Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Monday, December 31, 2012

Can You Hear the People Sing?

I rarely go to see movies in the theater.

However, the much anticipated film adaptation of the musical "Les Miserables" officially arrived in theaters this week- and anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for musicals.
Generally, when a film I want to see is out I wait for the DVD and watch it in the comfort of my own home and with my own blanket and snacks and a firm grasp on the remote for 'scenes of a questionable nature' that I want to skip. This time however the pull of seeing a musical on the big screen in all its glory was too big of a draw and from the first of my hearing of it almost two years ago now I knew that I would be going to see it.

Last night I went and saw it. And I loved it.

This film will be known years from now as the benchmark for many things. The cinematography is remarkable and different than anything that has been done in generations. In fact, I think it will come to be the "Citizen Cain" of our generation. In many places the scope and surreality of the style reminded me of another favorite of mine, "Fiddler on the Roof". The director made bold choices in showing sweeping views with solitary figures and more strikingly in the strategy he took in using extreme closeups of the actors. At first I really didn't like this tactic, it feels too invasive and too personal, and too raw. You cannot help but to feel the same emotions as the characters are dealing with and it sends you on an emotional roller coaster right along with them.
Then I realized that is just the point.
Yes, the point is that you feel ground down, that you feel the dirt and the grime, it is even the point that you feel the disgusting nature of sin. But it is also the point that you feel the repentance, the love, the joy, and the ever stirring surge of hope.
Additionally, the benchmark that is laid down in the acting/singing department is tremendous. The acting is flat out superb! With the exception of Russel Crow whom I have an intense dislike for all the other players are great favorites of mine and played their roles with skill and grace. Anne Hathaway destroyed herself in her portrayal of Fantine and broke my heart too while she was at it! From her gut wrenching "I Dreamed a Dream" to her death I sat and cried my eyes out! Hugh Jackman is utterly convincing and equally moving through out his portrayal of Jean Valjean. He again brought me to tears as he wound down and brought the movie to a close.

But my love of this movie had as much to do with its grand themes as it did with is visual appeal and 'star power'.
This story's greatest asset is its themes of redemption, love, and mercy.
Earlier this week I ran into this article posted on Desiring God. I won't attempt to recreate the adeptly illustrated points the author makes in showing the reader how great a gift mercy is and how undeserving of it each one of us is, but I would encourage you to go read it for yourself. In the past I have seen the Liam Nisson version of the story and was left wondering and wanting with its portrayal of the story. I never got what the point was because I was to caught up in following the intricacies of the plot. The thing I discovered I've always been missing from this tale was the mercy. From the very beginning of the (2012) film and Valjean's conversion to his selfless acts throughout, to his quiet fade into glory this story screams from the rooftops of the power of God's redeeming one man and that man's demonstration of life changing mercy to all he encounters. After all, who  better to show mercy than one who has received it and knows it power?

Some have objected to seeing this movie based on some of the stronger, adult themes portrayed in this movie. I can respect that and I understand that while those people will likely enjoy this movie as a whole that they have every right to sit at home (like I usually do) and wait for the ability to control what they view. Commitment to their principles are commendable.
However, I would like to ask what one expects to see in a movie called "The Miserables" and deals with the horrors of prostitution and the unthinkable repulsiveness of leaving one's child in the clutches of vulgar and crude people? Let's not look at this subject matter with rose colored glasses! If one is familiar with the story and with the musical score nothing portrayed in the film should shock you. It is all right there all along. In fact, while I like seeing those subjects portrayed as much as the next person, which is to say not much, I felt that they dealt with the hardest of them well. The one scene of a raucous and bawdy nature occurs in the "Master of the House" number, if one wishes not to see this type of behavior this number is best avoided.  All in all none of the difficult scenes are done or shown in a gratuitous manner, with perhaps the exception being one brief flash of a couple in the Thenardier's inn that was just unnecessary.

One thing I would like to bring up as a counterpoint to the above is what drives Fantine to prostitution in the first place. When we meet Fantine she holds a respectable job earning her own respectable money and is in fact known by those around her for her virtue. What happens to her next however makes me seethe! After bemoaning the advances and groping that all the women in the factory have to put up with from the overseer in order to keep their jobs those same 'moral' self-righteous hypocrites turn on Fantine and have her thrown out when they discover she has a child and is an abandoned woman. They indeed have no mercy for her or her situation- how difficult it must be for a young woman to support a child on her own! You can view a clip of this here. What benefit does this brand of 'morailty' have to anyone? I sat there and couldn't help but think of some church people I've known- "pick a little, peck a little, talk talk talk, pick a little more"! It isn't any wonder what people sometimes think of Christians...?

Aside from the two previously mentioned scenes I felt that nothing seen or portrayed in the film is anything different than you would expect to see in a PG13 rated film. There is swearing, there is death and blood, there is evil men but such is the nature of both the fallen man and the plainly stated rating.
And I dare say that there are just as many bosoms to be seen in Jane Austen film as this- so don't take me to task over the 'liberal' view I'm taking here.

So what's the bottom line here? Should you go and 'hear the people sing'?
First, this movie is not for children. At least not in the theater. If you're going to go see it leave the kiddies at home and go for yourself. At home, where you can control what is seen, for even younger teens this movie should be fine.
Second, if you are a fan of period dramas, musicals, the Les Mis story, or the actors involved go see this movie! Go enjoy it and ride the emotional roller coaster and feel the despair and the soring joy of hope!

