Do Try This at Home

english-cottage

I don’t usually say much about money, because I don’t have the II Corinthians 9:8 “enough for all my needs and an abundance to give to every good work” bank balance.  So, I figure I’m not really qualified to give financial advice.

But then, I look at people who earn more money than we do in our single-income, many-membered home, and who live without many of the luxuries that for me definitely qualify as “needs.”  A fire in the fireplace in wintertime is a need and a luxury, and one I never intend to do without, so help me, God.  Making my own chemical-free skincare is a need (especially in the high and dry Rocky Mountains) and a luxury.  Having money to do a little traveling, and more importantly the time and presence of mind to enjoy it, is a need and luxury (N&L).

The list goes on:  green coffee beans for home roasting; homemade Dijon mustard and money to buy books such as The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook, wherein such recipes are found; and Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks. 

Melissa Gilbert’s My Prairie Cookbook was a gift, and having the time as well as the beautiful stamps and stationery at the ready to send a prompt and heartfelt thank-you note is, of course, both N&L.  And the time to peruse this book and suggest my daughter use it to bake sweet-tart apple muffins, to the delight of all participating parties, is the epitome of N&L.

clock

The time.  So often people say they don’t have time for such shenanigans as enjoying the making and partaking of muffins with their daughters.  They don’t have time for this or that.  For what are they working?

I’ve been there and done that – the endless, mindless, thankless grind, and the eating out and on the fly of non-food substances; the bounced checks and astronomical service charges because I didn’t have the presence of mind that “taking the time” gives us.

We all have the same 24 hours, and we can either use time as a tool, or it can be our enemy.  We deceive ourselves when we think we don’t have time to cook from scratch, to balance a checkbook, to write a friend a thank-you note.

mailboxes

Most people think the goal of time management is to get more done.  I say the goal of time management is freedom from enslavement to the clock.  Rather than getting more “things” done, how about getting more people loved and enjoyed?

And how does all this tie into money?  First of all, it leads to peace and satisfaction, something that we so often try to buy.  A great example is a breadmaker.  I used my breadmaker plenty until it went kaput, and now that I know the satisfaction of making the boule for artisan bread, now that I’ve tasted my child’s authentic French bread, I will never again clutter my kitchen counter with a breadmaker.

New tools are great for my husband’s shop (yes, I do have and love some kitchen tools, but there are limits).  My kitchen is a place where romance reigns, where money is saved and even made.  I am, in effect, making money, learning a new and fun skill, impressing other people (I’d like to say this isn’t important to me, but alas . . . ) and making an amazing treat when I make pear butter from the pears that have been too long in the window sill.  Said pear butter demands the making of super flaky biscuits for brunch, to which we invite the neighbors, adding eggs scrambled with cream cheese and a delicious homemade and homegrown turkey sausage (Christmas gift from same neighbors) and serving it all with a giant pot of delicious tea (giant and lovely teapot another gift which merited the sending of a thank-you note).

muffins

When I roast my own organic coffee beans nice and dark and aromatic, and convince my mostly non-coffee drinking family to share a small cup as we talk about what we’re writing, plotting, or planning, I am living in the rhythms of grace not often observed by today’s families.

coffee

I first heard of roasting green coffee beans at home from financial advice guru Mary Hunt, who convinced me there’s no comparison between brew-ready and home roasted coffees.  Mary Hunt also echoes wisdom I once received after praying about finances:  You can have anything you want if you stop eating out.

We are back to taking and making and managing time so that we can be creative and artisitic in the kitchen.  A functioning and active kitchen is at the top of the N&L list.  Let’s make a list, asking the question, “What do we gain when we cook and eat at home?”

  1.  Money!
  2. Skills
  3. Nutrition
  4. Joys of creativity
  5. Better tasting food (after a little learning in some cases)
  6. Family fun
  7. Self esteem
  8. Real mealtimes
  9. House that smells like a home
  10. __________________________________________ (your turn)

So here’s my money advice in a nutshell:  If at all possible, do it at home.  In many cases you will find what’s done in your kitchen is much more satisfactory than that made to exist on a shelf for six months, and often less expensive.

cash

But money management isn’t about what’s the least expensive, it’s about what satisfies the most, what’s really worth it, what is both N&L.  You may think chocolate covered peanuts are both N&L, but I say make them at home from quality ingredients (real butter for starters) and you’ll have more of your needs met (we NEED to create) with more luxury to boot.

