I’m-A-Back!

Obviously, it’s been some time since I last posted. Lately, God’s been teaching me some things – mainly about how to seek Him first and how to set aside selfish ambition. Because I now realize that I started this blog for my own glory, maintaining it has not been in God’s plan for me these last months. But, I am learning and asking God to change my motives to ones that will bring Him glory. For right now, I’m only going to be blogging when I feel my motivations are aligned with what pleases Him. And I want to also change the tone of this blog. From now on, this blog is for Him, not about me. I want to focus on His goodness and the ways He works in the smallest things of my life, including the talents and interests He has entrusted to me for use in building His kingdom. Over these last few months, as God has turned my heart more towards Him, I have found my creativity level has been enhanced much more so than when I pursued creativity alone. How awesome is our Heavenly Father? What a testament to Matthew 6:33 – “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

All that to say, I’m back for today! One of my friends recently inquired about what kinds of projects I had been working on lately, since I hadn’t updated the blog for a while. So, I thought I’d organize and condense the last month or so of my “fun stuff” into one blog post.

During the month of December, I decided I wanted to de-clutter, organize, and update the look of my bedroom. One of my ideas was to start a hoop-art gallery on one of my empty walls, to create a bright, yet vintagey, feel. Well, I lost interest in re-decorating after a while (I’m blaming Pinterest for starting the whole idea in the first place!), but I did come out with a few hoop art pieces.

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This is a “portrait” drawn by Vera Neville, the illustrator for my favorite book series – Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. I used a transfer pencil to trace the back of a print-out of the image, then just ironed it onto some stabilized fabric. Viola! A pseudo-version of paint-by-number, embroidery style.

I also finished my first knitted sweater in the month of December – the Monet Garden Sweater pattern publicized by Red Heart. I used their Boutique Treasures yarn in the Portrait color scheme. This being my first sweater, it has some…imperfections. It’s a little snug, but that makes it extra warm. I don’t think this yarn is going to let any body heat escape. I’m half-way scared to wear it for fear I’ll get too hot and pass out! Here’s a close-up image of the “fabric,” as I’m too embarrassed to show you the actual form of the sweater. (Positive thought to self: I will improve!).

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I also began reading more during the last couple of months, especially in late December and early January. I received several books for Christmas and have already read over half of them. The titles were simply too good to “save for a snowy day.” The books below are most of the ones I have read over the last couple of months. All of them come highly recommended! (The book spine on the bottom lacks a title. It’s MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook by MaryJane Butters – the editor of the magazine, MaryJane’s Farm. This book is a great DIY manual and inspiration source for everything farmgirl related.)

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Currently, I am working through a couple of books. One is a review book, so be on the lookout for the official review! The other one is…

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Merciful heavens, this book is loooooooooong. Because I’m casually reading it in between other, “more important” materials, I’m not sure when I will finish it. But, it’s been on my mental “To Read” list for a few years now, so I had to give it a shot.

As for current projects, I’m pretty much focusing on just one right now. This is Cardigan #1 of the two I plan to make as arrival gifts for twin second cousins! It’s not finished yet, hence the quite crude appearance. It’s very much a learn-as-I-go type of project, as was the sweater I talked about earlier. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed seeing it take shape.

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So, those are the highlights of my “fun stuff” for the past month or so. Things are getting busy again, as the new year gets underway, so I don’t anticipate quite as much extracurricular indulgence in the upcoming months. But I’m excited to see where God takes me, in terms of creativity, academics, and just life in general.

 

 

Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d do a brief “catch up” on some of the things I’ve been up to.

Picnic Bread

Baking bread in the bread machine is always fun. Last week, I tried out a lovely recipe for Honey Wheat bread (not pictured), and the loaf turned out so tall and brown, like a masterpiece. Again, I can’t take credit for it…the machine did all the work.

 

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The only way to make homemade bread even better is to eat it with homemade butter…and in the great outdoors. I tried my hand at “churning” butter (i.e. putting cream in a mason jar and shaking the heck out of it). The results were pretty standard. I mean, how fancy can butter get by itself? But eating it with homemade bread on a breakfast picnic was super fun.

 

Bible Cover

A few weeks ago, I noticed my Bible cover was getting a little banged up. So, I decided to turn a piece of patchwork I had done into a “quilted” Bible cover. I used the tutorial written by Amanda at Simply Homemade, highly recommended!

