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 31, 2014

{Gathering the Moments} January




As I gather the moments of this month, I see some themes. 

Cold is one theme, as this has been the coldest January I can remember. I realize that we don't know cold like some of you know cold, but we have had bone-chilling temperatures here...a whole string of them at that! And I must note that as I have checked the weather conditions each morning, it has been colder here than at my son's home in Maine more than once! Brutal. 

Comfort is another theme. We have indulged in comfort foods, like meat loaf and hot bean soup and corn bread. We've layered extra blankets on the beds. We have cancelled appointments and stayed inside. We have pulled out our fuzzy socks. 

Cozy. That's the ticket. Candlelight. Cups of hot tea, hot coffee, hot cocoa. Filling up the wood stove. Games at the kitchen table. Books in bed. Sunday evenings at Downton Abbey. 

Cheer. I've had to work at that one. Ron brought home a bouquet of flowers...just because. "We need all the cheer we can get in this cold," he said. Connections bring cheer too. Connections with our dear ones. A post-holiday gathering. Birthday celebrations. Shared Sunday afternoons. Phone calls from afar, especially when a phone call includes three beautiful young voices singing a hymn for you. "At the Cross." All the verses. It doesn't get much more cheerful than that I tell you!


And so, another year has begun, another month has passed. As I gather my moments, I will say with the Psalmist, "My times are in your hand."




Beginning with 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.)



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Five!


Birthday blessings to one of the sweetest five-year-olds!
Happy Birthday, beautiful Nora!
  

With much love from Papa and Gran...


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cooking With Family History


I love using family recipes. In fact, I wrote a post in my CeLeBRaTe!! series about using family recipes in our celebrations.

Recently, I celebrated family in my cooking. But this time, I didn't use a family recipe. This time I celebrated family with something I used to cook in!  




I was recently given a cast iron skillet that had belonged to my great-grandmother. Anna has been gone for many years as she passed away when I was only a few months old. My mother tells me that she was a "Martha" in her day -- cooking wonderful meals, serving on beautiful dishes, sewing quilts, hand embroidering linens. Mom lived with her grandparents for a time, so Anna was a big influence in her life. She inspired Mom's love for reading by sharing books and stories with her. She inspired a love for beautiful things. She provided the stability of a warm and welcoming home. And she provided comfort, often holding Mom's hand at night until she drifted off to sleep. 


I have several pieces in my home that had been my great-grandmother's, including her china tea set, a lovely blue transferware platter, silver spoons, and a handmade quilt. And this new-to-me skillet is a treasure as well.  



Do you have something in your kitchen that keeps alive your family history?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slow Cooker Tuesday ~ Week 4 {Chicken Tortilla Soup}


I am delighted today to be sharing my little blog space with Dotsie who blogs at Podso! 



Dotsie writes about a number of things...from family history to grandchildren, from recipes to missions, from decorating to funny stories, from travel to photography...it's all there at Podso, and I love reading it all!  

But there is another topic that has piqued my interest. Dotsie is a part of a women's mentoring group, based on the Biblical admonition for the older women to teach the younger (Titus 2:1, 3-5). I love that! How exciting to be involved in such an important work! (You may want to read a little bit for yourself, perhaps ~here~ and ~here~.)

So, I'll stop and let Dotsie talk...

  


Meals on Ice 

Our mentoring group is gearing up to have an evening talking about "make ahead" meals. We all know how nice it is to have a meal in the freezer for those times when we just don't have time to cook. Personally I like having a frozen meal or two on hand to give when someone is sick or has a new baby. There is nothing quite like having a meal arrive at our door when we have such a need. 


We usually give our mentees a take-away and for this meeting we have made each one a freezer crockpot meal. The nice thing about preparing this meal is that there is no cooking involved! I decided to make four of them as long as I was making one. I made one for us to make sure it actually was good, and three to give away. I was glad I did because in no time I learned about two young moms that could benefit by a meal for her family.  All she has to do is defrost and dump the contents into a crock pot (along with the box of chicken broth I included on the side, and two cups of water). I wrote directions with a sharpie on the bag, including a reminder to remove the bay leaf. Can't be much easier! And it was delicious.




