A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday evening to you, friends. Or perhaps it is already Saturday (and December!) by the time you will read this week's gratitude post here... I do believe this is the *latest* I have ever written a blog post to be published that same day! {smile}

We had a lovely family fun night of homemade pizza and putting up our Christmas tree. So many memories and stories to share as we unwrap ornaments and place them upon the branches of our artificial tree.

Oh, how I love the scent of real pine... but our artificial tree is very beautiful and works *perfectly* for us each Christmas season. We love it! We broke with tradition this year and set our tree up in our dining room, rather than the living room. It is a fun change, I think.

Our holiday decorating is rather minimal, actually. In all of our simplifying and de-cluttering we have honed our decorations and ornaments down to just the ones that we really like, and especially the ones that are handmade and crafted by the children... those are the extra-special ones. Only a few other decorations have endured for all of these years, I honestly don't miss the rest.

As I write these words, the Christmas tree is lovingly bedecked and twinkling its pretty lights beside me. This was an extra lovely family fun night.

Here are a few snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week ~

:: All of the snow. I am enjoying the snow covered landscape, the occasional snowshoe walkabout, afternoon walks with Jack, and the crisp cold air.

:: My handyman hubby. He does so much to keep our homestead going... quite the competent do-it-himself guy, my man is. This week, he worked on his plow truck and kept the driveway clear. And indoors, he tended to a needed bathroom fix. 

:: Deer in the pasture. One of our girls looked out the window just in time to spot three mule deer right outside the yard. A buck and two does. She was excited with her discovery! 

:: Teamwork. I didn't make it to the grocery store last weekend as I had hoped to, but our girl who works in town did the shopping for me one afternoon this week after she got off work. What a blessing!

:: Peacefulness. It was *so* still and quiet when I was walking Jack in the pasture earlier today. It was lightly snowing and the only sound was our feet crunching on the ground. I purposed to abide in that moment, to soak that loveliness right into my skin. It was bliss.

:: Speaking of Jack... here he is in the dim light of a snowy afternoon, basking in the heat of the wood stove. Ah, what a good life he has. I love that dog.

Well, it is late friends. Time for me to say good-night or this will be my first post of December!


End of November on the Homestead

With but one day left in November, here is a look at some of this month's goings-on at our place...

Sledding! As soon as the snow flies, the wintry outdoor activities begin. The kids get out their sleds and Mama dusts off the snowshoes. Yes, homesteading and farm tending and all of the makings and doings of a simple life can be a lot of work, but we do a pretty good job of playing and simply enjoying the land that the Lord has blessed us with, too. {smile}

Here is one of our sweet goats, Coco, perched upon a rock to get a better view. I think our goats love watching us from their adjacent-to-the-yard space as much as we love watching them! (Is Coco *smiling* in that picture? Hmmm...)

One of my seven remaining hens, seemingly unsure about leaving the cozy coop. Not big fans of free ranging in the deep snow, those chickens of mine sometimes choose to stay in.

And then there were two peeking out of the open door, pondering a barnyard peck-about in the snow. They did eventually decide to hop out of the coop, but they took their time about it. {smile}

Our ducks, though, are undeterred by the weather and happy to spend a sunshine-y afternoon in their big open pen. It seems as though our ducks are filled with joy just about all of the time.

There is much to learn about happiness and contentedness and sticking together by watching our wee family of ducks. I just love them. And they do love the snow!

My cow-friend Matilda and her Shadow grazing in the snowy back pasture. She lifted her head when I called her name... likely wondering if I was offering her a treat. And how lovely those snow covered pine trees upon the mountain are, yes?

Inside... I am knitting dishcloths for holiday gifting with Christmas colored cotton yarn. So festive! I hope to make enough so that I can keep one or two for myself. Knitted dishcloths are so absorbent and my very favorite thing to use for washing dishes by hand.

And our upright freezer contains wild game meat once again. Praise the Lord for the blessing of hunting season success. One of our boys harvested an antelope and another got a mule deer. And there are still quite a few apples in the freezer alongside those packages of home-ground burger. We are thankful!

