Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Amy's Roast Chicken

Close your eyes.

Now picture the most beautiful, succulent, juicy, perfectly browned roast chicken you've ever seen.

Got it? Great. Now hold onto that image because you'll need it later on in this post.

Let's talk turkey chicken. I'm going to give it to you straight . . . I'm not much of a chicken fan. But this chicken. Oh my goodness, I think this chicken has pretty much solidified my friendship with Amy forever.

This is the chicken she brought us when we arrived home, jetlagged, from Switzerland two years ago. And the chicken she made for me when I was sick (I think. I can't remember 100% because I was in a fog for about 2 months after that). It's the chicken Amy makes THE. BEST. homemade chicken noodle soup with, too.

So yesterday I was able to pay it forward, so to speak--or maybe it's pay it backward, I don't know--and take a roast chicken to another friend who just had surgery. I love doing that kind of thing.

And while I was at it, I made one for us, too, because, you know, three people can eat a whole roast chicken in approximately 2 1/2 weeks so we should be able to finish it around Thanksgiving. (I say three because even though four people technically live in this house, five on breaks, these days it's usually only about three of us who end up eating together on any given night.)

You, my friends, are the beneficiaries of all this chicken-sharing. Aren't you happy? And to my friends who are newly married or have little kids running around, I would highly . . . HIGHLY . . . recommend putting this one in your repertoire of recipes. (What? You have no repertoire of recipes? Well you must get one and lickity split. Put this on the top of your list because it's so, SO easy.)

So here we go. It's Fab Food Friday and we're roasting a chicken.

Here's what you need--only five ingredients. Chicken (duh!), olive oil, garlic, thyme, and a lemon.

Wash and pat dry Mr. Chicken. Make sure you get the inside too. Then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Inside too!

Take the lemon and zest it . . . . Zest it good. (Sorry, just a slight diversion back to the '80s.)

Then there's thyme. Oh yeah, I've got thyme. Lots and lots of thyme. (But for this recipe you really only need a couple of teaspoons.)

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, the thyme leaves, and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic. Amy's original recipe calls for four cloves of garlic, but two is plenty. Trust me. Two.

Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix it all together.

Spread that all over the top and sides of the chicken, rubbing it all over the surface of the chicken.

Take the lemon that you've already zested and cut it into quarters. Stick the lemon pieces and a couple of sprigs of thyme inside the cavity of the chicken.

Place the chicken in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes longer until the internal temperature is 180 degrees.

When your chicken is done it will be crispy on the outside, juicy in the middle. Mmmmmm.

Remember that mental image you had earlier in this post of a delicious, succulent, juicy roasted chicken? Well, bring that image back to mind now because I forgot to take a picture of the final product. Can you believe that? Oh, sure you can. Just imagine how beautiful it looked because it did. And it tasted even better.

Amy's Roast Chicken

3 Tablespoons minced fresh thyme or 3 teaspoons dried thyme
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 5-6 pound roasting chicken
1 lemon, quartered

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Rinse chicken, pat dry. Place chicken in roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub the garlic/oil mixture over the surface of the chicken. Place lemon in cavity of chicken.

Roast chicken for 20 minutes at 450. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and continue roasting until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of inner thigh registers 180 degrees, about 1 hour 15 minutes (or you could us my method--when the little plastic thingy pops up). Let rest a few minutes before transferring to a serving platter.

Have a great weekend, everybody. Now get cooking!

Let's Take a Tour

This is my creative place. The place where I do most of my writing and thinking and preparing.

I have this little basket next to my chair that usually holds my current projects, books I'm reading, etc., but this morning it started to overflow. As in Mount Vesuvius. So I decided to tackle the mess.

And I made an even bigger mess.

Why, oh why do I ever start organizing? It only leads to anxiety and blog posts when I should be doing other things, like getting ready for a women's retreat I'm speaking at in two weeks. Argh!

Anyway, I thought maybe you'd like a tour of this mess. Because touring other people's messes is always such a thrill, but it just might make you feel somewhat O.K. about your own messes. Or maybe I'm doing this for me because by writing my way through it I might actually be able to figure out what to do with it all.

So really, you're helping me out. Thank you.

So here goes. A little insight into my very messy work habits.

First you see my computer in the foreground. On top of it is a church bulletin from last May with some notes I wanted to save. If I take notes in church (which is probably about half the time) I type them into a file I have titled, creatively, "Sermon Notes." And then I throw away the bulletin. But usually there are about 10 church bulletins floating around various locations in my house, from the top of my desk to my catch-all basket or even shoved into my Bible. All from at least 6 months ago.

Help me!

To the right of my computer sits my Bible with my glasses on top. Can't really do much without either of those.

And to the right of my Bible--all those file folders?--are projects I'm currently working on or old project files that need to be, well, filed. A women's retreat. Two Christmas teas. A retreat I did way back in March.

I'm hopeless.

Behind those files, further to the right, is a pile of garbage. Walking it there now . . . .

I'm back.

Now let's look to the left of the chair. These are all things I just don't have a clue what to do with.

The yellow binder pile is some old literature notes from college. College! That was more than 25 years ago, folks! Not that the binder has been sitting there for 25 years--I'm sure I was using it for something within the past year. What do you think? Time to take it back to the box in the basement?

The pile behind the yellow binder and to the left is a stack of books I'm currently using for research or reading for pleasure. I'm one of those people who can't read more than one book at a time, so the stack is pretty small. It's the only pile that should go back in the basket.

And then there's this.

Twelve books, not all mine, that have been lying around my room collecting dust for who knows how long. Some are borrowed. Some were given to me at various events. Some are actually mine. But do you have any idea how long it would take me to actually read all of these books? Pretty much forever.

I'm not a very fast reader.

Besides, without naming names, (*cough, cough* Joyce Meyer *cough, cough*), I'm just not that into you.

It's time to give these books back to their rightful owners, to put them back on my bookshelf, or to just chuck them into a box in the basement. If they haven't been read already (a few have!) they just are not going to be read any time soon.

Besides, a quick glance next to my bed would reveal a stack of four more books that I need to read.

Ah, me. I'm a mess. But I'm working on it, and today is a good start.

How about you? Are you a mess too? (Please tell me you are.) What areas of your house need to be tackled today?


Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ten Things about a Junior High Retreat

Call me crazy, but I love junior high kids.

I know, right?! Crazy.

Oh, I love other kinds of kids, too—those of the high school and college-aged-young-adult variety—but there’s something just so, well, funny about junior high kids.

All that angst. All that energy. All that hair.

So, you’d think I would have laughed my weekend away this past weekend. And I pretty much did. Those junior highers totally cracked me up.

Oh, I didn’t mention my weekend plans? Don’t be jealous, but I went on a retreat. With 80 junior high kids.

It was a party, my friends. A Party in the U.S.A. if there ever was one.

Top Ten Things About a Junior High Retreat

1. Earth ball Soccer. Hysterical! Bodies flying. Cheers erupting. And one leader-who-shall-remain-nameless with a black eye. The game is brutal, folks. Brutal, I’m telling you!

2. Shaving Cream Wars. Picture 90 people on a field, each with a can of shaving cream. And they just go for it. In the end the field looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon threw up everywhere, but at least the camp smelled clean.

3. Rope Bridge. A perennial favorite. And what could be better than rope burns, leeches, and a swamp?

4. Canoeing. For the more mellow among us who want to build up our upper bodies by rowing against the wind for four miles. Just a walk in the park. Or a row down the river.

5. Get-to-know-you games. Quick! Line up and put yourselves into alphabetical order by your mother’s maiden name! Now line up in order of your favorite teacher’s birthdate! And now get into alphabetical order by your pet’s name! Quick!

6. Pranking. Pretty much my favorite part of retreats. Just ask the girls in my group. I was all about the pranking, oh yeah. All about it. I think my favorite prank was the one where I got in my sleeping bag and pretended to go to sleep. The prank was that I wasn’t pretending, but don’t tell the girls.

7. Wet socks. These all-important camp accessories are not only comfortable, but they also make your room smell great. Especially when twelve girls all have wet socks—your room smells so sweet.

8. Ooga Booga. This is a game that one of our youth pastors made up about 15 years ago. It’s a rite of passage for the 7th graders new to the youth group and is truly one of the highlights of the weekend. I’d explain the game to you, but it’s a huge secret, so if I told you, I’d have to kill you.

9. Watching girls flirt with boys and boys flirt with girls. And they thought we wouldn’t notice. Bwahahaha.

10. Underground church. A super-cool game we always play that’s not only fun, but educational too. Because we all know junior high kids are looking for that educational piece in their games. But the best part? It’s played outside. In the dark. (See number 9.) Kids running away from the secret police as they try to smuggle Bibles to the persecuted church.

Just your regular Saturday night in the suburbs.

So there. A few glimpses into our weekend at camp.

Oh yeah. And there was a speaker too. Trust me, he was good. He taught about the Prodigal Son story. The kids liked him so much that they t.p.-ed his car. Like, completely. Not a single bit of the car could be seen.

Not that I’d notice a prank or anything.

All-in-all it was a good weekend. Tiring, of course, because I’m old, but good. And one of the best parts was that the kids got to see God in action this weekend. Big time. It was supposed to rain all weekend. No kidding. We were all talking about it on Friday before we left, wondering how we’d get to play Underground Church if it rained. But, aside from a few sprinkles on Saturday morning, not a drop of rain fell from the sky.

Until, that is, the drive home.

He’s good, you guys. All the time. Even in the small things.

He’s good.

I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday at Oh, Amanda! Head on over there for some more great top ten lists.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Still Learning - Part 2

Hi! I'm so glad you stopped by. If you're here for Fabulous Friday Food, you'll have to come back next week. I have been busy--really busy--this week and haven't been cooking much, so I got nothin'. But I hope you'll come back next Friday for some really Fabulous Food.

When I last left you we were in the middle of a story. Two identical keys, on the same ring, were missing, and my daughter was learning some important lessons.

And so was I . . . .

* * * * *

Throughout the week we texted back and forth, and she told me she was going to walk over to Public Safety with a friend to see if they could help get the U-lock off of her bike.

Good idea, I texted her back.

She also said she had stopped at the front desk of her dorm to see if anyone had found the keys. No luck there.

Oh, that’s too bad. I’ll keep praying.

At one point she said to me, “Mom, do you have any idea how much a locksmith costs? Like, 80 dollars!!”

Uh huh.

Life’s rough. And let me tell you something, sweetie, being a mom whose hands are tied is rough too. Restraint isn’t exactly my strong suit.

Finally, about three days later at around 9:30 P.M. my phone rang. “MOM!!! I FOUND MY KEYS!!!! I ACTUALLY HAVE THEM RIGHT HERE IN MY HANDS!!!”

We jumped and shouted together on the phone, rejoicing that the incident, which had caused me almost as much internal turmoil as it did her, had come to the very best conclusion.

“Kate, that’s great! I’m so happy for you! Where did you find them?”

Turns out, she decided to ask one more time at the front desk in her dorm lobby. The girl working the desk was no help whatsoever, but it a guy who was standing nearby overheard Kate asking about some lost keys, looked down on the counter, and said, “Are these your keys?” all nonchalant like.

There they were, just sitting innocently on the counter. Who knows how long they had been there? I guess long enough for Kate to sum up the financial implications of a locksmith and buying a new lock. Long enough for her to come up with a plan and to ask someone on campus for some help. Long enough for God to teach her whatever lesson He wanted her to learn and for her to spend some time praying through her situation.

And in the meantime, those keys remained lost long enough for God to teach me a thing or two as well.

How easy would it have been for me to just say, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry this has happened. Let me call a locksmith for you and I’ll come meet you at work and we’ll see if we can get that bike unlocked for you”? And surely it would have been easier for me to write the check to a locksmith than for her to do it.

But in the meantime, she wouldn’t have come up with the great idea of going to Public Safety. Or checking at the front desk. Or finding out just how much this mess was going to cost her.

And in the meantime we both had the opportunity to pray and to wait for God to work it out. I’m so glad He worked it out this way rather than the most painful, expensive way, but even if He had chosen that path, it would have been worth it, too.

Because she did it. Kate had gotten herself into that mess and she had the unique privilege of getting herself out of it. It was her problem, and even though I was there to support her in it, she got the satisfaction of handling it.

I’m so proud of her, but I’m also just a little bit proud of me because I didn’t handle it. Me, the fixer-upper. Me, the handler. Me, the mom who wants to kiss it and make it better.

I didn’t handle it. And it was the right thing to do.

After almost 19 years of mothering this child, I’m still learning.

Now it's your turn. What parenting lessons have you been learning lately? What is the hardest part of parenting to you?


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still Learning - Part 1

The call came in last week: “Mom. I did something really stupid.”

How does one respond to this? I sat. I waited for the story I was sure to come.

“So I was running late for work the other day so I rode my bike, but I was wearing a skirt so I didn’t want to ride my bike home from work. I figured I’d just get it the next day when I was there.”

Yeah? Where’s the stupid part, aside for riding your bike to work with a skirt on?

“Well, when I got back to the dorm I don’t know what I did, but the keys to the bike lock fell out of my purse and I can’t find them anywhere.”

Immediately I pictured the bike lock that her dad bought before she left for college—a huge, heavy-duty U-shaped lock that only opens with a key. The packaging bragged that no bolt cutter could cut through this lock. No, sirree.

“Oh, Kate. How did this happen?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” the panic starting to rise in her voice. She’s probably picturing the U-shaped lock, too. “We played Capture the Flag when I got back. I set down my bag somewhere. The keys probably fell out on the grass.”

Yes, she had looked everywhere. Yes, she had torn her room apart. Yes, she had asked people if they had seen the keys. Nothing.

And, no, she had not separated the keys—two identical keys were still linked together on the small ring.

Don’t even get me started.

“Let me call Dad,” I offered, knowing already what he would say. But I felt like I needed to do something, and that was all I could offer at that point. “I’ll call you back.”

I made the call and got the response I knew I would get.

“Don’t help her out. Whatever you do, do NOT call anyone for her. If she were out East, we wouldn’t be able to help her, so just pretend she’s away at college, not just right down the street.” After 25 years, I knew this was what he would say, but I needed him to be the fall-guy, not me.

I called Kate back.

“Kate, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re going to probably have to call a locksmith to come and pick the lock for you. And then you’re going to have to buy a new bike lock.”

“How much is that going to cost?!” The panic rising in her voice even more.

“I don’t know. You’ll have to call to get an estimate.”

That little incident was one of the hardest parenting issues I’ve faced in a long time. It seems so simple in theory—make your child do the hard things . . . face the consequences of their actions . . . yadda yadda yadda. I KNOW all this in my head, but putting it into practice is so very hard.

I didn’t offer to Google locksmiths (even though I had already done it). I didn’t offer to pay for anything. I just remained firm that she would have to figure this one out, and I made sure she knew that I was sorry, so very sorry, for the hardship she was experiencing. And I was. More than she would ever know.

So tell me, has your child ever gotten into a jam? What did you do? Anything? Nothing?

I’ll let you know tomorrow how this all worked out.


Monday, October 18, 2010

It is Well. So Very Well.

Every Wednesday night at 7, I grab my Bible and my 7th grader and head over to church for a couple of hours. I hang out in a too-small room with about 85 sweaty, smelly junior high kids.

We play games.

We talk about the Bible.

We pray.

And we sing. Always there is singing.

I have the privilege of hanging out with a small group of girls each week. Maggie is one of them. A few of the girls who were in a Bible study at my house last year are in the group as well, along with a handful of girls I knew-but-didn’t-really-know-before.

It’s great to be with these girls each week.

Two girls in our group are very special to me, to all of us. K and A are middle school girls with special needs. At a time when everyone is trying to be the same, these girls are different, and we love them—they add so much to our group.

You know what I love best about them? They are still uninhibited. Every other junior high girl in that room is self-conscious. You can see it the minute you walk in the room--their arms crossed in front of them as their eyes scan quickly to see who’s talking to whom and who’s wearing what.

But not K and A. They are best friends, and the minute they see one another they run into each other’s arms, greeting each other with a huge hug. And then they start to communicate in their own unique way.

K talks . . . . and talks . . . . and talks.

A likes to dance. So when she sees her friend she jumps up and down and claps her hands wildly.

See? Uninhibited. I love it.

Last week in the junior high group we did all the things we usually do. We played a raucous game of Shuffle Your Buns—in the dark with flashing disco lights. We talked about the Bible. We shared prayer requests.

And we sang one of my favorite hymns: “It Is Well With My Soul.” Can you believe it? Eighty-five self-conscious junior high kids singing that wonderful old hymn together.

