Compassion International: Precious Gifts

Poinsettia

Image by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, on Flickr

The Christmas season can trigger a variety of memories and emotions — some bittersweet.  As we anticipate the joyful arrival of the infant Jesus into our homes, we are surprised when the shorter days darken our moods. We are disappointed to find ourselves feeling exhausted just when we are supposed to feel cheerful and inspired. We avoid much needed rest because we want to go the extra mile to make the season “perfect” for our families, our friends, ourselves.

I tend to find comfort and inspiration from nature — especially plants and flowers. I am encouraged when I remember a few facts about the poinsettia, one of the most popular symbols of the Christmas season. Its showy, red petal-like leaves or bracts decorate homes, offices and churches between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those brilliant colors are only possible if the plant gets enough hours of rest — total darkness, in fact — from September through at least mid-November.  The uninterrupted hours of darkness trigger the colorful bract formation and turn the poinsettia into the familiar holiday symbol.

I remember the poinsettia when I catch myself postponing much needed rest, solitude or quiet. I remember to honor the cues that tell me to look within, to close my eyes and retreat from the lights, the trimmings and the to-do lists. I realize that rest and regeneration — the good stuff — sometimes need darkness to carry out their work.

Advents kranz

Image by Pete Jeliffe, on Flickr

 

When I look within, I remember the quiet joy that comes with the first dawn of Christmas. I remember that the glory of Christmas began with a child in the humblest of circumstances. I think fondly of the child I sponsor through Compassion International and pray that the light from the Christ child will greet her early, before the sun rises on Christmas morning.

The beauty of nature brings many gifts, whether they are life lessons, pretty colors, or a bountiful harvest. Garden seeds, for example, can save a family from hunger or provide an income from crops. You can share this and other precious gifts from the Compassion International Gift Catalog with a child or family in the poorest areas of the world. I hope you’ll consider looking over the catalog.

Wishing you the light and love of the Christmas season!

 

 

Recipe: Miso Maitake Soup

It’s that time of year again — no, I’m not talking about the Christmas shopping frenzy. I’m talking about the sore throats, aches and sniffles that tend to show up just as the holiday season kicks into gear. With flu season in mind, I decided that a nourishing, warming pot of miso soup was a good idea for lunch today.

Rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is a fermented, usually salty paste that is used as a seasoning in traditional Japanese cooking. In fact, the Onozaki family, who trace their ancestry 500 years back to the Samurai, are among the most respected makers of miso today. Miso can be made from a variety of ingredients, including rice, soybeans or barley. I usually use barley miso in my soups. Miso soup often contains a highly nutritious sea vegetable such as kombu or wakame. There are many recipes for miso soup, and I’ve combined some of my favorites to come up with my own recipe.

First, a word about one of my ingredients: maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa). Also known as hen-of-the-woods, maitake is valued as a medicinal, immune-boosting food in many Asian countries. You can buy dried maitake — as well as dried wakame and pickled ginger — from health food stores including the Kushi Store online. Just soak the maitake mushroooms in water before you cook with them.

DSC_1699

Dried maitake mushrooms

 

Miso Maitake Soup

Ingredients:

5 cups water

1/3 cup dried maitake mushrooms

1 3-inch strip dried wakame

1 carrot, sliced

1 tablespoon pickled ginger, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons barley miso

3 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

In a medium pot, soak the mushrooms in the 5 cups of water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the strip of wakame in a small bowl of water for about 5 minutes. Remove the wakame from the water and cut it into approximately 1/2-inch pieces.

After the mushrooms finish soaking, add the carrots to the pot. Gently simmer the mushrooms and carrots in the soaking water for 15 minutes. Add the wakame, garlic and ginger and simmer for another 2 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. In a small bowl, combine the miso with a small amount of broth from the soup. Keeping the soup off the heat, stir the miso mixture back into the soup. The miso will give the soup a cloudy appearance as its beneficial cultures activate. Serve in bowls, sprinkling the green onions over the soup in each bowl.

The ginger and garlic add a warming layer of flavor to this slightly salty miso soup. My sweet husband — my initially skeptical meat-and-potatoes guy — finished his bowl and was surprised how much he liked the soup!

I can’t guarantee that a bowl of miso soup will keep every cold and flu germ away, but a delicious soup loaded with vitamins and minerals may just give you a fighting chance this winter. I’ll bet you come up with your own recipe.

Be well and be blessed!

 

 

 

Time to Share a Real Neat Blog Award

Thanks to Christy Birmingham at Poetic Parfait for this award!

Christy Birmingham is a most talented blogger and poet, so I was honored to learn that she had nominated my blog for this award! Do pay a visit to Christy’s blog, Poetic Parfait, where you’ll find inspiration and verse.

The best part about receiving an award is having the chance to share it with my fellow bloggers. At the end of this post, I’ve listed the blogs that I have nominated for the Real Neat Blog Award. If you are nominated and would like to participate, here is what you can do (if you prefer not to participate, no problem):

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Here are my answers to the questions that Christy used, and I will pass these questions onto the nominees :)

  1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?  Mostly the good old USA and Canada; I am blessed to have many good friends in both countries!
  2. What is your favorite sport? Basketball — go Spurs!! We lived in San Antonio until this past March, and we will always be Spurs fans.
  3. What has been a special moment for you in 2014? Moving into our new home in Idaho, and seeing our new home and garden for the first time.
  4. What is your favorite quote? I like this by John Barrymore: “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.”
  5. What was your favorite class when still at school? History. I have always felt strongly connected to the past, and I especially like to read about the American Revolution.
  6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier? It took some detours and wrong turns, but I have finally realized that I want to be a writer when I grow up ;)
  7. What musical instrument have you tried to play? I love to play the guitar and violin, and I hope to have more time to play after I finish finals in a couple of classes. My husband has a guitar, too, and it will be nice to have time to play music again!

