Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Custard Creams and our new Teatime


As most of you know, tea is a regular occurrence in our home.  For over 30 years, Sir Knight and I have had tea in the morning before starting our day and come together again in the evening for another cuppa.  

Our lifestyle has changed so drastically in the last few years that we've had to come up with a new rhythm for our daily lives.  We still begin our day with tea (now in the snug) and come together for tea in the evening, however, our evening tea has now taken the place of "dinner".  When the children were small, Sir Knight and I needed a few moments of quiet, without kids, to reconnect at the end of the day.  Now, as our lives have changed so have our needs.  Our quiet start to the day, teacups in hand, has become our cherished time together, and our evening tea has become a family affair.

Our evening "tea" has truly become tea in the best sense of the word.  Our teatime now includes a full dinner, followed by cups of tea, conversation and a sweet end to a savory meal.  Every evening, after a full day at the butcher shop, we gather around a gracefully set kitchen table,  and enjoy a family meal together.  While we eat, the kettle boils away with water to heat the pot and then again with freshly boiled water for our evening tea.  As soon as our meal is finished, we whisk the dishes away and replace them with teacups, a full teapot and our evening nibble - the best part of the day!

Although three of our children are grown, tea time seems to call them home.  More often than not our table is full and the kitchen is alive with good food and better conversation.  Although changed, the ritual of teatime has grown with our family and remains ingrained in our very fabric.

One lightly perfect tea time treat that often graces our after-dinner tea table is Custard Creams.  Custard Creams are a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread sandwich cookie that comes together quickly and is a delightful tea accompaniment.  These cookies do require an ingredient not commonly found in American kitchens, however it is readily available online - custard powder.  My favorite is Bird's, which can be ordered from a number of online sources, it's fairly inexpensive and worth keeping on the kitchen shelf.

Custard Creams


2 2/3 C Flour

1 C Custard Flour

1 1/2 C Butter

1 C Powdered Sugar

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda


1/2 C Butter

1 C Powdered Sugar

1/2 tsp. Vanilla


For the cookie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Sift the flour, custard powder and baking soda into a bowl.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes in a stand mixer.

Add the sifted flour, custard powder and baking soda to the butter mixture and mix well.

Roll the dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thick.  Cut with round or square cookie cutter.

Bake in center of oven for 8 - 11 minutes or until just starting to brown on the edges.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

Mix the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until creamy (it will be very stiff).  Sandwich the buttercream between two cookies.  Repeat until all of the cookies have been used.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last that long).

Our best life is lived around the table, with cups of tea in our hands and laughter on our lips.  May you too, live your best life.....

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Miss Serenity.....

 Today, Miss Serenity turns 22.  Her life has been a blessing and an adventure.  She is all go, no stop.  She expects everything out of herself, yet loves and accepts her people with an unmatched fierceness.  She is strength and she is vulnerability all wrapped up together.  

Serenity has a remarkable, seemingly incongruent, combination of personality traits.  She is strong and tough - doing jobs that many men would struggle with, yet melts with one glance at a newborn baby.  Children flock to her like she's the Pied Piper while grown men are intimidated by her very nature.  She can (and does) do anything that God puts in front of her to do, but willingly and respectfully relinquishes those jobs should a more capable or experienced person step in to relieve her.  She is careful to listen and slow to take command, but always is the first to volunteer for the jobs that nobody else wants to do.  She works hard and plays hard and is loyal to a fault.

Serenity is a great favorite among her siblings.  What's her's is theirs, including not only her things but also her time.  She's the fun and adventurous one, always up for a road trip or a hike or a swim in the creek.  She brings life to whatever room she walks into.

For all her outward frivolity, Serenity wades into the deep end of the waters of life.  She searches for truth and thinks deeply about her purpose and about how God can and will use her.  She thinks about how her actions will affect those around her and how they will affect her future.  She poses intelligent questions and then spends time engaged in rousing discussions, first forming conclusions and then acting according to the dictate of these conclusions.  Serenity is true, both in thought and in action.

