Saturday, May 26, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Not much to say


I've been in crisis mode here at home this week so all efforts have been going toward taking care of the crisis and the little foxes.  So I wasn't able to even consider today's blog post.

I did stop by Menards this morning on the way home from getting a few groceries and was very happy to see their flowers have come way down in price.  I'm hoping to purchase some yellow flowers.  The concentration on red flowers on the deck is working, I saw my first hummingbird yesterday.  It was so delightful to see him (or her). 

So in the desire to not ramble on with little to say... I will see you tomorrow.  God willing and the creek don't rise.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Daniel Key, a review


Anne Graham Lotz has written a small book that holds wisdom received from when she was writing The Daniel Prayer.  As I read through it, I was thinking what a good gift this would be for a young Christian who is graduating as well as one who has walked with the Lord for decades.

Each chapter talks about a decision made by Daniel which caused him to walk with God in the midst of great adversity and be used by God in Babylon.

Chapters are:
  1. Faith Makes a Difference
  2. Worship Makes a Difference
  3. Loyalty Makes a Difference
  4. Prayer Partners Make a Difference
  5. Praying for Others Makes a Difference
  6. Praying God's Word Makes a Difference
  7. Attitude Makes a Difference
  8. Listening Makes a Difference
  9. A Daily Prayer Time Makes a Difference
  10. Perseverance Makes a Difference
  11. Desperate Prayers Make a Difference
  12. Values Make a Difference
  13. Focus Makes a Difference
  14. Courage Makes a Difference
  15. Confession Makes a Difference
  16. Fasting Makes a Difference
  17. Forgiveness Makes a Difference
  18. Humility Makes a Difference
  19. A Personal Relationship with God Makes a Difference
  20. Commitment Makes a Difference

I highly recommend this small jewel of a book.  The imitation leather blue cover makes it appropriate for both men and women.

The Daniel Key was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - God and a James Taylor Song


Recently I had an opportunity to view a couple episodes of Lou Giglio's teaching series from his book, Goliath Must Fall.  The first episode, which inspired today's blog post, was about the subject of fear.  I was hooked from the beginning.

To be honest, I'm not much of a worrier.  I try not to let my imagination go down a path that would cause worry.  Having said that, I do at times experience overwhelming fear.  Unlike worry, which gnaws at one's soul over time, fear can hit you in the face like an unexpected hurricane force wind.

Fear is when a family member is late getting home and you hear sirens in the distance.  Fear is when you realize you can no longer walk very far without overwhelming fatigue.  Fear is when the doctor calls with bad news or you are told you are being laid off from work.

Worry is about what could happen, fear is about what is happening.

In the first episode, Giglio teaches that it was no coincidence that God would call a worship leader to slay the giant.  David, as we know, wrote most of the Psalms and music was an important part of his story.  Giglio believes music can be an important source of strength in a time of fear.  Of course, there is much more to his teaching but I do not have hours as he did in the series.

So what does the subject of fear have to do with James Taylor?   Well, Giglio realized long ago that when he is in a battle with fear (and the giants behind it), he found faith and solace in music.  He became a Christian before modern Christian music came about and the song he turned to when he was young was... Fire and Rain by James Taylor.

So many people I know who accepted Christ at that time came from "unchurched" backgrounds. So finding faith in words from secular music would not have been a surprise. I suppose that is why for years on my itty bitty iPod, the most listened to "album" was John Denver.  He is still a favorite and when I listen to his music, while not a Christian at all, he takes me to a place where I personally can rest and hear from God.

Another source of music that can have a calming affect on me, much to my children's chagrin, is some country music.  I am convinced the music we hear in the crib stays with us all of our life and my parents were always playing a country music record.

I try to be careful not to listen to defiling lyrics but there is a lot of good stuff I can turn to. Recently I had on repeat Brook's and Dunn's amazing song called Believe (the official video is beautiful).  Believe will fill you with faith.  Another country song I love that takes me to a place of faith is the one my son chose for the mother-son dance at his wedding... Garth Brooke's The Dance.

My husband, not originally a fan of any country music, has Vince Gill's Go Rest High on That Mountain on his YouTube play list.  It is the song he wrote when his brother died and as he says in the video, has brought great comfort to many people who have lost a loved one.

My CD collection throughout the years contains quite a few secular artists but I admit that most songs I turn to in hard times are those who, without a doubt, raise up Jesus as our Redeemer, Savior, coming King.  For only Jesus can promise me that this world is not all there is and that He provides the strength to endure.

