Friday, October 31, 2008

tired tidbits

i have had an extremely profitable day. unfortunately, I'm so tired. and my communication skills are more than seriously lacking. hopefully this will be clearer than pea soup. ; )

i have almost all of our laundry done for the week. the sixth load is in the washing machine, and the fifth one is in the drier. all the clean laundry is folded and put away. it's almost a miracle for that to happen the same day it all got washed, but my mom helped. i also organized my closet, which was a rather large undertaking this time. i went through the clothes in my closet and dresser and my husband's and dresser and decided which things needed to be kept, which needed to be thrown away, and which needed to go the the local thrift store. i am so grateful as i realized that i have grown in the ability to make decisions quickly. maybe it's because of growing up. maybe it's mom-hood. maybe it's a bit of both. ; )

this evening we went over to my parents' house for lunch. after dinner my dad, husband, and another man from church went into the basement where they cut up four sheep that had been given to them and us by a local sheep rancher. i'm really thankful for God's provision of the quantity and quality of specialty meat at very little cost to us (the only cost being the smelly and messy job of cutting it and packaging it). i sure can handle that. ; ) tomorrow i'm planning of finishing cleaning it, grinding some, and packaging it all for the freezer.

speaking of God's provision of meat, my husband went hunting this morning and was able to bring home a nice deer. i'm sorry if i'm grossing anyone out. hunting is kind of an integral part of montana life, and i'm afraid that i forget how shocking it can be. it really is a tremendous way to save on the grocery budget, though. ; )

i was able to IM with one of my best friends in brazil while i was at my parents' house. while my brain was not formulating portuguese thoughts very well tonight, it was so good to catch up with her.

i am glad that tomorrow is a new day. and i'm very thankful that God gives His beloved sleep...

When it rains, it pours...

Well, I guess two blog awards in one weeks isn't quite pouring. ; )

I was excited to get my second blog award from Christina, my first bloggy friend. (Btw, I love the pink and green combination of colors in this one.)

For this award, I'm supposed to list six things I love, so here goes:

1. My Saviour and Friend, Jesus Christ

2. My family (especially my husband and son!)

3. Making stuff (quilts, other sewn items, scrapbooks, food, calligraphy art, and more)

4. Reading

5. Music (playing it and listening to it)

6. Colors (but especially green)

Now I get to pass it on. ; ) I'm supposed to choose six, so here they go (in no particular order).

1. Rachel, who makes me alternately laugh and think. (Sorry, I know you just got one on these Kreative Blog awards, but I couldn't resist since I like your blog so much. ; )

2. Tammie, my mom, whose poetry-prose is beautiful and thought provoking.

3. Kathy whose cooking blog offers mouth-watering recipes.

4. Kristena who has so many creative ideas that I just like to look and absorb them.

5. Jean whose artwork and decor ideas frequently inspire me to make something of my own.

6. Shaina has me impressed by her 6 month menu plan right now.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Glasses!

Today was a very fun day. My mom, my friend, my son, and I went to the "big city" to shop and to pick up my new glasses. See them over there? I like them a lot. ; ) I was pleased that I adjusted to the new prescription faster than I seem to remember adjusting last time. It's actually a huge answer to prayer that it turned out so well since I've been worried about getting my glasses done at Walmart after hearing of several people having nasty experiences. I'm so thankful to serve a God who cares about even little things!

I am a bargain hunter kind of shopper. And I was delighted to find some today (more of God caring about the little things in my life, I guess.) At JCPenny I was able to get some cute, modest shorts for less than two dollars. And a fun new ruffly edged t-shirt for the same price. I also found two polo shirts for Little Man at fifty cents apiece. When the cashier rang up my order, all I paid was $4.40, and I saved something like $83. Now that's a nice feeling (hooray for clearance racks!). I spent more at Goodwill where I found a cute J.Jill sweater and two nice shirts.

And I resisted the urge to spend money at several other stores since I'm trying to save up for a complete set of Jane Austen's books. (Not spending is also a good feeling.)

This evening we are probably going to go over to some good friends' house. So, since I still need to concoct a tasty dinner for my men, big and little, I will stop ratting on...
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One more thing...

