Thursday, November 27, 2014

Grace and Thanks

This painting hangs in my grandparents' house ("Grace" by Enstrom).  My grandmother has told me that she loves it because the man has only a bowl of soup, a loaf of bread and his Bible, but he's grateful for it all.  After seeing it on her wall for 37 years, I love it too. 

We have so much more than soup and bread this Thanksgiving.  We are grateful for the beautiful meal we will enjoy, the family we have, and for the season of Advent that is upon us.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

We are an Art Form, Part II

" is an amazing thought that we are the art form God can use in this area of environment to involve others who come into our presence.  Our conversations, attitudes, behaviour, response or lack of response, hardness or compassion, our love or selfishness, joy or dullness, our demonstrated trust and faith or our continual despondency, our concern for others or our self pity--all these things make a difference to the people who have to live in our 'environment'. Enthusiasm and excitement infect other people: expectancy that God can intervene and do something in this moment of history and doing something practical to show that expectancy in prayer, affects the attitudes other people are going to have to their troubles."

             --Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Waffles

We've got a gluten-free, dairy-free boy roaming these lands, and he is a Huge Eater.  He ate two waffles this morning.....

1 3/4 cup rice flour 
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar (I use sucanat) 

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Create a hole in the middle and add in: 

1 1/2 cups rice milk with 1 tsp. white vinegar swirled into the milk {if you are not dairy-free, use real buttermilk--from a local creamery, if you can get your hands on it! or half regular milk, half thick Greek yogurt--buttermilk makes these superb!}
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil

Mix and mix until well-combined with few lumps.  Then cook in your waffle iron.  They freeze very well...easy to pull out for those fast mornings when you have to be out the door quickly, and much, much cheaper than the store-bought waffles. 

My son tops his with nut butter...and sometimes a tiny sprinkling of chocolate chips. Yum. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Painted Table

Last month I painted a little table that sits in our main room and holds the water cooler--as well as the binoculars (for watching birds, checking up on cattle, and spying on turkeys) and some other essentials. 

It was brown with a black-faux-leathery-plasticy-top thing (I am not sure what the black material was).  I didn't dislike it, really; I just wanted a change! I remembered to take a "before" photo after I'd already started painting it!

I used a quart of "attitude grey" I found in our garage.  

Kind of a Scandanavian vibe--we're ready for winter now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Fish Pie

Here's my version of British fish pie--I used a Jamie Oliver recipe for inspiration and then morphed it to suit our needs.  It's great comfort food for these brisk autumn days!

*Peel and dice 1-2 regular potatoes and 1-2 sweet potatoes (I use a total of three potatoes) and place them in a pot set to boil. Boil them! 

While they are boiling, grate a carrot and place it in the bottom of a greased 8x8"-ish casserole dish.  Then stack a good layer of spinach on top. 

Use whatever fish you want as the next layer--I like to use one tilapia fillet per person, plus some salmon.  Cut the fish into small pieces and layer it on top of the spinach, then juice one lemon and pour juice on top of the diced fish. 

I create a bechamel sauce for some richness because we can't do cheese here.  To do that I melt 5 tablespoons of dairy-free butter and then whisk in 5 tablespoons of rice flour, then slowly whisk in 1-2 cups of rice milk.  I stir and cook until it is thick and smooth, and I always add some 'crazy salt' (a salt-pepper-spices combo that my family always has on hand). 

Pour the bechamel over the fish layer. 

Drain the potatoes, then mash them well, and spread them over the bechamel layer.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes.  We like to serve with steamed broccoli or roasted brussels sprouts--some kind of green wintry cruciferous vegetable!

It sounds like a lot of work, but it's really pretty easy, and worth it because both of my children polish off second-servings with gusto!  See also: omega-3s......

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Work of My Day

Just as I keep a loose schedule for cleaning through the week, I keep a daily rhythm as well.  This fall, here's what works in our household: 

Morning: Prayer time.  Stretching.  Drink water with lemon. Get dressed and do hair/makeup. Wipe down bathroom surfaces.  Put away all laundry. Serve breakfast. Unload dishwasher and clean kitchen from breakfast. Check email on phone. Feed dog.  Be sure children's chores are done. 

Each day is different, but I try to stick to a predictable routine (ish): piano practice after breakfast and school in the morning, with read-alouds and outside time in the afternoon. I like for us to spend 10-15 minutes tidying the house before dinner as well. 

Evening (after dinner): Clean kitchen, Prepare for breakfast.  Run dishwasher.  Take out trash and recycling.  Read bedtime stories.  Bring laundry upstairs in bins. Feed dog.  Be sure living area is tidy.  Computer time, shower and books.  Drink water with lemon.*

NOTE: This is my "ideal." I skip bits and pieces of my routines each day, but I like to think that on the balance it all works out!  I don't beat myself up when I leave things undone; I just try to do my best and get on with it!

 *I started drinking water and lemon faithfully after my spring facial this year--the aesthetician sold me on drinking plenty of water with lemon and on rhassoul clay! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Perfect Balance

Today after he preached the sermon at our church, my husband took our children to his parents' house for the afternoon.  During my free time I:

*read my devotional and prayed (about twenty minutes or so)
*napped for about an hour (I typically would not, but I'm battling a cold)
*enjoyed a very early, leisurely supper (not quite an hour)
*spent roughly two hours cleaning a bathroom, tidying the main room and our bedroom, decluttering the kitchen, and purging/tidying my daughter's room--the bulk of this was my daughter's room, which needed some attention!  And finally, after all that was done and I was feeling tired of working--
*spent one episode of "North and South" doing some applique onto a skirt I'm making

By the time my family arrived home I was rested, the upstairs was immaculately tidy (don't look at my son's room), candles were lit on the dining table, and I had even gotten some sewing done.  It was the perfect balance of activity and rest!

I record this here so that I can reference it when I'm planning my Friday afternoons.  On Fridays I have a babysitter who comes to care for our children from 1-5pm.  So I think, based on today, a good balance for Fridays would be:

*devotional time (20 minutes)
*writing/poetry time (40 minutes)
*a brisk walk (45 minutes--includes 5 minutes to drive to and from my walking destination)
*vigorous housework or house project work (60 minutes)
*sewing time (45 minutes)
...with a little buffer of about half an hour.

I am going to try this out on Friday!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Work of My Week

I currently have two young children who are with me at home all the time, one dog, one cat, and one fish...and an excellent husband.  Here's my weekly housekeeping routine! (It does tend to change from season to season.)

Monday: Laundry.  Quick-dust main room (living, dining). Vacuum first floor.  Wipe down inside of fridge.  Mop kitchen floor.  Prepare for Tuesday's outings.  Bath, face mask, manicure. 

Tuesday: Marketing and errands.  Windexing.*  Write letters/thank-you notes.

Wednesday: Laundry.  Tidy up basement. Vacuum and mop basement and dust one area. Clean basement bathroom. Paperwork (filing, to-do list, correspondence).  Prepare for Thursday's outings. 

Thursday: Change sheets on all beds. Clean the children's bathroom. Pick up children's rooms and quick-dust one of them.  Sweep off and tidy deck, patio and porch.  Bath, face mask, manicure, pedicure if needed. 

Friday: Laundry. Quick-dust our bedroom. Vacuum first floor. Projects! Lesson and menu plans. 

Saturday: Wash work clothes and church clothes, if needed. Prepare food for Sunday, if desired.  Set out clothes and prepare for Sunday breakfast. 

Sunday: Wash makeup brushes, water houseplants, wipe down fridge exterior and oil cutting boards.**


*Windexing means I choose one door or window to clean each week. This saves me from having to do all the windows at once--an overwhelming task. 

**I save my very favorite tasks for Sunday.  I typically don't really do much in the way of housework on Sunday, but I consider these chores 'fun' so they are my Sunday treats. 

Every month or so I scrub down the outside of the kitchen cabinets and do other little random tasks like wiping down doors and doorknobs, wiping down the stairwell, et cetera. I don't assign a schedule to these tasks...I just try to hit them when I can. 

