Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My World this Week

Tweaking the top of the buffet for Spring
Is it cold or what?  At least here in the Midwest of the USA.  Which reminds me, I got a bit of a chuckle from one of our Australian friends commenting on a Michigan reader (I think that was the state where she lives) who was amazed at their fresh figs.

I live in that part of the middle of the country and I must say, I have never seen a fresh fig outside of a grocery store, either.  The reason?  They would down right freeze their giblets in our winters!  So where do they grow?  California I know but there has to be other warm states where they are grown.  I see the California fig commercials for them once in awhile.

Michigan is famous for growing some of the best fruit and veggies in the country.  As for my specific part of the world... we grow corn.  And soybeans.  And deer.

So what is going on in my world during this Arctic blast?  Other than being thankful the van starts and no pipes froze?  Well, this...

Reading

The bottom book, the one where the top of it is peeking out... it is what I am reading and cooking from for review.  More about it (hopefully) on Friday.

I'm reading N. D. Wilson's Death By Living on the Kindle, purchased when it was on sale and after seeing it quoted quite often by many writers I respect.  It is a wonderful read.  Better known for his works of fiction for young people, he uses the same style in his nonfiction... which offers some really good theological thinking in a topsy turvey roller coaster perhaps one needs Dramamine while reading kind of way.

More info on it is... here. This book is one I can read through and them come back to over and over.  Read it if you want to be inspired.  But be prepared for the loopity loops.  Which you will understand if you have read his fiction I am told.

Watching

I admit to becoming obsessed with Murdoch Mysteries, which is called The Artful Detective here in the States.  It is shown on the Ovation Channel for those receiving cable or satellite TV.

I must warn just a little that it is a Canadian TV show.  Which makes it almost British... or similar to British TV rules.  And for those of us who absolutely adore BBC shows, you will know they are more lax on some things than we are in the gold ole USA in prime time (not at all otherwise!).

One episode had nude backsides showing (Murdock AuNatural... or something to that affect).  But they are known to limit the amount of blood and gore on their TV shows, so their murder victims certainly look less gross than CSI.

The actors performances are wonderful.  I adore Murdock but want to slap his feminist lady friend at times (who becomes his wife in the new season, which is new here but old news in Canada).  But then I have to stop and think what it would have been like to be a woman in turn of the century (last century obviously) Canada or the United States.  Then I give her some slack.  Mostly.  Kind of.

Creating

I bought a package of blank bookmarks for about $1.99 at the store and I've been playing with them and washi tape ever since.  Here are a few I made last week.

I should have taken a photo of the animal print card and bookmark I made for my granddaughter's birthday.  I always forget to take photos of cards, especially.  Perhaps that will be my next project to show... next week?  Specifics on most of the washi tape is offered below.  The polka dot tape is available just about anywhere they sell washi tape, that may have been purchased at Walmart where they have a tiny selection.


I thought I'd also share the way I have learned to keep paper washi tape from tearing... and true, original washi tape is a masking tape product.  I have learned to press one little section of it on a table and then slowly roll it toward me.  I cut it just a tad bit longer than I plan to use, carefully holding on to the end I am cutting off.

That has worked very well to prevent wonky washi tape.  Which is very frustrating and almost makes you give up... almost.  Hopefully my solution will help another washi tape fanatic crafter?

Washi Tape

So many readers asked about the washi tape I was using, I thought I'd add links to those I purchased from Amazon with credit (for which I thank you, I bought Art stuff instead of books the last couple of months!).  I ordered the washi tape I'm sharing photos of today as I can't find anything like them where I live. 

I absolutely adore this Japanese washi tape.  I purchased the smaller pack... here.  It is also available in a larger pack, as shown on the bottom photo above... here.  It is one of those rare tapes that has a white background and the colors show up beautifully.  It would make lovely birthday cards.

This is the most amazingly beautiful washi tape.  It is all food and garden related.  Plus it is that wider tape I've come to enjoy using.  More info on it is found... here.  It also has a whiter than usual background, which make the photos show up nicely.  My eyesight is not good enough to read the prose... sigh.  But that does not make it less lovely.

