Thursday, February 28, 2013

Twenty Minutes

I've given myself twenty minutes before we meet at the table to start school.  Have I been grumbling on my blog lately?  It feels like I have.  There's that fine line between being transparent and sounding like a complainer.

There is so much I want to talk about.  I want to be real and as honest as can be.  But I don't want to sound like a grumbler or ungrateful.  It is hard to know how sharing your heart in print is received by those who read it.

It feels like the wheels have completely fallen off our bus though.  I am so out of kilter.  I am longing for order, routine and schedule.  If you know me you know I'm a flexible routined person.  There is so much peace in knowing the order of the day. 

But right now there is no order.  We are in survival mode.  We are just trying to get the necessity done and get by.  Today is the 8th day of fever, snotty noses and coughs.  It started the first of January and has been one round after another.  Fevers, pneumonia, stomach bug, strep, more fevers and colds.  We've been home and it has been one of the sweetest, lonely, good, hard, dark, happy times I've known.  We've loved the quiet time to snuggle in and read and we've missed the light of other people and being out in the real world.  It's been a love hate thing.

I don't know how people go through the hard times without the provision of the Lord.  He has completely and utterly spoiled us this week and over and over said, "I see you and you are not forgotten."

Two people have brought us dinners.  One friend knocked on my door with a plate of scones fresh from the oven, a card and CD, another friend mailed me a calender.  Shane arranged a friend to drive an hour to come visit me yesterday.  He gave us three hours and coffee and lunch money to go out and enjoy.  She bought us both candles to serve as a remembrance of God's faithfulness and goodness.  Last night we had a knock on the door.  Another friend bringing the biggest care package I've ever seen filled with movies, popsicle's, medicine.

Last night I cried at the lavish provision of God who sees us.  Then I started hollering and jumping around for joy telling the boys how stinkin' good God is.  I mean He is just utterly, flat out, over the top good.  Monday morning I got up and I was resolved.  I told Shane that even if the next 8 weeks are filled with fevers and coughs and we're home bound I will rejoice.

This week I have seen the hands and feet of Jesus.  I have seen how a casserole and baked treat can make someone feel like they are the most special person in His eyes that ever lived.  My eyes are opened.  I am wandering who around me needs my hands and feet.

(and by the way, as I live and breathe I just got a text from another friend telling  me we have been on her heart and that she is praying for us and wants to know if we like lasagna...I just cannot get over the kind of people the Lord has put in our life.  Family and friends who reflect His heart so deeply and who show us who He is through their prayers, love and support.  The way the church has rallied around us in a hard time has left me completely and utterly overwhelmed at His goodness.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Traded It In

Yesterday afternoon I was treated to an unexpected gift.  An afternoon thunderstorm.  The sky turned very dark and gray.  All three boys laid down for a nap and sacked out for a couple hours.  I had options.  I decided the unmade beds and floors that needed to be swept and vacuumed could wait.

While we ate lunch yesterday I had cleaned out my microwave.  I just put a coffee cup of water inside and microwave the water for 5 minutes.  Then you let it sit a few minutes.  I take a hot, soapy rag and the inside cleans up in a snap.

So I reheated a cup of coffee and filled the mug the rest of the way with hazelnut creamer.  I lit my candles.  I turned on the fire and cranked the heat up.  And I sat in my chair and read my Bible.  During this time I was also baking the slice and bake chocolate chip cookies.  The air in my house smelled like pure chocolate heaven.

The boys all woke up and we took a family trip to the doctor.  They took a few of my Ben Franklin's, told me we had three cases of bad colds on our hands and bid us good day.  Ouch.

This last thing I just have to share with you because it is so good. 

"I will give you every place where you set your foot, as promised." 
Joshua 1:3

Besides the literal ground still unoccupied for Christ, there is before us the unclaimed and unwalked territory of God's promises.  What did God say to Joshua?  "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised."  Then He set the boundaries of the Land of Promise-all theirs on one condition: they must march across its length and breadth, measuring at off with their own feet.

Yet they never marched across more than one third of the land, and as a consequence, they never possessed more than that one third.  They possessed only what they measured off and no more.

In 2 Peter 1:4 we read, "He has given us his very great and precious promises."   The land of God's promises is open before us, and it is His will for us to possess it.  We must measure off the territory with the feet of obedient faith and faithful obedience, thereby claiming and appropriating it as our own.

How many of us have ever taken possession of the promises of God in the name of Christ?  The land of His promises is a magnificent territory for faith to claim by marching across its length and breadth, but faith has yet to do it.

Let us enter into and claim our total inheritance.  Let us lift our eyes to the north, south, east, and west and hear God say, "All the land that you see I will give to you."  (Gen. 13:15)

Wherever the tribe of Judah set their feet would be theirs, and wherever the tribe of Benjamin set their feet would the theirs, and so on.  Each tribe would receive their inheritance by setting foot upon it.  Don't you imagine that as each tribe set foot upon given territory, they instantly and instinctively felt, "This is ours?"

An elderly black man who had a wonderful testimony of grace was once asked, " Daniel, how is it that you exhibit such peace and joy in your faith?"  "Oh, sir!" he replied, "I just fall flat on God's 'very great and precious promises,' and I have all that is in them.  Glory! Glory!"  One who falls flat on God's promises knows that all the riches abiding in them are his.

The marquis of Salisbury, an English statesman and diplomat, upon being criticized for is colonial policies, replied, "Gentlemen, get larger maps."

-Streams In The Desert, February 25th

Monday, February 25, 2013

Just Rest

There is one little theme that keeps making its way across my path.

It is the words, "Just Rest."

Slow down, rest, and embrace this season.  For us, the last 8 weeks have forced us to rest because of on and off sickness.  I have missed 6 Sundays out of the last 8, because one or all of us were sick.

Today I am taking all three boys in to get checked out.  It feels like we are swimming upstream.  And God, in His Faithfulness, keeps telling me the same thing.

Just Rest.

Last night I crawled into bed, weary after another day of being sick myself, and read the Psalms.  Out of every verse I read, one stood out above all the rest.

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him.

So that is what I am seeking to do.  Our school lessons are abbreviated.  The food served around here has been simple (and processed!).  I'm even serving slice and bake cookies for a get together we have tonight-which, if you know me, is a huge deal to be serving up store bought and not homemade.

One of my very favorite messages from the LORD is when He tells me to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness, to trust in Him and do good.  When He tells me to find my delight in Him, and commit my way to Him.  And then He says He will sustain me.

So today I'm trading in my agendas and my expectations, trading in the things I feel make me a success.  I'm laying them down in exchange for rest.  Again.  Another day of slowing down and resting.  Another day of what appears to be the important left undone.  Sometimes it takes a great deal of faith to lay it all down and just rest.

Psalm 37

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pinterest White Sheet Cake

I am on a kick with making desserts from Pinterest.  This one came from an adorable website called Eat Cake For Dinner. This recipe held up to all the rave reviews, it was heaven and we did not have one crumb left in the pan.
It is cooked on the stovetop.  I've never cooked a cake on the stovetop in a saucepan so I was very curious how it would turn out.
It was just like I'd imagine a good old fashioned cake made from fresh ingredients would taste like. 

This is a great recipe to have all the ingredients on hand for.  It would be the perfect thing to whip together for unexpected company or just for a fun weekend treat.  There are many Friday or Saturday nights where I bake something good like this and we watch a movie or play cards.  Simple little things, but it makes life seem special.

So here's the low-down. Preheat your oven.  While it is preheating, whip this together in your large saucepan.  It only takes 20 minutes or so to bake up.  When you pull it out (and turn off the oven-I always forget this part!) make your icing.  By the time the icing is done you can just pour it right on top of the cake.  I wasn't sure if we should refrigerate it or what.  We ended up leaving it on the counter covered loosely with a piece of wax paper.  Since it lasted less than 12 hours it didn't really matter.

