Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday Night Foodie: Christmas Style

Ok, so I'm a day late again, but I've been sick so I'm excusing myself and I hope you will too.  My recipe for this week is not very exciting because I'm pretty sure I've shared the pie recipe I use before, but I tried a new crust this time so I hope you enjoy it.

I tried to make pie for the two major holidays around the end of the year and since my mom loves cherry and my dad apple, I always change it up.  This year, I made apple for Thanksgiving (not sure why since my dad didn't get home until the Saturday after but it still tasted good!) and cherry for Christmas.  The purist in me would prefer to use fresh cherries with butter, sugar, and flour but my mom prefers the canned kind (not sure we're related).

I make most of my crusts with lard and only use butter if I'm out of it.  Unlike Thanksgiving, we were prepared at Christmas.  When you make pie crust, be absolutely certain you have a cold surface, cold lard (or butter), and cold flour.  If any of these ingredients are room temperature the crust will not turn out right.  I tried making a quiche on a card table once and the whole thing ended up rubbery rather than flakey…blah!  You also need super cold water, which you'll add by the tablespoon until the dough is just right.

I left my recipe at my parents house in Fulshear, so I'm going to have to share the ingredients etc. later, but for now, I'll show you what I did with the top crust.  I hate doing the same thing twice, even though I need to practice my lattice work, and so, as I usually do, I did a google search for different crust designs.  Here is the one that suited my fancy Christmas day:

See, how pretty.
You roll out the dough, cut long strips, and then twist each strip starting in the center and curling out until you reach the edge of the pie.  Obviously, whoever did the above crust has some kind of pie fairy who makes them brilliant at making pie crust because mine didn't really turn out quite the same...
Because it was Christmas, I didn't think leaves would be quite right so I used a Christmas tree instead.  I think the leaves looked better and next time I might try to find something like holly, but it still worked I think.  I totally ate the tree myself (yes I ate the regular flour pie and yes, I thoroughly regretted it…I believe the correct terminology is: severe intestinal disturbance :P).  I brushed the top with melted butter  which makes it turn golden brown and improves the flavor in my opinion.

Post oven
I need a lot more practice with my pie crusts but I think this one turned out fairly well!  Do you have a favorite Christmas dessert?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Night Foodie: Christmas Wreaths

Last year for office Christmas gifts I went fancy, cross stitching nearly a month in advance, putting together mason jars with individualized cross stitched designs for specific people…this year, well, Christmas sort of creeped up on me.  Sure, I got my family their gifts well in advance (thank you online shopping) but my office peeps…well, I sort of slacked a little.  Enter Christmas Cornflake Wreaths to the rescue!  I couldn't taste test them (believe it or not, even Cornflakes have gluten in them) so I hope they taste ok, but they sure were cute…even if they ended up looking like blobs rather than wreaths =P

Six cups of cornflakes.

1/3 cup of butter melted with 4 cups of mini marshmallows and 1 tsp of green food coloring

Mix with cornflakes

Attempt to make super cute wreaths (adorned with red hot hollies) but kind of sort of end up with blobs...

Merry Christmas!

The Discomfort and Dirt of the Season...

"That flight's been canceled."

Here it comes, what always happens when I start to stress out, the emotional reaction that makes me feel like a five year old not getting their way.  I've been fighting it for years, ever since being called a "cry baby" in pre-school, but I've never been able to get a handle on my overactive tear ducts.

"So…what can I do?"

What the heck could I do?  Three days in Memphis was great, but allergies are starting to take their toll and my yearly sinus infection seems imminent…my office is moving but because we haven't gotten the phones moved I might have to be at the old building the next day…if I can't make it there someone else will have to go sit alone and redirect phone calls…I'm cold, tired, and just want to be home…

This isn't fair!  

Flights are delayed, canceled, full all because of a fire at the Houston airport.  Come on, people, get it together!  Oddly enough when I had left the Houston airport Thursday night a fire had gone off for a good five minutes with everyone staring at each other, giggling nervously, but refusing to move towards the fire exits.  I stand in the tiny Memphis airport wondering if the two events are related and if so, why they couldn't figure all this out before I had to get on a flight to Houston.  Clearly my schedule is the most important.

"Um, go ahead and sit down and I'll try and squeeze you on this flight, it's full but there's always a chance."

I trudge back with the slightest glimmer of hope, and try to remind myself of the blessings God had already given me that weekend.  Friday morning I'd woken up unable to find my wallet.  Being the genius that I am, I had been keeping my social in one of the pockets, so I knew I was in big trouble.  I had no money, no license, nothing, but had managed to keep mostly calm and trust that God would take care of it.  Sunday afternoon I went to check the pockets of my suitcase one last time…just to see…you never know…Sure enough I found my wallet, and even though my credit and debit card were now basically worthless, my driver's license and social were safe.  It felt like a miracle because I swear I checked that pocket 98 times…yet there it was.  If God could return my wallet to me, getting to Houston surely wasn't a problem…

Still, panic threatened, along with the "me-monster" that didn't want to sleep another night in somebody else's bed.

"Ticket please."

My new flight left at the exact same time as my original one and I arrived in Houston at the exact same time I was supposed to.  Crazy grace.  God would have been more than justified if I hadn't been able to get home when I wanted to, but He mercifully got me home right on schedule.

His Son's entrance into the world wasn't quite as smooth…

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all [a]the inhabited earth. [b]This was the first census taken while [c]Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a [d]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:1-7)

I was "threatened" with not being able to sleep in my own bed...Jesus left paradise to come into this world in a mangera slobbery haystack were barn animals eat.

