Saturday, January 30, 2016

Three Things I'm Loving in January

Hello, friends!

How in the name of time did it get to be January 30? This has to have been one of the quickest Januarys ever. I hope it has been filled with satisfying and rewarding things for you and you feel healthier and more joyful than you did on January 1.

If not, I wonder what would happen if we lived intentionally in the month of February, focusing our efforts on things that would result in feeling better emotionally, physically, and spiritually.


What would we say "yes" to and what might we leave behind?

Deep stuff.
And probably the things that make for a rewarding life.

Pausing for a few moments of reflection........

Now on to more frivolous things!

I love to read posts where bloggers share the things they are presently loving. I have learned about the most interesting things from my blog buddies-items that have enriched my life, made things easier, or were just plain fun! So, I'm sharing some with you today.

3 Things I'm Loving Right Now

1. The Giving Keys

I'm not sure exactly how this company came into my radar, but I think it is the neatest idea ever. So many people are choosing One Little Word to focus on for the year instead of making resolutions, including me. My word for this year is "Free" and I'm sure a post will be coming about it sometime soon. Last year my word was "Joy" and the year before, "Learn," and the year before that, "Do," and the year before that, "Follow."

I need to order more keys!

The Giving Keys manufactures great, simple bracelets and other items with small keys stamped with the word of your choice. They invite you to wear your word, soak up your word, enjoy your word and your bracelet, and then pass it on to someone else who needs it more than you. 

My bracelet arrived last week and I've just started to wear it. I might or might not have told our son that I hoped no one needed it more than me just yet, because I LOVE my charming, little bracelet.

2. When Calls the Heart

If you are looking for a sweet, uplifting TV series that also teaches life lessons, check out When Calls the Heart.  I found it on Netflix and our three oldest granddaughters and I have spent some happy hours and devoured lots of popcorn watching it together this winter. Season Two was just released. Yeah!

3. Anastasia Eyebrow Kit

This picture has nothing to do with eyebrows, but isn't it pretty? Be still my heart, I was really there once.

I have a minor obsession with eyebrows and I've written about them here. Don't you just love a full dark brow? I do, too. However, as we move farther along on life's highway, our brows tend to thin and get lighter.

I'm kicking and screaming away from that.

Sephora sells an eyebrow system by Anastasia that involves a pencil/brush and brow gel to hold it all in place. I really like it. Possibly other make up companies sell something similar, but I haven't tried any of them. If you are eye brow interested like me, check it out on Sephora online.

That will do it for this month. Any Stitch Fixers out there? I'm waiting for my first box after the girls in my small group shared how much fun it was. I'll let you know what I think.

Please share what you are loving right now. We would all love to know!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Laundry Moms

Good Morning, friends!

You can imagine my excitement a few weeks ago when I was contacted by The Laundry Moms to do a guest post on their fantastic blog. All of you Trim Healthy Momma fans should definitely check it out because there are gobs of resources that you would love.

I wrote about a dear man, Don Shull. Click on over and read about a wonderful person and real life hero. I love people who inspire me to step it up a notch. Maybe you will be inspired, too.

 "A Life Well Lived"

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Alice's Farmhouse Rolls

One of my personal treasures is a humble cookbook put together by the Jasper County Home Extension Association. It was published in 1972, cost $2.00 and contains recipes from many people I know and love. Many of these great cooks are busy in heaven now, but I still remember them fondly when I see their names and recipes in this book.

These women were farm wives who raised big gardens alongside their big families and who packed big picnic lunches to take to the county fair and to many family reunions every summer. They didn't buy convenience foods.

Their children were not regulars at the local fast food places because there were no fast food places in the community in 1972. There was a very busy Dog 'N Suds, but we never ate there. Teenagers did drive around it over and over and over and over again on Friday and Saturday nights. Good times!

Yeeks. I might have been one of them. Time is passing, people.

Anyhoo. A few years ago, my cookbook disappeared and I was heartbroken. My boys' favorite meatloaf recipe was in this book, our traditional birthday cake, my mom's rolls and many other goodies we loved to eat.

It took a while, but my mixing bowls and I finally moved on and I quit automatically reaching for it.

My cooking luck changed when my mother-in-law downsized and moved down the road from us. She found a copy of this very same cookbook packed among her basement stash. This copy had belonged to her own mother.

I  am now the proud owner.

My copy has Grandma Pitchers penciled notes, recipes torn out of magazines, and hand written gems from her friends she added to the back.

Talk about a treasure!

I want to share with you a recipe from this book that my mom is famous for-at least in our family and extended family. These rolls are easy and almost never fail. I like to make them ahead of time and follow the directions up to the second rising. I place them on parchment paper (not touching one another) and freeze them individually. After they are frozen, I put them in baggies and take out what I need, let them thaw and rise and bake as needed.

I think you and your family will LOVE them, too! The dough is a dream to work with, so this is a beginner friendly recipe.

Alice's Farmhouse Rolls

1 pkg. yeast
1/4 c. warm water
3/4 c. milk, scalded
1/2 c. butter ( I cut mine into chunks.)
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
3 beaten eggs
4 1/2 c. flour

Soften yeast in warm water. Combine milk, butter, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture and mix well. Add eggs, then flour, Mix to smooth, soft dough. Knead lightly on floured surface. Place dough in greased bowl, cover and let rise until double in bulk-about 2 hours or so. 

Divide dough into thirds; roll each third on lightly floured surface to 9" circle. Brush with melted butter. Cut each circle in 12 wedge-shaped pieces. Roll each wedge, starting with wide end and rolling to the point. Arrange rolls in a greased baking pan. Cover and let rise till very light-an hour or so. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with butter.

Since you are the one removing them from the oven, be sure to grab a crusty one from a corner-delicious. If you are lucky you might have some homemade cherry jam from your sweet mother in law to smear on top. SWEET!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cappuccino Muffins, Anyone?

Hello, friends!

This is going to be a bit of a different Thanksgiving around here this year. Two of our sons are traveling and won't be here for our family festivities, but I decided a long time ago that our holiday would be whenever we are together. I don't want to be "that" mother-in-law. You know the one I'm talking about?

Thought so.

We are going to have guests in our home for two nights, maybe three so I have been doing a little preparation for that. I just took these delicious muffins out of the oven. They are quick and easy and good, so you might want to give them a try!

Susan's Cappuccino Muffins 

( I didn't really invent them. They originally came from Taste of Home, as many good recipes do.)

prep: 20 min.
bake: 25 min.

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
2 t. instant coffee granules
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 egg
1 c. milk
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
1 c. miniature chocolate chips (which i forgot. dang it.)

6 T. flour
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter

In a lg. mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, coffee granules, cinnamon and salt. Whisk the egg, milk, butter and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.

For topping, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter. Bake 375 for 22-24 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Yield 15 muffins

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of friends, family, and fun!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

God is Faithful

I have been reminiscing the last few days.

It is almost impossible for me to believe, but this is the beginning of the 5th school year since I turned in my gradebook and keys and quit writing lesson plans for 8th graders.

Five years since I laughed with my students.

Five years since I read their sometimes heartbreaking/sometimes heartwarming essays and graded spelling tests for hours. (Don't miss those spelling tests a bit!)

Five years since I was shocked by their language and the words of some of their music, and fell for their traps to get me off topic by veering our discussions in another direction than I planned. These discussions were often more fruitful than what I had planned anyway.

Being a classroom teacher was something I loved! Granted, it could be VERY FRUSTRATING and STRESSFUL, but the energy of kids and the creativity of their ideas brought me great JOY.

I loved seeing the back-to-school pictures of all the kids on Facebook, and I know many momma- hearts ached as they prayed for a good school year for their precious children. Everyone wants their son or daughter to have a teacher who cares.

And I know there are GOBS of teachers who do!

When I decided to quit teaching, I hoped God would show me what HE wanted me to do next.

Surprise! He has been faithful to do just that.

While cleaning, I came across these 2 pieces that I wrote years ago.

New Friends

I have been teaching now for what sometimes feels like a couple of minutes (farewell Class of '74) and other times feels like I started when Elvis was King. I love my job for about 106 reasons and last night I discovered a new one. 

Some of my former pimply-faced students are now becoming my poised and delightful friends. Even though I only had them in my room for 1-2 periods each day for one year, I feel an-almost-motherly-pride in the adults they are becoming.

It is fun to hear them nervously, hesitatingly call me "Susan" as if I will say snippily, "May I see your agenda, please? That was inappropriate." 

It's fun to giggle with them as adults over a shared goof-up, fun to talk about grown-up topics, like "my boys" and "your boys", recipes, clothes, and what God is up to in our lives.

What a blessing!

Closed Chapter

I sit on our back porch swing
Listening to the birds sing
Winding down from the last
Days of another busy school year
Wondering if anyone can hear
The fear
In my heart
As I close this chapter of my life.

No more principal-imposed deadlines
No more ISAT test times
Ruining my late-night rest
Sucking the best
Parts of teaching
Into the slime pits
where they cowered.

Who am I now?
No 8th grade teacher
Secretly enjoying people’s praise,
“I could never do that”-
Take those child-shaped
And help mold them into writers, thinkers, imaginers.

It’s kind of scary.
I’ll allow myself a fairly
Decent time to say good-bye
To that part of me
And then I’ll see
What I will be….

