faith · fall · family · food · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · nutrition · seasons · Spring · summer · winter

The Farmer

To all those farmers praying for rain…
Who make a living, or not, depending on forces out of their control…
To my brother, who as a child the farmers would call and say, “Ask Josh to pray for rain.”  And it would.
To all the animals who search for food and shelter in this hard drought…
To men and women who leave clean and come home dirty…
To my grandfather, who died tragically doing what he loved…farming.
To those who fill my tummy from the work of their hands…
To God who established seed time and harvest, and who makes all things grow, and who knows best.
Thank you.  
cooking · food · projects · summer

Sweet Treats

Adalay and Caroline entered the two cakes below in our local 4-H project show in the family living division.  Addy’s cake, the Lemon Pound, won Grand Champion.  Caroline’s cake, the Sock It To Me, won Reserve Grand Champion.  Both cakes are delicious…perfect for any occasion. Enjoy the weekend!
Sock It To Me Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbls. brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbls milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water


Preparation:

  1. Take 2 Tbls. of the cake mix and mix with the cinnamon,brown sugar, and pecans; set aside.
  2.  In large bowl, blend cake mix,sour cream,oil,water,eggs, and sugar. 
  3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour 2/3 of batter into greased and floured bundt pan. 
  4. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture in the center of this and spread remaining batter evenly over this.
  5.  Bake at 375° for 45-55 minutes. Cool in pan for 25 minutes. Remove from pan.
  6. To make glaze; Blend powdered sugar and milk together to make a glaze. Drizzle over cake. 

Lemon Pound Cake 
recipe found at add a pinch

Ingredient
  • 3 sticks butter (1½ cups)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • For the Lemon Buttermilk Glaze
  • 1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare bundt or tube pan by coating with shortening or butter and flouring light. Set aside.
  2. Let butter, cream cheese, and eggs come to room temperature.
  3. Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar til fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add lemon juice and zest and combine well. Add flour and salt and vanilla.
  4. Mix until just well-combined but do not over mix.
  5. Pour into prepared bundt or tube pan.
  6. Bake until golden brown and skewer inserted into middle of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  7. As the cake is cooling, whisk together ingredients confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and buttermilk to make the glaze. Allow to sit until cake has fully cooled, then drizzle over top of lemon pound cake.


cleaning · family · summer

When an old aunt from Virginia comes to visit…

I asked her, “Have you ever considered moving back to Texas, Aunt Chris?”  We were all seated around the dinner table enjoying Guatemalan soup, crusty bread, and iced tea.  She looked calmly at me and said, “No, honey, Virginia is my home…Ralph was raised in Woodstock, and the cemetery is close by, I could never leave him.”  Immediately, I understood, and I was sad I even asked the question.  A person’s home is not where they were, it is where they are…a lesson I could learn.

Ralph and Aunt Chris were married for over fifty years, and although she was born and raised on a farm in Texas, Aunt Chris considers her husband’s home her own.  When he died twenty years ago, she stayed in Virginia with her son and grandchildren.  She visits Texas every year to attend the Loveless Family Reunion. Afterwards, she usually stays on a while, stopping in Quanah, Texas, her birth place and where her late brother’s (my grandfather) children farm the family land.  She usually ends her trip in Oklahoma where she visits another brother who settled there.  Her one night stop at my home was in route to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, where she would catch a plane after a hot stop here in the friendly state, and go home to Virginia.      

Did I mention that she is 88 years old?  She is not your typical octogenarian.  She flies in airplanes, she works in her gardens, she wears very fashionable clothes, her make-up is always perfect, and she is rarely tired.  She lives in a Greek Revival plantation house on a farm outside of Strasburg, just a few miles from the famous Civil War battlefield, Fishers Hill.  She speaks with a seasoned southern accent, which is very different than my Texas twang.  She is methodical and patterned, and her manners are polished.  She does not put her nose in other peoples business, but she gives her opinion freely.

When my mother first asked me if she could bring Aunt Chris here for the night before she took her on to the airport, I was very excited.  She had never seen my house before, and I wanted her to be comfortable in our humble abode.  I immediately scheduled an appointment for my carpets to be cleaned.  After that the girls and I just dove right in, and it was fun transforming the blah of summer that had accumulated and piled up in the house into a freshly vibrant home again.  It was just what we needed to uplift our spirits and kick start the back to school campaign.  I am thankful I had this motivation to get up and get some projects put behind me, and thanks to my mother who came a few days early, my home looks amazing.  The team effort made all the difference.

