31 August 2014

Paring Down, and the Power of Sentimentality

Even though the first stage in our "big move" is still some months away, I've already begun the process of "paring down". We all know how a deadline can creep up on us. It always comes quicker than expected. :-)

I've been doing a lot of painstaking work of late. The kind that is very important, but takes many hours before it appears that anything was accomplished. I'm really into family history / genealogy, and have been going through all of my physical files. I'm transferring and digitizing everything not already done so to my family tree program and the cloud.

Up to this point, I've had no trouble trashing or recycling my paper files. That is, until today.

I just couldn't throw it away. Literally. I was physically unable.

My grandparents on my father's side spent a lot of their "golden years" traveling. And they sent us things from just about every stop. A letter. A post card. A photo. A brochure for something they thought we might like.

Though I can't say I kept everything, at some point, way back in 1998, I thought to myself: "Why am I not keeping this stuff?" So I started. Now I have a good 4+ years worth of letters and such from Grandpa and Grandma. It's much like a travel diary. Before email became the norm, and before Grandpa started creating slide shows on CDs to send. (Yes, I have them, too!)

Reading through these letters today, I (the not-so-sentimental type) thought I could simply transcribe the "important" parts into my family tree program. I was so wrong about that. So. Wrong. In the midst of all the travel news, there are snippets like this one from a 4th of July many moons ago:
Hey Stephanie,
Nostalgia has caught up with us; remember one time in Cape Girardeau at the park when you were so scared when the fire works started? We do! Remember at our house on the back deck when the sparklers were so scary? We do! The next day we found burn spots on the deck where all the sparks fell; no wonder you were scared, we should have been scared too.
Even though I grew up and got over my fear of loud noises (almost!) and sparklers, how can I possibly throw that away?

Grandpa is, thankfully, still with us. But Grandma passed away this past January, and I miss her terribly. Reading about their goings on brought her to life again for me for a brief, fleeting, moment. How can I throw that away?

The answer is, I can't.

Paring down, minimizing, simplifying -- these are words that describe an aspect of the life I'm working hard to create for myself. A life that I know will be enriching and purposeful. And today I learned not to underestimate the power of sentimentality.

Memories that you can hold in your hand are important. And worth keeping.

Shared at Simple Life Sunday, Happiness is Homemade, Simple Saturdays, and Simply Natural Saturdays.


Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

12 August 2014

Keys, Bees, & Cleaning Camper Canvas

Things have been a bit busy around here since the last time I wrote about our big news of a plan to move to the mountains. Though B has been working on the camper here and there, I haven't done too much other than get the title and tag. But that changed this morning when we went out to clean the canvas. It was surprisingly simple!

Instead of going straight there, though, I would like to give you a synopsis of my morning.  It might make you giggle, as well as know you're not alone in having "one of those" mornings.

We were up with the sun so we could get the canvas cleaning done before the heat became unbearable. So out and ready go about 7:30. Upon getting out of the car, I made sure to get my phone and camera. After I locked and shut the doors, I quickly (but obviously not quickly enough) realized my keys were still in the ignition. Great. Well, at least I have roadside assistance. Unfortunately, B and the dog couldn't get started with the camper because the key to the storage area was with my car keys. In the ignition. Yep.

Roadside assistance was called and help should have arrived in about 45 minutes. Should have. More than an hour passes and nothing. Finally, I'm back on the phone with roadside assistance -- on hold. By this time (yay!) B and the dog have made it inside the storage area thanks to our wonderful maintenance guy.

I'm on hold, pacing back and forth, getting a bit agitated, for over 30 minutes! About this time, I notice my dog Bear thrashing about where he's tied to a tree in the corner of the storage lot. I (fairly calmly) walk over to see what his problem is to find a bumble bee going after his butt -- literally. It lands (and presumably stings) and Bear is trying to fend it off. I, deathly afraid of anything that stings, prove my love for my child puppy by heading in and trying to get the stinging sucker away. Of course, I'm hollering for B to come help. He does, and after much dashing and swatting, Bear and I were rescued. Apparently Bear dug up a bumble bee hole under aforementioned tree. We were lucky (blessed!) only one nasty stinger was aggressive.

After this bumbling scene (heh, heh) -- still on hold with roadside assistance -- I finally get a contact call from the people supposedly coming to get my keys out of the car. They arrive, my keys are freed, and I am finally able to get started cleaning the canvas on the camper. Two. Hours. Later. Than. Planned.

