Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

A Merry Heart– the 2012 London Olympics

You have probably figured out that I’m a serious Anglophile! But I don’t feel quite so out of place with the rest of the world obsessed with all things English at the moment. Combined with the anniversary of the London Olympic openings, I thought it quite the thing to share these hilarious videos. The Brits really outdid themselves!

Here’s Mr. Bean and the Chariots of Fire theme.

And my favorite, Daniel Craig as James Bond with Her Majesty the Queen as herself. (I got Dressing the Queen by Angela Kelly, where they featured the peach dress she wears. Her dressmakers made 2 identical dresses, and like the discreet royal employees there are, never asked or told!)

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Been in a storm lately?

Why are you afraid?Our “young ladies” Sunday school class uses LifeWay’s “MasterWork” series, using books by Christian writers and condensing them down to 4-8 week studies. This week we are starting Max Lucado’s Fearless. WOW! If the first week is any indication, it’s going to be great.

I love Max’s imagery:

Fear, it seems, has taken a 100-year lease on the building next door and set up shop. Oversized and rude, fear is unwilling to share the heart with happiness. Happiness complies and leaves. Do you ever see the two together? Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Clear thinking and afraid? Confident and afraid? Merciful and afraid? No. Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and umproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.

Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.

Have you been in that prison? Are you there now?

The text for the week is the storm on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 8.

  • Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. (v 24) Matthew uses the word seismos for this storm. You recognize it in our English word seismograph— which measures earthquakes! This was not some little spring rain. It was like an earthquake on water. Of course the disciples woke Jesus up screaming for help, afraid they would be killed. Imagine how ludicrous the disciples imagined Jesus’s response to be:
  • “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” [Are you kidding me? Why are we afraid?] Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

“There is something on the x-ray.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

Your child is legally blind in that eye.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

“I’m just not happy anymore.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

“This is the principal.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

“Mom? Dad? You’d better sit down.” “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

After all the miracles they had seen; after all the love Jesus had demonstrated, in Mark’s account (4:35-41) their first question was “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” Fear gives us amnesia sometimes. It corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. [Lucado] And then we begin grabbing at any straw we can in order to feel that we are in control of something– our kids, our schedule, the clutter in our homes.

Christ gives 21 “don’t fear”-type commands. (There are only 8 of the second most common command, to love God and your neighbors.) I think this is an indication of how prevalent God knew that our fear would be, and how much help He knew we would need!

In the first week’s wrap-up, Max reminds us that fear will run amok in our worlds, but we don’t have to let it fill our hearts. It will knock on our doors, but we don’t have to ask it in for dinner or to stay the night! Here are some ways to fight fear when it comes knocking.

1. Stay close to Christ by spending time in prayer and in the Word regularly. 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear..

2. Keep a “box of remembrance” to forestall amnesia. Bring to mind the hard times you have seen God bring you or loved ones through. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 11:19

3. Keep these “don’t fear” verses handy: (I like index cards.)

  • Matthew 10:31 “Don’t be afraid. You’re worth much more than many sparrows”
  • Matthew 9:2 “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.”
  • Matthew 14:27 “Take courage. I’m here!”
  • Matthew 6:25 “Don’t worry about everyday life…”
  • John 14:1 “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me.” (The antidote to fear is FAITH!)

How have you fought fear?


I Saw it on Pinterest! Zucchini Fries

oven fried zucchini fries

oven fried zucchini fries

I love zucchini, and it’s supposedly one of the most prolific producers in home gardens.. Of the 3 years I’ve planted it, that’s been true only 1 year. I harvested exactly *two* small ones this year before the vine borers got my plants. I’ve planted more since then but they aren’t yet mature enough to produce.
I tried these “fries” and they were a big hit! I repined it from my “food” board to my “I DID IT!” board.

Start by slicing the zucchini in strips about 1/2 x 1/2 and 4 inches long.

