Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Contentment Is Not

I've been thinking about contentment and how it affects the choices I make in many areas of life. I may write more about the topic in the future for now I want to share a quote that I am mulling the last few days.

I happened to pick up Margin by Richard A. Swenson which has been on my shelf unread for a long time. I liked his chapter on contentment and this quote is from it. Italics are mine.


Contentment isn't the complacency that defeats any attempt to make things better, but instead the willingness to work tirelessly for improvement, clinging to God rather than results. It isn't a feeling of well-being contingent on keeping circumstances under control, but instead a joy that exists in spite of circumstances and looks to the God who never varies. It isn't the comfortable feeling we get when all our needs and desires are met, but instead the security in knowing, as A. W. Tozer reminds us, that "The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One." - Richard A. Swenson

I hope that someday I'll have time to write real posts instead of sharing quotes.

But my canner has been in business every day this week. Until the canner goes on a sabbatical, I'm stuck in the kitchen scrubbing pots.

And trying to build a heart of contentment.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dilly Rolls



I have not been making much bread this summer. But I finally have some dill growing in my herb garden again (more on that topic in a later post) and I wanted to try some dilly rolls.

This is a simple yeast bread. Don't expect a light, puffy dinner roll. These are a rustic, hearty-type roll - absolutely perfect with a roast beef dinner.



I wanted to make sure they had a good dill flavor so after looking at several recipes I added both dill seed and dill weed, plus an onion. (Dill weed is the leafy green part of the dill plant.)

My children thought the flavor of these rolls was a little strong - but they helped themselves to seconds and thirds. I thought it was perfect. You can adjust the flavor to your liking by decreasing the dill and onion if you wish.

I'm looking forward to enjoying these rolls this fall with a pot of beef stew.



Dilly Rolls

1 cup milk
1 T honey
4 T oil
2 T instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1 onion, diced
4 T finely shopped fresh dill weed
1 T dill seeds
2 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups white flour

Add all ingredients except white flour to mixing bowl. Stir well. Add white flour as needed to make a soft, slightly tacky dough. Knead for five minutes.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Let raise until doubled, about 1 hour. Divide dough into 24 pieces and roll into balls. Place on a greased baking sheet. If desired, brush tops with a beaten egg. Raise for 30 minutes or until doubled.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.




Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August Garden Plans

Have I told you how much I love August? 

Even when it is busy. 

Even when I gauge my day's task on what is going to rot first.

I just love, love, LOVE the fresh eating in August. I could turn into a vegetarian this month.

I love heaping a pizza so full of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onions that you can't find the crust. I love hearing the sound of the pressure canner sizzling. I love smelling ripe peaches on a bowl on the counter. 

I love sitting down to a meal and hearing Ed say "Did you take a picture of this? It just looks too good." And the children groan because they think Mom takes way too many photos of food already. But August food is almost too pretty to eat.

August garden goals are simple. 

1. Try to not let too much go to waste.

2. Try to save my sanity in the frantic rush of garden preserving.

3. Try to save up memories of the abundance for February. 



One of the big tasks this month was harvesting our potatoes. After several dry weeks, the potato plants had died back. I knew the top potatoes would start getting green if we didn't get them dug. And if it did begin to rain, we'd acquire a huge crop of weeds.  And I hate pulling weeds before digging potatoes.

We planted far too many potatoes this year and they produced very well. There was hardly any little potatoes and many whoppers.


Fun for everyone, whether your task is finding the potatoes or playing in the dirt.



After all the potatoes were dug (and task that we did one or two rows at a time and so stretched out for two weeks) I hand broadcasted some buckwheat seed for a cover crop. I hoped that if it began to rain, the seeds would sprout and choke out the weeds.


But the next morning I looked out the window to find a wild mother turkey with her five almost-grown offspring. They were busy scratching and pecking - enjoying the buck wheat seed. Since then we have seen this family many times in the garden. I doubt there is any seed left. 

But I love seeing wildlife and it has been so dry that the seed probably wouldn't have sprouted anyway. At least something is getting a benefit from it.



In our other garden, our new patch of strawberries is struggling. I put in a soaker hose to keep it watered over our dry spell but they still are not flourishing.

Behind them are very weedy carrots. They have struggled with groundhogs and drought. I'm about ready to give up and pull them out even though they are only a few inches long.

The zinnias are tall and flourishing. My daughter asked why I wasted garden space on flowers but she has enjoyed picking many bouquets for the table. We often find several swallow tail butterflies enjoying the blooms.


