Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Searching for Peace, Finding Sanctuary

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22, 23 KJV
 
Everything I knew as normal came crashing down the day my father's heart stopped beating. Childhood abruptly came to an end. Innocence ripped from my young life as death formed a hole in my heart, never to be filled by any human.  In many ways, a death of family as I had known it.  Life would never be the same.

I was broken.  Very broken... and broken people are shattered vessels.  Even when they come to know The Lord and His salvation, as He puts them back together... they daily leak their peace.  Much like a dropped teacup carefully glued and put back together, scars remain... cracks can be seen.

I know we have the Prince of Peace living within in the form of the Holy Spirit (and I often write that Peace is a Person).  But our bodies and souls and thoughts and memories... however redeemed... are still of this broken world.

My life has been a search for peace and calm and security... and sanctuary.

While at times I have found great peace when walking in nature or sitting beside the water, I am not a camping out kind of girl.  I adore movies and TV shows about people who move to the mountains or the wilderness but to be honest... I'd rather just visit.

I have long found peace in the pages of books, since the days of my youth when I would hide under the branches of a willow tree or sit upon a quilt under a fruit tree (I do seem to have a thing for trees) or just wonder the bookstore perusing titles and opening pages to the aroma of a new book.  But one cannot live in books forever. Meals must be cooked, dishes washed, and clothes made clean again.

Broken people... those who daily leak their peace... need to actually abide in an environment conducive to that peace.  Which is why I write so much about rooms and houses and books about such places.  We were all created for Beauty.  We were born in a paradise.  The very soil which God used to form Adam was garden dirt.

We all... as I have written before... hear those echoes of Eden.  We feel them reverberating in every beat of our heart and every step we take throughout the days and years He has given us to walk the planet. 

Somewhere within our DNA exists the memory of... Perfect Beauty... Perfect Joy... Perfect Peace.

And while I believe every person has that yearning within, those of us who have been greatly broken... those who are shattered vessels... need to have that Beauty to keep at an even keel.

It is not always easy.  The menfolk in my life tended to be loud and boisterous.  There was once a young boy so rambunctious that his mother found peace only in a hot bath filled with bubbles and a book and an icy drink sipped slowly behind the locked doors of the bathroom.  Which is why many of my favorite books from that era are water stained.

There have been instances when peace came only when one could slip away from the house to a quiet coffee shop, once again with a book, ... sipping good coffee... pondering.  Finding serenity in the midst of others reading, writing, chatting, watching their screens on tablets and laptops and phones. 

I seem to be more sensitive these past years to those things that rob my peace, take away joy, and plant seeds of anxious thoughts.  There has been an overwhelming need to create places of peace... places of Sanctuary.  His Presence, His Word, and my surroundings coming together to bring with them a strengthening of the spirit... and calm to the soul.

Even the smallest house or apartment or room can have a few houseplants and candles and books and good smells coming from the kitchen.  Music in the background that we find lovely.  A soothing landscape on the wall.  Perhaps a needlework project resides in a basket or sheet music to play on the piano.

Always for me a beloved pet to cuddle as we sigh and ponder and think deeply of the promises of His Word.  Before Eve, Adam's friends were those with fur and feathers.

So please understand when I write words about lovely spaces, I know true peace is in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of a Person.  For without Salvation there can be no real  true lasting serenity. 

But within the minutes and hours and days this world revolves around the sun... I need a Place.  Sanctuary.  With my tea and a little piece of chocolate or a couple cookies and my book and my comfy chair and a Maine Coon kitty. 

Perhaps my headphones will be necessary as those I live with are not always serene.    But I must have my own little corner of the world where I can go to be filled yet again with His Presence and Peace.

What about you?  If there is not a room, is there a corner of a room?  A chair?  A kitchen?  A Place that when you walk into it, you find the peace returning?  I hope so.  I pray there is.

For in a world where calm is increasingly difficult to find, we need our sanctuaries and our places.  Until that time when we go to the Place He went to prepare for us... where we will no longer leak peace.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Holiday cooking is just around the corner!


After mentioning that I was going to be writing about the beginning of the Holiday season, quite a number of people have said they didn't want to even think of it, yet.  And it is easy to put it off when you think of Christmas as being over 90 days away.

However, if you get paid once a week there are only 13 or 14 weeks before Christmas.  If you depend on a bi-monthly paycheck as so many do... there are approximately 6 paychecks until Christmas.  Monthly paycheck?  Well, you can do the math.