...And if you're lucky, the folks in your theater will sing along as the credits roll too!   

Monday, December 24, 2012

Year in Review 2012

Tonight is the eve of Christmas Eve and as I sit here tonight in front of the glowing giant of a Christmas tree in my living room and sit and watch the old classic film The Bishop's Wife, and read the holiday greetings of friends I am very much thinking about what has happened this year in my life and began to wonder if I too shouldn't sit a while and write a few words about the comings and goings of my year.

I think I shall. But I want to be quite transparent in my confessions and not just relate the high points of my year but some of the lowest points too. I think it's only right that in sharing our good blessings we share God's blessings in trials too.

The year began for me quite difficultly with a severe flair up of my Arthritis that lasted for weeks on end. My regular check up in March confirmed that my disease continues to progress slowly and has reached the point of osteoarthritis in my bad ankle. This means that in that ankle joint it is no longer an inflammation problem but a mechanical, degeneration problem that nothing can be done about. After experiencing 8 weeks solid of pain that word from the doctor was actually quite a relief as my imagination can, and had, run quite wild!
But the story really doesn't end there. I seems that in shutting me down God had something to teach me too.
"And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

It's a difficult lesson to keep re-learning but I'm trying to keep up! 

February brought a cool event in business and a new member to the family!
First, mom and I baked ourselves into a frenzy getting ready for a Chocolate Festival event sponsored by the local Red Cross.  We took all our dummie wedding cakes and plenty of samples of real cake and cookies too!

Also in February, David got a birthday buddy when his daughter, Isabella Rose, was born! Isabella quickly became our greatest joy and caring for her this year has been incredibly fulfilling!

As I have spent this (almost) first year with Isabella I have been reminded of the joy that comes by living life thorough the eyes of a child. They see everything differently and everything is new. To Isabella family means joy, music means kicking and bouncing and occasionally putting her ear against your mouth so she can hear the vibrations of singing, blankets and naps mean snuggling and looking trustingly into your eyes as she drifts off, and just about everything- from the first time I held her, right up to today- means laughter! She is without a doubt a bundle of joy in it's purest form!

Spring held new challenges for me as I was contacted by a woman in another state informing me that she owned the national trademark for (a variant) of my bakery name and as I was infringing on her rights she demanded I stop using the name! I was shocked to say the least and when legal paperwork began arriving at my door I must admit I was rather terrified.
Over the weeks that followed I again had quite a lot of thinking, and growing to do. You see the struggle over what to do wasn't just a legal one or a personal one but a spiritual one. As a professing child of God everything I am, and everything I have, is His.
Everything including my business.
And what God was clearly telling me through a series of circumstances and His distinctive, clear, small voice was to give it up. Next year, hopefully will bring a time of new beginnings and new frontiers in cake baking!

I took the summer off and focused on other, happier things! Some of my favorites were:

The Highland Games

Turning out to support Chick Fil A

Attending the grand opening of The Creation Museum's Stellar Observatory that now houses the Johnsonian telescope!

 I also continued my love of photography with the purchase of a new camera (a Canon PowerShot SX40) that I absolutely adore!! With it I have gotten some of the best shots of my life!

One of the best things about my year has been continuing to work with Bright Lights! Though the group started just last October our one year anniversary saw us with 26 girls in our group! Working with this ministry has challenged me in many ways and forced me to creatively look at challenges to find the good, the character opportunities, and the lessons out of them. Ministering in this group I have also gotten the very awesome opportunity to teach when my friend and leader Dani is out of town! I love teaching and it has made me dig deep into the Word to be able to communicate to the girls biblical principles!

Teaching on the Seder and it's relation to Christ

As we came into the fall I spent time volunteering with American's for Prosperity doing phone banking calls- yes, I was one of those annoying political callers! But it was fun and I felt I needed to get out there and work for a positive outcome in the upcoming election.
Despite disappointment in that department we found much to be thankful for and had a wonderful, delicious Thanksgiving dinner!


Rounding out the year has been participation in church choir, Bible Study Fellowship, gardening in the summer trying to nurture my tomatoes and herbs, scrapbooking, visiting Gran, volunteering at the local chapter of the National Bible Bee, teaching AIG's Demolishing Strongholds series to a group of my Bright Lights girls, Dog sitting, and making new friends like the ladies at Daughters of Decision!

All in all it has been a very full year!
A very hard year.
A very blessed year.

A dear friend has challenged me this year. Every day she has posted to her Facebook three things from her day that she was grateful to God for. Easy right? I tried it myself for a month- and failed miserably! It is so difficult to take my focus off of me and my problems and to find gifts from God in my day.
But this year I am going to change that.
I am going to journal one thing every day that God has blessed me with and given me and that I can be thankful for.
I hear it's revolutionary.
The journal I created to keep my thankful things in!

So here I sit, and it's rather late now. The family has all gone to bed and Christmas Eve has 'officially' arrived! Tomorrow (today), we will be off to celebrate with my Gran, and will be attending the candlelight service at church. It's something I love, and look forward to every year. But tonight, tonight I sit and bask in the glow of the first real live tree that we've ever had and I look at the glittering ornaments and my eye falls to the base of the tree where our newest nativity set stands regally and I smile.

Christmas is coming.
Christ mass is here.

Christ is here in my home, in my life, in my heart.
That is a daily challenge to live up to, a daily blessing to embrace.

