Sunday, May 30

Freedom to worship as we please

Memorial Day is upon us and it got me thinking...  What a blessing it is to have freedom! It's amazing to think of the tremendous sacrifice of our founding fathers. There was so much at risk when those men made the decision to fight for our independence. If we had lost the war, they would have been guilty of high treason and most likely would have lost their lives. Of course, many of them lost their lives and families anyway.


 How much do you have to believe in something and long for something; to be willing to give up your loved ones, your home, your livelihood... everything for your cause. Freedom of religion is a strong motivation. It's such a wonderful thing for people to have the choice to worship according to their convictions, or not at all. The reason I say this, is because I believe God gave us choice for a reason. He wants us to CHOOSE to serve Him, not to be forced.

Would you rather your child love you out of duty, or because they want to? I believe that's how God feels about us. Even though He is desperate to be in fellowship with every one of us, He wants us to make the decision to have a relationship with Him. When I was young, my mom always used to tell me, "Jesus is a gentleman. He will not on the door of your heart and wait for an answer, not just barge in."

The men who brought their families to this "new world" were in search of freedom from religious persecution. They were passionate about their beliefs. Those men were probably the great-great-grandparents of our founding fathers who fought for our independence as a nation. Imagine the heritage they passed down to them! No matter what our public school textbooks say nowadays, our nation WAS founded on Christian principles rooted in the word of God. I found these quotes recently and thought I'd pass them along:

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." -George Washington


"The Bible must be considered as the great source of all the truth by which men are to be guided in government as well as in all social transactions." -Noah Webster, Founding Educator


"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and of all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." -James Madison, Father of the United States Constitution


"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded... not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ." -Patrick Henry, Founding Father, Orator

Friday, May 28

A night with Cirque De La Symphonie



Tonight, we went to hear the Houston Symphony perform along side the Cirque Du Soleil at the Pavilion here in The Woodlands. The hand balancing, flying silk act and other amazing acrobatic displays were really something to behold. And the orchestra playing behind them made this doubly entertaining! With music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Bizet, Saint-Saens, Ravel, V. Monti and J. Williams, the symphony and athletics seemed to enhance each other.



I wanted to attend the Cirque Du Soleil show in Orlando, FL a few years back while we were at Disney World, but opted not to due to the high ticket prices. This show was obviously on a much smaller scale (as they were sharing the stage with the symphony,) but 100% FREE! I absolutely love the Woodlands Pavilion due to the fact that their performing arts season offers free lawn seating- and if you just MUST be under covered seating, it's only fifteen bucks! Incredibly reasonable compared to the Houston theater district.


Each summer they have one Houston ballet performance, one Houston Opera performance, and about 6-8 Houston Symphony performances, all at the above prices. I don't make it to all of them anymore... (I worked as the receptionist for the Pavilion a few years back and used to attend A LOT of shows,) but I try to go whenever I can.



It was really exciting bringing Benjamin to his first symphony. He LOVED it! As soon as we sat down, the first song began. Benjamin was completely fixated on the stage, even though the acrobatics did not begin until the 2nd piece. He didn't move a muscle or make a peep for entire first song! He just stared... Throughout the night each time people would clap, he would glance around at the cheering crowd and quickly start clapping his hands as well. It was so adorable!

Thursday, May 27

My "Julia Child" Moment... Very Short-Lived

This past December....

I watched the film, "Julie and Julia". I really enjoyed watching it- if only for all of the cooking scenes. Before watching this movie, I really didn't know much about Julia Child...  I LOVE HER! She was so funny. And, like Julia, I really love to cook, and I REALLY love to eat!! After the movie I was feeling quite inspired, so I decided to try one of her recipes: the Reine De Saba (Queen of Sheba) cake made in the film. Here is the recipe:



Reine de Saba avec Gla├žage au Chocolat (Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate Icing)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Canada, UK), by Julia Child, Simone Beck & Louisette Bertholle.


This extremely good chocolate cake is baked so that its center remains slightly underdone; overcooked, the cake loses its special creamy quality. It is covered with a chocolate-butter icing, and decorated with almonds. Because of its creamy center it needs no filling. It can be made by starting out with a beating of egg yolks and sugar, then proceeding with the rest of the ingredients. But because the chocolate and the almonds make a batter so stiff it is difficult to fold in the egg whites, we have chosen another method, that of creaming together the butter and sugar, and then incorporating the remaining items.


Ingredients:

For the Cake:

4 ounces or squares semisweet chocolate melted with 2 Tb rum or coffee
1/4 lb. or 1 stick softened butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 Tb granulated sugar
2/3 cup pulverized almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the Icing:

2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tb rum or coffee
5 to 6 Tb unsalted butter

Equipment:

A round cake pan 8 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches deep
A 3-quart mixing bowl
A wooden spoon or an electric beater
A rubber spatula
A cake rack
A small covered pan
A larger pan of almost simmering water
A wooden spoon
A bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water to cover them
A small flexible-blade metal spatula or a table knife

Instructions:

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Butter and flour the cake pan. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe. Measure out the rest of the ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.

Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.

Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2-1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

For the Icing:

Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Yield: For an 8-inch cake serving 6 to 8 people




Wednesday, May 26

Tuesdays: One of my favorite days!!

Each Tuesday evening I get to meet with some awesome young ladies...

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to start working with a group of teenage girls from a residential treatment center designed to help boys and girls with emotional or behavioral problems. Most of the youth living in the SH  homes come from an abusive past and have been removed from their parent's custody.

 
My husband's cousin, Greg, has worked for SH for as long as I can remember, and would frequently bring the kids to church and other to functions with us. I've interacted with them from time to time through the years, but have recently felt a burden to get some sort of program started for the girls at our church. So, when Krystal (Greg's daughter) told me she had started meeting with the girls weekly and wanted me to involved, I was SO excited! The timing was finally right for me, and God just began opening doors.

We meet with the girls (ages 13-17) each Tuesday evening at our church dining room. We feed them a meal, the we have a "group session" usually discussing character qualities, heart issues and tools for success in life. We do crafts, games, life skills classes... etc. (With the help of donations from the church, we were able to help all the girls start scrapbooks, which we work on with them about once a month.) They really have a blast, and so do we! It's such an amazing blessing to be apart of their lives, and I'm learning so much as I go!




Tonight, we veered from our usual schedule, and brought them to a KSBJ "brown bag" concert at Chick-Fil-A with Kari Jobe. It was AWESOME! She has an amazing voice- she was great live! The last song of the night "The Revelation Song", is one of my favorites! You could really feel the Holy Spirit sweeping over the crowd. There's something so awesome about being surrounded by masses of people worshipping God! When God's people praise Him, He really pays attention! You can just feel Him smiling down on you and loving you. Wonderful night!

Tuesday, May 25

Like Honey Buns??

Do you like Honey Buns?? Well this cake is BETTER!! So delicious- and one of the easiest cakes you'll ever make! When I don't have time to make something from scratch, this cake is a life saver- and it has that "homemade taste". Always a crowd pleaser! :)


Honey Bun Cake:

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. oil (I use canola)
1 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. pecans (chopped, if you like)

1. Heat oven to 325F. Lightly grease a 13x9 baking dish.

2. Combine cake mix, eggs and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes, until lumps are dissolved. Spread half of mixture in greased pan.

3. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle over batter in pan. Carefully spread remaining batter over pecan mixture.

4. Bake about 45 minutes, or until deep golden brown.


Glaze:

1 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all 3 ingredients, stirring until the mixture is thin enough to spread. Poke holes in top of warm cake with a fork, then drizzle glaze over top of cake. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Store covered at room temperature.  YUM!!!

Monday, May 24

"Pointing the finger at others"

My son Benjamin...


is getting so big so fast! His new thing is to point his finger at things... like his "nose", "mouth", "dada" & "mama"... then there is the occasional pointing at a random person while talking a bunch of jibberish. Like he's telling them what to do. One need only watch home videos of me as a child to know where he got that from... :) It's that typical first-born bossiness coming out I suppose!


