Sunday, June 19, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Our homes as a reflection of our God-given calling

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I shared this favorite photo and the quote on my personal Facebook page recently.  It reminds me that God has placed us here... in this time and in the places we live... for His purpose. 

I often end a blog post reminding all of us... you and me... that if we have breath within us, God still has a plan for us here in this age.  We cannot look at it from the world's viewpoint for the world worships youth and a strong body.  God looks at the real person and the value each of us has for His plan in this age.

The theme of a couple cooking shows this week was recipes that their mothers and grandmothers made and how each woman showed their love through their cooking.  A Christian Bible teacher this week reminded people that their prayers for their children and grandchildren are before God even when they leave this world to live with Him.

What we do in our homes can be a ministry, even if it is "just" for our families.  Of course, they are our most important ministry God has given us.  We must never neglect our family for time outside the home "doing ministry" for there is no difference in God's eyes between baking a birthday cake for a family member or neighbor and passing out tracts on a street corner.

One of the important Truths I learned from studying Francis and Edith Schaeffer's writings as a young Christian is that in God, there is no separation between what He calls a man/woman to do physically (ie: occupation) and a spiritual calling.  For everything is a spiritual calling if it is what God has ordained us to do... whether making a lovely dinner, teaching our child to look both ways before crossing a road, or leading an army such as Deborah.

I have read and reread our friend Sarah Clarkson's latest newsletter about their soon move back to Oxford and the lovely old vicarage they will live in and minister from.  Her husband will be the "priest in charge" of two small churches and she sees the vicarage as her central place of ministry. (Sarah's husband is an Anglican priest.)

I happened to know about this lovely answer to prayer before the newsletter because Stephanie had been to Europe recently (it is a long story).  It took some planning but she took a train from France to London to meet with Sarah and Lucy.  Sarah took a train to London from the town where she lives in England.

They had a brief but delightful time together with tea time and perusing beautiful works of art and the nearby highlights of London. I later asked my daughter what Sarah's news was, for Sarah had mentioned in a letter that she had exciting news and she would explain it to Stephanie when they met in person.  Their soon return to Oxford was very welcomed news, indeed!

Much like me, both Sarah and my daughter hold Edith Schaeffer as a role model for using her home for ministry.  While most of us will never have a ministry on the level of L'Abri, all of us can show God's love through their home. The vicarage will offer many opportunities to show hospitality.

In her newsletter, Sarah said some of her goals for the Vicarage are to provide for her family and those who are shown hospitality there: Livable Beauty, Rest, Baking (she wants the aromas of baking to welcome those around her), Prayer, Books, Refuge, Art, Conversation... and Quiet.

Of course, we do not need a large home to be our canvas to share Beauty and hospitality. Emilie Barnes often wrote about her mother teaching her how to minister through her home and on an extremely tight budget, first in the back of the store where they lived when she was young and later in the tiny "apartment" where her mother lived in a Senior Living Facility. 

There was a time that I felt apologetic that I had such a need to be surrounded by Beauty.  Not expensive things.  Not having everything perfect.  But to have in my home those things that I found beautiful and by their beauty... they brought peace.  

For me it is as you would expect, shelves filled with books.  Most were purchased at library sales, some were gifts, quite a few came from the years that I reviewed books, and a few here and there were saved up for and purchased for the value they provided through the years.

I need lots of the color green and living surrounded by a forest certainly helps that as I look through the window in June.  However, I also am the curator of house plants... mostly real but some realistic looking silk plants.  

One cannot tell the difference, sometimes even close up as my husband found out last week when he almost tipped over a beautiful vine thinking it was fake and he did not have to be careful.  It was not and he indeed did need to be careful.

I enjoy having one colorful room and the yellow, reds, and vintage items in those colors in my kitchen provide a cheerful combination.  I love walking into the kitchen early morning, half-asleep, pushing the on-button of the Keurig as at this time of year, the sun is providing a light-filled room trying to coax me awake.

My house contains collections of brown transferware, English teacups and saucers, and inexpensive pewter and silver plate serving pieces.  These items made even more cherished as many remind me of the joy in finding them for very little money in my search for Beauty. 

There are geraniums on the front porch and on a deck table I can see from the kitchen window.  There are other flowers surrounding each pot of geraniums but there must be at least one pot of red geraniums to make me happy each summer.

There are more items such as Dutch lace curtains, brocade pillows, framed thrift store oil paintings, etc. that add to the Beauty in the house and everything comes together to welcome me as I walk through the front door each day.  No house on earth is more welcoming for it was curated through the decades for the purpose of bringing peace and joy.

I believe everything in my home reflects what I have loved to do for my family and others as part of God's calling and His giving of talents.  My love of reading and writing, my love of cooking and baking, my previous enjoyment in creating and making things of beauty, all came together to be tools of serving the Creator.

I am certain if you have been a keeper of your own home, whether a small apartment or a mansion, you can see how your own God-given desires, talents, and the people you love reflected in the way your home has come together through the years. 

There is one Truth I always remember as I appreciate what God has provided and that is this... it all belongs to Him.  He is the giver of all good gifts and I must never love them more than I do Him.  I have lost just about everything before, including a house that was just what I wanted at the time.  However, life goes on and as He did with Job, he restored everything.  Some of them many times over.

The house we own now is much, much smaller than the house we had to "let go". But it is the perfect size for this time of life.  He provides everything we need no matter what the economy brings or what the events in the world are saying.  His ability to use us and provide for us will never change.

You are uniquely qualified to show His love to those around you.  No one in this world has the combination of your family, your friends, your neighbors, your experiences.  No one has learned exactly what you have been taught by the Lord. He has kept you here for a purpose, even if it is to bake cookies and pray for those close to you... or those on the other side of the world.

I was asked last week what some of my favorite "slow living" channels on YouTube are and I thought of a few.  I am certain there are more I will think of later and add to the list.  Of course, some of homestead channels I follow have to do with slow living but from a different perspective.

They are: Our Little House on the Mountain, Calico Girl, The Cottage Fairy, and Forgotten Way Farms.  I think all of them have their IG links in their information on YouTube.  All are from a Christian perspective except The Cottage Fairy but she is G-rated.  She lived in a very small cottage for a long time and has recently married.

Image:  The Lord of the Rings

Note:  You can sign up for Sarah Clarkson's newsletter... here.  Her blog is... here.  Sarah's writing, even in her nonfiction books, is lovely!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Hot weather and a power outage


I'm writing today with a stuffy head. We had record breaking heat and humidity last week and we finally have a couple days of nice weather.  However, the pressure in my head tells me all sudden weather changes are not fun.  I will take the headache, though, and keep the heat away for at least one day. 

I made certain to empty Mouse's water bowl a couple times each day and refill with cooler water.  She mostly lounged on the wicker table or underneath the rocking chair when there was some shade.  Flowers have had to be watered every day.

Each morning, I have been closing all the blinds in the family room where the morning sun shows brightest.  On the hottest days, the blinds stayed shut most of the day.  I did laundry early in the day and kept the oven off all but one day.

Dinner menus this week included two different salads and a stir fry meal. When I was buying produce last week, I noticed rotisserie chickens were on sale so I purchased one and that gave me chicken to use on both salads and I mixed it in with the stir fry after it was cooked.

The 90+ temperatures with heat indexes over 100 are to return next week.

I think the heat was behind the great clearance prices I found last week when I walked into Meijers.  I usually park near the pharmacy entrance because there are less cars parked there on weekdays.  There was a large rack of clearance items and I noticed they were blankets and throws.  When the heat index is 110, I suppose people are not interested in buying blankets?

Unless you are someone who thinks ahead and sees excellent quality blankets priced at 75% off.  I bought a queen size heavy cuddly blanket and a queen size mid-weight blanket.  I have had extra blankets on my mental things to stock list in case we lost heat in winter.  I was thrilled to find two at such a small price.

Their throws at 75% off were lovely but they were white and my cat's hair is dark.  Enough said...  I remember when my son was little and we were looking at sofas to purchase.  I told the salesman that I needed one the color of the bottom of my son's shoes!  White has never been an option for furniture or linens here.

If I see a rack of clearance items, I usually will check out what is on them.  I saw boxes of the new Ball Aluminum Cold Drink Cups on a clearance rack recently.  I had them on my grocery list to try soon so I purchased one box at a great price. The boxes are large so they probably had too many in stock.

Like everyone else, we are trying to find ways to save on our food budget.  My husband does most of our Kroger shopping, although I shop there once at the beginning of the month for some items that is just easier to get myself than to explain to him what to look for when he did the weekly shopping.

He called from Kroger last week to tell me our favorite Ruffles potato chips were on sale for $1.99 a bag (their retail cost is $5.49 a bag now).  I asked how many bags he had to buy for that price and he said four.  I quickly thought of where I could store three extra bags of potato chips and told him to buy four bags.

The math makes that kind of stocking up an easy decision... $5.49 for one bag not on sale and just about an extra $2.50 more for four bags?  Kroger has quite a few sales like that and I need to start looking at their weekly flyers to check on them.  Oh, I put the extra bags of potato chips on top of my shoes in my closet but one must find pantry space where they can, right?

I have been finding more packages of fresh vegetables on clearance that only need to be used quickly.  I don't buy anything that already looks old, even if it is on clearance.  

I knew Father's Day was coming up when I did my Aldi stock up shopping earlier this month so I purchased small sirloin steaks for a special dinner.  Their "use by or freeze by" date was well after Father's Day.  Steaks are a splurge but a good way to make the day special.  I just purchased asparagus to go with it and realized by that price that asparagus season is now over.  Yikes!  But it was for a special dinner.

We had another power outage last week, most of which we think were caused by squirrels getting on power lines in our back yard.  I keep the "report outage" number for our rural electric company on the side of the refrigerator and called using the cell phone immediately.  Our land line phone does not work in power outages.

Since it was daylight, I only brought one battery operated lantern out in case we had to go into the garage during the outage.  The deep freeze was kept shut and the refrigerator freezer was kept shut but we quickly removed from the refrigerator what we needed and then quickly put it back when we had to.  Otherwise, that was the only time the refrigerator door was opened.

I charge the Amazon Fire tablet (if needed) and the cell phone every morning when I get up and every night before going to bed.  Sometimes I will plug the tablet in to recharge in the afternoon if it is getting very low.  Our cell phone is just a flip top phone so it doesn't need long to charge.

I charge my Kindle Paperwhite when I notice it is below 75% but it holds a charge for quite awhile.  I think getting in the habit of keeping devices charged is a good preparedness idea and living in a rural area where we can lose power unexpectedly, it has proven to be useful many times.

I used to have a few movies downloaded on the tablet but I found that favorite TV shows are more practical since they are usually thirty to forty-five minutes. (That tells you how much of the hour is taken up by commercials.)  Right now, I have a couple cooking shows, a half hour travel documentary, and couple half hour episodes of a favorite TV show.

I do have one favorite made for TV movie that I keep downloaded on the tablet. It is on Amazon Prime since it is not available on DVD.  It is called An Amish Murder and while it sounds terrible, it is a very good mystery.  Even when you watch it and know "who dunnit".

Late May and June are the months I spend part of my discretionary budget on flowers for the front porch and deck, which means there is no pantry budget left this month.  So, I didn't get anything for the pantry this week, unless you consider the bags of potato chips sitting on my shoes.  My husband has to eat a very "clean" diet but potato chips are his one big food vice.  So, they will not be there long.  ;)

As requested, I am linking to the Heavy Cream Powder that I buy.  I like all of Judees products.  I need to purchase buttermilk powder and potato starch soon.  I've noticed on a lot of Japanese recipes that potato starch is used for breading their fried chicken recipes instead of flour and I have to try it!

I have a package of Judees dried eggs in my pantry and I thought of getting another except they are the one product that has gone up so much that I don't want to spend that much!  I know the cost of eggs are going up but I didn't think about how that would increase the cost of dried eggs so much.

Mentioned in this Blog Post

An Amish Murder on Amazon Prime (I purchased it long ago before it was part of Lifetime TV membership)... here.  It is an excellent mystery if you can ever watch it.  It may be on a streaming service that includes Lifetime Movies.  

My husband and I think there must have been one or more Christians on their staff because they made some other good movies, like Saving Sarah Cain (Amazon DVD... here).  Also available on Amazon Prime I think.

It is the movie version of the book, The Redemption of Sarah Cain, which is an excellent stand alone book. (Amazon link... here).

Judees Heavy Cream Powder, 11 ounces... here.  There is a larger bag offered.

Ball Aluminum Cups... here.

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

ImageThree Hens With Coop

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Tea - A Return to Slower Living

I was thinking this week about the possibility of a positive side to this inflation.  While it is causing increasing anguish to our budgets, it may have the side benefit of a return to appreciating the simple pleasures of life... like cinnamon toast with tea or coffee. 

There are so many YouTube videos today being suggested about Slow Living.  I get recommendations since a couple vloggers I watch fall under that category. Could it be that many people are longing for simplicity and slower days than is offered by the world today?

I set my cell phone alarm quite early so I can slowly wake up, put the dishes in the drainer away, make a mug of coffee in the Keurig, and catch the local news and weather before the Bible Study show I watch comes on at 7:00.  Kitties get fed after the Bible Study program is over.

On days there are no outside appointments, I can stick to a routine that allows me to do the housework and extra chores slowly all day.  It helps that there are routines I can follow that make up for a lack of energy.  Slow living is necessary but not always possible.  I can feel the lack of peace when in a season of a lot of appointments.

I have been writing on Saturday blog posts about changing the meal plans for hot weather.  In cold weather, I love to make soups, stews, and casseroles to reheat or put in the oven late afternoon when the oven can warm the kitchen and family room.  It is the time for meals that fill the tummy as well as the soul.

But that kind of cooking goes the way of candles and hygge come the long days of June.  It has taken time to make the adjustments but slowly both my meals and the daytime routine are fitting in with the Midwest heat and humidity.  A side benefit is that most are very healthy meals.

I'm thankful for the spell of cooler weather and less humidity recently but that is to change.  While I love to sit on the porch early on a hot day and hear the sounds of the forest, once the heat sets in... I thank God for air conditioning.

Nature seems to love the hot, hazy, and humid weather, though.  The birds all chirp and sing even more in such weather and the sounds of the frogs can keep one up at night in high humidity.  The fireflies appear on hot and humid nights.  I usually stop to listen to nature and especially to stand on my porch and watch the fireflies at dusk... God's magical fairy lights.

I wonder if we lost our natural ability to live slowly about the time of the Industrial Revolution?  So many people have no contact with the land and nature, anymore. There was a natural ebb and flow of the days and the change of seasons.  When the sun went down early in winter, people went to bed early.  Winter was the time of rest.  In the summer when the sun is shining so late, farmers can continue their work as needed.

I do know it is just the opposite for our south of the equator friends!

Speaking of simplicity and slowing down, have you noticed that we are in options overload?  More media is available than we could watch or listen to in a lifetime.  If I listened to all the podcasts that sound interesting, I wouldn't get anything else accomplished.  Many Kindle books are now quite inexpensive so my Kindle is full of books waiting to be read.

I have had to carefully choose what media I will continue to watch or to listen to during the day, keeping only those that are truly helpful, inspiring, or keep me updated on world events in a way that I can sleep at night.

I used to be able to read long books with no problem, immersing myself into their story-lines and becoming a part of the story.  Too much time listening to short YouTube videos or scanning through Instagram has certainly changed that.  It is true that if you don't use a skill, you may lose it.

Right now, I am reading a wonderful book on the Kindle called The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of WWII.  It came highly recommended by my daughter and daughter-in-law and they were right, it has everything I love in a book.  But I have had to make time each day to read it when at one time, I would have devoured it in just a few sittings!

Now, I admit that part of this had to do with my eyesight and I get eye strain much quicker than before.  But part of it is just habit, or rather the lack of keeping a good skill.  It takes a way of thinking to read long books that I never thought I would lose.  But I have!

I have quite a few very long book to listen to on Audible already (all three Lord of the Rings books, Lonesome Dove, John Adams, to name a few).  Perhaps by training myself to listen to them, I will regain my ability to appreciate long books?  Regardless, I am working on regaining that skill.

I am all in for slowing down days and simpler options.  As much as I love to bake, cinnamon toast sounds lovely at the moment.  As does vanilla ice cream with sliced strawberries as the weather heats up.  Grilled cheese on sourdough bread and sliced tomatoes was our "Sunday lunch" today.  Easy.  Simple.

We do have more choices than we think, you know.  So much that is happening in our world is out of our hands, except for the power of prayer.  But I keep telling myself that I can choose to listen to an inspiring podcast instead of watching a television show.  

I can put a favorite CD in the player that I moved to the kitchen and listen to old favorite songs and singers.  The world seems a better place when Dean Martin sings Volare.  I need to dust off my collection of DVDs that make much beloved movies and television series available.

I know there are busy seasons of life and if you are in one of them, try to find a few minutes to do something to relax and slow down, even if it is sipping a glass of iced tea and watching fireflies in the forest.  Even those of us living in a season of slow have to be reminded of these truths and not be swept up by a busy society.

Until next week, if you have breath... God still has you here for a purpose.

Mentioned in this Blog Post

The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of WWII... here.

Lord of the Rings... here

Lonesome Dove... here.

John Adams... here.

Dean Martin singing Volare... here

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

Image:  Apple Pie Harvest, Artist:  Janet Kruskamp 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Learning to live with higher prices


Our weather this week has been near perfect, highs in the 70s with a little rain here and there.  The counties just north of us had flooding rains and south of us experienced severe weather.  I am always thankful when such weather misses us for there have been times in the past that it didn't!

Next week, we are to switch to higher than normal temperatures and humidity with highs near 100.  I know some of you are already dealing with those high temperatures.  I have a couple projects I am hoping to finish before it becomes so hot.

When we had a new water heater installed this week and I had workmen coming and going, I stayed in the Study, at first perusing email and Instagram on the tablet while chatting with my daughter on Instagram.  I love that technology lets me stay in touch with her.  

While I was chatting with her, I was looking at the big bookcase in the Study and realized it needed a good re-doing.  I've thought it was looking too cluttered for awhile now and too much visual clutter bothers me. I should add here that I do not consider gallery walls visual clutter as someone else in the house does.  ;)

After I chatted with her, I started reorganizing the shelves and they look so much better.  I didn't have to get rid of anything, it just had to be changed around to look better.  Only some of the bookshelves have books, the rest of them hold various craft supplies, stacks of vintage Victoria, old copies of Where Women Cook, and stacks of older copies of Bella Grace, etc.

I was talking to a friend recently (our daily email conversations) and she mentioned she was no longer getting rid of anything.  With prices going up so much, I agree.  I have been trying to get rid of things we no longer need for years so what is left is what I want to keep.

We have extra boxes of canning jars that I'm not using but when my husband asked if he could get rid of them (as in giving to Goodwill), he was surprised at how adamant my "NO!" was.  I know there may come a day good friends (or even one of my kids) will need them.  I would be canning if I didn't get tired so easily.

Speaking of which, I am loving my simple summer meal routines now. I'm still finding ways to have quick meals when I am tired in the evening.  The soups, stews, and casseroles of colder weather are rarely desired when the temperatures are in the 90s.

I found that purchasing the rare roast beef from the deli and having it sliced for sandwiches worked great for only two of us.  Compared to what I would spend on beef to cook for two people, it is very cost efficient and healthy.  Especially since my husband limits the amount of beef he eats these days.

I have also been using Taylor Farms or Dole salad starters a couple times a week.  We divide one package between the two of us and I almost always add tomatoes, green onions, and cucumber for extra veggies.  This would be less than frugal for large families but for us it is a no waste way of making salads.

I do plan to buy produce from the farmer's market but I haven't made it there, yet.  There is a large market in a nearby town and a smaller market close to where I live.  I need to write it on my planner so I remember what day it is each week. Sometimes it takes time for something to become a habit.

I love watermelon and I have been finding the small melons on sale recently so I have been buying them to use as part of a quick and healthy meal.  I have also been buying asparagus while it is still in season and less expensive.  Each week, I check the aisle at Meijer where they have packaged pre-cut raw vegetables and look for clearance packages.  As long as I use them right away, they are fine and I often save at least half of the price.

We decided to order Chinese takeout one evening last week when I had been busy all day.  However, the costs have gone up so much that even that take out needs to be carefully considered.  It will become more of a special treat than something we pick up when the week has been busy.

That is why I am working on these quick, easy, and healthy meal ideas.  By having something available, I can put together the meals even when I am tired at 5:00 in the evening.  Although, I do plan to include items that can be made ahead in the morning in my hot weather meal plan eventually.

While food at the grocery store is going up a lot, restaurant food is now very expensive and fast food cost more than I ever thought I would see in my lifetime.  It does mean that using convenience foods from the grocery store has now become cheaper than eating out most of the time.

We have purchased a small organic cheese pizza from Kroger (their organic label) for a long time and keep a couple in the freezer for when I need to put together an easy meal. (Cheese pizzas tend to be inexpensive and a good base for a quick "homemade" pizza).

I add pepperoni to one half because someone in the house hates pepperoni.  Isn't that un-American?  Sometimes I add green pepper, mushrooms, or sausage instead of pepperoni. Anyway, the pizza is small and only provides three small pieces for each of us but with a simple side salad, it is filling and much cheaper than our favorite restaurant pizza.

I am keeping on hand the ingredients for BLT sandwiches and for grilled cheese sandwiches.  I prefer the latter with sliced tomatoes on them like my mother made them.  I have made egg salad, tuna salad, etc. just for me to have on hand for quick lunches.

I have to be careful about eating too much pasta salad or I would keep it on hand in the refrigerator like I did in the summer pre-diabetes.  But I can eat some pasta, I just need to plan when we have a pasta salad.  For instance, I can get away with eating it for lunch much more than I can at dinner when I need to be more careful about carbs.  

I make the pasta salad with Newman's Own original salad dressing usually but I have used any Italian style bottled dressing, too.  If I know we are having company or we are going to a picnic with others, I often make potato salad.  My daughter makes the same recipe and is often asked to bring it to picnics and pot lucks.

I'm playing with various orzo salad recipes this summer.  I love orzo in soups as a replacement for rice and I see a lot of recipes for different kinds of orzo salads online.  Orzo makes an excellent pantry addition because a few boxes can be kept in half-gallon Ball jars.

My mother often made macaroni salad in the summer.  There are many recipes for it online, especially from Southern, Midwestern, and Amish cooks.  That kind of pasta salad stretched many meals when times were hard in previous years.  Another dish made with macaroni that Mom made was macaroni and tomatoes. There are also many recipes for it online with slight differences.

In last week's Comments, scrambled eggs were mentioned and I have started making scrambled eggs about once a week, too.  I add onions, red and/or green peppers, and sometimes a little cheese to them.  They are high in protein, still inexpensive (even with higher prices), and quick to cook.

I don't think the food we have to make when the economy isn't all that good has to be boring.  I think you know how I adore Afternoon Tea and so many of the foods that are often served are quite inexpensive.  I mean... cucumber sandwiches?  Really easy and inexpensive.

Spring and Summer are the perfect time to have an easy Tea Time, especially if you have kids (or grown daughters!).  You can make an easy dessert by spooning lemon curd from a jar into the pre-made small graham cracker crusts like the Keebler brand.  

They can be served as is or I like to add a dollop of Cool Whip or whipped cream to cut the tang of the lemon curd.  I like to keep jars of lemon curd and graham cracker crusts in the pantry as well as Cool Whip in the deep freeze. Of course, if you live in an area where citrus is grown, then homemade lemon curd would be delicious!

I will include the link below to my favorite cream scone recipe that I have shared before.  It is so easy and really quite affordable, even when made with heavy cream.  I keep powdered heavy cream in the pantry to use when I want to make scones.

I prefer tea time sandwiches to be made with white or a very light inexpensive wheat bread even though normally I prefer a sturdy bread for sandwiches.  Egg salad, chicken salad, rare roast beef, or cucumber sandwiches, etc. are all good.  All of these can be made as sandwiches and cut into triangles or other shapes but I also like to serve them open face on sliced baguettes.

Add cubed watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes cut in half, and perhaps some sliced strawberries for a visually pretty and healthy salad.  I would look for these items on sale if possible since I have heard some foods like grapes have doubled in price.  Actually, I'd be happy with just cubed melon.

The tea doesn't have to be hot in the Summer.  It can be iced herbal tea for kids.  But if you do want hot tea, there are some fruit based teas that I have found kids enjoy more than say... Earl Grey, which is one of my favorites.

Of course, picnics can be as inexpensive as you want and they can provide amazing memories for when the kids leave home (which happens way too soon). They can be as fancy or as inexpensive as you want to make, kind of like a charcuterie board to go.  ;)

I have written before that when my kids were younger and we wanted to go out for a last minute picnic, I would pack an easy lunch of fruit and cheese, sometimes I would pack crackers and other times I would stop for a loaf of good bread at the store (we still have a grocery store bakery that sells warm French or Italian bread). 

