Book Break: The Christmas Cat

Okay, so I know it is the day after Christmas and I’m a little behind on posting this review (the book came out September 9th and the holiday season is almost over), but I hope you all will grant me some grace, as the last couple of months have been pretty hectic for us. We moved cross-country just a few days before Thanksgiving and with all the unloading, unpacking, finding places to put our stuff, locating dog-friendly parks and daycare, shopping for Christmas, wrapping, decorating (last-minute), holiday trips to see family, etc., etc. … things have been more disorganized and out-of-control than any holiday season we’ve had so far. But, despite all that, we’ve had some great times with family and friends and are especially thankful we’ve had my stepson Noah with us for Christmas this year. He goes back to Florida soon, but I think he has enjoyed his week here in Texas–mostly getting to spend time with his dad, but also hanging out with his cousins and other family members. 2014-12-23 21.04.26


So, moving beyond all of that, I still think with a week left of 2014, those of you who like Christmas-themed books will find The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson an entertaining and uplifting read. Even if your Christmas celebration is over, perhaps you can hang on to the season just a little bit longer by curling up with this book and a hot cup of [insert beverage of choice here].

2014-11-06 22.29.08

You don’t even have to be a cat lover to enjoy this feel-good story. Although if you are, you will probably find it even more charming and amusing.

 Here is a description of the story from the book jacket:

From the Inside Flap

After years abroad, Garrison Brown finds himself at the home of his beloved grandmother who has just passed away. He must sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While he hopes to dispense with the task quickly–especially since he is severely allergic to cats–his grandmother’s instructions don’t allow for speed. She has left some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends. Can he match the cats with the perfect new owners? And is it possible that he might meet his own match along the way?

From the Back Cover

He felt his face flushing as Cara opened the door. Wearing a garnet-colored knit dress and with her dark hair pinned up, she looked even prettier than he remembered. Suddenly he wished he’d thought to bring a hostess gift. Like a cat.

While I have to admit that the story was fairly predictable, I thought that the characters were very likable, and the book was a pleasant and easy read.

I have never read any books by this author before, but will probably pick up some of her other books before next Christmas.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington’s, as well as The Christmas Pony and A Simple Christmas Wish. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice.

Hope you get a chance to read this one and let me know what you think about it.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas,
a Happy New Year, and the gift of discovering
true peace, happiness, and contentment.

2014-12-20 14.45.04-1


Featured photo is courtesy of Rita Job and her cat Oreo.
(He reminds me of Sylvester, pictured below.)

2013-01-21 16.14.11

Disclosure: I received this book free of charge from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.

Experiencing Change This Year? Be of Good Cheer.

For those of us who are lucky enough, Christmas is a special time steeped in rituals and tradition that we celebrate with family and friends. We have favorite foods that we look forward to, special services where we worship together, games we play, stories we share, and certain days or times when we gather and exchange gifts with various members of our families or groups of friends. It can be a wonderful time of year full of joy and anticipation.

As a friend of mine recently shared, “It’s the most wonderful time of year because the spirit of Jesus Christ fills the atmosphere. We talk about Christ more than ever. We walk around saying, “Merry Christmas”; we sing songs about Jesus; we read Christian stories, etc. When Christ gets all of the attention, His love, joy, patience, and peace fills the atmosphere!”


Peace — While it’s definitely something we can hope to experience at this time of year, it may also require a bit more focus and work to achieve.

The stress of trying to do too much in too little time; the strain of attempting to appease too many people with different ideas; the tension of putting personal issues or preferences aside to enjoy a harmonious holiday … all these things can actually lead some to dread what should be a joyous and special time of year.

So, what can we do to counter this?

Consider this …

Marriages, births, merging families, cross country moves, and, sadly, deaths can all change family dynamics. Sometimes, with these changes, we have to be open to readjusting our expectations and perceptions of the holidays, and modifying our traditions to accommodate the new family members we have acquired, the locations we find ourselves in (and the logistics of travel), and the various physical and emotional situations some of our loved ones are dealing with.

We need to look at the traditions we have followed in the past, and ask ourselves, “What’s really important about them? … Are they still providing the original meaning? Is a tradition creating more stress than value? Is there another way to convey meaning that would be simpler or more effective … When there’s too much [to] do with too little time; it is vital to scrutinize every activity in terms of the value it adds to your life. Time-honored traditions are no exception.” (Aila Accad, Changing Holiday Traditions)

Christmas Trees2

Just remember that changing or eliminating traditions can sometimes lead to hurt feelings and family quarrels. The most important thing to do when anticipating change is to COMMUNICATE. If you are the one suggesting changes, let others know as early as possible so they have time to adjust. And give them time to adjust; don’t expect immediate acceptance. Also, keep in mind that additions are often more comfortable than deletions. If possible, modify rather than delete a tradition.

If you feel that change is being thrust upon you, try to understand the rationale or reasoning behind the suggestions being made. Re-examine what you hold dear about the holidays and why. If it’s gathering with as many family members as possible, then whose house you gather at shouldn’t matter; if it’s celebrating the birth of Christ with worship and praise, which church you go to and at what time isn’t that important; and if it’s enjoying specific dishes that your mother, uncle, or grandmother used to make and someone wants to alter the menu, pick the dishes that mean the most to you and volunteer to make/bring them yourself.


Like anything, holidays and family gatherings are what you make them. Personally, I am enjoying seeing a few changes with our family celebrations. I think it’s great that some of the younger members of the family are beginning to find their place in the seasonal preparations. It is a wonderful thing to see the “passing of the baton,” or ladle, if you will, from one generation to the next. While many parents and grandparents have enjoyed baking, cooking, and decorating for the rest of the family for special occasions, it’s a beautiful thing to watch members of the next generation discover the joy of creating, serving, and bringing the holidays to life themselves.

I’m not saying that the older family members should stop sharing ideas or taking part in preparations, unless that’s what they really want to do (some of us really need our rest). But perhaps stepping back some, letting go of some of the responsibilities, counseling rather than doing it all, and sharing the opportunities for memory-making moments will allow them (us) to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways with younger members of the family who will be carrying the family traditions into the future —adapting them as their own family dynamics grow and change.

Christmas celebrations, or any family gatherings for that matter, are not the time to be rigid and resentful. We need to be open to new ideas and open to where the Spirit leads us at this particular time in our lives. Most importantly, we should remember the reason for the season.


Remember that giving is more important than receiving, and that doesn’t only apply to gifts. It applies to our hearts as well. Let’s not give others guilt trips over their personal decisions regarding the holidays; accept them with grace and understanding. Whatever changes we make, whatever new steps we take, we must do them with happy hearts and a more defined focus on what truly matters. Whatever happens, we should try to be of good cheer. Grudgingly going along with things because you have to will only bring everyone else down with you. That will certainly lead to a memorable event, but not one you will want to remember.

If you truly want to fulfill the quest for meaning, joy, and peace this Christmas, re-evaluate your current (or past) holiday plans as a family, and adjust them as needed to create meaningful and simple traditions that are easy to maintain, beneficial for all (or most), and truly serve the family’s purpose and passion. Life moves on and we must be prepared to go with the flow and move along with it.


Her Spirit Soars

After the discovery of cancer in her brain in June of this year, my friend Denise Enos passed away on August 11th. I’m writing today’s post more for myself than anyone else. Just a way to say goodbye and to honor her memory. It’s scary when someone close to your own age dies, especially when it is so quick and unexpected. A good reminder that the choices we make, the focus we take, the lives we touch … every moment matters.

These are some of my memories of Denise:

New Life

Denise Enos adored her family and was strengthened by her faith.

She was bold, determined, and passionate about her beliefs.

She built strong relationships and treasured her friendships.

She appreciated beauty in nature as well as in man-made designs.

She savored good food and enjoyed great wine.

She believed in the power of possibility.

She was consistent and detail-oriented,
yet creative, adventurous, and fun.

In her work, she was a perfectionist,
so she could be hard on herself,
yet she offered others such grace.

Full of ideas, and always thinking,
Denise constantly sought improvement
in herself and in the workplace.

Because she cared so much about so many things,
she would sometimes get a little overwhelmed.
But venting with trusted friends and laughing
together over the craziness of our industry
helped keep us sane and fortified us to
go back another day and do it all over again.

We shared a love of family, faith, friends, imagery, words, language,
writing, consistency (especially the series comma), organization,
a positive attitude, and many other things.

Today, my heart is heavy,
acknowledging the fact that my friend is really gone.
She left quite a legacy and some very strong memories behind.
These memories allow the rest of us to taste small sips of comfort.

Although we pray that she rests in peace,
knowing Denise, her faith, and her living testimony,
I don’t think she’s resting at all …
I believe, today, she soars!

She soars!

I think Denise would want us to remember and focus on the good times we enjoyed with her. I found some “Getting to Know You” questions and answers on her Facebook page. Reading through her answers made me smile. So, I thought I would share them here:


It is completely, embarrassingly illegible.


My wonderful and amazing Marshall and Charlotte–I am so blessed.


Oh, sure; I’m big fun.


See above.


Any holiday when I have my whole family together.


Through mutual friends–I am in their debt forever.


“Love one another.” and “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”


They’re not really a possession, but I’d say my family.


The pig in Pearls Before Swine. I am ridiculously naive and optimistic–
thank God for my friends who “reality check” me on a regular basis!

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.
… It has no survival value;

rather, it is one of those things that
give value to survival.” —C.S. Lewis

My Soul Has Been Freed

You Don’t Need to Walk Alone

In a daily devotional on “The Impact of Right Relationships,” Dr. Charles F. Stanley wrote: “A group of people rightly connected can do so much more than a man or woman acting alone.”

I am happy to say that for the first time in my adult life, I am living in a neighborhood where people do this thing called connecting. Specifically, it is the people in my cul-de-sac that I have become friends with; however, Bart and I are branching out and getting to know some of our other neighbors as well. We have lived in other places where the people around us didn’t really seem to care about knowing the people who lived right next door to them. That’s just sad.


In our cul-de-sac, we don’t all have all things in common, but each of us connects to several of the others in different ways, and we are learning how to look out for one another through various circumstances. It’s nice to know that if I ever need anything, like a ride to the store or a couple of potatoes for my pot roast, I can call or text them and someone always comes through. We’ve had a Bible study, a fall block party, and numerous chats across the yards (when weather has permitted). We have just started making plans for a spring block party, which I am really looking forward to.


And when something more serious occurred, like the recent tragic death of one of our neighbors, we found even more ways to connect with, support, lift up, and love one another through the following days. At first, many of us were concerned about intruding; we didn’t want to appear nosy and insensitive. But it turns out that the most sensitive thing we could do was to reach out and lend a hand. It reminded me of this post that Lysa Terkeurst shared a couple days ago:

“My friend’s husband passed away after a long illness and when I asked her about some of the lessons she learned through those tough years, she said something that will stick with me forever. She said, ‘When people are going through hard life circumstances, don’t say “Well if there’s anything you need just let me know.”’

My friend said most days she couldn’t process how she was going to get through the next ten minutes, much less be able to ask others for help. I was challenged by this and wondered how I could help someone in need without being asked.

I could deliver dinner. Gas up their car. Mow their lawn. Pick up an extra gallon of milk or some pet food from the grocery store. Whatever it is, I’ll think I’ll just do it and I won’t wait to be asked.”


This is what we did and this is the type of stuff I hope we will continue to be able to do for one another. Especially when you live in an area without any of your own family around, it is so wonderful to be able to build and experience a new “family.” If you don’t have that type of community—if your neighbors don’t really seem to be connecting—maybe YOU can be the one to get something started. Have a cookout and invite everyone over—even if you’ve never spoken to some of them before; host a pot luck in your home or create a space for one outdoors (that’s what our fall party was); set up an event for all the kids to get together and play. Maybe everyone else is just waiting for someone to make the first move. That someone could be you.

