Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Club Selection for Spring

After the success of our first book club meeting, we have decided to make it a quarterly event. We will be exploring a variety of titles in Christian fiction, from romance and drama to mystery and humor. I am pleased to announce our book selection for spring:

Savannah from Savannah by Denise Hildreth

Featured in Southern Living, Savannah from Savannah is a humorous novel that will be an easy spring-break or early-summer read. But although it is light, Savannah still gives us some deeper issues to discuss. Among them, coming of age, mother-daughter relationships, living in the south, and learning through loss.

And how could we not love a book that whisks us away to the quintessential southern city of Savannah? Along the way the book takes us by some of these famous Savannah landmarks:

The Fountain at Forsyth Square

The Gryphon Tea Room

And the Owens-Thomas House

If you would like to join our book club discussion -- whether joining us in person or sharing your insights about the book here on the blog -- find the book here. And enjoy your trip to Savannah this spring!

As for me, I can't wait until spring to visit Georgia. I'm heading to the Calhoun Church of Christ for a ladies day Saturday. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Redeeming Love Book Club Devotional

In keeping with our California Gold Rush era book club selection, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, we sent guests home from last week's meeting with gold nuggets -- Hershey's Nuggets, that is. I had intended to wrap them all in scriptures from Hosea, but simply ran out of time to finish the project. I did present a few nuggets of scripture, though. Our devotional follows.

That Kind of Girl

I want us to think for a few minutes about “that kind of girl.”

Have you ever met that kind of girl? You know her when you see her. She wears too much make-up. Her clothes are too tight and too revealing. She smells of cheap perfume and cigarettes, and even from a distance you can catch the faintest whiff of cologne on her skin – probably the scent of another woman’s husband. She’s a woman who lives in the shadows – carrying out her deeds under the cover of darkness; hiding her shame in the light of day.

Could you befriend that kind of girl? She’s the kind of girl who doesn’t belong in polite society – shunned by women; known only by men who seek her company in secret, but deny her in the company of anyone more respectable.

We find exactly that kind of girl in the book of Hosea in Gomer, a known prostitute. Can you imagine the raised eyebrows – the scandalous rumors – generated when a prophet of God chose this prostitute to be his wife? Yet we learn in Hosea 1:2 that God commanded Hosea to take Gomer as his wife: “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.’ " Even more surprising for the Israelites was the realization that the marriage between the prophet and the prostitute held up a mirror to their own relationship with God, clearly reflecting their unfaithfulness.

Reading our book club selection, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, piqued my interest in studying the book of Hosea. But this book can be gritty and difficult to read. God paints a graphic picture of spiritual infidelity in Hosea 2:2-7. This is not a lovely passage we would print on a greeting card or pen in calligraphy to display in our homes. The words are jarring and shocking to read.

But Hosea is not just about judgment. Judgment comes easy, doesn’t it? It’s easy to point fingers, cast blame, look down our noses – especially at that kind of girl. But God’s righteous judgment is balanced by even fiercer love. God reveals throughout the book that His greatest desire is for the Israelites to come home. Hosea 2:7-8 continues, “Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!’ For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.” God is just, but He is also loving and merciful. He promises in verses 19-20, “And I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” God desires to draw our sinful hearts home.

Are you that kind of girl? The kind of girl who has been betrayed and felt the sting of rejection? The kind of girl who has made mistakes, stumbling daily – frustrated and ashamed to fall prey to the same temptations again and again?

Are you that kind of girl? sinful, broken, lost. In need of a Savior. In short, the kind of girl God claims as His child; the kind of girl Christ chooses as His bride. Just like the Israelites, on some level we are all that kind of girl. Ephesians 2:4-7 tells us:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ
(by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with
Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come
He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ

I’m so thankful that God loves that kind of girl because that kind of girl is me.

"And I will betroth you to me forever ..." (Hosea 2:19).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book Club Menu and Recipes

We enjoyed a simple menu at last week's book club dinner and discussion of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. A few of us brought appetizers; Missy Hilyer treated us to homemade bread and butter; and guests were asked to bring salads and desserts. Dinner was wonderful! Find our appetizer recipes below.

Sparkling Punch

I wanted a golden punch for our book club selection, which is set in the days of the California Gold Rush. This recipe from Allrecipes was the perfect choice!

