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December 9, 2014

Evening Prayers



I am absolutely enjoying this book.  Evening Prayers is a collection of prayers written by Pastor Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842-1919).  Blumhardt is said to have influenced a generation of theologians, including Bonheoffer and Karl Barth, as well as thousands of ordinary people who sought him out for spiritual healing and wholeness.  From just my short time with this book, I can see why he was such a great spiritual leader and had such a great following.

Evening Prayers is formatted for daily reading with a scripture and prayer for each evening of the year.  This book is a welcome addition to my fixed hour prayers.  It is perfect for evening prayer, giving me not only a beautifully written prayer, but a scripture to meditate on as well.

 From the December 9 prayer-
Lord our God,
we seek your face and long to find you.  May we find you as your people found you in times past when you drew near with man signs and miracles.  May our hearts come before you in awe and trust and draw their strength from you.  May many in our time seek you and receive your comfort and help, for you provide strength and courage for the poor and destitute, for the suffering and the dying.  Do not let our age pass by in vain, O great and almighty God ...

If you would like a book to encourage your own prayer life, Evening Prayers would be a lovely choice.

note: I was given a copy of Evening Prayers in exchange for an honest review.

Watch for the Light


This is my Advent reading for this season.  
It is much different from previous years when I read Ann Voskamp's lovely Jesse Tree devotions with my children.  My girls are older now and we chose not to do a Jesse tree this year.
So this Advent, I chose something just for me.   I was given opportunity by Handlebar Publishing to review Watch For The Light, so I picked it as my Advent book.  
I am enjoying the readings.  It is certainly not a simple devotional to quickly read and move on to something else.  Some of the readings are several pages long and require much thought, or at least that is my experience with them!   Others are poetry, some are short and to the point. 

With dated readings from November 24 through January 7, the book will be a companion throughout the Christmas season. Thus far into the book, all have been meaningful and enjoyable to read. 

Watch for the Light is a compilation of readings from familiar authors such as:
Thomas Aquinas
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Annie Dillard
Martin Luther
C. S. Lewis
Philip Yancey
Thomas Merton
T. S. Eliot and more.

I am in agreement with the description on the back of the book-
Unparalleled both in concept and scope, this new collection of readings for Advent and Christmas offers wisdom, beauty, and spiritual nourishment from a wide sprectrum of classic and contemporary sources.
... it will give new meaning to the phrase "holiday preparations". 

This one will definitely be a book I return to again and again.

What are you reading this season?

Christmas Blessings,

Catherine

Note:  I was given a free copy of Watch for the Light in exchange for an honest review of the book.  
  



November 26, 2014

Simply Pretty Pies



Two pretty pies made by my daughters.  

In my last post I shared a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars as a simple Thanksgiving dessert, lamenting my ability to make a decent pie crust.  My pies are always ugly and the frustration involved in the whole process made pie baking 'no fun' for me.  Cakes, breads, most any thing besides a pie is a snap for me, but pie crust ... nope.

Today, my oldest daughter used this recipe for All Butter Pie Crust from the King Arthur Flour website, and she and her younger sister made two pretty pies without any trouble at all. Fluted crust and one with leaves even!  
So, maybe it was the recipes I was using, or maybe their natural artistic flair makes handling pie crust easier for them.  Whatever the reason, they are now the official pie bakers in this family!

The pumpkin pie is made using the recipe on the can of pumpkin.  Simple to stir up and very tasty with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Pumpkin Pie

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 ground cloves
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1 9 inch pie crust, unbaked

Prepare pie crust for a single crust pie.
Mix ingredients in order listed.  Pour into crust.
Bake in preheated 425 oven for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350.  Bake an additional 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.  (If necessary, cover the edge of crust to prevent over browning after first 15 minutes).
Cool. Garnish with whipped cream.

The other pie is a Walnut Pie, adapted from a recipe for pecan pie. The slight bitterness of the walnuts offsets the sweetness of sugar and syrup, making for a perfect match.
 It is also very easy to stir together (the pie crust truly is the most difficult part).

Walnut Pie

3 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 nine inch deep dish pie crust, unbaked

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix beaten eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and syrup together in a bowl.
Stir in melted butter, when combined add in the walnuts and stir.  Pour into pie crust.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees.  Continue baking for 40-45 minutes or until mostly set and crust is nicely browned.  Cool on wire rack.

Now that I've seen pie crust done simply, I may have to try it again ... or just let the girls continue to make pies and I'll do other things!

Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with the simple joys of friends and family (and good food, of course)!

