Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Peace on Purpose

It arrives in the mailbox every month.  A reminder.  A letter from my insurance plan that tells me my health has been deemed... fragile.  The term reminds me that some things in life cannot be changed.  I have a life threatening autoimmune disease, Juvenile Diabetes.  There. Is. No. Cure. Yet

I take five shots a day, check my blood sugar, and trust that I won't leave this world until the very day and hour and minute and second He is ready to take me home.  I don't really think about it until I'm away from home and my head starts spinning because it has been too long since I last ate.  So I have to grab the granola bar or Gummie Bears out of my purse and nibble away until my heart stops pounding and the room settles. 

I can't change being a diabetic but God has been reminding me of the Truth that sometimes... not always but sometimes... my lack of peace is caused by something I can change.  

For instance, I learned something from this recent political environment. There was a time I could be in the midst of the political arena and banish the sword among the best of them.  But those days are gone as is the grace to live that life.  Now I need... peace.  Perhaps as one's body becomes more fragile, the soul needs to be treated with care.

When I would lose my peace and get tense and feel like my world was spinning out of control, God would gently remind me that it was my choice to bring this image or that article into my home.  For that is what we do when we look at any media... whether it is in the form of books or movies or TV shows or... Instagram and Facebook.

We may have no problem with God's warnings against watching immorality.  For instance, we purposely do not have any paid movie channels and while it is difficult to keep images away even on Prime Time these days (have you seen a Victoria's Secret commercial?), about the most immoral scene in my home is Tom Selleck running around Hawaii in his short shorts.  Wait a minute... just give me a moment... Magnum, sigh... okay, I'm ready to move on.

But I wasn't so selective about social media.  I followed and friended all kinds of artists and authors and chefs and cookbook authors and people who lived on homesteads and crafters who knew how to use washi tape and some people I admire.  I loved their pretty pictures and their ideas.  Mostly, that is all they talked about... those things we have in common.

Then came this last election and all of that changed.  Which is also when social media began to give me serious headaches and kept me up at night.  I think it was during one of those nights when it was far past midnight and my head was throbbing that the Holy Spirit... my Comforter, Teacher, and Friend... reminded me that I had let them into my house. I opened the door. It was my idea that they could rob my peace.

But you don't understand?  I'm nice to people who are different than me!  As a conservative Christian woman, I'm used to being in the minority on campus and in the coffee shop and when volunteering at the library and... even in some churches.

But am I used to being assaulted with words in my Living Room?  My Study?  When I've lit a candle and brewed a pot of tea and stretched out on the sofa for the evening?  Over and over and over.  I invited them into my world.  Ouch.

So I began purging Instagram and Facebook of people who were bringing on headaches.  Oh, not the bloggers and authors I care about who believe differently than I do.  I'm convinced God has us in each others lives to form that bridge where we can agree and honestly, they are all women who are full of grace and never hateful.  Which is why I like them.

No, first I unfollowed those who were downright ugly, especially those that started using profanity.  But as the weeks and months went on, I ended up unfollowing probably a third of those I originally invited into my world.  I took back my peace.  I didn't cringe when I went to view Instagram or Facebook as much as I once did.  I still follow enough networks and people who write about the news that I definitely know what is going on in the world.

Isn't it strange how guilty I felt at first, unfollowing people who do not know I exist?  Thinking it is me who is wrong in not being able to take their insults?  But then as my social media accounts began to bring peace, I no longer felt like it was me doing something wrong in not inviting just anyone into my world.

Social media is one of the only things in my life I can control.

My new standard is... if they would vex my spirit in person, why am I bringing them into my "home" via the Internet?  Into my life?  Into my mind?  The Bible tells us that Lot was "vexed" in Sodom.  Which, if you stop to think of it, meant it was really bad because he came from Ur of the Chaldees and it wasn't Mayberry!

I have always wondered why Lot didn't just leave Sodom if he was vexed all the time.  I think most likely because his wife and daughters liked it there. But Lot knew better and while he should never have moved there in the first plate, for Sodom's reputation was well known, he still had within him the teachings of the One True God that could not go away.  So he was vexed.  Each and every day.  I expect he went to bed with a pounding head more than once.

It took awhile but at least I finally listened to God and took control of what I could.  Everything else is within His Grace.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Back to Basics

When I first began this blog, I would write a post about stocking up once in awhile.  Using information from those days when I was an Admin. on a preparedness forum.  Within those posts, I would often write that having a pantry is much more than just stocking up on food and supplies, it is the very lifestyle people on the planet lived until the invention of refrigeration and canning.

Food was enjoyed in season and then much of it was prepared for the winter ahead.  Those who came before us originally preserved food by drying, salting, sugaring (is that a word?), pickling, etc..  Later housewives spent harvest seasons canning meat and produce... and many do so today.

There were no such things as Preppers back then.  Everyone was a prepper.  Even urban families would be viewed as survivalists today.  Everyone lived a lifestyle that I call a "Pantry Lifestyle".  One always, in times of harvest, had to think ahead to how they were going to get through until the time of the next harvest.  This included not only food but heat and light as well.

That's why I stopped writing posts off and on and decided to write a weekly post about living this Pantry Lifestyle.  I'm still amazed that I can think of something new to write about, which is why many posts this past year have been more orientated to "this is what I'm doing and learning right now".