Sir Knight and I have been blessed and honored to be Serenity's parents.  We praise God for the great gift He gave us in her......

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Snow. Snow. And more Snow!!!!


It is nearly March and we are buried under 7 feet of snow!  And it just keeps snowing!  

This year we got a late start for snow.  November we had a skiff, but nothing to write home about.  December brought us a white Christmas, but we only had about a foot of snow, with bare ground under the trees.  January had us almost believing that we were going to skip a real winter this year.  I actually had a table and chairs set up under some trees so we could enjoy the unseasonably dry and warmish weather.  And then February hit!  

For the last three to four weeks we've had storm after storm after storm roll in.  It hasn't been uncommon for us to accumulate a foot and a half of snow overnight and another foot to a foot and a half the next day! Sir Knight and I have been delivering packages to our few neighbors because the roads have been too treacherous for the Fedex and UPS drivers to maneuver.  In fact, we've delivered so many packages that our UPS driver gave the kids UPS hats, making them official!

Dragon Snack in her UPS swag!!

We live roughly 14 miles outside of town.  Our road is a "main" gravel road and is maintained by the county, however, with only 5 families living this far out, we are at the bottom of the road to-do list.  One day last week, both Sir Knight and I made it home only by prayer.....neither one of us have EVER driven on a road that bad!!  Talk about faith building!!  Thankfully, the county had gotten them plowed by the next morning so that we were able to make it in to the butcher shop.  Even in the summer our road can be a nightmare.  We've lovingly named it "the AlCan of the lower 48".  Our's is a road where nice cars come to die.

Our forecast seems to indicate a warming, dryer trend....perhaps meaning no more snow in the immediate future!  Now, we'll wait and see how the spring thaw treats much snow to melt, with the creeks already full to overflowing.....hopefully our bridge will be able to withstand the rushing torrent!! in the mountains!!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Product Review: Boundary Ebulb

 As most of you know, we lived off-grid for the better part of 20 years.  One of the benefits of that lifestyle is that once we had a solid, working alternative energy system in place, we never had power outages!  Unfortunately, we can no longer say that is the case!  Since we've been back on grid power, we have encountered power outages with alarming regularity.  For the most part, they don't affect us much....we still have an outhouse and a generator for pumping water (not to mention abundant water via year around creeks and a bubbling spring), along with a root cellar (should be need it), however, it is still inconvenient not to have good, reliable household lighting.  We're never completely without light - we still have numerous oil lamps (3 hanging in permanent locations, and many table lamps), along with battery operated LED lighting sources.  But really, we all know that electric lights are the best, most convenient lights available.

A couple of years ago, I saw an ad for a lightbulb called an ebulb (emergency bulb), that had an onboard battery that charged when in use and came on automatically when the power went out.   Too good to be true??  I read and read and read reviews, mostly good, some bad, and decided I'd really like to give them a try.  What I was kind of stuck on was how they turned on after the power went out.  It didn't make any sense that I could put a lightbulb in my kitchen light, have the power go out and still flip the light switch and have the lights come seemed a little hinkey.  

I wrote the date that I charged the bulb on the box

Finally, after one power outage too many, I ordered some bulbs.  They have a charge on them when they arrive, however, it is advised to charge them for eight hours before storing them away.  I began charging some bulbs, but a few others went directly into lamps for every day use.  The idea behind the bulbs is that you screw them in to existing lamps or light fixtures (either with a switch on the wall or on the lamp itself), they charge while in use and then, in the event of a power outage, the bulbs use their reserved battery power to provide lighting for the duration of the power outage.  

When I first put the bulbs into my fixtures, I noticed that the light was very bright and very white.  While I prefer a softer white lightbulb, I think these will be perfect during a power outage when you need light, not ambiance.  The bulbs are also slightly larger than a standard bulb, making it difficult or impossible to fit in some standard light fixtures.  I had no problem with a majority of my lamps, but one was just too small.  Of course, the minute I had the lights in the lamps, I had to turn off the light switch and see if the bulb came didn't.  Not to be deterred, I ran to the fuse panel and turned the breaker off.....nothing.  I was more than a little disappointed.  I knew the lightbulbs worked with the little hanger with a switch that they had come with, but really, I wanted a lightbulb that would work in my existing fixtures with the flip of a switch.  

Okay...weird, but you can turn these lights on with your hand!!!!

The hanger with the switch that the bulb screws into

Now it can be hung (or used as a trouble light)

I began reading online reviews again, and realized that the reviews truly were a mixture of "these work like a dream" and "they only work with the hanging switch, not in the light fixture".  It then occurred to me that since I tried them out right away, they may not have had enough of a charge to make them work correctly.  We left them turned on in the lamps, used them like a regular light bulb and forgot about them.  A week went by and I thought I'd give them another test run.  This time, I asked Sir Knight to flip the breaker for the snug (where I had two light bulbs in lamps).  He did.  The lights went out, and then almost immediately, switched back on.  I had light were there was no power!!!  I turned the switches off and the lights went out....and then I turned the switches again....and LIGHT!!!  I was amazing!!

We now have a Boundary ebulb in every room.  We've only lost power once since we've had the bulbs, but immediately when the power went out, the lights came on.  In fact, it happened so quickly that I didn't realize the power was out!  

In reality, we haven't put these ebulbs to the acid test yet.  We have charged them all for at least 8 hours (I bought 12 light bulbs, so we have a few in fixtures and the rest are charged and on a shelf).  At this point I have no idea how long the batteries will last in an extended power outage (one of reason we bought so many bulbs).  I have read that they last anywhere from 3 hours to 12 hours, so only experience will give us a true picture of long-term viability.  

Sir Knight is in the process of creating a light bulb "charging station" so that we can charge a number of bulbs at once.  That way, if the power is out for an extended time, we can charge a lot of bulbs when the generator is running.  Also, he'd like to made sure we could use solar panels to power the charging station, making the ebulbs a long-term solution to off-grid lighting.

At first flush, the ebulbs seems to be solid solution for occasional power outages.  Only time will tell if they are a viable off-grid lighting solution.  I'll keep you posted!!

Note:  You can purchase these ebulbs from Boundary, or Amazon, Home Depot or Walmart among other retailers.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Update: Family

There have been so many changes over the last number of years in our family that I'll do by best to bring you up to date.  Here goes......

Sir Knight.....Sir Knight is now a full-fledged butcher, processing more animals in a day than he used to be able to process in a week.  He and Master Hand Grenade work together every day, side by side, processing hogs and beef and the occasional goat or lamb.  Business has grown steadily in the 3+ years we've been in business.  We have struggled and learned and improved....and we march steadily forward.  Last June, Sir Knight had an accident (potentially life changing) that left him in an eye patch.  I'm thinking he totally rocks the pirate look!!!

Rockin' the eye patch

Maid Elizabeth.....As I've mentioned, Maid Elizabeth sold her home where we used to live and bought a home directly across the creek from our butcher shop.  Our town is very small, and finding a job was a major challenge - a faith building challenge!  After a couple of false starts, Maid Elizabeth interviewed, tested and was offered a job as a 911 dispatcher for our county.  It has been the perfect position for her.  She is particularly good in emergencies and her medical training is a real bonus.  She has become an indispensable member of the emergency services team.


Master Hand Grenade......Master Hand Grenade is working, working, working.  Not only does he work at the butcher shop 5 days a week, he also works at our local grocery store another 2 days a week.  He's working steadily toward a number of long-range goals and has already achieved a few.  One great joy has been watching him mature and grow - what joy it brings!

The guys

Master Hand Grenade on a walk

Miss Serenity.....Miss Serenity also moved here with us.  She worked as a Wildland Fire Fighter, moving up the ranks quickly - first becoming the crew boss and then Forman.  Last summer, one of her crew members lost his life in a local river.  The effect was profound in Miss Serenity's life and it left her wondering how she could make a real impact on young lives.  With this in mind Miss Serenity applied to work as a cadre at a residential military academy for troubled youth, and was immediately hired.  She is now working with her second round of cadets and seems to have been custom designed for this job.  She speaks into the lives of broken "children" (they range in age from 15-18) every day, with characteristic Miss Serenity wisdom.

Miss Serenity ready for work

Talking a cadet through a water challenge

Princess Dragon Snack......Is almost 16!!!!  Can you believe that??  I know I can't!  Dragon Snack is still in school, of course, and on top of that, she works at the butcher shop with me.  In addition to school and work, she has another job - she is a barista in a local coffee shop!  She is full of fun and whimsy......with Dragon Snack, there is never a dull moment!  Her short term goal is getting her drivers license and her long term goal is to have horses and live somewhere that doesn't resemble Narnia in the winter!!!

Princess Dragon Snack and her love

At one of her two jobs!

Master Calvin.....I no longer have littles.....Master Calvin is a teenager!  Yes, really!  He, too, is doing school and he has become his Grandfather's right hand.  Right at the moment he is doing little but shoveling snow.  Lots and lots of snow!  He is keeping us shoveled out, as well as shoveling out the neighbors.  He's not complaining, however.  He is steadily adding to his dirt bike fund!

Master Calvin thinks it's time to move up!!

And me.....I am working, and learning - constantly.  I am learning there is no such thing as "menial labor" - that every job is worthy as long as you are working for your Father.  I am learning that my only job is obedience.  I need to obey Jesus in whatever He brings for me to do today - and that is enough. 

The girls and I

And that, my friends, is a quick family update!!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Semper Paratus

 It seems as though the world has continued to spiral out of control, gaining speed and momentum, with no signs of stopping.  Although we are no longer off-grid, we continue to strive to be "always ready", making our home as functional and prepared as possible.  We completed a number of projects this year (never as many as we'd like) and have many more planned for the coming year.  

One of the big things we did, was retrofit our old "gas house" into a chicken coop and filled it with 20 hens and a rooster!  The gas house had fallen into disrepair and had collected years of dirt and debris, but it was in a good location and the perfect place to begin to rebuild the basics of a homestead.  After cleaning out the muck and the mire, we found that the gas house floor had rotted through.  After replacing the floor, we insulated the walls and the roof, put new sheeting up and painted the entire inside (including the floors and the roof) with two coats of deck paint.  We built laying boxes, turned the big door into a dutch door and installed a window and a chicken door.  We built an interior dividing wall and screened it with with welded wire, to divide the "people side" from the "chicken side".  After finishing the inside, we fenced an outdoor area and finished it with a metal roof.  It has been amazing to see how much time the chickens spend outside, even in the depths of winter, just because they have a covered outdoor area!!  A real surprise has been how many eggs they lay, even in the dark days of winter.  We've been getting between 9 and 12 eggs a day throughout January and February, and that's without heat or a lamp in the coop!!  I've been so impressed!!

Putting in a new floor

Adding a window

We insulted and then put galvanized roofing in the  "chicken side" of the coop for easier cleaning.

A dividing wall and the beginning of nesting boxes

On the way to pick up chickens!!

The "ladies" enjoying their new roost

Another major undertaking we managed to complete last summer, was moving our wood cook stove.  After living here for 3 years, we found that the cook stove wasn't in the best location.  The stove was in the corner of the kitchen, which at first flush, seemed to be perfect.  However, we found that the location was inconvenient.  There was no counter near the stove, so cooking was challenging.  On top of that, the heat distribution was less than adequate.  The heat went directly upstairs, cooking the children in their beds, and the living room was always slightly chilly.  After a few years, and lots of thinking, we decided to move the stove.  The first thing we did was move everything!!!  And then we lived with it for a month or so.  Installing a wood stove is not small task, so we wanted to be very sure before we actually plumbed the stove in.  After living with it for a month, we knew it was going to work really well, so we called a friend and asked him to come help with the installation.  It took another couple of months before he was able to install the stove (in the beginning of November) but what an amazing transformation it has been!!  The kids now sleep in comfortable bedrooms, the living room is toasty warm and the wood cookstove is perfectly positioned between the living room and the kitchen, right next to the counter!!  

