Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Question - Old Typewriter

Home decorating is not gift. My sister can take a few items and artfully arrange them into something lovely. I just follow the "less is more" slogan and avoid most knick-knacks.

Besides, most of my flat surfaces are filled with books.



But when we helped clean out a friend's old shed, we were given this old manual typewriter. I would love to use it somewhere in my home but I don't have any idea how. 



It is too large to sit on shelf or mantel. It is very heavy and must be made of solid cast-iron. Right now it is just sitting on the floor.



The children have been having fun playing with it. It has no ribbon but all the keys work and they have managed to ink up the keys with a stamp pad and print a few words.

I'm sure some of you have a creative eye and can dream up all sorts of possibilities for an old typewriter.

If this was in your home, what would you do with it? How would you display it? What would you display with it?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Breakfast Recipe Index

Continuing to organize a recipe index.

I'm a believer in eating breakfast. I can't imagine starting my day without a good meal. My goal is to serve a breakfast with protein and whole grains. My children love to eat boxed cereal but they admit that they are hungry by 10:00 so most mornings will find an egg dish or oatmeal on our table.

Don't like breakfast - serve breakfast food in the evening for a healthy, economical meal.

Check out the Bread Page for recipes for muffins, quick breads, and bagels.

Here are some of our breakfast favorites.



Frittata



Pecan French Toast Casserole



Breakfast Pizza



Caramelized Onion Breakfast Casserole



Dutch Babies



Egg Stacks

Egg Puff



Breakfast Wrap



Breakfast Burritos

Overnight Coffee Cake


We enjoy Waffle Wednesday every week. Here are some favorite recipes.

Overnight Yeast Waffles



Chocolate Waffles - for that special Valentines' Brunch

Sourdough Waffles - our weekly family staple

Homemade Pancake Syrup



Blueberry Pancake Sauce

Kale Breakfast Bake 



Graham Granola



Peanut Butter Granola - our all-time favorite granola

Soaked Granola



Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal - our Sunday morning tradition

Baked Oatmeal - the yumminess of the above recipe without the peanut butter

What do you enjoy for breakfast?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Breakfast Frittata



I didn't always like eggs. Growing up in a farm family, eggs were the breakfast staple and I wearied of them.

Somehow my opinion flopped. Maybe it started on our honeymoon. We spent a week on a little lake in Alaska and had such fun concocting our own meals. I remember some great eggs that week - but maybe it was the ambiance or the company.

Now it is my children who groan when they see that we are having "eggs, again." But I love opening up the fridge in the morning and seeing what kind of egg creation emerges.

In the summer garden-fresh veggies like tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini hold the honors. Now that the only thing in my garden is kale, I resort to finding leftovers that will merge well with eggs.

A frittata is sort of an unfolded omelet.




First I saute my veggies.




Then add the eggs and cook briefly on the stovetop.



Then the finish the frittata in the oven.



I like that I can make a frittata of any size - whether I'm making breakfast for two or ten. If I'm making a small frittata I use the oven broiler for a few minutes. If the frittata is thick I bake it in the oven for 10-15 minutes depending upon the size.

The recipe below is what I made this morning for my family. You can increase or adapt the ingredients as you wish.


Frittata

1/2 small onion, diced
1 small baked potato, diced
1 cup chopped cooked ham
1 cup chopped kale
6 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Saute onion, potato, and ham in a little oil in an oven-proof skillet until lightly browned. Add kale and saute until it begins to wilt. Pour eggs in pan over vegetables. Sprinkle seasonings, tomatoes, and cheese on top of eggs. Cook for a minute or two - just until the bottom begins to set up.

Place in oven under broiler and cook for a few minutes until the eggs are set up. Check often as it does not take long.

Serve.

Options: Add any ingredients you want such as mushrooms, peppers, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, olives, hot sauce, salsa, bacon, sausage, and different cheeses.

If more servings are desired, increase the amount of ingredients. I used ten eggs for eight servings at a ladies' brunch recently. For a thicker frittata, instead of the broiler, bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

If your frittata does not stick to the skillet you can slide it out of the pan onto a cutting board and cut it with a long serrated knife. Or serve directly out of the pan.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Plan for Bible Reading

The beginning of the year brings a decision - to plan or not to plan my Bible reading.

Some years I follow a plan. I print off a chart and check off the boxes.  I'm a list maker, and like chart to give direction to my Bible reading.



