Saturday, September 22, 2012

Homemade Applesauce

Fresh from the Orchard!

The (delicious) End Result
24 large apples
1/2 c. water
2 tbs. bottled lemon juice
1/4 c. to 1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla

Peel, core, and thinly slice apples. Put apples into a large pot with water and lemon juice. Cook, covered with a lid until tender, about 20-25 min., stirring occasionally OR cook on high in a crock pot for about 4 hours. When apples are tender, chop coarsely with a metal spoon (or potato masher). Add sugar 1/4 c. at a time until you reach your preferred sweetness. (You may substitute light brown sugar for a rich maple-like flavor.) Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla and continue to cook until sugar dissolves. Spoon into hot jars (prepared according to directions) to within 1/2" of top. Release air bubbles, clean rims, and seal. Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes for pints, and 30 minutes for quarts.
For more information about Home Canning, see this post.

Number of Servings: Makes about 5 pints.

If you get a food mill, you will save loads of time, and the kids can help!  We make applesauce almost every year, so it has been a great investment.
Preparation Variation for Smooth Applesauce:
Fill a large crockpot with whole, small apples. Wash first, but no other prep is necessary for them. Add the water & lemon juice and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8. Run the apples through a food mill. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg & vanilla to the pulp and stir until it dissolves.


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For Apple Butter:
Fill a large crockpot with whole, small apples. Wash first, but no other prep is necessary for them. Add 2 c. water and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Run the apples through a food mill. Rinse out your crock pot. Measure 2 qts. apple pulp and put it back into the crock pot. Add 2 c. sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. cloves. Cook on high another 4 hours or low another 8, leaving the lid off for the last 2-3 hours. The mixture should thicken and reduce quite a bit. Ladle hot apple butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Remove air bubbles. Cap and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. (If the butter becomes too thick, add water or apple juice until you reach the desired consistency. This has never happened for me though.)

(I had a great system one year where every night I would put the apples in to cook. In the morning, I would run them through the food mill and put it back in the crock pot to cook.  I would process the jars each afternoon. It was a good system!)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stuff & Nonsense

Clothing Storage in the Basement
Do you feel overwhelmed by your stuff?  

This comes from being abundantly blessed, so we have a good reason to check our complaints and be thankful.  But there is more to life than managing our stuff, so it is helpful if our stuff is an asset to living our lives instead of becoming a chaotic distraction. 

A recent realization:
It’s not all about having absolute minimal possessions.  It is much more about using our resources, and one of our most precious resources is SPACE.

Some have more space than others, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  What we need is to achieve a careful balance of needful stuff for our present space.  The smaller the space, the less you are going to be able to need!  If you have more space, then you can keep more.  Just remember that needful stuff includes the things that we can use to bless others. 

So, we start by weeding out the stuff we don't need.  Is there a way to use it to bless others?  If so, do.  But if that pair of shoes is truly worn out, please just throw them away.  (This is very hard for me!)  I have discovered that I can free up a lot of space in my home just by throwing away all of the trash!!  So before you start organizing, go through each room with a trash bag and a giveaway box and get the stuff you don't need out of the house!

You know the cutesy saying, "A place for everything and everything in its place"?  Life can be so much more smooth and peaceful if this is just a habit in your family.  If you have trouble adopting this in your own life, I hope that my advice will help you put this saying into practice.

Four Important Things:
1.  Group like items together.
Books on bookshelves, magazines in a rack or basket, media in one area, sewing supplies in a sewing basket, mending in a basket, medical supplies and medicines together, etc...  Use what logic makes most sense to you, but try to keep like things together so you are not running all over the house when you need to get some hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, and a bandaid for your child.  Sometimes it helps to stop and think it all through, "When I am doing x,y,z, what things do I always use?"

2.  Put these like items into practical storage.
It's ok to have some little used kitchen items in an out of the way closet, but with items you use regularly, store them near the place where they are used when at all possible.  (Example - store coffee making supplies near the coffee pot.  Put towels and toilet paper in or near the bathroom.  Keep cleaning supplies in each bathroom.)  When I say "practical storage", I mean in a place where they are easily accessible.

