Category Archives: Around home

Birthday Bliss (or Not)

Alan has taken me somewhere very special and unusual for my birthday (out of town sans cell phone), so I won’t be home to soak up all the kindness of friends and relatives, chat on the phone, or even hit the “like” button on Face Book! Still, I wanted to let you know that you’re ever in my heart and prayers, and so I decided to prepare a few jokes so we could share some smiles today anyway!

YES!!This is in honor of all my friends who—like me—struggle with weight!This is especially for my daughter, four daughter-in-laws, nieces, and all young friends who are bravely rearing babies today! This one is a direct hit for me. Don’t know how the rest of you feel!  Here’s one for my hubby and all you health-care professionals! This one’s not so funny with all the hurricanes disrupting America’s millions of alligators. May you meet no crocodiles or alligators either later or in a while. 😦(This in honor of my son Stephen, who just passed his PhD comprehensive exams in musicology. Way to go, Stephen!)This is especially for my son Joel, who works as an editor, my daughter,  my writers’ group buddies and all fellow writers, lovers of good books and movies! Never thought of this one, but doesn’t it make you laugh?! …In honor of all my fellow Baby Boomers
who are developing gold-fish brains like Alan’s and mine. Anybody singing in a choir these days?  🙂 Here’s another one for the birthday girl (me).And, for all you fans of super hero movies…and Jesus!

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Autumn Joys: A Few of My Favorite Things

Today is the first day of autumn, 2017…a day that has never been and will never come again. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the tragedies occurring in America and around the world this year. Sometimes it seems almost sacrilegious to speak about the blessings during such a time of hardship, but then I remember that it’s often in the midst of suffering that we’re most acutely aware of the everyday blessings that we usually take for granted. I’m going to list a few of my favorites, and I’d love to hear you share some of yours as well!   Now that it’s autumn, it’s dark when I wake up, but among my favorite everyday blessings are hearing the birds sing and watching the sun rise while Alan and I read the Bible and pray together each morning.      I’m also extremely grateful to be living in a clean, dry, safe, snug home.  I’m thankful for food and water and electricity. Millions are without right now in the Americas and Caribbean, and billions are chronically without worldwide.   I am thankful for the spiritual bread of life and the water of life, Jesus. Beyond all this, I find myself wrapped up in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, which is better than a velvety fleece around my shoulders, and I am a child of our heavenly Father, who has his arms outstretched to whosoever will come to Him in faith. I am thankful for the privilege of prayer! God invites us to come to him like a little child and promises to care for us and answer our prayers.  I’m thankful for my husband and children and grandchildren. I’m thankful that we love our Father and we love each other. I’m thankful for family and friends, both those far away and near.  I’m thankful for the golden warmth of the sun by day and the silvery glow of the moon and stars by night. I’m thankful for the seasons…for snowflakes in winter and soft green grass in summer, flowers that bud and bloom in the spring, and leaves that flame and fall in the autumn.  God has created a world of beauty, mystery, light, and darkness, and I’m thankful for it all, knowing that God is good and is working everything “together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him (Ecclesiastes 3:1-14).

A Little Thought About Being Thankful

Last year for Christmas I received a beautiful, velvety fleece blanket that matches our bedroom colors perfectly and is about as soft as a cloud. I keep it over the back of my favorite reading chair and snuggle into it every chilly morning when Alan and I settle in for our devotional time. Even in the summer it’s been a particular source of comfort, since my chair is next to the window, and often early morning temperatures are quite cool.  I’m sure I thanked Dan and Brianna when they first gave it to me, but almost every morning I think to myself, “I need to write them a note just to let them know how much I love their blanket!” However, every morning after rearranging the blanket, I’d hurry off to make breakfast and promptly forget my good intentions. Until today. Today I finally remembered to do something about it! Ten months later!!

Is there anything in your life like that? Any kindness that you often remember but never take time to acknowledge? I read the story of the ten lepers and wonder why nine of them failed to return and thank Jesus for healing them, and yet—I’m no different! But, they were excited! They wanted to share the good news with their loved ones. They were busy—they needed to go to the temple to be declared “clean” again. They were…just like me! So caught up in the routines of life’s business that I fail to stop and just express my gratefulness to those who are blessings in my life. Even more—I fail to thank God for the daily abundance He gives me. May I (we) become people whose hearts overflow with gratitude, and who take the time to thank God and those who bless us!

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
because his mercy endureth for ever
” (Psalm 118:1)

Flaky Crusts for a Perfectly Peachy Pie

Have you mastered the art of melt-in-your-mouth flaky pie crusts? It took me years, but I think I’ve got the recipe down for fork-tender crusts, learned from my foremothers!  My father used to tease that the reason he married my mother was for her fried chicken and cherry pie, and when I was little, I thought my mother made the world’s finest cherry pies.  However, when I married Alan, I discovered that his mother made the world’s best apples pies, so one day I asked if she could teach me how. She invited me  over to join her while she made some pies for a grange dinner. Unfortunately, she didn’t measure anything and did everything by feel and look. I watched carefully, and it was helpful to see the way things were “supposed to look,” but it took me a few years to perfect my apple pies. Alan’s older brother was the best critic, and his advice went like this, “More sugar…more butter.” Forty-five years later, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to make a flaky pie crust and a yummy pie, so I want to pass along what I’ve learned with photos, so you, too, will have an idea of how a flaky pie crust looks in the making, and how to make a scrumptious fruit pie.

2 Crusts for 1 Ten-inch Pie:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups Crisco (or other vegetable shortening; you can use butter, which tastes a lot better, but the crusts aren’t as flaky)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold (refrigerated) water
Mix in blender until a soft ball forms (but then stop immediately, even if a few crumbs are left; it’s really important not to over-process the mixture). Set in refrigerator while making the filling so that it’s cold when you roll it out.

Pie filling:
In a large bowl, stir together:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add:
6-8 large peaches, ripe (Hale Haven are great, but there are lots of good varieties) peeled and sliced (I only used 6, because I was making it for an older lady, but 8 would fit and is better for a family who can eat whatever you make!) Toss the peaches with the flour mixture until all the peaches are well coated (You can use the same basic recipe for almost any fruit pie, like apple or cherry [pitted, of course, but dark cherries also make yummy pies, just FYI]. For smaller fruits, like blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, use 2 quarts.)  Roll out the bottom crust. I wet down the surface and add a sheet of saran wrap, then spread some flour on the top. At this point, turn on your oven to 450°F. so it’s piping hot when you’re ready to slide your pie into the oven.                   And add half of the pastry (about the size of a man’s fist).  Be careful to handle it as little as possible, but shape it into a ball, flour, pat it down, and roll it out. I flip the whole crust over a time or two and add flour as needed. Over the course of rolling the crusts, you will probably add as much as another 1/2 cup of flour.              (You can only flip the crust at first while the pastry is still quite thick.)                                       Smooth it out with a rolling pin                 until it looks like it’s about 2 inches bigger than the pie pan.  Place one hand under the saran wrap, and quickly flip it onto the pie plate.  (Use your left hand to hold the pie tin…unless you need it to take a picture!  🙂  ) Make sure there are no cracks visible. Repair any as needed. Truly flaky crusts are hard to roll out and will have cracks; if it’s too smooth and easy to roll, it will be tough! Prick the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork. (This keeps it from bubbling anywhere in the baking process.)  Arrange the fruit mixture in the pie plate.  Add: 1/4 cup butter in small slices all around the pie. This is one of the secrets to a great pie in my book, so don’t forget this step!  Repeat the process of wetting down the counter, spreading out the saran wrap, topping with flour, and molding the pastry into a ball. Roll out the rest of the dough (plus any that was trimmed off the edge of the lower crust if you had way too much on one side or something).  Carefully (but quickly) flip the top crust on top of the pie.  Even out the crust. You can add a little here and subtract a little there as needed. Form a little ridge around the top.  (If you’ve done it right, you won’t have many crumbs left over, but I usually have a few, and I don’t like the crust too heavy.)There are several ways to finish the top. Some people use a fork to make tiny ridges all the way around. There are pastry tools to make special designs. I use my mother’s method of alternately pinching a small piece together gently between my left thumb and left forefinger while pressing gently down with the forefinger of my right hand on the crust next to it on the right. If you do this around the entire edge, you’ll have a fluted crust like the one above. Our family tradition is to put the letter of the type of pie (“P” for “peach” on this one) and some little “stalks of wheat” on each side by cutting tiny holes with a paring knife. This gives the pie some “air vents” for releasing pressure as the pie bakes. We also sprinkle sugar on top. Some people brush the top with well-beaten egg for a glossy sheen. Bake your pie in a pre-heated oven. Start at 450°F for 15 minutes. This seals in the juices and insures that the crust will brown by the time the pie is baked. Turn the oven down to 375°F. for an additional 45 minutes or until golden brown. (Check at about 35 minutes and then keep an eye on it, since elevation and various types of ovens heat differently. I use a traditional oven, but convection ovens bake faster, of course.)Let it cool on the counter for at least 10-15 minutes (or while you’re eating dinner), and serve up for dessert! We usually add vanilla ice cream, but I was out, so this time I used “Triple Peanut Butter,” but people liked it anyway! Enjoy!

