Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Company for Breakfast? No Problem

I enjoy having people in my home for a meal, a visit, and perhaps a game. I know many who like to entertain, but feel it is simply too much work. I get it. As a young bride I found having people over to be overflowing with stress. That was before I learned the secret. 

 

I wrote a story that appeared in two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul  called “The Secret to Being a Good Hostess.” The latest  is in the Magic of Moms. It featured wise words my mother once gave me. 

 

“Treat your family like company and your company like family.”

 

As more of my family and friends are getting the COVID vaccine and the weather is warming where we can gather outside, I decided to share some of my favorite easy meals for entertaining. Each has an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. We’re starting with breakfast.

 

The focus is on simple, fun, relaxing, entertaining, and affordable. Ready?

 

Appetizer: Our breakfast appetizer is a simple fruit cup.

 

No, I did not go out and buy all fresh fruit, spend hours cutting, cleaning, pitting, and everything else you have to do to make a fresh fruit salad. I didn’t spend an arm and a leg either. I opened a can of fruit cocktail, drained it, and put it in a pretty glass. (It is fruit cocktail, after all.) I sliced a single banana and added to all four servings. You could add fresh berries or slices of apple. Add what you like…and what you have on hand. We don’t want to spend our time and energy on this. We want something that looks good, tastes great, and whets those appetites!

 

Main Course: Breakfast Pizza 


 

My family loves breakfast pizza. It is a staple when we go skiing and a favorite family breakfast during the holidays. But I enjoy making it whenever I have people over for any sort of breakfast gathering. It can be big and flat like a pizza made on a cookie sheet or a deep dish offering much like a fluffy quiche. Same ingredients. Easy to throw together and pretty. 

 

For today’s menu, I used one tube of crescent rolls for the crust (just separate them and “smoosh” them together in the bottom of the dish. I browned some ground sausage in a pan, drained it and spread it over the crust. I threw in some chopped green chili, frozen hash browns, covered the whole thing with some eggs I had mixed up with a bit of milk and smothered it with shredded cheese. 

 

You can add anything else you like. I’ve put a layer of fresh spinach in on occasion, sometimes maybe a bit of ham or sweet peppers. I was going to add tomatoes to this one, but forgot. Like mushrooms? Throw some in. Make it to your liking. Don’t stress over the recipe. Be creative.

 

Toss the whole shebang in your preheated oven. I think I had mine set at 350F and it took about thirty-five minutes. I stick a table knife in to see if it’s ready. When I make it thinner on a cookie sheet it takes less time. I go by smell and looks and the “come out clean” knife method. While it’s baking, I wash up the pans and bowls I’ve dirtied in the process, set the table, and make the coffee.

 

A seriously delicious and easy way to entertain friends and family for breakfast. And now for dessert.

 

Dessert for breakfast? Well, if you’re like me, the breakfast pizza will fill you, but as you and your friends visit or play a game, you may want a little snack with your second cup of coffee. And this blog post is a full-meal, offering. Remember?

 

Dessert: Breakfast Cookies

 


These are called breakfast cookies because the main ingredients are oatmeal and cornflakes. They can be made ahead of time (though I love them soft and warm and fresh out of the oven). They are perfect for dunking and you can add anything you like to them such as chocolate chips, raisins, nuts…anything. I’m posting the picture, but if you want the recipe, shoot me an email at rebecca@waterswords.com and I’ll be sure to send the recipe to you.

 

There you have it. The first of three meal plans for entertaining. Next week I’ll tackle the lunch menu! Let me know if you have a favorite recipe or if you try one of these ideas. I love to hear from readers.


**Please continue to take safe measures against COVID-19. Get your shot. Continue to wear a mask. Use social distancing when and where you can.**

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Cherish the Moments

 What a difference a year makes. 

 

This time last year, we were all getting our sea legs so to speak, as we navigated the uncertain waters of quarantine. My oldest daughter delivered my groceries and I washed every item before putting it away. I wore gloves and scoured each and every surface with disinfectant. 

 

We hadn’t learned the language of COVID-19 yet nor the protocols. We were learning as we lived through it. We made masks out of anything and everything. I even tried the “sock” mask before breaking out the sewing machine and stitching masks for myself as well as my family. 