2 (750 milliliter) bottles sparkling apple cider
1 liter carbonated water
3 large oranges
2 lemons
1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 trays ice cubes

Thinly slice the lemons and the oranges and place in a large punch bowl. Pour in the thawed lemonade. Gently stir in the seltzer water and the sparkling apple cider. Add sugar to taste. Add large block of ice. (Note: Instead of the ice, I made an ice ring using raspberries and some of the lemon and orange slices from the recipe.)

Chicken Bites
Taryn Brodie is often asked to make this sweet and savory appetizer she picked up from her husband's family. In keeping with our book club selection, we called these "nuggets" for the evening.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 package bacon, cut in thirds
1 cup brown sugar
chili powder to taste
Mix the chili powder and brown sugar together and set aside. Wrap a piece of chicken with a slice of bacon and hold in place with a toothpick. Roll it in the brown sugar mixture so that it is well coated. Place in casserole dish. Continue until all pieces are done. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes. Drain it with a few minutes left to go so that they can crispy. (Note: Taryn also likes preparing this appetizer with shrimp.)

Hot Bacon Swiss

Lara Graham served this tasty dip warm from the oven with corn chips.

1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
8-ounce block of cream cheese
1 jar Hormel Bacon Bits
Crushed Ritz crackers (about 1 sleeve)

Mix cheese, mayonnaise and cream cheese with a blender, then spread mixture into a baking dish. Top with Hormel Bacon Bits, then crushed Ritz crackers. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve with corn chips.

Baked Brie

I picked this recipe up on a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for a ladies day a few years ago. It is a hit on holiday menus and was perfect for our book club gathering.

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 wheel of brie
Raspberry preserves
Sesame seeds
Sliced apples

Slice the brie in half and spread a couple of tablespoons of raspberry preserves between the layers. Sandwich them back together, and wrap the wheel in puff pastry. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and bake at the recommended temperature for the puff pastry until golden brown. Serve warm with sliced apples.

Photo by Teri Phillips

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Redeeming Love Book Club Decor

If you heard echoes in the night of someone wailing "No-o-o-o-o!" last Thursday, it was me realizing I forgot to take my camera to our first book club meeting. Thankfully, one of the ladies who came to help decorate was able to run home to get her camera. Thank you to Teri Phillips for lending us your time, talents, decor and photography!

Our book club selection, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, is a retelling of the biblical story of Hosea and Gomer, set in the days of the California Gold Rush. This sweeping love story inspired the decor for the evening.

White tablecloths set an elegant mood; red accessories suited the heroine of Redeeming Love; and gold tableware and accessories alluded to the book's setting.

Votive candles nestled in these tall crystal goblets cast a golden glow on our appetizer table. When I started planning our book club, I shared the idea with Terri. An interior designer and event planner, Terri had these red rose topiaries that we propped on candle sticks, as well as the red jewels we sprinkled on the tables. Borrowing some of our decor helped control costs for the evening.

Here is a view of the appetizer table as guests started to arrive. We placed this table in the center of the rectangular room to draw the ladies into the gathering. Five more round tables arranged into a V-shape around the appetizer table gave us an intimate setting to talk about the book. Long tables on each side of the room held salads and desserts brought by all the ladies.

Still to come, devotional thoughts and menu ideas!

Photos by Teri Phillips

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Club Beginnings

For months I have looked forward to sharing a book-club style dinner and discussion with the ladies of my congregation on the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

I originally planned to host a one-time event, but the response was so enthusiastic that before our meeting we had already decided to make this a quarterly event.

In order to open the book club to a greater number of ladies, we held the meeting at the church building. Several weeks before the book club, announcements from the pulpit and in the bulletin let the ladies know our book selection. For future meetings we plan to announce the next book at the end of the meeting so everyone will have plenty of time to read it.

I placed the sign-up sheet pictured above in the foyer so we could get a count for the evening. I wanted this invitation to look like a book, so I printed the sheet on the landscape setting, folded it in half and secured it to a scrapbook page cut to look like a book cover. A red ribbon "bookmark" added one final detail.

More than 30 ladies gathered for this inaugural book club meeting. It was so much fun! Our evening provided a great opportunity to share fellowship with a cross-section of women from our congregation -- brought together for the evening by our love of good books and bonded for life by our love of The Good Book. The sweet sounds of laughter and conversation were music to my ears.

