Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When I need a cozy chair, a good book, and a cup of tea

Ratty's House
The temperatures have plummeted and the leaves are beginning to lose their green.  The furnace had to be turned on Friday evening. We wore jackets to the farmer's market Saturday morning.  My husband, who is cold even in July, also wore a knitted hat.  It is indeed the season of early Autumn.

Having seen the long range forecast last week, I had set the large chicken from the freezer in a Pyrex dish to defrost in the frig until it could be made into soup.  A very good thing indeed for we needed the chicken soup yesterday for our cold bones as well as our soul.  Brrrr...

The news tell us of all kinds of frightening happenings all over the world.  Even everyday life seems to be more a struggle for many.  I do find solace in the Word of God and in beautiful lyrics and music which remind me of His love and sovereignty.  I hold them dear to my heart in this age in which we live.

But do forgive me and not think me a heretic if I say I have recently been finding peace between the pages of favorite books.  True, one finds the way to Salvation only in the Holy Book.  But there is much to be said about the power of Story and as God created it all... I believe He understands.

So more than a few times this past week (and since the re-doing of the Study), I have been eager to return to my overstuffed 1990's era hunter green chair, the quite old piano bench style footstool with faded tapestry, a cup of tea on the tea table at my side, sometimes a Maine Coon kitty, and always a book.

These are usually the days I prefer old favorites and when possible... old volumes.  But I do admit to using the Kindle App on the iPad from time to time (have I mentioned it was the best birthday gift ever, with the exception of our family being together for a week).  Hubby has been reading a book on the original Kindle.

There are authors and titles I particularly love this time of year.  While newer books were on the Kindle, old friends were brought from the shelves and dusted off.  Most are still awaiting their re-read, a couple to be read for the first time, and one in particular already being enjoyed.

For it is the perfect time to re-read one of my all time favorite works of fiction, that being The Wind in the Willows.  I don't think of it as a children's book, it is much more a weary grown up person's book if you ask many of us who return to it quite often.  A book that talks about my favorite things like home and friends and food.

Ratty and Mole by Angel Dominquez
There are a couple delightful cream of the crop scenes that always bring a smile.  Both are spoken by Ratty, whom I love dearly.  For if Mole is my decorating role model of which I have written, Ratty is my culinary companion.

From the very beginning he is quite wonderful with his explanation to his new friend, Mole, about what he has packed in the picnic basket...

"There's cold chicken inside it," replied the Rat briefly; "coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscressandwichesspottedmeat gingerbeerlemonadesodawater..."

Later in the lovely chapter named Dulce Domum, we enter Mole's house which Ratty describes as...

`What a capital little house this is!' he called out cheerily. `So compact! So well planned! Everything here and everything in its place! We'll make a jolly night of it. The first thing we want is a good fire; I'll see to that--I always know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid! Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital! Now, I'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a duster, Mole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table--and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle about, old chap!'

You really must read the entire chapter and how Ratty goes about showing Mole... who has been apologizing at how dusty and shabby is his little home... that his place is quite lovely and that there is a feast to be found in the simplest of foods.

Many of my favorite meals have been just the kind Ratty makes in this chapter.  When my children were younger, my favorite picnic to pack was what I called my "Loaf of bread, jug of wine (juice), and Thou" collection.  Which usually included good bread, cheese, fruit a beverage, and sometimes perhaps a summer sausage to slice if we were quite hungry.

I adore such food so much that our Christmas Eve meal has most often been a collection of homemade appetizers.  The restaurant Stephanie chose for my birthday dinner was a Spanish style tapas place (I have sinned by envying my son-in-law's business trips to Spain!).  We feasted on a quite elegant selection of little dishes... albeit fancier than Ratty's meal and amazingly delicious.

But I digress again... kind of... sort of.

When the weather turns cooler, it is such a perfect time of year to read books that talk about houses. I have a few Gladys Taber books on my shelf that I return to each Autumn.  Isn't she wonderful?  I wish I had more of her books but I'm so happy to have what I do.  How I would have loved to settle by her fireplace with a cup of hot New England cider and a long chat.

Of course, are there any better books that talk about homes then The Eliot Trilogy by Elizabeth Goudge... The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn (known as The Herb of Grace in England), and The Heart of the Family. Although it is the middle of a trilogy, it was suggested my first Goudge book read was Pilgrim's Inn and since that time... it is the book I also suggest to a new reader.

