Monday, December 24, 2012

Not a Recipe, But a Story About a Recipe

Grandma's Sugar Cookies. Mention them to anyone in my extended family and they know exactly what I'm talking about. My Grandma, Lena Yoder, probably made more batches of these Amish church cookies than all the batches of all cookies that all of her daughters made... combined. And she had 9 daughters!

When I say "sugar cookies" most people think of a crisp cookie decorated with either colored sugar or icing. These cookies are not like that AT ALL. Grandma's Sugar Cookies are soft, only slightly sweet, with raisins throughout. Think of the top of a very large muffin.

My mother, Joy Courtney, carried on the tradition of making Grandma's Sugar Cookies for family gatherings. This is how my children came to love them, as my grandmother had passed before they were born so they never had any made by her. One of my young cousins calls them "Aunt Joy's Cookies" but even so, we all know what he means!

I started making Grandma's Sugar Cookies at Christmastime when my children were young but since the dough is so very... temperamental... I never had consistent results. Talk about frustrating! But since they always TASTED good, I'd make them despite their unacceptable texture. I've had results similar to large 'Nilla Wafers to ones that spread over the whole pan, dripping off the sides, and everything in between. Some family members (even in-laws) have perfected the recipe long ago and with fewer flubs than I have. What can I say? Comparison is the thief of joy so it is perfectly fine that I am a bit of a straggler!

This year the result was different. My Grandma's Sugar Cookies came out as close to perfect as I ever hope to get! I am not ashamed to admit that I did a happy dance when the first pan came out of the oven. I could hardly believe my eyes! And then when I lifted them off the pan, I think I may have said "YIPPEEEE!" more than a few times. Exciting stuff!  (Note: click on the pictures to enlarge them)


I am pretty sure these results were due to 3 very new circumstances:

#1 I got a special tip, along with a short story about how Grandma made them, from one of my aunts. It was so successful that I wrote it in on my recipe card so as not to forget! As my daughter watched me make the cookies, me telling her the story, I felt as if I were creating a touchpoint for her, us, that connects us to our rich heritage.

#2 I used the very same cookie cutter that my grandmother used for so many years. I "won" it at the family auction last year. Family auctions can be such fun. And sad. But that's a story for another time. Back to the cookie cutter... It is the perfect size for the cookies to bake evenly, creating a lovely butter-toned top and a lightly browned, crusty bottom. Mom and I used to laugh about her saying "The key to these cookies is having a crusty bottom." I sure do miss her sense of humor!

#3 I am now a Grandma. Yes, something special happens when you become a Grandma. "Grandma" should be listed as a superpower. It makes everything more fun, more thoughtful, more real. I can't explain it. It just happens. At least that is how it has been for me. I hope it is for you, as well. I am overjoyed to say that the twins had their first taste of Grandma's Sugar Cookies and loved them! 

You may be wondering why I'm not sharing the recipe for these wonderful cookies. Well, it isn't because they are a family secret or anything like that. I'm not sharing the recipe because the results are as much about the feel of the dough as it is the list of ingredients. It would be irresponsible of me to just give you the recipe only! You just can't separate the ingredients from the "how to" with these cookies. So, if any of my close-by friends would like to learn how to make them, I am willing to provide the recipe AND demonstrate how it is done.     (Edit: One of my aunts just made Grandma's Sugar Cookies for the first time today. She nailed it! Go figure! )

Just as we can only get the desired results for Grandma's Sugar Cookies with both the list of ingredients and the experience of working with the dough, so too must we have the completeness of God's Word to bring the desired result of our soul's salvation. 

I am only recently learning about how truth and grace cannot be rightly separated so if I fumble with the concepts, I hope you are gentle in your correction. I grew up learning a lot about truth. Stifling rule-keeping was what I learned. I don't say that is what I was taught because I could've been exposed to the grace component and it just didn't sink in. Then in an effort to balance that, I jumped on the grace wagon where I didn't concern myself with much truth at all. I slowly learned that that wasn't true grace that I was reading about in scripture, it was just man's efforts to feel good about himself and his sins. Again, my experience. There might have been some truth being taught but it didn't register.

I don't know if it is a condition of humanity or if it is just me and a few other people that I've encountered, that when we seek balance, we end up over-compensating, hoping to find relief from the negatives of one extreme only to find ourselves smack in the middle of another extreme. It is the frying pan v. fire syndrome, I suppose.

Scripture tells us that Christ came to earth full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Why would He need to be the embodiment of both? Because neither truth nor grace can really stand on it's own. Christ's example for us is FULLNESS, not balance. Truth cannot be diluted to accommodate grace and grace cannot be set aside for truth. In short, what truth requires, grace provides for.  Still learning, still leaning. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Godzilla Twins Visit the Nativity

This is my first Christmas as a grandmother so to celebrate that I bought a Nativity playset for the twins to play with while I read to them or sing Christmas songs.  Up until last night I only offered one or 2 pieces at a time for them to explore while sitting in their highchairs.   With this new setup they were a bit tentative at first, choosing to pound on the floor with one piece at a time but they soon decided that total annihilation was what the scene called for.  

Levi was especially intent on testing each and every piece for durability.  Liam was only slightly more gentle in his exploration. They chewed and drooled on each piece in turn, concussed angel and wiseman alike, and flung sheep hither and yon.  They also devoted a bit of time debunking the theory that you cannot force a horse to drink once you've lead him to water (using camel and well as test subjects).

Here they are, Levi in stripes, Liam in plain.  I can hardly wait to see what they do with wrapping paper and boxes on Christmas morning :-)    

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 31... Autumn's Jewelry

Today we come to the end of this 31 Days of October series.  It has been my sincere pleasure to spend the past month rediscovering my great fondness for October with you.   
In yesterday's post I asked you to join me today for a few minutes of relaxation and observe one of the loveliest of all the Autumn Glories... LEAVES!  I hope you have with you a cup of tea or cider or some other warm drink as I suggested (Hot Stuff).  If not, go get one now.  I don't mind waiting...
Got it?  Good!  Now relax for just a few short minutes with this slideshow set to Tchaikovsky's Autumn Leaves.  Watch in full screen view for an especially lovely show.   Blessings!

"Even if something is left undone,
everyone must take the time to sit still
and watch the leaves turn."
--Elizabeth Lawrence


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 30... Hot Drink Weather

Another thing I love about October is that it signals the beginning of hot drink season!  We've had some unseasonably warm weather this year so I haven't had many occasions to drink something hot other than my usual morning coffee. Hot drinks chase away the chill, help me want to drink more liquid and satisfy my sweet tooth, all at the same time.  

When cooler weather arrives, I like to look for new varieties of herbal teas that the stores where I shop have added.  I like the wide variety that Celestial Seasonings makes but I tend to buy teabags that are idividually wrapped. CS makes what I call "exposed" teabags in a waxed paper lined box.  That's not so bad when I first open the box but,  organizational junky that I can be, I get a tiny bit unsettled thinking about that nearly empty box sitting in my cupboard taking up valuable shelf real estate!

My most favorite fruity teas are usually orange or mixed berry flavors.  My least favorite are lemon and apple.  I love the smell of lemon and apple teas but for some reason the enjoyment just doesn't translate from smell to taste.  I don't generally sweeten fruit teas since they have an inherent sweetness already.  No cream, either.

Spicy teas offer a nice pick-me-up mid-morning whether or not they are caffeinated.  There is a non-caffeinated  tea that I particularly like called  Chai Roobios.  The brand I like best is Yogi but the store where I have always purchased it no longer keeps it in stock so if I want it, I have to order a whole case of it.  I've done that once but think I'll move on to another brand.  I just don't want 8 boxes of the same tea sitting on the same aformentioned shelf real estate!  My favorite way to drink chai tea is with a few drops of stevia, a few drops of vanilla or rum flavoring and a bit of coconut milk.  Yum!

Hot Chocolate weather, for me, doesn't usually start until after Thanksgiving but I'll talk about it here since it fits into the "hot drink" category.  I don't often have hot chocolate since I haven't found a brand or recipe for a sugarless cup that I like.  I avoid sugar for the most part, even natural sugars, so I rarely have it anyway.  I have a recipe for a mix that my Mom used to make that I really like but it is loaded with sugar.  The last time I mixed up a batch (I think it was a triple-batch) I had one cup and packaged the rest as Christmas gifts for friends (along with a bag of homemade gingerbread marshmallows).  Any suggestions for a good brand or recipe of sugarless hot chocolate would be welcomed!