So I thought it would be good today to step back to the beginning and provide links to the original stocking up posts.  Those from "way back when", ancient in blog years.  Should you desire, you can click on the links and go back to the basics.  :)

I'm having Internet issues so I hope to get this published and return tomorrow with the Sunday Afternoon Tea post.  We've had a lot of rain and the DSL cables seem to not appreciate getting soggy, not to mention we are on what is the equivalent of an Internet Party Line here in the country and weekends are when a lot of people are vying for the DSL.  It slows down a lot.

My original Stocking Up posts... here.

My original Pantry Talk posts... here.

While most posts are stand alone, there is some overlapping of posts between the two titles.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Talk: Reading Edith Schaeffer

I've had a lot of questions from people who have never read an Edith Schaeffer book as to what to read first.  I think it is a good idea to go back to the foundations, to really understand the affect the Schaeffer's had on the Evangelical Church in the 1960s, 1970s, and even after Francis' death in the 1980s... well into the 21st Century. Their combination of Francis' apologetics and Edith's hospitality made L'Abri a very special place.

A lot of Christian leaders my age were deeply influenced by them, as well as many who worked (and still work) in government.  For Francis taught how important it was for Christians to be "salt and light" in every aspect of life, including politics. At one time, there was a Schaeffer Bible Study in Washington that lasted for years.  So to understand their work, I'd first read L'Abri, which I think was Edith's first book and the story of the beginnings of the ministry.

One of her later books was their autobiography, The Tapestry, which is much larger and takes you well into the 1980s.  I have recommended it many times to people in ministry as it shares a lot of their struggles as well as "successes" through the years.

At one time, L'Abri was probably her most famous book, until Hidden Art was published in paperback as The Hidden Art of Homemaking.  Which was a title she didn't care for but the publisher wanted, I think the publisher was right on that change.  For it was a bestseller for ages and is still in print today.   I used to read it a couple times a year but I still read it through once a year.  While it is now a little dated, it never ceases to spark my desire to live a creative life.  Especially in the day-to-day journey.

What Is a Family was her other book that I read again a couple times a year.  In it, she talks about family life in every aspect.  It is the kind of advice one rarely finds these days in books about the family as some would call it dated... long before the time social media and playgroups were even thought of, much less a part of everyday life.  However, this book takes you to the foundations of family life and very much in "Edith" style... with creativity mixed with good theology.

With Love, Edith: The L'Abri Family Letters 1948-1960 and Dear Family: The L'Abri Family Letters 1961-1968 are two books consisting of Edith's "Family" letters which were sent out first to their family and small group of supporters and eventually to thousands of people around the world who supported L'Abri.

I enjoyed these books very much, she is an excellent letter writer and these bring you into their world I think even more than their autobiography.  She always said that she wrote her letters so that her mother could actually feel a part of their world, even when thousands of miles away.  These book are the other two I plan to reread soon.  They are out-of-print and were once pricey but now there are a lot of inexpensive copies available third-party at Amazon.

They are especially interesting in that the Schaeffer's arrived in Europe at the end of WWII and you get a good look at how much Europe suffered in the Post WWII years.  It was still difficult to get healthy food to feed a family when they arrived.

Christianity Is Jewish is one of her lesser known books but is excellent for understanding the how the Old Testament is a foundation for the New Testament.  I went through a few years where I studied mainly the Old Testament since I didn't grow up knowing many Bible stories.  This book has been out-of-print but there are a lot of good used copies available.

Affliction is an excellent book to read about suffering.  Edith covers many different ways people suffer and shares her own stories of those times she had to depend on God to get through a time of affliction.

Forever Music is the book Edith wrote after the death of her husband and how music in general and a gifted Steinway in particular brought her through the process.  It includes the story of how a Steinway piano is crafted as well as the importance of music to the soul.

There are other Edith books, a few I own and others I once owned but gave away.  A few are like A Way of Seeing and are compilations of articles and essays assembled into one book.  I enjoy these because they consist of various themes and subjects.

The Schaeffers were definitely not perfect people and like every family, mistakes were made.  Their son Franky has written a scathing book about his parents and while most people say it is not correct (Os Guinness wrote a famous rebuttal*), what everyone does agree on is that Franky was neglected since he was born late in life, when the Schaeffers were traveling together a lot for ministry.

The difference between the way the girls were raised as an important part of the ministry from childhood to their son being left with other people to care for him is definitely a warning to other parents of the importance of building relationships in the early years.

Speaking of their children, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay wrote a book, For the Children's Sake, which introduced the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling to a new generation and was very influential (along with Karen Andreola's book, A Charlotte Mason Companion) in the way I homeschooled.

Mentioned in this Post (oh, my... a lot!)
L'Abri... here.
 The Hidden Art of Homemaking... here.
What is a Family... here.
Dear Family... here.
With Love, Edith... here.
Christianity is Jewish... here.
Affliction... here.
Forever Music... here.
A Way of Seeing... here.

For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay... here.

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola... here.

*Os Guinness' review of Franky Schaeffer's book, Crazy For God... here.

 Disclaimer: Most links to are Associate Links.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Life on Purpose Reflections

My literary mentor, Edith Schaeffer.

September was the reset month when there was schoolwork in the midst of our years.  These days, with both kids long ago graduated from college, it is once again January which clears the air.  January gives me a fresh calendar (a few, actually), and lets me hit the reset button on what is commonly viewed as... a life.

God created planets and a sun and a moon and stars and He threw in Time and Space and mixed them all together to form a calendar... that was absolutely brilliant.  God will continue to amaze me throughout Eternity.  How well He understands His creation.  We need to know where we are in our journey on this planet and a calendar can focus our attention to lots of Truths.  Not the least of which is how fast that thing we call Time flies by.

