Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! We are thankful this day, first and foremost, for our Savior Jesus, who gave His life so that we might have new life in Him. We are also thankful for our family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. We are thankful for the men and women who have served and are serving in the defense of our country. We are thankful for our ancestors, who bravely came to what was then a new country...

Time doesn't permit me to list every reason I have to be thankful today. But most of all, I am thankful to the Giver of all Good Gifts. Our Fighter Verse for Scripture memory for next week is James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Thank you, Lord, for Thanksgiving!

Sacrifice in marriage? Absolutely!

Even if you could have it all, you couldn’t have it all at the same time.

A blogger I read off and on asked recently if she should “compromise” and “sacrifice” her personal goals in life in order to have the long-lasting relationship that she also desires. That left me thinking about my own life and the choices I have made.

Have I “sacrificed” or “compromised” as a married woman? Absolutely! Do I have any regrets about this? None whatsoever! There would be no joy in our life together if we weren’t both willing to sacrifice and compromise at times. If you are truly one flesh in marriage, you must be willing to submit to each other as the Bible teaches in Ephesians 5:21. This means you both make choices based on the good of the marriage.

But just because you say goodbye to some personal dreams and goals doesn’t mean you must live without dreams or goals altogether. Instead, you find that by being willing to say goodbye to a personal dream, you are now free to embrace another dream together, especially if that dream glorifies and honors your Creator.

And personal sacrifice is not only good for our marriage; it’s also good for our relationship with Jesus. He set the ultimate example of personal sacrifice for us, and He teaches us to be willing to die to ourselves daily.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Ephesians 12:1-2)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beer Bread with Cheese

It's been a while since I've posted a new recipe. So today seems like a good day to do that. I've made this beer bread before, but this is the first time I've made it with cheese. We're going to have it tonight for dinner with broiled salmon, steamed corn, and a mixed green salad...It feels really good to be well enough to enjoy cooking again. And since my husband has had chicken pox (he had it when he was a kid), I don't have to worry about exposing him to my germs as I prepare our meal. This recipe came from a blog I've enjoyed reading over the past several weeks, but the addition of the shredded cheese is my experiment tonight. It looks really good!

3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
12 oz. beer
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add shredded cheese, mixing by hand to make sure that the cheese is well distributed and not clumped together. Add beer and mix well. Pour dough into greased and floured 9x5 loaf pan. Pour melted butter over top, taking care to make sure the butter doesn't all flow down the sides of the pan. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Chicken pox!

Well, this has been an odd fall season already for my husband and me.

First, we've both had a persistent cold that has held on for several weeks. It's no longer debilitating, but it is annoying to have to cough so much during the day, and it also makes it challenging to fall asleep at night.

Then, my husband was bit by a spider (probably a common sac spider), most likely when he was putting the cover on the air conditioner for the winter. He didn't even know it had happened until the area around the five bite marks started becoming red and inflamed. So he went to see the doctor, who immediately prescribed a heavy duty antibiotic, which not only knocked out the infection but also upset my husband's stomach. Thankfully, that was over before the next wave of illness came along...

On my birthday, my 41st birthday, November 4, I came down with chicken pox! Can you believe it? I had asked about the vaccine for chicken pox a few years ago, but I tested positive for antibodies, which was supposed to mean that I had already had a case of chicken pox, even though neither my mother nor I ever knew that I had it.

Well, that test must have been wrong, because I started getting a few red bumps on my face, and I had a terrible headache that wouldn't go away, even with massive amounts of ibuprofen. When I went to the doctor about it on November 5 he found that I also had a fever. But because I supposedly already had chicken pox, he thought that the bumps must be related to the fever, so he told me to go home and rest because I might be getting the flu.

By the morning of November 6, my husband was ready to call the doctor again, because the bumps had spread. They were all over my face, on my chest and stomach, and also on my scalp. In fact, before I saw the doctor that afternoon, I had chicken pox all over my body. They were the worst on my head, neck, and torso. They didn't itch at first, but they did hurt, especially the ones on my scalp. So the doctor prescribed an anti-viral drug and took a culture from one of the bumps, and by Monday his nurse called me to confirm that it is chicken pox. She told me to stay home until every one of those bumps either disappears or crusts over.

So that's where I've been ever since...home with various degrees of miserable-ness. The fever lasted six days. The headache lasted a week and a half, and I'm still dealing with some itching and pain. But thankfully, it's much better than it was all last week. I was able to work from home today, and that really did feel good. But I can't go back to the office until all of those bumps are either gone or crusted over. And there are still a lot of bumps that aren't at that stage yet.

On the bright side, I have many reasons to be thankful. God has provided so well for me during this trial. First of all, my family and my husband's family have all been so good to me, as have my friends at the ministry. I've had phone calls, cards, flowers, and wonderful meals, and there have been countless prayers prayed for me. Also, in the midst of all this, I've changed to a new doctor, and that's a reason to be thankful, too.

I had a great doctor before, a Christian physician, but it was really hard to get appointments with her, and I was tired of being assigned to a nurse practioner whenever I needed to see a doctor between annual exams. My new doctor is also my husband's doctor and an old classmate of his from college days. He's also a committed Christian, and he also cares for one of my best friends at the ministry. So I know that I will be in very good hands.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nesting again...

It seems to happen every autumn. As soon as we move our lawn furniture in for the winter and dump all of our outdoor pots and planters, I start to feel the nesting urge again---the desire for a more comfortable and orderly home.

Over the last two weeks, despite having a bad cold, I've been clearing out space in my cupboards so that the glassware I love and use the most has more "breathing" room. I gave away our everyday stoneware to make room for a new set. And I gave away several older dishes and pieces of glassware that were mismatched and I've never really used.

I even gave away our entire Christmas set. That wasn't an easy decision for me, since it had all been given to me as gifts from friends and family over a number of years. But we live in a 1,200-square foot house, and it became hard for me to justify having a set that I only use one time a year at the most. I decided that my nice white wedding china would be just as nice as Christmas as it is at every other special meal during the year, and my table will still look festive if I use pretty holiday linens and other decorations.

As a result, I've been finding that I have been using more of my nicer dishes more often recently, just because it's easier to get them out and put them back. No longer do I need to take things out to get what I need, or carefully reach around tall stacks of my nice china, praying as I do that I won't break anything in the process.

I guess it all boils down to coming to the conclusion that we don't need more room for stuff around here. We just need less stuff. And I also believe that God is working on my heart through all of this to help me learn to let go of material things.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm still here...sorry for the silence.

It's been a very busy past few months. I kept thinking of what to post, but then finding other things that needed to be done instead. Hence, the three-month gap since my post in late July. I am sorry about that. But real life does keep moving, even when virtual life seems to stand still. And I've been learning more and more these days that real life is often more important than the virtual.

As a brief summary of what we've done, the highlights, but by no means an exhaustive list...

  • We enjoyed our new deck after finishing it sometime in July. While the weather and the sunlight lasted for me, I was blessed to be able to spend many morning devotion times on the deck swing that my Sweetheart bought for us to use. We also enjoyed a movie night outside one night on that swing, as incredible as that sounded when we told some of our friends about it. We moved our small screen and DVD player outdoors one lovely evening in July and watched an animated version of the biblical story of Joseph--just me, my husband, and our little dog.
  • We put in a paving block border around all of our backyard garden beds, except the one along the back fence, which really needs the higher fence that it has as a support for my flowers and for the bird netting that shields our raspberry bushes. We also put in paving blocks to form a path through the yard to the garden gate, which will eventually connect our backyard space to what we hope (Lord willing) will become someday our Asian-inspired garden space...I'll have to post photos of this sometime next spring or summer since there are leaves now covering that new garden path.
  • And I baked a lot, and cooked a lot, and we showed hospitality to family and friends and enjoyed the Jewish holidays with people from my husband's Messianic (Jews for Jesus-type) church. We really enjoyed having meals outside on the new deck with family and friends. It was so pretty back there. Lord willing, we hope to do much more of this next year.
But now the winter is returning again, and I've been home these past three days with a rotten head cold. I'm feeling better again this afternoon, but I felt better yesterday afternoon, too. I was planning on being at work today--had my lunch packed and my clothes laid out to wear this morning--but I was up for a while last night with a hacking cough again. I finally took some generic Nyquil at around 4, and then slept again until 11 this morning. I think I probably got 12 hours of sleep in total, though now in one shot. But I'm still feeling groggy today, and my head is really stuffed up. I'm just thankful that this isn't turning into a flu.

That said, I'll try to post again soon, with a photo or two hopefully. If you're still visiting here occasionally, I want to thank you for remembering my blog. I hope that you and your loved ones are staying well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One of my little onsies on the baby!

My coworker and friend, who had a baby boy last month, just sent me this sweet photo of the little guy wearing one of the onsies that I appliqued for him. Most of the time, when I make baby things, I never have the chance to see the baby wearing what I made. So this is a real treat for me! Isn't he sweet?...May the Lord bless this one with a deep and abiding love for our Savior Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

He Gives to His Beloved...Sleep

I love the Fighter Verse for this week. It's such a good reminder that without God, everything we do is truly in vain. Unless the Lord is at the center of my life, and I am willing to submit all that I do and all that I am to Him, my very life is, in fact, lived in vain.

And yet, I think right now, at this juncture in my life, I appreciate the second verse of Psalm 127 just as much as verse 1. The second verse is, as follows:

2It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

This has been a VERY busy summer so far. We nearly forgot, until this morning, that we had purchased concert tickets to hear the Minnesota Orchestra for Friday night. We don't go out very much, and we only see a live concert a handful of times a year, and yet because of the packed schedule we've been following recently, we nearly forgot about this concert on Friday.

The main piece, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is one of our shared favorites. and yet we didn't remember it until I (thankfully) opened my day planner this morning before leaving for work and saw that the date was nearly here. I commented to my sweet husband that I don't especially like the speed of our lives right now. He readily agreed, and suggested that we try to slow things down a bit...And that made me think again of Psalm 127:2.

I need that gift of sleep that our Lord promises to His beloved. We might not be able to rest as much as we'd like right now, but we are going to slow down on Friday night and just breathe deeply and enjoy the concert. God is so good to provide rest for his beloved...Lord, whatever the world is like around me, help me to always remember to find my rest in YOU.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Progress on our new back deck

My husband is working hard again this afternoon on our new backyard deck. A few weekends ago, he tore up everything but the joists in the old deck. This first photo shows the pile of old boards in our backyard, which our neighbor is slowly cutting up and using for fires in his backyard firepit.

We were so thankful that despite the wear and tear on the deck boards, railings, and a few of the joist boards, we were able to keep most of the joist boards and build up from there.

Then, another weekend he dug three 42-inch, 12-inch diameter holes for footings. My job, at that time, was to haul away the wheelbarrows full of dirt so that we could use it to build up an area in another part of our yard.

Yet another weekend (when you're doing everything yourself and also work full time, you become a weekend "warrior" for everything related to home improvement), he mixed 23, 60-pound bags of concrete to fill those holes with concrete to support the new deck posts...My job then was to fill in around the big cardboard tubes he used as concrete molds with dirt and then tamp it down to make sure that the concrete posts are really firm and secure.

And now, this weekend, he is finally able to start screwing new deck boards onto the joists. Oh, and I also helped with cleaning and repainting the siding that was behind the original deck (probably built when the house was new more than 30 years ago)...I'll have to post a photo on this project again when enough deck boards are in place to make it look like something again. I'm so thankful for a husband who is such a helpful and handy man!

No, these are the good guys!

My husband and I took a little mini vacation up north recently to enjoy the Duluth and Lake Superior. We were disappointed to see that the shipping traffic there is dramatically down from year's past because of the poor economy...When car companies aren't manufacturing as many new cars, they don't need as much steel, and they don't need as many ships to transport steel on the Great Lakes.

But we were blessed to see a U.S. Coast Guard cutter come into port. We watched it when it was far out on the lake, and were so happy to be able to see it up close. As always, along the port in Duluth, a crowd gathered along the dock to watch it come in. A little boy and his mother were close to us, and the little boy kept saying "Mom, look it's a pirate ship!" The third time he said this, his mother told him that it wasn't a pirate ship, but he insisted that it was, and that he could see pirates along the deck. Both my husband and I come from families with war veterans from the various branches of service, including the U.S. Coast Guard. So I finally interjected, saying "No, that's not a pirate ship. It's the good guys. They're ours, and we should all be proud of them!"

Thank you to all of you who have family members serving in our U.S. military. We are forever indebted for your sacrifice.

My first shirring project

I really enjoy sewing, as you might have gathered if you've been looking at this blog for any length of time, but I had never tried the technique of shirring to create gathers in fabric with elastic thread. I had been wanting a new pink tank top for summer to wear with my embroidered denim floral shirt, so instead of buying something from the thrift store (we rarely buy "new" clothes from regular stores), I decided to make a shirred top using some cute summery fabric that my mother-in-law gave to me earlier this year.

This was actually a remnant from a lampshade cover that she made some time ago, and she suggested that there might be enough for a summer top if I made up my own pattern. I just shirred the top several rows to bring it in close around my top and bust area, then shirred the straps to help them to stay up, and sewed it all together (just a seam up the side and then to attach the straps at the front and back).

It fits really well, and it actually quite flattering, but since I didn't have a helper to take my photo today, i just snapped a picture of it sitting on my little portable ironing board in the sewing room. I'm thinking of making two more little summer tops from small remnants soon. It's so fun to have new clothes!

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Last weekend, I made strawberry freezer jam, something I've thought of and have been missing since my mother died in 2003. She used to make wonderful freezer jam every summer, and I know that we're going to enjoy having this on toast, muffins, and pancakes in the months to come.

It was a very easy recipe using 1 packet of Certo liquid pectin, 4 cups sugar, and 2 cups crushed strawberries. Just follow the package instructions and enjoy!

A New Wrap Dress for Me

This isn't a great photo, but it does show a bit of my latest sewing project, a new wrap dress made from some vintage brown floral fabric from what my sister and I divided from my mother's stash.

Thanks to my sweet husband, who graciously agrees to help with marking my hemline, I was able to finish it just in time for a wedding a couple of weekends ago. It was really fun to wear, especially when a couple of my friends there gave me compliments on it.

It was Butterick pattern 5030, and the only changes I made to it were to add more closures (for modesty's sake). It only called for hooks and eyes in two places at the waist line, but I added three snaps to the bodice area to pull it closer at the top and avoid gaps when I bend over, and two to the skirt to keep it wrapped when I climb in and out of the car.

Honey Whole Wheat Rolls

I've done quite a bit of baking in recent weeks, but haven't had (or taken) the time to post about it. Lately, we've really been enjoying my homemade honey whole wheat bread dough made into rolls instead of loaves.

Since there are generally just two of us for meals here, except on weekends when we often have dinner guests, I've been finding that making individual serving sizes for bread instead of large loaves work better for us. These rolls freeze well, and we can just pull a few out of the freezer when we need want them with a meal...whereas the large sandwich-sized loaves tend to get dry after they've been sliced.

I posted the recipe for this dough here, and just adjusted the baking time to about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quick Update

I'm sorry that it's been so long again since my last post. It's been a busy summer so far, and I'm not sure when it's going to slow down.

In short, we've torn off our old back deck, which was rotting in places due to poor initial construction (long before our time). So, since our house is nearly 30 years old now (I've been here for about 9 of those years), it was well past time to replace the back deck. My husband has done all of the really hard physical labor, but I've helped out as much as I can. So that's part of our busy schedule these days, whenever we're not working our regular jobs.

I've also had free-lance editing work to do in addition to my full-time job at the ministry. I'm editing a doctoral dissertation for a worship pastor who is going for his doctoral degree in musicology. And I just started working with a retired dentist who wants help with his personal testimony in written form so that he can share it with his children and grandchildren, and give the Lord all the glory for how He has worked in this man's life...Both are really fun projects, and the extra income is a huge blessing to us, but they're very time consuming, as expected.

Also, we've had company and time up north at my father's house, and then with the warmer months around here, there are always garden and yard-related tasks. Because we only have a few short months here when it's not cold, we really take advantage of the time we do have to plant and get all we can out of our gardens.

