My Faith

Our family's life verse

"For we know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord and are called according to His purposes"
Romans 8:28

Monday, August 27, 2012

St. Jude and our menu for this week

Our oldest son Isaiah is a St. Jude patient from a brain tumor he was diagnosed with 5 years ago. Monday and Tuesday of this week, we'll be traveling the 2 hours back to Memphis for some follow-up appointments he has concerning some new meds he was put on and his further vision loss (he is legally blind and may lose what little he has left). We'll be staying on campus at St Jude, which is still new to us because until we moved to the country we were local to the Memphis area. [If you're interested in following how Isaiah is doing and the results of his tests, you can like the FaceBook page "Praying for Isaiah". I keep it updated with all his recent news]

Being in the "big city", we'll also try to get lots of running around down that we can't do at home...e.g. running to LifeWay Christian bookstore, picking up curriculum I've bought from someone up there and a treadmill someone is donating to our family for Isaiah to use, eating at 5 Guys, etc :)

So, our menu plan for this week is a little different than usual ;)

Breakfasts: Eggs, bacon, and biscuits; egg casserole (from the freezer), and french toast with fruit

Lunches: Grilled cheese; taco soup (using leftover from taco night); shrimp sandwich; and tuna/egg salad with grapes

Dinners: Turkey salsa meatloaf with potatoes; taco salad with mexican rice; BBQ with coleslaw and beans; poppyseed chicken with broccoli; and chicken and dumplings

Hug your kiddos and you loved ones just a little longer, a little tighter, and thank the Lord for every day that He gives you together and for whatever health you do have!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Going to the "other" town

Today, we're running to "the other town" to go to the library. Yesterday, I posted about "going to town". The town we usually go to for groceries and our running around (Grenada) is not in our county and would cost us $35/year for a non-resident membership. Yikes!!!

Charleston is just about as far away in another direction and is down in the Delta. It's our county seat but has little else for us... only a local grocery store, a few local restaurants, a nursery, the library. (Of course, there's the courthouse and jail too.) They do have Bumpers (like a Sonic but with pizzas too!), a Mexican restaurant with a lunch buffet, and a Chinese buffet all locally owned.

Charleston's claim to fame is that it's where Morgan Freeman is from. The high school's gym is even named after him. This is where my kids are slotted for attendance, if they were in public school. Yep, they'd have to ride the bus an hour each way with kids Kindergarten through high school all together at the same time on the same bus. No thank you! Another reason we're sooo thankful the Lord has called us to homeschool and has continued to provide the means to do so!

So, today we're running to "the other town" to our local library. The two youngest kiddos will get enough books to last them 2 weeks. Elizabeth has to read 150 pages a week and Andrew has 100 pages. My oldest, Isaiah, is visually impaired (legally-blind) as a result of his brain tumor, so he'll look for books that inspire his drawing. I'll renew my book that I haven't started yet...been too busy canning :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our Town

When I say that I live in a small town, most of the time people don't understand how small I really mean. They ask if we have this store or that restaurant. When I explain that we only have a post office and a closed down general store, they still can't wrap their minds around it.

So, as I was explaining on my FaceBook page about our weekly trip to town, people's interest was piqued. I thought it was the perfect time to share our "town" with ya'll :)

We live in the parsonage (house that belongs to the church where my hubby pastors)that's across the street from the church. So, here's our church that we see from our front yard!

Our neighbor's house is a tall grass field away and with the trees we can hardly see them.

Coming from the other direction, you'll see my neighbor's house on the left, the church on the right, and our house in the distance on the left across from the church. (You'll have to look really close between the trees to see it ;)

Are you ready to see our downtown?!? Really?

Here it is:

Yep, that's it!

On the left are the post office and pumping station. Our post office is on the federal list to close soon. The pumping station pumps our "city" water, which is really well water that the city stores and then pumps to our house. Because of the old pipes and several times the power going out to the pumping station (which can allow for backflow....ewww!), we boil our water and then filter it. It's still yellow after all that. Yep, you're in the country now ;)

On the right are the closed down Whitten General store and the volunteer fire station that also serves as our local voting station. The Whitten store has been closed for longer than we have been there and we've heard they were shut down due to illegal gambling machines.

That's it! There is a local gas station about 5 miles from the house that has some essentials, if you just can't do without something, but we've not ever paid the extra price for the convenience of having it.

SO, when we need to go grocery shopping (which we do every Monday) we "go to town". That means we drive 25 minutes to the nearest town. They have a Wal-Mart supercenter and 2 local grocery stores plus some restaurants (fast food is mainly the only ones you'd recognize. They rest are locally owned), and a True-Value. No Home Depot or Lowe's. (If we want anything else you'd recognize or a mall or LifeWay, etc we have to drive an hour.)

