Thursday, February 28, 2013

Service and Comfort

The following excerpt is taken from One-Minute Prayers for Men, text by Hope Lyda.
Serving in Grace
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
~1 Peter 4:10~
Thank You, God for my gifts of grace. Show me how to use them in the service of others today. Give me eyes to spot those to whom I can offer a word of hope or encouragement. Give me ears to hear the silent plea for help. Give me hands to reach out to those in need.
And, Lord, bring across my path today the people whom You have graced that can help me in my distress.
This verse and prayer sums up where my mind and spirit have been these last several days...even weeks. I have been compelled to reach out to others and try to comfort, or understand, or just listen to what is going on in their lives. I can't solve anything, but sometimes having that momentary release is enough to lighten  the load.
But what often gets overlooked is that sometimes the comforter needs comforted.
Being able to ask God to bring us those who need help is a service to Him. Being able to ask God to bring comforters to faith. We know that He will never leave us in our time of need. How blessed we are to be able to ask for such a wonderful gift!
I hope this brings you joy and comfort as we near the end of our week!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fresh is Best

 So far - only being Wednesday - it has been a long week. Life and obligations always seem to creep up on us; demanding our immediate and constant attention, just to leave us again (most of the time)like a gust of wind. We adapt and adjust, but speaking personally, sometimes I get bogged down and feel exhausted which creates a very lack-luster me.

This week, as busy as it's been, we were blessed to be given a produce box from a local produce share. In this box I received mushrooms, kale, cilantro, garlic, and pears...all local (within 125 miles from my homestead in Central Oregon).

Now, I love my garden and the produce it rewards me with, fairly constantly, but lets face it...I don't have a great winter garden. So when it comes to fresh fruits and veggies, I rely on what I was blessed with over the summer that has been preserved in my pantry or freezer. They are delicious! But sometimes you just want something fresh. This box supplemented my resources beautifully!

As I mentioned earlier, I've been gone quite a bit, so when dinner time rolls around, I'm not home to have time to make something delicious and healthful. I usually get home late enough to just want to find something to fill my belly and be done. And occasionally, that's fine. Tonight, however, I wanted something hearty that would highlight the beautiful produce I had.

Cam somehow convinced me to purchase a 10 pound bag of lentils for $5.95...making them $.59/ lb!! Given the fact we both love lentils, I agreed that it would be a very economical, healthy, and adventurous way to feed us.

Needless to say, since that purchase, I've been making new recipes and experimenting with flavors to find new ways to prepare this beautiful legume. Tonight was no exception. I spent my morning preparing this dinner dish so when I came home from work, I could just throw it together and a wonderful and nourishing supper would be ours to enjoy! This is what I came up with: Mexican Lentils with Chicken and Kale.

This recipe was completely inspired by what I had in my refrigerator and pantry. I had a grilled chicken breast leftover in the fridge, lentils (of course), kale, mushrooms, garlic, onion, and carrots (from my summer garden:-), and a few basic spices. While simple it was quite delicious! Cam even went to the extent of roasting a head of we could smear it on my home-made rye bread, that of course, went with dinner, as well as a beautiful salad.

I hope you give this a try and enjoy it just as much as we did!

Mexican Lentils with Chicken and Kale
1/2 c. uncooked lentils, rinsed
1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 handful of mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 handfuls of fresh kale, roughly chopped
1 large cooked chicken breast, chopped into bit-sized pieces
1 large clove of garlic
1-2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
olive oil
1. In a medium skillet, cover lentils with water. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse.
2. While lentils cook, heat a sauté pan, with a drizzle of olive oil, over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly cooked. Add the mushrooms. Continue to cook until tender, another 5 minutes or so. Remove from pan onto a plate.
3. In the same skillet, heat another drizzle of oil over medium high heat. Add chopped kale and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes.
4. To the kale, add the chopped chicken, onion mixture, and lentils, cumin, salt and pepper, and vinegar. Cook, stirring frequently until mixture is hot throughout. Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil and serve!
Let me know if you give this a go! I'd love to know what you think of it!
 I hope you enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Beauty of a Simple Flower

I think it would be safe to say that the Daphne - with its heavenly scent and immaculate flower clusters - would be one of my favorite flowers. But my love extends beyond the plant. Growing up, my mom had a huge Daphne bush outside our front door. Every spring, she would cut sprigs of these magnificent flowers and place them on the dining table and at our bedside. The sweet aroma would fill our small house and bedroom...creating a glorious memory of the approaching spring.

The first year I lived in the high desert, I decided I wanted to take this piece of the valley with me. We purchased a larger bush from a home show we attended. I brought it home, placed it into a pot and babied it diligently. My efforts were rewarded by a few small buds and the sweet strong scent of my childhood!

But because of a single lapse of judgment, my Daphne was bitten by an early frost and never recovered. It died and along with it, my hopes of ever being able to grow this beauty in my new home.

When my sister came to visit, she brought with her a branch from my mom's Daphne plant! The delicate buds were tightly closed on Friday, but as they adjusted to the warm indoor temperature, they have opened! They are sitting beside my bed; greeting my every awakening and nights end. I am in heaven!

This morning has evoked a new desire to grow my own Daphne again.  As spring approaches, I will be seeking out a healthy plant.

 Living in the high desert presents its challenges when trying to grow the more delicate plants. Do you have any advice as how to grow Daphne successfully in a pot or in the high desert? I welcome any help and information!

As for now, I will enjoy the simple branch that graces my nightstand!

What plants or natural elements evoke strong memories for you? Please share...It's so much fun to hear!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Supper

Sunday supper. It's such a pastime for some, but for many of us, it's a blessed occasion in which to celebrate family, rest, and God's grace, love, and peace. Today was one of those days for me: one in which I must truly be thankful for all of my blessings!
My sister and brother-in-law came to visit this weekend and what a wonderful time we had!! We visited, rearranged furniture, cooked, went thrift-storing, talked about gardening, and dreamt about the gardens we hope to have in the coming year. It was such a phenomenal experience to be able to express my passion for gardening and homesteading, and hear how my sister had the same goals. I was completely flattered when she would ask for my opinion and advice on her small garden!
Along with my ideas, advice, and thoughts, I was also able to share with here some of my garden. While she told me about what type of garden she wanted, we walked my yard for a little inspiration. As we moseyed, I was able to share what worked for me and what she may want to try, and I was even able to give her some starts of several plants I have come to love and want to share: Virginia creeper and purple bearded irises. We also shared seeds for our spring and summer garden! So much fun!!
Since today was their last day - their visit was coming to a sad end - we decided to spend a little time in the kitchen together.
Last Friday, I started a sourdough bread starter in the hopes I would be able to make a batch of rye-sourdough bread. Today, with the help of my sister, we finished it off and made four glorious loaves of delectable rye bread (I will try to put the recipe I used up in the next week :-). To go with this lovely bread, I put a pot-roast in my crockpot...along with potatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh carrots.
The aroma in my house was immaculate, but so was the feeling that enveloped us as we went about our day. Not only were we busy and having fun but were unalterable; thankful for being together and celebrating the One who allowed it to happen! That's what I feel Sunday Suppers are all about!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

{this moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and Olive & Owl (a link to her site) with {this moment}.

A simple picture from the week. No words, no explanation, just a simple moment of time captured and shared.
Please feel free to share your moments as well! It's so fun to see what other beauty is captured in a weeks time!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Here They Come!

It has been two weeks since I planted the first of my spring and summer vegetables. Every day, I gaze on these tiny plants watching, anticipating the harvest they will one day produce. But that is putting the horse before the cart. I have some caretaking to do before that vision is a reality.

I started out by planting my early spring crops: cauliflower, bok Choy, onions, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels spouts. So far, they are doing very well!

Then I started my heirloom tomatoes and peppers. So far, they are doing remarkable well too! My germination success rate was phenomenal for my peppers; they all started! As for my tomatoes, most have germinated but those that didn't, I will plant again in the next few days (I'm trying to start plants for myself, my mom, and my I need more than one of each:-).

With all of this new life, I must remember to care for these seedlings if I want them to mature properly. It's sometimes easy to germinate seeds; it's another thing to nurse them to productive, adult plants. This is where I am at now.

Seedlings can easily become spindly and weak when started indoors because they aren't exposed to the elements. These external factors are what strengthen the plant and force it to adapt and survive. So, in order to accommodate for this factor, I have taken steps to mimic some of these missing aspects. Here is what I have done:

  1. I make sure the seedlings have adequate moisture and humidity. They shouldn't dry out and should have a semi-humid environment (I have the seed starting trays that come with a clear top. I cover the tray at night and vent it during the heat of the day.).
  2. I have a small indoor fan that I place near the seedlings to mimic the breeze. I will turn it on every-so-often to stress the plants. It forces them to release a chemical that strengthens their stems, creating stronger plants. If you don't have a fan you can turn on for a bit, simply tousling the seedlings every time you pass by helps tremendously! (I just run my hands trough them roughly, enough to make them fall back and forth but return to their original position)
  3. And, after two weeks, I have decided it was time to give these little guys a dose of vitamins! I gave them some very diluted worm fertilizer. Tomatoes, cabbages, lettuces, and other cruciferous vegetables thrive with nitrogen. Worm fertilizer and fish fertilizer are high in nitrogen so they are extremely beneficial to these new plants. Just make sure to dilute it...since these plants are so small, it is easy to burn them with nutrients.

As my tiny vegetables and fruits continue to grow, I will adapt and learn about their needs. I want to create very prolific plants for my spring and summer gardens! I can't wait to see what the next week brings!

Have you started any seeds indoors or in your greenhouse? How are they coming along? Please take a moment and's fun and so beneficial to us all!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Moment from the Heart

As this week progresses, Cam and I have found ourselves somewhat overwhelmed by life. There are always things going on that are out of our control and we feel as though we are becoming helpless. But in these times, I have to remind myself that God is working everything out according to HIS will...not necessarily mine. A very hard lesson to learn but also one of the most rewarding.

As we find ourselves in this place, I was stuck by this prayer. It is a great reminder of how much we need to remember to rely on Him for comfort, strength, and health!

Health and Happiness

"My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body."
~Proverbs 4:20-22~
Father God, Your Word gives me life. It gives me both spiritual strength and physical power. Your words are health to my body and my spirit. May Your truth penetrate my whole being and keep me in health and happiness. Allow Your Word to refresh me and give me the vitality of a confident soldier.
(Excerpt taken from One-Minute Prayers for Men)
As you find yourself going through the motions of the week, I pray that this prayer and verse will bring you comfort.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the happenings of life and to forget, and neglect, the One who can provide us with true comfort and happiness. Read and listen to His word. When we can trust in Him and His plan, we will be at peace.
What does this prayer mean to you? How do you feel about it and how will it make a difference, if any, in your life? Please share! I'd love to hear and learn!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Joy of Tradition

Growing up, birthday's were a special occasion. We could always count on a small family gathering, perhaps a few friends, a few presents, but always an evening of your choices and the sublime feeling of being special! I have quite the memories from childhood!

The major decision we had to make on our Special Day was the type of birthday cake/dessert we desired, and what we wanted for our birthday dinner. This was an amazing choice; we could pick anything (within reason - we didn't have a lot of money growing up) so we would search the recesses of our memories and taste-buds to come up with our favorite meal. The choice was never too difficult to make :-) My choice, almost every year, was my grandma's enchilada casserole and my families 7-Layer Tuna Salad, along with my mom's chocolate cake with a sour-cream chocolate ganache frosting! It was definitely a feast to remember!

I guess I'm somewhat of a creature of habit, because on my birthday this year (January) I began craving the familiar tastes of that 7-layer salad and my mommas chocolate cake...almost like clockwork!

My parents had planned on coming out to see me (they live about 3-hours away; across the mountain range) but because of weather and life, they were unable to visit the weekend of my birthday. So instead, we planned a weekend, when they would be able to stay for several days, for them to come. That weekend was this last one...our three-day weekend!

Now, I was just expecting a very fun time visiting and catching up with my folks...stress-free, relaxing, and enjoyable. And this is exactly what I got.

But I also received something else that visit. My mom remembered my favorite birthday meal and made it for me (one part of it anyway) to wish me a belated happy birthday. It was so special and I felt so much love at that moment; it was amazing.

So this is the recipe I want to share tonight. It is not only delicious but it holds such a special place in my heart as well as fantastic memories.

7-Layer Tuna Salad
2 c. salad dressing
1/4 c. green onion slices
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dill weed (optional, but somewhat crucial in my opinion)
2 (6 1/2 oz.) cans of tuna, drained
4 c. shredded iceberg lettuce
1 1/2 c. (4 oz.) medium shell macaroni noodles, cooked and cooled
2 c. chopped, seeded cucumber
2 c.chopped tomato
1 (10 oz.) package frozen peas, thawed
6 bacon strips, crisply cooked and crumbled (my favorite is turkey bacon)
1 c. shredded cheese
Combine salad dressing, green onions, mustard, and dill. Set aside.
In a 3 qt. serving bowl layer lettuce, shells, cucumber, tomatoes, tuna, peas, and bacon.
Spread salad dressing mixture over bacon, sealing the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and cover with plastic wrap.
Chill several hours or overnight for the best flavor.
When ready to eat, toss to combine all ingredients (sometimes easier if you dump into a larger bowl) thoroughly, and serve.

I hope you give this a try for yourself! It is always delicious on a hot summer day, but if you are like me, you don't need to wait until warm weather arrives to dig into this delicious masterpiece!

Friday, February 15, 2013

{This Moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and Olive & Owl (a link to her site) with {this moment}.

A simple picture from the week. No words, no explanation, just a simple moment of time captured and shared.
Please feel free to share your moments as well! It's so fun to see what other beauty is captured in a weeks time!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

My Valentine's Day :)
Today is a day filled with love. We see balloons, cards, and flowers all declaring how much we love the special people in our lives. It's beautiful. It's special.

My wonderful husband made me feel so valued today. I received long-stemmed roses, two homesteading magazines (:-), a heart-warming card, he made me a wonderful dinner (sushi!), and we spent the evening talking about our dreams! It was perfect!

But there is so much more love out there awaiting us...more than just one day. It is a promise and a knowledge that we have someone - someone who will never leave - to always hold us in his unconditionally loving arms: God, our Lord. This thought has been so present with me the last several days. And when I read this devotional, I couldn't help but want to share it, and hopefully, the joy it created in me!
(The following excerpt comes from my favorite devotional book: One-Minute Prayers for Women, text by Hope Lyda)

Better than Life
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
~Psalm 63:3~
My favorite things in life are examples of Your perfect beauty. A sky so blue it reflects peace. Friendships so strong they mirror Your faithfulness. Happiness so deep it encompasses Your joy. I cannot separate You from these miracles of life, because You are at the core of them. And as much as I cherish these gifts, I know Your love for me and for Your creation is even more vibrant.
Lord, I praise Your presence in every remarkable thing. Your radiance illuminates the miraculous in each moment. May I sing Your praises all the day long. May my lips glorify You because there is nothing better than Your love.
I pray that no matter where you are in life, or where you are at on this day, you can find peace, hope, joy, and love in this prayer! I know I did! May we always be thankful and give thanks to the one who continually blesses each and every day we are blessed with!
Enjoy and Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Winter Bounty

This last weekend was full of blue skies and temperatures reaching into the 50's! It was wonderful. So trying to take full advantage of this weather blessing, I felt I needed to get into my garden and show it some love and attention!

I raked the last of the leaves which had blown into my yard during one of our many cold wind storms; I cleared flowerbeds of fallen tree branches, also victims of the wind :-); pruned back my grapes before the sap began to flow. And in the midst of all this work, I also decided that it was time to gather the last of my carrots. They have been preserved in the ground in the cold months but as the temperatures begin to rise and the soil starts to warm, the risk of losing them to rot or re-growth is mounting, so I felt it was time to harvest!

The soil was perfect for pulling carrots! It was slightly frozen, so when I grasped the carrot fronds and twisted, they quickly released from their frozen nest. By the end of my half-hour of picking, I had over 15 pounds of carrots! Some were large, others quite small, but all were ultimately perfect!

The first night after picking, I decided I wanted roasted, fresh baby carrots. I took the smallest ones from my bunch, tossed them in olive oil and salt and roasted them in a 450 degree oven until they were soft and caramelized. Absolutely delicious!

As a side note, I think if there is ever a vegetable you think you don't like, I would like to challenge you to try to roast it and try it again. Roasting brings out the natural sugars in these nutritious comestibles, which makes them more palatable to most (but for those who already enjoy them -  myself included - it elevates them to a whole new level!). It may just open a new realm of foods you enjoy...and that may inspire you to grow them for yourself!

The last two nights, we've enjoyed these carrots raw in our salads and they are phenomenal in flavor compared to those you can purchase at the grocery store! I have no complaints. But with so many of these gorgeous roots, I'm in need of some other ways to use them. So I need to enlist your help. Do you have any recipes or ways you prepare or preserve carrots? I love hearing from you and I could really use some help, so please, lend me your advice, recipes, or tips! I'm ready!!

I hope that after reading this, you can share any ideas or recipes you may have, and that perhaps you will be inspired to either try something new or try growing some for yourself and your family! Nothing is quite as rewarding as growing good nutritious food for the ones you love!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Bring Back the Birds

Winter has enveloped us in all its frosted beauty. But as this cold settled in and we retreated into our homes for refuge, so did many of the tiny creatures of the wild. Most notably - for me - was the decrease in the number of tiny birds that filled my feeders and my day with their joyful presence. I have missed them.

But now that the days are warming a bit, a few of the birds have returned! They sit in the trees, shrubs, and on my arbors, waiting for the feeders to be filled and for me to disappear. I've had quite a few return this year. I've seen several of my favorite woodpeckers return to my suet feeders; the wrens, chickadees, finches, mourning doves, pigeons, and starlings are all at various food 'spots' in my garden. Along with their ubiety, I'm graced with their songs as well. There is no greater feeling (especially as spring slowly returns) than opening up the window and hearing the glorious songs of the different birds and feeling the cold breeze simply whisper around you. I love it!

So, I decided to try something new this year to entice more birds into my garden. I have the standard feeders: four of five basic seed feeders, two suet, two thistle socks, and a thistle feeder, but I wanted to try to do something a little more out of the ordinary. After reading the book Birds in your Backyard published by Birds & Blooms I decided to try one of the many different feeders they recommend. Here is my version of the Suet Log Feeder:

I started by trekking though the field near my house for an old and unique log. Once I found one that I considered to be somewhat interesting and visually appealing, I brought it back to the house to prep it for its future as a bird feeder!

I began by drilling holes (with the largest drill-bit I had and drilling it wide to create larger holes) all over this log. I simply placed them randomly on the entire surface of the log. After I had a sufficient - in my opinion - amount of holes, I drilled one last time at the top of the log, making sure it went completely through, used for hanging.

I found an old piece of chain in my garage and decided this would be the perfect way to hang this. I simply treaded it through the 'hanging' hole I created, opened one end of the chain and clasped it around the other end, securing it by pinching them together with pliers.