Now that you've had a good laugh, let me share how surprisingly simple it was to clean some canvas! I was a little apprehensive after reading a bit about what harsh chemicals might do to said canvas (NEVER use bleach!) -- after all, this will be our home for a slightly indeterminate amount of time. -- So all we got was a mild dish liquid, and it did the trick! We didn't apply it directly to the canvas, but instead to a scrubby sponge (nothing too harsh) and went to work in sections, wetting before and rinsing after (it's important not to leave any residue on the canvas). Here are some before and after pictures.



Not too shabby, eh? I'm pleased with the results, and we can check this task off our (super long) to-do list.

Shared at Lou Lou Girls Fabulous Party, Making a Home, Teach Me Tuesday, Treasure Box Tuesday, Tuesdays with a Twist, Maple Hill Hop, and some of these other fine hops.

03 August 2014

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate: a Book Review

I just finished an inspirational read I was able to get for Free (love that!) on my Kindle Fire.  A 2014 Christy Award nominee entitled The Prayer Box.

Tandi Reese is running from a drug-filled, abusive relationship. She chooses the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a haven for her and her two children. Though she finds herself in a place she once spent time as a child, not all the memories are good ones.

Yet here she is, renting a cottage from Iola Poole, owner of the historical house and property on which the cottage sits. One day, after Iola unexpectedly passes away, Tandi finds herself cleaning out the old rickety home in exchange for rent. After a bit of snooping, Tandi finds a closet filled to the brim with boxes. Each box is filled with letters written by Iola -- letters to God.

All throughout the book, we see Tandi struggle with many emotions that are holding her back from a better life for her and her children. Feelings of abandonment, unworthiness, and the inability to trust are a few at the top of the list.

Through Iola's letters, we first learn about her past. They also provide inspiration and encouragement to Tandi while she works to build a meaningful, fulfilling life with positive relationships. Of course, along the way, Tandi realizes she is not really alone -- God's grace is all around her.

I rarely highlight passages in books, but found myself doing so in this one. Here are a few I wanted to remember and share.
Nothing that had happened since I'd been on this island had happened at random. I'd been given shelter for my family, food to eat, work to do.

Given.

Gifts. I'd wanted to earn my own way, to do this myself, to form a new life on my own, but instead, this had been given to me. This life. This place. These letters.

This revelation.

Prayers are answered in ways we don't choose. The river of grace bubbles up in unexpected places.
(Another!)
Thank you. I wanted to write it on paper and fold it up in a box to remind myself, the next time I couldn't see anything but mountains ahead, that where there's a mountain, there's always a river flowing nearby.

Ultimately the river is the more powerful of the two.
(One more!)
All my life, I'd let the ties of blood control me, limit me, define me, yet I'd ignored the ties of love. I'd shielded myself from the people who tried to slip inside the armor, who told me that I was worthy.
The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate -- highly recommended!

Shared at Simple Life Sunday, Simple Saturdays Blog Hop, Simply Natural Saturdays, and some of these other fine hops.

I was featured!
Trayer Wilderness


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

02 August 2014

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Dateline: 31 July 2014 -- Today is the first day of the rest of my life... It's a cliché, I know. A well worn one at that.  I feel it, though.  I'm "officially" on the path of doing all I can to make my mountain (apartment?) homestead dream come true.  It's a gigantic leap of faith.  God, of course, will handle the rest.

You have to know me to know how huge this is. I don't do crazy. I'm a planner. I'm methodical. I'm safe.

Just a short time ago, though, "it" hit me. You know the idea that pops in your head. The one that you have no clue as to how it got there. The one that's a little totally out of character. Yet the more you think on it, the more you know (succeed or fail) you must give it a try.

She's a bit dirty, but she's ours.  Aptly named "Destiny".
Soon, when the current lease is up at my apartment, I won't be renewing. I'm giving crazy radical a try, instead. We are going to be staying in a RV park in order to slash our bills. The goal is to save at least six months worth of living expenses, then take the plunge. (Deep breath, now!) We are moving. to. the mountains.

[Insert singing, dancing, jumping up and down, and praising the Lord, here... When you're through with that, you will naturally insert a panicked shrill of "Oh, crap. What have I done? How is this ever going to work?"]

I hope you'll continue to follow along and laugh at support our journey. I can use all the well wishes, prayers, and advice I can get!

Have you ever done anything crazy or radical to achieve a dream goal?

simple saturdays featured button Simple Saturdays Blog Hop #34

Shared at Simple Saturdays Blog Hop, Simply Natural Saturdays, Front Porch Friday, and some of these other fine hops.

26 July 2014

Cinnamon Bread. Quick and Simple.

I love quick breads. Mix the batter, pour it in a pan, pop it in the oven to bake. That's it. No long, drawn out process required.

A while back I had a craving for cinnamon bread. I was thinking of a traditional loaf with yeast and all, but was too lazy to go through the motions necessary for my desired result. Ever been there? Yep. Me, too. Quick bread to the rescue!

