Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Truth From Unexpected Places


There are more days than I would like to admit that I find myself lost in my To Do list without the ability to quickly assess priorities.  I  feel unteathered... as if a strong wind could topple me over at a moment's notice.  It has been one of those years.

I know my concentration has been off when writing doesn't bring the joy it usually does to my heart.  For awhile I even lost my ponder.  I think it has returned.

When there has been one life hit after another in quick succession, one begins to wonder if life will ever have a look of normal again.  I have been here before and the answer is... yes.  Kind of..  In a way.  For it may be a new normal.

I seek wisdom for I know from experience that God never wastes a trial.  When there have been two or three or four in succession, overlapping before another is resolved, He is especially getting my attention.  The intense need for wisdom and direction is sought more than in the seasons of life when everything is "same old, same old".

Wisdom usually arrives but not always from a direction I expected. I have had Eureka moments while reading a novel, watching a movie, chatting with a friend, hiking trails, and yes... reading my Bible.  However, one expects to find Truth in the Word of God.  From a favorite TV show?  Not so much.

My favorite episode of the Canadian family drama called Heartland, occurs in Season 2 when Amy's horse, Spartan, refuses to jump after being rescued from kidnappers.  Amy decides to seek help from her late mother's friend, Victor, a Native Canadian horse trainer who is known to help traumatized horses.

Victor realizes right away that it is not Spartan who needs help but it is Amy.  Amidst the beautiful background of the Canadian Rockies in winter, Victor takes Amy on walks and even teaches her to play golf (sorta').  Amy continually asks him when he is going to work with Spartan but he always tells her it will be soon.  Instead he spends time with her in conversation.

[Now, I must throw in a disclaimer here for anytime we seek wisdom outside of the canon of Scripture.... we must practice discernment.  As we pray, I believe the Holy Spirit within gives us either peace or a sense of uneasiness.

However, as Augustine is often quoted... "All truth is God's Truth".  We need only to discern if what we are reading or watching or listening to is Truth.  When it comes to some First Nation teaching, I think of Romans 1 when Paul talks about how God's Truth is in the heart of man because of what is around him (nature) that proclaims His presence.]

Victor takes Amy to a location on his land where he has set up a medicine wheel used by First Nations.  As he walks it with her, he explains how our life can get unbalanced, especially when we have suffered trauma as she has with her mother's death and most recently Spartan's kidnapping.

I was amazed that he was actually teaching what we would call the importance of keeping spirit, soul, and body in balance.  Suffering trials can take us off balance and affect every part of us more than we realize.  Any kind of trauma to the body will affect the spirit and the soul.  Trauma to the soul (our mind, our thoughts, how we see ourselves, etc.) can affect the body.

One of the specialists I went to in the Detroit area told me that while they do not know what is the cause of all auto immune diseases (like Type 1 diabetes), there is a strong relationship between high levels of stress (the mind) and developing diseases (the body). 

I watched this episode again recently and it helped me understand that my current state of being unteathered is not due to a lack of faith, or not walking with God close enough, or any other sort of lie the enemy of our souls whispers to bring about doubt and confusion.  I am rather overwhelmed with uncertainty at the moment and it affects... everything

I have wondered why there are times when I find God's Truth in secular places.  I mean apart from the fact that everything was created by Him in the first place.  I came to realize that they offer me a different perspective on a situation.

It is much the same as stepping back to get a better focus or simply coming at a problem from a different angle.  The secular lens can be quite different than the Scriptural way of seeing and when used by God, can be that which shines light onto Truth.

In this episode, before returning to Heartland, we see Amy riding Spartan as he makes every jump perfectly.  Spartan is the same but his owner now has the wisdom and courage to heal from the traumas of her past.  Thanks to a wise teacher, she is once again in balance.

Of course, our secular teachers will never be perfect and neither will they always be 100% Biblical.  However, when one has walked with God for awhile and learned to listen to Him, when one knows what the real Truth is from His Word... then the secular offers us insight we who still walk in the flesh can utilize.

I personally love it when God uses the unexpected.  It is as if he slips one through once in awhile to remind us He can use anything to bring us wisdom and make us more like Jesus.  Even a secular TV show about a horse ranch.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Heartland, Season 2... here.
Full Circle is available as an episode through Amazon Video... here (#17).

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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - My Favorite Aldi Products


I will be back with a post on Saturday when there is something to write about.  My ability to do life as normal is still very limited but my eyesight is slowly improving.  I will find out on Wednesday if my specialist thinks I need surgery.

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Aldi products.  I stock up once a month with most groceries so last week was a good time to take some photos of my purchases.  There are some items I purchase every month while others are items I'm trying for the first time.

Two items I purchase every month is their Organic Mild Salsa and the Tikka Masala sauce.  The price of both is very reasonable and I can't find salsa anywhere else that is mild enough for my husband's taste while still adding just a hint of heat.  I use it in a lot of dishes so I buy at least four a month.

I love Indian food but my husband hates it so it is of no use for me to make a complete main dish.  However, I've found with the Tikka Masala sauce I can make chicken with a side of brown rice for both of us, and add the sauce just to mine to make a delicious and easy Indian meal.  (The unused sauce keeps well in the refrigerator.)

Sometimes I will brown chicken thighs in a skillet, pour the Tikka Masala in the bottom of a casserole dish, place the chicken thighs on top of the sauce (to keep the skin of the chicken crisp)... and bake about forty-five minutes or more if needed. There are many ways to get my Indian food fix with this sauce.

I have to keep granola bars in my purse and in my cupboard because they are my go to low blood sugar fix.  I've tended to have terrible low blood sugar at times when I am running errands (if I don't stop and eat somewhere) so there are always two or three granola bars in my purse.  These are tasty and inexpensive enough to keep me stocked.


I took a separate photo of these two items since they kept frosting over (they were taken out of the freezer) in the first photograph.  Aldi's Grass Fed Organic Ground Beef is THE REASON I buy ground beef only at Aldi's.  It puts organic ground beef within my budget (although I still have to use it sparingly).

I purchase four packages a month on my regular budget.  If I can spend a little more, I buy extra.  All of them are kept in the freezer and defrosted one at a time as needed.  Yes, it means I normally only have ground beef four times a month.

Should I choose to make something like a meatloaf, I use a good quality ground beef from the grocery store.  Currently my budget does not contain enough funds for a meatloaf containing only organic ground beef!

What can I say about Kerrygold butter?  I adore it.  It reminds me of the butter I remember from my childhood.  Aldi's has the cheapest price for Kerrygold butter of all the stores I go to, I'm talking at least a dollar less (and much cheaper than one of the grocery stores).

I buy four a month and freeze three since usually one is needed immediately.  This is my "sit on the counter" butter so I only buy salted (which is all they carry).  I cut the big block (horizontally) into two blocks, one block fits my vintage Pyrex butter holder just fine and the other block waits patiently in the butter section of the refrigerator.  It freezes beautifully.

I use regular store brand butter for baking.  Even as inexpensive as it is at Aldi's, using it for baking would be too expensive and you wouldn't really notice the difference in the final product.  (Although I have used it in the making of butter cream frosting.)


There are some items I purchase rarely or for the first time at Aldi's.  For instance,  I've been looking for extra virgin olive oil with chilies since I saw on a cooking show that this kind of oil was the secret to a recipe people loved.  The cook drizzled a bit of it over the spaghetti and sauce before serving.  It was too expensive elsewhere for something that may not work out so I was thrilled to find it at Aldi's at a great price.  (I haven't tried it, yet.  Soon!)

The Tajin seasoning is a Mexican product made up of lime, mild chili peppers, and sea salt.  I had a sample bottle of it before and loved it but it was when Nigella was showing favorite purchases on her latest show that I recognized the familiar bottle, even though she didn't share the brand name.  She stated the contents and sure enough, it was the Tajin!

I had seen it before at Aldi's and decided this month to make the purchase, it is not expensive there.  Nigella had suggested using it on watermelon.  So I did.  Yum.

Aldi's has a limited selection of organic herbs and spices.  Italian Seasoning is one I prefer organic and it is very inexpensive there.  I get very annoyed at people saying spices do not have a long shelf life because they do!  However, herbs and herb blends really do lose flavor within a year.  This is inexpensive enough you will not mind replacing it (if you do not use it all up first).

Items Not Shown That I Buy Regularly

Image from Aldi's website
Chocolate
Okay, if you do not shop at Aldi's for any other reason then you must go for their chocolate.  I'm not surprised that it is often the favorite purchase of many articles I have read.

For you see, you can buy European chocolate at grocery store prices at Aldi and it is... delicious.  I have two favorites, their Choceur Milk Chocolate mini bars (sold four or five to a package) are melt in your mouth creamy yummy goodness.  I do not buy them every time because I have no self control.

I do purchase one package a month of the Moser Roth Dark Chili chocolate bars.  I'm not a big fan of dark chocolate even though it is suppose to be good for you (in moderation) but I do enjoy these with either chili, orange, or mint.

I purchase the dark chocolate with the chili the most as the slight heat it gives (not a lot) makes one small bar just right to enjoy at one time.  Unlike the Choceur Milk Chocolate bars, I can half self control with these.  They do sell very, very dark chocolate.

Aldi's has beautiful Easter and Christmas candy options.  Their foil wrapped Christmas chocolate have an Old World look.  I purchase a small bag of them just to display on the breakfront but they are perfect for Christmas stockings.

Cheese
I have found all their Happy Farms brand of cheese to be good.  I always buy a package of the Havarti cheese (plain).  At these prices, you could serve a good size cheese tray at a party for a lot less than it would cost elsewhere... and the cheese is delicious.  They sell other items that can be served with the cheese.

Sometimes they have the Kerrygold cheese that I like but they haven't carried it for a year or so.  I'm hoping it returns soon.

Fish
My very favorite frozen tilapia is the Sea Queen brand at Aldi's.  I buy the 2 pound bag and it provides two meals for us (probably one meal for a family of four).  I cut the tilapia in half horizontally at the natural line between the thicker side and the thinner side of the fillet.  I very lightly bread it and fry the thicker sides first, then the thinner sides.  I have found separating them like this keeps the thinner side from overcooking.

I have purchased their frozen salmon fillets, too.  They were quite good but we actually prefer my recipe for salmon patties to fresh salmon (it is probably our Midwestern land bound roots?).

Bread and Crackers
Aldi's carries a lot of various crackers, although I normally just purchase their version of Ritz crackers called Savoritz Original Buttery Round Crackers. These are just as good as Ritz (my husband likes them better).

Aldi's carries a large selection of breads, some are everyday breads but others are special. For instance, their Brioche Loaf is a delicious, rich flavored bread.  We like the chocolate chip version and freeze most of it when I return home from shopping.  I keep four or five slices unfrozen at a time for snacks.  It is so rich that just one slice makes me feel I've had dessert at far less carbs.

Nonfood Items
Aldi's carries the usual kinds of paper goods.  One item I always buy at Aldi's is their Boulder brand Large Trash bags with Four Flaps.  I use them as large kitchen trash bags and the way you can tie off the flaps makes them sturdy.  I've used these for years and since they come in a 40 count box of bags, they last awhile in our home.

Obviously there are other products we use but this is long enough already.  My husband likes their selection of frozen fruit while I especially like their frozen green beans (and I'm not a fan of frozen green beans).

Their canned tomatoes, fruit, beans, etc. have always been good.  I find their canned pumpkin to be lighter on flavor than my usual brand but it does work great in pumpkin bread (I still prefer Libbys for pumpkin pies).

I often buy eggs there, as well as half and half.  They have a good selection of meat (including a special sale meat each week) and fresh produce.