 

We muddled through. Remember? Rumors about the whole thing ending when the weather warmed gave us hope. Then growing numbers of those infected and the many succumbing to the virus dashed those ideas. 

 

I don’t need to relive it. We were there. 

 

And now we are here. 

 

Easter 2020, my youngest daughter hid eggs in my backyard for her own daughters to hunt. I watched from my bedroom balcony. 

 

But this year? With many of my family fully vaccinated and with everyone sporting their favorite mask, we gathered at my house for dinner, played games, and visited. We “socially distanced” by sitting in differing areas and set the food service up so everyone had what they needed without getting into each other’s space. 

Cousins. Games. Masks.

 

My mother visited early before all the hoopla and that was great. My middle daughter with her husband and four children arrived from Wisconsin. I hadn’t seen them in over a year. To have all three of my daughters here at the same time proved incredibly healing for me.

 

I smiled as the younger children hunted eggs in the back yard, the lightest of snow flurries coming down. My oldest daughter brought beautifully decorated cupcakes for everyone and a candle for each. We sang one big happy birthday to the whole family. 

 

It was one of those crazy beautiful times when you realize how much you missed through the year and cherish how much you have in the moment.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Wildflowers or Roses? The Power of One Small Word


Here we are a quarter of the year behind us. I’ve spent most of that time (11 weeks to be exact) addressing our thinking. I looked at how we can improve our brainpower and how the way we think about ourselves is shaped by everything from the movies we watch to the music we enjoy.

 

But that first week of 2021, I encouraged my readers to choose a word for the year. It’s time to check in. 

 

I chose the word “BE.” I described it as “small,” “inconsequential,” and “weak.”

 

I was wrong. I don’t have all the answers yet and I’m certain I will learn more as the year progresses, but any word that can give you a true and abiding sense of peace is anything but weak, and certainly not one to describe as inconsequential. 

 

I revisited my word on a recent trip to the grocery. I stopped at the bank first. The screen at the drive through advertised a number of services the bank offered. Then a screen came up with the “word of the day.” The word was “idyllic.” It was posted with the picture of a garden of wild flowers. Under the word was the definition:  Extremely happy; Peaceful; Picturesque




 

 

“Now why didn’t I choose a word like that?” I asked myself. (I obviously said it out loud because the bank teller asked if I needed anything else.)

 

I thanked him and drove off to the grocery thinking about the word of the day, “idyllic” and wondering about my small, silly word for the year, “BE.”

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” we ask children. Personally, I remember wishing I never had to grow up. I enjoyed childhood.

 

“Where do you hope to be in five years?” we hear in interviews. Five years? I fielded that question. My inner thought was along the lines of “Working here! Hire me!”

 

Yet here I am. A grownup. An author, a speaker, and a writing coach.  

 

I walked through the grocery picking up the few items I needed for the weekend. I can’t tell you the exact event that triggered my next thought. It was more of an insight. A feeling. It was a feeling of acceptance. 

 

Somewhere between the English muffins and avocados, I realized I am exactly where I want to be. Not in the grocery store per se. In life.

 

I am content in being who I am. Right now.

 

My life may be more wild flowers than roses, but as the sign at the bank pointed out, wild flowers are indeed, idyllic.

 

How are you doing with your word for the year? I look forward to your comments.

 

You didn’t choose one? It isn’t too late. And if you missed the post in January about choosing a word for the year, you can find it HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Music Fills the AirAround Us and the Empty Spaces in Our Hearts

 Music. We connect events and emotions to music. Music signals us to sing, stand, dance, cheer, or cry. Music is probably the most lasting of influences in our lives. 

 

We learn through music. We remember words set to catchy tunes. No? You’re thinking you’re one of those who can’t remember the words of songs. Maybe. But you remember the tune. And consider this one: the Alphabet Song. I still hear people zip their way through that song when looking something up in the dictionary. Phooey, I’ve done it. (Even though as a child, I thought “elemeno” was a letter.)

 

Music is a power tool for the brain.

 

My maternal grandmother loved what we often refer to as “the old hymns.” She would sing them as she cooked or quilted. She sang them as she worked the garden and while she milked the cow. As Grandma aged, dementia began slowly creeping into her mind. The disease was taking over, bit by bit. Grandma would sit on the sidelines of life in her silent, isolated world. 

