Saturday, January 30, 2010

Praying for Peace



My mom recently sent me one of our church's old hymnals. I was perusing it the other day and found one of my all time favorite hymns "Be Still My Soul." I think that is one of my favorite songs because it asks what I find myself often asking for: peace. Maybe it is my uptight nature, or I just haven't reached the point of where I have found peace, or perhaps it is a state of mind. I find myself angrier and fighting more often than I find myself content and peaceful. One thing I have learned here: many people are looking for peace; you can protect people from all types of external forces but you cannot protect people from themselves. I think many times their problems are in direct correlation with their lack of peace.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Finished It!

Here it is, my finished watercolor. It took me two sessions to finish it. I was using an instructional video and followed the teacher's instructions. Of course, it's not as good as his, but I'm pretty happy with it.

I think what I'm happiest about is the fact that I actually started it. That's the hardest part for me. I had to get over my fear of beginning. Once I did, it was pretty easy. Now if I could only do it WITHOUT the video. I have several books that are step-by-step. I think I'll work through one from start to finish.

I know it's like any other thing you want to learn. It takes work and discipline. I want to set aside the same time every day and do art. I need to make it a habit. Then it'll be easier to get into a project. Perseverance is the key.

Scone Heaven

Wednesday afternoon I had a friend over for tea. Laurel brought her three older boys over for me to keep. She was planning on getting groceries and doing other errands. But as soon as she walked in the door and smelled the scones baking, she sat down for tea and didn't leave; which was fine by me. All three of us had a good visit while the children played outside.

All except for Thing 4 who helped his mommy lick the bowl. These scones are the best I've had anywhere including England and Scotland. High praise indeed! Here's the recipe in case you want to eat the best scone ever.

Makes 8 scones
Preheat over to 375

Combine in a large bowl: 2 3/4 all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 t. baking powder, and 1/2 t. salt. Blend in 12 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes. I use salted butter. Blend in with your fingers, smashing cubes into flour until it resembles coarse corn meal.

Add 1 cup dried currants. You can also add 1 T. orange or lemon zest. I never have since I'm too lazy to go to all that trouble. I bet it'd be good, though.

Add 1 cup cold, heavy cream. I only had 1/2 a cup, so I added it plus 1/2 cup milk. Whipping cream can be used too. Blend with your hands just until blended.

Knead and pat dough into a circle about 1/2 an inch thick, cut into wedges, and transfer to a baking sheet, spacing 2" apart.

Blend one egg with 1 T. water. Brush with egg and water mixture, then sprinkle with sugar. Don't neglect this part. It makes the scones shiny and crunchy on the outside. Bake 25-30 mins. or until golden brown.

Serve with real, homemade whipped cream. No Redi-Whip please. And forget about Kool-Whip. That would be a sacrilege. Add a little red currant jam on top too. You'll think you'd died and gone to heaven. Really. They're that good. We sure were doing some moaning and groaning!

Note: To make whipped cream. Buy a 8 oz. carton of whipping cream, pour into a mixer with 1-3 T. of sugar, depending on the sweetness you desire, and whip until stiff. This can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. It's yummy in hot tea or coffee too.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Monday Challenge

"Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny." Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

"I believe that the purpose of our struggling to improve ourselves is to become more Christlike, and one key to spiritual maturity lies in recognizing our gifts and talents, using them to glorify God, and developing rather than burying them. God planned for us to have these talents, and he offers us the chance to use them in order to know him better and to glorify him through the works of our hands." Janice Elsheimer, The Creative Call

My challenge to you, starting today, is to take one of the talents God gave you and do something with it this week. Everyone has some talent; most people have several. Maybe you've never developed it (them). That's okay. Start today.

All of the creativity books I've been reading suggest that you go back to your childhood and
remember what held your interest then. I've been surprised to learn that I'm still interested in the same things.

So start there. What were you interested in as a child? What have you always wanted to try? Start by researching it. Order whatever you need and get started! Just do it!

I'm determined to do one small watercolor this week. I'll show it to you when I'm finished. I can begin easily because I already have all my supplies in one bag. I made it easy to start by gathering up everything I would need to paint. All I have to do is sit down for a quiet half hour and get started. Starting is the hardest part. Some wise man said in effect that "a job well started was half done." That's very true.

So first, decide what you're interested in. Second, make a list of supplies needed. Third, gather them in one convenient place. Fourth, decide on a time every day to practice your talent or interest. Fifth, keep your appointment like you would any other and be there!

So take a baby step today toward your interest. Five baby steps this week, Monday through Friday, will see you closer to completing that work of art, learning that piano piece, or sewing that skirt or apron. And you'll be walking in the steps of the master creator himself. So create! Enjoy! Do! I want to see photos of what you did this week. Or at least tell me about it.