I usually take birthdays with grace, just being glad for another year on the planet.  However, turning sixty really shook me.  While the birthday weekend spent in Western Michigan... one of my favorite places on the planet, with my very favorite people on the planet... was lovely and filled with joy, I was in a bit of a fog thinking about reaching that decade.  Sixty.  Where did forty and fifty go?

I remember my mother's sixtieth birthday.  I remember reading a book by Edith Schaeffer when I was a bride and thinking how old she was when she wrote about turning sixty that year.  Sixty is not the new forty.  One still lives a lot of years to reach sixty... and it can be rather strange when we can't remember many of those days, much less entire years.

I think I was in my late teens, it had to be as I wasn't married, attending a rather large meeting filled with mostly older Christians.  I was half listening to a conversation going on beside me when I realized the subject was quite interesting.  Even to one so young.  They were talking about how the older they get, the more they realize this life is a schoolroom for the next... our very preparation for Eternity.

That was hard to take in when you are still a teenager and a new Christian.  Now I understand what they were saying... and why I have to continue to draw close to the Lord while... giving my younger self a lot of grace.

I know I don't have to repent over and over when I've asked God's forgiveness.  But I still cringe when I think of things from the past, especially when I said something or judged someone or acted in an ungodly manner.  However, when I talk to Him about these things, He always asks me the same question.  Every. Single. Time.

Did you learn from the experience?

For you see, He doesn't expect us to walk through this life always doing the perfect thing.  Only Jesus lived that life.  However, as we grow in wisdom and knowledge of His Word, He does expect us over the years to learn from past mistakes... and trials... and blessings.  Life is indeed a learning experience.  His goal is for us to become more like Jesus and a lifetime is only the beginning.  We are to grow every year, learning what He teaches through people, circumstances, and His Word.

I've been thinking a lot about the basics the past few weeks, going back to the people who mentored me when I was young... some in real life but a lot in books.  I was very blessed in those early years to be surrounded by excellent teachers who introduced me to my literary mentors, especially Edith Schaeffer.

She had the greatest influence on the way my life would be shaped.  Others, of course, through the years were important... but she was my role model of what a Christian woman should look like.  Never perfect, for she was the first to admit she and Francis were far from perfect.  But having said that... still a role model that has proven wise in my now 60+ years.

Which is why, in my new-to-me-thrifted cabinet, the bottom shelf contains all my Edith books.  I have gone back to the beginning and I'm now re-reading some titles that I haven't picked up in years.  Back to what started it all.  Back to the time I've forgotten. I want to return to the beginning in a literary sense and reread some of the books now, from the same age she was when she wrote them. 

Of course, there is the usual beginning of the year cleaning and decluttering going on.  All of the drawers in the Study have been cleaned and reorganized.  The drawers in the hutch have had a very good cleaning and tweaking, with the cloth napkins getting a washing this year.  Last year it was the vintage tablecloths which were sent through the washer and dryer.

Two sacks of stuff I don't need (including half the cloth napkins) are in sacks waiting for the next time I'm driving past the Mission's thrift store.  That's another part of life's changes.  What we needed (or at least we thought we needed) at one time is not important now so let's give it to charity for someone else to use and clear our own clutter.

So... besides reading Hidden Art this week (aka: The Hidden Art of Homemaking in paperback), what else is on the agenda?  I need to make a few lists to sort out the jumble of thinking going on, to take pen to paper and organize... not a drawer... but my brain.  There was a time I could type a letter and answer the phone and talk to a kid at the same time but these days... if I don't write something down it tends to go... poof!

This week I will make lists. January is the perfect time for the making of lists... and the pondering of life.  Which often results in the making of lists... and blog posts.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle- My Two Biggest Pantry Mistakes

People have asked me many times about how my pantry works.  It's fairly easy, it consists of two sets of heavy duty shelves in the garage (and the deep freeze), which at the moment are becoming less full on purpose.

Right now I'm in the midst of a major redo caused by two big mistakes which overlapped, causing chaos in the pantry.  I thought I'd share a bit, perhaps helping someone else to avoid making the mistakes that I should have seen coming.

First, I let my husband take over the pantry a couple years ago.  At the time, he was going to food pantries and it seemed logical that he be the one to keep our pantry organized.  What happened was that he would go to a pantry and bring home what he was given, even if it was something we didn't use.  His theory was that... should we need them... the extra food would be a good thing.

Now, if you have read my pantry postings long enough, you know that my number one rule for the pantry is to only have in it what your family eats.*  Not someday.  Not maybe.  Now.  For should you ever need to live from your pantry, as I have done during times of unemployment, you will want available what you are used to eating.

The pantry ended up looking full but in reality, it was full of items I didn't use.  To make it worse, I couldn't keep track of what I did need.  For instance, one day I needed pinto beans for making chili and when I went to the shelves that had beans, they were all garbanzo.  He knew I liked hummus so he brought home garbanzo beans, not thinking that I rarely actually made hummus but I did make chili.

(I finally convinced him that, while food pantries were good for some people, they were not for us.  Much of the food given out by the big pantries are high carb and/or processed and we both have special diets.  The time spent waiting in line at pantries could be better used in other ways.)

The second mistake I made and that I'm still cleaning up from... letting the mouse situation get out of hand.  We have always had a mouse or two get in the garage, it is something you live with when you are near fields and forests.  However, I began to notice more mouse droppings than usual and then within about a month, they were EVERYWHERE!

