Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Art of Autumn


The older I get... or perhaps it is the more observant I become... I realize all of life has the potential to be called Art.  For so much of what we do each day involves creativity as we go about our tasks of cooking breakfast and baking cookies and setting the table and putting together an outfit and arranging flowers and bringing in veggies from the garden and thinking of new ways to use old stuff.

Perhaps it is living life with the Creator which has helped me think more of life itself as Art.  For you do know He is all about creating.  And if He truly lives within me then creativity... and the desire to create... must grow more each year.

And truly I don't think there is any time of the year that I think of God as an Artist as I do in October.  His Art inspires me to make something or cook something or at least snap some photos of His Work.

This past week, during an afternoon break in the rain, I put on my walking shoes and grabbed my purse and a jacket, along with the itty bitty iPod, and headed to Starbucks.  For I still had a gift card with credit that could be exchanged for something lovely and hot and autumnal.

I then drove to the park by the walking trail and slowly enjoyed that which another artist... a barista... had created.  Sitting there in the van, watching an elderly man walk his equally old dog, sipping my drink, surrounded by Beauty... I felt Peace begin to cover me from head to toe. 

Much needed peace.  Just sitting.  Just sipping.  Just gazing upon the surroundings.

Eventually I placed the ear buds from the itty bitty iPod in my ears and switched the button over to ON.  My purse was covered with a cloth grocery bag and the van locked after checking the pockets in my jacket for the keys and the cell phone and the digital camera.

For I was off on a very small adventure.  A letting out of the Tookish side but only a couple miles from home.  Curious to see what the walking trail looked like during these magical (Narnia magic) days of October.

These hours when all of life is as if one lives in an Impressionist painting with splashes of gold and burgundy and chartreuse and yellow and red and brown.

The music was tweaked until the voice of John Denver was located.  The next eight or so songs would be the soundtrack to my very small adventure.  For on this day, only John could sing the words that echoed the feelings in my heart.  How I respond to God's Art.  Every October.

There is that short amount of time that one can completely miss if not aware it exists.  Those days each year when light appears as liquid gold and the cool air awakens the senses.  When one knows God is at work, painting a canvas that comes and goes so quickly.

While walking the trail, the end of life surrounded me but not in a way to bring sadness.  Quite the opposite, for it seemed the field of flowers and grasses and grains never looked better as they shed their summer shades for autumn's glow.

I walked almost until I came to the bend in the trail that brings one close to a cornfield.  It has been quite wet so the harvest of this field has not occurred.  It is a very large field of grain, reaching all the way to Mr. & Mrs. Christopher's neighborhood.  Their kitchen window looks out on the other side of this sea of maze. 

It is truly Art, God's work in so many ways.  Beauty for the soul to become a whole foods meal for animals when the snows cover the earth.

I walked and listened to songs about the earth and nature and the mountains and how home is the best place to be.  Not hugging trees, mind you... but yet loving the forest.  Every October I am in awe of God's Art, His timing, the way He brings each season together.

I'm sure you know the colors of the leaves are there all spring and summer.  Their undergarments of brilliant color... their petticoats now for all to see as shorter days and cooler temperatures cause the green to disappear.

What an amazing and I think quite amusing Artist He is that just before the stark blacks and whites and grays of the coming season, He explodes with color.  And He creates the perfect background canvas for the trees in the muted shades of the fields and the grasses and the jewel toned flowers surrounding the walking trail.

I am hoping this week brings with it some sunshine, a chance to embrace the brief days when one feels as if they live in a fairy tale story.  Even as I simply walk down the gravel lane... past the forest... to the mailboxes.

I have been picking up some of His Art on the gravel each day.  Leaves the color of jewels.  Brought home and placed in the pages of the very large Bible.  I don't think God would mind.  His Art in His Word.

I know some people find Him most on mountains in winter and others by the ocean when the days are hot.  I understand how it would be easy to praise Him when surrounded by the wildflowers of a Texas spring. 

But here where I live, where the forest and fields of grain coexist... God shows His Art off most in October.  And I find myself blinking my eyes when walking past the forest, for certainly that could not be a Hobbit in the mist.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - the Low Carb Pantry


I was asked about low carb foods for the pantry.  Since I only deepen the pantry with what I actually eat, I do have some suggestions that hopefully will help.   You will probably notice... as happens so often... many of the suggestions are what our grandparents had in their pantries.

If you are using these items in your meals, you will not feel like you are eating in an emergency.   Not to mention, many low carb items are good for the budget.  Just be very certain to store in proper containers (for me that is where mice cannot nibble on them!) and to rotate the items regularly by making certain the oldest dated items are used first and the newest purchases go to the back of storage bus.

I am going with the assumption that most people do not can their own veggies, meat, etc.  Except I have one friend in South Dakota who has gone canning crazy.  She will be seeking help once her garden has all been preserved.  ;)  Actually, I am quite jealous of her garden!

Hopefully, these pantry ponderings will be a start to help you in your efforts for low carb deepening the pantry.

Produce
A lot of produce that store well and can be utilized in a low carb kitchen are available in the fall.  Just a few are butternut squash, spaghetti squash, onions, garlic, and yes... potatoes!

I now purchase mainly bags of small or "new" potatoes, both red and Yukon Gold.  They are boiled (with just enough salted water to cover them) or roasted with the skins on.  Which provide more nutrients and less carbs.  I also use whole sweet potatoes that are baked.

I rarely have mashed potatoes, mainly as a treat on Holidays and then with gravy (the fat helps the carbs not spike the blood sugar as much). 

Frozen greens are a staple item to add nutrition to our meals.  If you live in a climate where you can grow all year round, then the cool weather crops like kale, spinach, collard greens, chard, etc. can be FRESH from your garden.

Grains, Rice, and Pasta
Grains
I do always keep on hand extra flour, sugar, etc.  Just because I still bake once in awhile.  Instead of large loaves of say... pumpkin bread, I bake the batter in mini loaf pans and then freeze part of them.  I also bake as gifts.

But as for low carb grains, do remember that all carbs are not the same.  Wheat, corn, oats, etc. can be an excellent choice.

If you grind your own wheat or corn and make bread, there is so much fiber there... as long as you don't make a pig of yourself and I could when it comes to bread... you are getting a lot of healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber in that bread.

Wheat is easy to store and if you decide to store corn, look for a source of bulk popcorn.  It grinds easily for cornbread but also can be ummm... popped.  And pop corn in moderation is full of fiber and is fine.  Just don't eat the big kahuna by yourself a the movie theater.

If you do decide to store wheat and/or corn, there are two very important Truths to remember.  First, you need to incorporate these whole grains in your diet already.  For our bodies cannot go from Twinkies to 100% whole grain bread.  You will find yourself very, very uncomfortable. 

Second, if you store wheat and/or corn, you must have at least a manual grain grinder and use it.  I have my old (circa 1990s) electronic grinder that I baby and it still works fine.  But I also have... somewhere on a shelf... a manual grinder that looks quite similar to the old fashioned meat grinders. 

If I were just purchasing a grinder, I would choose a really nice manual grinder.  There are some available now that are almost as pricey as an electronic grinder but they do an excellent job and are engineered to require less strength to use them.

Don't forget oats!  A grain that is easy to store (if in a proper container) and that has a great shelf life is old fashioned oats.  They are great for diabetics.  I once bought a 50 lb. bag (accidentally if I remember, instead of my usual 25 lb. purchase at the co-op) and they lasted two years.  I do know a lot of people store oat groats or Irish oats.  I have a couple boxes but we do prefer the taste of old fashioned (aka: 5 Minute) oats.

As far as instant oatmeal in a box, I think it does have a place on our shelves for emergency situations.  Look for those without a lot of added sugar.  But you can make your own healthy version by putting old fashioned oats in a food processor and pulsing two or three times.  That is how instant oatmeal is made by the large companies but with bigger equipment.  Just be sure you carefully pulse the food processor because then you are creating oat flour.

I'm not a big fan of rice unless it is fried rice and that is not really healthy.  But a previous endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in the pancreas and thyroid) told me brown rice is an excellent choice for diabetics.  It gets down to that whole fiber thing again.  It needs to be stored in the freezer for long term storage. 

But I have done a little research in the past and Uncle Ben's original converted rice and converted brown rice has some of the fiber left and stores much better.  I tend to use the pasta orzo, cooked just al dente, most of the time in place of rice. 

As far as regular white rice, it is not a good choice for a low carb diet.  It ranks up there with instant mashed potatoes and white bread in the way it can spike your blood sugar.

There are so many other grains now to put in the pantry, like quinoa (technically a seed).

Pasta
No wonder it is great pantry food for dried pasta can easily last a couple years in the pantry if stored properly.  What you have to do is think "less carbs" instead of "no carbs".  As my nutritionists have always reminded me, diabetics do not throw out carbs.

So for instance, using angel hair pasta would be a good option for recipes because it is thin.  I don't care for most whole wheat pastas even though I like other whole wheat products.  Sometimes there is an after taste.  But I find the options where they have mixed semolina and whole wheat to be very good.

Remember that by cooking pasta al dente, it also makes it better for diabetics.  The softer the pasta becomes, the higher glycemic it is.  It has something to do with how fast the carbs hit the blood stream.

I have pasta in my pantry but I have learned usually to combine them with a lot of vegetables added to the recipe.

Nuts and Seeds
For best results, fresh nuts should be stored in a freezer unless they are in their whole form.  But they are good for diabetics and a great choice for when the power is out and we may not have a working stove.

Roasted nuts and seeds store well without being frozen.  Of course, whole nuts store extremely well.  Just ask the squirrels in my back yard.  Do you know when you can buy whole nuts cheap?  After the Christmas holidays!  I usually purchase a few bags of whole nuts priced to sell and pour a bag at a time into a wooden bowl with the nutcracker next to it!

Of course, unless you have an allergy to it there is always peanut butter (the jars with no added sugar are best).  But if you are going to have it on your pantry shelves, most people do eat it on bread or crackers.  But I have known some children to eat it out of a jar with a spoon!