 

We would try to talk with her. Her eyes were vacant and expressionless. But if we’d sing one of those old hymns, Grandma would join in and sing with us, rarely missing a beat. I believe words that shaped her in those songs like The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace, were at the core of who she was and nothing, even dementia, could penetrate the core.

 

Songs have a way of touching our hearts. A more contemporary song we sing in church begins with “Bless the Lord, o my soul…” The song is called Ten Thousand Reasons. Every time I would hear the song start, I would say, “I love this song.” I did. So did Tom. After Tom died, I would sing it full force until I came to this verse:

 

            “And on that day, when my strength is failing,

The end draws near and my time has come…”

 

Right about there I would fall apart. The song would take me straight back into that emergency room, standing by Tom’s side, talking to him as if my words could change everything. I was helpless. His strength was failing. His time on this earth was coming to an end. 

 

I moved to Kosovo a few years after Tom’s death. My church there played the same songs we sang at my home church in in the United States. Sometimes the words were in Albanian, but I knew the music. One Sunday, the music started and the English words popped up on the screen. “Bless the Lord o my soul.” I turned to a friend beside me and said, “I love this song!” I had forgotten what was to come. Again. But when we got to that verse all the same feelings of loss washed over me. I had to sit down. I prayed for God’s help. That’s how stressful this song was for me.

 

While I was living overseas, my church family attended a retreat at a beach in Albania. We left after school on Friday and made our way across the mountains, west to an Albanian seaside hotel. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it was about a three-hour drive. I rode with a young family and a couple of other attendees in a van. The little boy with us was three-years-old. I’ll call him Ben. He was quite musical. I actually have a video of him playing a guitar and singing. He had a favorite CD he loved, so of course all the passengers agreed to playing it. 

 

I think we listened to that song twenty times or more. Ben knew every word. Ten Thousand Reasons.  




The song would start up and three-year-old Ben would sing with his whole heart, “Bless the Lord o my soul.” 

 

I asked God to help me. He did. The funny thing is, somewhere on the road I began enjoying the song again. I no longer associate it with Tom’s death. I associate it with a precious little boy singing at the top of his lungs in a passenger van heading across the mountain. 

 

And until that trip, I don’t think I had paid much attention to the last part of that verse. Here it is in total:

 

         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,

Ten thousand years and then, 

Forevermore.

 

Music reaches into our very core. I think of little Ben often. One day, when he is very old and gray and that vacant look shadows his eyes, I hope his grandchildren will begin singing, “Bless the Lord, o my soul…”

 

I’m guessing he’ll join right in. 

 

Link to listen to Ten Thousands Reasons by Matt Redman

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Are You Tuned In? What Are You Watching?

 When we first retired, my husband and I bought a small truck camper. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had a very nice fifth-wheel camper fitted with all the luxuries of home. We enjoyed a few camping trips together. I treasure those memories.  

Once, while we were camping, my great nephew, Kyle, came with us. He wasn’t yet four-years-old and loved to travel with his grandma and grandpa. Kyle was curious about the camper piggybacked on the back of our pickup truck. I took him inside to see the tiny sink and stove, the table that could make a small bed, and the larger bed situated above the cab of the truck.

 

Kyle took it all in, studying every corner. Finally, he looked up at me with those big eyes and asked, “Uncle Becky, where’s your television?” 

 

It isn’t the fact he called me Uncle Becky that surprised me. He always called me Uncle Becky. What I find interesting is that the one thing he noticed was what was not there. A television. 



It seems everyone has a television. Well, not everyone. According to Google, over ninety-five percent of households in America have at least one television in the home. I’m pretty sure among those who don’t have a TV a large number of them are streaming programs on their computers or phones.

 

Every day, people of all ages and from all walks of life invite a host of strangers into their homes. Loud, opinionated strangers. Strangers with outlandish stories to share. Strangers to entertain us, educate, or inform us. Strangers intent on changing the way we think and act. Strangers to show us who we really are when nobody is looking. We play games along with contestants, tune into news programs, cheer for our favorite sports teams, and follow the lives of others on reality shows. 

 

It isn’t all good. I’m not saying it’s all bad, either. There is place for television broadcasting, be it via the internet, an antenna, a satellite, or cable. 

 

I simply think many people replace true living with watching life go by on a screen without thinking about what they’re doing. 

