Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hello, Fall

The weather is starting to get cooler outside. That means hot dogs on an open fire, marshmallows roasted in the fireplace. We light candles in the house that makes it smell so sweet and heavenly. We eat soups for dinner, and bundle up in blankets on the couch to watch movies.

Fall is a very cozy, warm time of year. I love to be warm. My favorite has to be the feeling of the sun beating down on my skin. Fall is a different type of warmth than summer. In summer you sweat from the heat. In fall, you enjoy the warmth that blankets, coats, scarves, and sweaters bring.


  
Fall also means football games at the high school. Each week we watch our team. Half way through the game we get to see our daughter perform her flag routine with the color guard and band. These are always fun nights. We get steaming hot drinks to warm ourselves with. We sit together snuggled up in blankets on bleachers, and cheer on the team. Unfortunately, they always lose. But we still cheer them on just the same.





The leaves are changing. The air is crisp. Our city is full of colors you don't get to see any other time of year. It's a beautiful time. We are looking forward to all that fall brings.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Torte

According to Merriam-Webster a torte (pronounced tor-ta) is a cake made with many eggs and often grated nuts or dry bread crumbs and usually covered with a rich frosting. It's also typically known as a layered cake. There are many kinds of tortes.

To me, torte is a specific cake that is tradition to my family. My father is German, and this recipe has been in our family since before I was born. As long as I have memories, my dad has requested it every single year for his birthday.

This year, I decided to choose it for myself. It's sweet and delicious. The cake is light, but the icing is everything. It's a butter cream with pudding. We always cut the cake into multiple layers and spread strawberry jelly between. It holds many memories, and I thought it was time to share it. My grandma and great grandma made this torte from memory. This recipe is from my mother who asked them a lot of questions and made notes on how to prepare it.

The cake is a little finicky and will not be your typical dump the ingredients into a bowl, mix, pour, and then bake kind of cake. This cake is special. It requires time and love. I think that's what makes it taste so good!


The Cake
Preheat your oven to 375°.

Separate 6 egg whites and 6 egg yolks into two different bowls. The egg yolks will get the largest bowl to be used later.

Start with the egg white bowl. Beat 6 egg whites on high speed. Once it's stiffening, gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar. Set aside.

In a new bowl, mix these dry ingredients together:
  •  Little less than 1 cup of flour
  • 3 heaping tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

In your third and final bowl, beat until fluffy:
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbs. lukewarm water
Add dry ingredients into the egg yolks bowl. DO NOT STIR. Add egg whites into the yolk bowl. DO NOT STIR. Use a large rubber spatula and gently FOLD all ingredients together. Be very careful to not mix, or you will mix the air out. 

Bake in an ungreased Angel Food pan at 375° for 30-35 minutes. Be careful when you close the oven door. Because if you slam it, the cake will fall, or be lopsided.

The top should be a golden brown color.  Make sure to let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn it upside down to continue cooling. You can put the cake pan up on a cup or a mug. The cake needs a lot of air flow while it cools. Once it's completely cooled you can take it out.

Cut cake into three sections. Be sure to cut it very carefully so you don't smash it. The easiest way to cut the layers, you can take the inner part of your Angel Food cake pan out of its outer shell. You don't need to remove the cake from the pan yet. If you keep it on the flat pan you can now twirl the cake while you are cutting it.

You can add any flavor you like to your layers. We normally put jelly on one layer and the buttercream icing on another. To make the jelly easier to spread, mix in a little hot water.

The last time my mom made the cake she decided to make her own strawberry jam. It tastes SO much better than a jar of jelly. She cut up some fresh strawberries, she added a little bit of sugar, and she cooked them on the stove. She made sure to mash them while she cooked. It's thinner and easier to spread than the jelly is. It was a definite success!


Buttercream Icing 
3 oz. pkg. of cook and serve vanilla flavored pudding
(NOT INSTANT)
1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened

Make pudding, and cool to room temperature. Whip butter until creamy. Beat while adding pudding a little bit at a time.
  • IMPORTANT: Keep butter and pudding at the same temperature. (Warm)
  • You can add cocoa powder to the icing to add a chocolate flavor, or experiment by adding any flavor you like to it.
Once the cake is iced, you must put in the refrigerator to harden. The icing will melt since it has so much butter in it.

This cake is so delicious! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Appreciation Journals

For years I have been writing in journals. Writing is a part of me that I believe God placed inside. Every morning with my breakfast, I journal in my notebook. It's my time with God. It helps me to focus on what He is doing in me. It changes me.

For years I was a very negative person. I suffered from depression and anxiety. I lived my life focusing on all the bad around me. I didn't try to look for the good. It was much easier to have a pity party for one. Every single day.

I heard a challenge on the radio to write down 3 things God does for you each day for 30 days. That challenge changed my life. I am a different person. My life has beauty and purpose. I see the good in people and situations. I focus on what God has done each day in me. I have joy like I never had before.


The challenge didn't stop after 30 days for me. Every single day I discipline myself to write one thing that God did for me that day. Since I write in my journal each morning, I write about the previous day. I've been doing this for a few years now. In the beginning it was very difficult to come up with something to write down each day. I struggled to find good in my life. Every time I wrote, it became easier and easier to find the good. Now it's become like a second nature. I see God in my life all day long. I'm constantly making a mental note to add things to my journal the next morning. I don't struggle to see the positive. I've trained my mind to focus on the good around me. My life isn't perfect, but I feel incredibly blessed. I have thousands of tiny things to be grateful for. I have hundreds of big things to give thanks to God for. My cup overflows.

I recently have challenged my family to start their own Appreciation Journals. After a few weeks, we take time to go out for ice cream or some other treat and we read what our journals say. We take turns going through each day. It has turned into my favorite thing we do together. We have met as an entire family. And I've met one on one with each of my kids. We leave the date inspired. God has done so much for each of us, and it's life changing to give Him credit for it. I know God is pleased that we are taking time out of our busy schedules to thank Him for what He has been doing in our lives. He is always up to something good.

Jesus healed ten men with leprosy on his way to Jerusalem. (Luke 17:11-19)

"When he saw them he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' On the way there they were healed." Luke 17:14

ONE of them came back to Jesus, and threw himself at Jesus' feet worshiping him and thanking him for the healing.

This is not just a healing of a little scratch. This healing completely changed his life. He would be treated now with respect and kindness. The life that had been taken from him was given back to him on a silver platter. His gratefulness went down to the very core of him. He threw himself at Jesus' feet. I imagine there were tears. This wasn't a cute little card given in the mail expressing thanks. The man humbled himself at Jesus' feet. He made himself lower so Jesus could be raised up.

The part of the story that is most shocking is that he is all alone. 10 men suffered from this debilitating disease. Only one man recognized Jesus' gift and returned to thank Him. We aren't talking about remembering to say thanks when someone opens a car door, or brings you a birthday gift. We're talking about being given the gift of LIFE verses DEATH.

I sincerely hope we can remember to thank the one who saves our life.

We probably don't feel like we have a debilitating disease that God must save us from each day. But we do! Without Jesus we are outcasts. We can never make ourselves good enough. We will always mess up and be less than perfect.

BUT the good news is that Jesus came to heal us. We don't need to live with a disease that is slowly killing us. We can be free from it every single day!

It's not enough to one time fall at Jesus' feet thanking Him for changing our lives, allowing us to go from outsider to insider. It's a daily decision. It's a lifetime of thanks.

Every day I make the choice to come back and fall at Jesus' feet, humbly thanking Him for the gift He gave to me that day. I can't do life without Him. I don't want to even try.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bible Egg Hunt

Our Easter egg hunt this year was very simple. BUT it was still fun for the kids. We didn't want to do a traditional hunt for eggs filled with candy. I've always tried to come up with something different each year to remind the kids it's not just about finding candy. I like to use every opportunity I can to point my kids back to Jesus. And Easter is a perfect time for that! After all, Jesus is the reason we celebrate.

For our egg hunt we had a present for each kid. You could also do a basket of candy. This was the ultimate goal they would be searching for. To get to the goal, they first needed to find 12 eggs of their own color. We always have a color assigned to each kid to make the hunt fair. I've seen way too many kids have a greedy monster come out of them in an egg hunt, so we eliminate that by having equal eggs hidden to their own abilities. The younger they are, the easier their eggs are to find.


The eggs were not filled with candy. We found a different Bible verse for each kid. It was used as a clue to point them to their final gift destination. We wrote the Bible verse out on a sheet of paper, and cut the paper in twelve pieces. This would be a puzzle for them to put together later. We tried to cut odd shapes instead of just straight squares or rectangles. Each egg contained a piece of the puzzle.

Once they ALL found their 12 eggs hiding in the backyard, the kids had to come inside to open the eggs and put their puzzle together. We adults used this opportunity to go back outside to hide their gifts. We didn't want to risk them finding their presents before they were supposed to.


We planned and prepared the entire egg hunt in about 30 minutes. The Bible verses were a lot of fun to come up with. We tried to be creative, but at the same time easy enough for the kids to know exactly where their prize was located.


