Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Best Ham and Potato Soup In The World

I could eat this soup by the pot-ful If I had an ounce less of self-restraint. It is seriously that good. I crave it if we haven't had it at least once a month.

I'm going to be really nice and actually share with you the amazing, super-easy, (hey, if I can do it, you can do it) wonderful recipe for this creamy potatoey goodness.

Delicious Creamy Ham and Potato Soup Recipe:

Originally found on Allrecipes.com, modified to fit our tastes. :)

- 7 cups of peeled, diced potatoes
- 2/3 cup chopped celery (about 2 large stalks)
- 2/3 cup finely chopped onion (About 1/2 an onion)
- 1 and 1/2 cups diced ham chunks
- 6 and 1/2 cups of cooked ham broth ...

You see, instead of water, we fill up a huge pot of water ahead of time and boil the ham bone from our spiral-cut ham. It makes a savory broth full of healthy stuff that cooks out of the bone. It's also the secret ingredient for making a perfect pot of soup.

If you don't have ham broth, you can substitute water and 2 Tablespoons of chicken bouillion granules. But only if you're desperate.

Back to the ingredients!

- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- A dash of garlic powder to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground white or black pepper, or to taste (We usually use 1 teaspoon of black pepper. But I prefer 2.) ;)
- 10 Tablespoons butter
- 10 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups of milk

(The soup base)
1. Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and broth in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, and garlic.

(The white sauce)
2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium heat (we usually do medium-high on our stove, seems to work more accurately). Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly until thick, for about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk so as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-ish (or medium-high) heat until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

(The grand combining)
3. Stir the milk mixture (white sauce) into the stockpot (with the soup base) and cook soup for a weensy bit until it's all mixed together nicely. Serve immediately.

It's even better left over. I could eat it cold, it's so good. Mmmmmmmmm.

I hope you enjoy this soup! It's perfect for these right-before-spring, sort-of-chilly evenings. :)

I went somewhere with a friend my age this past Saturday, and she and I had such a wonderful time! I am still editing the pictures from our excursion, but once I get a nice collection I'll share them and tell you about what fun we had. :D Sound good? Okay. I'll see you then. :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interrupted by Rachel Coker: A Book Review

Note: I was not interrupted by Rachel Coker, the book she wrote is titled Interrupted. ;)
Just teasing!

Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn’t shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie’s heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

About Rachel Coker:
I am a sixteen year old homeschool student from way-out-of-the-way Virginia. When I was younger, I loved to read so much that the taking away of library privileges was a go-to punishment for my parents. Especially since I loved the library so much that I once concocted an entire plan to run away and live there among the books….
When I was in sixth grade, I wrote my first fiction short story for a school assignment and things pretty much rocketed from there. My mom signed me up for writing lessons for about a year, and I completed my first full length YA novel when I was fourteen. It is scheduled to come out with Zondervan in 2012.
I came to Christ when I was in my early teens, and am eager to discuss reformed theology with anyone who comes my way! Albeit, I am a bit of an arguer, but I try to keep a cheerful spirit! :) I love my Savior and enjoy learning more about Him and sharing what I have learned with others.

Rachel blogs here: http://rachelcoker.wordpress.com/

My Thoughts:

What I liked....
First of all, I was quite impressed that this book had been written by a fourteen-year old teen girl. :) The writing flowed nicely and drew the reader along without any pauses or boring lapses in the storyline. I thought the characters were interesting and likeable, (although I didn't really like the MC until near the end of the book) and seemed like they could have been real people. I particularly liked Charlie (However, I wish she had stuck with Charlotte instead of the nickname) ;) and Russell Wilkinson and his mother Debra. And Irene, Allie's new adopted "older sister".

I enjoyed the time period, although I think a little more description could have been added about clothes, cars, etc. that would have made it seem a little more like the WW2 era.

I liked the sayings Beatrice said throughout the book! (i.e. "I've always said that a girl who does chores has a future that soars.") I found them very amusing.

