Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Filled with Light

Wishing you a Christmas filled with His light...

In HIM was life, and the life was the light of all men.
~John 1:4~

Merry Christmas
The Wright Place

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ain't Nobody Got Time for Grouchy!

{A post from the archives...December 2011. }

It's getting down to that make-or-break time in December when it seems that the stress level for many of us gets turned up just a smidge with each and every passing hour. I know that as the clock ticks and pressure builds, my attitude seems to suffer. When my attitude is less than what it should be, others around me suffer too. I never seem to realize what I'm doing in time to stop myself. I do, however, realize it when I experience someone else's grouchiness. I notice the grouchiness of others even more when I see someone being less than gracious to my kids or my Man. I am also very quick to notice when complete strangers are rude to one another.

Sometimes, it just feels good to be a bit snippy doesn't it? Some things just feel better to have been aired. Sometimes it can even be refreshing to say the very first thing that comes to mind when someone says or does something that really melts your butter. It's kind of like a little pressure release valve to just spell it out for some poor soul who doesn't have a clue that they've not been performing according to expectations.

I'm a good one for coming up with a quick, cutting remark. Oh, the conversations I have with folks in my head are so witty and intelligent and self-serving Every so often a line or two from my mental conversation bubbles up and before I realize it, my ears are hearing what only my brain was intended to. Most of the time, it feels really good to be heard and maybe to shock a person or two with my rapier wit...that is until quietness falls at day's end and I lay my head on the pillow and realize just what I've done.

As Christians, we never have the luxury of being unkind. 

My pastor says that from the pulpit sometimes. It's one of those phrases that sounds nice and tidy while I'm sitting in the pew but then sounds a much different note when I feel like being unkind to the pastor or anyone else who might have hurt my feelings. I rationalize that when I've spouted back to someone, I'm teaching them a lesson that they need to learn. I'm teaching them not to treat ME that way ever again! I'm teaching them that I'm as willing as they are to be offensive. Oh, and what about those who are often standing beside me when the urge to let loose strikes, what have I just taught them?

There are times too, like in the middle of December when you still don't have all of your decorations up, your Christmas cards are mocking you from your desk waiting to be addressed, you have a deadline or two ringing constantly in your brain, cookies to bake, and warm glowing family memories to make with your kids sitting round the fire...times when, through no fault of your own or anyone else's, you just feel snarky and feel you have the "right" to ease a little pressure by grouching at those whom you know won't grouch back.

There are those who won't grouch back you know...young children, your husband or wife, the cashier at the store, your best friend, the slow-moving senior adult in line ahead of you at the store who takes four months to count out correct change, your mom...ok, maybe not your mom but you get my point. What good does it do to get my nose all bent out of shape and get all dark and sour inside while on the outside I'm trying to roll snickerdoodles with my kids so that they can then go out into their worlds and spread Christmas cheer...the very opposite of what I've been spreading!

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say in my very long and rambling kind of way is...
Be Nice!
Before spouting off at someone, even if you are right, think about how it will make that person's rest-of-the-day. Will they look back on their encounter with you as a heart-filling or a heart-rending one? Will what you've said, or how you've said it have been a blessing to their day? 

Smile a bit, too while you're at it. It might be the only happy thing that the tired cashier gets to see all day! I saw an older lady lip synching Christmas carols in the mall the other day, hands waving to the beat as she marched from one store into another. It thrilled my heart which was good, 'cause I ran into an older man later that day who didn't thrill my heart at all...

For the remainder of December, when you feel like giving some soul a piece of your mind, whether deserved or not, consider simply giving that person Peace. Just peace. The peace of a quiet smile. The peace of not returning a harsh word. The peace of a gentle look instead of "the big eyes".  Peace. His Peace. Certainly not mine. 

Peace on Earth and...

                             ....GOODwill to men
                                                          ... and women
                                                                        ...and children...especially to three year olds...

                                                           ...and cashiers

                                        ...and senior adults

                ...and pastors...{and their short-tempered wives}




I'm pretty sure there's no end to those needing peace...
...peace and snickerdoodles! 
I'm on it! 
Join me won't you?
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
John 14:27

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feelin' the Burn

This morning I heated the cream before I added it to my coffee, just because...just because I needed to begin the day with a little warm happy moment in case today careened out of control... yesterday.

