REBOOT: Moving Forward

You all have been wonderful hanging in there with me as I’ve slowly rebooted the blog. I started with a quick “hello” post, and then we caught up a bit. I wrote about what I read while I was away, and gave you a quick quilting update. Then, you all blessed me tremendously with your encouraging and gracious comments on my explanation post. Thank you so much. You really just are the best!

So, what can you expect from Copperswife moving forward?

I hope to continue to encourage you as you look well to the ways of your household, whether or not you’re home full time. We are truly blessed to be able to create art in our homes, no matter if they are tiny, studio apartments or grand mansions. Understanding that we have the ability to express our God given creativity, through our own individual tastes and skills, should bring us joy! I hope to spend more time focusing on the joy of making our homes and not so much on the lists of what needs to be done and when. How to’s and when to’s will still show up, but they’re not the focus. The focus is joyful homemaking.

pantry

Menu planning is super important. I learn more with each passing year how valuable menu planning can be, and I also find new ways to do it. Because not all methods of menu planning work for everyone, I’ll be sure to pass along good, new ideas and methods as I discover them. I hope to begin posting  some of my own recipes again, and I’ll certainly pass along great recipe links when I stumble across them.  I’ll post my own menu plan most weeks, too.

Long time readers know how important I believe it is that you are reading. My plan is to keep the lists of books that I’m currently reading up to date in the sidebar (you’ll have to click through to my site to see the sidebar), or you can find my Currently Reading list under the Books and Reading tab at the top of the homepage (again, you’ll have to click through to my site to see the tabs).

basketofbooks

Book reviews will continue, and I’ll try to be more consistent in posting them. I’ll warn you, though, I read rather eclectically. I will do my best to add a disclaimer if there is anything in a book that might be offensive, but that is sometimes hard to do. We all have our convictions and personal preferences about what we will or won’t read. Even when it comes to “Christian” books, there is a wide variety of doctrinal differences within the church, and what’s an encouraging read to one might not be for another. Please use discretion before reading any book that I recommend. I’m always happy to answer your specific questions about a book in a private conversation. Just shoot me an email by using the link in the sidebar.

In recent years, I’ve moved away from reviewing homeschool curriculum, and from recommending books, products, and services that might be helpful to those of you who homeschool. I’m happy to say that I hope to begin writing more homeschool articles. I’ve been teaching my own children at home since 1989,  and I’ve learned a thing or two or three in that quarter century, or so! And I’m still learning!

baguette

Learning! We should pledge, for our own good and for the good of our families, to be life-long learners. I’m not talking about going back to school, though that would be great, too! I’m talking about not letting age, the lack of money, or the lack of time, keep us from learning something that we want to learn. Maybe you want to learn a foreign language, to play an instrument, or maybe know just a little bit more about American history. Maybe you want to learn to bake really great, crusty baguettes (that’s on my current list of things to learn). Maybe you want to learn to sew, or knit, or quilt, or embroider. I can’t teach all of that to you, but I can share with you resources that are available for learning most anything you want to learn. I can also tell you the ways that I continue to educate myself, and, hopefully, that will inspire you to look for creative ways to learn what you want to know.

I’m bringing back the library builder posts, too. It’s been a long time since I posted the last of those, but I want to encourage you to build a home library, even if your space is limited. Watch for those occasionally.

grandbabiesonbuggy

 

From time to time, I’ll let you in on what my family is up to. However, both of my married daughters are fairly private, and both are zealously concerned for the safety of their children. I love my grandbabies, all eight of them. I love their names, too, but out of respect for my daughters, you will not read those names here or on the Copperswife Facebook page.

willredhair

Aaron is a grown man, and Will is a sophomore in high school. When they were younger, I was able to write more freely about their lives. I want to be especially careful, these days, about sharing any struggles Will  might have. I’ll only do so with his permission, and then only if it might helpful to others. Besides, how else will you be able to keep up with what color his hair is? (It’s currently a really nice golden blonde.)

And because it’s such a huge part of what’s going on with me, personally, right now, I’ll be writing occasionally about my weight loss and fitness journey.

copperandbaby

I’m hoping to post three times a week, but it might be less, or not at all, and then I might post more than that on occasion. I’ve not mentioned my priorities for quite some time, but here they are – in order: My relationship with the Lord, my family, my home, my church/my ministry, everything else. We’re all active in service at our church. Will keeps me in the car a lot! He is taking a couple of outside classes for school this year, and he’s busy with youth group at church.  There’s also that matter of a brand new grandbaby. So, if I don’t show up in this space as often as I’d like, you know why!

Looking forward to seeing you right here again soon! Until then, God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household.

