Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rosebud Vegetable Tart

A friend of mine asked me to bring a vegetable dish to a wedding open house for her daughter who was married out of town. I decided to see what I could actually do that would befit the occasion. That's when I found this recipe for a Zucchini and Carrot Roses Tart. It was beautiful, but could I make something like that?  I decided to try.

Of course, I had to fiddle with the recipe some. I decided to use crescent roll dough out of the can instead of puff pastry. Since I didn't have multi-colored carrots, I decided to use yellow summer squash as well as zucchini and orange carrots. I also added more salt and pepper.

Here is my recipe. (At the end are a few notes that helped me.)

Rosebud Vegetable Tarts
1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 oz. Ricotta cheese (1/2 15 oz container)
2 eggs
3 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
4 oz. Mozzarella cheese
2 orange carrots
2 green zucchini 
2 yellow summer squash
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375. 

Unroll dough and press into tart or pie pan on bottom and up sides. Trim excess. Mix together ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan and salt in medium bowl. Slice carrots, zucchini, and summer squash into thin lengthwise strips.

Spread cheese mixture on top of dough.

Warm half vegetable strips in microwave for 20-30 seconds. This makes them more pliable. Choose one vegetable strip and roll it into a spiral. Add another strip of the same vegetable around it to make it into a rosebud. Place the vegetable bud upright into the center of the cheese. The cheese mixture will hold it in place. Choose a different vegetable and make another rosebud. Place the varied colors of vegetable buds in the cheese creating a spiral starting from the middle toward the outer edge. Squeeze as many as you can in. Warm the other half of the vegetables in the microwave and continue until the pan is full.

Brush the tops of the vegetables with the olive oil. Sprinkle the oregano and pepper over the top.

Bake at 375F for 45-55 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Cut into wedges or squares. Makes 8-10 servings.

Notes to make it easier:
1. Since I did not have a mandolin or other vegetable slicer that would slice the vegetables, I used a cheese slicer. 

2. Warming the vegetable slightly in the microwave (20-30 seconds) would make using a cheese slicer easier.
3. I sliced once lengthwise then turned the vegetable over to make the bottom flat in order to keep the vegetables steady as I sliced them. 

4. If there are a lot of seeds in the center, do not use the part with seeds.
5. For the center ring, a carrot/potato peeler makes a thinner slice that is easier to roll and then the thicker slice can be wrapped around that spiral.

6. When placing the spirals in the cheese, place the open end toward another spiral that is already placed to help it stay shut.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

What if Your Vision of Heaven is All Wrong?

If you went out and asked ten people "What is heaven to you?" you would probably get ten different answers. And they would probably be along the lines of:
  • "A place where I can eat all I want, of whatever I want, never exercise, and stay a perfect size 8."
  • "Endless time and a mountain of books."
  • "The end of suffering and pain."
  • "One big, long party!"
  • "Being the star player on the team that everyone adores."
I know that I remember thinking about the passage where Jesus tells the Sadducees, "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) On reading that, I thought, how could it be heaven if I'm not with Jim? But just like the people above, I had a wrong idea of heaven.

Photo Credit: My friend, Joy Delzer

I was using the word heaven as an idea. One of the dictionary definitions of heaven is "a state of supreme bliss." You see, I thought heaven was all about me.

The Bible teaches us that Heaven is a very real place, not an idea or a state of being. And it is definitely not about me...or you. It is a place where those who go there will live in perfect communion with God and worship Him. It's about God.

The Bible tells us that all tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4) and in His "presence is fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11). So we will be happy, but our happiness will come from God Himself. 

In fact, we won't be worried about the injustices we experienced on earth, or the difficulties we encountered, or even mourning those who are not saved because our focus will be on God.

I'm pretty sure that in that "twinkling of an eye" between life on earth and heaven our priorities will change completely. Everything that was so important on earth will suddenly become so insignificant we will wonder why we ever wasted a thought on it. Every. Single. Thing. 

So the big question for me is why do I spend so much energy planning, worrying, fretting, and protecting? I need a better vision of heaven, but more than that I need a better relationship with God. When He becomes the most important thing in my life, then everything else falls into proper perspective. Including my idea of heaven.

