Monday, March 2, 2015

Martina's Cornbread



New cookbooks are fun to browse and explore. Some recipes work, and some - well, they are not put in the repeat category. This new cookbook, by Martina McBride, Around the Table, gives an interesting insight into her family life, her home, her style, and, of course, how she cooks. The focus of the cookbook is on hospitality, on the events and occasions and just-because times she welcomes others into her home. Each section has decorating ideas, music playlists (of course - what else would you expect from a musician?), menus, recipes, gorgeous photos, and practical tips for welcoming others into your home and life. And we have several new recipes that are definite repeats.

Her recipe for cornbread has become a frequent staple here. I cut it in half, this is a party sized batch.

Cornbread With Green Chiles And Pepper Jack Cheese

5 tbsp unsalted, melted butter
2 tbsp butter for greasing the pan
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1 1/2 c milk
4 large eggs
2/3 c vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
3 c all purpose flour
1 c ground yellow cornmeal
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 4oz can diced green chiles
1 c shredded pepper jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease a 13 x 9 baking pan with 2 tbsp butter.

Combine the buttermilk, milk, eggs, oil and melted butter in a large bowl. Combine the flour, cornmeal, 2/3 c of sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Stir in the green chiles and the pepper jack cheese. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. (She sprinkles an additional 2 tbsp sugar over the batter - I omit this).

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.




We're serving ours tonight with chicken enchiladas, Confetti Rice (also from her book) and salad.




This is my favorite of her songs. I have posted it before, but I think it is worth hearing again. And again. "Do It Anyway." A great theme song.


(Guess this cuts off just before the end - sorry. It's still worth the listen, just keep singing it in your head)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Windshield Goals



We have reached the end of February. Do you look at your New Year goals like this? Something you wrote down two months ago, part of the New Year planning, and now they are behind you. Unaccomplished. History. Looking backward instead of forward.

Donald Miller, on his Storyline blog, wrote a week long series, "Start Life Over." In the introductory post, he writes about the value of change, and he quotes two friends of his who own a successful restaurant. They said, "Life should be viewed similarly to how we look through the windshield of a car...the windshield is much larger than the rearview mirror."  Don adds, "Keep looking forward. Know where you are going and steer the car toward something new and exciting. And you can't do that if you're always looking in the rear view mirror."



I realized how often I think of my goals with a backwards thought. Guess that didn't work. What was I thinking? So much for that unrealistic time-frame. All those unfriendly failure words spoken in my head. But, instead, if I see them as Windshield Goals, the perspective changes. I am looking ahead, out the windshield, the road in front of me rather than behind. Any smart driver will tell you this is a much better way to drive - look through the windshield rather than the rear view mirror. Good driving involves a glance in the rear view mirror, but the attention is focused - forward. Of course, we say. But do we live that way?

Each day, on my daily list, I write my three main Windshield Goals as a reminder that I can take steps today toward them. Not big things, just little steps. And it moves me toward them, rather than seeing them disappear into the past, faded in the rear view mirror. The skill of resilience has its foundation in this, this ability to focus forward rather than on events of the past. How to navigate the next turn, the upcoming curve in the road? Focus ahead. Pay attention.

Sometimes, Windshield Goals can look like this. Blurred. Low visibility. Confused. Wish you were somewhere else. I took this photo last May. On the way home from a beautiful spring mountain drive, we encountered a surprise storm. Unexpected. Sudden. But we made it home, following the lines on the road, slowly, one mile at a time.







What if we looked at our goals as something in front of us? Ahead.
Forward looking.
Forward living.
Not full of regret or that sinking feeling, failed again.
Hope. Possibility. Do-able.
Try again.







Forward living. 
A much better choice.

This post is linked with Emily Freeman and Chatting At the Sky,
What We Learned in February.

Instead of feeling a failure, instead of those sinking regrests,
I can move forward.
For me, this is a huge lesson.

As Don said in his post, these paradigm shifts can change the way we view our lives, and the way we live our lives.

