Thursday, December 18, 2014

Little Bits of Life

Over the summer and fall months, I wasn't exactly a faithful blogger . . . though I am working on changing that now. :) (Which you may have noticed!)

There are many post ideas that I have in mind to share . . . cooking/baking recipes as well as household cleaner recipes, projects we are working on, a homestead update (which is long overdue!), and more. I am looking forward to sharing about these things over the coming weeks and months!

And here is a little glimpse into some of the things that have been taking place here recently . . .


~ Baking ~

'Tis the season for the kitchen to be busy! Well, it's usually rather busy year round with each season having its own kitchen activities  and with having three women in our household who love to cook and bake :), but it is especially busy now with baking wintertime treats . . .

Leah making her own version of fudge with homemade Marshmallow Creme . . . and it was delicious! And the recipe will be coming soon.

 Mom making cookies . . . and the photo was taken with Leah's 
new smartphone which is why it is a little blurry.


~ Letter Writing ~

 This is another thing that happens year-round, but this time of year it is especially pleasant. Leah and I rearranged our room yet again trying to make things more conducive for each of our businesses (which was a success!), and a by-product of that was having a better place for my writing desk . . .

If you get a hand-written letter from me, this is where it would have been written. :)
The chair is a recent addition as I found a set of four of these sturdy oak chairs at an antique store for very little. They were originally library chairs and still have the manufacturer's label on the back of them!

A letter in progress to a sweet little friend who sent me the card on the left. Which had included the thoughtful gift of a dime. :) 


~ Mom's Project ~

This fall one of my mom's projects has been transferring all of our family home videos that are on VHS onto DVD. It has been fun to see parts of them as she has been doing that! One day when she was working on it, I happened to have my camera nearby so snapped a few photos from the one she was transferring . . .

Leah and I 'cleaning' out the kitchen drawers

All three of us kids out playing in the snow

Dad surprising Leah

All three of us together unwrapping the gifts on my birthday

Watching these and/or listening to them sure brings back special and fun memories! And reminds me how very quickly time goes by and how things change, and how important it is to cherish every moment.


~ Crocheting ~

Filling orders has been keeping Leah busy!

Here she is crocheting a little boot

It has been a busy crochet year for her,  and she has added many new and adorable items since I last posted about her shop. She is so talented!


~ Trip to the Bulk Food Store ~ 

We always enjoy doing this together! The drive is about an hour, and it is a beautiful one . . . .

An old barn alongside the road

Cattle grazing

  And the old farmhouse that Leah and I always admire . . . up until this year, it was steadily getting in worse and worse shape and no one lived in it. We were glad to see when driving by this time that someone has really been fixing it up!

So there is a glimpse into a few of the 'little' things that have been happening around here lately!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Trust and Surrender

“I surrender all” . . . “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” . . . these hymns have long been favorites of mine. I so desire to have them be an echo of what is truly in my heart and in all seasons of life . . . yet it is much easier when things are going well . . . when the skies are bright, when life is going along as we hope and trials are minimal, or when encouragement and fellowship are there in abundance.

It is much harder when uncertainty surrounds, when heartache comes, when things that we hold dear must be let go, or when life is just hard . . . that is when one can truly learn what ‘surrendering all’ means . . . when ‘trust’ takes on a much deeper meaning.

These are the two extremes, and most of us find ourselves somewhere in between and the proportion of each varies throughout our lives. This life as a follower of Christ certainly is a journey . . . learning, growing, maturing each step of the way through both the hard times and the good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
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
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lessons in the areas of trust and surrender are ones I am continuing to learn as I walk through this life, and recently, to a deeper level than I ever have before. I am so thankful that we have a faithful, patient, all-knowing heavenly Father who so lovingly helps us, cares for us, and guides us on the way!

As I type, part of a post that I wrote at the first of this year looking forward to the year 2014 comes to mind . . .

