My mother used to tease me when I was younger about being a hopeless romantic.  From the time I can remember ever being described by her to someone she would say I wanted to believe only in the good side of things.  She called that being naïve.   I felt like this wasn’t meant to be a compliment.  Whatever it was, I have grown to be all right with this – it is who I am and I am comfortable in my skin.  Try that I might, I cannot nor do I want to view the ugly side of life.  Perhaps that is why Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books about living on the prairie have always appealed to me.

When I first read these books in elementary school they made me feel good about life in a simple way.  My favorite make-believe play (outside of playing school with Julie, Cindy and Lisa) was with a school friend, Estelle Moundfield.  I have no idea where Estelle is now but we had such fun together.  You see, she lived on a large piece of land in what was the nearest to being a farmhouse of any of my friends.  Estelle even had a barn so we would play for hours in the hayloft.  I would be Laura and she would be Mary.  It was great fun until one day I watched nature in real-time when Estelle’s cat leapt in the air and caught a bird flying by.  So long little bird.  Ugh!  That was enough of the loft for a while…

Life on the prairie

Anyway, my point to this is that my inner child has always been a little bit Laura Ingalls on the prairie.  I love everything about the idealistic side of how she and her family lived.  Now here I am in the big state of Illinois right smack dab living on the prairie.  I am a good case in point for intention bringing to fruition what you want to achieve!

Pancakes cooking on the stove

Pancakes cooking on the stove

Having read “The Little House” series dozens and dozens of times I know that the one pan Ma always used was an iron skillet.  I’m thinking that might be why it is my all-time fave cooking utensil for my kitchen.  I am guessing my skillet is over thirty-five years old or rather in iron skillet lingo, thirty-five years “well seasoned”.  I cook everything imaginable in my cast iron skillet each and every day.  I use it on the stove and in the oven.  I use it for everything from making my Sunday morning pancakes I wrote about in my post, Homemade Pancakes – What Could Be Better?  to stir-fry to oven baked chicken potpie and cobblers like the recipe in my post, Quick Summer Fruit Cobbler.

The benefits of using cast iron cookware

Did you know that cast iron cookware has been around since 513 BC?  Did you know that the Chinese first introduced it?  I figure that for most of you readers, acting like you live on the prairie isn’t a reason to own and use cast iron cookware.  So, here is a list of reasons why if you don’t already own and use any you will want to now:

  • Cast iron is virtually indestructible.
  • Cast iron is an excellent heat conductor, retaining heat well and distributing it evenly over the cooking surface.
  • Cast iron is a long lasting choice and can be reused irrespective of its age.
  • Most seasoned cooks believe that food has better flavor when cooked in cast iron than other cookware choices.
  • Cast iron is the healthiest option for cooking, as it requires little or no oil at all.
  • Cast iron is low on maintenance and can be cleaned using dishwashing soap, hot water and old-fashioned elbow grease.
  • Cast iron is environmentally friendly unlike non-stick cookware that releases toxic fumes into the air.
  • Best of all ~ cooking in cast iron has tremendous health benefits.  One of the biggest health benefits is cast iron’s ability to increase the source of iron in the food that is cooked in it which then increases the iron you absorb in your diet.

Using cast iron properly

Stuffed Peppers hot out of the oven

Stuffed Peppers hot out of the oven

In a previous blog post, Creating Homespace Beauty With Family Treasures, I wrote about the clearing and dividing of our mother’s home we six siblings did after we moved her into Richfield, an Assisted Living Facility for Alzheimer’s care.  As I wrote in the post, the six of us very carefully and methodically thought through dividing Mom’s furnishings and each of us six sibs chose items we personally treasured.  Most of what I chose I then passed on to my children.  All three of my kids are stellar cooks.  We all routinely text each other photos of our latest beautiful meals we have cooked.  But, Jimmy (my baby) has a deep love of all things happening in the kitchen and so I gave him one of my mother’s cast iron skillets I got.  Well seasoned, it is ready for whatever Jimmy has in mind to prepare!

“Seasoning” is a must so be sure to do this when you purchase any new cast iron.  For those of you new to the world of cast iron cookware, here are a few tips on how to season your pieces:

  • Clean your new cookware thoroughly with dish soap, hot water and a plastic brush.
  • Rinse and dry the utensil completely.
  • Apply a thin, even coat of vegetable oil to the surface of the utensil.
  • In a pre-heated oven of approximately 300 – 400 degrees, place the utensil upside down on the oven’s top rack.  (Put some aluminum foil under the utensil to catch any oil that might spill.)
  • Bake the utensil for one hour and then allow it to cool in the oven.