After coffee, my favorite hot drink is Alpine Spiced Apple Cider.  I drink the sugar-free variety not only because I dont need the sugar, but I also like the taste better.  I just now discovered, while typing this blog, that there are some recipes using the spice cider packets.  Some look pretty tasty!  My Mom also had a recipe for a cider hot drink mix, but again... loads of sugar.

The mug that you saw at the top of this blog was bought by my Mom with me in mind.  It wasn't particularly a gift for me because she kept it at her house for me to use... and for anyone else to use if I didn't get to it first!  It is one of my favorite mugs to use.  She bought it because I was involved with a homeschool group called CHILD.  There is a poem on the back that says: 
A Hundered Years From Now...
it will not matter what my bank account was,
the sort of house I lived in,
or the kind of car I drove..
but the world may be different because
I was important in the life of a
Also take notice of the little wooden holder for the teabags.  That was originally intended to be a cracker tray.  I made it in woodshop when I was in Middle School.  Mom kept stuff like that.  I didn't care about that sort of thing but now it is kinda neat to have.
Tomorrow I invite you to join me for the final day of this series.  Make sure to have a hot drink and about 5 minutes with no distractions.  I think you'll enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 29... Comfy Flannels


"The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly
changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools."

- Henry Beston, Northern Farm

Forever 21
I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl but when the cool weather of October rolls around, I want a flannel shirt!   
The origin of the word is uncertain, but a Welsh origin has been suggested as fabric similar to flannel can be traced back to Wales, where it was well known as early as the 16th century. The French term flanelle was used in the late 17th century, and the German Flanell was used in the early 18th century.  Flannel reached its peak in popularity in the 1990's due to popular grunge bands wearing the shirts for their signature style of dress.
Flannelette is a napped cotton that is the texture of flannel.
Cotton Flannel or Canton Flannel is a cotton fabric napped on one or both sides.
Ceylon is a wool/cotton mixture fabric.
Diaper Flannel is a sturdy cotton fabric napped on both sides primarily used for... you guessed it... making diapers.
That is really more than I need to know about flannel to enjoy wearing it.  I just wanted to include that for the curious among us. :-D (Thank you, Wikipedia!)
Flannel may not be the most fashionable choice, except for at a gathering of lumberjacks, but it is soft, warm, strong, versatile, colorful...  what's not to love?  It is comfortable and who doesn't want to be comfortable? 
Lengthy faith application ahead...
As much as I like to be comfortable there are times when a flannel shirt doesn't do the trick.  No amount of soft fabric, food, talking or sleep will help.   I need to be comforted by a source that is greater than any thing, wiser than any person, and truer than any thought of my own.  Struggles and afflictions abound in this life but we have a God who sees and supplies what we need.  Here are some words from a man who knew full well what suffering, and the consequent comfort for it, was like...  
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.   
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 
The apostle Paul gave up everything to be a minister of Christ.  His life was one of prestige and ease until He began his born again life.  That's when his troubles really started.  He was whipped with 39 lashes (5 times), beaten with rods (3 times), and stoned. He was shipwrecked (3 times) and adrift at sea.  He was in danger everywhere he went (city, wilderness, sea, rivers) and from people of all walks of life (robbers, his own people, Gentiles,  false brothers).  He knew toil and hardship, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure.  He had many sleepless nights.  All of this while still maintaining vital communication with the churches where he had been.  The very people he loved and served even turned against him.  And he still praised God.  Why was he able to do that?  We don't even have to guess because he tells us later on in the same book...
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Light?  Momentary?  Let's look back at that list again.  Yes, I'm reading it again, too!  Why would a human endure such things in order to keep following God's will?  Because of the glory beyond all comparison awaiting him in eternity!  If we read all this in context, Paul seems pretty reluctant to talk about his struggles because he did not want to glory in his own trials. But he had told them in a previous letter to follow his example as he was following Christ's example and they needed to be reminded that following God's will was worth enduring any trial.  I love how Paul  always pointed people's attention to what was beyond him.  In essence he was saying "When you look at me, make sure you look beyond me so that you can see where YOUR hope is as well." 
