Sunday, July 05, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - What I learned from a 1980s movie

The opening of the movie takes place in a classroom where a teacher is talking to his students when he notices paratroopers landing in the schoolyard.  The young people race to the window to view the scene while their teacher walks outside to find out what is happening.  The paratroopers begin shooting everyone in the playground.  Thus begins the movie Red Dawn (at least the 1984 version).

What is going on is the Soviet led invasion of the United States in the beginning of WWIII.  Thus begins two hours of heart racing action as teenagers are forced to become heroes that help save the nation.  We watch their skills, their increasing bravery, and over time learn what has happened to their parents.

I've thought of that movie many times the past few months.  First, I realize it couldn't be made in an age when the Cold War is far in the past and it is no longer politically correct to make a movie that shows what would happen in a foreign occupation of America.  Second, these young people are tougher than most kids being raised today.

The third truth I kept thinking of is the suddenlies of it all.  As I watched the government take more control of our freedoms almost overnight, even if most of it was necessary to slow down the progress of the virus... it was unsettling.  As I viewed some cities burn as their elected leaders applauded the anarchists and not the police, I sensed what could come.

In reality, those who are aware of the increasing fault lines in our Republic have seen trouble on the horizon for over fifty years.  However, I think what has happened in 2020 is not unlike what the parents in Red Dawn went through, albeit not as life changing as having Russians drop in your backyard! We find out through various conversations in the movie that they sensed trouble ahead.

I can hear what you are saying to your screen as I type.  Okay, now that you have brought about a substantial increase in our anxiety level, where is the faith you are talking about in the title?  Well, give me a minute or two or three...

As a result of childhood trauma, I used to be a person who had constant anxiety.  I ended up in the hospital as a teenager because of its' affect on my health.  I became a Christian around age fifteen or so and while the change was not overnight... I eventually overcame anxiety.  Other than the normal kind we experience in challenging times or when we hear a siren and our teenager isn't home, yet.  That is normal human nature.

I came to learn that my challenges in childhood and adolescence fit under the category of "what the enemy of our souls intended for evil, God used for good".  For I developed the ability to look at my circumstances as well as possible outcomes truthfully.  Just as the parents in Red Dawn, although not expecting paratroopers to fall in their backyard literally, had a sense that something was amiss.

God never, in all sixty-six books of the Bible, encouraged His followers to bury their heads in the sands of their Middle Eastern homes.  Instead, they were often warned of what was ahead and He advised them on how to follow Him in the midst of troubles.  If they followed His advice... unless they were meant to be martyrs, they often not only survived but flourished.   If they did not follow His advice... well, it wasn't pretty.

That is also why one-fourth of the Bible is prophecy.  I have come to realize that Bible prophecy has at least two purposes.  When we look back and it comes true exactly as predicted... such as in the birth of Christ... we can know that the Word of God is trustworthy.  When it causes us to look forward, we know that everything works out for our good and His glory... even if we do not know the specifics.

We know from the Book of Acts that God places us exactly on the timeline of His-story when He wants us to walk this sod.  He also places His people where He wants us at any given time.  If you are breathing, and I assume everyone who reads this is breathing, then you are living in this age because this is where you were suppose to be on His timeline.  He knows He can trust you with His purpose.

What is our purpose?  I believe it is to make our own faith strong through reading His Word, talking to Him a lot (aka: prayer), and learning from teachers we can trust.  Then... as with the parents in Red Dawn... we give strength to those younger than us by being strong in our faith and we give wisdom by sharing what we know.  What that knowledge is depends entirely on the calling He has given to each person.

Those of us who have experienced great trials can share with those who are experiencing anxiety from the sudden changes that God has always been faithful and He has always provided and that He has always been trustworthy. Forever and ever, Amen!

Parents and grandparents of young children can hold them close and provide immediate comfort.  We teach His Word through songs and stories and good media like Superbook.  I remember walking with my daughter when she was just two or three and picking up pretty rocks, talking about how God created such Beauty and how much He loves us.  Little by little... precept upon precept.

