All the joy can be such a burden for the birdies and other lving things!

How to prepare for a winter storm watch:

You know you’ll wish you could think of everything at once, should a storm come. Here is a starter list, not in any particular order:

  1. What to do, how to do it, a checklist for you to be really ready this time!Go to the store for white bread at the last minute. (Just kidding! Real list to follow!)
  2. (For real) make sure you have enough foods to eat that do not have to be cooked unless you have a cooking alternative to electricity.
  3. If you have electric heat, only, look into some other heat source, such as kerosene or fireplace or wood stove.
  4. If you have a fireplace, consider cooking on it. You will need covered, long-handled pans because of heat and ash, a few bricks and a grate to elevate pots, and really good potholders. Oh, also firewood, which is cheap around here, due to last year’s drought.
  5. Rock salt or other means of de-icing porches & sidewalks, for safety.
  6. Plastic sheeting for over the windshield, if you park outdoors.
  7. Prescriptions filled. Don’t run out during an ice storm!
  8. Really good batteries in flashlights. Candles and matches. ETC.
  9. A generator would be nice, with fuel for it stocked up. And make sure you know how to operate it without killing a lineman.
  10. Extra bedding for cold nights. If one room is warm, you can close it off until bedtime and then sleep under tons of blankets with coats on, just fine.
  11. Water for drinking, if power is out over a week and tower is pumped electrically, which most are.
  12. Survival includes a lot more than white bread! Read to find out what all you need NOW!Watch the skies and think about livestock and pets. They need more feed than usual and some sort of shelter, if only a piece of plywood leaned against a building. Being wet makes them colder and hungrier, and more prone to illness, and they hate eating snow for their drinks. Many creatures benefit from a little sugar added to water during these times. Chickens definitely do.
  13. A bag of wild birdseed, in case your feeder is snowed under. Birds die when they cannot access wild food sources while they are fighting off cold, wet weather. Even if you do not normally feed wild birds, do so, please, when all their normal sources are hidden under snow or ice.
  14. If the lights are out, do not open fridge or deep freeze except in emergency. Check it maybe after two days and if it is too warm, use the outdoors for cooling food. Protect eggs, though, from freezing, or they will break.
  15. Make sure all vehicles are filled with gasoline.
  16. If all your phones are cellular, you must provide for recharging them. Vehicles running with an adapter in the lighter socket is an option. Hand-cranked rechargers are available, sometimes. And there are those little battery things that will recharge a phone; make sure yours are charged up.
  17. Read about The Last Snowing Hurricane!

There you have it! Hope you won’t need it!.

 

Mary and Martha and humble pie

Mary and Martha and Me

When I Was a Turkey

Several years ago our family tried a Thanksgiving experiment.

Instead of buying our Thanksgiving dinner, we only priced it and sent the amount to a mission.

We then asked God to give us a meal from His own hand that we could see was especially from Him. In our minds, it had to be cost-free, although this wasn’t a demand—we simply decided to see what He would do about our commitment. We were willing to take whatever He gave….

I know, I know, God gives us the strength, intellect, and grace to be able to earn the money, drive to the store, and so forth.

But we learned something from letting go of it like this: He can also sovereignly give us the actual food itself, just because we are waiting upon Him. This caused us to be thankful toward God as Jehovah Jireh (our provider), rather than wondering what in the world He has to do with our celebration.

The experiment became a kind of tradition for a few years. Each year was different; it was not always turkey and stuffing. We had chicken, duck, venison, and my favorite, the smoked turkey that appeared one day while we were gone.

Meat was always the test for me because I did not consider the free things from our garden as “too hard” for God.

See what I mean?

I needed this.

Everything about cooking Thanksgiving dinner this way was a big adventure. We had to improvise, learning as we went. We felt, indeed we were, exactly like pioneers.

We pretended Good-Old-Days, but they were, in reality, very good days.

We certainly were excited about all sorts of food and I think we ate better. The meat often was not processed. We had honey instead of sugar. And we were so thankful. We couldn’t help it—it just flowed from all that was happening.

Another unexpected result came of the experiment.

We questioned the entire “Thanksgiving Tradition”.

  • Sweet potatoes did not have to be candied, did they?
  • Whipped topping didn’t have to be fatty.
  • Crab applesauce was as good as cranberry.
  • The chestnuts off of our tree were excellent in stuffing.
  • Squash pie tasted just like pumpkin.

