Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season, a review

There are a number of anthologies containing stories about the Advent season but I haven't seen very many for Easter (aka:  Resurrection Day).  So I was very interested in reading this book.

It contains a number of stories by authors familiar to us and those... not so much.  I didn't read every story and you probably wouldn't either.  But I chose those by favorite authors such as C. S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Walter Wangerin, and Leo Tolstoy. 

This is not a glossy storybook but rather a simple compilation of stories about Jesus, His Death, and His Resurrection.  Some would call it old fashioned, I would say it is "Classic".

It would especially make the perfect addition for any family wanting good read aloud stories for the Easter Season.  However, the stories are of such literary quality that they would make for good reading all year long.

This book was given to me by the publisher but the opinions are my own.

For more information about Easter Stories at Amazon.com, go... here.*

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When you relate more to Calypso than Calvin

The research vessel, Calypso

It was the first warm Spring day early last week.  The first day one could open a few windows to let fresh air flow through the house.  The first and only day so far that the kitchen window was open while I cooked and washed dishes.

The music coming from the CD player on that morning was one of the "Best of John Denver" albums.  The CD which is sold in Cracker Barrel stores.  I was thoroughly enjoying the warm breeze, the scent of the suds in the sink (7th Generation Lavender Mint dish soap), and the music flowing through the kitchen.

Long time readers know that John Denver's music has a place of honor on the itty bitty iPod I use when walking.  Take Me Back Country Roads causes me to think of the beauty of the land and the mountains, Sunshine on My Shoulders speaks to my love of the outdoors and the trails I once hiked, Annie's Song most likely brings all of us the sense of the magic (Narnia magic) of nature, and I have been know to replay Back Home Again over and over on my walks.

But on that particular morning, it was Calypso which began and I had to stop what I was doing and sing along.  Fortunately, I was alone with just the kitty in the house.  There are loved ones in my family who sing like angels.  I am not one of them.  But I digress...

The song, Calypso, always causes me a twinge of delight mixed with guilt.  Delight because I love the story of the boat used by Captain Cousteau in his environmental studies.  In my younger years, I would have loved to take a trip with the crew as they traversed the seas for scientific exploration.  It sparked my land locked imagination.

Guilt because of the response my love for John Denver's music has brought from some Christians throughout the year.  Especially Calypso as it is the well known ship of the Cousteau Society.  I mean, really... they are (shudder)... environmentalists.

I've always felt at least a little different than many people I've met in the church.  Sometimes a whole lot different.  I guess I'm a lot like my mother, who marched to the beat of a different drummer.  Her sister, my aunt, was the good Bible toting Christian of the family.  The one who kept all the rules and reminded everyone what they were.

Mom... was not.  So at age fifteen, she eloped and left it all behind her. She was widowed with seven kids in her 30s and then married my dad in middle age.  I was born when they were in their 40s.  A long time from that day she eloped as a teenager.

Which explains how I came to be raised in a non-churched family.  Until Jesus sought me and bought me with His Redeeming Love... in the Jesus Movement where so many of us who were running away from Him were chased until His love captured our attention and our hearts.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in salvation through Jesus.  I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God.  I believe Jesus lived and died and rose again to become the sacrificial Lamb for our sins.  I believe in the Trinity.  I talk to God!  Sometimes He talks back.  I believe in a relationship with Him.

It's just how we go about living all of that in which we can differ.

All the experiences of my life have brought about a Christian who didn't always fit the look and feel and expectations of the churches they attended.  Not all for there were churches where I felt I belonged but for many... I didn't. 

For since the beginning I have been more Calypso than Calvin.  While my politics are very conservative, I love health foods and unschooling and PBS nature shows and Enya and when I was healthier... finding God in nature.  Like John Muir, nature to me was a cathedral.

The challenges come when you don't fit quite anywhere on this planet.  You are way too conservative for the average health food store but far from the average church lady.  You have a lot in common with the New Age Environmentists type but you love Jesus and cannot understand why someone would not... especially when one worships the creation instead of the Creator.

Like the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys, many of us are just a little different.

