Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More morning light

A lace remnant covers my bathroom window, it was to be temporary but seven years later...

I finally got out of the house today, meeting Christopher on campus... sipping coffee... re-reading a Karen Andreola book until his Physics class ended... and coughing. 

Yes, lots of coughing.  So much so that I'm now in serious sleep deprivation but past experience tells me we are always at the end of the ailment when we feel we are coughing our self silly.

It was no surprise that I could not stay awake this afternoon.  I brought my pillow with its' lovely flannel pillowcase to the sofa and swiped borrowed Christopher's Google Snuggie from where he last used it in the family room.

Is that just the coolest thing? Google gave him the gift of a Snuggie with their name on it when he visited their Chicago headquarters... across from Trump Towers.  It is such a Google thing to do and I told him he had to save it as a memory of his college days... but I digress.

So, having slept the afternoon away... instead of prose I give you pictures all snapped within minutes of each other this morning.  The storms moved through our area during the night (all severe weather was to our south) and left behind beautiful golden sunlight streaming in through lace curtains.

I was thrilled to find this black framed bulletin board at Goodwill a few months ago!

A favorite picture of Christopher and Sheila's boys (I can't believe they are all grown up).  This was when Christopher was fencing competitively, thus... the longish hair.

The first light of morning is my favorite time of the day... as long as the coffee is ready.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pantry Ponderings - The pantry lifestyle

White wheat waiting for grinding...

I'm feeling better!  Isn't it true that there is nothing common about the common cold?  Yuk!  I'm thankful the guys went through this first as I've followed exactly what they experienced.

Yesterday I thought I was going to die and today I woke up feeling well enough to write this post and clean out my yellow pantry... and not have to fall on the sofa.  Of course, I will take it easy for a few days so I see a little more reading than usual in the near future.  :)

Now, for the last post in this Pantry Ponderings series (I promise to do another later in the spring!).  I get e-mails all the time from people who have that same "gut" feeling I do that another shoe is going to drop in the economy, perhaps worse than the crash a few years ago.  (If you are an NCIS fan like me... and I know many of you are... you know that Gibb's "gut" feeling is always right on TV.)

Well my friends, I just read that there are gas stations here in my part of the Midwest that are now charging over $4.00 a gallon for gas!   I know we tend to be more expensive because we're not far from Chicago but it can't be long until we see this price throughout the nation.

I'm sure part of it has to do with what is going on in the Middle East but we can't forget there are refineries offline in the East.  How do I know that?  Because a big part of a pantry lifestyle is keeping an eye on what will cause food to skyrocket as well as possible shortages (which helps prioritize what one uses their stock up money for).

The easiest part of deepening the pantry is buying things and putting them on a shelf, especially if you have the extra money to do so.  The real (and necessary) work takes place in your thinking and praying and doing.

For instance, when one lives a pantry lifestyle then we can translate news into possibilities... when semi truckers have had to pay too much for fuel in the past, what did they do?  They parked their trucks!

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, what happened to food deliveries elsewhere?  My dear friend in New Mexico (not exactly where one would think of hurricane preparedness) had semis diverted from her area to the Coast so her family experienced shortages when the shelves of her local grocery store were empty of various items.

When last year's hurricane hit Virginia, some there were prepared but who didn't think of preparing?  The families who live far from the ocean in New England who experienced power outages as well as those who went through horrible flooding conditions (my daughter was without power for almost a week).  I read many stories of empty grocery shelves. 

Having a pantry lifestyle mindset helps to set your priorities for limited funds.  As most of you know (and I have told you ONLY so you realize if I can stock up even a tiny bit then most people can)... after our Social Security check comes in, there can be no cash left at all.  As careful as we have been with our budget, health issues drained our savings long ago.

We have to live on very little coming in but God has provided in miraculous ways.  Our experiences have taught us SO much, though... the lessons learned from having to (as I've called it before)... live off the financial grid.   Forced frugality can be a very good thing, indeed.

It teaches you what days one of the grocery stores puts their packaged salads half price and what time of day another store slashes the price of their meat... all in excellent condition but near their sell by dates.   It teaches you to stop by Goodwill when you head for the grocery store or library... looking for specific clothing needs or 99 cent English teacups or expensive cooking/baking items at a fraction of their cost (even with increased prices).

Having a pantry lifestyle is far from living without... instead one learns how to decorate their home beautifully with thrifted items... how much better homemade cookies are than those in a package... how to get our vitamins in inexpensive food when we can't afford to buy pills... that a great mechanic is more valuable than any highly paid executive... that a great cookbook is worth the price if you get even one often used frugal recipe... that you can learn to sew, knit, crochet, mend, cook, bake, garden, use a pressure canner, etc.

Did this happen overnight?  Oh, my... I remember how hard it was when I had to learn new ways to think and shop and plan and cook and just do... when I suddenly had more time than money (and at times... no money).  I was a true Yuppie in the 80's!  But I did learn...

So, if you have that "gut" feeling things are not right with the world and the squirrel-ish feelings of stocking up are prevalent... if you find yourself drawn to books about frugal living and wartime England and America in the Great Depression... you are not alone.

Just remember this... God is still in control even if it seems the world has gone mad at times.  (I think they're putting something in the water in Washington... but that is only my political opinion.).   I am absolutely certain that God is in control!

Just do what you can with what you have.  Even an extra box or can or package here and there works.  Reading a book or blog link about living life in difficult times... it all helps.  Keeping your eyes open for grocery bargains works.  Stopping by the thrift store or Goodwill when in the area, anyway... it works.

Learn to do and make and  think before buying.  Develop skills.  Talk to likeminded families. 

Trust your gut... or to be more ladylike... listen to that still small Voice.  ;)

Picture:  Wheat in the two containers I keep it in to grind and use for fresh bread.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A little tweaking of the house

A view of the artwork I'd mentioned earlier...

I do hope to write that "last" pantry post (last only for this series) but I'm still spending an enormous amount of time on the sofa.  This cold/bug does not let up easily... but the sun will come out tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are pictures of a few little household projects I accomplished pre-cold symptoms.

I needed space in the linen closet where I keep some vintage items so I stacked everything together in a basket and it now sits on one of my vintage suitcases.  I'm not sure it will stay like this for long but it is pretty to look at in the meantime.

The corner shelf has been in my stack of "to be repaired" since before we moved here.  It didn't need much done to it, really.  I've been waiting patiently... but then one day I decided I'd waited long enough and I had an idea how to hang it without my husband's fixes.

I purchased a package of sticky thingies at Wal Mart, the package that says each one holds 9 pounds.  I put three of them on the back and stuck the cabinet onto the wall. 

Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do, especially when said project has been taking up space for years and years (and years).  I love how nice it looks.

Sometimes it just amazes me how little prayers can be answered quickly.  I was recently thinking how this corner table needed "something" and I just couldn't figure out what it was.

Soon thereafter, I noticed the cranberry glass shown above at Goodwill as my eyes are always scanning for "all things red".  I thought it perfect for the buffet until I arrived home and realized it looked even nicer... and it was just what I needed... on the corner table.

I figure as long as interior design is God inspired, I can't go wrong.

Someone asked about this artwork now hanging in my family room.  It hung in the kitchen until recently.

It's not a Tasha Tudor print, it's actually three prints by at least two different artists (the mat covers up the third signature) and it was sold at Christian bookstores with the title "Ask, Seek, Knock"... way back in the 1990s.

It was another one of those last minute ideas which caused the change in artwork... but I think it looks nice in the family room.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

This past week I have spent a great deal of time on the sofa, pondering life.  All of it.  Including eternity.  It's a good thing I don't have time often to ponder eternity for my finite mind soon developed a headache which only two Migraine Strength Excedrin could conquer.

I thought about Abraham as I'd been pondering his journey last week.  When God called him out of Ur towards "a city", he had no idea he would not locate that city in his lifetime.  He kept going on his journey... never perfectly and sometimes sinfully... but he didn't give up.

Was God playing some heavenly game with Abraham?  God knew the city He was leading him toward would not be found on this planet.  Was God just leading Abraham along with amusement because He was bored?

Of course not!

The city was his destination but as we learn about Abraham... we come to realize the journey with God... toward the city... was what molded and shaped him into the man of faith he became.

We are amazed at his amount of faith when he offers Isaac back to God (knowing God would raise him from the dead if necessary, or so the Word tells us).  This is a far different man from the person we met on his way out of Ur.

What was the difference?  He had walked with God through all the hills and dales and deserts and oasis and rabbit trails and Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah and lying and cheating and doing things his way and then believing.

I am absolutely certain there were times Abraham had a little chat with God which went something like... "You called me out of the comfort of Ur for THIS?".  I know because I've had that same conversation with Him... only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

In some ways, He has caused my boundaries to be in pleasant places.  He has not asked of me that I suffer completely.  For instance, I love my small-ish house at the edge of a forest which He provided... a miraculous mortgage offer... and a house I loved that we could afford.

But other things in my life, the little and not-so-little foxes which nip at my ankles... some will be with me a lifetime.  The challenges and the difficult relationships and the fears to be conquered.

The grief over those gone and the missing and of those here but far away.  The desires of the heart not received... yet.  My life not what I expected at all when I was younger.

But through the years I've learned Abraham's secret, how he went from Liar to Legend.  How God could promise him a family as big as the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach?  Abraham learned God's secret.

What we see is not all there is

The City truly does exist.  Some answers are on the other side. Someday we will walk in that City whose asphalt is made of gold.  Illness will all be gone and with it poverty and loneliness and exhaustion and war and weeds and things that go bump in the night.

The journey is just getting started on this side.  What did C. S. Lewis call this life at the end of The Last Battle?   The Cover and the Title Page of the story?  When we begin to see life from an eternal perspective, the journey begins to make a little more sense.

What we become... who we are when we are presented to our Father... that all comes from the journey.  He is our destination.

Picture:  The Word of the Lord Endures

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Coughing and sniffling and sneezing

The aroma of Basil Scented Mrs. Meyers.... lovely.

I've started a Sunday Afternoon Tea post.  If my mind clears enough from all the sniffing and sneezing, it will appear tomorrow.

Thankfully, this is only a mild cold so I've been able to keep up with the essential housework like doing the dishes.  Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing that can't keep awhile.

Friday evening was quite pleasant with a D. E. Stevenson book (Shoulder the Sky), British comedies on "the telly", Candy Cane Lane tea in a little pot with the blue cozy, and a kitty curled up at the end of the sofa who refused to nudge whatsoever.

Victoria in a snit and hiding after being naughty... she has a new thing for getting in the trash.

I threatened her with the D.O.G. word, you know... "Man's best friend" and all that.  She didn't look at all concerned.  Her only confusion came when it was far past midnight and the mistress of the house was still reading.  Miss Victoria does not understand how one can sleep away the day and not be sleepy at bedtime.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feeling a little better

I will write another pantry post but in the meantime my world consists of...

Fluffed up pillows on the sofa
Favorite magazines and reading glasses
Vicks Vapo Rub
A British flick here and there
A Maine Coon kitty

Both the guys are feeling much better today... there is hope.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking it easy

Some of you have already responded to the redecorating I did on the blog this morning.  I was waiting to take Christopher to campus and well, I had some time to use and since I didn't feel like doing any puttering around the house... I managed some pixel rearranging.

I should change the blog look at the last minute more often, I love the way it looks and I found that Colonial Williamsburg looking background in the Blogger background offerings (but it wasn't called that, of course).

Christopher had a make-up Latin exam this morning and that makes the last time he'll have to stay at the house for early morning tests until mid-terms.  Since he is on cold medicine, it was especially important to be here where he knew we would wake him up on time.  :)

Since I had to be on campus, I stopped by the library to check out the last in the Karen Kingsbury series hubby has been reading.  He was very glad it was available as he is still quite ill and not able to do much but read.

I also made a stop at Kroger to pick up fresh ginger to make ginger tea.  I'm pulling out all my natural healing recipes this winter.

I can't complain, as one having an impaired immune system... I've been relatively healthy this winter.  Just the usual sinus stuff for the most part until this cold hit.   My friend, Linda, has been quite seriously ill this winter.  It has been awhile since we've been able to meet for coffee or tea at her house (she doesn't know country roads well enough to drive here without her hubby).

My mother-in-law had been a surgical nurse before marrying in her early 30's.  She would often tell us the "old timers" (that being older than HER generation) always used the phrase "warm winters fill the grave yards".  I can see how that was possible before the days of modern medicine.

I want to write one more pantry post tomorrow... at least one more for now.  Not one more forever!  By the way, I almost forgot to tell you what president was picked the most by viewers of the newscast where I heard the question "What President would you want most to share a beer with?".

I hate beer (my German lineage father is turning over in his grave, I am sure) so I made the question... What President would you want most to have coffee with in front of a fireplace?  I didn't catch the very last numbers from the newscast but they already had pretty much a tie towards the end of the day... George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Back soon... God willing and the creek don't rise.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pantry post links

I should have known with two sickies here in the family, I would catch their cold... achoo, cough, cough!

So instead of struggling to make my brain work thinking of writing something new, I give you some pantry post archives.

A few of these go back to 2008 and 2009 but I think the information is still good.

Some links to past pantry posts:

The Winter Pantry... here

The Hospitality Pantry 1... here.

The Hospitality Pantry 2... here.

Basic Pantry Items (baking)... here.

Basic Pantry Items (non-baking)... here.

A great stocking up article from the 1990s... here.

Added Note:  The Comments on these posts have valuable advice, too.  :)

Picture: Attractive Housewife in Modern Kitchen (that really is the name...)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What president?

Well, I had planned to do more writing this week but as Cheryl (Copper's Wife) says... "Hold your plans loosely".

Both the guys have been sick and we had Christopher and Miss M. over for awhile last night.  Christopher received another award (something like "Outstanding Student Entrepreneur" for the work he has been doing designing Apps for smart phones and the iPad) so Miss M. came to town to attend the reception with him.

I went into town this afternoon to purchase a rotisserie chicken (lemon pepper) to make chicken orzo soup for dinner.  My sister-friend BeBe taught me years ago that rotisserie chickens made delicious last minute chicken soup!

Christopher decided to sleep here tonight for homemade soup and a cozy sofa... and a TV!  Just what the doctor ordered I'd say to help get over this cold.   He can do some of his homework while watching TV.

I'm a stern believer in homemade chicken soup and losing oneself in a book, DVD (especially something British), or a mindless TV program to help the body heal.

So... I'll write some more about Pantry Ponderings soon... maybe tomorrow?   I am enjoying your positive feedback, they are more like having tea and conversation together than past Pantry Posts but it is so much easier for me to chat about deepening the pantry that way.

Which brings me to the subject of ummm... tea and conversation.  One of our local news channels had a question on President's Day yesterday, asking viewers what president would they most enjoy having a beer with.

Well, I would reword it and ask what past president would you most enjoy chatting with in front of a fireplace with a hot drink.  I'll tell you next time who received the most votes on the news channel.

As for me... that would be really hard.  For a recent president, I absolutely adored Ronald Reagan.  I remember saying many times when he was president that I felt a wise grandfather was in charge of the country!

On the other hand, I'd love sitting down with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or John Adams... are perhaps all three Founding Fathers?  I mean if we are going to have one back, couldn't we have all three?

Of course, there's also John Quincy Adams... he's fascinating!

I guess if I could choose only one of them, it would be Thomas Jefferson.  Which would probably surprise my family but Jefferson was such a Renaissance man!   I would enjoy hearing about all of his interests.  He was not only a gardener but one of our "Founding Foodies".  :)

So, which American president would you most love to chat with?

For my British friends... sorry about bringing up that little altercation of the late 1700s.  ;)

Picture:  Prayer at Valley Forge (a print of this lovely painting is in my living room)  We fondly call it "George".

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the summons to go out to a place which he would eventually possess...

For Abraham’s eyes were looking forward to that city 
with solid foundations 
of which God himself is both
architect and builder.
Hebrews 11:10 Phillips translation

I was recently curled up on my living room sofa reading when... for some reason... I found myself admiring the pretty wreath which was a "picked out by me" Christmas gift from my husband.

The room looked lovely as the light of the setting sun was reflected through the window.  For a moment, I was overwhelmed by it all and the phrase The Beautiful Ache came to my mind.  It must have been planted there at some time long ago in my reading.

I've had those same feelings before... a few years ago, we were on our way home from New England in October.  As we traveled through the forests of  Pennsylvania and Western Ohio, the sun was shining in such a way the color of the leaves seemed to glow. 

I felt that Beautiful Ache as I thought my finite body could not handle such amazing Beauty.  I was breathless and certain I would perish from an overflow of praise to God for His creation!  How could one say there was no Creator when viewing such Beauty?

In both instances, I longed for the Day when all will be made new just as the Word says "even the rocks and the trees call out" and "all nature groans" as we await Perfection. 

The older I get, the more my mind ponders all things Heavenly and Eternal and Beautiful and Perfect.  I sense more than ever that Due North destination and it encourages me on the journey of life, which can be difficult at times.

When I was a fairly new Christian, I remember a famous preacher putting down those who sang the songs of Heaven.  He taught that we should have enough faith so this life is good instead of longing for that which is to come.  Somehow, even as one who had not walked with the Lord very long, I sensed this could not be correct.

The famous "Faith Chapter" of Hebrews 11 tells us some in the Faith Hall of Fame (as the chapter is often called) received their promises here and others went to Eternity before receiving their promise.  Just as Abraham searched for that city "whose architect and builder is God".

Somehow we know in our heart that we live in the Shadowlands.  We sense there is more, we long for more, we are a dissatisfied people who cannot become full or get enough of anything outside of Him.  We are aware of our fragility and our finiteness.

We have sensed this is just the down payment... a little glimpse of that for which our soul longs.  I understand those songs of the church about Heaven, so often sung in little churches throughout the world by those in the midst of despair.

Perhaps it is only in a country of abundance that a preacher could call singing the songs of Heaven a lack of faith.  For only when one is warm and dry and comfortable and well fed does one cozy up to this world and never want to leave it... that is if one knows the Savior of the world.

One of my favorite C.  S. Lewis quotes comes from his book Mere Christianity... "If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world".

I would say when our finite bodies and minds are overwhelmed at the best this world has to offer... yes, indeed... we were created for another world and we gladly sang the songs of Heaven where that which is The Beautiful Ache becomes as normal as walking on streets of gold.

Artwork:  He Shall Hear My Voice... this exact picture hangs in my dining room.  :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Beautiful day!

Why is it we don't notice a frame is crooked until we see it in a picture?

It's remarkable how lovely the weather has been here, much more like late March than February.  Somehow I'm pretty sure there will be equality somewhere... hopefully not with one hundred degree temps on summer days.  A meteorologist on a local TV channel is fond of saying "Mother Nature balances everything out eventually".

Next week I will continue Pantry Ponderings and respond to some comments.  For instance, a commenter this morning mentioned that the "just add water" pancake mixes do not have a long shelf life. 

That's very true and that's why I only keep two or three small boxes on the shelf and rotate them regularly.   I have a lot of information about really deepening the pantry on my links that are always available on the sidebar but the real secret of a deep pantry is rotation.  I'll talk about that more later, too.

I don't use Bisquick or anything similar after reading they can contain unseen mold as they age and that people with severe mold allergies need to be careful (both my guys have severe mold allergies).  I thought it was an "old wives tale" until I researched it at the time and there were instances of people with such mold allergies getting sick.

Of course, this was only when products far past their "use by" date on the box were eaten.  I only use Bisquick (and similar products by other manufacturers) for a couple recipes that I don't make often and making my own at home is very easy.  I have a book called Make-A-Mix that has excellent do-it-yourself mix recipes but I've also seen such recipes in other cookbooks.

Anything with baking powder as an ingredient has a short shelf life.   There are oils which store better than others, too.   Do feel free during the Pantry Ponderings posts to comment with your knowledge.  It was on one of the past pantry posts I found out Crisco CAN go rancid... but again more about that later.

So many commented about the Brambley Hedge pictures!  I love all the Brambley Hedge books but many of them are going out of print (as soon as I found out Stephanie was expecting my first grandchild, I started ordering Brambley Hedge books... ten years ago). 

Along with The Wind in the Willows and the Peter Rabbit series, they are my favorite children's books.

The book shown in the pictures is The Complete Brambley Hedge which is out of print and prohibitively expensive at one time.  I place such books on my Amazon Wish List and keep an eye on them to see when the price lowers.  When there were a few available for $20.00, I ordered one with credit for my bookshelves.

This past week, I've been perusing the book just to enjoy the pictures but the stories are so charming.  There appears to be a pattern in my best loved children's books... talking rodents?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pantry Ponderings - Brand name pantry goodies

No one keeps a more beautiful pantry than the folks at Brambley Hedge
Today is Show and Tell as I want to share some items I keep in my pantry that are premade and shelf stable.  Usually when we think of deepening the pantry, our thinking is towards buying in bulk or at least ingredients we put together for meals.

I do realize great savings can be made in making our own mixes and such but I've come to appreciate some of these premade items over the years.  Especially since there are now only two of us at home.

While I use Uncle Ben's converted brown rice most of the time (stores better than regular brown rice, which I also use), I do like having the quick version in my pantry.   A friend gave me the box of instant brown rice and I've been keeping it for just the day I will need it.  Other similar items like couscous make for a quick side dish that is pantry friendly.

I use the Krusteaz Honey Wheat mix all the time for pancakes and the Casbah Hummus mix was given to me to try.  Mixes like these where you just add water are also great to keep on hand for emergencies.  (I've seen the regular buttermilk Krusteaz mix sold in large containers at Wal Mart.)

I make my own hummus most of the time from canned beans, tahini, etc. but I do love the idea of pantry friendly shelf stable mixes.  As a side note... I just saw recently where making your own hummus at home instead of buying the container at the grocery store can save you as much as 90% of the cost.

Having shelf stable milk products on hand have saved me more than once in the middle of baking!  I would remind you, if you are keeping products such as the Borden milk shown for baking, make certain you purchase at least 2% milk.  Many baking recipes are much better when made with 2% or whole milk!

The Coconut Dream will be used in smoothies and the Tazo Chai is actually Christopher's that he didn't use.  I will never turn down Tazo Chai... yum.

Most of my cake recipes are made from scratch but I always try to keep a few different mixes on hand.  I keep pie fillings not for pies... but to mix with the cake mix for delicious cakes.  There are all kinds of recipes online for mixing cake mixes with pie filling, pumpkin, canned fruit, etc.

Of course, they can be used for... cakes and pies.  ;)

I know these are just a few items from my pantry (which is not all that deep right now!) but I'm hoping they spark your imagination for pre-made shelf stable products for your pantry.

Here's another look at my favorite pantry pictures.  I love the Brambley Hedge books!

This page is technically a kitchen instead of a pantry but it still makes my heart sing.

Note:  My friend, Mrs. Rabe, shows how to make the homemade laundry detergent on her blog... here.  The "recipe" was requested in the Comments section a couple days ago.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pantry Ponderings - Keeping a quick list

I was hoping to write an indepth post today but I ended up being away from home this morning and then (finally) tackling two decluttering projects all afternoon.

Victoria helped me as I worked on the two center drawers on the hutch, hubby thought she did a very good job of telling me where to put everything.  I would have snapped a picture of her sitting in the bottom drawer but she was between me and the camera.  :)

There were many great comments to yesterday's post and I have a feeling we will continue to learn from more comments.  I only have time to respond to one this evening and that is perhaps the most important... should people spend money stocking up.

I'd never tell anyone what to do if they felt God told them differently but I can assure you any money spent on deepening your pantry and stocking up will reap great rewards as long as you do it properly (as in making certain things are stored correctly, purchase only what the family will eat and use, etc.).

I've mentioned before that I felt strongly we should deepen the pantry a lot more than usual before Y2k.  I didn't know if anything would go wrong but I definitely believed we were to "stock up" so we deepened our pantry further and even purchased all the books we needed the following year for homeschooling.

A very good friend of mine felt God only wanted her to stock up as usual (she always keeps a good pantry) but she and her husband felt they were to buy a generator.  As it turned out, we went through a year of unemployment and had the food and other necessities we needed and her family moved within a year to a place where they regularly needed a generator!

For a very small amount of money (compared to what is spent on cars, furniture, houses, vacations, etc.) one can deepen their pantry and have extras of essentials that will give back huge rewards if needed.  I'll talk more about that later...

One thing everyone can do right now that is so easy and costs nothing... keep a tablet or paper on which you can write an item whenever it crosses your mind that is something you need to have in your pantry.   This was something I felt very strongly that God wanted me to do even if I don't have money to buy much "extra" right now.

I have long had a basic list of essential grocery items that I needed (or wanted) in my pantry but when I started keeping this list... when I ran out of something or it crossed my mind... I came to realize there were many items not on my essential grocery list that I wouldn't want to be without.

As an example, just this week we have begun to have a problem with ants in the house (normally a late spring challenge each year) and I don't have ant poison in the house!  So, ant poison went on that list I keep on the frig... where I write down the items that I need to 1) purchase and 2) put on the main list.

It doesn't cost anything but a few seconds of time but it may be a lifesaver someday.  Of course, it is very important to have a well thought out list of essential grocery items which serves as a base to your pantry. 

To read the comments on yesterday's post... go here.

Picture:  Cookbooks and Apples:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pantry Ponderings

A few years ago I started a series called Recession Ponderings (the link to them is on the sidebar).  I think it is a good idea to start a conversation and call it Pantry Ponderings and I'm sure your comments will be just as valuable as anything I can say.  :)

It has been in the back of my mind for awhile but a conversation this past week with my good friend who lives in New Mexico brought it from "perhaps I should" to "yes I will" status.

We first met on the emergency preparedness site where I was an administrator in the 1990s (many of my very best online friendships started there with some becoming "sister friends").  So you must understand that we both have leaned toward the TEOTWAWKI mode (The End of the World as We Know It) for decades.  Blame it on growing up in the shadow of "The Bomb".  ;)

Anyway, we started talking about the increase in the cost of gas and how that affects our food prices (not to mention how the crazy weather in some parts of the country caused increases in cost).  Then I brought up what is going on in the Persian Gulf right now and she wondered if the nation as a whole realizes what would happen if (and some experts are saying "when" not "if") there is even a minor confrontation.

Then the cost of gas will sky rocket and everything affected by oil... which is just about everything these days... will first become more expensive and then will probably result in shortages as it did in the 1970s... and worse if it turns into a full scale Middle East war even if the United States and Europe are not directly involved.

How can one just chat away for an hour over doom and gloom predictions?  Well, we've been talking about such things as deepening the pantry and preparing for emergencies for eons now... since the world was in the cooling stage.  Okay, not quite so long but long enough.

We aren't afraid for two reasons, the first and most important being a deep and abiding trust in the Lord.  We are both firm believers that we are living in the exact time and place in which He planned.  We also have been through a lot of stuff through the years and we've seen Him provide miraculously.

The second reason is also what we have learned, that developing a pantry lifestyle and preparing the best we can with limited funds available... helps us to face whatever God allows in our future.

Neither of us can have the very deep pantry we did years ago but we have the next best thing (perhaps even better in some ways)... we have experience.  Both of us can go into the kitchen on any given day and whip up dinner from what is available.  It may not be steak and a locally grown salad but we can add herbs and spices to make it tasty.

We both have learned how to do so many things ourselves instead of paying others to do them as circumstances forced us to stay with the program through the difficult learning curve days.  Our lessons were different in some ways as she lives on a homestead in the desert and God once placed us just a few miles from Metro Detroit (where we lived on 9/11!).

I was pondering this idea of experience being as important as say... stocking up... this morning after stopping by the grocery store.  I passed by the refrigerated aisle that contained premade sandwiches and such when I saw a bag of eighteen (18!) hard boiled eggs which had their shells removed.

I was curious about how much they were asking for the eggs and was quite shocked to see a price of $4.99... for 1 1/2 dozen eggs!

Now, I do understand that many of the people who would shop in this store are most likely two career couples who need fast instead of frugal.   I've been there myself so I feel their pain of time restraints.  But I also know how very difficult it was to change from buying mode to doing mode when the money became an issue.

Soooo... I plan to do a few pantry posts for awhile even if it means going back and reviewing some past posts.

By the way, so many readers asked why I don't participate in some of the fun tea time events on other blogs (many I read and enjoy) but it is for this very reason.  I used to take part in such links for tea time and books and other "close to my heart" subjects but Coffee Tea Books and Me jumps all over the place... it is about my entire life!

My numbers would jump by a lot and then plunge within a week as I went from tea time to deepening the pantry and then to books and taking a few days for decorating and then showing off pictures of grandchildren along with chatting about my cat and my family... etcetera.

So now I just write about my life and stay in wonderment that anyone reads at all (it has to be the pictures of Miss Victoria!).

Oh... this question always comes up when I do a pantry post... no, I am not a Mormon.  They have great preparedness information, though!

Picture:  Housewife Checking Points for new Rationing System

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

We were awakened to a Valentine's Day snowfall... very pretty.  While there are some serious housework chores awaiting, I did give Miss Victoria a good brushing (her favorite treat any day of the year).

I can't think of anything better to do once the housework is finished (well, it is never really finished) today than peruse some favorite books about Beautiful living.

Isn't this a charming teacup?  I have had it so long, I don't remember where I bought it... but I'm thinking it was a garage sale.

These are two pictures on my kitchen bulletin board.  The one on the left was taken soon after we were married.

The one on the right (obviously) is one of our wedding pictures.

My Valentine's gift to Hubby?  I've promised to help him install a set of shelves in the very, very cold garage.  It's one of those projects which takes an extra set of hands.  Once complete, it should help to do to really get the garage organized.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

Here we are at the start committing to each other
By His Word and from our hearts
We will be a family in a house that will be a home
And with faith we'll build it strong.

Now to be a family, we've got to love each other
At any cost unselfishly
And our home must be a place that fully abounds with grace
A reflection of His face.

We'll build a household of faith
That together we can make
And when the strong winds blow it won't fall down
As one in Him we'll grow and the whole world will know
That we are a household of faith.*

Recently I was foraging through a large box that holds old pictures for a montage I was putting together in the hallway, I came across a picture of my mother.  In it she was sitting at a kitchen table sipping coffee and deep in thought.  It was just as I recalled her so often and I missed her all over again.

As I was remembering her, I thought about how much she is loved in spite of her imperfections.  Actually, it was the same part of her personality that I loved which also encouraged some of her less than desirable decisions. They brought me great unhappiness at the time as she sought security in a disastrous marriage after my father died.

But now... looking back through the years... I know the difficult times in my youth are exactly what drew me to the Heavenly Father and I hold nothing against my earthly mother (who was and always will be dear to my heart).  The older I get, the more I understand her flawed reasoning.

All of this started me reflecting upon my own parenting years.  While Christopher and I enjoyed our belated Christmas lunch this week and chatted about all sorts of things like his classes and the foreign policy of Ron Paul... the path to our close relationship was rather rocky at times.

I recalled a prayer I threw up to God over and over when Christopher was a little boy.  No, not the accusation toward Him that He was absolutely insane to give me "this boy" in my 30's (aren't you glad He is a patient God?).  I mean the one when I asked Him to keep the boy out of prison and me, too... as there were days I wanted to strangle the kid.

Anyone who has raised an ADHD child knows exactly the emotions of which I speak.  To a lesser extent, they were the same emotions raised within as Stephanie (about age eleven) decided to verbally dispute everything I said.  Thankfully that stage was short lived and her teen years were a delight (as I should mention were my son's).

One of the images from my past... burned into memory... was a car ride with my mother as we drove from the small town where we lived into "Town".  I was in my early teens and had become quite lippy about something when my mother... somewhere close to the narrow bridge which used to cross the river... pulled the car over and told me if I didn't shut up, I could get out and walk.

Now, you must understand.  My mother didn't use the term "shut up" loosely and she was extremely over protective so even the thought of walking into town alone was appalling.  I don't recall what I said or did but whatever it was, I obviously was not the perfect daughter.

Which brings me the realization that perfection is not something God expects from us when He gives us children (whether birthed or through adoption).  He knows in our humanity we will have good days and bad days.

Just as we are patting ourselves on the back for our amazing words of wisdom in dealing with one child, we find ourselves blurting out the most hurtful of statements to another child in a moment of exasperation.

I used to wonder about the difference between my childhood (fraught with death, despair at times, and uncertainty) and my husband's (who had the security of home and a stable income).   One would think it was such a childhood as mine which would bring a lifetime of emotional confusion instead of his.

But one day as I was thinking of my parents, I realized the answer.   With all the faults and all the trauma and all the uncertainties of my childhood... I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was loved and that they "had my back".  My husband and his siblings always felt they were conditionally loved and somehow never measured up to expectations.

Love truly does... as the Word says... cover a multitude of sins.

I learned from my mother that there are times we can make really, really bad mistakes when parenting.   We will wonder at the end of certain days how our children can ever grow up to love us, much less love the Lord and serve Him... as we live lives so far from what we desire to show our children.

But as we do the best we can and always direct our children's attention to the One who IS PERFECT, it all comes together.  We find He is teaching us as we raise the next generation.  We can rest assured that as we pray for His wisdom and truly seek to be the best parents we can be, it will all turn out well in the end.

Now, as the days of hands on raising of children are behind me... I see how He took all the good and the bad and the beautiful and the ugly and the imperfections... and when offered up to Him... created a beautiful family.  Never perfect, of course... but good.

I should say here, though... I have friends who were good parents with children who have "gone prodigal".  I'm always reminded that Adam and Eve lived in perfection and still chose the prodigal path.  Sometimes all we can do is pray and trust God as those we love go down a challenging path... and remember to love them.

Now, let me tell you about my adorable grandchildren...

* Household of Faith, lyrics by Brent Lamb & John Rosasco, recorded by Steve Green

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stalking Victoria

I took some magazines out of the vintage suitcase, looking for a particular article.  I guess Victoria thought it was to make room for her since this is where I keep the old Victoria magazines.  ;)

The "aren't I pretty" look.
The "I'm staying here whatever you say" look.
Her "pretend the camera is not there" look.
The "I am not amused" look.

The "maybe I shouldn't have sat on that pillow" look.

Hubby calls her "Big Paw" but I think her paws are beautiful.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Super Bowl on Downton Abbey

As most of you know, I'm smitten with Downton Abbey!  When I saw this, I just had to share it... so funny.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Fine dining with my kids

I didn't get anything done today except for making a memory.  The older I get, the more important I realize laying aside everything for memories is indeed the most important thing one can do.

Christopher called yesterday to tell me one of his classes had been canceled and asked if Wednesday would be good for him to take me out to lunch.  He'd given me a pretty candle for Christmas (I love candles) but my other gift was "lunch out" to a really nice restaurant Downtown.

I think you know how much I love eating at really nice restaurants and how seldom I get to these past years.  Although I had things to do today, everything was set aside for a mother-son lunch.

I picked him up on campus and later dropped him off just before his next class.. bravely making my way through the bumper car route they call campus streets.  It was the only way we could work our special lunch into his class load (which is brutal this semester).  We made our way Downtown and found a parking place in between two one way streets, behind the restaurant.

I'd never been to this place before, a very high end gourmet type establishment.  But we went to the part of it which was a little more casual (I had dressed up but not THAT much).  It is so much fun getting waited on by real waiters and while this section was casual, it was still beautiful and the prices very reasonable (which is why we agreed to "lunch out").

Christopher ordered his favorite three sushis and I ordered a shrimp stir fry... knowing we'd each share a little with the other.  We both love sushi and his father never acquired a taste.  Even when we'd bring home California sushi and assure him there was no raw fish in it.  But then again he also doesn't share our love of Indian food, either.  He is the poster child for old fashioned Midwestern cuisine.

As I've mentioned so many times, I love it when I eat at a very nice restaurant and take home an idea for my own kitchen.  That being from the shrimp stir fry where everything was chopped quite fine instead of in the usual larger "chunks".  They even served it with a tea spoon!

The sushi was excellent, Christopher and I tried to figure out which we liked best but each was so unique (spicy California sushi, cream cheese California sushi, and Boston sushi) that it was hard to choose.  I must admit sushi will not be something I try to make at home although I think Victoria would enjoy the Boston sushi.

It was quite amusing that while I was talking to Christopher, I checked my cell phone and I had four messages from Stephanie... all telling me about the new recipes she was trying for lunch.  :)

It was a few years ago, the last time Stephanie visited here, that she took me to a very nice French Bistro "Downtown" for a girls night out.  I'd wanted to try it for ages.  While I had a lot of fun with Christopher, there is something about going out to such a place with another cook that is an experience on its' own as we tried to figure out how the various dishes were made and what secret ingredients were being tasted.

Of course.... it was a recent (September) girls night out in Colonial Williamsburg when she gifted me with a gourmet dinner-cooking class.  We both agree that it was the nicest of evenings.

Not to mention the special Tea Time when "we girls" went to the tea room in a nearby town and I enjoyed champagne strawberry soup for the first time.  What fun it was seeing Faith and Elisabeth as they tasted each new tea sandwich and yummy dessert.  It won't be long when little Miss Anna will be old enough and there will be a Mother, a Grammie, and three little girls making Tea Time memories.

This evening I sit typing away on the laptop with dishes undone and a house rather cluttered.  But that is just fine.  Tomorrow I can clean and declutter and cook dinner and think about the garden and write e-mails and snail mail and all that needs to be accomplished.

Our family has gone through some dark times and desert experiences but when I look around now, I thank God for bringing us through it all so that our "boundary lines are in pleasant places".  I am so thankful my favorite people on earth are also called Family.

Picture:  Girlfriends Lunching; (some posters are no longer available)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Spending some time reading

I know... there are e-mails and letters waiting for a reply and cookies to be made and a load of laundry to throw in the wash and all kinds of other places for my time and attention (not to mention a high maintenance Maine Coon).

But we've been under a cloud of fog (literally) for a couple of days now and all I want to do is cozy up and let my mind wander or just sleep.  I can assure you this weather is making me drowsy because I fell asleep watching Dante's Peak yesterday!  Not only did I sleep through loud special affects but I woke up at the time I'd planned to serve dinner.  Fortunately, I had made chili ahead of time and only had to warm it up.

I was still wide awake late last night when Christopher texted me from Miss M.'s house, asking if it was foggy at our house (wondering if he could make it home safely as it is a long drive).  Then receiving a call not too long afterward to pray for his safety as it was not big trucks on the dark narrow highway causing him problems... there had been no less than three deer running out on the highway (this time of year?).  He did make it back to his apartment safely.   But I digress...

Perhaps it is the Wuthering Heights weather outside or the dark shading inside (much like an old black and white movie) but I decided to spend a few days reading.  I don't know why I feel decadent reading in the middle of the day.  I don't feel that way when I take a break and watch a  TV show... but reading?  I suppose it is a hangover from all those years in which the only time I had to read was late at night.

I picked up The Gentleman's Choice (George MacDonald) but A Severe Mercy was sitting next to it, as if to remind me I'd set it aside and it definitely needed my attention.  While a beautifully written book, "Mercy" is not an easy read.

But I decided indeed it did need to be finished in its' re-reading and I am so glad I did.  For in my first reading so long ago, I remembered mostly the sad-obsessive at times- love story and the fact the book is all about the death of a loved one.  But this time... this time I was captivated by the middle of the book which is about their years in England and their coming to know Christ at Oxford.    I also came to see another side of C. S. Lewis I hadn't before, from one who knew him well.

If you have struggled with A Severe Mercy, go to Chapter IV (Encounter With Light) and read the chapters about their Oxford years.  I think I especially enjoyed it because they read books I love and in some ways it reminds me of my teenage Jesus People years when we would sit for hours upon hours talking about the things of the Lord (which were so new to us).

I loved this paragraph where he writes about being drawn to Jesus but not ready to admit He is the Son of God, yet...

"I might not have admitted it, but I was coming to love the Jesus that emerged from the New Testament writings.  I had impulses to fall on my knees and reach out to him.  I suspected that all the yearnings for I knew not what that I had ever felt... when autumn leaves were burning in the twilight, when wild geese flew crying overhead, when I looked up at bare branches against the stars, when spring arrived on an April morning... were in truth yearnings for him.  For God.  I yearned towards him. "

I must admit to my sweet friend who has been encouraging me that I must "read MacDonald" that I am also enthralled with The Gentlewoman's Choice (the title of the book in which Michael Phillips has modernized the English from the original Scottish Weighed and Wanting).  I can see why even C. S. Lewis was so highly influenced by his writing.

I once tried to read a nonfiction book by George MacDonald that had not been "translated" so to speak and I must admit giving up as the old Scottish English was not easy to read.  I'm so thankful to Michael R. Phillips for translating all these books.

There is a stack of books vying for my attention on the coffee table in the living room.  I leave them there that I want to read soon.  Then there are those stacked on bookshelves which are next in line... until I pull another off the shelf to look up a phrase or a paragraph and find myself reading it an hour later.

Sigh... there is that whole finite thing again... wanting to do so much but finding myself living within the margins of 24/7 days.

Picture:  A Good Book; (some posters are no longer available)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, 
whatever is noble, whatever is right, 
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

My recent ponderings were brought about by a fifty-cent country rag-style angel.  The one shown above.  I almost didn't buy it as I wondered what people would think as such items are no longer in vogue, even among those of us who love "country style" decorating.

But then I started thinking about such things and and wondered why we have this "self talk" in the first place.  Who cares if someone who visits doesn't like my angel... it is after all my kitchen.  Some people have kitchen witches, I have a kitchen angel!  I smile each time I see it.

I find myself not listening to the "self talk" that much, anymore.  However, it was a big deal when I was younger.  It's the same talk that says I can't combine English Country with American Primitive in my living room or that I shouldn't leave primitive Christmas items out all year even though I love them, not to mention they look good.

I've learned to be very careful through the years about who influences my "self talk".  Most thinking doesn't hurt anything as it has to do with decorating or fashion or cooking... and is more about style than anything else.  I once stopped using garlic powder in recipes because a famous chef said it is terrible and it took years to realize he was wrong!

But "self talk" influenced by others can be horrible when it becomes a prison and causes us to be manipulated by those whose personalities are more powerful than our own.  Especially when the said opinions or about the "gray areas" of Scripture of how we should dress, our family life, how we educate our children, what media we watch or listen to, what we read, etc.

We all must have discernment, of course, and stay away from that which defiles.  It is important to study the Bible and have good teachers as well as mentors.  This is essential to our growth in Christ.  But there is a difference between mentoring and controlling.

I've been around such people whose strong opinions made their way into my "self talk" and without realizing I was in bondage to what another person believed.  A good teacher and mentor will tell you to "study to show yourself approved" and come to your own conclusion.

Just recently a Bible teacher whom I usually respect did an entire series putting down a famous Christian astronomer because he believes in an "old" universe.  I've seen some of the materials this astronomer has made (including an amazing account of how there has to be a Designer-Creator!) but because of one point of theology... this Bible teacher used a lot of precious air time just to put down another Christian.

It becomes very dangerous when a person doubts the salvation of another because they disagree with their theology or opinions.  It is one thing to choose to dress modestly myself but another to think the woman who wears the low cut gown cannot possibly be a real Christian... or to say one cannot be saved because they "read that book" or "watched that movie" because we all are at different places in our walk with God!

What does this have to do with "self talk"?  Because we can take on what another person says as our own reality and become in bondage without realizing it.  Think of how many times you have heard of a young person who thinks of themselves as ugly or stupid because of a passing statement.

My own husband and his siblings continue to have emotional problems due to words spoken by their parents... untrue opinions which became their own "self talk".  After awhile, they could not separate fact from fiction.

That's why the older I have grown, the more careful I am about who affects my "self talk".  I wish I could remember whose book* it was that talked about Philippians 4:8 and our mental health.  They said they have learned to filter their thoughts through that verse, starting with "Whatsoever is true".

There is a reason we are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5...

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing 
that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

*The book was Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George.