Quiet and common notions...shared here...with you! Of life ~ our hearts and our home.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

: finding rest :

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Hasten unto Him

who calls you in

the silences of

your heart.


Thomas R. Kelly

***
"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint," says the LORD.  ~ Jeremiah 31:25

The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  ~ Psalm 23:2-3

Monday, July 30, 2012

beside still waters

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Drop thy still dew of quietness till all our strivings cease; take from our souls the strain and stress and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace. 

~ John Greenleaf Whittier



He leadeth me beside the still waters...

Thinking more of Psalm 23 this morning (particular in verse 2) ...I'm still reflecting on that portion of Scripture - as of last week.  Lingering there is quite okay, I think.
The words...beside still waters...catch my attention.

I slowed to think of the refreshment it brings to be near and close by a steady source of peace and quiet.

You know what?
Obviously the times of quiet stillness, of reflecting in and the drinking in of the Living Water of God's Word is more then enough.  Something we should do more of it - out of necessity. At least I know I want to - but don't often do it enough...like I want.
I have to really push myself to the edge of finding that quiet place...intentionally.

Sometimes this refreshment comes via other means.  By way of our friendships with other women, and the talking together that comes with those times.
Refreshing, isn't it?
I had that privilege again yesterday with a dear friend of mine. 
 Ironically enough while our guys were standing in a rushing river of water attempting to go fishing. ;)
**

Choose wisely.
What is your source of "still water"?

How do you make time in your schedule for quiet meditation, quiet reflection, and quiet friendship... just to encourage your heart?
How do you slow down, tune out the clamor and listen... in the quiet?

If you don't know...
Ask God to lead you to a place beside still waters.

Friday, July 27, 2012

dwelling in green pastures

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Naturally - because it's Friday - you're here today to read about a usual sort of post that I would do normally do on Friday's.
But today.

I'm feeling to just be me.

Just what you're going to read here today is naturally from my heart...
(as if in every time I fill this space, isn't...?)

You know better.

Anyway.

This week has been a roller coaster for me.  If you've read anything here this week - you noticed... I spoke of the fatigue I felt on Monday (from the previous weekend's activity).
On Tuesday, I shared a random  but now a *new* favorite recipe...
(By the way.  Making those meatballs as a Stroganoff - was divine!)
On Wednesday evening... I got a chance to share about my dear (in-real-life) friend coming over for lunch and how that "revived" my soul.

Thursday.  Nothing.

Now Today.

I want you to know just how I've been dwelling in green pastures, over the past day or so. 
More like make that all week.
Not in the literal sense but in gleaning from so many sources of refreshment. 

And challenge. 
And soul-inspiration.

And Life.

I want to share this all with you, today.  I hope you don't mind.

Starting with a portion of Scripture... Psalm 23.
I've memorized this passage as a young 4 or 5 year old little girl.
The comfort that this portion of Scripture brings me as I meditate on these verses...is always so much.  I love reciting it to my children...that one day they might reflect on it's goodness, as well.
These verses have come to mind all week...

Earlier this week I had read an inspiring post entitled, Happy Messy, from the blog, Beautifully Rooted, which was contributed there by a gal named Gina... and it brought to my heart the challenge of
being happy even though the house is messy and the oxymoron that that is to me.
I naturally don't do well in messy. 

Gina writes... (talking about her own home and family)
There was nothing tidy. But there was happiness. There was creativity.

And isn't that what I want for my kids, for my home?
A happy, messy and lived in home does not come by accident. It has come with a conscious decision to be okay with the mess and the undone.
I create this happy, messy home by allowing my family to live.

But that in turn reminded me of the word - Perspective.  What she writes is true and right and the way it should be... but at the same time it goes against every grain in my wood.
It's all about perspective... and keeping that in it's place.

A while ago a dear friend of mine had sent me a little devotional book one through the mail. It was a thoughtful little gift and one that I glean from time to time.
 This little book is chock full of Scripture Verses and Encouragement and so I pulled that out, the other evening and in it was a "chapter" on just that. 
A non-hurried perspective.

A God thing...?

Next, I read the blog, (in) Courage,  a post written and contributed there by one of my favorite author's - Ann Voskamp, entitled When You're Finding it Hard to be Patient.
Maybe you've read it too.  If not.  It is such a good read and I encourage you to make your way over there to read that post from Ann.  Follow the link above.

She writes...

Lack gratitude — then lack patience — then, ultimately, lack love. To be love-full, I’ll first need to be grateful.

Hmmm, isn't that the truth?  And the way it truly works?  But it rarely comes naturally for me.
***
Even reading from just a couple of other of my favorite bloggers, throughout the week, and their heart-felt posts, like Here, Here and Here, has allowed me the privilege of gleaning from their perspectives and dwelling in green pastures, as well.

They, in a sense, have restored my soul.

This is what "each other" does for each other.  Isn't it?

It also helps that I got to sew a bit this week. 
Something *NEW* is in my Etsy Shop... go and check it out.
Thanks for looking.

***
I hope you find your self naturally dwelling in green pastures this weekend.
A place where you will find comfort, refreshment and ultimately satisfaction.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

{sweet peas}

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Wafting through the evening air... the smell of Sweet Peas is so alluring.  I run inside for the camera... just wishing I could bottle up the heavenly fragrance once and for all.