That’s amazing in itself.

K and A were sitting just behind me, and I could just see them out of the corner of my eye. During this song something caught my attention, so I turned around to see what was going on.

There was A, dancing to “It Is Well,” clapping her hands and jumping up and down like she was in a mosh pit. And why not, really? The song is totally mosh pit worthy.

K, likewise, was doing the thing she loves—singing at the top of her lungs. Belting it out because she knows every word.

Imagine . . . a room full of self-conscious teenagers, worried to death about being found out as someone who might actually like singing or playing games or (*gasp!*) church.

And here are these two girls who just. don’t. care. About what anyone thinks.

They only want to sing and dance because they love Jesus. And they don’t care who knows it.

When peace like a river attendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul.
It is well. It is well.
With my soul.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Good Reads

It's the weekend and time to take a few minutes to catch up on some good posts. These will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. All will make you think.

This one is from a while back, but it still makes me chuckle. If you don't read Boo Mama, you should. She's just plain funny.

I love this idea of a reverse bucket list. Rather than dreaming of someday, why not keep a list of all the cool things you've already done? You might find you're already living a pretty fulfilling life.

This one is serious. Real serious. Last month, Ann Voskamp, a writer I adore, travelled with the Compassion bloggers group to Guatamala and asked the question, "Where in the world, in all this world, is God?" She found the answer in a surprising place.

And I'm putting this one out here for me. I needed this little kick in the behind, and if you're a writer you just might need it too.

Finally, here's one my husband put out there this week. I love how he took some marketing advice that he got in a random email at work and turned it into concepts that work for marriage. Isn't he great?!

Happy weekend, everybody!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Baked Brisket

This one is for Angie. Because she asked.

But you can make it too. In fact, I think you should make it too. It's so good--one of my all-time favorite meals. Of all time.

I've been making this recipe forever. Can't you tell? Just look at this recipe card.

But first we have to talk meat. Remember the old David Letterman thing they used to do, "Know Your Cuts of Meat"? Back in the day, B and I used to stay up late watching Letterman. Until he made fun of Sarah Palin just one too many times and even though I still haven't completely made up my mind about Sarah Palin, I just couldn't take Dave making fun of a woman like that. Just couldn't take it. And so, with a sigh, I turned off the T.V. one night and haven't watched him since.

Take that, Dave.

Anyway, today I'm recalling the old Letterman days because I have just a little meaty lesson for you. Cue the music, Paul.

This here is a brisket.

I know it looks a little weird in this packaging, but that's the way they usually come--at least from my butcher. The brisket is a big, kind of fatty, cut of meat that comes from the underside of a cow (sorry, Dad--I know I should probably say steer here). Brisket comes in a big piece--5 or 6 pounds--so it's not a cheap piece of meat, but believe me, it is worth every penny. There will be no waste with this recipe--you will want to eat every bite.

So now, open the package very carefully, preferably over a sink so the blood can drain out. The meat will look like this.

See the kind of big layer of fat on there? You'll want to cut that off or have your butcher trim it up for you. I did it myself, but I'm not showing you a picture of that because . . . eew.

Anyway, after you've trimmed your brisket a bit (go ahead and leave a little fat on it because, as we all know from watching Food Network, fat means flavor, right?), lay it in a close-fitting pan like this.

O.K., so you have your meat, trimmed of excess fat, and lying in a pan. Now what?

How 'bout some sauce? Oh yes, the sauce makes this sooooo delish. And it only takes a few ingredients.

Dijon mustard, brown sugar, lemon juice, ketchup, worcestershire, and salt. That's it. You've probably got all that hanging around. Mix it together so it looks like this.

Pour it over the meat.

Nothing to it, right? You still with me?

Pop it in a 300 degree oven (my girl Sandra Lee--notsomuch--always says "Pop it in the oven" and it drives me crazy. Crazy, I tell you!) and shut the door. For about 4 hours.

Just as an aside, don't you just love my retro Magnalite pan? It used to be my grandma's, but I snagged it when she moved one time. I absolutely love this pan and wouldn't trade it for the world.

After about 4 hours, this is what you'll have. Take the lid off the pan and give it another half hour, basting often. Just because.

Here is where you separate the men from the boys . . . or the meat from the juice.

