Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Amazon Associate's Program - How I earn credit

I've been asked again how I earn credit from the Associate's program so it is a good time to write it out again.  This time I'll make it into a Page under the blog header and keep it legal since I am required to remind you all of it constantly.

I earn credit a few different ways:
  1. When you click on a link to Amazon I've provided and make an immediate purchase.
  2. When you come back to the blog and enter your Amazon shopping by clicking on any link or on a product in the Amazon widget at the sidebar.  You do not have to purchase the item you click on to take you to Amazon.
  3. When you click on the Amazon Gift Card widget to either purchase a gift card or to reload your gift card.
I only receive a small percentage for each purchase but it adds up nicely.  Even small purchases make a difference as the more items are purchased through one's blog, the higher the percentage goes up. 

The most credit I receive (other than when someone make a BIG purchase that takes my breath away) from Amazon comes from the purchase or reload of gift cards through that widget on the sidebar.  Go figure.  I only put it there for your convenience and it has blessed me!

It costs neither of us anything but some extra time since you need to return to the blog before shopping Amazon.  It costs me time to set it up and keep it going but that's fine.  I don't want anything flashy on Coffee Tea Books and Me and Amazon is a good fit since they sell coffee.  And books.  And tea.

When I make a purchase with credit, I always go to a good friend's blog.  I think I'm probably the only one that has ordered Mountain House freeze dried pouches through her widget.

Once again, I thank you for taking the time.  It is a great blessing.  Oh, and while I know what is purchased... it never shows me who purchased an item.  So your purchases are quite private.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Life is not Instagram

So, I've already chatted too much about not feeling well these past few weeks.  I have to say when more sofa time is part of my day, I begin to notice some things about life that one can't when going about their regular activities.

For instance, the garden produces to the level that I cannot get out to harvest anything.  It is a new Truth of Life recently discovered.  I have also noticed that The Food Network, The Cooking Channel, and even PBS... they all could use some new cooking shows. 

I now know at what time of the day it is best to catch Tec the Tractor on the channel which is supposed to be for people who have babies and preschoolers (what can I say, it is filmed in Wales and so very cute) and what morning's PBS lineup I like best.

But what I really learned during this process is that one who must stay fairly quiet and in one place should not view Instagram in the Summer... or perhaps I should include Winter for Australia is in Summer mode then.  For it will make you believe that everyone else in the whole wide world is out vacationing at a beach, in the mountains, or at least in some really fun amusement park.

When you are trying to get up to make cereal for dinner, someone everyone on Instagram are showing photos of their latest locally grown and sustainable and organic gourmet meal.  In the best restaurants around the world.  Or their back yard.

I learned long ago that the contentment I feel towards God in general and life in particular has much to do with not comparing myself to others.  For I can always find what I'm looking for... if I want to look righteous then I know where to look for people with obvious sins.  If I want to feel miserable then I can always find someone who is more successful, richer, more attractive, and healthier.

As if I think God doesn't know what I am doing.  Hey Lord, look at them.  I'm better than them!  Hey Lord, I can write just as good as that person so why does she have yet another book on the Top Ten list at Amazon?  Ummm... God.  You do know that photo on Instagram shows exactly the place I've always wanted to go and never made it?

Where are you, God?  Why am I flat on my back and everyone else in the entire world is out there having fun and writing books and eating delicious meals in amazing places.  You obviously have either 1) forgotten about me, or 2) you don't care.  Sheesh.

But as I leave my pitty party brought on by comparing my lot in life to those with iPhone photos on Instagram... He opens my eyes to the millions upon millions of people suffering in this world.  Many of them love Him as I do.  Most suffering far more than I will ever suffer this side of Eternity.

For you see, if there is one thing the enemy of our souls knows will cause the average Christian to turn their backs on the Lord, it is in the simple act of comparing oneself to others... and it is rarely people who have it far worse than we do that the enemy brings upon our path. 

No... it is usually the person who has what we want whether it is as simple as a pizza made in some fancy backyard brick oven or a house decorated just in the style we love.  The enemy loves to have us compare our old car with the neighbor's new Porsche, even if our family would not fit in to such a small automobile.

We notice that he takes better photos than us and that we can never write as good as her and that her dress is made with expensive fabric and that their kids always behave and if they show one more Instagram photo of their new baby when you long for a child so much it hurts... the enemy knows how it affects you and me and us and all God's children.

So do you close your Instagram account and never go on Facebook?  Unfortunately, while it may add a lot more time to your day, it will never get rid of the human need to compare our life to another.  It has been going on since the days of Cain and Abel.

