Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peachy Fail

I was excited to try this new breakfast dish from Macheesmo's cooking site: Breakfast Baked Peaches. Nick, over at Macheesmo hailed it as delectable, and it looked very doable in the morning, so I gave it a try.
I'll let you check out the recipe and instructions over on his blog. I love Nick's blog. He cooks lovely things, and I've tried several and enjoyed them. But this oatmeal? Not so much :( I did follow the recipe for two bowls/one peach. Here's how my oatmeal looked after it had set around a bit. (Yes, the peach was sitting there, and I yanked it back out for the photo :)
I did put on more brown sugar than Nick did, because I could just tell from looking at that light sprinkling in his photo, that it would not be enough. But, honest-to-Pete, it was just bland. The oatmeal was boring. The peach was fabulous, and I'd eat a baked peach for breakfast again and again. But the oatmeal needs something ... yummier.
Granted, oatmeal isn't really supposed to be exciting. But other people on Nick's post were raving about his baked oatmeal, and I'm wondering what I did wrong. Or do they just adore boring oatmeal? I don't think I'll make this again, to find out. However -- baked peaches? Yes, I highly recommend them!

Sunday Dinner Follow-Up

By request (thank you, Liz!), I'm giving more info on my mother's Sunday dinner. It is such an excellent meal in every way, partly because she's perfected it for so long. So here goes:

The roast: we both cook this in a large, cast iron chicken fryer with a fitted lid. You could do this in a crock pot, or other pot, but frankly, I don't think the flavor would be quite the same as with a seasoned cast iron pot. It's important to seer the roast in a little oil at the beginning, I think. It adds flavor, and makes the roast look better with the darker coloration. Turn the pot off after this, cut potatoes (any kind) and carrots and place in with the roast. I also add garlic cloves. Mother adds celery and onion -- whatever you like, and have room for! Then glop a can of Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup on top, and spread it around over the roast. Other types of soup will do, but none will give the yummy gravy flavor of that particular type. You can also add more mushrooms to the pot. Be sure to pour in one can of water as well, to make the gravy. And salt and pepper. I know it sounds like a lot of hoopla, but honestly, it takes no time at all.

The cole slaw: The dressing is all you really need to know. Mother buys a new jar of Kraft real mayonnaise, and removes about a cup of the mayo from the jar. Then, to the mayo remaining in the jar, she adds: 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbln celery seed (optional), about a Tbln of yellow mustard (to taste), 1/2-1 tsp. of salt. Mix it well with a whisk, and this dressing will last in your frig for a long time. Grate your cabbage and pour as much of the dressing as you like on top, and mix well. Chill before serving. This is the best cole slaw recipe I've ever eaten, and I really don't like most others. It's simple and delicious.

The rolls: These rolls are best begun the night before. Use a large pyrex bowl. 1 stick soft butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, stir these together. Put a cup of tap water in a small bowl and add 2 Tblspn of yeast to dissolve in it. In another small bowl, 2 slightly beaten eggs. 1 cup scalded milk -- add to the butter/sugar mixture in the large bowl. All this to cool a good bit, before you add the yeast and eggs into the large bowl. Then add about 4 1/2 cups of sifted white flour, plus 1 Tblspn of salt, and stir until it is a very soft, moist dough. Cover with saran and refrigerate overnight (or 6 hours). In the morning in corporate more flour (probably another cup) to the dough, divide into 2 batches, and roll each one into a flat round. You may spread melted butter on it, or sprinkle parmesan cheese. Then use a pizza roller/cutter, and cut into pie-shaped wedges, and roll each one up into a croissant shaped dinner roll. Place on cookie sheets, cover with a light cloth, and allow to rise while you're one to church. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes. Makes 24 rolls.

So, there it is, ladies! Cook away! I'll probably still be making this meal when I'm an old woman, and we'll all be talking about it even then.

The Sunday Tradition

For almost 40 years, my mother has made the same meal, every Sunday. And ... we never tire of it. See? Don't we look happy?
It started because she needed something quick, to get on the table ASAP, for four Very Hungry Teenage Boys.
So, she puts a roast (preferably a brisket, but any good beef roast will do) into a deep cast-iron skillet, and browns it well in a little oil. She adds cut potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, a can of Golden Mushroom soup, and a can of water.
She covers it well, and cooks it at about 250º, and when we get back from church, she has a succulent, moist roast with fabulous gravy.
Lately, she's taken to adding onions and celery to the veggies, because she likes those, but they're not essential.
And her cole slaw - a must! I have a little bit with each bite of roast. Hurry, it's getting away!
My mother also has the most delectable yeast dinner rolls. No time this morning for recipes for the rolls and cole slaw. But they are out of this world!
My plate on Sunday. Note the lightly cooked asparagus also. And peas. Mustn't forget peas :)
Adam usually has just one more roll, after all else is eaten, with the last gravy poured on it. He says it's better than dessert!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mrs. Elliot Says It Again:

