As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.




Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sausage Kale and White Bean Soup


I have made this soup three times this January, tweaking as I go, and now I am satisfied with the recipe. I suppose I'll give it a rest while everyone still loves it. I don't want to push the envelope. (Do you ever do that? Find something that your family loves . . . and then serve it a little too often . . . so that they are not so enthusiastic about it any more? Guilty here.) 

This is a hearty and flavorful soup, just right for cold winter nights.



SAUSAGE KALE and WHITE BEAN SOUP


Ingredients: 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 white onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced and halved
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups celery, sliced
8 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups penne (I used Barilla ProteinPLUS®)
6 cups chopped kale
1 can canellini beans, drained
grated Parmesan


Directions:

In large pot, heat olive oil. Add onions and cook over medium-high heat until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. 

Add sliced sausage and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add chicken broth, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add pasta; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add kale and canellini beans. Cook on low until kale is soft and beans are heated through.

Serve hot with grated Parmesan.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Weekend Snapshots: Grand Winter Sleepover


When our Grand Summer Sleepover was postponed due to sickness and then postponed again because the sickness just would not end, we decided to put it on hold. (And every now and then a sweet grand would say, "Gran, when are we going to have a sleepover?" and melt my heart.) Then last weekend, the Grand Summer Sleepover became the Grand Winter Sleepover! 




So. Much. Fun.

Seven of the grands slept over. (The next-to-youngest stayed until his bedtime, so that makes eight for the evening.)

Party favors. Tacos. Games and conversation. Ice cream. Air mattresses and sleeping bags everywhere. Coffee. (What? Yes, Aunt Kati offered coffee to anyone who wanted to try it. #trainthemwhiletheyreyoung) A movie (The Little Rascals). Movie candy. Hiding in one another's sleeping bags while the occupants were out of the room brushing their teeth. Surprise! (Or not.) One grand hiding in the kitchen and scaring Aunt Kati when she came to get a drink of water (to the delight of all). Stories and whispers and giggles and then everyone was asleep before midnight. 

favors for the girls

favors for the boys
(Yes, I did.)




staged shot 😊


Fruit for pre-breakfast while Papa chatted and bleary-eyed Gran sipped her first cup of coffee. Papa's pancakes for breakfast, chocolate chip or pecan. More conversation. (Although this group is rather quiet in public, they are very verbal!) And then they went into the library for a while . . . and came out with an original play! A play with characters and plot and costumes. Papa, Aunt Kati, Aunt Bekah, and I were the audience and we were very impressed! And when their parents came to pick them up in the afternoon, there was an encore performance. 

narrator
detective
teacher

l to r: heiress, birdwatcher, game show host, store keeper





I am so grateful for this time spent together. Now plans are in the works for a true summer sleepover! (James 4:15 . . . "if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.")


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Time for a January Chat


January is a month for settling in, hunkering down, and getting organized. And maybe for having a little fun too! These are all parts of our January so far . . .


JANUARY EATING

It has been a cold January thus far, and hot soup has been on the menu a lot. Last week, it was cream cheese chicken soup, vegetable beef soup, and, a new favorite, sausage/kale/white bean soup. There is something comforting about a pot of soup simmering on the stove, don't you think? 




JANUARY ATMOSPHERE

This is probably going to sound silly, but one of the best things I did for our winter last year was lights! Yes, lights. We left a Christmas tree, decorated only with white lights, on the sun porch until well into February. We burned candles. Kati had some fairy lights in her bedroom, timed to come on just before her alarm rang in the morning. My favorite: I purchased a battery-operated candle with a timer and placed it in a lantern on the living room mantle. Every night, the candle lit up at 6 pm and turned itself off at 10. I can't tell you how much cheer that candle-on-a-timer brought to me! It was like a cozy little hug each evening when it came on! 




JANUARY MOTIVATION

We all want some restful winter evenings after the busyness of December, but if we're not mindful, we'll revert to our default of night after night of Netflix and DVDs. We have purposefully planned our winter calendar to include a couple of "project nights" per week. (We've also scheduled in some fun activities. Fridays are carryout and movie nights. Saturday nights are game nights. Wednesday nights are known as "Wild Card Wednesday" meaning you do want strikes your fancy!)