And this year, with His presence, has been amazing!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Foodie Friday: Iced Caramel Coffee

And we're back!

Long time no recipe huh? Well, this week I have a cool (haha) recipe that hopefully will hit the spot! I've never been one who liked- much less loved- coffee but when I was in Culinary I started drinking Strabucks Frapps as it was my sole means of caffination! ;) Since my Culinary days I've been an occasional coffee sipper and have grown to the point of enjoying a cup- hot or cold- under the right coffee-to-additions circumstances! I have also become totally converted to Dunkin Donuts coffee- a phenomena that does (believe it or not) predate my sister working there... 
Speaking of, now would be the time to let a bit of a cat out of the bag *ahem* - Unless you buy Dunkin coffee at Dunkin it's not real Dunkin. That's right that stuff in the orange bags on the grocery store shelves is not real Dunkin coffee- it's Folger's.
So- buy the good stuff and make your taste buds happy!

Without further ado...

Iced Caramel Coffee 

8 cups cold water
1/2 cup ground Dunkin Donuts original coffee
1 cup + 3 T. sugar

2 tsp. caramel sauce (I'm using Smuckers Plate Scrapers dessert sauce but you can use any ice cream topping sauce, etc.)
Cream, to taste (I've used about 1 T. per glass) 

Begin by setting up the coffee maker with the ground coffee in the brew basket and the water in the reservoir. Brew the coffee to your taste and your coffee makers instructions.

(For me I brew on the strong setting and then fill the reservoir with the brewed coffee and run it through again. This is just because the coffee maker in question is not mine and simply does not heat the water hot enough to produce a decent cup. By the time its gone through twice I'm in business! This step is of course not needed if you have a good coffee maker ;) )

While the coffee is brewing add the sugar to a sealable pitcher. I use Lock & Lock because it's awesome and airtight!  Once the coffee is brewed add it to the pitcher and stir to dissolve the sugar- this will only take a minute because the coffee should be piping hot! 

From here you have two choices- the wise thing to do would be to stash the hot coffee in the fridge and chill it down- but you may be impatient like me and be dying for your cafination- so let's charge ahead!!

Get yourself a nice glass (because a nice glass always makes a happier drink!) and fill it up all the way with ice cubes. I'm a firm believer the secret to a good iced coffee is getting it as cold as possible- and that means as much ice as possible! Add the caramel sauce on top. Now if you are not a caramel person and you want you can certainly change it up here and add your favorite flavored coffee syrup or a shot of chocolate syrup- go for it and make it your own! 

Add the coffee and then top it off with a bit of cream. (Right here it looks like a ton of cream but it just spread out a lot in the coffee!) Give it a stir and pop in a jaunty straw and you're ready to go!  Stash the rest of the cold coffee back in the fridge and use it for drinks throughout the week- it should keep about that long and make about another 6 drinks depending on how big a glass you use and how much ice you use!  

Eat Well!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"The Man on the Moon is Dead"

Photo by: Hannah L.F. August 1, 2012

 "The man on the moon is dead."
So proclaimed Doug Philips in his heartfelt and inspirational blog posting almost two weeks ago when famed astronaut and national hero Neil Armstrong passed away.

I have always been in love with the stars, the heavens, space. I truly is the 'final fronteer'. I hope I live to see it explored, and even colonized. It would be a truly remarkable feat! If I'm not too old I'd love to take a ride on one of those future commercialized flights around the Blue Marble. I would be awesome!
I don't know as much about Mr. Armstrong as I would like to but I do know what an amazing impact he had on a generation, or two, of Americans- and of people around the world. I know his impact on me. Today it seems that impact and that legacy has been forgotten- or more likely- never taught to the current generations. Following the news of Armstrong's passing is has been reported that a rash of posts on Twitter asked the question- "Who is Neil Armstrong?" -a question that boggles my mind!

Another thing I heard reported was a positive story, a story about a letter that Neil Armstrong wrote a number of years ago to a couple of siblings. The letter is great and full of history and promise- and really- a passing of the torch to a younger generation. The full text can be read here but I would like to quote a bit of it here in tribute to an amazing man.

May he rest in peace.
May we learn to guard our most precious possessions.
And may we someday reach for the stars once again.

"When I was your age, I read about fantastic voyages to the moon in books by H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, but they were just fantasy. I never could have guessed that people would fly into space during my lifetime. Even as a young adult, I would not have believed it. And you will not be able to predict the opportunities that you will have in your lifetime. Preparing yourself so you can take advantage of the changes you cannot predict is difficult. It is probably best to learn about a lot of different things.

In my work, I depended on many people. In spaceflight, whether it be a fellow crewman or flight controller in Mission Control on Earth, I was often trusting that person with my life. When you depend on others you want to be able to trust them. You will want to know that they say what they mean, and they mean what they say. And they will want to feel the same way about you. Your word should be beyond question.

There is much uncertainty to life. Good health may be taken away from you without warning. Material possessions may be lost due to circumstances beyond your control. The one thing that cannot be taken from you without your consent, is your character, which includes your beliefs, your ethics, and your principles. So guard them with care. They are your most valuable possessions.

The 21st century has much promise. Remarkable things may be created and achieved. And each of you will have the opportunity to play a role in achieving and creating a better world. I know you will try. Good luck!! I wish I had your future.

