Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No, I didn't disappear ...

I've just been SOOOO extremely busy. Dad and I have almost finished the interior remodeling of our home. We have done an extensive amount of work and I never imagined that our little house could be so nice. I must also send out a hearty thank you to Mrs. A and Mrs. P. These lovely ladies came out and pitched in with some of the painting. They are such a blessing in my life and I am so thankful to the Lord for bringing them to me.
As soon as our weather clears up (we're enjoying quite a bit of rain this week), we will begin working on the outside - painting the outside of the house, adding additional shutters and painting the out buildings.
Not only have we been incredibly busy, but our internet has also been down for a couple weeks - not that I really noticed ... I didn't have any time to devote to the computer.
We enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving. Dad was here and this was the first holiday I've spent with him since I was 8 years old. AB was able to come home. We missed BT and JP. BT just couldn't get away and JP left a week earlier for the U.S. Navy Recruit Training. If you all think of him, please offer up a prayer on his behalf.
It was such a blessing to log in this evening and have messages of prayers from a few of my readers. I look forward to sharing with you all again soon.
As we've been working on our home and improving the interior, I've been thinking about the changes God makes in our lives when we accept Him as our Saviour. Like the improvements we've been doing here around the house, God works within our hearts. Prior to painting a room, I've taken a considerable amount of time to prepare the room for new paint. I first clear out all the furniture and obstacles that could get in my way and keep me from doing a good job. I then dust/wash the walls. Next I patch/repair any holes or cracks and wait for the wall compound/caulk to cure. Then, I paint on a coat of primer so the new wall color will be a pure or true match to the sample color I selected. Finally, to achieve a uniform color and professional quality I add a second coat of paint.
Like the above process, we must turn away from sin so God will have plenty of room to work within us. We must also allow Him to prepare our hearts for the changes He wants to make. We must allow Him to help us forgive others and heal the broken areas of our lives, akin to patching holes or cracks in an old wall. Like painting a coat of primer prior to painting on the color, we must allow God to create a blank and clean surface within our hearts before seeing significant changes. When we submit and allow God to prepare our hearts, that's when we will see God's hand forming us into what He has created us to be. Yes, the preparation process can be time consuming, but good prep work is the secret to a professional finish. The last time I checked, God is a professional.
Blessings to you and yours,
Mrs. B

Monday, October 26, 2009

Busy as a Bee on a Spring Bonnet

I must extend an apology to my faithful followers. I had promised that upon our return home I'd post about our time up in the Northwest farmland AND include photos of the many beautiful places and things we were blessed to see and experience. Things have been so rushed since our return home, that I often don't know if I'm coming or going.

So we could continue with our remodeling, we immediately began moving furniture into storage - including our good desktop computer. Thus, I am still using our very old and not so good laptop. This little laptop doesn't work very fast AND it locks up nearly any time we try to run more than one application. Downloading photos has proven to be a HUGE waste of time - I literally spent hours and days trying to down load photos while on vacation and I just couldn't get it to work. When I have my desk top back - I PROMISE I will post vacation photos.

I must also ask for your prayers during this transitional period. Due to the remodeling, our home is in disarray. I like things orderly and in their place - when things are out of sorts, I find it difficult to focus and I easily become overwhelmed. My father has arrived to help me with some projects and he and I work VERY differently. I am a planner, a goal setter AND I work tirelessly until a job is completed - he is the fly by the seat of your pants sort and if it gets done, well good - if it doesn't get done, well that's O.K. too. These differences and the chaotic environment have me a little stressed. So, if y'all think about it anytime during the up coming days, I'd appreciate any little prayer you can offer on my behalf.

Thank you, dear readers for your understanding. I'm looking forward to the day when things are a little more routine around here and I have more time to share with you all.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Home Sweet Home