Which is why a very long time ago, I started counting paychecks instead of days or weeks until Christmas.  Then add the fact that most Holiday baking and shopping is done prior to the Big Day...

Which is why so many of us reach Thanksgiving and feel overwhelmed at the tasks in front of us, much less the budget.  So it may be a tad too soon for some to do gift shopping (although I tend to Christmas shop all year round since the Holiday season is also a big Birthday season in our home), it is not too early to start stocking the pantry.

The first thing I always do is to take the Index cards from the wooden recipe file box and peruse the pages of cookbooks for our most loved Holiday recipes.  I began to purchase extra butter, slip the boxes into Ziploc bags (a gallon size holds three comfortably) and place the bags in the freezer.

I watch for cream cheese to be at a good price as early as August since normally the use by date would be after December.  I still have not found a good sale yet but I check each week.  Other items purchased a little at a time that I always use... flour, sugar, honey, canned pumpkin, dried fruit of various kinds, bars of Crisco (I know, but when mixed with butter in the recipe it makes the best chocolate chip cookies!), ummm... chocolate chips, and a few other items unique to various recipes.

This is the time I always throw out the unused baking powder and purchase a couple new tins (even if we have not reached the use by date, yet... for it slowly degrades).  I check to see if the baking soda is fresh and any other ingredients I don't use often.  Although I keep the baking soda used for baking in a glass jar.

I read through all the recipes used during the Holidays, from October through New Year's Day to see if there is anything other than food items needed.  For instance, aluminum foil to cover the ham or turkey, parchment paper for the cookie sheet, gift bags for the cookies (should you use them), cupcake liners, candy liners, lollipop sticks, pretty sugar sprinkles, meringue powder, etcetera.

Whether you sip wine at special meals or sparkling cider, one can purchase a little at a time now.  I look for Holiday napkins, tablecloths, and such all year while thrifting.  As I do various Holiday decorations.  But there are times most people need to make a purchase for the table to look a special way or the front porch to sparkle.  Now is the time to think of those items.  For most stores have them available before November (for better or worse).

It is a very good idea to write out the menus for Holiday meals and any hospitality you plan to show now, before the true start of the Season.  For when you think it all through now, you are more likely to remember the more unusual items you may need.  For instance, that Bing Crosby Christmas CD you keep forgetting or a mix of tunes to download for a special Play List.

When my kids were still at home, I had a birthday just before (and sometimes on) Thanksgiving and one just after the calendar turned to December.  I now have a daughter-in-law with a birthday just days before Christmas.  So the budget needs to do some special planning!  As did the making of birthday cakes and seasonal goodies.

I love to do some autumnal and Christmas crafting as well as at times making the gifts.  Most of the gifts I give are baked goods and by shopping ahead for ingredients as well as ideas for packaging, the cost is never one large expenditure.

Jellies, jams, and many other food items can be created now.  I made vanilla extract one year and although the recipe said to give it only a few weeks to strengthen, I found it took much longer than that.  So starting early can be a good thing.

Needlework now?  Of course!  Creating Art early?  An excellent idea.  Getting the Christmas photo made while the leaves are in full color?  A beautiful idea.  Preparing a scrapbook ahead of time to be ready for photos in December?  A very wise idea.

Anything accomplished a little at a time... ahead of time... and spread out over weeks... will make your entire Holiday Season much less expensive (all at once) and less stressful.  And you will find yourself smiling as you listen to your favorite Christmas music while making cookies or quick breads or an afghan or basting the turkey.

The table will be set early with pretty dishes and sparkling candles and music in the background and nothing will be missing... because you thought ahead.

No running out at the last minute hoping to find a store open for that one ingredient you thought was on the shelf!  Because you wrote out your lists ahead of time and checked them not once but at least twice.  Checking off as you acquired (or had on hand) what was needed.

With your baking begun early and the freezer stuffed, perhaps you will be inspired to invite some friends over at the last minute or send a loaf of bread to the elderly neighbor.  Without stress.

And that is the real secret of why I like to think of Christmas while it is still September.  Less stress in November and December.  More Holly Jolly and morning quiet times by the tree.

So... how many pay days between now and the Big Holiday Days do you have?  It doesn't seem so far away now, does it?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My World this Week

Early morning sunlight on favorite books...
I am loving the cooler temperatures, although September can be fickle and return to hot weather at the drop of the proverbial hat.  But it is always short lived.   The cooler temps bring me back inside for a lot of reading and the brewing of tea and fixing up the house to be nice and cozy and cooking slow food again.