Aunt Chris’ stay here was too short, but I enjoyed my time with her.  We laughed and drank cocktails and she told us about her friends that she goes to lunch with every week.  The girls are very blessed to know their great great aunt from Virginia, a true southern bell, and a dying breed.  We are planning to visit her in the fall 2013.  I cannot wait to experience the mystique of her restored plantation, and her unique hospitality.  I hope our family’s hospitality was pleasant enough for Aunt Chris, I know it was.  We loved making our home comfortable, and we worked hard to give the best we had.  That’s what hospitality really is anyway, isn’t it?  Just giving the very best, whatever it is, and doing it with warmth and joy.

I hope my girls see that cleaning, decorating, and entertaining is not about the show, and therefore it need not be stressful or a drudgery.  It is about making a home, big or small, a place that facilitates all that a family desires to be, and all that a family is designed to be.  Hospitality, if done properly, allows people to move effortlessly through our home, in our space without feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome.  This is the joy of homemaking, and what makes it so rewarding.  It is an art really, and it is so inspiring to create in this way.  As the girls work alongside me in this home, I feel this is the best education they could ever receive.  This is true Home-schooling.

How to be ready for company: Just a few highlights…
Deep clean the house, you will not regret it.  Schedule it out and have everything beautiful for your guests.  Remember that hospitality is fun!  Homemaking is an art!  And your home is your canvas!

  • Clean carpets
  • Do all the laundry and put it away
  • Wash all the sheets, and fluff the pillows
  • Clean out the fridge
  • Plan a tasty meal, shop and cook as much as possible before hand
  • Sweep and declutter porches
  • Buy a new candle and let it burn a few hours before they arrive
  • Dust the entire house
  • Declutter desks and bookshelves
  • Make a pie and buy Blue Bell ice cream to go with it
  • Make sure that the bathrooms are clean and well stocked.  Each bathroom should have a trash can
  • Schedule time to get pretty yourself before the guests arrive, no need looking like a martyr
  • Put a bouquet of fresh seasonal flowers on a counter, mantle, or table 
  • Practice smiling in front of a mirror, you would be surprised how just a smile warms a home 
  • Have fun!!!!  

     

        

faith · summer

Family Reunion

    In the foyer of my house, just as you enter the front door, a tall wooden bookshelf stands just to the left, and  it is filled with pictures of family, some very old, and some very recent.  I have pictures of four of my great-great grandparents in the cluttered shelves, and alongside the black and white photos lean frames of all different shapes, sizes, and styles filled with the full color images of the people we love and want to remember forever.  My parents, my husband’s parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they are all there reminding us to pray, reminding us to love.   One particular photo, my favorite actually, is of my Papa when he was a teenage boy.  It is black and white, but I can easily imagine the colors.  He is dressed like the Marlboro Man, black cowboy hat, straight leg dark blue jeans, pointed toe cowboy boots, and a white pearl button shirt.  He is so handsome and young in the picture, I love thinking of him this way.  All of the pictures are wonderful, and almost everyday I look at them and I remember.


  On another wall in the family room, pictures hang of a different kind, they are called icons, they are paintings of the holy saints that we are named after ( Orthodox converts have two names, our birth name and our church name).  When a child is baptized, or a person is received into the family of God through the anointing of oil and a confession of faith, what is called Chrismation, they are named.  In the Orthodox Church it is a honor and a privilege to be named after a holy saint, a person who loved Christ and is worthy to follow.  My church name is Anna, named after Mary’s mother.  Slade is named Joseph, in honor of Jesus’ foster father.  Adalay is named Anastasia, after a holy princess of Constantinople.  Caroline is named Hannah, after Samuel’s mother.  Sophia is named Sophia, after a saint who loved orphans.  Elinor is named Helen, after the mother of Constantine, and a champion for Christianity.   

    Also hanging on the wall is an icon of Jesus, and one of Mary holding her son Jesus when he was just a baby.  In every icon of Mary, she is pictured with her son.  She is never alone.  This is to remind us of our need for Christ and hers as well.  The icons are beautiful, and surprisingly they are hanging for the same reason the family photos are resting on the shelves in the foyer.  They remind us to pray and to love.  They remind us that we belong to a great family, the family of God.

