Monday, November 18, 2013

Baked Applesauce

Trying something new - Baked Applesauce!

We have an abundance of apples this year. Due to late spring frosts, our trees had not produced in two years, so they were primed and ready when conditions were right. We have picked hundreds and hundreds of apples. I don't have enough friends to give away all the apples that we have. I am down to three five gallon buckets of this season's crop. I have made a ton of applesauce on the stovetop, but was experiencing some pretty serious hand cramping from all that peeling!

While I was waiting for my son to get his haircut the other day there was a little blurb in a magazine that said you could bake whole, unpeeled, uncored apples in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour. After that hour, let them cool and the peel will come off and the core will slide right out. 

My sore hands were delighted at this possibility, so I tried it. 

First I washed several dozen simalarly sized fresh garden apples and placed them on baking sheets with a deep edge. Mine were a little bruised here and there, so I took some time to cut out the bad spots. I squeezed a few little apples into the gaps in the pan. After that was accomplished, I baked them at 350 degrees for one hour. 

When they came out they looked like this:

Not very attractive, but expected. Upon cooling they actually shrunk down a little. 

Now for the highlight! Sliding off the peel and pulling out the core! Woo Hoo! No messy work! 

Well, unfortunately, that is not how it went. Yes, the peel pretty much came off, but with good apple still attached. No, the core did not just pull out of the apple with the peel. I had to smoosh (for lack of a better word!) the baked apple off the stiffer center with a knife. An oopy, goopy time consuming mess. 

This was the pile off the first pan of apples:

 I peeled them into the pan I cooked them in to save all the juices that baked out during the cooking process. When I had both pans of whole apples out of their peels and off the cores, I dumped the apple mush and juices into a container and smashed out any lumpy spots with a potato masher. 

This is the final product: 

The two pans created about 14 cups of applesauce. I did not add sugar, but did add cinammon. I found the end result to be a little bit stringier than stovetop applesauce. 

My final thoughts on this process? The way I have always done it is actually easier than baking the apples. If I could find my apple peeling/coring aparatus it would certainly make my life much easier than peeling by hand, but hand peeling is no more work than it was to clean the apple meat out of the baked apples. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thoughts on Mother's Day

I have a confession to make. I have never really liked Mother's Day. Much like Valentine's Day there is just so much pressure to have the perfect gift. If you don't buy X then you aren't worthy of love. It seems a little harsh to me.

What also bothers me is what people tend to forget.

They forget the women who long to be mothers. The ones whose arms ache at the mere sight of a baby. Perhaps they cannot conceive or have tried several times and lost their wee babies before they could ever take a breath.

They forget the mothers who are separated from their children, either by choice or by life circumstances. The mothers who long to see their children one more time, but can't this side of heaven.

They forget about all of those whose mothers are gone. We will all experience the loss of a parent eventually, but what if it feels like  her death was before her time and your heart really hurts?

I am not saying we shouldn't celebrate mothers. There is no harder job on this planet than motherhood. We try hard, we fail frequently and we live every day hoping we aren't totally screwing up the next generation. Talk about pressure!

What I am asking is for you to be tenderhearted and aware of those around you who may feel a little prickly on this day we celebrate motherhood. Spend an extra moment of prayer for God to breathe a measure of healing into every heart that hurts today.

In His Peace

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Life is Hard - but Go LIVE it!

Life is hard. 

I said those exact words to a young woman yesterday, weeping over the loss of a friend. It is true. No one ever promised it would be easy. Jesus even warned us in John 16:33 "... In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

This past week has been hard. Hard on our nation with the horrible events in Boston and in West, Texas. We cannot fathom that a human being would intentionally damage another. Unfortunately, such behavior is becoming more prevalent, not less. 

Oh, Jesus, how we need you!

This week has been hard on our friends and family at home as well. Last Thursday amid all the national chaos, we experienced a local tragedy. It did not make the news, but it broke the hearts of hundreds of teenagers and adults regardless. A young man, just 19 years old, died in his sleep on Thursday. Went to sleep, didn't wake up... at nineteen. It is unimaginable. 

His name was Tony. He was loved by so many. Deeply involved in theater, band, choir and show choir in our school and in the community. I can't think of a single person who did not like him. He had an amazing smile and a great bear hug. I am thankful that I knew him, even though my heart hurts and my eyes are red. 

I weep for his future - all the things that might have been. I weep for all the teenagers that I love who are in pain. They are experiencing a loss like none other. For many of them this is their first encounter with death. To have it be a peer is so unexpected and jarring. I know many of them feel shattered and raw right now. I long to take each of them in my arms and hug them until my arms ache. Trust me, I have been hugging my children very close this week. I weep for his Mother, who is enduring the unimaginable while still trying to parent her younger children. It is hard to understand that life doesn't stop because you are in emotional agony. This big blue planet keeps turning, the sun keeps rising and we keep on keeping on. 

Life IS hard. I hope through your pain, my friends, that you realize what a gift your life is and go out and live it to the fullest. I don't mean all that YOLO garbage that is an excuse to party hard and live like there is no tomorrow and no consequences to your horrible behavior. I mean to go out and LIVE. Make it matter, leave the world a better place. Leave behind a legacy of love, kindness and laughter. Don't waste time on things that don't matter because life is fleeting.  The sudden loss of one so young proved to us that there are no guarantees for tomorrow. Make today matter. 

I promise you this, as I promised the young woman last night,  - the pain you are feeling will ease. It will get better. Not today, not tomorrow, probably not even next week, but it will. Hang in there. Take it one day at a time, one minute at a time if you have to.

You have been given the gift of another day -- go live it. 

In His Peace - 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stop the Madness!

As I saw the first news tidbit pop up on my Twitter feed I felt sick to my stomach. My first hope was that this was an accident, a fluke event that was not intentionally perpetrated by one human being against another. I thought the same thing when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. No one would do that on purpose, I thought. I was wrong then, as I am wrong now. I am just as sick about it today as I was that fateful September day. How much more twisted will society become?

It almost seems unbearable. Why do we harbor such hatred toward one another? Why is violence and destruction the go-to answer for so many? Why do we let hatred beget hatred? Why can't we all just get along? How do we stop this madness?

The questions are far more numerous than the answers. I know many of us have these questions swirling in our minds. I have taken the chicken way out - I have left my television off. I don't want the images in my head. I don't want to hear the stories of the loved ones lost or the extremist theories. Don't get me wrong, it isn't that I don't care, because I do. I have been praying for those involved, the victims, the families, the first responders - all those directly impacted by this horrific event.

I feel like I need to be shuttered a little bit to the news onslaught. I can't be the only human that feels that way. There are days when it is just too much to take. The up-to-the-minute news feeds, the in your face reporting, the need to get to the most gut wrenching or most hideous details of the story to get viewers to tune in disgusts and distresses me. We have become so hardened by the graphic nature of the news, movies and video games that we almost forget that these are real people. People that left home yesterday morning fully expecting to return to it last night.

What can we do about it? It feels like not much, but we can change how we behave and perhaps it will have a ripple effect to others. We can refrain from spouting half truths and rumors. We can stop regurgitating messages of hate and distrust. We can choose to LOVE and live a life that radiates that love into the darkest corners.

The following verses come to mind this morning:

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. 

(Proverbs 10:12 NIV)

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
(John 13:35 NIV)

In His Peace - 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Feelin' Like Spring!

We are experiencing those first few delightful days of spring. Those days where the sun feels so incredibly good as it hits your face, the sky is blue and the birds are singing. Yesterday it was 54 degrees, which felt so wonderful. I was able to get outside and get some early spring yard chores done, and really enjoyed being outside. 

This morning I was thinking about how much I enjoyed being outside yesterday and was chuckling about how in the fall, a day hovering around 50 degrees may be one where I would say, "Nah, too cold outside, I will wait for another day". It is amazing to me how we adapt to our environments that way. What feels hideously cold in the early parts of winter, isn't so bad by the end of the season. 

I suppose this is why you will see Midwestern kids on vacation in California in shorts while the Californians are wearing parkas! It all depends on what you are use to, I suppose! 

I hope you can get outside and enjoy these first nice days, get started on that spring clean-up or merely enjoy a few moments outside without freezing to death! 

In His Peace - 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eating out of the Garbage

About a year and a half ago we spotted what seemed akin to a walking cat carcass on our property. This poor animal was so skinny you could see all the bones on his back. He had huge dull eyes, a limp and a broken tail. I believe our visitor was days from death and had arrived here to search the garbage in a last ditch effort to find food.

We started putting out cat food, which quickly disappeared. We would see the cat here and there, but he would run in terror any time he saw a human. I wondered how he even managed to muster the energy to run away. Days and weeks passed and the cat food continued to disappear, although we rarely saw the cat we knew he had been here.

One day I saw a black cat walking through our yard, I couldn't believe it was the same animal. He was filled out and his eyes were shiny and his coat was glossy. He was obviously fully restored physically, but still fearful. When we would see him we would talk gently to him, but he was so afraid he would keep a huge distance between us. But eventually he stopped running away in stark terror and is now just kept a cautious distance.

Kitty has his own insulated house outside and a heated water dish for winter. He is waiting outside on the porch railing for me almost every morning. It makes me happy to see him there and I worry about him on the days he is not. One day this last week I saw him on the far edge of our property just coming in for the morning. I called, "Kitty, kitty, kitty!", and he came running up to the house for his breakfast. You would have though I won the lottery I was so excited I thought I would burst.

We have come a long way in the last year and half. But he still doesn't trust us enough to let us touch him. Kitty likes about a 3 foot bubble and anything closer than that he is moving away. But he will snuggle himself down in the grass and close his eyes when I talk to him. You know what else? He still eats out of the garbage and only sleeps in his house when it is really cold. He has everything he needs here, yet refuses to take full advantage of all that is offered to him.

Aren't we like that? Jesus offers us everything we could ever want yet we stay just outside of his reach and continue to eat out of the garbage rather than enjoy the feast he has prepared. He stands  and calls to us every day. We can run into his arms or bolt the other direction. How his heart must beat out of his chest with joy when we choose to run to him.
Which way did you run this morning?

In His Peace -

  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23 5-6)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day of Darkness

Today I can't stop thinking about how the disciples must have felt on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Put yourselves in their sandals with me for a few minutes.

It had been quite a week. Their Lord had ridden into the holy city on a lowly donkey in a triumphant parade of waving palm branches and revelers. He then spent the week teaching them lesson after lesson, pouring out upon them everything he felt he needed them to know with a passion and urgency they didn't quite understand.

The Passover arrives and Jesus, their teacher, humbly washes their feet and then tells them that his body will be broken and his blood will be shed for them. Still reeling from that statement, Jesus claims that one of them will betray him. Who will it be? Everyone wonders how that could even be possible.

Jesus spends the evening after the Passover meal in the Garden of Gethsemane with James, Peter and John. His friends are concerned because Jesus is deeply troubled and spends considerable time in prayer. They desire to help, but are overcome with sleepiness. The Lord awakens them just as their associate Judas arrives with a large group of men armed with clubs and swords to arrest Jesus. Their shock and fear scatters them in all directions like dandelion seeds in the wind.

Although the majority of the disciples heard the rest of the story second or third hand, they all knew what had transpired that Friday. Their Lord, their friend, had been falsely accused, tried, beaten and crucified. The savior of Israel had died a criminals death on the cross. Why?

Today is the Sabbath. They are gathered together, huddled in fear and confusion.  They cannot throw themselves into their work to distract them from the turmoil in their minds. The only thing they can do is to ponder the time they spent with Jesus and what the future might bring.

Can you imagine some of the thoughts that went through their heads? Some of the whispered conversations? Will we suffer the same death? How could we be so wrong? We though Jesus was going to release us from the Romans. We are in no better position than we were three years ago. He said he was preparing a place for us. He said he had overcome the world. Now he is dead. They probably pulled at their hair and wrung their hands in their confusion and frustration. What do we do now?

Can you imagine how they physically felt? Those of us that have suffered the unexpected loss of a loved one know. They probably felt physically ill, that tight feeling in the chest, the queasy, uneasy rolling of the stomach, the constant weepy feeling in your eyes. The ever undulating moods from fear to anger to sorrow; the desire to sleep until you feel better coupled with the inability to sleep.

This was a dark day. Almost darker than the Friday before, because they had the time to think rather than just react. We know something that they didn't. We know that after this dark day, joy is coming. We just have to ride out the darkness to be enveloped in the brightest, warmest light there is. Jesus.

We will all experience dark days of fear, sadness and despair. When you are in a time of darkness, remember this Saturday that the disciples spent huddled in fear and confusion. They didn't know that joy was coming in the morning, but you do! Hang on, your joy will come.

In His Peace -