Monday, February 28, 2011

Getting Settled in Denial

I'm still painting. Still tearing open cardboard boxes, gasping or squealing when I find what's inside. Still washing and wiping dishes, studying cabinets, arranging each clean bowl and sparkling glass.

I should be in a hurry. With oil prices climbing everyday, folks in my line of work are in demand. I need to get back to work. I have to get back to work. But the idea of leaving home, once again, and driving to some far off state and sitting on a hotel bed and flipping on a fastened-down TV makes me cry. Right now the booming wells are in Colorado, Wyoming, the Carolinas. I don't want to travel. I want to be home.

(But how blessed am I to have a career? Thank you, God, for blessing me.)

I'm planting my garden, buying bananas, setting up my sewing machine, and plunking buds in vases as if I never have to leave. Silly me.

Silly, in denial, me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Hesed House

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
-Psalm 62:5

I decided not to rush things; not to let my spontaneity gallop wildly through my world again, kicking up dust and making me nervous. I'll go slow and steady with the cabin and land, I promised myself. So this month I found a small, old house to rent down the road from the church I attended as a girl. At noon everyday, I hear the church bells and feel ten years old again.

The house has been empty for some time. It needs updating... it needs another chance. This last week I painted a bedroom, set up my bed, and hung curtains. For the first time in almost 16 months, I slept between my own sheets- not in a hotel suite, guest lodgings, my sister's floor. I woke up this morning and saw familiar things, my things, and thanked God for the rest and hope He's given. It's beautiful.

In deciding what I'd call the place (because houses need names, you know) I felt like Hesed House fit. Hesed is Hebrew for "mercy", but the meaning goes much deeper than that. It's a word that describes the reciprocal relationship between God and man. When it's used in the context of humans, it's talking about extending kindness. Doing favors for the benefit of others. Affection for God. Being lovely. But when Hesed is used in God's context, it refers to His loyalty. How He redeems. Preserves. Keeps promises. And how He created that empty space in us... making us aware of spirituality and His grace.

Last night I was thinking again about Hesed and was interrupted by an email from someone needing a place to stay for several weeks this spring. And suddenly I decided: the name and its meaning is perfect.

This morning I'm making the bed, making coffee, and getting reacquainted with things long packed and a house long awaited.

Happy weekend. -Brin

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cheesemaking, Or, How to Turn Milk Into Magic

Cheese -
milk's leap toward immortality.
Clifton Paul Fadiman

I'm learning to make cheese. It was on my list of 30 things I wanted to do in my 30s. And so here I go, becoming quite the curds and whey girl.

(Actually, the whey girl is Millie. Did you know that dogs LOVE whey? I mean, they love it. Millie jumps in the air for it. Anyone know why this is- that dogs love whey?)

All cheese experts advise starting with "beginner cheeses" like mozarella or cream cheese. Cheese you don't have to load in a cheese press. Cheese you don't have to know advanced chemistry to make. Me? Ha. I flipped to Home Cheese Making's recipe for Farmhouse Cheddar and dragged out the milk.

My first stab at making homemade cheddar cheese was a success. Now I'm addicted. Farmhouse Cheddar is a crumbly white cheddar cheese- kinda along the same texture as feta- that you only have to age for a month. The ingredients are easily had and so's the equipment. I found the hardest part of the cheese making process to be regulating my electric stove to keep the heat just right; too hot and the curds break, too cool and the curds don't set. But with a little (okay, a cheese truck load) of patience, I made, aged, and waxed my first round of cheese.

If you're interested in giving cheesemaking a go, start here: And by all means, find a copy of the book I linked above and decide what you'd like to try your stove at first.

Anyone have cheesemaking tips or advice for beginners? I'd love to hear from folks who do or want to make homemade cheese. Thanks! -Brin

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love and Orchids

I love that God created strawberries. I love that God thought of music. I really love that God made orchids.

I mean, it isn't hard to fall for and follow after a God who makes us orchids.

So today I'm sharing my beautiful petals with you. (You don't mind sharing a bloom, do you?) Happy Valentine's Day, lovely one. Hope you know how deeply loved you are.

And God, we love You because You first loved us. Thanks for the orchid. -Brin

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Okra Canning Day

 It's snowing. I've been canning okra. Somehow these things go together to me.

Is okra primarily a southern food? I can't imagine not having okra around. When I was young, my Dad would buy gallon jars of pickled okra when he went to the "city". My siblings and I would nearly hyperventilate when we saw the jars lined up in the back of the car. Nothing said "treat" like pickled okra.

Now I'm buying Star of David okra seed and canning farmer's market bounty in the meantime. It's still a treat: the growing, the canning, and the eating.

Somehow life's come full okra circle...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The BEE (Best Ever Eaten) Cake

I have this little code I sometimes jot on recipe cards. It's BEE. As in, Best Ever Eaten. There are so many recipes out there, you know? I gotta have some way of remembering oh yeah, this is the best ever and I should make it again. Therefore, the BEE.

And what got the BEE this weekend? My own revised version of Ree's Christmas Rum Cake. Only I used Kahlua. And it ain't Christmas. It's BEE.

Sorry for the half cake shots. By the time I got around to grabbing my camera, half the cake was gone. And I may have eaten another piece while taking pictures. It's BEE, I tell you.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 yellow cake mix
1 box (3.5 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. Kahlua
1 c. chopped pecans
4 T. brown sugar

1 1/2 sticks salted butter
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. Kahlua

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Spread pecans evenly over bottom of pan and sprinkle brown sugar over pecans. Set aside. In medium bowl, mix together cake ingredients. Pour and level over pecans and brown sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes or until skewer just comes out clean. Don't overbake.

Just before cake is out of the oven, melt butter for glaze. Add water and sugar and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Kahlua.

With the cake still in its pan, drizzle about 1/3 of glaze over the top (bottom). Sit for about 5 minutes, then turn onto cake plate. Poke the cake a zillion times with a fork or skewer, and slowly drizzle remaining glaze over the cake. It will drip down the sides of the cake, puddle at the bottom, and seem like entirely too much glaze. Just keep at it. Trust me.

Store covered up to a week or until devoured. The cake tastes better the longer it sits.

Oh boy, does it. BEE.

Gosh. Now I gotta go cut another piece. ...