Light a candle in prayer.

My mom, as long as I can remember, has kept a tradition of lighting a candle in our kitchen any time we hear of someone in dire need of prayer. Normally it’s a car accident, or someone undergoing surgery. Until we hear of the person in need pulling through, it will be there. For days. I remember when I was a child, one time it was lit for weeks for a girl names Hope who they thought would never walk again after a car wreck, but today she does. It helps us all to remember to lift up this friend in prayer, each time we walk through the house and see it.

 

 

This is what remains of today’s candle, sitting on the back of our wood cook stove. It is for Jon.

Jon is the brother of my sister’s particular friend. He’s a 20 year old young man who was stricken with a seizure this morning and rushed to the hospital. A CAT scan revealed a mass on his brain. They don’t know what it is, but anything on the brain is obviously Not Good. Last we hears, they were going to do an MRI, but we haven’t hear anything beyond that.

Please pray for Jon.

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Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Yuuuuuuuuuum. Okay people, first off, get the normal idea of ‘french fries’ out of your head right now. These are not white potatoes, to begin with, and they are not fried, secondly. There is no crispy exterior and fluffy interior. Instead, what we have are tender, sweet, almost maple-y slices of sweet potato, complimented beautifully by a little salt and savory paprika. Stick form, so you can eat it with your fingers, but you won’t be dunking these in ketchup. Oh no. We do one better here. Raspberry sauce. Late last summer I made these with sweet potatoes and raspberries straight from the garden. It doesn’t get much better than that!

  • Olive oil, for tossing
  • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch long slices, then 1/4-wide inch strips.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder, more or less
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Sprinkle with your seasonings and toss again. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes, turning once. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

For the raspberry sauce, I kind of wing it. For your sakes though, I will try to be more specific and hope I’m right.

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with enough water to look the consistency of cream.

Mash the raspberries and cook in a small saucepan until it begins to bubble. Strain through cheesecloth or a sieve to remove all the seeds. Return to saucepan and add sugar and corn starch. Bring to a simmer and let thicken slightly; this should only take a minute. Remove from heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools. This doesn’t make a large amount, as I am the only member of my family who wanted to try this! Next time I think I’ll add a splash of orange juice or some zest perhaps. That sounds marvelous.

 

Tell it like it is… sort of.

My family watches a little boy several times a week. His name is Gilbert. He is nearly 4. He is like part of the family because we’ve taken care of him since he was 3 months old. He keeps up laughing and pulling our hair, alternately.

His Daddy works professionally cleaning, so Gilbert has always be very mess conscious.

I recently lost a significant amount of weight (yes, this is related, just wait for it), so I have piles of clothes I’m getting rid of, new clothes hanging from closet doors, seeds-to-be-planted scattered around my desk and heaps of books here and there… yes, I admit I am not terribly tidy right now. I keep meaning to clean but… you know… typing up this anecdote is more exciting(?).

So anyway, Gilbert marched into my room today and looked around with a stunned expression. “This is a HUGE MESS.” he informed me. Yes. Thank you. Go eat your grilled cheese sandwich.

Later during the day, with my mind miles away from the mess in my room I overheard Gilbert talking very seriously to me dad.

“Your daughter Valerie is a junk rat.”

Junk Rat.

Well. That’s a new one. Needless to say, tonight I am cleaning.

But if I MUST be a rat, can I at least be a cute one? Like THIS:

Citrus Meringues

I was going through my picture files and found that I had never posted this recipe on my food blog, having meant to simply months ago! I made these for a girls’ night and they were a big hit. Light and delicate, fun swirls of color, easy to flavor according to your preferences, and they look impressive!

Giant Meringues
based on a recipe from BBC Good Food4 egg whites
1 C sugar
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp citrus zest
(I used lemon and orange and colored accordingly)

  1. Heat oven to 275 F. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff . Add roughly half the sugar and the vanilla, corn starch and vinegar and beat until mixture becomes very thick, firm and shiny. Add the remaining sugar and whisk again until thick, firm and shiny.
  3. Gently fold in 1/4 tsp yellow or orange food coloring (or your own choice), careful not to over-mix and lose the beautiful swirls of color. Use a large spoon to swirl the airy rainbow-clouds of meringue onto the parchment paper, about 1 1/2 dozen. They spread slightly as they cook, so leave space between them.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes at 275, then reduce the heat to 225 for another 30. (Optionally, you can make about 8 HUGE meringues and bake for two intervals of 45 minutes each. Warning: When I say huge, I mean it.)
  5. Remove from the oven – they should peel easily away from the parchment – and cool on a wire rack. Can be made up to a week ahead and kept in an airtight container, or frozen for up to 3 months, between layers of parchment, in an airtight container.

Newspaper Seedling Pots

 

 

 

You will need:

  • Newspaper
  • A small can or straight-sided glass about the size of the pot you want. (Tomato past or condensed milk sizes are good, you don’t want it huge.)
  • Scissors

Cut the newspaper into strips 1 1/2 to 2 times the height of the can.

 

Line the bottom of the can up with one edge of the paper and roll up snugly. Then crush/shove the excess length of the paper roll down into the open end of the can.

 

Remove the can from inside the paper tube and turn it over. Re-insert the can, bottom-first, into the tube, so that the bottom of the can presses the folded paper back down, and press tightly on the table surface, forming the bottom of your pot.

Fill with soil that you have pre-wet (not soaking wet, but moist enough to plant directly into.) . Poke a hole in the soil with your finger (Dibbles… I never understood those. Why pay for something that you have built in?) and gently guide seedling roots into the soil, slightly firming the soil around the base of the plant.

 

That’s it! Keep your seedlings moist until planting time, then plant pots directly in the ground where the paper will compost naturally.

 

I know I should have gotten a good picture of forming the bottom of the pot, so if you need extra help figuring out what I am trying to show you, there is an excellent video of this process HERE.

Welcome to Castle of Blue

Castle of Blue is derived from the title of one of my favorite books; The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Unfortunately, someone else is already using the title as their blog name, so I had to switch it around a but, but I like it. :)The  idea of a Blue Castle in Valancy’s world is a place of refuge, a place where everything is what she dreams her life could be. I have many dreams, and life is a beautiful journey. I am greatly blessed to have so many of my dreams being lived out, and I’d love to share them with you.

This blog is going to contain a lot of different types of posts, from cooking, gardening, book/movie/music reviews, fashion posts, my walk with the Lord and much more. Some of you may already follow my personal and cooking blog, so if you see cross-posts, I apologize.

Sprouting Lupines.

 

 

I am a big fan of lupines. However, I’m not a big fan of their tendency to peeter out after three of four years of gloriousness, the cost of buying fully grown plants (especially when one wants a dozen or so). So, one starts lupines from seed.

This is ridiculously easy to do. Buy a packet of seeds (roughly $2, depending on your source. If you need a source, GOOD HEAVENS, I will give you ten.). Take a damp paper towel, fold it in half and spread the seeds so they aren’t touching each other on half of the surface, then fold again, covering the seeds with the paper towel. Carefully place the bundled seeds into a ziplock bag and place somewhere warmish but not hot, and check in a few days. I will bet that by the third day you will have some sprouts, and a week later most will have sprouted for you. If not, don’t worry, just keep the seeds moist and most of them should come eventually. You can tell if the seed isn’t going to sprout because it looks shriveled and hard even after being in a damp towel several days.

Mine got away from me this year…

 

I should have planted these a week ago. As you can see, they are actually growing roots through the paper towel. I had to carefully tear the paper away from them so as not to break the roots.

This is more like what they should look like when you plant them:

 

 

My germination rate was quite good!

 

 

If yours get too far along too, just pot them up with the ‘leaves’ above soil surface and put them in indirect sunlight for a day or two so as not to scorch them. Then move to full sun and watch them grow like crazy. 🙂

One last thing; Lupines do not like being transplanted, and I am not a fan of peat-pots, so I make newspaper pots for my lupines. Plant them directly in the ground, and the paper disintegrates within a few months.

Thrifty! In a year I'll have 12 mature lupine plants. At a garden center, that would cost me at least $120 - $150.
Seeds - $2. Soil - less than $1. Paper pots - Free.