Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The influence of a friend


When my friend messaged me to tell me she was sending an email, I knew what it might be about.  BB and I have been friends since the 1990s, my oldest (as in how long we've known each other) Internet friend, including Kathy.

Her email was to tell me Kathy had been rushed to the hospital and was probably not going to make it.  Kathy hasn't been online since about the time this blog was started and we communicated through phone calls and letters.  I deeply dislike talking on the phone but BB and Kathy talk quite often.  I think Kathy knew how much I cared for her because she was one of a couple people I did chat with on the phone, my daughter being the other.

A couple days after receiving the email, Kathy's husband called us to say she had passed away during the night.  It was a bittersweet moment.  She had been in ill health and ready to meet Jesus for a long time.  She was where she wanted to be and we were left wondering about a world without her.

We were an unlikely set of sister-friends with me living in the Midwest, BB in Texas, and Kathy in what she liked to call "the third world country of New Mexico", the land of Hatch chilies and rattle snakes and scorpions.

She was a master story teller and perhaps the funniest person I have known.  For instance, there was the time when she was still able to email when she told me about her new pet.  From the way she talked about it, I thought it was a dog.  I mean, for months I thought it was a dog.  Then one day I realized her new pet was... a cow.  Albeit a cow that thought it was a dog.

Perhaps the greatest gift Kathy gave me was when I was going through the period of intense trials when she told me often she believed God was allowing me to go through great tribulations so I could help others go through the Great Tribulation.  Such conversations always ended up with a theological discussion about the possibility of the Church going through "the Tribulation" and how I most definitely did not want to be on the planet at that time.

However, I knew what she was saying. He was teaching and training me to be there for others when they experienced hard times.  That was to be my message.  That was to be my ministry. It was the answer to my "why" prayers.  Kinda.  Sorta.

I thought of those words this past year as I've watched my daughter go through her own time of intense trials with the house search and other "little foxes" along the way.  She would call or message to talk because she knew I had walked that path before.  Some would probably tell her to be happy she had a good temporary house, her husband has a job, and they will eventually get through this.  Those words don't mean much when you are in the thick fog of uncertainty.

Stephanie and I are both nesters, people who care about Home and growing our roots deeply into that Place God lands us.  I knew that feeling of being in limbo... untethered... unsure where the future would take us.  How can we make plans or write lists when everything is so unsure?  What about Thanksgiving and Christmas and our familiar stuff?  It was as hard for her as it was for me years before and all those little foxes, those small trials in comparison to the house search, seemed magnified when going through that level of uncertainty.

Through the years I have thought of Kathy's words as I write, especially here on the Sunday Tea blog posts. This has never been a blog which only talks about the pretty stuff of life, no matter how much I love fine china and tea parties.  For I know that life is hard.  Darn hard.  But I know that God never wastes any trial and He will bring us through as we depend on Him and His Word.

I also know that the trials are made easier when we wrap an apron around our waist and cook a simple meal or bake cookies for those we love.  Along the path of our journey from birth to that time He calls us home, we need the friendships provided along the way.  I'm thankful for the technology that allows close friendships with people I would have never met in real life... starting with BB and Kathy and continuing to those friendships made through this blog.

Someday we will meet each other in person and I'm happy to say at that time we will be perfectly lovely inside and out.  No more battling the flesh as we stomp our feet and pout or trying to hide those extra pounds.  I can hardly wait to see my son and my mom and hopefully my pets and my friends.  Kathy will be there with her beloved kitty, Pudge.  I don't know about the cow... but anything is possible in Eternity.

Image: Family Circle by Lee Stroncek

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Do we still need an emergency pantry?


I'm finally able to answer a couple of questions, including one that was asked a few months ago. 

First, about the Mountain House freeze dried food... I used to be against spending money on food prepared for long term storage except for basics like milk and eggs.  I had bought dehydrated food in the 90s and ended up throwing away part of it because we didn't eat it.  Even during a period of unemployment.  Yuk.

