Monday, July 19, 2010

In a Pickle!

Yay, SUCCESS! My first attempt at canning pickles went well! I made 4 quarts of kosher dill pickles, and 6 pints of bread & butter pickles.

First of all, can I tell you that it was a LOT of WORK! I didn't realize the time it would take, nor the amount of pots, pans, bowls and burners I would use! I didn't have a bowl big enough to mix the ingredients for the bread & butter pickles, so I scoured my sink and used it instead. One side of the sink was filled with slices of cucumbers & onions, garlic, ice, and salt to set for 3 hours. In the meantime, I filled the canner with water and got that heating as well as another saucepan for the brine for the bread & butter pickles. The canner was so large that it took up 2/3 of the space on my stove! Still another pan was to simmer the lids & rims and another to boil water to cover the jars. I also ran the jars on the rinse cycle of the dishwasher to sterilize them. Needless to say, it was getting quite warm in the kitchen! Oh, did I fail to mention that the heat index for the day was 109? Humidity city!

I didn't have enough dill seed for the kosher dills, so I ended up having to spend 3 dollars (yes, you read it right!) for a package of fresh dill. Note for future reference ~ grow the dill myself! I had to juggle pans to make my brine for the kosher dills, and use the other sink to rinse, chop & slice the cucumbers into spears.

I packed the quart jars with cucumber spears, a clove of garlic, red pepper flakes, and the "best dill you can ever buy"! I processed the kosher dills successfully while I was waiting for the cucumbers & onions to drain. I was gratified to hear the familiar "pop" of the jar lids, and put the now-ready cucumber & onion slices into the sweet, hot brine. Once they boiled, I filled the pint jars and processed them. Six "pops" later, I cleaned up the mess and stood back to admire my labor of love. Glistening jars of verdant green koshers and a satisfying shade of yellow-green bread & butters graced my kitchen counter.

Although it was work, it was fun! I enjoyed the remembered scents of my mom's canning era now wafting around my kitchen. I still have to wait a week until I can taste-test my efforts, so I'll share my judgement then.

This little foray into the canning world was great for me. In fact, I hope to have a garden of my own next summer. I want to grow my own onions, lettuce, carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, green beans, peas, and cucumbers to can. I also want to grow herbs like chives, Italian flat-leaf parsley, basil, and dill to season my foods. I'd also like to grow lavender, sweet peas, and pansies to garnish and decorate with. How fun this is!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Past Circumstances

Sisters, do you ever struggle with letting go of past circumstances of your life? Does it seem that just as you think you've taken them to the foot of the cross for the last time, those memories come tiptoeing back into the recesses of your mind?

I've struggled this week. A moment in time many years ago has taken hold in my mind, causing me to rail, to wonder and to contemplate my life as I now know it. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I did the right thing and God not only protected me, but has blessed me beyond measure. However, the "what if's" have left me speculating.

As I was sharing my burden with my dear friend, she reminded me about Paul's challenge in his epistle of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
~ if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ~
think about such things."

Her gentle, godly advice was the balm that my wounded soul needed. How I praise the Lord for godly friends that not only encourage me spiritually, but challenge me and desire to soothe and minister healing to my heart!

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of a friend."
Proverbs 27:17
Oh, by the way, I've misplaced my study guide for Psalm 23. Once I find it, I'll resume!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


When I was growing up, we always had a family garden. Some of my favorite childhood memories consist of my mom canning green beans, pickles and tomatoes each summer. Each summer meal was rounded out with fresh peppers, buttery lettuces, baby red potatoes, green onions, cucumbers and tomatoes gracing our dinner table each evening. To this day, my favorite "garden meal" has to be green beans and baby new potatoes cooked in the Crockpot with ham, onions, and seasonings!

Crimson and verdant jars filled with tomatoes, pickles and green beans lined our cabinets with the bounty of the season. My middle brother used to sneak in those cabinets while everyone else slept to grab a jar of tomatoes and a salt shaker for a late night snack. To this day, he still gardens and cans ~ lovingly filling sparkling mason jars with the treasures from his raised and meticulously maintained vegetable garden. To savor his beautifully straight green beans, perfectly seasoned with onion, garlic, salt, pepper, as well bacon is a true delight!

So, here goes ~ I'm trying my hand at pickles this weekend! One of my piano students has a garden and has shared green beans, zucchini and tomatoes with us. She called the other day and asked if I'd like some cucumbers. "Sure!" I responded with enthusiasm. She and her hubs brought me 2 baskets FULL!

Once I had caught my breath, I decided to make pickles. She kindly offered me to borrow her canner and brought me a bunch of mason jars and lids and rims. I'm excited to make brine and cut cucumbers into little rounds for bread & butter pickles and long spears for dills and my personal fave ~ KOSHER DILLS! I'll post next week to let you know how it went!

Thanks, my dear friend Deb, for encouraging me to post about this!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A New Week

What is it about the idea of a new week that gives me the sense of a new beginning? As per usual, life got in the way and I didn't blog like I wanted to last week. I had every intention to get to the computer, but obviously, it never happened!