Chicken Tortilla Soup  Serves 5-6

1 pound chicken (3-4 chicken breasts)
1 (14-15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
~~For later use in crockpot: 1 14 oz. can of chicken broth 

Combine all ingredients into a Ziploc bag and freeze. When ready to use, thaw and put into a slow cooker with 2 cups water and one 14 oz can of chicken broth. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours. Shred chicken in crock pot after cooking is done. Serve with tortilla chips, and cheese if desired. (Recipe originally from a blog, Loving My Nest.)





Thank you, Dotsie, for inspiring us, not only with a new recipe, but with the concept of cooking with a mind to serve!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Snapshots: White


Inspired by the luscious looking cake at Lorraine's "Winter's White" table, I decided that we needed ("needed"...ha!) to have a beautiful white cake with raspberry filling for our Sunday dessert. In the meantime, Kati requested Ham & Cheese Sliders and Ron suggested Baked Potato Soup, and I realized that we were going to end up with a mostly white meal of our own!  I am usually not a fan of a monochromatic meal, but it seemed to fit the white and wintry theme of our weather here this week.  



Alaine fit the theme too, with her white, fluffy coat. 
(Don't you just love a white, fluffy coat on a little girl?)




Pinky may be black, but she was hanging out in her white fleece bed today, near to the wood stove.




These photos, however, were quite colorful!






Thursday, January 23, 2014

Would you like to join me in "Gathering the Moments"?



For nearly a year now, I have been "gathering the moments" of each month. Last February, I made a few collages of the month's highlights, and I found that I liked the way it caused me to reflect. Thus began a little ritual of collecting the moments and making a record. 

(If you'd like to take a peek, they're here... FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember, October, November, and December.)

Some of you have expressed an interest in joining me with your own monthly reflections, so I am going to create a gathering place.  

At the end of each month, I will have a link-up for you to share the highlights of your month in photos. You can share two or three pictures, or two or three collages. With words, or without words. It's all up to you. It will just be a way to reflect and share and connect. 

The first link-up will begin on January 31, but I will leave the link open for a week.

What do you think? Would you like to join me in "Gathering the Moments"?  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Slow Cooker Tuesday ~ Week 3 {Beef Ragu}


Today's recipe is another that falls into the "It Could Hardly Be Easier!" category. A wee bit of chopping, put it all in the crock pot, and go about your business. 

That's exactly what I did yesterday. At lunchtime, I assembled the ingredients in my slow cooker. In the afternoon, the girls and I went shopping while Ron (who had the day off) puttered around in his shop. When we got home, everyone was hungry, but that was not a problem. I shredded the beef, cooked some fettuccine, tossed together a salad, and we were sitting down to a delicious hot meal in no time.




Ingredients:
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons dried oregano
(or 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano leaves)
1 beef chuck roast (approximately 4 pounds), halved
coarse salt, ground pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions:
  1. In slow cooker, combine onion, garlic, tomato paste, and oregano.
  2. Season roast with salt and pepper and place on top of onion mixture. 
  3. Add 2 cups water, cover, and cook until meat is tender and can be pulled apart with fork (approximately 4 1/2 hours on high, or 9 hours on low).
  4. Let cool 10 minutes, then shred meat with two forks and stir in vinegar to taste.



When I have made pork ragu, I have browned it first and then simmered it for most of the day in a Dutch oven on the stove, so I had kind of expected this recipe to be a little low on flavor. Not so! Martha did not disappoint. ~smile~ 


Do you typically brown your meat before slow cooking it?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday Snapshots: Patisserie and Paparazzi


A favorite time on Sunday afternoons is Dessert Time!  There may have been some "Can I be done now?" or "How much do I have to eat?" or "May we be excused?" at dinner time. But it doesn't take long for the children to come from anywhere in the house when dessert is announced!  (Even if it's not announced. They just know.)  

I am seldom the dessert maker. Kristin and Kati both love to bake, and Bekah and Owen are following in their footsteps. We have some delectable Sunday afternoon desserts! Yesterday, Kristin brought gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon icing. Yum! I went to my napkin cabinet and chose some that were decorated with tempting treats and the word "Patisserie." Perfect. 





While the children were eating their dessert, I slipped into the dining room to snap a few pics. 

Ben (5): Gran, what are you doing?
Me: Taking your picture. I'm the paparazzi.
Ben: I don't even know what that means.
Me: (~a big grandmother smile~)




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today


Today is mine. 

Tomorrow is none of my business.

If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future,
I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not clearly see what is required of me now.


Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 53

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Arithmetic"


Of my four children, two have loved math, and two loathed it with every fiber of their being. One of the loathers was thrilled to stumble across "Arithmetic" in which poet Carl Sandburg seems to share an aversion to math.  

This morning as Bekah was doing her math lesson (she is not one of the loathers), she came across a word problem that reminded her of the poem.  

"What number is equal to all your fingers plus half your toes, minus your knees and elbows?"

 So we had to reread the poem and share a laugh together.



ARITHMETIC
by Carl Sandburg

Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.
Arithmetic tells you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you               lost or won. 
Arithmetic is seven eleven all good children go to heaven -- or five six bundle of sticks.
Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your
        paper till you get the answer.
Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the 
       window and see the blue sky -- or the answer is wrong and you have to start all over 
       and try again and see how it comes out this time.
If you take a number and double it and double it again and then double it a few more times,            the number gets bigger and bigger and goes higher and higher and only arithmetic 
         can tell you what the number is when you decide to quit doubling.
Arithmetic is where you have to multiply -- and you carry the multiplication table in your
         head and hope you won't lose it.
If you have two animal crackers, one good and one bad, and you eat one and a striped zebra
        with streaks all over him eats the other, how many animal crackers will you have if
        somebody offers you five six seven and you say No no no and you say Nay nay nay and 
        you say Nix nix nix?
If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and
         you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?



I am not a loather, but this poem makes me laugh every time!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Note Card Party: Cozy Candlelight


love to light a candle (or two...or three) to add some cozy cheer to a cold, gray day.  In fact, I often squirrel away a few candles to be ready for the winter months.  Truth is, though, that I light candles almost every day in three out of four seasons. Or when we have company. Or at holiday time. Or with a cup of afternoon tea. 

There is just something warm and welcoming about cozy candlelight!



Cozy candlelight on a winter's eve...


Cozy candlelight in the kitchen...


Candlelight on the party table...


Candlelight on a rainy day...








Do you have a blog?
Then you can join this month's party over at Vee's Haven!
Come on over...it's lots of fun!

(Click the button for details.)
A Haven for Vee

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Slow Cooker Tuesday ~ Week 2 {Mexican Chicken}



This week I was going to share with you the very simplest meal that I make in my slow cooker. It is embarrassingly easy, and you can use it to make all sorts of Mexican-inspired creations. This is our Salsa Chicken...


Place boneless chicken breasts in slow cooker. Top chicken breasts with a jar of salsa. Cook until chicken is tender enough to shred.  



But on the morning that I was going to make my simple Salsa Chicken, I saw this scrumptious looking recipe on the Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog.  Right then and there, I decided to kick my recipe up a notch or two and make Betty's Mexican Chicken!

Photo from Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog


And that's what I did! Why walk when you can run? 






Ingredients:
 8 chicken breasts
19-oz. can black beans, drained*
19-oz. can white kidney beans, drained*
2 3/4 cups salsa
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon taco powder
 
Directions:
  1. Place chicken breasts in bottom slow cooker.
  2. Pour beans over the chicken. 
  3. Mix together salsa, chili powder, and taco powder and pour over the beans.
  4. Cook on low for 6 hours or until chicken is done. 
  5. Remove the chicken and shred with a fork. 
  6. Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker and mix in with the beans.
  7. Cook 1 more hour on low.
  8. Serve with pickles** and your favorite tortilla chips, shells, or tostadoes.

* My cans of beans were both 15.5-oz.
** We omitted the pickles.


On Friday night, I served the Mexican Chicken with warmed soft tortilla shells and various toppings such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, shredded cheese, and sour cream. You could also add black olives or green onion...basically anything you'd eat on a taco or burrito.


Before rolling up...


For lunch on Monday, we reheated the Mexican Chicken and put it over some crispy corn tortilla chips, again adding toppings.

I can also imagine serving this over rice.  (Like Chipotle's cilantro-lime rice? Yes, please.)

I'll bet you could make a killer salad by dolloping some of this over a big bed of lettuce.

(Okay, I'll stop.)


Have you ever made a Mexican-inspired dish in your slow cooker?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Weekend Snapshots: Potpourri


Last week, I seem to have had blog laryngitis. Have you ever had it? It kind of sneaks up on you. There you are with thoughts aplenty. You are not down or under the weather. You just suddenly seem to lose your voice. And, as with physical laryngitis, the best way to deal with it is to remain quiet. 

(Do you like quiet? I find quiet to be refreshing. Quiet is a place to think. A place to hear. A place to plan and sort and ponder.)

Now that I've rested my (blog) voice, I am going to jump back in.  Not with anything profound, but with a potpourri of sorts, a few peeks at our weekend.


A surprise.
Ron and I began Saturday morning with a breakfast date. When our server brought us our bill, we had been given the senior discount. This was a first. (Ron was delighted.) As we walked to our next stop, I said, "I wonder how many homeschoolers get the senior discount."


A find.
From an after-Christmas sale. I love it! I decided to hang it for the remaining winter months, and then I'll put it away until next Christmas.




An unmet challenge.
I have enjoyed participating in Donna's Personal Photo Challenges these past few months. This time the challenge was Shadow Play. On Thursday, I took a few photos featuring shadows and was dismally disappointed with them. On Friday and Saturday, there was no sun whatsoever, thus no shadows to play with. And then on beautifully sunny Sunday, guess who totally forgot about the challenge? Yep.

All is not lost (photographically speaking). Having read all of the links that Donna provided in this particular challenge, I have learned new things. Maybe I'll get out and look for some shadows on this, another sunshiny day.


A birthday.
Yesterday, we celebrated my son-in-law Brian's 35th birthday! We are so thankful for Brian who is a wonderful husband to our daughter and father to our grandchildren. It was a pleasure to celebrate with him.






After lunch, peanut butter trifle, and presents, we all played a new game...Beat the Parents. (And they did. Which made them quite happy.)




Thursday, January 9, 2014

Just a Pen


Thoughts for your Thursday...


"If someone writes a great story, people praise the author, not the pen. People don't say, 'Oh what an incredible pen...where can I get a pen like this so I can write great stories?' Well, I am just a pen in the hands of the Lord. He is the author. All praise should go to him."



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slow Cooker Tuesday ~ Week 1 {Cranberry Pork Roast}


Today I begin my fifth recipe series! It 's hard to believe that it was two years ago that I had my post-holiday meltdown that prompted Soup On Tuesday. Since then we've had Salad On Tuesday, Bread On Tuesday, and Fruit On Tuesday

I enjoy doing recipe series. Not only does it provide some structure to my blog twice yearly, but it's also a great time to try some new recipes! Are any of you like me? I love to cook, but sometimes find myself in a rut of cooking the same things, either out of habit or because I did not plan ahead. A series gives me the impetus to shake up the dinner menu!

This winter's series is Slow Cooker Tuesday. For the next twelve weeks, I'll be sharing some of our tried-and-true recipes, and I will also be delving into my sources to find new crock pot meals. 

