Saturday, January 22, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Diligence does pay off when it comes to the pantry lifestyle


It is very cold here but all of the snow storms have missed us so far, sometimes Chicago has been having blizzard conditions when we had no snow at all. We do have some snow off and on but nothing compared to what other parts of the country are experiencing.

I was asked where I live, as I always say "about two hours from Chicago".  However, as my daughter always says about that, "it depends on who is driving from Chicago".  That is her way of saying I am a slow driver compared to the rest of the family.  Her point is?  My husband says he has made it in less than two hours and that does not surprise me at all.

I was also asked if I had mentioned our son's family was expecting a new addition.  Yes!  A baby boy is expected at the end of January and we are praying for a safe labor and delivery with a healthy mommy and healthy baby.  

I've been thinking this week how being diligent and stocking up "a little at a time" can pay off.  So often when we read about any kind of prepping, it usually involves buying in bulk or large amounts of freeze dried food.  I have bought dehydrated food as well as multiple flats of canned goods in the past but for the last few years, I've been concentrating on "a little at a time", which works better for our budget and since we don't have kids at home, anymore.

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I haven't had to go to the grocery store much mid-month but when I did some aisles were showing empty spaces at Meijer.  Kroger was fine and Aldi had a limited amount of meat when I stopped there on my way to the dentist just to buy a couple cartons of cream.  It was otherwise well stocked.

Meijer was especially low on all kinds of frozen potatoes but I have heard similar stories all over the country. It was also low on other refrigerated and frozen items, too.  I know Meijer is a Michigan based grocery store chain and is located in other Midwest states but I don't know how many.

It is easy for me to go to four grocery stores in a week when there are severe shortages since two of them are almost next to each other and the other two are not far when driving.  I expect it would take awhile if I were to walk the distance... but that is not happening. 

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I read a few articles about the expected rise in prices for produce being shipped from California due to transportation costs already being tripled.  That doesn't include the price increase already felt due to drought in many vegetable and fruit growing areas.

Every article suggested starting a garden if one didn't have a garden already.  It can take years to gain the skills needed through trial and error to know what grows best on your property, so if you have the room and the energy to garden, talk to local gardeners about preparing your soil and what to start out with.  

This year, I plan to be more diligent about going to the local farmer's market.  We have one of the markets only a few miles from us.  We already purchase raw honey and eggs at the health food store (on senior discount day) from one of the Mennonite families that sell at the farmer's market.

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An excellent investment, if you can find any available in this time of shortages, is a chest style deep freeze because they are relatively inexpensive compared to other appliances.  We have a medium size freezer that we bought when I was still able to work seasonal part-time work and at the time, it wasn't expensive at all.  

It isn't huge but it is big enough to hold meat purchased on sale, frozen vegetables, soup I have already made, and I can slip a five pound bag of flour in it to debug the flour.  I keep the flour in the plastic bag it came home in from the grocery store and tie off the top to protect it from moisture and add an additional layer of protection from freezer burn.  

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Speaking of debugging, I made cinnamon rolls this week for us and to give some to neighbors and I was quite shocked to open the canister that holds powdered sugar and find it full of ants. That hasn't happened before but it has been a bad year for ants.  We had to move Florentine's kibble dish from that same area.

That canister is not air tight and I hadn't had to use the powdered sugar for awhile.  Thankfully, I could throw it out and I had two smaller backup bags that I put in an extra "vintage Tupperware" flour canister.  I don't want to risk losing any more powdered sugar. The pretty canister it was in has been washed and will not be used for anything needing to be airtight.  

As an aside... does anyone else find the term "vintage Tupperware" oddly disturbing when this is the Tupperware you purchased for the first years of your homemaking experience?  Just saying...

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I have mentioned that Alaska Granny is one of my favorite YouTube prepper vloggers and recently she was talking about the need to be more aware of Use By dates when purchasing food at the grocery store, especially canned and shelf stable boxes of food.  She has had instances of the dates being close to the present time or even past the date already.

I always check the dates when I purchase an item for the pantry and I've been surprised for years how many times I have found two items sitting next to each other with dates a year apart.  With the shortages, she said more stores are purchasing as much as possible and keeping items in their warehouses.  Which is why you can purchase a can one shopping trip and a couple months later, buy one with the same Use By date.

This wouldn't be a problem with vegetables like corn and green beans but other items do not have long term Use By dates.  I have found anything purchased in aseptic containers need to be used within the time limit, using the Use By date as the longest time to have it go unused.  

There have been instances of mold growing in some of these containers as they go past their Use By dates, as well as the food simply going bad.  This even includes juice pouches I have read (I don't use them but I can see how they would be similar as the aseptic containers).