 

Peacock Embroidery In Progress

This peacock is just a random design I found online. I traced it onto my fabric and am doing the outline in a stem stitch with royal blue thread. I’m thinking about adding in the Chinese characters for peacock next to the bird’s head to give it a more sophisticated look. Any thoughts?

 

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And another trip to the library yielded another stack of pretty books. I haven’t been in much of a reading mood for the last week or so, hence the stack of coffee table literature. Pictures are worth 1000 words, they say, so I’ll tell myself I’m “reading” the equivalent of War and Peace. 🙂

Happy Monday!

 

Curb Appeal

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Remember those herbs I planted several weeks ago? They are still alive, amazingly. The basil came up pretty fast. After thinning it out, I ended up with five plants. Four of them went into the bed by the curb, along with some Vinca flowers for decoration. A little bit of curb appeal, and bonus points for edibility (the basil, that is)!

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The thyme has also come up nicely. I’ve wound up with four plants and have gone ahead and transplanted them into a larger pot along with the extra basil seedling.

The parsley is doing pretty well. I might give it a few more days before transplanting. Ditto for oregano.

The rosemary…

I hold onto hope.

I actually thought it wasn’t going to come up at all. All of the other seeds had sprouted very quickly, but the rosemary pot was still just dirt. Then, I went to water them one morning and saw one tender shoot unfolding from the soil.

I didn’t know I could get that excited over a plant. The neighbors must think I’m crazy.

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I am really enjoying the little bit of gardening I have done this year. It’s really satisfying to see the fruits of your labor, literally, growing before your eyes. And, it’s a miracle that these plants have done so well. If they have survived me this far, I think everything is going to be OK.

 

Sparrows

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Last summer, I saw a documentary that detailed the lifestyle of individuals living under the oppression of North Korea’s communist regime. Amidst the information regarding smuggled USB drives, phony department stores, and communist propaganda, one segment of the film really stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about it for almost an entire year.

Watching the film on my computer, I saw the innocent faces of North Korea’s forgotten children. They are alone, dirty, hungry, scared. These are the street children of North Korea.

Many of them have been abandoned. They have no conception of what love really means. And what’s most heartbreaking is that they have no idea that there is Someone who loves them more than they can imagine and who sacrificed Himself to draw them unto Him.

This has really been weighing on my heart the last week or so. North Korea is the most isolated country in the world, and the fact that these children – who are at the bottom of the pecking order of who’s important in NK – are starving physically, emotionally, and spiritually…it’s heartbreaking. And it leads me to ask myself the question:

“What can I do?”

I can’t just hop a flight to Pyongyang and set up an orphanage next to the Juche Tower. So what can I, a gal in the country most hated by North Koreans, do to help these precious children?

I can pray. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

But do you ever get the feeling that sometimes “just praying” isn’t enough?

I was reading Blaine Harden’s book, Escape from Camp 13, this week. The book chronicles the life of Shin, a North Korean man born in a NK gulag. He escaped the camp when he was in his early 20s and defected to South Korea. He now travels in the US and South Korea, giving speeches to raise awareness for what goes on behind the walls of communist North Korea.

In the book, Harden talks about the street children Shin met while running through North Korea towards China. These children, like the ones in the documentary I saw, were starving and struggling to survive. They banded together to find or steal whatever food they could get. Shin says these children are known as “Wandering Sparrows.”

And that’s when it hit me.

God’s eyes are on the Sparrows.

I may not be able to spoon rice and fish onto plates before these kids. I may not be able to hold them in my arms and whisper that everything is going to be OK. I may not be able to wipe away tears or tell them I love them. But I know the One who can.

I know the One who holds each of these “Wandering Sparrows” in the palms of His hands. I know the one who “loves the little children of the world.” I know the One who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14).

My arms can’t extend across the Pacific. My income can only support so many charities. But my prayers are limitless in their reach. God hears me.

And He hears the Sparrows’ cries.

 

Corn and Potato Chowder – A Recipe

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I like to think that I’m not a procrastinator, but that’s not entirely true. I’m a prioritizer (if that’s even a word). I don’t really procrastinate on the stuff that has to get done right away or that I deem important. But if there’s no deadline or I can’t see the significance of completing the task, I’m likely to put it on the proverbial back burner.