We have figured that it costs us about $6 in gas to go to town. So, we are trying to limit our trips to town to once a week. While in town, we do our grocery shopping, go to the bank and post office, and any other running that needs done for that week. The rest of the time, we make due with what we have or borrow from friends...unless we can't get around it. We've lived here almost 5 months and are just now getting to the once-a-week point. It's a huge change from being in Memphis and literally 5 minutes from about everything you could think of!

Okay, so how do we do it? For one we keep a running grocery list on our fridge. As items run out or need replaced, we write them down. I know...easy right? Well, it's a habit that takes getting used to.

Another thing is that we budget our groceries. We have a certain amount of money that we delegate for groceries and household items for each week. Next, I plan out our menu for the week before we go shopping. I plan out breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (and any desserts or goodies we might also want). I keep in mind our budget and plan our meals to stay within it. Once I know what the menu is I can add to the already running grocery list.

Before we go shopping, I estimate what each item costs and figure the total to make sure I'm within budget. I do this from memory and write down discrepancies when we get to the store. (This gets easier the more I do it!) For example, I budgeted $5 for toilet paper. When we got to the store, what we normally spend is $12 (yikes! my bad!), so I got a smaller package for $7 and will have to get more next week BUT next week I'll budget the $12 necessary :)

When we're really on top of our game, we also go earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon so that we're not out at lunch time. This cuts down on eating out while we're there. Although that's a nice treat, it just doesn't fit into our budget often. We do, however, usually get drinks while we're out since we're usually gone for about 2-3 hours (1 hour of that is just driving!). We have taken water bottles before but find that the drinks are a nice, cheaper treat.

Well, that's our town and what "going to town" means for us :) Someone said it sounds like Little House on the Prairie. That sounds just fine to me. I always loved that show (I know it's a book series too!)and wanted to live on a farm. We're adjusting to country life and thank the Lord Jesus every day that He has moved us here!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

This Week's Menu Plan

This is our menu plan for this coming week:

homemade egg mcmuffins
sausage links and orange muffins
waffles with apple syrup
eggs and grits

(Muffins, eggs, grits, and oatmeal are choices we have every week but how we make them or flavor them vary from week to week making them more interesting!)

homemade pizza
chicken rice soup (using leftover rice and chicken from this week)
chili potatoes (using extra chili made from this week's dinner)
BBQ chicken salad wraps (using leftover BBQ chicken salad from this week's dinner)

(Some lunches they fend for themselves making sandwiches or eating leftovers)

Country ribs with from scratch mac cheese (diabetic version)
BBQ chicken in the crockpot (making extra for another dinner and a lunch)
BBQ chicken salad (using chicken from previous dinner)
Baked spaghetti (with wheat noodles) with salad
Chili (making extra for a lunch)
Grilled fish
Cranberry pork roast in the crockpot

What are you making for your family this week? :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apple Jelly Adventures

Well, I finally got around to trying to make apple jelly using the apple juice I had made earlier. Our apples in Mississippi are already ripe (must be the drought weather!) and we harvested our apple tree and a lady's from our church. We ended up with a nice blend of about 4 different types of apples. We just moved here 4 months ago, so I'm not sure the type of apple we have ;)

After I peeled and cored the apples to make applesauce and apple butter, I put the peelings/cores in a stockpot with water and simmered them for hours. At one point, I also put them in the crockpot and left them on low overnight. Then, I strained the juice lightly (I didn't want it entirely clear. I like the bits of apple in it) Now it was ready for jelly making!

(I did find out later that I could have simmered it a little longer to pasteurize the juice and can it. I will do this next time! We go through A LOT of apple juice in our house!)

Now, to the jelly making! This is my first attempt at jelly making. I did a large amount of reading to prepare. My first batch, I switched the order of ingredients. (Did you know there's a difference in ingredient order depending on whether you use powder or liquid pectin!?!) Needless to say, my jelly did not set. I read that you could boil it down to get to the gel point and then re-can the jelly. So, a few days later, I boiled it for about an hour and never got to the gel point :(

I tasted it and it tasted fine, so I decided this would be used as an apple syrup instead. We could put it on waffles or pancakes! I put one quart in the fridge and canned one pint labeling it apple syrup ;)

At this point, I was ready to try it again. So, today I made 7 batches of apple jelly using different pectins. I tried powdered pectin, liquid pectin, and low/no sugar added pectin to which I used honey. I also added rosemary to 3 quarts of the liquid pectin quarts. I'll use this to put on pork or chicken later. It smelled soooo good!!!

