Monday, May 31, 2010

While the Cat's Away . . .

. . . the mice will play . . . or so goes the old saying. However, in this case, it's not the cat that is away, it is Ryan (he flew out last week to visit Ashley :), and it is not the mice who are playing, but it is all the rest of us who are working. As Ryan's departure date of last Thursday approached for him to head for South Carolina, the rest of us began scheming . . . Ryan has been working so much on the house the past months with other members of our family helping when they could, and he (with a bit of help) has the plumbing in, most of the mudding and sanding finished, and the main living area of the house had been primed (thank you so much Mr. W. for doing that!

So, our plan was that while Ryan was/is gone, Dad, Mom, Leah and I were/are going to work like crazy out there and try to get a bunch done for him before he gets back. And so far, the plan has been moving along just as we had planned! Dad got the ceiling of the living/dining/kitchen area all painted, Mom continues to work on the mudding and sanding, and Leah and I have been painting. Dad also went and picked up the flooring that Ryan and Ashley had picked out, and plans to pick up sometime soon the cabinets that they had picked out. But before posting the recent photos, here are a few photos that were taken a couple of weeks ago . . .

Looking towards the front door

The kitchen and pantry

Dad and Leah cutting a piece of something (very descriptive, eh? ;) to put in the bathroom

Looking towards the bedrooms

And since the time that the above photos were taken, the mudding and sanding was finished in the dining/kitchen/living room, the ceiling and the walls were primed, and the ceiling was painted as well. With all of that done, it was now time to paint the walls . . .

Leah taping along the ceiling

Mom painting the corners of the walls

In progress!

Leah and I had so much fun painting together and 'inspecting' each other's work . . . "it looks like there is a drip there . . . missed a spot here . . ." etc. :) It was so enjoyable working together!

The mudding and sanding expert working away in the pantry. :) Mom does such a good job with this!

Hours later all of the painting was finished in the living/kitchen/dining room, and it was break time!

Meanwhile, Dad arrived with his second load from town (the first was concrete for the pad in the crawlspace for the water heater), and the second was flooring! This was the first time that I had seen the flooring that Ryan and Ashley had picked out, and it is beautiful!

The little bedroom had become a 'catch all' for tools, trash, etc. so we cleaned it all out so we could put the flooring in it (and there was more put in the living room, too.) Now it is ready and waiting to be put down! I can hardly wait to see it all installed!

Mom scrapping dried mud off of the floor in preparation for putting in the flooring

So, we ended our day out there with the house looking like this (except for the messiness :) we cleaned up the house before we left, too . . .

Looking towards the front door

Looking towards the bedrooms and bathroom

The kitchen and pantry (and just a note, we purposefully left the lower part underneath the window unpainted as that is where some of the cabinets are going and we wanted to save on paint! :)

And another photo of the kitchen and pantry, though, this was taken a little more to the left

It was so exciting to be able to get all of that painted, and now the flooring can begin! So that is what we will be working on next, and it should be a lot of fun!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Bars Recipe

Here is the requested recipe for the bars that we made in girls group recently. They are a family favorite here, and I hope that you all enjoy them, too!

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Bars

-1 cup butter or margarine, softened
-1 cup packed brown sugar

-1/2 cup sugar

-2 eggs

-1 tsp. vanilla

-1 ½ cups flour

-1 tsp. baking soda

-1 tsp. cinnamon

-1/2 tsp. salt

-3 cups quick oats

-1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well into creamed mixture. Stir in oats and raisins. Spread batter into a greased 9x13 inch baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baking and a Lesson on Graciousness

Last week our time with the girls was so fun and special! And it was so nice as, for the first time in quite awhile, everyone was able to come. The two hours that we had together flew by with the largest portion of them being filled with making Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Bars . . .

Measuring out the brown sugar

Using the mixer to mix the dry ingredients with the creamed sugar/butter mixture

And into the pan it goes!

Once the bars were in the oven baking, we gathered in the living room so the girls could write out a recipe card . . .

And then once they were finished with that, we memorized 1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." For this, first the girls had to guess letters to fill in the blanks that were on the board, thus slowly writing out the verse. Once it was complete enough for them to guess what it said, we started the memorization by repeating the verse together, erasing a word, repeating the verse again, and so on down the line, until the entire verse was erased and the girls were saying it from memory.

After the verse was memorized, we had our lesson for the day which was on the attribute of "graciousness." We first talked about God being the perfect example of graciousness. As the Psalmist declared:

The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness” (Psalm 145:8.)

And as we have talked about before, we are to follow in Christ’s steps and are to be like Him. We should be seeking to be gracious as He is gracious. Also in Proverbs, a verse is given which speaks directly about women regarding graciousness. It reads:

A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches" (Proverbs 11:6.)

