Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One Last Fall Treat

Wow! So much enthusiasm about homeschooling. I appreciate the encouragement, y'all. I welcome more comments, but I wanted to share a recipe for those who, like me, are planning this week's menus a little last minute. Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, check, check, check, check, but what about the fact that these people need more than one meal while they stay with us?! Many of you may live in town with everyone you will be breaking bread with and will drive away after the big meal, but if you have guests from out of town and find yourself scrambling for ideas for the other meals the family will gather for over the weekend, this may help. Even if it's just your immediate family, this is a nice big festive breakfast to enjoy before a later Thanksgiving meal or a sweet start to Black Friday shopping or tree trimming festivities. Did I say tree trimming? Indeed. Thanksgiving is so late this year and our house is so empty, I have had an itch for a Christmas tree for weeks now! The excursion to the tree lot is scheduled for Friday morning. Woohoo! However, one last fall recipe before I move on to all things winter. This is a family favorite, and I cannot believe I have neglected to put it on my blog until now. Serve it up with a breakfast casserole or with bacon, eggs, and grits, or just let it stand alone and everyone can have more of what they will really love anyway! Incidentally, I often make this for dinner, so don't forget about that. What does Turk call it? Brinner? (ooh! I just found out, and we don't have TV so you may all already know this but, Scrubs starts back on January 6th. ABC bought it, you know, so we get another season!)Enjoy!

Spiced apple pancakes

first of all, the apples:
1T butter
3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3T firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
juice of 1/2 lemon (I forget this all the time and it is no big deal)
-cook apples in butter with sugar and spices for 20 minutes over medium heat
-serve over pancakes with whipped cream

now for the pancakes ( from, or at least after the fashion of Joy of Cooking):
1 1/2c. flour
3T sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2c. milk
3T butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
- have milk and eggs at room temp. for eggs, this can be quickly accomplished by putting refrigerated eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes (I know, I'm a genius. That, or I read Cooks Illustrated...) combine milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla and set aside
-combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt
-pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix until just combined
- fry up some pancakes :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Homeschool Abby Style- Yeah, I know, Oh Dear!

I have been homeschooling for about three weeks now. I have to say that it is pretty exhausting. It could be that I am just adjusting to so much that I am exhausted and would be even if I wasn't homeschooling. But it just seems like the work is never done. I feel like it is always hanging over my head even until after dinner because maybe we should go over our vocabulary one more time or read one more chapter in our book... And then as soon as I get up in the morning I am teaching again. I am not a real teacher personality, if you know what I mean. I constantly forget that I am a grown up and that my children look up to me. So the fact that their education is now solely my responsibility is just whoa. I have had some very gracious friends take a lot of the pressure off by sharing their experiences, lending me some great tools, and just pulling me into the small picture and out of the overwhelming big picture of their entire future! 

We are enjoying it too though. I am taking the time again to do the crafts and the memory work and the reading aloud that I used to do with them before Amabel started school after Elspeth was born. We used to read so often and memorize whole Psalms regularly along with the Sunday school memory work. Since Amabel has been in school from eight to three, we haven't done any of that. I have regretted it, but by the time three o'clock rolls around, August was always dying for a buddy, I was dying for a break, and it was nearly time for me to fix dinner. Anyway, there is time for those things now and I am really glad. We finished reading Charlotte's Web today, and I am debating about which book to start next. Any ideas for a chapter book, something Christmas-y, that all three, or at least the older two, will enjoy? We have also memorized Psalm 23 and Psalm 100 and are starting Luke 2 (I am just going to see how much we can do, I know it is long). And we are doing a whole Math unit that covers various countries around the world. I don't know why the people did the math book that way, but for whatever reason they incorporated interesting geographical facts into math for December, and I figured it would be a fun way to do a Christmas around the world thing. I am a little disappointed that countries like Sweden and Germany and France, countries with really unique and interesting Christmas celebrations (and fabulous food), are not included. I may tack them on if I have time, but it looks like I won't. On the other hand, I have three countries from Africa where it seems like most people are too poor to do much in the way of festivities (and mostly eat spicy rice), both Australia and New Zealand which both seem to pretty much do British Christmas only in summer time (and I have Great Britain too anyway), and countries that don't celebrate Christmas at all like Japan and Israel! So, sort of weird, but it should be fun and give us all a chance to be creative and learn a little something whilst celebrating Christmas. 

