Sunday, April 05, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Our new normal


I don't know if you are having a challenge keeping what day it is straight in your mind but I am.  It took a few views of the calendar to check and re-check that it is indeed Easter next Sunday.  Perhaps the only regular part of our schedule that still exists is to walk the trash bin out to the gravel lane on Tuesdays.

My mind doesn't think it is Sunday.  It doesn't want to write.  I think it is telling me it wants all of this to be over and a return to normal... except... it also knows that normal will never be the same.  We have lost our collective innocence that it is impossible for the streets of Paris and Rome to look like ghost towns.  Even New York City has slowed down more than one would have ever imagined.

It will be up to those of us who care about the little things of life to make certain what is important does return.  The important things of the old normal... the traditions, and the family meals, and our favorite songs playing on the radio, and stopping by Barnes & Noble after a doctor's visit, and sitting down at a real table for Panera coffee and a scone.  For it is those little things that make up the big stuff of life.

It will be the people of faith who can discern the big stuff of life... what is important and what can go by the wayside.  Maybe we will remember what was most valued during these days?  What we missed the most?  Will we remember what was so easily lost as years worth of accumulated wealth disappeared within days as the Stock Market crashed?

Will we value the people who worked in the midst of this crisis to ring up our groceries, to cook the food and make the coffee so we can use the drive thru, or the doctors and nurses putting their own health in jeopardy as they save the lives of others?

Will we ever take for granted again meeting a friend for coffee, our family at Cracker Barrel for breakfast, or just spending time at the grocery store without a mask on to protect ourselves from a hidden enemy?

Did you ever think the churches on Easter Sunday would be empty?  That we would be watching the Easter message on a screen?  Although if I remember, the congregation that first Easter was also in self isolation.  It didn't stop the Resurrection or the Gospel going throughout the world. 

There have been messages between my daughter-in-law and me confirming that we will indeed celebrate an Easter dinner, even if it is in May or June.  We've been known to celebrate Thanksgiving in December before so this will be no problem.

I've enjoyed seeing her photos of Piper and baby Oliver (who is almost a toddler now) having fun during this longer than planned self isolation.  There is something about the innocence of little children which gives everyone hope that all-is-well in spite of all-of-this.

We may as well find something to enjoy as we are home for long stretches of time.  Other than baking brownies and cakes and watching our waistline expand that is...  I have decided to dust off the rather large book on my shelves that contains The Lord of the Rings.  The font is large enough that I can read it so now is the time jump into Middle-earth. 

It is much better than checking social media or watching the Corona Virus updates on the news.  A little is great but a lot is... not.  I have had to self monitor my screen time in this time of self isolation.

I listened to an excellent talk by a speaker yesterday, he was reminding viewers that it doesn't matter how this virus came to be (whether manufactured in a lab or from animals accidentally), whether it is a judgement from God (or not), and even if it was engineered by some foreign power to crash our economy... all scenarios he had seen declared online in previous weeks.

He reminded viewers that we are to be the same in the midst of any crisis, trusting God and doing what we are called to do every day.  Any time spent in speculation will only distract us from the work He has given us.  I totally agree, which is why I had to stop the research I was doing about the virus.  So much of it was going down rabbit trails that would make Alice's Adventures in Wonderland look tame by comparison.

Another reason to self monitor my screen time.

Recently I watched Mrs. Miniver again on Turner Classic Movies and was reminded how difficult it was for people living through that era.  As it ended, my husband asked me just how many Kleenex I went through in the last ten minutes of the movie... ummm, four or five? 

The movie is very loosely based on a character in a book by the author who used the pen name of Jan Struther.  The book was originally a series of articles about an "ordinary woman" in England and her appreciation of the quotidian aspects of life.  It is a favorite of a lot of friends who understand it is the little things that are truly important.

So my friends, until next week I pray you keep healthy, help those in need, and wash your hands when needed.  Thank you for reading.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Mrs. Miniver, movie... here. (Amazon video)
Mrs. Miniver, movie... here.  (DVD)
Mrs. Miniver paperback... here.
Mrs. Miniver 99 cent Kindle edition... here. (I started reading this and it is a poor copy!)
Mrs. Miniver Kindle edition that is like the original is... here.

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

Image:  Somewhere in Paris

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Still pondering the pandemic


We are now entering the fourth week of self isolation and I must say, as much as I'm used to staying home a lot... there are days I want to just forsake all wisdom and go out amongst the English (should you read Amish based novels, you understand the meaning).

Although we are under a mandatory stay-at-home order through all of April, we can get out to purchase food.  For which I am very thankful.  It means I can easily stretch what is in the pantry and I make certain to do so while we can still get out easily.  We each go to a different grocery store wearing a mask and carrying the small bottle of hand sanitizer (which gets refilled when needed from the larger bottle).

I go to Aldis every other week and Meijers weekly.  My husband goes to Kroger and the health food store on senior discount day.  They call us when there is a new shipment of eggs from the Mennonite farmer.

We take turns going to Walmart and then only if necessary.  Every time we get out, it is with a list and we shop as quickly as possible.  It usually doesn't take long since we are only adding to what we had stocked up on already.

Yesterday since I was going to Aldis, I stopped by Walmart on the way for a few nonprescription items.  It is, after all, allergy season!  I quickly looked up and down the aisles to see what was available and noticed the only mostly empty shelves were in the rice and bean aisle.  There was TP, although not a lot, so I bought a package since this may drag on much longer than anticipated.

I have shared with friends (I can't recall if I shared it here) that last Fall, I had thought about stopping the Pantry Posts.  After all, there are well over a decade of various kinds of pantry posts available in archives.  However, I felt such a burden from the Lord that I was not only to continue writing them but to begin suggesting we really deepen our pantry... as much as space and our budget allows.

The only thing I knew for certain was that when we needed our pantries, it would be sudden.  My only experience with needing a deep pantry was in weather emergencies like winter storms and blizzards or the two different times we had a long term job loss.

I may have had a nudge from the Lord but I had no thought of a world wide pandemic.  It didn't even cross my mind other than in dystopian books and movies.  There are times, I still feel like I will wake up and this is all some crazy dream.

However, it isn't and so much is out of our hands right now.  We need to be praying for our leaders to have wisdom in these days and for their health.  There are many people who are working long hours to combat this microscopic enemy.  We need to keep our health workers in prayer, our first responders, the grocery store clerks, and everyone else who has to be in the front lines of this strange war.

So what else can we be doing right now?  Well, I'm taking notice of what I'm using up quickly from my pantry.  I learned during the periods of long term unemployment that there were some items in my pantry that were essential and others I probably shouldn't have purchased.  What I learned from those experiences, I have written about here.

One thing I realized this week was that we will soon be entering into a warmer season here in North America so while it is cool (off and on these days), I am using up the frozen chickens that were purchased for making soup.  I do make chicken soup all year long because it is inexpensive and good for us... but I long for it in cool weather.

I've been a creative cook since I was on a tight budget but you really get creative when you can't run to the grocery store all the time.  I mentioned keeping a journal last Saturday, at least to write down the food and non-food items that are working well from your pantry.  Mine includes new recipes I've tried so I won't forget them.

Although we do have quite a few cases of the COVID-19 locally and at least one death has resulted, we do not have the kinds of outbreaks that are in major cities.  So while I feel a bit like I'm stepping out into a war zone when going to the grocery store... I am careful but not afraid of getting the virus.

Having said that, I feel the need to continue "topping off" what I have on the shelves while I can in case we do need to stay home completely.  We do not know what the future holds but God does and He's got this.  What we do know now is that it is going to last much longer than we anticipated and that it has already devastated a very good economy.

Either of these scenarios make for a good reason to continue deepening the pantry as is possible.  For some of us, it includes wise grocery shopping while others are planting a bigger vegetable garden than they have for awhile.  I doubt that anyone will even turn down your extra zucchini this year.  ;)

I'm hoping to have a larger container herb garden this year.  We couldn't use our deck very much last year since the paint had been stripped from it but there was too much rain through the summer to finish it.  It was finally completely finished in the Fall so we can now put our deck furniture back, including the tables I use for my herb flower pots (it keeps them from roaming bunnies and squirrels).

Even growing my own basil, rosemary, thyme, etc. makes me feel a little more self sufficient.  Although I most need to be God sufficient!  These days are certainly encouraging even more prayer than usual.

Don't forget to check on the elderly and the people in your circle that were already having a challenge of putting food on the table.  I had a dear friend surprise me by ordering coffee K-cups from Amazon (a like minded friend who understands the need for coffee) and another who ordered kitty food and products for Florentine!  I think both know how dear they are to me... and a certain kitty.  A local friend wanted to help local businesses so she sent gorgeous flowers to a few friends, including me.  That was a brilliant idea. 

If you have plenty, fill a grocery sack or a box with food you know they will appreciate, knock on the door or ring the doorbell... and wave from a distance.  While you will probably include the basics, I'd also suggest some frozen dinners like Stauffer's Mac & Cheese or Lasagna to give them relief from cooking.

One can order a pizza or a complete meal for a friend or family member and have it delivered if they live in a delivery zone (we are too far out in the country!).  You are blessing a friend and keeping a local business alive.

We are in unprecedented times, at least in our lifetime.  This is our opportunity to help in whatever way we can.  It doesn't have to cost much, it can be a letter written to someone who never hears from us.  A dear friend who is a lovely artist sent me a print of a painting she created of a cake I made (which inspired both my daughter and her to make it, too!).

Trust God, walk in wisdom, and wash your hands.  As a friend of mine who is now at Home used to end her letters... you are loved with an unfathomable Love and by me, too.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Favorite books on the Kindle Part 2


As I write this, we have had thunderstorms come through and the daffodils have begun to bloom.  Both are part of early Spring in the Midwest. A sign that no matter what is going on right now, the seasons will follow each other as they have for a very long time.

I think my mind is beginning to settle.  At last.  It took awhile to think through all the changes that have so suddenly come to our planet.  It feels like we are living in the pages of a dystopian novel.

Currently Reading
I was reading Gentian Hill by Goudge for an online book club but my right eye has been giving me problems.  The sight in that eye was greatly improved with the surgery but it can still cause challenges when reading smaller print.  So I set Gentian Hill back on the shelves and I'm concentrating on Kindle books for the moment.  To be honest, it wasn't my favorite Goudge book but I can see why others would like it.

I add to my vast collection of Kindle books once in awhile when a title that looks promising goes on sale for around $1.99 or less.  Sometimes it is a book or author I'm very familiar so when I saw the author was Vannetta Chapman, I knew I had liked some of her other books.  So I took a chance on two thrillers last week when they were on sale.

The first book was called Hidden and the sequel is Protected.  I love a well written mystery and I couldn't put Hidden down.  I'm just getting started on Protected but so far it looks like I will be carrying the Kindle Paperwhite around with me until that book is finished.

The last time I checked, they were still on sale and I highly recommend them if you want a good thriller.  Proof the genre can be written that is both clean and a page turner.  The hero of Hidden is a Christian but not sappy (if you know what I  mean).

Info:  Hidden... here and Protected... here.  You can get information about the plots on their Amazon pages.

I also noticed when checking prices that her dystopian series about the electricity going out is currently on sale.  I purchased it last year when it went on sale to have available on the Kindle.  I haven't read the series but I have never read anything by Chapman that I didn't like.

If you are interested, those titles are: Deep Shadows... hereRaging Storm... here, and Light of Dawn... here.

Current Audible Books
Last Fall I joined Audible and I've enjoyed deciding how to use my credit each month.  When you have any kind of an eyesight challenge, Audible books provide options.  I'm putting together month-by-month a library of fiction and nonfiction audible books.  The nice thing about Audible is that you can cancel at any time so there is no long term commitment.

I have two that are next in line for my listening attention.  They are Christy by Catherine Marshall (one of my all time favorite hold-in-your-hand books) and Jan Karon's In the Company of Others.  I'm leaning toward the latter since I have been told it is fabulous on Audible with all those Irish brogues.

Audible links:  Christy... here and In the Company of Others... here.  If you are not an Audible member, they are pricey but the library should have them.  Once they open again.

Around the Web Ideas
I've enjoyed hearing what other book lovers are doing during this time. There is a trend toward reading books they have had on their shelves for awhile but never got around to reading because they tended to be larger volumes.

Books like The Lord of the Rings (Kindle... here), The Count of Monte Cristo (Kindle... here), or The Brothers Karamazov (Kindle... here) would make great reading now that there is time.  A more modern author like Rosamnde Pilcher writes nice long novels that will take you away from it all for awhile.  Two of my favorites are The Shell Seekers (Kindle... here) or Winter Solstice (Kindle... here).

I'm thinking of rereading the beginning novel of some of my favorite series like At Home in Mitford (Mitford Series Book 1 - Kindle... here) or Death By Darjeeling (Tea Shop Mysteries Book 1 - Kindle... here).  Both series have brought me many hours of reading pleasure.  I think the last few books in both series were not as great as the others but they were good reads).

If you are on Instagram, I've really enjoyed the readings by Sarah (formerly Clarkson) which include a poem and a Psalm each day.  They are at Sarahwanders... here.

I think this is enough today but it may either give you new ideas or spark a remembrance of what is already on your book shelves.  Until next week... stay inside if possible and wash your hands!

Also, please forgive any typos since my eyes are far from perfect and I often don't catch them until the next day.  I do go back and fix what I find.

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

ImageInterior With the Artist's Daughter by Duncan Grant

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle -- What I'm learning from the pandemic

We are almost entering week three of self isolation.  We have developed somewhat of a routine as we get out one day a week, wearing masks and keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the car.

When I walked into Meijers last Monday, an employee was disinfecting the grocery carts and showed me where the carts were that had already been disinfected.  I think that really brought home the seriousness of the situation even though less people have died than past pandemics (except in a few countries), I am well aware that being over sixty and a diabetic puts me at great risk.  So I am very careful.  Not fearful.  Just careful.

Now that we are under a mandatory isolation, we can go out for food, to a pharmacy, or to a doctor's appointment.  I am very thankful we already had two of the masks that have been out of stock for a couple months, thanks to my husband's environmental allergies.

Since we were stocked up as much as possible, our trips to the grocery store have been short.  I shopped one day, my husband shopped the next day, we took a list... and got in and out of the stores as fast as possible.  Not out of fear, just out of wisdom.  I am thankful that we can "top off" our pantry items with fresh food. 

This last week, I was trying to remember some of the lessons I've learned through all of this and a light bulb idea came to mind... I need to write the lessons I'm learning down on paper.  I always think I will remember things and then I don't.

So I have used a small-ish notebook to record not only pantry lessons but life in general lessons regarding living through a pandemic.  We really should, you know.  On paper, not online.  So that someday, should Jesus tarry, our grandchildren and their children will have a record.  Much like we enjoy reading about from the Great Depression and WWII.

I have it ready and I'm going to begin with my thoughts from first hearing of the outbreak in China up to this weekend.  Our world has changed so much that it is hard to believe for many of us, the affects personally have only been for a month or so. 

Included will be Pantry Lessons that I'm learning, which will be useful to me and to anyone else who reads it.  For instance, some of the things that were unavailable right away that surprised me (potatoes, meat, Kleenex, etc.) and what went fast that did not surprise me (TP, milk, eggs, bread, flour, sugar, butter, etc.).

Perhaps my biggest surprise was the pandemic itself and how very very fast our world could be changed.  I knew from writing about emergency preparedness a long time that a pandemic was possible, I just didn't realize how quickly it could cover most of the planet in this day of globalism and world travel.

I think the Pandemic Journal will also help gather my thoughts.  I am probably one of the few writers who does not keep any journal.  I did so for decades but decided in my 40s to burn all of them.  I didn't want my personal reflections such as they were to be read by anyone else. 

This is different.  It is being written to share what is being learned. I hope you decide to write such a journal, too. At the very least, it will help me remember what worked and what did not from my pantry.

Stay safe.  Stay blessed.

ImageThe High Hills, Brambly Hedge  (I have to admit, I looked at this and thought CROWDED ROOM!  Sheesh.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Self Isolation Update


I thought I would send a hello to all of you while I have Internet service.  It has been slow for a lot of rural DSL users since people are home and online.  DSL is kind of the old party line equivalent of phones I believe... or so it seems that way.

I am finding ways to take advantage of being home for long periods of time.  Otherwise, it is an opportunity to read or watch a TV show in the daytime without any guilt whatsoever.  I was a little guilty about baking a cake yesterday but I froze half of it so the temptation would not remain but a few days.

I shared a photo of these flowers on IG this morning.  Aren't they beautiful?  They were sent yesterday from my friend and former neighbor.  Our boys were children together and her twins are still friends with Christopher.  She dropped extra soup and bread off here a few days ago, I met her as she drove up so we could social distance (a phrase which has become a verb).

She decided to send flowers to friends during this time to support a local business.  Brilliant!  What a good idea. After I took this photo, I divided the bouquet into three vases to enjoy in different parts of the house.

We are fine.  Well, I am but my husband is climbing the walls already.  Our voluntary self isolation is now a state mandatory isolation.  We each made a trip to a grocery store wearing a mask earlier this week, me one day and my husband the next day.  Since there are now limitations on the amount of food one can purchase, I was able to find everything I needed that the stores had been out of before.

Being in a high risk category, the self isolation will continue unless there are unusual circumstances.  I'll be back on Saturday!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Favorite books available on Kindle Part 1


Today and next week, I want to share some of my favorite books that are available to download on the Kindle (both fiction and nonfiction).  Unless a series  is a special Kindle price, the links should have the paperback window available to click on should you want a hold-in-your-hand book.  I'm concentrating only on those available for the Kindle because it is taking awhile to get purchases from Amazon.

You don't have to have an actual Kindle, the Kindle app can be downloaded on Amazon so you can read on your tablet or even your smart phone.  I have a Kindle Paperwhite that I love because it is easy on my eyes but I also read using the Kindle app on my tablet.

Fiction

I know I talk a lot about the books by Goudge (Elizabeth, not Eileen) but I also love books by D. E. Stevenson.  I first heard of them from my friend, Kristi. They used to be very hard to find so hardback copies were pricey.  Now many are available in paperback and some available at an inexpensive price only on Kindle.

Lanier calls D. E. Stevenson "Goudge lite", they are very similar in that they take place in England and/or Scotland but they are less "spiritual" than Goudge's books.  Both women were excellent story tellers.

I love the series that includes Vittoria Cottage, Music in the Hills, and Winter and Rough Weather (the American title was Shoulder the Sky).  It begins with the story of Caroline Dering in England and continues with the story of her son who moves to the farm of his aunt and uncle in Scotland.

I liked Vittoria Cottage very much but I loved Music in the Hills and Winter and Rough Weather (my copy is titled Shoulder the Sky) because of the way they bring Scotland alive to my imagination.

InfoVittoria Cottage... here, Music in the Hills... here, Winter and Rough Weather (aka: Shoulder the Sky)... here.

There are a few Kindle "packages" where they put Stevenson books together for one small price, too.  They include:

The Bel Lamington Novels (two books) were very hard to locate for a long time.  I was so happy to see them come out as a package for the Kindle at such a small price.  Both are wonderful and in them we get a glimpse of old friends from the above series of books.

Info... here.

The Novels of D. E. Stevenson is a bundled set of three stand alone books including Still Guides the Stream, Blue Sapphire, and The House on the Cliff.  I haven't read them but I did recently purchase the Kindle package to have them available.

Info... here.

The first Stevenson book I read was Miss Buncle's Book, a very amusing light hearted look at what happens in a village when a book is published that seems to be talking about real life people in that village.  No one suspects Miss Buncle as the writer. This is a book to read if you need cheering up!  A sequel is Miss Buncle Married, which I liked but I loved Miss Buncle's Book.  

InfoMiss Buncle's Book... here and Miss Buncle Married... here.

There are other excellent D. E. Stevenson books but I need to get on to some other authors.  ;)

Nonfiction
I was going to add quite a few books here but this is already long.  I will add more next week!

I was asked if there are any books similar to one of my favorites called An Everlasting Meal.  (If you haven't read it, do so soon!)  There is one similar that I purchased many years ago for the Kindle (the hardback was expensive).  It sounds like a downer but it isn't at all.  It is called The Feast Nearby.  The subtitle is: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week).

I have read all of this book twice and parts of it a few times.  Like An Everlasting Meal, it provides a lot of thought about how we can eat healthier and cheaper by learning to cook and paying attention to our food.  Although the author is not a person of faith,  it is a very interesting story of how one can be on top of the world one day and have their entire world change overnight... and how that change ends up making her life much better as she learned a new way of living and cooking. It also takes place in Western Michigan, close to where we lived when my daughter was growing up.

InfoAn Everlasting Meal... here and The Feast Nearby... here.

Would you believe a book I stole borrowed from my daughter's library is what sent me down the path of stalking Jonathan Edwards?  It is called Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper (wife of John Piper). Her chapter on Sarah Edwards was life changing.  She writes about many women of faith who can inspire us in these difficult times.  I highly recommend it and really should buy one to replace my daughter's copy someday.

InfoFaithful Women & Their Extraordinary God... here.

I plan to be back next week with some more of my favorites to read to "take me away from it all".

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

Note:  Please forgive any typos as I'm trying to write as fast as possible while my internet is acting odd (our poor rural DSL server is getting a lot of strain these days).

ImageThe Lord of the Rings film