I have a couple of vintage picnic baskets but one was always kept packed with paper plates and utensils, including a vintage tablecloth that could be tossed in the washer when we arrived home if needed.  Vintage tablecloths were meant to be used and normally wash up with no problem (unlike other vintage linens and lace that require special treatment).

Picnics are always a good thing, even if you have to stay inside because it is raining.  But the thing is... cutting down on the expense of food does not have to be bland or boring.  I think my best recipes came out of having to super stretch the dollar until it squeaked.

So, what did I do for the pantry this week?  I still try to purchase one item for the pantry on non-stock up grocery trips.  I decided to buy one "canister" of Starbucks Blonde Blend instant coffee when at Meier last week.  I do have a couple jars of another brand of instant coffee that is cheaper but this is really good and instant coffee is an item I want to have quite a bit put back.

Remember, instant coffee that has no added cream or anything in it... that is just 100% instant coffee... has an indefinite shelf life.  Since pantry space is limited, I do like to have some items put back that I don't have to keep front and center to rotate them.

I also ordered two boxes of Sheba cat food since it has been hit and miss to find over the last two years.  One box was tucked away for an emergency and the other is to use now.  I will rotate the boxes as required.  

Our water heater finally arrived and was installed last week.  I am so glad we didn't wait until it wasn't working at all to spend the money since it took awhile to get here.  As I told my daughter, I would rather spend that money on something pretty like new (or rather antique new-to-me) furniture but she reminded me that cold showers in Winter would not be a good thing.

The price of such appliances have already skyrocketed.  Yikes!  We had a top-of-the line water heater before that was put in long ago by a previous owner.  We bought a middle-of-the line water heater, which is just fine and doesn't require a second mortgage.  

Remember, even a little at a time pantry purchasing is a whole lot better than doing nothing at all.  I am now convinced we are looking at much higher prices ahead.

Here are a few favorite recipes for Tea Time

My favorite scone recipe... here.

Jewel Cookies (shown in photo above)... here. (Also contains recipes for some other favorite Christmas cookies.)  Note: I stated in the recipe that I use unsalted butter for it.  I now use salted butter for baking unless it specifically calls for unsalted butter.

Citrus Tea Cookies... here.

Amish Pumpkin Bread and Cranberry Bread... here. (Especially if baked in mini loaf pans.)

Easy Fruit Cocktail Cake... here.

Open Face Cucumber Sandwiches... here.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake... here. (This cake stays fresh for days!)

My favorite Potato Salad recipe... here.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Why Bible Prophecy Helps us Overcome Fear

I won't give up on this race
Broken but I still have faith
That this old life is all part of a plan
And I can feel it in my soul...

My husband and I were watching the K-Love Music Awards yesterday when Toby Mac sang the above song.  The official title is Promised Land and this is but one part of a verse but for some reason, it touched me even more than the others. The entire song is quite wonderful.

I continue to ponder how I can run to all that is lovely.  Especially as this world has become unbelievably dark.  Television has become a mind field of wickedness.  I think only five major companies own most of the channels now, which is why one can be watching a family friendly TV show like The Zoo (Bronx Zoo) or The Secret Life of the Zoo (Columbus Zoo) and cringe at the X-rated commercials.

I was recently watching about a half an hour of a favorite movie on a channel I rarely watch and was so disgusted by the commercials that I turned the channel.  Even though it was a movie I liked, I didn't want the filth of the commercials to enter my mind.

People scoffed at David Wilkerson's book called The Vision.  He believed God had given him a vision of what the world would become like in the near future and many were unthinkable at that time.  Many in the church were so upset with him that invitations for him to speak at churches other than his own (Time Square Church in New York) almost stopped.

Now, I understand why some people are uncomfortable with the concept of visions.  Even though the subject comes up all the way through the Bible, if you were raised in a denomination that never brought up the subject, then you most likely would be uncertain.  However, the people that were upset with Wilkerson was because of the content of the visions and not the concept.

I have a copy of The Vision and I need to reread it soon but so much of what he wrote has happened.  Those things which people told him were impossible to occur, especially in Christian America.  One of them was that television would offer p*rn channels for pay and then all channels would become so bad that some Christians would decide they can no longer watch television at all.

The book was published in the 1970s and people said that could never happen.  A television show about that time was cancelled because the couple were living together and not married.  So many people complained to the network that it was taken off the air.  That is hard to believe these days but I remember the show and the complaints.

I don't use the term prophet lightly.  It seems we read of Prophet this guy and Prophet that guy all the time now.  David Wilkerson never called himself a prophet but he certainly heard from God and tried to warn people what was coming. That by any definition could be called a prophet.  Although, what I would call a prophet today is different than the Old Testament prophets who held what I would call the office of a prophet. 

I have two of Wilkerson's books on my desk at all times, both paperbacks are well worn with yellowed pages but I like to go back and check what he said compared to what is going on in the world that we find so shocking now.  These past two years have certainly filled in a lot of the blanks.

