Dedicated to my Mom

After my Mom, Gloria, passed away in January 2012, I began a book project compiling recipes she had prepared and shared with my family and me.

Wow, so many memories wrapped up in food! I had not realized just how much cooking and serving food is associated with everyday family life and special family gatherings.

My Mom enjoyed gathering as many of us as she could in her small 1 bedroom apartment. The food she served us had no calories since it was all  made with love!

Gloria had a deep appreciation for entertaining and decorating. Her favorite decorating theme was Country Victorian. This style suited her caring, warm, lady like mannerism.

I used the title “Gloria’s Country Victorian Entertaining and Recipe Box” to honor her gift of hospitality and to recognize the effort she devoted to creating meals.

May you enjoy some of the recipes. Click on the title below the photo to view the pdf verison

With Love and Blessings, Sara Marie Hantousch

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Gloria’s Country Victorian Entertaining and Recipe Box

Update on Not Allowing the Small Things to Become Peas Under My Mattress

484048_4451125389514_940622091_nIs it 2014, yet?

My New Year’s Resolution was “not to allow the small things to become peas under my mattress.” This of course being a reference to the fairy tale “The Princess and The Pea” It is a tale of a young woman [claiming to be a princess] seeks shelter in a castle where the prince is in search of a bride. The prince’s mother decides to test their unexpected guest by placing a pea in the bed the princess is offered for the night. The mother covers the pea with 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds. In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed.

Alas, I know it is only a quarter of the way through 2013. I am expecting great things this year, no matter the ups or downs. It all works out to God’s glory and good. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I am living in expectancy of God showing up in my days.

Having said that, it is a constant revelation to discover just how many ‘small things’ are peas under my mattress. No wonder I have a lumpy mattress and can’t find a comfortable spot. I am either rethinking and replaying every little worrisome detail I did wrong during the day. Or, I allowed satan to steal my peace in some way by believing the lies he whispers in my ear.

I recently read in a devotional, “Most of us don’t mind working our way through problems, but the moment we get relief, we want to stop right there. We do not go on to face up to what caused us to come to the wrong conclusions in the first place. This is why we keep going through the same problems over and over again-we fail to take an inside look. A school teacher claimed to have twenty-five years of experience, but her head teacher said of her: ‘She has just one year of the experience twenty-five times.’ She worked long but learned little.”

I so see my silly self in that statement, “…one year experience twenty-five times.” Makes me laugh at myself how often I do through the same problems over and over. I have stopped short of learning why they happened in the first place. I am afraid because I might find something I do not like. Most of the problems I make for myself are by wrong thinking or perceptions. Yes, I admit I have wrong thinking and wrong perceptions. Much of the inner turmoil I go through comes about because I have not seen life as a whole. Prejudice has been defined as ‘seeing only what you want to see.’ Several times I have heard my own voice say: “I have always seen it that way.” That is part of my problem-my eyes are fixed on just one side of an issue and I do not allow myself to look at the other sides. I am afraid of letting go of the perception I have held on to for so many years in fear of not being right…fear of being wrong…and admitting I was wrong.

I want to see life whole-I often settle for half the view of things rather than the whole. Makes me think of the song: “She’ll be coming around the mountain…one more time until I get it right.” I am pressing IN and pressing ON. God gives me the strength, grace and ability to move forward in all things no matter the circumstance.

The amazing part comes when through faith in Christ; God has set my feet in a secure place and not on slippery ground. Why I have been chosen to be recipient of such grace and favor I do not know. Yet it is so, I am deeply thankful

I finish with this thought: Gracious and loving Father, my heart bows in silent wonder as I contemplate the awesomeness of Your ways. Open my eyes that I might see that You are at work all around me and that Your face is constantly set against evil. Thank You for saving me, dear Lord Jesus

531926_4449630752149_1081298553_nConsidering my post about not allowing small things to become peas under my mattress, I thought this clarifies my genuine

desire to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly pieces of my life happenings with a willingness to improve my attitude.

Do We Stay Or Do We Go

Good morning loved ones,

What a lovely day. I have some BIG news and wanted to share it. Please forgive me, I am going to start from the beginning of the tale. It may be long so read some now and then come back to finish it.

We purchased and moved out to Leaf River in April of 2008. It was a dream of Salah’s to own some land [no less than 10 acres he would say], a stone home, and some animals. We came across this farmstead in winter of 2007. It was a late December day when we first came out to walk through the house; there was fresh snow on the ground, and it was a cloudy day. The first time I walked through the kitchen door; I felt like I was walking into ‘my’ home. The windows were large and it has incredibly nice natural light. Even on the cloudy day, each room had nice light coming in from the windows…very important. It has wood floors…no carpet…also important…no funky smells that come from having carpet. It is a simple farm house with a great enclosed front porch to view the countryside setting. It was built in 1843. It is stone. There are 14 acres with a creek winding through it.

We loved it at first sight. After some negotiating, we closed on the home April 17, 2008. We picked up Mom right after closing and brought her along with us to share in our excitement of unlocking the front door as new home owners. Justin helped later to move us in, which he has been so kind to help us each time we have moved. He was the main force getting our king size mattress upstairs [which will never be coming back down]. They pushed and squeezed and folded the euro top, deep king size mattress through the doorway and past the first flight of the stairs. Justin and Salah were not laughing then, but the sight of these two men getting that up the stairs is priceless. Sorry that was a just a quick aside…not to get off point.

The property has an old corn crib, an old hog barn and the remains of the barn that used to hold some cows. The trees and brush were all over grown it had been neglected for years. There was no life [no animals] in the buildings since 1970′s or maybe early 1980′s. Salah had a vision of some sheep. He wanted to be a shepherd. We even had bees living in outside in one of the kitchen windows…that was quite an adventure to get rid of them if you recall me relating that incident with you.

So we began our new life living on a farm.

In September 2009, Salah was laid off from att as part of a major lay off, nearly 30,000 people were affected by the lay off. We had been living in this home for just over one year. The severance, the 401K, and the unemployment managed to pay our monthly bills until July 2010. We realized after exhausting the severance and 401K funds the unemployment would not be enough to carry us through. I had been interviewing and job searching since the lay off in 2009. I finally was offered a part time job with Lowe’s in the Fall of 2010. We had sought help from HUD and worked with two different organizations to help keep the farm and prevent foreclosure.

Salah and I both believe in God and know He provides for all our needs. Honestly, the moment we found out about the lay off in 2009 the most amazing part of our life together as husband and wife and living on this farm began. I will say now no matter where you may be in your walk with God or perhaps you do not believe, this story is our, Salah’s and mine, testimony of what God has done in, around, and through our life. It is our praise story of His mercy and grace that only He could have made the impossible possible. ALL the credit goes to Him. We have been willing instruments in His hands.

Makes me think of this quote:

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” ~Mother Teresa

Now back to the story.

Our last mortgage payment was in July of 2010. We continued to pay everything else:, the truck payment, the car payment, the insurance for the vehicles, the electric, the phone, the DSL, and the LP gas tank refills. The mortgage was what we fell behind on. We were graciously assisted by Salah’s two sisters who provided enough resources to cover the cost of refilling the LP gas tank one winter and covering some other utility bills, also assisting with sending Salah’s medications from overseas because we do not have medical insurance and he needs some prescriptions. Even knowing God provides, it is all together another story while you are going through the thick of it, it comes down to pride and knowing vs. believing. A huge test in faith. We gave up cells phones [do not have one to this day] mostly that came when we first moved out here…we live in a ‘dead zone’ cell phones do not always get the signal and we decided why pay for something that we cannot use. And that my dear ones is the beginning of a most needed and welcome change of perspective that God wants us to learn. Basic needs…He provides all the basic needs we will ever need and then some.

Anyway, moving on…We canceled our long distance bringing our phone bill down from $100 to $70. We use google voice…free calls anywhere in the US or Canada. Being out in the country 20 miles from the nearest stores you learn to ask real quick when you are thinking to go shopping, “Is this something I REALLY need?” All those ‘things’ I thought I wanted were not so important to have. We already had so much STUFF what more could we possibly want. It sounds like we were settling, if you are of the viewpoint of not believing in God, in actuality we wanted to deepen our walk with God. This deeper relationship cannot happen until all the distractions we have put between God and us are removed. That happens step by step day by day…

Moving forward still on the story…

In the Fall of 2010 we worked with one organization to possibly workout something with Bank of America [yeah, Bank of America] to keep the farm. After submitting a whole forest of paperwork [several forests actually, we had to submit paperwork several times each time we talked to someone new], we were told we did not have enough income in May of 2011. Salah had been job searching and was unable to locate a job. Having an issue with his lower back, we decided in May of 2011 he would apply for SS Disability. At this time, we started to work with another HUD organization to try other options to keep the farm. We were denied the SS in August of 2011. It was the first denial. We hired a SS lawyer to help us with the appeal process. At the end of August 2011, the unemployment finished. I was still only working part time at Lowe’s. I had been applying at other places for full time hours and more income.

Right at the same time the unemployment stopped, God opened the job opportunity for me at Nicor in September 2011, two years now after the lay off. The SS lawyer had advised us Salah would get his SS claim and that it would take about 6 months, that was in October 2011. We began what would seem the longest waiting period of our lives. I think the hardest part of the whole story is the waiting. The doubts, the fears, wanting an answer now…all of that…confusion, worrying will be out on the street.

Despite these obstacles in our path, Salah and I were determined to continue enjoying God’s countryside until He made it clear to us whether we would stay or have to leave. Salah and I got our Great Pyrenees dogs: Bernard and Romeo in November 2009. We picked up our fist animals [goats] in November 2009. We picked up more goats on New Year’s Eve 2009 from Mineral Point, WI. Yes, my loved ones, November 31, 2009 we traveled up to Wisconsin to pick up NINE little goats and put them in the back of our truck. The story just keeps getting better and better as we go, even though uncertainty loomed over our heads. We picked up our female Great Pyrenees, Juliet in February 2010. She took to her task of guarding the goats right away. I think for a while she thought she was a goat! We put up a fence in Spring of 2010. We now had a barnyard! Salah added some ducks and geese. All the animals lived together within the fenced barnyard. I forget to mention by Spring 2010 we had several cats. We experienced our first birth of life with the arrival of three goats in Spring of 2010. Then there puppies in Fall of 2010. So the waiting, even though it was challenging, time passed nicely with the life cycle of the seasons and the animals.

We managed to still keep up with the other monthly expenses plus the costs of supplies for the animals. Salah found a place to purchase scrap beef meat for 25 cents a pound to feed the cats and dogs. He has worked diligently at working out arrangements for buying hay for the animals. He tries very hard to keep the costs of supplies for the animals down. What an amazing [I realize I use that word a lot] experience it has been with the life of the animals.

In the Fall of 2011 when we were told we would have to wait for 6 months for the decision of the SS appeal we were discouraged, not knowing if we would end up getting that knock on the door to leave the house. Yet, we believed God had it all under control. We trusted in His purpose and plan for us. In Spring of 2011, we sold the goats and added Katahdin sheep [hair sheep; they have hair instead of wool and look similar to goats] to our barnyard. I remember the day Salah bought the sheep. I was driving to work, it was a Sunday, and I passed him driving in the truck on his back from buying the sheep. He pulled over on the side of the road. I did a U-turn and came back to where he stopped. He got out of the truck and I got out and came to the back of the truck. He literally had tears in his eyes as he says to me, “look, honey, aren’t they cute.” He was so full of hope. I started to cry too,  sensing the love of God with us.

The next big blow to hit us would be in August of 2012. We were told by the 2nd HUD organization we had been working with that our income was not enough and we owed too much in back mortgage payments to qualify for assistance. At this time, we received word from Bank of America, we would now be going through the process of a ‘short sale’. We were still waiting for news about the SS appeal. Here is where I realized the true wonder of the Lord’s handiwork. I was frightened. I had never in my life felt so lost and even worse I felt I had failed in some way. I sent a an email to Dad sharing with him my worse fears. I was given a hopeful reply and he shared insight to what he had faced when we lost the house in Springfield.  Facing the thought of losing the house and not having a place to go, I realized all my talk about believing in God was just that, talk. Satan was waiting for us to give up and do exactly as thousands perhaps millions of others had done and abandon their homes. Salah and I came to the realization if God wanted us to stay, He would work out the details and if He wanted us to leave we would go. We may love this house but we love God more. There is no benefit staying if God is not here with us. This reminds me of another quote: “ If you feel that God is far away, guess who moved?”

Salah who has faced homelessness before, kept telling me “Let them take the house. God will provide another way.” It is funny we would have such a strong desire to remain in this home. The house NEEDS work. It does not always make sense, it has become ‘our’ home. I kept praying to the Lord and asking “How can this home and land be used to benefit your glory. How can Your glory be revealed through our circumstances.”

