Friday, September 30, 2011

I don't know what they're saying

This week, for one thing, Honeysuckle did not have babies. After all that fussing around. We’re disappointed. I know her followers will be, too. We don’t know what to think. Someone suggested fertility treatment. But couldn’t that result in multi-multiple birth and rather than the normal dozen or so, we’d end up with 25 babies?

For another thing, the ceiling in my office leaked onto my bookshelves. So why was it we got a NEW roof at huge expense this summer? It’s fixed now, we hope, but the ceiling remains discolored and cracked. Not that I look up much.

There were other things, like there not being enough money in Ransom’s account to pay our salary this month.

In spite of the everyday nuttiness of life and other more serious matters, we are leaving it behind for the weekend. The drive to Chicago will be a little space apart and seeing the golden colors of fields and forests rolling past will have a soothing effect. As we pass over the Mississippi River we’ll imagine what it would be like to live at the top of a bluff overlooking The River, watching seasons and barges float past without a  care in the world. The time in Chicago spent with our dear, oldest daughter, and visiting The Aunt, and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert (tickets bought long ago when times were fatter) … all this should give us time to regain touch with the source of our strength:
       Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalms 25:4, 5)

 Whatever the pigs are saying, it, of course, can’t compete with the baby bunnies we were hoping to post. Perhaps the piggy grab-all-you-can-eat attitude is also a reminder that God feeds his children all the time despite our manners and always when we need it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cast Iron as wedding gift

Dear Hannah,

In case you get cast iron that needs to be reconditioned, this is basically how I do it, although I’m no expert. There are other methods that work for people more safety conscious and capable than me. Like electrolysis.

This pan was reconditioned yesterday when I put it in the oven at the same time I ran the oven through its cleaning cycle. Depending on how much residue has formed over its life, the pan will come out covered with light ash and will look very rusty. You will be appalled, but this is GOOD, it will be down to the original surface. At least for the cast iron I have, this method has worked well. Yours came out beautiful.

Next step is to re-season it. First, clean off all the residue with Crisco or canola oil and paper towels. You will be anxious because so much blackened and rusty stuff comes off and you’ll wonder if it will ever be safe for anything edible. (Remember. Cast iron can become a small source of iron in the diet. Better, even healthy for you, unlike the shedding of toxic perfluorooctanoic acid [PFOA] from nonstick pans.) Keep applying the shortening until the towels are fairly clean. Wipe it off, then place it in the oven and turn the temp to 450 degrees. When it reaches that temp, turn the oven off. As soon as you the pan is cool enough to handle, reapply a light coat of Crisco and replace it in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven off and leave it in the oven to cool on its own. Wipe it out again. It’s now ready to use. 

For the first few months, before you cook in it, always lightly grease it, and heat it on medium/low for five minutes as you get ingredients ready or post your fb status. This will help the seasoning process along and the surface improve – it will eventually become silky smooth. Then adjust the heat to whatever your dish requires. The more you use it, the better it will get. I promise.

If food has not stuck to the surface, cleanup only requires a quick swipe with a damp cloth or paper-toweling that leaves a very light coat of oil. If you make something that sticks, (some things will) don’t worry about scrubbing it hard. It can take it. I know a lot of folks say NEVER scrub it or use soap, but I do all the time- if needed. Before you put it away, make sure it drys, re-oil it, and put it on low again for a few minutes, and it will be ready for the next use.

Hannah, your cast iron skillet is a WagnerWare #5. Less than 8 inches max. I found it at a garage sale and hate to tell how little I paid for it, since it’s your wedding gift, and after all, you and Thomas are worthy of much more. Don’t know how old, but probably pre-1960’s. It is just right for sautéing onions and peppers, making a 3 egg omelet, or baking 3-4 apples. It will make awesome fry-basted eggs – that’s where you put in a teaspoon of butter, heat the pan, crack in the eggs, quickly add 1 T water and slam on a pot lid. Done to perfection in a couple minutes! No flipping necessary.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The About Margie on Margie's Stuff

It’s a Friday morning in early Fall and I am on the cusp of going live with a new sub-site linked to Ransom Fellowship. Before that can happen, I need to write an About Margie.

 much later in the day. No closer to being done. I don’t like writing this page and find many excuses to procrastinate. Hours have slipped past, and now it’s time to make chile rellenos with the poblanos I roasted earlier today.