3.  Acquire any practical storage that you need if you don't have it already.
Each home will have different amenities when it comes to things like built in closets, shelving, and storage.  Use what you have first, and then look around at what you already have for storage - side tables, baskets, large tins and crocks, plastic bins, etc...  Keep an eye out at yard sales for pieces that will help ease your storage problems.  I have found wonderful plastic drawer systems, side tables, dressers, chairs, etc... at yard sales.  Ask around and get paper boxes from a friend that works in a school or an office.  These are wonderful for storing off season clothing in an attic or a dry basement.  And if you still have a need, work it out in your budget to get what you need to make things work - from small things like shoe shelves and hangars, to bigger things like dressers.  

4.  Make sure items are returned to their place when not in use.
And this one is a biggie.  Make it a habit to return things to their storage place.  And I mean actually in place, not just sort of close to where they belong.  Make it a part of your routine to have everyone in the family stop to do a pick up a couple of times a day.  (We do before Quiet Time and bedtime each day.)  Try to start noticing things - when you are heading to your basement to work on laundry or something, take an armload of things and return them to their place in the basement.  If you have multiple levels in your home, it can help to put a basket near each set of stairs where you place things that need to go up or down to get back to their place.  It saves you a few trips.

I think when any of those steps get left out, chaos starts to take over, so if you have chaos going on, try to pinpoint where things are breaking down.  It could be that you just need to acquire a few more laundry baskets and your life would go so much more smoothly.  Maybe you need to pare down the kids' toys?  Maybe you just need to take out all of the trash?

Got any tips for managing your stuff?  I love getting great ideas from readers!

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Building Character: Attentiveness

This week we are talking about ATTENTIVENESS vs. unconcern.

Attentiveness is sandwiched right between Alertness and Availability, which I think is useful because these three qualities are so much about putting others before ourselves.  And I don't know about you, but that is something that we really have to work on around here.

ATTENTIVENESS vs. unconcern

Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to their words and emotions.

Hebrews 2:1 - "For this reason, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it."

This lesson is two-fold -
First, we need to keep our gaze firmly fixed upon Jesus, our Savior. 
Second, "regard one another as more important than yourselves".  
Philippians 2:3
(I think I know our newest memory verse!!)

Easy to say, harder to do.  How often do we mothers just brush right past a child trying to tell us something because we deem it unimportant?  I know it is hard.  I know it very well, but I think we have to be conscientious about stopping what we are doing (when at all possible), kneeling down and looking into our child's face while they are talking to us.  We need to stop and sit in a chair and take a small child onto our lap, carefully listening, and looking into their faces.  Because if we want them to share the "big stuff" with us later on, we have to be willing to listen to the "little stuff" (that is really big stuff in their eyes) right now.   More is caught than taught.  If we want our children to learn to pay attention to Jesus and to us, we need to take the time to pay attention to them.  

And more than ever, we need to be willing to put away the distractions of technology in order to listen.  With mobile devices sending constant interruption, please show your child that they are more important.  In days gone by, if the phone rang at dinner time, most families would just let it ring, after all, dinner with the family was more important and phone calls could wait.  Reclaim family meals by banishing ALL screens from the table.  Do not answer your phone, your texts, your e-mails, etc... during family meals.  For the sake of your children and your marriage, reserve that hour for face to face time and listen to the voices of wisdom sharing with you that this is one of the most important ways to destruction-proof your family.  Show the worth of the people you love the most by giving them your UNDIVIDED attention during mealtimes. 

This week's Bible story:  Mary loved Jesus
Luke 10:39 - "And she (Martha) had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word."

John 12:1-7 - "Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil."

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were brother and sisters living in the town of Bethany and they were some of Jesus' closest friends during His life on earth.  Mary, in particular, showed her devotion to the Lord on two different occasions.  Mary gave Jesus her undivided attention and did not let the cares of the household, or concerns about money distract her from what was most important, which was Jesus himself. 

I do not own any spikenard, but I do own some incredibly lovely Arnica Massage Oil, so to demonstrate what Mary did, I rubbed each child's feet with the oil and looked into their faces while I did it.  I demonstrated giving undivided attention with each of them, getting very close face to face, shielding our faces with my hands to help bring them into focus on my face.  I smiled with them and said how much I loved them.  When we reviewed this lesson two days later, they asked me if I would rub their feet with the oil again.  I was so happy to do it!  

  • What does it mean to have undivided attention?  (Demonstrate this in a physical way.)
  • We cannot sit at Jesus' feet because He has gone up into heaven already, but in what ways can we give Jesus our undivided attention?  (Paying attention during worship and Bible classes, in prayer, being devoted to reading His word, etc...)
  • What can happen if we do not pay attention to God's word?  (discuss Hebrews 2:1)
  • How can we be attentive to others?  Role play a situation and put it into practice.
(For us, our children really need practice being attentive when other adults speak to them.  We practice shaking hands, smiling, saying hello, and answering questions.  We try to prepare them when we will be going into situations where lots of adults will want to talk to them, such as before a worship assembly.  We are making some progress, but still have a ways to go.) 

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Friday, September 14, 2012

9 Books for Beginning Readers

I have had a lot of friends ask me about teaching reading, so I thought I would do a few blog posts on the subject for the next couple of Fridays.

I do not think you need to do exactly what we do, but maybe some of what I say will be helpful as you make decisions for what is best for your family.  I hope that today's post will help you find some good, quality resources for when the time comes.

Do you have questions about teaching your child to read?  I would love to hear them!  I may not have the answers, but I enjoy some good dialogue.  Maybe you have some valuable experiences to share or some favorite first books your children enjoyed.  I'd love to hear what you have to say, so please leave a comment!

9 Favorite Books for Beginning Readers -
(In order from easiest to more challenging.)

1.  For a solid start in phonics, I recommend this book.  It worked very well for us and I liked that the lessons were nice and short.  We were done in 10 minutes each day, which was a good amount of time for focused learning for my little guy.  We did not do the writing portion of the lesson because my son just wasn't ready with his fine motor skills.  For us, nothing was lost by skipping it.  For other more kinesthetic or tactile children, this may be more valuable.  I plan to spend more time talking about this book in another post in the series, so stay tuned.

2.  About 1/3 of the way through "100 Easy Lessons", we started reading some BOB books and the second level was just right for that.  My son was very proud to be able to "read a whole book all by myself!"

3.  Hop on Pop has long been a favorite.  I like that the child can start out reading the large bold words at the top of the page and you can read the rest of the dialogue, until the child graduates to reading all of the words himself.

Side note - I have learned that I need to store beginning reader books on an out of the way bookshelf lest they be read and read and read and thus memorized beforen the child turns 2!  This is what happened with most of our Dr. Seuss books.  And Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff.  After Big Littles finishes with them, I'm putting my Arnold Lobel books away so Little Littles doesn't memorize them before his time. 

4.  Speaking of Arnold Lobel, he does some wonderful readers and most of them are probably at your local library.  Look for the Frog and Toad series, Owl at Home, and Grasshopper on the Road.  His books have been favorites, and Mouse Tales the most favorite of all.  Something about it really tickled Big Littles' funny bone. 

5.  There are several Little Bear books that we enjoyed, and they are all sweet books.

6.  This was a random garage sale find, and what a happy one it was!  This old book was such a delight for my son.  The first two chapters were a little slow, but once he got into the story, he read the rest of it in a single day. 

7.  This was recommended on Raising Olives as "the single favorite reader of all of her children".  With such a high recommendation, I requested it on Paperback Swap and it became a favorite of my son's as well.  This is another book he devoured in a day.  Do remember, this is Pompeii, so there will be people dying in this book.  It rather shocked his Nanna to hear him so excited to read Chapter 3 - "Buried Alive".  But the book is well done and the most exciting thing he has read so far. 

8.  My son was ready for a step up from classic readers, and this has been a great series for that next level.  The print in the Dover editions is large and there is adequate white space between the lines.  There are lots of good challenging words for him to learn to read and the chapters are just the right length for a reading session for him at this time - about 3 pages long.  As for the stories, they are delightful, old fashioned stories about forest animals that have obvious character flaws, but they learn from their mistakes.  With about 25 or so short chapters in each in Thornton Burgess' series, we can also stick with a book for a while, which is also a good challenge.

I was happy to find these because I was looking for a step up to challenge my son, but I knew that if the chapters were too long, he would tire out, so we needed some good middle ground.  Based upon a recommendation, I first got the Christian Liberty Nature Reader, which had chapters of a good length, but they were a little too dry and boring for us and stats about each animals height, weight and what they eat were just not engaging enough for him.  These lively stories about animals with which he is very familiar were a better fit for us.

9.  And finally, I was looking for a good Bible that he would be able to read himself.  This was the most difficult search of all!  I wanted large print, adequate white space, and heavy paper for the pages (i.e. - not the easily ripped onion skin paper), but I also didn't want something too large and too heavy for him to carry.  In my searching, I was realizing that large print adult Bibles just wouldn't be sturdy enough for him to use.  (I have since found that a large print, hardcover ESV pew Bible might have worked, but I'm still happy with the Discoverer's Bible.)

I don't like most children's Bibles because I don't like much commentary, especially when I disagree with the doctrine being taught in it.  The Discoverer's Bible is well done, though.  I did tear out one page on "The ABCs of Becoming a Christian", but nothing else was lost with that one page coming out.  In all other ways, it is a good Bible for him to read.  It is also available in the King James Version, but I thought the language would be too much for him at this time.  When we have our Bible Time or our Family Bible Studies, it is a great Bible for him to use for reading aloud or following along when someone else reads aloud. 

Another helpful resource:
The Four Moms did a post on Books for Early Readers.  I've linked The Common Room there, and you can read her post and click on the links for the other three moms to see what they recommend.

Note - All of the books pictured above are Amazon affiliate links.  If you order anything from Amazon through my links, I get a small percentage back.  It is usually between 4-6%.  It does add up and all of the proceeds go to buying Homeschool books for our family.  Thank you to the kind readers that have made Amazon purchases through my links! 

If you don't order through my Amazon link, you might be interested in Paperback Swap.  This is how I get many of my books and I think it is the cheapest way to get books other than a yard sale.  You can learn how to swap books here.  If you sign up by clicking on my banner below, I get a couple of free book credits.  Yay for me!

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Perfect Biscuits

Remember my post on how to make perfect pancakes?   Well, I have a treat for you!  I'd also like to share how to make great biscuits.  Where can you find great biscuits?  The website for the Clinton St. Baking Company - a restaurant in New York City where the talented chef Neil Kleinberg has perfected the art of biscuit baking.

"I think Neil can be called the King of Biscuits."  - Martha Stewart

Can't get to New York City?  Make them at home!  Yes, even you, because if I can do it after about 8 years of failed biscuit making, you can too!  See, I could make beautiful, perfect pie crusts, buttery yeast rolls from scratch, but my biscuits were terrible.  When I was desperate, I would buy frozen ones and when I was even more desperate, I would buy the ones in the can.  But when I tried this recipe, carefully following the directions, voila!  They worked!  And they come out beautiful and fluffy every single time!  Split them with a fork or slice them with a serrated knife, they are always light and fluffy on the inside, with a nice crisp bite on the outside.  You can find this, and more of Neil Kleinberg's superb recipes in this cookbook -

(My copy was a gift from my mother-in-law.  It's one of my very favorite cookbooks.  My husband gets really excited when he sees that I have it out!)  Well, I felt like I really needed to give credit where credit was due, but now on to the recipe:

2 c. all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
2 Tbs. baking powder
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
3 Tbs. vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small chunks
3/4 c. buttermilk

Makes 6 biscuits
(I usually double or triple the recipe and it works out just fine in the mixer.)

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Place 2 c. flour and the other dry ingredients in the bowl of your KitchenAid (or other stand mixer).  Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined.  Add the butter and shortening to the bowl and mix on low speed until the dough reaches a crumbly texture.  The butter and shortening should be the size of peas.  Add the buttermilk to the bowl all at once.  Mix very briefly on low speed until the dough just comes together.  (This should take less than 10 seconds.  Yes, I count.)

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form it into a ball.  Lightly knead the dough two or three times until combined.  Pat out the dough to about 1" thickness.  Shape the dough into a rectangle, making the sides high.  Using a 2" round biscuit cutter, cut out your biscuits.  After you have cut them all out, gently gather the scraps to form a few more biscuits.  Place your biscuits on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (I use a silpat).

Place the pan in the pre-heated oven for about 17 minutes or until they are golden brown and cooked through.  Serve warm with butter, honey, jam... whatever suits your fancy.