The Lust for Security

"Once we have set ourselves to be pilgrims and strangers on the earth, which is what Christians are meant to be, it is incongruous for us to continue to insist upon the sort of security the world tries to guarantee. Our security lies not in protecting ourselves from suffering, but in putting ourselves fully into the hands of God. The desire for physical and material security makes us sly and hard. No. We must be like little children. The child in its father's arms is not worried. It lies quietly at rest because it trusts its father.

"We disobey sometimes because we say it is impossible to do what God asks. Impossible? Perhaps what we mean is impossible to do that and keep our security, impossible to obey without tremendous cost, or at least tremendous risk. Where, then, will we find safety? Is it likely that we will find it elsewhere than in the arms of the Father?
Teach me to rest in your everlasting arms. Make me know that all other security is illusion."

This is the real Christian life, in my opinion.  Elisabeth Elliot knows these things to be true. Many, many Christians believe they are walking a life of faith, but they are not. They are still clutching onto their: retirement funds, savings, home(s), insurance coverage, jobs, positions and reputations. Frankly, most American Christians are trusting their money for their security. We even call them "securities." And we call the money the government gives us, "social security."

Would you thrust yourself into the hand of God and accept the loss of all material things? If God does not ask this of you, is it because He knows you're not able to do it? Are you afraid of such trust, such relinquishment? And do you look down on poor Christians around you, whom God has already put through this test, who have passed it better than you could? Rethink your relationship to your money. If you view it as any kind of security for yourself, you're sinning. (Okay, that was harsh. But I think it's true.) Don't be like the world; be like a little child who has no resources except a parent.

I say all this to myself, as well as to you, dear reader.

Money soothes the carnal soul, but it has no place in the Christian's heart. You cannot love both God and money, Jesus said. Give it up. Instead of saving for yourself or your family, store up spiritual treasures in heaven by converting that cash into blessings for the needy. Jesus is reaching his hand out to you, asking, "Do you trust Me?"

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Egg Farm

My mother likes farm-fresh eggs, so on Fridays we stop at the egg farm. They have lots of animals though, including dogs. This collie's name is Beau. Very sweet.
Mother adores this tall, lanky German shepherd, whose name we forget. He sometimes barks or growls at visitors. Mother is a regular though, and she strolls inside, pays her dollars, and picks up whatever eggs she wants.
They have lovely chickens, but also ducks and geese of all types. (And, that means various-sized eggs too!) See this gorgeous rooster? His feathers were truly some of the most beautiful things I've seen recently, smooth, shiny and deeply reddish-brown.
Beau. The name fits.
Look at these ruffly feathers!
Shedding perhaps? This farm has little donkeys too. It's always a treat to visit there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Kitties Are Born!

I may have lured you here with false advertising. There are no squirmy newborns here, nuzzling a mama cat :) But there are a couple of these:
These kitties are inspired by some I saw at a friend's house, but hers were made of plain muslin. Let me tell you how I made them. I started by tracing a cat figure on some paper, and then cutting it out with a seam allowance around the edge.
Then I found some fabric. This is odd stuff - I got it for 50¢ at a resale store. It's a piece of fabric with all the pieces to make a vest, plus the instructions, already printed on the fabric. Perhaps you've seen something like it. Anyway, I had no desire for a pink vest with hearts all over it, but I did think the fabric itself was cute, so ...
I cut my kitties out of it, noting what I was placing on the kitty's front. I cut out a front and back, and put right sides together, of course.
Then I hand stitched around the edge, leaving the bottom edge open.
And then I turned it, using a needle to help me get the corners of the ears and tail all the way reversed. I pushed sheet batting up into the kitty, using an old ice pick to help get it into all the nooks and crannies. Then I stitched closed the bottom, and squashed the batting around a little to even it out. A Sharpie fine-line pen was perfect for drawing on her little face. The ribbon? It was lying around, and looked cute around her neck. I'm making a few kitties for a college girl who is away from us (sniff!), and for a younger sister who's eying them wistfully :)

We went to a birthday party for a little girl yesterday, so I decided to paint a new "Little Pom" for her, and put her in a homemade frame:
The cardboard is part of a Frosted Flakes box, so its backside was rather ugly. I covered it up with a layer of batting, and then some of the kitty fabric, and stapled it along the edge. Not very fancy, but sometimes a homemade present is fun to receive.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

