Saturday, October 20, 2012

Making Decisions

Making decisions is not my forte.  I'm fairly indecisive... not because I don't have a preference or an opinion...I have plenty of those.  I'm indecisive because I'm afraid of criticism. I'm afraid of making someone unhappy with the choices I've made, thus making them unhappy with me.  I'm like this because I, myself, am an extremely critical person. I walk into a room and immediately notice all the things wrong in the room.  While most people can see this as a downfall... and I would agree, I have learned that God can take any negative character trait and use it for His good.  And so, although I am a critical person, that same criticism in the hands of God makes me someone who is pretty darn good at surmising a situation, predicting the potential pitfalls, and ultimately avoiding a lot of anguish.

So how does an indecisive, critical person turn into a decisive, discerning  person?  Only through Christ.

First, being in God's Word, I started understanding the sin in my own thoughts.  I also began to replace those thoughts with the Truth I found in Scripture.

Here's an example of a real situation:

Every time I went into the bathroom and saw that the toilet paper roll sat empty and hadn't been changed, or that it had been put on backwards... my blood would boil.  I mean, seriously, HOW HARD IS IT??  See the "righteous" anger here?  :::she said dripping with sarcasm:::  Now, to be fair, this is a common, familial problem.  So common, that we laugh about it often in conversations... comedians use it in their routines and sitcoms have capitalized on this annoying scenario.  But I'm no comedian, and I don't live in a sitcom, and the effect that this annoyance was having on me was severe and in no way funny.  I would steam with indignation and anger.  It became a personal attack against ME.  (tip: anytime you become the center of your thoughts, you are more than likely in the wrong).

And then I heard something.  I mean like "those who have ears to hear, let them hear" kind of hearing.  Through a mother's class I was attending, I heard that I was wrong.  I heard that I was hurting the relationships I had with the members of my family.  I heard that I was selfish and quick to anger.  I heard that I wasn't loving my family as God had called me to love them.  I repented.  I asked for help in my thoughts... and I made a decision.**

I made a decision that the next time, and every time after, when the toilet paper roll went unchanged and I noticed it... because I ALWAYS noticed it,  I would view that as a reminder to pray for each member of my family.  Right there, right then.  I made the decision to replace my selfish anger with a selfless act.  At first the prayers were mumbled through tightened teeth... but as I continued in my practice, I found that I actually smiled... like God and I had an inside joke.  Eventually, the anger was gone.  I saw this as nothing less than a miracle.  A miracle of God's grace to me.

I started making other "decisions".
I now pray for each family member as I wash, fold, and iron their clothes.
I thank God for dirty dishes sitting in the sink that represent the health of my children (this continues to be a particularly difficult one for me).

It branched towards others outside of my family.
I decided to slow down my reactions to offensive things people said or did.
I substitute my criticism for reflection and in doing this, I find I am less inwardly focused and more able to see the needs someone else might have.

While I believe my critical eye should always be submissive to God's requests of love and service to my neighbor, I have learned that God can actually take that which has been tainted by sin and restore it to be a benefit to me and those I serve. I'm not just behaving in a less critical manner.  He has made me less critical.

Through our faith in Christ, our "old Adam" is buried. 
And through our faith in Christ our "new Adam" is brought to life.
This is how criticism can become discernment.

Slowly, and not without setbacks, I have become someone who makes decisions... sometimes. ;)

 **When I say that "I made the decision", I mean it only in the sense that farmers "grow" crops.  Truly it is the design of the seed by God that actually causes a plant to grow.  The farmer waters and cares for the crop, but it is still God's work that produces fruit. So, I may move my mouth in prayer, or close it so nothing rude comes out, but it is God who grants the results of peace, patience, goodness, etc. (Just wanted to be clear on that). 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Carolina Crochet Project

One thing that happens when you have kids who are enrolled in online classes... you get the opportunity to meet and become friends with some of the most outstanding people.  In the last five years that my kids have been "attending" Veritas Press, we have literally sent our daughter across the country to meet up with her school friends.  Minnesota, Idaho, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, South Carolina... the list goes on.

This past summer, Emily was blessed with a trip to Greenville, SC, where she got to see several friends who live in the area.  It is because of this trip that I made this afghan.  I should state... this was my first afghan and I am pretty dern proud of how it turned out!

