Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Bread Machine

Last Christmas my parents gave each of their 7 children an appliance. How excited I was to receive a bread maker! My husband was a little less than thrilled. After all, what was the point of such a gift and more importantly, where were we going to put it? It is a pretty big appliance and unless you have gobs of counter space there really is no room for such a monstrosity if you don't want it to be an eyesore, commanding not only your visual attention but much of the space on the counter top as well. Also.. homemade bread? He was accustomed to the uniform slices of the long loaves of bread you get at the grocery store. How was this "new" squatty uncut kind of bread going to taste? How would we make sandwiches with it? I stifled my mirth at my husbands adorably naive questions and happily loaded the bread maker into the car. I figured he'd "cross over" with the first bite of the first loaf.

Me and bread making....we don't really get along... unless of course I use my bread maker. I never really made bread successfully before and always bought the loaf of Italian bread at the grocery store bakery or tube of dinner rolls you can get in the refrigerator section. I was determined to use my bread maker a lot. Not only was I excited about freshly-made bread and all the wonderful smells and warmth it would fill my kitchen with but I was also excited about knowing exactly what was in my bread. No high fructose corn syrup here. No artificial flavoring or coloring or anything I can't pronounce. Just good old fashioned flour, yeast and liquid (as well as a few spices) happily mixing together, rising, kneading and baking all on its own.

The first time my husband had the bread, he was a little hesitant. Could this possibly be as good- or better- than the store-bought kind? Amazingly, he admitted to liking it quite well. Needless to say, that winter I used my bread maker a lot. I loved being able to just throw the ingredients into the pan, set the machine according to the size, type and color loaf I needed and just forget about it for a few hours. Shortly after the machine clicked over to the "bake" setting, the house would begin to fill with the warm smell of fresh-baked bread. It was such a treat, especially on those chilly days of winter, to enjoy homemade bread with some savory soup from the crock pot for dinner.

But when Spring rolled around, warm bread and thick rich soups were far from our minds. As the weather grew hot, the bread maker took up permanent residency on a back shelf in our pantry. Gone were the days when we would crave the warm bread paired with something equally enticing to fill up our stomachs with delicious comfort and stick to our ribs, satisfying our appetites for hours. We wanted chicken salad and hamburgers on the grill and everything else that was not made in a bread maker (or crock pot for that matter). I'm sure those machines sighed every time I opened the pantry door to get something else out.

I have to admit, I missed my bread maker these past few months. But now that it's Fall and the weather has gotten a little bit chilly, I have used it quite a few times already. My favorite is making Italian Herb bread and pairing it with a big pan of stuffed shells or a hot steaming bowl of potato soup from the crock pot. I am enjoying trying new recipes this year, as last year I only did the basic recipe a few times. I've made pizza dough and fruit nut bread already and am anxious to go beyond the recipes provided by the bread maker's instruction manual.

And as for my hubby- who questioned the very essence of such a gift from my parents, not to mention the likability of its products- he has grown in his knowledge of things other-than- store-bought and has safely made it through the chasm of change, belly stuffed full and content, happily eating homemade bread on the other side.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Change Of Seasons: Part One - Fall

It is just about Fall, or, as some people call it, Autumn. It is not quite here but I can smell it in the air and the weather is starting to turn chilly in the afternoons as the days grow shorter and nights come on more quickly. By 7 PM the sun is well into its decent in the West where as during Summer, it would still be up there, a calmer shine but a shine none-the-less, reminding us we have a few more hours to play outside under the safety and comfort of its warm rays. I love the changing of the seasons! I love the time in between each one as my world prepares to welcome the onset of a new weather system while it slowly lets go of the old one. Change in general wasn’t always so easy for me to accept with such excitement. But after a while, I understood that it’s just like saying a long good bye to an old friend while waiting for a new one to come along.

Fall means so many things. On a general scale, it means light jackets and long pants. It means Halloween and Thanksgiving and preparing for the Christmas season. It means baking Gingerbread and Soup and Chili. It means Football, Pumpkins and Corn. For high-school students it means the start of a new School year and getting ready for Homecoming. For me, it means tucking away the memories from summer- the kids playing in the pool, laying outside in the sun with a book at nap-time, and catching fireflies after dark.. And it means dreaming of making new ones like burying ourselves in the leaves, picking pumpkins and going on hay rides. It means ending my love affair with warm weather and flowers and my vegetable garden and beginning a new one with crisp leaves, apples and sweaters.

How blessed I feel to live in a state where we experience all four seasons with the weather patterns and nature that perfectly coincide with each! The season of Fall allows for the beautiful canvas for God to paint a moving picture of just one part of the essence of His creation-the flowers dying off, the lush green grass turning to a yellowy straw and the leaves changing from green to a myriad of yellows, oranges and reds before turning brown and falling from the trees. A perfect example of the cycle of life. In each stage, nature has its own unique beauty and value and we are so blessed to experience its wonder every few months when the seasons change.

Each transition is God’s way of providing us with a fresh start, new beginnings, new feelings and more reasons to thank Him, more dreams to dream, more plans to make. It’s transforming our world for us to help us remember His infinite power and the amazing beauty He has blessed us with to enjoy. Teaching my children about these changes, the reasons for them and how it applies to our lives is going to be an exciting adventure.

Ah, Fall! Like I do for the coming of Spring after a long Winter, I am anxiously awaiting this shift in nature’s cycle. Long ago, I was slightly afraid of the change of seasons. I didn’t want to let go of the familiarity of the old one and worry about what was to come with the new one. I wanted to hang on, tightly wrapping myself in a blanket of denial as I realized it would happen with or without me. Slowly and slowly I began to wake up to the idea that life had so much meaning even during these changes. Slowly and slowly I began to see that I would be blessed by letting go and welcoming what was to come. Like with so many other things, I was always afraid of letting go and moving on. But here I am, saying goodbye to Summer as I wait for Fall to come along.