I admit to not being much of a hot weather cook.  Everything I enjoy making pretty much falls under the category of cool or cold weather cooking.

So here is what has been happening in my world recently...

Reading & Re-reading

Dish Love

I'm keeping my hutch the same until time to decorate for Christmas.  A display of favorite Early American things and much beloved brown transferware has been enhanced by a few autumnal touches.

All but two of the dishes were purchased while thrifting.  For instance, the tall coffee server was purchased for just a few dollars at the antique mall as it has a very miniscule chip out of the lid.   Sometimes slightly flawed can be wonderful, especially for those of us on a tight budget.  ;)

Baking

I thought this was delicious but my husband didn't care for it as much.  But then again... I was raised on biscuits and he was not.  Recipe... here.

Signs of the Season

Tea Time
Holiday tea left from last winter and just as yummy.
This tea was a gift from my daughter for my birthday.  I use a little at a time...
The teacup was a gift from said daughter way back when she was in college (she probably does not appreciate the use of way back).  Just saying...
Her Fluffiness

Watching her favorite TV show, Wild America.  When it comes on, she tends to run into the room to watch it.

Especially if the episode is about birds of any kind... in this case it was about wild turkeys.  The scene on the screen is a hunter in camouflage with a duck turkey call (hard to figure out if you were not watching it).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When I need a cozy chair, a good book, and a cup of tea

Although the illustration was titled "Ratty's House", I have been told this is indeed Mole's House by Inga Moore.  :)
The temperatures have plummeted and the leaves are beginning to lose their green.  The furnace had to be turned on Friday evening. We wore jackets to the farmer's market Saturday morning.  My husband, who is cold even in July, also wore a knitted hat.  It is indeed the season of early Autumn.

Having seen the long range forecast last week, I had set the large chicken from the freezer in a Pyrex dish to defrost in the frig until it could be made into soup.  A very good thing indeed for we needed the chicken soup yesterday for our cold bones as well as our soul.  Brrrr...

The news tell us of all kinds of frightening happenings all over the world.  Even everyday life seems to be more a struggle for many.  I do find solace in the Word of God and in beautiful lyrics and music which remind me of His love and sovereignty.  I hold them dear to my heart in this age in which we live.

But do forgive me and not think me a heretic if I say I have recently been finding peace between the pages of favorite books.  True, one finds the way to Salvation only in the Holy Book.  But there is much to be said about the power of Story and as God created it all... I believe He understands.

So more than a few times this past week (and since the re-doing of the Study), I have been eager to return to my overstuffed 1990's era hunter green chair, the quite old piano bench style footstool with faded tapestry, a cup of tea on the tea table at my side, sometimes a Maine Coon kitty, and always a book.

These are usually the days I prefer old favorites and when possible... old volumes.  But I do admit to using the Kindle App on the iPad from time to time (have I mentioned it was the best birthday gift ever, with the exception of our family being together for a week).  Hubby has been reading a book on the original Kindle.

There are authors and titles I particularly love this time of year.  While newer books were on the Kindle, old friends were brought from the shelves and dusted off.  Most are still awaiting their re-read, a couple to be read for the first time, and one in particular already being enjoyed.

For it is the perfect time to re-read one of my all time favorite works of fiction, that being The Wind in the Willows.  I don't think of it as a children's book, it is much more a weary grown up person's book if you ask many of us who return to it quite often.  A book that talks about my favorite things like home and friends and food.

Ratty and Mole by Angel Dominquez
There are a couple delightful cream of the crop scenes that always bring a smile.  Both are spoken by Ratty, whom I love dearly.  For if Mole is my decorating role model of which I have written, Ratty is my culinary companion.

From the very beginning he is quite wonderful with his explanation to his new friend, Mole, about what he has packed in the picnic basket...

"There's cold chicken inside it," replied the Rat briefly; "coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscressandwichesspottedmeat gingerbeerlemonadesodawater..."

Later in the lovely chapter named Dulce Domum, we enter Mole's house which Ratty describes as...

`What a capital little house this is!' he called out cheerily. `So compact! So well planned! Everything here and everything in its place! We'll make a jolly night of it. The first thing we want is a good fire; I'll see to that--I always know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid! Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital! Now, I'll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a duster, Mole--you'll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table--and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle about, old chap!'

You really must read the entire chapter and how Ratty goes about showing Mole... who has been apologizing at how dusty and shabby is his little home... that his place is quite lovely and that there is a feast to be found in the simplest of foods.

Many of my favorite meals have been just the kind Ratty makes in this chapter.  When my children were younger, my favorite picnic to pack was what I called my "Loaf of bread, jug of wine (juice), and Thou" collection.  Which usually included good bread, cheese, fruit a beverage, and sometimes perhaps a summer sausage to slice if we were quite hungry.

I adore such food so much that our Christmas Eve meal has most often been a collection of homemade appetizers.  The restaurant Stephanie chose for my birthday dinner was a Spanish style tapas place (I have sinned by envying my son-in-law's business trips to Spain!).  We feasted on a quite elegant selection of little dishes... albeit fancier than Ratty's meal and amazingly delicious.

But I digress again... kind of... sort of.

When the weather turns cooler, it is such a perfect time of year to read books that talk about houses. I have a few Gladys Taber books on my shelf that I return to each Autumn.  Isn't she wonderful?  I wish I had more of her books but I'm so happy to have what I do.  How I would have loved to settle by her fireplace with a cup of hot New England cider and a long chat.

Of course, are there any better books that talk about homes then The Eliot Trilogy by Elizabeth Goudge... The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn (known as The Herb of Grace in England), and The Heart of the Family. Although it is the middle of a trilogy, it was suggested my first Goudge book read was Pilgrim's Inn and since that time... it is the book I also suggest to a new reader.

Sometimes my cooler weather reading takes me to a place instead of a house.  A very precious blog reader sent me at one time some vintage Gene Stratton-Porter books as she is one of my favorite authors.

My husband's college roommate owns property close to the original Limberlost area and we have driven by it before.  One of the books waiting in the stack to be read is The Song of the Cardinal.  (It is actually free for the Kindle, perhaps because it is not as well known as the others?)

What other books remind me of places I want to visit in my overstuffed chair?  There is always a return to Mitford!  Jan Karon has a new Mitford book which I hope to read someday but I have many on my shelves to re-read.

I could be here all day thinking of authors I prefer to read in cooler temperatures.  But I need another cup of coffee with a teaspoon of Splenda and a dollop of cream.   I may pop a DVD of Last of the Summer Wine in the player to watch a program or two (did you know the writer had the friends from Wind in the Willows in mind when he created this show about three elderly men who wonder around getting into various "situations"?).

But I will soon return to my overstuffed chair and my book and my tea (coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon).  Perhaps to ponder again why some titles and various authors tug at my heart when the weather turns cool.

*All book links are Amazon Associate

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Meal Planning in the Pantry


Have you ever had shelves of food on your pantry but felt you could not put a meal together?  I used to quite often.  Especially when my pantry was there for emergencies and not for Real Life.  Before the idea of deepening the pantry instead of storing food.

That was when it began to dawn on me that the pantry can be utilized a lot better than I had been.  It started with just purchasing at least one extra item I use all the time, like I mentioned last week.  But then as I did some research, I found great ideas that have worked since then.

The first was to think of simple pantry friendly meals and make certain I have everything needed for them stocked.  Not only the ingredients but any other essentials like cooking oil, foil, parchment paper, etc.

The easiest such meal is to have a jar of good quality marinara sauce, a package of spaghetti or penne pasta, and perhaps a package of garlic bread kept in the freezer.  I have found those purchased frozen in foil to be very yummy when baked and then carefully (very carefully, watching it always) placing it under the broiler to become bubbly and just a little brown.

Another easy pantry meal is tuna noodle casserole... the old fashioned recipe with canned tuna, cream of mushroom (or another favorite "cream of" soup), and a bag of dried noodles set aside.

A very healthy soup can be made with a can of beans, a box of broth (chicken, beef, veggie, etc.), a handful of rice or pasta, and perhaps a can of diced tomatoes.  Or when able to plan ahead, a bag of beans soaked overnight and simmered the next morning.  Or bring the beans to a boil (strong simmer really), turn the heat off and let them sit an hour or so... then continue cooking until the beans are tender.

I make salmon patties quite often (making them really into croquette sizes) and that is an easy recipe to keep all the ingredients on hand, served with rice and perhaps veggies from the freezer.  In mid-winter, the veggie is often canned green beans.

These pantry meals require just a little thinking ahead, perhaps doing a search online for meals from the pantry or some more imaginative phrase to look for good ideas.

