Friday, January 9, 2015

Morfar

I am the only child of the only daughter of my grandparents.  I was also the first born grandchild, the oldest of what turned out to be 16 grandchildren, and the only one, of all those grandchildren, who gets to call our grandfather, Morfar.  Morfar means mother's father, and since all of my cousins are the children of my mother's brothers, my position is sort of unique.

I'm not special.  I just have a lot of memories of how things were before our family was as huge and wonderful as it is now, lots of pictures in my head that i don't have snapshots of.

When i was three, i was the older of only two grandchildren.  I don't remember how it came about, but i do remember giving my Morfar a list (probably didn't write it down) of 3 items that i really wanted.

A whistle.

Sunglasses.

And a tiny black teddy bear.

So Morfar took me shopping.  We went from store to store to store, searching and searching and searching for the treasures i could see in my head.  The sunglasses probably weren't too difficult.  I remember them to be black and plastic.  The whistle was one of those round plastic ones, and i think it was some bright color combination, like purple and orange.  And then there was the teddy bear.  That was the hard one.  I could see him in my head.  I knew what he looked like, and finding him is the thing that caused all the traveling from store to store to store.

This was a lot of years ago now, and i don't honestly know how many of the details in my memory are historically accurate, but i can still see in my mind, the end cap teddy bear display where we found my teddy bear.  He was kind of in the middle left area, slightly more than half way up the display.  He was the one i was looking for.

I was a very creative and imaginative child, so i named him Blacky.

And i still have him.

Blacky has stayed with me through 30-something moves, 9 states, and four house fires.  He doesn't even smell like smoke anymore.

My Morfar bought him for me.

Today, Morfar turns 94.

One of my most treasured memories.  One of my most treasured people.

Happy Birthday, Morfar.  I love you more than i can type.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Soup

This year, all of our family Christmas gatherings were already concluded before the 25th, leaving me and my gun-slingin' super hero, all alone with the cat and our own devices on Christmas Day.  But alas even gun-slinging super heroes can catch colds, and when mine awoke with a bad case of the sniffles, i was inspired to cook what i have named Christmas Soup.  I was so pleased with the results, that i am inspired to make my Christmas Soup an annual tradition.  After all, Christmas time may be the most wonderful time of the year, but with all the candy, cold air, and stress, it tends also to be the most sickly time of the year, and the most challenging to our immune systems.
So here's what i did.  

First, i had some homemade chicken stock from the last time we thinned out our rooster population.  I made it by simmering the bones in the crockpot for many hours, in order to suck the nutrition into my stock.  It's wonderful stuff, and very good for you.  I added about a quart of it to my empty stock pot, followed by an equal amount of water.  To that i added a pound of previously cooked and frozen (freezer cooking is such a good idea) roasted chicken pieces - boneless of course.

Then i set about crushing garlic.  An entire bulb or head of garlic.  It isn't necessary to get too detailed about mincing garlic when it's going in a soup that's going to simmer a long time.  Just make sure to get all those skins off and remove any hard root bits.  Most of my cloves, i just smashed with the side of large knife and cut in half.  The bigger ones, i cut into smaller pieces. While the pieces are physically distinguishable after the soup is finished, the expected overpowering flavor is disseminated beautifully into the soup.

As the cold began to come upon us this fall, the last of the bell peppers and hot peppers in the garden were harvested and placed in the freezer to be used for seasoning at a later date.  Now, some of you are going to squinch up your noses when i tell you this next part, but i challenge you to keep an open mind.  I took 10-15 small to medium sized bell peppers, red and green, out of the freezer, removed the tops and seeds, and diced them into about 2 cups bell pepper bits and added those to the soup to simmer.  Now, i'm not a big fan of cooked bell pepper, or i wasn't until i discovered it as a seasoning, instead of a main dish.  Diced bell pepper in a soup or in a meatloaf (that was a freebee), blends in, adds richness to the broth, and scads of vitamin C to whatever the dish.

This is the longest-winded recipe for soup you've ever read, isn't it? 

Next i found one frozen jalapeno and 3 frozen cayenne peppers in the freezer, chopped them up, seeds and everything, and added those to the soup.  

To top it off, i added generous dashings of fresh ground pepper, salt, and freeze dried poultry seasoning, along with a couple big scoops of chicken bouillon powder, to "beef up" the chicken-ness of the broth.

Then i let it simmer for a long time - maybe 2-3 hours.  Until we were ready to eat it.

It is wonderful served over rice.  I've also had leftovers over cornbread, which dulls the spiciness a little better than the rice.  I prefer the spiciness less diluted.

In any event, if you want to have a delicious, immune boosting, knock-the-illness-out-of-you, winter soup, i strongly recommend this recipe.   And even if you don't have a garden and a flock of chickens, i think you can pull of something similar.

Ingredients

One pound pre-cooked chicken
One quart chicken stock
One quart water
2 Cups diced bell pepper, green and red
1 whole jalapeno pepper, diced, seeds and all
3 whole cayenne peppers, diced, seeds and all
1 whole bulb of elephant garlic, chunked
Salt, Pepper, and Poultry Seasoning (preferably freeze dried or fresh), and chicken bouillon to taste.
Simmer until vegetables are soft.  Serve over rice or cornbread.
The broth will have a greenish color to it once the flavors are all infused.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

About Giving Thanks


My friend, Patsy, told me a story about a time during her childhood, when her family lived on a ranch, where her father worked for the owner and took care of the property and animals.  Patsy remembered with special fondness how the owner of the property taught her how to work with horses and allowed her to ride the horses as often as she wanted, which she did, often.  She recounted how she would take her favorite horse in the evening, and go for long rides, and find a grassy patch in the woods, where she could sit and read and enjoy the beauty of nature and the tranquility of the woods.

The follow-up to my friend's story painted a different picture than the beginning of it, when she told me that the house on the ranch where her family lived didn't have electricity, or even indoor plumbing, and how she would be so embarrassed that she would work hard to make sure her friends never saw her house after dark, hoping that they wouldn't notice that there were no lights.

As Patsy was telling her story, it occurred to both of us at almost the same time...if her house on the ranch had had electricity and indoor plumbing, (and television and maybe even air conditioning) would she now have the beautiful memories of the horse rides and grassy patches in the forest?  Would she have spent so much time with the horses, if her favorite show were on t.v.?

I don't know the answer, but i can guess.

We've all heard the cliche, "Every cloud has a silver lining," but it never occurred to me, not really, that there are many silver linings i wouldn't have had without the clouds.

I know that difficulty makes me stronger, but difficulty also brings opportunity for blessings, specific benefits, that we wouldn't have had if everything were going smoothly.  I don't mean i'm going to go looking for tragedy, though tragedy brings opportunity for blessing too, but what if when tragedy or difficulty, or simple inconvenience strikes, once i get done grieving or complaining, or just readjusting, what if i started looking for the secret treasures, hidden in my situation?

What if i got thankful?

Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a concentration camp in Europe during World War II.  They and the other women imprisoned with them were, at one point, housed in a building very badly infested with fleas.  Corrie and Betsy had managed to smuggle the pages of a Bible with them into this prison, and while looking for hope in the pages of scripture, came across the instructions of 1 Thessalonians, that we should "give thanks in all circumstances."  Against Corrie's protests, Betsy encouraged her sister to thank God for the fleas.  I know....sounds crazy to me too.  But they did it.  They prayed and thanked God for the fleas.  What you learn later in the re-telling of this true story, is that because of the horrible infestation of fleas in the sisters' building, none of the Nazi guards wanted to go anywhere near it, and because of that, the women in this building were able to do things that prisoners in the other buildings did not get to do, such as distribute smuggled-in vitamin drops, have Bible studies, encourage each other aloud, all without additional negative responses from the guards.  In comparison to the other buildings in their prison camp, the women in this building experienced definite luxuries, because of the fleas.  (The Hiding Place, 1971, by Corrie ten Boom).

I think i might be a slow learner, but i might be finally starting to wrap my mind around the truth that hardship, tragedy, inconvenience, always always always, contains something, some opportunity, some benefit, some experience, that will shape me for the better, if i let it.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  I pray that you have lots of things to thank God for, and if they're hard to think of this year, i pray that you will have the courage to "give thanks in every circumstance" and have the faith to believe that your present circumstance contains a hidden treasure, and even if you don't yet know what it is, to thank God for it anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving! and  Happy Giving Thanks!

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; 
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18