Friday, April 28, 2006

Jams, Marmalades and Jelly

What exactly is the difference between these condiments? I went in to the process with a scientific mind and discovered all the differences.
My neighbor left for Maui and told me I could pick clean his orange tree. I was excited because I wanted to try to make another batch of marmalade with less sugar than I had done before.
So I started with peeling all the oranges and soaking them for three days like the other recipes had specified. But this time instead of adding 5 pounds of sugar to the brew, I added less sugar and natural pectin. Much less sugar. I bought all my cute little jars that Ball puts out (they are called the Platinum collection) and went to work. But it turned out a little different from the previous batch. You can tell because you get alot less sugar and a lot less caramelization-- and you end up more with a jello-like jelly. Its still good but it is very different from what you expect when you get marmalade in your mouth. The next project is May 6-- strawberry jam day with Becky and friends!
Here's what the process looks like:

You can tell the difference between the large jar on the right (first batch) and the little ones.


As busy married life continues, we rarely have dinner at home together alone. So date night rolled around and we had a lovely, delicious dinner together. We had:

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Oranges
Baked Tilapia with Cilantro, Lime and Pineapple Juice
Steamed Baby Carrots
Sourdough Brollscuits
The question then begs to be asked: "What are brollscuits?" It is a new word we would like to introduce to the English vocabulary. I invented the product and Travis named it. Its like the Garden of Eden all over again.
brollscuit (brĂ´l . skit) n. a small round type of bread that is a cross between a roll and a biscuit.
Try them sometimes.
Sourdough Brollskits
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup sour milk
2 tsp. baking powder
Mix together and let rise 1 hour. Form rolls with floured hands and let rest for 20 minutes. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Musings of a Morning Failure

Don't we often wake up to face a day and then about two hours into it, we wonder "How could I already be failing ____?" Fill in the blank. God's word gives me great hope when this becomes the major activity of my brain:

"When the cares of my heart are many (when my anxious thoughts multiply within me), your consolations cheer my soul" Psalm 94:16.

Carolyn Mahaney and her girls wrote about this on one of their first blogs ( This truth has helped me much since there is no way I can conquer every task, every care, every demand, every desire and every anxious thought. As a new bride, there is a huge adjustment to the responsibilities of a wife, making the home, and working. This morning, after cooking for Life 101 yesterday, I woke up without a spring in my step. It took me a full hour and a half to be semi-cogniscent. I was definitely behind on my ideal schedule, less animated and energetic than I wanted to be.

Within these tempting little lies that scream "Not enough!", I am seeking to apply the idea of satisfaction to my soul. God is satisfied with me because of his sacrifice on the cross. I love what Thomas Wilcox says in his little book, Honey out of the Rock,

"See that the wound that sin has made in your soul be perfectly cured by the blood of Christ! not skinned over with duties, humblings and enlargements. Apply what you will besides the blood of Christ, it will poison the sore. You will find that sin was never mortified truly, if you haven't seen Christ bleeding for you upon the cross. Nothing can kill it, but beholding Christ's righteousness".

Nothing but the blood of Jesus can cure a wounded soul. And my "failures" are merely reminders that Christ's righteousness satisfies my every need. He already sees me as perfect because of his son's sacrifice. I was meditating on the line in Psalm 40 "Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but you have given me an open ear." I am not responsible ultimately for my sanctification, the process of being made more and more into the image of God. It is the complete work of the blood. It is such a comfort that God's word doesn't address sanctification in large issues but rather in small truths to apply to single situations. A little sip of water wets a parched mouth; same with God's word. God allows us to take sips at the well of God's word to drink of his truth and satisfy our thirsty souls. Like Burroughs says "Never lay your supply lines short of the fountain of grace".
This is grace : "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul, therefore I will hope in him" Lamentations 3:22.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chocolate Goddesses

I know I proclaimed my excellencies over chocolate cake, so there was a reader response that deserves some attention. And by the way, who says you have to be a domestic goddess to be a good cook? Like my friend Chanelle says, some people are good at cooking food, eating food....but not necessarily cleaning up after themselves. I have historical proof. Weren't the Greek Goddesses our primary example of this- they were always creating dramatic disasters and not cleaning them up. I don't have my mother's Greek Mythology book to consult, but I think I've got the general jist of the Ancient World.
This morning after staying out late at a friends for dinner, I was woken up early (thank you, Travis, but the snuggle time does wake me up) and started the morning chores. Neglect on the home front can build up quickly, so I try to make some headway despite my work schedule. (Secret: my floor hasn't been mopped in a month) Other chores take precedence: the chickens need to be let out for their morning rendevous with the lawn, the garden watered, lunch made, projects monitored, emails to be read, and ....the mail collected.
In the mailbox, my mother sent me this card for Easter with a Nibby Bar. It made me laugh. Does anyone here not know what a Scharffen Berger Nibby Bar is? Apparently they have a cult following. So in the spirit of Greek goddesses always getting their way- here's the secret of getting one of these on regular basis. They are addicting, because they have little pieces of cocoa bean in 62% dark chocolate. Just sweet enough, just dark enough, and just enough caffiene. Its going in my lab coat pocket for that midafternoon slump. Not quite a registered dietician's banner message, but goddesses must have their way.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mail Events