Japan actually hit the schedule for today so I really did more general Japan and nothing about Christmas, or lack of, there. After all, it is not Christmas here yet. We made paper cranes, wrote haikus and made candy sushi. "How does one make candy sushi?" you ask? Well, one looks at this website or just follows these simple instructions: make up a batch of Rice Krispies treats in a shallow baking sheet. Place two or three gummy worms on the edge of the Rice Krispies and roll gummy worm length section of Rice Krispies treats around gummy worm. When gummy worm is encased in Rice Krispies treats, as vegetables would be in sushi rice, cut the Rice Krispies treats. Wrap gummy worms encased in Rice Krispies treats log in a fruit roll up (like seaweed). Slice the fruit roll up covered log into slices as you would sushi. "Sounds disgusting?" Oh, yes, without a doubt, a grossly sweet and not at all appetizing confection, pretty much high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavoring colliding with butter and more high fructose corn syrup. But the kids loved it. And hey, I taught them about Japan. 

Tomorrow is USA day and we are making apple pie and really driving home Thanksgiving. Then right after Thanksgiving comes Netherlands day. Netherlands day will give me an excuse to make Dutch Christmas cookies like I have always wanted to. George's grandfather, the son of first generation Dutch immigrants, thinks that I will not be able to them get anywhere close to right. After all, if you're not Dutch, you're not much! I just really want him to be wrong! I even special ordered a windmill cookie cutter! It was hard to find, but only a buck fifty in the end. After that comes Mexico with poinsettias, Mexican hot chocolate, and either the dulce de leche half-moons from this month's Gourmet (do y'all think I can find those wafer things they use?) or Mexican wedding cakes. And after that well, we're on our way around the world! I'll post any recipes that turn out well, and keep you updated  on other goings ons if anyone still seems interested after this. 

Well, reading over this just before I hit the publish post thingy has me a little embarrassed. I mean, I have no idea what I'm doing! And why must every lesson inevitably end with some sort of food prep? On the other hand, we're spelling and punctuating sentences and adding and subtracting and learning fractions and talking about Pilgrims and insects and foreign countries and all the little things second graders do. So, we'll just keep that small picture in mind. After Christmas though, after Christmas we start Latin and cursive and ancient Egypt. And well, that just sounds whoa. But it's also over a month away. Aright, just thought I'd share with those of you who are interested. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chocolate Pumpkin Wisdom

So last week I tried to make my chocolate pumpkin cake. It isn't a hard cake to make. And it is my favorite. I thought it would be a great fall birthday cake for my new brother-in-law, Caleb. And I maintain that, even though Caleb never got a slice. I actually started making it the day before he and Katie were coming over for his birthday dinner. I pulled butter and buttermilk and eggs out of the fridge and had them all softened and room temperature and ready to go when I began to measure out dry ingredients and realized that I had no baking soda. It's funny what you don't have when you first move, and I actually did have baking soda when I got here, but I have been on a natural cleaning kick inspired by my sister. And I have concluded that baking soda really is not the best replacement for Comet, but I used up an entire box deciding that so none was left to actually bake with. I called George and asked him if he wouldn't mind picking some up after work. But by the time he got off work at ten o'clock, drove the twenty minutes to the store near the house with a ten minute baking soda buying detour, it was too late to be putting a cake in the oven for an hour. I put everything back in the fridge and went to bed.

When I started the cake the next day, everything had to be softened again. By the time I got to mixing again, it was almost time for the fam to be here. I thought, "no problem, it can just bake while we eat." I put the butter in the mixer to cream with the sugars and realized I didn't have enough white sugar. I thought, "no problem, I'll just make up for the rest with extra brown sugar." But I didn't have enough brown sugar to fufill the recipe requirements much less make up for the white sugar I lacked. Sweet sweet George says, "no problem, I'll just run out and get some more sugar." (Let it be known that the grocery store is three miles away down a country highway and not just around the corner as most Americans are accustomed to). So while George is out at the store, I decide that a productive thing to do would be to ready my pan. I bought the cutest ever brown cupcake liners with pumpkins on them and was ready to place them into the muffin pan when I realized, "I don't have a muffin pan." Well, I do, but it is packed in my parents basement five hours away. I think to myself, "no problem, I'll just make a bundt cake. Bundt cakes are good." I prepare the pan and wait for George who arrives with sugar at the same time Caleb arrives. I let everyone know it will just be a few minutes until dinner because I just have to finish mixing the cake and put it in the oven. I mix it all up and the batter is just beautiful, a beautiful golden. And I think to myself, "problem. This is a chocolate cake. Why doesn't it look like chocolate?" And then I realize I have forgotten the cocoa. I think to myself, "no problem, I will just mix it in now." I walk over to the pantry and even as I am doing so, I know. Oh yes, I remember now. I went to that grocery store, the one that claims to be less expensive than the others and gets away with all kind of subpar service and miniscule selection when in fact, it is not cheaper, and by shopping there I will not only not save, but I will add immeasurable frustration to my life just because I will inevitably have to go to a different grocery store to make up for what I need that they don't carry. All of that, to save $1o on a Thursday, when Thursday is my least convenient day to grocery shop anyway. But anyway, I rememeber that, and I remember that I had had choice words with the stock boy on the baking aisle because Dutch processed cocoa really is a fairly common ingredient and really should be stocked in their stores. But it isn't, and so I wasn't able to purchase it, and therefore, as I step toward the cupboard door, I know that the necessary ingredient to make the cake, to save us from a fourth trip to the grocery over this dessert, will not be there. And so, I walk to the drawer with the Saran Wrap instead and enshroud my pumpkin batter in cellophane until the final pilgrimage can be made to the grocery for Dutch processed cocoa.

I mean, I forget things. I have had many a late night excursion across the parking lot to borrow eggs from a fellow seminarian, but not usually to borrow baking soda, brown sugar, white sugar, and cocoa. It was definitely the kind of thing that made me think, "what is the point of this?" And that may have been a weird reaction; I guess I am just searching for meaning lately. I really wanted to know what I possibly could learn from such a confounding event. I bordered on obsessing about it, really. And maybe it was what kept me from bursting into tears, or, perhaps more like me, spewing a stream of curse words like no one has ever heard before and hurling a six quart mixing bowl of batter across the room. You will all be glad to know that I did neither of those things. I just finished making dinner and we all ate and it was fine. But like I said, I obsessed about this later. I finally came up with a very easy lesson. It was the thing I had been telling myself since it happened, but I finally listened, I guess. "Everyone makes mistakes." If anyone had said this to me, I would have been totally annoyed. Because that sounds like I made some huge mistake that everyone has to forgive me for, and all I did was flake out while trying to make a cake. But it really is true. People make mistakes. And I made five or six just making the stinking dessert. 

I have a hard time with mistakes. I was raised to not make mistakes. I have a lot of people in my life who are extremely impatient with my imperfections. Consequently, I am extremely impatient with my imperfections, also, a little angry with people always up in my business about all of my mistakes....  Anyway, I decided that the cake was not such a big deal. I mean, I knew it wasn't, but I decided to maintain that and not to let the voices in my head tell me otherwise. And well, that's pretty big for me, especially at this juncture when everything in my life is imperfect. It's okay. You know? So we have to wrap the batter up and we don't have cake for the birthday party, so we have to move three times in three months, so we have to mooch off everyone we know to make ends meet, so I have run mile after mile for months without losing inch or ounce, so I can't seem to get anywhere on time or get anything done in a timely manner? Really, so? That is where I am. 

And the best I can do is just try to live a little more like there really is grace to be had. I really don't live like there is grace for anything. And I get so angry when I am not treated graciously. But isn't it up to me? Isn't it up to me to trust God's grace for me whether other people extend it to me or not? In the cake story, my guests were plenty gracious about the lack of post-meal sweets. But I know we all have dozens of stories where people have not been gracious, whether it is our family or our friends or people we don't even know. People tell us that our shortcomings are unacceptable and/or unforgivable; they are hard on us and accuse us of wrongdoing (or even wrongbeing) when we really just, for lack of a better word, goofed. And what I learned from the cake is that sometimes these things can't be helped. I mean, no one could accuse me of not trying. No one could say that I was just lazy or lackadaisical or selfish or thoughtless in my approach to this cake. I went shopping six days ahead of time; I started baking a full day ahead of time. But it just didn't work out in spite of my planning and effort and good intentions. It was a combination of several moments like overlooking an ingredient on a recipe card, crossing something off a grocery list that hadn't actually been procured, and overestimating how much sugar was left in the bag. But it wasn't the result of some sort of sin or failure. That is hard for me to believe; it's too good to be true and makes me feel like I am being lazy or prideful or trying to get away with something. But, it is true; it's the lesson. 