Sometimes the path the Lord leads us down is joy-filled and easier to walk . . . sometimes it is hard and full of what may seem to us, many twists and turns . . . sometimes growth in Christ comes easily, and it feels like progress is made quickly . . . other times it feels like a difficult upward climb over sharp rocks, and we can't seem to gain any ground, or perhaps, we even lose ground . . . sometimes it can be very humbling when He helps us to see the areas we are weak in and struggling in!

Yet all of these times, no matter how difficult or 'easy', can be used as stepping stones to bring one closer to the Lord and to help one to mature in faith, grow in character, and more. That is what I want this past year with all of its various circumstances to be for me . . . a stepping stone.

--A stepping stone to deeper fellowship with Christ and a more obedient walk with Him.

--A stepping stone to a more servant-hearted and joy filled life.


This continues to be the desire of my heart . . . to take the things that are currently in my life and my family's life - both the good and the hard - trusting in my God who has allowed or given all of them, and let each of them be a stepping stone upward and onward in Christ. Letting Him use these things as only He can to mold me more into a vessel fit for His use . . . to help me grow in the areas where I am weak.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  
"But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter" Isaiah 64:8a
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   


I know that He can and will do this for each one of us when we seek to bring these things (whatever they may be for each of us) to Him in open hands, learning step by step what it truly means to trust Him and to “surrender all” to our loving, all-wise Father.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
and whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
that extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
nor cease to yield fruit."
Jeremiah 17:7-8
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finished!

Last week I did the last of the hand quilting  . . .


Quilting the last square!


. . . and trimmed around the edges of the quilt in preparation for the binding.

Then came making the binding, machine sewing it around the edges of the quilt, and lastly, folding the binding over the edge and hand sewing it down around the whole quilt.

I finished the hand sewing this week and . . . the quilt is finally finished!


I am so happy to have it completed! It was quite the lengthy and big project . . . and enjoyable, too. :)

This is my seventh quilt to make so far and is the largest of all of them. I first saw the pattern for it in a craft book, and the pattern was taken from an antique quilt, a photo of which was included with the pattern. I instantly liked the look of the antique quilt and knew it was one I wanted to make, but didn't realize how large it was until after it was pieced together (this quilt's completed measurements are between queen and king size.) A quilt of that size takes awhile to quilt for a slow quilter like me!


After quite a few winters of working on this, it is exciting to finally have it finished!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Homemade Cream of Soup Mix

In many of the main dish recipes that we have and like, one often called for ingredient is "Condensed Cream of _____ Soup" . . . which all have MSG in them (at least all the ones I am familiar with do.) As providing healthy food for my family is something I really want (and love!) to do, MSG is one of the many food additives I want to avoid!

So several years ago I went searching and found a recipe for homemade cream of soup which works very well and adds great flavor. It is not as thick as the canned soups though, so when using it in a recipe, I will often reduce some of the other liquid that the recipe calls for.

It is simple to make, and the mix can be stored for up to a year . . . 


Homemade Cream of Soup Mix

-2 cups powdered milk
-3/4 cups cornstarch
-1/4 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable bouillon granules (I use MSG-free chicken broth powder)
-2 Tbsp. dried onion flakes or 1 tsp. onion powder
-1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
-1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1/4 tsp. garlic powder, optional

Combine all ingredients and blend until mixed. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. This recipe makes three cups and is enough for nine cans of soup.


To substitute for one can of condensed cream of soup:

In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup soup mix and 1 1/8 cup water. Bring to a boil for 2 to 2 ½ minutes, stirring constantly until thick.

~~~~~~~~~~

So that's the basic recipe! But recipes don't typically call for just a basic cream of soup (though the basic still works well in a pinch :), so here is how to make some of your own variations . . . 

For:

Celery Soup – add 1/2 cup of sautéed, minced celery

Chicken Soup – add 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked, finely diced chicken

Creamier Cream Soup – add 1 Tbsp. of butter to any variation

Mushroom Soup – add 1/2 cup sautéed, finely chopped mushrooms

Onion Soup – add 1/2 cup sautéed, chopped onions

Tomato Soup – add 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped and seeded tomato

~~~~~~~~~~

On a different yet related note, canning jars (both old and new!) work so well for storing food in your pantry. We use them for many of the bulk foods we get, dried homegrown things (such as the Pepper Flakes in the below photo), as well as any other dry things we make such as the soup mix, Italian Croutons, dried bread crumbs, and Taco Seasoning (also in the below photo . . . and in need of more being made!)