Oftentimes people tell us about their problems with an air of superiority. "My struggles are worse than yours.  If I can manage then so can you."  That is not what Paul is doing here.  I'm going to infer something from this text. I think part of his reasoning for telling them these things is so that they won't rely on what they see, but so that they will act on what they know.  That is what faith is.  They needed to be reminded and we need to be reminded.  I sure need to be reminded!
Turmoil from within and trials from without have often led me to seek comfort from sources that were not of God's provision.  The deception of ease is so very powerful.  It is an illusion.  Ease or pain in this life is not necessarily an indicator of right or wrong!  Paul didn't live an easy life.  Christ didn't live an easy life.  Why did I ever think that I should live an easy life?  Am I so good or have I sacrificed so much that I can demand the reward that I think I deserve?  Of course not.  None of us can.
I had started writing this post earlier last week but just didn't feel peace about publishing it so I shelved it... until I had the great blessing of hearing Debbie Dupuy speak this weekend for a women's event at the church where I attend.  It gives me goosebumps that God  STILL provides confirmation of His word! 
Debbie gave an illustration of this principle by telling us about a very trying time when  her daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 5.  Every single day Debbie had to administer 6 finger sticks and 4 injections.  Her poor little girl just couldn't understand why this had to happen.  Through tears, Debbie told of her daughter's crying and begging her to stop.  One day her suffering little girl screamed in Debbie's face "MAMAS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO HURT THEIR BABIES!!"  Her young mind just couldn't comprehend that this pain was saving her life.  
In my former way of thinking I would often say to God "If you really loved me, if you really are a compassionate God, you'd remove this pain."   I just wanted it to stop.  I didn't see that God was allowing my pain to remove the things within me that would cause me to die spiritually.  It wasn't the trial that was killing me, it was my response to it that weakened me.      
So I now take comfort, I run to His comfort, knowing that the Creator of compassion and comfort provides what I need to pass through any trouble, real or imagined, and remain in His will.  Not because I see it, but because I know it.  I needed this reminder! 
As I finish putting the final touches on this, Hurricane Sandy is approaching Delaware, where I live.  I am not generally afraid of storms but for some reason my anxiety is on high alert! "Danger! Will Robinson! Danger!"  My nature tells me to eat everything in sight to calm my nerves.  It tells me to pull the covers over my head to ignore the howling winds.  It also tells me that in order to relieve my anxiety I must distract myself with all sorts of, well, distractions.  But how is my spirit best served?  By calling on the source of comfort, the master of the winds and waters and putting my hope in what is unseen rather that what is seen.  Like that growing puddle in the floor downstairs.  That worries me. But it is what Paul calls light and momentary.   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 28... Pumpkin Babies 2012

Of course we must start a new fall tradition of visiting Mr. Pepper's Pumpkin Patch before the boys are even able to sit up well by themselves! We didn't stay very long.  Levi and Liam were not at all interested in taking a happy picture for Grandma, but that is okay.  They liked sitting in the dirt and pulling on vines and such.  And that's the thing about traditions... there's always next year!!   
Grandpa and the boys.
 Levi... He was determined to get that stick from behind the pumpkin!
 Liam... He was determined to get ahold of the wild onions and refused to look at the camera!
When my children were young I never embraced the idea of traditions.  I didn't like many of them so never really saw the need to have any.  Now that I have grandchildren I am looking for ways to start traditions.  I'll not over analyze it and just enjoy it!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 27... Come and Dine

Come and Dine is the name of a hymn we often sing at family gatherings ("our" branch of the Yoder family, meaning the descendants of my mother's parents, not the BIG Yoder reunion that includes the descendants of all of my grandfather's siblings) and it is a tune that I often find myself silently singing when I'm cooking a large meal.  We only sing the first verse and chorus.  I love that particular tradition even though now it evokes such a strong emotion since my Mom's passing.

