High Five Moms: Fall Harvest

We are now in Kansas, staying at a hotel while we house hunt. The weather here is absolutely beautiful. How I have missed the crisp fall air! We have passed by several pumpkin patches and I long to bring in my own harvest. I have dreams of having a huge garden with vegetables overflowing and an orchard full of fruit trees ready to be turned into pies and jams.

This year isn’t that year for me. It’s funny how our lives ebb and flow. Some seasons are full with times of planting. Other times are filled with harvest. For now, I am in a barren winter season. I can still be thankful though. I see spring on the horizon. Planting time is near. We will soon find a house and work like little ants getting everything in it’s place. Maybe next year I will be up to my ears in canning jars, and freezer bags, and dried “stuff”.

For now, I want to post something I wrote 4 years ago. I look back and see how much I have learned over the years and I just thank God for allowing me to learn…little by little. I have to laugh too, because we always think we know so much until we look back and see how much we had to learn. ~smile~

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October 11, 2007

When I was young, we lived near my great-grandmother. Every summer, my mother and great-grandmother both had large gardens and preserved the bounty each fall. At the time, us kids couldn’t stand canning season, because of the vinegar smell we had to endure on pickle canning day. I was too young to appreciate being able to grow and preserve food for your family to enjoy all year long.

I will never forget the time I went into my grandmother’s pantry to get some salsa she had canned. I had made some dip, and wanted to add her yummy salsa to it. However, something did not taste right. Well, the jars weren’t marked, and I couldn’t tell the difference between a jar of salsa and a jar of spaghetti sauce. I was hoping for Mexican, not Italian!

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at canning. My grandmother passed away 12 years ago, and my mother is halfway across the states from me, so I didn’t have the benefit of hands on learning. My first experience was canning salsa. I always make it fresh, but thought it would be nice to pull some out of the pantry at any time. I didn’t read up on canning very thoroughly, instead just jumped right in. I made my salsa, filled my hot jars, then watered bathed them for the alloted time. As I waited for the “popping sound”, I decided to look up some info online. What? It said I needed an approved recipe, as it is possible to create botulism if the acidity was not high enough. I was so worried I would give my family botulism. I prayed as I opened each jar, “Please keep my family safe from botulism, Lord”. I guess I could have thrown the salsa out, but I had worked so hard I couldn’t bare to.

Not long after the salsa incident, a friend taught me to make strawberry jam. I loved it, but couldn’t stand the amount of sugar used. I was told that non-sugar recipes really didn’t work, or taste very good. I gave up on jam…until recently. I listened in on a phone seminar given by Marilyn Moll of The Urban Homemaker, with guest Lisa Vitello of New Harvest Homestead. I learned that you could make delicious jam with honey, or even no sugar at all. I was introduced to Pamona’s Pectin, which works wonders with these types of recipes.

If you are just starting out, I would recommend getting some Pamona’s Pectin. I wanted to make a small batch, just to test it out. I took out only a few jars and started boiling the jars and lids in a huge pot. I have a water bath canner, but since I was only making a few jars I figured a large pot would work. I could cover the jars with boiling water. I chopped up some peaches and plums, threw them in a pot with some fresh apple juice, a stick of cinnamon, and a few cloves. I let it simmer for a bit, then started mashing. I followed the remaining instructions from the pectin box. I also have a Ball’s Blue Book, which is helpful. Here is my mini-bounty and my baby step toward learning to preserve food for my family!

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This week the High Five Moms are all writing on different aspects of Autumn and times of harvest. Make sure to hop on over and be encouraged!

Andie @ Happy Andersons

Stacy @ A Delightful Home

Brandy @ The Marathon Mom

Keri Mae @ The Happy Home

High Five Moms: Healthy, Quick, and Easy School Day Lunches

There are many things that can interrupt the flow of a good school day, and lunch time can be one of them. I don’t know about you, but there are times when we are in our learning mode, everyone is doing what they are supposed to, lunch time rolls around and BAM…all chaos breaks out. Everyone is hungry. Mom doesn’t know what to make. The little ones start getting into stuff while mom stares in the fridge thinking about what kind of gulash (this is what my kids call stuff I make up on the spur of the moment) she can come up with.

There are two things I have learned while staring aimlessly into the fridge:

1. Plan ahead – I don’t necessarily have a full-out meal plan for lunches, but I do try to have a general plan for the week. I either try to make extra food for dinner so that we can have leftovers, or I make sure and have food on hand that can me made up quickly.