A few of our jars

On another different yet still related note, I updated the recipe page on my blog and added some recipes to it, and then for each of the ones that I have a photo of it completed, the photo was added by the links as well. So if you are ever looking for a recipe that had been shared on my blog before, it should be easier to find now!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Refinishing and Restoring

I am planning for this winter to be my 'finish projects season' . . . and possibly start a few more, too. :) One project I am hoping to finish is the restoration of three antique oak dining room chairs. One chair is completed save for getting a new cane seat put in it, and the others were almost all the way disassembled and ready to start the restoration process.

This past Saturday with a high forecast to be in the mid-60's, it was a perfect day to strip the two remaining chairs of their finish. (The stripper I use has a minimum working temperature of 65 degrees so there are not many days this time of year that would work!)

Before starting on that, though, I finished dissasembling the chairs using a rubber headed mallet. Then labeled the remaining pieces (where each one goes on each chair), set up a working space outside, and began stripping . . .

 Most of the dowels and front legs of chair one with the stripper coating them. 
At the ends of the dowels, you can see that they are labeled where they go. One end has written on it whether it is a "Back Top", "Left Middle", etc. while the other end says whether the dowel end was facing left, right, front or back. All of chair number 2's pieces are also marked with a "2".

 In the process of using steel wool to remove the stripper/stain/varnish. The decorative dowel near the back has already been done. I always like seeing what the wood looks like once the finish is all off!

 One of the chair backs with the stripper on the back half.
To make reassembly easier, I didn't remove the back slats completely. Though had to separate the three bottom ones on one side in order to remove the bottom dowels on the chair. 

Stripped and ready to sand once it's dry. 
(And most of the 'whiter' looking spots on parts of the chair are where I didn't quite get all of the stripper wiped off. It leaves white residue when it dries which will all be sanded off.)

I had forgotten that back when I was removing the old spline from the chair grooves that I hadn't finished removing it from one of them. So I did that recently, too . . . which is easier said than done. I do not know what kind of glue was used to attach the spline before, but whatever it was does not dissolve easily! It took a lot of vinegar, a lot of work and a lot of time to finally have the rest of the spline removed and the groove cleaned. The spline that had been used was also larger than what should have been used for this size of groove making it even harder to get out.

I was quite glad when the last little bit of spline (which I am working on removing here) peeled right out! Then came removing all of the glue and the remaining pieces of the old caning.

The groove all cleaned

So now the chair seat grooves are ready, and the chair pieces have all been stripped. What is left to do is sanding all of the pieces, reassembling the chairs (with my Dad's help), staining them, putting on the finish, and then putting the cane seats in each of them.

I really enjoy doing projects like this and am looking forward to continuing to work on it in the coming weeks!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Light through the Clouds

When my Dad and I were driving home one evening awhile back, the sun broke through the clouds, and it turned into a very uniquely beautiful sunset . . . these photos are unedited and are far from capturing how breath-taking it was.


As I gazed out the car window with much on my heart and mind, I remember sharing with my Dad that no matter if the clouds obscure the sun for a time, eventually it always breaks through in all its warm, comforting brilliance. Even when the darkness comes and night falls, we know the sun will rise again in the morning. Until the end of this age, the sun is always a constant. And behind the clouds, and even when darkness falls, the sun is still shining. It never goes out.

I remember thinking then, what a small, yet comforting, picture this is of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, our Light. Clouds may come, we may walk through darkness, yet His light is always shining. We may not see it right at the time, we may not feel its warmth, but we can know, our Light and Savior is always there.

