Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Capture the Moment: a review


This is the book about photography I've wished someone would write.  The subtitle of the book is, The modern photographer's guide to finding beauty in everyday and family life.  It is written by Sarah Wilkerson who is the CEO of Clickin Moms with contributors by the dozens.

Why do I love it so?  Because I'm not a professional or even a good amateur photographer.  I just take pictures.  Pictures of my family.  Pictures of my home.  Lots of pictures of my cat.  Pictures for this blog.

The first half (or so) of the book provides the kind of information someone like me with a simple camera can use to take photos that are beautiful and more meaningful.  The second half (or so) of the book provides valuable information for the amateur and beginning professional on how to use their camera features to take better photographs. 

The Chapter headings include:
  • Natural Light
  • Composition
  • Storytelling
  • Fine Art
  • Black & White
  • Low Light

I should also say that the way the book is set up, it is actually enjoyable to read.  The instructions and suggestions often take up only one page, sometimes two pages.  Of course, with beautiful photographs on each page.

I highly recommend this book about photography to any blogger, parent, or person in general who wants to take better photos.  Whether you have a simple point and shoot camera or the best equipment on the market, you will find useful information in this book.

This book was provided by Blogging For Books but the opinion is my own.

Further information can be found on Amazon.com... here.*

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Taking tea together


Not too long ago, my daughter met some friends at a tea room she raved about.  We talked about making reservations but then decided the cost of the tea time combined with the distance we would have to drive made it fairly unreasonable.

Not to mention, we are a family of women (young and old) who can put on a pretty fair tea party ourselves.  So plans were made, a special friend and an equally special mother-in-law were invited, and I printed out my favorite lemon cream scone recipe to bake for the tea party.

I must admit, it was just as lovely as any tea room (if on a less extravagant scale).  Elisabeth made the cake from a cookbook I had given her for her 13th birthday, she and I made the scones, and Stephanie was busy with cooking and decorations.

It really was a lot of fun and more so than going to a tea room this time (albeit we do love our tea room visits!).  Because we were together in the kitchen and that is always a good thing.

Here are a few of the photos...

Setting the table... One.
Setting the table... Two.
Faith smiling for the camera.
Anna, the cutie!
The lemon scones were cut out with a square cookie cutter this time!
Stephanie's friend, Jane (and my new friend), Stephanie, and Lois (her mother-in-law)
Elisabeth looks a little tired after all the preparations but she did a fabulous job.
 We had such a nice time together!

Oh, and the boys did clean up (so to speak).  They helped clean up by eating the food after the girlie tea party.  ;)

Matthew helping by ummm... eating.
David taking out the trash to help clean up.

There were lots and lots of dishes, too.  ;)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Saying Yes! to life when you feel like No

The front door to my daughter's home

When my daughter suggested we come out to New England to coincide with the week in May that Brimfield is going on, my first thought was a definite "I cannot do it!". Travel is difficult under any circumstances but May is pretty much the worst time to leave home.  (With the probable exception of Mid-Winter in New England.)

I already had too much to do.  The garden is always a priority around Mother's Day.  I don't feel well.  My husband would have to take his food and supplements.  I was in the midst of tweaking insulin as it was.  Just. Too. Hard. To. Travel.

I can handle my challenges best when in my own house and my own routine.  Leave it?  I don't think so.

But the more I thought of spending time with my family, seeing how much the grandchildren have grown in the past year, being there for the annual Mother's Day lobster feast with my son-in-law's parents (whom we care for very much), and not the least... a trip to Brimfield... I ended up saying Yes!

Yes is usually good even if it is not easy.

There are many reasons to resist saying yes to life.  The obvious reasons can include health and finances (or lack thereof), having small children to care for, having an ill or elderly person to care for, work responsibilities, overcommitment with activities that do not make your heart sing, and dozens upon dozens of circumstances which makes coming to yes... difficult.

