Nature’s Portraits

Nature’s Portraits

Thought I would offer up some recent pictures. I usually take pics of flowers and landscapes; however sunsets and other pictures of God’s Handiwork also make it into the camera lens.

The first pic is of the full moon that was so bright recently. I’m not sure how it happened; but the actual landscape of the moon ended up as another image reflected on the lens. I couldn’t have done this in a thousand years on purpose. Serendipity at work!

fullmoonreflectionsweb2

Yesterday evening, I looked out as the sun was setting and it was not one of those knock your socks off sunsets; but pretty with clouds. The first pic is not the sunset itself. The clouds above it were wispy, fragile looking and made me think of spun sugar (cotton candy, candy floss).

cloudsweb 

Then, the sunset… the big white cloud looks like a fish going after something!

sunsetcloudsweb2

sunsetcloudsweb

 

sunsetcloudsweb3

This last one I caught as I turned to go back inside- came from a completely different direction…

cloudsweb2

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Psalm 8:1

Feasting

 

Today I’m joining in with my sweet friend, Katharine Barrett, as we continue to celebrate Christmas in July on her blog  http://www.katharinesthoughts.net

When I start thinking about preparing for Christmas Celebration with my family, food is one place where I pull out all the stops. In short, we feast.  

More important though are the feasts for our souls. Participating in Christmas musicals, going caroling, watching our children’s programs, and attending services that celebrate the birth of Christ like “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” feed our souls with warmth, hope, love, joy and gratitude. 

 

Especially so when we attend the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. When we arrive we each receive an unlit candle and make our way to our seats. The children are fidgety in their Christmas outfits. They want to light the candles. There’s no nursery for the babies, they come to the service with the families. Most of them are enthralled with the decorations and the singing. 

 

The pastor sits in a chair at the front and the children who can be trusted to not wander off are escorted to sit at his feet.  He begins the familiar reading “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…” 

We settle in, absorbed in the story, thinking what it must have been like. Watching the children’s faces caught up in the telling.

 

The joyful carols ring out and fill the room. The strains of “Immanuel”, “Joy to the World”, “Away in a Manger” and more remind us how He has Graced us with His Holy Presence. 

 

Then-

 

 Silence.

Darkness.

A faint glimmer appears at the front and the sound of Silent Night, Holy Night begins with a single voice. Slowly drifting toward the back, gaining volume as each candle is lit from another and another voice is added. By the end of the song, the room is filled with light and the echo of the last notes hangs in the air. The pastor breathes the benediction and we leave silently, the hush still holds us. 

lightoftheworldweb

 

This. Is. Christmas.

 

The celebration of the birth of the Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Holy One, the Savior of the world. Messiah. Immanuel. God with us. 

 

We go silently to the car and are quiet on the drive home. 

 

At home, the kitchen is the center of my world for the next few hours. Final preparations for Christmas Celebration at our home.  I’ve made the cookies with the kids, and determined the menu. Now, with music flowing, the baking begins!

 

There are rolls to be made, muffins to be prepped, a chocolate torte and a Meyer Lemon pound cake waiting in the wings.  I may even have time for a few truffles and  who knows what else I’ll come up with! 

I’ve added these old standbys and my kids’ favorites below  Questions? Clarification needed? Please add to the comments and I’ll clarify for all!

 

(just click on this: link to my recipe page and scroll down to find these)

 

Nathalie Dupree’s Quick and Easy Rolls

I remember watching her make these on her show on PBS when my youngest was little- the cooking shows were his favorite to watch at lunch time.

 

Pumpkin Muffins

Although these may seem more suited to Thanksgiving tables, there was almost a revolt in the family one year when they discovered I was not planning to make these for Christmas. I gave in and made them even though they didn’t go with the menu!

 

Blueberry Muffins

I’ve made these for years for breakfast Christmas Morning and on weekends. I usually buy a large amount of fresh blueberries and make a batch or two; then I freeze the remainder by spreading them out in one layer on a cookie sheet (with sides) and freeze then transfer to a freezer bag and use them in this recipe. If I have guests then I make it as a bread using a bundt pan {think “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” where Harry(Harriet) brings a bundt cake to the family party} The neat thing about this one is that it can be modified into other kinds of muffins. 

 

Monster Cookies: 

so called because they are so big. I use red and green M&Ms for these at Christmas time. I started making these because there were a kazillion teachers I worked with and only one of me and I wanted to give them all a Christmas Present. Every year they would start asking me as soon as we got back from Thanksgiving: “When are you bringing Monster Cookies?” I would make a batch and place them in the break room with my hot cider concoction and they would be gone by 1 o’clock!

 

Blueberry Muffins or Bread {and more}

Blueberry Muffins/Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups pastry flour or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 1/2 cup sugar

1 or 2 eggs (1 for muffins; 2 for bread)

1 cup milk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries.

 

Instructions:

Place rinsed and drained blueberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the flour over berries and set aside.  

Sift remaining flour and other dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl, beat egg(s) and milk together well then pour in melted butter while stirring. Then pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture stirring only enough to dampen the flour. Dump the berries in and fold into the mixture.

 

For Muffins:

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for 15-20 minutes- until browned on top- they usually will crack open on top as well.

