple of times and that added to my enjoyment. I’m partial to violins/fiddles.

If you’re a country music fan and enjoy sacred Christmas music, I recommend you listen to this one. You’ll hear the traditional favorites and maybe even learn a new one.

“I Know You!”

The phone rang first thing in the morning and I didn’t want to answer it. I was still stumbling around with my coffee and hadn’t yet revved myself up for the day. I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello.”

The woman on the other end of the line introduced herself and explained why she’d called. She read a devotion I’d written and wanted to let me know she enjoyed it. Since the city in which I live was noted at the end of the devotion, she looked me up in her phone book. I knew exactly who she was; I had caller ID, after all.

She kept talking and I decided to let her. Her words were encouraging, and it was obvious from what she said that she’d been blessed by what she read. I was glad to hear it, especially from her, a woman I respected.

I decided I better introduce myself and let her know we weren’t strangers. We’d been going to the same church for almost twenty years. I knew she knew me because for a short time we’d both worked in children’s ministry.

Finally, I said, “I’m glad you liked the devotion, Carol. That means a lot to me. But I’m surprised you didn’t recognize my name.” Then I told her that on the previous Sunday, she and her husband had been sitting next to me in church.

People say all the time, “What a small world.” To some extent, I disagree. I’ve discovered that, with Christ is in my life, he’s opened it up and made it larger in ways I would never have conceived.

“You have heard of this hope before in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God” (Colossians 1:5-6).

Twas the Evening of Christmas: Book Review

  • Twas the Evening of Christmas
  • By Glenys Nellist
  • Illustrated by Elena Selivanova
  • Published by Zonderkidz
  • Copyright 2017, 32 pages; ages 4-8

With its scripture reference being Luke 2:10-11, “Twas the Evening of Christmas” blends the over-2,000-year-old story of Jesus’s birth with the poetic cadence of the poem by Clement C. Moore, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” originally published in 1823.

One is an endearing rhyme about a fictional Christmas event. In this book, however, families can gather and read the true story of Christmas and why we even celebrate.

Nellist’s poem keeps the rhythm of Moore’s work intact while being true to the story of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem.

No one is left out here. The animals in the stable; the angels; the shepherds; and the wise men all make their respective appearances.

A couple of things about this poem/story give it high marks in my book. While license is taken a couple of times, that’s okay. We can read between the lines and figure out some things about that night. For instance, the baby has been born and offered up his newborn cry.

“Up jumped the cows, and the oxen and sheep.

Up popped the pigeons, aroused from their sleep.

They all came to gaze at the small baby boy,

As his mama and papa hugged him with joy.”

Scripture doesn’t mention Joseph and Mary hugging their baby. But what new parents don’t want to put their hands around their infant and hold him close?

In addition, the author and illustrator seemingly desire to share the stories of God and about God in a way that glorifies God with their respective gifts. Kids in the intended audience will probably want to touch the pages because the illustrations aren’t too intricate, but aren’t too simplistic. The word ‘soft’ comes to mind. They’re works of art, creatively executed by people who obviously appreciate their Creator.

I’d guess this book, once read to a child, will be as popular with them as that ‘right jolly old elf’ poem was for me so many years ago.

You can find the book for sale at the publisher, Zondervan or on Amazon.

Blackie

Of all the animals that lived with us as we six kids were growing up, the one I remember the best was Blackie. Blackie wasn’t my cat nor did he belong to any of my siblings. From years of experience with cats, I believe you don’t own them, they own you.

Blackie owned my dad and that was only right. They were a lot alike. Cats could teach graduate courses in Being Aloof. My father was equally distant to us.

Dad and Blackie were both tough. Dad, an auto mechanic, came home with scabs on his forehead because he’d come up too quickly from under a car hood. (Bang! “Ouch!”) He’d get those blackened fingernail beds and he’d have grease all over him. Blackie had bald patches, and a couple notches in his ear from years of cat fights.

One night, Dad and Blackie revealed their respective vulnerabilities. Aged, deaf, and not as quick as he once was, Blackie didn’t hear the car when Dad pulled into the driveway. We almost always heard it and usually ran to the door to greet him.

This time he dashed back outside with a flashlight in his hand. “I think I just ran over Blackie.”

We were stunned. We waited.

Dad came back in and dropped onto this chair. He rested his elbow on the kitchen table, put his head in his hand and cried.

Dad? Crying? We were stunned. We waited.

We rarely dared to touch my dad or gesture in an intimate way, but we stood there around him and were quiet. He didn’t tell us to go away.

Somehow in his death, Blackie gave my father permission to let us see his soft side. Dad wasn’t instantly cured of Being Aloof, but we knew he had potential. He was on his way.

Tips for Raiding the Foodie Pantry

Believe it or not, we don’t need to buy fancy products at the store to handle cleaning, repairs and conditioning. Practically everyone knows you can use dryer sheets for freshening things up and lint pickup. Here are some other tips using household items you probably already have around the house.

Rubbing Alcohol: It’s a great cleaner and disinfectant. It also leaves a streak-free shine.

  • Wipe candles with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove dust being careful not to touch the wick.
  • For your car, wipe your windshield wiper blades with a bit of rubbing alcohol. It removes road grime and they are less apt to become iced up.
  • Unclog hair spray or paint nozzles by gently removing the spray top and soaking in rubbing alcohol for about 10 minutes.
  • Make a home-made ice pack by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water in a seal-able plastic bag. Next time you have a sore area or injury, use this clever ice pack which also molds to your body. (alcohol doesn’t freeze)
  • Get rid of fruit flies by mixing rubbing alcohol with water in a spray bottle and spraying them. They’ll soon drop so you can clean them away. So much cleaner and less smelly than commercial bug sprays.

Cooking Spray: This has become a staple in many modern pantries and for good reason. Did you know you can also…?

  • Spray a thin layer inside plastic containers before storing tomato-based sauces. Stains normally left behind from the acidic sauce can be prevented this way.
  • Being very careful not to get any on the floor of the bathtub, spritz the shower walls with cooking spray to help loosen soap scum. Again, if you’ve ever over sprayed in the kitchen and it’s landed on the floor, you know it’s important to be careful. It is, after all, an oil.
  • Who needs commercial products when you can use cooking spray to take care of a squeaky or tight hinge?

Vinegar: It’s probably best to use white vinegar for these tips. The smell is milder and there’s no color.

  • Would you rather not use alcohol on the wiper blades? Vinegar may not keep them from icing up, but it also cleans away the grime that builds up.
  • For your laundry, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup white vinegar to a full load of laundry. It will soften, deodorize, and de-lint clothes. It also removes excess soap, which can cause skin irritation.
  • Warm white vinegar in the microwave for about 30 seconds and use it to cut though hardened soap scum and hard water stains in your bathroom and shower.
  • Preserve fresh-cut flowers by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar to the water. Vinegar kills the bacteria and sugar feeds the flowers.

Cornstarch: It’s not just for making gravy.

  • After cleaning wood furniture, sprinkle a little cornstarch over the area and rub with a lint-free cloth. Cornstarch absorbs the excess polish and cleans away fingerprints.
  • Remove greasy stains such as lotion and baby oil from clothing. Blot as much as you can with a cloth, then sprinkle the cornstarch. Let it sit 10 minutes, shake it out, and dab with (that good old) white vinegar to break up the greases. Launder as usual.
  • If your shoes seem to retain odor, sprinkle a little cornstarch in them at bedtime. The smells are absorbed and it’s easy to just dust it away into a waste bin.
  • You can also make dry shampoo from cornstarch. Use ¼ cup cornstarch, 4-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (rosemary is a good one), a small jar with a wide opening, and a fluffy makeup brush. Mix the cornstarch and oil together in the jar. Before bed, dust the shampoo into your roots so it can absorb oil then carefully brush it out the next morning. If you’re pressed for time, try to do this at least a couple hours before you leave the house, so you don’t get that ‘grey’ look.
  • Clean your child’s favorite stuffed animals with cornstarch. Put the fluffy little beast in a paper bag with a bit of cornstarch, seal and shake the bag, then leave it overnight. The next day, remove the toy and shake it well or use your vacuum attachment to remove any residue.

Do you have tips for cleaning with ordinary pantry stuff? It’s environmentally cleaner and much cheaper to use those items you already have on hand. In fact, of the pantry items mentioned here, cornstarch is the only one I’ve not found at the dollar store. Use the comments section and let me know your tips and tricks.