Category Archives: Simple Pleasures

The Beauty of Little Flower Girls

One of the things I love about country living is there are always wildflowers free for the picking pretty much spring through fall, and I have two little grand daughters who have been keeping me in flowers!Almost every day they bring me flowers…even enough to adorn such things as cupcakes that we baked to take to our new neighbors! A couple of days ago the baby slept so poorly that we sent Mama back to bed for a tiny rest while the baby had her morning nap, and while she was sleeping, the girls and I decided to make some bouquets for Mama! We walked up and down the lane, and even past our garden down to the lake, and picked some of all the different flowers we could find, and then the girls took turns choosing flowers to put in the vases. I think it was one of the happiest morning activities we did all month, and after we finished arranging the flowers, the girls worked very hard at writing cards just to tell their mother how much they loved her! (No prompting; this was all their own idea!)Parenting is such hard work, but it’s also one of the world’s most rewarding occupations! After all, where else can you get a zillion enthusiastic hugs and “I love you!”s  every day? Praise God for children…and flowers!

But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God
‘” (Luke 18:16).

 

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting on Top

I think sweet teeth are genetically transmitted…or at least our grand daughters seem to have inherited the Armstrong family’s love of all things chocolate.  I used to make chocolate cake from scratch, but I can’t compete with the moist, tender, lightness of commercial cake mixes, and so I have given up trying.  However, my family still likes homemade chocolate frosting better than what you can buy at the store, and it’s simple. Here’s how:

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (can melt 12 oz chocolate chips, but that costs more and isn’t necessary)
1 stick softened butter (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons of milk (depending on how soft you like it; experiment)

Start on the slowest setting, but whip all the ingredients together in a blender until they form a creamy, smooth frosting with a sheen. Frost immediately, and if you have any little helpers, let them lick the spatula when they’re done!For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward” (1 Timothy 5:18).

Keeping It Down to a Dull Roar

I am the youngest in a family of five children, and when we were growing up—in the spirit of Cheaper By the Dozen—my father used to remind us fairly often that we needed to “keep it down to a dull roar.” If he can see what’s going on down here from his heavenly porch swing, I suspect he’s shaking his head every once in a while, wondering what all the hubbub’s about around our house.Elanor is the youngest of our 16 grand children, and things can get very chaotic when we have a quorum together for the holidays! However, I’ve noticed that when she’s sitting on her mother’s lap, staring into her mother’s eyes, she is usually the picture of contentment!

Oh, to be like that with my heavenly Father—oblivious of everything around me and able to take delight in Him, simply resting in His love and care!

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child (Psalm 131:1-2).

Anybody for a Watermelon Cake? How About a Wedge Salad?

My grandson Reid asked his mother for a watermelon cake for his birthday. Apparently they’d seen a picture on Pinterest. Carlie says it tastes like a cold wedge of fruit salad, and everybody who tried it liked it, although there was some dissension over whether or not it really qualified as a “cake.” So, I think this might make the perfect “wedge salad” to serve for the Fourth of July. If you bill it that way, don’t you think the kids will love it? Think how (relatively) healthy it is as a dessert, too…just watermelon frosted with sweetened whipped cream. I’m definitely going to try it on my grand kids. If you try it, let me know what you think, and I’ll  do the same!BTW, here’s an earlier fruit extravaganza that Carlie made some years ago to help feed our youth group! Talk about talent and good taste!  🙂  Thanks for being such a stellar daughter-in-law, Carlie! You’re a doll. (Actually, I have to say, I’ve got five of the best son and daughter-in-laws in the world!!! No prejudice!!!)

Manpower

It seemed like it should be a snap to get that last fastener hooked under the seat, but Linda spent about 15 minutes trying to get our three car seats fastened into the back seat of our car properly, and then I tried for another 5.  Where were our husbands when we needed them? (On the road, being heroes, of course, but sadly not at home at the moment.) How in the world do women without husbands manage?? Thankfully, I had a stroke of brilliance: Joel works just a few minutes from our home! I drove over, and in about 30 seconds, he was able to fasten the last latch for me…first try…no groaning, straining, or having Amelie grab our legs and try to help by adding her little 5-year-0ld frame on our side of the tug of war with the strap.  There are just a lot of things that men can do easily that a woman really can’t do!

Thanks to Joel’s rescue, we were able to take the girls to the cherry orchard for a lovely time picking cherries! I know there are also things that—no matter how much I stress and strain—I cannot do! But, God can!  Godpower is beyond manpower. Needing help? If you just can’t get it done “by self” (as my kids would say when they were little), why not ask God? He’s just a prayer away, and He promises to help us if we’ll ask!

Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.” (Psalm 89:13) 

PS—God doesn’t always give us everything we want, but He promises to give us what we need and to provide grace to accomplish his good and perfect will: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

PSS—If you feel like God isn’t answering your prayers, you might also consider the condition of your heart: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

Grilled Steak to Die For

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking it might be a good time to discuss grilling meat. We were visiting friends not too long ago when the husband mentioned that for Father’s Day all his kids were coming home, but that he would be manning the grill. “Go figure!” he grinned.

I’m sure he was delighted with the prospect of seeing his kids and grand kids, but it occurred to me that he might have preferred the prospect of sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade and watching his kids grill instead of continuing to be “the man of the hour.” So, if you have a father that you’ll be seeing this weekend at his home, and if you think he (or your mom) might be grilling, how about asking if they’d like a little help? It would be one great way to honor your father on his special day!

If you’ve never grilled steak, it’s really very simple, but there are a few tricks to optimize the flavor:1. Choose a good piece of meat. Frankly, for the first 40 years of our marriage, I felt blessed if we could afford chuck steak. Doubtless the favorite cuts are the most tender, but not everybody can afford a filet mignon or Porterhouse. If you’re a little more budget conscious, rib eyes are amazingly tender, and sirloins are great, but a good chuck steak works just fine. Avoid round steak, which is unbearably tough unless you slow roast it for a million hours.2. Tenderize your steak. I use Adolph’s meat tenderizer, but I’m sure there are other fine brands out there. Sprinkle liberally and then use a hand tenderizer (pictured above and available at kitchen supply stores)      to puncture the steak liberally on both sides. This helps soften the steak                                               and infuse the tenderizer.3. Marinate your steak with some type of oil and your favorite seasonings. The oil helps keep in moisture, and the seasonings (obviously) enhance the flavor. My favorites are Italian Wishbone, minced garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning. (I ran out of the steak seasoning just before needing it for this photo. 😦  Normally, I always keep one of every common cooking item in my storage pantry and buy a new one when I finish the old one so I’m never without, but this requires a little extra investment of cash and keeping close watch on the current shopping list.) 4. Gourmet chefs would doubtless recommend marinating the steak covered in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night, but even 15 minutes (not refrigerated) can make a distinct difference in taste. 5. Make your grill HOT and throw on your steak, searing it on each side for about one minute (to seal in the juices), and then turn the heat down to medium and cook it for another couple of minutes on each side. (Note: my beloved husband just took over as the grill master at our house again after a 40-year hiatus, and he’s lovin’ it! Working together is really fun!) 6. There’s a learning curve to figuring out when your steak is “just right.” If you’re not sure, test it by cutting into it. A medium rare steak is usually safe to eat and most tender, but if you like it more cooked, that’s your choice. Just know that the more cooked, the more dry and less tender.7. Serve it up sizzling hot. If it’s done, you can keep it for a few minutes in an iron skillet in your oven, but the steak will continue cooking even after it’s off the heat. Some people suggest letting the meat rest for a minute or two before cutting, but by the time we’ve thanked the Lord for our food, I figure it’s rested enough! 8. Serve it up with several healthy (yummy) sides, and enjoy!

(Here’s a playful contribution by Bob Hardee, who has a great sense of humor!)

For Garlic Lovers Only

Garlic “butter” is something we had at a restaurant years ago that I thought was going to be deadly, but it turned out to taste great. However, I would suggest taking seriously the old Italian adage: “Eat garlic as a family,” because—as Alan’s nose can always discern if I’ve eaten a great garlic whatever and he hasn’t—garlic stays on the breath for a very long time. I’m thinking that’s why it keeps vampires away. 🙂

Garlic spread

Use one entire bulb of garlic per person you intend to serve. Cut the top of the bulb so that the individual cloves are exposed. Fill a pan with enough water to steam the garlic without burning it (1 cup or a little less). Flip the bulbs over so that the opened cloves are exposed. Simmer, covered, for a half an hour. Turn off the heat. You can leave them in the pan to keep warm until you’re ready to serve them. I’m sorry I forgot to take a photo of what they look like once they’re served, but I just set them on the bread plate. The cloves of garlic become soft and can be squeezed out and spread on the bread like butter. One bulb can cover several pieces of bread. You can either butter the bread first and then add the garlic, or you can use the garlic as a butter replacement, although then I think it tastes better if you sprinkle on a little salt. At any rate, it’s a simple and fun way to dress up your bread, guaranteed to please garlic lovers and keep vampires at bay!

 

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:5-6).  When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why the Israelites complained about not having onions and garlic, but now I understand. Many of the things in our lives that are not essential for our health are still very “tasty!”  Oh, to learn contentment with having our needs met, even if we can’t always have our wants met! Obviously, after the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, they could plant abundant gardens again.

I hope you can afford a garlic bulb now and then…