Life Is Like Shoveling Snow

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Due to snowfalls the last couple days I am, once again, at my winter task of scooping trails to the chicken coop. I also scoop a trail to the little open front shed where the girls like to sit in the sun and take their dust baths.

I can tell I am not getting any younger by the way my back feels while I am scooping! I am also realizing that you might scoop a path once, but that doesn’t mean it is going to stay open.

I scooped those same trails yesterday morning….then it snowed some more. I scooped those paths last night and then it snowed and blew some more. Soooo….this morning I was once again scooping those same trails.

As I was scooping, it occurred to me that this scooping of trails is much like relationships and life. It takes a lot time and a lot of work to keep the pathways open and free of snow/junk. There is a satisfaction in knowing that the work does have it’s rewards….on both counts…snow removal and relationships.

While scooping I looked behind me and realized that my path was not always staying cleared. The “walls” of my path crumbled in places, clods of snow ended up in the middle of my trail and sometimes the scoopful of snow I tossed to the side ended up blowing right back where it came from. Yes…..so much like life.

I decided it was okay to not have a spotless path. I have a feeling that sometimes the “snow clods” in our way help build a little character. I also discovered that once that trail is cleared, you still need to walk carefully.

Yesterday after clearing a way; I fearlessly walked back down that trail to bring feed to the girls. On the way, my foot found a patch of ice hidden under a fluffy layer of snow. I did not face plant or smack to the ground. I did, however, slide gracefully (as gracefully as a 61 year old, overweight woman can slide) to the ground.

There I lay in a snowbank….after assessing if I had damaged anything (I had not) I had to grin. I was grateful my bucket only contained feed and not water! Thinking back I should have probably gone ahead and made a snow angel but the thought did not occur to me at the time.

The main thought that occurred to me was that at my next physical; how was I going to answer the question about falling in the last 3 months? (At a certain age they start to ask you that question!) Do I qualify a “sliding somewhat gracefully to the ground” as falling? Hmmmm, not sure on that one.

I pray you find blessing in the week ahead. I pray you find fulfillment in shoveling and building relationships with family, friends and God. The work is not always easy, there will be pain, you will either slide or smack to the ground at times…but the end result is worth it. It may not be perfect …..but that is okay too. May you find joy in the process.

 

Snow shoveling……
it’s challenging but not impossible.
You have all the skills and the tools you need.
You know you’ll have to work hard,
but in most cases,
heart permitting,
you know you’ll get the job done.
Tom Terez

 

 

Sorting The Bits and Pieces

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I peered into my craft/laundry room today (mainly because I needed to wash some clothing) and decided I needed to start cleaning. This room has been sadly neglected the last while and the craft side was overrun with stuff.

It was hard to know where to start because there was just so much stuff! I decided to try find my counter back….I knew this project was going to take more than one day…..and I was right.

My paper stash was overflowing and that seemed like a great place to start. I had been in the habit of saving every little scrap of card stock because I just might need that small scrap for a card or project.

Today was the day to get a bit vicious with that paper stash. I took my basket and sorted by color and finally got it under control. I decided the small bits and pieces were going to go into a box for future crafts with the grandkids. My grandson seems to enjoy creating things and it might be fun seeing what he will create with that box of stuff.

That box of card stock with it’s bits and pieces and so much color just screams of potential. It is so much like the start of a new day….you just have no idea what the day will turn out to be anymore than I know what wonders will come out of that box.

I love the idea that there is potential…even in those scraps. I love the thought that the “scraps” of our lives can be used to make something beautiful and unique. That box of paper reminds me that we are indeed masterpieces in the making.

May this weekend find you putting together the “scraps” of your life. May those bits and pieces turn into a thing of beauty and blessing. We may not see how those bits can turn into something amazing…but I am assured that they can.

 

In crafting
there are no mistakes….
just unique creations.
Unknown

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD
Jeremiah 29:11a
New International Version

 

Preparing For The Polar Vortex

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We should have known the weather man wasn’t lying about the coming polar vortex. Yesterday we saw two birds vying for the right to eat the corn off the squirrel feeder….the woodpecker won this round.

I guess the birds know when to prepare for the coming journey into the deep freeze that is an Iowa winter. My husband and I took our cue from their preparations and also spent time yesterday preparing the chicken coop.

My husband rigged up a heat lamp that the girls could roost under at night and he then fluffed the chipped wood bedding on the floor. I made sure they had plenty of water and feed. 20190129_114028.jpg

This morning, when I went to see if they wanted to go out on this bitter day I noticed they had already laid a few eggs. I figured I had better take them along to the house with me.

Once I picked a couple of them up; I found I was already to late…..the below zero temps had already frozen a couple of them.

I have a feeling that I will either be baking or serving scrambled eggs for a meal in the next few days!

I have decided that I will also need to gather eggs a few times during the day tomorrow and the next day as they tell us our highs will be -12º tomorrow.  They also assure us this will be record setting. I don’t know about you…but that is one record I really don’t feel the need to break!

I kind of have to laugh when I go into the chicken coop during this type of weather….the girls have a distinct grumble to their “talking”. I don’t think they are too pleased with the cold wind and they aren’t pleased with being locked in either.

I try to tell them it is for their own good but I don’t think they believe me or they don’t understand. Even if they do believe me or understand…they are still pretty miffed about it all.

I have a feeling I am the same way with life. So many times I know things are happening because they are good for me but I really don’t want to believe it…. and I really don’t want to take the time to understand it. It is so much easier to just be a little ticked about it all.

If this week finds you in a situation that you know is for your good but you aren’t happy about it….take a deep breath, step back and give it some time. I find that after a bit I am either okay with it or at least over the “grumbly” phase.

May you also stay warm…wherever you are! And if it is bitter cold…may you have made preparations in advance like those very smart birds.

The past is behind:
learn from it.
The future is ahead:
prepare for it.
The present is here:
live it!
Thomas S. Monson

Cold Days and Warm Food

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This past weekend our weather has changed.  I am not totally sure it was for the better! There were winter storm advisories but that kind of bombed out for us and I was good with only getting a small amount of snow.

The weather guys were right on their prediction of  cold temperatures. Sunday saw us in the sub zero range with a wicked wind chill to go with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look to change any time soon. (This always makes my husband wonder why our ancestors settled here!)20190121_112554.jpg

Today just seemed to be the kind of day where a good pot of chili soup needed to be simmering on the stove. The only problem with that is my husband is not in favor of chili soup.

Chili soup was kind of out of the question for him for a meal; so I also went with one of his favorite cold weather foods…..Balken Brei. I made him a loaf pan of it last week when I heard the weather was going to nose-dive temperature wise.

I am NOT a fan of Balken Brei but I do like how it smells. For those of you who have no idea what this “delicacy” is I will try explain. When you render the lard from a pig you end up with these crunchy little bits called cracklings.

You take those cracklings and fry them out till they are a crisp golden brown and kind of dry.  At this stage you can go ahead and make Balken Brei or you can freeze your cracklings till ready to use.

For the brave among you I am going to give you the recipe so you can try this Dutch treat for yourself.

Balken Brei
1 Pound Cracklings
Water
Salt and Pepper to taste
White Flour
Allspice to taste

Put the cracklings in a sauce pan.
Cover, till just covered, with water.
Add about 1 tsp. sald and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Bring to a boil then let simmer till most of the water has been absorbed by the cracklings.
Remove from heat and add flour. You will keep adding flour
till the mixture is very stiff and hard to stir.
Add Allspice to taste…start with about 5 teaspoons.
You may have to use your hands to mix at this point.
Put mixture in loaf pan lined with wax paper and press in firmly.
Cover and put in fridge to cool.
Once it is cool and firm you can slice into thin slices.

To prepare:
Cut into thing slices and fry in pan in melted butter.
Fry till golden crisp.
Serve with syrup.
My husbands favorite is Dark Karo syrup.

Some people use buckwheat flour. Some people add other meat to this recipe. My husband prefers the basic one so that is what I go with. It think he likes it this way because that is what he grew up with.

I am pretty sure this is NOT a heart healthy recipe. For years my sons have called this “fried fat”. I am also not sure what cracklings really are! If they were fat they would have melted? If anyone knows please let me know.

Being of Dutch background, I often wonder if our Dutch ancestors were just so tight thrifty that they did not let anything go to waste…not even cracklings! I also wonder if there is any other use for them….other than feeding the girls…..

And now…..I really want to know….what is your favorite cold weather food? When those temps dip close to zero and the snow flies (assuming you live where this happens) What is your go to food for comfort? If you have a favorite recipe please feel free to leave it in the comments or link to it if you have already posted it on your blog.

Have a great week doing things for those you love…..and if you live where it is cold….stay warm and make a family favorite!

Cooking is like love
It should be entered into with abandon
or not at all
Harriet Van Horne

 

Beginnings or Endings

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The sunsets we have been having lately have been absolutely stunning. They are a mix of purples, blues, pinks…bright turquoise, oranges and yellows. There are times the sky looks like it is on fire.

It is like God is giving us a gift and making the cold days of winter beautiful in His own way. It is a wonderful way to end a day by walking out to put the girls in for the night. It is food for the soul to stand outside in the quiet and watch with awe the display that is dusk.

This time of year there  is a quiet beauty. The greens of growing things are gone, but the dazzling display that is sunset, more than makes up for the loss of greens. The cold of the air doesn’t have the perfume of summer flowers but has it’s own scent that proclaims winter……and it is wonderful.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell where the ending of the day begins or the beginning of the ending starts. The wind dies down, the winter birds grow silent, and the sky becomes tinged with pink.

There is a hush in this space of time between day and night. The air is crisp, as only winter days can be. It is a delight for the senses and I am amazed every time I get to enjoy that time.

So much of life is like that space of time. So many times an ending is just a beginning. Last week I went to my last physical therapy visit!! While that was a definite ending it was, for me, the beginning of knowing that I am, for the most part, better.( I still have to do the balance things at home and check in with them in three months.)