The stitch is a basket weave that I took from a baby blanket pattern on Basket Weave Baby Blanket Pattern What I didn't know was how substantial the basket weave is.  This blanket will keep the most chill-prone person toasty warm!  It  devoured yarn at an alarming rate and consequently is quite heavy.  The pattern of stripes was chosen purely from my personal aesthetic preference.  I am not a fan of the zigzag 70's afghan nor the skimpy stripes.  I love the color combination and although the colors might suggest a Christmas theme, I think it could be used anytime. 
When changing colors, I stitched an initial row of double crochets across with the new color.  Basically using that last row of the previous color as my "initial chain" and continuing at the beginning of the ravelry pattern.  The green has ten completed basket weaves (20 rows) plus the initial row of dc making the total 21 rows.  Each of the other colors only has 9 completed basket weaves (18 rows) plus the initial dc row making it 19 rows total.  The color pattern went: green, white, red, green, red, white, green.  
The border, I agonized over.  While I wanted to try a different stitch with more of a scalloped edge... I decided that it wouldn't be consistent with the strong presence of the stripes and weave.  In other words, the scalloped edging would be too frilly for the manly stripes. Instead, I went with a simple single crocheted border.  Three rows of sc with the second and third rows stitched only in the back loop to give a little ridge look.  I crocheted three sc in each of the corners as well.  

So this Carolina Crochet Project is my family's thank you to the family who made Emily's trip possible, and so wonderfully memorable.  Thank you! I hope you enjoy using it as much as I enjoyed making it.

~The Pools
Here is the afghan in its new home :)
Looks like it was meant to be there.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homemade Seed Packets

I do love my garden, and as the growing season for flowers is coming to an end, I am already planning what I'd like to begin with next spring.  I know, it is a sickness ;)

One thing I know I want to do is store all those seeds I have been collecting in something better than the little plastic containers that they are currently in.

It started with my columbines... boy howdy, can those produce some seeds.  And while I love them, I don't want them to reseed everywhere.  I'd like to manage them a little better and even be able to give a few seeds away on occasion.

Then there are the seeds from my poppies, hollyhocks, and forget-me-nots.  Right now, I am collecting seeds from the cleome that are blooming.  In fact the cleome are the reason I went on a search for something in which to send seeds through the mail.

I stayed with a family in Idaho during a recent trip to visit a college with my daughter, and I shared a love for gardening with the lady of the house.  She had never heard of cleome, and so as a thank you, I wanted to send her some seeds from my own garden so that not only would she have the flower, but a reminder of our new friendship as well.  ...But how to send her the seeds?  If only I had a little seed pouch...

And that is how I came to find this little gem.  It is a printable seed packet design.

How cute are these??

I found the site through pinterest and there were several to choose from. This just happened to be my favorite because of it's simplicity.

You can print them on regular printer paper.  I also printed some out on scrapbook paper.

Cut them out and fold the two tabs in.  I used a glue stick on the tabs, then folded in the back of the packet.  Be sure to write on it before you put the seeds in ;)  A little glue goes on the opening tab and then seal it shut.

Now I have a wonderful way to not only store my seeds, but to share them with others. :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple Muffins

I'm always looking for a new little treat to make for the ladies who come to Tuesday night Bible study at my home.  I don't lead the study, which gives me the time to go that little extra bit when it comes to treats.

Last Tuesday it was apple muffins.

I found this recipe at The Girl Who Ate Everything blog.  I followed it pretty faithfully, which is near shocking for me.  The only thing I "tweaked" was that I added a little nutmeg along with the cinnamon.  But, c'mon, I'm totally justified in that it is fall!  After all, what is fall without nutmeg?  Exactly.

So I used Honey Crisp apples because... well, I was given a bushel and that's what I have.  Besides, Honey Crisps are the bomb.  I understand someone wanting to go with a tarter apple like a Granny Smith, but in this house it's the HC.  And because they are HUGE, I only used two apples diced to make the three cups required.

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your muffin tins with paper cups.  This recipe makes 18 muffins.

Peel, core, and dice enough apples to make 3 cups. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together:
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil (yeah, I know... but it's fabulous, trust me)
1 TBS vanilla

In a smaller bowl mix your dry ingredients together.  Feel free to sift them all if that is what you do, I'm too lazy.
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix completely.

Okay, so the mix is REALLY thick.  Like between a cookie dough and bread dough.  Add your apples.  I found the best way to do this was just knead it in with my hands.

I then used an ice cream scooper to fill the muffin cups.  One heaping scoop does the trick while using another spoon to scrape it out.  These muffins won't rise all that much, so fill it good and full.  The blog says 3/4 full, but you'll have plenty of batter so don't be shy.

Sprinkle a little brown sugar on top of each muffin.

Bake for 20-24 minutes.  I actually let these bake for more like 25-30 minutes, but my oven is like that.  I don't think with a whole cup of oil, that you'll need to worry about these being too dry!

As you can see, there isn't much to fret about when it comes to filling them too full.  Not much rising happening here.
So yummy and makes the house smell warm and inviting.  Now, where's my cup of coffee?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

French Pressed Mexican Mocha in Moscow?

My feeble yet somewhat successful attempt at recreating the blissfulness of a Moscow Mexican Mocha.  Okay, so not Moscow, Russia... think Idaho.  Yup, I said Idaho.