This wide washi tape has the appearance of vintage bird books.  Amazing.  If you follow the link and then click on one of the photos on the Amazon page, it shows how someone used this tape on the front of a book!  You can view it... here.

One of the bookmarks had two of the above washi tapes on it, too.  I've already shown you a photo of the container this comes in but the above photo from the Amazon page details more specifics.  Other than their Christmas version, this has been my most used washi tape so far.  Further info... here.


Decorating By Tweaking
I love the Friendly Village coffee server I found for $7.00 at the antique mall a year or two ago.  Cheap because it has a chip you can't see on the lid!  It is very Spring like...
The mixer is B.A.C.K. on the kitchen counter so I had to move stuff around.
The antique drawer is also back, holding stuff.  That's the inexpensive canola oil in the glass bottle to the left.

Her Fluffiness
I found this one when scanning some old photos and I had to show it again.  She will take a nap just about anywhere.  There are objects in this area now so she can no longer nap there.  But don't worry.  She has plenty of other places.

Our former kitties, Sasha and Storm, had only a couple of places they slept and usually on the back of the family room sofa. As for this one?  Who knows where we will find her.

NoteAll links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  Which means... if you make a purchase after clicking on a link - or- if you enter Amazon.com through the widget on the sidebar (even if you do not purchase what you clicked on), then I receive a tiny fraction of what you purchase.  It costs neither of us anything (well, for me it costs the time and effort to put in the links but it is worth it!).  It all adds up so no purchase is too small and I so appreciate the big stuff!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NIV Proclamation Bible, a review


This Bible is not what I expected as it does not have indepth Study notes.  So if you are looking for a Bible to help you along in your understanding of specific scriptures or word studies, this one is not for you.

It is a good hardback NIV Bible for everyday use.  The font is clear and just the right size for easy reading.  There is good cross referencing, a brief description of each Book of the Bible, and an excellent concordance.  Everything you need for a basic Bible is here.

But it is not what I expect from a "Study Bible".

There are essays and articles in the front of the Bible from various theologians.  These would be especially helpful to pastors and Bible teachers.  They are titled:
  1. A Bible Overview
  2. The Historical Reliability of the Bible
  3. Finding the "Melodic Line" of a Book
  4. From Text to Doctrine: The Bible and Theology
  5. From Text to Life: Applying the Old Testament
  6. From Text to Life: Applying the New Testament
  7. From Text to Sermon: Preaching the Bible
  8. From Text to Study: Small Groups and One-to-Ones
  9. Biblical Interpretation: A Short History
If you are looking for a Study Bible with indepth word studies, charts, indepth maps, etc. then this Bible is not for you.  However, I would say it does have a place in some reference shelves for the included essays.

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

More information can be located on Amazon.com... here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Focusing on your gifting

Cozy days inside, out of the cold and snow.
A few years ago, I received an e-mail from my friend Sally (Clarkson).  The e-mail was requesting prayer and input on a new ministry she was considering... and it made me smile.  Not for the ministry itself.  No... it was because of the other two recipients.  Both of whom were successfully published Christian authors and speakers.  One of them a New York Times bestselling author.  Oh, my...

Do you ever compare yourself to others?  Come on... be honest.  We all do.  Those of us who are bloggers see where another blogger... one who started out just like us... has now written her second successful book.  How about the food bloggers who carefully prepare, snap photos of food, and offer excellent advice... but feel a little jealous of the other food bloggers who have received cookbook deals.

There are the Sunday School teachers who diligently prepare and teach every Sunday for years upon years who watch Beth Moore on TV and think, "I could do that".  How about the many talented chefs who have never been offered a show on TV?

Have you ever coveted another person's gift?  I do when I hear a beautiful singer for I cannot carry a tune whatsoever.  I don't have many memories of my father since he died when I was a child.  But I do remember him offering me a quarter (or was it a nickel?)... not to sing.

Well, part of this whole focusing thing for 2015 has been God teaching me about focusing on what gifts He has given me, being more accepting of what path He has me walking in this journey of life, and truly appreciating the gift He gives another.

