An Ingredient in My Recipe for Life and a Frugal Recipe

Dear Reader,

 I’m so happy to spend a few moments of this new month with you. Like you, I have many interests and many roles and responsibilities in my life. I am a wife, mother, my children’s teacher, homemaker, friend, and of course, a daughter of the King. Each month, as I write to you, I’d like to share with you a little about an ingredient that I believe helps us create an enjoyable, rich recipe for life. I’ll also share a favorite recipe to help make your life a little easier.

Reading is an integral part of my life’s recipe. I read to learn, to relax, to hope, to plan, to dream, and to glean from the experiences of others who have walked this way before. I am primarily a non-fiction reader. A few years ago, I added more fiction to my reading. I found that although I am all grown up, I really enjoy losing myself in a good story. As a full-time wife, mother, and my children’s teacher, I welcome those moments alone.

Time alone has taken on new meaning and different forms as each of my four children were added to our little family. What used to be uninterrupted hours of free time to read or pursue hobbies and other entertainment, has shrunk to snatched moments here and there. Still, I have managed to find moments for this beloved nourishment for my mind and companionship for my soul.

By reading, I am indeed allowing the author to nourish my thoughts and my imagination. I’m also enjoying the author’s companionship as I read. That’s why I often linger over favorite books, stretching the reading over weeks or even months. To finish the book means to end the companionship, unless I find another book she’s written. I say she because most of these books are written by women about my journey with Jesus, homemaking, frugal living, or homeschooling.

As a matter of discipline, I have a goal of reading 50 books a year. I keep a journal of the title, author, date completed, and a notation stating fiction, non-fiction, or with the children. This keeps me accountable for what I read, and it helps me to see that I’m reading a good variety. I believe what Zig Ziglar used to say, “You are who you are and what you are because of what has gone into your mind.” Reading is a big part of that for me.

I encourage you to make yourself a reading goal for the remainder year. It might not be 50 books. It might be 12; but, set a goal and start reading toward it. This year I set aside 50 books on my bookshelf that I’d like to read. Perhaps my interests will lead me to different books; but, I’ve got a plan. Make a plan for yourself. Think about books that will help you with your finances, your cooking skills, your homemaking skills, your people skills, your business skills, your Christian life, a hobby or a skill that you’d like to learn. Most importantly, though, make a BIBLE goal. Make it something attainable. After all, even one book, read over and over can change you. That’s what we really want after all, isn’t it? To be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ?

Now, to give you a little more time to sneak in a little of what I call snatch reading (snatch a moment here and there), here is one of my family’s favorite soup recipes. It’s frugal, too. Put it together and let it simmer on the back of the stove or in a crock pot while you snatch a few pages! May God bless you as you seek His face.

Laura

By the way, in case you’re wondering, I do count the books I read to my children that are chapter books and some of their history readers and that sort of thing.  I don’t read 50 just for me. ~grin~

I have also discovered books loaded onto an MP3 player that can hang around my neck at my library.  They are helping me to meet my goal and also stretch beyond my normal reading genres.  I recently listened to The Audacity of Hope by President Obama.  I don’t agree with him on many of his beliefs; but, it was good to know where he stands.  I also listened to Anastasia, The Last Grand Duchess (of Russia).  It was in the youth section; but was very informative.  I like history.

Old Fashioned Cocoa from Scratch

My family just loves the rich flavor of old fashioned cocoa made from scratch.  Scratch means you start with basic ingredients and go from there.  I love it because I always have the ingredients on hand.  My kids will have the memory of Momma over the stove stirring the cocoa.  They come running when they hear the sound the whisk makes in the pan. 

 Here’s how I make mine.  All you need is Hershey’s cocoa, sugar, milk and a bit of water.

Old Fashioned Cocoa from Scratch

Combine 1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa and 1 cup of white sugar in a three quart saucepan using a wire whisk.  I do this while the cocoa and sugar are still dry so that the cocoa will mix in nice and smooth without a bunch of lumps. 

Add about 1/3 cup of cold water and mix until smooth.  Bring to a boil and continue to boil it for about a minute, stirring constantly.  Don’t worry if it sticks to the sides, it’ll melt back into the cocoa as it heats up. 

Fill the pan with milk, It”ll be a little more than a half a gallon of milk.  Stir and heat using  medium heat.  If you need to walk away from it, just turn it on the lowest heat.   I check to see if it’s hot enough by dropping in a miniature marshmallow.  It’s ready when the marshmallow just starts to melt.  I offer extra milk to my little ones to cool it if they want it. 

This is so easy, we can make it any time we want it.  Read aloud time is one of our favorite times to enjoy Old Fashioned Cocoa.

Trapped…and Released

“Based on the information available today and the terms of the contract in force today, benefits will be available if the service is medically necessary.” Ten, twenty, thirty, forty times a day I would repeat that phrase. I was a customer service correspondent for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I answered the phone all day long, explaining benefits, helping with medical claims that weren’t processed correctly or were misunderstood. I couldn’t answer the phone, fill out a form, or sneeze without putting a tally mark on a piece of paper so that my employer would be able to keep track of every moment of my day. I felt, with my headset attached to the phone system and my computer in front of me, like a dog on a chain. I was trapped. I must admit that for the most part, in the almost 18 years since I’ve been home with my children, that I’ve either forgotten or blocked out most of what it was like to be stuck in a job that I didn’t like, making too much money to quit, but not enough to get ahead. I was so young I didn’t appreciate the medical benefits except for maternity! I still remember the day, January 18, 1991 as my emancipation day, the day I was released! ~smile~

I think it’s good for me to remember, to appreciate the freedom I have now in comparison. No. I don’t have money to buy things I want most of the time. No, I can’t do all the things I want to, unless they’re free. Yes, it’s worth it. Being home with my children has been a wonderful privilege that my husband, God, and my willingness to go without have offered me. My children are different than they would have been if I’d been at work and they’d been at school. I thank God that I’ve been there to instill our beliefs, our faith, and our values in their lives as well as to teach them.

I also think that it’s good for me to reflect on what I would have been like, what I might have done, if not for Jesus, and on what I did do before Jesus. Our Pastor spoke Sunday about a man who killed many people at a Christmas party last week. He said that apart from Christ and the Holy Spirit in him, he could have been that man. Any one of us could have been that man. If we didn’t have Jesus, we would be at the mercy of whatever the world and Satan enticed us with. Desperation, fatigue, worry, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, anger, as well as a host of other pressures and sins would assail us.

Thank God for Jesus Christ and the work of salvation that he did at the cross. We have the opportunity to be reconciled to God, to have a clean conscience and a clean slate before Him in spite of our past sins. We have to choose to accept Jesus’ death being the payment for our sins and believe that he is resurrected, at God’s right hand in Heaven. Then, we must wash ourselves by reading the Word of God, the Holy Bible, daily, asking for God to fill us over and over with His Holy Spirit.

I need to remember what I was and what God had done for me through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I need to press forward, focusing more and more on God’s word and what He wants to do in me, my family, my church, and my community.

I ask God to bless you all as you think reflectively upon these things.

Laura
Thankful to be home and His

I’m Trapped!

I’m trapped!

My husband and children have been Christmas shopping…for me!  Now I’m trapped in the office while they wrap. ~smile~  They’re so excited.  I just love it.  So, since I love surprises, I’m busily typing away. 

While they were gone, I was busy wrapping and making a list and checking it twice.  I still have a few projects to finish.  I don’t know if I’ll make it or not; but, they’ll enjoy the things later if necessary.

Have a happy Christmas week!

Laura

Happy to be Surprised!

My Daybook…

FOR TODAY, DECEMBER 8TH…
Outside my window…darkness.  It’s far before dawn here in Missouri.

I am thinking… I need to get busy.  I have to go to a nearby city for my husband’s office Christmas party.  I found out last night that we are to bring “White Elephant” gifts.  The $ limit is $10.  I’ll be shopping at home from my stash!
I am thankful for… an e-mail from my grandma!  She’s recently moved and I lost her for a few weeks!
From the learning rooms…  a shortened day because of my trip.  Definitely math, language arts, and reading.

From the kitchen…  quick and simple.  Breakfast-toast.  Lunch-soup made from yesterday’s leftover brisket, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic.
I am wearing… Must I say?  I’m wearing my flannel nightgown.  It’s only 5:30 in the morning here as I write.
I am creating… a list in my head of things I want to create.  I’ll be writing them down soon.  Today, as we drive, I’ll probably be crocheting a hanging handle on a dishtowel.  I have a friend who has ordered two from me.   She doesn’t need them until after Christmas; but, it’s a project that will travel well.
I am going… to my husband’s office Christmas party.
I am hoping… to keep myself organized during this week.  After this week, much of the busy-ness of the season will be finished.  Then, I can focus on finishing projects.
I am hearing… nothing but the hum of the computer, the click of the keys, and silence.  It’s early, mind you!
Around the house… a few things to put away from the weekend…lots of laundry to be done…some ironing to do…more decorating to do.
One of my favorite things…poinsettias!  I hope my Honey reads this and gets the hint!
A few plans for the rest of the week:

Monday- Office Christmas Party

Tuesday-Homeschool Support Group Christmas Party

Wednesday-Caroling and ringing the bells at Wal-Mart with our church to raise money for Salvation Army.

Thursday-Kids’ homeschool Christmas Party

Friday-Friend’s Christmas party

Saturday-Craft fair in the day, just attending, and a Christmas play that night.

Sunday-possibly going to Branson to take in a show, if I can find a babysitter.

BREATHE LAURA BREATHE!
Here is picture thought I am sharing…

Making Cookies

Making Cookies

Visit the Simple Woman’s Daybook to see what other ladies are doing this week and to join in the fun.

It will be a very busy week, full of Christmas party preparations.

The only really important way that we must prepare for Christmas is in our hearts.  The rest of it is all for fun.  Let’s not forget that.  Jesus is the reason that we celebrate Christmas.  Jesus, the baby in the manger, God’s son, grew up to be the sinless sacrifice for our sins.  Let’s reclaim this holiday this year.

Laura

Keeping my Focus

Christmas on the Cheap…and Nice

Many of us are called upon to give gifts in gift exchanges, at the office, to a teacher, to friends, the list goes on and on. Many of these gifts are supposed to be of the $5 or less type.

Why not shop in the comfort of your home, from your home? Go on a treasure hunt.

Entire article available at http://harvestlanecottage.blogspot.com .

Notes on Time to a Younger Mother…Something to Think About

I am, by nature, an introvert.

God, by nature, likes to stretch us beyond our comfort levels.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

I, by nature, wanted one child.

God, by nature, gave me four children!

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

I, by nature, want to create.

God, by nature, wants to create.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

 

He understands your many responsibilities, the many things that pull on you as a woman. You must ask Him to help you find the minutes here and there.  You must ask Him to show you how to organize your projects in a way that will work for you.

For example, when I’m working on a project, I will often pin or sticky note a note to myself to tell me what the next step is, so that I can go back to it without rethinking it.  I also have several projects going at once.  So, I try to do all the cutting out that I can at once.  The next time, I try to do all the marking I can at once.  Next time, it’s all the pinning I can do at once.  Then, all the sewing I can do at once.  Then all the pressing.  I’m sure you get the picture.

I want blocks of time.  God gives me minutes.

I’m trying to learn to discipline myself to use those minutes more wisely.

Laura

Happy at Home with my four wonderful blessings!

6, 8, 10, and my teenager

If you’d like to see a photo of my blessings, you can find them on my other blog, Harvest Lane Cottage.  Just scroll down on my Day Book entry.