Thursday, 30 April 2009

Love From the Heart

I read the most amazing story yesterday. It was a story of teenage love, which, in and of itself, is not all that unusual. Afterall, most teens spend a great deal of their time falling in and out of love. Most relationships that are started break up after a short time for one reason or another, and whilst broken hearts occur on a regular basis, most teens are able to get over the hurt that they feel, and are not long in finding someone else to moon over.

This very typical pattern of teenage love began as a young man named Felipe began to date a young lady named Donna. They dated for a time and then Donna cooled the romance and began to date other boys, much to Felipe's disappointment.

One day, Donna became very sick. After many tests and observations, it was discovered that Donna was dying of degenerative heart disease. She needed a heart transplant desperately, and was put on the waiting list.

News gets around and it wasn't long before Felipe heard about Donna's serious health problems. It wasn't too long afterwards that he made the following statement to his mother. "I'm going to die and I'm going to give my heart to Donna." His mother didn't think too much about his words at the time, for afterall, young boys can say quite irrational things from time to time and Felipe looked to be in perfect health.

Three weeks later, Felipe woke up one morning complaining of pain on the left side of his head. He began losing his breath and was unable to walk. He was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered that he had experienced an anurism in his brain during the night. It had burst, leaving him brain dead. Felipe's death mystified his doctors who were keeping him on a respirator until his family decided what to do. Within hours, his family decided to remove his heart and give it to Donna and his kidneys and eyes for other people in need of organ transplants.

Later that day, Donna did receive Felipe's heart. After the transplant Donna's father told her that Felipe been quite ill for about three months before he died. He also told her that Felipe had donated his kidneys and eyes for transplant. Donna took a few minutes to digest this and then looked up at her dad and said, "And I have his heart." Her father replied, "Yes, that is what Felipe and his family wanted." Her expression changed a little as she asked her father who knew about it . . . his reply . . . "Everybody."

Felipe's funeral was several days later. The funeral procession seemed to roll on forever through the beautiful countryside in Northern California. You would have thought it to be the funeral of a most prestigious person, royalty even . . . but it was no prince . . . only Felipe. His only claim to fame being his great love for Donna and the gift of his heart.

It would be unforgettable if you had received a new and healthy heart from someone who loved you more than you could appreciate. Every moment you lived after that would be a tribute to the one who loved you so much that he gave his life for you . . . It's unforgettable when a person gives up their life so that someone they love can live . . . I can think of one other person who walked this earth and did the same . . .

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ~John 3:16

We have never had a greater gift given to us . . .

I had a bunch of limes that needed to be used up yesterday. I love lemon bars and so I thought to myself, why not lime bars? These turned out to be delicious!!

*Zesty Lime Squares*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

These are very similar to good old fashioned lemon squares, but have been updated to use lime juice and zest to create a refreshing and delicious bar. I just love the flavour of limes. Can you believe that before I moved over to the UK I had never tasted a real lime. My only brush with it had been through eating green jello!! My goodness what I have missed! I am so glad that I discovered the true taste of lime!

7 ounces unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (The juice of about 4 limes)
the finely grated zest of 4 limes

Icing sugar for dusting on finished bars

Grease and line the base of a 9 inch square baking tin with some baking paper. Place the butter, icing sugar, flour in the base of a food processor. Blitz together until crumbly. Add the beaten egg and blitz until a soft dough forms. Press this dough into the base of the prepared tin. Place in the refrigerator to chill for half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Bake the base in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Whisk in the sugar, flour, lime juice and zest. Whisk together until well combined. Pour this mixture over the cooked base. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the filling is set and the mixture is light golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack.

When cooled, remove from the tin, cut into bars and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

To build a better you . . .

"Your task . . . to build a better world." God said. I answered, "How? . . . The world is such a large vast place, and there's nothing I can do." But God in all His wisdom answered. "Just build a better you."
~Author Unknown

Oh, what a different world this would be if everyone spent their days just trying to build themselves a better "you" and becoming better people! Just think about it.

How much more understanding would those around us be? How much more understanding would "we" be?

The speed of Global warming would slow down because people would stop cutting down trees to fuel their greed and they'd walk a little bit more and run a little bit faster . . . fly a little bit less. Car pooling would be the rule of the day, the roads would be a lot less congested and the air a lot cleaner.

All the clerks in the shops would become friendlier and less harried. They'd actually seem to enjoy their jobs and their smiles would be genuine. They'd even pack your groceries without being asked. Likewise waiters and waitresses in restaurants. They'd actually enjoy waiting on you and providing you with a pleasant and wonderful dining experience.

