Monday, October 26, 2020

What I Learned About Homemaking Living Abroad ~ Part 2

"As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
~ 2 Corinthians 6:10

Living for several years in a small foreign country with a struggling economy taught me many lessons about homemaking. Since moving back to the State's, I realize how my thought process has changed in many areas. Here is my continued list of 12 random, home-related things I gleaned while living abroad (and in no particular order)... Part 1 is shared here.

4. Though You May Have Little You Can Still Give Much

Even though our neighbors were not well off, they were always giving...  fresh milk from their cows (gifted in a recycled jar), bouquets and clippings from their garden (hydrangeas and roses!), vegetables from their homestead (organic and fresh!), honey from their bees (raw and sweet!) and homemade jam from their fruit trees. Gifts do not need to cost money and generosity is not only for the wealthy. Sometimes we get caught up in the monetary world and forget how many things we can give which doesn't cost us any money and yet has real value! I was always humbled by the variety and creative blessings they bestowed on us as their new neighbors.

To give you an understanding, the gentleman who shared his honey had no wooden front door. A piece of fabric was what divided his home from the outdoors. He would bring over native herbs and share its uses with us and yet he had an exposed roof in his home. He told us where to find affordable bulk foods for our family which was so very helpful (you take Costco for granted and these things do not exist in all areas of the world) and yet his pantry didn't provide past the first day. His knowledge and friendship was worth so much to us and was a gift in itself! 

5. Preparing Food is an Event, A Process

As Americans, we often want things as quickly as possible. After all, we invented "fast food"! However, our neighbors reminded us that meal making is a slow ritual that was worth time and effort. They would roll out handmade ravioli for lunch. They would fill them with fresh chard from the garden and cover them with the pasta sauce preserved from the summer. They worked incredibly hard and the carefully crafted food they prepared was a way they celebrated their simple life. 

6. Make Meal Time Important

And as much time as they spent in preparing the meals, they also spent in enjoying them. They didn't rush through a year's worth of existence in order to spend a week's worth of vacation together (like many are in the habit of doing). They enjoyed their life one meal at a time (it is the simple things that contribute to the daily joy and make up the memories).  Each afternoon and evening was spent lavishly in regards to time. It allowed them to share fellowship with one another. Often, we think money is necessary for creating happy memories (think Disneyland, resorts, etc) when in reality, it is time! It is each-other's company that is most meaningful. It is laughter, deliciousness and love that create the best souvenirs (ones that our carried in our hearts and do not clutter up our homes). 

Time spent around the dinner table has become a ritual in our home. While having a lunch together does not work for our current schedule, dinner time is given our full attention. The table is set every evening with real dishes, serving bowls and cloth napkins. It is as if company is coming over because it is treated like a special family event. The house is quiet and peaceful (television, radio or cell phones are not guests at our table). This is where we first pray together, visit together, find out about each other's days, encourage each other and just keep connected in general. We may be there for hours. It is an investment in our relationship and I see many blessings from it! 

(Note: While we have always eaten our meals around the table since we were first married, I am ashamed to say I did not always put the same amount of love into the meals to make it special. The table would be set in the quickest way possible with torn paper napkins haphazardly arranged. I would chuck the sour cream on the table in the original container instead of serving in a pretty dish. I would rush through the meal in order to get to the next phase of the evening. I'm not saying that sometimes we aren't in a hurry and that shortcuts never happen, I'm just sharing that I began to put more time and effort toward the dinner hour and it has made such a difference toward forging a bond between us. It is hard to put into words but once you attempt to make meal time special, you will understand.)

Perhaps many of these concepts are already understood but I thought I would share them just the same. In such a materialistic society, we sometimes need reminders of how our great-grandparents lived and how rich in experience and memories their humble lifestyles were!

"As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
~ 2 Corinthians 6:10

What about you, what have you found to be true from your experiences with the topics above? I will continue the series in another post because it can take quite some time to go through. Happy homemaking!

Monday, October 19, 2020

September 2020 Newsletter

“It was a lovely afternoon - such an afternoon as only September can produce when summer has stolen back for one more day of dream and glamour.”
~ Luce Maud Montgomery

Has September truly left and brought autumn with it? Time moves and marches on and if we don't enjoy every moment we will miss it! The seasons are such a gift as they offer variety for the keeper at home. There is a daily rhythm in the household but it does change which keeps it interesting. Here we are with another monthly newsletter in which I talk about books I have read, things I have watched, projects I have been working on and any other ponderings which really don't fit into its own post! It's pretty much some old-fashioned, homemaking chit-chat. Do pull up a chair and sit a spell...

(picture above are pomegranates from grandfather's tree)

For starters, I was thrilled to find we actually have fruit on our property! On the side of the house where there is a concrete slab with shut off valves and other utilities, this prolific tree had been quietly extending its branches and fruit without anyone noticing. When my husband made the discovery, I actually had to do some Google investigating to identify it. They are guavas! You can imagine our delight to find such tropical bounty! The aroma from this tree fills the air like a luxurious perfume and actually infiltrates the window of our bathroom. As you shower it is amazing aromatherapy! As one garden website explained it, "Another clue as to harvesting guava is the smell. The aroma should reach your nose, not your nose reach the aroma. That is, the fruit should begin to become so aromatic that you should smell the sweet, musky fragrance as you approach the tree." And this is absolutely true! Guavas begin their season in mid October through March. Apparently they are from the myrtle family, which also includes spices such as clove, cinnamon and allspice. Although it's native to South America, it is also grown in California, Florida and Hawaii. I foresee plenty of projects coming my way!

(picture above are the guavas on our tree)

Though the cucumbers and tomatoes are slowly trickling in, the eggplant continues to produce! Another recipe I enjoy making with them (besides eggplant parmigiana) comes from a friend from a far away land! It is a delicious vegetarian eggplant and rice casserole dish. Everyone loves it! It is one of those recipes that can easily be adapted with what you have as it is a "real homemakers" recipe. This is how it was given to me: 

"Sautee in butter and olive oil...Onion and red and green bellpepper and garlic fresh or dried garlic/parsley and a grated carrot and zucchini with 2 large eggplants cubed with skin and 1 cup of raw rice and 6 fresh pear tomatoes cubed or whatever tomato you have and cook til tender......salt/pepper to taste with approx 1/2 to 1 teaspoon oregano and a dash of cayenne and add 3 to 4 cups boiling water or broth and cook until most of water is absorbed. You also can add a soup mix for flavoring. After all is cooked...pour into a greased 9X13 and top with cheese and bake at 350 for approx 30 min or until mixture is hot and cheese is melted."

I have substituted the "pear tomatoes" (aka Roma tomatoes) for a 28 oz. can of Cento's "chef's cut" tomatoes that I found at the 99cent store and it turned out wonderful too! This is a hearty recipe that tastes very Italian that most people who don't care for eggplant would probably enjoy! 

The fall baking bug has also bit me! I was good all summer long eating raw fruits and vegetables and then it just hit like a ton of bricks -- almost on the exact day it became autumn! Within a few weeks I had baked over 18 dozen cookies! They freeze so well and therefore come in handy for impromptu guests and the evenings sugar cravings (just being honest). These oatmeal scotchies are a family favorite. The recipe can be found here on the Quaker Oats site. 

The other thing I have been doing in the kitchen is making up my own sourdough "Boboli's" for the freezer for future convenience. It is really simple as I just double my sourdough pizza recipe on Friday nights (this can be done with regular pizza dough too of course!). I keep two for our dinner and par-bake two extra each week to add to the freezer. I place a piece of parchment in between the two cooled crusts and store them in an oversized plastic bag in the freezer. Then I just need to add the toppings on a night where I'm short on time, bake until bubbly and we're ready to go! I love double cooking shortcuts because there is less mess (it's done once) and more back up meals for busy nights. I also love that I don't need to throw out so much of my sourdough discard. It gets used up nicely here!

I've also been mixing up batches of fabric softener for our "laundry room pantry". These are the thrifty little projects that I love to do. I recycle our glass vinegar bottles until I collect a set (and then I use the bulk vinegar to prepare them). I enjoy making up the bottles with different aromas and purposes. I use the lemon scented vinegar for kitchen linens to cut any residual grease and disinfect the towels and napkins. I use the lavender (which means “to wash”) for my clothing which feels so old fashioned and pretty. I use the “natural” version of vinegar (aka plain vinegar) on my husbands’ work clothes. All have a purpose which adds to the joy of homemaking. It makes for a delightful life to put love into every task. Here is the simple tutorial

I also made up a big batch of these botanical perfumes using essential oils to give as gifts for the sweet females in my family and church friends. I like to prepare little gift kits of love and I included these in the packets this year (along with an encouraging Scripture and bookmark which were all lavender themed). They smell luxurious (if I do say so myself) and offer the aromatherapy benefits of gentle relaxation. I hope to share my recipe for this natural "sweet lavender" perfume soon!

As far as reading goes, I actually picked up an old Victorian novel from one of my favorite writers, Isabella Alden (aka Pansy) this month (it's been a while since I've read fiction). Her books are practical Christianity packaged up in a nice clean story which really inspires you to do something in your faith! She is a seed planter! She knows that everyone she comes in contact with is being influenced by her daily walk (whether good or bad) and she takes her lifestyle seriously. I also find a raw humor inside her writings because she fixes on our weaknesses so well (but that is probably my quirky nature that is amused by it). But if you haven't read a book by her, I really encourage you to! They are simple in style but very inspiring!

Synopsis ~ "Lewis Morgan had, at last, disappointed his mother. Mother Morgan knew that her son would one day marry; it is what young men do, after all. But she had hoped that he would wait a few more years and then choose one of the local girls. A good, sensible, hardworking farm girl would have been good enough for her. Why not for her son? Louise, Lewis's young bride, wants so much to fit in at the Morgan house. But from the moment she arrives it appears that she has little in common with her in-laws. How, she wonders, will she ever be able to share God's love with them?"

