Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Snapping Party

This has been a full week with one day being girls group, another Leah and I went and helped a mother that we know with some cleaning (and also had a wonderful time with her five children [ages 10 months to 8 years] :), and poor Mom came down with the flu and has not been feeling well at all the past few days (and so far, some of the rest of us are only showing minor symptoms - hopefully we can miss getting a bad case of the flu!)

Before the flu came, though, we had Ashley over for a very fun day of washing, snapping and blanching bea
ns together (Ryan had dropped her off on his way to work.) We had such a fun time together! And it was nice to be able to get more beans put up in the freezer and have quite a few bags to send home with Ashley as well.

Ashley and Leah having fun snapping beans . . . there were some entertaining photos taken before and after this one! It was hilarious listening to these two! Such fun times. :)
By the time afternoon rolled around, the beans were all blanched and packaged up in the freezer, we had had some wonderful times visiting and had covered a wide variety of topics, and as we thought about what else to fill our afternoon, we had an idea! Visit an antique store together! We have a small one only about five minutes from our house so we loaded up in the car and headed to it.

It was enjoyable browsing the different booths together and commenting on the different things that would catch our eyes. I hadn't intended on getting anything this day, but when I came to a 75% off booth that was selling out of their items and caught sight of a large, wooden fruit crate that would end up being less than $2.00 after the discount, well, I couldn't pass it up. :) We fo
und a quick use for it in our living room as a bookshelf for our animal/farming/gardening books . . .

Our 'new' crate bookshelf :) 


The crate even has the label still on it!

It was interesting how this worked out as just a day or two before, Daddy had mentioned that he would like to get a bookshelf where we could keep all of these types of books together. So this worked out perfectly!

After Ashley, Leah and I had thoroughly perused the booths and shelves at the antique store (and found two little children's books as well), we headed home for a bit more visiting together before Ryan arrived on his way home from work to pick Ashley up. All in all, it was a fun and enjoyable day together!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

All Natural Fabric Softener . . .

Wind! :)


It has been very windy here the past few days, and it is often blowing so strong that most times, all of the laundry is blowing straight out from the line. Not only does everything dry fast with wind like this, but the clothes, towels, etc. are so soft afterward, too. Putting them on the line and taking them off can be a little interesting, though! :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Helpin' Dig a Trench

Daddy and I have been working on finishing digging the trench that he had started on awhile back (the trench and quite a few other projects had to be put on hold for a time as other things had come up.) We've worked on digging it deeper bit by bit through really hard-packed clay and a lot of tree roots as well, and with Daddy doing most of the digging, we just about have it finished now!

Daddy digging . . . not much further to go now!

Me shoveling out the loose dirt in the bottom of the trench

This morning, he finished digging the length of the trench down to the depth that we want, and then I worked on shoveling out the remaining loose dirt that was in the bottom. I still have a bit left to do with that (which I hope to do tomorrow), and then it will be finished!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Painting and Lesson on Love

Last week our time with the girls found us indoors gathered around our dining room table (which was covered with a plastic tablecloth) for . . .
Painting! The girls were so excited about this project, and it was fun listening to them and seeing what different creative ideas they came up with . . .

Concentration!

Most of the girls carefully painting away (and in case you are wondering, the egg carton halves are what we put the paint into.)

This little girl was so excited about painting as she had never done it before

Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a photo of the finished products, but they turned out very nice! After everyone was done with theirs, we cleaned everything up and then headed into the living room for our lesson. Before we began, though, one of the youngest girls (the one in the above photo) said, with a big smile on her face, that she had something to tell us. She then proceeded to recite to us the memory verse that we had worked on memorizing a few weeks ago! ("For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome" 1 John 5:3.) As she cannot read yet, it is more difficult for her to learn the verses, but her older sister had helped her during the previous week, and she had it down word for word! How very wonderful it was to see her shining face and listen to her sweet voice carefully recite the words! It's things like this that make these afternoons all the more worthwhile and special.