How often are people judged for their music, or their clothes, or the fact they are a guy who wears earrings, or their tattoo, or their past sins, or that they have a hard time sitting in the pews, or their family background, or any hundreds of things that make them... different.

The things is... Jesus didn't fit.  He was crucified because He didn't fit. 

As for you and me, the enemy of our souls uses judging and condemnation to keep the church from uniting against him.  If possible (and I think it is), he will make every Christian feel like he or she does not fit in the church.  Not to mention every single second of every day he uses the whole "you will never fit" thing with the sinner longing for salvation.

I always... I mean always... feel better when I go back to the Bible and read what Jesus said and what Jesus did and how Jesus treated those around him.  Jesus was not a church lady.  Nope, Jesus was a master (the Master) of making the outcast feel they have an invitation to the party.

So what am I saying here as I ramble about music and ships and church ladies and how do we bring it all together?  Be Jesus to the people around you.  Don't care so much about their clothes, or the fact they don't look like you, or that they like their music a little louder than you like yours, or that some of their heroes are not part of the church.

And if you... like me... can relate a little more to Calypso than Calvin... it is okay.  Really.  You are not going to the Dark Side or anything.  You may hug a few trees in your life but then again, you also stop to smell the roses.  You're just a little... different.

The Wesleyan church I attended when we lived in Michigan had a quote attributed to Augustine in their bulletin each week...

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

Couldn't have said it better, myself.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Two Healthy Pantry Additions

Photo from The Kitchn, link below
Recently I was looking through my pantry and realized I still had a lot of packages of dry garbanzo beans (aka: chickpeas) left to cook.  We were given a few cases last summer!  But that was fine as we were able to give some to friends and still have a good supply for our protein needs.

So I was thinking how I can use them up more quickly and the decision was made to add hummus to our diet more often.  Just in time for warmer weather cooking.  Well, it will get warmer here.  Eventually.

So I added a container of tahini to the grocery budget.  It is not cheap but is a must have for my preference in true hummus.  Sumac, too... but that is a past blog post.  I love hummus.  I doubt my mother heard of hummus, much less made it in her kitchen.

The first time I can recall eating it was when my daughter was at the University and we would meet at a Middle Eastern diner for lunch.  Much later, Christopher and I would often share hummus when he was at the University.  Albeit at a different place and he likes his with finely chopped cooked lamb spooned into the center of the bowl.  Oh, my... talk about good!

I like mine with lots of garlic and lemon and tahini and the before mentioned sumac sprinkled on top.  With a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil drizzled over it.  Yum... and all things good for me when used with restraint, of course.

So... in a quest to add excellent nutrition as cheap as possible, I also added a bag of organic alfalfa seeds to my husband's health food store list.  He qualifies for their senior citizen discount.  Which brings the cost of the organic alfalfa seeds out of the stratosphere.  But they last for a very long time since we will only make a small amount of sprouts each week.

I've washed the half gallon size Ball jar and have it sitting on my kitchen counter ready to start the process of sprouting.  We used to make alfalfa sprouts all the time.  When Stephanie was a little girl, her favorite sandwich was cream cheese, cucumber, and alfalfa sprouts.  She called them "awful sprouts".  Not because she thought them yucky, she couldn't pronounce alfalfa.

Alfalfa sprouts are one of those foods that I no longer purchase already made at the grocery store.  It is just too easy for them to go bad and they are one of the foods that have made headlines for recalls.  And anyway, the process of sprouting is easy and fun.  Especially once it becomes a part of your everyday kitchen "To Do" list.

I will continue to share as I find new (or in these two cases, renewed) food items to make the pantry healthier.  Here are a couple links:

Want to make your own tahini?  Just mosey on over to my new favorite kitchen/cooking blog called The Kitchn... here.  I don't make my own because of this whole chronic illness-fatigue thing.  I need shortcuts or it will not get done.  Just saying...

