Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On Food and Cooking

I was so looking forward to being able to cook for a large group on a regular basis - but I've found that I am met with a large group of rather picky eaters. So, it's been a bit discouraging to my cooking creativity. On top of that, there's not really time to capture photos of the food when you're trying to serve it up in the midst of all the other hustle and bustle of the day. Most of my best dishes from my single life were spur-of-the-moment things and I had time to go to the store to shop for just that meal. That doesn't happen much anymore. So, add all that together and I haven't been overly impressed with my cooking as of late.

However, I do live about a two minute walk from a Whole Foods and I find it sad that I'm not taking better advantage of this luxury. So, I'm going to start trying to cook myself a meal that I'm proud of at least once a month. Feel free to go find some recipe that you've been dying to try and tell me to make it - I need some inspiration!


On the former topic - I wanted to share a link to a blog entry that really encouraged me in regards to my picky eaters and feeling like my "gift" of cooking was not being appreciated:

Even God's Cooking Wasn't Good Enough

Monday, October 26, 2009

Doing what we can for justice

I've recently started using www.bookmooch.com again as a way to trade books. While browsing around for books to add to my wishlist I stumbled upon one where the "blurb" immediately caught my eye,

"Most of us care. We really do. We care about poverty and injustice, about orphans and the sick. And yet, weighed down by the everyday tasks of bringing home a paycheck, putting food on the table, and shuttling kids around, we question our ability to make a difference. Bombarded by one celebrity help-the-world-athon after another, we shrug our shoulders in futility and do absolutely nothing. . . . But what if we did. . . .Something?"

The book is She Did What She Could by Elisa Morgan. She focuses on Mark 14:3-9 and the story of a woman who pours her jar of perfume on Jesus. Some present found this extravagance wasteful and unnecessary. However, Jesus said, "She did what she could." (vs. 8) and that her story would be told in connection with the gospel throughout the world. (vs. 9). (Sidenote: there are actually two stories of women anointing Jesus in the gospel - I always thought it was just one! The other specifically calls the woman one who had a lived a sinful life and the pharisees object to her personally - not just the cost of the oil. We're talking about the first story though)


So, the book focuses on what the author feels God taught her through that story, and more specifically, through that one phrase - "She did what she could." I just want to summarize a few things that really stood out to me.


The focus on the word "what." It doesn't say she did all she could. Yes, there are biblical examples that support the "all" philosophy - where we are called to give our last cent or to keep going even when our strength is gone. But - in this case - in this instance - we don't know if she gave all. She could have - but Jesus did not make that distinction. He says "what" she could. However she arrived at that decision - it was accepted and honored. It was not less-than-enough. Her what was enough. A quote from the book: "The element of faith comes into play here. My 'what' may not look like much to me. It may seem puny. It may look like no big deal, as if it couldn't make a dent. But when I put my 'what' in Jesus' hands, it becomes enough." (56)


It's easy to get caught up in whatever your passion is regarding social justice. There are so many areas to choose. Hungry people in your community. Hungry people on another continent. Abortion. People sold into the human trafficking industry. Disease. Malnutrition. Homelessness. Poverty. The lack of clean drinking water. Genocides. Oppressive governments. Prejudices. Discrimination.

I find that sometimes I feel guilty for not having strong feelings for all of these. Yes, they are all heart-wrenching. But I sometimes feel that I only have so much empathy that I can extend. I can only seek to educate myself and the world about so much. I can only give to so many places. And, sadly, I admit, my reaction to all this overwhelming need is initially just to stop. If I can't fix it all - why try? I remember shortly after the time that Katrina hit, followed by the Tsunami in Asia, and I believe there were a few other natural disasters around the same time - I read something about how our mass communication has overwhelmed us. 50 years ago it would've taken us weeks to get that info, we may have never seen photos or heard stories, it would've taken much longer to get supplies and people to the locations to help. Now - we know about tragedy upon tragedy in real-time. We can watch live satellite feeds. Hear the stories. See the faces. Our money can be instantaneously transferred to aid organizations. We can hop on planes and make it there to help in a relatively short period of time. But, we can't do it all. So, we get overwhelmed with the need.

That is why the "She Did What She Could" idea so profoundly hit me. It's something that's been on my mind since those tragedies I mentioned above and not knowing how to help. If I just focus on what I can do - if I focus on being sensitive to exactly what my "what" is - knowing when it's my last two cents and when it's not - then I'll know I've done my part. I'll know that no matter how great or small what I could do is - that it's valued - that it's part of furthering the name of Jesus Christ. And then, I have to be ok with that. I have to not feel guilty that I couldn't do more. It's kind of simple and kind of not. Being able to help a family in need with a little bit is nice - until you feel overwhelmed that you can't fix it all. I guess it's then that I have to remember Who is in charge and have faith that he cares more than I do. That bad things happen to good people, that injustice exists, but that at the end of the day I still believe that God is more than good - and that he will see justice - his justice- delivered one way or another and that to be a part of that - I just need to do what I can.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Go shopping for me

My method of decorating tends to be "don't put anything in the room I don't love." That worked well for me - when I had an extra undecorated bedroom in which to stick all those elements I didn't love (but thought that I'd love later for another room, or they were just necessary, or they had nostalgic value.) But now that I have exactly one bedroom of personal space - personal space with provided furnishings no less - I'm having issues. It certainly has that dorm room feel to it and I'm trying not to hate that.

There's also the issue of the radiator being directly in front of the window and my fire-paranoia complicating the curtain issue.

However, here a couple of glances at my room now - and then I'm going to send you out shopping for me as my brain is having a block thanks to all those aforementioned issues.





The curtains. These hung in my old guest room - and looked much better there. Narrow window, pooling on the floor, no off-center radiator in front of the window. Ah, well. Curtains are expensive and as I can't really close the curtains or put another panel in the center (and don't tell me the radiator will be fine and the curtains won't spontaneously ignite - I won't believe you!) - new drapes are not really possible. Any other ideas? Scarf across the top? Valence over the top - though I hate valences - so find me one that works!



And the bed portion of the room. The frames on the wall are leaving. There was a third one and it fell. I'm trying to avoid putting nails in the wall - so - I'm thinking - some of that vinyl wall art that's all the rage now. Etsy search "vinyl wall decal" if you don't know what I'm talking about. I haven't found anything I'm in love with yet though. So - your job: find me wall art to go in that corner and tell me where to put it (head of bed, side wall, on the slanty attic ceiling above, etc.)

Second thing for this corner. Throw pillows for me bed that coordinate but are not matchy-matchy.


Third thing: New bedside table that will provide adequate bedside storage for lamp, book, laptop, and odds and ends but that doesn't have a crooked leg and doesn't look like that and would hopefully hide that tangle of electrical cords.


Also - an area rug to put down to cover the odd-colored/stained carpet would be awesome.


I've kind of got a butterfly with reds, browns, greens, and golds going on. Black accents.


On a positive note -my room did come with this awesome dresser and I do like how I've decorated the top of it:








It's Charlie, Moe, and Blanche! I do love these ducks. Even though they don't match my room. . .

Now, off you go. Come back with links to fabulous things that I can buy to add to my room.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wacky Cake



So I made this a long time ago, way back when I still lived at my apartment. I was looking through my photos and realized I never posted it though! It's called Wacky cake but i kind of want to call it Monster Cake as it makes a little face at one point in the prep process.





Funny story first. I was flipping through my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and reading through dessert recipes to try to find something simple to make and as I was reading their chocolate cake recipe I laughed at their note about "some recipes even called for us to make holes in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into those." They dismissed it as way too complicated. A couple years later ATK touts the brilliance of doing just that when they publish the wacky cake recipe in their Best Lost Recipes book. Amusing, no? I thought so.





Anyway. So, my Best Lost Recipes book tells me this recipe came about during WWII when people made do without rationed food. To make a cake without eggs they devised this method of mixing the ingredients in the pan so that when they poured vinegar into the pan it would react with the baking soda and give it a lift - but it has to go into the oven quickly after the reaction in order for the rise to stick. Here's the All Recipes version that's not all copyrighted by America's Test Kitchen though it looks really similar. Wacky Cake. Photos of my wacky cake journey!

You see all the dry ingredients mixed in the pan with the holes made above. Then you pour the liquids into the holes.




Pour water over the whole thing and stir.


Then you bake it comes out all normal looking like any other chocolate cake.



Dust with some powdered sugar and enjoy. Yum!


Friday, October 9, 2009

drumroll please

7 people entered with a total of 15 entries. So most of you had a pretty good chance of winning. ;-)



And the winner is...


Lauren!



Ok - so - Lauren. I don't think I have your current address. Just send that to me and I'll go tell Amazon.com to ship your cookbook to you! Happy Baking!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Here is my pumpkin bread recipe. I've made it as large loaves, small loaves, and muffins. All fabulous!

I went looking for my pumpkin bread recipe and realize it's one I found on allrecipes.com (my second favorite source of recipes because of the review feature)


Pumpkin Bread



The recipe indicates that this bread tastes better after it has been frozen and then thawed - and it's true. It's why I make big batches to thaw out throughout the year. (And why I stocked my mother's freezer full of pumpkin bread muffins before I moved. How's your stock doing, mom? :) )


Happy baking!


(Don't forget about the cookbook giveway! Deadline to enter is Friday morning!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

I've been interviewed

Check out the Women of Promise Blog. There's a short interview featuring yours truly as well as interview with other women on what God is teaching them.



(Don't forget about the cookbook giveway! Deadline to enter is Friday morning!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The blog redesign/merger party!

My friend Melody over at Creative Radiance is giving away one of her cool plarn bags. You should NOT go register to win because I want to win. But go read her blog and buy something from her etsy store anyway! :-D

And, because I think giveaways on blogs are fun and a good idea I'm going to copy Melody.

In honor of the upcoming holiday baking season I'm going to give away a copy of America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book (This is from me. ATK has no idea who I am as far as I know!)

Here’s how you enter (again, copied from Melody – I’m such a thief!)
You get one entry for a comment here telling me what you want me to write about most with my new blog merger.
You get one entry for a comment linking your twitter post that links to this post.
You get one entry for a comment linking to your blog where you link this post.

(You can put all three things in one comment if you want)

Then I'll number all the entries and put them in a random number generator and pick the winner!

Deadline to enter: Friday, October 9th by 8:00 a.m. central time. Winner will be announced by Friday evening as long as all goes according to plan.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's Pumpkin Season!


It's October - which means it's the official start of Pumpkin Season (in my mind anyway - I'm not sure if there is an official pumpkin season.)

In honor of this - I thought I'd post a few of my favorite pumpkin things (as well as a few new things that I just found for this post)


1. Dunkin Donuts pumpkin muffins. YUM.

2. My Pumpkin Bread. It's good. I'll post the recipe later as I just did a search and realized I've never posted it. I'm shocked that I haven't posted it yet- I make that non-stop in the fall.

3. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. I just tried this the other day for the first time. I was a bit worried about pumpkin in liquid form - but it was good!

4. Those clear class pumpkin bowls that everyone sets out about this time and fills it with food. (We did a lot of cheeze-its in my house growing up as they are orange. And that matters to me.) Here is one here if you don't know what I'm talking about.

5. Actual pumpkins. Everywhere. They're a food. A decor item. A craft item. Really - very functional those pumpkins!

6. The color. Particularly as I've recently discover that I look pretty good in orange.

7. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Again - yum!

8. These very autumny covered pumpkin mugs from Williams Sonoma.


9.Pumpkin Pie. Traditional. Plain. With Cool Whip. The kind that has a cream cheese layer. It's all good. (And a perfect day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast food)

10. The smell - which is probably more of a smell of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves - - but to me that smell means pumpkin - and it's heavenly.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

ahhh..I can post again

So I haven't been posting because I hated how my blog looked and I didn't want to bring people here by writing a new post.

But, NOW - usn't it pretty? Blog design via Simply Yours Designs.

Now I can start posting again and not be ashamed of my blog ;-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Note for Bakers

Yesterday I made banana bread. Yum! (America's Test Kitchen wins again with their recipe. You all really should buy their cookbooks. Maybe I'll do a give-away again. That would be a good pre-holiday cooking giveaway. Hmmm..watch for one!) I didn't have an loaf pans but did have a tube cake pan. My google-search for how to convert cooking time didn't turn up much - so here's my public service announcement for bakers everywhere.


A recipe that makes one loaf converted to a tube cake pan.


Double the recipe, increase cooking time by 1.5 (If it's directed to cook for an hour - cook for an hour and a half)


Please note these results are not scientific and your recipe could be different - but - there's a starting point!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tessarae

In a creative wirting course in college I was assigned reading from a collection of short stories by Denise Levertov entitled Tessarae. With apologies to Ms. Levertov I do not recall any of the stories – but I do recall the title. Tessarae is the plural form of tessara which is a small piece of tile used to create a mosaic. The analogous jump to moments of our lives being tessarae is not a hard one and it is one that has stuck with me all these years. I coupled this word together with a quote I kept inside my Bible from D.l. Moody – “God can do great things with broken pieces, provided he gets all the pieces.”

In my life – those broken pieces came about in much the same way they do for many people – dreams and hopes that go unfulfilled because of lies, betrayals, and our own mistakes. For a number of years all I could see was the tessarae. The broken pieces with their sharp edges scattered about in a fashion that just looked they were trash. Pieces that reminded me of what they were before they were broken. Pieces that reminded me of how they were broken. My head knew the truth of the Moody quote. My eyes had seen the beauty of mosaics. I didn’t want a mosaic though – I just wanted the original – before it was broken.

Over the past year or so though I’ve started to see the mosaic take place. It’s not just the career change. It’s not just the new location. It started long before that. I’m beginning to see how the pieces are being re-shaped into something new. How brokenness becomes beauty. And, there are still pieces that I don’t want to surrender to the Artist. Still pieces that I wish I could see in their original form despite how much I know that original form was flawed and cracked from the beginning. Some days I’m good at letting him have the pieces. Some days I am futilely trying to put them all back together myself. The recent move actually seems to make me do more of the latter – if I had my guess into my inner psyche I’d say I’m trying to hold on to something familiar. Even if familiar isn’t what is best. The Spirit in me tells me this is all part of equipping me to offer authentic mashena and that gives me joy because now I know the intricate mosaic is so much more beautiful than any of the original pieces.

(and just as an end disclaimer – I always feel like these types of entries make me sound sad. I’m not sad. Just thoughtful. No worries!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

mashena

Over a year ago I ran across the word “mashena” – I think I was looking through name websites trying to help my mother find a name for her dog or something or other. As soon as I saw this name/word though and its meaning I knew it was “my word”

Mashena is Hebrew. (And I’ve always had a fascination with all things Hebrew) It means: Welcome, stability, a place of rest.

This word has become my motto, my goal, my prayer, my hope, my purpose. It fits so perfectly into many of the interests and gifts that God has given me.

One of my favorite verses has always been the one from Micah that says, “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.”

I believe that is how I should live out “mashena” in my life – no matter what my life circumstances are. To seek justice (which often means refuge for the oppressed rather than judgment of the wicket – though it means that as well.), to love mercy, to provide that “welcome” and “rest”, for people. And I can do all this – I can seek to make my life one that offers stability, rest, and welcome by being humble – by understanding that I am capable of any fall and that the only reason my life does not have some of the trials we like to judge others for is of no doing or superiority of mine.

So, after a couple years of a blog called “The Single Domestic” – I’ve decided to transition to something a bit more broad. For those that have followed from that former blog – you’ll still find recipes and decor stuff here -because that is all about “welcome” and “rest” in my heart. But there will be more – things about justice and mercy and stability – whatever form that takes in my life on any given day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

31: Justice

Psalm 5-34

I recently had a discussion on a message board about "justice" so as I was reading the first few psalms the term justice popped out at me.


Psalm 9: 7-10

The LORD reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He will judge the world in righteousness;
he will govern the peoples with justice.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.



Justice = refuge for the oppressed.


later in vs. 15-16:

The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.



Justice = the wicked reap what they sow. (I think it's important to note here that it's not just "You all suffer from your mistakes" but that the wicked reap what they sow in connection to judgment. I mean - yes, we all obviously bear the consequences of our actions - but the "ensnaring" mentioned here connected to God's justice mentions the wicked.


11:5-7


The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence
his soul hates.
On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.
For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.



Again, the harsh "judgment" against the wicked. But - "justice" is still connected to the righteous seeing his face.



I could be totally off base - but I think in the past most people would've assumed "justice" meant the harsh judgment for those who have done wrong. I think we've flipped to the other side - where most people see "justice" as the "refuge for the oppressed" with the number of "justice causes" that have sprung up in the past few years - especially within the church and religious organizations. Obviously - both are correct. I've got a heart for the latter - but it's done me well to be reminded that Justice is more than just that refuge - that there is judgment involved.


And - I don't always know the difference between the wicked and the oppressed. I hate to be all pop culture - but since he was all over the news - Michael Jackson comes to mind. Wicked or oppressed? My heart feels like it's the latter - but - I certainly don't know. I think that in the absence of that knowledge - it's always best to err on the side of being a refuge rather than bringing judgment - because we're also told to "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly" - the mercy and humility part seems to suggest that as fallible humans we should err on that side. While, at the same time, recognizing - that sometimes it is time for the wicked to become ensnared by the traps they have set - and that no amount of mercy or humility can change that.


I rambled a lot there - but hopefully something made sense. :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

30/40+: Slaves in the Promised Land

Ezra - Psalm 4


Text: Nehemiah 9


(side note: every time I see the name "Nehemiah" I start singing a song from a church musical when I was a kid "O me! O My! O Nehemiah look what we have done! The walls are down the gates are broke oh. . hum de hum dum hum...." yeah. That's all I remember. I DO however have this musical to thank for teaching me about Nehemiah re-building the walls of Jerusalem.)


Anyway. I feel a bit like a broken record but the Israelites keep pointing this out about themselves and every time my heart just breaks. In Chapter 9 the Israelites are standing "in their places and confess[ing] their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day and spent another quarter in confession and in worship of their Lord their God." (2-3)

As they do this they remember their past. There was no Bible to carry around those days - so they often repeated their history. My years as an English teacher taught me that repetition has a rather strong literary effect - and God certainly employs it. Just in case you missed it before - one more time let's see just what these Israelites have been up to:

Verses 5-15 describe all the amazing things God did for them - how God made a name for himself (10). (That seems to be one of the big themes God is showing me in this speed read - that God made a name for himself and it's A Big Deal)

And, of course, the Israelites "failed to remember the miracles [God] performed among them" (17).

They went back and forth - At one time they "reveled in [his] great goodness" (25) but "as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was even in [his] sight" (28).

Yet -even with all this unfaithfulness from the Israelites - we get this:

"our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love. . . n all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong... Even while [our kings] were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

But, see, we are staves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat it's fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, it's abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress." (32-37)


Now, if I was God I'd say, "hold on..the kings I placed over you? I seem to recall you begging me for those kings so you could be like those around you? Those are of your asking as well!" (Though I know God did anoint and appoint kings)


That last part is just so sad to me. Living in the promised land - and the promised land is doing exactly as was promised - producing abundant fruit. Yet, the people do not get the benefit of the promise - they're there - but the fruit goes to the king and they are slaves in the land because of their sin.


Living as a slave in a promised land. Just because you're somewhere God wants you to be doesn't mean you're exempt from making mistakes or suffering consequences of your actions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

24/40+: Boldness

Text: 2 Kings - 2 Chronicles (Yes - I changed it to 40+. It's looking doubtful that I'll make it in 40. I'm going to try not to beat myself up for that :-p )

My last entry said 2 Corinthians was repetitive - I meant Chronicles. ;-). Sorry!

Here's a passage from that repetitive book though from the Message paraphrase. (I occasionally read a chapter or two from that book when my interest is failing.)

2 Chronicles 6:18-21, 36-42.

[Solomon is speaking]

Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn't large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I've built. Even so, I'm bold to ask: Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O God, my God. Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I'm setting before you right now. Keep your eyes open to this Temple day and night, this place you promised to dignify with your Name. And listen to the prayers that I pray in this place. And listen to your people Israel when they pray at this place

. . .

When they sin against you—and they certainly will; there's no one without sin!—and in anger you turn them over to the enemy and they are taken captive to the enemy's land, whether far or near, but repent in the country of their captivity and pray with changed hearts in their exile, "We've sinned; we've done wrong; we've been most wicked," and turn back to you heart and soul in the land of the enemy who conquered them, and pray to you toward their homeland, the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you chose, and this Temple I have built to the honor of your Name,
Listen from your home in heaven
to their prayers desperate and devout;
Do what is best for them.
Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

And now, dear God, be alert and attentive to prayer, all prayer, offered in this place.

Up, God, enjoy your new place of quiet repose,
you and your mighty covenant Chest;
Dress your priests up in salvation clothes,
let your holy people celebrate goodness.
And don't, God, back out on your anointed ones,
keep in mind the love promised to David your servant.


One recurring theme to me is just . . . that "faith in yourself" idea. In a way that is far far different from the self-empowerment people talk about today. I guess it's more of an understanding of who God is that makes you understand who you are - and it gives you confidence to act according to how he designed you. I mean - it sounds like Solomon is kind of ordering God around in a way that our moder sensibilities gasp at his audacity - but he does it because he believes it. He really believes that God promised all of those things - that they are his to claim. He believes that God honors his promises - and therefore all he is really doing is reminding himself of God's promises.