  • When it comes to biscuit making, the general rule is that the less you handle the dough, the better.  Use a light hand, don't knead more than it takes to have the dough loosely come together, don't roll out too much, etc...
  • These biscuits can be prepared and then rested overnight for baking the next day.  Dust a sheet pan and the top of the dough with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.  Bring the dough back to room temperature for baking.
  • You can mix these biscuits by hand, without a mixer. 
  • It is a common mistake to twist the biscuit cutter in the dough.  Cut by pushing the cutter directly into the dough and then lifting the cutter.  If you twist the cutter, the biscuits may not rise. 
  • My substitutions - I almost always use half whole wheat flour, and instead of shortening, I use only butter.  Due to a dairy allergy in the family, I have used rice milk with a splash of lemon juice instead of buttermilk and it works fine, but my current preference is slightly soured raw milk. 
Want to remember this one for later? 
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"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips."
- Psalm 141:3

A hard life lesson:
Words can have "forever" consequences.
Words are like feathers in the wind.  Once they are scattered, there is no way to retrieve them all again.   It is a sad, sad thought to realize that a once happy relationship will never be the same again because of words that I spoke long ago.  We must take great care about the words that we speak.   

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer."
- Psalm 19:14

I have been reading Dr. James Dobson's, Bringing Up Boys lately and came across a wonderful analogy.  I think I am pretty safe in saying that most of my readers are women, so a golf analogy may not be the easiest one for you to latch onto.  But it is so good, I'll share anyway.  I actually took a semester of golf as a P.E. class in college.  It was annoying as I had no interest in golf whatsoever, but it was one of the only classes that would meet the requirement and fit into my tightly packed schedule.  One of the first things we learned is that whenever you swing your club and knock up a little bit of the turf on the ground, it is good golfing etiquette to repair the damage (called a divot).  Right next to the green where you tee off, is a bucket with some grass seed and fertilizer, and if you make a divot, you sprinkle a bit of the stuff over the damaged turf, and replace the patch of grass if at all possible.  Pat it down, use your little divot tool, and it should heal up in a few days.

If no one fixes the divot, and it bakes in the sun for a day or two, or a week or two, or a year or two, or... more, what would happen to the beautiful, lush green?  It gets an ugly dead spot.  The one little spot you made may not seem so bad to you, but what if no one repaired their divots?  At the end of a week, there could be a hundred ugly dead spots!

Think what kind of work would need to be done to restore the beautiful lush green!  I have a cousin that has a college degree in "turf management", can you believe it?  Yes, there is a lot of science involved in maintaining a beautiful green on a golf course.  It doesn't just happen, it takes a lot of work.

So back to my discussion on words...
When you make a divot in someone's heart because of the words that you spoke, do your best to repair that divot right away.  Do not leave that open wound to "bake in the sun".  Nourish the relationship with healing words AND actions, patch it back up so that the roots will take hold again in the relationship and the wounded heart has a chance to heal.  The longer you wait to work on the damage, the harder you will have to work on the repair.  And the sad reality is that sometimes no matter what you do, things will never be quite the same, which is why we should try to never hurt with our words in the first place.

"Therefore, laying aside falsehood,  
speak truth each of you with his neighbor, 
for we are members of one another.   
Be angry, and yet do not sin; 
do not let the sun go down on your anger;
and do not give the devil an opportunity."
 - Ephesians 4:25-27 

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
- Romans 12:18

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Building Character: Alertness

 As a family, we are studying a character trait each week, and are beginning with the Fruits of the Spirit.  This week we are moving beyond the Fruits of the Spirit and will be working through the remaining character traits in alphabetical order, but you can go back and read Love, Joyfulness, Peaceable, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Gentleness and Self-Control.  If you want more information on the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, you can read how to get started on this post.

This week we are talking about ALERTNESS vs. unawareness.
It is not so much about caf. vs. decaf, but is really about working towards not being so self-consumed that we miss important things going on, especially in regards to the people we are called to serve.  Again, I think I get more out of these studies than my children.  And that is ok.  "More is caught than taught", so as I work onto making my character what it needs to be, hopefully my children will see and will imitate.

ALERTNESS vs. unawareness

Being aware of what is happening around me so I can have the right response.