We learned to take our local blessings, instead of exotic imported foods, and spread them out into a feast that gave glory to the God Who provides for His own.

And more blessings! 

In our excitement, we also forgot to be harried. I, at least, emerged on the other side of the wall that separates us from gently rejoicing in God. He seemed so near. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Most of the United States was celebrating a day that, when it was established, in purpose and practice, was truly Christian. Thanksgiving has no questionable past. It has traditionally had no worldly festivities attached to it. It is simply a day set aside for our Christian nation, by its Christian leaders, to give thanks to God for all His blessings.

go-your-way-eat-the-fat-and-drink-the-sweet-and-send-portions-unto-them-for-whom-nothing-is-prepared-for-this-day-is-holy-unto-our-lord-nehemiah-8-10-1Into that quiet beauty, I had often inserted the bustle of a worldly attitude.

Suddenly, His delightful indulgence was leading me away from my prideful ideas about meal preparation. How humbling it was to be learning at His feet, and yet, how glorious.

It doesn’t matter if you use the recipes you will find, on this site, for “your dinner”, or even if you go to someone else’s house for it. It doesn’t matter if you buy or raise the ingredients. But do learn to spend time before God. And truly thank Him. Every day.

______________________________

Katharine is a retired home educating mom who writes about all things “woman”, from a Godly viewpoint, here on this site, and at The Conquering Mom.  Her writing appeared in several magazines for 15 years, and she is currently working on several books. She loves to write, speak, teach, cook, garden, spoil her hennies, and watch old movies with popcorn.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

A Week of Answers – Counting Blessings

Dear Katharine,

I have such a problem with my goals wandering, and with thinking that others have it easier than I do. When I look around me, I see all sorts of boosters–IN OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES! Mine, though, looks jumbled and behind schedule and difficult, to me. How can I be sure or even know if I need to make some changes?  –Alissa

Dear Alissa,

It is easy.

First, make a list of everything that is going well, going okay, going not too bad, not as bad as it used to be, or not as bad as it could be, for you, lately.

I mean, look at your house: are the floors easy to clean? List that. Then look at your car: are the brakes decent for a change? List that, too. How about clothing: do all your boys have jeans that are long enough? List it. Try curriculum: is yours making school easier? List it. Go on to list one good thing about your schedule, your meals, your field trips, your P.E., your quiet time, and your day.

Then imagine that these things were actually happening to others, around you.

Imagine that Sue has easy clean floors, Sally has a car in good repair, Sylvia has decent jeans for all her kids, Sarah has a great curriculum, Sandy has begun having quiet time, and so forth. Wouldn’t that make you feel like they had some sort of better home school?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.What you will see is plenty of reasons to think that the grass in greener on YOUR side of the fence, too., and that others could easily fall down the same slippery slope that you have, if they were looking at you and doubting themselves.

Whatever is going right, look to the Lord, not others, and count your blessings! Do this exercise every time you feel inadequate and it should help.

Then remember this little true story: A mom used to feel guilty about seeming to get the ironing done just at the last moment for someone to wear it, barely squeaking it in at the nick of time. However, one day her son had to write, in one sentence, a definition of happiness and he answered: “Happiness is a warm shirt in the morning.”

You see, children naturally love their own home, whatever that means, so smile and RELAX!

The important thing is fulfilling the command to teach your children, right? God will bless that. And if something is truly missing from your life, the above exercise will probably bring it to light.

Katharine

Kids in the Kitchen

Children learning in kitchen

All my children are taller than I am. But when they were little, oh, did we have funny times!

One day our five-year-old came up with a great one-liner: “I know how to make brown bread–toast it!” We laughed, but he was serious. He honestly was exploring with his mind, the finer points of food preparation.

Our canning successes and failures have impressed our children. As we ate peas for supper one night long ago, the seven-year-old said, “I’m glad God made seeds because if you plant just a small pack, you get a LOT of peas to eat!” Me too, Dearie.

Our pickled peppers always received rave reviews from all the hot stuff eaters. And the muscadine jam–you’d have to taste it to believe it.

They learned so much.

When the deer got our peaches and crab apples and drought got our pears, their joy at what we had was sobered by what we lost. They couldn’t wait to start again, to do better. But in the meantime, we could open jars and remember.

