Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bowling with the Youth

Each month we try to do something fun with our youth department.
 Last month we had game night at our house. 
This month we went bowling. 
We will also have a work day at church this month. 
We try to make sure we have a time of service as well as play... We try to encourage our youth to remember that it's not all about games and fun stuff... but we are trying to help them realize that we are here to serve one another and to serve the Lord. I think that is one thing about youth departments that can be dangerous... if we only focus on what's fun, we miss the opportunity of showing that service can be fun and worthwhile! We want to encourage BOTH and if our mind and heart is right they BOTH can be fun! And through ALL of it, we hope to be an example of Christ. No matter what we are doing! To speak love, wisdom, and encouragement to those young people we get to be with, it's a mighty task and we pray that God will use us and help us point them to Him!

We had such a good time! Even if I got some pictures that make people look less than thrilled. It's hard to see what kind of picture you are taking when everything is lit up in blacklights! 

Abe the ham!
My two precious middles! 
Let me tell you... I stunk up the bowling lane! Worst game I have EVER played. 
It was horrible!
But I had a good time! 
My sweetie and I! We realize we are not young anymore. But it's fun to act young for a few hours!

We had a good group, there was about 14 of us. A few had other plans or something came up and were not able to go with us! Hopefully next time!

It's always nice to get out and do something that you don't normally get to do. 
Shannon and I were talking and I think the last time we went bowling, Cameo was about 17? maybe. She will be 21 in May! 
Time flies.
She had plans already or she would have went with us too... 

I pray that these kids will one day look back on our times together with fondness and love. The way Shannon and I do on our 'youth group'. We pray that we will encourage them to press on in the faith and to love Jesus above all, the way our leaders did for us. I pray God will do a mighty work in the lives of each of these precious souls. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sunshine on my table

Last week, our very springtime weather was about to take a major turn and remind us that winter is NOT over yet in the South. My daffodils were blooming so beautifully, I hated the thought of the frost biting them and losing all the beautiful color outside... so I rushed outside one very cool morning (in my gown no-less) and cut a huge bouquet sunshine and brought it inside.
I've told you before, when I use a large mouth pitcher I make a "grid" with tape to help fill in and get the middle flowers to stand up nice and tall. I did the same with these. When I cut my flowers, I cut them as long as possible, that way I can trim them down if needed. 
I enjoyed this beautiful sight on my table more than you know. There just is something about fresh flowers from your garden... and all this yellow? Like I said, it was just a bouquet of sunshine through this cold and blustery time. 
Have a great week friends! 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Yellow and Blue and Sunflowers too.

Right in time for the cold snap... I got out some of my spring decor. Which is usually the way it goes, right?  Or is it just me?
I saw this idea on pinterest with this galvanized 'tire swing' and filling it with pretty spring flowers. 
You can find some gorgeous flowers at the dollar store by the way! 
I took the swing form and added a row of foam to stick the flowers into. It was two blocks cut in half. 
I added my favorite color mix of course. Blue and yellow! 
Sunflowers and blue lupines and a few sprigs of gypsophila. 
I love how it turned out!!! It just screams springtime on my door! 
I love the happy sight on my porch.... now if I can look past the clods of mud, the chicken poo, the cats and chickens nesting in my window boxes, and the piles of boots, airsoft guns and toys... I can keep this pretty picture in my mind. 
Have a wonderful weekend, my friends! 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Strawberry Jam! WITHOUT pectin!

I LOVE to learn new things.
 I also love to learn how to do something the "old fashioned way" too. And when some friends of mine were talking about making jam without pectin and LOW sugar, I was all ears! I learned some things along the way, and believe you me, it does take CONSIDERABLY longer, but the end product was far superior in mine and my families opinion! 
Cheaper, healthier, and tastier! 

Our local farmer's market had some beautifully sweet strawberries from Florida for an excellent price! So I ran over and bought two flats. After reading and talking with my friends, I gathered my supplies and gave this 'no pectin' jam a go.

I started with 8 cups of sliced berries.
I then pureed the berries in my food processor.

To that amount of berries I added 3 cups of sugar. Yep, that's ALL! If you look at any other jamming recipe you will see 8 1/2 cups sugar for ONE BATCH! ACK!

Don't worry... it tastes really, really good with only 3 cups. 
You actually taste wonderfully sweet strawberries, not just sugar! 

Then add 1/4 cup lemon juice and the zest if you like... which I do! YUM!

Stir together in a large pot and get ready to test your patience. 

Cook... cook... cook... and cook some more.
Other places around the web you may hear that it only took them 10 minutes, well I'm here to tell you I cooked for an hour. 
For reals.
 Now it's not labor intensive. I brought my berries to a boil and then turned them down to simmer for that hour. I did other things while they cooked down, like play scrabble, menu planned, washed dishes, etc... I would stir occasionally and check how things were going.
 You want the jam to cook down, get thick, and get to the "jam" consistency. 

My jam got some beautifully deep red and flavorful, I do believe I will continue this method because we all loved the taste so much!

Once the jam has cooked down and it is nice and thick, you can check with a cooking thermometer that the temp should be around 220*. 
Cook for a while til you see that it is 'jam phase' you can pull it off. 
What I mean by the jam phase is when you have a cold metal spoon and it 'sheets' rather than drops off the spoon in droplets. 
If it does this, you are ready to fill your clean jars. 
After filling my jars I processed my jam in a hot water bath for 5-10 minutes just to seal. 

So other than it just taking a while to make it happen, this jam is super simple and takes SO little to make it! 

Give it a try! And if you do, let me know what you think! 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Water Kefir

Several years ago, I had many probiotic ferments going in my kitchen, but one of our absolute favorites was water kefir. Sadly, I neglected my old grains to the point of losing them without a chance for recovery. Thankfully though, with the wonderful web of communication and through a sweet friend all the way across the country, I now have grains in my kitchen again! And they are growing so well! 
After sharing a picture on my instagram account of how beautiful my grains were I was asked EXACTLY what I was doing...

So, I am going to go through, step by step with pictures! 
By the way, this is a copy of WHAT IS WATER KEFIR that I found from different sources on the web.


And why should you drink water kefir??

Water kefir is a natural supplier of Probiotics to our digestive track. Probiotics refers to the healthy bacteria that usually feed on the “bad” unhealthy bacteria in our stomach and intestines. Bacterial overgrowth can lead to many illnesses some of which include fungi, yeast infections, indigestion, obesity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome + Crohn’s Disease, skin disorders, etc. By drinking water kefir you will bring natural balance to your internal microflora. 


So! Now you know! And if you are still interested and want to learn how I brew my water kefir, continue on! It is picture heavy! I wanted to show you every step of the process! 

For the FIRST ferment! 

A jar. Depending on how many grains you have.
If you have 1/4 cup grains, you can use a quart jar. 

This is what I use per QUART!

To begin, I filled my jar 3/4 the way full of SPRING water. I haven't found a better way around this. I have had friends who have tried tap water, water from their Berkey and it has killed their grains. If you have a hint on a way we can get around from using water I have to buy... PLEASE let me know! 

1/4 cup of sweetener 
I use sucanat, but I know many use plain sugar, or brown sugar... 
I like to whiz the sugar water a bit just to break up the grains of sugar a little.

One pinch of mineral salt, I've been using my pink Himalayan salt!

I add about 6 or so raisins per quart. I do not count them, I just add a few. 

A slice of lemon, a chunk of ginger (like I said, this is what I do!) I have heard many have great success with water and sugar and that's it! 
After you have added everything, then add your grains to the mix.
I cover mine with plastic wrap or with press and seal wrap and allow to brew for 24-48 hours... 
This is the time that the grains will eat up all that sugar, they will multiply and they will let off gasses that will cause the fermentation to happen! You should have a happy, bubbly drink when you are finished with this first stage. But if you want to intensify the flavor and the health benefits, you want to give your brew a second ferment. This is where you bottle your beverage!

I'm going to show you the process for my second ferment, this means you have already brewed your water kefir grains in the sugar water for 24-48 hours!

The picture above shows pretty much everything you need.
For your second ferment you need these items:
Water kefir grains (which are in the gallon jar)
Brewing bottles
A waste bowl
A bowl for your grains
A pitcher for your water kefir to pour into your bottles
a flavoring if you choose to flavor your second ferment WK

See the bubbles???? 
Begin pulling off your waste.. and when I say waste, this really isn't because this is going to my chickens! They will love it! 
You will have some floating grains and some sinking grains. 
Using a funnel, add your juice or pureed fruit, etc to your bottle... whatever you want to flavor your kefir with. In the above picture, I have pureed strawberries. I use a ratio or about 20% juice to 80% kefir.
Now fill your bottles the rest of the way and cap them.
Continue to pour off your liquid and collect your grains.
Once you have all your bottles filled and your grains have been collected. Place your water kefir somewhere to brew for it's second ferment for at least 12 hours... I have been waiting 24 hours, but my brew was so potent it shot out of the bottle and we lost a lot of the drink. Make sure to refrigerate after your second ferment. A friend of mine whose husband is a brewer said that was key to stabilizing carbonation. 

Once all that is finished, you are ready to make up some new jars to begin fermenting again, and after a few batches, you will have grains to share as well! 

Happy Brewing!