Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2021 New Year Goals


How are you feeling about this coming year? Hopeful? Concerned? I'm feeling pretty positive about 2021 and have come up with several important goals I'd like to meet. 

Health Goals: I think most everyone has a health goal, but I'll admit I've not had one for a couple years. Sickness and circumstances have taken a toll on my hopeful attitude about health and I've ignored things for far too long. This year I have a plan and a goal to stick to it!

Reading Goals: I believe self-education is so important so I read a lot of nonfiction: history, biography, geography---all these are important to understand the world we live in. I also enjoy some well-written historical fiction and most classics. This year my reading goal is 70 books, with a good mix of classics and children's literature added to my usual nonfiction fare.

Skills Goals: In 2020 my mother made 12 quilts!! One for each member of my family and one for herself. On top of that, she made pillowcases for each of us! I was so inspired that I've made a goal to learn some needlework skills I've been dreaming about. This year I plan to embroider some things, as well as learn to crochet. I also want to start working through my huge HUGE fabric stash by making gifts for people.

Spiritual Growth: This year I plan to copy out by hand the entire Torah (first five books of the Bible) and finish reading through the Bible in its entirety. I also have several studies to start or continue, including a very slow and in depth study of the early church that I've been doing with my kids every morning at breakfast.

Miscellaneous Goals: Add something to our savings account each pay check; go visit my parents in Oregon; travel to Western Oklahoma to seek out my grandparents' homestead; make myself three items of clothing; take "school photos" of my kids; keep from cutting or coloring my hair; print all my important online photos; transcribe my online book reviews into journals; print or publish my important blog posts

I'd love to hear about your 2021 goals! 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Our World Has Changed, God is Still Unchanging

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8

Back in March I wrote a post titled, The World Looks Different Now, But It's Ok. We were 10 days into the unknown and many of us were wondering how long the changes were going to last. Was this a temporary thing? A new normal? We're now 10 months in and we still don't know.

We've just finished up a fun but very different Christmas weekend at our house. Almost everything about our celebration was outside our normal---part of that was due to "the pandemic" and part of it was due to changes within our family dynamic. We had to work around work schedules and celebrate on a different day than normal. We didn't participate in any sort of church Christmas program (probably a first for my 41 year old husband!) We didn't even drive around to look at Christmas lights this year and our whole community missed our yearly gathering on the square to watch the city lights come on. Instead of spending the rest of present-opening day putting together toys and helping the kids navigate a new game or puzzle, the youngers did all that themselves and the teens starting helping our oldest son move into his new townhouse---on Christmas!!!

In other years, I think this change in our Christmas routine would have really bummed me out, but in 2020, it's just par for the course. So much has changed and some things have become that "new normal" I talked about in March, yet there's one thing that hasn't changed, and that is the Lord. 

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 
Malachi 3

God's Word, His promises, His truths, His plan, are all still very much the same. He knew our world would take a wonky turn in 2020---none of this caught Him off guard and it does not scare or threaten Him in the least. And if the One in charge isn't worried, why should we be?

The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? 
Psalm 27

That's really the question many of us should be asking ourselves: why are we worried? In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla tells Anne: "God does not want you for a fair weather friend." That phrase has been running through my mind all morning. I think these past 10 months have given us a glimpse into what is meant in passages like Isaiah 40, Job 12:23, and Paul before the Areopagus in Acts 17---some of the many parts of Scripture that remind us God allows kingdoms to rise and fall but He remains unchanged. 

In God, we have a Friend who stays closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). The more we get to know the nature of this Friend, the more we realize that we have nothing to fear in change. Some of us become really unnerved when we don't know the "next step", yet God's Word brings comfort that He will guide our steps:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.
Psalm 37

One thing I'll always remember about my Mom is how she plays Pollyanna's "Glad Game" when things go wonky, choosing to think about the good things---counting her blessings. As a brooding teenager, it would sometimes bug me when she would say things like, "You make your own happiness," but she was right---and adding God's message of hope to the picture makes playing the Glad Game even easier. Things are still different...some things are forever changed...yet God is the same as He always was. As we go into 2021, let's hold on to the hope of our unchanging God and count our blessings. There's always something to be thankful for!

(This article was republished from my sister site, ClassicalHomemaking.com.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Spiced Fruit Compote for Winter Morning Breakfast

 
This delectable compote not only tastes divine---it's gorgeous too! 
Serve with a simple sweet bread at breakfast or as an after dinner dessert with tea.

About fifteen years ago, we lived in a very tiny town in Eastern Oregon called Weston. There were a couple of plum trees, as well as an apple tree in our yard, and all the blackberries you could pick just down the street. At the end of the summer, someone gave me a huge bag of walnuts, so I began looking for ways I could use them and came across a recipe for fruit compote. 

I made a TON of jars and gave them as gifts, as well as stored many in the cold storage room off the side of the house. Since then, I've made compote a couple other times and I do it different every time! Here's a fast way to make a yummy topping for breakfast bread, biscuits, muffins, and more.

 One year I was in a hurry, so I did a quickie method and baked it in the oven instead of cooking it on the stovetop. Since there wasn't time for the fruit to cook down, I added some apricot jam to give it a better spreading consistency. Wonderful idea---it was great! If you want to skip the jam, just let the mixture cook in a saucepan with a little water until it's soft.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! It's great for the holidays---and all year round!


Oven Baked Fruit Compote (serves about 8)

6 apples, cored and diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup raisins
1½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water 
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each cloves, nutmeg, ginger
1 c. apricot or peach jam

Preheat oven to 450ยบ. Mix all ingredients, except jam, and spread into a greased 13x9 dish. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes. Mix in jam and serve over bread, or alone!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Addressing the Uproar Over Instagram / Facebook "New" Terms of Service


Dear Friends: on today's edition of "Let's All Not Freak Out Now with Sarah Coller" I'd like to address the newest trending freakout: Instagram Terms of Service. My kids, their friends, my friends, my enemies, almost EVERYONE is in an uproar about the new IG TOS. I don't claim to be an expert, but I'm married to one so that gives me secondhand wisdomy powers. Plus I worked in social media professionally for about 6 years where my entire life was on display for the whole world to download and I became very familiar with the different ways in which companies use, store, retrieve, and sell our information. AND….I'm a thinking-about-recovering addict so, you know… Anyway, most of what I'm going to say here is my OPINION---but it's based on some knowledge and a whole lot of that good ol' fashioned common sense you've come to adore in me.

First of all---yes, IG (and Facebook) can, will, and has been using your photos/info/contacts/location for all the nasty nefarious purposes. Without going into too much detail, let's just look at it from a common sense perspective: You are using their site for FREE. It might be hard to fathom how much time, cost and man/woman/undecided power goes into running a small little side gig like Instagram, but trust me: it's a lot. You are loading your photos to their site---what would be a better way to compensate them, do you think? Cash? I guarantee you that if IG asked you to pay $20 or even $5 per photo loaded, you'd sign off the rights to your stuff instead, without question. Furthermore, this is nothing new. It's just that now they're being more straightforward in telling you about it. Why? Well has anyone been paying attention to the Zuckerberg Senate Judiciary Committee stuff? Yeah, me neither. But, the powers-bigger-than-Zuck have been on him and my guess is that IG, FB, etc are going to be held more accountable to clearly define their Terms to users.

Here's the thing though...like I said, this kind of sharing, selling, using your info is not new. Why do you think you can be chatting with a friend on Messenger about changing your laundry detergent to Arm & Hammer and three minutes later, you see ads for it when you're browsing Amazon? You like cookies? Well in the internet world, cookies are bad bad bad. Every single internet-capable device that you own has the power to track your conversations, contacts list, location, etc. Some of these settings can be disabled---most can not. Which brings me to….

Instagram is tracking my movements through my front camera!!!!! Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! Are you on a laptop right now? Look up at the very tippy top middle of your screen. Camera? Camera on your phone? GPS in your car? Use a credit card online? Shop at Walmart? Ever seen the self-checkout cameras? Ever returned something at Walmart and had them say you no longer need your receipt as long as you paid by card? They just swipe it and can pull up all your shopping history. You'd literally need to live more primitive than the Amish to not have the potential of being tracked by someone. Does that mean they're actually doing it? Yes, probably, but. There is not some crew of bad guys sitting in some dark room chugging coffee and actually watching your movements. Companies usually store this information for a time so it can be retrieved for little things like targeting you in advertising (again, you're using their site FREE...and way too often, by the way) or for big things like catching sex offenders, kidnappers and thieves. Remember, you're talking to one of the top 10 antisocial, way-too-private, hermits in modern times---but if I ever had a child go missing, I'd be thanking God for Facebook or Instagram's "invasive" tracking methods.

