Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Supper in a hurry


My season of life right now is quite a busy one.  Last fall, it seemed that we often found ourselves finishing up a work session at my childhood home just in time to come home and figure out supper.  This spring, we are apt to get involved in work sessions at our little cottage, as there is much to do there to make it truly livable and comfortable. So we will be facing the same situation again.  I was talking with my friend Jennifer the other day about how challenging this is and how important it is to have in mind in advance what supper will be.

Many days, of course, I'll put something in the slow cooker ahead of time, and that works perfectly.  But there are many other days when a last-minute meal is in order.  It occurred to me that others might like some ideas for this sort of meal.  After all, the working person gets home just as tired and often has the same problem of figuring out a meal.  So does a stay-at-home mom with a fussy baby or a busy homeschooling schedule.  So I'll just share a few ideas I've relied on over the years, and a couple of newer ones.  Most of these meals use regular items you can just pull out of your pantry.

If you have an hour and a half-- this will be mostly unattended cooking -- make Chili-Topped Baked Potatoes.  Bake potatoes in the oven as you usually would.  Then, maybe 15 minutes before serving,  heat up canned vegetarian style chili to serve over them.  Serve with any kind of toppings that would be good on tacos -- shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce, chives or green onions.  This makes a wonderful supper on a cold night.  You could serve it with maybe a salad or baby carrots.

If you have an hour and fifteen minutes -- again, this will be mostly unattended baking -- make 

POLENTA BAKE

1 package of chicken sausage (fully cooked type such as Al Fresco) -- in the sweet apple flavor
1 large sweet onion
1 large apple (Honeycrisp is the best!) or 2 smaller apples
1 tube garlic and herb polenta
Olive oil
Salt & pepper (optional)

Have a 9 x 13-inch baking dish ready and just add the ingredients as you prepare them.  Slice up the chicken sausages.  I slice each one lengthwise and then cut them into about 1/4-inch slices crosswise.  Peel the onion, cut it in half and cut each half into wedges.  (Or cut them smaller if your onion is really huge.)  Wash, core and slice the apples into wedges.  Don't bother to peel them.  Then slice your polenta.  I cut it in quarters lengthwise and then slice it between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch thick.  Now drizzle some olive oil (at least a tablespoon, but it's up to you) over the ingredients in the baking dish.  Salt and pepper to taste if you like, but it's really optional.  I forgot it last time and the dish was still wonderful.  Stir everything together well.

Bake at 375ยบ for 1 hour.

I think you could make endless variations on this dish by using other flavors of sausage and including different vegetables like peppers, zucchini, etc. rather than apples.

This is the sausage that I use


If you have 45 to 60 minutes, you could make Corn Chowder or Clam Chowder.  Here is how I make corn chowder:

CORN CHOWDER

Use a heavy kettle or Dutch oven that will hold enough soup to feed your family. Chop 1 or 2 onions and, if you like (though these aren’t “traditional” ingredients) you can also chop a couple of celery ribs and shred a couple of carrots. Saute´these in your heavy kettle in some butter or olive oil. You won’t need much -- maybe a couple of tablespoons. Cook and stir until the vegetables are tender. Now, peel and dice as many potatoes as you need to feed your family. I would probably use at least four medium potatoes. Now add hot water to nearly cover the potatoes. Add a few shakes of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add 1 (15 oz.) can of whole kernel corn, undrained, 1 (15 oz.) can of cream style corn, and 1 can (13 oz.) evaporated milk. If you have a large family or a large kettle, you can add one more can of each. Heat through and add salt & pepper to taste. If you enjoy the flavor of herbs, a sprinkle of thyme and/or marjoram go nicely with corn chowder. Sprinkle with paprika before serving.

This would be great with whole wheat or multigrain bread. If you are feeding even heartier appetites, you could serve the chowder with grilled cheese sandwiches or tuna melts.

And here is my easy recipe for 

SIMPLE CLAM CHOWDER

2 Tblsp. butter
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
4 potatoes, peeled and diced (I like Yukon Gold)
2 cans chopped or minced clams, not drained
1 large can evaporated milk
Salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning and paprika to taste

In a large soup pot, melt the butter. Add celery and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are almost tender.  Add the clam juice; refill the bottle with water a couple of times and add the water to the pot as well.  Add the potatoes; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Stir in the clams and evaporated milk; heat through.  Add seasonings to taste.

