Wednesday, April 01, 2020

First Hodgepodge of April


Still looking a bit wintry ...
So it's Wednesday, and once again our intrepid hostess Joyce, at  From This Side of the Pond,  is hosting the Hodgepodge for our blogging and reading pleasure!  If you'd like to jump in too, head on over to  From This Side of the Pond and get the questions, then answer them on your own blog.  It's a wonderful diversion in these crazy times.  Here are Joyce's questions:

1. Has spring sprung in your part of the world? How can you tell? Did March come in like a lion where you live? Going out like a lamb or something more ferocious?

It hasn't really sprung (we had a dusting of snow overnight), but I'd say it is springing.  There is still some snow, and ice on the lakes (as in the top photo taken near Squam Lake last week). But I've seen a few pussy willows, and the red-winged blackbirds are back.  The goldfinches are changing out of their winter plumage to bright yellow.

Image by Rick Tremblay from Pixabay
If I remember right, March came in somewhat lamb-like, and it is definitely going out that way.  Today (it's the 31st as I write this) is not brilliantly sunny nor spectacularly warm, but will near 50º before day's end and is not windy.  This lamb-like departure is a blessing, because it feels as if a lot of lions are roaring and winds are howling in our world right now.

2. The last thing that caused you to spring to your feet?

Hearing my hubby on the phone downstairs asking our daughter a question that she had just answered in a phone call to me not ten minutes earlier.  She's a busy homeschooling mom and I really felt that only one of us needed to bother her.  But in his defense, he had been outside and had no idea that she had called me.

3. Do you have a spring clean to-do list? What's one chore on the list you've already managed to accomplish? What spring clean chore do you most dread?

I don't really have an actual spring cleaning to-do list.  I try to stick with FlyLady's system (though lately I've been failing miserably) so that spring cleaning per se is not really necessary. That said, I do need to wash the windows and that is probably the most dreaded spring chore.  I haven't accomplished any spring cleaning tasks as yet because it doesn't really seem like spring here (see question #1).

4. Tell us something you've learned about yourself or the wider world as a result of social distancing/the virus crisis.

Let's see.  About myself, I've been reminded that I would be absolutely fine not leaving my house for weeks on end.  I don't get bored.  I have enough cleaning to do to last me a lifetime, and plenty of craft projects (both UFOs and potential) to keep me very busy indeed.  (But unfortunately I do have to leave my house, to walk for an hour or so each day and then to spend several hours cleaning at my childhood home.  No mask needed.  But maybe I should be wearing one because of the dust?)  I'm also learning that I still need to work at lengthening my fuse. 

About the wider world, I've learned that it seems to be quite a bit like my experience of first and second grade.  Those who do everything the teacher says, those who disobey the teacher at every opportunity, those who bend the rules, those who tattle on others, those who mock and shame others.  Some blame other people; others want to be part of the solution.  Some are kind and helpful, some are just plain mean ... I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  I guess that I already knew this, but a big crisis like this sure brings it to the surface and I feel as if I'm re-learning it.  All the more reason for us who are believers to be calm and steady in this unprecedented situation.

Because the very best thing is remembering that God is in this with us.  He has a plan and His plan is good.  Regardless of how this got started or how deadly it could be, the bottom line is God is in control of it.  It will not last one second longer than He allows.This is the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator God, who reminded Job in Job 38:11 that He had told the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."

5. Something you love that's the color pink?

This hyacinth on my daughter's kitchen windowsill.  I snagged the photo from her Instagram.  What a pretty reminder of Spring!

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Seems like all my thoughts are random these days! But here's something sort of fun that we recently did.  While clearing out the Christmas decoration storage area at my parents' house, we found some vintage candoliers -- the window candles with a base to set on a window sill.  The ones we found have eight candles each.  Amazingly, these antique lights still work -- and there were extra light bulbs with them!