I found a recipe to try at Allrecipes.com, gave it a go, and was happy I did. It's not the prettiest loaf I've ever seen, but it sure is yummy. There's a nice sweet crust on top, and the cinnamon flavor can be tasted throughout. Since the "swirl" technique is used, I wasn't sure that would be achieved -- glad I was wrong. Craving fulfilled.

Want another peek?


Go ahead.  Get your drool on.  I won't tell.


OK.  You've been (fairly) patient.  Recipe after one more.


Simple Cinnamon Quick Bread

Submitted to Allrecipes.com by bettina.

Original recipe advises to wrap finished (and cooled) loaf in foil and let sit overnight before slicing. I totally did not do this. (Who could wait? I had a craving, remember?) But I'm quite sure the slices would have looked prettier had I followed this direction. :-)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup + 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9"x5" loaf pan.
  2. Mix together 1/3 cup sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1 cup sugar. In another bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry. Stir until moistened.
  4. Pour half the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 cinnamon and sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining batter and cinnamon / sugar. Run a knife through the batter to swirl all together.
  5. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes. Use the toothpick test to ensure doneness. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: (1) 9"x5" loaf


Shared at Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, and some of these other fine hops.

24 July 2014

How to Make and Store Your Own Dried Orange Zest

Have I ever told you about my love for my dehydrator? (Heh, Heh, of course I have.) Well here's yet another task it can handle for you!

How to Make and Store Dried Orange Zest

The zest of an orange is the outermost, colorful part of the peel. It contains concentrated, highly flavorful oils great for baking delicious sweets and breads. You can most certainly use it in savory cooking, as well.


All you need to do to make zest is remove this colorful part from the orange. You can do this by using a knife to cut strips, a simple grater, or a utensil more specifically designed for zesting. (I have a Microplane and wouldn't trade it for the world.) The important thing to remember is not to go into the pith, or white part of the peel. This has an unappealing flavor. Also, don't forget to wash your fruit before zesting.

If you're lucky and find yourself with a lot of oranges, making a large quantity of dried zest is made easier by using a food dehydrator. (I have a dwarf orange tree right outside on the patio. It's producing intoxicatingly fragrant blooms and fruit -- I'm impatiently waiting for those babies to ripen.)


Additional note: I also watch for oranges (or lemons or limes -- you can zest them too, ya know) in the reduced section of my produce department. I can sometimes find 3 lb. bags of oranges for 99¢!

To dry your zest, simply spread it out on a shelf of the dehydrator and set your temperature to 135°. Walk away and let it do its thing until the zest is completely dry. Alternately, you can use your oven if the temperature can be controlled to that low degree, and you have the time. You can also simply let the zest air dry on your counter top (I have no idea how long that would take, though).

BTW, if you end up with too many oranges to eat, run them through a juicer (this is mine). That's what I do. I then freeze the juice in these little stackable Ball freezer containers and pull one out to place in the refrigerator each night before I go to bed. Freshly squeezed juice is ready to drink in the morning.

Your fresh-dried orange zest can simply be stored in a jar with a tight lid in your pantry. I can't say exactly how long it will last. I can say I've had some in my pantry for a few months, and it still has flavor.

How much does it make / save? I got about an ounce out of three large oranges. I've seen this amount go for $3 - $4 in stores...made mine for pennies!

Shared at All Things Thursday, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, and some of these other fine hops.

I was featured!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

15 July 2014

Easiest Dirty Rice Recipe I Could Find

As I mentioned yesterday, I enjoy inhaling eating dirty rice. A former Zatarains addict, I have been on the lookout for a comparably easy and better-for-me (no chemicals added) alternative. I found it in Alecia's Easy Dirty Rice recipe at Detours in Life.

Ground chuck, onions, green pepper, garlic, and parsley.

Add your homemade cajun spice. How "ragin" did you make it?

Finish with the cooked rice...

...top with sour cream, your cheese of choice, and dig in!

Easiest Dirty Rice Recipe I Could Find

Adapted from Alecia's Easy Dirty Rice recipe at Detours in Life.

Ingredients

  • 2 - 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp cajun spice (make your own!)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley

Instructions

  1. In large skillet over medium heat, brown meat with onions, peppers, garlic, and parsley. Drain, if necessary.
  2. Stir in cajun spice.
  3. Stir in cooked rice and continue cooking over medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Yield: 4 servings


Shared at Tasty Tuesdays, Treasure Box Tuesday, Lou Lou Girls Fabulous Party, Making a Home, Teach Me Tuesday, Tuesdays With a Twist, and some of these other fine hops.

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