This Summer I learned how to battle the devil formerly known as Lucifer by doing something simple.  You know all about how the Lord told us to pray for our enemies?  Well, I learned to pray for those people posting pretty images on Instagram and be thankful for them.

For those I know either personally or have an Internet acquaintance... I pray for them as God leads.  The people I know only through pretty photos and I'm fairly sure don't know my Friend... I pray for their salvation.  For writers with new books and artists with gorgeous paintings and craftspeople with the most amazing works of art and people who get paid to cook coming up with the most delicious recipes... I thank God for their creativity.

A thankful heart cannot live in a bitter soul... or should I turn that around?  Bitterness will not be able to flourish in a thankful soul.  So thank God for what you have and know if you are able to read this on a computer or other device, you are richer than 99.9% of the world.  Even if your dinner is not Instagram worthy. 

When jealousy sets in, think of children whose homes have been wiped out by war and floods and fires.  Somehow it makes laying on a comfy sofa with one's fluffed up pillow and access to lots of books and beverages and flowers on the deck and a Maine Coon snoozing beside the sofa seem like Heaven on earth.

Artist: Susan Wheeler

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - With Low Energy

Thank you again for the kind comments and prayers, especially after I missed writing last Saturday.  Long time readers knew something was wrong.  Thankfully, it was just a flare up of symptoms more intense than usual so they left me sofa bound for a week.

Type 1 (Juvenile) diabetes is an autoimmune disease which brings on Hashimoto's disease as well.  Both affecting one's energy... and as I have lived with both quite a long time... the symptoms have worsened.  But I'm feeling a little better now, enough to get the basics of life accomplished.

Each time this happens, it reminds me all over again of how my pantry has had to be tweaked over the years due to illness.  I almost subtitled this "With a Chronic Illness" but then I recalled seasons of life when very low energy was not caused by illness but by periods of a very busy work load, lack of sleep, and for many... just growing older even if one is in good health.

Things are just harder to do when you don't feel well.  When my kids were still at home, I kept a Rubbermaid style container with a label taped on it saying "Cold and Flu".  It contained cans of chicken noodle soup (for I had read that the high salt content was particularly good for flu sufferers), crackers, tissues, cold medicine, cough drops, and other food items preferred when one is ill.

Since such illnesses usually came on suddenly, I was always glad to have them ready and in one place.  Whether it was for family members or myself, canned soup seemed to taste delicious when one is ill even though whole chickens are a priority for the freezer to make homemade chicken noodle soup most of the time.

I've had to make changes to everyday living as the years with an autoimmune disease have progressed.  My garden is set up to make planting and harvesting easier and we usually get enough veggies to help the budget, even though it must remain small.  This year I planted all bush beans for the first time and now I know why my garden expert friend said I should space their planting out... to also space the harvesting out.  There is always something new to learn.

My pantry has had to change, too.  Fifteen years ago I did all the cooking so I bought just about everything for the pantry.  Most of my pantry at that time was made up of basic ingredients for my cooking with a few additional easy to make items here and there.

These days, my husband makes all of his own breakfasts and part of his own lunch meals.  His has to be as organic as we can afford.  I can no longer spend hours in the kitchen as I once loved to do so my pantry reflects easier meals to put together.  Which is why I am so happy the hot weather season is soon to be behind us and cooler days return for the making of slow cooked soup, stews, and oven meals.

I have more spices than I once did to reflect changing tastes and to make simpler meals even tastier.  I've been known to throw a pinch of red pepper flakes in certain casseroles without my husband realizing there was a little spice added.  When I discovered sumac it was a very good day, the lemony spice used often in Middle East cooking (although I recently found out the same red berries were dried and used for spice in Appalachia... not the poison berries obviously).

My recipe card file reflects the change in health as the more complicated recipes are not made as often and when they are, I make the meals that are "do ahead" so the dishes can be washed and put away before a guest arrives.  I can still show hospitality but at a different speed.

Just this week, Christopher came to dinner when his wife was out of town to visit her parents.  I made one of his favorite cheesy casseroles, fixing the ingredients ahead of time while watching a Finding Bigfoot marathon.  The kitchen was clean and the casserole in the oven when he arrived.  Rather than clear the dining table and set it with pretty dishes as I love to do, we ate in the family room while the guys discussed sports.  It worked fine.

Hmmm... is it odd that my grandchildren think of their Grammie whenever anything about Bigfoot is around.  I'm certain it cannot be strange that I would get so excited that a Finding Bigfoot marathon was on that I didn't know about.  But I digress...

