PRAISING GOD THROUGH MUSIC

There was once a song whose title alludes me.  In fact the only lyrics I can recall are “I’m a little bit country…”I’m a little bit rock n’ roll.”  That’s the way I feel about contemporary Christian music, which I would classify in the soft rock category, and gospel.  I relate to both of them and may prefer one over the other depending on my mood.  These musical styles can really affect the type of church you go to.  I love music, so the praise and worship portion that precedes the message, is very important to me.  

For many years, my kids and I attended a church called The Vineyard, which was pretty white bread and leaned towards a certain style of music.  There was a worship band, and they never played the old hymns, which was fine with me, because I didn’t grow up in the church and was not exposed to them.  The truth is most of them didn’t resonate with me.  The Vineyard played the kind of music that everyone stood up and kind of swayed to, and we all sang along.  Many of the songs were words taken directly from the psalms.  They were touching and sometimes brought tears to my eyes.

Since leaving the Vineyard, I have gone to many other churches.  A few of them have been heavily Latino, and they tended towards kind of an old school, lowrider vibe.  Their music was often loud and amped up with drum riffs.  I liked that style of music too.  Good music is good music no matter what the style, and I’m eclectic enough to enjoy it all.

Later on I attended several predominantly Black churches where gospel music was the order of the day.  It was definitely very far from the Vineyard music, which was so familiar to me, but it was great as well.

I guess my whole point here is I can identify with the song that says “I’m a little bit country…”I’m a little bit rock n’ roll.”  We live in a diverse world, and our music reflects all the cultures of the world.  It is great to worship the Lord in song, and as long as it lifts Him up, it’s all good.

SOUNDS DELICIOUS, BUT I THINK I’ll PASS

Anyone who knows me at all knows I have an affinity for cookbooks.  They sing their siren song to me in the promise of a succulent stew, a creamy custard, or a fragrant, perfectly roasted chicken.  The images of fantastic food is as enticing to me as a fashion spread is to those who are lured by the images of beautiful clothes, and, yes, lovely clothes are…well, lovely, but can they permeate your home with an amazing aroma? Can they show love and hospitality to the hungry masses? Can you eat them?  Well, you get my drift.  Hey, we all have our priorities.

Lack of space and a resolve to avoid an appearance on “Hoarders” has caused me to periodically prune my cookbook collection, yet  I still have too many of them, and, like any avowed addict, I can’t say I will never purchase another cookbook, but I no longer do so with the wild, impulsive abandon of someone furtively crouched behind a trash can smoking crack.  Does that sound slightly dramatic?  Granted the consequences of my purchases were less devastating, but the bottom line is I wasn’t even using them, and I wanted to stop spending money on them only to try to twist someone’s arm to take them off my hands a month later, which was kind of crazy.  The simple truth is a lot of people don’t want to take the time or effort to cook from scratch and therefore do not feel compelled to accumulate books that are taking up space and are heavy to haul around when you move (believe me, I know this from personal experience).  When they do get a hankering to tinker around in the kitchen, the computer is their friend, and that’s the case for me as well.  I love to look at the glossy photography in a coffee table worthy tribute to delectable dishes, but after I have done my share of perusing, it’s back to the shelf they go, and I’m off on an online search for the perfect peach cobbler.

I also subscribe to several foodie magazines.  After I read them, I can usually find people to pass them on to more readily than a book, but I have rarely attempted to make a dish from one of these magazines.  Yesterday I did see some amazing looking fried chicken with an appealing kick that came from soaking the pieces in hot sauce before coating them with flour.  I started to look through the recipe to see what ingredients I had on hand and what I would need to purchase to create this poultry masterpiece.  

That’s when I noticed the instructions, which did not bode well for a potential collaboration with this dish.  “Working in four batches.”  These words struck fear into my heart, and I suddenly realized why there is a disconnect between acquiring all these tomes to fine foods and the fact that I don’t use the books.  I have food fascination/food phobia, a tricky combination to be sure.  For instance, I would love to make a creamy custard or cheesecake, but I am intimidated by the process of pouring boiling water (sounds risky) halfway up the pan before placing the whole affair in the oven.   I also have an aversion to creating a big mess with the knowledge that no one in this household will want to clean it up afterwards,  so I don’t want to use a food processor, an immersion blender, brown something in oil and then transfer this whole production to yet another appliance and then have a million sticky, oily, tumeric stained (yes, that’s happened) items to have to immerse in hot, soapy water and scrub.

Yes, I’m a messy cook.  Powdery substances such as flour and confectioner’s sugar mysteriously sprinkle themselves on my granite counter top.  When I carmelize onions or fry potatoes on the stove, particles often flip from the spatula and situate themseles in hard to reach places around the burners.  The cooking part is not the problem, but it is invariably a precursor to the clean up, which, for me, is an ordeal.

