Monday, October 31, 2011

Why Halloween Makes Me Sad

I've seen lots of reactions to Halloween around the web this week, from dismay over its glorification of things best not glorified to those who see it as just a harmless day of dress-up and fun for the kids. I have my own ambivalence over Halloween because I see people using it as a day of fun and trying to reclaim it from any pagan roots it may have once had. Amber at The Deeper Story very eloquently describes a personal ambivalence very similar to my own and her piece got me thinking. I would like to believe that even something with a history like Halloween can be redeemed, but there is a darkness beneath the surface that makes me very uneasy. For that reason, I do not celebrate Halloween. I do not want to give to the darkness.

So, why does it make me sad? I see families going all out for Halloween, decorating their homes and costuming their children. In my town, there is now a city festival for Halloween complete with games and treats for all who come. That's right. As a community, they are celebrating the witches, ghosts and goblins of Halloween and making it all seem very cute.

Can you imagine what would happen if we tried to make a big town festival of Christmas or Easter? Not the Santa Clausy, commercialized vision of Christmas, but the real deal. People would be clutching their pearls and telling the world how deeply offended they were that someone would dare celebrate the birth of Christ. We've come to a place where we treat the sacred events worth celebrating as though they were shameful secrets to be hidden behind closed doors while we take to the streets to dance with joy for costumed witches and ghosts. Call me a killjoy, but I have to admit that this makes me sad.

Friday, October 28, 2011

God's Freedom

"I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God."
 - Exodus 29:45-46

Tabernacle Model at Timna, Israel (courtesy of wikipedia)

This fall I have been blessed to participate in a Bible study/accountability group studying freedom.  We've gone over various portions of the New Testament, and now we are studying some passages from Exodus.  Exodus has always been a rather strange book of the Bible for me.  I've read it several times, usually as part of a "Read Your Bible in a Year" discipline rather than as a specific, in-depth study.  I'm thankful to be studying it in detail this fall because God has been showing me a lot through this portion of His Word recently. 

Thank about it.  When we read Exodus, we see the childen of Israel set free from captivity in Egypt.  And then what comes next?  Leviticus!  Please tell me I'm not the only person who has respectfully expressed the thought to God during quiet time of, "Wow - that's a LOT of rules you gave those Israelites."  So - we go from Exodus straight into the law.  Does that make it a little hard to think of freedom right off the bat?

For me, it did.  It can be easy, particularly when looking at things through the seriously screwed up lens of the world, to think that "freedom" might not be the best word to describe leaving Egypt and going into the Promised Land to follow a lot of laws that Jesus will have plenty to say about later on.  And yet - the more I read Exodus, the more I come to understand that God really brought His people to freedom.  It's not the same freedom that we enjoy in Christ, but it is freedom nevertheless.

After all, before they left Egypt, the Israelites were enslaved.  God set them free from that slavery and used Moses to get them out of Egypt.  The Israelites were made to wander in the desert for forty years, but even during that time, God was with them.  He provided for them, watched over them, and even commanded that the tabernacle be built as His dwelling place among His people.

And why did He do it?  Look at Exodus 29:45-46.  God claims the people of Israel as His and tells them that He is their God.  Even more amazing, He tells them that He brought them out of Egypt so that He might dwell with them.  God did not simply deliver the Israelites to another master; He set the Israelites free to be His children.  And in Christ, God has truly set all of us who believe and follow Him free to be His children, free of our sin and the separation that results from it. 

It's a paradox of sorts.  God gave the law to the Israelites as a way to free them to be His rather than as a way to oppress them.  Of course, they did not completely follow God's law, but that's a story for another day.

I thank God for the freedom I have in Him to believe, to worship and to be saved from the penalty of the sins that would otherwise bind me and separate me from Him.  God did not have to dwell among us, but He chooses to extend His mercy to us now through Christ, just as He chose the Israelites during the days of the Old Testament.  And by His mercy, we are indeed set free.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

What in the World is Kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi is one of those odd vegetables I hardly knew existed until I started shopping regularly at the farmers' market. The farmers bring all kinds of interesting foods to market that I rarely see in a grocery and thankfully, most of these folks also have plenty of tips about how to use and cook everything they sell.

From asking around the market, I've learned all kinds of things about the humble "cabbage turnip" that is kohlrabi. It's technically part of the cabbage family and is more popular in Central and Eastern Europe than here. However, it grows very well in many parts of the US and since it is good for replenishing the soil, I've been told it makes a good rotation crop. The best ones are fairly small. If you get any that are much bigger than a tennis ball, then they are past their prime and they might have a rather woody texture.

When cooked, it does have a distinctly cabbage-like smell, but in terms of texture, it is very like a turnip. Because of this, I find it's good to cook with turnips because it's comparable in texture, but adds some extra flavor. To prepare kohlrabi, you'll need to start by cutting off the greens and then peeling the vegetable itself. The peeled kohlrabi will be almost white. To get you started, I've put a yummy kohlrabi casserole recipe below. This makes a delicious side dish or small supper in itself, and the recipe is adapted from from Greene on Greens, a fabulous but out-of-print cookbook that I found in a used bookstore. Each chapter focuses on a different vegetable and it's packed with good ideas for using up that farmers' market produce.

Note: I was only cooking for 2 so this amount is much smaller than what the recipe as written will actually yield.

Kohlrabi Bake

2 lb. kohlrabi, trimmed and peeled
4 T. unsalted butter
salt and black pepper
1/2 lb. cooked ham, cut into 1 inch strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
4 egg yolks

1. Cut kohlrabi into 1/8 inch thick slices, and melt butter in large saucepan. Cook the kohlrabi slices in butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1/3 kohlrabi to a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add half of the ham and sprinkle with half of the parsley. Continue layering and finish with kohlrabi on top. Do not throw out the pan liquids!

3. Add flour to the cooking juices and whisk until smooth. Stir contantly over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook until slightly thickened, 2-3minutes. Add the nutmeg and salt/pepper to taste.
4. Beat egg yolks in small bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Stir together and then add this egg yolk/sauce mixture back into the large saucepan.
5. Pour this mixture over the kohlrabi and bake until bubbly - about 25-30 minutes. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

From My Library: The Zion Covenant Series

The Books: Zion Covenant Series (Vienna Prelude, Prague Counterpoint, Munich Signature, Jerusalem Interlude, Danzig Passage, Warsaw Requiem, London Refrain, Paris Encore, and Dunkirk Cescendo)
Currently published by Tyndale House Publishers, $12.99 each

I first read this series in the early 1990s as a teenager. They are absolutely wonderful works of historical fiction, tracking the coming of World War II across Europe. The series opens amidst the intrigues surrounding the expansion of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and follows various characters all the way to the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. Not only do the authors do a fantastic job of detailing the dark history of Nazi influence over Western Europe, but they also show God's hand in these events. Every time I've read these books, I've loved that they do not lecture the reader but instead show us how God worked in history and in people's lives.

The many threads of story woven through these novels can take violent and sad turns at times, but these books would be a wonderful resource for high school students as well as providing many hours of great reading for adults. Not only is the history well-researched, but the stories told are riveting. Rather than focusing on one main character, the authors focus on several different strands of plot. As in real life, some of their characters' lives will intersect while others seem to go almost on parallel tracks. Some characters' struggles resolve themselves quickly while other lives will work themselves out over appearances in multiple books.

For example, one of the main characters in Vienna Prelude, Elisa, faces major struggles as Germany moves to annex Austria and she faces danger due to being half-Jewish. While the books does have a satisfactory resolution, we will still get to follow Elisa's life developing in other books and watching her mature and play important roles in other characters' lives makes for wonderful reading as well.

One thing I liked about these books, aside from the attention to historical detail, was that the characters did not live in a set-apart Christian bubble. Many of the lead characters are Christian and others become Christian over the course of the books, but they live very much in the real world. They interact with non-Christians and as the books move through the Anschluss, Kristallnacht and other events leading into the early days of World War II, we also meet a number of Jewish characters.

Because of the author's method of changing focus rather than concentrating on one main character, we see events through the eyes of Elisa or from the perspective of John Murphy, the American reporter whom Elisa marries over the course of the series. We also find ourselves immersed in stories of Jewish refugees fleeing the Third Reich, principled Christian ministers who see what is happening and refuse to accept it quietly, and even Nazi officers and their families who come to question what their own country is doing.

