Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Open Letter to Uncle Sam

Esteemed Uncle;

I drove to town today.  It was hot - about 85 degrees. The summer sun had warmed my dark colored vehicle to a point that I could not comfortably hold on to the steering wheel.  Although the windows were rolled down, rivulets of perspiration ran down my back and my face glistened with sweat.  As I drove, I lamented the circumstances that had brought me to the beginning of summer with no working air conditioning in my aging vehicle.

The reduction in my circumstances had begun, innocently enough, in the early months of last year.  As I was going through my extensive recipe collection, I happened upon an idea.  I would write a cookbook!  Once the idea took hold - I couldn't shake it.  Every morning, I would get up before my husband and children.  I would scour my recipes, choosing which ones to include in my book and which one to leave out.  I researched recipes, tested them and then tested them again.  Soon, I was spending every spare moment typing recipes, writing stories and collating kitchen facts.  Writing a cookbook was a mixed blessing for my family.  They loved all of the wonderful food flowing freely from my kitchen but also suffered with many dinners of breakfast cereal and toast, just so that I could finish one last chapter.  I spent hours at my computer, typing, typing, typing.  Just when I thought the hard part was finished, it came time to edit.  A red pen became my friend as I edited, rewrote and edited again.  Finally, I was ready to submit the manuscript to the printer (which in and of itself is no easy task!).  A couple of proofs later (the book had to edited again), it was finalized and published!  Yay!  The work of almost two years wrapped in a beautiful cover, with my name at the bottom!  I cannot tell you how proud I was.  Imagine, however, my stunned surprise, when I completed my tax preparation, only to find out that you required 50% of my royalties!  Half!  Uncle - where were you when I was getting up at 4 O'clock in the morning so that I could write, taking care that my book writing didn't interfere with my household duties?  Where were you when I had to run back and forth to a computer center to download my manuscript and make all of the changes?  Where were you when my eyes were blurry with reading and I wanted nothing more than to put my manuscript in a drawer and forget about it?  Can you please explain how you earned half of my book income? 

I do have to admit, there may have been other contributing factors to our particularly egregious tax bill. You see, my husband works.  Every week-day morning, Sir Knight is out of bed by 6 O'clock.  After a cup of tea, he drives to town (an hour away), fixes ailing forklifts and returns home just in time for dinner.  He does this when it is 100 degrees outside and when it is -20.  He works when he is sick, when he is sore and when he would really rather be somewhere else.  Because of this abhorrent behavior, you required yet another influx of our household economy.  Could you explain to me, Uncle Dear, how you sleep at night?  While we scrimp, budget and save, you slide your hand in our wallet and relieve us of the burden of financial incentive.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention our home-centered, family-run start-up business.  I spent years making and testing product, improving my design and refining my method.  Finally, after making a considerable investment on equipment and supplies, I sent out my first order.  The whole family was involved.  Sir Knight bought the equipment and helped re-arrange the "shouse" to make room for it.  Maid Elizabeth and Miss Serenity cut fabric and sewed.  Master Hand Grenade became the official snap machine operator and the two little children cleaned up scraps.  Day after day we sewed and snapped.  As orders stacked up we worked harder.  The business grew and became successful.  We had worked together and built the American dream.  And then you came calling.  Every year, on April 15th you knocked on my door.  You surveyed my business, my home, questioning every member of my family.  Finally, convinced that you had adequately inventoried every income stream, you shook my hand and provided me with a bill for your services.  The business that my family built and grew became a funding source for your irresponsible and extravagant lifestyle.  Last year we decided that our business had outgrown our family and we made the difficult decision to sell.  You seemed especially angry that we sold and punished us severely.  Uncle, I thought you were supposed to encourage us, to guard our freedoms so that we could pursue useful and fruitful lives!  Instead you stalk us, telling us what we can and can't do - telling us how to live our lives, all while funding your grand social experiments by the sweat of our brow.  You, dear Uncle, are a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Of course, this situation isn't entirely your fault.  We knew that you weren't completely trustworthy so we asked a few of our family members to discreetly keep an eye on you.  They didn't.  At first they were vigilant, taking you to task anytime you overstepped your boundaries. Soon, however, they began to overlook certain indiscretions, lining their pockets while stripping ours.   Uncle Sam, you have betrayed your family.  You have soiled our reputation and ruined our family name.  You, dear sir, are no uncle of mine.

Uncle Sam, you are the reason I was driving to town, in the blazing heat, in a truck with no air conditioning.  Because you are insolvent, refuse to act in a responsible manner or even exercise a smidgen of self-control, my family (along with many others) will suffer and go without.  We will "Use it up, Make it do, Wear it out, or Do without" because we have to - because that's what responsible adults do.  

Uncle Sam, you are a disgrace to the family name.  I am ashamed to know you.

Very  Sincerely,

Enola Gay

Note:  My wonderful readers, Sir Knight and I are fine - good - excellent!  I don't want to worry anybody.  I'm just venting!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Carpe Diem

Sometimes Sir Knight and I get so busy accomplishing everything on our extensive to-do lists that we forget to savor the moment.  In our quest to prepare for the future we have a tendency to sacrifice the present.  I want our children to be equipped with the necessary tools to survive whatever the world throws their way but I also want them to have a happy childhood tucked under their jacket.  And every once in a while, I have to remind myself that these very busy, very hectic, very taxing days are our family's good ol' days.  These are the days that will form and mold my children, my grandchildren and their children after them.  This is our chance to shape our future.  Challenge accepted.

Master Calvin watching Sir Knight add supports to the fence corner

Keeping a close eye on things

A finished, very sturdy corner

Uprights ready to be turned into Buck & Rail fence

And the fence is stretching into the sunset
(Notice the old hive boxes repurposed as flower beds)

Newly bottled Rose Hip wine

Vanilla Custard Cake
4 eggs, separated
1 T water
1/2 + 2 T sugar
1/2 C butter, melted
3/4 C flour
2 C milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter an 8 inch round cake pan or line with waxed paper and butter paper. 

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

In clean bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar, water and vanilla until light.  Beat in the melted butter and beat for 1 minute.  Beat in the flour.  Add the milk and beat until well incorporated.  Gently fold in egg whites to combine. 

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for at least 3 hours before putting on a serving plate.

This cake is amazing - it forms a cake like crust filled with a custard center.  I like to serve this chilled with fresh or frozen berries and a dusting of powdered sugar.  A perfect summer dessert!

The ingredients before adding the egg whites

The stiff egg whites

After the whites have been folded into the batter

It fills the cake pan to the tippy top (don't worry, it won't overflow)

Fresh from the oven

Dessert is served

My beautiful old fashioned yellow roses, brought by a friends grandmother over the Oregon Trail!

And overflowing pink roses

Our yard, dressed for summer, with a lovely spot to contemplate life

Yellow Foxglove, one of my favorites

Freesias intermingled with Irises
Remember - these are your good ol' days too.

Carpe Diem

Until next time,


Thursday, June 5, 2014

On the Homefront

It's beautiful.  It's spring!

Maid Elizabeth and I working the bees

Can you find the queen?  She's the one with the blue dot!

Master Calvin - Gentleman Adventurer (notice the puppy along for the ride)

The floral arrangement on my kitchen table - the "vase" is a galvanized chicken feeder (thanks Scott!) and the pedestal a chunk of wood
Enjoy these beautiful halcyon days.  Fix them in your memories to carry you through whatever our future has to offer!

Until next time....


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Let the Games Begin....

For a number of years our children have joined a group of other young people every Wednesday (during the summer months) to play games, fellowship and have a Bible study.  The group is made up of "kids" ranging in age from 14 to about 24 and from an area roughly 100 square miles.  They all attend different churches and most are home schooled however a few go to public school.  Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball and soccer are their games of choice and they generally have enough people to play all three at once.  There is, of course, good natured completion, but everyone plays, no matter their skill level.  Their camaraderie is evident as they pit sibling against sibling and friend against friend, not really caring who wins or loses.

 These "young adults" (we don't have teenagers in our home) gather to play, but the good stuff happens after they have worn themselves ragged on ball fields.  Weary, the kids settle themselves into a covered pavilion at the park, pick up instruments and begin singing praises to God.  Frequently, other park goers, drawn by their exuberant singing, filter into the pavilion just to listen or even join the chorus of young voices.  After many songs of joyful praise, the kids pull out their Bibles.  One suggests a scripture and soon the rustle of pages is heard as one person after another reads their chosen verse and chapter out loud to the group.  This is no organized bible study led by a youth pastor, but a bunch of friends that want to know what the word of God says.  They read, then they talk then they question.  One question leads to another and soon the pages of their bibles are rustling again as they search for answers.  They seek and question - they search the Word like they are looking for gold or silver.  And every week they meet again, digging deeper each time.

Serenity's rolls rising

Just out of the oven
Today is Wednesday and it is almost time to let the games begin.  Miss Serenity has spent her day baking.  She and a couple of her friends have found that their efforts in the kitchen are monumentally appreciated (especially by the young men) after a rousing game of soccer or Frisbee.  Three of these lovely young ladies have taken to bringing goodies - Miss Serenity, something savory and the other two young ladies, something sweet.  Last week Serenity took 60 freshly baked soft pretzels, none of which came home.  Today she made a double batch of oat rolls (click here for the recipe).  It's perfect - she gets kitchen time and her friends benefit from her baking skills.  It's a win all the way around!

I hope that your young adults have a wonderful group of friends to encourage them and to sharpen them....

"Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." 
Proverbs 27:17

Until next time....


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review - From Ruby Ridge to Freedom

Last weekend some friends dropped a book off that they had picked up for us at a gun show.  The author, Sara Weaver, had become a friend as they traveled the same gun show circuit and in the course of their fellowship she had graciously signed a book for Sir Knight and I. 

I must admit - I have put off reading anything having to do with Ruby Ridge.  It has always hit a little to close to home, to my mountains.  I always wanted to believe that the "feds" had a reason to be there, to escalate the situation to its fatal conclusion. But I knew, in my heart-of-hearts, that what happened on that mountain was a travesty of the worst kind. It went far beyond seeking justice and became the cruel betrayal of a nation.  The course of the Weaver family changed forever on Ruby Ridge, but the ripples of that moment in time have fractured not only a family, but an entire country.

When I picked up Sara's book, I was expecting a political dissertation on the state of the nation.  What I found was a story not about politics, but about freedom - the freedom found only in the person of Jesus Christ.  Sara recounted memories of her life, from her childhood in Iowa to the "big move" to Idaho, to the stand-off, including the deaths of her brother and mother.  She told of trying to rebuild her broken life while caring for her younger siblings when going to live with grandparents and other relatives.  But more than the story of her life, she told the story of finding her Savior.  She told of the religious beliefs that took her parents to the wilds of Idaho.  She told of her rejection of God and in particular of anyone calling themselves "Christians".    She told of her darkest hours and how, in the midst of her own personal hell, Jesus called her name, bound her wounds and set her free.

From Ruby Ridge to Freedom is the story of victory - victory over hate, over anger and over unforgiveness. More than that, it is the story of hope.  Hope in the ultimate salvation of Christ.  Hope in Jesus' forgiveness and hope in sweet reconciliation. 

As our country unravels at the seams we need to remember what freedom we are truly fighting for - not the freedom of a nation from tyranny, but the freedom bought by Christ on the cross.

Until next time....