Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Off to a Wedding!

The early (very early!) morning hours of tomorrow will find Ryan, Leah and I heading out to travel to a wedding (unfortunately Dad and Mom are unable to go.) And as we will be gone until the beginning of next week, this little blog will be quiet over that time as I will be absent from the 'blogging world' until after we get back. Until then!

A Special Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon for several hours Leah and I had the opportunity to watch a little one year old girl for her mother. What a wonderful and fun time we had together!

Towards the beginning of the afternoon when she was having some difficulty with missing Mommy, I brought her outside for a bit while Leah fixed her a snack. She loves being outside so it did not take but a few minutes before she stopped crying. We walked up and down the driveway many times all the while I was talking with her and pointing out things for her to see. Her favorite thing was seeing a rabbit next to the driveway . . . we watched it until it hopped away, and then every time that we would pass by that spot again, she would look and look for it. We did eventually get to see another rabbit which brought one of her happy smiles to her face. By this time, Leah had a snack of peaches and crackers spread with peanut butter ready for her so we headed inside, and I had the pleasure of holding her and feeding her . . . and it wasn't long before she was giving us her little teasing smiles again!

The remainder of the afternoon was spent playing indoors and spending bits of time outside, too (it was chilly yesterday so we did not stay outside very long each time.) She loved to watch the dogs and chickens and when the dogs would bark, she would 'bark' back at them. (So cute!)

She also loved looking outside through our blinds! She kept going up to them over and over again just to look out.

Reading books together - we had just gotten in from being outside so that is why she is wearing her jacket and has a sweater around her legs.

Towards the end of our time together, we read some books, and she enjoyed that! She would pick which book to read next and then we would flip through the pages and look at the pictures. The particular book in the above photo was all about ducks, and when I opened it up she pointed to the ducks and started saying "qak, qak, qak". Then the next book had puppies, ducks and kittens on the pages and she made each of their sounds too . . . it was so cute!

Before long her Mommy and older siblings arrived and so we enjoyed playing with the other children and visiting with their Mom for a bit before they needed to go. Overall it was a special afternoon!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blooming Sunshine

More signs of spring have been arriving here in Missouri including having the daffodils bloom . . .

I just love their cheery flowers . . .

Our lilac bush has also been leafing out and is full of flower buds, some of the trees and bushes are beginning to flower, and some birds have even begun to build their nests. The other day I happened to notice Carolina Wrens frequently visiting one of our old duck next boxes while carrying nesting material. Upon further investigation, I found this well-constructed nest tucked into one of the corners (the photo is taken through the little hole on the front of the nest box) . . .

The 'entrance' into the nest is in the center front, right below the light colored, horizontal piece of grass.

We've also had the pleasure of seeing the nest building activities of the Eastern Phoebes too (even in the downpours of rain that we had today they were still busily building their nest!) Oh, the delights of this lovely season of spring!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In the Kitchen and a Lesson on "Holy in Behavior"

What fun we had in the kitchen with the girls this past week making Cheeseburger Soup! The soup is one that is fairly involved and has many different steps so it was a bit challenging, yet quite fun. Since this was going to be a lengthy project, we went ahead and got everything out and ready before the girls arrived . . .

Ready and Waiting

Leah helping one of the girls punch holes in a can of broth

Chopping Potatoes

In they go!

Slicing the cheese to add to the soup - it is almost finished now!

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes for the girls to get the soup from start to finish which was faster than what we thought it would take. They did such a great job and worked so well together to make it! Once the soup was finished, the girls worked on cross-stitching for awhile until we had our lesson which was on being "reverent in behavior".

We began by talking about how in Scripture, there are many times that instruction is given about what the behavior of believers in Christ should be like, one of which is found in 1 Peter chapter 1. It reads:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

From this verse, we see that we are to be holy in our behavior. In addition to the verses which speak to all believers in Christ about their behavior (such as the ones above), there are also
several times were women are specifically addressed in regards to their behavior. One of these verses is found just a bit further in the book of 1 Peter, and while the verses are specifically directed to wives, the principles can still be applied to our own lives . . .

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)

In this verse the word ‘chaste’ is quite similar to the word ‘holy’. It means to be pure from carnality, chaste, modest; and pure from every fault, immaculate. We discussed together in some detail what this definition means before moving on to a verse in Titus . . .

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior
Titus 2:3a)

This verse is being specifically spoken to older women, but as younger women, we should still seek to align our lives under this God-honoring standard. This 'reverence', like the word 'chaste', is also closely related to holiness. One Bible version (the KJV) translates it as “in behavior as becometh holiness.”

After reading all of these verses and discussing them, we asked the girls: "What do you think it means to be holy?" "What is holiness?" We then shared that holiness, for those who believe in Christ, is first found in having a devotion and love for God. This love for Him is then lived out in our lives as we seek to have the character of God shining through us. It is a casting off of sin and things of the flesh and an adorning with the things of the Lord. It is being obedient to God and following Him.

Once we had shared this and discussed it a bit, we asked "In these verses, where did it say that this holiness should be?" They correctly answered that it is to be in our behavior. But what specifically is our behavior? What does this word encompass?

When examining the word 'behavior' we find that it is basically our inner heart being expressed outwardly through our conduct, actions and words. It is the way we speak, act, and carry ourselves; it is our demeanor and countenance.

From looking at the verses, we see that as women, we are specifically instructed to have this holiness in our behavior. The question then comes . . . what is our behavior like? Is it behavior that is pleasing to God and holy? Are we seeking to have our behavior, demeanor and countenance be holy? To be in accordance with God’s Word?

Going back to 1 Peter 1:14-16, we concluded by once again reading:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ”

By this time, we were nearing the end of our time together, so we put Bibles, notebooks and pencils away, cleaned-up, and then sampled the soup that the girls had made. It was delicious! They did a marvelous job. :) And in case any of you would like to make this recipe youselves, I thought I would go ahead and share it here . . .

Cheeseburger Soup

-1/2 to 1 lb. ground beef
-3/4 cup chopped onion
-3/4 cup shredded carrots
-3/4 cup sliced celery
-1 tsp. basil
-1 tsp. parsley flakes
-4 Tbsp. butter - divided
-4 cups peeled, diced potatoes
-3 cups chicken broth (or more if needed)
-1/4 cup flour
-8 oz. Velveeta cheese
-1 ½ cups milk
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1/4 to ½ tsp. pepper
-1/4 cup sour cream

In a 3 qt. sauce pan, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, sauté onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 Tbsp. butter until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 to 12 minutes until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt remaining butter. Add flour, cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup; bring to boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream. Enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Planting Time!

While it is still too early for the majority of the vegetable garden to be planted, it is a perfect time to transplant cauliflower and broccoli. The days have been pleasantly warm, but the nights are still getting fairly chilly, though if we happen to have a light frost it will not harm these types of plants. So this afternoon Dad tilled up the area in the garden where we were planning to put them, and then Leah and I planted them. It felt wonderful to be working with the soil and planting again! The feel of freshly tilled dirt as it runs through ones' fingers and the look of tender green plants in the garden is indeed a delightful one.

Ready and waiting

Marking the Rows
(Baling twine worked great for this! We happened to have a roll that does not work with Ryan's baler so we found another way to use it. :)

(The yardstick is for making sure we put the plants the right distance apart.)

A Broccoli plant in its new home

Working together (which was so fun!) it did not take us long to get all twenty-seven broccoli plants and twenty-two cauliflower plants
in the ground (though, some of the cauliflower plants probably will not make it as they were 'extras' that missed being thinned out, so they were quite tiny with small root systems. It will be interesting to see how many of them survive!)