And finally, I've been desperately trying to make time for my sewing projects. I finished a dress, which I hope to blog about soon, and I've started a sleeveless summer top...which I'd better finish quick or it will need to wait in my closet for next year's warm summer weather.

Thanks for visiting, despite my tardiness in posting an update again. I hope that you're all having a lovely summer season, with many opportunities to enjoy God's creation outdoors.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A new, tiny purse for me!

I keep forgetting to post about my new affection with little purses. Traditionally, I have been drawn to large purses and tote bags, roomy enough for not just the necessities, but also a knitting, crochet, or other craft project. But in April, our ministry had a big national conference, and I knew that I would want a tiny purse to carry so that I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a safe place to store a big purse.

So I dug through my patterns and found a nice little purse, one that I probably wouldn’t have ever made if it hadn’t been for the upcoming conference. Then, I immediately thought of an old black canvas bag that I had been saving, thinking that the fabric might be useful for something. The bag used to have vinyl handles, but they didn’t last long at all. So I cut off the handles and cut up the bag, and it made a very sweet, practical, tiny purse, and two tiny little accessory pouches (to replace the larger ones that I use in almost every other purse that I own currently).

The project was quick and fun, and I’ve been enjoying my little purse ever since then. So now I’m contemplating other tiny purses. It’s so nice to have something light and small when I’m shopping and when I head out the door to the office…I still bring my crafts along with me to work on over lunch hours, but my sock projects, at least, are small enough to fit into the bag with my laptop.

Turning old jeans into fun sewing projects

I found a great bag sale at a local church the first weekend of May—everything I could fit into a grocery bag for only $3. I came away with some lovely tablecloths and fabric, some pretty glassware, seashells, a basket, and a big pile of old jeans....just what I needed for my next sewing project.

My clever sister has been making cute tote bags and pillows for graduation gifts using denim from old jeans for a few years now. Since her kids are 18 and 22, she’s had quite a few graduation parties to attend. I haven’t had that many, but I did need a good idea for a graduation gift this year for the son of my supervisor at the ministry. So my sister thoughtfully took time to email me the dimensions and instructions for her patchwork denim pillows. I made a slight adjustment by adding a pocket to one side of the pillow, using a saved pocket from the back of one of the pairs of jeans.

It went together quickly, and I think it will be a useful and fun present. But then I had a bunch of jean scraps left over, because I had purchased several pairs at the church sale. So I’ve been cutting more squares with the thought that I would like to make them into a queen-sized quilt for our bedroom. It will take a while to cut and assemble enough of these two blocks to cover a queen-sized bed, but I know that it will be fun to make and use, and it will probably be the most durable quilt in our home. I plan to back it with a light-blue 100-percent cotton flannel sheet, and I’ll probably tie it to finish it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Spring Hike

My Sweetie and I took a hike through a local park reserve recently. I love days like this. We walked and talked, and we even sang a little bit...

This is my Father's world

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and around me rings

The music of the spheres

This is my Father's world

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas

His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world

the birds their carols raise

The morning light, the lily white

Declare their Maker's praise

This is my Father's world

he shines in all that's fair

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass

He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father's world

O let me ne'er forget

That though the wrong seems off so strong

God is the Ruler yet

This is my Father's world

the battle is not done

Jesus who died shall be satisfied

and earth and heaven be one.

Forced Bulbs Blooming

I'm a little slow in posting this picture, but it's still worth putting up on this site, I think. These bloomed over the week coming up to Mother's Day weekend, and I was thrilled to see them because I've never tried forcing bulbs before.

Late last fall, when bulbs were on deep discount at Wal-Mart, I bought three packages of bulbs for this little experiment. Two were daffodils, and one was a large variety of hyacinth. The daffodils didn't bloom, but every one of the hyacinth did.

I planted them in shallow pots with soil, covering them only as much as they would be covered if planted in the soil outside. Then I watered them and enclosed the entire pot in a zippered plastic bag and put them in the bag of the refrigerator for several months. When the shoots are 1-2 inches in height, take the pot out of the fridge and put them in a sunny place. They'll continue to grow and eventually bloom.

What a treat to my winter-starved eyes earlier this month! And I still enjoy this photo, even though my spring tulips have come and gone. Now I wait for the irises and lilies to bloom...Thank you, Lord, for the spring!

Appliqued One-sies

Another baby gift I made recently was a set of five appliqued One-sies. They were so fun to make and to give!

I found all of the applique patterns free on various sites on the web. If you just google "free applique patterns," you'll find a treasure trove of ideas.

I used Heat and Bond to create each applique, and zigzag stitches on my sewing machine to secure them.

More Socks!

I’ve definitely been bitten by the sock making bug. I’m on my third pair of adult-sized socks, and I’m just about ready to start another pair of baby socks.

The blue baby socks, shown here with a matching hat (something that I actually made without a pattern), are for another baby shower coming up. They were really fun to make, so quick and so cute! I’m going to use the same pattern to make baby socks and a hat using the leftover yarn from my new pair of adult-sized socks...provided there's enough yarn leftover as there was with the blue sock yarn.

After the next baby socks and hat set, I’m thinking of another pair of adult socks, this time using some wonderful silk yarn that I found earlier this month at a yard sale. My dear friend at the office had suggested that morning at work that we head out over lunch to check out the neighborhood yard sales. We had such a fun time together and found some really great things and amazing prices. I’m already hoping that we’ll be able to do that again another year! The silk yarn is on a big spindle because it was originally purchased for a weaving class. The woman selling the yarn had a big box with several large spindles of yarn and interesting fibers. She was selling the whole box for $3, but I knew that I wouldn’t need everything there. So she suggested $0.75 per spindle for each of the three spindles that I found and wanted to buy--one silk, one wool, and one cotton.