That's why my pantry mantra is pretty much, "store what you eat and eat what you store".  Having said that, I decided I wanted freeze dried food pouches for the grab and go bags (although now they are on a shelf where I can grab them quickly and put them in the bags).  The difference with companies like Mountain House is their food was created for people who are backpacking, hiking, and camping.  The original intent was not to sit on a shelf for thirty years.

It was easy to find reviews if they were good or not on Amazon and the technology to freeze dry food and package it has come a long way.  Most of their food has at least a four out of five star ratings and most I tried was very good.  Those I didn't care for was probably a matter of taste.

While there are some of their foods that are still only available in pouches, they also now sell food in cans for people wanting it to store in a closet for an emergency such as an earthquake or zombie apocalypse.  So that was why I changed my mind about freeze dried food as part of the pantry.  As I wrote recently, I also came to realize it was good to have them when the cook is too sick to ummm... cook.

I purchase Mountain House products through Amazon only because I use credit when it is available.  Meaning I have no birthday or Christmas gifts to buy or splurging on cute red garden shoes with chickens on them.  I do believe you can buy them (and similar brands) at stores that sell camping equipment.  I found purchasing items separately to be better than purchasing a 72-hour kit or something similar.  The cost is about the same and you get to choose exactly what you are getting.

To answer the question if I still believe we should deepen our pantry for anything like civil unrest, trucking strikes, crazy weather, etc., the answer is absolutely!  It doesn't take much discernment to realize the country (and the world) is a mess.  It doesn't matter if you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, or nonpolitical... it seems like the world has gone crazy.

There is "chatter" that another economic crash is possible soon and the headlines are of one major retailer after another declaring bankruptcy and closing at least part of their stores.  I think we have become ho-hum when we hear of North Korea launching another missile and Israeli sirens once again raging as missiles are being launched against that country.  Telling us the possibility of war in the Middle East is still a threat.

I read this week that after years of the drought in California causing problems with crops, now it is flooding that has destroyed many of the foods that come out of that state.  Southern states have had fruit damaged when the unusual winter weather went through after they were already budding.  All of which point to future shortages and higher prices.

Just last week, I watched a documentary about a huge flood in the Midwest that happened a little over a hundred years ago.  I'd never heard of it but they said WW1 broke out not too long afterward so that replaced it in the headlines.  What I found interesting was that stores on the East Coast had shortages of food and essentials because the trains which brought them could not operate due to flooded and damaged train tracks.  We always have to remember that we can be indirectly affected by something going on in another part of the country.

I think we get so wrapped up in apocalyptic scenarios that we forget our pantry is essential even if there is "just" a job loss.  A long time blog friend's husband went from being healthy to having a life threatening illness and he can no longer work.  Overnight.  Suddenly.  That is how most of the crisis in my life have happened. 

We have had two different periods of long term unemployment and both times we survived due to a deep pantry.  Because we had basic foods on the pantry shelf, unemployment checks could go to bills and fresh fruit/veggies/milk.   My pantry is no longer very deep but it is still a priority.

My husband was talking about "what if" scenarios recently and asked what we would do if there was an EMP attack.  I told him I'm not at all concerned about it for that kind of crisis would probably happen suddenly and I would only have days worth of insulin left.  So unless God provided a miracle (and He could), I wouldn't last long after an EMP attack.

Not. Going. To. Worry. About. It.

So I'm going to continue doing what I can, given the finances and the time and the energy available.  As God provides.  It is always a combination... a balance so to speak... between doing what He tells us to do and then trusting Him for the rest.  Such is all of life.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Book Talk February-March


I didn't read very much the past two months, especially books that were not for publisher's review.  However, here are a handful I've managed to read and one I will begin reading soon.


Not shown above is a book I read on Kindle called From My Heart to Yours: A Legacy of Love by Phyllis Morneau.  Fortunately, I had finished it before I had to limit screen time on the Kindle. It is the story Phyllis wrote of her family history.

While you may not think reading someone else's family history would be interesting, I found this very good.  Grandparents especially would enjoy it.  Within the various chapters, the author provides a timeline of world events occurring at the same time as her family's history.



