Monday, March 25, 2013

Bird's Eye View

I met a small goal this morning.  I'm back down to doing 5K in under 40 minutes (just barely) on the elliptical! I'd do a happy dance if I still had the energy...I love to run, but I have developed some problems in my feet that keep me from it at present, so the elliptical is now how I "run." I put in my earbuds and play tunes from my phone and just go for it.  Not quite the same as running outside, so its good I'm blessed with a good imagination! It's amazing how small things can make you feel great.  :o)

On the way home from the gym, I stopped by Wally World to pick up a few items off the grocery list.  When I came back out to my car, I spotted this little cute!

Poor little fellow - all fluffed up and hugging close to a warm tire just trying to stay out of the frigid wind and spitting snow! This is the south; it's not the norm to be this cold right now!

I got in my car, and reached to turn the key in the ignition, then noticed these three little guys in the multilevel warming chamber right in front of me.

If you're a nature lover like me, I know this gives you a little thrill and makes you smile.  It did me!  They were just another reminder to me that God knows all my details and is watching over, caring for, and encouraging me.

Matthew 6:25-26
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Matthew 10:29-31
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

I hope you are encouraged today! [[grin]] 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Count it all JOY!

Today I find myself wanting to gripe about a few things, but since I've never enjoyed reading other peoples gripes, I'm not going to do that to you.  Besides, James 5:8-9 (NASB) says, "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.  Do not complain, brethen [or sistren as the case may be] against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."  

Hmm..So instead of griping, I am going to look for what I can GRIP of the GOOD and strengthen myself as James advises. do I do that? I guess I will start with the little things that gave me joy today:
  • woke up slowly, nice and toasty, in a warm bed this morning.
  • had the privilege to study and worship with fellow believers at church.
  • stayed warm and dry in front of a happy wood fire as it stormed outside.
  • had a restful afternoon.
  • received a visit from my son and granddaughter this afternoon. (Put stars by this one!)
  • noticed that my favorite oak tree now has buds on it.
  • discovered who has been making a mess on the car that stays parked in the drive. (This seems like an odd one, I'm sure, but the culprit is a beautiful bluebird who is nesting in what is supposed to be a martin house, though martins have never nested there.  The bluebirds come back every year.  Anyway, the bluebird lands on the side mirror, hops down to the top of the door under the window and looks at himself in the reflection, then hops back onto the mirror. Ya gotta admit, that's kind of funny.)
  • had a good study about exhortation this evening in growth group.
  • had dinner and good conversation with friends after church this evening.
  • enjoyed seeing the waterfall in our front yard. (We have a dry ditch that cuts across the front of our yard where all the water from rain flows down to from the hills in the neighborhood into the drain, and there was so much water that it flowed over, as well and under, the extra drive.)
  • just went outside to see if I could catch a picture of the budding oak to share with you, but it's too dark. But what do you think was looking down on me from the sky tonight? A bright, happy, full moon.
  • Now I'm enjoying a cup of hot peach passion tea.
Wow, counting my blessings sure did help me put small irritants in perspective.  Thank You God for patiently reminding me to Count it all JOY! 

Sorry it's so dark, but here's the full moon, the favorite oak (left) & the martin house (aka bluebird house on the right.)
I'm odd, I know, pretty tea pot and hippy mug full of Peach Passion tea!
My energetic granddaughter, who loves to play on Grandma's stairs, wearing new bunny bow. Our basement is full of "stuff" now and she discovered her old bumbo seat.  She's a bit too big to fit in it, but made of game of getting stuck and unstuck.  She finds fun in just about everything. I could learn a few things from this child.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

...He loves me...He loves me not...He loves me!

You ever feel like God couldn't possibly love you?  So many mistakes, so many lies, so many bad or even hateful attitudes, so many things gone wrong in this life...the list goes on and on.  We're currently studying how to manage money, time, relationships and the environment in the youth department at church (I'm a leader not a "youth" though compared to eternity, I'm still pretty young.)  Anyway, in today's lesson, one key point is that God loves us and it got me to thinking.  I've heard that for years and only in the last decade have I really started to believe it a personal way.  So, I thought that I would share how I finally began to grasp this truth, (say it out loud) God loves me.

I hope you have a good imagination because we are going to be using it.  I love the beach and this may be part of the reason why.  Imagine you're on the beach looking out at the ocean (you pick your favorite one.)  Close your eyes and feel the cooling breeze as the sun warms you.  Wiggle your toes in the sand then look out across the sandy beach. Now pick up a handful of that sand and let it sift through your fingers. Look closely at your hand and concentrate on one grain, then look at the beach again and imagine how many grains it takes to make that beach.  Are you seeing it?  Okay, now look at the ocean again.  Imagine you are a fish (you pick which kind) in that ocean.  Did you know that there are places, if you rest on the ocean floor, underwater, that there would be a mountain to your right and a crevice as deep as the mountain is high to your left?  Hugeness!  Are you feeling small?  Now think of a drop of ocean water then look around at how many drops it would take to fill that ocean you are swimming around in. I think you're getting the picture.

