Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Little Red Riding Hood Celebration

Last night we celebrated this year's dress-up fun with a Little Red Riding Hood themed family dinner.

I set up our table with elements from this classic story and planned our party menu with each character in mind.

Free printables from The Graphics Fairy added vintage charm to our table. Find classic story book images here.

Homespun elements like the quilt, cloth napkins and individual casserole dishes related to the mother and grandmother, while woodsy elements like a moss runner, vases of apples and branches, and wood-slice chargers referenced the wolf and woodsman. And finally, an open book and liberal use of the color red related to Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood Menu

Little Red Apples
Wolf Tracks Snack Mix
The Woodsman's Chop Salad
Grandmother's Chicken Pot Pie
Mother's Favorite Cupcakes

When the children arrived home from school, they discovered the coffee table in the family room set for a party. Little Red Apples and Wolf Tracks Snack Mix were easy to munch on while working on a Little Red Riding Hood puzzle. Along with a vintage Little Red Riding Hood doll (my sister's when we were younger) and a pitcher of greenery and berries, an apple cinnamon scented color-changing candle from AirWick cast a warm glow over our party. AirWick sent me a sample candle, and it was perfect for our party. The children marvelled at the color changes, and I loved the fall fragrance that filled the room. Leave a comment on this post for your opportunity to win a free color-changing candle from AirWick.

I borrowed the movie Hoodwinked from my sister so we could watch it during our Little Red Celebration. I decorated our kitchen table for dinner so we could spend the afternoon and evening in our party space.

Our Little Red Riding Hood prefers Red Delicious apples, so these were the perfect choice for a healthy party snack.


Planning most of the party menu came easily, but the biggest challenge was choosing a dish to represent the wolf. Thanks to a sample box of popcorn shared by G.H. Cretors, I came up with the Wolf Tracks Snack Mix pictured above. 

Wolf Tracks Snack Mix

6 cups kettle corn popped popcorn
2 squares of CandiQuick vanilla candy coating
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
Melt vanilla candy to package directions. Meanwhile, measure 6 cups of popped kettle corn into a large mixing bowl. Pour melted candy over the popcorn, and toss to coat. Sprinkle in peanuts and cranberries, and toss. Transfer snack mix to a serving bowl, and garnish with a handful of peanuts and dried cranberries, if desired.

Who is ready to go Into the Woods for dinner? Character tags tied to our glasses served as place cards for our little family party. I added a touch of red to the moss runner by hot gluing red rick rack to the edge.

I used Paula Deen's chicken pot pie recipe to fill little red casserole dishes. This recipe calls for chicken base, which you can find with chicken bouillon in the grocery store. I would recommend adding the chicken base a little at a time, as I did not use the full amount the recipe called for, but our filling was still too salty. I'm sure this varies by brand, but using a little and adding more as needed should result in a better dish.

Little Red Riding Hood cupcakes gave a sweet finish to our family celebration. Now we are ready for dress-up fun!

There is more Little Red Riding Hood fun to come, so meet us in the woods to watch the story unfold this week.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Seeing Red: A Little Halloween Preview

"Child of the pure, unclouded brow

And dreaming eyes of wonder!
Though time be fleet and I and thou
Are half a life asunder,

Thy loving smile will surely hail
The love-gift of a fairy tale."
-- Lewis Carroll

Y'all know I am a pink girl all year round, but this week I am seeing Red.
Little Red Riding Hood, that is. And I couldn't be more delighted! After last year's fun dressing up as characters from The Wizard of Oz, it has taken nearly a year to settle on a theme all the children could agree on. At a ladies day last fall, one of the attendees shared the fun her family had dressing up as characters from the storybook classic Little Red Riding Hood. I loved the idea, and I am so excited to be going Into the Woods this year to tell this beloved story.

I made the girls' costumes and want to give you a sneak peek of this year's fun. Emma is Little Red Riding Hood, and Mary Ashley is her mother.

I am planning a special family dinner tonight and will be sharing more photos, crafts and highlights throughout the week.

