Monday, February 8, 2016

Sweet Success... maple sap!

Maple tree sap, TapMyTrees, maple sugaring

About a week ago, Kurt helped Arlene and I put the taps in our maple trees. The weather was actually a little bit too warm last week for us to get sap. Then, it turned colder. Hurray! Today we had sweet success... maple sap in our buckets!

I know it will take several days of collecting sap to have enough to boil, so I asked the ladies at the local bakery to save us a couple of empty icing buckets. Emily scrubbed them twice, then I bleached the one we wanted to use today... and triple rinsed with hot water, just like our book instructed. Hopefully we will have enough by this Saturday to try boiling it down into syrup.

We are excited to be using our maple sugaring kit from Tap My Trees. Stay tuned, we'll post another update later this month!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Colossians 3:15, Christian living

Colossians 3:12-17English Standard Version (ESV)

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The third chapter of Colossians provides so many practical ways to live in Christ, and for Christ. In it, Paul reminds the Colossians, and us, to set our minds on "things that are above," that is, to set our minds on things of Heaven. To put our focus on things that God the Father, and Christ the Son are focused on. It is so easy to get distracted by all the things around us on this earth that desire our attention. When we choose to put our mind on eternal things, then the peace of Christ truly can rule in our hearts. If we let our minds focus on earthly things, that peace flees. 

I want to be the one who sets her mind on things of God. I want to be kind, humble, patient. I want to have a compassionate heart. In order for God to change me into this person who follows after Him, I need to seek the things that are above.

I need to be still before God. I need to be before God. I need to stop striving, and just be. 
I cannot change myself, and yet, time in His presence changes me. We need not leave His presence just because the world is rushing past us. God truly is omni-present. He is everywhere. We can find Him wherever we are. 

It is time to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, and in our lives.

It is time to be thankful.

It is time to be in His presence.

It is time to be.

Praying that as you seek Him, time in His presence fills your heart with peace!

Monday, February 1, 2016


L.M. Montgomery quotes

Tomorrow holds the promise of a new start.

Wherever you are today, whatever has happened, take it to God, leave it all at His feet. 
The good, the bad, the joys and the sorrows. Ask Him to give you a fresh start tomorrow, and to lead you by the hand through your day. Trust Him to know what is for your good, and most importantly, for His glory.

Sleep peacefully tonight, knowing that God makes you to dwell in safety. 
He will be there to hold your tomorrow.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter Garden Dreams

In the Winter

I dream of digging dirt

I dream of planting seeds

I dream of warm sunshine, gentle rains, and fresh breezes

In the Winter

I dream of getting up extra early to watch the sun rise
and staying up late to watch it set

I dream of walking barefoot across my front porch to sit in the swing
and watch the songbirds fly by

I dream of watching butterflies flit from flower to flower
and wait with hope that one would land next to me

In the Winter

I dream of fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes 
and the salad they will adorn

In the Winter

I dream of my garden

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tap My Trees ~ Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets ~ A Crew Review

Tap My Trees, Maple Sugaring Supplies

Arlene and I are beginning a new adventure ~ maple sugaring! Tap My Trees sent their Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets for us to review as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. We have known for a long time that there are successful maple sugaring operations all over our state of Indiana, as we've often seen email blasts about Maple Syrup festivals in the late Winter months. When we were up at the Indiana Dunes a few years ago we saw some of the equipment that they use to process their maple sap during their festival. But, this is the first time that we have had the opportunity to try it ourselves! Who doesn't like some maple syrup on their waffles?!

The first thing you need is an appropriate maple tree (Sugar, Black, Red, or Silver,) or a Birch or Walnut tree. Then you need some equipment, and some know-how! We are fortunate to have a mature maple tree in our front yard, and another one that straddles the property line in our back yard. I haven't had a chance to talk with our neighbors yet about the one in the back yard, but hopefully they won't mind us tapping it too so we can use all three buckets that came in our Starter Kit. This kit had everything we need to tap our trees, except the drill! It included three aluminum buckets and lids for collecting sap, three spiles to tap the trees with, hooks for attaching the lids (to keep out debris and curious squirrels,) a drill bit to make the correct size holes, cheesecloth for straining the sap, and most importantly~ the Maple Sugaring at Home book ~ full of the know-how we need!

Don't let the small size (of about 40 pages) of Maple Sugaring at Home fool you ~ this book has a plethora of information! It begins by introducing the equipment you will need to have your own maple sugaring operation, and helps you identify your trees. It is much easier to identify your trees before the leaves fall, but it CAN still be done in the winter . . . it just takes more effort. Since we already knew we had maple trees, we just needed to identify which kinds they were. If you're wanting to tap your own trees this winter, go look at the bark, and look under the tree to see if there are still leaves that had been shed last fall underneath that can help you identify your tree. 

Tap My Trees, Maple Sugaring Supplies

In the book you will also learn that the tree's diameter determines how many taps you can put in each tree. Arlene still had her tree diameter measuring stick that she made at the State Fair a couple years ago, so we used it to check on the tree in our front yard. It is large enough to support two taps. In our area of Indiana, most maple sugaring occurs in February and March. We feel fortunate to have had time to study the process and the equipment this past month or so, and are almost ready to go tap our trees! If you're just now purchasing your supplies, set aside a whole day to study the book and equipment.

The Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets came neatly packaged all together, and for once, we waited until Dad got home before opening it! The buckets seem huge at first, but when you realize that each tap might produce between 5 and 15 gallons of sap in under two months, you're going to want the buckets to err on the big side. Since we are fortunate to have our trees so close to our house, we should be able to collect the sap everyday. After reading the book, we were reminded of just how much sap it takes to make maple syrup. In order to store up that sap until we have a large amount, I requested a couple of food-grade buckets from our local bakery. We have cleaned them, and will rinse them out again with boiling water before storing the sap in them. We plan to put them in our extra fridge, but the book does give instructions on how to store extra sap in containers in a snow pack outside if necessary. 

Since the sap needs to be used within 7 days of collecting, we plan to boil it at least once every week, probably twice a week. Since it takes about 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup, that's a lot of boiling! We might try some of the other ideas Tap My Trees gives for using the maple sugar sap. Arlene wants to try baking with it, and I just want to see what it tastes like.

Tap My Trees, Maple Sugaring Supplies

This upcoming weekend is forecast to be in the low 40's during the day, and the 20's at night ~ perfect weather to put in our taps! I'll be sure to come back later in the season and let you know how our newest adventure is going!

Since Arlene is going to be my partner in this adventure, she has been studying the book and the equipment too. Here is her summary:

Tap my trees is a fun way of learning about maple syrup at home. Before this I always though you had to have a forest of maple trees and lots of buckets to make your own maple syrup. Now I know that you can do it right at home. The kit has three buckets which is nice because we live on the edge of a city, and like most people living in or around a city, we do not have a forest of maple trees. The book that comes with the kit is very helpful it tells you what is in the kit, how to use it, descriptions of the different kinds of maple trees and where they grow, how to store your sap and syrup, how to turn sap into syrup and even other uses for sap besides just boiling it for syrup.

I am impressed by the quality of the equipment included in the Starter Kit. I look forward to following the directions on how to complete the whole process start to finish at home. I appreciate the candor with which they tell you to clean the equipment, use it, and clean it again before storing it for use again next year. These aluminum buckets should be fairly easy to clean, and the way that the other pieces of equipment nest together should make storage simple. We hope to use it for several years.

Several other families from the Crew are also reviewing this Starter Kit from Tap My TreesSome of them live further South than us and have already collected some sap from their trees. Click on the banner below to read all the reviews. This could turn into an adventure for the whole family!

Follow Tap My Trees on Pinterest, Facebook, or on their YouTube channel!

Tap My Trees Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, January 25, 2016

Find Beauty Everywhere

finding beauty, Dale Chihuly

Our focus needs to be less on ourselves, and more on the world around us. One simple step towards this change in focus is to learn to slow down. When we slow down, we can find beauty everywhere we go. 

Sometimes finding beauty takes a patient eye, and sometimes it jumps out and takes us by surprise. 

Think of some of the things you've seen in the past month that you thought were beautiful. Was it the snow falling outside your window? Perhaps it was your child's smile when you made their favorite breakfast. Did you see a songbird on the feeder, or a beautiful flower at the market?

Several times I have been to The Children's museum of Indianapolis. The centerpiece Fireworks of Glass by Dale Chihuly always makes me want to pause. While magnificent and awe-inspiring when seen from above, I find it most beautiful when viewed from below. There is a rotating reclined bench underneath that gives the observer a wondrous view up through the blown glass. Although, if you are in a hurry, you'll miss it.

I have lived too much of my life being in a hurry. I have missed finding beauty along the way.

That needs to change. 

I cannot change myself, only God can change me. That is the change that lasts! 
As I was reading in Psalm 37, the first half of verse 7 jumped out at me: Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him, fret not yourself...

While I cannot cause lasting change in myself, I can choose to be still before the LORD. I can make choices about my schedule that "fret not myself." I can be patient while waiting for God to change me.

I will choose to find beauty everywhere I go. I will slow down my pace until I see the beauty that God has put around me. With His help I will learn to appreciate the beauty and focus on it. I will find beauty, and share it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Out with the old...

household organization, 34 weeks of cleaning

If you went through the 34 weeks of Clean with us last year, inspired and hosted by my dear friend Michele over at Family, Faith and Fridays, you'll remember that the goal is to do one deep cleaning and purging task per week. By Fall of each year your home will have gone through a total overhaul. It really helped us get a handle on the mess that had accumulated in the corners.

Well, we went through and did almost every week's tasks last year, except there were a couple that got pushed aside ~ because life happens!

I've been going through the list and planning to clean and/or purge those 34 areas again this year. It is so much easier to live in your house when you feel like you own it, instead of it owning you! As I looked through the list, I was reminded of one task that got stalled along life's way that I wanted to revisit now, and not wait until later to complete.

If you look at the top left picture above, you'll see my old address book (week 31 of 34 in Michele's list.) You'll notice all of the envelopes hanging out the sides, and a page with no names. Yeah. I chose this page to protect our innocent friends and family, those who might still think I keep my desk organized (more on that in a later post!)

This is the address book I purchased the year Kurt and I got married. It's more than 20 years old. The only thing I think I did right with this one was to write in pencil instead of ink. For the other things I should have done, like update the addresses when the Christmas cards came each year, or remove family names when someone died...Let's just say I've been remiss in keeping it organized for the past 10 years or so ~ thus the plethora of loose envelopes!

I wanted to keep up with the 34 weeks of cleaning, but I needed to be frugal. Looking at the new address books at the big box stores last Fall, I found them rather pricey (for anything cute,) and I knew that while most people keep that information on their phone or computer, I still wanted a written copy for myself. The girls and I were at the local Christian bookstore browsing, and I noticed this cute address book on the clearance table. It was under $4 ~ right in my price range!

I wish I could tell you that everything has been transferred over and the book is getting regular use as I write notes to friends and family...but that wouldn't be true. So far, I've gathered all those loose envelopes, plus, I took a photo on my phone of all the return address labels on this year's Christmas cards. I'm hoping by the middle of February to have it all set up and ready to go. A girl can have a dream right? I just need a quiet hour or two, surely I can find that int he next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I need to make sure the girls remember that the focus for the next week needs to be the kitchen cabinets and doors ~ week 3 of the 34 weeks list! If you're needing some inspiration to take back your house, and your sense of calm, click on the  Label link below to read all of our 34 weeks of cleaning w/ friends posts from 2015, or pop over and see all the posts and links at Michele's blog.

Go clean something, you'll thank yourself for it later!