Enjoy them over conversation with home roasted coffee, or perhaps while watching Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice.  At home, where all good things begin and end, anyway.

english-cottage

P.S.  For more inspiration and ideas, join me Fridays at 2:00 Mountain Time, on 1360 AM radio, The Lion, in Johnstown, CO.

The Church of Homemade Apple Pie

For my son’s birthday (Nov. 3) I made apple pie.

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(I failed to take a picture, so I made use of this picture made by someone whose baking skills exceed mine.)

Three kinds of apples, three healthy sweeteners, lemon juice, spices, a little flour for thickening, then marinating in the fridge overnight.

A crust with two kinds of flour, salt, butter, coconut oil.  Should have had some vodka (keeps it tender) but it was, as are most of my pies, a creative endeavor making use of the materials at hand.

We (daughter and I) peeled enough for two pies, sliced them thinly and smashed and piled them into one pie.  I asked the birthday boy if I could add raisins (no!), and how about doing a crisp top crust made up of oats, butter, sugars, salt, and chopped walnuts?  “No, Mom, just plain, traditional apple pie.”

I don’t really do “plain, traditional” but I came close enough.  The pie was a big pie and a big hit, and it didn’t hurt that I whipped heavy cream with a pinch of salt, a bit of almond flavoring, and a tablespoon or so of honey to liberally pile atop each slice.

The pie was enjoyed with laughter, candlelight, and song.  I was chastised by my wondering children for starting “Happy Birthday” before the candles were lit (we are all in agreement that a large three-wick candle in the midst of the table works just fine for every birthday, and eliminates the cringing we all do when someone spits on the candles, and thereby the pie).

As a student of economics and government, I thought about pie slice sizes, and how my professors talked so often about scarcity, and pieces of the pie.  I thought of the socialist idea that there is only so much pie to go around, and that we must all share and share alike, our tiny sliver of a sliver.

I thought of the apple pie served to the masses – storebought, from old and tired and flavorless apples, with bleached GMO white sugar, thinly layered into a nasty, off-tasting crust.  Said pies are not, as was mine, baked at home in a large red pie dish.  Rather, they are each merely one of hundreds, baked in throw-away aluminum via industrial ovens.  For the masses.  Those of whom there are too many, supposedly creating scarcity.

I am here to submit that God’s way is a very large and luscious and multi-nuanced, soul-nourishing pie.  God’s way is more people to plant more apple trees, to get creative and try new varieties of apples, cooked with various kinds of sweeteners, in pies, cakes, tarts, ciders, juices, sauces, and anything else the unendingly creative human mind can dream up.

God’s way is more pie.  Enough for you and whoever He puts on your heart to invite into your home and partake.

God’s way is a variety (for every individual taste, because He is not the God of stereotypes, of groups – He is the God of each and every precious individual, unique-in-all-the-world human being) of coffees and teas to go with the pie, and the giving of thanks that He is the Blesser, the Giver, the Abundant One.

The Church of Apple Pie.  Try that thought on for size.  Your have a choice:  The Church of Slivers and Scarcity vs. The Church of Apple Pie.

It begins with each of us, looking in the mirror, being Apple Pie to those at home – not stingy in anything at all.  Partakers of His bounty, that we might pass it on.

We live in a world physically and spiritually starving for big, spicy, delicious slices of apple pie.  And since we’re all different, some of us want raisins, some want rum sauce atop our whipped cream.  Some want plain, traditional apple pie.  Some, unbelievably and inconceivably, don’t want apple pie at all, ever.  They want pumpkin, or peanut butter chocolate.  But I think it’s safe to say, whatever pie we prefer, we want more than a sliver, about which we have to feel we’re stealing from someone else.

Let’s do away with the lack mentality.  Like storebought pie, it’s from Hell.

 

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Burdens vs. Rewards

I want to talk specifically about turning kitchen burdens to rewards.

The first step is to see cooking as a creative means to a lovely reward. An attitude adjustment is what’s needed, beginning with yours truly.

I came to realize some years ago that if all Hell’s attacks on a thing were an indicator of its importance, then my cooking healthy and delicious meals and enjoying them with my family, must be extremely important.

stew

So, when I started that mental whine about not wanting to cook, not feeling like cooking, being tired of cooking, not having anything to cook, I just said, “Whoa there, Girly. You are blessed beyond most of humanity in that you have a kitchen complete with running water, modern appliances, and get this – FOOD!”

You’re not a two-year-old, so get up and do the kitchen dance.  Sing a song to your fridge, shake your booty at your stove, sing opera to your pantry, turn on the beautifully running water and soap up your hands and splash, both before and after you take out the trash.”

There are some people who don’ t have enough to fill a kitchen trash can.

Burdens to rewards, that’s the attitude change we’re talking about. Satan is the author of burdens and God is the author of rewards.  I didn’t earn many of the rewards in my kitchen – they are blessings and the fruit of labors of those gone before.  But perhaps I maintain them by appreciating and making use of them.

 

Percolator Parties and Other Fall Bequeaths

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I’d been thinking I wanted an old time percolator for some time and just couldn’t find the very thing.  And when a dear friend spotted this one in an antique shop, she said she saw my name on it.  Yay for the Holy Spirit working through dear friends!

This same friend has given me a very fine and perfect old-time picnic basket, egg coddlers, and more.  But for today I want to talk about my percolator.

After brewing up a few fine pots of coffee and tea, it quit.  I was sad, to say the least.  Oh, well, I thought, it still looks lovely on my kitchen counter, and I’m all about making the kitchen beautiful.

But my dear husband fixed it!!!  It simply needed a new resistor in the cord, and it’s off to the races again (the sound and sight of the brew gurgling up into the glass cap is the sound of joy).  Actually, it’s been off to the balcony in the chilly Rocky Mountain mornings for what we now call Percolator Parties.

Monday’s coffee Percolator Party was simply a Welcome-the-Morning, and Glory-in-Fall party.  Tuesday dawned bright and chilly and my daughter Hannah and son Seth joined me for chicory coffee in heated mugs with heavy cream, and to solve the little conundrums that make up our world.

On Wednesday the day sneaked up without early morning Percolator Party time, so we were ready on Thursday and chose to try a specialty Chai-with-chocolate tea, about which I had reservations.  But there are those special times when the first sip of an excellent tea changes things, sets them aright.  As I sat in the early morning chill, wrapped in a quilt and watching the golden apricot aspen leaves quake, I took one of those rare and wonderful universe altering sips of tea.

One after another, members of our household came out onto the balcony to savor the morning, to partake of our new and beloved delight, Percolator Partying.

In the Fall.

How far is Heaven?  Some days, not that far.

En-JOY-ment and Breakfast

snow tracks

The root of “enjoy” is the Latin “gaudere” which means “rejoice”.  I believe enjoyment is a responsibility and a choice and a life skill which can be learned.  But first I think it’s worthwhile to understand what enjoyment is NOT.

True enjoyment has no sorrow added to it.  In other words, a movie that I feel “smarmed” from afterward, doesn’t cut the mustard like a long walk in the snow.  Deep wet snow, like today’s, may be a bit difficult to traverse, but there will be no sorrow in this trek.  Rather, there are feelings of accomplishment and invigoration and the righteous earning of homemade hot chocolate, made by yours truly while someone else builds a roaring fire, and we continue discussing whatever came to our stimulated minds as we tried to identify animal tracks in the snow and discussed what we wanted to cook for Easter dinner.

Or I might read a bit and fall asleep on the couch.  Now that’s enjoyment.

cat napping

Yesterday the forecasted 2-4 inches of snow was closer to two feet.  The power went off for many in our area, and because ours was flickering, I cut my quiet time short and began cooking:  a double batch of biscuits, huge pan of scrambled eggs, elk sausages, canned peaches, and two pots of black tea.  What says enjoyment like not just a pot, but TWO pots of tea?

blue teapot

This wasn’t difficult because I prepped almost everything the night before.  I pulled my homemade baking mix out of the freezer, cut in the butter, added cream and milk, rolled out and cut out the biscuits, then put them in a baking dish thickly covered with coconut oil (makes the biscuits nice and crispy/crunchy on the bottom) while the oven was preheating to 450 and baking the sausages (the biscuits will take about 12 minutes at sea level, longer at 8,000 feet).  The kids made tea, set the table, got out the butter, honey, peanut butter, cream pitcher, cinnamon, and peaches, and when the biscuits were five minutes from finished I put the eggs on to scramble.

It takes the stress out of breakfast (where everything needs to be hot) to heat up the plates and serving dishes (it’s more fun if you take your time and serve everything in dishes at the table to be passed around) and to heat the tea pot.  If we’re having coffee (cream cools it) I leave the cream pitcher on the stove and preheat the mugs as well.

coffee pot

HERE’S HOW TO BEGIN:  Put the sausages on (I prefer the oven rather than stove top).  Put the tea kettle on and/or prepare the coffee (another thing to do the night before if you really want to make things nice and easy).  Put the plates (number of eaters plus one to put food on, or simply to stack under or over to help keep the plates hot) in the oven on 175 degrees until you need to preheat for biscuits, or to bake leftover boiled potatoes cut into wedges.  Take the plates out and wrap in dish towels to keep them warm.

Eggs:  We do two eggs per person, add sea salt, pepper, nutmeg and a little cream.  It’s nice if you’ve whipped them up the night before and just have to pull the bowl out of the fridge.  Heat your pan a bit, then right when you’re ready to pour the eggs in, add your oil of choice (I prefer organic lard).

Right after you put the eggs on to scramble (remember this is when the biscuits have about five minutes to go) pour your steaming water into the teapot – I keep my teapot on the warming zone on my new Hallelujah stove (you can also heat by filling with hot water from the sink – then dump the water, put in the tea bags and you’re ready when it’s time to brew).  Stir the eggs, give further instructions to kids (“don’t forget napkins, put milk in the cream pitcher,” etc.),  and give a “5 minutes til breakfast” call, then remove tea bags – this is according to taste, of course.  I don’t usually brew as long as the package says, and I usually use four bags per tea pot, and loose tea I sort of eyeball – about half the tea infuser full usually does it.

tea assortment

If something is awry (say your sausages aren’t ready) just go ahead with everything else – someone pouring tea, passing the eggs, giving thanks, and get the sausage to the table a little late – no problem.  Sausage is welcome whenever it arrives!  If you burned the eggs a bit, just add more pepper and call them Cajun-style.

When you get all this on the table you will  truly be the MVP, the Star of the Snow, the Queen of the Castle.  And no one will say “I’m hungry for a very long while.”

Enjoy!

P.S.  About that baking mix – DO NOT BUY THIS AT THE STORE.  JUST SAY “NO TO YUCK!”

My recipe, which, as all recipes, should be tweaked and personalized by you:

10 cups of various and assorted, or simply one kind of flour – in this particular batch I used 6 cups of unbleached non-GMO wheat flour, three cups of white whole wheat (again non-GMO – I get this at Wal-Mart or Sprouts, and it’s Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery), 1 cup of quick cooking oats.

3 Tablespoons of baking powder (non-aluminum)

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 Tablespoon of sea salt (less if regular salt)

1/2 cup of powdered milk (I still add whole milk and cream, but the biscuits will turn out with water only)

Stir these dry ingredients together very thoroughly and separate into freezer bags according to your preferred outcome.  I made three 3-cup bags and one 2.5-cup bag.  This is a lot for most people.  The 3-cup bag makes 15-18 large biscuits, of which I put back some for leftovers to wrap in foil and heat in the oven for the next day’s breakfast.

For the 3-cup mix I used two sticks of butter (will turn out with just one if you’re butter-conscious) and 1.5 cups of milk/cream (this was mostly milk with about 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream).  I also added about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the milk (makes buttermilk of a sort).  If your mix is a little too moist, put flour on your hands, on top of the dough, and extra on the counter (or wherever you roll out your biscuits).  If it’s too dry, add a little more liquid.  No fretting allowed.  ENJOY this.

VARIATION:  Before adding butter and milk, stir in some (maybe two Tablespoons) organic sugar, about a cup (1/2 is fine) of chopped walnuts, pecans, flaked coconut, dried apricots or raisins, or any combination thereof, and call them scones.  Yum for sure.

ALWAYS:  Serve with butter and love, as butter, after all, is love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enchanted Home is Authentic, Artistic, and Sometimes Even Boasts the Best-Ever Molasses Cookies

orange door

We forgive people who decorate in colors we abhor, with “style” we can’t fathom, using cat-clawed and dog-scratched furniture, if their homes are authentic.  If we have to hide a smile at some of the wild colors, particularly those in hues of sunshine, we will overlook what we consider a decided lack of taste and sophistication.

Conversely, walls of flawless beige, trimmed in pristine white, surrounding us and brand new-looking sofas set just so before “modern” décor atop ice-cold coffee tables make us wonder, “Is this a home or a statement?”

Does your house scream your lack of identity, thereby stealing your guests’ senses of identity as well, or does your house say “I’m OK, You’re OK. I didn’t invite you here to impress you, I invited you here because I value you enough to open my home, and therefore my heart.”

An authentic home has heart—it’s owner’s. An unauthentic home hides its heart behind its façade. It’s sad enough that we sometimes feel we must wear the façade in public, but at home we must take off the mask.

blog pic for bev - bed in castle

Does that mustard yellow throw your grandma made embarrass you? That’s a good reason to put it on the couch, front and center. Do you have a secret love for that hideous orange ottoman from the 50’s, and does it match absolutely nothing else in your living room? Go with it and add a bouquet of flowers with a bit of that same orange. You’ve shown yourself and your guests just a little bit of your heart. And you’ve given them art.

blog pic for bev - orange couch

But what will your guests think, especially the world travelers with such cool stuff? They’re on their way. You look around, asking yourself What does this look like to other people.

Dirty for starters. You can wash those awful smears off the patio doors, or make molasses cookies and put on a bright and crazy shirt. You guessed it. If this guest is a mom, she’ll either feel greatly relieved that other people have nasty doors, too, or she’ll feel superior because hers are clean. Let her feel superior. Authentic people make those kinds of sacrifices. Just be sure your cookies are better than hers. Just kidding. Sort of.

How to make great molasses cookies? Use the recipe on the molasses jar, only double (I did say double) the molasses and the spices and the salt. Also use real butter and/or coconut oil instead of shortening. Then make them awesome with lots of raisins and walnuts. For even better results (and healthier cookies) use half whole grain flour and half unbleached white flour, instead of the standard bleached white flour, and last of all, use a non-GMO organic sweetener. I like organic light brown sugar by Wholesome. Also, even when the recipe doesn’t call for it, I like a little vanilla flavoring in my molasses cookies. But I think it’s safe to say they’re wonderful without vanilla.

cookies

P.S.  These aren’t actually my cookies.  I’ll post them when I make them – closer to Christmas!

yellow castle picP.P.S.  This isn’t actually my house, but I’ll definitely post it if I get it for Christmas!

Home Comforts

Room in a historical Bohemian village

Whether or not you homeschool, your children are watching and learning your attitude about homemaking.  If you’re like most moms, things get a bit messy at times, especially in our minds!  We need a bit of decluttering, a little refurbishing, direction, and refreshment.  I give you the beyond-anything book, Home Comforts.

Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, is one of my two favorite books on making home a haven (the other is Alexandra Stoddard’s Creating a Beautiful Home). Cheryl (she is a friend even though we’ve never met) has done her homework. A former attorney, she’s very diligent and disciplined, and has the intelligence required to make a good job of homemaking.

As this book is over 800 pages long, and covers anything and everything you can think of, I can’t begin to do it justice here. But as an example here’s a quote from the chapter on home cooking: “Good meals at home satisfy emotional hunger as real as hunger in the belly, and nothing else does so in the same way.”

Cheryl goes on to discuss how and why not to use cookbooks–I am vindicated! I believe a recipe is only someone else’s creation, certainly nothing written in stone. Of course, if Julia Child wrote it I will pay attention. But someone telling me to make pumpkin cake without salt, or that you don’t need all those walnuts in your oatmeal raisin cookies? I don’t think so.

As usual, I am loving the sound of my own horn tooting, and it’s time to get back to the marvelous book at hand. Home Comforts covers anything and everything you might ever want to know about homemaking.  You will be sorry when you’ve turned the last page, and if you’re like me, determined to read it again.

And to share it with others, especially family.

Do you want to excel at the high and highly rewarding calling of homemaking?  This book, so aptly named, will inspire and gladden your heart, and perhaps best of all, it will convince you that what you do at home truly matters.