I demanded things to go my wayMary gave birth on the floor of a stable.  

I think Jesus' birth characterizes His time here on earth; He deserved glory and honor, the sit with kings and rulers and principalities, to be wrapped in royal garments rather than swaddling clothes…yet he chose to live in poverty and to die as if a criminal…all for the sake of His kingdom, of which we are allowed to be a part.

I'm hoping to celebrate this Christmas with this at the center of my mind, that this time is not about comfort and warm fuzzies but about the fulfillment of a promise, the advancement of the Kingdom, and that all this comes amidst the discomfort and dirt of this life.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Through the Wilderness

I have not arrived.

The voices that teased me in college for choosing a major I liked (English) seem to have been proven right.  Though I'm not asking "do you want fries with that" as many suggested I might be, I am answering a phone rather than counseling someone who is hurting, writing orientation letters instead of publishing books and articles, and scanning paperwork rather than signing autographs.  

I am well behind most of my friends who are beginning on their second kids with their husbands and find myself asking every so often if there is something wrong with me.  One of my favorite jokes is that at this point it will take a miracle tantamount to the virgin birth to get me married as the task seems all but insurmountable due to my sinful idealism and general fear of that sort of relationship.

Most of my friends have moved away or are getting ready to move away to ridiculous places like Midland.

I have been turned down for my dream job too many times to count.

I have sins that I just can't seem to master.

This is certainly not my best life now.

I am in the wilderness, or at least that's what it feels like, and sometimes this makes me question my salvation.  Surely if I was a child of God things would be going better.  Surely I would be much holier by now and have taken my place among the ranks of my supermom friends.  Surely the drab day to day trudge isn't the sort of trouble Jesus promised in John 16:33…it can't be, it's not dramatic enough!  Surely the trouble He was talking about was limited to outright persecution, torture, death for the sake of the kingdom.  Surely.

I wonder if the Israelites ever had thoughts such as this when God was leading them through the wilderness; if they asked themselves, each other, Moses why the Lord had rescued them just to hike around "through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought and of deep darkness, through a land that no one crossed and where no man dwelt" (Jeremiah 2:6).  Their trek could not have been exciting in the day to day, though it certainly must have been uncomfortable.  Sand in the morning, sand in the afternoon, sand in the evening…no apparent source of water, no civilization, blistering sun…Yet they had the promise to look forward to, the guarantee of the God of their forefather Abraham to guide them, and He had proved Himself faithful time and again.

Reading Jeremiah 2 this evening made me check my prosperity gospel thinking.  Like Israel we - the Church - have been rescued from slavery; like Israel we look forward to the promised land, the hope of things to come; and like Israel we are still being lead through the wilderness by our good and faithful Shepherd.  To assume things would be comfortable, easy, even exciting is to misunderstand how God works.  Sometimes it's the constant sand that buffs away that which sin has left behind.  I think following in faith can sometimes be the hardest when things are just plain bland and disappointing, so I'm thankful for the reminders in scripture that God walked with His people through a dry and dusty place.  

Do you ever find yourself in the midst of the wilderness?  Let us encourage each other on this journey, for God gave us the body for a reason.    

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Eating Crow

"I'm so sorry for what I said, I didn'
t realize it was you on the phone."

My hands shake I'm so angry.  What kind of apology is that?  I remember our conversation from earlier:

"May I ask who's calling and what this call is in regard to."

"This is_and I want talk to _ as if it's any of your G*d d*mn business."

I was too baffled to respond, utterly shocked by the extremity of her response, the uncalled for anger.

"I'm sorry?"

She repeats herself, only this time without the profanities.  I transfer her so I don't say anything I will regret later, but my mind is racing along with my heart.  How dare she speak that way to me, to anybody?!  Of course it's my business, this is a business and I'm the receptionist.  Even if I wasn't I would want to know who the caller was.  I'm shaking so badly I have to get up and walk around.  Furious energy to burn off.

Back in the present I'm praying like crazy, angry with myself that my pride has pushed me into reacting this way.

"Thank you for your apology, but I have to ask those kinds of questions because we get weird sales calls all the time…we all have to ask those questions because otherwise people won't take the call."

"I'm so sorry…"

Sure you are…

Her apology feels hallow, ridiculous.  She's only apologizing because she knows who I am, she only feels guilty because we have some semblance of a relationship, not because what she did was ridiculous, irrational, wrong.  I want justice on her, I want to return the venom she spewed at me, I want her never to do that to anyone again!

My self-righteous anger doesn't last long; God doesn't allow it to as He reminds me of rush hour traffic, of shaking my *ahem* fist at other drivers, of the fact that any one of them could be someone I know, and that in those moments of frustration I do exactly what the woman on the other line has done; murdered someone with words, with gestures, with my thoughts.

I'm still angry, and I don't think entirely unjustified, but I'm also humbled.  I'm reminded that I am in much need of mercy as anyone else, as lesson I must clearly learn often.  I've no way to combat the emotions that fuel my actions, I will just have to pray constantly, fall at the feet of my Savior, and remember my own sin when I am wronged.  That is the only way I can show any grace or mercy to anyone, that is the only way I can remain calm and cling to peace in the storm.  The war between myself and the Lord is over, and He has come to make straight that which we have made crooked.

Emmanuel God with us.

Isaiah 9:6

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will [i]rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.