Constrained by I Know Not What

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I am reading a lovely book on the creative process.  In it, I am told to do a half an hour of creative work “right now.”  Write a post?  Make cookies?  Work on my novel?  All of these sound like work, and I’m not afraid of work.  But at this moment in time they also sound like toil.

The Bible tells me His yoke is easy.  So, I ask, what can I do that is work, with all work’s inherent creativities and satisfactions, but without toil?

Laundry.  Dirty clothes in the wash, clean ones ironed.  It is a clearing of the mind exercise, which will pave the way for a more deeply creative endeavor.  Perhaps.

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But alas, all this, all these tools I attempt to use, they leave me pretty much where I was, only with clean laundry.  Dull, constrained by I know not what.

I read the words of Jesus, telling me not to worry, which was what got me into this funk in the first place.  I go back for more of His words, put on Celtic Woman, diffuse lemon essential oil and make my bed – so lovely.  And yet.

“I will conquer this,” is a mantra no longer of any use.  “A smart girl like you oughtta be able to figure this out,” is yet another mantra gone by the wayside., at least for the time being.  It’s beginning to feel complicated.

Complication, I know, is the nasty covering over truth, which is always simple.

God never meant to be a formula.  He meant to be a friend.  Sought out, communed with, adored, enjoyed.  The author of all things lovely and right, acknowledged, experienced, loved.

As always, I will return to the Word.  Not for a get-by message, but to enter into His very presence.  Everything else can wait.  Even my book, the one that told me to go DO something.

This one thing I can and will do:  Be still and know that He is God.  Shhh.  Listen.  Be still.

Ah, and Heaven is helping.  It’s beginning to rain.  What could be better than rain to reestablish rhythms of grace?  Perhaps a walk in the rain?

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Constraints?  What constraints?

Do Try This at Home

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

 

Vision Board Success!

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I heard about making a vision board, and how the Word of God tells us in Habbakuk 2: 2 to “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it,” and that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

I began looking through magazines for something.  For what?  Should I make a health and fitness board?  Perhaps a writing board would be the very thing, replete with pictures of great books, typewriters, quill pens, exotic locales (no doubt for research on sequels to my international bestsellers) and cash!

I began perusing magazines of all sorts, but nothing seemed right until I began cutting out those things that meant something to me, pictures and words from Christian magazines, and it become apparent to me what was in my heart, my heart’s desire.

As you look at the picture above you will see it is a board to encourage me and remind me of the love and the power and the promises of God, and how He has anointed me to share what He wants shared.

Every time I look at it, hanging above my computer, I am exhorted, motivated, and made glad.  And the vision that has been swirling in and out of my consciousness has been brought to the fore, becoming focused.

A vision board singing the truth of God’s Word helps me to run, because it helps me to remember God’s laws of love – the New Testament victories and blessings that were bought for me at Calvary.  It helps me to see.

 

 

 

The Stupid Question: What About Socialization?

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“Precisely.”

That’s what to say when you’re asked this most aggravating and ignorant of questions about why your child isn’t being institutionalized.

“But aren’t you concerned about socialization?”

“Yes.  That’s one of the reasons we homeschool.”

Total confusion on their part.

Patient sigh on yours.

“First of all, we aren’t socialists.  We don’t believe the state knows best.  We don’t believe the state owns us or our children.”

“Secondly, we don’t think hanging out all day long (mostly sitting) with ignorant little kids who look, talk, dress, and are in more ways than not, exactly alike, is proper socialization. ”

“In fact, we think it’s extremely unnatural, unhealthy, and stifling.”

Oh, and we’re too nice to say so, but it’s your kids and grandkids (it’s mostly old fools who come after us on this)  who won’t look us in the eyes when we attempt to converse with them, who mutter or don’t answer at all, who display an alarming dearth of original thought and logic if they do venture an opinion, not our poor little homeschooled “hicks.”

We have always gotten compliments on our kids – on their ability to converse with people of all ages, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and races; on their friendliness, kindness, respect, and their obvious enjoyment of life and each other.

Seth and RebekahBenjamin and Hannahall four kids

Yes, you can search and find kids like ours, and they may even be kids who are public-schooled.  Don’t know, haven’t seen that very much.  But why go to the trouble?  Why not just homeschool?

Yes, your kids will miss out if you homeschool.  They’ll miss out on being bullied or becoming bullies, on easy access to drugs, sex, alcohol and porn.  They won’t learn about being one of the “in crowd” or being “cool” and “popular.”  In short, they won’t be social monstrosities, with mountain-tall egos, or “nerds” who hate school.  And if you have even the smallest of success, you will raise individuals who miss out on becoming followers.