As enjoyable as it is to share good times with your neighbors, it’s also nice to know that once you have connected, it’s easier to share the everyday moments as well. When Bart was out of town a couple months ago, a few of my neighbors checked on me. One family even invited me over for dinner one night, which was super sweet (and very enjoyable). Just this past weekend, I was sick with an ear infection and a cold. I got calls and texts from different neighbors asking me if I needed anything. It’s bad enough when you feel sick and miserable, but how wonderful to not also feel alone and forgotten. And you know what, it’s okay to need others.

DSC02083The Faith Barista posted this just today: “Following his beating, it’s likely Jesus could not physically carry the cross all the way to Calvary. Jesus needed someone. In that moment, a man whose journey somehow crossed his path was pulled in to help him. We don’t know if Simon even knew who Jesus was. … All we know is that an ordinary person helped the Savior. Through one simple, understated act, became part of the journey with Jesus. And I’m reminded. It’s okay to need someone. When the cross is too heavy to carry, but we still want to be faithful to see the journey through, needing someone isn’t a shameful. … needing is good because it creates space for God to enter in. And love us through others.”

In a blog post on friendship, Lysa TerKeurst says, “Loving someone else is one of the most God-honoring things we can do today. After all, we’re reminded in Scripture that all the commandments can be summed up and fulfilled if we will love others.”


“Let no debt remain outstanding,
except the continuing debt to love one another,
for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. …
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor.
Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Romans 13:8–10

So, my advice, my encouragement, for you today is to remember that you do not have to walk through life alone. Reach out, connect, walk beside someone else; you can start with the people next door. What a blessing it is to build bonds with our neighbors.


Happy Moments: A Mini-Photojournal

As usual, I don’t have much time to write today, but the Faith Barista reminded me that sometimes we can share bits of our journey simply through photos and staying connected. Of course, those of you who know me know that I love taking pictures so pulling together a few that I could add to my blog post was not a hard task. The hard part, narrowing down the images, trying to focus on what made me happy recently and why.

If you read my last post, you know that “happy” is the word that I am focusing on for 2014. It is the word that God put on my heart, and it has come up in so many ways, in so many different situations in the last couple of months that I knew … this is not a coincidence. It is a calling. A wake-up call, if you will.

I have to remind myself sometimes that each day is a gift. We cannot waste a day, thinking things like, “I’ll call my mom tomorrow.” “All I need to do is get through this week, then I’ll take some time for myself.” “I need to put something on the calendar with [my friend] next month. She has been down lately.” But who knows what tomorrow, next week, or next month will bring. Most likely, something else will take up way too much real estate in your mind and your life and you won’t necessarily get around to the things that really matter. We need to find our focus and our happy each day. 

So, with that, here are a few happy images. The first is a picture of my husband Bart at his first store in Louisville. We moved up here about a year and a half ago to open up a new market for Mattress Firm, and we now have eight stores open with more growth coming for 2014. Bart has been promoted to District Manager, and he loves his job. I enjoy listening to him recruit people when he runs across someone he thinks has potential (even at the dog park) because he has a lot of passion for the company and his role in it. It always makes me smile.

Proud of my husband.

Proud of my husband.

Next, of course, is Bella. I’m pretty sure my Facebook friends think I have nothing else going on in my life other than hanging out with my dog (and sometimes that is true). But she is a real sweetheart and definitely contributes to my happiness (especially now that most of her destructive puppy months are behind her). I’m looking forward to better weather days so we can get back outside with her more.



Baby Girl

Baby Girl

Not that Bella doesn’t get out in the snow. She still enjoys being outside, even when it’s cold. But Bart and I don’t enjoy being out there quite as much when the temperature is 10 degrees or lower. Those are the days that I let her venture out there on her own.

Bella in snow

However, I do love the beauty of the winter snows, and really enjoy the fact that we get such a gorgeous view from our dining room window. The trees, the creek, the wildlife … That makes me happy.