Green light ahead, GO!




Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wonder Quotes

Most of us have probably wasted five or ten minutes on Pinterest, right?

Ahem.

Well, if you have another five or ten minutes to spend browsing around, try Brainy Quotes. A bit more intellectual or philosophical perhaps, than Pinterest, but still a fun way to sink a few minutes. A way to get inside the heads of some interesting people.

On a recent stroll, I found these two quotes on my one-word for the year, Wonder:

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

                                                                                                        -G.K. Chesterton

"Wonder is the basis of worship."

                                                                                                        -Thomas Carlyle


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Other People's Tumbleweeds

A new garden friend and I sat on the bench, chatting. About plants, of course. She maintains a large xeriscape garden and wished she could keep up with her planned chores rather than cleaning up other people's tumbleweeds, filling up the dumpster each week with the huge, bulky, prickly weeds that blow into her garden.


This one, around the front corner of our house is bigger around than I can reach. And if I did, I'd be full of prickers. I tried to take the photo with my hand holding the base for a size comparison, but I couldn't reach out that far without getting prickers stuck in my sweatshirt. They are too big for a trash can and have to be smashed down or clipped into smaller chunks, or some gardeners burn them down. Last year was a record breaking year for tumbleweeds, the second worst on record, here. I saw a huge one, caught by a gust of wind, blow completely over our roof. Some days the roads are full of them bouncing down the street. Avoiding them with the car is pointless. This year looks to be similar.

I wish I could assure you that in my yard, all the tumbleweeds came from somewhere else. Nope. Sorry. On the sides of the two back sheds, I didn't finish pulling them up last summer and fall. So, I am guilty. Some of those tumbling bundles of prickles are from my yard. If you don't pull them out when they are small, they seem to grow overnight into behemoth monsters, unapproachable and threatening. Don't touch me or you'll get hurt! Leather gloves are a necessity.

Under a cover of snow, they don't look so unfriendly. But they're lurking, waiting for a dry, warm breeze.

Even if you live in an area without these monsters, we all deal with other people's tumbleweeds. Other people's mistakes, messes, hurts, neglect, misunderstandings, spreading their prickers, poking us as we walk through our days. Dealing with problems when they are small is best, but not always possible. Some days it is enough to pull our own weed problems without having to deal with other people's also. But, reality is, it is not always our choice. They are there, tumbling along in front of us.

The answer? Clean up what we can. Be patient. Tackle them one at a time. Be prepared. Know that the seeds are being scattered with every breeze blowing them around. If this one is cleaned up, there will be others sprouting.

Does this all sound depressing? Hopeless? It helps me to know that, as in a garden and learning to take better care of my plants, there are many life lessons intertwined. Weeding is critical. Watering is vital. Neither of those tasks is done once. Over and over and over. Again and again. Daily effort. Life is full of small daily tasks, rinse and repeat. Once in awhile one of our guys tries the line, "But I'll just have to do it again tomorrow. Why not wait till then?" And my response, "Yup, and since the food will just get eaten and the dishes will just get dirty, I might as well wait till tomorrow, or even the day after that to cook, right?" Which of course, doesn't happen.

Other people's tumbleweeds. One at a time. Small steps. Solved, Cared for. And the life and the garden become beautiful and rich.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Best Buds

I do have something more serious I could write about.
But maybe you need a chuckle today?


I have these two face pots, and like to give them amusing (to me, anyway) names by what is growing in them at the moment.
Spike Jones
Do you know Spike Jones?
A musician from the 1940's and 50's, his group put a silly twist on whatever serious music they played.
Tchaikovsky or current hits, nothing was beyond their creative interpretation.
In the days before computer generated sounds, they added cowbells, gun shots, whistles, played tunes on air pumps, rearranged their instrument pieces, banged sticks on window shutters, or whatever it took to make the sounds they wanted. His early 50's TV show is full of the slapstick humor of that day. Nonsense, yes, light-hearted fun.
You-Tube has some of his music clips, if you want to watch.
My little Spike Jones even matches his checkered outfits.
You'll have to watch some of the clips to appreciate his style.