Another happy-busy (and rather snowy!) month of homesteading is nearly behind us. December, here we come!


Jack and other goodness

What a week full of good things it has been! Lots of snow, lots of good food, family togetherness, and Jack . . . most definitely a few of my *very* favorite things. {smile}

It was a snowy weekend at our place. And since most of our big tribe enjoyed a four-day break from work and homeschooling, we had plenty of time amidst our daily chores and doings to play outside together and put tracks in the snow all over our homestead.

Jack used up some of his endless energy to chase his ball in the yard.

My dear hubby was able to relax between the last few end-of-season hunting trips with the boys and his day-off tasks around the farm and join the rest of us for a fun walkabout in the snow.

Jack is also ever-willing to chase his smaller ball in the snow. Either one, big or small, is fine with him . . . that Jack just *loves* to play. Our friendly goats kept an eye on us, as they love to do.

Before my hubby plowed our driveway, some of the kids took advantage of the very best sledding hills around - we think! - and raced on their sleds. So fun!

What a treat this was! Our oldest at-home daughter offered to make us a fancy breakfast . . . eggs, Thanksgiving leftovers, and coffee. It was delicious and a lovely stay-at-home date for my hubby and me.

And familiar Christmas songs and piano duets are filling the air and making it seem so festive at our place! Two of the girls had a long practice session together recently, with Jack at their feet. Our piano is in our living room, right beside the kitchen, which encourages lots of practice . . . even mama is learning to play piano, when I have a chance. So glad I can read the music since I have played the flute since childhood!

Lots of goodness to think about and be thankful for! Ordinary goodness. We are blessed.


A Grateful Heart

Hello, friends . . . how lovely to be reflecting on this week's moments and bits of gratitude while enjoying a four-day weekend from work (for my dear hubby) and our usual homeschooling schedule (for the rest of us) and cooking (for me).

Yes, we actually have enough leftovers from our big family's Thanksgiving feast to keep mama out of the kitchen - except for tomorrow's chili making - for a couple of days. My hoped for plan has come to fruition. {smile}

Our Thanksgiving was very nice. Nine of our family of ten around our table counting our blessings and enjoying togetherness, my grand-dog Juno keeping my boisterous Jack entertained. . . food everywhere. . . regular text messages and pictures from our adult son who lives too far away to come home, but still stays wonderfully connected. Our whole family together, in a sense. It was the best we could do and it was wonderful.

And there was pumpkin pie, which makes any day an extra-good day, I think. {smile}

Here are a few recent tidbits from my ongoing gratitude list ~

Our teen boys processed the antelope that one of them was blessed to harvest during hunting season. We now have some wild game meat in our freezer for the first time in awhile, and the boys have more fond memories of hunting trips with their daddy... praise the Lord!

*homesteading plans*
I lost another of my sweet old hens this week. So now my wee flock of chickens is made up of but seven. It is always sad to lose a critter... even when they are old and die of natural causes. But such happenings prompt the discussion of future hopes, and we are planning to bring a whole bunch of baby chicks home to the farm in the spring... so exciting!

I finished another of the dishcloths that I am knitting to give as Christmas gifts. I really treasure the moments of family togetherness in the evenings, after supper and the chores of the day are done. Knitting near the wood stove, sometimes watching a movie with my tribe, perhaps listening to an online sermon or a favorite music playlist, always with Jack at my feet... bliss.

*daily walks*
Whether indoors or out, my daily walks are such a blessing to me. Walking has been a part of my life for years and years and over the past year it has become such a meditative time of self-care and joy... and now I am doing a deliberate two miles per day (along with twenty minutes of hooping playtime happiness) as I venture to my fiftieth birthday in January... run hoop 50... love!

*lesson 15*
Closer, closer I am to graduating from my ASL 101 course! The last class and test of the syllabus are behind me. The two course finals are all that remain. Oh, how far I have come (I now realize as I study and review) since the early lessons. How grateful I am for growing in my fluency and signing confidence... so pleased!