This week, our focus for our lesson was upon the attribute of love and especially how it is described in 1 Corinthians 13. Awhile back, we had also talked about the two greatest commandments given in Scripture, and we read and refreshed our minds on those for a bit . . .

 
Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31.)

We recited our memory verse 1 John 5:3 all together and discussed briefly again what it means. And then
we read through 1 Corinthians 13 going around in a circle as each girl read one verse (and Leah and I helping the two youngest girls who cannot read yet by having them repeat each phrase of the verse after us.) We talked about the chapter for a bit before doing a little activity to go along with it.

Previous to girls group, we had written out eighteen attributes on pieces of paper - half were what love is, and half were what love is not. The girls then would take turns drawing a piece of paper out of the basket, decide together whether it was a "love is" or a "love is not," tape it up on the white board in the proper column, and then we would talk about that particular word, what it means, what it looks like, etc., before moving on to the next word. The girls loved doing this, and it provoked quite a bit of discussion!


Putting it in the proper column of "Love is not . . ."

Thinking :)

After drawing out the next word . . . will it be a "love is" or a "love is not"? 
 "What do you all think?" It turned out to be another "love is not . . . angry"

Another attribute added to the "love is" column . . . 'patient'

After we had finished, we read and discussed one more important verse about love:


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7.)

The girls then wrote down everything that was on the board into their notebooks (except for the two youngest girls. They copied down some, but it was too much for them to write down everything!)



After the girls had finished with this, we had enough time to get everything all ready for them to begin on their cross-stitches the following week!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall

What beautiful days we have been having here in Missouri! While it's pretty chilly in the morning, it warms up nicely during the day and is lovely weather for working outdoors. Picking green beans is also especially pleasurable . . . warm sunshine, gentle breezes, the feeling of fall in the air, hardly any bugs on the beans. Much different than summer picking! The only negative of this fall so far is that up until today, we haven't had any rain for about a month now (and what we got today was hardly any) so it is quite dry here. Thus, we haven't had much for fall colors and the ones that we have had, are not as brilliant as they have been in previous years. There are still some pretty leaves and trees, though. :)

Yesterday morning, I took a walk around our place and photographed a bit. I haven't had much opportunity to do this lately, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Here are some of the images that were captured:

One of the few pumpkins that we will be harvesting this year. The only pumpkins that did well were the ones we didn't plant! They came from seeds from pumpkins that were thrown out last year onto one of our brush piles. The good success of these plants has given us an idea for where and how to plant winter squash and pumpkins next spring . . . on our brush piles and other 'unconventional' places. Not only will it save on garden space and time (as we won't have to weed :), but from what we saw this year, the bug problems were just about nil on the plants on the brush piles. It will be interesting to see how this new idea works next year!

Changing leaves . . . from green to yellow to brown

Grasses

The burning bush is beginning to change colors now! It won't be long now until the bush will be brilliant red.

A few remaining Black-Eyed Susans brightening up part of our place

A view of the neighboring pasture . . . fall is definitely here!

A pretty (though terribly invasive) plant

Sweetgum leaves . . . about the only fallish colors that we have on our place this year.

Beautiful mums in Leah's flower garden

Another aspect of fall is all of the birds that are coming through. Yesterday late afternoon when I was getting the laundry off of the line, there were birds nearly everywhere! The air was filled with the calls of a large flock of Robins as well as Blue Jays and Red Shouldered Hawks. There was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings in the trees above me, and the yard and the bordering woods were full of little Juncos and Sparrows as well as a number of Robins. It was such a treat being outside at this time, and I so enjoyed hearing all of the birds and watching them hop along the ground and flit in the trees!

I just love this time of year! Though, it is quickly passing by and before we know it, winter will have arrived and it will be time to switch from working on outdoor projects to working on the many things that I hope to do during the cold winter months. Until that time arrives, however, we will be keeping busy with a number of exciting and fun outdoor projects that we have been working on!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Full and Fun Afternoon!

