Thursday, July 28, 2011

Floods and Forgetfulness

"Hey mom," Etienne whispered in my ear as I was nursing the baby. "James doesn't want me to tell you this, but there is a flood in the bathroom."
"What buddy?" I reply distractedly.
(A little more loudly) "I am not supposed to tell you that there is a flood in the bathroom."
"A flood?! James? What's going on son?"

Silence from the bathroom region of the house.
I hear no water, I see no water, so I don't feel there is a dire emergency and consequently get sidetracked and forget all about it.

Later, as I encounter a soaking wet mountain on top of the washer, consisting of every rag and towel in the house, I remember Etienne's words. I open the bathroom door, dreading to find the aforementioned flood and am confronted with a spotlessly clean and dry chamber. I consider accosting James with a crime, but then realize that even if he did spill water, he knew he had made a mistake and cleaned it all up. Why drag up the issue? Frankly, I was rejoiced to see what a thorough clean up he had done- minus washing every towel and rag he had used to do it. I started the laundry and went merrily on my way, thinking of how much James was growing up, and how much progress he had made. I even praised him to Steve that night when he got home.

Imagine my chagrin then, when it was time to go to bed. I pulled open the right drawer of my bathroom cabinet, searching for my glasses when my legs were promptly deluged with a wave of water from said drawer. The entire thing was full of H2O and everything in it, swimming.

After staring confusedly at the drawer for a moment, I remembered the flood I thought had been cleaned up. I just had to laugh, and started removing everything from the drawer to the counter top to dry. I left the drawer upside down to drip in the tub and went to bed, thinking that perhaps we still had a little more progress to make with James, ie. checking more thoroughly to make sure a job was done.
The next morning, I went into the bathroom and noticed there was a lot more stuff drying on the counter top than I remembered setting out the night before. I couldn't figure it out until I realized the second drawer of the cabinet was also drip-drying in the tub. Steve confessed to having had a similar bedtime experience, only with the second drawer. I hadn't even thought to check that one.
So all my projected lectures to James on being more thorough were starting to sound pretty feeble. To top it all, when I opened the washer a few minutes later, I discovered I had forgotten to put all the rags and towels in the drier. The resulting mildewy mess had to be washed all over again. Think I should give the kid a break? Perhaps he comes by it naturally.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pick of the Day

This was just this morning's harvest (of tomatoes).

Monday, July 25, 2011

If only I could say it so well

There are days when I aspire to be a writer- to write pithy little stories or sage advice that people would read and laugh at or profit by. I always think it wouldn't be that hard if I just had the time, or if life weren't so crazy, or I didn't have so many other things to worry about.
And I have been worrying alot lately- about life in general (finances, church, school,family- you name it) It's starting to take the joy out of life. I have tried to explain to Steve why I feel like I can't stop worrying, but couldn't seem to find the words until I stumbled on this little essay, and handed it to him. I may never be a writer, but that's okay if I can keep reading her stuff-

Starting next Tuesday I'm going to praise the Lord like gangbusters. That's when my (insert problem) will be over and I can exhale. How wonderful it will be then, the white-knuckling behind me and the joy in Christ before me. For now, I need to worry.

I'm going to rejoice in the Lord, I really am, but I cannot rejoice today. Today, all sleep-deprived, my goal is just to muddle through till bedtime when I'll catch a solid eight and be in shape to "reign in life" tomorrow.

Woe is me! The same old sin has snared my soul again. I have repented copiously, but how could I, vile sinner that I am, come to His gates with joyful praise without a proper pause (of several days) to beat my breast and stay away and suffer for my wretchedness? Psalm 51 pleads, "blot out my transgressions" and "restore to me the joy of Your salvation," but surely David doesn't mean today. Must keep respectable delay of time betwixt the two.

I said to Jesus, "Help me trust in Your unfailing love." And then I sank again into morbidity, to hunker down until such time as He saw fit to answer me. No rush, I thought. He is the Lord. What can I do until He acts?

A friend objected to my piety. Not "Lord, help me to trust in You" (quoth he) but "Lord, I trust in You! Yea, by Your grace I trust in You!" There's something psychologically different here, my chastened soul took note: The first prayer has a pious sound but never gets around to business, letting me postpone the joy it seeks a month or two, the meanwhile dithering in unbelief while waiting for divinity to bring me 'round robotically. The second prayer enlists the mind and soul and will, no more defaulting into foolish thoughts of Tuesday next.

Paul commands, "Rejoice!" (Philippians 3:1). David says, "Rejoice!" (Psalm 32:11). But that will have to wait a week or two 'cause now I'm in a stew. There's something I want badly and I must be anxious till it's mine. A major life decision has me tied in knots until it's made. And Satan has a laundry list of reasons why I should not sing (Zechariah 3:1). So pray excuse me from the banquet of His joy: "I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. . . . I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. . . . I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" (Luke 14).

No. This nonsense stops today. Not "I'll rejoice someday," but "I'm rejoicing now." Not "I will trust someday," but "I am trusting now."
"Life is a series of problems. Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one" . Next Tuesday is a vain imagining. And you will never just coast into joy but you must take it by the horns.

For joy must be intentional or it is no match for anxiety. God shows the way out of heaviness and into joy: You best put on "the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit" (Isaiah 61:3). The hour is late, next Tuesday never comes, and faith in God is now or naught. Time to stop this stumbling in defeat and live in joy that's worthy of the gospel.

The dog bites and the bee stings and you're feeling sad. But blest are those who praise God in the midst of it, who praise Him when their heart is broken.
Put on your dancing shoes, baby!

Andree Seu

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Once upon a time....

...we got married.
Ten years ago today to be precise. There isn't a very succint way to compress ten years of life into one blog post so I won't try. Instead I'll post a picture.

Of all the pictures from our wedding day, I feel like this one captures the joy of the moment the best- just after we had exited the sanctuary and were on our way to our unknown future.
That unknown future has brought with it joy and sorrow, success and failure, the birth of four children, and the death of two. But after all of that, I can only give glory to God that the joyful smiles are still on our faces and our marriage is strong, despite all the unknowns. From the painful experiences of friends and loved ones over the past few years, I know that God has been very merciful to us. It makes me humble, and even a bit afraid- but a good kind of fear. A fear that keeps me begging for that daily mercy to love and serve, even as Christ has loved and served us.
I love you Stephen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Baby Blues

I am so thankful these are the only baby blues I have to deal with.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How did we get here?

I have always loved baking. Well, since I was about thirteen anyway and made my first apple pie without removing the peels from the apples- you can imagine how good that was. But my sisters and parents were always pretty good about eating the creations I was constantly concocting.

When I got married I thought I would be baking even more, but found out that baking didn't pay. A few slices of homemade bread were eaten the day it was baked and the rest sat to mold on the counter. Cookies got stale in ziploc bags, leftover biscuits and scones went to the dog. Let's face it- homebaked goods without chemicals added just don't taste good the next day. It also didn't help that my husband carried around in his tastebuds the memory of the corner boulangeries of France. How was I supposed to compete with that?

Things have changed around here though. Saturday morning I thought I would try a new blueberry muffin recipe I had discovered. I made a big batch, thinking the boys could snack on the leftovers throughout the day or maybe I could freeze them for later. We sat down and I ate my muffin, but was interupted by the baby and left the table. When I came back, it was to this-

23 muffins gone in about five minutes, and one half-munched one left for mommy to enjoy with her reheated coffee.

People keep telling me how fortunate I am to have all boys since I won't have to pay for any weddings, but I am afraid my grocery bills are going to outweigh any savings we might have in the wedding department. But hey- at least I can start baking again with no fear of waste!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Per Request

All right, here is the 'top secret' recipe for those of you who asked for the chocolate-chocolate malt ice cream. First of all, I don't really know why it is called chocolate-chocolate since it only contains one kind of chocolate. I think my dad called it that to enhance it's allure, but I don't feel like it needs that once you have tasted it.
Secondly, this is not a beginners recipe- it is a bit complex and involves a custard base that must not be curdled! But don't be afraid- custard is not hard to deal with if you pay attention and have all your ducks in a row, ready to go before you start.

