Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A September Re-set: The Rhythms of My Life

"I'm such an autumn person.
Give me a quiet cozy spot 
with a view of the changing trees 
on a crisp, late September day, 
a warm drink and a good book 
and I will be in glory."

I posted this late last week on my profile on FB because it so perfectly depicts how I feel about this lovely season! Autumn and winter are equally my favorites, both for their varying beauty, but also because the first leads up to the holiday season (which I LOVE!), and the latter falls into this lovely, quiet season of rest. But another thing happens in autumn that I love equally as much, my thoughts return to home! Not that home is not always forefront on my mind, but for me, September has always signaled a time for new beginnings, and probably for you as well! You can't start school every year for twelve+ years of your childhood and not be left with that sense of nostalgia! Blank notebooks, newly sharpened pencils! It's probably why I restock my office supplies around this time every year!  

But for me September is also a return to rhythm and ritual. After the long, hot days of summer when I'm more inclined to relax and simply let each day unfold (its own beauty!), it is time for a bit of order and semblance. A time to reflect upon what is working and what needs tweaking as we finish up the end of the year. Some like to do this towards the end of December, and I do that, as well. But as I've grown older I've discovered that things run a little more smoothly if I take time to review and reset every quarter.

With that I thought I'd share a little about how I plan out (or at least create the illusion of a plan) my days, weeks and months. I'll be sharing more specifically on this topic in upcoming days, but for today I just thought I would paint a broad picture of how I begin my planning, which is grounded in rhythm and the natural flow of life. Keep in mind that I am a nearing 60 year old wife, mother and grandmother, currently living with my youngest adult daughter while my husband is traveling the country. So not quite an empty nester (although I moved in with her this time!), and in a bit of a transition stage. All that to say, that my stage of life is definitely different than others, but what I want to share with you today is foundational and adaptable, regardless of where life finds you. So let's begin.

Rhythm Of the Day
In a perfect world, and I do occasionally have perfect days, there are strong markers that signal both day and night, with anchors throughout the day that keep me grounded and centered. This means I wake up at the same time, and that I have a morning routine to begin each day. Typically I eat my meals around the same time, at 10, 2 and 6. I realize that 10 may seem a little late for breakfast, but that's when I get hungry so I've just adapted to it. Lunch is usually more of a light snack, if at all and I very often skip it all together. But there is just something about dinner at 6 that sets my world aright. If the rest of the day falls apart at the seams, if I have dinner at 6 it's like a reset and I can finish the day in peace. I also have set times for when I do daily tasks, with my "work day", so to speak, ending around 4. If I haven't already done so I'll prep for dinner and take some time to read or maybe listen to a podcast. I like a LOT of margin in my life because it allows me to be flexible. After dinner, I'll shower, change into something comfy and then the rest of the evening is open and free for enjoying my favorite things, like watching old movies, cross stitching, or crocheting. Usually, some time around 9:00 or 10:00 my head will being to nod and that's my signal it is time for my evening routine and bed. Every now and then I'll actually believe I might get on my computer for a bit or even watch another movie, but realistically that never happens.

Rhythm Of the Week
Much like my daily rhythm, my weeks don't always go as planned, and that's ok! Remember, I said I like a LOT of margin! But when things run smoothly every day has its task. I have assigned rooms for cleaning each day, and then on Friday's I'll give it all a quick touch up to carry us through the weekend. I'm a homebody and I don't like to get out much, but my daughter is a social butterfly and gets antsy sitting at home, so we try to find the balance. But left to my own, I would get out once, **maybe** twice a week, typically Wednesday and Friday I like running errands in the middle of the week and then once again before the weekend because I prefer not to get out at all on Saturday and Sunday, unless there's a special event going on. Weekends are just too busy and I hate traffic. For many years Sunday was my sabbath, but recently I switched that to Saturday. In all honesty they probably both count, because observing the sabbath for me is primarily only doing things that bring me joy. That means that I might still cook a meal (though usually in the crock pot), or bake, or go to a coffee shop. It's different every weekend and I'm not rigid about it, which for me is the whole point. 

Rhythm of the Month
If you've been around here for very long you know that I love living seasonally and any reason to celebrate, even small, silly, things. Realistically that usually means that once or twice a month I'll bake something special, watch a movie that we only always watch in (insert month here), or something along those lines. I usually sit down at the end of each month and look ahead to the next and plan out a few fun things to do. Sometimes they happen, sometimes they don't.  This month we celebrated the Autumn Equinox with our traditional serving of Frito Pie. In years past we've watched October Sky, but this year I'm bumping that to October 4 which is the day that Sputnik was launched, a key element in the story. It was also my paternal grandmother's birthday, so that makes it equally special. This year we didn't watch a movie, my daughter is currently re-watching a series from her childhood so I joined her for a couple of episodes. But the Frito Pie remained stable and grounded us in tradition, and that was enough.

