Without Much Fanfare

North America’s most renowned venue for Shakespearean plays is in Stratford, Ontario, and during their “Stratford Festival” from May through October, the town is brimming over with art and theater lovers (except early in the morning when I took this picture; I think most of the town was sleeping in).

Alan, Joel, and I went recently for a long weekend to take in a couple of Shakespeare’s finest—one comedy and one tragedy—and a musical.

Sunset along the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario

Each play was so provocative that I’ve reflected for a long time on the themes, morals, and values, but today I want to admit that what I loved the most—and what I’ve remembered with the greatest sense of pleasure—was our evening walk through the Shakespeare Gardens and along the Avon River.

Oh, the plays were amazing, no doubt about it! The acting was superb. The props were fresh and fun.

Sydney Opera House in Sdyney, Australia (2004)

Alan and I saw The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Sydney Opera House fifteen years ago, but it seemed (if anything) even more ludicrous than ever.

The tragedies of Othello were still as dark and senseless as ever, and the musical (which I’d never seen before) was both enlightening and hopeful (although the profanity was so bad that I wouldn’t personally choose to attend it again 😦 ).

Fanfare at the Festival Theater

Five minutes before the end of each intermission, a troupe of musicians came outside to alert us that it was time to go back inside, playing a short fanfare. It made me smile, as I always think of “fanfare” as some sort of ostentatious commotion used to draw attention to something . . . which—of course—it was, but not as we think of it today. This fanfare was straight out of Shakespearean England and the 400-year-old tradition of announcing something important: In this case, the conclusion of an impressive play!

That being said, our visit to a local church Sunday morning and our walk along the Avon River Sunday evening (following the Sunday matinee and a great dinner) were the true highlights for me!

Bumblebee on Dill Weed in Shakespeare Gardens

They weren’t our reason for going, and they weren’t what we paid to see, but those events most refreshed and restored my soul, and they gave me the most pleasure!

Truly memorable breakfast at Features Restaurant in Stratford, ON
(YES! I recommend it!! 🙂 )

In your busy life, what most feeds your soul? If you’re like me, it’s not the fanfare of life’s theatrics but the solace of God.

Not in excited pomp and circumstance, but in stillness and reflection . . . Truly, in practicing the presence of God and communing with Him through prayer.

The silent testimony of God’s great goodness speaks to me

Full House at Stratford’s Festival Theater

even more eloquently than the thunder of music and applause.

How about you?

Raindrops on roses . . . one of my favorite things!

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee . . .To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name” (Psalm 60:1-3).

Thoughts on the Value of Giving

Having just spent four beautiful weeks enjoying our children and grandchildren (including our youngest grand child’s first birthday, which was yesterday), I want to add just a few more miscellaneous thoughts on the joy of giving and the rewards that come to us for sharing what we have with others:

“Those who are happiest and those who do the most for others” (Booker T. Washington).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill).

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

“It is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi).

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” (Albert Einstein)

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give” (Ben Carson).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank).

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” (Charles Dickens).

“If we want to know our God-given gits, we must know the giver” (Eric Samuel Timm).

“You can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts, so I want to celebrate Jesus” (Lecrae).

“Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” (Joyce Meyer).

Giving isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege!

The greatest joy in life is finding God’s love and sharing it with others!

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (Good News Translation of the Bible).

First Bouquet of Spring

In fall we plant bulbs;
In spring God gives us bouquets
That say, “I love you!”

My youngest son and I had a standing game for many years: Who could find the first crocuses each spring? (They are the first flowers to bloom around our home.) Although we’ve planted many crocuses over the years, between the ground squirrels, deer, and construction projects, I take each blossom as a treasured gift, recognizing that I can plant and wish, but only God can take dry, brown bulbs, nurture them into life, and allow them to grow safely into a riot of color and beauty! What a gift we enjoy in the resurrection of life—without, and within!

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

I Believe in Miracles
(—John W. Peterson)

“Creation shows the power of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

Chorus:

“I believe in miracles, I’ve seen a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one redeemed through Calvary;
I’ve seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod;
I believe in miracles, for I believe in God!

“I cannot doubt the work of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

“The love of God! O pow’r divine!
‘Tis wonderful to see
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary.”

