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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Letter to Thomas

January 20.

Dear Thomas,

Well, you did it.  Or rather, we did it.  You graduated from homeschool, and so did I, in a sense.  I suppose we'll laugh for a long time as we playfully dispute the actual date of your graduation--New Year's Eve 2014?  Or New Year's Day 2015?  Well, I put January 1 on both your diploma and transcript, so I guess that's the official date, and we'll both have to live with it.

We had a rough start (to high school) together, didn't we?  I remember the first year that it was just you and I.  No brothers to buffer teaching time, learning styles, or curriculum.  Just you and I to figure things out.  It took us a chunk of that first year to stop butting heads, appreciate our personality differences, and work together toward a common goal.  Actually, it took me that long to figure out that you are your own person, unique and completely different from any of your brothers.  In fact, I still don't get you, and I doubt I ever will.  But I love you, and I know you love me, and that's what counts.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again here, for all the world to read if they care to.  You are an amazing young man.  Your faith is a quiet one, a steadfast standing in the grace of Jesus.  You constantly amaze me, whether it's the things you're interested in or the witty and crazy things you say.  Your mind is a fascinating place!

I realized you were growing up when I received an email from Pastor Fraley, with a Bible study for someone who desires to be baptized.  I had no clue you were even thinking about it.  The church helped make that happen for you, and God even sent the rain to flood the river for you, too!

I also realized you were growing up when I received that early morning phone call from Theresa, student rep at Universal Technical Institute.  I had no clue you had contacted the school, or were even interested in auto technology.  You took the initiative, and now here you are.

You encouraged me to bring my camera as Dad drove you to school that first day.  We said goodbye and you walked off, much like Jacob did, without turning back.  I snapped a picture, and didn't cry until I got home and downloaded it, and then it became real.  Even though you're home every night, you've got one foot out the door--and that's as it should be.

I thank the Lord for blessing me with such an amazing young man.  I look back at all the goofiness, the escapades, the crazy toddler years with you, your funny jokes and witty remarks, the emergency room visits, and on it goes.  I have a treasure chest full of memories, because you're you.

As you start this new chapter in your life, as you stride into godly manhood, I can't wait to see what the Lord does in your life.  I know His hand is upon you, and He'll guide you safe and sure.

I love you, Thomas.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Simplify -- My Project Desk


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

After decluttering our master bedroom, I found myself looking over at my project desk every time I was in my room.  It was time to tackle another project.  This desk was in a different part of our room several years ago, and here's what it looked like then, along the northwest wall  Now, the desk sits next to the bed along the southeast wall, and I use the edge on the right for my Bible and clock, sort of a "nightstand" section.

This desk very easily gets cluttered, and I rarely do projects any more.  I'm in the midst of selling all my scrapbooking supplies--punches, stickers, paper, scissors--because I'd like to convert my photos to digital format for online storage and for creating memory books.

Random family photos and scrapbooking supplies...

I bought this three-tier organizer at a garage sale for a buck, cleaned it up, and it now holds various crafting supplies.  It could stand a little decluttering, too.

I spotted a few buttons on my desk as well.  These belong to a number of articles of clothing that are missing buttons (or are extra buttons for them).  I'd have to pull out my sewing organizer to put the buttons away.

Below is my sewing organizer.  The little containers pull out, then snap back into place.  Each container has several compartments for organizing.  Over time, this piece became my sewing organizer, and guess what?  I don't sew.  I do save buttons from clothing, though--you know, the extra ones that come with sweaters, dresses, coats, etc.?  And every now and then, I need thread to fix a tear, or sew on a loose button.  I've amassed quite the sewing collection over the years.  This is where I started the day's decluttering.

One of the organizer's compartments.

I started pulling out thread, snaps, hooks, buttons, needles, ack!  Where did all this stuff come from??

I set these buttons in one compartment for saving, since they're for clothing items I still own.

Most of the thread I had amassed was in the red or blue palette.

I bagged up most of the buttons in little jewelry bags I already had, and collected all the spools of thread together.

Below are the spools of color I saved, since they're basic colors I know I'll be able to use in the future.

And since at this point, that jewelry organizer was empty, I used this other empty storage container to store my sewing items, as you can see below.

What are these keys doing in this post?  I found them in the single desk drawer.  I cut out tags and attached them to the keys, labeling the ones I knew.  I hung all the keys in our key box in the back hallway by the kitchen.  Hopefully we can figure out what the keys are used for!  If not, after a while I'll just drop them in the trash.

Well, my project desk project turned into a sewing organizer project!  I donated the thread, buttons, and other sewing items to two ladies at church, and sold the sewing organizer to a lady whose son loved to organize his Legos.  Bingo!

I will share more on this desk in a future post.  For now, I'm happy that I got rid of so many little items.

Back to life,

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Simplify and Beautify -- My January Mantel

I took a few close-up pictures of my mantel, and thought I'd like to share them with you.  But first, a spelling lesson.

1.  mantle -- a loose sleeveless cloak or shawl, worn especially by women.

2.  mantel --  a beam, stone, or arch serving as a lintel to support the masonry above a fireplace.

Please don't confuse the two.  Thanks.

Now, my mantel isn't that original or unique, and will never grace the pages of a home decorating magazine (or blog).  And I don't even have a full image of the whole thing!  Here are (most of) the elements I used for my winter mantel.

1.  A pine-scented soy candle bought when we purchased our Christmas tree.

2.  A rectangle serving dish, Pfaltzgraff Ocean Breeze pattern, from my dishes.

3.  Pine cones gathered at a nearby park.

4.  Acorn and butternut squash picked from my garden this past autumn.

5.  A Mason jar from my canning collection, filled with...

6.  Dried flowers from a birthday flower arrangement, and

7.  Three snowflake decorations given to me by my brother Jeff for Christmas.

(That's my wedding picture tucked back there--I can't even remember how it got there, lol!).