Come and Dine
by Charles B. Widmeyer

Jesus has a table spread
Where the saints of God are fed,
He invites His chosen people, “Come and dine”;
With His manna He doth feed
And supplies our every need:
O ’tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time!

“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”;
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time;
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine."  

I think I "sing" it at large meal preparations because they are the only times I think about setting the table with more than just flatware.  I typically serve from the stove.

When we found out that our family was going to be expanding by 2 we decided that we needed to get a new table.  We went from an oval table that semi-comfortably sat 6 to a rectangular table that comfortably seats 8.  Guess what that means?  That means that my favorite fall tablecloth can no longer fit my table.  Bummer!  Guess what else that means?  I got to buy a new one!  Woo!

I don't use a tablecloth for everyday. Just for special holidays... Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. That reminds me! I need to get a new spring tablecloth! I am pretty sure I have a Christmas one that will fit around here somewhere though.

The only way that the fall tablecloths resemble each other is that they have fall colors.  That's it!  The older one has a light background with large leaf prints scattered about.  The new one is a darker checked pattern but I think that may actually work better with my dishes than the older one.

Something else I bought along with the new tablecloth were these really cute acorn shaped placecard holders. I found them at Marshall's for a reasonable enough price that I didn't want to risk waiting for them to go on sale. Plus they are just really, really cute!

Tablescaping has never been on much interest to me because most of the examples I'd seen were very cluttered.  Anyone who knows me knows that clutter in my home drives me insane.  I am most comfortable with a minimalistic decor!  But lately I've seen some very lovely tablescapes that were simple enough for even me.  I'll keep you up-to-date as I progress in that arena.

I think my next step is to take a trip to Home Goods...

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 26... O Canada!

By Rachel Field
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "snow."
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "frost."
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

O Canada!  Canada Goose, that is.  Yep.  I said that correctly.  I know most people call them Canadian Geese but it is Canada Geese.  I don't make the rules, I just report them.

We get a lot of Canada Geese around these parts.  We have them here for most of the year but the population explodes in the fall.  That's when the ones that take up residency in lower Delaware are joined by their northern neighbors as they travel southward to escape the coming winter. 

The housing development where I usually walk is, shall we say, littered with the evidence of their presence.  One of these days I'm gonna break an ankle trying to dodge those landmines! They are messy and noisy and I think they are beautiful.

None of these pictures are mine, but I had to have some photos.  I hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws!

Defending the nest

Two too cute goslings
Under the wing
 Crossing the road

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 25... A Mushroom in Every Pot

Another of the many, many reasons I like October is because it is the beginning of SOUP WEATHER!  We eat soup all year long but there is just something about the crisp fall air that practically begs for me to serve soup.  Time to try a new recipe!  Something earthy... Mushroomy... <drool>

Thank you for the use of this image.
I did an internet search for Mushroom Soup and found that there are tons of good-sounding recipes so I took from what I'd read and put a combination together of what sounded like what we would like the best.  My son and daughter-in-law don't particularly care for mushrooms so this will be a soup that we can eat on Fend For Yourself nights.

I do the majority of the cooking but like to have a regular night off every week when everyone takes care of their own food.  Right now that is every Thursday night and the Sundays that my husband has to work (about once a month).  We usually go to a restaurant, get takeout or pull something out of the freezer that just needs heating, but occasionally I'll cook something that Stewart and I like but don't get to cook often because the "kids" don't like it.

Back to the soup... I don't always make my own chicken stock but it really is worth it to do so.  Our whole family likes chicken wings a lot so when I make them, I freeze the wing tips until I have enough to make stock.  I also freeze giblets from whole chickens and the  "rib meat" from chicken breasts to use as well. DO NOT USE THE LIVER FOR STOCK.  It will make it cloudy and unappealing to look at.  Most of the time if I'm making stock from a carcass, I'll put it in the crock pot overnight with water and then strain it out the next morning.  Easy!  I could've done it that way with this but I really wanted to make it on the stove top because of the timing. 

All measures are approximate.  I don't have pictures at this time.  They didn't turn out right.  I'll take better ones next time and edit this by putting them in.

Stock Preparation
4 quart bags of chicken parts
water (barely enough to be level with the top of the chicken)
1 T salt
2 bay leaves
2 large leeks (green parts only)

Put the chicken parts, water, salt, and bay leaves in large soup pot.  Clean the leek tops well and add to the pot.  There is no need to chop them since they will be strained out.  Cook over medium-low heat for a couple of hours.  Strain liquid from solids.  Discard solids.  At this point you could freeze the stock for future use. I refrigerate my stock overnight so that I can remove most of the fat.  A little chicken fat adds flavor but too much just makes it greasy!
Mushroom Preparation
8 cups whole mushrooms (I used a mix of white, baby bella, shitake, and oyster)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
small head of garlic

Clean mushrooms. (I use water.  Pat dry or drain well.  Kitchen snobs, deal with it!) Rough cut or slice to uniform size.  Layer on large cookie sheet and drizzle with oil.  Toss a bit to distribute oil then sprinkle with salt.  Cut head of garlic in half crosswise.  Rub cut sides in oil then turn to face upward on cookie sheet alongside mushrooms.  Roast in a 375* oven for 25 minutes until mushrooms are dark but not crisp.  Remove garlic and smoosh the soft insides out of the papery peels. Give the mushrooms another rough chop if they are bigger than you want.
Soup Preparation
 6 to 8 cups Chicken Stock
Roasted Mushrooms
Roasted Garlic
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme (Clean and strip leaves from the twig.  You can either leave the leaves whole or chop them.)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 pint heavy cream

Bring stock to the boil and add mushrooms, garlic, thyme leaves and lemon juice.  Reduce heat and simmer for about half and hour.  Remove from heat and stir in cream.  Ladle into bowls and serve with bread or crackers (I need to find some low carb croutons!)  Enjoy!

Hubby says this goes on the list to make on a regular basis :-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 24... Feet to the Fire

October is perfect for an evening around a firepit!
  Our little firepit...
I love this small flame detail that looks like an "M" for Mitchell...

Sooooo relaxed that I didn't even miss the s'mores.  Well, almost!   Maybe next time :-)


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 23 ... A Fly in the Ointment

**Note** Please notice that there is only one exclamation point used in this entire post.  I did that on purpose because it is my hope that the tone of this will be taken as subdued, not incendiary.  This is not an emotional outburst, just an observation. Oh, and try to overlook my overuse of metaphors.  I know it is a writing flaw but I like using them anyway ;-)

There is one thing that happens in October that mars its otherwise beautiful face. No, I'm not talking about Halloween.  It is much more scary than that.  Fortunately it only takes place every 4 years... the Presidential election.  Bleh.

I know, I know.  It is a necessary procedure, vital to the governing system of the United States but  why can't that happen in an ugly month?  I nominate August!  Or perhaps February.  Those are the months that we are typically begging for relief from the most extreme temperatures of their respective seasons so what's one more miserable thing?  I really dislike that this disrupts "my" month.

I happen to think that the process by which we choose our  highest governmental representatives is appalling.  I'm not talking about the voting part, that happens in November. I'm talking about the campaigning part. Grown men and women, out on the stump, delivering rehearsed speeches (written by someone else) that magnify their strengths and hide their weaknesses while doing the opposite to their opponents, and more often than not, exaggerating, manipulating and just plain lying to the people they desire to lead and represent.  Pandering to special interest groups and mollifying the masses who don't make the effort to look beyond their own whims to make even a remotely informed decision about where to cast their vote.

It happens in every political party, across the aisle, in the aisle, under the aisle.  Insults, personal attacks and all-around disgusting behavior reaches a fevered pitch in October.  So many pots calling out so many kettles for being black.  Anything to deflect our attention, hoping we won't notice their own shade of obsidian. Sometimes we become cynical enough to think that since they were fully aware of the high probability that their lives would be nit-picked apart that it is somehow okay to enjoy the massacre.

And we don't just enjoy it... we participate in it.   And because of the mass availability of technology, we don't even have to leave our homes to do it.  While the rest of the world sits back and watches this gladiatorial spectacle, we take the opportunity to get our digs in with our faceless friends, feign injury or take insult with the slightest mis-step, and then perpetuate the lies. 

We put the foot up on our lazy-boys and surround ourselves with news stations, comedian-turned-journalists, political bloggers and celebrity tweeters who spout  "facts" that most closely resemble our already formed opinions.  It is just so much more comfortable to get behind a zinger, a one-liner or deceptive quip than it is to think critically about what is actually being said. 

Even worse, we get all giddy when "the other side" is degraded by someone on "our side".  How do we not see that when we purposefully and publicly demean our leaders we weaken our entire nation in the eyes of even ourselves.  Thinking ourselves in a position of strength when we are able to cause someone else's downfall by unscrupulous means is an illusion. 

An observation of the other side of the coin... why are politicians so loathe to admit that they made a mistake, had to compromise, changed their mind?  In a day when the concept of "non-judgemental" is so prevalent there should be no need to run away from the truth of our own shortcomings.  Red herrings only make the situation worse.  Honor has been offered up on the alter of victory and is called success.

I'm not angry, although I could work myself up to being angry. I'm more... disquieted, concerned for the integrity of a nation of people (self included) whose leaders perpetuate such tactics. 


Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 22... Fringe Benefits

One of the things to do around here in summer is visit the beach. Ocean City, MD, is a very popular vacation spot for, if the traffic increase tells the whole story, people from "across the bridge", meaning from the other side of the  Chesapeake Bay Bridge... Washington, D.C., Baltimore, etc.

But this is October. Why am I talking about the beach in October? I'm glad you asked! The only time of year that I genuinely enjoy going to the beach is in fall. The summer crowds are, to me, suffocating!   That makes October the perfect time for a beach trip. Many October days are cool enough to keep the crowds away but warm enough to enjoy a stroll up and down the boardwalk.

My husband and I only make the trip to Ocean City 2 or 3 times a year but we always enjoy it. We usually spend about 2 hours walking and chatting and observing the few other humans who are taking full advantage of the season. This last trip we decided to do something we've never done before.

We had only been home from our hiking trip a few days (you can read about the trip beginning here), feet aching from the beating they took, so we rented a 2-person bicycle. Not the front and back kind but the side-by-side with a bench seat kind. We. Loved. It. It took about an hour to ride the whole length of the boardwalk and back with neither of us feeling like we were doing all the work. We were leisurely with our pace and able to talk without difficulty. So relaxing!

Here is me in our chariot... Notice the top... I kept thinking of that song from the musical Oklahoma... "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top". And it was orange, so I matched. (Yes, I do wear tops other than plain boxy t-shirts!) 

Here are some picutures I took along the way...

It was a gorgeous morning and we talked about having a picnic on the sand but by the time we were ready to eat lunch the sky had turned dark and the wind started picking up so we decided to head home. That and we were both starting to feel the discomfort that comes when you participate in a physical activity that you don't ordinarily do. I'll spare you the details because, well, frankly, it isn't all that interesting! But I will say that we were sore the next day and ibuprofen was taken every 4 to 6 hours.

Typically I would've under-appreciated this kind of day but I saw something a year or so ago that really makes me think..."The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for."  I don't know whom to credit with that quote but I'm sure glad they said it.  And I think I will just leave it at that!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 21... Simply Pleasant

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots
 may be lighted on,
 and produce so pleasant an effect
  on the feelings,
 as now in October."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

This willow tree pattern is found in many Colonial American samplers and was meant as a symbol of longevity, strength, and devotion. Such a simple pattern to express so much!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

31 Days of October: Day 20... Two For the Price of One

I hadn't intended to write a recipe post today but when I have a friend who is hosting a linky party about hospitality tips, how could I refuse?  So to kill the proverbial 2 birds with one stone, I'll feature a pumpkin recipe for my theme (October) and her theme (Hospitality).

This recipe will address 2 things that I like to do when I have people in my home for a meal. 

Tip #1... Make one thing in individual dishes.  I know that one way to a stress less menu is to serve everything family style but individual servings often make an otherwise ordinary dish seem a tiny bit special.  This recipe can be done a day or 2 ahead so it shouldn't require to much extra busyness on "the" day.  It can also be served cold as a dessert.  Win, win!