Wilkerson preached to his congregation as well as in the newsletters he sent out that we were living in the days that were predicted in the Bible for millennia.  Even in the 1970s, he was teaching that God's people needed to be students of the Word and to not be distracted by everything the world has to offer.  No wonder so many people did not want to read his materials or listen to his teaching.

I am so glad that my early Bible teachers believed the teaching of Bible prophecy was important, even if not everyone believes the exact same thing.  As a young Christian, it seemed everyone was talking about Bible prophecy and then things slowly changed.  Eventually, it was not taught in many churches, anymore.

We need to give each other a lot of grace when it comes to eschatology.  As we get closer to the return of Christ, the lens are becoming clearer than they were even twenty years ago, much less when the subject became more popular in the 60's and 70's.  How and when everything happens should never bring a separation of fellowship among friends.  

I have heard one prophecy teacher who believes in a pre-tribulation rapture say that he gets hate mail that he is sending people to Hell because of what he teaches.  If you know someone who thinks like that... run away from their teaching.  The events leading up to the return of Jesus are not something people have to agree upon for their salvation.  Anyone who would teach that cannot be trusted in any of their other teachings.  

I think it is possible that there are events in these years that will not be clear until we get up to the days they occur, perhaps not even until after they have happened.  Think about how many people did not understand fully the events leading up to the first coming of Jesus.  We can look back and see it all so clearly now.

Most teachers agreed that Romans 1 and Matthew 24 were important in describing what life would be like before His return.  Of course, there are the general prophecies in the Old Testament and Revelation that offer a macro view but it is the micro view of Romans 1 and Matthew 24 that I have been coming back to a lot in the past few years.

So, why does the study of Bible Prophecy help me overcome fear when so many teachers today refuse to teach it because they say it will stir up fear?  Because Bible Prophecy is like looking at a map and once in awhile, a "You Are Here" sign pops up.  You know, the kind of sign they have in malls to show you where the stores are located from the perspective of the map. 

Taught by a really good teacher, it can give us understanding of this crazy world.  It can show us an estimate of where we are in relation to God's ultimate plan for our world.  That being the return of Jesus.  If I had not had good teachers in the past, I would be clueless as to why the world seems to be falling apart. 

I do start feeling fear creeping in when I look around at the world today.  It is easy to speculate on the years ahead if we do not "take every thought captive" as I have shared before. Even if we trust God's Word and we understand all of this means that Jesus is coming again soon.

We cannot help but think of the "what ifs"...  Will I suffer?  Will my children suffer?  Will there be enough to eat in the future?  What will we do if there are extended power outages?  What if the prices continue to go up?  What if we go to war?  Etc.

There is not only the talk of WWIII but now there is talk of world wide famine and yet another pandemic on the horizon.  All of which we would have laughed at just over two years ago but all are now a possibility.  

Although, I have read what Billy Graham wrote during the Cold War and I think I agree.  He believes a nuclear war event has to be a Tribulation-Wrath of God event because of the destruction.  The Word says that He shortens that time so that all of mankind will not be wiped out.  

What Bible Prophecy reminds me is this, God knew what was going to happen a very long time ago.  Before time began.  He has provided enough information through those who held the office of Prophet and those whom he uses today to show what is going to happen.

I can look at the "You Are Here" signs as they pop up now and then and know that yes, God is truly in control.  Is Putin the ultimate person in control?  No.  Is Biden in the ultimate control?  I certainly hope not.  What about Iran and Iraq and Saudi Arabia?  Not even those powerful countries with a lot of oil are in control.

The Bible tells me that God knows what is happening.  He knows who is behind this worldwide chess board.  "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood."  You and I are in the midst of a universal battle of good and evil and those of us who believe the Bible is true as well as Truth have something the rest of the world does not... we know who wins the war, even if through the lens of the world and the media it seems as if God is losing the battles.

I don't know the timing of the years ahead, my friends.  I don't know what we will go through or precisely when Jesus will come.  But I can look back at my life and know that He always brought me out of every trial and that I can trust Him with the years ahead. 

I have chosen to look past all the possibilities and look forward to the promises I know are coming.  A perfect body with no pain or suffering.  A perfect world and then a new Earth that has never known the consequences of the Fall.  The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  Seeing loved ones who have gone on before me.  Seeing Heaven and the streets of gold.  Having a Heavenly home.  The best of all... seeing God face to face.

Whatever is ahead, what follows is worth it all.  The Bible calls our sufferings here "light, momentary afflictions".  We can have great trust that God will never leave us or forsake us and because of Bible prophecy, we know that there is an end to all of the suffering the world has known.

We do not depend on our strength (which is frail), we depend on His strength.  It will never fail.

Lyrics: Promised Land  Written by: Adam Agee and Toby McKeehan

Promised Land video on YouTube... here.

Image: Hubby and I on our honeymoon, I had just turned 20 a few weeks before and he was 27.  It is good that we did not know everything that was ahead of us, both that which was good and that which was... not.  However, God led us through all of it just as He will lead us through the years ahead.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Some ramblings about summer cooking and Stock Up Day


Well, at least I am now getting dinner on the table without staring at the refrigerator shelves too long.  The older I get, you can kind of hear the brain squeaking like a screen door that needs some oil added to the hinges.  It takes time but eventually I can move into summer mode.