It's a boldness that I admire that I've seen in the people who have popped up in the pages of scripture. I don't feel like I can quite put into words just what kind of trait it is I see in them - because boldness isn't exactly right - but hopefully a few of you can see it too through the scripture passages I've pulled out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Domestic Break 15/40: Even Solomon

I spent a couple of hours sitting in the waiting room at the mechanic's today and that gave me plenty of time to start getting caught up on my reading! Still three days behind - but now that moving phase one is behind me I should hopefully be able to make that up. :)


Text: 2 Samuel and 1 Kings:

The thoughts from my "We Want What We Want" entry have been on my mind a lot. So, when I came across this verse about King Solomon it struck me:

1 Kings 10:23-24; 11:1-6


King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift . . .
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter - Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sionians, and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, "you must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. . . As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.




I just shook my head and said, "Even Solomon."

Solomon has always been one of my biblical heroes. One of the earliest Bible stories I remember hearing was about how Solomon prayed for wisdom - not strength or riches - and God granted him that wisdom. Since then - wisdom is something I too have desired.

There are choices I’ve made that make me extremely angry with myself because I feel like that I wasted that gift of wisdom that God did indeed give me. Like Solomon, I too "held fast to [my choices]."

To see that even the great and wise Solomon fell victim to demanding his own desires over God's best is a bit reassuring to me. I guess somewhere in the back of my brain I assume an arrogance that I'm the first person to make foolish choices who knew better. haha. but - no - nothing new under the sun.

Even Solomon sinned. Even Solomon did things that were expressly forbidden by God. Even Solomon had his devotion turned away.


However- unlike Solomon - I don't want the end of my life to be recorded as "So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord, he did not follow the Lord completely."

Or, to put it another way:

"I don't want to go through life asking, "What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?" (Matthew West song)

Friday, June 26, 2009

9/40: We Want What We Want

How's that for some alliteration? ;-)

This is yesterday's post.

1 Samuel.

The Kings of Israel were not God's idea. He set up a system of Judges. However, when Samuel's sons were grown they did not walk in the ways of the LORD and the people of Israel asked for a king. they're reasoning: because that's what all the other nations did. (8:5)

The first time I remember learning about the fact that the Israelites asked for a king was in the fall of 2003. I was reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot and she included a letter from a reader that asked her something along the lines of "Is it wrong for a single woman to desire a husband like all of her friends around her? Is that along the lines of Israel demanding a king when they had God?"

God tells Samuel to warn the Israelites what will happen if they have a king:

"This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons . . . He will take your daughters. . . He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves . . . He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage . . .Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day." (8:11-18)

Ok - so - fairly convincing evidence that you don't want a king, right? I mean - we've got a God who shows up in pillars of ire and clouds and talks to his prophets through burning bushes and audible voices - that sounds better than this king. So how do the Israelites respond?

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." (8:19-20)

those two verses are perfect "sermon outline ready" verses. Let's see -

I. Refusal to Listen
II. It's all about what they want.
III. Comparing themselves to those around them.
A. Quick refresher: the other people - are NOT the chosen ones of God
B. They've been repeatedly told to have nothing to do with the majority of the people around them.
IV. They say want a leader.
A. They already have a leader - God.
B. God has also given them prophets and judges.
C. I sense discontentment.
V. To fight their battles
A. God's already said he'd do that
B. He's Proven it.
1. Red Sea anyone?
2. Walls tumbling down?
3. I could go on

But - God give them their king. Saul.

Like the woman who was asking if demanding a husband was similar to this - there are many other things in our lives where we demand of God some thing - - something to fight out battles, to lead and guide us, to make us like the people around us. We've been told of the consequences of these things - the consequences of a life-consuming job, of a unhealthy relationship, of a lifestyle beyond our means. But somehow we manage to not listen to the warnings. And - God gives us over to our desires - he lets us have that think that we are desiring for all the wrong reasons. And in the end - "we cry out for relief from the king we've chosen."

I've been there, done that. Had things I thought I wanted take from me more than I realized they would. I have lived with the consequences of kings I have demanded from God. Hopefully I am learning to be a better listener to the warnings around me and to remember that God has promised to be my leader and to fight my battles and that I don't need to be like anyone around me.

*disclaimer: I am not saying that jobs/relationships/nice things are inherently bad obviously. It's all about the motivation for having them and how you view them :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

8/40: All The Little Pieces

Judges-Ruth

I love looking at life like a puzzle. That there are all these little pieces and you've got to be doing the right thing at the right time to get the right pieces to make it all work.

One thing I love about the Old Testament focusing on one (although one LARGE) family is that I get to see the puzzle coming together.

The Israelites wandered around the desert for a long time. Finally - finally they got to send spies into the promised land - and once they got in there a woman named Rahab hid those spies. Because of her kindness to the people of God her life was spared when the Israelites took the city.

She went on to marry a man named Salmon.

Different story. A woman looses all three of her sons. She sends her daughters-in-law off to live out their lives and she's going to return to her people. One of the daughters doesn't go though. Ruth decides to follow Naomi back to her homeland. She does a little wheat gathering and sleeping at the feet of a man named Boaz and he likes that and marries her as her "kinsman-redeemer" (side note: love that phrase!)

Now - Boaz - is the son of Rahab and Salmon.

Boaz and Ruth - they have a son named Obed. Who has a son named Jesse.

And Jesse - - Jesse has a son named David.

40 years of wandering so that a prostitute would be in the promised land offering a hiding place.

The death of sons so that a woman would follow her mother-in-law to her homeland.

I like the glimpses of the big picture we get :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

6-7/40: We Can Do It!

I do thank you for your continued indulgence in my domestic break here :)

Deut 14-Joshua 24

I'm going to be cliché and pick the last chapter of Joshua as my topic for my reflection. This is where he gives the "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord" speech. (Side note: When I was in 6th grade we made a little plaque with that Bible verse on it at VBS. It was one of my favorite projects ever I do believe :) )

However, I want to focus on a different part of the chapter. Actually - the part right after Joshua says that to the people.

Now these are the Israelites. The "we're tired of manna!", "We're just tired!" , "Hey, let's make a golden cow!", and "The people in the promised land are big and scary!" Israelites. (Granted - I'll cut them some slack because I see so much of myself in those statements.) So - after Joshua's statement they say, "Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great sings before our eyes . . .We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God."

And Joseph says, "Uh..no you won't." (Actual text: "You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.")

They say, "No! We will serve the Lord!"

Joshua: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord."


So - the Israelites have renewed faith in themselves that they're going to trust God this time - they're going to serve him. They're going to follow his commands - and they choose to serve the Lord - and to remember the work He has done in their lives and the lives of their parents.

They threw away their foreign Gods and they chose God.

Now - over the next few hundred years they're going to mess up again and there will be prophets that express the weeping sadness of God over His Israel. But I kind of love Israel at this moment. "Yeah. We know we've screwed up. We know we're tempted to wander. But, really, what we want - we want to serve the Lord."


I so get that. The unshakeable faith in yourself that you can do this. That this time it's going to work - that you're really going to ignore all the other idols and you're going to serve God even when you think it was better in Egypt and even when you're tired of the manna and even when the things He's asking of you look scary - somewhere deep in your heart and in your soul you believe enough in the power of God and the gifts he's given you that you're going to serve Him.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Domestic Break 5/40: Moses is Pretty Cool

Numbers 1 - Deuteronomy 13


Well, I cheated a bit. I downloaded the audio file of Numbers from The Bible Experience on iTunes and listened to Numbers rather than read it. I really like The Bible Experience - they've got background sound effects and different people reading the different characters and emotions in the voices and such.


So now I'm all caught up on yesterday and today's reading.


Anwho - thoughts on Numbers.


I love Moses. Seriously. I've never noticed before how often he "talks back to" God. God will say "I'm going to do this!" and Moses will say, "Uh. What if you did this instead?" It's kind of funny.


A few examples:


Numbers 11


The Israelites are being their whiny selves (oh how I see me in them!) and complaining about the food (manna, manna, everywhere!) and how at least in Egypt they had fish and saying that God just brought them out to the dessert to die!


This makes God rather angry. Moses prayed. God didn't destroy them. They started complaining again. God gets angry again. And here is where I literally laughed out loud at what Moses said to God.


In summary he says: "What did I do to deserve the burden of these people? I'm not their dad! They keep whining to me. If this is what I have to put up with to be their leader then just go ahead and kill me, God!


Moses is so fed up. I love it. He's so human. And - for whatever reason - he gets away with doing a little "whining" to God. God describes Moses as a friend to whom he speaks face-to-face. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that Moses doesn't seem afraid to question God. He is totally ok getting mad at God - but he always waits for an answer - which I think is the key. The Israelites assume they have the answer and that God has forgotten them - Moses waits for God to answer. And - Moses speaks directly to God. The Israelites complain through Moses - they aren't going straight to God.


And God, once again. shows mercy and doesn't destroy the ungrateful Israelites. He gives them meat. An entire month of ravens. They'll have ravens "until it comes out of [their] nostrils and [they] loathe it" (11:19). Looks like Moses isn't the only one fed up! It does show a precedent though for God's allowance for our free will/free desire I think. He gives them meat here - later he'll give them a king that they demand. I wonder how many things in my life I was given simply because I kept demanding it of God - only to have them turn out less-than-perfect.

A bit later in the book Moses sends out spies into what is the Promised Land to get a report. They come back and many report that the land is full of people stronger than they are - that there is no way they can take the land. The Israelites once again begin their complaining. This once again brings on God's anger. He says he's going to strike the Israelites with a plague.

Everyone but Moses. He'll start over with Moses. (14:12) And, Moses, once again petitions God with words that would get him labeled a heretic by many proper Christians: "Then the Egyptians will hear about it! . . .They will tell the inhabitants of the land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have seen them face to face . . . If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 'The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert."


I mean. seriously. I love Moses. I can just kind of picture him going, "Now, Lord. This is not a very good PR move. I mean - people get wind of the fact that you promised these folks a promised land and then killed them all before they got there. . . well - they're gonna say you couldn't do it. I mean - we both know it's because their whining is just non stop - but - well, those other people - they aren't going to think you're powerful." And the best part? God listens. He doesn't destroy them. He sentences them to more time in the desert for their disbelief - but he doesn't destroy them.


If you look at Moses' reasoning with God - it all comes back to that central point: It's about God's glory. It's about His name being made great among all the nations of the Earth. That's the purpose of it all.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Domestic Break 4/40: All Night Long

I'm behind. I should be on Numbers 5 and I'm on Leviticus 8. Catch up later I guess! It's been a busy day! (moving and father's day activities)


I did want to share one of my all-time favorite passages from Leviticus 6 though.

Verses 12 and 13:
The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.


I tend to think in metaphors and allegories. My brain automatically jumps to the command in Romans 12 that we are to be living sacrifices whenever I read this passage. Every morning we should add fuel to our fire. Every morning we should "arrange" our offering (going with the metaphor - to me that means kind of evaluating myself - looking at my life - where there needs to be change). This fire should not go out. Of course - my fire has gone out more times than I can count in my life - which has only served to reiterate the importance of it not going out.


A few days before I started this 40 day journey I also started reading The Gospel According To Moses: What My Jewish Friends Taught Me About Jesus by Athol Dickson. It's been interesting to read what is (so far) a commentary on the Old Testament while also reading the Old Testament. The book is written by a protestant after he was invited to attend a scripture study that met weekly at a Temple by a Jewish friend - it's the things he learned/insights he gained through listening to the very-Jewish practice of questioning the scriptures.

Here are a few quotes I read today that popped out to me in regards to some of my recent comments about how God's choices and actions don't always make sense to me. These are from a chapter titled "God In Chains" which discusses the idea of God limiting himself so that we may have free will. It also addresses the issue of justice/holiness vs. love/compassion/mercy


"Like Pontius Pilate asking, 'What is truth?' I am sometimes tempted to gauge justice on the scale of my self-interest. Anticipating this, the Torah's definition of justice reveals an uncompromising requirement of absolute balance between wrongs and redress, but first it warns me not to confuse justice with emotion." (goes on to quote Deut 19:21)

"Humanity's violence has caused people of all religions to curse God from time to time for refusing to remove evil from the earth. Yet we object to floods."

"Having demonstrated what would happen if he enforced strict justice on the earth, God now takes the next step. He voluntarily enters into a covenant with humanity and seals it with a promise not to impose perfect justice on earth, but to find another path."

"Tragedy is the fertile soil of miracles. I cannot recall a single miracle in the Torah that does not involve affliction. . . It seems the way to deal with the evil of the world is not to pretend to go around it, but to plunge right through."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Domestic Break 3/40: Significant Creativity

Exodus 13-Leviticus 1

The end of Exodus has a LOT of details about the Tabernacle and the wardrobe of the priests.
The most interesting person to me in the last part of Exodus is a guy named Bezalel.
Here's what is said of Bezalel:

"See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood an to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled with with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, desingers, embroiders . . . . So Bezalel, Oholiab, and ever skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are do to the work just as the Lord has commanded."
(35:30-36:1)

I love that God spends a good portion of scripture emphasizing the importance of art and creativity - that it is not a fruitless skill - and that it has significance. You all know I love interior decorating and cooking and being creative and all that. It's easy to think that those things don't matter - but it's nice when God reminds me that He gave me the interests, skills, and abilities that he did for a reason -and that there is a purpose for them.

Oh - and to top it all off - Bezalel is of the tribe of Judah. Which - is just cool I think :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Domestic Break 2/40: Egypt and God's Name

Genesis 29 - Exodus 12


In Genesis 46 Jacob is travelling to Egypt with 11 of his sons to be with Joseph because of the famine in the land and Joseph has the ability to provide for his family in Egypt. This means Israel is leaving the land of Abraham and Isaac that was given to them by God to go somewhere else. God tells Jacob, "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again."


If Jacob and his family had stayed in the land of his father’s they would have died from the famine that would last 5 more years. However, as people who know the rest of the story - we know that this journey to Egypt is not going to be a short or pleasant one. The Israelites will remain in Egypt for over 400 years before God brings them out. In that time Joseph will die and the favor he knew from the Pharaoh with him. The Israelites will become an enslaved and oppressed people in Egypt. However, they will also greatly increase in number. They'll become like grains of sand or the stars in the sky if you will.


My question as I read the passage in Genesis 46 was, "Why send them to a place where they sill suffer generations of slavery?" And God answered that question by showing me these verses:
Ex 6:6-7 "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God!"


Ex 9:16 (In reference to the plagues on Egypt and the Pharaoh) "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you m y power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."


Ex 10:1-2 "I have hardened [Pharaoh’s] heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my sings among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."


And then - the plan all along - the final plague was the killing of the firstborn except for the houses which were covered in the blood of a lamb.


It's all about His glory. It's all about making sure that the Israelites know exactly who their God is. They need to understand that He is great and powerful. That He loves them and will protect them. My modern self finds it hard to stop from going, "But, God, surely there was a nicer way you could've done that!" But at times I just need to accept that this powerful God who sends plagues is my God. If they had never went to Egypt - they would never have seen that type of power from God. And of course- the plagues is just God getting started. There's a sea to cross, bread from heaven, pillars of fire, and crumbling walls up ahead. These are stories that will form the foundation of the Jewish faith. Intermingled in these are prophecies of a coming messiah - and illustration for just what that messiah will do. Freedom from an outstretched arm. Safety under the blood of a pure and sacrificial lamb.


The attribute of God that I've been most connected to over the past couple of years is God as a poet. Someone who sees symbolism and metaphor and has the ability to weave a tale with small details that make all the difference. As much I don't understand certain ways and decisions of how God formed and taught the nation of Israel - there's so much I do get about it. About why it had to be that way - about how it all serves a purpose to illustrate the need for and the coming of the Messiah.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Short Break From Things Domestic

I'm attempting to undertake the challenge of reading the Bible through in 40 days. I've got the time and it's been years since I've read it straight through -so it's something I'd like to do. I'm on summer break before my life transitions to a new job and a new state and it just seems like a good time to do such a thing.

So - I thought I'd post some reflections on my daily readings here. No guarantee they'll show up everyday - but hopefully most days.

I do apologize if you'd rather see recipes and such - check back in August for tales of my domesticity. :)

And here is Day One:

Rather than dividing the number of chapters in the Bible by 40 I divided the number of pages in my particular Bible by 40. (Because things like Psalm 119 exist) That puts me at roughly 60 pages a day of reading.

Today: Genesis 1-28

When it's time to find Isaac a wife Abraham sends his servant off to look for the right girl. The servant asks God to show him the right girl by having the "one" offer to water his camels when he asks for a drink. Along comes pretty Rebekah who does just that. They exchange a few rings and things and she's off for a camel ride across the dessert to meet and marry Isaac.

No questions asked. She's nice to camels. She's the one.

Seems like a pretty straight-forward "Thanks for the easy decision, God!" situation.

Fast-forward a few years. Isaac and Rebekah welcomed two sons into the world. Twins. Esau and Jacob. Dad picks E. Rebekah is a fan of J. Esau is the first born though - he's suppose to get all of the blessings and inheritance and all that jazz. This does not make Rebekah happy - so she aids her favorite son in tricking his father into giving him the blessing.

I mean - Jacob is the one that God chose. The one who would become Israel. The one who would have twelve sons that would become the twelve tribes. He's important. But - I don't know. I always get stuck on this story. Perhaps it's my rule-following side. Not getting why Esau, the firstborn, was denied the blessing. I mean - he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup - but Jacob was deceitful. It's not like Jacob was the stellar example of everything a man of God should be. And his camel-watering, chosen-by-God, mother was right there - helping him in the deceit.
It's a choice that seems off to me. I mean - I could come up with a million "answers" - about God being a God that breaks social rules. About God using even things meant for evil. About God filling the lineage of Jesus with people of shady character so we'd all know we'd fit in. About God just being God and we don't have to know the answers - but it just bugs me! And, well, I'm just going to leave it at that for now.



(My writing tends to assume a certain familiarity with the stories discussed. If you're unfamiliar check out Genesis 24-27 for more details.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes

I've been a very neglectful blogger. I do apologize.

Here's a post!


This is a great summer taste. Roasted Tomatoes. I used cherry tomatoes - you could probably do whatever.


First you cut the tomatoes in half and then scoop out the seeds and juice.


Put those on a rimmed baking sheet (I line it with foil first - easy clean-up!) - sprinkle with salt, pepper, and olive oil.



Stick 'em in a really hot oven (about 400-450) and let them cook for about twenty minutes on the center rack- just keep an eye on them - they should start to brown - and they'll smell heavenly!


Yum! Go ahead and pop a couple in your mouth - the flavor is lovely!
Then mix them into whatever. I mixed them into Penna Pasta with grilled chicken and feta cheese.



Enjoy!






Monday, April 27, 2009

Carrot (Juice) Cake

The other week I was participating in one of my favorite summer activities - yard-saling - and I found a great find! Brand new, in the box, Hamilton Beach Juicer for $10. The manual had a 1999 date on it - but it works great and had never been used. So, I can juice like it's 1999.

So, of course I came home and washed it up and no fruit or veggie in my kitchen was safe from being grated to a pulp.



Thing I discovered by accident: juicing frozen fruit gives you a really nice frozen drink like concoction on the "pulp" side of the juicer - but makes the engine make unpleasant sounds.

I also thought I'd try out one of the recipes included the juicer manual: Carrot Cake

You juice about 6 carrots. Enough to give you 1/2 cup of juice and 1 1/2 cups of "pulp". I just love watching the juice come out - such fun! (ok, I'm odd)



And the pulp side. . .

Now, set that off to the side and heat your oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch baking dish.
In a small bowl mix: 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt.
In a medium bowl mix: 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup veg oil
Add flour mixture, carrot juice, and carrot pulp alternately to the egg mixture.
Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla.
Pour in prepared baking dish. Bake 35-40 minutes.




I whipped up some cream cheese frosting to top it all off - very yum! (and totally healthy - it's made out of carrots!)

Anybody have a favorite juicer recipe?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

This is the dessert I made for Easter - and I was finally able to use the mini trifle dishes I received as a Christmas present.

Ingredients:

Strawberries (I kept some quartered and then mashed some)
Some kind of cake (I used pound cake)
Whip Cream

And then all you do is layer them in the Trifle dishes.



I put the quartered strawberries around the outside and filled the center with a bit of whip cream and the mashed strawberries.

Then cake, then cream, then more berries!




Thursday, April 23, 2009

Favorite Things: Cup o' Tea

More often than not lately it seems that it's been raining on the weekends. I decided to embrace the weather and put to use a gift from my secret pal at work.

I received a Loose Leaf Tea Brewing Basket and a can of Organic Orange Blossom Green Tea.

I had never had loose leaf tea before - but it is so good! I feel very sophisticated drinking loose leaf tea too - so that's always fun. ;-) The brewing basket I have is for use with a single coffee mug and the handles are designed so the basket will hang on the edge of the mug. It's very simple to use - you just put in a tsp of the leaves, pour in hot water, put on the lid, and let it steep for a few minutes.