Devonshire Scream was Laura Childs new Tea Shop Mystery last year.  I love her mysteries, even though most follow the same formula in each book.  It works!  In this book, there is a robbery at a charity event and her friend's niece is killed during the robbery.

Of course, Theodosia is there and has to help solve it and yes it sounds like a lot of her other plots.  But it is still a fun read and the tea room scenes alone are worth the read.  As usual, there are yummy tea time recipes in the back.  Since her newest book just came out, this book is now available in paperback.


Wendy Alec's books require a little explanation.  I think most people will either love them or hate them.  I read all of the first book and part of the second and I liked them.  However, I like fantasy novels.  My husband (the former engineer who is quite logical) read the first book and didn't like it enough to continue in the series.

These books shown are the first two of the Chronicles of Brothers series.  There are four books already written and the fifth book (so I have heard) is in the works.  There is also either a movie or a mini series based on the books in the works.

It is hard to describe them, a combination of End Times novels and historical fiction about Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer (who became known as Satan among other names).  The first book, The Fall of Lucifer, takes one back to the time before the creation of the Earth and mankind, the Fall of man, and the author speculations on why Lucifer came to hate the created Man and it caused him to turn against God.

This was Wendy's first work of fiction and honestly not the best.  Like many first time novels, it is choppy to read.  However, it is the foundation book of the series and if you can get through the choppy writing and way too many pages of description, it is a decent read.  There was too much speculation for my husband to enjoy it, even though I kept reminding him it is a work of fiction.


The second book, Messiah: The First Judgment, is far easier and more enjoyable to read.  On Amazon reviews, I read that many people thought each book in the series became better.  This one is mostly about the birth of Jesus and what is going on in Heaven during this time and on Earth.  I wrote a friend during this time that I stopped reading and left Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on the way to Egypt in peril.  That was when my eyes were becoming infected and I still need to finish the rest of the book.

These books also include three modern day brothers, one of whom becomes the Antichrist in the Tribulation.  You don't read much about them in the first two books but they are front and center later.  If you like such books, you will love these.  If you don't... you won't like these at all.  I plan to read the other two in the series following these.  I don't think very often about the angelic world and these books remind me there is more to what is happening around us than what we can see.


I have not been accepting review books with my eyes rather wonky.  I mean, a publisher does expect you to review them on the publication date whether you can read them or not.  English Lessons was the first new book I agreed to review since Christmas.  It sounded too interesting to pass up.

The book, written by Andrea Lucado (yes, that Lucado), is about her leaving home and studying at Oxford in England.  While there, she shares her struggle with a "changing faith and an unchanging God".  I will begin reading it soon but I won't review it here until its' publication date, which I think is May 2nd.

Books Mentioned in this Post
From My Heart to Yours... here.
Devonshire Scream... here.
The Fall of Lucifer... here.
Messiah: The First Judgement... here.
English Lessons... here. (Pre-order only)

The other two books in the Chronicles of Brothers series are:
Son of Perdition... here.
Pale Horse... here.

Laura Child's recently released Tea Shop mystery:
Pekoe Most Poison... here. (Hardback and Kindle only)

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Leaving the Hygge Behind


Although I subscribe to Tsh's podcast, The Art of Simple, I had bookmarked the page for the Hygge podcast (where one can listen online) because it had the show notes.  I love the whole concept of hygge (pronounced who-gah) for living in a cozy and beautiful environment is probably the subtitle of my life.

One good thing about being forced to sit for awhile was finally listening to this particular podcast.  I enjoyed it very much and even though I have read books about hygge, I learned something.  Having said that... when we were hit with more snow last week and my daughter's area had a second huge snowstorm in a row... I told her I was all hygge-d out. 

It is time to put away the warm and cozy stuff until October when I will be longing for it again.  I am ready for warmer temperatures and opening the window for a breeze and planting stuff and the return of the shades of green.  I adore candles in the dark months but come Spring, I have one sitting on my desk for the scent and that's it. 

Although I am glad it has been cold for I'm not quite ready to give up making soup.  As I type, I have turkey stock simmering on the stove.  The turkey I'd defrosted for a week was roasted today, all the meat plucked off in much the same way my mother would pluck the feathers off a hen. Florie sat at my feet waiting for pieces of turkey to drop "accidentally".  