One thing they loved helping with in the winter was apple leather. It is so easy to spread applesauce on a lubricated pan and set it near the fireplace to dry for a few days. How they loved making funny shapes of it with scissors! It was a favorite snack for them.

Actually, nothing beats the Winter Doldrums like the warmth and aromas of something happening in the kitchen. Whether Big Sis is rescuing some old bananas in yummy banana bread, or everyone is taking turns at the handle of the apple-slicing/coring device for apple crunch, we get miles of smiles from being close family in a simple kitchen full of love.

Kids love to cook. It’s a part of growing up.

They love to break eggs, dump ingredients, stir, set the timer, read recipes, etc. The kitchen, to them is like a big friendly science learning lab where we get to eat the experiment. Happy the child who feels welcome in the kitchen!

So is there a way a five-year-old can make brown bread? Probably not, but if you are making bread and let him count and dump in the part that makes it brown, wouldn’t he love it? How easy to launch from there into an explanation of differences in flours, complete with a microscope!

If his twelve-year-old sister does the bread making, she’ll beam when Daddy cuts himself a second slice. The seven-year-old could coat the pan with wonderful squishy grease. Teens love to rescue everyone when the hot pan is ready to exit the oven; the challenge of facing actual danger is like a tonic to them.

Are there any recipes a five-year-old can really do himself? Yes, the apple leather is one of them. He could make the butter for Big Sister’s bread: just shake 1 cup room-temperature cream in a quart jar for about 15 minutes and it makes butter. You strain off the remaining liquid for him, and let him pack it into a bowl. Or how about pie dough crackers? Hand him scraps to roll, cut, and sprinkle with milk and sugar or salt. Of course, you bake it for him.

A slightly older child can do more.

Let him slice some ice box cookies and arrange them on the cookie sheet. He can help you form the dough into the short, fat snake before you freeze it.

You might try a batch of coffee-can ice cream. Have him put a layer of ice cubes and salt into a large coffee can. Set a small, sealed coffee can ¾ full of ice cream mixture into the large can. Place ice and salt around the sides and over the top. Seal the large can and let the children roll this on the floor about 15 minutes until the ice cream sets. What fun!

When it comes to much older children, we know our future homemakers belong in the kitchen, but perhaps we’re lost about how and where to begin with them.

The first step is mentally to prepare for a mess.

Face it: you are neat and tidy in the kitchen because you learned the hard way it’s better to clean as you go. Your recipes are common to you and it’s no problem to fix a mess crisis while you cook. For the beginner, to cook IS the crisis and spills are commonplace. You can wipe up for her as she goes—an option that is good only for a while—or ask her to clean up when she’s done. We all must learn to police our own area.

So expect splatters from ceiling to floor. Grin and bear it. When my husband’s mother and I experimented with throwing pizza crust instead of rolling it, we gained a laughable moment that helped bond me to her like little else can. You want to bond with your own young chefs so they can feel loved and feel good about family life.

And don’t be surprised if your young men want to join in. I suspect when Jesus cooked fish for His disciples, it was scrumptious. And He did not learn that in the carpenter shop, either.

For beginning cooks, I like a mix.

Store bought or homemade, a mix is perfect for learning, because there is some fun measuring and beginners can concentrate on technique. Add skills gradually, layer over layer. You will know when you have come to the point where you can show her a recipe and do something else nearby. You can keep an eye on her and she can ask questions without leaving her station.

So, how old is old enough for each task?

Often I measure by height. No one should ever cook on a stove while standing on a box or chair. If you cannot reach the knobs, you are too young.

A lot has to do with motor skills. I have a cute photo of my daughter and one of her brothers when they were young—so young they sat ON the counter with the brownie bowl between them. It was their first try at egg-breaking. The egg was not exactly in the bowl. They were too young.

Invite them in, though. If you have many very little ones, start slowly, perhaps with licking the spoon. Do what you think is best for you, not forgetting the purpose: to have fun with Mom and be prepared for life.

Here are some easy or fun recipes to get you started:

No Knead Bread

2 cups white flour
1 package dry yeast
1 ¼ cup milk
½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour

Mix white flour and yeast. Warm milk, butter, sugar and salt to 120 degrees. Add to flour mixture with egg. Mix on low speed of mixer for 30 seconds, then on high for 3 minutes. Stir in whole wheat flour by spoon. Let rise 1 hour. Stir. Pour into greased bread pan. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes 1 loaf, 12 slices. Calories: 215 per slice.

