Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - From "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Italian Stew Beef with Cheese Grits


Italian Stew Beef with Cheese Grits and Collards
When I first started cooking in earnest, desiring to prepare tasty dishes, I studied recipes and watched cooking shows. I quickly learned that my mother's kitchen was severely lacking in a number of ingredients we'd never heard of, none-the-less used. Purchasing these ingredients was out of the question, some because of cost, but nearly all because we couldn't find them within 50 miles of our rural home, and we didn't have the internet back then to make everything available at the touch of a button. So quite a few interesting recipes were deep-sixed.

As my cooking skills increased, however, and my understanding of how various ingredients affect a dish grew, I learned to make substitutions for ingredients I didn't have. Experiments rendered successes and failures, and as I got better at it, the successes proved to be quite delicious!

Substituting ingredients certainly alters the outcome of a dish, but this is a significant step to take for anyone desiring to improve their culinary skills! Being able to make substitutions in a recipe is a leap away from being a cook, and a leap toward becoming a culinary creator!

And that brings us to today's recipe. Ree Drummond is The Pioneer Woman, and blogs about her life on an Oklahoma ranch. Now this woman knows how to cook! She prepares hearty, delicious meals for her family, and most of her recipes are her own, developed over years of standing behind a stove. Ree is so popular that she now has her own show on Food Network.

My recipe today, for Italian Stew Beef with Cheese Grits, is adapted from The Pioneer Woman's Spicy Stewed Beef with Creamy Cheddar Grits. Using what I had on hand, I recreated this recipe in a less spicy version since my dad can't handle spicy foods any more. Ree's recipe calls for Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, which I think was the thickener in her recipe. I substituted a simple cornstarch thickener in my recipe. Before I added the thickener, I used a wand mixer to break up the large diced tomatoes, but it also broke up some of the beef chunks. I thought this would create a thickened sauce, but it just made the beef mixture slightly soupy. So don't you do this! Also, my grits were not firm enough. I've made adjustments for my errors in the recipe below. Check out my recipe, and Ree's recipe, if you like, and see what you like and what you'd change about them. Cooking doesn't have to be a stressful chore. It can be a fun and creative pass-time!



Italian Stew Beef with Cheese Grits

Ingredients for Beef:

1 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
2 lbs Stew Beef
1 tsp minced Garlic
2 cups chopped Rainbow Bell Peppers
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 1/2 - 2 cups Beef or Chicken Broth


Cornstarch Thickener:
1 Tsp cornstarch with 1 Tsp water, mixed until fluid, not lumpy

Ingredients for Grits:

1 Tbsp Canola Oil
1/2 cup finely diced Onion
1 cup Nora Mill Stone Ground Grits
4 cups Beef or Chicken Broth
2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese


Preparation of Beef:

Heat 1 Tbsp Canola Oil and 1 Tbsp Butter in large pot over high heat. Drop in the stew meat and let it brown for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 tsp minced garlic, chopped rainbow bell peppers, diced tomatoes, Italian Seasoning, 1 tsp Salt, 1/2 tsp Pepper, and 1 can Beef or Chicken Broth. Stir all together, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 2 1/2 - 3 hours until beef is very tender. While the meat simmers, check the fluid level occasionally and add more broth as needed. Near the end of cooking, bring the mixture back to a boil, and add cornstarch thickener while stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low again. If the mixture is not thick enough, add additional cornstarch thickener.

Preparation of Grits:

About an hour before the beef is finished cooking, start the grits. Add 1 Tbsp Canola oil to a 3 quart pot. Add 1/2 cup finely diced Onion. Saute until onions are soft but not brown. Add 4 cups of Beef or Chicken Broth and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of Stone Ground Grits, and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-30 minutes. Add 1 cup Milk, and continue simmering. When the grits are done, remove from heat and add 2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese. The grits should be firm, not runny. If they aren't firm enough, add more grits and adjust cooking time.

Serve the beef over the grits. Add a side of collards if yo need a green.