Okay, now come up for air - you're human again. Psalm 139 says *you are "fearfully an wonderfully made." God knows we are not perfect, but he tells us in **Romans 5:8 that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  He covered the debt I owe.

Now the verse I'm about to type is the one that finally drew back a curtain so that I could begin to see how much He loves me.  And here it is:
I pray that YOU, being rooted and established in *love, would have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the **love of Christ, and to know this love which surpasses knowledge that you will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

Did you catch the ocean analogy?  Now, we're back in the ocean, drenched through and through.  If our family, friends, even our acquaintances, well hello - everyone on the that crowded beach, join us in the water and get drenched too, do we feel any less surrounded by the water?  That's exactly how God's love is, after all, Jesus gives living water (John 4.)

I hope you caught it.  Even at times when circumstances or people make us think "He loves me not," we can trust Him at His word when He says, "I love YOU." (John 3:16)  I pray YOU too will grasp how wide and long and high and deep His love for you is and that you'll be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (That's a lot of grains and drops!)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

I woke this morning to a text from a friend which contained a link to an encouraging, upbeat, happy song (Jamie Grace's Show Jesus.)  It so inspired me that I got up on the right side of the bed!  (Same side as every morning, but it's amazing how sometimes that can be the wrong side. Hmm...)

Q ended up having to go in to work this morning, so I moved very leisurely.  After a healthy breakfast of blueberries, Kashi, and skim milk (only five points - yes I'm counting and doing Weight Watcher's again, and I'm on a roll - worked out four days in a row) and of course, a cup of coffee, I continued my homework from the Bible study I'm doing (Believing God.)  Today's lesson is all about "taming the tongue" and speaking the word of God, speaking life.  That is exactly what my friend did with that text message to me this morning.  God also spoke life to me in my homework by including the Bible verse I chose yesterday to memorize.  His timing never ceases to amaze me.  I can't count the number of times He has confirmed something or smiled at me through His word by having that very word show up in something I'm reading or listening to after I've taken a step of faith.  He knows I need those little reminders that He knows every detail.

The sun was streaming through the front windows, and the breeze was blowing a tune on my wind chimes, so I decided to get out in the warmth of it and explore some of the fascinating things God put in nature for us to find.  I took my camera with me and took pictures of as many kinds of moss I could find just walking through the neighborhood.  You are probably looking just like my neighbor did when I was blocking her from getting in her driveway and I explained that I was looking at her wonderful collection of moss.  

[Insert conversion from Disney's Beauty and the Beast between father and daughter:
Belle:  Papa, do you think I'm odd?
Maurice:  My daughter...odd? (He is peering out from under a machine wearing a bizarre pair of boggle-eyed glasses.)  Where would you get an idea like that?
Belle:  Oh, I don't know.]

Actually, I am working on a project for my correspondence writing course, and it has to do with moss.  So, there was a method to my madness! Anyway, the day is gorgeous!  The sun is filtering through the trees casting wonderful shadows on the ground below.  The breeze is spreading sweet scents of blooming daffodils as they gracefully dance in the wind. Tiny flowers and little green sprouts are shooting up everywhere.  Do you know how many kinds of moss there are?! I love that God has such a great imagination (kind of helps explain some of my wild ideas since we are all made in His image!)  God not only speaks to us through His written word but through nature as well.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made...Romans 1:20 (NIV)  Hence why I love birds and bugs, flowers and trees; some of my favorite things are these.

I'm really just kind of rambling, but I do pray God uses my mouth to speak life to the people around me. I hope you have a wonderfully blessed day.

Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Ephesians 4:7 (ESV)
Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need.   Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)

Monday, March 11, 2013

This little piggy...

My dad celebrated his 81st birthday this past Thursday, but we didn't celebrate it until Friday.  My sister and I left Friday morning to drive the three hours to our folks' house.  Q came down after he got off work...just in time for a birthday dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, white acre peas, and salad.  As my sister and I were traveling, she asked me again about making Dad's cake.  She was frying the chicken so I needed to make the cake.  For some reason, when she'd asked me earlier in the week, the thought overwhelmed me.  As we were talking, though, I had an epiphany of what kind of cake and how it would be decorated.  Hence, this is another recipe post. :o)

We settled on a hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting.  Dad's favorite is coconut, but many of the family do not share his affinity for it, so we went for next favorite.  I searched the web and found a recipe which I will type out below.  I did change a few  things, as I almost always do.  I don't know why, but I seem to adjust recipes often.  Anyway, catching the hummingbirds is the hardest part.  They are very hard to sneak up on.  [Just kidding, no animals were harmed in the making of this cake.]   

