Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Night

As I write, it is a drizzly, cozy New Year's Eve night.  I am smelling our new Peppermint Dream candle (heavenly!), happily watching the classic Twilight Zone marathon, hearing the series of crackling noises of the fireworks in the distance, and...

it is almost 2013!

I'm not sure of the times around the world, but I know that on the East Coast it is actually already the new year!!  Here in this part of the South, though, we have about fifty minutes until we ring in the new year.
I am excited for new beginnings and all the things that come with the start of a new year...

Hanging new and fresh calendars!

Starting a brand new devotional!

Learning new and wonderful things!

Enjoying another year of blessings and time with family, and building friendships!

Planning new trips and adventures with my family for the new year!

Having a new year of opportunity to find encouragements, encourage others, and give of myself!

...and so much more that I am too excited to think of :)


I have been thinking a lot about what should be my new year's resolution... I guess it is one of those things you start to give thought to prior to the actual coming of a new year.  I have never been the type of person to make a resolution about losing twenty pounds or dieting or making it to a destination or anything completely specific.
This year I am making a sort of specific resolution, though, and another that is not.
~My first is to be healthier all around- walk more often, eat more fruits and vegetables, take my vitamins, and take care of myself.
~My second and most important is to grow in my walk with the Lord.  And going along with that, I would like to accomplish the one specific goal of reading the entire bible by the end of 2013.

What is your new year's resolution?


I am so thankful for this year and all the blessings and joys that I have experienced over the past twelve months, and am so excited to see what 2013 brings! 
A fresh, new year is, I think, one of the most exciting times because it marks the start of a mystery... and in one way it can be hard to not know what lies ahead, but so much more than that is the excitement in that unknown of wondering how God is going to work in your life this year!


I wish you the most WONDERFUL new year!!  If this past year was filled with amazing moments then I hope you have more in the new year.  If this past year was filled with heartache or struggles, then I pray your new year is the opposite.  May it be blessed and bring you joys and everything good in your faith, family, and your life as a whole.


Blessings!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Southern White Cake!

On the night before Christmas, I wrote that I would be making a dessert I was really excited about.
Today I want to share that dessert and the recipe so anyone who would like to taste some heaven on a plate can have the opportunity.
Yes, this cake is, as they say "finger lickin'" good,
or in this case "plate" or "fork lickin'" :)
I had so much fun making it.  It turned out fluffy and delicious and I can definitely say
this is the tastiest cake I have ever made and one of the absolute best I have ever had. 

I used the recipe from Southern Living magazine (the December/Holiday 2012 issue),
a recipe that won 'best cake'... and I can see why.


.         .         .

Mrs. Billett's White Cake
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 egg whites
~ Stir milk and vanilla together.  Beat butter in separate bowl
 on medium until creamy.
Add sugar gradually, beat until light and fluffy.
Sift together flour and baking powder and add to
butter mixture gradually, alternating with milk mixture.
Beat at low speed.
Beat eggs whites separately until stiff peaks can
be formed.  Fold into batter.
Pour into non-stick or sprayed circular pans.
*Bake at 350 degrees for around 20-23 minutes*

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 32 oz. pkg powdered sugar
6-7 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
 .          .         .


I did not use the frosting recipe due to a lack of ingredients, but I'm sure it is
wonderful and I hope to next time.
After frosting my cake completely, I had a little fun by making
a piping bag out of a plastic baggie and a tip I had and
got a little festive with a snowflake design.



~
 Happy baking!!
& thank you Mrs. Billett!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter on the Coast

Last week I had the privilege of taking a trip to the coast... the Texas Coast in particular.
I made the trip to stay a few days with my Grandmother, my Mama's Mom, and I had a wonderful time. 
Shortly before I left to go stay with her, I had seen and read some things that were great reminders of the limited time we have with loved ones, especially older family, like our grandparents.  I was reminded of the pricelessness of spending time with those loved ones and how precious that is and when it was time to go back home I was thankful for the days we spent.
Throughout the trip we did a lot together and I just enjoyed the moments... just me and her.

My Grandma now lives up North and spends only her winters in the South, but she was born and raised here, down in the parts where you are taught how to be close with nature and do things like fish, hunt, ride horses, and go boating through the rivers and bayous from a very early age.  I think the fact that she grew up this way contributes to how fun and interesting she is... she always has an interesting story from her childhood or teenage days to tell me with a bit of wisdom in it and is always up for an adventure.
So during my stay- as it has always been- we were out in nature for most of my visit.  I enjoyed this very much, it was so relaxing.

We drove down to the Texas Coast from my town and the next morning and every morning after we woke up and went to walk on the beach.
This was quite heavenly.
On that first morning, I took these photos.  The sky was so beautiful and I just stood there thinking how amazing God is as I stared up at it.

The weather was chilly and windy so the sun was welcoming and warm as we walked along.  The tide was also way, way, way out so the water line actually started near the end of the pier... as I took photos and look around, though, this made for beautiful scenery even without the water as huge areas and swirls of water were left behind closer to us and the sky reflected in them.




That same morning on the opposite side of the pier, it was like looking at a scene from a different day.
Very few clouds.
Longer waterways left by the tide.
Endless sky.

My Grandma's dog, Penny, who seemed to enjoy the beach more than anyone.



Later that day we went kayaking after finding a waterway inlet to paddle through.


And did some fishing...
This is the only fish I caught that I kept because of size.
A nice black drum.

I like fishing, but I do feel bad for the fish so I caught him and then my Grandma took over from there to unhook him and that sort of thing. 


Another day, another lovely walk on the beach.

Aside from scenery of the water and skies, my favorite thing about going to any beach is the interesting things you find there.

Leftover sandcastles.

Hermit crabs and their trails.

Treasures washed up on the beach.
We were excited to find this, what looked to us like a shark tooth of some kind!?



I love piers.  Walking underneath a pier is strangely neat. 

The sad things you find on the beach are the dead things like fish and birds... and butterflies.
I still thought this one was pretty and decided to photograph him.  Now he isn't just a poor dead butterfly, he's memorialized in my camera :) 

One morning after our walk, I went along with my Grandma  to visit some of her friends for a few minutes.  I had met the lady once before but had forgotten about her amazing paintings.  All around the house were paintings of nature and seascapes... living in a beach house fifty feet from the shore would definitely be inspiring.

Going home...
I remember reading a quote before that went something along the lines of it not being the destination that matters, but the journey.
That's how I feel about road trips.  I really believe that half the fun is getting there: the journey and all the things you see along the way.  Of course it's the same on the way back where you came from.

A neat old-fashioned drive-in in a small town.


We drove by so many beautiful, classic Southern homes.
Victorian, Plantation, and Colonial styles that sort of take you back in time, with rocking chairs on the front porch and beautiful columns and scroll work.
This one is a historic mansion I have admired over the years when we have made trips through this town.  It was built in 1883. I find historic homes so fascinating.

And best of all, miles and miles of wide open spaces...
clear open skies farther than can be seen, cattle, windmills, ranches, prairies.

 The land was dry from drought and cold weather, but I still found it scenic and lovely.  I have made trips across these roads to the coast and other places with my family my whole life, so no matter what they look like the roads and land always make me feel at home.

I'm love road trips!

& I'm thankful for the blessing of getting to spend time with my Grandmother and create new memories during my visit last week.


Hope everyone has had a wonderful week so far and had safe travels!!

Blessings!


Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Time of Year


December 24th is one of my favorite days of the year.
December 24th at about right now, 9 pm, is my favorite time of this day of the year because it is when the world sort of shuts down for awhile and more meaningful things are on the minds of many... family, love, hope, faith, and thankfulness for each can be focused on more because the world is a little more quiet, and a little more lovely and peaceful... I guess I have always imagined this time of winter like this painting... my winter dream.

