As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this nearly six-acre tract of land, this farmhouse, this domain—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

gather. {around the table}

Don't forget to put your name in the hat to receive a little happy package in your mailbox!

Today I have a very special guest posting in this space: my oldest daughter Kristin!

If you've been hanging out here long, you know that I am a firm believer in family mealtime. So I was delighted to read Kristin's blog post last week detailing her own family's mealtime habits. As a mom and a grandmother, it warms my heart to know that they are building relationships, making lasting memories, and sharing the Words of life at dinnertime. 

* * *


I don't know about your house, but the hour before Dinner Culture dinner at our house is usually crazy.  Everyone is hungry. We're tired, too.  Sometimes we're returning home from errands plus trying to fit in showers, walking the dog, putting away groceries, and getting food into the oven.  It's a noisy, cranky, hectic time of day.

That's why we've made it a habit to create a level of peace and enjoyment when we sit down for evening mealtime. As parents, Brian and I have a mutual goal to create traditions and memories for our kids that they will remember into adulthood so we are intentional about this habit.

{We savor this 45 minutes or so of our day because as soon as we get up from the table, the volume goes back up and the craziness continues.  Is it just my kids are do yours develop an amazing amount of energy in the hours leading up to bedtime?!}

My kids' newest favorite thing to do at dinner is to rate the meal.  It's most fun when we are trying a new recipe, but sometimes they like to rate old standards, too.  It starts with one person saying, "Okay. Taste your fill-in-the-blank and see what you think."  Then everyone gives a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways sign.  Often we'll explain why we thought that way.  Was the sauce too spicy?  Was it better than expected?  Did it contain an ingredient we didn't like?  No one is allowed to be rude, but everyone is allowed to be honest.  Everyone still has to eat the night's portion, but this fun game helps me know whether to make a dish again.  Gavin likes to step it up a notch.  He likes us to rate meals on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Often we discuss our day or upcoming events at the dinner table, but sometimes someone suggests a more directed topic. The kids love to ask questions and have us go around the table giving answers.  What is your favorite holiday? What is your favorite dessert? What do you want for your birthday? 

When we are done eating, we linger at the table.  One of the kids passes a small chocolate to each person.  (We keep a candy jar in our pantry filled with our special after-dinner chocolates.)  Then Brian reads a story or two  from Egermeier's Bible Story Bookand asks a few questions about the passage.  On nights when he's not home, I'll sometimes read a chapter of Missionary Stories With the Millers.

Our after dinner table activities are not always serious.  The kids often request a Mad Libsor a chapter of Encyclopedia Brown.  

And now that I've shared the ways we reconnect as a family around the dinner table, I'll share a little secret.  One of my kids' favorite dinner time traditions does not take place at the table.  It doesn't even involve much togetherness!  About once every week or two, I'll cook an easy (or un-messy) dinner and they eat at the coffee table in the living room while they watch a movie.  They love it and look forward to this special treat!

Do you eat meals together as a family or do you find other ways to spend time together?

Kristin is a blogger at Bits and Pieces From My Life.  She writes about life with 5 kids, homeschooling, books, more books, food, and running. Her newest eBook Books for Christmas: What to Buy the Young People in Your Life will be available for free download on November 3.  You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

This is day 23 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

gather. {copycat autumn squash soup}

Don't forget to put your name in the hat to receive a little happy package in your mailbox!

My friend Jill shared the recipe for Panera's butternut squash soup and, knowing my love of pumpkin, she suggested that I substitute pumpkin for the butternut. But before I had a chance to make it, we went to Panera, three of us ordered their Autumn Squash Soup, and I knew I'd be trying to copy this one. 

Yesterday, I sort of combined elements from Jill's recipe as well as several online and came up with my own version of Autumn Squash Soup. I made a loaf of whole wheat French bread in the afternoon and we enjoyed a simple supper that tasted of autumn through and through!

serves 6-8

1 butternut squash
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup apple cider
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons black pepper
roasted pumpkin seeds (opt.)

* * *

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise, place cut side down on greased baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes.

2) Saute onion in a little canola oil. (I intended to roast the onion along with the butternut squash, but I forgot. We were reading a chapter of The Golden Goblet and I was distracted. True story.)

3) Scoop out roasted butternut squash.

4) In blender or food processor, puree squash, onion, and pumpkin with broth, cider and cream. (Unless you have a large capacity food processor, you will probably need to do this in parts. It's okay; it will all blend together later.)

5) Pour pureed mixture into a heavy-bottomed pot and stir until blended. (If necessary, thin mixture with a little more broth or cider.) Bring to a slow boil over medium heat.

6) Stir in honey and spices. Simmer for 10 minutes.

7) Drizzle heavy cream and/or garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.

* * *

If I make this again, I will omit the onion. The flavor competed with that of the squash.

I didn't have any pumpkin seeds, so I substituted sunflower seeds. I liked the texture, but we all agreed that the pumpkin seeds were better in this soup.

Panera's Autumn Squash Soup is vegetarian. You could make this one vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth. (I think I'll try that next time too.)

Are you ready to gather ingredients for soup as the cooler days of autumn arrive? Do you have a favorite?

This is day 22 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

gather. {a happy package}

As a grandmother, it is a delight to gather little things to give to my grands. I have "grandmother eyes" when I'm out and about, and see a coloring book or stickers or a small toy that a particular grand might like. I usually have an assortment of small treasures in the "gift bag" I keep in my bedroom, waiting for birthdays and holidays, or waiting for an ordinary day. Or for a happy package! 

Because the three faraway grands have lived far away for their entire lives (changing soon!!), I have mailed lots of packages. And because I want packages from Gran and Papa to always be exciting (it is one of our connections), I make them happy packages!  

A happy package means that there is something for every child, in every package. Whenever I send a package (birthday, holiday, anything), I make sure to include something for each one...a book, a small toy, markers. And candy. Always candy. (Yes, I am that grandmother.) Even if it is your sister's birthday or a Father's Day package, if it comes from Gran and Papa, you can be sure that there is something for YOU inside! Often we'll put stickers on the mailing box or doodle a balloon or birthday cake (with the appropriate number of candles, of course). 

(Psst...don't tell, but the next happy package will have these Goodwill finds for the girls. Two dresses, original tags still attached! WooHoo!)

I have a happy package that I'd like to send to one of my readers! I have gathered some small treasures that thrill my autumn heart and I am going to send them to one of you! 

1) The little plate that inspired this series.

2) A package of Thanksgiving napkins. The word "gather" caught my eye, but there are lots of inspiring thoughts here.

3) A package of pumpkin spice (of course!) votive candles for autumn ambiance! 

4) Some Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea bags.

If you'd like to get this little happy package in your mailbox, just leave a comment below! I'll pick a winner out of the hat bowl at the end of the week.

This is day 21 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Monday, October 20, 2014

gather. {cozy throws & blankets}

When the evenings start to grow cooler, I gather warm throws for some cozy comfort. 

Snuggies also do the trick. 

On the bed, summer blankets are exchanged for thicker fleecy ones. 

Actually, some of us (that would not be me!) wrap up in throws even on summer evenings, but autumn is the time to gather them from all corners.

Do it! Go gather some cozy throws! (Or do you already have them out?)

This is day 20 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

gather. {His lambs}

I love this picture of a gentle Shepherd, feeding His flock, gathering and carrying the lambs, gently guiding the sheep. 

Oh, how very, very thankful I am to be His lamb, to have been gathered by his arm! 

This is day 19 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

gather. {spicy simmering potpourri}

You're not baking, but you want your house to have a spicy autumn smell? You could light one of your pumpkin candles. Or you could gather ingredients from your pantry to make your own simmering potpourri! 

I have made many pots of simmering potpourri in my day, and it's a little different every time, depending on what ingredients are handy. 

This is what I gathered yesterday...

peel of one orange
one apple, cored and cut into chunks
4 small cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Put everything in a small saucepan, add a couple of cups of water, and simmer. Before long, your house will smell wonderful! Your husband will come home from work, walk in the back door, and say, "It smells good in here!" (He did.)

You can simmer for hours, but be sure to add more water as it evaporates! You can use the same mix for several days; just put it in the refrigerator overnight.

Be warned that this is strong and spicy! Many floral scents put me in olfactory overload, but since I love spicy or "food" scents (what does that say about me?), I totally enjoy this simmering potpourri. 

So, if spicy is your thing too, go gather stuff from your pantry, and spice up your house on this autumn Saturday!

This is day 18 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Friday, October 17, 2014

gather. {drive-by inspiration}

Because I love house-y things, and because I loooove fall, I make sure to allow time for a little drive-by fun to gather some autumn inspiration. (Actually, we do "drive-bys" in every season, but fall is my favorite!)

The girls and I grab our pumpkin spice iced coffees, and off we go in search of beautiful houses and pretty fall wreaths and pots of mums and piles of pumpkins. Often we find that the most "beautiful" homes are not the biggest or grandest, but the ones that are welcoming and well-loved. 

I loved the little pumpkin line-up over this transom window. Of course, I am also swooning over the color of the trim and that molding and those lanterns. 

This porch looks inviting, doesn't it? Maybe I'd sip a cup of apple cider on a crisp autumn evening. 

The yellow door pops, and works well with autumn color.

This is one of our favorite houses in any season!

Lancaster County offers lots in the way of house-y inspiration! Those folks do autumn well!

Love me a pile of pumpkins!