Out of the 7 batches, I made 1 quart and 1 pint apple syrup, 3 quarts rosemary apple jelly, 1 quart honey apple jelly, 5 quarts apple jelly, and 2 pints apple jelly. I remember reading once not to use quarts when making jelly, but I couldn't find online a reason and I know you can buy that size of it in the store. I also didn't have anything other than quart jars left :) So, I decided it was worth it to me to do the quarts regardless. If they don't set, we can still use them in cooking or on waffles/pancakes!

We'll see if they set in the next week or so. This was a first for me, so I learned something and got to add to our pantry :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blessings from Friends

Well, an awesome friend (I'm going to start referring to her as Ms. J) came by with 2 huge bags of pink-eyed purple hull peas (also known as field peas in some parts of the US) for us!!!

I blanched them for about 5 mins (that means put them in boiling water), rinsed them in cold water, drained them, and then bagged them and put them in the freezer. I did one gallon bag and the rest were quart sized bags that held 3 cups each. (Did I mention she brought baggies too just in case I didn't have enough!?! Ms. J is such a God-sent blessing!)

I ended up bagging 58 cups of peas! We didn't eat these beans til we moved to MS but that's gonna change now! Yumm!

In the picture you can see the stockpot on the back burner that's cooking down our apple peelings and cores into apple juice. I then put them (and another batch) into crockpots for the night on low heat. I'll strain the juice and refrigerate it until I go to town and get more sugar to make apple jelly!

Today I plan on finishing the last of our apple harvest by making applesauce (and maybe some apple butter). Those peelings will be cooked down too ;)

I've also plan out our breakfasts and dinners for the upcoming week along with the grocery list needed for them. This week's dinners are going to be: Chicken alfredo, BBQ chicken, sloppy joes, BBQ chicken salad (I'll cook all the BBQ chicken at the same time), Broiled fish with salad, and Shrimp Po'boys.

Breakfasts are easy. They take about as much time as pouring a bowl of cereal! Every week we have the same things but flavor them differently. We have: oatmeal, eggs with breakfast meat, muffins, grits, and breakfast sandwich. Last week's oatmeal was apple cinnamon with real apples cut up in it, grits were pumpkin pie flavor, muffins were chocolate banana with chocolate chips, breakfast meat was bacon (and another day we had corned beef hash), and the kids had cereal one day.

Final preparations for tomorrow's Sunday church service and next week's homeschool plan going also. Our 2012-2013 school year officially starts Monday!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Coming to the end of our apples

Well, today has been a slow day here! We cleaned up around the house, started some laundry,and a family friend from Memphis came to visit for the day. The kids gave him the grand tour of the house, Matt showed him the church, and then we took a drive down to the Delta and out for lunch at a drive-in called Bumpers. After lunch hubby and kiddos played Monopoly Deal with him before he headed home(we love board and card games!)

Sooo, I only got 2 quarts of smooth unsweetened applesauce canned, 4 gallon bags of apple pie filling in the freezer, and a stockpot of apple juice made for later apple-jelly making. The recipe for the apple pie filling can be found here
It's super easy! I've now made 8 of these bags to put in our freezer ;)

I also saved all the peelings and apple cores from making these last 4 bags and will throw them into a pot of water, along with any apples too far gone for sauce, and will make some more apple juice by letting them simmer for several hours. This will also work in a crock pot. I'll then use the apple juice to make apple jelly. This will be a first for me, so I'll let you know how it goes!

Tomorrow's goal: make chocolate waffles for breakfast, make applesauce of the rest of our apple harvest and get it canned, pick the green beans ready in our garden and can if there's enough, and make sure everything's ready for homeschooling year to begin on Monday!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Transforming the blog

Up until now, this blog has been for me to occasionally post on my walk with the Lord as we journey through my oldest son's diagnosis of brain cancer. My posts were about once or twice a year! I have been posting a lot on FaceBook but have been encouraged to post on a blog instead, so I'm transforming this blog into that :) I'm still going to blog on our journey but that journey now includes moving from Memphis to Cascilla, MS.

We've gone from BIG, BIG city (everything we need within 5 mins of our apartment) to a town that ONLY has a post office (nearest Wal-Mart/town is 25 miles away)! We moved here 4 months ago after my hubby accepted a position as a pastor. One phrase we heard over and over is "You're in the country now!"....hence the blog name ;)

This my experience as a semi-city girl to country girl who has her own garden, cans and freezes her crops, and maybe some day soon has some chickens!

Come along with me....learn with me, celebrate my new discoveries, laugh at my mistakes, watch my journey, be inspired to try some yourself!