Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Slow Pour

I'm often in a rush. This could be the result of growing up with a mother that is very hard-working and thus always moving. It could also be a sad reflection of my bad habit of procrastination. Needless to say, it is a way of life for me to "bustle about". My husband has even called it Hurricane Mode, when I really get going.

Last week, I learned a valuable lesson and was confronted with this habit, which may be keeping me from enjoying some of the quieter moments that life affords.

We checked into a beautiful resort in Kelowna. The rates were really reasonable because of the homeschooling conference and so we splurged for the weekend stay. Of course, because it was a pretty fancy place, and breakfast was gonna cost us close to $50 for the family, we decided to eat in our room. I had brought along some oranges, biscuits, and juice boxes. The room also had a coffee-maker with coffee, so I made a cup of java to get us going. We had a big day ahead of us at the conference.

As all mothers, I was not only preparing breakfast, but getting the boys dressed, finishing my own hair & make-up, tidying up the toys and books scattered about the room, etc.

"Oh, the coffee's done. Here, let me pour you a cup," I said to my husband and quickly grabbed the carafe.

Turning my wrist I proceeded to pour the coffee into the mug, but about a third of it ended up on the counter because I was pouring too quickly - the spout was quite small. After cleaning up the spill and getting hubby comfortable to enjoy his morning fix, I continued to pour a cup for myself. This time, however, I was more careful, and was stunned at how slowly I had to pour in order to avoid spilling. The coffee was satisfying and I didn't give the incident another thought.

That is, until the next day. Again, we had breakfast in the room, complete with yogurt and muffins, and of course, coffee. This time, I was wise to the fact that I had to pour slowly, and so as I filled our mugs, I noticed how enjoyable this activity can be. The sound of the liquid filling the cup, the aroma filling the air, the rich caramel colour of the coffee, were all delights to the senses. Sadly, I have filled many cups of coffee in my life, and never really stopped to enjoy the pleasures of such action. Why? Because I'm doing it in a hurry.

This begs the question: how many other "pleasures" are there along life's road that I am not relishing because I am engaging in these activities in a hurry? Sadly, I have to admit that this is probably more frequent than God wants it to be. He has created me to participate in the abundant life, which I believe, also includes the small "pleasures". These small "pleasures" come as part of the everyday and are experienced via the five senses that God created us with. Surely, He delights when we delight in these small gifts.

Of course, these "pleasurable" activities should never become our god. But they may just be another way to offer praise and gratitude to the One that grants us life and breath. And with such perspective, I thank God for a pleasurable slow pour of coffee.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mountie Meal

About two years ago, I bought Bison to try as an alternative to beef. In the process, I came across a recipe book put together by some of the top chefs of Alberta. It's a really lean meat with a nice mellow flavor - not gamey, as I had expected.

Just last week, my eldest son asked me to make this recipe again. It is one of his favorites, and I hadn't made it for a while. This time I didn't use buffalo meat, since my freezer is full of beef. It also tasted great.

Based on the name, Mountie Meal, I suspect this is similar to what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used to cook when they were up in posts - isolated from towns and their regular homes. It cooks up in one pan, making it a great option for camping trips. It's also a nice meal to come home to (if you want to delight hubby when he comes in after a long, hard day), as the spices are very fragrant.

Mountie Meal

1 lb. ground lean bison
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pepper, chopped
2-3 tbsp. chili powder (I use less with small children)
2 tsp. cocoa
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 large tomatoes, diced
16 oz. tomato sauce
15 oz. pre-cooked pinto beans
15 oz. pre-cooked black beans
1 cup water
(opt. 7 oz. diced green chili)

Condiments: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onion, sliced olives, sour cream, tortilla chips.

Saute bison for 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic, saute 5 additional minutes. Mix in chopped pepper and spices. Cook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sauce, beans, water and chili. Stir to blend and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Serve with condiments.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One Meal Two Ways

Our first stop last week was Vancouver. The drive was incredible. Clear blue skies were the backdrop to pristine white snow that had fallen just days before. The sun shone with radiance that made the weary fall into deep sleep - which is exactly what I did for about 3 hours as we navigated our second mountain pass. (This was the first of several "great sleeps" that God granted me on this trip. To a mom of two high-octane little boys, this is a blessing that I thank the Almighty for).

In Vancouver, we stayed with my aunt and uncle. They are wonderful hosts and fed us like kings. Their home is beautifully kept - white carpets, leather furniture, interesting artwork - even a special room, which my eldest dubbed "the Look-Out Room", since it affords a spectacular view of Grouse Mountain. Both my aunt and uncle enjoy gourmet food, and we were treated to delicacies such as grape leaves, filo-wrapped veal, hummus, etc. Many of these were new and unusual for my boys.

The last evening we were visiting there, my aunt invited my cousin and her husband to dinner. The menu included scalloped potatoes (actually, I think they were potatoes au gratin, but to my husband they're scalloped) with ham and a chicken dish. It was a delightful meal, complete with pleasant conversation and music befitting the city-lights sparkling in the distance.

The next day we left Vancouver for another cousin's home in Abbotsford. Again, we had a fantastic visit. My cousin has 5 children (plus another on the way from Liberia). Her house is in the country and is like stepping into a basket of warm buns - lots of love, lots of laughs and lots of food.

Dinner at their place was just like "down-home". She had cooked a ham, complete with scalloped potatoes, salad, fresh buns and concord grape juice - made with the grapes in their backyard. We ate with 11 people around a huge oak table. There was lots of "please pass me..." and conversation that ranged from IT to high school soccer practice. Afterwards we sat around the living room and talked until the wee hours of the morning.

Upon reflection, I was struck by how both my aunt and my cousin gave us a wonderful gift. And although they both cooked the same food on paper, their meals were both served in such a unique way - that they were individual offerings of love. As such, we enjoyed them both tremendously and grew in understanding: it's generally not as much about the food, as it is about the company. This is a great reminder for me to "be myself" and just relax about the menu when company comes. Generally, the food will be edible, and the company? If it's without pretense or pride, it should be most enjoyable and fulfilling.

Coffee Cup Verse

First off, I need to apologize to you, my friends in the blogosphere, for not explaining my absence this past week. We went on vacation to British Columbia. For security reasons, I didn’t want to anounce that we were gone – that is, until we returned. We had a great time and I have several posts to write in the coming days about what I learned. One highlight of our trip was seeing Susan Wise Bauer. For those not familiar with homeschooling ‘gurus’, Susan is an author that outlines classical education and has written several books to help parents teach this way. I’ll definitely talk about what I learned from her. But before, I launch into my vacation musings, let me post my coffee cup verse for the week (please forgive my tardiness).

Psalm 18:24
The LORD has rewarded me
According to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness
Of my hands in his sight.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tasty Juice

I haven't been writing as much as usual because I've been reading more blogs than usual. In the past few days there has been some interesting blogging about Brian McLaren and the Emergent Church (see Coloratura Christian's reflections of hearing him, Cowboyology posts an interesting poem, kerux noemata shares his recent research paper on his new Emergent-dedicated blog).

In keeping with the focus of this blog, I will not enter into such discussion in this forum - although I encourage all Christians to familiarize themselves with what's being sold in the Christian bookstores as the "latest" trend in Christian literature. We need to be careful and remember 1 John 4:1, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."

I encourage each of you to be examining for yourself, what is being purported as "christian". These are not bandwagons to be jumped on, like when we suddenly watch hockey just because our Calgary Flames are in the play-offs. These are sometimes battlefronts for the soul. And in those cases, it really does matter what side we are on - and we'd better know what side we're on.

Anyway, I was just gonna share a quick recipe that I "invented" last night, which my son said I should post. (This is more like what 'homemaker' is all about :)) We've called it "Tasty Juice". It uses frozen watermelon. I had purchased too much watermelon for us to consume last September, and decided to cut it and freeze it. Just found it buried in my freezer yesterday and thus we have the discovery of "Tasty Juice".

Tasty Juice
750 ml of frozen watermelon
1 cup or so of white grape juice

Blend and serve like a slushie.
Easy, healthy, fun and 'tasty'. Enjoy!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Gospel at the Carnival

I haven't been posting over the past few days because I've been writing for some other things at church. One of them is a page for our Pioneer Girls closing night. We are planning a carnival teaching the ten commandments. The girls will each be given a "passport" to take around to the different stations, where they'll get stickers - one corresponding to a commandment. At the back of the passport we wanted to include the gospel for them to read again at home.

I'm gonna post it for anyone else that works with children that may need this someday. I'd appreciate any comments you may add to help me be clear, readable, and accurate. You can also join me in prayer for the moms & dads that might read this, since about 60% of the girls that come to clubs are not from church backgrounds. We are excited every week about the opportunity God has given us to reach into these lives.

God is the almighty ruler of this world. He created the earth and the heavens. He also created people to live and enjoy this planet. Plus He gave us a guidebook with instructions about how to live.

The Bible says these commandments are a schoolmaster- a teacher- showing us where we are failing the ‘test’ of life. Whenever we fail to keep one of His commandments, we fail God. Since God is a perfect judge and is totally fair, He has to punish law-breakers. In the Bible, God tells us this punishment is terrible suffering and also unbearably lonely.

This is desperate news, because we have all broken at least one of God’s laws. In fact, if we’re honest and sincere, we break those laws often – daily, hourly, sometimes even more often. Suddenly, we are faced with the horrible consequences of our actions.

BUT, there is some good news that God offers us. He loves each and every one of us soooo much. SO much, that He sent His Son, Jesus, to come to earth and pay for our sin, in our place. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not die, but have eternal life." That means Jesus has taken our punishment, PLUS we can now have eternal life in heaven with God. This good news of Jesus dying for us is a gift that God offers every person.

So how do we receive this gift? (1) By believing that Jesus is our substitute in the place of punishment; and (2) by turning away from our life of sin. That is, we confess to God the laws that we have broken, and then we turn away from continually breaking His laws.

Jesus has done something really amazing by dying for us. He deserves to be our new Master. God tells us how our new Master wants us to live in the Bible. That’s why it’s important to read this Holy Book every day. Plus Jesus promises to help us by the Holy Spirit – we just need to ask for His help through prayer.

If you have any questions, please call or talk to your club leader – or come and visit (our) Church. We would love to help you in this new life, serving Jesus.

Coffee Cup Verse

1 Peter 3:18
For Christ died for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the body
but made alive by the Spirit,

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Did You Know?

Did you know...
that you can put dryer lint into your compost?
(I always wondered what I could do with it:)

Just a little tid-bit I came upon recently.

Apple Pie

Everyone has a recipe for apple pie, but I thought I'd post my favorite. This one is from Martha Stewart, and it is truly scrumptious. Some important tips are using butter that is cold and working quickly. Another trick I've discovered is rolling out the dough on a Sil-pat sheet (silicone baking sheets that you use on your cookie sheet to prevent sticking). It rolls out nicely and then you just flip the dough into the pie-plate and bam! You've got a beautiful crust ready to fill.

Handmade Pastry (makes a 9" double crust)
2-3/4 c. white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, chilled
4 tbsp. shortening, chilled
6-10 tbsp. ice water

Place flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Add butter and shortening. Using a pastry cutter, 2 tablespoons, or a pastry attachment on your mixer, blend until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Gradually add ice water, mixing just enough so the dough holds together.

Apple Pie (makes a 9" pie)
1 recipe Handmade Pastry
3 tbsp. flour
3 lbs. apples, cut into wedges
1/2 cup sugar
1/2-3/4 tsp. spices (combination of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and clove)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest, optional
pinch of salt
2 tsp. unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 tbsp. cream

1. Preheat oven to 400. Roll out dough (top and bottom).
2. Combine apples, sugar, flour, spices, lemon juice, zest, and salt. Toss to combine. Pour into bottom crust. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Cut vents into crust.
3. Brush crust with cream and sprinkle with sugar. (This step makes the crust delicious and crispy). Place on baking sheet and pot into oven for 45-60 minutes. Recommended but not necessary: cool for 1 hour before serving.

Hope you love this as much as my family does!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Coffee Cup Verse

For those of you that are newer "regulars" to my blog, every week I post a Coffee Cup Verse. Personally, I print it out and tape it to my coffee-maker. This gives me something to "chew" on before I eat breakfast, clean out the dishwasher, make dinner, etc. I have no real rhyme or reason in how I choose scripture passages, other than I'm usually already thinking on these verses and just want to be more purposeful in my meditation. This week I'm looking forward to Palm Sunday.

Zecharaiah 9:9
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming toyou;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Talks With Kids

This morning after church a woman approached me and recounted a conversation she had just had with my 5 year old. I appreciate her willingness to tell me the details of their talk.

Following the children's hour she had asked my son a few questions about the lessons they had learned.

My son proceeded to tell her that they talked about the Good Samaritan.

"Oh," she continued, "and what did you learn from that story?"

"That we should help others," was my son's reply.

"And how can you help others," she carefully pressed.

"Well, I don't have any sick people in my neighbourhood," my boy noted. (Isn't this interestingly related to the lawyer's question that initiated this parable from Christ: "and who is my neighbour?" My boy, like the lawyer, was not seeing the needy people in his life... much like the pharisees and self-righteous people of Christ's audience).

So the woman, concerned that my son understand the biblical application of the lesson, probed a little further, "How about your brother? What if he fell or something? Could you help him?"

To which my son responded, "Oh, he can get up himself."

He can get up himself??? Clearly, my son was not registering that he could be like the Samaritan and LOOK for needy people to help.

"Hmm," I thought when she finished telling me about their dialogue. "I guess we'll have to review this lesson some more this week."

I am so thankful that this woman stopped to talk to my son. This shows that she truly cares about him and about his spiritual growth. It challenges me to interact with the children of our church in a more meaningful way. I was glad that I knew where my first lesson would be during bible time tomorrow.

Later in the afternoon, my husband, not knowing of my conversation with this woman, also talked to my son about the Sunday School hour. This time my son explained how the lesson was about loving others and continued to explain how he could do this.

"Like, I could help my brother if he got hurt when he fell down," were his exact words.

"He got it! He learned the lesson!" I thought, excitedly.

However, it wasn't in the classroom that he had learned the point (though the seeds were planted there). Thanks to this woman's sensitive questions and intuitive leading towards applying biblical truth (coupled with the Holy Spirit's guiding), my son did grasp the lesson being taught today.

Let this be a challenge to all of us to STOP and TALK to the children around us. We just may be God's instrument to help them figure out the things of God. And who knows? Maybe that's our way of being a "good samaritan."