They’re all shades of peach-y type colors, tending quite a bit toward what I would call “neutrals.” I haven’t decided yet how to use the wool, but I’m thinking of washcloths perhaps for the cotton, and I knew right away that the silk would be fun to try for socks...Can you imagine wearing silk socks? I wonder how it will work for knitting?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Banana Poppyseed Muffins

One more post's nice to have a chance to catch up finally. I made these muffins last night, and they will definitely be worth making again!

I love poppyseed bread and muffins, so when I saw this recipe in my Just Like Grandma's muffin recipe book (Just Like Grandma's is a bed and breakast/tearoom/lots of other little shops business in Osakis, Minnesota), I just knew that they would be worth a try.

As a bonus, they're fairly low in fat for muffins, with only 1/4 cup vegetable oil for a generous dozen muffins. I added walnuts to the recipe, simply because nearly every muffin tastes better with walnuts.

1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2-1/2 tsp. poppy seed
2 ripe bananas
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Mix together egg, oil, and sugar. Add in milk, poppy seeds, and mashed bananas. Sift together dry ingredients and then add to the wet mixture all at once and mix until just moistened. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes about 12 muffins.

Bonus! As I was typing out this recipe, I just realized that I know the lady who submitted this recipe for the book! How fun! Now I'll need to call her to tell her how much I enjoyed them! :-)

A Baby Quilt for Church

I made this Irish chain baby quilt top for a lady's group at my church that ties and finishes baby quilts to give to each church family on the arrival of their first and their fifth babies...A number of families have several children, so they decided to give a fifth baby quilt as well as a first.

Earlier this year, there was a notice in our church newsletter asking for quilters to make quilt tops for the lady's group to finish. So I decided to make one in honor and memory of my mother, who taught me to quilt...I've been finding at least one "memorial" project in honor of her since she passed away in 2003.

This was a very satisfying project for me, probably because of its nature. It's going to be finished by women I don't know (yet anyway) to be a gift for a family I may or may not know, and they will never know that I made it. So, even though everything we do should be done for the glory of God, this somehow feels even more like a labor of love for my Savior Jesus Christ, done for one of the "least of these"...Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to do this.

More 5-Minute Artisan Bread

I'm back into bread baking again, with another recipe from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.

This one is the Rustic Peasant Loaf, a combination of rye, wheat, and white flour. It was, as the other recipes I've tried from that book, easy and fast to make, and very good. What a treat to have fresh-baked bread without much effort, and to enjoy that crisp crunchy crust and chewy crumb!

A birthday bunny!

Another gift I made and gave away recently is this sweet crochet amigarumi bunny made from another free Lion Brand pattern and two different colors of Wool-Ease yarn.

It was really fun to make, and it was equally fun to give it to one of my dear friends with an April birthday. I was also really happy to find a gift bag at Wal-Mart that nearly matches the gift, and a birthday napkin that I could make into a card.

I was so glad to see that it brought a smile to my friend's face when I gave it to her. I had hoped that it would. It still makes me smile to see the photo here.

My husband has been busy with projects, too!

While I've been busy with crafts and cooking (as well as my full-time job at the ministry), my husband has been busy at home, too.

Work has been slow for him since the economy started to weaken last fall, so he has had more time than usual to work around the house. By the Lord's mercy and grace, all of our bills are getting paid, and by an equal amount of mercy and grace, my sweetheart has made our home a little nicer.

Earlier this month, he put up shelving around part of the perimeter of our kitchen and, as you can see in this photo, I've fully made use of it for storage of dried goods in my antique canning jars, and for storage of a few appliances to clear off my counter tops. I love the clear counters for working, and I'm really enjoying seeing my dried goods in their antique jars. I've found that I'm more likely to use things now that I can see what I have.

I'm so thankful for a sweet and thoughtful husband who always seems to be looking for ways to make our home a little nicer and my life a little easier.

An Afghan for a Special Young Man

My sister's oldest is graduating from college this spring, and his school colors are blue and white. So, I started work last winter on an afghan for him. I finished it at the start of this month.

I used a free pattern on the Lion Brand website, to crochet the afghan using two different colors of Wool-Ease yarn. It was really easy and fun, and I know that our nephew will enjoy this gift.

His maternal grandmother, my mother, would have made him an afghan or quilt, if she could have lived to see him graduate. So I guess this gift not only honors our graduate, but also memorializes my Mom.

I still remember Mom telling me one time how her grandson (this nephew) told her when he was 10 years old that he always slept better under one of his Nana's quilts (he and his sister always called her Nana), because it was like sleeping in her hug.

A Tea-Time Table Runner

Another project I finished late in March was this scrap-quilt table runner. My sweet sister got me this pattern, which is super easy to make, and I used all spring-type fabrics from my scrap basket to make it.

All the while I was working on this project, I kept thinking that it looked like it belonged on a table set for a lady's tea. I'd love to do something like that sometime in my home, and invite family and friends to join me for a tea-time lunch.

But I might not keep this particular table runner. It depends on whether or not I get around to making another table runner before a wedding we're invited to attend in July. If I don't make another one, I'll give this one away and then vow to make another for myself.

New socks for me!

I'm a few weeks behind in blogging on my craft and cooking projects, so I actually finished these socks at the end of March.

I used the basic sock pattern offered free on the Lion Brand yarn site, and I found that it was easy and fun to use. My only problem was that they turned out a little big for my feet, but not so big that they won't work inside shoes. And I love the self-striping of the Lion Brand Sock-Ease yarn.