One of the lessons I learned from Alaska Granny is one she has learned the hard way more than once.  That is, canned pineapple cans can leak and even burst long before their Use By dates.  The second time it happened to her was because a can had been overlooked in the back of a cupboard and wasn't found until it had leaked everywhere.

I was thinking of it this week since I plan to buy a couple cans of crushed pineapple to have on hand for a particular recipe.  I may have to make certain it is placed where I can see it quite often just to watch for leakage.  Pineapple is not diabetic friendly but this is for one of my mother-in-law's recipes.

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So... after watching numerous videos and reading numerous updates last week, one priority I keep hearing about is to purchase canned meat whenever possible.  One good thing about meats like the Keystone brand (I know there are other brands, too) is that they are cooked in the canning process, the meat is usually from the country of origin (in this case, stamped USA), and the Use By dates are four to five years out.

They do tend to be expensive and they have been going up in price along with just about everything else in the grocery store.  I have some put back that was purchased one grocery store visit at a time.  If you store dried noodles (not those containing eggs, though, unless you are going to use them quickly), they can be combined for a good main dish.

Of course, there are the other canned meats we've already talked about before.  I still like to buy a can of Hickory Smoked SPAM once in awhile, even if the other person in the house doesn't like it.  I normally only purchased items we both like but there are exceptions.  Such as SPAM.  I added some canned salmon to the pantry last month for our favorite salmon patties recipe, I should add a couple more cans soon.

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I've been going through my pantry to see if there is anything I need to replace due to it getting near the end of the Use By date.  I did have to purchase a new bag of Judee's Whole Milk Powder last week.  Whole milk and cream powders have a Use By date of usually around one year unless vacuum sealed (and then I'm not sure it would be much longer due to the high fat content).

I have a couple larger bags of non fat dried milk put back and from what I have read, it will last for years since it contains no fat.  The "older" Judee's Whole Milk Powder will be placed in the kitchen to use and I plan to make some batches of homemade instant hot chocolate with it and give them to family members.  

As with any other food item (except aseptic containers), they do not go bad suddenly after their Use By dates.  Some items have been known to last for years after those dates, especially a lot of non-acid canned vegetables.

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This week, I plan to go through the boxes of dried pasta to see what I still have in the pantry.  I keep the dried pasta in the original box, most is stored on a top out of the way shelf in my kitchen cabinet.  Definitely out of sight, out of mind for those I don't use often.

I mentioned before that I learned in my reading if you do not have much storage space, then purchase mostly different types of spaghetti (regular, thick spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, etc.) because those boxes easily stack together and can be stored in a small place.  

I do have a few packages of other styles like penne and orecchiette, that sit on top of the spaghetti-like boxes.  I keep elbow macaroni in a large jar since it gets used in casseroles.  

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I've been perusing a few cookbooks since the weather turned so much colder, for good comfort food inspiration.  I'm still loving the new Pioneer Woman cookbook.  One of the recipes I want to try in it soon is the Sheet Pan Pancake (I think that is the name).

I have raved before about the Hope's Table cookbook. It is full of great recipes from Hope Helmuth and her Mennonite friends and family.  This week, I plan to try the Bacon Corn Chowder recipe since I have bacon to use up soon.  It calls for white wine and since I do not drink alcohol these days, I will substitute chicken stock.

If you get cable or satellite television, you may be able to get the Magnolia Network now since it replaced the DIY Channel at the beginning of the year.  Prior to this, the Magnolia Network was only available through Discovery+. I have been enjoying the Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines sharing favorite recipes.  

It sent me directly to her Magnolia Table Volume 2 cookbook to find the recipe for Friendsgiving Casserole.  I also want to try the Chicken Parmesan recipe soon. Both are dishes she made on the television show.  The font is small on the longer recipes in her cookbook so I plan to place my magnifying glass made for books on the pages and then type them into Word and print them off to cook from.

Have a great week and stay warm (which won't be a problem for our friends south of the equator).  Remain diligent about stocking the pantry and remember... a little done at a time can end up in significant benefits.

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Mentioned in this Blog Post

Judee's Whole Milk Powder... here.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy... here.

Hope's Table cookbook... here.

Magnolia Table Volume 2... here.

My favorite salmon patty recipe... here.

Alaska Granny YouTube Channel... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I earn a tiny commission and it cost neither of us anything extra but a little time. 

Image:  My kitchen last Fall.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Making a Place of Beauty and Peace


Every year when the Christmas decorations are put back on their shelves in the garage... to slumber until the next "day after Thanksgiving"... I take the time to look at the house through fresh eyes.  

For between the sparkle of Christmas and the day I begin to put the house back in order, I can view the "bare bones" better and this is when I often do some tweaking of the rooms.  It is enjoyable to look at familiar objects in new ways as items that have been located in one room now find a new home in another part of the house.

This has been even more important this year as the world outside of these walls is almost unrecognizable.  I feel the need more than ever of that which is warm and cozy and... familiar.  Like the old recipes, my favorite mugs that I use seasonally, favorite artwork on walls, the shelves filled with books, and the life the plants bring to rooms in January.

I am a student of lovely interiors, especially looking through magazines or on Instagram at photos of rooms that appeal to me.  I learned from various interior designers when I was young to view photos of rooms and look for the different aspects that I find beautiful.  What is it about each room that makes me feel warm and cozy?

I'm ridiculously snoopy (but in a good way) when going into a home for the first time, looking around the room and again wondering at why I feel it so charming.  It was during a political meeting when we lived in Iowa that we met in a home where the artwork displayed created the atmosphere.  

That was when I began to love beautiful art... always within my budget.  As a note here... thrift stores can be the best place to find beautiful art on the cheap. The home owner had a beautiful Western print over her sofa in the Family Room that I recognized as an offer from Focus on the Family that year.  It acted as a focal point that made the rest of the room so interesting.

I have finally (almost) finished all the tweaking this year.  The Study was the last room to get back in order but it is also the most cluttered. It is always a mess during the Holidays, for that is where everything gets moved to make room for Christmas decorations and the tree.  This room, normally a sanctuary filled with favorite things, instead tends to give me a headache each time I walk through the doors. 

However, sometimes we need a little temporary clutter to bring beauty elsewhere and I do love the Christmas decorations, especially as I have kept only my very favorites.  Having said that, it is good that the Study... and house... have been returned to a form of decluttered familiarity.

Of course, there is always such a thing as creative clutter and a house without it may make the cover of Traditional Home but without the freedom to do stuff and make messes (to be cleaned up when the project is finished), I have to wonder if it has a feeling of warmth and coziness for the people who live there.

Our homes must be a place where we truly can be ourselves.  The one place on this planet where we can find our favorite food, and the warm throw the kitty also loves, and the stack of magazines we saved to enjoy when we finally have some time to enjoy them along with a hot beverage.

I think everyone loves the kind of home that seems to give us a big hug, a dwelling place that welcomes us back as we walk through the front door is exactly what we need in these difficult days.  My home will never be on the cover of a glossy decorating magazine but as soon as I walk through the door, I feel as close to being Home as I can on this side of Eternity.

My house is mostly decorated in neutrals but the one place I can enjoy my love of yellow and red is in the kitchen.  I don't think it is an accident that depression and world war era kitchens were decorated in bright primary colors such as this.  The kitchen is where women throughout the decades were the artists of their homes, where they made Beauty and lovely creations that filled the bellies as well as the souls of friends and family.

In spite of dealing with continuous fatigue, I still love to cook and bake.  I just can't do as much as I once did and I need a little help from my servants... such as the bread machine that mixes and kneads the dough.  I still purchase cookbooks when they become available at a great price and really good cooking shows are my favorite way to unwind from a stressful day.

I tend to do everything "a little at a time"... perhaps one could call it home making by puttering?   It seems to work because the house is fairly clean (it really needs a deep cleaning after the Holidays, though), laundry gets washed and dried, dinner is put on the table on time, the dishes are washed each evening, and most of the time the clutter has been cleared unless one of us is in the middle of a project.

This year, my priority is that more time must be set aside for those things that fill the soul with peace, such as Bible reading (even if on an app with larger font), reading or listening to books that teach me about good theology or tell stories that please the soul, and listening to favorite Bible teachers.

These are all things I can do that is within my ability to get done.  I will continue to pray about local and world events, I will be aware of what is happening that I need to know about... but I am going to concentrate on those things that I can do to bring beauty and peace to my surroundings.

I think we can all handle what is going on outside our sphere of influence if we feel we have made something peaceful and beautiful within our own little world.  We all have something that brings us joy.  Let us do that this year, look for it, budget for it... whether sipping good coffee before the rest of the family gets up or purchasing a beautiful bouquet of flowers even if we live alone and no one else sees them.

Let us fight against the darkness by looking toward His Beauty and Light... and letting it reflect through us.

ImageTime For Reading by Judy Gibson

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Shopping in light of a new world


I have had pretty much the same shopping routine for groceries since my husband went on Social Security Disability about sixteen years ago.  When he went from Disability to regular Social Security payments, we had no change in the way we shopped for essential items.

We did a stock up shopping in the beginning of the month where we stocked up on essentials, filled the van with gas, payed bills, etc.  Then we knew how much was left to budget for groceries and gas throughout the rest of the month.

That changed somewhat with the Covid lockdowns.  We could usually buy what we always have had on our grocery list by going to a few of the stores nearest where we live.  There were shortages but mostly the same throughout the country and we knew what to purchase when we saw it on the shelf.  For instance, flour and yeast for baking.

Then came this past year and everything began to change.  I have had to be diligent about shopping regularly and hope to find what I need in stock.  I learned the hard way that if I saw something I knew I would need on the shelf, buy it then!

I saw an interview a man gave to a local news station (not our local news) last week when he came out of a grocery store.  He said it looked exactly like grocery stores he had seen in the former Soviet Union back in the 1980s.  Empty.

That experience happened to me last Monday when I went to Meijer for just a few items and some produce and was absolutely stunned by all the empty shelves.  I have never seen anything like it before, not even before a winter storm warning (and we have had no such warnings where I live).

This was simply what the grocery store looked like on a Monday morning after people shopped over the weekend.  I wish I could say it is going to get better sooner but I don't think so from what I have read. Many people who should know, for instance CEOs of food companies, have come out recently saying they do not know when it will get better.

I now shop a few stores every week if necessary and when I see an item that has been hard to find, I buy it right then.  If it is cat food, I buy a few containers as long as there is some left over for other people (for I do have cat food, just not the selection or as much as I'm comfortable keeping stocked with the shortages).

I have had Florentine's favorite Sheba Trout cat food on my Amazon Wish List for awhile now and I ordered a carton as soon as it was available again, even though the shipping date was many weeks away.  At least I am now in queue to purchase some when it is available.

Another area that has had empty shelves is in the freezer compartments in all the grocery stores, especially any type of frozen potato.  Meijer has had empty shelves for frozen vegetables so often that they are now on our Kroger shopping list.  Kroger tends to be better stocked than the other stores.

I've been making a priority list of food items that I want to stock up on more than I have.  It helps keep me focused so I'm not buying extra of items I don't need or won't use just because they "store well".  I also have made some items priorities because of what I have read from people I trust.

For instance, with the weather concerns and the shortage of truck drivers, many have warned of less produce available than usual.  I have mostly seen produce on the shelves but not always the quality the stores once provided.  Also, there have been times when there were almost no bags of pre-made or chopped salads available. 

I read articles that warned of possible shortages of extra virgin olive oil this winter so I have kept a couple extra bottles of our favorite olive oil as backup.  When we use a bottle, I have been replacing the bottle taken off the pantry shelf the next time I shop.  

Now, I have been unable to buy any of that brand and type for about a month. At least we have some since I had read the article and planned for shortages.  I will keep an eye out for when it is available again. If necessary, I will use another brand but I do like the American grown olive oil.

I have been concentrating on stocking some canned vegetables recently, often just one can or one four-pack of cans at a time.  With the canning processing that is available these days, they contain a lot of nutrition even after processing.  (I do purchase frozen vegetables but they are usually to use immediately due to freezer space.)

So, a few items I purchase when at the grocery store that I may not have before are canned vegetables like canned whole baby potatoes.  I keep some cans of potatoes on hand for those times I cannot get to the grocery store and/or if they should not be available.  I have found the canned potatoes are good when sauteed until golden and they are fine in soups.

When I am at Kroger, I purchase the four pack of the Kroger brand cut green beans.  I sometimes use them as a side vegetable (which is what I grew up with) but I always use them in vegetable soup.  I had been well stocked with them and was quite surprised when making soup one day that I had no cans in the pantry at all.

I've also purchased some cans of other vegetables I normally would only buy frozen... just in case.  They will get used, even if my husband will not go near the canned cabbage.  ;)

Canned sweet potatoes are an excellent vegetable to have in the pantry, they can be purchased packed in water, which is great if you just want to saute them as a side vegetable dish.  They are so nutritious that way and better for diabetics than white potatoes.  (Although I do eat small amounts of white potatoes, especially baby Yukon Gold potatoes with the skin left on for nutrition and fiber.)

However, I do like to have a couple cans of sweet potatoes in heavy syrup in the pantry.  They are a treat when warmed (or baked) with some butter on a cold day as a side to a pork or poultry main dish. They are one of my favorite comfort veggies.

I noticed plenty of Spam available the last time I was at Wal-Mart and they have the cans of ham.  I have never tried the canned ham so many people stock (I have some little cans of chopped ham).  I'm intrigued if they would be good in bean soup but not enough to buy it, yet.  

There have been little or no cans of Keystone meat recently. That is one of the food products I check that has given me a good idea if people are stocking their pantries.  I have heard that many households are now stocking extra to "put back" because of the supply chain disruptions... and, of course, the inflation!

Other than getting some extra cans of vegetables, I have been purchasing clothing items off and on.  I mentioned putting back a package of underwear a couple months ago and last week I purchased a package of white socks to put back until needed.  

I do have pretty socks, especially given to me by my daughter for gifts (like my red socks with chickens on them!).  However, plain white socks are my go-to footwear around the house. I do not want to run out and my old socks were beginning to get holes in them... all at once!

I stop by Goodwill when I have a little extra time running errands and I'm not too tired.  My priority right now is to look for cold weather clothing and I've found a few warm tops recently (like the one that makes me look like a bear).  Last year about this time, I found a gorgeous black wool coat with the original tags still on it of $200.  I bought it for $10.00.  That is why I check Goodwill and other thrift stores first.

Now that it is after Christmas, I started checking for winter clearance items and last week found a beautiful set of queen size flannel sheets with pillowcases on clearance.  I've looked for clearance flannel sheets for our bed for years and hadn't found any in that size.  I had to pay full price when needing new sheets.

Now, there is a brand new cute set of London Fog flannel sheets residing in the closet, put back for when they are needed.  That is what pantry living is all about!  I was very thankful when I happened to walk by them at Meijer.  My husband has a degree in Forestry (albeit working with wood), so I'm  hoping he doesn't mind the evergreen trees and elk etchings.

Just after Christmas, I found a pretty throw on clearance that I could use on the Family Room sofa when needed.  Right now, it is folded up in a magazine rack at the end of the sofa and Florentine has discovered it.  If I can't find her, I know where to look.  

I made the decision to buy one or two more throws for the house when I began to hear about shortages of natural gas (who would have ever thought we would go from exporting natural gas to a shortage in one year?)

I know this is a rambling post.  However, all of this to say... we have to be very diligent about planning for and making purchases these days.  When we can budget to buy before needing anything, it is essential to do so now.  

As an aside... I received an air fryer as a gift but I haven't used it, yet.  I have the instructions and the cookbook that came with it sitting out to read "soon".  Does anyone have any good air fryer tips?  This is the kind with a drawer that opens.

More pantry ponderings next week!  God willing and the creek don't rise (or ice up as the case may be).

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Looking toward the new year without fear


It was very cold and windy here last week.  It is still windy, although highs in the 30s are much more tolerable.  That is, unless one is walking down the gravel road to get the  newspaper.  By the time I walked back and opened the front door, I needed an immediate defrosting from a hot beverage.

I normally do not do much housework on Sundays but the clutter from Christmas decorations still waiting to be packed and the tree waiting to be taken apart were beginning to remove my peace. I have no reason why it was so difficult this year to pack up and put everything away, except I wasn't feeling the best.  

Extreme heat and cold have a tendency to send me literally under the weather.  I don't recall that at age eighteen.  I guess with the wind chills higher than the subzero level, I finally had the energy to get that last load of stuff put away.  The containers, already in the garage, were put on the shelves.  The tree was folded and gently smushed to go back into the box.  

The Nativity was finally brought in from the front porch, with every resident wrapped in bubble wrap and stored away.  I felt guilty each time I saw baby Jesus swaddled in the manger in subzero temperatures.

It feels good that the house is almost back to what it was.  There is just a little tweaking to be accomplished here and there but that won't take long.  As much as I love the Christmas season and miss the sparkle, I also enjoy returning to a normal house and schedule.

As I look ahead to this year, I have no idea what to expect.  If you think about it, in January of 2020, there was nothing in our wildest imaginations that would indicate the surprises of that year and the shock of 2022.  Yes, for me 2020 was a surprise but I found the changes made to our country and the world in 2021 to be one shock after another.

As I have shared with friends, there were some months last year when I felt very depressed.  Although I think a more appropriate word would be... untethered.  It seemed like I had followed Alice through The Looking Glass and the world was upside down almost overnight.

For awhile, I couldn't make sense of the changes.  It was hard to take hold of anything.  This new world was a frightening place and just as I was thinking perhaps I understood what was happening, another crack would take place in the ground of society as I knew it.

I have been a believer in Bible prophecy since I read The Late Great Planet Earth around 1970.  It was an eye opener, although it was written from the perspective of world events in the late 1960s.  Hal Lindsey, as with many other Bible teachers, speculated that the return of Christ could be around the year1988... forty years after the founding of Israel, if we looked at a generation being forty years.

However, he and other teachers began to see prophecy from a lens that became clearer as the years and decades went by.  I always thought it was like God showed us one spotlight to step toward (think Jimmy Durante if you remember his leaving the stage) and when we got to that spot, we could see His Story more clearly than we had before.

Then, usually in a few years, we saw another spotlight on the stage floor and we stepped there, eventually understanding a little more each decade.  It was impossible when Lindsey wrote his first book to know for certain what the future would hold because it was shrouded in a fog that did not clear until we came nearer.

But then we came to the years 2020 and 2021, when one event tumbled after another and we barely had time to catch our breath before reading another alarming headline.  This was more than I had counted on back in the good old days of 2019.

I was untethered from my eschatology, which was already less firm than others since I could see the view of pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation teaching.  Maybe even some post-tribulation thrown in.  However, I hadn't expected the world to change this fast!

John Piper has stated, "Books don't change people, paragraphs do... sometimes sentences".  I've thought of that when one statement given by another pastor (who, ironically, has a very different view of eschatology than Piper) said something in a sermon on television.

I love to watch Pastor David Jeremiah and in his previous series, based on a book he had just published, he stated something like... "The events of the future tend to cast their shadow before they happen".  Later he used the same sentence except he said the Book of Revelation was casting its' shadow on our world today.

Honestly, it was like everything fell into place in my thinking.  What I was seeing around me was the shadow of what was to come.  Perhaps very soon but I cannot say that absolutely.

God wasn't having us step right into the events of a Tribulation to come.  Instead, He was laying the ground work for what is to come.  He is allowing those with discernment to see the shadow of future events and instead of mourning the pre-2020 world, we should be in His Word and looking at what we can do for soon... and very soon... our King really is coming.

This is not 1970 and the fog around future events is clearing.  I realized I would not be untethered as long as my foundation was in God's Word.  Our Father holds on to us during these times, not unlike He would hold on to the proverbial sparrow in a storm.

I began to realize I wasn't so much confused as much as I was afraid.  If we are seeing all of these birth pains happening as they are today, then what will happen tomorrow?  How will I survive?  How will my family walk through what is ahead?

What if we do go through part of the Tribulation?  I can now see the shadow of an Antichrist figure.  I can now see what will happen if you do not take the Mark of the Beast.  I can feel the increasing evil in our country and in the world.  Breath in... breath out... where is that paper bag when I need it?

What I came to realize last year was that this is no longer church as usual.  We either believe the Bible... or we do not.  The people who will have that peace that passes understanding are those that begin to spend time each day with God and in His Word.  

That doesn't mean we do not read novels, or watch an occasional (clean) movie, or even start a new hobby.  It doesn't mean we quit our job and move to Wyoming.  It does mean we have to ask God daily for His wisdom and discernment and pray it over our families.

This is not the Great Tribulation, yet, so that means what we are going through is not new to this world.  People have had these sames fears and experiences.  God has brought them through and they are often stronger for it.  Without God, we have no chance.  With God, we can walk fearless in the face of the future.

The Bible says there is a crown waiting those who look forward to His coming.  That is one crown I can rest assured that I will receive.  Maranatha is a daily prayer!

Remember, God has not given us the spirit of fear... but faith!  If you are fearing a lot these days (and I was), that is not God whispering in your ear.  Look into His Word for what He is saying to you.  He has given you power, love, and a sound mind... and the promise of an eternity that is more wonderful than what we can ask or think.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - I'm back and almost rested


I hope you had a good Christmas season!  I always feel at a loss for a few days once the new year begins as I have been in Holiday mode since just prior to Thanksgiving.  The world went from Autumnal colors to the sparkle of Christmas to... the barren look of a winter scene without the snow.

But I do like winter, except for driving on slick roads.  I always feel that winter is the season for introverts.  As I write, I have an oversized pullover on, keeping me somewhat warm in the very cold Study.  My husband said I look like a bear.  That is fine, as long as I'm warm.

I usually enjoy the rest that is possible in that week between Christmas and New Years Eve.  It is as if the world gives permission to veg out for a week or so with no guilt.  However, that time this year brought a little apprehension (and a lot of prayer) when we found out we had been exposed to COVID.

We never experienced any symptoms, other than the weather related sinus issues from the ups and downs of the temperatures.  Our loved ones who did get COVID were sick for awhile but never had to be hospitalized.  They are better now and we thank God for His protection.

The one bright side of having to stay away from people was that it was a good week to quarantine in place!  We are vaccinated and so are the family members who ended up with COVID.  So, we are being even more diligent about wearing a mask, carrying hand sanitizer, and washing our hands as soon as we arrive home.

I have been away from the computer for the most part, only turning it on once since beginning my time away to moderate comments.  I kept up with a few people using the Amazon Fire tablet but I mostly used it to watch some YouTube videos and read using the Kindle app.

The stores where I live were very well stocked for Christmas at first but then problems began to pop up here and there.  I was very glad I had purchased the cream cheese I would need for the Holidays in early Fall (checking for the latest Use By dates) since many areas sold out completely.  

I didn't need any but I checked out of curiosity and Meijer had one box that had arrived the day I was there and was limiting the amount people could purchase. When I think of how many Holiday recipes use cream cheese, I was wondering if people were able to purchase what they needed.

That's why I believe part of living a pantry lifestyle is thinking ahead to what one will need to have on hand in the coming months.  Not only during the Holidays but planning on birthdays and other special events, stocking the pantry (refrigerator, freezer, etc.) with those foods and other items that can be purchased ahead.

I also noticed a week when there were no bags of brown sugar or confectioners (powdered) sugar.  It was a surprise since there had been plenty the last time I was at that store. There were some small bags of regular white sugar so I bought a 10 lb. bag just to pour some into an extra large Tupperware container I have in the garage.  Sugar will last for years and I figured it wouldn't get any cheaper.

Speaking of the small bags of sugar, I noticed a few more instances of "shrinkflation" recently.  What used to be a half-gallon of ice cream now looks little more than one quart (and it had not been an actual half-gallon in years).  I bought a package of granola bars at Aldi for the first time since the supply issues began and the packaging was the same but the granola bars themselves were smaller.

I realized once again that we are going to have to be careful when we are making our older recipes.  I have some that I got from my mother-in-law that have cans in sizes no longer made in that size.  When they were just a little less in size, it didn't make a difference.  However, with another reduction in size, it may take purchasing two cans or packages and doing the math to see what is needed (or, in my case, having my husband... the former engineer... do the math for me).

Now that the Holidays are over, I will be diligent about doing pantry related research again.  It was nice to concentrate on light reading (and watching) for awhile.  The little I followed in that time indicated that the people who do a lot of research are concerned.  Many say they do not see supply issues getting better and in some areas, there will probably be even more shortages.

That's not even beginning to take into consideration inflation but that is for another Pantry Post!

We are looking ahead to this year's budget and deciding what is a priority.  Last year, we made getting dental work caught up for both of us a priority.  That came about when we both, at different times, had a tooth become infected the previous year.  My father-in-law died when the infection from a tooth went to his heart.

It wasn't easy but when needed, we scheduled our appointments in different months to help the budget.  However, now that the year is over, my husband is all caught up with dental work and I have only a little more to go.   

There will be more pantry talk next Saturday, God willing!

Image Christmas Glow, allposters.com (I figured it was still winter related)

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Celebrating Christmas on Purpose and Book Suggestions

The weather has finally turned cooler again.  Spring-like warmth was not only odd but it brought the same weather patterns.  I think perhaps part of my Puddleglum attitude mentioned last week is that it has not looked or felt like December.  It looks more like March and gives new meaning to the song In the Bleak Midwinter.

So, last week I indeed went in search of celebrating Christmas regardless of what was going on in the world and what the temperature was saying.  On the one day that neither of us had any appointments or other responsibilities, I took the van into town and enjoyed looking through a couple favorite stores as well as spending well over an hour walking up and down the aisles of the antique mall.

My hunt for vintage Christmas ornaments paid off with two small, red vintage ball ornaments with Merry Christmas written on them for only $1.00 each.  Very cute!  I was hoping my favorite store that sells primitive and Early American items still had a Christmas decoration I had passed on the last time I was there.  

They didn't but I came home with a vanilla shade of a battery operated candle that I needed to go inside an antique looking birdcage (quite small that sits on a side table).

I love candles this time of year but with a curious kitty, battery operated candles are necessary on any surface where she can walk and today's technology makes them look very real.  Old fashioned candles, especially those that are safely scented, continue to have a place elsewhere in the house.

After finishing my grocery shopping at Kroger on Friday, I stopped by our favorite Chinese take out place to surprise my husband with a late lunch.  I don't know about you but I love going into places where they remember me.  She had a curious look on her face until I told her that my husband had not called ahead this time.  I began to give her my order and in broken English, she finished it! Yes, we are creatures of habit.  ;)

Eating out has become so expensive, even fast food places have increased in price beyond what I want to pay.  However, the Chinese takeout lunch prices are very reasonable, even though she had to raise them a little.  I usually only stop for takeout each month after getting an injection of medicine in my eye as kind of a reward for the pain.  But sometimes, especially during Christmas, it is fun to do something special and unexpected.

My Christmas expectations have had to change over the years as I stayed home a lot more and had no organized festivities to attend.  I do miss some of my old activities but less so as the years have gone by.  Life is always changing, sometimes the changes come slowly over years.  As we are now experiencing in the world, sometimes the changes are sudden and take our breath away.

While we cannot control the changes around us, we can decide how we are going to let them affect our days.  So, sometimes we have to celebrate on purpose. Perhaps we do not feel like doing anything special but when we ask God for wisdom, He has been known to lead us into delightful surprises of joy.

Next week, we will go into town one more time before Christmas but after purchasing salt for the water softener (there are plebeian chores even in festive seasons), we will stop by Cracker Barrel to enjoy a meal... and to check off one of my Christmas "must do's".

Since our son and his family now live close enough to spend Christmas Eve "dinner" with us (we always have Holiday meals early), it will be fun to cook for family and enjoy time together.  Starting tomorrow, I will spend plenty of time in the kitchen with Christmas music playing as I bake, make candy, and put together Christmas plates of goodies as gifts for friends.   All, of course, accomplished a little at a time.

One change I began making perhaps three or four years ago was to continue my Holiday "reading and watching and listening" through January and February as the cold winds blow and sometimes the snow does not allow getting out of our driveway.

I came to realize there were now so many options than there once was.  Not only television programs and movies but those on DVD I like to watch again each year.  With many books available for the Kindle (which I read most often due to eye problems), the options for Advent and Christmas reading expanded greatly, too.

All of this to say, sorry I am just now sharing some of my reading with you but perhaps you can join me in making Holiday reading... Winter reading?  That way it is not so rushed as it used to be.  For as most Americans, the Holiday season for me has always been Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.

I will provide the links below to my current reading but I also will remind you that I am taking my usual Christmas through New Year's blog break.  

The way Christmas falls on Saturday this year, it means that today will be my last blog post until after the break. I need time off of pondering to just veg a bit and to write letters and send cards, including to my favorite cows (they know who they are).

Now... for books!  The titles below are all new for this year and include new devotional reading and even a Christmas murder mystery.  ;)


When I heard there was going to be a Christmas theme Laura Child's Tea Shop Mystery, I pre-ordered it for the Kindle and could not wait the many months until it was published.  

As expected, it is an excellent read and yes... it is much of the same old formula... but it has worked now for a very long time.  Not to mention it is CHRISTMAS themed!  More information on Twisted Tea Christmas can be found... here.


I heard many good thing about Tim Keller's new book called Hidden Christmas: Surprising Truths Behind the Birth of Christ.  I'm enjoying it now for a way to get deeper into the story of Christ's birth. 

The writing is easy to understand but he gives a lot of things to ponder. As one reviewer said, "Keller writes like a modern day C. S. Lewis", since he can make the complicated easy to understand.  More information can be found... here.


I first heard about Prepare Him Room when I saw the author interviewed on a Christian television program.  I immediately went to Amazon and purchased her book with credit for the Kindle.  

They appear to be sold out of the hardback edition right now but the Kindle is still available and it is very inexpensive for Audible.  Her writing is lovely and next year I will use it more as a devotional as intended.  However, this Christmas, I have been reading it through all at once.  Kindle version can be found... here.

The host of the television program also recommended Susie Larson's Instagram feed and I have found her morning and evening devotionals to be lovely and light-giving in a dark world.


Home For Christmas
is a collection of Christmas stories that has been republished.  It was recommended for the ElizabethGoudgeBookClub on Instagram because the Elizabeth Goudge Christmas story we are reading now is included in that book.

As with the others, I am reading the Kindle version and I enjoyed the very old fashioned stories in it.  They usually have a moral learned in each story.  If you like old style English stories, you will like this book.  More information can be found... here.


Another book that has been recently re-published is the beautiful Goudge Christmas sequel to A City of Bells called Sister of the Angels.  I read this lovely story a few years ago and sent my somewhat beat up used copy to a friend so she could enjoy it, too.

It quickly sold out on Amazon but it is on back order.  If you order it now, you will be sent an email when it is in stock and on the way.  My order is on back order, too.  However, it is worth it to have this story on my Goudge shelves again.  You will especially enjoy it if you love A City of Bells.  More information is... here.


When I mentioned last year that I had enjoyed a Grace Livingston Hill Christmas book on the Kindle, quite a few people recommended reading Astra.  I love how so many of her books are now very inexpensive for the Kindle versions.

I plan to read Astra when things have calmed down (hopefully) in January. Her books are just the best for taking us to a time that seems simpler but often had the same kind of challenges we face, just in an early 20th Century way.  More information can be found... here.


A book of Christmas novellas was offered on sale for the Kindle recently, so I added An Amish Christmas Kitchen to my Kindle library at that time. I found when I was reviewing books that the Amish novella books were often delightful reads, just long enough to be interesting but easily read in one day off and on.

This one is a planned read for the winter. The three authors are Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd.  When I can purchase one of these types of books for $1.99, they make for excellent reads for days when one is discouraged.  More information can be found... here. This was still on sale for the Kindle as of today.

For more information on my long time favorite Christmas reading, last year's Holiday reading post can be found... here. It has links for a lot of old favorites.

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

Image:  Christmas a few years ago, before the sideboard had a lamp on it.