Knowing that some folks are displaying candles in their windows these days as a sign of hope, and some towns have even lit the Christmas lights on Main Street, we decided to fit the candolier out with red, white, and blue lights and place it in one of our porch windows.
Last night at the blue hour

We had to take a photo in the daytime to show the actual colors of the bulbs.
And I guess that's it from here.  Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday musings


I didn't get here for a Friday five, and on Saturday I posted a recipe, so I guess this afternoon it will be a brief Monday musings post.  This time we are currently living through feels surreal, doesn't it?  My days feel fairly normal until I remember the crisis our world is in.  I am just so thankful that God is in control.  This is no surprise to Him, and this situation has not been out of His control even for a moment.  I can trust His good purposes in this even when I don't understand much of anything else about it.  Getting out into His creation and seeing His handiwork is such a spirit lifter!

Let's see, what to share about the past week?  The photo at top is from Thursday afternoon, when Mr. T and I took a drive up into the White Mountains for some perspective.  The day was beautiful and we had thought of going for a walk in Franconia Notch, but there was too much snow and we hadn't brought boots.  There were a few cars in trailhead parking lots, so some people were out hiking.  We stopped for a bit in the tram parking lot, and Mr. T snapped a photo looking southeast.  I should know what these mountains/ledges are, but sadly, I don't. 
Interestingly, apparently some skiers are hiking up Cannon Mountain and then skiing down, even though the mountain and lifts are closed.  We saw one of these skiers, but did not take his photo.  We're just glad that he made it down safely!

Here are a few more photos from our drive that day.  We turned around and headed back south and did a bit more exploring.  We covered a lot of territory!  It was just good to be out and about in such beauty, even if the time was mostly spent in the car.
Northbound on I-93
Southbound, Franconia Notch Parkway
Not sure where this was
Lake Waukewan
We've been continuing to clean out my childhood home.  Perfectly safe and socially distant since we are the only ones there.  Here are a couple of fun photos from my mother's childhood.   She is the plump little girl in the buffalo checked jacket, which I believe my grandmother had made by cutting down a jacket or wool shirt of my grandfather's. 


In other news, Mr. T decided to display a few of his vintage acquisitions on the front of our garage.   I think they look pretty good there, and it is a lot better than just stashing them here and there inside the garage.
 The items are three antique saws found at my dad's place and a telephone pole crossbar complete with insulators, a gift from a friend who recently downsized and couldn't take it with him. 

I'll leave you with the the pretty illustration below.  It's from a book jacket on a book titled
One Thousand Beautiful Things.  Another find from the vast number of books at my childhood home.

Isn't it lovely?  The artist is simply named Georgi and the title of the painting is The Stream Flows On.  A wonderful reminder for us today.

"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."  ~ Genesis 8:22

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Chicken Divan recipe


Several people have asked about the recipe for the Chicken Divan I mentioned in my Hodgepodge post as one of the best things cooked and eaten in our kitchen this week.  Even though the photo I used is from Taste of Home, the recipe did not come from there.  I cobbled it together from a few different recipes, starting with one from Gooseberry Patch's Christmas Blessings cookbook.

So I will share just what I did. 

CHICKEN DIVAN CASSEROLE

 3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour (I used brown rice flour to make it gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon curry powder (according to your taste)
3 cups of instant brown rice, prepared with 3 cups water according to directions on the rice box
Salt and pepper
1 16-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli or florets, cooked
2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, sliced or cut in bite size pieces
1/2 to 3/4 cup dry stuffing mix
1/4 cup melted butter

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  When melted, add the flour, salt, and poultry seasoning; cook and stir until bubbly.  Remove from heat and slowly stir in the chicken broth until well blended.  Then return saucepan to heat and continue cooking and stirring until the mixture is smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat; stir in the mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder.

Grease a glass 13x9-inch baking dish and spread the cooked brown rice over the bottom.  Salt and pepper the rice to taste.  Spread the cooked broccoli over the top of the rice, and then arrange the cooked chicken atop the broccoli.

Spread the sauce evenly over the chicken, covering all of the chicken if possible.  Combine the melted butter with the stuffing mix, mixing well, and then sprinkle the crumb topping over the sauce. 

Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.  If preferred, you can cover with foil for the first 20 minutes and then remove the foil for the remainder of the baking time.  That's what the recipe specified, but I forgot it and baked the casserole uncovered for the whole time. 