I have made a list of summer meal ideas as I think of them and it is surprising how many ideas pop up when making time to concentrate on them.  I have already had to change the way I've been budgeting for food as food prices escalate.  For instance, it is now cheaper for me to purchase a pound of rare roast beef from the deli section of Meijer that will make multiple sandwiches than to buy two fast food hamburgers (and much healthier).

Eating out has always cost more than making the same thing at home.  I know for nice dinners out it begins at twice the cost and goes up from there the pricier the restaurant.  Recently, we went out to breakfast with our son and his family and the cost for my husband and me was over $32.00, not including the tip.  For breakfast at a diner.

I have decided to revert back to what my daughter and I used to do for fun when she lived at home.  We would try to figure out how the entree we were enjoying at a restaurant was made and quite often, we could duplicate it at home the same or even better.  I think I am going to purchase my favorite breakfast skillet meal from the diner "to go" and take note of how it is assembled.

For evenings when I am particularly tired, I have begun to keep packaged salads to make for dinner, adding extra fresh vegetables. Sometimes I grill chicken breasts or tenders on the stove top grill and make enough extra for salads and other meals.  If I know we are going to have a busy week, I will also purchase a package of vegetables put together especially for stir fry meals.  If I have extra chicken, I add it to the veggies just before serving.

All of this is to be prepared to cook at home so I am not tempted to spend money on restaurant food and the gas to get into town.  These days, we only want to go to a restaurant if it is to be a special meal and not just because I am too tired to cook.  Fortunately, the hot dogs at our local drive in are still inexpensive and since they are only open in warm weather, they are still a treat to be picked up on my way home from a late appointment.

I'm still writing down warm weather quick meal ideas so I can keep the ingredients on hand.  For instance, I have a package of ground beef patties in the freezer as well as a package of hamburger buns.  I already had bacon in the refrigerator when I went to the grocery store so I bought a few tomatoes for BLT sandwiches (sometimes without the lettuce).  

My husband has been requesting fish for dinner so I purchased a bag of tilapia at Aldi last week for quick dinners.  The pantry is stocked with canned goods and other items that can be used to turn simple protein into other meals should I want to take more time making dinner.

I am purchasing the sliced sourdough bread at Aldi again but I freeze half of it when I arrive home to protect it from molding in the humidity before we can eat all of it.  It is ready for sandwiches, although I do still bake bread.

I made bread in the bread machine again last week.  As usual I set it on the dough cycle and finished it in the oven but this time I put the dough in a loaf pan instead of shaping it into a round and baking it on a sheet pan.  I like the way it gets nice and brown over most of the surface when baked on a sheet pan but I was out of sandwich bread.

Making bread in a bread machine is so easy, even for people who have fatigue issues.  Not to mention it tastes great.  Now that my favorite Aldi sliced sourdough bread is in the bread box, the rest of the homemade bread will be cut thick... Texas toast size... and used for French toast.  Hmmmmm... Texas French toast.

This week on the two Stock Up days, my "pantry purchase" was extra meat for the deep freeze.  I have some ground beef that needs to be used so I bought chicken breasts and chicken tenders.  They were shrink wrapped already and all I had to do was date the package with the date they were purchased and slip each package in a gallon size Ziploc bag to protect against freezer burn.  

I reuse the Ziploc bags for a long time by taking the package of meat out of them before placing on a plate and defrosting in the refrigerator overnight.  I have my used Ziploc bags held together with a large clip (the kind that keeps potato chip bags shut) and ready for when they are needed.  The only gallon size Ziploc bags I throw away are those that came into contact with raw meat.

Each month for awhile now, I have been trying something new that I may want to put in the pantry.  I have been keeping cans of whole potatoes in the pantry for a long time to use when I am out of potatoes and they are needed for soup.  

However, while watching a cooking show recently, the cook said she keeps cans of diced potatoes on hand for various skillet recipes.  I was curious so I purchased one can last week and I will try it soon.  It would be a good way to stretch some dishes if it is good and not watery like some canned potatoes can be.  I like the idea of them being cubed already.

We are living in different times than we are used to in so many ways.  I never thought a gallon of gas would be $5.00 (well, $4.99!) or that a bag of potato chips would sell for $5.49... the regular size, not the family size!  It is getting harder for many families to put food on the table, much less to put some extra items in the pantry.

However, God does supply all of our needs according to His riches in Glory! I really do believe that God also gives us creative ideas to help us make tasty and healthy meals with less money.  So many countries that have had serious times of poverty... often caused by war... have learned to create delicious meals out of the simplest ingredients.

Sorry about another rambling post instead of writing this out in a way that is perhaps easier to read.  However, it was a busy week and I tried to write today's blog post ahead of time but here it is mid-day on Saturday and I am just now getting it written.

This is how my brain works, for better or worse.  Fortunately, I usually have a little more time to try to put words in better order.  Thank you for understanding (I hope!).