Our first project of the year is re-configuring the library closet. We're taking out the clothing rod since the room isn't serving as a bedroom any more. (It would be easy to put back in if we ever need another bedroom.) Ron is going to add another shelf, allowing room for more office/school storage. The filing cabinet will be in this closet, as well as a plastic drawer unit holding craft and office supplies. Ron is running an outlet in the closet so that we can plug in the shredder. We'll also keep puzzles and games here because the grands often play in this room.

So far, we have emptied the closet (which means the contents are strewn all over the house . . . yikes!), Ron has removed the rod and cut the hole for the outlet. Next up: install new shelf and apply a coat (or three) of fresh white paint to cover the pink! 


JANUARY GIFTS

A friend (former homeschool mom whose children are grown) asked if I wanted to take a peek at some books that she was clearing from their attic.

Me (immediately): Yes!!

Also me (a few seconds later, to myself): What was I thinking? Haven't we culled our own bookshelves several times over the past few years? How much room do we have for more books?

Also me (with Bekah at Liz's house going through a gazillion boxes of books): We need this one and this one and this one. And this one and this one and this one. And these. Maddie will love these animal books. Eve and Nora will want the Dear America books. A whole box of Landmark books? Another box of Landmark books? Be still my heart.

Bekah and I left Liz's house with twelve boxes of books. Indeed we did.

And a box of dress-ups. 

😁


Since then . . . 

~ We have found room for more books on our own shelves. Some are in the library, some are in the girls' own collections, and the motherlode of Landmark books ended up here. (Honestly, they have been here and then moved to the other side and then moved back. I think they're staying here. Does hauling books and moving them from shelf to shelf to shelf count as excercise?)

~ Both families have come to get books for their own homes . . . and we had a fun fashion show! 











There was even fun to be had in the dress-up box! To Macie, it was a "bubble bath." To Paul, it was a "car." Here, they were sharing it. (I think each one was wishing the other cousin was not in the box, but their parents' good training was evident as they tolerated one another. ~smile~) 



The afternoon ended like this:

Sleeping baby, happy Gran


So what has your January been like so far? Do you work at creating a cozy atmosphere? Do you like soup as much as we do? (Do you ever get tired of it? I don't.) Do you have any projects in the works? 



Bonus track:



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Memory-Making Moments {Christmas 2017}




I am returning from a blogging break that was a surprise to me! Since the week before Christmas, we have been busy with all sorts of things. 

Celebrations, gatherings, hosting. 

Cooking, planning, recovering. 

(And cleaning up to do it again!)

Coffee, games, Netflix. Time for just being

And then boom . . . it's the New Year! And since I am always running late anyway, I'm going to take some time to record some Christmas memories.





Ron often quotes his former boss who said, "The only thing constant in life is change." Change was afoot this Christmas! We knew that Ryan and Sarah's family would be spending Christmas with her parents. But then strep and the flu struck Kristin and Brian's family and everything was up in the air. We were sad, imagining just the four of us here if the flu made its rounds.

But . . . deep down there was joy, because The Reason for our celebrations remains: Jesus has come to redeem!


As it turned out, we were able to enjoy some time with our son's family before they left on their trip. Our daughter's family all went on meds; most did not get the flu and those who did recovered quickly. There was a countdown for 24 hours fever-free . . . and we made it!

As an extra precaution, we separated our Christmas Day gatherings, keeping the older folks away from any possible sickies. Ron's mom and my parents came for breakfast. My parents came back and my sister joined us for our Christmas buffet. My niece and her family stopped by for a quick visit. And after everyone else left, Kristin and her family arrived and we pulled out all of the goodies again and added her yummy contributions and we were so grateful that everyone was well and that we could enjoy time together!

Here are some glimpses of our gatherings . . . 


A Few Days Before Christmas

It started as Christmas dress-ups.

Then it got a little crazier when Kati made Nora into a "Who."

When we had our tea, 


everyone started looking at one another through the globe in the centerpiece 
and it became uproarious!

I still laugh like crazy when I look at these pictures! 



And somehow, I got no pictures of their parents. 😕
(Sorry, Ryan and Sarah! I guess I was too busy laughing.)




Christmas Eve 









Christmas Day







































We recorded Macie (23 months) singing "Away in a Manger." 
(Oh, it's the cutest thing! I think Kati will upload it to YouTube so I can share it.)
She loved seeing herself on video!






"And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at His birth."
Luke 1:14


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