For Bread: 

Pour mixture into a well-buttered bundt pan and bake approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees farenheit. Test for donness with toothpick.  When done, remove from oven, let sit 5-10 minutes in pan then turn out onto rack to cool. Once plated sprinkle the top (lightly) with superfine or caster sugar.

 

This recipe can be used to make other types of muffins:

Bacon Muffins:  leave out the berries. Use bacon drippings in place of butter, reduce sugar amount to 2 tablespoons and add 3 tablespoons cooked and crumbled bacon to batter.

Other Berry Muffins: use 1 cup any type of berries, fresh or frozen, well rinsed. 

Date or raisin Muffins: add 1/2 cup chopped dates or 1/4 cup raisins instead of berries.

Pecan Muffins: Reduce amount of sugar to 1/4 cup. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to batter. After filling muffin cups, sprinkle with a little sugar, cinnamon, and more nuts(finely chop these).

Whole Wheat Muffins: substitute 3/4 cup coarse whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour. DO NOT SIFT IN WITH OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS. Add to dry ingredients after sifting. Reduce sugar amount to 2 tablespoons.

Do you write?

{If you are a reader-not a writer-read on!  There’s something here for you too.}

Do you write? Have a blog? Have you written a book? Do you think about writing a book? Have a journal by your bed? More journals full of words in the bookcase? Do you ever wonder why you write? What spurs you on? Why in the world do you have these words rumbling around in your head; tumbling out of your mouth or your pen or your fingers tapping on the keyboard?

These questions, and others, started dogging me from the time I picked up a pen as a teen. I wrote out of pain, confusion and just plain frustration- like most teenagers. I was a very compliant kid, a not so compliant young woman (but only in my head).

Thus the tension. 

I read books like drinking water back then and through them I discovered there was a whole world out there that I would be thrust into when I grew up.  I wrote poems because somehow all the feelings of growing up and the knowledge those books gave to me had to be expressed.

My real world consisted of an alcoholic parent and a manipulative, functionally insane parent. One who pushed me toward young men, set up compromising situations and who would turn on me when I was guilty of making an innocent comment about life in relation to something I read.

I say this now because I know why I started writing and why I continue to write. 

His providential protection through all those years and in all those situations where I was helpless was for a reason.

 

God made me to write.

 

I read to know words.

 

I write to know me.

 

I grew up, got married, had kids, worked full time while still struggling with the thoughts rushing through my head; putting the words down on paper and typing them on the keyboard not really understanding.  Spilling them out before the Lord because I knew He understood my life way better than I did. He still does. I hear His Voice  through His Word. 

 I thought i’d share these verses because maybe, like me, you’ve been writing and reading and haven’t understood the way things happened or didn’t happen in your life. When you look back, can you now see a moment in time when His Hand protected or redirected you?

He speaks and I listen:

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Psalm 107:2-3 NIV (emphasis mine)

But He said to me, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 2 Corinthians 12:9 AMP (again, emphasis mine)

Have you had similar experiences that you now know were His Providential Protection and that redirected your life?

Christmas in July

My sweet Canadian blogging friend and author, Katharine Barrett, is holding Christmas in July on her blog  all month! One of the books she wrote, a devotional,  “Walking To Bethlehem” was the inspiration for this little foretaste of Christmas to come. I’m thrilled, because there’s nothing like a little taste of Christmas in the middle of summer! Break out the hot chocolate and the gingerbread, light a fire and I’m there!

Please visit her here:

1017345 10200919278840759 325606932 n

Several of us will be contributing throughout this month and if you click on the pic up there you will get a preview of the treats you will find. Oh and there might be a surprise at the end of the month!

On Wednesday, my friend, Lorretta Stembridge (she’s a Georgia Girl) will be talking about traditions over on her site. But to get you started on the road, Katharine has written a little something that she learned about traditions here.

We started a new tradition in our family a couple of years ago. On Christmas Eve Eve (December 23) one year I invited the two oldest g’kids who live here in town to spend the night. We stayed up late, read lots of Christmas Stories, watched a Christmas Video, listened to Carols all through the night, and wrapped a few presents. We stared at the tree and I told them the stories behind some of the ornaments on the tree. The next morning they helped me make Christmas Pancakes-Gingerbread Man shaped. We had so much fun, they asked if we could do it again and we did. Now we have a new tradition just like that!

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

It’s time for 5 minute Friday at Lisa-Jo’s hangout.

Today’s prompt:

Beautiful

You know we think of this word and quite often the vision of a young woman comes to mind.  Or, perhaps a landscape or sunrise or sunset.  Or, for you, perhaps it’s something else altogether.

I stopped to think about those things that I attribute “beautiful” to- a rose just blooming, a painted sky, the shape of a building, a child’s smile, kind eyes, a certain color, the way the ocean moves, the sound of music, the grace of a doe.

A partial list true, but what gets my attention is the unintentional hint in the word itself- the first two letters: BE.

All these things reflect their purpose- to be what they were designed and purposed to be.  And to see and appreciate the beauty we find there is to acknowledge the Designer’s work.

A few things I find beautiful:

moonrise1web

rosespinkweb

 doeweb

wintertreeweb

waterfallweb

IMG_1452

May you find beauty wherever you are today!