Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

The scene from my front porch over the weekend!

Wishing everyone in the United States a very Happy Thanksgiving.  There has been such anticipation leading up to the Holiday this year.  I think we all need to give Thanks to the One who created us.  Thanksgiving to me will always be about food and fellowship and never ever about shopping. 

We have been slowly but surely getting ready for company and for the Thanksgiving feast.  I am very thankful that my daughter-in-law and her mom are going to bring part of the dinner.  Everything I need to make ahead of time is done and the house looks... okay.  Not perfect but then again it never does.

I doubt anyone will notice the kitchen floor did not get washed or some of the furniture was not dusted.  I didn't get all the baking done I had planned.  But there is more than enough food.

The big snowfall set us back in getting the front porch ready for not only the Holiday but the cold weather.  It looked more like Christmas than Thanksgiving week.  But it was quite beautiful as the scene above shows when the snow had been falling about four or five hours.  It turned so cold (our windchill was in the single digits Sunday morning!) that the snow is still melting in the shady areas of the forest as I write on Wednesday.

So I send out a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving!  I am still way behind on emails.  I may never get caught up.  But I care about each and every blog friend!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Annual Holiday List Reminder

Winter Scene
I have been re-posting this the Sunday just before or after Thanksgiving for a lot of years. It has been one of your favorites... and mine.  I have received more notes about how making such a list changed reader's Christmas seasons than any other post.  When I wrote this post for the first time, my son was still living at home.  So my Christmas list has been tweaked through the years to represent our current Season.  When I began making the list, it included a lot more in the way of "going places".  Now it much quieter.  But still good...

I remember coming to the end of a Christmas season many, many years ago and wondering at my frustration.

There were no severe money trials that season, nothing that should have kept me from enjoying Christmas but... I couldn't put my finger on it... there was this sense of a lack of satisfaction... an unsettled feeling.

Soon after that, I was reading an article (magazine... book?) about this very thing. In it, the author said she learned to write out what it was she wanted from the Christmas season, what was most important to her. When I started doing that, I realized why the previous season had been lacking in joy.

It had been a rushed Christmas, the "doing" of many activities I felt I should do and not "being" the person I wanted to be that Season. My frustrations stemmed from a lack of getting away, alone beside my Christmas tree, enjoying that which comes from prayer and study and reading of books. I also had not said "no" to some outside activities that did not bring peace and joy.

Since that time, I have enjoyed making a list each season. My list has changed since that time due to health and finances but only in the "big" things. My list back then included attending a Christmas concert that I loved each year.  However, it became too expensive even when we did have a regular income. It wasn't that much of a priority that I'd spend more for tickets to a concert then I would on a week's worth of groceries.

Another item on my list that has gone by the wayside is hosting a big Christmas party. I loved decorating the house and having a lot of people over but that season is now behind me.

I remember one very magic (Narnia magic) party in our former house when we invited over Stephanie's college group. There was a tree in the family room and one in the living room, a fire was burning in the fire place, food placed in various areas, conversations were going on in many rooms of the house.

Later that night, as the young people were leaving, one student came up to tell me that night will be one of his "perfect Christmas memories" when he leaves college. It is one of my perfect memories, too.

I have found by making a list of those things I love about Christmas, I can make certain what means the most to me (and for my family) becomes a priority for time and money. 

Here are a few for this year, written out on paper before transferring to my scrapbook journal. Of course, I can't do them all but any of them on the "wish list" would make my season bright.
  • Decorating the house with my beloved Christmas items.
  • Decorating with my snowmen collection.
  • Carefully placing all my ornaments on the tree
  • Using my Friendly Village china
  • Morning quiet times in the dark, with the tree lit
  • A breakfast out at Cracker Barrel during the Holidays
  • Holiday Baking
  • Candy Cane Lane tea
  • Hot apple cider
  • Listening to the music of the season
  • Watching favorite Christmas movies
  • Reading favorite Christmas books
  • Seeing what yummies The Food Channel and PBS cooking shows come up with this year
  • Listening to concerts on PBS
  • One or two (or more) Pumpkin Spice Latte's to enjoy
  • A morning at Panera sipping coffee and writing a real letter
  • Sending Christmas cards to our far away friends and family
  • Visiting my favorite primitive country store... breath in the scents, no purchase necessary
Most of my list in recent years involves more solitude than in the past and none require very much money.  This is only a way of thinking through what brings joy... and peace... and faith... and what lifts my thoughts to the One Who Made Me.

Little satisfactions can come in this... the most wondrous and magical time of the year.

I encourage you to brew a little pot of tea and fill your favorite tea cup, bring along a notebook and pen, light the Christmas tree if you have one, and think about those things that bring joy to your heart at Christmas.
Are you making time for them? 
Did you budget for them through the year? 
What makes your heart sing with gladness?
Have you asked God what can replace those "used to do" joys?
Are you saying "yes" to things you hate to do (and don't have to)?
Can you think of ways to save limited time (store bought sugar cookie dough?)
Have you decided that good done now is better than the perfect undone?

You don't need to do them all, just choose a few that will cause you to look back at this Christmas and smile... and remember, Christmas is not about the price of gifts or how many are given, Christmas is about the Giver of all gifts.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Favorite Holiday Recipes

Christmas Pretzel Candy

As I write, it looks more like Christmas than Thanksgiving outside.  The snow is gently falling on the forest but just to our north, much more is to be expected.  However, it is almost December!

Yesterday I put Christmas music on the DVD player in the kitchen and made three batches of vanilla shortbread dough for the deep freeze and five dozen of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Most of them went into the freezer... formed, flash frozen, and slipped into Ziploc bags with instructions for baking.

Two dozen of those will be given to my friend, Sheila, to bake when her boys come home for Thanksgiving.  Just a little taste for them of the days we were neighbors and I kept my cookie jar full.  They actually gave me the snowman cookie jar I get out during the Holiday season.

Nine chocolate chip cookies were baked for the purpose of quality control.  ;)

On Monday, I plan to prepare three batches of lemon shortbread for the freezer and then more mid-week to actually bake for Thanksgiving guests.  Along with a couple other cookies that will be gifts.

I already made a large batch of cocoa mix, half of which is in my pantry and the other half was poured into a decorated half gallon Ball jar to become a gift.  I send my daughter-in-law's family home on Thanksgiving with edible Christmas gifts.  ;)

Everything I needed to make these ahead of time was in the pantry.  Except I didn't have lemons.  Which is why the lemon shortbread will be prepared Monday.

I also made granola last week since my husband informed me he was almost out.   I kind of knew that already since it is a glass jar we keep it in and it has been showing the granola slowly making its' way to the bottom.  I have had that recipe in Draft for awhile now (just forgot it was not published).  It makes an excellent gift for the Holidays and it is only as expensive as you add more ingredients.  If made a simple vanilla oats granola... simple and fairly inexpensive.

My Thanksgiving menu has always been set in stone so it is lovely to have Mrs. Christopher's family bring some of their favorites to our house.  I will provide the turkey and dressing and gravy (for they like the way I make them), the pumpkin pies will be baked on Wednesday for the flavors to "marry".

I may make cranberry relish.  Or may not.  I'm the only one that craves it each year so instead I may make something else with cranberries that the others will also enjoy.  Like a good hostess should.  ;)

Here are a few of my favorite Holiday recipes, now including the simple granola with variations.

Granola... here.
Jewel Cookies and others... here.  I posted this selection nine years ago and the only cookie I make from this list every year these days is the Jewel Cookie.  But all of them are good.
Christmas Jam... here.
Rachel Ray's Fudge... here.
Pumpkin Bread and Cranberry Bread... here.
Mom's Dressing Recipe and Broccoli Casserole... here.
Chicken or Turkey Dressing Casserole... here.  (Great for turkey leftovers)
Puppy Chow... here.
German Chocolate Cookies... here.
Two Homemade Cocoa Mixes... here.
Snickerdoodles... here.
Christmas Pretzel Candy... here.
Beverly Nye's Candy... here and here and here.
Pumpkin Cookies... here.

If I think of more, I will add them!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Frost Children's Bible, a review

This is a very pretty kid's Bible.  The front sparkles which is the reason it is called "Frost".  Young girls would especially find it attractive and it comes with a matching blue tote to carry it in, very useful for children.

It is written in the International Children's Version which is the full Bible but written especially for kids.  It probably is not the version you would want your child to memorize Bible verses in but it will communicate in most children's vernacular.

Having said that, it is not a dumbed down version of the Bible so it will require good reading skills or perhaps a much loved adult reading it to the child.  It is just the kind of Bible girls would love to carry to church!

This Bible was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found at here.*

*Most links to are Associate Links.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My World this Week

After three days of rain, this is how the sun decided to set last night.

It is beginning to feel like November here in the Heartland.  We are thankful for the extra days of nice weather for my husband to finish the new compost bin.  It isn't at all fancy but it will be better than layering everything on the ground.  He spent way too much time "engineering" it and I kept reminding him what the West Ladies said in their DVD... "Everything rots".  ;)

Can you believe a week from today will be American Thanksgiving?  I wish we celebrated at the same time as our Canadian neighbors because the Autumn color is wonderful at that time.  I took the turkey out of the deep freeze this morning and it begins its' slow thaw in the  refrigerator.

So... regarding the Widget and all.  First, I thank each of you who enter your Amazon shopping through a link or on the Widget (you do not have to purchase the item you click on).  It is such a blessing and entering Amazon this way for your shopping gives me a tiny amount of credit (and costs neither of us anything but time).  It all adds up!

The Widget still works and contains many favorites, I just can't add recently reviewed books to it as I once did.  I researched the whole embedded advertisement thingy and didn't care for it at all.  Just too "busy" for what I want here at Coffee Tea Books and Me.  So I will stick with an old Widget and new links!

Here are a few things going on in My World recently.


The magazine was a gift (thank you!), the chocolate from Aldis's, and the pumpkin spice latte was a gift from my daughter-in-law for driving her to Menard's.  She needed to pick up a purchase too large for their car.

We obviously are not boycotting Starbucks... never known as a bastion of Christians... that is a goddess on their cups!  By the way, that magazine has lots of excellent tea time recipes in it.


I love this inexpensive download from Amazon... here.  So enjoying the Amazon Music App that makes it simple to listen to music on the iPad that I purchase with Amazon credit.


Yesterday I listened to the podcast of Sally and Clay speaking at Hutchmoot recently.  It is about cultivating an atmosphere in the home to raise creative children.  It was SO good!  You can hear it... here.


I've always liked the way Susan Branch had a little wreath on her window but I didn't think I could do that since my windows open from side to side.

But then I saw that one set of Velcro left from the Command Velcro package and... wallah!  Those are cranberry colored beads and green leaves but the colors refused to show up in the photos. 

Morning Light

Studio Love

I'm loving the thrifted oval rug!  I paid $5.00-ish for it.

Her Fluffiness

She's waiting by the door for my husband to arrive home.

*Most links to are Associate links.  I thank you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Time Chamber: A magical story and coloring book, a review

I was recently perusing a shelf of grown up coloring books to give as a gift to a loved one who enjoys them.  Most of them were either too intricate or too boring.   To be honest, I only came away with one that I found to be worth gift giving.

So when The Time Chamber by Daria Song became available for review, I decided to give it a try.  It looked... interesting.  For this is not only a coloring book for teens and grown ups, it has a story embedded within about a red haired fairy who lives in a cuckoo clock.  The tiny fairy decides to visit the room of the little girl who lives outside the clock.

They had me at the story line.  The story is told in such a way that it does not get in the way of the coloring pages and the story is kept to a small number of the pages.  The real stars of this coloring book are the gorgeous illustrations meant to be colored.

These illustrations are of a girl's world in an imaginative sense.  I know, it is hard to explain but think what tea time would look like to a fairy's imagination, and bookshelves, and a dressing table with brushes and mirrors and such, and a doll's house, and mixed within all of these... beautiful designs to be colored with perhaps your favorite colored pencils.

The designs are pretty enough that when finished, they would be easily frame worthy.  Each page is sturdy card stock.

I highly recommend The Time Chamber grown up coloring book to anyone who loves the genre and perhaps more importantly, to anyone who has thought they may like to try it but have not found any books they liked.

It would make an excellent Christmas gift, especially for the ladies in your family... I'd say ages ten to one hundred ten.  I think that fairy within sprinkled me with fairy dust for I am smitten.

This book was given to me by Blogging For Books for the purpose of review but the opinions are my own.

Information can be found at here.*    The author/artist has another similar coloring book called The Time Garden which can be found by following this link and then looking at the "Customers Also Bought" section.

Most links to are Associate's links.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Faithfulnes of God

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

It has not been an easy year.  Nothing life shattering but just... hard.  Life can be tiring. For all of us.  We go through seasons of trouble and then have  (thankfully) a season of rest to be followed by another season of distress.  That is Life.

I became a Christian at the time of the Jesus Movement when in the midst of that revival sweeping the young people of the nation (and the world), Jesus was ever so real.  He plucked this soul out of a non-churched family.  He chose this young girl who was so very lost.

An acquaintance from school was given the task of thinking of the last person she would ever think would come to church with her and invite that person to a revival meeting.  She chose my very good friend and me.  The last.  The least.  The little.  The totally lost.

I was saved at that revival meeting and later became a part of a Christian coffeehouse ministry where all the young people were on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ.  We were very young and we were, for the most part, chosen by Him from non-Christian backgrounds.  That, my friends, was the Jesus Movement.  When love for Jesus was new and faith had not been very tested.

I wish I could say I have always been faithful to Him.  Oh, I never completely turned away or got into what we would call great sin.  But I almost have.  I almost did.  Especially in my late twenties when life caught up to me more than the grace I understood.  I grew weary.  I thought of leaving it all.

I was disappointed by life as my father died without warning when I was a child and my first son died minutes after his birth.  While I loved my husband very much, his challenges added to the stress.  We had to leave my hometown to follow my husband's career so there was no support group of loved ones around me other than my husband and little girl.

Life was... hard.  I was so weary and I was only in my twenties.

I wish I could say it got a lot easier and that is why I found Him faithful.  No, just the opposite, actually.  I think very few of us have long stretches of time where everything goes just as we would like.  For we live in a fallen world and we have an enemy, you know.

We... you and me... we are in the middle of a great Celestial war between good and evil.  We live on a planet that was once perfect and is now death warmed over.  There is evil out there.  All we have to do is think of the loved ones in Paris who have sons, and daughters, and husbands, and wives that never returned home due to the very face of evil slaughtering the innocents.

How can God allow such a thing?  Because all of Humanity is caught in that Celestial war with both sides wanting our allegiance.  The enemy is a very, very smart strategist.  He has been around for hundreds of thousands of millenia.  He lived in the place without time.  Who knows how long ago he was created as the Beautiful One whom some believe led the very worship of Heaven.

But he wanted to be like God and then he wanted to be God.  He convinced Eve that God was holding out on her and that she could be like God. She was deceived and though Adam was not, he loved his wife more than he loved God and partook of the forbidden fruit. 

I have heard some say they want to have a good talk with Adam and Eve when they get to Heaven but not me.  For I know my own tendency towards thinking God is holding out on me and I know there have been times I have loved idols in my life more than the God who gave me life.

No, something happened as the years went by and it is this very thing that causes the angels to look at the redeemed of God in wonderment.  It is not in spite of difficulties that God has proven Himself faithful... it is because of them.

For you see, just like Job (who suffered a whole lot more than I ever have)... I can truly say that I had heard of Him but now I see Him.  I see His work in my life.  I have seen Him when I am totally without hope and He brings the provision.  I have seen Him when I am discouraged and I open the door to find a package on the front porch or a letter in the mail.

I see Him in the miraculous and I see Him in the everyday.  Sometimes when I have an idea for making the house look nice, I know it is the Master Interior Designer whispering in the voice of the Holy Spirit that if I try this and move that... Beauty.

I was just telling my daughter-in-law yesterday, when we ran errands together and she treated me to Starbucks, about nearly getting hit by a driver running a red light on the way home from the doctor's office... and how I have no idea how that car stopped in time not to hit me in the driver's door.  I see God in that which cannot be explained.

My friends, God is always faithful even when we don't understand where we are on the journey of life at the moment.  We each have our own unique set of difficulties while we walk on this fallen planet and God will bring us through them all.

The enemy is always whispering to our mind just as he did with Eve that God is holding out on us, that God is not answering our prayers.  He tells the mother praying for her children that they have fallen too far for God to reach down and pull out of the pit.  He tells the single mom that God has forgotten her.  He tells the man who lost his job that he will never find another.  The enemy is in the business of defeat and despair.

No... God is faithful.  He tells us in His Word that "many are the afflictions of the righteous but He delivers us from them all".  Why?  Because of that Celestial battle taking place on this Silent Planet, as fallen Earth is called in the C. S. Lewis space trilogy.

Someday you and I may be able to look back and see how, at our darkest moment, God was at work preparing the answers to our prayers in ways we could not see.  If we do not give up, if we do not grow weary, if we rise up with wings like eagles by trusting Him... we will see that day.

Personally, I don't care if I ever get any answers.  Once I leave this sod and walk into Heaven, I will just be so thankful that He held on to me during those times I grew too weary for the journey.  I don't really want to be reminded of the times I stomped my feet and pouted and told Him life is not fair at all.

We, who have little or no strength, can depend on His infinite strength.  He is faithful.  His mercies are new every morning.  It isn't Heaven, yet.  But it will be someday.  On that we can depend.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Getting ready for the Holidays

Christmas shortbread...

I don't want to shock anyone but just in case you do not know... Thanksgiving (American) is just around the corner.  It is twelve days away.  Amazing.  I was even watching for it this year and it still popped up so fast!

I am so thankful that I've been slipping a pound of butter in a Ziploc bag now and then when they go on sale.  Each gallon size Ziploc bag holds three or four packages and I now have two full bags in the deep freeze ready for Holiday baking. 

I stocked up on my favorite King Arthur flour when it was on sale, again a little at a time.  Chocolate chips were purchased at a great price at Sam's Club and the food pantries in the area have been handing out bags of dried cranberries.  I still have plenty of sugar left from last year's post Christmas sales.

It never fails to please me how a "little at a time" stocking of the pantry can show such big rewards.   I was thrilled to walk into Kroger last week and find turkeys on sale for 69 cents a pound.  I'd tucked a $20.00 bill back for such a sale so I could purchase one immediately and tuck it into the deep freeze. 

Thanksgiving is at our house this year and I love having the kids and Mrs. Christopher's family with us.  We enjoy their company and with so many bringing sides, and desserts, and helping with clean up... many hands make for less work. 

I will once again bake the turkey and make the gravy and my mother's dressing recipe is a must or it wouldn't be Thanksgiving and I will make pumpkin pies and cranberry relish and now for an out of breath sigh.

Of course, the brown transferware dishes will come out and I polished the silver this morning while listening to Christmas music so the top of the buffet will be shining.  I love the Holidays.  Most years.

There was a comment made recently that now is the time to stock up on items for baking and I agree completely.  I will definitely be purchasing items for the pantry that are still needed and keep a little funds back for after the Holiday sales.  I hope there are as good of clearance sales this year as I found last year.

On another note... my prayers go out for the City of Paris and those affected by the terrorist attack.  We now know the name of one American killed, a twenty year old design student from California.  Which made me even sadder for I was once the mother of a twenty year old design student...

The borders were closed in and out of France.  We live in a world where the unexpected can happen at any time so be prepared my friends.  One never knows when the trucks will not be able to bring food for the stores... whether due to terrorist attack or a snowstorm.  Keep safe.

Did you put back water this past week?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Just Chatting...

Sir Charles the Stout and me last May in New England.
We are in that time of the year when there isn't much to photograph outside and it is dark in the house.  Even Victoria is snoozing most of the day.  Except this morning when she thought it oh so funny to hide behind a chair and jump out at me as I walked past.  She may be nine (or ten, we are not sure) years old but she still has plenty of play left in her.

I still have to respond to some emails, a few of which are mid-conversation.  Someone is hogging the computer to work on his VA paperwork and... most importantly... Fantasy Football.  ;)

There was a whopper of a storm system which came through the Midwest yesterday and last night.  The wind and rain continue today so I'm taking advantage of having to stay inside to get past due projects finished.  For instance, there are dried herbs ready to be put into small Mason jars.  A few are herbs from my garden but a few are also from the Farmer's Market.  

I also need to figure out the new Amazon embedding thingy (such technical terms you know).  You can still enter your Amazon shopping by clicking on any previous link or by clicking on any object within the Amazon Widget on the sidebar.  I get a tiny percentage of each purchase, it doesn't cost you anything but coming here to click into Amazon... and every little bit adds up! 

The credit I earn is what I use for items I'd normally not be able to purchase whether books, food, paper crafting items, or... most importantly... grandchildren birthday gifts!  Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to enter Amazon from Coffee Tea Books and Me.

One final update before I crumble dried sage into a jar, I am now on Instagram as... and this will be such a surprise... @coffeeteabooksandme.    I don't add a lot of new photos at this time and most of them are of books I am reading and such.  But I joined Instagram about five months ago (?) to follow a few special friends who only update through that social media.  So, I figured I may as well take a few photos here and there even if they are mostly of books.

See you on Saturday!  God willing and the creek don't rise.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Story of Everything, a review

This book by Jared C. Wilson has one of the best subtitles ever... "How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God's Plan for the World". 

This is probably one of the most difficult books in which I've ever had to describe.  For he does talk about... everything.  Have you ever wondered why there is evil in the world?  You can read about it here.  Ever wondered about creativity, and family, and pets, and the calling God has given each of us?  He talks about it here.

But you would think such a book would be cluttered with thoughts and words and be incredibly difficult to read.  Just the opposite, I enjoyed reading this book very much.    It would make a great gift for those who have questions about Christianity as well as those of us who have walked with Christ for oh so many decades.

It caused me to ponder the great questions of life and made me chuckle from time to time.  It is not one of those annoying humorous books I tire of after the first few chapters.  Instead, the humor comes from the way the author looks at the world.  And the Word.

I highly recommend this book.

The Story of Everything was provided in e-book format by Crossway Books but the opinions are my own.