The first distraction of the day was addressing the problem of wild grapes intended for jelly, not the syrup they’ve become. One jar for pancake syrup is okay, but ten? No. I dumped them all back into a large saucepan and re-heated it to a boil, stirring, watchful, thinking. I decided to add more pectin to see if it would thicken up. Carefully, I mixed it with a little water, gradually added spoonfuls of hot grape syrup until I could gently pour it into the simmering pot so as not to create one giant grape clot. There was a slight delay and then mayhem. I’ve stirred down many a rolling boil in life, but this was quickly out of control and I was trying to calm Mount St. Helens with a wooden spoon. The frothing bubbles grew into a heaping mound above the pot while I frantically tried to jerk the pot off the burner. Too late. The purple lava flowed over the sides, onto the burner where it smelted to pure carbon, adding a stink to the air, before sinking into the dark recesses of the range, where I never go. Thirty minutes later the mess was cleaned up and the jelly re-cooked. While ladling into the first jar, I managed to pour an inferno on my thumb. This was too much. I was about to cry or break all the jars, when my lifetime collaborator walked into the kitchen and offered to help.

And since that’s where I’m headed ... I may as well state it: now, looking back, thinking forward, life has been and will always be a collaboration with my husband of many years and with others who have joined us along the way. Not that it’s been perfect by any means. But I can’t write about myself without including Denis – his love of me, of hospitality, of theology, the challenges of media and culture … together we’ve tried to live artfully and faithfully, welcoming into our home those who don’t necessarily think or act like Sunday School veterans. We’ve asked ourselves what it means to fully live in this world with it’s many wonders and troubles and yet offer the full story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.

When I was younger, I fantasized about doing something sensational and heroic, I can’t even think what right now. But I’ve learned that living a life pleasing to God and one that’s unexpectedly fulfilling is found in the ordinary days of waiting for the kitchen floor to dry in lemon-scented swaths on cleaning day, of scanning a cookbook for an apple cake recipe, reading a novel, reconciling the checking account, raising children, serving friends and strangers around a table where we share life stories. In the most foundational way learning to see Christ’s presence in the midst of the most common events not just for others, but for myself.

In this rich scape, which can also be rocky and danger-filled, I’ve been writing about what's funny, what's holy, what's suffering, probably since before you were born. It would be nice to claim that a great deal of wisdom has been seived through life’s boil-overs and rare moments of triumph over fruit-fly infestations, but that might sound arrogant.

This is the direction I stumble in, believing a greater glory will one day be revealed.

P.S. You should also know we have three adult children who helped shape our lives. I’m crazy about them, their spouses, and our eight grandchildren. I was at one time a pre-med student. (Thankfully, God spared me a life he knew I couldn’t live. I learned this observing the punishing schedules of physician friends.)  In another life I would be a stone mason or a gardener. I love coffee and chocolate. Currently, a dash of chronic illness seeps into my priorities, which is often why I don’t answer the phone. Don’t take it personal.

 A friend told me this pic made me look like a Grandma Vampire wannabe. That wasn't what I was had in mind. But my apologies for constantly wearing black and looking like I might bite.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Honeysuckle and Heathcliff

Three and a half weeks ago Honeysuckle went to her house of origin for a little visit while we were all out of town. Mary Lou, who raises angoras, asked Anita if she wanted to try to have Honeysuckle bred again. Remember last time she fought off every suitor, punching them in the face and biting their ears. She was not in the mood. This time she met Heathcliff, a peachy-colored fluffy, gentle kind of guy and he won her heart. Now we’re not SURE (The breeder said she was a little pudgy. Probably from eating my sandals, her latest craze. Hey, don’t pregnant females crave dill pickles) – but she WAS doing this the other day.

           In about four days, we will know if it was all humbug. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wedding Prayer

We’ve just completed a season of weddings with two of them being this past weekend. The weather was perfect, for both were outdoors – a dicey factor anywhere, and an additional stress for mothers-of-bride who can be especially or insanely? obsessed with the perfection of details.  All of the weddings were unique and beautiful from the easy-going bride who said, “whatever” to the one who said, “No one is ‘giving me away’ I’m giving Myself away!” The last wedding reflected an unusually strong (having survived challenges that would capsize most of us) and glorious bride who wanted the traditional Anglican ceremony and chose a deep red color for her gown.  

Denis included this wedding prayer for the couple with slightly altered words from the original.
This blessing is full of reminders I need often – not just on Wedding Days. That night as we lay in bed together, I asked him to pray it again – for us – for Denis and Margie.

Eternal God,
Creator and preserver of all life, author of salvation, and giver of all grace:
Look with favor upon the world you have made, and for which your Son gave his life, and especially upon this man and this woman whom you have made one flesh.
Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy. Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other's forgiveness and yours.
Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.
Grant that all of us here will know something of your grace, O Father, who with your Son, and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns in perfect unity, now and forever.
            We ask you to bless this marriage, and these two who form a family in the name of Jesus.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Honeysuckle destroys her hutch

After a week (her first trimester?) of lethargy and fatigue, this girl needs something more constructive to do. I do, too. I promise to get around to it tomorrow. This is a holiday, after all. Any more quotes from The Enigma of Anger would just be another easy way out.