My daughter and I took a trip recently to Moscow, Idaho.  And when you say it, say it like this:  MoscOH, IdaHO.  It's where she intends to spend her college years.  And while we were there we inevitably ended up at Bucer's: the coffeehouse to best all other coffeehouses.

The remnants of my Mexican Mocha at Bucer's.
So after feasting on several Mexican mochas during our trip, I am attempting to recreate the Latin Latte at home.

As a kid, I remember my dad buying a special kind of chocolate called Ibarra.  It came in this great yellow and red hexagonal shaped box. We'd get giddy as he unwrapped one layer and used a huge knife to cut each of us a single triangle of chocolate.  Oh how we savored that wonderful little wedge.   Apparently, Nestle now makes a similar kind of chocolate called Abuelita (Grandma).  Inside the box are discs of Mexican chocolate.  I'm not sure what it is about this chocolate that makes me swoon so much, except for the obvious fact that it's... chocolate.  It's not creamy... actually, it's quite grainy and slightly bitter, with hints of cinnamon lingering on the pallet.

I grind my own beans, so I just dumped a triangle or two of the Mexican chocolate in with the beans and ground it all together.  Put that in the bottom of your french press and pour some seriously hot water over it all.  I use water that I've heated in my tea kettle.  Let that sit for a couple of minutes in order to get the chocolate melted and to seep the coffee grounds.  Give it a quick stir with a plastic spoon (never use a metal spoon with a glass French press!) Then press the plunger down slowly.  Pour your coffee into your teacup or mug and add steamed or hot milk. I like mine especially sweet, so I add sugar free vanilla creamer.  
If you don't grind your own beans, I'm sure adding the chocolate directly to the coffee would work as well... so long as you try to smash it up into smaller pieces first.

It's not quite Bucer's, but I'll take it. :)

Monday, September 3, 2012


I was going through some of the drafts in my blog which never got posted and came across this one from a couple years ago written during a learning time; a character defining moment in my daughter's life.  I didn't post it because the situation was still quite fresh and I didn't want to draw any attention to it.  However, time has passed and as I reread the things I wrote, I mean them even more today than I did then.

 Bringing babies home from the hospital, and learning about night time feedings, how to function without sleep, how to understand the needs of this little being who has absolutely no ability to share their feelings outside of screaming incomprehensible cries... It really is very much like the teenage years. :)  I know it will embarrass her a bit, but sometimes I just want to yell out to the world how absolutely breathtakingly beautiful my daughter is.  And to encourage moms of young girls, I say this:

Know what you want for your daughters and hold fast.  Do not let others outside of God's Word tell you it isn't possible.  (Or even those inside the church who have resigned themselves to a diluted version of a godly woman.) Be diligent, pray, and watch... and then do it some more. Be open to correction and direction, and then live in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.

Emily turns 18 this coming February, and this time next year she will have left for college. I am striving to adjust to this new chapter in our lives...  The one that has me letting go of my life's work.  I know it isn't going to be easy, and I know there will be many tears (I'm blubbering as I write this), but she is so ready.  So prepared.  What a privilege it is to be her mom.

Here is my post:

Sometimes I get glimpses of the woman my daughter will be some day.  And I really like her.  It's not easy to do the hard stuff.  It's not easy to hold your tongue when you really just want to scream.  To not tell someone how much they've hurt you,  just so you can hurt them back.

 It takes maturity to stop, decide not to react, assess the situation, and conform your will to God's.

 It takes love to give someone the chance to hurt you more... because you hope and pray they will take that opportunity... your willingness to be vulnerable... to realize what they've done and to ask for forgiveness... which you've already given.

It takes obedience to forgive that person for no other reason than it's commanded by God. To know that God EXPECTS you to forgive...not because you stopped hurting or are free of the consequences of someone else's sin, but because you were forgiven first, by your heavenly Father, when you didn't deserve it and without your knowledge.

It takes wisdom to know that friendships are based not on common tragedies or sins, but on a shared hope, Christ...  and those friendships which are strongest ALWAYS share that bond.

...end of post.

Proverbs 31:28

I am blessed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Little Boy Blue: A blanket for Joshua

I made my first baby blanket.  I think I have found a new love.  I have been crocheting for a while now, but somehow the baby blanket has managed to elude me.  I've made scarves, hats, toys, purses, booties... but never a blanket, baby or otherwise. The pattern is memorable and so easy to pick up no matter where you left off.  I kept my unfinished project in my purse and whenever I had a few minutes, I'd work on it.  

I used Simply Soft Country Blue and followed the pattern exactly with no alterations or changes.
Originally, I found the pattern on (find me, I'm Iowaycrochet), but now that I'm blogging about it, I can't find the pattern to create a link.  So I will just have to write the pattern from the printout I made.

