Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's Okay Again

I am amazed by the effect of lighting candles and serving dinner at the end of a long day. No matter how tired, frazzled, frustrated or overwhelmed a person is, a hot meal and time at a candle lit table seems to set things right, if only for a moment.

In an effort to get out of debt and buy a ramshackle house with a big porch, I am doubling down on our finances. This means I am working overtime trying to get super affordable, no-nonsense homemade meals on our table every night. (Super affordable because.... hello. And no-nonsense because the old guy does not do pumpkin ravioli or roasted butternut squash thingies, no matter how hard I try. Ahem.) I'm learning that as long as I treat meat as an ingredient- not the star of the show- I can stretch our meal budget much farther... and not hear him in the kitchen two hours later fishing crackers out of the cabinet. Oh yeah. I got this.

Last night I made Cheesy Ham and Scalloped Potatoes in the crock pot. Turkey ham ran $4.50 at the store, and I used half of it. By making my own soup/sauce and using the ends of random cheese in the fridge, I figured this cost about $8 to make four large servings. Very large servings. Although I wouldn't call this health food, I would call it It's-30-degrees-outside-and-this-was-warm-and-cheap-and-filling-and-the-crock-pot-did-it! food. 

To avoid the gray, Campbell's blob in a can, I made my own cream of mushroom. Yay! Creamed soup is okay again! Usually I use fresh mushrooms, but today I used canned organic ones like these in water. Fraction of the price, and comes with mushroom "broth". Takes just a few minutes and we control the ingredients. Win! Try it if you have the time or inclination:

Love this. Especially since every good holiday recipe has cream of something in it. Green bean casserole, anyone? 

I tell you: we girls at home are powerful. We put the home in a house. We turn straw into gold. (Or stuff in the fridge into dinner.) We are amazing. Let's light our candles and fire up our crock pots and show the world that family, home and love are alive and well and matter.

We got this, girls.  -Brin

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts and Hands

My thoughts are on Thanksgiving- family, hymns, a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the turkey, blessings, and pies. But my hands are a whole other story. 

My hands are on Christmas.

I'm making ornaments for the nieces. Knitted things for friends and relatives. Crafts for loved ones....
...And a small Christmas quilt for us. I pieced it while still at Freeman House but never got around to finishing it. Don't you think it's time?

I love November.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Canfest of 2014

I think I just picked my last tomatoes of the year. And my last strawberry. It is November. Thank ya, Texas.

Know what I've discovered in the last year? That we eat a LOT of tomatoes. It's astonishing. From raw in salads and on tacos and sandwiches, to stewed in chili and soups, to crushed in goulash, pasta sauce and salsa- we know how to massacre a tomato crop.

Which is all fine and good. Except by August, I was so sick of canning tomatoes that I started freezing them. Then our small freezer got so full that we went and bought a chest freezer. Now IT is so full that I'm giving frozen quarts of stewed tomatoes away and I've gone back to canning them.

What an incredible problem blessing to have, right?

I can remember writing Proverbs 14:23 as a handwriting exercise in second grade: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Today I would write: All hard work brings lots of tomatoes, but mere talk leads only to paying $2/can at the store so I guess it's worth it if you don't go crazy first.

Good thing I didn't write the Bible.

If you're interested, a how-to for the best stewed tomatoes on the planet is here. Heck yes.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Moment: Hard Won, Not Bought

Stores have beautiful roses. Markets have gorgeous tomatoes. But I usually grow my own-- roses and tomatoes. I grow them because I like gardening, even if it is hard work. Year after year, there I am, planting, weeding, staking, pruning, and watering.

Some things are sweeter- better- when you've gone through something for them, I think. 

Maybe truths work the same way.

I read Streams in the Desert nearly every day. This morning there's a beautiful reflection on how truths, values and character come into our lives. They are not "blown randomly across our path by wayward winds", Mrs. Charles Cowman writes, "for great souls experience great sorrows:

Great truths are dearly bought, the common truths,
Such as we give and take from day to day,
Come in the common walk of easy life,
Blown by the careless wind across our way.

Great truths are greatly won, not found by chance,
Nor wafted on the breath of summer dream;
But grasped in the great struggle of our soul,
Hard buffeting with adverse wind and stream.

But in the day of conflict, fear and grief,
When the strong hand of God, put forth in might,
Plows up the subsoil of our stagnant heart,
And brings the imprisoned truth seed to the light.

Wrung from the troubled spirit in hard hours
Of weakness, solitude, and times of pain,
Truth springs like harvest from the well-plowed field,
And our soul feels it has not wept in vain."

My oft-plowed heart field has seen truth after truth spring up: that God is good, even when I doubt it the most. That we are perfectly loved, even when we feel it the least. That the places where we've lost hope are simply the places where we're believing a lie. And that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living.

The common, "group think" in life comes easy. Let's be the people who live by truths.

Let's keep planting our tomatoes and fighting thorns for our roses.