One particular Saturday in the midst of stressful weeks at work I opened the windows so I could hear the rain and my wind chimes and drank hot tea while reading a great book. (David Baldacci's Wish You Well)

A couple of my students asked me on the next Monday what I did over the weekend - and I told them about my rainy day with tea and a book - and they thought that hysterical of course and have asked me every Friday since if I'm going to be making tea that weekend. However, it really is a great way to relax. So, I suggest you get yourself some loose leaf tea and prepare for the next rainy day you're trapped inside. Let the teenagers make fun of you - one day they'll understand the beauty of a quiet day with rain, tea, and a book. :-)



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fun Accessories

I was at a thrift store the other week and found these fun book ends for $3!

At the moment there is not room on my bookshelves for actual bookends - so they're more of decorative accessories - but eventually they will hold up books!


I went and did some googling to find other fun bookends. Here's what I came up with! (I couldn't find mine online anywhere.)
Quote Unquote Bookends - LOVE these. Rather more pricey than my $3 find though. . .
Fish Bowl Bookends - I mean, really, how cool are these? If I didn't think my psychotic cats would eat the fish I'd totally get these!
Book End Bookends - for Captain Obvious
Bean Bags as Bookends - seems like a fun idea!
License Plates Bookends - I certainly see license plate decor everywhere. Not my style but perhaps one of you would like it.
Old Records Bookends - reduce, reuse, recyle, and all that. This would be great if someone had a music/book room.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Favorite Things: Furniture Repair

It's spring break for me and I'm working on a rather lengthy spring-cleaning list. One of the items on the list was furniture repair. My coffee and end tables have been the victims of a few scratches over the past couple of years. However! I've found a lovely cheap fix that actually works! All you need is the marker and a clean soft cloth. If you try this for yourself - make sure you immediately wipe the area you color to get rid of the excess ink - otherwise you may end up with an ink blotch on your furniture.

Furniture markers. They sound like one of those late-night infomercial products - but they do work (mostly).

If you're scrutinizing the table for scratches you will still see them - but scratches that are obvious from the sofa will be no more!

Here are some before/after pics to show you how it works:



(Those first scratches are thanks to cats sliding across the furniture and the latter ones are thanks to a laptop being pulled on and off the table.)
Here is the kit I have - available on Amazon.com: Guardsman Touch-Up Pens They come in three shades - though I've noticed other kits that contain more shades.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

adoption update

I can't believe I haven't updated regarding adoption in this long - well, I can - life has been busy!

I took my own advice though to stop trying to figure everything out now though since I know that I won't start the process for at least a couple of years. I've become more interested in doing a domestic foster-adopt - though I haven't done any research on that at all except to talk to a couple of people I know who have gone that route.

It's been a little over a year since I started researching the process. Last year at this time I was sneaking time to read The Complete Guide to International Adoption any chance I got.

I don't have much to say - since I know it's not time for me to start yet I've just kind of been saving money and dreaming and trying not to get my heart set on a country once again - I just wanted to drop in and say hello to anyone who actually reads this.

Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Pizza

Here I am finally with the much-anticipated Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Pizza. Again, we were just playing so there are no measurements - but here's what we did! I'm just going to guess on amounts - I know it was all about equal amounts of stuff plus ranch dressing.

Mix: (this was for a small 8" pizza)


About 3-4 Tbs Feta Cheese (I used basil and tomato flavored)

About 3-4 Tbs finely shredded Mozzarella/Provolone cheese

About 2-3 Tbs chopped bacon

Enough ranch dressing to make it saucy


Spread on pizza crust


Top with grilled chicken


Sprinkle on a bit more mozzarella/provolone


Bake according to pizza crust directions.




Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Dinner Ideas

My parents are coming over for Easter dinner and I need a menu!

Traditional in my family is ham, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, and devilled eggs. However, I'm not a big fan of ham and I like to mix things up - so I need menu ideas!

I'm thinking some kind of roast chicken (mother's suggestion and I did that last year and it was good)

or -being really different and doing Roast Lamb Leg (this recipe: Lamb with Greens and Feta ) However, I have never cooked lamb before and I don't even know if a local grocer carries it!

Any other main dish suggestions?

Then I'll do some green vegetable, some potato side, and a fruit side - but, again, I'm uninspired.

The one thing I DO know? So making Grandmama's Chocolate Layer Cake for dessert.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How I Get Away With Shopping Once a Month

A number of you expressed surprised after I mentioned my monthly grocery shopping trip - especially in regards to produce.

These wonders definitely fall under my "favorite things" category.

Tupperware's FridgeSmart Containers. Seriously, they're amazing. Veggies, fruits, and even potatoes last longer in these things and stay fresh!



I hosted a tupperware party last year and earned myself a set of 8 of these - and I absolutely love them. When I had a CSA last year they were so helpful! Speaking of the CSA - I waited too late to sign up this year and missed out. So, my plan is to make the weekly Saturday morning trip to a Farmer's Market in a town over - I'm hoping I will find some good deals there!

I am trying a new budget plan this month which will have me shopping every week rather than once a month - so we'll see how that goes! This week's grocery trip's "big meal" was a variety of home-made pizzas that I made with a friend for a movie night - one of them turned out FABULOUSLY! I'll get pictures and a sort-of-recipe up soon (we didn't measure - but I'll give you estimates and tell you what we did.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stuffed French Toast

Sorry for the silence. Life has been busy around here! Plus, on my monthly grocery shopping day I got sick and you wouldn't believe how difficult it was to work in another grocery shopping day this month. Sheesh! So, the menu has been, uhm, uncreative, to say the least. However, I have done a few worthwhile domestic things.

Here's a Saturday morning treat that I enjoyed the other week:

The first time I made this I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen - and, I didn't think I'd ever say this, but I figured I could improve upon the one they had and indeed I did (in my opinion anyway.) Theirs was a bit too time-consuming for french toast - and too sweet.

So, here's my version:

very lightly toast two slices of bread.

In a small bowl mix together 2 tbs cream cheese with a dash of cinnamon. Spread cream cheese mixture on one slice of bread - put the other on top to create a sandwich.

In a large flat bowl (big enough for a slice of bread) mix: one egg, one Tbs flour, one Tbs water, dash of cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg. Soak "sandwich" in egg mixture - about a minute on each side.

In a skillet melt 1 tbs butter over med heat. Remove toast from egg mixture - let excess drip off - fry sandwich on each side until brown. (about 1-2 minutes per side)

Serve with butter, real maple syrup (it makes a difference!), and a dusting of powdered sugar. Yum!


Also - I have a new book which I'm sure I'll be using soon! My birthday is the 25th - but my family celebrated early as my brother, Michael, was in town from AZ. My parents gave me this:



One thing I love about this particular book is that it tells stories with the recipes - they're all "lost" American recipes. Very cool.

Michael also gave me a subscription to one of ATK's magazines. (Cook's Country) so I'm going to have all sorts of recipes to try out!

Monday, March 9, 2009

and the winner is. . .

. . . Jackie. So, Jackie - if you'll leave me a comment with your e-mail address I'll contact you with info on how to claim your prize! Congrats!

Hopefully we'll have another give-away in April!


You all had some yummy sounding pizza toppings - I got hungry just reading!


(for the curious - I had one commenter comment twice but I just merged those two comments together as one for numbering purposes. :-) )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The "warm spot" and a prize for you!