People would greet you with a smile and ask how you were, and they'd really want to know! It wouldn't just be a pleasantry that people say without any meaning behind it.

No one would go to bed hungry tonight, or cold, or wet. The people of the world would all gather together to alleviate these things and pool all their resources so that there would be enough food to go around and shelter and clothing.

War would cease immediately. Everyone would lay down their arms and differences of opinion, and loving acceptance would be the rule of the day. We'd simply agree to disagree.

Churches would be full of people wanting to get closer to God. Voices raised in thanksgiving and blessing. What a beautiful song of praise we could all sing.

When you hired someone to come and do a job for you . . . the job would be done well, with no complaint and at a fair price. Nobody would be trying to gouge your wallet and you would receive good, honest and fair service.

We'd all stop complaining about the things we have to do and just do them, to the best of our abilities, with smiles on our faces and songs in our hearts, just glad to be alive and capable.

We'd extend our hands in friendship and love and be more willing to lend a hand without being asked. We'd all be our brother's keepers, recognizing our brother as being our neighbours, our neighbourhood, our world.

Love would be the rule of the day, hate would disappear into non-existence.

Our streets would be safer, cleaner and happier places.

Cruelty of every kind would just cease to exist.

People would work harder, love stronger and live longer.

Kind deeds would be more common than dirty ones.

There would be no bad news, only good.

Nobody would be lonely, or afraid or feel unloved.

Selfishness would cease to exist and be replaced with selflessness.

I think I just described Heaven on earth. It's not entirely impossible you know. I can happen and the wonderful thing about it is . . . it starts with me, and with you. You may think you are only a drop in the bucket and cannot make a difference, but . . . a bucket full of water is filled with lots of individual drops, each one a tiny part of the whole.

I did another wee picture yesterday afternoon. I really love this one. I think I say that about all of them, but it's true. You can see it as a whole HERE. Let me know what you think!

The following recipe is proof that simple need not be tasteless and can indeed be quite delicious! This is a wonderful dessert that can be on the table in just a few minutes and I guarantee everyone will be loving it.

*Fresh Berries With White Chocolate Sauce*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

I know there are umpteen versions of this floating around. This one is mine. I think that it's important to use the best white eating chocolate you can buy. Simple yes, but the flavour is amazing. I would certainly serve this to company.

6 ounces good quality white chocolate, broken into small pieces
(I used Green and Black's organic. You can see the flecks of Vanilla in it. Just wonderful)
2/3 cup double cream
4 cups fresh mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, raspberries and halved strawberries)

Put the cream and chocolate bits into a microwaveable measuring cup. Place into the microwave for about 35 to 40 seconds on high. Remove from the microwave and let sit for a minute
before whisking it together into a smooth sauce with a small whisk. (Your chocolate should be completely melted) Alternately you can heat the two together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has just melted, then remove from the heat. Pour the sauce into a jug.

Place all the berries into a bowl and give them a mix. Divide them into 4 shallow serving bowls. Pour the white chocolate sauce over them at the table. Delicious!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Sorry . . . No chocolate here today . . .

Welcome to Tuesdays With Dorie, except that here at Oak Cottage, there's no Tuesdays With Dorie today. They would keep choosing Chocolate recipes to cook and alas . . . with a chocolate hating hubby, a shrinking food budget, and ever expanding waistline, and a wacky economy I just can't afford to bake something that only I am going to eat. . . . sigh . . . and I love chocolate too . . . (I hope they don't kick me out of the group!)

This week's recipe was the "Chocolate Cream Tart" on pages 352 - 353, as chosen by Kim of Scrumptious Photography. I think the name of that blog says it all and if you want to see something scrumdiddlyumptious it might be wise to hop on over to Kim's Page next! (Not to mention scoop the recipe.) In the meantime, you could stay here and see what else I might have to say. Thankfully next week there's no chocolate in site and so I shall be able to bake again with the group! Hallelujah! The recipe is a Tirimisu Cake, which, whilst not my favourite thing, is a dish that I can still play with a bit and turn into a favourite thing! (For BOTH Todd and I!)

"They took away what should have been my eyes.
(But I remembered Milton's "Paradise.")
They took away what should have been my ears.
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears.)
They took away what should have been my tongue.
(But I had talked with God when I was young.)
He would not let them take away my soul.
(Possessing that I still possess the whole.)

An interesting little poem, and once you find out who wrote it, it becomes even more interesting. These words were penned by none other than Helen Keller, who was left blind and deaf at the age of 18 months after having suffered a childhood illness.