We discussed the two different 'parts' to this verse, including the aspects of 'honor' and being 'ruthless.' And then we asked the questions: "But what is being 'gracious'? What does it mean and what does it look like?"

To answer these questions, we first read a few of the definitions of the word 'gracious' in Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. There, we found that this word means:

~disposed to show grace or favor, kind, courteous; merciful or compassionate~

The word as used in Scripture is further defined (according to our concordance) as:

~kindness, pleasant, precious~

As those seeking to follow after the Lord and be obedient to Him, we should be seeking to cultivate graciousness (as it is defined above) in our lives. It is first developed in our hearts, and then it can be shown and expressed in our:

– speech

In regards to the aspect of it being in our speech, we read and discussed a verse from Colossians:

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6.)

Graciousness is also associated with being wise:

Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while lips of a fool consume him” (Ecclesiastes 10:12.)

We discussed the above verse in detail before moving on and asking the girls what ways that they would think that graciousness could be expressed in our lives.

After the lesson was finished, we enjoyed some cupcakes that one of the girls had brought to share with everyone, packaged up some of the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Bars for the girls to bring home to their families, and then said our goodbyes until the next time that we get together.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Simple Pleasure is . . .

. . . watching a pair of beautiful Barn Swallows gather nesting material to build their nest . . .

When we went out to Ryan's place recently, we were able to watch them through the window and take these photos as well. And while the photos didn't turn out the greatest, they bring back the remembrance of how fun it was to watch them! They are so graceful and so beautiful with striking color patterns . . . how amazing, varied, and detailed is the creation of God!

"O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." Psalm 104:24

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This week . . .

~We celebrated my dear mother's birthday, and what a very special and fun day it was! I am so thankful for the mother that the Lord has blessed me with!
~We had one day of sunshine which was something that was very much appreciated as it has been cloudy and rainy for about a week and a half now (including today again.) The sunny day just happened to be on my Mom's birthday, too, which was a blessing!

~Much of the vegetable garden was cultivated, and the radishes and turnips were thinned. I had thinned the carrot bed the week before, and all that is left to thin now is the beets.

~I badly bruised part of my hand which made doing some tasks a bit interesting. (Such as trying to type :) Thankfully it is feeling better now than it had been!

~Dad, Mom, Leah and I drove out to Ryan's place to look at/check on some things which was fun!

~I started sewing my Mom's dress for the wedding (my dress is still in progress, too)

~Mom, Leah and I spent almost an entire day running errands in town . . . whew! It sure is nice to have all that done now!

~And on the one day that the sun was shining, I took a morning walk and enjoyed the beauty that was all around. I also took some photos of our place which should give kind of an idea of what some of our place looks like . . .

Looking up into our yard from the driveway parking area

The main part of the vegetable garden with Leah's flower garden on the left and one of Mom's flower gardens behind it. (And there is more vegetable garden behind that.) The cages in the back right are around newly planted fruit trees . . . and yes, they are in the vegetable garden. :) Next year we plan to expand the garden in a different direction, and the part where the fruit trees are will be retired as 'orchard space.'

A closer-up view of the flower gardens (the cages in the back are around more fruit trees.)

The remainder of the vegetable garden that is behind the aforementioned flower gardens (and the tree in the foreground is one of our peach trees.) There are thirty some tomato plants, twelve pepper plants, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, turnips, spinach, Swiss chard, and carrots planted in here.


Growing zucchini

A peach on one of our peach trees

This time of year is one of my favorites for being outdoors as everything is green and growing, and it is just so pretty out! Now if only the sun would decide to come out to stay for awhile. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Fun Afternoon

Girls group last week went so well! And it was exciting, too, as the girls finished their potpourri sachets and were able to bring them home. It was so special seeing their excited and happy smiles after finishing them!

After choosing the potpourri, fabric and ribbon, you could tell which colors were the girl's favorites! I think this girl might like purple. :)

Anticipating the cutting of her ribbon

Time to put in the potpourri!

Filling the sachets with the potpourri

What the table looked like :)

Carefully tying on the ribbon


As many of the girls were not able to come the week that we concluded the lesson series on reading our Bibles, we repeated this lesson while adding in a few more thoughts, etc. After a good time of discussion, we once again went into the dining room to make Bible verse memory booklets of the verses that we have memorized recently. And as the girls have a bit of difficulty writing the verses down from memory (it's much easier for them to say them!), we went ahead and typed the verses up on pieces of paper to make it easier for them . . .

Carefully copying down the Bible verses

The youngest tracing around the "dot to dot" that Leah had made for her (she cannot write yet.)

Once the verses were copied down, the girls decorated their verse cards in their own unique style and then tied a ribbon through the hole punched corners. Now they will be able to use these to review their memory verses at home. And thus concluded our wonderful afternoon together!

