Friday, February 27, 2015

More Wintery Weather

It's been another snowy week in our neck of the woods. We had not one, but two more snow events within three days. I've gotten to the point where I find it all pretty amusing. I thought it was going to be an early spring, I had been making plans and anticipating clearing out the winter debris in my yard. In my mind I had moved on from winter and was getting ready for spring. The snow and icy temperatures have put a halt to all of that....we are surely still in winter.

What has amused me so much, is I can see application in my life that reflects what is happening with our weather. It's been a long "winter" and I'm ready for some "spring" Do you get what I'm saying? The thing is, it's winter....that's the reality of where I am. It's not a bad thing....there is a lot of beauty in winter. And  not all days are dreary and cold, some are full of sunshine and warm breezes that refresh my soul....so I really don't have anything to complain about...so why is it so hard for me to be content in "winter"? (because I like the sunshine and warm breezes...who doesn't?)

So this weeks lesson, for me, was to stop wishing away "winter" and find the beauty in it instead. A lesson that boils down to contentment and the reminder that God is always at work in all seasons.

We decided to take a little excursion to a local golf course, I loved the way the Cypress Trees looked with the partially frozen lake.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Amaretto Cake

Remember the photo of the cake in my last post, you know the one with the slivered almonds sprinkled on top and the birthday candles ready to be lit....well it's called an Amaretto Cake and per request, I made it for my husband's birthday last week.

This cake is one of our favorites and is often requested by family members near and far. One year we made this cake for Christmas gifts. When I send a cake to family, I use those those Sterilite containers, (I usually find them at Target) box them up and ship them on their way. If you happen to be a reoccurring cake recipient you are requested to bring the container back to be refilled at a future date. My youngest son will bring 3-4 home at a time when he comes to visit.

Back to the cake, it's as simple as can be, and can be whipped up in no time at all. I've made it so many times, I can almost do it without having to look at the recipe...note I did say almost.

The recipe comes from The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrn, one of the few cookbooks I still own,(thanks to Pinterest and the Internet) and one I would highly recommend, if you use cake mixes.

Amaretto Cake

Vegetable oil for misting the pan
1 Package yellow cake mix (18.25 ounces) (do not use any with pudding in the mix)
1 Package (5.1ounce) instant vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup Amaretto (Almond flavored liqueur) (you can also substitute some of the Amaretto with fresh lemon juice)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto (or 1 tsp almond flavoring)
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup slivered almonds

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a tube pan or bunt pan with vegetable oil spray (use can also grease with butter and dust with flour, if you don't like using the sprays. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, Amaretto, water, oil, eggs and almond extract in a large bowl (basically dump everything in a bowl) Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for about a minute. Then stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat another two minutes, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.. The batter will look thick and smooth. Pour batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. place pan in the oven.
Bake the cake until it is a golden brown and springs back when it is pressed lightly (it takes about 48-52 minutes depending on your oven) Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges to make sure there are no stuff areas and turn over on rack to finish cooling. Mine usually pops out without a problem.
Prepare the glaze. I modified the glaze recipe a bit by adding some butter, it just gives it a richer taste. I found that you can also use almond flavoring in the glaze in place of the Amaretto if you don't care for the taste of the liqueur,(the cake doesn't have any liqueur taste, at all,  just a rich almond flavor )  Melt the butter add the Amaretto /Almond flavoring,(if using the almond flavoring decrease the amount to 1 tsp and make up the difference with water, then the sugar, cook for about a minute then start spooning over the cake. After glaze the cake is glazed, sprinkle the almonds on. (if you don't have almonds, not to worry, just as good without but the almonds make it a prettier cake)

Because I make this cake often, I watch for cake mixes to go on sale (sometimes you can get them for under a 1.00) and pudding mix. If I need a cake at a moment's notice I'm set. 

The only real problem with this cake is I can't eat it because I don't do dairy (instant pudding has non fat dry milk in it) I do indulge on occasion and husband likes it so I make it for him...it keeps well so it can stick around for awhile without a problem. Son has been known to keep his for almost three weeks...I wouldn't recommend that, but it has been done. It also freezes well (leave half of the cake out now save the other half for later) Hope you think about giving this a try, it's always a hit around here

Friday, February 20, 2015

Encourage When You Can

I enjoy spending time with family and friends. Sometimes I have to settle for a nice chat on the phone, or a quick text. My sister and I text all the time...and then we getting to a point that texting gets way too hard because we have too much to say. During those times the texting marathon ends up with a phone call.

This week  most of my friends have been housebound due to weather and sickness (lots of sickness going around again...sigh) so I haven't had much of a chance to see anyone this week, but we've kept connected with our phones. Aren't you thankful for phones and the ability to check in on each other?

I know people can have strong feelings about texting, but I find it a great way to touch base with each other. Often times it will lead to a phone call but not always. Sometimes it might be the encouragement a person needs in that moment...you never know. (I have friends who will text scripture...love that)

Anyway today was a special day because I got a surprise real live (not phone) visit from this guy. We knew he was going to be in town but did not expect to see him at all because his schedule was tight. He had rehearsal in the afternoon and a performance in the evening, then he was headed back home.

You can imagine my surprise(and delight) when he said he was going to stop by between the rehearsal and the performance. It was a quick visit, (real quick) just enough time for a piece of leftover birthday cake and coffee, but it did this momma's heart good. The visit ended with a hug, and an admonishment to drive safely (we mom's always say that don't we?)

Is there someone you know who might be encouraged with a call or a text. Even letting someone know you are thinking about them can be a blessing. I will often text someone about any prayer needs (or practical needs) This can be more of a blessing than you know.

Photo above taken last weekend before the snow and the freezing cold temperatures, no one is out in shirt sleeves today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February Surprises

February has been full of surprises for us. As mentioned in my previous post our son got some work in the area and was home for a few days. He was able to join us in a birthday celebration at a local eatery that husband likes and we were able to go to the symphony....having him home proved to be a real treat.

We also spent the weekend baking and cooking, it was Valentines Day and my hubby's birthday after
all. It's time to bake again, our treats are almost gone (some of this went north...lol) I will have to post the recipes for the Cinnamon Apple Scones...so delicious

Our other surprise has been snow and really cold temperatures. Usually if we haven't had snow by early February we're not going to get any, so in my mind winter was over...lol. We have been told that the temperatures expected tomorrow haven't been this cold in nearly twenty years...yikes!

A text I received from a friend yesterday stated,  "Remember a couple of weeks ago we all agreed it was going to be a short mild winter and early spring....maybe we spoke too soon"

We were talking about pruning our roses, she had already done hers, I had not gotten around to mine yet. Hopefully this cold weather hasn't damaged any of the early growth, I know ice can be a protector, like a warm blanket,  so maybe that will help.

We have officially been snowed in since Monday night and with super cold temperatures  predicted, I'm not sure that's going to change till the weekend. (photo above taken at a local parking lot...so maybe not totally snowed in, we did venture out this afternoon for a bit.) We don't do snow here, even the smallest amount will close down most places of business . What has made it worse is our 4-6 inches of snow is covered by a thick coating of ice..think "magic shell" ... you know the stuff they put on ice cream...that's what the snow is like. I can actually walk on top of this stuff without breaking through.

The children are enjoying all this snow and while there is no sledding allowed at the city park that has the "big hill" (too many injuries) Kids have still been able to find places to use those surf boards and trash cans lids to sled ...any piece of land with an incline will do. I have memories of sliding down a neighborhood street when I was growing up....I'm sure that wouldn't be allowed today. Things seemed so much simpler when I was growing up, or for that matter, when I was a young mom raising children.

So we've had a couple of quiet days. Besides cooking, we have done some reading, listened to a  teaching from church...(gotta love the Internet), done some research on supplements , looked at possible vacation ideas (40th anniversary coming up this year) and gotten lost on Pinterest (I've found so many good recipes) The snow has also given us the opportunity to recharge....a forced slow down...not a bad thing really...but I think hubby is ready to get back to work.

How about you, are y'all snowed in? How do you spend your snow days?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thankful Thursday

I am feeling a little blue over the return of the cold weather. It had looked as if winter might have been winding down but, surprise...it's downright cold again. I feel a little wimpy complaining, especially in light of what you folks in New England are experiencing, so let me focus instead on the things that I have to be thankful for this week. (spring will be here soon enough)

The weather was mild this past weekend and hubby was able to do some needed repairs on our railing going up the front steps.