These flowers and their unique, lingering scent have always intrigued me. 
They happen to be one of my most favorite of flowers in the garden.
I love how they grow in a tangled mess, clinging to whatever they can reach hold of.
Each Other and Upward..if that is how they're trained.


It made me think of how sweet it is when the aroma of our Saviour is as a fragrant offering.  Filling the air around us, coming from us, and off of us as an offering of our praise to HIM.

If his Spirit abides in us...?  Then we can't help but intermingle our beauty with the beauty he grows in and amongst the garden of mankind.  Amen?

I shared the afternoon, today, with a sweet, dear friend and her young daughter.  They came to our home for lunch...considering it a playdate for our sweet babies to enjoy.  Her daughter is Jayne's age...both soon to be one year of age.

Our fellowship today was simple.  Intermingled with both delight and trial. (my older two children were... ahem!...a bit "trying".)  I apologized a couple of times for it.  But she always responded with such grace... and that it bothered her not at all.  My friend reminded me today of these {sweet peas} in that she sweetly encouraged my soul with the Spirit of the Lord and she probably didn't even realize it.  Her and I...we're together in this garden of mankind.  And yet, as friends, side by side, growing together in friendship, sharing hospitatlity, motherhood... we can learn much from each other.  And, we have.  And, we continue to do.  Lifting each other upward...

We talked about anything and everything...and I think the day could have lasted longer.  But I will go to sleep tonight... remembering the beauty of friendship.  Grateful for grace!  With the lingering scent of goodness wafting over me.

It was a good day.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something New! (for me) - Confetti Meatballs