Rhythm of the Year
The rhythm of the year are for those special occasions that happen annually, like birthdays, anniversaries,  and of course the holidays. In our home we also celebrate the solstices in summer and winter and the equinox in spring and autumn. For me personally, that also means  observing The Year of the Lord, including Advent in late November leading up to Christmas, and Lent in late winter leading up to Easter.  There are other feast days spread throughout the year as well, such as Saint Nicholas Day in early December, and one of my favorites, which is actually tomorrow, Michaelmas, or The Feast of the Archangels. As with everything, I often have grand ambitions for observing more of these holy days, but the reality is that most of the time they get overlooked. I used to beat myself up over it, but these days I consider it a celebration if I acknowledge it before it slips by. This is an area I'd like to improve in over the coming year, so we'll see how it goes.

Rhythm of the Seasons
And then of course, there is the natural flow of the seasons and all the wonderful reasons to love and to celebrate each one. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons! I look forward every year to when the markets will put out their grand displays of mums and pumpkins. I start looking early for just the right one, preferably with a long stem! We bought our pumpkins for the season last weekend, and then I'll probably pick up a few more closer to the end of October to keep through Thanksgiving.  I love winter for the cozy setting in ushers in, and the instinctive desire to hibernate! My late autumn and winter wardrobe is my favorite, all my sweaters, and socks and my boots! Typically in Virginia we will see snow a couple of times during the season, sometimes just flurries and sometimes 16", you never know.  I've lived here long enough now to know that if the storm comes up from south and we're lucky, it just might stretch far enough into Virginia to pack a punch. It's one of the reasons I'd love to live a little closer to the Tennessee border, which sees a lot more snow.

Another way I celebrate the seasons is with the observance of Ember Days. Ember Days are part of the observance of The Year of the Lord, though for whatever reason I don't hear many people speak of them. I first learned about them about ten years ago and something about it just resonated with me. The Ember days are observed for three days, four times a year and is a time to focus on God through His marvelous creation. My observance typically includes a time of prayer and fasting, spending time in nature, and concludes on the last day, which is always Saturday, with a special meal.  We just concluded the autumn ember days, and while my observance this year was little low key, it was beautiful just the same.  The winter rotation, or Advent Embertide, is coming up on December 15, 17 and 18 and is actually considered the first rotation in the Year of the Lord which begins on the first day of Advent. I've never shared about how I observe these days here in this space, partly because it includes fasting and that is something that I like to keep private. But it isn't a sin to encourage others to consider this spiritual practice, so I think I will. If you're not familiar with the Ember Days and that sounds intriguing, then be on the lookout for future posts.

So there you have it. and before this post turns into a short story, I'll wrap this up here. Rhythm is the melody that carries the song of life, but it requires stillness and quiet to hear it. But like any sweet melody, once you have heard it, you never want it to end. It is a challenge for sure, especially in this day and age, with all-the-noise that fills our days. I encourage you to set aside some time to find it. Your rhythm will obviously look different than mine, but the song will be just as sweet! Rhythm grounds me. It brings order in the midst of chaos, it calms and stills me. It is an anchor in the swelling sea of life. It was founded by God from the beginning of time, and it exists for those who seek it.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

When The Hidden Beauty of Life Breaks Through

"Our lives are filled with moments like these — ordinary moments when the hidden beauty of life breaks into our everyday awareness like an unbidden shaft of light. It is a brush with the sacred, a near occasion of grace.

Too often we are blind to these moments. We are busy with our daily obligations and too occupied with our comings and goings to surround our hearts with the quiet that is necessary to hear life’s softer songs. There is no shame in this. We are only human, and the demands of life make a raucous noise. But we must not let those demands drown out the quieter voices of the spirit. We must take the time to stop and listen, knowing that the voice of the spirit speaks more often in a whisper than a shout. For spirituality is far more than religious practice. It is a cast of mind, a leaning of the heart, a willingness to see the shadow of the divine mystery in all people and all things. It is feeling the presence of God in every encounter, and seeing the reflection of the divine in the face of every person we meet on the street. "

- Kent Nerburn
Ordinary Sacred: The Simple Beauty of Everyday Life

Saturday, September 25, 2021

From My Reading
- Excerpt fromThe Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill

"There is a smell in the air, the smell of autumn, a yeasty, damp, fruity smell, carrying a hint of smoke and a hint, too, of decay. It fills me with nostalgia, but I do not know for what. It is a smell I love, for this is and has always been my favorite season. They said as I grew older that I should recoil from it, the winding down of another year, the descent towards winter, the end of summer pleasures, that I would begin to shift my affections towards spring, when all is looking forward, all is blossoming and greening and sprouting up. But I do not do so. Spring often promises what in the end it never pays, spring can cheat and lie and disappoint. You can sit at the window and wait for spring many a weary day.

But I have never been let down by autumn, to me it is always beautiful, always rich, it always gives in heaping measure, and sometimes it can stretch into November, fading but so gently, so slowly, like a very old person, whose dying is protracted by peacefully, in calmness."

- Susan Hill
The Magic Apple Tree

Small Things - September 25, 2021

"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


In no particular order, here are six small things that have inspired me this week.

1. If you're looking for ways to use up the last of your blackberries, this Skillet Pear and Blackberry Crisp looks yummy!

2. Read this on FB this week and loved it! "I saw a post the other day by a lady who said she always grabs vintage casserole dishes when she sees them at thrift stores or yard sales and uses them when she brings a meal to someone! She said often they are cheaper than disposable ones and the family can either keep for themselves or pass on to someone else who needs a meal in the future! So in the spirit of reduce, reuse, renew & recycle... I thought this was a neat idea worth sharing!"

3. Create A Culture of Slow: 8 Ways To Transform The Pace of Your Home

4. Pay Attention To The Beauty That Surrounds You

5. Do you read The Simple Things magazine? I own several digital issues (though I prefer the real deal). I started buying magazines digitally while I was on the road last year and found them a suitable alternative to all the space the printed editions required.  These days I take a trip to Barnes & Noble about once or twice a month and peruse the contents while I'm there taking note of anything I find interesting in journal I tote along exactly for that purpose. But one of the things I've always loved about this publication are their playlists.  I've discovered several artists this way that I'm sure I wouldn't have found otherwise. You can find the Autumn Playlist, here.

6. Small Things  I've been reading Ginny's blog for several years now, though I'm not sure I've ever shared it with you here. This week she reminded me of a book I've had on my Kindle for almost five years now but have never read (I do this with hardcover books, too! Can you relate?). Anyway, the book is called The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill. It's on my list of things to begin this weekend, including copious amounts of tea, crocheting and cross stitching!

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Season For Mums and Reflections on Tradition

I don't recall mums every being a "thing" in Texas, and there were certainly never the elaborate displays of them lining the front of every market in the city.  It wasn't until we moved to Virginia that I even experienced a proper autumn and first fell in love with this beautiful flower, which oddly enough, is my birth flower (November).

Traditionally we've always bought several baskets of them to adorn our porch, last year being the exception since we were in the van. With traveling and the lack of light, it just wasn't practical. When I moved back into the apartment after Christmas I immediately began to look forward to all the seasonal traditions I could indulge in once again, especially this time of year.  But unlike previous years, without a porch to speak of and only one window that gets decent sunlight, I knew that when it came to plants I would have to keep things simple. But that's fine by me, one mum is better than none.

My daughter and I made a trip on Saturday to Lowes to pick up some pumpkins (they have a much better selection than Walmart for about the same price with long curly stems), and I picked out this tiny white mum while we were there, as well. Typically I would  have preferred one that was blooming, but since I was only purchasing one I settled on this one with all those tiny baby mum buds so that it will last as long as possible. 

I've been enjoying it today, along with reading the latest edition of Bella Grace magazine, where this article caught my eye, "80 Lost Traditions To Bring Back".  Readers submitted entries which were then selected for publication, and there were several that caught my attention, a few that I honestly hadn't thought of for some time, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you.

- Sitting on the porch after supper and waving to all the neighbors. - I have a couple of neighbors here at our apartment complex who regularly stand or sit outside every evening. Being more of an introvert, I don't typically join them, but that's primarily because we are in an apartment. When we lived in the country my husband and I sat on the porch regularly, and I miss it.

- Doing puzzles and playing board games together. - My daughter and I still do this, in fact, we started a brand new 1000 piece puzzle just yesterday and have made quite a bit of progress.

- Sunday morning funny pages.  - This is actually one I had forgotten about and it made me a little sad. I'm a HUGE Peanuts fan and I've read that strip for years, but I don't recall that even being a regular feature in our hometown newspaper in Texas, which caused me to wonder about the strips that were featured. I remembered  Beetle Bailey and Blondie, but then with a little help from Google, I came across one I loved as a child and had completely forgotten about, Tumbleweeds! I won't even deny that I spent the next hour or two searching the internet for the archives and reading them,  and was happy to find that I love it just as much now as I did then! Did you have a favorite comic strip as a child?

- Catching fireflies and putting them in a jar. - I didnt' see many fireflies this year. Did you see any where you live? Fireflies were always one of the official signs of summer growing up. They remain one of my favorite things about the season to this day.

- Photo albums filled with black and white photos. - I simply LOVE black and white photos and thanfully have quite a collection passed down to me from my mother. 

- When Sunday was truly a day of rest. - I'm dating myself here by saying that I remember the "Blue-Law" days, and I miss them. These days people get testy because Chic Fil A and Hobby Lobby aren't opened on Sunday, but when I was growing up, that was the norm for most stores.

- Drive-in Movies with a speaker in the window.  - You can still find a few drives around, and several have made a come-back due to covid. But these days the sound comes through your radio. It's not quite as nostalgic, but I still love going!

- Laying in the grass and looking at the stars. - Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of the time I spent laying on a blanket under the stars with my daddy and my brother. Mom would join us, too, but she always went in early because the mosquitos liked her the best! :)

- Spinning records on the turn table. - This reminded me that I own a turn table, and a small collection of albums. Time to dust them off!

- Hanging clothes on the line. - Though I never cared for hanging our clothes (especially jeans), on the line, I do love the smell of air-dried sheets. Towels are another thing I don't care to line dry, just too stiff and scratchy for me. Of course this isn't something that's even possible in an apartment. Do you line dry any of your clothes?

So what about you, care to add to the list? Any traditions you'd like to bring back? One of the things that I've learned, especially over the past few years, is that while I have no control over world events and what happen outside of my home, I do have some say in what happens inside our home. I like that I'm a bit "old fashioned" I suppose you could say, and reading this list has inspired me to perhaps embrace that even a little more! I know the bible warns about longing for "the good old days". Did you know that was even in the bible? I didn't until recently. But God also admonished His people; “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it." For me personally, I think there's a lot to be said for the way we used to do things, and I think there is a way to look back on it, not in longing for what we've lost, but with a desire to restore. That's my goal and intention, anyway, and if you consider yourself old-fashioned at heart, I hope you'll join me so we can encourage each other along the way!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Small Things - September 18, 2021

"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


In no particular order, here are six small things that have inspired me this week.

1. I discovered a couple of new blogs this week, including this one, All The Household. So good!

2. And this one, The Holy Days. I am IN LOVE with both of these blogs! So much goodness!

3. And finally, The Lovely Wild, which was a balm for my soul one evening after a particularly hard day.

4. Handcraft a Life You're Delighted To Show Up To, One Step At A Time.  - Great article!

5. September's Song: Supporting Our Emotions In Late Summer. Because we all need a little extra support sometimes.

6. And finally, this out, just today, the autumn edition of The Cultivating Project.  This is hands down one of my favorite seasonal and inspirational resources. I read almost every article, every season!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mom's Hidden Recipe - Apple Crisp

In our home, summer officially comes to a close the day after Labor Day. Growing up in the 60's this was also the first day of school, at least until I reached Junior High when the school year was extended and everything got rolled back to the last week of August and extended to the first week of June. But during my elementary years, the school year ran from the day after Labor Day to the weekend before Memorial Day. There has always been something about that time frame that just made sense to me, and when we began homeschooling I planned our year to match it.

It's a rhythm I've honored most of my life, and one that is filled with a number of long-held seasonal traditions, including apple crisp!  I've been making apple crisps for several years using a different recipe almost every time, because for whatever reason, I never seemed to bookmark the one I used previously. But a couple of years ago as I was thumbing through my mom's recipe box, I discovered that two of the cards had stuck together and to my delight the hidden recipe was for an apple crisp. The funny thing is, I can recall my mom making almost every recipe in that box, but I don't remember a single time she made an apple crisp, which makes me wonder exactly how many years those two cards had been stuck together? At any rate, I made it for the first time later that same year, and then again this past weekend. In my opinion, this is the best I've ever had! It's the perfect combination of tart and sweet, and the topping!!! I made a note the first time to double it and I'm so glad I did! Served warm and topped with a couple of scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and you're serving up perfection on a plate!

3-4 large apples of your choice, peeled and thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup salted butter,cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium size bowl combine the crumb topping ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until it resembles small crumbs. Refrigerate while you prepare the apple filling.

Peel and slice apples.  In a small bowl, combine melted butter and flour until well blended. Add lemon juice, milk and vanilla and stir well. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

Pour butter mixture over apples and toss to coat. Pour apple mixture into an 8x8-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the apples.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce, if desired.

Johnny Appleseed Day is coming up on September 26, and this would make the perfect after dinner dessert and simple, lovely way to celebrate the day. And if you're my age, the video below might evoke some memories from your childhood. I recall watching this the first time in elementary school, and was delighted to find it years later to share with my girls. If you have a little in your life, I'm sure they'll enjoy it!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Small Ways to Celebrate the Days
- National Chocolate Milk Shake Day

Yesterday was National Chocolate Milk Shake Day, and as usual, I'm a bit late posting about it. The reason for that is that I prefer to live life in real time.  I'm not one of those bloggers that makes up things days in advance so that they will have pictures for their posts that they write ahead of time. Sorry, that's not me. While I do like to inspire people to find reasons to celebrate life every day, if you're going to learn from me, you better be prepared to bookmark it for next year! At least, that's the case with most things. I do try to plan ahead for some things, but for something like this, probably not.

At any rate, as I've been working on improving my health, I do my best to reserve treats for the weekend. This past weekend I made a delicious apple crisp which I'll be sharing with you later in the week. Johnny Appleseed Day is coming up on the 27th, so maybe for once I'll be sharing something that you can make to celebrate ahead of the game! But since I knew that National Chocolate Milk Shake Day was on Sunday, I ended up gifting most of the apple crisp and vanilla ice cream to my next door neighbor. She has three children, so I knew it wouldn't go to waste, and they were overjoyed!  That way, I was able to enjoy my shake yesterday without guilt.

This recipe is one that we've been making for years, though typically at Christmas with a sprinkle of crushed peppermints on top and a candy cane for stirring. But this go round I omitted the peppermint and just enjoyed it plain and simple. If you like chocolate shakes, then I encourage you to give this recipe a try. It's the best I've ever tasted.

2 cups chocolate milk 
2 cups chocolate frozen yogurt, softened 
2 cups crushed ice 
1/4 cup chocolate syrup 

Combine all ingredients in a blender, process until well blended.  Serve in a tall glass.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Small Things - September 11, 2021

 "Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired me this week.

1. The Herbal Academy is currently offering their Cold and Flu Season Ebook as a free download at their website.  I have already made fire cider, and I'll be making elderberry syrup this week! 

2. Verity Folk School is a lovely site I just discovered this week. 

3. Small Batch Fig Jam  Last year I discovered the delight of small batch jam, which typically does not involve pectin, as is the case with this recipe.  I LOVE figs, so I'm looking forward to trying this later in the season.

5. My Need For Alone Time Is Not A Reflection On You As an introvert, this article really spoke to me!

6. Stories For the Soul This is a FB page, and for that reason I hesitated to post it because I know several of you don't do social media. I have a love/hate relationship with it myself, but it is my primary connection with several members of my family back home in Texas, as well as many of my friends from elementary and high school.  

Last year after much debate, I finally decided to "unfollow" 90% of those people, but let me explain. We are still "friends", which is a loose term when it comes to FB, however I don't see what they post in their feed anymore unless I intentionally click on their name and go to their page. I love my "friends", but some of the things they were posting was leaving me in angst and unsettled.  Doing that has completely changed my FB experience, as now the only thing I see in my feed are the positive, uplifting posts from pages and people I follow. Every now and then even one of the few I do follow will still "get into it", I guess you could say, which for the past going on two years now has either been about Covid or the President. Personally, I "try" to stay out of it. Although admittedly from time to time something will, as my daddy used to say, "Get my dander up!" And if you're wondering, why the link? That is because after all of these years I realized as I was typing that (which I heard OFTEN growing up!), that I had no idea what it meant! Now I do. So consider that a bonus!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Covered In The Dust of My Rabbi
- My Journey As a Disciple of Jesus Christ

For a couple of months now I've been watching the series, Practicing The Way with Jon Mark Comer who is the pastor of Bridgetown Church. I haven't spoken about it much here, because it's never been my goal for my blog to be "preachy". But this week someone shared with me that a good writer writes about the things they want to know about or need to hear, and since the focus of my blog is about living intentionally, slowly and seasonally, I've found that what I'm learning about being a disciple and apprentice of Jesus, is a perfect fit. And so I've decided to share. But please know that I am no expert. I come to you, not as someone who has this all figured out, but as someone who struggles with these issues daily, and who strives to find the balance. And please know, as well, that if this type of post isn't something that suits you, then I invite you to check back another day for something that does, I won't be offended. And with that, I'll begin with a question;

Did you now that when Jesus told the disciples that if they would follow Him that He would make them fishers of men, that wasn't just some funny pun? Because I'll be honest, I always kind of thought it was. But let me tell you what I've learned, because I think it's BEAUTIFUL!

During the time that Jesus was in ministry, He was known as a rabbi, and to follow a rabbi was to apprentice under a rabbi. In the first century, discipleship was the apex of the Jewish education system and there were three levels.

1. Bett Sephor - which was for both men and women (something I never knew!)
Bett Sephor is the Hebrew word for "House of the Book". This level was basically grade school, where you would be taught to read, write and do basic math, and learn it all from the Bible. You would also memorize all, or at least most, of the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament.

This level of education was typically completed by the age of twelve. After this young women typically married around the age of thirteen or fourteen and began having children. Young men would apprentice under their father and learn a trade, and, obviously, marry those young women.

But the best students went on to the next level;

2. Bet Talmud
Bet Talmud is a Hebrew word meaning, "House of Learning".  The school was built off of the side of the synagogue and was for men aged 12-14, and men only. They were taught by a paid teacher, and among other things, would memorize some, if not all, of the Old Testament.

After this, only the best of the best moved ahead to become . . .

3. Talmidim, which is an apprentice to a rabbi.
This level of education was very hard to reach. You had to be interviewed by a rabbi who when interrogate you on your biblical knowledge. And if you exhibited the knowledge and qualities to perhaps become a future rabbi, he would invite you into the school by saying three words;

"Come follow me."

Sound familiar?

At this point you would have three goals as the apprentice of a rabbi.

The first;
- To be with your rabbi.
Apprenticeship was a 24-hour school day. You slept, ate, walked and lived with your Rabbi.

A well known Hebrew blessing was, "May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi."
Meaning that you would follow him so closely, that you would be covered by the dust that his walking created.

The second goal was;
- To become like your rabbi.

And finally the third goal as an apprentice to a rabbi was;

- To do what your rabbi did.

The whole point of an apprenticeship was for the student to one day become a rabbi.

So when Jesus found Peter, James and the others on the shore that day, He said to them;

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men", and that phrase, "fishers of men" was a well known Hebrew idiom for "TEACHER". A great rabbi, or teacher, was called a "fisher of men" because he would capture your mind and your imagination.  

So what Jesus was really saying was, "Hey, right now you're a fisherman, but come follow me (become my apprentice), and I will make you a great teacher."

And perhaps the most beautiful thing about this story, is that most likely none of those men made it past the first level of education. They were not "the best of the best", because head knowledge was not what Jesus was looking for. They were just average, ordinary men. The trade they had been taught from their father was fishing. They never saw themselves as much, but Jesus, did.

From then on, they spent time with Jesus, they became like Jesus, and in time, they did the things that Jesus did.

So what does this mean for us? Well, it's easy, really. To apprentice under Jesus in the 21st century, we do the same thing. We center our lives around those same three goals.

- To be with Jesus.
- To become like Jesus.
- To do the things that Jesus did.

Because the truth is, we're all being formed into the image of, or a disciple of someone or something. The question is not are we being formed, but what are we being formed into?

I didn't like that answer when it was first presented to me, and I've made it my goal to be covered in the dust of my Rabbi as His apprentice and disciple. I'm learning more, every day about the spiritual disciplines and practices that Jesus taught His disciples, and as a result, my desire to live with greater intention, at a slower pace, and in rhythm with the seasons is becoming much easier. Again, I'm no expert, far from it! But thankfully, as His disciple, His grace accounts for my humanity and imperfections, just as it did for the disciples.  Jesus doesn't care about your past, about your profession or what other choices you've made with your life. It doesn't matter how little you think of yourself, if you believe you aren't gifted or have nothing to offer. Jesus has never been about the "best of the best", His focus was always upon "the least of these".  His invitation is simple, follow me, and in doing so, He does the rest.

I'll be sharing more about all of this, about my daily time of silence and solitude, my weekly sabbath, about prayer and fasting. And later, as I learn more about my identity and calling, living simply, and developing a Rule of Life (I had actually already begun this in an earlier series). And finally, as the focus turns to eating and drinking with others and living in community, about prayer and peacemaking, I'll be sharing all of it, here, with you.

Again, if this isn't something you are interested in, I completely understand.  I'll be writing about other things, too. But to be honest, this is transforming my life in such a way, that I don't even know how to separate the two anymore. 

And hopefully if you've been encouraged by anything you've read here today, then I invite you to click on those links above and listen to Practicing The Way for yourself.  I'm taking my time working through it, because as I mentioned earlier, it is a LOT! At least for me. When I first started out I was listening to one sermon a day, but I was taking so many notes that it was taking me 3-4 hours just to get through it and I wasn't retaining as much as I would have preferred. So I decided to slow down. The luxury of these online sermons is that you can take as much time as you need. So now I listen for about 30 minutes to an hour Monday-Friday, usually an hour, but some days I have to keep it shorter. Then on Saturday I will go back and review my notes and if there's anything I think I missed, I go back and listen to it again. On Sunday's I watch a completely different series, but typically with a similar theme. Right now I'm listening to Invitation to Stillness from The Practice, and I'm really enjoying it.

And now I'll close. I'm actually going to be doing some seasonal planning this weekend to make sure I'm intentional about what I want to do during Autumn. I tend to want to do all-the-things, so I'm trying to be realistic about my time, resources and budget and narrow it down to the best things.  If you have a favorite series that you've listened to, I hope you'll share it in the comments. I have several others bookmarked for the future, but I'm always looking for more.

Until then, my friends, PEACE.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Call To Action - When Is It "Officially" Autumn?

And by "officially" I mean, "officially at your house", :).  This year I put out all my autumn decorations (which are not many anymore), on August 31 so that the apartment would be decorated on the first day of September.  But in my mind, it's not really "AUTUMN" until Labor Day has come and gone.

I measure summer by two distinct book-ends and patriotic holidays, Memorial Day and Labor Day, with the 4th of July being the height of the season. So Autumn, in my mind anyway, officially begins the day after Labor Day.  Of course it doesn't truly begin until the Autumn Equinox, which is one of my favorite days of the year!  I'm going to be working out my plans for celebrating this weekend, and by that I really mean just reviewing what we always do!  But since things look a little different these days with my husband across the country and my daughter working full time, some of the celebrations I will most likely be doing alone. I'm fine with that, but it is something I need to factor in my planning.

So what about you? Is it "officially" Autumn in your home? Do you decorate for the season, and have you put your decorations out yet?  What are some special traditions (if any) that you have this time of year? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Betty Crocker Cooking Calendar - September

This sweet vintage illustration and poem is from a gem of a little book I found among my mom's things after she died, Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar: A Year Round Guide to Meal Planning with Recipes and Menus. The original copyright was from 1962, and since I was born in '61 I'm guessing she probably owned it most of her life, though I don't recall ever once seeing it before the day I discovered it covered beneath a stack of hand towels in a drawer in the kitchen. To be honest, I hadn't seen some of those hand towels in almost as many years! My mom was as frugal as they come!

That copy, sadly, had met with some fate years before and was stained and many of the pages were stuck together.  But as luck would have it I was able to find one at Amazon. If you're interested, I checked just now and there are several copies of the facsimile edition available at a reasonable price, just click the link above! I was hoping I could provide you with a little sneak peak, but unfortunately it is not a title that is available through the Internet Archives.  And so with that, as the original and the reproduction are both out of print, I thought I would share a few charming snippets with you.


The morrow was a bright September morn;
The earth was beautiful as if newborn;
There was that nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air,
Which makes the passers in the city streets
Congratulate each other as they meet.


"It's summer-into-autumn now, with warm days and cool nights and that first golden glow that makes autumn weather so beautiful. It's probably the way the the thermometer bobs up and down that gives us that feeling of "wild exhilaration". After Labor Day has come and gone and the children are safely back in school, I always have the urge to do something new, make new friends, join a discussion group, or emote with the local little theater group. 

The Autumnal Equinox, when day and night are of equal length, comes about September 21.  From then on the hours of daylight rapidly diminish, and the birds begin to race south with the sun. The little insect-eaters which helped to make your outdoor life last summer more enjoyable, are the first to seek more abundant feeding grounds. A few weeks later the other birds wing their way south. Some, however, like the Chickadee and even some Cardinals, stay with you all winter. There are few things more rewarding than spreading the welcome mat for those that remain. Set up a feeding station near your window and watch them during the bleak winter months. Your local Audubon Society or a conservation organization can give you simple suggestions on how to attract our feather friends. 

In the old Roman calendar, September was the seventh year of the month and called just that - septima, the Latin word for seventh. The modern names for October, November and December were also derived from the original Latin, which denoted their positions in the old calendar; octima, the eighth month; novisima, the ninth month; and decima, the tenth month. 

In many parts of the country, September means the first frost. Whenever a crackling clear evening sky threatens a frost, pick your still green tomatoes. Cover your biggest ones with newspaper and store them in  a warm part of the basement. They'll ripen to perfection. For the smaller ones, discover the joy of home canning. Green tomato pickles are as American as the proverbial apple pie, and anyone would be proud to make it "her specialty".  Try your hand, too, at corn relish, or watermelon pickles. A repertory of relishes can earn you the compliments of your family and guests. September is pickling and preserving time - and if you've never done it before, now is the time to learn. A shelf filled with jars of jams, chutneys, jellies and condiments, put up by yourself is one of the most satisfying accomplishments."

Call me old fashioned ,I won't be offended, but I just love the sentiment portrayed in these words. There are times I'm prone to envy the life of the housewife in the 40's and 50's, and even the early 60's, before women's liberation began to change the shape of what was deemed as an acceptable occupation. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for women's rights, and I don't ever want my posts to become political. I've never had a problem with women wanting to work outside the home and have a career, and I firmly believe in equal pay and recognition for equal work. I just never wanted that for myself, and I've always resented the fact that a large population of the world looks down on women like me, as if our aspirations to make our home and family our "career", if you want to call it that, are less. From an early age I knew that there was nothing else that I wanted more than cultivating a cozy home for my husband and children. My only other aspiration outside of that was to teach, and since we ended up homeschooling, I did that for twenty-seven years. I don't know about you, but I'd certainly call that, a career!

