A Year of Love

January 4, 2012

I love this time of year! I’ve always enjoyed making plans for improving myself in the coming year and reviewing how I did with my goals for the year past. I realize, though, this is a slippery time of year for some.

Over the holidays I happened to be around a television and I noticed there were a lot of dieting and dating commercials. I think there must have been a survey showing that people feel fat and lonely this time of year, and their goals for the new year are directed at making themselves more desirable and available. I know a little bit about that, but I’ve come a long way by making one major change in my life: I retuned my radio.

The Wrong Message: The world has a message for you and it’s repeated over and over on every channel: “You are not good enough, you are not trying hard enough, and you don’t have the right tools to be the best you can be BUT that’s okay because I have all the answers. Just do what I say and it will all work out for you. Call now and have your credit card ready.” It’s no wonder so many people have self-esteem issues. “You may be the best in your field, but those unsightly wrinkles are making you look old and tired! Those bags under your eyes could be treated with expensive laser surgery or you could buy this miracle cream (and if you don’t buy it, you will just have to suffer with makeup)!” Even a good nights sleep, a glass of water, a well balanced meal, and someone to talk to are marketable items that could not possibly be attained properly without some investment, according to the world. Most of us know a thing or two about taking care of ourselves and don’t always buy the hype, but there are scare tactics for intelligent consumers too. “THAT water has babaphyl* in it, a known carcinogen! THIS water has cupaflor* in it, a hazardous vapor! OUR water has nothing in it and only cost as much as your sofa! Think of your family! BUY our filter!” [*these are made up chemicals representing the latest discussions in the real food community].

Now some people might expect me to say that getting rid of your television is the way out of this mess, but really that’s the tip of the iceburg. I don’t watch tv and I’m still surrounded by the message that I am not good enough. I see it in town, in magazines, on the internet, and even repeated by well-meaning people.

The only answer for this world is love. You can’t buy it. You can’t sign up for it. It’s not for sale. It’s a free gift from above. Some people would say it comes from within. Whatever you believe…love does not care how you find it. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not brag. It is not proud. It disrespects no one. Is never selfish. Is not easily angered. It keeps no tally of faults. Love rejoices in the truth. It is a shield. It is trusting. It is hopeful. It withstands everything. It will never fail.

How to find love: The world would have you believe that in order to find love you have to meet that special someone. In the process you must kiss a few frogs, play a few games, and frequent the swimming ponds of potential mates or hope for a miraculous coincidence called destiny. The world even has it’s own definition of love. It’s sometimes jealous, insatiable, and unforgiving. It keeps a tally of faults, and shares them for sympathy or a good laugh. It must be pleased. It is up for question. It can be dull and lasting, or as intense and fleeting as the weather. It is a feeling of complete joy when you are together, and utter sadness when apart. It is “perfect”, rare, and fails most of the time. Hmm…that sounds nothing like the kind of love mentioned above.

Real love is all around us. You just have to know what to look for. Go back to the definition. Did you know that someone already loves you just as completely as all of that? I know it’s hard to imagine, but how would you live your life differently if you really believed you were loved so completely just the way you are? How would you live if you imagined that everyone is loved like this, just as they are right now, no strings attached? Imagine that!

What goals would you make for your life in 2012 if you were covered in unconditional love? How would you live this year differently if you treated yourself with unconditional love? Go back to the definition. Imagine a year of patience, kindness, no envy, respect, humility, selflessness, quietude, forgiveness, honesty, fortitude, faith, hopefulness, and perseverance. Maybe it’s time to stop asking the world to intercede for your future, and turn to the one who calls you wonderful. It is my hope for all of you, dear readers, that this will be a year of love.

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My Favorite Christmas Gift

December 23, 2011

Christmas gift giving traditions in our families range from going all out to no exchange at all. I love them all but my favorite tradition is the one Seth and I started when we were married. Every year we pick a cause that’s important to the other person and gift a donation in their name. We agree on the amount before hand and then write each other a card describing how their gift will benefit others and why it was chosen for them. Our Christmas cards to each other are best described as love letters that bring great warmth and treasure to our lives. We lift each other up in these cards, fondly remembering the qualities that brought us so close to begin with and our compassion for this broken world. It is the best gift any of us can give or receive.