We had never had mice on the top shelves before and one day I heard one when I was in the garage.  Later, when I knew they were not there, I checked the top shelves and they had eaten through every package and boxed item we had stored there.  I had to throw everything away, including those they hadn't eaten through because... they were obviously not in good condition.

What happened was, they had found a place to nest and there were baby mice growing up!  Yeah, it gives me the willies, too.  Even today when I go out into the garage, I pound on plastic to hear if there is rustling in the area.  My husband says I remind him of the scene from The Parent Trap when Dad's new fiance is told to bang sticks to keep mountain lions away.  Except these varmints are real.  Tiny but real.

I'm beginning to get control of the situation with various store bought mouse killers.  We cannot bring in a professional for 1) they are out of budget and 2) we cannot have any chemicals that go airborne in the house.

So it is all leaving me with putting on a mask and cleaning right now.  Hubby will do the rest when he gets over a big project.  I also have had to wash every can exposed to the mice.  Lot of work when I already need to get everything accomplished a little at a time.

I am glad all of this happened when we weren't dependent on the pantry for all food.  I ended up throwing away (sob) about a hundred dollars worth of food but it could have been far worse.

Lessons Learned
  1. Only the person doing the primary cooking and meal planning should be in charge of the pantry.  Others can assist but only the cook knows what has to be stocked and what is the priority for the budget.
  2. Make certain every item in the pantry is protected from varmints, insects, etc. as much as possible.  Our bottom shelves contain Rubbermaid style containers and everything on those shelves is stored in them, including bags of flour, sugar, pasta, dried beans, etc.  Now I know the top shelves need the same consideration.
  3. I am going to cover the canned goods to keep them clean from not only varmints but dirt and dust.  I do have a couple shelves closest to the door where I keep the items I use a lot and as long as I keep an eye for signs of varmints, they should be able to stay there without being covered.
  4. I only have a few buckets, mainly wheat purchased for bread making.  They already were stored with oxygen absorbers to keep the bugs out.  Also, every bag of flour goes into the deep freeze for a couple weeks before putting in the pantry.  I know some people freeze and defrost them twice but so far (over lots of years), just freezing them that initial two weeks has kept them from getting buggy.
  5. Have on hand the items you need for keeping food safe (whether mouse traps or oxygen absorbers).  I should have dealt with the mice immediately and I kept forgetting to put DEATH TO RODENTS on the grocery list.

Remember:  It is far better to have a small pantry with items you use all the time than a large pantry with items you may end up not using at all!  

If you do want to deepen your pantry for possible emergency situations and you don't want to have to keep a close watch on items, then you need to prepare your stored food for long term storage.  For instance, just pouring converted rice in a bucket is fine for the short term but it needs an oxygen absorber if you want to keep it on a shelf unopened any length of time.

If you want an even easier way to store food for an emergency, then food prepared for long term storage is the way to go.  I'd purchase from companies that have been around a long time and only make emergency food products.  I can't recall what brand my can of eggs are (they were a much appreciated gift!) but I do know my dried milk brand (listed below).

Dried milk which has not been prepared for storage has a short shelf life, especially if it is kept somewhere it gets hot and damp, such as a garage.  It is also very susceptible to varmints and bugs.  I also had aseptic boxes of milk go bad before the use by date and I've heard of mold growing in boxes of aseptic juice if stored too long. So I no longer have them on the pantry shelves, only in the kitchen cabinets when I plan to use them soon.

So unless you rotate boxes and use it a lot, dried milk is one item that is best purchased for storage.  The brand I use is from a country known for milk production that is almost as good as being certified organic.  It makes great cream for one's coffee when less water is added and I have used it to make hot chocolate mix.

As I've written before, I have purchased Mountain House pouches for grab and go bags.  For families and to feed multiple people, they do sell some of their items in #10 cans, which protect them and make for a longer shelf life.  Some are only available in pouches, which are lightweight and have around a ten year shelf life but must be protected from rodents.

If you do decide to purchase a #10 can for emergency preparedness storage of any brand, I'd suggest trying the food in a pouch (if available) first to see if you like it.  I loved a few Mountain House meals, didn't care for others.  So by trying a few first,  I now know the food I have in the grab and go bags is what we would actually eat.

We live in precarious times and a pantry is still the best insurance you can have... for everyone still needs to eat.  My pantry now is much smaller than when I had more disposable income and lived in a large house with a small room in the basement acting as a pantry.  But a little will be a whole lot better than nothing at all!

Sigh... live and learn.  Over and over again.

Items mentioned in this post:
  1. Peak Instant Dry Whole Milk 900-grams... here
  2. Peak Instant Dry Whole Milk 400-grams... here.
  3. Mountain House Homestyle Chicken Noodle Casserole... here. (This pouch is cost effective because it feeds two easily.)
  4. Mountain House Beef Stew in a #10 can... here.  (The book I read about the dad and daughter in Alaska talked about this product as being a favorite.)
Disclaimer: Most links to are Associate Links

*Except what may be purchased for long term food storage and even then, it should be the kind of food the family already eats.  If the kids don't like beans now, they may not eat them later.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson, a review

I rarely write a review for a book before the publish date but I'm happy to break my own rule for this book.  From the time I first heard it was to be Sally's next book, I have anticipated reading it.  The subtitle of this book is The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him.  As one who made the choice to pull her own different kid out of school for good in third grade and bring him home... I knew this would be interesting.