(This is a pic from Eat Cake For Dinner's website, isn't it beautiful?! A copy of her recipe is below...)
Grammy's White Sheet Cake

1 c. butter
1 c. water
2 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sour cream

1 c. butter
6 Tbl. evaporated milk
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped pecans, opt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter and water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in the sour cream and mix until blended. 
Pour the batter into a well greased 11''x17'' sheet pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 
Remove cake from oven and allow to cool slightly while you make the frosting. Put the butter and milk into a medium saucepan. Heat until butter is melted and bring to a simmer. 
Remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla and a dash of salt. Whisk until completely smooth. Add nuts (if desired) and spread over cake. 
(If you're in the mood for more recipes you should hop on over to Eat Cake For Dinner's site-she has some good looking recipes.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pajama Day

Welcome to Pajama Day.  It's raining buckets outside and I couldn't be happier.

In 25 minutes when my timer dings to get to school, we're doing it right in here by the fire.

Today we're staying in our pj's.  None of us will brush our hair and we're having corn dogs for lunch.

It is dark, cold, and thundery outside.

Bye Bye Daddio, have a good day!  Every time he leaves all the boys yell, "WAVE!!!!!!"

Because I have some standards this is all the picture of me and my pajama day I can show you.  Complete with flannel gown, cuddle duds, socks and robe.  Somedays you gotta throw the seasonal sweater vest away for the finer things in life. 

Last night at Bible Study we talked about creating soul-filling spaces.  I can promise you a lazy, low-key, rainy day is at the top of my list.  We're gonna get the Math worksheets done first, then get the dreaded hand-writing assignments over with.  And I just bet the rest of the day will be filled with finishing up Farmer Boy.  The harvest is done and they're getting ready to go to the town fair before winter sets in.  I'm itchin' to see what good food they eat today!

One of the things I always liked about the idea of homeschooling was the rainy days we'd spend together, hunkered down together inside.  Not getting out in the dark cold, but snuggling in for reading and some good food, rest and play.

For a woman who quit two days ago, it feels good to be back on the job today.  Now granted, yesterday we took a snow day.  No matter that it only snowed for maybe four minutes.  The boys played Monopoly with their Daddy and I read Farmer Boy and I am learning to be comfortable with the fact that some days that is the perfect schooling situation.

If you were here with me I'd make us a fresh pot of coffee and share the last bit of Grammy's white sheet cake with you.  No worries, the recipe is coming.  A little gift for you. 

If you feel you need to prepare so you'll be ready I can tell you this.  Make sure you have an entire box of butter.  That's four sticks for the lay person.  Get you a bag of powdered sugar and a small can of evaporated milk.  If you've got eggs, sugar, flour, soda, vanilla, and salt you'll be able to create the delicate treat.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lilacs & Snow

I'm so predictable.

Every time we pass by a certain chicken restaurant in town and it's night the parking lot is always empty.  Shane kindly pointed out that every single time we pass by I always say the exact same thing.

Man, I don't know how they stay in business.

And there is this overpass in town that overlooks a new subdivision.  This one house has a massive backyard and they only sodded a wee bit by the back patio.  Apparently every time we drive by I comment on their sod-or lack thereof.

And my little melt-down yesterday.  I should've known.  Those dang hormones. 

Things started looking up yesterday afternoon when I decided to finally take a shower.  I am coming to realize that showers have magical powers.  As do real clothes and shoes.  I even slapped on some make-up and threw some hot rollers in my hair.  A gentle nod to the 80's if you will.

I don't know why I bother with the rollers because the texture of my hair is also changing into weird straw-like qualities.  Let's don't call it over processed OK?  Let's just blame this, along with everything else, on old age or the devil.

This morning I went to the grocery store all by myself.  It was just me and my iPod listening to tunes while I browsed the aisles.  I was having the most enjoyable time when I ran into my friend by the meat counter.  We got to talking and she mentioned how the sleet was already starting to come down.

