Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our Daily Bread

One of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to being married is only cooking for two people. At home, I would cook for 5 – myself, my parents, my brother and sister. In college, I would cook for a bare minimum of 3, but we had so many friends in and out of our apartment that left-overs never lasted more than a couple hours. If I didn’t feel up to cooking, someone else would step in, and if they didn’t, the local pizza place offered $5 pizzas ready when you walked in to pick it up. No planning was required.

Well, life isn’t like that anymore. I’ve had to adjust to cooking for two; one of whom (myself) has never liked left-overs and refuses to eat them if it can be avoided. Shaune’s a good sport and usually takes last night’s dinner for lunch to the office, but we still seem to have more food than we can handle. I’ve tried halving recipes or freezing some for later, various things that all seem to work at least sometimes. But one of the things I’ve practically given up on is fresh, hot, wonderful, homemade bread.

Until now!

Last weekend I was perusing my various cookbooks for ideas and came across one for “Refrigerator Bread.” It is dough that you can mix up and leave in the fridge until you need it. In fact, it has to rise for at least 24 hours. So, I made up a batch on Sunday, then packed it into four separate containers. Each has enough dough for 6-8 rolls. Monday night I pulled out the first container – we had friends coming over for dinner and hot rolls were on the menu. Although the dough was very sticky, they turned out PERFECT! I gave one of the packs to our friends who came over. We cooked up some tonight to use as hamburger buns. We’ve got one left for fresh bread later in the week.

I think I’ve finally come up with a system for our small, bread-loving family. I can have fresh bread in less than an hour – ½ to rise, ½ to cook. I can satisfy my carb-tooth whenever I want. I think I’ll be making a batch of dough most weekends from here on out!

I wanted to share the recipe if anyone’s interested:
  • 3/4 c hot water
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt (I used much less without any ill effects)
  • 1/4 c shortening (I used margarine)

Combine so sugar and shortening can melt. Let cool til lukewarm then add:

  • 1 c warm water
  • 2 packs Active Dry Yeast (I buy yeast by the pound and used about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 1/4 c flour, give or take

Beat until smooth. Dough remains soft and sticky. Place into greased bowl and cover with waxed paper/plastic wrap/lid. Store in refrigerator until doubled, or until needed up to 1 week. To bake, shape as desired. Allow to rise until doubled and bake at 375 until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Makes about 32 rolls.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Only Hair

Today we made one more step towards independence -- I'm excited! It's a tiny step in the grand scheme of life, but may be a big one in the long run.

I woke up this morning and realized that my husband's hair is absolutely shabby. It was time for a haircut. Shaune refuses (with my complete understanding) to not go to a Great-Clips type place or the beauty school... only an authentic barber shop will do. Unfortunately, all the local barber shops charge between $14 and $18 a cut before tip. That doesn't fit into our budget the every 3 weeks or so that he needs it. Usually we stretch it to 5 or 6 weeks, but the trade off is dramatic (he looks much older when it's long).

I decided to take the somewhat scary step of taking responsibility for my husband's hair. I found a well-rated hair cutting kit for the same price as one haircut and gave it a whirl.

Although I probably need some more practice (and confidence), it turned out very well. Now, I have the freedom to trim him as often as he needs, without worrying about money or the barber shop's schedule. It's a small step, but a rewarding one.

And, if I mess up, it's only hair. It'll grow back next week!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

An Acceptable Offering

I was reading a passage yesterday in my Bible that really struck my heart deeply. It led me to seek a clearer understanding of sacrifice, of what we should offer to God. I wanted to share it here. The background of the passage is that King David sinned by taking a census of the people during peacetime, so God punished Israel by sending a plague. The whole story can be found in 2 Samuel 24.

18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." 19 So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
21 Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped." 22 Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you." 24 But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

So often we give to the Lord out of our excess. We take care of our own needs and comforts first before seeing what we can spare for Christ. We pay the bills and write a check to the church for a reasonable amount of what's left... maybe $10 this month? Maybe $50? Maybe nothing? It depends on what's left over after everything else. This "me first" attitude is pervasive in our culture -- and persuasive, too.

It's also been a long problem.

All the way back in Genesis, Cain and Able make offerings to God (see the story in Genesis 4). One, Able, offers the choice piece of fat from his prized lambs -- the firstborn of his flock. His offering is accepted by God with pleasure. The other, Cain, brings "some" of the fruits of the soil. His offering is rejected. Now, I've never been to seminary or read a stack of commentaries, but I believe I can figure out why Cain's gift didn't make the cut. He responds by becoming "very angry, and his face was downcast" (v. 5). His attitude wasn't right; his heart wasn't in the gift. I always picture Cain as contemplating, "Now, if I do this for God, he'll do xxxx for me." His sacrifice didn't cost where it counts -- in the heart.

Selfish "gifts" were a problem in the New Testament, too. Ananias and his wife Saphirra try to lie about how much money they made for selling a piece of land so they could secretly withhold money for themselves (Acts 5). The Apostle Peter responds:

3Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."

Once again, it's a heart problem. I don't see that the actual money is the problem. Rather, they make a show of giving a gift to the growing church while lying. They were not FORCED to sell the land. Again, I'm not a bible scholar, but I truly believe that if they had spoken truthfully that they wanted to keep some of the money for themselves, everything would have been fine. Because of their lies, they sacrifice their lives.

Through my study of these three passages, I believe that an acceptable offering needs three elements:

  1. To be done in the right attitude -- praise and thankfulness (Genesis)
  2. To be a true gift, not hiding an act of selfishness (Acts)
  3. To truly be a sacrifice -- to cost something meaningful (2 Samuel)

I also firmly believe that, although these passages all deal with material wealth, the ideas about offering can and should be extended to all things we give to God, such as our time. We can't buy God's favor and we can't trick Him. Rather, we should pour our hearts out to Him and offer our best -- the first of our money, the freshest of our time, all of our worship. I don't usually use The Message Bible paraphrase, but I love the way it states 2 Samuel 24:24 --

I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Gillian who writes over at Delighting in Pure Song gave me this award, and I'm thrilled! Here it goes:

The Rules:

* Thank the person who gave you the award

* Post 10 honest facts about yourself

* Pass the award on to 7 others - I truly don't have 7 blogs I read that I can tag, so we'll see how many I can get...

1. My first anniversary is two weeks away, on August 2nd! I can't believe it's been a year already. It feels like a lifetime. Everything about marriage has changed me and made me a better person. I have no doubt in my mind that God designed this man to be my perfect match.

2. When I was 17, I nearly died in a white-water rafting accident. It was the most profound moment in my life. Two boats went over my head before I passed out and saw the Lord. I woke up with a rope over my shoulder, two paddles clutched in my hand, and singing "God of Wonders." I gave my heart to Christ the second they pulled me out of the river and have never looked back since.

3. I love to start projects. I'm horrible about finishing them. That's why in the house right now there's two quilt tops (with backing fabric stacked near them), two blouses that need hemmed, a nearly-done dress that needs some design tweaking, and countless stacks of magazine rip-outs and patterns (some with designated fabric already purchased and prewashed). This is a weakness I hope to cure... someday.

4. I love historical fashions. My Senior prom dress was a Regency-inspired gown that I spent months researching and designing. I get such a kick out of studying books of fashion plates and drafting up patterns to make the design elements work. I wish I had more chances to wear the dresses, though.

5. I am currently enrolled in my 3rd college. Technically 4th, if you count the dual-enrollment courses I took during high school. Every time I get comfortable, it seems that God changes the plan. I'm only one semester from graduation, though, so hopefully this is the last (at least until I pursue post-grad work). I was originally Business / French, then secondary English Education, and now, finally, Elementary Education. I'm student teaching at the most innovative, child-centered school in the region starting in August. I'm so excited!

6. I am spoiled rotten when it comes to sewing, because I grew up in a sewing store. It was always my mother's dream to further the arts of sewing and English smocking, so when I was eleven my parents opened a machine dealership. Although I was 18 before I owned my own sewing machine, I got used to picking any floor model I wanted to use for a project (and I ALWAYS picked the $4,000 top-of-the-line). I also got very used to having free thread lying around. The first time I had to buy thread I almost cried. I've gotten over that, though, and gotten much more thrifty in my sewing habits.

7. If I had a choice, I would curl up with a novel before doing almost anything else. I've read thousands of books. I learned how to read long before kindergarten and have never slowed down. My husband and I downloaded a list from a college that uses a "Great Books" curriculum and are starting from the beginning to read every last one of the works together. I have always desired a classical education. See the program for yourself here.

