Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holes In Our Pockets?

With Christmas behind us now, my thoughts turn to the new year.  What things in my life may God be changing?  What disciplines am I finding myself lacking?  Good questions for me to ask.  Good questions for everyone to ask.  For starters, I am looking at my devotional times.  Are they as they need to be?  Has my life in Christ grown significantly in 2012 because of my daily times with Him alone?

Then there's the question of common devotions.  When the family (and friends) meet together in community around the Word.  Can we make changes to encourage our loved ones more in Christ?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together says, "But every common devotion should include the word of Scripture, the hymns of the Church, and the prayer of the fellowship"

These are the things I am pondering as the new year presses upon us.  May we take time to query ourselves to see if there are holes in our pockets.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How can it be that Thou my God . . .

". . . let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.  So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Jesus was human.  Jesus was a man . . . fully, totally human.  [We should] bow in worship, that God would go to such great extent to understand us, identify with us, represent us to the Father.  God gave him a heart beat so it could stop.  The Father gave Him breath so He could stop breathing.  Blood so it could be shed."  
Rick Holland, Uneclipsing the Son: Getting Jesus Right

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peppermint Bark

This is always a hit, and Christmas wouldn't be the same without it.

17 oz. white chocolate chips or white almond bark
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy
7 oz. chocolate chips or chocolate almond bark
6 Tbls. whipping cream
3/4 tsp. peppermint extract

Cover baking sheet with foil.  Mark a 12" by 9 " rectangle on the foil. Stir white chocolate until melted and smooth and candy thermometer reads 110 degrees F.  Remove from water if in a double boiler.  Pour 2/3 cup white chocolate onto foil and spread to fill the rectangle.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints.  Chill about 15 minutes.  Stir chocolate, cream, and extract over medium low heat until just melted.  Cool 5 minutes.  Re-warm white chocolate.  Working quickly, pour white chocolate over dark chocolate and spread to cover.  Sprinkle with peppermints.  Chill about 20 minutes.  Move chocolate onto a flat surface and trim edges.  Cut it crosswise into 2 " wide strips.  Slide candy off the foil and onto work surfaces and cut into squares.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Gift Granola

Cooking oil spray
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/1/2 cups light brown sugar
6 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup craisins

Place rack of oven in the center and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Spray two 11"x17" pans.  In microwave safe bowl mix oil, syrup, and sugar.  Microwave until sugar melts.  Whisk until lumps go away.  In another bowl mix oats, walnuts, wheat germ, and coconut.  Pour the syrup over the oats mixture.  Bake 10 minutes.  Stir.  Bake 10 more minutes.  Keep your eye on it though to prevent burning.  Cool until room temperature.  Add raisins and craisins.  Store in airtight containers.  Best if used in 2-3 weeks.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Music in Our Home

I love Christmas music.  There is a rule in our home that we can't play it until after Thanksgiving.  I confess to breaking my own rule this year at least a couple times.  Now that we are in the thick of it, I thought I'd pass along our new favorite cd this year.  It is beautiful as only Fernando can do beautiful.  Hope you will enjoy it along with us!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some of our day . . .

Auntie Ticky and her baby girl

I was pretending to be helpful in the kitchen . . .

Amo making gingerbread men for all of us, but especially for the grandkids :)   

The Gift of Bread

I enjoy giving gifts of food at Christmas (well, at anytime really).  At Christmas it just seems even more right and hospitable to pass around some of the foods that make our time around the table memorable.  This year I made bread for neighbors, sports moms, and church families.  I bought kitchen tea towels from  and wrapped the loaves in them.  Now that's a nice gift!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bread Making 101

English Muffin Bread
Makes 2 loaves
5 1/2 cups white flour
2 Tbls. active dry yeast
1 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup (or whatever) yellow cornmeal

This works best if you have an electric dough mixer.  If's good exercise for those arms!  Spray your bread pans with cooking oil and sprinkle the cornmeal in the bottom of the pan.  Combine 3 cups of the flour, sugar, salt, and soda in your mixer bowl.  Proof the yeast by adding it to the water (in another container) with a pinch of sugar.  The best temperature for yeast to grow is 100 degrees F to 115 degrees F.  This is exactly where my tap water is, which makes it easy.  You might want to test your water with a thermometer first and figure out by touch just what that feels like.  After adding the 2 Tbls. yeast to the water with a pinch of sugar...set it aside to "grow".  The reason we proof yeast is to make sure it is still living and will actually raise your bread.  It is not fun to make bread only to watch it do nothing.  After about 5-10 minutes your yeast should be looking alive with little bubbles and it will actually grow in the cup.  Add this yeast to the mixture in your bowl and start mixing.  Add the milk.  You can do this 2 ways.   1) warm it up slightly but make sure you don't get it hotter than 100-115 degrees F. or you will kill the yeast.  2) just put the milk in cold.  I have done it both ways with success.  The warmed milk is better because it helps the yeast along.  Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough.  I have taught lots of people to make bread, and the most common mistake is putting in too much flour.  This dough will be sticky when it's "just right".  In Texas with our fairly humid climate, it takes on average 5 1/2 total cups of flour.  In the summer, it would probably take the full 6 cups.  Experiment, but stop yourself before you add too much.  In an electric mixer the dough will start to pull from the sides of the bowl and be smooth and elastic.  By hand, it will began to feel more workable and elastic.  This next step is the best part of making the bread.  There is only one rising time.  Take the dough after flouring your hands.  Divide it in 2 parts.  Use a pastry cloth to roll out a pretty loaf with each 1/2 of the dough.  This is best done by hand.  Just think playdough!  Raise the bread loaves.  At my house, the best way to raise dough is in my oven.  I set it at its lowest setting 170 degrees F.  I put the bread on the middle rack and turn the oven off. With the door closed, the dough will stay warm and in a perfect environment for rising.  When the dough has just begun to peek over the sides of your pan, turn the oven on 400 degrees F.  Bake the loaves right where they raised for 20-25 minutes.  Once they begin to golden up, take out of the oven and put on cooling racks.  This bread is good right out of the oven, or sliced and toasted.  