2. Keep it simple – There is nothing worse than 12:00 rolling around and starting a lunch that takes over an hour to prepare. Keeping lunch simple helps to keep lunch on time with little effort. It also makes it easier to have your children help with lunch.

With these two things in mind, I want to share one of my favorite foods to serve for lunch…

beans!

Beans just don’t get the fanfare they deserve. They are full of protein and fiber and so good for growing bodies.

What I like to do is make up a large pot of pinto beans at the first of the week (sometimes on Saturdays, if I plan ahead). It is best if you can let them soak in water overnight. After soaking, I pour off the water (if there is any left, sometimes it is all soaked up). I then cover the beans with a generous amount of water, add some salt and garlic powder, and cook until tender. I prefer using my pressure cooker, but you could also cook in a pot or in the slow cooker.

I now have a base for a weeks worth of lunches.

Here are a few suggestions:

Beans and cornbread – I grew up eating beans and cornbread. You can either pour the beans over the cornbread, or just eat a bowl of beans with the cornbread on the side. A variation of this would be to make up a pot of chili with beans. This could be done for supper, then serve the leftovers for lunch.

Refried beans – Take a large skillet (cast iron works great), put in a bit of oil, then add in beans.  I try not to add too much liquid at first.  I season my refried beans with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt.  After they are hot and bubbly, I take a potato smasher and smash them up until they are smooth.  At this point, you may have to add in more liquid if they get too thick.

I use the refried beans to make:

Bean and cheese burritos – Fill a tortilla with refried beans and cheese. You can also add lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa…or anything else that tickles your fancy. I also like to make these and roll them up, put them in a baking dish, and cover with enchilada sauce. I cover it all with cheese and bake until bubbly.

Chalupas – Chalupas are basically flat tacos. You can buy corn tortillas and fry them in oil until they are crispy or you can buy the already made ones (check next to the taco shells in the store). If you buy the already made kind, you might want to heat them up a bit. Top the tortilla with the same toppings as you would a burrito.

Nachos – Place chips on a baking sheet, cover with beans and cheese, heat until melted.

Taco salads – I break up corn chips (tostitos type) and cover with seasoned hamburger meat, refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc.

Quesadillas – Place beans and cheese between two tortillas. Put a dab of butter on a griddle or in a skillet and brown tortillas on both sides, making sure the cheese melts.

I like to serve these meals with some fresh fruit for “dessert”.

What about you? What do you like to serve as a healthy, quick, and easy lunch?

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Don’t forget to check out the other High Five Moms and see what they are cooking up for lunch!

Brandy @ The Marathon Mom
Kerimae @ The Happy Home
Stacy @ A Delightful Home
Andie @ Happy Andersons

High Five Moms: Not Getting Overwhelmed

Make sure and check out the other High Five Moms for great encouragement and wisdom!

Brandy @ The Marathon Mom
Kerimae @ The Happy Home
Stacy @ A Delightful Home
Andie @ Happy Andersons

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When I started to write the post for today, I had to laugh. Not getting overwhelmed, me? I have just spent 7 of the last 8 months without my husband, taking care of 6 kids including a newborn, and I am suppose to write about not getting overwhelmed! ~that’s funny right there~

As I recently told a friend who was amazed at my strength, “You don’t see me lock myself in the bathroom, sobbing, praying ‘Lord, help me, I can’t do this!’.” I am not strong. I get overwhelmed. Often.

This world can be a tough place to live in. On our own, and in our own strength, we are going to be overwhelmed.

But there is hope.

2 Corinthians 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is suficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I love how the great commentator John Gill explains this verse, “if they [God’s people] were not left to some weaknesses in themselves, his strength would not be so manifest”.

In other words, if I could handle it all without getting overwhelmed, I wouldn’t need the Lord or His strength.

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

I am weak.

I remember right after Cooper was born, telling Jamie, “Make sure and let them [his bosses] know that I need you here during his treatment, because I can’t do this on my own.” I believed those words. In my mind, there was no way I could drive to Houston every week for his treatments on my own.

But the Lord took my weakness and confounded the things of the mighty. There are those that can’t believe I am able to do the things I have done, and the truth is, I haven’t “done the things I have done”. It is only through my Lord Jesus that I have been able to do anything.

Phillipians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Cry Out to the Lord

There were many times that I felt like I just couldn’t do any more. If you feel this way, don’t be afraid to cry out to the Lord.

Sometimes our frustrations may seem too petty to bring before the throne. We tell ourselves that we should be able to handle something so trivial. Or that the Lord wouldn’t want to be bothered with our little problems. The truth is that He wants our all. Every need should be brought to Him.

