The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Typical Friday Evening

I brought my Ellie with me this Friday evening so that I can share with you what I see on our typical Friday evenings throughout the summer.

There is this great family, and they host Ultimate Frisbee games throughout the summer.  We have been going/watching/playing for, oh, about five years, and we have seen the number of people grow with each year.

There is a "high school" field:

Thomas makes a great block!

And a "college" field:

They had been playing awhile!

Here are some other random shots, and I have to warn you--I didn't pull out my camera until after 8:00pm, and the light was terrible. So the images "are what they are."

Danny and Phil go for the Frisbee.  Double fail!

Joseph makes a block.  He also scored a goal--woohoo!!

Not afraid to chase a girl if she's going for the Frisbee.

I also had a fun time chatting with Jacque (pronounced "Jackie") and her darling three-year-old daughter, who decided she really liked me.  We had a fascinating conversation about everything from best friends to "light bugs."  All in all, a lovely evening.


Back to life,

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Slow Cooker Baked Beans


I'm linking up with Lori's Friday Farm Girls @ Heart today.
Click on her button above to read more Farm Girl posts and to participate with us.

Time for a recipe!  This particular recipe combines my love of slow cooking with my love for homemade and my love for easy!  Okay, I know, you saw homemade and you saw baked beans and you saw easy and you rolled your eyes at me.

It really is just a few steps to make your own baked beans.  And it's easy, as with all homemade meals, if you think a day ahead.  I usually have an idea in my head for the meals I'm going to make during the week.  I also have a place on my planning calendar within each day's square where I write down the dinner I've planned--I usually jot down just a main dish, not necessarily the sides, which tend to be what I have on hand, such as salad, veggies, bread, or rice.

I knew we were going to have burgers on Sunday, because Lori's Bryan was coming over to hang out with my guys.  Baked beans is a nice complement to that meal, also nice since there probably would be leftovers, or highlights as we call them, for later in the week.  I soaked the beans overnight Saturday, then rinsed and simmered them Sunday morning.  I also placed all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan Saturday night, covered it, and left it on the stove to heat up the morning.  Sunday morning, after the beans were done simmering, I tossed them into the slow cooker with the heated sauce, turned it on low, and voilà!  Nothing more to think about until later Sunday afternoon.

Here are the easy recipe details!

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

3 cups dry navy beans, sorted to remove debris and bad beans
1 small/medium onion, finely diced (I purée mine due to onion-dis-likers)
6 tablespoons molasses
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (less if using fresh from pepper mill)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup sucanat (original recipe called for brown sugar)
1/4 cup bacon drippings or rendered fat (rendered pork lard--the good stuff, not Crisco)

Place sorted beans in saucepan; cover with water and let sit overnight, at least eight hours.  Drain, rinse, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and simmer 1-2 hours or until tender.  Drain, reserving the liquid.

Arrange the beans in the slow cooker, layering the onion in-between.  In the saucepan, place the remaining ingredients and heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Pour slowly over beans in slow cooker.  Pour enough reserved bean liquid to cover the beans, and set the remainder aside.  Cover and cook the beans on low for about 8 hours, or on high about 4 hours.  Add more bean liquid if the beans dry out.

Remember, easy homemade is just a couple of extra steps away!

Yummy baked beans--made organically!!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tea Talk -- Go to the Ant

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.
To participate, click on Ruth's button above.

I'm having...a cup of Irish breakfast tea this morning, and a goblet of nice, cold iced tea later on in the heat of the day.  I promise to take pictures for next week.  This photo below will have to do for today.

The last of my Hawaiian honey (a gift from my dear friend Tressey)

I'm feeling...exactly the same as last week.

On my my continuing project to clean our basement.  I've gotten so much done, and it feels so good to de-clutter and simplify.  I feel like I can breathe a little more easily now.  There is still much to do, but our hard work has paid off.  My basement "smiles" at me now when I go down there to work on the computer, or watch a movie for family movie night.  It says to me, "Welcome, Christine!  Come in!  Have a seat and relax..."  That's what I picture in my mind, anyway.

I leave you with...a verse about an amazing creature the Lord created.  I feel a little like this creature this summer, busy about the work of the Lord.

Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8 NASB

Ants on thistle

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Project Basement -- The Big One (Part I)


I'm participating in Lori's Tuesday Project Party.
Click her link above to see what it's all about.
Get inspired!  Get working!