As an aside from low carb and all... Nutella and similar products are great for the pantry if you have kids.  For a treat of Nutella on whole grain crackers or a box of simple shortbread cookies can be a quick and easy "dessert".

Fats
I read an article about how people survived WWII food shortages and was surprised to find the number one item they lacked was a source of fat.  Contrary to articles in flashy modern magazines, fat is an essential part of the diet to remain healthy (a daily Big Mac is not).

Fats are friendly for diabetics when used with common sense.  Whole fats help carbs not spike as much when consumed together.  So when you have that occasional tall pumpkin spice latte, have them use whole milk like I do.

Storing fats are important, you would really notice if you had no cooking oil!

Options are:

Butter, salted:  I always have an extra pound of butter in the freezer and prefer to have much more than that frozen.  Just slip two or three pound packages in a Ziploc bag for extra protection, date, and freeze.  I date items placed in a Ziploc bag by putting the date I'm freezing them on a small slip of paper (big enough to see easily) and then slipping that paper inside the bag so it is easily seen when I'm taking the food out to use.

I keep a stick of salted butter in its' container on the kitchen counter all the time.  I have read that salted butter can go unrefrigerated safely for a couple weeks but I have never proven that.  It does last around a week without a problem in my kitchen.  But be sure to buy SALTED butter, salt is a preservative.

Coconut Oil:  I'm just now beginning to use more coconut oil as I buy the better brand when on sale. I also now buy it only in a glass jar as I had a plastic container split open and cause a real mess in my kitchen cabinet.   It is suppose to last two or three years if stored properly.

Crisco:  I was surprised to find it can go rancid, perhaps these days because it is not sold in metal containers as it once was.  Given that... I opt for the Crisco sticks since they are used for cookies, especially during the Holidays.

But you can make a candle from a can of Crisco (just google it, lots of articles are available).  Also, opt for regular Crisco instead of the Butter Flavored.  It has a longer shelf life.  So I have read.

Olive Oil:  Buy small amounts of extra virgin olive oil in dark bottles and rotate if you do not use it often.  If you do, you could get away with buying it in the large cans. I have read so many different opinions about how long you can keep olive oil on the shelf that it makes my head spin.  From as little as three months to indefinitely.  The truth is most likely somewhere in between when stored properly.  As with any oil, once you open it... use it as quickly as possible.

Veggie Oils:  I buy as large a container of canola oil as I can afford for cooking.  But I purchase small bottles of certified GMO free canola oil for using in salads when I do not use extra virgin olive oil.  Other people I know have their own preferred vegetable oils.

Lard:  You know, researchers are now finding what great grandmother knew all along... fats we were told were terrible are good for you in moderation.  So if you have access to real lard (not the highly refined stuff in most grocery stores), add that to your list.  Turns out fats like real butter and real lard are handled well by the body.  Go figure...  ;)

Beans and Legumes
Okay, here are the real secret stars of the low carb pantry.  Not to mention everyone would probably do better by eating more of them.  Most of these foods are not only low glycemic but are good for keeping blood sugar down.

Beans:  I think the one "Truth" I have found about cooking with beans is simply finding which beans I like better.  For instance, I used to make bean soup with northern beans because that is what my mother's recipes called for.  They were... okay.  But then I made a batch of pinto bean soup and really enjoyed them.

Christopher and I used to go to a restaurant before the occasional fencing class (his... not mine) that gave the option of black beans in the tacos.  I was surprised at how good they were.  So black beans were added to the pantry.

Hubby brought home a case of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) from a food pantry and was later given more when the people who ran the pantry said they could not give them away.  Most Americans just did not cook with them.  But I already knew we liked hummus and then started experimenting with other ways to use them.  Since they are so popular in the entire Middle East, it was easy to find recipes.

I find dry beans the least expensive as well as the easiest to store since a lot of packages can be placed in one small Rubbermaid style container.  But I do like having canned pinto or kidney beans on hand for chili and I like canned black beans to use when making tacos.  I need to think ahead and freeze beans from time to time!

I also keep refried beans on hand for a quick no meat taco or burrito option.  They are high in fiber and protein and really fast food.

I rarely cooked beans when the kids were growing up but now we enjoy them quite often.  I wish I'd experimented more with different recipes back then.

To make a meal and add flavor to beans, it is good to have items like jars of salsa, canned tomatoes of various kinds, spices, garlic and onion powder, etc.  Some taco shells are shelf stable and all freeze well should your favorite way to eat beans be in a shell.

Oh, one of the next recipes I want to play with is making black bean burgers.  All kinds of options are online for those and they would make an excellent pantry recipe.

Lentils:  When I found out lentils was one of the best foods for diabetics, it was easy to include them in the diet. I love lentils!  I prefer French Lentils because they hold their shape better.  I used to buy them through a food co-op but now I get them in the bulk section of the health food store.

But the lentils you buy in packages at the grocery store are just fine, too.  You don't really notice the difference in soups, it is only in lentil salads that the French lentil's ability to stay a little firmer is preferred.  But since I don't have space for both... I buy the French lentil.