Hook: Size G 
Yarn: I used Caron Simply soft "Country Blue"

The pattern is easily memorized making it the
perfect project to take anywhere.
Row 1:  Ch 126, sc in 2nd ch from hook and across.
Row 2:  Ch 1 turn, (sc, ch 3, 3 dc) in 1st sc, *Skip 3 sc, (sc, ch 3, 3dc) in next sc, Rep* across to last 4 sc,  skip next 3 sc, sc in lastsc.  (31 shells complete across)
Row 3:  Ch 3 turn, 3 dc in 1st sc, (sc, ch 3, 3 dc) in each ch-spacross.  ending with sc in last space.

Repeat row 3 approximately 55 rows.
Last Row:  Ch 3 turn, 2 sc in ch-sp, *sc in sc, sc in next dc, skipnext dc, sc in next dc, sc in next ch-sp.  Repeat from * across tolast shell, do not skip middle dc of last shell.  (123 sc across)

Working in Rounds
Rnd 1:  Ch 1 turn, 3 sc in 1st sc, [ *sc in each sc,  rep *across,  3sc in last sc, * (3 sc in ch-sp, sc in sc) rep * across,  working infree loops of beginning chain, 3 sc in 1st ch, sc in each chacross,]  3 sc in last, Rep * around,   last round rep between [ ] .sl st to 1st sc, (changing colors here if using contrasting colors)
Rnd 2-3:  With white, ch 1, sc around with 3 sc in corners, sl st.
Rnd 4:  Ch 2, do not turn, *skip sc, sc, ch 2, rep * around sl st in1st sc.  
Rnd 5:  Ch 1, turn, sc in sl st, *sc in ch-sp, sc in sc around with 3sc in corners.  Rep * around.  
Rnd 6:  Ch 1, turn,  *(sc, ch 3, 3 dc) skip 3 sc, rep * around sl st to1st sc.  Finish Off

Add caption
   The thing I love about this pattern is that it is delicate and dainty for a baby, but it is substantial enough to be washed and used on a daily basis.  I made this for my grand nephew who is expected to make his appearance in September. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

Be careful little mouth what you say.  Am I the only one who learned that song in Sunday school? Okay everyone... all together, to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it"...

Oh be careful little mouth what you say.
Oh be careful little mouth what you say.
For the Father up above is looking down with love,
Oh be careful little mouth what you say.

As with many of my posts, (though they be few and far between), my topic is one that has kept me awake at night.  It sloshed around in my cranial juices and wouldn't go away.  Not that I really wanted it to, I am a ponderer, a, an excogitator. (Yes, it is a word).  I confess to being a slow thinker, and although my mouth often has a reputation for being quick witted, sarcastic and sometimes slightly biting, I really don't think very quickly.  I react.  And therein lies a great deal of my problems.

Here comes the ready for it...

When our theology becomes thoughtless and more of a knee jerk reaction to life or situations, instead of being solidly grounded in scriptural truths, we will inevitably produce wasteful words.  And when I say  "wasteful", I mean to say putrid, bodily excrement.  Yeah, nasty putrescence (Princess Bride reference there, catch it?). 

When I was much younger and quite a bit dimmer...a beautiful man came into my life. (Awwww).  Yes, I speak of my dear husband.  In my attempt to impress the young theologian and win him over with my spiritual prowess... I said something profound.  I don't even remember what it was, but I am sure I thought it was quite a revelation from God.  His response?

"Why do you believe that?"
 ..... huh?
"Well, uh, I don't even know that I do... I was just repeating what I heard someone say.  It sounded good."

If I hadn't been so dumbfounded by his gentle challenging of my words, I might have been offended.  Why did I say what I said?  Did I believe it?  And if I wasn't sure, what the heck was it doing coming out of my mouth?

Fast forward through roughly 20 years and hundreds more humbling experiences like the one I just shared, and you come to today.  And what I have mulled over in my mind is that the common thread among these hundreds of stupid things I have said is me.  Me, me, me, me, me, and  me.  When I place myself at the center of my theology, the result is stupidity and confusion; drivel, incomprehensible BABBLE.  Yes, Babble.  Like the kind that says, I can make up my own name and create my own way to God.  I can think great thoughts apart from Him.  I will build for myself a tower of thoughts and ideas that will be so lofty, it can only raise me to God Himself.  Blah, blah, blah.

When we remove God's Word from our daily speech and attempt to use our own reason and understanding, we babble.  We speak nonsense which inevitably contradicts God's truths, because if we aren't speaking God's Word, we are speaking lies from our own sinful desires.  It might seem like we have allowed God to take part in our deductions of the mysteries of this world... but truly, apart from Him, we can do and think no truth.