I have always found the example of Helen Keller amazingly inspirational. Here is a woman whose limits didn't limit God. A woman whose limits didn't limit her living her life to the absolute fullest. She graduated Cum Laud from Radcliffe University, authored seven books and countless articles, traveled the North American Continent educating people about the needs of the handicapped, appeared before King George and Queen Mary, toured in vaudeville and made a silent movie. She was awarded the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, that nation’s highest civilian award, by President Lyndon Johnson. Through her writings, lectures and the way she lived her life, she put forth a wonderful example to all of us of how a disability need never mean the end of the world or of a meaningful life for people so afflicted.

“The public must learn that the blind man is neither genius nor a freak nor an idiot. He has a mind that can be educated, a hand which can be trained, ambitions which it is right for him to strive to realise, and it is the duty of the public to help him make the best of himself so that he can win light through work.” ~Helen Keller

Having raised a developmentally delayed daughter myself, I know only too well what can be accomplished when a person is inspired to and encouraged to rise above the limitations that life has given them to work with, and the joy that comes from associating with such people, and then I think to myself . . . if they can do so much with so little, how much more can I do with the blessings and talents in life that I've been given.

Just a little food for thought here this morning.

One of the things that Todd and I have in common is a love for the potato. It is both of our favourite vegetables. I contend that a day without having eaten a potato in some way, shape or form is a day when something is missing. This is one of our favourite ways to eat them.

*Potato Gratin*
Serves 4

Printable Recipe

You just can't beat a tasty Potato Gratin for versatility. The creamy texture of the potatoes and the rich and wonderful flavours of cheese, garlic and onion, make for a wonderful side dish that goes very well with most meats, fish or poultry.

1kg potatoes, scrubbed and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
150ml double cream
100ml milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or whatever you've got in stock)
100g strong cheese (e.g. mature Cheddar), grated
Pinch of good quality salt

Place the potatoes in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil. Cook until just beginning to soften, some 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well.
Peel the onion and slice it in half. Cut each half into thin slices.

Mix the garlic, cream, milk and mustard together. Taste and season with some salt and black pepper.

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Lightly butter a shallow oven proof casserole. Layer in the potatoes, followed by a layer of onions. Pour some of the cream mixture over each potato layer. Continue until all the ingredients are used, making sure there is some cream mixture left to pour over the top and making sure all the top potatoes are coated thoroughly. Sprinkle more cheese on top if desired.

Bake for 45 minutes until the potatoes are tender, and the top of the dish is lightly browned and bubbling.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY, April 27th, 2009 ...

Outside My Window...

Can it be that the month of April is already winding down???? It has gone by so very quickly. At five o'clock each morning the sun is now already up and the birds have already begun to sing their songs. The grass is covered with dew now, instead of frost. The trees are pretty much all out in tender leaf, and the clematis that grows on the side of our shed is just loaded with buds perfectly ripe and ready to pop open. There is a cottage down in the village that is just covered with wisteria, all in bloom. It is such a beautiful sight. Each year I think to myself, I must get a picture of that, and each year, the time passes and before you know it I have waited too long and the moment and the blooms have disappeared . . .

I am thinking...
about Service. I had to teach the Young Women's lesson yesterday at church and it was about service. Service is something that is very dear to my heart. I truly believe it is a gift you give yourself, because, no matter how much you do for others, you always receive far more in return. It was so much fun sharing my thoughts on service with the girls in my class and hearing their thoughts on the same . . . I had made them each a pretty little bookmark to keep in their scriptures. I think they liked them, and hopefully each time they see them they will think about how they can do something for someone else. It's quite often not the big things that matter most, but those simple small things that we do for others . . . a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a cheery hello, a heartfelt prayer . . . these are things that can and do often make a big difference in someone else's life.

I am thankful for...
A husband that I can share my deepest thoughts with. I know that no matter what I say to him, it will not be met with ridicule or disdain. He always listens carefully to my words and reacts with love and understanding. It is so wonderful to be able to share with the one I love in this way. I believe it deepens our love for each other. I had never had this special understanding with any of my other husbands in my life. (I hate that it took me three times to get it right.) My first marriage was so brief that I scarst even count it, and the second one, well . . . we really didn't have anything in common at all, except for our children. He didn't "get" my spiritual side at all and I think it actually made him quite uncomfortable. People ridicule that which they don't understand and that which they fear. I am so thankful that finally I am "evenly yoked." It is a great blessing to me.

From the kitchen...
Oh goodness, there is a tin of oat scones leftover from our Saturday supper and another filled with chocolate chip muffins. I dare not bake anything else for a few days. I do have in my mind to make some enchiladas this week, or tacos or something of a Southwestern persuasion. With the temperatures warming my mind goes more to salads. We are already enjoying the early English Asparagus, comparable to none other in the world in my opinion and soon the early English Strawberries will begin to ripen and adorn our grocery store shelves. Oh there is nothing tastier than a bowl of English Strawberries and cream on a warm and sunny late spring afternoon. This is bliss in a bowl.

I am wearing...
Pink jammies and my black slippers. Oh how I wish I could stay in them all day, but alas . . . I don't think it would go over very well at work. Yesterday Bonnie asked what it was that I did. I work as a personal Chef for an American family that lives over here on a manor estate. I get paid a wage and also, as part of my income, we have been given this cottage to live in. The job does have it's pros and cons, as do all jobs. Thankfully there are more pros than cons at the moment. I get to live and work in a beautiful and peaceful environment. There are no travel costs involved etc. On the downside, I never really feel like I can get away from work. When I want a break or a holiday I truly have to go away to really feel like I am having one.

I am creating...
I did another new painting on Saturday afternoon and I have a sketch that is just dying to be put down on paper. I had bought myself some flour sack kitchen towels to embroider, or so I thought, but they are so darned flimsy they would hardly be worth the effort. What passes as flour sacks today is not what flour sacks used to be, that's for sure! Here's a glimpse of my newest creation, which as usual is posted over HERE.

I am going...
Of course I have work this week, but hopefully some play as well. I have a Seminary Lesson to teach on Thursday evening and then afterwards a Presidency meeting for the Young Women's. They aren't having mutual on Thursday evening this week as they girls are going to a Stake YW function on Friday evening in another town. It should be fun for them. When I was first called as a leader in the YW group, I was not overly thrilled. It meant I would be dealing with Teenage girls and that wasn't really something I was wanting to do. I have come to love my calling for the most part now though and the Young Women. We have some really nice teenaged girls in our Ward that I get to work with each week and I have come to truly love each one of them.

I am reading...

I have only just started this book. When I was in Utah in February my friend Lynell of An Ordinary Life was reading this book out loud to her children each night. I got very involved in the story and hated to come home without seeing how it turned out. A few weeks ago when Todd and I went to the Temple we also went to the LDS bookstore and I was able to pick this up for us both to read. I get to read it first! (Lucky me!) So far it is really, really good. Here is a brief description taken from Deseret Books:

"My name will mean nothing to you, but my story is a retelling of the greatest story ever told and should mean everything to everyone.

If you interpret my words as fiction and fiction only, you will miss out on truths that are both historical and spiritual. Search the scriptures. There you will find evidence of my existence recorded in ancient sacred writ, overlooked for millennia. My story comes forth now because now is the promised day when satanic doubt spreads like black ink, threatening to blot out His very name, to reduce Him to nothing more than a teacher, to erase the eternal truths He taught and lived. That cannot happen. Jesus was who He said He was. I know because I was there in the shadows of His holy footsteps. His miracles were real. I know because I am one of those miracles."

I am hoping...
I am still on pins and needles. My faith is surely being tested. I have to believe that the Lord has something wonderful in store for me as far as my artwork is concerned, and I am trying hard to be patient and to wait on His promises. If it is not this publisher and distributor, there will be another. The waiting is the hard part. Patience is supposed to be a virtue and mine gets tested more and more with each day that passes. I surely need to work on patience. In some ways I am a most patient person, but in others . . . I am sorely lacking in it!

I am hearing...
the birds in the garden, the refrigerator humming, Jess softly snoring, my fingers gently tapping on the keyboard. These are the sounds of home and so very peaceful.

Around the house...
A woman's work is never done is it? Each day I notice something different that needs to be addressed. Cobwebs that need to be swept away . . . a floor that needs a good wash, a shelf that needs dusting. You just get one job done and another smacks you in the face!! I am really lucky though, because I have my Todd. He does the lion's share of the housework around here. He says he is busier now that he is retired than he ever was when he worked!!!

One of my favorite things...
Is watching old television shows and films. I do love them so very much. We have quite a few on DVD now. Shows such as Andy Griffith, Father Knows Best, Leave It To Beaver, Upstairs Downstairs, just to name a few. We also have quite a few older films. My heart and mind hearken for a simpler and quieter time. A time when family values were very important and simple joys and pleasures meant a lot.

I do love old things. I was so thrilled yesterday in church when someone gifted me with an old leaflet cookbook by the Nabob spice and tea company. It was from the Canadian West and they had been having a clear out and thought I might like it. I love it! It was originally published in 1973. There's a lot of older recipes in it that made me feel quite nostalgic when I was leafing through it yesterday afternoon.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Work, play and everything in between. Our church stake is having a Relief Society enrichment day on Saturday that I am hoping to be able to go to. Our stake encompasses an area right from the outskirts of London to the North and Hastings to the South, into Sussex in the West and of course all the way to the East coast. It's quite a large area and there are a lot of chapels involved. It is really wonderful to be able to get together with friends both near and far and do something together as a group of women with a singular purpose. I am really looking forward to it and I really hope that I get to go.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

These are the sunflowers that we grew at the back of our garden shed a couple of summers ago. They grew ever so tall!! I don't think I have ever seen such tall sunflowers before. I think we should grow some more this summer. What do you think? I just love sunflowers!

And there you have it, my Simple Woman's Day Book for today. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!)

We had a simple supper this past Saturday evening. Just bowls of a vegetable beef soup that I served with some fresh from the oven, warm Oat and Cheese Scones. I think sometimes that simple suppers are the best of all!

*Tasty Oat and Cheddar Scones*
Makes 12

Printable Recipe

These beautiful scones have a lovely texture and almost nutty flavour which comes from the oats. If you put cheese in anything I am right there. (it's my only weakness, well next to chocolate that is) These scones are the perfect accompaniment to a hot bowl of soup and quite tasty on their own just split in half and spread with butter. They also make great picnic sandwiches, split open and spread with soft cheese and filled with ham. They are just plain good no matter how you take them.

200g self raising flour
pinch of salt
50g softened butter
25g porridge oats, not the instant kind
75g grated strong cheddar cheese
150 ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F.

Measure the flour into a large bowl along with the salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour using the tips of your fingertips. Rub until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the oats and the cheese.

Tip in the milk and stir together to form a soft dough. If your mixture is a bit dry, feel free to add a bit more milk. You want a soft dough, but not sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat the dough out to about 1/2 inch in thickness.

Using a sharp 2 1/2 inch round cutter stamp out rounds. Try hard not to twist the cutter as you are lifting it up. Twisting the cutter makes for a very lopsided scone! Stamp straight down and then up with quick and sharp taps. Place on a baking tray.

Re-roll all the trimmings and stamp out more rounds until the dough is all used up.

You can dust them with a bit more flour or brush them with some milk and sprinkle some cheese on top before baking if you wish. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until well risen and golden brown on the outsides. Remove from the oven and to a wire rack to cool somewhat before eating.

These are wonderful when eaten warm from the oven, but then again, they are also quite wonderful split and toasted later on, or even cold and filled. Enjoy!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Marie's Sunday Six Smile Makers

A new Sunday has dawned and it's time for me to think about my six smile makers again. The hardest part for me is always pinning it down to six. I have so many things each week happen that bring me joy and peace. I truly am blessed.

It is easy to be pleasant
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while
Is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.

For the test of the heart is trouble,
And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth
The praises of earth
Is the smile that shines thru tears.
~Author unknown

(this is the back of my home)

Seeing the sun when I wake up in the morning and being able to walk home in sunlight at the end of my work day. In the winter months, I often am at work not too long after the sun rises and walk home in darkness each day. I just love these longer hours of daylight. It means I get to enjoy birdsong just that little bit longer and I can sit outside the cottage for a few moments when I get home, just drinking in all the lovely things around me.

Happy little Grandsons. My children are not the greatest at sending me photos it seems. Thank goodness for Facebook. I can go on there and scoop up pictures and save them on my computer. Yesterday one of my daughter's in law posted a bunch of new pictures of my youngest grandson, Joshua who was born this past March, so he's not very old. My, he looks a lovely wee one. I wish that I could hold him just once. Alas, they live too far away. I haven't yet even been able to meet his older brother, Jonathan. We are hoping that next summer we will be able to get to Canada and that I will be able to see them then. The thought of that makes me smile.

Jess. As most of you know, we have a border collie named Jess and she makes me smile. With these warmer and dryer days she is usually out in the garden waiting to greet me when I arrive home after work. That is one of the things I love most about dogs . . . they way they greet you when you have been away. They are always so happy to see you and make a fuss. They are such good company. I love our Jess to bits. She is such a smiling dog and so happy. She makes me happy too.

I have loved buttons since I was a little girl and collected them for many years. I have a big paper mache box that I hold them in. I painted the outside of it myself many moons ago. I just love taking it out every once in a while and looking at all the buttons in it. I feel like a pirate running my fingers through golden doubloons when I run my fingers through the buttons. Every button has a story to tell and holds happy memories for me. They are like a secret treasure to me. My mother always had a button box too. I used to love looking at all the buttons in it when I was a girl and thinking about the journeys each button had taken. Nothing has changed. The girl in me still loves to do that, even now . . .