Neil A. Armstrong" 

Photo by: Hannah L. F.
Taken August 24, 2012 the night before Armstrong died.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Convention Roundup: Part One, The GOP

This is a bit later then I thought I'd be posting this but I want to get it in before the end of the week so here I am! Instead of blathering about how great the speakers at the GOP convention were last week I thought I'd let you see it for yourself and take a look at a few of my favorite speeches from the week!

This is Mia Love who is running for congress from Utah.

And here is the companion piece to it that ran before she came on stage:

 After Mia's speech at the convention her Wiki page was vandalized by leftists who painted her with an ugly bigoted brush as she is a Conservative Black Woman.

Next is Condoleezza Rice who is communicates a wonderful vision of America and what it means to be American:

One of my personally favorite people and politicians is Rick Santorum who gave his usual strong message on how family effects everything else:

Then came our VP nominee Paul Ryan who had a good solid speech on what has happened the last four years and what we need to do in the next four years:

Lastly, was the Senator from Florida Marco Rubio who I think had the best speech of the night and of the week! It was the first time that I'd heard him speak outside of an interview and I was as impressed with him as everyone said I should be! He is so strong and so in tune with what Conservatism is and what an America guided by Conservatism looks like that he speaks directly to the heart and soul of Americans. Be as impressed as I was.


Final Thoughts

While quite a number of the people who came to the podium and addressed the delegates were just plain terrible and in some cases utterly out of touch I actually came away from the convention as a whole- hopeful.
I am hopeful because I sat there watching and realized just how much has changed in the last four years. I don't mean the things that Obama has "fundamentally transformed" but the people who have been fundamentally changed because of him. What Obama has done is bad- evil even- what hes has inspired others to do in reaction to him is good.
Four years ago we saw the McCain/Palin ticket defeated and sat back thinking 'Well, there you go, that's it. It's over and I can't possibly think of who will possibly stand for us in the next election.'
Wait, you didn't? Humph. Well I did.
My point though is this- Though many things disappointed me with the convention I walked away hopeful because I realized in these past four years we have been- and are being- revitalized, reformed and restored and those 'coming up the ranks' aren't waiting quietly in the wings to grow cold and old and fall in line with the party but are being vibrant and setting aflame the detritus of old bones which will allow for the resurrection of a new man.
In four more years I expect to sit down and watch a Republican Convention that is filled with the brightest, most passionate Conservative ideologues that will we have seen in a generation and will espouse a genuine Constitutional Conservatism that will as Ronald Reagan said show 'We have met our rendezvous with destiny'...and 'have done all we could do.' 

It's great going to be a great 2016!

So keep fighting, keep hopeful, and meet me there.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Meme: Question Six

I'm really glad that this question is one of the final ones of this meme because it's taken me all this time to puzzle over and think over and figure out the answer!

Question #6

"If you could invite five people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be and why?"

  1. Patrick Henry- Founding Father, exceptional Christian, wise and gentle man, all around amazing statesman. I think he would be a great cornerstone to any dinner party! He would be a total gentleman in manners and conversation but he would also be a great person to talk to about politics- past and present- and I think he would have much to say on the state of things in 2012! I would also like to have him as a first person witness and story teller about life in the late 1700's- an era I really enjoy!
  2. Jane Austen- Sharp-witted female writer of the late 1700's whose six published novels inspire devotion in many who see the foibles and virtues of her characters reflected in their own lives today. Jane is one of my all time favorite writers so I would love to have her to dinner! She would be an interesting counterpart to Henry as they come from the same era (an ocean apart)- but are both fiery people and I think no matter her being a woman they would get into a heated conversation provoking some interesting responses and interactions! I think Jane would be greatly surprised (but pleased as punch) to learn that her books have survived and that her writings of plain everyday life and family are as true today as they were then! 
  3. John Calvin- Pastor, author, Christian apologist and linchpin of the Reformation; his clear articulation of Scriptural principals in the study notes for The Geneva Bible were the foundation for the Pilgrims and then the Founders establishing a new country based on the Bible. I would want to invite Calvin because I could pick his brain on how Scripture and faith integrated into one's everyday life and politics. I think he and Henry would have a great conversation together but I don't know how he would like the 'combustable' women at the table!
  4. Julia Child- American cook and foodie who 'Mastered the Art of French Cooking' teaching and inspiring (probably) millions of people to experience food and cooking in a new way; also, was a spy during WWII. One of my favorite quotes from Julia says:“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.” It's such a true thing! Julia and I would have a great time discussing the food and I'm sure that she would point out ways to make things better and would just love the Pavlova, or chocolate cake, or custard that I would serve for dessert! 
  5. Stephen Bly- American writer of historical and contemporary westerns, and Christian living books; pastor, small town mayor, guy I would have liked to meet. I started reading Bly books when I was young and never looked back! Mr. Bly had an exceptional style when it came to writing his characters- I really do think they spoke to him because dialog in his books was never forced and stilted but reflected the characters as true people- and he had an uncanny ability to write female characters accurately! He would be a great addition to the dinner party because he could talk writing with Austen, politics/government with Henry, Scripture with Calvin, and a little bit of cooking too with Julia and me! He had humor and heart and wisdom- and that is never something to turn down at any dinner table!

So, who would you invite for dinner?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Foodie Friday: A Treatise on Foodology

I'm going to begin this post by stating right up front that this is likely to be one of the most controversial posts I've written.