As I was reading my Bible this morning and thinking about Benjamin's new "skill", the thought occurred to me that our human nature would much rather GIVE counsel than RECEIVE it. We would prefer to be the ones "instructing" and feeling very proud of ourselves for doing so. :)

Proverbs 19:20 says, "Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end." Why is this so hard for me to do? My first thought was, "Well, it depends on who the counsel is coming FROM!" Then almost immediately, I realized this thought stemmed from pride. The truth is, God may choose to speak to me through an "unlikely" source. But, would I be willing to listen?

Now, I do not believe that we should blindly follow every bit of counsel that people shoot at us.... that is not even possible. You would be constantly contradicting yourself trying to please everyone. That isn't the point. The point is, when someone is sharing wisdom with me that is rooted in the Word of God, I need to be willing to examine my OWN self, instead of "pointing my finger," telling OTHERS what they should do.


So... does that mean we should never give counsel to others? Of course not! In Proverbs 24 we are instructed to "rebuke" the wicked. Then there is the famous passage in Galatians 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS Now, that's key. And very difficult to do, I might add. But, how do we refrain from "casting our pearls before swine" or discern if the hearer doesn't have an open heart to hear what you are saying? I have been pondering this subject  A LOT lately, and this is what I've concluded so far:

First of all, I believe when we are "giving counsel", it should not be our OPINION of what they should be doing differently. It must be a command in Scripture that they are in direct violation of. If we don't use the Word of God as our measuring stick, what is our measuring stick? The infinite number of opinions out there? No. That won't work. It HAS to be GOD'S WORD.

Secondly, the more I think about this subject, the more I see how much we need the Holy Spirit directing us and giving us a "word" when we need it. (Matthew 10:19-20) Have you ever had that experience before of talking with someone, and all of a sudden... feeling a check in your spirit. Like, "this person just shut down on me, or, this person is overloaded with information and cannot accept anymore right now"? I have! I've also had the opposite happen. I've felt God drop the right words in my mind at exactly the right time, and I thought... "Wow! Where did that come from?!" It's awesome to think how God could use us to minister to others IF our own spirit were in complete submission to His will!!

We CAN'T do it without being rooted in His Word, and we CAN'T do it without the leading of His Spirit!

Lord, help me to always examine myself first; then be willing to open my mouth, FOR YOU, in the spirit of meekness!

Going White!

We finally have a king sized bed!!! Yay!!!!! Now Nick and Benjamin can spread out and mommy doesn't fall off :) So, needing new bedding and all... I decided to do the "all white bed" (borrowing this term from my beloved Pottery Barn.)

 

I borrowed this bedspread from my mom to use temporarily while I am working on a white patchwork quilt for it. There is just something about white... maybe it's because it looks so clean- I just LOVE it!! I've wanted these huge square "euro" pillows for awhile as well. So, when Sears had a sale a few months ago, I snagged them for about $8 a piece. Trouble is, plain white euro shams are like, non-existent! The only thing I've been able to find is decorative or colored shams- and at $40 a pop, or more! Crazy huh?!


Well, I intend to go purchase some inexpensive flat sheets and just make my own. It will certainly be cheaper. I'm going for the luxury hotel look- which is why I almost bought a down comforter... then reconsidered. I'm really a quilt person. They are SO comfy and homey feeling. So... luxury hotel, southern style. :)


Friday, May 21

WW2 Military blanket pillows


The picture above is of my great grandparents Cleveland and Ethel Smith. This picture was taken during World War II.  This is them today:


It amazes me to think of how much history they have witnessed with their own eyes.... how much have they seen the world change in their lifetimes...


I am a very sentimental person by nature and I love to preserve memories. (Scrap booking is one my absolute favorite things to do!) So when I saw some pillows made from a World War II Italian military blanket in a magazine, I knew I had to copy it!

My husband Nick's grandfather, Ray Mofley, (pictured below) was a Marine in World War II. He passed away when Nick was 16. They were very close and Nick still talks about him often.


I knew we had stacks of Grandpa Mofley's military blankets in a box in the attic. What a perfect way to show off our history- rather than letting it collect dust in storage! So... my project began:



I had some old throw pillows that I was tired of and just about ready to sell in a garage sale- so I re-covered them!



I measured each pillow seam to seam, then added a 1/2 inch allowance on each side. I stitched 3 sides together, then about a third of the final side and flipped them right side out. (I left enough open to stuff the pillow into it.) Then I finished off the bottom  with the pillow in it, by doing a blind stitch by hand. And: walah! (Is that how you spell that??, oh well :)

Nick is so proud of these pillows, because each time he passes by them in the house, he gets to see a little piece of his grandfather.

One of my favorite craft ideas- ever! :)

The trouble with starting a blog

Several weeks ago, I decided I wanted to start a blog. Yes, SEVERAL weeks ago. Here's what happened: I decided to let my "analytical self" take over and began studying up on blogging. (Almost every time I listen to those "left brain" thoughts in my mind I regret it. It's so much more fun to let my "right brain" take over and run wild.) But, no. I studied... and studied. I searched and searched online for tips, tools, advice on what blogging platform to use.... then I came across an article, no a LIBRARY of articles about making money with a blog. That's when the poison set in. Before I knew it, I was neck deep in literature about positioning your Google AdSense correctly, linking to commission based websites, driving traffic to your blog.... and I had entirely forgotten why I wanted to start blogging in the first place.

Oh! It's because I wanted to write! I remember now... yeah... Well, needless to say, my brain hurt from an overload of information on the topic and one night I finally shut my computer and forced myself to take a break for a few days on my "research". I realized that while making money from a blog is a wonderful thought, it really doesn't work out for most people. I'm not degrading the information that's out there... I'm sure it works when perfectly executed.... but, I'm no computer genius. And while I plan to eventually do a little more research and look into my options... I'm not going to let the idea of money prolong my blogging any further.

Besides, if no one is reading my blog yet, what's the point of placing ad banners? (And I'm sure no one is reading yet.) I will eventually try to spread the word about my blog and attract readers more fervently. But, in the mean time, I should probably get some content on here first :) After reading so much "advice" online, I was so scared to use the wrong platform or start a "general" blog not narrowed down to a particular subject. (Apparently those aren't as lucrative.) But, I want to blog about me and things that I love. And, I cannot do that in a narrow subject frame. So, if ya don't like something I blog about... sorry! Look at the labels and choose a subject that intrigues you. I plan to categorize everything I write. Alright? Alright!

Thursday, May 20

Writing, how I love thee!




Well, here we are. I am officially a blogger. Why didn't I start this sooner? I mean, writing is one of the things in my life that brings me PURE JOY. There are so many things I enjoy... but writing and making music... well those 2 just bypass everything else by miles. I can't even begin to describe what it feels like when words or music is pouring from my being. It feels like years of inspiration and creative thoughts are being held captive inside of my soul, building up until I can longer contain them... and when I finally get the opportunity- what a sweet release!

Hours seem like mere seconds when I am sitting on my piano bench; relishing the sounds of my imagination evolving into a mellifluous story on the keys. A story which may change direction at my whim, which follows the path of my choosing. There are no rules. Only creativity.

I sometimes feel that inspiration is calling out to me from every possible source, every second of the day, threatening to overload my brain. Perhaps it is a gift. Perhaps everyone hears it as I do, but they do not listen. Me, I cannot help but listen. Whether it is the rustling of the trees, or a child laughing... I hear song. Sometimes it is deafening. I want so desperately to give in to its calling. And yet, I tell myself, "There's no time for that! You have work to do... there's a "to do" list waiting... a schedule to keep!" It's so easy for life to become a rush.

I never realized as a young person, how much precious time I had on my hands for creativity. I didn't know that someday I would be too busy to spend half of my day writing music. As we get older, life gets so much more hectic. It has been years since I have allowed myself to get lost in my writing... even for an hour. Well, no more. This blog will finally give me the "permission" I have so long needed to give in to those creative voices inside my head.

Ah... writing, my lost companion... I have returned to you.