Oh, I almost forgot! I got a blog award! Rachel of the Homemaker's Library and Bible Babies, who gives me food for thought and chuckles gave it to me. She made my blogging evening last night! ; )
Now it's my turn to give it. Hmmm. Who do I choose?
~First, I choose my dear Mum. She has taught me tons (and is still teaching me!). She's one of my best friends, and I love reading her blog even though we live only a few blocks away from one another.
~Next I choose this blog, Raise Them Up (sorry, I couldn't find your name, but maybe that's what you want). ; ) This bloggy friend makes me smile with her enjoyable accounts of raising boys, searching for lost toy turtles, and late in the season camping trips.
~Last, but not least, I choose one of my newest bloggy friends, Kate, whose blog, A Simple Walk, I enjoy immensely.
~Here are the rules for you three in case you want to pass it on. ; )
1. Place the logo on your blog.
2. Link to the person who awarded you.
3. You can nominate up to 5 blogs.
4. You can then add their links to your blog.
5. Leave a message in the comment section to each nominee on their blog.

Scalloped Potatoes

Last night I made scalloped potatoes for dinner, and if I hadn't been so exhausted, I would have shared the recipe yesterday. But I was, so you get it today. ; ) I love the thick, creamy yummy-ness of these, and scalloped potatoes are one of the few ways my husband really enjoyed potatoes.

Scalloped Potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons flour (depending on how thick you like your scalloped potatoes)
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 medium potatoes (red ones work best, but plain old russets work too)

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
~In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil slightly. Whisk in flour. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and bubbly.
~Peel or scrub the potatoes. Slice them into 1/4 in slices. (I have a crinkle cutter from Pampered Chef that I like to use, but a plain knife would work as well.)
~Layer the potatoes with the sauce in a deep, round 9 inch casserole dish or an 11"x7" dish, making sure there is a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish as well as a layer on top of the potatoes.
~Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes.
~Let cool for 5-10 minutes, and serve! Yum, yum.

What We've Been Up To

I've been busy working on painting our upstairs bathroom the last couple of days. Here is the result. My wonderful husband painted the top part of the walls and the ceiling (they're hard for a short little 5'2" person like me to reach), and I painted the lower, blue part. I thought it would be fun to add some whimsical flowers, dots, and scrolls. I had fun with them.
As you can see, though the paint looks good, the painting mess is still around. It probably will be for a while (at least a few days) since my husband still needs to put the finishing touches on the white. I'm looking forward to getting the curtains back up, the light fixtures and light switch and outlet covers back on, and the general clutter cleared away.
Little Man "helped" in the bathroom. He kept me company, gave me some laughs, played with miscellaneous tools, and rediscovered the magic of a Kleenex box. Yes, there was a pile of tissues outside of the box by the time I realized what he was doing. ; )

Another new accomplishment is putting the colored rings onto the yellow post of the toy pictured to the left. Most the time, the rings are in the wrong order, but that makes it more fun. He is so pleased with being able to get the rings on and is so cute as he picks up a ring with both hands, concentrates to get it around the post, then smiles and claps in pleasure when it reaches its destination.
Sometimes the rings are even in order. ; ) (This is a picture of him clapping, see those little blurry hands?)

Today is the third day in a row that he has only taken one nap. : } I'm wondering if he's starting to outgrow his morning nap. But that's okay. I can learn to adjust to the pros and cons of a new schedule.

He has also started letting go of what he has pulled himself up on and taking experimental little steps. So far the most he has managed before a little controlled tumble is about one and a half steps, but we're still very excited.

It is a little hard to see how my tiny baby boy is growing into a sturdy, adventurous Little Man. But on the other hand, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm enjoying each new stage more than the last. I wouldn't have thought it would be possible to enjoy anything more than I enjoyed having him those first few days, but I find that my capacity to enjoy must be growing.

Anyway, there's my nice, rambly journal entry of the day for you. Can you tell I love to talk (maybe even brag a little?) about Little Man? ; )
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Telling the Truth about Myself to Myself

Today was not an impressive day. I have felt strangly "blah" all day, not really unwell, but for sure not up to par. I did not check off a long list of little tasks, complete beautiful projects, or organize piles of disorder. To be honest, today is not the kind of day I love to blog about.

I have this problem of telling myself lies about days like this. I want to make myself believe that my worth is tied up to visible evidence of tasks checked off or projects finished. I feel like I'm not good enough and that I've done nothing all day. I have had to come to the realization that thinking this way is sin, it is living in a lie, when God wants to set me free with his truth! Oh, glorious, librating thought!

So here's a good dose of truth for me. Maybe my dose of truth will help you too.

~God has bought me; He values and loves me infinitely no matter what I get done (or don't).
~My husband loves me too (and said nice things about dinner). ; )
~Sharing giggles and play time with Little Man is important and valuable!
~Changing diapers and dressing and feeding him is too.
~I did get things done (a load of laundry, some dishes, my quiet time with God, some book reading).
~So, no, I didn't get the bathroom painted, and the living room is a bit messy, but they will be taken care of in good time. I do not need to feel guilty over things that God has no where said are even important and that aren't sin.

God wants me to take joy in little things, in my husband and son, in each day He gives me; and today was a day of little things. I am thankful for His many good gifts to me and for giving me slow days sometimes. If I'm in tune with His Spirit (as I'm seeking to be), He'll help me know what is important and when I can get it done.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:12

Last week I did a Bible study on Abigail. A women’s group from church that I’m part of does a Bible study more or less once a month. We’re using a book called Life Principals from the Women of the Bible book two. It has been such a blessing to study and learn more about various women who God used, whether they were willing to be used by Him or not.

This month's study on Abigail touched me in a special way. Abigail was a woman who looked out for the best interests of a wicked, foolish, and drunken husband named Nabal. I have to think that she was relying on God for wisdom and strength to deal with the awful situation she found herself in since she acted in such a noble and beautiful way. She was not only externally beautiful, but she was also wise, poised, diplomatic, decisive, just, and worthy of the confidence of her servants (and of her husband, though he did not apparently value her). In short, she did her husband good and not evil even though he was not worthy of her being that for him. Wow.

I am simultaneously excited and humbled by her example! I am excited because if God could help Abigail to do right in her horrible marriage, I know He can help me do right in my marriage to a wonderful (though human), Christian man. I am humbled because I see that too often I give in to irritation, sometimes over something as silly as being “rubbed the wrong way," so to speak. I don’t always access God’s grace to do right, to always do my husband good. May God help me overcome those temptations!

I’m so thankful for my dear husband. I love him so much and am entering this week with a new resolve to always do him good and not evil, thanks to Abigail’s lovely example and God’s loving work in my life.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yeast Donuts

Today I decided to try my hand at making yeast donuts again (last time I tried, they were not very fluffy). I think they turned out better this time, though they are still not quite the same as store bought donuts. Maybe my house is too cold for them to rise properly. Perhaps I’ll try again when it’s warmer (donuts are not a treat we indulge in very often since they are not exactly healthy, so it might be next summer next time I try). ; )

Here is the recipe I used with a few alterations. Oh, and when I made them, I only made a half batch since six cups of four sounded like a lot for two adults and one baby.

Yeast Donuts

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1-1/2 cups warm milk (110° to 115°)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons salt
6 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Oil for deep-fat frying

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, butter, sugar, eggs, salt and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour (or shorter if you are using quick rising yeast or your room is warm)
Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; roll out to 1/2-in. thickness. Cut with a 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

In an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 375°. Fry doughnuts, a few at a time on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dip in your favorite glaze or roll in powdered sugar while still warm. I rolled some of the donut holes in powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon this time as well as dipping in maple glaze (for me) and normal glaze (for my husband).

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Today I was very excited to be able to finish painting our bedroom windowsills and frames. The painting in itself wasn't all that exciting (though it does look a ton better now!). What I was really excited about was the fact that I got to hang up my newly finished bedroom curtains. I love making curtains. I mean, I really love making curtains. I make up my own patterns and usually have the difficulty of having to decide on one only one pattern from from anywhere from two to six ideas for one curtain.

This particular idea grew from just sewing scalloped valances to what you see here: scalloped valances attached to tab-topped curtains ornamented by a red inset of sorts with cute buttons. Believe it or not, this was a simpler option and not my first choice, though now that I see it, I know that I like it more than I would have liked my other idea.

