19 August 2016

Closer to Nature for World Photo Day

100_7908A deer cautiously entered the clearing behind the RV.  And the wild mountain beauty took my breath away.  I moved as slow as I could, but didn't manage a picture before she calmly walked back into the woods.

It's probably not a big deal to many of you, but it's such a rare occurrence for me.  I should say, it was a rare occurrence.  Since we moved, I'm blessed to see so much more – and be closer to it all.  From the clouds in the sky that seem so much bigger and more dense.  To the bees on the white clover, the flexible plant bending under the weight of the insect.  To the myriad of birds that visit us each day.  To the rooster and turkeys I hear in the distance.  To the quick-footed rabbit, and the raccoon I can't ever catch in the act, but know he's there.  And, yes, even the snake that I hope will continue to maintain his distance.

I've missed more shots than I can count! Just the other day, I hurriedly got our rat terrier Kody inside from a walk.  I wanted to grab the camera and capture a view of the mountain as the sun went down.  I was in and back out in under a minute, I'm sure, but it was gone.  The sun had descended just a wee bit more, and the whole view was changed.

I love photography, though I am very much an amateur.  The large exhibit at the fair each October is a highlight for me.  I take my time wandering through all the cool "scenery." So here's my contribution to world photo day:  a few I've taken, and liked.

100_5028

100_8067

100_0410

From my mountaintop to yours!

09 August 2016

Baked Peaches: a Summer–Fall Recipe in Pictures

100_7986Peaches are generally available all summer long, starting mid-May here in Georgia.  But freestone or cling-free peaches, the kind that are easiest to do anything -- like eating and canning -- with because the fruit doesn't cling to the pit, are a mid to late summer juice-running-down-your-chin delight.  And who doesn't enjoy the freshness of summer fruit?

I also enjoy (and am very much ready for!) the flavors of fall.  While we're not quite yet in the pumpkin spice latte season, adding buttery brown sugar and cinnamon to summer peaches and baking them to melt-in-your-mouth softness kind of bridges the best of both worlds for me.

Feel like giving them a try? Here's the "recipe."

100_7973

Cut a couple of clean, fresh peaches in half.  Remove the pit.

100_7976

Top with a small bit of butter, a teaspoon or two of brown sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes.

100_7978

Oh my.  Warm, sweet, soft goodness. From my mountain of peaches to yours.

Shared at The Homemaking Party, Making a Home, Tasty Tuesdays, Tuesdays with a Twist, and The Art of Homemaking Mondays.

01 August 2016

The More of Less: A Book Review

moreoflessI'd say we joined the minimalist movement (without the label) some time in 2014.  We went hardcore February 2015 when we got rid of 80% of what we owned and moved into a pop-up camper.  A few months later, we increased our living space to a whopping 250 square feet and got rid of 10% more.

So you might say I was already a convert before I started reading The More of Less by Joshua Becker.  Even so, not far into the book, I was still a bit surprised at some of the stats he threw at me:

In America, we consume twice as many material goods as we did fifty years ago.  Over the same period, the size of the average American home has nearly tripled, and today that average home contains about three hundred thousand items.  On average, our homes contain more televisions than people.  And the US Department of Energy reports that, due to clutter, 25 percent of people with two-car garages don't have room to park cars inside and another 32 percent have room for only one vehicle.  Home organization, the service that's trying to find places for all our clutter, is now an $8 billion industry, growing at a rate of 10 percent each year.  And still one out of every ten American households rents off-site storage – the fastest growing segment of the commercial real-estate industry over the past four decades.

And the more I read, the more I realized I was not a minimalist.  I say that because -- even though we got rid of so. much. stuff. – it was fairly easy.  I wanted to downsize, get my bills lowered as much as possible, and move to the mountains.  So I did.  (Thank-you, God, for making my dream come true.)

But after living this way for more than a year, I realize there are still things I held on to that haven't been touched in months.  I still own clothes I haven't worn.  Originally, my end goal was to make a move, not intentionally live with less.  Does that make sense?

"If we want to recalibrate to a lower level of accumulation and stay there,
we need to replace our culturally inspired greed with self-cultivated gratitude
about what we have." – Joshua Becker

This book has given me a renewed sense of purpose in getting rid of the unnecessary extras.  Mr. Becker, who also created the Becoming Minimalist blog, does not simply share his experiences in living the minimalist lifestyle.  He also shares why minimalism might be right for you, and how to go about your journey toward your version.  He doesn't shy away from sharing how his faith plays a role, and he even offers troubleshooting and maintenance tips to help power through the process.

If you're looking for clarity in deciding if the minimalist life is for you, or if you just need some help getting rid of those last ten items, I recommend reading The More of Less.  Even if you come out the other end thinking minimalism is a bit extreme and not for you, I'll bet you'll also have a greater sense of intention when deciding on what things to bring into your home.  And consciousness is a good thing.