The recipe called for dipping in an egg wash but I used buttermilk. (like I do for my fried chicken) I like lots of pepper too! Here is where you season them, though you can add seasons in your bread crumbs too.

oven fried zucchini friesThen dip in some kind of breading. I used Italian style Panko. I got some rice-flour “Gourmet Fish Fry” that I want to try, too. Cornmeal would also be good.

Line a pan with parchment paper, then lay the strips on a wire rack and bake at 450 for about 15 minutes. Lots of variables can change the cooking time– the thickness of the zucchini, how much water it has– so check often. Cook it to the degree of brownness you like. Delish!

oven fried zucchini fries oven fried zucchini fries


A Fruitful Marriage– Joy

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control… Galatians 5:22-23

A marriage where both spouses are fully committed to the Lord will be beautiful showcases of the fruits of the Spirit! Last month at A Biblical Marriage, I began a series applying the fruits of the Spirit to our marriages, starting with LOVE. Join me this month as we explore JOY. (Click the picture below.) While not quite as exciting as happiness, joy is the one I’d choose if I could take only one.

Come on over and join us! Then answer the question: When have your circumstances made for unhappiness, but you’ve still had joy?

Photo by seanmcgrath


Killing Drama

Killing drama

I teach middle schoolers and high schoolers and I see plenty of drama. But I see it outside of school, too, in my adult world! The past two weeks I’ve seen several episodes of it. It frankly drives me nuts and makes me want to shake people. Here’s what it typically looks like:

Person A (Susie) says or does something. Person B (Sally) misunderstands, hears an inaccurate version, takes offense, or disagrees.

Drama killer: Sally asks Susie about it, lets it go, and/or agrees to disagree. No drama.

Drama stirrer: Sally comments on it to person C (Sarah). Sarah and Sally keep talking about it, and bring other people into the conversation. The version they are talking about now has little or no resemblance to the original.

It gets back to Susie (in whispers, and often even further removed) that Sarah and Sally were talking about her and spreading lies about her.

STOP! At this point, Sally and Sarah are the only ones with the drama problem. It’s like a 2-sided figure; it will die down soon– unless Susie chooses to add the base to the drama triangle. It’s her choice: She could A) roll her eyes, say “consider the source”, and go on about her business; B) talk to Sally and Sarah and come to the truth; or C) add the base to the drama triangle by talking to other people, asking if they’ve heard, defending her position, etc… Then the problem is everybody’s.

We have a Facebook page for our choirs, and I frequently see drama being played out there. It’s usually preceded by “I hate drama!!! I wish drama queens would just stay away from me!!!” or something of that nature. I want so badly to add “DON’T YOU REALIZE YOU ARE JUST ENCOURAGING MORE?” It’s only drama to you if you play along.

Some food for thought if you have more drama in your life than you’d like:

1. Don’t ascribe motives driving someone’s words or actions. You are not a mind reader, and most of the time they are not about you.

2. If a friend is short with you, doesn’t wave at you, or doesn’t return your call, ask yourself if that is unusual for them. If so, assume (once again) it’s not about you; maybe she has a headache, or she needs new contacts (Is she over 40 LOL? Vision nightmare!), or she forgot. If that behavior is normal, why would you expect anything else and get upset about it? Extend grace.

3. Give people the right to disagree with you and respect their opinion. This is America. (Let me plug Dr. Carson’s Prayer Breakfast Speech here– he addressed this very thing so eloquently!)

4. Give people the right to be wrong. Some people will ascribe motives to YOUR words or actions that are incorrect. This is usually based on what their own motives would be in a similar situation and says more about them than about you. Explain to them if you feel you must, but sometimes they won’t believe you. You’ve done your part. Move on.

5. Refuse to take offense. See the word “take” there? That’s a very active word. Don’t hold your hand out and accept it, even if they meant to offend you. Let it fall at your feet, or better, at the foot of the Cross. I don’t have a leg to stand on concerning my right to be offended when I see how Christ responded to His offenders.