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing:
then said they. ..The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
” (Psalm 126:2-3)

What to Eat When Your Wife is Gone for the Weekend

Okay, so this is going to be a “for fun” recipe (of sorts), but while Lizzie was visiting me not long ago, she shared a great text from her husband picturing what he was eating for dinner, and it was so funny that I asked for permission to share it with you. Maybe I should start with just a tiny introduction about my “baby brother,” Chuck (who is actually 6’6″). I just happened to be visiting my “sister” Liz in Chicago the first night they dated (about 17 years ago). She asked if I wanted to meet him, and I said, “I don’t care! You date so many guys…” I had to eat those words later. Little did I know Chuck was going to be “the one” after Lizzie had waited almost 40 years for the right guy. And, let me tell you, he’s the right guy! He’s not only handsome (as you can see…I can brag about him because he’s my little brother…even if we’re not actually related), he’s loyal, kind, brilliant, tenderhearted, funny, and extremely good to his wife! So, as far as I’m concerned, he can pretty much do no wrong.  🙂

At any rate, before Lizzie came to visit, she made Chuck a big casserole, but by Sunday night, it was all gone, so Chuck started foraging in their refrigerator for something to eat. Want to know what he found?      How do you like it? He said he also had a bunch of fresh veggies and fruit.

Now, you might not think hotdogs with sauerkraut, carrots, and spinach on tortilla shells would be your first pick for dinner, but he said it actually tasted pretty good! And, the thing I especially love is the idea of trying new combinations of things. If you like various foods individually, who’s to say you might not like them together?

So, the next time you’re a little low on food and don’t want to take time to shop, look a little closer at your fridge and cupboards. Maybe you can find a winning combination too! Let me know what you create, will you?!!

(P.S.—I did ask their permission before writing this. They are too fun for words!)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)

Gold’n Blueberry Coffee Cake

It’s blueberry season in Michigan (and most of Northeastern America),  and for years we’ve had a cherished tradition of picking berries at Blueberry Hill. We wait with baited breath for U-pick strawberries in June, cherries in July,
and blueberries in August. For much of the summer, we enjoy abundant fruit! Most of the time we just serve blueberries fresh as part of the meal,  but also use them as a garnish with salads,  and when they’re really abundant, we start using them to bake pies and cakes.

Before the season ends, we usually try to squirrel a little away in jams. This year we also made a jar to send with Jonathan to Germany, because it’s his favorite jam and not common in Europe.

Sometime soon, I hope to write about making jam, but today I want to share an easy way to make a delicious blueberry coffee cake, which makes a fragrant start to a summer weekend morning, whether you’re hoping to curl up with a cup of coffee and the morning news on Saturday or heading out the door for church on Sunday. Here it is:

Golden Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 yellow cake mix (which normally calls for eggs, water, and oil) Follow the recipe, but only add 1/4 cup water (no more; the blueberries are very wet).

Sprinkle 3 cups of washed blueberries evenly over the top. (They sink in baking, so you don’t see much of them, but believe me, you’ll taste them!)

Make a “crumble” out of:
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

Drop/sprinkle the crumble mix evenly over the top.

Bake at 350°F. until the top is golden brown, which will likely take 45-50 minutes. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes, but then serve it immediately. This coffee cake is so moist that it will get soggy if it sits around, so it’s best eaten fresh and hot! It doesn’t need any garnish, but if there’s any left over and you want to serve it as a dessert later on, I sometimes reheat it and serve whipped cream or ice cream on top.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). May our words be as sweet as our meals!  🙂

 

What Can You Do When Your Grandkids Visit?

Before Amélie and Sophie came to visit for the month of July, a lady from their church asked what they liked best about visiting their grandmother. Amélie said her favorite thing to do was go for a boat ride with Nana, and Sophie said her favorite thing was eating Nana’s fudge!

Of course, I made sure we did both once I knew, but it also got me to thinking about all the things that seem to make vacations special for little ones, and a lot of the activities are very simple! In no particular order, here is my list:

Picnics in the backyardToasting marshmallows and eating smoresColoring, drawing, and writing love letters Hanging out and talking together Playing in the grass  Picking wildflowers and hunting for frogs Finding tiny grasshoppers by day and chasing tiny fire flies by nightPlaying at the local parks Renewing friendships with the cousins… and meeting new members of the family! Having tea parties Listening to story books  Picking wild berriesHelping Nana cook and set the table Eating lots of yummy food, and helping shop for more when the supplies run low. Having friends over to playPlaying games together and feeling the love! All of those things are part of the richest fabric of life and pretty much free, although there are also some special things available in our area,
such as digging in the sand and swimming in Lake Michigan.If you’re lucky enough to have an Aunt Brianna, that might include cookies!Snuggling with Grandma is free,
and it’s a very special way to get warmed up after a big swim! Snuggling with Grandpa is another winning activity, especially on a windy day!Watching the local fireworks shows is usually free around July 4th. Picking cherries, blueberries, or whatever is ripe at the local orchard is a big hit. And if you have access to a little lake, catching fish is the cat’s meow! Our kids and grand kids all love swimming, so I’m especially thankful that we live on a little lake! Another thing we all love is going to our local zoo, where there’re always something new and exciting happening! Finally, when Nana is all worn out, a special dinner out can be a huge treat! So, these are a few favorite things you can do without feeling pick-pocketed! If you’ve got other bright ideas, please share them, will you?

But whatever we do with our little ones, I think the most important thing is to make sure they feel loved, and for me, that includes making sure they know that God loves them too… more than any of us can ever even imagine!

The grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:17-19).