 Without continual reformation of our thoughts and speech by God's scripture, we allow lies to shape our thinking.  This begins with the use of phrases which we adopt without truly holding the words and meanings up to the revealing light of scripture.   We ignorantly regurgitate what we heard someone say, without even picking apart what was said.  It "sounded" spiritual and who doesn't want to appear spiritual and wise?  So we thoughtlessly speak back what we heard.  Think of a small child who has been the audience of an adult conversation which included a vulgar word.  The child ponders that word and then, at a most inappropriate time, uses his new treasure to the embarrassment of his parents.  The child seems proud of his new vocabulary, and yet, the reaction he gets from others causes him to realize.. hmmm, maybe I don't really know what I just said.  There is truth to the old saying, "A child should be seen and not heard."  If we are uncertain about something scriptural, don't speak.  Wait for an appropriate time to ask "What does this mean?"  Ponder, mull, excogitate. ;)

The danger with Christians speaking apart from God's Word is that if gone unchecked, and unrepented... the chasm grows.  It produces Christians who pick and choose which portions of the Bible are important and applicable to them, rejecting anything that isn't personally palatable or pleasing. Ultimately, this produces Christians who believe homosexuality, adultery, and living together outside of marriage are acceptable lifestyles... that abortion is okay in certain situations.   Inevitably you have Christians who tragically lose the true language of scripture which had been spoken and taught to them by the Holy Spirit, rejecting it and choosing instead to speak a language that is foreign and incomprehensible.  When we are at the center of our thinking, we babble.  When Christ (God's Word) is at the center of our thinking, through the translating of the His Holy Spirit, the mysteries of scripture are revealed  to us and in us, producing true faith and teaching us to speak a language (His Word) that delivers faith to others.

By no means do I want to even remotely convey or give the impression that this is a past struggle or that I don't daily need my mouth washed out with soap for things I have selfishly confessed.  Again as with all my posts I emphasize the forgiveness we have in Christ and the Hope He gives us for the transformation of our minds even unto the last day when we will be made complete in Him.

May we boldly speak, and speak only Christ.

*Note: When I choose to post about theological things I send my posts first to my husband... who happens to also be my pastor, so that he can correct or adjust anything that might be out of line.  I think it is important to make that point clear. This post has been deemed heresy-free ;)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Parenting 101

  If there is one thing I am passionate about, it is parenting.  "Passionate" should not be confused with "perfect", however.

  I work very hard at being a good mom, but make no mistake, it is not my work that produces anything.  One of the greatest things I can do for my children is to have a repentant heart, understanding that my sinful nature makes it impossible for me to BE anything but sinful.  It is because of the act of Christ; His life, death and resurrection, producing faith in me by grace, that enables me to "look like" I am doing something.  I may say, "Thank you," when someone offers a compliment about my children.  I might even beam a little.  But there is no confusion within is all by the grace of God.

It is the Word which resides in me... in my mind.  It transforms the very process by which I think.  God's Word is the only parenting handbook I really need.    Daily reading, ingesting, and memorizing His teachings clarifies my goals for my children.  God's Word develops and works in me from the inside out.  It creates thoughts in my mind which weren't there before.  It affects what I say, how I react, what I teach.  I can't stress enough, to those who might be reading this blog, that God's Word is the key to good parenting.

So here are some Parenting "tips" I'd like to offer:

Read Scripture Daily:
The book of Proverbs is a wonderful place to start when looking for guidance in parenting.  There is so much about wisdom and instruction.  Each day, take a chapter and read through it with the intention of hearing what it says to the practicality of parenting.   Choose a verse to meditate on throughout the day. Conveniently, Proverbs has 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. Use it to become familiar with God.  Soon you will begin to hear his Word in your head as you encounter different situations within your vocation of parenting.
 I have a little frame with fabric behind the glass.  Using a dry erase marker, I write my chosen daily Proverb and put it in the kitchen where I am most likely to look at it throughout my day.

Attend a weekly Bible Study:
Sunday school isn't just for our children.  It is for us as well.  Our church offers two adult Sunday School classes to choose from.  Not only does regular instruction strengthen our knowledge of Scripture, it shows our children that they don't "graduate" from church once they're confirmed.  Attend Sunday school.  If you're one of those parents who commits to teaching on Sunday (like me), then find a mid week class that works with your schedule. Instruction in God's Word is essential to good parenting.

Attend the Divine Service:
So, it has been said, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian."  No, perfect church attendance won't regenerate your sinful soul.  But God's Word does and God's Word is found in church.

 God's Word = Christ.  Baptism = Christ. Communion =Christ.

We receive Christ in the Divine Service, where He is preached and the sacraments are administered.  Christ is our salvation. Regularly attending the Divine Service and regularly receiving Christ, strengthens our faith and forgives our sins.  These are the most important tools we could ever ask for when parenting our children.

I realize that while the Scripture doesn't specifically tell you how to toilet train your 3 year old or what curfew to set for your teenager, it does give wisdom about God's creation and His design for it.  The problems of parenting often lie in our own state of unpreparedness.  Our unpreparedness often stems from the lack of time spent in God's Word.  Now, I could give you a list of proper parenting techniques... the "How to's of Timeouts" or the "Dangers of Dating" if you will, but that would be like working from the outside, in. Better than this approach, is to instead regularly ingest God's Word and have it reform our thinking and our approach from the inside, out.

In the fall, I plan to resume teaching the Mothers Class; third Tuesday of each month, 7:30 at the parsonage. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Best Meatloafballs

Best Meatball loaves... or is it meatloaf balls??

Finding meals that everyone in my family will enjoy is always a bit tricky when you consider that we have one vegetarian and one carnivore sitting at our dining table each night.  Well, this week, the vegetarian was gallivantin' around South Carolina so the carnivores were fed.

My mother in law sent this recipe to me with high reviews.  I "tweaked" it a little to fit my family.  There really isn't a recipe that I don't tweak somehow...

Here it is... the best meatball loaves around.

preheat your oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan.

Mix together 1 egg and 3/4 cup milk.
Add to that:

1 c. shredded colby/jack cheese mix (original recipe called for cheddar)
1/4 c. dried minced onions (original recipe called for 1/2 cup chopped onion)
1/2 lb ground beef   (original recipe only used 1 pound ground beef and no pork)
1/2 lb ground pork sausage
1/2 c. oatmeal
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (original recipe didn't add garlic powder... I know, shocking right?)

Mix it up, and don't be a wuss... use your hands.  Squishy, squishy through your fingers.  (If my little sister is reading this, she probably just gagged a bit.)  Sorry Jen!  Now the mix seemed to be a little soppier than what I normally do for meatloaf, but I rolled with it (get my pun? )  Yeah, okay, so I am really glad I did, because these babies were moist and really, really good.  So, resist the urge to use less milk or more oatmeal.

Now, I divided the mixture into 6 large meat balls or mini loaves.  Call them whatever you want, dividing it up like this makes it easier to serve as well as takes less baking time.  Win: Win!

Now, on to the sauce:
Mix together:
2/3 c. ketchup
1/2 c. brown sugar (not packed)
1 1/2 tsp. prepared mustard

Spoon this over the top of each little meat...thingy.
Bake for 45 minutes or until done... you might have to poke into one of them to see if there is any pink left.  I baked mine for 45 exactly and they were perfectly cooked but still extremely moist.

Starch anyone?  My son was overjoyed... seriously.
Not a green thing in sight!  I call this my "TV Dinner" meal.
All we need is a round brownie and a folding tray table.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Seth's Roasted Cauliflower

So a certain little redhead in my life gave me the idea to post my roasted cauliflower "recipe".  Who knew a one year old would be so gaga for cauliflower?

This is my favorite way to eat cauliflower. Yum.

Heat up your oven to 400
Just wash and cut up into bite-sized pieces one head of cauliflower.

I put mine on a cookie sheet that has edges.
Don't lose any of those little bits.  They are the best!

Spray with canola spray and lightly cover with garlic and Parmesan cheese.  Toss that so that all the cauliflower is coated and put into the oven for 20 minutes or so.  You are welcome to toss the cauliflower around half way through baking in order to get it evenly brown, but I'm pretty much too lazy for that. ;)

Take out  the cooking sheet and let the cauliflower cool a bit.  One head of cauliflower fed one 41 year old and one 1 year old, so that tells you how much we liked it.

I use my large oven for cauliflower, but I use my toaster oven for roasting other veggies like zucchini, cut up peppers, mushrooms and vidalia onion slices.  I'll even do a mixture of veggies on one tray.  The toaster oven doesn't heat up the house like the big oven, but it also doesn't hold as much food.

I love taking these veggies and putting them over a bowl of rice, adding some soy sauce. Tada, lunch.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All is Vanity.

Each of the upstairs bedrooms in the Parsonage at St. John's has a dormer window complete with a window seat.  I  just love that about this house.  I use the one in the master bedroom as my personal vanity.  Unfortunately, my "vanity" is often neglected.

One of my problem spots was the storage of my jewelry.  I use the term "jewelry" loosely here, as not much of what I own is of any real value to anyone else but me.  No matter, it still doesn't deserve to be thrown into a heap at the bottom of a glad food storage container.  Mostly I end up with unmatched earrings and tangled necklaces.   
I decided something needed to be done.

I have taken some ideas from Pinterest and used them as a guide to customize my vanity area.  Here's some of the things I did... all on a strict budget, of course.