Cynthia


This is Cynthia. I planted these hyacinth bulbs last November, and tucked them away on a dark shelf in the garage, chillin'. After the leaves poked up, I brought them inside to keep in a low light corner for a week or so until the blooms began to form. Now in a sunnier spot, their fragrance and blooms perk up our winter landscape, making it smell like spring even if there is still snow on the ground.


                                                             Spike and Cynthia                                                                   
                                                                  Best Buds

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Touched by Scenes of Wonder

Have you read the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S.Lewis? Highly recommended.

This morning, watching the sunrise, I thought of the lines from the first book, The Magician's Nephew. Polly and Digory (old Professor Kirk in the other stories) watch as the great lion, Aslan, sings the sky and the stars into being.


"The eastern sky changed from white to pink and pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose...You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up."


I am grateful for these moments of wonder, the glimpse of the spectacular.

A little later, here, the ordinary gray skies glowed, illuminated from the sun, hidden behind.

 In the story, there are three others watching with Polly and Digory. One becomes a king, one becomes the influence of evil in the new world, and one just goes back to his selfish, narrow-minded ways. Polly and Digory go on to other adventures, but mostly, on to many ordinary gray days in their ordinary homes and lives.

The ordinary days, touched by scenes of wonder, don't seem so ordinary after all, do they?


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Full of [ ]

Don't worry, this is G rated.

I wonder what my one-word should be for 2015?

What should 2015 be full of?

What one word best defines my goals-plans-hopes-dreams-attitudes toward this year?

I thought, perhaps, Edit. An on-going theme and process, part of learning to Travel Lighter through the maze of my days.

Or, perhaps, Listen. To listen - and hear, really hear - those around me, to listen quietly for the Lord's voice, to say to life, "I am listening."

But, those words didn't seem quite right.

Two quotes I recently read stand out in my mind:

"Pay Attention.
Be Astonished.
Tell About It."
                                                   -Mary Oliver

"Step One:
Wonder at Something.
Step Two:
Invite Others to Wonder With You."
                                                      -Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist 

Wonder at something.
The glitter snow falling during Christmas, sun reflected gold in the snowflakes.
Flavors and smells of an Italian meal, baking in the oven.
Puppy squeaking her tennis ball in her mouth, delighted with the noise.
Flour, yeast, water, oil, kneaded and rising under the towel.
Ocean waves, storm clouds breaking at sunset.

Invite others to wonder with you.


 What causes you to wonder?

I looked wonder up in the 1828 Webster Dictionary (a very cool fascimile edition that uses KJV Bible verses and classics to illustrate definitions). It used words like: surprise, astonishment, amazement, miracle, admiration, wondrous. All of these, expressed, point at the wonder of the daily ordinary. Because that is where I live. To pay attention to the difference between expectation and surprised by gifts of wonder.

I finished re-reading Ann Voskamp's one thousand gifts. At the end of writing about her journey, Ann says, "No, I'll never stop the counting, never cease transcribing the ballad of the world, the rhyme of His heart...His presence filling the laundry room, the kitchen, the hospital, the graveyard, the highways and byways and workways and all the blazing starways, His presence filling me. This is what it means to be fully alive."

To be surprised by wonder. Isn't that an oxymoron? Yet, we are surprised. Awed.

Another word in the definition: marvel.
The Marvel comics are revitalized by the movie industry in the Avenger series. Heroes doing wonderful things, doing wonders, saving people, the world, the universe.

What wonder-full things do I do? Fix dinner. Clean the bathrooms. Clean up doggie poo. Plant seeds. Knead the dough. Be patient when it would be "easier" to snap back a comment (sometimes, not always). Understand, learn.

What wonder-full things do you do?

Can we really learn to see the daily ordinary as wonder-full?

Full of wonder?

Would you like to be full of wonder with me this year?