There would be time while this simmers to make biscuits to accompany the chowder, if you like.  My favorite recipe for  biscuits is Iron Skillet Biscuits from Marilyn at Mountain Top Spice.

If you only have a half hour or so, you can make an easy dish we really like: Tuna Mac'n'Cheese.  Just make up 2 packages of boxed macaroni and cheese according to the package directions.  We buy the Annie's organic type so we don't feel quite so guilty about it.  The variety pictured below is the one I most often use.  Then just drain and flake a can of solid white tuna, mix it into the macaroni and cheese, and heat through.  That's it.  It would be good with a bagged salad, or coleslaw, or cooked frozen green beans or canned beets, heated, or even grape or cherry tomatoes.  Something to make the plate a little more colorful.



Also in the half-hour category:  Pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs or omelets would all make great quick meals if your family will eat breakfast for dinner.  Mine would always happily do that.  A fruit salad would be nice and you can make one quickly if you keep frozen and canned fruit on hand.

If you only have 15 or 20 minutes, you could make up some quick wrap sandwiches with any kind of wraps or with flour tortillas.  Spread these with mayo or mustard, layer in some sliced cheese, deli meat, lettuce, pickles, sliced tomatoes -- whatever you have.  If you have deli coleslaw, pasta salad or potato salad on hand, that is great.  If not, serve with any type of chips or raw vegetables -- or heat up a can of tomato soup.

Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup is a classic quick supper that most people enjoy.  My hubby and I also like fried egg sandwiches. We just fry the eggs and add a half slice of cheese on top of each.  Sometimes I will saute chopped green peppers and chopped onions (from bags of the frozen veggies) before adding the eggs.  Then we just make toast, sandwich the eggs in between and add ketchup or mustard.  All we need is a side of chips, salad, roasted veggies, baked beans, home fries or whatever we might have.

I hope that these simple ideas are helpful to someone as we come into the busy season of spring cleaning, gardening, house projects and more!

Monday, April 19, 2021

10 Questions to Reflect on 2020


 
These ten questions, from Holley Gerth, have been a part of my new-year reflections for awhile now.  As to why I'm posting about them now, in mid-April?   I've mentioned a few times recently that I've been really slow musing on the year just past and am trying to do so before it's really too late.  (Pretty sad, isn't it?  It's already "really too late" in most people's thinking.)  Again, if you don't want to hear even one more word about 2020, feel free to skip this post.  I won't blame you one bit -- I'm just writing these posts for my own information and remembrance.  Here we go:

1.  What went well this year?

This was 2020, after all -- the year of the coronavirus, during which nothing went as expected.  And yet we were still able to accomplish a lot in spite of it.  While churches were closed, we developed a new Sunday routine which included a special, leisurely breakfast;  Sunday School and worship service online and an afternoon routinely spent with family.

We also managed to fulfill some responsibilities (selling land for my dad's trust and getting his home completely emptied).  We took a trip to national parks out West with family; did a lot toward making our little cottage livable; did two sugar fasts and a lot of walking; and took several lovely getaways here in New Hampshire, even including a couples' retreat.
 
From our trip to some western national and state parks in summer 2020

I was thrilled to be able to make a number of handmade gifts for birthdays and Christmas this year.  I read  over a dozen books (that's a lot for me!), kept up somewhat with my blogs, and stayed current with my Sunday School lessons and Bible study in addition to doing several Scripture writing challenges throughout the year.
From our getaway to Deering, New Hampshire in October

Cleaning and then painting the kitchen cabinets at the cottage

Kids in the rafters as we worked at renovating our little cottage

From our getaway to Pittsburg, New Hampshire in September


2.  What did not go well?

Everyday life was somewhat frustrating, with coronavirus restrictions at every turn.  Dental needs went by the wayside.  For much of the year, thrift stores were not accepting donations; transfer stations (aka town dumps) had reduced hours; hazardous waste collections and document-shredding events were canceled.  All of these factors complicated the cleaning out of my childhood home, but we were eventually able to do most of what we needed to do.  I had also thought this might be the year we would declutter our own home once and for all, and be able to get the housework on a schedule, but with all of the complications mentioned above that didn't happen.  Hopefully in 2021!  We have a good start!

