a liturgy of preparation for a meal

I don’t know about you, but sometimes… I grow weary in well-doing. I’ve realized it isn’t actually the doing… it’s the reception of it. I feel like my work is worth something when it is received with gratitude and appreciation; but when my meals are met with whines or disenchantment, I mourn. And even get disgruntled deep down, because I feel like all of my good motivations and hard work— and good food— are just wasted.

Maybe that’s why this liturgy, found in Every Moment Holy, resonates so deeply. (The audio for this clip is not the whole thing, merely the beginning thoughts.) See, I need this prayer and reminder: that my meal planning and prep, my cooking and baking, my placing it on the table before my family is not just an act of service to them— but an act of worship to God.

And whereas one can argue that my children still need to work on thankfulness and the expression of it (they do 😂), I don’t need their approval of the main course or veggie side. It was and is worship— and God sees my work, even though He doesn’t need my meal to stave off His own hunger.

He takes and sees my offering.

And as the days pass, and I pray and cook, I have every hope that I am “an agent of a deep eternity, whose prepared meals might feed more than the body, nourishing also the hearts and hopes of those sometimes-weary souls who are well-served” by my labors.

Amen. 💛

easier than you think: soup from scratch

One of my goals this year in a part of living more simply is just to learn how to do the “convenience” foods easily with the foods that I already have on hand… instead of feeling like I need a bunch of ingredients to get dinner on the table.

A small way I’m doing that is by relying less on “staples” like canned soup, especially of the “creamed” variety.

If I have to be honest, we haven’t used a lot of a creamed of anything soups for a while, because of the additives and extras that I’m not a fan of. For instance, to make homemade cream of mushroom soup, you need 4 ingredients, up to six if you want actual cream in it and add salt.

Let’s look at the ingredients of what is in one of the most popular versions of mushroom soup. I copied and pasted directly from their website.

WATER, MUSHROOMS, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN), CREAM, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, SALT, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, TOMATO PASTE, FLAVOUR, YEAST EXTRACT, DEHYDRATED GARLIC.

That’s a total of 14 ingredients, and that’s not counting any extra anything that sneaks in with vegetable oil, the modified milk ingredientS (plural means more than one, the last time I checked…), and also whatever is included in “flavour.”

(I’m not even going to go down the rabbit hole of what monosodium glutamate is… but it’s better known as MSG, if that helps get an idea. And some people really might be surprised to find soy in a cream of anything soup.)

So, what do you need to make your own creamed soup at home?

Easy: Butter. Flour.* Milk and/or cream. And then whatever other ingredient you want to be creamy. So, chicken for cream of chicken soup. Celery for cream of celery soup. Mushroom for mushroom.

(I’ll stop insulting your intelligence now. Ha!)

Oh, and salt and pepper, if you want to season the soup specifically vs. seasoning it with whatever you might be mixing it with.

Let’s chat steps. They are super easy.

First, melt your butter. For a medium thickness, you’ll start with 2 TBS.

If you are making a celery of mushroom soup, you’ll add it and soften it in the butter before adding salt and flour.

Once the butter is melted and your vegetables are softened…
Add the flour. For a medium thickness, you’ll add with 2 TBS.

Use a whisk to prevent lumps. Once it is incorporated…
Add 1 cup of liquid. Most of the time, it will be milk. In the case of cream of chicken, it should be half broth, half milk… and then add the cooked chicken.

Add salt as desired.

If you want the soup to be runnier or thicker, you’ll reduce or increase the amount of butter/flour at the beginning before adding the liquid. The flour and butter will be in equal amounts to each other.

How simple is that?

And can I say HOW MUCH BETTER it tastes? My 9 year old taste-tested and just asked me to make the soup for dinner all by itself.

Maybe next time, E… this batch is already claimed for a one-dish meal for dinner tonight. 😉

* For people who are gluten free, you can totally sub a gluten free flour here, but you might have to modify the amount of liquid, as gluten free flours with coconut flour are more absorbent. And I’ve even used almond flour itself as a replacement, but the texture is more “gritty” vs smooth, and obviously the fat is higher than the regular flour counterpart. It is definitely a viable substitute for those want to a much lower carb or flour-free version of the soup, though.