Blessings,

Catherine



November 20, 2014

Simple Holidays ~ Pumpkin Pie Bars


These bars are a simplified version of pumpkin pie. Pie crust remains the one thing I don't like to fool with when it comes to baking- too fiddly for me.  I can make a decent pie crust if I have to, but I much prefer recipes like this one.  Simple and sweet!
Perfect for the holidays, tea time, coffee hour, breakfast ... anytime in my book!
Sorry no photo of these in this post, I'll try to snap a photo next time I make them. It seems they get eaten before I find time to photograph the little lovelies.

PUMPKIN PIE BARS


Preheat oven to 375.

Crumb Crust:

1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups unbleached flour
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
dash of pumpkin pie spice (optional)
¾ cup butter, melted

Combine the above ingredients. 
Pat ½ of the mixture into a greased 9×13 inch pan. 
Bake 8 minutes.



Filling:

1 15 oz. can pumpkin
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Blend well. Pour into the crust. 
Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the top. 
Bake 25 minutes .
Cool and then cut into bars.  Refrigerate. 

Top with whipped cream when serving, if desired. A few sugared pecans or  pieces of chopped candied ginger on top are an extra treat.
Enjoy! 

For more fabulous Thanksgiving recipes, click the photo below to see the Gooseberry Patch Thanksgiving Favorites Round up.  Don't forget to add your own favorite recipe to the blog hop!



November 6, 2014

Simple Everyday Muffins

Muffins 

Muffins are simple food.  Quick to stir together, quick to bake, only requiring the most common pantry staples for a basic batter- muffins are my go to recipe when I need a snack, breakfast, or quick and easy bread to accompany soup and such.

I've made so many muffins that I don't really use a recipe most of the time; though I have a LOT of recipes for muffins, and would love it if you'd share your favorite with me, too!  Recipes are for special occasions, or when I have time for a Kitchen Adventure.  Everyday muffins are what I mix up with whatever is on hand or according to my latest whim.  They are forgiving and fast, and most of the time tasty (I've had a few failures, but the dog never seems to mind when this happens!)

Everyday Muffins go something like this:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Into your mixing bowl put:

scant 2 cups unbleached flour (use part whole wheat, oat flour, gluten free whatever you desire here)

1/2 cup sugar (this makes a fairly sweet muffin, reduce sugar if desired, use another sweetener, or leave out if making savory muffins)

2 tsp. baking powder

scant teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients together.  If I'm using spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. these are added here, as well.

In a 2 cup measuring cup beat one egg.  
Add cooking oil (your choice here, you can use melted butter if you desire) to just below the 1/2 cup line.  Note: If you don't want to use this much oil, replace most of this with applesauce, mashed banana, milk, etc.  
Now, fill your cup up to the 2 cup line with milk, or a cup of pumpkin puree, bananas, applesauce, and then fill to the two cup line with milk or milk substitute (I use soy or almond milk most days).
They key here is 2 cups of wet ingredients- the very basic recipe would be:
1 egg
1/4 to 1/2 cup of cooking oil
Milk to the 2 cup line

When I make sweet muffins I almost always add vanilla extract.  This goes into the measuring cup as well.
Stir this together and dump into your bowl of dry ingredients.  Stir just until well combined, no beating here, it will make your muffins tough.  

Now is the time to add in the extras- chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, chopped fresh or frozen fruit, whatever you decide.  I use about a cup of add ins, though I don't measure, I just toss them in until it looks right.  Fold these in gently.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.
Scoop batter into tin with a 1/4 cup measuring cup.
Bake for 16-20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick or my 'tester' a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes, remove from pan and cool on rack (or eat immediately, which is what usually happens here).
Enjoy!

For a great light lunch or simple soup accompaniment, leave out the sugar and stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheese and 1/2 cup diced cooked ham or bacon.  I add dried parsley, garlic powdered and other herbs to these, too. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip is the current favorite here.  
pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and mini chocolate chips.  
These are fun baked in mini muffin pans.  Reduce the oven to 375 and check after 15 minutes.  

OK, your turn!  
What's your favorite muffin?
Would you share a recipe with us?  Leave a link to your blog post, put it in the comments, or send me an email.  

Blessings,

Catherine



October 29, 2014

Their Name Is Today



Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World
This is an important book- for parents, grandparents, educators, child care providers, for anyone who cherishes children and wants to see them live and thrive in today's world.

In chapter 1, titled The World Needs Children, the author says- Experts inform us that overpopulation is destroying the earth.  I disagree: greed and selfishness are ruining the planet, not children.  They are born givers, not takers.  They are also born teachers, if we are wise enough to hear the truths they bring. In the midst of our complex adult lives, we must make time to take in the lessons that only children can teach.