Next time, though, I'm going to use Sock-Ease with a different pattern, perhaps one that is meant for smaller feet so that they'll come out my size (and my feet are NOT small), since I'm guessing that I must tend to knit a little loose.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mom's Hot Cross Buns

Last year, I made my mother's Hot Cross Bun recipe for the first time, and I'm ashamed to say that they came out hard, almost like hockey pucks.

So this year I resolved that I would follow the recipe more closely, even taking time to sift the flour, and then use the scoop-and-level method of measuring it...
Well, lo and behold it really worked well! These were light and fluffy, just like I'd remembered when my mother made them. As one who has been cooking now for more than 30 years (I started when I was very young), I should know by now that sifting flour can really make a difference.

Another comment I could make about this recipe, which I made for our dinner on the day we celebrated our Lord's Resurrection, is that I think this recipe originally came from my maternal grandmother, who immigrated from Denmark with her family when she was seven years old. So she was old enough in the "old country" to remember Danish traditions, at least one of which involved these Hot Cross Buns.

As I remember Grandma telling us one year, the children in her village would take willow branches and wrap them with colored crepe paper, shaping them like a shepherd's crook. Then, they would knock on the doors of friends and neighbors and shout something like "Fah-stah-lahton rays" (written phonetically as well as I can remember it). Basically, it was like our modern-day traditional of trick-or-treating, but Grandma told us that they never did any tricks to anyone. They probably knew which houses would have hot cross buns to share with them, and wouldn't go there unless they knew they would be welcome.

I still miss my maternal grandmother. Actually, I miss all of my grandparents, but I'm so thankful that there are recipes and stories to help me to remember.


1 cup milk, scalded
2 Tbsp. shortening
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 pkg. rapid-rise yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 egg, well-beaten
3-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2/3 cup currants

Combine scalded milk, shortening, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in lukewarm water and add to lukewarm milk mixture. Add egg. Then gradually stir in flour to make a soft dough. Add currants and mix to distribute evenly. Place dough in large greased bowl; cover; put in warm place to rise until double in size.

Form dough into small buns, flatten slightly and place about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until double in size. Just before baking, cut a cross into the top of each bun with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Bake 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

A minute before the buns are done baking, brush top of buns with milk, sprinkle a little sugar and return to oven to glaze. After cooling, fill cross on top of each bun with confectioner's icing.

Really Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

One of my husband's aunts recently shared a wonderful new cookie recipe with us. It came from the side of a box of Grape-Nuts cereal, and the original version of it had dried cranberries as well as the ingredients I've listed below. But my husband isn't fond of dried fruit in baked goods, and I didn't think the cranberries added much to the cookies, which were wonderful on their own.

I've made them twice now, and though they make a big batch they don't last long. They're the thinnest, crunchiest oatmeal cookies we've ever had...really good!

Grape-Nuts Oatmeal Cookies
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups Grape-Nuts cereal
2 cups quick-cooking oats

Mix flour and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat butter in a mixing bowl to soften. Gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in cereal and oats. Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8 minutes at 375 degrees, or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on pan and then remove to cookie sheets. Cool completely on wire racks. Makes 5 dozen.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Other Creative Blogs I Enjoy

As part of this award, I've been asked to nominate seven other creative bloggers. The following is a list that I come back to time and time again. I really enjoy seeing what they've made and reading about their lives. They've inspired and encouraged me, and I am so thankful for them.

Dr. Julie-Ann McFann of Grandma's Sewing Cabinet and Modern Retro Woman has already won this award, but if she hadn't, I would most certainly nominate her. Here are the others that I enjoy regularly.

Joanne of The Simple Wife.

Lori of Girls in the Garden and Sew Forth Now.

Tracy of Unless the Lord and Mama's Fixins.

Linda of lindamade.

Beki of Artsy-Crafty Babe.

Sigrid of Sigrid-Sewing Projects.

Julia of Julia's Sewing Blog.

These 7 bloggers will be notified of their nominations and if accepted these are the Rules and Responsibilities of the award–

1. Copy the award to your site.

2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.

3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.

4. Link to those on your blog.

5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

Thank you again, Julie-Ann! I hope that you're having a great week, and that you're finding time to enjoy the "feminine arts"! :-)

My first award! Thanks to a very thoughtful and creative blogger, Dr. Julie-Ann McFann, who publishes several blogs that I enjoy, including Grandma's Sewing Cabinet and the Modern Retro Woman, I've been given the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you, Julie-Ann! What a lovely surprise to come home to on Sunday night!

We spent the weekend with my father, and it was a very productive weekend in terms of work. I cleared off all of his kitchen counters and washed all of the jars and containers that were just sitting there collecting cooking grease and splatters and dust. I put them into a box and then arranged only what we actually use to line the backs of the countertops, things like the blender, the food processor, the mixer, etc. But before I put anything back on the counters, I scrubbed them with Ajax and water. I had been trying in past visits to clean them with dishsoap and water, but that just seamed to push the grease around...My father uses a George Foreman grill to cook most of his meals, and the grease that drips from his hamburgers and sausages seems to get everywhere.