In October 2012, Salah went to a SS hearing. The final part of the appeal process. It didn’t seem to go well. When we went to my sister Kris’ home for Thanksgiving 2012, we told them we had the farm up for sale as a short sale and we still had not heard about the SS. We had until January 26, 2013 to sell the farm to avoid foreclosure. It did not look promising. In December 2012, we received a letter from SS. Salah had been approved. In January of 2013, we notified Bank of America of the increase to income and requested for them to review our financial situation again and be considered for a home modification. We waited and prayed the resources we had for income would be enough. At the beginning of March 2013, we received a letter from Bank of America stating due to new HUD guidelines they would need more time to review our request. They stated they would give us an answer by April 30, 2013.

Meanwhile, life goes on at our farm. There have been 8 new lambs this year bringing our sheep population up to 18. We sold the ducks and geese in August 2012 thinking we would be leaving and well, they make a big mess. They are good for bug control, but the mess they leave behind is not necessarily worth it! Salah would walk the sheep down to the lower pasture when the weather permits-we have a fencing project on hold for that pasture until the outcome of whether we stay or not it is  resolved. He cares for the animals while I continue working at Nicor.

The BIG news: We received a letter this week, Monday April 8,2013, that offers us to make three trial payments with possibility of a home modification [once qualified] at the end of it. This offers the chance of keeping the farm. How incredible is that news! Only God can make such a thing happen. He alone has provided food on our table each day, a place to sleep each night and blessed us with love. When Salah emailed me at work telling me of the news, I answered him back, “Wow, I totally feel Gods love. I feel it everyday, but right now I REALLY feel it.”

Since April 1998, when I asked Jesus to save me, He has truly performed wonders in my life. He has brought a most extraordinary man into my life to be my husband, it is no coincidence that He chose Salah to be my husband. He brought us out here to His countryside where we can see, hear and know Him better. And now this. He has worked out details for a way for staying on this farm. We must remember all the while, never to let the gift become more important than the Giver. I have often times put what God gives me in the place of God Himself. When I don’t get or have the things I want [like a house] I begin to doubt God’s love. I openly admit my prayers often include pleadings that show, when examined, are more focused on enjoying God’s blessings than enjoying God.

Sometimes God causes loss to something I want [die to self is an on going process once you ask Jesus into your life] to find the right place He wants me to be. I am sure you have heard it stated, “He never gives you more than you can handle. And, He always gives you a way out of it.” The Lord never promised I would not have trials. He will either remove it, if it is His will and will glorify Him by doing so. Or, He will give me the grace, strength and ability to go through it with Him. He will turn the test into a testimony that will glorify Him eternally and make my character more like His. That is what I have asked for by accepting Jesus as my Savior.

Here is something I read recently that gave me a better understanding of this whole losing the house issue. It is from a devotional I have been reading by Thomas Kincaid [the painter] and Selwyn Hughes [the book was a gift I had given Mom and I have been reading off and on since she passed]. It is a based on the passage from the Bible: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” ~Acts 20:22

The quote from the devotional is: “We are often lead to areas of ambiguity and uncertainty. Situations we sometimes find ourselves in where the Lord’s purposes are not clear and the feelings we get when we don’t know which direction to take. Do you find yourself getting irritated and frustrated when the Lord unfolds His purpose just one step at time? If so, then your irritation says something about you. What is it saying? Perhaps it is saying that in this area of your life, you are a ‘corn of wheat afraid to die; you are fearful of trusting yourself to the unseen and unknown purposes of God. You see, if you don’t surrender to God, don’t think you don’t surrender. If you don’t surrender to God, then you will surrender to something else-your moods, your circumstances, your fears, your self-centered concerns. When you shrink from walking the road of ambiguity and uncertainty in company with the Lord, you are saying, in effect: “My trust is in myself and not in Him.” We don’t like to put it in those terms, of course, because it challenges our self-interest. And if there is one thing we must learn about the self, it is that it does not like to be challenged, confronted or dislodged. The self, however, must be disciplined to die. It must die to being first in order to live second. That is why the center of the kingdom of God is a cross. We must go through spiritually what Jesus went through physically-we must die and be buried in order to experience a resurrection into freedom and fullness of life.”

You may ask me, what on earth does any of that have to do with my BIG news? None of this testimony [story] would be possible without God.

“But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe, in Him; and before they can believe in Him, they must hear about Him; for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.” ~Romans 10:14 New Century Version