CLUE:
“O Israel, stay away from idols!
I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
all your fruit comes from me.” Hosea 14:8


ANSWER: Evergreen Tree


CLUE:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23


ANSWER: Cross




CLUE:
“So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up to [Zech] and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Luke 19: 4-5


ANSWER: Sycamore Tree




CLUE:
““No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” Luke 8:16


ANSWER: Lamp Post


To have even more Easter fun, discuss what the Bible verses mean that you chose for clues. Talk about how you can apply them to your life.

If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, He would have just been another nice man willing to give His life for others. It is because of His resurrection that we have forgiveness for our sins.

"And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless...And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins...But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back." 1 Corinthians 15: 14,17, 23

Because of Jesus we have Hope!
Happy Easter!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Difference

I ordered a couple movies with the site to store option at Walmart. When I tried to pick them up, a sign was displayed that said, "See an Electronics Associate for help." I found the appropriate man and asked for assistance.

When we got back to the counter, another customer had arrived and was waiting. The employee asked if we were together. I answered, "No," and he began to help the other customer.

I was angry.

I was clearly there first. I followed the rules and found help. It was while I was finding service, the other man found the line. I saw him on my walk to get help.

The employee should have been assisting me first. 

And what was wrong with the other customer? He knew I was before him, and he didn't care. What happened to being a gentleman?

I was kept waiting for quite some time. I had plenty of time to stew, and I was furious. I kept biting my lip to keep from spewing my anger.

Finally it was my turn. There was no thank you from the other man, no apology. Nothing. Just felt he was important enough to be served first.

It took everything in me to hold back and only give my order number. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind! At this point, Zechariah was getting restless which didn't help my frustration level. I told him to stop messing with something.

In response the man said to me, "Zechariah. I like that. A Christian name."

My anger immediately fizzled out and I was ashamed of my attitude. I was representing Christ.  I was in no hurry. In fact I was there because I had extra time before an appointment. My attitude was all because I thought I wasn't getting the attention I deserved. I had puffed myself up so big I couldn't see the floor beneath my feet anymore. His response made me feel two inches tall.

What kind of an example would I have been if I yelled and demanded service? I can tell you what kind. The kind that looks exactly like the rest of the world.

One of my favorite quotes says it best, "If they can't tell a difference, what difference is there?"


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Crochet

Yesterday I learned to crochet! I was so frustrated. I wanted to give up. I couldn't understand it. It was confusing and difficult.

I watched my mother's hands for what seemed like hours. After failing so much, I didn't want to try again. She left me for a minute and told me to practice.

I was afraid. I didn't want to fail again. She had expressed her faith in me. I could do it. I took a step of faith, and gave it one more try. This time after patiently watching her for so long, I got it.

Something clicked and it was no longer a mess of string, going every direction. It had order and made sense. It had purpose and transformed into beauty.

I was crocheting. I learned how.


Many times our lives feel confusing and chaotic. They don't make sense and they are too hard. We want to quit and give up.

But... if we keep our eyes on the Master, patiently watching and waiting, it might start to make sense. Where we see disorder and pain too difficult to bear, God sees purpose and a plan.

He has a beautiful, intricate design for our lives. We can't give up before the beauty emerges. We must patiently pursue. One day it will click, and we will see our lives as a masterful work of art.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sukhi Bhaji

This is a wonderful dish of potatoes from the country of India. A friend shared this recipe with me, and even included little containers of each spice. So sweet of her. A few years ago she served this dish to me, and just this week I served my first dish. It makes me hungry thinking about the potatoes. They have the perfect amount of sweet mixed in with spicy.


I have a confession to make. Foreign dishes intimidate me. I feel like I will fail just because it's not my own culture and I'm probably not going to perform to their standards. I had the spices in my cupboard for a year. They sat there tempting me. I ignored them out of fear. I thought it would be hard. I was so pleased to find out how wrong I was. These potatoes are delicious and they only take about 30-45 minutes to make. I love easy recipes!

Sukhi Bhaji

4 or 5 medium potatoes
5 tbs. oil
4oz. can green chilies
½ cup raw peanuts
half the juice of a lemon
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. coriander powder
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garam masala
5 tsp. sugar
cilantro
salt



Cut your potatoes into cubes and boil them. While that's boiling crush peanuts and green chilies together in food processor. In a separate pan heat oil, put in cumin seed. Add peanuts and chilies to oil. Cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add potatoes, spices, sugar and lemon juice. Use cilantro as a garnish.

It's that easy! If you like a little spice to your food, you will love these potatoes. They make the perfect side dish. All three of my children even gave high compliments.