Psst…It's available on Kindle, if you'd rather not lug about another physical book. ;-)

More about The More of Less from the publisher.
More about the author Joshua Becker.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  The words and opinions here are all my own.
Shared at Making a Home and Tuesdays with a Twist.

23 July 2016

Homemade Chocolate Syrup and What it Means to Rest in the Lord

100_7969Have you seen those "chocolate milk is good for you" commercials? I'm not going to expend any brain power trying to dispute whatever science is being used to back up that claim.  Just.  C'mon, people.

But no matter what my brain says, I love chocolate milk.  Love. It.  The sweet chocolatey goodness was rarely in our house growing up, so even at age 43 I still consider it a treat.

Chocolate milk isn't cheap.  I had a relatively inexpensive, go-to brand where I used to live.  And even then I would try to only buy it when on sale.  Since moving, I haven't been able to find anything comparable.

So I was forced to make my own (the chocolate part, that is).  Putting together just a few quality ingredients will give you a darn tasty chocolate syrup to add to your milk for a treat.

Cocoa, water, and sugar boiled together for a few minutes.  That's all it takes.  But watch your pot! Boiling over is a real possibility.

100_4988

Allow it to cool, and store it in the fridge.  I use a pint size mason jar with a screw cap.

100_7965

Before I give you the specific recipe, I'd like to share a passage from the devotional I read this morning.  (If you're not interested, simply scroll down until you see the bold Homemade Chocolate Syrup, but it really is just a quick passage that made me think.)

100_4990

To "rest in the Lord" is the perfection of inward activity.  In the ordinary reasoning of man it means sitting with folded arms and letting God do everything; in reality it is being so absolutely stayed on God that we are free to do the active work of men without fuss.  The times God works most wonderfully are the times we never think about it.  [Oswald Chambers:  If Thou Wilt Be Perfect]

100_4991

Here's the recipe! I got it from Dining on a Dime, which cited The Tightwad Gazette.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

100_7961Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cocoa, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla (optional, in my opinion)

Instructions

  1. Mix cocoa and water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa.
  2. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Boil 3 minutes. (Watch your pot!)
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in salt and vanilla.
  5. Store in refrigerator. It will supposedly keep several months, but mine is always consumed well before then. :-)

Yield: 2 cups

Shared at Simple Saturdays, Happiness is Homemade, Tasty Tuesdays, Tuesdays with a Twist.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  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, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my restful space to yours!

15 July 2016

Use Peppermint Essential Oil to Relieve Allergy Symptoms

100_7957I am a firm believer in essential oils and aromatherapy.  And peppermint essential oil is one of my favorites.  I diffuse it to promote alertness and clarity.  I use it in my homemade bug spray, and I swish it daily with my homemade mouthwash.

I've also read peppermint essential oil (links to where I get mine) is great for dealing with nausea or other digestive troubles.  Thankfully, I don't often have problems in that area.

Other generalized areas that one might find relief from with the use of peppermint essential oil is stress, headache, and eye strain.

And I can now personally attest to the notion that peppermint essential oil works in relieving allergy symptoms.

Something I haven't had to deal with much in the past is allergies.  But this year has been different.

Maybe it's because I'm another year older.  I've been told more than once allergies get worse with age.  Or maybe it's because I recently moved, and am now exposed to different types of pollen.  Or maybe it's because the woods are right outside my door – closer than they have ever been.

(Not kidding.  Here's a view of my warmer / diffuser sitting on a small table in front of my picture window…and the woods not far behind.)

100_7952

I don't know for sure why I am suffering more this year from allergy symptoms.  But the watery, grit filled eyes, the sometimes runny nose, and the scratchy throat with a slight headache are real.

I read a short article by Josh Axe at Rodale's Organic Life called 3 Essential Oils that Can Ease Your Allergies.  This quote is what prompted me to try diffusing peppermint essential oil to help with my allergy symptoms:

"For adults, inhaling diffused peppermint oil can immediately unclog the sinuses and offer relief to scratchy throats."

So I did just that.  And it worked.  My eyes felt clear, and my sinuses were unclogged.  My throat was not scratchy, and I had no headache.  This all with the diffuser approximately twelve feet away.

I can see the diffusing of peppermint essential oil becoming a regular occurrence in my home as long as I'm dealing with these allergy symptoms! If you suffer, too, you might want to give it a try.

Shared at From the Farm, Happiness is Homemade, and Simple Saturdays.

Obligatory disclaimers:  (1) I am not a doctor, and statements here have not been evaluated -- nor approved -- by the FDA. This post is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Please conduct your own research and make your own decisions regarding the use of essential oils.  (2) This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too! 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, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my pollen-filled mountaintop to yours!