 

 

 

REBOOT: Why the Blog Went Cold and Why It’s Warming Up Again

At the beginning of this little REBOOT series, I promised that I’d try to explain why the blog went cold, or dark, for so long. Here’s what I said then.

“I’ll be posting an explanation of why the blog went cold and, frankly, why it’s been so hard to write for the last few years. There’s a lot of raw emotion caught up in that, but it needs to be said. I want you to know….you need to know….. how big grace really is.”

 

copperonbeach

(If you click on the links below, and then make a purchase, some of them will be affiliate links that may put a few pennies into my pocket. Of course, there is no additional cost to you. I am always grateful to those of you who choose to bless me this way. You can read about how I spend those pennies, and more about how I earn them, in my disclosure policy.)

I have prayed and pondered and struggled and pondered and prayed some more over writing this post. It would be super easy for me to yield to my flesh and just spew out all of the hurtful things that were said, and done, that caused me to back away from any sort of online presence. But I’m not going to do that. In fact, I’m going to purposely avoid any sort of finger pointing or blame shifting. Instead, I will simply confess that the blog went cold because I bowed to the fear of man, rather than pursuing the will of God in my life. It really is just that simple.

rockybeach

But you know what? Realizing that, and then understanding that God still opens his arms to this wayward child, is how amazing and big grace really is!

His grace is bigger than my failing.

His grace is bigger than my fears.

His grace is sufficient to heal the hurts caused by others and to truly know in my heart that I love them and forgive them.

His grace means that I can be free from taking offense at the speech or actions of others.

standingwaterfromtrain

Though I’ve not finished it yet, John Bevere’s The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offensehas given me a lot to chew on. (I totally dislike the title of this book. The subtitle is a much better fit, though I guess it’s not quite as catchy.) My friend, Sheri, of Meaningful Home Life, recommended this book just as I was starting this REBOOT series, and it’s been very helpful to me.

Here’s a quote that I highlighted early in the book,

“If you stay free from offense you will stay in God’s will. If you become offended you will be taken captive by the enemy to fulfill his own purpose and will. Take your pick. It is much more beneficial to stay free from offense. – John Bevere”

His words are pretty strong, and they may cause you to cringe a bit. I cringed! Though the words are harsh, I think they bear a lot of truth. And if I’m being honest, I have to say that living free from constant offense is a whole lot more fun than allowing every little, or BIG, thing to offend.

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So. This is certainly not the explanation that I intended to write once upon a time, but it’s the explanation that I can write with a clear conscience, knowing that what is past, is past, and that grace……God’s amazing grace…….allows me, and you, to pick right up where we left off, as though we’d never missed a beat. There is freedom and peace and great joy in that!

All photos are from the “lost coast” in Northern California, taken in August, 2014.

 

Menu Planning Happens Differently Now

My household dynamics are much different these days than they were a year ago. My husband is retired, but he’s currently working almost full time as an “on call” deputy sheriff. Aaron works at least forty hours a week, but with his almost hour-long commute, he’s gone from home from 2:00 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning. Will is very busy with youth group, a couple of classes outside our home, and working now and again for neighbors. Though I can eat whatever I’d like, my Weight Watcher’s program sometimes means that I choose to eat something other than what I’m preparing for the rest of  the family. With all of these changes in my home, I’ve had to radically adapt my meal planning to accommodate the needs of my family.

(If you click on the links below, and then make a purchase, some of them will be affiliate links that may put a few pennies into my pocket. Of course, there is no additional cost to you. I am always grateful to those of you who choose to bless me this way. You can read about how I spend those pennies, and more about how I earn them, in my disclosure policy.)

I used to plan out breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone. These days, I keep the breakfast planning to a minimum, though I do bake muffins to leave out for the guys to have for breakfast or snacks, and a couple of times a week, I’ll try to make a hot breakfast for whoever is home that day. Lunches tend to be staggered for everyone, so I keep a good supply of good lunch meat, sliced cheese, canned soups, tortillas, and even a few frozen burritos on hand, to keep the selection varied.

Though there may be only two or three of us here, I still cook dinner for all four of us. Aaron’s dinner is put into a Pyrex container and popped into the fridge for him to take to work and reheat for lunch the next day. We will, quite often, also have the last evening’s left overs for lunch the next day.

I still prefer to menu plan and cook using the deep freezer/deep pantry method. It’s a method that has served me well for many years. I’m able to restock my freezer and shelves when prices are good, and I know that I can “shop” my freezer and pantry when I plan the meals for the week.

Here’s our dinner plan for the week, along with a couple of notes about what we’re up to for the week.

MONDAY:  Double Decker Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Fresh Fruit   (Copper will be working, and Will and I will be meeting our extended family at the beautiful Veteran’s Cemetery where my father-in-love is buried. A big bunch of us will be having a big meal together in the afternoon, so a quick-to-fix dinner is just the thing. I’ll probably not be hungry, but Will is always hungry and Copper will be, too. There will probably be leftovers for lunch the next day.)

