Pulled Pork and BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Of course, if you really want pulled pork at its finest, it comes straight
from a cooker that’s been slow-roasting a succulent pig for hours. However, that usually only happens for special occasions
like weddings or family reunions. Still, you don’t have to have the finest of the finest in order to enjoy pulled pork!Around my home, pulled pork is not an uncommon way to use leftover pork. The most tender pulled pork is stripped from a slow-roasted pork roast  or leftover BBQ ribs, although you can actually use any leftover pork.

It’s easier than pie, and here’s the simple 1-2-3!

1. Shred fully cooked pork meat into bite-sized (or smaller) chunks.
2. Cook over low heat with a cup of water, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder to taste until the meat is so tender it’s falling apart. (You can put the top on and steam it for awhile if you had pork chops or some other tough cut, but just make sure you check on it every few minutes, stirring it and adding water as needed.) 3. Once it’s tender and shredded, you’re done, and I sometimes serve it that way. However, we usually like a little of our favorite barbecue sauce added to give it an extra kick. Then, it’s “BBQ pork,” which is a perennial crowd pleaser around our house, especially when the pork is heaped on onion buns!

(P.S.—If your pork is really fatty, drain or spoon off as much of the liquified fat as you can before you serve it or add barbecue sauce. I once had a Kalua pulled-pork sandwich in Hawaii that was so big and so fatty that I couldn’t finish it and felt sick about half-way through trying to eat it. It tasted great, but the fat and sauce was literally dripping down my arms. Famous…but not for me!)

(P.S.S.—If you have an instant pot, this is the perfect way to make tender pulled pork especially fast and simple!)

He giveth meat in abundance” (Psalm 36:31).
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

The English Inn: Can Imitations Exceed Originals?

My kids sometimes tease about the fact that the Birthday Club started out as a couple of hours in the afternoon for coffee and cake, over the years expanded to include lunch, and now (14 years later) has become a full day affair! In response, Cindi says we should try to make it sound slightly more legitimate by calling it “The Birthday Research Committee,” since we are always trying to find interesting new places to explore and often take our husbands or kids there later. And, of course—it’s fun to share my finds with any of you who live in the area!  🙂So, after our hike along the Grand River, and in keeping with our river theme, we stopped for lunch at The English Inn in Eaton Rapids, also on the Grand River. If you’re ever wishing you could go for a romantic getaway to jolly old England without having to fly across the Atlantic, have I ever got a deal for you! The English Inn is not only a first-class restaurant, it’s also a beautifully updated Bed’n’Breakfast where you can get a  quaint room starting at $115 per night (which is admittedly a lot, but that’s a lot less than flying to England).  This 90-year-old classic Tudor Revival home was first built for Irving Reuter, who was the general manager of the Oldsmobile Corporation and one of the first ten to invest in General Motors.Today, it’s been expanded to include a banquet hall that can facilitate wedding receptions for up to 250 guests, although the original mansion has been completely renovated and filled with elegant period pieces.           Since 1991, it’s been listed in the State Registry of Historic Sites. We were running late and feared we’d miss out on lunch, since they only serve until 1:30 pm, but Cindi called, and they very graciously remained open to serve us, even though we were their only customers at that late hour.            The food was exceptional, and all three of us were very pleased. I had the beef and rarebit and will definitely be trying to figure out how to imitate their great tenderloin tips and creamy rarebit! If possible, even better than the outstanding food was their impeccable hospitality. Our waiter assured us that we could linger as long as we wished over lunch (which we did!), told us all about the history of The English Inn, and then later toured us around, inviting us to meander through their extensive gardens.I read this about them: “As it once was during the Reuter’s tenure, fine dining and hospitality remain the order of the evening at The English Inn.” Absolutely! The English Inn is nestled along the Grand River and reminded me of a time our family stayed at The Talbot Inn along the River Thames near Oxford, England.If anything, I would say The English Inn is even more elegant and gracious, and it made me reflect on the possibility of an imitation becoming even more beautiful than an original. As a Christian, I will never come close to being as perfect and spiritually beautiful as Jesus, because He truly is God incarnate. But, it inspired me to work at becoming a more gracious and lovely imitation!

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Like a River Glorious
(—Frances R. Havergal, 1876)

  1. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
    Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
    Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
    Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
  2. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
    Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
    Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
    Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
  3. Every joy or trial falleth from above,
    Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
    We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
    They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Birthday Pains…and Pleasures!