Now that's your assignment for this week. No backtalking or eyerolling. I'll check on your assignment next Monday. Begin! Oh, and have fun.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Memories of Sundays Past

During church tonight my four-year-old grandson sat next to me. He wiggled and fidgeted, slid off and on the seat, made faces, giggled, sighed, and pouted. After many warnings, to no avail, I sternly told him to sit up straight and to fly right. It's a Southern thing.

He got awfully still. I looked down and saw that he had fallen asleep leaning against my shoulder. He had made it almost all the way through. Staying seated during the last hymn so I wouldn't wake him up, a memory flitted through and around our singing of The Church's One Foundation. It was of me pretending to be asleep while leaning against my daddy's arm. I loved the way his body vibrated as he sang; lulling me further into a semi-conscious state. I remember being scared to move; afraid that if I moved so would he. I wanted that moment to last forever.

I thank God for parents who took me to church and taught me right from wrong. That godly heritage is priceless. I treasure it more every year. I hope too that our children and grandchildren realize sooner rather than later what a blessing it is to have Christian parents and a loving church community surrounding them.

Right now, all they're interesting in is how long the service will last or if they get chewing gum afterwards. But someday....they'll have precious memories that I'll be a part of just like my Daddy is part of mine. And my Mama, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

And that reminds me of that old song Precious Memories. Some of you may not know it, so I'll sing you a verse or two.

Precious mem'ries, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul,
How they linger, ever near me,
And the sacred past unfold.

Precious father, loving mother,
Fly across the lonely years,
And old home scenes of my childhood,
In fond memory appear.

As I travel on life's pathway,
Know not what the years may hold,
As I ponder, hope grows fonder,
Precious mem'ries flood my soul.

Precious mem'ries, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul,
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Words for 2010

My words for this year are Clarity & Obedience. I pray that I will see myself as I really am; at least as much as God knows I can stand up under at one time. I don't want to be self-delusional. In the past I've had a bad habit of shifting blame instead of confessing my own sins. I'm willing to be hurt and humbled now by being honest about my less-than-perfect self.

With clarity, hopefully, comes obedience. As God shows me my heart, I want to be obedient to whatever He has for me. I pray for the grace to be obedient and to see myself as I really am. I know he'll be gentle with me. I pray that I'll turn around and show gentleness and kindness to those in my own household. I know we'll all be happier. Kindness begets kindness.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My New Love-Julia Child

Last night my bookgroup met to watch Julie and Julia and to ingest some delicious french food. I made this apple tart from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It wasn't fabulous, but it was good. It looked pretty, too.

I was very intimidated to cook anything out of her cookbook after reading My Life in France. The research and experimentation Julia did for each recipe is amazing. She was a scientist, for sure. I really loved reading about her time in France and how she learned to cook.

I really admire her good attitude about life. She was always laughing and seemed to really enjoy living. My maternal grandma was like that. She was the sweetest woman I've ever known. I want to be more like her but find it hard with my melancholic temperament. I'll keep trying...

I'd like to own Mastering the Art of French Cooking; mostly to read. I don't aspire to be a french cook but might occasionally make a recipe from it. I've looked at the books on E-bay. Oh my goodness! Expensive! I should have bought them BEFORE the movie came out. I'll keep looking in used bookstores, and who knows...maybe some out-of-touch bookseller will have them. The fun is in the hunt anyway. I'm in no hurry.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Travelling Light

This post was inspired by “how to want very little” by david turnbull.
I didn't read his whole article. There may be things in it that I don't agree with. Just giving this disclaimer in case he says something totally off the wall!

In his article there's a section that challenges you to experience the benefits of travelling light. He says to plan a short vacation where you take as little as possible; no technology and no jewelry accessories. Just the essentials.

I've learned to pack like this whenever we go for a two-week trip to Europe. I can get by with one carry-on and one small rolling suitcase. I take two pairs of pants; usually black and stone. No jeans please. Nothing says "American!" like jeans. I take two long-sleeve tees. We usually travel in late March and early April, so it's still quite cold. Layering is the key to staying warm. One v-neck hefty sweater to match everything. Two wool scarves. I get tired of the same one, and they don't take up much room. One lightweight, outer, waterproof, long swing coat in black. I love this coat as it folds itself into a purse. If it gets too hot, I can just put it over my shoulder like a purse and carry it that way. I hate carrying a coat in my arms. I found some black Privo shoes that feel like athletic shoes but don't look like it. Another thing that shouts "American!" is white or mostly white running shoes. I only take about three sets of underwear and socks as they can be washed nightly in the sink. They usually won't be dry next morning thus the third pair.

And that's it. It is so freeing to pack this way. Now if I can only get other things in my house down to a minimum like this!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Great Chicken Round-up

The new header photo was taken during the great chicken chase of 2009. Louis the 7th and two of his ladies are standing underneath the boxwood hedge in our backyard. Here's the tale of how they almost became Hawk's Surprise Dinner one day.