I will share more details throughout the week, so come back each day to read all about it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ballerina Girl: Birthday Cake and Portrait

We held Emma's birthday party a week before her actual birthday, so I made her this heart-shaped cake to share with the family February 13th. It was sweet and pink, just like the Birthday Girl!

I wanted to get a birthday portrait of my ballerina girl and thought our dining room -- still empty from her ballerina tea party -- would be the perfect spot.

I asked her if I could take her picture in front of the window.

And I think she misunderstood my request.

This wasn't quite the look I was going for, but I have to admire her skills in holding this pose!

I would say that last photo is definitely worth an extra piece of cake!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow Day Scenes

"Winter weather, right this way, please!"

My southern children hoped to awake to a winter wonderland last Friday. Although the snow arrived later than predicted, we did enjoy a couple of inches by the afternoon. Within a day it was gone, but it was fun while it lasted.

"Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7).

Snow Angel

My little snow angel steps out into a winter wonderland ...

wearing Daddy's gloves --

the next best thing to holding his hand during a snow day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sweet Valentine Treats

Valentine's Day was the perfect excuse to give loved ones some sugar!

One recipe of fluffy pink buttercream icing yields infinite decorating possibilities! I made cakes and cupcakes over the weekend for several people. Wilton treat boxes from Wal-Mart were perfect for packing with cupcakes. These were piped with a star tip and topped with heart-shaped cookies from the bakery.

Pink and green marshmallow frog princes, also from Wal-Mart, looked cute perched atop mini heart-shaped cakes. I think this little guy says, "Kiss me!"

Would a rose by any other name taste as sweet? I made this variety by piping on petals with an angled tip.

I hope your Valentine's Day held some sweet surprises from someone you love!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love Notes

Born on February 13th, I call daughter Emma my little Valentine. These cards from Shutterfly were perfect for sharing the love this year with family members.

This Valentine was a sweet surprise from my best girlfriend, Vonda. Isn't this precious?

Joe was out of town this year Valentine's weekend, but I got an unexpected surprise. When the children and I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from church, the lady behind us in line struck up a conversation with the children. She asked them if they had given their mother a present for Valentine's Day. When they said no, she retrieved a bouquet of roses from her car and gave them to Christian. The children were delighted to surprise me with flowers, and I was touched that a stranger reached out with such a thoughtful gesture. It makes me want to do the same!

Tomorrow, sweet treats for some of my Valentines!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ballerina Teatime Menu

Ready for a break, the little ballerinas at Emma's birthday party gathered at the tea table for some dainty treats.

Pink ballet slipper cookies were ballerina perfect. Find directions for making these cookies here and more Nutter Butter shoe cookie ideas here.

I don't know if anyone knew what I was going for here, but each little girl got a pink marshmallow tutu. I made these by layering two mini-cupcake liners and a pink marshmallow, securing all three with icing. Then I piped a few icing details on the bodice.

Joe was out of town for most of the week before the party, so I made the ballet slippers and tutus ahead and kept them in the freezer until the day of the party. Emma had requested petit fours, so I ordered these from Publix.

Cookies and tarts from the bakery were sweet treats for the mommies who brought their ballerinas to play.

I made a pot of my signature roseberry tea for those craving something hot, and pink punch was a refreshing choice for those who preferred something cold. My friend Robin shared this versatile Kool-Aid punch recipe with me, and I knew Emma would like it flavored with "pink lemuh-lade."
Kool-Aid Punch
3 packets Kool-Aid, any flavor (we used Pink Lemonade)
3 cups sugar
1 large can unsweetened pineapple juice
Sprite (Three 2-liters per gallon of concentrate)
Combine Kool-Aid packets, sugar, pineapple juice and enough water to fill a gallon container and chill. This will be the punch concentrate. To serve, combine 1/3 gallon of the concentrate, one 2-liter of Sprite and ice. Refill as needed. (Note: Instead of using ice, I froze some of the concentrate with fresh raspberries and lemon slices so the flavor would not be diluted as the ice melted.)

Our ballerina baby makes a birthday wish.

I'm wishing this ballerina could stay a baby, but it is such a joy watching her grow up!
Happy Birthday tomorrow, my little Valentine!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin