Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Center Of God's Word

With all that is going on in the world these days, it is so very easy to slide into fear and be utterly confused. The economy is upside down and people are looking to the heads of government all over the world and demanding that they fix it. And they are looking to the specialists in the financial/economical fields for answers...and they don't have any. What a mess we are trudging through right now!

Recently my pastor, Pastor Chris Vigil, has been addressing those of us seated in the church and urging us to look to & lean on God through all that we are facing. That we must know that no one in the leadership of the nations has all the answers to get the economy back to the days of surplus. For us not to expect them to magically solve all of the woes our nation, and the world, is now going through.

And he's absolutely right!
Why on earth would I trust that the leaders have all the answers?
Why would I expect that those who are in leadership and made horrible decisions would have the answers?
That the governing heads of the nations these days would honestly do all they could to better the people of the nations?
Why would I put all of my confidence in Man?!

These statements triggered something...something that I had heard about a year ago. From who? I couldn't tell you. But I remember hearing someone say that the very center of the Bible was the following scripture: Psalms 118:8

Psalms 118:8 simply states: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

Well, if that isn't a true statement then I don't know what is. Man has never had all the answers...never will. But isn't that an amazing thing? That this scripture would be the center verse of the Bible?

When I finally allowed this to sink in, which honestly took me about three weeks after the initial thought, an amazing sense of peace came over me. The pressure and stress that I had been feeling because of the economy and my little family's circumstances seemed to lose weight.

Just to give a brief synopsis, like so many other families in the past year my husband & I had filed Chapter 7, lost our jobs, moved out-of-state to pursue a job opportunity for my husband, moved our family into my in-laws house, I had medical issues that were previously solved return, the job we moved to pursue vanished, and then my husband just received a part-time job which could go full-time. That's a lot in one year!

Now don't get me wrong, I still have stress creep back in from time to time, but it's not nearly as bad as it had been. Psalms 118:8 keeps popping back into my head and I immediately start feeling the relief that God has the answers...He has the plan...He knew that everything that has happened was going to happen. For me, that's a load of stress lifted right there. I can have the assurance that I can trust in the Lord when man seems to be flailing about...not sit back and do nothing. I have to put forth efforts, but I can trust that God has the power and the answers to get me through whatever it is that I'm facing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Grandma Stella's Cornbread (traditional or sweet)

This recipe has been handed down from my Grandma Stella, a.k.a. Grammy, and is by far our family's favorite cornbread recipe. 
When going through the recipe with my mother, we found ourselves in hysterics over the confusion caused by having two copies of the recipe...each written just a bit differently. But after much deliberation (and a few tissues to take care of the tears of laughter), we worked out the kinks and were rewarded with golden corn goodness!

Very simple, just a few items needed for this wonderful cornbread. 

Okay, let's get stared by cracking 2 eggs and getting them into our mixing bowl. Then add 4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and beat until well incorporated.

Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl...we need to make sure that the baking powder doesn't just hang-out along the sides of the bowl. 

Time to measure out our buttermilk. Pour 2 cups buttermilk into the egg mixture and blend. I like doing this 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, just so I don't end up wearing it. 

I can't stand to let anything go to waste, so of course this means that I scrape out all of the buttermilk. Hey, we need it!

In a small bowl we need to combine the 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. (I wanted to make a sweet cornbread this time around, so I added 1/2 cup of granulated sugar) And then just mix together with a fork. 

Now we're going to add the sugar mixture to our batter. Set the mixer speed on low and pour in our sugar mix. 
In a separate bowl, preferably a large one, pour 2 cups cornmeal and 3/4 cup all purpose flour. Mix cornmeal and flour together with a fork . 
Add in our cornmeal & flour mix to the batter. Blend in on low speed until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated. 
In a microwave safe cup, I use my Pyrex measuring cup, melt 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter. Cut the butter into slices or chunks before melting...it's just a smoother process. Heat for 15-20 seconds on High, depending on your microwave. 
The microwave is my friend...I hate waiting for butter to melt on the stove. (But if you prefer to use your stove, in a small sauce pan heat butter over Med-High heat just until melted) 
Add in melted butter. This is the last ingredient!!! 
Now all we have to do is make sure that everything is smooth & creamy! Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl again and have one last blend session.
Grab the skillet and let's get pouring! Oh this creamy batter just looks SO good. 

Alright, try to keep from dipping in and eating the batter...let's get this cornbread into the oven! Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the bread...if it comes out clean, then it's time to take it out.

Golden brown sides...oh, just hold back...don't cut in yet....give it at least 10 minutes. 
After holding back, go ahead and take a slice (preferably a big one) and enjoy! I like to enjoy it plain... 

or with a pat of butter... 
or with a pat of butter and drizzled with clover honey. I hope you enjoy this cornbread recipe as much as my family has!

Grandma Stella's Cornbread
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Large cast iron skillet rinsed and wiped dry.
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
DO NOT make alterations for high altitude.

2 Large Eggs (or 3 medium eggs)
4 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar (or for sweet cornbread, increase to 1/4 cup)
2 Cups Buttermilk
2 Cups Yellow Corn Meal
3/4 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Melted Butter or Shortening

In a large bowl beat eggs and baking powder until well incorporated. Pour in buttermilk and blend on low speed for just a few seconds.

In a small bowl combine baking soda, sea salt and sugar. Add to buttermilk mixture. Blend until incorporated.

In a large bowl combine cornmeal and sugar. Once combined, add to the batter and blend until well incorporated. Take time to scrape the sides of the bowl and blend again to ensure that everything gets well incorporated.

Place butter or shortening into a microwave safe container. Heat for 15-20 seconds on high, depending on microwave unit. Add melted butter or shortening to batter and blend. Scrape sides of bowl again and have one last blend session. The batter should be creamy.

Pour batter into a castiron skillet and place into preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Bread is done when a toothpick can be inserted into the middle and is clean when removed. Let skillet cool for a minimum of 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow Of The Season 1

As we were leaving church, I pointed out how the grey clouds in the sky looked like they were going to bring us some snow. Of course, my 4 year-old Grace didn't see things my way. "No! There's no Christmas today! There's no snow!"

As we drove and I pointed out that I could see snow falling along the foothills, which only made Grace even more defiant. "No! No Mamma! There's NO SNOW!"

1, 2,3, 4...small, fragile flakes hit the windshield! "See Grace?! Snow! I told you those clouds would bring you snow." A smile attempted to appear on Grace's face as she fought to keep it hidden. And then...the sun roof opened...the snowflakes drifted into the car....and shrieks of joy could be heard from both Grace & Rose.
We ended up driving all over town with Christmas music playing and snow falling onto our heads. "What are the odds that any other parents are doing this right now?" "Probably not good," Charming replied.
The drive to the clothing donation bin, Costco and WalMart was more of an adventure and snow catching event than the errands that they really are...what a pleasant change.
Then once we got everything unpacked at home I could hear the "thump thump thump" coming down the hall. There stood Grace with her gloves, snow boots, ear warmer and jacket on...over her Sunday dress. I couldn't help it...yes, I laughed. It was just way too cute not to.
"Come on Grace. Let's go get you dressed for the snow."

And once we were all dressed properly...out we went for a little family fun. The blanket of snow that had fallen was so beautiful. So light. So fluffy.

The girls immediately started scooping up the snow on the patio table. Oh yes, the snowball factory was in operation.

They were having so much fun pummeling each other that they didn't even notice the snow piling up on their heads.

These are two of my favorite photos of my girls..the happiness is sincere and the fact that they are all bundled up and covered in snow just adds the icing to the cake.

With all of our snowplay, the girls decided that picking out Mama as the target was the thing to do and since I don't really like getting hit by snowballs (just ask Charming), I decided to make it "snow" again for them. Which was even more fun than throwing snowballs...and since the snow was so fluffy and dry, it definately made for a less hurtful playtime. When Charming teaches someone how to pack a snowball...let's just say that they are not soft in any sense of the word upon impact.

Toward the end of our snow play, we heard the honking of this beautiful flock of Canadian Geese. They just couldn't quite get into a v-formation before disapearing out of sight.

So when our fun was done, I had Charming gather Grace & Rose. And since this too became a game, this is the only photo I could somewhat clearly get of my Charming husband. (Funny how he looks like he's the one that came from Southern California, all bundled up from head to toe)

After dinner I just had to take a look... and although it was beautiful to see sparkling snowflakes fall in the night sky, I knew that this was not a good sign for Charming's morning. It was supposed to continue to snow through the night and a second storm was supposed to hit in the morning. Ah well, such is life during winter out of Southern California.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas On The Move

Could it be one of Santa's little helpers?