   
    As I look at the photos of my family in the foyer, I know that the image is not them.  The image only allows me to contemplate the essence of that person, how much I love them, what things I want to emulate, the memories I cherish, and the hope that I will see them soon, and if they are deceased the hope that I will see them again.  Icons are no different. However, an icon does more than a photo in that it portrays what flesh can become through Christ, sort of like a spiritual glamour shot.  And this is the heart of Christianity.  Flesh can be saved, glorified, deified because Christ became man.  Oh the glorious incarnation.  Because of Christ, a man or woman can become a saint, they can be written in a holy icon only because Christ Himself became man.  Because of Christ…all because of Christ. 
   This year at our annual family reunion, my mother’s family gathered at their usual spot in Plano, Texas.  We all converged on the hotel for two days of food, swimming, laughter, tears, and sharing.  This year was the fourth year that my Papa was not with us after a fatal farm accident.  It is his family that we are celebrating, his brothers and sisters, my great aunts and uncles.  Out of nine children, my Papa’s brothers and sisters, five are left; two of them in their nineties.  As I bent to kiss their thin soft skin, all but one dependent on wheelchairs and walkers, I took their smell in, so much like my Papa’s, and I knew I may not see Aunt Marge or Aunt Farris next year.  I took lots of pictures.  Heaven may be our next meeting, and I long to see my Papa, and I dread the death that is inevitable for my aging loved ones.  It’s hard to let go of earth and believe in heaven.     
    And then I remember the icons, and I ponder the family reunion that heaven will be.  If I never see any of these precious aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins again, I pray we meet in heaven.  I think of unity and how heaven will be the cure to my heartache, no more separation, no more death.   Icons are unapologetic reminders that heaven is real, and that only saints see heaven.  I will die someday, but I will live forever.      
    In Christ, I do not fear death, or the death of those I love.  The sting of death is taken right out of me when I gaze upon the icon of Christ, when I pray full of faith and hope in front the icon of Saints Joachim and Anna. 
   When I look upon the picture of my Papa, or when I see my own reflection, I remind myself:  it is not my own image, my own righteousness, my own strength, it is Christ, and His image, His flesh, that saves.  Every man is made in the image of God.  Pictures remind me of that.  Icons assure me of that.  Death where is you sting?  
    Their are those that look at my wall of icons and call me an idol worshiper.  I wonder if they look at my shelf full of family photos and think the same thing.  Both the wall and the shelf are a place that I honor those in my family that I love, both are a memorial of remembrance, both are a reminder of  the Image of God in all of us, both are a symbol of hope and sobriety.  


The Church Militant  
those alive and still struggling; me and you. 

The Church Triumphant 
those who are in heaven and praying for us.  The cloud of witnesses. 


  
parenting · summer

Wonderland

From right Jarrett (my brother), Tash (Jarrett’s wife), Elinor, Josh (my brother), Adalay, Me, Slade
 in front Caroline & Sophia 

