Sunday, June 13, 2010

And That's the Last of 'Em

   Hello again, all (yes, to you, my lovely nine followers)! I just returned from my last graduation ceremony -the last commencement address- of this school year. I have been to four ceremonies in as many weeks, successively. Some people may look on that as a bore, but I rather enjoyed it. After all, I gleaned much from the four different perspectives on what one ought to do or be after high school. It was like being admonished four times in a row! So I thought I would give a little summary of what I learned during the various speeches this past month, and let you in on what happened at my graduation, as well as a few pictures!

   The first ceremony in the graduation line-up was my own. It was a fun, encouraging time and a great way to begin life as a (oh, my!) graduate. Thanks to everyone who put it together. When my family arrived, there was a place for everything and everything was in its place -or shortly achieving that goal. We just waltzed in and blindly sailed through it all! As I was arranging the food for the reception on the many platters we had brought, the fact that I was graduating from years of school and a schedule that would be no more -the idea that after this point in most people's lives, they are considered adults and up-and-leave to 'their own' lives- had definitely not registered. I was just arranging food, which, as you might realize by now, is not anything new for me. You would think that, at least,  as I donned my sky blue robe and pinned on my hat and tassel, I would have realized the 'significance' of what was happening. Yeah right. I was simply putting on blue, which, as those of you who know me well, is a part of my almost daily routine. Soon enough, I found myself, with the other three graduates, standing single file straining for that first line of Pomp and Circumstance. Surely, surely then I must have seen that The Day had come and I was now....graduating. Huh uh. Not a chance. I was merely listening to pretty music (thanks, Groves) while strolling down a lane, which, as not many know, I do all the time. Then came the songs, the prayers, the speech (oh, yeah....that is what I am writing about...), the tears, and finally, the diploma. And as my wonderful Daddy raised his arm and handed me that diploma tied up in the nice ribbon it....still had not sunk in. Yeah, anticlimactic, I know. It still has not sunk in. I do not feel like a graduate. In fact, I feel more like a child than ever!
   And that is the one thing on which I would like to comment before I get into the commencement addresses: one day does not make much of a difference. One episode or event does not suddenly change you into whatever you thought you would be. Sure, I had a birthday. Sure, I graduated. Did people expect for me to come out any differently than when I went in? Was I supposed to feel free and independent the moment I tossed my cap? Did the act of receiving a diploma make me a better and more mature person? I am having to say not really. Now, do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating the abolition of all ceremonies, birthdays, and anniversaries. I love those things. I am just pointing out that one cannot rely on or look to that One Event and think I will be this by that day. You fill in your this and that. See, change comes from the inside, not the outside. Or, true change cannot be externally imposed upon you, contrary to what the mentality of Since I am graduated, I am now this says. True change, or growth, is wrought from the inside out, not the outside in. How do I look at these Events, then? Well, I see them as opportunities, just like any day is an opportunity. Lord, what can you teach me -how can you change me- through this (fill in the blank)? When questioned on how he felt on his birthday, my grandpa said, "I am a day older than yesterday and a day younger than tomorrow." I think I will be pleased when I can lay my head down on the pillow and feel a day older than yesterday and a day younger than tomorrow, too. That can only happen if I seize the opportunities God has given me to learn more about Him and to become more like Him. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. blog title. Of course. So, that is what I did with the commencement addresses, which were about:

  The commencement speech at my graduation was given by someone whom I have respected for years. I was really thrilled when I saw he would be the one doing the "commencing." He used a military analogy to show the importance of being faithful -always. His text was James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." God is the Unchanging One from whom all good gifts proceed, and who is reflected by the manifestations of those gifts in the present darkness of this world. Faithfulness, then, is an important and serious reflection of God's light here on earth. 

Hehe. The graduate who didn't know she was...Thanks for the pictures, Mrs. Scott!!!

Next Saturday, I attended the second graduation. It was also wonderful. Funny, I sat there during the ceremony thinking When I graduate, I am going to use this piece and do this and say that. It was only at the end of the slideshow that I realized I had already graduated! Anyway, the address was given by a young man who did a great job. His three main exhortations to the graduates were the following: 1) Surround yourselves with good, living examples: people who would point you to God and direct you in His ways (am I right about this one? This is from the top of my head memory, which has been shutting down as of late). 2) Immerse yourself in good books. Books of all sorts. LEARN! I loved that point... and 3) Take note and apply the difference between biblical manhood and womanhood. Seek out what being a man in God is, or what a woman in God is. I was pleasantly surprised this issue was addressed at all. Most people are too scared to touch on the subject. And it needs to be addressed.

The following Saturday, I went to another graduation. I am a little hazy on this one. I know it was very personal and beneficial...that short term memory loss is kicking in. I do remember that the father spoke on biblical womanhood (yeah!), particularly about Eve. Did you know the mother of the human race is mentioned by name only four times in the Bible??? 'Tis true! I was reminded of the beauty of being the woman God wants me to be. It was a timely and helpful message because it can be difficult being an 'odd-ball' in this world of reversed values and trends and what-not. I know many of you know what I am talking about. 