There are all kinds of beans and other legumes but those listed above are the ones I use the most.

Canned Meats and Vegetables
These are fairly obvious but sometimes we forget about canned sources of protein.  Tuna used to be the poster child for the pantry because it was inexpensive but then it has come out that the shelf life of canned tuna is not what we thought at first. 

But it is still a good option and just be sure... as with all things... to rotate the old and new.  I am like Julia Child, I prefer tuna packed in oil.  I always keep canned salmon in the pantry as salmon croquettes (mini patties) are a staple on the menu.

I have some canned chicken in my pantry and a few canned beef tins.  I actually like some kinds of SPAM so I have a few cans on hand.  It wouldn't hurt to have shelf stable canned ham on hand or shelf stable precooked bacon, both of which would give flavor to a bean soup.

Think outside the box and walk down the grocery aisle where canned meats are kept to see what is available.  Also, some items like canned chili without the beans have a place on the pantry shelf.

Don't forget items like summer sausage.  With the upcoming Holidays, shelf stable items will be available for gift giving.  Items such as cheese and meats that are packaged to be shelf stable, even if short term.  Give a gift to your pantry... or your pantry loving friends!

Sliced summer sausage or pepperoni and sliced cheese on a whole grain cracker... yum.  And a welcome addition to an emergency pantry as well as the kitchen shelves.  But you really have to store these safely from heat and varmints (the two legged kind as well as mice).

I keep a lot of canned veggies on hand, as well as canned tomatoes of various kinds.  Most canned corn is kept for various soups but from time to time it will be used as a side dish.  My husband likes a canned bean salad that is different than what I grew up with.  But either "recipe" of bean salad would be a good low carb option.

I always keep canned pumpkin, not only for the obvious high carb desserts but it can be used as a soup base (winter squash recipes), etc.

There is a lot of talk about BPA leaching into canned foods these days.  I do try to make wise purchases but it is not always financially feasible to go down the BPA free path (most are organic at the moment).  So as with all things, we do the best we can and pray over our food for the rest.

Other Low Carb Options
We are just now beginning to learn what previous generations knew already... pickled and fermented items are good for you.  They may have not known the nutritional chemistry behind it, they just knew by pickling items they would last for a long time.

So the obvious would be to add pickles, sauerkraut in jars, olives, peppers, etc. to the pantry and then actually use them in your meals.  I've teased my husband that I am going to buy a jar of kimchi for the pantry.  I had it once as a condiment in a Korean restaurant and thought it good.  He tried it in Viet Nam and thought it quite disgusting.

I recently started adding pickle relish to dishes like chicken salad to use less mayonnaise (the relish having far less calories).  There is so much to keep learning!

Gourmet in the Pantry
I have mentioned this before but if you have the money to spend, check the gourmet section of your store for items that would be helpful to have stocked in your pantry. So many of these items will add flavor to basic pantry foods.

For instance, if you have a package of sun dried tomatoes you can use them in many ways to add flavor.  And if you have sun dried tomatoes in a jar... you also have a highly flavored oil to use (often olive oil).  You can also usually find dried mushrooms, dried fruit, jars of chopped garlic and ginger, chutney, pesto, etc.

I think that will be enough to get anyone started on the path to a low carb pantry.  :)

Image:  Cookbook and Apples: allposters.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My World this Week


We are in the midst of the wettest autumn since the mid-1950s, which is my excuse for not posting earlier this week.  I have been waiting for a sunny day to take photos.  While we may actually see some sunshine soon... the flash became necessary if there are to be any photos this week.

There is not a lot going on this week.  Although we just had our well flushed this morning for the second time as bacteria continued to show up after the first run through of chlorine bleach.  It is probably a good thing we had an under-the-sink filter put in since we have lived here (we're on the second one now).

The treatments are expensive and one pays for the second as well as the first but it is all so we can switch our mortgage, which in the long run will be a good financial move.  As for the short run... not so much.

Otherwise, not a lot going on here at home but I will share with you the few interesting projects.  I didn't take photos of the guys and the well and the chlorine and the money literally going down the drain.  :(

Reading


Alive to Wonder: Celebrating the Influence of C. S. Lewis is one of the books available for a free download on the Desiring God website... here.  The PDF file version easily downloaded and then saved to the Kindle on the iPad.

Survival Mom is an excellent book about being prepared and deepening the pantry.  I have had it on my Amazon Wish List for awhile so I was quite happy when the Kindle version went on sale!  I highly recommend the book and her website.  The Kindle version is suppose to remain $1.99 through October 19th this Sunday), available... here.*

Tweaking


I brought two herb plants indoors and this was the best place to put them.  At least for now.  So it involved some tweaking of the top of the buffet.

I was asked about the china in the "antique drawer still life".  The small butter dish is Old British Castles (brown) and of course, the larger dish is Friendly Village.

Creating


I do promise a full post just about Scrapbook Journaling.  But here are photos of the first two pages of my new journal.  For past journals, mosey on to the archives... here.

The real secret I have found over the years... and I am constantly changing the way I journal... but the one I have stuck with is not trying to make my pages perfect.  But to have them be memories and ideas and thoughts that are significant to my life.

