Thursday, March 31, 2011

Upside Down Cooking

It's a recipe.  From me to you.  You can thank me later.

I know...I know.  I can't cook.  Well, if a non-cook posts a recipe, you know it must be easy.  Think about it:  I can't cook, but this is one thing my family loves.  Besides, I'm locally famous for it (as in "several people in church have tried it and no one has died yet").  And since I'm so renowned, I thought I'd share it with you.  First, however, I had to standardize it.  I actually measured all the ingredients last night instead of just throwing them in the bowl, and I even timed how long to bake it.

This recipe is great for a quick dinner on a busy weekday or a slightly fancy Sunday breakfast that bakes while you get ready for church.  Scramble some eggs and you're good to go.  I also prepare it, by request, when my daughter has a sleepover, and for my Sunday School students' birthdays.  You can even have it for dessert.

We call it Oven Pancake.  I'll think of some fancy title for it, though, since this is An Official Blog Recipe.  It was originally supposed to be some Dutch apple puff pancake thing, but as I said I can't cook, and mine never puffed, nor did any Dutch people ever request any.  Since it didn't work as planned, I tweaked it until I liked it.

Oh - if you want it to look fancy, slice the fruit instead of chopping it and lay it neatly in the pan.

Upside Down Dinner Pancake
Makes 8 large servings
Can be halved and baked in a regular cake pan

1/3 stick butter
Brown sugar
Cinnamon (other spices, if you like)
2 c peeled, chopped fruit.  Apples, blackberries, frozen (thawed) peaches or blueberries work well
2 c flour
1/3 c sugar (I usually use more because we like it sweet)
1 t salt
2 T baking powder
2 eggs
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/4 c water

Preheat oven to 350*.  While it's heating, place butter in 9x13 baking pan and melt in oven.

Mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in large bowl.  Add eggs, oil and water, and stir until combined well.  Batter will be thick and possibly lumpy.

Once butter has melted, liberally sprinkle brown sugar (leave it clumpy) on the butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon.  If using apples, I add allspice; for peaches, I like to add ginger.

Place fruit in a single layer on top of brown sugar.  Pour batter on top of fruit, being careful to cover as much fruit as possible.

Bake for one hour, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool a few minutes.  Cut into eight pieces for dinner or breakfast, more for dessert.  To serve, remove from pan with a cake server and flip upside down onto plate.

Serve with maple syrup, but don't expect people to use any.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Books as First Friends

When books are your friends, the written word takes on special importance.  Books always say what they mean, and they generally say it well.  Books are eloquent in ways a verbal communicator can not be.  Sentences are carefully measured; words are well chosen; awkward pauses are nonexistent.  Y'know?  (See what I mean?)
A bookworm tends to desire to relate in like manner.  Spoken word is mere communication; written word is expression.  Early friends like C.S. Lewis and Louisa May Alcott define conversation as much as the friends on the baseball diamond or at the sleepover do.  Bookworms, I suspect, are blogworms, as well, choosing written expression as their best expression of self.
My husband and I had a discussion the other day.  He struggles with the fact that I take his words very literally.  He will occasionally choose a word that doesn't fit well with the topic he is discussing.   Maybe he'll say taunt instead of taut, or invoke rather than encroach.   When I appear perplexed, he misconstrues my confusion as ridicule.  It has always been very difficult to convince him otherwise.  As a lifelong reader, I enjoy a larger vocabulary than he does.  As a man whose bread and butter is earned from verbal expression, this pleases as well as intimidates him.  I understand, then, his natural conclusion that I'm laughing at him.

During our conversation, insight finally sparked. I am a person of the written word.  Phrases are rarely misspoken in my native tongue.  I am not a better verbal communicator, as he suspected, but a worse one.  My look is one of genuine misinterpretation.  It takes time for me to translate into my book-learned language.  Others, whose first friends played kickball and dollhouse, talked and laughed and joked in good, honest verbal vernacular.
The explanation helped him understand.  It also helped me to pinpoint an area of growth I've struggled with for a long while.  Good communication is not always precise and standardized. In fact, sometimes the best conversation is ragged and random.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Foul Language

The need to exaggerate, to have the biggest, best, ugliest, meanest, bugs me.  I don't like the inherent dishonesty, but the effect on the English language is the thing that really gets under my skin.  It dulls and mutes the expression of genuine sensation until meaningful words are rare.

I giggled, I was amused, I laughed my head off, I was hysterical.
Hysterical?  Really?  I think and hope not.

I was surprised, I was shocked, I literally fell over backward.
Literally?  Do you have photos?