Thirdly- this recipe was a little too big for our 1.5 quart ice cream maker- we did have some overflow, which was no tragedy since we just licked it eagerly off the sides of the bowl, but you can split it in half and make some today and some tomorrow- the custard keeps nicely in the fridge.

You will need two medium bowls- one to set over a pan of simmering water for melting the chocolate and one to beat the egg yolks in. You will also need a fine mesh strainer. If you don't have a fine mesh, layer several pieces of cheesecloth in a regular strainer. Trust me, the strainer makes a difference in this recipe and gives it a silky smooth texture.

Also you need-
2 cups whole milk (no skim please, or you void the guarantee)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup malt powder (found next to the hot chocolate in most grocery stores- think Carnation brand)
8 eggs
10 ounces of good quality chocolate (the original recipe called for Cadbury's milk chocolate bars which are definitely yummy, but Steve and I prefer things a little darker- scharfenberger anyone?)
Bailey's irish cream (we use a knock off brand)

Begin by separating the eight egg yolks from their whites- yes this is a rich recipe! Save the whites for omelets or something and beat the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl until pale yellow and slightly fluffy.

Break up the ten ounces of chocolate into the other medium bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate is melted and smooth- turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the water to keep it melted.

Next heat 2 cups of whole milk and two cups of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Whisk in 1/4 cup of malt powder . Remove from heat.
Now slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Repeat with another 1/2 cup. This will slowly heat up the egg yolks without scrambling them. Next take the tempered egg yolks and slowly whisk them back into the remaining hot cream. This is your custard! Put the custard back on the stove over low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken- three to five minutes. To test it, dip in the wooden spoon and draw your finger through the custard on the back of the spoon. If your finger leaves a trail, it is thickened. Quickly remove from heat as it can curdle at this point.

Pour the hot custard through a strainer into your melted chocolate bowl. You may find the custard has curdled slightly, but the strainer will take care of it. Stir the chocolate and custard together until smooth- things will be looking mighty fine by this time, but they get even better when you whisk in 1/4 cup of Bailey's irish cream (or more if you like things stronger). I have also tried Grand Marnier and Kahlua with this recipe, but we always end up going back to the Bailey's.

Cover the bowl and put it into the fridge until chilled- then proceed with your ice cream makers instructions. Some people like to freeze the ice cream in the freezer until hard, after removing it from the ice cream maker, but we think this recipe is much better soft serve style. Enjoy!
And if you have any questions, or if something is unclear, leave a comment. I'm new at posting recipes.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Frosty Delights and Father's Day

Steve and I have been looking for one of these gadgets for a while now.

We love homemade ice cream and have an older ice cream maker from our wedding which we have used alot. But these days, doing the whole ice and rock salt routine isn't on my list of priorities. Doubtless my father will probably shake his head at his progressive daughter. Dad always insisted that making ice cream the old fashioned way was the only way to do it (we had an old hand-crank ice cream maker as kids) And it's true, it did add to the experience and the anticipation- we cranked and cranked with our wimpy little girl arms until we were exhausted and then dad took over with his big brawny ones. The resulting dessert was certainly more appreciated after all that work.

However, the problem we have down south is that cranking ice cream outside in 100 degree heat with sweat pouring down your back loses some of its charm.

So for Father's day, as I was wandering through Costco, they had these on special, and I also had a coupon. I figured it was a sign. I bought it and we are loving it. In honor of my dad, we made the best ice cream recipe in the world for Father's day- chocolate-chocolate malt with Baileys Irish cream. Dad taught me to make it years ago, and we haven't found a recipe yet to top it.

Of course I can't splurge every day on an ice cream recipe full of egg yolks, fine chocolate and cream, so we have been making sorbets, frozen yogurt for the kids and our latest favorite, strawberry daquiris and slushy margaritas.

And it is soo easy- just keep the bowl in the freezer, and you are always ready to churn out a treat at the push of a button. No, this is not a paid advertisement, but if you don't have one, I would highly recommend it. Here's to keeping cool!