And The Lord says, “Trust Me.”

My trust muscle is getting stretched some more today. It has been a grueling summer of selling our home (twice!), moving cross country, and a blur of packing and unpacking. I have purged, and packed, and wept as I have let go of items of sentimental value, and said good-bye to dear friends and a house and property that I loved.

On the flip side of all that stress, is the awesome revival of a dead dream. I lived here before and hated leaving my church, my friends, my home, and my life. And now, years later after all hope was gone, The Lord opened the door and made a way for me to return. But, my joy today is tempered with a dose of frustration.

And, this frustration is over a house! I want to be settled into a “forever house” with a yard for a garden. For months I have been long-distance stalking home sales via the internet, but was never in a position to seriously look, until now. I have watched most of the homes that I have liked and could afford to buy progress from “for sale” to “pending” to ultimately “sold.” Apparently my tastes must be similar to most other home buyers; the houses I like seem to be snapped up in a hurry.

Today’s pending home sale was the last home on my original “watch list.” It has an accepted offer and is no longer officially on the market. Sales contracts sometimes fall through; I personally experienced it this summer on the FIRST sale of our home. The Lord is faithful, and ten days later we received an even better offer and were able to close the sale.

This is another opportunity to trust Jesus; another opportunity to reflect on His faithfulness, restoration, and love for me and not get tangled up in the weeds of circumstances. But, silly human that I am, I tend to be short-sighted and lose focus on the big picture. My gerbil-brain forgets all of the times The Lord has provided for me time and time again. I get caught in the thistles of here and now and am easily distracted. But He is faithful, and The Lord says, “Trust me.”

“Beachy-Keen”

The finished product!

Since my husband retired we spend our winters near the ocean in what we affectionately call our “beach house,” despite the fact that we are about ten minutes from the water. We are close enough to enjoy sea gulls and mild winter temperatures, but far enough inland to avoid the storm surge from hurricanes and Nor’easters. The interior decorating of the place has a decidedly coastal flavor and feels like a vacation home.

Tooling around Pinterest the other day, I stumbled across “Beach Wreaths” and fell in love! This place “NEEDED” one! I made note of the styles I liked, and then started searching the internet to see where I could buy one similar to the ones I liked on Pinterest.

My dream beach wreath is made from burlap, with kisses of blue and sea shells. I found several that I liked ready-made but they came with an exorbitant price tag. Not wanting to shell out $100 plus dollars for a decoration to hang on my front door, I decided to build one myself.

My supplies for step one: wreath frame, burlap, wire and wire cutters.

My supplies for step one: wreath frame, burlap, wire and wire cutters.

The process is easy. Attach one end of the burlap to the frame with florist wire, make whatever size loops you want and run the wire around each loop, securing it to the frame. Some instructions on the web tell you to just tuck the burlap into the frame, but I wanted my wreath to be more permanent.

Working the burlap around the frame.

Working the burlap around the frame.

Work your way around the frame, looping and wiring as you go. My frame is 18″ and I used two 10 yard rolls of burlap.

The back of the frame showing my wiring.  I ran the wire around the inner rings of the frame.

The back of the frame showing my wiring. I ran the wire around the inner rings of the frame.

I used a thin florist wire that is nearly invisible. Some directions suggest tan colored pipe cleaners, but I wanted to keep the costs as low as possible.

The burlap is complete.  Now to decorate!

The burlap is complete. Now to decorate!

I purchased blue Christmas ornaments from a discount store and a bag of sea shells. With the aid of a hot glue gun, I attached wire and fastened them into place on the wreath. I paid $3 for 12 ornaments, and another $4 for the shells. The burlap cost $7 a roll (I used 2), wire was $1, and the frame was $3. Total investment was @ $25 and 90 minutes labor while watching television.

I topped it off with a string of pearls salvaged from old Christmas tree decorations that haven’t been used in several years.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Most of the ready-to-purchase wreaths I found have the decorations hot-glued into place. Because I want to reserve the option to change things up with the seasons, my decorations are fastened on with wire. All in all, I am very pleased with the results and think my new wreath is “Beachy-Keen!”