Snow out back

Okay, so I am already spending more time on this than I have, but I want to share one more thing that contributes to my happy days, and that is anytime I get to spend with family. I am so thankful that we got to go to Florida to celebrate this past Christmas with them. There’s no way I could show all the happy moments in this post, but here are a few:

Baking with my niece, Robin

Baking with my niece, Robin

Setting a bad example with my nieces and nephew (Jo, Gentry, Ryder)

Setting a bad example with my nieces and nephew (Jo, Gentry, Ryder)

Playing with the camera on my phone with my niece, Gentry

Playing with the camera on my phone with my niece, Gentry

Seeing Bart with my nephew, Brayden

Seeing Bart with my nephew, Brayden

Fishing with my stepson, Noah

Fishing with my stepson, Noah


Remember, life is good. Don’t miss out on it!

In Pursuit of Peace

Growing up in a large household of seven children, I remember how my mother used to say that all she wanted for Christmas was “peace and quiet.” We couldn’t understand why anyone would ask for something so silly. As an adult, I can now see how important peace must have been to her. At times, I have received and even sent out Christmas cards expressing a wish for “peace on earth.” And in one of my favorite movies, “Miss Congeniality,” Sandra Bullock and numerous other pageant contestants state that all they really want is “world peace.” But what exactly is peace and how do we attain it?

Webster’s defines peace as 1) a state of tranquility or quiet, 2) freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, 3) harmony in personal relations …. The Biblical Encyclopedia (King James version) explains peace in the following manner: In the Old Testament, the word implies “welfare,” and is external. The New Testament sense is that of “heart-peace” and is more internal.

I think the pre-Thanksgiving/Christmas season is the perfect time to focus on restoring ourselves, both externally and internally—renewing both body and spirit—by finding what brings us peace and tranquility. As most of us tend to overdo it and expect way too much of ourselves (and others) during the holidays, we often lose sight of the things that truly matter and make this time of year special—family, friends, and, of course, the celebration of the coming of our Savior.


If your holiday season is becoming one of dread and exhaustion rather than one of joy and fulfillment, decide what “must do” things you can change or cut out that will allow you to relax and enjoy the days ahead. If you’re dreading mailing out all of those Christmas cards or need to cut the cost from your budget, skip them this year; make a decision to pare down your list and send cards out next year. Or do like my mother now does and send e-cards. However, if you love making and/or sending cards, keep that on your schedule, but get rid of something else.

If just the thought of getting all those decorations out and up is wearing you out, don’t do it. Sometimes simple really can be beautiful and soothing. Also, if you are not a gourmet cook, forget about spending hours in the kitchen attempting to make an impressive presentation of fancy dishes for your guests. Serve something simple and ask everyone attending to contribute. Take a load off your own shoulders; you are probably expecting more from yourself than anyone else is.

Another holiday hint for tranquility—go easy on the gift giving. There’s no need to TOP last year. Shopping for gifts shouldn’t be a competition or a source of financial and physical stress. Yes, it is better to give than to receive, but not to a point where it shatters your budget or makes you miserable. It’s time to rethink the idea of gift giving to make it more thoughtful and joyful. In my family, there are simply too many of us to buy something for everyone, so we have a rotating list. Each year, I have a different sibling or aunt or uncle to buy for. I know ahead of time whose name I have, so I can take some time in the months before Christmas to pick out or make something special and meaningful for them. We do something similar with my husband’s family. Also, remember, gifts of your time are invaluable. In years past, when we lived in Florida, my husband and I gave my mother and grandmother gift certificates that we created on the computer, offering our services for painting or putting up shelves. By doing this, we also got the added bonus of spending more time with them.

Speaking of time, how much of it do you give God during the holidays? If you don’t already, try spending a little more time in his Word. [I have to admit, this is something I need to work on.] As a family, pick a night to Biblegather together to read Matthew 1:18—2:12 on the birth of Christ and the visit of the magi. Talk about ways you can give a gift of yourself to Jesus in honor of the real reason for the season. Everything we do, think, and experience year-round—work, prayer, joys, sorrows—can be offered up to God as an act of worship; this becomes our gift to Him. And by putting our lives in His hands, we gain a sense of assurance that our Heavenly Father is in control, which leads to a real, deep, and lasting peace.