A few weeks ago, a Home Joys reader that I met in person asked how my garden was doing. I said that I know it is August when all I want is my husband to go into the garden with the weed eater. And not long afterward he did. Ed cleared this area of the huge weeds and shaggy green beans.

I planted some late cabbage and broccoli and hid it under row cover from the cabbage worms. I'm also picking red beets, zucchini, and basil from this part of the garden. I threw some buck wheat seeds in the empty areas here but I don't see much result. Maybe the turkeys have visited this garden too. But more likely that the drought has hindered germination. At least no weeds can sprout either.


The tomatoes have succumbed to blight. I'm still picking a few but the plants are nearly all dead. In contrast, the peppers in the middle are lovely. I don't think I have ever had such tall lush pepper plants and the peppers themselves are too pretty too eat. Except that I do anyway.



I'm not sure if our late patch of sweet corn will mature since it has been so dry. But we already have plenty of corn in our freezer so the only goal for this patch was fresh eating.


Other things are  growing besides our garden. We knew our cat had kittens earlier this summer but we could not find them. We figured she only had one or two kittens and hid them in the woodshed. The night we were out in the garden with the weed eater and tiller, a little furry face peeked out of the wood pile.

Our little girlie was thrilled! I figured that only one kitten had survived from the litter - but the children started searching...



And they pulled out five more kittens out of the woodpile! What a surprise. 



We moved the kittens to a box, which they tolerated only when they didn't feel like escaping back into the woodpile. The children enjoyed their new playmates for a few weeks but, as of today, we found good homes for each of the kittens.

What is growing at your house?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Daily Prayer for Daily Needs

It is August. 

And for many of us that means more tasks to do than hours of the day. 

As one friend told me recently, "August is a tyrant. Every morning it tells me what I must do, whether peaches or tomatoes or corn."

To the gardening tasks is added school preparations, summer traveling, and all the regular laundry/cleaning/cooking - it is no wonder August is busy for a homemaker.

I've talked to some of you and heard of your burdens. Sick babies. A husband taking cancer treatments. Relationship difficulties. Church stress. Financial strain. Increasing evil in our society. 

There is much we can worry over. The future looks scary. If August is overwhelming - the next year, or ten years - can appear even worse.

But I found this quote that blessed me.

“True prayers are born of present trials and present needs. Bread for today is bread enough. Bread given for today is the strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow. Victory today is the assurance of victory tomorrow. Our prayers need to be focused upon the present. We must trust God today, and leave the morrow entirely with Him. The present is ours; the future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty of each recurring day -- daily prayer for daily needs.” 
- E.M. Bounds

God provided manna for each day, but only enough for that one day. There was no need to stockpile manna for the next day. I too I can trust God for today and leave tomorrow with Him.

My worries don't help Him take better care of the future. I can read in the Bible that ultimately God will overcome. He doesn't win by a slim margin but He is total Victor. Every knee will bow before Him. No evil will stand before His power.

He gives me grace for today's task. He doesn't ask for my help for the future.

And that is hope for August.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

BLT Wrap




After a day of canning, the last thing I want is to heat up the kitchen making supper.

So when a Home Joys reader sent a recipe for BLT wraps, I knew it was one I wanted to try.



And yum! These are so good. I had to let out the tomatoes for my children (the poor things don't know what they are missing) but Ed and I can eat a crazy amount of these.

Thanks Shi-Enne for sharing this recipe (which I adapted slightly with what I had on hand).



BLT Wraps

Ranch dressing
10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup chopped tomatoes (grape tomatoes are less juice - but I used what I had)
dash of salt and pepper
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 burrito sized tortillas (I only had small fahita-sized tortialls when I was taking these photos so they were overloaded. I should have used six of the smaller size.)

Spread dressing on tortillas. Sprinkle salt and pepper on tomatoes. Layer tomatoes, lettuce, and bacon on tortillas. Wrap tightly and serve.



What is your favorite don't-heat-up-the-kitchen meal?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Q&A - Balancing Housework

Recently a Home Joys reader asked some questions that I've received in various forms numerous times so I decided to share my attempt at an answer here.

Question: We homeschool too, and I was hoping for some feedback as to how do you try to keep schooling simple.  How do you balance the housework (involve the kids in the housework) and the school work?  I find we keep a nice house or do really well on our school work.  I haven't quite figured out how to balance the two.  Any ideas or suggestions?  I am drawn to simplicity, but tend to make everything complicated!  What about January....will you be taking a break from schooling since baby is due?  - Joanne

When I read Joanne's question my first thought was - I have no answers. I have often told Ed that I'm either a good housekeeper or a good mom/teacher - I can't do both well.