You, too, will miss out if you homeschool your children.  You’ll miss them turning into hellions during their teen years.  You’ll miss them losing respect for you and your beliefs, and you’ll miss becoming an embarrassment to their social little arses.

If you homeschool, you’ll miss out on being politically correct and socially acceptable.  And yes, you’ll have to deal with the stupid question.  I’ve given you a few answers, and here are a couple more:  “Who and what successes qualify you to judge me?”, and, “So, what hole do you live in (speaking of socialization) so that you don’t know the abysmal failure public education in America has been proven to be, no matter how you measure it.”

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “no matter how you measure it.”  Because if your goal is turning out good little robots who lose their sense of personal worth, individual creative prowess, and dare I say, common sense and kindness, then maybe public school is a roaring success.

Go ahead, in the name of socialization, steal your child’s childhood.  Take away his time to play, invent, create, read, read, read, commune with God and nature, and grow into the person God intended, so that he can change the world.

little girl with flower

Look around you.  Do we need even one more just-like-everybody-else person?  Your child is unique in all the world, in all the history of the world.  It will take a huge and concerted effort to make her just like everyone else – socialized.  In fact, you can’t do it alone.  You’ll need all the help you can get to stamp out all that originality and wonder.  Hooray, there’s public education in America!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Authenticity at Home

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What is an authentic home?  In looking at the definition of authentic below (see the end of the post), we can deduce that, in a word, an authentic home is real.  Does your home feel authentic to you?  Are you comfortable in it, and does it offer comfort to others?

I am reminded of a purchase I made yesterday.  In a shabby chic sort of store, I searched for something to catch my eye, something to speak to my heart.  I wanted something that would slightly alter and enhance my home.

Mostly I saw things that wouldn’t stand alone.  They were attractive in their settings, but not something I really wanted at home (well, there was that framed picture that said, “Eat Cake for Breakfast” but I don’t care for art that tells me what to do). And then I saw it:  a red vintage umbrella.  The handle was wooden, it worked beautifully, it was red, and it was raining outside.  Yay! I had almost bought an umbrella a few weeks ago, but it was . . . well, let’s just say it was not Made in America (it broke when I opened it).  It was “cheaper” than the red umbrella in every way, and had I bought it, way more expensive.

I chose the authentic umbrella, just as I choose an authentic home.  Any time I can substitute wood for plastic, fresh for canned, a walk in the woods for floor exercises, my child singing in the shower for radio music, denim for polyester, shoe laces for Velcro, viewing the currently running Jan Brett art exhibit in Fort Collins vs. an intelligence-insulting matinee, lounging in a home-crocheted afghan on a second-hand leather couch rather than wrapping up in, and sitting on, new micro-fiber monstrosities, cotton diapers to replace paper/plastic sweat wrappers, homemade biscuits dripping with butter instead of Styrofoam with a stingy (thank God) bit of margarine . . .

You’re thinking this all sounds like too much work, and too time consuming?  What are you doing that’s more important, more satisfying, than authenticating your home, your life, your soul?

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Syllabification: au·then·tic

Pronunciation: /ôˈTHen(t)ik/

(abbreviation: auth.)

Definition of authentic in English:

adjective

1Of undisputed origin; genuine: the letter is now accepted as an authentic documentauthentic 14th-century furniture

More example sentences

  • He is in no doubt that the document is an authentic copy of the original.
  • In recent years, Disney’s park designers have filled the place with what look like real antiques, genuine artifacts, authentic junk.
  • A letter should have been sent to confirm that the references were genuine and authentic,’ he said.

Synonyms

1.1Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original: the restaurant serves authentic Italian mealsevery detail of the movie was totally authentic

More example sentences

  • These hotels and restaurants did all they could to recreate all that is authentic in traditional Kerala cuisine.
  • The restaurant ensures that Mangalorean cuisine is made and served in its traditional and authentic form.
  • The crowd then made their way back to the High Cross Inn where they celebrated St Patrick s Day with traditional music including authentic bag pipe playing.

1.2Based on facts; accurate or reliable: an authentic depiction of the situation

More example sentences

  • The written word persuasively conveys the authentic ring of reliable authority in a way the recollected spoken word does not.
  • It’s based upon an authentic story that happened in the ’20s and ’30s.
  • Earlier an unnamed assistant editor had emphasised ‘the need for publishing absolutely accurate and authentic information’.

Synonyms

1.3(In existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.

Example sentences

  • Hence, he argues that the appropriate mode for authentic human existence is the personal.
  • For Heidegger, authentic existence begins from self-understanding.
  • As such, for Heidegger, an authentic existence requires as its precondition a radical and not received experience of the past.

2 Music (Of a church mode) comprising the notes lying between the principal note or final and the note an octave higher. Compare with plagal.

Origin

Late Middle English: via Old French from late Latin authenticus, from Greek authentikos ‘principal, genuine’.

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.

Done! by Don Aslett

 

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Done! by Don Aslett is excellent.  Usually, with non-fiction I scan the table of contents for something worthwhile, take much of even the choicest subjects, then scan and glean.  Gleaning is the art of checking the author’s views against real wisdom (God’s opinion) and against personal experience, and seeing if there is anything worthwhile leftover.

In Done! I have found a treasure, start to finish–no need for gleaning.  Rather, there is a need to buy the book (giving my current overdue copy back to the library), read it again, and make it required reading for my kids, beginning with Chapter 8–The Magic of Early.

Don Aslett turns a lot of conventional “wisdom” on its head in this book, speaking from a wealth of experience and success in all areas of his life.  Done! is fun, entertaining, easy to read, and inspiring.  What more could you ask?

Breakfast Breads

IMG_3706Breakfast breads are lifesavers for me.  They are healthy, easy, filling, economical, versatile, and delicious.  I begin with a baking mix of sorts (NEVER buy these).  In other words, I mix and match flours, leavenings, dairy, nuts, spices, and dried fruits–depending on what I have on hand.  All you really need to know is that something close to three cups of flour and three teaspoons of baking powder (or ONE teaspoon of baking soda) and one teaspoon of salt equals a baking mix.  You can use powdered milk and then add water, instead of liquid dairy (or your liquid of choice) for a surprisingly good (sometimes superior) result.

So, when recently John left at 5:00 a.m. intending to pick up his breakfast on the road, and the kids were asleep, and I was hungry, I asked the question, What can I cook that will be good when the kids wake up, but delicious for me to eat ahead beforehand .  Breakfast bread!

On this particular morning I had only two cups of whole wheat flour left, (usually I have flax and almond and coconut flours), one cup of quick cooking oats, some rice cereal, and about a cup of unbleached white flour (time to get groceries).  I stirred these together with sea salt (always use more than the salt-stingy baking recipes call for, especially at high altitude where increased salt helps with rising), baking powder (the baking soda canister was empty and the baking soda boxes were in the laundry and bathrooms, or so I figured) so I added a third egg, figuring that would also help with the rising (always a concern at 8,000 feet above sea level).

The fruit going bad was apples, so I chopped a couple of those and added spices as though it was apple pie (if you haven’t ground your nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice in the coffee grinder yet, you haven’t tasted spices–I’ll tell you a cautionary tale about this at the bottom of the post – see the P.S.).

Now for melted butter and/or coconut oil, vanilla flavoring (look into making your own–so very elegant you will be) honey and real maple syrup (molasses would have been good), evaporated milk and water (out of milk).

Finally, for the “optional” (per many recipes) ingredient which I consider essential for good breakfast bread:  Nuts.  In this case I used walnuts, but ordinarily I would have also added sunflower seeds, which are cheap and healthy (surprise, I was out of sunflower seeds, too).

If I had chosen crushed pineapple rather than apples, pecans would have been good, with maybe some orange juice concentrate and lemon flavoring.

A peanut butter bread is delicious (substitute for some or all of the butter).  I love this with a glaze made of still more peanut butter, honey (or sweetener of choice/availability) and a drop or two of orange essential oil.

If John were home I would have made pumpkin bread to have with cream cheese, scrambled eggs and vanilla almond tea (I recommend Republic of Tea).

I always make a small bundt bread with this batter, leaving enough for a loaf pan or muffins, some of which goes into the freezer for those days when I just don’t want to cook breakfast, or for when the kids want tea party goodies.

Have your breakfast bread with coffee, tea, or milk.  And joy.

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P.S.  The picture at the top of the post is from another day, another breakfast bread, and as you can see, I don’t always grind my spices.  As for my caution:  You must hammer up your cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, etc, inside a baggie or other enclosure before putting them in your coffee grinder.  Ask me how I know that if you don’t do so, you will soon be buying a new coffee grinder.  As for that bit of leftover spice in the coffee grinder?  Not a problem – it just makes your next cup of coffee extra good.

You don’t have a bulk spice source in your town?  Look on the net for bulk spice distributors.  Just know that you’ll be getting LOTS of spices (great savings).  I double bag mine and store them in the fridge (used often) and the freezer.  And remember, bulk spice distributors also carry vanilla beans for that homemade (divine) vanilla flavoring.