I found a few things at Goodwill and a couple other local thrift stores that looked promising.  One rule of thrifting... if it moves you, and it's the right price- buy it.  You don't have to have a purpose for it right then. 
(Don't tell my husband I told you that!)
 I often bring home pieces of junk that I have no clue what to do with them.  Focus on shape remembering that nearly anything can be spray painted.  
Here are a few of my thrifty finds cleaned up and freshly painted... or not.
Anyone  born pre 80's should recognize this lovely.
We had one in fashionable burnt orange when
I was a kid.  It's a mug holder turned bangles hanger.
I didn't even bother to paint it.  

This was a brassy mirror tray that I spray painted and
 now use to show off my lotions and potions.
This is another simple silver tray that I spray
 painted. I use shower curtain clips to hold it
onto my cafe rod.  The hooks are magnetic.
This is where I say, if you like the shape buy it.
I have been collecting glass bottles and jars for a while
with no idea as to what I would use them for.  Well, add
some candle sticks and voila,  you have great makeup
storage for the vanity area.  I used coffee beans in one vase
to hold my makeup brushes.
Oh and a cheap silver tray spray painted perty.

This piece gave me a bit of trouble.  I really
wanted something on which I could easily
remove and replace my earrings.  I looked
into purchasing some decorative tin, but it
 was so costly for a small piece that I
wandered around Home Depot searching
 for something else that might work.  I ended
up in the painting area and bought this paint
dripping grid.  $3??  SOLD!!
Bonus was that it came with bent ends to
hang easily over the cafe rod.
Just as an added fun thing.
I use my exercise ball
as a vanity chair.  It's the perfect
height and works great!


So this is the cafe rod I keep mentioning.  I think I paid $10 for it at Walmart.
Which is quite pricey for my standards, but I hadn't had any luck for a while
finding one at a thrift store, so I finally bit the bullet and bought it new.
You can see how nicely it extends and helps to keep my jewelry organized.
It really is worth the $10. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rhubarb Recipes

It's that time of year.  Rhubarb time.

I grew up in California.  No, not the sun drenched beaches of southern California.  I grew up in the Central Valley, due east of San Francisco, where all the produce is grown.  I was spoiled with freshly picked produce at farmer's stands all through my childhood from asparagus to zucchini.  My dad was gardener as well, so I know what it is to have a fresh supply of vegetables at the dinner table.  So you can see why it astounds me that I had to come to the midwest to get my first taste of rhubarb.

Well, the day someone from our church here in Iowa handed me a recycled Wal-mart bag filled with the celery look-a-like, I smiled, said thank you and promptly went home to google it.  What was this stuff?

The greatly coveted church cookbook

Not long after, I managed to get my hands on a most precious item, the St. John's cookbook.  Ahhh, this was the answer to my rhubarb dilemma.  Sure enough, rhubarb recipes galore.  I did notice one thing about all the recipes... quite a bit of sugar!

Emily's Favorite Rhubarb Cake:

Found in St. John's cook book page 88
1pkg white or yellow cake
1c. sugar (I leave the sugar out because I use a larger box of jello)
2 to 4c. diced rhubarb
1 6oz. pkg any red jello (but c'mon, strawberry is the way to go!)

Mix one package  yellow or white cake mix according to package directions.  Pour into greased and floured 9x13-inch pan. (I find that it's too much for my basic pan, so I use my large Pampered Chef rectangular baker).  Sprinkle rhubarb over top and sugar over top of rhubarbThen sprinkle red jello over all.  Bake at 350 until done, about 50 minutes.

 Another invaluable rhubarb recipe resource has been other ladies in the church.  Here is a recipe from my friend, Deanna.  This one is my personal favorite.

Aunt Mena's Rhubarb Dessert:

1 c. flour
5 T. powdered sugar
1 stick melted butter

Mix these together and spread in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
 Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, mix together the following ingredients:
1 and 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs beaten

Just before the crust is ready to come out of the oven, mix in 2 cups chopped rhubarb into the egg mixture.  Pour the rhubarb/egg mixture over the crust (carefully!) and return it to the oven to bake at 325 degrees for 25-35 minutes.

No well respected Midwesterner would neglect to include the ever popular strawberry/ rhubarb pie.  I actually had enough rhubarb to bake not one, not two, but yes, three pies in addition to the afore posted recipes.  That was a lot of rhubarb!
My recipe comes from Betty.  :)
I made the crust using her tried and true recipe for a 9 inch two crusted pie.
2/3 cup plus 2 TBS shortening or 2/3 cup lard
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
4-5 TBS cold water.