This makes a lot and is very filling.  I will often make an entire 13x9 casserole of any type, even for just the two of us, so that we have leftovers to freeze or use another night.  We actually got three meals out of this and there is still a serving or two left over. 

It would be good with just a salad on the side, but one night I baked a couple of sweet potatoes to go with it, and that was wonderful.  So colorful, too!

Astute readers may notice that in preparing the chicken sauce (ingredients butter, flour, seasonings, and broth) one has essentially created a substitute for cream of chicken soup.  That's just what it is!  This quantity of ingredients replaces 2 cans of cream of chicken soup. 

So I'm going to go ahead and put my cream soup substitute recipe here again.  Hope it's helpful to someone, whether you've run out of canned soup or just prefer a healthier substitute.

* CREAM SOUP SUBSTITUTES

Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? This recipe makes a perfect substitute for 1 can of soup.

3 Tblsp. margarine
3 Tblsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)

Melt the margarine in heavy saucepan; blend in flour and salt and cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened.

VARIATIONS:
Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage.
Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 c. finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

This recipe came from the More-With-Less Cookbook.  The shrimp variation is mine. 
 
Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge!


So it's Wednesday, and Joyce, at  From This Side of the Pond,  has decided (temporarily, at least) to revive the Hodgepodge for our blogging and reading pleasure!  Here are Joyce's questions:

1. Howdy Hodgepodgers. It's kind of fun to be back, isn't it?  Last time we met was September, 2018. Tell me something big-important-happy-or sad that's happened in your life since that date. Just one thing. We don't know how long this current isolation situation is going to last and we might need to dole out our news bit by bit.

It IS fun to be back, Joyce!  Thanks for doing this!
Probably one of the biggest and most fun occurrences actually happened in September-October 2018 when we were blessed to be able to take our local daughter and her family out West with us for a wonderful visit with our Nevada daughter and her family.  The girls were so close growing up (much like your own daughters) but distance and expense had kept them from getting together and they had not seen one another for 3 years.  So it was high time, and it was such fun seeing the ten cousins together too.  An unforgettable adventure for all of us!
My NH daughter, her hubby and their youngest at Bruneau Dunes
Moonrise at Craters of the Moon National Monument
Six of the cousins in a cave at Craters of the Moon
2. Might as well get this out of the way early on...COVID-19. On a scale of 1-5 how serious are you about keeping your distance? Explain. fyi - I didn't create the scale but have seen it several places online. Also fyi - we won't only have virus related questions each week, but for this first one it feels right.


1-Not at all, living normally

2-Cautious but still going out

3-Going out as needed, mostly home or working from home, still seeing friends/family

4-Extremely limited, only going out when unavoidable, minimal contact with people

5-Full lockdown, no one in or out

We are at #3 and I sincerely hope we don't go beyond #4.  Our governor (who has a great deal of common sense) is being pushed to order "Shelter in place" but so far he has resisted it.  His feeling is that once you begin something like that it's very hard to know how or when to undo it.  I pray for wisdom for our leaders every day. 

3. Raise your hand if you think you might run out of steam in the cooking department before it's all said and done? What's something delicious you've cooked or eaten in your own kitchen in the past week?

I don't think I will run out of steam in the cooking department, but one never knows.  If this goes on long enough and everything gets completely shut down, my creativity as a cook will definitely be tested.

In the past week,  one of the best things I've cooked was chicken divan over rice, which I made last night.  Instead of cream of chicken soup I made my own substitute, having recently learned that even the "healthy" cream soups have high fructose corn syrup in them.  A mix of bread crumbs and butter was suggested for the topping and I used stuffing mix instead of bread crumbs.  (Frugal move as I had some stuffing mix to use up.)  It was scrumptious!
Photo from Taste of Home
Then today my hubby decided he wanted to learn to bake bread.   He made 2 loaves of wonderful maple oatmeal bread.  Fantastic! 

4. What's a television show or movie you've seen recently (it could be an oldie) that you really liked?

I can't think of anything in that category that I've seen recently.   Probably the most recent was It's A Wonderful Life on Christmas night.

