Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reminders to Pray, Praise, and Give Thanks

I love the look of lots of pillows on a bed. To me, they make the bed look so inviting to curl upon, relax, read, and rest.

When there is a story behind a pillow, it adds personality to the room.  Like this one.

If you're a Tolkien fan, you recognize the saying right away. We are Tolkien fans, but that isn't the only thing that makes this pillow special. It was stitched by a good friend as a gift for us.

Their family are also Tolkien fans and when The Hobbit was coming out in theaters, they made the 8 hour trek to our house in December to join another Tolkien fan family for a Hobbit weekend. We enjoyed plenty of food, laughter, conversation, costume creating and wearing, and anticipation for the midnight premier of the movie.

This pillow brings back those memories.
It makes me smile.
It reminds me to thank and praise God for His gift of friends.

This is another special pillow.

My husband did that drawing of his church at age 14. It was part of a quilt made by his siblings and cousins to give to their Grandpa for Christmas.

Sorry for the poor quality, it is a scan of a photo of the quilt.
See all the quilt squares? They were each drawn by one of the grandkids and sewn together for the quilt. A couple of years ago all of them received that picture, a pillow, and the following description:

"Merry Christmas Grandpa 1985. . ."

Each Quilt block told the story of what his grandchildren were doing at the time. . .
- Debra was a manager at Kmart
- Donna was a manager at Northwest Fabrics (that's why she got to sew the quilt together)
- Mary was in Nursing School
- Mark was restoring trucks
- Paul was taking pictures
- David drew St. John's South Branch where we all attended church and school
- Matthew giving their dog a ride on the 3-wheeler
- Jonathan was looking forward to spring and baseball
- Daniel liked to "farm"
 - Johanna was reminding Grandpa of all the hours he spent watching his grandkids play

For years the blanket wrapped around Grandpa in his wheelchair keeping him warm. . . He was so proud of his FAMILY!!

The edges were tattered and worn. It was time to give the squares back. . .
A picture was taken. . .
Pillows were made. . .
Enjoy the memories of Christmas 1985!!

Even though I never knew Grandpa as he was given the crown of life long before I became part of the family, I have this special memory of him. I have love for his grandchildren who made this quilt for him. I am proud to be part of his heritage.

This pillow reminds me of that heritage founded in faith in Christ.
It makes me smile.
It reminds me to thank and praise God for His gift of family.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I needed to buy a seed/nut blend from King Arthur to make some favorite buns for the Ash Wednesday soup supper. I also needed yeast and as I was perusing the King Arthur site, I saw this combination.

Since it had both the harvest grain blend plus the yeast I needed and I thought it would be a good idea for me to get back into making bread again, I decided to just buy the Multi-Grain Sourdough Boule Recipe Bundle.

I've experimented a little with sourdough in the past, but never became attached to the process. Meaning, I let the starter go bad. I've told myself this time will be different. Time will soon tell.

I am keeping the starter alive, finding lots of helpful tips and tools on the King Arthur website.

The first thing I made was sourdough pizza crusts. I did not want to throw away any starter, and this looked like a good way to use that cup. I make them, bake them partially, let them cool, wrap and freeze them.

I've made sourdough waffles and pancakes, both very yummy.

Finally this week, I made the Multi-Grain Sourdough Boule bread.

It has a very good taste with the tang of sourdough and the crunchy nuts and seeds.

It was perfectly paired with the Lentil Soup I had prepared.

Warm from the oven with butter.
Toasted with butter.
Sliced with butter and some cheddar cheese or spread with strawberry jelly.
This loaf isn't lasting long.

Better go make sure the starter is ready for another baking day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mailman Alert

"Did the mail come?" is the question routinely asked by my husband when he arrives home for dinner (lunch if you live in other parts of the country). Only in the last six months has my answer routinely  been "I don't know" instead of "It's on the counter."

What happened to change my answer?

Our 14 year old Sheltie, Missy, who every day waited with baited breath staring at the front door waiting for the mailman to come so she could attack the door with barking, jumping, and hopefully biting any shoes that were left in the hallway, died.

Missy came into our life not as a choice we made but as a gift from my mother. Mom had been living in Florida and decided to get a dog. She chose a Sheltie just like other dogs we had when I was growing up. But Mom quickly realized she really didn't like having her and thought my kids needed a dog. Therefore, when she flew to help me after the birth of my fifth child, she brought her puppy and then gave her to us.

The kids were thrilled, I was postpartum. Now I had five kids ages infant to 7, a new dog, and a house to move because my husband had just accepted a call to a new parish in a new state.

But we all survived and grew to love Missy, our constant companion. Throughout the years she provided much enjoyment and frustration.

The barking at the door when the mailman came. Or the FedEx or UPS man came. Or when anyone else came, even when David walked through the front door.

The tug-o-war with her bone, the only toy she ever really liked.

Following me around wherever I went.

The fetching of tennis balls out in the yard we would throw.

The mad barking and rushing attack towards any dog, person, or animal seen on the front sidewalk, or church parking lot. Fortunately we had an underground wire fence for part of her life and then when it broke a leash for the rest.

The constant petting of belly and head she wanted whenever we were sitting.

But through it all we loved her and loved to complain about her. In the last year of her life we began to notice some big changes. Her hearing was deteriorating so she didn't always hear the UPS truck or the mailman or toward the end even the thunderstorms.

Her eyesight was failing because she didn't see food which had dropped off the table as quickly as she always used to.

Her fear increased and she was constantly at my feet. If I sat, she was beside me on the floor at my feet. If I was moving around the kitchen, she was in a spot where she could easily see where I was going.

She loved to be with me so much so that during that last year there were times she would not settle down at night unless I was on the couch  and the blanket covering me was half on the floor for her to lay on. Those were nights I didn't like her all too much. And those nights seemed to be increasing.

At the very end we noticed her having trouble at times with her legs or hips. But each time we took her to the vet, she always got a clean bill of health. The last being just two months before she died.

In September after we got back from a week away at camp, she came home from the family who took care of her while we were on vacation. Since they spoiled her rotten, she often moped after coming home from their house. But this was more than moping, she was lethargic and she was not eating.

I tried buying new food, but even that she didn't care to have. She also wasn't drinking very much water. She just wanted to sleep a lot and be wherever I was.

As those last days progressed we knew she was getting weaker and weaker and it broke our hearts. We weren't sure what to do nor when to do it. The kids loved her and spent many hours just petting her and loving her while she lay down. They were so very tender with her.

One Tuesday morning I awoke early to attend  6:15 am Bible Study. I couldn't find her at first and as I looked I finally found her in the basement where she had fallen down the stairs. She was lethargic, but alive, and barely had the strength to love me with her eyes. I carried her upstairs and laid her on a towel.

The kids petted her all morning till time to leave for piano lessons. I'm glad they did because when we arrived home just before one, she had died. Tears flowed freely.

We covered her and put her in her crate till that evening when David was free. Then we all went out to a church member's farm who graciously let us bury her there alongside their beloved pets.

Sadness remains and we are reminded of Missy's absence at various times. Like when coming home at night she isn't there to greet us at the back door. The vacuum is used more frequently after meals since she isn't here to snatch the bits and pieces dropped from the table.

But none more so than when each day I realize I have to answer "I don't know" to my husband's "Did the mail come?" My barking alert is no longer here to remind me.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Bullet Journal

I have always liked planning; lists, calendars (paper and electronic), and binders are all tools I've used to organize my life over the years. All have helped and been of service and there are pluses and minuses to each of them. I am not sorry I've used so many different types because I have come to realize different times in my life have needed different methods of keeping organized. Today is another time and I'm utilizing a new organization, the bullet journal.

Friends were talking about this and sharing pictures of their bullet journals last fall. It looked intriguing and I began to do a little research. First I read articles on the official bullet journal website. It was helpful, but not as much as my friend's pictures and ideas, as well as, reading the plethora of blogposts I found by typing into the search engine, bullet journal. Reading and seeing those pictures from lots of different people, helped me to understand that a bullet journal could be used in many ways, not only by business men.

I shared the idea with my husband and he thought he would like to try it as well. With Christmas money we purchased two Leuchtturm1917 bullet journals and began figuring out how to make them work for us.

January was a learning curve, but a good one. I liked the future log where I add upcoming events such as birthdays, vacations, meetings, and other events. I also liked the "month at a glance" page. I chose to do it as a list instead of like a calendar month. I added lines in between the weeks to help me see the break.

But I did find, after searching for ideas on Pinterest, to make three columns on this month at a glance page. The first column I list "all day" events, the second column is for listing "morning" events, and the third column for "evening" events. That little improvement has meant a much easier time of seeing when I'm busy during the day.

One of my big goals was to start planning meals again. The bullet journal is the place I'm doing that. For January I just made lists as the days progressed with a spot for planning meals on the side. This worked well but I decided to try a different layout for February.

 Again I turned to Pinterest for ideas and decided on this one.

I really liked this layout with the spots for meal planning or recording on the outside columns, tasks for the day in another column, and a space for notes. Unlike January, for February I prepared each of these two-page weekly spreads for the entire month at the beginning of the month. I found I liked that quite a bit. So I kept that plan for March but decided to try a different weekly layout. Here is what I am doing for March.

It has the meal planning on the bottom of each column which I will find out if I like or not. My main reason for trying this layout though was to see if I liked having a week read from left to right similar to a calendar. I'll give it the month and then form an opinion. In the picture you can see how I dealt with the last week which includes a day for April, by changing colors.

Other things I have in my bullet journal are the following lists: Movies to Watch, Movies Watched, Blog Post Ideas, Chore List, and Vacation Ideas. Those are in various places but are easily found because of the index. The index is the most brilliant thing about the bullet journal. It doesn't matter if my month or daily tasks are mixed up with pages of other ideas, because every time I start a new page, I list what it is and where it is in the index. It has really helped to free up my brain and cast off fear of messing up.

David and I wanted a pen pouch to keep the Pentel EnerGel pens we bought to use with our journals. So many of them just weren't right and then I stumbled upon a moleskin version at Barnes and Noble. It has worked very well. I love that it is attached to the front cover of my journal so the pens are always where I need them. There is a zippered pocket in which I keep the metal ruler I use to draw straight lines.

Overall, I am very happy with my bullet journal. I like the flexibility and the non-electronic nature. I try to sit down each evening and morning to update and make sure I know what is to be done.

Friday, February 24, 2017


2016 wasn't a stellar year for reading. According to my Goodreads list, I finished 44 books which is 85% of the personal goal I set to read 52 books in 2016. Not too shabby I guess considering that last year was quite the busy year.

I did not set a goal for number of books to read on Goodreads this year, nor did I join any reading challenges. I am simply going to read the next book whether that is one for book club, one I have been wanting to read, one I find on my shelf or on a library shelf, one a friend or family member recommends, or one I am requiring my kids to read for history or literature.

If you're interested in knowing what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads, but I will occasionally make note of ones here. In that vein, following are some I have read that I think are worthy to note.

The Mysterious Benedict Society - a trilogy by Trenton Lee Stewart
For many years my children have told me to read these books. That I would love them just like they have. Finally at the end of 2016, I read them. My kids were right. These are great books. Four children answer a newspaper add, are tested in strange and unusual tests, and then continue on mysterious assignments to help defeat evil. Delightful characters, interesting plot, good moral point are all included. I think this series would be perfect to add to your read aloud pile.

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
The second novel in the series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is very good. Set in Three Pines, a murder by electrocution takes place outside in the winter in sub-zero temperatures on a frozen lake during a curling tournament. CI Gamache must unravel the mystery while author Penny is slowly unraveling the  character of the beloved inspector. My friend recommended this series to me and I am grateful she did. If you like murder mysteries with a feel of Agatha Christie and Murder She Wrote, set in a Canadian town that seems quite quaint and lovely, then begin with the first book, Still Life, and see what you think. My kids, at my request, gave me the first two books in the series as a gift for Christmas. I plan to add the rest of the books. Until then, I just picked up the third in the series, The Cruelest Month, from the library and will begin reading soon.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Another friend recommended this book to me. I borrowed it from the library and was planning to read it while at camp on vacation in January. Wanting to get a jump start, I took it out to start reading in the van which caused my hubby to see and he requested I read it aloud to him. So I did. We both enjoyed this book and the stories of the White House staff who take care of the president and his family. The love the staff has for each family shines through these pages while their dedication to serving them and helping them to feel at home while living in a very public residence is admirable.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
This is also a mystery and part of a series, but it isn't quite as quaint as the Penny novels. Third in the series about detective Cormoran Strike, Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) continues following the hard, gritty, crass and foul-mouthed private detective and his secretary-assistant Robin Ellacott. This book reveals even more about Strike and Robin while we read about the mystery of who sent a leg to their office addressed to Robin and why. Not afraid to dig the depths of human misery and those sins "polite society" doesn't talk about, Galbraith once again shows her writing skill in creating characters who are so real with a plot so fascinating, that the book is hard to put down.

The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne
This is the book I am currently reading for book club. Although we are not reading all of it, we are reading all of what Susan Wise Bauer suggests in her book, The Well Educated Mind which are the lists we are following for our book club. I have found it interesting although I freely admit that at times I am not sure what he is trying to say. Montaigne does like to go on and on about a topic but so often there are gems of quotes that I stop to copy. Some of the ladies in my book club have begun reading it aloud to their spouse as a way to help understand what he is saying and to stay awake. The beginning essays were much shorter than the end ones and I can only read when the house is quiet and my brain is without distraction. However, I have enjoyed reading his thoughts, even though they ramble and my mind wonders. If you do decide you'd like to tackle Montaigne (and at least one in our book club would encourage you not to), I have found the penguin classic version edited by M. A. Screech to be quite helpful. Also, only read those essays as suggested by Bauer, it will definitely give you a feel for what type of man he is.

The Innocent by David Baldacci
I am not sure if my sister-in-law or a friend told me about this series, but either way I am enjoying this book. I have always liked this genre of spy/thriller novels. This book reminds me of one of my favorite series in this genre, the novels by Vince Flynn about Mitch Rapp. Over half-way done with the book, I am intrigued by the plot and am interested in how it will end. I will also check out the rest of Baldacci's books in this series about Will Robbie.

And now it is time to keep reading!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stir Up

Marlene was a wonderful woman in our congregation who was called home to her heavenly Father in January of 2016. She was a great example of Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. Marlene too loved to sit at Jesus' feet, listening to His word of forgiveness, life, and salvation. If there was a Bible study, church service, or prayer office, she was there sitting and receiving God's gifts.

Marlene was also a Martha, who was forever serving her Lord by feeding the people He surrounded her with, family, friends, fellow believers. Serving the pastors a delicious meal for their circuit meeting, bringing treats for Bible Class, helping with Lenten suppers or Ladies' Aid dinners, inviting guests to her table at home are all examples of Marlene's love to serve her neighbors delicious food.

Marlene loved recipes, trying them, collecting them, sharing them. She inherited that love from her mother and in February of 2014, a dream of publishing these recipes finally came true.

Marlene took the recipes she had inherited and collected from her mother, her grandmother, her husband's family, her aunts and cousins, daughters and grandchildren and fought battles with organizing them and typing them, while learning the benefits as well as the trials of a computer before sending it off to a cookbook publisher. This two volume set stirs up good recipes and fond memories of a much loved and missed friend.

Here is a favorite recipe from Volume 2 we have made almost weekly.

Southwest Cream Cheese Chicken
1. 5 lbs chicken breasts
1 8oz package cream cheese
1 15 oz can corn (I've used frozen)
1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 oz jar salsa
tortillas or hot cooked rice*

Place the chicken into a crock pot. Combine the cream cheese, corn, beans and the salsa; add to the chicken; cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Pull the chicken apart/shred and serve on the tortillas or over the rice.

*I've always simply served it in a bowl, soup style. Those that desire eat it with chips and maybe adding a dollop of sour cream and a little shredded cheese.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Night Watchman

St. Nicholas' Day 2016 was the fourth year of giving the family an incense smoker. Having already given St. Nicholas, St. Peter, and a Pastor, we chose this year the Night Watchman.

When we visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber with the family in May of 2012, one of the things we did was take the Night Watchman's Tour. It was a favorite of all. The man who played the night watchman did an excellent job of describing what his job entailed as he led us around the city pointing out various spots of importance. Besides all that, just look at him:

Remembering this fun tour and spotting a night watchman smoker in the catalog from Katie Wohlfahrt, it was an easy decision which smoker to give for St. Nicholas Day!

We all were excited and amazed at how big he was! David and I didn't realize just how big he was going to be. We had wrongly assumed he would be about the same size as our other smokers, but, well, you know what assuming does!

Standing guard

I love his hair, mustache, and pipe, not to mention the feather in his cap!

His lantern is as big as little Martin Luther!

Don't you love the bird?

Here you can see how much bigger he is than our other smokers

Even though he is bigger than our others, we have enjoyed him this winter season. I think we will lovingly call him Hagrid because it is only fitting that a big, lovable giant be a Night Watchman.