I don't remember not being able to write.  That is a clue, you know.  Your gift is found in 1) your passions... what you do that makes your heart sing, and 2) what you enjoyed doing in childhood, and 3) sometimes in what you must do or you will go a little crazy... more so than you family already think you are.

You probably know your gift(s) already but accepting them and how God wants to use them can be a lifetime struggle.  

For some whom He wants to use in a more public manner, it may require getting over a fear of speaking in public places... or flying... or being away from home.  However, I think for most of God's children, it is more the acceptance of using their gifts in the background.  Writing for just a few.  Making Art to hang in the living room of our own home or to give as gifts to friends.  Baking the best cookies known to mankind for the neighborhood children.

For you see, the Giver of Gifts wants to use us where we are needed.  Few who minister for Him will write books that become New York Times bestsellers.  Most pastors will spend their entire lives shepherding a flock of less than a hundred people each and every week.  Some of the best cooks in the country make dinner each night for their family and some fortunate friends.

I once started to write a book, bringing to it the years of research and experience about what we would now call "prepping".  I wanted to teach people how to stock a pantry and why that was important.  I tried and tried and tried... but could not bring it all together.  I prayed one frustrating prayer after another.

And you know what His answer would always be?  "... Just write."  What do you mean, "just write"?  How does one "just write"?  Well, to make a very long story short (for there is neither time nor space to share again how Coffee Tea Books & Me came about) but once I started blogging I found out what He meant.

Just write... for that is how my mind thinks and how my fingers work on the keyboard and the way I communicate best.  Not in book form.  Not in chapters.  But in writing to people just one day at a time... whatever I'm pondering that day or that week.

I tell people who ask about blogging to just begin.  Don't worry if anyone is reading.  When I started blogging, I only knew about ten people for certain were reading and they were either friends or family.  Write the best you can!  That's what archives are for.

He is still teaching me, you know.  My newest Scrapbook Journal is different than my previous such journals.  They were fine for where I was then.  But this one is more about having fun creating Art with different mediums than using it as a day to day (or week to week) journal.

I longed for years to garden and we finally built the raised bed garden when we moved to the country.  My garden will never win any awards and last year I had to let it go in the last month or so due to a perfect storm of circumstances.  But I plan to plant and hopefully harvest this year.  Something.  Tomatoes.  Lettuce.  Green Beans.  Enjoying the perennial herbs.  Just enough for perhaps a few weeks of garden goodness if that.

But doing something... far from perfect... or even what I'd long for it to be.  But doing...

Is there a passion in your life, a deep desire to do something but you fear starting small?  You don't like that whole learning curve process?  You fear you are not good enough? Or perhaps... you ask yourself why bother when it does not add to the family income?

Do you love photography?  Do you love writing?  Do you love dabbling with paints or modeling clay or sketching?  Did you create your own jewelry as a teenager or take over your mother's kitchen to make organic skin creams?

Have you always wanted to learn to bake bread or make soup or prepare real Indian curry or that Scandinavian bread your great grandmother was famous for baking?  How about canning or pickling or some other form of preserving food?

Does a photo of a proper tea time on the Internet make you swoon but you have never  hosted your own small tea party for friends?

What is there in the deepest part of your being, calling to you to try.  Perhaps something entirely new?  Perhaps starting again a passion you stopped long ago.

Look at your bookshelves (which would take all day for some of us)... what do they say about you?  What nonfiction books make their way to your home?  What fiction writers attract you most?

God has given you a gift and more likely many gifts.  He never ever (ever) leaves one of His children without a gifting.  Otherwise... why are we here?  We are here, my friends, to use the gifts He has given us on the journey He has us on... pray about it, ponder it.  He will gladly show you if you don't know already.

But I think you do.  I think you know the gift He has given you.  All of them?  At least one of them.  Or two.

About that e-mail I received a few years ago?  Well, that ministry Sally was considering became Mom Heart ministries... and what did I have to offer that two nationally world renown authors and speakers did not?  What could I share with my exceptionally talented friend?  My own experience.  My own journey.  Perhaps the fact we are about the same age and the other women were much younger. 