Fast Fruit Ice Cream

1 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
1 quart individually frozen peaches OR 5 peeled, ripe frozen bananas
sugar or honey, to taste

Place into blender, cap, and blend on high until fruit is well blended. Place into ice cold container and freeze for about 3 hours. Or eat as is for a milk shake. Serves four. Calories: about 395, using peaches and 1 cup sugar.

Play Clay

1 cup flour
½ cup salt
1 teaspoon powdered alum
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 cup water
food color (opt.)

Place all in medium saucepan. Stir and cook on medium for 3 minutes, or until dough leaves sides of pan. It will not be too hot, only very warm. Knead. Store in covered jar, or air tight plastic bag, in refrigerator. Looks, smells, and feels just as they hoped.

Have a great weekend!

 

3 Things Home-Educating Moms Don’t Know about Retirement

Woman resting

We began home educating our kiddos in the early ’80’s, when things were just beginning to fire up a bit and there was almost no homeschool support to be had, anywhere. No advice. And for SURE, no advice about retiring.

Because we spaced out our children*, mostly at roughly four-year intervals, it took me 25 years to finish the job. Then I retired.

I’d like to give you a short list of shocking things I found out about myself and the whole retirement thing. I hope to save you some grief:

1. You do NOT necessarily get more done with all the children gone.

Nope. Sorry.

I know; it was a shock to me, too. I was so sure. I had to think about it a long time before I got it.

But it’s true.

You may have thought: There will be less laundry to do and fewer mouths to feed. There will be NO mud tracked in the door. There will be no more events to chase. I’ll be FREE!!!!

Think again.

You only get more done when they are gone if you keep on doing things.

Don’t feel bad; it took me ages to get this.

I remember my thoughts that first child-free morning:

Ahh—listen to it: NOTHING! The beautiful sound of no clamor, no to-do guilt—nothing in the world stopping me from that third cup of coffee.

PEACE!

Hours later, I was still basking in it, although I had somehow extricated myself from the recliner. I roamed around the house thinking I’d just take inventory and spend a day marveling at how simple life would become, now. Mentally, I gave myself a couple of months to coast and figure out what direction my life should take. I thought longingly about several projects I could now finish.

My stomach growled.

Wow. It was past noon. Hmm.

Ah well, only one sandwich and a cup of tea would take care of all my lunchtime duties. Cleaning only one knife, one small plate, and a cup would get me up and out of the kitchen and on with life. I could even eat in the sunroom, where the recliner beckoned.

And so it went, for days. Many days.

I thought I must have been really tired, to collapse like this.

2. The needs, schedules, and opinions of your children are what get you through it all.

I began to see this when I had my own desires for something outside the four walls. Most of the world works on a schedule and you cannot go to the library to chat with the librarian if the building is locked and she’s gone home. I acquired a young child to tutor. I ran out of stockpiled food (not feeding eight anymore made bulk-buying a bit silly.) I had to organize my life, somehow! Why was I always late?

The answers lay in the fact that, in the past, I did my level best at every task I took on, kept up with the outside world, and kept a brave, cheery face about it because:

  • My children had long heard lectures from me about doing our best at all times,
  • My children needed to be places without the embarrassment of arriving late and needed to see a good example set for timeliness,
  • My children got into serious trouble if they griped or grumbled.

WHAT.

It was about the children? They were watching?

Exactly.

And now, no one was.

And the truest self-test of character is to see what you do when no one is watching.

3. Your children work hard.

Unless you’ve already died of overwork, you make your children do a few things around the house.

Mine folded half the laundry, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, kept their own bedrooms clean, dusted and vacuumed the living areas whenever I asked, mowed, tended trash, fed pets—I know I’m forgetting something. Oh, I paid them to do windows.

If you’ve taught your children to help around the house, guess what: Your children graduate and get new jobs. They help around a different house, eventually .

Now days, I fold all the laundry and load and unload the dishwasher. Dust still falls into their bedrooms and the whole house, grass still grows, trash still piles up, and strays still adopt us.

And I still love sparkling windows.

When we first began homeschooling, I remember the serious lecture I gave my family:

“I will be like any mom who works outside the home. I will have many hours when I cannot do housework. I will need help from the whole family, the same as if we were not able to live on only my husband’s income and I was forced to supplement it by going out of the home.”