Something in me freaked out!  I kicked it into high gear and wrapped up my church/shopping trip to get home.  Pathetic as it may be, I have no idea how to drive in inclement weather so I just do mankind a favor and stay home and eat cookies when it gets icy.

You would not believe what I walked in to when I walked in the back door.  Candles lit everywhere, in every room.  And 4 boys who cleaned the house to surprise me.  That Shane knows how to bless me.  Freshly mopped floors and vacuum lines are my love language.  He even did the last two loads of laundry.  He wanted me to be able to just come home and rest.

Which is exactly what I'm off to do.  I decided that it's going to be OK to slow down until I get back to 100%.  We're gonna let a few things go and just roll with it. Enjoy your snow may be the last one before Spring.  Speaking of which, I have lilacs and tulips about to bloom...can't wait to talk lavender seeds with you soon...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We crashed and burned

...forget all the happy home talk from my last post.

This morning we got going and crashed and burned right out of the gate.  Two spilled cups of milk and one spilled cup of water.  That may not sound like much but it felt like a huge deal to me.

And I'm throwing in my number two pencil.  We've all cried and I think I'm going to quit being a teacher because it is too frustrating.  Adding and learning to write correctly is just too hard.  I can't teach it and they can't learn it.

You ever just feel like a big heap of a failure at what you've been doing?  Ever feel like you are on the wrong road and maybe it's time to get on a new one?  That's me this morning.  So frustrated and discouraged.  Rolling my eyes at all the happy home talk, wandering if it's even possible.

The last three days I've been in bed sick and the boys have been making do while I rested.  Empty bags of microwave popcorn and spilled Mountain Dew have lined the kitchen counters.  Games and movies on the TV have kept them occupied.  Our entire routine has gone to pot.  The result is lots of frustration because no one knows which end is up and which is down. 

I'm trying to get us back on track but I'm still worn out.  It's hard to give yourself grace when you are forced to slow down.  It's hard to just rest and take it as it comes.  It is hard to leave things undone and not give in to feeling like a lazy failure of a mom.

I'm gonna try though.  I may get up from this computer and crash and burn again and we'll have another re-start.  A happy home is not easily won.  I just read that in my book club book, Desperate, late week.  It is true.  A happy home is not easily won, but maybe with a little grace and perseverance it can get back on track.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Home

So on a lighter note, my oldest son steals my pillow every night because he says it smells good.  Tonight I was washing my face and he had his face nuzzled into my nightgown. 

"You're the best smellin' Mom this side of the Mississippi!"

Sweet boy.

There is another important detail about our weekend I forgot to mention yesterday.  We were on cleaning the white table cloth from church duty after some events at church last week.  All weekend, 3 stacks of folded white table cloths sat on my dining room table.  And I didn't freak out about it.

That is a huge accomplishment for me, to let something like that just be.

Do you ever get in freak out mode with the house?  Where you turn into Staccato Mama?  I learned that phrase from the book, Unglued, and it cracks me up every time I think about it.  In music, staccato notes are one you sing with a punch.  Get on the note and get off it very quickly.  Staccato Mama is when you are barking out words to your kids.

So things can be going perfectly fine when Staccato Mama strikes.  This. House. Must. Be. Pulled. Together. NOW.  Ya know, the kind of tone that pretty much robs everyone of any ounce of joy?  Yeah, her.

Well, I've chilled out lately.  I am learning that a happy home is about the atmosphere I create.  I want my boys to remember me as being a Happy Mama.  Not Staccato Mama.

That's why if you come over there will probably be:
  • Batman Lego's on the formal dining room table
  • A game of Memory on the living room floor
  • A Pokemon battle on the playroom floor
  • Coloring pages on the bar
  • Schoolwork on the kitchen table
  • A fort in the boys bedroom
And every afternoon we reign that show in and pull the house together before Shane gets home (well, on a good day anyway).  Light the candles, turn on the lamps, and restore order.

Knowing this is the rhythm of our day frees me up to let the boys enjoy their space.  They know they can play and I know it will get picked up.