Savory Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Onions

Do you have a system for storing favored recipes? I have a loose-leaf notebook, but my mother had a recipe box with 3X5″ cards, which I inherited. The last time my oldest son was home, he was interested in enjoying a couple of her specialties remembered from childhood. One of our mutual favorites was a casserole made with french-style green beans, mushrooms and crispy onion rings on top. I altered it slightly, to include fresh mushrooms (rather than mushroom soup) and onion straws, but otherwise, this is an authentic throw back to days of yore.

Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Onions
(Serves 12)

1. Start preheating the oven to 350°F.2. In a shaker or other means of mixing well, blend:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk
(I also inherited my mom’s copper shaker, which has outlasted and worked better than the Tupperware shaker I bought as a newly wed!)3. In a skillet, sauté:
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

4. When the veggies are browned and tender, add:
The flour and milk mixture
1 tablespoon garlic  5. Heat until the flour mixture becomes a gravy, then add:
16 oz. frozen, french-style green beans
1/2 cup french-fried onion straws

6. Heat until everything is hot.
7. Pour into a 8X10″ baking dish.
8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350° F.
9. Remove cover and top with 1 cup french-fried onion straws.
10. Bake about 10 more minutes until the straws are a crispy golden. 11. Serve piping hot, hopefully having timed it to finish when you’re ready to serve dinner. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2).

Meringues: Fun and Fancy

While I was helping out with Michael’s family when their new baby was born this summer, my two oldest grand daughters were really interested in cooking with me, and in particular, they’d tried to make meringues but couldn’t get them to turn out right. They were either burned or gooey. So, we worked together and made some that turned out just lovely! After leaving their home, Alan and I went for a three-week cruise, and meringues were part of many dessert options (like this one, called “Mixed Berries Pavlova”), so I decided they are popular with everybody these days and worth writing up.  I think the secret to success is more sugar than you’d think (to help them keep their shape) and a longer, lower baking temperature than is often prescribed to help them keep from browning or burning (or at least a lower temperature than was prescribed in the kids’ cookbook).

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meringues

Preparations:
1.  Preheat oven to 275°F
2. Grease large baking sheet with shortening and sprinkle with sifted flour or line with parchment paper
3.  Cut small opening into bottom edge of a gallon zip lock bag and insert a fluted cake-decorating tip.  Ingredients:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2. Beat until soft peaks form
3. Then, slowly add
2.75 cups granulated white sugar, beating until stiff peaks form Shaping:
You can spoon out the meringues, but I think they’re a lot prettier fluted. To flute them, carefully fill the zip lock bag with the mixture and seal. Then, shape the meringues into little 1.5″ rounds with peaks on top Baking:
The trick with baking is to cook them slowly at a low heat so that they harden but don’t turn brown. This is best achieved by popping them straight into an oven preheated to 275°F. and baking them for 2 hours, then shutting off the heat, leaving them to continue drying in the oven overnight. It would be good to check them after an hour and a half, just to make sure they aren’t browning. In the morning, carefully scrape them off the cookie sheet and store them in an airtight container. Humidity or any type of moisture can make them sticky, just like cotton candy.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
” (Psalm 119:103). Meringues on Celebrity Summit copy

 

 

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).

Chocolatey-Chippy, Sure-to-Get-Eaten Banana Bread

Probably everybody makes banana bread when you’ve got some extra ripe bananas that need using up, but my son Joel’s turns out so well that I asked if I could share his recipe. “But Mom!” he protested, “I just use your recipe, except I use half the sugar and add a package of chocolate chips.” Okay! We can do that. Here it is:

Chocolatey-Chippy Banana Bread

Cream together:
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

Then add:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 bananas (whatever you have left over; the more bananas, the longer you’ll need to bake it)

Beat until smooth, then add:
1   12-oz. package chocolate chips for sure, and if you want
1 cup walnuts or pecans (totally optional)

Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350°F. for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on top and somewhat firm to the touch (starting to form a crust). We usually make banana bread for dinner (since it takes so long to bake) but serve the rest with breakfast the following morning. You can also make this recipe into muffins or glaze the tops with cream cheese frosting to make them into cupcakes, but then they’re undeniably a dessert rather than any semblance of a “bread” or morning “pastry!”  🙂

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).