My nominees for the Real Neat Blog Award are gifted writers who encourage and help us heal with their words:

 Cecilia Marie Pulliam

John G Evans

Kristin Bridgman

Just a Thought

Judith C Evans:

Some thoughts on the high price of remaining silent:

Originally posted on Vehemence!:

According to the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” regardless of the color of their skin, status, gender, or disability. (www.archives.gov)

As the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” My premise being should I choose to remain quiet about our brothers and sisters of color, I feel I am indeed presenting myself as an enemy to not only the African-American populous but, to family, friends, and all people who are indifferent to me in every subtle and conceivable manner, even yourself perhaps. Therefore, this would not be wisdom in its purest form. This great American prophet of the 20th century spoke for all…

View original 302 more words

White Boy

Judith C Evans:

This post from Pastor Marci Glass offers refreshing, honest perspective on our country’s racial divide and the search for healing.

Originally posted on Glass Overflowing:

I’ve not blogged about Ferguson (or any of the many other situations in the news that reveal the way our culture still has so many racial divides). Partly, it’s because I have no idea what to say. Also, I’m a white woman in Idaho. What in the world do I know about racial tensions? Nothing. That’s what I know.

Each day I read more and more in the news and I recognize my role in this is partly to stand in witness, to acknowledge I have much to learn from people who live with fear about how they will be treated because of the color of their skin.

I also was beginning to feel that my silence about this was becoming consent for the status quo.

Neil Patrick Harris’ character, Dr Horrible, in a rant about the mess the world is in, talks about  “Destroying the status quo…

View original 441 more words

Book Review: Moosewood Cookbook (40th Anniversary Edition), by Mollie Katzen

9781607747567

Mollie Katzen originally wrote the Moosewood Cookbook in 1974 as a collection of vegetarian recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. When she published her handwritten, spiral-bound cookbook in 1974, no one knew that it would become one of the top best-selling cookbooks in history. Now available in a 40th anniversary edition, the Moosewood Cookbook is a classic among vegetarian cooks and an inductee in the James Beard Award Cookbook Hall of Fame.

The cookbook starts with a history of the Moosewood Restaurant, which was founded by Katzen and a group for friends. Like the cookbook, the menu featured favorite family recipes and vegetarian dishes. The Moosewood Cookbook starts with a list of recommended cooking tools such as a food processor and whisks, followed by a metric conversion table. Beginning with Soups, the recipes are divided into sections including Salads, Sauces and Dips, A Few Baked Things and Sandwiches, Entrees and Desserts.

True to its origins, the Moosewood Cookbook has a warm, friendly vibe that makes you want to cook with your friends. My favorite section is A Few Baked Things and Sandwiches, especially the “Celebratory Sandwich Fillings” and “Broiled and Grilled Sandwiches.” Still in its original, handwritten and illustrated format, the book has recipes for dishes that will appeal to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. “Sweet Potato Pancakes,” “Mexican Pepper Pie,” and “Real Blueberry Pie” are just some of the widely varied dishes in this cookbook.

I highly recommend the Moosewood Cookbook, not only as a classic vegetarian cookbook, but as an example of the difference a small group of dedicated people can make. I will turn to the pages of this book often for inspiration as well as recipes!

You can learn more about the Moosewood Cookbook here, or read Mollie Katzen’s bio here.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Compassion Bloggers: Confessions of a Rediscovered Kid at Heart

It’s always a happy occasion when I receive a letter from Joan, the child I sponsor through Compassion International.  Across continents, from her home in Uganda, Joan shares her hopes and prayers for her future. Her childlike enthusiasm is indeed contagious. Whether she’s sharing a drawing or asking for prayer for her studies (she wants to be a teacher), she reminds me of my own childhood and its sense of wonder.

This weekend, an early snowstorm here in Idaho gave me a chance to rediscover my inner child. When I was growing up in New Hampshire, I’d look forward to the first snow almost as much as Christmas. But later, as responsibilities took the front and center spot, I tended to see snowstorms as a nuisance at best and a cause for panic at worst.

We woke up Friday morning to see this outside our front door:

snowy street

After living in Texas for most of his life, my husband John saw snow for the first time in years. Although I grew up in New Hampshire, I moved to Texas nearly six years ago when we got married. Now that we are spending our first winter in Idaho, John’s childlike enthusiasm at the first snow put my fretful worrying to shame!

john in snow cropped

After a few minutes outside, the hushed street and clean smell of freshly fallen snow took me back to those first snows of my childhood. As I write this post, I am struck by the way God helps us revive treasured memories with all our senses.

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,  “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:36-37

DSC_1689

Maybe God wants me to welcome the little child that dwells in my own heart — the one that gazed at the streaks of sunlight on the snow and couldn’t wait to put on her boots and play outside!

Speaking of kids, you may want to check out Compassion Explorer Magazine, great for kids and kids at heart. It’s free, and full of stories, recipes and other projects.

Now let’s rediscover and reclaim the kid in each of our hearts!