In cold weather, both of my stockpots are stored on a bench in the Family Room to have them near.  One was brought into the kitchen for the turkey to simmer into rich stock, which will be transformed to soup tomorrow.  There is something about making stock from something that would otherwise be thrown away that does my heart good.

I love the cold months when the simmering soup steams up the Kitchen window and the aroma of supper can be breathed in as soon as one walks through the front door.  That's hygge-ish if there ever was anything warm and cozy.

However, it is almost time to trade in hot drinks and soup and fuzzy socks and flannel sheets and warm throws and the sun setting below the horizon at 5:00 for long hours of sunlight and flowers. I look forward to that first really warm day when I can open the kitchen window and feel a breeze on my face as I wash dishes, the scent of Mrs. Meyers mingling with the scent of wet grass from the breeze.

The deck plants can be moved back to their home on the front porch and the pillow for the rocking chair pulled out of my closet, giving space for clothes and shoes once again.  I love that old wicker rocking chair, which once sat on my neighbor's porch before I rescued it from the trash when he was moving.  He said that was fine. 

This winter was hard for a lot of people.  I can't recall hearing of so much illness.  The crazy temperature extremes and rain when it should have been snowing didn't help at all.  So I'm thinking a lot of us will be happy to feel warm sunshine on our face. I'm looking forward to the dogwood tree blooming and the crab apple popping with color.  Still to come is that one time of year when my neighbor's tree blesses with the most lovely perfume as one walks the gravel lane to the mailbox.

Yes, it is time to leave the warm and cozy behind and walk out into some sunshine again.  I need to take advantage of the nice weather (when it finally arrives) before heat sets in and I retreat into the air conditioning.  Always remembering that without that heat, there would be no tomatoes or corn on the cob or watermelon or basil... and trying to not complain.  Much.

Since it is still cold, I am now off to the kitchen to brew some hot tea and make a turkey sandwich with mayo for dinner, along with a clementine I think.  The stock will cool down and have a place in the refrigerator overnight, when in the morning it will be drained into a smaller pot for potatoes and carrots to be added. 

The calendar may be telling us it is Spring but the need for my coat as I walk the gravel lane for the newspaper in the morning says it is still Winter... and still the season of soup for supper.

The Art of Simple, Episode 57, Hygge... here.

Image: Warming Up in Badger's Kitchen by Chris Dunn

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Lessons learned


Happy Saturday!  It is still cold where I live although the last of the snow melted from the deck yesterday.  I was hoping to write a Book Talk mid-week, the books are here on the desk, but it has taken longer to recover than I would have liked so household duties took up all of my time.

While still physically weak, my vision is clearing up more each day.  So I am just now beginning to read again although screen time must still be limited.  I've set aside a book with smallish print I was reading.  I'll finish it when my vision has cleared completely but I have a mystery with larger print.  :)

Thank God for antibiotics!

I have the strength for a quick Saturday post so I thought I'd share what I learned through this last bout of unexpected illness.  I mean, it went from just a cold and cough to a serious infection overnight that left me unable to do anything.  I honestly didn't think I needed a Cold & Flu container, anymore.  Not since the kids were grown and there was only two of us.  I was wrong.

So I'm going to start putting items in an extra Rubbermaid style container that is in the garage.  Along with some cans of chicken noodle soup (in a perfect world I would always have homemade soup in the freezer), I will once again keep a box of tissues (or two), Ritz crackers, sugar free lemon lime drink or ginger ale, regular lemon lime drink or ginger ale, medicinal tea such as Throat Coat, peppermint tea, extra cold medicine, dry cereal such as Cheerios, and anything else I can think of that would be helpful to have on hand.

This hit when I had already been on the sofa awhile and when my checking account was low, a reminder that a pantry is most needed when one can shop their pantry instead of going to the store.  I'll begin again early in April to stock the most important items.  Some things like cough drops are kept in the medicine cabinet because they can melt.