8. We are thinking very seriously about homeschooling our children. This seems like a huge break for someone who attended school from 3 years old to the present and has almost completed a degree in education, but the more I've been in school the less I believe it is the best place for our children (at least in our area -- yours may be different). Besides, once I have my teaching licence... who can object?

9. (Warning, this is completely silly) Even at 22 years old and married for a year, I still sleep with a stuffed animal. Daddy gave it to me the day I was born. Why break tradition?

10. I believe in miracles. I've been saved from death, watched others be cured of incurable cancer, and seen way too many "coincidences" to believe in coincidence. Every day miracles occur on a regular basis. You just have to be willing to see them for what they are.

Most of the few blogs I read have already been tagged. I've not spread my wings too far into blog world at this point... but I can tag one!
  1. My Song of Joy

Monday, July 13, 2009

Homemade Cake

This may sound lame to many of you who've been homemakers for a lot longer than I have... but last night I made my first cake that didn't come out of a box! I even made the icing. I just had to share. I don't think I'll ever go back to boxed, this was so easy and tasted so good.

The recipe came out of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook from 1955. I had all the ingredients on hand, which is part of why this recipe won out over other options. The cake is a basic recipe. The icing is butter cream flavored with creme de menthe candy oil I had in the pantry from Christmas treats. The mint leaves decorating it are from my very own, rapidly spreading spearmint bush.

Simplicity 1-Egg Cake

  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c shortening (next time I think I'll use butter for more flavor)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg

Heat oven to 375. Grease a 8" cake pan. Sift together all dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Add mild and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Crack in egg and beat at least 2 minutes. Turn into pan and bake 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Butter Cream Frosting

  • 1/3 c butter, margarine, or shortening
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 c powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla -- I replaced this with a few drops of mint to taste

Cream ingredients until fluffy. Spread and serve.

PS I posted about my new skirt, but it is out of order since I started drafting it Friday. See below 2 posts!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saying "Yes"

I've been feeling convicted by all the wonderful posts on marriage lately throughout the blogs I read. I spent a bit of time on Friday thinking, and I realized that so often when my husband asks me to do something, I say "no." It isn't typically big things... I just already have a plan I'd like to fulfill and would rather stick to it than deviate. So this weekend, I decided to commit myself to saying "yes" to my husband for 3 days to see what happened.

On Friday evening, I intended to stay home and sew. I'm working on 2 dresses and a skirt that I'd really like to get done as soon as possible. I spent most of the day Friday drafting the patterns and started cutting fabric. Well, when my dear husband came home, he informed me that his best friend would be joining him at Martial Arts class that evening and the friend's wife had invited me over to catch up while the boys were playing. I REALLY wanted to sew, but remembering my commitment, I agreed. It turned into a great evening to reconnect to dear friends that I've been pulling back from over the past few weeks. We had good conversations while cooking and playing together, strenghtening our relationships as well as pointing towards Christ (they're fellow Christians). It was such a blessing, even though it wasn't what I had planned. Saying "yes" to Shaune provided healing that my heart needed.

Saturday I got several hours of sewing time. But, right when I got to the finishing touches on my skirt (stitching the lining in place then the hem), Shaune asked me if I'd like to go for a drive with him to return a movie. By saying yes to that errand, we ended up on the best date we've had in months. We saw that two movies we were both interested in were playing at the drive-in theater. Now, we very, very rarely go to movies. I don't believe in spending so much each for an uncomfortable seat in a sticky-floored theater. I'd rather wait for it to hit the RedBox where I can rent it for $1 and watch it at home. But, Shaune loves going to movies, so when he asked I agreed.

Once again, saying "yes" turned into such a blessing. Our outting was a chance for us to reconnect and laugh together again, as well as talk about some of the multitude of things we've been through in the past few weeks. It definately strengthened our marriage. That special time spent together helped remind me just who my husband is and why I love him as much as I do. And it all started just by saying "yes" to a breif errand.