How can we let this sense of peace permeate our everyday lives? First, let’s look at external factors. Stress! We often let ourselves become more stressed than usual at this time of year. There are some stresses, like the loss of a job, a house, or a loved one, that we have no control over, but there are others that can be prevented.

Some keys to prevention are getting enough sleep, maintaining a proper diet, avoiding excess caffeine and other stimulants, and taking time out to relax. [Sure, we all know this, but how many of us actually do all these things?] Some people find that activities like jogging, aerobic exercise, or yoga are helpful in lowering their stress levels; others find the thought of exercise itself stressful. 🙂 But it is important for our mental and physical health that we discover some form of movement to help us “get the juices flowing.” You can try walking, riding a bike, playing tennis, even gardening. Personally, I have a hard time getting myself to the gym (even when it is just down my own stairs), but I do enjoy taking a brisk walk with my dog around the neighborhood. It gets my heart rate up and allows me a chance to breathe in some fresh air. Plus, my dog reminds me that it is also important to stop and “smell the roses.” Find something fun that will help you get up, get out, and release some tension. Less tension leads to a feeling of peace and well-being.

The Woods

Once you’ve got those muscles flexing and stretching, it’s time to work on “clearing your head.” According to a Roper Starch Worldwide study, the number one de-stressor around the world is listening to music, followed by watching TV, then taking a bath or shower. Other stress busters include laughing, playing with children or pets, spending time in nature, keeping a daily journal, spending time with a hobby, and doing something rewarding, like volunteer work. I believe that one of the strongest combatants of stress can be prayer.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is more than asking God for things we want. It’s about being in His presence; it’s about talking to Him like a loving Father… like a best friend. And when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed in life, it’s important to lean on friends, not to ask them to solve your problems, but to gain a little emotional support from their presence. God is always present for us; we just need to be more intentional about being present for Him.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7, NIV).

In a chaotic and constantly changing world, when our days are filled with stress and our minds are filled with all the things we have to do, how can anyone have genuine peace? True peace can only come from placing your life and future into the hands of a loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God who is greater than you and greater than your circumstances. God does not promise that things will never go wrong for you or that you will never have overly full or stressful days. But what He does promise is, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV). You will never have to face anything alone. When you find yourself going through difficult times, God promises to be there with you and help you through them, if you just call on Him. That’s true comfort and peace.


Recipe for Successful Meals

We all need to eat. And I know lots of people who, as soon as they finish one meal, start thinking about the next one. Yet, I am constantly amazed by the number of people who don’t cook. How can people seriously enjoy eating out all the time? Especially when it’s fast food! Don’t get me wrong … I do enjoy going out to eat now and then, especially when it’s for sushi or crab legs or to celebrate something special. But I can’t imagine having to pick something up at the grocery store deli or at a drive-through window every day. I like my food with a little less salt and grease and fat. Now, I can’t say I cook healthy all the time, because I don’t. But when I make our meals, I can control the amounts of those substances that go in my food. I like that.

Plus, I guess some part of me enjoys cooking and baking. It’s my way of sharing a bit of myself and nourishing my family and sometimes my friends. I know some people really don’t like cooking at all; others simply don’t think they have the time. But with a little planning and all the cookbooks, blogs, and recipe sites out there, it is actually quite easy to come up with a few quick meals for really rushed days as well as some more substantial meals you can prep ahead of time and throw in the crockpot or oven.

RECIPES While my husband, Bart, would happily eat the same things over and over again (he’s fairly easy to please), I am always on the lookout for new recipes. I currently subscribe to a couple family and recipe-based magazines. Sometimes, I get behind on reading and they begin to pile up. But I keep them near the couch for when we are watching (non-recorded) TV so that when the commercials come on, I can pick up a magazine and quickly flip through the pages.