I'll leave you with an excerpt to give you an idea...

"Don’t you begin your Christian life by supposing that all these duties which fall upon us in such numbers consume just so much time that must be counted out, and with the piece that is left we are to serve Him. Remember it is He who said, ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ Doesn’t that ‘whatsoever’ cover the pudding-kettle, too, Dorrie?”

New light was struggling on Dorrie’s face—just a glimmer, though, shadowed by bewilderment.

“It sounds as though it ought to,” she said, slowly. “And yet I cannot see how. What can my dishwashing have to do with serving Jesus? It seems almost irreverent.”

“It can’t be irreverent, dear, because he said it himself. ‘Diligent in business, serving the Lord.’ There is no period dividing these. I long ago discovered that I could make a bed and sweep a room for his sake, as surely as I could speak a word for him. It is my joy, Dorrie, that he has not separated any moment of my life from him, saying, ‘Here, so much drudgery each day, from which I must be entirely separated, then, when that is done, you may serve me.’ Work so divided would be drudgery indeed. I bless him that I may constantly serve, whether I am wiping the dust from my table or whether I am on my knees.”

Dorothy had held steadily on her course, the first lesson in her Christian experience being ever present with her, that in the very smallest matters of life her light might shine for Christ. She was learning the important lesson to be "faithful over a few things." 

 ~ A New Graft on the Family Tree by Isabella Alden, 1880 (affiliate link)

And a little reminder, if you haven't yet joined our giveaway please do so (there is 36 hours left)! Don't be shy... I would love to see what your favorites items are and I can't wait to mail out this giveaway gift to the randomly picked winner. It's fun to share and it makes it that much more fun knowing it is for one of you sweet ladies!

And finally, what about you dear reader? What wholesome and lovely things have you been reading, watching and/or working on? As always, recommendations are much appreciated and hearing about your homemaking projects always inspire me! (As for myself, here is a platter I picked up on my monthly thrift day that I absolutely love!) Until next time...

Verse of the Month:

"that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing."
~1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Choose Your Favorite 5 Giveaway! ~ From Mistress of the House

"If the state of your home is continuous chaos, make it a priority to bring order into your home. After rhythm, establishing a sense of order is perhaps the most important thing you can do to promote your own and your family's sense of well being. Not to mention that no mother can think clearly, never mind celebrate family life, existing in clutter. "
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Mrs. Sharp's Traditions 

A warm autumn greeting to you all! Today we are sharing the sixth of seven little giveaways I had promised for this little blog! I call it the "Favorite 5 Giveaway" because you get to choose your favorite five items from our Etsy shop in each of the following categories! My hope is that these little homemaking goodies will bring beauty and order into your home! Please include all five choices in the comments so that I know which you would like should you be the random winner. I hope this makes sense and I hope you have fun putting together your homemaking "wish list"! 

#1 Choose your favorite canister sticker labels (the entire selection is shared on the link)!

Set/25 Vintage Shabby Chic Cottage Rose Designer 2 Round image 0

#2 Choose your favorite all purpose blank labels (the entire selection is shared on the link)!

Vintage White Floral Designer Cleaning VINYL STICKER LABELS image 0

#3 Choose one of our organizational labels -- either the bathroom organizational labels, the housecleaning labels, laundry organizational labels or the refrigerator organization labels.

Set/25 The LORD BLESS THEE 2x3inch Shabby Chic Rose image 0

#4 Choose your favorite Scripture sticker (the entire selection is shared on the link). 

Set/6 Antique Vintage Black Teacup Blank All-Occasion Kraft image 0

And finally, #5 choose your favorite stationary (the entire selection is shared on the link)!

In order to enter, you will need to submit the FIRST ENTRY in the Rafflecopter widget below (this allows me your email address privately and if you are the winner -- the question it asks for in the comments allows me to know your chosen prizes). I'll put in my sample entry in the comments first so you can see what I mean... The other entries are just bonus entries but not mandatory (they just increase your chances of winning). 

This little giveaway will be open for the next 7 days and is open WORLDWIDE. You have the option to enter it in 7 different ways (pick and choose as many options that work for you -- but make sure you do the first one of choosing your prizes!) in order to have 7 different chances to win! Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 5, 2020

Letters of Comfort ~ Sympathy Mail ~ Free Printable

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice,
and weep with them that weep."
~ Romans 12:15

Sending Sympathy...

There has been some measure of sadness and sorrow surrounding many of us in these unprecedented times. Often it’s hard to console or say the right thing. A phone call can get awkward, a text may feel cold but a letter in the mail always feels appropriate.

You can pray about the words before you write them down and it shows extra care when you take the time to send them. 

In difficult circumstances, I will often tuck a dainty white handkerchief inside, a special Scripture and even a sprig of dried lavender for an extra bit of love.

For our free printable letter inserts, visit here:

for the smaller size and here for the larger size...🤎

And for those of you who are housebound, what a beautiful blessing this can be... what a heartfelt ministry you can have! What a lovely homemaking hobby! 

"What a wonderful thing is the mail,
capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp."
~Author Unknown