Thursday, December 31, 2009

Church Signs...

Sometimes I shake my head and sometimes I just chuckle when I pass church signs. I cannot for the life of me figure out what the purpose is to signs like:


"Let the Jewish Carpenter Build Your Dream Home"

Is is supposed to make me want to visit that church? Become a Christian? Admire the writer? Sometimes Bob and I just look at each other and laugh because they are so ridiculous. I mean,

"God answers knee-mail."

How does that help build the Christian faith?
But, we saw the head-shaker of all head-shakers on a recent trip we took. The sign actually said, and I wrote it down so I would get it right,

"Would you rather suffer in this life or the next?"

I am not kidding.
They actually posted that! Makes you want to become a Christian doesn't it? It makes me think that if I was not a Christian I would think all Christians were a bit off, you know?

I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite or least favorite or the most shocking church signs you have seen? What do you think about them? Good for Christendom? Or kind of the butt of Christian jokes?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Craft Fair

I have been getting ready for the Wilmore Old Fashion Christmas craft fair for quite some time. I had stocked my shelves, labeled my Prairie Kari products, hauled tables, shelves and assorted display items from the barn at our farm, and was finally ready Saturday. Bob and I arrived at the seminary gym about 7:30 am and began setting up while small snowflakes swirled in the air.

A couple of friends and I shared a two booth space and it was amazing how quickly our booth came together. I think it was the best attended fair yet and my profits rose about 35% over last year! And let me tell you--that is a LOT of soap.

I think the most rewarding thing for me is when people come back to buy more soap and tell me great stories of how their acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc. was helped by using my soap. One lady's young son is allergic to coconut oil [which is in about every type of soap]. She was thrilled to see my natural detergent did not contain any coconut oil and to be able to buy some non-coconut oil soap.

Other people were so excited to see Goat Milk soap with no scent--because they are sensitive to any scents.

One lady had to buy several bars if soap for her dad in Indiana because he got some last year [I remembered him] and told her to be sure to buy him some this year.






All and all a satisfying experience and I reduced my inventory considerably.


Take care,
Jill
[Photos, top to bottom: soap in my shelves in my office; tubs packed up and ready to go; front leg of table with felted soap and lip balm; full booth; back table; lip balm; my friend Jenny's note card section of our booth.]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Strangest Christmas Card...

I love Christmas and one of the things I love most is Christmas Cards. Many people are cutting back on cards or eliminating the sending of cards. I know they are expensive and time consuming, but to me they are a part of Christmas.

Let me say, that we send out a LOT of cards. We send out about 300 personal cards a year--cards that the kids used to help me make, but now I do them pretty much as a solo experience! As I fold and mail each one, I think about the recipients and how they have enriched our lives and many times I pray for them as I seal each envelope. We don't get nearly that many back--and I don't keep track who sends and who doesn't--but I will venture to say we have gotten thousands upon thousands of Christmas cards through the years.

Reading the cards and family newsletters I can usually imagine the sender sitting at their kitchen table having a cup of coffee and enjoying Christmas as much as I do. Many times I can tell who sent the card just by looking at the front picture because it reflects the sender's personality to a tee.

I will admit, that Christmas cards generally have the same theme: Jesus, good will, happy holidays. Until the card we received this week.

THIS card, sent by a childhood friend of my octogenarian father-in-law, is a card to remember. I will try to describe it so you can see it in your mind's eye [I hate to post a photo because I am going to change the name of the sender to protect his privacy].

Picture a card that looks like the front of a small white Bible--fancy, like a child's confirmation Bible. It has ribbon rose on the front and a gold pin in the shape of a cross fastened to it. The words say, "The Fisher Family Bible."

I opened the card to find what looks like an open Bible, still white with lots of gold trim and more red ribbon roses strewn across the middle of the open book.

The left side says:
"'I bring you good news of great joy for everyone!' [So far, so good!]
'The Savior--yes, the Messiah, the Lord--has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!'~Luke 2:10"

The right side says:
"God has written each of us into the Christmas story as we turn to Jesus--our Savior, Messiah, and Lord. Merry Christmas from Alex."

All the words, including the first and last name are part of the card, specially ordered. There is no handwriting at all, everything is totally pre-printed.