Before making the actual cake, you'll need to make some fondant.  My favorite recipe is a marshmallow fondant which actually tastes good (I'm not fond of the taste of other fondants.) Here is a link for Marshmallow Fondant.  I adapted this recipe just a bit by adding one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and I used butter instead of vegetable shortening.  (Looky there, I did it again!) Shape fondant into little piggies as seen in the picture below.  Use a toothpick to make eyes and belly buttons.  You will have quite a bit of fondant left over, but it will freeze nicely until the next time you need to make some fun, editable decorations.

3 cups all-purpose flour  (sifted)  
1 teaspoon baking soda  
1 teaspoon salt  
1 1/2 cups sugar (this is cut from the original 2 cups, but it could probably be cut another 1/4 cup)  
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)  
3 large eggs, beaten  
2 sticks softened (very soft) butter  
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract  
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained  
1 cup chopped pecans  
3 mashed bananas

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Blend in the beaten eggs and softened butter until the mix is moist. Gently stir in remaining ingredients, then pour equal amounts into two 9" round pans that have been greased and floured. [Hint: I'm not sure where I learned this 'trick," but I always cut a piece of waxed paper to the round shape of the bottom of the pan and lay it in the bottom after it's been greased and floured, then pour cake batter in.  I never have cakes stick anymore.  Once the cake is done and out of the pan, I simply peal off the waxed paper for a very smooth cake bottom.]

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes (when toothpick comes out clean.)  Cool on racks for 8-10 minutes, then remove from pans [& peal off waxed paper.] 

Now, I used cream cheese frosting, which is a favorite in our household, but I'm sure your favorite frosting/icing would work equally as well.

Here is a link to a Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.

The fun part of this cake comes in with the decoration.  I saw a picture of this idea on...wait for it...Pinterest, and I adapted it.  It was originally on a chocolate cake with a chocolate "tub" or "fence." (You'll understand that when you see the picture.)  The problem was, my dad is not particular to very chocolatey things.  So for the tub/fence, I used sugar wafers and pirouette cookies (the named brand) as poles. These were put on after the cake was frosted on the top (lightly) and sides.  The wafers were then stuck to the sides of the cake - four wafers, one pirouette cookie (shortened by 1 1/2"), repeat all the way around cake.  I tied a ribbon around the tub for a festive look (and to make sure the fence stayed stuck.)

In the top of the tub (cake top) I put in more frosting to which I had added 1/2 cup of minced and toasted coconut and 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.  I also added about one tablespoon of cocoa for that "dirty" color.  I wish I had added a teaspoon of cinnamon as well so as to make it more of a red Georgia clay "dirty."  Oh well, you know what they say about hindsight... 

Apply the previously made piggy figures just as if they were playing in the mud.  This cake will be a hit.  As my sister said, "that cake tasted good enough to squeal about!"  My dad thoroughly enjoyed it (the look and the taste) and we had a good time sharing in the festivities.  I'm very thankful for my family.

Desserts like this always remind me of these verses from God's word:
Psalm 38:4 (NIV) Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
Psalm 119:103 (NIV) How sweet are Your words to my taste; sweeter than honey to my mouth. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Recipe of a Pickle

I was privileged to have lunch with Q on Friday at his workplace.  [Insert non-related thought:  if you are a Trekkie, you will undoubtedly think of the being who could appear at any time and any place during a Star Trek show, especially on the Star Trek Voyager series.  I know this because, well, I am a Trekkie...but my "Q" is my wonderful hubby, who, like the other "Q,"  will on occasion pop into a blog entry here and there...resume story.]  We sat with his co-workers and just enjoyed some witty banter.  One of the newest on board was at our table, and she reminded me that her interview was on the day I'd been making pickles.  I looked at her blankly for a moment, but then the realization of what she was referring to dawned on me.  Before I get headlong into that story, let me post the recipe for said pickles:

Red Hots Watermelon Rind Pickles
Note:  I used an 8 quart pot to make these in so water amounts are approximate.
  • 8-10 cups of watermelon rinds (white part - no pink).  These have been cut into pieces about 2" x 1/2" x 1/4."  You may also use cucumbers, about 8-9, peeled and cut into the same size.
  • 8 quarts of water
  • 2 cups pickling lime
Combine these ingredients into the large pot and soak for 24 hours.
Drain and rinse the lime off, then soak rinds in clear water for three hours.
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. of Alum
  • 1 bottle of red food coloring (optional - I did not do this - they will turn out a bright red anyway.)
  • Add enough water to cover the rinds.   
Boil for one hour then drain the rinds.
In another pot, heat the following ingredients until all are melted to make the syrup:
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 10 cups sugar (I know, I know, but you don't eat a lot of these at a time.)
  • 2 cups water 
  • 14 oz. bag of red hots
  • 8 cinnamon sticks 
  • 2 tsp. salt
When the Red Hots are melted, pour the syrup over the rinds in the large pot, cover and let stand overnight (about 24 hours.)  The next day, drain the syrup into another pot, reheat and pour back over the rinds.  Repeat this process for three days.  Reheat the final time, and put rinds into hot jars then fill remaining space to 1/2" from the top with syrup.  Cover with hot clean lids and boil jars for five minutes before removing to cool on racks.  Jar lids should pop when sealed.  These turn out to be bright red and spicy tart sweet.