We are getting an unexpected visit from our young son this weekend. He has a local "gig" and will be here for three days...we are very excited

Complimentary tickets to the symphony this weekend. This is quite a treat and the timing could not be better since we are celebrating Valentine's Day and my husband's birthday this weekend.

God's provision in so many different ways. He provides for our needs and not just practically. He knows our hearts and where we struggle. I can't tell you how many times, I'll hear a word or read a scripture that ministers to my heart right where my need is.

Our little CSA family, Saturday was our last day of the winter season. No more produce till the strawberries are ready. I was able to store lots of root vegetables and freeze excess produce that we will be able to use the next couple of months. Lots of frozen greens for smoothies.

Our Care Group, the group continues to change and I am at times discouraged, but I am thankful for this group of people. These are the people that know me, the good the bad and the ugly and are willing to remind me of truth when all I want to do is believe lies. God is at work

I am thankful for technology (I know I've mentioned that ,so many times before) because of technology I get to do things like *face time* I am also thankful for my DIL who is always willing to do *face time* when I ask ( I know how hard it is, because everyone wants a turn and it can end up being a long event.) This is a favorite photo of my youngest grand...pure joy in that face.

Thank you Lord for the blessing of being a grandparent

How about you, are there things that you can be thankful for this week?

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Necessity of Being Still

I have difficulty with "quiet"...it's something I realized several years ago. In contrast,  I do "busy" well. (at least it seems like I do in the short term) I fill my days with things that need to be done, errands, appointments and an occasional lunch or coffee with a friend.

"Busy" can be challenging though. When I'm busy I don't always find time to eat, or I'm grabbing a quick bite on the run. That's okay every now and then, but if you do it for any length of time you begin to run down physically. It has the same spiritual application.

"Busy" has snuck up on me again, squeezing out "quiet".  I have felt it physically, but even more so spiritually and frankly it's hard to do battle when you've been  so busy that you don't feed yourself properly. Spiritually, I've been grabbing "quick bites" and relying on stored truths.

There are truths I have stored up over the years, that I have been able to use when I've been in the middle of one of "those" conversations that only I can hear, (you know the type I'm talking about)

The internal conversations that focus on mistakes, regrets, sin, failure and the what if''s. Those "conversations" can leave me a little discouraged, until I get to the place of stored truth. Like God is on the throne, he is ruling and reigning over all things, he is sovereign over all, he works all things for good.

I know I need a more substantial diet than the "quick bites" I've been getting. Coincidently our ladies ministry will be going through the book of Romans...what do you think, does it sound like a good place to get fed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January Moments

After starting out the month visiting with the musician, January was a month that we spent mostly indoors and at home.

It was a month we spent cleaning up and clearing out, there is still more to do but since we still have another six weeks of winter I'm sure I will be able to get to more of the indoor jobs before the weather breaks. We did get a "little" snow,  this month, just enough to barely cover the grass. (snow gets a lot of excitement here, to listen to the weather people you would have thought we were under blizzard conditions...lol) The snowman in the photo is actually only 12 inches tall (photo courtesy of a friend who's three children made him)

I stayed busy working on photo books and calendars and finding new recipes using the items in our CSA basket. I learned how to use Pinterest, thanks to my DIL's sister. I know I'm a bit behind on this one but I never really saw the need to get pulled into one more thing, but I love it, and have gotten so many ideas for recipes etc. I have also discovered it can be a "big black hole" that you can get lost in, so I have found moderation is needed at times.

We were able to attend a cooking demonstration put on by the ladies from our CSA. It was a lot of fun watching these two daughters and mom interact with each other and I got a lot of new recipe ideas using the winter vegetables that I have been in our basket.

My teeth have grabbed a fair amount of my attention this month but I can report I am definitely on the mend, step two of this process will be in June.

Speaking of June, did I mention my grandchildren and DIL will be visiting in June, we can hardly wait. Until then we continue to *face time* and talk on the phone, counting down the time before the visit. During our first call in January my DIL said they were singing the *5 month countdown song*

A quiet January is behind us and now we are one more month closer to spring. What was your January like? Are you a winter person?