That Man! And His Incredible Gift!

I’ve written about this table before, twice. Here. And here. You just about need to read these, to prime the pump, so the rest will make tons more sense to you.

Otherwise, you’ll think I’m some kind of doddering old nut.

So, go ahead and read. This’ll still all be here when you get back. And I’ve arranged the links to open in new windows, so you won’t lose this page. You’re welcome.

Now, if you’ve read, or if you remember the story,

Let me tell you Chapter Three

Those of you who have hung with me for years may think you are tired of hearing about “the table”, but the story simply has gotten WAY better.

Basically, there is a table in my life that has not much monetary value, but lotsa nostalgia going for it. I’m not immune to nostalgia at all, but this thing rang all my bells and has humbled me to no end.

If it is possible to be in love with a table, then I was.

First, it is important to realize when I thought the table was destroyed, it was because it was old and I could not remember having it for years and years. Then, one day I wrote about it and later I discovered my son had it at his house. Wow. You cannot imagine my happiness.

When we were helping them move, it was so close to totally rotten we debated photographing it and giving it a funeral.

I voted a big “NO” and I won. Eventually the table came back to be mine, but finally in pieces. It lived, along with all its pieces, in our shop, for several years.

Well the other day, my newly-retired husband asked me if I wanted to see what he’d been doing all day, and you guessed it:

The table has been resurrected:

Sweet new old table

You can imagine my pleasure (but only if you’ve read the previous stories!) and the poor, simple table has brought tears to my eyes, one more time, and here it is, the way I saw it when I first learned it had survived surgery.

I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was a sight to behold, for me.

Old table made newNow, here it is, newly repainted and pressed into service, again, making everything around it look in need of a Spring spruce-up.

Isn’t it like that with us? Our Father created us, and loves when our parents dedicate us to Him, and when we love him back and serve Him. But sometimes we get worn out, or worse yet, we get away from Him. Then He finds us and fixes us.

So this love gift has been given to me thrice. What a thing to make such a deal about, but really, it’s the love that has overwhelmed me.

Some days the blessings just come. Ever had a day like that?

Kids in the Kitchen

Children learning in kitchen

All my children are taller than I am. But when they were little, oh, did we have funny times!

One day our five-year-old came up with a great one-liner: “I know how to make brown bread–toast it!” We laughed, but he was serious. He honestly was exploring with his mind, the finer points of food preparation.

Our canning successes and failures have impressed our children. As we ate peas for supper one night long ago, the seven-year-old said, “I’m glad God made seeds because if you plant just a small pack, you get a LOT of peas to eat!” Me too, Dearie.

Our pickled peppers always received rave reviews from all the hot stuff eaters. And the muscadine jam–you’d have to taste it to believe it.

They learned so much.

When the deer got our peaches and crab apples and drought got our pears, their joy at what we had was sobered by what we lost. They couldn’t wait to start again, to do better. But in the meantime, we could open jars and remember.

One thing they loved helping with in the winter was apple leather. It is so easy to spread applesauce on a lubricated pan and set it near the fireplace to dry for a few days. How they loved making funny shapes of it with scissors! It was a favorite snack for them.

Actually, nothing beats the Winter Doldrums like the warmth and aromas of something happening in the kitchen. Whether Big Sis is rescuing some old bananas in yummy banana bread, or everyone is taking turns at the handle of the apple-slicing/coring device for apple crunch, we get miles of smiles from being close family in a simple kitchen full of love.

Kids love to cook. It’s a part of growing up.

They love to break eggs, dump ingredients, stir, set the timer, read recipes, etc. The kitchen, to them is like a big friendly science learning lab where we get to eat the experiment. Happy the child who feels welcome in the kitchen!

So is there a way a five-year-old can make brown bread? Probably not, but if you are making bread and let him count and dump in the part that makes it brown, wouldn’t he love it? How easy to launch from there into an explanation of differences in flours, complete with a microscope!

If his twelve-year-old sister does the bread making, she’ll beam when Daddy cuts himself a second slice. The seven-year-old could coat the pan with wonderful squishy grease. Teens love to rescue everyone when the hot pan is ready to exit the oven; the challenge of facing actual danger is like a tonic to them.

Are there any recipes a five-year-old can really do himself? Yes, the apple leather is one of them. He could make the butter for Big Sister’s bread: just shake 1 cup room-temperature cream in a quart jar for about 15 minutes and it makes butter. You strain off the remaining liquid for him, and let him pack it into a bowl. Or how about pie dough crackers? Hand him scraps to roll, cut, and sprinkle with milk and sugar or salt. Of course, you bake it for him.

A slightly older child can do more.

Let him slice some ice box cookies and arrange them on the cookie sheet. He can help you form the dough into the short, fat snake before you freeze it.

You might try a batch of coffee-can ice cream. Have him put a layer of ice cubes and salt into a large coffee can. Set a small, sealed coffee can ¾ full of ice cream mixture into the large can. Place ice and salt around the sides and over the top. Seal the large can and let the children roll this on the floor about 15 minutes until the ice cream sets. What fun!

When it comes to much older children, we know our future homemakers belong in the kitchen, but perhaps we’re lost about how and where to begin with them.

The first step is mentally to prepare for a mess.

Face it: you are neat and tidy in the kitchen because you learned the hard way it’s better to clean as you go. Your recipes are common to you and it’s no problem to fix a mess crisis while you cook. For the beginner, to cook IS the crisis and spills are commonplace. You can wipe up for her as she goes—an option that is good only for a while—or ask her to clean up when she’s done. We all must learn to police our own area.

So expect splatters from ceiling to floor. Grin and bear it. When my husband’s mother and I experimented with throwing pizza crust instead of rolling it, we gained a laughable moment that helped bond me to her like little else can. You want to bond with your own young chefs so they can feel loved and feel good about family life.

And don’t be surprised if your young men want to join in. I suspect when Jesus cooked fish for His disciples, it was scrumptious. And He did not learn that in the carpenter shop, either.

For beginning cooks, I like a mix.

Store bought or homemade, a mix is perfect for learning, because there is some fun measuring and beginners can concentrate on technique. Add skills gradually, layer over layer. You will know when you have come to the point where you can show her a recipe and do something else nearby. You can keep an eye on her and she can ask questions without leaving her station.

So, how old is old enough for each task?

Often I measure by height. No one should ever cook on a stove while standing on a box or chair. If you cannot reach the knobs, you are too young.

A lot has to do with motor skills. I have a cute photo of my daughter and one of her brothers when they were young—so young they sat ON the counter with the brownie bowl between them. It was their first try at egg-breaking. The egg was not exactly in the bowl. They were too young.

Invite them in, though. If you have many very little ones, start slowly, perhaps with licking the spoon. Do what you think is best for you, not forgetting the purpose: to have fun with Mom and be prepared for life.

Here are some easy or fun recipes to get you started:

No Knead Bread

2 cups white flour
1 package dry yeast
1 ¼ cup milk
½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour

Mix white flour and yeast. Warm milk, butter, sugar and salt to 120 degrees. Add to flour mixture with egg. Mix on low speed of mixer for 30 seconds, then on high for 3 minutes. Stir in whole wheat flour by spoon. Let rise 1 hour. Stir. Pour into greased bread pan. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes 1 loaf, 12 slices. Calories: 215 per slice.

Fast Fruit Ice Cream

1 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
1 quart individually frozen peaches OR 5 peeled, ripe frozen bananas
sugar or honey, to taste

Place into blender, cap, and blend on high until fruit is well blended. Place into ice cold container and freeze for about 3 hours. Or eat as is for a milk shake. Serves four. Calories: about 395, using peaches and 1 cup sugar.

Play Clay

1 cup flour
½ cup salt
1 teaspoon powdered alum
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 cup water
food color (opt.)

Place all in medium saucepan. Stir and cook on medium for 3 minutes, or until dough leaves sides of pan. It will not be too hot, only very warm. Knead. Store in covered jar, or air tight plastic bag, in refrigerator. Looks, smells, and feels just as they hoped.

Have a great weekend!

 

Can I Teach You to Love Ironing?

learn to love ironing

Maybe I can; I surely hope I can . . . .

A lot depends upon where your heart is.

Ironing is an art.

I mean, we take the raw material and turn it into a sort of sculpture, don’t we? And it is most beautiful when the shirt is made right, in the first place, so the ironing chore is a joy for the one who irons: The plaids fall naturally into the pleats, the seams fold in the right direction, and the button placket is flat and cooperative.

In that way, ironing is like two artists who’ve worked together to send someone out into the world looking finely sculpted.

I’ll tell you, there is something about a man with a fresh haircut, who has groomed his face, and possesses the wealth of freshly ironed shirts to choose from in his closet, that makes him stand out, not only to his employer, but also to me.

I love giving that to my man. And that is the basis of my love for ironing.

The entire foundation for this love lies in the finished product.