My paints and brushes make me smile. I enjoy every moment that I spend with them so very much. Everything else disappears and I am in a world of my own. Time just disappears. I am so grateful for this God given talent of mine. No, my pictures are not like Rembrandt's or other famous artist's muses . . . my pictures are a reflection of my own heart and mind. Whimsical and fun to do, they speak to me of the joys and innocence of childhood. I think inside each one of us is the shadow of the child that we once were. I like to take mine out once in a while and give it a voice. This voice springs from the end of my fingertips like water from a well. It brings me joy and hopefully it also brings joy to others . . .

The Gospel. I am so thankful for the Gospel in my life and the peace that it brings. In a world that seems to be going crazier by the moment, it is the one thing that I know will never change, and that I can find comfort there. It is a sure sweet knowledge that calms my heart and fears, that fills my heart and mind with joy. Every word, every thought, even the tiniest of it's principles . . . they all bring such a peace of mind into my life. I wonder how people who don't have it in their lives cope with this ever changing world. I am reading some of the Discourses by Henry B Eyring right now. I am on the first volume, Drawing Closer to God. There is such wisdom there and I am eating up every word like candy.

"Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (D&C 88:63.)

I rest in that beautiful promise from the Savior. It is my anchor in the troubled waters of these modern times.

Another thing I love about the warmer sunnier days is salads. We tend to eat a lot more salads in the spring and summer. This is one of my favourite ones. Crisp and tasty chicken tenders on a bed of dressed greens and vegetables and all topped with a tangy barbecue dressing. This is better than anything you can get in a restaurant and you feel almost healthy eating it. Shh . . . we won't think about having fried the chicken . . .

*Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders and Salad with Tangy Maple Dressing*
Serves 4-6

Printable Recipe

This is one of my favourite salads to eat in the warmer weather. I love the crunch of the chicken and the crisp salad greens and it's sweet and tangy dressing.

Chicken Tenders:
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 - 2 pounds chicken tenders
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten together with a bit of milk or water
1 cup dry bread crumbs or cracker meal
1 cup of pecans, finely chopped or ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
the zest of one orange

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup of barbecue sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
the juice of one orange
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


3 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
a handful of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally

Place the flour in one shallow dish. Place the eggs in another shallow dish, next to the flour. Place the bread crumbs, nutmeg, orange zest and pecans in third shallow dish, mixing them together well.

Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper and then roll them in the flour. Dip them into the beaten egg and then finally coat them in the crumb mixture.

Heat some cooking oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry the tenders in the hot oil in small batches for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes on each side. Drain well on paper towels.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients until amalgamated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine the chopped lettuce and the spring onions in a large salad bowl. Toss with 3/4 cup of the dressing. Divide the mixture amongst 4 to 6 chilled serving plates.
Top each with several of the chicken tenders. Drizzle the remaining dressing over top. Serve.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Saturday thoughts . . .

"It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and
happier to sometimes be cheated than not to trust."
~Apples Of Gold

You probably have noticed that I added a new song to my play list earlier this week. And I love her, by the Beatles. I have always loved the Beatles. I was only eight years old when we first discovered them in North America, and I can remember seeing them for the first time on the night-time news early one November evening in 1963. Grainy black and white images of the fab four arriving by airplane in New York City, standing on the airplane stairs just outside it's door and waving to the crowds of people that had shown up to see them land. My parents allowed me to stay up and watch their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show that Sunday night, and I can remember being very excited about it. This was one of my life's defining moments.

Of course they were all the talk at school that next Monday. Everyone was so very enthused about them and had seen their performance on Ed Sullivan the night before, not that we could really hear very much over the screaming of the girls in the audience. Looking back on it now, I realize that in being able to watch them that night, I was a little part of history. Music was never to be the same again. They were only the first of what became known as the "British Invasion" into the pop industry of North America.

This was also a time when I learnt a very important lesson about people and about faith. The Beatles were my first brush with dishonesty and my faith was surely tested. There was a girl at school who insisted that she knew the Beatles very well. In fact, she knew them so well, that every single weekend that they were in the country, they came and spent the weekend at her house. Of course, there were lots of kids that hoo hawed at her words in disbelief, but I was very gullible and trusting, and I took her at her word. It seems quite silly now, but I truly believed every word she was telling in the great fairy tale story that she wove around us. So much so that, when she told me that they would be visiting her this very next weekend, and that she would send them over to my house to meet me, I believed her and accepted those words as fact.

I hung around my house all weekend, except for the hours that I had to go to Sunday school and church on Sunday. My mother couldn't get me to go anywhere. There was no way that I was leaving the immediate vicinity of my home. I had to be there for when they arrived, I just had to . . .