Then I tackled some of the shelves in the cupboards, sorting and tossing food that was more than 10 years old. And I finally took up the job of cleaning up a dried-up mess that must have happened when an old can of something exploded on one of the bottom shelves. I don't know what it was, but it really required some elbow grease to clean that mess and get that shelf as clean as the rest. Then I organized his canned and dried goods by category so that he could see at a glance what he has on hand. He was surprised when I showed him how many cans of green beans he had. He hadn't been able to see them before because they had been pushed to the back.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, my sweet husband helped me to shake down the apples left hanging on Dad's apple tree so that we could rake them up and get rid of them in the yard waste container that will be hauled away this week. My mother and I planted two apple trees in the backyard several years ago, and I'm trying my best now to reclaim the fruit of those trees, which in recent years have been ruined by apple maggots. I read that if you can get rid of the old apples before the ground thaws, that helps to decrease the population for the next season. So I did my best to get what I could last fall, and now we've shaken down and removed the rest.

So that was our weekend, in addition to visiting with my Dad. It was good to see him, as it always is. And I enjoyed cooking him nice meals while I was there, and hearing some of his stories from the past. What a gift to have him still. I miss my mother so much. She's been gone now for 5-1/2 years.

Again, thank you, Julie-Ann, for this sweet award for creativity, and thank you for your wonderful blogs and podcasts. You celebrate the feminine arts in a way that would have made my mother very glad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Soup and bread to share

I signed up last fall for my church's meal providers list. This means that I'm kind of on-call to prepare and deliver a meal to families in need in my area. I didn't have any meal requests at all until last month. But since then, I've been busy preparing meals.

The latest request was for a family with a newborn, and I tried out a couple of new recipes. That might sound a little risky since I was preparing food for people that I just met for the first time when I delivered the meal on Saturday evening. But I guess I could be considered adventurous in the kitchen, and I'm thankful to the Lord that the recipes turned out well.

I made Vegetable Beef Soup with Barley and Oatmeal Carrot Cake Bread. Both are low in fat and high in fiber, and really tasty, if I do say so myself. The soup was adapted from a recipe on the side of a box of Quaker Barley, and the bread was adapted from the Quaker Oats Favorite Recipe Collection book.

Vegetable Beef Soup with Barley

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 cups chopped onion
8 tsp. minced garlic
14 cups water
28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 cup medium barley, uncooked
2 cups sliced celery
2 cups sliced carrots
2 Tbsp. dried beef base
2 tsp. dried basil
3 bay leaves
16-oz. frozen green beans

In a large stock pot, brown ground beef; add and saute onions, and then garlic. Add remaining ingredients except frozen green beans. Cover; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add frozen vegetables and cook about 10 minutes until tender. Add more water if the soup is too thick at this point. (Makes 6 quarts.)

Oatmeal Carrot Cake Bread
2 cups oatmeal (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup skim milk
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
20-oz. can crushed pineapple (minus 1/2 cup of the juice)
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla

In a medium bowl, combine the oats and milk; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine other dry ingredients; mix well. Stir in carrots and coconut.

Add pineapple and juice (minus the 1/2 cup), eggs, oil, and vanilla to oat mixture; mix well. Add to dry ingredients all at once and stir just until moistened.

Pour into two greased 9x5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, and then remove to cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Appropriate Scripture for Today's Post

I just updated the Fighter Verse (Scripture memory) portion of my site with the current memory portion that I'm doing with my church, and I just realized how appropriate it is to what I just wrote today about my fears and my shame, and the Lord's deliverance and promise to make our faces radiant when we look to Him.

Psalm 34:4-5
I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Thank you, Lord!

Spring Cleaning

I think I've had a case of spring fever over the past couple of weeks. Thankfully, the weather last weekend and this week has made it possible (finally) to enjoy walking outside again with our dog. It feels so good to breathe the fresh air and be able to enjoy each other's companionship during exercise again, after months and months of working out on the treadmill and in front of the TV screen with exercise videos.

I've also been reaping the benefits of spring fever's close cousin, the cleaning bug. I don't really like to clean. I know some who actually do like to clean, but not me. For me, it's a necessity, rather than a source of enjoyment, but the effects of it are satisfying, especially when they can be combined with the joy of giving to those with less than we have.

The pile of clothes in the photo with this post is one of the piles of clothing that we've given away in recent weeks. I thank the Lord that I finally had the emotional stamina to give away some of my old clothes that had been crowding my closet and the craft closet for years. I told my husband that they represent both dreams and nightmare--dreams of being small enough to wear the smaller clothes, and nightmares that I would ever be large enough to wear the bigger ones.

You see, I used to be morbidly obese. I was never bed-ridden, thank the Lord, and I was always able to be mobile, though anything more than a quarter mile would, back then, give me pains in my legs (shin splints). But back in 1997, something clicked in my mind (the work of the Lord), and I cried out to Him for help. He responded by giving me the drive to both start a regular walking program, and to also dramatically change my diet.

Almost overnight, I went from hiding food from my family (I was living with my parents back then) to sneaking food back to the kitchen that I didn't want to eat. I remember that first Christmas so well. My mother would generously give me a plate of her wonderful cookies and candies and a glass of eggnog to drink, and as soon as I was sure that she wouldn't see what I was doing, I would sneak back to the kitchen to carefully pour my eggnog back into the pitcher (it was homemade eggnog) and put my cookies back into the containers in which they had been stored...I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I also didn't want to admit to anyone at that time that I was intent on losing weight. To let others know that I had been trying, but had failed, would have been too embarrassing to me at that time.

Anyway, that's part of my story. And that explains why I had been holding on to all of those clothes that don't fit. These days, I'm neither the heaviest nor the lightest I've been, but I am continuing to fight this battle against my flesh. And I would love to fit into those small clothes again, but my sweet husband (who has always told me that I'm beautiful as I am) has encouraged me to let go of clothes that don't fit right now. We can go to the thrift stores to buy "new" things when I need them. In the meantime, I pray that they will be a blessing to someone who wears that size right now.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another Tennesee Orange Cake!