3.  What do I want to do the same this year? 

 I need to sell a final piece of property for the trust.  We want to do a lot of work on our cottage and we also hope to make fasting from sugar a more regular part of our lives.  I hope to continue walking a lot.  We had planned another trip out West to see family, and have in fact already completed that trip as of April 6.
The main reason for this visit: baby Rosemary!

Family pic from the last night: local granddaughter Julia, who went with us, is at right

4.  What do I want to do differently?

I want to do more crafting and more reading.  Completely declutter the house and get the housework on a workable schedule.  Do much more blogging.  Get much more serious with my Etsy shop.  It takes time, but must be done.

5.  When did I feel most in my "sweet spot"?

Sunday School lesson preparation  and teaching; getaways with my hubby; time with family and friends; crafting, blogging, journaling, planning.
 
Getaway to Back Lake, Pittsburg, NH

View from a covered bridge while visiting friends in Vermont
  

Another from our getaway to Deering, NH

6.  When did I feel the most exhausted and drained?

Dealing with difficult people and restrictions concerning the virus; coping with difficulties resulting from political fallout.

7.  What did I say "yes" to that I wish I had said "no" to?

At first I couldn't think of anything.  But then I remembered that photo shoot my son-in-law talked me and my hubby into, at Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  I'm just not photogenic.  Enough said.  But the sand dunes, seen below, definitely are.


8.  What did I say "no" to that I wish I had said "yes" to?

I couldn't think of anything in that category.

9.  What helped me to stay close to God this year?

Having a consistent quiet time and prayer life.  Relying on Him for wisdom and strength to handle the "pandemic".



10.  What did God teach me that I want to live out in the coming year?

He reminded me that He is always in control -- that even when things look out of control, they never have been, and never will be, out of His control.  I can trust Him through everything.  I feel that He also taught me -- or maybe reminded me -- that relationships with Him, with my family and church family, and my friendships with fellow believers are incredibly important and take precedence over any government orders to the contrary.
 

So there you have it .. a few reflections on 2020.  I do have one more post that I'd like to write on this topic, but we will see.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sunday Scripture

 

 Back in fall of 2020,  I did a study on 2 Corinthians with  Good Morning Girls.  Somehow,  I thought I had blogged about my study, but I guess that I have not.  (I did post a few thoughts on Instagram at the time, but I know that not all of my readers are on Instagram.)  So I think that for awhile, I will plan some Scripture posts for Sundays.

These will just be very, very simple posts about my study of a selected passage for each chapter of 2 Corinthians.  I'm just going to share from my journaling of each one.  I used the SOAP method of Bible study.  Bear with me on the autumnal graphics, which are also from Good Morning Girls.  If I happen to have other graphics for these verses, I will use them.  

So for 2 Corinthians chapter 1, the passage I looked at was verses 3-4.

S"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
"Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted on God."  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

O=  In verse 3, Paul blesses God, and addresses Him by several of His names:

God
The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
The Father of mercies
The God of all comfort.

This is the God who comforts us in all of our tribulations.  One purpose of our suffering is so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the same comfort with which God has comforted us.

A=  It's such a blessing to be reminded that our God is such a personal God.  He is indeed the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He has many reasons for allowing difficulty in our lives, including spiritual growth and the development of patience.  But He comforts us in all of our tribulations!  And one purpose is so that we can reach out to others in trouble, and comfort them as God has comforted us.

P=  "Lord, I thank and praise You so much that You are the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  These aspects of Your character bless my heart deeply.  I thank You so much for the many ways and situations in which You have comforted me.  I have felt at times even the sense of a reassuring hand on my shoulder, an assurance from You that all would be well.  I pray that You will help me to extend a comforting hand and word to those who need it most, and that You'd bring me across their paths.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

Friday, April 16, 2021

Opening up the cottage for the season

 

One of the kitchen windows.  The breadbox will not "live" in that particular spot; it's just handy there for now as it contains napkins for the kids to use for their cookies.

Although snow is currently falling outside my window -- a crazy spring storm that is frosting the forsythia and other seasonal blooms -- there were some beautiful days last week, and we were able to open up our little camp for the season.  Very exciting!  Here are some photos from one of those days.