We're going into the woods and out of the woods and home before dark.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our New Book Club Selection and Giveaway

Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark

What Secrets Can Be Found by the Light of the Cajun Moon?

New Orleans may be the "Big Easy," but nothing about it was ever easy for international business etiquette expert Chloe Ledet. She moved away years ago, leaving her parents and their famous French Quarter restaurant behind. But when she hears that her father has been shot, she races home to be by his side and to handle his affairs--only to learn a long-hidden secret that changes everything she knew to be true about herself and her family.

Framed for murder, Chloe and a handsome Cajun stranger must search for a priceless treasure, one whose roots weave through the very history of Louisiana itself. But can Chloe depend on the mysterious man leading her on this cat-and-mouse chase into the heart of Cajun country? Or by trusting him, has she gone from the frying pan into the fire?

Following up on her bestselling Gothic thriller, Whispers of the Bayou, and Amish romantic suspense, Shadows of Lancaster County, Mindy Starns Clark offers another exciting standalone novel, one full of Cajun mystery, hidden dangers, and the glow of God's unending grace.

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark, compliments of Harvest House Publishers. I will announce the winner next week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reflections with Author Sandi Rog

How did the story of The Master's Wall come to be?

I wanted to write a story that I wanted to read. I also thought it would be interesting to find out what it would be like for a child during those turbulent times of the church’s beginning.

I loved learning about Jewish boys. They were required to memorize scriptures from beginning to end. The expectations were amazing.

Just as you experienced the mountaintop of the release of The Master's Wall, you entered the valley of a cancer diagnosis. Can you share a bit of this journey with us?

The very day my book released I was diagnosed with cancer. I think I may have been in shock with my diagnosis, so I wasn’t really “knocked down.” It’s very difficult to describe my emotion. I’d had a few days to digest the information because on a Friday they called me saying they found a “mass,” and on Monday it was confirmed, and I went to have a biopsy done. At the same time (because this all occurred on the same day), I was also so excited about my book releasing, I was passing out bookmarks at the hospital. Crazy.

How is your health now?

My health now is wonderful! I was just released from my oncologist because my cancer is gone! Only, it’s not gone because of any of their treatments. I used B17 (a concentrated form of apricot kernels). After doing a lot of research (thanks to my husband), and my picking up where he left off, I learned that B17 kills all cancers. You can read more about this on my blog: www.sandirog.blogspot.com.

What is next on the horizon for fans of your Iron and the Stone series?

I still have to write the third book, The Father’s Rock. This book comes after Yahshua’s Bridge, which is the second book in the series. Here’s the book jacket blurb of The Father’s Rock:

As a thief, all Ander knows is the master who rescued him after his parents were murdered. Ander's criminal behavior becomes an art and his passion.

During a drunken stupor, his master reveals an uncut amethyst stone shaped like a star. Ander recognizes the unique jewel that once belonged to his father—a stone passed down from generation to generation. Is it possible that the man who rescued him murdered his parents?

Disillusioned, Ander escapes his master and goes in search of his past. Little does he know, the past is waiting for him.

Thank you, Sandi! We eagerly await your next book.
Visit the link below to find books by Sandi Rog.

The Master's Wall Book Club Menu & Recipes

I am always amazed at the wonderful variety of recipes and balance of flavors we sample at our quarterly book club meetings. Last week's meeting was no exception.

The Master's Wall by Sandi Rog

Co-coordinator Missy Jones and I planned appetizers, desserts and decor inspired by our book selection, The Master's Wall by Sandi Rog. We set our tables with foods common to Bible times: grapes, olives, herbed cheese and crackers, pistachios, crusty bread and Parmesan olive oil. We asked guests to bring a favorite soup, salad or stew, and Missy treated us to baklava for dessert.

Two of our ladies brought white bean chicken chili. This crave-worthy soup was creamy and comforting with just enough spice to keep it interesting.

White Bean Chicken Chili

This is a great soup to serve to a crowd on a fall evening. Adjust the amount of Rotel according to your preference.

1 (32-ounce block) Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
2 cans cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
3 cups chicken broth
4 chicken breasts boiled and cut into pieces or 3 (12-ounce) cans of white meat chicken, drained
4 cans white navy beans
2 (10-ounce cans) Rotel
1 loaf white mountain or sourdough bread, sliced for dipping

Place the cubed Velveeta in the crock pot on low and stir until melted (or you can melt it on the stove with a little of the broth and transfer it to the crock pot when it is melted). Add the remainder of the ingredients to the crock pot and stir until mixed. Cook on low for about two hours. Serve with the sliced bread, which is delicious dipped in the soup.


Sipping a steaming cup of coffee while we nibble our baklava and chat by phone with author Sandi Rog -- an excellent Tuesday night in my book.

Missy baked our baklava hours before our book club and kept it uncovered to prevent the flaky Phyllo layers from drying out.
1 (16-ounce) package Phyllo dough
3/4 pound finely chopped nuts
3 sticks butter
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2–3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6–8 sheets deep. Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows to make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.


Still to come, an interview with author Sandi Rog and the announcement of our next book!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


At last week's quarterly ladies book club meeting, Margie Austin delivered the devotional below. Along with her words of wisdom, Margie brought several artifacts gathered during her husband's archaeological digs in the Holy Lands. I appreciate Margie for sharing her words of wisdom with us.

by Margie Austin

In ancient times, walls were a distinction between a city and a town. Cities had walls; towns were un-walled villages. Walls were strategically placed protection for the cities. They were used to keep people safe inside and to keep enemies out.
The Bible references walls many times. The first use is in Genesis 49. In verse 22, Joseph is said to be a “fruitful bough whose branches run over a wall.” Walls are not always stone or brick. In Exodus 14:21-22, God created a “wall of water” for the Israelites to be able to cross the Red Sea.
Israelites encountered many walled cities — probably the most famous would be those at Jericho that fell when the Israelites obeyed God and Joshua. You can read about this in Joshua 6.
Upon the return of the Israelites from Babylonian captivity in the time of Nehemiah, their first priority was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:17). The task was accomplished in 52 days because Nehemiah 6:15 tells us they had a “mind to work.”
Then there was King Belshazzar who saw fingers of a man’s hand writing on a wall. Daniel, of course, was the only one who could interpret its meaning (Daniel 5).
Even the sacrifice of Christ involved a wall. It is said that He broke down the “middle wall of partition” between the Israelites and the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14).

But what about walls that we face?
The Wall of Injustice. Our world has injustices — some real, some imagined. David in the book The Master’s Wall by Sandi Rog should not have been a slave. Alethea should not have had to see her father dragged to his death for becoming a Christian.
But God never promised we would have an easy life. Proverbs 16:8 says, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” Life is not always fair, but we do serve a just God. Romans 9:14 says, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”
Wall of Sacrifice. Alethea’s choices in The Master’s Wall caused real physical pain to David. Yet he was willing to take a beating for something he didn’t do. Later David shared his family’s treasured scrolls with others, and he ultimately gave them away to benefit more people. Finally, he gave up a chance for freedom to save Alethea.
As Christians, we are called to make sacrifices. Romans 12:1-2 instructs, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
But our sacrifices bring joy. Paul said in Philippians 2:17, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
We can give because our Father has given to us. First John 4:10 tells us, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” This passage shows us that the Christian life is not about self.
Wall of Forgiveness. David was ultimately able to forgive Alethea, but the greater challenge was for Alethea to forgive herself. Ephesians 1:7 tells us that God has given us a priceless gift: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” We are unworthy, yet God gives us His grace. In turn, He expects us to forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 urges, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Romans 4:7 reminds us, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”
This brings us to The Master’s Wall.

As described in our book club selection, the master's wall represented freedom and imprisonment. David saw the wall as freedom from slavery; he longed to go back to the city and find his sister. Alethea saw the wall as freedom from her grandfather. She had convictions but was impulsive. She made mistakes that were costly to others — she caused real pain. Both characters felt imprisoned by the master’s wall.
Several biblical passages address freedom and imprisonment.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).