The subject that I'm going to tackle here is hotly contested and disputed bringing out the fangs and knives and pitchforks of its most ardent advocates on all sides. I am not here to poke fingers in anybodies eye...well, mostly... and I am not here to make apologies for what I'm going to say- but I would like to make a few disclaimers.
~I don't know it all when it comes to this topic- in fact I'm sure that there are things that I still have to learn- but I am well trained and well read on it and it's surrounding issues and I'm going to talk about what I do know when I know it and I'm going to take Gramma Fisher's advice and 'take things with a grain of salt' that seem just too good to be true.
~I'm not here to plant my own flag on the highest hill and defend it with my life but I will defend what I believe. You are welcome to disagree and to tell me so but you are not welcome to flame for my opinions.
~My goal in writing this post is to vent some frustrations that have been building up over silliness and ignorance that I have been seeing recently in peoples opinions on 'X' culture. I hope that in laying out some of my own thoughts and beliefs I can try in my small way to bring some common sense to a very confused table.

I want to talk

(Don't throw tomatoes!)

The world of food today is a confusing one. If people cryo-frozen 50 years ago were to awaken in America today and foray out to have their first meal in the 21st century I imagine that after a brief time they would think returning to their pod and to a suspended state of animation might just look more appealing than trying to decrypt our food culture and find a decent meal! Everywhere you look there is a new warning, a new diet, a new way of doing or not doing, and a new food once banned from polite society becoming a beloved staple once again. In addition to that, it's just not good enough anymore to love good food and love cooking it well, creating something beautiful for people you love! Scratching just beyond the surface of the food world we find sects of foodies that are worse than high school cliques, they demand absolute fealty to their superior rule and make those on the outside wonder what exactly it is that they are missing. It's no wonder that people are confused and it's no wonder that some, like me, have had enough.

I don't know why food shouldn't be simple.
God Himself in the very beginning of the world lays out a few simple rules for Adam to follow when it comes to food. Eat this, don't eat that. Simple.
Yah, I know how that one turned out too.
The thing is I don't think we as humans do simple very well. We always figure it's got to be more something than it really is. When I look at Genesis I appreciate that God looks at everything He has made and says 'it is good'- and more than just that He says "It is very good" (Genesis 1:31). God created a pretty awesome world and in that world He created some pretty awesome food! Now, I know the garden was as close to perfect that ever was and that after the fall things weren't perfect anymore- but you can't tell me that what God had created and continues to allow to be propagated, though imperfect, isn't still very good.

That single thought is simple and that is where I begin when I begin to consider food today.

Now I know God continues to develop His commands on food as the story of His people progresses and I know that some things were for a specific time and purpose but I refuse to believe that Scripture is ever insufficient for our every need- even when that need is food. By starting in Scripture on food (as in everything else) I know I have a good foundation to build on.

I have a heritage of food within my family. My very blood is steeped in the culinary tradition but it is amazing to see the differing legacies of the two family lines.
My Great Grandad laboured over what I'm sure were the best pastries, breads and baked goods in Scotland. He passed down that love to his youngest daughter, my Gran. Gran, I'm quite sure has never strove for anything less then perfection in her kitchen! Growing up in my Gran's kitchen was just like the song says: "Ye can aye rely on Grannies, for somethin’ gid tae eat"! And my mothers kitchen was always turning out wonderful treats and special goodies too! Mom has always been the one to recreate dishes she learned working in the restaurants of her collage years and the one to embrace the ethnic cooking of her childhood neighbourhood.  It was at my mother's hand in the kitchen that pizza was made- something unheard of in Gran's meat and potatoes repertoire- and something well appreciated and loved by myself and each one of my siblings today!
I guess with food on my mom's side of the family I've always thought of it as a way of communicating love and a way of binding people together in a lovely sort of community.
Conversely, the other side of the family has held on to secrets and surprises! It was only well after I graduated from culinary school that any of us knew that Gramma's mother ran a restaurant back in the depression era! It's one of those things that I would have loved to know more about and one of those things where you wonder how she did it. It wasn't easy for families to put food on the table then- but how hard must it have been for someone whose job it was to provide food to others? I wonder how involved my Gramma was in her mother's business and as I look back now I think I understand better why Gramma so proudly hung a copy of my diploma- in a prominent, see-every-day place... I think maybe she was thinking of her mother. My Gramma was an all-American career woman who began working during World War II while Grampa was gone and never stopped afterwards. Her kitchen legacy is one of necessity and not one of pleasure- she would have much rather been watching a baseball game! There are few dishes that I ever ate from her kitchen, when we visited Gramma pizza was usually the food of choice...but when she did cook, her vegetable soup was unforgettable to us as kids who rarely ever ate cabbage and lima beans! I really don't know what Gramma ever taught her boys to cook- knowing my dad's limited dish selection I think what they learned from her or on their own was more survival cooking than anything else! I think most of what my dad ever learned about cooking was in the swift pace work of a short-order cook!
I guess food on my dad's side was about necessity and convenience. About knowing something once and not thinking it important enough to pass down...except that I'll always remember it was dad who taught me to make a mean plate of eggs!

So why am I telling you all this? Well, I guess it's to illustrate that food, and our perspectives about it, the legacies, or lack there of, left by previous generations effect us. They shape from our earliest months and years patterns for life.
Naturally then, comes the desire to shape those patterns carefully.