Now that the structure was complete, I needed to create the suet to fill these meager spaces. This is a very simple task. All you need is lard (or peanut butter, but I found lard to be more economical) and basic bird seed. I placed a moderate amount of lard into a container then slowly poured a little seed into it. I mixed it thoroughly, and if the seed ratio wasn't what I wanted, I added more and mixed again. I did this until I felt like I had a good seed-to-lard ratio.
When my suet was complete, I stuffed it (for lack of a better term :-) into each drilled hole. When all were filled, I hung it out back on a shepherds hook near our big trees. Now I wait!
This feeder is mainly to attract the crevice-feeding type of bird, i.e.. woodpeckers and the like. Since I have been blessed with two different varieties of woodpecker in my time at this house, I hope this feeder will either attract more of them or different types. Whatever it may bring, I can't wait!
I encourage you to get out there and try something new for your garden this year. If you would like to attract more birds to your garden, the book I referenced here is a good resource! It has so much good advice and well planned and tested tips for attracting these beautiful creatures! Definitely worth checking out for the bird admirer/enthusiast/lover in your family!!
No matter what you chose to do or try, just get out there and enjoy it all!! 



Saturday, February 9, 2013

Seedling Update

So, last week, I started the very first seeds for my early spring garden. I planted bok Choy, broccoli, Walla-walla onions, cauliflower, and cabbage. I've kept them damp and warm, paid close attention to them, and finally...their little stems are long and cotyledons are beautifully green! (my melons, tomatoes, and flowers were planted a bit later so they will be the next 'update':-)

I planted all of my seeds, thus far, in trays that are easily covered by a plastic lid. I removed my greenhouse 'lid' from my seedlings, to ensure the moisture/heat/humidity ratio was with-in reason (if they are too damp, and the humidity and warmth are too high, they will begin to mold and eventually rot at the base of the stem). We want to keep the seedlings warm, with adequate humidity, but they must not stay too damp or you will easily lose all of your new plants to mold. So, my solution: I keep the greenhouse lid on all night (which is a plastic top to my seed tray...but it could easily be any plastic or glass covering or even a plastic bag), vent it (prop it open) during the warm part of the day, and then close it up again at night. The outcome as of now: I have several of my cool weather crops started! This means I will be able to nurse them along somewhat farther in their early development and will be rewarded with healthy plants to transplant in a few weeks! I'm extremely excited! So much so, I've started planning out where everything will go in my small garden! I can't wait for spring and summer!!

I've also been searching through my seed stash and the numerous seed catalogues I've encountered, and have put together a list of the seeds I need and those I want. Time will tell what I come out with...time and my powers of persuasion!

How is your garden? What have you started so far...or what is your experience with seed starting? I'm still a newbie when it comes to seed-starting and I am so eager to learn. So please share any insights you have...the more I can learn, the better! Thanks!


Friday, February 8, 2013

{This Moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and Olive & Owl (a link to her site) with {this moment}.

A simple picture from the week. No words, no explanation, just a simple moment of time captured and shared.
I feel somewhat as though this collage requires a bit of an give you an idea of its true meaning.
Top Left: I made this in tribute to our grandma, who has recently passed. She would always make   "egg-in-a-basket" for Cam when he was young. I wanted to make these in honor of her...with a cute little twist :)
Bottom Left: This face pulled us out of grief many-a-times...but do those eyes really require an explanation?!
Right: My Paperwhites bloomed at the beginning of this week. What a perfect week in which to be blessed with such simple perfect beauty.
Please share your {this moment}'s with me. I love pictures and I also love seeing what is so poignant with you!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Delicious Mistake!

One of our New Year's resolutions this year was to make do with what we had in the freezer, cupboard, and in the a quest to save money and utilize what we have! So far, we have done farily well. It has even been an exciting little culinary experiment; what can we make tonight?!

But in all honesty, there are nights when I don't want to think, or prepare; I just want to eat and be done. On those nights, I try to clean out the refridgerator. But on Wednesday night, I had no leftovers in which to choose from, so I looked at what else I had (in the freezer, pantry, and fridge). I found frozen tomaotes from last years garden, and decided I wanted to prepare my favorite tomato feta dish: You simply take tomatoes, toss them in olive oil and garlic, and roast them until reduced. Then you add lemon juice, parsley, feta and bake again until the cheese is melted. Its delicious with chicken, shrimp, and white fish added with the cheese and baked until the protein is done. Served with crusty's a perfect meal!