Here's another shot from the same window (but there are four windows in this tiny kitchen!).  This one doesn't show the dilapidated outhouse, soon to be replaced.  It also doesn't show what I saw when I first opened the windows last Thursday:

Yes, there were sap buckets on some of those trees!  Lord willing, next spring there will be even more.  But I'd forgotten to bring the camera on Thursday, so couldn't get a photo.  Before that day was done, Mr. T and the grandkids had taken all the sap buckets down.
Another kitchen view.  The canisters at this point contain K-cups and clothespins.  I've yet to use that percolator but I think it looks so perfect there.  We bought a Keurig on a black Friday sale to use at the camp.  So convenient!  We don't even have one of those at home, but it's just right for the camp.
Out the bathroom window.  So many old stone foundations around this place!  we plan to plant bulbs and summer flowers out there.
The sleeping nook and its window.  This view looks out to the dirt road.

The old pump organ in the large room.  You can see into the center room (those curtains -- which I assumed were gray until I soaked them multiple times in Oxi-Clean -- hide the sleeping nook) and on into the kitchen where you see my hubby standing.  Love the slightly curved archway into the kitchen.  The green area above the pine paneling marks the original roof line of the little logging camp that forms the first two rooms.  We'll be keeping it green for the historical value.

The coasters above were a Christmas gift from our two  oldest granddaughters.  They selected these designs with the camp in mind!
Out a screened window: Loon Lake is in the distance.
Large screened windows with the table beneath.
Mr. T made this bookcase for my sister.  When we cleaned out the old homestead, we decided the bookcase would work well at the camp.  It's next to another of the large screened windows.
 
My hubby works at cutting up some fallen limbs that came down over the winter.  Arielle (below) helped by carrying the pieces to the campfire pit.  Then she turned to collecting sticks from around the yard and placing them at the fire pit as well.


Grandson Sam is just emerging from the woods between their place and ours.  There's not much sweeter than seeing them come along one of the paths through the woods or riding up the dirt road on their bikes!

Hope you've enjoyed this look at our simple little cottage as we prepare for a spring and summer of work and play over there.  Lord willing, a lot of exciting changes are coming.

Monday, April 12, 2021

End of the year book talk

 

Oh my!  Was it really as far back as July 2020 when I blogged about books I had read so far that year?  Obviously, it's long past time to rectify that.  Four of the books I'm mentioning here were ones I found in clearing out the homestead.  We were a family of book lovers!  As I've probably noted before in this space, there were books in every single room, including the cellar and one of the bathrooms.

August: Vet in the Vestry, by Alexander Cameron.  Publisher's Weekly described the book like this: "The colorful, charming story of a country-veterinarian-turned-country-minister--a healer of body and soul. Told with wry Scottish wit, these stories are filled with the kind of hearty embrace of human and animal ways that are reminiscent of James Herriot. Engaging . . . rich in local color."  

The writing, in my view, was quite a bit different from the writing of James Herriot, and not quite as good.  It was a good read, however, and there were several places where I laughed uncontrollably.  This book can be found on Thriftbooks. com, where I took the screenshot below.  I did end up donating this book, as I'm pretty sure I won't read it again.

October: Now I Remember, by Thornton W. Burgess.  This autobiography was very good. 

If the name Thornton W. Burgess sounds familiar, it's because he was a prolific writer of children's nature stories and other nature books for children.  Below are pictured just two of his many, many books for kids.


He also wrote newspaper columns on the same subject matter.  It was very interesting to read about how Mr. Burgess got his start in writing, and how little he was paid.  He had many wonderful memories and reminiscences to share, including meeting Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the well-known medical missionary to Labrador and Newfoundland.

November: In My Father's House, by Corrie ten Boom.  This book was excellent.  It tells the story of the years before The Hiding Place, and clearly shows how God gave Corrie the spiritual stability to stand so strong for Him even amid the horrors of a concentration camp.  The book jacket says, in part: "In My Father's House is a testament to how God prepared one family through a father's faithfulness to his Savior and the Word of God for the most sacrificial service a family could do. Beginning in the years before Corrie was born, the book paints a beautiful picture of "family" from which today's families can glean valuable and eternally-lasting lessons."  You can find several editions of the book here: In My Father's House.


