Monday, February 29, 2016

A New Perspective on Doughnut Day

I'm sorry that the photos were not viewable earlier. I think (hope) that it is fixed now.

Every winter the ladies of my family get together to make doughnuts. And usually I chronicle the day's events here at Home Joys.

This year Mariann Martin, a writer for the small-town paper near my parent's home, joined us for doughnut day. After writing an article about our doughnut day for the paper, she shared all her extra photos with me and gave permission to share them here at Home Joys.

When looking through her photos, I was struck by the different perspective of her photos. In other words, I was in the photos.

 So, this is a once-in-a-lifetime post, a view from a different camera. All the photos from this post were taken by Mariann Martin and shared with her permission.

Are we working or talking?

We made glazed doughnuts, cream-filled doughnuts, and glazed apple fritters.

We had enough help that someone was always available to hold the babies. The older grandsons spent most of the afternoon in the haymow, only showing up when they heard the doughnuts were ready to sample.

The future doughnut makers - on the left my sister holds my baby and on the right my sister-in-law holds her daughter.

Mom and I discuss the merits of various types of custard for filled doughnuts.

There is no elegant way to eat a hot, dripping, glazed doughnut when you know someone is in the kitchen with a camera.

And yes, the doughnuts passed the quality-control test.

Thanks Mariann, for sharing your photos and joining us for the afternoon.

To read more on past doughnut days...
Mom's doughnut recipe - we have used the same recipe for over 30 years.
Apple fritter recipe - the new favorite
What happens when your memory fries on doughnut day

Friday, February 26, 2016

Wise Words on Doing It All

As I have been thinking recently about finding peace in not accomplishing all that I wish, I found several quotes.

First, God has created us to be creative but I need to learn to accept that because of my humanity my level of creativity is no where close to His. In Hidden Art, Edith Schaeffer describes our problem.

"We have to make a choice. We cannot do everything that comes into our minds, nor can we create everything that comes into our imaginations, whether it be in a very great or complicated area of science or art, or in a very mundane area, such as whether we should make a chocolate, vanilla, or spice cake for the evening meal.
"Man, because he is limited, has a very limited choice. He is limited by time, as well as talent. He is limited by the resources at his disposal as well as in the skill to use what he has...
"We each have a very limited number of hours in a day. Often I would like to add to those hours, but have never found a way to do it...We are limited by...talent and ability. So our creativity is not on God's level at all. His creativity is unlimited and infinite." - Edith Schaeffer

 Sandra Felton in Smart Organizing says that we should all have a "to-don't" list.

"Of course, the hardest person to say no to is ourselves. We have many interests, hobbies, and causes to which we want to say yes when we know we don't have the time and it is not one of our predetermined priorities. We must tell ourselves, Not here, not now--maybe later." - Sandra Felton

Of course we do have responsibilities that we need to do.

"It's a great release to know that the secret to 'doing it all' is not necessarily doing it all, but rather discovering which part of the 'all' He has given us to do and doing all of that." - Jill Briscoe
I still have far to go in learning how to let the things go that are not my present priorities. I have loved reading your comments in the last couple posts. So here is another question.

What helps you find balance in the frustration of limited time, energy, and skills? What encourages you in setting priorities and say "no"?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Defining a Perfect Day

In response to yesterday's post, a reader sent me the following email. I was so encouraged that I asked for permission to share it with all of you.

Your post this afternoon tied into my contemplation earlier today. Here was the quote for the day that set me to thinking... 
"You have not lived a perfect day...unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you." - Ruth Smeltzer 
As I read this my heart fell. When do I have time in my day (every day) to do something so big for someone else? 
Then I realized, I AM doing just that everyday! Actually I do it for four four children. My mind quickly went to some of the things we do for our children each day - things no amount of money could buy or repay.  
Money can never buy a godly upbringing. 
Money can never buy a secure, happy childhood. 
Money can never buy the unconditional love of a parent...two parents. 
Money can never buy character that comes from discipline. 
Money can never buy all the values we try to teach...a work ethic, respect, responsibility, honesty, contentment, humility, simplicity...and so many more important things. 
My heart was warmed and encouraged to realize that I am part of a great work every day, even though I buy diapers and bread, use the dryer and have conveniences, like hot dogs and paper plates on hand for rushed occasions. May you, likewise, be encouraged.
- Mom of four and fellow laborer

Thanks for sharing your encouraging words with us. Hopefully we can all have a proper definition of a Perfect Day - not comparing ourselves with other women, but fulfilling God's specific call for me.

Monday, February 22, 2016

When a Blog Isn't Helpful

On our recent doughnut day, we were debating the merits of various glaze recipes. We couldn't remember which one was our favorite. Finally we checked here at Home Joys and found a note from a couple years ago stating our favorite glaze recipe.

It was not the first time when I have had to check here to find the answer to some question. My faulty memory can not be relied upon. If I write it down, I may or may not know where to find it in the future. So the search function here on Home Joys, if it happens to be something I wrote about, comes in handy.

Several months ago I wanted to make yogurt. It had been a long time, probably a year, since I had made yogurt. I was glad I had written complete directions.

Last spring a friend asked me to make some artisan bread for a meal she was catering. It had been so long that I made anything besides very basic ordinary bread that I searched the archives to find some of the past notes on artisan breads I had written.

So this blog can be helpful for faltering memories.

But maybe there are things I don't want to remember.

Invariably, when I poke through the blog archives, I say, "I forgot that I did that. Why don't I do that any more?" It may be a forgotten recipe or the fact that I once used cloth diapers. If I'm not careful, I can feel the rush of guilt. If I know how, if I once did, why did I drop it? Why didn't I continue?

And then I wonder if any of you, when reading through Home Joys, think that I continue doing everything I have ever written about.

I don't.

I've written in the past about the false view of life a blog can give.

Sometimes I write about something that I try once. Sometimes I write about something that I do for a season. Sometimes I write about things that have become a habit, but could always be dropped in a new season.

For example, I once made my own homemade soap. I've never made it again. I'd like to. I actually purchased the supplies, but several years later, the supplies are untouched.

I already mentioned that I once made yogurt frequently, at least once a week, but now I rarely make yogurt. Maybe someday I'll resume yogurt making, but for now, it isn't in my normal routine.

And then there are things that I have continued. My family would revolt if I didn't make sourdough waffles every week. Kefir is easier to make than yogurt and continues in our kitchen. I have made my own laundry detergent for years since it is so simple and cleans well.

It is okay to stop doing things. For me right now that means using my dryer more often and buying disposable diapers. Just because I hung out cloth diapers five years ago doesn't mean I need to continue today.

I want Home Joys to be helpful to you. I do not ever want to inflict guilt or obligation on anyone. 

Not even myself.

Remember, whatever you read here could be a one-time or a seasonal event. Never, ever, ever have I done everything I write about all the time.

I still need to write a post sometime on What I Don't Do.

Do you have things you have done for a season but then quit? How do you handle the feeling of obligation to continue to do something just because you know how to do it?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Question: Sunday Meals

After months of limping along, getting by with doing only the basics, I am delighted to have a surge of energy. When I was staggering through December I truly thought that I might not ever feel good again, that maybe my advanced age (I'm within shouting distance of forty) had caught up with me. Ed kept insisting that I was just pregnant and I would recover. I'm so glad he was right.

Since the fog has lifted, I'm ready to become more deliberate as a homemaker. And for me, that means using my Time Keeper again. After a number of weeks without cooking, thanks to freezer meals and the generosity of friends, I'm again having fun in the kitchen. Even menu planning is enjoyable. (Let's see how long that lasts.)

When I sit down to make out a week's worth of menus, my brain freezes. Even in the summer.

Especially in the summer.

I have found it helpful to have various meal lists. I have lists of recipes for beef, soup, chicken, breakfast, and so on. I have a list of meals that my family loves and could eat every week. I list the cookbook and page number next to the recipe. Flipping through these lists makes meal planning so much easier.

But one meal I struggle with each week is Sunday lunch. Far too often I get to Saturday night at 10:00 and think, "What are we going to eat tomorrow?"

When we were first married, Ed grilled nearly every Sunday. It didn't matter if we ate late if we were just going to relax in the afternoon. But that doesn't work for children. They come home from church acting like they have not eaten for a day. My goal is to have lunch on the table in the time it takes them to get changed out of their church clothes.

An obvious choice is to use the crockpot but apparently my crockpot runs low. Even when I put it on high, I have trouble getting most things cooked in a morning. Unless the food is already cooked, we are fishing around tough rice and crunchy potatoes - maybe even raw meat.

If you ask my children, they will tell you that we eat sausage and potatoes every Sunday. And that isn't far from the truth. Sausage and potatoes is a meal we all love and is super simple. I chop up sausage links (sometimes while still frozen), place them in a 9x13 baking pan, add diced onion and chopped raw potatoes, pour in a little water, cover, place in the oven, and set my oven on time bake for an hour before we arrive home. At noon we are met by the wonderful aroma of sausage. Add a steamed vegetable or salad and we have a meal.

If I want to make our normal sausage and potatoes more special, I make hog maw casserole. It is more work Sunday morning but so worth it.

Another Sunday lunch favorite is chicken or turkey pie. In November I buy several turkeys during the Thanksgiving sales to be made into turkey pies for the freezer. They make the perfect Sunday lunch, if I can remember to get them out of the freezer on Saturday night. But now our family can easily eat two turkey pies so it is harder to keep these in the freezer.

I'd love to add some more options to my Sunday lunch list.

What do you like to serve your family for Sunday lunch that takes very little prep time Sunday morning and is ready to eat when you come home?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Winter Exercise

Any homeschool mom who says that February is their favorite month is either lying or doesn't live in the northern hemisphere where it gets cold in the winter.

Or they know a secret that I don't.

Today the wind is blowing last night's fresh snowfall into drifts. I'm always amazed how the wind can make an inch or two look much worse. And the wind certainly makes the temperature feel worse. I really can't blame the children for not wanting to go outdoors.

But being stuck indoors with several children stuck 24 hours a day is a recipe for a crazy mom.

Ed and I both grew up on dairy farms where there was plenty of chores to get everyone outdoors several times a day to burn off energy. But without livestock, it is a challenge to find ways for our children to get fresh air and exercise every day.

Last week I was so desperate I stepped off the perimeter of our yard and found the approximate distance. Three times around the yard is a kilometer and fives times is approximately a mile.

Nearly every day since then I've sent the children out to walk or run a kilometer. Some have chosen to do a mile. The goal is to increase their distance so that by spring they will be able to do 5K - or 15 times around our yard.

Attitudes are usually much better after even 15 minutes of outdoor time. And hopefully the exercise will keep us healthier this winter.

And I found an added benefit. I've joined them a few times (since they whine that I shouldn't ask them to do something that I don't do myself). I need the fresh air and exercise as much, or probably more, than the children but usually I don't think I have time for a walk. Last night after the children were in bed, Ed offered to rock the baby while I took a walk in the falling snow. I balked, thinking of all the things I could do in the house, but Ed insisted, and that 30 minutes was probably my favorite half hour all week.

Why did I think that I didn't have time to enjoy pristine snow and quiet?

I would love to hear your hints on getting outdoors and enjoying exercise in the winter - or any other sanity-saving advice for mothers in February.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Reviews: Lilias Trotter

I first heard of Lilias Trotter when I read A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot. Each chapter in that book began with a quote from one of Trotter's books along with description of her nature paintings.

Trotter's words, combined with Elliot's, were memorable enough to make, even twenty years later, A Path Through Suffering of my all-time favorite books. But I was curious to learn more about Lilias Trotter and read her writings. Elliot described her paintings, but even the best author can't describe a painting. I wanted to see her watercolors for myself.

But Trotter's books have been out of print for many years. When I discovered ebay, I looked for old copies and found a few from England, but for far more than I ever spent on a book.

I wasn't the only one who wished to know more about Lilias Trotter. Miriam Huffman Rockness wrote a biography about Lilias Trotter called A Passion for the Impossible.

Lilias Trotter grew up in England in a privileged Victorian home. In her early twenties, Trotter's artistic skill was discovered by the famous art critic, Ruskin. Impressed by Trotter's skill, Ruskin offered to give her lessons and use his influence to promote her art career, expecting her to become England's greatest living artist.

But Trotter, knowing that she would have to stop her mission work in order to focus on her art, chose to reject an art career. She went instead to Northern Africa. She spent the rest of her life working among the Muslims of Algiers, founding what would become the North Africa Mission.

A Passion for the Impossible tells the story of Trotter's life, including many quotes from her own writings. Her life wasn't easy. She lived with physical weakness, in a harsh climate, on a difficult, if not impossible, mission field. She continued to paint, illustrating tracts, newsletters, and devotional books. But her name would never be heralded as a famous painter and she died, mostly unknown, after a lifetime of service to her beloved Algiers.

After enjoying A Passion for the Impossible, I wished even more to see for myself, Trotter's artwork. Again, Miriam Rockness again came to the rescue. She compiled some of Trotter's writings and artwork into a beautiful book called A Blossom in the Desert. For months this book has been beside my bed. The gentle watercolors, quotes, and Scripture have been the perfect way to end a day, especially these last months when I have usually been too tired to do much reading.

I highly recommend both of these books. If you read A Blossom in the Desert, you'll want to know more about the woman behind the lovely watercolors. If you read A Passion for the Impossible, you'll want to see the artwork that flowed from Trotter's brush.

And both books will inspire you to, like Lilias Trotter, give all your time and talents to the Lord's service.

What books have inspired you?

(This post contains affiliate links.)


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