If you don't mind putting a little more time and effort into the pantry, do the same thing but with your five favorite family meals.  Take out a piece of paper and off the top of your head, think of five meals you make quite a lot. 

Then make certain you have all the ingredients for those five meals on the shelves, in the frig, or in the freezer... for five meals to begin with.  Then to deepen the pantry, simply make certain you have all the ingredients for more than one meal or all five of them.

Some people like to concentrate on stocking up just one meal at a time.  For instance, making certain they have all the ingredients to make that main dish four or five times (to the extent ingredients can be purchased ahead, fresh produce the exception).

I prefer (when possible) to have the ingredients for a variety of meals in the freezer and on the pantry shelves before deepening the pantry with second, third, etc. ingredients of the same dish.  I don't mean have it all prepared ahead of time like a 30 Day Freezer meal (albeit that is a good idea for some families), I mean just the ingredients ready to make each meal.

It is easier that way when I have a little extra money to spend on the pantry. As mentioned before, some recipes are ideal for this and others... not so much.  Your favorite chef's salad wouldn't really work as a deepening the pantry meal. 

You really must have a way to track ingredients if you want to stock up on entire meals at once.  Otherwise you will find you have used an ingredient for something else.  I know.  I have.

The easiest way is to assign a number to each meal and then mark that number on your cans, Ziploc freezer bags, etc.  Just get a role of inexpensive freezer tape (nothing fancy), rip a piece off of the roll,  and write #1 on the tape and then tape it to the bag for the freezer. 

That way the bag can be used over and over (as long as you take the meat out before defrosting it).  I store my Ziploc bags that I use... 1 gallon and 2 gallon sizes... right in the freezer.

Just write #1 on the cans you will use and also have a place in your refrigerator where everyone knows those items are already spoken for!  That helps even if you are not doing anything organized as far as the pantry.  You would think with only two people in the house, that lemon you planned to use in the soup would still be there when you went to get it!  But I digress...

Then, in a notebook or on the list in your computer or wherever you keep your information these days, next to #1 you will write this particular main dish.  For the sake of simplicity, that dish may always be #1 in your files.  But by using just the numbers and the name, it gives the option of assigning #1 to a different dish in the future.

It sounds complicated but if you are only doing this for your top five meals, not so much.  That doesn't mean you will always have to make those particular meals each week, it just means you have the ingredients for those five meals on hand all the time.  When you prepare one of those meals from the pantry, the ingredients (if necessary) to fix it again will go on your grocery list.

Think it is too complicated?  Well, it does take more time for meals that contain a meat, produce, and canned good.  But some are so easy that just about anyone can have five meals put back.  Such as examples of meals mentioned above that all the ingredients can be kept on pantry shelves.

There are some fresh and produce items I cook with a lot that I always try to have on hand like onions, lemons, green peppers (these may be frozen or fresh), co-jack cheese, mozzarella cheese, potatoes, and carrots... to name a few.

Stephanie has a good way of using the freezer to cook ahead for her family... here.  I need to defrost my freezer soon but after I do, I plan to have a few make ahead meals ready in it for those days I don't feel like cooking or when company drops by.

Just by putting a little thought and preparation into keeping the pantry, it will help us get meals on the table a whole lot easier!  And you can choose how much you want to deepen the pantry given finances, time, space, etc.

Hope sharing from what I have learned on the subject helps someone else.

Next week... God willing and the creek don't rise... I'll be thinking ahead about the Holidays.  Yes, it IS that time!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And the winner is...





The computer generated Random.org thingy came up with:  #9!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I would absolutely LOVE to read this!
7:08 PM

Amy, contact me so I can give the powers that be your address.

For those who are still interested in the book but not the fortunate winner, you can learn more about it here

Thanks to everyone who left a comment.

*Associate's link

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sarah's new blog and book... and a giveaway!


Truth in advertising here.  I think Sarah Clarkson is one of the loveliest young women I have ever met.  She is real.  Velveteen Rabbit real.  My fondest memory of Sarah was when she was visiting my daughter and our visit overlapped a couple of days.

When heading off to bed, I stopped by the living room to say goodnight to "the girls" and found one curled up on the sofa and the other equally cozy in a chair... talking and nodding their heads and finding fellowship that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. 

My daughter told me she was asked at one time how the two families came to be friends.  She told them it was because her mother writes about her cat.  Hmmm... there is a grain of truth in that.  Kind of...

