Thursday, September 17, 2015

God is Sovereign.

Last year I had the privilege of studying the Book of Daniel and the theme of God's Sovereignty with my Ladies' Bible study.  Many of those verses and ideas still float around in my mind - but today's Our Daily Bread further anchored them:

Habakkuk 1:1-11 NLT

1 This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.

Habakkuk’s Complaint
2 How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
    But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
    but you do not come to save.
3 Must I forever see these evil deeds?
    Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
    I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
    who love to argue and fight.
4 The law has become paralyzed,
    and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
    so that justice has become perverted.
The Lord’s Reply
5 The Lord replied,

“Look around at the nations;
    look and be amazed![a]
For I am doing something in your own day,
    something you wouldn’t believe
    even if someone told you about it.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[b]
    a cruel and violent people.
They will march across the world
    and conquer other lands.
7 They are notorious for their cruelty
    and do whatever they like.
8 Their horses are swifter than cheetahs[c]
    and fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their charioteers charge from far away.
    Like eagles, they swoop down to devour their prey.
9 “On they come, all bent on violence.
    Their hordes advance like a desert wind,
    sweeping captives ahead of them like sand.
10 They scoff at kings and princes
    and scorn all their fortresses.
They simply pile ramps of earth
    against their walls and capture them!
11 They sweep past like the wind
    and are gone.
But they are deeply guilty,

    for their own strength is their god.”

...he learned to look at his circumstances from the framework of God’s character instead of looking at God’s character from the context of his own circumstances.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beautiful, yummy tomatoes!

These tomatoes. Pesticide free and from a local farmer (10 minutes down the road!) The peppers didn't make the photo.... :)

My goal? Homemade tomato sauce for our family.  It's SO easy!

Start by scoring the bottoms with an "X" and blanching them in order to remove their skins (25-30 seconds tops in the boiling water). Chop them roughly. You can remove the seeds or not. It's your choice. I don't.

Simmer them on the stove until the mixture reaches your desired consistency with a variety of add-ins depending on your preference (just tomatoes, tomatoes + marinara seasoning, tomatoes + chopped onions). Allow the sauce to cool and then freeze in Ziploc bags (I do 1-2 cup portions) for yummy tomato sauces.  You can make tomato paste in a similar way.

When it comes time for use, I thaw it, pop it in the blender if it needs to be smoother, and use it for pizza sauce, pasta sauce, meatball sauce, chilli sauce.... All kinds of sauce!

Apparently... you can freeze a tomato whole. When it thaws, just squeeze it to remove the juice and then throw it in to whatever concoction you need it for... I've never tried this, but a few I know swear by it. Obviously they work better in a sauce or stew after this, as freezing does make them mushy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Apple Pie

Every fall apple pie is on the top of our list of treats. Over the years I've tried different recipes, and this year ... I think I found the shortcut in the crust :)

I used this for the crust: Grandmother's Super Flaky Pie Crust (my new go-to recipe for anything requiring a crust)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup margarine  (you can use butter!)
  • water
Cut the margarine into the flour until crumbly. Add water gradually until right consistency. Separate into two pieces and roll out on a lightly floured surface to fit pie plate.

I used this for the spices:
  • 3 T. flour
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
Mix together. (I actually make extra of this and keep it on hand for quick apple pies!)

And we chopped apples from our friend's garden, even leaving on the skins!

Layer apple slices and spices in the crust. Top with crust.  350 F-degrees for about 30 minutes... 

Thursday, September 10, 2015


When I first saw the title of this book, 168 Hours, I wasn't sure what Laura Vanderkam was counting - wasted hours? Found hours? Turns out that's how many hours you and I have in one week. At first that didn't sound like much ... but she's quick to point out it's more than you realize.

I really enjoyed the book on a number of levels - though I found it hard to chart my hours as I'm (1) a mom, and (2) CONSTANTLY multi-tasking (for example, I'm switching loads of laundry while eating breakfast, while chatting with my kids, while emptying the dishwasher...or "watching" TV while I scan documents for a client and I'm working on a to do list).  The process of attempting to record my time has been telling, however.

