Friday, December 27, 2013

History

Recently, I had the opportunity to witness a Christmas of a different era.  While family was visiting for the holidays, we bundled up the kids and went on a trip to Stone Mountain. Though this park is being built up into a major modern attraction, I am grateful that they hang on to their pieces of educational history.  And while we enjoyed the Sing-Along Christmas Train – which actually told the story of the Nativity! – and glided down hills of beautifully manufactured snow, my favorite among the parks attractions were the Christmas exhibits at the Antebellum Plantation.  I can’t imagine a more gratitude-inspiring and conscience-nudging experience than seeing the lifestyles of those who lived in eras not so terribly long ago.

This year’s Christmas season – Advent season, to be exact – has been one of contradictions and struggles for me.  I have preached about wading out of the shopping frenzy and embracing the humility and simplicity that we actually see in Christ’s birth.  Still, I constantly find myself pressured to buy more, to spend more, to make my way back to the stores for yet another thing.

I am as astonished as the next person over the insanity that surrounds days like Black Friday.  People fight one another for cheap electronics as if they were the starving grappling for bread.  And yet, with gritted teeth, I march to the checkout aisle with my daughter’s Angry Birds Go! Jenga Knockout Game, while trying not to find out how much we spent on this year’s electric train for my son.

At the Plantation, I peered into stark wooden cabins and read about the gifts of fresh fruit that made joyous and welcome Christmas presents.  It felt a bit like breathing clean air.  I don’t mean to say that I wish for that lifestyle.  Were time travel possible, I probably wouldn’t have to live long in a 1783 house – especially in the winter – before pining for the home I am in right now.

My historian dad making friends with the plantation pigs.
I am just reminded again of the thing that we always say but never seem to really believe: 

that happiness doesn’t come from stuff.  That in an era of low technology and few luxuries, children could be made just as happy with wooden toys as modern kids are with an electric “Racing Showdown” NASCAR games.  The joy of gifts once came with the things that simply exceeded the norm, the indulgence compared to everyday life.  We do ourselves no favors when we strive to set the bar ever higher, and there is a poverty that results from having so many things we can no longer be wide-eyed or experience awe.
 
How on earth did become this Christmas?  How on earth did the humble birth of our savior become this carnival of acquiring?  The wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child, but I doubt they put the same stress into their decision of gold, frankincense and myrrh that I did for the things I put under my tree.  And while their gifts may have been genuine riches, they were also fitting for the occasion and significant.  They are a far cry from the items I buy to fill up space in a stocking; things that will barely be noticed and will likely rest in a landfill sooner rather than later.
 
I suppose the reason we can call this madness “Christmas” is because this is why Christ came graciously among us; for our poor, pitiable longing for the things that will never satisfy us and for the struggle to keep our heads above the deep waters of expectation.  When I step back and witness my own struggle to keep Christmas, I find myself often praying sincerely, “Lord, have mercy.”  And the Lord does.
 
The mercy is the point.  Though we can point to the first Christmas as a model for our own, Jesus came into the midst of people just as lost and as foolish as we are.  Though they lacked cheap electronics to brawl over, like humanity throughout the ages, they found reason enough to fight and to frenzy.  The insanity we witness today isn’t what Christmas became over the years, it is what it always has been.   It is what we have always been. 
 
The mercy of Christ, come in the midst of our grasping and our recklessness; this is the real meaning of Christmas.
 
So . . .
 
Lord, have mercy on me in my struggle to keep Christmas.  May my desire to celebrate your birth in all its humility and austerity be counted, by your grace, as if I am really doing it well.  And may the awareness of my own absurd response to your coming be the first step in creating a new and better way.
 
This I pray in the name of the Child who leads us in the way of humility and peace.  Amen

 
 
Blessed Eating!
 
The recipe below was given at the Cook’s House on the Antebellum Plantation.  I haven’t tried making it yet, but I sampled these on site and they were very good!
 
Traditional Sugarplums
½ cup raisins
1 cup dried apricots (any fruit will do)
1 ½ cups whole almonds (any nuts will do)

Chop all above . . .

 

2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. anise
1 Tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp. vanilla
 

Combine above with next column . . .

½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup of honey

 
Pinch off into 1 inch lumps, roll into balls and coat with powdered sugar.  Makes 30.  Will keep for a week, or refrigerate for longer.
 
 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Greetings from the Johnson-Piersons

Greetings!

Though we are coming close to the deadline, we wanted to write our holiday letter to you.  In our usual effort to save a few trees, we are using electronic media, with the hopes of also reaching as many of our friends as possible.  Thank you for being one of them and for reading this post!

What a year it has been!  Every year brings new adventure and this one has been no different.  Our family has been active in school, work, exploration and fun and now we are looking into increasing the population in the Johnson-Pierson house.  (More on that later).

Our children continue to grow in exciting ways and participate in lots of learning experiences.  Roland completed his first year of Cub Scouts and having left behind the status of Tiger Cub is now active in his Wolf Den.  He has rekindled his love of trains and we have been spending a lot of our time lately at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia. 

Vivian has startled us all by entering her “tween” years.  (Who could have seen that coming!)  She has rediscovered her interest in horses and art, and makes horse drawings and paintings for all her friends and family.

Both kids are having a great time in school.  They have been commended by both teachers for the progress they are making and they have enjoyed making new friends.

Todd continues to do great work in our growing youth program at Christ Church.  He led them on their first trip this year to Disney World as they took part in the YES – Youth Educational Series – program.  This helped the group not only bond with each other, but grow personally from all that they experienced.  He continued to work with them through the fall even as he battled kidney stones and related health issues.  Todd continues to use his talents as a percussionist in our worship at Christ.

Nancy continues to pastor Christ United Methodist Church in Roswell, Georgia.  The congregation is filled with wonderful people and wonderful things are happening there.  She continues to look for ways to worship God and serve others both inside and outside of our walls.  Nancy has been blessed through both this and her previous appointment to remember that she can sing, and she has become a loyal soprano in the choir.

This year, Nancy has also had several devotionals printed in the Upper Room magazine.  (The next one is in the upcoming edition, on January 4.)  She is praying for the time and energy to continue to devote to her writing and her blog (as well as her cooking), and praying for God’s direction as she moves forward.

An interesting new addition to our family this year has been our new camper.  Back in April, we bought a pop-up camper (the largest we could pull with our mini-van), and have had some great trips and some of our best family time in it.  So far, we have visited locales around Georgia and Florida and we hope that it will help us explore many new destinations.

By far the most exciting thing we have done this year is our application to become foster parents.  It was, for us, nearly a year’s process to take the classes, complete the forms, and have the home study visits.  We have now accomplished all of this and are waiting for our final approval.  We don’t know when we will have a child placed into our home, but we pray that it will be God’s timing and that we are able to share God’s love in this new endeavor.

In this season, we fight the common battle to keep our hearts trained in the right spirit; to set aside the stress and busyness of the season and remember the miraculous grace and love of our savior.  We live in that grace every day.  The trick is to be mindful; to be reminded in each day and each moment of the love of our God that infuses our lives, and to remain thankful.

May God bless you in this holy season of new birth.  May you, like the shepherds, perceive the presence of angels awakening you to the light of Christ, and may you live in that love throughout the year.


Blessings,

Nancy, Todd, Vivian and Roland

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.  Psalm 86:12


Today is Thanksgiving.  I hope you have had a great one.  We have spent the week with extended family, cooking, eating and giving thanks.

Like the holiday itself, the practical benefits of gratitude are well known, but seem to require reminders.  God is very good.  We have been given a world that is both beautiful and productive in meeting our needs.  We have been given people in our lives to support us and keep us on our toes.  Many of us will be given a few extras in addition to this.  We can ignore all these benefits that have been offered to us regardless of our merit, or we can simultaneously acknowledge and enjoy them.

The second option is by far the best for us.  Being grateful is how we were meant to live. 

Here is the list of the things I am most thankful for.  It is not unpredictable.  It might even be obvious.  But it is genuinely mine and very, very heartfelt.

I am grateful for:

1. My history and family that have brought me to this place in my life.
2. My kind husband
3. My beautiful children who continually surprise and amaze me.
4. The possibility of fostering and raising others.
5. This beautiful life I’ve been given.
6. The ability to grow and appreciate it more.
7. The abundance in which every need I have has been overwhelmingly met.
8. Good friends
9. An indescribably beautiful world.
10.   A God who is gracious beyond all measure, and in whom there is no end of new beginnings. 

What are you thankful for today?

Blessed eating on this holiday and every day!


Pa’s Fruit Salad

3 apples unpeeled and chopped             3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 bananas, sliced                                        ¼  c. cherries
1 15-oz. pineapple chunks (drained)       ½ c. ch. toasted pecans

Cream Sauce:
½ c. sugar                       2 T. plain flour
1 c. milk                          2 eggs, beaten

Mix and cook over medium heat until thickened.  Add lemon juice.  Cool and add to fruit. – Jane Henderson

 

 

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prepare


“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.

                                    Luke 3:4

 
The gravy was lumpy and the beef had too much salt.  Still, after stirring it in the skillet, I put the Beef Cream Gravy on the table for better or worse.  Dried beef is new to me.  I haven’t done very much food drying for preservation.  A good friend gave me a dehydrator and I’ve used it on tomatoes, apples and a few other vegetables, but never meat.

But it seems that dried beef is a common staple to some of my relatives.  I imagine it may have once been a necessity.  In the day before refrigeration was common or grocery stores carried every type of food in every season, preparing and preserving what was needed to eat took on a far greater importance.  Preparing foods for long-term storage could mean the difference between a meal and hunger.  Lots of time was given to this important and life-sustaining effort, though such necessity is all but unknown to us today.

Still, preparation has been on my mind.  My family has been doing a lot of it in recent times.  Over the past several months, we have been working with the United Methodist Children’s Home in the application process to become foster parents.  Now, toward the end of that process, we are preparing for home visits, cleaning, making changes to our house, cleaning, putting up gates and covering electrical outlets, cleaning.   A new wall has divided what used to be one room into two.  Lots of moving has been involved.  Things have been thrown into disarray, giving us the opportunity to go through, to throw out, to think hard about what we need and what we don’t. 

And did I mention cleaning?  Much of the work we have done in our home isn’t technically necessary.  We are not likely to be refused because of dust on our baseboards.  But I feel the need to make ready. 

It is important to me and to my family – as well as those who are to come – that our home is arranged; that we are prepared.

A dear friend recently pointed out the beauty of taking in a child at Christmas.  As we make room in our hearts for the Christ Child, we will welcome another child in the name of that One.  During every season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, we prepare our hearts to welcome a newborn savior.  This year, our preparations take on new meaning and new hope as we plan a welcome with a much more urgent purpose.

I try to hold no illusions that this work will be easy.  We are excited and hopeful, maybe even a bit na├»ve, but we know there are challenges ahead.  We are dealing with the messiness of broken lives.  Scrubbing our walls, cleaning our carpets, buying extra Christmas stockings plus toys to go in them may pale against the harsh reality of hurt that has been endured and won’t be easily overcome.

Isn’t this why Jesus came?  To heal the brokenness and the ugliness that is very real among us.  Isn’t this the reason that he was born in the dirt and humility of a rickety stable?  Because our lives are dirty and gritty in a way that no amount of preparation can completely erase? 

So we deal with it as best we can, wiping away each stain as we see it.  Trying to create spots of beauty where there the dirt is caked on.  This work is never finished.  Our house will never reach the point of perfect cleanliness or organization, and even if it did, life would quickly take it off course again. 

And I cannot be perfectly ready for this life or for the new one that is coming.  All any of us can hope for is to make do as we go.

I have to accept the fact that we are never fully prepared, never completely ready.  But the Christ Child comes anyway, in the midst of our preparation, to hallow and speed it; to show us which messes to clean up and which to ignore, and to bless our humble efforts in making a home for a child.

Blessings!

 

Beef Cream Gravy
¼ cup butter or margarine          ½ c all-purpose flour
1 t. salt                                            ¼ t. black pepper
2 c. milk                                          4.5 oz. jar dried beef – sliced
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
Melt butter in a skillet.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Slowly stir in milk.  Stir in beef and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened; 10-15 minutes.  Serve over Toast or Biscuits – Lisa Wade

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reflections on All Hallows Eve and All Saints’ Day


Give me your tired, your poor, your trick-or-treaters.  I was strongly tempted to shout this from my front stoop.  We have somewhere between 10 and 15 costumed visitors at our house on your average Halloween night.  Not too bad, but I could do with more.  A few kids came trucked in from other neighborhoods.  Bring it on.                                   

Things were rough on the trick-or-treater’s side, too.  As I walked my kids down our street looking for neighbors with outside lights on, we passed too many houses that were dark; and not in a cute, haunted way either.  What is the matter with people?  Who would turn their lights out on Halloween?  Several families left bowls of treats on the porch if they couldn’t be home to answer the door.  It’s nice to see that some still have the spirit.

I guess it is everyone’s right to be elsewhere, or just otherwise occupied on Halloween night.  No one is obligated to open the door to little beggars – even cute ones – who are looking for candy.   But why on earth would anyone not want to?

I suppose my perspective is a little skewed.  I love Halloween.  My dream is to live in a neighborhood swarmed by fairies, hulks, vampires and gypsies on the night of October 31.  I want my front porch to be Grand Central Station for superheroes and princesses, and for my neighborhood to be safe haven for children with a sweet tooth and a love of the spooky.

I deeply love this holiday that is filled with both history and mystery.  It points to our past and our remembrance of ancestors while also reminding us of the unseen spiritual world. 

Today is All Saints’ Day.  This is the “Hallow” in the “All Hallows’ Eve” that got shortened to the modern title of October 31.  On this day, rather than looking for spirits roaming the earth, we remember the real flesh and blood loved ones who were with us once, but have now passed on. 

This is a holiday began by the church in order to bring the Christian faith into the ancient traditions that became Halloween.  In the time before Christ, the Celtic people of northern Europe would honor ancestors long past while they celebrated the harvest and prepared for winter.  Today, we still use this date to remember the saints who have gone before us.  On Sunday in our worship service, we will celebrate them again. 

It is hard to wrap our minds around the union of these events; the silly spookiness of Halloween and the solemn remembrance of All Saints.  And yet they are cousins, related by a long history.

My family’s Halloween goals were ultimately accomplished.  Our children went to bed happy, filled with sweets and memories of one more night of trick-or-treating.  Families came to our door and received our hospitality in the form of “fun-size” candy bars (as if there were any other kind).  We have made the occasion as bright and meaningful as we are able to do and this is enough to be satisfied.  God is present in this and every day, no matter what we name it.

Blessed eating!

 

We didn’t make our Halloween treats (I don’t think that’s done, nowadays), but here is an awesome cake to celebrate any holiday!

 

Pea Pickin’ Cake
1 box yellow cake mix                   1 can mandarin oranges
4 eggs                                                1/3 c. oil
Do NOT drain oranges.  Mix all ingredients will.  Pour into 3 round, greased/floured cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 min or until done.


Pea Pickin’ Cake Frosting
1 large tub Cool Whip                   1 small vanilla instant pudding
1 can crushed pineapple
Do NOT drain pineapple.  Mix all 3 ingredients.  Frost cake and put in fridge overnight.  You don’t really have to refrigerate overnight but it’s better if it’s in the fridge a day or so before you serve it. – Gena Jernigan

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heroes and Villains


It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Matthew 15:11


As a writer who concentrates on food and all its implications for our spiritual lives, it was impossible for me not to be interested in the recent story about Paula Deen.  For the sake of full disclosure, I don’t call myself a fan.  I have never bought one of her books or watched her show on the Food Network, never been interested in eating a burger between two doughnuts. 

Even so, I find much of Paula Deen’s story to be remarkable.  Having lost her parents at an early age and a marriage not long after, Deen struggled to support children and other family, all the while battling agoraphobia.  Her earliest jobs involved selling insurance, working as a bank teller and hanging wallpaper before beginning a catering business.  The business became a restaurant which turned into books followed by a TV show, then an empire of products and publications and food.  A true rags to riches story.

A recent controversy – concerning the disclosure of her diabetes and the type of food she markets – didn’t put so much as a dent in her enormous fame.  But a recent unearthing of statements Deen made about African Americans has created a storm that seems to have cleared away a considerable amount of her popularity and her brand.  Sponsors have dropped her and, though her upcoming cookbook had a long line of advance purchasers, her publisher backed out.

I find myself overwhelmed by the swirl of noise surrounding these events and it makes me reflect very soberly about human nature, ours as well as Deen’s. 

We human creatures love to build heroes and villains.  We crave champions to lionize and scoundrels to despise.  We create narratives that offer us these very things and we have done so for centuries.  There was a day when crowds poured into the coliseum to cheer gladiators who fought to the death, or to witness Christians and other miscreants executed in satisfyingly grisly fashion.  Our modern tales are less bloody, however.  In the 21st century, they take the shape of soap operas, professional wrestling and politics.

The drive to revere or to loathe – often with very little reason other than the gratification it gives us – has led us to make a lot of poor decisions.  Wouldn’t it be better to keep our heads?  To have rational, civilized discussion?  Such conversation might help us to understand how easy it is to drift into offense without intending it, or to miscalculate the weight of careless words on people whose backgrounds are vastly different from our own. 

I don’t mean to excuse words that should never have been spoken, or to make light of the pain such words can cause.  Derogatory language is never okay.  But if it can ever be forgiven, I think Deen’s situation presents us with just such opportunities.  Her pejorative words were spoken in a private setting following a traumatic event.  Her less-than-sensitive description of an African American man was an injudicious attempt to illustrate a trusting relationship.  I won’t try to explain away the beyond-terrible idea of hosting an event in which African Americans play the role of slaves.  I have simply heard the heartfelt apologies from Deen and I wonder if it isn’t time to say “enough.”

I realize that I will never fully feel or understand the hurt that racist language can cause.  I will never have such words aimed at me or be connected to the excruciating history that makes them so sharply painful even today.  I hope, however, this doesn’t preclude me from talking about it.  In fact, my prayer is that we will all move from quick judgment to a more measured conversation about these issues that separate us, that remain so difficult because of the very tensions that still exist in our hardly-post-racial society.

I am sad to see this controversy over Paula Deen.  I am saddened for her because I believe her heart is better than the way it has been portrayed.  I’m disappointed because most of us are too ready to call villainy in others, while focusing comfortably little on our own thoughts, words and actions.

I am sad mostly because we have missed yet another opportunity to have a desperately-needed conversation about race.  I think it would be so much more productive to talk about how words can hurt even when they are intended to be harmless, how history doesn’t disappear, how hard it is to see through another person’s eyes and how frightened we often are – deep down – by the differences between us.

I would like to see us slow down and bring more wisdom to the table.  It is a long-held maxim that we are what we eat, meaning that we are just as healthy as what goes into our mouths.  But Jesus reminds us that we are what we say, that our character is contained in the words that we speak for good or for ill.  May we choose them wisely.

Monday, June 24, 2013

At the Beach

On Friday, June 21, a devotional I wrote was published in The Upper Room devotional guide (click here to read it).  I was also invited to write a post for their blog, which I thought I would also share with you.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will already know most of this information.  But some stories are worth telling more than once!  I am deeply grateful for The Upper Room for printing my writing and for their ministry to people around the world.



As I write this follow up post for the devotion about riding the waves, my family is eagerly awaiting another trip to the beach.  We have gone to the gulf coast in Florida at the same time every year since I was small.  Now my husband and children and I do the same.  Ours is a special trip that connects us to family and the common history that we celebrate.

Every year, our beach trip is meant to coincide with a very special event in the lives of our family.  On the first Sunday of every June, there is a homecoming at a small church in south Alabama called Shady Hill.  Built on an unpaved road among farms and forests, this church has a long history in its community.  It is also a significant part of my family history, and its homecoming has served as a kind of reunion for my kin.  We have been going to it for as long as I can remember.

The homecoming has two particular elements that make it special.  Its main attraction is a Sacred Harp singing.  The shape note hymns are pretty unfamiliar to me, but its tradition is well established in south Alabama.  Though I was grown before I stepped inside the sanctuary to participate in the music, my family named the occasion by this special part of it.  The event was The Singing.

The other special piece to this day is the dinner on the grounds.  Served in covered dish style, much of the meal will have been grown in gardens and farms within a mile of the church.  When I was young, I loved to watch the cement tables fill, little by little, with the mouthwatering, traditional foods.  The meals I eat on this hallowed ground are still some of the best I ever have.

Our attendance at the Singing always comes with the family trip to the beach.  My children love to romp in the surf, my husband likes to snorkel, while I never fail to be amazed at the awe-inspiring beauty of the place.  We adore the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  It has been a part of my grounding since I was small.  So nowadays when my family visits the gulf coast, as we roast in the sun and sink our toes in the sand, as we cook and sing and ride the waves, we remember our deeper connections to all of our kin, and to the One who makes beaches and music and family.



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Getting Back to the Garden


You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
   and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth.
                                     Psalm 104:14
          

I didn’t plant this year.  During the cold days of February as I was busy preparing for Ash Wednesday and making plans for the Lenten season, I wasn’t in the mood to get seed starter under my fingernails.  I lacked the patience to water dirt for weeks until something green finally chose to appear.  On my mind was also my terribly neglected plants of 2012, my weedy plot at our community garden, and the pots on my deck, abandoned way too soon.

So this year I didn’t try.  I have nothing growing. 

This decision was on my mind during our beach vacation, among my dear family, as we discussed that special annual event, The Singing.  I have long believed that the vast majority of the food there came from local farms and gardens, with occasional gatecrashing by some Kentucky Fried Chicken or grocery store potato salad.  I thought that the field peas and the greens and the pecans that filled sugary pies had all grown up nearby.  Turns out, I wasn’t quite right.

Certainly in years past, this had been the case.  When my grandmother and aunt Florence worked together to make our family’s contribution to the feast – having shut everyone else out of the kitchen – nearly all of their ingredients had come from either their own garden or other nearby resources.  Today, this is still probably true of a certain percent of the dishes that appear on the church’s cement tables.  And yet, I had failed to notice that this is not the standard it used to be.  While the tables still contain their share of fried okra and green beans (even the universal and wonderful deviled eggs), many people now make the choice that I did: to bring dessert.

For years, I chose cookies because they were easy to keep and transport.  Desserts are always popular and I knew what I brought was likely to be eaten. This seemed logical at the time, but now, I’m not so sure.  Lots of people have been choosing this option to the detriment of our waistlines and our gardening abilities.  There just aren’t as many farmers and gardeners as there used to be.  Lots of people still come, but they bring items that are easier to prepare with ingredients available in their local Food World.

It is hard to grow food.  There are a thousand things that can go wrong and many steps required in making them go right.  Plants are needy.  They require a lot of attention in the form of water, fertilizer, weeding and plucking off little green worms.   Few of us remember the length of time and the enormous work involved in preparing food before this age of convenience.  Previous to microwave dinners and brownie mixes, cooking for a family might be a full time job.  It isn’t surprising that folks aren’t keen on doing it the hard way.

Like many things in life, however, the hard way can be the good way.  A few modern conveniences are great, but laboring for our sustenance probably comes with plenty of character-building qualities.  And “eating off the ground” is generally considered to be the healthiest way to go.  What is grown in the soil comes directly from the hand of God.  While this doesn’t mean that everything in nature is edible, most of the things that we human beings have devised – from Mars bars to frozen pizza – are a sad choice compared to a peach or tomato.

So . . . as soon as I publish this blog post, my next act will be to place in some potting soil my first and maybe only plant of the season: a nice basil plant that I bought at our local farmer’s market.  And next year, when the time comes for The Singing, I will decide what vegetable to cook.  Maybe something from the garden.


Blessed eating!

 

Below is the recipe for what I hope will be my last dessert to take to Shady Hill Baptist Church.  Though it may not be out of the garden, it was really good!

Coconut, Cream Cheese and Caramel Dessert
Put pie crust in a 9x13 inch dish and brown.  Brown about ½ bag of coconut with a 1/2 c. of pecans and a little margarine in the oven.  Mix together:  1 can sweetened condensed milk, 8 oz. cream cheese.  Add 16 oz. Cool Whip and blend with a spoon.  Put one layer of creamed mixture over baked crust then a layer of coconut mixture.  Repeat.  Drizzle the top with caramel topping.  Refrigerate overnight. – Mrs. Bruley

Note: The coconut and pecans do not absolutely have to be browned.  For me they worked just fine plain after my attempts to brown them nearly alerted the fire department!

 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Travel Cooking


It was just a few days after our celebration of Jesus’ journey from cross to garden, from death to life that we began a journey of our own.  Maybe that’s just a fancy way of saying that spring break came right after Easter this year, but after celebrating the resurrection, we seemed all the more ready to embark on a new adventure.  This time, to central Florida.

Our family recently purchased a new pop-up camper, and I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed it already.  The pop-up allows us to travel on a level somewhere between roughing it and not.  Our son loves the slide out beds while our daughter loves the constant opportunity to play outside.  The camper not only sleeps our family comfortably, but gives us a nice place to eat together, and even – most important to me - cook our own meals.

So . . . I made some extensive meal plans for our trip.  I imagined things would be much tougher than they actually turned out to be, and I took my recipes from camping websites where the assumption was that we would be cooking over an open fire.   I had two gas burners, so that kind of qualifies.  The other assumption, which I loved, was that kids would be involved and that the recipe would need to be simple and fun.

And so we had scrambled eggs with cheese and goldfish crackers on the day we saw the Tampa Aquarium, and Banana Boats for desert on the day we went to the Okefenokee Swamp.  Not every food was themed specifically for the day’s activities, but they were all pretty fun and good.

Travel is all about seeing new things and enjoying new experiences.  In this trip, not only did we get to visit places we had never been, but we got to live life just a little closer to nature.  We fended for ourselves just a little bit more than before, living not only just a little closer to the land, but closer to our neighbors in the next campsite as well.

Common wisdom tells us that we find God in unexpected places.  Having traveled and witnessed the never-before-seen, I know that that is true.  God can be found in the prairies of Florida, the swamps of Georgia and the state parks and campsites across the country.  Each one had its own beauty, and each one was made by God.

Travel if you can.  If you can’t, look harder at your own locale.  The more you see, the more you will know of God’s imagination and the indescribable love that brought about an amazing and varied world.  This world may not belong to us, but we get to be willing participants in each day.  Don’t miss that opportunity.


Blessed eating!

One of my favorite dishes on the trip.

Black Cherry Dump Cake
Chocolate Cake Mix                        1 Stick Butter
1 Can Cherry Pie Filling

Pour cherry pie filling into pot or Dutch oven.  Cover with Chocolate Cake Mix.  Slice butter and place on top of cake mix.  Cook until done.

 

 

 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Still Here

As I type these words, I feel as if I am whispering into a cave, long abandoned.  “Is anyone still here?”

My schedule, both wonderfully busy and terribly full, becomes such that my blog has often had to sit on the sidelines.  I don’t have the heart to give it up entirely, so I pick up the laptop on my vacation while I’m planning my next meal and enjoying some time to reflect.  I remember my 1 year anniversary of blog writing like it was yesterday.  Now it is a couple of years back.  I meant to whoop it up at my 100th post in some clever way, but that somehow got past unnoticed.

I’m not sure if anyone is still out there reading what I write, but I’ll continue to do it for the reasons that I started with: to explore God’s work in my life, especially through the elements of food and family.  And if you are there still reading my writing, thank you for hanging around.  I hope the dinner’s been worth it!

At this moment, I’m watching my son pull out his dominoes, ready to set them up and knock them down on the table in the beach house overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.  My daughter is playing with the tablet.  This morning, we rode waves until we were exhausted and starving, then had seafood for lunch.  Time moves slowly here.  We don’t often experience that in real life, the life of the city and work and obligations.

I have refrained from planning every meal while I’m here (unlike our last vacation), but I do have some cooking planned;  a seafood casserole one day, a corn chowder and salad on another.  And I still need to come up with a cookie recipe to take to The Singing.  I am open to any suggestions!

I believe that God is in each step of our path.  This is a remarkably good thing.  Sometimes the trail is straight and smooth like a highway, where there is nothing to do but run.  On some days, it meanders blessedly through serene landscapes, giving us time to pause and be grateful.  Though it is sometimes difficult, I try to appreciate every leg of the journey.  I will likely miss them when they are complete.  There will be days when I may yearn for them back again, so I try not to wish them away.

If you are still in this cave, if you still take a moment to read this blog, thank you for being a part of the journey with me.  I don’t know how often we will travel together, but I am grateful for your company on the trail.  For now, know that my family and I are still cooking, for others and for ourselves.  The picture above is of my daughter helping with the cookies which will be a thank you gift for her teacher after a wonderful year of learning.

We are still learning; still going, still preparing food and sitting down to wonderful meals together.  Thank you for sharing this one with us.

Blessed eating!


Seven Layer Cookies
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs      ½ cup butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips    1 cup butterscotch-flavored chips                       
1 1/3 cup flaked coconut                  1 cup chopped nuts
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk             

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour melted butter in a baking dish, cover with graham cracker crumbs and press firmly in the bottom of the pan.  Layer with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and nuts.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over all.

Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool and cut into bars.

p.s.  The teachers loved them!