Monthly Archives: August 2014

Best. Dad. Ever.

Best. Dad. Ever.It’s interesting to me, the comments people make. It’s curious what sparks conversation. For Father’s Day this year, I gave my husband a T-shirt that says “Best. Dad. Ever.” It was a fun, inexpensive gift intended to make him smile. It worked. (I also bought one for my dad, and we all got a good laugh at the silliness of them BOTH being the best dad.)

Sometime during the following week, Don and I were out running errands together. Costco. Trader Joe’s, Home Depot. Don was wearing his new shirt. He got comments in each store. Sometimes more than one person commented. But it was the interaction in Home Depot that was most interesting to me.

We were in the checkout lane. The employee read Don’s shirt aloud: “Best. Dad. Ever.” Then he paused and said “That’s cuz I’m not a dad yet. I’m going to be the best dad ever. I’m going to give my kids candy every day. Ice cream every day. I’ll take them to the movies once a week. To Disneyland. Anything they want”.

I could not help myself.

I responded: “Then you will NOT be the best dad ever,” and I explained:

Because, while it seems like a nice idea to give kids everything they want, it isn’t. Kids often want things that aren’t good for them, and often don’t want the things that are. Candy all the time??? Really??? How is that doing the best for the kid? Allowing their nutrition to suffer and their teeth to rot? Indulging a child’s every whim produces an ungrateful and unhappy child. In order to thrive, children need boundaries. And the “Best Dad” knows when to say no. He knows when to withhold. He knows when to give. When he does give, he gives good gifts. Things that benefit, without negative consequences.

And so it is with God. He only gives good gifts (James 1:17). Sometimes they may feel crummy. But that’s only because we can’t see the total picture (Romans 8:28). Just like a small child cannot comprehend that eating only ice cream will leave him deprived nutritionally, and will actually harm him in the long run. And this is where faith begins. Faith in an omnipotent, omniscient God who loves me so much that he sent his only son to die on a cross, taking on himself the punishment for my sins. Who could love me more? How can I not trust him?

In the same way, a child must trust his father. He may not understand the “why” of some decisions until grown, if then. A father has a responsibility to be circumspect in raising children. There is no room for selfishness. The “Best Dad” wants what is best for his child and is willing to sacrifice his own personal interests, time, money and ambitions to achieve that.

I’m thankful that Don IS willing to sacrificially love his kids. To give them truly good gifts. To make the hard decisions to withhold when it is appropriate. This does make him, and other dads like him, the BEST. DAD. EVER.

Because they are following the example of the original Father. The one who never makes mistakes. The one who loves unconditionally, no matter the expense, even to death.

 

P.S.: The young man asked how many children we had. We told him eleven. After the initial shocked look, he seemed to really listen to and consider what I had to say. I hope so. For his sake and the sake of his future children.

Indulged becomes entitled
-vs-
Nurtured becomes grateful

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Adventures in Cheesemaking:
Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco

Six or seven years ago, We got Nubian dairy goats from a friend who had a doe and a wether, 6-month-old siblings, that she was offering for free. This was a huge blessing.

We had been wanting to get goats for milk since our son, James, was diagnosed with allergies to cow milk, and many other foods, a few years prior. I was so clueless about goat care when I replied to her offer, that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

We didn’t (and still don’t) have a livestock trailer, so we took seats out of our 15-passenger van and hauled the goats home in that. They were bellowing all the way home. We felt very “country”, which was pretty unusual for this city raised girl. We put them in a dog run that our dog was no longer using, cobbled together a feeder, and bought a water bowl.

Things have improved since then.

I asked questions at the feed store. Got myself a good basic goat book and climbed right up that steep learning curve. And talked to other “goat people”. We didn’t breed that first year, mostly because I didn’t know anyone who had a buck.

Daisy

Daisy

The next year we were ready. I’d met a friend who also had dairy goats, and who offered free “stud service” for our doe, Azalea. Five months later we welcomed a single kid, a doe we named “Daisy”, to our herd. A few weeks after Daisy was born, the friend who had given us Azalea, offered us her doe, in milk, with two doelings and a buck. For free. This was another amazing blessing.

The single goat could not provide enough milk for the needs of our huge family. Each goat gives about one gallon of milk per day at peak production, but the average over the year is probably more like three-quarters of a gallon per day. Now we had two goats giving milk.