Parents and grandparents of older kids and teenagers have an invaluable opportunity to remind them of the faithfulness of God and how He created each of them to be His unique Esthers and Daniels for the times in which we live.  They need good biographies of the people who were brave and followed God even in times of great danger... and there have been many.

However, we can only give peace if we feel peace.  We can only share trust and faith if we have it ourselves.  That doesn't come from watching 24/7 news or listening to political talking heads.  Although a quick dipping of the toe into the waters of current events is not harmful so we keep updated as to what is going on.  We don't want to swim in the sewage.

I've been asked where I stand on the whole end times thing.  I learned long ago that I have absolutely no idea when Jesus is returning.  I was kinda' hoping it would have happened before the world fell apart to this extent.  He decided instead to keep us here to be Salt and Light in these uncertain times.

I do believe from reading the Word about what the world would look like just before the return of Christ that there is a good argument we are in what the Bible calls the Birth Pains (aka: Birth Pangs) leading up to His coming.  How long they last, I don't know.  The Bible doesn't give a timeline for that and I have found that if God doesn't tell us a timeline, speculation only gets one in trouble. 

Each of our callings is different but one thing they all have in common is this... people who are listening to Him (and the Word does say that His sheep hear His voice... usually that still small voice or a feeling we have learned is His direction from past experience) are all sensing that this is the time to draw closer to Him for peace and for wisdom.

With His help, you have got this!  You are here for a purpose.  Anxiety may land for awhile but we do not have to let it take root.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you and give you peace. 


Mentioned in this Blog Post
Red Dawn, DVD version... here.  (This was the first movie to receive a PG-13 rating but it was for the violence that takes place in war situations.  I have only seen it on TV so I don't know if there is anything inappropriate in it but that was rare in 1984).

Red Dawn, Amazon Video... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.
Image:  From the film Red Dawn.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Being diligent to keep the pantry stocked

This has been our busiest week in at least four or five months.  It seems doctor's appointments, repair schedules, and the monthly stock up day all hit at once.  I am so happy to be spending our nation's birthday quietly in the air conditioning and getting ready to make cheeseburgers on the grill pan indoors.

Honestly, just sitting in the recliner after a late lunch watching Independence Day (a family tradition on July 4th) is where I want to spend the Holiday with the heat and humidity so high right now.

Our ceiling fan we purchased at least two months ago was finally installed this week and the overhead light in the garage was repaired. We had set aside the amount we estimated it would cost and did not dare use it on anything else.  The electrician from church we wanted to install it was booked for awhile but we told him just to squeeze in this project when he had time.

We are in the midst of a long term heat wave.  I normally do not bring too many items inside from the garage pantry shelves during the summer months because the time of intense heat is very short.  This summer with the heat and high humidity possibly lasting for weeks, I reorganized what was in the kitchen cabinets, the yellow pantry, and other places I could find to bring some items indoors.

Making room for them indoors made it easier to review what I have used during the pandemic, what I don't need to buy, and what I want to add to my pantry that I had not before.   We are still in the midst of the pandemic where I live with new cases each week but with no major spikes.  There are less deaths each week in the state, too. 

We are being careful and not taking unnecessary chances.  It may be awhile before we dine inside a restaurant again but we are out and about with a mask, hand sanitizer, and washing our hands when we arrive home.  I do try to stay at least six feet away from other people at the grocery store, especially if they are not wearing a mask.

I've been listening to people with a good track record on hearing from God regarding preparedness and such and every single person feels we need to continue being diligent about stocking the pantry with food and necessary items.  I had two different friends who were thinking of not putting out a garden this year change their mind and expand their garden instead.

Since few people have unlimited space and budget for deepening a pantry, it becomes very important to choose our priorities.  I mentioned before that living from the pantry during two periods of long term unemployment helped me learn a lot.  I learned from the past few months, too, especially as this was a new scenario and items were out of stock that I didn't think possible.

For instance, I have learned to stock more flour than I used to since it was impossible to find on grocery store shelves.  I haven't had to buy white sugar for a few years but the large Tupperware container that holds it is showing me it is time to stock it again while it is available and cheap.  I bought vanilla extract when it became available again just for the pantry.

A dear friend sent me some yeast from an Amish store (they sell it in bulk) when I ran out.  A few weeks ago, I noticed jars of bread machine yeast were available at Meijers so I bought one of those for the pantry.  By the way, it may say bread machine yeast on the jar but it's really just quick yeast.  It doesn't have to be used in bread machines, even though I will.

I think gaining experience in using our pantry when many items are unavailable is valuable training for making substitutions when necessary.  I only knew that bread machine yeast is the same as regular quick yeast because I've used it for years.  It's just marketed for the bread machine user in this case.

I plan to add some items that may seem unnecessary but go a long way to making cooking and baking even better during hard times.  For instance, I'm almost out of sparkling sugar and why should that be a priority?  First, it is inexpensive and easy to just sprinkle over quick breads, cookies, etc. before baking.

Second, I can't tell you how many times people comment on how it makes the top of quick breads or cookies sparkle.  Beauty is especially important in hard times. I would say things like cupcake liners, sprinkles, birthday candles, etc. would be good to have on hand.  Anything that helps a celebration is important when times are challenging!

Let's see, what else did I purchase for the pantry on stock up day?  I purchased two boxes of a favorite brownie mix.  I don't use a lot of mixes but they came in handy when the separate ingredients were hard to find.  I plan to buy a couple more brownies mixes and cake mixes to have in the pantry for the same reason over the next few months if they remain available.

I always have confectioners sugar put back as well as butter in the freezer (a top priority!) so I can easily make icing.  Oh... I need to put another "can" of cocoa on my grocery list, too.  I have some but it last almost indefinitely and chocolate makes everything better.  

Speaking of which, I had extra chocolate butter cream frosting left over from baking a few weeks ago and I put it in a small container in the refrigerator.  My husband enjoyed it as a fudgy treat off and on for a week.  In this case, not wanting to waste anything made another person very happy.

Recently I walked into Meijers and saw that they were selling cotton masks that could be washed and reused ten times.   I decided to purchase a box to keep on hand in addition to the box of disposable masks my husband purchased at Walmart a couple weeks ago. 

There is still a lot of discussion if the virus will come back in the Fall as bad or worse than it was the first time.  I have made the decision to prepare as if it will by adding the extra masks, hand sanitizer, soap, cough drops, etc. to my "medical pantry" and continue adding to my regular pantry a little at a time.

I have to admit that it has taken a lot of discipline to spend less on items I might want for today to be able to purchase pantry items for tomorrow.  But I've learned from past experience that it is worth it.  Should the unexpected happen again suddenly... the more prepared we are, the easier it will be to get through it again!

Image:  Cookbook and Apples/

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Book Talk

I thought July 1st would be a good time to give you a snapshot of my recent reading, listening, and watching.  We have been in a midst of a high humidity heat wave and staying inside most of the time has been a welcome relief!  I only walk in the yard to water the plants (before the recent monsoon), feed Mouse, and walk out to get the mail.

My reading is different now than it was before the sudden problems with my right eye caused first by an allergic reaction to the medicine injected into my eyes and then a severe infection in my right eye two years ago this week.  The surgery I had late last year helped me see overall much better but it is still difficult to focus in that eye so I have to limit my hold-in-your-hands book reading.

For that reason, I use my Kindle a lot more since I can increase the font and I made the decision to join Audible last Fall.  I told my husband that I'd like to subscribe for a year to develop an audio library of various kinds of books and he agreed it could be squeezed into the budget.

My criteria for using the monthly Audible credit is that it must be a book I'd be interested in reading, anyway, and I use credit mostly for those audio books that are kind of pricey.  Since one Audible credit usually can be spent on books of any price.  I have added inexpensive on sale audio books from time to time but I don't use Audible credit for them.

So... what have I been "reading" lately?  Let me tell you...

I mentioned that I have been listening to Jan Karon's In the Company of Others after the audio version came highly recommended by numerous people.  I agree!

I love listening to the Irish brogue instead of trying to read it.  I also like the Celtic music that plays briefly at the end of each chapter.  I knew the story line already since I started reading it years ago but it comes to life in the audio book.

Some people have complained that it is a long book and the story line can be hard to follow.  That is true compared to most Mitford books but if you begin reading or listening realizing it is a little deeper than the others, it won't surprise you.  I read that this is one of Jan Karon's favorites of the series.  

I always have a couple Kindle books going but the one I'm going back to often is As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson.  I reviewed this book when it first came out and loved it but I could only get half way through before the review was due because of the smallish font in the Advanced Reader's Copy.

This was Peterson's last book before he passed away and the sermons in it were collected by a friend of his.  Peterson thought his friend and colleague would be more objective than he could be.

He did an excellent job of choosing different sermons given by Peterson throughout his very long career as a pastor... and if you think these would be boring, think again!  Each chapter is like listening to a master teacher and story teller, which he was.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is my "slow re-read", something I learned about by watching Russell Moore's Reading in Exile videos on Facebook Live.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and had to catch up since they had been going a couple months before I found out about them.  They are purposely short, about seven or eight minutes each to make them easy to watch.

In his video where he answers the question of how he chooses what to read (I think that's the one), he said he is always re-reading one of his favorite books very slowly.  He's always surprised how much more he gets out of it and doesn't get concerned if he can only read a few pages at a time.  There is no time limit on finishing these books.

I loved that idea and there is so much in each chapter of this book that I thought it a good choice for my first "slow re-read".  Usually when I read a book again, I actually read faster than the first reading.  This is a new experience that I'm appreciating.  No pressure!

Hold-in-my-hands Books 
Both of these books were gifts from my daughter.  Laura Child's Lavender Blue Murder was in a box from Amazon during the shutdown with Paris tea, a box of low carb cookies, a throw, and other goodies.  At the time, I was in the middle of another book so I thought it would be a good summer read.  I was right!

Yes, it does follow the usual formula of her Tea Shop Mysteries but it is very enjoyable.  I'm glad I set it aside for hot weather reading.  One could call it a beach read if I actually went to a beach these days.  Stephanie took Homer with her to read at the beach.  Crazy but she is preparing for the upcoming school year.

Speaking of which, the second book is an early birthday gift she sent me after messaging the most amazing excerpts as she read.  It is called The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education.  While I do not need to read it closely as one who still homeschools does, I enjoy reading it a little at a time.  Not my slow re-read but my slow first time read!  Even one who mainly used the Charlotte Mason method of education can get a lot of enjoyable reading from this book.

I'm linking below to the Kindle version on Amazon because it is reasonably priced.  The hardback and paperback versions are third party and very expensive.  Stephanie bought it through a website that sells Classical Connections type material.

We recently watched For Richer or Poorer again for a good laugh.  It stars Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley and is one of our family favorites.  There is some bad language in the beginning but part of what makes this film special is how both characters change while living with an Amish family (because they are on the run from the IRS).

I have The Winds of War waiting to be popped in the DVD player soon.  It was a favorite book and I loved the mini-series that was made for television.  It is still reasonably priced.  I didn't care as much for the way they made the sequel, mainly due to a change in casting.  Most other people agreed.  Since it was made for television before a lot of bad language and other stuff was allowed, I don't recall it having anything really objectionable.  There are relationship issues but that is real life.

On Amazon video, I watched An Amish Murder (on the tablet).  It was a made for television movie I had seen before so it is pretty tame, too.  No grizzly close up of murdered people was shown and there is a suggestion that two people spent the night together but that is all there is.  This was a favorite TV movie.  The plot slowly builds and it has a happy ending, which I need these days.

Saving Sarah Cain was shown on TV recently but I also have the DVD. It was one of the movies I knew I wanted in my own movie collection at home.  It was an after school special based on the book The Redemption of Sarah Cain by Beverly Lewis.  Produced by Michael Landon, Jr., it is a wonderful story and while not "Christian" as is the book, it shows Christianity in a very positive light. 

These are all the highlights.  Except I am slowly reading through the Book of Acts in the Bible, which I began on Pentecost, along with as always the Book of Psalms.  Probably too slowly!

Mentioned in this Blog Post
In the Company of Others audiobook... here.
As Kingfishers Fly... here.
Lavender Blue Murder... here.
The Liberal Arts Tradition (Kindle)... here.

For Richer or Poor... here.
The Winds of War... here.
An Amish Murder... here. (Amazon video)
Saving Sarah Cain... here. (Amazon video)
Saving Sarah Cain... here.  (DVD)

Russell Moore Facebook page... here.  (Scroll down for videos)

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links
Image:  Book Shop, Sung Kim

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Learning from history and sharing hospitality

If one were to take the more scenic route to my house, they would pass a marker that reminds those who stop and read that this area was one of the paths of the Trail of Death, a northern version of the more famous Trail of Tears that began in the Southeastern United States.  I shudder to think that not too far from where I now sit, Native American families were taken off their land and forced to walk to their new "home" in Kansas.

When I was a child, we would take a picnic to a creek near where a major Indian battle took place.  We children would run around the statue of the war hero who fought and won that battle.  One could search for and find arrowheads at the bottom of the creek at that time.  Even as a child, I knew blood had been shed on that ground and thought it a special place.

We were taught who were the good guys and who were the bad guys and the world seemed easy to understand.  Then I learned more about the Native Americans who were here long before my generation was born.  I learned more about the Native American heroes in that battle and how it was the spark that led to other battles.

I learned that people I admire greatly like Jonathan and Sarah Edwards loved the native people of Massachusetts and chose to minister at a remote mission field to the Native people after he was fired from the church he had preached his entire adult life.

Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of atrocities done by evil men on both sides.  There were Indian raiders who slaughtered innocent families and even their own people feared them.  However, there were European settlers who only considered Natives to be savages and did the same to their families.  It is human nature not to trust those different than us.

I came to change my view of the native peoples of my land, not because they rioted in the streets or brought statues down or looted the places that sold big screen TVs.  The statue of the war hero remains today as it did when I was a child, only now it reminds me of the whole story of that era in our history.

No, what changed my view was my own study of history. 

Not a rewritten history and certainly not a whitewashed history.  No, I read books and watched documentaries on what really happened so that hopefully... prayerfully... history does not repeat itself.  I have found that the truth tends to float to the top in the story that becomes history after the passage of time.

Condoleezza Rice has been quoted as stating that slavery was America's birth defect.  I thought that an excellent way of putting it.  I would say that what was done by early settlers to the native people was also a birth defect of a young America.  Although people treating other people badly has happened since the Fall in Eden.

Philosopher George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes".

We need to learn from the mistakes not only of our own past but the errors of past generations.  It seems to many of us that the crazy people are in charge of the asylum.  It doesn't matter that some of the statues brought down were people on the side of freeing the slaves, in a society where chaos reigns... common sense is out the window.

I know it seems like the problems of today's world are far beyond what one person can do to help, except possibly to pray.  But there is something we can all do.  That which has been done since the beginning days of the Church.  We care for the people God places on our path.

There are those few, of course, that God chooses to affect the entire world but most of us are called to our everyday world in which we plant flowers and bake bread and chop vegetables and make salads and stir stews and once in awhile try our hand at making a homemade peach pie or perhaps a chocolate cake.

We can set a table for two or a crowd.  We can fill the coffeepot with water and fresh grounds or put the kettle on for a pot of tea.  Hospitality is the call of every person who calls Christ Savior and Lord.  God may not have called most of us to change the world but He did call us to be salt and light in our circle of contacts.