The chocolate brown valance has a stitched flowery detail that you can see better in this detail photo (sorry about the lighting, my flash can wash things out a bit if it's not used in an ideal setting). I found it in the clearance section at Joann's, and I loved it so much I knew that it was coming home with me for my bedroom curtains. Unfortunately (or maybe not), I bought only enough for valances. I realized my mistake when my husband commented that he would like a full window covering to help keep the light from a nearby street light out of our room. Imagine my delight when I found five or six yards of the subtly-textured-chocolate-milk-colored fabric at our small, local thrift store! The red fabric I tucked in is made from scraps from the bed skirt I described a few posts ago. And last but not least, the buttons are shaped like tiny birds, lady bugs, leaves, and acorns. I'm so pleased with the finished product and look forward to enjoying nights of darker sleep and days of finished looking windows.

While I was rummaging around in the basement to find the missing pieces for the partial curtain rods in our bedroom, I found a curtain rod short enough to hang up this little valance over the window in our door. I had made the curtain months ago and was disappointed to not be able to find a rod short enough. I guess I just didn't look hard enough. ; ) I actually made this curtain out of a silk skirt that I also found at a thrift store. I loved the olive green color, the good quality silk, and the hem-line details, so I bought the skirt, only to find out that it was so oddly shaped, that it was not really wearable. I was pleased to be able to find a way to remodel and enjoy it after all!

Finally, I'm sharing a photo of one of my kitchen curtains. I also found this fabric in the Joann's clearance section. (Can you tell where I spend my time at Joann's?) ; ) I liked the embroidered linen so much I made myself a cute skirt with the leftover fabric.

That's the end of the curtain adventures I'm sharing this evening. I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings. ; )

Good night.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Plain ol' Journal Entry

Today was a rather strange day. Unusual yet strangely normal feeling. It's hard to explain. Anyway, here is a little journal entry about it. A friend took me out to lunch in celebration of my birthday to my favorite local coffee shop/restaurant. I had one of the best Reuben sandwiches in the world and discovered that Little Man doesn't like corned beef but likes pickles. We had a lovely time chatting and enjoying being together.

I had to include a picture of him chowing down on the dill pickle spear that was garnishing my plate.

After we were done with lunch, we came back to my house where we put the finishing touches on my bedroom curtains (pictures coming soon--I still have to finish painting the window sills in there, then I'll put up my curtains).

At about 2:30, my husband (who got off of work early!), son, and I took off to the nearest "big" town (it has a Walmart and more than three traffic lights and is an hour away from our town) to pick up my husband's glasses and to get my eyes checked and new glasses ordered for me. I like my new glasses frames. They're definitely a change, but I think it's a good one. A huge blessing is that the Doctor checked my eyes for RP (a genetic degenerative eye condition that runs in my family; my mom has it and is legally blind), and apparently there is absolutely no sign that I have it! I am very thankful.

We got some diapers, picked up a few things for some friends (remember, Walmart is an hour away), meandered around (that's what it felt like, at least) and headed home.

On the way home we enjoyed a breathtakingly beautiful view of the starts that can only be enjoyed from nearly the middle of nowhere. I love looking at the stars. Seeing the uncountable number of them makes me feel small in a good way, reminding me how mind-bogglingly big my God is. I am so glad He is in control of what happens and that He cares about the smallest things that happen in my life.

Finally, I want to share some photos from last weekend of Little Man. Here he is enjoying his first experience in a big pile of crunchy autumn leaves.

And here he is fascinated by a pumpkin.

He stood himself up! I could hardly believe it. He hasn't really started taking steps yet, but it's coming all too quickly. I find that I'm enjoying each stage more than the last one, which seems hard to believe since they're all so enjoyable.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Trusting and Teething

Have I mentioned that I enjoy doing calligraphy? I have at times been obsessed with my handwriting, and I love art, so these two interests merged into a love of making art from words. My love for calligraphy even transferred itself to the walls of my son's room, where I painted verses that I wanted him to know and think about around the tops of the walls (instead of a wall paper border). One of the verses that I chose was Proverbs 3:5,6. Those are some of my dad's favorite verses, and they have encouraged me many times when I am tempted to worry and not trust God as I ought. This week I have had to deal with a faith-stretching issue. I was thankful to be reminded of these verses that instruct me to trust God. He has given me great peace where there had been anxiety and fear. I am so thankful to Him, and I want to praise Him and share these verses with you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5,6
On a rather different note, I recently discovered that Little Man apparently has two molars that cut though his little gums. That may not sound strange, but it is. See, he's just over one year old, and he only has eight teeth in the front so far. I was very surprised since I always thought that teeth came in from the front to the back in a nice, orderly succession. One thing I can say is that life is never boring as a mom! ; )

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Birthday Niceness

Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays. ; ) I thought I'd share some pictures.

