Thursday, March 15, 2012

Has anybody else out there ever looked around at all the activity and stuff that we crowd our lives with--including inside the church walls--and thought, "there's gotta be more to this following-Jesus life than just entertaining and blessing ourselves and working so hard to appear spiritual"?  Jen Hatmaker asked the same thing, came up with an experiment aimed at rebelling against, and repenting of, all of that excess, and then she wrote about it. The result is an incredible little book called 7: An experimental mutiny against excess

Here's a response from one real-live, regular-person reader and Amazon customer Christine Hoover: 

You must read this book! Here's what it's about: Jen (the author) did an experiment in which each month for 7 months, she and sometimes her entire family fasted in an area she felt they were excessive in: media, stress, possessions, shopping, food, clothes, and waste. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that sounds all preachy and super-spiritual and hard and you don't want to read it. Thankfully, it's the complete opposite. It is laugh-out-loud hilarious, totally real-life, 100% empowering, and 0% guilt-inducing.

You must go immediately to purchase this book and devour it whole. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Do not stop to brush your teeth or feed your children. While you're out, buy Depends to wear because you will pee yourself while reading from laughing so hard.

Some other suggestions of how to read this book:
1) Keep a handy while you're reading to write down notes and thoughts because ideas and action points will come to you like nobody's business.
2) Do not read this book right before you go to bed because you will not be able to sleep due to the millions of thoughts running around in your brain.

Read this book with your girlfriends!

Well, [this is Pamm back], that's exactly what Ann Hutchison and I are proposing--reading the book and then, with a group of friends, accepting the 7 Challenge. No one has to do the project exactly the way Jen did it--she, herself, stresses that she didn't write the book to be used as a template but as more of a catalyst, "a fast: an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life" (Jen). The point is to do the challenge in some way that will ultimately result in a lifestyle that focuses on those things that Jesus taught that so many of us American Jesus-followers ignore in favor of maintaining our comfort zones--things like loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (and remember those Jesus pointed out as our neighbors? Not just those who look like us, smell like us, and vote like us. Ouch.) . . . things like taking care of orphans and widows (the ignored, the divorced, the disenfranchised), speaking for those who have no voice, seeking justice for the oppressed, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, visiting those in prison . . . 

Ann and I have already read the book, and, yeah, it's hilarious in parts (reading Jen is, on some pages, like listening to your "funnest," oldest bff catch you up on her life over a cup of coffee with French vanilla creamer and chocolate bon-bons), but just when you're about to snort said coffee out your nostrils, she zings you.  With scripture, no less. It's not for the faint of heart, peeps. 

But it's what this heart needed to hear. And it's the kind of truth that I can't just hear and then walk away from. I have to respond in some way.  Ann felt the same way (although she did say that when she finished the book, she didn't know whether to thank me or to hurt me for recommending it); she felt compelled to do something. 

Precisely because it's not for the faint of heart, Ann and I decided to partner-up to do our own 7 project. We'll each tweek Jen's ideas to fit into our individual lives (as I said, something Jen encourages), but we WILL follow her pattern for the seven monthly focuses--Month 1, food; Month 2, clothing; etc.--until we've completed each of the seven monthly focuses.  

We plan on starting April 1 (no, it's not a joke), almost two weeks away--plenty of time for some of you brave souls out there to get the book, read it, and then pray about joining us on this adventure. (Ann devoured the book in two days.)  

If you do read the book, we'd LOVE to hear from you, whether you feel led to join us in the project or to just cheer us on.  Regardless of what you chose to do, we welcome your comments, your insight, your questions. and suggestions. But at least read the book (and then, you, too, can thank me or fantacize about hurting me).  I don't believe you will ever think the same way again. About anything.  

Go on. Read it. I double-dog dare you.



PS  Ann and I figured that if we start in April, we will complete the final month in October, just before the holiday season begins.  Would you believe that the last month calls for a fast from S-T-R-E-S-S? Yeah, I think that's pretty much what I would call ordained.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oops! I didn't mean to post this when I did!

 The color looks more teal blue in these pictures, but it's actually 
a true deep country blue. (And I apologize for the blurriness of 
the pics, but they're not bad for my camera phone!) The "black 
wall" to the left of the built-in double oven is our new chalk-
board! (I know--I'm probably the last person in Blog Land to 
use chalkboard paint, but I'm glad I finally got around to it.  I 
have no idea why, but Middle Daughter told me that her daddy 
told her that he thinks this chalkboard is the greatest thing ever!)

 I think this window treatment may need some tweeking, but the 
night I put it up, I was determined to use only what I had on hand
and not to pull out the sewing machine.