Goats have come and gone since then, but we still have Azalea, Daisy and Trinity, one of the doelings that arrived that day. All three are in milk and at nearly full production. That’s about three gallons of milk per day. That’s a LOT of milk, even for a family our size.Lots of milk And now, I find myself in the situation where some of our older children have moved out, and we are struggling to use up all the milk.

I’ve gotten adventurous. And I’ve started making cheese. I bought supplies and a book about making goat cheese. I followed the directions closely.

My first attempt was a dismal failure. This discouraged me from trying again for about a year.

But I didn’t let it keep me down forever. Since I know that I’m usually good with recipes and making things from scratch, I eventually realized the problem was probably with my book. I read more online, and I read reviews for various cheesemaking books; ultimately I decided to purchase this one. I could not be happier with it. It is thoroughly detailed without being boring. It is fascinating. All the chemistry involved is explained. Which is something I wanted to understand. The book is not specific to goat cheese — any milk will work — but I was glad to note that the author has experience with goats. Goat milk has one very distinct difference from cow milk: the milk is naturally homogenized; the cream does not separate to the top.

So, I started with the simplest cheese ever: Queso Blanco. This cheese goes by other names throughout the world:

  • Brousse in France
  • Mizithra in Greece
  • Paneer or Panir in India and Middle Eastern countries

To make this cheese, you need:

  • a large stainless steel pot with a heavy bottom
  • a thermometer (It’s easiest if the thermometer can clip onto the side of the pan like this one.)
  • a colander or strainer of some sort
  • muslin cheesecloth or flour-sack type towel (Don’t bother with the cheap cheesecloth from the grocery store. In a pinch, use a clean, white cotton t-shirt.)
  • bowl
  • spoon

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 gallon milk
  • ½–¾ cup lemon juice or vinegar (acid)
  • ½ tsp salt

Hot milkPour 1 gallon of milk into the large pot. Heat milk until the temperature is between 195 and 200°F, stirring frequently to prevent scorching as milk gets close to target temperature .

Remove from heat and allow the milk to cool to 190°F.

curds formingWhen the milk reaches 190°F, begin adding vinegar/lemon juice 1 T at at time, stirring well after each addition, until the curd separates. You will be able to tell when this occurs. It is plainly obvious. You will see little white blobs (the cheese) and a yellowish liquid (the whey). At this point, stop adding your acid.

Leave the pot alone for 20 minutes. While you are waiting, place a colander/strainer over (or in) a bowl and line it with the cheesecloth.

Ladling the curdsAfter the 20 minute wait, begin ladling the curd into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. I have trouble getting all the curds out from the whey, so after I’ve scooped out as much as comes readily, I begin to scoop out the whey and ladle it into a large jar. When not much whey remains, I pour the remaining curds and whey through my strainer.

There are two options to finish the cheese: pressed and unpressed. I nearly always go with unpressed because it is easier. Simply leave the curds in the colander to drain for 60 minutes. Then add the salt and refrigerate.

If you want to do the pressed version, you only drain for 20 minutes, add salt and then gather the corners of the cheese cloth and force the curds into a compressed mass. Place the ball of curds on a flat surface and flatten into a disc shape about 1½” thick. Open the cloth and carefully refold the cloth over the disc as smoothly as possible. Place the disc on an inverted plate that is in a large bowl/container. Place another upside-down plate on top of the packet and put weight on top of the upper plate. Go for about 3 pounds of weight. (A cast iron skillet or canned food works well.) After 10 minutes, add 3 more pounds of weight. Press for a total of one hour. If, after an hour the cheese is not firm, or if whey escapes when you touch it, press longer.

Enjoy your cheese.

All that whey that you generated can be used in smoothies or fed to animals. They love it.

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The Art of Hospitality

Welcome mat

I grew up in a social family. We like people. A lot. As kids, we knew our friends were always welcome at our house. We regularly had neighbors, friends, and family over for a visit or to share a meal with us. After we moved to a house with a built-in pool when I was 9 years old, the action increased. Now our house was, more than ever, “the place to be”.

Yes, there were times reserved for just our immediate family, but generally speaking our home was open to others. When I got married and settled into a home of my own, it felt only natural to invite people over.

Only it wasn’t natural. It was hard. It was a lot of work. It was awkward. And I sometimes got the impression that my friends were not very comfortable in my home.