Whom Are We Really Offending?

Today is Halloween or more specifically, All Hallows Eve, the day before the Christian feast day dedicated to the celebration of heaven being the final destination for all who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Just as many begin their official celebration of Christmas on December 24, or Christmas Eve, All Hallows Eve traditionally was the “kick-off party” to the celebration of “All Saints Day.”

One year our church hosted a children’s party that focused on the celebration of those of us who looked forward to heaven – those of us still here on earth fighting in the trenches of spiritual warfare. No spooky or gory costumes were permitted. Children were to dress in costumes representing Believers who had died in Christ and were now triumphantly in heaven. The party looked a lot like a gathering of “The Village People” with many tinkers, tailors, and Indian Chiefs.

But this year, a school district in Colorado sent letters home to parents stating that children’s Halloween party costumes criteria no longer allowed children to dress up as cowboys or Indians, nor wear any other attire which the school might find offensive, particularly any outfit that might offend any ethnic group. (No more gypsies, geishas, flamenco dancers, or Mexican freedom fighters, like Zorro, allowed either!) Witches, ghouls, vampires, goblins and zombies are permitted.

The American culture is steeped in death and the occult. Tune into prime time television on any night and take note of the parade of undead, witches, and vampires. Even commercials have zombies trying to buy cell phones! The school’s permission of gory, occultic and demonic costumes shouldn’t offend anyone, right? And many Christians, lulled into the fog of political correctness, allow their offspring to dress up as a zombie, witch, or vampire and think nothing of it, because the costumes are not offending any particular ethnic group.

Whom are we really offending? We are so caught up with political correctness, that we completely miss the offense we are committing toward our God and Creator. His love letter to us, the Holy Bible, warns us to have nothing to do with the occult and to avoid every appearance of evil. Satan celebrates death, while Jesus came that we might enjoy abundant life.

Christians, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Don’t be changed by the culture we live in, but transform the culture around you by letting the light of Christ-in-you shine and dispel the darkness, and battle on!

Left-Armed Louie is Back!

I hurt my right arm this summer; probably a combination of age and over-use from a heavy week of chopping and cranking three bushels of apples into sauce.

Despite trying to “work through the pain,” I finally went to the doctor when my arm started throbbing like a toothache from knuckles to shoulder. The diagnosis of Tendonitis and directions for total rest and aggressive icing has kept me off the computer. No typing allowed! Through this unpleasant season I have learned how to do many things left-handed, but have new appreciation for the term “right-hand man.”

The sling is gone, but I still wear a brace to support the tendon. And, while it still hurts, it isn’t waking me up at night anymore. Not being able to do things is driving me up the wall.

Because of the physical limitations from being “one-handed,” my normal cooking activity has been greatly curtailed. However, I discovered a recipe for No Knead Bread that is amazing! You don’t need two totally functioning hands to make this!

The recipe is simple! Three cups of regular white flour, one teaspoon of salt, 2 1/4 teaspoon of rapid rise yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Mix it up in a bowl, cover with plastic and put in a warm place for a couple of hours to rise.

The flour, water, and yeast mix ready to turn into sponge.

The flour, water, and yeast mix ready to turn into sponge.

I covered the bowl of dough with a piece of plastic wrap, placed it inside my Dutch Oven, and set it in a sunny spot in my kitchen.

The sunshine streaming through the window made free heat for my dough.

The sunshine streaming through the window made free heat for my dough.

After two hours, the dough had risen to the top of the bowl and was ready for the next step. I dumped the sticky sponge onto a flour-covered cutting board, rolled it around and shaped it into a ball for the second rising. This sat on my counter for a half hour.

Dough ready to rise again.

Dough ready to rise again.

While the dough was rising I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. The Dutch Oven and lid went inside the oven to heat for a full thirty minutes. The dough was then placed inside the hot Dutch Oven and covered for thirty minutes of baking; I removed the lid and baked it uncovered for an additional fifteen minutes.