My Emergency Pantry has changed through the years, too.  I always have the basics like rice but now I use converted rice instead of brown rice since I can't use it as often and brown rice spoils quickly (my freezer doesn't have enough space for a lot of brown rice).  Thanks to a friend, I have a container of dried eggs for an emergency and I've used Amazon credit for dried milk.

I have some wheat to grind but I do so far less than I once did since I don't bake bread as often.  So I don't buy the large bags of wheat that were once essential.  I've always had canned fruit and veggies but they are even more important now to make quick meals.  Canned beans have become more important for last minute meals.

The biggest change is the purchase of some freeze dried meal pouches for the grab and go bag that can also be used to grab and stay.  I have used Amazon credit to purchase some and I know that during an extreme emergency, we could eat by just adding boiling water.  So they are worth spending the money (in this case credit) to have these options.

Viewing the floods and fires on the news recently, it is once again a reminder that having a grab and go bag is very important.  Something prepared and where you know to find it without thinking... and practicing to grab and go!

When our house was hit by lightening, I called 911 and grabbed Victoria.  I didn't think about the important papers even though I had them in a container ready to go. I didn't think about our food or kitty food or anything but getting out of that house.  But those ponderings are for a future Saturday post.

Sorry for the rambling but my computer time is limited today so what you are getting are my thoughts on the subject rather than very much that is specific.  I'll be back with some more specifics at another time.

Remember, don't ever think it is too late to put back even a little at a time.  Whatever you can do to prepare for an emergency is better than nothing.  A good pantry with some food, water, and necessary supplies keeps you from being a victim.  A pantry will save you a lot of money and time as you learn to purchase items on sale or at a great price and shop the pantry when an item is needed.

Image:  Three Hens with Coop

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption, a review

I've been curious as to what brought David Boudia to follow the Lord after the 2008 Olympics. This is that story and so much more.  It reads like a novel but it is the true story of how his quest to be the best almost ruined him.  It is also the story of redemption.

He shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of what it takes to be a world class athlete.  Once I started reading, I could not put the book down.  For his journey after becoming a Christian was not easy, there were many ups and downs and even though one knows the outcome... the reader is left on the edge of their seat wondering what happens next.

This book is an essential read for the young Christian athlete who struggles with living in a world that makes walking with Christ difficult.  It is an excellent book to give to any young person who needs an honest hero.  It should be read by every parent, grandparent, coach, youth pastor, and college pastor who may think their influence is not important.

I highly recommend this book.  At the time of this writing, Boudia and Steele Johnson have won a silver medal in synchronized diving in Rio.  He will also be diving for an individual medal.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

To check out this fantastic book, click over here.*

*Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Life in Grayscale

Grayscale - a range of gray shades from white to black,
as used in a monochrome display or printout.

Thank you to everyone who was concerned about my week long absence.  Each day I thought I'd write a blog post but the combination of intense heart/humidity and not feeling so well made writing impossible.  Especially when the computer was only available in the evening when my brain doesn't function well, anyway.  ;)

Normally I can work through symptoms and get on with the day's activities as long as they are in the house, in the garden area, or a short distance away.  But it didn't work that way this week.  Such high humidity can be felt in the house even when the air conditioner is set to 75 degrees.

I constantly choose to focus on the good, the colorful, the Art of living life to the glory of God.  While I don't always break through the ribbon at the goal line each day, at least there is that goal to work towards.  

When we stop running (or in this case... walking) toward the goal then the enemy of our soul tends to succeed in whispering defeat, which turns into feeling sorry for oneself, which can lead to comparison with other people, and that always ends up in bitterness and discontent. 

There is a reason that in the Letters to the Churches, Jesus promises gifts to those who overcome.  Which should tell us there is much to overcome in this life.  Thankfully, for most of us, there are no huge battles every day of one's life.  Mostly it is the little foxes nipping at our heels that wear us down in between great battles.

But my thinking tends to wander to the Christians who suffer greatly for their faith in other countries.  For many of them, the battle rages daily but the strongest Christians tend to come out of those lands of intense persecution.  God gives the amount of grace each of us needs in our situation.

The title of this blog post comes from a thought which came to me this week when I was feeling particularly dreadful.  I told God that my world at the moment appears to be lacking color. It reminded me when I print out a page which is colorful and I don't want to waste the colored ink... so I change the printing option to grayscale.  No color.  Black and white and shades in between.

Sometimes grayscale is beautiful.  Stephanie's wedding photos were mostly in grayscale and the images today remind me of that magical (Narnia magic, of course) day when the wedding party and parents walked through a grove of woods to the small chapel and one felt as if a couple hundred years had slipped away.  