 Also in November: Something on the Wind, by Barbara Moore.  This is the fictional but very moving story of two mules and a dog and how they made their way back to their home and to their master, a traveling photographer from whom they had become separated while on the road.  I enjoyed the book a lot, but it wasn't a "must read again", so it was donated to a thrift store.

December: Shepherds Abiding, by Jan Karon.  

Photo is of the audiobook, but the book jacket has the very same artwork.  Stunning!
 
The book description at Thriftbooks.com reads, "Millions of Americans have found Mitford to be a favorite home-away-from-home, and countless readers have long wondered what Christmas in Mitford would be like. The eighth Mitford novel provides a glimpse, offering a meditation on the best of all presents: the gift of one's heart. Since he was a boy, Father Tim has lived what he calls 'the life of the mind' and has never really learned to savor the work of his hands. When he finds a derelict nativity scene that has suffered the indignities of time and neglect, he imagines the excitement in the eyes of his wife, Cynthia, and decides to undertake the daunting task of restoring it. As Father Tim begins his journey, readers are given a seat at Mitford's holiday table and treated to a magical tale about the true Christmas spirit."

I love this book and read it every year around Christmas time. 

 That makes a total of 15 books read in 2020, although really it should be 14 because I read Shepherds Abiding twice, once in January and once in December!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Better late than never: Beginning to review 2020

 

So I'm shamelessly borrowing questions from a New Year Hodgepodge that I never got around to answering back in January.  I've actually done very little in the way of reviewing 2020, so it seemed as if this could be a relatively painless way to jump into it.  Bear with me ... if you're not interested in thinking even one other thought about 2020, I completely understand.  Feel free to skip this post if you're in that camp.

1. Tell us about your favorite moment or share one of the bright spots from the year we're leaving behind. 

One of the brightest spots, which contained many favorite moments, was our trip with family to visit several state and national parks, including Zion and Grand Canyon.
Grandkids Elliott, Jerusha, Micah and Nathan at Zion National Park


Grand Canyon sunset

Granddaughter Sarah at the Grand Canyon

2. What do you wish you'd known at the start of 2020? Elaborate. 
 
Kind of a moot point, since none of us ever know what a day may bring forth (Proverbs 27:1).  But I think if I'd realized how swiftly our civil liberties and constitutional rights could be set aside in the name of "health", I would certainly have appreciated them much more.

3. Best book you read this year? If you did not read any books this year, what's the best thing you ate all year? We've all eaten, right? 
 
Wow, what a question!  I will probably have to go with In My Father's House, by Corrie ten Boom.  This book fills in the details of the years before The Hiding Place.  It certainly showed me more of the wonderful spiritual foundation Corrie was blessed with, and how she was able to stand so strong even inside a  concentration camp.   If you are interested, you can find several inexpensive editions of the book here: In My Father's House.

4. The Pantone Colors of the year for 2021 are ultimate gray and illuminating yellow (a bright shade)...are you a fan? Would we find either of these colors in your home or wardrobe? 
 
Just went and looked at these colors of the year, which as a rule I seldom pay much attention to.  I found the print below on Etsy at .teadesignshop.
 

I probably wouldn't use these colors in my home, but I actually like them both quite a bit and can see myself wearing either one of them, or both together.

Although, in regard to home decor, the kitchen cabinets at our camp, I'm thinking now, have been painted a color quite a bit like this gray.  See what you think:

5. If you were/are making a list of 21 things to do/accomplish in 2021 what is one thing that would be on it? 
 
Fully declutter our home and downsize our belongings. 

Graphic is by Becki at Field Lilies, who has been a great inspiration to me with decluttering and disposing. 

6. Insert your own random thought here.
 
Why, readers may ask, has it taken me so long to begin reviewing 2020?  I guess probably the biggest reason is that my hubby and I jumped into decluttering and cleaning in a pretty big way in the new year.  Also we took a couple of getaways (during which I was sure I'd have time to think back over the year! ๐Ÿ˜) and spent a lot of March preparing for our trip to Nevada.

So ends this very random post.  I'm beginning to feel ready to review more of 2020, so some more posts on that are likely to be forthcoming soon.  Consider yourself warned ...