Today's recipe is a simple one, but oh! so yummy!  Actually, it is one that has morphed quite a bit in my family . . . the original recipe called for rice, not for noodles! So if you don't have pasta handy, try rice instead - whatever you choose, make sure it's cooked and cooled first.  A great way to use up leftovers!

I think this is similar to a spaghetti frittata, but since I made the recipe up, I'm not sure. :-)

 

Noodle-Spinach Bake

1 cup cooked, chopped spinach or similar greens (can use frozen or fresh, but cook it first)

2 c. cooked spaghetti noodles, cooled

1/2 c. shredded, cooked chicken (tuna would also be good)

1 c. shredded cheese (optional)

3 eggs, beaten

1/3 c. milk

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp onion powder (you could add a diced, sauted onion instead)

1/2 tsp rosemary

 

Combine all ingredients in baking dish. If using cheese, save half of it to sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot!

 

Do you have these seasonings - Worcestershire sauce and rosemary - available where you live? We could get Worcestershire sauce locally, but rosemary was one of the spices we brought with us from the States. We love it in this dish, and also sprinkled on baked chicken!

Today's guest post is by Ellen Rosenberger. We welcome the input of our readers - check here for ideas if you're interested in writing for TCKmom.

 

Why is it called a “good” bye anyway?  What about it makes it good?

I looked up the word “goodbye” and was reminded that it originally was the phrase “God be with you” which, over the years, has become shortened to goodbye.  Interesting how the original intent was well wishes, a blessing, a prayer, a sending off with the best Person you could go with.

And yet, it is still not a favorite word of mine.  Especially when said to close friends.  Especially when there’s been a stream of goodbye’s to close friends and family in the past year and a half.  No matter what anyone says, they don’t get easier with practice.  Sure, we may get better at preparing for them and doing them well (which is indeed very healthy), but they are still not easy and hardly enjoyable.

Because it’s not merely a goodbye to a person.  It’s a goodbye to doing life together. No matter how quick a click of a button is for connecting on social media, it really isn’t the same as being in the same place geographically and experiencing all of the realms of life’s joys and struggles together.

I was thinking of these things on my way back from taking our good friends, Chase and Julie, to the airport this morning.  I thought about renaming the goodbye to any of these:

“sad bye”
“bad bye”
“deny bye”
“not-okay bye”

And yet, in the end, I know I can still call it a “good” bye.

Why?

Not because it feels good.  But because God is good.  Always.

And it is He who leads and shifts people.  Not only does He go with them, but He stays with me.  And how grateful I am that He can also handle my emotions and thoughts as I wrestle through the pain of goodbye’s.

And He even teaches me thankfulness for goodbye’s, knowing that all things pass through His hand for my life.  The good and the hard things.  And I can take it as an opportunity to thank Him for the reason that this goodbye hurt so bad -- because it meant that I enjoyed a relationship that was a gift from Him in the first place.

And so dear friends, (and others we love and have said goodbye to recently):  “God be with you”.

That’s not a wish or a hope.  It’s a statement.  And an assurance of His presence in our lives no matter how many physical miles separate us.

 

 

Goodbye

My heart is full this morning, and I don't feel like sharing a recipe, I feel like sharing my thoughts. :-) So I'm going to try to do both.

Life is hard. I know that's nothing new to any of you. But good friends of ours have been walking through some really tough things this week, and it makes me want to question "why?". And it makes me think again about the fact that life is just hard. When we lived in Africa, on hard days I dreamed about America. I remembered McDonalds and Walmart and church fellowship and family living close by and all the wonderful things about our old life in America and I missed it. Fast forward to when we moved back to America . . . and suddenly, as I told my husband, the "American Dream" wasn't as wonderful as I remembered. Finances, our job situation, trouble with neighbors, family stresses, and so on made us realize that we didn't have it so bad overseas after all. We started to miss the tropical beauty of our home, the convenience of food sellers coming to our doorstep, the simplicity of a slower way of life.

And then we see our colleagues overseas go through really tough stuff. And we remember that it wasn't all easy, it wasn't all fun. In fact, it was really hard. Today I want to give a shout-out to all of you on the "front lines" working overseas.

  • To those who are focused on language learning, studying for hours every day, struggling to understand, working to learn the culture. What you're doing is hard. You don't always feel like you're making progress. You keep plugging away anyway.
  • To those who are leaders, whether leaders of teams, leaders of organizations, leaders of churches, leaders of your family. What you're doing is hard. There is conflict, different ideas, criticism, lack of appreciation for what you're doing. But it's your job and you keep plugging away anyway.
  • To those who are dealing with sickness, or even worse, your child's sickness. What you're doing is hard. You feel weak - you ARE weak, you don't always have good help or answers, you face separation from family to get medical treatment. You wonder if you'll be able to continue, but for now, you keep plugging away anyway.
  • To those who are in the trenches of tough situations, unexpected challenges, frightening circumstances, things that you can't even talk about or share with people. What you're doing is hard. You feel alone. You feel vulnerable. You feel scared, or guilty, or helpless, or defeated. You keep plugging away anyway.

I don't exclude my friends who are living in the "ease" of America, either. Life is hard. We cannot compare our challenges or struggles with others'.  When I became a mother for the first time, it was really hard for me. I was uptight, I was afraid I was doing the wrong thing, I was struggling to take care of my baby and keep up with my other responsibilities as a wife and homemaker. I cried. I thought there was no way I could have anymore children, because I couldn't even handle one. It was hard. Now I have three beautiful boys - boys who keep me up at night, keep me busy all day long, keep me on my toes, and keep my house messy. And do you know what? It's not hard anymore. Oh yes, there are moments when I've had a sleepless night and the baby is fussy and the other boys are fighting and I should be making supper and the house is a disaster and all I want to do is cry! But mostly, mothering is not what's really HARD right now. There are other things.

When I was just out of my teens, I was in a short, intense romantic relationship. When that ended, I suddenly knew the meaning of a broken heart. And it was hard. I looked at a bleak future and wasn't sure I cared about life anymore. I didn't know how to go on. I didn't know how I could love again. But I kept plugging away, and it got easier . . . and now the memories of that difficult time are dim and distant.

Do I laugh at the girl I used to be? The heartbroken young adult? The struggling young mother? I don't. The struggle was real. The things I was walking through at that time were really, really hard. It doesn't matter that other people were going through "harder" things. It doesn't matter that the things which felt hard then wouldn't feel hard now.

And that's why I am giving this shout-out to all my readers, all over the world. Life is hard. Most of you have a situation in your life right that is stretching you, terrifying you, hurting you, discouraging you. It's okay to admit that it's hard. Because you know what? If life wasn't hard, we wouldn't need God. If we could do this thing on our own, it would be easy to leave Him in Sunday morning and go on our merry way all week long.

As it is, we do need Him. And we need each other. And we need to give ourselves grace. And we need to realize that it's okay if we don't have it all together. Because life is hard.

****************************************************

And to close, here's my kiddos' absolute favorite veggie: Fried Okra! The most commonly available vegetables when my boys were tiny were greens (like spinach) and okra. We ate lots of both, and they learned to love them. Even now that we live in America, the land of always-available produce, they turn up their nose at wonderful things like fresh green beans and cauliflower, and beg for familiar spinach and okra. I don't have a recipe with exact measurements, but here's how I make it.

 Take fresh okra, cut off the stems, and slice into 1/4" rounds. Dip into a bowl of milk, then into a bowl of flour mixed with salt, pepper, and onion powder if you have it. Drop into about 1" of hot oil and fry without stirring or turning for several minutes. When one side is browned, flip all at once and brown the other side. Serve hot!

Tip #1: This method works best if you work quickly. It seems like the longer the okra is cut, the slimy-er it gets, and that makes everything gum up. If you're doing more than one "batch" in your skillet, don't cut the second batch and leave it sit while the first batch is cooking. Cut, dip, and fry right away.

Tip #2: Only fill the bottom of your skillet with one layer of okra. You want every piece to get nicely browned on both sides.

Tip #3: When you're buying okra, try to buy the smaller, darker green pods. If you can, test them by breaking the tip. It should be a crisp, clean, soft break. If it feels woody, stringy, or is hard to break, the okra is old and not as good.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now we have officially entered the Christmas season. This weekend is the first Sunday in Advent, and next week the month of December begins! Rather than focus on a character trait this month - although several appropriate ones came to mind - I decided to focus on the Christmas season. Here's a roundup of my ideas:

I love advent calendars! There are so many ideas out there, some of them simple and some quiet complicated. There are also many different ways to do Advent. Some use a piece of candy for each day, or a slip of paper with a verse of the Christmas story. Another idea is to have a Christmas-related activity for each day of advent.

Of course the simplest is a paper chain with 24 links, to count-down to Christmas.

I also found another cute one that can just be made with paper and string.

This idea uses an egg crate, with a small candy or a slip of paper for each day. You could use your own picture to make it nicer.

Here's an idea that uses an object paired with a Scripture each day to tell the Christmas story. You may not have all the objects needed, but be creative - maybe you could find pictures or make the objects you don't have?

This is a printable of twenty-four Bible verses telling the Christmas story. You could use them for Advent, or chose a few of the "best" to use as memory verses this month.

Here's a list of activities you can do, whether as part of your advent calendar or just for fun when you have time:

  • Serve a red and green themed meal
  • Make homemade caramel corn
  • Make gingerbread cookies
  • Make snickerdoodles
  • Make eggnog
  • Make hot chocolate - even if it is 100 degrees!
  • Decorate a gingerbread (or graham cracker) house.
  • Invite a few friends over for a cookie decorating party
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus
  • Have a birthday party for Jesus
  • Use nativity figurines to act out the Christmas story
  • Write a letter to Jesus
  • Make paper crowns while talking about the wise men
  • String a popcorn garland
  • Make a paper chain garland
  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Make thumbprint snowmen
  • Add food coloring to bubble solution, to blow red and green bubbles
  • Make red & green playdough - and use it to build a nativity scene
  • Make a video of your family singing favorite Christmas songs and reading and/or acting out the Christmas story. Then email this video to far away grandparents and friends.
  • Have a treasure hunt for anything red or green around the house & yard
  • Have a pajama party, eating special cookies and reading the Christmas story
  • Share homemade cookies or other goodies with all your expat friends
  • Write special letters and cards to family far away
  • Clean out your toys and give the extras away to neighbors or friends

If you're looking for nice nativity coloring pages, I found a few that aren't silly cartoons:

Nativity story

Christmas story

Baby Jesus

And lastly, two winter crafts that don't necessarily have anything to do with Christmas:

Make your own snow globes

Ice sculpture fun

Our boys are still young, and we haven't established any Christmas traditions with them yet, but I'm looking forward to doing some special things together this year! Let us know what you're doing as a Christmas countdown, or what kind of activities you're planning for this month!