In many ways, each of us has the ability to choose between color and grayscale just as Stephanie chose for her photos to be in black and white.  Now, I admit that there are some who... for medical reasons... have great difficulty finding their way back to color.  They need healing, whether directly through prayer or a combination of spiritual, emotional, and medical assistance.  Most often it requires all of this as well as a great deal of love and grace. 

But for others... for instance, my own recent struggle with limitations... there is a choice available.  Not an easy choice for when one feels weary physically, when there is a struggle to do the most basic of daily To Do's, when the brain is fuzzy and sitting is all one wants to do... then the choice is a battle of sorts.

However, unlike one who needs medical assistance to even begin to return to  normal... those who are weary in the journey of life and that which has been given them to overcome... we can still choose to run or walk or perhaps even crawl our way to the finish line.

The Bible tells us there is a "cloud of witnesses" cheering us on as we live each day towards our final breath.  While there are theological discussions about just who they are and if they actually see us physically or if spiritually they "sense the race"... I still like the idea that someone is cheering the Church to the ultimate goal in Christ.

Hebrews 12 continues to tell us we are to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us".  What is our goal... or rather Who is our goal?  It goes on to say it is Jesus.  Some translations say He is the author and finisher of our faith.  I like that best.  Being bookish and all.  Jesus was and is and evermore shall be the author and the finisher of our faith.

That is why peace is a Person.  Why Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.  It really is all about a god... the God... who became like one of us to live a perfect life and win back legally the Keys to the Kingdom... and has restored to His Creation the ability to return to a relationship with Him.  One just has to accept Jesus as who He is, that He is the One True Way back to that relationship with the Father.

Ponder how amazing it is that we have a God that not only comes beside us as we walk on this fallen sod that is Earth but the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us.  I don't know about you but no matter how I feel physically... there is a lot of wonderment in that Truth.  

Am I feeling better? Not so much at the moment.  But I'm not quitting even if I have to slow down for awhile.  I can almost see the goal line.  I've come too far to quit... and so have you. God left Heaven so that He could be our finish line.  How could one ever give up?

Thank you for caring.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Highways and Interstates

There exists a narrow road close to my home which curves and winds through the forest and ends up at the stoplight on the highway.  One must pay attention while driving this road as there are many more vehicles that travel on it these days than intended when the road was cut through the forest.

I was pondering recently... while carefully watching for oncoming cars as I drove around a sharp bend in the road... how different the situation is with the country road and the highway it intersects at the stoplight.

The increased amount of traffic on the narrow road is due to the building of stores and businesses on the highway.  However, the highway itself has less traffic than it once did.  For when I was a child, this highway was the route most locals took to Chicago.

Once the Interstate system was completed, fewer travelers wanted to drive the 55 mph scenic route which takes one by corn fields, prairie grass, small towns, and these days numerous windmill farms... now that there was a faster route in an increasingly rapid paced world.

In the interest of full disclosure, the narrow road is the one I take to my favorite mega grocery store so I'm not without an appreciation of progress.  Nor do I completely dislike the Interstate system as it gets me to my family in New England far faster than would a country highway.  However, I would choose to drive the highway over the Interstate any other time.

For faster is not always better and there is something to be said for 55 mph highways.

I've been writing about this anxiety in my spirit, that feeling that something is off-kilter.  I'm not alone as many of my favorite writers are talking about the same thing.  There is so much bad news, the headlines assaulting us more often than our spirit can keep up with them.

I am told when one first moves to certain areas in California, they can feel the small earthquakes which happen regularly and the people who grew up there don't appear to notice them at all.  It is not until buildings shake that native Californians feel the anxiety that those who did not grow up in earthquake territory experience more often.

I'm thinking that is what is going on in my life... our lives... at the moment.  We are feeling the small rumblings.  Most of us are not used to the bombardment of such bad news day in and day out.  There are more big shakings that rattle our everyday existence, not unlike the skyscrapers in Downtown LA.

My husband, curmudgeon that he is, complains often about the way the world is today.  As if by muttering and complaining it would change things.  But that is what card carrying curmudgeons do you know. I often remind him that this is what the Bible said the days (years) before the return of Christ would be like and that we are told to "look up" for "His redemption draws nigh".

It may briefly cause him to stop mumbling but I do realize that spouting Bible verses alone does not always bring peace in the midst of turmoil. There must be something I can do to make stable the ground underneath my days.

My soul was not meant to bear such a weight of grief as my eyes see and my ears hear through the various forms of media available to the average household.  