So how can you keep your content from being used against your will? It's SO SIMPLE. You can stop posting it to a site owned by another entity. Listen, if you leave your stuff at my house and expect me to leave it out and display it to anyone who comes to my house, you'd better believe I'm going to do one of two things. Either I'm gonna chuck your stuff and tell you to go find your own place to display your stuff or I'm gonna find a way to make this stuff work for me. I might use it or keep it for my grandchildren or even *gasp* modify it to better fit my purposes. 'Cause I'm the one paying the big bucks to store and display it, right? You're using a service, you pay the price. IG's Terms have not changed so much as your understanding of them has changed. This is the case on every single site you visit. That's the way of the world right now, fellas. That's what this fantastic new technologically advanced civilization has given us. Woop Woop!

If we don't like it, we can leave. Will you leave? Probably not. A few might for a while, but those who do usually find that it's a lonely world when everyone else is having a digital relationship and you're over there trying to live like it's 1999. Just promise me this: if you're going to leave IG or FB over their tracking/selling/using policies, leave everything. Be consistent so you don't look foolish. Get rid of your cell phone, your internet, your GPS in your car, your credit and debit cards. Don't pay your bills online or even over the phone, and when you go out, be sure to avoid all "security" cameras in all drive-thrus, shops, ATMs, freeways... you get the picture. In the words of my parents: they can kill us but they can't eat us.

Yeah...I don't know what that means either.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings -- A Frugal Stick-to-Your-Bones Supper

 

As a native of Eastern Oregon where there are four distinct seasons, I learned to change up my menus as the weather changed. Fresh salads and fancy sandwiches at springtime, grilled meat and watermelon in the summer, light soups and casseroles in fall, and thick stews with crusty bread in winter. We knew it was time to change seasons by the way things smelled---even when fall was ending and the bite of winter was coming, we could smell the snow in the air.

The South (we are in Arkansas now) likes to play the "let's change up everything with the seasons" game too---only nothing is distinct and there are no signs of a new season coming. I've been here seven years and I still can't read the clouds. We just roll with it day to day and pretend winter is real. Sometimes December is mostly 40s and 50s, other times it's 70s and even 80s.

Still, my kids must have a little northener left in them because they've been requesting chicken and dumplings for weeks now. According to my seven year old, I've not made this family favorite since the night we decorated Christmas sugar cookies---in 2018. She's probably not wrong. I just haven't been feeling it---the whole "do the exciting new season stuff"---but I'm determined to try harder. Especially in a crazy year like 2020 has been, a bit of normalcy is important. These are the things families are made of---the memories and traditions and faith that binds us together.

So tonight I made this hearty, stick-to-your-bones meal in a pot and everyone cheered. I fell asleep while the chicken was cooking but it was perfectly tender. I thought I dumped too much thyme in, but it was fantastic. I thought I went too fast on the veggies and feared I'd undercooked the carrots, but they were just right. Apparently, I've still got the knack. Here's roughly how I made it---I hope your family enjoys chicken and dumplings as much as we do.

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings (12 servings, 8 hours)

1 whole chicken
up to 3 quarts poultry broth (I used turkey broth from our Thanksgiving carcass)
6 bay leaves
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
onion to taste (I used 2 TB dried onions, you could use up to 1 whole, if you like)
thyme, garlic, salt to taste

4 c. flour
8 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 c. water

Put the chicken in a large soup pot (mine is 14 qt.), and add all the broth. Add water until it covers to about an inch above the chicken. Add the bay leaves and a few teaspoons of salt. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 6 hours. 

After about 6 hours, remove the chicken from the pot. (I use a small handled strainer to scoop it out whole but always need to fish out the wings with a slotted spoon!) Make sure to use a slotted spoon to get out any bones. Then set your chicken aside to cool and keep the broth hot on the lowest setting, covered. The chicken will take 30-45 minutes to cool. Once it's cooled, pull the meat off the bones and put it back into the broth in small pieces. Be careful to feel for any small bones. Then cut up your vegetables and add them to the broth, along with the thyme and garlic. Taste to see if you want to add more salt. I end up adding quite a bit to get it just right. Finally, turn your pot back up to a higher setting to get the broth boiling again.

While the broth is heating back up, mix up the dumplings by combining the flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in the water. Use a spoon for this---you want the batter to look lumpy. Once the broth is boiling rapidly, drop spoonfuls of the batter into the boiling broth. The dumplings will cook quickly and rise to the top when they're done. Just keep dropping them in until you've got all the batter in there. It will look crowded but they'll figure it out. Ha!

I served ours with zucchini bread tonight (yay for summer harvest preservation!) but you could also do biscuits, rolls, or just eat it as a one-pot meal. Yum!




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