Sunday, June 21, 2009

True Love

How do you know when it's the Real Thing?

When your man builds you a fire in the middle of June because he knows just how much you would love it... then, puts on his reading glasses so he can see what he's doing while he paints your toes in front of said fire...

THAT, Ladies, is the man to keep for the rest of your days.

Thank you for the AMAZING birthday, Honey, and Happy Fathers Day, too!

I Love you more than "love."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Things I Know For Sure Now That I'm 42

In my four-plus decades on this planet, I have learned, or perhaps more accurately realized and assimilated, more in the past 24 months than in the sum of the previous 480.

These realizations range from profound to just plain silly and what follows is a by-no-means-complete list in no particular order:

• There is no greater or more powerful path to REAL Freedom than complete surrender to Truth. The process for me hasn't been pretty, easy, instantaneous or anything less than excruciating, but the payoff has truly been life-changing. "The Truth Shall Set You Free" may be a cliché ... that doesn't make it any less accurate. The thing about secrets is, you don't realize how heavy they are until you have none. What sweet relief!

• Miracles happen. Every day. Everywhere. You've just got to be willing to see them for what they are and stop using limiting, cyinical words like "coincidence," "accident," and "fluke." God loves us and wants to surprise us with happy things like any loving parent does. This morning He surprised me with two, very appreciated gifts: My children slept until nearly 10:00 (which NEVER happens) AND a "bouquet" of daisies that just appeared in our pasture this morning, right outside my kitchen window. These are the ONLY daisies in our pasture. Two acres of weeds and grass, never one daisy and precisely on June 20th... Boom. Like I said. Little miracles.

• When he puts his mind to it, my husband is an excellent cook! This morning he got inspired to make me strawberry crepes for my birthday... and he knocked it out of the park! I'm quite certain that if he ever got truly turned on to the idea, he would outstrip my culinary abilities in a heartbeat. While I await that glorious day, however, I will just enjoy his momentary gourmet outbursts and my current reign as primary house chef.

• Crepes are an absolutely outstanding way to serve fresh strawberries!

• And when you run out of crepes, they're really awesome on left over strawberry dumpling noodles, too.

• My children are two of the most Spiritually aware and powerful people I know.

• I LOVE to mow the lawn! (As long as I'm using our riding mower.)

• I enjoy doing stuff in the yard a whole lot more than I ever thought I would and am now a little obsessed with landscaping, plants and the outside of the house in general.

• There is nothing on this earth that can overpower the fierce beauty of Grace.
Grace: 1. (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
2. My youngest daughter.
Take your pick, they are both truly AMAZING.

• I am certain, no matter how old they get, my children will never outgrow their passion for dirt.

• My oh-so-fragile preemie, first-born has blossomed into a vibrant, resilient, generous, brilliant young woman who embodies genuine love and intense gentleness. Anna can smell God in the approach of a rain cloud, see Him in the emerging chartreuse hues of Spring's first tender shoots and respects every creature and being as unique and precious... from potato bug to toddler.

• My husband is a study in unknown depths. Just when I'm certain I know all there is to him he'll surprise me with some insightful observation, unexpected wisdom, or tender expression that takes my breath away. I am beyond grateful that I had the unparalleled honor and privilege to marry him twice!

• I have never been more contented or truly joyful in my life and there is no place or time I would rather live than here and now and no other person I would rather be than me.

• To say I am "fortunate" is an understatement of Biblical proportions... fact is... looking at my life and the Grace, Love, Abundance and Blessing that define it, I'm convinced I'm God's favorite! :D

Happy June 20th, Y'all!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Bowl Full of Memories

Good morning, Folks!

I realized last night, much to my chagrin, that it has been a full seven months since I last posted. Good grief! Life is BIG, people!

Facebook has a small part to play, I suppose, but I'm back with a subject that is so worthy of telling the world that I just had to break my unintentional blog silence...


Wondrous and amazing as that fact is all on its own, two other things related to this subject fill me with rapturous glee: 1) this year's crop of our own homegrown strawberries is very nearly perfect... and 2) they are so bountiful, I have enough to make STRAWBERRY DUMPLINGS!!!

These luscious, seasonal gems from my childhood are so far from the usual strawberry fare that they cause a very specific chain reaction of sensations when I eat them... the sum of which is, I am rendered helpless to look in any direction but into the bowl of creamy, chewy, not-too-sweet goodness and bob around in the memory-laden cream... eight years old, hearing my Grannee call from the kitchen, "Who's ready for another one?!"

All arms shoot up in the air... even those with bowls still half full of pink, milky loveliness.

My Grannee got the recipe from my Grandad's mother who was a German raised in Russia but had lived in the states long enough to have English-speaking children. This gave rise to lots of interesting pronunciations of foods that are neither truly German nor Russian making it nearly impossible to actually look up a recipe. I have played with both languages a little bit and have decided that the name Great Grandma called them, "Strobensclays," (spelled phonetically) is most likely a mixture of English and German because the Russian translation of Strawberry Dumpling doesn't sound anything like the word she used and is definitely not appetizing. The German word is "Erdbeerekloss," which if you try to smash "strawberry" into the front of it, and say it quickly to a mob of ravenous American kids in a heavy Russian/German accent, could come out sounding like "Strobensclass..." That's what I'm thinking, anyway. Maybe it was her own secret language. Who knows?

So, all this verbosity on my family history is to say that last night I made Strawberry Dumplings for the first time in years, for the first time ever with homegrown berries, for the first time ever for my kids... so that was a pretty big deal for me.

Anna picked, trimmed and cut all the berries which was a HUGE help!

I don't have a written recipe... I just remember what I saw Grannee do and what they tasted like so I have had to cobble together my own imprecise recipe.

For the strawberry filling, I used about two pints of berries for a small batch. Just enough for dessert. When Grannee made them, these golden packets of love were most often consumed as the main evening meal and required five to six times these proportions.

So, to the berries I added about a third of a cup of sugar.

Traditionally, crackers or bread crumbs are crushed up and mixed with the berries. I'm guessing this is to make the berries go further and well, the saltiness tastes really good with the sweet berries. I didn't have enough crackers OR breadcrumbs so I just made sourdough toast and buttered it, let it cool, cut it up into small-ish chunks and set it aside.

For the dough I used a standard Betty Crocker Egg Noodle recipe:

2 cups flour
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

(Here is where I use a food processor)
Measure flour into bowl, add egg yolks, whole egg and salt. Process until egg mixes thoroughly into the flour. Add water one tablespoon at a time mixing thoroughly after each addition but mix only until the dough forms a ball.

Kneed a couple of turns by hand just to bring it together, check the consistency and to feel like you actually participated in making the dough, then let it rest under a dish towel for about 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a rectangle about 1/8" thick (you don't want it too thin or it will pop when you boil it) and cut into squares.

Back to the strawberries...
Mix crackers/crumbs/toast into the strawberries and place a spoonful in the center of each square of noodle dough.

Pinch the tips of squares together and seal up the edges to make little packets. Try to keep the edges as clean as you can to avoid a bad seal.

Drop the finished packets into boiling water.

Fish them out when they start to float. This takes five minutes or less.

Drain and place cooked dumpling in a bowl and drizzle with heavy cream and melted butter.
Great Grandma used to top with buttered croutons also, but I don't remember Grannee doing it very often and I prefer to put more emphasis on the berries.

Top with fresh berries or uncooked filling for color and a layer of brightness in flavor.

A very important note to make here is that, personally, Grannee thought it was a SIN to boil a fresh Oregon strawberry and while she would make dumplings for everyone else, when it came her turn to eat (after everyone else had been fed, of course) she would boil the noodle dough scraps and top them with the uncooked berry mixture... thus preserving the color and texture of the fresh berries and averting strawberry abuse.

I swear to you, these little beauties are worth every ounce of effort they take and I have never met a soul who didn't say "OH, WOW!" upon their first bite.

As for me and mine... strawberry season just isn't long enough!

Enjoy 'em while they're here, Y'all!!