The biggest surprise came when I decided to use some of my emergency pouches of Mountain House food for a few meals because this was... an emergency.  It's funny how our brain works because at first I hated to use them and then I convinced myself that it was FOOD and they only required boiling water.

So what worked?  Well, the best was one of my favorites and that is Chicken and Dumplings With Vegetables.  It is very tasty and "ill health friendly".  I do keep a couple extra pouches of this for when I need a quick dinner.  It is very good when prepared properly.

The one thing I've learned (originally from Reviewer Comments) was that with any Mountain High biscuit type meal, one needs to add slightly less boiling water than called for, stir once and then seal the package, and let it set for the very minimum time required.  Otherwise it can get mushy.  This applies to their Biscuits and Gravy meal, too.

I also used an Italian Style Pepper Steak With Rice pouch.  A few reviewers said that the meals with rice or noodles benefit from extra "cooking" time.  So I added the boiling water, gave it a stir, sealed the pouch, and let it sit about five minutes longer than the longest time called for.  I put some of it in a flour tortilla and ate it that way.  It was yummy.  I couldn't eat but half of it so I closed the pouch and put it in the frig for the next day.  It heated up nicely.  This would not work for biscuit based meals!

The other meal that works great when sick is their Chicken Breast With Rib Meat and Mashed Potatoes.  It is pricier than their others because there are two pieces of chicken breast in it.  You prepare the chicken breast with boiling water separately than the mashed potatoes.  It worked great and I would say worth the money for such a good source of protein for a second person if you can't cook.

I only tried what I had on hand but I expect some of their other meals would work well.  I'd stay away from their more ethnic meals when sick since they can be 1) spicy, and 2) their oriental meals have a bit of an aftertaste.

So as Amazon credit is available, I will be replenishing the Mountain House meals I used and I will definitely keep a few in the Cold & Flu container.   This worked great, especially with just one or two people at home.

Of course, the best thing would be to have Downstairs Staff but that ain't happening here.  ;)

Items mentioned in this post:
Mountain House Chicken and Dumplings With Vegetables... here.
Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy... here.
Mountain House Italian Style Pepper Steak With Rice... here.
Mountain House Chicken Breast With Rib Meat and Mashed Potatoes... here.

Mountain House pouches have a 25 to 30 year shelf life unopened.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.
Image: Brambly Hedge pantry.  I want one like it!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday and I'm Here... Kinda'


I was hoping to write more about Beauty today but that is not going to happen.  Just going out to get something from the deep freeze (that turkey I bought on sale after Thanksgiving) exhausted me and I had to set the brightness on the computer screen to low just to type.  I still can't see clearly.

However, it is Sunday and I am HERE!

I thought I would share the photo above after my daughter posted some of her wedding photos on Facebook on her anniversary.  Looks at how little Christopher was here!  This photo really shows the twelve years there are between my older and younger kids... and yes, he was a surprise.  A good surprise but still we didn't think we could have more children.  I can't imagine life without him.

When the medications kept me sleeping most of the day, Mrs. Christopher sent homemade chicken soup to our house via Hubby.  I had not been eating very much (still not eating much) so I needed good nutrition and oh my, that was the most delicious chicken soup I have ever had. 

I need to ask her what the veggies were in with the chicken and stock.  I'm pretty sure kale was one of them.  It made for three healthy and yummy meals. I was so proud of her and thankful for Piper is "on the move" and getting anything accomplished right now is not easy.  Not to mention she is becoming one great cook!

I admit to struggling at times with the feeling that the best years are behind me.  It was particularly strong during these weeks of illness.  However, God has been reminding me that whatever happens here... the best is yet to come.  St. Paul told us we cannot even imagine those wonderful things God has in store for those who love Him.

But even then... not even thinking Eternally... we are all in the place on that Journey He has for us right now and in this time and this place.  We don't live in the past or the future, we live today.  It is Sunday and everyone reading this (even after Sunday) is... HERE.  For a reason.  Right where He wants us.  Knowing our strengths and our weaknesses and our limitations.  That should give us all something to ponder this week.

Now it is necessary to close my eyes for awhile.  I could use prayer to completely recovery physically and that my eyes recover.  Everything is still kinda' blurry, even with my glasses on.  Once again, proofreading is hard so grace may be needed.