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This was not intended to be a treatise on heaven. 
Just a motivation for us all to get to know God 
and know what we are looking forward to.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Every Night--I Promise It Works!

I always dreamed that we would have deep meaningful conversations around our dinner table, especially on holidays. But we are normal parents with four normal children who despite our best efforts could bicker about anything, complain about their favorite food, monopolize the conversation, jump out of their seats twenty times during one meal, and spill the milk. Oh wait, it was usually my husband or I who spilled the milk! (Of course, we were trying to prevent that, or some other minor catastrophe.)

Not to say that our family meals were disasters. Rarely did all of those things happen at any one meal and we had meals where none of them happened. But the conversation was more likely to have one person telling us over the period of ten minutes what happened in their dream the night before until it became so fantastic that you wondered when the dream stopped and where the imagination began. Or we parents feeling like interrogators trying to find out when a project was due and what was involved. Or heard the full and complete story of what happened in a video game. Or, well, you get it. It just wasn't the conversation of my dreams.

Not to say we never had good conversations. Often they were short, so short they were almost over before we realized how deep the question had been, or how profound the insight. Like when our five year old son said, "If the earth rotated slower, days would be longer, right?"

Or when our youngest asked a question about what she was learning in science and her brother who is nine years older answered her question in detail that sounded like a textbook, but in words that she could understand.

Or when our other daughter asked if we could pool our Christmas money to buy something nice for some kids at church who barely had the money to pay bus fare to church.

How did these happen? We sat down to dinner with our kids and we all stayed at the table for thirty minute or more...every night. We had kids living at home for basically twenty-seven years. And we had dinner with them every night they were home.

In their late teens and early twenties jobs, practices, friends, and classes took them away more often, but if they were going to be there, we ate together. We flexed our meal schedule to make that possible.

Today our kids are our friends. We enjoy getting together. I was thrilled when our German son-in-law told me he couldn't wait for Christmas because he wants his daughter to know her American cousins, "Because with family you don't have to impress anyone. You can be yourself."

When our five year old granddaughter visited by herself for three days the thing she wanted to do "next time I come alone" is have a picnic dinner with us. And the event she took the most pictures of was a four generation family dinner celebrating her great grandma's 90th birthday.

My daughter-in-law asked me to come stay with her for a week while my son takes an intensive PhD class. And my other daughter-in-law and our youngest daughter are planning a road trip together.

This kind of family closeness doesn't just happen. Twenty-seven years of family meals has helped. Along with these thoughts.

If you feel like dinner last night was a disaster and you are tempted to feed the kids early and enjoy a quiet meal with your husband or plunk everyone in front of the TV while you eat (both options once in a while), please think again. It might seem like a failure, but the time spent together is not. I promise you!

Here's a project: take a small notebook or even a piece of paper. After dinner try to write down one good thing that happened at the meal. It might start with, "No one spilled anything," or "No one got scolded." But listen to the conversation. Maybe you will add, "Noah said 'please' and 'thank you' without prompting!" And then, "Kait told her sister she was proud of her!" 

Keep it handy and do this every night for a week. Or longer if you can. Or every once in a while. After a time, look back at this record. You will see a pattern of family meals having benefits in your family. I promise.

Tell me some of the good things that have happened around your table recently! I'd love to hear them. Write below in the comments or at this email.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

I'm Happy in My House

I enjoy watching HGTV, especially where they redecorate or fix up a house. I like to see what they do and what they think is going to "pop". What amazes me is how people can think it is a good idea to make almost everything white in a house that will have real, live children living in it! And then they repurpose old, rough boards and sharp metal objects for the same house. 

My house will never be the "after" picture in a decorating "reveal", but I'm happy with it. Maybe I'm simple and that's why simple things give me joy; here are some things that have made me happy in my house recently.

Flowers -- In the spring we went to the Farmer's Market in town and bought some beautiful annuals from an Amish stand. Looking out my window at these flowers all summer has made me smile.

Coffee table decor -- For a long time I had very little on my coffee table. If I happened to have fresh flowers, I would put them there. Otherwise I plopped a decorative bowl inherited from my husband's uncle in the middle. But I noticed that in magazines and on TV the coffee tables looked so much...better. So I started Googling how to decorate a coffee table. I finally found out that you need to search for "coffee table vignettes". I discovered that there are actually formulas to make it look nice. Briefly they are:

  1. Color scheme--choose one that matches or complements the room.
  2. Books--several interesting books that match the color scheme
  3. Tray--group other items on a tray to give it cohesiveness and not just look like things you plunked together
  4. Something tall--gives varying heights and interest
  5. Something natural--adds life
  6. Something quirky--conversation piece
  7. Something personal--make it yours
  8. A candle
What you choose can meet several objectives (like a tall candle) and you don't have to have everything every time you change it. Here's what I have right now:

One thing I like about this is the repurposed picture frame as a tray. I went to Goodwill to find a tray and found this beautiful frame. I bought the handles and my husband attached them to make it look more like a tray and less like, well, a picture frame! I'm actually quite proud of this "vignette"!

Kitchen sign -- While searching for a new door sign I came across this that so aptly sums up my family meal philosophy. Bonuses: it was half price and matches my summer Americana shelf decor!

Clean cupboards -- I used mineral oil on my kitchen cupboards and they looked great...for a few days. Then the dirt would start to show through again. I turned to Google again and found this explanation of how to really clean my cupboards. It was a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it. (I also researched why Dawn detergent. Because it has ammonia which cuts the grease.) This has made me ridiculously happy.

House wrens -- When my in-laws moved into a retirement community I inherited their wren house. Every summer I have one or two broods. The father sings so beautifully and I love to watch as he tries to sell his mate on the house, they build the nest, protect it, feed the young, and this year, for only the second time, I got to watch the babies fledge. 

After the babies are gone, the father doesn't stay around singing any more and I get a new appreciation for an "empty nest."

New paint on the walls -- My husband and I are notoriously poor choosers when it comes to paint colors. Case in point: we have repainted our bedroom 6 times in the 8 years we have lived here! (And by "we" I mean "he".) When we moved in the living room/hall/kitchen had a nice color scheme of red accent wall, olive green accent wall, and taupe. This summer we decided the olive green had to go as it made the entry too dark, and the taupe with green undertones would have to leave with it. Eight cans of sample paint later, we came up with colors we liked and while I was at my daughter's helping with her new baby last month, he painted. We love the room-brightening results. These are before and after pictures.

Our Granddaughter's Visit -- (This is the best of all!) For the first time, we got to have a grandchild all to ourselves for three and a half days. What fun! When she saw her daddy again he asked if she had missed them, the five year old told him, "No, Daddy. I told you, I would be having too much fun to miss you!" (But the night before going home she was so excited about scaring her brothers with her mask that she could hardly settle down to sleep, so I know she was glad to get back to family, too.)

Some of my last posts have been intense, at least for me writing them. The topics are ones I feel very strongly about. But I also enjoy little things and try to take the time to thank God for everything in my life and to notice all His hand provides. So today, I decided to share some of these with you. Thanks for reading.

What have you thanked God for recently?

And I did get a new sign for my door.
Very appropriate, wouldn't you say?

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Praying for What We Cannot See

Recently an acquaintance, the mother of three small children, received the devastating news that her cancer has spread too far; there is nothing more the doctors can do. They told her husband and her that she has a life expectancy of about six more months.

Many of my friends are very close friends with this family. Their immediate reaction was a strong show of support--hugs, cards, meals, a gift card shower, and at least two churches held special prayer meetings for her.

Before I get to my point, I want to say that I think this is the right response. We must not back away from those who are suffering. We need to draw a tight circle around them, find practical ways to show love, listen, encourage, and, of course, pray. "Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray...Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him." (James 5:13-14)

I believe in the power of prayer to God in Jesus name. I believe God is able to heal. I believe God wants us to ask Him for what is on our hearts.

What I question is why we are so mobilized to plead with the Lord to keep a suffering young Christian woman out of heaven for a few more years, but not to beg for the lost souls of our family and friends?

By all means, pray for the sick and suffering, for the unemployed, the poor, the homeless. Pray about which car to buy, which college to go to, for wisdom in raising your children, for your marriage, to get a husband or wife, for a sunny day for your event, for whatever is on your heart and mind, but entreat, beseech, implore, petition, and supplicate God for the people you know who are on their way to a lost eternity!

Jesus came and lived and died to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)  God "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth." Paul wrote to Timothy, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men...[to God] who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1, 4)

Why do we pray so much for the sick and so little for the lost? I believe part of the answer is found at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. We should "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

But it's hard to look at what you can't see.

We can see a sick or dying friend. We can see the distress and suffering in their lives. But our unsaved family may be doing pretty well. Our neighbors don't seem to have any problems. And I can't see the flames of hell licking at their feet.

But heaven and hell are more real than the chair you are sitting on or the pain you are experiencing at this moment.

My friends, do not fail to pray for one another. But even more urgently, do not neglect praying for the unsaved. One question I like to ask people who have come to Christ after growing up in  a non-Christian home is, "Who was praying for you?" They always can name someone: a grandmother, an uncle, a neighbor, a friend.

Be that person.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Election Advice

In this time, here in the United States, signs for candidates are popping up in our neighbors' yards and on the bumpers of cars I drive behind, I have decided to throw my two cents out there. I didn't like any of the signs that I have seen, so I decided to make my own.

I am not trying to make a political statement. I am promoting the best choice and hope that we have for this nation, the way to truly be for our country and to make it, and the nations around the world, great. 

The Bible says, "[God] changes the times and epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding." Daniel 2:21 

Since it is God who puts them into power (and takes them out again), I need to be talking to Him about it, asking Him to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven and to show me what my part in it is.

Whether to reward, punish, or guide, God puts or allows rulers to come to precedence according to His plan, for His glory and our ultimate good. We can't always see what that good is, and sometimes it doesn't seem like there could be any good at all. But that is when we get to walk by faith. Once we get to heaven, we won't be able to walk by faith any more, it will all be sight! So here on earth is our opportunity to honor God by trusting Him and obeying Him even when it doesn't make sense. He is something to truly believe in.

God has told us, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings who are in authority..." I Timothy 2:13  So when we pray for the authorities and that the right ones will be put into power we are obeying God.

  • Do you pray for your nation's and the world leaders in your private times of prayer?
  • Do your children hear you pray for these leaders in your family devotions?
  • Are they prayed for publicly in your church?

I urge you to do this and to encourage others to pray as well. Feel free to download and use this "election sign" on social media. Use the hashtag #AppealtoaHigherAuthority to encourage others to be praying for the United States nationally and locally, and all the nations around the world.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Fifth Way to Draw Your Family Together - Cry Together

(This past week I received three emails from this blog announcing new posts including a post from last December. I have no idea what caused it, except that I am working on my iPad mini from Germany where I am helping my daughter with the birth of their first child. If you did as well, I am so sorry.)

Before you click away from this post because you don't want to cry--or what I actually mean, suffer--with your family, give me a second to explain!

Remember that vacation when you missed your flight and your suitcase didn't arrive? The day when your toilet overflowed on your guests in the middle of the night and they couldn't find you because you had changed rooms with your son and his wife? When your car overheated in the middle of the Utah Salt Flats in the days before cellphones? When the four hour hike turned into an eight hour odyssey without a trail? These are all vivid memories in my mind and great bonding experiences I had with family and friends...we just didn't know it at the time that we were drawing closer. That takes about three weeks.

Think about it. Anytime things have gone "wrong" you have special memories and laughs with the people who were with you. 

Then think about true suffering: a broken arm in the wilderness, rushing through the night to the hospital with a parent having a stroke, a doctor saying, "malignant", a miscarried pregnancy, or the loss of a loved one. We have done these as well. If you are willing to go through this with others, to weep with those who weep, you will have a relationship bound in the way no other can be.

I have come to believe that there are (at least) five ways you can draw closer to people and families can become closer to each other. I'm going to talk about the final one in this post, and have four other posts you can read on the others. They are: 

In the first post in this series, Be Together, I told about a sleep over I had when I was about 32 with four other women between 25 and 40 or so. The reason that I did that was I wanted us to have some common suffering. A camping trip is a perfect opportunity for this: uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, collapsing tents, rain, animals, fires that won't start...but as I explained, camping wasn't possible, so we slept together on my living room floor and only endured a little loss of sleep and an uncomfortable hardwood floor.

Other than a camping trip, or an Outward Bound experience, it's hard to plan suffering. And while I don't think you need to intentionally plan to forget your sleeping bags when you are camping at 8000 feet, I don't think we need stress about providing idyllic circumstances for our families either.  Of all my kids' birthday parties, the one we remember most is when it was pouring rain outside so all our games suddenly had to become indoor games, and just as we were about to start one, the gutter suddenly overflowed into the living room, making our wall a waterscape. One of the six year old boys looked at it and said, "Cool!" That was definitely not what I was thinking at that moment! But my husband was there and said, "Take the boys to the patio to play the games and I will work on this." 

Two reasons that is a great memory: A little boy helped me see a different side of things, and we worked together to still make it a fun birthday party rather than reacting in anger. 

When it comes to crying or suffering or things just going wrong I think what we need to work on most is our reaction to the situation. 

Ask God to help you train yourself to:

  • Not Overreact - This includes anger, fear, and panic. So you forgot the sheets at the couples' retreat at a camp that does not provide bedding except blankets. Improvise and do not blame one another, even if it is their fault. This helps no one.  You find yourself in a  potentially dangerous situation, pray out loud, "Lord protect us!" But starting to scream will probably not help anyone.
  • To Make the Best of it - Without sheets at that retreat, we took our bunk beds and rattled them against the wall so everyone would think we were having a great time! We laughed and  then we covered ourselves with the blankets and slept. 
  • See the funny side - Remember Chrystalla and I in the tent sharing a sleeping bag while a Frenchman told us in heavily accented English to please go to sleep? The whole situation struck us as ludicrous and we laughed. We can laugh (now) about our living room waterscape birthday party and the time we rounded a mountain curve in Colombia to be greeted by a band of camophlage wearing, gun-toting men. Military or FARC (a terrorist group)? After the men were patted down we were told to go straight down the mountain by the army who said this was a militarized zone and we had no business being there, our laughter was nervous, but now it is (almost) a fond memory.
Let me tell you about the best trip our family ever took. My husband had a dream of visiting all the Emmaus Course offices in Spanish speaking South bus. We flew to Chile and then over to Argentina and from there came by bus in pieces through Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, the whole length of Peru, and Ecuador before flying home to Colombia. The trip lasted six weeks and our three youngest children were with us and we're 13, 17, and 18. 

We were at turns, fascinated, exhausted, hungry, cold, hot, thrilled, interested, bored, meeting new people, staying with people we'd never met, seeing new sights, dealing with new cultures, always looking out for one another, vigilante for pickpockets, on buses, in cars, walking, on horses, in a 22 hour school-bus-like ride through the freezing Chaco desert, on boats, in ancient taxis, in motto-taxis, in snow, in the Bolivian hot low-lands, on the Ecuadorian Pacific coast, puffing at 11,000 feet in La Paz, and exploring ancient Incan sites in Peru, in a light plane over the Nazca lines, and in meetings, meetings, meetings, until our children could quote along with Dad some of the statistics and illustrations he would use to inspire people to study the Bible with Emmaus courses. 

The best moment for me? After we had been home a couple of weeks we were excitedly telling some friends about the trip and the mother asked, "Didn't you get tired of being together so much?" I held my breath waiting to hear what my kids would say. After a moment of silence they said, almost shocked, "No! It was the best trip ever! It was like us against the world!"

Of course, it is different if your situation is the death, or impending death, of a loved one. But face it and allow your children to face it. Glossing over it, does not help them deal with life when Mom and Dad cannot protect them from the ups and downs that are a part of life. Life can be sad, hard, disappointing, and rigorous. Walk through it together. Even the death of a loved one can turn into a time of fond reminiscing about their life, tears for your loss, and even reconciliation between estranged family and friends who all loved the same person. Seek these things.

All this  will draw your family together in ways you cannot imagine. Don't be afraid to walk through them hand in hand looking for the good.

To read more on this secret to a close family, here is a link to an article by Gary Smalley who got me thinking along these lines and helped me develop my thinking on this whole series of how to draw together. 
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How has suffering drawn your family together?

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