There is always something to be thankful for. It sounds odd to say it, but I am thankful that I know that in every situation there is indeed something to be thankful for. It has taught me to look for the good, to dwell on the lovely, to notice the blessings in everyday life. I am thankful for the faith the Lord has given me to simply trust Him as He guides my steps and strengthens my desire to know Him and glorify Him with my life. Jesus fills my heart with inexplicable joy and peace that is untouchable by outward circumstances, other people, or even my own thoughts. I would be so lost without Him.

My life is not perfect and I myself am such a work-in-progress. So thankful I am that I have nothing to prove and that grace isn't earned. God is in control and He is so so good... always.


our Thanksgiving menu

Let the cooking begin! Those words have been my motto every morning this week as I bustle about the kitchen to get a few things prepared in advance of our holiday feast, and oh, yeah... tend to each day's needed cooking and baking as well. Whew!

My hoped for plan is to cook all week and then spend the three days following Thanksgiving eating and serving leftovers along with our traditional big batch of weekend chili.

This is our menu for Thanksgiving 2018.

Before dinner snacks ~

veggie tray: carrots, celery, olives, pickles, beets, ranch-style dip
a variety of crackers
potato chips
stuffed mushrooms

Thanksgiving dinner ~

mashed potatoes
sweet potatoes
green bean casserole
homemade rolls
rainbow gelatin
cranberry sauce

Later ~

pumpkin pie
apple cinnamon cake
a fruitcake that my girl got for us {so thankful}
whipped cream / ice cream

Oh, how delicious it all sounds! I love cooking together and eating the familiar foods that are part of our big family's holiday tradition. And the best part of Thanksgiving for me is enjoying the day with as much of our tribe as possible gathered around our table, watching movies, playing games, perhaps enjoying an after-dinner homestead walkabout. We won't have quite everybody at home this year, but I intend to give thanks for what I do have rather than dwell on what I don't... there is so much to be thankful for. God is so good.

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with much goodness and gratitude where you are, friends.


thanking God for His faithful provision

In this Thanksgiving season that focuses our attention on gratitude, it would be remiss of me, I think, to not share one of the many stories I have of God's faithful provision in our big family's life.

We are a large family living a joyfully frugal life on my dear hubby's single income. It is our priority to have mama at home with the kids, and my hubby and I do all kinds of thrifty and from-scratch things to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our one income... frugality is both a game and a necessity, around here.

Another of our priorities is to remain debt-free. God has allowed us to achieve our family's financial goal of paying off our mortgage, and we do not have loans or consumer debt. Praise the Lord for the amazing freedom of having no monthly payments due other than common bills and living expenses.

And each month, as we plan our budget and spend our funds, God amazes us by providing for every need that arises and by blessing us with a true contentment in simple things and an appreciation for what we already have, rather than always desiring shiny new "stuff" that tends to become as clutter rather quickly. We believe that true wealth has nothing to do with money or fancy possessions.

I guess what I mean to say is that we realize that everything we have (material and otherwise) is because of the Lord. Oh, how thankful we are for this farm and land, our critters, our trusty old vehicles, our cozy little farmhouse, closets and dressers full of clothes, a larder and freezer well-stocked with food, enough money to pay our bills, and so on... there is no end to God's goodness and I probably don't even know of all the ways He takes care of us.

Over the years, there have been a few specific instances that really stand out, though. Times when God has so clearly and specifically answered a prayer and provided a need that we couldn't help but smile and say.... wow. Thank you, Lord!

Awhile back - quite some time ago - and I no longer remember all of the particular circumstances, but our big, upright freezer was empty and the stockpile of canned items and such was quite depleted. All of the food storage that I had accumulated was used up. We were grocery shopping each week and had plenty to eat, but it was hard to plan our menu and keep to our grocery budget with nothing in reserve to draw from.

So I told the children that we were going to pray and ask God to help us fill the freezer. We did that... we prayed together and then each of us committed to asking the Lord to provide for our specific need in our personal prayer time, too.

Some time went on. The empty freezer stood on the porch... defrosted, cleaned, unplugged. We kept on praying, and waiting.

As we were driving home from town one day, I suddenly had an idea. We needed to plug in the freezer. It was a way to show God we trusted Him to provide, I thought. I shared my idea with my tribe and as soon as we got home, I plugged it in.

