Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Cottage Journal Magazine (Autumn Grace 2015)

The Cottage Journal is my favorite magazine. Maybe that's because I'm dreaming of downsizing to a quaint and cozy cottage when my kids are grown up! Or maybe it's because it is a beautiful publication full of gorgeous and doable home decorating ideas, as well as a few luscious recipes. The style leans toward tasteful vintage and country. Even if I can't use all of the ideas, I just love looking at them. Eye candy, for sure! I find plenty of new ways for using what I already have, too.

The Cottage Journal is published five times a year (quarterly, but with an extra winter issue) so after I purchased the fall edition in a store a few months ago, I had to wait patiently until the next one. I savored every page over and over. This is the one magazine that nearly always went with me in my tote bag for when I was waiting at appointments. There are only about 10 full page ads out of 129 pages total. The paper is heavy, high quality, and not overly glossy. Just the way I like it!

I decided to treat myself to a subscription. The Christmas issue arrived in my mailbox today. Ahhh!

I especially love the holiday tour of artist Mary Engelbreit's home, and later in the issue, a feature on her art and life.

Right now you can subscribe to The Cottage Journal for $22.95 per year. They also have a lovely web site with lots of great decorating and other homemaking ideas. You can sign up for their e-mail newsletter, too. You don't need to be a paid subscriber.

I'm not getting any compensation for writing this brief review. I just thought I'd share my joy! This one would make a wonderful Christmas gift.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. I just put my Autumn & Thanksgiving page back on my main blog. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Morning Bonus

Dear friends,

I've been trying to tweak my life to make things more effective and efficient. I'm not always very good at it. My spiritual life, my diet, my energy and calmness level, my kids' needs, what my house looks like - all need me to pursue major improvement.

One of the keys is schedule - which is a challenge since I am a more fluid person by nature - and one of the most important aspects of schedule is sleep. If I don't get proper sleep, I'm too tired to do anything else well, and then it's all downhill from there.

My goal is to be in bed by 10:30 and up by 6:30. This is quite a stretch. I tend to stay up late at night and then stay in bed as late as possible in the morning. I home school my 10 year old daughter and we try to start around 9 or 9:30 AM, so I pretty much have to be up before then. Unfortunately, I have two teens who leave for school around 6:30, and sometimes they miss the bus and need to be driven to school. So if I've puttered around until 1 AM, that's only five and a half hours of sleep. 

Last week, I started setting an alarm on my phone reminding me to go to bed. I've blown right through it for days. Finally, last night I made it into bed with lights out by 11. Yay me! And I got up this morning at 6:30. Unbelievable.

I had seen a Thanksgiving 30 Day Scripture Writing Plan linked on Facebook so I decided to give it a go. I sat down with my Bible and a composition book that I've been using for the ladies study I attend on Monday nights (love it!). I skipped to the bottom of the Scripture list, copied out portions of Psalm 18, and looked up what "horn of salvation" means. The exact meaning varies, but all commentators agree it is a symbol of God's power, authority, victory, protection, etc. Yep, I need that encouragement.

Then I spent a little time cleaning up, namely hunting for stray dishes around the house and pulling hair balls out of my shower. I had a friendly chat with my 12 year old son and drove him to his bus stop. I took a shower and took my morning medicines and had a bite to eat. I've written this short blog post. 

I feel like I am now ready for the rest of my day.

By faith, I am calling this my "morning bonus" because it is a good thing, an abundance of productive and empowering time. 

I don't want to miss this. I think that will help me to do it all again tonight and tomorrow. And onward.

Ask me how this is going, will you?

And tell me how you make the most of your mornings! Ideas, please! Leave a comment!

You might also like this related posts:
Grace and peace,


P.S. #1: Last year I did a daily 31 Days of Autumn Grace series on this blog. Take a peek! This year I'm only doing it once or twice a week.

P.S. #2: I took the picture at the top of this post when I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago on the way back from my New England Road Trip. I haven't yet had time to caption all of the art photos for their own post, but maybe I will tuck some of them into other posts. "Young Girl Reading" seemed suitable this morning since I had been reading. Even though I am no longer young, perhaps we can say I am young at heart?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autumn Brunch with Caramel Poached Pears (And a Side of Grumpy Mom)

My daughter Lydia turned 21 last month, but since she's been away at UF, we didn't celebrate as a family until Saturday. There were only 15 of us, since one daughter's family was out of town. I loved holding my newest grandchild, Lyla, who is only a month old.

I had decided on a brunch menu, especially since I'd seen a recipe for Earl Grey Poached Pears in Southern Lady magazine. Then one of my other daughters reminded me that Lydia doesn't really like tea, so I left the Earl Grey out and made a caramel sauce. I halved ten Anjou pears and cored them with a melon ball tool, which made nice neat curves. Then I cooked the pears in about five cups of water with a half cup of honey, a half cup of white sugar, and several hearty dashes of ground cinnamon and ginger. When the pears were soft, I took them out and arranged them in a large serving bowl. I poured about a cup or two of the cooking liquid into a smaller pan, and whisked in about a half cup of caramel sauce. Then I simmered it until it was thick enough to pour over the warm pears. Yum. I added Earl Grey tea to the remaining cooking liquid to drink later.

I also fixed up some homemade waffles, which we served with caramel sauce, chocolate chips, whipped cream, strawberries, and syrup for topping choices.

The main dishes were a sausage & egg casserole and chicken apple sausage links. I also made a smaller casserole without sausage for a vegetarian daughter. Then my daughter Julia brought Cracker Barrel style hash browns

We also enjoyed two bottles of sparkling juice from IKEA (ligonberry & apple and pomegranate & apple), as well as some orange juice. Quite enough food for all of us, and then some!

Can I be honest? I wanted everything to look pretty and taste delicious for my family. Unfortunately, little frustrations added up and not everything got done the way I wanted, or even at all. I overcooked the casserole (and most of it is leftover in the fridge), we never did slice the fresh pineapple, and I spilled the salt and pepper when I was trying to pour them into the cute little pumpkin shakers.  My beautiful new autumn table cloth apparently shrank when I washed it the first time and was several inches too short for the table. It was also wrinkled when I took it out of the drawer, and I didn't have time to iron it. The vacuum cleaner wasn't working, which left the living room floor a mess, but I didn't find that out until everyone had congregated in there. A few of the kids weren't as eager or quick to help as I would have hoped, though they did do most of what I asked. I barely had time to take a shower. It's a good thing everyone else was running late!  Then when we were finally serving the food and sitting down to eat, I found a wet bath towel on a side table in the dining room. 

It was the last straw. I snapped. I had to leave the room to even try to regain my composure, with the help of one of my daughters. I think I was over tired and had a lot else on my mind in addition to my unrealistic expectations, but that wasn't an excuse to take it out on others. I had a good chat with one of my sons that evening, and he was quite understanding and helpful in talking it out with me. I did apologize to everyone at the time and also later in a Facebook message. Always good to know they still love me!

So anyway, there's that. Something to think about as I plan for Thanksgiving. The people and the warmth of hospitality are more important than the food and decorations.

At any rate, the pears were great. I'll hang onto that memory and definitely try that one again.

Grace and peace,

Virginia Knowles 

This post is part of my Autumn Grace 2015 series.

See also: