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Have you ever seen someone walk into a party that looked scared to death, unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screaming, “I wish I was anywhere but here!” Entering a room full of people that you do not know can be intimidating. I get that. Yet, your entrance is important in displaying overall confidence and portraying a strong image.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We will enjoy and appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food and drinks. We would also like a clean bathroom and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest.

Giving a party, of any type, requires a great deal of work. If you have been fortunate enough to be included in a festive soiree, it is nice to arrive with a gift for the hostess. The typical present will cost between $15-$30, but there are less expensive things you can find at the local discount store.

Attire: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture


Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for your party, make it clear. Do not let your creative thoughts have you writing a description that requires an interpreter.  We do not want to force our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP.

Do you believe there is a creator behind this painting, or did it create itself? I believe if I polled 1,000 people, 100% would say, “Of course, there is a creator. That’s common sense.” Do you believe there is a Creator behind this picture? If I polled 1,000 people with the same question, stats show I would not receive 100% agreement that there was a Creator behind this picture.

People are returning to work, which means many of us will be navigating changes that would otherwise seem mundane. Elevator etiquette? Did you know there was such a thing? Below are 9 basic reminders when riding the lift. I have thrown in a few exceptions while we live in a COVID world. 

Throughout history we have seen God place people in power that made us say, “What is He thinking?” Yet God clearly reminds us in Isaiah that the way He thinks is far beyond what we can sometimes understand. In a child’s eyes, a parent giving her yucky medicine when she already feels poorly can seem cruel. “Why would Mommy make me take this?” The child lives in her “here and now” moment of life, yet the parent sees the big picture. The mother knows what is best for the child, even when the child does not understand. 

Our 4-part series on living as Christians in a political world was written in response to questions I have been receiving on knowing how to separate truth from lies, when to engage in our political system, and the most effective way to stay informed. In Part 1 we learned the biblical formula for seeking truth. In Part 2 we discussed the importance of knowing your foundation. In this post, Part 3, I will provide you with 7 practical tips I use to find truth in our news driven world. 

We are living in a time where many do not know who or what to believe. It seems our national 24-hour news media seeks ratings more than they seek truth (regardless of which way their bias leans). Many journalists receive bonuses based on how many clicks their story receives, and companies earn more advertising revenue if they can show a high click-through rate on articles. It has become too common to read endless bait-and-switch headlines.

“How do I know what is real? How do I know truth when I see it? I want to stay informed, but where do I turn when I feel every news source is somehow deceiving me?”

Giving you tips on hosting a Halloween party during COVID is sure easier than tackling subjects on news, politics, and finding truth. Yet these are the questions filling my inbox. 

Does this blog seem early? Did you know we only have 10 weeks before we move into December? It is time to start planning!
1. Decide how much you can spend. If you have a $500 budget and 10 people you need to give gifts, then you can only spend $50 a person.

Halloween in 2020 will be different than past years, but there are still ways to enjoy this festive start to the holiday season. This blog may seem early, but October 31st is only 7 weeks away! It is time to start planning. Below are my top 10 ideas for a jovial and happy start to your fall celebrations.

  • Cecelia Zook

Braised Short Ribs Taste Test

Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe comes courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

We hope you enjoy!

I have one word to describe this recipe: WOW! My husband got home while the ribs were cooking in the oven. He was on the phone with someone, but right when he walked through the door, he stopped in mid sentence and his jaw dropped because the house was filled with the smell of ribs!

I can confidently say that the braised short ribs is the best meal I have ever cooked. I have never made ribs before, and I have to admit, I was a little intimidated before going into this recipe. Not only were the ribs incredibly delicious, but it turned out to be very simple to make. If you're not very experienced with chopping, I do recommend giving yourself a bit of time before to get all of your ingredients together. That way when it's time for you to start, everything is ready to go!

Braised Short Ribs
Download PDF • 2.49MB

Makes 16 servings

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 2.5 hours


*5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

*Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*3 tablespoons vegetable oil

*3 medium onions, chopped

*3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped

*2 celery stalks, chopped

*3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

*1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)

*1 tablespoon tomato paste

*10 sprigs parsley

*8 sprigs thyme

*4 sprigs oregano

*2 sprigs rosemary

*2 fresh or dried bay leaves

*1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

*4 cups low-salt beef stock


*Preheat oven to 350F.

*Season short ribs with salt and pepper.

*Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high.

*Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch.

*Transfer short ribs to a plate and pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

*Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes.

*Add flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red. About 2-3 minutes.

*Stir in wine, then add short ribs back in the pot with all those good juices!

*Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.

*Add all herbs to pot along with garlic.

*Stir in beef stock.

*Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to oven.

*Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2½ hours.

*Transfer short ribs to a platter.

*Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup.

*Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.

*Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

*Serve in shallow bowls.

Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook

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