Thus the story of the Corn and Potato Chowder begins.

I bought two 5-pound bags of red potatoes when they were on sale for $0.99 during the winter. And it has taken me forever to use them up. “They’re potatoes,” I told myself. “They stay good for a long time.”

There were seven potatoes still left in the bag yesterday when I got a hold of myself. No more potato procrastination! Time to use those babies up!

On top of the potatoes with the widow’s oil effect, I also have some corn left over from last summer. I bought a bushel from some local farmers and froze it, not realizing that we really don’t eat that much corn on the cob…

So, this dish was my way of “spring cleaning” the seasonal staples that really should have been gone a long time ago. Hope you enjoy!

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Corn and Potato Chowder

Serves 8 with leftovers (This is a HUGE pot of soup, people!)

  • 7 cups of corn stock (See Step 1)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 7 1/2 cups of red potatoes, cubed
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn, cobs reserved
  • 3 cups of skim milk
  • 1 t. of salt (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 t. dried thyme
  1. Corn stock is a handy little idea I picked up from Sarah Wilson’s cookbook The I Quit Sugar Cookbook. When you remove the corn from your corn cobs, place them in a large stock pot. For every corn cob, add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt for 7 cups. Simmer for one hour. Discard cobs.
  2. Saute the onion in olive oil. Add to the corn stock.
  3. Add cubed potatoes, corn kernels, salt, thyme, and milk to corn stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes.
  4. Serve garnished with parsley. This chowder is very good with a crusty French bread.

 

 

 

Flash: A Review

In celebration of warmer days, my sister and I exchanged “to-do” lists for this summer. Each of us made a list of 3 books, 5 activities, and 2 recipes we wanted the other the experience.

Now, my sister isn’t much of a bookworm. It took her a while to scratch out the 3 books she wanted me to read. As for me, I had a hard time limiting it to just three…

Anyway, the very first book she came up with for me to enjoy this summer was Flash by Rachel Anne Ridge.

My sister is a horse person. I’m talking full-fledged, eat, sleep, and breathe horse kinda person. So, a book about a donkey is right up her alley. Me? Not so much. I like horses, and all, but ain’t no way Jose that I’ll ever find the scent of horse manure anything less than gross.

But I do have a soft spot for books. So, I can handle a book about a member of the equine family just fine in dandy. No disgusting smells involved.

Turns out Flash was more than what I expected. I finished it in about 3 days, it was so good.

In this memoir of faith, family, and everyday encounters, Rachel Anne Ridge recounts the story of how a stray donkey wandered into her life and turned it upside down. This is no ordinary little beast of burden. No, Flash is his own kind of donkey. This little guy has a big personality and is never afraid to push his limits.

Like the night he broke out of the pasture to have a little romantic rendezvous with the mare next-door.

Or the time he vandalized the practice putting green in the barn and left his signature pile of donkey poo in the middle of the mess. Twice.

Or when he made peace with his lifetime archenemy – the dog – right before the dog died.

Through watching her furry friend take on life in bites sometimes too big to swallow, Rachel learns a few things about herself. She and her husband are struggling to make a go of it in their small mural-painting business, and she is dealing with insecurity. It doesn’t help matters that her neighbor is the model Southern-belle, brie-serving Saint who insists on calling Flash Hay-soos (that’s Jesús).

Flash serves as Rachel’s inspiration, a tool that God uses to show her to let go of her mask of perfection and her burden of insecurities and just take a risk. Her story is one of finding freedom in following the care-free ways of the donkey that was just standing in her driveway one night when she and her husband came home from a hard day of painting murals.

This book had me laughing out loud on several occasions. Rachel’s writing style is so personable, it’s like she’s sitting in your living room telling you her funny stories about her unusual pet. And what’s more, her object lessons are something that anyone can relate to. She encourages readers to “Be trailblazers,” “Run with horses,” and “Find your passion,” all while showing how she herself did it with the help of God and the inspiration of her donkey.

Readers of all ages will enjoy this book. Kids 12 and over should have no problem with the reading-level, and for younger readers, consider checking out Rachel’s new children’s book, Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends, set to release this October.

Flash comes highly recommended, to equine enthusiasts and not-so-horsey-people (like myself) alike!