In all aspects of life, it becomes easy to fall into a routine. It is easy to stay where we are comfortable and do the things that we have planned to do. In faith and in marriage, we so often do what we've always done. This weekend has shown me how powerful simply opening yourself up to an interruption can be. Twice I said "yes" even though it disrupted my plans. And twice, that "yes" turned into an opportunity for healing in some very important relationships in my life. I feel stronger because of everything that happened this weekend.

Sometimes, the thing you need the most is the thing you expect the least.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Drop-waist Skirt, and How I Sew

I sew much differently than anyone I know, which has always interested me. I wanted to walk you through my latest project the way that I do it, and see if anyone else does things similarly to me.

The biggest difference -- I don't use mock-ups when I sew, except when I am very uncertain of a project or did a lot of unique drafting. Instead, I use math. My calculator and measuring tape are my best friends when designing. When I do sew a sample, it's typically out of somewhat nice fabric and can be used as a garment itself, even if I end up tweaking it a little.

I've always been a math geek. I even competed on the Math Team in middle school, winning a trip to the State Finals in Chicago my 8th grade year. That was about the time I also started studying flat-pattern design. I bought a textbook used in fashion design programs and spent hours pouring over the various elements and how they could be achieved with a little bit of paper, scissors, and tape. (At the time, I thought I was going to go to fashion design school and become world-famous. LOL.) I used this knowledge, plus a lot of learning from mistakes, to make all my formals for high school and several articles for my every-day wardrobe. Since straight-from-the-envelope patterns typically don't fit my long-waisted, narrow-shouldered frame, I must draft at least part of every project I create.

I always start by tracing the pattern onto brown paper grocery bags. I use these for several reasons: 1) I have a ton 2) They hold up. through the project as well as through storage 3) Since they're so firm, I usually don't have to pin them to my fabric. I just use canned veggies to weight the pattern down.

After that, I start drafting. I use the "finished measurements" information for a lot of my work. These are on every pattern I've used lately, though sometimes you have to look for it. I use up the scraps of the brown paper for the math -- if I add to the bodice, where and how much to add to the skirt? If I shift the front neckline by 1/2 ", how is the back affected? By the time I head to fabric, I am fairly confident in a garment that fits ME well. I also have the freedom to adapt design elements to fit my mental image.

On this skirt, I took a standard pattern and went wild. The inspiration was a linen skirt (originally from the Gap) that I picked up at Goodwill on Tuesday. I fell in love with it and just HAD to make another. I started by cutting a yoke at the top of the pattern and closing the darts on the front yoke. This adds fullness at the bottom -- perfect for the look I was working towards. Then, I began using the slash-and-spread to add about 20 inches of fullness to each of the front and the back. Finally, I created the inset piece. It's basically pie-shaped, but squared off at the top. The top is four inches across, the bottom is 15 inches. Once I have my pattern pieces, it is an easy jump to fabric.

The pattern for this skirt. The white is original, brown paper added.

My soup cans

Then, I sew. I very rarely adjust anything once it's stitched. Not to say that it's perfect, but usually everything is good enough that I don't bother changing. Careful work at the paper stage saves work at the fabric stage, which means less pin-holes, less frayed edges, less seam ripping (my least favorite task ever). This skirt required absolutely no alterations from the pattern. I LOVE it! It's still a little narrower than the linen sample it's based off of, even after adding 55" of fullness. But I think much more of this print would be overwhelming.

This is a close-up of the front inset.

Stay tuned -- I've got one dress cut out and one ready to be cut. Tomorrow's my sewing day! I should have them both done by the end of the week.

Pictures Without Words

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Unexpected Blessings

In the midst of struggles, I've noticed that God often provides some kind of outlet, some blessing that makes getting by much easier.

For me, I've finally been able to quit my second job.

This job has been a blessing in many ways over the past several months, helping us to completely pay off our consumer debt. But since May, the job has gone steadily downhill. I cut back to one day a week, but even that one day has been so difficult. Miscarrying has provided the "excuse" I needed to leave completely.

So, starting yesterday, I have my Tuesdays free to do what I need/want. Yesterday I did laundry, made bread, and spent hours sorting through the local thrift stores to find a summer wardobe. My husband came home to a happy, relaxed wife and dinner nearly finished.

Days like that reinforce the desire of my heart to keep a home and a family rather than pursue a career. I have one more semester of college to complete before that will be a reality. Shh don't tell... but I've already started the countdown on my wall calendar!