The description in the book is wonderful. You feel like you're really there, along with Alcyone, as she experiences the story. I loved Beatrice's house, especially. And the beach descriptions. (But then, I'm biased, being a beach girl myself and having grown up in Florida).

Overall opinion: I enjoyed the book!

What I didn't like...

- The bitterness. I found the beginning of the book depressing. The mental struggles her mother went through were sad... and I'm not sure if a brain tumor/cancer growth would have caused that? I don't know much about that type of illness though.

- The rejection. It seemed to me like Allie was mean to Sam for absolutely no reason, after he was so sweet to her. It made me really dislike her right up front. She was downright surly. I'm glad she finally straightened out in the end... but I won't say any more, for fear of spoiling it! ;)

- The holding-on. Alcyone was very distrustful of her new 'mother' and guardian because she was a Christian and Allie was told to distrust Christians by her mother, because her father had supposedly been one, and deserted them. Okay. I can understand that, although I think Alcyone would probably have formed her own opinion, not adopted her mother's opinion. What I didn't like was that there seemed to be no warming-up or transitioning on Allie's part whatsoever towards Beatrice (her adoptive mother) for an exceedingly long time. Maybe I was being impatient as I read the story. :D

But I would recommend this book, and I am looking forward to more stories from Rachel Coker. I hope she continues to write! :)

(I received an advance copy of Interrupted by Rachel Coker in exchange for my honest opinion. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Do I Dare?

Do I dare to announce to the world this idea, this wild inspiration, that has taken me by surprise and swept me off my feet?

Do I dare open up, and share, and tell you what I've been dreaming and planning and imagining?
Do I dare to acknowledge that my fingers have been busy hammering away on the keys of my laptop in an exciting, thrilling race with my mind?

Do I dare to spill my secret, and listen for the echo of your replies, hoping for cheers, but dreading a disapproving silence?

I dare.

I'm writing a book.

It's a completely different book than my other completed novel. I finished my Jane Austen-inspired story set in Regency England and I'm in the process of editing it.

But I'm 28,000 words into my newest work. A suspense/action/thriller/mystery.

Set in several European countries. Present-time.

I love mysteries. And action. As long as it's clean. But I don't consider myself particularly brilliant at coming up with a mystery. I never figure it out before Sherlock Holmes. I'm always surprised at the endings of the Perry Mason cases.

But this story seems to be working.

I hope to introduce you to my two main characters soon. I love them. I feel excited about finding out what happens in their story... because I'm writing the book, chapter by chapter, and discovering it as I go along! I only have a few vague elements I want in the ending. I don't know how it all happens yet. But I want to find out.

For now, I'll share their names.

Cara Stephenson.

Bryce Reynolds.

I've had to stop writing their story for now... because I have so much work to do getting ready for the homeschool conventions. Displaying a booth full of jewelry and CD's of ebooks on how to make jewelry takes a whole lot of preparation, leaving not enough free time in which to write a book.

I'll continue thinking and planning for now. Maybe my mind can do the fine-tuning and discard some of the ideas, holding on to the ones that turn into golden pieces of this puzzle called a story. It'll be good to take a little breather, come up for air. Then when I have time, I can dive into the delicious depths of my writing again.

So... stay tuned.

And what do you think about all this? Do share your thoughts, I'd be thrilled to hear them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I bought MYSELF a big red heart...

... just because I like chocolate. :D

No, I don't have a valentine. Never had a boyfriend, actually. I'm waiting for the one special man that God has already chosen for me. One day I'll meet him, and I'll get to tell him that I never held hands with, kissed, or gave my heart away to anybody else but him. How precious will that be?
So - yes. Valentine's day brings thoughts of love and marriage into my head. But it also reminds me to stay strong in my convictions and remain pure and unspoiled for my future husband.

February is a month of birthdays in our family! My sweet Mama had her birthday on the 9th, and my handsome brother Mark celebrates his today, on the 14th. He's 18 years old now! He's never been that thrilled about having a birthday on Valentine's Day, but the rest of us think it's pretty neat. :)

We made Mama a tasty, healthy, sugar-free chocolate cake for her birthday. ;) We did lots of little things to make her day special... waffles for breakfast, a fresh bouquet of dandelions, and going out to Ryan's for dinner.

I wrote her a letter that I'd like to reproduce here to show you, because it give you some idea of how blessed I am to have Mama for my mother.


Dear Mama,
I did not know what to get you for your birthday this year, so I decided to give you my words in this letter. I am so blessed to have you as my mother. All my life, you have nurtured and cherished me, daily making sacrifices for my benefit.
You say that you're so imperfect, and that you wish you had been a better mom, but Mama... you are the best, bravest, most devoted mother I have ever seen. I would not trade you for any other mom on earth.
You constantly battle against tremendous pain, and over and over again, I see you win. You are an amazing picture of perseverance and dedication.
Daddy has a faithful wife in you, for you support and encourage him in a sterling example of a godly helpmeet. I pray that one day I will have a chance to love and honor a man as you do him.
Mark and Steven don't know I'm writing this, but I know they would agree with me in saying that we have the most wonderful mommy in the world.
I love you so much! Have a very happy birthday!
Proud to be your daughter,



This morning we surprised Mark with the board game Settlers of Catan, a fancy duct tape sword and knife that Steven custom-made for him, and a big heart-shaped box full of chocolates. I think he was happy. We're also planning a trip to the LEGO store up in Atlanta sometime soon.

Later this evening we'll have one of Mark's favorite meals, Amish Chicken, and then enjoy a delicious "Turtle Cake" for his birthday cake. One of our very favorite desserts to make, it's a Mennonite recipe that involves German chocolate cake mix, a gooey caramel filling, and chocolate chips on top. It's best eaten with a dollop of whipped cream. Yummmm.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Independence and Maturity

The other day, I drove myself somewhere.

It was the first time I'd gone anywhere, just me and the car, without a single person with me.

It was ... exhilarating!

It was ... sobering.

I went to Curves and worked out. By myself. And it turned out that I was the only person in the gym at that hour besides the owner who was running it. She and I chatted while I jumped, bounced, hopped, skipped, and did all sorts of things on the machines like pulling levers and pushing bars and moving things back and forth. (I love Curves....)

We had quite a conversation! She asked me where we went to church, where my family was from, and what my daddy did for a living. I basically got the sweet, Southern, interrogation. :D If you live in the South, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. :D It was well-meant, of course, and the lady is the sweetest woman, but she was finding out everything she needed to file me away in her social records. Did I belong in the aristocrat section or the downtrodden dumpster-diver section? :D

She told me that she thought I was very well-spoken and my speech was precise and easily comprehended. Also that I didn't have a southern accent. ;) I was touched by the honest compliment that I was "well-spoken". She wasn't "sloppin' sugar", like I've seen before. (the sugar-sloppers will remain nameless to protect the guilty) ;)

I really am seriously thinking of writing a novel set in a small town in the South. There's so much material right at my fingertips! ;)

But anyway. What was I talking about? Ah - independence.

On the way there, my usually quiet drive got crowded when I was stopped at an intersection while a long string of schoolbuses rolled out onto the road, halted by flashing lights and a signaling policeman. While stopped, a whole bunch of cars got clogged up, which made changing lanes up ahead a little difficult, but I kept my cool and did a great job. I parked smoothly and danced up the steps into the gym.


This sounds silly, but going there all by myself made me feel like a grown woman.

Which, I guess, technically, I AM. I'm almost 21, after all. Some days I feel so young and inexperienced... more like 15 than 20. And then other days, I feel like I can handle myself like an adult. When we're running a booth at the homeschool conventions I can handle crowds of people with endless questions without even breaking a sweat. My feet might get sore from standing all day, but my composure never falters.

It's on the days I'm tired and stressed and I get annoyed with the housework, food prep, or my brothers that my immaturity shows. Why is it so easy to present a perfect facade to the outside world, but so difficult to be meek and quiet and kind at home when the pressure's on to get dinner on the table, the clothes in the washing machine, or help a family member out?

It's on the home front where the true test of maturity shows the real results. Who I am in private, under the sheen of capability and social graces on the surface, is who I really am. The way I interact with the people I am closest to defines my character.


The trip home was uneventful. I cranked up the radio and sang along as loudly as I wanted to, with no fellow passengers around to complain or ask me to hush up. (All the while watching the speedometer like a hawk, lest it creep past the requisite 5 miles over the speed limit, because if you're over 10 miles over, a cop will pull you over, you know...) ;)

Daddy and Steven welcomed me home, standing in the driveway on their way back from checking on the chickens. I tapped the horn in a victorious "beep" and waved as I pulled into the carport.

My family told me they were proud of me. I can handle myself in the real world just fine.

My desire is that my conduct at home, in the comfort of familiar surroundings, around my family, is as sparkling and sterling as my behavior out there where everybody can see it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

They won!

I can't help myself, a blog post was practically mandatory.......
I am a huge NY Giants fan. It's my dad's fault, really. Ever since the time I was a wee little thing knee-high to a grasshopper, I've loved watching football with my daddy. I asked him questions about everything that happened until I finally understood the game. And I'm a 3rd generation Giants fan.
We don't have TV anymore since the bunny ears antenna signal died, but last night Daddy found out that NBC was streaming the game live on their website, sans (without) commercials and halftime show (which none of us prefer to watch anyway!) Thank you NBC! That was very nice of you!

And this game was awesome. It was a nail-biter and adrenaline-pumping down to the last few seconds.

In the last (fourth) quarter of the game in the last Super Bowl the Giants played in, there was an amazing play where Eli Manning threw a pass to David Tyree, who caught the ball between his hand and his helmet!!

And in this game, a similar play happened late in the fourth quarter. The Giants got the ball way down the field and had a lot of ground to cover if they were going to make a touchdown. They needed to score some points, because they were trailing the Patriots by 2.
Then, Eli threw a bomb 38 yards down the field to a receiver who caught it over his shoulder and just barely got his feet inside the field (vaildating the catch) before he was tackled by two Patriots. It was amazing! (I put a picture of it up there ^ so you could see what I'm talking about)

The Giants scored a touchdown with under a minute left on the clock. And the Patriots didn't respond with any points of their own - Tom Brady's wild toss into the end zone resulting in an incomplete throw.

Eli Manning was awarded Super Bowl M.V.P. (Most Valuable Player) for the second time. He's holding the Vince Lombardi trophy in the above picture. He also won a really awesome, brand new, black Chevrolet Corvette. I was slightly envious.

I really admire the Manning family, Eli in particular. He's such a great guy. Here he is just after the game with his wife Abby (the pretty blond lady on the left) and 10-month old daughter Ava Frances. I'm so glad he won, and finally everybody admits he's as good of a quarterback as Tom Brady.

Speaking of Tom Brady.... He looked pretty bummed out at the end of the game. I felt sorry for him... a little ... but I was thrilled that the Giants won. So my sympathy was short-lived.

In case you haven't noticed, I tried to write this post in a way that would be understandable to even my non-football-loving friends. *Ahem, Cough, MOHL girls* I had some people ask me "Who's in the super bowl this year?" I mean, puh-leeze.... ;) The people around where I live seem to be more into college football. I can't get very excited about that, but I did root for the FL Gators when they had Tim Tebow. Another really great guy.
I hope you enjoyed this post! :)


Saturday, February 4, 2012

It's not about me... but thanks.

What do you do when people say you're awesome?
When people compliment you, tell you you're talented, smart, beautiful, creative, and amazing... how does one react?

The wrong way to respond is to let your pride inflate like a hot-air balloon and soar up through the heavens until you think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Which I *cough* have done before.
(incidentally, what IS so great about sliced bread anyway?)
Another wrong way to respond is to blush, duck around the corner, hide in the ladies' room, and insist you don't deserve a single compliment.

One of the right ways to respond (not THE right way, just A right way) is to smile and quietly say
"Thank you."
I have my bad days. I have my good days. On my bad days, I do not deserve to be called beautiful or amazing... 'cause I'm not. On my good days, I work hard, I accomplish a lot, okay, I deserve a little pat on the back. Not fawning admiration, but a small "thanks". Which I get x100 from my loving family. :) They're so good about saying "thank you".
So. About blog awards.

I received some lately from a very dear (boy, those words seem so insipid. What an understatement) wonderful, sweet friend ... Rachelle.
I also got one from Lizzie, a past winner of a jewelry giveaway I did! :)
And Charity also awarded me! I enjoy reading her book reviews.

Thank you, girls. I appreciate the awards.
From Lizzie:
(According to Lizzie, "Liebster" means 'Dearest' in German)

• Choose five up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers to award. Make sure and notify them by comment or e-mail that you did so.
• Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them. If you’re not already a follower of their blog, that might be a great way to show appreciation for the award. :)
• Post the award on your blog, and be sure to link back to the 5 blogs you awarded, so that others can visit them.

Fun part! Awarding others! Surely, it is more blessed to give than to receive...

1. Rachelle! Who inspires me to dare and dream and discover. 
2. Rachel! Who is such a sweet and sisterly influence in my life.
(less than 200 followers? oh well....)
3. Sarah! Who heads the MOHL group that has blessed me in countless ways. A good friend.
4. Katelyn! A faithful commenter! (a highly desirable quality in a blog reader)
5. Miss Dashwood! A frequent poster of all things Period Drama. I love her blog. :)

I hereby award you all the "Liebster" blog award.

 From Rachelle:
Oh, my, goodness. This is the cutest blog award I have ever seen. I got it a few years ago, but I'll happily accept it again!
I award:
and Rose H.
For being "Kreativ" and "Kute"! :)
Strawberries! *snicker* Inside joke. Among the MOHL gals.
 Whom I hereby award! MOHL gals, the strawberry award is yours. :D You know who you are.
I really like this one... It's neat!
I award:
For being versatile! :) 
From Charity:
I'm an inspiration! Wow. No pressure, right? Right....
I award:
For their inspiration. :)

Charity also awarded me the Irrisistibly Sweet blog award, and a few others I'd already received. :)

And I think with some of these awards you are supposed to post 7 random things about yourself.


1. I am not afraid of bugs. I squish them myself. Unless a handy brother happens to be nearby, in which case I calmly and nicely ask them to dispose of it.
2. Today I designed the remaining bits and pieces of the new CD cases for our ebooks on how to make jewelry and how to make duct tape weapons. It was a huge job, but everything came out splendidly! Yay! :)
3. I rarely pay more than $2 for a piece of clothing. I'm a dedicated thrift-shopper.
4. I love talking to people, but in general I hate using the telephone. Go figure!
5. I am going to buy myself a big heart-shaped box full of chocolates this year, because I do not have a 'valentine'.
6. I'm a really good cook. But I plan to get better. :)
7. I am on page 235 out of 378, editing my novel, Lissie.

I hope you enjoyed this post! :) Have a wonderful Sunday!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

MIA - Missing In Action?

Hey Everybody!

I did not mean to disappear out of sight like a little chipmunk diving deep into a burrow. But it happened, quite by accident. 

Indeed, I've been so busy I feel a bit like a puppy chasing its tail in circles and never catching up!

Before I forget to tell you, I have a post coming up tomorrow on Meditations of His Love that I'd love for you to read, featuring a song that has really spoken to my heart without using any words. 

My design inspiration for my jewelry pieces has been old-fashioned, vintage, peach, and old turquoise.

There you have it. Peach and turquoise. In one photo.

I have a book review, a soup recipe, pictures of some of my jewelry projects, and the release of a stunning new website + a giveaway all stacked up in my "To-Post" box. I will try to crank them out within the next few weeks! So stay tuned. :) I haven't gone anywhere, life has just revved up a little for me and the scenery is flying past more quickly! :)

Have a lovely weekend!