Different is a book that deals with behavior challenges such as ADHD and mental illness in a thoughtful and Scriptural perspective.  This is not a clinical how-to book, nor do Sally and Nathan give you a list of 10 Easy Steps for raising a child with behavior and/or mental health issues. It is gritty and honest and at the same time... inspiring.

It is best described as a story... written from the perspective of the one suffering through being different and the mother who helped him along the way. Which makes this a remarkable book for anyone raising a child who does not fit the norm because we read about what Nathan was feeling in one chapter and how Sally responded in another.

Nathan is a talented writer and he takes the reader into the mind of one who suffers.  Different may help you understand what your child is going through a little better and will definitely provide a perspective of his behavior from the child's viewpoint.

Sally shares the wisdom God provided on how to raise such a child, whether it is playing with Legos while he listens to her read (we did the very same thing) or allowing him to listen to music she didn't care for because it helped him concentrate.  My son listened to Apocalyptica play Metallica music.  With headphones.

Which also brings up the subject as to how other people judge the different child and the decisions parents have made, even God given answers.  Sally and Nathan tell the stories honestly, for society in general does not have patience with the out-of-the-box child and unfortunately... the Church can be just as difficult a place for them.  I have experienced this first hand as the mother of a severely ADHD child and the wife of a bipolar (manic depressive)/OCD husband.

Different is one of those books that will prove "we read to know we're not alone".  It will educate you, encourage you, and give you hope.  It will help you to continue on today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day.  For anyone who is on this journey knows there is grace given one day at a time.  It will give you the courage to continue on when you want to give up.

Our boys are the same age and both are using their giftedness the way God intended.  Both still have to find ways to deal with the challenges they face.  However, both are living testimonies that God not only can use out-of-the-box kids but that their afflictions helped form them into the young men God intended them to become.

I highly recommend this book to the obvious reader... the parent of an "out of the box" child.  However, this book will help grandparents, brothers, sisters, and other family member to perhaps understand more than they do today.  It is also a book I would give to a teenager who suffers from a behavior or mental health condition for it is extremely important they know they are not alone.

Sally and her son, Joel, have written an accompanying study book titled A Different Kind of Hero: A Guided Journey Through the Bible's Misfits that I also recommend.  It would make an excellent choice to study for parents with their children, youth groups, Sunday School classes, and even for people who need to see themselves more clearly in the Word.

I have a feeling this will turn out to be the most important book Sally has written, alone or with another person.  For there are a lot of outside-the-box kids and adults who need to read it.  I encourage you to preorder it today!

Books Mentioned in this Post
  • Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him... here
  • A Different Kind of Hero: A Guided Journey Through the Bible's Misfits... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Favorite Cookbooks of 2016

Once again, these only include the books I either purchased or reviewed this past year. They also don't include review cookbooks I passed on to friends or family members since I don't have them available to look at before writing. The order is only the way I pulled them off the shelf. Most are showing my preference these days for cookbooks with prose and photos.

When I do purchase books on Amazon with credit, most of the time they are cooking and craft books.  Although I realized I didn't buy any new decorating or crafting books this past year, which is why none are included.

Homestead Kitchen: Stories and Recipes From our Hearth to Yours by Eve and Elvin Kilcher is a must have for fans of Alaska The Last Frontier.  I didn't start watching the show until it had been on about a year or so but once I did, I was hooked!  Elvin is one of the sons of the family showcased in the program and the way Elvin and Eve raise a young family off the land in the wilderness is one of the reasons I watch the show.  I've had a longing to live off the land since watching my first Wilderness Family movie in the 1970s.  ;)

While I enjoy the stories told in the book very much, it is also loaded with good "from scratch" recipes and photos.  Obviously, some of the ingredients are those I don't have access to but there are plenty of great ideas that I can use.  They had me on the nasturtium vinaigrette.  This was a great purchase with a promo-code discount.

Kitchen Gypsy by Joanne Weir can best be described as a "memoir with recipes".  I have long enjoyed Weir's PBS cooking shows and being able to read the story of her life and travels was a lot of fun.  It was particularly interesting to learn how various people influenced her cooking through the years, beginning with her mother and grandparents.

As you can imagine from a chef who worked at Chez Panisse (the Forward is by Alice Waters), the ingredients are both fresh and flavorful.  Most of the recipes are easy for anyone having cooking experience and all have Weir's flare for making the ordinary just a little unusual.  I learned to try new ideas in the kitchen from her and most worked out just fine.

I wanted Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South since I looked through it at Barnes & Noble one day.  First of all, I love the PBS show, A Chef's Life.  It took me awhile to warm up to it in the beginning but I knew it had potential.  These past few seasons have been very enjoyable.

At first I wasn't sure I'd want this cookbook because it is pricey, I don't cook with North Carolina ingredients, and her show... and book... is ingredient based.  That's where perusing it changed my mind.  For one thing, this is a huge cookbook.  Chances are anyone can find a lot of recipes in it.  I know from the show that Vivian Howard likes to use ingredients in unusual ways so I was surprised at how many good, old fashioned, basic country style recipes are in the book.

Each recipe has not only a photo but an accompanying story.  I love that!  Because each chapter is Ingredient based, it is also easy to look through when I want an idea for something to do with that ingredient.  While I will never use the chapter on say... oysters... I will definitely be coming back to tomatoes and eggs and cucumbers (especially the Fancy Sandwiches), and beets, and... you get the idea.

So how did I come to purchase it?  A lovely aligning of the stars with an already good Holiday price on Amazon, a $10.00 promo-code, and Amazon credit available.  Yes!

The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson has been around for a couple of years but I didn't purchase it until this past year.  It has been on my Wish List for ages after seeing photos of the inside of the book and having cooks I trust online rave about it.

It's definitely an eye candy cookbook that one can drool over as the Winter winds are howling outside the window... as they are now.  Brrrrr...  But I have been adding a few vegetarian cookbooks to my shelves and decided this would be a good one. It is loaded with great ideas and recipes (which are often just ways of assembling fresh fruit and veggies).

She has a kid's cookbook that I've heard is good but takes a lot of recipes from this one.  Her brand new cookbook, which centers around entertaining large crowds, is getting rave reviews.  But this basic cookbook is fine for me.  It will get more use once seasonal fruit and veggies are available again.

The Love and Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking is another ingredient based vegetarian cookbook with lots of colorful photos.  It is by blogger Jeanine Donofrio of the Love and Lemons food blog, which was a winner of Saveur's Best Cooking Blog Award.

This book also kept coming up on favorite food blogs and what everyone raved about was not the recipes (although they look very good), but the two page layouts that give basic ingredients of favorite foods and then adds variations.  In color.  In photos.  Amazing.

The two page layouts in the back of the book are:  Pesto, Hummus, Guacamole, Salsa, and Smoothies. They all begin with the most traditional ingredient recipes and then give suggestions from there.  This book has more Winter friendly recipes than The Forest Feast.  I have a few of the cauliflower recipes marked to try soon.

French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from A Village in the Vineyards by Mimi Thorisson.  If one goes on readability and gorgeous photos alone, then this is definitely a case of saving the best for last.  This was the first cookbook I ever read all the way through after receiving it.

I liked Mimi's first book called A Kitchen In France but I absolutely loved this book.  In it, she tells the story of their purchase of a rundown chateau and the "pop up" restaurant they run off and on.  But it is also the story of a family that loves good food, dogs, kids, and their home in France.

Reading it was enjoyable and the photos, taken by her professional photographer husband, are gorgeous.  This is indeed the perfect book to read mid-winter.  It is one of those rare cookbooks that I don't care if I every try one of the recipes, although I do plan to soon, it would be worth the purchase just to read it as a novel.  It was a good day when I decided to review it!

Items mentioned in this post:
  • Homestead Kitchen... here.
  • Kitchen Gypsy... here.
  • Deep Run Roots... here.
  • The Forest Feast... here.
  • The Love and Lemons Cookbook... here.
  • French Country Cooking... here.
  • The Adventures of the Wilderness Family Trilogy DVD... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate Links.
I know you will ask:  I found all my Amazon promo book discounts on Modern Mrs. Darcy's updates on her blog... here.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Still Trying to Live Life on Purpose

A couple months ago, the phrase Living Life on Purpose began to float to the top of my thinking. The phrase first started coming to me when we were living in the Detroit area.  I kept thinking of it and it seemed everywhere I turned in my reading, someone was writing about the same topic.  Isn't that often the way it is when God is trying to get our attention?

Surprisingly, Detroit was an oasis in a desert which covered a few years of intense trials.  I didn't want to move there, once saying it was the last place on earth I would want to live!  God must have chuckled at that one.  We went there to follow my husband's job after a season of unemployment... and unbeknownst to me... before a span of time which would bring the greatest trials I have faced.

My husband traveled part of every week and our one car was usually parked at the Detroit airport, which is actually between the City and Ann Arbor.  It's odd how I would look back on that time with fondness for almost everything we needed was within a mile's walk of where we lived.  Christopher and I would walk to the nearby diner for breakfast once a week and to different restaurants for lunch once or twice a week. 

A drug store was on the corner and a family owned shop selling vegetables, meat, and milk was next to it.  Even the specialist who diagnosed me as Type 1 diabetic was within walking distance.  We tried rarely to be out past dark, for that is when it was indeed dangerous.  There was a reason there was bullet proof glass at the ATM, gas stations, and even some of the fast food places.  The racial boundaries were clear, especially as one came closer to 8 Mile Road, and the tensions were... and continue to be... on high alert.

When my husband was home, we would often go out as a family, visit the zoo, stop by a bookstore, search for Beauty outside the sidewalks and asphalt of our more urban neighborhood. I can't say I wanted to live there the rest of my life for at heart I need trees and the occasional cornfield to be happy.  But it was more than fine for a couple of years, in the midst of a million people on my block alone... in the time of 9/11... He taught me a lot about being quiet and slowing down and focusing on what He was saying.

I came to understand why God was encouraging me to think about living life on purpose... to ponder carefully what I was doing and why, reading His Word and listening for that Still Small Voice.  My life was in the midst of serious changes and He wanted to make certain I could follow His direction and depend on His character in the midst of the hurricane force winds of adversity.

Much of what I learned in those years became the basis of the writing I did in the beginning of this blog.  The Year at the Pond followed the time in Detroit.  That was the year of trials so intense, I felt completely unteathered from life as I'd ever known it.  It was the between year when all I could cling to was His Word and Character.  It was the year I had to remind myself to breath.

So I was a little unsettled when... after years of giving me a Word for the Year... He once again gave me this phrase.  Although tweaked a bit from the original, the meaning is still very clear.  God willing and the creek don't rise, in the weeks to come we will unfold the meaning together of what the phrase means in 2017.