Girls group last week went so well, and the time certainly seemed to fly by! After the girls had all arrived, we did the 'usual' (visiting and catching up on everyone's weeks, praying together, etc.), and then we had our lesson for the day. This particular week, we read the parable of the two foundations and then had an object lesson to go along with it. Prior to the girls coming, I had taken two tubs and put a 'foundation' in each. One had a large rock, one had sand. Upon these two 'foundations', a 'house' was built out of Lincoln Logs (we didn't have enough logs so they are only partial houses!) . . .


"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to the wise man who built his house on the rock . . .

Here comes the storm!

"And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock . . .

Still standing!

"Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell - and great was its fall" (Matthew 7:24-27.)

The house on the sand . . . it needed a second 'storm' after this to bring about complete 'destruction'! I didn't pour the water hard and fast enough the first time. :)

We used the above object lesson as the basis for our discussion about this parable. First, what do the two foundations represent? The girl's answer was correct that God (or more specifically Christ) is the foundation that is rock as He is the only solid and true foundation. Sand represents anything other than Christ as the foundation (ourselves, the world, etc.) We then asked: how does Christ become our foundation?
This provided the opportunity to once again share the gospel message about man's sinfulness, our need for a Savior, Jesus dying in our place, and our need to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

After discussing the parable for some time, we looked at a few verses in Scripture that speak about God being the Rock . . .

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:2.)

He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation’ ” (Psalm 89:26.)

We then talked about what the rains and the flood represent . . . things such as the worries
of the world, sin, bad things that happen, etc. But in the book of Psalms it shares that:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-3.)

If Christ is our Savior, He is our foundation and our rock solid Rock. He is immovable, so when the storms and rains come, we need not fear for our foundation is strong and secure. But if our foundation is on sand . . . well, the object lesson well demonstrated what the result of that will be!


Before we moved on to our activity of the day, we reviewed the verse that we had memorized a few weeks back (1 John 5:3), and then headed outdoors to plant crocus bulbs in Leah's flower garden . . .



Leah gave a little 'lesson' about bulbs, how they grow, how to plant them, etc., and then the girls had an enjoyable time digging holes and planting the bulbs in the ground . . .

Leah helping one of the girls dig a hole and plant some bulbs - and yes, there are some weeds in the garden. :) Yet another thing on our 'to-do lists' . . . weed the flower gardens!

After planting bulbs for awhile, we moved on to the next thing which was to cut some mums for the girls to dry . . .

Cutting some flowers


Once each girl had three bunches, we headed indoors for them to tie string around the stems so that the flowers would be able to be hung up to dry . . .



Time was quickly flying by, and we had just enough time for the girls to find their cross-stitch colors before our two hours together came to an end . . .

The girls (with me helping the youngest) finding the colors for their next project to be started on soon . . . cross-stitched hand towels!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harvest Time!

After watching the beans on our plants s . . . l . . .o . . .w . . .l . . .y grow, it finally came time for our first picking! Last Wednesday, Dad, Leah and I picked ten pounds, and then after we ladies snapped them all, I put them up in the freezer. That amount of beans was quite good for a first picking, and I could tell by just looking at how many almost-ready beans were on the plants, that the next picking was going to be a big one.

Sunday evening, Mom, Leah and I went out and picked the rows and the total weight that we ended up with was 31 lbs!! That is the most beans we have ever picked at a time (our previous 'record' was 29) . . . and with that amount, we're well on our way of reaching our yearly goal of beans in the freezer! It was so nice having help with the picking each time, as it goes much faster with more hands. Plus it is much more enjoyable as there is a lot of talking and sometimes singing as well. Fun times


The beans from our second picking (minus three pounds or so that were given away) . . . all washed and ready to be snapped!

Yesterday evening, I washed all of the beans and then we snapped them all (and stayed up fairly late trying to finish them - we were glad when the last bean was finally snapped!)

Leah and I snapping beans


Mom snapping beans as well

It takes quite awhile to snap that amount of beans, but we always have an enjoyable time doing it together. And many hands make quick (or at least quicker) work! With all of the beans snapped last evening, this morning I was able to blanch them all and put them up in the freezer . . .


Some of the beans in a pot on the stove heating up to a boil

The 'packaging station' . . . after the beans are blanched and put into ice water to cool, they are bagged, weighed and packaged.