And last but not least, yesterday. Wowsers. A whirlwind indeed. The speaker was Ken Ham. He did, of course, a marvelous job. Mr. Ham gave the graduates a heartening, cheery thought. In Christ, we have a purpose. There is a path, a task, a race, after high school. It ought to direct our lives. And it is something that others cannot understand, something they will never know. We have to be well-diggers. That is our purpose. "Go out and be well-diggers" was the last thing he told the graduates. Well-diggers? Yes, well-diggers. We have to water the earth with the gospel of Christ -the water that leaves one satisfied forever. God wants us to irrigate this parched land with His refreshing message. We can do this by being who He created us to be, by doing what He wants us to do -by living for Him. 

So, I did not find it boring at all! Hope you did not either.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm in the Kitchen, Part II

  Yes, I realize there is no 'Part I' to this post, but no matter. The nine followers of this chronicle know about what I am writing.
  Directly after safely tucking away my munchkin tarts into the freezer, I began whipping up the dough for a billion almond thumbprint cookies. I do not use the word 'whipping' lightly. It was a hot morning and I had a stirring sermon blasting through the loudspeakers -perhaps that explains my energy. Seriously, there was dough everywhere! On the toaster, blender, counter, and that small kitchen appliance which no one can really name. Then I noticed my hand mixer was on high with the turbo power switched on. Oh. I did not really miss the dough, however, and continued whipping. The procedure is simple. Dry ingredients sifted in a bowl, cut in butter, whisk eggs separately and add bit by bit to crumbled dry mix (along with almond extract), and form into round little balls with a cute thumbprint in the middle. Layer and freeze. Tada! I felt good. I still had not sat down to lunch and I had already baked 300 items! The tarts were for graduation and the cookies for another event looming after graduation. Then the sermon ended and I checked the time. So, it was not eleven o'clock, after all, but two thirty. Hmmm, lunch.
 The first layer of Almond Raspberry Thumbprint Cookie Dough.

The fruit of my labor that morning. It might not look like much, but there are 150 of each, tart and cookie, in those things.

  After the short respite, I was at it again. This time, I was making pastelitos (also for graduation). The first thing to do is to make the dough. Oh, yes. Pastelitos are like the Dominican versions of turnovers. They can be sweet or savoury, usually stuffed with either cheese and jam or picadillo, our ground beef filling. Anyway, to the dough. My lovely Tia Mema and cousin Edlin sent me the recipe via email the evening previous, and I was ready to go. The last time I had made this was with my aunt, on a cold night, wither her strong arms, and my....non-knowledge. This time, I was by myself, on a hot afternoon, with let's-not-talk-about-it arms, and my....non-knowledge. But I was in a crazy mood and, as mentioned above, I was ready to go.
  To make a long story short, flour, eggs, butter, salt, and baking soda can be turned into a lot of things, and, at the moment, it was pastelito dough. After some fine kneading skills on the part of yours truly, and the help of the sultry day, I had a large ball of smooth, shiny, and eeelastic dough. Yay!!! I was thrilled. So thrilled, in fact, I continued right on to making the filling. With the camera.

My ingredients.

I had industriously chopped up the onions and garlic the night before so I would not be crying all over the camera. I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but...well...okay, it is a lot. The first thing to do is to saute the veggies in a non-stick skillet. Here I made my first mistake. I chose my handy-dandy, throw-in-what-you-want-and-it-will-fit wok. Of course, everyone knows that to saute aromatics and seasonings -to get that nice, caramelized colour and flavour- you need space. Well, the first thing about this wok is that it does not have space. A small bottom gradually leading to an ever-widening top. Sure, it may have capacity, but not space. So, I ended up with vegetables which became transparent and watery, not browned and plump. Note:
Into the pot you go, dearies! Then...
Translucent. Colourless. Insipid. Alright, maybe I am exaggerating.

  Thankfully, I was still in a good mood. Whatever. Time to chuck in the ground beef! Oh, yeah...It is still partially frozen. Again, whatever. In you go! (Warning: pics of raw animal ahead.)
   After a few minutes of faithful mashing, stirring, grunting, and whatever else came to my mind to do, I got browned and seasoned ground beef. It even smelled like my aunt's did!
  Then I added the chopped olives and raisins....
  And, lastly, the fresh herbs found their way into the simmering pot of who-knows-what.
I was done! After three different types of dough and five pounds of beef filling, I was through. I fridged the filling, froze the dough, and...faced the kitchen sink. That victory won, I settled into the evening. And completely blank out on what happened after that. 

  There. That was my big day in the kitchen. I had pictures of it, so I decided to blog about it. I am trying to catch up with everything that has happened and then start blogging about whatever suits my fancy. At the moment, what suits my fancy is food. Who knows? Next month it may be knitting. Just kidding. Can you imagine me writing posts as long as these on knitting patterns??? Oh, me. 
  Well, God bless 'til next time!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Best?

