Not that I’m biased or anything…

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Keep a Quiet Heart

"I think I find most help in trying to look on all the inter­ruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one's work. Then one can feel that perhaps one's true work---one's work for God---con­sists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one's day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day---the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it." - Annie Keary

My job, for the most part, is the all-purpose greenhouse worker; planting, watering, general maintenance, customer service and running to pick up my boss when *cough* his ruck breaks down eight miles from home.  But I also work in the adjoining flower shop when I’m needed; V-Day, Mother’s Day, Prom, Funerals, weddings, etc, or when the florist is not there and I need to take an order or make up a quick arrangement for someone.

Today was one of those days. The florist had to leave early. My boss was gone for a load of mulch. I was trying to get cabbages planted to 806’s (that’s Greenhouse People’s secret code for six-packs) and kept getting interrupted by customers needing assistance in the flower shop. A young, happy-looking guy comes halooing for me; he just wants a flower, maybe a single rose? He settles on lavender daisies and pink wax-flower. He’s very happy, cheerfully paying (a LOT of men are very grudging when it comes to paying for flowers. A lot.)  and I get the strong feeling that this small bouquet is momentarily to become a romantic gesture toward his sweetheart.  How cuuuuuuuuuuuuuute.

I love working in the flower shop.

Another lady comes in, an older woman dressed in yellow. She wants to order a piece for a funeral to be held tomorrow. I knew that several other orders had come in for the funeral she meant (small town, generally only one funeral at a time, thank heaven.), but I wasn’t WHAT exactly had been ordered; what type of flowers, what size, colors, theme, etc. She was quite interesting in knowing exactly what we had available and what we could do and wanted to make sure it would be nice, and that it could go on the grave after the funeral. I was in a bit of a tizzy because I felt sure that there were more baskets somewhere to chose from, but I wasn’t sure where. Also, I knew the florist had ordered in special flowers for the funeral pieces, but I didn’t know what. So I’m trying my best to sell what I know we have and give her an idea of what we can do, and I was filling out the order sheet, all official and everything, and came to the space where you fill in the card information.

“What would you like the card to say?”

Pause…

“I’m not sure. He was my husband. What do you say? What would you say?”

*             *            *             *

Pretty much, you could have knocked me over with a feather. There I was as worried that I wasn’t representing the flower shop as best I could and I might be flubbing up the order, when the whole time I’m going on and on, this woman is dealing with so much more grief than I can imagine.

I stammered something about not know, being sorry, we could just do a ribbon with the word Husband on it if she’d prefer, took her money and returned to the greenhouse fighting back tears. In a matter of minutes my normally quite uneventful job had shown me love and joy and expectation, then love and grief and loss. No other job I’ve had has had that ability, and I keep feeling like it’s the perfect illustration of something, and some lesson could be learned by it, but I haven’t quite figured out what that is.

Aunt Ann’s Waldorf Salad

For my 16th birthday, a friend gave me a copy of “With Love, From My Kitchen”, which is basically a blank yet organized cook-book, to be filled with the favorite recipes of friends and family members. Since then, I have been slowly gathering the classic family favorites, as well as begging friends to write one or two of their favorites in for me; I like the idea of the recipes being written in their own handwriting, leaving a bit of their personality in my keepsake cook-book.

One recipe that is surrounded by wonderful memories is Aunt Ann’s Waldorf Salad. She wasn’t my aunt, but like most people who visit older people with their nieces and nephews, I called her aunt. We played games on the living room floor with the kids and scrabble at the dining room table, and she served this salad with dinner. I’d never had it before and managed to work up the nerve to ask her for the recipe. (I was still in my most dreadful shy stage back then.) I looked up traditional Waldorf salad, and I’m afraid this has been dressed up a bit, and sweetened with whipped cream. I can’t quite imagine I would enjoy plain mayo as the dressing after eating this.

Aunt Ann’s Waldorf Salad

2 C chopped red skin apples

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 C chopped celery (TINY, in my opinion, is the way to go.)

1/4 C chopped walnuts

1/4 C raisins or chopped dates (dates all the way! Raisins are normal. Dates are extraordinary. Remind me to share Nan’s Date Cake recipe.)

1/4 C red grapes, halved

1/2 C whipped cream or cool whip (give or take a little… taste it and see what you like.)