Our total number of bags of beans in the freezer is now 28! And counting . . . :) From the looks of the plants, we'll likely be doing our third picking tomorrow, and the process will start all over again.


Friday, October 15, 2010

How to Freeze Apples

For those of you who had asked, here is how Leah freezes apples (and as I have never done it myself before, I had to ask her to share with me what all she does so I wouldn't miss any of the steps! :)


First the apples are cored, peeled and chopped. Since she used the apple peeler/corer/slicer this time around, she just cut the slices into bite-sized pieces. After an apple is chopped, the pieces are put into a
mixture of 3 Tbsp. lemon juice for each quart of cold water. The fruit is left in this mixture for one or two minutes before being removed, measured, and put into freezer bags to be frozen. Leah doesn't add any sugar, syrup, or anything along those lines to the bags, but just the apples in the amounts that we use for our pies and crisps.

The apples in the lemon juice mixture

When it is time to make a crisp or pie then, we remove a bag and thaw it in cold water in the sink (if thawed in the fridge, the apples will brown quite a bit.) After draining off some of the excess moisture, the apples are ready to be used in whatever apple recipe we are wanting to make. It's so simple, and it works so well! The only negative is the apples do brown a bit no matter how fast they are thawed; and while they are not as firm as they are when freshly chopped, they still have a good consistency and work well for pies and crisps. I hope that helps to answer your all's questions! And if you have any more, please feel free to ask. :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Apple Butter Recipe

After a full day on Monday with preparing for and teaching girls group as well as cleaning up afterward; and then a very busy and fun Tuesday helping some friends of ours move (both packing things up and then helping unload, etc. at their new house), I now have a fairly 'empty' (or at least, not as eventful :) day today of mainly sewing, as well as being able to post something on here again. It had been asked if I could share our apple butter recipe, so . . . here it is! :) Enjoy!

Apple Butter

--16 medium apples (about 4 pounds)
--4 cups sugar
--2 tsp. cinnamon
--1/4 tsp. cloves

(when I made this, I used around six pounds of apples instead of four and then just adjusted the rest of the ingredients to that. This worked out better for me as six pounds or so of apples made a little over 7 pints of apple butter, and as 7 pints is how many fit in our canner at a time, this amount of apples worked great for me!)

To prepare pulp: Wash apples; remove stem and blossom ends; do not peel or core. Cut apples into small pieces. Add 2 cups water; (I used three since we used six pounds of apples); cover; simmer until apples are very soft (this normally takes about 45 minutes.) Press through sieve or food mill. Measure 2 quarts of apple pulp. (or however many quarts go with your increased weight of apples – I think I got three to three and a half. Again, just adjust the remaining ingredients to match how many quarts of pulp you get.)

To prepare butter: Combine apple pulp, sugar and spices in a large saucepot. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. As pulp thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking (If too thick, add a small amount of water or apple juice for desired consistency.) Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Yield: about 5 pints


For those of you who had asked about how we freeze our apples, I haven't forgotten about it :), and I hope to have that posted soon as well!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Baking Muffins and a Lesson on the Heart

It was so nice to meet together again with the girls this week, and we had the blessing of having two other girls join us as well for the afternoon. It was so nice having them! Our time together began with much visiting, laughter and simply enjoying each others' company before we prayed together and then began our project for the day.

This week, we were in the kitchen baking Apple Streusel Muffins (which are perfect for fall!), and while it was a fairly lengthy process, the girls had such a fun time with it!


Cheerfully peeling the apples

Stirring all of the dry ingredients together

Spooning the muffin mixture into the baking pans

Once the muffins were in the oven baking, the girls wrote out a recipe card for them. As the two youngest girls do not know how to write yet, they were going to draw a picture of what we had done instead, and then Leah and I were going to write out the recipe card for them. But then the two oldest girls volunteered to do it! What a blessing their servant's hearts were!