And this is what I need to remind myself of when a cookbook tries to wrap itself around me with its insidious pasta tentacles.  I DON’T WANT TO CLEAN UP THE MESS AND NOBODY ELSE IN THIS HOUSE DOES EITHER.  Thus I will stick to the tried and true recipes that call for throwing everything in the crock pot or a casserole dish, and I don’t need more cookbooks or fancy kitchen appliances for that.   DILEMNA SOLVED! 

THE PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING

In my younger years I never realized what a blessing peace is.  Maybe it was something I just took for granted, because I don’t recall getting to riled up about anything.  That came later when I was married to an inept but prolific criminal, mother of four…no make that five…children, one of them an unruly adolescent locked inside an adult body.  Can you guess which one that is?  Anyway, I realized I tend to zig zag all over the place in my writing, just a glimpse of what goes on in my brain.  The point is peace was replaced by a kind of stoic robot like state, which I thought I needed to maintain for my survival so that I could survive long enough to guide my children into a safe adulthood.  No one suspected how frazzled I was and how close to becoming entirely unraveled.  Thankfully I haven’t been in that place for a long time, but I have rarely experiened the peace that passes understanding either.

It is something I would love to have, and it’s a promise from the bible.  “I will keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me,” but I find I have to be really intentional to approach that tranquil state of being, because it’s certainly not my default setting, and maybe it never really was.  The years when I was raising my children were fraught with so much uncertainty, poverty, fear and tension.  I think those years marked me and altered my DNA somehow, and I’m still in the process of recovery all these years later.I am the first one to say we are in control of so little and that we can’t rewind time, but do I behave that way?  If I did, would the small blips on the radar screen of life unnerve me the way they often do?

Sometimes I have to really press in for peace instead of it being my place of residence.

 

 

I’ve been talking about starting my own writing group for a long time, and it looks like I will finally be taking the plunge.  I enjoyed my writing group in Santa Clarita before I relocated to Los Angeles, and I’ve tried two of them out here.  I have written about the first one already, so I won’t revisit that.  The second one is led by a rather unorthodox fellow.  I want to say more about that, but I feel a certain restraint when I’m talking about someone else on my blog…darn it!  There are about ten other members that seem to show up pretty consistently, but I can’t be totally sure, because I haven’t gone the last couple of times, and the group is new.  A very nice, laid back lady opened up her home to have the group meet there rather than its initial spot, which was the Westchester Panara Bakery, but that was kind of noisy and not really condusive to a discussion on writing (Really good sandwiches though).  One of the group members announced that he writes on an erotica website, plus the group meets on Sundays.  Okay…have you guessed?  I am a God Girl, so I just didn’t think this group was a good fit.

My group is starting with only three of us, but I’m sure it will grow.  All three of us are Christians and grandmas to boot.  I think we all consider ourselves writers who are Christians rather than Christian writers.  I make that distinction, because I don’t want us to feel totally constrained and confined in our writing.  On the other hand, I doubt if any of us will be trying our hand at porn.  My group could start as early as next week, and I’m looking forward to it.  Lately I have been reading almost obsessively.  I have all these books on my Mac Kindle.  I purchase many of them, but I also subscribe to a blog that features many free downloads, which sounds good when you love to read like I do, but then I feel I MUST read all of them.  Quite a few are daily devotionals, and, even though they are short, that can really add up.  If I’m going to call myself a writer (and I am), I have to do at least as much writing as reading.  Today I was on a writer’s blog, and he mentioned four must-read books for writers, and then I felt compelled to order those, so now I will be READING about WRITING.

I really need this writing group to keep me accountable, and I need to make a pinky promise that I won’t buy any more books for a long time. I am cautiously optimistic this will work out.  Living in a home that contains two very young grandchildren, I need the creative outlet.  I also have two more grandchildren that live ten minutes away, and I see a lot of them as well.  Kids can easily suck up 95 percent of your energy, so by commiting to this group, I am also making a commitment to myself to nurture something as precious as a newborn baby.  I’m ready!   

 

 

 

Around Easter I ordered an organic turkey with the idea of serving it for Sunday dinner.  This turkey was no lightweight.  In fact, it weighed in at a whopping 23 plus pounds.  I have never cooked a turkey that large before, and there was a reason for that.  First of all, it is challenging to find a roasting pan large enough to hold such an enormous speciman of poultry.  Smaller birds also seem to be more flavorful, and the larger the turkey, the more challenging it is to manuever in and out of the oven.  Anyway…this bird seemed to have an exceptionally large bosom, and the pan I thought would be adequate was not even remotely so.  This necessitated a trip to the 99 cents store, and while the flimsy aluminum pan was large enough to hold the turkey, it got all bendy just having the turkey placed in it while it defrosted in the fridge.  Have you ever tried to take a pan of sizzling, drippy juices and weighty bird out of the oven as the lightweight pan buckles and caves in?  It’s even worse than attempting to brine a turkey full of water in a plastic trash bag (okay…we won’t even go there with that episode).

I just had a birthday and Mother’s Day is this Sunday, so I decided to throw a late birthday/early Mother’s Day turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  At this point, Big Bird had been taking up a lot of space in the freezer for a month, and who knows how long it had been frozen before we rescued it  (okay, I know…ideally the rescue would have happened before the turkey met its demise).  My recent birthday and Mother’s Day seemed liked an ideal time to invite friends and family over to celebrate with a feast of turkey with all the trimmings.  My dear pal, Alondra, offered not only to provide her radical mac n’ cheese and stuffing but also to “prep” the turkey.  She arrived earlier today with her huge electric roaster in hand and rubbed the turkey with various spices and garlic infused olive oil.  She inserted a stick of herbed butter and an apple in the cavity of the turkey and plunked the whole concoction back in the fridge.  I got to sit at my dining room table and just watch her work and chat.  There were moments when I felt like I should get up and at least hand her items or something, but not enough to actually do it.  It was awesome!

That Alondra can really cook and she does it in large quantities, because she has a big family and hosts a lot of holiday gatherings.  She says it’s therapy for her, and that works for me.  All I have to do is have my visiting son take the heavy turkey out of the fridge at 6:a.m. tomorrow and plunk it in the electric oven where it will basically roast itself on a low temperature for about six hours.  Later on Alondra will bring the trays of stuffing and mac n’ cheese over and they will be popped into the oven.  YUMMY!!!!  

Thanks to Alondra my 35 guests, many of them children, will enjoy a succulent feast, including my garlic laced mashed potatoes and gravy, which will be my only contribution.  I have other people bringing some other dishes, and I will write about that later, but for now, Alondra has saved me from slaving away over a hot turkey.  Thanks to Alondra.  I guess that’s what friends are for!

 

 

 

I am reading a book by a woman who downsized from a three-bedroom home in the suburbs to a house no larger than a shed on wheels.  The current home is teeny but has a lot of eye appeal and attention to detail.  Amazingly (to me, anyway) this woman built the house herself.  She did have substantial help from friends and a knack for procuring sustainable items such as some beautiful recycled wood and a quaint perfectly sized front door.  She was also able to park the house in the backyard of some friends who live in a safe, residential neighborhood.  For most of us, the transition from average size to teeny might be a little more challenging.  I think there are many of us who find the tiny home movement fascinating, if not all out mesmerizing.  Being a fervent admirer of natural beauty, I have always proclaimed that I’d rather live in a small house surrounded by acreage than a huge house hemmed in by other homes and a nonexistent outdoor area.  My idea of entertaining lends itself to picnic tables, lanterns, a fire pit and fireflies.  I have to admit I never thought much about scant sleeping quarters, how to rustle up the grub in the mini kitchen or potty facilities.  My imaginings took me no further than a quaint, rustic abode with an adorable little porch all of it nestled right in the center of nature.  The author of the book goes into a lot more detail including how she took her home from a pile of scraps to a cute and cozy cottage fit for a little lady and her demure dog., 

In order to make this scaled down environment livable, she had to let go of many possessions that if not absolutely necessary certainly enhanced the interior of her larger home.  This is another appealing idea for me, at least 75 percent of the time.  Yet there is still that 25 percent of me who drools over the largeness and opulance of a home with a huge kitchen and copper cookware hanging elegantly from hooks above a gleaming Viking stove.  In this fantasy friends and family gather around a massive marble island, munching on appetizers with plenty of elbow room to spare.  The lovingly appointed guest room is a welcome harbor for out of town guests, and the master bedroom sports a king-sized bed and an expansive wooden fireplace.

The lady in the teeny house has no mortgage and a utility bill that tops out at $8.00 per month.  That is definitely not the case in my present home, let alone a spacious mini mansion is an upscale neighborhood like…say…Calabassas.

All in all it would probably be unrealistic for me to actually take the steps to be the owner of a tiny home.  The only way it might be feasible is if one of my daughters and her family purchase the luxury dream house and allow me to live in my own tiny space in their oversized backyard brimming with fruit trees, pots of herbs and space for the adoring Golden Retreiver I’ve always wanted to own.  Of course I would have access to the perks of the large house, the organic produce in the garden and the privacy of my own comfy cottage at night as I snuggled all warm and peaceful on my quilt covered organic cotton mattress under a canopy of stars.  Then I wouldn’t have to decide if large or small is better.  I would have the best of both worlds.