Two of the songs I return to quite often were first introduced to me by my daughter.  One is J. J. Heller's Someday and The Gray Haven's Far Kingdom (I love the entire Fire and Stone "album", very "Narnia-ish").

Come to think of it, my daughter was the one who introduced me to one of my very favorite Christian groups called Indelible Grace.  Their website has a video called Roots and Wings which shares the story behind the unusual group.  They perform modern arrangements to very old songs.  I have included a few YouTube videos of their music because there are both quieter and louder songs available.

Another favorite group I return to a lot is Selah.  I have a couple CDs that have favorite songs and I also like to listen to them on YouTube.  Some of my favorite songs are, Wonderful Merciful Savior, Before the Throne of God Above, and You are My Hiding Place.

Lanier mentioned on her website that an "album" she kept on repeat after her father died was Over the Rhine's Blood Oranges in the Snow.  It has been on my Amazon play list since then.  Like Lanier, I especially love the title song.  The words remind us to persevere.

One of the things Lou Giglio helped me to understand is that we need to have a library of sorts of faith building music to run to, especially in times we are facing the giants in our life.  Each person's play list will be as individual as they are, usually involving a mixture of various genre of music.

I know, of course, that many still love and find comfort in the old Hymns of the faith.  What I wanted to share here were some of the songs and musicians whom you may not be familiar with but I have come to run to in hard times.  There are so many more songs and artists I love but this blog post has already taken hours to write.

Someday there will come a Place where time does not exist.  In the meantime, let's enjoy music that can bring us peace and remind us of that Jesus has already paid the price, not only for sin but for fear.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Some of the YouTube videos:
James Taylor Fire and Rain (1970)... here.
Brooks and Dunn's Believe video... here.
J. J. Heller's Someday audio video... here.
Gray Haven's Far Kingdom video... here.
Indelible Grace In the Hours... here.
Indelible Grace Cling to the Crucified... here.
Indelible Grace Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul... here.
Over the Rhine's Blood Oranges in the Snow... here.
Garth Brooke's The Dance... here.
Vince Gill's Go Rest High on That Mountain... here.
Selah Wonderful Merciful Savior... here.
Selah Before the Throne of God Above... here.

Indelible Grace website... here.  (The group consists of various individual artists so various recordings may feature a mixture of artists.)

Goliath Must Fall (book)... here.*
Goliath Must Fall (Study Guide with DVD)... here.*
*Associate links

Image:  A photo from many years ago that is a favorite of mine and I know yours, too.  :)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Celebrations!


I know of friends who woke up long before the crack of dawn to watch the Royal Wedding this morning.  It wasn't going to happen here. There was a time when I was a morning person but when my son was commuting from home to college, I began to wait up for him many nights.  Late nights. 

Since then I've tended to stay up late so getting up in the wee small hours of the morning was not written in the daily planner.  I do, however, have BBC America set later today to watch their highlights.

I love to enjoy special occasions, especially when I had kids at home or friends who could pop over at the slightest talk of cake and coffee.  My pantry was filled with those items which when brought out, or baked, or assembled could provide a last minute celebration.

I don't celebrate enough these days but I still like to keep items on hand that can transform a ho hum snack into something special.  There is a drawer in the Study where items are tucked away for a "just in case" kind of event.  These include cake and cupcake decorating items (including pretty cupcake liners and and picks), sprinkles and sparkling sugar, cute paper plates and napkins, etc.

Of course I have everything necessary for a formal tea party.  A real tea party for which a lot of planning has gone into.  I love getting out the teapots, teacups, serving dishes, etc.  However, that doesn't happen often enough.  Most of the celebrations around here are fairly last minute.

Many years ago, I wrote about keeping a Hospitality Pantry.  It was mainly about keeping items on hand that could be assembled, baked, put together, etc. for last minute guests. While my hospitality is more limited these days, I still keep some of these items on hand.

I'm listing items I either store now or that I have kept in the pantry in the past. Some items are for convenience, such as a good quality brownie mix or a cake mix. When possible, I do prefer homemade baked goods either made that day or kept in the freezer but life happens and that is not always possible.