After the recipe cards were written, we had our lesson for the day which was on the heart. We began by talking about how we can do all the ‘right’ things outwardly, but if our hearts are not right, it isn't pleasing to God. He is more concerned about what is in our hearts than what our outward actions are . . . .

For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

As an object lesson for this, we had two apples, one was badly bruised and the second looked beautiful on the outside. We asked the girls which apple they would rather eat, and of course, they chose the one that looked good on the outside! We then cut open this beautiful apple and found . . .

The inside is what really matters . . . and in this case, it was bad!

This apple looked good on the outside, but was bad on the inside. While we couldn't see the inside of the apple to determine whether it was good or not, God can see inside of our hearts and He knows what they are like.

We then cut open another apple which again, looked very nice on the outside, and after cutting it open, we found that the inside was good as well . . .


Which would you rather have . . . the pure heart, or the ugly heart?

So we see that two different apples can look the same on the outside, yet each of them on the inside had a different 'heart', and this is the same with us. Two people can be doing the same things, yet one has a pure heart and the other has a bad heart. We discussed all of this for quite some time, and also looked at a few more verses as well . . .

For you do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; you are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

From these verses, we can see that what pleases God is a heart that is right with Him and then the fruit that is borne from that right heart (the fruit of the spirit [Galatians 5:22-23], etc.) And God would be more pleased with a heart that is pure and good and loves Him and yet still makes a lot of mistakes, than a person that looks so ‘good’ on the outside, yet has an ugly heart like the bad apple.

As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil . . . .” (Luke 6:45)

In conclusion, we shared a brief gospel message, summarized what we had discussed, and encouraged the girls to be seeking to not just have the outward actions, but to first have a heart that loves the Lord and desires to please Him.

Time was quickly passing by, but before we moved on, the girls really wanted to know what we did to the apple! And some of you may be wondering as well :) . . . it's food coloring. Leah mixed it up on a plate to make it brown, drew the mixture into a syringe, and then injected it into the apple. And voila! We have an apple that looks good on the outside, but is 'rotten' on the inside. :)

The girls had enough time to enjoy one of the muffins that they had made before saying their good byes and heading home with more of the muffins to share with their families. It was such a wonderful afternoon, and we are all looking forward to next week now!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Highlights

The past week has been very full, and while I have had many posts in mind to share here, there just hasn't been enough time to put them together! So now instead of doing a post on each 'event', here are some of the highlights from the past week . . .

~Having our little friends (who have become more like siblings to us now :) over as their parents needed us to watch them for a day . . . and as always, we had such a wonderful and fun time with them!~

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


~Going to a Mennonite Bulk food store with Dad, Mom, an
d Leah~
One of the many beautiful fields we drove by . . . this one had just recently had the grass cut for hay

This was such an enjoyable day, and we were excited to see all of the items that this store has! We will definitely be going back in the future. It is about an hour drive from where we live, so we're thinking of going to it occasionally to stock up on things such as wheat berries, spices, grains, rolled oats, etc. This trip, we got a number of different things plus two bushels of apples (both seconds of Jonathan and Golden Delicious.)

Some of the apples

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~Putting up the two bushels of apples~

It was a long two days of canning in the kitchen this past Friday and Saturday, but so worth it! It was enjoyable working on this project with one reason being that I love to can, and secondly, the scent of simmering apples filling the air is amazing! Mmm . . . so good! And the end result was 27 pints of apple butter and 7
quarts and 7 pints of applesauce. (And no, we don't plan on eating that much apple butter ourselves :), we give some away, too!)

The recipe . . . which has been much used!

Running the cooked down apples through the food mill

The finished product . . . many jars of apple butter


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


~Making a temporary makeshift 'greenhouse' with Daddy Sunday night to protect the green beans from the forecasted frost . . . and it worked! :) ~

The view from the outside . . .

. . . and the inside

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~Having the opportunity to meet and spend time with five very sweet children the past two Sundays and being able to enjoy their smiles, their laughter, their hugs, their kisses, and also fun and enjoyable conversations with them as well - not to mention being able to have wonderful and encouraging times spent visiting with their mother. Such a blessing!
All in all, it was a wonderful past week!