Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nina's Mission Adventures!

Since we began attending our current church we have been thrilled and pleased to observe Nina's development and growth as a minister in our childrens Christian education to becoming a vibrant young woman of God in missions.

She has a newly updated blog that is a delight to read as well as listen to, as she's cleverly uploaded a music player. For the record, her blog is not all taupe and boring whereas ours? Well, let's not go there, now.

Check it out and tell her we sent you, 'kay?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grace: An Indispensible House Seasoning

I like the term creative juices. It sounds like a pitch for some whirled and blended concoction on a late night infomercial. But what I am writing about, however tempting a smooth citrusy beverage sounds, is the kind of energy that inspires and impels us all to imagine, dream, and aspire to do the original. For me it’s mainly lyrics and music but cooking also provides an enticing outlet. For other members of my family it’s many other things along with poetry, drama, art, and dance. Whatever the bent it transforms our home into a supermarket of ideas and interests that flows nearly unhindered all throughout the day. It’s a little disappointing, then, when the finished product receives severe criticism.

For instance, yesterday the thought of a hot bowl of barley soup recalled pleasant childhood memories of winter suppers on the farm. Tender pearls of barley floating through a rich broth mingling with vegetables and small bites of meat was sure to warm any shivering hungry soul. I set to work preparing the barley then worked on a broth of pork cooking in water. When the pork was cooked I strained the broth and set it to simmer lively while adding carrots, celery, onions, and diced and lightly sautéed Delicata squash. Once the vegetables were nearly cooked I added parsley, thyme, garlic and a little house seasoning. I wasn’t altogether content with the taste or aroma, at that point, and felt it needed something extra special. So, after sneaking in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, I decided to abandon caution and added a splash of cream sherry hoping to transform the soup from interesting to intoxicating. The scent was delightfully heady and I knew I’d done something ingenious. The cooked barley completed the portrait and all that was needed to play off the soup was a batch of cornbread studded with green onions. I was anxious for the response.

It was not at all what I’d hoped for. Of course Bill and Elizabeth enjoyed it greatly but the younger set just didn’t respond favorably. They are, after all, my harshest critics of whatever I set on the table. Unless, of course, I’ve made pasta or something else that is familiar and favored. I’d even tentatively served them very small portions in hopes that they would be braver knowing they only had a few bites. Murron ate her first miniscule serving with apparent gusto but wouldn’t hear of having any more than that. Ulie tried a few bites but faltered quickly after that while Aulay protested any attempts on our part to coax him into trying the smallest bit of pork. All were interested in cornbread, though, until they discovered the green onions. Dinner was over and, by bedtime when Aulay was insisting that he was hungry but would not eat the soup, Bill finally let him have a bowl of cereal.

This was not the outcome I had been envisioning. It’s enough to discourage even the most optimistic of at-home chefs. At times, in fact, I feel like the Beast in Disney’s movie when he hollers at Belle, “Then go ahead and STARVE!” Yet, however soured my creative juices may be, there is always another meal to be made, another opportunity to introduce my family to my own childhood favorites, and another challenge to season my cooking with a little more grace. And, perhaps, be more mindful of how my own criticism needs to be served more gently and carefully.

Oh, and the house seasoning recipe I use is this: 1 cup kosher salt, ¼ cup black pepper, and ¼ cup garlic powder. Store in airtight container for up to 6 months. From Paula Deen. Enjoy!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bittersweet Discipline

Since early in our marriage Bill and I have kept special chocolate treats in our bedroom. These decadent treasures have ranged from simple chocolate kisses to extra special dark chocolates. Bill and I like to give these to each other at random moments and often secretly. They're not so much a secret anymore, however.

The girls have known to keep out of this private collection for a long time, now, but the boys have stumbled upon their discovery and had been looting our trove like bandits. So today was no different as I was occupied in another room when I heard a terrible crash. Elizabeth was the first to investigate and let out a shriek. I came into our room and quickly sent both boys to their rooms and asked Elizabeth to make sure that was where they stayed until I was finished. Bill’s tall dresser, which held the chocolates was tipped completely onto its face assuring me what they’d been after. After cleaning up the mess it was remarkable that only one thing had broken, a perfume bottle. Even more surprising was the fact that neither of the boys were hurt in any way.

As I walked to our oldest boy’s room I could hear him sniffling then, as I entered, he wailed, “I’m so sorry, Mommy.” I hugged him close and told him I knew that but what he did was so dangerous that he can’t do it ever again. I told him I had to discipline him and he took it like the little man he is. Afterward he said, “Let’s pray, Mommy.” I held him as he told God he was sorry, that what he did was dangerous, thanking God that no one got hurt, and thankful that I’d disciplined him. He was thankful for the consequence! He is only four years old but in his little tender heart he understands the meaning of correction and that I love him enough to do it. I sat there and cried, at which he started laughing and said, “Don’t cry, Baby” I cried even more and he laughed again and said, “You’re not a baby!” I then went into our youngest son’s room and went through the same process, with slightly different results, but we prayed too. Still too young to appreciate his lesson, like his older brother, but accepting his discipline nonetheless.

I’m left to think about my own heart and how I accept correction. I’m not the most obedient child and I’m not always thankful for God’s discipline. But while the broken bottle of perfume sits on the dresser and fills this room with it’s aroma, I will remember the sweet repentant words of my son and try to follow his example as best I can.