Random bits & pieces: free mulch and foraging

The weather is getting warmer, and the plants are making their way from the cups and little planters we started seeds in to our raised beds. Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe what excites me in my life has changed— probably both 😂— but gracious, I delight in seeing seedlings grow. Just little green bursts of friendly potential.

Watching my kiddos take pride in the plants is just another added privilege to see.

Behold, my buddy’s pea plant. 🙂

If you look at the picture above, you’ll see some mulch around the peas from a pile that we received for free from a company called Chip Drop (https://getchipdrop.com/). We went to the website, filled out our info and a few days later, a truck was dumping a huge mulch mountain in our front yard! We’ve placed it on our flower beds and in our raised beds as filler and enrichment.

It was completely free and convenient, and will be doing it again in the future, I’m sure.

Another way, besides gardening, that I’m enriching my own knowledge and experience is learning how to use “wild” and useful plants— for food, comfort, and wellness.

See, I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t grow up learning about plants or animals, how to observe nature not just for its beauty, awe, and intricateness… but for how we can exist and be symbiotic with it— how it provides for us in unexpected places, and how we, in turn, can provide for it, too.

Here is a plant I never, ever knew was edible, and it grows in our shady spaces so incredibly well… hostas! Here was my first time, harvesting and cooking hosta from our yard! To my surprise, it cooks down and tastes very similarly to spinach. I’m researching other ways to use it in my cooking and meals… but I was thrilled to start here!

My daughter’s friend, P, was over while I was snipping the hostas and was still there as I finished cooking them and needed “taste-testers.” Three out of four kids lined up, and they each loved them! Later that day, I got a text from P’s mom, asking me about my “hosta recipe.”

And I laughed because not once ever in my life did I ever think I would have a hosta recipe, let along be asked for it.

Here’s to tasting food from our gardens and yards and learning about how to care for them well while learning how they can care for us.

If that’s not essential living, I don’t know what is. 💛

Companion planting… with a twist

In our Gathering Wellness group* for the month of March, we have been concentrating on how to start a garden, seed prep, planting, and plant care for the season ahead. (Gardening is one of the best ways to practice reliance and cut the gardening budget while learning life skills… so a win/win/win!) Yesterday, we chatted a bit about companion plants: how some plants are great friends… and others aren’t.

A hack that my husband and I have used before in a small capacity and really plan to use a lot more of this year is the idea of companion SPRAYS… not just plants.

We’ve used essential oil sprays on our plants before, mainly for luscious green in our home and for pest-aways on our plants (Brian has such a cool story about cedarwood and roses!)… but I’m really wanting to step it up a notch this growing season.

What’s the idea behind companion sprays?

Well, essential oils are made from plants (I feel like I should say “duh” here, ha!)… so consider using oils in place of your companion plants. Companion sprays might work especially well with smaller plots of land or are doing container gardening!

Let’s look at an example. Say you want some luscious green beans this summer, but need to plant other veggies instead of transplanting a lavender bush beside your beans. (Don’t get me wrong, though… lavender is so great to have on hand, but that’s another post!) So, grab your Lavender essential oil instead, and let it do the work for you while you save soil space.

Here’s a guide to creating Companion sprays to use on the soil and leaves of the plant: Add 10-15 drops of the corresponding essential oil to a 4 oz. glass spray bottle. Top with distilled water; shake before each use. So easy!

PLANT …………… COMPANION PLANTS

Green Beans….… Lavender, Basil

Broccoli……………. Basil, Thyme

Carrots……………… Sage

Cucumber…………. Sage

Onion……………..…. German Chamomile

Potatoes………….… Basil, Sage

Tomatoes………….. Basil


I think we are going to try a Basil spray first, since it seems to be friends with lots of types of plants!

I’ll keep you posted as the season goes on!

If you want to check out a whole little e-zine on some of the other information about how oils can be used to encourage growth and troubleshoot problems in your garden, click the button below to read more. 🙂

  • Gathering Wellness is an interactive FB community where we learn about lifeskills, homemaking, and wellness together. To join us, just click here!

embracing grace in the grind.

For those of you who grow weary in well-doing sometimes– or easily get overwhelmed with the task of doing tasks without seeing the list grow smaller… this is a reminder:

It’s okay to let things go sometimes.

If there are certain things that you can’t *stand* being messy– as in, it wears on your mental or physical well-being– then by all means, keep doing those things. But others? It might just be okay to give them… space.