Lay the meat on a tray with sides and let it cool for a bit. You'll want to skim the rest of the fat off the meat, but, of course, no picture of that because . . . eew.

Using a strainer to catch the rest of the gross stuff, pour the juices into a saucepan, and bring them to a boil.

Now make a slurry of cornstarch and warm water. No big deal. You can do this. Just mix 2 tablespoons of each in a small bowl and carefully pour some, but not all, of it into the juices. Don't pour it all at once or your sauce might get too thick. Use about half, stir the sauce for a minute, and see how it goes. If it's not thick enough, add some more of the cornstarch until you get the right consistency. You want it saucy, not pasty. Got it?

Now, back to the meat that is now de-fatted and resting on the pan. Slice it. It might just fall apart on you, like mine did today, but try your best to make slices. If you want (and this is probably a good idea if you have the time), put the piece of meat in the fridge for an hour or so before you slice it.

Anyway, slice away and place the meat into a pretty dish. Pour the sauce over the whole thing and try not to eat it all in one sitting. Or before your family comes home. Because (and I know this from experience), it's pretty hard to resist all that meaty, saucy, juicy goodness. Oh my.

Here's the great thing about this recipe--you can make it ahead. In fact, I made it this morning and we're not eating it until Sunday. But it's all done, sitting in my fridge just soaking up the yummy, yummy sauce. And on Sunday all I have to do is warm it up in the oven for a bit. Easy peasy.

So there. Brisket. Go make it and let me know what you think.

Baked Brisket

1 5-6 pound beef brisket, trimmed

1 T. Dijon mustard
1/3 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. fresh lemon juice
1/2 C. ketchup
3 T. worcestershire
1 t. salt

1. Lay meat in a close-fitting pan. Combine sauce ingredients and pour over trimmed meat. Cover. Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 4 hours, until tender. Uncover pan for the last 1/2 hour and baste meat often.

2. Remove meat to a carving board and skim off excess fat. Let meat cool for a bit before slicing.

3. Strain juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Blend 2 T. cornstarch with 2 T. warm water in a small bowl and stir gradually into juices to desired consistency. Pour over sliced meat and serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

Now it's your turn to share! Got a Fabulous Friday Food link? Add it here . . .

Now get cooking!


P.S. Did you notice that I did this as a special request? If you've got a recipe you'd like me to feature on Fab Friday Food, let me know. I just might give it a try!

Fabulous Friday Food is coming . . . later today. So go cook something, take pictures, and come back here to link up.

And go have a great day!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chi, Chi, Chi! Le, Le, Le!

Photo credit: Washington Post

I cannot stop watching.

Every time that capsule goes underground empty and comes back filled with one more miner, my heart jumps and my eyes fill with tears.

What can I say? I'm hormonal.

And emotional. Rightly so, I'd say. This whole miner rescue thing is really a miracle. And I do mean miracle. Who among us didn't entertain the thought 69 days ago that there was no way these guys were ever going to get out of there? Maybe I'm just showing my lack of faith again, but I sure thought about the possibility that they wouldn't ever see the light of day again.

But now, today, they are. Behind some pretty serious sunglasses so their eyes don't get damaged from the sudden shift from darkness to light, but they are definitely seeing the light of day.

They have dealt with cramped quarters, darkness, lack of food (although they were able to get some), missing their families, illness, and much more. And they have had to deal with each other.

I don't know about you, but I think I might get just a little bit tired of dealing with the same 33 people for 2 1/2 months straight. The complaining. The whining. The lack of personal hygiene. And that's just how I'd be acting if I were down there. They'd all hate me within about 24 hours. It's amazing my own family puts up with me.

This afternoon I turned on one of the news channels for a few minutes and heard something that made my ears perk up. The commentator was describing one of the men coming up out of the hole and he said, probably without thinking, "It's just like they are being born again." In more ways than one, Mr. Commentator. In more ways than one.

And just now, as I was writing this, the President of Chile was greeting the man who just came out of the hole and said, "Welcome back to life."

I look at the people hugging, kissing, patting each other on the back, clearly thrilled with this rebirth, and I hope and pray that these men truly do know the gift that they have been given. The rebirth with which they have been blessed.

I wonder. Do I? Do I rejoice in this way over the rebirth I've been given? Do I ever stop to think that at one time I was just like a miner trapped underground--a person facing death, without hope. And God reached down and gave me the gift of life. A gift I didn't deserve, but a gift for which I am so grateful.

Did you notice the shirts they were wearing when they came up out of the ground? The name of Jesus was written across their sleve, and a Bible verse written across their backs. It is Psalm 95:4: "In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountains belong to Him." Right there, for all the world to see.

God has been good. So good. To the miners, yes. But also to me.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Northside Park

We've been having Indian Summer around here. Normally, it should be around the mid-60s during the day, but last week and over the weekend we've had temperatures in the 80s. The 80s! That's practically unheard of at this time of year.

But I'll take it.

I mean, shorts in October? I'm all over it. I'm happy to let the world see my now-faded legs after six weeks (not that they were ever that tan in the first place), so if the weather is going to be warm, I'm going to wear shorts.

Thank you, Weather!

Last week, in addition to the beautiful weather, my favorite place to walk the Wonder Dog opened up again. For the past year this park near my house has been closed for renovations, but it's almost done (at least they say Phase 1 is almost done, whatever that means and whoever "they" are).

I've missed my park. Thunder has missed the park, too. It's our favorite place to walk.

So, the opening of the park makes me almost as happy as the weather. Seriously, when I walked into the park for the first time last week, this is what I saw.

Really? Couldn't you just look at that for a long, long time?

And so, in honor of Indian Summer, here are the Top 10 Things I Love About My Park.

(No, that's not a misprint. When I'm there it really does feel like "my" park.)

1. Big, old trees.

2. Blue skies.

3. Poop bags. Do I need to explain this one?

4. Brilliant colors.

5. Log Cabins--there are four of them, I think.

6. Ponds.

7. Thunder is happy here too.

8. Did I mention the trees?

9. Ducks!

10. The sledding hill. (Look closely--it's back there.) One of the only things around here that makes winter tolerable.

So now you know where I am on those gorgeous days when I just don't have time to post on my blog. I'm out enjoying my beautiful stomping grounds.

It's where I think. It's where I pray. It's where I get refreshed.

So tell me, where do you go to get refreshed, recharged, renewed? Do you like to walk outside or would you prefer a massage? Or is there something else that makes you happy?

I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesdays at Oh Amanda! today. Head over there for more fun Top Ten lists.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Good Reads

Happy weekend! In fact, happy loooong weekend. Seems like bankers and school children alike have a three-day weekend this weekend which means that the Wild Fam will all be together. Mostly.

We're taking the two-who-remain to an undisclosed location for part of the weekend. I'll tell you all about it next week because it should be fun.

But what say we play a little game? Can you figure out where we are if I give you just three little words?

Stovepipe. Civil. Penny.

There. You should be able to guess.

Now, just in case I haven't entertained you enough this week with great memories and good food, here are some of my favorite posts from this week (and maybe one or two from last).

Flowerpatch Farm Girl is my kind of gal. She's funny. She's spunky. And she's full of life. Plus, she loves her children more than anything. This post is a tribute to her sweetie called Ruby. Celebrate with her today.

A few weeks back I gave you instructions about how to set up a feed reader. My instructions took a lot of words. Jo-Lynne managed to explain it much more simply in this post.

Oh my goodness, I almost jumped up and down as I read this post by Don Miller this week because this is something that I SO resonate with, and it's something that B and I talk about. A lot.

And since I'll be headed out on a retreat in a couple of weeks, this post by Jon Acuff totally made me laugh. Because it is pretty much 100% true.

And this one? Just. Plain. Cool.

There you go. Happy reading! Happy weekend.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Steak and Ale Pie

We were starving. And wandering. And tired. And looking for a restaurant.

Just a terrible combination when you're in a foreign country.

Did I mention we were starving?

Finally, after getting really frustrated and desperate, Abby spotted a tiny little pie shop tucked underneath a staircase in Covent Garden. In England, pie doesn't necessarily refer to the lattice-topped, fruit-filled, ooey-gooey goodness that we enjoy here in the States.

Pies in England are often filled with meat.

I know. Gross, right?


Meat pies are yummy. Really, really yummy.

It may have been that Abby and I were just so hungry that night that anything would have tasted delicious, but truly, the steak and ale pie I had that night in Covent Garden was just about the best thing I had EVER tasted. Seriously. The meat was so tender; the crust was so flaky; the gravy was just so gravy-y. I was in meat-and-gravy heaven.

I wanted to go back the next night, and I wanted to go back this summer when B and I were in the UK, but it just didn't work out.

We had to eat fancy food this summer.

Battersea Pie Shoppe certainly did not qualify as fancy food. But I'm not that fancy myself, because I've been dreaming about that pie ever since April. Battersea Pie Shoppe, you have a piece of my heart.

Ever since we got home last spring I have been dying to make steak and ale pie. Dying, I tell you.

Well, last night I finally had a chance to make the English delicacy (is that an oxymoron?). I had the ingredients and looked up about 10 different recipes online--you should have seen the open windows on my computer! But I did what I usually do--I read the recipes and decided for myself how to make my very own variety of steak and ale pie. I'm picky that way. And then I laid hands on my cooktop and prayed that it would all work out.

I needed to be transported to Covent Garden.

So here goes. My first attempt at steak and ale pie. And I gotta say, it won't be my last. Since I don't have the gift of teleportation, I have a feeling I'll be making this one again and again whenever I miss my favorite place on earth. Which is pretty often.

First things first: assemble your ingredients. For this one you'll need stew meat, flour, salt and pepper, butter, onions, garlic, mushrooms, ale (of course!), beef broth, and puff pastry. Couldn't be more basic.

Cut the stew meat into bite size pieces and toss them with a couple tablespoons of flour.

Place the meat in a hot pan and about three tablespoons of olive oil. Brown the meat really well, and be sure not to crowd the pan. In fact, you might want to brown the meat in two batches just so you don't run into this problem.

Once the meat is browned, set it aside. Melt some butter in the same pan. This is so important because you do NOT want to lose the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Your flavor is in there!

Throw in a chopped onion and a little bit of minced garlic, letting the onions get soft and browned.

Once that's done, throw in some mushrooms. I used baby bellas, but you can use whatever you want.

Let those babys brown for a little bit, then throw in some ale (we just call it beer around here--we're not that fancy).

Let the ale get all bubbly while you scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. In fact, it needs to cook down just a bit, so let it simmer for a few minutes. You're combining flavors here and flavors cannot be rushed.

Finally, add 2 or 3 cups of beef broth and a sprig of fresh herbs (I used thyme, but rosemary would also be good). Return the beef to the pan, and put a lid on the whole thing. Let it simmer for an hour to an hour and a half.

As the beef simmers, the broth will thicken and turn much darker. Like this, see?

Place it in a baking dish and cover the whole thing with some puff pastry that you have thawed in your fridge for a few hours. (Make sure you use plenty of flour on your surface when you roll out the pastry. Just trust me on this one.)

Use an egg wash to create a seal between the pastry and the dish. Then brush the top of the pastry with egg wash.

Bake your pie in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

And serve this dish with mashed potatoes. Promise me you'll serve mashed potatoes. You NEED mashed potatoes with this one.

Steak and Ale Pie

1 ½ pounds beef stew meat
3 T. oil
salt and pepper
3 T. flour
½ stick butter
1 onion
1 clove garlic
About 1 1/2 Cups sliced mushrooms
1 bottle (12 oz) dark ale
3 C. beef broth
Thyme (or other fresh herb)
Puff Pastry

1. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Toss in flour.

2. Heat a dutch oven or large pan until the pan is nice and hot. Add oil. Add meat to hot oil in pan and brown well on all sides. Salt and pepper to taste. You may have to do this in two batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

3. Melt butter in bottom of pan and add onions and garlic. Cook for several minutes until onions are soft and carmelized. Add mushrooms; cook for 2 more minutes until the edges of the mushrooms just start to brown.

4. Add beer to onions and mushrooms and cook down for a few minutes. Add beef broth and bring to a boil. Add back the meat to the pot and add a sprig of thyme. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half on top of the stove until thickened and meat is tender.

5. Place mixture in a baking dish, and top with thawed puff pastry. Use an egg wash along the rim of the baking dish in order to help the puff pastry to stick. Brush egg wash over the top of the puff pastry. Poke top of pastry with a knife in order to let steam out of the pie.

6. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes until pastry is browned and flaky.


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