Gardening
Pole Beans... dried... a thing of autumnal beauty

Country Life
I love mail... and mail boxes.

Her Fluffiness


She is so nosy helpful!

*All Amazon links are Associate, and I thank you.  Muchly.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Why Bother?


I walked out to the garden yesterday morning for the first time in weeks.  That bug that hit brought with it such fatigue that each day I would think about doing some gardening and then decide to go "tomorrow".  Well, one day followed another and before I knew it our temperatures had dipped well into the mid-30s.

So when I walked out yesterday, what was once a flourishing garden looked quite ravaged.  The basil that had been so lovely this year was now all marked with frostbite, the mint had long fallen off its' stems, even the kale looked poorly! All gone before I could do anything to harvest it.

But there were unexpected signs of life with a few small tomatoes and even some green beans peeking a bright green behind withered leaves.  The golden pineapple sage is ready to "bloom" and the parsley continues to flourish... that is one hardy plant.

So I picked the tomatoes and the green beans and placed them into the well worn basket.  I also picked the pole beans which were now completely dry.  After rinsing the tomatoes and green beans, I found a fresh tea towel to spread on the kitchen counter, cracked open each dry bean pod, and sprinkled the beans which will be seeds for next year on the towel.

For there is always a sign of new life to come, even in the midst of neglect.

During the days I was feeling quite ill, it was easy to think of giving up completely.  I mean why put all that time and attention and limited funds into growing a garden to have to stop during the harvest.  I know, I should have had my husband at least pick some tomatoes and green beans but each day I thought I'd feel better... the next.

As an aside... he is not allowed near any herb for he cannot tell herbs from weeds.  Just saying.

But these feelings are not limited to the garden. For example, when we first moved to the country and I fixed up the front porch to look cute and cozy... the thought came to me that I should not put so much effort into fixing up the porch.  For hardly anyone will even know what it looks like.  We do live at the end of a teeny tiny gravel road with three houses.  You can't see our house from the road.

So why bother when that work may only be seen by so few?

It is the same feelings I get when I spend money for flowers on the deck each spring.  Although we do have visitors and use the deck once in awhile, most of the time it is just one or two of us seeing the flowers out the deck door.

Is it worth the money for just one of us to view while sitting in the Lazy Boy?

These thoughts come when I pretty up the top of the buffet or decorate the hutch or place the veggies in a bowl to look beautiful in the kitchen.  They come when I decorate with some some autumnal favorites or cut daffodils each spring to enjoy on our table and in the kitchen.

I no longer have a lot of people that come through the front door so why create Beauty? For just us?

And every single November finds me deciding whether to decorate for Christmas as I once did.  After all... I no longer have Christmas parties and most of the Season there are just once again... two people and a cat at home.

So why bother?

Why bake the cake and decorate it beautifully or roast the vegetables until the perfect caramelized color?  Why peruse the cookbooks or read the gardening magazine or learn how to save the seeds from the green bean plant?

Why bother?

The garden wilts from inattention and the daffodils die and the Christmas stuff has to be packed again to be put away and the deck flowers are really a lot of work to keep going you know.

Making this fallen world a thing of Beauty can take time and effort and even some of the budget and gosh I'm already tired you know with enough to do each day.

Why bother?

Because if we didn't we would die on the inside.  Oh, not immediately but the internal wilting away would become apparent after awhile.  It would be like saying our life is over.

We begin a new garden each year because we are made of faith.  And hope.  We know illness could hit or storms could wipe it all away.  We plant the fields of wheat and corn realizing we live where hail and wind and blight can destroy our hard work.

We buy the flowers and plant them in containers and display them through the window in such a way we can see them early in the morning as the sun rises or when we watch the news or while grabbing a sandwich for lunch.  And their beauty feeds as much as the food we eat.

We decorate the house to look lovely for after all... we live there.  We see it each day.  We need to be fed with Beauty.  We set the table and light the candles and create an atmosphere of warmth even if there is no company.  For who matters more than family?

In the same way, when we are alone we decide not to opt for the teabag but we spoon the good stuff in the small teapot that has been warmed with hot tap water before pouring the water from the whistling teakettle over it.  We choose one of our pretty bone china teacups from the shelf and place it on a tray with the little teapot and a small treat.   We perform our own little tea ritual for we are made for Beauty.

We bother because every instance we have to choose between getting by and making Beauty, we choose that part of us which is in the image of God.  We choose... life.

For you see, the cooking of a lovely meal and the writing of a poem... the planting of bulbs in the autumn for blossoms to enjoy in spring... hanging twinkle lights and listening to Bing Crosby sing White Christmas while making cookies even when no one is expected... putting together our famous veggie beef soup to serve with homemade bread for just us two... it is who we are.

So don't let the world tell you that less than your best is not good enough.  You are made by a God who has to make Art and you were his very best creation... and being made in His image, you also must create.  However imperfectly in this fallen of worlds for our creations will always fall short of perfection.

Such as a garden which goes unharvested in September.  But it was glorious in May and June and July and most of August.