6. Realize that God is a God of peace, not drama.* If you’ve been stirring up drama, repent and ask forgiveness, then learn how to change those destructive ways.

Here is the magic word to rid your life of drama, sort of like a “Magic Eraser”: WHATEVER…

What? Your best friend’s sister ran off with the refrigerator repairman?

Drama killer: Think, “What a shame. Her poor family,” and pray for her and them.

Drama stirrer: Keep talking about it! Speculate about why she left. Share “prayer requests” with all your Facebook and Twitter friends.

What? Somebody thinks I’m selfish because I’m not teaching Bible school this year? (This is assuming you’ve prayed about it and God has not called you to do it, in which case you are not selfish.) Drama killer: WHATEVER. It’s between you and God. Others have the right to think what they want to. Even if they are wrong.

Drama stirrer: Explain your reasons to everyone, but certainly not the person who supposedly thought it to begin with.  Post a vague Facebook status hinting about your being so glad you pray and seek God’s will, and are obedient to it no matter who comes against you.

What? A coworker thinks I have fewer projects to do than she does?

Drama killer: WHATEVER. I’m too busy doing projects to participate in drama.

Drama stirrer : Tell all your friends in the office how much work you take home every day. Stress how valuable you are, and how you gladly take on extra projects because you care so much about the company. Say what a shame it is that “some people” are so selfish.

(true story from my life this week) What? A classmate that you don’t like called you a slut?

Drama killer: WHATEVER. If you don’t like her, why would you place importance on her opinion? Are you one? If no, then she obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about. If so, well I guess the truth hurts. Change it if you don’t like it.

Drama stirrer: Punch her in the face 5 times. Be proud of yourself and make sure all your friends know the whole story.

What? A few people questioned something you did?

Drama killer: Don’t take offense, even if the questions were asked in criticism. Answer the questions (privately, to the people who asked) and go on.

Drama stirrer: Get offended and self-righteous. Make a public speech to everyone, put them in their place, and dare them to question you further. (This is like at school, when one staff member has done something wrong, then the whole staff gets a lecture and we are wondering what it the world is going on!)

Here’s what I tell my kids at school: Their problem doesn’t have to be your problem. It becomes yours only if you accept it from them. So let’s practice… all together now… “WHATEVER…”

(See my post “Don’t Play” for further tips on avoiding drama.)

*For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. Romans 14:33

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

May the God of peace be with you all… Romans 15:33

… Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11


A Merry Heart– December 30

A merry heart is good medicine.

Proverbs 17:22

I realize Christmas is over, but I think you will like my high schoolers’ rendition of “You are My Christmas Angel.” Do you smell HAM??*

*If you are not familiar with American usage, “being a ham” is slang for overacting BADLY!

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My New BFF

*DISCLAIMER* If you suffer from sinus and allergy problems, this post is for you. It’s kind of gross. If you are one of the lucky ones who don’t have this problem, you might want to skip this one.

Auntie Em has been fighting a sinus infection for over a month now. That’s part of the reason you haven’t seen much new content here on the blog. In addition to antibiotics, decongestant, Prednisone, cough medicine, Mucinex, and enough water to float a battleship, I’ve found something that has helped a lot: a saline nasal rinse. I was introduced to it when I had sinus surgery 6 years ago, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have tried it had I not been instructed to by my doctor. It took some getting used to, but now that I can do it without choking, I heartily recommend it!

The warm salty water soothes irritated sinus cavities; the salt draws some of the fluid out of the tissues; and it loosens and cleans out nasty mucus, taking away the breeding ground for more infection. Here’s what you need:

Saline nasal rinse

You can use a Neti pot and buy ready made packets or make your own and use a bulb syringe. I use a cup of warm water, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/8-1/4 tsp baking soda. Stir till dissolved. Start with a weaker solution; too much salt can burn. The first time I did it I made the stronger solution, and when it (inevitably) got down my throat I thought I had gargled with acid or something and I was hoarse for a while!