But often after a year of following a Bible reading plan, I'm ready for a change. So I decide to take a year off and just read what I whatever I want - no plan, no schedule.

Maybe others have more self-discipline than I but I find that without a plan I falter. Benjamin Franklin said "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." When I make no plan, I tend to open my Bible randomly, often turning to the Psalms or one of the Epistles - not bad place to read, but probably shouldn't just be my default setting.  My marker falls out and the next day I can't even remember where I was reading. I don't have a focus. My reading isn't deliberate but haphazard.

So when another year comes around, I'm glad to get back on track and have a plan for my Bible reading.

There are many different plans available. You can find a whole list of free printable plans here. I don't think my goal should be to read the whole Bible through in a certain amount of time as much as to be deliberate in my Bible consumption. To have a vision, a purpose, a goal.



Ed likes the One Year Bible. This Bible is organized with readings for every day of the year. Each day you read a portion from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. At the end of the year, you will have read through the entire Bible once and Psalms twice. I remember my mom using this Bible twenty years ago (and maybe she still does.)

The One Year Bible is a simple way to organize your Bible reading. Each day's reading only takes about fifteen minutes but if that is still too much, you can easily take two or more years to complete it by reading the Old Testament portion one day and the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs the next day.

But I'm a tightwad. I already own lots of Bibles. Why did I need another Bible? So though Ed enjoyed his One Year Bible, I continued printing off a Bible reading plan of some sort.

Until this year.

This year Ed decided to enjoy the advantages of technology. He bought the Kindle version of the One Year Bible. He loves that he can read it on his phone at the breakfast table, or on his Kindle on the couch, or on his work computer and it is always synchronized at the right spot. For Ed, this has been perfect. His Bible reading is always in his pocket. Works for him.

Since he wasn't using his One Year Bible, I decided to give it a try this year. I'm only a couple weeks into the new year but already I'm loving it.

With the One Year Bible I never have to check my paper to see where I'm reading, or flip pages to a new section of the Bible, or lose my chart, or forget to stop and read part of tomorrow's reading. We moms have enough on our minds. With the One Year Bible, I open the Bible and start reading until I come to the next date. Easy. Painless. I'm loving it.

The big question is what happens if for some reason you skip a few days? Or what if you read this post and decide to buy your own copy of the One Year Bible? Do you try to catch up for the weeks in January that you missed?

You may make your own decision but here is my advice. If you only missed one day, maybe you can read two days and get caught up. Thirty minutes of reading isn't too hard to squeeze in. But if it is longer than a day or two, just skip those days and start at today's date. If you force yourself to "catch up"you'll be too discouraged to continue and you will stop all together. The goal is not to read through the Bible in a certain amount of time. The goal is to read, learn, and apply God's Word. It is far better to read something than nothing. So keep going. Read what you can. Next year (or in two years, or however long it takes) you will come back through again and can read those chapters you missed.

What about you? I would love to hear what tips you have found to consistently read God's Word. Do find it helps to follow some sort of plan? Do you have another source of accountability? What works for you?

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Tyranny of Books

Last summer, my friend Stephanie emailed me an article entitled "The Tyranny of Books."  It was a fun article about a couple wrestling with their book collection. I sure could relate. Just for fun, I decided to make my own rendition of the quandary.

The living room is a disaster. Books are scattered on the floor, sliding off the couch, and stacked on the table. Why can't the children put away books when they are finished with them? Something must be done about this mess.

I gather an armload of books to place back on the shelf. The books are double stacked and squeezed so tightly that it takes two hands to push the books together to add another volume. No wonder the children have trouble returning the books to their shelves.

What should we get Mom for Mother's Day?” asked my husband in a conversation with our children that he related to me later.

Mom needs more bookshelves,” was our ten-year-olds quick reply.

It had begun innocently – a few books received as gifts. At each birthday in my childhood I received a hard-cover Little House book until the set was complete.

In my teens I discovered used book sales—a reader's paradise of tables lined with musty volumes. I dug through boxes and flipped open pages until a cover peered out with puppy-dog eyes. “Please pick me. Read me. Love me.” Exchanging a few dollars for a box of books, I walked away as wealthy as a queen.

I towed my books into marriage, meeting another book lover at the altar. For a few years there was enough unread books on our shelves to keep us both busy reading.