If you have an Aldi's near you and you have not shopped there yet, do try it out.  It certainly helps my budget.  If you have a favorite Aldi's product that I haven't listed, I would love to hear about it in Comments.

Note:  Please forgive typos and such.  I still do not see clearly.  Thank you.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fawkes, a review


I started out slowly reading this book because I didn't realize it was a fantasy novel as well as historical fiction.  However, once I realized the difference, it became very enjoyable... although a challenge with only one good eye!  The book arrived just prior to my eye infection.

Fawkes is based on a true event, better known in Great Britain than in the States.  Although I was aware of Guy Fawkes from the graphic novel (and later movie), V For Vandetta, which was a favorite of my son. Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night) is celebrated in England to this day.

In the book, Guy Fawkes' son is the main character.  It begins with his father not showing up for an important ritual at his school, causing him to be kicked out of the school.  This part of the novel confused me a bit but if you continue reading, everything will fall into place.

The story continues as he locates his father and becomes involved in the The Gunpowder Plot.  Now, what makes this even more interesting is that God becomes a part of the younger Fawkes' journey, although known under a different name in this novel (it is fantasy).

What happens with The Gunpowder Plot is known in history but the reader will still be wondering if young Thomas will help kill King James and Parliament or if he chooses to turn against his father and save hundreds of people.  Either decision would have consequences for Thomas.

This is an enjoyable book for those who like a combination of fantasy and historical fiction but want to stay away from content that would be inappropriate for younger people.  Recommended for those who enjoy the genre.

Fawkes was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

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

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Book Girl


Sarah's new book arrived yesterday.  I had been slogging (s.l.o.w.l.y.) through a novel that I must review but I set it aside to peruse Book Girl immediately.  I could not put it down.  Even with difficulty in reading (due to my right eye not seeing correctly), I wanted to keep reading!

I read through four chapters and perused a couple others. I will be carefully reading all of it before the official review on publication day (September 4th).  However, I can tell you already that if you love books then you will love this book.

Sarah had given Stephanie an Advanced Reader Copy when they met together in Oxford and she has told me it is excellent.  I can agree and promise you that book lovers are going to be keeping Book Girl handy to read and refer back to often.

If you know anything about publishing, then you will know how important pre-orders are for an author.  I'm sometimes hesitant to pre-order until I know more about the book but I can assure you that this will be a favorite.

More on Publication Day!

To pre-order Book Girl, click... here.

I will also be keeping Book Girl in my Amazon Widget on the sidebar for awhile.

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

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Importance of Tradition

“There is something about saying, ‘We always do this,’ which helps keep the years together. Time is such an elusive thing that if we keep on meaning to do something interesting, but never do it, year would follow year with no special thoughtfulness being expressed in making gifts, surprises, charming table settings, and familiar food. Tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts.”   ---Edith Schaeffer, What Is a Family?
 
Schools in our area are beginning a new year over the next couple of weeks.  I still cannot fathom the return to the classroom in August but that is the new way of doing things and has been for awhile.When we were homeschooling, I clung to the old ways when it came to scheduling and began our new year in September.  Because I could...

At the risk of once again talking about the good old days (for they were not always good except in our memory), I do think beginning school after Labor Day had a natural rhythm to it that sitting in a classroom when one should be at the lake does not. I suppose mine was the last generation to adhere closely to the agricultural seasons. 

Whatever time of the year it starts, the return to school was the true beginning of the new year in my youth.  It was in September when new clothes were purchased, our notebooks were clean of pencil marks and eraser crumbs, and there was hope that perhaps this was the year I would understand math.

While I usually write about tradition during the Holidays, the return to school was one of those seasons when traditions were also important.  One of our traditions when my kids were home was going out to breakfast on the first day of school each year.  I'm pretty sure we were able to do so every year.  First with just Stephanie, then with both Christopher and Stephanie for awhile, then it was just Mom and son.

When your daughter's first day of college* is the same day your son starts Kindergarten... it does make for juggling traditions a little more interesting.  There were some years we simply went to McDonald's but when there was time... and that usually meant getting up even earlier than I would like... we made our way to a favorite restaurant.

The beginning of another school year, much like Thanksgiving and Christmas, is prime time for traditions. Quite often the genesis of our traditions came from our own childhood. Sometimes the ideas for new traditions began from somewhere in my reading.  The first day of school breakfast came out of the book, Let's Make a Memory by Shirley Dobson and Gloria Gaither.

If you have read this blog more than five minutes, you will know the profound influence Edith Schaeffer's writing had on my life.  I appreciated tradition before reading her books but Edith's writing helped me to understand the need for tradition in one's life.

The quote under the image is one of my favorite "Edith quotes".  Two of her books I made a tradition of reading at least once a year for a long time were What Is a Family and Hidden Art (The Hidden Art of Homemaking in paperback).

One of the truths that quote teaches me is that quite often, most traditions are best kept simple.  For instance, while I would love to have made a gingerbread house every Christmas, I spent too many years working outside the home to even contemplate that tradition. 

Although now that you can purchase pre-made gingerbread houses that are small and cute and just need decorating, it may be a tradition I began just for my own enjoyment.  But I digress... What I could do was make Christmas cookies and many of those recipes are still baked each year to give as gifts. 

Another tradition that began due to a busy Holiday schedule was serving hors d'oeuvres on Christmas Eve.  I usually made a dessert the day before and served the family various "finger foods" as dinner on Christmas Eve.  It was always fun to use my creativity in planning the menu and I made certain everything was easy to make because I could get carried away and that would defeat the purpose of the tradition.

Some traditions are "set in stone" when possible but since life can change, they have had to change due to circumstances.  During the years we attended a Christmas Eve service, it was far easier to just go out for dinner than try to cook anything.

New traditions continue to be started, long after there are no children at home.  Using my collection of brown transferware in the Fall months and especially at Thanksgiving is one of them.  While I decorate with the transferware all year, actually using it provides a way to enjoy it for a season.

It is fun for me when I hear of traditions my kids took with them to their own families.  Of course, they rarely are exactly the way they were followed growing up because circumstances are different, family dynamics have changed, and they are creative enough to tweak traditions to be even better for their families.

When I first read What Is a Family?, I was a young mom just beginning to make memories for my family.  Now I can look back upon decades and agree with Edith that "time is such an allusive thing".  One doesn't realize just how fast time goes until one day you look in the mirror and see your mother staring back at you. 

So now is the time to brush off old traditions, begin a new one, or think ahead to the Holidays.  They will be here before you know it.  If you have begun hyperventilating, sorry about that.  Make it simple and you will be fine.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
What Is a Family?... here.
The Hidden Art of Homemaking... here.
Let's Make a Memory (revised edition, third party)... here.

*It helped that the University and the school my son attended before we began homeschooling were in the same town.

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

Saturday, August 04, 2018

A Quick Saturday Update

The grocery store after an earthquake.

My eye is slowly healing but I still cannot see clearly out of it.  I am praying for a complete healing!  Distance is easier to see so I can drive in the daytime.  That is a beginning, I was able to do my monthly stock up at Meijers and Aldis yesterday.

As you can understand, the situation has slowed me down considerably but is not stopping what I want to accomplish.  It is hard to write Saturday posts because they are usually based on something I am doing... and the doing has been limited.

However, since I could do my Aldis shopping, I hope next week to have a post about some of my favorite Aldis buys.  I have benefited from other blogs as they have posted some of their favorites.  That is how I either knew the product was there or it urged me on to try a product. 

I thought the article below to be quite good so I wanted to share it with you today.  It is called "If I Could Only Stockpile 10 Foods" and the author has good advice on building a basic prepper pantry on a budget that is also healthy.

I will have a Saturday post next week (I hope!).

Mentioned in this Blog Post
If I Could Only Stockpile 10 Foods article... here.
(I do not endorse everything on the site but it has very good information.)