Aug 17, 2012

I'd rather wear out than rust out...

Years ago my grandparents were in a fun local seniors band and that was their slogan.  I've sort of adopted it as my life's theme.  It's another way of saying something else I often repeat: "I want to live till I die."  

Yesterday I wanted to do something special with the grandchildren, since there is only one more week until school starts.  I knew I was on my own with three of them, and I was at a loss to come up with a plan for the day.  We've done a lot of the usual already: the zoo, the local parks, hiking, swimming, the library, baking, crafts, a lemonade stand, the flea market, and playing in Grandma's park (our backyard).  

Before they arrived yesterday morning, I did something I often do when I feel a lack of direction for the day ahead.  I prayed.  "Lord, I need you to order my day.  I know for sure there are two things that you have promised to give for the asking:  forgiveness and wisdom.  I need both.  Please give me an idea of something fun to do with the kids today."

It wasn't very long until I thought about taking them to Ohio's Amish country, located in Holmes County and a little more than an hour's drive away.  It would get us out of town and into the beautiful countryside, and I thought they would love tasting the cheese at Heini's.  But could I handle three of them on my own for such a venture?  I'd never gone there by myself before, but I knew I kept a detailed map of Amish Country in my car. And I had Dora, my faithful GPS, plus a stroller. Confidence rose and I felt my prayer had been answered.

When I finally got everyone dressed, fed, and buckled tightly into their carseats, I pulled out of the garage and stopped.  I announced to the kids that whenever grandma and papa go on a trip, we always say a prayer first.  So I prayed out loud for a safe and fun day and gave thanks for the beautiful weather and our special time together.  Simple and to the point. A teachable moment too.  

There were many more teachable moments, especially once we got off the highway and onto the country roads.  We took turns spotting grazing cows, baby goats, lots of horses, beautiful farms and rolling hills.  We started counting how many horses and buggies we saw until they became a common scene.  We looked for houses without any electrical lines attached to them, and we saw lots of clothes being dried outside in the breeze.  I pointed out several small Amish school houses.  We talked about some of the differences between the Amish and the Mennonites, who also populate the area.  In answer to my granddaughter's question, I explained that even though it is called "Amish Country", that we were indeed still in the United States!  We talked about the difference between being "in the country" and "in the city".  

Our first stop was the Ashery Country Store. Located in Fredericksburg, Ashery's is a bulk food store I've enjoyed going to since my own kids were young.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much the store has expanded and the grandkids loved that there were free samples throughout ~ candy, pretzels and dips, even sassafras tea.  When I was looking for a certain item, I inquired to a woman I recognized had been there for probably 20 years! Even though the store had changed slightly, it really did seem like time had stood still here!  People were so friendly too, stopping to chat and admire the grandchildren. There are some interesting facts at the Ashery website, found here.

Ten minutes farther down the road is Heini's, where cheese-making operations have been going on for 75 years.  It takes a little time to walk around the store and sample every cheese they sell.  And behind large glass windows we could see the workers cleaning out the huge vats where they had made cheese earlier in the day.  We paused to watch part of a video which showed the process.  

On her own, Elylah decided to keep a little scorecard of ranking her favorite cheeses!

 Ethan: "Grandma look! Mouse cheese!"

Some unusual varieties included rainbow fudge cheese.

We left Heini's and drove a few more miles down the road to "downtown" Berlin.  Main Street is full of tiny little primitive looking shops and I knew of a restaurant where we could get some lunch.  I didn't try to take the kids inside any of the shops (I'm not THAT crazy!) but we enjoyed strolling up and down the street a little.  I did take notice of lots of "new" shops that weren't there the last time I was in Berlin, and I'll go back to check them out another time when I can freely browse!  

We waited about 15 minutes in line to go into Boyd's, a great sandwich shop in the heart of things.  Again I was stunned to realize a waitress was someone I recognized from more than a decade ago.  The place was just as busy as always, filled with visitors from all over.  The kids wanted home made chicken noodle soup, and I had a half-order of a hot roast beef sandwich, my favorite when I go to Amish country. Apologizing for the mess we left, I gave the waitress a good tip.  She chatted with me for a minute, and we were on our way.

The timing worked out perfectly and I drove the kids directly home.  They slept the entire hour.  I'm still glowing with memories of this perfect, gifted day.  God is good.  And I thank Him!

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given." 
James 1:5

Aug 12, 2012

The World Needs More Pie...

Anyone who knows me knows I do love to bake pies.  I have my own favorites:  peach, apple, cherry, lemon meringue, pumpkin, chocolate, peanut butter, and vegetable/meat quiches.  On my to-do list is finding time to experiment with some other varieties.  