You are the only person in the history of the world who has your unique set of gifting and experiences and family and friends and possibilities.  No other person can be used by God like He can use you.  Think of it... and be careful not to compare yourself to other people in the Kingdom that He uses differently.

You cannot create your Art and use your gifts with full joy if you are comparing yourself to another with similar gifting.  You are unique and so are they.  

As for me, I just write.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle -- Good Links

This past week, I learned where my pantry is weak.  Very weak.  Downright deficient.

As I lay as still as possible with intense pain, brought down by back spasms.  They were likely caused by a combination of lifting a somewhat heavy object and the affects of days upon days upon days of frigid weather. 

The genesis of which was brought about by a childhood fall down a flight of cement stairs and reinforced at around age twenty with yet another fall down a flight of stairs.

Apparently grace in motion is not a gift I was given at birth... but I digress.

I had no backup at all for when the chief cook and bottle washer is down and out, unable to move (much less not getting in a night's sleep for four days due to the pain).  The spasms have lessened and the pain not as bad if I move slowly.  But when I recover, the first thing I am going to do regarding the pantry is preparing some make ahead freezer meals!

So while I have no personal experiences or wisdom to write about this week, I will share some favorite recent blog reads having to do (in some way or another) with living a pantry lifestyle.

The first link happens to explain what I call living a pantry lifestyle (as opposed to preparing for TEOTWAWKI) better than I have ever read before.  I enjoy reading Ben Hewitt's blog even if I am not a homesteader.  Read his words... here.

The second blog post (from the folks at Ready Nutrition) is similar in a different way.  If that does not confuse you, mosey on over here where they write about how "prepping" can save you money even if there never is a TEOTWAWKI episode in your life.  Which, by the way, can be a job loss and not WWIII.

A Working Pantry (here) is a new-to-me blog but absolutely wonderful.  I think I followed a link to it from The Bluebirds are Nesting (here).

The last link is actually to a recipe I saw this week.  I plan to try it when I can move around easier.  It is a good pantry recipe if it works.  If you try it, let us know!  It is called Magic Custard Cake and the recipe is... here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Patriots Redcoats & Spies, a review


I love to read about the time period of the American Revolution.  This story by a father and son team, Robert J. Skead and Robert A. Skead, did not let me down at all.

It is one of those YA books in which adults will find a good read on a rainy (or snowy) afternoon.  It is good when authors write in such a way that they are not "writing down" to kids an adolescents.

In this book, the twin sons of Patriot Lamberton Clark must carry an important document to General George Washington when their father is shot and unable to make the dangerous journey himself.  Until this time, they had no idea their father was a member of the famous Culper Spy Ring.

The book is about their adventures and obstacles along the way.  It offers not only a good story but a glimpse into what life was like for the people who were living in the midst of a Revolution.

While boys, girls, parents, and grandparents will enjoy this book... it is especially good for young boys!  I always love to find stories of valor and bravery for boys to read.  Especially if they are believable.

This is a sturdy hardback book, the first in what appears to be a new series.  A very enjoyable story!

More information can be found at Amazon.com... here.*

This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Choosing your legacy

For I am confident of this very thing,
that He who began a good work in you
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 NASB

"But if you refuse to serve the LORD,
then choose today whom you will serve...
But as for me and my family,
we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15 NLV

Turning sixty really rattled me.  Sometimes I still have to stop and think... sixty?  Really?  It did the same thing to my mother.  I remember on her 60th birthday, she told me she still felt like a teenager on the inside.  I can relate.

Long before my last birthday, I started thinking about the concept of "finishing well" and leaving a legacy.  Now, I am not talking about living a perfect life.  The only person who succeeded in doing that was crucified around 2,000 years ago.

I look back at some things I said and decisions I made in the past and wonder what I was thinking?  I have learned we have to give our younger selves a lot of grace!  There is a lot to be said for the wisdom of hindsight.

I have read so often of people who began well, at least claiming to follow Christ.  They said they had accepted Christ as Savior, asked Him to be the Lord of their life... and I have no reason to doubt it true. 