Within days of that show of trust in God, a friend called my dear hubby. This friend was cleaning out their own freezers and had quite a bit of game meat from previous hunting seasons that they no longer wanted. Could we use it? Oh my. Yes! Not to mention that game meat is our favorite! And our freezer was plugged in, cold, and ready to receive it.

I am very frugal. My grown son tells me I should write a book sharing all of my thrifty tips and homemade ways... that would be a very long book. But even more important than my own frugal ways and methods and contentedness is trusting God. All we have, our big family thriving on one modest income, and every step of self-sufficiency we are blessed to achieve on our homestead, is because of Him. I am thankful.


A Grateful Heart

Another happy Friday to you, my friends. Where did this week go? {smile} Mine whizzed by as I am working to tweak our daily rhythms a bit... and I find that changes in routine and habits, while good and necessary, tend to be kind of tiring during the adjustment period.

Basically, I am looking to have a bit more structure in our days without letting that structure become a taskmaster. There is *so* much going on in this happy-busy season of our big family's homesteading life on our farm with our bustling barnyard, in our five student + mama's studies homeschool, with my dear hubby and one of our daughter's outside job schedules, and with all of the interests and activities and makings and doings amongst the eight of us.

So this week has been a good beginning to all of the shifts and tweaks as we experiment with the various aspects of our simple life. I find that parts of the day are busier than usual, but also there is comfort in knowing what to do, what to expect, and when to say enough for the day. And this adjustment in our rhythm is bringing us together to accomplish tasks and projects while also allowing free time for individual endeavors. It's all going smoothly and the feedback from my crew has been positive - so far, so good!

I have another batch of bread baking in the oven as I type these words. This is the third baking I have done this week, I am trying to get a bit ahead on bread making before the extra cooking of Thanksgiving next week. There are currently six loaves in the freezer (I bake 4 - 5 loaves at a time) so I am pleased.

Here are a few more things I am thankful for today ~

:: Deer outside the window. I enjoyed watching a wee herd of deer graze just outside our fenced yard the other day. I haven't seen "my buck" for awhile... I hope he is faring okay.

:: Online shopping. I have mentioned before that I don't particularly enjoy shopping. It wears me out. I like our local thrift store and grocery store. Craft stores - especially yarn and fabric shops - are fun to peruse. Other than that, I do my best to find what I need online. And this week, I began some online shopping for Christmas and all of our upcoming birthdays. It was so much fun and my orders are here *already.* Yay!

:: Afternoon walkabout. Right in the middle of a bustling afternoon yesterday, the kids and I took Jack for a romp in the pasture. It was so nice to get outside together and breathe deeply of the crisp autumn air.

:: My current reading. I have several books going right now - a novel (My Dear Hamilton), a book of poetry (the sun and her flowers), and a book of short stories (The Four Million)... I am also reading aloud to our children (By the Shores of Silver Lake and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) each day and doing my ongoing Bible reading (currently, I am in Joshua and Luke).

It has only been in the past couple of years that I have taken the time to read for personal pleasure and interest once again, and developed the habit of continually reading through the Bible, and I must say that in no time I have reawakened my inner bookworm! {smile} And I adore reading aloud to my children, it is one of my favorite things to do.

:: Lesson 15. The very last unit in my sign language class... I am *so* close to graduating from the online course!

:: Fresh snow. It is snowing on our homestead today. The view is wintry white and wonderful. But I actually can't see very far because of the snow coming down. I love it!

*Beep* goes the oven timer - my bread is done. Wishing you much gratitude where you are...

pumpkin pie in a cup - yum!

As a devoted fan of all things pumpkin, I always keep a stockpile of canned pumpkin puree in my larder. And homemade puree is often found in our freezer and refrigerator, too. No such thing as too much pumpkin around here! {smile}

One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin puree is to make a smoothie that is very much like pumpkin pie in a cup. It is a yummy blended drink (my youngest child's very favorite) that we often have with breakfast or for a snack no matter the time of year, though it does seem especially suited to autumn... pumpkin season!