Don't you just love it when the mailman comes around the corner? The anticipation of pulling open the tinny door by its little lever and seeing what someone sent you never grows old. When I first moved in I would wait to see if anyone knew we lived here. Usually it contained something for several past residents like farm equipment magazines, mortage offers and lots of pizza coupons. Several trips to the post office cleared the way for our new mail.
And yesterday we got one of those delicious mistakes in the mail. Our address is 19024--- and we got our neighbors "Travel + Leisure" magazine for 19045. Travis and I curled up in bed last night to read all about European travel.
I am also greatly inspired by all sorts of European foods these days after my friend Chanelle tipped me off to all sorts of great blogs on food. Visit her blog. and look at her links to brilliant foodies such as ourselves! Bonjour

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


We have had an uneventful couple of days. This is what happens when you live in a bubble. Right now, the bubble has been a pair of congested ears and an upset stomach. I have been fighting a cold since Thursday last, and Travis came down with a stomach virus on Monday.
We have been staying low key. I'm afraid our plans for an Easter picture with the chickens even failed. Yes, this is a boring blog, but I feel obligated to write something. So I've decided that we will highlight our neighbor's exciting life:
-We met Mike and Doreen's family on Saturday night for their Easter BBQ. We met her two week old granddaughter, Mike's daughter and her boyfriend, and Doreen's son Kolt & his wife.
-Kolt is a plumber and he was using Mike's bike equipment to fix the handlebars on their quad, which he broke flipping it.
-Mike and Doreen left for Hawaii for two weeks this morning; she's going for a nursing convention on guided imagery for surgery and he's going to tag along.
-We are doing their irrigation for them next week and they left us flowers on our doorstep this morning as a thank you.
-We harvested about 25 pounds of oranges from their tree; they are all going towards a second batch of marmalade.
-They told us we could cut all their roses while they were gone.
We also have been spending our time reading other people's blogs like Alivia's. She got to go home yesterday and we are praying that her white count stays down. We want her to stay home!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Some things must suffer...

Is it spring or summer? Arizona doesn't really have those wet spring months-- we just get the sunshine so I can't really say that I have a "Spring" or a "Summer" cold. Hopefully the sunshine and Vitamin D will do me good because I am home sick. It's a summer cold or at least a very sore throat. I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a terrible sore throat.
I was very glad that I pushed and got all my catch-up chores done last night before caregroup because I am on strict orders to stay quiet and rest today. So I did two hours of work this morning like emails and scheduling talks within the community. I am very excited about the contacts we are making in the existing community programs. I am talking with Headstart, Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods (ICAN) and the Boys and Girls clubs here. There are so many child programs that we can partner with. It is very successful because there is both need, interest and suprise because our services are free....and anyone who know what program development is like, knows that when someone contacts YOU, it is another thing you didn't have to generate yourself.
It's no suprise I'm sick. All the physical strength it has been taking to do both events over the past few days, piggybacking that to working part-time and trying to keep up with both my husband and the house...somethings have to suffer. And I'm afraid that its me and the garden who are suffering.
I have been neglecting watering and weeding. Wehad a weak showing of corn from seed, the chicken has been at it again on the squash and our beans had a weak show as well (probably because they were another form of food for her). But the tomatoes look great. I think I will go get some other plants and work from there. Gardening from seed may have been a bit ambitious on the first go around.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Duet 33:27
"The Eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms"
This morning our blog is devoted to our friends, The Haughery Family: James, Emily and Alivia. Just recently Alivia was diagnosed with luekemia. They are pursuing treatment and she is undergoing chemotherapy this morning. Visit their blog for updates:
Their suffering is a reminder that every day we encounted our weakness. No matter where we are in life, God is about the business of reminding us that He is underneath our weakness. Encounters with death reminds us of our final weakness and life reminds us every moment that we are weaker than we thought. Yet his promises remain secure: He promises to strengthen weak knees and arms and bind strength to feeble (Isaiah 35.3, 1Sam 2:4). What a comfort to us all as we are reminded that Christ daily carries our burdens.
In this week before Easter, I am freshly reminded of the Gospel in the two aspects of life and death. There lies hope for both:
Psalm 116.8
"Return o my soul to your rest for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears and my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord is the land of hte living.
Psalm 42.2 "My soul thirsts for God, the living God."
CJ's blog on Together for the Gospel reminds us of these truths-- the Gospel has hope contained within it in Christ's life, death and ressurection. Friday we will remember his death upon the cross on Good Friday and then Sunday celebrate his triumph over death on Easter. I am freshly encouraged to remember that no matter what challenges I am encountering, that there is hope. I was tempted late last night as I was purchasing supplies for the first meal of our Alpha program, Life 101, to grumble and lose sight of God's purposes for my service. As I transition to a new church, it can be easy to feel like you don't belong where you used to, but you don't quite own a place. The swallowed feeling come over you-- and then you encounter someone like Jennilyn at Henry's. She asked what I was making and I was able to invite her to the program; this is where the hope is-- that the living Gospel is a vital part of everything that we do. It is apart of grocery shopping, church services, even hospital experiences. A good example of this is my friends the Walkers. I have known Mr. Walker since before I was born. He had a liver transplant in the 80's and when he was having another transplant over 8 months ago, he went into cardiac arrest and then has been in the ICU since then. There were many times where the doctors gave him no hope. As I visited him in December in the ICU at Georgetown, I thought I was saying goodbye. Yet God had other plans-- he has been slowly recovering since then. Marie, his wife, and his children, have been a constant witness to God's grace-- they have shared the gospel more time, given away CJ's books to the nurses and given glory to God all throughout his ups and downs.
These are all reminders, both small and miraculous, that Underneath are the Everlasting Arms-- He does not grow tired or weary of accomplishing His purposes.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How many blackbirds to a pie?

I didn't understand the nursery rhyme until I moved here. In Maryland we had crows. Big, brash, ugly crows that pick apart your trash bags. Here we have these elegant jet black birds that flock to our trees and are feasting on the worms in my backyard right this very minutes as we irrigate.
The answer to the question is that you could put four and twenty of them into a pie. They are so slender you could fit that many in one pie plate. However, I have had enough of deserts for a while.
We honored Kathleen, Travis' grandmother, with a party for fifty on Saturday for her retirement from nursing and her seventieth birthday. I catered, did the flowers and made some desserts that were a culinary feat, especially since I do not consider myself a baker.
I made a German Chocolate Cake, two Sachertortes and a Vanilla Coconut Cake. You see, my mother didn't make cookies or cakes very often growing up. Now I know why. They are an enormous investment of time, resources. Not to mention the time and resources afterwards you do to recover from the damage they do to your waistline.
But I must say, I have never see nor eaten a German Chocolate Cake like this. Joy of Cooking did me well. I now consider that I had never truly made a cake worthy of calling it by that name until this weekend. It counts as a culinary feat-- it was 4 layers that stood a full twelve inches tall. Inside each layer was a traditional coconut pecan "goo" filling in between. Then there was a homemade mocha buttercream frosting. On its own, it swallowed a whole pound of butter into its luscious fluffy folds of hot meringue. But, O,was it worth it? To bite into a perfectly light and moist cake with sweet gooey layers and not-too-sweet frosting with a toasted coconut crunch on the very edge of your palate, was divine.
Something to be remembered and a little more appealing than twenty four blackbirds in a pie.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A poem

The face of the mountain changes
Silhouetted strong and stark
When light turns grey at dawn
Soft and sandy
A powder pink
Then all again to dark.
Against dark clouds
The lines are contours
Deeper furrows
Green and brown
All towards a sign of rain
In those darker hours.
But morning dawn swallows
Last night's cloak
To higher ways
Outlined in newer threads
White wisps of water
To brighten lines more shallow
Another hour another face
Another line to trace
The contours change
Red, gold, Bblack and green
The edges and emblems
All towards another grace
A mountain changes a woman face.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Homeland Security

Wanted: A Guard Dog of Great Proportions with a Gentle Heart.
Wanted Dead not Alive: Two Pointers
We have had a breach in security along our fence line-- we lost 4 chickens and have experienced a sad setback in our Egg Production Project.. Three survivors, all hens, have earned their mettle against the coniving pointers--Brownie, Jimmy and Gecko. I let them out in the morning to scavenge, left for a meeting at 9:30a and returned home at 6:30p to find Spike, Emma, Joshua Quinn and Afro scattered dead about the yard and canal. Goose is still MIA.

What I am most grateful for is that I won't have to tell the Zigler boys that I was a delinquent Mom and that they all died, as I had initially anticipated last night. I also found the missing adult hen on the search for my babies. She is brooding again and I have a plan now. I will take all of her newly hatched chicks and raise them myself for a better living ratio.

Travis and I need a stronger homeland security for animals and creatures in general. This has been the week for unwelcome and strange critters: I must confess-- I have jumped three times this week. I have never shied away from creepy crawlies, or been timid of burying dead chickens. The week has proved me more tender than I assumed.
Along with visitors from the East Coast, we have had a slew of local visitors: on Sunday I found what appeared to be a large, dead scorpion in my sunken living area. Then, Steve poked it, only to prove it was dead. It was not. It had been pretending the whole time. I didn't know they do that. Now I do. I have been tip-toeing around my house in socks and shoes.
Then on Monday, we had a flock of predatory roadrunners. I thought they were prehistoric creatures. Raptors to be exact. Janis said something like, "Now you know you aren't in Kansas anymore". Nothing could be truer. Travis laughed at me. How was I to know? Have you ever seen a flock of small raptor-like birds scurry around your yard?
The final straw was literally the icing on the cake. Besides the fact that I kill about 5 flies every day, I found a spider at eye level as I was icing my Easter Cookies. I squealed.
But that's life.
Life in the country.