TUESDAY:  Bubbly & Golden Mexican Beef Cobbler, Southwest Chopped Salad  (I have a meeting at 4:30, Will needs to catch his ride to his German class by 5:15, and I’m not sure what time Copper will be home from work. I’ll pop the Mexican Cobbler into the oven and make the salad early so Will can eat before class, and I’ll reheat some for myself and Copper after my meeting. There will definitely be some left over for lunch the next day.)

WEDNESDAY: Coconut Chicken with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce, My Chicken Rice, and a fresh Spinach Salad.  (Copper works, but I’ll be home and no one has to leave for the evening. Yay!)

THURSDAY: Crockpot Hawaiian BBQ Chicken over Brown Rice*, Green Salad.  (Thursdays are crazy. I take Will and a friend to Biology Class in a city almost an hour away. We dash back home in time for lunch, and then (hopefully) Corin and her seven beautiful kids come out for the afternoon. My oldest grandson stays here to have dinner with us and then Copper drops both boys off at church for youth group, and then goes to his men’s core group meeting. Putting frozen chicken into the crockpot in the morning, and then being able to pull dinner together in just a few minutes in the evening, makes even our crazy Thursdays doable!)

FRIDAY: Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Night Stew and Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes. (I know that Ree says that her stew must be made on Sunday, but this week, Friday night seemed like the perfect night for stick to your ribs, rich, delicious, spent-some-time-to-make-it food. I’ve not made this before, but I’m guessing there will be leftovers for lunch, or for a second dinner to tuck into the freezer for Aaron.)

SATURDAY: Stroganoff Meatballs, Noodles, Green Beans (I’ve not made these in a  long time! My family loves them. I love them. Not sure why they’ve not been made in awhile. I’m going to make at least a double batch, maybe triple, and package them up for the freezer for another dinner or two down the road.)

SUNDAY: Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta (As I type this on Sunday afternoon, it’s sunny and 78°. The seven day forecast, however, is calling for a high of 66° by next Sunday. If they’re right, a big pot of hearty Minestrone will be just the thing! I’m hoping for leftovers for lunch on Monday.)

*The brown rice is already cooked and in the freezer, ready to be microwaved and ready in just minutes. Watch for a post soon on how I use a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to fill my freezer with main dishes, baked goods and other good things.

Check out this week’s Menu Plan Monday for more great menu planning ideas.

What’s on the menu at your house this week?

 

REBOOT: A Quilting Quickie

I finished the quilt for Grandbaby #2 in May. It’s bright and cheerful, just like the boy it was made for.

Fiestaquiltkid

I took the quilt to church with me one Sunday morning and gave it to him after service. I think he liked it! We took a few more photos at lunch.

 

fiestaquiltkid2

 

fiestaquiltkid3

Man! I love this kid!

I machine quilted his quilt by simply stitching in the ditch in and around the nine patch blocks. I used a template to mark the centers of the solid blocks with various sizes and numbers of stars and then I machine quilted those. I pieced together scraps from the solid blocks for the scrappy binding. The solids are all Kona Cottons by Robert Kaufman, and the rest of the fabrics are assorted stripes and polka dots from various, quilt quality fabric makers.

 

fiestaquiltbackWhen I saw this fabric, I knew it was perfect for the back of his Fiesta Quilt.

I have several other quilts or  quilt projects in various stages of completion, and I’ve had no time to sit at my machine for weeks! I’m itching to get in there and sew, but my quilting plans are plans that I’ve always had to hold loosely.

 

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The flimsy for Grandbaby #3’s quilt is done, but it needs to be sandwiched, marked, and quilted. Lots of pink and butterflies for her!

 

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The fabric for Grandbaby #4’s quilt is purchased. That girlie loves purple!

 

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I’ve cut all of the charm squares into tumblers, lined them up into rows, and stitched the first couple of rows, but that’s where it came to a halt weeks ago.  This fabric is Lovely by Debbie Beaves for RJR Fabrics.

 

red&bluerunner

I also started a red and aqua table runner for the kitchen table. I love this vintage look fabric. The line is Twice as Nice by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake.

 

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And then there’s the quilt for Grandbaby #8, Dani’s first baby! It’s a boy! I’ve no illusions about having his quilt ready before he’s born in just a few, short weeks, but hopefully I’ll have it for him before spring.  Dani picked this super cool, retro fabric, and I love it! The line is Rocket Age, by October Afternoon for Riley Blake.

I’m hoping to get back to my machine soon. This fabric is calling to me, and I’ve got a bunch of grandkids, and four kids, to make quilts for! Still holding those quilting plans loosely.

 

REBOOT: What I’ve Been Reading

Time for reading slowed considerably for me this last year. It didn’t stop entirely, though, and I’ve read quite a bit since early summer.

You know, of course, how important I believe it is that you, and I, spend some time reading. These wise words echo often in my mind:

“Read, read, read! Use the Bible as your home base, but vary your diet. I usually have several books going at once, tucked around here and there for easy access.” ~Ruth Bell Graham~

Spending time in God’s word is, of course, vital for us; but reading, and reading widely, is also good. When Paul was imprisoned he asked Timothy to bring him not only the Scriptures, but also his beloved books.

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, ALSO THE BOOKS, and above all the parchments.”
(added emphasis mine)
2 Tim. 4:13

(Please remember, if you click on the links below, and then make a purchase, some of them may put a few pennies into my pocket. Of course, there is no additional cost to you. I am always grateful to those of you who choose to bless me this way. You can read about how I spend those pennies, and more about how I earn them, in my disclosure policy.)

I’ve not read nearly as many books these last few years as I would have liked, but the pace has recently picked up. For that I am very grateful! Here’s a quick look at the books I’ve read recently, with just a quick recommendation of each.

 

I was quite a ways behind the crowd in reading Emily Freeman’s wonderful A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. It’s pretty normal for me to arrive late to the party where new books are concerned. Here’s the deal, though. God always, always has perfect timing. I read this book while Copper and I were away for our annual anniversary get away to the coast this summer. I had gobs of quiet time,  with only the sound of the waves crashing over the rocks, to read and ponder before reading and pondering some more. I loved this book! No matter who you are, or what you do, you are an artist! Remember what I said about homemaking as art? Emily’s approach is kind and encouraging, with plenty of gentle reminders to put away the voices of the naysayers and to live out the art form that God has given uniquely to you.

I’ve found Eric Metaxas to be an interesting writer. In the past, I’ve found his writing style difficult to digest, though I’ve enjoyed every book of his that I’ve read. In Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, however, I thought his unique style was perfect for this biography of William Wilberforce and, specifically, his almost life long war against slavery. The book is never graphic, but the subject matter will make it a heavy read for some. Wilberforce was a champion in the fight against slavery, and a dynamic Christian man. This was a great read.

Haywood Smith’s The Twelve Sacred Traditions of Magnificent Mothers-In-Law was a fun, quick little read that lived on my Kindle for quite awhile. It was the perfect book to open while waiting for a short time at the orthodontist’s office or for my son to finish his piano lesson. Each of Haywood’s twelve traditions is given in a short, light-hearted chapter that will make you smile (or even giggle a little), but there is wisdom there, too. Fun reading!

Looking for a good romantic drama set in 1950’s – 1960’s Ireland? Me either, but Maeve Binchy’s Echoes was a wonderful surprise! It’s not all romance. There is intrigue and scandal and a lot of reflection about life in a small, Irish coastal town just a few decades ago. I loved her characters and this story.

I’ve read Creating a SenseSational Home countless times over the years, but every reading inspires me anew to remember to appeal to all five senses as I look well to the ways of my home. Too many times we concentrate only on how our homes look, but we forget to make sure that they smell nice, have pleasing sounds in and around them, and that we fill our homes with things that are pleasing to the touch and to the palette. Though the book is quite old, very little of its content is dated, and you can score a copy, as of this writing, for as little as a penny.

I didn’t see the movie, but I enjoyed the book! The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of a boy, the son of a restaurant owner in Bombay,  who becomes a famous French chef. The story is filled with colorful characters and lots of culinary details.

I discovered this book when Lori Holt, whose quilting blog I follow, mentioned that she was listening to the audiobook version as she worked. I checked it out on Amazon, thought it looked good, and ordered a print copy late in the summer. Whistling Past the Graveyard is a charming, often intense, and a couple of times downright frightening, story of a young girl who leaves the home of her not-so-loving grandmother in search of the mother who left her years earlier. It’s set in the deep south of the early 1960’s, and reminded me,  just a bit, of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I liked this one a lot.

I gather book recommendations from all sorts of places. Reviews in magazines, fellow bloggers, Amazon recommendations, friends, and, quite often, the notes for the quotations given in a book, are just a few of the ways I find the books I read. When a friend recommends a book, though, I usually make it a priority to read that book as soon as I can. If she mentions a book, or series, repeatedly, then I really pay attention.

Christian fiction has never really been my thing. I usually find it wanting in either substance or writing quality. So, I was surprised when my friend, and fabulous author, Kendra Fletcher, mentioned The Reluctant Prophet series to me on more than one occasion. I bought the first book, The Reluctant Prophet, by Nancy Rue, in mid-July, intending to take it with me to the beach in August. The book never made it to the beach.

Less than two weeks later, I bought Unexpected Dismounts, the second book in the trilogy.

Then, just six days later, I ordered the final book, Too Far to Say Far Enough. I’m not sure what to tell you about this series. It wasn’t so much the story line, but that was really good. It wasn’t just the characters, though they were amazing and I loved all the heroes and heroines, and despised all the villains. It wasn’t even the amazing way that the gospel was unfolded and presented at every turn without coming across as phony or forced into the story.

The thing about this series that is so amazing to me, is what it awakened in me as I read it and the way those ideas and thoughts have continued to spin in my mind ever since. What does it really mean to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, visit those who are in prison, and invite in those who are strangers? (Matthew 25) Those thoughts have haunted me, and inspired me, and given me a lot to ponder since reading the books, in rapid succession, just a couple of months or so ago.

I think that’s it! I’m fairly certain that’s a complete list of the books I’ve read since I last checked in, book-wise. I have book marks moving along in several more books right now, and you can see those here (give them a couple of seconds to load), or in the widget in the right sidebar you can see if you click through to my site.

Until next time, God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!

 

REBOOT: Let’s Catch Up

You know, in many ways, these last couple of years have been a very hard season; but it’s all been wonderful and good and I am blessed by all of it. In the course of about three months time, Dani got married and moved an hour or so away, Aaron graduated from high school and started working a full time job, and Copper retired. Those were three BIG changes and they all happened at once. It was all wonderful and joy filled and good, and God blessed us mightily in all of it. But it was a lot of change in my home, and that change, no matter how good, left some chaos in its wake.

All at once my two biggest helpers, and errand runners, were gone. My husband was home more, but he had his own agenda of long awaited projects to get to. The house was way too quiet, and the lists of chores way too long. My time to spend online was severely limited, so not much was written in this space for the last couple of years. That’s not the whole of the reason why this space has been so quiet, and I’ll share more, by way of explanation soon. In the meantime, here’s what’s happening.

I’ll apologize, right here at the beginning, for all of the photos and the length of this post. I wanted to catch up in one fell swoop – so here goes!

copperresting

Though he’s retired, Copper doesn’t spend a lot of time resting! In fact, he’s working as an “on call” deputy several hours each week. He has several goals for that extra income and we are blessed by his ability to provide for extra stuff this way.

 

grandbabiesonbuggy

Corin, her husband, and their seven kids are all swell. The kids are growing up so fast, and the “baby” is two, which sort of takes away his “baby” status. They are 12, 11, 9, 7, 5, 4, and 2! Between their homeschool schedule and ours, we don’t see them every Thursday like we used to, but I do see them most Sundays.

cutedani

Dani is doing great, and she’s the cutest pregnant person I know! Baby boy, my eighth grandchild, is due toward the end of November, and we’re all super excited to meet him. Eight grandbabies! I have EIGHT grandbabies! I am so so so blessed!

azaleas

After sixteen years on this piece of property, we finally decided to put in a real backyard. We dug out all of our long-unplanted flower  beds, mixed in lots of good compost and rich soil, and then filled them with plants. I love that the back of our schoolroom is now planted with azaleas and hydrangeas. Next spring and summer, this bed should be glorious.

dixiebackyard

Dixie helped, of course. Our sweet, old dog is ten years old now. She may be gray, but there’s still a lot of life left in the old girl. Kinda like me!

sprinkleronbegonias

Copper trenched and laid sprinkler and drip lines for all of the flower beds, and he put them all on timers. It makes me smile to look out early in the morning and see the sprinklers working. After sixteen years of dragging hoses, this is a huge blessing!

 

lightsintree

I have a lot of solar lights around the backyard, but we hung a few strands of electric lights in the big tree. We call it our “hobbit party tree”! It’s been nice swimming, or just sitting out and reading, with the lights on after dark.

willonladder

willsweeps

Will helped a lot with the backyard. It took all six feet and two inches of him, at the top of a ladder, to hang those lights in the tree for me; and he did a fabulous job helping clean up the patio after we filled and planted the flower beds. Gosh, those plants have grown a lot since these pictures were taken!

goodunclewill

He’s such a fun kid! At a recent birthday party, he had three nieces and one nephew all hanging onto him as he made his way through Corin’s living room. They love him, and he loves them right back. And yes, his hair was super bright red earlier this summer, and then it was bright blue.

willatlunch

These days it’s mostly his natural brown, with light blue highlights still hanging on.

aaronisserious

And then there’s Aaron. He’s being goofy here, with Will, as he’s packing his lunchbox/ice chest for work. Aaron works swing shifts, and he has an almost hour long commute to work. He leaves the house in the early afternoon, and doesn’t get home until the wee hours of the morning.

Aaronthinks

 

Aaronlaughs

Aaron’s following his dream, one he’s had since he was about four years old. More details will follow as his plans are confirmed. I’m so proud of him I could burst!

mynikeapp

This is a screen shot of the Nike App on my phone. It lies. I don’t “run” anywhere, but for the last several months, since early summer, I’ve been walking several days each week. I really only have an hour, most days, to walk, but my pace and distance have increased significantly since I first started. That walking, along with joining Weight Watchers, has helped me to lose thirty pounds as of this week. I’ve a lot more to go, but I’m well on my way. I already have less joint pain and a lot more energy.

I’m planning a brief(ish) post on books and quilting and such next, and then we’ll be all caught up and ready to move on.

Thanks so much for your sweet comments on the last post and on the Facebook page. I post on Instagram and Twitter, too, throughout the week, so you can follow along there, too, if you’d like.

REBOOT: Saying Hello

Reboot is kind of a cool word, one that didn’t even exist until the computer age. It’s a good word, though, and one that I think works well as I get back into the swing of things here.

REBOOT: restart or revive, give fresh impetus to

REBOOThell02

In the days ahead, I’ll try to catch you up on what’s been going on here in my home and with my family. I’m planning a separate post to catch up on books, quilting and knitting. And I’ll finish up this little “REBOOT” series with my plans for Copperswife moving forward.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I’ll be posting an explanation of why the blog went cold and, frankly, why it’s been so hard to write for the last few years. There’s a lot of raw emotion caught up in that, but it needs to be said. I want you to know….you need to know….. how big grace really is.

REBOOThello3

I can’t promise a time frame. My home internet connection is still painfully slow, and I may have to upload photos when I’m in town, but I’m not letting the s – l – o – w Internet speed completely thwart me anymore.

So, hello! It’s good to see you again!

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Quilt…..

My grandson’s quilt has been put on hold, but only temporarily.

(If you click on the links below, and then make a purchase, some of them may put a few pennies into my pocket. Of course, there is no additional cost to you. I am always grateful to those of you who choose to bless me this way. You can read about how I spend those pennies, and more about how I earn them, in my disclosure policy.)

I am, more or less, a self-taught quilter. I have a very dear friend, though I’ve never met her in real life, who has encouraged and coached and answered hundreds of my newbie quilting questions all via email or private message. Without her, I’d have never gotten started. A few weeks ago, though, I signed up for three beginning quilting classes at the quilt shop in the nearby city. One class is three sessions long, and the other two are just single sessions. The goal, of course, is to improve my piecing, cutting, assembly and quilting skills so that I can do a better job on the quilts I have planned. I have an ongoing goal, as most of you know, to be a life-long learner, and quilting is one of the things that I’d love to learn to do well.

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It’s been a bit of a mixed bag, so far, with the three session class. A mix-up on the instructor’s supply list caused me to be woefully short of fabric after the first class. I ordered more fabric, but now I have two class sessions worth of homework to finish before next Monday. I love the class quilt, and I really love the fabric I chose for the quilt. The fabric is the Sweet Pea Collection from Kansas Troubles Quilters.

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The colors in this line really appealed to me, as do most of the prints. The quilt is made up of 35 four-patch blocks. I have twenty-one completed so far, and will be sewing like crazy for the next few days to complete all of the four patch blocks, combine all of those for the quilt center, and then begin the appliqué that makes the quilt special. I’m in a bit over my head, at this point, but I’m determined to finish well.

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Knitting has taken a bit of a backseat, as well. I finished the first sock during the Winter Olympics, and have knit just a few rows past the ribbing of the second sock during Will’s baseball practices. I take my knitting to the park most every practice, but I get so distracted watching the team, not much knitting gets done. Maybe these washable wool socks will be finished before next fall!

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All of the same books are still in my stack, but I’m making great headway in Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. Until now, I’ve not been a huge fan of this author’s writing style, though the content of his books keeps me reading and coming back for more. Amazing Grace, however, has been an interesting, albeit a hard, read. In this instance, Eric Metaxas does a tremendous job of pulling his readers into the passion that William Wilberforce had for the abolition of the British slave trade, and exposing its true horrors.

Expressing our creativity is important for all of us, and we, as makers of our homes, are artists. I also think that it’s vital that we all have at least one book that we’re reading at any given time. What are you creating right now? What book, or books, are you enjoying?

 

Using Evernote As Your Recipe Box

Evernote is a great way to keep track of all of your recipes. In fact, Evernote is now my primary recipe box. It’s the one app I use all day, almost every day.  Here are some suggestions for you so that you can get started using Evernote for your own recipes.

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(If you click on the links below, and then make a purchase, some of them may put a few pennies into my pocket. Of course, there is no additional cost to you. I am always grateful to those of you who choose to bless me this way. You can read about how I spend those pennies, and more about how I earn them, in my disclosure policy.)

Before we add that first recipe, you’ll want to decide how you want to use your Evernote account …notebooks, notebook stacks, or just tagging everything.  I started out with notebooks, and then built stacks, and then I discovered the wonders of tagging.  (Stacks are a just a group of notebooks that you can lump together under a common title.)  I now use a combination of notebooks and tagging, and I’m constantly adding tags to old notes that don’t have them. 

I want you to set up your recipes in Evernote in a way that makes sense to you. You might just want to add all of your recipes into one “Recipe” folder. If you choose this method, be sure to add plenty of tags to each recipe so that you can find it later. You can also choose to set up separate notebooks for each category of recipe – main dishes, desserts, etc.

Recipe Box stack

In the picture above, you can see my “Recipe Box” stack, with all of the notebooks contained in that stack listed immediately underneath. I have my Chicken Main Dishes notebook open. Again, you set up Evernote in the way that will work best for you.

Evernote Tip: Remember, to set up all new notebooks as “Synchronized” notebooks, so that you can access them on all of your devices, or on any computer with an Internet connection.

There are several ways that you can now begin adding your recipes to Evernote. Today, I’ll give you two basic methods, and we’ll cover other methods next time.

 

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First, you can add a recipe by typing it in as a new note. Open the notebook that you’d like to hold the recipe, then click “New Note” at the top. Title your note with the recipe’s name, and start typing. Easy! In the photo above, I have my Breakfast notebook open, and the arrow is pointing to “New Note in Breakfast”.

 

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Once I click that box, a new note will open and I can begin typing in my new breakfast recipe.  Add the title of the recipe in the title box, and then just type in your recipe the same way that you’d write the recipe out on a recipe card.

 

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You want to be sure to add tags to all of your recipes. Tagging them really gives you access to one of the most valuable features of Evernote – the ability to search for a recipe even if you don’t know what it’s called or what notebook it’s in. Tags are your very best friend in Evernote. Use them! If you’re not sure if you should add a particular tag or not, go ahead and add it. You’ll never regret having too many tags. To add tags to your recipe, or to any note, click the “Click to add tags” button.

 

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Now you can add all the tags you’d like. Evernote will save your tags, and once you’ve used a tag once, it will start popping up for you so that you don’t have to type it all the way out. You can just click it to add it.  In the photo above, I’ve tagged this recipe with “breakfast” “coffee cake” and “Pioneer Woman”.

If this were a main dish recipe, I’d include the meat used as a tag (beef, ground beef, chicken, pork, meatless, etc.).  If it’s a recipe that feeds a crowd, I include a tag for that, too. If the recipe can be cooked in a slow cooker, I tag it with “crockpot”. If the recipe can be frozen and served later, I tag it with “freezer” or “freezer meal”. Make the tags your own. You want to be able to find your recipes, and the best way to do that is to tag them with words that make sense to you.

If you’ve forgotten some of the tags you’ve used, don’t despair. Evernote remembers them for you.

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You can scroll down to the little “tags” icon on the left sidebar. If you click that icon, a page will open with all of the tags that you’ve ever used.

-OR-

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You can also open up that same page of tags by clicking “view” at the top of your screen, and then clicking “tags” from the drop down menu.

 

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Second, you can email recipes right into your Evernote account. Evernote set up a private Evernote email address for you when you set up your account. To find that address, open up your account information. You can do that by finding the little drop down arrow next to your name at the top of your screen (see the photo above), and then clicking the arrow for the drop down menu.  You’ll then see  “Account Info”. Click “Account Info”.

 

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When your account information window opens up, you will see a line that says “email notes to” and your private Evernote email address will be given there. Evernote will automatically save any notes you email to your account directly into your Default Notebook. You can forward emails that contain recipes into your Evernote account, or you could even share your Evernote email address with a friend who is sending you a recipe. Another fun thing is to use your phone to take a good, sharp picture of a friend’s recipe card and then email that to your Evernote account.

EVERNOTE TIP: Add your Evernote email address to your contacts list on your computer and your phone. That way, you can send pictures, notes, and all sorts of information directly to your Evernote account no matter where you are. Take a photo with your phone, or type in a quick note, and email it to Evernote! Nothing could be easier.

There you have it – two ways that you can begin, right now, to add your recipes to Evernote. The first method is the one that I’m using to get most of the recipes from all of my old recipe boxes and binders into Evernote. I’m adding a few a week, as I have time or as I pull them out to use them. Slowly but surely, I’m getting all of them saved into Evernote.

Next time, hopefully sometime toward the middle of next week, I’ll share with you how I save recipes, and all sorts of other great stuff, from all over the Internet to Evernote. It’s fun,  it’s easy, and it’s a great way to keep and organize all of those recipes you want to try.

