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.

To enjoy some of the recipes, click on the image below to view the pdf verison

With Love and Blessings, Sara Marie Hantousch

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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

Sitting by the Hearth

In search of a job…

1 Timothy 3:11 NASB

~Women must likewise be…faithful in all things.~

So it has come down to the final countdown to the exhaustion of unemployment funds. My husband having been laid off from his job back in September 2009 has been receiving unemployment over the last several months. Most recently, he was given an extension and we have come to the end of that extension. I have been a stay at home wife since January 2007.

images What does one do when faced with the reality of needing money…you start the process of finding a job.

I began my quest for re-entering the job market well over a year ago; the day my husband called me from work to inform me they had given him a 60 day letter.

My job experience is mainly in the customer service area. I have held jobs from cashier to management. I polished up my resume and cover letter. I began the application process by searching every job website I could find. Zoom…I had applied to several positions in a matter of minutes…the internet has been such a benefit in that respect. Then, the waiting set in. Days, weeks, months passed without receiving one call for an interview. It was nearly 7 months before I received my first call and that was a phone interview only. I was sent several ‘auto replies’ saying, “Thank you, but no thank you.”

I asked myself what am I doing wrong? It has never been this difficult to locate a job before. I searched for resume tips. It would appear my old resume needed a makeover. So, I reformatted my resume changing the entire structure of it from Chronological to Functional. I researched cover letter tips as well and turned my oh-hum cover letter into pizzazz! Armed with a ‘WOW’ cover letter and a ‘easy to scan’ resume, I was ready to dazzle employers with my skills and experience. Poof…that excitement lasted about a week when didn’t last long, I came face to face with the wall of discouragement when I received a couple of calls of interviews that did not go any further. My oh my, why oh why?

I am so out of my comfort zone right now. I always seemed to be a good choice for employment before. I would apply for a handful of jobs and within moments [ok, maybe a couple of weeks, but it feels like moments], I would be offered the position. What has changed in my aptitude and abilities that has literally stopped all opportunities?

I went to the one person who has all the answers I am seeking, Jesus. I prayed. I asked Him, Dear Lord, what is it about me that caused not one of these employers to look upon me and offer me a job? The answer I received is a difficult one to understand, my heart attitude was not in the right place.  Here “I am” applying, searching, and seeking a job to fix the impeding financial circumstances that my husband and I face. Instead of allowing Jesus to have reign and authority of what I should be doing and giving Him the room to direct the areas in our lives that needed fixing, I am trying to solve it all on my own. I ask for His help, then tell Him, “Sorry Lord, I cannot wait for you any longer, move over, I will fix it.” Who do I think I am? I cannot fix anything without the wisdom and strength of my Lord Jesus. I was not putting Him first…I was putting me first and what I could do. My foolish pride.

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” ~Psalm 32:8~

Then I was awakened by God’s “first and great commandment” I committed to so long ago:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” ~Matthew 22: 37-38~

Love God. God is not only my first priority, He is my Ultimate priority and my consuming passion. As a Christian woman and wife, I need to make and take time to nurture my relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. I was not attending to this very important time. I was worried and a bit frantic about finding a job. I had pushed my quiet time with Jesus aside so I could dig and focus on getting a job that would bring in money to solve our financial needs.  Busted!

Jesus lovingly revealed to me that I already have a job and that I was not tending to the daily tasks and duties of that job very well and honestly not at all, my relationship with Jesus, my husband, and our homestead. I have been blinded by moaning about not finding a job and worrying over what if one of us does not find job where is the money going to come from. I have neglected my Lord and Savior, my husband and my home.

My real, God-given job position [or assignment] is within my home. My job from God is to help my husband, to nurture my relationship with him and to be about the business of building our homestead. I may have to find a job, but my home—the people and the place—is always to be the priority over any profession. You see, being a woman and a wife after God’s own heart is all about the heart—my heart. That means no matter what we want, or what society tells us to want, or what anyone else wants for us, we as women after God’s own heart are to want what God wants. I may need to tend to a career, but I must first and foremost desire to fulfill God’s will when it comes to the priorities He wisely and sovereignly sets down for our lives:

“The word of God which lives and abides forever.” ~1 Peter 1:23~

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.” ~Psalm 33:11~

A Woman is not just a person; she’s a miracle!

In honor of Mother’s Day

Ephesians 2:10

~For we are his workmanship, created in Christ unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.~

0_0_0_0_185_309_csupload_17106169 This is devotion written by Mary Hollingsworth:

A woman is not just a person; she’s a miracle! Like a cosmic shape-shifter of Star Trek, she can transform into anything she needs to be in an instant.

She turns into a nurse at the sight of a scrape or a scratch; in larger emergencies, she’s instantly a paramedic. When trouble comes or the enemy attacks, she becomes the fortress behind which the whole family—even Dad—huddles for protection.