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Good mid-morning to you all.
After a wonderful night of sleep last night.  I'm feeling much, much better.
Thank you!
~~~
Today I want to share a "new" recipe with you, that I found recently.

It's a meatball recipe that is absolutely scrumptious and very, very creative - if you need to figure out a way to get more veggies in your diet.

I actually found it on the back of a Mann's Broccoli Cole Slaw bag.



Confetti Meatballs



Servings 8
Ingredients

1 lb Mann's Broccoli Cole Slaw®
1 lb Ground turkey, or lean ground beef  ( I actually used our own venison burger)
1/2 cup fresh Parsley, finely chopped (from my garden)
5 tsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp Garlic salt
2 tsp Dry Italian seasoning
2 tsp Garlic & herb salt-free seasoning (? - I don't remember this.  Maybe I used Garlic Powder.)
2 Eggs
dash of black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pierce the bag of Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw® with a knife and place in microwave oven.
Microwave on high for 7 minutes or until Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw® is tender (let Broccoli Cole Slaw® cool before adding it to other ingredients).
In a large bowl add all the above ingredients and mix until well combined. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Use a standard ice cream scoop to make 12-16 meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes and serve.


***
I know photos of raw meat can kinda gross you out... and you're kids might be like - "Ewhh! what's that? - not eatin' it." whenever it's time to serve them.  But trust me.  If you cover them with your family's favorite red sauce and serve over pasta... they will be GONE!!  These are so yummy.

I just made a second batch of them the other evening and threw them into the freezer (freezing them on a tray to freeze individually).  I'm pulling them out of the freezer for dinner tonight, and into a crock pot, with a can of Cream of Mushroom and some Sour Cream (a strogenauff type sauce) as a way to change things up a bit.  We're giving it a try... anyway.

It's what's for dinner.  That's what. 

Can't wait.
 
***
How do you like to add  more Veggies into your diet?  Do you need to be discreet about it or does your family eat it all and more?
 
I'll be honest.  I'm pretty blessed.  My kids will at least take a Thank-You bite and not be too bad with eating more of their veggies then they thought they would want to.
 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Just to say this is an almost repeat post... just letting you know what I was up to this weekend. ;)

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I know you're wondering.

Wondering why on earth is it this late in the day and we still haven't heard from Bevy...?

Well.  Truth is... I'm still trying to wake up.
Truth is... I'm on the other side of this past weekend and while it went well, I wonder about it.  I'm assuming you read what I wrote about on Friday - regarding what I was up to, this weekend.  I was busy as a bee.  And. Well.
I am my own worst critic - I suppose.  On one hand it went rather well.  On the other I was left with doubts.
Don't ask.

That being said.
I'm so grateful for the help that I had in my friend Kristy.  She did so much to help keep it together (referring to the baby shower gig that I did on Sunday afternoon.)

On Saturday, the Family Reunion, we went to, was very small this year.  It's the reunion that's been going on for 68years or so on my Mother's side of the family.  We were glad we attended.  Got caught up with some of the extended family.
Our children stayed with Grandma and went from there to a Graduation Party.
Scott and I left from the Reunion to go on to a Wedding.

With the
THE NEATEST WEDDING RECEPTION
ever!

Let me tell you... this reception was absolutely beautiful. 

Simple.  Elegant. Rustic.
(it's totally the one I wanted or dreamed of... for sure!)

That ended late.
Oh... why don't I just throw in the fact that I fell off the roof - Saturday.
Don't ask.

Sunday was the Baby Shower I spoke of.
While Kristy was helping me...
My husband and children went to her home to hang out with her husband and kids.
(they were well taken care of)

Kristy and I joined them later (after we were finished up) and hung out there for the rest of the evening.
Let's just say.
We finally got home and "hit the hay".
There was no lifting this head from the pillow - last night.

Again.

I'm still trying to wake up.  And it's soon time to make dinner... ?

Really?

So.  Aren't you glad you almost got a repeat post of this past Friday?

I thought so.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What are you up to, this weekend?

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I want to say top of the morning, to you, and I suppose I still can.  Even though it is mid-morning here, by now.

You know how when you've done something, rehearsing it a thousand times in your head and then you realize that you still have to actually do it?  Get it done...?  Well, that's me.  Today.  And for this weekend.  This coming Sunday.

I'm excited. 
About a month ago I was asked to do an evening sit-down dinner for approximately 20 ladies - for a Baby Shower - this coming Sunday.  I have a friend, from church, who offered and is willing to help me - but then we get to go and crash at her house afterward and I said "yes"!  Basically...because my husband and children will be there following the church service hanging out with her husband and kids.

Yes, to both things. 

So, that is where you'll find me today. 
Tucked inside my kitchen (with JOY!) making individual decadent Chocolate Mousse desserts and the moistest Banana Bread, ever (my friend Mitzi's famous recipe) along with a newly found Lemon-Zucchini Loaf topped with a Lemon Glaze.

Yum!  I want to save a loaf of each for me...

On the menu is:

appetizer

Cucumber Cups with hummus and grated carrot for garnish

main course

Walnut-Crusted Chicken with wilted greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Roasted Red Potatoes with fresh sprigs of Rosemary
Steamed Green Beans with almonds
(bread basket- variety)

dessert

Chocolate Mousse
Mixed Nuts and Candies

***
Most of it has to be prepped today - as much as possible.  As I have a Family Reunion to go to over lunch and an afternoon Wedding to attend - both are tomorrow.  (Those are two separate events.)  I guess that means something is to be made for to take to the reunion.  Ahh!!!

Okay!  Gotta go.

Have yourself a wonderful weekend.

PS:  I am so enjoying the fact that I actually had to close a few windows and turn off the ceiling fans in our house, today.  This ridiculous high of like 74* or something like that... ?  Thank You, Lord!

How about you? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

suitcase dreams


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There!

You shove that one last pipe dream into the case and slam the lid shut.  You put all your weight on to the top of that thing and fiddle with the latch...but, it almost is too big.   Really?   You turn the key to secure it. Yes!  It latched.  It isn't going anywhere, but along.  So you'd like to think.  You're locked in for life, to make this work!

The dream barely fits...and yet, it must go - with you! You cannot bear to leave it behind.  Only for it to be lost forever in the dust of the would be and the should have.  Never!! 

You insist.

This life-size plan gets toted around for decades rapidly becoming more of a burden then a hope.

The questions begin to loom large.  What if this is honestly just to big to handle...?  It's not just one dream, anymore... it's an entourage trailing behind you now.  Pretty much, by now, if not before,  the cart is before the horse and if you just push harder...or, get someone else to help you push this dream...?  Help?  Really?  Dare I? 


You know you can't ask, because what if they say... "you can't take it with you when you go."  Which honestly - you know to be oh SO TRUE anyway.

You wonder, Is that to say our dreams are better left up on the shelf?

No.  That isn't the answer.  Not at all.  God wants us to dream big and have great plans and great ideas and good goals.  We have much in the way of gifts to offer.


But here it is! 

Would you ever consider leaving your dream-bag behind... with all that it entails... because you know down deep you really can't carry it?  At least, by yourself...?

There is One in charge of the baggage, you know.

He's offering to carry your load, and to walk with you to your departure. 

He is the Baggage Handler.  The Keeper of the Baggage Claim. 

***
1 Timothy 6: 6-21
The words of the apostle Paul to his young friend, Timothy...

6.But godliness with contentment is great gain.  7.For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  9. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
11. But you, man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  12...take hold of the eternal life...

17. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18.Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.  19.In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.  So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

21. ... Grace be with you.

***
Not all dreams and desires evolve around obtaining more money and riches.  I realize that.  (I'm hoping that is not what you took away from this, from these verses shared...).
Sometimes though what we do consider a good intention for our life, big dreams, while here on this earth, is really nothing more then a mere "form of godliness".  It looks all good from the outside.  It can mean well.

This can be anything.  And about anything.  Our relationships.  Our mothering.  Our homemaking.  Our creativity.  Our passions.  Our Serving.  Our ... our... our....
We want bigger. 

And better.

More and more and more.