So does the master’s wall that you face represent freedom or imprisonment? It all depends on who your Master is.

Margie Austin is an elder's wife and active member of the University Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala., where she is a beloved Bible class teacher. Margie is a mother and grandmother who is widely respected for her Bible knowledge and servant's heart.

Still to come, favorite recipes from this quarter's book club meeting.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Club Dinner for The Master's Wall by Sandi Rog

A highlight of last week was our quarterly ladies book club dinner and discussion.

by Sandi Rog

After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.

The Master's Wall takes readers on a journey through ancient Rome, where young David is captured and forced into slavery under the wealthy Vibian Cornelius Aloysius. For our book club dinner, we wanted to transport guests to the palace of Aloysius. So co-coordinator Missy Jones and I abandoned our usual meeting room and cluster of round tables for banquet-style seating in the tiled foyer just inside our church building. We set rectangular tables end to end and covered them with tablecloths, which allowed all of us to sit together.

Gilded edges on china plates and goblets and gold-colored chargers, napkins and candle sticks gave our party a regal feel. We placed our appetizers on the table: herbed cheese and crackers, olives, red and green grapes, and crusty rounds of bread with parmesan olive oil for dipping.


The golden glow of candlelight -- and friendship -- lit the night as we went over The Master's Wall for a book club dinner to remember.

Still to come this week, more book club fun and the reveal of our latest selection!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Afternoon Tea at Savannah Tea Company

My recent trip to Nashville, Tenn., afforded me some treasured one-on-one time with my sister. Usually when we are together, I have my four children and Jennifer has her three. Our visits usually revolve around the cousins, but this special weekend was all about sisters. Jennifer accompanied me to the Smyrna Church of Christ's Hospitali-Tea Saturday night, but earlier in the day we shared afternoon tea at the Savannah Tea Company in Nashville.

Savannah Tea Company is located near downtown Nashville. This quaint little house is tucked into a more industrial section of town.

The afternoon we visited, ladies were preparing this dining room to host a shower.

I think a tea party is the best way to welcome life's transitions, don't you?

Guests at Savannah Tea Company choose their tea from an impressive menu -- and their teacup from a wall of well-loved favorites.

We enjoyed delicious tea sandwiches and sweet treats during our meal, but my favorite course was the veggie pesto soup.

It was such a treat to escape to the Savannah Tea Company for an afternoon with my sister. I hope we will share a cup of tea there again soon.

"Imagine a table laden with homemade scones and muffins, seasonal fruit jams, freshly made sandwiches and cakes and pastries of all varieties. There are few ways of ending the afternoon quite as enjoyable as sitting down to afternoon tea with friends."
~ The Perfect Afternoon Tea Book


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Minnie Birthday Party

Over the weekend we celebrated niece Kadence's 4th birthday. For months, she has known that she wanted her party to be Minnie's Bowtique. Her mommy, Shana, pulled together a fun backyard party Saturday.

Party snacks were a little sweet, a little salty, and a lot of Minnie. On the sweet side, Shana offered grapes, Mickey Mouse sugar cookies and strawberry cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. I made Kadence's cake, a two-tiered strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream. I used a few teaspoons of juice from a defrosted carton of frozen strawberries to flavor the icing, then tinted it pink with Wilton icing paste. I experimented with Wilton edible paper for this cake, using a cookie cutter to cut big polka dots. On the savory side, we had Mickey-shaped cheese and ranch salsa dip with pretzels and Wheat Thins. Combining sweet and salty, Shana baked pretzels with a Rollo candy and pecan pressed on top for a delicious combination.

The top left photo of the collage above shows a dressed-up dress form outfitted with party favors for all the girls: pink polka dot hair bows made by Shana and Minnie Mouse beaded necklaces. Shana also filled goodie bags with Minnie Mouse candy for a sweet parting favor.

My nieces Bailey and Kadence had a great time celebrating Big Sister's birthday.

I'm sending many, mini, Minnie birthday wishes to our sweet girl Kadence!

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