Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2021 New Year Goals and The Homemaking Party

Welcome to The Homemaking Party! How are you feeling about this coming year? Hopeful? Concerned? I'm feeling pretty positive about 2021 and have come up with several important goals I'd like to meet. 

Health Goals: I think most everyone has a health goal, but I'll admit I've not had one for a couple years. Sickness and circumstances have taken a toll on my hopeful attitude about health and I've ignored things for far too long. This year I have a plan and a goal to stick to it!

Reading Goals: I believe self-education is so important so I read a lot of nonfiction: history, biography, geography---all these are important to understand the world we live in. I also enjoy some well-written historical fiction and most classics. This year my reading goal is 70 books, with a good mix of classics and children's literature added to my usual nonfiction fare.

Skills Goals: In 2020 my mother made 12 quilts!! One for each member of my family and one for herself. On top of that, she made pillowcases for each of us! I was so inspired that I've made a goal to learn some needlework skills I've been dreaming about. This year I plan to embroider some things, as well as learn to crochet. I also want to start working through my huge HUGE fabric stash by making gifts for people.

Spiritual Growth: This year I plan to copy out by hand the entire Torah (first five books of the Bible) and finish reading through the Bible in its entirety. I also have several studies to start or continue, including a very slow and in depth study of the early church that I've been doing with my kids every morning at breakfast.

Miscellaneous Goals: Add something to our savings account each pay check; go visit my parents in Oregon; travel to Western Oklahoma to seek out my grandparents' homestead; make myself three items of clothing; take "school photos" of my kids; keep from cutting or coloring my hair; print all my important online photos; transcribe my online book reviews into journals; print or publish my important blog posts

I'd love to hear about your 2021 goals! Thanks for stopping by The Homemaking Party!

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Monday, December 28, 2020

Our World Has Changed, God is Still Unchanging

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8

Back in March I wrote a post titled, The World Looks Different Now, But It's Ok. We were 10 days into the unknown and many of us were wondering how long the changes were going to last. Was this a temporary thing? A new normal? We're now 10 months in and we still don't know.

We've just finished up a fun but very different Christmas weekend at our house. Almost everything about our celebration was outside our normal---part of that was due to "the pandemic" and part of it was due to changes within our family dynamic. We had to work around work schedules and celebrate on a different day than normal. We didn't participate in any sort of church Christmas program (probably a first for my 41 year old husband!) We didn't even drive around to look at Christmas lights this year and our whole community missed our yearly gathering on the square to watch the city lights come on. Instead of spending the rest of present-opening day putting together toys and helping the kids navigate a new game or puzzle, the youngers did all that themselves and the teens starting helping our oldest son move into his new townhouse---on Christmas!!!

In other years, I think this change in our Christmas routine would have really bummed me out, but in 2020, it's just par for the course. So much has changed and some things have become that "new normal" I talked about in March, yet there's one thing that hasn't changed, and that is the Lord. 

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 
Malachi 3

God's Word, His promises, His truths, His plan, are all still very much the same. He knew our world would take a wonky turn in 2020---none of this caught Him off guard and it does not scare or threaten Him in the least. And if the One in charge isn't worried, why should we be?

The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? 
Psalm 27

That's really the question many of us should be asking ourselves: why are we worried? In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla tells Anne: "God does not want you for a fair weather friend." That phrase has been running through my mind all morning. I think these past 10 months have given us a glimpse into what is meant in passages like Isaiah 40, Job 12:23, and Paul before the Areopagus in Acts 17---some of the many parts of Scripture that remind us God allows kingdoms to rise and fall but He remains unchanged. 

In God, we have a Friend who stays closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). The more we get to know the nature of this Friend, the more we realize that we have nothing to fear in change. Some of us become really unnerved when we don't know the "next step", yet God's Word brings comfort that He will guide our steps:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.
Psalm 37

One thing I'll always remember about my Mom is how she plays Pollyanna's "Glad Game" when things go wonky, choosing to think about the good things---counting her blessings. As a brooding teenager, it would sometimes bug me when she would say things like, "You make your own happiness," but she was right---and adding God's message of hope to the picture makes playing the Glad Game even easier. Things are still different...some things are forever changed...yet God is the same as He always was. As we go into 2021, let's hold on to the hope of our unchanging God and count our blessings. There's always something to be thankful for!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Spiced Fruit Compote for Christmas Morning Breakfast -- The Homemaking Party

 This delectable compote not only tastes divine---it's gorgeous too! 
Serve with a simple sweet bread at breakfast or as an after dinner dessert with tea.

Welcome to The Homemaking Party! It's almost Christmas---are you excited? We have so much to be thankful for today and everyday. It seems almost everyone in the nation is in an uproar about something: politics, sickness, is Santa an anagram for Satan---and I'm just over here making Christmas goodies and trying to shut them all out! Ha! 

Yes, I've moved the party back to Wednesdays because I'm now hosting a weekend party called Vintage Saturdays and I wanted them spread out a bit.

About fifteen years ago, we lived in a very tiny town in Eastern Oregon called Weston. There were a couple of plum trees, as well as an apple tree in our yard, and all the blackberries you could pick just down the street. At the end of the summer, someone gave me a huge bag of walnuts so I began looking for ways I could use them and came across a recipe for fruit compote. 

I made a TON of jars and gave them as Christmas gifts, as well as stored many in the cold storage room off the side of the house. Since then, I've made compote a couple other times and I do it different every time! Here's a fast way to make a yummy topping for breakfast bread, biscuits, muffins, and more.

 One year I was in a hurry, so I did a quickie method and baked it in the oven instead of cooking it on the stovetop. Since there wasn't time for the fruit to cook down, I added some apricot jam to give it a better spreading consistency. Wonderful idea---it was great! If you want to skip the jam, just let the mixture cook in a saucepan with a little water until it's soft.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! It's great for the holidays---and all year round!

Oven Baked Fruit Compote (serves about 8)

6 apples, cored and diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup raisins
1½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water 
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each cloves, nutmeg, ginger
1 c. apricot or peach jam

Preheat oven to 450ยบ. Mix all ingredients, except jam, and spread into a greased 13x9 dish. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes. Mix in jam and serve over bread, or alone!

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Monday, December 21, 2020

Expand Your Worldview Without Sacrificing Your Faith

Wouldn't it be great if we could learn how to separate our feelings about a person's value from our feelings about their behavior? It's an ability that must be practiced on purpose. If there's one thing social media has taught me, it's that there are lots of opinions out there and only some of them are tolerated. In my opinion, that is the epitome of ignorance---but we often see that kind of behavior from some of the most "educated".  I have had the opportunity to form relationships with women of all different ages and from many different countries and cultures and have a few ideas about expanding one's worldview without sacrificing one's faith. I hope some of my experiences will encourage you if you find yourself struggling in this area.

In this context, I'm defining "Faith" as one's principles, the things that form their character. This could be religious based or not. My faith is based on a historical understanding and literal interpretation of the Old and New Testaments found in the Bible. 

What's interesting to me is that many people who are called "ignorant" by others who disagree with their point of view don't see themselves as ignorant at all. Truly, to be ignorant of something means to lack knowledge of it, but in today's culture, it implies one is uneducated or unsophisticated in most things. Both terms are relative---anyone who thinks there is a set standard of "educated" or "sophisticated" is pretty ignorant themselves. I would argue that many people who are called ignorant have no idea they're acting that way at all---it's not on purpose. And if it's not on purpose, then why do people get so angry with an ignorant-acting person? Wouldn't the educated and sophisticated thing be to teach that "ignorant" person so they can make better decisions about their behavior?

We are all a sum total of our experiences and influences and we can all learn from one another. I get really excited when I hear that someone is interested in culture studies, people watching, languages, etc. This means they want to know more about their world and how to better function in it. They want to talk less and listen more. This gives me hope! 

One experience that has expanded my worldview tremendously is my participation in the worldwide hobby of BookCrossing. I've been a BookCrosser for almost 15 years---which means I started in my mid-20s. Through the years of sharing books, reviews, ideas, presents, and more, I've met people from all over the planet in many different walks of life. I've been a student of how people think and respond based on the culture around them, as well as how they view my culture. I've read books I never would have chosen had they not been recommended to me---many that aren't sold in the US by authors we've never heard of! It's been an amazing experience and I've not had to leave home to enjoy it! (I'm elizardbreath on BookCrossing, if you choose to join us!)

I've also had the opportunity to travel extensively through England, sometimes with multinational tour groups, but this worldview-growing technique can be done anywhere. I've learned to ask questions---and ask the right questions. I don't ask about their culture's favorite foods or entertainment---that can all be found easily online. I ask personal things about their religious practices, how they view marriage and family roles, education, social issues, how they interpret the American culture. This is how we break stigmas and get to know individuals. When I do this, I find that the many differences in individuals within a culture is what makes us all similar. Don't be afraid to ask a polite question to someone you're interested in knowing better. Very few people will be offended by someone who is genuinely curious and people love to talk about themselves!

The activity that has probably grown my worldview the widest and the quickest is my international pen pal matching service, The Victorian Letter Writers Guild. I created this organization in the summer of 2017 and we're currently approaching 700 members worldwide. Interested members fill out a detailed profile before participating in the many group exchanges and pen pal matches I offer each year. I have made so many friendships this way with ladies from all over the world and of all different ages and lifestyles. I haven't yet invested a dime to make this happen and the benefit to my ever-growing understanding of people and their cultures is priceless. Maybe you can join a multinational group such as this---or start your own!

In all of these experiences, I have been both the ignorant person and have encountered the ignorant person. In almost all cases, I've found that it's really just a lack of knowledge---and a plethora of preconceived ideas---that causes the ignorance. When I've assumed things about the other person, I've gotten myself into trouble, but never have I had a conflict when I asked a question instead. 

We Christians have a saying: "love the sinner, hate the sin", yet we often refuse to learn how to truly value a person who is living a lifestyle different from what we believe is acceptable to God---or even just one that is hard for us to understand. However, when we take the time to really learn about someone who thinks or lives differently from us, we find that we can form a genuine relationship based on our commonalities and can eventually positively influence each other. As much as I want to keep myself holy and set apart for the Lord, I've found that the act of pursuing a better knowledge and understanding of this great big world of people He created helps me to better live here as long as He allows.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Addressing the Uproar Over Instagram / Facebook "New" Terms of Service

Dear Friends: on today's edition of "Let's All Not Freak Out Now with Sarah Coller" I'd like to address the newest trending freakout: Instagram Terms of Service. My kids, their friends, my friends, my enemies, almost EVERYONE is in an uproar about the new IG TOS. I don't claim to be an expert, but I'm married to one so that gives me secondhand wisdomy powers. Plus I worked in social media professionally for about 6 years where my entire life was on display for the whole world to download and I became very familiar with the different ways in which companies use, store, retrieve, and sell our information. AND….I'm a thinking-about-recovering addict so, you know… Anyway, most of what I'm going to say here is my OPINION---but it's based on some knowledge and a whole lot of that good ol' fashioned common sense you've come to adore in me.

First of all---yes, IG (and Facebook) can, will, and has been using your photos/info/contacts/location for all the nasty nefarious purposes. Without going into too much detail, let's just look at it from a common sense perspective: You are using their site for FREE. It might be hard to fathom how much time, cost and man/woman/undecided power goes into running a small little side gig like Instagram, but trust me: it's a lot. You are loading your photos to their site---what would be a better way to compensate them, do you think? Cash? I guarantee you that if IG asked you to pay $20 or even $5 per photo loaded, you'd sign off the rights to your stuff instead, without question. Furthermore, this is nothing new. It's just that now they're being more straightforward in telling you about it. Why? Well has anyone been paying attention to the Zuckerberg Senate Judiciary Committee stuff? Yeah, me neither. But, the powers-bigger-than-Zuck have been on him and my guess is that IG, FB, etc are going to be held more accountable to clearly define their Terms to users.

Here's the thing though...like I said, this kind of sharing, selling, using your info is not new. Why do you think you can be chatting with a friend on Messenger about changing your laundry detergent to Arm & Hammer and three minutes later, you see ads for it when you're browsing Amazon? You like cookies? Well in the internet world, cookies are bad bad bad. Every single internet-capable device that you own has the power to track your conversations, contacts list, location, etc. Some of these settings can be disabled---most can not. Which brings me to….

Instagram is tracking my movements through my front camera!!!!! Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! Are you on a laptop right now? Look up at the very tippy top middle of your screen. Camera? Camera on your phone? GPS in your car? Use a credit card online? Shop at Walmart? Ever seen the self-checkout cameras? Ever returned something at Walmart and had them say you no longer need your receipt as long as you paid by card? They just swipe it and can pull up all your shopping history. You'd literally need to live more primitive than the Amish to not have the potential of being tracked by someone. Does that mean they're actually doing it? Yes, probably, but. There is not some crew of bad guys sitting in some dark room chugging coffee and actually watching your movements. Companies usually store this information for a time so it can be retrieved for little things like targeting you in advertising (again, you're using their site FREE...and way too often, by the way) or for big things like catching sex offenders, kidnappers and thieves. Remember, you're talking to one of the top 10 antisocial, way-too-private, hermits in modern times---but if I ever had a child go missing, I'd be thanking God for Facebook or Instagram's "invasive" tracking methods.

So how can you keep your content from being used against your will? It's SO SIMPLE. You can stop posting it to a site owned by another entity. Listen, if you leave your stuff at my house and expect me to leave it out and display it to anyone who comes to my house, you'd better believe I'm going to do one of two things. Either I'm gonna chuck your stuff and tell you to go find your own place to display your stuff or I'm gonna find a way to make this stuff work for me. I might use it or keep it for my grandchildren or even *gasp* modify it to better fit my purposes. 'Cause I'm the one paying the big bucks to store and display it, right? You're using a service, you pay the price. IG's Terms have not changed so much as your understanding of them has changed. This is the case on every single site you visit. That's the way of the world right now, fellas. That's what this fantastic new technologically advanced civilization has given us. Woop Woop!

If we don't like it, we can leave. Will you leave? Probably not. A few might for a while, but those who do usually find that it's a lonely world when everyone else is having a digital relationship and you're over there trying to live like it's 1999. Just promise me this: if you're going to leave IG or FB over their tracking/selling/using policies, leave everything. Be consistent so you don't look foolish. Get rid of your cell phone, your internet, your GPS in your car, your credit and debit cards. Don't pay your bills online or even over the phone, and when you go out, be sure to avoid all "security" cameras in all drive-thrus, shops, ATMs, freeways... you get the picture. In the words of my parents: they can kill us but they can't eat us.

Yeah...I don't know what that means either.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Beautiful Vintage Glass Ornaments and More for Vintage Saturday


My Mom says something magical always happens at Christmas---that one thing that makes it special and miraculous and reminds us of the miracle of our Savior's birth. This year, I've already had a couple of magical things happen---God knew I needed an extra dose, I guess---but the most special, so far, is this little book Christmas Ornament Legends.

Mom sent this to me in a package of fun things a couple weeks ago---not knowing about the gorgeous box of vintage blown glass ornaments I would find shortly after receiving it. My daughter, Selah, and I went out shopping last week and had just a few minutes to run into my favorite antique store. Every year I go in there just once at Christmas time and look for a special vintage or antique decoration. 

This year I was in the store merely minutes when I came across the box of vintage blown glass ornaments---so many of them are described in this little book! There's a frog, a drum, a snowy pinecone, an owl, and more. Definitely some Christmas magic involved here!

There's even a page that talks about these sweet glass birds that are so special to me. These are one of the few types of ornaments I remember on my grandmother's tree (she passed away when I was 7 years old). I recently found her collection of birds and brought them home for my little silver tree.

These sweet beaded ornaments also belonged to my grandmother---she made them! I have one more of the blue and white ones on the right. I've given them both to two of my daughters. I really want to learn how to make these!

I also found these cute tiny winking Santa mugs in a box of her things. They're very small---only about two inches high. The one on the right is marked 1960 underneath and the others are undated.

Speaking of Santa, Selah came across this pair at the shop and begged me to get them because she said they were Jamie and I. Ha! So cute.

What fun vintage things are you sharing this week? Show us by linking your post below. 
Happy Holidays!

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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Chocolate Cornflake No Bake Cookies for The Homemaking Party


Hello friends! Welcome to The Homemaking Party! I've been working on last minute Christmas prep this week and plan to finish our baking and candy making today. I went looking on my blog for this recipe as I can't find my card and thought I'd share it here with all of you today. Let me know what you've been doing in your kitchen and be sure to link up your homemaking posts below! Happy Holidays!

Chocolate Cornflake No Bakes

1 c. sugar
1 c. corn syrup
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. peanut butter
5 c. cornflakes

Bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil and boil for one minute. Add chocolate chips and peanut butter and stir until smooth. Mix in cornflakes and drop onto wax paper to cool.

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