Nora Mill Granary and Grist Mill in Helen, Georgia

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Finding Peace and Rest In Trust



It's Sunday, a day of worship, and a day of rest. I've done both today. Tomorrow there will be plenty of work to get me started and keep me going for another week. But today, I have been perfectly satisfied to spend time with my Lord, and time with my family.

As we studied in church this morning, the cares of the world can frequently overwhelm us. Day to day, we are bombarded with those uncomfortable issues that demand our time and attention: finances, relationship issues, job stresses, health problems, the current economy... and the list goes on. More than worried, many Americans are confused, terrified, and feeling alone as we struggle to get by, to simply survive from day to day. The concept of peace can be far from us.

As Christians, unless we set all these issues, these "cares of the world", aside and invite God in, we cannot know peace, and we cannot overcome the issues that are working to upset our lives. It is important for us to remember that Jesus told us to seek God first. God wants us to come to Him first, to receive the best first, because "our Father knows what things we need before we ask", and He is waiting to give it to us.

If we put away our thoughts and concerns, our worries and anxieties about "things," then there is room for God to come into our thoughts, and into our hearts. If our hearts are available, God, who provides for all living creatures who have no cares, can show us that He can and will provide for us, who are burdened with cares. When this message enters deep into our hearts, then we can release our cares to God, and we can begin to know peace.

I know this probably sounds simplistic but isn't the message of Christ a simple one? Trust and obey. Believe and receive. If we do what God asks us to do, then we enable Him to operate more fully in our lives, giving us all that we need, and more, so that we have enough to share with others, which is the goal after all.

Trust doesn't come overnight. Even in a relationship with God, the harsh experiences of our past can make it difficult for us to expose our hearts to the possibility of disappointment, hurt, and even betrayal. But as we study and learn more about God, and exercise faith, our confidence in Christ is that God is all about healing, not hurting, about meeting our every need, not denying or punishing us; and Christ, who was Himself betrayed, wants us to know that His love and His promises are real, and that God will never, never betray us. 

So then, if we can find it in ourselves to trust God completely, releasing our cares and concerns to Him, then He is faithful to honor His word to provide for us. In the confidence of trust we can find peace. In peace, we can find rest.

In rest, we can relax, and enjoy the company of our families and friends. We can enjoy those activities that help relieve stress, and encourage happiness, encourage peace.

Today, after church, and after a good meal with my husband and my father, I rested. Specifically, I got off of my computer and sat down on the couch. My new puppy, Samantha, a mini-dachshund, quickly joined me. Curled up in my arms, she rested peacefully. Samantha trusts me. When she climbs into my arms, she knows she is safe. She knows she can trust me to protect her, to feed her, to meet her every need. This trust is evidence of her love for me, and her love is evidence of her trust. The two go hand in hand.

Because of Samantha's love for me, and her trust in me, I will do my best to never let her down, to never give her reason to shy away from me or not trust me.

God, who is perfect, and flawless, and who has a perfect plan for each one of us, loves us so much more than we know. He desires only what is good for us. If we let Him, He will not only provide everything we need, He will show us all the other wonderful and incredible things He has ready and waiting for us to receive. He will reveal Himself to us at an intimate level, and share with us the deep secrets of His kingdom. It begins with us trusting Him with every care and concern we have.













Samantha, who makes me happy.
3 months old. Mini-dachshund.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dinnertime: Smoked Pork Butt with Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Another sunny day while the rain holds off. The pork butt was smoked a few months ago and frozen. Defrosted, I finished it off in the crock pot. The smokey flavor is still strong, and the slow cooking has allowed the meat to stay tender and juicy. We don't eat like this every day, but it sure is nice when we do!

Smoked Pork Butt
Red Beans and Rice
Homemade Mini Corn Muffins





Friday, January 27, 2012

Dinnertime: Cubed Steak w/Mashed Potatoes & Black Pepper Gravy

We're finally having a dry, sunny day here at 5~Acre Farm. Lot's of work getting done outside before more rain comes. So we're having a hearty (but healthy) meal before we get back to work.


Cubed Steak with Mashed Potatoes
Black Pepper Gravy
Buttered Corn and Veggies
Bread & Butter Pickles

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Blog, or Not to Blog


When I started this blog back in 2009, my plan was to focus on our gardening efforts, and the challenge our health and financial issues presented in the pursuit of our dream (at our late age) to be a self-sustaining farm. No matter what we try to plan for ourselves, however, life puts it's own two cents into it, and we sometimes find ourselves scrambling to keep up, or, in our case, scrambling to catch up.

For whatever reasons this blog went into hiatus in 2009, it stayed in hiatus because, at the time, I didn't think it was appropriate to write about the other things that were happening in my life; my marital problems, my mother's death, my declining health, and the debilitating effect all of this was having on the farm. I didn't think anybody would care.

Well, I may not have been blogging for a while, but I've been reading a lot of blogs in the last couple of years (political, religious, home, couponing, cooking, etc.), and I realize that often the focus of the blogs blurs as the bloggers' personal lives take twists and turns, and they incorporate those twists and turns into the body of their writing. My favorite blogs, it turns out, are written by people who aren't just sharing what they know, they're sharing who they are, and how things they can't control just keep happening.

These bloggers speak honestly about the quirks in their relationships, as well as the perks. They discuss the exciting and the mundane, their successes, and their failures. Some, like a food blogger who recently lost her husband, even boldly expose their raw, broken hearts in very poignant ways. These bloggers have been making me laugh and cry, and they made me start thinking that perhaps I could find a way to share more of the details of my own life without spilling blood, or scaring my readers away.

I spent several months rethinking this blog, wondering if I should continue it or start a new new one. I decided that this is the blog that has the chance to address all my issues in context with each other. So I picked up where I left off, but you'll probably find that my blog sounds a lot different now than it did in 2009. Well, maybe that would have happened anyway with time.

It's winter now, and there just isn't a lot to do or say about gardening (give me a couple more weeks). So I'm talking about the foods we eat here at 5 Acre Farm; simple foods most of the time, flexible in their preparation, filling, and (we think) tasty. Once in a while I'll throw in a story about a visit or an activity, or a health issue one of us is dealing with. Now and then I'll grumble about my husband, or confess my own erring ways (but mostly his), and I'll talk about God, because I (and we) can't do any of this without Him.

The thing to remember is that this blog is about 5 Acre Farm, the dream John and I share to make this place self-sustaining, and how we are meeting all the challenges head on. Health and financial issues, and now the devastating effects of this country's horrible economy, are fighting us tooth and nail. Once in a while they knock us down, but we keep getting back up. In this, John and I are akin to the early American homesteaders who claimed land and tried to build a life on it. We'll do it! Or we'll die trying!

Stick with me and I'll try to keep it interesting if not entertaining! You'll discover, as I continue to do, that 5 Acre Farm is a wonderful place to be, a journey of courage, commitment, and prosperity of the soul.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato & Potato Sandwich


Remember a couple of weeks ago when my sister was coming to visit? I decided to serve Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato Sandwiches because she and my dad love bacon so much. I didn't get the chance to post pictures, but we're having BLT's again today, and this time... I'VE GOT PICTURES!

The basic layout for this sandwich is, of course, bacon, lettuce, and tomato on white bread with mayonnaise. Toasting is optional.

To kick this sandwich up a notch (thank you for that concept, Emeril) you add a large, thin slice of onion at the bottom of the sandwich, underneath the bacon.

But here's something else to consider when building your BLT...

Add french fries!

Have you ever had a French Fry Sandwich? Just a pile of french fries on bread with mayonnaise, and the condiments of your choice. Yuuum!

Once or twice a year I crave a French Fry Sandwich. I think it's a Southern thing. If, by chance, I can't get my hands on french fries, I choose a corrupted version made with potato chips, but the crumbled chips are always falling out!

Well, about a week ago I was eating a French Fry Sandwich (We use curly fries, and I like mine just with mayonnaise.), and my husband asked me how it was. I said, "Great! But it would be better with bacon!" So I knew the next time we had BLTs I was going to add french fries!

So today I had a Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, & Potato Sandwich, and it was fantastic! But guess what. I was so excited about putting the bacon and potatoes together, I forgot to put onion on anybody's BLT, including mine!


Next time, if I remember the onion, I'll bet my Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, & Potato Sandwich will be over the Moon!


Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, & Potato Sandwich

Ingredients:

4 strips bacon (cooked to desired crispiness)
1 thick slice of a large tomato
shredded lettuce
1-2 thin slices of onion
mayonnaise
2 slices of white bread (toasting is optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Spread plenty of mayonnaise on two slices of bread.
Put french fries (regular or curly fries, or fried potatoes) on bottom slice of bread.
Add the onion.
Add the bacon.
Add the tomato.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the lettuce.
Add second slice of bread.

Serve with additional fries and/or several slices of bread and butter pickles.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chickens








A few of our chickens between rains.






Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!


Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year. This is the year of the Dragon, and to the Chinese, this will be a very important year!

Astrology is very important in the Chinese culture, and within their zodiac, the dragon (the only animal represented that is not real) is the most significant. The image of the dragon that we see in Chinese culture is a combination of several animals, including the tiger, the fish, the snake, and the eagle. This is why the dragon is considered superior to other animals, because it is a combination of them.

The dragon is revered, and holds special significance for the Chinese people. It is not a symbol of evil, or an image to be feared, like we in the west would think. On the contrary, the dragon is a symbol of power, superiority, wisdom, and rule.

In ancient China, the people lived in tribes. Each tribe was represented by an animal, and the characteristics of that animal represented the characteristics of the tribe and it's people. The two largest tribes combined, and they chose the dragon as their symbol. To this day the Han Chinese still refer to themselves as descendants of the Dragon.

Those born in The Year of the Dragon are considered special. They typically stand out in the crowd. They typically are not shy, almost demanding attention! This person is a do-er, an achiever who gets things done. This person can also have a temper, almost wrathful when angered. However, even as the Dragon has a soft underbelly, the person born in the year of the Dragon has a soft spot, and can be greatly compassionate to those in need.

As the dragon has a long, wagging tongue, so does the person born in this year have a tongue capable of reaching far with sharp, biting words and sarcasm, another reason not to make an enemy of the Dragon person! They are not afraid to be confrontational, and make great allies if you stay on their good side and reach their soft heart.

The person born in the year of the Dragon has the potential to excel in everything he or she puts his hand to. In work, in education, in every endeavor, the Dragon person's natural gifts and skills stand out, shine, and bring great results! The only thing that can stop them is their own temper!

If you are interested in learning more about the Chinese Zodiac, the year of the Dragon, or other Chinese cultural symbols or events, do some internet research. There are many resources to learn from!

Famous People Born in the Year of the Dragon

Joan of Arc
Susan B. Anthony
Florence Nightingale
Sigmund Freud
Mae West
John Lennon
Bruce Lee
Keanu Reeves
Orlando Bloom
Sandra Bullock
Al Pacino
Fats Domino
Jorge Drexler
Jose Canseco
Nicholas Cage
Reese Witherspoon
Salvador Dali
Shirley Temple
Ricardo Arjona

We had a small celebration here at home. Very simple. We brought in Chinese food. My dad always like Onion Beef and Rice, and John likes Happy Family. Although I try different things when we eat Chinese away from home, here, especially in cold weather, I like to keep it simple. I love Hot and Sour Soup and Egg Rolls.

In the early years of her marriage, my sister used to host an annual Chinese New Year celebration. Handmade Egg Rolls, Beef and Broccoli, Fried Rice, Pork Lo Mein, and Hot and Sour Soup among others. I've made her Hot and Sour Soup many times over the years. Although it can be made simply or elaborately, I always loved my sister's version of this delicious soup. So I want to share her recipe with you. If you try it, come back, leave me a note, and tell what you think. I'd love to know.

Hey, at the very least, don't forget to have a fortune cookie today!

Chantal's Hot and Sour Soup

INGREDIENTS:

-- 3 Cans Chicken Broth (6 sometimes 8)

-- 1 TBLSP Soy Sauce (2 sometimes more, if I use more broth)

-- 4 Dried Chinese Mushrooms, soaked for 15 minutes in boiling water, stems removed and caps cut into fine strips (eh, I just used a small can of sliced mushrooms, drained and rinsed.)