This is the table with the fruit centerpiece (are pumpkins fruit?) my mom arranged. The tablecloth has little leaves woven into it. You can probably imagine my delight when I found it at a thrift store still in its package!

Here is my wonderful husband again. He made me totally irrisitably good, yummy, and alltogether delightful stuffed shells. It's a good thing we only do them once in a while... ; )

A close up of the above mentioned shells.

Fresh ginger cake with home made whipped cream. My mom made it for me.

Little Man enjoyed it too. ; )

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Kindness in Speech

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
Proverbs 31:26

I have been dwelling on this verse for a few days now, mulling it over, thinking of its implications, and trying to apply it. I want to be a woman, a wife and mother, who is not only wise but also always speaks kindly. More often than I like to admit, I slip and in a moment of frustration (anger, if I call it the less-easy-to-justify name) say somethingthat I later regret, whether the words I say are mean or if they are seemingly innocent but said in a mean way. And it's always the hardest around the people I love most, who I spend the most time with: my husband and son. I desire to be like Christ. To always say what is appropriate and right. To always be ruled by the law of kindness.

I Corinthians 13:11 says, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." This verse makes it clear that I can be the most eloquent person in the world, the beauty of whose speech is unsurpassed by either men or angels, but if that speech is not accompanied by love, it is as worthless and annoying as a repetitious noise (and we moms know about those...) ; )

I love the book of James. When I study it, I feel like it is like cleaning away all my greasy, caked on heart-filth in the same way I clean my filthy oven with oven cleaner. James writes a lsignificant portion about the danger of our speech and the trouble out tongues get us into:

"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." (James 3: 1-8)

Wow, that's pretty scathing. The tongue is a small and very dangerous part of us, a fire, a world of iniquity, the defiler of our bodies, set on fire by hell, an untameable evil that it full of deadly poison. No wonder I have a hard time controlling what I say!

So what I can do to overcome my resident deadly evil? Pray, pray, pray. I find that prayer is always a good first course of action. When I find those ugly thoughts popping up in my head (yes, those thoughts that don't seem to affect anyone but me are the first steps to saying something mean), I find that turning to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to help me think right thoughts and say kind things often helps me get back on the right track. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of praying, but He is always willing to help. I also like to re-channel my thoughts to dwelling on what I'm thankful for rather than what I feel disgruntled about, and I often come back to the following verse (also from James); it is such a comfort:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Joys of Parenthood, Continued

I guess tonight is a put-pictures-up-on-my-blog night. I just couldn't resist sharing some pictures of Little Man. I enjoy him almost all the time. ; )

Here he is "helping" with the dishes. The dishwasher is a never-ending source of entertainment, and if I'm loading it, he's always right there with me. Sometimes we even get the silverware put back in (by him) after it's pulled out and inspected. ; )
He was fascinated by the snow we had last weekend (yes, we already had about 4-5 inches of snow!). Thankfully it has melted, and we are enjoying fall weather again.
This is something new: climbing into the toy basket with the toys. ; ) I guess he couldn't get that puzzle to come to him, so he solved the problem by going to it!
While I'm making dinner, I like to pull his high chair near where I'm working and give him crayons and paper. We're still working on the idea of using the crayons to color, but even if not much color gets on the paper, he is vastly entertained by getting the crayons out of the box, holding as many in each hand as he can (the other day he got four or five in each hand!), and other little boy ideas.
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A Normal Day?

This morning started out grey and cloudy. A perfect day for a tidily planned normal day of doing laundry and dishes. I had all my ducks in a row and was excited to be getting an early start on laundry. I hauled the laundry baskets downstairs, switched on the laundry room light, and to my dismay discovered a significant puddle in front of the washing machine. Oh great, so much for my ducks.