Sometimes my cooler weather reading takes me to a place instead of a house.  A very precious blog reader sent me at one time some vintage Gene Stratton-Porter books as she is one of my favorite authors.

My husband's college roommate owns property close to the original Limberlost area and we have driven by it before.  One of the books waiting in the stack to be read is The Song of the Cardinal.  (It is actually free for the Kindle, perhaps because it is not as well known as the others?)

What other books remind me of places I want to visit in my overstuffed chair?  There is always a return to Mitford!  Jan Karon has a new Mitford book which I hope to read someday but I have many on my shelves to re-read.

I could be here all day thinking of authors I prefer to read in cooler temperatures.  But I need another cup of coffee with a teaspoon of Splenda and a dollop of cream.   I may pop a DVD of Last of the Summer Wine in the player to watch a program or two (did you know the writer had the friends from Wind in the Willows in mind when he created this show about three elderly men who wonder around getting into various "situations"?).

But I will soon return to my overstuffed chair and my book and my tea (coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon).  Perhaps to ponder again why some titles and various authors tug at my heart when the weather turns cool.

*All book links are Amazon Associate

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Meal Planning in the Pantry


Have you ever had shelves of food on your pantry but felt you could not put a meal together?  I used to quite often.  Especially when my pantry was there for emergencies and not for Real Life.  Before the idea of deepening the pantry instead of storing food.

That was when it began to dawn on me that the pantry can be utilized a lot better than I had been.  It started with just purchasing at least one extra item I use all the time, like I mentioned last week.  But then as I did some research, I found great ideas that have worked since then.

The first was to think of simple pantry friendly meals and make certain I have everything needed for them stocked.  Not only the ingredients but any other essentials like cooking oil, foil, parchment paper, etc.

The easiest such meal is to have a jar of good quality marinara sauce, a package of spaghetti or penne pasta, and perhaps a package of garlic bread kept in the freezer.  I have found those purchased frozen in foil to be very yummy when baked and then carefully (very carefully, watching it always) placing it under the broiler to become bubbly and just a little brown.

Another easy pantry meal is tuna noodle casserole... the old fashioned recipe with canned tuna, cream of mushroom (or another favorite "cream of" soup), and a bag of dried noodles set aside.

A very healthy soup can be made with a can of beans, a box of broth (chicken, beef, veggie, etc.), a handful of rice or pasta, and perhaps a can of diced tomatoes.  Or when able to plan ahead, a bag of beans soaked overnight and simmered the next morning.  Or bring the beans to a boil (strong simmer really), turn the heat off and let them sit an hour or so... then continue cooking until the beans are tender.

I make salmon patties quite often (making them really into croquette sizes) and that is an easy recipe to keep all the ingredients on hand, served with rice and perhaps veggies from the freezer.  In mid-winter, the veggie is often canned green beans.

These pantry meals require just a little thinking ahead, perhaps doing a search online for meals from the pantry or some more imaginative phrase to look for good ideas.

If you don't mind putting a little more time and effort into the pantry, do the same thing but with your five favorite family meals.  Take out a piece of paper and off the top of your head, think of five meals you make quite a lot. 

Then make certain you have all the ingredients for those five meals on the shelves, in the frig, or in the freezer... for five meals to begin with.  Then to deepen the pantry, simply make certain you have all the ingredients for more than one meal or all five of them.

Some people like to concentrate on stocking up just one meal at a time.  For instance, making certain they have all the ingredients to make that main dish four or five times (to the extent ingredients can be purchased ahead, fresh produce the exception).

I prefer (when possible) to have the ingredients for a variety of meals in the freezer and on the pantry shelves before deepening the pantry with second, third, etc. ingredients of the same dish.  I don't mean have it all prepared ahead of time like a 30 Day Freezer meal (albeit that is a good idea for some families), I mean just the ingredients ready to make each meal.

It is easier that way when I have a little extra money to spend on the pantry. As mentioned before, some recipes are ideal for this and others... not so much.  Your favorite chef's salad wouldn't really work as a deepening the pantry meal. 

You really must have a way to track ingredients if you want to stock up on entire meals at once.  Otherwise you will find you have used an ingredient for something else.  I know.  I have.

The easiest way is to assign a number to each meal and then mark that number on your cans, Ziploc freezer bags, etc.  Just get a role of inexpensive freezer tape (nothing fancy), rip a piece off of the roll,  and write #1 on the tape and then tape it to the bag for the freezer. 