I have a word under my skin right now.  Appalling.  In my mental dictionary, it does not refer to high gasoline prices or Sister Theodora's slip showing in church on Sunday.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with someone's social miscue or a problem with a telephone customer service representative.

I have heard appalling things this week.  Appalling is devastating, horrific.  Appalling leaves no room for words or thoughts - it overwhelms and consumes.

Appalling changes everything.

I'm going to go ahead and post this one, even though I'm dissatisfied with it.  I just need to say it - it's been in my thoughts too long.  I will add, though, that nothing appalling has happened to me.  Have mercy, Lord.

Friday, March 25, 2011

More About Music: The Voice

Please note:  I wrote this post long before hearing there is a TV program by the name "The Voice."  I did not intend to refer to that program in this post.

I hate it when people take an ordinary occurrence and spiritualize it with some deeper meaning.  I'm about to do just that.  I embarrass myself.  Don't worry, though.  It's short and won't hurt much.

My husband has a Voice.  When he sings, you know he's singing.  Others sometimes stop singing just to listen to his Voice.  When he leads worship, he truly needs no microphone - his Voice is very present.  His Voice is built for solos.

I have a very plain voice.  Pleasant, but certainly not outstanding.  When I sing, I naturally blend with everyone around me.  If someone happens to hear me (I tend to harmonize), they inevitably think it was someone else.  My voice is built for choir.

Tween and I were driving and he asked me about his voice.  He can carry a tune, and he shows some promise as far as impromptu musicals are concerned, but he's still got a little boy voice.  Tween, however, was under the distinct impression that his was a Voice Like Unto His Father's.

I'm a "burst their bubble" kind of mom.  I don't believe in pumping up my kids about talents they don't have.  Being that this was tween, though, I had to do a slow deflate rather than a rapid pin thrust.  So we talked about the relative merits and drawbacks of solo vs. choir voices.  Here is what we came up with:

Solo:  Can sing a solo.  Can't sing in an ensemble, as the Voice stands out too much.  Can be intimidating to sing with.

Choir:  Can't sing a solo except in unusual circumstances.  Duets, trios, quartets, choirs - all good.  Great background vocalist.  Welcome at sing-alongs.  Fun to sing with.

At this point I waxed spiritual.  Solo voices are wonderful to listen to, but choir voices reflect more of the body of Christ.  Rather than standing out, we are usually called to augment, or blend, or refine a cooperative effort.  The beauty is found in the blend.

Tween rubbed his chin for a moment, then agreed with me that a choir voice is more flexible, and more like the body of Christ.

Then, of course, he wanted reassurance that he wasn't completely out of the running for a Voice.  After all, one day a man's voice would be his.  Perhaps, someday, he, too, will have a Voice!

He's right, of course.  I can't help but wonder, though, if he inherited a pinch of my reckless optimism.

Have you ever seen a sentence with so many commas as the one three sentences ago?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Random Acts of Concert

I love all of my children, but my teen and toddler are definitely at more lovable stages than my tween.  Tweens are not as cuddly and charming as very small children, nor are they as companionable as teens.  Parenting a tween is very hard work for me (...she said, having never parented a defiant, rebellious child to adulthood).  Tweens are physically, socially, and emotionally awkward, and they test all fronts at all times.

It is rare to find a point of agreement between my tween and I.  He is over-the-top goofy except when he's brownnosing me or being sulky and sullen.  Sometimes it seems that everything he does grates on my last nerve.  Luckily, I seem to have lots of last nerves!

Once in a while, though, something strange occurs - and I think you will agree with my definition of strange here.  One of us will begin to invent a jingle about some mundane happening.  A jazzy tune will accompany a lyric about losing yet another pencil, for example.  The pencil song develops a bit, and then the other of us jumps in.  First we do a little echo.  Then we alternate lines or verses.  Finally we throw a little harmony, a little embellishment in the mix.

Sometimes a lost pencil becomes a full-fledged musical, complete with choreography and the Big Ending.

We laugh, pat each other on the back, hum another bar or two.  Then it's back to struggle and strain.

Sometimes it scares me that this child, who lives to drive me insane, is so like me.  Though he's in the driver's seat on this journey, he sure can make the trip fun!

And now you know my tween is a boy.  So goes the anonymity.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Love Note

I miss you, bloggie dear.

It's only been a day or two, but at this early, passionate stage in our relationship I didn't want you to feel spurned or neglected.

I have an unusually busy weekend, but don't despair.  I love you, and I'll return soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Delusions of Grandeur

I have 'em.  Lots of 'em.

I'm a humble soul.  I don't overestimate my abilities or toot my own horn.  But deep in a little-known corner of my heart lurks an expectation of greatness.