Both unforgettable and exciting, this well-written series deserves a place in the family library. Reading a nine book series may seem daunting to some, but the characters in this book will hold your attention. The fantastic decriptions of the "miracle of Dunkirk" in book 9 will make you glad you stuck with it until the end, too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fresh Herbs v. Dried Herbs

With some herbs, it really doesn't make too much of a difference whether I used dried herbs or fresh ones. However, with some I have noticed that using them fresh makes a world of difference. In addition, herb plants tend to be more economical than buying bottles of dried herbs. I concentrated on the veggie garden this summer, but I'm planning to start an herb garden indoors this fall and winter. In the meantime, I buy fresh herbs as needed at the farmers' market.

When I get my herbs home, I find they keep fresh longer if I put them in water as shown here (note: you'll need to change your water at least once a day). Another storage method that works is wrapping them loosely in a light plastic bag and then storing them in the high humidity storage in my fridge. Old Target or grocery store bags work great for this!

So, which herbs are best used fresh?

Basil! - No question. I'll use dried basil in the occasional soup or casserole, but nothing comes close to the taste and smell of fresh basil. Dishes like Pizza Margarita or Caprese salad(basil, mozzarella & tomato)wouldn't be the same without it. Added bonus - fresh basil will make your kitchen smell heavenly!

Parsley - I've read cookbooks that proclaim no real difference between fresh and dried parsley, but I beg to differ and at least one other writer agrees with me. Dried parsley is something I use often. However, when I treat myself to some fresh parsley, I notice a pleasant difference. Fresh parsley has a certain green freshness to it that gets muted once it's dried. Also, if you're making a salad,you really need fresh parsley in order to get the taste and texture just right.

Cilantro - Cilantro is another one of those herbs that just does not bear much resemblance to its dried counterpart. The fresh herb has a distinct scent and adds a somewhat complex taste to your cooking. However, the dried version comes off a bit flat and can sometimes be bitter. This is one herb I almost never use dried. However, in its fresh form, it livens up all kinds of dishes and it's essential to a lot of Mexican cooking.

Rosemary - This herb is really more a matter of personal preference. Dried rosemary actually does a very good job in most dishes. For that reason, I'd say that having fresh rosemary on hand is not absolutely essential. However, if you can grow it, I'd go for it. I absolutely love the scent of fresh rosemary, so even though I use the dried version often (and will probably dry my own in future), fresh rosemary is worth using just for the scent.

Oregano - This is one of the few common herbs that I like better dried. Dried oregano(as long as it's fresh) adds great flavor to pasta sauces, pizza and other foods. I've used fresh oregano occasionally and I've read that various chefs swear by it, but have not noticed that it provides enough of a difference in taste for me to refuse the dried version.

Mint - Like basil and cilantro, this one is really best fresh. Dried mint makes good tea, and can be good in a few dishes. However, in salads, ice cream and sauces, fresh mint has a sweetness and bright quality that the dried stuff just can't touch.

Chives - Again, no comparison. Dried chives just don't do it. The fresh ones have a subtle green bite to them that is wholly lost in the dried version.

And those are just a few of the herbs I commonly use in my own cooking. If you commonly use other herbs and want to share some tips, I'd love to hear from you! And if you have any questions about various herbs, I'll try to help you as much as I can. And may all your cooking be flavorful!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Something Bigger Than This

Sometimes my days fill themselves with petty little struggles. My hair won't stop frizzing, or my cat is going for the Hairball Champion of the World title, or my great-aunt has so many doctors' appointments and needs for assistance that it almost overwhelms me.

And then there are the bigger struggles. Some are constant, finding-God's-purpose-for-me-in-this-crazy-world sorts of things. And others are the curveballs life throws us. Currently, my mind keeps staying on my brand new nephew Aaron. He was born early yesterday, and he is beautiful. He also has serious heart and lung problems, and even as they celebrate this new life, his parents must talk surgery options with their doctor.

It's the kind of situation that can fill your mind to overflowing. It's filled with words and phrases like "illness", "birth defect", "statistics" and (most important) "prayer."

Yes. We speak of all the scary things and we feel them. We also pray. We pray because we know that there is Someone beyond all of this. This world is not all there is. These struggles, the small ones and the large ones, will not be the sum total of anyone's life. God is greater than this and His purpose goes far beyond these things. And so we trust.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Slow to Speak

Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

~ James 1:19 (ESV)

Sometimes it seems as though words compose my DNA. Once I'm comfortable with someone, the words just flow out of me. My husband, on the other hand, is the textbook introvert. Though a deeply loving and caring man, he needs a bit of stillness before he speaks. As a result, I have had more days than I like to admit where I get wrapped up in telling a story or detailing some project about the house and then I'm brought up short as I realize that I haven't been listening to what he has to say.

Not only does this run contrary to how God wants us to treat one another in general, but it can damage what should be the primary earthly relationship in our lives. Listening, really deeply listening to our husbands can work wonders in our marriages.

What do I mean by this?
Today, I am so honored to be one of the contributors to the 31 Days of Love marriage challenge over at Time-Warp Wife. Darlene's blog has been a huge source of encouragement to me in my own homemaking. And you can check out the rest of my entry HERE.

Also linking to Wifey Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Really Good Fish

This recipe comes from my grandmother. She has three big binders of recipes - a handwritten one of old family recipes, another handwritten book full of things she learned over 67 years of being married and running a household, and one full of clippings from various magazines and newspapers. This one comes from the marriage notebook. The recipe has no title, saying simply, "A good way to cook fish", there is a notation next to it that reads, "picked up in Louisiana" - and it's really tasty.

A Good Way to Cook Fish

1 diced green pepper
2 stalks of diced celery
5 T. water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1/2 - 3/4 of an onion, diced (I usually just use 1 1/2 T. onion flakes so that I can skip sauteeing the onion - it's also a little healthier because you can leave out the butter.)
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
5 fish fillets (either haddock or catfish works well)

1. If using fresh onion, saute it in 1 tablespoon of butter. Otherwise, skip this step.
2. Combine all ingredients in glass dish and bake uncovered at 350 until fish is flaky.
3. Baking time differs based upon the thickness of the fish fillets. It can run anytime from 35 minutes to 75 minutes, so I start checking at the half hour mark.

Linking it up at

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: How My Soul Yearns

The Book: How My Soul Yearns:How God Rbought me Through Infertility and Beyond
By Ashley Wells
CreateSpace(ebook), $6.99

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started this book. I've read some infertility resources that were very encouraging and others that were a little less than helpful. However, Ashley Wells' book is a wonderful resource not only for those who struggle with infertility but also for those who want to love and encourage them.

One thing that makes this book very special is the courage with which the author puts her own heart into it. She tells her personal story and really lets readers into her own struggles not only with infertility itself but how this issue affected her walk with God. She gives readers encouragement and ideas for strengthening their faith as they walk through what can sometimes feel like a very dark, lonely journey.

My husband and I have struggled with infertility and that is one of the reasons why I chose to read this book. We as Christians rightly value life and children, but at times it can feel like some churches give the childless something of an "outsider" status, making one question one's own worth and perhaps even forget how God has told us He loves and values us. In her book, Wells addresses the issue of infertility making one feel worthless and reminds readers of how God defines our worth and of how very much He loves us. It's an inspiring message and not only is it helpful to those of us who have struggled with this issue, but I think it gives others insight into what their friends and family members may be struggling with and can show them how to extend love and biblically sound encouragement to those people.

Wells' sometimes achingly painful description of the emotions one goes through with infertility can help readers understand what someone they care about might be feeling. And if you're caught in that cycle, this book takes away some of that isolation. At times, it's so easy to feel as if I'm the only one I know who has this struggle. However, not only do the verses Psalms contained in the book remind us that God hears our cries but they remind us to praise Him in all circumstances.

One aspect of Wells' narrative I could relate well to was her description of how this struggle affected her marriage. So often we tend to think of how hard it is for us as women to not be able to have the children we long for. However, this can be a difficult issue for men as well, and can cause them to also struggle with feelings of loss and guilt. This can especially be true in cases where infertility has resulted from health issues of the husband rather than the wife. I think this was an important point for the author to make, and her reminder to take care with our husbands' feelings on this issue is a wise one. They need support, too.

In addition, the author doesn't pull any punches when she gets to the heart issue of how infertility can affect our walk with God. She discusses very frankly how her own struggles took her natural, God-given desire to have children and allowed her to turn the idea of having children into an idol that "comsumed every part of my being," coming between her and her relationship with God.

Because the issue of infertility is one that is very emotional for me, this book could at times be difficult to read. However, it is well-written and I found the author's message very encouraging. So many resources on infertility address the issue from a coldly scientific perspective and tend not to focus on the emotional and spiritual issues involved. How My Soul Yearns does a wonderful job of putting this issue in scriptural perspective and I would recommend it for anyone who struggles with infertility or who cares about someone who does.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Catching My Breath

24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in a an hour - somehow it seems like each day has plenty of time for me to manage.

Until I get out of bed and jump into it.

And then time seems to speed up. There are chores to do, appointments to run relatives to, projects to complete. Sometimes the tide of things I need to do or things I should to threatens to overwhelm me.

And yet, at the center of it all, I can still hear that still, small voice. Telling me to sit at His feet, catch my breath, and most importantly, capture precious time for the One who is the most precious of all.

And then the tide of time seems livable again, somehow. I just needed to remember that it was never my own in the first place.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The "I Love You" Spinach

When people talk about love, or see romantic movies, focus often lies on the grand gestures. Public, choreographed marriage proposals capture the public imagination.

However, in a marriage, it's all the little everyday actions that really show we love each other. All of those little ways in which we put our spouse before ourselves create an atmosphere of love in the house.

Even though it's been a long day at work, my husband sometimes takes a little detour to pick up treats for me at the candy store. We take turns doing the cat box so no one person has to do it every day.

And then there's the spinach. I was making dinner a few nights ago and I washed off a few handfuls to throw into the stew. I could have left the stray spinach leaves in the sink. Or I could pick it up myself. These are the simple little choices we make every day for our spouses.

While Phillipians 2:3 speaks not of marriage specifically, the exhortation to, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves," seems applicable to marriage as much as to other relationships. After all, we're called to serve our husbands and they are to love us as Christ loved the church. I can make my husband's life a tiny bit easier - or not. And he can do the same for me. The little choices we make in dealing with each other every day go far to set the tone in our home. What choices will you make?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Using the Farmers' Market

Local farmers' markets can be a fantastic resource both for frugal living and for feeding healthful food to your family. Most markets have a great variety of fruits, vegetables and sometimes even meats and dairy, they help the local economy, and the food you're buying is fresh.

Until well after I was married, my only meal planning experiences revolved around putting together a list of what we wanted to eat based upon what we could afford, followed by a trip to the grocery. Incorporating the farmers' market into my routine has added a little time to my shopping and the decision to eat in tune with the seasons has changed my cooking habits, but in the long run, I think we're healthier and I find we spend less on food than we used to. Even so, those first forays into the farmers' market were a little intimidating.

How do I know which booths to pick from? What questions do I ask the vendors? What in the world is that mystery veggie and how on earth would I cook THAT?

Here are a few tips to get you started:
1.Find out which markets are close to you. You can find information on local farmers' markets in your local paper or if your town has a visitors' center, they will often have the information. If you prefer to research online, Local Harvest is a great resource for finding markets, produce stands, and pick-it-yourself farms.

2. Find out what's in season. In order to plan your purchases for the week, you'll need to know what your options are. As a general overview, I sometimes find Eat the Seasons helpful as it will give one a general idea of what is in season right now. For readers in the United States, there are also state-specific produce guides. And there is another at Field to Plate.

3. Once I know what's in season, now what? Use your "in season" list to plan out your meals for the week. For instance, my local market is enjoying the last of the bell peppers and I'd like to use a few before they're gone. We're also overrun with squash of all kinds, so I'll be pulling out all my recipes that use squash - squash casserole, spaghetti squash with pasta and garlic, chicken stew and so on. get the idea.

4. Figure out which booths to patronize. At the farmers' market, I try to stick with vendors selling local goods. My local market restricts itself so that all vendors must be selling local goods, but not all do this. I will also do a quick walk through the market to see what prices are being charged on items. You'd be surprised how much price variation I see from stall to stall. I also like to check out the various stalls so that I can see which produce looks best. I can't tell you how many times I've snapped up tomatoes at one stall only to see much better ones a few stalls down. It pays to take the extra time to comparison shop.

5. Asking Questions If you aren't sure how to tell which apples are best or whether the winter squash is quite reip enough yet, don't be afraid to ask the vendor. The good sellers want your repeat business and I've had many folks walk me through how to pick the best items and what to look for with different fruits and veggies. Also, if you spot something that you've never eaten before, they can tell you what it should taste like and how to prepare it.

And those should be some good basics to get you started. In coming weeks, I'll try to post more about how to use your farmers' market goodies and what to do with some of those out of the ordinary vegetables (kohlrabi, anyone?)

Monday, October 10, 2011

So, what is Making a Joyful Home?

Now that I've been blogging for a few months, I find myself sitting back and taking stock a bit. I've been following Esther's blog for a while, even before I started blogging, so her Blog Party seems like the perfect opportunity for a little musing. What is it I want to do here exactly? I love to write and I enjoy blogging about faith, books and homemaking.

Who am I? You can find my basic intro here, but my name is Amy, and I'm a native of Virginia and I love my state. I currently live in the DC area, but I'm originally from the Shenandoah Valley/Piedmont area. My husband works with some rather sensitive law enforcement matters, so we don't put up many pictures of ourselves online. In case you're curious, I have blue eyes and long, wavy wild red hair. However, we have a snug little home that we share with our cats.

I have only recently gotten the opportunity to start transitioning home. I grew up in a strong church and when I graduated high school, my friends and I went in all directions. I felt God calling me to go to a college not far away, and so I did. Others of my friends were stay at home daughters(in the 1990s, this was probably even more radical than it is today!), some went to nursing school and others to college.

I initially planned to return home after college and hopefully marry, but God had other plans for me. I felt called to continue on in school, though it was years before the reason for that seemed clear to me and I wasn't terribly excited about it at the time. And so I ended up in more school, where I married a wonderful man. Afterward, I had a fairly conventional job. It was the career track and life that the world approved, but I felt uneasy about it.

As the uneasiness grew, I started to notice something else. My work requirements made my home life suffer. I was away too much and when I was home, I was flat out exhausted. I didn't have enough to give to my husband, to our home or to the church, and I knew that this was not God's will. I had some helpful conversations with good friends that I trust who started me thinking about another, perhaps less conventional, way to live. And I prayed for God to show us what to do next. And that's what started to lead me home.

I'm not home quite every day yet, but I'm looking forward to next year, when I will be. By providence, I was led into a type of work in recent years that lends itself quite well to work from home and to a certain amount of flexibility, qualities that are perfect for a homemaker. By returning home, I can fulfill God's call for me to be a homemaker. Nowadays, my home comes first but since we have not been blessed with children of our own, I can also tutor local homeschoolers and help families with special needs children and adults navigate the sometimes convoluted legal needs and benefits maze that arises when children reach adulthood or adults face a loss of capacity.

When I first pondered the idea of blogging, I thought about simply writing on homemaking - and my adventures in learning homemaking skills. I do that sometimes and I really enjoy it, but I want to connect with readers a little bit more. My faith runs through everything I do, and as a result, there are some days where I think more on my own walk with Christ and perhaps a little less about whether I'm dividing up the laundry properly.

Sometimes, too, there are books I read and want to talk about that aren't strictly on Christian womanhood or homemaking. However, what we believe underpins everything we do. A book like Radical may not tell us in great detail about homemaking, but the manner in which my husband and I order our lives and our home cannot help but be influenced by the ideas found there.

So what do you find at Making a Joyful Home? You'll find recipes at least once a week, as well as thoughts on faith, life and homemaking, and reviews of books. Rather than writing a blog with one theme such as cooking or housekeeping, mine is really more a collection of pieces of a life which I hope will be one well lived.

I enjoy commenters and making friends, so I hope you'll come along for the journey. Welcome!
Because I had so much fun blo-hopping in the past, I'm also joining in with the Women Living Well bloghop here:

If you're visiting from WLW, I hope you enjoy it here and stay to read more!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Ordinary Wonders

Not all of my fondest memories involve the incredible. Some of those amazing moments that make up great memories are so ordinary.

Playing games of make believe with my cousins under trees in a sunlit field.

Afternoons spent curled up with a good book and a contented, purring cat.

A good cup of tea, the smell of a special dinner cooking, smiling up into the snow falling down around me, the sounds of a good friend's laughter or the feeling of my husband's arms around me.

Some of the sweetest moments that make up life come from things most people would call ordinary. That's part of what makes peeking into friends' lives so special. We can relate to each other's stories of moments savored, adorable child and pet adventures, everyday kindnesses that never fail to bring a smile.

These sorts of ordinary and everyday things make all the frustrations of a day somehow seem a little less irksome. Think about it. Aren't the ordinary joys of life wonderful and sweet?

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Midweek Links - A Haven at Home

Sometimes when I'm reading around the vast internet, various posts inspire me. This week it was the 31 Day Fall Challenge over at Women Living Well. The challenge for this week is to make home more inviting by lighting a candle every night. I already do this, but reading Courtney's post made me think about the reasons behind my little ritual and what it does for the environment at home.

I know some folks prefer unscented, traditional tapers while others like scented candles. I myself am a fan of the scented ones and Gold Canyon is usually my candle company of choice. I love the scents of their candles and I find that they last longer than many other brands. Also, the consultant from whom I buy sells Gold Canyon to pay her way on mission trips and I really liked that.

Not only do candles make home seem softer and more welcoming, but the challenge on WLW of using the candle's flame as a reminder to pray for our homes and families really helped me focus my prayer life this week. If you find yourself stumped for ideas on prayer for home and family, I find it helpful to simply think about all the areas of home and home life that you want to invite God into. They're nearly infinite. If you're still stumped, this list is old, but it does use the Wayback Machine to link to some good stuff.

After all of this, if you're still looking for more good ideas on making your home a welcoming haven, I recommend paying a visit to blogs like The Nester or Vignettes to get some autumn inspiration.

The Rain, Again

Photo Source: Fredericksburg Weather Blog

Are God's consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you?
- Job 15:11

I've lived in Virginia my entire life, but it's only in recent years that I've come to associate September/October with monsoon season. Truly it seems to rain every day! The rain brings new life and renewal - my garden is having an end of season pepper extravaganza and my yard resembles a jungle. However, the greyness of every day messes with my mind a bit.

It brings me that "blah" feeling. That discontent that I hate to admit or even name. And when we're discontented, I think we start to question our lot in life. Am I missing out by focusing my energies homeward? Shouldn't I be doing something more glamorous than keeping home and working from home? You know the drill. The niggling inner questions differ for all of us, but they creep into our minds from time to time, don't they? They tell us we're not enough - we don't do enough, we don't have enough and so it goes.

And it all boils down to one thing. Sometimes we flawed human beings don't realize that in God's eyes, we are enough, just as we are. Nothing I say or do is going to make me any more acceptable to Him. And He loves me just as I am!

Even better, if I turn my eyes on God and away from the whispers of the world, I start to realize something even more important. He is all I need; God is enough for me and I am complete in Him. No matter how difficult or frustrating my life might be some days, He is there. I may not always understand my calling and some days I may not even like it, but God has given me this life and will not forsake me.

And suddenly the sky just clears.

And since I didn't want to just keep it to myself, I'm also linking up here and here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Curry Glazed Chicken

This yummy dish comes from a cookbook I picked up at a garage sale. It's wonderful for company and this dish gets raves every time I make it. Don't be fooled by the laundry list of ingredients in the Curry Glaze - it's ridiculously easy to make!! So, courtesy of Lamb's Road Baptist Church (circa mid-1980s judging by photos in cookbook), we have...

Curry Glazed Chicken
8 whole chicken breasts (I often cheat by using boneless chicken breasts because they're cheaper at my market.)
6 T. butter
1 tsp. ground ginger
Curry glaze (see below)

1. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut away the bones, leaving the V-shape bone at neck.
2. Melt butter in large baking dish and stir in ginger. I often use slightly more ginger than is called for.
3. Roll chicken in butter-ginger mixture to coat well and then arrange skin side up in a single layer in baking dish. Tuck edges of breast under to give a rounded shape.
4. Spoon thick coating of Curry Glaze over the chicken and bake, uncovered, at 350 for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until glazed and tender. Baste often with the glaze mixture. NOTE: If you use boneless breasts, you'll want to start checking your chicken at the 40-45 minute mark because it will be done sooner.
Serves 8.

Don't worry!  It's much more appetizing AFTER it's been baked.

Curry Glaze

8 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 T. flour
1 T. Curry powder
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 (4 oz.)jar baby apricots and apples
1 cup water
3 T. lemon juice
2 envelopes instant beef broth or
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 tsp. steak sauce

1. Fry bacon in saucepan until fat starts to cook out; then add onion and saute until soft.
2. Stir in flour, curry powder, salt, sugar, and steak sauce until mixture bubbles. Then add remaining ingredients.
3. Heat until boiling and then simmer uncovered until thickened (about 10-15 minutes).