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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tea Talk -- In Peace

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 my regular Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast tea, in my regular mug.  I took a [small!] number of photos of my tea mug and cozy from my recent upstate NY "retreat" vacation, and I'm sharing the below one with you today.  My older brother had no idea why I was taking photos of my tea mug; it was very humorous to hear him question my dad! 

See that tall, skinny tree in the upper center of the image below?  That's what it looked like on our first morning at Lake Bonaparte; you'll see this tree again at the end of this post...

It was a chilly morning, that first morning.  But my mug of tea warmed me up nicely.  So did the sun.  Oh, I can't stand it--I'm sharing two tea mug photos today.  I'll save the last of the Lake Bonaparte "mug shots" (and my favorite image) for next week's Tea Talk.  So stay tuned!  ;)

I'm feeling...still full from dinner last night.  We feasted on a meal gifted to us in exchange for flute lessons, and the M. Family sure know how to satisfy a household of guys! 

Leaf on the lake

Before my sweet retreat vacation, I felt a little like the above leaf, adrift on the water and pushed in whatever direction the wind blew.  Even though that water looks still, there was enough motion in wind and water to slowly move that leaf beyond my camera lens.  Now, though, I'm abiding in His peace, and trying to be still and know that He is Lord.  I am not adrift; my anchor holds in Him.

On my to-do list is shrinking!  Today I have tomatoes on my mind.  Specifically in the form of a 44-quart Rubbermaid storage tote mounded way over its brim with overripe, ripe, ripening, and green tomatoes (from top to bottom).  Today is Tomato Day!  I'm going to attempt to can, in some way, shape, or form, all of the red tomatoes.  Well, I might set aside two or three beautiful ones for a salad.

I leave you with...a few verses of Scripture that is keeping my heart steady today.

You have put gladness in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:7-8 NASB

Remember the tall, skinny tree in the first photo above?  I took another photo of that tree just four little days later, before we left the beautiful Adirondack foothills.

Four days and the handiwork of God

Back to life,

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Friday, October 21, 2011

A Hearty Soup for Autumn


"There is rhythm to being a farmgirl.
It is the rhythm of working hard when there is work to be done.
It is the rhythm of finding joy in the "doing" of the work.
It is also the rhythm of slowing down to enjoy each moment."
Rene Groom

I'm linking up with Lori's Friday Farm Girls @ Heart today.

I thought I would post a recipe today.  I'm feeling cold, and rightfully so--the thermometer has been in the 40s and 50s whenever I've checked!  Still, there has been no hard frost yet, which is good because I still have a few herbs in the garden to process!

With the cold days, and especially with the wind that has recently been howling, it's a great time to break out the soup recipes as I plan our family's weekly dinners.  This particular soup is one of our favorites, and just by looking at the title, you'll be able to tell why my guys love it so much.  It's also very easy to make.

This soup can also be healthy with just a bit more planning.  Dry beans are cheaper and healthier than canned, so plan this soup a day in advance so you can soak the beans overnight.  When I soak and prepare my beans, I double the amount I need, because you can freeze cooked beans!  Then the next time I need beans, or make this soup, I can simply pull the beans out of the freezer to defrost.  Healthy, and easy!  We've put up lots of tomato products for the winter, so it's easy to pull out those jars for the spaghetti sauce.

No matter how you make it, it really is a quick recipe.  My boys make this on their own, which frees me for other things instead of meal preparation.  Like blogging.  :)

Easy Taco Soup

1 pound hamburger, cooked and drained
2 cups water
3 cups spaghetti sauce (about the size of a typical store-bought jar)
3/4 cup dry beans (soak overnight, change water, simmer until soft; substitute 1 can beans, drained)
1 packet taco seasoning mix (we use 3 T of our homemade taco seasoning)
1 T chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all together and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and other taco toppings if desired.  Also may serve with tortilla or corn chips.

She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.