I know there are so many faces of evil in the world today.  The images come at us 24/7 from various news platforms.  It is easy to feel like the world is falling apart.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it is not.  What God asks of us is that we be His hands where we live.  We are to show His compassion to those who are in desperate need of peace.

On one hand, we can learn more about racism and how brave people have worked to overcome it on a national platform and in their own life.  I highly recommend Ben Carson's book called Gifted Hands and Condoleezza Rice's book called A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me.  Both tell the story in these books of overcoming racism in their young years.

One of my favorite movies is called Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's long fight against slavery in England.  It's a good family movie, except for the most sensitive of young children, the story is told in such a way to give glory to God and show what a small group of people who do not give up can do to change the world.

However, on the other hand, for most of us, we can show hospitality and get to know those different than us.  I loved having my kid's college friends over from the University.  Of course, most were from various Christian organizations but there were those that didn't know Him.  There were so many nationalities represented.

Sometimes all we can do is be nice to another person and pray for them as they come to mind.  Before the age of social distancing, one of the best ways to get to know someone different than us was to meet for coffee at a central location.  We can conquer racism one new friend at a time.

Sometimes I wonder how many of us, as we grew older, realized we were not going to change the world so we didn't even try to change our neighborhood for Christ.   I think of past generations who understood more the concept of community, where fellowship was simply a piece of pie and a cup of coffee in one's kitchen. It seems today we think we need to put on a lavish spread for company.  Maybe it is time to get back to the old ways.  It's a lot to ponder.

In the meantime, I still slow down on that country road on the way home (there are rarely other cars) and look at the marker placed there for us to remember.  Not only the Trail of Death but the many injustices that have taken place in this fallen of worlds.  It will never be perfect here but we can be a light in the darkness as we walk our own path.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson... here.
A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice... here.

Amazing Grace on Amazon Video... here.
Amazing Grace DVD... here (third party).

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - The Importance of Knowledge and Experience

I'm not sure how the stores are stocked where you live but I noticed a significant increase in empty places on shelves when I was at the grocery store last week.  I'm wondering if the spike in COVID-19 cases in various parts of the country has people stocking up again?  It certainly sent the Stock Market plunging yesterday.

I honestly doubt there will be a return to normal for a very long time.  I mentioned in a Pantry Post that I had been considering ending these posts because there was nothing new to say but I felt a nudge by God in such a powerful way that I could not deny it... do not stop the Pantry Posts!  I knew they would become even more important but a worldwide pandemic was not on my radar.

While I could top off most of my pantry during the midst of the lock down, some items became unavailable.  Whether because the manufacturing became impossible, the shelves emptied because people were hoarding, or transportation was difficult... I don't think it matters.  We saw with our own eyes how quickly store shelves could empty and not be restocked.

Having gone through that experience, I learned a couple important lessons that I'll ponder at another time.  Perhaps next week?  I learned there were food and supply items I found to be most important.  I also learned were items I thought would be important but they weren't.  I admit there were far less of those since I've cooked out of the pantry before during two long term job losses.

However, what I was reminded of more than anything during this time was the importance of cooking skills and the ability to put food on the table during a time of limitations.  I cook most of my meals at home already and mostly "from scratch" and even I had to scramble for new ideas.

I came to realize that knowledge and experience are even more essential during a time of crisis.

Knowledge such as in a cookbook tells us how to put together a main dish.  Experience reminds us of substitutions we can make should we not be able to purchase an ingredient for a recipe.  Knowledge may give us skills to cut up a whole chicken into separate parts.  Experience reminds us how to stretch a whole chicken to feed a large crowd.

I loved the chapter in Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking when she wrote about what she did to stretch dinner ingredients when more people than were expected were at L'Abri to be fed.  I think it was in that same chapter where she talked about learning to take cooking/baking mistakes and turn them into something people would enjoy eating.  There was no throwing away anything in the L'Abri kitchen.

I've thought of her often during this lock down as I had to be creative when I had run out of an ingredient or it was not available.  For instance, I had seen on a cooking blog (show?) where the person had made pizza using naan bread as the crust.  Really?  Naan?  I love it but as a dip for hummus.

But the next time I was at Aldi, I bought a package of naan bread and used two of the pieces as the base for pizza that week.  Yum!  Because of the need to switch from my normal crust, I found a quick and easy way of making pizza we like even better.  Easy is good.

My mother worked full time so she didn't actually teach me to cook but I picked up a lot from watching her.  She did show me from time to time how to make a specific dish that was a favorite.  Very few of her "recipes" were written down.  I'm especially thankful now that I took the time to watch her make her Kentucky friend chicken and vegetable beef soup.

As my interest in cooking grew after I was married, I came to enjoy cooking shows and back then, they were more instructional than entertainment.  Even if I did find the original PBS French Chef shows with Julia Child very amusing, she had a natural wit that continued through the years.

Now there is so much information available about how to cook from magazines to food bloggers to PBS cooking shows to entire television networks to YouTube videos. The best television cooking shows are with cooks that are natural born teachers as well as comfortable in front of the camera.

Through the years, I learned simple tips that I didn't know as a younger cook.  Such things as always make certain you brown the meat you are cooking (brown... not burn!) because that is how you develop flavor.  If you make gravy after frying a chicken that is not brown enough, that is why there is not enough flavor.

I learned to never add cold milk to hot mashed potatoes (so that is what I was doing wrong), to use kosher salt instead of table salt, to grind peppercorns, to add spices early and herbs late in a recipe, and that many of the vegetables I used to steam are even better roasted (although my husband disagrees on that one).

Do you remember The Frugal Gourmet?  I learned from him the phrase "hot wok, cold oil"... which means you always want your pan to be warm before adding any oil to it.  I think he said it on every show.

I learned from a nutritionist that al dente pasta, that is pasta boiled just until it is firm, is far better for all people (but especially diabetics) than pasta allowed to cook until it is soggy.  No wonder Italians, who cook their pasta al dente, can eat so many carbs and stay thin.

I have learned that comfort food from other cultures and various places even in the U.S. is often inexpensive and highly nutritious because generations past did not have the option of supermarkets and debit cards.  Since then, I've looked more closely at "poor people's food" than fancy restaurant recipes.

Since each person learns differently, it is hard to recommend specific shows but I find more instruction on PBS shows than The Food Network.  Although the latter now has an app you can subscribe to that is suppose to have good instruction.  I'm too cheap frugal for that.  Although I am seriously considering subscribing to BritBox someday, if just to get Mary Berry's cooking shows!

I often take one of my cookbooks off the shelf to read for you never stop learning when it comes to cooking.  I use most Amazon credit for things like birthday gifts for family, my insulin needles, etc. but as a treat for myself... once in awhile I get a new cookbook. 

Most recently, I purchased a cookbook that I fell in love with immediately.  It has large, colorful photos of each dish and I like that in a cookbook.  It is called Hope's Table: Everyday Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen by Hope Helmuth. 

She is a fairly young Mennonite wife and mother and her recipes are simple enough for new cooks but interesting for ummm... old experienced cooks. Her book now resides in the red wire basket in the Kitchen where I keep the cookbooks I am currently using the most. 

I will also add a reminder of how much I love the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for both beginner and more experienced cooks.  It is like having a cooking teacher in the book.  If you have access to Netflix, definitely watch the four part documentary by the same title!

As for old favorites, I think it is about time I took The Hidden Art of Homemaking off the shelf, dusted it off, and reread it again for perhaps the hundredth time.  Especially the chapter about cooking.

So what do I plan to do this week for the pantry?  I've been keeping an eye on what is beginning to disappear from shelves again so I plan to make a list of items that I need to make certain get restocked on my own shelves.   Now that I know how quickly everything can change.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer... here.