Just a taste of that Southern hospitality . . .

Welcome Home!!!  My family drives up in the old white, '96, extra long, manual, crew cab pickup.  "Throw your stuff in the back!" I hear.  Oh boy, it has been awhile.  I took a deep breath and heaved the heavy box over the side.  Just missed not making it.  Phew!  That would have been embarrassing.  The other bags followed suit, but thankfully 6'2" Joseph was there to do the rest.  "You're sitting in the front Ticky!" they call.  After saying hey to everyone I hop in front.  We start off.  The truck rumbles down the road.  Thwack! my knee gets the stick.  Ouch!  Ok, watching for that now . . . Well, I tried to watch for it.  My knee wasn't real appreciative of my attempts to keep clear by the time we got home.

Day after coming home we went to church and to a sweet family's home for dinner.  "Charity, come look at our garden!" the five year old calls out.  I step out the back door and down the porch steps.  Bang, boom! "gotcha!" Oops, I stumbled into a crossfire between neighbor boys playing WWIII through the fence cracks.

Sporadic idea Sunday afternoon that I texted to my sister:
Me: "Hey! So I think you should meet me somewhere and I'll pick up Nora [my 9 month old niece] and bring her back to you this weekend :)"
Mary Beth: "It's a buy one get one free deal."
So I ended up with a 9 month old chubby cutie and also a 3 year old sweet little girl.  Not a bad deal, but about 5 times what I had initially asked for  . . .

Monday afternoon I took the girls and Natey into town and did a little bit of shopping at the local HEB.  There was a sample station with coffee.  Sample stations always scare me because there's a high chance that I might be stopped as "too young."  I take a deep breath, assure myself that I have to look older because I am a senior in college and I have three kids hanging on me as well as a cart with a few groceries in it.
Guy standing next to the sample station with thick southern drawl: "She's too young and too little for coffee!  Look it, she's got three kids bigger than her!" I smile sweetly as the lady suspiciously gives me a cup.
Guy: "Ma'am, you are way to small to have all those kids!"
Me: "They're not my kids, those are my nieces and this is my little brother."
Guy: "Oh gosh, I'm glad.  You scared me there lady!"
I think the sample lady then greatly wished she hadn't given up the cup so easily as I gave Elsa (3) and Natey (10) each some of the coffee.

Later that afternoon we were at Jiu Jitsu for Nate and Paul Haben, the instructor, came up to me.  After greeting me:
Paul: "You coming back for at least a couple of classes?"
Me: "Yes, I'm planning on it, but quite honestly, I'm scared to death!  I'm totally out of shape."
Paul: "Get out of town!"
and then he proceeds to turn and talk to someone else without even a smile.  Ok . . .

At dinner we sit around and talk.  Conversation is wonderful.  Stories are flowing. I'm sitting back thinking about how good everything tasted and how much I love being home.  Such bliss . . .
Mom: "Ok.  Stop visiting now.  That's enough. Time to do dishes.  Chop chop!"
Right.  That's what I was forgetting . . .

Dark Caramel

Recipes are funny things.  They don't always come from where you'd expect them to come from.  This particular caramel recipe came from a pharmacist my dad used to work with in Pryor, Montana. She loved to take our blood.  She was a goof ball and kind of creepy as she showed us how she drew out blood, separated it, and tested it under her high powered microscope.  However, along with being a kind of vampire in our 8, 9, and 12 year old minds, she also had a great recipe for dark caramels.  I dug this recipe out Monday and gave it a go.  It was the first time we've made it with a thermometer.  Man alive, did that make a difference!  This is the best caramel I have ever had I think.  It's not hard to make at all.  Just be sure to use a large enough pan and don't forget to keep stirring!  

1/2 pound butter
3 cups packed brown sugar
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup light Karo syrup

Melt butter to oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir constantly until it reaches 240* (about 22 minutes after it starts to boil).  Pour into buttered 8x8 baking dish to cool.  After it is cooled, remove from pan and cut into squares.  I'm not a perfectionist, so my caramels are not really the same sizes at all, but about 1"x1" is about right.  Wrap each piece in wax paper.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Coffee and Cookies

I'm sitting in a rocking chair in a bright and sunny living room listening to the sound of birds and wind chimes through the open porch door.  The breeze is coming gently in and I have a half eaten cookie and cup of coffee sitting beside me.  This can only mean one thing.  I'm home.  I love being home.  It is so pretty here and my family is here and I really do think it is where I belong.  Well, at least I know it is where I belong right now.

Nate, Joseph, and my mom just went into town to do some grocery shopping and also so Nate can do his martial arts later this afternoon.  My dad is at work, of course, but will be coming home tonight around 8:30.  Scout the border collie is running from window to window trying to see the last glimpse of the car driving away or a mischievous squirrel springing from the trees to the ground where she may be able to chase it if she can get outside fast enough.  Willy, my husky, is outside laying on the porch enjoying the breeze and cool weather.  Elsa and Nora are upstairs taking a nap.  I grabbed another cup of coffee and a cookie so that I could comfortably wait out the cooling of my lefse dough that I just mixed up.

So this is my plan for this break.  We'll see if it comes to being or not.  I would like to post on activities that we do, recipes that I make, and anything else that takes up my time.  Hopefully it'll prove interesting :)   I am sorry ahead of time for the quality of the pictures.  If you are a photography snob, I am afraid you will be sorely dissapointed.  For one thing, I don't take amazing pictures 99% of the time.  For another, when I'm on vacation, and even when I'm not actually, I don't carry my camera around wherever I go.  What usually happens is I take out my phone and snap a picture from there.  Thus, you will either have to bear with bad photography or no photography.

I hope that whether you are in 2 feet of snow, pouring down rain, sunshiny weather, or somewhere in between you will all make sure to enjoy this Christmas season!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Home, at last.

Texas cowboys

After all the goofy looks and doubtful stares I've gotten for the past three months, I was afraid maybe I was just making it up . . . Guess not.   What I saw immediately after getting off the plane in Austin, Texas. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

“We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune." CSpurgeon

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

He is good? Yes. He is good.

I guess maybe I'm really bad at blogging.  Whenever I think that I should write something down, it comes in the form of a song I know.  Oh well, my blog, my rules right?  I'd rather have written this myself, but the simplicity of this song hits the nail on the head.  I've been learning, this semester, to trust God.  I thought I did trust God but there's nothing like God teaching me a lesson to show me all my failures in this area.  I can go to scripture and dive deep into theology and learn all about God's sovereignty, omnipotence, omnipresence . . . and still not trust Him.  At least for me, I must grasp this: God is good.  Like Lewis says about Aslan "Tame?!  No! He's not tame! But, he is good."  Tame?  My God tame?  No, He's not tame, but He is good.  I am glad He's not tame.  It made me mad when I first realized it; but really, how lame would that be?  Talk about putting God in a box.  But, God is good.  As I said, I could dive into theology and explain why it is that we know that God is good, but that doesn't seem to help me personally very much.  It is important to know and I have studied it, but when it comes down to it, it is just a bunch of scholastic details that don't affect my heart deep down.  Maybe it's because in my heart of hearts, I am no scholar but a simple girl who wants to simply love God and live for Him.  I love simplicity.  Everything is so much clearer that way.  Ok, all this to lead up to this song that I sing as a prayer to my Father to remind me of His goodness.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God."

You are good always 
And in all ways
You are working all things 
Together for our good
You are good always 
In big and small ways 
I know I can trust You
In everything You do

With the hard winds of life
Blowing out of control
It can feel like I'm all on my own
But You've given me Your word
And I know You'll never leave
And I've never faced a single storm alone

I can't say it's always 
Been a smooth open road
Or turned out the way I'd prefer
But one thing I'm sure of 
You've been faithful to me
And I live to give You all that You deserve

Written by Jon Mohr and brian Johnson
© 2007 Blue Saguaro Music / Brian Johnson Music (BMI)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Children's Hunger Fund Toy Wrapping

I spent the afternoon at the local Children's Hunger Fund warehouse helping people wrap toys for children around California and northern Mexico.  Included with each ty beanie baby bear was a gospel track.  These presents will be given to the local churches who then go out and distribute the gifts to needy kids.  Here's the group I worked with today. We were table leaders which pretty much meant we got to boss.  Fit me to a tee :)  I love my Bible Study!  The pic below is those of us who volunteered for today and then the founder of the Children's Hunger Fund, David Phillips, in the blue t-shirt. Afterwards 5 of us went to In 'n' Out where I enjoyed a vanilla milk shake.  Those things are the best.  Good day, good fellowship, tired feet, time for sleep . . . 

You can check out more about Children's Hunger Fund here