I look for recipes that sound yummy, but then I scan through the ingredients and preparation info. If it contains way too many ingredients, things I’ve never heard of, or too many steps or too much time to prepare, I skip it. If it looks like something I might actually make, I tear the page out and put it in my coupon drawer in the kitchen.*

I also subscribe to a couple weekly e-mails from different companies (see my suggested links at the end of this blog post). I look at the main page and if something catches my eye, I’ll go to the site and check it out further (or keep it in my in box to review later). If I get too busy, I just delete the e-mail as I know there will be more recipes to consider the following week. When I find a good recipe online, I print it out and add it to that same kitchen drawer or sometimes they even make it directly into what I would call my “working cookbook.”

OTHER OPTIONS When I attend a gathering and someone makes a dish I enjoy, I ask for the recipe. Accumulating good recipes from friends and family members is another way to build up your collection of meal or snack ideas to try. And, of course, these days there is Pinterest. I don’t know how many recipes and recipe bloggers I have found from pinning yummy-sounding or tasty-looking photos to my own boards.

Then, there’s the old standby—the thousands and thousands of printed recipe books out there. If you have some cookbooks that you haven’t looked at in years, try to get them out during commercial breaks or maybe even take them with you to look through when you’re in the car pool lane. Bring some sticky notes with you and flag any interesting ideas you come across that you’d like to try.

I recommend three different options for keeping track of these cookbook recipes that you’d like to try. 1) You can write down the name of the recipe, the name of the cookbook, and the page it appears on in your working cookbook so you’ll know where to find it again. 2) You can make a copy of the page and add it to your working cookbook. 3) Or (and I know some people will shudder at this) you can actually tear the page out of the book. If it is not a special book that you’d like to keep intact, and you know you aren’t likely to keep pulling that cookbook out for one or two rarely used recipes, make things easier on yourself. Then donate the book or pass it on to a friend who may appreciate some of the other recipes. (I also suggest donating or giving away cookbooks, or any other books, that are just accumulating dust on your shelves, even if they were gifts.)

Recipes also come directly on product packaging and on index cards at your local grocery store. There is no end to what you can find if you look around. Just don’t go crazy collecting recipes you will never use. It’s a good idea to occasionally go through your collection and get rid of recipes that either didn’t turn out that well or that you still haven’t made after many months (or years).

Have fun collecting good recipes, but remember, the goal isn’t to see who can collect the most recipes. The point is to actually use the recipes to provide a variety of meals for you and your family. One hint though—if you already cook, don’t go crazy and make a new dish every night. Most people don’t like that much change. Continue to use your standby family favorites, but once or twice a week, try something new. It will either become another favorite or a flop. Believe me, you’ll know whether it’s a keeper or not.

Bottom line—you’ll find that you are spending less money, probably eating better, and maybe, just maybe, even learning to like cooking.

  • *Later, when I have time, all recipes will be reviewed again for feasibility (will I actually ever make this?); those that remain keepers get put in my working cookbook.
  • My working cookbook is an ever-changing 3-ring binder full of page protectors. It usually stays on my kitchen counter and it sometimes contains a number of other useful pages, like lists of what’s in the freezer, what’s in the pantry, and what’s for dinner (menus for one to two weeks at a time), which I’ll talk about in another post.

Here are some of my favorite sources—in no particular order. Check them out! (Easy. Elegant. Everyday.) (menus, recipes, and shopping lists to get your family back to the dinner table)  (recipes from Betty Crocker—sign up for their Dinner Made Easy newsletters) (recipes from Better Homes and Gardens) (recipes from Taste of Home) (saving the world one healthy food at a time) (part of Live Better America—healthy recipes/healthy living) (cooking fresh and eating green with Susie Middleton)  (yoga & vibrant gluten free living)  (recipes to keep your taste buds happy and your wallets thick) (original family style recipes for even your pickiest eaters) (tasty tips, yummy kitchen tricks, and entertaining videos from Wholly Guacamole)