We had someone come look at our house over the weekend, but haven't heard any feedback yet. I'm getting a little discouraged because we're still HERE when we want to be THERE! Everything seems to be in limbo, and I don't do well in those conditions!

I continue to remind myself that my Shepherd is "making me lie down in green pastures" of rest, but I must confess, sisters, I'm antsy! The Lord knows and understands our desire to serve Him and will put us exactly where we need to be at exactly the right time, but I have to be transparent enough to share that I'm struggling.

Bits and pieces of verses come to mind:
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee"
"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him"
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength"

God knows my heart ~ every thought and intent ~ and knows what's best. He's in control and "commands my destiny"! I just thought of an old song from the late '70s ~ "I believe. I believe. I believe, so why should I worry or fret? He holds the future in the palm of His hand, and He's never failed me yet. I know He's reigning and is still in control, so why should I worry or fret? I know Who holds the future, and I know Who holds my hand. I know just as sure as I'm *singing* this song, I'm a part of His almighty plan. I believe, I believe, I believe, so why should I worry or fret?"

Time to take this to heart and put it in my mind! BTW, sisters, this is how the Lord speaks to me ~ though His Word and through music!

Thanks, Abba!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Well, sisters, as you can see, I have returned to the world of blogging. I know I'm a sporadic blogger at best, but there are just some days I simply don't feel like taking the time to blog. I'm impressed with those who do, and I'm thankful for the benefits I receive from their diligence.

The kiddos and I visited with my mother last week, and we enjoyed going to the pool, lounging around on her new deck, seeing Toy Story 3 (in 3~D), and eating cashew chicken! (This cashew chicken isn't what some of you may be acquainted with. This is SPRINGFIELD~style cashew chicken, first invented in Springfield, MO in 1963. This unofficial "dish of the city" is the most popular fast~food meal in Springfield! Imagine deep~fried, crispy chunks of chicken on a bed of fried rice, doused in a rich brown gravy, sprinkled with cashews and green onion. Throw in some crab Rangoons, and you're in heaven! Once you move away, you CRAVE it with all your being!)

I was able to spend a couple of evenings with Dana, my best friend from college. She and I have the type of friendship that we can pick up right where we left off and it's as if nothing has changed. We had a grand time shopping, eating out, watching chick flicks and solving all the world's problems! She blessed me with her time, fellowship, and generosity. She's the sister of my heart!

I share this idea of "return" with you all because I'm not only returning to blog land, but to the "homeland" of my roots. The hubs and I are moving back to the Ozarks, my childhood home. We're incredibly excited to begin this new venture the Lord has for us. We've put our house up for sale, the hubs is looking for a new job in the new area, and we are excited to become members of an amazing church there.

I realize that the idea of "returning" is sometimes associated with some kind of failure ~ but in the grand scheme of things, I believe it to be a new beginning. We are returning to the ministry, and we are so excited! This isn't for a paid position, either. It's simply the opportunity to open ourselves to be used for the Lord in whatever capacity He's chosen for us at this time.

Speaking of new beginnings, I've also returned to another dear friend of mine ~ Deb ~ a.k.a. "The Queen Mommy". She and I are collaborating to write a series of books ~ a dream of mine that's been on the back burner for years. Although we lost touch and hadn't corresponded in almost 10 years, once we reconnected, we totally connected! We are so much alike, it's scary! We even chose the same name for one of our daughters ~ spelling and all!

Return. A return to blog, a return to my roots, a return to ministry, a return to friendships and return to a long-awaited dream. A simple, yet powerful word. Simple in meaning, but powerful in the grand scheme of things.

"Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion
and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.
They shall obtain gladness and joy. And sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
"Return to the Lord your God."
Aren't you glad we can return? I know I am!

Simply Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

I love making this in the crockpot, but you can make it to bake in the oven, too!

2 T. butter, melted
1/2-3/4 c. minced onion
4-6 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 ham steak, cut into bite-size pieces
1 can cream of celery soup
1 small can evaporated milk
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Saute onion in butter until golden and transluscent. Spray 9x11 dish or crockpot with cooking spray. Mix soup and milk together. Layer baking dish of choice with potatoes, onions, ham and cheese. Finish with cheese layer ~ pour soup mixture over all. If baking in the oven, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. If using the Crockpot, turn to low and cook for 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are soft.

I serve this with green beans or mixed veggies. A tossed salad would be good, too. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Favorite "Wife" Books

This has been a challenge for me because I have so many! "The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian opened my eyes to the importance of praying for every aspect of my husband's life, from his health and safety to his thought life and leadership. A very powerful read!

Elizabeth George's "A Wife After God's Own Heart" is companion to "A Husband After God's Own Heart" written by her husband, Jim. Each chapter collates with the other spouses, and gives you opportunity to share your thoughts about different topics, such as responsibilities and finances. A great read!

Other great books include "Loving Your Husband" by Cynthia Heald, and "The Excellent Wife" by Martha Peace.