Now Leah and I are all ready for girls group this week . . . though our original plan of working in the garden isn't going to happen as we have had so much rain lately! The garden is way too wet to do any planting or weeding, so we will instead be in the kitchen making a dessert and then learning about the attribute of being "gracious." It should be another wonderful afternoon!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Getting Closer . . .

It is now less than two months until Ryan and Ashley's wedding! It has been exciting to see the wedding plans falling into place and then to be working on some wedding related things here as well . . . things such as planning the rehearsal dinner and sewing bridesmaid dresses. The past week or so when I haven't been outdoors working on things such as weeding and cultivating in the garden, planting strawberries, hauling branches, and mowing, I was often found in the sewing room working with this . . .

And these things as well . . .

Which brings about things such as these . . .

The dress sleeves with the bodice in the background

The skirt all sewn and ready to be attached to the bodice (and just a note - the color isn't quite true in this photo!)

It has been so fun sewing this dress and doing all of the different alterations, additions, etc.! I just love the feel and look of the fabric, and it has been enjoyable to work with. And now, the dress is nearing completion! Then once my dress is finished, I'll sew an outfit for my Mom and then help Leah on some steps with her dress as well. And with days as full as the ones we've been having lately, July 10th will be here before we know it! How very exciting!!! The more we talk about it all, and think and plan for it, the more excited I am getting . . . what a special, memorable, exciting, and fun time it will be! It will also be so nice to see t
he whole Castlebury family again as well as to see some other friends that we made when we were down there last March (we're looking forward to seeing you again, Bethany, Haviland and Victoria! :)

In other news . . . almost everything is up in the garden now! It has been enjoyable to visit the garden each morning and see what new things have poked up through the soil. Most everything is doing really well now, though some things haven't been fairing the greatest given all the rain that we have been having lately, as well as the rabbits which think that tender new green bean plants are a delicacy worth enjoying each night! I think we're going to be putting a fence up around the green bean plot until the plants are big enough that the rabbits won't bother them anymore.

And while the plants have been growing well, the weeds have been too! Thus the aforementioned weeding and cultivating that has been taking place out there. :)

And to bring this post to a close, here are some photos that have been taken over the last little while . . .

It is so nice to have so many flowers blooming again!

Looking down our driveway

One of the fifty strawberry plants that were planted . . . it was exciting to plant these as strawberries are something that I have been wanting to grow for quite awhile now. I am looking forward to when they start producing!

One of the flower gardens

Leah and I - what a blessing it is to have a sister like her!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Finishing the Rolls

We had a smaller group last week, when we met together with the girls, as one young lady was out of town, and then three sisters were not able to make it that day . . . but we had a marvelous time with just the five of us! And one of those five was a new little girl who has joined us as she is old enough to come now. She is the little sister of one of the other girls who comes to girls group, and she was very excited to be able to join us last week!

Our time together began with visiting and catching up on everyone's week, praying together, and then we gathered in the kitchen to do 'part two' of the rolls that had been started on the last time we had been together. During the time that I had taught sewing lessons in the morning, Leah had gotten the dough to the same point that the girls had gotten it to the week before. So it was all ready to be punched down and then shaped into rolls . . .

After the rolls were set to rise, we gathered in the living room to write out a recipe card,
and then we had our lesson for the day which was the last part of the series that we have been working through on reading our Bibles. This time, the focus of the lesson was upon living out what we have read and learned.

First, we talked about how the Bible
says that we are not to be just hearers of the Word, but we are to be doers of the Word . . .

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
(James 1:22-25)

We discussed and explained the above verses in some detail, using the word picture given (the mirror) to make the point clearer.
We are not to be just readers of God's Word, but we are also to be doers of His Word – putting into practice what we have read.

We must strive to live out God’s Word and do what it says. The Bible does us no good unless we read it, apply it, practice it and then put it to work in our lives. And this obedience to the word of God is something that we do out of the love that we have for Him . . .

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3.)

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15.)

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21.)

We read and discussed the above verses, and then summarized the lesson including bringing up points such as: as we meditate on God’s Word, we should always be asking ourselves, “How can I practice those things which I have read in God’s Word?” The lesson was concluded by encouraging each of the girls to try to read their Bibles every day, and then to try to live out what they have read . . . walking in obedience to God's word.

By this time, the rolls were ready to go in the oven, and did the kitchen ever smell good while they baked! :) Once the rolls were finished, we all enjoyed one and then the girls were each able to bring some home to their families . . .

As usual, we ended our time together by working on hand projects . . . for one girl it was crocheting a dish cloth, and for the other two, it was sewing on their potpourri sachets . . .

Leah helping the youngest sew on her potpourri sachet (I had cut out and sewn the sachet to the same point that the other girls had had theirs so she worked on sewing down the top edge . . . and got it finished!)

Sewing on her potpourri sachet . . . she was able to finish hers as well!

Crocheting a dishcloth

And thus concluded our enjoyable afternoon together!