Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fondue Fun

If you know me, you know that I LOVE & adore all things chocolate. Especially dark chocolate. And if you are a chocolate lover like me, you probably know the delicious goodness of fondue.

This school year, I am leading a small group for some of our small group leaders...junior and senior women who are involved with our Epic ministry and are leading small groups for underclassmen ladies. We kicked off our small group last week and I wanted to host them for a fun night of fondue where we could spend some time getting to know each other and talking about our hopes for the year. What could be better than enjoying chocolate while we chatted?

Here are the sweet girls (we were missing one!) right before we dug into the chocolate! I'm sure you will be seeing more photos of them in the future. (clockwise from top left: Rachel, Renee, Katie, Joy, Angel)

I wanted to make our table festive for the occasion, so I stamped a place card for each of the girls' placesetting. They used the cards later in the evening to record their thoughts for an activity.

We had a sweet time of fellowship together and I am very much looking forward to getting to know each of their hearts better in the weeks & months to come! I can't wait to see how God is going to work in each of their lives through our time together and as they lead a small group of girls in loving & following Jesus.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coupon Clippin'

September is National Coupon Month. Did you know that manufacturers offered more than approximately $350 billion in coupon savings in 2007? Shoppers saved approximately $2.6 billion last year by using coupons. That's huge savings! But, that also means that over $347 billion of savings went unused!

On any given Sunday afternoon, you'll often find me curled up on the couch, scissors in hand, clipping my savings from the newspaper coupon inserts. I learned coupon appreciation young...I can remember going to the public library with my mom as a little girl for Coupon Club. I'd look at books while my mom traded coupons with other moms, the library tables covered with a patchwork of UPC codes and the little clippings of savings.

I've enjoyed cutting coupons for many years! Even when I wasn't the one doing the grocery shopping, I got a certain satisfaction from pulling out the scissors and cutting up the coupon inserts. There is something relaxing & methodical about it for me.

Now that I do our family shopping, I faithfully cut and file every week. And as much as I love to cut, I love to save even more! Many people don't realize how much you can save, or how many things you can actually get for free, simply by spending half an hour a week cutting while you watch tv and filing your coupons into an easy to access organizer! Combining those coupons with store sales on the items, nets great savings or free products to stock your shelves with items you use on a regular basis. As long as I've been shopping, I've also been saving!

I recently saved nearly $30 on a single trip to the grocery store. I stocked up on health and beauty & home products at Walgreens and got over $60 of merchandise for less than $25 at check out! I love the satisfaction (and, ok, a little bit of a thrill even!) of a highly successful shopping trip and seeing the total jump down at the register!

Since moving to Austin, my savings have actually decreased! I've been disappointed in the lack of competition in the grocery industry & the lack of store choices. I have only one grocery store chain that offers double or triple coupons, only occasionally! Oh how I miss my Kroger/King Soopers and the fabulous deals they offered on a weekly basis coupled with regular double coupons!

Do you coupon?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Easy Monte Cristo Delights

With the start of school, I'm sure we aren't the only ones whose lives have gotten increasingly busier! After an afternoon of appointments and being on campus, I find myself wanting quick & easy recipes to get on the table with minimal effort and minimal damage to our waistlines!

I've been trying many new recipes the last couple of months, and we've had some great successes that will work into our regular rotation...and we've had some major flops! But one simple dinner that we both liked and is super easy was Monte Cristo Delights. It is a slimmed down, non-fried version of a restaurant favorite that is still full of flavor and is a great dinner for a night when you're craving a warm comfort food.

2 cups Bisquick baking mix (I used the low fat, heart healthy Bisquick)
3/4 cup 1% milk (you could easily use whatever milk you have on hand!)
1 egg
Swiss cheese, thinkly sliced
Shaved ham
Shaved turkey
powdered sugar
(Note: The recipe called for 6 oz. of each meat & cheese. I didn't measure but my recommendation would be to not skimp on the meat & cheese! Layer in more than you think you need. The dough rises and you need a hearty helping of meat and cheese to hold it's own between the bread.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease an 8x8 or 9x9 square baking dish or spray with olive oil or Pam.
Mix baking mix, milk, and egg until well blended.
Spread half of dough in the bottom of the dish. Top with half of each cheese, ham and turkey, and the remaining cheese. (Optional variation: You can add a spread of fruit preserves, such as raspberry, between the meat & cheese layers.) Spread remaining dough over cheese to the sides of the dish.
Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5-10 minutes. Cut into 6 triangles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve warm!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall Treats

Oh, the excitement that fills my heart when I see the fall candy appear on the shelves of the grocery store! And as much as I love all things chocolate...those cute little snicker bars and reese cups decked out in their fall foil splendor...what really makes my heart beat faster is the bags named Brachs filled with orange, yellow & white candy corn. What's funny is that I can't really even put my finger on the flavor or describe exactly what I love about these little candies. But love them I do!

You see, the only real time of year to enjoy these little seemingly unassuming treats is fall. The supposed candy corn that can be found by other names the rest of the year are merely imposters, unable despite their striving to live up to the sweetness and soft chewable goodness of the real candy corn stars. And so, when those last bags of Brachs disappear off the shelves around Thanksgiving, I know I must wait until fall comes again to enjoy one of my favorite seasonal treats.

Have you ever tried mixing these sweet little treats with peanuts? My mom's best friend introduced me to the addictingly perfect sweet & salty combination of goodness. A jar filled with fall candy corn and peanuts will find it's home on my counter for the next two months. If you find yourself visiting, please help yourself to this fine fall treat!

What are your favorite fall or seasonal treats?

Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm Back!

I hope everyone had a great long weekend!

I took a little un-intended break from blogging. College classes have started which means that our ministry is in full swing! We have been bu-sy the last few weeks gearing up and jumping in to the new semester. We had a week of planning meetings with our staff team to prepare for the start of the semester. We had an overnight student leadership retreat with these guys,

our student leaders, where we had training sessions & planning time to help equip them for ministry this coming year. Last week, classes started and we spent every day on campus in prayer...praying for the students at the University of Texas, University of Texas at San Antonio, and St. Ed's, praying for God's hand on our ministry & in the lives of our staff and students, praying that new movements of believers would be planted on these campuses.

Tomorrow, we head off for an Ethnic Student Ministry retreat for a few days.

But, this weekend, I finally had some time to make progress on several projects I've been itching to work on! I am looking forward to sharing a couple makeovers of tag sale purchases, and soon, the monster project I've been working on for several weeks now! One's a 6 foot long piece of furniture....