8.  Ash tray purchased at a farmers market on vacation several years ago (used as a candle holder and now my snuffer tray).

9.  Little wooden plaque given to me by my mom after I surprised her for her 75th birthday.

That's it.  Many of the elements will be used elsewhere during other months, the pink flowers will be tossed, and the snowflakes will be stored in one of four boxes of Christmas decorations.  And the squash is being eaten, of course!

Back to life,

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Breakfast Egg Cups

I love eggs, in every way, shape, and form you can cook them.  One recent morning, I threw these breakfast egg cups together with several leftover items I found in the fridge.  They were delicious with a bit of salsa on the side.  Next time I'll mix a little salsa in for flavor.  That would make them seriously delicious.  I added the salsa to the recipe so you don't forget.  (You're welcome.)

I used leftovers, and assembled as I went, so I didn't start with an exact recipe (the more "exact" recipe is below, never fear).  I have been a lifelong follower of recipes, only straying every now and again.  However, as I've grown in cooking abilities, I find myself straying more and more--with mostly yummy results.  So go ahead and give it a try!

My eggs must come from a farm whose owner I know.  We eat as healthy as possible, and farm fresh eggs are something I just can't give up.  I've read enough to know where those old, store-bought white eggs come from (even the organic, or free-range, or whatever in the store), and I don't think I'll buy them again, unless I really need to.  Good food isn't cheap, and cheap food isn't good.

Farm fresh eggs.

Here's some updated pictures from the next time I made these.  I added the salsa into the recipe.  Other than less cheese on the top (I'll have to remedy that, because cheese!!), these had the salsa flavor added in.  That made it very easy to just pick these up and eat them by hand.  You can't really see any chunks of salsa, but the added ingredient really enhanced the flavor!

For this updated batch of egg cups, I used brown rice (the last one was a rice pilaf, recipe still forthcoming).

Here is the recipe.  Please don't be intimidated by the lack of exact amounts.  I used to be in your shoes, trust me.  Most cooking (as opposed to baking) recipes are forgiving, and you'll learn to adjust any recipe to your taste.  You'll start commenting to yourself--hey, I bet mushrooms would be great in these!  And you'll chop up and saute some fresh ones, or open a can of sliced.  See how easy that is?

Breakfast Egg Cups

Leftover corn bread (I used leftover Cracklin' Bread!)
Eggs, about 10 should do
About one cup cooked rice--white, brown, pilaf... (I used Bay Rice Pilaf, recipe coming soon!)
Shredded cheddar cheese--about 1 cup or as much as you like
A little milk
Salsa, about 3/4 cup or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin (I use rendered pork lard).  Cut up corn bread into small cubes (or chunk it).  Cover the bottom of each muffin cup with the corn bread cubes.

Evenly distribute the rice among the muffin cups (a generous tablespoon or so).  Evenly distribute the salsa among the cups (about a tablespoon in each).  Evenly distribute the cheddar cheese among the cups (a nice tablespoon or so).

Scramble the eggs with the milk and some salt to taste.  Evenly distribute the egg mixture over each cup, letting the egg soak in and filling each cup.  Grind some fresh pepper over each cup.

Bake in the oven about 15-20 minutes, until the egg is set (use a toothpick or cake tester, or press the center of one cup gently with your finger--it should spring back and not be mushy) and the cheese is golden.  Let cool a few minutes, then remove muffin cups to a cooling rack.  Serve warm with fresh salsa.

Back to life,

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Southern Cracklin' Bread -- My Midwestern Way

I had recently rendered pork lard, and when I mentioned it on a Facebook group I belonged to, the southern lady members of the group encouraged me to make cracklin' bread with the cracklins that were the end result of said rendering process.  Actually, one lady commented that she loved it, and another commented that she couldn't stand it.  So my curiosity was piqued, and I needed to try it.  One posted the link to a recipe, which I read, then after skimming the comments and suggestions, I decided to give it a whirl.  I'm so glad I did!

Oh, and I'm so glad I'm a Midwestern gal--never one to really toe the line, but to question, read, research, and try changing things a bit according to my own tastes.  Don't worry, I don't do this with my faith, just with my cooking.  Once I'm convinced of something--Jesus being one of those things--you won't ever get me to back down.  I'm solid and I'm steady--I'll just give you one of my deadpan looks, and let you figure out what it means.

Back on topic...

Where have you Southerners been hiding this recipe all these years??  I'm so glad I have some southern friends!!

This is basically corn bread, made with buttermilk, and add some pork (think bacon) and of course, everything tastes better with bacon.  It's bacon.  It literally was a warm, soft, crumbly, amazing corn bread, and with butter that melted into it--you just can't get better.  I'm going to have to stretch out the remaining cracklin's I've been storing!

Southern Cracklin' Bread (Corn Bread)

1 egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup flour (I use whole-wheat pastry flour)
2 tablespoons cane juice crystals (or sugar)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons pork lard (or shortening or bacon fat)
1/2 cup crushed pork cracklin's or cooked bacon (I chopped my cracklin's with a food chopper)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9x9" baking dish (I use glass, and grease with pork lard).

In a small bowl, combine the egg and buttermilk.  In a larger bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, cane juice crystals, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Using a fork, mix in pork lard until it's incorporated--it should look a little crumbly without larger lard-y clumps. 

Pour the egg mixture into the dry mixture and stir until smooth.  Gently mix in the cracklin's and cheese; pour batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 20-30 minutes (start with 20!), until center is set and the top is golden.  Test for doneness with a toothpick or cake tester in center.  Serve warm, with butter and honey.

Back to life,

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