Here are a few ideas for items to keep in the pantry. 
Cake Mixes (especially confetti cake mix and yellow cake mix)
Brownie Mix (my son actually liked brownies from a mix the best)
Scone Mix
Pepperidge Farm or other high quality cookies (rotated for freshness).  ;)
Ritz or similar crackers (can be in fancy shapes or regular)

Frozen pound cake
Frozen homemade layer cakes to ice later
Frozen bread or pizza dough
Frozen puff pastry (etc.)
Frozen cookie dough, preferably homemade*
Pepperidge Farm party bread, white or whole grain baguettes, or any brand dinner rolls to make tiny sandwiches (kept in freezer)

Jar of lemon curd
Bonne Maman or other high quality strawberry jam
Jar of clotted cream (I rarely have this on hand)

Tea of all kinds, including those without caeffine
Coffee
Milk, cream, sugar, and an alternative to sugar such as Splenda
Tea to make iced tea in hot weather
Frozen lemonade in the freezer

*I don't care much for frozen cookie dough, to me it has an aftertaste.  However, I have a few cookies that work well to be frozen ahead of time, some scooped and flash frozen and others rolled into a cylinder and frozen to be later sliced and baked.  I find shortbread cookies and sugar cookies are very easy to roll, freeze, slice, and bake.

Here are a few of the recipes that I have used for parties.  

Tulip Time Brownies (also called Texas Sheet Cake)... here.
Pumpkin Bars... here.
Chocolate Cherry Cake (almost everything is in the pantry)... here.
Philadelphia Brand 9 x 13 cheesecake... here.

My very favorite scone recipe... here.
An unusual cinnamon chip scone... here.


My favorite chocolate chip cookies (dough can be frozen)... here.

Easy cucumber sandwiches... here.
Hamburger dip... here.

I hope these will give you a few ideas.  Feel free to add your favorite items which can be kept in a Hospitality Pantry in the comments!

Image:  A tea party at my house many years ago.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - A Woman's Touch


It all started when I was perusing a few friend's blogs this spring.  There was such beauty as each friend was involved in the making of Art.  There was flower arranging for a wedding, making pretty food for a shower, water color painting of flowers, seasonal decorating of the homes, and other ways to bring beauty to their world.

It reminded me of the old saying one doesn't hear these days... the addition of a woman's touch to a home or surroundings.  Perhaps it is no longer correct in today's society to say that women (as a gender) tend to care more about beauty than men but I have found it to be true.  I don't know many male dorm rooms with the first daffodils of spring in a vase on the desk.

The phrase always reminds me of the old Doris Day movie called Calamity Jane.  There is a scene where the new singer in town moves in with Calamity (Doris) and turns her bleak, dingy cabin into a thing of beauty by adding what she called "a woman's touch"... little bits and pieces of pretty here and there.  That change in Calamity's home sparked a change in her, too.  A softening so to speak.

I love the story of how Afternoon Tea came about as (allegedly) a Duchess needed refreshment in late afternoon because dinners were served so late so she began to take time for tea and snacks at 4:00.  Thus was the genesis of what we call Afternoon Tea today.

While it may have had a simple and solitary beginning, soon other women were partaking of the snacks by dressing up and getting together with dainty food and pretty china.  Now, that was a very good idea. 

My Happy Place is when the morning pot of coffee has been poured into a favorite mug with maple sugar and half & half added.  I sit in the recliner and slowly sip what has to be one of the greatest gifts God gave to man... coffee.

Having said that... I also like a cup of tea in the afternoon.  It must be the English in my DNA.  Normally I just run water through the Keurig machine and add a tea bag to a favorite cup.  This tea time is more of a quick pick me up while taking a break from housework or working on the computer.

However, once in awhile, I need to make my tea break pretty.  Especially if there is time to put the kettle on and brew tea in a teapot instead of dropping a tea bag in a mug.  I dust off a teacup from my collection or I use the "go to" tea cup and saucer kept with the mugs in the kitchen.  If I have planned ahead, there will be a couple cookies or a small slice of cake for a special treat.

In this case, it is not necessarily a women's tea break for if my husband learns I'm making a real pot of tea, I must make it in the larger yellow teapot instead of the smaller two cup pot, both of which reside on top of the microwave in the kitchen.  Especially if there are cookies or cake involved.

I appreciate the rough and tumble males of the world.  My admiration for cowboys is known by my use of Amarillo By Morning as the ringtone on my first cell phone. I can watch football with my guys while enjoying hot dogs and I have a fairly good understanding of the game. There is definitely a special place for the men in my life... my husband, son, and two very special grandsons.

However, since today is Mother's Day... I think it okay to give a special nod to the beauty that women bring to the world and to my own life.  I was blessed with a good relationship with my mother, a daughter whom I admire as well as love, and a daughter-in-law who is delightful.  Not to mention four granddaughters who already love tea time and pretty things... even the youngest, Piper.

