Sunday, November 30, 2014

Apples in the Snow

Thanksgiving weekend is wrapping up, turkey comas have passed and leftovers abound. After a month of thankfulness the attitude carries us into the Advent season, it is a good reminder of an attitude that is important throughout the whole year. It is important when things are difficult, it gives us perspective. It is important when things are good, it gives us appreciation. It is important for the big things, and for the little.

Little – like eating apples when it is snowing. What a luxury to eat a fresh, crispy apple with cold and sticky fingers covered in apple juice with snow on the ground.

Happy Thanksgiving – may your heart be full of gratitude and hands full of apples to enjoy when it is snowing. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pack a Shoebox and Change the World

Can one shoebox packed with a few chosen items really make a difference to a child? Not only a momentary difference of the excitement over a new toy or soon dissolved candy. But a lasting, life changing and momentum building difference – can that come from a shoebox that is chosen, packed and sent by a stranger? Can it make a life better, a family stronger and a community healthier?

Operation Christmas Child would say yes. If you aren’t sure of what this whole shoebox thing is, I would encourage you to take a moment and check out their website, 
( I’m a fan of this movement led by Samaritan’s Purse and encourage you either take a step to reach out to a child in this way or find something else that will let you invest into a child’s life.

As great as this whole thing is, I want to take about a dozen steps back and ask – does this singular activity of one person make a difference? 

I’m going to wager a loud yes! Yes, one person makes a difference.  We can do one thing that will lead to another and then another. It can create a chain reaction, a domino effect that is worth putting into action. Pack your shoebox, drop it off – or take care of it online. Though you may never know what the impact is, be prepared that you may just start something that starts something that changes the world. Pray about the child who will receive this gift. Pray for their family and community. And then, don’t call it quits – keep taking small steps and planting seeds to make a big change in your world. What is small to you may be huge to someone else.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Football Away Game Soup – Chili

Our first winter of the season has arrived!  As a fan of the flakey white stuff, I was very excited to wake up to big fat flakes falling from the sky. The snow outlines all of the subtle structures of tree branches, a fire is in the stove, the winter garden is starting to show off its unique beauty and it is a perfect time for a big bowl of chili.

Chili is one of those soups that seem to have as many recipes as it has chefs. Beans, meat, spicy, mild, topped with crackers, cheese or creamy – these choices are just a small list of the choices that can be made with chili recipes. Each hand that makes the chili makes it a little differently. It’s a lot of fun to try these different recipes, enjoying many variations on a culinary tune.

With thousands of variations all falling under the name of chili, individuality added by each hand preparing that shared pot of soup adds distinctive flavors belonging just to them. There is not a right or wrong, just different, and yet all falling under this one category. Many ingredients are mixed together in a composition that creates a final flavor. There are many styles and tastes, but they are all chili. I love not being stuck in a box. 

My absolute favorite recipe (though I do have some close seconds) is the chili my parents make. My mom starts it and my dad flavors it as it cooks. There is always a discussion over the level of spiciness and if it will be too hot to share. And it always turns out perfectly.

This is their recipe and it makes a canner full.  Plenty to eat, share and freeze the leftovers for enjoyment on another snow day.

Family Chili for Away Game Soup
  • 6 lbs. ground beef\
  • 46 oz. can tomato juice
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of 28 oz. diced tomatoes and green chilies mild
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in a puree
  • 28 oz. tap water
  • 2 cans of 30 oz. can of chili beans
  • ½ qt. size bags of bell peppers (I used frozen bell peppers from the garden this summer), diced
  • 4-5 large onions, dice
  • Chili powder and salt 
 Heat a large skillet, my personal preference is the iron skillet, and brown six pounds of ground beef. Stir regularly to keep the meat from sticking or burning.

While the meet is browning, dice the peppers and onions. Add the other canned and fresh ingredients to the canner. Stir the tomato juice, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, chili beans, water, bell peppers and onions together.

After the meat has finished browning, drain it and add it to the tomato mixture. Start heating the soup on low.  

Stir regularly to keep the chili from sticking. For this large size pot, add ½ cup of chili powder and start with several shakes of the salt shaker. Once the chili has cooked a while, add another ½ cup of chili powder and stir.  Let the chili cook.  Add chili powder and salt to taste.

Chili is best when it has time to cook and really let all of the flavors work together. This is a great make the day ahead soup.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November Dates

This month is full of important dates, with Election Day passed, Veterans Day today, and Thanksgiving still to come. It’s really rather appropriate that Election Day and Veterans Day would fall so closely together. The ability to raise a voice is something that is not guaranteed world around. Voting that reflects changes of people in power, well surely you didn’t see the tanks rolling down the streets or barricades around blocks. No? Neither did I. It is easy for us to take this for granted, but it really should be recognized and celebrated.

This day was awaited with a flurry of final combat missions, hope, doubt and celebrations around the world. A change was coming on November 11 at 11 AM – the armistice in 1918 was made active. People took the idea of peace and started the hard work of rebuilding. There was rebuilding on all sides, structures in war torn areas, infrastructure, people to feed, and supplies to be gathered before winter hit in full force. There was also rebuilding slowly in the parts of families of veterans as they welcomed home loved ones. Time had not stood still for the veterans or their families. The changes that they would all have to adjust to were profound.

This war to end all wars was not the last. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Grenada Intervention, Persian Gulf War, Bosnia & Herzegovina Intervention, Afghanistan, Iraq – these places since that Armistice was signed are all reflections of where people have left their families and homes, traveled elsewhere in the name of peace.

To all of those who have served, to all of those families who have waited at home, to all who have returned home and to those who never will – thank you. Happy Veterans Day. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Look Is All It Takes - Trust

It is a good thing that I wasn’t one of those kids that was embarrassed by my parents singing in random public places, at home, on stages, and pretty much everywhere between. I would have lived in a constant state of mortification otherwise! I learned at a very early age to add my voice instead. Hey – it beats stage fright! My part is alto and I join in with my mom and dad. When we have the opportunity we’ll add more voices to the mix; family joining the chorus, making the sound so much richer and stronger. 

Singing together, lots, for lots of years, you learn to “read” each other.  A look can tell someone to switch parts because you feel a sneeze coming on, warn me off from heading flat, or share a moment of sweet relief when something touch and go comes together. For me, being an alto, reaching the high notes can create squeaks that I would really rather not put out for public consumption.  So, some switching goes on and almost always the audience is completely unaware of what is going on. The same way with slowing down the tempo or deciding to sing the chorus one more time, it doesn’t take a word, you just know.

It’s all done with a look, a nod, a flick of the hand, a sway – most of the time it doesn’t require a verbalized thought. What is seen as a comfortable knowledge of the other person, the part they will take, how they hear the music, their strengths and where they will struggle, it all boils down to trust. It is something that takes time to develop, but when it is there, the music can be so sweet and freeing.