 Trying to keep my very-limited counter tops a little less 
cluttered, I gathered up some of my goodies into a thrift store
tray and plopped it all on top of my fridge to keep my ol' 
rooster company.

NOTE: I meant to save this post as a draft until I had some pics to post, so I guess this is kind of a re-post!

I have never been quite happy with the bottom blue kitchen cabinets in the Casita.  Oh, the current shade of blue is MUCH better than the first smurf shade of blue that the painters put on, but, still, they just didn't really suit my little kitchen.  (I guess I should say "our" since the Saint does so much of the cooking.)

On a whim--that's really about how I do everything--I started transforming them a couple of weekends back.  I really didn't have a true plan or outcome in mind, but I do like the way they turned out, and Saint Michael LOVES them, so that makes for a happy kitchen all the way around, right?

Of course, once I got the bottom cabinets done, I realized that I needed to tweek the top white cabinets a bit, too, as the bright white was a little too pristine and stark for the now old-country-kitchen-cabinets look the lower half of the room was now sportin'.  Well, after a little sandin' and some Old English (who says it's just for polishing?), that part's almost finished, too.

As Middle Daughter inspected the changes last weekend, she laughed and shared her husband's response to the news that I was [once again] working on something in the house, "I think there's something wrong with your mom."

Baby Daughter laughed at Son Bill's comment, too, and then expressed her own concern, "Heck, I'm actually more worried Bill--that he's just now thinking that there might be something wrong with you! How long has he been in this family?"

Long enough to be sure, Honey; long enough to be sure.

Now a $7 gallon of blue-gray "oops" paint at Home Depot is calling my name.  Stay posted!



PS.  Obviously, I answered the call of that blue-gray paint, which dried to a true, deep country blue (not the teal shade it appears to be in the pics above.)  The job I estimated would take me 45 minutes to an hour took around four and a half hours. (See why God gave me the Human Alarm Clock to live with?  I have NO sense of time whatsoever!)  But it was worth every minute!  (Definitely worth my $7!)  I'm loving it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Horrified Hostess PART 2b

Oooooo!  I've been a baaaaad blogger!  I'm just having a hard time finding the time, my sistas, since the School House has started back up.  And, to be honest, as much as I enjoy it, blogging is way down on my list of priorities this new year.  I'm trying to walk out what I preach, and that means time going to other things.  (Gosh darnit, sometimes it's hard not being my usual self-centered self and not doing just what I'd like to do and, instead, doing what I really NEED to do.)

Today, though, I am able to get in a quickie continuation of our "Horrified Hostess" Series!

The last installment was Part 2, in which we asked ourselves the question, What are we afraid of?  

I guess that post really should've been called Part 2a, since it's going to end up having three parts to it (you know, like the top THREE things we're afraid of) -- 2a being our "Guests" (I advised you to start with your bestest-of-all sista-friends), 2b being the "Food" (that's the post I'm cookin' up today -- g r o a n -- sorry, I couldn't resist!), and finishing up with 2c, the "House."

Now, without further delay, 2b (or not to be . . . sorry, couldn't resist again . . . )

Girlfriend, if the menu is what's stopping you from "entertaining," I've got four words for you: Keep It Simple, Sista! (Also known as the KISS method.)  

After all, there are no rules that say . . . 
  • everything has to made from scratch.
  • you have to make what your mother would make (or in the way your mother makes it).
  • the meal has to be a certain number of courses long.
  • the meal has to be formal.
  • the meal even has to be prepared by your own little hands. (Now that's a biggie, ain't it! In fact, my mother will pass right out if she reads this post.)
My best advice is to find something you are good at, and go with that.  Truly.  Seriously.  I'm not kidding.

For example, I can do chili.  There's not much I can do to mess it up, and people usually like it.  So, that's something that's pretty safe for me to plan on doing.  (When Baby Daughter lived at home, I would always get her to make me a pan of lasagna ahead of time, and I'd do a salad and garlic bread. But, alas, Baby Daughter is now in California fixing lasagna for Sailor Man.  Sniff, sniff.)

Here's what a typical "chili" menu might look like at the Casita:

Chili and the Fixin's
(the "fixin's" include grated cheese, 
sour creme, salsa, Fritos, tortilla chips,
sweet corn bread, sliced jalapenos)
 Easiest Ever Dessert Cake
Peach Tea and a Variety of Soft Drinks

(NOTE: I do my chili without beans 'cause I've 
discovered that more people like it without than with.)

Really, what could be much easier?  
 N- O - T - H - I - N - G !

Additional benefits?
  • I can do a big pot of chili ahead of time and then be free to do those last-minute, confidence-boosting pick-ups and fluffings that make me feel a little more company-ready before everyone arrives. (Or I can sit down and relax a minute!)
  • Any leftovers (there usually aren't any, though) are easily frozen for another time or refrigerated for tomorrow's lunch.
  • Chili makes the whole house smell so warm and inviting!
  • I can serve it buffet-style, and people can fix it for themselves in a variety of ways.
  • It works for a lunch-time or dinner-time affair.
  • It's enjoyed by women and men, alike.
I'm not promoting chili, I'm just saying that it's my go-to, easiest ever dish. Find out what yours is, and go with it. (I'm also making the point that your go-to dish doesn't have to be fancy-shmancy!)

If there is one rule for the Horrified Hostess regarding food, though, it's this:  


And today I will leave you on that cryptic note . . . (yes, there are stories!)

Next post, just in case you, too, think that chili might be your thing, I'll tell you just how EASY it can be to make it, along with my Easiest Ever Dessert Cake (that people rave over).

Until then, grins!


PS I have no idea why the spacing is coming out so weird!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Horrified Hostess - PART 2: What are you afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

House . . . not clean enough?
Not nice enough?
Not big enough?

Food . . . not edible?
Not suitable for guests?
Not ready on time?

Guests . . . not comfortable?
Bored? (Boring?)
Arriving too early? (Staying too late?)

Tip # 2 of this series:  Figure out what you're afraid of when it comes to entertaining.

Until you figure this out, you can't you tackle it.


If you're afraid of entertaining, but you're determined to conquer that fear and get into the game, you'll be happy to hear that the best way to do that is to ease yourself into it. No one who's afraid of the water gets into the pool by doing a reverse 2 1/2 somersault in the pike position off the 3-meter springboard.  It is perfectly acceptable -- and, in fact, highly recommended -- instead, to simply take one step at a time down into the shallow end of the pool with the idea of just getting your suit wet! (Whew!  Isn't that a relief!  Don't you feel better already?)

photo from

I really do think that any fears we have about entertaining fall into one of those categories listed above -- our houses, our food, or our guests.  (I know that some of you would put a big, fat check by each of those categories, but if you really focus on those scary thoughts, one category probably dominates the others. If not, well, pick one and just go with it for now. We'll get to all of them over the next couple of weeks.)

I know that at the top of this post, I listed our houses first, but I'm actually going to start with our guests.  And there's a reason for that. After all, WHO you invite into your home -- your "guest" list -- is the component you have the most control over in this whole entertaining equation!

In the pool of entertaining, who better to make a little splash with than friends?  (My motto is What good are your friends if you can't use 'em?)  That's right.  FRIENDS.  CLOSE friends.

There are huge advantages to choosing close friends as your first guinea pigs guests when you're just getting back into your entertaining groove. 

Advantage #1) You know them well, so you know their likes and dislikes. (These are the folks it should be easy to make feel comfortable).  

#2) You should have plenty to talk about (so neither they nor you should be bored or boring). 

#3) And perhaps the biggest advantage of all, you can be honest with them. (If this isn't the case, you need some new close friends.) You should be able to tell them that you haven't had anyone over in quiet a while and you're a little nervous.  (You probably don't want to tell them that you thought they'd be easy, but you get the idea, right?)  You can even tell really close friends not to dare show up early!  (If I knew them well enough, I've actually been known to tell prospective guests my Golden Guest Rule:  Come on time if you must.  Come late if you can.  Don't EVER come early!)  

#4) Close friends aren't going to be concerned with your house.  (Do the best you can with your house, and then forget about it and have fun!  More about  our houses, remember, in a later post.)  

#5) Close friends can usually tell when everyone's had enough fun and it's time for them to head home.

#6) Close friends want to spend time with you, so just about anything you do together -- regardless of your house, the food, or the ocassion -- will be a success.  And that's important when you're doing something that scares you. (NOTE:  Learn to set yourself up for SUCCESS!)

Photo from Laine and Abby's Ccookie Exchange on facebook

One success under your belt will give you the confidence to try for another!  (And before you know it, you won't be just sticking your toe in the water; you'll be doing laps at champ time!) 

Next time we'll talk about house horrors -- imagined or real -- and how to overcome them . . . 

Meanwhile, call a friend to stop over for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate in between last-minute Christmas shopping, or call a couple of friends to come over for an impromptu wrapping party. (Hey, wrapping Christmas presents is supposed to be messy, so as long as at least one bathroom's clean, you don't even worry about the rest of the house! And just pop some pre-made chocolate-chip cookie dough into the oven or pick up some cookies from the grocery store or local bakery, and you're set!)

Ahhh, the sweet smell of coffee and cookies success!