The beauty of having a routine is that it is liberating! If you skip a day you know that next week you'll get back to it; conversely, you can easily turn off the cleaning switch when that day's tasks are done.

And I'm not a perfectionist; I'm very comfortable with "good enough." The Flylady is right--housework done imperfectly is still a blessing.  So do what you can and don't stress!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Work of the Day

"Laura and Mary helped Ma with the work. Every morning there were dishes to wipe. Mary wiped more of them than Laura because she was bigger, but Laura always wiped carefully her own little cup and plate. 

"By the time the dishes were all wiped and set away, the trundle bed was aired.  Then, standing one on each side, Laura and Mary straightened the covers, tucked them in well at the foot and the sides, plumped up the pillows and put them in place.  Then Ma pushed the trundle bed into its place under the big bed.

"After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day.  Each day had its own proper work.  Ma used to say: 

"Wash on Monday, 
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday, 
Rest on Sunday. 

"Laura liked the churning and the baking days best of all the week." 

--Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Winter Dinners

Comfort food doesn't have to be mac-and-cheese. For the dairy-free, gluten-free, or both, I submit this non-comprehensive list of dishes we all like: 

*black bean soup, cornbread, green salad (the adults eat salad; the children ignore it)--my children eat black bean soup by the gallon, it seems
*enchilada casserole with green sauce, refried beans, salad or steamed broccoli 
*salmon burgers, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts/steamed broccoli 
*southwestern chicken soup, cornbread, salad
*fish pie (an unfortunate name for a delicious warming dish), roasted cauliflower (see also: shepherd's pie, which is quite similar) 
*butternut squash-sausage over rice, kale chips
*chicken pot pie, kale or broccoli 
*polenta pizza topped with assorted roasted vegetables--you can add bacon if you want, or sausage
*red lentil-coconut-carrot-curried soup (a family favorite) with green veggies on the side, and maybe fresh (gluten-free) bread or biscuits 

Tonight I made a version of the enchiladas--simple and so delicious, just layers of salsa, corn chips, spinach, ground beef/spicy bechamel sauce (with onions, cumin, garlic, peppers), and green enchilada sauce. 

I personally adore making vegan or vegetarian meals--I'm talking lentil loaf, stir-fried tofu, Indian dhal, the works--as a former vegetarian, these are my favorites!!--but my children frequently reject these meals.  I try one every couple of weeks, though, just to keep their horizons broadened!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Life's Cornerstone

Here is a painting of our church.  I have been attending this church since we moved to the country when I was 8 years old.  We've had the same pastor the entire time--he officiated our wedding, he performed my mother's funeral, he baptized both of our children, and he sang gorgeous solos each time to commemorate the occasion.  

Attending this church was a happy accident. The story is that we'd just moved to the area and one day the pastor showed up at our door in his bib overalls with a church bulletin in his back pocket and mentioned something about needing a new Sunday school teacher.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Of course, many believers believe there's no such thing as coincidence.

My mother always said that this church reminded her of the song "Little Mountain Church House" as performed by Ricky Skaggs on the excellent "Will the Circle Be Unbroken II" album--which was a fixture of my childhood.  I know all the words to all the songs. 

I am so grateful for this little mountain church house as an instrument of nourishment and comfort for me over the years!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Grape Juice

A few weeks ago my neighbor brought over some home-canned grape juice.  She and her mother had bought loads of Concord grapes and turned them into delicious juice--no sugar. 

I waited until nighttime before I opened the first can.  And then I lost my head...because when I was growing up, we always had some grape juice on hand. My grandmother canned it using the Concord grapes she grew in her yard, and she used gallon jars and always left a layer of grapes in the bottom of the jar (I think it was a decorative touch).  That smell is unlike anything else; store-bought grape juice does not resemble it at all.  

I diluted the pint of grape juice with a pint of water, per my neighbor's instructions (she cans concentrate), and then I drank it.  And drank it. I think I drank half the quart. It was winter and I was 12 years old and we had just brought the grape juice up from the basement to open it.......


Thank you, Naomi!  I will be relishing these jars all winter long.