Then one day a pink-wrapped bundle entered our home. With her came a crib, stroller, high chair, and a flood of books. Now I stalked the children's section of the used book sales. I looked for old books in which girls still wore dresses and wholesome family values reigned. The children and I curled up on the couch with a stack of books and read until I was hoarse. I could quote Make Way for Ducklings in my sleep and wore out copies for Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, but I loved story time with my children. As years past, The Story of Ping and picture books changed to Treasures of the Snow and other chapter books. My children learned that I was a sucker for “just one more chapter.” We traveled around the world and through history blinking back tears and sharing laughter.

A few years later it exploded. Our choice to homeschool was the Big Bang which laid down layers of history, science, and art books. Biographies, historical fiction, textbooks, and nature guides emerged to trip anyone who dared walk to the bathroom at night without turning on the light.

Now I had help spotting treasures at used book sales and there were more birthdays where books were the perfect gift. Our living room sprouted bookshelves until it looked like a library. We added book shelves to the children's rooms. We hauled our least favorite books to the attic. And still there wasn't enough space.

I decided to get tough. Ruthless. A quick count found well over two thousand books on our shelves. Surely we couldn't be reading all those books. I would purge out the unneeded volumes and regain control of our collection.

I attacked a shelf of older books. A layer of dusk proved their lack of use. I flipped open the flyleaf and found my name—my maiden name. I had been married a dozen years; these books belonged to me even longer and were still unread. This would be easy. Find every unread book with my maiden name and discard it. If I hadn't read the book in a dozen years I probably wasn't going to read it ever.

Of course, I wasn't going to burn the books, just add them to our local used book sale and bless some other book lover. Or maybe trade it on Paperback Swap for - um - more books. 

Ed noticed my discard stack and I told him my plan. Ed pulled off the top book, E.M. Bounds' The Power of Prayer.

But this is a good book.” he said. “I might want to read it sometime.”

This was not going to be easy.

I moved on to the classic's shelf. Maybe I'd find some duplicate volumes. I did. But my daughter likes this Heidi with great illustrations but this other Heidi has nice old binding. I often stack it with an old copy of Little Woman on the fireplace mantle just for decoration.

How about the shelf of biographies? I pull out a volume and am swept back to the time. The selfless missionary life of John Paton on a South Seas island had stirred me to personal surrender. These books held the memory of a the stretching of a soul. Discarding them would be rejecting their message, ignoring my history, and betraying a friend.

And I thought this would be easy?

During my book sorting I put books aside to share. Some books were too good to keep to myself. I pushed them into hands.

You should try this Jamie Langston Turner novel.”

Have you read this book by Elisabeth Elliot?”

Do you like history? Read this one by David McCullough.”

What are you reading?” I asked most guests to our home. Maybe they would give me a new title to add to my to-read list. Or maybe they could carry away a few of my treasured friends. On loan, of course. Nothing permanent.

Sharing books became a new addiction. I began picking up extra books, books I already owned, just to share. Sharing a well-loved book was as good as enjoying it myself.

Books are companions. Books inspire. Books give counsel and information. Books can also be a tyrant when out of control. Or should I say, when in control. Should I admit that when caught in the grips of a book, I can sometimes forget everything else—even my duties? And who wants to be enslaved by wood fiber? 

Entangled in the tentacles of a book, I can ignore life. My mom could tell you how hard it was to get work out of me when I had a new book. And now my daughter is giving me the same experience from the mother's perspective.

With self discipline I choose (most days) to get my work done before sitting down to enjoy another chapter. With maturity I learned how to enjoy reading before bed with an eye on the clock to slam the book covers before the hour was too late. At my husband's request I occasionally even laid down my book while traveling to enjoy the scenery and conversation. Sometimes it irks me to waste such valuable reading time but he was right—I couldn't see many mountains if my eyes are on the page.

Books can point my thoughts toward God but even a good book can also steal time away from the truly important. Jesus said that only “one thing is needful”—time spent with Him. (Luke 10:42)

A wise man said that “of making many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) I need to make peace with the fact that I won't own or read every good book. It was Jesus of whom it was said that if all His deeds were written down “even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25) But the Word I have in my hands records enough to keep me busy reading for the remainder of my days.

Some day God's record books will be opened and we will be “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). I'm guessing that includes my choice of reading material.


I may somehow, some day find a way to whittle down my book collection—until then, I will attempt to put His Book on the top of the stack.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Taco Soup



Taco Soup is perfect for cold winter evenings. And this cook thinks the ease is perfect too.