But at this stage of life I think many of the times I either delay saying Yes! or spout an immediate No! is due to fear.  It is human nature to fear any change but especially if your circumstances are challenging.  You just plain need easy.  You need simple.  You certainly don't need any more complications.

Yes brings with it change and challenges all its' own!

But the best things in life have come as I said Yes!  Accepting Jesus as Savior.  When my (now) husband asked me to marry him.  When the doctor suggested surgery to carry a baby full term. Buying this house and moving to the country.

But not just the big stuff of life, either.  
  1. Deciding to build a raised bed garden many years ago when I already tired easy and then finding my work-rest-work-rest way of gardening resulted in excellent results. 
  2. Saying Yes! to adopting two sister kitties from the same litter and then later agreeing to adopt a Maine Coon from a family at church.
  3. Writing just because I have to write.
  4. Making Art to just enjoy the process.
  5. The last minute Yes! when my son invites me to lunch or a friend to coffee even when it means setting aside my plans for that day.
  6. Saying Yes! to listening to a Podcast or music and no to the television at times... or saying Yes! to opening the window and listening to the birds as their song fills the quiet room.
No can be good.  We never want to do anything significant without prayer and sometimes God tells us the answer is no.  We are not to over commit our time or our resources.  His yoke is easy and His burden is to be light even in the midst of trials and tribulations of life.

However, I often recall when I was praying about a decision to be made and heard, in the depth of that still small Voice, Him tell me to never ever never make a decision based on fear.  And truthfully many times I say no because I am afraid of what Yes! will bring with it.

I think that uncertainty that comes with saying Yes! to life will be with me until I go to my Eternal Home.  Where all is perfect and there is no reason to fear.  It just comes with being human so we have to give ourselves some grace and at the same time think about saying Yes! more often to the good things of life.  Even when they are inconvenient.

Is my garden late this year?  Most definitely.  Are there sections of landscaping that now contain knee high weeds which will be a challenge to clear?  You betcha! 

But was saying Yes! to living worth it?  A million times over.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - The Pantry that Works in Emergencies

Photo Courtesy USA Today

I know I wrote recently that the worst thing we can do (other than not having a pantry at all) is to stock up for "The End of The World As We Know It".  I mean, really... that is kind of hard to do if you think about it.

However, having said that... we do need to stock up for a more realistic emergency in our life.  A time when we can't get to the grocery store or the big box store on the other side of town.  It doesn't have to be an End of the World event to bring about such a scenario.  I think many New Englanders had a difficult time getting around on their roads this winter!

For us it has been as big as a long period of time out of work for my husband.  As small as not being able to get the new under-the-sink filter to go back in its' place so the water has to stay off until we do.  Ummmm... that is happening as I speak. Yes, I have a few gallons of water in the garage.  No, it is not enough should we not be able to fix this when he arrives home from Menard's.

The most important part of having a pantry of any kind is to help us put meals on the table.  If the only items in your pantry that you have are for surviving nuclear warfare, then you probably can't use much of it to get dinner ready tonight without running to the store.  I had dehydrated food at one time that I let get too far past their "use by" date because I was keeping them for an emergency, even when we had been out of work awhile.

However, if your purpose is to put food on the table and you have thought it out well, then by just buying extra when you can and rotating it regularly, chances are your pantry will work for you this week and in an emergency.

I honestly doubt there are many reading this that have less to spend on a pantry than I do.  If we had less income (other than the one Social Security check), we might qualify for food stamps.  We live in an area where it is very difficult for anyone with an income at all to get food stamps. 

At least we qualify for food pantries and the Senior Citizen vouchers for the Farmer's Market each summer.  We found out about both ways to supplement our groceries from other people. I say this only to remind you, if I can put a little extra pantry items back... then you can, too.  Even if it is just the extreme priorities to your household.

