Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - A return to cozy weather

Autumn 2009
After an unusually warm Fall, the temperatures are just beginning to have that nip in the air that I enjoy.  The unseasonably warm days are now not as warm and not as often.  In my world, warm Falls are about as welcome as snowy Springs.

I have never been fond of Summer.  Well, maybe as a child but even then I don't recall an affection for the heat and humidity.  The closest I came to loving the hottest season of the year was when we lived in Western Michigan but there we had the Lake and the breezes and the vibe that comes with living in a vacation destination.

No, it is Fall that suits me nicely and which I could take for say half the year.  I know the corn crops need heat, as do tomatoes to grow, and some other favorite foods... but I do not.  Although in all honesty, I expect Fall is like Christmas in that the very briefness of it all adds to the magic.

When the air turns colder, I feel calmer.  There is less constant nudging of chores I should be doing outside.  Neither is there the reminder of what I once could do easily but now is more difficult.  Not to mention now that the days of home schooling are behind me, that work no longer needs to be accomplished.

Fall now carries a message of grace and rest.

Once the days are shorter and the air is cooler, the season of reading begins in earnest.  My eye is healing enough that I can read but only a short duration before it aches.  However, each week it is better which gives me hope of a full recovery. 

I used my Amazon credit this month to order a book from England and I'm hoping it will be easy to read by the time it arrives. It is a step of faith.  I was going to order a few Mountain House pouches but I could not resist.  Books are my one weakness.  ;)

There are authors I like to read mostly in Fall like Gladys Taber and Flora Thompson.  I took the Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford off the shelf this week.  It is a good time for a reread and this edition makes it easy and enjoyable. (The Illustrated Still Glides the Stream is a separate edition.) Gladys' writing will have her time on the coffee table but yet to be decided is which title to reread this year.

The red Lodge Dutch oven is seeing more use now that the temperatures are cooler.  I'm very much a colder weather cook.  The kitchen even looks more cheerful when the sky turns dark earlier.  I think it has something to do with the way the light reflects off the color of the walls and kitchen cabinets when one flicks on the switch.

The flannel sheets were removed from their warm weather home on a closet shelf, washed, and replaced the cooler cotton sheets on the bed.  Florentine has discovered them and was not happy when she was told to move to her comfy folded fleece at the bottom of the bed. 

Victoria absolutely adored colder weather and would stand with her paws in front of the Study window for me to open it in January.  I would have to remind her that we humans were not equipped with the thick coat of fur that makes Maine Coons so beautiful... and then I would let her sit with the cold air blowing her fur for a few minutes.

I fully realize that this season of cool air and falling leaves will soon merge into icy winds and snow.  That season when the gravel road becomes so slick with ice one has to wear boots and trek through the side of the forest to get to the mailbox or risk life and limb.  Not to mention driving on the stuff.  I know it is ahead.

However, let me bask in the golden glow of Fall right now with pumpkin scented candles, a few books, the old throw at the end of the sofa with a cat curled on it, hot tea and cinnamon toast, and on a good day... soup simmering on the stove.  It doesn't last long so I'm going to embrace it right now, for we will blink and it will be winter.

Mentioned in this Post
The Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford... here.
The Illustrated Still Glides the Stream... here.

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


Image:  Many years ago, I saw this red truck parked on the gravel lane and had to take a photo.  Such a beautiful picture that still makes me happy.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Ramblings and Links


I've been working on the change of season chores a little at a time.  The porch is about half way finished.  It still needs a good cleaning although it may get a "good enough" cleaning.  Most of the flowers and herbs on the deck have been dumped into the wheelbarrow, waiting to become compost in the forest.

I will fold up the lawn chairs for the hired help (aka: Hubby) to move to the garden shed but I need to carry the empty flowerpots out and put them next to the shed for him to put away once the riding lawnmower is inside for the season.  Yes, this is the shed where the snake went inside in front of me.  No, I will not step inside it. 

This year I am doing what I can and not worrying about what I cannot.  But a little at a time of doing does bring very good results.  Perhaps not perfect but once again... good enough.  It is far better than doing nothing at all.

I have been rewarding myself when the tasks are complete with watching an episode or two of Shetland Season 3 on the iPad. It is a rather depressing and gritty kind of mystery show, set in the Shetland Islands of Scotland... but I love it.  If you like Wallander, which takes place in Sweden, you would like this.