Now we can look forward to (hopefully!), after some care and time, enjoying fresh from the garden cauliflower and broccoli.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Making Bread Crumbs

Every once in a rare while, the bread that we make reaches its last day without it all being eaten, and instead of just throwing the bread away, I have been trying to think of different ways to use it. The other day several slices were reaching the end of their 'shelf life' (which is about three days) so I laid them out on a cookie sheet, covered them with a cloth and let them dry. Once completely dry, I crushed the bread and now have bread crumbs!

So that is one way to use up 'old' bread. Do you all have any other ideas of what to do with the bread? I have heard before of making croutons, but have yet to try that. Have any of you made homemade croutons before? If so, how did you do it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Simple Joys . . .

Monday morning came early . . . the house was quiet, darkness still blanketed the outdoors save for the fading moonlight that still streamed in some of the windows. I had my morning Bible reading and study, and then busily set to cleaning the house which is a regular Monday morning activity in preparation for sewing lessons. This seemed to go by quickly and by the time I was finished with that and a few other things, it was fairly light outdoors and time to head out and take care of the animals. What a beautiful morning greeted me when I stepped outside! A thick blanket of fog covered the pasture and our yard had patches of fog scattered here and there; there was a whole chorus of birds singing away; the sky was clear and a gentle breeze was blowing.

Fog in the pasture
(You may not be able to tell in this photo, but the majority of the trees are getting heavy with buds!)

After chores, I took some time to enjoy the morning and also took a walk down to the mailbox to mail a few things which gave me the opportunity to see part of the sunrise (we can partially see it from the end of our driveway) . . .

My sunrise photos leave much to be desired, but this one gives at least an idea of what it was like!

Before long it was time to head inside and finish preparations for sewing lessons. The morning and early afternoon passed quickly with teaching, and the time with all the students was pleasant. After the last lesson for the day was finished, I changed into 'work' clothes and went outside to work on clearing away fallen branches and brush. Behind where my old garden used to be, a lot of branches over this past winter had fallen off of a dead tree that was on the fence line. All this made quite a mess! There was also an area behind the vegetable garden that had gotten overgrown last summer/fall so I worked on cleaning up both of these areas.

Some of the fallen branches . . . the little Iris's are in the foreground. I had moved my garden last year, but as I did not know where these were (they are an early spring plant), I had to wait until later this year to transplant them. Once they finish blooming, they'll find their home in my flower garden again.

All loaded up and ready to bring down to the burn area

After many pleasurable (and tiring!) hours of this, chore time had again arrived, and when those were finished, I took a relaxing walk around our place . . .

The early Iris's are still brightening their little spot of our property
The second type of flower to bloom this spring . . . Leah's crocuses!

Partway through my walk, I happened to glance down and see these tiny flowers growing in our yard . . .

What memories they bring back! These were often the first 'flowers' (or weeds :) to bloom in the spring, and they were always eagerly looked for by two little girls many years ago. Eyes would scan the ground and sparkle with delight when finding one while small hands would pick them . . . the reason? To make little bouquets for our Mom. And no matter how many haphazard and wilting bouquets made their way into our home, each one was met with delight and tender care as Mom would put them in little vases and set them around the house. What precious memories!
The day was fast coming to an end, and it was much the same as how it had begun . . . only in the morning I watched the sun slowly climb above the trees and saw the fog chased away by the warm sunlight; while in the evening, I stood at the fence line watching the sun finishing its course for the day. In the morning was the cheery song of the birds filling the air . . . in the evening, it was the lonely call of the Barred Owl that was heard along with the little spring peepers down in the pond.

Throughout times of this beautiful day, I could not help but pause and reflect on many different things. As I enjoyed the creation around me, my thoughts turned to the One who created it all. And at one point, the words of a familiar hymn came to mind, and they seemed to be fitting ones to bring this post to a close . . .

Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Indeed, how great is the Lord and worthy to be praised!

"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created . . . Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing . . . To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." Revelation 4:11 and 5:12, 13b

Monday, March 16, 2009

Girls Group . . .

Our little group last week was indeed 'little' as only two girls were able to come that day. But what a fun and special time we had together! Sometimes it is nice only having a few girls as then our attention and focus can be entirely on them . . . it is a bit more personal of a time together.