14 July 2016

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits

100_7947I'm not a big fan of biscuits.

I know, I know.  How very un-Southern of me.

But it's true.  Now, I'm not saying I never eat them.  I can quite adequately tear down some biscuits slathered with an inch of sausage gravy.  Who couldn't?

And actually, that illustrates my point about my relationship with biscuits.  I usually find them to be dry.  Very dry.

Then I tried these biscuits – these easy, mix 'em up in one bowl, drop biscuits. Not dry at all.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits and More

I love my pastry cutter / blender to cut butter into a dry mixture.  You can also use a fork, or your hands.

100_7945

I was gifted a gallon of fresh off the no-pesticide vine blueberries about a week ago, so adding those plump bursts of juiciness into these biscuits was a must.

100_7949

Then I threw in a few chocolate chips.  I was first introduced to the combination of chocolate and blueberry when I made some fudgy blueberry brownies a couple of years ago.  Since I was a bit blown away by the flavor, I don't think the combination gets enough attention.

Give these jewels a try.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.  If you want to kick the sweetness up a notch – and eat these babies for dessert – try drizzling some honey over them.  O. M. G.

Blueberry Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits

100_5397Original recipe by Jennifer at Bake or Break.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a baking sheet. [Note: I baked these in a toaster oven!]
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. A pastry blender makes it super easy. You may also use a fork or your hands.
  3. Stir in the sour cream, then stir in the milk. Fold in blueberries and mini chocolate chips, trying not to break too many blueberries.
  4. Drop dough onto prepared baking sheet. Original recipe calls for "3 tablespoons (not quite 1/4 cup)" per biscuit. I used a flatware tablespoon, heavily mounded with dough. Pretty easy to eyeball.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes then check. You're looking for a light brown color and a biscuit that is firm to the touch. Try not to over bake. My little oven didn't require more than 22 minutes.

Yield: 1 dozen

Shared at This Is How We Roll, Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, Happiness is Homemade, Tasty Tuesdays, and Simple Saturdays.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  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, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my mountaintop to yours!

21 June 2016

Three-Cheese Baked Ziti with Homemade Alfredo Sauce

100_7480This is comfort food, y'all.  It's rich.  It's heavy.  It's creamy.  It's cheesy.  What more could you want?

The original recipe came from Southern Living's Dinner in a Dish.  It calls for a whole pound of pasta, and everything is baked in a 9-x13-inch pan (resulting in 8-10 servings).  I cut the amount of pasta in half, and baked all in a 7-x9-inch glass casserole dish.  So if you prefer more pasta than sauce, go the way of Southern Living.  My desired pasta-to-sauce ratio will always be heavy on the sauce side.

I'm not a big fan of grocery store Alfredo sauce.  Maybe I just haven't tasted the right brand.  Who knows? Well, I may never know since I found Dawn's recipe for Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce.  It is scrumptious.  And easy.  (I don't do anything "quick" in the kitchen, so can't vouch for that.) Dawn says, "The secret is cream cheese!" -- I believe her.

100_7481

A pot of water takes absolutely forever to boil on top of my RV gas stove, so I try to get that started first thing.  Then I make the Alfredo sauce.  After those two are done, I make the other filling and transfer all to the casserole dish.  Bake until things are bubbly and starting to brown on top.  Serve with a side salad and a thick slice of French or garlic (or both!) bread, and you have a satisfying meatless meal.

For the Alfredo sauce:  Melt a stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in a medium, non-stick saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese and 2 teaspoons garlic powder, stirring with wire whisk until smooth. Add 2 cups milk, a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps.  Stir in 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (I use the kind often found on the pasta aisle) and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I eyeball it; probably use more). Remove from heat when sauce reaches desired consistency (I usually let it thicken a bit).  Try not to drink it.

Three-Cheese Baked Ziti

100_7482Adapted from "Three-Cheese Baked Pasta" in Southern Living's Dinner in a Dish.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dried ziti pasta (penne or rigatoni could also be used)
  • a batch of Dawn's Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce (recipe above or here)
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 lg egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup dried parsley
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
  2. Stir sour cream into Alfredo sauce. Toss with pasta. Spoon half of pasta mixture into a lightly buttered 7-x9-inch casserole dish.
  3. Stir together ricotta cheese, beaten egg, grated Parmesan, and parsley. Spread evenly over pasta mixture in casserole dish.
  4. Spoon remaining pasta evenly over ricotta cheese layer. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set, bubbly, and starting to brown.

Yield: about 6 servings

Enjoy!

Shared at Making a Home Linky, This is How We Roll, Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, and Happiness is Homemade.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  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, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...