Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Time for BLT's!

It is my favorite (well, almost favorite) time of year--tomato season! And in our house, that means BLT's become a very frequent meal. The most time-consuming part of making BLT's is the "B"--browning the bacon. My sister gave me a great hint for making this messy, hot, time consuming job a lot easier. She BAKES her bacon!

You'll need a cookie cooling rack, some tin foil, and a rimmed cookie sheet. Line the cookie sheet with tin foil and place the cooling rack on top. Then simply lay the bacon on the cooling rack (make sure all of the bacon is over the cookie pan so grease goes into the pan and doesn't drip on the bottom of the oven). Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until desired crispness.

Be careful when you get the sheet out of the oven as the bacon grease will be in the cookie pan.

Unfortunately this technique doesn't take away the calories from the bacon...but it does take away grease splattered all over your stove top and you don't have to tend to it constantly.

Here's another hint--at the beginning of the summer I baked several packages of bacon, then crumbled them and froze them in small baggies. When I make salads that call for bacon, I simply take it out of the freezer. It's a fantastic time saver!

Cody thought it was really silly of me to to take pictures of bacon but I'm going to post them here anyway. He just rolled his eyes at me. But he'll be happy when he has plenty of bacon for BLT's tonight!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mean Girls

by Lynn Cowell, Proverbs 31 Ministries (

“You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless.” Song of Solomon 4:7b (MSG)

The words on Facebook glared back at her. “You are so ugly! You are fat, annoying and I hate you!”

Lindsay just sat there, staring at the screen, baffled. “What did I say? What did I do?”

Maybe this has happened to one of your children, or in some way they’ve faced this same type of painful rejection. Maybe you have felt it yourself. I recently spotted a t-shirt at the mall that read “You’re no one until someone talks about you.” What a sad state of affairs.

Growing up in a world where “Mean Girls” and “Gossip Girl” are movie and TV titles, it comes as no surprise that “mean” defines many females today. How can we guard our hearts against this? As a mom, what can we do when our children’s hearts are crushed by meanness?

Feeling unaccepted is nothing new. In Song of Solomon 1:5a, we are introduced to a young girl who felt this way: “Don’t look down on me because I am dark…” (MSG). She felt rejected. Those feelings are so opposite of what we and our children want to feel. We long to be accepted.

Matthew Henry concludes about this passage in Song of Solomon that we, as represented by the young girl, are “often base and contemptible in the esteem of others, but excellent in the sight of God.” [1]

We can counteract the poison of meanness by remembering who we are in God’s eyes. I am excellent in the sight of God and so are you. Song of Solomon 1:5b reveals the tanned girl’s acceptance of this truth; she knows full well that her Lord finds her lovely. When I know that I am accepted by the Lord, it puts me exactly where I need to be to slough off insults and to help my child do the same.

When my daughter was in sixth grade, she was 5’10″. One day as she got off the school bus, I noticed she was holding back a flood of tears. Once again she had been made fun of for her height.

On that day, her youth pastor wasn’t there. Her teacher, counselor and small group leaders weren’t there either. But her mom was. I began telling her how her Father saw her. Sharing truths like these:

“My beloved is mine, and I am His…” (Song of Solomon 2:16a, NKJV).

“You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless.” (Song of Solomon 4:7b, MSG).

“The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” (Psalm 45:11, NIV).

I poured these truths and others into my daughter that day and continue to remind her of them still. I put them everywhere so that together we can read them over and over again. When we feel rejected, these words remind us that we are, in fact, accepted! I pray they will be a sweet reminder for you, and perhaps your daughter, today.

Dear Lord, help me to be purposeful in putting Your truth about who I am into my heart and mind so that am not swayed by the opinions of others. And when the time is right, I can pour Your truth into the hearts and minds of my children and friends. When my child feels rejected, help me remind them that in You they are accepted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application Steps:

Create a list of verses such as the ones above and below to have on hand to review or to share with your child when they are hurting.

Choose one verse per week and memorize it with your child. You can speak it to them as they are eating their breakfast in the morning, when they come home from school, and before they go to bed.

If you have your own set of “mean girl” stories, share them with your children so they can know you understand and have been there too. When we’re vulnerable with our children, we create an atmosphere where they feel comfortable to open up.


Do I have a strong understanding of how Jesus sees me? How can I pursue learning more about His heart toward me?

Are there young girls or young moms in my life who need me to come along beside them and help them see the truth in this devotion?

Power Verses:

Zechariah 2:8, “For this is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘…for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…’” (NIV)

Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.” (NLT)


© 2011 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Cooking--Tips for Cool Meals

Are you tired of cooking in the heat? Here are suggestions from Jill at Living on a Dime ( for quick and easy summer meals.

First, in the morning when it's cooler:

• Clean a large supply of carrot sticks and celery sticks and keep them in water in the refrigerator.

• Boil a dozen or so eggs to store.

• Have some lettuce and grated cheese on hand. (I buy my cheese already grated because the grated cheese costs the same as the block cheese. I believe in doing a lot of things from scratch but I don't believe in killing myself over grating cheese. Besides, no matter how careful I am I almost always grate a knuckle so I have to really psych myself up to grate cheese.)

• Keep lunch meat or sliced meat on hand.

If you keep a few things like this on hand you can make quick and easy meals, even on very hot and tiring days.

Quick and Easy Summer Meals

• Make chef salads. Just chop up some of your cleaned carrot and celery sticks, slice your hard boiled eggs, sliver some of you lunch meat and you have a chef salad. You can add any other vegetables you want, too.

If everything is cleaned in advance it makes cooking in a hot kitchen so much easier and faster. Don't forget the cheese.

• Egg salad, tuna salad or sandwiches. You can use those hard boiled eggs to make egg salad sandwiches or add them to tuna. Serve on lettuce for a tuna salad. You can add the cleaned celery to the tuna salad, too.

• Keep it simple. Some of the best summer meals I ate were when I went to my grandma's in Iowa. She would slice up some tomatoes, put sliced cucumbers in salt and vinegar water and set out some cottage cheese. For an extra hearty meal, she would add some soft bread with butter and apple butter. It was delicious.

Tawra (Jill’s daughter) was born in July and, after many long hard hours of labor, the first meal they brought me was a fruit platter with all kinds of fresh fruit and crackers and cheese. If you were to ask me to name the top five meals of my life, this would be one of them. Try it for your family!

Use these ideas to make summer cooking simple!

For more money-saving ideas go to

Friday, July 8, 2011

Make Ice Cream in a Bag

How to Make Home-Made Ice Cream in a Bag (from
(Editor's Note: I've tried this and it really works--and is fun, too!)

Are the kids getting bored on a hot summer day? Letting the kids make their own home-made ice cream is a great summer treat! It only takes a few minutes and it only sounds messy. (And they will even learn something when you explain to them how the ice cream forms.)

Follow these simple instructions and you and your children will be eating home-made ice cream in just a few minutes!

Things You'll Need

• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ cup of milk or half & half (or cream for richer ice cream)
• ¼ teaspoon vanilla
• 6 tablespoons rock salt
• 1 pint-sized re-sealable plastic bag
• 1 gallon-size re-sealable plastic bag
• Ice

1. The ingredients listed here are enough to make one bag of ice cream. Mix the milk or half & half, sugar, and vanilla into the smaller bag and seal it. Half & Half makes richer ice cream, but milk works just fine too. Make sure the bag is sealed tight! (Consider sealing it in another bag to make sure none leaks out!)

2. Put enough ice in the larger bag to fill it about halfway. Add the rock salt and seal the bag. Mix the salt and ice a little by squeezing the bag. Open the bag and insert the smaller bag with the ice cream contents into the larger bag. Seal the larger bag.

3. Shake, squish and move the bag around until the smaller bag's contents changes into ice cream. This only takes a few minutes. The outer bag will condensate water (like a glass of cold water on a hot day), so this is best done outdoors.

4. When the smaller bag contains ice cream, open the larger bag and remove the smaller bag. Wipe the water off of the smaller bag. Open the smaller bag carefully and enjoy your home-made summer treat!

How does it work?

When salt comes into contact with ice, the freezing point of the ice is lowered, meaning that instead of freezing at 32 degrees, it must be at a lower temperature before it freezes (that’s why we use salt on the roads to melt ice in the winter time). When you combine ice and salt in the bag, some of the ice melts because the freezing point of the ice is lowered. The ice must absorb heat to melt, and it takes that heat from the half-and-half mixture in the other bag. When heat is taken from the half-and-half mixture, the temperature goes down and it eventually turns to ice cream.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The July issue of the Nebraska Family Times is available now! Check the blog for selected articles to appear in the next few weeks. If you would like a FREE sample copy of the Nebraska Family Times, e-mail me at or call (402) 993-2467.