Here's the filling:
1 1/3 - 1 2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp grated orange peel (this really makes the pie in my opinion)
2 cups cut up rhubarb
2 cups cut up strawberries
2 TBS margarine or butter

Heat your oven to 425. Make the pastry by cutting shortening into flour and salt. Mix in water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball.  Split your dough in half and roll it out for the bottom shell.  Mix all the filling ingredients except the cut up fruit.  Put half the rhubarb and half the strawberries into the pastry-lined pie shell.  Sprinkle half of the filling mixture over the fruit.  Put the last of the fruit in the pie and again, sprinkle the dry filling over the pie.  Dot with margarine or butter. Roll out the remaining dough and lay it over the fruit to cover.  Cut some slits into the top crust, seal and flute the edges.  Use a pastry shield or foil to cover the edge to keep it from browning too quickly.  You'll remove that 15 minutes before pie is finished baking.
Bake until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust... about 40-50 minutes.  It would be wise to put pie(s) on a edged cookie sheet in case the juices spill over. 

 There ya go, easy as... well, pie.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bathroom "Re-vamp"

Well, I can't really call this a remodel, because there wasn't a whole lot of remodeling going on.  It is, however a revamp.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves :)

Here is our upstairs bathroom.  One thing to note is that all four of us use this bathroom, so keeping it organized and uncluttered is my main goal.  This bathroom also hosts the only shower in our house, so that means our guests use it as well.  Definitely something to consider while planning the revamp.
Besides being the obvious eyesore, these doors are
quite noisy. 
The shower doors are a mildew, bacterial nightmare,
and my ultimate goal is to rid the premises of them.  

Ahh, 80's walpaper.  At least the colors are
 soothing...Definitely coming down.

I have special "plans" for this area, just behind the door

Okay, my biggest peeve about the bathroom's current state is the wall paper and paint peeling over the shower.
Not a pleasant sight.  There will need to be some serious attention paid to this spot in particular.

I do love this cabinet.  It is solid oak, the drawers slide very easily and it is in very good condition.
One of our biggest problem spots is the sink area.  There just isn't enough counter space for all our "stuff".
I have been thinking for a while about a solution to this problem and I think I have solved it.


Lots of scraping involved here.  I used a mixture of watered down fabric softener to help 
unglue the wallpaper paste.  Not all of the paste gets scraped off, however and the most physically demanding part of this whole revamp was washing the walls.  I used TSP, water, and good old fashioned 
elbow grease to get'er done.  

So one of my favorite things to do to make something old look new and up to date is to spray paint them a new, fresh color.  My choice for the hardware finish in this bathroom is oil rubbed bronze.  I took off all the knobs from the vanity and medicine cabinet, along with the switchplates, outlet covers and toilet paper dispenser.  I also painted the towel rods, but somehow neglected to get pictures of it.  

 First, I cleaned and degreased everything with a sander/deglosser... except the plastic switchcovers.  Then I gave two coats of paint to everything.

 There was a lot of wall damage that had been covered up with wall paper, so I spent a bit of time spackling and sanding before I could paint.  The area above the shower needed quite a bit of attention, but really turned out nicely.
I do all my own stunts. ;)


 YEAH! It's all done!
 The shower curtain I got on Amazon and no, we haven't removed the old glass doors yet.  I think we will wait for Grandpa Sam to help with that.  But it is still nice to have the added privacy of the shower curtain.

The rug I got on the clearance aisle at Walmart.  It was exactly what I was looking for. Don't you love it when that happens?  It works with the linoleum pattern and not against it.  
 This is the area above the shower.  It had peeling wallpaper, cracked and chipped paint and mildew spots all along the edge.  Not pretty.  Now, it is repaired and freshly caulked and painted.  The paint I chose was from Glidden- "Water Chestnut".

 Okay, so here is the part that I am most excited about.  ORGANIZATION!!  Yea!  Now we have no reason to have the counter space taken up with hair products, styling utensils or toothbrushes.  Each of us has our own basket.  I got the baskets at Michaels several months ago when they were 50% off.  Unfortunately, they only had three, so I am still scouring different Michael's stores in search of one more.  I used shower curtain hooks shoved through the wicker in the back of the baskets to hang onto two 30inch towel rods.  I did have to get the rods online at Amazon because I couldn't find 30" rods locally.

Another one of my Amazon purchases was this styling tool organizer.  It hangs over the towel rod (which was cleaned, painted and reused).  It was just a bonus that all our tools were red. :)

The vanity knobs came out perfect!  I love the way they update the oak.  The trash can and soap dispenser were clearance items at Target.  I spend a lot of time searching for items before I ever attack a project.  I never want to pay full price!

Here are a couple more pictures of revamped items.  Switchplate covers are extremely easy to paint.  The towel rods came out like new, and I added a couple of robe hooks from Wal-mart so that guests could hang  their clothes on them.

 Well, I can say that I have successfully rid the house of wall paper... unless you count the basement...which I don't. ;)  Now, onto my next project...