Monday, November 25, 2013

True Thankfulness

As I was reflecting on the upcoming holiday, and all that it will bring, I began thinking about the things for which people are typically thankful.  We love to express gratitude for family, friends, relationships, a good job, good health, a nice home, etc.  All of those things are truly blessing from God, and I am thankful for each of them.

However, are we still thankful when we do not have those things?  God’s Word tells us to give thanks in everything, but most of the time, we do not do that – myself included. 

When was the last time you said something like this:

Thank You, Lord, for that person who treats me badly.  I am learning to turn the other cheek.

Thank You for my less-than-good health.  I am learning that Your grace is sufficient.

Thank You for my unemployment.  My faith grows as I learn to rely on You for my daily provision.

Thank You for the people who were not supportive.  I know that You alone are all I need, and that You will never leave me nor forsake me.

Thank You for that criticism, because it means that someone cares enough about me to address something they see in my life that needs to change.

Thank You for this difficult situation because I know You are using it for my good and Your glory.  It has caused me to seek our Your strength and turn to You more often in prayer.

Thank You for allowing this trial in my life.  You will never give me more than I can handle, and I know that one day, I will be able to be an encouragement to others going through the same thing.

Thank You for not answering the prayer I prayed in the way I wanted.  I know that Your will is best for me.

These things are not easy to say, and to give praise in the midst of a trial or difficulty is one of that hardest things I have ever done.  You have to look really hard for the silver lining in that dark cloud that seems to surround you.  But it is there.  I am challenging not only you, but myself as well to look for God’s goodness in everything.  

In everything give thanks.

Friday, November 22, 2013

So Thankful

For the last several weeks, I have been visually inspired by so many different things I have seen on blogs, websites, and the all-encompassing Pinterest. I had wanted to refresh and revamp my front door wreath for some time, since the flowers kept blowing out and I had to rescue them.  Besides that, I was just ready for a change.  You know.  :)

So, during one of my crafting moments (making yarn roses) the great inspiration struck.  I knew what I wanted – something that would express not only creativity, but gratitude.  This is the story in pictures…

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The old wreath – nice, but tired

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The inspiration – yarn roses

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It’s starting to emerge!

Add a little banner and a large burlap ribbon bow, and voila!

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I love that every time I walk in my door I am reminded to be thankful for all that God has given me.  How do you express your gratefulness?

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Lovely Gift

Each year when my birthday rolls around, my husband is somewhat distraught about what to give me.  (Just for the record, he always manages to pull off something very nice.)  This year, he managed to really hit the brownie points lottery – he made me a console table for my living room.  This item has been on my “would like to have this one day when you have the time to make it” list that sits in a drawer in the kitchen.  I have an oddly shaped living room due to a stone corner area, and that side of the living room looks rather odd.  I wanted a table to fit in that small space under my gallery wall (which is still unfinished).  You know, the kind of table that I can decorate and store a few little odds and ends out of sight. 

Since he was going to be on the other side of the country during my birthday, he got to work early and finished it before he left!  I got to paint it and glaze it (my favorite part) after he put it all together.  Seriously – how awesome is that?  He gets the “Best Husband Award” again.  I guess that makes it thirteen years running now. :)

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Here he is priming the drawer fronts in the garage.

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The table is ready to paint… My favorite part.

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The table top is aspen coated with a golden oak stain.

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The table is painted in Valspar Nightfall green (Winter 2012 collection) and glazed in Martha Stewart Black Coffee.  I absolutely love this table!  I put the drawer pulls on myself – pretty scary to think of messing up my beautiful table while trying to drill a hole in the drawer front!  Eeeeep!  However, it turned out beautifully and fits perfectly in that space between the doorway and the hearth area. 

It was definitely a happy birthday to me moment!  Thank you, Paul, for such a wonderful gift!  I love you!

What is your favorite birthday gift?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baby Blanket

If you read my last post, you will recall the lovely windfall of yarn that I received.  Still so blessed by that!  Anyway, I couldn’t wait to start a project using some of those glorious fibers.  I picked out several skeins of the same soft-textured yarn.  I had six different colors, but not the same amount of each.  Undeterred, I began making granny squares.  This was my first group.  Those colors make me smile – so bright and cheery!

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Let me insert here, that granny squares, while easy to make and great for scraps, are not my favorite things to make.  Why?  Because of all the joining you have to do to finish the project.  Ugh.  They do look so nice when they are done, though.  They are also great for when you have just a few minutes of time.  I like to take my bag while riding in the vehicle, sitting on the couch watching a movie, or even while the kids are doing seatwork.  Before you know it, you have a stack  of completed squares.

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After using up all the yarn, I had an unequal number of squares of each color.  That meant that I had to put together a random arrangement of squares – not my best mad skill.  I really don’t do random things very well.  But after about 30 minutes, I had the squares arranged in a sufficiently random-yet-balanced way that was pleasing to the eye.  My eye, at least.

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Then came the fun part – the joining of all those blocks.  This is where I really wanted to shove it all in a bin and forget about it.  Maybe bring it out for my grandkids to finish one day.  But I did not quit.  I steeled my nerve, and set to the task at hand with a vengeance.  Once I got started, it was not too bad, and it went rather quickly.  I used the single crochet joining method rather than slip stitching them all together.  I think it gives a little more definition to each block, as well as a bit of texture with the raised ridge.

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After I finished all the joining, I went around the edge with  single crochet, then again with a shell stitch, giving it a lovely little scalloped edge.  I love shells on the edge of my blankets!  This is the finished product.

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Project completed.  Happy me!  :)  Now I need to sell it…  Anyone need a baby blanket? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Colorful Blessings

Recently, I received a great windfall of yarn.  A church in the area had been given excess yarn from some ladies who made blankets and things as a ministry.  Since no one really wanted the yarn (or knew what to do with it), I ended up with all of it!  Woohoo!  Of course, I had to take some pictures to convince myself that it was not all just a pleasant dream! 

The first haul was about 65 skeins of yarn (some partially used, but most were intact) and 18 balls of colorful cotton thread for crochet.

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Of course, I was ecstatic, and only took some of the yarn at first, leaving a good deal for anyone else who might wish to find a home for all those lovely fibers.  Later in the week, I learned that the yarn had been sitting there for some time, and that they really wanted to get rid of it.  I was only so glad to oblige.  No arm-twisting required.  So I cam home with another boatload of yarn.  I won’t be needing to buy yarn for a while.  I love the variety of colors, but it makes it hard to do one single project since you need so much of the same color for normal projects. 

Before I began any projects, though, I had to find a place for all that yarn in my craft/laundry room.  Remember that hutch that I repainted last year?  Perfect hiding place for all those lovely yarns!  Sigh. I love it when a plan comes together!

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So now that my fibers have a snug little home, I am beginning to put them to use.  Stay tuned for updates on all my upcoming projects! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Family Photos

It is that time of life.  Our children have continued to grow so quickly that our most recent family picture is way out of date.  Thankfully, I have an awesome and talented friend that agreed to take our photos this year (this is so much better than the self-timer method).  So, many thanks to my good friend Laine who sacrificed her time to make these photos possible. :)







{this one is one of my personal favorites}



Of course, there are many other pictures, but there are way too many to fit on this blog.  I just wanted to share a few photos with you, and you can all exclaim over how much the children have grown, and be in awe of my talented friend!  :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oh-So-Delicious Cinnamon Rolls

When I was a teenager, we lived in a small town with a village restaurant.  This particular restaurant had the most enormous cinnamon rolls, and they tasted even better than they looked!  It was always a treat to get one, although it was difficult to eat a whole one by yourself.  They were just too big.

Earlier this summer, after reminiscing about some childhood memories, I became obsessed with finding the recipe for these delicious rolls.  Further inquiry revealed that the rolls were made by a local Amish woman, and no one really knew the recipe.  I was disappointed, but not deterred.  I knew that somewhere in the wide world, the recipe lurked, just waiting to be discovered.  I searched the internet, perused dozens of recipe archives, and came up with nothing similar.  It seemed that the more elusive the recipe, the more obsessed I became with finding it!

One day after several weeks of searching, I found, quite by accident a recipe that I thought might just work.  I tweaked it a little, and was very pleased with the results.  I will share my much-sought-after recipe with you, since it is getting to be that time of year when we all like to bake things  warm and yummy and scentalicious (I think I just made up a new word).