Sarah's new book is called Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination With Your Children.  Whew!  From here on out, I will just call it "Storyformed" for the sake of simplicity.

When I read Storyformed, I didn't know what to expect.  I rather assumed it would be similar to her previous book, Read for the Heart.  But instead I found myself immediately taken up with a lovely story about Sarah and her brother in play when they were young.

"...We walked that day with the loping ease of young idealists. There was magic in the air, a scented wind with a heady mix of autumn’s death and brightness that worked like a truth potion on the both of us; we thoughtlessly told the dreams we usually hoarded in silence. Our secrets? Stories. The stories we loved in books, the favorite tales that captured our vision and challenged our dreams. But also the stories we told about ourselves, the narratives we formed in imagination of who we might become and what we might accomplish. Those were the far more telling secrets and we marveled to hear ourselves voice our hopes to accomplish brave deeds, to tell great stories, to live as heroes in the tale of our time.

As we strode that autumn road we recalled the tales that had formed our dreams and we examined their respective heroes; Lucy in Narnia or Aragorn in Middle Earth, Martin the Warrior of Redwall, or even Freckles, the courageous guard of the Limberlost. If they could fight and love, defeat darkness, make beauty, why not us? With each pound of step we imagined the future, each pulse of blood brought our dreams of bravery into speech. Everything seemed possible then and it filled us with a breathless laughter. When we reached the bend in the road, pausing an instant before we turned, I asked him back: “What hero will you be?”...

While this book is about the importance of good books in the raising of children (Storyformed... children who are formed by the stories they hear), you can tell from the above excerpt that it reads like a novel.  It is wonderful.

While Sarah provides many titles for us to make a place for on our bookshelves, as she does in Read for the Heart, this book takes us further into the importance of great stories in the life of a child and within a family. 

The Table of Contents are:
Exposition:  Awakening Your Child to Wonder
Rising Action:  Invite Your Child to Explore
Crisis:  Strengthen Your Child to Choose
Falling Action:  Encourage Your Child to Endure
Denouement: Inspire Your Child to Hope

Sarah shares what she has learned in her studies of literature, including her time at Oxford.  So much that I didn't know, even after living a life filled with books.  She also writes about personal experiences so one never feels they are in a lecture or reading anything close to "how to" "do this" or "teach that".

This is a love letter to the art of... Story.  As well as one of the few books I have ever stated is a must read!  You most likely will love it.  Especially if you love books.  Oh... and it is not just for the families with young children at home.  It is for grandparents.  It is for uncles and aunts.  It is for the single person who loves books.  

Sarah is giving away a book to one fortunate person here.  All you have to do is to leave a comment before 5:00 PM EST Thursday.  It is that simple.

To order through Amazon, mosey on over... here.*  I have added the book to my Amazon widget, too.

Today is also the official launch of the new Storyformed blog and Sarah is offering a beautiful give away on it... here.

*Associate link

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Keep your Eyes on the Prize


"All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”  -- C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

 
I finally made it to the Farmer's Market yesterday to use the vouchers we had been given.  I noticed how the gourds and pumpkins and butternut squash were now the stars of the show.  And as I was checking on the firmness of a tomato, the sounds of sirens could be heard in the distance.

It was a parade of sorts.  A police escort, two buses with the University's name on the side (carrying the team), and one of the mechanical mascots filled with VIP fans.   It is football season in a University town, another sure sign autumn is just around the corner.

It seems as if it were last week that I was planting my garden, how can it be September already?  I shared with a friend in an e-mail that I have been weary of soul lately.  As much as I adore Autumn in all of its' cool, crisp, colorful glory... there is with it the realization that another year will soon be past.  Another calendar will be purchased and hung with a brand new year on each month of weeks.

The passage of time reminds each of us of our finiteness, our limited walk on the sod of this planet.  We have so little time to make our mark whether our journey is to be a small one or if we reach the century mark.  It all goes by so rapidly that we can feel we are never going to fulfill the destiny God has for us.  We will not come near the finish line having accomplished that which we desired.

But God knows we are but dust.  He is the one who set our number of years and placed those desires within our very soul.  He knows we have an expiration date and he is aware of just when that date is stamped in the Heavenly books.

He wants us to be faithful.  To be obedient.  To follow His Word. To take the next step before us.

A Truth I am recognizing each year that goes by is this... we are to do the best we can with what we are given and in the time allotted.   No one will ever truly reach the finish line with everything accomplished.  He gives us a goal and a journey, with enough provision and wisdom as are needed.  But the true goal is Eternity itself... and Him.

Whatever good stuff we have here on earth, it is nothing compared to the rewards awaiting us in Heaven.  We do the works He has set before us and our rewards are based on that alone.  We are not to compare ourselves to another for we will become fearful we are not doing enough or prideful as to what we have accomplished.

Salvation does not come from our works but by Grace says the Word of God (lest any man should boast).  We come before the Lord asking for forgiveness of our sins and letting Him take our sins upon Himself so that God can see us as flawless to enter the Kingdom.  Our salvation is based on His Redemption and that alone.  He is the only Lamb of God who led a perfect life.  He is the one and only Person who can open the scroll in the last Book of the Bible.

But it does not end at salvation.

We are to do the works He has given us.  You know, those little nudges that may end up in grand finales or perhaps known only between you and your God.  Billy Graham has stated many times that the greatest amongst us in Heaven may just be the praying grandmothers of the world and not those who preach to stadiums filled with people.

That was Billy's nudge you know, to preach the Truth of the Gospel.  To stay true to it even as the tide of Truth turned in our own generation until now we hardly recognize the world as it once was.  Oh, it was never perfect, of course.  But it certainly was more in keeping with the ten commandments.

What is your nudge?  What gifts does he want you to use on your journey.  They are not necessarily grand and glorious.  I have a friend who has been a great blessing to me as she slips me a little gift here and there so I can do what God has set before me. 

I know without a doubt she will receive rewards in Heaven for her nudges to give, not only to me but to others in her realm of friends and family.  Whether the person who has the gift of giving does so with a small amount or gifts so large they are miraculous answers to prayer... the rewards are waiting.

I have friends who write beautifully and have published amazing books that are read worldwide.  But I also have a number of online friends who continue writing a blog that only handfuls of people read.  But one never knows when that one person is receiving wisdom that will keep them on their journey towards their God given finish line... and that one person is why God has you writing.

Will you receive a reward for baking a pie for the grieving family or inviting your elderly neighbor to dinner once in awhile?  Does God reward the person who knits hats for the homeless or makes quilts for babies in hospitals?  Of course!  Think of Dorcas in Acts or Jesus teaching in the Gospels that we give a glass of water in His name to the thirsty.

For you see, we are to keep our eyes on the prize says the Scriptures.  We are to have an eternal perspective.  Yes, time is passing quickly and we can never accomplish all we want.   No, life is never ever perfect.  But sometimes it is good.  Sometimes it is glorious.  But it is never Heaven on this earth.

You can do nothing else to make God love you more than He does already.  No works will make Him appreciate you more.  But as you have an Eternal perspective, you want to accomplish what He has asked you to do.  No matter how impossible it may look at the time -or- no matter how small and unimportant it may seem in your finite mind.

The above quote is one of my all time favorites from Literature.  Doesn't it say what is the Truth in such an amazing way that we can understand what this life is all about?

We are creating the cover page to our story as we are a part of His Story.  This is just the preparation you know.  Our perfect garden is yet to come.  Our perfect meal is yet to come.  And get this... our perfect body is yet to come.  Woo Hoo!

You will always feel in this world that you have not performed perfectly.  And you will be right.  But keep an Eternal Perspective and know this... everything you do here whether big or teeny tiny counts toward Eternity.  Even if it is not done perfectly.  Even if it is not done completely.

Keep your eyes on the prize as He commanded.  For He knows it helps us keep going toward the goal when we would rather go back to bed with a pint of ice cream and a good novel.

Image:  The End of Harvest by Judy Richardson

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifetyle - The Simple Pantry


Most of my pantry decisions are quite simple.  I think about what I use the most and buy at least one extra.  Items like flour and sugar (the various types) and salt and pepper and canned tomatoes and pasta and... you get the idea.  Those items used a lot in the kitchen.

Then if I want to stock up for more than one extra... to deepen the pantry so to speak... I purchase what I can and when I can until I reach that number I am comfortable with and/or what the budget allows.

Keeping a pantry does at least three things:
  1. Eliminates last minute drives to the grocery store when you are out of an item.
  2. Saves a lot of money when you stock up on items when they are on a good sale price.
  3. Helps you organize your meal planning and home keeping better.
When I purchase on sale, I can expand my menu options.  For instance, I try to purchase cream cheese blocks when they are on a 10 for $10 sale (their use by date is often months out).  Then I can afford to make my favorite cheesecake recipe that uses five packages of cream cheese!  Otherwise, it is too pricey even if it does serve a lot of people.

One thing that has helped me keep a simple but useful pantry is to think of ways to have multiple purposes for what I purchase.  For instance, it is far better for me to store a box of graham crackers and crush them if needed than to buy a box of crushed graham crackers.

For one thing, I am not paying someone else to do the work for me that is so easy (and rather therapeutic). Not to mention I have them in the cracker form should I want a quick snack with a glass of milk.

I love to learn new ways of using items, too.  Like when Stephanie and I took the cooking class at Colonial Williamsburg, we learned that the chef liked to use Keebler Pecan Sandies they have crushed instead of graham crackers for a crust at times.

You just have to press the crushed cookies into the bottom of a baking dish.  No added sugar.  No added butter.  They form a beautiful crust "as is".  Talk about simplifying the pantry!

Sometimes I have let items sit in my pantry simply because I don't have what I normally use with them.  Last winter my husband asked if I realized there was a flat of peaches that were around six months past their date on the shelf?  I knew they were there but I didn't realize it had been that long.

I had to stop and think about why I stopped going through cans of peaches as often as I once did.  I had always preferred fresh fruit when possible so that should not make a difference. Then I realized it was because I had not been purchasing cottage cheese and I always ate them together.  It was as simple as that.

As it turned out, cottage cheese was one of the items my nutritionist had encouraged me to begin keeping on hand for lunches again.  So I no longer let canned fruit of any kid get past the date on their cans!

So... peruse your pantry and look at the items you have not been using.  Do they need other ingredients to combine with them?  Do they require an object you have not purchased in awhile?  I have a recipe I have wanted to try for a few weeks and I bought the ingredients... but forgot I was out of aluminum foil which is essential to the process.

This past week, the store brand of aluminum foil was at a nice sale price so it was purchased.  I can now try the new recipe.  Which is also why, if you are able to afford them and you have room to store them, items like aluminum foil are good to purchase at restaurant supply places where they offer the larger rolls.

Now, sometimes there are items I keep on hand but only for certain recipes.  Like fire roasted canned tomatoes to use with chili... and with it having been summer, there has been very little making of chili.  But I know why those cans have been sitting ignored through the summer months.  They are just waiting their season to return (soon).

If there are items in your pantry that you now realize you will never use, give them to a food pantry.  Or ask a friend if they want them.  You pantry should be like your closet, with nothing in it that you never ever use (except in my closet, I do not have to worry about an expiration date on my party dresses or Christmas sweaters).

Next week I'll chat about making the pantry more useful to meal planning!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

My World this Week


Okay, another on the fly (so to speak) My World this Week.  But if I waited for perfect circumstances, there would be no blog!  ;)

Reading

I didn't think I would find this book all that interesting until I picked it up at a bookstore and perused it.  Gosh have I ever been so wrong!  The Nester gives wonderful advice about decorating your home creatively and on a budget.

So when the Kindle version was on sale for two dollars and change last week, I bought it to read on the iPad.  Honestly, it is one of the best books about decorating your home that I have ever read.  Further info... here.*

Collecting

The nice thing about collecting brown transferware instead of just one pattern is that it mixes and matches beautifully.

Along with my own thrifting finds and purchases, I have received brown transferware from Kristi and Manuela and I think of both of them when I use it!

Tweaking
Photo taken with flash
I did a major re-do on the china cabinet recently.  The first one in years.  But I wanted to display more of my collection.  The other china was either stored in the buffet or added to the shelves in the Study.

Most is brown transferware with just a few other obvious exceptions.  The flash really distorts the color but when you live in a forest and your china cabinet is in a dark corner...

Thrifting

Isn't this pretty?  I found it for just a few dollars at Goodwill and you can bet it went in my cart immediately.

It is in good shape but since it is quite old, I will use it for display and not for serving tea.  I have a few sturdier teapots for that use.

Trying to Work

I was going to sit down and work awhile but this is what I found.

Her Fluffiness

I was sorting through cards (many of which you all sent me) to put them into one large box when I looked up and found someone had made herself at home in the lid of one of the boxes!

She was not happy when I finish sorting and made her give up her bed.

*Amazon Associate's link.  When you order through the link or through entering Amazon through the widget (no, you do not have to purchase the item you click on)... I receive wonder beautiful lovely credit!