December was an unusually wet month. We had inches and inches of rain. Our chicken house sits in a low spot on our property and a small lake had accumulated in their yard. Even the inside of their house was wet and sloppy.

I had the brilliant idea of turning them out of their pen into our yard proper where winter weeds and grasses flourished in abundance. And after coaxing them out through the door they were quite happy scratching and clucking through the grasses. I'm sure the soft grass felt better than mud squishing through their toes. Do chickens have toes? Claws? I don't know.

We go back inside the house and go about our business with the occasional look out the window to make sure the cats aren't bothering the hens. All seemed well for a few hours until Darcie goes out to check on them. I hear her scream, "Mama, Mama! Come quick!"

I rush out of the house to find her starring up into the maple tree that sits directly behind her playhouse. There's a small hawk up there with its eyes trained on one of my hens. We try shooing and screaming, but it's not moving. It wants that chicken. It was so close. It probably had feathers in its sharp, pointy little beak.

Darcie said that when she came out into the yard the hawk had the chicken pinned down on the ground. She made it fly away, but it wasn't going any farther away than about eight feet. I can't believe it didn't kill or hurt the chicken. They're such frail creatures anyway.

After about ten minutes of us jumping up and down and throwing sticks, it finally flew away. I think what really made it lose heart was my picking up the chicken and putting it back in its house. Without a quarry it probably just got tired of our antics and had seen enough.

So with everything back to normal, I resumed my usual tasks only to have a repeat performance an hour later. Only this time it's a bigger red-tailed hawk.

I had stationed Darcie in the backyard as lookout in case the first hawk came back. Once again I heard her screaming, "Mama, it's a huge bird! Hurry! It's got another chicken!"

Good grief! Whose dumb idea was it to let the chickens run loose anyway? I ran out in time to see the red-tail float away into a nearby pecan tree. Unbelievably, this chicken wasn't hurt either, and I'd had enough excitement for one day. Little did I know it was only beginning.

Trying to corral five chickens and a cranky rooster is about like trying to stop the rippling in a pond after throwing a rock through the surface; they just keep on spreadin'. It took us about two hours of synchronized effort using a leaf rake, baseball bat, and fish net to FINALLY get them all rounded up and into their house.

So from now on when I want them to eat fresh green grass, I'm pulling it up by the handfuls and throwing it over their fence!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Guns and more Guns

What does an Army soldier do in Iraq with some spare time on his hands? He looks at pictures of guns, of course! At least that's what my son does. I've never seen anyone love guns the way he does. He had me take photos of all his guns here at home and e-mail them to him. Whenever he starts missing them, he'll pull up the pics and look at them. I'm sure the first thing he'll do when he's home on leave is go touch THE GUNS.

He sent me this photo of a cup and saucer and matching pistol. Just the thing for afternoon tea. Does it hold cream? Does sugar come out of the barrel? It's the craziest thing I've ever seen. Nice pattern too.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas-A Review

There is something about saying, "We always do this," which helps keep the years together. Time is such an elusive thing that if we keep on meaning to do something interesting, but never do it, year would follow year with no special thoughtfulness being expressed in making gifts, surprises, charming table settings, and familiar, favorite food. Tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts. ~Edith Schaeffer

This year for our Christmas meal, Laurel and I decided that we were going to go non-traditional and make it easy on ourselves. Instead of the usual Christmas ham and all the fixings, we made two kinds of soups, three kinds of sandwiches, cranberry salad, foccacia bread, and cheesecake for dessert.

The reactions were hilarious. "What!?!" and "Soup?" were just a few. The family wasn't happy. It was a delicious meal though. I'm just not sure it was good for Christmas Day; especially after reading the above comment by Edith Schaeffer.

What led to this change was the combined attitudes of this mother (me) and her daughter (Laurel). We spent most of the holidays being angry at our menfolk. Comments like, "Why do we have to be the ones stuck in the kitchen while THEY get to go hunt or play?" Not our finest hour.

Not that we didn't have some legitimate gripes. I've never thought it was fair that the woman does ALL the holiday preparations while the man gets to sit and watch football all day. Uh oh, here I go again! And we have talked about it over the years all to no avail.

So, I decided long ago to just let it go. I know I can't change him by nagging only praying. I guess this year I forgot that part about praying.

So when during one phone conversation Laurel said something about how tired she was, it all came back..the unfairness and injustice of it all. I guess all the 'letting it go' wasn't really gone and had been suppressed for over thirty-four years. Yikes! It wasn't pretty. Thus our decision to make things simple so we wouldn't be so dadgum tired.

Well, it didn't work. All we were was still tired and ANGRY! I learned some things though.

1. I don't pray about these things enough.
2. Traditions are important to have.
3. Good planning and a cheerful attitude go a long way.
4. Working on my own attitude is more important than changing my husband's.
5. Soup and sandwiches just don't cut it for Christmas Day.

What do you think, Laurel? We KNOW what everyone else thinks!