So, with that meal in mind, I thought it would be fun to use my frozen tomatoes to make this dish and instead of fish or poultry as our protein, I wanted to use some bulgur I had in my pantry. So I placed my tomatoes in a pan with garlic, bulgur and some water (to cook the bulgur) and placed it into a hot oven. As I watched it cook, I realized that it was turning into more of a soup than the casserole-ish dish I was hoping for.

Seeing how I didn't want to waste this food, I acted quickly to try to make the most of it! I removed this 'soup' from the oven and placed into my cast-iron saucepot. I brought it to a boil and then simmered it, uncovered, until it thickened and the bulgur was done. At this point, I essentially had tomato soup. But I had a small amount of taco meat and beans left over in my fridge so I added them, along with a good amount of cumin, chili powder, pasilla chili powder and salt, and created a very hearty chili! I whipped up a quick salad and toasted a seedy baguette to go along with it, and dinner was ready!

It was delicious! The sweetness of my summer tomatoes was perfectly contrasted by the slight spice and saltiness that I added. The bulgur made a beautifully chewy, nutty, and hearty addition to this chili, along with a few beans and venison. We devoured most of the pot it was so delicious!

So no matter what mistakes you make in the kitchen (with the exception of a few), it can be fun to see what you can do with it; a challenge. So instead of throwing it out because it doesn't fit into your original plan, seek a new plan. Look to your pantry and freezer, cookbooks and magazines for ideas. Who knows, a disaster to one could turn out to be the best dinner you've made!

Have fun with it and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Fresh Start

For the past several days, we have been blessed with gorgeous sunshine, moderately warm temperatures for this time of year, and very little wind. I've had such a propensity to relish every moment of it...just doing anything to take me outside. I raked leaves and fallen branches; I cut back some of my dead perennials that I missed in the fall; I restrung fishing line for my dog fence. I even decided to wash my windows. All of them. Inside and out, even the screens! I wanted to be outside!

Living in the high desert surrounded by farmland means I am constantly over-run by dust. I dust my house, and just a few moments after I'm finished, the thin practical layer is if I had never disturbed it! It can be somewhat discouraging but I've adapted.

The same goes for my windows. The dirt and dust collects on the screens and glossy surface making them appear dark and dingy. I like to wash my windows at least once in the spring, once in the summer, and one last time in the fall (but I like to wash the inside of the windows slightly more often:-) And when it comes to my windows - or all glass in my house for that matter -  I like clear and clean, with no streaks and spots. This can often be a difficult task to accomplish, but after much trial and error, I think I figured it out.

I used to go with many of the commercial cleaners, name-brand and generic. Some worked well and others left me disappointed. But I was always concerned with the chemicals I was inhaling and exposing to my skin. So I decided to do a little research. After some trial and error, I found the most wonderful glass cleaner! I literally use it on everything in my house. The best part is, is it's cheap to make and only uses items you may already own! Here is my favorite glass cleaner, deodorizer, and all-purpose cleaner:

Glass Cleaner
4 c. water
1/2 c. white vinegar
A few drops of dish soap
Place all ingredients into a spray bottle and swish to combine. Use on almost all surfaces (be careful on wood) especially on glass.

I hope you give this a try for yourself! There is nothing like a good glass-cleaner, I know, so when you find one that works, is cheap, and's definitely something that should be shared!
Do you have any other natural cleanser recipes that work well? Please share them...I'm always looking for good cleansers, especially those that aren't so harsh on the human body :-)

Monday, February 4, 2013

An Eager Jump on Spring

It's that time of year once again...the time when I become antsy to get back into my garden. I long to create something beautiful and natural; using my hands, the knowledge and strength I poses to create something new, beautiful, and bountiful. In short, I want to get back out there and start my garden again!

So today I started just that. I pulled out my seed staring trays, my seed soil, packets of seeds, and got to work!