Now, you may be thinking that sounds wonderful but you feel more like a charity case yourself. The great thing about giving to God is that he can use any contribution and multiply it for his purpose. The point is not how much money we can give, but how much faith, for with God nothing shall be impossible!

If you are interested in looking into organizations that use “More with Less” principles, the following are our favorites: Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Economic Development, and Mennonite Disaster Service.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Blessings in the New Year!

This is the blanket I'm working on!

About this time every year I dig out my dusty crochet hooks and knitting needles. Something about the holidays and cold winter renew my interest in these hobbies. Now, with a baby on the way, I’m not really interested in knitting holiday gifts. I’m brushing up on my stitching skills to make all those cute baby goods!

Many years ago, I taught myself how to knit and crochet with a little help from the internet. I’m not naturally gifted at learning crafts, and this wasn’t my first attempt, so I thought I would share what worked and what didn’t. First of all, forget the books until later. They can be very overwhelming and frustrating if you have a problem. The best site, hands down, for learning how to knit is knittinghelp.com. The short videos are easy to follow and review. In less than 10 minutes you could begin knitting your own scarf or hat! You can also ask for help if you get stuck ;) After I learned how to knit, I wanted to learn crocheting, because I read that it was faster for some people. To learn how to crochet, the first three videos on knitwitch.com will get you started! Some people may not learn as well with videos and prefer a teacher to guide them. Ask around and see if anyone is willing to show you!

Now, you may be wondering which craft is better. It really depends on your project, and what type of crafter you are. Knitting generally makes a lighter, more pliable fabric if the same yarn is used. Knitting the English way can also be done while watching a movie. It’s also harder to lose your place or forget what size needle was being used because the project stays on the needles until finished. That being said, it is my opinion that it takes longer and mistakes, almost always take more work to fix. I think crocheting is easier but remember that we are comparing two very simple hobbies. If you don’t believe me, watch the videos! Asking which craft is easier or faster is like asking about cursive or print writing. It really depends on you, and how difficult you want to make it!

If you are ready to get started on a project, I would still hold off on spending any money. There are many free patterns online. A pattern is a good place to start before building up a collection of needles and hooks you may never use. Begin with a simple project and buy the items required for it. The start up cost should be less than $10. Once you get started you will be able to discern which novelties are practical and which are unnecessary.  A general rule I follow is that it should cost less to make my own, than to buy a similar item of similar quality. Ready to hunt for a pattern? Crochet Pattern Central and Knitting Pattern Central should keep you busy!

Menu Plan for 2 Weeks

December 5, 2011

As I mentioned before, I recently started using Plan to Eat for meal planning, and I’m in love with it! This week I decided to take it a step further and plan for two weeks! I also got the grocery shopping out of the way and was greatly relieved to see our average weekly cost plummet just by planning ahead! Here is our meal plan for the next two weeks:

Monday: Pinto Bean Soup (recipe coming soon) with kale and corn bread

Tuesday: Beef Pot Pie made with venison and homemade pie crust

Wednesday: Homemade Tomato and Spinach Pizza

Thursday: Friendship Soup Mix in a Jar (to try it out before making gifts)

Friday: All Day Beef Stew made with canned venison

Saturday: Crock Pot No-Fuss Potato Soup (made with milk)

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Dal Saag (Indian Lentils with Spinach) recipe coming soon!

Tuesday: Easy Bean Cassoulet with cooked dry beans

Wednesday: Mini Shepherd’s Pie with broccoli

Thursday: Layered Mexican Dip and chips

Friday: Homemade Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza

Saturday: Make Ahead Vegetarian Moroccan Stew

Sunday: Leftovers

It’s your turn to share! Join the Linky at Orgjunkie.com

Have a delicious week!

 

One of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes is the traditional Green Bean Casserole. This year I decided to make it a little extra special with some homemade goodness! After playing around in the kitchen for awhile, I ended up creating my own recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup. Now I’m sharing it with you to distract myself from “taste testing!”

Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • Oil
  • 1 package (10oz) fresh mushrooms finely chopped
  • 12 onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper optional

Directions

  1. Saute mushroom and onion in half the butter called for, with enough oil to avoid sticking to pan after the water from the mushrooms evaporates. Set aside.
  2. Stir cornstarch into milk and add to skillet with cream and butter. Cook on medium, stirring constantly, until thickens. Salt and pepper to taste. Add mushroom mixture.
  3. Add to casserole or serve as sauce over noodles. Makes 2 cans worth.

View recipe at plantoeat.com

 

 

A few things have happened!

November 15, 2011

Earlier this year I gave up blogging. I was enjoying reading other blogs more than I was enjoying keeping my own. I have to admit to comparing myself to other writers and feeling a bit overwhelmed by what may be expected here. I forgot that this is for my own joy and well being, as much as it is for anyone else. I have always been compelled to write and if these words don’t appear here, they will appear somewhere. I think this is a great place to come back to and share the latest phase of our journey.

Something very exciting has happened since I last wrote:

I have gotten huge! Hmm…I wonder what that’s about? Guess we will find out in February! ;) Just kidding! You know I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

We also feel pretty blessed to have discovered this in our price range:

The other pictures didn’t turn out so well, so you will just have to imagine our little farm house for now. We sealed the deal a little over a month ago and now we are (slowly) setting up house. The place feels huge after living in our tiny apartment above the garage. It’s also not much more than what we were paying for rent, but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of up-front costs with home ownership! I’m still loving every bit of it though!

We have been really busy, I guess! I hope you will excuse my little sabbatical. I can’t wait to start sharing all the things I have saved up! Feel free to lend us some advice in the comments and let me know what you have been up to!

Sweet Cabbage

March 17, 2011

Last night our church had a St. Patrick’s Day inspired pot luck! All of the dishes were amazing and of course there were the traditional corned beef, cabbage, and potato dishes! I brought along a pot of sweet cabbage and true to Irish staples, the dish only cost about $1 to make!

This recipe goes way back. My grandmother would make this all the time, with franks or kielbasa. We always called it sauerkraut because that was the main ingredient. The first time I served this to my husband with hot dogs, he laughed at me. He absolutely loved it but he said we had to call it something else. The main ingredient has since changed from the canned stuff to a head of cabbage, but I will provide instructions for both methods.

Ingredients:

One head of cabbage, shredded or chopped
Half an onion, chopped (optional)
Oil (I use a combination of olive, coconut, and butter)
Caraway seeds
Balsamic Vinegar (or apple cider vinegar but it will taste different)
Raw sugar (refined sugar is fine too)
Salt

I coat the bottom of a large stew pot in oil and heat on medium. Then I add the cabbage, stirring frequently to coat with oil, for about 15 minutes. The raw cabbage takes up a lot of space, but it cooks down to about 2 qts. While this is cooking I heat a cup of water with about an 1/8 a cup of raw sugar, and 1/2 a tsp. of salt in the microwave to dissolve. To this I also add about 2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar so the color of the water is as dark as molasses. Then I pour this mixture over the cabbage, along with plenty of caraway seeds, stir it in and cover for 10 minutes until the cabbage is soft. I always taste before serving, adding more salt, sugar, or balsamic as preferred.

To make it with canned sauerkraut you first drain and rinse 2 cans worth. Then you bring to a boil in just enough water to cover, and drain and rinse again. The cabbage is already cooked so no frying is necessary, making this a low-fat alternative if you like. From here you add the water, sugar, salt, balsamic mixture and caraway seeds. Bring to a boil and then taste for any last minute additions.

My grandmother makes it by rinsing the brine solution off the sauerkraut, then boiling it with brown sugar. That’s it! There are so many ways to make this your own!

I have since tried real sauerkraut. I’m not a fan, but that may change when I get my hands on a recipe! I’m looking forward to starting some fermenting projects when the weather warms up a bit. What about you? Do you like sauerkraut? If not, I think you will really appreciate this alternative.

Happy St. Patty’s Day!