December 30, 2013

a little New Year cheer

[a bit ahead of time, so you can make it before New Year's Day .... ]

I like meaning.  I like understanding the "why" of what we do.  So naturally, when I married into a family that eats pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day, I asked "why."

They didn't know.

I asked other locals who also partake.  No one knew.  

Fortunately for such queries there is Google.  At last, I had my answer!!

"Pennsylvania Dutch superstition says that eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because a pig roots forward to look for its food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still."
Unfortunately, the answer was not exactly full of the deep meaning I was craving.  We eat pork and sauerkraut for good luck?  'Kaaaay......  And we figure it will bring good luck because .... pigs root forward instead of backward.  I see.

Well, I had to take what I could get.  But maybe I can give better.  

Evidently not being authentically Pennsylvania Dutch, I grew up thinking sauerkraut was something people who had no taste buds slopped onto their hot dogs.  You might say I was not eager to add this meal to our family repertoire.

So, naturally, I doctored it. 

With Betty Crocker as my inspiration, here's what I came up with a few years ago.  Happy New Year, and happy sauerkraut-eating.  And may we all move forward this year, pigs or not!

Pork & Sauerkraut
Brown in bacon fat in heavy skillet:
2 lb pork roast (or chops)

Set pork aside in dutch oven.  In first skillet (use more fat if needed) brown:
1 lb smoked sausage or kielbasa

Add sausage to pork in dutch oven.  Now saute in the skillet:
1 large onion, sliced into quarter slices (or chopped - I slice mine so it can hide amongst the sauerkraut)

Add the onion to the meat.  Also add:
2 lb bag fresh sauerkraut (you can use canned if you don't mind sacrificing serious flavor and texture)
1 tart apple, cored and sliced
bay leaf
1 T brown sugar
1 capful liquid smoke
1/8 tsp. cloves
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Now let it all simmer till the pork is tender.  Make it the day before to save yourself a serving-day hassle and to enhance the flavors.  Serve with mashed potatoes and pickled beets for a true Pennsylvania Dutch meal.

[originally posted January 1, 2012]

December 15, 2013

happily snowed in

Well, sort of.  :)

My Farmer read me some dramatic headlines about tens of millions bracing for a storm in the northeast, so we planned to revel in some of our favorite indoor activities today - reading, reading, and more reading.  Preferably by the fire, and preferably uninterrupted by small fry begging for stories and games.  One can dream.

But the snow didn't come.

I had gone for groceries the night before, so the larder was stocked.  In the words of one of our children's favorite poets, Clyde Watson:

Let the fall leaves fall
And the cold snow snow
And the rain rain rain till April:
Our coats are warm
And the pantry's full
And there's cake upon the table.

But, no snow.

I took advantage of the still-clear roads and made a run to the health food store and the library, Lil' Snip happily in tow.  We made it back with our giant bags of rolled oats and stacks of books to a house smelling deliciously of granola.  Sugar, Spice, and Nice had been busy while we were gone.

Still no snow.  How were my Farmer and the children ever going to finish the igloo they'd started with last week's snow?!

We lunched on hot dogs and sauerkraut and Reese's peanut butter cup cookies (a library bake-sale find), and I finished baking the last of this year's newest addition to the cookie list:  pfeffernusse.  [baker beware:  these may not look like much, but they are dangerously delicious!!]

And still the blizzard hadn't arrived.  Oh well, we settled in and read anyway.

Finally, midday, the snow started to come.

We started a meal of comfort food - baked ham and mashed potatoes - and my Farmer lost himself by the fire, reading my library book.

The small fry mostly entertained themselves, dressing up stuffed bears, chasing each other in circles around the downstairs (which is most conveniently arranged to accommodate this impulse), coloring, and building with sofa cushions and stools.

By nightfall the snow was coming down steadily.  Sugar was devouring a book on orchestral music and its accompanying CD.  Spice was hunkered down with Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins.  Nice and Lil' Snip were alternately sharing the music player that Cousin R just passed on to us and getting their baths.

The candles burned, and the snow fell.