5. Share something funny you've seen or heard this week.

Drawing a blank here.  I know there are lots of funny memes about toilet paper and so on.  I guess one of the funniest was earrings made to look like rolls of toilet paper.  But that isn't as funny this week as it was last.  (I've also learned that toilet paper was available in Walmart this afternoon, though I doubt it stayed on the shelves long.)

 Another thing I thought was sort of funny was that prior to Monday night's snowstorm, when shoppers would typically buy up all the milk and bread, Walmart still had plenty of milk and some varieties of bread.  😀

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Hmm ...Well, tonight Mr. T and I attended a webinar concerning Amtrak Rail Vacations ... something we are planning for the future, possibly in 2021.  It was fun to look at the various National Park destinations and think about which one, or more than one, we might like to visit.  Below is a screenshot of one example.

And so ends this Wednesday Hodgepodge for March 25.   Thank you, Joyce!  We needed that!

(For those interested in joining in the Hodgepodge, do head on over to  From This Side of the Pond and link up.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A hearty breakfast for a snowy morning


Yep, I said snowy.   Thankfully, we didn't get all of the snow that was being predicted, but we got enough.  The above photo is what it looks like out our front door this morning (after plowing).  Below, a photo of what it looks like from the back deck.

I've been thinking I should share a recipe that I've been making often in the past couple of weeks.  It's warm and comforting and ready in just a few minutes. It contains no refined sugar.  (And if you don't like bananas, read on.  It can be made with apples instead.)

BANANA WALNUT OATMEAL

2 cups hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup quick oats
1 banana, chopped
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
Chopped walnuts to taste
Raisins to taste (optional)

Place the hot water, salt, and cinnamon in a 1 1/2-quart glass or Pyrex casserole dish.  Microwave on High for 2 minutes.

Add the oats and microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  The mixture should be thick and bubbly.

Stir in the banana, maple syrup, and walnuts (and raisins if you are using them).   Photo below shows them not stirred in yet.

Cook on High for 1 to 2 minutes or until as thick as you like it.
Serve in bowls with a dab of butter and/or a drizzle of half and half, if you like.

This is supposed to make 2 servings, but we find that it makes at least 3 good-sized servings.  You can see how much remains in the casserole after I took a serving out.  I store the leftovers in a plastic container and we scoop out servings to reheat as needed on another day.
Now, for some further commentary on this:

* You can use shredded apples instead of the banana.  All other proportions would be the same.  I adapted this from an apple oatmeal recipe, in fact.  If you prefer to chop the apples, prepare to either cook it for a longer time or have crunchy apples.

* If you prefer not to use a microwave, this can be done on the stovetop.  It will just take a longer amount of time, but not a whole lot longer.  Follow the cooking directions on the oatmeal box and then cook for a few additional minutes (maybe 5), stirring, after adding the syrup, nuts and fruit.

I like to use the microwave because it's fast, and a glass casserole is far easier to clean up than a gummy oatmeal saucepan.  But every cook for him or herself.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge and scoop out servings to reheat as needed.

Hope your family enjoys this if you try it.  We certainly do!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Some books that might be of special benefit and blessing right now


It's Sunday, and looking like a very different Sunday for many of us.  Hopefully most will have Bible messages available to watch via live stream or some other marvel of the internet.  I'm very thankful for this means that can help us stay in God's Word at a time when we need it so desperately.  Thankful too for the pastors who are taking the time to live stream their messages for us.  I've been praying for wisdom that they will know just what to share.

I've also been thinking that it might be nice to share some of the books and studies that have encouraged me through hard times in the past.

The book at top, What Do I Know About My God? would be one of my best recommendations for a study that will help you through any crisis that you face.  All you need for this one is Mardi's book, and a notebook of some sort.  The book is a great and encouraging read in itself, but if you take your Bible in hand and work at copying out the verses in the various categories, you will end up with an entire notebook of truth about our God.  This will become a resource that you will turn to again and again in times of need.  I've linked to the book in the Wilds bookstore, but you can also find it on Amazon or even Thriftbooks,if you don't mind a used copy.  I've bought many of these on Thriftbooks to share with others.