I've spent a lot of time in my basement at various points over recent years.  I've organized our food storage area, and organized our homeschool supplies.  The project I'm sharing today has been, oh, just a little bigger.  Take a look.

Yeah.  Not fun.  With five guys and little ol' me in the house, things tend to just "get put" instead of getting put awayA place for everything... is my desire, but it tends to slip away when there are so many other things to do.

In the above photo, the cabinets along the left side of the above image are our homeschool supplies (foreground left) and our food storage area (background left).  However, as you can see, our food storage has expanded.  That table-looking thing toward the back is just that--a train table, to be more precise.  It has sat for several years, half-finished with an HO-scale model train track layout.  The gray wall comprises temporary cubicle walls you would find in an office building.  Fernando "rescued" the walls from his employer's dumpster, and they hide our furnace and "guts" of the house.  Fernando also has cabinets on the right of the image just beyond what you can see.  I have canning jars, bags and bags of bulk grains/etc., clothing, some toys...  Enough said.  The rest of the basement is more easily navigable, so this little 11x12 space is the focus of this major summer project.

I started with two large boxes of plastic food storage containers:  time to sort through those, with a pile to be sold, a pile to keep, and a pile for Goodwill/giveaway.  I cleaned off the small metal shelves (with the two canning pots on top--one went because I had three!!), and I organized the plastic food storage "keepers" on the bottom shelf.  Then I placed my empty canning jars in Starkist tuna boxes (love those boxes from Costco!) on the next two shelves.  One canning pot and our school microscope found locations on the top shelf, completing the space.

Buckets of bulk foods were moved in front of the de-cluttered/cleaned/organized shelves to make room to tackle the rest of the room, below (my "kind-of after" photo):

The photo above looks better than the "in-progress" photos you will see below--once everything gets pulled out, it is an even bigger mess.  Below is the progression of cleaning that we tackled.  We had to deal with clothing, trains, toys, metal two-shelf units, plastic storage boxes, and miscellaneous STUFF.

The guys tipped the train table on its side and wedged it between ceiling joists.  This is a temporary solution, as we hope to find a home for it, in someone else's home, of course!  Anyone love model trains?

The "sort-of-final" after photo for this portion of the work:

The guys also spent part of the previous weekend cleaning out the garage, and the result of these two major projects was a lot of stuff at the curb.  I'm happy to report that several items--a door and a window included--were picked up by scrap metal collectors.  The blue bins were overflowing with recycling, and there were 6-7 bags of garbage.  We did't feel too bad about the amount of garbage, since our family of six normally has just one small kitchen bag of garbage at the curb each week.

I am also working on cataloging every item pertaining to model trains, since we have a potential buyer and he wants to see EACH PIECE.  That's a "camera and staging" project I'm not looking forward to, but it has to be done.  Also, I have four large boxes of stuff to document with a typewritten chart and photos before taking them all over to Goodwill (across the street, fortunately!).  Then, some time soon, we'll be tackling the rest of the basement.

De-cluttering -- cleaning -- organizing -- simplifying.  I'm daunted by the work, but I feel the mental load of STUFF being slowly lifted.

Back to life,

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Micro-Farming in My Back Yard


I'm linking up with Lori's Friday Farm Girls @ Heart today.  Click on her button above to read more Farm Girl posts and to participate with us.

 Wednesday's high temperature

I trudged out to the back yard yesterday morning with the knowledge that it may hit 100 degrees again.  I was thankful, at least, that it was early morning, and the slight breeze made the "cooler" morning temperatures bearable.

First job--tie up any falling tomato plants.  I want them to survive and bear fruit!  We've had a couple of short, intense storms, and a few plants had been bent over.

Second job--the first of the pole beans and tomatoes!  I picked a cherry tomato, and my very first plum tomato.  My plum tomatoes have been suffering with yellowing leaves and black spots, and a few tomatoes with blossom end rot.  I used some natural remedies and the plants seem to have recovered a bit.  I picked just one tomato, but it "officially" begins my tomato harvest.  It is a promise of many more in the coming weeks.

Third job--cayenne peppers.  These have been coming in for a few weeks, and I already have a bunch strung up and drying along my dining room window.  Once they're dry, I'll crush them for a spicy pizza topping, or to spice up our cuisine.