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Cinnamon Rolls

Prep time: About 2 hours rising (unattended) 40 Min attended
Cook time: 25 min
Serves: 8+
Yield: 12 rolls

1 cup + 1TB warm buttermilk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)  You can also use regular milk, but I got better results using buttermilk
2 eggs
5 TB melted butter
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 cup brown sugar
2 TB ground cinnamon
4 TB softened butter

4 TB melted butter
4 TB cream cheese, softened
2 TB warm milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Dough:  Mix all wet ingredients together in a medium bowl, then add the dry ingredients, mixing until a soft dough is formed.  Knead until mixed well, then cover and allow to sit in a warm place for one hour, or until almost doubled in size.  Dough can also be mixed using a stand mixer with a dough hook.

After rising, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and let it rest while you prepare the filling.  Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and melt the butter in a separate bowl. 

Roll the dough into a rectangle about 12” wide and  24” long.  Spread the entire surface with melted butter, then sprinkle it with the filling mixture, leaving about 1” clear on the long side.  It should look something like this.

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Begin rolling the dough from the long side, keeping edges even.  This can be a bit tricky, but the dough usually handles very well.

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Pinch closed along the open edge, sealing the roll shut.

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Once the dough is sealed, shape the ends a little, and cut into twelve rolls.  I have found that using dental floss to make the cuts results in a cleaner cut, and does not squash the shape.  I even used cinnamon floss to enhance the flavor! :)

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Set the rolls, cut side up, in a lightly sprayed 13x9” dish, leaving space between them.  Cover and allow to rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm place. 

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After rising, preheat the oven to 350.  The rolls will have grown in size and will look something like this.

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Bake for 18-20 minutes.  While rolls are baking, mix up the glaze, adding more milk or sugar to achieve the proper consistency. 

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Allow the rolls to cool slightly before adding the glaze.  I usually wait 15-20 minutes, then pour on the glaze.

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The rolls are delicious right out of the oven, but I usually make them the night before and reheat them for breakfast the following morning.  (I do not relish the thought of getting up at 5 a.m. to have cinnamon rolls by breakfast time.)  They taste great no matter what you do, and your house will smell scentalicious and cinnamon-y.

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Now, go make some!  I promise you won’t regret it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall is Here!

Yes, it has actually been here for several weeks, officially, but I have been unable for many reasons (which I will not discuss at this time).  If you want a full disclosure of all of our recent adventures, you can find it on our ministry website under the Update tab.  Suffice it to say, it has been a very eventful month for us.  I will post a few photos to give you an idea of what has been happening.

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Amazing cinnamon rolls (I secretly call them sin-rolls  because they are so delicious)

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Chick trip to Shipshewana, IN, with my Mom, Mother-in-law, and girls.  We had an awesome time!

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Can you tell what we spent most of our time doing? 

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I found a sign that has become my favorite! :)

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Breakdown #1 – lost the transmission.  Can I just say that this was like a train ride?  A very expensive train ride.

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Finished the rainbow ripple afghan I was making.  I really like the way it turned out!

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Spent some time on a friend’s farm in Minnesota. It was beautiful there!

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Attended a bee demonstration field trip, where we capped, extracted, and tasted fresh honey.  The kids learned a whole lot about the whole pollination and honey-making process.  In case you are wondering, the tiny jar contains pollen.  We tasted it as well, and I was surprised by the fruity taste that it had.

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Visited the open plains of eastern South Dakota.  You can see the wind farm in the distance.  Two weeks later, when we returned from this trip to pick up our repaired truck (new transmission) and trailer, I found that the breaker had tripped in the trailer and the result was that our refrigerator and freezer had lost power and all the food was spoiled.  I had to throw it all out, clean up the congealed puddles of indescribable nastiness that had run down the wall and onto the floor, and clean all the mildew out of the fridge.  It was an epic mess.

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Breakdown #2 – a broken universal joint.  And another expensive “train ride.”

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Arrived at our destination in SC at 4:43a.m. Sunday morning.  We didn’t even bother going to bed after driving all night.  I gave the boys some much-needed haircuts, everyone showered, dressed for church, ate breakfast, and headed off to Sunday School.  Thank goodness for the Sunday afternoon nap!

I am really hoping that this week will be relatively uneventful.  I have had so much happen in the last few weeks that I think I have used up all my spare emotions and adrenalin.  I now have to get the kids caught up on their school work and I should probably pick up a few groceries to put inside my sparkling clean refrigerator. :)