  I found this while searching for something completely different on the internet, yet it caught my eye. Why? Well, read it again and think about it. Then note from whom the quote comes. At first glance, I thought this was simply a funny, albeit egocentric, phrase written in an elaborate font, but after staring at the pretty swirls for a bit, and noticing the Oscar Wilde in the corner, two thoughts hit me like a ton of bricks. First, Oscar Wilde certainly did not have the best and was never satisfied. Second, I realized he was right! He had the simplest of tastes - the Best.
  Now, for all of you who are unsure of who Oscar Wilde is, he wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He was also imprisoned for two years due to 'gross indecency'. On the surface, he had it all, fame, a family, he loved what he did, but everything fell short. His end was anything but glorious after having lived forty-six short years full of seeking the satisfaction of his 'simple tastes'.
  We could end up the same way. We have the same tastes. Sin entices us, and it is our nature to relent. Unfortunately, the allurements come, not only from sin, but also from things deemed 'good'. Spending time with friends is good, organizing an event is good, doing school is good, yet anything taken out of its proper sphere is bad. My mother says that the good is the enemy of the best. Yet, we are satisfied with something else, just as Oscar Wilde would have been, something simple in its unique and total ability to quench our souls. You have probably guessed where I am going with this. God alone can satisfy our hearts for He created us to delight in and worship Him. He is the true God worthy of praise, awe, and wonder. If we try to replace Him with anything else, the something else will fall short, and our end will be that of Oscar Wilde's. 
  And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20:1-3
  For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. - Psalm 86:10
  For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. - Psalm 62:5
I think God is making a point. It would do us well to remember it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Honey, I'm Home! And in the Kitchen...

  And thus I emerge from another planet. Almost four months have flown -and I mean flown- by since my last post. The developments in Haiti have...developed. The house secured there has proved a blessing. It serves as the perfect sending base for supplies and medical aid. For the moment, Father has taken a break from his travels back and forth, but trips are on the horizon! He hopes to concentrate on discipling and training pastors on a personal level as we move into the next, long-term, stage of relief.
   This past week, Father started weekly training sessions with a group of pastors from the Dominican Republic over the wondrous Skype. This is so exciting for the family as it is something we have envisioned him doing for some time. Walking into Father's office that night to hand him his coffee, and looking into the computer screen to see a room in another country full of men eager to learn from the Word was definitely a happy moment. As always, prayers for this new step in ministry are greatly appreciated.
   In other news, these last few months have brought some hefty academic changes. The school year ended and, with it, classes I had grown to love. But I am so thankful they are done!!! And then, I graduated. That was only by God's grace, for sure. In March, I enrolled in College plus!, an accelerated online program, and began the interesting journey of earning a History/English double major. We shall see where He leads in this case. 

  This brings me to the point of this particular post. With the end of High School comes the beginning of summer -and a wacky schedule. Wacky in the sense of more free. What am I to do with all this time on my hands (alright, perhaps a tad tongue-in-cheek) other than tinker in the kitchen? You know, besides the reading and writing and cleaning and walking and reading. So, tinker I do. Lately, the tinkering has taken place in industrial amounts. Let me explain...
  It started with a bug -a baking bug. This turned into a tart. An innocent, six-serving tomato, basil, and mozzarella tart. It was apparently yummy and definitely fun to bake. What then proceeded is not my fault. See, this graduation was around the corner. We needed to bring food. And I wanted to make it. Hehe. I scavenged online, offline, below line, through line; you name it. But this tart firmly drifted, if there is such an action, in and out of my brain. And so it went. Soon I found myself many? Too many tarts.
  The recipe is simple. A pastry crust with some dried basil thrown in for good measure, getting hands dirty in dough, throwing whatever comes from the haphazard mixing into the fridge for an hour or so, and blind-baking the little crusts in muffin tins. At that point, you can freeze them, fridge them, or use them right away (note: I do not recommend eating them, but whatever you please). Whenever you feel like baking, chop up a bunch of tomatoes, pulse a few handfuls of fresh basil and a few cloves of garlic together, and mix some mayo with mozzarella and parmesan cheese, plus a pinch of pepper. Layer onto the tart the tomato, basil, and cheeses, respectively and pop the unsightly (I mean...creative) work of thy hands into the oven. Remove when cheese is golden-brown looking. That is it. It was fun, like I said, for me as well as for my family, who got to watch me fly about the kitchen from station to station -piling globs of white dairy something here onto aromatic green messes there, and turning red in the face from the scurrying and my ghastly hot oven. One of the best days of me life, I must say. Of course, I hired my brother to take pictures. Below are shots he managed to secure before the camera batteries died.

The boring stuff: flour, salt, baking soda...Oh, and another color! Basil!

Adding butter and clean, I promise, hands.

Whisking eggs, 'cause they are in everything.

These would be my little munchkins...

Pop! There the munchkins go. Hot. Oven. Poor things.

  A hundred plus of these tartlets later and the morning still had not let up. Neither had I! Unfortunately, the camera decided it needed a break, so we have no pictures of the finished product. Oh, well. This was just the start of my first long day in the kitchen, however. More remained to be done. But I am through typing for tonight and I highly doubt anyone wishes to continue reading my baking experiences for the moment. More tomorrow.