Happy Mama=Happy Home
Today try smiling more.  Try to be a kind hearted person to be around.  See how you can serve someone near you or say something that will brighten their day.  Create a warm atmosphere in your home by refraining from saying negative things today.


Should I start with the good parts or the reality?  Let's just intermingle it all shall we?  Thursday we went digging for diamonds which was a huge score.  We spent the day digging through dirt and visiting with an older couple.  The weather was perfect and it was great to see the boys running through fields of dirt.

When we left we headed toward a hole in the wall joint that is famous for their BBQ & Tamales.  About 30 minutes into the trip we realized we were going the wrong way.  That detour added an extra hour to the trip.  Their were squeals of delight when we finally wheeled up to the restaurant we had driven out of our way to enjoy.

As we walked by the windows I was eyeing the people's plates piled high with the best looking food.  I extended my hand to open the door only to find it was locked.  That's strange.  I pulled harder.  That's when we realized the door was locked because it was 6:54pm and they closed at 7. 

Disappointed and hungry we loaded back up in the bus and tried to get out of the city.  We were lost in the ghetto.  Bars on windows and we had no idea which road we needed to get home.  I had already been fighting the frustration with getting lost.  Now my tamale dreams were being dashed to pieces.  The day was threatening to derail into a big fail.
When we finally found the interstate we all yelled for joy.  And, we discovered we were only 4 miles from a great Mexican food joint.  If Mexican can't make things better I don't know what can. 

We slept good Thursday night after a long day of traveling and digging.  Friday we got up and decided we wanted to trip the crepes.  Strange as that may sound, working in the yard is very life giving for us.  We pull out the fire pit and burn pieces of wood and leaves.  The boys used some of the branches to make a fort with the neighbor boys.

That evening we got cleaned up and went to the best burger joint in town.  Burgers, fries and shakes is always a good way to end the day.

Saturday was a basketball game and pizza for lunch.  After naps the plan was to go to a new Italian place downtown.  However, I woke up from my nap with an awful sore throat.  Bad enough that I marched myself right down to the walk-in clinic.  Strep throat that landed me in bed Saturday and all day yesterday. 

I'd say we had a mixed bag of a weekend.  Overall it was great to be together enjoying some downtime.  This is what I got for Valentine's Day and read it cover to cover.

Today looks like another day in bed.  My entire body hurts and my throat hurts even worse.  I've had strep a million times and functioned just fine but last night it hit me.  I'm closer to 40 than not, and maybe this is what happens when you start getting older.  Not bouncing back right away. 

The boys will be ready for Mama to be up and running. 

In the meantime, I'm learning that things rarely go perfectly as planned.  From Christmas, vacations, or weekends at home, something is bound to happen that was not on the itinerary.  I can stew and pout or I can learn to find joy and contentment even when the day takes a sharp turn toward a direction I didn't have planned.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why We Do It...

The reason I put a Bed & Breakfast weekend on the calender is because it is life giving for me.  When the excitement and glitter of Christmas ends, we settle in for around 8 more long weeks of winter.

The days are long and dark.  Life feels so mundane during these days of being cooped up inside.  But there is always a little weekend toward then end, closer to Spring, that is tucked away in my mind and my calender.

It gives me a reason to buy the cute candle from Target that says, "Choose Happiness" in cheery yellow.

It gives me an excuse to indulge in some decorating magazines or new decorating books.  The above books are books from previous B&B weekends at home...the magazines below are for this weekend's reading.

I spruce up the house with little things.  Like these faux hydrangeas I scored for $5 last weekend at Joann fabrics of all places.

A picture of our layered bed.  I just know the kids are gonna sleep late so we can too. 

Mason jars of fresh flowers...Just buy one inexpensive bouquet and divide it up among 2-4 Mason jars.  Little jars of happiness sprinkled all over your home.

Creating a life of beauty does not have to be extravagent.  It just takes a small amount of time and effort.  Happy Valentine's Day friends!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nutella Stuffed French Toast

Let's just say Nutella Stuffed French Toast is pretty much the most decadent breakfast ever invented.  Topped with fresh strawberries it is a breakfast fit for any 5 Star Bed & Breakfast.