But somewhere along the way, they lost what it was all about.  Him.  Not them.

For instance, recently I saw that a ministry was offering a print by a well known Christian artist who died a few years ago.  I have two of his books and they are among my favorite books about creativity.  So I was quite stunned when I found out, upon his death, that he had been divorced (or his wife was seeking a divorce) due to his affairs.

He died as a result of mixing alcohol and Valium, in the home he shared with his girlfriend. Drinking killed him.  Just like his dad before him, drinking became his downfall.  You would think he would have remembered that when he took his first drink.  I suppose he thought he could get away with a little drink here, another there... no harm.

We have all heard accounts of famous Christians who have made wrong decisions that took their life into areas in which I doubt they planned to journey.  Pastors and priests who plunged into sexual sin.  Elders who skimmed money from the Sunday morning offering.  Christian singers and musicians and authors and evangelists and TV personalities.

Some legacies... I would say most of them... are tarnished by our own doing.  Then there are those for whom others attempt to bring them down.  Perhaps in my radius of knowledge, no one has made more of an effort to bring down the respect of his parent's ministry as Francis and Edith Schaeffer's son.

Scathing books written about his parents by a man slightly older than I am, quite bitter about his childhood and adolescence.   Yes, he was neglected due to the demands of his parents ministry by the time he was born.  But we all have flawed parents.  Not to mention, they were quite honest about their imperfections in their books, especially Edith.

We choose to forgive or we let bitterness set in and become the pawn of the evil one.  For just as all good gifts come from above... all bitterness and hatred spewing out of our soul is influenced by the father of lies and deceit.

We all have flaws.  Every human since Adam has an area of their life where the enemy of their soul can find a crack in which to enter... should we let him get away with it.  And it usually begins with an innocent thought, a reminder, a glimpse of something we don't have that we want and another has it... a memory of hard times brought about by something our parents or siblings or friends did... stomping our feet and pouting at counting every penny when the guy next door who lobbies for abortion gets to travel the world and enjoy fine dining.

Which is why I so often remind my husband that our attitude can be the best gift we bring to the Lord and lay at His feet.  I don't understand... but I trust.  When I get tired and discouraged and want to give up, I will turn to You, Lord... not the bottle, not the lures of one who offers sweet words to entice, not photos on the screen or chapters in a lurid book, not the second piece of chocolate cake or the entire bag of potato chips, nothing else.

Nothing life entices us with... not a thing which brings momentary pleasure but has eternal consequences... compares to the promises of Eternity.  Everyone is responsible for their own decisions, their own actions, their own response.

My friends, we are in the middle of a great cosmic war between God and Lucifer for the souls of men.  Our Father equips us with everything we need to battle!  We are men and women of valor!  We are the victors!

If... we keep our eyes on Him and not on the things of this world.  That is not easy to do.  I would say it is impossible without the Spirit of God living within.  Our Teacher, our Comforter, our Friend... our Strength.

I want my legacy to be that with all the stuff life threw at me, I stayed the course. I finished the fight. I stumbled but did not give up. I kept my eyes on the goal.

Not perfectly.  Never ever perfectly.

But with the asking of forgiveness and redemption when I stumbled... picking myself up (in His strength, not mine), brushing myself off, and running ever so weakly at times toward the finish line.

It doesn't matter if you are six or sixty,  ten or one hundred ten... none of us know where that finish line exists in our lifetime.  So we always have that goal in mind.  "Well done, good and faithful servant".

Out of breath.  Battle scarred. Limping along.  But we made it.  And before us there He is, arms outstretched, the King of Kings... the Lord of Lords... our Bridegroom... the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!

The stuff of this life?  How could I ever have cared.

Image:  Building Memories by J. Sorenson

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - The Hospitality Pantry Revisited, Tweaked, Again


This is a repeat of one of my more popular Pantry Posts, tweaked slightly to update it.   I usually post this just before the Holidays.  However, Spring is just around the corner (although our wind chills are to be -27 tonight).  We do have reasons to show hospitality beyond Christmas.  ;)

I have written about the Hospitality Pantry for years but it is time to take it out of storage, dust it off, and ponder it again.  For it is one of the greatest stress busters I know of, especially during this time of year.