"The Lord's unfailing love, surrounds the man who trusts in Him." Psalm 32:10 (NIV)


"For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness" Psalm 18:28

In our lives, we all have these darker or harder times . . . the times when we are walking through the valley, or are watching those we love walk through them. Our hearts may be aching and we may not understand 'why' . . . sometimes we cannot seem to see the light for all the clouds. Yet we can know that it is still shining . . . we can trust that it will eventually break through the clouds, the darkness will be chased away by its brilliant light.

That is a promise that our Lord has made to us, as well as that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is always right there with us guiding and leading, no matter how small the trial or how deep or dark the valley.


"O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." Psalm 43:3-5

If you are going through a difficult time right now, and Jesus is your Savior, know that you are not alone. He is right there with you . . . you may not see the sun shining at this moment, but take comfort that it will shine again. Your heart may even be despairing right now as the Psalmists' was, but know that God is the great Comforter . . . you will be able to again praise Him.

"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16

Hope in Him, trust in Him, draw near to Him, pray to Him and wait for His abundant mercy, grace, strength and help which He so freely gives in our times of need. He is a loving Father, full of compassion and He is the "Shepherd and Guardian of [our] souls" . . . let Him guide and carry you and use this season to strengthen your faith and draw your heart closer to Himself.


Part of yesterday's "Days of Praise" by The Institute of Creation Research seems a fitting way to bring this to a close . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” (Psalm 65:2)

There come times in each life when loneliness overshadows like a cloud, and no one is there to listen and provide counsel. Or perhaps there is some problem so personal and intimate that it seems unfitting or too embarrassing to share with anyone else.

But God will listen! No need is so small, no place too remote, no burden too heavy that He who is the “God of all grace” and “the God of all comfort” (1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 1:3) will not listen and care. “The LORD will hear when I call unto him” (Psalm 4:3).

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies . . . How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light, we see light."
Psalm 36:5, 7-9

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Recipe to Share ~ Classic Chicken Potpie

I hope that you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This recipe seemed fitting to share right after the holiday as it can use leftover turkey. It calls for chicken, but we've used rabbit in it, too, and turkey would work just as well.

I found the recipe quite a few months ago when looking for more dishes that we could use rabbit in, and after making it the first time, it quickly became a family favorite! I did a fair bit of tweaking to it so my recipe is below and the original can be found here (as well as a photo of it.)

Classic Chicken Potpie
 (some of the ingredients are approximates as I didn't exactly measure. :)

 -- A total of 3 1/2 cups chopped vegetables, peeled if necessary (i.e. potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, green beans - this particular time, I used the first three listed.)
-- 2 1/2 cups shredded chicken, rabbit, OR turkey
-- 1/2 Tbsp. dried minced onion
-- 1 can (4 1/2 oz.) sliced muchrooms, drained
--1/4 cup butter
-- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
-- 1 tsp. dried basil
-- 1/8 tsp. pepper
-- dash of salt
-- 2 cups hot water with 3 tsp. MSG- free chicken broth powder dissolved into it
-- Pastry for single-crust pie (recipe for that is below)

Boil vegetables in water until tender. Drain. In a greased deep 2 1/2 qt. baking dish, combine the vegetables, rabbit/chicken/turkey, onion flakes, and mushrooms; set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Combine the flour, thyme, basil, pepper and salt. Stir into butter until smooth. Gradually add broth mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Pour over meat and vegetable mixture.

Make pastry following the below recipe. Roll out to fit top of dish. Place over filling; trim and flute edges. Cut slits in top. Bake at 450 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!

Single Crust Pie Pastry

-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup butter
-4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Sift flour and salt together; cut in butter with pastry blender till crumbly. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of mixture. Gently toss with fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat till all is moistened. Form into a ball.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Weekend with Family

This past weekend we were able to enjoy an early Thanksgiving with some of my Dad's side of the family which was so enjoyable! Saturday our kitchen was busy in preparation as my Mom made cookies and apple pies and I made a bunch of rolls.

Then early Sunday morning (as in, 4:00 in the morning early!) found us up and getting ready to make the trek to Nebraska. The entire drive was through dreary skies and also rain much of the way, though the miles and hours seemed to go by quickly. 


Crossing the Elkhorn River

We were some of the first ones to arrive at my aunt and uncle's house (who were hosting), and it was so nice to see them again as well as my Grandma and another aunt who were already there.


Grandma with Uncle Jim behind her, Mom, Aunt Marci and Dad

Before long, everyone else that was going to be able to come had arrived (save for one aunt who came later.) All in all, it was us four, my grandma, four aunts, two uncles, and two of my cousins and their families. It was wonderful seeing everyone again!


Aunt Linda with her two granddaughters


In the kitchen visiting and finishing the meal preparations


Some of the desserts plus rolls and salads

She really wanted Shiloh (the dog) to play with her, and Dad was trying to get him to come out! He wasn't too keen on the idea right at that time. :)

Aunt Judy, Mom, and Aunt Linda working on meal preparations


Tonya (our cousin) holding her son, Mom, Leah, Aunt Linda and Aunt Judy

Leah, Melinda (our cousin) and Grandma visiting . . . we had many wonderful conversations together!

I loved spending time with both of these special girls!
(Photo by Leah)

In the background: Leah, Melinda and Grandma
In the foreground: Aunt Marci, Dad, Uncle Pat, and Byron 

The day was wonderfully filled with much visiting, laughter, reminiscing and telling family stories, working in the kitchen together, enjoying a delicious meal of so many different dishes that people had brought, and more.

Ethan giving me one of his more mischievous smiles.

 Aunt Linda, Aunt Judy and my Mom . . . it was fun listening to them!

Dad with his brother Pat and one of Uncle Pat's granddaughters

Leah and one of our cousins' sweet girls enjoying time together

Aunt Linda and her grandson . . . he was such a smiley, fun little boy!

Dad and his older sister Marci visiting

Me with the sweet little daughter of one of my cousins
(photo by Leah)  

Grandma with both of her sons

Aunt Monica with one of her granddaughters


Dad and Grandma visiting
(photo by Aunt Judy)  

Some of the highlights for me were having a special talk with my Grandma about faith and trusting God in all things, visiting with my cousins including about natural/organic foods, gardening, etc. (we have quite a bit in common in our thoughts on those things!), having one of my cousins' little girls (the one in the below photo) run straight to me to give me a hug as soon as she came in the door (and then wanting to be close to either Leah or I so much during the day), playing a bit with my cousins' children, talking with everyone, and then simply seeing my family together, hearing them laugh, and just enjoying being there with them.

Family is such a blessing, and I am so thankful for all of mine!


Me and little cuddlebug :) . . . it was really nice to see her again!
(photo by Aunt Judy) 

The hours passed all too quickly and eventually it was time for goodbyes to be said, and the rest of the family headed for home. 


Grandma saying goodbye to Tonya and two of her children
(photo by Aunt Judy)  


A precious moment . . . I love seeing how much the great-grandchildren love Grandma and in turn, her all of us. She has such a big and loving heart, and I am so glad she's my grandma!


Andrew with his sleepy son and Uncle Jim
(photo by Aunt Judy)  


More hugs!
(photo by Aunt Judy) 

The remainder of the day found Uncle Jim, Aunt Judy, Aunt Monica, my parents, Leah and I visiting into the night. It was a fun and special time! And one I am thankful for.

The next morning we had intended to leave fairly early, but that didn't exactly happen. :) We instead sat around the dining room table with cups of hot chocolate and coffee and talked and talked and talked . . . until finally we had to pull ourselves away and begin the drive home.

On our drive up, I had noticed this impressive barn, house and outbuildings , so was prepared to photograph them on the way home . . . .



Isn't the barn amazing? And what a beautiful setting with the large trees and the fence. As always my curiosity was aroused, wondering how old it was, who had lived there, etc. etc.


Another old barn on the drive home

It was so windy on Monday that we were about blown home. :) We pulled into our driveway just a bit before dark so were able to do the animal chores in the remaining light.

I am so thankful that everything came together for us to take this trip and to enjoy this special and memorable time with family!