This quotation by Emily P. Freeman is talking about spiritual practices, but I’m going to apply it to the here and now…

“It’s not about what items on a [cleaning] checklist that we need to check off. In fact, if a [task] is causing you to experience shame, anxiety, tension, or overwhelm, I’d say that’s a practice you don’t need to be doing right now. It doesn’t mean the practice itself is bad or that you’ll never engage with it again, but anxiety in a practice is your body trying to tell you something. It could be an arrow to a wound. It may also be, and often is evidence of a season of growth or change, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way, but that could be what it is…

There is a true narrative and that is the stunning and relentless love God has for you. If a practice runs counter to that narrative, take a pause, take a break, take a breath and find a practice that reminds you of the love of God instead.”

For me, this means I can’t ignore my kitchen forever (nor do I want to)… but it does mean that it is better for me to ignore it until my soul is restored and I can clean it in a healthier space, instead of one of shame (“if you don’t clean this right away, you are lazy”) or anxiety (“I don’t want it to be a mess in case someone stops by”) or overwhelm (when I look around and let simple kitchen clutter upset me in ways that it shouldn’t). THAT is a sign: if the kitchen overwhelms me, that is because I am already overwhelmed, and I need to sit and deal with that before the dishes.

It’s hard for me to do… but I feel like it will lead to a much happier, healthier me, and actually give me the capacity to love my home better overall. ❤️




If you are looking for a place to get ideas about how to love your home while still embracing grace in the grind, please head over to the FB group, Gathering Wellness. We choose a new topic each month to explore and right now we are in the middle of encouragement, conversations, etc., that are all about making our home a loving place for everyone to thrive in. 🙂

The gift of handicrafts. Literally.

Charlotte Mason once said, “The child is only truly educated who can use his hands as truly as his head.”

I will admit: as an adult, there have been many times that I have felt handicapped… not by my lack of knowledge (because I know how to get more of it if I need it), but my lack of skills. I wish I was more “handy,” and find the learning curve a bit harsh at times. (Leaky roof and broken fence, looking at you.)

Right now, I feel it’s so important to teach my children 1) handicrafts (skills that merge both beauty and usefulness) and 2) that generosity and gift giving isn’t just about using money to buy stuff.

When E (my 8yo girlie) began talking about Christmas, we sat down and talked about the gift of creating… and she has decided to put her growing skills in hand sewing and loom knitting to work to make things for her brother and sister (like we read about in Elin’s America).

And together, we are learning the process of scenting and designing goat milk soap with essential oils, mica powders, and flowers.

One day, I’d love to actually learn the processing of making and curing soap from scratch, but the chemicals and storing for the entire process isn’t something we can do right now.

So here is to learning and creating what we can, without waiting for all.the.things to be perfect to do so.

(What do you know… another life lesson. 😉)

Here is the Orange Juniper Goat milk soap we made!

(To see what we used for the soaps, go here, here, and here. 😀 I’m obligated to say that these are referral links, which means our family gets a small smidgen of a boost to our budget if you use them. There is no additional cost to you at all, though. So yay!

Note: the mica powders and essential oils I already had on hand from other projects and needs. Also note… we got the 2lb soap base because I didn’t know how much each bar would make, and how much we would want to do it. We will probably order a 5lb bulk next, to reduce the cost of making it per bar and to give more as gifts this Christmas.)

A glance through our Pioneer/Homesteading Summer

This summer, we had a fabulous time incorporating all kinds of homesteading and pioneering fun!

I will be honest— we didn’t get to all the things my brain had planned. But we enjoyed the slower pace and worked with the realization that learning comes in all shapes and forms and in moments not jammed full of all the things.

I am sometimes better documenting the day-to-day on Instagram; so you’ll find this post to be a one-stop-shop on the smatterings of homesteading moments I have shared over there.

Here we go!

Cheesemaking

Although they made a version of a hard cheese in The Little House in the Big Woods, we did an easy, faster version at home!

Listening Ears and Busy Hands

We did a lot of reading aloud this summer, learning all about the Big Woods and then how life looked on the Prairie before packing up and moving again. Here’s how we spent a good chunk of time: making fun messes on the patio while joining the Ingalls on their journey.

Tracking our Travels

Because we embrace a Charlotte Mason approach to literature, we want to fill our time and minds with living books. Although “school” wasn’t happening in “full,” we liked to narrate the chapters as we read them and write our progress down on our chalkboard.