I’d had the experience of being in someone’s home and feeling uncomfortable the entire time. But in other homes, I felt welcome and at ease. My mom had made it seem so effortless. She was always looking out for the needs of others, often at extra expense and inconvenience.

I’m a thinker — one of my favorite Bible verses is in Luke 3 where we are told, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” So, I followed Mary’s example. I pondered. What made the difference between a home that was welcoming, and one that was not? How did my mom manage? What was I doing, or NOT doing, that was counterproductive to hospitality?

I considered the homes I’d been in where I had felt welcome. What was the common denominator? I read, thought, discussed with friends, and thought some more.

And I keep inviting people over and trying to work out my difficulties. I’ve come up with some things that I believe stand in the way of true hospitality:

Clutter – If I have too much “stuff”, there is no room in my life for people. All my time is eaten up with maintaining the stuff. There are two possible fixes for this. The best fix, in my opinion, is to get rid of clutter and excess stuff. Give it away! I still am prone to having too much, so enter the second fix: Simply don’t let it stop you from inviting people in. Yes, they will see the real you. The messy. Oh well. This is actually a KEY to helping people relax in your home. Especially if children are involved.

Selfishness – Hospitality involves giving. Often sacrificially. If you really don’t want to give, or if you want to keep the best only for yourself, it won’t work out well. Folks will be able to tell.

Ineffective home management – If you don’t have some sort of basic system for keeping your home reasonably clean and neat (NOT PERFECT!!!), the idea of having people in will feel very stressful. If you know you will have to scrub toilets and floors and wash a mountain of dishes, you will not be likely to extend a last minute invitation to someone needing comfort or friendship.

Uptight about having everything perfect – If your home is decently clean and you just can’t bring yourself to have people over because you still have dirty windows or cobwebs here and there, you are probably too self-absorbed. Most people won’t even notice. They are coming to see you, not your house. (For the record, my house is NEVER perfect. There are always flaws. I’m getting better at rolling with that.) I’ve observed that, in a home that is too perfect, I feel extremely uncomfortable. It is unnatural and I begin to feel inferior. Until I realize I’m comparing my known everyday reality to their “Realtor-ready” perfection. Apples and oranges.

Uptight about “stuff” getting damaged – I’ve had my share of unruly kid visitors in my home. I’ve had stuff damaged. I know it is a real risk with hospitality. Stuff will get destroyed. It’s stressful. We don’t have room in the budget for randomly replacing stuff that people break. Not to mention that we have kids already living in our house that do an excellent job of breaking stuff. I remind myself that it is ONLY stuff. Stuff can be replaced. People are more important than stuff. They are eternal souls that I have the opportunity to impact with my words, actions and attitudes.

Insecurity – If I am not confident in who I am and where the Lord has me in my life, I have a hard time inviting others in, because it always carries the risk of judgment. I cannot control the impressions and opinions that others form of me and my family when they see my home and how we function and interact. It’s a vulnerable place. And it’s often humbling. Especially if you have kids.

Comparison – This kind of goes along with insecurity. But I had to find my own way with hospitality. Don’t try to copy another person. If will be fake and others will notice. Learn from others, yes! But there is a difference. I regularly notice and learn from the hospitality of others. If I compare myself to my mom, or try to mimic her, for example, I will be discontent and lose my joy. My mom and I are very different people. We do things in our own unique way. Neither way is inferior. They are just different. I need to be me.

Tips to developing hospitality

JUST DO IT! It will get easier. Don’t give up. When you bomb (and you will), learn from it and keep going. We all have failures, embarrassing moments, regrets and times we have put our foot in our mouth! Don’t let it stop you. Have people over often. It’s easier to maintain a home to be ready for company than to “stress clean” only occasionally for a big event. Invite people you are comfortable with, at first. Close family, best friends, etc. Invite feedback. But don’t stop there. Challenge yourself to invite those you don’t know well, people you are uncomfortable around, or even people you dislike. (Yes, I really said that — see Romans 12:20.)

As a Christian, I don’t consider hospitality to be optional. There are a variety of passages in the Bible that address the topic. From outright commands (see, for example, 1 Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:2), to examples of hospitality shown (2 Kings 4:8-10, Proverbs 31:20, Luke 14:12-14, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:34, 1 Timothy 5:10).