  • Put your hair back. It’s a little messy.
  • Get tissues and/or hand towels ready for when you’re finished.
  • Practice holding your breath in different ways. (Going into choir teacher mode)
  • Making a “k” sound closes everything, and you should do this when you start to avoid the water running down your throat. It won’t hurt anything but you might cough and sputter!
  • You can close off just your sinuses by making a “ng” sound. If you can do this while breathing through your mouth, you can hold the solution in your sinuses longer, which is a good thing.

TO USE– you want the solution to go all into your sinuses, even up behind your eyes. You’ll need to get upside down. My ears are very stopped up too, and leaning my head forward, like over the bathtub, hurts, so I lean my head back as far as I can instead. I hold on to the door frame to help keep my balance.

  • Lean your head back or over. Fill the syringe and gently place it far up into your nostril. Closing off your sinuses, gently squeeze out the solution. You will be able to feel it inside your head; it’s weird. Hold for 15-30 seconds, or as long as you can. Then lean over the sink or tub and let it drain out.
  • Repeat a few times. Blow to clean out. (I’m sorry this is gross.)
  • Finish off by “running” the solution through your sinuses. Lean over sideways; put the syringe into your top nostril and squeeze the solution through. It will drain out the other side. Then switch sides.
  • Blow, wipe, and clean up.

A bit of water might continue to drip out for a while, so keep a tissue handy. You will be surprised what is hiding in your head even after you think you are clear of infection. Hope this helps!


Substitute Blogger for Auntie Em!

Good morning Internet! This is Auntie Em’s youngest daughter, Sunshine, reporting live from Texas. I don’t know Mom’s usual posting schedule but in case she misses a regular, I didn’t want anyone to worry!

Mr. X is going to be JUST FINE, but he was in a motorcycle accident yesterday morning and is in the hospital now. Mom is there with him and Sis and I visited last night. So please, if you’re the praying kind, pray for my dad’s recovery and strength and stamina for my mom as she will be taking care of him!


Sunday Social at the Sasse Life!

Sweet Kim at The Sasse Life is featuring Auntie Em this week at the Sunday Social! Please hop on over and visit her blog, and some of the other party-goers! And link up your own blog while you’re there!

New to Sunday Social?
Here is how it works:
1. Please follow the Featured blogger.
2. Link up your blog’s homepage.
3. Check out some other awesome blogs that linked up.
4. Have fun & get social!
The featured blog this week Auntie Em’s Guide to Life.

Auntie Em is the bloggy alter-ego of Melinda Stanton, who is a wife to one, mom to 3, mom-in-law to 2, and choir teacher to hundreds over the past 20 years. New to and very excited about the blogging world, she feels like the old chaperone of the bunch, but she’s just glad the “young-uns” invited her to the dance! With a 30+ year marriage, a paid-off house, no debt, and independent adult children who really like their family, Auntie Em has learned some things along the way and is glad to help others learn from her experience.
Silly facts:
1.I had a 9-lb baby with no anesthesia. In four hours. This still just blows my mind. Three children– 12 hours of labor, total. I was made for childbirth. And I really would rather have a baby than get a filling.
2.;I have a large store of impractical knowledge in my head. Six wives of Henry VIII? Got ‘em. Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great grandmother? Victoria. What Queen Elizabeth I said upon being told, “The Queen is dead; long live the Queen!”? “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (way too much about the British royal family) What’s on my grocery list that I forgot at home? *blank stare*
3.My favorite color is blue. I like blue walls, carpet, ceilings, flowers, dishes, clothes, sapphires, aquamarines… I have a “blue” Pinterest board that makes me so happy!
4.I love all lots of different kinds of music. When I used to order CDs from a club, I would get classical piano, choral, 70s soft rock, bluegrass, Motown… all in one order. During one short period ; ;I was playing fiddle in bluegrass jams, piano at my church, and singing (German) Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with our Symphony Chorus!
5. ;I love to grow flowers and I love to save money, so I have been known to pinch off stems from unsuspecting plants in public places. It used to embarrass my daughters, but now they do it too!
Don’t forget to stop by Melinda’s blog.
Let’s get social!

