DIY Christmas Gift

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In this very busy season I decided I would just make myself a little busier. I decided to try make lotion bars. I had attempted this project quite a few months back and ended with an epic Pinterest fail. Those lotion bars only stayed hard when they were in the fridge. Once out they just turned into blobs.

I decided I should try to attempt them again and found a different recipe and then tweaked the amounts just a bit so they would hopefully be harder without the refrigeration.

The recipe I ended up with:

Peppermint Lotion Bars
3 ounces Coconut Oil (purchased local grocery store)
3 ounces Shea Butter (
purchased here)
3 ounces Beeswax shredded (
purchased here)
20 drops Peppermint Oil (
purchased here)
glitter (optional)
Put the coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax in a stainless or glass bowl.
Set bowl in pan of water and heat on stove till melted.
When melted, remove from heat and add essential oils.  I chose peppermint.
Pour into silicone molds
Makes approximately 4-6 bars depending on size of molds.
The mold I chose was this one.
I sprinkled a little glitter in the bottom for sparkle.
When lotion bars are solid remove from mold and package.

I had my son and his wife order me some molds from Amazon. (They have prime and that is so handy!) I decided on a snowflake one as it is winter and this had a Christmassy holiday feel. I also chose to put a little glitter in them. I just like the sparkle it gives.

This time the bars turned out. I was so glad. I am hoping to use them as stocking stuffers for the women in my family. (If they are reading this they will just have to act surprised when they get theirs!)  The next project will be how to package them.

If you are looking for a quick easy stocking stuffer for the gals in your group, these are perfect to whip up…..and they contain no chemicals! If you give it a try, let me know how they turn out for you.

At this point my lotion bars look a whole lot better than my kitchen does. My counters are full of stuff used for making the bars and my table is full of other stuff as I am helping with an oils workshop next week.  At some point I will catch up.

I was trying to remember what we had actually been doing this week. I was trying to figure out why I feel like I am so far behind. The fact that the week has faded into a blur shows me that there has probably been too much going on!

Some things could probably have been pushed back till later but others just needed to be done. Projects like removing cupboards from a house that will be torn down. (These will go into my laundry/craft room.) Things like getting organized for the oils workshop. Things like taking time to go to a visitation for my cousin who passed away.( I may have to tell you more about Marcia on another post. She deserves an entire post all to herself.)

This post is slightly disjointed (okay a lot disjointed!) but that has been the last few weeks around this house. At some point life will once again settle down. At some point I will feel caught up and at some point I can be organized……it just won’t be this week!  I guess I can live with that.

“I wanted to figure out why I was so busy,
but I couldn’t find the time to do it.”

Todd Stocker

 

 

 

 

Chasing the Holidays

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I was starting to wonder if I was going to find a time to sit down and write a post for today. The days since the Thanksgiving holiday have been hectic to say the least. I am not totally sure why. Perhaps it is the fact that I said yes to a couple…..too many things?

My brain seems a little disorganized and unsettled.  Anyone else relate to that feeling? I am still not in the “swing” of the Christmas holiday that is fast approaching.  I was too busy enjoying the Thanksgiving one to move on to the next holiday.  I still have fall décor to take down in my home.  Once that is done perhaps I can focus on preparing for Christmas.

I am in awe of those who tell me that they are almost done or are done with their Christmas shopping……I have yet to start!  Fortunately for me, my husband is a man who can take “the list” and help get most of the shopping done in one big day. He approaches shopping with a single-minded vigor.  I am never quite sure how he does that. It might have something to do with the fact that he does not agonize if everything is the perfect gift. He figures it is on the list, so…..good to go. It might also have something to do with the fact that he does not second-guess his decisions!

Maybe if we had a foot of snow on the ground my mind would kick into gear. To be honest, I really don’t want a foot of snow on the ground!  Not yet.  I would like to wait for that to come once my grandkids get here. It is probably good I am not in charge of weather.

Maybe if I attended a couple Christmas programs?  Maybe, just maybe that would help?  Maybe if I would put the decorations up? In all reality I think that perhaps if I would just slow down, take a breath and just be still, that would be the most helpful.

I took a little journey over to the Rabbit Patch this evening and found peace and a beautiful quiet. It hit me then, once my mind had quieted down, that what I needed to appreciate the coming Christmas season wasn’t snow.  I did not need Christmas music. I do not need all the decorations or programs or trees.  I don’t even need to go shopping and fill all those lists.

