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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Celebrating Our Anniversary Our Way

I follow a lot of bloggers. Most of them write about food. Nearly all of them post something related to every calendar event of the year... New Year's party food, Chinese New Year food, romantic Valentine's Day meals for two, Super Bowl snacks, Oscar Party food.... And that's just the first two months of the year! But you get the idea.

I don't find myself inclined to do that. I did post my sister's Chinese Hot and Sour soup recipe for Chinese New Year, but I skipped all those other "significant" days, including my mother's birthday (February 5), and more recently, my own anniversary (February 26).

Just yesterday John and I celebrated six years together. Well, six years officially. Eight, actually. We didn't make a big deal of it. John bought me flowers and a small gift that he gave me a couple of days before. I bought him a new phone two weeks ago. My sister was here visiting my dad yesterday, so we ate in and really didn't acknowledge the day in anything more than a few kisses out of sight of our guests.

Did our lack of attention to the significance of the day diminish its importance? Of course not! Did not doing something "special" together mean we don't love each other as much as we should? Absolutely not!

Maybe it's because we're older. Maybe it's because we're just busy! Maybe it's because we don't need an "event" to remind us that we are We, and that We have made a commitment to each other that has carried us through another year together.

Frankly, I am content letting the day be just another day. I don't need dinner and a movie out. I mean, that's nice, when I can get it, but I like the idea of another regular day together marking a year full of regular days together; the pattern and routine of our lives playing out in the rhythm we have established together; a dance that is sometimes a slow sexy, sometimes a passionate tango, and sometimes a dance floor free-for-all!

In our marriage, every day is interesting, every day holds many moments of celebration... when we look into each others eyes and see the twinkle of desire, when we pause from our respective chores for a passionate embrace, when we laugh together, or when we reach to hold hands one last time before we fall asleep side by side in the dark.

Marriage is to be celebrated every day, not just once a year.

Now my birthday? That's a different story entirely!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

It's Good to Have Friends ... and a Puppy!

Kathy has returned home to Chicago, and our house is quiet and still without her here. What else is there to say? Bless you everyone. Cherish your friends. They are true gifts from God!

When God is Living in Us, and Blessings Overflow!

Kathy gets her pedicure!

It's Friday night, and my friend Kathy will be leaving tomorrow to return to Chicago. How I would love for her to stay longer! I will miss her terribly.

Kathy spent a few weeks, before she came here, praying for temperatures to be in the 80s. We didn't quite get there, but temperatures here lingered in the mid-70s for the most part. It was sometimes overcast, and there was some rain, but we also had some nice patches of warm sunshine, which Kathy soaked up sitting in a rocking chair on the back patio, or in a lawn chair out front. I didn't get any photos of this. I wish I had, but I felt it was more important to give Kathy privacy and peace while she was here.
Kathy gets her manicure!
Kathy, and her husband, Kalail, came into our lives in 2007, when we met Kathy at the little church we were attending. We didn't really get to know each other then, we just had that Sunday morning "church" kind of relationship that went on for a few months, until I realized one Sunday that Kathy was missing. The deep, comforting "Amen" that she would offer periodically from the pew behind us went unheard for a few weeks before I asked someone where she was.

Disturbing events had called Kathy back to her home state of Illinois. Several people in the church were discussing how to help, and I offered to do whatever I could. I was one of many who received Kathy's mailing address and phone number, but we would discover later, I was the only person who ever bothered to contact Kathy.

Kathy was in her 40s then, and her husband was several years older than her. Kalail had been left behind to take care of things in Georgia, and then head north. No one was taking care of him, including the pastor of our small church, and Kathy asked John and I to check on him and help him if we could. That was when we learned that Kalail had cancer. Stage four colon cancer.

We did what we could for Kalail. We committed ourselves to him and Kathy, whatever they needed. Mostly, he needed someone to talk to, to have that sense that there was a safety net there for him and Kathy. He worried more about her than himself, and, as true love goes, she was more worried for him than for herself. Well, when Kalail finally understood that we weren't making superficial promises, that we meant what we said, I think he took a long, deep breath, and relaxed a bit. We gave him a ride when he needed it, took him out to dinner, gave him a little money, and saw him on his way to Illinois. I wrote to Kathy regularly, and we stayed in touch by phone and email. Though my letter to her were meant as encouragement, I found her letters to me to be filled with faith and trust in God, bearing witness to God's great mercy, and His ability to meet every need in even the worse of circumstances. Kathy and Kalail were always thanking us, even long after the emergency had subsided; but for John and me, our reward was in knowing that they were back together and making it, together. No two people ever touched me so deeply and so significantly as Kathy and Kalail.