And the underlying root of self-sufficancy runs deep.  Doesn't it?  God has the right to open up those secret places.  He sees what is on the inside of our suitcase-heart.  Doesn't he?


Give your dreams to God.  Give it all! 

He wants us emptied of ourselves and full of HIM!

Go forward... press on.  Take flight!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can we say... Musty?

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You want something different for your next summertime picnic?  I did. 
For this social we just had on Sunday, I went looking for a recipe to use up some leftover cornbread that I had around.

Actually, I had heard of this recipe.  Cornbread Salad.  But I had never tasted it before.
My photo of it looks horrible.  You cannot see the pretty colorful layers - that really did look so pretty there in that trifle bowl.  I got to it too late... in taking a decent photo of it.

But it was certainly tasty.  And.  It's true!  The flavors meld together so that by the next day or two... the salad is even more tasty.  Almost musty, like.

Have you ever heard of that description?   Musty...?
***
I found the recipe HERE...with video step by step directions by Paula Deen, including, of course, a beautiful photo of it.

1 batch cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes, recipe follows

1 (14.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can niblet corn, drained
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
1 (8-ounce) bottle ranch dressing
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

In the bottom of a large glass bowl, place cornbread cubes. Layer beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, and cheese on top of cornbread. Spread ranch dressing evenly over cheese. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.


Cornbread:  (or, use your recipe...)

1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 1/4 cup for greasing pan
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1 cup cream-style corn
2 eggs

***
Let me explain "musty"... 
 
Funny story and childhood memory coming up.
 
I remember as a young gal - we had Sunday Dinner company.  My mom had made this particular dish - I can't remember what that was now anymore.  But the family we had over that day... well, the wife - she was quiet and meek and gentle but her husband was very loud, boisterous and for sure -rather outspoken - with a sense of humor.  But if you didn't know him that well... well.  It could have been "interesting".  (At least this was in my recollection as a youngster - I actually have a couple of stories of this couple/family). 
 
Anyway. 
 
This man pipes up... pretty loudly.  Speaking to my mom... he says,  "Rhoda, This dish tastes musty".  And left it at that.
 
My mom was "so offended" - I don't think she knew what to say or do.  I remember the look on her face and the gulp she choked down. My dad sort of spit out his mouthful of water...(I just made that part up.)
But, I think this man caught on to my mom's "silence" and started to laugh.
 
"I meant musty as in MUST HAVE MORE!", he explained. 
I can't be sure, but I think his wife gave him that stiletto elbow and an exasperated..."Sylvan!".
 
Thank God for his explanation.  And if truth be told.  I think I've even heard my own mother, since, using that phrase every now and then - always with a laugh in her voice and a twinkle in her eye.
 
So.  Yes!  This is one of those recipes that by the looks of it... you're not so sure... until you taste it. 
 
It's certainly, can we say... Musty?
 
 

Monday, July 16, 2012

All good!

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I'm sure some of you are wondering how are weekend activities panned out...?

WOW!
I think having approximately 55 people in and at your home at one time is and can be a mixed bag.

Both
AWESOME!
and
Exhausting.

ALL GOOD!

((we slept good last night!))
Folks were to arrive around 3pm-ish!

But at about 2:55pm the clouds started to darken and the THREAT of thunderstorms became a quick reality.
We gathered the tablecloths back off the tables and pulled everything in under the porch and tents a bit more.

It rained and it poured - fast and furious!
By this point, only a couple of guests had arrived.  

Soon the storm passed...
but it gave us reason to doubt if we should continue our plans.
It stopped raining just in time for the evening to turn out rather well.

NOT COMPLAINING one bit about THAT RAIN

So beautiful and greatly needed.
 More folks started to gather...families coming, one right after the other.
Everyone participating by bringing either a cold or hot dish, etc.
There was plenty enough to go around.


Salads and Side dishes


Burgers and Dogs

DESSERTS!


Cold soda's and Teas

Coffee and Conversation.

Games

 Candy Scramble (for the kids!)
((well, I wish I had more photos... but I was a little busy.))

Nigh about 8:00pm ... here comes another thunderstorm through the area.

Every one pitched in to help "Clean Up!" and that was

Beautiful.

Good times for catching up with old friends and even making some new ones.


A great way to end the evening.  What a wonderful time, was had by all.

***

One of the things that our group made an effort to do, this time, was for each family (if able) to invite another family (one that doesn't regularly attend our particular small group, as there are several what we call Care Groups, but that go to our church) - just as a way to "grow" in hospitality. 

It's easy sometimes to just keep to the confines of your "own" small group... but when there are probably more then a dozen small groups within our congregation - you don't always get to know everyone the way you should.  This gave a chance for "new faces" to meet and mingle.

I think it worked.

That was part of the reason that there was 55 people to our home.  That number included children.
And even several of our own families were unable to join us for the evening...which we sorely missed them... or there might have been way more folks.  That would've been really, really awesome.

There is always next year... as this event may be quickly turning into an Annual Social Event.

***

Don't they always say if you need to have some rain - plan a picnic...??

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Random Bits and Pieces...and winner announced!

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Why worry about tomorrow when tomorrow has enough troubles of it's own.


A (very paraphrased) verse from Matthew 7, that quickly came to mind as I got up this morning.
And, this quote from Corrie Ten Boom.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's struggles - but instead it empties today of it's strength.

I just wanted to share with you a few bits and pieces of what is going on around here over the next couple of days and announce that  Mugs & Muffin's winner. ;)

***

To my very, immediate local friends. 
If you're interested, my next-door neighbor - Amanda - is hosting an
Open House for Tupperware.

Today.  Tomorrow.  Saturday.

She has been selling it for awhile now... and has decided to run her second "from-the-front-porch" open house.She has is all set up and waiting for business.  Chalkboard signs are up and everything.  I think there might even be coffee (nice perk!), then again, maybe not - I'm not sure... but I do know that she'll have a drawing for a nice Tupperware Door Prize.

She has her own website...for any who are not-so-local and would be interested in taking a look.

I just told her I would help to spread the word.
***

Yesterday...


Voluntarily.

It was really beautiful.
But, boy! Was I ever tired till it was all said and done.
It was for a different mom-friend.  This time for 10 hrs and not just two.

I think.  I know her kids really had a blast because they kept thanking me repeatedly for having them over.
And, actually kept slipping and calling me "mom"...

Their Mother is due to have another baby in a few short weeks... and well, need I say more?
She needed a day to have it by herself and do something for her.
I hope she did.

***

Ah.  Here is a precious moment for you.

Just this morning...


I hear foot steps coming down the steps, and a cheery, "Good Morning, Mom!"
"I just have to go to the bathroom".  "Okay!"...I reply.  I'm expecting a request then at that point to go watch a little video and have a morning snack but instead...he's back off upstairs.

No sooner gone, he's back.  Fully clothed. And out the front door to don his bike helmet.

You see!
Yesterday evening was a turning point for Caleb.
He has learned to ride a bike without training wheels.

For awhile now, the one training wheel has been broke on his "two-four wheeler".  That's what he called his bike.  My brother was over last night.  He took the half-working training wheels off and showed Caleb a couple of times and following along close behind.  But, soon.  No need for that.  Caleb was off and pedaling on his own.

Those two wheels will have no rest today, I'm afraid.

***
Tomorrow...

Huge Grocery Shop

My mom is planning to go with the children and I to do my monthly grocery shop, heading out to Lancaster.
Usually Scott and I would do this on a Saturday and make it a family excursion.
But we have quite the weekend coming up.  And I need Saturday to be spent at home to prepare.

I DESPERATELY need to go food shopping and get this done before Saturday and my mom wanted to go along.  You see!  We have guests coming overnight on Saturday (which is/was by our request).  And then on Sunday, we're having our small group (approximately 50+, including children/guests.) from church to our place - later in the afternoon for a Social/get-together. 


FUN * FOOD* FELLOWSHIP

So.  If you find me asleep on the couch this afternoon  it is because I'm both catching up and gearing up.
You may not hear from me for a couple of days.  More like not until Monday!!
~~~
Geesh!  This grocery list is lo-oong...
All of that to say.  I love it when Scott can go with me... we certainly make it a fun- family-day!
***