Everything began well enough. We were up, dressed, school started, piano lesson underway, ham and beans in a pot simmering with in plenty of time to make a cozy dinner, multiplication tables humming along swimmingly and then it was time to take on lunch. Lunch is cryptonite to me. Love to eat it, hate to stop the momentum of the day to fix it and clean up after it.

Lunch, nonetheless, is helpful when it comes to keeping my students happy and able to concentrate. I had in my cabinets and freezer sufficient ingredients to make Kate's favorite Stuffed Spud Soup and I put it together in the pot, turned on the burner, set a timer, and left the room to read Little House in the Big Woods to Molly. The timer buzzed, Molly and I continued to read, and the soup continued to cook and cook and then smolder and by the time the acrid scent reached my nostrils it was too late. I dumped Molly unceremoniously to the floor and did the slow-motion scramble to the kitchen.

Kate, not wishing to admit her mother's defeat beat me to the kitchen and had begun dipping the soup into six bowls which only served to cause the bitter burnt smell to escape into the whole house. Determined, Kate sat down to her soup, sprinkled cheese on top and plunged her spoon into the bowl. After a few bites, even Kate gave up. "Please make us more," she asked, blue eyes doing their best to convince.

I sent her to the pantry to get what we needed, my gut tightening as I considered the ingredients I'd just wasted. To clear away the mess, I placed a bowl in the sink only to hear a tell-tale ting as the bowl broke. I tossed the pieces into the trash and dumped the burnt soup down the disposal trying not to breath in the odor. Thinking how very thankful I was for the disposal that could make this culinary catastrophe disappear, I flipped the switch and a horrible crunch let me know that a piece or two of my broken bowl had fallen into the disposal.

I flipped the switch off quickly and removed the pieces from the murky depths. I turned it back on once more and heard more grinding just before the machine's motor stopped all on its own. Because of another disposal incident I knew that there was a reset button at the machine's bottom which I pressed. The motor came to life once more only to turn itself off again. When I reached for the reset button this time, the canister in the cabinet was warm to the touch and was beginning to out pace the soup with its burning smell.

I called the number on the side of the disposal and talked to a lady whose voice I could barely discern but whose instructions, which involved a quarter inch allen wrench and a little elbow grease, I followed to the letter. After twisting the wrench left and right and feeling the mechanism give a bit and then move freely, I tested out my favorite kitchen appliance and it worked like a charm.

I dumped more soup down the drain and came head on with the burnt thick crusty solid bottom of the pot. Just then, Kate came back into the kitchen and asked how the soup do-over was coming along. I explained that there would be no potato soup for lunch.

She was NOT happy. That made TWO of us.

We'd have to have peanut butter and jelly instead and then sent her to the pantry once more to collect the necessary staples. She reappeared with the peanut butter in one hand and the jelly in the other. I sent her from the kitchen until I could get sandwiches made and hit reset on my nerves.

Then I realized we were out of bread.

I looked sadly at the ham and beans that were bubbling away for dinner. Lunch was ready.

My main goal for the day was to bake cookies for my Wednesday night class at church full of third through sixth graders and bake I did. I colored the dough a tie-dyed green color and put the Christmas tree cookie cutter to work. They baked, they puffed, they were lovely, they did not burn. I put them on the cooling racks and started dinner...again.

Just as I was getting the chopped onions into the oil to begin cooking in the newly cleaned (after a four hour scrub) pot, a visitor dropped by to pick up a package.

One line of conversation led to another and soon the scent of onions came wafting through the house. I asked Kate to go to the kitchen and turn off the burner. When my guest had gone I returned to the kitchen to find in the bottom of my newly cleaned pot blackened bits of ash that had been onions.

I cleaned the pot and began dinner preparation once more.

I made it to church without further incident except that I'd almost forgotten my lovely Christmas tree cookies which I tossed carefully into a container and headed out the door. The evening at church was soothing the nervy failures of the day. It came time to pass out the cookies to my students one of whom is Kate who had been looking forward to the snack all afternoon.