At first, I was filled with excitement and anticipation . . . just imagine, the fab four would soon be sitting on my mother's brown brocade upholstery in the living room. I could imagine them being very handsome, witty and totally charming. I pictured their cute British accents resounding within the walls of my home and I relished the thought of just how very proud I was going to feel in front of my family, knowing that I was the instrument of their arrival, and that they would be there because of me and my friendship with one of their best and dearest friends . . .

As the hours ticked away, and excitement began to wane in the growing feelings of disappointment and betrayal, I began to suspect that I had been duped . . . but even after those first niggling feelings of doubt began to creep in, I still tried hard to believe in the lie . . . as if by simply believing in it, I could somehow make it come true . . .

By the time Sunday evening rolled around, and my mother was tucking me into bed, I knew that I had been lied to, and my cheeks were hot with the sting of the tears of betrayal and misguided faith. I felt cheated and angry . . . and more than a little stupid . That was the harshest sting of all . . . feeling stupid. I had learned a very important lesson. Not everyone was as good as their word, and that sometimes people embellish things to make themselves feel and look more important . . . that sometimes people did indeed lie.

I am thankful to say though, that although I had been lied to, and was very, very disappointed, it did not destroy my faith, nor did it destroy my trust. It did however, change who I trusted and who I had faith in, and from that point on, if something or someone sounded too good to be true, I kinda thought that it was. People will break your heart, and let you down . . . sometimes they will cheat you and lie to you . . . they are only human after all, and there is not a one of us that is perfect. This I accept.

There is One though, that will never let us down and One, that we can have perfect faith and trust in. He will never cheat us or lie to us. His words and promises are true. He will not only show up and sit on your mother's brown brocade sofa, but He'll reside with you as long as you will have Him there, and He'll walk by your side every step of your life should you choose to let Him do so. I am so very thankful for my trusting and faithful heart and for my Savior who holds it in His tender care.

I had a lovely day off work yesterday and got a bit of art done and a bit of baking. If you want to see the art, you can go here. This one is called "Make a Joyful Noise." If you want to see what I baked, then look no further . . .

*Luscious Lemon Snacking Cake*
Serves 8

Click for Printable Recipe

This is one of those tasty and moist cakes that you make, bake and serve all from one pan. No fuss, no mess and plenty of taste! If you like lemon, this cake's for you.

For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup milk

For the Glaze:
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 TBS melted butter
2 to 3 tsp fresh lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the pan. Level it off and then make two deep indentations in it. Beat the egg and lemon zest together in a small bowl. Pour this mixture into one indentation. Pour the melted butter into the other indentation. Pour the milk over all and then mix well with a fork. (There will be some lumps that remain, just do your best and make sure you get into the corners)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean or until it springs back when lightly touched in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan.

For the the glaze combine the icing sugar, melted butter and enough lemon juice in a small bowl, using only as much lemon juice as is desired to make a glazing consistency. Spread over the cooled cake.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Twelve Rules for Raising Delinquent Children

(An Orchard View from one of our upstairs windows)

  1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe that the world owes him a living.
  2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he's cute.
  3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is 21 and let him "decide for himself."
  4. Avoid the use of the word "wrong." It may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.
  5. Pick up everything he leaves lying around . . . books, shoes, and clothes. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.
  6. Let him read any printed matter he can get his hands on. Be careful that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.
  7. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they will not be too shocked when the home is broken up later.
  8. Give a child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own. Why should he have things as tough as you had them?
  9. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink, and comfort. See that every sensual desire is gratified. Denial may lead to harmful frustration.
  10. Take his part against neighbours, teachers, and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.
  11. When he gets into real trouble, apologize for yourself by saying, "I never could do anything with him."
  12. Prepare for a life of grief. You will be likely to have it.
~Houston Police Department

There's a lot of food for thought there. I hope you didn't mind me sharing this with you today. I believe I know one or two children headed in this direction. Thank goodness they are not mine, but . . . then again, having said that . . . when they are old enough to be out and about, do they not then become every one's problem anyways???

One of the first cookbooks I ever bought was a paperback cookbook entitled, Madame Benoit Cooks at Home. I think it cost me all of $2.50 and it's cover is now quite tattered and worn. I've had it for a very long time as I believe I was only about 15 or 16 when I bought it. Madame Jehane Benoit was one of Canada's most famous chef's when I was growing up. She used to appear quite regularly on the afternoon show, "Take Thirty," and cookery articles of hers regularly appeared in the Star Weekly magazine. I used to love watching her and this is one of my very favourite cookbooks. I truly cherish it. Yesterday I made Todd this delicious Pork Chop recipe from it called the "Manitoba Special." They truly were delicious and as I popped that first mouthful into my mouth I said a silent thanks to Mme. Benoit and her wonderful tutelage during my youth.

*Manitoba Special*
Serves 4 - 6

Imagine a tasty pork chop, all tender and brown and baked all nestled into a bed of delicious fruity stuffing. Mme Benoit said that this recipe was a combination of Scandinavian and Mennonite cooking. I quite successfully downed the proportions to serve just the two of us. This was really scrumptious served with some tiny boiled new potatoes and some carrots on the side.

6 rib or blade pork chops, trim off the fat and save it for later
2 TBS all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 TBS diced pork fat
(Trimmings from the edged of the chops)
2 cups dry bread crumbs
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 TBS sage
1 egg, beaten
2 TBS butter, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter an 8 by 8 inch casserole and set aside.

Roll the chops in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Heat the pork fat in a large skillet and melt. Brown the chops in this melted fat until they are nicely browned on both sides.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. You may find you need a little bit of broth or stock to moisten it. I added about 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock. Place this mixture into the buttered casserole dish. Lay the browned chops on top. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the chops are nicely tender and the stuffing is a bit browned.

Serve hot with your favourite vegetable accompaniments. Delicious!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sweet thoughts of springtime . . .

And fairy month of wakening mirth,
from whom our joys ensue
Thou early gladder of the earth
Thrice welcome here, anew
With thee the bud unfolds to leaves
the grass greens on the lea
And flowers their tender boon receives
To bloom and smile with thee.

~John Clare, Spring

We had such a beautiful and sunny day here yesterday, it was almost summer-like. It was quite pleasant to walk around in my shirt sleeves and I could feel the warmth of the sun upon my face. It was most lovely . . .

The Orchards that surround us are in full bloom now and the air is filled with the smell of the promise of a thousand apples and golden pears . . . it is magic to me, how these tender blossoms unfold such promise and turn into fruit . . . some for the eating out of hand and others destined for pies and cakes and jelly's sweet . . . and there are some that say there is no God . . .

They cannot have dwelt amongst the beauty of an Orchard in the springtime, nor watched the bumbling bumble bee amble from flower to flower, it's body heavy and awkward beneath it's tender wings . . . how can it fly, and yet it does . . . a miracle I suppose . . .

Nor looked at the golden yellow of the dandelion, turning to feathery wings of flight, holding a million promises of future flower that blow through the air like a fairy's wings . . .

When tender buds unfurl and break out into leaf . . . is this not proof of a mystery greater than man should suppose . . . and blossom tender, sweetly fragrant beneath the heat of the warming sun . . . does this happen by chance . . . or is it a part of a greater plan . . .

Everything . . . from the smallest bloom to the largest roaring waterfall, fitting together with beauty and purpose. Not chance, no . . . no . . . not chance . . . it cannot be . . . this perfect mystery, this beautiful song that the earth sings.

I know in my heart it comes from something and someone much greater than me . . . my heart bespeaks of glories great and kingdoms yet to unfold, and stories yet untold . . .

Each petal and tender leaf, but one beautiful note from the musical symphony of spring that comes from the touch of the Master's hand . . .

My Todd does love himself an apple pie. I think of all the things I could bake him this would be one of his favourites. I cannot bake one as his mother did, but then pies such as the ones our mother's bake taste all the sweeter in our memories don't they. I don't even try . . . I just bake my own and he enjoys them still . They may not be the pies of his memory, but they are the pies of someone's memory, and we are building new memories all the time . . . I believe there is room for one more piece of apple pie . . .

*Apple Crumble Pie*
Makes one 9 inch pie

Picture apples, tender and sweet, tucked in beneath a crumbly and short sweet and spicy blanket, and all nestled into a crisp crusty bed . . . what could be any better?

1 un-baked 9 inch pastry shell

2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp flour
6 cups tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
(I used Granny Smith's)

1 cup flour
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Line a 9 inch pie tin with pastry, your own or shop bought. Flute the edge and set aside.

Mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour for the filling in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss well together. Pour this into the pie shell.

TO make the topping, place the sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter together in a bowl. Blend together with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped nuts if using. Sprinkle this evenly over top of the apples in the pie shell.

Place onto a foil lined baking sheet and slide this into the oven. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the apples are soft and bubbling and the topping is golden brown.**

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before eating.

Note** If you find the crust is browning too quickly, cover with foil.

PSSST - If you want to see my latest art piece, entitled "Come What May And Love It", hop on over to Blossom Time Creations and take a gander. I think this is my all time favourite! (I know, I say that every time!)