With only a few being able to come (which we found out kind of at the last minute), we did a quick change of plans. We had planned to work in the kitchen making a main dish, but instead decided to save that for a later time. Once the girls arrived, we asked them to choose out of all the recipe cards that they have made what they would like to bake that day. It was a unanimous decision as they both chose the same thing!
:) "Can't Leave Alone Bars." So we headed into the kitchen with one of their recipe cards in hand to make them. As the girls have made these for their families at home before, they knew quite well what to do . . . we all just started right in and had a delightful time mixing these up together. The smiles, the laughter, the conversation were all so enjoyable!

Measuring the oil

Each working on their prospective duties . . . one is mixing up the batter, the other is mixing up the chocolaty filling

Leah helping one of the girls pour on the filling

The bars were put together very quickly, and once they were in the oven, we moved on to the next project . . . painting! Awhile back at a garage sale, Leah and I had picked up these adorable little double sided washboards/chalkboards to paint. We only had four of them which was how many of us there were, so Leah and I joined the girls and painted with them. It was so fun to do this together with them!

Spreading out the tablecloth


Leah helping one of the girls hot-glue on the hearts

Once the little washboards/chalkboards were finished being painted and were drying, we had our lesson for the day which was on the attribute of love of not being jealous. We began by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4 . . .

Love . . . is not jealous

We then asked, what is jealousy?
After they thought for a bit and answered the question (with good answers too :), we took a look at the definition of jealousy. The definition had quite a few 'big' words and was a bit confusing, so we took it phrase by phrase discussing as we went along . . .

Jealousy is “apprehensive of rivalship; uneasy through fear that another may enjoy some good which you desire to obtain; suspicious that we do not have the affection or respect of others, or that another is more loved and respected than ourselves; full of competition.”

We then read portions of the account of Joseph and his brothers, and concluded with the verse “His brothers were jealous of him . . .”
(Genesis 37:11.)

We turned to James 3:16-18 and read . . .

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

After discussing these verses to some depth, especially the first portion about what arises from jealousy, we turned to Acts 7:9 . . .

The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him,"

The jealousy of Joseph's brothers caused them to sell Joseph into slavery, and had just about brought them to be murderers (as we found when reading in Genesis.) The results of jealousy can be grievous. After talking a bit about the consequences of jealousy, we looked at our own lives. How can we overcome jealousy? What should we be instead? Unselfish, humble and a servant of all . . . these are all opposites of the negative attribute of jealousy. And true love, a godly love, will not be jealous.

Taking notes

By this time, the clock was nearing the end of our two hours together, so we brought the lesson to a close in order to have time to enjoy the dessert the girls had made, to make plates of it for them to bring home to their families, and to say our goodbyes. Another afternoon with the girls is now a special memory . . .

Friday, March 13, 2009

Canning Apple Butter

Despite the unusual time of year to be canning, this afternoon found me in the kitchen doing exactly that. After our supply of apple butter recently ran out (which was made this past fall), I was entreated by various family members to please make some more! So we picked up some apples at a discount grocery store, and this afternoon I went to work . . .

The first steps were to wash the apples, remove the stem and blossom ends, chop them into small pieces and add two cups of water . . .

The full pot was then set on the stove to simmer until the apples were very soft. I love this part of it as the house fills with the very delicious smell of apples . . . oh, it is so good!

Once the apples were finished simmering, it was time to run them through the food mill (which is a bit tiring to do, but so satisfying as one sees the pot filling up with future apple butter!)
After this step was finished, the sugar, cinnamon and cloves were added, and then the mixture was once again simmered on the stove until the desired consistency was reached . . .

Not there yet!

Meanwhile, I got all the canning supplies ready: filling up the canner; getting out the funnel, jar lifter and other necessary items; heating up the jars; and then simmering the lids . . .