And now, supper is put away - the ham cubed for tomorrow's soup, sliced for sandwiches later this week, and some frozen for another day - the driveway is shoveled (thanks to my Farmer), the children are all tucked in bed, and the fire burns, and we are happily snowed in.

December 8, 2013

stormy seas

Do not think that as you grow in grace
your path will become smoother and the sky calmer and clearer. 

Quite the contrary.

As God gives you greater skill as a soldier of the cross,
He will send you on more difficult missions.
As He more fully equips your ship to sail in storms,
He will send you on longer voyages to more boisterous seas,
so that you may honor Him and increase in holy confidence.

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in Beside Still Waters

<< *  >>

{and as Mother Theresa once said,
"I know God won't give me anything I can't handle.
I just wish He didn't trust me so much."}

December 7, 2013

when the buzzer rings, I get up

I am weary.

Yes, life is good, in the sense that, at any given time, I can list a dozen things for which I am deeply grateful. I am still able to view the world and my circumstances through the eyes of a poet. I can rejoice in sunshine and birdsong, and find good even in sleep deprivation and strained friendships.

But it takes a lot of effort. Someone recently told me that I've been a drag, and although it stung that she would say it, it didn't surprise me. I am literally dragging. It must not be pleasant to be around.

In some ways, I'm okay that she felt that way. I want to be alone. I crave solitude and stillness in which to quiet my soul, listen, receive nourishment from God and the good gifts with which He has surrounded me.

But her dig also came packaged with the insidious suggestion that I should just choose happiness. “Just choose.”

Well, I wanted to say, I've been choosing. It's gotten to be dreadfully difficult work, this choosing. I've been choosing and choosing and choosing. I spent the better part of a year listing over one thousand gifts. I've prayed away anxiety more times in the last couple of years than I can count. I've read Scripture when it seemed bone dry, searching for consolation and guidance. I've chosen music to minister to my spirit. I've read book after book on depression and perimenopause and Christian cheerfulness. I've talked to friends and asked for prayer.

And I'm still weary.

But you know what? When I'm tired beyond my bones, into the depths of my spirit, and my children need me, I get up and go to them. When I'm exhausted and longing for peace and quiet, and the buzzer rings to tend supper or change the laundry, I get up and take care of it. When I can't remember the last time I had enough sleep, and the alarm clock jolts me out of the only complete respite available to me, I get up and start my day. When I'd rather sleep just twenty more minutes, I shower and go to my Bible.

When my children's sweet piping voices pierce my eardrums and threaten my sanity, I (usually) smile and answer calmly.

When an anticipated weekend away unexpectedly falls through, I trust that God has better plans for me.

When a friend's “counsel” sounds accusatory, I believe the best of her intentions and thank her.

When one appliance after another needs repairs, I smile and thank God for a skilled husband and the money for parts.

When a friend incomprehensibly turns vitriolic toward me, I seek restoration.

When the children beg for Christmas decorations and I feel less than jolly, I bring down the box and make room for Christmas (and let them use those awful multicolored lights again).

When the internet connection becomes unreliable for over a month, I read & crochet & play my forgotten guitar.

When the car threatens to leave me stranded in the middle of my errands, I change my plans and head home early.

I am choosing happiness, I truly am. It just might not look quite the way you think it should.

And as much as I would love to end by quoting Scripture, what actually comes to mind is one of my all-time favorite quotes, credited to Philo of Alexandria (whoever he was):  "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."  Which, come to think of it, is not all that different from Jesus himself saying (in Matthew 7:12) that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated.

A friend told me recently that "her" verse had changed as one season of her life began to segue into the next. When I first got on facebook, I posted Galatians 6:9 in that little box that used to be under the profile picture on my own page, so that I would see it frequently and benefit from the exhortation:  "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  While that verse is still very real to me, a different verse comes to my mind often of late:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Jesus says these words at the end of chapter 11 of Matthew.  The chapter starts with John the Baptist, then in prison, sending disciples to ask Jesus if He is really the Messiah.  I think this ending clinches it.

Jesus saves - from sin, from sickness, from soul-weariness.

I am ready for some rest.

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