Proverbs 31:15 NASB

Back to life,

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tea Talk -- The One Who Holds My Hand

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 my regular--Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast tea, in my regular mug.  I took several images of my Lake Bonaparte mug from earlier October when I went on a special trip with my parents and older brother to upstate New York.  My parents travel there every fall to enjoy their lake house one last time, see friends and family, participate in a Columbus Day cook-off event, and get their house ready for winter.  My brother Matt and I tagged along this year to help them, and to make some special memories of our own.

Morning tea on the back deck at Lake Bonaparte

There's my mug!  I claim it for my personal use whenever I'm at the Lake.  It's a tall white mug, with a blue Giants football helmet on the side.  My mom crocheted a cozy which ties around the handle.  I like both the size and the cozy, and it's great for a nice mug of tea in the morning--especially an autumn morning!

I'm feeling...renewed, refreshed, and relaxed.  That was the whole point of my trip to the lake.  I was so overwhelmed with the hectic and rushed feeling of life; I felt swamped and not able to stay afloat.  The Lord orchestrated this trip to renew my soul and calm my spirit.

Our little piece of the Lake

On my mind...even though scads of issues continue to wait for me to handle, life is not so overwhelming right now.  My anchor is resting firmly in His Word and His Life and His Love.  A few weeks ago, I created a "Daily Docket" for each day to help me accomplish those things that need doing today.  I'm using my daily docket to help me get things done--today will be processing the rest of my garden herbs, going to Costco to stock up on a few items (and to get dishwashing detergent--we've been handwashing for two days!), and concentrating on helping Thomas write a report.  There is lots of other stuff on my mind, but I'm focusing on today, and today only.  :)

 In the garden at the Lake

I leave you with...I was reading Psalm 37 in my devotion time yesterday, and I was refreshed all over again!  I will share just a portion here for you.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
Psalm 37:23-24 NASB

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.
Psalm 37:39-40 NASB

Autumn sunset on the Lake

Thank You, Lord, for Your precious peace!  Thank You for Your strength and Your promises.  Thank You for Your hand in mine that will never let me go.

Back to life,

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Another Fruity Day in the Kitchen


"There is rhythm to being a farm girl.
It is the rhythm of working hard when there is work to be done.
It is the rhythm of finding joy in the "doing" of the work.
It is also the rhythm of slowing down to enjoy each moment."
Rene Groom

Be sure to visit Lori's blog to see what Friday Farm Girls is all about!

Last week, I posted about freezing bananas.  This week it's all about grapes!

On our end-of-September trip to Stovers U-Pick in Michigan (read the details here), we picked apples--lots of apples.  And then we heard someone comment about the raspberries.  So Jacob picked a pint of those.  Then we saw grapes.  So we picked a bunch of bunches.  (We also picked acorn and butternut squash.)

But enough of that.  We ended up with the following on our counter:

It was a mixture of Concord grapes, champagne grapes, and green grapes.  I checked my Ball canning book and found a recipe for "grape preserves without added pectin."  I had never made/canned grape preserves (or any preserves) before, so I figured this was a good first recipe to try.

The recipe called for Concord grapes, but I figured a mixture would be fine.  First, Joseph and I picked every grape off its vine, and placed them all in the colander to wash off.

Then came the longest hour I have ever spent at my kitchen counter.  Joseph and I squeezed every grape, shooting the inner pulp into one pot, and placing the skins in another.  This is an important step, in order to save and use the skins, but also to get rid of the seeds while saving the pulp.  Below is the pot of pulp, before and during simmering on the stove.

Once the pulp was softened, we put it all through the food mill to remove the seeds.

The food mill awaits

To the pot of skins, we added enough water to cover (I think I added too much; more on that later).  Then we simmered them as well.

Meanwhile, Joseph measured out the sugar (we used cane juice crystals) we would need once the pulp and skins were ready.  Um, it was a lot of sugar.  Very sweet.  (More on that later...)