Tip #2... Do your best to accommodate special diets and food preferences.   It seems that more people have food allergies and dietary restrictions than ever!  It can be daunting to cook for someone with a lot of restrictions but it can also be fantastically rewarding.  People with severe food allergies have to live with it every day and I'm sure it can make them feel isolated from others when so many of our gatherings center around food.  I even find myself shying away from events when I am trying to stick to my eating plan like I should.  Even people who are just plain ol' picky need your hospitality, too.  Remember, hospitality is about blessing someone else!

Now to the recipe!  I try to follow a low carb diet and this is slightly higher in carbs than I would typically do but I wanted to make this suitable for someone who has a vegan/ gluten, soy and dairy-free diet.  It can be easily adjusted for my low carb needs when I make it for myself (Notice that I didn't say for my family. They tend not to like pumpkin or sweet potato dishes.  More for me!!).

I whipped up the low carb version of this a few nights ago when I realized that I didn't have a vegetable for my dinner.  The kids and grandkids were out of town and my husband wanted raw celery (I don't much care for raw celery) so I knew I'd be able to make something suited just for my tastes.  There was a little bit of pumpkin puree in the fridge (I had been experimenting with another recipe but it was a flop so you won't likely be seeing anything more about that) so I set it on the counter, stared at it, and put the taste bud part of my brain to work.

Eureka!  Pumpkin Casserole!  You know, like that overly sweet, sweet potato side dish that Icould eat out of the casserole all by myself so many people serve at their Thanksgiving feasts?  Not the marshmallow kind, the pecan crumble kind.  Yeah, that's the stuff!  Yummy, yummy but not healthy for me, so out with the sugar and in with the carb free stuff!

I'm not opposed to using artificial sweeteners but I would like to get away from using them as much as I currently do so I reached for the coconut crystals.  They are a little higher in carbs than I like but they aren't overly sweet and they have a molasses undertone that fits perfectly with this recipe.  So I mixed up a 2-serving batch of my adjusted casserole and it was quite tasty!  Of course I used real butter, egg, and heavy cream in mine but since this is about serving someone else I'll post that version at another time.  I can think of so many ways this recipe can be played with (flaked coconut, raisins, oats, sweet potatoes...)

I ate one serving warm for dinner and the other for breakfast... cold!  It had a granola-like flavor that I love!!! Yum!

I wasn't familiar with coconut crystals until someone introduced them to me a couple years ago.  They are made from dried coconut tree sap and are said to be diabetic friendly.  I use them sparingly since even they can irritate my skin (I'll explain that in another post!) 

Chia seeds are completely new to me!  This is the first time I've used them.  Ever!  They can be eaten raw or cooked, used as an egg replacer in baked goods and are loaded with fiber, Omega-3, protein, and antioxidants.  And yes, you can even make your own chia pet with them :-)

So here is my recipe that can meet both tips noted above.  Pictures follow.  Enjoy!


Pumpkin Crunch Casserole/Breakfast Pudding (vegan/GF/soy and dairy-free/reduced carb version)

2 T chia seeds
6 T water
coconut oil
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 T pumpkin pie spice
6 T coconut crystals
stevia to taste
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 C ground almonds (preferably already toasted)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 T coconut spread, melted
2/3 C coconut milk

Soak chia seeds in water for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use coconut oil to coat the inside of 6 8-ounce ramekins.  In medium bowl mix soaked chia seeds, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, coconut crystals, and vanilla.  Take a tiny taste and add stevia if you want a little more sweetness.  After everything is well incorporated, divide pumpkin mixture evenly among the 6 ramekins.
In small bowl mix ground almonds, cinnamon and coconut spread.  Sprinkle evenly over the pumpkin mix.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350* using a water bath method. When almonds are starting to  brown, remove from oven and pour coconut milk over top.  Serve warm or cold. 

Total carbs per serving... 17.25g
Fiber per serving...  6.4g
Net carbs per serving... 10.85g 


Assemble the ingredients...

Dry chia seeds...

Soaked chia seeds... for some reason the picture came out gray.  They don't look as dark as this in real life.

The pumpkin puree mix...

In the oven, waterbath method...

Out of the oven...  again, too gray.

With coconut milk...

Wanna taste it?...