Since it is only the beginning of February, I wanted to make sure I started my early spring/cool weather crops (those that take a little longer to mature), and start those fruits and vegetables that have longer growing periods (which living in the high desert can make it hard to accommodate those), but not all of my seeds :).

 So, I chose to start my melons, onions, cabbage, broccoli, bok Choy, cauliflower, leeks, Brussels sprouts, peppers, and tomatoes! Here's how I got started!

Last year, I bought several of the plastic reusable seed-starting tray/greenhouses and they have proven to be extremely useful! I pulled out my empty trays and filled each cell with seed starting soil (I buy the generic seed soil. I have found that using this soil for germination does make a difference so it's worth buying!). Once full, I dampen them by simply watering each cell.

Next comes the seeds. But making sure which seed is where can be a tricky matter. I make sure and label each cell, row, or group with a tag made out of popsicle sticks. I buy 100 of them and the Dollar store, cut them in half, write on them, and insert them into the appropriate place. They are perfect to get the job done!

I then nestle each delicate seed into the damp soil, place the cover on my greenhouse tray and wait for my little seedlings to emerge. I generally place my trays over or near my heat vents to make sure the tiny seeds get adequate warmth to germinate!

Now I must wait. I will anticipatorily check them everyday...awaiting signs of life! Until that time, I will make sure they are damp and warm. When the small seedlings begin to emerge, I will make sure and change my care regimen. But for now, I wait.
As they progress, I'll keep you posted! I can't wait for my spring garden!!
How is your garden coming along? Are you beginning to plant your seeds? What is your garden timing? Let me know...I'm anxious to hear!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Room of My Own

Tonight...I feel as though I sit in silence. I wish I could tell you a happy story, maybe one where everyone lives happily ever after. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. This evening, as I sit, reflecting on my last few days, I cannot help but think about mortality. You see, yesterday, Cam and I lost someone very dear to our hearts; a quiet, beautiful, gentle, nurturing/calming, and safe spirit who loved and was loved so very much, his grandma. She was a woman who would care for others first, comfort you when you were sad, and always seemed to know when something was wrong. And she had such an affinity to birds and flowers...the same flowers that take me back to my childhood were the exact same ones that were nostalgic and held meaning to her. I cannot express how much, even though I only knew her for a couple of years, I will miss her; her excitement about my garden, my little bird 'sanctuary' out back, doing laundry (yes, laundry), or my excitement of the blooming Daphne. My heart aches as I think about life without her.

But my saving grace is knowing she is in a better place. It is a place with no suffering, no fear. She is safe, happy, and completely full of joy, and someday we can all be with her again. But when my mind strays from this knowledge, I have found strength and comfort in this verse and prayer.

I hope that whatever you are going through, and believe me I mean everything, you also find comfort in these words.

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so , I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
~John 14:2-3~
I remember the first time I had my own room. Even at a young age, I felt a sense of being cared for and provided for. Lord, I spent so much time preparing every detail in order to make it unquestionably mine. I think of this experience when I read Your promise to prepare a room for me. A place for me in heaven's glory.
When You take me home and show me this room, I am certain it will reflect how well You know my heart. The walls will be the shade of happiness. The fabrics will be woven with threads of loving memories. It will simmer with Your splendor. I will run into it gladly, eager to be in Your presence forever. And I will know that the Master of this house prepared this room because I am unquestionably His. 

(The previous excerpt comes form One-Minute Prayers for often my saving grace!)

I must take comfort in these words as we - as a family - embark on this next step of our journey. It will be a time of difficult transition, but with the support of us all and Christ's love, I know we will make it through. For now I am exhausted and vulnerable. Sleep will help me focus on the positive tomorrow!

No matter how difficult or challenging any life barrier becomes, make sure you can and enjoy EVERY moment with those you love. We never know God's perfect timing for life.


In loving memory of grandma Shirley

Friday, February 1, 2013

{This Moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and Olive & Owl (a link to her site) with {this moment}.

A simple picture from the week. No words, no explanation, just a simple moment of time captured and shared.

Please share your moments...I love seeing them all!