I purchased it last year when our PBS did not show that season and I have watched it already but it is still good.  I told a friend that it had a surprise ending and this time through I am seeing the little hints we were given along the way.  I also can appreciate the various camera angles this time and how the photography adds to the drama.

I don't know about you but I think I'm regressing to early childhood when... to accomplish chores I do not want to do... there must be some kind of carrot dangling at the Finish Line.  ;)

Okay, I went through a few days worth of Facebook feed and found some survival type sites I follow. A couple are homesteading sites.  I will share them below but with a warning... by sharing them, it is not a recommendation for everything you will find on any website.  

However, the good thing about following such websites on Facebook is that they not only provide updates of their own but they link to websites and information I would not have known about otherwise.  I will add more if I think of any that did not show up in recent Facebook feeds.

LINKS
The Survivor Mom... here.
Melissa Norris... here.
Off the Grid News... here.
Food Storage Made Easy... here.
Backdoor Survival... here.
Mom With a Prep... here.

Mentioned in this Post
*Shetland Season 1 & 2... here.
Four two-part mystery features.

*Shetland Season 3... here.
Six episodes follows one storyline.

*Wallander Season 1... here.
Three 90-minute episodes.

*Because of the nature of these murder mysteries, contents are not child friendly.  There are references to (obviously) various crimes, an assault, and the occasional alternate lifestyle but nothing is shown.  Well, except murder victims.

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

Image:  Cookbook and Apples: Allposters.com

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Cottage Kitchen; Cozy Cooking in the English Countryside, a review


This is the kind of cookbook I love to peruse on cold, blustery days.  The author, Marte Marie Forsberg, gives us a mix of lovely stories, photographs, and a book full of recipes from her Norwegian childhood, her now English home, and her travels.

The recipes are divided by seasons as well as an additional chapter called Afternoon Tea.  Each chapter opens with the author sharing stories that I found very interesting.  Each recipe also contains the short story behind it.

The photographs bring one in to the beautiful English landscape where the author now makes her home.  I have a few recipes already marked to try very soon, the first being what she calls "Her Mother's Ode to Cabbage" (called Creamy Cabbage Stew in the Index).  For my mother also loved cabbage.

The Cottage Kitchen was provided by Blogging For Books 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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

They Came for Freedom, a review


The subtitle of this new book by Jay Milbrandt is "The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims".  This is a fascinating account of the Pilgrims that answers many questions not taught in history books.  Including why the Pilgrims are associated so much with the founding of the country when in reality, there were others who came before them.

Milbrandt, in an easy-to-read style, shares the history of the Pilgrim's in Europe, the actual sea voyage as they came over on the Mayflower, their early years in the new land, and eventually what caused the downfall of their original dream.  From the beginning to the end of the book, I was fascinated by how the true story is even more interesting than the myths surrounding them.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read about the history of early America.  The text itself is easy to read and the Appendix includes: A Timeline of Events, A List of the Passengers on the Mayflower, The Mayflower Compact, and an in-depth Bibliography.

They Came for Freedom 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, October 15, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Lessons from the forest

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isiah 55:12

I talked to the forest this week.  Not loud enough for the neighbors who live across the gravel lane from the forest to hear, of course.  However, I'm certain the trees heard it.  God did.

The forest is mostly various shades of green and gold at the moment.  There are few shades of red, although it is possible that there will be a short explosion of color to come later.  I've seen it happen before in "off color" seasons.  Much like the forest is apologizing that it can't provide color for very long but it works hard and gives us a few gorgeous days.

I had walked down the lane to check the mailbox when something made me stop by the forest and just take it all in.  The aroma of the forest in Fall is, I think, my very favorite.  It has that musty smell of fallen leaves and wet sod and honestly, I can understand why the Celtic lands write about seeing fairies in the forest.

October brings about a magic... Narnia magic... which easily makes one with an imagination think they can see into that world.  Perhaps it was the Octobers of England that inspired Lewis and Tolkien and Wordsworth and so many favorite writers.

October in the forest reminds me of both the process of dying and the hope of the Resurrection.  That is why I was talking to the forest... but really to the God who created the trees.  The One that made the deciduous trees to lose their leaves as they get tired and old and at the end of their appointed journey.  Even in their dying they give joy.

The forest doesn't weep for the losses, the trees know this is their natural process.  Without the leaves falling to the ground and becoming compost for the land, there would not be the needed nutrients for the new growth of Spring.  No, instead God wove into the circle of life I think the best part of it... that amazingly other worldly look and feel of an October forest.

The sunlight shining through the leaves made for beautiful images in the camera lens.  Short bursts of light seen only through the lens as it reflected in the scenery that day.  It is the light that makes it beautiful.  The forest at night is something I avoid.  It is quite dark and unsettling and sometimes scary and always alive with sounds.  While I know in my heart they are made by small furry animals with four paws... one's imagination can easily be swayed to more sinister inhabitants.

Sometimes my circumstances are more like the forest at night than the lovely days when light is streaming through golden leaves.  That is why I was talking to the trees.  I was thanking them... and not being a Druid, actually the God who created them... for the lessons they provide those of us whom Lewis calls daughters of Eve and sons of Adam.  We can learn much through nature.

It has been a month when the income was less than the outgo and I was still too tired to clean the deck "garden".  My husband's personality was being affected by the leaf mold he is so allergic to and my eye was still too blurry to read easily and honestly, I was just plain tired.

Just before stopping to enjoy the forest, I had been talking to God on a different level.  Just a chat with the Father to tell Him... as if He didn't already know... that life gets hard at times.  I had recently watched a documentary about a missionary couple who was affecting Zimbabwe for the Lord and reading about the work once again that Katie is doing in Uganda and comparing myself to those who do great things for the Gospel of Christ.

I'm sure that it was Him who put in my mind to walk down the lane to check the mail right then.  Just as the sunlight was streaming through the forest.  To gaze upon the trees who were at the end of their journey but remain such a vital part of the forest as a whole.  Not to mention that they are their most lovely at this part of their seasonal cycle.

Okay, God... I see what you are teaching me.  I talked to the forest and to Him.  Each season has its' own Beauty and each season of the forest and of life contains what it needs for where it is right now.  Today.  Where we are on our journey.

The trees are not looking back at April when they were sprouting their first chartreuse leaves, nor were they nostalgic for their fullness in July.  They were content in this season of October so much that the scenery they created and the scent they provided caused one to stop and fill up their senses with the sights and sounds and smells of the forest.

I realized that I cannot compare myself to anyone else in God's eyes.  I am uniquely made (and my children shout, Amen!!) and when I stand before Him to give account of my life, He will not judge me by the accomplishments He expected from another person.

He didn't call me to Africa or to walk the Mission Trail in California or to preach in stadiums like Billy Graham.  He called me to be faithful in the small things, to know His Word, and to accomplish what was set before me in my own journey.

His Word is truly a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  It keeps me grounded and wise and not easily deceived by the whispers of the enemy of my soul. For those who have accepted Christ as their Savior, the coming Spring will be far better than anything experienced before.

Like the trees, we will not look back on our previous days of glory for they cannot compare to what He says is awaiting us.  The Bible says it is far beyond anything we can ask or think... and I'm pretty good at thinking.

We are to be content to do what we can, with what we have been gifted, in our own season of life. Just like the forest, God is not asking us to do anything but reflect His glory in our days... and to trust Him in all things.  I don't know about you but that brings great peace to my soul.

Image:  The view of one small area of the forest last week.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Little decisions, big results


This week I've been trying to put some thought into what small, easy on the budget things I can do to be more prepared for winter and emergencies.  The first thing I did, and you will laugh at its' simplicity, was to put a package of three boxes of new matches on my grocery list.

I hate to admit it but I have been frustrated by matches that do not light properly now for years.  Did you know that matches have a "Use By" date and they really do lose their ability to light, even when striking on the box?  I'm pretty sure all the matches in my house were at least fifteen years old, which was the last year we lived in a house with a fireplace and the last time I stocked up.

We don't use them as much as we did back then so they got... old.  (Don't we all eventually?)  I cannot tell you why it took so long.  It wasn't a budget problem because three boxes of matches cost less than $3.00.  It probably has more to do with my dislike of not using up something I stocked up on at one time... even if my reason for having a lot of matches (the fireplace) no longer exists.