After our 8 week holiday turned into 4 months, I can honestly say I am HAPPY to finally be home. We are no longer living in "limbo". Goals and a vision have returned and we are again moving forward.
Upon our return, we "hit the ground running". We immediately began moving furniture and personal items out of the our home so we can finish the remodeling we began last fall. We need to finish it up so we can sell our house here in Texas and MOVE to the beautiful farm land that we had the pleasure of enjoying all summer long.
Yes, that's right ... it looks like after more than 12 years of saving and scrimping we have finally been blessed with a chance to move out to the middle of "no where". Although we will certainly miss our beloved Texas (you can take a Texan out of Texas but you can't take the Texas out of a Texan), and many close friendships we have formed over the years, we are so very excited about this new adventure.
The first few days home, emotions that only flow from the surroundings of familiarity engulfed me, feelings of peace, relief, comfort, joy. Our dear friends and fellow church members welcomed us home with smiles, warm hugs and a genuine enthusiasm to share all that happened while we were away. But we've also experienced several changes. The road we live on that was under construction when we left is now finished. Our local grocer invested in a "face lift" in his store. Our church is enlarging the vestibule, redesigning the youth hall and praise and worship are more vibrant than before. While life was in a holding pattern for us, everything here at home continued to move forward.
The other day as I drove home from the grocer the Lord reminded me that these feelings and emotions are also experienced on a spiritual level. I don't know about you, but there have been times in my walk with Christ when I've drifted away. Life just got so busy or so complex that I allowed other things to creep in and take a greater priority than my relationship with Christ. As time went on, I realized that my relationship with Christ had become stagnant or I had placed Him "on the back burner". After this realization, I went to the Lord, repented and re-established our relationship. Just like returning home from a long vacation, the Lord gave me a warmer welcoming home than my dear friends gave me. I felt a comfort, peace, joy and even relief that I hadn't felt in a long time. But just like returning home from a long vacation, I also found that some changes had occurred. I saw things with a renewed spirit. I was able to clearly see how when I'd drifted away from the Lord, sin had drifted into a few areas of my life, thus, requiring more repentance on my part. Of course, our merciful Lord was eager to forgive and make me whole again.
If any one out there in blog land finds that you've drifted away from the Lord. I encourage you to stop right where you are and turn back to the Lord. He is waiting for you. He is longing to welcome you back home. He is eager to have a restored relationship with you. Yes, you will have to repent and turn away from whatever sin you've allowed to creep into your life, but remember relief, comfort, peace and joy will fill those areas where it now exists and you will once again be whole. Romans 12:2 tells us, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (NKJV)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Well, folks .... It seems like every time I begin making plans to return home, something comes up and delays my plans. It now looks like we won't be returning home until mid-September. While waiting for God's perfect timing on our return home, the little one's and I will drive out west and have a visit with my dad. Yes, he's finally returned from Alaska and is very excited about seeing a couple of his grandchildren ... Oh! Yeah, he also says he's excited about visiting with me too.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time up here in the Northwest farmland, but we will have a most GRAND time out at Dad's. He lives about 7 miles up a mountain, off-grid, in a log cabin. I'll get to cook breakfast on his wood stove, the evenings will be spent visiting and reading by oil lamps, my nightly bath will be taken in a HUGE cast iron claw foot soaking tub, and I'll fall asleep with the scents of evergreen pines and woodsmoke in the the night air. Although my general daily tasks will take a little longer to complete because of the lack of electricity, there is a comfort, peace and relaxation I have yet to find anywhere else. Not only is Dad's cabin located in a visually beautiful setting, it is also a beautiful place to hear and smell. Even the air feels like heaven upon one's skin.

Our Lord has so abundantly blessed us with a summer filled with all sorts of beauty. I am very excited about the opportunity He has given me to spend time in the majestic mountains He created for our enjoyment.

I'd like to say, "See you all soon", but it's beginning to seem like every time I say that, we get delayed. SOOOO instead, I'll say, "See you all by and by".


Friday, August 14, 2009

Who Was Barbara Wagner?

I did not personally know Ms. Wagner, but she was first brought to my attention through an AARP magazine article approximately 1 year ago, and earlier this week, I heard through Fox News that she had passed away.

Barbara Wagner (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492&page=1) was a retired school bus driver in the State of Oregon. She was a cancer survivor and a participant in the state of Oregon's universal health care program. Sadly, after a few years of remission, Ms. Wagner's cancer returned.

As of today, our Federal Government, the States of Oregon and Massachusetts, and many others in our society would say, "Thank God for universal health care ... as a poorly paid school bus driver, Ms. Wagner probably wouldn't be able to afford treatment without it."

Ms. Wagner recently lost her battle with cancer. My heart grieves for her family and friends who will miss her for many years to come. What breaks my heart even more is that had Oregon's universal health care program had it's way, Ms. Wagner would have died a year ago. As far as I know, Oregon is the only state in our nation who recognizes "assisted suicide", euthanasia, as a form of medical treatment. Under this "medical treatment" definition, Oregon's universal health care program not only has the right but also a responsibility to tax payers to administer assisted suicide to those whom they believe are terminally ill or will not be of an asset to Oregon's future economic base.

When Ms. Wagner's cancer returned, this 60+ year old lady was told by Oregon's universal health care program that she did not "qualify" for this type of cancer's treatment(s). However, she did qualify for "assisted suicide" drugs. A cost difference of approximately $50.00 for one dose of assisted suicide drugs / $4,000 per dose of cancer drugs. When Ms. Wagner told the state of Oregon she was not interested in the "assisted suicide" treatment option. The state of Oregon told her assisted suicide was the ONLY option they would pay for.

Ms. Wagner, declined Oregon's offer to pay for assisted suicide. Her situation did not go unnoticed. The pharmaceutical firm that produces the medications specific to Ms. Wagner's type of cancer stepped up and paid for her treatment which gave Ms. Wagner an additional year of life. Ms. Wagner had another year to spend with those she loves and cares for most. She had an extra year to finalize her finances and business commitments. She had an additional year to unite her soul with the Lord, if needed. But without thanks to the State of Oregon.

There is a lesson in this true news story for ALL American citizens to learn. Although, as of today, our Federal Government does not recognize euthanasia as a medical treatment option, we do not know what the future holds. There are a growing number in our nation who are tirelessly working to spread pro - euthanasia legislation. I recently heard that the State of Washington was considering it (again, that was something I've heard, but not confirmed at the time of this writing). Through Oregon's universal health insurance program, the citizens of Oregon have given the state of Oregon the power to decided when a person's life should end.

We all know that the cost of a federal universal health care system for our nation will carry a price tag of more than one trillion dollars, an amount of money that most of us can not comprehend. How will our already indebted nation pay for it? From the view out my window, we can't. We simply do not have the money. EVERY sector of our nation, government, businesses, banks, health care, individuals, are literally drowning in debt. Under a federally managed universal health care program it will be absolutely imperative to cut and trim any and all costs not beneficial (immediately and long term) to tax payers. Our government says rationing will not occur under their system. According to the math, rationing is the ONLY way their system will work. If you don't think rationing occurs in our federal government's current health care plans, Medicare and Medicaid, you need to talk with those currently being treated under these plans. Under Medicare we have scores of Senior Citizens carrying Medicare Insurance Supplement policies because Medicare "doesn't cover that treatment, or this procedure". Under Medicaid, we have women with a mild case of fibroid tumors being told to get hysterectomies because in the long run, it's cheaper than on going treatment plans or another baby. I've then met women who told me that afterwards Medicaid will not pay for hormonal therapy. I won't even go into the cost of fraud and waste under these programs that is high enough to pay off our national debt.

How much money is your health and life worth? What is the value of your loved one's health and life? According to the state of Oregon $50.00. I think Oregon is a good example of what a federally funded universal health care program holds for our nation. How much does our federal government think a human life is worth?

Does our nation need changes to health care? Absolutely. However, six months to rushing through a hurried plan to fix something that took decades to break? Mind blowingly ludicrous. We should be looking at the areas that are broken and focus on those one at time. As it is, we are, as my late grandmother would say, "throwing the baby out with the bath water".

I send my gratitude to the friends and family of Ms. Wagner. Because they supported her decision to decline Oregon's treatment option of her cancer. All of America SHOULD be able to "see the writing on the wall" regarding the future of a national universal health care system.

Mrs. B

P.S. For those of you who may disagree with me, you have that right. However, it won't be necessary to infringe upon my Constitutional First Amendment Rights by forwarding my blog address to the White House regarding "fishy" internet communications about H.R. 3200. They already have my real name, address, telephone number, personal e-mail address, etc. They know what my opinions are and what I think because I e-mail, write, and call my Congressman, Senators and Mr. Obama quite regularly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I know we've been away for quite a long time, but we are planning to return home at the end of the month! I will certainly mourn leaving crisp cool mornings, warm sun drenched afternoons, the innocence of small town life and the refreshing clean air filled with the scents of lilac and canola flowers. I am ready to return to my cozy, little home, a regular routine and all the loving and supportive friends the Lord has placed in my life. This summer has been one that I will enjoy reflecting upon for many years to come.

Upon returning home, I am very excited about sharing many of the photos I've taken while on this summertime journey. Our Lord has blessed us so abundantly with a land of beauty that words can't express. Our photos do not begin to compare to the majesty of seeing these sites with one's own eyes, hearing the sounds of the wind, streams and wildlife with one's own ears or inhaling the clean air filled with the fragranced perfume of nature.

Ahhh, my friends ... I pray that you too will one day, very soon, enjoy the blessing of the world God has created for our pleasure. Yes, that's right ... He created all this earth for us. It was created to stimulate all our senses and provide us with a glimmer of His glorious majesty.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Out of Town, But Not Forgotten...

We are having a FABULOUS time!! Last week the youngin's and I took a day-trip down to Glendive, MT and picnicked in Makoshika State Park. The weather was perfect, the air was crisp and clean, the scenery breathtaking, and the wildlife was abundant. (I didn't take the above photo - but we did get to see a very similar view.)

While up here we are also thoroughly enjoying small town living. The town we are in is small enough for us to ride our bikes everywhere. It also has sidewalks down EVERY street making biking a very safe mode of transportation for OG and EJ. There are 7 playground parks within 1 mile of our townhouse and we've really enjoyed the summer reading program at the local library. The members of the church we are attending are just as friendly and outgoing as those back home.

The 4th of July was especially fun for our family. Since we live in an area with a very high population, we've never enjoyed the local parades - it's just too crowded and unfortunately crime is high at events like that - not to mention the highway robbery of parking fees, etc. However, this year, vacationing in a very small town afforded us the opportunity to enjoy the local parade and FREE cook-out in the downtown park - there was even live gospel music to entertain everyone. We all had a super duper good time.

I can not express how much I enjoy small town and rural life. Two weeks ago a local citizen took an add out in the classified section of the newspaper looking for the owner of a professional grade digital camera. The camera was found in the picnic area near the local river and this person wanted to return it to its rightful owner. It's been six weeks since we left home and the only crime report on the local news station was regarding the final sentencing of a murderer (two counties away) from sometime last year, and 5 local teens were caught and arrested for breaking into three or four vehicles. All other local news revolves around community happenings, agricultural reports and weather. I do not find myself stressed out after overhearing the local news, like I do when I'm at home.

Now, I'd like to spotlight an addition to the "Sites of Interest" links in my sidebar. My very dear and very close friend Mrs. A has decided to try blogging. If you'd like to check her site out, Charmin's Thoughts", I'm sure she'd love a visit. I am looking forward to regular doses of her sense of humor and updates on her beautiful family.

Well, I just wanted to check in (in case anyone thought I'd completely forgot about my blog world buddies) and let you all know we are doing well, we are happy and we are enjoying our summer break.

Wishing you were here with us .... Mrs. B

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Yeah, I'm So There ...

Well folks, it's that time ... yep, we're going to the country. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary move. We'll be away for several weeks ... well, more like a couple months. One of the joys of home education it that we can stay away for as long as we wish and we can go anywhere our hearts dream - no last day of school, no first day of school, no limited time for breaks, no missed assignments to make up ... freedom.

I'm sure many of you are wondering, "What about your garden, what about your chickens, what about your dog?" All that's covered. JP will be home. He will tend to the chickens, dog, garden irrigation and forwarding mail. I have incredibly fabulous friends who have set up a schedule to harvest our produce from the garden. It will not fall on the ground and go to waste and they'll get to eat some fresh, healthy veggies all summer long.

I don't know if or when I'll have a chance to log-in or post. But be assured, I'll take plenty of photos & notes and share it all with you as soon as possible.

I pray God's blessings over you, and your family this summer. I pray your summer is filled with rest if you are weary, peace if you are troubled, joy if you are saddened, laughter if you are shedding tears, and provision if you are in need. I pray you will draw close unto the Lord and allow Him to be your all in all. I pray your face will shine, you will find laughter and will dance in the sunshine of His mercy, grace and love.

Love and Blessings to you and yours,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipes From The Garden

When I was a girl, our family had a particular method to cooking each type of food. Everything we ate was always cooked the same way. I was 19 years old and living in another state before I realized one could do more with a chicken than fry it or make chicken and dumplings out of it.

Unknown to my children, I do have a creative side. I'm just not artistically gifted in the the typical areas of art, music or design. My creativity is expressed through more practical means, such as cooking. A gourmet chef, I am not. But, when my older sons were teenagers ALL their friends LOVED coming to our home for breakfast, lunch or supper. A few would routinely inquire, "Is your mom cooking?", whenever they were invited to our home.

Today, I'd like to share a few recipes for the zucchini, green beans and cucumber we harvested from our garden yesterday. If you decide to try these recipes, I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as we do.


We prefer to harvest our zucchini when it's small, about 6 inches. Although zucchini will grow very large, very rapidly, large zucchini's seem a little bland to my palette.

Steamed Zucchini

4 small zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

Steam zucchini over boiling water until tender, being careful not to over cook it. (Over cooked zucchini will be soggy and fall apart easily. ) While steaming zucchini, melt butter and salt in microwave or over low heat. Pour butter mixture into a serving dish, add zucchini and toss to coat. Makes 4-6 servings.

Sauteed Zucchini

4 small zucchini, sliced on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet (I use cast iron - it really does improve the flavor of foods), saute olive oil, onions and sugar over medium heat until onions begin to turn translucent. Add zucchini, garlic, salt and pepper. Continue to saute until zucchini is tender. 4-6 servings.

Boiled Zucchini
(this is the way my family prepared it when I was a girl)

4 small zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 small onion, sliced
2 pats butter
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium pot. Add water until covered by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until onions are translucent. 4-6 servings

Fried Zucchini
(a good recipe for large zucchini's)

2 large zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 eggs, well beaten
cornbread mix (see below)
salt & pepper to taste
bacon ranch dressing
oil for frying

In a medium bowl beat eggs. Add a little bit of salt and pepper. Place flour in a gallon sized zip lock bag, add a little bit of salt & pepper. Place cornbread mix in another gallon zip lock bag, again, add a little bit of salt & pepper. Dip the zucchini in the egg, place in the flour, shake to coat well. Return to the egg, place zucchini in the cornbread mix, shake well to coat. Fry in hot oil until golden, 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve with bacon ranch dressing.

Cornbread Mix (makes about 5 batches)
4 1/4 c. flour
4 c. cornmeal
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. baking powder
1-2 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Store in airtight container in cool dry place.
To Mix Up Cornbread:
2 1/3 c. mix
1 egg, well beaten
1 c. milk
Combine all until moist. (batter should be lumpy) Pour into greased 8in. baking pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Zucchini Bread

2 2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. shortening
3 c. shredded zucchini
2/3 c. water
4 eggs
3 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 c. coarsely chopped nuts
2/3 c. raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans. Mix sugar and shortening together. Stir in zucchini, water and eggs. Mix in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and baking powder; stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into pans and bake 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing.

Raw Zucchini

The healthiest way to consume zucchini is to eat it raw. We like it sliced thin and added to salads. The children also like it cut into sticks and served with ranch dressing. And, of course, I often add it to soups and stews, but then it's not raw is it?

Green Beans
Harvest green beans when they are slender, no thicker than your little finger. If you let them grow too large, even the stringless varieties will be stringy.
Steamed Green Beans

1 1/2 lb. green beans, left whole with the stem end removed
2 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

Steam green beans over boiling water until crisp tender. Meanwhile, melt butter and salt in the microwave or over low heat. Add green beans to butter mixture and toss to coat.
variation: Add sliced almonds and pimentos to green beans when steaming. 4 servings

Southern Green Beans
(this is the method we cooked when I was a girl)

2 lb. green beans, snapped
1 onion, diced
3 slices thick bacon, diced
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. white vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Place green beans, onion, bacon, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium pot. Add water until covered by 1 inch; add vinegar. Boil over medium high heat until onion is translucent. When serving add a little cooking liquid to serving bowl. This will keep the green beans moist and ensure that southern flavor. 4-6 servings

Roasted Green Beans

1 1/2 lb. green beans, left whole with stem end removed
1 tbs. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, salt and pepper. Add green beans, toss to coat. Spread green beans onto a greased baking sheet. Roast in 350 degree oven 10-15 minutes, until tender. 4 servings

Sauteed Green Beans

1 1/2 lb. green beans, left long with stem ends removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil

In a medium skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add green beans. Saute until crisp tender, add garlic, salt and pepper. Saute for 1 additional minute. 4-6 servings

Salad Green Beans
(healthiest method and good when you only have a small amount)

hand full of green beans, snapped
boiling water
ice water

Place green beans in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to ice water to stop cooking process. Add to salad.

We also add green beans to soups, stews, etc. There is also the "famous" green bean casserole that I think every family in America prepares at Thanksgiving and Christmas; I trust everyone already has a favorite recipe for that.


I always plant pickling cucumbers. I prefer the stronger flavor and I like their versatility. It is best to harvest pickling cucumbers when they are about 4 inches. As with zucchini, I think they loose some of their flavor if left to grow too large.

Bread & Butter Pickles
(As a kid, I didn't know cucumbers could be prepared any other way)

4 lb. cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch
2 lb. onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c. canning salt
2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. peppercorn
3 c. vinegar
ice cubes

Combine cucumber and onion slices in a large bowl, layering with salt; cover with ice cubes. Let stand 1 1/2 hours. Drain; rinse; drain again. Combine remaining ingredients in a large sauce pot; bring to a boil. Add drained cucumbers and onions and return to a boil. Pack hot pickles and liquid into hot prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process in a boiling water caner 10 minutes. about 7 pints

Cucumber Salad

3 c. thinly sliced cucumbers
1 small red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 c. purple onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dill

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. 4-6 servings

Cucumber & Tomato Salad

3 cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 c. purple onion, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced and then halve the slices
1 c. mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/4 c. Italian salad dressing

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. 6 servings.

Cucumber Sandwiches

2 cucumbers
2 green onions
1/4 c. red bell pepper
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. dill
salt & pepper to taste
8 slices whole wheat bread, toasted

Chop the cucumbers, green onions and bell pepper in the food processor until finely chopped, being careful not to puree. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add cream cheese, dill, salt and pepper.
Spread mixture onto whole wheat bread. Cover with lettuce and tomato. Top remaining bread slices. 4 servings

Monday, May 25, 2009

Simple Tee-Shirt Dress Tutorial

The last time I made OG a tee-shirt dress, I mentioned to Ginger over at Ginger's Place (http://gingphill.blogspot.com/), that I'd post instructions with photos. So, with no further adieu ...
(please click on the photos for a close-up view, if needed)

Step 1 - Prepare the tee-shirt.
Put the tee-shirt on your child. Measure from the arm pit seam to your child's waist. On this particular tee-shirt, OG's measurement was 5 1/2 inches (note: Every shirt has a different fit, always measure each shirt individually Also, remember to measure twice, cut once). Add 1/2 inch for a seam allowance. I will cut this tee-shirt off 6 inches below the arm pit seam.

Step 2 - Pinking shears.
I use pinking shears, which prevents fraying, to cut the tee-shirt 6 inches from the arm pit seam. I discard the left over.
Step 3 - Preparing the skirt fabric.

Since I make these little dresses for OG to play in, she likes plenty of "leg" room, it's not fun to have a skirt too narrow at the knees when you're trying to run or ride a bike. I also prefer OG's skirt length to be below the knee, so I measure from her waist to the desired length. OG wanted this dress' finished hem to be 20 1/2 inches long. After measuring TWICE (I want to be certain the measurements are correct), I, again, use my pinking shears to cut the fabric 54 inches wide (that's 1 1/2 yards), by 22 inches long (the extra 1 1/2 inch length is for a seam allowance and the hem). The 54 inches being the distance around the waistline and knees. The 22 inches is the length from waist to hem of the skirt.
Step 4 - Right sides together.
Holding the long ends (54 inches), fold the fabric in half, right sides together. Pin this seam with straight pins.
Step 5 - Straight stitch.
Stitch the seam together using your machine's straight stitch.

Step 6 - Iron the seam open.

Step 7 - Hem.
Since this dress will be used for play, I am not going to hand stitch the hem. A machine stitched hem will be more durable. Fold the hem of the fabric over 1/4 inch and iron. Fold the hem of the fabric over a second time 1/4 - 1/12 inch and iron. Secure the second ironed fold with pins. Stitch the hem with your machine's straight stitch.

Your skirt will be tubed shaped like this:

Step 8 - Basting the waistline.
Using a single strand of thread (I like to use contrasting thread, it's easier to see when it comes time to remove it), hand stitch very LARGE stitches 1 inch below the waistline.

Step 9 - Gathering.
When you've basted the entire waistline, pull the thread creating a tight gather. See how bunched up the fabric is in the below photo?

Step 10 - Pinning the skirt to the tee-shirt.
Lay the tee-shirt flat on top of your work surface. Open the gathered end of the skirt so that it is the same width as your tee-shirt. Find the skirt seam and align it with the center of the back of the tee-shirt, with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, secure the skirt seam to the center edge of the back of the tee-shirt with pins. Now work your way around the skirt and tee-shirt securing each gather with pins. (click the photo for a close up view).

Step 11 - Stitching the skirt to the tee-shirt.
Being careful that your tee-shirt is laying flat under the skirt fabric (we don't want the tee-shirt to bunch up into the waistline seam) straight stitch the skirt to the tee-shirt, removing the pins as you go. I like to double stitch (sewing a seam twice) the waistline for more durability. Clip and remove the basting thread.

Below is what the wrong side of the stitched tee-shirt and skirt will look like when you take it off the machine and pull the tee-shirt out.

Below is a close up of the right side of the stitched seam of the tee-shirt and skirt.

After you make one or two of these simple little tee-shirt dresses and are comfortable with the technique, you will be ready to get creative with various embellishments. OG wanted a ribbon sash and pockets on this little "sun dress".
Total cost:
tee-shirt - free
fabric & ribbon - $4.47
1 1/2 hours time

Thankful & Map of the Fallen

(I am sorry regarding the cropping of the above photo, blogger's not loading it correctly, please click on the image for the full view.)

Both my grandfathers served in the U.S. military during war time. Fortunately, both returned home physically whole. Although drafted during the Vietnam war, my father received a medical discharge during basic training and thus was not eligible to serve. Both my grandfathers passed away at a young age which prevented me from personally knowing them. As I grew up Memorial Day weekend was just another excuse for a block party or family Bar-b-Que.

Once my eldest son, AB, and daughter-in-law, KM, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Iraq war, Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning for me. I never knew if he or she would be deployed to a war zone. I never knew if he or she would be the target of others who hate our nation and those who serve to protect our ways of life. Today, I no longer view Memorial Day as just another holiday for a block party or family Bar-b-Que. No, I somberly appreciate the sacrifices of the thousands of men and women and their families who have paid the ultimate price while in the service of our nation.

In only a few short months, I will, again, tell another child, "Thank you and remember that I love you" as he departs for his basic training in the U.S. Navy. The Lord kept His hand of protection over AB and KM during their enlistments. I trust God's sovereign plan as JP prepares to serve our nation.

I'd love to insert a beautiful poem here, but I don't really have one. However, my friend, Mrs.M, over at Evening Shade and Morning Latte posted these poems, http://frugalhomeliving.blogspot.com/2009/05/memorial-day-lest-we-forget.html. I found them to be touching and appropriate. I hope you enjoy them.

I have another friend, Mrs.P, who has a special knack for finding all sorts of things on the internet. She recently found, Map of the Fallen (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10248763-1.html). It is an interactive Google Earth program that allows those of us here at home to see the actual site where our Iraq and Afghanistan heroes have fallen and which city/town/neighborhood he or she was from.

Today, let's remember to say a special prayer of comfort for the families of those who have given their lives while in our service. Yes, I said OUR service. Although you nor I personally signed the executive orders to send these men and women into war zones, they were/are there because we are here at home fully enjoying our block parties & cook-outs. I pray you have a blessed Memorial Day.

Last week ...

marked the REAL beginning of harvest for those of us living S.E. Texas. As you can see from the above photo we are harvesting a nice bounty daily. Within two weeks these amounts will double or triple and we'll have baskets of fresh home grown tomatoes and cucumbers to add. What did I do with all that zucchini, squash, green beans, lettuce, basil and oregano I collected the other day?

Italian Sausage Soup served with a Garden Salad

1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 zucchini, cubed
1 yellow squash, cubed
2 c. green beans, snapped
3 med. tomatoes, diced
1 med. onion, diced
1/4 c. garlic chives OR 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1tsp. beef bullion
1/4 c. elbow pasta, per person
salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated

Crumble sausage into skillet and brown. Transfer sausage to crock pot, add zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, tomatoes, onion, garlic chives, oregano, and basil, beef bullion and combine well. Add salt & pepper to tastes and enough water to barely cover the sausage and vegetables. Cook on low 4-6 hours or on high 2-4 hours. One half hour before serving cook pasta in salted boiling water until tender. When serving place pasta in the bottom of bowl & ladle the soup over the pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. 8 servings

Although I didn't add any of our harvested vegetables to the next recipe, I'm thinking that the chocolate lovers out there will enjoy it. Saturday morning, OG & EJ enjoyed this special treat for breakfast ...

Brownie Muffins

1 1/2 c. all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans (optional)
3 tsp. baking powder
1tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. milk
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl combine dry ingredients until well mixed. In another small bowl, combine and mix well the vegetable oil, milk and egg. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine until just moistened. Spoon into greased muffins tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pans. Cool slightly before serving. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Aren't They Handsome?

Yeah, I know, I know - I'm biased. But I think these young men are so handsome, I just had to share this photo with y'all. Man, I love these guys!
(left-right, BT, JP, AB)

Friday, May 15, 2009


The boys, AB, BT & JP had an OUTSTANDING time in New York City this week. They enjoyed the Statue of Liberty, a Broadway Play and everything in between. They ate everywhere from the hot dog vendors on the street to the best Italian restaurant in Little Italy. They rode on buses, subways and in taxis.
Words will never express the joy in my heart in seeing these guys not only being brothers but becoming friends as well.
During supper this evening JP commented, "New York was great but, man, there's no food like southern food. This is really good mom." Now, I ask you ... how's that for boy who knows how to please his southern mama?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Returning to the 1950's?

Marcia, over at eHomebody.com (http://www.ehomebody.blogspot.com/), posted about this (http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,24858259-2682,00.html) article. It appears that there is a significant increase in the number of women embracing the traditional skills and hobbies of the 1950's housewives. I say bravo! It is exciting to find that others are rediscovering, or in many instances, discovering the joy, contentment AND satisfaction that caring for one's own family full-time brings to a woman's heart. Full-time homemaking, there isn't a more noble career.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May I Have This Dance?

Every since OG was a little bitty girl, her favorite recording artist has been the late great Ms. Patsy Cline. This afternoon OG decided to listen to one of her CDs. Before I knew what was happening she and EJ had turned our living room into a dance floor. After snapping a few photos, I joined in! We all had so much fun, I found myself wondering, "Why don't we dance, laugh and sing everyday?" Those few minutes on our "dance floor" made my day fabulous!

Mother's Day Blessings

I pray you all had a fabulous Mother's Day. Mine was terrific! After church, I literally relaxed all afternoon. I enjoyed the scents of a flower shop while propping my feet up. OG & EJ were well behaved and allowed me to have the entire day off.

AB, BT & JP are hanging out in New York City this week, but telephoned to say, "Happy Mother's Day". I also received, not one, but TWO flower deliveries. Mr.B's arrived Friday afternoon (note: that was only the 2nd time in our marriage he'd sent me flowers) and the older boys' flower delivery arrived this afternoon. Aren't they pretty? OG & EJ painted a little wheel barrow planter for me and it will be cherished for many years to come.

Speaking of the 3 older boys spending an entire week together ... that is one reason this Mother's Day is so special. I am thrilled that these guys are not only brothers, but are becoming best friends as well. I do not know how to express the joy I have in seeing my sons turn into young men. I so look forward to the upcoming years that they will enjoy with each other.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I can't believe it's been twenty-five years today. It only seems like, maybe five?
Where did all those years go?
When did my baby boy become a grown man?
Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat!
"I love you for forever,
I like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be."
I love you.
I'm proud of you.
I miss you.
I wish you a Happy Birthday.
p.s. "Don't do anything stupid".

What Are You Two Up To?

This morning EJ and OG were out back with their paints. EJ is hiding my Mother's Day gift.
I'm not supposed to know what it is.
I cherish homemade gifts, especially the one's made by my children.

Two Weeks and a Little Rain ...

Actually almost 12" of rain ... but you won't hear me complaining we were in desperate need of it - And, just look what it did to my garden! (to see photos of our garden two weeks ago click here: http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2009/04/gardening-we-harvested-nearly-5lb.html) Our tomatoes are flourishing! I can already taste the fried green tomatoes I'll be enjoying this time next week.
Only a couple more days and I'll harvest this year's first bell peppers!

We planted two black beauty bell pepper plants this year. I can't wait to try these!

Purple green beans? I can't believe that by tomorrow evening I'll harvest our first purple podded bush beans. We planted only a few of these for color and variety. When cooked they turn green - just like regular pole beans. Our pole beans are flourishing, yippee!

Yellow squash! I am so excited - so far our squash and zucchini are doing well. The last couple years all varieties of our squash plants died just as they started bearing fruit. I've been praying for a good harvest this year as we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE squash.

Our first little baby zucchini. I am looking forward to sauteed zucchini and onion in garlic butter. Please join us in prayer for a bountiful harvest. Thank you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Care Calendar

I was recently introduced to CareCalendar (www.carecalendar.org). This web site is designed to bring churches, neighbors, extended families, friends, co-workers, etc. together to help loved ones who are in the midst of a life challenge. These challenges may often be temporary, such as the birth of a baby or recovery from a minor surgery. Or, they may be ongoing such as a young widow with small children or someone caring for a relative with cancer or Alzheimer's .
CareCalendar is designed to help your organization's leader coordinate meals, lawn care, child care, errands, housekeeping, financial needs, etc. of families experiencing a life challenge.
CareCalendar has password protection which allows only members of your group access to your loved one's needs. This web-site also contains an "update" link, where the family or individual in need can post needs, updates, prayer requests or praise reports. These updates are also password protected.
CareCalendar is a tool that will greatly reduce the time needed to coordinate care from your group. CareCalendar sends reminder e-mails, notifications and family updates to those who have volunteered to meet specific needs.
CareCalendar was designed and is operated by the Bortel Family and is donor supported. There aren't any membership or monthly fees to use CareCalendar. The Bible instructs Christians to help and care for one another. In today's fast paced society, it is often difficult to find someone who has time to manage and coordinate efforts needed to help those in need. Also, in today's economy, it is often impossible for only one family to meet the needs of another. However, with CareCalendar the management of volunteers and needs becomes streamlined and by several families pooling their resources, needs that once seemed to be impossible to overcome, become manageable. I hope you will click on CareCalendar (http://www.carecalendar.org/) and see all the wonderful tools this web-site has to offer your organization or family.

Recipes To Share

This week I have two delicious, fast and easy recipes to share. The first, Spinach, Orange & Pecan Salad w/ Honey Vinaigrette Dressing, pictured at the right, was inspired by the 5 lb. of spinach we harvested from our garden last week.
Spinach, Orange, Pecan Salad w/ Honey Vinaigrette Dressing

6-8 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 110z. can Mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 purple onion, thinly sliced & separated into rings
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh OR 1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper

Place spinach leaves in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with Mandarin oranges, purple onion rings. Top with pecan halves. Add all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until combined well. Drizzle over salad, serve immediately.

The second, Cracker Candy, is not my recipe at all, but comes from my dear friend, Mrs. M, over at Evening Shade and Morning Latte (http://frugalhomeliving.blogspot.com/2009/04/cracker-candy.html), please click on the link for her easy to follow recipe. For my version, I was out of saltine crackers, so I substituted graham crackers and took the liberty of sprinkling finely chopped pecans over the melted chocolate. I then proceeded to refrigerate as directed in Mrs. M's instructions. This treat was a HUGE hit at my house and I urge you to try it for your family.

Are You An Accidental Home Educator?

As a home educator, I often hear many parents comment that they don't think they would be able to home school their children. Often times, they assume that I am a very intelligent or academic person, by the way, I'm not. I'm actually a VERY average person.

I've found that most parents who think they would not be capable of home schooling are already doing so by accident. If mom, dad, grandparents and older siblings consistently do any of the following with your children, then you could be what I have come to personally refer to as an accidental home educator. Yes, you may send your children to a public or private school 5 days per week, but how much supplemental education do your children learn or have a need to learn from everyday life within your own family? Below are a few photos from a week of school in our home. As you view these, ask yourself the following, "Could I do what this family does? Am I already doing what this family does? If so, why am I allowing my children to be indoctrinated with non-Christian values (public school) 5 days a week, 6 - 8 hours per day?"

Homework OG and EJ doing their seat work. EJ is in 1st grade. He is able to complete his textbooks and workbooks within 1.5 - 2 hours per day, 4 days per week. OG is in 4th grade. It takes her about 3 hours per day, 4 days per week to complete lessons in 8 subjects. Even when JP was in high school, he was able to complete ALL his subjects (5-7) per year in 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. In home school, our children do not experience the common distractions that occur with 20+ other students. Because of the lack of distractions, our children are able to finish their seat work during class time thus, no extra homework.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

Athletics, Fun and Friendships OG up to bat at last Tuesday's softball game.
EJ at batting practice, before last Monday's baseball game.

Why would a 10 and an 11 year old WANT to ride the train at the the fair? Because as my dear friend, Mrs. P, commented, "Because no one's told them they are too old for it." With "no one" being teachers or peers.

Three buddies waiting for the train.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

Hands on Science McIntosh Rose - this rose grows in the salty marsh lands along the south east Texas coast. It has a very strong fragrance that can be detected several yards away. Saltwater marsh located in San Jacinto, Texas.

EJ excitedly holding a non-poisonous baby hog nosed snake. This guys is named for the shape of his nose - it looks similar to hog's. The shape of it's nose enables it to dig, like a shovel, and burrow into the ground and under brush.

Even OG eagerly handled the snake. Mom, of course, was only interested in looking - not touching (hee, hee).

Bird of prey - the majestic Falcon. He is a keen hunter and nearly as fast as a bullet when diving for prey.