Gifts from God

cropped-392771_10150515375053415_1251679398_n1.jpg
I’m so thankful for the sun rising earlier and setting later!  It’s amazing how something so simple can make such a difference your day. Those of you who live in Northern MN, or other areas that are farther North, know what it’s like.
Just a few short months ago the sun wasn’t rising until after 8am and was setting before 5pm. So, when I woke up at 6:45 on Sunday morning and it was already light outside, it felt like a gift from God. Then on my way to church all the branches and fence posts were covered in frost and the sun was shining it’s way thru the fog…I felt like God had created that moment in time just for me.
Have you ever experienced moments were you felt like God was handing you a gift? I hope you have experieced moments like I did the other morning on my way to church. But if you haven’t maybe today is that day! Take a look around you…maybe God has given you a gift and you’ve been to busy to notice. Many times when I fail to notice each of the gifts God gives me in a single day. Sometimes it’s because I’m too busy and other times I’m just ungrateful or unwilling to see the ways God wants to bless me.
My willingness to see and accept God’s gifts in my life shouldn’t be dependent on how I’m feeling. But rather, I should be seeking to glorify God in everything. Only then do we see the gifts God has for us!

I pray that today you will chose to give God the glory in your life and that you will enjoy the gifts that only He can give!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

100_1222

I LOVE SOFT PRETZELS!  This love was passed down to me from my mom, who had her first pretzel on a trip to the mall with her dad when she was young.  My brothers and I have enjoyed soft pretzels with nacho cheese for as long as I can remember and now our love of pretzels has been pass on to my niece.

In the past we bought frozen pretzel from the supermarket.  But in recent years we have been making our own, originally because soft pretzels got expensive, but eating homemade pretzels has spoiled us.  Now when I happen to eat a store-bought soft pretzel, I can’t help but notice the lack of flavor and texture.  So today I want to share my pretzel recipe with you!  They are simple and fun to make.  I like to make a double batch and freeze some, they  reheat very well.

Oh, and you will be proud of me, I took pictures of the process to share with you!

Soft Pretzels

Yield: 12 pretzels

1 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp oil
4-5 cups flour
—–
6 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda

In a large bowl mix together yeast, sugar, salt and 3 cups of the flour. Then mix in the water and oil. Once thourghly combined add more flour to form a smooth soft dough. Knead for 3-5 minutes. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm, draft free spot and let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
While your dough is rising bring the water and baking soda to a boil. Then turn down to low until after your pretzels are formed.
Cut dough into 12 equal pieces. On a counter roll pieces into a long rope, then twist into a pretzel shape. Place on a parchment paper lined pan. Continue to roll and shape the rest of your pieces.
This next step is my favorite part! Bring your water back to a boil, I keep the temp between medium and med-high. Gently place pretzels in water, my pot holds 3 pretzels at a time, boil for 30 seconds. Then flip them over and boil for 15 seconds. Remove from water and return to the pan, sprinkle with coarse pretzel salt. Finish boiling and salting pretzels.
Bake @ 475* for 10 minutes. Brush with melted butter and return to oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Grab a some family or friends and enjoy!

100_1216

100_1217

100_1218
100_1220
100_1222
I loved the way this last picture turned out! We had a beautiful, sunny winter day here in Northern Minnesota!

Homestead Blessings – The Art of Soapmaking

How many of you have ever wanted to make homemade soap like our ancestors did? For many years I have loved the idea, mostly because I enjoy history and connecting with the past, but this past week I finally took the leap!
Since becoming more concerned about the various chemicals and additives in most health and beauty products I have been using homemade soap that I bought at the farmers market. But I finished my last bar of chemical free soap a few weeks ago and decided it was time to make my own my own. So, my mom and I, along with a few good friends got together last Monday and made soap.
I would like to share with you our experience. This won’t be a step-by-step tutorial, but you can find a great tutorial on the basics of soap making here at offbeat + inspired.
For our soap making experience we followed the recipe and instructions from the Homestead Blessings – The Art of Soap Making (DVD). The Homestead Blessings DVDs are a wonderful series that cover many old-fashion skills that have slowly been forgotten by our society, they are a great resource for anyone seeking to be more self-sufficient!
It was truly a blessing to be able to work alongside other ladies in the process of making soap. Even though we each used the same ingredients, the process and end results varied slightly, so it was helpful to be able to compare as we went along.

The recipe:
48 oz shortening
32 oz coconut oil
16 oz olive oil
4 cups water
12 oz lye

> The process begins by slowly pouring the lye into the water and mixing. Even though we were all trying to be careful not to breath in the fumes, we all ended up coughing and stepping away from the pots for a moment. It would be ideal to do this part of the process outside, but it was too cold here.
> Next we carefully added the oils, one at a time.
> Then you stir and stir and stir some more. The goal is to break up or dissolve all the pieces of coconut oil and shortening. We tried to accomplish this with just a spoon. Then at the very end we decided to try a metal whisk…next time we’ll start off with the whisk.
> After all the oils are melted your soap should begin to look like a thin pudding. Once it “traces” (check out the tutorial) you are ready to pour your product into a mold.
> Make sure your mold is lined with freezer paper or well-greased.
> Once you pour your soap into the mold put a cover on it, then wrap it in a blanket.
> Your soap will be ready to cut into bars within 2-24 hours. Why such a variation in the time? We found that if your mold is deeper it will take much longer to set. Just keep checking it. They are ready to cut when the knife cuts through easily, but also comes out mostly clean.

I wish I had a picture of the process to show you, but my camera didn’t want to corporate that night. It was fun how unique each of the soaps turned out in the end. My mom and I added oatmeal, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and cinnamon essential oil to our soap before pouring it into the mold. One of the gals left hers as the basic recipe and the other gal added lavender to one mold and cilantro and lime to another mold. They all looked beautiful! It was such a fun evening, spending time together and learning a new skill. One of the best parts is that of us came away more confident about soap making and excited about trying new recipes!

Have you ever tried making your own soap? How did it go? Do you have any ideas or words advice to share with a beginner? Please share you thoughts!