Thursday, July 31, 2008

THE PLEASURES OF HOME Our master bathroom
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.

Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.

Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O'er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Every now and then, my husband will suggest that I take the night off and go get coffee, or a pedicure, or see a movie. Occasionally, I take him up on it, but usually, after thinking long and hard for a few moments, can't think of anywhere that I would rather be than home. I love it here. This house resonates with me in a deep way. Nearly every night, I sigh contentedly to Matt, "I LOVE this place".

Sometimes, I wish that it didn't have such a hold on me. When Matt mentions selling everything and moving to NYC, I immediately think, "but what of our families? And my HOUSE?!" We have lived in several homes, since we were marred almost eight years ago. Six, actually. I have loved several of them. The farmhouse with the huge kitchen and the claw foot tub. I cried when I drove away from that house for the last time. After all, I had brought my first baby home to that house. And, we had put a lot of sweat and work into that house. But this house, well, this house is even more to me than that one.

I am a cottage lover. I don't care much for pretentious homes. Though I might admire them for what they are, I have no desire to own one.
I want a simple home. I like a lot of uncluttered space for my eyes to rest. And I want the utilitarian to also be beautiful. Sometimes it is hard to articulate, what this adds to life. It brings a weighty, earthiness to my days. My mother was eating a salad out of a wooden bowl yesterday, and even that, she commented, added a significance to the meal. It feels connected, real. Do you know what I am saying?

When the tools that we use in our day to day lives are as beautiful as they are functional, they become art. A bowl of fresh cherries, in an earthenware bowl are a sensory delight. A wooden brush, a linen skirt, a metal bucket...all elements that bring a deep richness to the quotidian. Do you think so?

These things, of course, do not make a home. There are so many other, more important elements, that make up the place that we call home. But these little grace notes are a tangible element that enrich my life immensely. Just a few that come to mind...

-home made soap
-grandmother's quilts
-wooden spoons
-cast iron skillets
-pottery mug
-100% cotton sheets
-mason jars
-old books
-feather pillows
-enamelware dishes
-sisal rugs
-cloth (esp. hemp) diapers
-wicker picnic basket
-paper organizer (instead of a PDA)

What are some of yours?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WHEN IS HOMEMADE NOT BETTER?The produce stand had cooking tomatoes (tomatoes with some blemishes). 25 pounds for $5. Quite the deal. I bought 50 pounds. I immediately came home and began chopping the tomatoes, and throwing them in a big pot with fresh basil from my yard, whole cloves of garlic, olive oil, and a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper. I LOVE homemade pasta sauce. I spent most of the afternoon on Saturday making it. Sunday night was spent with Mom, pouring it into jars, then placing them in the hot water bath.

35 pounds of tomatoes (I didn't do them all the same day) translated into only 10 quarts of sauce. For six hours of work. That comes out to just over 30 minutes of my time per jar.
I can often find this pasta sauce at the discount food store for $1 a jar. Exact same ingredients. Nearly the same taste.

So, I wonder...when does the pleasure and satisfaction of making something yourself, with your own ingredients, become over shadowed by the cost and time factor? I don't know the answer, but I will say, when I look at my jars of sauce in the pantry, my feelings are bittersweet.

*Creative commons image from jacki-dee on

Monday, July 21, 2008


I am posting again at my other blog, An Apple A Day, about my weight loss.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SIMPLE SUMMER SUPPERAfter a late afternoon of visiting a friend and her new baby, and stopping in to see my mom at her art gallery,
I returned home to four hungry guys
and no plan.

I quickly perused the fridge to see what vegetables were the ripest and needed to be used first:
tomatoes, squash, plums.

A healthy summer dinner quickly fell in to place.

A simple sauce of fresh tomatoes (a gift from a friend),
basil and oregano from my yard,
fresh garlic, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.
I had squash (also from a friend) that were about to go bad, so I sliced them thinly and added them to the sauce.
The kids barely noticed them, and it was a great way to sneak in another vegetable.
Cost of sauce: approximately $0.50

The sauce was spooned over whole wheat penne pasta that I purchased at the Discount Food store for $0.65.
I used half a box (which left plenty for lunch tomorrow).
Cost of 1/2 box of pasta: $0.32

A jar of green beans, canned by my mother a few weeks ago.
The green beans were a gift from a farmer to my dad.
I added a pat of butter, sea salt, pepper, and 1 chicken bouillon cube (from the discount food store).
Cost of green beans: approximately $0.50.

A few pieces of bakery bread,
out of the freezer and spread with a mixture of softened butter and block parmesan, grated.
These went under the broiler until toasty.
Cost of toast: approximately $1.00

for dessert,
a big bowl of plums,
sweet and juicy.
I think I paid about $2 for them.

The total cost of the meal was under $5.

It was a simple meal, nothing fancy.
But, it was filling and delicious and full of fresh vegetables.
It is a meal that I wouldn't have been embarrassed to serve to company.
That is something I have been thinking about lately.
I don't want to serve my family foods that I wouldn't serve to company.
I want every meal to be delicious enough that I would be happy to serve it to any guests.
My family is as important as anyone that could grace our table, and I want them to feel that in the foods that I serve for them.

I am also a firm believer in using the best ingredients available.
Simple upgrades often don't cost a lot more, but make a big difference in the taste quality of the food.
Fresh herbs instead of dried,
fresh garlic,
sea salt instead of table salt,
fresh ground peppercorns instead of ground pepper,
good quality block parmesan instead of pre-shredded in a bag,
and vegetables from the garden made this meal not only delicious,
but also a delight to prepare.

I love the smell of the fresh basil,
as I slice it under my fingertips.

I love to stir the tomatoes,
simmering in my cast iron skillet,
favorite wooden spoon in hand.

I love to see the happy faces of hungry boys,
when I carry in steaming plates of food.

Sacred in the ordinary.

Cooking for our families can be a pleasure-full,
joyful act of service to our families,
even when crunched for time and on a small budget.

*Creative Commons image from VirtualErn on

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My mom has joined the twenty-first century, and now has a blog. Check it.
Just created, it is bare bones right now...but I have no doubt it will soon be just as fabulous as she is!

...that I have enjoyed today.

-This one, a beautiful testament to answered prayer. The groom started praying to marry this girl when he was fourteen! And, the wedding picture is so cute! I love the hot pink shoes! Also, check out the link at the bottom of the post. So sweet.

-Redemption. The ugly being transformed. Haven't we all known someone who is radiant to us, because we love them, because of their heart? Aren't WE transformed, because of God's great love for us?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


It is so very strange how this blogosphere unites us. I feel that I have some very good friends, all over the world, that share ideals and thoughts and beliefs...and yet, I have never met them face to face. When I met Sara, earlier this spring, it was a surreal experience, almost like meeting a celebrity. For a year, I had faithfully been reading her blogs (live lightly, happy foody, walk slowly live wildly), seeing pictures, and she already felt like a good friend.

Then, one day I was reading one of my very favorite blogs, High Desert Home, when Susan mentioned her good friend, Laura A., in New York. As I perused her blog, I read something about listening to her pastor, Scott Sauls, preach! Come again, did you say SCOTT SAULS? As in my brother-in-law, who is a pastor at Redeemer Pres in New York? Turns out, not only was she talking about my brother-in-law, but they know each other, and are in the same small group (which is quite surprising, considering the church has about 8,000 members!).

Then yesterday, a really crazy thing happened. I was reading a blog, following link after link, you know, the way that often happens...when I stumble onto this great blog written by a mother of four in New York. She also said something about Redeemer. I emailed her last night, asking if she knew my brother-in-law. She emailed me back this morning, saying that she and my sister-in-law are in the same mother's group at church. The really crazy part is this: My hubby and my oldest child, Caedmon, are in New York right now, visiting Scott and family. This afternoon, my sister-in-law took Caedmon and her children to a party, hosted by the woman that writes the blog I found yesterday! It is a small, crazy world, isn't it?

And, check out this post from above said new-to-me blog...I loved reading this post, and have reread the last two paragraphs several times. I visited Redeemer once, several years ago, and remember seeing the congregation melting back into the city, and being struck by it...she captures it beautifully.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tying in with my post about money and food and such, check out this interesting slideshow.
It shows families from different countries all over the world, with their groceries for the week, as well as how much they paid for them. Very interesting to see which countries eat a lot of grain, lots of prepackaged, fresh, etc. The amounts spent per week were surprising.
And, this really cool interactive map. Click on the month and the state, and a list of produce that is in season will pop up, as well as recipes for each particular veggie/fruit. I was just wishing for something like this yesterday!!

Thanks to Green Style Mom for the links!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

1. spots of happiness, 2. Master Bedroom, 3. Bedside flowers, 4. Glimpse of the bathroom..., 5. daffodils in the boys room, 6. Azaleas, 7. Spring in south GA means Azaleas!, 8. azaleas on a windowsill, 9. Corner of my bedroom, 10. Back porch, 11. Children's table, 12. Dinner, al fresco, 13. Bookshelf in the morning, 14. Stairs BEFORE, 15. Rearranged China cabinet, 16. Out the Dining room window
(couldn't get the pictures to upload and am too tired to figure it out tonight. Wanna share pictures of your home? It is always fun to take a virtual tour of the places that people live!)

YAY!!! A house project, completed!!!! I have been wanting to paint the risers of my stairs, and number them, for about a year or two. As of today, I can check that project off the list!!

As I have mentioned before, I am a big analyzer/thinker/planner...not so much an implementer. Which is where my friendship with Charlotte comes in so handy. She is a doer, in a big way. What would I do without my great friends? Stacy gave me the prodding I needed to start the project. She gently nudged, went with me to buy supplies, nudged some more, came over and helped me get started. Then, she left. And I came to a complete standstill. Every day, I would map out my plan "OK, if I paint two steps a day, the painting will be done in one week. Then, I can do two numbers a day, which will take another week..."

Today, Charlotte called and asked if the stairs were done. I hemmed and hawwwed and of course, ten minutes later, Charlotte is at my door, with paint brush in hand. Three hours later, and the stairs are completely finished!!! I don't know how she does it. All I know is, she is good for me. So, I take no credit for this project. All the props go to Stacy for getting it started and to Charlotte for finishing (and doing most) the job!

STAIRS BEFOREThe risers were off white, like the walls and showed all the scuff marks. Plus, it was just really boring!

STAIRS AFTERThe risers are painted the same bright yellow as my kitchen door, which you can see from the foot of the stairs. The numbers are metal house numbers. My kids have a fun new game. They sit at the bottom of the stairs and toss their stuffed animals up the stairs. They get points for what ever stair it lands on. New rainy day activity!
EATING WELL IN LEAN TIMESSummer is always an economically lean time for our family. My husband is a food salesman, and due to various social (and this year, economic) factors, his paycheck always takes a nosedive during the summer months. While I am very thankful for the bounty that we usually experience, I admit that I do enjoy the awareness that living in lean times brings. Every gift, every prayer that is answered brings a heightened sense of thankfulness. It is wonderful to see God's faithfulness even more clearly. Not that we are more or less blessed when times are "hard", but we are more aware, I suppose.

Also, I really relish the challenge of feeding my family well on a tight budget. Now, I need to offer a disclaimer here. I understand that the economic hardship that we experience during the summer is very relative to the way that many people live all the time. In our leanest times, we live more lavishly than a large percentage of the world. I am very thankful for the bounty we have, even during the summer. We never go without any thing we need, or most of what we want. We still have cable, DSL, air conditioning, newer cars, a home, regular date night, and good food on the table. We live a life of abundance. I do not mean to minimize the true suffering that others experience on a daily basis.

This summer, we have eaten the healthiest we ever have. Lots of fruits and vegetables. We are eating a high-vegetarian diet, when we are at home. I am amazed at how little I am spending on food. The food budget is not an area that I am willing to cut into...I am committed to feeding our family healthy, fresh, delicious foods. But, without much effort, our food budget has continued to shrink, largely because of the time of year and where we live. Here in south GA, we have a long growing season, and fresh, local fruits and vegetables are quite inexpensive.

I haven't stepped foot in a grocery store or produce stand in two weeks. In the last five weeks, I have spent a mere $120 on food, for our family of five (with three always hungry boys!). The money I have spent at the store has been almost exclusively for cheese, butter, eggs, and the occasional gallon of milk. I thought I would share the things that have worked for me this summer in regards to our food. Maybe you will share what has worked for your family? With food costs continuing to rise, I know that many of us are looking for ways to feed our families well, on a budget.

-Cloth diapering.
My two year old is potty trained and my one year old is in cloth diapers. For awhile, i was using cloth during the day, and disposable at night or when out of the house. I think this was harder...when I had the choice, I always wanted to use disposable. Using 100% cloth is much easier, mentally. And a lot cheaper.

My daddy works with farmers, and will often share the extra produce they give him. A watermelon this week, fresh corn last week.

It is a rare Sunday that someone doesn't bring the excess of their garden to church to share. Tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, corn, etc.

My parent's blueberry bushes have kept us loaded with as many fresh blueberries as we can eat. Often, blueberries will comprise whole meals. We never tire of them.

A friend returned my casserole dish, full of green beans from their garden.

Last week, my friend Melissa dropped by and surprised me with a fresh loaf of homemade bread, as well as an assortment of just-made jams and relish.
It has been fun to plan our menus around these unexpected gifts.

-An eye to the future.
Over the last few months, I had started to look ahead and prepare for the summer. When I would make a lasagne, or other freezable dinner, I would make two, or three, and stick the others in the freezer.

When I received an abundance of onions (another gift!), I chopped eight or nine and put them in the freezer. The same with bell peppers and corn.

Last summer, we (mom and I) canned green beans and tomatoes.

This spring, we picked strawberries and filled the freezer. When bananas and grapes were on sale, I bought them in large quantities and froze them.

-No prepackaged foods.
With the exception of the occasional box of Cheerios, or some popsicles, I am not buying prepackaged foods. I am cooking from scratch, which is helpful in a number of ways. It really helps with the mindless eating, since the junk isn't there to grab. It is much cheaper. There is a lot less waste, from excess packaging. And, it is a great way to spend a hot summer afternoon with the kids, inside, making something yummy.

-Cooking Simpler Foods.
I couldn't tell you the last time I have made a casserole, or anything that calls for a cream-of-whatever soup. Eating simple, honest food with the least preparation possible, not only is a lot less expensive, but much healthier too. Corn on the cob, green beans sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic, tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, big salads, etc. are yummy and filling.

-Eating less meat.
In the last few months, 75% of our meals have become vegetarian. I don't think it is wrong to eat meat. My husband and father (and brothers) are all hunters. I have gone hunting. But, I am finding that it is often unnecessary. I have learned that I can cook delicious, filling, nutritious meals that even the meat lovers in my family love, that have no meat in them. My feeling is, if we can eat just as well without meat, why wouldn't we? I don't see a reason to kill an animal for food, if we can do just as well not to. When we go out to eat, I do often order seafood, which I enjoy, or eat vegetarian. At home, I usually don't cook meat, but my husband will occasionally bring some home and grill it. We do have a good amount of deer meat in our freezer, which I use from time to time. I no longer buy meat, which greatly reduces our food costs.

-Buying foods in the simplest form possible.
When I buy cheese, I buy block cheese and grate it myself. When I buy beans, I buy them dry, not canned. I buy regular rice, not boil in the bag, instant, etc. Cocoa for brownies, instead of chocolate bars. No single serve anything, or precooked, or shredded, or what have you.

-Cleaning and paper products.
Laundry detergent I either make, or buy the simplest, cheapest kind available. Other cleaners I either make, or buy in bulk (I have enough Mrs. Meyers and Seventh Generation to last me ten years!), or when it is at the Discount Food store. I don't buy paper towels or napkins. I use wet wipes very judiciously, often using the flannel wipes I made last fall. Toilet paper I bought in bulk at the discount food store.

Here is another woman's thoughts on eating well on a budget.

This summer has been absolutely delightful. These last few months have been one of the best seasons of my life, to date. We have enjoyed wonderful trips and days with our family and friends. We have had a simple summer, with long days spent together. We have enjoyed good, simple foods. Our needs have been provided for. We have read, and played, and cooked, and played in the sprinkler, and laughed with friends. Once again, I am reminded that it really is the simplest things in life that bring the most pleasure.

*Creative Commons image from Snap® on