These words and illustrations beckon back to a time I remember well, in a middle-class neighborhood in a suburban development outside of Fort Worth, Texas. My childhood wasn't perfect, but as I've grown older I'm choosing to focus more on the good than the bad, and there was a lot of good lived there.  Many of my favorite memories are of my mother cooking meals and baking delicious treats for us in the kitchen, and just like mom every year when the light begins to fade, I find myself longing for chili, and hearty soups and stews. Though we enjoy it a few other times during the year, one of our families long standing traditions is to have Frito Pie to celebrate the autumn equinox. There were a few years when I opted for Brunswick Stew, especially after we moved to Virginia, but most years it wouldn't offiically be autumn without Frito Pie! You can google Frito Pie and find a number of varying recipes, but in our home we always make up a pot of Wick Fowler's 2 Alarm Chili over a bowl of Frito's Corn Chips. If you can't find Wick Fowler's, Carroll Shelby's Original Texas Chili Kit is a close second. Since moving to Virginia, this is typically what I use now, as Wick Fowler's is a little hard to find. Personally, I wouldn't order either from Amazon as one or the other is most likely to be found locally. And as for Brunswick Stew, I can't find the recipe I used before, but this one looks pretty close to it. So easy and so good!  If you've never tried Brunswick Stew, give this recipe a try! I don't even like lima beans, at all, but I don't even notice them in this recipe. Some people also add okra, but I only like my okra fried. As with Frito Pie, if you google it, the long list of links with a plethora of variations will come. Choose the one that appeals to you, and try it!

So what about you, do you have any favorite recipes that you tend to set aside for this season? If so, I'm always looking to add to my collection and I'd love for you to share in the comments!

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Saturday, September 4, 2021

Small Things - September 4, 2021

Years ago, when I first started blogging, I began writing a weekly post that I titled "The Saturday Six", and the very first graphic I ever made for it looked almost exactly like this. 

That was back when my girls were little and we were in the thick of homeschooling.  My blog was known as "Life in the Little Nest", and we lived in a little farmhouse on seventeen acres of land about an hour from where we are now. My how much life has changed!

But since I'm nostalgic, I decided to give that little graphic a bit of an update, changing the name to the current, SMALL THINGS, as well as changing out the colors to match my current theme.  If you can believe it, I went through a pretty long stretch with a fondness for shades of rust and blue, and my blog back then reflected it. That eventually gave way to red and blue, when our house was decorated in a patriotic theme, and eventually to red and green. And with the exception of a little hiccup last year when rust and brown made a short appearance, this color scheme has stuck with me for close to ten years now, and I don't see it changing anytime soon. Almost every room in our apartment is decorated in some shade of red and green, with a mix of black and buffalo check. My friends say it's "homey", but technically I think the style is referred to as primitive.

Anyway, let's walk back up from memory lane now and get to the latest edition of SMALL THINGS.

In no particular order, here are six things that inspired me this week.

1. Field Notes: September - Ochre and Flax is my new favorite place to hang out.  She also has a podcast, Quiet Matters: Slow Living For Real Life.

2. Chili Chocolate Popcorn  Seasonal Movie Sunday starts in our house on September 12, and I've been looking at recipes for snacks to add to the fun! I'm a HUGE chili/chocolate fan, so this might be first on the list!

I love everything about Philosophy of Leisure, but this one in particular. So good!

I just came across Simple, Slow and Lovely today when a link to this article showed up in my FB feed.  I enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to perusing more of Emma's offerings.

Paola is my favorite You Tuber! I never miss any of her vlogs!

6. Speaking of 6, Monday, September 6 is National Read a Book Day! I've decided that this season I'm going to re-read the complete Betsy-Tacy series. Want to join me?  I own the entires series, but they are at the Internet Archives, in a pinch!

And now my friends, I will leave you to explore! I hope you'll find some small thing to inspire!  Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, September 3, 2021

A Little Sonnet About Little Things

The little, smoky vapors
Produce the drops of rain;
These little drops commingle,
And form the boundless main.

Then, drops compose the fountains;
And little grains of sand
Compose the mighty mountains,
That high above us stand.

The little atoms, it is said,
Compose the solid earth;
Such truths will show, if rightly read,
What little things are worth.

For, as the sea of drops is made,
So it is Heaven's plan,
That atoms should compose the globe,
And actions mark the man.

The little seconds soon pass by,
And leave our time the less;
And on these moments, as they fly,
Hang woe or happiness.

For, as the present hour is spent,
So must the future be;
Each action lives, in its effect,
Through all eternity.

The little sins and follies,
That lead the soul astray,
Leave stains, that tears of penitence,
May never wash away.

And little acts of charity,
And little deeds of love,
May make this world a paradise,
Like to that world above.