Love, Acceptance and Sage Wisdon

I am not a clothes horse. Never have been, and never will be.

Spending hours at a store trying on clothes is frustrating and not enjoyable at all to me. Spending the time looking through rack after rack, trying to find what I think is my size, taking two different sizes into the dressing room “just in case”, only to find that the style or cut of the piece was not made for my body. Always going back to “square one.” Ugh! Drives me bananas!

I’ve not had too much luck shopping online either. Garments just don’t fit like I thought they would. Or buying a shirt – same size, same brand – can fit or feel completely different.

It’s taken me a few years to be comfortable in my own skin and love my body. To accept that I don’t look like the women in the magazines, clothes won’t possibly fit me like they fit the store mannequin, and just because I like the way something looks, it doesn’t mean it’s suited to me to wear. But, that doesn’t mean there’s anything – at all! – wrong with ME. It just means, I’m not choosing styles that are right for my body type or that I would feel comfortable in. But once I found my “style”, it was very liberating!

Through a lot of trial and error, I now know exactly what I’m looking for when shopping. I noticed that I gravitate toward a certain cut and style of blouses. Levis are my best bet for jeans. Pants and skirts need to fit just a bit above the waist to be most flattering. I like patterned, printed or textured tops paired with neutral bottoms. Polyesters, cottons, linens or blends of these fabrics are essential. My wardrobe, while not extensive, is versatile and comfortable.

I buy a majority of my clothes from thrift stores. I love the hunt for good bargain and since there are so many different styles to choose from, I find it easier to find pieces that I’ll actually wear and that can be mixed and matched for maximum potential.

In my area, as I’m sure most areas, fitting rooms are closed due to the pandemic. But I really don’t mind that they’re closed. Not only for safety concerns, but because this fits perfectly with my clothes shopping style. I’d much rather run through fast as I can and take things home to take my time trying them on. I’ve needed just a few pieces since we’re in between seasons, so this is especially helpful since I’m in the process of creating sort of a capsule wardrobe for myself. I have the pieces here so I can look and see just how many outfits I can create rather than second guessing if they will go with something I already have when I’m at the store. That factors into the decision of keep or return – does it fit and how many outfits can I put together. I’m making purposeful, practical decisions about how to get the most out of my wardrobe for minimal money using minimal pieces. The Goodwills in my area are actually accepting returns and issuing refunds in the form of a store gift card. Which again, suits me perfectly because I shop for a lot of things at Goodwill and other thrift stores. And the pieces that don’t work for me, I can always donate to my local shelter or clothes closet.

By looking at any basic necessary material possession with gratitude, I have a deeper respect for the blessing of owning it. By taking stock of what I actually NEED instead of having more for the sake of having more, I’m again, more purposeful and practical in my decision making. I’ve found how to do so much more with so much less.

You know that old saying “a smile is the best accessory a girl can wear”? While it’s a nice sentiment, I also feel a smile can hide a whole lotta pain and insecurity. Until you truly love and accept yourself, in all your fearfully and wonderfully made self, complete with stretch marks, pimples, dimples, sags, bags, scars, crookedness, cracks and spots, clothes are nothing more than a curtain you’re hiding behind.

Stop hiding! Wear what you LOVE. Wear what makes you feel like YOU. And then you can accessorize with that beautiful smile.

~ Blessings ~

Dutch Baby Pancake Recipe

A Dutch Baby, (or German Pancake or Puffed Pancake or Bismarck) is a cross between a pancake and a popover. It has a soft tender texture, much like a thick crepe, with the egginess of a popover. The sides puff up and rise above the edge of the skillet while baking, turning a golden brown. While there are different recipe variations out there, the basis for the batter and cooking technique are virtually the same.

I use my father-in-laws recipe. I’m not sure if it was handed down to him through the ages, or if he got it from one of his many (many, many, many) cookbooks and it became his “tried and true”. He’s made it for years for our family when we go to visit for the holidays. It’s so quick and easy to put together and is perfect for breakfast or brunch. It can be paired with fruit or yogurt for a light satisfying breakfast, or made into a more hearty meal with a side of bacon or sausage.

To make one, you will need a 9-10 inch oven safe skillet. My father in law and I both use cast iron, but I think it would work in any oven safe skillet or dish, as long as it is the right size and has sides.

The secret to getting a good puff on your sides is a preheated skillet, so go ahead and put it in the oven when you set it to preheat to 400 degrees. Once your skillet is good and hot, add about 2 tablespoons of butter and return to the oven for the butter to melt and heat. This usually only takes about 3-5 minutes, but watch it closely. You want the butter hot, but not browned.

For the batter, beat 3 eggs and 1/2 cup milk until blended and frothy. Then add 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour and 1/4 tsp salt and mix until very smooth. I use a whisk and beat vigorously. You can also use a blender or mixer. Unlike pancake batter that you’re mixing just until blended, Dutch Baby batter needs to be mixed until smooth and silky.

Remove the preheated skillet from the overn, swirl the melted butter around to coat the bottom well and pour the batter in. Bake for about 25 minutes until the sides are puffed and well browned.

This is what it looks like when done…

Isn’t it beautiful?! It’s light, fluffy, tender, flaky and so delicious!

