Monday, January 21, 2013

When my strength is failing - Alice's music

My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly last Monday.  She was a wise woman for sure! 

There are many things  I could say about her, but instead I want to focus on one thing - her love for music.  Love for music is a family thing.  My husband and his family sang together as he was growing up.  As time went on and her children got married and moved out on their own, Alice continued singing with her husband and in her church.  More time passed and my mother-in-law aka Alice aka Grandma also sang to her grandchildren. 

Alice also enjoyed listening to her family sing! She encouraged the grandchildren to sing songs they were learning for others.  It seems fitting that my youngest is processing recent events through music.  This morning my girl was singing a unique composition about the events of last week.  She started with a borrowed phrase, "It's so hard to say good-bye" then played the piano freestyle and sang several lines about the funeral service and ended with a chorus of, "And I will miss her very very much!"   

While Alice loved music, she was selective about her music.  She was partial to the old hymns and not so fond of contemporary Christian music. If you listen to family reminiscence long enough you may hear tales of contraband music, but you didn't hear that from me!  In recent years, Alice has been spending multiple weeks per year at my house, where I would only listen to Christian radio stations.  On various occasions she questioned the music to which we were listening - a wise move.  It is wise to know what you are listening to and to be sure you agree with it.   It is unwise to fill your mind with songs that contain questionable messages or inappropriate lyrics.  Give this some thought especially if you have young children. 

Alice's last months were affected by a second stroke.  Her ability to speak was greatly affected and likewise her ability to sing.  We didn't hear her sing as much.  But she still enjoyed listening to music and would quietly observe as her granddaughters practiced music for church.  One song in particular seemed to become a favorite.  She didn't talk about it and state it as a favorite, but it was one of the few songs I actually heard her sing along with when it came on the radio.  The song is 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman and ends with these lyrics, "And on that day when my strength is failing, The end draws near, and my time has come; Still my soul will sing Your praise unending..." 

I am thankful for those girls who practiced the song enough for Grandma to learn it.  And I am thankful for a mother-in-law whose soul kept praising even when her speech and strength were failing. 

No matter what circumstances come in 2013, will you be able to keep on praising?  The song also says, "Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes."  May that be true in my life... 

"Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise."  Psalm 48:1a

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Five Quick Kitchen Storage Tips

A friend posted something on Pinterest and of course, I had to check it out.  It led me to a website which led me to a mailing list to get weekly emails to help with home organization.

Now, I am not calling this a New Year's Resolution.  And I'm not going to pretend that I will keep up with the suggested daily chores.  But at the time it seemed like a helpful tool as I worked to recover for the holiday chaos.  I use the word chaos with love.  No matter how well I plan and prepare, four gatherings of just over 20 people in a week's time leads to chaos.  I love the people and our time together, therefore I love the chaos.  But once school starts up again and the Christmas decorations get put away, I find it helpful to take a few steps to regain some order. 

The focus last week was on the kitchen.  (You can see what it's all about here:  As I was working in my kitchen, straightening up and cleaning things out, I smiled as I realized how many previous attempts at order had worked well and survived the test of time.

Today, I share with you Five Quick Kitchen Organization Tips:
#1 - Office desk drawer organizers work equally well as Kitchen drawer organizers
The compartments are nice sizes for small lids, medicine cups, snack bag clips, mini containers, reusable popsicle molds, straws, etc.  This drawer has space around the outside of the organizer for jar lids.

#2 - After YEARS of fighting with my serving spoons, I realized that they look nicer and it is easier to find the right piece if they are stored on their side.  The small space above contains dessert servers, large spoons, regular serving spoons, slotted spoons, plastic spoons, and meat forks. I save time finding the right piece, not to mention the reduced frustration level!

#3 - After my success with keeping serving spoons on their side, I realized water bottles are also easier to keep on their sides.  We can easily grab the one we want without moving any ones in the front out of the way.  They are all visible.

#4 - Corral small items within bigger boxes.  My kitchen does not have enough drawers for my liking.  So I have had to improvise.  I have a spice rack, but it does not hold all of my spices.  After trying several systems that fell short of ideal, I realized I could put an unused container to use for my spices.  When I need one of those spices, I pull the box down (almost as easy as pulling out a drawer) and use what I need.  I am currently using this method for tuna pouches as well.  In the past this system has worked for taco seasoning packets (before I started making my own), soup packets, etc.

#5 - I saved my personal favorite and most long-standing trick for last.  Does anyone recognize these shelves?   We incorporated two similar styles of shoe storage into our kitchen!  The two horizontal shelves are one unit and they work for cookie sheets, baking stones, muffin tins, etc.  The 12 cubbies are a different style of shoe storage and they contain: loaf pans, aprons, a mini bar pan, the power cord for an electric griddle,  boxes of baggies and wraps, a hand mixer, mini loaf pans, water bottles, and recycled kleenex boxes for storing smaller items.

I hope you will find something helpful in these ideas that will work for you.  Do you have a kitchen tip that has been a success for you?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tuna Casserole without Cream Soup

Tuna Noodle Casserole Revamped
One of my husband’s favorite meals is Tuna Noodle Casserole.  Two of our daughters and I like it really well too.  However, at one point I noticed I hadn’t been making it as much since evaluating the health value of store canned cream soups.  It’s a good way to get healthy fish in our diets, so I began considering ways to replace the cream soup from our traditional recipe.
When a Sunday Night Noodles recipe came through my email from Mr. Food, I thought, “Aha!  Maybe this will work with tuna!”

I tweaked Mr. Food’s noodle recipe some to accommodate what I had on hand and to make it more like Tuna Noodle Casserole.  I made a few adjustments after the first few trials to make it more to our liking and here is what we now use:  A Tuna Noodle Casserole without canned cream soup.

  • 1 pound medium egg noodles
  • 6 oz sautéed button mushrooms, sliced or chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped and sautéed
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (I pureed mine due to a picky eater in our house)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup chunked Butter Cheese
  • 1 family size soft pack of tuna (consider pureeing this for non tuna lovers)
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
I followed Mr. Food’s instructions fairly closely, making the appropriate substitutions and additions. 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles to desired doneness; drain.
  3. In a large bowl, mix tuna, sauteed vegetables, cottage cheese, sour cream, Cheddar cheese, Butter Cheese, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir in noodles then spoon mixture into prepared baking dish.  Drizzle with chicken stock.
  4. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over noodle mixture then bake, covered, for 45 minutes.
I have made this half a dozen times and now our non-fish eater will even eat it - and sometimes asks for seconds!

If I don't have mushrooms, I substitute celery or something else to be similar to cream of _____ soup (use whatever you like).  I have also had success with using cream cheese in place of the cottage cheese, although cream cheese provides a richer flavor and fuller texture.

I buy Butter Cheese at a bulk foods store in Bremen.  It melts down smoothly and has a mild yet pronounced flavor that complements the tuna and noodles well.  While the total cheese used in this recipe may seem like a lot, our first attempts with less cheese were a bit dry.  

This makes a simple weeknight meal.  Enjoy!  

How does your family like to include fish in your meals?