When you turn this little imitation Bible over, in a neat handwritten text, it says:
"Forget Jesus...--Have compassion for the poor and sick...--Living."

What? Forget the Savior and Lord he has just proclaimed in the "Family Bible." Forget Jesus who said the greatest command is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself," and then proceeded to tell the story of the hated Samaritan who showed more compassion to the sick than the priest did?

Jesus who loved the children, fed the poor, showed compassion to the masses. Forget Jesus who gave His life so ALL may find salvation--the poor as well as the rich, the sick as well as the healthy, the gentiles as well as the Jews? If we forget Jesus, do we forget His message too? Isn't Jesus the author of having compassion for the poor and the sick?

I guess maybe the sender means to put your faith into action. Or maybe it means that this tired man is sick of those who proclaim Jesus, testify about Jesus and try to get you "saved" but then they ignore social issues. I understand that. I understand frustration with the religious establishment. I understand disgust with "good Christian people" who really aren't. I understand wanting to see more compassion. But Forget Jesus?

May it never be!

Jill

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wholegrains...


We all know the importance of adding whole grains to our diets, but sometimes it is hard to actually incorporate many into a face-paced lifestyle. I have two suggestions that are relatively easy and very tasty.

The first is to use brown Basmati rice instead of white or par-boiled rice. It has a rich, nutty flavor and has the most nutrition of any type of rice. I make it when we have black beans and rice for supper and then use the left over rice for rice pudding. It cooks up great in a rice cooker, just use 2 parts water to 1 part rice. I usually rinse it before I put it in the water to rinse off a bit of the starch. It is delicious! You will never go back to boring old white rice again. You can buy basmati rice at health food stores and many bulk food stores. It is more expensive than white or brown rice, but still a food bargain.

The second suggestion is to make your own whole grain pancakes. Topped with applesauce, this is about as healthy as breakfast gets. My favorite recipe comes from The Sue Gregg Cookbooks--and all you need is some grain and a blender.

Five Minute Pancakes

In blender place in order listed and blend on high speed for 3 minutes.
[Warning, you will need a good quality blender]

1 1/2 C buttermilk, or fruit juice or water [to make buttermilk you can add 1.5 Tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and then add enough regular milk to make 1 1/2 Cups]
1 egg, optional
2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil [for crispness]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup of grain in group 1 and 1/2 C grain from group 2
[or use 1/2 C of three different grains]

Use 1 Cup from Group 1:
  • Kamut
  • millet [especially light]
  • brown rice [light]
  • corn [dry whole, not corn meal]
  • wheat [soft wheat pastry type]
  • kasha [roasted buckwheat]
  • spelt
  • barley
AND use 1/2 Cup of Group 2:
  • oats [rolled or whole]
  • millet
  • brown rice
  • kamut
  • corn
  • wheat
  • kasha
  • spelt
  • barley
Blend for 3 minutes at high. Heat frying pan [about 325 degrees if you are using an electric frying pan] and spray with a cooking oil spray. When your pan is hot, blend into the grain mixture for about 5-10 seconds:

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
[batter will start to rise, so quickly pour some into frying pan]

Optional: For lighter cakes, separate 2 eggs, add yolks to blender. Beat whites separately until stiff and then fold into batter just before baking.

This may sound a bit complicated, but really it is easy if you have a good blender. The pancakes are light and tasty. If you don't have any whole grains, go to a bulk food or health food store and buy a pound of a few varieties [usually in health food stores you can buy them in bulk]. I like to use soft wheat, oats, kamut and spelt, but have used rice and buckwheat. I have saved the batter in a jar in the fridge and fryed it up days later with good results.

Take care,
Jill

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Best Pie Crust EVER...

My friend Linda who has a gift shop in Wilmore, gave me an awesome recipe for crust that I just have to pass along. This is the first Thanksgiving in years that I have made homemade crusts because the recipe is so easy.

The genius of this recipe is that you make it up, divide into four balls, flatten a bit, and freeze the ones you don't need in a sandwich bag. Then, when you want to make a pie, you thaw the crust [I left it in the fridge over night, but you could let it thaw on your counter], roll it out and are ready to go. And it rolls out so easy. It is very elastic so that it doesn't break and have to be patched.

And, it tastes great and is very flaky. Where has this recipe been all my life? So, without further verbiage, here is the recipe.