What I really need to “get” Christmas is some quiet time with Jesus. I realized I have not been spending time during these busy days talking to the One who created me. I have not been enjoying conversations with the one was born that starlit night in Bethlehem.

How I thought I could get into the Christmas spirit, without taking time to acknowledge the one who came to earth that night, is beyond me.  I should have known better. I should have remembered that my days are more ordered and my mind more settled when I have taken the time to “be still and know” who is God.

My wish for all of you this busy holiday season is quiet. Not a huge looming, unsettling quiet, but the kind of quiet that seeps into your soul like water into dry dusty ground. The quiet of a foggy morning that lays thick in the bottom fields and mutes the sound. The kind of quiet that slows our pace, stills our hearts and soothes our minds. A quiet that is peace.

May your week be blessed and quiet.

 

 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,
and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.”
Matthew 6:34
The Message

 

 

 

 

A Day For Thanks

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There are days that I wish would not end.  Yesterday was one of them. We spent it celebrating Thanksgiving. The day was gray and chilly but it turned out to be a wonderful day spent with loved ones.

The day started fairly early as the rice stuffing needed to get into the 16+ pound turkey and get in the oven. While that was in the oven and sending out a great Thanksgiving aroma, my husband and I set up tables and chairs, put out plates, glasses, napkins, silverware, and of course the candy corn sprinkled on the tables. We did discover that if you do not purchase your candy corn and candy pumpkins by Halloween you have a very tough time finding them in the store for Thanksgiving! (Note to self…..purchase earlier next time around.)

My side of the family came to our home yesterday. The traditional turkey, stuffing, squash, corn, and pumpkin pie was served. We also had a few non-traditional things such as ribs, a pasta salad, cream cheese pie and a Skor cake. (see previous post for some of those recipes.)

For me one of the highlights of the day was our devotion time. All 22 of us stood in our kitchen. It was full of people, it was crowded and it was wonderful. I found the neatest Thanksgiving scripture cards from Kim Marsh-Weed over at Good Enough. Before my husband opened with prayer we had everyone read their card.

We served the food buffet style (that just works the easiest with this crowd) and after everyone had eaten their fill we were sated. Isn’t that a great word? Word prompt chose that one for today.  I love the meaning “to fill, to satisfy, to gorge, to quench….” Pretty much explains a thanksgiving meal. It also explains great relationship. ….spending time together till you are filled, satisfied and quenched.

successful-chicken-capture

 

We spent a lot of our day satisfying our love of being together.  Some of the group just sat and talked. some decided they wanted to shoot some clays. My nephew’s wife decided her goal for the day was to catch and hold one of the girls. She accomplished that goal in a very short time. It is a good thing my girls are so tame!

No matter which group you were in…talking,resting, chicken capture or shooting, there was laughter, lots of chatter and an abundance of good natured teasing.

 

For some reason everyone who wanted to shoot remembered their shells but no one remembered to bring extra boxes of clays. My husband and son went and rummaged around in the basement and found a box of rabbit clays….the kind that you are supposed to have bounce along the ground. They decided to use them like regular clays and throw them.

After making their way out back of the barn they soon discovered that those clays did not react like regular ones. There was some confusion when clay after clay flew into the air, guns were fired and intact clays hit the ground. It didn’t look like anyone was hitting anything.  Comments were made, “There is no way we are this bad!”, “We are better than this!” and “I think I need glasses.”

retrieving-clays

After shooting through the whole box they decided to go and retrieve any unbroken ones. They discovered most of them had chips  but had not broken when they had been hit…..mystery solved….they were better than that!  To be honest I think they were all pretty relieved to find out they were not such bad shots after all! They also thought it was kind of neat they could reuse the clays!

Everyone started to get cold as the day was gray, damp and cool. They decided it was time to head back to the house and find some hot coffee and dessert; as the turkey and stuffing had settled and left room for sweets.

There was such a sweetness to this day spent with family. It came to a close much too quickly. Fortunately the memories will last a lifetime. We spent much of the day, today, rehashing yesterday. It was rather like replaying a movie over and over and it was so much fun to redo it in our minds. Days like this just add to the bond that holds people together….shared fun, shared stories, shared joys and shared heartaches all rolled up with love.

I am going to end this post with part of the devotions that we did yesterday. I read an email that I had received way back in 2010 from a lady in her 90’s. ( I was always amazed that she learned how to work a computer at her age….it gives me great hope for the coming years!)

The e-mail was titled, “I Wish You Enough.”  It was the story of a father and daughter at an airport as the daughter is set to leave. It was probably the last time she would see him on this earth and he wanted to wish her a life filled with just enough good things to sustain her.

The e-mail ended with the sentence, “They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.”

This is my Thanksgiving wish for you all. May you be blessed and I wish you enough…….

I Wish You Enough
I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.
Bob Perks

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Anticipation

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I have been spending the last few days anticipating the coming Thanksgiving holiday. This year is a little more work as my husband and I are hosting at our home.

All those things that we have been putting off; are now looking at us and begging to be done. We have finished and installed some baseboard, cleared out cobwebs in places I did not even know there were cobwebs, cleared out those “science experiments” in the back of my fridge (as Bee Organized With Pamela puts it), and just general house cleaning. I have discovered you can only put these things off for so long and then they need to be done.

By the time noon rolled around I had things under control and could start with the baking.  This year I am making the desserts. I made the standard thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie and then I thought I would make a Cream Cheese pie for those who do not care for pumpkin. I also had a request for the Skor Cake that I like to make. (Evidently a chocoholic made that request!)

Here are the recipes.  They are good to make anytime of year. And for those of you who have never eaten or made pumpkin pie, this is your chance to give it a try!

Pumpkin Pie
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin home grown or one can pumpkin pie filling
1 – 12 oz. can evaporated milk
I use home grown sugar pumpkins so I put the pumpkin in my blender
with the evaporated milk and eggs.
I then add the rest into the blender and mix.
Pour into unbaked pie crust. (see recipe below)
Makes a 9 inch pie.
Bake at 425º for 15 minutes
Reduce heat to 350º and bake 50 minutes longer.
Pie is done when you insert a knife into it and it comes out clean.

Betty Crocker Pie Crust
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoons shortening or
1/3 cup lard (I use lard)
1cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 – 3 tablespoons cold water
Cut shortening into flour and salt till they are pea sized
Sprinkle water over and toss with fork.
When flour is moistened form into ball.
Roll out and put in pie pan.

 

Cream Cheese Pie
1 – 8 oz. block cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 – 8 oz. cool whip
Whip filling and put in graham cracker crust.
Refrigerate and top with either fresh fruit or pie filling when serving.
If you could find a gluten free crust this pie would be great.
For those who have gluten issues I have also just put the filling into bowls and topped with fruit.

Skor Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix – bake as directed in 2 – 9 inch round pans.
Filling:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
4 Skor candy bars or Heath
Mix: cream, sugar and cocoa then refrigerate for 15 minutes
Beat mixture to stiff peaks.
Fold in 3 crushed Skor bars.
Cut your 2 round cakes to make 4 layers total.
(I find it works great to freeze them before cutting.)
Divide filling into 4 even amounts.
Put filling between each layer, reserving the last 1/4th for the top.
Crush the last candy bar and sprinkle over top.
This cake will get moister if you make it the day ahead.

The food is a big part of our Thanksgiving celebration, but the best part of tomorrow will be the people. Old stories will be told, new stories will be made and woven through it all is the feeling that God is good and this house full of people loves each other no matter what.

Cherish your human connections
– your relationships with friends and family.
Barbara Bush

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_family2.html

Thanksgiving Blessings

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My husband and I are working on getting ready to host my family for Thanksgiving on the farm. We have been sorting, cleaning and even getting some more woodwork put on in the hallway.

It is good to have people come over some times. I find that some deep cleaning gets done, sorting and tossing of stuff happens,  and the house gets organized once again. I should probably have company come more often!

I love the thought of having my parents, my kids, the grandkids, siblings and their families all come to our home. To be honest I love it anytime family gets together. I may have inherited that from my dad who is always looking for a reason to gather.

I remember as a kid going to my Aunt Jean’s house. Her home was not that big and there were a bunch of us….a big bunch. The kitchen smelled amazing and by the time we were all seated , no one was able to move from their seats, other than the aunts who served the food. (We were all warned in advance to use the bathroom as it would not be available during the meal.)

It did not matter if the house was small. It did not matter if the windows were drafty or the carpets were worn. It did not matter if the flowered wallpaper was peeling or the woodwork was scuffed.  What mattered was the fact that we were all together and that was the blessing.

The noise level must have been unreal and I am sure there were stressors for the adults. Would the turkey get done?  Would the pie crust be flakey? Would there be a snowstorm? I don’t know if the women worried if there house was good enough or not. As children we were not aware of those things and were just happy to be with cousins.

I hope the memories made during this holiday season will stick for years in the minds of my children, grandchildren and my nieces and nephews.  I hope when they look back it is with a warm satisfaction. My hope is that down the road they want the same type of gathering when they have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

There is an excitement in the preparations for those holiday memories. There is the making of lists and the remaking of lists. Just when you think you have your to do list all made out; you think of something else.

I thought I had all my groceries purchased last week…..not so. I am in charge of pies/desserts and had forgotten to purchase the lard (and other items) for the pie crust. I am probably pretty old school with my pie crust; but Betty Crocker taught me this way and I am a creature of habit.

The plan is to have a couple pumpkin pies, a cream cheese pie and one layered chocolate cake that involves the use of heavy whipping cream and Skor candy bars. Baking day is Wednesday so I will get those recipes to you then…..complete with photos! I cannot wait for the aromatic smell of spices in baking pies to fill my kitchen.

Today I am going to share the stuffing recipe that is a family tradition in our home. It is one that my husband was raised on and I had to learn to make when I married into his family. It is one that I have now passed on to my kids.  It has the added bonus of being gluten free!

Holiday Rice Stuffing
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 Cup onion, chopped
1/2 Cup dried parsley flakes

1 Cup grated carrots
1 Cup uncooked rice
3 Cups chicken broth
1/2 Teaspoons salt
Dash Pepper
Cook first four ingredients for 10 minutes.
Add the rest and stir thoroughly.
Cook on low 20 minutes.
Do not put in chicken or turkey until ready to put the bird in the oven.
NOTE: I do make this recipe the day before and store it in the fridge in a bowl.
In the morning I stuff the bird and put in the oven.
I also double or triple this depending on size of bird.

I usually make plenty of this stuffing as my family loves leftovers. I also save the turkey carcass and put in my pressure cooker with celery, carrots and onion. I then strain that and freeze to use in place of the chicken broth the next time I make stuffing or Chicken soup.

I would love to hear about some of your family traditions for Thanksgiving. My hope for all of you during this Thanksgiving week is that your preparations run smoothly, your stress level stays low and that your eyes are opened to the blessings around you.

“Home is people. Not a place.
If you go back there after the people are gone,
then all you can see is what is not there any more.”
Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate

“So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family, that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty.”
Haniel Long

 

First Snow

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For days the weatherman has been warning us that we had a change coming in our weather.  I was totally satisfied with the unseasonable 60 degree days; so this was one time I kind of wish he had not been right. It seems the older I get, the colder I get….(except for those hot flash times and that is another whole story.)

When I woke up during the night I could hear the wind howling, though it was too dark to see what was really happening out there. It sounded like some mythical creature roaring around the corners and snarling as it went. It was an angry sounding wind.

It was fairly typical for an Iowa snowstorm….strong winds, sideways snow. The storm was enough of a hazard to close most area schools and cancel lots of activities. The local radio announcers were kept busy updating those announcements most of the morning.

I have a feeling that how we view the first winter snowstorm of the season totally depends on our age. My facebook feed was full of pictures of kids and grandkids sledding, making snowmen and just generally doing what kids do out in the snow.

Kids seem to be able to find a magical quality to  snowy days. Maybe they are just more adaptable to change.  Maybe they are just more optimistic? Or maybe they just choose to find the joy in a cold snowy place. Perhaps we need some life lessons from children?

I will admit this snow was ideal for packing and making those snowmen and if I were younger, many years younger, I would have also been out there for some snow fun. Instead, I found myself, grudgingly putting on my winter coat, pulling on my insulated boots and trudging out to do my chicken chores.

I was less than impressed by the gusty winds that threw cold wet snow in my face as I rounded the corner of the garage.  The girls were not impressed by the weather either. They stayed close to the coop most of the day.

When I finally went out later in the afternoon to snap a few pictures I saw the snow in a different light. For some reason looking through a camera lens gives an entirely different perspective. Maybe it is because it narrows your focus down to a smaller space? It is always easier to take things in smaller pieces.

I found that the view towards the river, while blustery, had a unique beauty to it that only shows itself with a winter landscape. The blowing snow gave everything a softer, hazy look. The snow softened the rough, ragged look of the harvested corn in the bottom field.

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Looking through my camera lens did bring back some of the magic that snow brings…..not to the degree of a child…..but some. Finding my honeysuckle vine, still blooming, while full of snow, brought a smile to my face.

blooming-through-the-snow

I took the bloom as a sign of hope. Hope that though the winter weather has just started, it will not last forever. Hope that during the coming cold, dark days that make up winter,the perennials are waiting under the snow for the warming spring rains.

Hope is what keeps us going. Hope fuels our joy. And hope does really spring eternal. I wish you the joy that is Hope. I wish you joy while you prepare for the Thanksgiving season. And may the days that seem cold and dreary be transformed with a child-like wonder.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently?
And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt;
and perhaps it says,
“Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll,
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Restoration

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There is a job I have been putting off for a very long time. I think I keep pushing this job to the back burner because it seems like it will never be finished. I should probably give you a little background on what I am talking about.

Waaaaaay back, when we started redoing the house we are now living in we knew we wanted to find some really neat old woodwork. The kind of woodwork that was wide, substantial and whispered of talented craftsmen of days gone by.  The kind of craftsmen who took pride in their work.

We found old houses, long abandoned and spoke with their owners. We spent days, and more days that added up to what is probably weeks taking out everything from trim, wainscoting, wood flooring, doors,railing spindles to beaded ceilings.  Everything went into the barn till we were ready to work with it.

Over the years, whenever the mood comes over me, or we are hosting a large holiday gathering such as this Thanksgiving; my husband journeys out to the barn and brings me some more trim to work on. I have no idea when this project, called our home, will be finished.  At the rate I am going it will be a long time!

The trim we are using on our main floor is a  mission style and came from a local high school that was demolished. The trim is wide and is made of beautiful oak boards that were stained black walnut and are true to size (definitely old woodwork).

These boards have been laying in the barn for quite a long time. When my husband hauls them out they are filthy!  In the summer our barn is home to a flock of barn swallows who have nests everywhere. I love the barn swallows as they consume a ton of mosquitos; but their bathroom habits in the barn leave a lot to be desired. Needless to say the boards need a lot of cleaning up before I can actually get to staining, sanding and varnishing.

I have spent some time the last two afternoons working on baseboards. It is a lot of work but the end result is always worth it. The wood goes from dusty and dirty to smooth and gleaming. The boards proudly display the beautiful grain of the wood.

It is always a little amazing to me when I put the stain on the wood. You would think since it is all the same type of wood (oak),  the stain would all “take” the same. It doesn’t. Some areas of the wood stain darker than others. The nails holes, scratches that would not sand out, places gouged by students long since graduated……..some would say flaws….become more pronounced because of the stain. Each piece is so unique.

To me those “flaws” add so much character to the trim in my home. They speak of real people who have impacted my trim boards. I think that our lives are a lot like those boards. We are impacted by those around us in ways we don’t always even realize.

Some of those around us, leave us hurting, scarred and scuffed.  We think we will never get over those hurts. Others are like the sandpaper that softens the edges of those same hurts and gouges.  They can’t always remove the gouge or scratch but they can help get rid of the slivery rough edges.

I am so grateful that God places people in our lives that can be grace like sandpaper. It is not always a comfortable thing but the end result is well worth it.  Like beautiful pieces of trim we are sanded smooth, healed with the varnish of God’s love and the people He sends. We are, once again, restored into something of beauty.

The nail holes may still be evident…. there may be scratches left from a life lived fully, and there may even be gouges that speak of events and circumstances in our lives that were painful at the time. I like to think those same “flaws” testify to hope, to love and to grace and that the imperfections make for a restored life that is even more beautiful.

There is a lot to be learned when refinishing old woodwork. While the job can be tedious….I am glad for the life lessons.

“God can turn your biggest flaws into your biggest cause.”
Mandy Hale,
The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass