Treasures From the Mountains

The house is quiet this morning with the sounds of rain pattering softly outside my windows. There’s something about a rainy morning that inspires me to write, cook, and be creative. I have to admit, rising early to greet the day and working in the early morning hours has always been a treasured time for me. Regardless of the task at hand, morning hours always feel special to me. Somehow I feel a closeness to the time at hand, to the past, and to our Heavenly Father.

I enjoy watching the morning fog lift.

As a little girl growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, I recall waking to hear our mother up working in early morning hours. Some mornings the hum of her sewing machine let me know she was sewing. While I rubbed the sleep from my eyes I would wonder what she was making. Other mornings she would already be out in the garden hoeing, picking, or standing with her coffee cup in hand admiring the fruits of her labor. I was a morning person way back then! I loved the smell of the fresh brewed coffee, the smell of the mountain air, the feel of the dew on my bare feet, and smell of fresh plowed dirt. Even then, I knew there was no place like home in the mountains of Kentucky! There was always an adventure awaiting me… or at least I believed there to be. After all, an adventure was and still is what we make of it!

While most kids enjoyed sleeping in on the weekends and the relaxing days of summer, I enjoyed being up early listening to the sounds of my grandfather plowing behind the old mule, my mom humming as she worked, mamaw tending the store, the creek flowing over the smooth worn rocks, and my favorite thing was scavenging for hidden treasures along the creek bank, in the back yard, or buried in the barn. I loved tromping through the mountains with my side kick, who was either my sister, one of my cousins, or both.

Raindrops sparkling like diamonds…

One of our favorite places to dig for treasure was in our mamaw’s old store house that was filled with “dime store” clothes. Talk about treasure! That place was truly a treasure trove for a trio of nine and ten year old girls. Picture it! A couple of young bright eyed little girls who each had an overactive imagination digging through clothes that were either left behind or donated from another generation. Old formal prom dresses suddenly became dresses that were worn by a princess, a queen or two, but each of us were suddenly transformed into royalty. Rhinestone buttons became diamonds that were worth more money than we could imagine. Small leather handbags adorned our arms and were filled with pins, buttons, lacy hankies, odd and end jewelry, hairpins, and various other items/treasures we found among the remnants of the past!

After reflecting on fond memories of the past I feel inspired to ask this question; How do you define treasure? Treasure, is one of those words that is often used without giving much thought to its definition. It can be defined differently by each of us. Treasure is defined as much beauty… however the true definition lies within the eye or the heart of the beholder. Some people describe treasure as an object of value. While others may believe treasure to be family, memories, certain objects, special trinkets, while even still others treasure time as a treasured gift.

Regardless of how you define treasure or what you hold dear in your heart as treasure, know that time, family, friends, and memories are all treasures that we should never take for granted. Time passes all too quickly. Often times We idle our time away doing nothing when we could be spending time with family or friends making new memories. We can’t turn back time. Once time has passed… it’s gone.

Sunset in the mountains.

I encourage you today to enjoy this day that we have been blessed with. Build memories, enjoy family and friends, go search for hidden treasures that might be just below the surface of where you at this moment. Maybe treasure is within your view, but you just don’t recognize it. Above all, take time to love deeply, to forgive often, and live for this is the day the Lord has blessed you with. Today will soon pass and tomorrow will be here. What treasure(s) will you find today?

Feel free to leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, feel free to follow my blog for inspired moments in the mountains, recipes, and much more. From the mountains of Kentucky… have a wonderful and blessed Tuesday!

Memories in the Mountains

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. A day to pay tribute to those who served and those who gave their lives for ours. A time to reflect and to remember how our service men and women fought for our country and for our freedom. Some of those brave warriors came home while others gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives.

Memorial Day is a time to celebrate freedom, but also an opportunity to make memories. While we were preparing for a cookout with family and friends Saturday, I found myself reflecting on the past and thinking about the future. I thought of how quickly time passes. Yes, it is true, life is much like the comparison of vapor over water. It appears and then quickly evaporates right before our very eyes.

Today, let us pause and enjoy the blessings of life, family, friends, and our freedom. Take time from the fun of grilling, fishing, swimming, and all of the other festivities that await us on this beautiful day. Let us take time to remember and pay tribute to all of the dedicated, unselfish, and brave warriors who gave their time for our country, and for each of us.

As I reflect on our day with family and friends, my heart swells with love and gratitude for the opportunity to spend this day surrounded by laughter, good food, and those that I love. A bit of sadness stings my heart as I remember those that have passed and are no longer with us. I recall their laughter, stories, guidance, and their love. I also find myself consumed with an unwavering love, and gratitude for the one who truly gave all…our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us love deeply, cherish our freedom, life and our family, and let us never forget our soldiers and always remember our Savior.

God bless and Happy Memorial Day from the mountains of Kentucky.

In The Eye of the Storm

During my lifetime, I have encountered many changes, witnessed a few miracles, seen devastation, had my fair share of surprises, blessed to have more happy times than I can count, encountered more than enough sadness, but I have never encountered a time like our world is facing today. A friend of mine made a recent Facebook post about feeling as if she were living in a dystopian society. After considering this statement for a few minutes, and being well-read in the dystopian genre, I found myself agreeing with her.

As I set here this morning drinking coffee and counting my blessings I also began to reflect on the events that are happening in our state, across the nation, and all over the world. We have entered a time of many unanswered questions, many predictions of which some have proven to be accurate, while others remain just predictions.

This week as I was reassuring my students and trying to alleviate their fear about the massive changes that they have encountered in less than week, I was gently reminded that our hope lies within our heavenly Father. I began to council them that all would be well, and that our school, the state, and all of the professors were working together to make sure this time of uncertainty would not hinder their coursework, or their graduation. I recalled reading a post on face book from one of my favorite children’s authors and began to provide them with examples and a comparison to the novel, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which we are currently reading in our class. I have to give credit where credit is due. This wonderful children’s novel is one of my favorite Kate DiCamillo books, and was always a favorite of my students when I taught in the public school. In this wonderful children’s novel, the character of Edward travels on a long journey of uncertain events, new adaptations, and meets many new characters along the way. This heart-warming novel is also a novel of self-discovery for Edward, who grows immensely in many ways while traveling on this uncertain, yet miraculous journey.

I began to think about the journey that lies ahead of each of us, our families, and our neighbors. We are not on this journey alone, much like Edward wasn’t. I reassured them during this time, each of us needed to take time to rediscover and maybe even re-evaluate our principles, our religious beliefs, relationships, and our goals for life. I too, took my own advice and did a little soul-searching. I also realized that there will be days of uncertainty ahead of us, unanswered questions, and a menagerie of emotions that I, as well as others, will encounter. I also realized that I would have to be strong for my family, my children, grandchildren, husband, mother, my students, and my neighbors. I know that I cannot carry the load for all, but I can lighten their load a little, without increasing mine.

When my students began to think about the situation that we are facing and comparing the situations that the character of Edward faced, they began to delve deeper into the text, their fears subsided, and they were inspired that they would be okay at the end of this difficult journey, just like Edward was. I know, and they know, that life is not a fictional fairytale where a happy ending is commonly found. However, as a result of our comparison, our analyzation, and our discussion my students, as well as myself felt a sense of relief, accomplishment, and were inspired to take our newly found message out to others that God is still in control.

I encourage each of you to take the time that you have been given at home to love your family, yourself, and to dig deep into your own self-discovery. Re-evaluate your relationship with your family, yourself, and with your creator. Make this a time of self-discovery, new discoveries, and a time to love your family. Be strong and be there for them. Take time to read, study the word, and pray. This is a time more than any other time in my lifetime where prayer is warranted. Be the prayer warrior that others can rely on. Be the neighbor that can take a covered dish and leave it at the doorstep of your elderly neighbor, check on friends through social media, phone calls, or even FaceTime them, which gives allows them to realize that you are there for them.

Through all of the unanswered questions, uncertainty’s, and all of the worrying, I am reminded of a prophetic word that our church received quite some time ago. The words that were revealed to our church were simply, “preparation time.”

Members, as well as our Pastor, wondered if this meant a great revival, souls dedicating their lives to the Lord, preparing for the unexpected, or even still…all of the above. We, as a church, prayed for answers and prepared in a variety of ways. We have seen a spiritual revival break out within the hearts of our congregation and in our church, souls have been added to our church, and now we are facing uncertain days with many unexpected changes and unanswered questions looming over all of us, but we feel better prepared than we would have a year ago. We have been reminded that the Lord has been and continues to be with us, even in the eye of the storm.

I hope you enjoy this post. Feel free to comment and or follow. Wishing you a safe and wonderful Memorial weekend and day. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Hidden Nuggets

Good Evening from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’ve had a wonderful day! The sun has been shining bright in the mountains today, which was a welcome change from the chilly morning temperatures we encountered earlier today. Cool nights and cool mornings are to be expected in early May in Kentucky. Early May is what we refer to as, blackberry winter. My grandfather always called it the last cold snap of the season and time to begin planting tomatoes, cucumbers, and the rest of the garden goodies!

A beautiful Kentucky sky!

While working in my herb garden this evening, I discovered that the sage was already in need of pruning. Pruning the sage prevents it from becoming leggy and woody. As I pinched the leaves back, a rich and wonderful aroma filled the air. I began planning what great dish I would create with the fresh sage. Maybe stuffing, dumplings for my husband, or I might dry it for future dishes. Nevertheless, I was excited to have fresh sage so early in the season. As I pruned the already flourishing plant, I thought about how much more it would grow and how healthy it would be as a result of the pruning. In the still of the evening, I felt the Lord dealing with me about my own pruning.

Fresh Sage Leaves

I heard a sermon once that compared cleaning a closet out to that of purging ourselves with prayer and fasting. Pruning a plant is similar to the process of laying down weights that might prevent us from spiritually growing to our fullest potential. Like the sage, without pruning, we too, might become tough, a bit bitter, or even stop growing spiritually. I hadn’t thought of this analogy before. Spiritual pruning, I believe this was one of those hidden nuggets of wisdom that the Lord reveals through the simple things in our every day life to grow us spiritually.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. Click follow to to be notified of new posts. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Winter in the Mountains

Winter has arrived full force in the mountains of Kentucky this week. Just when the countdown until spring has begun, winter rears it’s almost unfamiliar head. Winter can be rough in the mountains, and we’ve had our fair share of rough winters, but considering our winter weather for the past few years, we really can’t complain. During the past few days we’ve transitioned from sleet to, rain, back to freezing rain, and now snow. I feel humbled and blessed that I am one of the fortunate people that can work from home and do not have to travel. Because of my blessings, I feel compelled to check on others, pray for those that have to travel, the first-responders, homeless, and the elderly. It’s during times like this that I appreciate my mountain roots, heritage, cultural ways, and the knowhow of how to survive hard times such as those that we live in today more than ever.

The ice is clinging to the trees in the mountains.

With winter weather also comes the desire to cook, which I think is a cultural thing as well. As far back as I can remember when snow started flying in the air, laying on the ground, and filling the trees, someone was cooking. Cooking what? Veggie soup, chili soup, pinto bean better known in the mountains as soup beans, and always a side of cornbread. This was only a few family cavities! Some may think that vegans and or clean eaters can’t enjoy tasty dishes or cultural meals. However, being a clean-eating vegan doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice flavor or my favorite foods. No, I still enjoy savory meals that I’ve always enjoyed, only a healthier version of them.

So, what’s on the menu for this bitter cold and blustery day? Organic soup beans, cooked in the insta pot without oil, but with plant based beyond bullion base. This great tasting base also decreases the amount of salt that’s needed to flavor many dishes. I use this base when I saute mushrooms, I add it to soups, beans of all kinds, and more. I’ll bake cornbread for my husband and plan to make myself roasted potatoes. I discovered along this high-starch journey I could line a sheet pan with parchment paper, spritz the cubed potatoes with vegetable broth, season them and cover them with aluminum foil and after they’ve reached the desired tenderness, I place them for the final minutes under the broiler and allow the potatoes to crisp up. What I discovered is that the potatoes are crispy and tasty. I also occasionally place them in the air fryer, spritz and season, and air fry for a faster dish of roasted potatoes. To add to the deliciousness m, I’ll add a side of sour kraut, which I canned last year, and maybe a skillet of mustard greens stirred up with diced mushrooms, more of the vegetable base, and finally a crumbled tofu to replace the scrambled eggs. This is a supper that is mountain worthy, culturally acceptable, vegan friendly, and filled with starches and high-powered greens. The only thing that makes this dish better is a jar of my canned red tomatoes chilled and served on the side. An all clean, organized, healthy, and tasty on this cold snowy day!

A great source of seasoning that adds a lot of flavor!

Eating vegan, plant-based, and healthy does not mean that you have to sacrifice flavor, culture, or deny your family who doesn’t follow a vegan diet. What I have learned along this journey is most of the time my husband doesn’t realize I prepare the mustard greens without oil, without eggs, and limited to no salt. He still brags on the taste, reaps the reward of less oil, and salt, and also that he loves sauteed portabella mushrooms. He still indulges in cornbread, but often made with less oil, egg replacement, and almond milk. The bread is still tasty, and he eats it without complaining about lack of flavor, but often brags on how tasty it is. Many times we think we need more salt, or we need to add a splash more of oil, or some other fat, when in reality we just need to focus on the flavor of the food…not the seasoning. One of the greatest benefits he has discovered is that a plant-based diet is much better for his gout, which is an entirely different post for later.

Snow and ice fill the trees and the mountains.

For now, I’m off to put beans in the insta pot, grade assignments, tidy the house up, and catch up on a little reading while snuggling beneath my favorite quilt in my favorite chair. I am so thankful for a warm home and knowing that my family is safe at home. I will also enjoy my favorite coffee, the spectacular view of the snow-covered mountains that lies just beyond my windows, and all the comforts of home. Blessings from the snow-covered mountains of Kentucky. I have found that in an impersonal world filled with more struggles than I can recall, a high-tech technology world where social media has replaced much of the personal communication that we once cherished, not to mention the uncertainty of the pandemic, I cherish the simple things in life more than ever before.

Click follow to follow my blog and read about new upcoming dishes. Please, feel free to leave your comments. I enjoy reading feedback.

Finding Joy During Uncertainty

It’s been a while since I have posted. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks, but kept encountering interruptions, or starting over to find the right words, and still just setting it aside to work on later. Sometimes I’m not the best at multi-tasking. I have been in a routing of focusing on what needs to be done first, which often results in me neglecting my blog that I enjoy so much. Life has been very different since the outbreak of COVID. We’ve encountered many changes along the away and have had to learn to adapt, and in some cases still adapting as it seems every day brings about new changes and a new, or resurrected sense of uncertainty. I, like many of you, have gone through a roller coaster of emotions with the changes and devastation that have occurred in our world within the last year. My emotions ran amuck from fear and worry to joy, and so the cycle continued for weeks that turned into the months. However, all change that has occurred in my life hasn’t been a fearful change, or a change that came with a dread. No, life is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But, change can bring a freshness, personal growth, and also time to rise up to the challenges, goals, or tasks that we’ve put on the back burner far to long ago. It’s time to find beauty in the ashes!

A peaceful time of prayer while admiring God’s creation.

The way we socialize, shop, worship, educate, vacation, and even dine out have all encountered changes in one way or another. However, I was reminded several months ago of the words given to me by a previous boss. Things were continually changing with the district where I taught, and if you are an educator, parent of school-aged children, or work in the public school system, you know about change. He simply stated, “change is good.” He further explained that we could take what felt like an uncomfortable change, a scary journey, or a dread and turn it to our good, and to our student’s good. Shame on me! I had neglected the wise words from a long-time friend from many years ago. Why had I not used those same words and applied them to our situation today. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that this wicked virus is good by any means. But, what I am saying is that with all of the changes we’ve encountered…also came time. Time, that I seemed to lack when life was rushing by so quickly. It was time to rediscover and renew my prayer life, my creativity, bring a sense of newness to my classes, encourage and bring hope to our students, and bring hope to our family.

These changes would occur one day at a time, overcoming one obstacle at time, living in the day and being thankful for the time that I have. I would not waste time sitting and worrying, wondering about what the future held, when would all the sickness end, or when life would get back to normal? Key word here is, life. I was reminded that I was allowing life to slip away, right before my very eyes. Think about it, for those old enough, it seems we turn around and twenty years of our lives have vanished. We’re left asking ourselves questions such as; What did we do with those twenty years? Were they spent feeling sorry for ourselves, living in constant fear, complaining, spending far too much time on social media, which by the way will deplete our joy, if we allow it to. Or were days, months, and or years spent doing things that we love to do? Were we spending time bettering ourselves through meditation, prayer, reading, breathing the precious air that we have been gifted, spending time with family, or cherishing the life that we have been given?

Through this journey of change, I was also reminded wise words of my pastor’s wife shared. During one of the most difficult times in her life as she battled for her very life of having diverse diseases the doctors thought would take her life, she had a profound encounter with the Lord. While feeling down and or discouraged one day, she felt the Lord express the following question; are you going to sit there and die or get up and live? I have pondered this question many times since then, and actually asked it of myself, and asked others who were going through a rough time. Some might find it hard to believe that the Lord actually speaks to us, but let me say my friends that the Lord has a way of reaching us through His word, in our thoughts, a gentle breeze, kind words of others, in the lyrics of a song, in dreams and in many other individualized ways. It’s about believing and being willing to receive what He has for us that is so very important. It’s what we do with what He says, whether it be directly from Him in a still small voice, a prophetic word, that gentle breeze that stirs when we need reassuring, or from a bold statement such as my pastor’s wife and friend encountered. Fast forward, my pastor’s wife was healed over twenty years ago, and today is one of the busiest women that I know. But, she’s not too busy to neglect her duties as a pastor’s wife, a friend, a mother, grandmother, her career, and her sincerity as a prayer warrior.

Be strong, be bold, be steadfast, and together we’ll brave the storm.