Here's a good example:  Every evening I prepare dinner.  I am not known for my cooking abilities; in fact, I am rather infamous where cooking is concerned.  Yet for some strange reason, whenever I try a new dish, or alter an old one, a voice in my head whispers of impending celebrity.  The voice begins small enough, quietly hinting that this dish may actually taste good.  However, it quickly intensifies.  Within minutes I envision posting my recipe on an internet forum.  The dream accelerates:  after rave reviews, it's picked up on hundreds of blogs.  It becomes the next viral Chloe's Chicken Soup!  Suddenly, people are asking me - ME! - for tips, advice, recipes!

So far the accolades have not been forthcoming, however.  I remain a mediocre cook at best.  It's fine with me; as I said, I don't overestimate my own abilities.  Still, my inner enthusiast cheers me on.

I'm deluded in other areas, as well.  Whenever I undertake anything new, suddenly I am certain that this is the work that will make me great.  A sewing or knitting project will show me to have tremendous talent.  My co-op class will be the one people beg to enroll their children in.  My help on the sound board at church will resolve all problems and satisfy everyone's need for the perfect volume and sound quality.  You get the picture.

Perhaps I am too hard on myself, though.  Maybe I'm not deluded so much as optimistic.  Some mix their optimism with caution; I do the opposite.  You might say I'm recklessly optimistic.

Yes, that sounds much better, doesn't it?

And who knows?  Perhaps one of these days I will find an area in which I truly excel.  I certainly have the right person behind me, inspiring me ever onward!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Borrowing My Daughter's Adolescence

...or riding her coattails, so to speak.  (This, BTW, is how anonymity erodes - now you know my teen is a girl and it's only Day 3. :) )

My daughter is pretty, smart, and funny.  She's not beautiful, brilliant, or hilarious.  However, she's got something that makes further qualifiers unnecessary - confidence.  She's striding toward womanhood with grace and guts.  She's modestly stylish, and when she finds something in her style she knows it and grabs it.  She applies her makeup artistically - sometimes with a flirty flourish, and sometimes with discreet simplicity.  She's not brash, but she stands up for herself and others when necessary.  And she knows when to leave a fight alone.  Yes, she's hormonal - but she knows it and keeps herself in check.

My adolescence was very different.  I was tormented by self-doubt and afraid to try anything new lest someone criticize.  All I learned of womanhood I learned after the age of 20, and it was a stumbling,  faltering education.  Even now, in my mid-forties, I still don't "get it."

However.  Watching my daughter enter the feminine world as she is, I realize that I can "get it."  I can have the same confidence to like what I like, and to feel good about feeling good, as she has.  All I have to do is let go of that old, tattered noose of feared criticism.  I watch her, and I see that ostracism hasn't crashed her party.  No one ridicules her or even teases.  In fact, they respect her uniqueness and confidence, even when they don't care for her choices.  And this is where her beauty and brilliance lie.

So now I'm working on becoming beautiful and brilliant, too.  It's fun to be trying new makeup, clothing and hairstyles at my age, when I ought to be settling into the usual entering-middle-age rut.  But I feel it coming on - this beauty and brilliance - and I like it.  I like it a lot!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Warm Fuzzies!

Looky there!  A follower!

How neat is that?  It's like sneaking quietly off to the airport on a trip you're a bit anxious about, only when you step off the plane at O'Hare to get your connecting flight, there is a good friend waiting with a coffee and a hug to wish you well on your trip!

...or it might be just a little creepy.  ;)

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's me!

Well, here I am!  How lovely that you stopped by.

Perhaps I will explain that this blog is an experiment.  I find that I need a place to air my thoughts without a lot of commitment to consistency or application.  Since I don't know when I'll stop in, I don't expect to invite people to read often.

I'm a random, ordinary mom of three.  My teen is enrolled in a charter school - our first foray into the world of public socialization.  My tween is homeschooled.  Ten and eleven are difficult ages for me to parent, and my tween is certainly stretching me a bit further than I'm comfortable with.  My toddler is on a continual pendulum between hilarity and tantrumation.  The toddler is due to become quite a handful, given the large age gap and the incredible cute factor.

My husband is in the mix, too.  His work is intense, though, so he doesn't appear often in the day-by-day script.  Intense also describes his personality, and he is generally intensely involved in whatever revolves around his own little planet.  It's not a bad thing, but it doesn't seem to be the marital norm.  I'm good with it, which is, I suppose, the important part.

I fully expect that, over the next few weeks, this blog will become either formidably anonymous (not likely) or casually personal.  I find it difficult to disguise my identity and still write coherently, but I don't want to expose myself.  We will see what happens.

FWIW, I used an online thesaurus to look up "formidably."  I tend to want more words than I actually own.