We love taco soup served with corn chips and sour cream.

Taco Soup

2 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 pint kidney beans
1 pint corn
2 quarts tomato juice
2 packs taco seasonings (I use my own homemade taco seasoning mix.)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef and onions. Mix remaining ingredients and simmer 1 hour. May place in crockpot on low for several hours. Serve with sour cream and corn chips as desired. And enjoy the warmth inside and out.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January Garden Plans


A few years ago, I posted my garden plans each month. It was helpful in keeping me on tract with the proper time to prune, fertilize, and plant. Maybe my goals will help you make your own garden plans, though if you are in a different climate than me you'll have to adjust your garden tasks. My goals will be based on my USDA Zone 6 garden in southern Pennsylvania.
And I hope to learn from you too! Please feel free to share what you are doing in your garden or correct any of my errors. I still have so much to learn (in the garden and elsewhere).


Kale covered with our fresh snowfall this week.

January – the month to dream.
This year, with our mild December I can still find kale in my garden and a few green leaves of spinach and lettuce in my cold frame. But there is not much to do outside in this weather.
But the seed catalogs arrived with the Christmas cards. I know that not everyone joins me in reading seed catalogs like a novel. Maybe you don't want to think about gardening for several more months. But this is an ideal time to evaluate, dream, and learn.
My January Plans

Evaluate

Reflect on what did and did not work in your garden last year (if you kept some records this will be easier) and ask some questions.


1. What did well in last year's garden?
(Plants, varieties, time planted, or specific care)


2. What did not do well in last year's garden?


3. How can I avoid last year's problems and maximize the successes?

Dream

Maybe you spend as little time as possible thinking about your garden and just throw some bean seeds in the soil in May. Or maybe you have a grand scheme for your landscaping that you are slowly working on from year to year.

The large garden books at the library are great for giving inspiration, if you can resist the comparison game. Not many of us can hire a full-time gardener! I find it best to page through a gardening book with pen and paper near-by to jot down the plant names, tips, or ideas that I will never remember in the spring. (Actually that is a great way to read books on various topics. Writing things down is the only way I will remember that great quote, tip, or idea.)

Some questions to consider while dreaming.

1. What new plant/variety/technique/etc would I like to try this year?


2. What changes to my garden would bring it closer to my goals for my garden?

Learn

Evaluation and dreaming may have brought up questions for which I need answers. Maybe I want to start a compost pile, plant a new tree, try some pest prevention, or plant a new-to-me vegetable. Researching now will save staring at a stretch of tilled earth or standing at the nursery overwhelmed by the choices.


1. What questions do I have or topics would I like to learn more about?


2. Where could I best find the answers to my questions?
Such as online, books, experienced gardener, extension office, etc.
These long winter evenings are also a great time to learn something new. And if the thought of reading a gardening book puts you to sleep - or is simply revolting, choose another topic that interests you. 
Some of my favorite gardening books to dream and learn.

Just for fun, here are my answers to some of these questions.

Evaluate

1. What did well in last year's garden?
Onions. For the first time ever my onions did not rot in storage. They are still firm in January! Was it because of the regular rainfall last summer? 


2. What did not do well in last year's garden?
Tomatoes. Blight. Again. 


3.
How can I avoid last year's problems and maximize the successes? Maybe I need to resort to a regular system of spraying the tomatoes for blight. I have tried moving them to a different place in the garden but that doesn't seem to be working, probably too small of an area.


Dream

1. What new plant/variety/technique/etc would I like to try this year?
I want to do better in starting a fall garden. I always seem to get it planted too late to do well. It is hard to remember to plant the fall garden in the busy season of July and August.


2. What changes to my garden would bring it closer to my goals for my garden? I want to include my children more in the garden. They are old enough to learn more about gardening so I hope to include them more in all facets – starting with choosing garden seeds. 

I also want to be realistic. Next summer I'll have a busy one-year-old. She isn't going to be satisfied to sit and watch from the stroller. As much as possible I hope to streamline garden tasks. A good layer of mulch on the garden this spring will help tremendously.

Learn

1.
What questions do I have or topics would I like to learn more about? How to conquer blight. How to build soil fertility. 


2. Where could I best find the answers to my questions? I'll probably start with the books on my shelf, then look online, and maybe find a book or two from the library.


Are you thinking about gardening yet? What do you hope to do differently this year? Share with us in the comments.



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