Linda's Pie Crust


Makes four single crusts



3 C flour, don't sift
1 tsp salt
1 C butter, cold

Mix together flour and salt and cut in butter till it is incorporated. You can use two knives, a pastry cutter, or my favorite, low speed on a Kitchen Aid mixer. Mix till it looks like coarse cornmeal.

Mix in separate bowl: [I whipped it all together with a wire whip]
1/2 C ice water
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vinegar

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; pour in liquid and mix. Knead about 20 times. Separate into 4 balls. Use now or flatten balls a little and freeze in zip-loc bags. To use, let thaw on counter about a half hour and roll out with a bit of flour.

Bake according to whatever recipe you are using.



Enjoy,

Jill


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cheese Danish Recipe

This is a great recipe and so easy to make. The main thing is to remember to start it a day early-let time do the work instead of you. [Notice in the picture we already ate half of one before I took a picture.]

I got this recipe from Robin on the Sonlighter Club Forums last year and I have made this recipe 3 or 4 times since.

CREAM CHEESE DANISH-Makes 4
Plan ahead, the dough needs to chill for 8 hours

Dough: Heat first four ingredients in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Cool to 105-115 degrees.

1 (8 oz) container of sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt

Using amounts below, combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream mixture and eggs; gradually stir in flour (dough will be soft). Cover and chill at least 8 hours. [I put it in a Tupperware container in the fridge.]

2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
2 large eggs, beaten
4 cups of all purpose flour


Divide dough into fourths. Turn out each portion onto a heavily floured surface, and knead 4 or 5 times. Roll each portion into a 12x10 inch rectangle, and spread each rectangle with one fourth of the cream cheese filling (see below), leaving a 2 inch border around edges. [I like to add cherry preserves on top of the cream cheese, but you don't have to.]

Cream Cheese Filling: Beat all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
2 (8 0z) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract [or almond]

Cut 6-8 diagonal slits along each long end, about 2 inches deep—almost, but not quite to the filling. This will make “arms” along each side. Make sure to make the same amount on both sides. Starting at the bottom, fold the right arm over the dough, then a left, then the right, and so on so it looks like a braid. Turn both ends up and press shut so the filling doesn’t come out the bottom.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85degrees), free from drafts, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Slightly beat an egg white and brush on just before baking [optional] I put some streusel on top too [see recipe below], but it is optional.

Streusel: [optional]
Mix together till crumbly:
2T butter
2T sugar
1/3 C flour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Drizzle warm loaves with powdered sugar glaze. Yield 4 (12 inch) loaves.

Powdered Sugar Glaze: Stir together all ingredients

1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract [or almond

Note: Braids may be frozen after baking. Thaw in refrigerator, and glaze before serving.

Variations—
• Put almond in the cream cheese and top with slivered almonds instead of struesel.
• Put several teaspoons of cherry, raspberry or peach jam on top of cream cheese before
braiding dough.

Enjoy,
Jill

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bleak and Gray...

Sometimes you don't get what you expect. Bob and I are on a nice South Carolina Beach Vacation. Well, I am on vacation, Bob is attending a conference. The conference is at Kiawah Island, which is a lovely privately owned island with expensive beach homes, lots of golf courses and a plethora of tourist accommodations.

We stayed in a beach townhouse complete with a full kitchen, screened in porch, separate bedroom and a washer and dryer.

I had visions of reading my Christopher Fowler mystery on the beach dressed in my capris and wearing my sunglasses. But, the recent Gulf hurricane kind of ruined all that. It has been cold and rainy the whole time we have been here. I mean, I have had to put my hoody and LL Bean parka on to stay warm as I poked around some little beach shops yesterday.

The whole time here I had not seen the beach, so this morning, I bundled up and decided to hunt down the beach and see what I was missing.

I followed the boardwalk through the highly vegetated dunes and was delighted to see several birds flitting around enjoying the early morning.

Everything was so gray. The steel gray sky met the angry gray ocean as it ran up to the drab gray beach. I was the only one out there in this area of the beach and it seemed rather lonely and forbidding.


As I walked down the beach I noticed piles of shells, washed ashore during high tide. They were so interesting and unique because most of the shells were intact, two halves still joined.

It brought back childhood memories of happy beach days when we would hunt and hunt for a couple of good shells.



I wish I had had a child with me because we could have picked up a grocery bag full of the lovely shells.




Along with the shells there were horseshoe crab exoskeletons partially buried in the hard-packed, cold sand.

There we also some unidentifiable "sea worms" or coral or something that were intriguing.













As I walked along I saw a lone fisherman, silhouetted against the bleak seascape.




Further down I saw a family of sand pipers scurrying around trying to find a tasty low-tide breakfast.










I also came upon a middle age lady with her little grandson who was dressed in a snow suit! The little guy was happily digging in the sand while grandma sipped on a hot coffee, the steam rising around the cup that was clenched in her icy hands.

Actually, it was a wonderful walk. I was thinking how I had been cursing the darkness before I went out. I felt sorry for myself that my dream beach vacation wasn't what I had imagined.


But then, I realized that I had this big beautiful beach almost to myself and it was incredible.

I have to think that happens a lot in life. We are expecting one thing, and we forget to appreciate and embrace the unexpected.

We probably miss a lot that way.

My beach vacation was not what I expected, or what I would have ordered, but I got to see the beach in a way I had not experienced it before.

God's majesty is incredible!
Take care,
Jill


Friday, November 6, 2009

I love Ginkgo trees. Today I walked up to the front yard of Asbury Seminary to take a few pictures of the Ginkgo. I love the flaming leaves not so much for their amazing color, but for the leaves themselves.

Ginkgo leaves are not like other leaves.
They are fan shaped and sort of spongy, almost like they are filled with a bit of wool or cotton batting. They do not deteriorate like regular leaves, but keep their distinctive shape. Here is one that fell on a bush.

Now, the miracle of Ginkgo leaves is that when they fall, they mostly all fall in the very same day. Then the leaves pile up in inviting piles, luring kids and adults to jump in the spongy leaves.



The trees are huge and because they grow so slow these trees must be very old. Every year Wilmorans [this is what I lovingly call folks who live in Wilmore] wait for the trees to turn gold and for the leaves to fall.

Years ago we would take the kids up to play in the leaves and Kari still talks about how fun that was. The problem is, the seminary is very quick to rake the leaves so it is always a challenge to find the one or two days after the leaves fall and before they rake them up.


There are two trees on the lawn and one had already dropped its leaves but this one will probably be de-nuded in a matter of hours or possibly tomorrow.




Today, there was a mom with her children, taking advantage of this wonderful, free photo opportunity. I love this picture. Just before I shot this photo the kids were rolling and jumping in the leaves.

I laid right on my back to take the shot at the top of my blog. Falling leaves-makes kids of us all.

Take care,
Jill

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Applesauce Day...

If you know me well, you will probably have heard about Applesauce Day. It is an annual event--first a bit of history.

When I was a child my sisters and I helped my mom can tomatoes, peaches and a variety of other produce. She told stories of when she was a child how Grandpa would put the old canning stove under the tree in the back yard because it was cooler that way. I wish I would have asked if it was electric, gas or a wood stove.

At any rate, they would wash the jars in the back yard in tubs of hot soapy water in preparation for canning. It was a lot of work! [We just put the jars through the dishwasher.]

[Top, apples cooking; below, my son Dusty milling the apples. He put cooked apples in the top of the hopper, cranks the handle and like a miracle, the applesauce comes out the front while the peels and seeds go into a bucket to compost.]

When canned goods first started appearing in stores my Grandma and her friends thought that only lazy people would buy canned fruits and vegetables. I mean, who would do that when you could can your own? How times have changed since then.

At any rate, through the years Mom and I canned applesauce. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992 Mom and Dad would bring apples down from Michigan [on their way back down to Florida] and Mom and I [with some help from Dad and a bit from the kids] would can applesauce. We used archaic equipment and it was really hard work.

[Various friends and family cutting the apples--before you can cook them, they need to be quartered and the blossom end cut out. With back to camera, daughter in law Molly, to the left Jenny and daughter Kate, and new recruits Karen at end and Tricia in foreground.]

This continued till the year my dad died. Mom started to decline with Alzheimer's and she went to live in Michigan permanently-no longer making the treks down to Kentucky with apples. The first year she was not coming I was kind of depressed. I mentioned this to Bob--I mean it is kind of like when someone dies and they won't be at Christmas anymore--except we hadn't celebrated Christmas with my parents for years. But, when fall came, and Mom and Dad weren't there to help me do applesauce, it was really, really hard for me.