Photo:  Flowers in front of a business in South Haven, Michigan.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - How Ebola might affect us


My daughter and I were talking about the Ebola situation in Dallas recently.  Mainly because a friend of her husband's family is one of the two American doctors who contacted the disease and were brought back to America.

It became a blip on my radar when the local newspaper had a front page story of Universities monitoring students from that part of the world where the outbreak has occurred.

So I decided to learn a little more of what some favorite news guys were saying about it.  You know... the places online which talk about the "news behind the news" and all that.  Places where discernment is needed but where they often have sources of information not available to people like myself.

I told Stephanie that after listening to a couple radio programs (and then only the first half hour or so since I didn't have the time for more), what they were saying was much as I thought all along.

The first being that an Ebola outbreak is more possible than the CDC was saying and that law enforcement officials and hospitals throughout the country were encouraged to prepare for possible cases.  The second point I took away from my listening was... what was the most likely scenario for the American public.

Both of which was entirely what I already suspected.

The statistical chances of an average American contracting Ebola would be very small.  Much more likely is the scenario which is possible for any pandemic.  That would be forcing people to stay inside during an incubation period.  

Think it not possible?  I'm certain the family of the Dallas Ebola patient that died thought the same thing and now they have armed guards (at least they did the last I saw any photos) by their door.   Not to mention there is a precedent in past influenza epidemics in cities.

Now, I know the chances of myself or most blog readers having a family member arrive from Liberia carrying Ebola is pretty much nonexistent.  But a family member arriving to visit a University student who unknowingly carried the disease... improbable but worth the consideration.

The preparations for having to remain indoors in case of a pandemic is really no different than what we do in my part of the world to prepare for winter storms and blizzards.  For both force most people to stay inside.  The main difference would be that after a blizzard, one could get around on skis, snowshoes, snowmobile, or possibly a 4 x 4 vehicle.

In a pandemic, it doesn't matter how you could get around.  You will not.   And that is a good thing in the long run for wherever a pandemic could break out, staying in your own home may keep you healthy. 

Am I concerned?  Not at all.  I'm more concerned about winter storms than Ebola.  Especially if we have another winter like we did last year.  But the preparations are the same for my household.  Have on hand what is needed should we be housebound for awhile.

Should you be in a position which bring the statistical chances higher... such as a first responder like police or fireman, a hospital employee, an airline employee, a missionary in that part of the world, etc.  Of course, then you need to be educated on taking further precautions.  I'm certain that is going on already.  At least one would hope so!

I remembered a good article that was written when the Swine Flu was going around and I found it in my archives.  It was written on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op website which is now defunct but thankfully their archives are there.  That link can be found below.

As with all such things, we always trust God and not fear... but simple preparations are wise indeed.

Swine Flu article... here.

CDC website... here.

ABC news story (from which above photo is taken)... here.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

My World this Week


The forest is now in that autumnal state when some trees are still green, others have turned lovely colors, and still other trees are already laying bare as in mid-winter.  When I was in town yesterday, many of the trees there are now in full color and quite beautiful.

Yesterday was a day to meet my friend for coffee when I was going into town to pick up prescriptions.  With a limited budget, even my coffee dates coincide with another purpose for driving into town!  ;)

I had printed off the 40% coupon from Jo-Ann fabrics so after we sipped way too much coffee, we spent enjoyable time just perusing the aisles and getting ideas for "stuff to make".  I feel when in Jo-Ann or Michaels much the way my husband does in the tool department of Sears.

My coupon was used to purchase a new sketchbook to use as a scrapbook journal.  The last sketchbook was nearly finished so it will continue on as my garden journal.  Yes... I do plan a scrapbook journal post soon.

So once again, here is my week as seen through the lens of a camera.

Reading

Can you tell what is on my mind these days?

The Gentle art of Domesticity* is one of my all time favorite books to peruse through when I want to "get away from it all" or just for inspiration.  

Watching

A new three episode season of Inspector Lewis!  Yeah!

This was one of my favorite BBC/PBS shows that was suppose to have ended.  However, the main actors agreed to a shorter season.  I will take what I can get.

Lovely

I love surprise packages and when this one arrived, I was in need of friendship and a bit of lovely-ness.  Thank you to my very special blog friend.  I didn't know if she wanted me to say who she is but if it is okay, admit to the making in Comments!  This is indeed a work of art. 

You may notice in the first photo above, it now resides below the bulletin board over my desk!  When I showed it to my husband, he commented that she really knew me with so many favorite things.

Collecting

I have quite a collection of cookie cutters from years (and years) of baking.  Most of them have had a home in this large glass biscotti jar but a few larger cutters reside in a drawer.

I especially enjoy finding vintage cookie cutters, quite often a dollar or less in thrift stores or even in the antique mall.

Thrifting

Speaking of thrifting and all... this shelf was just the size I needed to hold some scrapbooking and card making supplies that I have collected over the years.

It was a little over $3.00 at Goodwill with the Senior Citizen discount.  The large bookshelf will be going to its' new home with Mr. & Mrs. Christopher in a few weeks.

Creating

I saw something like these on Pinterest and I thought to myself... I have some really nice tea light candles... I have washi tape... Eureka!

I made about ten of these while watching a half an hour TV program.  Notice the tea light that is lit in the center, it is one of those LED jobbies.  These would make wonderful and inexpensive Christmas gifts, especially the LED tea lights since there is no risk of fire should one's home be shared with children or pets.

Autumn

I have had these teeny tiny pumpkins around five years and have mixed in with them tiny autumnal objects through many seasons.  The vintage truck is a very realistic reproduction that is all one piece.

This idea was not original.  I stole it from another blogger.  Probably one of you.  ;)

Decorating by Tweaking


I brought in the large spider plant from the porch on the first day frost was expected.  It needed two haircuts as a certain Maine Coon loves spider plants but they are bad for kitties!

The plant that was originally in the dining area now resides in the hanging planter... over the sink.  I quite like it.  Victoria sits on the little kitchen island and ponders ways to get her teeth into it.


Moonlight

I was in town last night just as the Harvest moon could be seen.  Gorgeous!

I missed seeing the blood red moon but this was a close second best.

Her Fluffiness

Just prior to taking this photo, I was sitting in that Lazy Boy when Victoria decided to hop on the back of the chair to lounge awhile with her fluffy tail on my head.

*All links to Amazon are Associate.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Survivor Mom Kindle Edition -- on sale for $1.99!


I usually don't announce book sales here but the Kindle version of Survivor Mom is on sale for $1.99 Tuesday (and I think Wednesday but check first).

This is truly one of the best books about deepening the pantry and preparing for emergencies that is out there today!

Amazon link... here.*

*All book links are Associate links

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Tea - God and country roads

"...And driving down the road I get a feeling
that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday. 
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong..." 
 John Denver

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.*
God

When I started writing Sunday Afternoon Tea posts well over seven years ago, I was hesitant to commit to a weekly post about current ponderings.  I mean, really... who can think of something each week?  But I have found it quite amazing at the way God speaks each week and how I receive inspiration.

I think it has something with the strange way my brain is wired up.  I do find God in peculiar circumstances and those thoughts become these weekly ponderings.  For instance, this past week I was driving into town on the country road I take when wanting to meet up with the highway.  There were few cars on the road that day but coming toward me, in the other lane, was a very large semi truck!

For a moment, the thought came to me... "I wonder if he is lost or does he know this road is a shortcut to the highway?".

Now, as an aside, there are a couple instances when one does not want to be lost on country roads.  One is after a major snowstorm when the roads and the fields look one and the same.  The other is when the corn is fully grown and you find yourself in a corn maze of county highways.

That just happened to me in August when the sweet corn was ready for harvest.  I had to stop by campus on my way to my friend's house, who by the way lives in town.  Remember that for it is important.  So I decided upon leaving campus to take a highway I rarely use.  Which would have helped me arrive quickly if I had not taken the wrong turn.

There came a time I called my friend to tell her I would be late.  She asked where I was.  I told her I had not a clue but according to the compass on the dashboard, I was headed not towards town... but away from it.

Come to think of it, with a full tank of gas I could have reached Peoria. I am not familiar with that part of the county in the best of times but with the corn crop so high, I was very very very lost.

When I finally stopped at a house and asked directions, I was told if I went to that stop sign down the road and turn left, I'd eventually end up in town.  I did as he said and after awhile, began to see some familiar landmarks.

All that to say, country roads can get you lost if you don't know where you are going.

What came to my mind that day when I drove past the semi was how many times I thought I was lost when in fact, God had me exactly on the road He intended all along.

My life was in a maze, not unlike those cut into the corn at various Harvest festivals.  I felt I had gone through this path once before!  Wasn't that the same landscape I passed half an hour ago?  Certainly I have taken a wrong turn in my life or none of these circumstances would be occurring.

I was pondering this yesterday while doing dishes and inhaling the aroma of lemon verbena dish soap.  It struck me that two of the most unhappy times of life... those which bring great pain just thinking of them... occurred after a major success.

Like that truck, I was heading full speed on the road of life and feeling quite confident about it all.  But then the scenery began to look unfamiliar and the storm clouds began swirling and the road which had been straight now contained dangerous hair pin curves.

The thought occurred to me more than once that I was not getting out of these circumstances alive!  I held on to Him for dear life, begging for an explanation.  How could a Heavenly Father who says He loves me allow this to happen?

I would immerse myself in the Psalms and like David, whine and complain and point fingers.  My enemies are overwhelming me!  My life is being drained away!  Why, just yesterday all was well and now there is complete and utter failure.

Certainly I took a wrong turn... somewhere.

But as I washed dishes and my thoughts were reflecting on those painful paths... looking backward after the road once again became straight and the storm clouds disappeared... there had been no wrong turn at all.

It was during those weeks and months and sometimes years when the road was not straight and the path not clear ahead that He was molding and shaping me in such a way He could use me after that next turn was taken.

For we don't grow very much when the road is straight and the sun is shining.  When we drive the same road every day, we tend to not give it much thought unless a deer runs out of the forest and we must brake quickly.