Joseph put the sugar in a large glass measuring bowl, and then we waited for pulp and skins to come to a boil.  I decided I wanted smooth grape preserves, so I used my immersion blender to puree the skins.  The recipe called for us to bring the whole mixture to a boil, and boil it until it reached the gel stage, or 220 degrees Fahrenheit.  Which it did.  But it didn't pass the "spoon test" for the gel stage--meaning it didn't sheet off the spoon.  What to do?  We let it boil five more minutes.  220 degrees.  Still no sheeting.  The Ball canning book did not specify how much time this would take...  We let it boil five more minutes.  Ditto on no sheeting.  I finally shrugged, and figured we'd just go ahead and can it (by now the water bath canner, jars, and seals were ready to go).

Waiting for the to reach gel stage

In all, we successfully canned ten half-pints of very sweet grape preserves.  Or, I should say, grape "sauce."  Since one jar didn't seal, we put it in the fridge (after it cooled, of course), and it remained sauce-like.  Hmm.  Thomas said it was still good--we all agreed that it tasted delicious.  After reading my friend Mary's blog post about canning crab apple jelly, I think we should have let the jam mixture boil for a lot longer than we did.  Or, maybe I added too much water to the skins.  Or, maybe using cane juice crystals instead of sugar affected its ability to "gel."  Too many ifs in my experiment!!

But the preserves were canned and sealed, and I was done with it.

The boys all agreed that we would certainly use the grape "sauce" on toast and even sandwiches.  Thomas encouraged us to "spread in thinly!"  My smart comment here:  My genius mind thought of another creative way to use it:

Sweet grape sauce on Andy's vanilla frozen custard!

This farm girl's taste buds were dancin'!!  What a sweet experiment we had, and what a sweet time I spent in the kitchen with my precious Joseph.  Next year, I'll be ready to try something different for my preserves, such as using agar agar as Lori blogged about.  Let's see:  ten jars--that means about once a month, I'll have a sweet reminder of this day, plus a sweet anticipation of trying this again next year!

Back to life,

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pickin' Time!

Joseph, Jacob, Thomas, and I headed out last weekend to Michigan.  Berrien Springs, to be exact, to a place called Stovers U-Pick.  We went there for... apples.  Mmmmm...

We picked up one of my borrowed daughters, Gabrielle, and headed east and north, hoping the rain would hold off for us.

Well, the rain came.  And stayed.  Ironically, it cleared up just as we left!  We met several church families there, and we ended up spending most--well, all--of our day with the M. family.  Guaranteed good time.  :)

Jonathan was not too happy about the rain.

You'll be seeing a lot of umbrellas in my photos today.  So, we picked and picked, and picked some more, and helped others pick, too.

At least he has an apple named after him!

Jacob picked under the shelter of the tree.

No climbing allowed!

Thomas and Joseph were good pickers!

Typical scene.  No umbrella?  Use a tree.

Part of the M. family

Another part of the M. family.  ;)

Jacob helped out

So many apples...!

C'mon, it's girls!  I loved spending time with them.  I love that they didn't mind.  :)

Getting our apples weighed

Raspberries?  Did someone say raspberries?  A few were left, and I gave Jacob the task of picking every single red raspberry he could find.

Grapes?  Stovers has grapes?  We picked some of them, too!

Mr. M. picked some grapes for us.  :)

Squash?  Seriously?  Okay, we picked some squash, then got out of there quickly before we found something else to pick.

That bag of squash was heavy!

We left Stovers with the M. family, and instead of heading over to the Michigan dunes (we decided we didn't want to sit around on wet, cold sand?) we ended up in a caravan of two, winding our way around back roads until a better driver/navigator than I found the designated Bob Evans Restaurant.  We ended up having lunch around 3:00pm!  Lunch time was filled with laughter, friends, and good food.  We had a great day together.

Back to life,

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