How about those window boxes filled with autumn bounty?

I saved my favorite drive-by shot for last.

This is a house on our regular route through a nearby town, but as we drove past that day, taking in all the fall decor, we noticed a little something extra special. Do you see him? 

I wonder how much they had to pay him to decorate their autumn porch?! Perfect! 

Do you ever go on rambling drives, looking for house-y goodness?

This is day 17 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

gather. {for morning time}

Gathering for Morning Time is one of my favorite parts of our homeschool day.

In the first year of my blog, I talked about Morning Time...what it is, how we do it, and why we do it:

Several years ago, I stumbled across an idea that breathed new life into our homeschool. “Morning Time” has become an anticipated and much-loved part of our day, and I believe that we are all the richer for it.

It is a simple idea, and yet it is profound. I first read about “Morning Time” one summer on Cindy Rollins’ blog, Ordo Amoris (which is always full of mind food). She wrote about the benefits her family has reaped by dedicating a small amount time each morning to learning the things that she had deemed important. Cindy shared this childhood poem to illustrate what she was trying to accomplish:
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the beauteous land.
She wrote,
My Morning Time is a way to collect little grains of sand. It should not be a way to complicate life but a way to simplify it.

When I read this, I knew that this was something I wanted to do! You see, there were things that I wanted my children to learn (actually, I wanted to learn too!), but they were things that were too often overlooked or put off for another time. I wanted my girls to know the words to “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”, to recite Psalm 100, to recognize Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, to recite “The Swing,” to begin each day with the Living Word...and “Morning Time” seemed to hold an answer. So come the beginning of our new school year, we gave it a try. And, several years later, it remains an integral part of our day and (I am repeating myself here) we are all the richer for it.

Homeschooling mom, if you want your students to memorize Scripture or view great art or read poetry or learn Shakespeare, consider setting aside a bit of time each day for your own Morning Time. (Yours can look entirely different from ours; you will include those things that you deem important.)

Our Morning Time for this autumn looks something like this...

This year we will be reading through various books in the Bible that correlate with our ancient history studies. Currently we are reading Genesis.

First verse of the year: Galatians 2:20. (We will continue to review Romans 8 from time to time.) 

We are learning "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" by Isaac Watts.  We aim at memorization which usually takes 6 to 8 weeks per hymn.

Each of us recites the poem we're memorizing. Bekah has almost mastered “The Mirror” by A. A. Milne. She'll soon be ready to chose another poem. I am learning Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" and I am by no means ready to move on.  

I choose a poet to study for a time. We read a selected work of our chosen poet two or three days in a row and sometimes read a biography. Our poet for this term is William Shakespeare and we are reading from Poetry for Young People: William Shakespeare.  

This term we are listening to the music of Niccolo Paganini. We are reading Paganini: Master of Strings by Opal Wheeler.

We began this year (actually during our summer break) to study the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Kristin was teaching a unit on FLW to her children, and invited Bekah to join in some of the activities. (She was thrilled! One of the activities was to design a house!) She was so interested, we checked out a few books from the library, and watched a Ken Burns documentary on Wright. 

Currently, we are studying the art of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.  Because we have recently read about the Tower of Babel, I have chosen his interpretation of the Tower as our first Bruegel painting. We are also reading What Makes a Bruegel a Bruegel?

The Tower of Babel
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563

And that's our Morning Time plan for this term.  Small investment, great returns!

This is day 16 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

gather. {pumpkin fool}

I have talked about pumpkins so often recently, that you probably think that I am the "pumpkin fool" referred to in the title of this post! But, although that may apply, the fool that I am talking about today is a super easy dessert. 

(Fool: a cold dessert made of pureed fruit mixed or served with cream or custard.)

Last evening, I gathered the ingredients for pumpkin fool using a recipe from a November 1988 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Although I used to make this often (I even served it as a Thanksgiving dessert a few times), it had been so long that neither Kati nor Bekah had ever eaten it. 

I whipped up the dessert before I cooked dinner. I put four servings in dessert dishes from my Aunt Lynn, placed them on a wooden tray, grabbed this charming vintage table cloth (given to me by my dear friend Frances who knows me well), and took it out on the patio to catch some evening light for my photos. 

The girls were returning from a walk in the woods and Ron was in his shop working on a project, so after the photo session, we got all crazy and ate dessert first! (I suppose we were pumpkin fools!)

serves 8

2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 30-oz. can pumpkin pie filling (not pumpkin puree)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 square semi-sweet chocolate, grated

* * *

In small bowl, with mixer on medium speed (I use my stand mixer), beat cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until stiff. 

In large bowl, mix pumpkin pie filling, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Fold whipped cream into pumpkin mixture to create a marbled effect. 

Spoon mixture into dessert glasses or bowls. Garnish with grated chocolate.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This is day 15 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.
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