Hospitality is NOT the same as “entertaining”. Hospitality serves others. “Entertaining” serves only oneself. Hospitality is important. It contributes to the needs of the saints (Romans 12:13). It enables us to be God’s hands and feet (Matthew 10:40-42, Matthew 25:34-40).

How can one practice hospitality if inviting people in to your home is impossible? I’ve never been in that situation, so I don’t have many ideas; but one that that comes to mind is to bring a meal to someone in need. Even if it is a grocery-store rotisserie chicken or a “Hot and Ready” pizza. Call someone who you think might be lonely or hurting. Pray and ask God to show you the needs of others around you. I think there are some things in that list I can improve on.

I’m really preaching to myself here. “Do not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9) I am still learning. I still blow it, but I’m pretty stubborn and hard-headed, and I’m determined to keep at it.

If you were a victim of one of my early attempts at hospitality, I apologize. And I thank you for helping me learn. Please come visit again.

I’d like to finish off with a story of amazing hospitality that was offered to our family. In 2008, my husband’s parents were celebrating 60 years of marriage. We wanted to bring the whole family (at that time we had ten kids) to visit. We started planning. We booked airfare and arranged for rental cars.

But we were stumped by accommodations while we were there. My in-laws had a small house. No way was there room for all of us there. Most (all?) hotels have a five-person limit per room. That meant three rooms each night for a week. Not only was that costly, but we would have to divide the family into three groups every night. Not fun, not to mention that there would be minor children alone in at least one of the rooms.

I looked into campgrounds and other creative accommodations (like VRBO), but since my in-laws lived in a non-touristy small town in North Carolina, there did not appear to be anything like that near by. So, I did what any self respecting “big family” mom would do, I started networking. I turned to an email group I’d been a part of for years. A group specifically for moms of big families. I asked if there was anyone in living in that area who had suggestions for where to stay.

Within a day or two, I received a response from a mom who lived in the same small town as my in-laws. She extended an invitation for our ENTIRE FAMILY TO STAY WITH THEM FOR THE WEEK! We did not know each other at all. We had never met or corresponded before. And yet, they invited a family of TWELVE to stay in their house for an entire week. We considered this offer, almost disbelieving that it was for real. I talked to the mom on the phone and she assured me that it was a genuine offer and her husband was all for it as well. We accepted.

We arrived at their house exhausted. We’d taken a red-eye flight and, naturally, no one slept. The first thing I noticed was welcoming smiles on the faces of the our hosts. They had written a “Welcome” message on the chalkboard in their kitchen. They immediately offered us something to drink. The parents had a large master bedroom suite that they vacated during that week so that we could all sleep together. There were blow up mattresses, sleeping bags, portable crib for the youngest one. The bathroom had a large stack of towels and designer soaps and washes. They gave us free access to their washer and dryer. They cooked for us. They welcomed us into their work and play. They engaged us in conversation. They expressed an interest in getting to know us. Their kids welcomed our kids and shared their things with them. And they served us lots and lots of coffee.

I’m sure it helped that we had similar lifestyles. They had six kids. They home schooled. But the welcoming presence and attitude extended way beyond those things that we had in common. They had truly worked hard on, and perfected, that ART of hospitality.

And I believe that what it really is. An art. A beautiful expression of the creator God in us.

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Fig Jam

Fig Jam

We were blessed this week by a friend who gave us a bucket of figs. I decided to make jam with this windfall. It’s very easy — only 4 ingredients needed:

  • 2 Quarts of chopped fresh figs (approximately 5 lbs)
  • 6 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice.

Weigh out five pounds of figs (or measure out two quarts, if you don’t have a kitchen scale). Place in a heat proof bowl or pot and cover with boiling water. Let stand ten minutes. Drain, stem and chop the figs. (Abby did the stemming, Naomi did the chopping.)

Combine chopped figs, sugar and ¾ cup of water in a large sauce pot. (I used a six-quart pot.) Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Then cook rapidly until thick. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add lemon juice and cook one minute longer.

Pour the hot jam into hot jars leaving ¼” head space. Wipe jar rims and place heated lids on jars. Process in boiling water bath canner for fifteen minutes. My yield was six pints.

I love making jams because it’s the one food that I am able to can that will not disappear in a single sitting! I also love jam making because I can control the ingredients. Since I am able to avoid using pectin unless it is truly necessary, my jams have a more concentrated fruit flavor. Also, I use real sugar, not corn syrup, which is a very common ingredient in commercially prepared jams.

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Comparison is the Robber of Joy

Pure joy

Pure joy.

I have not always been a joyful person. In fact, I’d say my tendency is to be negative and to grumble and complain. I do not like this about myself. I tried to “fake it to make it,” but it just wasn’t happening. I needed an overhaul. In order to effect true change, I needed to get to the bottom of WHY I struggled. One day, I came across a quote that was like the pebble tossed in the water. The effects rippled out and changed me in ever increasing ways. I was reading something, just minding my own business when the words jumped off the page and assaulted me. The words are few and simple:

COMPARISON is the ROBBER of JOY.

I pondered this for awhile, thinking of all the times I had compared myself to others. I found the quote to ring true. Comparing myself to others left me discouraged and unhappy. There is always someone who appears to have nicer circumstances, things, looks, etc. I began to work on the discipline of not comparing myself to others. This was the first ripple.

As time went on, I found that refraining from comparing myself to others was not enough. I realized that were plenty of times when I was less than joyful, but was not comparing myself to others. Pondering further, I discovered I was comparing myself to some “idealized” standard. Still comparison, though. And it was robbing me of joy. So, the next concentric ripple was comparing myself, not to others, but to the unattainable standards of perfection I had set up for myself.

But then another layer of “joy deficiency” came to the surface: I was grumpy about hard things in my life. My son’s congenital heart defect, not being able to sleep, dealing with a houseful of sick kids, loss of a job etc. This list could go on and on. I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone — real or imagined; I just didn’t like my circumstances. I again pondered what I was missing. What was the root issue here? Where was the comparison? What was robbing my joy in these situations? I did not immediately arrive at a conclusion.

I thought of some friends who seemed particularly joyful in spite of difficult circumstances. One friend was watching her child die from a rare genetic disease — and it was not the first child she had lost. Another had a hard marriage. Another had financial troubles. Another was dying of cancer. But they were still joyful. Not only were they not grumbling about their circumstances, which were very plainly horrible situations; they were giving praise to God, and were still interested in — and caring for — others. What was the key?

I read of people like Corrie ten Boom, who lost her father and sister after they were all sent to concentration camps by the Nazis for working to save Jews; and Elizabeth Elliot, whose husband was murdered by the very people he was trying to help. How were they able to go forward after such heart-rending tragedies? Not just to exist, coping with their new reality, but to glorify God and minister to the very ones who had wronged them? To give blessing to many through the telling of their stories? How did they do it???

The understanding began to take shape in my mind: it was my comparison of my reality to my EXPECTATIONS that was robbing me of my joy. What I had, vs. what I wanted. What I got vs. what I thought I deserved. The ripple effect continued. These friends and mentors had learned the secret of contentment in all things that is described so well in Philippians 4:4-13:

4Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. 10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Other verses:

I Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

I began to work again on correcting my thought patterns. Choosing gratefulness even when things weren’t going the way I wanted. Avoiding the “If only” and “I wish” sorts of discontented thoughts. It was 3 steps forward, 2 steps back for a long while as I worked hard to build new habits. It didn’t mean I was now loving the hard things, just choosing to find the bright spot in the midst of the suffering or difficulty. And joy arrived. Slowly at first, bit by bit with each success at choosing thankfulness, the joy grew. I realize I am not entitled to the blessings I receive. They are not the result of any goodness I inherently possess.

I wondered if I could I still have joy if all my blessings were stripped away? If I lost all my belongings? If I lost my husband? My children? My parents? Ouch! That was hard to consider. Honesty, I can’t say for sure how I would respond since I have never been there. But I know that I need to be satisfied with Jesus alone. He must be enough. Sufficient. I need to come to the place where Jesus is all I need.

A couple of thought trails that have helped me to reorient my thinking when it gets off track:

When something is going bad, think of what I could consider the WORST possible outcome. Then consider what would be the benefits if the worst became reality?