If you pick up your copy at a sponsor location, please thank that sponsor for making the paper available to patrons!

Tapping Into the Odd and Powerful Force of Momentum

By Matt Bell

I didn’t want to run the other day. I was dead tired. Just couldn’t sleep the night before. But I went anyway.

I didn’t set any speed records; that’s for sure. In fact, I was running so slowly, it wouldn’t have surprised me if a walker passed me by. But I went. And I ran the full four miles I intended to run.

It was as if I had no choice. A mysterious force seemed to carry me out the door, push me down the sidewalk, and keep me going until the run was done.

It was momentum.

The Power of Unbalanced Forces

I love the terminology from Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. He said that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

I didn’t do well enough in science to have any idea what Newton was really talking about. However, “unbalanced” is a great way to describe four forces that help get and keep us moving toward our goals: commitment, accountability, small wins, and deciding to not stop.

What’s normal in our world is to be overweight and in debt. If we’re going to be different, if we’re going to be physically and financially fit, we’re going to need to be a little odd. We’re going to need some unbalanced forces working in our favor.


There’s huge power in making a commitment – deciding to go for something in the face of fatigue, the call of the couch, and the dime-a-dozen doubters who nip at our dreams.

Scottish mountain climber W.H. Murray summed it up well:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’”

Murray climbed some of the world’s tallest mountains and wrote several now-classic books on the subject. He wrote Mountaineering in Scotland on a roll of toilet paper while in prison during World War II. When his captors confiscated it, he wrote the book again.

Clearly, Murray was an oddball. He was committed.


Accountability is telling someone else about your commitment.

Last year, Jude and I ran the Chicago Half-Marathon. I had never run that far before – not unless some big guy was chasing me! Because we have young kids, we were only able to run together once during our 13 weeks of training. Still, she pushed me out of bed when I didn’t want to go. I bribed her with breakfast when she didn’t want to go. It made a huge difference.

Pursuing a goal with someone else is the ultimate form of accountability. But just mustering the courage to tell someone about your crazy plans will help a lot.

Who else knows what you’re pursuing? If no one knows, call a trusted friend today and tell him or her. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.

Small Wins

It doesn’t matter whether I’m feeling energized or tired. There always comes a time during a run when I want to quit. The road ahead seems too long; progress seems to come too slow. That’s when the power of small wins is really helpful.

I pick a landmark up ahead – maybe a house or a streetlight. I look at it for a few strides and then I look down for 10 or 20 strides. By the time I look up again, I can see that I actually have moved forward and that’s encouraging.

It’s important to set sub-goals when going for a financial goal as well. Maybe you’ve run the numbers to see how much faster you’ll dump your debts if you throw an extra $50 or $75 at them each month. Every time you hit that sub-goal you’re making tangible progress.

Deciding to Not Stop

Recently, a reporter asked me about the idea of taking an occasional month off from whatever you’re doing to pursue a financial goal in order to celebrate some of the wins along the way. It’s a common idea and, without thinking about it enough, I said I thought it made sense. I wish I hadn’t said that.

I don’t think you should stop. Not until you accomplish the goal you’re pursuing. The feeling of accomplishment from achieving each sub-goal is celebration enough.

When I started running, whenever I’d approach a train track, I’d hope for a train. I thought it would feel good to stop and catch my breath. But what I quickly discovered is that it’s less painful to keep going (assuming there’s no train coming!). Stopping kills momentum. Starting again is tough.

So, hold off on any early momentum-stopping celebrations. Wait for the big win. And then make sure you have another goal in mind for after you complete the first goal.

May The Unbalanced Forces Be With You

What goals are you going for? Have you made a commitment? Do you have an accountability partner? Have you broken the goal down into a series of small wins? Have you decided to not stop?

If you have, rest assured, you’re an oddball. Some might say you’re downright unbalanced. And I’m betting on you to get to where you’re going.

Used by permission of Matt Bell, Personal Finance Writer/Speaker. For more information go to Matt’s blog, http:/