I have a few nonfood priorities that doing without would make us quite uncomfortable.  Like toilet paper, batteries, light bulbs, dish washing soap, Charlie's laundry soap, First Aid supplies, etc.  Then there is the kitty kibble and kitty litter.  It would not be pretty to run out of kitty kibble.  It would not smell good to run out of kitty litter because a cat would find anywhere to go in the house. Just saying...

Each household has different priorities as for food in their pantry.  Even within that household you will find differences.  I view Hellman's mayonnaise as a priority.  My husband would just as soon eat sawdust.

My pantry has changed through the years.  I did a lot of baking when I had kids at home and now I bake much less.  But I still like to stock up on a few items needed for baking, just not nearly as much.  Because I had everything I needed in the pantry, last week I was able to make chocolate chip cookies for my neighbor who broke her ankle and her brother is visiting to help a few weeks.

I consider my garden as part of my pantry for if you think about it, so did our grandmothers and generations before them.  I'm very late getting the garden in this year due to traveling and the cold-wet weather we have been experiencing this spring.  But it will get planted within a few days.  God willing and the heavy rain they are predicting will go "south of us or north of us or stop altogether".

I have a list of items for my pantry, a Wish List of sorts.  For unless I inherit a great deal of money and move to a larger house... I can't have everything on the list.  But I do have priorities that I know will help me as I prepare a meal.  When there is no emergency, then I can supplement the pantry with a trip to the grocery store.  Most of life is like that.

There is room for real emergency foods as I've said before.  I can see freeze dried packages if one lives in a high rise in Manhattan.  There isn't a lot of room in most of those apartments.   I wouldn't mind some freeze dried dinners to supplement my own pantry to make it quite deep.  Makes sense.  But at the moment, my priorities are for food and nonfood items needed right now.

We don't have to deepen our pantry in fear.  God has miraculously taken care of us and I've seen him do so with others.  Instead we have to create and deepen our pantries with our own grocery list we use right now.  Then when we are wondering what to have for dinner, we can look in our pantry and find something there for today... not the End of the World.  Perhaps that is what beans and rice are good for!??

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Brimfield Love...

Antique wooden holder, 21st Century washi tape

I first read about "Brimfield" in magazines such as Country Home and Country Living.  When I was able to go to Brimfield ten years ago with Stephanie, it was everything and more than I expected.

Brimfield is a small town in Massachusetts which becomes a destination point three times a year (May, July, and September) when the famous antique show/flea market is set up on either side of U.S. 20.  One of the vendors (sellers in a tent) I talked to this time is from Brimfield and she said they have a population of approx. 3,000 but there are 5,000 licensed vendors for the May event.  That is just the people who are selling items!

Stephanie's mother-in-law told me about friends (or was it family?) who spent an entire week attending it and never saw everything.  Steph and I lasted one morning ten years ago and only a few hours this time.  But we still came away with some treasures.  There is, of course, very high priced collectible antiques for sale but the most fun we have is walking through the tents and finding items for just a few dollars.  Because we only had a small budget.

Oh, and yes... I did read about Amanda Soule being there on her blog here and here!  She was there a couple days before we went.  She has lovely photos from Brimfield on the first link and shows us items she purchased on the second.

Not to mention Steph and I were there when they were filming an episode of Flea Market Flip!  I've never seen it before but I've heard of it.  One group was filming near a tent where they had had just purchased an item from the vendor I was talking to.  Then we ran into another group filming as they walked near us... Stephanie and I quickly popped into a nearby vendor's tent and hid from the cameras!

Below are photos I took the morning we were there.  They are pretty much self explanatory and (thinking of sharing them with you), I tried to catch a variety of objects.


We had such fun as we both love vintage items.  I must admit both Stephanie and I fell in love with some large pieces of chippy vintage/antique furniture.  But we had to leave them for someone with some more pocket change (so to speak) since they were mostly in the $500 dollar range and more.  Much more...  ;)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back again...

The window over Stephanie's sink... pretty.