June is always bustin’ out all over with birthdays. Earlier this month, my daughter-in-law had to miss out completely on our birthday party for her because both her kids were so sick, but today I want to relate an especially happy tale about one of our Birthday Club adventures that succeeded.Susan, Cindi, and I had a perfectly wonderful day celebrating Susan’s birthday, so I want to encourage young parents with the thought that by the time your kids are grown, your birthdays might become remarkably fun…

   and possibly even relaxing! We started with an initial fortification of fruit, coffee, tea, and some amazing donuts from the new Donut Conspiracy shop on E. Beltline that (is overpriced but) has really delicious and decadent donuts with clever names like “Rehab.”We continued our rehab with a fantastically soothing hike on the Ledges Trail, a remote area of the Grand River in Fitzgerald Park (near Grand Ledge, MI). Ledges Trail meanders along the Grand River for about 3/4 mile  down to Island Park (built on “Second Island”).  Island Park is sunny, breezy, non-buggy and handicap accessible. The trail is a little rougher, we’re all still good hikers, so we thoroughly enjoyed  our walk along the beautifully patterned “grand ledges” of sedimentary rock. It’s so lush and green it reminded us of Ireland, and we did use insect repellent, but none of us gotten bitten by mosquitoes. (Note: there was a lot of poison ivy beside the path, so if you hike it,
be careful
and consider wearing shoes and socks…or really watch your step!) The ledges are covered with powdery light green lichens
that make them look almost like they’ve been white-washed! They’re also adorned with delicate mosses, ferns, and liverworts,  some of which aren’t found anywhere else in Michigan’s lower peninsula. In fact, I felt very much like I was hiking along one
of the Upper Peninsula’s verdant wilderness trails! In 1888 a railroad trestle was built across the Grand River near the south boundary of Fitzgerald Park. Something echoed deep in our hearts as we heard the wail of a whistle
and watched a long train rumble past… …a tug that made us feel tied to 130 years of history and a time when
fugitive slaves were harbored in the caves en-route to Canada and freedom. Susan has a penchant for spiritual nurturing and motifs, so Cindi suggested a river theme for our outing. Perfect! Besides sharing all about our lives, we sang songs together. We also considered the significance of various verses and stories about rivers that flow through the scriptureand reflected on God’s goodness to us during this season of our lives.There is so much to be thankful for at every stage of life, and if you’re in the midst of child-rearing, I hope you’re able to enjoy the bustle. But, if you’re older (like we are), I hope you enjoy the peace and quiet too.It Is Well
(—Horatio Gates Spafford, 1873)

1 When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Refrain (may be sung after final stanza only):
It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.

2 Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul. Refrain

3 My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Refrain

4 O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul. Refrain

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

(P.S.—Lest I make this sound too idyllic, I have to say that Susan is in the throes of helping plan a daughter’s wedding, so it’s not like she’s sitting poolside painting her toenails. I don’t think life is ever without challenges, but I do think there are times when life isn’t quite so demanding!)

Rise Up, My Love (292): Trying to Find Paradise

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” In my Bible, verses 10-13 are all listed under the heading, “The bride speaks.” For forty years, as I’ve read my Bible through almost every year, I’ve assumed that verse 13 was the bride describing her husband—the mighty King Solomon—as one who dwelt in gardens. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Her king, not high and mighty on his throne, but tender and touchable in the intimate seclusion of their gardens:

  “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And I walk with him and I talk with Him, and He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.”
—C. Austin Miles

Hold that thought, because such tender communion is indeed real, but in this passage I do not believe it’s the bride seeking the husband…it is the husband desiring communion with his wife! “Thou that dwellest” is actually just one word in Hebrew, a verb written in the feminine form which could be translated as “She who inhabits” (Jonathan Armstrong: I can now—fifteen years into this study—quote my son, who has become an ancient languages scholar!).   “Thou that dwellest in the gardens…” This is our Lord’s last description of us. This is where he wants his bride to be waiting for him. Are these literal gardens? “Should I be carried to the skies on flow’ry beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?” (Isaac Watts).   For King Solomon and his bride, the gardens were doubtless literal…the wondrous gardens Solomon developed as described in Ecclesiastes 2. However, even as Jesus declared that his kingdom was not of this physical world yet (John 18:36), even so are we to be dwelling—not necessarily in paradisal gardens here on earth—but in spiritual gardens. As John Milton points out to us so poignantly in Paradise Lost, the paradisal Garden of Eden that our greater than Solomon made for us has been lost to us on this earth, and even our Lord was driven from his sanctuary, the Garden of Gethsemane, when he dwelt here below with us.   We may be physically surrounded by beauty or bareness during our tenure on earth, but spiritually we should be dwelling “in the gardens.” How do we do that? When we are surrounded on every side by tribulations, testings, trials, heartaches, pain, and insecurities…not only our own, but those encountered by our loved ones who are near to us, and those suffered by the body of Christ worldwide…how do we do that?(To be continued next Sunday, but the answer is to center our minds on Christ and experience “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” [Matthew 6:10] as the present spiritual reality of our lives.)

Fabulous Salmon Salads Fit for a Caesar

In honor of summer just beginning, this Saturday I want to inspire you with ideas for how to create incredible salmon dishes for hot (or cool) summer days. This first photo was taken at the Boat House in Disney Springs, Florida. It had field greens, butternut squash, Honeycrisp apples, feta cheese, chopped bacon, toasted pumpkin seeds and a maple vinaigrette dressing…and was possibly the best salmon salad I’ve ever eaten! Epcot’s Rose & Crown Restaurant also serves an excellent salmon dish, although perhaps geared more for a cool evening. Their pan-roasted Scottish salmon dinner was outstanding! It included Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, new potatoes, baked apples, and a lime-saffron infused Aioli sauce. I’ve already written up a recipe for Aioli sauce (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/lenten-special-ahi-tuna-with-super-simple-aioli-sauce/) but I want to point out that you can add many different touches to make it even more memorable. I’ve also since learned that the English have a trick:  Adding a little garlic to mayonnaise makes a simple dressing that can actually compete in my affection with ketchup for dipping french fries. (But, never call them “french fries” in England! They’re “chips!”) Another fantastic salmon salad I had was in Hawaii. This one was honey-glazed, grilled, and put to rest on a bed of spinach with red onions, bacon bits, slivered almonds, and mandarin oranges with a tangy orange-basil vinaigrette. Obviously, nobody wants to give away their signature recipes, but I’ve learned from experimenting that you can use equal parts of your favorite vinegar and oil (or even your favorite Italian), add whatever you like to give it an extra spark (be it maple syrup, basil and bits of grated orange peel, or anything else that suits your fancy and seems like it might complement your dish), plus some salt and pepper…maybe a little onion or garlic powder…and voilà! You’ve created your own unique take on salad dressing!Here is one of my own creations, just a garden salad with peppers, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, black olives, and Parmesan cheese.  Really, salmon (or any meaty fish) is very versatile. When our kids were little, we couldn’t afford to eat fish very often, but Alan says that having fish once a week is a healthy practice, so I’ve been trying to serve it more.This time I loaded it heavily with fresh garlic and Italian dressing before grilling it, then served a mango/onion/avocado salsa and asparagus as sides. I’ve also tried grilling the asparagus (basted with a little oil and salt) along with the salmon, then added potato salad and cold slaw. This special occasion included “salmon mignon.” (Mignon may be defined as “small and delicate” but I really think it means “round, fat, and especially juicy!”) If you’re looking for a perfect summer lunch party idea, this salmon served on a bun with veggies and a side salad might meet your needs. After walking around Mackinac Island a few weeks ago, this flavorful meal from the Village Bell totally refilled my tank! (Ranch dressing added to the sandwich was a good touch.) Even a chunk of grilled salmon atop a simple Caesar salad made of Romaine leaves, croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese tossed with creamy Caesar dressing can totally satisfy most people on a warm day. Hot or cold, summer or winter, salmon is always considered a royal treat… fit for a Caesar, or for your favorite people. Happy Summering! Hopefully, I’ve given you a few ideas that will add fuel to the fire of your creative culinary imagination!And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:9-13).