When faced with loss or disappointment, choose to thank God for what he did give, not to focus on what I am losing. Speaking the words out loud is especially beneficial to me. For example, my dad is dying of a disease called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). He is not old. Since his mom (my grandma) was over 90 when she passed away a few years ago, I EXPECTED that I would have my dad around for a long time. It’s not looking that way. I sometimes feel MAD and start to grumble about this horrible outcome. It helps me to get back on track if I force myself to be THANKFUL for the 40-plus years I have had my dad. Thankful for the memories. Thankful for his encouragement, his wisdom. his humor, his talents, his music. And acknowledge to myself that while I don’t understand God’s ways, I know His ways are for good (see Romans 8:28). And I come, once again, to a place of rest, peace, contentment and joy.

This ongoing, day-to-day battle in the mind, heart, soul and life is one that is worth fighting — for the JOY that comes with the win.

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Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry ice creamSince we keep goats for the milk they give us, and since milk production is highest in the spring shortly after the goats freshen, for the past several months I’ve been on a perpetual quest for Ways To Use Up Goat Milk. Drinking it, using it in cereal, baking and cooking — rice pudding, chocolate pudding, potato soup, pancakes; making yogurt and kefir and cheese. Still our milk refrigerator is bursting at the seams. So the quest continues.

A parallel quest this month is to buy as little food from the store as I can, and to eat as much as possible from our pantry, freezer, garden and animals (eggs, milk). I do have to supplement with some fresh produce, since my garden does not yet provide enough to meet our our needs; but my aim is to eat up all the random partial packages or small amounts of meats that are harder to make a meal from. Anyway, I have some strawberries that I froze, and a few bags of ice that I wanted to use up from the freezer.

Enter ice cream!

Old-fashioned ice cream makerI happen to have a very old, cool (pun intended?) ice cream maker that I got at a garage sale for FREE! I can make six quarts of ice cream at a time, so no one is left out. I love it. I used to have a Cuisanart ice cream maker like this one which was also super cool, but it only made about 6 cups of ice cream at a time…. At some point along the way, that was just not enough ice cream for our growing family; so I donated it. I was thrilled when I found this larger one.  Similar style large machine here.

One of the things we made during our “kitchen day” yesterday was ice cream. Strawberry ice cream. Perfect recipe to use up the strawberries and goat milk, and also use up the extra bag of ice. This recipe makes a lot, but you can halve or quarter it to fit the size of your ice cream maker.

There are lots of possibilities for variation on this recipe! You can substitute other soft fruits for strawberries. Or omit the fruit and add an extra tablespoon of vanilla for old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. Or add chocolate chips and peppermint extract instead of fruit. You get the idea. Just be sure to add your “mix-ins” first, and adjust the amount of milk to bring the mixture up to the fill line on your ice cream maker.

Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 4 eggs
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 4 cups whipping cream
  • 1 T vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups coarsely pureed strawberries.
  • approximately 4 cups of milk (I used goat, but cow milk is fine)

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until thickened. Add cream, vanilla and salt. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate mixture until well chilled.

Puree strawberries so that they are mostly liquid with some texture. Refrigerate.

Pour chilled ice cream mixture into freezer can. Add strawberry puree. Then add milk until the mixture level reaches the max fill line. Freeze according to the directions for your ice cream maker. Makes approximately 1 gallon of the most delicious ice cream imaginable.

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You never know what a day may bring

I was 10 when it happened.

It was a warm September day in San Diego. Dad said, “Let’s go to the Cove!” Dad, mom and six kids piled into the van, and down to La Jolla Cove we went. We stood on the rock cliffs enjoying the pleasant breeze and watching the jumbo surf, the result of a storm off the coast of Baja. The water came almost to where we were standing. We kids wanted to take our shoes off, but dad said no, we aren’t going swimming. Bummed, we tried to at least move far enough down the rocks to feel the salt spray on our faces. Bliss.

The waves roared in and pounded the rocks. It was crowded that day. Lots of other folks trying to catch a break from the heat. My older brother and I inched our way out in front of the rest of the family. We hadn’t gone too far when dad called us back. Bummed again, I turned to walk back asking “Why?” I was too late. The breaking wave knocked me off my feet and began pulling me out into the ocean. I frantically grasped at the rocks of the cliffs, desperately seeking a hand hold. They were slick and only cut at my fingers as I thrashed. I remember my family receding from view as the water pulled me out and overcame me. I was not a strong swimmer, and I still had shoes on. I was pushed down deep in the water — so deep that I could not see any light. I was disoriented. I did not know which way was up. I tried to kick off my shoes. My life flashed before my eyes. My lungs were burning. I knew I was going to die.

Then another wave came pounding in and pushed me up to the surface of the water. I gasped for air and had only an instant until I was pushed down, down, down in the water a second time. In that split second, I saw my brother next to me in the water on the right. And a stranger, a man, to my left. I realized he was trying to help me, but then we were all tossed up, down and under by the ten-foot swells. The waves kept coming. Each time I was able to get a breath, I became more aware of my surroundings, but also more exhausted. I saw the cliff side behind me, and a large cropping of rocks in front of me. The waves rushed in around both sides and over the the top of the boulders in front of me; the force of the water slammed my body into the side of the cliff. Then the pull of the wave receding tossed my body like a piece of driftwood, and slammed it into the cropping of rocks. The pain was unbearable.

After one of my trips under the water, I came up to find two more men next to me. Lifeguards! They communicated with me the best they could over the immense noise of the ocean. Timing was of the essence. Taking advantage of the two-second micro pause between wave crashing and wave receding, one lifeguard pulled me quickly out from between the rocks and the cliff and over to the adjacent beach where he left me, lying on the sand, completely exhausted, bloody and unable to even get up. He immediately went back out for the man who had tried to help me. I lay there in the warm sand gratefully gulping the air and letting the adrenaline surge diminish while spectators gathered around me. My brother, meanwhile, was pulled out by the second lifeguard. and when they arrived on the beach, they started some first aid. We were bloody from head to toe. Cuts, scrapes and bruises. I still have scars. The lifeguards bandaged us the best they could, but they did not have enough bandages to cover all our wounds.

As we were reunited with our parents, I noticed that my mom, seven months pregnant, was soaking wet. I learned that she had tried to grab me as I slipped away. She had also fallen in the water, but the water had washed her a different way. She was caught in a crevice in the rock. Two men who had been fishing nearby pulled her to safety. We thanked the lifeguards, the stranger who had tried to come to my aid as I was washed off the cliffs and all the bystanders who had helped. Some had taken care of my younger siblings as my dad helped my mom. Someone who lived nearby brought out treats for the younger ones, to distract them from the chaos and fear of a world turned topsy-turvy.

Finally, very much shaken as a family, we made our way home. We were so thankful to just be alive. We spent the next several days just enjoying our time together. I did a lot of thinking. Why, God? Why did this happen? What was the purpose? I learned that less than 24 hours later, two grown men were swept to their deaths from very spot. It could have so easily been me! Why not? Why did God spare me that day? I did not know. I couldn’t fathom it then and I don’t presume to know now. But I know this. God snatched me from death for a PURPOSE. He had/has a purpose for me. I was called to follow him. I did not know what the purpose would be but knowing that he saved me gave me confidence and hope for the future.

I come back to that hope when things get hard. When I am discouraged. When I feel my life has no point, no meaning, no significance. Or when circumstances are overwhelming and I feel like giving up. This purpose for which I was saved gives me courage and strength to keep going. This purpose does not appear to be extraordinary. I have yet to save the world. My purpose is found in the everyday. Faithfulness in a life that is sometime monotonous. Often thankless. One that is difficult to judge the outcome and gauge success. I do not know the future. I do not know what impact my life will have on future generations for his glory. But it is good and this is where faith occurs. And if I had died that day, there are twelve people who would not exist today.

God has saved each one of us for a purpose. This is something I work hard to teach my children. I happen to be blessed to REALIZE I was snatched from death. We are all one accident, one false move, one phone call away from the same. What is your purpose? What does God have for you to accomplish while on this earth?

There’s more to this story, aside from what happened to me. My mom, after her fall, no longer felt her unborn baby moving. For a full day and a half, nothing. We feared the worst, but then the kicks resumed. My baby brother was born healthy, at full term, two months later. He is named Isaiah, which means “God has delivered” or “God saves”. Truly God is our salvation. Always. Whether we acknowledge it or not.

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Refrigerator Dill Pickles

pickles
These pickles are delicious. Crisp, garlicy, flavorful, sour. Everything I want in a pickle. But the best thing is, they are a cinch to make. Let me show you how.
Vinegar and saltPlace 7 cups of water, 1 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup canning salt (or any salt without additives — if you use a salt with additives, the brine will be cloudy) in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

While the brine is heating, wash 4 lbs of pickling cucumbers and some fresh dill.

Grab a gallon sized jar or crock (it’s OK to repurpose one) or buy one here or here.

Place large handful of dill in the bottom of the jar. You want to cover the bottom with a nice thick layer.

Dill and garlic

Peel one clove of garlic (or more according to your taste) and cut into about 4 pieces. Add to jar on top of dill.

Pack them in!Cut the ends off of the cukes and tightly pack in the jar on top of dill and garlic. Use all your expert packing skills on this. Cram, wedge, shove to make them all fit. They will!
Pickling spice on topPour the now boiling vinegar mixture over top of the tightly packed cukes. Add 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice to the jar.
The wait begins Place a plate, saucer or another jar on top of the cukes in the jar to force them to stay down under the brine. Leave the jar at room temperature for 3 days. These 3 days may possibly be the hardest three days of your life. After your 72 hour waiting period, refrigerate or DIG IN!

You can also slice the cukes or cut them in spears. If you do, they will fit in a smaller jar. I fit 3.25lbs of cukes cut into spears in a 1/2 gallon jar.

If you are local to me and want to make pickles, hit me up for some pickling spice. It will take me 10 years to use up the amount I bought. I’d be happy to share.

Click here for a PDF version

Pickles-to-be

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Giving gifts that last a lifetime

For a long time, I bought into the concept of acquiring, upgrading and maintaining things/possessions for my family. House, car, furnishings, books (my one weakness), toys, clothes, stuff, stuff, stuff. After all, these things are real. Tangible. They last. Unlike activities and experiences which are fleeting and then forgotten. Or are they?

I’m coming to a different perspective. Stuff requires work. It soon owns us. It (mostly) does not give us joy and fulfillment. It’s just stuff. Experiences are where it’s at. This is challenging for me.

A few days ago, I took James and Noah to Six Flags Magic Mountain. We had participated in their Read to Succeed program (details at end of post) so our cost for the trip was only time and gas to get there. This is my kind of deal. I love frugal, inexpensive, thrifty, cheap and FREE. We had a fun day experiencing the various attractions. During a slow moment, when we were having a snack, the boys noticed a sign for a carnival type attraction. A hit the button with a large hammer, try to ring the bell type attraction. A $5 per play attraction!

FIVE DOLLARS!!! That, to me, is crazy. I know, it’s an amusement park. I should expect such ridiculous prices, but I just can’t get over it. But I saw that, since this was in a kiddie section of the park, the sign said every play was guaranteed a prize. The display of prizes was there. Stuffed animals, capes, etc. Nothing worth $5, believe me.

I was just about to say, “Let’s move on,” when a strange thought entered my head. While the capes other prizes were certainly not worth $5, the EXPERIENCE for my boys of ringing the bell and scoring a cape, would very well be worth $5. Well worth it. I opened my wallet and handed each boy 5 bucks.

They took the money and excitedly ran over to take their turn ringing the bell. They each scored a batman cape. The capes are nothing significant. I’ve made them much nicer capes myself in the past, but they will never forget this experience. This is the kind of thing kids remember and tell their own kids about.

I know.

When I was a small child, my dad worked in a grocery store. One day I accompanied him to the store where he worked. I don’t know the reason he had to stop by, but he wasn’t working. Outside the store there was a small merry-go-round ride. The kind you feed a quarter and it runs for 3 minutes. My dad stopped for the 3 minutes. He splurged the quarter. He let me ride. I was over the moon with happiness. And I have never forgotten it. Most toys I had as a kid are long gone, but that 25 cents was well spent on a pleasant memory for me.

I’m learning. I’m slowly learning to alter my sense of value to include the intangible aspects. Those of joy, excitement, pleasure, gratitude and other human emotions that are the stuff of memories. Memories last. They bring comfort and joy LONG after any money has been spent to obtain them.

The Read to Succeed program is open to teachers for their students, and home school parents for their kids:

Register at the Read to Succeed website.

Keep a log of books/hours your students read.

When they have read 6 or more hours, enter the hours read under each student’s name in the student section.

The deadline for updating your students’ records is usually in March.

Tickets are mailed a month or two later, and are good for about 10 weeks in the summer months.

Home school parents get a FREE ticket along with the students.

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