I have several philosophies on food. Some of them stem from my culinary training, some of them stem from my heritage, some stem from a desire to leave a new heritage. All of them are simple. Here they are for your consideration:

Eat what is fresh and in season. This is the chef's number one rule. Its reason is based on the elementary thought that food bought in the season it is ripe is food that is at it's peak nutrient value and flavor potential. It is food that is going to be enjoyable to the eater and thus more likely to be eaten. It is food that is going to be most beneficial to the body when eaten. And because of this it is one of the easiest and most beneficial food rules that you will ever follow! So do this: next time you are going shopping take time to look at the ads or peruse the market shelves for the produce and meats that are current and fresh and take that home with you- even if you don't know what you're going to do with it! It will force you out of ruts and it will teach you new recipes- and trust me- it will be delicious and fun!

Eat in moderation. This can be a difficult one to execute in practice but it is one that is very necessary. You can't live on a steady diet of Twinkies, and, I would argue, you can't live on a diet of salad either.
When I was at culinary school we hosted/catered a health conference. It was a terrible week that never ended. The school administration got on such a health kick that from there out it mandated dark green salads be available for breakfast, lunch and dinner and encouraged everyone to eat them (have you ever smelled Asian sesame dressing at 6 AM? Yuck!). It didn't stop there either: next came the almost complete removal of even the leanest turkey 'pork' products; the liberal use in the kitchen of Braggs Liquid Amenos (gag!); the removal of the honey bottles from the dining tables; and- woe be you who were caught looking in the direction of a sweetened beverage (do you know that all that sugar knocks out your immune system!)!
This was not moderation. This was insanity.
Julia Child once said: "Everything in moderation, including moderation." She was right. In my book both salads and Twinkies are good things but in eating them, as in eating anything, we need to remember that there is a time and a place. Salads are not for breakfast. Twinkies should not be eaten by the box in one sitting. And moderation is only as good as the discipline of the person practicing it. What I'm talking about here is balance. Be thoughtful about your food, but be flexible with your food. Rigidity in diet will only get you funny looks...

Eat what you love, love what you must eat. This point really goes hand in hand with my previous one. In my book there is no point in eating food that you hate. -I'm not saying here that you should binge on junk food- and I really hate that I have to even say that for clarification, but that's what everyone's mind goes to and assumes when it's said.  What I am saying is that good food should be enjoyed. I think of Julia Child when I say this, and I think of her description of her first meal on her first day in Paris. It was truly a foodies dream- but Julia at this point was far from a foodie- she had never experienced food this way before and it opened totally new doors to her. She and her husband found a little tucked away restaurant and ordered lunch. On learning it was their first day the Chef outdid himself. Oysters, Sole Meuniere, a piquant green salad and a cheese platter. If this scene played out today it might never have been experienced! Today people would have worried about the sustainability of the fish, the amount of butter, and the fat in the vinaigrette and the cheese.....  This is no way to live your life, you will miss out on the best the culinary world- and your own hands- have to offer. Eat the foods that you enjoy! Remember there is nothing that says that the lighter things can't be equally as loved as the rich ones and that there is nothing wrong with an occasional rich meal either!

Respect the food. This is the number two rule in the Chef's world. Food, from field to plate, deserves our respect- for three reasons- it is a gift from God, it is the work of another man's hand, and it is the source of your nourishment. When you work with food you may never stop to think about what labour went into getting that food to your countertop but it truly is the fruit of another man's day's, week's, month's and worries. Honor what it represents. Do something great with it and don't waste food, don't abuse food, and don't be careless with food.

Simple cooking showcases the food. This point again is sister to the one above it. When you come to the place where you respect what is represented by what God has presented you with then you are naturally going to want to communicate that to others. This revelation should not be the first step down the road of cooking an elaborate four course meal every night. The best way to show off the food is with simplicity and you do that by knowing and using culinary method. Don't worry- this really isn't as complicated or daunting as it seems! Begin simple, pick up a great cookbook at the library like "Martha Stewart's Cooking School", "How to Boil Water" by the Food Network or anything by Alton Brown and learn what your food is doing, what you're doing to it and how to get the most out of it! By learning the basics of culinary principle you are more likely to eat good food because of that knowledge and less likely to reheat a frozen box of lasagna. And remember, that in learning serious things about cooking, don't take it too seriously- if whatever you make turns out awfully there is always another chance to make it better just waiting around the corner!

There is a difference between healthy and healthful. Over the years these two words have been confused, interchanged and become synonymous but the fact remains- they are two different words and two different meanings. Healthy is a state of one's being, a state few of us will ever embody! Healthful is a word which means promoting a state of good health. That tomato you just picked off that vine is not healthy, you just removed it from it's source of life- it is now dead! That same tomato however, now has the potential to be healthful because its nutrients are now available for consumption and digestion in your body. ....Grammar aside, what I'm getting at is this: is whatever "healthy" thing you're doing really healthful? Do not pay for a label, appearances or an image; spend your money instead on substance.