Life skills

A large chunk of our activities focused on life skills: we learned how to wash and hang clothes by hand. We made cheese, sourdough bread, and cookies. We used our Daybook to track meal planning, planting, and other skills. And although I doubt Ma Ingalls ever made this simple version of oatmeal cookies, she definitely used the few ingredients she had to make something delicious and filling.

Science

After reading about the prairie fire, the kids had a lot of questions about how starting a fire actually helped keep their home safe from fire. (Good question, huh?!) So we chatted and did a little experiment, learning about what fire needs to actually stay a fire. Once we learned those few little things, the kids could figure out the answer to their own question! Learning at work!

The Highlight Reel

To see the highlights of our summer, check out our InstaStory HERE. You’ll find cross stitch, life skills, snack ideas, cabin building, cornbread making, and more! We actually didn’t document a lot this summer because we were in the middle of doing… but that’s okay. 🙂 Just because no one sees it doesn’t mean we didn’t have a lot of fun doing it.

Resources

If you are interested in Little House Copywork that we did (print & cursive), the Daybook that was designed and used and/or the beginning piano book that my husband arranged… check out the freebies and links by clicking on the image below!

Because so much of our summer was developing good habits surrounding life skills, I decided to help my kiddos visualize some of their tasks and organize how they want to structure their time and plan their work. My kids– especially my oldest– really like working with these care task cards!

Home Care Cards

Homesteading Cards

Homelearning Cards

(Also, as a thank you for reading and checking out the resources, click HERE for 15% off the resources mentioned in this post. 😉 )

Since the summer, our schedule has started picking up… as it always does. Music lessons and kindermusik are back. I began teaching debate for our homeschool community again, and coaching our communication club. Our birthday season is in high gear.

I’ll be honest; I do love fall. Autumn has, and probably always will be, my favorite season. But I’m so glad that our days were spent in the Woods and on the Prairie during our warmest season… and I look forward to next summer of learning and doing and going a step further in our small version of homesteading. ❤

Homesteading school

The end of the school year is fast approaching– if you don’t school year round, that is.

We actually do over here, in a very modified way. We finish up our main yearly curriculum and then jump into a theme that helps unify our summer learning a bit. No structure at all doesn’t work well for us right now… and that’s okay.

(A little caveat: We actually just got back from a “end-of-year” celebration trip to the “Historic Triangle” in Virginia– Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. It was so great to wrap up Cycle One of our Gentle Feast learning this year. In history, we studied the discoveries of the Americas, indigenous peoples, and the first settlements/colonies. With Jamestown being less than 8 hours away, it seemed like a great way to see history, and not just read about it. I was amazed at how much my 2nd grader retained from our readings! Williamsburg and Yorktown were a little out of her knowledge-base at the moment, but both places definitely set the stage for this coming year of Colonies through Revolutionary War through George Washington. More on all of this later!)

Back to summer learning.

Last summer, we did Gather Round’s Oceans unit as our main summer “spine.” It was fun and we liked it… and I seriously considered doing GR’s Human body unit this summer for a while.

Instead, I’ve landed on to doing my own kind of thing: Homesteading school.

We are going to take the summer to learn about life skills, survival skills, safety skills, and how people used to live back before we had a lot of modern conveniences. I think these skills aren’t something that should just stay in the past– for a lot of reasons.

(That’s another blog post sometime, I think.)

So, to go along with these skills, I wanted to find some living books to support and enrich us.

Enter Little House books.

We haven’t read them together as a family yet, and I think they will definitely fit the bill with what we are trying to accomplish together this summer.

Because we are all eclectic Charlotte Mason-y over here, and my daughter has asked to start learning how to write and practice cursive, I decided to go ahead and make us some copywork pages to go along with it.

And then I decided that I might as well have a print version of the copywork as well, since J occasionally likes to do letters as well (I don’t push it, since he’s not 6 yet… but if he wants to participate, I don’t discourage him).

Something my girlie likes from a handwriting books she did back in Kindergarten was when copywork was paired with a coloring or drawing/thinking prompt, so I included that in the sheets that I put together as well. Take a peek!

Click here to be taken to the FREE download!