The bread slid easily from the pan onto the cooling rack. It has a crunchy crust and tastes like fancy artisan bread from five-star restaurants. The Dutch Oven acts much as an old-fashioned clay oven.

The prettiest (and easiest) bread I have ever made.

The prettiest (and easiest) bread I have ever made.

We could hardly wait to cut and sample it. It tasted great with homemade strawberry jam and I am already planning different combinations of spices and flours for future experiments.

The finished product!

The finished product!

I encourage you to give this a try. If you come up with any winning combinations of flours and spices, please post them in comments.

My Favorite “Hamburger Helper”

We had lots of company over the Labor Day weekend, which meant preparing lots of meals!  I enjoy cooking so that was not a problem, but never know how much  to prepare, with people popping in and out and never wanting to end up short on food.  I would much rather have more food than I need on hand than to run short. 

One of our planned lunches was burgers on the grill and we loaded up on fresh ground beef, conveniently on sale at the local supermarket.  I commented to my husband that my pantry supply of canned ground beef was running low and how I half wished I had time to process some at such a great price.  (Canned burger in the pantry?  You betcha!)  After the weekend I was left with about 8 pounds of extra meat which I processed on Tuesday.  It is so easy to produce this great convenience food if you own a pressure canner. 

 

Frying up the beef.  I love my black iron pans!

Frying up the beef. I love my black iron pans!

It isn’t a good idea to can raw ground beef because the product is too dense to heat properly, and you would end up with a sort of meatloaf-y lump. Fry it up till the pink just disappears; it will continue to cook during the canning process.

Loading the hot jars with yummy burger.

Loading the hot jars with yummy burger.

Strain the burger from the grease and spoon into hot jars to @ one inch from the top. I like to add 1/2 tsp of canning salt to each jar for taste. It isn’t necessary to add salt if you are on a sodium diet. The jars of burger will still process just fine.

Cooking up the "juice."

Cooking up the “juice.”

Drain the fat from the cooking pan,add water to the pan drippings, and bring this “juice” to a boil. Ladle this flavorful mixture into the jars of meat to @ 1 inch from the top of the jar. Release air bubbles, wipe the lip of the jars with a clean, wet paper towel to remove any grease, and seal with a new, simmered jar lid. Add hand-tightened rings to hold the lid in place and process in your canner. Process pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and quarts for 90 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the canner’s pressure to drop naturally before opening. This usually takes about 45 minutes.

Shelf stable burger ready for the pantry.

Shelf stable burger ready for the pantry.

Carefully remove the hot jars of meat from the canner and place on a folded towel away from drafts. In a short time you should hear the “pings” of sealing lids. Allow the jars to sit undisturbed overnight, remove the rings, wash in hot, soapy water, and label. Your jars of burger are now shelf-stable and are safe to use as long as the lid remains sealed.

To use, open and dump into a pan and heat to a boil for 15 minutes and use as a meat base for goulash, Spanish rice, chili, soups, or gravy. Canning burger allows you to take advantage of left-over meat, or cash in on grocery store sales without worrying about freezer space or power outages. It is an old-fashioned convenience food for fast and easy meal preparation!

A Saucy Treat!

God has blessed us once again, this time with an unexpected bonus of delicious apples from our backyard apple trees. We missed the ideal window of opportunity to treat the blossoms for insects this spring, but Michigan’s cold, wet spring seems to have played in our favor. The trees are loaded with fruit, and most of it is free of insects! What a surprise!

I try to limit my sugar intake in an attempt to ward off the potential of developing Type II Diabetes and have lost the taste for the heavily sugared products from the grocery store. Even the “sugar free” applesauce sold in stores tastes overly-sweet to me now.

I like to make and can my own applesauce but over the past several years our own apples have been too buggy for use and orchard apples have been very expensive. I haven’t made applesauce for a very long time and have rationed the few remaining jars in my pantry. What a wonderful surprise to discover bug-free apples on my own trees!