The wood cook stove in it's new location

It works so much better here!!

Pizza night...baking the bottoms before I put them in the oven

A drying rack above the stove (of course)!!

Moving the wood cook stove was life changing, in more ways than one....not only is our heat more efficient, moving the stove also paved the way for us to move the table into the kitchen!  I haven't had an eat-in kitchen for years, and I love it!  The kitchen just seems so much more inviting and homey with a kitchen table tucked into the corner.  Not to mention it is easier to fit lots of people in the kitchen than it was when we had the table in the other room.  Yay!!  And then, I had an entire room to play with.....and finally, I was able to get my own "snug"!!  It has been wonderful!!  We installed the propane fireplace, a couple of down filled chairs, a footstool....and suddenly, we have the perfect spot for reading and talking and just being.  It has been life-changing.  Now, Sir Knight and I have tea in the snug every morning and spend our evenings reading quietly by firelight.  It has been a wonderful addition to our life.

The kitchen table in its new location

The snug in all its glory

The door into the kitchen

The snug also doubles as an entry-way (here, the door is open)

As the world continues to spiral, we continue to pray and built and plan.  We do what is put in front of us to do each day and trust God with the rest.  And He continues to guide and direct our path.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Emperor's New Clothes....

I'm beginning to the Emperor, perhaps, naked???

Our world has been turned upside-down.  Every state in the nation is under lockdown, the world is in a frenzy and the prognosis for our future is nothing shy of apocalyptic.  The Coronavirus has brought us to our knees.

I've watched with wonder, as our nation and its citizens respond to this pandemic.  First, we responded with disbelief and caution.  People bought a few more packages of toilet paper, a gallon or two of bleach and a couple bottles of hand sanitizer - just in case.  As the news outlets grew more and more vocal the politicians became more and more involved.  Soon cities, counties and states called special meetings.   Emergency measures were enacted and the news cycle grew.  Twenty-four hours a day....pandemic....death.....pandemic.....death....economic collapse.....depression......pandemic....death.

And we responded.  Toilet paper is gone.  Hand sanitizer is a thing of the past.  Gloves, face-masks,'s all gone.  The food supply chain is breaking down, jobs are collapsing, lives are being irrevocably changed....and yet....?

I have to admit, I live in the middle of nowhere.  I'm not near a city center.  I don't live near the West Coast or the East Coast.  I'm not in Detroit or New Orleans or New York City.  I live 15 miles outside of a tiny town, on the top of a mountain.  I'm well outside of mainstream America.  But....I have a LOT of family in the original epicenter of this disease in the United States.  None of them are ill.  None of them know anyone who is ill.  None of them know anyone who knows anyone who is ill.

I'm not denying that we have been exposed to a devastating illness.  I have a dear friend that is married to a surgeon who is in the thick of the battle.  People are sick and people are dying.  However, I'm not seeing the widespread devastation that I keep hearing about on the news.  Is it real? Is it hyped up?  I wish I knew!

As I sit here, on my mountaintop I do wonder, if perhaps, the Emperor has new clothes....or is, indeed, naked.

The Emperor's New Clothes

A vain emperor who cares too much about wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who claim to make the most beautiful clothes and elaborate patterns. The weavers are con-men who convince the emperor they are using a fine fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or "hopelessly stupid". The con lies in that the weavers are actually only pretending to manufacture the clothes. Thus, no one, not even the emperor nor his ministers can see the alleged "clothes", but they all pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions. Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished and they mime dressing the emperor who then marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Finally, a child in the crowd blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is then taken up by others. The emperor realizes the assertion is true but continues the procession.

Hans Christian Anderson
(from Wikipedia)