Here is a link to the recipe.  So simple.  Make a sandwich using Nutella (be generous) and dip it in a french toast mixture of egg, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar.  Heat on a buttered griddle and top with powdered sugar and strawberries.

Along with this special breakfast, I am working on other details to make our weekend extra sweet.  Tomorrow I am heading to the grocery store for a $5 bouquet of flowers.  I'll divide the bouquet up among Mason jars and place the jars of flowers around the house, even in the bathrooms.

Fresh ground coffee is a real treat.  We've got a little shop in town that grounds up the best Butter Pecan coffee you ever tasted.  At first I didn't think that would be a flavor I'd enjoy, but it is nutty and oh so good.

Today I am trying to get my cleaning done.  If all else fells I'll do Ol' Faithful, vacuum, feather dust and spray Febreeze.  But I am hoping to for real dust with Pledge and a rag and for real Windex.  And for real clean the bathrooms and mop.

So, back to food...Do you have a favorite extra special breakfast recipe you like to serve?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mary Jane's Farm

I adore Mary Jane's Farm. Her motto is,

"It's Not Where You Live, It's How You Live."


She has her own quaint Bed & Breakfast, along with a full line of bedding.  A couple of years ago I was shopping at Belk when the most charming bedding set caught my eye.

I purchased the mint green and floral bedding with birthday money and have loved it every day ever since.

So this week we are creating our own Bed & Breakfast getaway right here at home.  This is the third year we have done this.  I fully agree with the motto, "It's not where you live, it's how you live."  For me, this little project is about creating beauty in our lives.  It is fun to think about creating a pretty, relaxing space for us.

The boys like dreaming together about the fancy breakfasts we'll eat this weekend.  I like thinking about the freshly ground Butter Pecan coffee I'll be purchasing on Wednesday morning.
So, the first element in a well appointed Bed & Breakfast is a fantastic bed.  We needed a new bed but did not want to spend $1,000 plus on a mattress.  We found this 4 1/2 inch foam mattress topper on Overstock.  It.  Has.  Been.  Heaven.  Ever since we put it on our bed.  Now we have the most plush bed to sink into every night and it was under $200 to revitalize our existing bed.

We also purchased an inexpensive set of 1500 thread count sheets in Mint Green which have been equally luxurious.
It doesn't have to cost a fortune to breathe new life into your bedding and it is such a luxurious gift to give yourself.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hi Again...

My little Internet break was nice.

Granted, we've been sick off and on since the New Year, but I'm confident we are on the mend.  I'm pretty sure we've had every ailment going around and that is without us even playing at Chick-Fil-A.

This afternoon I was nestled under my covers.  The windows were open and a thunderstorm was blowing in.  The dryer was whirling and the air smelled so sweet and good.  Birds were chirping and dogs were barking in the distance.

All the bathrooms are sparkling.

And that's because...we've been sick this week and today was Operation DeGerm De Casa.  As bad as I hate being sick, it is always nice to restore order the next day.  I laid in that good smelling bed and it was so peaceful.  The boys were napping and we survived.

Everyone has clean sheets.  We are gearing up for our Bed & Breakfast weekend (at home!) next week.  I have turned down/rescheduled 4 invitations and appointments to keep the weekend free.  This is a big part of why we do the B&B intentionally protect a weekend to spend together.

I haven't decluttered like I thought I would and I'm OK with that.  The toilet paper holder is still broken and I hardly notice.  These days there are just more important things to be doing than making sure my baseboards are perfect and fussing over wompy jawwed toilet paper holders. 

I do however have two magazines in my possession that I'm trying to refrain from reading!!!  Cottages & Bungalows and Country Sampler...they are so cute this month.

It's good to be back on the ol' blog.  I've missed it.  Come back next week where we'll be talking about creating a Bed & Breakfast feeling at your very own house.