Or she snaps her fingers and changes into a Little League coach, a Girl Scout leader, a homeroom mother, a corporate executive, financier, a Sunday School teacher, a playmate, a seamstress, a play director, or a volunteer for the March of Dimes. She is, all in the same day, a cook, a taxi driver, a boardroom presenter, a maid, a politician, and a referee.

In addition, she is often the spiritual heart of the home—guiding, encouraging, leading, teaching, and praying. She is God’s hands and feet, HIs laughter and joy, His tears and sorrow. She is the heart of God personified.

There’s no doubt about it—a woman is not just a person; she’s a miracle!

Learn more about Mary:



From my other blog: Lemon Drop Moment

Lord, make me a helper suitable for him.

DSCF0071~The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”Genesis 2:18 NIV~

Today is our 7th anniversary. It hardly seems like seven years. In honesty, I feel we have been together much longer [in a very good way!]. God put us together just like pieces of a puzzle…a good fit.

I spent many years in agony wanting and waiting for a husband. There were only a few other candidates prior to my beloved husband. I mourned over the loss of them in wonder of what was wrong with me that they would not ask me that simple question: “will you marry me?”

Looking back, God had a much better plan and purpose for me as He always does. I was unaware of this simple concept at the time. I had not found Jesus yet. God was protecting me from myself before I even knew that.

We met through the internet. He answered my personal ad. Yes, dear ones, back in the day before my Lord Jesus saved me, I placed personal ads on the internet. Oh, the stories I could tell. I placed myself in some uneasy situations. I even went all the way to Baltimore once [in the summer of 1997 I think it was] to meet someone. My goodness what was I thinking? I was thinking how badly I needed to find that special someone. Through those times of searching, God was sheltering me without my knowledge of course!

We exchanged emails and telephone calls for nearly two months before I would agree to meet him. We met July 14, 2002, it would be the day that changed my life. When Salah gave me my first hug, my head just fit on his shoulder and that was a good sign. I did not have to stand on my tiptoes to reach that special spot. I just fit…right there…so nice so cozy. He wore Christian Dior Fahrenheit cologne. And we spent our first date watching the Rock Aqua Jays [of Janesville, Wisconsin] and then went to Perkins for coffee. I even remember that when we were sitting in the bleachers watching the water-ski show I had been sitting on his right side. He told me, “Do you mind if you sit on my left side, I want to see you.” Such a smoothie!

Well, we dated a couple of times more when in September of that year [2002], he ended up having double bypass surgery. That was what brought us closer together. He popped the “BIG M” question on my birthday two months later. We married in March of 2003 only 8 months after meeting. I confess at first I was not so willing to accept this new gift. I doubted God’s wisdom and thought, “why this man and what made him more special than the others I had chosen?” I prayed several times asking Jesus to to make it clear to me what He would have me do. His answer every time, “Love this man.” I did as I was told. Everyday since seems like a gift. God certainly is the best match maker ever.

In these past few years, we have been blessed in numerous ways. Jesus has touched our lives and made us the husband and wife team we are today. Just yesterday as we went to the store my Salah told me, “I am glad you decided to come with me to the store. I am just so used to having you at my side. I am not sure what I would do without you there.” That my dear ones, is the best gift of love anyone could share…his open heart. My husband touches my heart and fills my eyes with tears of joy. He always knows just what to say and how to say it. I give the credit to my Lord Jesus who shines through my husband shaping me into a helper suitable for him.

Praying the Word

1 Kings 19:11-13

11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
      Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
      Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

snowy How does God speak to His people today? Is it ever anything like He spoke in these verses to Elijah? Check out this scene on the mountain, and you’ll pick up  a few clues to hearing God’s voice in your life.

First, Elijah had to be available. He had to be  where God wanted him [1 Kings 19:11]. If you’re living in a place or in a way that you know isn’t pleasing to God, you won’t be able to hear His voice.

Second, Elijah had to be quiet [1 Kings 19:12]. That’s the only way to hear a whisper. You can’t hear a whisper if you’re already talking. You can only hear the whispers of God when you’re silent.

Third, Elijah had to get rid of distraction [1 Kings 19:13]. He covered his eyes with his cloak. Do whatever you have to do to remove distractions from your listening. Cover your eyes. Or look at something peaceful and soothing. Turn off the radio and TV. Reduce the clamor of your life in order to induce the sound of the whisper of God.

Fourth, Elijah had to take the time to hear God’s voice. The events of these verses didn’t happen quickly. Learning to recognize God’s voice takes time.

Today, rather than praying with words, pray with silence. Spend your time today in stillness before God. Focus on Him. Let  your whole being be filled with an awareness of His presence in your life. Then listen for HIs voice, for His quiet whisper.

Lord, speak to me, I’m listening…

Borrowed from The Women’s Devotional Guide to the Bible by Jean E. Syswerda