This is the first of multiple upcoming updates for you all, so stay tuned over the next few days. I’m planning on having them rise in excitement each day… we’ll see if I can manage to pull that off.
COOKING and BAKING:
This is an area where I have enjoyed thriving lately (although, ironically, I haven’t actually planned tonight’s dinner yet, haha). For a few months this spring, it certainly wasn’t an area in which I could thrive (thankfully my stash of freezer meals and my very loving, kitchen-savvy hubby thrived in my stead), but in recent weeks I have loved getting back in the kitchen. I have replenished my freezer with Chicken Divan, Stroganoff, Meatballs, Muffins, Whole Grain Bread, Cookies, Grilled Pizza Crusts, Taco Meat, and more.
This morning I was able to host my weekly ladies’ group, and made some Brown Sugar Muffins for it. They turned out well enough to share the recipe, which was my combining of a couple.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar; mix in egg, milk and vanilla. Add flour, soda, and salt, mixing until combined. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Mix together 4 Tblsp. butter (room temperature), 1 cup brown sugar, and 1-2 Tblsp. cinnamon in a small dish; sprinkle generously over tops of the muffins. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. (I got 14 muffins out of this recipe.)
I’m trying to think of recent meals we’ve had or are soon to have (in case you’re ever in a cooking funk and want someone else’s ideas). Here are just a few:
Broiled salmon topped with balsamic vinegar & peach jam, then sprinkled with finely chopped pecans & panko breadcrumbs; served with rice and green beans
Baked salmon topped with crushed garlic, lemon slices, lemon pepper, dill, olive oil, and soy sauce; served with roasted carrots & beets
Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, roasted potatoes, and green salad
Grilled chicken caesar salad
Asian chicken salad
Chicken piccata; served with roasted asparagus and quinoa
Stromboli; served with fruit salad
Pasta casserole (farfalle and chicken tossed in marinara; topped with mozzarella, topped with pesto); served with baguette and green salad
Steamed tilapia topped with lemon pepper; served with steamed broccoli and quinoa
Chicken and apple sausages; served with sauerkraut, fruit salad, and a veggie plate
Baked potatoes topped with chicken, broccoli, and a cheddar cheese béchamel sauce
Shrimp & veggie kabobs; served with pasta salad
KEEPING HOUSE and DECORATING:
I have to say that I have been doing a good job of keeping house lately (thanks, Lord!), and I am thankful. My little boy loves to help me clean, which makes it easy to incorporate into time I spend with him. He loves to vacuum with me, he loves to mop my kitchen floor (although his arm strength doesn’t make a big dent, so I do it myself after he’s done), and he really thinks there’s nothing better than washing windows & cleaning bathrooms. Who knew?! I don’t do a big house-cleaning on a certain day of the week; I do it as things need it. I’d say we vacuum roughly every other day; sometimes more often when we go in and out a lot, which tracks in dirt from outside. I think we do a good solid cleaning of bathrooms once a week, and a second quicker “wipe down” also once a week (and just prior to whenever we’re expecting company: there’s not much worse than being a guest in a stinky, grimy bathroom). Mopping and windows and dusting? I do those on a less frequent, as-needed basis. Washing curtains and light fixtures and the like? Even less frequently, but still on an as-I-deem-it-necessary basis.
I will openly, even gladly, admit that I have not been going out of my way lately to update any decorating. We’ve added a large framed picture of the three of us (thanks to the photo shoot my brother did last month for us), but that’s about it since redecorating Gabriel’s room a few months ago. My decorating schemes & designs are, however, being recorded in a little notebook for room-by-room inspiration for our new house. So I have been clipping things from magazines and catalogues I run across, writing down websites with nifty ideas, and figuring out ways to describe with pen & paper what in the world I’m envisioning for each room in my head. Some of it will involve sewing, crafting, and repurposing; some of it will involve utilizing my father’s woodworking skills; some of it will involve thrifting and garage saleing and searching on Craig’s List for things I really really want. But while I am not putting energy, time, or money into our current home’s decorations, I am able to hone some of that domestic creativity and start working on the planning and preliminaries for our new home. And that’s a blessing, because it certainly won’t happen overnight.