She has shared those wise words with our church and myself often. In the early fall I was reminded of those words just when I was tired of being down-trodden, tired of living in fear, tired of doom and gloom, tired of negativity everywhere I turned, tired of feeling isolated, tired of politics, tired of what seemed like endless changes, tired of so much sickness, and simply tired of being tired. Her words resonated with me one morning as I sat quietly pondering the events that lay ahead of me. I was now teaching full time at home, advising from home, shopping from home, and doing almost everything from home. I needed a positive change. Was I going to sit here and die or was I going to get up and live. I whispered a quiet thank you Lord, for the gentle reminder that I wanted to get up, I wanted to live and make the most of the day that I had been given. I began to count my blessings. I counted the smallest and largest blessings. I found it difficult to count them all. I felt inspired to write them down. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a passion for journals. Quickly, I found just the right journal from among the many blank journals that I had stowed away in my office. I would make a gratitude journal. The pages were filling quickly, my load seemed lighter, and I felt a sense of control and positivity returning. I found that by writing and recording my blessing daily, it was more therapeutic, it was real, it was a reminder of the blessings that were being overlooked and shelved like a competed novel. This was an area that needed to be revisited daily, relived, and an area that needed to be a focus of a dark time in our world. There is light in the midst of the storm, there is hope, there is joy during the crying, there is God and He did not deserve to be shelved. Rereading the Bible daily became a time of joy, a time of learning, re-learning, and a time of connections. Seeking out new inspirational books to read, books that were filled with joy, hope, happiness, and testimonies of triumph became beneficial and an inspiration that I have been able to share with others. Making time to pray, meditate, and sometimes just sit quietly and reflect on the goodness that surrounded me, rather than watching the news, or browsing social media, became an even larger part of my daily routine, and one that I found myself looking more forward to every day. It was time to get up and take back what seemed to slowly be fading from my view. I was reminded that as long as we have breath, we have hope, and without hope we can’t have faith, and faith is what moves what feels like mountains. Faith will sustain us and help us overcome.

For me, preserving and finding and making time to do what I loved, to write, cook, create, spend time outside, read, prayer time, socialize, even if it’s by phone, or zoom, care for others who may be hurting, and simply counting daily blessings, brought joy during the times of uncertainty. No, life is not perfect, yes, changes are still occurring, and yes the virus is real. We have family and friends who have suffered the cold and vicious symptoms, some still battling the side-effects, and others who have lost their lives to this horrible disease. But, through it all we have had family who have overcome and won the battle with the virus, who have lived to help others, and who have become stronger in their faith as a result. We must find a positive in the negative and remember that change is good. The change that I have encountered through it all is a closer relationship with our savior and a new appreciation for the simple things that are too often taken for granted. I have learned to step back and count my blessings and recount them. I have learned to make time when we often say we don’t have time. I have decided to live by the wise words given to my pastor’s wife, I choose to get up and live rather than sit down and die physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Life is precious. I choose to make the most of it every day, even through the changes of uncertainty. Remember, no one can rob you of your joy. Happiness is a daily choice. I choose to dance in the rain, and find beauty in the ashes.

I’ll leave you with two book suggestions.

Love is Real written by Adam Reid. This is a book that will forever change your mindset and your life. Also, When Women Pray, by TD Jakes. This is a book that allows you to connect to the lives of prayer warriors in the bible, grow spiritually, learn how to persevere, and how to get up and keep living, even when life is hard and uncertain. Both books have made a profound impact on my life and helped intensify the desire to get up and live even more than before.

God bless each of you! As always, thank you for stopping by my blog. Feel free to leave comments or feedback. I love to hear from my readers. FYI…upcoming is a new recipe that I have been working to perfect. My family has enjoyed it thus far. If you love lemon, you’ll enjoy my new lemon trifle. I hope to post the recipe soon.

Vegan Strawberry Salad Dressing

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We had a beautiful morning filled with a mix of rain and sunshine in the mountains today. I don’t mind the rain. I love an occasional rainy day, especially a rainy summer morning. For me, rainy days are a time to catch up on chores inside the house. Chores that I pushed aside to allow for time to maintain the outside can now be completed. Rainy days are also a welcomed change as they allow me extra time to do a little baking, grade student’s assignments, and try to squeeze in some time to read. I always appreciate and enjoy my quiet morning devotional reading and time spent meditating and talking to our Heavenly Father. My day always seems to be better, less stressful, and more appreciative after bible study and prayer.

I am an avid reader and enjoy the pages of a good novel anytime, but especially on rainy days like today. I am currently reading the fourth book in the Hunger Games series. It is truly a book worthy of reading! I may post a review of it when I finish it. If you’re a fan of this series, now is the time to delve deep into the pages and enjoy the continuing saga of the Hunger Games. As much as I enjoy spending time indoors catching up on work, household chores, reading and cooking…my love for the great outdoors always seems to lure me outside.

Before enjoying a brisk morning walk this morning, I enjoyed a small bowl of Silk non-Dairy vanilla yogurt with a mix of berries and walnuts with a slice of sprouted non-flour organic sprouted Ezekiel bread with a teaspoon of avocado plant butter. It was quite tasty with a sprinkle of ground flax seed and a drizzle of agave. Eating vegan doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless.

As I enjoyed my walk after breakfast this morning, I was reminded of how much I love early summer mornings outside! Our view of the mountains never grows old. The sounds of the creek flowing and the morning farm sounds are always a soothing and welcoming sound to my ears. The gentle cooing of the doves, the low rumble of thunder, birds singing from high in the trees, and the sounds of the farm are always satisfying, soothing, and comforting and a time of peace.

I always feel abundantly blessed on quiet morning walks. I feel especially blessed when walking after a morning rain. The earth is damp, the leaves glisten with drops of rain, and our small farm seems to come alive. I love to walk, meditate, and count my blessings, while also enjoy the sounds of life in the mountains, reminiscing, and enjoying the view.

The sounds of the hens cackling from their nests assures me that there will be at least a dozen or more fresh eggs by midday. Our latest addition to our farm are guinea’s. Our son gave them to us and they’ve earned their keep through their loud alerts of arriving guests and strangers. They’re a security system who also provides tiny eggs for our family and friends. This morning their calls let me know they were awake and on guard, while the roosters chimed in with their good-morning crows.

Two of our guinea’s enjoying picking a little green

There’s something about the sound of roosters crowing that take me back to my childhood growing up in the mountains. I found myself a bit teary eyed as I thought of my grandparents who have gone home, and of all the wonderful times we enjoyed with family while growing up. Times were simple then. Evenings were spent with family and friends porch sitting laughing, talking, and sharing the events of the day. I recall early summer mornings where we spent many happy hours wading in the creek, and warm summer nights that were filled with star-gazing and dreaming of our tomorrows. Those are memories that I will forever cherish and hold close to my heart. Walking this morning was one of those mornings. One flooded with a mix of emotions, memories, and also filled with gratitude.

Our garden in mid May.

The view of our garden was a satisfying sight this morning. Hard work pays off! We worked several long hours yesterday in the garden. It was a long evening of plowing, hoeing, planting, and also picking with family. Hard work, but also a time of making memories. The smell of the freshly plowed earth still lingered heavy in the air this morning. The scent of fresh plowed sod is one of my favorite scents in the morning along with the fragrance of the honey suckle blooms. Both of these fragrances transports me back to my childhood in the mountains. Yes, mountain life is the best life.

I hope your gardens are flourishing this year! Our labor is paying off with an abundance of cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers so far. I am super excited to begin picking tomatoes, digging potatoes, and also picking beans and corn in upcoming weeks.

Even though our garden is doing well right now, gardening has been an unusual journey this year. First, with the bitter cold freezes that came in the early spring also came several evenings of covering each plant in hopes of preventing freezing, and uncovering the next morning. Then came the rain…boy, did it rain…a lot! The rain didn’t harm all of our garden, but wreaked havoc on our beans, which rotted in the ground. This resulted in plowing the beans under and replanting. I am happy to report that our second planting of beans are flourishing! We fenced the long rows of beans this week and the beautiful green bean vines are already climbing the tall fence lines. Our corn has been a challenge as well this year. We are are tending our third planting, which is finally doing well.

We are accustomed to battling and discouraging deer every year from getting in our garden. We won the battle with groundhogs eating our beans a few years ago, and crows pulling our corn up last year. However, this year we were faced with a new unexpected force that destroyed two entire crops of seed corn. Just as the corn reached two or three inches tall it would disappear. Chipmunks were the culprits this year. Who knew that those cute little creatures could destroy row after row after row of corn. They maybe cute, but they can be deadly on a corn crop. Through many creative efforts of soap, peppermint essential oils, moth balls, and many other creative methods…it appears we may have finally won the war with the furry little burrowers.

I am overjoyed with our herbs this year! They are flourishing as well. I’ve enjoyed harvesting basil, and peppermint several times already this year. I am currently drying both to add to the pantry. I plan to make peppermint tea from the medley of mints that are hanging in the drying room. I love the taste and the smell of all mints. My favorite has to be chocolate mint, which is a great addition to brownies, cookies, and makes a great tea all by itself. I purchased a new mint this year, which seems to be doing great. I’ve haven’t harvested any of it yet, in effort to let it get well-established first. I found strawberry mint! I am overly excited about the possibilities that this mint has. I admit, the leaves of the plant are quite tasty and very aromatic. Yes, I’m guilty. I nibble on my herb plants sometimes as I’m watering or pruning. My plans for this mint consist of tea, cookies, bread, and also a fresh berry salad with homemade strawberry salad dressing. It’s the simple things in life that makes me happy.

Speaking of fresh veggie and berry salad, I hope you’ll enjoy my new recipe for strawberry salad dressing. I apologize for neglecting to post my recipe for this refreshing and tasty salad dressing earlier. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with the garden, grading, and teaching this summer. I hope you and your family enjoy this simple recipe as much as we do.

With warm weather, regardless if it’s raining or the sun is shining…also comes my usual craving for crisp summer salads. I love to experiment with the veggies and herbs from our garden, and also with fresh fruit. While cleaning the refrigerator out the other day, I realized it was time to do a refrigerator cleanup in my produce drawers. What better time to create a summer salad! While foraging through the crisper drawers, I discovered an abundance of fruits and veggies that were perfect for a tasty summer salad. I found a honey crisp apple, a few ripe strawberries, a few leftover blueberries, and score…blackberries that were more than ready to be used. I added a little bib lettuce from our garden, bits of baby kale, and some baby spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce. I included chopped cucumbers, green onions, tomatoes, cauliflower and purple broccoli.

Now, the veggies were ready to toss, but I wanted a crunch factor for the salad, so I tossed in a few toasted walnuts. I clipped some fresh basil, peppermint, spearmint, and a few chives and tossed them in the veggies. I can’t wait to include leaves from the strawberry mint plant in my next salad. I like to use a small pair of scissors to cut the fresh herbs into small strips, which prevents a lot of bruising on the tender leaves. I once again gently tossed the fruit, herbs, and veggies to ensure a bit of everything with each bite. What a visual and colorful bounty of beautiful deliciousness!

Crisp summer berry salad with homemade strawberry dressing. 

Finally, if you’re like me, a summer berry salad is not complete without a sweet dressing. So, I decided to create my own dressing. I hope you enjoy this sweet and savory dressing on your summer salads. It’s quick, easy, and takes only a few ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons of organic balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon organic strawberry jam (I prefer homemade)
1 teaspoon of organic agave
1 pinch of course black pepper

Process:

Wash, drain, and chop strawberries and add to the blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on medium-low until smooth. Pour into a container with a lid, and chill for about thirty minutes before drizzling over your salad.

How easy was that? I added this beautiful dressing to our summer salad last week, and it was a huge hit! With the addition of a few plant-based homemade croutons, the salad was complete and absolutely delicious.

Hint: Don’t neglect toasting the walnuts before adding them to the salad. It’s amazing how much the flavor is enhanced when toasting nuts of all kinds before adding them to your favorite recipes.

Finished product…a pint of delicious vegan strawberry salad dressing!

Garden tip: If your herbs are not as green, vibrant, or bushy as you would like for them to be, don’t neglect clipping and pruning your herbs. Clipping promotes new growth. Without regular clipping and pruning your herbs will become leggy and less bushy. 

For now, I’m off to enjoy a cup of camomile herbal tea and delve deep into the next chapter of my book!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky. Stay safe, stay close to home, and stay positive during this time of uncertainty. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I always enjoy reading your comments.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Protein Bites

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! Has your week been as busy as mine? It’s that time of year again! Time to can, preserve, dehydrate, and freeze all the wonderful veggies, fruit, and herbs that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with. As busy as it can get, I still love this time of year!

Canning in the last days of summer reminds me of the hot summer days of my youth when helped with the canning each year. It also reminds me that summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and a new academic year is about to begin. Where did summer vacation go? Seems we were planting our garden only a few weeks ago and now we’re harvesting and the fall semester begins next week!

Eight of the 21 quarts of tomato juice we’ve canned so far this year. 

Eight of the forty-two jars of green beans we canned this week.

With all that being said, even with all of of the hard work picking and canning, I did have a little time to work on a new recipe that I think you’re going to enjoy! My family is in agreement…this recipe is a keeper! It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, very versatile, sweet, satisfying and really tasty! But, best of all, it’s clean, healthy, and vegan! I hope you enjoy my vegan chocolate chip coconut protein bites as much as we do!

Ingredients;

10 Whole pitted dates (I prefer medjool dates)

2 tablespoons of Organic or non GMO peanut butter

1 scoop preferred plant protein powder (this ingredient is optional)

1 cup organic gluten free oats

1 tablespoon organic chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax seed (optional)

1/2 cup organic vegan dark chocolate chips

1cup organic shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I have substituted Walden’s Chocolate syrup for a more of a chocolate taste and also less sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Process:

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or a ninja reserving the chocolate chips and half of the shredded coconut. Process until blended well and forms a dough. Add chocolate chips and pulse a few times until chips are incorporated but not completely ground up.

Roll dough mixture into preferred size balls or you may press the mixture in a pan lined with parchment paper for protein bars. Roll the protein balls in shredded coconut and chill for at least an hour or place in the freezer for thirty minutes to eat sooner. The longer these bites chill the better they are!

My choice of preferred dates! They’re delicious right out of the box!

You can change these delicious bites up by melting a few of the vegan chocolate chips and drizzling the melted chocolate over the protein balls. You can also substitute almond butter for the peanut butter. They’re delicious either way! They keep in the fridge in a sealed plastic container or zip lock bag. I have found that they keep their shape in my lunchbox chilled with blue ice and they make a great midday snack!

Delicious peanut butte coconut protein balls!

I have modified this recipe a few times and added coco powder for a deep chocolate taste. I’ve added cinnamon, different flavored protein powders, added craisins, and different flavored Walden’s syrups. Either way, they’re delicious and powerful protein snack. I have to say the recipe above is my favorites as well as my family’s favorite! FYI: If your dough feels sticky you can add a few more oats to make the consistency more dry and easier to handle.

Protein balls with drizzled melted chocolate.

For now, I’m off to grade a few more assignments for the students in my summer course…yes, I even teach during summer vacation, but just one or two classes. I hope you enjoy these delicious protein balls. I’d love to hear from you and maybe your modified version.

If you’re interested in my canning recipes for homemade tomato juice or canning green beans, check out the following links to the recipes that I have used year after year.

Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Remember, it’s never too late to begin your journey to a healthier and happier you!

Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Moments in Time…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer wherever you may be. Summer time should be a time for relaxation, reading, and also for road trip adventures! I feel inspired to share an adventure that my sister and I encountered several years ago. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a cold beverage and relax while you read about a moment in time that forever changed my life.

Morning in the mountains of Kentucky!

First, let me say that I am a firm believer that the Lord places people in our lives when we need them the most. I like to refer to them as divine appointments. Just like the divine appointment my sister and I encountered while we were on our weekend get away. I’m excited to share our unforgettable weekend with you!

Summer vacation had arrived, and it was truly a much needed one for both my sister and myself. At the time I was an elementary school teacher who had been under a tremendous amount of stress due to state tests, overcrowded classrooms, and stress from dealing with the 157 students that passed through my classroom on a daily basis! My sister also needed a break as much as I did for other reasons…so, we did what any sisters would do! We hit the road for a weekend trip for just the two of us.

After much deliberation, we decided that we would spend the weekend at Mammoth Cave National Park. We enjoyed spending time at Gun Town Mountain, an old western town that required us to ride a sky lift up the mountain, which was a blast, especially considering that my sister is afraid of heights. We enjoyed many of the sights in Cave City, which consisted of Dinosaur World, nature walks on beautiful trails, museums, and a fun house. I was super excited to stop at a local tourist attraction called, Big Mike’s Rock Shop. I have been an avid rock collector for many years and was looking forward to adding to my collection. Of all of the gift shops we browsed, this was my favorite shop.

Gun Town Mountain

The store was buzzing with tourists, small talk, and anxious kids awaiting an arrow head or a different rare stone. After browsing the many shelves of different stones I carefully selected my treasures. The checkout line was a bit crowded, but we finally made our purchases and exited the store.

Big Mike’s Rock Shop

The remainder of our evening consisted of more shopping, browsing, scenic walks, and dinner, then we returned to our room to relax our tired feet. While I enjoyed a cup of coffee and browsing my small bags of treasures, I discovered my purchase from the rock shop was missing.

After searching our room and the Jeep, we found the receipt but the bag was no where to be found. I hoped that maybe I had left them at the shop and not the restaurant. We had planned to leave the next morning after breakfast, but decided to stop by the rock shop first. I decided if the bag of rocks from yesterday hadn’t been left behind, I would just purchase more rocks!

Things got really interesting upon entering the rock shop! The same lady who was behind the counter the day before was working the register again, and was bold in praising the Lord as we entered the small crowded shop. We waited anxiously in line to speak with her. We slowly made our way to the counter with several people lined up behind us anxious to checkout and leave with their newfound treasures. I explained my situation to the kind lady. I was eager to learn the whereabouts of the bag of stones that I had so carefully selected the day before.

As she retrieved my bag of stones from beneath the counter she asked us if we were Christians. After answering her she explained with tears in her eyes that she had felt the need to pray for my sister and I the day before. But she wasn’t sure how to approach us or how we would perceive her request to pray for us. She also explained how she questioned her feelings yesterday evening after we had left. She asked the Lord for a sign. She said she prayed we would come back to the shop. If we returned, it would prove to her that it had been meant for her to pray for us. She also said she had no idea that the rocks that had been left behind were mine.

With tears in our eyes we assured her that we would be happy for her to pray for us. Quickly she asked for my hand and began praying for me. She gave me prophetic words of wisdom and handed me a small smooth stone that she told me to carry with me. She added that when I felt alone, unsure of a situation, or had a need to rub the smooth prayer stone and remember the words she spoke. She said it would also remind me that the Lord heard my prayers. She did the same for my sister, only with different prophetic words.

I have recalled that day in the rock shop many times since then. I have also wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t gone back to the small shop, and also been very thankful that I did. As I stated earlier, I am a firm believer that God uses people in the places and at the time that we need them the most to lift us up, encourage, and also to pray for us. My prayer stone is never far from me as is the memories of the elderly lady who gave me the stone and words of wisdom that helped me in a very difficult time in both my life and my sisters’ life.

I hope my encounter with one of God’s divine appointments brings you encouragement and inspires you to believe, or to be that person that helps someone else in their time of need. Will you be the voice in the wilderness that encourages others?

I hope you enjoyed my special moment in time. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments…your feedback is always welcome!