Enjoy the art of cooking with cast iron.  In this modern world we live in with new gadgets and gizmos developed every day and advertised as the “latest and greatest”, do yourself a favor and return to cooking the way your ancestors did.  You and the environment will be glad you did!

To cast iron cooking…

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Tree changing colors in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

My David and I were taking an early morning walk in nature this morning.  The moon was spectacular and the breeze gave a slight chill to the air.  Awwwww, the hint of autumn!

I couldn’t help but be excited.  With my senses alive to this feeling of fall I said to myself, fall is the best season of all.  Then I laughed  because I say this at the beginning of each new season.  The truth is that I love each of the four seasons.  Each one carries with it special meaning, fond memories and a renewed sense of anticipation for things to come.

The first day of fall just happens to be tomorrow.  Let us all welcome the beauty that this season brings us by allowing it to restore our souls.

We can do this in many, many ways.  At the same time, we can bring autumnal feelings into our homes.

Letting nature restore you

I believe that nature has the ability to restore each of us time and again, season after season.  In my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things I quote one of my favorite Psalms from Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.”

Autumn is the time to restore ourselves with feelings of warmth and comfort.  Autumn’s purpose is to ready us for the coming winter.  It gives us the chance to focus inward and prepare for the coming changes winter is sure to bring.

Beautiful tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

With autumn comes a myriad of opportunities to embrace the season.  For many people autumn is all about football.  Others explore the wondrous beauty of the changing leaves by hiking and biking in nature preserves and greenways.  Regardless of the activity, fall is a perfect time to be outdoors.

I have learned the medicinal properties of nature personally.  I call nature the best tonic on the market.  And, it’s free!

When David and I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago I found a lot of free time on my hands.  Plus, I didn’t know a soul so I had days to myself to explore.  Who would have guessed that moving to the city would produce so much nature for me to immerse myself in?  I began to walk, hike, bike and even snowshoe (now my favorite hobby for sure) by myself.  Slowly but surely I began to notice a change in my attitude.  (OK, David did first but so what!)  I began to let things go, calm down and relax.  What an amazing transformation!

I even noticed that my music choices I made on my IPod while walking and hiking changed.  For a while I listened daily to all my faves- from the 1950’s to today.  Before long I realized I was only listening to soothing selections that you would normally hear while getting a massage.  Now, more often than not I don’t take my IPod on my walks at all.  The only music I want to hear comes from what nature provides- birds chirping, frogs croaking and the ducks quacking to each other on the water creates an awesome symphony.  Walking in silence brings the music of nature to an incredible volume!

Brilliant red tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

To say that getting back to nature restored me just doesn’t do justice to the truth of it.  Getting back to nature has done so much more.  I am walking, talking proof of its tonic!

So, I challenge you to find ways to give yourself daily doses of the outdoors.  It could be as simple as eating lunch outside while at work, walking your dog, doing your exercising outside (instead of the treadmill) sitting on the porch or taking off to the woods.  A small dose of nature’s elixir will go a long way!

Nature has mental, physical and spiritual benefits just waiting for you!  Give yourself a chance to reap from it all!

Bring the glory of Autumn inside

I have espoused time and again in recent posts such as Two Colors Every Homespace Needs the importance of bringing nature inside.  As I have said before, we humans have distanced ourselves from nature and have created a false reality.  Our homes and offices are full of gadgets and gizmos that have nothing to do with nature.  What a travesty to ourselves!

Loving color

Photo Credit: Susan Muehl

By bringing nature inside we allow ourselves to stay connected to it.  It is that simple.  And, it is simple to do.  My “fall line-up” of posts will give you lots of ways to achieve this.  Look for Becky Balzer’s post on the best indoor plants for the home environment.  Chef Ryan will treat us to his idea of a great tailgating party.  Hector Benetiz will offer you suggestions on outdoor exercises to coincide with the season.  I will be sharing many different ways to infuse nature in your homespace through decorating.  And, that’s just the beginning.  Stay with us and enjoy the season of autumn!

Think color…

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