-- 1/2 cup Bamboo Shoots cut into 2-inch strips 1/4 inch wide (eh again. I used a whole small can of sliced bamboo shoots and cut them lengthwise into thin strips. Cut this way, they give a nice texture to the soup. You must drain and rinse them or they'll add an unwanted flavor to the soup.)

-- 1/4 LB Raw Lean Pork cut into narrow strips. (I used 3-4 pork chops. I sliced the pieces very thin but varied the length and thickness of a few pieces for texture.

-- 1 Cake of Firm Tofu, about 3x2, cut into 2-inch strips 1/4 inch wide. (Don't double this. Use exactly 1 cake, and use the kind of tofu that's packed in water -- the other kind is too dry. Once you get the cake in your hands, you'll see how to cut it. You don't have to follow the 2-inch 1/4 inch thing. Just keep it near the same size as the pork and shoots, and keep the slices thin. It will try to fall apart, that's okay. The different sizes will add to the texture and appearance of the soup.)

-- 1/4 tsp. White Pepper (double, then add more to taste. I prefer more, twice as much in fact. This is the HOT in Hot and Sour.)

-- 2 TBLSP Lemon Juice (double, then more to taste. I use a dollop or so more. This is the SOUR in Hot and Sour.)

-- 2 TBLSP Cornstarch mixed with 3 TBLSP Cold Water. (Double this and keep the cornstarch at hand in case the soup looks thin, then you can mix more cornstarch and water and add as much as you think you need. This is the thickener, but you don't want it too thick. Judge the thickness by what you've seen in Oriental Soups you've had in restaurants.)

-- 1 Egg, lightly beaten. (double)

-- 2 tsp. Oriental Sesame Oil -- or 1/4 tsp or more of hot chili oil, to taste. (double. I lucked up and found a bottle of Chili Sesame Oil, and it was perfect! If you can find a bottle, use it. Otherwise it's up to you whether you use one, the other, or both.)

-- Finely Chopped Scallions for garnish.

** I also add a small can of Water Chestnuts. I buy the sliced water chestnuts and slice them into strips. They add the most amazing texture to the already wonderfully textured soup. Don't forget to drain them, but DON'T RINSE THEM. flavor!

DIRECTIONS:

1 -- In a large saucepan combine the broth, soy sauce, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and pork (and the water chestnuts). Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the soup for about 3 minutes.

2 -- Add the bean curd, pepper and lemon juice. Bring the soup to a boil and add the cornstarch mixture (stir the mixture again just before adding). Cook the soup, stirring, until it thickens slightly, then pour in the egg verrrrry slowly, stirring the soup constantly.

** If after adding the cornstarch mixture and cooking a bit you think it needs to be thicker, add more mixture, but only add a little at a time, then cook and see how it thickens. Do this BEFORE you add the egg. My guess, Unless you use more than 6 cans of broth, you shouldn't need to add more thickener.

3 --Remove the soup from the heat, stir in the sesame oil or sprinkle with chili oil. Use the scallions to garnish individual bowls of soup.

Done!

Obviously preparation is the time consuming part of this recipe. It cooks very quickly, and I usually made it before I made anything else, and let it set on the stove on a low heat to keep warm. I LOVE this soup! Have fun with it!

Chantal

ps: You can reduce the sodium by using Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce and Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Time to Speak, and a Time to Refrain from Speaking


As I was leaving church this morning, my pastor surprised me by asking me to take the service next Sunday, to preach or teach, or go as the Spirit leads me. Without a single heart flutter, I calmly told him, "Okay, but the last time I was asked to speak in a church (5 years ago), I developed stomach flu and laryngitis and had to cancel. I'd say that was a clear message that I wasn't supposed to speak. So, we'll see what happens this week."


As a younger woman I would have leaped upon this opportunity like a hungry tiger. Back then, I had so much I wanted to share about God and the word, and all that He had and was teaching me. I was more than anxious to share everything I knew with anyone who would listen. The problem was, no one wanted to listen. That was difficult for me to deal with back then, but with unchecked enthusiasm I kept looking for anyone who would hear me.

I ministered in many ways to many people over the years. The situations were almost always spontaneous. I'd meet someone in my day-to-day activities, and I could sense they needed something, a word, an encouragement, a shot of hope, a jog of their faith, or even a few dollars. I'd listen to them, take it into my heart, and I'd respond from the word of God. I didn't "quote" scriptures to them. I'd share the word in a way I could tell they could receive. Yielding to the Holy Spirit, I'd tell them what I thought God wanted them to hear. Always, my goal was to help them put their eyes on God, so He could remind them what He is able to do.

I ministered in many ways to many people over the years, as I said, but, except for the one time I got laryngitis, I was never asked to speak in a church, to a ladies group, to a Bible study, or to any other gathering of God's people. So, am I unhappy about that? Was I ever angry at God for not providing an opportunity for his faithful servant to speak?

Though sometimes unhappy, and frequently dismayed, I was never angry at God. If you know who He is, and what He does, it becomes impossible to get angry at Him, because we know that God offers us every good thing. He isn't out to punish us, or trip us up, or make us earn His blessings. He simply offers and gives good things. He is faithful in His love to us. It's the choices we make that move us through the realms of good and uh-oh; and in both places, especially the uh-oh realms, He is with us, covering us with His grace to comfort and strengthen us, and bring us through whatever that uh-oh is. He is also educating us through those experiences, and if we look closely, we'll see that He is also giving us gifts we did not expect.

I completely believe, as the word says, that my steps are ordered by God. Now, that's if I'm keeping my eyes on Him! So, if my steps are ordered by God, then I will always be where He wants me to be; and I will always be doing (for the best part) those things He wants me to do. God didn't want me to speak to any groups all those years ago. He didn't want me to speak five years ago. But He did want me to speak to individuals, and minister to them whatever they needed while I was with them.

When we trust the Lord, when we keep our eyes on Him, he will take care of everything else, and he will complete His will for us.

Next Sunday, we'll see if it's time for me to talk.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another Rainy Day in Georgia



It has rained all day today! I've barely stepped foot outside, but when I looked through the window and saw the fog gathering in the last bit of daylight, I grabbed my camera and ran outside. My camera, a Polaroid i835, is good, but not great. That's why these pictures don't do the moment justice. But I hope these pictures will relay the evocative beauty I saw in the moment as I snapped them. Take a minute and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Date Day! Sherlock Holmes


In the past, John and I rarely had date nights. We'd talk about doing something together, but actually making plans often eluded us. We'd go out occasionally, but not with any regularity, and when we did go out, John was often preoccupied with thoughts of what was being left undone at the farm. This made him irritable, and that would ruin the date for me. I often came home unhappy, but he never knew it.

Obviously, this was one of the issues straining our marriage the last few years. Actually, it was the most important issue straining our marriage.

John is a wonderful, hard working man. He takes his responsibility to me very seriously, but his way to express his feelings for me is to work, produce, and provide. He couldn't quite understand what I meant when I talked about nurturing each other and the relationship. I was beating my head against a brick wall with that one.

John has always been work-focused. He will never say he is retired. His company is still on the books, though not fully active. He's still always looking for clients and jobs. He's a brilliant man, with great ideas, incredible things that no one else has thought of or can do. He still has dreams to accomplish much more. I absolutely love that about him! Here on the farm, John works all day and well past dark. There's a lot to do, and frankly, only he can do a lot of it, since we can't afford to hire someone. I can't get him to slow down. I can't get him to take it easy. And therein is the problem in our marriage. If he's always working, he's not setting aside time for me. And watching television from 9-11 p.m., doesn't count!

So, anyway, this year, we are attempting to change this. John is still working hard every day, but we have determined together to have a date day at least once a month. All that head-banging finally broke a tiny hole in that brick wall, and my beloved is starting to understand that it's important for a couple to spend time together, nurturing the relationship, as well as each other.