When I write posts like these, it is always interesting to see what people have to say. Sometimes people take it a step further than me and are way more gracious in their words than I have been in mine. I always wish I had been brave enough to say what they say. But on the other hand, I usually write with the people I am writing against in mind, even though I know they do not read my blog. I think I have them pegged as some sort of majority though, like most people really do think like they do, and I have to write only what I can say for certain, only what I could confidently argue to them in person. But I am beginning to determine, although it's another one of those too good to be true things, that God really is more gracious than we realize, and it is not likely that we can err on the side of grace. Anyway, with that being said, feel free to disagree. But mostly, I hope I am not so immature and/or messed up that this is not a helpful lesson for some of you. Or, at the very least, you have been re-linked to the chocolate pumpkin cake recipe.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We Have Internet!

At long last. Posting to commence shortly. Not that anyone is still reading....

Friday, November 07, 2008

I Can't Believe I Said That

I am at Panera Bread, this time inside the building, to crank out a quick post. I keep thinking of a post I put up a few weeks ago where I was talking about how recently I feel like the people I know are in a whole new tier of suffering. I guess maybe it just comes with knowing more people, and with getting older. There used to be so much drama over a breakup with a boyfriend or a manager that got on your case! As we get older, it takes a little more to rattle some of us, to push some of us, and maybe that is one reason the Lord gives us bigger trials. Anyway, one thing I said, that I was not clear about, and really shouldn't have said in the first place, was about how there are bigger things than not being able to have a baby right away. And well, that was a jerky thing to say. I was thinking of people I know who have had a child die, or who have tried for years and years and had miscarriage after miscarriage and never a full term baby. So, in light of that, having to play around with fertility treatment after a year is not that bad. But, during that year, you have no idea that it won't last forever, or that  you will have a baby in a very short time. So, it is a huge deal. And it was stupid of me to say otherwise. I have been through the ordeal with friends, and I really do know, though not from my own experience, how scary and trying it is. I know that it can be agonizing when girlfriend after girlfriend announces a new baby, and you are wanting to be supportive of them and yet their joy accents your absence of joy. And you wonder how come she has three and I can't even have one? And your constant prayer is "how long oh Lord?" I know that. 

But I can be insensitive about things I haven't had firsthand experience with. It is a sad thing, but true, and I am always working on it. I am the one who found out I was having a baby while on the pill five months into marriage. So what do I know about the heartache of infertility? Please forgive me if I offended or hurt you. No one has said anything, but there has been a little cringe that comes over me every time I remember writing that. What a horrible thing to say! 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Where in the World is Abby Edema?

We have just this week been blessed to move into a home owned by one of the families in our church. It is a home they usually rent out, and they are graciously allowing us to live there without having to pay rent while we try to work out a job for George. George has started part time work at Home Depot, which means we can at least pay utilities. So both of those things are a blessing. Of course, as you can imagine, we are still hoping for a more permanent job, and preferably one in ministry. Because we still don't know where or when that will be, we have left all of our things in storage as well. Many other generous church families have loaned us everything from beds to spoons. It is a huge blessing, and yet, it has me feeling my homesickness slightly more acutely. To make sense of that for y'all a little better, we have borrowed only the essentials and so there are several empty rooms and lots of empty walls and nothing matches etc. However, the house is big and beautiful and on a gorgeous wooded hill. It is absolutely lovely. It is about twenty minutes out from town so we have pulled Amabel out of her school and tomorrow I commence home schooling! We have a lot to be thankful for. But it is also a big change from what we are used to (though that is pretty much true of the entire last four months); and clearly, we are still sort of in the thick of all of this uncertainty and transition. Thanks for all your prayers. For now, we don't have internet (or tv or phone etc.) so we are really out of the loop. I am mooching off Panera Bread free Wifi in the car right now! But let me hear from you so that next time I come down the mountain to see the world, I'll have some news!  

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