Charming, the kiddles and myself were on our way back home after lunching with family at the Peppermill's Cafe. We decided to take a quick drive past the ice skating rink that had been set-up in Downtown Reno on First Street & Virginia Avenue. Let's just say that ice skating is now added to the list of things that Grace & Rose desperately want to do for Christmas. After explaining that we needed to have the right clothing on (which went in one ear and out the other) in order to go ice skating, we headed home. There were still some crafts that the girls were going to do involving paper, scissors, glue and glitter. As we were driving down the 395, we came upon the rear of this sparkling example of Christmas spirit. At first we weren't sure what was glittering in the back of this pick-up truck. "What does that guy have in the back? Trash?" "I think it's tons of garland." "Trees?" As we got closer, we were pleasantly suprised to see that there were two golden Christmas trees in the bed of the pick-up. And flanking those were some very chilly (it was 32°F outside) stuffed animals along for the ride. I rummaged through the pockets of my jacket and purse...grabbed my cellphone and feverishly tried to get the camera function set. (I didn't think I would be needing a camera when we were just going out to lunch) "I have to get a picture of this!" You would think that the little girl inside of me had just seen Santa Claus himself. As we pulled along side the truck Charming & I both noticed that Mr. Claus was at the wheel with Mrs. Claus right beside him. They even had on red cowboy hats with white fur trim! At this point the girls were done with the truck, but Charming & I were still enjoying immensely. I wondered "Where are they heading? Do they deliver gifts to children?" And then I thought, "I hope we see them again one night." The site of that truck all lit up with those lights once the sun goes down must be such fun. I can only imagine...

White Christmas & Holiday Inn


Not only is White Christmas one of my all time favorite songs and movies, but it was originally sung by Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn. And being that we are all out shopping and decorating for Christmas, the vocals of Bing Crosby are so ideal for chiming in the Christmas season. Listen, watch and enjoy!

The old Hollywood Classics are my favorite movies to watch this time of year...and it doesn't hurt that Bing Crosby is one of my favorite crooners. If you have never watched Holiday Inn (shown in the video) or even heard of it, then head to the movie supplier of your choice and invest one evening into some old Hollywood magic. There is just such a classic air of romance that sets them apart and makes them truly "Classic Hollywood". The plot behind Holiday Inn is very similar to that of White Christmas...just a few changes here and there. But Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are such a brilliant pairing that it really doesn't matter.

White Christmas Bing Kaye

After Holiday Inn, throw in White Christmas...Bing Crosby (again) and Danny Kaye are so wonderfully partnered-up comically & musically. Gotta love'em. Great music, great chemistry in the casting and such a heart warming tribute to the Army service members...Oh I Love It! It immediately makes me think of my Grandpa Ron, who served in World War II, and all those other brave men & women who fought in those days...and those who are serving now.

This just so happens to be one of the funniest dance numbers that I had ever seen Crosby & Kaye do...it makes me laugh every single time. (They're trying to give the real Haynes sisters a head start out of town.)

One of the choreography scenes...the "Minstrel" number.

My husband, a.k.a. Charming, could do without all of the choreography, but I kinda like that artsy stuff. (he just complains, rolls his eyes and/or sleeps through it all)

Hmmmm...I think I know what movie I'm going to watch tonight as I sift through presents to start wrapping & shipping for Christmas. And since Charming & the kiddles don't like my classics, I'll have some time to myself!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Purpose of The Valleys

"God wants to build our faith in the valleys. We love the mountaintops...but in the valleys we build our faith. When we come face to face with a dark valley, we get on our knees." ~ The Purpose Driven Life

This quote taken from The Purpose Driven Life stared me in the face every time I went into the kitchen during the month of March. I would glance over at it, read it and then not really take the time to contemplate it's truth. Whenever life is at it's "best" and there doesn't seem to be anything that urgently needs "fixing", it seems like my prayer life is far less active. Why is that? How come I'm not praying and giving thanks as much during the "rosey" times in life? And what a shame that is.

One evening, as I was washing the dishes and listening to my in-laws play Wheel Of Fortune with my little kiddles, I finally took the time to look over, read and think about what that simple statement meant. It was SO true. The times in my life when it seems like I can't control events that unfold, I sprint to the foot of God's throne and pray like there is no tomorrow. Up until I had my own family, it wasn't always like that. My prayer life was consistent, my devotional time was firmly set for 10p-11p every night and it seemed like I was constantly communicating with God.

These days it seems like I rush through my prayers and don't give thanks as much as I should for all of the little things that I have. (although I have been making more of a conscious effort to give thanks) Faith building never seems to be fun...seriously. But it's not when everything is going so peachy-keen that my faith is tested and strengthened. It truely is when I look around and feel like there is no other place to go but to God for help. And the help always seems to come in at the 11th hour...just when I want to throw my hands up and say, "forget it!" But God always comes through...even though it is usually not in the manner that I would have liked Him to work things out. He still has always taken care of me. And for that I am eternally greatful.