But the fact is that I have to do both. I have to continue to teach and train my children even when there are dishes, dust, and laundry. I've tried to watch older moms, like my own mother, and learn some tips from them.

I'm not a naturally organized person - too impulsive and scatter-brained to have a detailed schedule but as my responsibilities increase I've been forced to learn to be better organized. Some days go smoothly and I think I'm getting the hang of it. Other days prove I have much more to learn.

I have no idea the ages of your children, Joanne, but I'll just share what works for us. Our first four children are ages eleven to six. We also have a nineteen-month-old toddler and a baby due in January.

How to keep schooling simple?

I try to evaluate our curriculum choices partly on how much teacher planning/teaching is required. For example, we have found Christian Light Education's math a good fit for us as the children can do much of their math independently. Right now all the children are doing history, science, and Bible together which means I only need to prepare one lesson for all of them. This probably won't work always but for now it is a good option for our family.

I've had to learn to be okay with not doing every craft project, reading every book, and completing every science experiment. It is especially dangerous for me to compare myself with other moms online who seem to be so much more creative and artistic than I. We try to focus on the basics, read lots and lots of books, and fit in the other things as we find time.

How do you balance the housework (involve the kids in the housework) and the school work?

You are right, Joanne, children are the key. My husband is always telling me that I don't expect enough out of my children. Or as my dad would say, I'm not utilizing my resources.

What has worked for me is to identify which areas of housework are my priority. What are the things  that will drive me (or my husband) crazy if they are not done. The areas I chose are keeping up with laundry, washing dishes, sweeping the dining room floor, and picking up toys. I took those four areas and assigned my four oldest children a specific job after breakfast and after lunch that addresses those areas.

For example, one child may wash dishes at breakfast and vacuum the dining room after lunch. The next week all the chores rotate to the next child and he may sort laundry after breakfast and clean up the living room toys after lunch. Initially, it took a lot of training and encouragement for them to do their chores. We started slowly with only one new job at a time. But now they can (usually) do their chores without prompting.

If I get no other cleaning done, at least I know that those areas that most bother me are being touched. On the weekend I try to scrub the bathrooms and vacuum the whole house. (We live in a one-story house and it doesn't take long to vacuum. If we had a two-story house, I can almost guarantee the upstairs would not be vacuumed every week.) Sometimes it can go a long time (probably too long) before I scrub the kitchen floor, clean out the fridge, or dust the furniture but at least, with the children's help, I can keep up with what I consider basic housekeeping.

I find that I can fake a clean house as long as I keep the clutter of daily living picked up and put away. And it certainly helps with the whole family's morale to live in a reasonable tidy house. Not to mention being able to find their belongings.

I also find it helpful to streamline as many chores as possible. For example, I placed the dishes in a low cupboard so the children can put them away. This also allows them to set the table. A stool is handy in the kitchen so they can reach the kitchen sink and the drain tray. (We don't have a dishwasher.) If you find a task too hard for a child, look for a way to make it easier.

Another example: My laundry is in the basement. I placed two large plastic totes - one light colored and one dark colored - by the washing machine. Each morning one girl and one boy are assigned the job of taking the laundry from their rooms to the basement and sorting it in either light or dark.

I take care of the laundry sorting in my room and the bathrooms. When one tote is full (nearly every day) I throw that load in the washing machine and hang it out.

I'm in the process of training my oldest to do more of the laundry. On Monday, when I was laid up with a sprained foot, I hobbled down and got her started with the laundry but she then laundered, hung outside, and brought in all the Monday laundry.

Ed is probably right, I don't expect enough of my children. They can rise to the challenge when needed. But please don't get some crazy idea that we are perfect. I still hear lots of complaining - and if I don't keep inspecting, there is always someone who is trying to escape their chores and shirk their duty.

What about January....will you be taking a break from schooling since baby is due? 

I have no idea. Really. I'm trying to work ahead on schoolwork so if we need to, we can take off. We probably will take little or no vacation over Christmas to save it for January. I want the freedom to be flexible over that time.

But with my last January baby I took very little time off school. I was spending my days on the couch holding the baby, I wasn't doing any housework or cooking, the children needed something to occupy them (or they start bickering) so it was easier to just do schoolwork. But I don't know how things will go this time.

What about you? Do you have any hints on how to simplify either schoolwork or housework? Or both?

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