[Friends Bethel and Kenji put more applesauce through the mill.]

Bob said, "Maybe you need to modify the tradition. Make applesauce with our kids to carry on the tradition." That was good advice, except our kids were not interested at that time. Too young.
[Jenny and Kate with youngest daughter Violet in foreground, Kenji with son Kai on floor, our son Dusty [back to camera] and daughter in law Jen in Living room.]

So, I called up my friend Jenny who now has 5 children, but I think she and Keith only had two back then, and asked if she wanted to come over for "Applesauce Day." She did. That first year I think we canned about 60 quarts, split them and called it a day.

[Karen and my daughter Kari putting the applesauce into jars, ready to process.]

Since that day in 2001 the tradition has grown. This year we canned 7 1/2 bushels of apples, yielding about 62 quarts and 112 pints, plus we ate a LOT. So, here are some photos of applesauce day 2009.

[ Photos: Karen and Kai tasting the sauce. Isaac to right eating some applesauce too. #2- Some of the completed applesauce, #3 Keith reading to his three youngest kids. As you can see, applesauce day is a family event! I think it would make Mom and Dad smile.]











Take care,
Jill




Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Soap in a Sweater...

I learned how to felt soap so that it comes encased in its own little wool sweater. It is a wonderful way to exfoliate and also makes hand washing fun for kids. And you know what they say about hand washing...

I thought I would show how I make it. First I make homemade soap, then I get some wool I bought from family farms in Michigan and Wisconsin. I like the Michigan Merino wool better than the Wisconsin NZ Corriedale wool, but they both are fun to work with.
I start with soap, hot water, a textured felting mat and wool.

I lay some of the wool down, then wrap it around the soap. I usually wrap it one way, then I go the other way, then one more wrap the original way.





Now it is all wrapped.










I carefully drop it in hot water to sort of "set" the wool so it I can see if it is even.










Once it is all wet, then I put it in a section of a nylon that has been cut to size.




This is to keep the wool in the soap. I dip in hot water, twist the nylon tight and then I start to rub the soap on the felting board.





Then I apply friction [yes, felting soap is done via the "armstrong" method]. I rub it over and over the board, which is like a ribbed scrub board. After about 10 minutes, the soap is done. I dip it once more in the hot water, then blot and let dry.




Here are some I finished today. The pink are bubblegum soap, the blue are lavender and the green peppermint. My hands are very wrinkly and smell great! Felting soap is GOOD CLEAN FUN!

To use, wet and rub. The wool will continue to shrink as it is used, so when the soap is all gone, you will have a little wool scrubby left.

Soap in a Sweater

Take care,
Jill

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cheap Natural Deoderant that really works!

If you are a bit scared by aluminum in your deodorant and want something that really works, is easy to make and inexpensive, I have a recipe for you.

You only need three ingredients:
  • baking soda
  • corn starch
  • coconut oil


I like organic virgin coconut oil because it smells like fresh coconuts, but even the cheap coconut oil found in a plastic container at Wal-Mart in the oil section is fine.

The Basic Recipe is:

6 T coconut oil
4 T baking soda
4 T corn starch

Melt coconut oil in the microwave, stir in other ingredients. Put in a small container and rub on under arms. [May need a bit of water on your fingers when you do this. I find if I put it on right after a shower, I am good for about 24 hours]. This is not an antiperspirant but you do not smell with this deodorant.

If it irritates your skin, you can use the following instead:

Mild Formula:

5 T coconut oil
3T baking soda
6 T cornstarch.

The thing is, the baking soda is mostly
what inhibits bacterial growth, so it is what stops the sweaty smell. And, the baking soda might be irritating. So, you want to use a bit less, but not so much less that it doesn't work.

I found that it was irritating the first couple of weeks, so I alternated with my regular deodorant, but after my body got used to the homemade stuff, it didn't irritate any more. I have been using this for about 6 months. Some folks say it is because it is drawing out a bunch of toxins at first, but I am not sure that is true.

Let me know if you use it, how it works. Personally, I LOVE it.

Whether aluminum is good or bad for me, I am not sure, but I feel better with this all natural product.

Take care,
Jill