My attitude was not very good. But, after praying, washing some dishes (at least I could do that part of my plan), removing a cute little one inch slug from my kitchen floor to the great outdoors where he belonged, and an attitude adjustment, I decided to rearrange my ducks and do what I had planned to do tomorrow. I made 20 pounds of pears into pear sauce, baked a double batch of my husband's favorite rolls, made some phone calls, and took a much needed nap.

This evening I started thinking about what a good day it really was, I just need to dwell on God's blessings, the things that I am glad and thankful for (even in the things I'm unhappy about), instead of the things I am disgruntled about. Here are photos of some of the good, happy, and altogether wonderful things of today.

My parents surprised me by giving us a deep freezer. Here it is with some of my carefully frozen fruits and veggies of the summer. ; ) I am so thankful for it. Now I can get something out of my upstairs freezer without being surrounded by a hail of frozen packages that were too precariously packed in. I am also thankful because it was delivered four days before they anticipated it being delivered! I guess God knew I needed some appliance cheer after the washing machine. ; )

Mmmm. This doesn't look nearly as good as it tasted! One of my favorite recipes, Garlic-ginger Chicken Kabobs. We also had asparagus and some of the above mentioned rolls.
Beautiful evening clouds! I loved the contrast between the airy, pink clouds and the thick, grey clouds. Too bad pictures don't do sunsets justice!
And here is my wonderful husband working on figuring out what was wrong in the laundry room. I'm so thankful for him. God has given me more than I ever deserved or dreamed of in him. Sure, there are rough times, but the good times far outweigh them. I love him so much.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Carrying on a Soupy Tradition

When my parents were newlyweds, my dad persuaded my mom to make tomato soup from the jealously guarded family recipe passed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my dad (and mom) to me. Not knowing the family significance of the precious recipe, my dad got my mom to give the recipe to someone else. Long story short, "leaking" the family recipe was an unforgivable "crime." Years of happily making better-than-Campbell's soup and zealously guarding the recipe passed, and we found out the the precious recipe was originally a clipping from a newspaper. How ironic. Now we aren't afraid to give it away when asked since it couldn't have been that secret in the first place. ; ) All I can say is families are interesting.

Today I enjoyed making a batch of this renowned soup from my own home-grown garden tomatoes! (Yes, I was so excited about them that I had to take a picture.) I was thrilled to be able to achieve a goal that I started last spring when I planted my tiny tomato plants and tended them though cold and hot weather. I'm hoping that next year I'll be able to enrich my soil, have better success than 50% tomato plant survival rate, grow a bumper tomato crop, and be able to make even more savory soup!

I will post the recipe to the best of my memory. I'll have to check with my mom tomorrow and make sure there are no glaring mistakes.

Tomato Soup

4 heaping quarts of tomatoes, cut into quarters or eighths
3 or 4 onions, cut into eighths
1 stalk of celery
1 bell pepper
a few cloves of garlic, if desired
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup olive oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, or your favorite spices to taste (sorry, this is something else I do by "feel")

Bring the tomatoes, onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaves to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, about 10-20 minutes or until celery and pepper are soft and the mixture is very juicy. Strain. (We use what we call a ricer, an inverted cone shaped strainer that sits on a stand and comes with a wooden pestle-type-thing to force liquid though the strainer. It also forces some bits of the vegetables though so it's thicker than V-8.) ; ) Bring to a boil in a clean pot. Meanwhile, mix flour, oil, salt, and spices. When the soup is hot, whisk a large ladle-full of soup into the flour mixture until smooth. Repeat 2 or 3 times, then whisk the flour-soup mixture into the large pot of soup. Pour the soup into clean jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Just in case someone is tempted to feel discouraged as I rattle on about my soup-making adventure, I will add this confession: I neglected to vacuum and mop my floors. ; ) But I don't regret it. After all, the autumn harvest time only comes once a year, and we will be enjoying the fruit of my labours many months from now. The floors will wait until next week.

Update: for a couple of new variations on how to make the soup look at this post.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Project of the Day

We moved into our new home Easter weekend, but it took until last week to find a sturdy bookshelf with tall enough shelves to house our collection of music books (plus a few other favorites). It was worth waiting for. It is black (hooray!), it was brand new in its box, and it was purchased at a semi-local second hand store (only an hour away, in Butte, where we do most of our big shopping). In short, it was just what we wanted for half the regular price.