Meijer Garden: Tales About Being ABD and MIA

Did I tell you that our son, Stephen, recently became ABD? He’s been working on his PhD from Eastman School of Music in New York and recently passed his field exam, so now he’s completed all his class work and only has to write his dissertation. (Thus “ABD,” All But Dissertation completed.) Congratulations!This is a major cause for celebration, and while he was home taking a well earned break, we wandered all through the various venues of Meijer Garden.  No sooner had we returned home than I realized that one of my ear rings was MIA (missing in action). It was part of a set of gold fleur de lis from one of the french chateaus I’d visited with Stephen (and Alan and Joel) a few years ago, and although it wasn’t super expensive, it had a lot of sentimental value, so I was quite disappointed. However, it was too late to return that afternoon to search.I remembered walking in the Japanese Garden under a low-hanging bush that had caught my hair, and I’d tugged to get my hair loose. Could that be where it fell? But, if so, would I ever be able to find it again? If not, would anyone else ever see it? If they did, would they be inclined to turn it in…or keep it? I’ve heard that there are over 1,000 volunteers at Meijer Garden, and every one I’ve ever met has been sweet and pleasant, so it occurred to me that I should at least call the front desk and ask if they have a “Lost and Found,” and if so, to give them my name and number just in case anyone found it and turned it in.The lady who answered said she was almost done with her shift and could go out and look for me. I told her not to bother, but that I appreciated her offer, saying I’d come back first thing in the morning to look.However, before I could go searching the next morning, I got a call from the front desk, saying that my ear ring had been found and would be waiting for me! It made me think about the parable of the lost coin in the Bible (Luke 15), only in that story, the woman herself swept her house and looked everywhere until she found her lost coin, then wanted her friends to celebrate with her.In my experience, kind people came to my rescue! I asked if I could have the name and number of the person who had found the ear ring, but that sweet person (probably the volunteer?) had left no information. I couldn’t even thank them!Still, I want to thank all the 1,000+ volunteers at Meijer who help make it such a beautiful, warm, and welcoming place, and all the visitors who enjoy the gardens with care and integrity. I’m inspired! I’ll never be ABD, and I hope I’m never MIA, but if any of you are feeling MIA emotionally or spiritually, please contact someone (myself included!) to let them know you’re lost and would like to be found! Jesus is even better than a volunteer! Jesus is the good shepherd, who gave his life for lost sheep (people, like me), and if you call out to Him, He will rescue you and bring you safely home to heaven! As He taught, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
(Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779-1847)

1. Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
much we need thy tender care;
in thy pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

2. We are thine, thou dost befriend us,
be the guardian of our way;
keep thy flock, from sin defend us,
seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

3. Thou hast promised to receive us,
poor and sinful though we be;
thou hast mercy to relieve us,
grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.

4. Early let us seek thy favor,
early let us do thy will;
blessed Lord and only Savior,
with thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

I Can Only Imagine…Can You?

I Can Only Imagine is not only  one of the world’s most popular songs today, it’s been made into a fantastic movie sharing the painful life story of composer Bart Millard and his abusive father, who was transformed by the power of God’s forgiveness and love. The beauty of  I Can Only Imagine (2018, newly released to video, PG, IMDb 7.4), is in understanding the change that really can occur in someone who gives their life to Christ.             The movie is deeply moving, and I wish everybody could see it! We watched it on Father’s Day, and it would make a wonderful father-son bonding event (particularly if there’s been any strain in their relationship).  As Bart has explained in various interviews,“I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus.” “By the time he passed away when I was a freshman in college, not only was he my best friend, he was like the Godliest man I’d ever known.” “It’s literally changed the trajectory of my life.” “I guess I grew up thinking that if the Gospel could change that guy, it could change anybody. There was no denying it.”There were a few things that didn’t come out in the movie that I want to add, because it made some of the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind. Bart’s father didn’t drink (the usual precursor to abuse), but he suffered a closed-head injury at work that left him extremely impulsive (a common side-effect of closed-head injuries). Bart’s father never beat his mother, although he smashed everything she treasured, and he didn’t abuse Bart until after the mother left. (As a mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving my child undefended with an abusive father.)The chronology of events is also not exact. Bart’s father came to faith in Christ after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while Bart was still at home. It was during his high school years, while Bart cared for his father, that he learned how to forgive through God’s mercy and formed a wonderful bond with his dad. One of the happiest discoveries from research was finding that the love story between Bart and Shannon was probably very true.

They’ve been married now for 20+ years and have five lovely children!
(The romance is so special…reminded me just a little of Alan’s and mine.)If you get a chance, please watch it! I think it will touch your soul!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

“I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I…”  (—Bart Millard)