We like our toppings simple. Just a sprinkle of brown sugar with some maple syrup or honey. Or butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Sometimes we make it fancy and dust it with a bit of powdered sugar. My granddaughter loves it with sliced strawberries and banana. Even though the Dutch Baby is the star of the show, it’s very easy to customize it to your liking!

If you’ve never had one, I encourage you to give it a try. It makes a delightfully simple, delicious and versatile breakfast item.

~ Blessings ~

Canning Okra

Okra is one of my favorite things to grow in the garden. It’s not difficult to germinate, grows quickly and produces like crazy. Not to mention the flower of the buds are absolutely gorgeous. The bees love them!

Quite honestly, over the years, I have ended up giving most of it away to friends and family. For as much as I love to grow it, there’s only so much of it we can eat. And when your freezer space is limited, well, you have to choose your battles.

Now…

When I first came across this tutorial from one of my favorite Youtube channels, I had my reservations.

I watched the next video with a turned up nose. One of the draw backs of okra is its tendency to become excessively slimy when not cooked properly. So, I was a bit surprised when at the end of the video, it seemed to have turned out crunchy and light.

I decided to make a small batch and give it a try.

You’ll start by washing and chopping your okra into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Then you make a simple brine on the stovetop, fill your jars with the okra and brine and put on the lid and ring. Easy peasy. Then, you just wait for the PING!

The texture held up beautifully when cooked. It was not mushy or slimy. And I just love how it looks in the jars. So pretty!

Even if you don’t have a garden, this is a great way to add more veggies to your storage pantry. You could purchase fresh okra from the farmers market or a pick-your-own farm. As with most foods, the fresher it is, the better it will preserve.

I love the simplicity of the process. Especially during the hottest days of summer when the garden is producing at full tilt and there’s always something that needs to be processed, preserved and put by. Even though it’s a complete labor of love, it can still be exhausting. But with this easy method, I’m excited to grow even more beautiful okra plants and add to the bounty of my pantry!

~Blessings ~

Keeping calm and canning on

Growing up, I heard countless horror stories about the dangers of pressure cooking and canning. That distant relative that had a canner explode, impaling the lid into the ceiling. Someone’s sister got third degree burns and horrible cuts from a jar that exploded. And that aunt whose kitchen was ab-so-lute-ly COVERED in beans that they never really were able to get clean. Oh, the drama!

Now, once I started gardening, I really got into water bath canning. Pickles, relish, salsa, apply butter and jams, and oh so many jars of stewed tomatoes. It was so thrilling “putting stuff by” and decorating my pantry shelves with my treasures. I just knew there had to be a way to conquer my fear of the pressure canner and really get into some serious food preservation. There’s only so much freezer space that can be dedicated for long term storage.  And it’s not necessarily the best option for long term to maintain the quality of many vegetables.

I liked the idea of being able to store various items that I didn’t grow myself. Buying them in season and preserving to have them year round. It also appealed to me to have items that take a long time to cook – like dried beans – ready to go simply by opening the jar and heating them up. Not to mention the huge savings of buying items in bulk and canning myself.

Over the years of watching countless Youtube videos and reading blogs and tutorials, I usually found myself left with more questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. I’m sure most of it was my over thinking and paranoia. But still. It paralyzed me and I couldn’t seem to get over it.

This past year I too became concerned about food shortages and the increase in food costs. Having a store run out of toilet paper is one thing, but the dried beans and rice shelves bare – that’s a whole ‘nother level of concern.

This Summer while at Walmart, I ended up on the canning supply aisle. I wasn’t there for canning supplies, but when I saw the shelves, I was gobsmacked. These shelves were just as ravaged as many of the grocery and cleaning supply shelves! I had heard about the stores – online too – selling out of canners and supplies. I had also witnessed that once those items were back in stock, the price was increased, sometimes ridiculously.  There was one remaining Presto weighted gauge canner and it was a decent price, so I went ahead and got it along with a flat of pint and quart jars and a pound of dried pinto beans.

I re-watched a few videos, re-read a few blogs and read my canner manual very carefully. I unboxed, inspected and washed my canner and supplies. I carefully and methodically followed the directions EXACTLY as written, took a deep breath and locked the lid down on my canner. I kept reminding myself that I had followed all the directions and I just needed to practice to gain confidence. It’s gonna be fine.

That first batch,  I was a nervous wreck! Was there supposed to be steam coming from the petcock, was I supposed to actually smell the beans, should I hear the water boiling, is the weight rocking too fast, is my temperature too high? Finally, the timer was done and I could relax.

Once it was time to remove the jars from the canner, I was so excited! They were beautiful! Ping! Ping! Ping! I’d done it. Not only had I stepped outside of my comfort zone and overcome a paralyzing fear,  I was on my way to mastering a new skill. Currently on my pantry shelves, I have a variety of beans, vegetable and chicken broth, and butternut squash. I’m hoping to add a greater variety of vegetables this coming spring and summer.

So, if you’re wanting to try pressure canning, go for it!

Do your research. Follow all the safety guidelines of your recipe. Read your canner manual and inspect the canner itself carefully. While it’s not hard, you do have to be mindful of the correct and safe way to do it.  Believe me, I wish I had started years ago!

~ Blessings~