Starting this new year wit this new commitment to nurturing, today we went to see a movie. Our dates will probably always be a movie, and sometimes, the date will include dinner, but not today. Today we had popcorn and sodas, and watched Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It was a great sequel to the previous Holmes movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., who not only has become the iconic Holmes, but gets better and better with age! And Jude Law is a perfect match as Dr. Watson!

I have to say, seeing Sherlock Holmes portrayed as a type of action-figure is pretty weird, but Downey pulls it off quite well. If you like thrillers or action films, or Jude Law, or Robert Downey, Jr., I recommend this film. If you've seen it, tell me what you thought!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy 12th Birthday Ian!


In older posts I've talked about my husband's son, John IV, his wife, Deborah, and their children. Yesterday, there was a party to celebrate our oldest grandson's 12th birthday. I can't call him a boy anymore. He's now a young man, and we had a great time celebrating that fact! Family and friends gathered at the Alderfam home of John IV and Deborah for the epic event. Cake and ice cream, games and fun, and of course, presents! Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the party. Hope you enjoy them!





Ian decorated his own cake, and chose a Middle Earth them. He used a map from one of Tolkein's books to go by. The figures are characters from The Lord of the Rings







Youngest brother, Andrew










Younger brother Isaac.

John IV






Sister, Emily

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mmm, Mmm Good!


We're having one of those cold spells again. Temperatures had dropped into the 20s by sundown yesterday, and a strong wind made it feel a whole lot colder. Today, it's been somewhere in the 40s, and tonight, it's going back down into the 20s. It will be like this through the weekend. And I love it!

I love wintertime! I find the season stimulating. In the summertime, the heat can overtake us by mid-morning, and we retreat indoors to cool down in the air conditioning. For anything that needs to be done outside, we usually do "rock, paper, scissors" to see who'll go. Sometimes, we have a sudden death round of arm wrestling to clarify who's going out into the hot Georgia sun. In such extraordinary heat, already bloated from drinking gallons of ice water in an effort to cool down, we rarely eat more than salads and sandwiches.

But when it's too cold to do anything outside, I find indoor projects to keep me busy, and my favorite project is cooking. I love to be in the kitchen cooking when it's cold outside. On a really cold day, I usually pull out my biggest pot and make a big batch of soup. Turkey and Chicken Soup are old standards. I add diced potatoes, rice, or sometimes, pasta to the meat and vegetables, a can of diced tomatoes, a few dried herbs, and maybe a secret ingredient or two! I also go through the refrigerator to see what else I can add. My soup recipes rarely repeat because there's always something new to add. The last time I made chicken soup, I added some leftover lima beans and collards, and some smoked sausage.

Over the last year or so, I've been trying to add healthy grains to our diet. Barley is one of the healthiest grains you can cook with. Since Dad, John, and I are all diabetics, barley is a much better choice than potatoes, rice, or pasta. Personally, I love the texture of barley more than that of the other choices. Of course, I'm speaking of pearl barley, not regular barley. Regular barley is cut to cook quickly, in about 20 minutes, but the texture and flavor just aren't there. Pearl barley, on the other hand, takes 45 minutes to cook, but is a natural thickener and has a much more appealing taste and texture than regular barley. So today I used pearl barley and made a simple Beef and Barley Soup.

You can add anything to any soup as long as it appeals to those who will be eating it, but some soups are meant to remain simple, and I think beef and barley soup is one of them. You can certainly spice it up to suit your individual taste. There are many ways to do that! But in its basic state, beef and barley soup is delicious, and healthy, and oh, so comforting!














Beef and Barley Soup


1-2 quarts beef or chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley
1 large carrot, diced small
1 large rib of celery, diced small
1 onion, diced small
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Start with one quart of broth and bring it to a boil. Add the pearl barley. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. While the barley is cooking, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Drain the beef well when it has finished cooking.
When the barley is ready, add the drained ground beef, the diced carrots, celery, and onion, and the seasonings. Add additional broth to desired consistency. Simmer another 30 minutes, until carrots, celery, and onion are soft.
Serve with a nice crusty bread!