I had not intended to be away from blogging for two full weeks but a lot of living has gone into them.  I am exhausted and there is still more lawn and garden work to do.  But the work is fulfilling (when done a little at a time) for it results in good stuff come Summer.

In the midst of the outdoor work, my Tookish side came out.  You must understand, there is not much there to work with.  But when my daughter and son-in-law offered to gift us with a trip to New England to see them, I could not turn it down.  (Perhaps more ponderings about that on Sunday?)

The trip coincided with the May Brimfield flea market and antique show.  For years we would talk about going again.  We realized after I arrived that it had been ten years since we were there the last time.  Faith soon turns ten and Stephanie was expecting her at the time. 

"Brimfield" is an experience in itself.  However, by going when we did, we were also there for Mother's Day and my oldest grandson's birthday celebration.  Our five days seemed to fly by as if it were twenty-four hours.

I will share some photos over the next few days.   Hopefully I can respond to e-mails today, too.

NOTE:  Isn't the above window pretty?  The photo doesn't do it justice.  I love the way Stephanie decorates.  Although she does have a BA degree in Interior Design... I think she has always had a talent for making things beautiful.  All five days I would go around her house, telling her how I love it.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Short blog break

I need a break!  Lots going on here... much lawn and garden work still to do... people to see... cat to spoil.  Well, that last part happens every day. 

During the season of busy-ness in spring, I realize why some people move away from the country into a condo during this season of life.  The rest of the year (with the possible exception of mid-winter)... we love it.

So I  need to take a blog and computer break.  Will be checking e-mails but that's about it.  However, I do plan on taking notes for future ponderings during this time.  :)

Comments are closed as I am keeping my
promise to be (almost) Internet free during this time.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

My World this Week

The dogwood in bloom

With everything budding and blossoming here, my outdoor work load has increased substantially.  Which is what happens when you work-rest-work-rest, etc.  But it is getting accomplished on the rare days we have no rain.

I included a YouTube link to my new very favorite song called Far Kingdom.  It is part of an album by The Gray Havens which Stephanie gifted me on iTunes.  Recently Victoria and I listened to it while I was working on my scrapbook journal and she was... helping.

So... here is my world this week in photos.

Reading

I decided to begin reading all the Anne Morrow Lindbergh diaries now rather than waiting until summer.  I read them and loved them in my late teens and twenties, then began collecting them at book sales until I had all of them (each was only a dollar).  The first diary is Bring Me a Unicorn, 1922 to 1928.

I love Oh, Gussie: Cooking and Visiting in Kimberly's Southern Kitchen.  It is a perfect combination of old fashioned Southern cooking with a modern touch (which usually means healthier). It is a fun read with the kind of food I grew up with, my mother being from Kentucky.

You may know Kimberly as part of the group Little Big Town or from her cooking show Kimberly's Simply Southern on the GAC Channel.  I'd say if you like Trisha Yearwood's cookbooks or The Pioneer Woman, you would like this.  Further info at Amazon... here.*

Cooking

I'm shifting into warm weather cooking now and tacos are one of those dishes.  This one was made with the new "boat" soft shell that makes it quite handy to eat!

With the higher cost of ground beef, I've become really good at seasoning ground turkey.  This time with cumin seeds, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and chili powder quickly browned before adding the ground turkey to the skillet.  You have to hurry (as I learned in the process over time) because it goes from just right to burned in a second or two!

By the way, there is store bought guacamole on my taco as shown.  There are some things it doesn't pay for me to make from scratch because neither husband nor cat eats guacamole and Meijers has a killer recipe for it.  Now as for Christopher, when he was home we could finish off the container with corn chips before it reached the tacos!

Scrapbook Journal
A mixed media double page creation
A favorite quote by Jonathon Edwards
One of my favorite songs Indelible Grace sings... love the washi tape!

My Helper...

Cozy
Looking in my kitchen window at dusk...

Her Fluffiness
It was actually dark and a shape was on the hutch... so I turned on the flash and look who I found.

Listening on the iPad
 (I put this last so you can stop and enjoy!)
Listen... HERE.

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Seeing the Creator at work in spring

The only artist who is perfect in all forms of creativity - in technique, in originality, in knowledge of the past and future, in versatility, in having perfect content to express as well as perfect expression of content, in having perfect truth to express as well as perfect expression of truth, in communicating perfectly the wonders of all that exist as well as something about Himself, is of course God - the God who is Personal."
Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

We have had a cool spring so when warmth and sunshine arrived recently, it was as if every flowering bush and tree and the grass and the perennial flowers - all appeared to pop into color overnight... they could hardly wait to appear and finally they could... bloom! 

I noticed it first when driving to an appointment, on the street in town where I can easily turn on the bridge leading across the river.  It was just enough warmer in town that the blooms were ahead of ours in the country so they took me surprise.  Color!  Beauty!

This particular street has houses along it where gardeners reside.  One recognizes this in the abundance of first daffodils and then tulips in their yards.   Soon after this, the colors and scents of spring appeared in the country.  Well, just about the time the daffodils which I had left in their natural habitat (and not cut to enjoy inside) began to wilt.

As of today, the dogwood in the back yard... the one where our beloved Sasha and Storm kitties are buried beside... it is almost in full bloom.  When that occurs, it honestly looks like the tree has a light source within it that causes the flowering branches to become iridescent, especially in early morning and twilight.

It is when spring colors take the place of winter's black, whites, and grays that I wonder how someone could not believe there is a God... a Creator... an infinite Artist.  He loves us so much that he sandwiches the stark neutrals of winter in between glorious autumn brilliance and gentle shades of spring.

It is almost as if we couldn't handle the colors of autumn just after the starkness of winter.  So instead, the Master Artist thought about it and made spring to slowly begin with the gentle colors of the daffodils until the brilliant deep pink almost red blossoms of the crab apple tree arrive... about the same time as the vibrant reds and yellows and purples of the tulips.

We have one azalea bush that has survived through the years, most likely due to its' protected home near the corner of the deck. The "bad" winter of last year and the extreme cold of this past winter did away with this bushes friends.

The blooms are an unusual lavender color and every single year in the nine we have lived here, they always take us by surprise when we can see them from our kitchen window... in  glorious bloom overnight.

God the Artist is at work!  The same God who created us in His image. That is why we respond to the Beauty around us, why we need it in our homes and our yards and our fields and our forests and our seashores and everywhere we look.

When we view His Beauty... we recognize His love and His Wisdom and that He exists.  The fact that spring has always followed winter and that summer follows spring and then the coolness and colors of autumn appear each year (in the parts of the world that have four distinct seasons, of course)... for thousands upon thousands of years... should speak of His Presence.

When I looked out the window last night and saw the fullness of the moon, I knew He was in charge.  No chaos in this nighttime sky.  The sun came back this morning.  Or rather... the Earth is making another rotation amongst another spin of the sun.  With such mathematical precision that NASA could send men to the moon and satellites far away from the bounds of Earth's gravity to arrive precisely on time. 

The mathematics of the Universe certainly speak of Someone who created it all.

The Heavens declare the glory of God!  As do the tulips and the crab apple trees and the dogwood trees and the daffodils and the slow greening of the forest when I walk past it each day. 

That morning when I was driving to my appointment, I thought of the 38th chapter of Job, one of my favorites in all Scripture... and I knew He truly was present and the Creator and the source of all Beauty.

Before we can hardly blink, we will find May over and the heat of summer becoming more intense.  He will show up in our gardens and the colors, aromas, and tastes of summer.  And I will thank Him.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Why prepper shows drive me crazy


Now, I must admit.  I have never watched an entire episode of one of the prepper shows on TV.  I get so annoyed at them that I change the channel, usually about ten minutes into the program.  I understand that the preppers may be normal sane people and the editing makes them look loony.  But loony is the given word here.

People have asked when I was the moderator of a website/forum that was for preppers.  It was for a few years in the 1990s, long before that name was given to people who believed in being prepared for emergency situations.

I think one of the things that bothers me about these TV shows is that the people I watched are all preparing for a coming apocalypse.  You know, years worth of beans and bullets.  While those of us who grew up in the shadow of the atomic bomb know such an event is possible... and those of us who believe in Bible prophecy know someday it is inevitable... when is the real disagreement among even the best of friends... that doesn't mean our preparations are to be for the end of the world.

If you stop to think about it, the end of the world happens, oh... once.  But job losses occur every day, the family bread winner becomes ill, a blizzard takes out our power for a few days or even weeks, our town is hit by a storm, we need to cut back on expenses severely to save for a vacation or another car.

Life happens... all the time.  The end of the world?  The Apocalypse?  Probably a one time event.  Which is why the prepper shows give me the shivers.

If there there is a disconnect between your everyday life and your pantry, then there is a problem.

Do I believe in having emergency supplies.  I do and ummm... I do.

There are some items in a box in the garage that most likely will be mostly used should there be a crisis.  Like repair parts for our oil lanterns.  Like the wheat grinder you have to crank by hand.  I probably have more flashlights than a normal person and extra canning supplies.  I wish I had a solar generator. Otherwise, what I try to keep stocked is pretty much what I use all the time.

That is a lesson learned from my former preparedness website Admin days.  So many people who thought y2K was going to be TEOTWAWKI spent so much time thinking about the EVENT and putting their money into dehydrated food and objects they never used.  Thankfully there were only a couple items we didn't use and my husband had a job loss so the deep pantry ended up being a budget saver.

Now remember.  I was there.  Y2K could have been a big deal.  I cannot understand scoffers who put down people who prepared for it.  But a lot of lessons came out of that non-Event.  Many of my friends who were in preparedness at the time felt it was a dress rehearsal for a real possibility.  You got to see what worked, what didn't, and how to fix it.  While the lights were still on.

I have friends who felt God was leading them to move to the country and they loved it there.  They didn't move out of fear or what everyone on the Internet was predicting, they felt an inward sense of God's leading them to that lifestyle and they lost nothing when the lights stayed on.

However, there were also people who... out of great fear... spent significant amounts of money in dehydrated food and objects they never used.  When instead they could have used that money to stock up on the food they eat, the nonfood essentials they use all the time, batteries for the flashlights and radios, etc.

That is how I learned the difference between emergency preparedness, food storage, and living a "Pantry Lifestyle"... so there is little disconnect between our life as it is and what it could be like in a true emergency.

If you feel God wants you to learn to protect yourself, fine... but then make it a part of your life right now.  Join a rifle club or a Judo club, or learn wilderness survival and then... go camping.  Buy a shortwave radio, learn to use it, join a club, talk to people around the world.  Now.  Don't leave it in a box until a future event and then you have no idea how to use it.

Buy a Big Berkey and then use it.  We did and we used it until we had to put an under-the-sink system where we now live.  Don't buy it and then leave it in the box until some future event. The worst thing that would probably happen is that you would have to replace some filters.

If you feel God want you to prepare for emergencies, then include the family now and have emergency drills.  Kids love whistles and flashlights and two way radios and learning the best place to hide when a tornado siren goes off.  All practiced in such a way that they are not fearful but instead develop practical skills.

If you store what you eat and what you use every day... and learn some skills like first aid and canning and dehydrating and gardening and stuff that enhances your life today... then should there be a true emergency, your family really will be prepared.  The disconnect between your life before and after a true emergency won't be like night and day. 

But you may not end up on a prepper show, you won't be exciting enough for the producers to choose.  Just saying...