I have some ideas already, which will make their way from pen keyboard to paper screen beginning next week.  This will require more thinking and praying and outlining and draft writing than I have done the past few years for Sunday Afternoon Tea.  But I think the times in which we live call for that.  For Aslan is on the move and we need to hear His roar.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - After the Holidays

As I'm writing this Saturday morning, I am nibbling a piece of dark chocolate with orange (for my health, you know) and listening to Michael Card's Starkindler CD.  One of the songs on the CD is Morning Has Broken and that is the way I felt when walking out to get the morning paper on this very very cold morning. 

I love that shade of blue the sky turns only in Winter, especially with a layer of snow on the ground... and then throw in the neighbor's red barn... well, how could one not smile?  Even if one is sitting in the Study with layers of clothing and wool socks borrowed from the husband's sock drawer.  Brrrr...  Note to self: purchase a couple pairs of wool socks for me.

We keep it cool in the house during the Winter's chill so we can run the air conditioning all we need to in the Summer's heat.  We are on the budget plan so it evens itself out in the end and we both agree that we need AC more than a warm house.  Both of us have health issues (me as a diabetic, he with environmental allergies) that make that an easy decision.

As for the pantry, I was able to stock the freezer with ground beef, whole chickens, a large pork roast sliced in half for two  meals, a turkey, a couple packages of sausage, and some frozen veggies in December.  I decided to make meat protein a priority and work out from there.  For instance, whole chickens can be baked and then soup made and enough meat left for another use unless one has a new kitty in the house and bribes her with chicken.

I don't know how it was where you live but I noticed a huge lack of after Christmas sales in the grocery stores.  Except for Aldi's, which had good clearance prices on Christmas related food, there were few clearance sales after the Holidays in the three grocery stores I frequent.  I did find some stock up prices at Thanksgiving but I didn't find baking supplies on clearance after Christmas.  That is when I usually stock up for the year.

Grocery stores here are definitely not overstocking basic foods at the Holidays as they once did.  Even such things that are usually half price after Christmas such as gift baskets, candy, etc. was only 30% off at the stores.

Instead, I bought two bags of King Arthur AP flour when it went on a good sale and I will purchase regular white sugar at Sam's Club.  I don't use nearly as much white sugar as I once did.  However, it is not only needed for baking recipes but sugar makes a good barter item should you be interested in such things. 

Meijers eventually had Pillsbury Christmas sugar cookie dough on a 75% off clearance (plain sugar cookie dough that one can decorate) so I bought a few for the deep freeze.  They will be perfect for baking and covering with homemade icing later. I did stock up on Christmas Ziploc containers, both small and medium sizes, when they went on clearance for a fraction of the original price.  I'm sure no one will be upset if cookies or leftovers are sent home in a red container at Easter. 

One of my Pantry goals this year is to purchase something for the pantry (even if it is a small purchase) each week is that there remain many reasons a pantry may be needed this year.  Everyone needs a good pantry just to keep them from making a quick run to the grocery store in the middle of a recipe! 

We've already experienced icing conditions that made it difficult to get to the store but news reports are full of stories about people in the Southern parts of the United States standing in long lines at the grocery store as heavy snowfall is predicted in areas which rarely see snow at all.

This is part of the logic of having a pantry... why not purchase items you know you will need and have them sitting on your shelf instead of Kroger's where one has to hope there is enough to go around and stand in long lines.  As an aside... I purchase bread, milk, eggs, fresh veggies, etc. if I need them at the first hint there may be bad weather on the way. If a snowstorm is expected on Friday, usually the stores are still not crowded on Wednesday morning.

I have a container of dried eggs, a few containers of dried milk, a few dehydrated fruits and veggies, canned items, etc. should they be needed but living in an area where we know a storm is on the way... it only makes sense to assume the worse and make a few minor purchases.  We live on a very tight fixed income but at the beginning of each month, I tuck back a $10.00 or $20.00 bill for such emergencies.

Always remembering that we can do something even if we can't do everything to prepare for unexpected emergencies, whether they are a loss of income or a Zombie Apocalypse.   It is not a lack of faith to prepare for "what ifs", it is wisdom.  Our great grandparents would have thought it crazy not to have a pantry, even if it was only filled with beans and rice.  And coffee.

Since I have been asked, Florentine is slowly coming out of her shell but I'm thinking it may take a awhile for her to fully learn to trust people.  She has definitely been slapped around for even when we start to pet her, she is afraid when there is a hand near her.  It is cute that she isn't afraid when we are going to sleep for then she curls up next to one of us, usually my husband, and goes to sleep.  She is slowly getting curious about other parts of the house but she spends most of her days on a fleece blanket I folded up and put at the foot of our bed.  Her safety zone.  :) 

Mentioned in this Post:
Starkindler by Michael Card... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to are Associate Links.
Image: Sharing Grandma's Cookies

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

I write down the titles of most of the books I read in a journal (I'm certain I forgot to write at least a few titles) so it is easy to go back and view the books read over a year.  What this list shows me is that it's a good thing I review books or I'd probably rarely read a new nonfiction book!  Most of them on my list are there because they were reviewed.

The list is in order of when they were read during the year and they have to be first time reads to be included.  I'd say half of my list for 2016 were rereads.  Also, I plan to write a separate list for cooking and craft books next week.  I chose only ten books for simplicity.

So here they are, my 10 favorites for 2016!  

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
I liked this book better than her first, it speaks more to an American audience.  This time she recognizes people are going to keep items that have no use whatsoever other than the person enjoys having them around.  I got rid of fabric and craft supplies I knew I'd never use again after reading her first book.  This one inspired another major decluttering session.  Original review and link... here.