Okay, here's where the story picks back up.  Q and I were up early, as usual, getting ready for work (this happened in the fall before I was let go from my job).  In the hustle and bustle of getting ready, I realized that it was the final day to reheat the syrup and pour it over the rinds.  Because I was in a rush, I decided to just heat them all up at the same time.  Well, I turned the heat on high under the pot of pickles and finished getting ready.  Since we were late getting up, we were pleased to be out the door and both of us on time for work.

As Q was interviewing the prospective employee later that morning, his phone kept going off.  He'd turned it to silent but it was obvious by the continued buzzing that someone was trying to get hold of him.  Meanwhile, I get a call at work informing me that the fire department is on their way to our house.  They had been unsuccessful reaching my husband, so they called me as our smoke alarm was going off.  

My heart dropped to my feet and I realized what had happened.  I forgot to turn off the burner under the watermelon rinds. I was out the door and on the way home very quickly.  I made all the lights between work and my home, so I'd made it in record time.  But alas, the fire department had had to break into the front door, so the burglar alarm was going off even as the fire alarm continued to blare.  Welcome to the circus on the corner.  I must say that the fireman were all very encouraging and helpful.  I was told that our fire alarm did exactly what it should have and they got there in time to stop a full blown house fire. 
We were pleased not to have any smoke or fire damage (Praise God!) thanks in part, to the new kitchen we were blessed to have just finished.  The backing behind the stove top, while very hot, was insulated enough with backer board and tile that it did not spread through the wall.  The fireman stayed extra time to make sure that the wall (behind the burner where the pot was) cooled to a safe temperature.  Everyone got there quick enough to get windows and exhaust fans open and running to draw out the smoke...

Moral of this story, if you're not very good at multitasking (that's me for sure) then don't heat something up on the stove (especially on high) while you're in a hurry to get ready and off to work.  You just might end up in a pickle (and give someone a very memorable job interview!)
Talk about some red hot watermelon rind pickles.  These were supposed to end up a nice festive bright red and not coal black, although I'm sure at some point they were very red hot!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Pinterest Project #1

Good morning!  I'm back again in the same year!  I'm up a little earlier than usual this morning...had breakfast with my hubby (he's a morning person, I'm definitely not).  I now have coffee in hand, intermittently between typing, +K-Love music blaring, and I thought, "Hey, I should go ahead and blog again this morning!"  So, here I am.

I mentioned yesterday that I'd put up the processes I used for the +Pinterest projects I've completed.  If I can figure out how to upload pictures on this thing, we'll be in business.

The picture to the right is the inspiration idea for my project.  Thing is, I wanted a bookshelf and not just a table, so I had to figure out how to adapt the idea to fit my need.  I began looking at old secretaries (furniture not office workers) and found one that I liked. 

I borrowed my daughters overhead projector (she sometimes does murals) so that I could trace the pattern onto the wall in pencil.  Then I painted the base coat of semi-gloss white (I used blue tape to help me stay in the lines.) 

This was my inspiration piece.
What I printed onto the overhead projector sheet.
After adding a second coat and letting it dry, I used a tole painting technique to add the designs.  

Not sure why this is sideways, but here's where I painted in the lines.
I used a 1/2" angled flat brush, dipped 1/2 into the shadow color and 1/2 into the white, then painted the rope design below.

Pattern followed for design down each side.
My daughter, who is a graphic artist- well just artist period, but who also works at a local hardware store, came over late one evening after work to put up the shelving for me.  Originally, these were wide shelves that were on another wall.  We cut them in half to fit into new the shelf space, rounded the newly cut edge, and repainted the shelving in the same semi-gloss white. 

Used same tole painting technique for other shadow patterns. My DD, (darling daughter, got to use her new drill set that she'd gotten for Christmas when she put up the shelves for me!)

I used some old floral drawer pulls from some drawers formerly in my daughters room (they broke, so we got rid of the drawers.)  DD drilled holes where the screws formerly went, and I glued them into place.

Still sideways - hmmph!

Add books and nick-knacks and voila!  My first Pinterest project is complete.