 There is much of the random bits and pieces today, isn't there?  But all is good. 
I'll just take one day, one moment, at a time.

***

Oops!!  Almost forgot.

I bet you're wondering the winner of the Handwoven Bread Cloth from my Mugs & Muffins the other day?

Well.  She wasn't going to enter due to the fact that she figured I wouldn't ship to Canada.

::Kaitlin::


You are the winner! - due to Random Number Generator. 
Go and ahead and email me your mailing information and I'll get this out to you as soon as I can.

Congratulations!

Kaitlyn just recently has had a new baby and around the same time, she and her husband and family moved outta the city and into the country.  In to a *new* but old(er) farmhouse with lottsa land.  It's beautiful.
She deserves a gift like this...

I'm glad you won the giveaway, Kaitlin.

Thanks to everyone for your interest, your kind words for both Sarah and Nancy, and for your willing participation in Mugs & Muffins.  I appreciate it.

***
Until next time... have a fabulously fun-filled weekend!

I love you, all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Here's another... giveaway reminder...and gift from the heart!

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You know that gift, from the heart, that comes outta the kitchen?  The one we've been talking about?
And.
The photo of where my daughter is wanting to help!

Well.  This is what we were making that day...

The Best EVER Chocolate Cake and Frosting, to go with.

I totally give the credit to my sweet and best friend from TN for sharing this recipe with me.  With our family.  It really is to die for.  And yes, I said we made this back on Friday (or was it Saturday?) anyway... to take to a church picnic on Sunday - for after the service.

Let me tell you!! 

GONE! 

I have. NEVER . seen a cake. disappear. as fast. as this one did. 

And you know, I was going to say - this is the kind of cake that keeps getting better and better over time - the longer it sits in the fridge - for a bite here and there.  (Obviously, if you can make it last that long!)  While we were in TN on vacation - we snacked on this cake over the whole week.  Such a delectable treat.  Honestly.  It was!  It is the moistest cake.

It's good I took a picture of it.  Before hand.

Here is the recipe - thank you, Mitzi!

THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE ~ Ever!!

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 small pkg Jello instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips (or regular; whichever you prefer – I do a mixture of both, sometimes)

Frosting:
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. Cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ C. Confectioners Sugar
12 oz. Cool Whip (thawed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cake pan of choice (I normally use two 9-inch pie pans). For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the devil’s food cake box as a guide and usually add 10 minutes to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 minuets after that. It usually takes around 45 minutes for two, 9-inch pie pans. Be sure to lower oven temp to 325 if using dark pans.

White Frosting:

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped topping. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake.




Lick it till it's clean, girl.  Lick it till it's clean.
***

Just a quick reminder that the Mugs & Muffins giveaway ends tonight at 10:00pm.
((Which is now closed...thank you!))
Go and check it out.  Please.

Oh! and these are up on my Etsy shop now as well.
Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The "S" in summer


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Recently, I was thinking about the slowing down that I keep talking about, that what I want to do more of.