  • I love looking at the shirts all lined up in the closet, ready to indulge in.
  • I love slipping into a smooth and lovely fresh-ironed shirt.
  • I love the way I look in the clothing that must be ironed.
  • I love feeling rich, as I do wearing an ironed shirt.
  • I love that my husband goes to work looking totally sharp every day.
  • I love knowing how to iron, and knowing not everyone does know how.

Ironing is probably very much an elitist, self-gratifying thing with me.

After all, I also love when building a tall lasagna that tastes magnificent because we grew the tomatoes, the onions, and even the eggs for making the pasta.

It’s a sort of self-satisfaction with the doing of it, I suppose. However, it also is totally a self-indulgence, quite a bit like rushing to be the first one to dig into the whipped cream carton…

Does that help?

How did I become so nutty?

It all began with my mother. I can remember watching her iron for hours on end, to make some spare cash for our family. It was something she could do and still be available for her children.

I remember she ironed for a woman who explained in an embarrassed way that she could not do ironing herself, due to arthritis in her hands, which were all gnarly with the devastation. This woman’s husband played an instrument in a dance band in the early 60’s. His white shirts had to be starched and ironed to a specific degree of perfection.

Watching that project taught me a lot about the right and wrong ways to perform with iron in hand.

I remember she also ironed for a woman who worked outside the home as a nurse. Think white uniform dresses, again totally starched and totally in need of perfection in ironing skills.

My mom was exceptionally skilled at the job, and loved knowing how, teaching me how, and devising new ways to improve.

(She tried re-inventing distilled water for her steam iron, by melting down frost from the refrigerator. Didn’t turn out too well, since the clothing then smelled like fish and bell peppers.)

Oh, it helps to know how.

One factor that adds to the pleasure is adding a bit of cooked starch to the last rinse water, and then hanging the shirts to dry.

After that, spritzing with water to iron makes the fabric stay glossy and in place, and makes the work last until you are ready to waste it on yourself.

As I said it is a self-indulgence thing.

And here is the boiled starch recipe: 1/2 cup corn starch stirred into 2 cups of water, then that mixture stirred into 2 quarts of boiling water. It thickens, some, as you stir, and becomes semi-transparent. Add this hot little mess to a half-washer-load of rinse water and then add all the clothing you want to starch, up to about six shirts or so. Agitate and spin on the gentle spin cycle, which leaves a bit more of the liquid in the fabric.

Hang this clothing indoors to dry.

That is the secret, and it is worth it, to me. This method keeps spray starch off the walls, floor, ironing board, iron, and everything else. It’s how we who really iron get that really good-looking shirt.

More about hanging clothing to dry, here.

Starching also adds to the longevity of any article of clothing, adding durability and protecting from body oils. It is truly worth every moment of the time it takes.

One small note before you reject every bit of this post: Try starching and ironing your favorite piece made of rayon.

You will be forever hooked.

Mmm.

Wrapped in Nothing But a Bedsheet?

Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery, o/t, ...The powers-that-be have just dragged her from the bed of a man to whom she is not married.

Perhaps all she is wearing is a bedsheet.

Perhaps he is one of the powers-that-be.

Nevertheless, there she stands, exposed, before her authorities. They do not care about her. They do not care about right or wrong. The have stalked her, captured her, and reduced her to the status of rubbish for one purpose: to trick a popular counselor of that day.

“The law demands this woman be stoned to death,” they announce. Then they wait. They are so sure. They have Him this time. The Man of Mercies will have to admit that mercy does not always win.

Or so they think.

He is unperturbed.

He stoops and writes in the dust. A list of their sins? Perhaps.

Do they look around themselves, worriedly, confused? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the life of a woman hangs over eternity. Perhaps, thrown down to the ground, does she cower? Perhaps.

In a culture that forbids her uncovered state, in a land filled with huge stones, she waits, uncovered, for her stoning.

Finally the Man stands to speak. “And whoever is without sin should throw the first stone.” Then he resumes writing.

Beginning with the eldest–perhaps wisest–each man drops his gleeful attitude, drops his stone, drops his case.

Point taken.

The kind Counselor turns to ask the woman, “Where are they? Who is accusing you?”

The answer, from inside a bedsheet: “No one.”

“Neither do I condemn you.”

Notice He does not say she did not sin, but only that He does not condemn her.

She stands obviously guilty and shamed, but for her, there is now no condemnation.

Stoning is not prevalent in our society, but prostitution is. I want to ask you: How many of us have been there–a blackened past forgiven by the mercies of God?

How many of us throw away that forgiveness?

How many of us hug our sad past close and get it out to look at it and mourn over it, to relive it to its fullest?