The idea originally was presented long ago in an Emilie Barnes' book.  Although I am certain women throughout the centuries have had something similar.  Basically it involves thinking through what you would want to have on hand for showing hospitality (I refuse to entertain, it reminds me of having to perform).

Some of the items you want to have in the Hospitality Pantry will already be in your kitchen.  For instance, coffee and tea if you partake of those on an everyday basis.  But it is also nice to have special coffees and teas for sharing with friends. 

I almost always have whole milk on hand and usually cream for coffee and tea.  But you can keep a box of shelf stable artificial creamers (the kind you see in a little bowl on restaurant tables) in your pantry.   We don't use them for everyday cream but they have a place in the Hospitality Pantry.  They come plain and flavored and they are much nicer to serve than powdered creamer should you not have the real thing available.

I once attended a party where there was a large carafe of decaf coffee (for it was evening) and the hostess made it special by offering numerous flavored creams.   It made something as simple as coffee quite festive.   While these creamers need refrigeration, they have a very long shelf life in the refrigerator (a Don't Ask, Don't Tell fake food).

If you are a very good friend or a fortunate family member, I will share one of my favorite Green Mountain Apple Cider K-cups... which I tend to hoard like silver or gold because they are expensive.   I love my little red Keurig, a Christmas gift from the New England Contingent (that being my daughter and her family if you are a new reader) a few years ago.  It is not economical to serve a crowd with K-cups but it perfect for a friend or two stopping by unexpectedly.

Otherwise I keep a variety of tins of tea... and off and on a package of "good coffee".  I always have Splenda on hand but if you do not use sugar substitutes yourself, you really must have a small box of them on hand.  Statistically you will have a diabetic or two in your home from time to time.  I know people who simply prefer a sugar substitute, too.

While I realize the lemonade mixes, instant iced tea mixes (the unflavored being simply tea), and such are not always as good as making it from scratch, it is still a very good thing to have on hand when someone just "drops by".  I have found the frozen concentrate lemonade to be quite good.  Someone left a comment on a previous pantry post that they kept Real Lemon juice in their pantry and made lemonade from it, too.

We like to have a couple bottles of sparkling juice in the pantry but a bottle of good wine would be an idea should you so imbibe.  A number of guests we have often do not drink alcohol so sparkling juice is more practical.  And looks quite festive in pretty stemware! 

I like to have store bought cookies such as Pepperidge Farm or a different brand of really good cookie.  But if you have freezer space, home baked cookies, scones, and quick breads freeze well and would be more cost efficient.  Cakes and cupcakes freeze well if wrapped properly, too.  You can even frost them while they are frozen and they defrost quickly.

There are so many savory items that are shelf stable for your Pantry.  For instance, most of the larger grocery stores sell summer sausage rolls.   If one has a few bars of cheese in the refrigerator and fancy crackers in the Pantry... instant appetizers.  Think of the possibilities as you peruse the food gift aisles, they are often shelf stable.

Years ago Stephanie served pepperoni slices with cheese on crackers as an appetizer.  I had never thought of such a thing and it became a favorite snack for Christopher when he lived at home, served on a whole grain Triscuit or a Ritz style cracker.  Pepperoni also comes in shelf stable packaging.

The Internet and cookbooks have wonderful ideas for easy finger foods.  Tea time articles are full of them.  Many of the fillings and toppings have cream cheese as a base, which has a long shelf life in the refrigerator.  It doesn't take much freezer space to slip a loaf of Pepperidge Farm party bread into a Ziploc bag and defrost it as a base for open face sandwiches.

Don't forget items like lemon curd, mango salsa in a jar, or pepper jelly (my daughter serves pepper jelly over a block of cream cheese, along with crackers.  Delicious!).   Once again, some of these items you find on the specialty food aisle of a store are rather expensive for everyday use but perfect to add something extra when showing Hospitality.