At the Football Game

Friday night was the first home game at the high school. Peter led the band in for the pre-game show. As I said before, their theme is "Pirates of the Caribbean," so that's why they're dressed the way they are:
It's not a huge band, but they have lots of fun. Pretty decent percussion section, I must say.
They had nice formations, and at the half-time show, they were really good at moving around. I honestly don't know how those kids play and march around at angles, at the same time.
Their drum major wears a full-length dress to play one of the roles needed.
Jack Sparrow (who also plays a great drum solo) and someone wearing a white wig. I should be more familiar with the Pirates plot line.
The nice thing about having a kid who plays tuba is that you can always find him in the stands.
Half-time show:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meeting Enemies

I've mentioned enemies before, and I hope none of you think I have a paranoia complex. When I say "enemies," I simply mean anyone who has knowingly done you harm, especially someone who's not a stranger, and should have your welfare in mind. Perhaps "enemy" seems too harsh a term, but I like calling a spade a spade.

I'm reading along in I Samuel these days. David had some enemies. And although I hate constantly to read my own troubles into the Scriptures, sometimes one can hardly help seeing similarities, however small. David had plenty of pagan enemies, people who were set against God's people. Goliath was the biggest of the Philistines.
And against an enemy like that, David was aggressive, very aggressive. I chose this picture, instead of the one where David holds Goliath's severed head! David fought the Philistines for years, and God's spirit was with him, giving him victory.

But David had a worse, more insidious enemy. Saul was his own king, an Israelite, one of God's people, a man chosen and anointed by God. God had put him in leadership, upon the people's demand for a king. God's spirit had occasionally fallen on Saul in mighty ways, and he had even prophesied. Originally, he was a humble man, not seeking advancement for himself. (I Sam. 10: 6-11, 21-22, 11:6) But Saul also disobeyed God, ignored His commandments, and eventually became proud, self-serving and violent. When David, a godly, humble man, comes within Saul's sphere, he becomes David's enemy.

The interesting thing to notice is this: how does David handle this life-threatening enemy, within God's people? A man in authority over him? A man originally anointed by God, but from whom God's favor has left? A man who is repeatedly filled with "an evil spirit from God"? (18:10, 19:9) If Saul is such an enemy, a man rejected by God, why not storm in on him as David did Goliath, and kill him immediately? God gives David opportunity to do this, but David will not harm Saul. Samuel has already anointed David secretly as the next king, yet even that great prophet will not act to remove Saul from power, nor to advance David. Both the godly men "lay low," and wait for God to act, and allow the violent man to proceed. Why?

The psalm of David that accompanies these chapters is Psalm 11. (Adam put together a chronological reading of the Bible for our church, and I love having psalms knitted in with the history they were meant to describe.) Examining Psalm 11 gives insight into David's thinking, during these dark days with Saul as his enemy:

1. He trusts God to protect him. He's not afraid of this enemy among God's people.
2. He calls Saul wicked. He's not afraid to call wickedness what it is, even among God's people, even among those over him.
3. He worries for God's people, when their leadership is so corrupt. This is a valid concern, and shows David's love for God's people.
4. However, he reminds himself Who is in charge -- God rules, and He sees it all.
5. David realizes he's being tested by God, when God allows leaders in the church (well, Israel) to oppress him. He's being tested to determine how he will respond.
6. Who will vindicate David? God will. He will punish the wicked, trap them in snares, give them pain and trouble. That's not David's job.

So David does not act against Saul. And you -- you pastor, or church member -- when someone in the church tries to harm you, and you agonize that such wickedness could exist within her four walls, remember, this is not Goliath. Tread gently in God's church. You are being tested. Leave it to God. His vindication is best. Meanwhile, examine yourself; David certainly did. Be sure of your own righteousness in the situation; David even says to God, "Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me." (Ps. 7:8) That's a man who has dug out his own soul, and is certain of his rightness in all matters in which he is accused.

If you haven't yet faced an enemy within the church, you're blessed. Most people who've done "church work," have. David gives us such guidance in how to meet these enemies in a godly way. It's not easy! But it does develop character that's pleasing to God

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Painting Tasha Tudor

Yay! We painted again today! Friends, this is my 7th year homeschooling, and at last, I'm going to relax, just a bit. I've always been the over-disciplined, stick-to-the-schedule, only-do-art-if-we've-finished-math, kind of mom/teacher. But now, with only one very bright 12 year old to teach, I've decided to GIVE IT A BREAK. We will paint, and crochet, and do the fun things I've never allowed myself (or my kids) to do much, while homeschooling.

So, yes, we painted again today. I nabbed two of my mom's Tasha Tudor books, and tried a little more "light imitation." Here's Tudor's lady bunny, from Tasha Tudor's Heirloom Crafts.
Here's my attempt. The goal is not exact replication, but just inspiration and guidance. My white (for the plaid) didn't work well at all, and her ears are too small. And of course, mine lacks the complexity of color that she achieves. Still, she's a cute bunny.
And this rooster pic is from The Art of Tasha Tudor. Isn't he handsome?
I think I got this one a bit closer, although again, my coloring is too simple. But it's wonderful to have someone who knows exactly what a rooster looks like, assist me!  Merci, Madame Tudor.
My goal is to paint with Julia once or twice a week, for school. If she loves it (which it seems she does) perhaps she'll paint on her own. We keep the painting stuff on the porch in a cooler, so it doesn't get mussed up. The porch is cool in the mornings, but I think come February, we'll need to find a different spot :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Funny Car Post

Adam posted an hysterical blog post today about Philip's misadventure while taking Fiona (the car below) to college. Here's a link, just in case you need a good laugh.
We weren't exactly planning for Philip to take Fiona to college. We were going to sell her, and we probably will still need to. But we don't need to yet. And we don't need her right now, since neither of us drives to work. And Philip does need her, since he has an internship to drive to. So, it seemed to make sense, at least for this semester. After today's fiasco, I'm wondering whether Philip still likes the car :) He may decide she's more trouble than she's worth, especially when he's paying for all the oil, gas, repairs, and new plugs, himself! Hopefully, this will be a funny family story in a few years.

All in a Day's Fun

Here's a hodge-podge of photos that show a little of our day. Sandy, in her "relaxation mode" --
Philip went off to college this morning. Sniff!! Julia will miss him. (So will I!) She told my mom that she wished she could "stow-away" and go with him.
When Julia and I went to our "knitting group" we saw these terrific puzzles at our friend's home! They belonged to her mom, so they are rather old. Look at those shapes -- astounding. I've never seen them before.
And hidden in there, are other shapes. Do you see the elephant? There were also a butterfly and a guitar, and others.

For lunch, the church ladies had a get-together at a local restaurant. It was lovely, calm, delicious. We had 25 there. My mother is chatting away. Julia came too.
I think she enjoyed herself.

Mother and daughter:
Our waitress also sang for us, in a beautiful, lyrical operatic voice. It was a springtime song in French.
Julia wanted desert, and my mother and I obliged in assisting her with this slab of chocolate. Oh my, was it scrumptious!
We arrived back home well-fed and weary. I made beef stew for supper. (Here's the recipe.) Poor Adam had a long day of driving and car repair, I'm sorry to say. Anyway, my mom had mentioned that, in her compost pile, she had two large butternut squash growing. I went out to see them, and pick them. Don't they look fine!
We gave one to our neighbor, who likes butternut also, and I'll make one for supper. Julia loves my recipe.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saying Goodby to a House

I think I'll put my Little Pom girl here again, just because she makes me happy to see her. It must be time to paint again.
Yesterday, Adam and I drove back to Statesville for a few hours to clean some more stuff out of the house. It was a discouraging day for me. An empty house is a sad thing when you've left it; it's a fun thing when you're moving in. Philip was there for two weeks alone, with no furniture but an air mattress, a microwave, a lawn chair and a fan. There were dirty dishes, crumbs, trash, tall weeds and encroaching ivy, lots of junk that we couldn't take away. Adam and I crammed as much as we could in the back of the van, and drove back. It was hard to say goodbye.

We have such good memories from that house, in spite of the difficult five years in Statesville. As I swept the floor, I could almost hear the singing, the dogs barking, the conversations while cooking, the fun movies in the living room, jokes at the dining room table, the crackling of the fires in winter, the quiet breathing at night. I hate saying goodbye to a place that has held all those precious moments in our family's life.

It's hard to lose a house; we've never done that before. Hard not to be able to pay the mortgage, not to be able to mow the grass and keep it pretty, or to sell it to a new, excited owner. I feel we are deserting her, disappointing her. (If you love houses too, maybe you understand.) It feels like failure, all of it feels like failure. I don't mean to whine, but I want to say things that some people are afraid to say these days, but which are happening to many, many people. One consequence of this horrible economy will be empty homes with no one to live in them, and more tragically, families with no homes to live in. Estimates are uncertain, but some say that we've added as many as one million homeless people to our population during this recession. How thankful I am that we have family who will take us in! And more than that, loving family with plenty of room and gracious hearts. Not everyone is so blessed.