Looking back, I see how faithful God has been to me. He allowed me to participate in the lives of young people all those years as a classroom teacher, and now I have the privilege of teaching Holy Yoga and working with wonderful girls and mentors in The Push Ahead.

I have learned so much, gone places I never imagined, and witnessed God at work. I'm reconnecting with former students and their moms and meeting new folks. It's FUN!

I'm not sharing this because I am anything special, because I am NOT. I'm sharing because the same God who has shown me his FAITHFULNESS and LOVE will do the same for YOU and I'm sure he has been.

Sharing with others gives God glory and is an encouragement during times when we may need building up.

So, how is God showing his faithfulness to YOU?  Tell us. Please!

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fashion Fun

Hello, readers!

I don't know what is happening weather wise in your part of the world, but we have had a lovely week here on the prairie. We were blessed with 2 inches of rain, which finished making our bean crop, so the farmers around here can relax a little bit and enjoy the last days of summer. The temps are deliciously lower-I am even wearing a sweater this morning as I type this!

All this has me thinking about fall fashion. I haven't done any research or bought a fashion magazine yet, but I do have a little want-to-buy list in my head. Here are a few things on it.

Stalking One: I'm crazy about this casual look. I would still love a pair of very lightly distressed jeans like these even though they have been around awhile now and may be on the way out. Who cares?!

via pinterest

Stalking Two: I have been wearing lots of cardigans the last few years, but would like to transition to more jackets. Comfortable, stretchy jackets. I found a cute black pleather one at Marshalls a couple of years ago and have worn it and worn it, so this year, I'm looking for a brown one. But it must be easy to wear and reasonably priced so I don't have to be married to it for 10 years.

Stalking Three: I need a new pair of brown leather boots, too. I bought my last pair on sale at Macy's about 5 years ago and have worn the heck out of them. I have jumbo calves, so I really want to find some with a wider opening this time so I don't have to unzip them every whipstitch to allow my lower legs to calm down a bit when I wear them over jeans. Any suggestions, bigger calved sisters?

                                                                            via pinterest

I would love a pair of Frye's, but their $300 price tag makes them a NO for me. Even though I've been looking for 2 years, I'll just keep trying to find some.

Stalking Four: A Kendra Scott necklace or earrings...... so cute!

via pinterest

That's it for now! Saying YES to the PRESENT, so I'm not going to spend too much time thinking about fall as I wear my summer clothes for a few more weeks. 

I had a lot of fun this season with the Get Your Pretty On Summer Challenge and will definitely participate in the Fall Challenge. Be on the lookout for sign-up information here.

So, friends, what are you dreaming of for Fall?

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Arms Are Black and Blue....Farm Girls Go to Italy, Part 3

Note: I have had this post written for almost 2 weeks, but I just couldn't share about my wonderful journey to Italy at the same time that one of my dearest friends was saying goodbye to the love of her life after a massive heart attack. John's sudden death reminded all of us that we are not promised another breath, no matter our age or the plans we have made or the people depending on us.

I have spent a lot of time the past few days filled with gratitude for normal days with my family, more convinced than ever to LIVE each day, not just exist. 

I am so glad I went to Italy. If you have a dream, don't put it off, friend.

Bellagio, Bellagio, Bellagio

I feel like the pixie dust I was sprinkled with in Italy is starting to wear off, so I need to get my memories down on paper before the magic is completely gone.
Thanks for joining me!

(If you need to catch up, you can read Part One here or Part Two here.)

We were picked up on Saturday afternoon at our hotel, encouraged several times to take Dramamine, and taken to Bellagio, which has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is one of several villages scattered around the base of Lake Como, a huge body of water at the foot of the Alps in northern Italy.

Mr. Google describes Bellagio as the “Pearl of the Lake”. He is right.

I had never take Dramamine before, but I was scared not to because Laura mentioned it MANY times, so I took two.

The trip was “interesting” to say the least! I loved driving past Italian corn, bean and hay fields and at one point we were even following a John Deere tractor. Who knew?! It made this farmwife feel right at home.

Before long we arrived at the huge lake and began to drive on a very wind-y, narrow road with one blind curve after another. The driver would slow down, beep his horn a few times and go for it. We made it without incident, but I sure wouldn’t want to drive it myself in the little Fiats the Italians drive. Now I understood the Dramamine suggestion, but we all were fine.

And I was. Very. Mellow.

We pulled onto the one narrow street coming into town and headed slowly downhill. My eyes were on overload at the stunning and very “Europeanesque” (I know it’s not a word!) sights all around us.
The colors, the flowers, the old, old architecture, the cobblestone streets, the people on foot, the stores less than a foot from our van windows-beautiful!

We quickly arrived at the Hotel Serbelloni for a reception on a beautiful, flower covered terrace on the shore of the lake to meet Laura, Jeanne and Stephanie, our teachers for the week, and to get better acquainted with the other ladies on the trip. We knew immediately we were in for something special.

This was an Art and Faith Creative Retreat so we were all believers. There is just something remarkable that occurs when God’s girls get together to learn more about HIM. The Holy Spirit in each of us quickly bound us together, and we skipped all the insecure nonsense women so often bring out in one another.

We bonded. Big time!
And that made it all the more fun.

Sidebar TWO: Oh, how I hope you have experienced that special closeness that quickly develops between strangers when you share a love of Christ. If you haven’t, let’s talk about it…….

So here we were. A very open and willing group of Christian women brought together in a place of unbelievable beauty to use the gifts GOD gave us to create art. I had to figuratively keep pinching myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The next week was full of art lessons and walking tours of beautiful gardens, a villa, a monastery. We rode in fancy cars with drivers to multi-starred restaurants, the ferry to other lake villages and vintage boats-the kind you see in movies set in the 1960’s. On one trip we were overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of it all and spontaneously sang the Doxology.

It was awesome!

One afternoon, we split into 3 groups and went to cooking school in a cute little apartment. We later ate the delicious food on the tiny balcony under a 2 story grape arbor. Debbie and I are now certified Italian cooks who can make Tagliatelle, Bruschetta, Ragu, and Tiramisu.  And we have the aprons to prove it. Want to take a cooking class with us when our pasta makers arrive from Amazon?

Sidebar Three: I learned a lesson about hospitality that night. The balcony wasn’t big, the decorations weren’t fancy, everything didn’t match, but the food was delicious, the conversation was important, and we felt so WELCOME.  I need to quit thinking I must have my version of perfection in order to have guests over.

We hiked up and down the cobblestone streets for a little while every afternoon admiring the silk and leather goods. We met and became “friends” with the people who designed and made the shoes we bought in their little workshop in the back of their store. I bet I will wear them until I am 90 and they will still be in style-and they were reasonably priced too!

The Italians are such friendly people and I’m tickled that I now have Italian “friends” on Facebook and can’t wait to get to know them better. Did you know there is a translation feature that comes up when a post is in a different language? How handy!

Our little apartment was in the center of the village, and we soon begin to recognize some people and see them as we went about our day. Marta, Rita, Silvana, Elisabetta, Simona, the sales people where we bought our coffee, our gifts for people from home, and our many bottles of water seemed as happy to see us as we were to see them!

And then there was the food. Oh my. I love the way Northern Italians eat. The food was really fresh and the portions were reasonable and every meal we ate was better than the one before! And the meals last a


And gelato.

I'm sitting at a table along the street. Silvana and Leonardo are in the street. The gelato store is across the street. The street is narrow!

Several people have asked me about the “ART” that I made. I have to say that I really enjoyed the chance to learn and play with watercolors and my chalk pencil and little bitty pieces of paper torn from a fashion magazine.  We made jewelry, a mosaic of the Madonna, a travel journal, a mixed media canvas, and illustrations that symbolize our faith journey.

I had no expectations for myself since I am no artist and I was able to really enjoy CREATING and EXPERIMENTING instead of looking around at the work of others-many of whom were really talented- and feeling small and intimidated. Kudos to our wonderful teachers for making every project accessible for someone like me. It was FUN!

The week flew by and we said good bye with lots of hugs and promises to stay in touch via social media and reunions stateside. If we don’t see each other again here, we will in GLORY!

Our flight home was long and uneventful but God had one last big JOY BOMB for us.  As Debbie and I boarded our plane in Miami headed for Indy, we noticed a large group of young people boarding with us. We could tell just by the looks on their faces and the “light” of their presence that they were Christians who had been on a mission trip. We chatted and learned they had been to Haiti working with children.

Our hearts were turning toward home and our husbands who were waiting for us at the airport, so we decided to work on some Italian phrases to greet them. In our exhausted, slap-happy state, our giggles  at our "Italian" soon turned into flat out nonstop laughter. Yawns are contagious, but laughter is too, and before we knew it, half the plane was cracking up with us.

Can you imagine? A small plane of people laughing so hard we could hardly catch our breath-what a wonderful ending to our trip! Isn’t God fun? He invented laughter, you know.

This trip was one of those special life events that takes some time to fully process. I enjoyed it so much and on so many different levels.

I will never forget the time two farm girls from the Illinois prairie went to Italy and will never be the same.

Picture borrowed from Laura and taken by Cathy Walters, photography extraordinaire
Sidebar Four: I love a good list and still have gobs of pictures, so be on the lookout for one more post!

If you are interested in learning more about Laura and her amazing Creative Retreats (I want to go to ALL of them), please check out her blog A Kiss on the Chic. (Don't you just love that name?)
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