Although many recipes call for added sugar, you do not need to include it to make applesauce. I prefer to can it without additional spices and add them to taste when serving. I was introduced to this method years ago when living in Indiana by an elderly lady with numerous apple trees adorning her own back yard. A full, heaping bushel off apples will yield @ 22 quart jars of sauce. My little half bushel basket, filled as pictured, will yield one canner full, or 7 quart jars.

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Preparation is simple. Wash the fruit, cut into chunks and cook till soft. I trim out bruised spots and anything that looks suspiciously like a worm as well!

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Put a few inches of water in your pans with the apples and cook till the fruit is soft. Stir frequently so they don’t burn! Warning! The fragrance will be wonderful!

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The apples go into the pot with skin, core, stem, and seeds, so preparation is a breeze. My secret weapon in making great applesauce is a Victorio Strainer. They cost @ $60 but are worth every penny; it is a simple task to make applesauce using this great tool!

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This little machine assembles easily and clamps onto the counter or table. The hot, cooked apple mush is ladled into the bowl at the top, and you crank the handle on the side. The strained sauce comes down the chute and all of the other debris is deposited out of the side.

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Ladle the hot applesauce into sanitized hot canning jars, wipe the rim and top with a simmered lid. Process in a PRESSURE CANNER for 15 minutes at 5 pounds of pressure. When the pressure drops, move the jars to a folded towel to seal away from drafts; allow the jars sit undisturbed overnight.

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As the jars cool, you will hear a “ping” when they seal. The music of self reliance!

In the morning wash the jars in warm, soapy water, remove the rings, label and store in your cupboard. As long as the lids remain sealed, the product is shelf stable and will keep for years. Light exposure will cause the sauce to darken, so keep in a dark place; even store bought sauce will turn dark when exposed to light.

Home food preservation is becoming a lost art. I encourage you to make the investment in a pressure canner and begin the adventure of preserving your own harvest.

DIY Granola

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We eat a lot of whole grain at our house.  Research has shown that our bodies process whole grains much more efficiently and they provide a slower insulin hit to the pancreas. With Type II Diabetes rampant on both sides of our family, we try to maintain a healthy life style in hopes of avoiding this disease. 

Sugary foods are rampant in our food choices.  From sugar saturated French fries, to sugar being added to milk, we are inundated with sweetness.  Our bodies develop the taste for it and subsequently crave it.  No wonder this nation’s over-all health is in such distress. 

When we began the journey into eating more natural foods we discovered that we really like granola and yogurt for breakfast.  I find the flavored yogurts cloyingly sweet and store purchased granola too sweet and expensive. 

I discovered a musilex type breakfast mix on a cruise vacation and come pretty close to duplicating it for my daily breakfast.   I use plain, low-fat yogurt, flavored with about half a teaspoon of freezer jam and topped with half cup of my home-made granola.  Not all granola recipes are the same, but this particular blend mimics what I found on the cruise ship breakfast bar.  It isn’t fancy, but I think it is delicious.

Start with 6 cups of old fashioned oatmeal.  Don’t use the quick or instant variety.  Add 1 1/2 cup of walnut pieces and 1 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds.  Mix well in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix 1/2 cup of canola oil and 1/2 cup of honey till well blended.  Pour this blend over the oat mix and stir well to coat evenly.  Spread onto a large, greased cookie sheet with a lip and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for a total of 30 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes after the first 15 and watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Cool out of pan.  I cover my counter with parchment paper and spread the mix evenly.  When cool, mix with @3 ounces of dried fruit (I use dried cranberries), and store in air-tight container.  I use a large glass pickle jar.  This makes @30 half cup servings. 

Because I tend to shop at big box grocery stores and purchase in bulk, I always  have most of the ingredients for this readily available in my pantry.  I have not done a price comparison on how this compares to purchasing bags of granola from the grocery store, but I am pretty sure it is much less expensive.  This would be a great home-school math project or even a fun exercise for one of you number geeks out there.  If you decide to do the math, please let me know what your findings revealed.