Mark 14:38 - "Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

I believe each family's struggles with alertness could look a little different.  It could be:
  • a child that tends to have her head in the clouds most of the time - a daydreamer
  • a child that is intensely focused on a task, but ignores other important things
  • an introverted child (or an introverted parent)
  • a mother that is so distracted by her phone/facebook/blogging that she is unaware of what is truly happening in her home and with her children

By the way, if that last one is you, you may be blessed to read this article by Ann Voskamp.   It's a little wordy and long, but be sure you read to the end.  There are some real gems to take away.  One of which I have put on a sticky on my computer:  "There is never any fruit without FOCUS."  And another that is now on my Home Management Notebook, "Habits are hard, but they make life easy."

Indeed.  It is something I have to constantly work on with myself.  Because I have a tendency to be all four of those things I listed above.  And a few of my "apples" are not far from the tree if you know what I mean. 

This week's Bible Story:  Jesus in the garden with his disciples
Mark 14:32-42

On the night when Jesus was arrested, he went with his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus was greatly troubled and said, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch".  Jesus knew that His death was imminent and it grieved Him terribly.  He knew what was coming and spent the time in prayer to His Father asking, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."  Jesus was preparing to take upon Himself the sins of the entire world.  He was preparing for an agonizing death, and for a period of total separation from His Father.  It was almost more than He could bear.  He asked Peter, James, and John to stay and pray, urging them to, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation."  But they could not stay awake.  Three times Jesus found them sleeping.  It seems they did not realize what an important moment in time this was.  They were unaware.

Finally it was too late.  Judas came to betray Jesus with a kiss, and only a little later, Peter fell to temptation and denied Jesus three times.  If only Peter had stayed alert and prayed with Jesus.  If only he had been alert so as to have the right response.  If only... but it was too late.  

Our lesson teaches us just how important to redeem the time we are given and to be alert to what is happening in the moment.  If we waste important moments in our lives because we are unaware, we will not be able to get them back.  We must always be watching and praying.

  • Did Peter, James, and John know what was about to happen to Jesus?
  • Did Peter know that he was about to be tempted to sin?  (He should have!  Jesus warned him!)
  • Did Peter listen to Jesus when he said, "Watch and pray"?  
  • Sometimes we will have moments in our life where we are given a warning to "Watch and pray", what should we do when someone gives us that kind of wise counsel?
  •  The disciples were very tired.  Did Satan stop tempting them just because they were sleepy?  It is hard to do the right thing when we are tired, but we still need to obey.
Remember, "there is never any fruit without focus".  Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus.  He is the only thing that matters in this life.  The only thing.  Don't let Satan distract you and catch you unaware!

Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths."

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Amish Baked Beans in the Crockpot

Going to a picnic this holiday weekend?

Baked Beans should be a frugal meal or side dish, but if you are buying cans of beans, you are losing out on both money and flavor.  They are simple to make from scratch, they freeze well, and I think you will be pleased with the result.  Here is my recipe for Amish Baked Beans, only I cook them in the crock pot, which obviously, the Amish would not do.  :)

- 2 lbs. navy beans - picked through and rinsed
- pinch baking soda
- 1/2 lb. salt pork, cut in quarters or I prefer about 6 strips of uncooked bacon cut up
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 tbs. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. powdered mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 c. molasses (dark or light according to your taste)
- BBQ sauce to taste - get something flavorful and zesty (I use about 1/2 c.)

Soak the beans for about 8 hours (or overnight) with enough water to cover them.  Drain and rinse. Dump them in a stockpot, bring them to a boil then and add the baking soda. Lower the heat, skim off the foam, and simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until the skins peel back when blown upon. If there is too much liquid, drain some of it off. Add the onion, brown sugar, mustard, salt, pepper and molasses and mix well. Place the piece of salt pork or your strips of bacon in the bottom of your crockpot and dump the beans on top. Cook on low in the crockpot for 8-10 hours. Just before serving, add a generous amount of BBQ sauce to taste and stir it in.  (Keep in mind, too much stirring makes them mushy.) 
Serves 16

You can halve the amount, but I never do.  I just freeze extras in quart size containers because you can make it a quick meal by mixing in some ground beef, cut up hot dogs or sausage.  Serve it with some cornbread and a green salad if you want to round it out or just enjoy your beans by themselves. 

My Mom's Potato Salad - another delicious picnic side
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