Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Moms Over 40 and Their Furry Babies

I had heard of the phenomenon of women, usually moms, getting a cute little animal for their 40th birthday (or near it) and then taking this furry little thing everywhere. Silly, I thought. Until this little fur ball came to live with us. She was found under a shed and bottle fed until we got her when she was about 4 weeks old. As she is a cat, I can't really take her everywhere, but I sure do love having Mimi around the house with me. And now I get it- this furry baby phenomenon.





Mimi is cute and always clean; cats are self-cleaning you know. She sits in  my lap and purrs telling me how content she is just be near me. She always says "please" and "thank you". She follows me around as I go about my day just as quiet as can be. She watches my every move and waits patiently for me to tickle her chin. She can entertain herself, and does so quite willingly. Sometimes, she just sits in a room with me, not needing me. Other times she rubs against my legs just to let me know she's here. She never rolls her eyes. She never ignores a request. She never holds my hand and says, "come on Mama". She never waits until bedtime to tell me all about the day. She never asks me to play Monopoly. She doesn't say that I am really good at basketball. She doesn't come out into the den early in the morning in cute pajamas and messy hair. She doesn't tell me that I am a great cook. She doesn't think I look crazy when I dance. She's okay, but...


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Strawberry Cake

A friend of mine gave me this recipe for strawberry cake about three or four years ago and I have been waiting for a reason to make it. My daughter's 8th birthday was last week and I thought what a perfect reason to make a super sweet pink creation than for my super sweet girl's day.

Notice the birthday candles are the centerpiece candles. 

Yum.


Silver forks and linen napkins. So convenient that my grandmother's initials are the same as my married initials. 


Strawberry Cake

1 package white cake mix
3 oz box of strawberry jello
12(ish) oz package of frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed, Set aside 1/4 cup of the puree for the icing
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/4  cup water

Preheat oven to 350 and grease, very well, two round nine-inch cake pans. Combine ingredients in electric mixer and beat until smooth, about 4 minutes. Pour evenly into pans and bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup strawberry puree
1/2 tsp strawberry extract
32 oz powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese until creamy, then add the remainder of the ingredients. Beat, in mixer, until smooth and spreadable.

Spread on cake after cake has cooled.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Recovering Southern Rebel

I have a confession to make. Several, to be more exact. I have not been truthful with myself or others. I have been denying my complete Southern-ness because I thought it was outdated and silly. It took a fellow Southern chile' to snatch me out of my ivory tower.

Here are a list of a few of my transgressions:

  • I have been known to put a bottle of ketchup on the dinner table. Straight; no serving dish or nothin'. I do always feel very guilty and hope my mother does not walk in on this despicable scene. 
  • Recently, I handed my nine year old a thank you note from a classmate and the conversation when like this: he - "What's this?" me - "A thank you note from A." he- "What's a thank you note?". To drive the knife in a little deeper, A's parents were raised in Michigan. Michigan. In my defense, my son has sent thank you notes, just written by my hand. And, both my children do have, and use, calling cards. I'm not tacky.
  • I keep my silver unpolished and tucked away only for use on special occasions. My good china, the same. 
  • I don't arrange flowers for the centerpiece; I call my mother and let her "help" me with that. 
  • I have no oil portraits of my barefoot children. 
  • I don't fry chicken. I buy it from Publix after church on Sunday with half my fellow congregants. It's really good, and on the way home. 
  • I drink beer right out of the can or bottle, sometimes standing up and not under a roof. I do always have a napkin or koozie - I do have standards. 
I was listening to James Farmer give a talk a month or so ago and while I was glad to hear him, I did think "just another Southerner talking about the South and our 'isms'". He was talking about pimento cheese, blue and white anything, fried chicken, and then he said "serving on our chipped Limoges plates." I snapped to attention. I have chipped Limoges plates; they were my grandmother's. They were her wedding china. She hated them because her mother-in-law chose the pattern. I got them because no one else in the family wanted them. A light, that I could see all the way half-way across town from the museum, shown on the plates. I have chipped Limoges plates!! And I should use them!! 