1/4 C mayonnaise

ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, toss apple with lemon juice. Stir in celery, nuts, dates and grapes. In a separate bowl, fold together whipped cream and mayonnaise. Spread dressing over the top of the apple mixture (I believe this helps keep the apples from browning if you keep it overnight) . Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg. Cover and chill 2-4 hours, or overnight. To serve, fold dressing into the fruit mixture.

This badly lit picture of the dressing-covered salad is the last picture I have. I meant to take pictures of it all mixed together, but I made it for our dinner on Resurrection Sunday, and somehow… we ate it all. I think we might have been licking the bowl, but perhaps that’s an exaggeration. Anyway, people really love eating this stuff.

(P.S., as long as you don’t get carried away with it, this recipe is HCG P3 approved.)

Four years later…

Four years, Weight Watchers, the 17 Day Diet,  HCG Weight Loss Solution and a total of 50 pounds later…

 

 

I know I already did a weight loss post, but I was browsing through pictures tonight and found some old ones that made me go YIKES, so I thought I’d do a comparison. I’m not trying to brag here, or show off (although I DO think this outfit would benefit from stockings with a seam up the back of the leg, don’t you? And maybe a little hat and gloves and clutch purse…), I just want to share my excitement and encourage others… a struggle with weight is not hopeless. It will take time and determination. Even now, I have more weight I could lose if I decide to go through another round of HCG. I could be a size 10 people. 10. There was a time in my life where I thought that was impossible. I thought I was just a big girl and always would be, it was the way I was made. I thought even if I wasn’t fat, I would still be big. Well, let’s just say I was delusional. I’ll never be a string bean, but neither am I destined to be huge forever.

I still plan on eventually doing a post about HCG, explaining as best I can what that’s all about and how You Too Can Look Like This. *snarky laughter*

From Age to Age- New Sovereign Grace Album

I know I mention Sovereign Grace Music quite often to my friends on facebook, but I never feel like it sinks in quite enough, the very great influence this ministry has had on my life. These are beautiful songs, greatly talented people (and I’m VERY fussy when it comes to true talent.) and best of all, sound doctrine. So many of their songs are like mini sermons or bits out of a confession of faith. Many people, including myself, remember words to music much easier than just trying to memorize, so music is a wonderful vehicle to instil doctrine in my mind. Looking back over the last five years or so, many times of spiritual growth on my part have been accompanied by a song from Sovereign Grace that I could cling to, sing with and ponder, helping me to get through struggles. Not that they can take the place of scripture, but as I said, music stays with me more readily.

Valley of Vision was their first album that I was introduced to. Our worship leader started using some of the songs from it, and I was stricken with the beauty of the music and the deep meaning and heart-felt prayers they were based on, written by Puritans hundreds of years ago. I didn’t particularly follow SG though, until Risen was released and I was a part of the worship team and I started looking as worship and praise music in a very different light. Then last year my sister and I were able to go with our worship leader and his wife to a Worship God conference at Covenant Life Church where the worship was often led by Sovereign Grace people, and the conference ended with the recording of a live album, The Gathering, which takes you through the many different aspects of a church gathering, from the church coming together, prayer, worship, praise, communion, even leaving ‘the gathering’ and going out into the world.

Anyway, all I meant to do was share a song from their new album, From Age to Age (Lyrics from old hymns set to new music, etc.) and I got a bit carried away. I’m sleepy, too, so I don’t really know if this post is at all interesting. I hope it is. SG has such a dear place in my heart, I would hate to represent them poorly to you.

I love this new song… the words to the last verse especially speak to me where I am right now.

Gladly would I flee temptations
For their troubles fill my life
Turn and seek my God and Savior
For His goodness satisfies
Earthly treasures, all are passing
Thieves break in and rust destroys
But in God are awesome splendor
Love, and everlasting joys

Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Blender

I’ve wanted an immersion blender ever since I first worked as a waitress in a local restaurant. I witnessed the wonders that were worked behind the closed doors of the kitchen and knew that someday I would have one of my own. Recently, I’ve been on a kitchen-appliance-browsing kick, and found exactly what I was looking for in the way of immersion blenders.

The Cuisinart SmartStick. It has excellent reviews. The entire blender shaft easily detaches for easy cleaning without the remotest chance of electrocuting yourself. And the blades on this baby are sharp. I’ve made tomato soup, blended up batter in seconds and I know not what all, and one day soon I’ll see how it stands against chunks of frozen fruit in making smoothies.