That way the bag can be used over and over (as long as you take the meat out before defrosting it).  I store my Ziploc bags that I use... 1 gallon and 2 gallon sizes... right in the freezer.

Just write #1 on the cans you will use and also have a place in your refrigerator where everyone knows those items are already spoken for!  That helps even if you are not doing anything organized as far as the pantry.  You would think with only two people in the house, that lemon you planned to use in the soup would still be there when you went to get it!  But I digress...

Then, in a notebook or on the list in your computer or wherever you keep your information these days, next to #1 you will write this particular main dish.  For the sake of simplicity, that dish may always be #1 in your files.  But by using just the numbers and the name, it gives the option of assigning #1 to a different dish in the future.

It sounds complicated but if you are only doing this for your top five meals, not so much.  That doesn't mean you will always have to make those particular meals each week, it just means you have the ingredients for those five meals on hand all the time.  When you prepare one of those meals from the pantry, the ingredients (if necessary) to fix it again will go on your grocery list.

Think it is too complicated?  Well, it does take more time for meals that contain a meat, produce, and canned good.  But some are so easy that just about anyone can have five meals put back.  Such as examples of meals mentioned above that all the ingredients can be kept on pantry shelves.

There are some fresh and produce items I cook with a lot that I always try to have on hand like onions, lemons, green peppers (these may be frozen or fresh), co-jack cheese, mozzarella cheese, potatoes, and carrots... to name a few.

Stephanie has a good way of using the freezer to cook ahead for her family... here.  I need to defrost my freezer soon but after I do, I plan to have a few make ahead meals ready in it for those days I don't feel like cooking or when company drops by.

Just by putting a little thought and preparation into keeping the pantry, it will help us get meals on the table a whole lot easier!  And you can choose how much you want to deepen the pantry given finances, time, space, etc.

Hope sharing from what I have learned on the subject helps someone else.

Next week... God willing and the creek don't rise... I'll be thinking ahead about the Holidays.  Yes, it IS that time!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And the winner is...





The computer generated Random.org thingy came up with:  #9!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I would absolutely LOVE to read this!
7:08 PM

Amy, contact me so I can give the powers that be your address.

For those who are still interested in the book but not the fortunate winner, you can learn more about it here

Thanks to everyone who left a comment.

*Associate's link

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sarah's new blog and book... and a giveaway!


Truth in advertising here.  I think Sarah Clarkson is one of the loveliest young women I have ever met.  She is real.  Velveteen Rabbit real.  My fondest memory of Sarah was when she was visiting my daughter and our visit overlapped a couple of days.

When heading off to bed, I stopped by the living room to say goodnight to "the girls" and found one curled up on the sofa and the other equally cozy in a chair... talking and nodding their heads and finding fellowship that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. 

My daughter told me she was asked at one time how the two families came to be friends.  She told them it was because her mother writes about her cat.  Hmmm... there is a grain of truth in that.  Kind of...

Sarah's new book is called Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination With Your Children.  Whew!  From here on out, I will just call it "Storyformed" for the sake of simplicity.

When I read Storyformed, I didn't know what to expect.  I rather assumed it would be similar to her previous book, Read for the Heart.  But instead I found myself immediately taken up with a lovely story about Sarah and her brother in play when they were young.

"...We walked that day with the loping ease of young idealists. There was magic in the air, a scented wind with a heady mix of autumn’s death and brightness that worked like a truth potion on the both of us; we thoughtlessly told the dreams we usually hoarded in silence. Our secrets? Stories. The stories we loved in books, the favorite tales that captured our vision and challenged our dreams. But also the stories we told about ourselves, the narratives we formed in imagination of who we might become and what we might accomplish. Those were the far more telling secrets and we marveled to hear ourselves voice our hopes to accomplish brave deeds, to tell great stories, to live as heroes in the tale of our time.

As we strode that autumn road we recalled the tales that had formed our dreams and we examined their respective heroes; Lucy in Narnia or Aragorn in Middle Earth, Martin the Warrior of Redwall, or even Freckles, the courageous guard of the Limberlost. If they could fight and love, defeat darkness, make beauty, why not us? With each pound of step we imagined the future, each pulse of blood brought our dreams of bravery into speech. Everything seemed possible then and it filled us with a breathless laughter. When we reached the bend in the road, pausing an instant before we turned, I asked him back: “What hero will you be?”...

While this book is about the importance of good books in the raising of children (Storyformed... children who are formed by the stories they hear), you can tell from the above excerpt that it reads like a novel.  It is wonderful.