The Kitchn also has a hummus recipe... here.  This one uses canned chickpeas, which I have been known to do when I have a last minute hummus craving.  I always keep canned chickpeas on the pantry shelf.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Healthy Mind Cookbook, a review

I was very interested in this cookbook.  My husband, whom long time readers will know went on Disability ten years ago due to Bipolar Disorder, has been researching the relationship between the brain and the "gut".  The changes he made in his diet have proven very affective.

So when I saw there was a cookbook coming up for review that is about this very subject.  I jumped at the change to peruse it.  It is exactly the kind of book anyone who is using food to help heal (or at least alleviate symptoms in my husband's case) brain chemistry needs.

Having both a bipolar husband and an extremely ADHD son, I have known about the affect between the brain and what we eat for sometime.  But the advances within the past five years or so in research have been remarkable.

In The Healthy Mind Cookbook (subtitled Big-Flavor Recipes to Enhance Brain Function, Mood Memory, and Mental Clarity), Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson provide the latest information on the relationship between "the gut" and brain chemistry.  Just in case your doctor is skeptical the way some of our doctors have been in the past.

There is a great deal of easy to read and understand material in the beginning of the book.  I plan to go back and reread certain sections until I am very familiar with them.  Yes, I can see this cookbook becoming very well used and stained with the preparation of recipes.  

The chapter titled The Culinary Pharmacy is worth the price of the book alone as we are given a long list of foods (including herbs and spices) that are good for the brain and information about each food. I have already written down a few herbs I plan to add to my herb garden this Spring.

What makes this book truly functional are the recipes which incorporate all of these foods into our daily diet.  Unlike a scientific journal or a "book about the brain", this book is from a culinary perspective.  One can find familiar foods in recipes and more ethnic types of foods we learn about in The Culinary Pharmacy chapter.

Some recipes I plan to try are:
  • Southwestern Sweet Potato Soup
  • Avocado Citrus Salad
  • Kale With Dates and Caramelized Onions
  • Simple Shrimp Scampi and
  • Triple Greens Frittata

Another nice thing about most of these recipes, with most recipes it would not be difficult to leave out a food you know the family would not eat or that would be difficult to obtain.  Also, I cannot afford organic everything so I would have to use a non-organic option when necessary.

I highly recommend this cookbook for anyone who is dealing with a brain chemistry issue (like bipolar disorder, ADHD, Dementia, etc.) but really it would be good for anyone wanting to protect themselves and their family from these issues in the future.

This book was provided for review by Blogging For Books but the opinion is my own.

Information can be found at Amazon.com... here.*

All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I thank you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My World this Week

Spring Sunset
It was gorgeous here for one day this week.  We made it to the mid-70s before a big cold front came through and placed us back with highs in the 40s.  But we're getting there little by little.  Spring.  One can smell it in the air even if wearing a down coat to get the mail.

This is really "my week" the past two weeks since I couldn't upload photos until the temporary fix to my modem.  Just little things accomplished here and there this past week and as we know... it is the little things that count.

So here is my world this week as seen through the lens of my camera.

I don't purchase magazines much, anymore.  But when I found out my bloggy friend, Sharon Lovejoy, is one of the featured articles in this latest issue of Mary Jane's Farm magazine, I had to buy a copy.

They did a fantastic job of showing Sharon's absolute genius. She is my very favorite garden writer (tied with Susan Branch and Tasha Tudor as my favorite illustrator).  This article will show you I have good taste.  ;)

Front of card
Washi tape on back of sealed envelope.
I found the cutest "flower" stickers at Michaels.  They were the inspiration for a card I created and sent to my fellow flower lover and gardener... my granddaughter, Faith.

For her further enjoyment, I added the wide washi tape to the back of the envelope.  I love this tape called Picture Book Bird so much, it has a permanent place on the Amazon Widget (on the sidebar of this blog).
When I was in town one day recently, I decided to relax a bit by walking through my favorite antique mall.  You can imagine my delight when I came upon old Victoria magazines. 

Even more delightful?  They were only $3.00 per dozen.  I bought all they had, which came to $15.00 plus tax.  I had to make two trips to the van as bundles of magazines are quite heavy.  But oh my goodness... what a God Wink!  I rarely go to the antique mall (or the thrift stores) these days.


Lemon cream scones to share with Mr. & Mrs. Christopher.

Colcannon for St. Patrick's Day
I added bacon this year but we decided we liked it best with just ham.  The bacon takes over the flavor.  But it was still good.  :)

Her Fluffiness
P.L.E.A.S.E. open the window so I can see outside.  I don't care if it is only 30 degrees.  I'm a Maine Coon.  My people kitties can handle the cold!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Faith of Her Own, a review

I stopped reading "Amish" novels for awhile.  The plots seemed to always be similar, there was this sense of deja vu.  What I enjoyed most about this book is that it takes me into the Amish lifestyle in a completely different way than anything I have read before.

The Author, Kathleen Fuller, brings us characters who are all having second thoughts about their own ability to live within the limitations of the Amish community.  However, not from a "shunning" perspective as I have read about.  But from the perspective of facing challenges about expectations.

All the scenarios are quite believable.  One young woman has joined the church and has no desire to leave the community, yet does not enjoy the usual skills of cooking, sewing, etc.  Another young woman has not joined the church and is coming to the realization what she feels God is leading her to do would require leaving the community.  A young man has returned who left the community and has now graduated as a veterinarian.

I enjoy novels that when I read them, I am surprised.  I have never thought about that particular trial a person is going through.  This novel does that in a way that kept me interested to the very last page.

I had a somewhat difficult time in the beginning sorting out the various characters but that changed after the first few chapters.  This book was very enjoyable and gave me an entire new perspective of what it means to "grow up Amish".

This book was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found at Amazon.com... here.*

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I thank you.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Ramblings on Cats, Cold, and Springing Forward

Spring sunlight coming into the Study...
My wireless issues have at least temporarily been fixed.  Word is that I need a new modem but that nice man on the telephone led me through a process that was the technological equivalent of a good kick and restart to the wireless.

It is not a perfect fix but good enough.  Sometimes good enough is... good enough.

A week has passed since most of us in the "States" sprung forward by setting our clocks an hour ahead and losing that hour of sleep.  But I find this changing of the clocks to be much easier on my overall health and well being than when we "Fall Back".  

It takes only days instead of weeks to reset the internal time clock.  Not to mention that lovely extra hour of sunlight we receive each evening.  That alone would make me happy. 

It has been rainy and somewhat chilly where I live but after a month or more of subzero temperatures at night, rain was a welcome sight.  Even a cold rain.  For the first time since Christmas, there is absolutely no ice on the gravel lane and one does not slip and slide from my house to the rural mailboxes.

I even made a trip to the library last week, where I found... in its' Friends of the Library Used Book Room... two books I've long wanted.  The first was the little 1970s Hallmark gift book of excerpts from Gladys Taber called Reveries at Stillmeadow (for $1.00) and M. F. K. Fisher's The Art of Eating (for $2.00).  

Finding those two books and enjoying a cup of coffee on the way home made for a very good day after a very cold winter.  To be honest, just getting out of the house without being concerned about slick roads alone made it a happy trip.

Although I couldn't imagine living anywhere without four very different seasons.  I embraced the Winter in December as much as I now embrace Spring in March.  Albeit March where I live is one of those months that one cannot ever depend on for stable temperatures.  Tomorrow is to be gorgeous, a possibility of snow is in the forecast within a week.

But March is Spring because we need March to be Spring.  Even if we can't safely plant until Mother's Day in May.  March is Spring.  Even if it snows.

March does bring with it sunlight, which my weatherman said is twice as warm as the December sun.  That makes my Study a much nicer place to create.  It is difficult to be creative when one's teeth are chattering.  I know.  I tried.

Ours is a ranch style house with the furnace located on the other side of the house.  I have been told there is a way to fix the "freezing in Winter" and "baking in Summer" of that room but it would involve more construction time and money than I'm willing to put into comfort. 

And if you wonder why I don't have a little heater or a big fan, I have one word.  Victoria.  My lovely Maine Coon who has an innate sense of adventure and curiosity... and not much in the way of wisdom.  Both my husband and I have warned her about the adage, "curiosity kills the cat".  Like most Royals, she believes getting into trouble for her sins is far beneath her dignity.