Imagine this... if you will. 
I was out hanging up laundry - one morning.




When I began to really take notice of...
 the "S" in summer.

First there were the...


 

::Sounds::

cicada's - singing their song
train whistle off in the distance
birds are chirping  - dogs were barking
and oh! that mockingbird
Mr. A's tractor starting up - getting ready for more field work
cow bawling, out pasture, for her calf to follow
children laughing - someone cries
the busy road nearby - it never slows

::Sights::

there's not a cloud in the sky
in fact, it's white with the humidity
the once green grasses, covered in clover, are now starting to turn brown - from the heatwave (Lord, we need rain!)


kids playing in the shade, of the porch
their toys left scattered across the yard from the day before
the front porch and side walks are in need of a sweep-off - I take notice
beans starting to sprout

flowers lookin' thirsty


the bees - busy, busy, busy

 
two butterflies chasing each other over the Lamb's Ears
Could my children get any dirtier?  I see we need a bath tonight...

::Smells::

 The smell of drying pasture grass... it takes me back to my childhood of when we would help out on my Uncles farm, with the haying.
the smell of lavender wafting through the air as someone runs around the corner of the house and brushes by the bush.
I bend over to pull a few weeds... I smell the mingle of Sweet Peas taking bloom mixed with the dry, dry earth.  That sharp smell of dirt.

the clean smell of the sheets as they hang on the line
coffee's brewing...it's calling me back indoors for a cup, even though it's a hot & humid morning
I smell the remainder of the morning toast...semi burnt.  I like it that way.
And. 

What should I make for dinner that will tantalize my hubby's nostrils before he even walks through the front door?


All of this was just in the morning. 
Soon late afternoon turned into evening. 
And then into dusk.

There were more sights, sounds and smells. 

 Different then before.


someone was using their grill - it sure smelled good
you could see the lightening bugs flitting here and there - begging to be caught in hand
you could hear the neighbors who were visiting, across the way, with friends out on their patio... you could hear they were enjoying themselves.
the sun was setting behind the barn
You could see the shade of that was filling the yard...ah! bringing relief from the hot sun of the day.

we hear daddy calling...
but it's like pulling teeth to get the children to retire from their play, to head indoors, and start the bedtime routine.

Later... you hear the sound of a random few fireworks off in the distance.
See! the bright red moon...just over those trees?
Smell of the clean sheets again as you climb into bed.
By the way.

Have you ever heard a cow sneeze?
It's really loud in the dark. ;)

***

**In case you're wondering.  This is a collection.  A mixture of the sights, sounds and smells of summer - captured over a period of a couple of days.  Thanks for slowing down with me...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mugs & Muffins :: Giveaway! (now CLOSED):: Our Journey to Healthy Eating (Sarah Herr)

 
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Welcome!
It's good to have you here again for this exciting morning filled with an abundance of great food, (of course!)your favorite beverage and fellowship.

What would we ever do without coffee?

Have you ever tried it Iced?
As in, a fabulous homemade version?
If not.  I dare you to try this one.
You'll be so glad you did.

Hey!  How has that smile been?  I've been thinking of all of you this past month - working on those smiles and all.  I know I've sure been trying to work on mine - some more.  I pray it's working...

Why don't we do this.

Go ahead and give your imaginary neighbor -sitting there on your left, because you know how they say, "Pass to the left and you'll always be right." - well, go ahead, give them that stiletto elbow.  We're going to pass this plate of muffins around!  No one wants to miss out on these.  You can be sure.

Today's mouth-watering feature is:

Pinned Image

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

The recipe for these muffins and photo credit is linked to my *new* blogging friend Kristin, from Sweet Country Life ,via Pinterest.  With her permission, of course!  Kristin, is so sweet - you'll have to go over to her blog to say, hello!

Oh, and be warned!  Today's Mugs & Muffins is a bit lengthy, but all so good.  Today we're featuring LOTS of recipes and links to several different things.  I hope you take the time to check it all out.

Ladies.  I'm so excited about sharing this day with you.  Really I am.  We've been talking about (back on Friday) how a gift from the kitchen is a gift from the heart.  I hope you catch the drift in today's Mugs & Muffins of how much these two friends, that I cannot wait to introduce to you today, are doing just that.  Giving you a gift. 

One is my real-life friend, Nancy, who reads Treasured Up and Pondered quite regularly, and often comments, but does not have her own blog.  Nancy has graciously volunteered something -beautifully handmade- for our giveaway later on, at the end of this post.  (Which I can't wait to talk about that.  But I will. Just wait!) And ladies, is she ever oh, SO TALENTED!  I keep trying to encourage her to open up her own Etsy Shop.  She doesn't have one of those either...and she needs to- or do something.  (I'm serious!)

Nancy, you know I'm just giving you a hard time.

In the meantime, we'll just have to continue to "encourage" her along the way towards that endeavor... maybe one day!


Next up, in my introduction, is another real life friend of mine, named Sarah.  Sarah has graciously agreed to share as our guest post "speaker" today.  Sarah keeps a blog, Domesticity, and writes there fairly regularly. Okay.  I was going to be gracious there, but in her words she says it's only in her spare time... and that is very rare with being a busy mom of 5 children (and it has to be!)...plus, she home schools three of them.

Please be sure check out her blog, when you get a chance, in particular, thanking her for sharing her thoughts and ideas with us today.

Let's get right to today's topic. 

:: Our Journey to Healthy Eating ::

by Sarah Herr
But before we do.  I wanted to quickly include this in my introduction.  I have read most of what Sarah is going to "speak" about today - previously - as she has written on this topic on her blog...and it intrigues me.  If you know me well... I cook like I've been taught and like how I've grown up eating.  So, while it's a desire of mine to incorporate even more of a healthy approach to my cooking  (because I have changed for the good, a lot!) - I, even I, have so much to learn.  And, for sure, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. So join me in listening in to what Sarah has to say. 

Will you?  Here is Sarah...


So many things change when you have your first child. You suddenly realize that this tiny, little person is completely dependent upon you to nourish them and care for them. It was around the time that we started our family (almost 10 years ago!) that I became more interested in what exactly we were putting into our bodies and how I was specifically caring for my family through my cooking and baking. I was the kind of girl who loved helping my mom in the kitchen and longed for the day when I would have my own kitchen to cook and bake things for my own family. While I wouldn't say I grew up eating a terrible diet, I didn't know much about eating a more traditional, whole foods diet either. And I certainly had no idea about good fats, healthy oils, sourdough, soaking grains, cultured foods, raw dairy, grass-fed and cage free meats and why I should care about organic and genetically modified foods. Sure, I knew there were people who actually ground their own flour and made a lot from scratch ... they were fondly referred to as health nuts. What I wouldn't have told you was that I would be one of them someday!


One of the things I constantly tell people who ask me about how we eat is to remember that I took baby steps to get to where we are today. If I would have tried to make all of the changes overnight or even in one month I would have gotten completely overwhelmed and given up! In fact, many of the changes I have made only took place after we had 3 of our 5 children. Having three children barely 3 and under was an incredibly busy, exhausting season of life and I knew that during that season it was not a time to try and make lots of changes. Instead, I chose to do what I could, continue educating myself when I had the time, and trust that God would help me to be the kind of wife, mom and homemaker that He has called me to. Another thing I want to be clear about is that we are always happy to eat what is put in front of us. I try very hard to make sure that people don't ever feel judged or have thoughts like "we can't have that family over because I don't know what I would feed them." I very rarely bring up the topic of food and how we eat unless I am asked about it for that reason! I know firsthand how especially we, as females, are often comparing and trying to measure up to those around us and my desire is to encourage others, not tear them down.


So, with that in mind ... what exactly do we eat (most of the time)? We try to eat whole, real foods in the way that God gave them to us. We drink whole raw milk, use real cream and real butter, buy fresh and free-range eggs, fresh and local meats, veggies and fruits. I don't buy all of our produce local and organic, but I do try to as much as possible. I find it helpful to refer to the Dirty Dozen list to know which fruits and veggies are sprayed the most. This Healthy 4 Life guide, put out by the Weston A. Price foundation, describes much of how we try to eat. The things we try to avoid include High Fructose Corn Syrup, MSG, hydrogenated oils, soy, white flour, white sugar/refined sweeteners, and food colors/dyes. Since most processed foods contain at least one of these, I do try and make much of what we eat from scratch. And yes, I am now one of those health nuts who grinds her own flour! I do this for a few reasons. For one, it is a much more frugal to buy whole grains in bulk and grind them myself. Secondly, when you grind you own grains you receive all of the nutrients that you only get when you grind it fresh. And last, but not least ... everything tastes sooooo much better! I personally love Hard White Wheat for my yeast-breads and Soft White Wheat for my non-yeast breads as I find that the White Wheat gives a much lighter product. We love homemade bread, cinnamon toast (or rolls, yummy!), English muffins, tortillas, french bread/dinner rolls, pizza dough, bagels, pancakes, waffles, muffins, quick-breads, etc.. All of these things are so much better tasting (and better for you!) when made with freshly ground flour. Although a little time consuming, the kids love helping me make homemade bagels and they are a special treat around here!


Do we eat perfectly healthy all of the time? No! Are there seasons of life when, try as I might, I can't do everything I would like to do and so I make compromises? Yes! Does my husband love his Peanut M&M's? Yes, and I'm ok with that! I simply try to do the best I can to care for my family in every season of life that God has me in.

Some may be wondering why we have chosen to eat this way. Well, I have noticed that we all tend to feel better, have more energy, and stay healthier when we eat whole foods, and that enables me to fulfill my role as a wife, mother and homemaker much easier. I like feeling good, and I also enjoy being able to have the energy to do all that God has called me to, including serving my family and others. I don't know how many more days, months or years God has for me, but I do know that I want to be able to serve Him as best I can while I am here!


So many people think eating healthy means eating food that doesn't taste good. But if you ask my husband and children, I'm pretty confident that they will say they love the food we eat! A current favorite healthy treat that our kiddos constantly ask for are Popsicles of all sorts. Although I make homemade Popsicles year round, we eat them practically every day during the summer when it is blazing hot outside! Our favorite Popsicle molds include: Tovolo Groovy Ice Pop Molds , Tovolo Star Ice Pop Molds, Tovolo Rocket Ice Pop Molds, and the Norpro Silicone Ice Pop Maker Set. The silicone molds are especially great for making a homemade "go-gurt" pop and I use them the most year-round since they travel well.


