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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

gather. {teas}

Winner of the happy package is announced at the end of this post.

Lately I've been gathering our teas after a warm weather hiatus. From the tray atop the refrigerator, from the pantry shelves, from the cabinet above the coffee pot. Time again for a warm cuppa.

The Friendly Village cups and saucers also had a spring/summer break, but they are ready for service once again. 

We love the flavors (and the tins!) from The Republic of Tea. We also like the descriptions under the names. Who wouldn't want to sip a cup of "tea of conviviality"? :)

Uh oh. My Pumpkin Spice tin is empty! Time to order...

I have filled the pumpkin bowl with an assortment of tea bags.

It doesn't hurt to have a little something sweet alongside. A scone would be good, or a shortbread cookie, or a piece of warm, streusel-topped coffee cake. But a nibble of chocolate will do!

I am rather a latecomer to the world of tea drinking. My son once told me, "Mom, you like the idea of tea," which hit the nail soundly on the head. It just seemed so pleasant and cozy to sip on a cup of tea, but I didn't really like the taste. I was (am!) such a coffee girl. 

Over time, I learned to love it. I found flavors that I liked, and I discovered turbinado sugar and the "right" amount to sweeten my tea. My daughter Kati is a tea lover, and she brought me along into her tea world. (And I am still enamored with the idea of tea.)

I like a cup of tea with an afternoon read aloud, or after a walk, or on a chilly morning. When do you like yours?

Do you gather your tea supplies in the fall? Or do you drink hot tea year round? Or not at all?

Since Ben was sleeping over last night, I asked him to help me choose a happy package winner from the bowl. He asked if Crow could help him. :)

Congratulations to Happy@Home!! 

Send me an email ( with your postal address and I'll get your happy package on its way asap!

This is day 25 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

Friday, October 24, 2014

gather. {to clean}

This is the last day to put your name in the hat to receive a little happy package in your mailbox!

Oh yeah. I really need to clean my oven before Thanksgiving. Actually, there are a few other things that should be cleaned before the holidays. But that's not what I'm chatting about today.

Today I am going to share some cleaning products with an autumn flair. Because by now everyone knows that I am a fanatic about all things autumn. So if I can find an autumn-scented cleaner, I'm all over it. 

This is the cleaner I'm loving this fall. Honeycrisp apple. Mmmm... If it looks nearly empty, it's because it is. No worries. I have another bottle in the closet, because this must last through the end of autumn. 

Then there are the soaps. 

My friend Beth gave me some fabulous homemade soaps as a hostess gift. I have been using the apple cider soap this fall...swoon. It smells. so. good. 

And then (can you believe it?) I won a giveaway at Cranberry Morning!

Judy has a line of natural, handcrafted vegan soaps that she sells at Homemade Soap'n'Such and at her Etsy shop by the same name. Several weeks ago, she hosted a Fall and Christmas Giveaway at her blog and I won my choice of two bars of soap. If you think it was an easy choice, think again! Judy offers so many wonderful fragrances. (I love that she has given some of them Christmasy names for the season.) From all of the tempting choices, I selected Pumpkin Spice (I'll bet you could have guessed that) and Cranberry Tea...both very seasonal. 

After forbidding my family to use one until after I had photographed the bars, I opened the Pumpkin Spice soap and put it on the bathroom sink. We have been using it this week, soaking up the spicy autumn scent while washing up with this wonderful, chemical-free, skin-friendly soap.

Thank you, Judy!

Have you discovered any seasonally-scented cleaning products?

This is day 24 in the series gather.  Click ~here~ to see more.

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.

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