Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thought for the Day

Understanding can wait; obedience cannot.

HIS Magazine, circa 1970

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Prayer

Lord, keep me from the habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details – give me wings to get to the point.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of other’s pains. Help me to endure them with patience. But seal my lip on my own aches and pain – they are increasing and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint – some of them are so hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all – but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

-- Author Unknown

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Ideas for Cooking with Pears

I found a few more uses for the pears that are ripening too fast to keep up with, and everyone who has tried them has thought they were great!

Upside-Down Pear Tart (makes 8 servings)

1/2 c granulated sugar
2 T margarine or butter
2 t grated lemon peel, yellow part only
5 medium, firm winter pears, pared, cored and cut into eighths
1 T lemon juice
Pastry for 9-inch single-crust pie
Vanilla yogurt

In a heavy 10-inch skillet with an oven-safe handle, heat sugar over medium heat until syrupy and light brown in color. Remove from heat, add margarine and lemon peel; stir until margarine melts.

Arrange pears in two layers on hot sugar mixture in skillet. Fill open spaces with pear slices; sprinkle with lemon juice. Roll pastry to 10-inch round and place over pears.

Bate at 425° 25-30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool in pan 30 minutes. If there seems to be too much sauce in pan,pour excess sauce into a 1-pint container and reserve to serve over tart. Invert tart onto shallow serving dish. Serve warm with yogurt.

Note: It is important how you arrange the pears because when you invert the tart onto the baking dish he pears will be what you see. We thickened the excess juice with corn starch and poured it over the top of the tart before we served it.

Baked Pears

You are sure to wow your family and friends with baked pears. This one is SO easy, and delicious. It's great for a fancy luncheon or a quiet dinner at home. Here's what to do:

Wash but do not core or peel four pears. (The cook in the video I saw used Anjou but we used Bartlett.) Cut the bottoms off pears and stand them up straight in a baking dish. Pour two cups of apple juice over the pears and add 6-8 whole cloves. Bake at 400° for one hour, basting them in the apple juice every 15 minutes. Serve warm, on individual plates, and pour a little of the juice from the bottom of the pan over them.

Pear Smoothies

We had pear and blueberry smoothies this morning. We used a dozen or so ice cubes, about a cup of apple juice, five pears, a large handful of frozen blueberries and a tablespoon of protein powder -- and whizzed away. Adjust the amounts (and the ingredients) to suit your taste. It is especially good for pears that are too far gone to eat fresh.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Honor thy Parents

My parents recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.

I once asked Mom when they got engaged, and she said, "Well, your dad did when he proposed to me. But I got engaged the first time I saw him." Seems her friends kept saying that they were looking forward to Ken  coming home from the army. And when he finally arrived, Mom saw him and knew he was the man she would marry.

Dad didn't seem to notice for several months, but Mom's commitment was unflagging. When he finally did propose, he drove her to one of the largest houses in town and asked if she'd like to marry him and help him fill it up with kids.

By their eighth anniversary their family tree had sprouted five branches. We were the "big kids" (my older brother Tom and I were just a year and ten days apart) and the "little kids" (Peach was nearly four years younger than me, and the twins, Tim and Ted, were born two days before her second birthday.) Their house was small, but it was certainly full of kids.

We were short on money and long on love. We seldom ate out but as we shared dinner around that yellow formica-topped kitchen table we'd compare notes on our day. Dad would tell us about the remodel job he was working on, or how the hand truck had rolled down the hill when his back was turned; Mom would tell us who'd dropped by for coffee while we were all at school; we'd one-up each other on silly jokes. I remember the out-of-control hilarity the night someone figured out the double meaning of "laughing at the table" and we could hardly breathe over the side-splitting notion of a funny dinner table!

Whatever was important to their children was important to Dad and Mom. They led the church's midweek children's program while we were kids; they added on to the house so there would be more room for us and our friends; Mom always sat at the table with whomever was eating, even if it was one of her kids just having a snack. One day Dad was chauffeuring me and a group of my college friends on an outing. As we drove along the girls began to sing and Dad joined in. By their response, it was clear they weren't used to that level of parental involvement, but they rather enjoyed it.

Several years later a friend was visiting me from Norway and I took her to meet Dad and Mom. They'd prepared a meal for us and asked me to say the blessing over our food. When I opened my eyes, there sat both my parents -- in pig noses! Most recently it was wax lips at Christmas!

Full of fun, those two, even after 61 years.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Life's Purpose

"I want to live my life to make Jesus smile."
Michelle McKinney-Hammond

Can you think of any higher purpose?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Consider the Pear

Last weekend I bought a box of pears, green and rock hard, with every intention of canning them when they were ready. They are ripening fast, and now I'm wondering if they will last long enough to see the inside of the canner. Oh, how we love pears!

Today I found the September 4, 2002, food section of The Herald with a page-and-a-half dedicated to "the delectable pear." Here are some excerpts from the article:

There are more than 5,000 known pear varieties in the world, but few are grown commercially. Although pear trees grow throughout the United States, few areas outside of the Northwest and California offer the near-perfect conditions that pear trees require to produce their delectable fruit.

Levulose, the sweetest of known natural sugars, is found to a greater extent in fresh pears than any other fruit.

How do you know when pears are ripe?
- Pears ripen from the inside out and generally do not change color when ripe. To check for ripeness, press gently near the stem with your thumb. When it gives slightly, the fruit is ready. Waiting until pears are soft around the middle may indicate over-ripeness.
- Store unripe pears in a warm place in a fruit bowl or in a paper bag. Check daily for ripeness.
- Store ripe pears in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
- Do not freeze pears.

I'm having lunch today with the my childhood friends, and I'm taking Dutch Pear Pie, a recipe from Tom's cousin Nancy Hess. I thought you might like the recipe!

Cousin Nancy's Dutch Pear Pie

Sift together:
1/4 c flour
1 c sugar

Mix in:
1 T lemon juice
1 c heavy cream

Mix till smooth.
Cut 4-5 large pears into small pieces. Add to cream mixture.


Mix together:
1 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon

Pour into unbaked 8-9" pie shell. Sprinkle on topping.
Bake at 450° for 45-50 minutes. Cool till set.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hidden Wonders

We watched a DVD called The Guys the other night. Nick, played by Anthony LaPaglia, is a New York City fire captain who has lost eight of his men on September 11, and he has been asked to give eulogies for them. Grief overwhelms him and he cannot find words to express his sorrow or to comfort the families of the fallen.

Sigourney Weaver plays Joan, a journalist who helps him with his daunting task by drawing out from him details about his men that he didn't even realize he knew. Her gentle probing and ability to organize his scattered thoughts bring these lost lives into clear focus for the captain and those loved ones left behind. The results are stunning.

Joan is trying to come to terms herself with the sudden and devastating loss of life in New York, her beloved city, so she is writing her story. As she struggles through the experience that has changed her life forever, she comes to this understanding: "I knew that every time I saw someone on the street I just saw his public shadow. The rest, the important part, lived in layer after layer beyond my view. We have no idea what wonders are hidden in the people around us."

Perhaps you will have the chance to discover some hidden wonders today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take a Break

Pour yourself a cup of tea and go to the link below to enjoy Emiri Miyamoto, a young Japanese musician I've just learned about. She's an amazing violinist, and her song Break is fun and energetic. You might even want to listen more than once!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Morning Routine

"I think I'm allergic to morning" -- Snoopy

My radio goes off, early, and I tumble out of bed. Morning. Breakfast for the family I can usually manage, but lunches...those cause me real consternation. Just last night there was a late run to Haggen to be sure I could send my guys off with enough fuel for the day.

Growing up, there was a six-year period when my parents had all five kids in school. How many of those early mornings did I follow the wafting aroma of freshly baking cake into the kitchen to see most of a loaf of bread spread out on the counter and Mom mixing up tuna and washing apples. That's a lot of lunches -- I can't even imagine!

Last year Samuel started a new school, which required an early morning bus ride. It was the first time in years that I did not drive him. That was good. But it also meant I had to have his lunch ready early. For reasons long forgotten, I baked muffins the first morning. As I flew around the kitchen trying to make three separate lunches by 7:15 -- and muffins! -- everyone's food unique to his dietary needs, I felt my heart picking up speed. By the time the door closed on the last of my loved ones, I collapsed into a chair where I spent the next twenty minutes! I don't say this for effect; it is the truth. I was afraid I might have a heart attack.

As I type, radios are blaring in both bathrooms upstairs, each with a different station, as the boys get ready for school. My heart begins to pound -- the bus will be here soon! (We didn't do buses when they were young, so I'm still getting used to this routine, and at my age!) Out the door Samuel goes, and back again for things forgotten. Tommy tells me about his dream last night and plays a gusty piano interlude, including a snatch of "Ode to Joy." His ride comes and he's off to his first day back at community college.

And I am alone. My house is quiet. My heart and mind are a jumble. I make a cup of tea, eat shockingly sour grapefruit, breathe very deeply for a very long time. I examine the shambles around me -- the kitchen, food and dishes strewn around, the floor sticky; mounds of laundry; piles of projects needing to be completed; last week's grocery ads. Looks like I've got my day's plan figured out.

But first, I lift my family to the Lord, asking Him to protect them through the day, to use them for His glory in the lives of others, to bless them. I ask that they "may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), though I can't quite comprehend what that might mean. I commit them to His care for another day, and turn toward the business at hand.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Do not fear

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
(Isaiah 41:10)

This is just one of the 366 times in the Bible that we are told not to fear. That's one for every day of the year, including Leap Year! When our hope is in God, we have no need to fear.

Fear not.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tom's Dad

I'm thinking about Tom's dad this morning, Harold Kauffman, my father-in-law. Tom took me to the farm in Western New York to celebrate his parents' 50th wedding anniversary shortly after we were engaged 21 years ago, and that is when I first met him. They lived in Houghton, where they had met and married, in the big yellow 100-year-old farmhouse that they'd bought after his retirement from Boeing. There were three houses on the property -- the one Mom had lived in when she was young, the yellow house, and the big blue house that he was building at the time. Altogether they had 180 acres of land, including a huge woodlot and pasture land.

One day he hitched the wagon up to the tractor and took us up into the woods for a picnic. With planks for backless seats we pitched along the rutty, overgrown path, laughing together, becoming family. We found the old sugar shack where Grampa Mills had made maple syrup long ago, and the tree where Tom's mom's initials had been carved 60 years earlier. Tom carved our initials in a heart on that same tree, what has come to be called our "family tree."

Dad built the blue house mostly by himself, with the occasional help of family and professionals. It was large and lovely and brought him great pleasure. So did his wood working projects. In the barn he had a workshop to make clocks and candlesticks, many featuring a lovely double spindle. He held the patent on the machine that turned those spindles. His new home showcased his woodworking.

They moved into the blue house just before Tommy was born and rented out the yellow house with the stipulation that if any of their kids ever wanted to move to the farm the renters would be served notice! That's just what happened two years later when we moved to Houghton. For three years we lived down the road from Grama and Grampa and called the yellow house "home."

Dad's garden was always huge and plentiful. So was the pond he'd had dug, until the local heron discovered it! He delighted in seeing his family, getting the mail, reading a good book, and savoring delicious food. Most every meal was "the best I ever had." He was our main man when it came to getting our magazine in the mail.

One of the sweetest gifts Dad gave me was permission to eat strawberry shortcake for breakfast, lunch and dinner! He'd make several trips a season to the fields to pick berries before breakfast and come home to fresh shortcake just out of the oven. Some days that's about all they ate. It didn't take me long to adopt that tradition!

Dad is with the Lord now, whole and full of wonder. If we work in Heaven, and I believe we do, Dad is doing finish work on the mansions the Lord is preparing. After all, we won't need clocks or candles in Heaven.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Starting a Blog

I've been thinking about blogging for some time, leaving it at a very low simmer on the back burner, occasionally stirring the pot. I just saw Julie and Julia, and that inspired me. Besides, millions of people blog. Today I begin.

I'm not a politician, an avid birdwatcher, a historian with a speciality in the Cultural Revolution, a gourmet chef wannabe, or a golden oldies collector. I am happily married to Tom, the mother of two amazing teens (19 and soon-to-be 18), and a follower of Jesus. My last many years have been spent -- well maybe "consumed" is a better word -- trying to navigate the system of schools, practitioners and other resources related to the world of autism. And part of my identity is dictated by our family diet. One son is gluten-free, casein-free; the other is wheat-free and vegetarian; I am wheat- and dairy-free. I'm getting pretty good at adapting to people's dietary needs! I don't consider myself to be an expert in either autism or alternative cooking, but I sure know more about either of these than I did a few years ago!

Although I don't have any deep well of knowledge about any particular topic, I do have lots to say! Sometimes I amaze myself -- I'm sure to amaze you too!!

Maybe I want to write a blog so I have a place to journal, to think through issues that come up or those that have buzzed around my head for years, like a pesky fly. It will be a place to talk about the people I care about, a tribute to those I love. The writer in me, who observes with an overwhelming sense of wonder but seldom gets the words out of my head, can find expression here. I hope it will be an encouragement to those who read it. Perhaps what I have to say will offer a morsel for someone else to chew on, or a chuckle, or maybe even a lifeline.

Long ago I saw a plaque that read, "One day I will burst my bud of calm and blossom into hysteria." I've been waiting over thirty years for that day to come and, looking back, I see it already has. It didn't happen as a burst, it was long and slow in coming. I suppose "hysteria" may be a bit strong, but whatever it is certainly beats the "bud of calm."

Life isn't easy, but it is good, and I am looking forward to writing about it here at Three Minutes to Nine.