Tuesday, March 20, 2018

So Much to Celebrate, a review

If you love to have parties in your home, you will enjoy this beautiful book subtitled "Entertaining the Ones You Love the Whole Year Through".  Katie Jacobs is described as a stylist, photographer, graphic designer, and foodie.  She wears all of those hats very well here.

Divided into celebrations by season, it is easy to look for ideas pertaining to each time of year.  For instance, Spring begins with a Fairy Tale Fern White Linen Luncheon, contains a Mother's Day Tea Party, and ends with Breakfast: Brides Who Brunch.  Summer begins with a July Pool Party and ends with a Milkshake Social.  

Fall contains an Autumn Tailgate, a Pie Party, and ends with a Harvest Picnic.  Winter starts out with a Gingerbread House Decorating Party and has ideas for grown up parties such as a Cookies and Cocktails theme.

Each season contains a menu and recipes and a Recipe Index is found in the back of the book.  This is one of those books that you really need to click on the "Look Inside" feature at the Amazon page and do just that... look inside!  Gorgeous.  Highly recommended for those who love to show hospitality.

So Much to Celebrate was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - He Goes to Prepare a Place

 "...I go to prepare a place for you."  John 14:2 KJV

I have begun my "little at a time" Spring cleaning.  Each season I wonder if I can do it this year but each change of season He provides the strength.  For I have found I can do just about anything a few minutes at a time, even if I can no longer spend hours in cleaning... or pruning... or anything else requiring energy.

I do it because Place has a meaning and my small amount of it on this planet is what He has provided while I am here, in this time and in this Place.  What I do with it is a gift back to Him.  Thankfully, He accepts imperfection just as much as anything we do that is really, really good.

Through the years, I have met a few people (in person and through books) who did not think it very "Christian" to decorate our homes to look beautiful.  I didn't always know how to respond but I do now for I know that belief is not at all what the Bible says.

If anything, our Creator in His Word shows us why we long for beautiful surroundings.  We, who were born from the sod of garden soil, were created to love the beauty of nature.  He shows us in the instructions for building the Tabernacle that not only is beauty important to Him but today's psychiatrists would say he is more than a little OCD about details.

While He walked the earth, He thought the work that Tabitha (Dorcas) accomplished with needle and thread was so important to those who loved her that she was raised from the dead. Believe me, God gets it.

This past week, a Bible verse kept floating to my mind.  I asked Him if that is what I was to write about this week.  I felt the answer was "yes"... so here 'tis.

God understands our need for Place in this world.  So much that just before He was to die on the cross, He assured the disciples that he was going to prepare a Place for them.  For us.  For all who believe it does not end at the cross.

I don't know, perhaps it is the soon coming of Easter that sparked this thinking.  I love Easter and I have to admit... do not hate me for I have good friends who disagree... I love both the theological and the cultural aspects of it.  I guess it has a lot to do with childhood memories.

Obviously what I love most about Easter is the Resurrection of Jesus.  I remember when I attended a liturgical church, the Sundays leading up to Easter were to me the most beautiful of the year.  I loved the sermons and the music and the way the church was decorated.

However, I also love bunnies and colored eggs and chocolate crosses (which I put in my kid's baskets along with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks) and I honestly did not have a problem combining them on that Sunday each year.  Just as I never had a problem calling the day... Easter.

For just as I love adding whimsy to the celebration of the birth of Christ, I love adding some Narnia magic to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.  Beautifully colored eggs decorating the table (those I have now are made of wax) do not take away from the Truth of the risen Christ.  They just remind us that everything about the day is Beautiful.

For you see, He not only appreciates all that is lovely... He created all that is lovely and He is Beauty personified.  Jesus knows our hearts and He understands that colored eggs and chocolate bunnies are not in my heart symbols of pagan worship.  They are a part of the celebration of what Easter is all about, especially when we get together with family and friends to celebrate the occasion.

He knows that  the name given to that day has no pagan meaning to me.  I didn't even know it was associated with pagans until I was an adult.  Words have the meaning we give them and Easter to me means the risen Lord.

So what does all of this have to do with the subject of "Place"?  I realized this past week just how much God cares about what is important to us.  He totally understands our need for Place because we are His creation.  He put that need for a place where we can live... and make beautiful... and show hospitality in us at the moment of creation.

It is only tarnished when our desire for "Place" becomes an idol, a small "g" god.  When all we can think about is getting a bigger house, new furniture, a nicer landscape, and the latest decorations... then our original God given need for Place has been taken over by coveting and greed.

Easter reminds us that the Bible says He has gone to prepare a Place for us.  The Master Carpenter is building a City and within it is a Place with our name on the mailbox.  I truly believe that everything we ever wanted in a house will be found in that home.  All the godly desires within us are just an echo of that eternal Place.

I can hardly wait for that day we see our real Home.  Maranatha, Lord.

Image: Instagram photo - tweaking the sideboard for Spring.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Legacy Recipes

I own three recipe card boxes... one that I use all the time, one that holds recipes I no longer use as often but I don't want to throw out, and one that is full of Taste of Home, Country Woman, etc. recipe "cards" cut out of the magazines over a decade or so when I used to subscribe.  The prize winning recipes are fun to get out and look through for ideas from time to time.

The recipe card box I use all the time has a place in the kitchen and the other two are on a shelf in my bedroom closet.  Close enough that if I'm looking for a recipe, it doesn't take long to pull one of these boxes off the shelf but not taking up space in a small kitchen.

If I am looking for one of my mother-in-law's recipes, I look in one of the recipe card boxes or the church cookbook that has a lot of her favorite recipes published in it, along with recipes from her friends my husband remembers.  My husband was hoping the recipe for the German chocolate cake his mom's friend always brought to potlucks would be in it but alas... she took it to her grave as so many women did their secret recipes at the time.

Through the years, my favorite recipes from cookbooks or online have been copied to these cards, too. They get a lot of use and you can tell immediately when a recipe has been around for many years because it will have food stains, grease stains, and if a dessert... a buttered fingerprint or two.

They are so important to me that when we moved from one house to another, the primary recipe card box went with me in the car along with important papers and a cat or two.  For quite often, it is the recipe that links a memory to a loved one no longer living.  These are our legacy recipes.

I'm not sure if today's society in general has as many legacy recipes as we once did, often passed down from family and friends.  It doesn't seem like it generally but I do know individual families who still appreciate them.  They tend to be families who appreciate the importance of legacy in general, not just in the kitchen.

My mother didn't use many cookbooks and her written recipes were mainly on scraps of paper stuck in those few books.  However, she taught me how to make her vegetable beef soup and I watched her make banana pudding so often that it doesn't need a recipe.

My oldest sister wrote down some of the recipes she remembers from growing up and a few from my maternal grandmother who passed away when I was a baby.  One story that still makes me laugh is a recipe Jean sent that our mom used to make when she was a child (Jean is 20-some years older than me) and garlic was listed as an ingredient.  I didn't know our mom ever cooked with garlic other than in powdered form!  Jean then admitted it was the way she tweaked the original recipe.

That's one of the secret ingredients in legacy recipes... the stories!  Even in the passing down of some recipes, there is a story to be told.  In this case, the garlic mystery. 

We have a lot of food related stories that come back in various seasons.  Perhaps the one I remember the most is how, in the first years of our marriage, my husband always told me that his mom's meatloaf was better than mine.  So I would tweak mine off and on and it still didn't compare to hers. 

Once when we were visiting, I finally asked her what her famous meatloaf recipe was and she just laughed, saying she had no regular recipe.  She tried a lot of different versions and often just threw together what ingredients she had in the refrigerator and pantry. 

I think what my husband remembered was coming home in elementary school, after playing baseball in a vacant field all afternoon, to the aroma of meatloaf and potatoes for dinner.  That makes more sense, actually. Our memories are so wrapped up in taste and scent.

When I prepare Thanksgiving dinner each year, it smells like my mom's kitchen.  I make dressing like she did although she had not written the recipe down.  However, I remembered her making it and found the same version in many old cookbooks.  Easter dinner has two ingredients from my mother-in-law's kitchen... baked ham and creamy cheese potatoes.  Always.

I started a new tradition for our family when we lived in Iowa (from where I also came away with a great church cookbook).  I started making hors' dourves for Christmas Eve dinner, which we continued to enjoy most years the kids were home. 

It provided an outlet for trying fun party recipes and they were easy to make ahead.  Other holiday meals were pretty much set in stone but this one could be changed each year if I wanted.  Although the creamy cherry cheesecake recipe became a permanent part of a few holiday meals.

Sometimes we don't have the legacy recipes but we continue the traditions of those who went before us.  For instance, I like to make various kinds of candies and cookies for people at Christmas. 

That idea came from my sister's mother-in-law who gave the best gift each Christmas... a tin of homemade candy.  I can still remember how happy we were to receive it as my mom worked full time and didn't make such goodies.  I didn't know Nina very well but her gift each year brings back fond memories of her.

Sometimes I wish my mother was here so I could ask her questions that were not important at the age I was when she passed away.  I would love to ask her about my grandmother's jam cake and the story behind it, on what special occasions did they always serve that cake? 

The whole idea of legacy recipes has been on my mind this week as I prepare the menu for Easter dinner and I'm looking through the card file for a couple well worn recipe cards. Time passes quickly and some of those recipe cards have been there for forty years.

I have a lot of my recipes on the recipe "blog" (which is not really a blog but a place I created long ago to park recipes I mention here). Feel free to peruse them!

As for today being St. Patrick's Day and all, Colcannon will be made for dinner... a tradition I started after my kids left home.  So it is never too late to do something new.  :)

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Coffee Tea Books and Recipes... here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Prayer that Turned the World Upside Down, a review

I have read a few books through the years about the Lord's Prayer but this is by far the best. Dr. Mohler provides both sound theology with an easy-to-read format as he explains how Jesus used this prayer to teach us how to pray.

  • The Lord's Prayer: An Overview
  • And When You Pray: Why Jesus Doesn't Think Much of Routine Christian Prayer
  • Hallowing the Father's Name: Where Authentic Prayer Begins
  • Your Kingdom Come: Whose Agenda is Our Concern Anyway?
  • Give Us This Day: God's Abundant Physical Provisions
  • Forgive Us Our Debts: The Prayer of God's New Covenant People
  • Lead Us Not into Temptation: Fighting the Enemy Through Prayer
  • Epilogue: Thine is the Kingdom

A quote from the book that I particularly liked is, "... Our prayers reveal our deepest convictions about God, about ourselves, and about the world around us.  Every word we utter in prayer, every idea and concept that we form as we pray, and every emotion that flows out of our heart is a reflection of what we believe about God and about the gospel of Christ."

This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to improve their prayer life, theologically sound but easy to understand.

The Prayer that Turned the World Upside Down was provided by the publisher but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Striving for Peace on the Internet

I have decided to do everything in my own ability to seek more calm and peace in my days.  Of course, there is a lot outside of my ability to control.  There will be no perfect days until I either go to Jesus or He comes here. I can, however, do something.

I was having a series of very stressful days recently.  So much going on that my hands were shaking as I typed one morning.  I had already enjoyed reading from a devotional and the Psalms but that day it was not enough.  The stress was threatening to become overwhelming fear that the burdens of life were too much to handle.

Of course, I know better.  He has never failed me.  I recalled the times when I thought there were no solutions to my circumstances and God miraculously met every need.  People have said through the years that they wished they had my faith for provision and I have told them they would not have wanted the numerous trials that built that faith.

There was the time we left Michigan to move back home after a year of unemployment.  There was barely enough cash to put gas in the U-Haul and none for food.  We had rented a storage unit for only one month and we had a place to stay while friends were on vacation... for two weeks.  After that? 

I felt as if I was on a high cliff and God was asking me to jump head first, only without a parachute... free falling into His arms of protection.  We had to move since the house we were temporarily renting had been sold so He was much like a mother bird pushing her children out of the nest.  They doubted they could fly but she (He) knew better.

What followed were a series of miracles so amazing that Christopher gave them as a testimony at his homeschool high school graduation.  God was our landing Place. The hardships didn't end right then but neither did His continued work in our lives.

I have found that sometimes it is the big stuff I find easiest to handle.  When one must jump off the cliff because there is no where else to go... you jump.  Recently it has been the day-to-day stuff that grates on my peace and what I realized that morning was that I could control some of it.

I don't know about you but there are few things that are in my control that robs my peace like my online presence.  Thankfully, after years of snarky and hurtful comments on the blog (if Mother Theresa had blogged, she would get them I am certain), comment moderation pretty much put an end to that.

However, my email Inbox and Facebook and Instagram and everything else brought to me through my browser... they are all fair game.  They are also mostly within my ability to control.

The first thing I did was to unsubscribe to about seven or eight email subscriptions, all having the ability to bring unsettling news of the day.  I even took the website where I often get my news off the Bookmark Toolbar of my browser.  Honestly, I have plenty of ways to hear what is happening in the world.

I had already begun to eliminate email subscriptions for those websites I rarely visit. It is the Inbox equivalent of decluttering a room but this time getting rid of stuff you like that are in the way of enjoying what you love. 

First I got rid of what I no longer needed, then I began to get rid of what was robbing my peace.  I'm sure there will be more email tweaking but now what is left are emails and links to places I actually want to read.

I did a major "Unfollowing" on Facebook last week.  Their changes in algorithms tended to bring up what I'm not all that interested in, anyway.  (I do have "see first" on the most important people and websites marked.)   I'm fairly certain that Facebook can be a very real robber of peace for a lot of people.

My Instagram feed is probably 70% nature photos and since the big post-election clean out... I don't have to do much to it.  I do temporarily follow certain authors whose books I will be reviewing and sometimes I keep them on my feed... mostly they eventually are "Unfollowed".  I both love and do not love their new algorithm.  I like when they offer suggestions for nature photographers I may enjoy.  I do not like how they do not always have the feed in chronological now.

As for the things out of my control, all having to do with relationships, one I made peace with just by forgiving.  That is my husband and I always have to remember that he says things because he bipolar.  He has been having some very bad days lately.  His symptoms are usually brought on by environmental allergies.

Another reason for the lack of peace that day was an online friend that I haven't had much contact with in years and honestly... I use the term "friend" loosely.  In that case, I just had to... let it go.  I mean, really let it go.  As in taking their website off my browser.  They were going down a path that I knew would bring disagreement and it was time to part online ways.  It's funny how that happens on the Internet.

I do appreciate the real online friendships I have developed through the years.  Many are people I've met through blogging who have become friends, even if we only communicate at Christmas.  A few I hear from often.  I pray for them throughout the year as they pray for me and I cry with them over the death of a husband, the death of a beloved child, prodigals, illness, unemployment, etc.  These are true online friendships that overlap with the real world.

Otherwise, we must stop and think of what is real and what is... not.  If we are being upset by something said by somebody who doesn't even know us, if we need a certain amount of "Likes" on our posts or photos, if we are ingesting a constant source of negative material... we need to rethink what we are allowing to come back at us through the computer screen.

Have I noticed a difference?  Definitely!  I'm certain there will be further tweaking because I am reminded that for the most part, what is coming to my attention is only there because I opened the door in the first place.

As for you, I am very blessed that you opened this door and stopped to stay awhile.  :)

Photo:  My neighbor's barn at sunset a few years ago.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - More cookbook suggestions

I've had requests off and on for further cookbook suggestions for from-scratch cooking.  So today is a good time to share some favorites that help one either learn to cook or to cook from the pantry.  Some of the titles I've mentioned before while others are (I think) new to the blog.

I have to include More-with-Less cookbook with any conversation about cooking from scratch.  My original copy had all kinds of markings in it I had written through the years.

I had to replace it with a new copy a few years ago and its' pristine condition looks odd.  If I had it to do over again, I would have spent a little more and have bought the newer spiral edition so it lays flat when I use it.  This is the basic cookbook for hundreds of recipes using healthy, inexpensive, from-scratch ingredients.

Once again, Karey Swan's Hearth & Home was an essential source of from-scratch cooking recipes in my kitchen and I still return to it off and on.  It has a very old fashioned look to it and it is full of her ponderings about cooking, homeschooling, etc.  Which add to the charm and the recipes are excellent.  This was especially helpful when I belonged to a food co-op.

I used to take it off the shelf and just read through it for ideas when we were still homeschooling.  The recipes are excellent, too.

Melissa Norris' The Made from Scratch Life is not really a cookbook, although it has recipes.  The subtitle is: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home.  It is inexpensive and has lots of great ideas.  I don't live on a homestead but found it very useful.

I keep it in the red wire basket in the kitchen to read off and on.  It may be a small-ish book but it is loaded with great ideas for people wanting a more natural, healthy lifestyle.

The Essential Amish Cookbook is Lovina Eicher's first cookbook that she wrote alone and it is truly worth having in a from-scratch kitchen.   This book is full of delicious recipes from her Amish kitchen as well as gorgeous photos.

This cookbook resides in my red wire basket of "most used cookbooks" at the moment.  It is one of those cookbooks that I can pick up for a quick recipe idea with what I have in the pantry and then get lost in the beautiful (peaceful) photos.


All of the Pioneer Woman books are full of from-scratch recipes but what makes them useful for the new cook... or teaching your kids to cook... are the step-by-step photographs.  She is one of those nice people you would love for a friend and it comes through her books and TV shows.

I especially loved her first and her last books... The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl and The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Come and Get It!: Simple Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives... but all of them are good.


Two colorful from-scratch books I like that have to do with the family cooking together and teaching kids to cook are Williams-Sonoma Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen and The River Cottage Family Cookbook.

I think the Williams-Sonoma book is probably better for the American family and as I was looking through it again, I decided to keep it out to try a couple of recipes I'd forgotten about.  This book is a delight to read as well as a good source of recipes.

However, if you are familiar with any of the River Cottage books, you will know how good they are and how much information they contain.  Their books contain more British recipes (obviously) but there is enough information and plenty of recipes to make it worth keeping in your kitchen library as it is in mine.

The last book I would suggest from my collection is Homestead Kitchen by Eve and Eivin Kilcher from Alaska the Last Frontier.  I'd say it is for those cooks who have more intermediate skills and the readers who will get the most from this book are those who have access to fresh seafood and venison.

However, for those of us who do not hunt or fish... there are still plenty of healthy recipes.  It is definitely a must have book for fans of the show.

A magazine that offers great from-scratch recipes is Taste of Home.  I also read an issue of the new The Pioneer Woman magazine recently and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
More with Less cookbook... here.
Hearth & Home... here. (Third party)
The Made from Scratch Life... here.
The Essential Amish Cookbook... here.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl... here.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!... here.
Williams-Sonoma Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen... here. (Third party)
The River Cottage Family Cookbook... here. (Third party)
Homestead Kitchen... here. (Third party)

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Image:  Cookbooks and Apples: allposters.com