Now, I have a bunch of studies by Elizabeth George that have helped me tremendously.   (For any of these, I strongly encourage you to also get the growth and study guide if it is not included in the book.  You have more time than you did, so why not use it to get into a Bible study of eternal value?)  The first one is below.  I've been through this study at least twice and read the book more often than that.  I can't recommend this one highly enough.  If you are going through a trial, you need this study.

Finding God’s Path Through Your Trials


 Loving God with All Your Mind is the very first Elizabeth George book I read.  It changed my life, and it can absolutely change yours as well.  I've lost track of how many friends I've shared this with but several of them have told me it transformed their lives.  I've worked through the study twice on my own and once with my Sunday School class.


Following God with All Your Heart is a great study that begins with wonderful lessons from the life of Joshua.

If you find yourself worrying about our present situation, or if you are just a worrier in general, you will want to do the study Breaking the Worry Habit Forever.    I found this one very practical and helpful.

And then lastly there is this Bible study on Philippians -- Experiencing God’s Peace.  I believe this is billed as a 15-minute a day Bible study, but it can't really be done quite that quickly, in my experience.  This is a wonderful Bible study and very encouraging!

I have linked to these books on Elizabeth George's site -- and if you go there, you might well find other books to encourage you or even your husband and kids.  Many of these books can be found on Amazon or Thriftbooks as well.

Also -- and I mention this only if anyone might be interested -- I have taught all of these last five studies in my ladies' Sunday School class and I think I could supply my teaching notes for most of them if wanted.  Just let me know your email in a comment if you are interested in my notes, and I will see what I can do to help.

Have a blessed Sunday, all!  Remember that God is in control and working all things after the counsel of His own will.  He is also the God of all comfort, so don't hesitate to take your worries and fears to Him!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday six


I didn't make it in here for Friday five, so am trying for a Saturday six.  We'll see how that goes!  Oh, and any photos in this post will be from previous springs.  Not too springy looking here right now: still some snow cover in places, lots of mud and ugliness.  Still.

Here are six blessings from the week, in no particular order:

1.  Although the photo at top is from a previous spring, I'm happy to report that the daffodil plants are pushing up in this sheltered area at my childhood home.  It gladdened our hearts to see them yesterday!
St. Patrick's Day ribbon board -- from a previous year
 2.  Being able to get some new walking shoes yesterday!  My walking partner has some waterproof ones that she loves and that are holding up beautifully.  We finally took some time to visit the farm store where she had purchased hers.  She had given me all of the info and so when entering the shoe department I simply handed it to the salesperson.  Thanks to her expertise, I got a pair that were just as gloriously comfortable as my friend had promised.  And I like the color -- blue -- even better!  Best of all, we expended no money on this substantial purchase because my hubby had a generous gift card to this store, courtesy of his boss a few Christmases ago.
A green and white nod to St. Patrick's Day on the hutch -- also in a previous year
3.  A great Sunday last week.  All the more appreciated because its blessings are ones we won't have again for awhile.  A wonderful day in God's house, and visiting with old friends (that Sunday's pulpit supply) over lunch.  The messages from God's Word were great also, but that's a blessing we will still get to enjoy thanks to live streams from other churches.

This photo and the one below were taken a few years ago on a "mental health" spring hike with our daughter and family
4.  Lovely phone conversations with both of my daughters this week.  So good to be able to encourage one another in the Lord in these uncertain days.
 
5.  Blessed fellowship with our dear young friends Sam and Jennifer last Friday evening.  Words fail to convey what a blessing this mentoring opportunity is for us as we watch them grow stronger and stronger in the Lord.  Truly, they encourage us every bit as much as we encourage them (if not more so)!

Lake Winnipesaukee on a spring day a few years back
 6.  This one should have been first, but the peace God gives in difficult times has been a huge blessing throughout the week as we have seen life as we knew it turned completely upside down.  So thankful for His presence in our lives, His promises in His Word, and the sure knowledge that He is sovereign over every bit of this.
From a "mental health day" in the woods near our daughter's home a few years back
It's a gloriously sunny Saturday here, but somehow I don't think we will get out for a walk -- not a very long one, anyway.  The wind is at least 12 mph and so the temps currently are much lower than the sun might lead one to believe.  Still, I hope that each of you gets out for a little fresh air and sunshine!  We all need it for our mental health!