That truth remains. Just remove the many hours when I cannot do housework, and insert: me.

Me doing housework.

How can you do better?

  • Spend your last year or two seeking God about what He wants you to do in your retirement.
    Get ready for those tasks.Begin walking in them before the last child leaves, so it will be less of a transition and you’ll have your new schedule nearly in place.
  • Keep a to-do list as you always did.
    Make yourself obey it for your OWN good, to please the Lord, to do your best.
  • Work, work, work!
    As we age, we lose muscle mass. Plan on a quick burn, maybe 30 minutes of hard work, every day—the kind that makes you perspire.
    Think of mowing in summer as a lovely multi-task that keeps you out of the weight room, the tanning bed, and the sauna.
    Wrap crime-zone tape around the recliner!

Any more discoveries? Ideas? Solutions? Share! Thanks!

*Those who know me know: When I say “children” I mean anyone under age 18, and several who are 18 or above. Mostly, I just mean “my own kids, grown or not, still living under my roof”. No offense meant to any kids who think they are grownups although still dependent, nor to any 32-year-olds who act like two-year-olds! 😉

She Came Crying, Begging, and Trembling…

It happened during our tiny tornado that passed over us and never did a bit of damage except for felling one oak tree in the woods.

Storm CloudsWe saw the clouds coming. We knew the predicted danger was upon us. Watching it was like watching time-lapse photography. I’ve never seen clouds approach so fast.

We were ready. We have a basement and I was about to suggest we go there, except the amazing display of the skies held me entranced. There was no funnel cloud, just incredible force.

Incredible force.

Think: Can you move a tree? Even a small tree, such as an apple, is difficult to shake, even when we desperately want those apples. Yet, huge trees, with branches as large as some tree trunks, were swaying as if they were grass, as if they were dancing. Do they like tornadoes? Do they love the chance to sway like the grass? It seemed it.

Yet, reality kept me in check: Water was leaking under the front storm door, impossible except during tornadoes. As I fetched a couple of old towels from the laundry room, to protect our living room floor, I heard the honking of an automobile through the exterior door. I heard the wild, mad, honking of someone desperate.

My husband had the sense to open the door, exactly at the moment the banging began. There stood a rain-drenched woman, blonde and petite.

“Oh, PLEASE let me come into your house! Please let me come in!” she begged, trembling all over and almost jumping in the door once we opened it.

Who could deny such a request at such a time?

So it was that she stood just inside the laundry room, dripping, running, water all over the tiles. She blessed us, thanked us, and blessed us again. And I stood, dumbly, astonished, with two towels in my hands, finally thinking to thrust them at her. She began drying herself as if she were a family member. Mentally, I remembered the flooding front door, and I remembered the Scriptures: do not neglect entertaining strangers, for thereby, some have entertained angels, unaware… (Or something like it–that was how I was remembering it.)

As if she were an angel, we encouraged her to come inside the rest of the house. We anticipated a black-out and wanted her where we could seat her if darkness made our unfamiliar house a hazard to her. We offered her more towels and a drink. We showed her the astonishing view outside our front door, as more storm flew over us. We apologized as we needed to tend to that water coming in with more towels.

She, feeling SO at home, asked to borrow a phone. She told her mother she was okay, but would be late. We chatted. The storm passed.

Then she apologized: She usually drives through a storm unafraid, she said, but this one was like NOTHING she had ever seen before. We assured her we felt the same and she was extremely wise not to drive in such wind with the ground so saturated that trees might fall across her path, or even on her car. She thanked us profusely and promised to bring us a cake. We told her we would love a cake, but she owed us nothing.

Then she left for where she belonged, and, just like that, this golden moment of people helping people was over.

I miss it.

_______________

Storm Clouds (Photo credit: mcdett)

When Enough Is Enough

Second and Third bouquets of the year

Hellebores and Daffodils

I do not normally ever think there are enough daffodils in my house. Ever.

However, when I think of all the daffodils my beloved has brought me over the years, I get a soft, satisfied feeling I cannot explain.

Fulfilled? Maybe. Or maybe just content?

Anyway, I promised to show you the very first bouquet from this year on the 21st, but I guessed wrong at the date and today is the day!

So, go here, where I am guest posting for a friend,  and see the lovely and very first bouquet of daffs from my beloved, and one of my off-the-cuff stories to go with it. Enjoy!