Then came time to fill the jars! This is my favorite part. :)

Ladling in the Apple Butter

Putting on the ring

The filled jars then found their way into the boiling-water bath canner until it was time to remove them and set them out to cool . . .

I have to say that I very much enjoyed being able to can again! It made me even more eager for spring and summer, though. :) Especially as I pulled out the canning supplies needed for today and saw the jelly bag, the canning recipe book, and the stacks of quart, pint, and half-pint jars . . . . . it will not be long before they will be put into use again!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Family Outing

This past Sunday in the late afternoon, our family took a drive out to Eagle Bluffs conservation area and had a wonderful and fun time together!

Some of the bluffs

The day was mostly overcast (though the sun did begin to break through), very windy and on the cold side so everyone stayed in the vehicle (it is a drive-through, though you can get out and walk, too) except for me. I got out a few times and managed to take several photos without being blown away! :) Thus, we did not end up with any 'people' photos save for this one that Ryan took in the truck . . .

I had passed him my camera to take the below photo of Snow Geese and Greater-White Fronted Geese (they were on his side of the truck), but before doing that, he turned to take one of Leah and I. It was quite funny listening to Leah and Ryan as he attempted to get a photo of us. He finally was semi-successful :), and then he took the requested photo of the geese . . .

There were quite a few ducks of several different species on the water, and occasionally they were up fairly close to the road. I was surprised that these Northern Shovelers and Coots did not fly when I got out of the truck to photograph them . . . they were quite cooperative!

As we drove, killdeers would often fly up, and we could hear them calling . . . I love the sound of their call!

Can you see him? :) He blends in well!
Blue-wing Teal Drakes flying over the water

And animals of the bird variety were not the only ones seen . . .

We also had the pleasure of seeing this muskrat swimming in the water. When I got out to attempt to take a photo of him, he did not seem to mind in the least . . . at first that is! I kept walking closer to the bank (he was swimming only a few yards out from the shore), and eventually I must have gotten too close as he dived under the water! I did not have to wait long, though, before he resurfaced and leisurely continued his swim. They are such cute, little animals! (I think anyway. :)
Partway through the drive, Mom made the comment that we probably would not be seeing any of one of her favorite animals. She always watches for them whenever we are near water and is quick to point them out when seeing them. Not much longer after saying this, though, we happened to catch sight of some of these animals resting on a log . . .

A little turtle family. :) Turtles are such interesting animals, and we always enjoy seeing them!
And when taking a trip out to Eagle Bluffs, it is not uncommon to see Bald Eagles. This time, we saw four of them (two adults and two juveniles), and we had the pleasure of watching these majestic birds flying near us for quite some time. They are so beautiful!

On our drive out of the conservation area, gulls were flying right next to our truck which was so fun! There was one time that one flew down low right by my window . . . birds in flight are amazing to watch. There were also several gulls sitting out in the shallows, and they were joined by one of the gulls that had been flying around . . .

Then came time to head home. Leah asked if we could take the 'scenic road' to which we all enthusiastically expressed our favor to. So instead of going home by the highways, we went part of the way on a little gravel road called "Roby Farm Road" . . . just the name sounds pleasant! The road winds through mostly wooded areas and lots of big hills, and we so enjoy driving down it. Part of the road is lined with fairly high banks which trees are growing on. The root formations there are fascinating, and Dad stopped so I could take a photo of them . . .

One of the trees' root formations

Looking down the road

The rest of the drive home was spent in pleasant visiting and some fun teasing . . . what specialness is family. How thankful I am to the Lord for blessing me with mine!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The First Flowers

How exciting it was yesterday to see that our first flowers of spring had bloomed! Their bright and cheery flowers as well as their delicate and sweet scent were very much enjoyed . . .

What intricate detail and beauty is found in God's creation! His hand is seen even in things as small as a bud slowly opening to spread its colorful petals.

". . . Arise, bless the LORD your God forever and ever! O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, the heaven of the heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You. You are the LORD God . . ." Nehemiah 9:5b-7a

"O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all . . ." Psalm 104:24a