Here is the easy-peasy recipe for you ~

1/3 cup cooked pumpkin puree - canned or homemade
1 large ripe banana, frozen - peel banana, cut peeled banana into chunks, and freeze
1 Tablespoon quick rolled oats - uncooked
1 teaspoon ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon almond flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk - cow, goat, plant-based, whatever kind you prefer
whipped cream for topping - optional

Place the pumpkin puree, frozen banana chunks, rolled oats, ground flax seeds, almond flour, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, and milk in the container of a good quality blender. Cover the blender container and process until all ingredients are very smooth, I blend mine for about two minutes.

Pour into a jar or glass and top with whipped cream if desired (yes, please!) and serve immediately. We think it tastes like thick, creamy, cold pumpkin pie... yum!


ordinary thankfulness

I am at a stage of midlife in which I have become quite comfortable with who I am. Perhaps it is merely a lovely effect of growing a bit older and having a large trove of experiences to meditate upon as I watch the Lord work in my life. Becoming at ease with authenticity, outgrowing the need to fit in with the crowd or even noticing what others (besides the Lord and my dear hubby, of course) may think... I am so thankful to embrace the quirks that make me who I am right now as I strive to become all that God created me to be.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been deliberately focusing even more than usual on thankfulness and gratitude and my abundant blessings. This week, I spent some time exploring some questions that prompt awareness of and gratitude for ordinary things.

It was a fun and interesting process, pondering these prompts. It surprises me that my answer to simple questions about basic things sometimes requires a bit of considering. And lots of words. One word answers are not usually my thing. {smile}

What is something I love about where I live?
... In a general sense, I am definitely a Montana girl through-and-through! I love this beautiful state that has been my home for more than forty years, since I was a child. Specifically on our mountainside homestead (oh my, how could I possibly choose just one thing?) I love everything about the land... the space, the fresh air, the view, the creek, the pretty rocks, the wildflowers.

What person in my life am I grateful for?
... My amazing hubby. He means everything to me! And because of him I have eight dear children, too. And Jack, my Labrador Retriever. My beloved crew, they all are!

What books am I most grateful for?
... The Bible.
... Books that make me laugh. I loved Marley & Me.
... Classics. I especially enjoy the writings of Charles Dickens.

What is a small thing that I use daily that I am grateful for?
... Our coffeemaker.

What is my favorite kind of ice cream?
... What *is* my favorite kind of ice cream, anyway. Do I need to pick just one? {smile} My daughter and I have a goal to try *all* the flavors that our local grocer sells. Honestly, we haven't tried one yet that I didn't like. Ha! Okay, I will pick something that has peanut butter cups in it if I must choose only one. And that balsamic fig and mascarpone flavor we just discovered... yum.

What is my favorite farm animal?

... My favorite farm animal species? Oh, that's easy... goats! I love, love, love goats. Their personalities, their milk, their scent, their cuddles, all of it. But my favorite individual barnyard critter on our farm is my cow-friend Matilda - my big, beautiful Jersey cow.

What accomplishment am I currently grateful for?
... I am just about to finish an online college course! ASL 101. American Sign Language is something I am studying just because of personal interest and I *love* it, and I enjoy teaching what I know to my children.

What is my favorite thing to wear?
... My ideal outfit is a long, loose-fitting denim jumper (with pockets) over a comfy top with cute, patterned knee-high socks, a handmade shawl, and a headcovering. No jewelry except my wedding ring, and not a bit of makeup. And a spritz of essential oil spray because it smells amazing.

What is a talent I have that I am grateful for?
... Bread making. Yarn crafting. Hoop dancing. Writing. Speaking Hebrew. I am very grateful for all of my homeMaking and homesteading skills and for my hobbies; my skills and abilities (talents?) mean a lot to me since I am entirely self-taught in almost every aspect of my simple homemade life. And I am a patient person, all glory to the Lord.

What is my favorite day of the week?
... Monday. I love getting back to the familiar weekday rhythm. I love fresh starts and the gift of a new week beginning.

What technology am I thankful for?
... The Internet. It is such a blessing and important resource on our rural homestead!