 

I encounter people all the time who are surprised when they learn I don’t have cable television. I have an antenna that picks up a few stations. I watch some news and weather. I like to watch a few retro shows now and then. Sometimes, if I happen to catch it, I watch The Voice. And yes, I watched my Buccaneers win the Super Bowl.

 

I don’t watch most reality shows. I never watch soap operas (Do they still have those?) I don’t hesitate to turn a program off if it offers little to no value.

 

I suppose where I’m going with all of this fits with what we looked at about how movies reveal the theme of our lives (CLICK HERE if you missed that one) and how books shape our mindset (CLICK HERE for last week’s post).

 

Television, like it or not, also shapes our thinking. We see and hear the same messages over and over. I’ve watched as people have accepted things they once thought wrong to now be right because they have been bombarded with those messages repeatedly. It’s almost like “brainwashing.”

 

My plea is that we think about what we put into our minds. We can watch and enjoy television without becoming addicted to it. We can watch responsibly. I’m not intending to “preach” here. I simply want to suggest that everything we do feeds our thinking so we need to be keenly aware of all of it.

 

What do you watch? What do you turn off? What role does television play in your life?

 

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

What Are You Reading?

 Our parents shape our view. Our teachers in school and church influence us. Our friends also play a valuable role in how we see ourselves and how we view those like us and not like us. 

 

In last week’s post, I shared how the movies we watch reflect the theme of our lives. If you missed that post CLICK HERE. Certainly movies “feed” our understanding of the people and can play a vital role in shaping our worldview. Many of those movies start out as books.

 

I’m a writer. I recognize the power of the printed word. We’ve heard stories of history being changed because of the influence of writing first appearing in newspapers. We’ve witnessed lives changed after reading compelling literature. I know and understand the power of the printed word.

 

As a child, the Little Golden Book Heidi encouraged me to care for others. The Nancy Drew series told me women could be brave, independent, and smart. Jo March in Little Women was a tomboy as well as a want-to-be writer. Just. Like. Me.

 

What books have shaped you into the adult you are now?


 

The printed word continues to feed and challenge us. We soak it in… be it a short text on Facebook, a longer post on a blog or newsfeed, or a book. Words in print hold us captive. The impression is strong. And lasting.

 

What we pick up to read and, perhaps more importantly, what we choose to put down and ignore, speaks to our character and our understanding of the world around us. 

 

For example, have you ever put a book down because the content was dark or inflammatory? I have. Why would I want to clutter my brain with images of hatred and violence? 

 

Have you put a book down because the language was coarse? I don’t need to fill my mind with explicative words that add no value to the story. I don’t need that sort of language to show me the “bad guys.” I can tell by their actions. And yes, actions do speak louder than words.

 

What I choose to read fuels my thinking. If I choose inspiring works and works of hope, I will be inspired and hopeful. 

 

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t read a lot of fluffy, pie in the sky novels. One of the most challenging books I ever read is Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It changed my worldview.

 

I like many of John Grisham’s works. Through the years I’ve enjoyed Ken Follett’s work and was fully engaged in Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy when it came out. These aren't "little old lady" novels.

 

I like mysteries, thrillers, romance, biographies, historical fiction and nonfiction. I like it all. But I’ll put a book down if it isn’t good. Not like my husband.

 

I don’t remember the book’s title, but Tom once plowed through a book, put it down when he finally finished and said, “That will be a classic.”

 

“Really?” I asked. I picked the book up off the table and turned it over to read the back cover blurb.

 

“Yeah, it was just like one of those boring books your high school English teacher tells you is a classic but you just don’t get it. Don’t waste your time.”

 

There are books worth spending your time reading. 

 

Every year or so, I attempt to read through the complete works of Shakespeare. I never make it. I like some of his writing, but not all. I can’t seem to embrace sprites and nymphs and witches. So even though I have many friends who tell me I must read his entire collection of stories and plays, I don’t. I read the ones I like. It doesn’t seem worth my time to read the stranger ones. I know I’ll keep trying if for no other reason than to say I did it, but I’m not there yet.

 

One book I do read through every year is the Bible. Not in one sitting. I don’t use one of those printed plans. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I choose to start at the beginning and read through to the end. Sometimes it takes me longer than twelve months. Sometimes less. Curiously enough, no matter what is happening in the world in general or in my life in particular, wherever I am in my reading speaks both to me, and the situation at hand.

 

For example, I was in the Old Testament when the COVID-19 pandemic came to light. I had just finished reading about plagues and problems the Egyptians and the Israelites endured. I was in the New Testament by the time we were facing social injustice issues in the U.S. I was reading the words Jesus spoke and the words Paul wrote about reconciliation. 

 

The question remains: What are you reading? How is it shaping your thinking RIGHT now? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Follow me on Facebook at Rebecca Waters Author or on Twitter @WatersAuthor. Sign up for my monthly newsletter by shooting me an email at rebecca@waterswords.com. Let’s stay in touch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Food For Thought

 These past few weeks the topic for A Novel Creation has focused on jumpstarting our brains. Winter and isolation have taken their toll on us. Our bodies are succumbing to inactivity and becoming even more lethargic. Our brains, left to mindless inactivity will become less mindful… or would that be mind-filled. Those posts were about activities in which we can deliberately engage to stimulate brainpower. If you missed those blogs to brush off your thinking cap these past weeks, they are still available. 

 

Today though, instead of activity, I want to explore what we feed our brains. The fuel we pour into our thinking machine.  

 

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” The notion is that if we eat healthy, our bodies are healthy. What we consume influences our growth and development. The same is true of our thinking. What movies do you love? What books do you read? What television programs can you set your watch by? What music fills the empty spaces in your life?

 

This week, I want to look specifically at movies. Movies are powerful. They can shape our thinking. That fact is, in part, why the rating system started showing up in 1968. It was to provide a guide about what movies would be suitable for audiences of varying maturity levels. Some content and language is not appropriate for all audiences. 

 

When it came to the theaters, Tom and I took our children to see Goonies. We trusted the rating. We were wrong. The opening of the show was filled with profanity. We walked out. It made a lasting impression on our children. I know. My son-in-law asked us about it. He couldn’t believe we did that. My middle daughter told me it taught her a valuable lesson. 

 

Tom and I felt strongly we shouldn’t knowingly put that sort of language into those young minds. To stay would have been to condone it or dismiss it. Either way, we felt, would be irresponsible.

 

Movies influence our language, our thinking about social issues, and the way we treat others. They play a big role in shaping our way of life. But there is more. Our values and ideas are reflected by our movie choices.

 


James L. Rubart spoke at the February writers meeting for Ohio. His talk was about identifying the theme of your life. He has a gift. He can tell you the theme of your life if you give him the names of five of your all-time favorite movies. He says our favorite movies, even if they are seemingly quite different, reveal our life’s theme. He could be right. 

 

I asked him if I should be worried because my all time favorite movie is Legally Blond. (This from a woman who is legally gray.)

 

I’m serious, though. I never saw the movie in the theater. I watched it for the first time on late night television. And I loved it. Mr. Rubart had an answer. He spoke of the character Reese Witherspoon portrayed. Elle Wood was smart, strong, and cared for people. She was ethical and demonstrated a strong sense of right and wrong. I could see that as part of the draw. 

 

I like smart, strong people who stand up for the underdog and overcome social obstacles. I’ve since considered other movies I love. The ones I will stop the remote for in the evening hours. Legally BlondApollo 13, Bridge Over the River Kuai, Remember the Titans, and Groundhog Day remain favorites. 

 

So what is the theme of my life? What is it that runs through each of these movies one way or another? I think, in part, it is the notion of reinventing yourself; becoming the person you need to be despite seemingly overwhelming odds, social expectations, and personal feelings of inadequacy. Rising to the cause. And the cause is always bigger than “self.”

 

I have one friend who asserts everyone should watch Patton at least once a year.

 

I have another friend who watches Steel Magnolias every time she needs a good cry.

 

I asked my three adult daughters about the movies they watch over and over.

My oldest, without hesitation, said, “The Greatest Showman.”

My middle daughter said she loves almost any musical, but the one she’ll                     always stop and watch is Singing in the Rain.

The Notebook remains my youngest daughter’s all-time favorite.

 

And not to be left out, my soon-to-be ten-year-old granddaughter asserted she has two movies she has watched more than once or twice: Hidden Figures and Wonder

 

Tom and I must have done something right.

 

What are your go-to movies? What four or five movies are worth watching more than once? What might they say about the theme of your life?


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