So by purchasing the three-box package, I definitely have a new stock of fresh matches and one reason for being annoyed was easily resolved, the matches now light immediately.  I should have done it years ago.  It wouldn't hurt to purchase one more three-pack just to put back for real emergencies but for now, being able to light my Autumnal scented candle so easily was a very good thing.

After hearing interviews with people affected by hurricanes and forest fires, I decided there was a definite need to rethink and finish our "bug out bag".  For one thing, the bag I use is an old Land's End duffel bag that is almost as old as Christopher and received a lot of use over the years.  It is practically falling apart. 

So I decided to use instead the old Vera Bradley duffel I bought at Goodwill long ago for just a few dollars.  It mostly sits in the coat closet, anyway.  It just needs something added to the bottom of the bag to give it more structure.

I also decided it will not be an official "bug out bag", at least not yet.  If  you do an online search for "bug out bag", the suggested contents would require more of a complete set of luggage rather than a duffel bag.  Since the probability of our having to leave our house in an emergency is low (but still exists), my priority is not necessarily long term survival but taking what will make our life easier.

It is to be more a "grab and go" bag should we need to ummm... grab and go.  I was watching interviews of the people who escaped the forest fires in California and many of them had less than ten minutes to throw together what they were taking with them.  How much better it would be if they had such a bag to easily grab and add a few thought out items to on the way out.

I'm now adding items by priority as well as budget. I'm taking photocopies of important documents like birth certificates, a list of phone numbers (I couldn't tell you my daughter's phone number, I just press #3 on my cell phone), the front of our insurance policy, etc.  Like many recent printers, ours has a photocopy capability that we use only for a few items at a time (it uses a lot of ink) but this is one of those times.

I'll share more about what I put in when it is finished.  I know I will transfer what I already have put together and I need to replace two or three boxes of granola bars.  Should there come a time I do need to grab and go...  I can throw the insulin pens from the frig, required pen needles, and prescriptions in at the last minute. 

I'm still thinking through what I will include, there will be more items.  Of course, if I lived in an earthquake zone, a flood zone, or where forest fires are more possible than they are here, I would put together an actual bug out bag with more items for survival.

I understand what it is like to not think through what to take in an emergency.  When our house was hit by lightening, the last thing I thought of was that I would need our insurance information should the unthinkable happen and the house blew up (when the firemen had to return, it was because of a gas leak caused by the lightening strike).

Because I lived with an ADD husband and son, I have already set up good habits through the years that would make a quick exit possible.  Our keys are always in the same wooden bowl when not in use.  Our flip top cell phone is always next to it since I share that phone with my husband. So whoever is leaving home to run errands has a quick access to the cell phone.  I did keep our kitty carrier in the garage but it was used to carry Mr. Sebastian to his new home.  Note to self: ask for my kitty carrier back the next time the kids are coming to town.

Our emergency radio is always in the same place, my insulin pens and prescriptions are in the same place, etc.  So those would be easy to locate and throw in a bag if needed.  It would be a very good idea to type out a list of things you need to take that are located in other places so you do not forget anything if you need to use the grab and go bag.

I am convinced if most of us change the way we think of "bug out bags", we will be more likely to put something together that will make life much easier should we need to leave the house suddenly.  Perhaps for most a complete survival bag will not be necessary.  Just start with something simple like photocopying important documents (putting them in something like a gallon size Ziploc bag for protection), that extra flashlight (and extra batteries if you have them), etc.

The theme of this week's post is this... do something simple right now.  For me it was adding the new matches to this month's grocery list and deciding to change from a bug out bag (which was never completed) to just a "grab and go" bag (which can easily be completed and then added to over time).

Then, do something simple each week to prepare for an emergency situation.  Much like my "little at a time" house and lawn work, you are surprised how much can be accomplished.  

We have seen these past couple of months that life can be running along as usual one day and the next some kind of an emergency hits.  There was not even a storm over our home when lightening hit it. By preparing just a little, we are helping our future selves a great deal.

One of the men interviewed who just barely escaped the fires said they believed their neighborhood was safe from forest fires because they usually do not jump the large Interstates.  However, the conditions of this fire with the Santa Anna winds being so high made it possible for the fire to not only reach his neighborhood but do so within minutes of jumping the Interstate.

I will be revisiting this theme often in the next few months.  Everything done a little at a time will reap huge results eventually.

Image:  From The Sentinel, photo by John Lindsey