So many people asked about the garden shoes here and on Instagram.  They are fabulous.  I already had boots so I didn't need their wellies, the shoes are just right.  Reviewers said to order a size up if you wear a half size shoe like I do and they were right. Especially if you will be wearing socks. (Although I've found garden shoes and wellies don't often fit the same as regular shoes, especially in the heel.) 

The shoes are Sloggers and I ordered them through Amazon with credit (thank you!).  Info... here.  There are other cute options and of course, various sizes.. 

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Signs of New Life


I was going to title this post "Out of the Abyss" but I thought perhaps that would appear too dramatic.  However, that is how I feel.  The Urgent Care doctor, my pharmacist, and my family all have told me I waited too long to seek medical attention but going from a bad cold/cough to the Abyss (of infections) happened quickly. 

I didn't realize how sick I had become until Saturday evening when I was in bed, unable to see clearly, and my head was pounding.  I was started on antibiotics Sunday afternoon, with the doctor warning me that if I had waited just one more day, it may have been too late.  I didn't ask him too late for what (?) but I had a feeling he meant just that.. too late.

I have gone through the past few years getting colds and mild flu symptoms without the possible side affects which come with diabetes. This time I wasn't so fortunate.  The antibiotics are working although my vision is still not clear.  So while reading was impossible it is now just difficult.  The infection going through the rest of my head is clearing up, just two more days of antibiotics to go. 

All prayers have been and continue to be appreciated. I promise, after going through this I'll probably be making a doctor's appointment when I sneeze next time.

It has been warm here but we have had a return to Winter that was expected.  March can be such a tease.  So I could tell I was thinking clearly again when I decided to walk out to the backyard to see if the first daffodils of the season had bloomed in that one space that holds warmth next to the brick of the house.  Getting dressed and with camera and scissors in the basket, I made my way to the backyard and there they were, shivering but lovely. 

With even colder weather expected, I decided to bring these first blooms inside to enjoy.  It took awhile to recover, it felt as if I'd just run a marathon instead of walked to the backyard.  But it will get better.

I need Spring this year.  I think, honestly, I've been in somewhat of an abyss since that evening in early December when Victoria had a stroke.  I don't care how much one loves Jesus, grief is real and it takes awhile to walk through.  Whether for a pet or a person. Add to that the virus that wouldn't end and then the terrible cold and even worse cough and then a terrible duo of infections... I need Spring.

I hope to write on Sunday, a lot of it depends on how my vision is by then.  I thought you might like to see a photo of the daffodils, along with my garden shoes I bought with Holiday Amazon credit.  They serve a double purpose, they make me happy just looking at them and they make my doctor happy because they protect my feet.  He noticed a scratch on my feet last year that I had received when wearing sandals to the garden.  Stern lecture followed...

Please excuse any typos, it is rather difficult to proofread right now.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

A Third Round of Illness

I'm writing this on the iPad while stretched out on the sofa. Last week this time, I was enjoying finally feeling well again. After two weeks that pesky virus was gone. Then on Monday, I woke up with a sore throat that by Tuesday became one of the worst cold and coughs I've had in years.

I haven't been online because my eyes are swollen as the screen is too bright. Except to message my daughter that I thought it possible to die from coughing.  She has had a bad cough so she could understand.

I will keep you updated and hopefully return mid-week. All prayers appreciated.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - A missionary of beauty


One day last week, I was listening to a speaker on TV when my ears perked up similar to Florentine's when she hears a can opening.  Words have that affect on me, especially when someone is speaking about a subject dear to my heart.  Beauty.

He was talking about his work in slums and inner cities when he stated that people living in these places have two different kinds of poverty.  They have an obvious financial poverty but they also have a poverty of beauty.  He went on to say that one slum area where he had ministered was only a few miles from a place of extreme natural beauty but most people living in the slum lived their entire life within the confines of the bleak neighborhoods.

A poverty of beauty.  I'd never thought of it that way before.