I had passed the bowl along to nearly half of the kids when I heard Kate's voice..."Um, Mom...these smell like onions."

And they really did. They'd been cooling right beside of the burning onions.

Yes. Really.

I'd have cried right then and there but the sight of those kids trying not to hurt my feelings by  attempting to eat those beautiful sulfurous-smelling cookies melted my heart. I told them to trash the cookies. Some did. Some powered through, bless 'em.

And so this morning, I heated the cream for my coffee and thanked the Lord for the mercies of this new morning. Then I heated some more cream and enjoyed some more coffee, realizing that if today was half as harrowing as yesterday I'd need at least two cups to get it started.

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.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Breakfast Blues

I have a child whose day is highly affected by breakfast. 

Each morning as children awake and come skipping, hopping, dragging, and dropping into the kitchen a debriefing of what Molly calls "The Breakfast Options" takes place. If the options are the same for more than say, three consecutive mornings, my special breakfast child is a teensy bit offended. 

Sigh..."Uh Mom, is there ANYTHING ELSE? We've had [cereal, yogurt, oatmeal] for the last forever."

Because I've been at this mom thing for a year or two, I know better than to attempt a first-thing-in-the-morning speech about how this child should be thankful that there is any breakfast at ALL and that hundreds of thousands of kids around the world and even in our own country, state, and city do not even eat breakfast DAILY. Such a speech at such an hour of the day will go unheard and only serve to deepen the grumpy within.

Knowing that I have a child with highly sensitive breakfast standards sends me frequently to my library's well-stocked cookbook shelves searching for new and exciting breakfast choices. Muffins are always a favorite, unless the recipe makes too many muffins thus causing the dreaded breakfast boredom. 

The classic eggy breakfast casserole is also a favorite, but rarely do I think ahead far enough to make that work on a regular basis. The ultimate way to begin the day is with The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls but they do take a bit of doing so they only appear in limited batches.   

That leaves quick breads and baked oatmeals and breakfast cookies, all very acceptable for breakfasting and always a super way to add variety into the lives of the humdrum breakfasters who reside in my home and share my last name.

Our very favorite breakfast bread is an odd loaf whose recipe I discovered in a set of recipe cards that I received in the mail. It's cake-y and has a crumbly top and a rich yellow crumb, and with hot cup of coffee or some orange juice, our Vineyard Breakfast Bread is a winner.

Vineyard Breakfast Bread
{Printable Recipe HERE}

Here's what you'll need:

1 stick of butter or margarine softened
2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like) almond extract (vanilla will do if you are not an almond fan)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal 
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl add butter and confectioners sugar. 

Mix well. Add eggs one at a time, scraping mixer bowl after each addition. 

Add almond extract if you can get your kitchen staff to part with it...

In a separate bowl. Whisk together corn meal and flour and baking powder.

 Add the dry ingredients about 3/4 cup at a time to the batter and mix well scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl often.

Place batter (it will be thick) in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. 

At the end of 50 minutes, turn off the oven and let the loaf remain inside for at least an hour. I usually turn off the oven and go to bed and pull the loaf from the cool oven the next morning. 

When ready to eat, remove from the loaf pan and cut with a serrated knife (a knife with teeth). The top of the bread will be super crispy and a little glossy and as such will crumble as you cut it. 

Don't fight the crumble, simply eat it yourself before your family gets into the kitchen! Bakers prerogative! AND if you happen to notice a slightly darker color in the center of the slices as you reach mid loaf, consider yourself a master...that is treasure, just a hint of moistness that really is the very best part of the bread.

Be sure to serve with a steamy cup of tea or coffee and then sit back and bask in the glow of your breakfast loving kid who is as generous with breakfast praise as with breakfast blues!

The last time I made Vineyard Breakfast bread, two of the kids commented before going to bed that it had been such a long time since I'd made breakfast bread and that they could not wait until morning to eat it. Early the next morning I was awakened by the sound of the oven door opening and closing. One of the kids, up early was making the first run at breakfast, later that day another Wright kid posted this picture on Instagram...

Sooooo if you know someone who loves food, consider starting their day with this part breakfast-part dessert every now and then. They'll thank you for it and they might even take a picture before hiding it from you! 

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