Get off the bandwagon. At one time or another graham crackers, Grape-nuts, granola, yogurt, sprouts, juicing, vegetarianism,  Brewers yeast/malt, grapefruit, whole grains, apple cider vinegar, soybeans, gelatin, macrobiotic, probiotic, flax, tofu, cabbage, raw food, chia- yes, I do mean *that* chia, free-range/cage-free, natural, organic...and many, many more....have all been touted at the best food science had to offer.
Seemingly, food culture revolutionaries have applied the modern "Just do it" motto to food leaving a twisted, convoluted reality in its place. If you miss this weeks food fad just wait a week for the next one to come along! It's depressing, its draining, and it's insanity. So I'm begging you can we all just let the food fad bandwagon pass us by? Can we all agree that we need to examine what's being fed to us? Some of the things on this list are good things, they are sound and they have stood the test of time but others aren't- others are bad science, bad practice, new-age theology based, and some just plain frivolous. When the next 'must do' thing comes along allow it to pass you by and and when it comes around again, when it has some miles, battle scars, and has gone the distance and proven itself then by all means jump on!
...But until then, God gave us meat and it's delicious, chia belongs on tera cotta not my smoothie, free range is a delusion to make people feel better and only means that the animal has a cubical of 'range' available to it, and organic is a weakly defined, unstandardized, government regulated waste of money. Period. (Yah, I said it!)

Your food is not going to kill you. Neither is your cookware or your plastic wear! This, this is one of my pet peeves! It's the one that make me want to throttle some people and pound some sense into their media overloaded brains! It's one that brings me back to one of my original statements in this post, one that ultimately drives me back to Scripture. When people start chucking non-stick pans, refusing to use food preserving plastics and eating a fear driven unrealistic diet I cannot understand it I can only sit and ask myself a simple question: "What for"? The answer usually comes back 'because its good for you- and those things are going to kill you'.

This statement burns my biscuits.

Are you kidding me? Oh foolish man! Do you think by worrying you can add one inch to your height or minute to your life?!! Scripture says it is not so! (Matt. 6:27; Ps. 39:4) Do you think that being afraid of the tools and foodstuffs of the world you live in you can add one day, one minute to your life? No, you cannot. Your days are numbered and counted by the Lord Himself! It doesn't matter if you eat vegan or organic or farm-raised, it doesn't matter if it's cooked in Teflon or ceramic or if it's stored in non-BPA containers or not- what matters is that we have been blessed with food to eat. Don't you dare sit there and turn up your nose at my non-organic dish when people around the world go hungry- when your Christian brothers and sisters are starving under the isolation and persecution of despots and dictators! Don't you dare. Don't you dare tell me that your food and your cookware is killing you when others die for lack of nourishment!    

I have a few simple philosophies on food that I follow and frankly, that I would love others to follow as well, but as absolute power corrupts absolutely I'll be happy to rule in my little corner of the world...

In my world food is simple. In my world whole grains are good; as are yogurt and granola, eggs and red meat and butter, and gardening and canning/preserving (just like I suspect my great Grandmother did in the Depression). In my world sugar is a delightful treat with wonderful possibilities! In my world a family that cooks together is knit together.

In my world I've had enough of food fadisim and the do's and do not's of government regulatory boards. I've had enough of  government's- or anyone's- intrusion into the way I feed my family and reach out in caring for my friends. I will not live in slavery to it. I will not twist myself into knots trying to do *the* thing that will be right or enough.  What I am going to do is what I have always done- love food and love cooking it!

In my world food isn't worth dying over, but it sure is worth living over.

Maybe someday, that philosophy will be enough for everyone else too....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just a mild slacker...

Hello everyone! Just wanted to let y'all know that I am still alive! I know I have slacked off here out of the blue and not been keeping up with my regularly scheduled postings but the last few weeks I have been forced to participate in real life! ;) I hope to be back this week though and I am working on a real corker of an article for Foodie Friday (just to whet your appetite!), and I am almost finished with my Monday Meme questions and I'm going to have to think up something else fun to do soon! Anyone have any ideas? Maybe an open question post?
Also, the Republican Convention is this week and I know I'll be glued to it so I will likely be posting some thoughts on the speakers/speeches and on the new platform too!

So ya, not dead, working, I'll be back....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Meme: Question Five

Things hsve been busy this week so we're keeping things simple this week for the meme! Here they are, in no particular order...

Question # 5

What are Your Top Ten Period Movies?

  • North and South BBC 2004 Richard Armitage & Daniela Denbe-Ashe
  • Pride and Prejudice BBC 1995 Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle
  • Persuasion BBC 1995 Amanda Root & Ciaran Hinds
  • Little Dorrit BBC 2008 Claire Foy & Matthew Macfadyen
  • Wives and Daughters BBC 1999 Justine Waddell & lots of others
  • Miss Potter 2006 Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor
  • Amazing Grace 2006 Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch & lots of others  
  • Jane Eyre BBC 2006 Ruth Wilson & Toby Stephens
  • The Young Victoria 2009 Emily Blunt & Rupert Friend
  • Becoming Jane 2007 Anne Hathaway & James McAvoy
  • Monday, August 6, 2012

    I would click 500 times...

    Coming by to make replies to comments tonight and noticed that I am about to hit 500 pageviews for the blog! Woohoo! Of course I just had to make a note of this and say you guys are awesome! Thanks for reading my posts! I do wonder though with so many reading why more of you haven't decided to 'follow' me? I mean, you obiously are following me so why not make the leap and follow me publicly? I promise I don't bite...much! ;)

    Anyway, whether you are following me or following me I just wanted to say thanks!

    ...And who knows, when I hit 1000 I might do something really cool for ya'll!

    Monday Meme: Question Four

    Question #4

    "Describe Your Dream Home"

    This is a great question and I had a lot of fun this week pulling together images to illustrate a mental picture that is perhaps a bit too fully developed...but we'll just say that I'm a girl that knows her mind (and say nothing about my age ;) )!

    Before you ever see my home you would be welcomed with a driveway lined with redbud trees. These trees are some of my favorite and I love the spring when the breakout in a riot of tiny purple blooms!

    When you did see my dream home it would be a Craftsman.
    Like this:

    Or this:

    I love the details and and craftsmanship (no pun intended) in this style of home. I love the woodwork and the built in's and fireplaces and the open well-lit interior. It speaks both of tradition and comfort while it can be easily fit and adapted to modern color pallets and furnishings.

    Some of my favorite features of this kind of house are pocket doors and window seats! There will never be a dull moment in a home where one can conference behind closed doors (or conversely spy on said conversations!) or a quiet, well-lit spot to study and to explore foreign lands from the comfort of home!

    One of the most important places in a home for me would be the kitchen. (Big surprise there! lol!) Although I vacillate on what my ideal kitchen color is the style is not hard to decide- I love the farmhouse kitchen look!

    And wouldn't it be nice to have a nice corner tucked away in the back with lots of light for growing herbs and things in the winter?!

    Speaking of growing things the yard of the house is just as important as the rest of the home and needs to be equipped with lots of raised beds for cultivating herbs, vegetables and fruits. ...Perhaps something like this:

    The final touch to a backyard is an old nostalgic favorite of mine a glider swing! This allows people to sit face to face while they talk without getting too much rock and sway into it like a porch swing would... (which always makes me 'seasick'!)

    So there she dream house!

    Would you like to come on over for a cuppa?

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Foodie Friday: Parmesan Penne

    This week's recipe is a quick and easy two pot pasta dish that is suitable for everynight dinners or the bit more special occasion!
    It uses a combo of my mom's easy Alfredo sauce and my love of all shapes pasta. (Even though I have used penne here you could use bowties or medium shells or any type of pasta that would hold sauce.) Though based on a really a tried and true classic Italian pasta it has just a bit of French influences in the flavor profile through the addition of peas and just a bit of a special and secret ingredient- nutmeg!

    Parmesan Penne

    1# penne pasta

    1 T. olive oil
    1# chicken breast, diced
    1/2 c. butter
    3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
    1 clove garlic, crushed and pealed
    1c. cream
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    4-5 grates of fresh nutmeg (approx. 1/4 tsp.)
    3/4 c. frozen peas

    In a large pot or pasta pot bring a gallon of water to a boil. Salt the water well (about 1-1 1/2 T. salt for every gallon of water) as this is the only opportunity you have to season the pasta.

    In a large skillet heat the olive oil briefly over high. Add the chicken, turning and browning until all pieces are cooked through.  Lower the heat to medium and add the butter, in chunks and the crushed garlic and slowly saute for about five minutes allowing the garlic to infuse and the butter to melt into the chicken.

    Add the cream, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg and peas. Stir everything together and simmer on low heat. At this point drop the pasta and cook it until al dente.
    When the pasta is done return it to the pot and carefully add the skillet of sauce over the top. Stir to combine and then cover the pot and allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes so the pasta soaks in the sauce.

    Serve with a green salad and crusty bread with butter. (Mmm!)

    Eat Well!   

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Foodie Friday: Rhubarb Crumb Cake Bars

    Here we are a week later and I do indeed have another interesting recipe to share!
    If your garden is anything like mine it's looking a bit over run with an abundance of rhubarb! Going out to the garden and picking some this afternoon I plucked away several dead and rotting bits that have perished in the extreme heat of the last few weeks and began puling fresh stems and trimming them as I went.

    I guess I tugged a bit too much on this one because the whole cluster came away!

    The recipe I picked to try this week is a recipe I originally found from Martha Stewart  but it looked like it needed a bit tweaking and there's nothing I love better than a good recipe mystery! The original is here and my rewritten version is below!

    Rhubarb Crumb Cake Bars

    6 T. butter, melted
    1 c. AP flour
    1/2 c. light brown sugar
    1/4 tsp. salt

    1# rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
    1 T. light brown sugar
    1/4 AP flour

    3/4 c. AP flour
    1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt

    1/2 butter, room temperature
    1 c. powdered sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan and set it aside.

    Make the streusel by mixing the melted butter, flour, salt and brown sugar together with a fork until it is thoroughly blended. Set it aside for later.

    Next, mix the rhubarb together with the 1T. of brown sugar and the 1/4 c. flour until all the pieces are coated in flour.

    Tip: Coating fruit with flour before putting it into a cake or muffin batter does two things: it helps keep it suspended in the batter as it bakes so the fruit doesn't fall to the bottom of the batter and it helps to keep juicier fruit from bleeding all through the batter.

    In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set it aside for later.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer combine the butter and powdered sugar and beat until it becomes light in color and texture. Add the eggs, one at a time and vanilla and beat thoroughly. (In the first picture you will see the eggs may look a little funny- that is because when baking almost always the eggs and vanilla get added at the same point in the recipe so I just mix them together for expediencies sake!)  Add the prepared flour mixture and mix in.

    Spread the batter in the prepared pan, this will take some patience as it will look like there is not enough batter but if you start with dollops in the corners and work to the center it should spread evenly. 

    Sprinkle the batter with the prepared rhubarb.

    Sprinkle the rhubarb with the prepared streusel. 

    Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out just about clean. 

    Allow the cake to cool and cut it into squares. Cutting the pan 4 x 5 gives you 20 2 inch squares. 

    Eat Well!