I think most of us function best on the slower winding roads of life and the world throws at us news at the speed of light.  We are connected electronically to just about anyone but are we connected to someone... and to Someone?

I think of the difference between the New York Toll Road we take to see our New England family and the Blue Ridge Parkway we drove on our honeymoon to Virginia.  Although New York is a beautiful state, most of what we see are the stop off gasoline/food/restroom areas that look pretty much alike except some have a Starbucks and others don't.  (My daughter knows which do...)

However, on our honeymoon, when we left Asheville, we decided to get off the Interstate for awhile and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to get a close up view of the mountains.  Oh, my... all these years later and I still recall the beauty of the mountains.

We stopped for lunch at a tiny restaurant tucked away in an equally tiny mountain town.  Neither name can I remember but I do recall that meal... both my husband and I still talk about it.  For they served us trout which had just been caught from the creek "out back" that morning.

We have driven the New York Toll Road numerous times but I honestly can't remember anything we ate and my recollection of the foothills of the mountains were from a distance.  But the mountains of North Carolina... imprinted in my memory for the ages.

What was the difference?  The speed of the trip.

So I'm still pondering how to slow my days so the weeks and months and years make sense.  One does not have to leave home to live life in the fast lane.  No... whenever we turn on the computer, the iPad, the smart phone, etc. we are connected to the fastest lane in of our life... the World Wide Web.

That is where the craziness of the world comes into my home most often.  It is through the lens of the flickering machines that the turmoils begin again in my soul... as I watch the reports of what men can do to each other and the planet.  The ground beneath me seems unstable more so each day.

I truly understand that to make sense of the world, I need to remain connected with the One Who Created it.  In my very soul, I know the only way to stand firm as the world rumbles in despair is to run to The Rock of My Salvation.

I need to get off the Interstate and take the byroads and the slow winding roads and those which meander through forests and by cornfields and around mountains and to look for the places that refresh the anxious heart.

Everyday I have a decision and you have a decision and we decide how much of the world we let in.  If we work in a job which requires we jump right in to the midst of the chaos... He gives grace.  But if we have any sort of filter available at our discretion then perhaps we need to set aside Facebook and read a book (a nice, long book) and obviously The Book. 

We need to pick green beans.  To water flowers.  To walk beside the river or the lake or the ocean.  To pet a cat or a dog.  To hug a child. To bake bread or soup or something else requiring time. To listen to the sounds of the forest. To listen to the sounds of a great city.

To listen to something which does not need to be plugged in and charged.

I am trying to rearrange my schedule each day so I don't get caught up by some sort of electronics first thing in the morning.  There is a time for such and an importance in my days.  But I'm trying to make it of a lesser importance.  Something I control that does not control me.

I need a firm foundation, the return of slow to my days, to get off the Interstate and back on the side roads.  Still working on it.... but at least I'm heading in the right direction.  Realizing that need is the first step on the slow road.

Image:  Blue Stove

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - The Procastination List Once Again

You may remember when I spent a few weeks (or more) on my Procrastination List.  I wrote down everything I could think of that needed to be accomplished.  Some items on the list were only mildly necessary while others were of a more extreme (and quite late) importance.

Well, I realized this past week that another Procrastination List was necessary. For I have been putting things off for various reasons.  Some were prudently cast aside during hot weather... and will wait for cooler weather to arrive permanently.

While others were hidden in that deep recess of my brain where I tuck away things to do that I am avoiding.  They usually require either 1) a phone call to a person or company I do not know, 2) dealing with a difficult person, or 3) both.

Thankfully, this time the only items such as these were on the list because they required a phone call.  Except for a couple of good friends or my family, I dislike talking on the phone.  Which is amusing since I spent a great deal of time on the phone when I worked outside the home.

I am in the process of writing down another list of Stuff that Needs Done and Done Now... or Soon.   Finding a new optometrist that my insurance covers is at the top of the list since my prescription has changed.  My former doctor moved away from town and I really liked her.  But I have an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie thing going because I need new glasses before I can see the retinal specialist and I must have that checkup so I can report the results to my primary physician.  Sheesh.

While some items that are on the list are those I've put off doing for one reason or another, others are seasonal chores which pop up as we are entering late Summer.  I'm also looking around the house to get an idea what needs to be added to the list.  I really should be organized like Martha (Stewart, of course).  She has a large calendar where she writes seasonal To Do's that must be done on or around that date.  Great idea if one puts it into practice.  But I keep putting it off.  Maybe that should go on the list.

The above photo was taken after I had looked around the Study for chores to add to the list.  It was so easy that I did it immediately.  You see... when my mother-in-law passed away, my husband brought home a lot of her vintage linen.  However, most of them had to be thrown away.  They fell apart when taking them out of the box.