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Auntie Em’s Board of Directors

Who influences you? Who is your role model? Whose style do you study and copy?

We all are influenced by someone. I think it is wise to examine yourself, determine where you need guidance, and then deliberately choose your role models, instead of just accepting the ones who are shoved at us day in and day out. (Paris Hilton, anyone? Maybe not.)

For Style:

I have always been very intrigued by the British Royal Family. I was born just a few months before Princess Diana, and she was one of my stars for a long time. I wore ruffles and opaque tights like she did. I coveted a sapphire and diamond ring; never got one, but I did get a really nice knock-off! I was very sad about all her personal problems, marriage breakup, and untimely death. Now I’ve shifted my style love to her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. If only I were 9 inches taller I might could pull off some of her looks! However, what I love about her besides her great fashion sense and beauty is her modesty, confidence, kindness, and sense of duty. She seems very comfortable in her skin, and those are great qualities to emulate.

In real life, my colleague at work, who is 16 years younger than I, is my role model. My guiding principle has always been comfort, and if I liked an article of clothing in 1986, then I probably still do! In our first year of teaching together, she hid my bathing suit (that I was so proud of, being able to fit in it 15 years after I bought it), then took me on a “What not to wear” shopping expedition! I also consult my daughters- I don’t want to be one of those women who, at 50, is trying to look 25, but a little fashion sense never hurt anyone!

The designer and decorator Laura Ashley managed to capture my decorating tastes completely. I bought several of her books to give me starting places. I love Shabby Chic and have recently discovered Pottery Barn.

For things spiritual: of course the authors of the Bible, but some others have influenced me too.

C.S. Lewis has written some of the best, most thought-provoking literature I’ve ever read. His children’s series (The Chronicles of Narnia– if you haven’t read them, go get them TODAY!) are perfectly entertaining as stand-alone stories, but so much deeper when you look at them through the lens of his Christianity. His Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity are 2 of my all-time favorites. He has influenced me time and again.

Andy Stanley, the senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia speaks the Truth so eloquently and creatively; every time I listen to him it’s like a V-8 moment!

For mothering: My sister. She is 5 years older than I am, and I got to spend lots of time with her and her young kids before I ever married, so I had a lot of experience going into motherhood.

For music: my piano teacher, Jay. I took lessons from him from 8th grade through college, and a bit again after all the children were here and I needed to work my brain. Then he taught both my girls, so we have maintained a close relationship. If I can’t remember the name of a piece of music, I call him and hum it; he will be able to tell me what it is!

For mental and emotional health. TeeKay of . She left her position as choir teacher to study counseling. I got her job, and the benefit of her new career! She has been a friend and mentor for 30 years now.

For cooking: My mother-in-law and Paula Deen… Use more butter!

For wisdom in decision making: Mr X. He is very level-headed, and can see all sides of a situation easily. He can anticipate problems so that we can work them out in advance, which is very hard for me. I always think everything will work out just fine!

For how to be kind and giving, and to “bloom where I’m planted”: my mother. My goodness, she was the sweetest person you could meet. She took care of people – that was how she related to everyone. She was a 2nd grade teacher, and everyone I ever knew that had her or worked with her praised her kindness. After her stroke, when she lived  alone in an apartment complex, she was the young one of the circle of little old ladies living there. She organized domino games, took them out to eat, drove them to the grocery store or ran errands for them. . When she moved into a nursing home the last 3 years of her life, she had the same sweet spirit among the residents– she was a party waiting to happen!

So dears, think about it. In what areas of you life do you need encouragement or improvement? Choose a board of directors for yourself!


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