Most everyone is off of work and school even if for a little while and has the amazing blessing of just being together!  I love that, and that in turn I know it allows my own family to spend a blessed day together tomorrow... I cherish that so much.  It is so special, especially after awaiting one of the few times of year when all in the family are off and cozy at home altogether... and those who cannot be with their loved ones- whether they are not able to travel because of illness or any reason or are deployed or have a family member who is deployed- are on my heart and mind as well.

I am off to do what I'm sure many women are or will be doing... baking and cooking up love for their families to enjoy tomorrow (I'll be making snicker doodles and another dessert I am quite excited about... a Southern one of course!).  I cherish that too, from the memories and time in the kitchen now to the moment we wake up in the morning to both those lingering smells and new ones.  Not to mention our winter and holiday candles that will just add to the heavenly scents through our home!

Today has been wonderful- I am home from a lovely trip, got to read and journal, spent most of my time with my family, received a beautiful card from a dear friend in the mail, and am off to turn on the fireplace and bake as the house gets cozier and the temperatures drop  :)
& now I am so happy to have this night and all of tomorrow to fully enjoy the Lord's blessings!!  Whether you are traveling or at home, I wish you a blessed day of sharing moments with family tomorrow!

Have a wonderful Winter's evening!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Daybook: December 16th

DAYBOOK
FOR TODAY...

Outside my window...
It is cool and wet and lovely, after a morning rain.

I am thinking...
about what a nice morning it has been: we woke up early and went to church as a family, drove in the drizzly weather which made it especially fun, and are now home planning a big Sunday meal.

I am thankful...
for my family and for all of the Lord's provisions, including the joy and inspiration of hearing someone else talk about theirs.

I am wearing...
clothes I just changed into after coming home. Comfy jeans and a blue sweater... but I forgot to take  down my hair and take off my jewelry which is still on from church.

I am creating...
some winter/seasonal crafts and decorations I am having so much fun with!

I am going...
to stay home for the rest of the day, spend time with family, beautify (and help clean) our home.

I am wondering...
if we are going to get any snow at all this winter?  I sure hope so!

I am reading...
some devotional thoughts and the Sunday paper.

I am hoping...
to have some family visit soon this Winter.

I am looking forward to...
finishing my book soon and deciding what to read next, and having free time to relax and have fun with family over the next month.

I am praying...
for the broken-hearted in Newtown, Connecticut.

I am learning...
about myself and my heart with each day.

Around the house...
not much is going on at the moment: some tidying up needs to be done, and things feel so cozy with Lucie asleep on my lap as I write and our fireplace glowing with flames just a few feet away.

I am pondering...
whether or not poinsettias are really poisonous or not.

A favorite quote for today...
"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal."

One of my favorite things...
hope.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
shopping for a few gifts, going out with my family, spending cozy days reading, baking, crafting.

A picture thought...
This is the image I chose to put up yesterday as my "Winter Welcome" for my blog (on the top, right hand side), even though I am a bit early.  I think I will do this for every season as I love the cheeriness of it.  I enjoy the pretty little cardinal and snow in this one particularly.
 
 
 
Thank-you for reading my Daybook thoughts.
 
Have a blessed Sunday!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Sending Prayers to Connecticut

As I write this, I have just listened to the President come out and speak about what happened in Connecticut today.  27 dead, 20 of them children between five and ten years old.

These are the things not possible to fully understand that, no matter how much faith and positivity you have in your life, just really make you wonder... why?  And what compels someone to do this?
Every life is so meaningful, but I'm sure so many across the country are wondering, why innocent little children? They were so young, only just beginning.

In these moments, I am reminded how easy it is to take advantage of just having your family alive and well. 
I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that the parents and families effected by this tragedy are feeling right now after losing their precious little angels, their brothers and sisters, their mothers and fathers who were teachers, and anyone who was a victim.