Well, the Tennessee Orange Cake has definitely become a popular recipe for me. My husband had to bring treats to a leaders meeting for his church, and when I asked what I should make for him to bring, this recipe came up again.

I do like trying new recipes, but it's hard to say no when someone wants something you've made in the past. Needless to say, he didn't come home with any leftovers, so I'm thankful that I didn't send the whole pan, but instead chose to set aside four pieces for us to enjoy afterward. (I cut the cake and sent a generous, large plateful to the meeting.) We're going to have the last two pieces tonight...Mmmmm. :-)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I have time to sew today!

Because we're a two-church family (we attend both together, and we each belong and serve in one of the two churches), it's a rare weekend when I have a Saturday morning to enjoy being home. But this is such a weekend, and I'm going to head up the sewing room soon.

Actually, it's not just a sewing room. It's also our guest room, my exercise room, and the home of my husband's closet (he graciously agreed to let me have the big double closet in our bedroom). But it's my sewing room this morning, and I'm anxious to get back there again.

First, I need to do some mending. There are pants to shorten, a pajama top to mend, a sweater hole to take care of, and then I think I'm free to do something creative again. I'll probably cut a backing for a tablerunner that I started just after New Year's this year. My sweet and thoughtful sister shared a pattern for what is called a "Scrappy Do Tablerunner." It's basically just squares of fabric scraps, but it was a really simple pattern to follow. I used pretty spring-like colors, primarily shades of pinks and roses, blues and greens, with the thought that this could either be a wedding gift or a decoration for a tea party table...I've always wanted to host a lady's tea at our house.

In any case, that's my plan this morning, but I thought I'd also use this post to share a sewing project that I made for a Christmas gift last year. It's a pieced and quilted lingerie bag, not the kind that you wash your delicates in, but the kind that you could use in a suitcase or a dresser drawer to keep silky or lacy things from becoming snagged. I made two of them, as I often do, thinking that I might need the other for another gift sometime, or I might just keep it for myself. If I do give it away, I think I'll need to make a couple more, so that I can keep one in the end.

Whatever you're doing today, I hope that you have a chance to do something that feels like play to you. For me, crafts and sewing feel like play...Thank you, Lord, for a quiet home Saturday morning!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homemade Applesauce...the Easy Way

Another project this winter has been using apples from my father's apple tree. They were very small, so I didn't really want to take the time to peel and core each apple to make anything from them. But then I read that you could just wash and quarter them, and then use a food mill to separate out the peels and seed and stems, etc.

It worked really well! And I loved the way that the pretty red peels colored my applesauce. Now, when I look at the pale applesauce in the grocery store, it doesn't look nearly as appetizing to me as my homemade applesauce. does. I froze most if it in pint-sized freezer containers so that I can pull out a small container whenever I want some applesauce for baking or just to flavor nonfat plain yogurt for a treat at lunch. (Hint: This really tastes great with a sprinkle of granola on top!)

More from the Artisan bread book

I'm still having a lot of fun baking bread from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I made challah again earlier this month when we had friends join us after church on Saturday. I know that the bread was a success, because it disappeared really fast! I also made chicken soup, and one of our guests brought apple crisp for dessert. It was a really fun day, and one that we definitely want to do again soon!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back again!...Sorry for the long silence.

Well, I can't believe that it's been so long since my last post on this blog. I'm almost tempted to start a different one, but I guess this is what I started, so I'm going to keep going here.

Long story short, I was busy with Christmas (lots of homemade gifts and extra cooking and baking), and I also have been busy off and on with a little extra work beyond my day job.

My husband's work has been slow since the economy has slowed down, and though he has more piano students now than ever before, the handyman work he's doing this week is the first he's had since last October. So when I was offered a free-lance editing job helping with a pastor's doctoral dissertation, I jumped at the opportunity to help a bit more with our family's income.

Originally, I had turned it down, in favor of suggesting another person we know who had been laid off and whose wife was expecting another baby. But that other person turned it down, for some reason, and the offer came back to me. And I've really been enjoying the project, especially since it can be confined to weekends, when I don't have such long days working and commuting to the city.

We ended up being paid most of what I'll earn for this free-lance job as a lump sum just before the end of the year, and since we've been managing on my ministry income and my husband's income from teaching piano, we set aside the lump sum in a new savings account just to use for auto repair and eventual replacement...God is so faithful to provide for all of our needs. We've been wanting to start an emergency auto account for quite some time now, but we didn't enough the money to do it until now. So, while we're both praying and asking the Lord to help our cars keep running as long as possible, we're thankful that He has given us some money now to cover some of the expense of repair or buying a new vehicle when that need is here.

In the meantime, I made many of our Christmas gifts, and I made more than a dozen Valentine cards recently to share with family and friends. And then, just this weekend I made some things for a friend who has a birthday this month. I need to put some of my photos on here, but right now I thought that I should just get off the block and write a new post for this poor little neglected blog before another day passes.

I'm sorry to my friends who checked here over the past few months and wondered what had happened to me. I'm especially sorry for my blogging friend Leslie who posted a comment on this blog back in November giving me the URL of her new blog. I really feel bad about not looking here and seeing that comment. But I'm so thankful that she's blogging again, and that I can read and catch up on her life again. I had missed reading your posts, Shorty. Thanks for sending me your URL.

Until next time...Lord willing, within the next week when I hope to write again.