Those Limoges plates!
A centerpiece sans flowers. 
Mimi is not helping.
                                                             


 So, thank you James Farmer for calling me out. I act Southern, I talk Southern, and I was raised right. But I have not been true to myself (or my mother or my aunt or my grandmother). I should embrace my Southern-ness all the time, every day. Not just a few dinner parties a year. I will serve condiments in proper serving pieces! I will polish the silver! My children will have engraved stationary and use it! I will fry chicken!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pecan People

This time of year always has me thinking about pecan trees. Every time I drive past a grove, or what remains of one in a patch in my city, I take a long look. I love to see people in their light jackets and buckets or plastic sacks collecting for a pie or just to eat from the shell. My grandmother lived in a pecan grove. I've written of it before and fall was always my favorite time of year in Bullock County.  I remember many a time eating Thanksgiving dinner out on the patio and the pecan harvesters would be rambling through the grove shaking the trees. Little black specs of pecan dust would land on our food and dot the Chardonnay. Nobody minded.

Anytime we were out there at my grandmother's, we'd walk through "the pasture" as we all called it and hear the crunch of dried pecan tree leaves under our feet. Pecan leaves seem to get extra crispy and curly. The leaves sound like Lay's potato chips, from the yella bag, when you walk through them. We'd walk down to the pond, for no reason at all, and collect pecans as we walked. Our pockets getting full and coats used to gather the rest; we didn't really need the coats, we were just told to put them on. I was about nine or 10 when I could crack pecans in my hand. I would watch my dad, my grandmother, my uncle, my cousins (even the Yankee ones), crack one pecan against the other and nibble on that sweet meat as we walked. I would have to wait on someone else to crack for me. But then I did it on my own. I remember I was on "Sister and Buzzy's side", the property across the road my grandparents gave my parents  so that my dad could build a little fishing and hunting camp and my mother could build a beautiful country house, and I pressed two of those little gems together and one cracked! I had arrived.

Then I learned what to look for when you opened one. First, scrape off the bitter, sienna colored center; it's really bitter. Then make sure the meat is the right color, pecan colored. Not gray and shriveled; those have turned. Most of the time, you never know if the pecan will be good or not until you crack it. You never know if the meat is perfectly pecan colored and sweet, or shriveled and gray until the shell is cracked and opened. Pecans all look the same on the outside.

The trees do to. Most folks can't tell what trees will produce good pecans as they drive past a grove. Only some folks can walk through a grove and be able to tell which trees will produce good pecans and which won't. Either way, you have to crack open the pecans to see what's on the inside to know the good from the bad.

People are like pecans. You have to get to know them, crack them open, to see what they are really like. You can't just drive by a life and get a sense of it. You can't even walk past someone and think you know them. You have to stop and hold them in your hand, apply a little pressure against yourself, and see what's there. Hopefully, you get the sweet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Water

Our pool is a lovely shade of green. It almost looks like the emerald waters in Destin. But we have no white sand or waiters to bring us fruity-drinks. It looked great most of the summer, but then the Mr. went out of town and it was just too hot for me to work on the pool, bless my heart. Such a first world problem.

I am spoiled to my first world problems; emerald green pool, broken ice-maker (now fixed), the hunt for the perfect curtains. I suffer so. I recently have read two books that, in a round about way, have made me more aware of these "first world" problems. It's a really round about way so stick with me. The books are Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach, and God's Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts. Both discuss the theme of the Bible, but in different ways. Roberts traces the story line of the Bible, it's meta narrative, while Benyon and Sach outline their way to "dig deeper" into scripture. In turn, I now read the Bible with greater observation and thought than before.

For instance, water. It's a constant theme throughout the Bible and I began to wonder why. I did not do exhaustive research, but simply read the commentary in my Bible and happened, (or predestined?), to hear a few sermons and lectures that gave me more information about water in Biblical times.  Did you know that having fresh water was one of the most important elements of survival in Biblical times? Seriously. Notice that all first civilizations and their great cities are located near water, fresh water and ports. Nomadic tribes moved to find fresh water. One of the greatest accomplishments of the Roman Empire was the construction of massive aqueducts that would transport fresh water. So it makes sense that when God wants to stress how much we need him, he calls  himself living water. Let's take a look...

"The Lord is the fountain of living water." Jeremiah 17:13
And the famous 'woman at the well' passage, "Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him  will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14
"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." John 7:37-38
And God knows that we try and quench our eternal thirst with countless other things in our life; we've been doing this since the beginning of time. In Jeremiah 2:13 he says, " they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water," In those days, if a community needed fresh water and did not have immediate access to any, they would build a cistern. Hewed out in rock, preferably, or dug in the ground. Inevitably the water would seep out and the people would have to continue to fill it up with more water; in futility.