While Sarah provides many titles for us to make a place for on our bookshelves, as she does in Read for the Heart, this book takes us further into the importance of great stories in the life of a child and within a family. 

The Table of Contents are:
Exposition:  Awakening Your Child to Wonder
Rising Action:  Invite Your Child to Explore
Crisis:  Strengthen Your Child to Choose
Falling Action:  Encourage Your Child to Endure
Denouement: Inspire Your Child to Hope

Sarah shares what she has learned in her studies of literature, including her time at Oxford.  So much that I didn't know, even after living a life filled with books.  She also writes about personal experiences so one never feels they are in a lecture or reading anything close to "how to" "do this" or "teach that".

This is a love letter to the art of... Story.  As well as one of the few books I have ever stated is a must read!  You most likely will love it.  Especially if you love books.  Oh... and it is not just for the families with young children at home.  It is for grandparents.  It is for uncles and aunts.  It is for the single person who loves books.  

Sarah is giving away a book to one fortunate person here.  All you have to do is to leave a comment before 5:00 PM EST Thursday.  It is that simple.

To order through Amazon, mosey on over... here.*  I have added the book to my Amazon widget, too.

Today is also the official launch of the new Storyformed blog and Sarah is offering a beautiful give away on it... here.

*Associate link

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Keep your Eyes on the Prize


"All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”  -- C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

 
I finally made it to the Farmer's Market yesterday to use the vouchers we had been given.  I noticed how the gourds and pumpkins and butternut squash were now the stars of the show.  And as I was checking on the firmness of a tomato, the sounds of sirens could be heard in the distance.

It was a parade of sorts.  A police escort, two buses with the University's name on the side (carrying the team), and one of the mechanical mascots filled with VIP fans.   It is football season in a University town, another sure sign autumn is just around the corner.

It seems as if it were last week that I was planting my garden, how can it be September already?  I shared with a friend in an e-mail that I have been weary of soul lately.  As much as I adore Autumn in all of its' cool, crisp, colorful glory... there is with it the realization that another year will soon be past.  Another calendar will be purchased and hung with a brand new year on each month of weeks.

The passage of time reminds each of us of our finiteness, our limited walk on the sod of this planet.  We have so little time to make our mark whether our journey is to be a small one or if we reach the century mark.  It all goes by so rapidly that we can feel we are never going to fulfill the destiny God has for us.  We will not come near the finish line having accomplished that which we desired.

But God knows we are but dust.  He is the one who set our number of years and placed those desires within our very soul.  He knows we have an expiration date and he is aware of just when that date is stamped in the Heavenly books.

He wants us to be faithful.  To be obedient.  To follow His Word. To take the next step before us.

A Truth I am recognizing each year that goes by is this... we are to do the best we can with what we are given and in the time allotted.   No one will ever truly reach the finish line with everything accomplished.  He gives us a goal and a journey, with enough provision and wisdom as are needed.  But the true goal is Eternity itself... and Him.

Whatever good stuff we have here on earth, it is nothing compared to the rewards awaiting us in Heaven.  We do the works He has set before us and our rewards are based on that alone.  We are not to compare ourselves to another for we will become fearful we are not doing enough or prideful as to what we have accomplished.

Salvation does not come from our works but by Grace says the Word of God (lest any man should boast).  We come before the Lord asking for forgiveness of our sins and letting Him take our sins upon Himself so that God can see us as flawless to enter the Kingdom.  Our salvation is based on His Redemption and that alone.  He is the only Lamb of God who led a perfect life.  He is the one and only Person who can open the scroll in the last Book of the Bible.

But it does not end at salvation.

We are to do the works He has given us.  You know, those little nudges that may end up in grand finales or perhaps known only between you and your God.  Billy Graham has stated many times that the greatest amongst us in Heaven may just be the praying grandmothers of the world and not those who preach to stadiums filled with people.

That was Billy's nudge you know, to preach the Truth of the Gospel.  To stay true to it even as the tide of Truth turned in our own generation until now we hardly recognize the world as it once was.  Oh, it was never perfect, of course.  But it certainly was more in keeping with the ten commandments.

What is your nudge?  What gifts does he want you to use on your journey.  They are not necessarily grand and glorious.  I have a friend who has been a great blessing to me as she slips me a little gift here and there so I can do what God has set before me. 

I know without a doubt she will receive rewards in Heaven for her nudges to give, not only to me but to others in her realm of friends and family.  Whether the person who has the gift of giving does so with a small amount or gifts so large they are miraculous answers to prayer... the rewards are waiting.

I have friends who write beautifully and have published amazing books that are read worldwide.  But I also have a number of online friends who continue writing a blog that only handfuls of people read.  But one never knows when that one person is receiving wisdom that will keep them on their journey towards their God given finish line... and that one person is why God has you writing.

Will you receive a reward for baking a pie for the grieving family or inviting your elderly neighbor to dinner once in awhile?  Does God reward the person who knits hats for the homeless or makes quilts for babies in hospitals?  Of course!  Think of Dorcas in Acts or Jesus teaching in the Gospels that we give a glass of water in His name to the thirsty.

For you see, we are to keep our eyes on the prize says the Scriptures.  We are to have an eternal perspective.  Yes, time is passing quickly and we can never accomplish all we want.   No, life is never ever perfect.  But sometimes it is good.  Sometimes it is glorious.  But it is never Heaven on this earth.

You can do nothing else to make God love you more than He does already.  No works will make Him appreciate you more.  But as you have an Eternal perspective, you want to accomplish what He has asked you to do.  No matter how impossible it may look at the time -or- no matter how small and unimportant it may seem in your finite mind.

The above quote is one of my all time favorites from Literature.  Doesn't it say what is the Truth in such an amazing way that we can understand what this life is all about?

We are creating the cover page to our story as we are a part of His Story.  This is just the preparation you know.  Our perfect garden is yet to come.  Our perfect meal is yet to come.  And get this... our perfect body is yet to come.  Woo Hoo!

You will always feel in this world that you have not performed perfectly.  And you will be right.  But keep an Eternal Perspective and know this... everything you do here whether big or teeny tiny counts toward Eternity.  Even if it is not done perfectly.  Even if it is not done completely.

Keep your eyes on the prize as He commanded.  For He knows it helps us keep going toward the goal when we would rather go back to bed with a pint of ice cream and a good novel.

Image:  The End of Harvest by Judy Richardson

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifetyle - The Simple Pantry


Most of my pantry decisions are quite simple.  I think about what I use the most and buy at least one extra.  Items like flour and sugar (the various types) and salt and pepper and canned tomatoes and pasta and... you get the idea.  Those items used a lot in the kitchen.

Then if I want to stock up for more than one extra... to deepen the pantry so to speak... I purchase what I can and when I can until I reach that number I am comfortable with and/or what the budget allows.

Keeping a pantry does at least three things:
  1. Eliminates last minute drives to the grocery store when you are out of an item.
  2. Saves a lot of money when you stock up on items when they are on a good sale price.
  3. Helps you organize your meal planning and home keeping better.
When I purchase on sale, I can expand my menu options.  For instance, I try to purchase cream cheese blocks when they are on a 10 for $10 sale (their use by date is often months out).  Then I can afford to make my favorite cheesecake recipe that uses five packages of cream cheese!  Otherwise, it is too pricey even if it does serve a lot of people.

One thing that has helped me keep a simple but useful pantry is to think of ways to have multiple purposes for what I purchase.  For instance, it is far better for me to store a box of graham crackers and crush them if needed than to buy a box of crushed graham crackers.

For one thing, I am not paying someone else to do the work for me that is so easy (and rather therapeutic). Not to mention I have them in the cracker form should I want a quick snack with a glass of milk.

I love to learn new ways of using items, too.  Like when Stephanie and I took the cooking class at Colonial Williamsburg, we learned that the chef liked to use Keebler Pecan Sandies they have crushed instead of graham crackers for a crust at times.

You just have to press the crushed cookies into the bottom of a baking dish.  No added sugar.  No added butter.  They form a beautiful crust "as is".  Talk about simplifying the pantry!

Sometimes I have let items sit in my pantry simply because I don't have what I normally use with them.  Last winter my husband asked if I realized there was a flat of peaches that were around six months past their date on the shelf?  I knew they were there but I didn't realize it had been that long.

I had to stop and think about why I stopped going through cans of peaches as often as I once did.  I had always preferred fresh fruit when possible so that should not make a difference. Then I realized it was because I had not been purchasing cottage cheese and I always ate them together.  It was as simple as that.

As it turned out, cottage cheese was one of the items my nutritionist had encouraged me to begin keeping on hand for lunches again.  So I no longer let canned fruit of any kid get past the date on their cans!

So... peruse your pantry and look at the items you have not been using.  Do they need other ingredients to combine with them?  Do they require an object you have not purchased in awhile?  I have a recipe I have wanted to try for a few weeks and I bought the ingredients... but forgot I was out of aluminum foil which is essential to the process.

This past week, the store brand of aluminum foil was at a nice sale price so it was purchased.  I can now try the new recipe.  Which is also why, if you are able to afford them and you have room to store them, items like aluminum foil are good to purchase at restaurant supply places where they offer the larger rolls.

Now, sometimes there are items I keep on hand but only for certain recipes.  Like fire roasted canned tomatoes to use with chili... and with it having been summer, there has been very little making of chili.  But I know why those cans have been sitting ignored through the summer months.  They are just waiting their season to return (soon).

If there are items in your pantry that you now realize you will never use, give them to a food pantry.  Or ask a friend if they want them.  You pantry should be like your closet, with nothing in it that you never ever use (except in my closet, I do not have to worry about an expiration date on my party dresses or Christmas sweaters).

Next week I'll chat about making the pantry more useful to meal planning!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

My World this Week


Okay, another on the fly (so to speak) My World this Week.  But if I waited for perfect circumstances, there would be no blog!  ;)

Reading

I didn't think I would find this book all that interesting until I picked it up at a bookstore and perused it.  Gosh have I ever been so wrong!  The Nester gives wonderful advice about decorating your home creatively and on a budget.

So when the Kindle version was on sale for two dollars and change last week, I bought it to read on the iPad.  Honestly, it is one of the best books about decorating your home that I have ever read.  Further info... here.*

Collecting

The nice thing about collecting brown transferware instead of just one pattern is that it mixes and matches beautifully.

Along with my own thrifting finds and purchases, I have received brown transferware from Kristi and Manuela and I think of both of them when I use it!

Tweaking
Photo taken with flash
I did a major re-do on the china cabinet recently.  The first one in years.  But I wanted to display more of my collection.  The other china was either stored in the buffet or added to the shelves in the Study.

Most is brown transferware with just a few other obvious exceptions.  The flash really distorts the color but when you live in a forest and your china cabinet is in a dark corner...

Thrifting

Isn't this pretty?  I found it for just a few dollars at Goodwill and you can bet it went in my cart immediately.

It is in good shape but since it is quite old, I will use it for display and not for serving tea.  I have a few sturdier teapots for that use.

Trying to Work

I was going to sit down and work awhile but this is what I found.

Her Fluffiness

I was sorting through cards (many of which you all sent me) to put them into one large box when I looked up and found someone had made herself at home in the lid of one of the boxes!

She was not happy when I finish sorting and made her give up her bed.

*Amazon Associate's link.  When you order through the link or through entering Amazon through the widget (no, you do not have to purchase the item you click on)... I receive wonder beautiful lovely credit!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A little chat...


The first two-thirds of our summer was lovely.  But as our former weatherman used to warn quite often... nature has a way of balancing itself out.  August has been miserable with heat and humidity and constant rains.   I feel I've moved from the Midwest to a Costa Rica rain forest.

Which partially explains why I have not had a My World this Week with very recent photos lately.  Hopefully within the next few days the camera can take photos without a flash.  Although I do have a couple good photos with Miss Victoria looking quite shiny when taken with a flash to provide light.  She was just too cute not to photograph.

I've also been quite busy, sitting and waiting in doctor's offices.  I mentioned having a family member that was ill... that would be Christopher.  He was rushed to the Emergency Room twice not too long after returning from vacation. 

Because part of his symptoms include dizziness, he has not been able to drive so the role of chauffeur has fallen to me during the daytime when his wife is at work (she is a schoolteacher).

I have taken a book or the Kindle on numerous visits to the allergist and the cardiologist waiting rooms.  He and Mrs. Christopher have had to leave their home and have it checked for mold.  They were staying with us a few days but when they realized this was going to take longer than expected, they took advantage of a friend's offer to stay in their downstairs apartment.

The house tests indicate mold in the crawlspace and a build up of dust and debris in the vents. Both of which they are having cleaned.  But we were all thankful there was no black mold in the house.

Except for finding his asthma has become worse, all other medical tests have come back negative.  Which in some ways is good and in others quite frustrating.  So more tests will be administered and more doctors visited.  I never realized how many illnesses could be under the symptoms umbrella of "chest pain, dizziness, trouble breathing, and sometimes nausea".

But this shall also pass and I am quite thankful it did not happen when there was a foot of snow on the ground!  I would not be so easily hired as chauffeur so cheap.  My payment is a cup of McDonald's coffee "to go" as we are on our way home.   ;)

Photo:  The year I first started blogging, we were still in full time homeschooling mode.  I used to keep one or two books in the car as I waited while he was fencing a few times a week.  He set it aside when he went to college but he loved it at the time.  He is wearing the black shoes, his fencing partner (a girl) has the cute shiny shoes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Born to Make Art


Recently I embraced a new determination to "make Art".  Actually, I feel I am coming full circle... returning to the Art of my youth.

There was a time I painted and created and took pencil to sketchbook and enjoyed spending hours embroidering wall hangings to pretty up our early apartments.  I spent free time making art just for the sake of... making Art.  All kinds of Art.

But something began to nip away at the part of me that made Art.  Trials.  Heartache.  Hope deferred.  Life unexpected.  Tears.  Colors turned to shadows.  Life became too hard. Getting up each morning required all my faith and energy allowed.

Being a person born to make Art, creativity would find some way to break through the fog to light our world.  Cooking and baking would always bring joy as tried and true recipes shared space in my kitchen with new foods and spices and herbs and good knives.

I cooked for the Art of it as I discovered Jacques and Julia and Bon Appetit and lovely cooking shows of long ago.  I think creative cooking stayed with me because it was always needed.  We tend to eat three times a day.  More if one is a Hobbit.

There was a short season when creating with fabric rose to the surface.  But eventually the sewing machine gathered dust and the fabric I kept was placed in boxes and later in drawers.  In the midst of... Life... I grew tired of sewing.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I would remember I was born to make Art.

Homeschooling provided it's' own creative opportunities but some of those years were among the darkest, when all energy had to be given to learning and teaching and doing laundry.

Somewhere in my reading through the years, I recall a statement made by an author about why we do not always accomplish what we desire.  He (or she) wrote that we tend to default to what comes the easiest and what we do best.  Even if we desire to try new things.

For me that was preparing food for family and friends.  When my daughter-in-law recently commented on the delicious lemon scones I had sent home for her, I told her I had the Spiritual gift of cooking and baking.  It's there somewhere in Corinthians.

I do have my scrapbook journals but they are not the creative Art as so many I have seen online. But I am glad I kept them through the years.  For they are as close to the Art of my youth as anything accomplished in the last decades.

Of course there is writing.  There has always been writing.  Ever since I scribbled a quick last minute homework assignment in English 101 and the Teaching Assistant at the University used it to teach the class.  But once again... I defaulted to what came easily.

But what about the Art of my youth?  I has sensed a desire to return to more visual arts in past years.  The thoughts would float through my mind but found no Place to land, the old desires were nudging at me again to make Art.  It was as if God were trying to get a Truth through to me and I had put up a wall between Him and me in that area.

Until Michigan.  My epiphany week.

Perhaps it was simply wisdom which comes with another decade.  For certainly there must be some equity in the universe for what the years do to the body!  Or perhaps it was the place.  Or the people, those I loved most in the world together with time to talk and sit at the table and walk and just... be... together in one place.

Perhaps just a change of scenery made it easier to hear from Him, trading cornfields for the beach.  But Truth began to dawn on me and the separate yearnings for the Art of my youth... that which was so near but far enough out of my reach to frustrate... it began to become clear.

I turned my back on the Art of my youth because I listened to the lies of the enemy.  Some coming through the words of unkind teachers which turned from opinion to ... in my mind... truth.  But not real Truth.  Not God's Truth. Then there were the whispers of the enemy saying my Art was not good enough.

Were the years wasted?  Oh, no.  Not at all.  Art was still made.  Just not... that Art.

But He has been whispering that it is time.  Time to restore the Art of my Youth.  Time to do that which was only "good enough".  Time to ponder what has been floating around my mind.  Time to let it land.

That has been the precipice of redoing my Study, of reorganizing my Stuff, of tossing what has not aged well while stored and making lists of what is needed... to make room in an already tight budget to Create.  Nothing too expensive... glue and double stick tape and perhaps an embroidery pattern here and there.  Maybe some glitter if I really want to get wild and crazy.

Part of the epiphany was oh so obvious.  I needed to set aside some of what I had been spending time on to make time for Art.  I didn't need to do it all... just one or two choices from the past.  So the materials of old were gone through and sorted, some thrown away as no longer usable and some salvaged.