Hope's Table: Everyday Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen by Hope Helmuth... here.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Take Courage

Just when our nervous systems were calming down a bit from the events of a world wide pandemic, the race riots began and even Instagram was no longer a safe place to enjoy a mental vacation.

I admit to feeling anxiety as the world continues to fall into chaos and it became even more apparent that those who hold onto my worldview no longer have very much control of the culture, or at least the media who are showing the images over and over.

To be honest, I think the feelings I experienced were as much grief than anxiety.  I know God holds the future but I certainly miss the America I once knew and I'm certain friends in other countries feel the same.  It is much like visiting a foreign country one has never been to before, without knowing the language or the layout of the surroundings.  I feel lost in the midst of a crazy world.

However, one day earlier in the week, I was standing at my sink and looking out the window when I heard that Still Small Voice say... "take courage".  It was as if I could feel Aslan's breath whispering in my ear and courage pour over me as one would use oil to anoint a king in ancient Israel.

I had been reading His Word but still felt unsettled.  I quickly realized that I had also been doing exactly what I know is not wise in these uncertain times.  I was watching the news, scrolling Facebook, and not staying away from Instagram when it became political once again.  It doesn't matter if what people on social media say is the truth (and there is that element that is anything but the truth)... it still becomes a battlefield for the mind.

When I felt Aslan God tell me to "take truth", I had a mental image of actually taking with force, as one would pick vegetables from a garden filled with weeds.  Ummm... not that my old garden ever became full of weeds, mind you.  ;)

Since then, I've been getting information from some trusted news sources and staying away from most television news.  It is the way God made me that I can watch an "end of the world as we know it" video on YouTube without my heart fluttering faster at all but when the national evening news comes on after the local news... it gets turned off as fast as certain horror movies!

I know I'm getting off track, which is something one is not suppose to do as a writer, but it is fascinating what one person can handle and then... not so much.  I take delight in an afternoon TV marathon of shows about people hunting for a huge furry monster known as Bigfoot in the woods but cover my eyes at the commercials about other creepy mysteries.  Go figure...

So to return to my original thoughts, I found courage rising up within as I concentrated on the pretty flowers and herbs growing on the deck.  My husband was (and is) storing bags of mulch on the deck until he can get to a project where he will use them.  They are not pretty and they remind me of projects still undone.

So I moved the deck chairs in front of the sacks to deflect them from sight when looking out the window.  Yes, I am getting serious about this taking courage from what I am allowing my eyes to settle upon.  Flowers.  Not plastic bags full of mulch.

I finished a nonfiction audio book and decided it was time to "take courage" by listening to Jan Karon's In the Company of Others for a mental vacation.  I had started the book when it first came out many years ago but gave up on it.  It was too hard to follow and the Irish brogue was hard to read.  However, many blog readers told me it is excellent on Audible so when I joined Audible last Fall, it was the first fiction book I picked with the monthly credit.  I'll let you know how it is going on a future Book Talk post.

During the complete self isolation period, I did a lot of downsizing of the closet, the accessories in rooms, and shelves in the garage.  Which resulted in four boxes of stuff sitting in the Study for Goodwill.  We've been dropping them off slowly but surely since one still has to sort their own donations in boxes outside of the store.  It has been a source of peace to get rid of all but one box and it will be leaving the Study next week.

I have been taking courage by noticing that changes in nature are occurring exactly as they have for generations.  As I drove home from town last week, a splash of color on the side of the road gave evidence that the wild orange ditch lilies have bloomed, just as they have around Father's Day since I was a child.

They are the flower I most associate with my own father and seeing them bloom wild on the side of country roads as always each year... just as they did on the gravel roads I walked with my dad as a little girl... reminded me that another Father knows exactly what is going on in the world and His ultimate will is being accomplishd.

Aslan is on the move, my friends.  

Mentioned in this Blog Post
In the Company of Others by Jan Karon.  Info... here.

Disclosure:  Most links to are associate links.