Do you see what God is saying here? He is the fountain of living water. When we have him as our savior and he lives in us, then that living water is in us too. We need that water and we know we need it, even if we don't know exactly what that water is or where to get it. Hence the cistern hewing. And filling up and filling up and filling up, only to need to fill it up again. But if we have that living water, it flows constantly in us regardless of us because it is not of us, but of Him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summer Blueberry Muffins

As soon as my mother let me cook in the kitchen, I was making blueberry muffins. I was fascinated by the blueberries in the tin that came all the way from Maine. It never dawned on me that we grow some pretty tasty blueberries right here in the South!

This recipe that I found in Williams-Sonoma  Baking  deserves my grandmother's notation "good and easy".  The original recipe is for raspberry-lemon muffins, but blueberries work well too.


Blueberry Muffins

2 cups flour (fresh from a granary if you can get it: Oak View Farms in Wetumpka, AL is a great source)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2/3 brown sugar (I use dark brown)
6 tbs unsalted butter, melted
Zest of one lemon
1 cup fresh blueberries (or raspberries)

Preheat oven to 425 and grease your muffin tins for 12 muffins. I use Crisco to grease pans because it gives the baked good a crisper crust (not mushy). Or use cup liners.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix, with a whisk, the eggs and brown sugar well; then add the milk, butter and lemon zest. Mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until moistened. Fold in your berries. Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full and bake 15 - 18 minutes. Cool a bit on a wire rack. Eat.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Unicorns and Rainbows

It's easy for me to be a Christian. I am fairly well educated and have enough natural smarts to read and understand Scripture. I am able to define imagery, historical, and prophetic styles through the verses. I am able to link passages together and to understand more clearly what God says . I can relay my thoughts in a manner in which others understand. Right?

I have a warm, or cool, house. A comfortable bed. Problems deciding what to wear due to too many choices in my walk-in closet. Shoes for every occasion. An overflowing pantry. Smart kids. A wonderful husband. Not much to worry about, not much to threaten our family. I pray for protection from the stomach bug and the petty thieves rifling through our cars at night.  Pretty much unicorns and rainbows. It is easy for me to be a Christian.

But what if I was not afforded the education that I received? What if my brain worked slower and it was difficult for me to grasp concepts in the Bible? What if my house was uncomfortable; hot in the summer and cold in the winter? What if the far-off gunshots we occasionally here at night were every night and on our street? What if I had to worship God in secret? What if my kids were "those kids" and my husband long gone? What would my prayers look like compared to what they are now?

 Does it make me less faithful than a Christian in a closed country or the west side of town? Honestly, it very well could. I could sit back and eat bon-bons while the world spins out of control around me. Content to sit in carpool line texting the mom in line right behind me. (Not that I do that because it is against carpool rules.) Thanking God from putting me right where I am, safe.

I do thank God for putting me right where I am, safe. Because it is right where He wants me to be. If it wasn't I wouldn't be here. That 's how the Sovereign God works, don't ya know. He tells us to pray with out ceasing and in no matter what your circumstances be thankful. Thankful for his Son Jesus. Thankful for his gift of Grace. Thankful that he pulled me up out of the mire of sin and set me on the path of righteousness. Thankful that though I will sin, I have an advocate that God looks through to see me blameless. Thankful that there is hope. He tells us to ask in his name and it will be given to you. I ask Him to continue in me the good works which he prepared before hand. I ask Him to work in  my children's hearts as he did  mine. I ask that what they learn through church and school is written on their hearts. I ask that they see their brokenness and need of a Savior. I ask Him to come quickly; heal the world of its pain and sickness; to wipe away every tear and death to be no more; to make all things new.

God does care about the stomach bug and the car-go-throughers. He cares about all parts of my life on easy street as much as he cares for those on the other side of the world. I can read Scripture and grasp the meaning and the beauty of the language. Others may need more instruction. But God wrote the Bible for all of his people, not just the intellectuals. He communicates His Story through the pages and reveals to readers what he chooses to reveal. Ever noticed a word or phrase in a verse you have read a thousand times before and say, "When did that get in there?" He takes each one of his children along their walk with Him one step at a time. A different pace for each sheep. Some can run, some skip, some walk, some limp. He is with each one. An he says,
          "Come, my love, my beautiful one, come, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Come, my love, my beautiful one, come." Song of Solomon 2:10 -13