I must confess that I am kind of picky about slow cooker meals. Too often, they are mushy. Or the individual ingredients lose their distinctive flavors. And you won't see any cream-of-whatever soups in the recipes I share. (Does that make me a snob? I hope not.) But it's helpful to have a few delicious crock pot meals in your repertoire for days when your daughter has her piano lesson or you have errands to run or you just want that comforting feeling that dinner has been taken care of while you do something else. 


***

Maybe you have a can of cranberry sauce in your pantry leftover from the holidays. (Or you're like me and have to buy a can.) I can think of no better use for it than this recipe for Cranberry Pork Roast that we enjoyed last weekend. It was savory and slightly sweet with a yummy sauce, and all four of us loved it. In fact, we ate it on Saturday and planned Monday night's meal around the leftovers! 

The next time I make this, I will leave it in the crock pot for a slightly shorter time. The longer time did not affect the flavor, but the roast was difficult to slice and thus made a sloppier presentation. (And we bloggers know that presentation counts, don't we? ~smile~)





Recipe from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook


Ingredients:
 2 1/2 to 3-lb. boneless pork roast
16-oz. can jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
~~~
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
Directions:
  1. Place roast in slow cooker.
  2. Combine cranberry sauce, sugar, cranberry juice, mustard, and cloves. Pour over roast. 
  3. Cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until meat is tender.
  4. Remove roast and keep warm.. 
  5. Skim fat from juices. Measure 2 cups, adding water if necessary. Pour into saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Combine the cornstarch and cold water to make a paste. Stir into gravy. Cook and stir until thickened. Season with salt. 
  6. Serve with sliced pork.



Do you ever rely on slow cooker recipes on busy days? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Snapshots: A Dessert By Any Other Name...


On this Sunday afternoon, we were invited to Kristin's house. "Just bring yourselves," she instructed. What a treat!

We enjoyed delicious homemade soup and bread, and lingered around the table chatting and looking at Christmas cards and pictures we had each received (we had brought ours along to share). As Owen bizzed through the room, Kristin said, "Are you ready to serve your cake, Owen?" 

At seven years old, Owen has become quite the baker! You may recall that he made the sweet potato biscuits for our Thanksgiving dinner. He also baked this cake for a family Christmas party. Today, we learned that the cake has been given a name: 

"Almost-As-Sweet-As-Owen Chocolate Cake"


That would make it pretty sweet...but we thought it was just right







Friday, January 3, 2014

December


Yes, the title is correct. I am still in December, I suppose.  But I have been reviewing my month in pictures since February, and I didn't want to miss the month of December.  So if you'll allow me a peek back, then I'll be moving forward...I think.  (By the way, I am going to begin a winter recipe series this Tuesday. So you see, I am thinking ahead a wee bit.)

***

For all of my intention to be "uncomplified", our month was everything but.  It was full from start to finish. There were birthdays. There was a chandelier fire...and a new chandelier. There was shopping and wrapping and decorating. There was a house photo shoot. (I am still amazed!) There were visits with my aunt. There were Christmas gatherings, both here and there. There was even our annual  girls' Starbucks outing because at the beginning of December, someone said that it was one of their favorite Christmas events, and so we made time and let some other things go.

There was lots of help from my girls. Oh, how they helped! They did almost all of the baking and did such a beautiful job. Bekah made fudge for the first time. She also made gorgeous (and delicious!) truffles for gifts, and the rest of us were noble and taste-tested them. The girls helped clean and wrap and decorate and address Christmas cards...and I accepted all offers. I can't forget Ron either, who brought home pizza or Chick-fil-A on more than one occasion.

Yes, the month was full.  Full of joy, full of sorrow, full of busyness, full of mercy, full of peace. To God be the glory. Emmanuel..."God with us."

Glimpses of our celebrations...glimpses of His gifts...



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