Monday, September 15, 2014

Five Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

Hello! How are you? Are you ready for Fall? I am. I'm loving the cool mornings, and I've been making lots of fallish foods. There's nothing more fallish than pumpkin, right?

I just made some super easy Pumpkin cookies, so I thought I'd share that recipe (in case you haven't seen it on Pinterest 1,000 times), and a few other of my favorite pumpkin recipes from the last few years.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

1 can pumpkin (14 oz)
1 box spice (or yellow) cake mix.
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Just mix all ingredients together and bake at 350º for 12-14 minutes or until they feel a little springy when touched. I used a silicone baking mat and bumped up the heat to 375º.  They are very soft and stay that way, yum! Be warned, they don't last at room temperature because the pumpkin holds so much moisture. So keep them in the freezer, if you can keep from eating them all right away. : )

Here are my other favorite Pumpkin recipes. (Click on the name to go to the recipe/post)

Pumpkin Scones

 Pumpkin Pie Dip

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

And, the ever-popular Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I hope you are enjoying the tastes and smells of Fall!

You are loved!


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Hi! Today I don't have a recipe, a craft or a garden post. I just have some random thoughts to share.  Can you stick with me 'til the end of it though?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."
- A Tale of Two Cities
 Charles Dickens, 1859

In a lot of ways I feel like this opening line from Dickens sums up our world so well. I feel like my generation has had it pretty easy, we've lived in a "season of light." We enjoy more freedoms, and opportunities than perhaps any another generation. We have traveled more and know more about what's going on around the world at any given moment than any other generation--thanks to amazing advances in technology. 
Thanks to that same technology, we also have an increasingly broader spectrum of news at a faster pace than ever. Anyone can report things, and because of that we know more. We can't pretend not to know.  If you happen to be a news junkie, like myself, you know that there are unspeakable things happening in our world. It seems even more so these last couple of months. There are pandemics spreading, terrorists ravaging, and countries threatening to overtake one another. There are 30 million people today living in slavery. So you might also say this is a "season of darkness."  

The other day I was going to bed after reading more news, and talking about some of my recent fears with a friend. I was anxious, and the world felt dark. I stopped in Thing 1's room to kiss him good night and found that he had hung this door hanger he made at Sunday School on his light-up globe, right next to Syria and Iraq. 

I took a deep breath and felt like God had just sent me a lunchbox note on a bad day at school.  I don't know what the next days or months will hold, but I do know that God will be there. He already knows. He won't be surprised, and in the end, He wins. So instead of worrying, I'm going to pray. That may sound cheesy to you, especially if you don't believe that God is in control, that He loves us and that He has a plan, but I believe all those things. A friend recently shared with me some truly amazing stories of very specific answers to prayer; miracles, some would say. And it made me realize that I have sold prayer short for too long. So I'm going forward today, with a new resolve to trust God, to talk to Him, and not to worry. 

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." 
                                                                      Psalm 62:8
I don't know what you're worried about today. Maybe Ebola and the Middle East are the farthest things from your mind. Maybe you are just struggling to get though the day. Sickness, feeling alone, hating your job, losing your way. I don't know. But I do know this: God always keeps His promises. That doesn't always look like I want it to, and it's not always on my timeline, but when I look back at different struggles in my life I always realize that it was true.

God always keeps His Promises.

Maybe you need to hear that today too. There is always hope and YOU are always loved!

Keep Calm and Carry On, dear friends.

- Haley

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Garden Before and After

Hi Guys! How was your long weekend? We didn't do anything big, but we did ride our bikes to the local farmer's market, and picked some apples for free. We're living the green dream, my friends, and I love it! Speaking of green, I thought it would be kind of fun to show you how our garden did. In the spring I often post pics of us planting stuff, but I usually forget to show that they actually grew. I have a policy that I don't pin things that don't show the result, so I thought I better start playing by my own rules. Plus, everyone loves a good before and after, right?

I'm always just amazed at how big tomato plants grow. One day last week I picked 15 full-size tomatoes from five different varieties, and a pint of the Sungold cherry tomatoes. 

One of our exciting successes this year was finally growing good onions. We have picked and are dry-storing our small crop of onions. I can't wait to use them for fall soups. 

This year we got more basil than probably all the years we've grown it combined. I've made a lot of pesto, dried enough to last all winter and tossed it into salads.