I pondered his words all week, thinking of how most of us will never be missionaries in foreign lands (although some readers are) and how few of us will be called into relief agencies to assist the poorest among us.  Some may venture into a slum area to feed the homeless or work in a food bank but we haven't actually lived in a place of such extreme poverty.

His words caused me to recall the townhouse where we lived prior to purchasing our house in the country.  Circumstances at the time prevented us renting anything nicer.  Don't get me wrong, it was far from being a slum but it wasn't a very nice neighborhood, either.  We would come to find out that there was a drunk living on one side of us and young drug dealers at the far end.

There were four townhouses in the one building, the outside was dark and dingy.  Next to each front door was the large garbage container that was to be rolled out to the parking lot each week.  It was absolutely depressing to think this is where I would live for who knows how long. 

Memories of the beautiful house we had to sell at a loss returned each time I passed the garbage by the front door. But there was a difference between us and the other tenants for I viewed this setback as temporary and this was their world.  Instead of remaining depressed, I decided to become a Missionary of Beauty.

I wrote long ago about the spiritual warfare of decorating (and received some amusing emails such as... huh?).  I didn't have a name for it but it was my way of representing Christ in less than perfect circumstances.  Undoubtedly the influence of Edith Schaeffer in my early spiritual thinking.  So I moved an old wooden chair outside in front of the only window facing the parking lot, next to that porch with the trash by the door. 

On the chair I placed a pot with beautiful flowers growing.  I can't recall what they were but they were most likely red geraniums. They are my favorite deck flowers, especially when next to yellow daisies. One day, I saw where the family who lived next door had also placed flowers in the front of their house.  I had my first convert and just a little more beauty to make one smile.

It was only about a year later that we applied for a government loan that allowed low income families to purchase houses in the country.  That loan, combined with living in an area where rural houses are not expensive, enabled us to purchase the home where we have now lived for over eleven years.  The small house I love even more than my former "dream house".

I didn't know that first day when I walked past the large garbage container that my husband having to go on Disability would be the very thing that helped us own our own house again just over a year later.  I didn't know God was sending me through a short season of again living in such financial poverty.  But I did know He had made me a missionary of both Christ and beauty while there.  I shared both to each of our neighbors as God opened a door.

I still recall the day the neighbor's children came over to pick up homemade cookies I'd promised the family and saw the look on their face when they walked past the trash and through the front door.  For what they saw was... beauty.  Not perfect by any means for the room they walked into held only our dining room furniture (the bedrooms were on the third level and the only place for our sofa and chairs was in the basement level) but decorated with pretty things nonetheless.

It reminded me of the time Christopher was a little boy and we lived in our colonial style house.  He told me the neighbors thought we were rich because our house looked so nice.  I had to laugh for while we did have some nice pieces of furniture we had been able to purchase through the years and some lovely inherited furniture from both parents... so much of the decorating that made it beautiful was picked up at Goodwill, garage sales, and flea markets for years and years.

We are just passing through this fallen world, being sojourners whose Kingdom is a place of beauty beyond our wildest imagination says the Bible.  So while we are here, I can't think of anything better (other than obviously sharing salvation in Christ) than to be missionaries of His Beauty in such a dark and unsettled world.

Hmmm... I think there is more to ponder here.  See you next week.

Image:  Feathered Friends by Mary Smith - I love this artwork.  The house is very similar to our Colonial style house we had to sell and the child looks much like Christopher did when we lived there.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Tweaking the spice shelves


The unseasonable warm temperatures are forcing buds to open early where I live as well as my need to get started on Spring cleaning.  (Even though it was nearly 70 here yesterday and we awoke to snow on the ground this morning.)  As usually happens in my world, the decision of what to declutter was made for me when I was trying to find something on the spice shelf.  It was time to get rid of a couple jars of herbs that were old.

My spices, some baking supplies, and other ingredients are stored in the yellow pantry inherited from my mother-in-law.  I've shown it before, it makes me happy in all its' chippy vintage glory.  I don't have a lot of cabinet space in the kitchen so this has become invaluable.



So this was the shelf that needed my attention last week, speaking of chippy paint.  The shelf above it holds baking items such as baking powder, soda, and the "sweet" spices for baking such as cinnamon.  This shelf holds the savory spices and the extracts. 

The jelly jars and canning jars contain herbs and spices I've bought in bulk (inexpensive when purchased from bins at the health food store) and herbs I've grown and dried.  The Herbs de Provence was a gift from my daughter, being my favorite herb blend.  Ummm... this was after I decluttered! 

If you have read my Saturday posts very long, you may remember that the advice given by spice companies annoy my frugal-ness.  Why?  Because they are not true and they are wasteful.  Read almost any Q & A about how long one should hold on to their spices and the answer is usually for one year.  I even read one answer that said six months!  Not.  True.

Spices last for years and our ancestors who had to pay big bucks for spices would be appalled at us just throwing them out at the one year mark because that is what spice manufacturers suggest.  So you have to buy more of their spices, of course.  Truth is, I have had some spices for years and they are fine.  Whole spices last quite a long time and ground spices less time but far longer than any year.

I will say here that you have to watch paprika because it can get buggy (some people keep their paprika in the freezer).  I have read that dry mustard can turn but I've never had it happen.  Should your spices begin to lose their strength, just add more.  It is so easy to check the potency of spices and herbs, just take a little taste.  Although I wouldn't recommend that with cayenne or red pepper flakes.  Yikes!

You do have to pay more attention to herbs for they can lose their potency after a year or so.  Woody dried herbs such as rosemary last longer than leafy herbs such as basil.   However, I have had the Herbs de Provence for over a couple of years and it is still good.  I usually throw out last year's herbs that I grow and replace them with the current harvest when they have been dried. 

I did not cook with many spices or herbs when I was first married, mainly because my mother didn't use more than salt and pepper for cooking.  She did have a little can of poultry seasoning to use at Thanksgiving and I have wondered how old that was!  She had cans of cinnamon but I have imagined what she would think of my desire to use whole nutmeg?  As an aside, I've often wondered what she would think of something like pink Himalayan salt?  I think if she were here I'd buy a small jar just to see her face. But I digress...

I do love experimenting with various herbs and spices now.  It is a relatively inexpensive way to travel the world, through recipes.  I'm learning more about spices and herbs all the time. I've learned to add just a pinch of cumin seeds to the oil in the skillet and let them cook on low about a minute (they burn easily so I watch them) and then add other ingredients for my chili.  Hubby hates ground cumin but likes the flavor it adds this way. 

Another experiment that worked well was to add a teeny tiny pinch of red pepper flakes to the oil at the same time for things like chili or goulash to add the tiniest bit of heat.  If I was cooking for just my son and me, it would be a full pinch. Such experimenting is what makes cooking fun instead of the same old, same old...


Some spices are also located in the kitchen cabinet over my cutting board.  The chicken salt was my most recent experiment, having found out it is popular is Australia and I hadn't tried anything from that country.  They use it on their french fries and I use it on roasted baby potatoes.  Last night I tried it on roasted baby carrots and it was quite good.

Behind the chicken salt are a few various types of Mrs. Dash blends.  I especially like their lemon pepper.  The small canning jar holds my course kosher sea salt that I cook with.  I season as I cook so I only put salt and pepper shakers on the table when I have company.  Because invariably people ask for them but I always warn people to taste before salting extra.


Speaking of which, I keep the salt and pepper shakers here in the vintage drawer along with the pepper grinder (which is what we use all the time), the canola oil, and the olive oil.  My husband does use the salt shaker for his eggs and such. 

Spices and herbs are very important if you store food such as rice in an emergency pantry.  They will make a bland food quite tasty.  I have found the Mrs. Dash blends to be particularly good with brown rice.  There is a very interesting Globe Trekker special about the spice trail if you are interested in such things.  I found it fascinating to see how spices affected the geopolitical world, especially prior to the 20th Century.  They also have a Planet Food special about tea.

Mentioned in This Post
Globe Trekker Planet Food: Spice Trails... here.
Globe Trekker Planet Food: The Story of Tea... here.
JADA Chicken Salt Vegan Original... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.  I thank you.