But I have worked it out, really.  When it is cold and dark in the Winter, I move my home headquarters into the Living Room along with my favorite books, a pot of tea (or mug of coffee first thing in the morning), and the availability of PBS's Masterpiece programs on the smaller TV hooked up to the antennae.

There are very few weeks a year when the heat bothers the Study.  Especially since Victoria loves it when I open the window over the cabinet by the table where I work.  She loves to watch the outside world with the breeze blowing through her fur.

And if you think this house is set up for the well being of our pet... you are correct.  And if that confuses you, I highly suspect you have never owned a dog or been owned by a cat.  But I could not imagine what life would have been like through the years without my childhood dog who loved me through my father's death, our two sister kitties who lived far into their elderly years, and our regal Maine Coon who brings laughter every day. 

She thinks we are laughing with her, not at her.  No one has to tell her the truth.

So now I leave you as one thing does not change with the seasons.  Dinner... and the need to prepare it.  And since I have no Downstairs staff just waiting to do my bidding, I must be off.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I'm still here but with server issues...

I'm having issues with my wireless server which is making it practically impossible to handle anything other than e-mail.  I tried to upload one photo and it was not happening so I gave up.

So if you don't hear from me, you know I'm working on getting it fixed! 

It has finally warmed up, the snow is almost gone from our property.   It is the first time our gravel lane has been without ice since around Christmas.

The weatherman says there is a chance for snow around St. Pat's Day.  Otherwise we hope to continue a nice steady warmup towards green grass, leaves on the trees, and daffodils!  Soon?  It also means my Study will be warm enough to work in without bundling up as if I were going outside.

I will be back with a blog post when I get the server issues resolved.  Speaking of computers and all... over 400 people now follow Coffee Tea Books and Me on Facebook.  But the Facebook statistics tell me only a fraction are being reached. 

Now I understand Facebook is changing their algorithm once again and you need to "Like" or better yet "Comment" once in awhile for it to continue to come up in your News Feed.  Sheesh...

I do always update it with a new post immediately after hitting "Publish".  I also respond to comments and questions on the Facebook updates.  Hopefully I can get this post over to Facebook.  Sometimes it comes up and at other times it can't.

See you soon.  I hope!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Power of Scent

This past week, a scent took me quickly back to another day and another age.  I thought of writing about such a thing when I remembered... I already have.  Which, if you come to think of it, is not surprising in one's ninth year of blogging.  Here is a repeat of that Sunday Afternoon Tea post.

Not too long ago I was standing in line to pay for a purchase when suddenly memories of being seventeen years old at the beach with my girlfriends were flooding my mind.

I could almost hear Hermit's Hermits or Paul Revere and the Raiders melodies coming from the radio set to WLS Chicago (that was when it played all pop music).

The boardwalk at our family's favorite local beach
For just a moment I didn't realize what had brought the memories but then I got a whiff of the woman who stood in front of me... Coppertone suntan lotion.  That was the scent which took me back in time.  Her deep tan was an indication that she had recently been to the beach.  :)

Isn't it amazing how our memories are linked to a scent?  Along with Coppertone, there are a few other scents which could take me back to the early 1970s... Wind Song, Heaven Scent, Musk Oil... just to name a few perfumes.

Various scents coming from the kitchen have a similar affect.  The aroma of bacon sizzling as coffee brews will always remind me of waking up at my mother's house when we would visit.

The smells surrounding a Thanksgiving meal brings back years and years of spending the Holiday with my in-laws.  Even today we have to taste the turkey and have someone comment that it is dry, just as my melancholic mother-in-law stated every year.  :)

Of course, there are the aromas of Christmas... perhaps the most magical of all scents from my childhood.

Few adults would think the combination of peppermint, chocolate, ham, caramel, fudge, mashed potatoes, green beans cooked to death in pork, and evergreen trees could possibly be beautiful... but they were to a six year old!  The combination meant Christmas Day.

The aroma of woodsmoke on an autumn day in combination with Sweet Annie always brings memories of walking through The Feast of the Hunter Moon as the days of the French and Indian traders were reenacted.

When we traveled back to our parked car on a shuttle bus each year, I knew we had to return to present time but for a few hours we were transported back to the 18th century.

I love the smell of old books.  Even today when I open an old book, the aromas of musty papers and old leather not only make me sneeze but they can transport me to the original County library of my childhood.

It was a magical place, beautiful in Gothic architecture.  It was like going to a Cathedral.  I don't know how any child spending time there could not fall in love with books.

As I pondered these things in the past week, I thought of how... once again... it was the little things that brought the fondest memories.  :)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Always trying new things

For a long time, I was a typical Midwestern cook.  I liked my recipes just the way they were thank you very much.  But the more I learned about cooking, I started adding more ingredients here and there.  Then both of my children introduced me to new ethnic foods and I can't say as I ever looked back.

I don't try anything very expensive.  They are more on the line of inexpensive gourmet foods or  "frugal luxuries" as a special friend* calls them.  As I've mentioned before, so many ethnic foods I like are not only healthy but inexpensive.  Much of it is peasant food or food prepared in the kitchen by mother for supper.

For instance, I once thought French food was always made with expensive ingredients.  Then I learned most of the ingredients are usually local and inexpensive.  A quote I thought funny was, "You know a country has had numerous wars fought on it when they made snails a delicacy".  ;)

This past week, I decided to try Huy Fong Sriracha after reading about it everywhere. I mean, really... this stuff has a huge following and fan club.  I didn't try it before because my husband does not (I repeat does NOT) like heat in his food.

But I saw a recipe for hot wings where one simply mixed sriracha and honey and brushed them on the chicken.  I decided to give it a try (it is about the same price as ketchup), putting just a small amount of the hot sauce in the honey and mixing well.  It was delicious!  I brushed it on only the chicken I was eating after it was cooked.

It reminds me of using my once "new to me" seasoning, red pepper flakes, in dishes since you can add just a little for that background heat or a lot if you like hot food.  So many Italian cooks used it, I figured it must be good.  It has had a permanent place in my spice cabinet for a long time and since I don't use it constantly, I'm pleased to say it holds up well to neglect.

The above photo shows my condiments (except my everyday canola oil and my olive oil) like various vinegars that are fun ways to try something new.  The bottle of champagne vinegar came from Target last fall, I'm waiting for delicate Spring salads to make a vinaigrette with it.  Hiding in the back is a bottle of balsamic vinegar and a flavored oil (which was given to me).

Tucked behind the champagne vinegar is my most often used rice vinegar and there is the often used apple cider vinegar.  I only buy apple cider vinegar with "the mother" and usually Braggs but I think that is Eden Organic hiding in the back. The almond oil shown was also given to me and I use it when making the homemade granola.

I want to try sherry vinegar soon.  It is a little more expensive and I can only find real sherry vinegar at the health food store.  When I read Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist (link on my Amazon Favorites widget), she said she may have a "thing about vinegar".  I tend to understand.

I need to go back to the Asian food market where I bought the sumac and just have a look around to see what I can find that is inexpensive but tasty.  It is a good way of living on a tight budget and eating well.

Speaking of trying new things... Mr. & Mrs. Christopher stopped by a few nights ago.  My daughter-in-law was borrowing some teacups for a party but they arrived bearing a gift.  A bag of potato chips.  My son asked me to try one of them and see if I could recognize the flavor.

Hmmm... wasabi!

It was a bag of the prize winning flavor from a contest Lay's had for customers to submit flavor ideas.  The wasabi ginger submission won.  He has eaten enough sushi with me over the years, watching as I added a big heap of pickled ginger and a tiny tip of a spoonful of wasabi to my sushi to know I'd love that flavor combination.

He left the entire bag for me.  My husband won't go near it...  which is not a bad thing.

So, do you have any suggestions for an inexpensive and unusual condiment or food stuff to try?

*My bloggy friend and author of Frugal Luxuries, Tracey McBride... here.