Here is one of our favorite recipes for a Creamy Fruit Popsicle:

~1 lb. (approx. 4 cups) fresh or frozen*, ripe fruit
~1 c. plain, whole milk yogurt
~2 T. raw honey or maple syrup

*If using frozen fruit, allow to thaw first.

Place fruit, yogurt and sweetener in VitaMix (or blender) and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into pop molds and allow to freeze for 6-8 hours. When ready to serve, run the pop molds under warm water for a few seconds to loosen before removing.

I have loved discovering new things along my journey to healthier eating (I certainly don't know it all!) and would be happy to answer any questions as I'm able in the comments. And don't worry ... if you aren't a health nut like me, I will still be your friend and eat chocolate with you (especially dark chocolate)!

Thank you, Sarah for sharing your ideas with us today.  I know I have learned much but mostly I have been inspired to be even more careful and specific when it comes to making healthy choices, come out of my kitchen for my own family.  I personally thank you for your tutorial on making bagels.  I have had a bagel made from your recipe, one time, and I swear it was the best bagel I have ever had.  And.  This Popsicle recipe will surely be used sometime this week... especially with the weather - the way it's been around here. ;)

So, thank you again.  You've been a real blessing today.

A gift from the kitchen is a gift from the heart. ~ unknown

***

And now for our special giveaway!  Which you have all been waiting so patiently for...  Thank you!

: Giveaway :

From my talented friend Nancy - who wove this cloth on her own personal loom.  This is such a gift.  Weaving is a talent that, I'm afraid like so many other things, is quickly becoming a lost art in this day and age.
Someone help me. Tell her she needs to sell these things on a regular basis.  Please!! ;)


HANDWOVEN BREAD CLOTH - colors in Olive and Caramel  (Sorry, the basket is NOT included.)

Here is what, my friend, Nancy B. has to say:
As far as my weaving, I took a 6-week course in Doylestown, PA back in 1984. We'd meet once or twice a week~~I don't remember which. After that, I got an 8-harness Tools of the Trade loom with a 54" weaving width. It was made by a man in VT and it was a very exciting day when it was delivered! I read a lot of reading books and magazines and pretty much taught myself, using the skills I had learned in my class.
I had originally thought I'd weave to supplement our income, but never really got into the craft show thing. I mostly just weave gifts for friends and family and my own household use, and have sold a few things occasionally.
What the cloth is made of and how to care for it:
This Organic colorgrown cotton was grown in Texas and processed in the States. The colorgrown cottons are from Thantex Mills. These cottons are not dyed so they do not fade. Instead the become richer and brighter with washing. If the color fades with sunlight, simply wash it and add a little washing soda or use a detergent that has washing soda in it. Sometimes it will take up to 3 washings in hot water before all the waxes are removed and the cotton becomes absorbent. The baby blankets I've made became silky soft over the years with use and still look great!

Naturally colored cotton yarns are very special. These fiber colors are grown so they deepen and darken with use, not fading, the colors actually deepen up to 10 washings. These are very soft yarns and make lovely items like dish towels, hand towel, or bath towels, place mats and table runners, basket liners, curtains, shawls, scarves and blankets. You need to try this yarn to understand how special it truly is.


A HUGE thank you - to Nancy for this fabulous giveaway!  Uhmmm...a muffin recipe? a bagel recipe?  Now a  Bread cloth?  Wow! what a winning combination, eh?

Let me tell you what. On a personal note,  I have been the blessed recipient of a couple of hand woven pieces from Nancy.  One being, a white Baby Blanket - that I could hardly bare to use.  I did use it - for all three of my children but Nancy would have to (kindly) often chide me and remind me that... NO!  It must be used... it's meant to be usedPlease, please!  Use it.

Anyway.  It is so beautiful and PERFECT!  and more recently, Nancy gave me a tea towel that she wove.  I feel blessed. 

Okay so.  I hope you enter this giveaway!  Please do so by leaving a comment with your thoughts or questions about today's topic for either Sarah or Nancy.  Enter this giveaway by leaving a comment...leave as many as you want.  If you don't want to participate in the drawing, but have something you would like to say - just say so.

This giveaway will close out on Wednesday Evening at 10:00pm, EST.  The winner will be selected and announced sometime on Thursday, of this week.  Please be sure to include an email and your name if you post anonymously.  You don't need to have your own blog to enter.

((This GIVEAWAY is now closed.))****
Wow!  What a day this has been.  What do you think of those muffins?  And that Iced Coffee?  Good, eh?

If YOU have a muffin recipe and would like to be featured here on Mugs & Muffins... give me a shout!

That's all for this "gathering" today.  Thanks for coming and participating in the fun.  I can't wait to hear from you.  I love it when I do.

Blessings to you... hope you keep working on that smile of yours... and give a gift from the kitchen today.

Your kitchen.

Would you?
.. . .. .  . . ..
Edited to Update:  I just found out that Nancy is away for a week - to Mexico - with her church.  Please pray for her and the team that went.  Any specific questions, thoughts or comments directed towards her will be followed up, upon her return.  Thanks.
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