My mother was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in April of 2010. I was with her, caring for her when Kathy called me in May to tell me that Kalail had passed away. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, he was not given long to live, but it took 6 years for the cancer to finally take him. Kathy, and their love for each other held him here.

Not many of us get to experience a love that can be described as profound. Kathy and Kalail did though. I knew how much they loved each other, how much they had gone through to be together, how hard they fought the cancer and everything else that tried to come against them almost constantly. Through everything, Kathy's and Kalail's faith led them, strengthened them, encouraged them, and carried them with praise and thanksgiving to God flowing from their lips, with acute awareness of the blessings that God was continually pouring out on them, and with "exceeding great joy" in their hearts.

And even after Kalail was gone, Kathy still praised God, still saw His hand in everything, His purpose in her life, and His plan for her laying itself out before her. Such faith I have never known.

So, when Kathy and I were emailing each other over the holidays, and I saw this incredible woman growing exhausted from working three jobs, and the devil still chasing her with struggles (though her testimony is full of God's deliverance), I asked her to come visit us and let me pamper her for a while.

John and I struggle with finances, like everybody else. Money has to go a long way here to get and keep the farm in shape, and there is a lot of expensive work for us to do this year. But our priorities aren't always about money and the things we want when we see someone in need, whether that's a financial need, emotional need, or the need to be pampered.

We pinched our budget and bought Kathy a plane ticket. We scrambled to turn our storage room into a decent guest room. I filled a basket with creams and lotions and candles that I thought she might enjoy, and put fresh yellow tulips in her room to brighten it. Kathy slept on a new mattress (that she still thinks she can slip in her suitcase and take home), enjoyed plenty of good food and treats, got tons of rest, visited a gym to go swimming and sit in the sauna, and today, was treated to a massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure, followed by an ice cream sundae! She won't quit thanking us, and I keep teller her to shut up!

Kathy is flying home tomorrow. I don't want her to go, but I have to let her. I know she'll be back for (I hope) many more visits in the years to come. I don't know what it is about her that makes me love her so, but I do. Well, maybe it's God. Maybe it's God doing something that only He can do, that can only be fully understood by Him. But I know this. I know my home, and my life have been blessed by Kathy's visit this week. I am renewed in my faith by the witness of her faith.

Yes, as Kathy keeps saying, she has been very blessed this week. But somehow I think I have been blessed even more.

We'll miss you Kathy. Don't stay away too long!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Warm Weather, Sunshine, and the Promise of Spring

It's 73 degrees here today. The sun is shining, and everything is starting to turn a really nice green! Out in the garden, the collards are getting taller, the cabbage are starting to head, and the broccoli have been harvested twice with delicious results!

I should have started seeds already, but I chose instead to focus my time on preparing for my friend, Kathy's, visit. She'll be going back to Chicago on Saturday, and we'll miss her terribly, but it has been a great week! Lots of good food, lots of good rest for Kathy, and a bit of warm southern color in those pale cheeks of hers!

Cabbage forming heads
I spotted a variety of lettuce plants at the local hardware store this week. I'll pick some up tomorrow and plant them next week. I'll also start some lettuce from seed, and plant radishes and peas. I need to make a trip to the Home Depot nursery and see if they've got anything interesting. I'd love to plant more kohlrabi and rutabagas this year. And I was so pleased with the onion harvest last year, I've got to plant a lot more this year!

I'll also start seeds soon for my summer crops: tomatoes, peppers,cucumbers, squash, and melons. I haven't had a lot of success starting seeds in the past. Cucumbers did great, but I couldn't get the tomatoes or peppers to take. Hope I'll have better luck this year. I'd much rather be starting my own seeds than buying transplants, primarily because it is less expensive, but also because I won't be depending on suppliers, and the opportunity for variety will be greater!

While I was out I snapped a picture of the forsythia, now really starting to fill in the empty branches.
I also got a picture of Lulu, our pot bellied pig, dozing under the ramp at the back door. It's her favorite spot!

And that's Chu Chu, my father's little Scottish Terrier, greeting me as I returned from the garden.

It isn't official yet, but the weather is so beautiful today, and everything is starting to grow... I can't resist saying, "Happy Spring everyone!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Faith, Friends, and BBQ!

My friend, Kathy, is visiting from Chicago this week. She left behind 30 * temps and snow for overcast skies and drizzly rain in the 70s here in NE Georgia. Not the 80* and sun she was hoping for, but acceptable.

I am so happy Kathy is here! We've known each other for several years, but have never had a chance to spend time together until now. I am so blessed to have her in my home for this week. She is an extraordinary woman of God. Her testimony is so rich with praises and thanksgiving to God you almost don't hear the story of her life's struggles and hardships.

Kathy lives in the full awareness that "In everything is God." No matter what happens, she sees it as part of God's plan for her life, and she looks eagerly for the good that God is making out of it, even if it is something devastating or heart breaking. She knows God is building a plan of love for her life that will never let her be defeated!

I long to live in faith this rich. I long to see my God in every little thing that goes on in my daily life, and in all the big things, the unexpected as well as those things I see coming, good and bad.

This morning, at breakfast, we were discussing briefly the world situation, and the economy. Kathy said something almost off-hand, but it was really quite profound. She said, "But we do not live in the world's economy. We live in God's economy."

Folks, if we live by faith, and not by sight, then that means that by faith we are dependent on God for all our needs and all our desires. Christ and the apostles made that clear in the New Testament. We should not be fretting over the state of our nation, the economy, or even the cost of gas. Let those who are in this world fret and worry, but let us stand in faith, knowing that our God, who loves us, is (actively, continually) providing for us, knowing, before we even ask, what we need. Can we live like that? Can we believe in God as wholly as He believes in us?

Thank you Kathy for stirring my faith, for reminding me what my relationship with God should be like, and for encouraging me, without even knowing you have, to give God more of me, because He gives me all of Himself every day.

Out of the crockpot and into the oven to dry out a bit

Pulled Pork Barbecue and Fixin's

Tonight we're having homemade barbecue with cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, and curly fries. I like making my own barbecue. It's not as difficult as you'd think.

Throw a big pork butt into the crock pot and season with salt and pepper. Let it cook overnight on low.

Next day, pull it out, draining off the grease, and put it in a deep baking pan. Pull it apart with forks, which should be easy to do! Season the meat with your favorite rub or seasoning mix. This time I used Weber's Smokey Mesquite Seasoning Mix. It's usually for beef, but I thought I'd try it on the pork this time.

Set your oven temperature to 250* and let your pork cook from 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in proportion to how large the pan is. A smaller pan with more in it will require longer cooking, and a stirring about once an hour. I used a larger pan with less in it, and mine cooked today for 1.5 hours.

At this point I add the barbecue to a frying pan and stir it about to crisp it up a bit (we like ours crispy). Once it gets crispy I add some liquid barbecue sauce and cook until the sauce is heated through. How much you add will depend on your own taste of course. I used Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q Sauce to save time today, but usually I like to make my own sauce.

You can skip the frying pan step and mix your sauce into the pork while it's in the oven, probably for the last 15-30 minutes would do.

Serve as you like!

Friday, February 17, 2012

When Time Has Wings

Do you ever hit a point where you stop and realize ... it isn't Monday, it's Friday ... It isn't January, it's almost March ... you aren't 35, you're 55!

Yeah, well, I have those moments often, and I had a big one today when I realized how long it has been since I last posted to my blog. I've been trying to post something every day, hopefully something interesting, but something. So I was surprised to see that it has been 7 days since I posted. All I can think is, Time has wings!

From Thanksgiving through New Year's, most of us don't notice how fast time is flying. Our time is full of activities that preoccupy us from the concept of time.

So once the holidays are over, you'd think Time would slow down a bit, take it easy, catch it's breath. But for some reason it doesn't, not for adults anyway. I know children see time as being very slow. I remember that from my childhood, waiting for the summer break from school, waiting for Christmas, waiting for graduation! I remember it felt like Time was taking forever to get me to those special times I was anxiously waiting for.