So what if you want to provide a meal?  Well, if you have the freezer space you can freeze a lasagna or a casserole.  Our friends must eat gluten free so if they are coming for dinner and bringing their son (who lives with them), I will plan ahead and make something gluten free.  But I have also been known to keep a Stouffer's lasagna in the freezer and it is good.

Right now I have chicken stock in the pantry, I prefer low sodium organic with these products but it is not always economically feasible.  Sometimes Kroger puts them on sale.  I recently put together a really good soup at the last minute for our supper with a carton of the chicken stock and some diced root veggies.  At the last minute before serving I placed some chopped swiss chard I'd sauteed in butter and a little bit of the stock on the soup.  Delicious (even if a certain husband looked at it with suspicion at first... what is this green stuff?).

I often have a package of Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini on the pantry shelves.  It is shelf stable so it does not have to be refrigerated or frozen and it actually won a Cooks Illustrated taste test against those which do require refrigeration.  A jar of really good pasta sauce poured over it after it is cooked and... wallah!  I have found mixing a can of pizza sauce with a can of chopped tomatoes make for a really good pasta sauce and both cans can be kept on the pantry shelves.

Another easy-to-store dish for an informal get together is Velveeta (which is shelf stable and one of my Don't Ask, Don't Tell fake foods) and Salsa.  I like to brown a little sausage or ground beef, drain it and add the Velveeta and Salsa to that but you do not have to use meat at all.  I keep it warm in the Crock Pot before and while serving it.  Be certain to keep corn chips made for dipping - or - keep soft corn taco shells which you cut into wedges and either bake or (not healthy but better) fry.  They are easy to store and inexpensive.

Obviously this post is just to give you a basic idea and there are so many, many options for a Hospitality Pantry.  A lot depends on how deep you want to make it and to whom you want to show Hospitality. Should it be more like a tea time, then your readiness would go into that direction. 

Do you have small children over very often?  Then keep packages of animal crackers or goldfish crackers (preferably a brand without artificial coloring, I speak from experience as a mother of an ADHD boy).  I used to make a vanilla wafer cookie and keep them in the freezer for kids.

One suggestion I do offer, for items like Pepperidge Farm cookies and anything a family member can grab for a snack... it is a good idea to have part of your pantry in a place not easily accessible.  Perhaps even from yourself if a package of potato chips is to be part of your pantry, or chocolate, or the proverbial cookies.  They all have a way of calling my name in a siren call around 9:00 at night.

At one time, when I had people over more often and I had a deep pantry, I kept many such items in a large green Rubbermaid container on my Pantry Shelf.  It was next to two similar containers which each held boxes of pasta and bags of beans.  So no one thought to look in it for cookies.  There are such places in many kitchens... such as the shelf over the refrigerator (I don't have anything stored there it is so hard to reach).

Thinking of the Hospitality Pantry can be a lot of fun and one can extend it to finding pretty paper napkins, paper plates, and items to make serving fun.  The sky is truly the limit as long as you bring your imagination.

If you have anything in your pantry that would be wonderful to include in a Hospitality Pantry, do share it with us in Comments!

PhotoMy favorite everyday teapot and the brocade tea cozy purchased at the Mission Thrift Store a few years ago.  I get it out when I need to keep tea hot for a very long time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Soup Club cookbook, a review


Judging from the title alone, one would think this cookbook is just for those interested in starting a soup club.  Well, yes it does have the history of this particular soup club and the instructions on how one works... but this is also a collection of delicious soup recipes as well as side dishes that look absolutely yummy.

I plan to make the cornbread recipe this week.  Cream cheese in a corn bread recipe?  I can't wait to try it!

So what is a soup club?  In this case, it is four friends getting together (who love soup) and deciding that once a week one of the "members" makes a large batch of soup which can be shared with the other three families.  And then once a week for three weeks, they receive homemade soup and they do not have to cook.  Being a soup lover, this is one food club I would enjoy.

But as I said, you don't have to even think of starting a club to enjoy this book.  For one thing, it is so easy to handle.  The cover is soft enough to bend easily but sturdy enough to live through multiple lunches and suppers.  It is large enough that the print is not tiny and there are beautiful photos.  There is not a photo of every recipe but then again... how many ways can you photograph a bowl of soup?