Here is an example…I pray over my toilet.

Plungering toilets is one thing that can ABSOLUTLY overwhelm me. I can’t stand to plunger the toilet. In fact, my husband and I made a deal four children ago. We lived in a house that had horrible plumbing and if you flushed more than one square of toilet paper you had to use the plunger. Our deal was that he would take care of the plungering and I would change all the poopy diapers — from then on.

I still think I got the better end of the deal, but with him not being here I am stuck with the plunger (no pun intended). So each time I flush the toilet, I pray that the Lord would help the toilet to flush without any problems. I have had to plunger a few times, but I know there have been many times the toilet has “surprisingly” flushed and I just thank the Lord!

Take Control of Your Thoughts

2 Corinthians 10:5
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

This is an area that the Lord has been working on in my life. I had to stop telling myself that I couldn’t do something, and just believe I could with the strength of the Lord.

I also had to stop blowing things out of proportion in my mind. I don’t know how many times my kids have broke things here at my aunt’s house in Texas. I would make myself sick worrying about how she was going to react to the state of the house she had so generously let us use. In my mind, I would play out every sordid detail, imagining her thinking that I was just letting the kids run wild and ransacking the place.

The reality is that she understands they are kids. Yes, we need to work on being more careful, but she has been so generous with us and has never shown one bit of hostility towards any of us for the accidents.

I have had to cast down these types of thoughts in my mind. They cause me anxiety and steal my strength. When I am worrying about “made up” senarios, I am not relying on the Lord to carry me through the “real life” stuff.

Rest

When we are going through difficult times, our bodies require more rest. This is usually the time that they are getting less rest. I know, it’s one of those things that is easier said than done.

In order to make it happen, you have to make it happen.

For me, this means making myself get off the computer and go to bed. I like the quiet hours after the kids are asleep to sit and read blog post or check up on Facebook. But I have to choose, and the rest is usually more important.

I also have to let things wait for me while I rest. Yes, the dishes in the sink need to be washed, but there are times you just have to walk away and get the rest you need. The mess isn’t going anywhere!

One thing that has worked for us, is a family work session (after our rest time). I assign each person jobs to do and we work quickly trying to get as much done as we can in a short amount of time. We leave the work until we are well rested and then it gets done much faster.

I don’t do this all the time, because sometimes waking up to a disaster takes away from the refreshment.  I try to decide before I go to rest if I should do a quick clean up before or after.

One last verse I would like to leave for you to ponder when feeling overwhelmed…

Philippians 4:6-7
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

May the peace of God keep your heart and mind!

High Five Moms: Iron Sharpeneth Iron {new series}

Running the race can wear us down, tire us out, even overwhelm us at times. We all need encouragement from someone who understands, a high five to keep us going. High Five Moms – encouragement for the journey!

Today I will be starting a new series with a great group of ladies, called High Five Moms. Each week we will all be posting on a given topic. I have personally been encouraged by these ladies and I know you will be as well. Please stop by and visit them!

Andie @ Happy Andersons
Stacey @ A Delightful Home
Brandy @ The Marathon Mom
Kerimae @ A Happy Home

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I am not a “people person”. Large crowds overwhelm me.  I’m not shy, I just prefer an intimate chat with a single friend over a large get-together with lots of friends. I guess that’s why I love this verse.

iron sharpeneth iron

one on one

Just the two working to make each better.

I have spent a lot of time over the years making friends. My husband is in the Air Force and we have moved several times over the years. I am always amazed at the people the Lord puts on my path. I have to laugh at myself though, because some of the very people who I would have never *picked* to be my friends are my most cherished friends today.

For instance, I have one friend that I met while I was a homeschool group leader several years ago. When I first met her, I didn’t feel a connection between us. In fact, I often felt that she “didn’t like me”. Don’t ask me why. We were just different and I was OK with that. But over time, our paths continued to cross and my heart grew founder of her. When I would spend time with her, I didn’t see our differences any longer, but rather our mutual love for the Lord.

I love the fact that we can live across the world from each other, and yet she still sharpens my countenance. I love that she writes at the beginning of her emails “I only have a few minutes so I will have to keep this short”, then proceeds to write a page long email pouring out her love for the Lord and His ways, always encouraging, always a joyful spirit. Her words make me want to strive to love the Lord more, encourage others more, be joyful MORE.

Our friendships should bring us closer to the Lord, spurring us on to good works.

That’s what it’s all about.

Iron sharpening iron.