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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Winter Cooking {Beef Stew}

I love cooking during the winter months! There is just something comforting about a soup or stew simmering on the back burner while we're finishing up school in the afternoon. I like using hearty ingredients like root vegetables or winter squash. And isn't the yeasty aroma of rising bread intoxicating? 

Recent meals at our house have included 
  • a potato, onion, and bacon frittata 
  • homemade meat sauce and spaghetti (with enough sauce to put in the freezer for another meal)
  • cream of potato soup
  • Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Pulled Pork

This week, we revisited this yummy recipe for Beef Stew with Noodles. Beef stew is a favorite with Ron, so I was happy to surprise him with this as he came home from work. 

Here is the recipe with my tweaks...


1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2 pounds boneless beef cubes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
coarse salt, ground pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used what I had left of a bag; it may not have been 1/2 pound.)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups extra-wide egg noodles
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat shortening over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until seared and brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add onion; season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add flour and stir to coat onions and beef cubes. Cook about a minute.

Stir in broth and water, loosing brown bits in bottom of pan.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Add carrots and potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 minutes.

Stir in noodles and continue cooking for about 6 minutes.

Add peas and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until noodles are soft.
(That night, I had a bag of Steamers in the freezer, so I cooked them in the microwave and added 1 cup of the peas to the stew with the parsley and vinegar.)

Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley and vinegar.

What kinds of winter foods are you cooking up these days? Do you cook differently in the wintertime?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weekend Snapshots: Another Visit!

~ photo by Bekah ~

There were many years of great distance between us and our son's family. Visits were once a year, or sometimes even two years. When they moved back to the East, visits were a bit more frequent, but there were still long stretches when we could not be together. 

But now...oh, how wonderful it is for us to be able to hop into the car and head on over for a weekend! We met Baby Paul in early December, and then, less than six weeks later, we got to see him again! We are actually going to be able to watch him BE a baby! Not only that, but we are forging new relationships with the other three children! We are no longer faces on a computer screen or names on a "happy package" or voices on the telephone, but we are Gran and Papa in the flesh! A couple of days before we visited, Sarah told us that Peter kept saying, "Two more days 'til Papa and Gran come!" and then he'd clap his little hands. We LOVE that!

(I know I'm using lots of exclamation points here, but I am feeling exclamatory!) :)

So here I am with a very grandmother-ish post...with lots of pictures of our time together.

Peter had drawn a picture of Papa and Gran to greet us.

Aunt Kati met Paul for the first time! (She had to work the first time we came.)

So this time there were THREE women to take turns cuddling Paul!

Presents for all!

Eve (7) with Aunt Kati

Nora (almost 6) with Aunt Kati

Aunts and nephews.

Paul and his mama, our beloved daughter-in-law Sarah.

Guy time at the grill. 

We played our own version of for all!

Three generations.

On Sunday, Kati did a photo shoot with all the children.

We had a mini birthday celebration with Nora who will be 6 in a few days.

Good-byes are not so painful these days.
Instead of tears and sniffles, we hug and say, "See you next month!"

I totally love that!

Sunday, January 18, 2015


She's back (Henrietta...back from the computer doctor with a brand new hard drive)...

and we're back (from a weekend visit with our son Ryan and his family)...

so I'll be back to my blog this week! I'll have some pictures from our visit, and a glimpse of some of our first gatherings of the new year. 

In the mean time, here's a sneak peek...
Peter (4)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Winter Break

"Break" in this case is a play on words. 

My computer has crashed. I wasn't caught completely unawares, as Henrietta has had symptoms for a while. But now she is completely down and I will be taking her to the computer doctor this week. She had a quick fix in December, and at that time a sign on the door warned customers that computers dropped off would not be ready for pick-up until sometime in January. Yikes! I have no idea when I can expect to be reunited with Henrietta. 

So while Henrietta suffers a "break," I, too, will be on a winter "break."  

I may be popping in from time to time via Kati's computer, but my online presence will be sporadic. Happy January...stay warm!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Shining Eyes"

If you want to find some joy in the homeschool journey for this new year, I have a great pointer for you today! I think you might love me for it. I know your child will love you for it! And it's really a simple idea. 

Aim for "shining eyes."

What are "shining eyes"? you ask. 

Let me give you an example. 

In September, our family visited a beachside town. As we like to do, we found a little antiques and collectibles shop and went in to nose around. While we were browsing, we came across a small room filled with books, and, as we are a family of bibliophiles, in we all went. I was perusing a shelf in one aisle when around the corner came Bekah...with shining eyes! "Mom, look!"  

What had given my girl shining eyes? A large book entitled Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day.

After a quick consultation with Dad, we bought this book for Bekah. I knew that we were going to study ancient history in our homeschool this year, and that this might be just the thing to pique her interest and to make ancient cultures "real" to her. She pored over it all the way home, she has looked through it many times since, and it is kept handy (not shelved) in her room. (In fact, she said that she wished she had a coffee table in her room so she could display her coffee table book. ~grin~) 

A few years ago, a group of local homeschoolers read and discussed the book When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today, edited by Elaine Cooper. We were all struck by the phrase "shining eyes" in a chapter contributed by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. The author encouraged teachers to "choose books that catch the children's interest and imagination."  She went on to say, 
Slavishly following a set curriculum if it doesn't fit a class, situation, or child is legalistic folly. Get "shining eyes" first, and the coveted question, "Can't you read more?" will come. This question shows that what you are doing is succeeding.

What homeschooling mom has not seen the difference that the right book can make? The difference between a glazed over expression and shining eyes? And when does more learning take place? When does the student make lasting connections with an idea or topic? does one find shining eyes?

  • If you're choosing a book to read with your history or science topic, why not take your child along on your trip to the library? Find several choices (be sure that all are "living books), and see which one excites her. 

  • Choose a history topic based on his loves. Is he fascinated with the Civil War? With baseball, or dance? With mustard? (Really. My friend's daughter once asked if she could learn about mustard!) Choose a science topic that delights your student. White-tailed deer? Volcanoes? Medicine?

  • Allow your student the time to delve into a subtopic in which he is interested. The history of fashion, anyone? 

  • Tailor the subject to suit your child's level of interest. Let your nature-loving son spend two years on high school biology, one year of botany, one year of zoology, so that he can expand on his strengths. 

  • If there is a writing assignment, help her find a topic that excites her. Last year, Bekah was searching for a topic for a history presentation. She was wavering until the day we were given a stack of wedding magazines and I suggested that she write about the history of wedding gowns. I got "shining eyes" and off she went!

  • Play an educational game. Draw a diagram. Watch a movie. Read aloud.  

Look for that thing that sparks excitement in your child...and then allow it to happen.

Does that mean that your child must love everything that he does? Not at all. If that were the case, two of my children would never have learned basic math skills. Some may have only learned American history...forget the rest of the world! They may not have chosen to learn to write an essay or make a public speech.

By all means, spread a wide feast of learning. 

But whenever you can, aim for shining eyes! 

For other posts in this series...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Walking Into the New Year

As Bekah and I read through the book of Exodus in the fall, this verse stood out to me. God had directed Moses to take His people into the Promised Land, and Moses pled with the Lord for direction, and for assurance that he had found grace in His sight. God answered him, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then Moses said, 

"If your presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here."

And that is how I feel, here on the edges of a new year. I don't know what the days will hold, but I know that I don't want to walk through any of it, the pleasant or the uncomfortable, the easy or the difficult, without His presence.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

{Gathering the Moments} December

As I gathered the moments of December, this glorious month in which we celebrate His first coming, something stood out to me: gatherings. This month was full of them!

~ We girls met Kristin and her girls for a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet.
~ Ron, Bekah, and I gathered with our not-so-faraway family when we traveled to meet our brand new grandson, Paul. What a happy weekend that was!
~ Then we celebrated the twelfth birthday of our oldest grandchild, Gavin.
~ Kati, Bekah, and I made time for one of our favorite Christmas traditions, a girls' outing to Starbucks for holiday beverages.
~ Joanne and I enjoyed an impromptu "Mama Coffee"...only this time it was snowflake tea instead of coffee. It doesn't really matter what we're sipping. What matters is our connection.
~ Forty-six people gathered for Ron's extended family Christmas party where there's lots of talking and laughter and singing.
~ After a quiet "just us" Christmas Eve, Christmas Day was filled with festivity, family, food, and fun!
~ And all this week we have gathered...a party at my aunt's house, visiting at Kristin's house and at my parents' house, and a gathering here with the Rabes.  

Last year, all of autumn and the holiday season was marked with sadness. Although life has changed (and we have changed), this season was marked by joy. Even so, we remember those who are in their own time of sadness and grief, and we pray for His grace to surround them.

This month, we have enjoyed many gifts. The gift of joy. Thoughtful gifts from family and friends. The gifts of fellowship and family. But they all pale in comparison when we consider the gift of eternal life made possible by Jesus!

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
II Corinthians 9:15

I thank all of you who have participated in this "Gathering the Moments" link-up over this past year, whether by linking your own post or by visiting my "moments" or those of the other participants. 

This is the final month of the party. Oh, I'll continue to gather my moments at the end of each month, and I invite you to do the same. It is such a good thing to reflect and to see how He has guided and provided. My heart is always moved to thankfulness. The only thing that will change is that I won't be hosting a link-up. 

But again this month, I am inviting you to join me in "gathering the moments." You may wish to share two or three photos, or several collages, or bunches of photos...with words, or without words. The link-up below will be a gathering place for us to reflect and share and connect. (The link-up will stay open for a week, so you have plenty of time to gather.)

Thinking About Home

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Christmas Visit With Friends

The celebrations continue...

Christmas punch and hors d'oeuvres were waiting on the island. A pot of soup simmered on the stove; homemade bread and salad fixings paraded down the countertop, as we all awaited the arrival of our dear friends, the Rabes. "We" were the four of us and our daughter Kristin and her family. On this visit, "the Rabes" were Tim and Deanna, Rachel, Sarah, and Kyle, as well as Tim's sweet mama who is visiting from Florida.

handmade by Deanna

And what a delightful day we had! 

After a few moments of shyness, Ben's silliness broke the ice for the children. Or was it the bin of Lego? Whatever it was, they all played together happily until it was time for Kristin's family to leave.

With the children happy, we adults entertained ourselves with lots of conversation...all together, in small groups, one-on-one. With a little prompting, Tim's mom told us stories. What fun! She has lived a very full life and we loved hearing snippets. "Grammy" is a young 93 years old; she even joined the young adults in a game of Mexican Trains!

How the hours flew by! They always fly when we're sharing time together. 

Thank you, dear Rabes, for taking a little road trip to share a Christmas visit with us! A visit with kindred spirits is always refreshing! 

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