Wouldn't it be interesting to think that, as adults, we cross over, unknowingly, into a different perception of time, one that speeds up, but runs parallel to the slower perception of time that children live in? Doesn't it seem like that really is what we're doing anyway? We live side by side with small beings who think Time is dragging it's legs, while we think Time is trying to get away from us.

If this is true, then we have to consider the idea that Time doesn't like old people! I know what you're thinking, but think about it. The older we get, the easier it is for Time to get away from us. And it does get away from us!

As we get older, Time plays tricks on us. Sometimes, mean tricks! Old memories mix with newer ones, we write the wrong date on a check, we miss an appointment because we got our days mixed up.

So it would seem logical to think that Time eludes us as we grow older!

But maybe this whole theory is wrong!

Maybe Time isn't getting faster. Maybe we're just getting slower!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dinnertime: Pork Neck Bones & Rice

A poor man's meal, Pork Neck Bones & Rice, is a regular treat in our house. The bones were previously slow smoked and then frozen just for a day like today. I dumped the bones into a pot full of water and let them simmer for 4 hours, until the meat was falling off the bones. I removed them from the pot, and while Jasmine rice was cooking in a portion of the meaty broth, I separated the pork meat from the bones ~ large chunks of meat, and small slivers of meat, tender, juicy, and releasing a tantalizing, smokey aroma! If I had a nice, fresh ripe tomato, I'd have chopped it and added it to the top of this dish. Fresh tomato adds a delicious dimension of flavor, along with a light sprinkling of sea salt. Also, if I had it, I'd add a bit of chopped cilantro for color and flavor. Serving this dish with a ladle full or two of the broth is a tasty option, and a green salad on the side rounds out the meal.

Pork neck bones are inexpensive, and far more meaty than people realize. How you treat the meat is what kicks it out of the poor man's category and into a tasty, upscale dish!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chicken & Macaroni; Roast Chicken with Veggies


I found some beautiful, meaty, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the freezer last night and pulled them out to defrost for today's dinner.

I decided to make Chicken and Macaroni for my dad. It's very boring to look at, but it's really delicious to eat! It's a dish that's easy on Dad's digestion, and easy on his gums. It's also one of his favorite dishes, a modification of the chicken and noodles that my family ate often while I was growing up.

When I was little, my mother often shooed me away from the kitchen while she was cooking, but once in a while I'd get to sit at the dining room table doing homework, and watch her cook, especially chicken and noodles. Just home from work, and still in heels and pearls (really), Mother would don her apron and set-to cutting up a chicken to dump in the pot. (Back then, they didn't sell chickens already cut up. You had to do it yourself! Can you imagine that?)

Mother cooked, I watched, we didn't chat. It was too distracting for Mother, who never took well to cooking. She cooked because she had to, not because she loved it. (Some day I'll tell you that story.) But I loved watching her, heels and pearls, and perfectly curled hair, and the scent of the chicken and noodles mingling with the scent of her perfume, White Shoulders.To this day, the two scents still linger together in my memory.

Now, back to those big, meaty chicken breasts!

I decided to make Roast Chicken with Veggies for John and myself. I seasoned them with a rosemary-garlic seasoning blend, and popped them into my counter-top convection oven at the grill setting for about 30 minutes. I served the breasts with mixed veggies and stir-fried broccoli.

We harvested the broccoli from our garden on Sunday, and we haven't been able to stop eating it! It is so delicious! Stir-fried in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and butter, then seasoned with a bit of sea salt, the broccoli was the real star of the meal!

My counter-top convection oven is probably my most important kitchen tool. My first one was a gift from my mother 12 years ago. When it died in 2006, my mother surprised me with another one before I had a chance to get one myself!

When I first got the oven, I wasn't ungrateful, but I really wasn't sure what to do with this thing, so it sat on the kitchen shelf for a few months before I pulled it out, studied the booklet, and started experimenting. I realized, pretty quickly, that this wonderful machine was going to change the way I cook everything!

For many years, I have used my counter-top convection oven to cook everything! I've grilled chicken, steaks, and other meats in it; cooked cornbread, biscuits, muffins, and cakes in it; and baked potatoes and roasted vegetables in it. I've even baked pizzas in it! Meats are always juicy, moist and tender, and everything cooks fast and easy. I really can't imagine being without it at this point!

Have you got a kitchen tool that you are particularly fond of? Can't live without it? Tell me about it!