This was the first year I planted nasturtium with the veggies. It went crazy! It actually kind of took over the beds. I would probably plant only one per bed if I plant it next year. It did add a lot of nice color to our veggie gardens though!

In the fail column: this combo of green beans and squash didn't really work. The squash took over so much it covered and killed the beans. Then we got squash beetles (again!), and some of the squash died. We didn't get a single zucchini this year, thanks to our beetle enemies. We are going to have to get creative next year to figure out how to defeat those guys. Any ideas?

Because we started it so early though, we did get a few good size squash before the bugs got to the plants. It worked well to support the spaghetti squash on these trellises (I always wondered if large squash could really grow on a trellis--yes!).  I also was diligent about spraying Neem Oil on our plants at the beginning of the season, but not so much the last half. Maybe if I had kept up with this it would have kept the bugs away. Next year...

A couple other success: jalepeños from seeds, 

and determinate tomatoes in pots produced a good amount of fruit. We learned a few seasons ago that a sprinkle of bone meal right when the plant starts to produce is the key to healthy potted tomatoes with no bottom rot. Hooray!

Every year is such a learning process. I'm already planning out what we'll plant where next year, based on how things went this year. For now, we're enjoying bringing in fresh produce every day. Lots of our meals have something we grew in every dish, which makes all the work feel worth it. I hope you can find little successes like these to celebrate this week whether they be in the garden or the workplace. I'm convinced the fruits of our labor are worth celebrating, and gratitude is where true happiness is found.

You are loved!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Barefoot Tribe

 As we settle into Fall schedules, I'm excited to get back to my reading list. This month I read a new book called Barefoot Tribe. It's written by a man who grew up in the jungle of Liberia while his family lived as missionaries there. He has taken the experiences he had growing up, and added to them the stories of fair trade entrepreneurs, social justice advocates, and next door neighbors--all finding ways to make a difference in the world.

As I mentioned last week, it can be tough, depressing even to listen to the things going on in the world near and far. At a time when riots, terrorists, and refugees lead the headlines, this book was a breath of fresh air. A reminder that we may not be in a position of power, but that doesn't mean we don't have the power to change a life, to change a circumstance, to make a life-altering difference. Chinchen talks about empowering fair-trade, working to stop the spread of pandemics, becoming modern-day abolitionists, promoting sustainability, and most of all loving like Jesus did.

"God put you and me here to make this world a better place, a more beautiful place. Oppression, injustice, poverty, bigotry, and abuse are real and present. It doesn't have to be this way."
If you are looking for a little encouragement, a pep talk that reminds you that you are here for a reason and you can make a difference, put this book on your list! (Find it here.) We can't do everything, but we can do something, and that could be everything to someone.

You are loved, and you were made to love others.  Let's make a difference!


**Just so you know: I received a free copy of Barefoot Tribe from Howard Books for my honest review. As always, the opinions are mine, because this is my blog. **  : )

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Simple Gifts

                               Simple Gifts 
"Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right."

- Joseph Brackett, 1848

Hello friends. There's a lot going on in the world right now. Sometimes it's hard to write here, because it feels awkward to be celebrating our safe, happy life crafting and cooking and playing, while so painfully aware of the violence and suffering others are experiencing. I am continually seeking our purpose and the opportunities available to make a difference in the lives of people a world away who will never know the joy and safety we take for granted. 

In the midst of that, I am for starters, committed to not taking simple things for granted. One of those simple things is our garden. Gardening feels like something that people across the world have in common. In countries around the world people are planting seeds, tending them, and anxiously waiting for the fruit from them to sustain their families. Many families long for the opportunity to grow their own food. It is a simple gift--one that you can give here or here, if you're interested. I have been gratefully spending time each day trying to make the most of our homegrown vegetables and not let anything go to waste. 

This year we finally grew everything to make salsa. My recipe can be found here, if you need a good salsa recipe. 

We also have had a big crop of basil, so I've been cutting lots of it, drying some, and turning some into pesto. My pesto recipe is here

I divide it in an ice cube tray, freeze and then throw the cubes in a bag in the freezer to be enjoyed all winter. Our new favorite meal is cooked meatballs tossed in warm pesto over couscous. 

There's nothing really special about our garden, or the food we make, but I'm grateful for it, and I know that even what seems like our simple life is extravagant to most the world. I will do my best to be always grateful for it and never to take these simple gifts for granted. 

In the midst of a crazy world take a cue from simple things; and do not worry. 
You are loved. 

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