My heart is full of sorrow for them.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those injured, the families, and the adults & children who were inside that school and miraculously survived but will never be the same after today.


God Bless them, their hearts, their minds...
May they find comfort to somehow get through.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thoughts on Fears, Doing For Others

{source: pinterest}
I am thankful for moments in time throughout life where you feel like something has been placed upon your heart.  It's a special feeling, a type of blessing I think.
Sometimes it happens after I pray about something and it feels like an answer to that prayer or a series of prayers about a particular something... other times it comes in the form of thoughts that are with me suddenly and constantly and if I forget them, I am reminded again by something I read or see.

I do believe that if you keep running into something- either truly or symbolically- something inside you just knows that there is a purpose behind it, like it was meant to be.  Like there is a real chance that God wants you to see it or think about it for a reason.
I also believe that when this happens it is always because the thoughts you have as a result are for the purpose of striking goodness in you for the better, or improving even the tiniest aspect of your life or who you are.  In turn, maybe it is also meant to improve the life of someone else in the long run.
Writing this feels a bit like writing in my journal, but these are just some thoughts I have had lately that I thought I would share...

A few weeks ago, my Mama and I spent an evening up late watching a detective mystery.  I forget the name of what it was called, but it was from a series of movies that sometimes show on the Hallmark channel, good mysteries that are very interesting to watch.  Although the plot was good, there was a scene close to the beginning that left an imprint on my heart and thoughts... a scene that out of the whole movie only lasted about a minute.  Yet, it had more impact on me than any other part of the mystery.
The scene is so clear in my mind: a young man who is a nurse at a hospital is kneeling at the bedside of an elderly woman.  She looks very ill, maybe not even completely conscious, and it becomes clear that she is probably about to pass away.  The young man is so sweet and kind and caring.  I know he was only an actor, but he had that in his eyes.  He stays with the woman, whose own son did not even come to be with her, caressing her forehead and telling her it's going to be okay.  He spends her final moments with her, just comforting her like this.  It's just about the sweetest thing I ever saw.
At that moment, two things went through my mind: one, someday I want to marry someone who has a heart of such kindness.  And two, I wish I could be there for others like he was for that lady.

Being a good person is something I think about a lot.  I think a lot of people do, but probably most of the time we all think of goodness in terms of doing good deeds in our regular everyday life.  Like when we go to the grocery store, are we honest when someone drops some money by tapping them on the shoulder and giving it back?  Or do we let someone with a few items go ahead of us in line just to be kind?
I always want to make sure I am kind in these ways, but I also start thinking about ways of helping others and showing kindness where I have to go out of my way, not just in everyday life by doing what is convenient.
Seeing the young man touched my heart so much and made me desire to be like him.  It made me realize that being just like him is in fact something I could do for others, particularly children or the elderly who are ill or hospitalized.
Being a caring person is more important to me than any other aspect of being a "good" or "decent" person that I can think of... this reminded me that when I was younger and not so busy with the mundane things of life, I used to go with my church and do ministry in nursing homes.  We would visit the residents there and read scripture with them or just talk to them or pray with them. My childhood friends took part in this often, and likely they still do, but school started to make me so busy and I didn't have the time to go with them anymore... but the reason I stopped going was not only on account of that. 
I couldn't handle being in the nursing homes because they made me sick.  Despite many of the nice people there, I admit that I am weak in that I have never been able to handle suffering.  I saw so many of them looking so ill and they looked uncomfortable and so sad and that made me sad.
Similar to nursing homes are hospitals... I have been inside many hospitals throughout my life and other than going in to see a new baby that has just been born, I hate going inside them too.  The smell of the air just reminds me of death and sickness, probably because that's what is happening inside... but I have seen a person die in a hospital right before my eyes, taking their last breath.
I have also seen other things I wish I hadn't.  Of all the times I have been inside hospitals for less than wonderful reasons, twice I have almost fainted at things I saw or walked by.  I even had to sit down and put my head between my knees after I saw iodine on my Daddy's leg after he had surgery a couple of years ago!  Now, that is pretty bad.
I'd like to say that I am strong in those situations.  But I guess the "Steel Magnolia" I hope to be wilts whenever I am inside any place of suffering.  I just can't do it.
I don't want to sound selfish either... or be selfish.  Because I know that this may sound crazy.  Afterall, it isn't like I am actually the one going through the suffering.  But I guess my weakness is that I just feel for people so much that knowing they are hurt or dying makes me feel physically ill.

When I was not even a teenager yet, my Mama was a caregiver for a wonderful elderly woman who lived in a nursing home for awhile.  That nursing home was different though.  The people seemed happier and healthier there, so maybe that's why I didn't mind it.  We used to visit her often, though, and read to her and talk with her too.   I would go along when I wasn't in school.  Old and wise people are so wonderful and interesting to have a conversation with.

I think my thoughts are going all over the place, but what I mean to say is that- going back to the young nurse and the elderly sick woman- seeing what he did and what that must have meant to her made me wish so badly that I could overcome my weakness and do the same.
Two parts of myself that I value when it comes to who I am play into my feelings on this as well...
A God-fearing, moral person.
And a hospitable and kind person.
When I think of being hospitable (other than thinking of "Southern hospitality", I usually think of bringing someone going through a rough time a pot of something or a dessert they will enjoy.  I also think of being hospitable to guests through making them feel at home.
But lately it has occurred to me how equally important it is to show that hospitality to others anywhere... like at a hospital or anywhere where someone needs comfort.  Old or young.

A few years ago, I had a longtime aspiration to become a nurse.  I wanted to show love and compassion to people and was actually hoping to become a neonatal nurse.  This was put to an end when I realized just how much my issue with hospitals effected me... and also after thumbing through a textbook about everything involved in being a nurse.  I knew then and there that I wouldn't be able to make it through the awful things I would see in my studies to be a nurse, let alone actually becoming one.  The desire to compassionately care and nurture the ill as I would have had I pursued it is still inside of me though... and I think that has a lot to do with wanting to do more for others in that respect.
I think it would mean a lot to the elderly especially, whether they are going to be okay and just want some company, or they are going to pass away.  Someone to sit by their side through that would I'm sure be a true comfort.

A couple of my closest friends volunteer in hospitals and I admire that... I think it would be wonderful to do that as a candy striper if they even have those anymore, or if not something as official, just make visits to them or bring gifts to bring a smile to someone's face.
With the new year approaching, this is something that I have been thinking about, something I want to do, something that I hope to be a part of my life... to make a difference in a life whether it is on a small or large scale.
It is in my prayers that I can get past my weaknesses and fears that hold me back from actually doing it, to gain strength and courage on this, and that in time I can do it.

Just some thoughts on courage, fears, and hopes on my heart for the coming year.

.          .          .

Is there anything you have on your mind you would like to do with your life soon?  Any fear or weakness you pray about or hope to get past?


Thankyou for reading.
Blessings!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sharing Some Sweetness


In my last Daybook, I mentioned I was going to try out a new dessert recipe I had never made before.  That evening I baked that recipe, brownies, and our family has been enjoying them...  I think they are delicious with all the wonderful ingredients!  I am still trying to use self control in how much sugar I eat, but I have had 1 or 2 of these for the past couple of days and haven't felt the sugar rush that too rich brownies usually give... so maybe these aren't as dangerous!
And they taste especially great with a glass of milk, like most things I think ;)
 
I started out making this recipe as it was given, but then I got an idea of how to make it even more delicious... adding a little something extra into the batter.  I looked for something to chop up and add and chose from what we had in our pantry, Butterfinger. Yum.
So many chocolates or candies would taste wonderful mixed into these brownies so if you would rather have something else instead I am betting it would taste wonderful...
 
Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2-3 mini Butterfinger bars
(chopped to your liking)
 
Directions:
Melt butter and stir cocoa into it.
Beat eggs and sugar together in separate bowl and then
add butter and cocoa mixture.  Mix and add remaining
ingredients.
For the extra touch of your favorite candy, chop
however finely you would like it and then add most
of what you have into actual batter and mix altogether.
Grease about a 2 inch deep square or round pan and
pour in batter.  Then take what is left of your chocolates
or candies and sprinkle/spread on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes
and enjoy!
 
Finished batter.

Chopped up candy.

 
These are different from any brownie I have ever had in that they are lighter in richness and heaviness, although they definitely don't sacrifice taste.  They are also lighter in color.  Another thing that makes them different is how moist they are... almost a cake like brownie and so moist that I wasn't sure they were done baking because they were a different consistency (you can tell by all the fork marks in it where I was checking, haha!).  So don't worry if you have the same experience.
 
Happy baking y'all!
 
 
God Bless & have a wonderful evening!
 


Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Daybook

Happy first day of December!
Last month passed by in the blink of any eye (I rhymed!) and had some wonderfully blessed days and moments, but I am so happy that December is here!
Winter time is almost upon us.  The start of December always feels like the start of Winter to me, but even though it really is not it will be here in just a few weeks!
Are you excited about the new season on it's way?!

I woke up today with a feeling of delight just knowing the new month is here and thought what better way to begin it than writing my thoughts in a Simple Woman's Daybook entry.
Here are my daybook thoughts for this first day of December...

 
FOR TODAY
 
Outside my window...
The sky is a clear and bright blue, a light breeze is blowing and picking up the leaves on the ground, and I can see our front tree from where I sit, which has lost almost all its leaves.
 
I am thinking...
I need to turn our thermostat up.  It is about 15 degrees colder inside our house than it is outside and I am cold.
 
I am thankful...
for the legacy left by those before us, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, and how their lives and qualities and the values they taught us and that were instilled in us remain even after they are gone.  It is a beautiful way to remember them, seeing pieces of them inside ourselves.
 
In the kitchen...
my book of Southern recipes is opened to a recipe for new a dessert I hope to bake this afternoon.  If it turns out good I will surely share it :)
 
I am wearing...
a comfy sweatshirt and pants because I am cold and cozy and still haven't quite gotten all the way dressed for the day.
 
I am creating...
nothing right now, but I will be taking out a bag of craft items when I get everything I need to do today done.  Hopefully this will give me some ideas.
 
I am going...
nowhere today.  I was invited to a cooking/baking party held today by my Aunt but unfortunately couldn't make it.
 
I am wondering...
when it is going to be cold again.  Today it is in the high 70's.  Oh Southern weather loves to tease.
 
I am reading...
a chapter for my studies on nutrition and food.
 
I am hoping...
to get a letter from my Grandma soon.  It's only been a couple of weeks since I last wrote her, but I miss it.
 
I am praying...
prayers of and for things on my mind and heart and prayers of thankfulness.
 
I am looking forward to...
some quiet personal reading and journaling time over this weekend.
 
I am learning...
(and being comforted by) the importance of waiting on God's timing in all things and how much that plays into Faith.
 
Around the house...
I just went around and changed all the calendars for the month, a simple thing I always get excited about.
 
I am pondering...
over an exhibit I visited yesterday morning that had some beautiful works of photography and art on the Southwest.  It was neat to see.
 
One of my favorite things...
the pure beauty of the country: horses, ranches, windmills, fields, hay-bales, big open skies.
 
A favorite quote for today...
"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire; it is the time for home." -Edith Sitwell
 
A peek into my day...
A couple of our calendars, turned to the month of December with such pretty, snowy winter scenes!

 
Those are my daybook thoughts for today.
 
Wishing you a blessed and wonderful weekend!
 
 
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