The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Clarkson (now Sarah Fink-Jensen)
I can't tell you how many times when I've emailed Sally, I mentioned how I'd love to read an Edith Schaeffer Hidden Art of Homemaking style book written by her.  After reading this one, I'm glad she waited until Sarah could co-write the book.  For it is their combined thoughts and ideas that make this book extra special.  Original review and link... here.

Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy 
In this book, Christie writes beautifully of our longing for home and the importance a house (or any dwelling) can be to a person.  It begins when Christie and her family move into the home they live in now, an old home with history and needing a lot of love, and covers their first year in the house.

However, it is more than just a story of a house.  It is about needing roots in our life and searching for a place to belong.  It is about being a family and becoming a neighbor.  Beautifully written!  More info... here.

Celia's House by D. E. Stevenson
I can't remember if it was Celia's House or Listening Valley which was a gift from my friend, Kristi.  She knew I loved other Stevenson books which take place in the same part of Scotland.  Celia's House, too, is the story of a house, a place, and a family.

I had read Listening Valley first and while not a sequel, it takes place in the same town with many of the same people.  So after I read Celia's House, I reread Listening Valley and found it even more enjoyable the second time around as I now knew the old stories.  I will always be thankful to Kristie for introducing me to D. E. Stevenson!  More info on Celia's House... here.  More info on Listening Valley... here.

I'm counting the two as one book on the list because I feel they belong together, even though I read one of them in 2015.

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz
This is an excellent book on prayer in general and specifically when we pray as if our very existence depends on it.  It is easy to read and gave me a lot to think about.  Anne writes beautifully so believe me, this is not a boring book about prayer.  Original review and link... here.

Martha's Vineyard: Island of Dreams by Susan Branch
I had loved the first book in this series called A Fine Romance: Falling in Love With the English Countryside.  It is one of the books I'd take with me if I moved to a desert island!  However, I didn't care for the second in the series called The Fairy Tale Girl at all.  It concentrated on Susan's rather wild past and though I enjoyed reading about her family and her childhood, I didn't find reading about her love life all that edifying.  I'm glad I read it but I ended up giving my copy to the mission's thrift store.

Having said that, I wasn't sure what to expect from Martha's Vineyard: Island of Dreams but I enjoyed it very much.  It takes up where The Fairy Tale Girl ended, when Susan moved to Martha's Vineyard after her first husband left her for another woman.  This includes the story of how Susan began painting, how her first cookbook came to be published. how she met Joe (much of that story is in A Fine Romance), and how she came to love Martha's Vineyard.  I kept this book!  More info... here.

Braving It: a Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell
This book was one of my surprise joys of 2016.  It is the story of Campbell, an author and journalist, and his teenage daughter going to Alaska not once... but twice.  The first trip was for an entire season when they stayed with Campbell's relative Heimo Yupik and his wife, Edna.  If you watch The Last Alaskans, you will already be familiar with Heimo and Edna, who are one of the couples featured in the show.

The second trip was a rafting trip down one of Alaska's dangerous rivers.  I said in my original review that the real hero of this story is the wife and mother who finally allowed it to happen.  For both trips were filled with dangerous situations.  Which makes this a fabulous story to read.  Disclaimer:  Some "language" so if that bothers you, be forewarned.  Original review and link... here.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon
This is the story of a graduation, a wedding, and the coming of age of Father Tim's adopted son.  It is a must read for Mitford fans as we continue to find out what happens to the characters we love so much.  If there is one flaw in the book, it is that so much is crammed into one volume.  However, that was easy for me to overlook and I enjoyed the story very much.  More info... here.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
This book has been on my To Read list for absolutely ages.  I'm not sure what took me so long but it was a good day when I used Amazon credit to purchase a "good used hardback copy" of the novel.  We follow Hannah from childhood through her elderly years and by doing so, we also see how the world changes in that time. 

It took me awhile to read, not because it is difficult but honestly because of how Wendell Berry weaves her story intertwined with world events.  In fiction form, Berry shows us much of his love of the land and his concern for what "progress" has done to both people and the land. I can see why so many readers have it as an all time favorite, it easily was added to my own favorites list... to be reread soon.  More info... here.

How's Your Soul by Judah Smith
This was probably the most surprising book of all my 2016 favorites.  It came on the heels of reading a Christian Living book that I found very disappointing but then again... I haven't been fond of many books in that genre for awhile.  They were either too shallow, too much like the last one I read, or at the worst... theologically shaky.

I actually agreed to review this book because it sounded like a book I needed to read at that time.  My soul could use a good checkup.  I read the first chapter and then the next and then the next and much to my amazement, thoroughly enjoyed the book.  It was the first Christian Living book I'd read in awhile that had a lot of substance, basically sound doctrine, and gave me a lot to think about.  It now resides on a shelf to be reread someday, perhaps more than once.  Original review and link... here.

Honorable Mention

I heard a lot about the Modern English Version of the Bible this past year.  I was looking for a Bible to use for quiet times, in a translation other than my usual New International Version that I have used for decades.  I heard this was easy to understand but close to the King James Version in how it reads (the New King James Version loses a lot of the lyrical beauty of the original), so late last summer I used credit to purchase a copy.

I've enjoyed it very much since then.  This particular Bible is large print and while it has a concordance, it has no study notes... making it very easy to read through when I don't want to actually study verses, chapters, etc.  It is also beautifully embossed imitation leather if you care about such things.  Further info... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.  I thank you.
Image:  Time For Reading by Judy Gibson