But when we drive that road at night.... especially when traveling through the forest... and it is dark... and the rain is pounding... we give our entire attention to the journey.  And we pray.  A lot.  And we call those who love us and ask them to pray so we arrive safely home.

That is what He is doing when we find ourselves lost on life's journey.  When we feel we are surrounded by high corn stocks and we can't see over the top to tell where we are.  When the way is dark and the path has unexpected sharp bends in the road and we wonder if we will ever get out of this particular trial alive.

During those times, He often has shown me areas I need to grow to be more Christ like.  Sometimes there has been a character flaw which needed ironing out a bit or an area where I needed to grow.  There have even been instances where He was just preparing me to be able to empathize with one who needed a friend later on the road.

Sometimes I never completely figured out the whys or wherefores and He told me to stop stomping my feet and holding my breath and just get over it.  For He is infinite and all knowing and I am not.

There comes a day, sometimes suddenly but most often a little at a time... when the sun begins to shine and we understand just a little.  Perhaps never to fully understand the path He led us on this side of Eternity.

But we know we have been changed.  We've been clinging to the Source of life and His wisdom has been flowing through us so we could not only survive but come out of it stronger.

And yes... all of these ponderings began when I met up with that semi truck near the pond and not far from where I turn off the road if going to Mr. & Mrs. Christopher's house.  Thoughts which continued while washing dishes and sweeping the floor and petting a Maine Coone's long fur.

Musings to share with you once again on a Sunday Afternoon. 

*Proverbs 3:5,6 NIV
Image:  Blue Stove: allposters.com

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Books & Laine's Letters

I get so many comments and e-mails thanking me for book recommendations, I've decided to share some of my favorite pantry cookbooks here.  I'll share more again if you like.

I have found a well stocked pantry must be married to a good stock of recipes.  Below are some of my favorite "from scratch" cookbooks.

Hearth & Home by Karey Swan

This delightful "cooking from scratch" style cookbook was popular among homeschoolers for years.  I was delighted to find out it is not only available on Amazon, but now it is available for the Kindle!

If I could recommend one cookbook to use with your pantry, this is it.  I gave my first copy to Stephanie when she got married and then missed it so much, I purchased it again soon thereafter.

More info here.*

More-with-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre

Another must-have cookbook for those wanting to cook "from scratch".

It was put out by the Mennonites long ago but it is still an important book for learning to cook from the pantry, as well as containing a lot of inexpensive recipes from other cultures from around the world.  I consider it an essential in my kitchen.

More info here.*

Make-A-Mix

Do you like convenience foods but want to get rid of the bad ingredients?  Then make your own mixes.

This well known book not only gives recipes for making all kinds of convenience mixes, but has recipes in which they are used!

More info here.*

The Elliot Homestead: From Scratch, Traditional, Whole Foods Dishes for easy everyday meals by Shaye Elliott

If you like the cookbook called Nourishing Traditions, you will find the suggestions and recipes in this book much easier to understand and there are lovely photos!  An excellent farm-to-table style book... written by the farmer!

More info here.*

The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marion Morash

This out-of-print cookbook is one of my all time favorites.  My copy is quite battered.  When I found a good used copy long ago at the library sale, I bought it to send to Stephanie.  It is the best cookbook I know for cooking with veggies.

From the Victory Garden TV show.  If you can find a copy at a good price, buy it!

More info here.*

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

Absolutely my favorite book of essays about cooking that also shares how to cook.  If one knows how to cook and the basics of how food goes together, the sky is the limit in the kitchen!   This book made it to my Top 10 Influential Books list.

More info here.*

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

I just talked about this book a week or two ago but it is also an excellent book about cooking from scratch and with ingredients we have around us.  Like the above book, it is essays with recipes.

More info... here.*


A Very Important Link!

My very favorite source of good "from scratch" recipes was Laine's Letters.  Sooo... run... don't walk... with your fingers, of course... and go over to The Bluebirds are Nesting blog.  Laine, from Laine's Letters, is there and with a very important announcement.

Hurry, click... here.

By the way, the reason her website was down I've heard is that it was hacked!

*All links are Amazon Associate's links.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Guest Post at Sallie Borrink Learning

Homeschool Graduation
I have the honor of being the first guest this month at my friend Sallie's website called Sallie Borrink Learning.  She will be writing or having guest bloggers talking about children who learn differently all of October.  In this post, I share how we came to homeschool our son and some of the struggles we went through raising an ADHD child.

Now, this is not my friend Sally (as in Clarkson) but my friend Sallie (whom we affectionately call Michigan State Sallie in our home).   Sallie was blogging even before I was, her original blog was called Two Talent Living

Excerpt:

"A homeschool Dad from the church we attended at the time warned us that we needed to take our son out of the public schools NOW and consider teaching him at home.  He knew our son and was concerned he would believe the labels being put on him and act them out.

Around this time, I also read the book by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay called For the Children’s Sake:  Foundations of Excellence for Home and School.  To make a very long story short… we began our homeschool journey at the kitchen table on the first day of the second grade."

For the rest of the story, click on over... here.