    There is a saying, “No one needs a vacation more than the person who just had one.”  This is so true.  About fifteen miles from the house on Highway 51 the reality of this hits me, as I begin to make a list in my head of everything that must be done when we pull into the garage, turn off the ignition, and vacation is officially over.  Going on vacation with four kiddos, and especially a rambunctious toddler feels more like running a marathon than it does a retreat.  Was it all worth it?  Absolutely!!  We had so much fun, but I am exhausted.  The kids are passed out in the back of the suburban, their little bodies resembling a bobble head doll on a dash board.  The inside of the car looks like an Oriental Trading Company catalog, littered with pillows, flip flops, fast food left overs, trinkets from the trip, strewn bags, and everything packed almost to the ceiling.  Slade is like a horse to the barn, no thought except getting out of this car.  His eyes are fixed on the road, and he is not saying a word, and I feel the car speed up as we get closer and closer to home.  We both know what awaits us there, back to the grind, and yet if we spend one more minute in this car with these children we might both gouge our eyes out with the pencil on the console.  We have to get home before they wake up.  When they wake up it will all be over, and I know they will be sad.  I smile.  Yes, it was all worth it.  All the work, all the money, all the effort; it was ALL worth it.
  This year we vacationed in Amarillo, Texas.  Both of my brothers live there, and we stayed with them and did all sorts of fun stuff.  Because we live so far away, we do not get to spend extended periods of time with them, and going there for almost a week was a wonderful time of bonding for the girls with their uncles and aunt.  We played games, barbecued, went to the mall, and had a blast at Wonderland Theme Park.  We also visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  It is beautiful, and the girls loved hiking there.  If you are ever in the area it is worth the stop.  We have been before, but it never gets old.  We will visit again I am sure.  This year we went to the play Texas at the theater in the canyon , and what a show that was!  I remember going to this play as a little girl, and it was great to see it with my own kiddos.  We also stopped by the Stockyard Cafe to have the famous chicken fried steak, my girls’ favorite meal.  We saw this cafe on the TV show, Man vs. Food, and we could not wait to try it out.  It did not disappoint.  The chicken fry was like Mama cooks it, and the creamed potatoes were fabulous.  All in all we had a great time.
  The day after we came home we packed the suburban again, and we surprised the girls by taking them to there favorite hotel, Staybridge Suites, here in Fort Worth.  While at the hotel we watched movies in the hotel theater, swam, and snacked at the hotel’s happy hour.  The movie theater is available to guests by appointment and is equipped with surround sound, a giant screen, and cozy recliners with cup holders.  My kids had a blast munching on popcorn and candy and watching Night at the Museum and Flushed Away.  I enjoyed a beer, and we all fixed ourselves a loaded baked potato from the dinner buffet.  We finished the evening with a swim in the pool, and then called it a day and went to our cozy three room suite to sleep in the most comfortable hotel bed ever.  The next morning we went to a nearby water park and spent the day riding crazy rides, picnicking, and getting a tan (a sunburn to tell the truth).  And that was our vacation.
   It is really amazing how different an experience can be now that I am all grown up.  However, when I am willing to let go of my need to recapture the past and I experience places, people, and wonders anew alongside my kiddos, the world is wonderland again.
    It brings so much joy to see the world through the eyes of a six year old looking up the side of a steep canyon. She turns and says confidently, “We can make it, we can climb this.” And off she goes, full of adventure and curiosity.  She takes in the scenery like her favorite ice cream, and that energy is infectious.  She is my tour guide, and I follow carrying the past right into the now as I remember my own climb in this very canyon when I was ten years old.
    I marvel at God’s design for family, and I am humbled by the sharing of it all.  Nothing is ever lost; my childhood, my husband’s childhood, and even the years that have flown by since our first baby was born (it has happened so fast); everything is in tact, wrapped up in the moment.  This year as we traveled the long and thrifty roads of the high plains I realized that one of the few consolations of getting older is that I see more of the journey and possibly more of what it all means, and how circular life really is.    Vacations are so special, and more is going on than just hotels and park rides and fun.  Vacations are about bonding, and ultimately no matter where we are out on the road, whether in Amarillo, Texas or the French Riviera, as long as we are together sharing the moment, all is wonderland.  

Here are some pretty good ideas for a great Staycation, for those of us who want to go on vacation, but resources are limited. Our vacation this year was a semi-staycation, and was very inexpensive.

My favorites
  • Camp in the backyard
  • Book local hotel
  • Turn your house into a spa
  • Throw a family pajama party
  • Cook some great food and have a movie marathon
  • Tour the local landmarks
  • Have a traveling dinner; appetizers, main course, and dessert all at different restaurants
  • Put on a family play
  • Buy a blow up pool and lawn chairs, fill up the cooler and put on your favorite CD
  • Build a huge tent in the living room, and play games and eat snacks under the sheets
  • Turn off the phones, news, and computer and just be inaccessible for one whole day  



                       

learning · summer

Snow Cone Summer

 

  Snow cone season officially starts at the end of May here in our neck of the woods, and it lasts all the way through August.  However, buying snow cones for six people can be a very expensive summer indulgence.  My kids know this, and they accept the fact that a snow cone is a special treat and not an every afternoon occurrence.  That still doesn’t stop them from wanting a snow cone almost every afternoon in this egg frying Texas heat.  So, they have taken it upon themselves to make their own snow cones.  I am amazed at my girls sometimes.  They are so industrious and  creative.  The fact is, I am not going to buy six snow cones everyday, so the girls came up with a great solution.


    

    Adalay won a snow cone maker back in the fall at the County 4-H food show, and it came with a few snow cone flavors.  They tasted horrible, so when they were gone, what did the girls do?  Without any help from me they learned how to make their own snow cone syrup from internet recipes and instructions, and amazingly their homemade concoctions are delicious.  They have even made dill pickle snow cones, that is Sophia’s favorite.  I provide support by eating every snow cone they make me…it is a real sacrifice, I know, but somehow I manage.  


    

    Nothing makes a Mama happier than to see kids take responsibility for their own happiness.  Instead of frowning around about my refusal to buy them what they wanted, what they thought would make them happy, the girls just made due with what they had.  They accepted my “no”, and they made the best of it.  Sure, their snow cones are not Hawaiian Thunder Snow Cone Hut quality, but they are made by their own effort.  Kids love things they make themselves.  I take lessons from my girls all the time.  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.    





Know thyself, accept thyself, better thyself.


    Make your own snow cone creations!