The recipes are easy to follow and such a good variety between basic soups, ethnic additions, and seasonal offerings.  Some of the recipes are:
  • Various Broths
  • Miso Soup
  • Egg Drop Soup
  • Green Split Pea Soup
  • Cuban Black Bean Soup
  • The Dudes' Chili
  • Potato Leek Soup
  • Carrot Coconut Soup
  • Potato Cheddar Soup
  • Curried Apple Celeriac Soup
  • Spiced Pumpkin Soup
  • Winter Corn Chowder
  • Mushroom and Cashew Cream Soup
  • Senegalese Peanut Soup
  • Watermelon Gazpacho
  • Tomato Gazpacho
  • Saffron Seafood Chowder
  • Filipino Healing Soup
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Jewish Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Italian Wedding Soup
  • ... and lots more.

There are also plenty of additional recipes for salads, dressings, side veggies, breads, pastas, snacks, etc.  Since these are recipes the members actually use all the time, they are home tested.

I highly recommend this book!  For more information click on over... here.*  You can get a look inside the book there.

This book was received from Blogging For Books for the purpose of review but the opinions are my own.

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My World this Week

Come on in, set a spell!
I've been a little under the weather in My World but beginning to feel better.  Although reading and reviewing were accomplished, the time I had planned to spend answering e-mails was replaced by my pillow and the sofa.

Nothing serious but those who live with a chronic illness know how such days can hit from nowhere.  Sigh...

Otherwise, my week has been just fine thank you. Let me show you...  ;)

Reading

In the midst of all the review book reading (the reviews on the bottom two books coming up soon), I am taking a mental vacation by reading one of my all time favorite books, that link... here*.  If I was on an island and only had a few books to take with me, this would be one of them!

Decorating by Tweaking

There was a little moving around here and there to put the Kitchen Aid back on the kitchen counter.  More coming up soon.

Pantry Stuff

One finds pantry space where available.  This cute table was a long ago thrift store find.  It sits behind the Lazy Boy chair.  Sometimes there are also baskets on the floor between the two when necessary.

Snowy Days
I was asked what is in the barn, I don't know as I have never been in it.  The road leading to that farm is actually far down our country road.
Quintessential country!

We had a brief warm up so the snow is not so deep as it was.  At least we are not like our New England family who has snow measured in feet!

Washi Tape

I plan to do an entire post updating my scrapbook journal soon but here is an answer to a question from last week.  Most of my washi tape has been purchased as I find it at various craft stores and box stores (ie: Michaels, Joanne's, Walmart, etc.)  The washi tape used above was purchased in a package of three complimenting designs at Michaels.


But I have ordered some through Amazon.   The Vintage Christmas washi tape above come in a set as do all washi tapes (I think) offered by Cavallini.  It can be found... here*.  I used it a lot at Christmas and found the way the Cavallini tapes are designed to mix and match made creating so much fun.


I also have their Flora and Fauna set, link... here.*  I purchased it with Christmas credit but haven't had a chance to use it, yet.  Like their Christmas set, it is designed to mix and match.  They have other lovely sets that I don't own but you can view by clicking the above link.


This is the other washi tape ordered from Amazon.  It is bright and vibrant where as the other tape I've shown you is more of a vintage style.  The link to the above tape is... here*.

Most washi tape is decorated masking tape so it is transparent but I also have washi tape that is made of fabric.  That is what the washi tape on the battery operated votive light above is made with. 

I have found that you get what you pay for when purchasing washi tape.  The very cheap stuff often has only a small amount of tape on the spool whereas spending a little more gives you a whole lot more in size and quality.  And really, compared to most art supplies, even the good stuff is not all that expensive.

Because You Asked

A reader asked what that was hanging under the bulletin board?  This lovely personalized quilted wall hanging made by a dear blog friend.  It makes me happy just looking at it while I work.

Her Fluffiness
She loves playing with her mouse that my husband tied to an old shoelace!  Like ummm... Bigfoot, many photos of Victoria are blurred.  Especially when in play mode.

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.