LAUNDRY and IRONING and MENDING:
I tend to do laundry on Tuesdays and ironing on Wednesdays. Not always, but it’s my general rule of thumb. If only so it reminds me to get it done, as we’re not the type who wait until we’ve run out of underwear or until the hampers are overflowing into our rooms. But we’re also a small enough clan at this point that I am able to easily accomplish the whole week’s laundry in one day (as long as I am home for the majority of the day). I’m so thankful for my servants (i.e. my washing machine and dryer), even though they are admittedly a bit rough, old, and rickety! These servants do make my jobs so much easier. And I love ironing. Is that odd? I like to chat with my mom on the phone or stream something on Netflix (usually something from the BBC) while I do it, and I generally don’t have that much ironing to do each week, so one naptime is enough to get it done. Plus my iron is just splendid and makes ironing a breeze. Having decent domestic tools really is a plus, an aid, a blessing. Mending… well, mending I definitely try to do on an as-needed basis. But, um, I’ll be brutally honest here and tell you that I’ve had a pair of my hubby’s cargo pants folded up downstairs waiting for a button for quite a few months… I think I even have the button somewhere. Typing this out reminds me that I need to get that fixed. Today. Procrastination has no place in my realm of domesticity. I will say that the last time I noticed a hole in one of Steven’s shirts, I patched it within three minutes of locating the hole! But that is not the norm. I need some work there.
CRAFTING and RE-PURPOSING:
This is an area where I have sadly been inactive. I would love to get crafting again, but it seems to be more of a winter pursuit for me, I guess. I would like to think that I could stay on top of sewing, crafting, gift-making, and re-purposing of all sorts all year round. I need to work on this, get inspired, think of projects, and jump in. I have stayed on top of our family photo albums (I try to update them 3-4 times a year to keep them current, and to keep it a manageable project). My stash of homemade baby gifts is dwindling, and will soon need replenished. I have some ideas in my head of what to do next, so within a couple months I may be busily crafting once again! I will not be doing “a homemade Christmas” this year, so that takes a little pressure off the crafting and sewing world and puts it more heavily in my next category!
FRUGALITY and SHOPPING:
I have been thankful this year for my love of penny-pinching. I am far from perfect with it—I do occasionally do impulse buys or end up deciding that I really do need that latte (which makes me thankful for gift cards we’ve been blessed with!) or the larger pack of lightbulbs—but for the most part, I stick with my lists, I use what we’ve got, and we make do with what we can or we simply do without. I am already thinking about Christmas gifts, mostly because I know I need to be as frugal as I can with them this year especially (and because we’ll be busy with some other things during Christmas shopping season, so I need to be done before most people get started), so I want to keep my eyes peeled for good deals, clearance sections, coupons, and overstocks (in stores and online). A new place I am currently learning to balance frugality (and prayerfully seek wisdom) is in the realm of shopping for things for our new home. There are wide ranges of quality (and therefore price) for everything: windows, doors, siding, cement, appliances, paint, light fixtures, drawer pulls, countertops, toilets… everything. We are praying for wisdom with where to cut corners, where to invest a bit more, and how to get the best bang for our buck in every area of our home. It’s a huge responsibility, a bit of stress, and a good challenge that Steven and I are working on meeting straight in the eye.
READING and WRITING and MUSIC:
I continue with my weekday typist job for Olive Tree Bible Software, and although I feel like it does eat up hours that I would love to use elsewhere, it’s only for a season, and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my family, serve this company and its customers, and it also has the added perk of giving me some great resources to read while I am typing! I am also continuing to be actively moderating & fellowshipping at Hannah’s Prayer and actively writing for Grieve Out Loud. These endeavors also occupy a lot of time, but it is a blessing for me to have this opportunity to reach out, bless others, bear burdens together, pray for ministries and individuals, and use my childrens’ lives and legacies to impact the Church and her people.
While I have not done as much reading this year as I have in some others, I am reading through Scripture (currently, Jeremiah and Revelation), Streams In The Desert, Prayers Of An Excellent Wife, and Brave New Family. I have a few other books I’m itching to read, but am determined not to bite off more than I can chew (or more than I can read!) at this point.
With music, alas, it has been on a back burner. It would be wonderful to have half an hour every day to play harp and piano, to sing, to compose. But this isn’t a season of life where it is very practical. I accompany at church (and occasionally sing there), and very rarely will play here at home for my own pleasure or because Gabriel will ask me to. But yes, it is rare. I would like to change that someday, probably in some other season of life. Perhaps once I am teaching (family members) again, I will have more of an excuse to play more myself.
So that’s a little bit of an update in my domestic realm (although there’s certainly more areas I could have added)… and just for fun, I’m saving the domestic realm of GARDENING for tomorrow’s update…