I do hope at least part of my legacy will be that I encouraged the women coming after me to seek Beauty in each day God gives them.. and to enjoy being a girl.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Accepting help and a recipe


When one is taking a short book review break, it can become kind of quiet around here on weekdays.  However, the break is needed to do outdoor work and read two or three of my own books that have been waiting.  I will accept publisher's books again soon.

I did something this past week that I haven't done in years, perhaps decades.  I paid for help in cleaning.  If you have read this blog enough, you probably know I can't see paying anyone to do what I can accomplish for free.  That is what one does on a budget (who also has plenty of time) and eventually we gain quite a few skills we would not have otherwise.

However, the two ladies who have been helping my neighbor clear his backyard (he has an injury that makes it impossible to do the work himself right now) said they would be happy to clean my front porch for only $20.00!

It has now been years since the "white" siding on the front porch has had a thorough cleaning, it is one of my outdoor chores that I now find physically difficult.  Honestly, I kept thinking I could do it someday and in the meantime, our front porch resembled something between Ma & Pa Kettle and the Adams Family.

The ladies did far better than I expected, even cleaning the roof of the porch and since they used a diluted bleach water, the spider nests are no longer there.  I'm all for living and let live but we have these huge spiders... 

I think that is one of the best $20.00 I have ever spent.  It so inspired me that I once again made the front porch a priority for the flowers (ummm... sorry, deck) and it looks lovely.  Not perfect for cement on the porch needs a touch up but it is quite good.

I bought one really pretty hanging basket and moved it from the deck to the rock garden area in front of the porch.  The photo above shows that hanging basket and a little double begonia plant that is sitting on a hanging dish thingy that I've had for a long time.  I'm certain there is a real name for it.  Both make quite a pretty entrance.

Most years I buy one splurge item, usually a hanging basket.  A couple years ago my splurge was a large planter filled with red geraniums and I enjoyed it every day throughout summer.   Otherwise, I buy inexpensive starts of flowers and herbs and a couple bags of potting soil.  I have a lot of various sizes of flower pots collected through the years.

Speaking of the deck, the rest of the herbs should be transferred to pots today.  I was waiting for Hubby to get the flower pots out of the garden shed. They are kept in an area behind the riding lawn mower and I prefer not to break my neck getting to them.  When I was in my 30s, perhaps even 40s, I would have tried climbing over the mower.  ;)

The only flowers on the deck right now are my favorite red spiky flowers that attract hummingbirds each year.  I put three of the starts in a small rectangular flower pot and the fourth start went into the middle of a larger rectangular wooden container that is for herbs.  I couldn't see letting that extra flower start go to waste.

I will go back to the nursery in June to see what flowers they have left that I may add to the deck for color but it is good to keep everything simple.  I can handle the upkeep on the porch and deck and still enjoy watching things grow.

Our weather forecast for the next week is for way above normal temperatures.  So yes, we went from winter to summer almost overnight it seems.  I will keep chipping away at outdoor chores but in the early mornings before the heat sets in.

I can say that each spring I get a Biblical lesson all over again about the Fall of Eden and everything that came with it.  Weeds.  Trees growing where I don't want them.  Dead perennial stuff that I haven't cleared.  Sometimes condo living in a city sounds good but then we chip away at it and get it looking decent and enjoy summer nights with fireflies in the forest and all is forgiven.

I made Holiday Spaghetti for dinner last night (leftovers today) so while the oven was on, I roasted some beets for later meals.  It is to get even hotter and more humid in the next few days so preparing ahead is a good thing.

I tried a new recipe a few weeks ago and we liked it so much, it has been added to the regular hot weather menu (although it is great for cold weather, too).  I saw it on a Facebook video and since we are always trying to get more veggies in our diet, I had to try it.

You just fry a few pieces of bacon in a skillet (more if you absolutely love bacon) and remove it when it is cooked to your liking.  A little crisp is good since you need to crumble it.  Keep the bacon fat and add one chopped onion and cook until soft.  The recipe called for garlic, too.  I haven't tried that, yet.

Then add one small (or half of a large) cabbage that has been shredded and cook until the cabbage is to your liking.  We like our cabbage well cooked in this case.  Remove the mixture to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the crumbled bacon.  If you want a colcannon flavor combination, serve with mashed potatoes on the side.

The recipe is easy to double by using more bacon and a larger cabbage shredded.  However, I would pour off some of the bacon fat in that case... into a jar to be kept in the frig, of course.  Although my mom kept the bacon fat in a container on the stove and she lived to be eighty-five.  Just saying...

Mentioned in this Post
Holiday Spaghetti recipe... here.