The first area that struck a chord for me? CORE COMPETENCIES. And I think this is my biggest take-away from her book - core competencies are "things that a company does best and others cannot do nearly as well" (34). She constantly reminds the reader to focus on core competencies and to minimize, outsource or ignore everything else, as there is "little point in being too scattered to master something, or in spending much time on activities in which you can't excel" (35).


Remember my problem with tracking my time? Being too scattered would be another take-away. There are things I am definitely better at in life. If I claim that the priorities in my life are God, wife, mom and then everything else, my time should reflect this better.

I loved a few of her other suggestions and ideas in this chapter:
-in order to spend more time reading with my kids, choose quality books, such as the Caldecott Medal winners - brilliant! I Googled the list and I've since ordered 10 of the books from our library. I figured 10 was a good start.

-Caroline Ceniza-Levine's "List of 100 Dreams" - oh, the dreamer in my LOVED this activity. My list may include chocolate too.

-questions to ask myself:
What do I do best, that other people cannot do nearly as well? 
What things do I spend time on that others could do, or do better?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Finding food a little closer to home

It's Prince Henry in the movie Ever After who tells Danielle,
I used to think that if I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything, and I'll go stark raving mad. But, now I have found a purpose.
There are times on this journey of ours when I share his sentiment. Admittedly, I still find myself laughing at some of the people I meet or hear about - the extremists, or perhaps the ones who are simply further on the journey than I am, the ones who are so committed to their quest for health and well-being that they are seemingly in another world.

I think I felt this way as I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and considered her family's commitment to only eat local produce and food for a year. The thought of rhubarb being the only fruit for a period of time in one's diet seemed ludicrous (especially with toddlers!). Yet, as I considered her challenge and thought more, it started to make sense, until I tried to figure out what it would look like in my own family and I headed towards the "stark raving mad" end of the spectrum.

What I'm learning in this process is to glean bits and pieces from each of these journeys that work for our family, as best as I can, utilizing the resources I have, or the ones available to me. But, as I crawl further down this proverbial rabbit hole, I am realizing just how far our society, and myself along with it, has fallen to convenience.

In our attempt to find food closer to our home, I have been doing the following:

  • growing a LARGE garden with a friend. Hard work (weeding!) is always easier with a friend.  We each have two toddlers, so finding the time to spend in the garden is not always easy with the four of them racing about - our onions are looking a little sorry thanks to their trampling efforts. But we are working with it, and some times even recruit our husbands to play with the kids while we work our garden. That being said, the time spent together has been good and the yield has been satisfying and fun - so far we have enjoyed peas, lettuce, tomatoes beans, potatoes, carrots, onions and rhubarb. We have planted some berry bushes too, which will hopefully yield fruit in future years.
Garden pano from earlier in the season. I'm standing in the potatoes.

Garden pumpkin - harvested early because of the threat of frost!
  • asking friends who have fruit trees and bushes in their gardens if they're using them or not. We scored a tub of apples (for pies and smoothies) and these plum/cherry (there's a bit of a debate able what they are!) that we are  going to can. The girls inhaled these as we were washing and de-stemming them!
Mysterious plum/cherry. The debate rages on!
  • shopping our local farmer's market - this is hard as I need to still form relationships and figure out exactly what I am buying, as at one of the booths I spied the same MANGOES that I bought from the store the other day. Um, not local farmers. Our market also sustains itself with "home party" type goods, so we're working on it.... Meat seems to be our must successful thus far, but we're slowly adding other food, as we are also trying to build relationships with others in the area - unpasteurized honey from a friend I was in Bible study with a few years ago, a local producer who grows tomatoes and peppers without pesticides (especially since those are on the Dirty Dozen List), having sourced chicken from some family friends; we "grow" our own steers in the pasture, and we are very fortunate because my husband is able to hunt and fish which provides us with wild game and fish. 
12 eggs from this week's market - for $3.00! I love the different sizes & colours!
  • and finally, checking out options such as The Green Pantry who deliver to our area. I might have some more success in finding what I'm looking for through them - though some of their items still travel a LONG distance because we're rural and in a northern climate. But, I really appreciate that they have a link on their site called Our Producers where I can read about who is growing/making the food and where it is coming from before it hits our table.