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Hope In the Cross

It has been nearly 20 years since 9-11.  I still remember images of a cross made by two structural support beams that remained amidst the rubble in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York City.   St. Paul’s Chapel Trinity Church stands within a block from the site of ground zero. It was spared amidst crashing debris while a tree beside it was hit. The mammoth limbs of the century old sycamore tree fell within inches of the structure but it miraculously remained intact and undisturbed.  It was used as a resting place for rescue workers during the crisis and later became a place throngs of people went to mourn the nearly 3000 souls that were lost during the attack.  Both serve as memorials to this day of the tragedy but also are reminders of the grace of God during times of despair.

Once I had a neighbor who put a cross out in his yard each Easter. It was covered with flowers and symbolized the joy of the resurrection of Christ. I looked forward to the beautiful display each year. It was a symbol of hope in Christ.

This week is Holy Week. Christians are not able to attend houses of worship due to the pandemic from the Coronavirus.  However, we don’t need buildings to worship in and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ during His crucifixion on the cross.  If we turn to the news, the reports are not encouraging.  The death tolls of those suffering from the virus are rising. There is no good news in the world right now.

The cross still stands out as a beacon for those who believe in Christ’s transforming power of salvation during our current crisis. Pray a simple prayer and Christ will save you. Confess your sins and ask Him to come into your heart. You too can know this hope in Him.

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Lessons From A Henhouse

The year was 1918. The place was a farm near the Blue Ridge mountains in  Staunton, Virginia. My grandfather was a teenage boy no older than fourteen years of age. His family was sick with a flu virus that was plaguing the country. He was the only one on the farm that had not contracted the deadly virus.

His mother was too weak to prepare any food for the family.  She told Crawford to go to the hen house and pick out the plumpest bird that he could find. He was told to hold the bird by the head and toss it until it broke it’s neck. Then he was to pluck it’s feathers and cook it in a pot to make chicken broth for the family to eat in order to possibly recover and survive.

He had never done this horrible chore before.  He had watched his mother and father do it hundreds of times, though at a great distance so as not to get too upset. He had not entertained the thought that the food he ate was one of his barnyard friends. The barn cats and chickens had become pets to him.  He fed the farm animals every day and had special names for each one. The chickens had bonded with him and communicated with him in a special way.  When he appeared inside the henhouse each morning either at feeding time or when he came to collect their eggs they began cooing and clucking in a unique way to show their affection for him.

Yet, here he was having to go choose one to be a sacrificial meal in order to save his family. Would he choose Henrietta or Geraldine? Both were among his favorites.  One had speckled black and white feathers. The other was brown, the color of caramel.  The eggs they laid were the color of their feathers. Collecting the multi-colored eggs was always a fun chore.

He had loved the chickens as a child.  Now was the day, the boy was to become a man. He was to do a deed that would change him forever.  Though he didn’t want to do it, he had to be brave and step up to the plate. He braced himself, and prayed to God to help him obey his mother in order to rescue his family.

In the bible, in 2 Chronicles, you can read the story of Abraham and Isaac. The loving father had to muster the courage to kill his son. God provided the sacrificial lamb instead but was looking for the obedience of Abraham to lay down the son he loved. This story foretells the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s own son.  God was willing to give up His own son for us so that we would receive forgiveness from our sins. John 3:16.

Our nation is faced with a challenge for bravery during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Each one of us is stepping out into unknown territory during an unprecedented time in history. We have been called upon to do things we have never done before. The future may look bleak or uncertain. We can look to the bible for examples of faith to carry us through this time. We can look to our ancestors and remember stories of how they survived. We must turn to God, through Jesus, who alone has the power to heal and to save us all.

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Leftover Food Challenges

Are you guys having the same challenges as I am when it comes to eating your leftovers?  I have never been a huge fan of eating the same meal for days on end.  Food often was wasted in the past because my family is somewhat picky. If it wasn’t that great the first time, I surely could not interest them in it on day two or three.

Here is one particular dish with which I had success. On a cold, rainy day two days ago, I decided to make vegetable soup to increase our vegetable intake and to beef up our immune systems.  My concoction included both tomatoes and a crumbled up beef patty along with whatever vegetables I could find.  I added part of a bag of frozen mixed vegetables which I always try to keep on hand.  I had a few potatoes and a bag of spinach so added some of each of those also.  The broth was a blend of canned beef broth, water and tomato juice from the can of tomatoes.  A recipe online called for some curry, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. I also sautéed onion, celery, carrots and garlic to add to the broth. These seasonings gave it a little kick.

To complete the meal, I whipped up a loaf of banana nut bread.  I had been putting bananas in the freezer when they were starting to spoil with this scrumptious treat in mind.  I discovered the traces of walnut crumbs in the bottom of a container and some dried cranberries in my pantry.  I added these in to the dough for an extra measure of healthy ingredients.IMAG1428 (2)

This meal was quite tasty on this particular cooler weather day.  Now, two days later, I have been eyeing the dish of soup in the refrigerator. I am thinking about eating it, yet again, for dinner.  Cue idea!  It already contains two of the ingredients found in chili. I think I will try adding beans and come up with a slightly altered version of the original recipe. If I add cheese and sour cream, it might pass as chili.  Here is how it turned out. Pretty good for a leftover dish, if I do say so myself!IMAG1429 (2)

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Gardening Therapy

Since we have another 30 day quarantine under executive order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through the whole month of April, I have been trying to think of ways to stay productive in order to stay sane.  Thankfully, we have had some warmer, sunny days here in South Carolina this last week.  There’s no better time to get busy gardening. IMAG1419 (2)

My first flower is in bloom.  It is a purple clematis that I planted near the front entryway back in February.  I know the picture shows a blue flower but trust me, it is purple.  It is cheerful to see it here every time I come and go through my front door.  The hostas and purple heucheras or coral bells are growing nicely and give the corner next to the walkway a shot of color too.  I plan to plant some boxwoods near the front wall as I don’t want anything to grow too tall there and block our view of the garden from the front porch. IMAG1420 (2)

My husband has been planting some foundation shrubs and trees. It has not been an easy job. Each time he has dug a hole, he has hit mounds of large gravel or mostly rocks.  Honestly, builders seem oblivious and careless regarding plans for gardens around new homes.  We have uncovered deep gravel pits within four feet around the entire foundation of the house as well as within four feet of either side of the driveway.  Obviously, these are the prime locations for specimen plants.  My poor husband has been diligently working each weekend for the last month. Each session only ends up with three plants in the ground.  We are deterred but are not giving up.

Here are some plantings so far. Hopefully, the plants will live.  We have tried diligently to improve our horrible planting conditions.IMAG1422 (2)

We found two beautiful Japanese maples at a local nursery. They are called coral bark maples. They provide winter interest as the bark shows off its pretty red branches throughout the cold months. IMAG1424 (2)Along one side of the house, I am starting a bed with a small maple and some dwarf mugo pine shrubs.IMAG1427

I have pots of zinnia seeds starting to sprout near the front door.  They will help me stay motivated as I can see new life emerging and the plants growing a little each day. They will provide a time marker, so to speak, to carry me through the long days of the next month.

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

 

 

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Creative Quarantine Cooking

Have you been missing your favorite dishes at local eating establishments? Are you unsure what to eat? I am like most of you. In pre-Coronavirus days, I confess to being  lazy at times regarding cooking.  Life often sped at a frantic pace. Too often it left me finding short cuts to meals and frequent excuses for spending money eating out.  Now that we are all under quarantine, there is plenty of time to cook and plan meals. However, we may not find what we want on the grocery store shelves. Where is that pioneer spirit of our ancestors? They survived much worse than this.  We need to develop creative alternatives and substitutes in our cooking.

Here are a few ways that I have gotten creative with my cooking lately:

One day, I rummaged through my freezer and found some frozen chicken breasts.  I daydreamed about chicken dishes that I enjoy”ed” in dining establishments. What made them taste so good? Cheese and bacon! So, I made baked barbecue chicken. In the last 15 minutes or so, I layered cheddar cheese and bacon on top of the chicken.  Voila! It was a tasty new way of preparing chicken!

I longed for delicious salads like those at restaurants.  What made them so delicious, I questioned ? The dressing, of course! So again I began experimenting, with salad dressing. I started by adding different vinegars from my cupboards to Italian dressing. It has made my plain old salads much more scrumptious, I have discovered.

What about that sweet tooth? That is an easy one. I put a store bought chocolate chip cookie in a dish then zapped it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. I added a scoop of ice cream on top, using whatever I had on hand.  It began to melt so I took a bite while it was warm. It finished melting in my mouth. Delicious!

I think we are onto something. What are some successes that you have had with cooking experiments? You share yours and I will keep sharing mine as they come to me…

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How I am Spending My Quarantine At Home

I have been trying to stay busy at home during the Corona-Virus quarantine. Two great stress-relievers I have found through the years are decorating and gardening. Neither are expensive. I enjoy repurposing things or using thrifted items for my home. I like to replace cushions, make pillows or window treatments with reasonably priced fabric found at a local fabric outlet. Also, I frequent local nurseries and home stores at the beginning of each planting season to see what new and interesting plant varieties are available to add to my garden.  It helps me stay positive when I am productive and I get great satisfaction in doing things myself.

My most recent decorating projects include some window treatments for my kitchen and office windows.  I found some inspiration for these on Pinterest.  I made simple swags with ribbons for the kitchen.  I found some Waverly fabric with a floral motif online.  I think the grey and beige color goes well in the kitchen as it matches the putty grey countertops. I like the updated look of the design in the fabric which is neither traditional nor modern.IMAG1408 (3)

I wanted to mimic some roman shades for my office but don’t need to raise or lower them for privacy so made the faux version. I used black and white ticking fabric from an old shower curtain that I already had.  This past week I decided to put something over the top of the short windows to elongate them and bring height to the room.  This is what I ended up doing when I unpacked these galvanized planters from my boxed décor. I had saved the black frames and decided they would be perfect to frame out the planters.IMAG1416 (1)

Next, I have been anxious to get outdoors and start planting a garden at the new house. The area near the front door is what I want to focus on first. It has looked pretty empty since we moved in before Christmas.  I began positioning potted plants to figure out an arrangement before planting them. I am slowly putting in a few plants at a time. Here is how it looks so far.  It is pretty shady so I am having to stick to things that do not need sun. Emerald green hostas and burgundy heucheras went in near the corner. I put in some candytuft along the edge of the sidewalk. I had this gate/trellis so I put it by the side of the house and tucked in a purple clematis so that it could begin to climb there.  This miniature birdbath is a temporary fix with a fern to fill in this empty space.  This weekend I added the planters and outdoor rug to make the porch area look more cozy.  I have a ways to go, but this is how it looks so far. IMAG1414 (1)IMAG1411 (1)I would love to know how you have been spending your quarantine time and how you are staying encouraged.  I welcome suggestions on things to add to my garden space or ways to decorate.

Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

What an appropriate scripture that I found in the bible today.  Keep praying and stay positive!

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The Tarheel House

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The Tarheel house was so named because it was sky blue like the colors of our alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill. The original owner had been a graduate of UNC and had painted it this color.
We felt fortunate to have found this house during a bad economic time at a good deal. It was outdated in certain ways. It only had eight feet tall ceilings throughout the original parts of the house. The three and one half baths had old fixtures, cabinets and countertops. One upstairs bath had a jarring chartreuse green toilet and double sinks with navy blue laminate counters. The other two plus the half bath had busy floral wallpaper. There were five bedrooms in all with one master upstairs and one downstairs. A negative feature was that the laundry room was upstairs to accommodate the four original bedrooms.

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The kitchen had an ancient original built in stove with attached microwave that I was afraid to use. There was an original Jennair cooktop on top of the tiled island. The nice feature of the kitchen was that it had a beamed ceiling, cottage-styled cabinets with vertically panelled doors and a big picture window overlooking the back yard. The almost acre sized yard had a park-like feel with an expansive lawn in the back. One side was wooded between the next house. The back of the lot was beside a creek whose bubbly waterfall sounds could be heard after a heavy rain. The down side of the yard was that the house was on a considerably sloped hill from front to back. Parking in the driveway was challenging though the garage was level.

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The desirable features of the house outweighed any negative. A more modern master bedroom was added to the lower level at some point. It included 9 foot ceilings, hardwoods, two walk-in closets plus a lovely master bath with shower, tiled garden tub, vanity and his and hers sinks. In addition, features that attracted us included shiplap in the dining and living room, built in bookcases, a window seat, an office above the garage and a huge walk-in attic for lots of storage space.

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