I’ve decided to go ahead and make a page where I will put any samples, pages, etc. that I make as we learn and go along this summer. I’m even making resource of songs that are included in the books for my husband to make simple piano arrangements of! So excited about that. (#perksofacomposinghusband)

If you are interested in downloading Little House and Homesteading freebies, seeing where to get entire downloads and getting ideas to incorporate in your own family, feel free to check back on the Little House/Homesteading Resource page! It’s a work-in-progress right now, but I can’t wait to see what it grows into!

Also, if you have any cool resources, ideas, or have done something amazing with either Little House or Homesteading, I’d LOVE to learn from you! ❤

Zesty Lemon Bars (HFLC/Keto/GF)

It’s been a while since I’ve tried from-scratch desserts in the kitchen that take more than 3 seconds… but this summer has seen me begin to do so again, with fruit-based, refreshing favorites.

I posted recently on Insta about a yummy lemon bar that I tried, adapted, and made… and how great it turned out.

And I’ve been promptly asked for a recipe. 😀

This isn’t a cooking blog, so I don’t have a fancy shmancy recipe card template or a fabulously long and nostalgic story about the significance lemon bars have had in my life, HA!

I hope that doesn’t deter you from trying these. 😉


the recipe

ingredients
1/2 c butter
1 and 3/4 c almond flour (fine)
1 c sugar substitute (xylitol/erythritol blends are good)
juice from 3 lemons (or bottled lemon juice equivalent)
3 eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
powdered sugar substitute (for dusting)
Lemon Young Living Vitality EO

directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Mix melted butter, 1 cup of almond flour, ¼ cup sugar sub and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Combine and pour into an 8” x 8” pan lined with a sprayed pan.

2. Bake for 20 minutes and then let it cool while you mix step 3.

3. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, eggs, ¾ cup sugar sub, ¾ cup of almond flour, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 4 drops of lemon vitality. Whisk together very well to incorporate the eggs.

4. Pour the filling onto the cooled crust and bake for 21-23 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the refrigerator for several hours until firm enough to cut into squares. Dust with additional powdered sugar sub to decorate. Keep stored in the fridge.


I will fully admit to cutting these and eating one while they are warm because I’m impatient. They were okay warm… but MY LANDS. They are AMAZING once you actually let them cool. Both the textures and flavors are ON POINT if you are patient.

<<sigh>>

Patience.

It’s a virtue, they say.

Anyhoo, give the recipe a go and let me know what you think!

My Fall Mother Culture Event Line-up!

I don’t know about you, but in the middle of doing the mom/wife/work/homeschool thing, it can be too easy to forget that we women need community and learning of our own.

It’s the whole “can’t pour from an empty cup” thing.

I’ve said this before, but before I learned about Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy, I came across her advocacy for “Mother Culture” and…

I. was. sold.

Because it can be hard to find something in the community to fit my schedule for me to come to, I’ve started making small events in my home for others to come and attend. As a result of this time, I find motivation I need to tie up cleaning loose ends around the house (ahem…), learn something new, feel the fulfillment of seeing a project/event “completed” (versus chores, etc., that never stop), and opening my home to both my friends and any friends that *they* have… which allows me to meet new people at the same time.

I’ve just spent some time plotting out the fall classes, and can’t wait to get started prepping for them.

If you are in the upstate SC area and happen to come across this blog post, please connect! RSVP to one of these events and come on over! I’d love to meet you!

For those of you who are interested in doing events like this for yourself and want some tips on how to get something like this started, shoot me an email or leave me a comment! I’d love to chat and walk you through the process! It really is easier the more you do it!

Without further adieu, my upcoming Mother-Culture-inspired Community events!


(Click on pics to read more details!)

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Consider yourself officially invited to our Beanie & Brunch event! Grab yourself some thick, soft yarn and come learn how easy it is to knit with a loom!

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Are you a fan all things fall, pumpkin, and latte? Me, too!

I’m planning a small paint, sip, and sniff event at my home, and would love to see some old friends… and make some new ones!

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Did you know that November 14th is National Pickle Day?

In preparation for this amazing new-to-most-of-us holiday, come join us to learn an amazing new pickle recipe, packed with fresh veggies, herbs, and even some essential oils!


Fellow momma teachers, do yourself a favor…

If going to or planning events isn’t your thing, no worries. But please DO something for YOU.

As you plan a lesson for your kiddos, or sign them up for some class or extracurricular, make a commitment to invest time– and even money?– in your own enrichment, too.

YOU are worth it!