I found out that this is what can happen if one never actually uses their vintage linens.  So about once a year or so, I wash my collection of vintage tablecloths in warm water on the gentle cycle.  It not only protects them from permanent crease lines but they are clean and ready for use should I do more than display them on a shelf.

So... what happens when one drapes them over their rocking chair before they get a chance to fold them and put them back where they belong?  Someone in the family... no names given but she is the only one with fur... made them her new napping place.

I hate to admit it but I left them there for a week since they made her so happy... and I had to rewash them before they were folded and put away.  She was not at all happy but you know, fur and food don't exactly mix well.

But that is the kind of seasonal-ish chores which are going on the list.  I'll be writing down more this week including a few long term procrastination Gotta Do's and quite a lot of seasonal chores.

One thing I did accomplish this morning, while I could take advantage of the computer being available, was adding the Chocolate Syrup recipe to the Recipe Blog.  You can find it... here.

In answer to a question, I think the link where I printed the above chalk art from is... here.  Mine is a little faded since it has been out on the porch all Summer.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Book Talk - Early August

August reading will be a continuation of mostly rereading favorite books.  I don't know about you but I absolutely love rereading books, they become a part of my very existence that way.  When those I care for are also enjoying a book then they become a part of a shared vocabulary.  Both my daughter and a good friend talk about preparing an "everlasting meal" and I know exactly what they are talking about.

Speaking of which, I'm still rereading An Everlasting Meal, savoring a chapter at a time.  I really do need to read it at the beginning of every season for it is like reading it all over again each time.  I get fresh ideas on using and extending fresh food.

You may notice the latest issue of Bella Grace is still in the stack.  It is also being slowly savored throughout the summer.  I find it quite relaxing as well as providing great creating inspiration.

I cheated a little and read Jan Karon's Come Rain or Come Shine about a week ago but only as it had to be returned to the library.  I hadn't wanted to purchase it, even after coming out in paperback earlier this year, due to the mixed reviews on Amazon.  Some Mitford fans loved it and others didn't care for it at all.

Okay, here is my review of the book.  I agree with a lot of readers that the first few chapters were awful.  Some wondered if Jan Karon actually wrote them.  They were choppy and hard to read.  I have never enjoyed pages upon pages of dialog and when you add a mountain dialect to the mix... not easy reading.

I almost let the negative reviews get to me after slugging through the first chapters but I'm so glad I kept reading.  It was very enjoyable.  Yes, as in her last book I think she tried to shoehorn too many characters in it but it does catch us up on everybody.  Some people didn't care about it because it was mostly about Dooley and Lace... but it is the book about their wedding.

Anyone who has planned a wedding will enjoy reading about Dooley and Lace's wedding and all the misadventures which occur.  I ended up enjoying the book very much.  Sometimes good enough is... good enough and while it is not as perfect as her earlier books, it is good.

I'm beginning to reread Christy now, which is one of my all time favorite books.  It was the first novel I ever read three times in as many years... back in the days when I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction. 

I loved Catherine Marshall's writing, including her nonfiction books.  If you ever get a chance to see the old movie of A Man Called Peter, it will make you cry.  I knew the story as I'd read her book but the ending still brought out the box of tissues.  How we need a man of God like him as a Chaplain in Congress today.  But I digress.

I also liked the TV series, even though at first it took me awhile to get used to Kellie Martin as Christy since I had previously known her on a different TV show.  Tyne Daly is wonderful as Miss Alice.

I'll chat more about the other books next time.  There will probably be a different stack, including those I didn't talk about here and additional books being considered.

Talked about in this post...*
An Everlasting Meal... here.
Come Rain or Come Shine... here.
Christy... here.

A Man Called Peter (the movie)... here.  One of my favorite movies.
Christy (the TV series based on the book)... here.  Great family viewing!

Bella Grace Issue 8... here.  This link will take you to the publishers website.  Currently all Amazon links are far above the price you can get it for here. 

*Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I thank you. :)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Ponderings on the Passing of Time

Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility,
not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life
but as those who do.
Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days.
Ephesians 5:15,16 Phillips

Recently, while walking past the area by our property that is heavily forested, there was an aroma in the air which caused me to stop and peek into the woods.  While there are unique smells in the Spring and a few in Autumn, this one was definitely a perfume of late Summer.  Earthy, flowery, and musky all at the same time.  Beautiful.  Mysterious.

We are most definitely at the cusp of another season.  Over a month away in reality but as I walked into the grocery store, there were clay pumpkins where grills and charcoal sat just a week ago.  I expect mums will make their appearance soon... although I hope they have the sense to wait until the Summer air has cooled a bit.

Two other events occurred recently, both of which reminded me of the quick passage of time.  The first was my quarterly A1C doctor's appointment and the second being another birthday.  It was quite alarming that another three months had passed so quickly... much less an entire year.  Yikes!

Birthdays always bring with them a realization that the world stops for no one.  I have mentioned before that as a "just turned twenty" bride, I read one of Edith Schaeffer's books where she wrote about being sixty and thinking that quite old.  Now I've passed it and I personally like to think I'm in late middle age.  ;)

My birthday also brought with it ponderings about life, what has been accomplished, what I'd love to accomplish, etc.  The doctor's appointment reminded me of limitations... although he was pleased at all the numbers appearing on my chart.

Part of that pondering includes mental aerobics (the only kind I do well these days) as I think through most days and how to accomplish more that I want to get done.  Nothing strenuous for I have the work in the lawn and garden for that.  Mostly the making of Art while there is more energy early in the day.

For years my early morning routine has been to stumble my way into the kitchen to take the first shot of insulin and a thyroid pill (as one of my auto immune diseases is Hashimoto's), wait the thirty minutes until coffee is legal, and watch the local news followed by a couple PBS cooking shows.  By that time, I tend to be alert.  Most days.

The problem with that is the passing of two morning hours and sometimes it seems in a blink of an eye it is noon already.  Then time to start dinner and then wash dinner dishes.  Days and weeks and months fly by in a haze.

So I'm experimenting with changing up the morning schedule as it is possible. The medication, insulin, and waiting thirty minutes for coffee is cut in stone.  Although I admit to fudging sometimes on the waiting for coffee.  However, I'm changing the rest of the routine to take place in the Study for an hour or so.  Will it work?  That is yet to be seen.

For there is a great Truth in that how one begins their days often sets the flow of the remainder of the day.  Whether one is at home, in an office, at University, or hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Mornings do count.  A lot.

People I admire who have a regular quiet time routine most often have it first thing in the morning.  Although I loved reading in The Daniel Prayer that Anne Graham Lotz has her quiet time after a walk and stopping for coffee each morning as she does not truly wake up until then.  I can so relate.

It really is true, as I have found in almost any area of life, that the little things are what the big stuff is made of.  I have been able to accomplish a lot by doing it just a little at a time.  It may take weeks upon weeks what someone else can do in a matter of days... but it gets accomplished.  Far better than just sitting and doing nothing.

Don't get me wrong, there are severe limitations with illness.  Stephanie and I talked about the possibility of me going with her to Sarah Clarkson's wedding in England.  However, after some moments of dreaming about Oxford with my best friend (that being my daughter), reality set in and I reminded her I can hardly spend a morning away from home before having to head for the sofa.

But one must do what they can with what God has given.  Everyone has something.  No person goes through life without limitations, however small... for we live in finite bodies within a finite world.

Quite often you cannot see them and people have learned not to talk about their challenges.  Especially in the Church.  "How are you today?"  "Just fine, thank you." "And you?"  "Just fine."  Ahhhh... the amount of fibbing that goes on each Sunday.

I really don't have a clear ending to these ponderings, yet.  The tweaking of my mornings has just begun.  They say it takes twenty-one days to make a new habit but I personally think it takes longer when coffee is involved. And mornings.

But I do want to make more Art before the next birthday arrives.  God willing it does.  I want to pray more and read the Word more and talk to God even more often.  You know, more than the usual Please Protect Them quick prayers.

Honestly, what I want is to live life more on purpose and less in waking up and realizing a week has passed and wondering where it went.  I think we all can relate to that desire.  So I'll let you know how the morning changes are going and if they change anything.  With the help of Starbucks Veranda Blend.  Sigh.  We will see.

Photo: The river at the Feast of the Hunter's Moon a few years ago.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - A quick Q & A

It is that time of year when the struggle for computer time with the spouse begins.  Can you believe preparations are underway for Fantasy Football?  Already.  So I'm coming in just under the wire for a Saturday post and it will have to be fast.  I will try to proofread before clicking Publish.  But just in case... forgive any typos, please.

I thought it a good day for answering a few questions, those I have not forgotten...

Do we save up for big projects?
If it is very big we do but we haven't done such a large project recently.  My husband cannot earn very much extra income or I would lose my State insurance again (we learned that the hard way).  So when he does earn a little here and there, it is often used for smaller projects.

When possible we purchase what we need for a project a little at a time.  For instance, the lumber and hardware for the rebuilt raised beds in the garden were purchased in winter when a good selection of lumber was available and Menards had a great sale.

We like to have one seasonal project going at all times to keep costs consistent and not get completely worn out.  Although my husband came close this year.  He likes to think he is still 29.

Can I recommend a good 72 hour emergency kit?
My best recommendation is to put one together yourself.  When I looked through the prepared kits available, I noticed they not only cost a whole lot of money (for three days of food!) but they didn't contain food I would usually eat in such a kit.

Even the Mountain House kit was not what I preferred.  Instead, last winter (I think... time goes so fast), I ordered some Mountain House freeze dried pouches* and put together my own 72 hour (or I call mine a "grab and go") kit.  It may be used on the go... it may be used at home.

I mixed in inexpensive items like boxes of granola bars, dried fruit, etc. which made it much cheaper than all freeze dried food. The freeze dried pouches were for one substantial meal a day.  They have over a ten year shelf life so I'm thinking they will be used before then if we don't have an emergency.

They can be placed in a duffel bag, backpack, or even a Rubbermaid style container should they be stored in the garage.  They should also contain at least a flashlight, emergency radio (a small battery operated radio will do), water, and whatever else you find essential.  Like a paperback book.  Your pet should have a bag ready if you live in an area where you would have to leave quickly in an emergency such as an earthquake, hurricane, wildfire, etc.

Remembering... a 72 hour kit is just the absolute minimum for any emergency.  That's why I consider it a grab and go kit.  That should be in addition to your regular pantry.  Most true emergencies last a lot longer than three days.

What is essential in my pantry? 
I always try to have plenty of King Arthur flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, etc. for I found by having baking essentials on hand then I rarely have to go out to purchase something at the last minute.

I have fine sea salt, course sea salt, and a Mason jar of flaked salt that is rarely used but on hand when a recipe calls for it.  Same with course decorating sugar.  They are both for gilding the baked lily.  I also keep some sticks of regular old Crisco on hand for my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have lots of spices and herbs, olive oil, canola oil (a couple larger containers although more would be better), rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, and lemon infused olive oil just for fun.

I always have extra peanut butter and jelly, canned tomatoes, pizza sauce (used for a lot more than pizza), salsa, baked beans, various soups, and salmon.  I feel rich for at the moment I have pecans in the freezer as well as plenty of frozen veggies that were purchased at the 10 for $10 sale.

I find if I have basics in the pantry, then I can quickly look up a recipe when something is needed to bake or make for a meal.

Just this last week, my husband asked if I would make chocolate syrup for him after buying vanilla ice cream.  The chocolate syrup one buys at the store has stuff in it that he is not supposed to ingest. With items from the pantry, it only took about fifteen minutes to throw together the ingredients from the pantry and about a half an hour in the frig to cool. 

I will add the chocolate syrup recipe to my recipe blog next week.  It is easy and inexpensive, made with cocoa and sugar. 

I've written about other basics I try to keep on hand.  Really, I think more about what can be used to put meals together rather than just trying to survive an emergency situation.  That is why I call it "deepening the pantry".  We store what we eat and eat what we store and the difference is that we have extras as much as we can afford at the time.

Why do I encourage people to stock up so much?
Well, for one thing that is my passion ever since I began writing about it in the 1990s.  It is a message God branded into me for a very long time.  Having a deep pantry was a lifesaver when we went without income for a year or so two different times.  I learned what was essential, what we could have done without, and what we didn't eat even when there was little in the house.

Like so many people, I have an unsettled feeling about what is going on in the world.  We all need to be in prayer each day about our country and those other countries God lays on our heart.  We need to get involved to the extent He is calling us to be involved.

But the one thing we can do, even if it is just a little each week, is to deepen our pantry with food and essential items.  At the very least, it will keep us from being a victim by getting out to buy groceries when we should stay at home... whether it is simply in a snowstorm or a zombie apocalypse.

To the extent you can do so, you are the answer to your family's prayers in a time of crisis and perhaps maybe for others as well.  It depends on how much God has gifted you to deepen your pantry. 

Deepening the pantry is not an obsession as some who mock you would have you believe.  It is a God given God ordained nudging in your spirit.  Whether He is telling you to lay aside essentials for one week, one month, or more than a year.  It's a God thing and no... you are not crazy.  At least in that way...  ;)

*If you follow this link to the Mountain House Beef Stew pouch, you can peruse other options.  I made decisions by reading the comments by backpackers who depend on these meals on their journey.  I'll write more specifics about them soon.

Image:  Cookbook and Apples: allposters.com