Tomatoes, pole beans, cayenne, and some beans I picked for Lori :)

Fourth job--jalapeños!  I picked all I could, even the smaller ones.  Hopefully I'll be able to pick more throughout next week, then can 6-8 jars for my first canning session of this harvest season.

Fifth job--water the garden.  I watered earlier this week, but since it has been bone dry around here this month (and longer), I wanted to make sure the garden gets nice and soaked.

Whew!  I was getting hot and sweaty.  Time to go into the air-conditioned house and cool off a bit before showering and getting into the rest of my day.

The Rest of the Story...

Less than two hours later, here's what happened:

The Lord watered my garden!!

Ah, well.  And another update--we had storms ALL NIGHT last night!  Some areas received SIX to SEVEN inches!!  (The use of exclamation points is justified!!!)  I'm now humming Showers of Blessing...

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tea Talk -- Those Who Love Your Law

Welcome to my home!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.
To participate, click on Ruth's button above.

I'm having...a cup of iced tea.  I'm parched!  Yesterday the thermometer on our shaded front porch hit 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius, Ruth!).  The funny thing is, I always start my day with hot tea.  And yesterday and today, after that, I hit the iced tea!!

Hot tea in my Pfaltzgraff tea cup

I'm feeling...good.  I saw my chiropractor a few days ago, and the adjustment seemed to help that little ache in my back.  Though it's imperceptible, I'm trying to be careful how I sit, etc.

On my the thought of continuing to compile my online photo gallery of things we're selling.  We have been deep-cleaning our basement, which has been a huge project--almost overwhelming, actually.  I also have four large boxes of items to give to Goodwill, and Fernando wants me to document them (photos and a list) so that we can donate them.  And one more item--all of the HO-scale train items in our basement have to go,  We have an interested buyer, but (it's a good "but") he wants to see pictures of every item before he makes the hour-long trip to our house to see everything in person.  I'm supposed to have that done by the weekend...  At least it's super-hot outside and inside work keeps me cool.

I leave you with...a well-known and beloved verse I read this morning in Psalms.  I love reading Psalms and Proverbs; there is always something there that brings comfort, peace, understanding, or whatever my heart needs in that moment.  Yesterday, Fernando's company laid off more employees--one Christian man in his department was affected, and Fernando is in a bit of shock.  Our future is uncertain--but then again, it is not!  We will wait to see what the Lord has us do, where He sends us, or how He keeps us here.  We have peace.

Those who love Your law have great peace,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
Psalm 119:165 NASB

Sunrise in Vero Beach, Florida

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tea Talk -- Those Who Know Your Name

Welcome to my home!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.
To participate, click on Ruth's button above.

I'm having...a cup of Irish breakfast tea, my usual morning wake-up drink.  There's something about a cup of tea first thing in the morning, even in summer!

I'm feeling...the usual, except my lower back is letting me know--just a little--that it isn't quite happy.  As long as I sit straight, though, I'm fine.  I'm planning on taking care today!

On my my list for today:  taking Danny student-driving, haircuts for all the guys, upcoming photo shoots.  Not to mention all the other things on all my other lists!  Really, though, to-do items are slowly being checked off and I'm slowly getting things accomplished.  I'm simply praying that no new items get added this week!

I leave you with...a Scripture from Psalms that I just read this morning.  It speaks of God's judgment--with equity--of the world, but then it offers hope to those who have placed their trust in Him.  I think of it as, "Judgment is coming, but you have hope!"

But the LORD abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
And He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble;
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 9:7-10 NASB

Day lily in a church garden

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Friday, July 8, 2011

When The Lord Gives You Peaches...

Welcome to my home today!  I promise there's a recipe at the end of this post.  Really.  I just got sidetracked with a mini Scripture study.  :)

I'm linking up with Lori's Friday Farm Girls at Heart, so be sure to click on her button at the end of this post to read more and find out how to participate!

I'm sure you are familiar with that old adage:  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!  It's an upbeat saying which prompts me to make something good out of the "bad" that comes my way.  But I think the focus is a little off...

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17 NASB

If something comes into my life today, the Lord, in His good will, has allowed it--whether for my edification, correction, character growth, or whatever.  Life doesn't give me lemons; the Lord does.  I happen to like lemons.  But sometimes I don't like what the Lord allows in my life!  However, the above verse does not imply that if something bad happens, it must not have come from the Lord.  I am His child, right?  He never leaves me, right?  Certainly He does not wish evil for me; but He allows in my life what He knows is best for me.  And all of what He allows is to bring Him glory.