While making a deep dish pizza the other day I got to the point in the recipe for the dough where it says "let dough rise in a warm spot." I don't know about you - but I've always been a bit unsure as to where my "warm spot" was. I saw a tip on a cooking show the other day that I thought I would try out. You preheat your oven to 200-250 degrees while you're making the dough. Once it's time to let the dough rise - you turn the oven off and put the (oven safe) bowl with the dough covered tightly in plastic wrap in your oven. It works wonders!



Little ball of pizza dough all wrapped up and ready to grow!
My, how you've grown! (time lapse: 1 hour)
And, speaking of the time lapse - I will not be making this again for QUITE some time as it took HOURS. That's way too long to wait for a pizza. It was REALLY good though:

Yum!

The pizza I made is a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. As you know I like to honor their copyright since I feel like they actually do work to get these recipes and they belong to them - and I was wishing that all of you could have the recipes too (even this way-too-time-consuming pizza dough recipe). It occurred to me that that makes a GREAT idea for my first-ever give-away.


So, up for grabs here is winner's choice of one of the following America's Test Kitchen Cookbooks:

ATK Family Cookbook (This is the one I own)

The Best of ATK 2009

ATK Family Baking Book


Just a little something to say, "Thanks for reading!"

Rules: Leave a comment to enter. (One comment per person). Stealing from the playbook of The Pioneer Woman Cooks - in your comment answer the question: What are your favorite pizza toppings?

I have some ideas for others give-aways brewing in my head now - so, since I don't have that large of a readership - I'm going to make a "you can't win twice in a row!" rule. Hopefully that seems fair to everyone.

Deadline to enter: 9:00 p.m. EST Sunday, March 8, 2009. Winners will be announced either Sunday night or on Monday.

I'll number the comments received up to that time and then use a random number generator to come up with the winner!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Herbed Potato Soup ($1.35 per serving)

Here is my first attempt at figuring out the cost of a meal! I'm figuring it out based on the amount of an ingredient I use. So - if you went to the grocery store and bought everything it would cost more because you'd most likely have to buy "extra" of some of the staple ingredients.

Anyway!

We had a lovely rare Georgia snow here last weekend and I decided it was the perfect time to make some soup! Here's what I did:

I peeled and sliced two potatoes and cooked them over medium heat in 2 cups of chicken broth.


Meanwhile, I sauteed 1/2 of an onion, chopped, in a 1/4 cup of butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. After the onion was tender I threw in 1 tsp minced garlic and cooked until fragrant. Then, added 1/4 cup of flour and a tsp each of crushed rosemary, salt, and thyme along with a 1/4 tsp of pepper. I then gradually stirred in 1 1/2 cups of milk and stirred often over medium-high heat until the mixture boiled. I let it boil for two minutes.


By this point the potatoes were tender. I used a potato masher to slightly mash the potatoes (in the chicken broth)

I then poured the potatoes and broth into the flour/milk/spice mixture and stirred well. Let it cook there for just a couple more minutes and then you're good to go!


I included a bit of cheese and bacon on top which is not included in the price breakdown.

Cost Breakdown (rounded)
2 potatoes 2.00
1.5 cup milk (organic price) 1.25
¼ cup butter .25
½ onion .35
1 Tsp minced garlic .20
¼ cup flour .05
Various spices .50 (estimate)
2 cups chicken broth 1.25

Total: $5.40 - - - makes 4 servings, so $1.35 per serving

I'd never made potato soup before - but I was pleasantly surprised with this! Very creamy and very easy. (And cheap I discovered while breaking down the price.)

And then after your insides are all warm with potato soup you should go outside and make an odd looking snowman.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Money and Recipes



Would you be interested in seeing me break down a monthly grocery budget and shopping list and/or list the "price per meal" here? It's something I've thought might be interesting/helpful to my readers - but I'm not going to take the time to get it blog-ready if no one else wants to see it. :)


Speaking of monthly menus and such - I was flipping through some of my old cookbooks (see picture) and found a few new recipes that I'll be trying. (A number from my French cookbook - I'm excited!)


However, in my Italian cookbook I found one that I most certainly will NOT be trying:




eek! (If you click you can see a larger image - or - I'll just tell you what the first ingredient is: brains. "Yes, Mr. Butcher of my suburban grocery store, I would like 1/2 lb of brains please. Preferably smart ones. If you have ever cooked brains I DON'T want to know about it.)

It reminded me a bit of the bone marrow incident in Julie and Julia a funny true story about a woman who cooks her way through a cookbook one year. (And, my google search for the Amazon link just revealed that they're releasing the film version of this in August! I hope it's good. The book was fun :) )


My recipe hunt did turn up some interesting options though. I made fried rice for the first time and rescued a not-so-great chicken recipe by mixing the chicken into the fried rice. The fried rice came from my "Cooking On Wheels" cookbook which makes me smile because it's geared for the RV wife of 1970.

There is also a recipe called "Chicken Marengo" which just sounds fun. I think I'll need to invite people over and serve it with a rose between my teeth and a little flip of my leg when I arrive at the table with the platter. I love that this particular recipe book (the French one you see pictured) has stories about how the recipes were created. If any of them turn out any good I'll share the story along with the recipe. There is also a Tamale Casserole and a Lemon Souffle lined up for me this month. (Pending approval of my "I need to buy a car" grocery budget. You may end up with "31 ways to make Salmon Patties" as reading material.)

Let me know if you'd be interested in the pricing thing! Only tell me if you really care so I don't go to the trouble for no good reason!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hospitality.

One of my favorite comics has a series going on "having guests" at the moment. I found these two worth sharing here.


Why I don't use Guest Soaps


Guess Which One I Am


Hope they made you smile :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cranberry Bread

I found this recipe online last fall during Cranberry season. I just got around to making it though with some of the cranberries that I stored in my freezer when they were available.

Recipe:

2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3 T. melted butte
r1/2 c. orange juice
grated orange rind
2 T. hot water
1 c. raw cranberries
1/2 c. nuts (optional)

Quarter cranberries. Sift together dry ingredients. Combine egg, butter, OJ, hot water and orange rind. Mix in dry ingredients and fold in cranberries (and nuts, if using). Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 325F for 1 hour 10 minutes. Let cool (wrapped up) in refrigerator for 24 hours before cutting.


I doubled the recipe and I didn't have an orange rind to grind and used Orange-Pineapple juice rather than just OJ - but it turned out SO YUMMY.

Oh, and I totally ignored the "cool for 24 hours" rule and it was still GREAT!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Drizzle Icing

I posted a few months ago about my Grandmother's Chocolate Layer Cake and it's messy, but amazing, chocolate icing. A bit after I made that last cake I saw the idea of icing it on top of a wire rack so the icing could drip off without messing up the serving platter.

I made another of these cakes as a joint Birthday cake for my parents. (Mom was December 31st and Dad was January 26th) The new icing method was wonderful! (Though I think I'm still making my icing a bit too thin to begin with. Less milk!)

First - I don't think I've shown off my Christmas present here:

Isn't she pretty? :)

Anywho - on with the cake!
See how lovely that works? The leftover icing is caught in a jelly roll pan. At the end I slid the wire rack ot the other side of the pan and re-used some of the dripped icing. It worked so well! You do need to wait until the icing is COMPLETELY dry before you move it to the cake plate.


The birthday people admiring their cake. (You can see that I did not wait until the icing was completely cool by the chocolate smudges around the cake.. oh well!