It comes with a “Mixing Beaker”, which is really quite handy when you are mixing up small batches of something-or-other. No need to get a giant bowl dirty. For a small kitchen, it does quite a lot of what a regular blender would do, without hogging counter space. And it’s infinitely quieter than a regular blender, which is invaluable for my family; my dad is working 3rd shift right now, and when you really want a smoothie but can’t make one lest you wake him… a quiet blender is a dream come true.  And as far as features goes… it hasn’t any. There’s a switch that turns it on and off. That’s all. And who needs more?  Well, other than the lovely selection of pretty colors. That was the hardest part of the decision to buy, for me. Pink? Apple Green? I settles on turquoise, and in person it has a sort of retro look about it. For $30, this is a great small appliance to have.

Spring clean-up

This spring I’ve had so many different projects going on at the same time, I often step back and get all overwhelmed and tend to ask myself what was I thinking. To escape despair, I decided to hire a couple of children from my church family to help me get ahead with my yard-work and other outdoorsy things. Yesterday turned out lovely and sunny, if a touch cool still, and we got quite a bit done.

 

 

“Valerie, the wagon is full.”

“Well get up there and stomp it down again!”

*groan*

“You know you are having fun.”

 

 

Care-bear is an excellent little garden-cleaner-outer.  As you can see, it needs it badly.

 

 

And then finally, the wagon really was to full to load anything more on it, so I had a very willing helper to assist me in cleaning out the frames for my new-to-me bee hives.

 

Mo

 

And of course, no matter what project you are working on, it always helps to have some of the resident cats lurking around.

 

Oliver

HCG P3 Breads.

What IS this title all about? Has she gone mad? Is she using secret code for something mysterious? Well perhaps, and sort of. I couldn’t tell you what HCG stands for if my life depended on it, even though I used the HCG protocol for the last month and a half. I’d have to google it, but instead, I’ll let you!

P3, now, is Phase 3, the part where a person gets to eat food again. Of sorts. Just not sugar and starch. That’s right. No cake. No cookies. No potatoes. NO PASTA. WHAT??  Ah well, life goes on. And quite deliciously, I must admit. Admittedly, I am scouring the internet for flour-less bread and pastry substitutes, and I’ve found a few that, while they would never fool anyone into thinking they are what they stand in for, they are tasty and satisfying in and of themselves. Was that a run-on sentence? Almost?

Back to the point. The first day I was allowed to eat Anything but Sugar and Starch, I made myself some flour-less pancakes. Cream cheese, eggs and sweetener, whizzed together with my new immersion-blender (remind me to expound upon that little gadget sometime – I’m in love.)  fried up like pancakes and topped with strawberries, etc.

They LOOK like pancakes. They are not easy to flip at all, even in a non-stick pan (I tried it several ways) but in the end they make a very satisfying little stack of creamy faux pancakes.

These are YUMMY, people. And basically… you’re eating two eggs and strawberries for breakfast. Healthy pancakes! Woohoo!!

The next recipe I tried (which I have no pictures for) was the Cauliflower Pizza Crust. During my round of HCG dieting, I sat through FIVE, PRECISELY FIVE pizza parties without touching a crumb. Just sipping my cup of spiced tea and telling myself over and over that it was going to be worth it. So, indulging in anything remotely resembling pizza was a lot of fun.

Two things: A friend mentioned squeezing the water out of the cauliflower after cooking it. I either skipped over that in the instructions, or it’s not there. Either way, it’s not horrible if you don’t do this, but better if you do. Second, between the mozzarella in the crust and the mozzarella on top, it was saltier than anyone needs it to be. Does anyone ever make a lower-sodium mozz? I have toyed with the idea of making my own, and it is more and more appealing lately.

The third HCG-friendly bread-substitute that I find I enjoy is Cloud Bread. And I have no decent pictures of it, so I STOLE one to make this post prettier. If I am taken away in shackles, know that it was all for you, beloved reader.

This stuff is interesting. You separate eggs, beat the yolks with a bit of cream cheese, beat the whites until still with cream of tartar and them fold the two together and bake into little buns. Cool and place in a zip-lock bag overnight, and by morning they are transformed into what is texturally a hybrid between white bread and angel food cake and… clouds. The name is so perfect. And they are so light and curiously delicious you will probably eat all six of them in two minutes, so make a double batch. Better yet, make a double batch and mix in some cinnamon into half the batter for dessert cloud bread.