You’ll find all of the posts in my Paperless Homemaking Series here.

 

 

America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Review

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a general, all-purpose cookbook that I’ve absolutely loved. That long wait makes this find all the sweeter!

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(If you click on the links below, and then make a purchase, some of them may put a few pennies into my pocket. Of course, there is no additional cost to you. I am always grateful to those of you who choose to bless me this way. You can read about how I spend those pennies, and more about how I earn them, in my disclosure policy.)

I really can’t take any credit for discovering this cookbook. Last fall, while my kitchen was being remodeled, I asked several folks, who enjoy  cooking and baking as much as I do, to share some of their favorite cookbooks and/or cooking resources with me. I had several great responses, and I’ll be checking out all of them in the coming months.  However, my daughter, Dani, said that she loved The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook,  and I chose her recommendation as my first purchase.

In the last few months, I’ve prepared dozens of recipes, from almost every section of the cookbook. The recipes have all been delicious, family friendly, and, best of all, completely made from scratch. You won’t find any prepackaged mixes or overly processed ingredients in these recipes! Where canned, or frozen, ingredients are used, the editors of the cookbook are careful to tell you just why that is the best choice for the dish you are preparing.

That “why” is a good portion of the reason why I love this cookbook so much. Learning why something works, goes a long way toward making you a better cook. I’ve learned several techniques that I’ll use beyond the recipes in this cookbook. A few examples are: how to keep breaded, pan-fried meats crispy during and after frying; proper herb mincing technique and which knife to use for the job; and how to keep the pasta or vegetables in a long simmering soup from becoming mush.  An old dog really can learn a new trick or two! It’s important, to me, to not just keep doing things the same way I’ve always done them when there may very well be a better way to do it. I plan to be a life-long learner, and cooking is a good place to keep that spirit alive.

The recipes all have terrific, step-by-step instructions that make preparing a new dish easy. Quite often, there are clear photographs to go along with the instructions. Not sure if the white bread and buttermilk mixture you’re making for the Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs is quite the right consistency? Just look at the picture!

 

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There are lots and lots of helpful tips about ingredients, techniques and equipment scattered throughout the cookbook. There’s almost one on every page.

 

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I also appreciate the special sections that help you figure out which cut of meat, or piece of fish, can be used in place of the cut called for in a recipe.

This particular edition of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook contains a  thirty-two page guide to kitchen cookware and equipment, which covers everything from measuring tools, to pots and pans, skillets, mixers, bakeware and even grilling gear. That’s all followed by a fifteen page buying guide which will help you select the best bets for new, or replacement equipment for your kitchen. They even share their favorite plastic wrap with you!

 

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Most of us can’t afford to buy all new kitchen equipment all at once, but it’s nice, when it’s time to purchase a new skillet, small appliance, or even a whisk, to know which are the best on the market, and which are the best buy. I was recently in the market for a good quality baking stoneto use for pizza and rustic breads. It was great to see that America’s Test Kitchen recommended the the very stonethat I’ve had my eye on. By the way – even though this cookbook, which was published in 2010, has fairly current pricing information, be sure to check around. The baking stoneI bought retails most places, and is listed in the buying guide, for $54.95; but I purchased it from Amazon for $40.22.

 

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There are also product tests and recommendations scattered throughout the cookbook. I like that even though the folks at America’s Test Kitchen might prefer the super expensive Le Creuset, they let you know that there’s also a more reasonably priced alternative.

I was also pleased to see that a good number of the recipes have a “make ahead” note (see the photo above), letting you know how to use your time more efficiently by prepping a dish hours, or even days, ahead of time, and how to safely keep it until you’re ready to finish the dish to serve.

While I’ve not found any printing errors, Dani alerted me to the fact that the double crust pie recipe triples the fat from the single pie crust recipe, rather than simply doubling it. I have no way of knowing if this was an error that the editors missed, or if the published double crust pie recipe is just the way they make it. I followed Dani’s lead, though, and just doubled the single crust pie recipe and it turned out beautifully.

The recipes include fairly accurate serving, prep and cooking times, which I find very helpful when planning my meals. I did notice that my “prep” times tended to run longer than those listed by America’s Test Kitchen, but I’ve gained speed as I’ve become more familiar with, and gained confidence in, the new-to-me techniques. My prep times are now pretty consistent with those listed.

 

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The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook contains hundreds of recipes that will provide years of wonderful cooking experiences for your family. There are great family recipes, as well as wonderful company dishes. This particular edition,with the Cookware and Buying Guides, would make a terrific wedding or bridal shower gift, too. I love this cookbook. It will have a permanent place in my kitchen for years to come.