My husband planted an idea seed in my mind of making it more than just a book shelf. The idea of making it a work of home-decor art with nicely arranged books spiced up with some extras. I had fun today figuring out which books needed to be moved up from the built-in shelf downstairs, how I was going to arrange them all, and just which of my stashed away decorating accents I would add. I had so much fun, and I foresee more book rearranging tomorrow...

Now all I need is to figure out a more stylish way of storing Little Man's toys. Perhaps a cute storage basket that is currently 50% off at Joann's...
This is another recent project. The music books were stacked on top of the piano, which was cluttery but better than the alternative: boxes of books in the living room. I was oh, so happy to do a bit of decorating on top of the piano too.

I am so pleased that my house is slowly but surely shaping up to be a lovely and orderly place. I must remember, though, that while I want it to be a place of peace where I can minster to others, I must be at peace myself to achieve that goal.
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Satisfaction in Work

When I was young, the privilege of helping with dishes or laundry hardly made my day. I would have much rather been climbing trees, reading books, or pursuing other activities. Fortunately for me, my mom persisted in teaching me to do those necessary tasks.

And now, I have a home of my own where I must do tasks that I don't care for. Like dishes (why can't it be like the chefs of TV where you can cook all your heart desires, yet your dirty dishes magically disappear?), laundry, and cleaning bathrooms. While I'm a "grown up" now and know how to do my house work, I'm still learning.

One thing I'm learning is to take satisfaction in my work. Yes, even in cleaning the bathroom. If I go around complaining to myself all day, focusing on the things I don't like about my job, I get to the end of the day feeling like I have gotten nothing done. I am cranky and am not always very nice to my husband and son. I'm learning, though. I'm learning to find satisfaction in the sweet-smelling stacks of clean laundry I just folded, in the shiny clean dishes I've just washed, in sparkling bathroom mirrors, and in a tidy living room floor.

If I find ways to actually enjoy each task, I am a much more content person, and I discover the joy and zest in living all over. In fact, the nice jobs and fun extras become exponentially nicer and funner! Now I need to consistently apply this strategy to my every day life...

The Fascination Continues!

Perhaps I should get him some toy food for Christmas...but I'm afraid that just wouldn't be as interesting!
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Apple Butter

Some friends recently shard a good sized bag of their small, sour, homegrown apples with us, so I spent parts of two days making and canning apple butter. I do it partly based on a recipe, and partly based on "feel," but here are the approximate proportions:

2 cups of apple pulp (I make apple pulp by cutting and peeling apples, cooking them over low heat until they are soft, and putting them through the blender)
1 cup sugar (or more or less, according to what you like)
2 tsp. of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves

I mix it all into my crock pot, let it cook until it's thick, and then put the apple butter into canning jars and process them in boiling water for 15 minutes. If you are interested in canning, I would recommend the Ball book on canning. It describes the canning process and explains how to do it as well as giving many good recipes!

Little Man sat on the counter where I was working and enjoyed getting apples out of the sink for me and sampling every one. It was a win-win situation: I enjoyed his company, he enjoyed mine (and the apples), and he stayed out of trouble while I got my work done.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Celebrating Autumn

Autumn is my absolute favorite season. I love the grey, cloudy, rainy days and the intensely blue skied days. I love the crisp snap in the cooling air, and the brilliant leaves. I love crunching though fragrant fallen leaves on my walks while deeply breathing the sage/woodsmoke laced air. And I love that my kitchen window displays the seasonal celebration of the trees along my road.
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The Joys of Parenthood

This year I decided to try my hand at gardening. I love to grow things, and home grown veggies are the best! One difficulty, however, inherent to gardening in Montana is the short growing season, and I had to trim my tomatoes off their vines, put them in a box, and bring them inside to ripen after a heavy frost a couple of weeks ago killed the plants.

Yesterday Little Man discovered the box and made a tomato raid. I had to laugh when I found the evidence pictured above. I'm glad that he likes fruits and vegetables, but I decided that it would be wise to move my tomato box.
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