What is my favorite color?
... Orange, a specific shade of autumn-orange, like a pumpkin. Followed closely by mustard-y yellow, red, and green. I like rich, bright shades and colorful things.

Pumpkin spice flavored things - yes or no?
... Yes!

Life is such a gift. God is so good! And there is always something to be thankful for. {smile}


Mooving Day

There is a wee drift of snow beginning to pile up in the corner of Matilda's corral. Already, we have had to dig a bit before we could get the gate opened in the mornings. Winter is coming. Some days it seems as though it has already arrived.

And the pile of ice that we have been scooping out of the back pasture's water trough is growing. Though we are able to keep the trough open, we have also begun the winter task of hauling buckets of warm water to our critters.

We decided that it is time to begin having Matilda and Shadow spend their nights and penned time in our larger fenced enclosure... their winter quarters. So when they return to the barnyard after roaming and nibbling at the dry grass amidst the snow in the upper pasture, they now discover their corral gate closed and simply wander into the adjacent pen for the evening and overnight.

That is where their hay is now. Matilda always follows her food. {smile}

Mooving day kiss!


A Grateful Heart

Such a wintry week it has been... a perfectly cozy week for my hubby's time off from work and our refreshing break from our regular homeschooling activities. A snowy staycation was savored and enjoyed by all! {smile}

Here are a few snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week ~

Snowshoeing. The deep, lovely, powdery snow prompted me to retrieve my snowshoes from the depths of our closet, strap them on with my dear hubby's help in getting them adjusted, and partake in my first snowshoeing walkabout of the season.

One year! Today is the one year anniversary of my eating disorder recovery and I could not be more grateful about it, praise the Lord. And I am very excited to begin merging the Friday happiness post tradition from Run Hoop Julie with my grateful heart posts here in this space... while joyfully leaving the topic of my former long-term eating disorder and recovery behind on my blogs and in my thoughts and conversations. Onward! 

My handyman hubby. Fixer extraordinaire! He ordered the necessary part and fixed my washing machine for me this week. Good as new it is and my laundry is all caught up. Woot!

Successful harvest. One of our boys filled his antelope tag and we will once again - for the first time in a few years - enjoy the blessing of wild game meat upon our table. Oh, how happy I am about that!

I wish you a cup brimful with gratitude where you are, friends...

White Chip Strawberry Banana Cookies

Dear friend, did you know that a basic store-bought cake mix can be used to make cookies? Perhaps you did, yes? I remember when I first made the discovery - I *think* it was my grandmother that shared the tip with me many years ago, even before the interwebs were born. When such lovely and helpful bits of homemaking information were more often passed along via newspaper clippings and pages torn from magazines. {smile}

Through the years, I do believe I have made cookies with every flavor of boxed cake mix that our grocery store sells. My children are especially fond of strawberry cookies. So lately, I have been experimenting and tweaking the usual method of cake mix cookie baking to come up with a white chip strawberry banana cookie that earns the approval of my tribe.

And after a few tries (all of which were pretty tasty, my encouraging crew insists) I have settled on a recipe that is yielding consistently yummy strawberry banana-y results. . . and I would love to share it with you!

White Chip Strawberry Banana Cookies


15.25 oz box of strawberry cake mix
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 medium size ripe banana - peeled and mashed
1/2 cup white baking chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Lightly mist a baking sheet or two with cooking spray. Set aside.

Break eggs into a medium size mixing bowl. Add the cooking oil and mashed banana. Mix well, either using a wooden spoon or with a mixer. Add the cake mix and the unbleached all-purpose flour. Mix well to combine all ingredients. Stir in the white baking chips.

Place heaping-tablespoon sized mounds of batter about an inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake in preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies are set on top and lightly browned around the edges.

When the cookies are done, carefully remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for a minute before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe makes about 34 cookies. Store cooled cookies in a covered container.

Those cookies on those baking sheets that I made this morning? Gone! Not even a crumb or a stray chip remains. Yes, we think these are very delicious. I do hope you like them, too.


Good News

Dear friends, I do hope you had a lovely Christmas! Ours was simple and quiet... we exchanged gifts, enjoyed family time, watched a few Chri...

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