If I lived near The American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa, I would beg Beth M. Howard for a job at the Pitchfork Pie Stand, where she has made peace with herself through making people happy with her pies.  In fact, she has written a book chronicling her journey into pie making: Making Piece, a Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie.  It just sounds like so much fun!  She and her team have actually traveled to third world countries to teach pie-baking.

I saw a recipe a few months ago in a magazine for "hand pies" so I've tired my "hand" at it a couple of times recently.  I just use the same pie crust recipe I always use, and so far I've only used an apple filling.  I have found I can get about 6 hand pies from one pie crust.  These are great when you want to just take a little treat to someone.

One time I was asked to make 5 cherry pies for a Valentine's Day appreciation dinner our small group put on to thank our church's youth group leaders.  That was really easy since my pie crust recipe makes 5 crusts, and I just needed to make 2 batches.

I have made the pumpkin pies for our family Thanksgiving celebrations for years.  I just use the recipe on the Libbey's pumpkin can and double it to make four large pies.

I've posted the pie crust recipe before, but it is the one I use exclusively, so here it is again.  My aunt Mary Ann gave me this recipe back in 1967, 45 years ago, so why would I change now? Sometimes I even make the pie crust one day, divide into 5 equal sized balls, wrap individually and either refrigerate or freeze them.  When ready to use, I let them come to room temperature before I start rolling them out.  

Never-Fail Pie Crust

5 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
cold water
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add shortening and work into the flour with two knives until course, about the size of peas, (or use a pie crust cutting tool.) Into a one cup liquid measuring cup, break one egg and beat slightly with a fork. Add vinegar, and then enough cold water to make one cup liquid. Add this to the flour/shortening mixture and mix into a good consistency for rolling.  Note:  In recent years I have been using a very finely ground cake flour.  I have found that I can eliminate 1/2 cup of shortening when I use the fine flour.  Roll the crusts out one at a time on a floured surface, being careful not to over work the dough.

For a great apple pie, here's what I do:

First I have my pie crusts ready and the pie plate lined with the crust.  Then I take 6-7 medium sized granny smith apples, peel, core, and slice thinly.  As the apples are being prepared, I put them in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.  To all the sliced apples, add 3/4-1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.  Toss gently and fill crust-lined pie pan.  If I remember, I might add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter on top of the apple mixture.  Then I cover with the top crust.  I take my kitchen scissors and cut the perimeter of the crusts so they just barely hang over the pie plate and they are even.  Then I carefully tuck the upper crust in under the bottom crust, then flute the edges with my fingers.  Then I make about 6 small slits in the upper crust.  Lastly, I brush on a very thin coat of milk on the upper crust and sprinkle the whole top with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Bake the pie for about 50 minutes at 400℉.  

There is no question that I fully agree with Beth Howard, The world needs more pie! How about you?

Aug 6, 2012

Waking up in faith...

I always look forward to the short Sunday prayers that my friend, Dee, puts on FaceBook and on her blog at One Foot Out of the Box. This week she mentioned she was thankful to "wake up in faith".  That phrase drew me in and got me to thinking about what it means.

Contrary to what some might initially think, faith itself is a gift...a gift from God.  It is not something that we can muster up on our own with enough will power to get us through life. Faith is instrumental in securing our eternal salvation...God's faithfulness in loving us, Christ's faithfulness in dying for us, the Spirit's faithfulness in wooing us.  When we experience the new birth, that same faith is imparted to us and enables us to believe and become children of God.  (Did you know that everyone is not a child of God? It's true...but that can be a topic for another time!)

I think what my friend was referring to was her thankfulness that in waking up to a new day, she has the assurance that she is safe, happy, and secure in facing the day because she can have peace in knowing that God has her in the palm of His hand.  

I woke up just a bit too early this morning, but I'm happy to say that I have woken up in faith. I don't know what today will bring, but I know God is in control and He has a plan.  And at the end of the best or the worst days, I know He loves me still.  He has given me the gift of faith which enables me to believe that no matter what, He has my best interests at heart. He is for me, and He is working all things together for good. I can face any day believing that!

There will be another day to wake up in faith.   I love my life and all the wonderful relationships I have and the beautiful world we live in, but I know someday the curtain will be drawn.  Unless Jesus Christ returns first, this life as I know it will come to an end and I will close my eyes in death.  And so will you.  But because of the gift of faith, we can know for certain that we will wake up to a new and glorious life safe forever with God.  

Did you wake up in faith this morning?  

 "...for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have commited unto Him against that day." 2 Timothy 1:12