How many of us labor with all our might to get out from under sin that no longer is over us?

How many of us, on stormy days, add to the bad past by letting it create for us bad choices, bad attitudes, bad excuses?

A bad present? Even a bad future?

Jesus asked only one thing from that woman, that day, and asks it of us, too: “Go, and sin no more.”

________________

Image via Wikipedia

Pink Toilet Paper Is for Boys.

Pink Toilet PaperI managed a house full of boys most of my life. With one girlie sandwiched in between them all.

I know boys and toilets.

There’s a lot about boys and toilets ya’ can’t help. Due to their being boys and mom’s being a girl, they tend to object about being checked on very much. Although I would barge in on them if I thought it necessary, and they knew I would.

And sometimes it was plumb necessary. No pun.

When you find incriminating puddles and sprays all over the bathroom they use—well, let’s just say it wasn’t their sister’s doings. Nope.

They might even all deny it, but they all knew I knew one of them did it. Or two.

If I tried drawing their dad into the debates about who would clean up all that mess, he’d chuckle and tell them to mind their mom. Not too convincing, he.

Usually, I made them clean it up, and then maybe made them go back over it because it wasn’t clean enough, and then when they were not looking, I’d get in there and get it clean. I mean, what’s a mom for, if she cannot tell the difference between boy-clean, and clean?

Most of the time, these guys were pretty good. Really. They hung up their towels and draped their wet bath mat over the tub to air out, and flushed when necessary. Not bad for a small herd of ‘em.

There was one thing, though, that they seemed unable to do: They never let me know when their bathroom was almost out of toilet paper, so I could buy more, so the whole house could have enough.

Mind you, they understood the concept of helping keep the grocery list up to date. They never failed to let me know when the cold cereal was low, for instance, and eventually they learned to let me know when their deodorant was low. They actually wrote these entries on the list, themselves.

But toilet paper? Nah. Not so much. Not at all, in fact. How many times does a kid have to humble himself by hobbling over to the door half-clothed, like a ghetto wardrobe gone berserk, and hollering downstairs for someone to please raid the master bath for a roll just for him?

Seemingly an endless number of times.

It is twelve steps up to that level, and down again on the return trip. I know. But I fixed those guys. Yes I did, because I was growing tired of it, if they were not.

I bought a package of pink toilet paper. When they were not looking, I put one roll on the bottom of the stack in their bathroom closet. And I waited.

At first, they did not notice, since the bottom roll in that stack was obscured by a stack of wash cloths. Eventually, though, the rosy truth came to light and the questions began. Why is there pink toilet paper in our bathroom closet? (Of course, their sister did not mind at all, although she also used that room.) How come we have to have pink? And on it went.

I offered the meager answer: They did not have to use it, if they did not want to. I let them puzzle on that one awhile.

And sure enough, when the pink roll was all there was left, they caught on: Tell Mom we’re out of paper. Of course! Do it!

Didn’t take very many applications of that lesson.

In fact, as soon as more white paper appeared in the house, the pink was returned to its guard post behind the wash cloths, never, to my knowledge, to reappear.

September 28th

Poison ivy produces urushiol to protect the pl...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I repost this, now and then. Today’s the day….

Today would have been my mom’s birthday. She would have been 84.

Life was hard when my mom was a kid. People had very little in the way of excess. She told us of having only three outfits: one for church, one for school, and one for choring. When a mom went to the trouble and expense of making a dress for a daughter, she would be sure to make it larger and take up that slack by making the seams deeper or thicker. Then as the owner of the dress grew, the seams could be let out. Same goes for deep hems.

My mom never was allergic to poison ivy. I’ve inherited this tendency from her, although I do get a bump or two if I am in it a long time. It is wonderful, though, to do all the weeding, including pulling up poison ivy, and not worry. My mom used to stand in poison ivy that was waist-high and pick wild grapes for jelly.

Because my mom could tolerate exposure to poison ivy, she was the gate person for their entire family. The gate had poison ivy growing on it and when the family left for an excursion, her job was to climb out of their vehicle and open the gate.

my mother

my mother

She also was the tornado warning person. If the skies looked threatening, it was her job to stand sentry and keep a lookout for tornadoes. Everyone was very sober and stern about this job of hers, so she diligently looked and looked for tornadoes during haying times. Only one trouble was that she did not know what a tornado was and imagined every sort of boogy except a cloud. Had a tornado come, she would not have known it.

She did encounter one, one day, though, and I am glad I had her on my side then.

Here’s to one good mom.