I love this verse from the following hymn.  I've highlighted the line that pertains to what I'm talking about.

Day by Day
Carolina Sandell Berg

Verse 1

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best--
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

"Will that recipe ever appear on my screen?" you wonder.

Well, not to disappoint!  The Lord gave us peaches this week, given through my dear friend Helen.  Several of the peaches needed to be used right away, so one morning I found myself cutting, peeling, and chopping that delectable fruit and mixing it in to my basic coffee cake recipe.  I usually add blueberries, but the Lord gave me peaches!

Christine's Whole-Wheat Coffee Cake

Cake Mixture
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use cane juice crystals)
1/4 cup coconut oil (you may use softened butter)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 cups whole-wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups blueberries, peaches (pitted, peeled, chopped), or your favorite fruit!

Crumb Mixture
1 cup sugar (cane juice crystals)
2/3 cups sifted flour (I don't sift)
1/2 cup oats (I use regular old-fashioned rolled)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

Using electric mixer, mix together the sugar and coconut oil.  Mix in eggs, then milk.  With whisk, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt; add to wet mixture.  Gently fold in fruit.  Spread in a 9x12 baking pan (greased/floured--this time I just greased it with coconut oil).  Using a pastry blender, mix together the crumb mixture and sprinkle it evenly over the batter.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until it is golden on top and tests done.

Yummy in the tummy!

Be sure to visit Lori's blog by clicking the button below.


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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tea Talk -- Many, But One

Welcome to my home!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.
To participate, click on Ruth's button above.

I'm having...iced tea on this hot summer day.  Picture in your mind a navy blue glass goblet, cold to the touch, filled with cold refreshing tea and ice.  Aaahhh.  :)  (I'll have to take a picture to share with you all next week!)

My black tea and Hawaiian honey

I'm feeling...pretty good.

On my mind...four things--filing second-quarter sales taxes for my business, scheduling a photo shoot for a client's senior pictures, making more thank-you cards so Danny can finish writing the rest of his notes, and planning the food for this Sunday's get-together.  Most of our church is going camping next Sunday-Thursday, so we invited those who aren't camping over for an afternoon/evening of fellowship.  It's going to be fun!

I leave you with...several Scriptures as I ponder the subject of unity in the Spirit.  There have been many conversations floating around lately among our young men and their Christian friends, and many of those conversations have been passionate.  We are trying to teach our sons that there may be differences of opinion, and those differences need to be respected.  (We're not talking about basic tenets of our faith, but extraneous topics to the Word of God.)  These young men are all so intelligent, and they possess a lot of knowledge and many passionate opinions; however, they have experienced only a little of life, and are still in the early stages of gaining wisdom.  They, like all of us, must learn to keep peace between brothers, and to engage in interaction without causing arguments or division.  I am thankful that all of these young men are passionate about the Lord!

For the body is not one member, but many.
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
But now there are many members, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 20 NASB

If I...know all mysteries and all knowledge...but do not have love, I am nothing. not arrogant...does not seek its own...
1 Corinthians 13:2, 4, 5 NASB

...with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:2-3 NASB

Astilbe "bridal veil"

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

His Castle -- Master Closet

...He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
Proverbs 3:33b  NASB

They say a man's home is his castle.  Well, I say that the "castle" belongs to the Lord, and our true home is in heaven.  But for our time on earth, this house is our castle from the Lord.  And I am its queen.  My "His Castle" posts include stories of both daily chores as well as special housekeeping and house-beautifying projects, and things that I do to make our home a beautiful dwelling for the short time we are here.

In my months-ago post about de-cluttering and cleaning our dining room, I stated that our dining room is not used much.  I could say the same about our master bedroom closet.  No, really.  I go in there to grab a skirt and blouse, or a pair of shoes, or something I need, then I leave.  Thirty to sixty seconds, and I'm out.  I don't see this little room again until the end of day when, if I'm diligent, I hang up the skirt, or put away my shoes or whatever.

As you can see in the photo above, things get put in there.  Lots of things.  The wire shelf up top gets filled, and the floor grows things such as globes, stepstools, sewing projects, papers to file, pieces of board games...  It seems that anything that doesn't have an official "resting place" somewhere else in our home gets put in our master bedroom, or our closet.  And if it gets put in the master bedroom, I frequently will "find" a spot for it in our closet, so I don't have to look at it when I go to bed at night.

One day (probably soon) we'll be able to clear our our bedroom and have a proper decorating project--painting walls, new curtains (the windows also need replacing but that's a whole other project!).  But for now, it's builder's-flat-white paint on the walls, and buckling carpet with a gum spot.  It's too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer.  Lest you think this is a complaint, wait--I merely wish to give you a feel for this particular room.  I am thankful that I have a place to shut the door and rest my head.  This is Fernando's and my room.  And I'm thankful for it!

The mood for a project overtook me, and I began taking things off shelves.  Time to de-clutter.  Here's what I did.  I tackled things, item by item.  Could it be disposed of?  I put it in the box for garbage.  Could it be recycled?  I put it in the box for recycling.  (I had two boxes sitting on my bedroom floor so I didn't have to keep running things downstairs.)

Look at those product boxes--all my beloved Canon lenses!  Time to recycle that cardboard and Styrofoam!

I also found two pillows in need of repair...for the last _ years (I'm embarrassed to put the actual number in there).

This is one point at which every thought of de-cluttering, cleaning, and organizing halted dead in its tracks.  I realized, "Why am I holding on to these if I'm never going to repair them?  What am I waiting for??"  I could feel the resolution welling up within me!  I marched the pillows over to my side of the bed, grabbed a needle and the closest color thread I could find (I didn't care at that point), and I started sewing.  Now, I'm not a seamstress.  I can sew on a button and do simple repairs.  I cannot tell you what type of stitch I used, but the Lord always seems to help me do it, and the thread ended up being hidden inside the folds of fabric.

About 30 minutes later, I had two almost-brand-new pillows gracing my bed!  Although we have never had a real comforter or bedspread for our master bed (something for me to pray for!), these pillows will make it seem more homey and beautiful.  And they're out of my closet and fixed and being put to use!!

Now to tackle something I intensely dislike--filing.  Brochures and product information booklets, warranty information, that sort of thing.  This paperwork is supposed to be filed in our awesome four-drawer filing cabinet--rescued from the dumpster at Fernando's work--which resides at the back of our closet.

Many years ago, I had made hanging files with "Product Information" tabs, such as A-F, G-I, and so on down the alphabet.  I spent about four hours filing all the new ones according to brand name, sometimes rearranging folders to accommodate the paperwork.  For example, after "A-C" is a folder marked "Canon" to handle the paperwork for all of my camera equipment.  Below is the original tabs to give you an idea of what I did--now all neat and tidy, and out of the way and unseen.

Then I confronted two large shoe boxes of candles.  I love candles.  I didn't like the shoe boxes.  I re-purposed three plastic shoe boxes from the basement, and with my highly developed organizational skills (wink), I arranged all the candles inside and put them up on my shelf, next to the one box I allow myself for memories and Fernando's and my sweetheart-days correspondence.

Look what I found while I was de-cluttering and going through paperwork!!

 Fernando's and my high school diplomas, and my college diploma--all now in my memory box

Yep, the above is a blank high school diploma.  Yep, Danny graduated just a few weeks ago.  Apparently I had purchased this diploma with Joseph's and Jacob's, thinking I would save it and use it for Danny.  Now it sits in a prominent place, waiting for Thomas' graduation three years from now.  Hopefully I'll remember!

I also made a few trips down memory lane.  One of those trips that interrupted my cleaning for quite some time is the below.  I'm sure you understand.  :)  Yes, all four calendars--one for each child--are complete, each with a zippered baggie of hair from his first hair cut.  Those items ended up in my memory box.

Now that my closet is done, I like to linger in there for a few minutes each morning as I choose my outfit for the day.  Sigh--it's so nice to have a welcoming closet!  Below are all the after pictures--the "showcase" ones that I'm happy for you to see!  Keep in mind--I still have boxes of things, such as blankets/afghans, on the shelf.  You'll see our once-little Joey's Bear tucked in with those.  We just can't "bear" to part with it, even though Joseph is now 22!  Maybe one day we'll pose Bear with Joseph, take a few shots, and have a proper "funeral" for it.  But for now, Bear greets me with his nose-less face and plastic brown eyes each morning, a sweet memory of little boy days.

Fernando's side--filing cabinet at the back

The back half of my side--that's my wedding dress!

The front half of my side

A resting place for my "beach" bag, just outside the closet door.

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