The book's 10 chapters are filled with insights from Johann Arnold's marriage of almost fifty years, raising 8 children, and travels all over the globe.

The following comparison is a sad picture of the state of our nation-

We saw that in some of the most impoverished nations, children are considered a national treasure.  They represent the future of an entire civilization, not on the inheritors of a family name. Even some of the most destitute villages had a school in a central location, raised by community effort and whatever meager materials could be scraped together.

Western society is fueled by money, but relatively little finds its way into childcare centers and schools. ... Are children considered a national treasure? In terms of future income earners with buying power, yes.  But as unique individuals who offer hope for the renewal of civilization?  Not so much.  

In chapter 2, Play Is a Child's Work, the author advocates free play, which is vital to learning.

With chapter titles such as Material Child, Actions, Not Words; and Discovering Reverence- there is much to be absorbed in this book.  Much to think about, much to do, because Their Name Is Today.
Yes, the title is a bit odd- read the book, discover what the author means with this title.
Our children the world's children, need us ... not tomorrow, but today.

I thoroughly agree with much of this book and encourage those who have an interest in children to read it, learn from it, and act upon what they learn.  

I was given a copy of this book in return for a written review by Handlebar Publishing.



October 17, 2014

On a Friday in October

Things here are in a normal state of affairs for a Friday morning at our house ...


Stack of books in disarray, a guitar tuner left where someone last used it, a knitting project left on the magazine, next to the pumpkin which belongs elsewhere, a candle which also has another home ... and something silver and shiny ... a pen case, I believe; all strewed in front of a very dusty fireplace that won't be put in use for some weeks now.  None of this bothers the cat, who is not an inside pet, though he begs to differ ...

And honestly, none of it bothers me.  Signs of a well-used, well-loved, lived-in home are OK with me.  Though I do wish someone would dust the fireplace ...

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. ~Jane Austen

What's happening in your home today?
After the fireplace is dusted, I'll be baking some things for the Fall Festival tomorrow... bake sale items to raise funds for 2 of my loved ones to go to Sri Lanka next summer.

Have a blessed weekend friends.

Love,
Catherine Ann


October 14, 2014

Autumn Musings

Thinking today about the changing seasons ... leaves are slowly getting their fall color, cool weather herbs and garden greens are popping up after much needed rains, squirrels are busy- tag teaming to gather pecans from the tree in the backyard while the dog pretends to not notice them (lazy creature).

And I am feeling that slightly off kilter feeling that a change of seasons seems to bring.  I love Autumn- baking muffins, breads, scones and pies; spicy scents of simmer cider or potpourri, soups and stews bubbling on the stove top, pumpkins, dried gourds and corn to decorate the doorway ...
so much to love about this time of year.

Yet, there is still that feeling that I can't explain- maybe my soul needs to acclimate to the changing weather, the change of pace as we see the calendar filling already with holiday events, the shortening of days and lengthening of night.  Darkness comes early and I find myself curling up with a book or a sewing project, waiting for bedtime.  Settling in.

This morning I baked up a batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones.  I used this recipe and tweaked it with added pumpkin pie spice, chocolate chips and a topping of milk wash with a sprinkle of vanilla sugar.  Tasty way to start the day!

Does the change of seasons affect you?
What are you baking these days?

Blessings,

Catherine 



September 22, 2014

My Ever-Changing Plans

In regard to my last posts about the new site, Love, Catherine Ann- it is still there, and I have been working away trying to make it HOME. Sadly, it just  hasn't happened yet, and I find myself coming back here, for a photo, to snip a bit of a blog post or a recipe.
Because it feels right in this season, I am going to continue to post here.
Who knows ... maybe one day Love, Catherine Ann will feel comfortable and natural like this space, or not.
Perhaps it is the change of seasons, the trees sending showers of leaves to the ground, the promise of cool nights and sweater weather that has me longing for a slower pace, a return to the simple rhythms that have been pushed aside by the noise and necessity of ministry and an over-full schedule.  I know my own frame, my limits, and I've reached them, exceeded them in a couple of areas, and need to listen to my own soul and its quiet call to simplify, slow down, savor the season.

If you have visited me at Love, Catherine Ann- Thank You.  If not, I hope you will check in there now and again; things are still very rough as I've been learning my way around Squarespace.
But, honestly I think this space is HOME, and I look forward to visiting with you here again.

Blessings,

Catherine


July 10, 2014

Popping In













Just popping in to ask you to join me at Love, Catherine Ann, where I am doing most of my writing these days.  I've been writing about my favorite Summer Brew, Rest, and Summer Blossoms.
Please stop by and share what's blooming in your world these days!

Blessings,
Catherine