We are in the middle of winter and yet the beginnings of spring are starting to show up. Seed catalogs have started arriving and to me that says warmer days are not far behind. I know there will be some snowstorms yet this season but, somewhere in this time frame is the overlap of living in winter but preparing for Spring.

Maybe this is where hope comes in. The kind of hope that is not just wishful thinking but the hope that is expectation and assurance. There is an expectation that Spring will surely follow Winter. There is the expectation that before that there will be more snow and cold weather.

While we wait for those warmer days let us enjoy the day that is now. Let us realize that the beginnings and endings of things most often are somehow tangled together and it is okay.

May you be blessed with beautiful sunsets that end this day and begin the new one.

 

“The end is never the end.
It’s always the the beginning of something.”

― Kate Lord Brown,
The Perfume Garden

Time

James 4 14

I cannot believe how quickly time passes. My goal after getting sick was to at least put out one blog post per week. Needless to say I have failed that goal. Strangely….I find I can live with that!

I also cannot believe 2019 is already here. It seems like just yesterday various women family members and I were planning a cruise…that is already almost a year ago. It is hard to imagine all the things that have happened between that planning time and this new year.

We have had the normal ups and downs and then a few abnormal ups and downs. Spring saw the normal planting of fields and then the abnormal flooding that had the river so high that we saw fish swimming over the black top road south of us.

Summer saw us preparing for my son’s wedding and enjoying that. Late summer also saw me having a stay in the hospital which started my journey of recovering from the West Nile Virus. (That is still an ongoing process but I am very much improved!)

Fall saw some more flooding but it didn’t seem as dire as the spring flooding because when the water only kills the weeds that grew from the first flooding it is okay. The upside of the weeds…. we see more pheasants that we have seen in a while.

Winter, so far, appears to be normal. We have had nice days and now we have sub-zero temps at times. I do favor the nice days!

This holiday season we had the great fun of going to grandparents day at our grandchildren’s school and watching them in school and church Christmas programs. What a blessing that was.

This year we celebrated our third grandchild’s first birthday…another wonderful blessing. We gathered, as family, for various things throughout the year and finally this past Saturday I had my entire family under my roof for our Christmas celebration.

It has been an entire year since I had them all under my roof at the same time. It did this mom’s heart a great deal of good to see them all together. I am not sure, but I think God put that longing into a mother’s heart and when it actually happens it waters the soul.

Someone asked what my goal or resolution for the next year was. I know my goal after September was to write a post per week. I have since changed that goal to finding a gratitude moment in every day. I am not sure which goal is the most difficult…but I do know that finding gratitude moments, big or small, will be a blessing in ways I can only imagine.

I pray your 2018 was fulfilling. I pray your 2019 will be even more of a blessing. I have discovered this past year, that neither wealth or health is the key to this fulfillment  or blessing…but being grateful for the big and small things in daily life is that key. May you have gratitude moments in the days of 2019.

“Write it on your heart that everyday is the best day of the year.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Christmas Ornaments

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There is something special about Christmas ornaments. We even heard about Christmas ornaments during the children’s sermon at church this morning. The couple doing the Children’s sermon asked the kids if any of them had angels on their Christmas tree.

A few of the kids raised their hands, some did not. They then went on to explain why angels are on Christmas trees. They explained that angels brought great news of joy that long ago night.20181223_160618.jpg

My husband leaned over with a smirk, and whispered in my ear that our tree had a spaceship ornament…..and he is right. I have no idea if it really is a spaceship. It just kind of resembles something off the movie “Men in Black”. It is an ornament from my husband’s childhood and always finds a place on our tree.

I often wonder if my husband loves that ornament because of childhood memories or if he just thinks it looks kind of funky….maybe it is a bit of both. I love that ornament because it speaks of my husband’s childhood. It is a link to his family history. I also love the fact that it is plastic and therefore durable enough for grandkids to handle!

Strangely…or maybe not so strange that “funky” ornament brings to mind the story of Christmas for me. Maybe it is because it comes back to family. Our family history becomes entwined with the history of that night in a stable.

I think Christmas speaks of beginnings and babies are definitely a new beginning. It speaks of the fact that over 2000 years ago Mary and Joseph became the earthly family of Jesus….Immanuel…God with us. It speaks of promises kept from the beginning of creation. It speaks of faithfulness and the fact that He always provides.

Which brings me back to angels…..all those little kids this morning knew that the angels told of a wonderful thing on that first Christmas. Their faith was confident and sure. May we have the confidence of a child that angels indeed brought the greatest news ever. May we find joy in looking at our ornaments, whether angels or spaceships, and may those ornaments remind us of the reason for this Christmas joy.

“Late on a sleepy, star-spangled night,
those angels peeled back the sky just like you would tear open a sparkling Christmas present.
Then, with light and joy pouring out of heaven like water through a broken dam, they began to shout and sing the message that baby Jesus had been born.
The world had a savior!
The angels called it ‘Good News,’
and it was.”

—Larry Libby