Is it working?  Well, I made a very pretty card to send to some dear friends.  I started work on a new and somewhat different scrapbook journal (more about that later).  And the third project... something with yarn... will be started this next week.  Who knows, perhaps someday I will even pick up paints and canvas again.  But there is enough Art to be made here at home with what I already have for the moment.


What about you?  Has the Creator been whispering in your ear or bringing hints across your path?  Is there Art He wants you to make?  Do you have the gift of seeing Beauty through the lens of a camera?  Was there a time you lived for the aroma of oil paint on canvas?  When was the last time you finished a needlework project hidden away in a drawer?

Have you always wanted to learn to make wedding cakes or sushi or pickles?  Do you long to create watercolor journals?  Have you bookmarked knitting blogs even though you do not knit?  Or perhaps your bookshelves contain numerous books about writing but you never write, even letters.

Does your heart beat faster when you walk by a display of beads and baubles, thinking of jewelry which could be made?  Would you love to know how to form pottery or stitch quilts?  Not for money for that would put too much pressure on the learning.  Maybe someday but not now.

Has the enemy of your soul told you that you are now too old?  Or perhaps he has said you are not old enough?  Or not talented enough?  Or not smart enough?   I've heard all in my life.  Over and over and over again.

Let this be your epiphany... your wake up call... your permission note!

None of us want to come to the end of our lives and wish we lived our minutes differently.  For how we live our minutes determines our days and our months and our years.  I don't know about you but another birthday has me realizing life is too short to wait for another time and another place.

What is He nudging you to make?  What Art is within you just waiting to come out?  What is the longing of your heart, that Art you were born to make? No longer worrying about the grade from a teacher.  You are now mature enough to set aside the scoffing of family and friends.  Only you and your Creator may understand.  But that is okay.  Have fun!  Take joy!  Make Art.

Photo:  A long ago scene from my deck when I enjoyed a solitary quiet time with my Bible, tea, cinnamon toast, and a favorite book, Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer.  She explains Making Art like no one else I know.  (The book is called The Hidden Art of Homemaking in paperback.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Eating out of the Pantry

From Mavis at One Hundred Dollars a Month
Today I'm pondering the subject of using my pantry.  Since my husband no longer has the seasonal work he had for around ten years (they are cutting back substantially), we have been eating out of the pantry lately instead of adding to it.

It's not a bad thing really... as long as we will be able to restock at some time in the future... to depend on the pantry.  You certainly learn what you use quicker than expected.  For instance, we ran out of a few items that I thought I had plenty of in stock.  Items like trash bags, dishwashing liquid, and even condiments like mayonnaise. 

Eating out of the pantry has again proven there are essentials to have on hand.  Those items which, when they are available, provide meals on the table more easily and at a good price.  

I so often think of the way past generations cooked when they needed to eat from what they stored from the harvest... and how they used what they had to extend meals.  For instance, potatoes and carrots were slow roasted with a very small roast last week (along with two cans of Cream of Mushroom soup to form a gravy) and provided a filling and tasty meal when Mr. & Mrs. Christopher had dinner with us.

I ran out of onions once and realized just how often they formed a basis of cooking.  I've decided they are essential to stock and as many as possible.  I use less garlic but when I need it, I am glad to have it in the bowl on the table. 

Although I have the powdered versions of both on hand for recipes, sometimes they cannot be substituted for fresh .  I'm thinking minced dried versions of each would be excellent additions to the pantry?

Anyhoo... even if you don't have to eat out of your pantry due to a loss or reduction in income, it is a good thing to do it once in awhile to see what it teaches you.  You will probably have a few surprises, too.

Remember how I said before that I listen to news reports to see how the pantry purchases may be affected?  I'd heard just recently that the severe drought in California will cause grocery prices to continue increasing.  Some items more than others should the drought not be broken soon.

Just this past week I read there is a drought in Spain that may cause much higher prices (and possible shortages) for olive oil, since that country is the primary producer.*  If you have the funds, it would be a good time to stock up now before the higher prices make it through to the grocery stores.

Since I mainly only deepen the pantry when possible, there is little I found I don't use.  I keep in the pantry what I know we eat and deepen it by purchasing extra of those items when possible... instead of just storing food to have on hand for an emergency.

There is a place for storing emergency food supplies if you have the extra income and space.  Not everyone can do that these days.  But everyone (except those of us actually eating out of our pantry!) can deepen what they do use by buying a little extra here and there!

*Drought in Spain... here.  If you do a Google search, you will see that this is big news worldwide.

Image: From this website, one of the best online for valuable information!