Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Guest Post: Beautiful Beans by Sue Bracy

I am very excited to introduce my newest guest, my friend, Sue Bracy.  I asked Sue to come up with something to share for the blog.  I left the topic up to her, because she is a women of many trades.  Sue is the type of person that makes you think, is there anything she can't do?   Let me give you some ideas of what I am talking about.  She volunteers for habitat for humanity working with construction.  She has her own set of  power tools which she uses very comfortably.  I have had the privilege of working on some projects with her. She enjoys making her own lotions, balms, and soaps.  She is an awesome cook and conscious about eating healthy, beneficial food.  Her house is surrounded by beautiful flowers that she has planted.  In fact, my house is surrounded by beautiful flowers that she has planted!  She enjoys the outdoors and going on long walks or hikes when ever the weather allows, often pointing out the different types of wild flowers and berries that she sees.  If she doesn't recognize one, you know she will look it up as soon as she gets home.  Sue is a thinker.  She can speak with intelligence on many different topics, making her joy to talk with.  She enjoys music, reading, and relaxing.  She loves life and lives it to its fullest.  She has a great sense of humor, loves to laugh, and is just fun to be with.  You can't be around her long before you hear about her beautiful family and how much she loves them.  She gives her all to the people she cares about and expects nothing in return.  You can truly see her love for Christ abounding in her.  She is a treasure and I am so thankful I can call her my friend.  I was very excited when I received the post she is sharing, because again it is filled with awesome and useful information.  Thank you Sue!!

Beautiful Beans!
OK – I have an admission to make…..I’m a bit of a bean freak.  I love beans of any color, shape, or size.  Since Kelli asked if I would be willing to do a guest blog for her, I had been mulling a few things over that I might write about.  But then it hit me as I was putting some dried black beans in my crock pot before I left for church – I could write about beans! 
I do eat meat, but I enjoy making lots of meatless meals during the week, and beans are such an easy way to add protein, fiber, color, and texture to a variety of dishes, and they are great on their own.  As an added bonus, when you use dried beans, you can save a good deal of money, as well as keep anything you might not want out of your beans.   I didn’t always love them so – as I kid I think I only liked baked beans.  But luckily as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried all different kinds and have come to realize how economical, versatile, easy, and tasty they are.  When I’m in the aisle picking up bags of dried beans, I have to bite my tongue to keep from assailing the passing shoppers – “Do you know what you can do with these?  These are so easy to prepare!  Do you realize how many you get from a $2.00 bag?  Do you know how good these really are?”  
Throughout history, beans were traded and planted as explorers and nomads wandered the earth.  Because of their great storage ability, beans were a primary food for sailors (where the Navy bean got its name).  During the Depression, beans were known as “poor man’s meat” because of their protein power at pennies per pound.  Besides beans supplying nearly all the amino acids, they are a source of Niacin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, B6, and many other nutrients.  A cup of cooked beans contains more potassium than a banana.  In fact, beans have more calcium and iron per cup than three ounces of cooked meat but contain no cholesterol and with less calories.  They are the best source of folate, and their high fiber content and cancer-fighting characteristics have been specifically linked to lowering the risk of colon cancer.  There are eight flavenoids in the outer bean layer, six of which are strong antioxidants.  And they just taste good!  Beans can be eaten raw, sprouted or cooked.  They can even be ground into flour for those who need to eat gluten free.  Beans can be juiced into milk, curdled into tofu, fermented into soy sauce, or even made into noodles (vermicelli). 
How to prepare dried beans: 
Sort:  Put beans in a colander and rinse well.  Check for foreign objects, such as small stones. 
Soaking:  This step isn’t always necessary, but there are advantages, the biggest being a shorter cooking time.  You should add about four times as much water as dried beans.  Soaking also leaches some of the gas producing properties out of the beans, but you need to discard the soaking water and replenish it with fresh water before cooking.  I find the easiest method is to just soak the beans overnight.  A quick method is to add water to beans, boil for 2-5 minutes, then cover and let rest for 1 hour before continuing to cook.
Cooking:  Rinse the beans, add fresh water to cover by a couple of inches, heat them to boiling, then simmer gently (to prevent splitting) until desired softness.  This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the bean.  You should check them for softness every 30 minutes (adding more water if necessary) and remove from heat when they reach desired consistency.  My favorite way to cook beans is to put them in the crock pot, add water to cover by at least a couple of inches and cook on high for a few hours (3-4), or on low (6-8 hours).  Sometimes I put them on low overnight.  If doing overnight, add plenty of water, so they don’t boil dry.  (If in doubt, add more water.)  I cook large quantities of dried beans and then freeze in portions to use in recipes.  This morning I put two pounds of black beans in my crock pot before church, and when I got home divided them into six portions (each one approximately the size of one can) and put them in my freezer.  I don’t add any seasoning when freezing.  Do not add salt until beans are at least 80% cooked, otherwise they may be tough.  With black beans, I will often take out some portions to freeze, and leave a few cups worth in my crock pot, add onions, garlic, and brown rice (add more liquid if dry) and let cook until rice is done, seasoning with salt, pepper, and cumin. 
NOTE:  The more often you eat beans, the more your system will become used to them and avoid the problem of gas.  You may skip the soaking portion if you’re not bothered by gas, but NOTE - Kidney beans are an exception to the normal rules, and must be cooked thoroughly before being used in a recipe using a slow cooker.  Uncooked kidney beans contain a high concentration of phytohaemagglutin, also known as kidney bean lectin, which is toxic.  To avoid any problems, soak kidney beans for several hours, then rinse, add fresh water, and cook thoroughly (for at least two hours) before using in any recipe.
Uses:  I actually like garbanzo beans, pinto and kidney beans as snacks all by themselves.  I especially like garbanzo beans in salads, hummus, and Middle Eastern recipes.  I find black beans extremely versatile – I use them in salads, soups, casseroles, and one of my new favorites is an easy crock pot meal when you have not planned ahead – Place frozen chicken parts, frozen corn, frozen (or thawed) black beans, onions and garlic in the crock pot, and add a jar of your favorite salsa or canned tomatoes (no mixing or water needed).  You can add whatever spices you prefer, and make it as mild or spicy as you like.  I often put this together on a Sunday morning before leaving for church, and cook on high for around five hours or low for around eight hours (crock pots are sooooo forgiving).  If there is lots of liquid, I throw in brown rice a couple of hours before I want to eat, and then all you need is a salad for a scrumptious meal!  (Note:  if you cook chicken that long, it will be fall-apart tender, so watch out for the bones.)   Except during the hottest months, I like to make a big pot of soup each week.  I sauté onions, garlic, carrots and celery, then add some type of broth, a can of tomatoes, any type of bean, and barley or lentils or brown rice, and let simmer for an hour or so.  Sometimes I add cabbage, potatoes, parsnips or rutabagas.  At the end I toss in any odds and ends of leftover cooked veggies I may have lurking in the fridge, and some type of green (spinach, swiss chard, or kale).  It can be so varied with different broths, beans, veggies, grains and seasonings, that it seldom tastes the same twice.
My neighborhood grocery only carries the more common varieties of dried beans.  But if you are fortunate enough to live near larger stores, you will be amazed at all the different types.  Also in the health food aisle you can often find a few of the more exotic varieties.  If you are cooking for kids, there are some great beans out there with catchy names like Adzuke, Anasazi (cool looking red & white beans), and Black Turtle beans.  Involve your kids with the choosing, sorting, soaking and cooking, and they just might be more inclined to try these tasty, nutritious treats!  You may even be raising some future bean freaks!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Five Minute French Manicure

 I have always loved having my nails done.  It makes me some how feel put together, even if I am in sweats with undone hair and no make up.  When I was younger, long before any children came along, it was a priority for me.  With each child it became considerably harder due to lack of time and money.  I gave up on the idea of having my nails look nice.  After all how important was it really in the scheme of things?  I was surprised at how important it was for me.  It wasn't the act of having my nails done, but how having cleaning tidy nails made me feel about myself.  For me if my nails are not done neatly, then I begin to pick, peal, and even bite them.  Then, not only are they not done, but also look horrible which make me feel grubby.  I began to try to find time and ways to do my own nails at home.  This proved difficult for me, because of my perfectionist ways.  I would spend up to an hour sometimes trying to make perfects lines.  Even on the rare occasion that I was able to get just the look I wanted, I would no doubt smear or smudge them for lack of drying time.  Well these frustrating days are over for me.  I came across my new technique by chance one day.  I was digging through the junk drawer in my kitchen and came across one of my handy dandy paint pens.  I thought hmmm....doesn't hurt to try.  It was the perfect thickness and I was able to easily draw a line across the tip of my nail.  What?!  It was crazy, in less then a minute I had clean white nail tips.  I was so excited, but it began to wear off after only a few hours as worked around the house.  I needed a good top coat, and after a few different tries, I found the perfect one.  I had to play with it a couple times to get the right "smile" line for my liking, but once I had it down it was a breeze.  Now just like any french manicure it will wear off after a couple days.  The beauty of doing it in your own home, you can touch it up every day if you want and always have the look of a fresh clean manicure.

Warning this is not toxic or chemical free, but if you get
your nails done or use any kind of regular nail polish it really is no different.

You will need the following:
Begin with clean dry hands.  Use the rounded end of cuticle tool to push back and form a nice wide cuticle bed.  Then use the paint pen and in one direction draw a line starting from the outer side of the nail to the inner side.  This part you need to play with a little to get it right.  Once you have it down you will not need to work at it.  I mostly follow my natural "smile" line.  Once I have my start line, I fill in the rest to the tip.  DO NOT worry if it gets on your fingers.  Do not try to remove it right away, this is something that can be easily done later.  Once you have the "smile" line done then let dry for a minute.  Follow with one coat of your pink polish.  Let dry one minute.  Finish with the top coat.  This top coat drys to a durable shine in just a few minutes.  Once your nails are completely dry then you can use soap and water to remove any extra paint that may have gotten on your fingers.  I have literally put my kids in the car, did this manicure in less than five minutes in my car, and they were perfectly dry by the time I arrived at my destination.  Remember the first couple times it may take a little longer to get it just the way you like it, but once you get it down you can have beautiful nails literally every day.

Too touch up, just lightly sand the chipped area and go over the nails with the same process.

I just wanted to share one of the little things in my life that has made a difference for me.  If  it helps great!  If you think I am crazy, I'm ok with that too.  BUT, I am crazy with nice nails!!

Have a great day!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I am so excited to welcome my first guest of hopefully many, on the blog today.  I don't know where to begin.  My heart swells at just the mention of this person.  I wanted so badly to be able to describe how amazing she is and how much she means to me, but no simple words seem to suffice.  She is my mentor, confidant, spiritual encourager, my Godmother, and most especially my Grandmother!  She is the most amazing women I know.  I look up to her and admire her more than I can explain.  She has been gifted with a great love and marriage of over 60 years, children, grandchildren, friends, compassion, gentleness, kindness, wisdom, and so much more.  If you have ever been blessed to be in her presence you would immediately feel the same way.  So it is my pleasure to introduce my grandmother, Mrs. Janet Jacobson.  She wrote this message many years ago about 9 years after the death of her son John Jacobson (Johnny), for which my Jonny was named after.  At the time Janet was a secretary for a church that she served many years at until retirement.  She prepared and gave this message  for a Good Friday service.  It was also handed out countless times by the pastors of the church, to other parents dealing with the loss of a child.  Janet was able to use her grief and loss in a positive way to help others dealing with the same loss.  Here is her beautiful thoughts on looking at Calvary through the eyes of a parent.


JOHN 19:  25-27   “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son”! Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother”!

Good Friday…. I am sure that to those who do not believe, it doesn’t make sense – we speak of Jesus and the crucifixion on this day, and we call it GOOD Friday.  Black Friday I suppose would make more sense.  For we are looking at the death of
Jesus…and when we think of death,
What color comes to our minds?  
Yes, black.

It is interesting that a definition of black is ‘absence of light.’ And when I think of absence of light – I also think of it as mostly black, but as having
No life,
…. No color,
…. No hope.

I am sure we have all experienced times in our lives when there seemed to be no hope, and it was black.  Let me share with you a black day in my life…

          It happened many years ago, June 25, 1975.  Time is strange. In many ways it was only yesterday.  It was a beautiful day in June – a GOOD day- a perfect day, the kind poets write about – and yet an ordinary day.  I had the day off from work and had planned a family cookout for supper.  Our oldest son John, then 16, had taken his bicycle, and was on his way to driver’s ED, his last scheduled session.  My husband came home from work and we were relaxing with a cup of coffee when the telephone rang.  There had been a street accident and would we come to St. Vincent’s.  Though they hadn’t told us, we knew, our son was dead…. And the bottom fell out of our world…death had hit us…the life, color, and hope went out of our world and it was black.

For Mary, the day of the crucifixion had to be a very black day.

          As I tell her story – the way it MAY have happened – you will recognize the many varied faces of grief – For in Mary’s story I will also be sharing some of the mixed feelings I experienced, such as shock, denial, anger, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness.  And finally - - acceptance and peace.  There is no right order for stages of grief.  They may all happen in a few moments, or days, or months, and then over and over again.

We aren’t told much about Mary, but we know she was human.  We have seen her question and wonder as the angel Gabriel announced she was to have a son.
We have seen her faith and obedience as she accepted the Word of the Lord.
We have seen her joyful as she shares with Elizabeth the Son of Praise.  We have seen her concerned for others when she tells Jesus about the wine problem at the wedding.

Yes she was human, and had feelings, and was vulnerable.  Over the years many things had happened involving Jesus, and we are told she pondered over them, she meditated, examined, sought enlightenment, but just as we seek answers and do not understand the why of many things, so Mary too, found much of it was beyond her understanding.

AND when the news came that Jesus had been arrested, all of these thoughts surfaced, and they filled her with anxiety and fear, and the words of Simeon especially, haunted her:  “And a sword shall pierce thin own soul also.”

The rumors kept coming and each seemed worse, her fears increased and then….. The terrible news ---crucifixion.

It couldn’t be.
It was the most horrible of deaths – the most cruel and terrifying…
A death for only the lowest and worst of people…criminals and slaves.  NOT for her son – her good son Jesus.  He had never done anything wrong, ..
He was good,
He had studied the words of the Lord, and obeyed and loved God.
There were so many criminals about, and evil people, why couldn’t it be one of them?

She had to go to be with him, in spite of her friends warning her of the danger she would be in.  But she had to go…maybe she could do something.

As she hurried along, her thoughts went back to the baptism of Jesus…how God had called him his beloved Son,…. and he was pleased with Jesus.  Surely he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him. He wouldn’t permit this terrible thing.

Maybe a miracle would occur…God had performed miracles before…he had saved them from wicked King Herod….or –Jesus, he had performed miracles.  Yes, he could perform one now and save himself.  Her hopes and fears intermingled.

She pleaded with God – maybe she could barter with him?  Just let Jesus be spared.  Let it be she instead of this beloved son – after all she had lived out her life – and he was only 33.

But…as she drew near, she heard the angry crowd…
and she knew.  She knew it was Jesus whom they were taunting and torturing. 
Then she saw him.  She couldn’t bear it – didn’t want it to be happening,
          But it was.
          And anger welled up in her.
          How could God let this happen?
          Where was he?
          Why doesn’t he do something?
          How could he just be silent?
          Why didn’t somebody do something?

She was helpless.  She couldn’t do anything, but stay near him. He must know how much she loved him.

And then guilt crept in.. maybe…if she had been more persistent in her warnings to him to stay away at this time..maybe if she had been with him more…insisted he keep quiet about his teachings…
          Maybe….but it was useless.

He really was going to die.  She didn’t want to believe it.  It was happening.  It was real, yet she hoped it was a nightmare.  But it wasn’t.  Her hopes were gone – there was no miracle – she was losing her son.
          The light had gone out of her world and it was dark.

She didn’t notice that it actually WAS getting darker.  She only knew her son was dying and the deep tearing agonizing pain she felt.  Sometimes in a haze she felt as though it was her own flesh being torn apart…the words of Simeon come true.

And then…she became conscious of a voice…someone was speaking… it was Jesus.  She strained to hear every word from this beloved son.  He was speaking to her
                   “Woman behold your son,”
and then he was speaking to John:
          “Behold your mother”.

He wanted her to be a mother to John, and John to be a son to her.  She was to have someone to care for her, and she to care for someone.  He was telling her in this way that he loved her and was concerned for her.  He was telling her to go on living.

Something strange began stirring within her.  She was feeling a peace which she didn’t understand…. a comfort in the midst of this dark black world.

She had no hope and yet now she felt hope.  The agony and pain were still there...she was still in darkness, but now it seemed she could bear it.  She had been given life and hope.  She could see the light again.

For you see… a miracle had been wrought in Mary.  Her son had become her Savior.  And he too is our Savior…He takes us out of the black and darkness, and gives us
                   And Life.

It truly is GOOD FRIDAY.  Amen.

~Janet Jacobson 

 I am so thankful for her faith and willingness to share her heart.  I hope you have been blessed by her words as much as I have.  Janet has agreed to share some more of her life and experiences in the future.  I am so looking forward to hearing more from her.  Thank you Grandma, with all my love!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Egg Decorating Tips and Ideas

Easter is only a few days away and we have not dyed our eggs yet.  Also, I do an Easter egg hunt for my kids in the yard and I have not even begun to shop, let alone, fill eggs.  Well at least I have Easter outfits done!  I am trying to decide what type of egg decorating to do this year.  The dying can be so messy and doesn't always turn out great.  The kids sometimes get bored with it after the first couple, so I wanted to explore different options.  People tell me all the time that I am so creative.  Well I tell them the truth is that I am not really creative, I am good at coping.  I can look at something and figure it out, or sometimes it's as easy as following directions.  There is so much information out there, if you have the time to find it.  Well life is busy and time is  precious, so I tried to find some helpful tips and ideas to share with you.  If you have found some also, please share.  You can post a link or share an idea in the comment section below. 

 How To Boil An Egg 
Just in case....

Decorating Ideas 

Simple Decorating
This one is my favorite, simple and easy!

One For The Kids
My kids would love this.

I won't be doing this, but if you have the time they look beautiful.

Peeling An Egg The Easy Way  
It is so frustrating when you tear the egg apart trying to get the shell off.  This link tells you how to have the shell slide right off.