He is my Rock and my Shield for all time. That does not mean that I look forward to the valleys though, but I do understand their purpose.

Confession: I still love the mountaintops. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Golfing Tips From Daddy At The Driving Range

My hubby, Charming, had found a great deal on some golf clubs for our 5 year old Grace. And insisted that we make the purchase...I didn't fight him on it at all. I knew that this meant that it would create Daddy & Daughter Dates...which I fully encourage. Well, we went as a family for Grace's first trip to a driving range. The location: The Grand Sierra Resort's driving range This driving range is set up with incentives...
As you take a swing at your little white ball you cross your toes (because your fingers are a little bit busy at that moment)... You follow the white sphere as it flies in the air and over the water (yes, I said water)... You hold your breath in hopes that it will manage to make its way to one of the floating islands (yes, I said islands)... And as it glides along its path, you can't help but shout out, "go, go, GO!". There's a barrel just waiting for someone to get a ball into it to win a prize. (like a burger from Johnny Rockets)
But perhaps you are one of the fortunate few that actually see your ball making its way to the furthest island...the one that rewards you with a trip to HAWAII if you get that covetted hole in one. Have we ever won that prize...ah, nope. But we can still hold onto the hope of doing it. :) On this particular trip it was more about a few minutes of instruction for Grace...with a TON of little white golf balls waiting to be driven into the fence, down the slope and into the water.
While Daddy & Sissy were practicing their swings...the hunt for dandelions was on.

Did she win any prizes? Ah, no. But she had a TON of fun. Next lesson...stance.

That's my little golfer girl!

Monday, April 6, 2009

ATTENTION ALL SKIERS: The Sierra Snow Is Calling!

If you have missed the amazing snow that the Reno/Tahoe area has received this season...you better get into your car, plane, train or jet as quickly as you can. If you're able to, teleporting would be highly recommended. The ski conditions have been fabulous for the Sierra ski resorts this Winter and so far the Spring skiing hasn't been anything to sneeze at either. This past weekend the Sierras received a nice 2-3 foot unloading of snow from the clouds as they passed through. It left me wondering when Spring was actually going to be allowed to show itself. Well, Spring will have to wait. And there is another weather system that is due to hit next week, sometime between Monday and Friday (April 12-16). How can I make this perfectly clear as to just how perfect the snow has been? Well, let's just say that our snowpacks have finally received totals from 95-99% of the average this year! So grab your snowboard, your skis, your sled, your snow shoes...perhaps even a snowmobile and head on up before the ski season closes. The Chatty Mom Pick: Grand Sierra Resort ~ This season Grand Sierra Resort has the best ski packages available, starting at $75 per person. Package includes $60 in hotel credits! Take your pick of 11 ski resorts including Squaw Valley USA, Alpine Meadows and Mount Rose. Based on Double Occupancy. 2 Night FREE with Sunday - Wednesday Arrivals* All ski packages include your choice of $20 Food Credit, $20 Bowling Credit and $20 Fund Quest Credit OR $30 Food Credit & $10 Free Play *Restrictions Apply To All Offers. See website for details & to customize your package.
Ski Season Closing Dates
Boreal: This Sunday, April 11 (Open 9am-4pm) Official Site Adult Lift tickets are only $47 Teen (13-18) $39 Child (5-12) $15. Tubing - for only $25. Mini Tubes for kids under 42" are $15. Diamond Peak: This Sunday, April 11 Official Site A GREAT resort for kids. They even offer an Interchangeable Parent Pass for only $49! Lift Tickets: Adult (18-69): $49; Half Day $38 Youth (15-17 must show ID): $39; Half Day $30 Child & Senior (7-14 & 60-79): $18; Half Day $14 6 and under, 80+: FREE Homewood Mountain: This Sunday, April 11 Official Site ONLINE SPECIAL: Adult Ski Passes Mon-Thurs $39; Fri-Sun $49 Lift Tickets: Super Senior (70+): $15 Senior (62-69): Mon-Thurs $25; Fri-Sun $35 Adult: Mon-Thurs $45; Fri-Sun $55 Teens: Mon-Thurs $35; Fri-Sun $35 Child (5-12): $10 Child (4 & under): FREE! Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe: April 18 Official Site SALE! - Purchase Tickets Online! ($7-$29) Lift Tickets (at window): Adult (18 - 64): $65; Half Day $50 Senior (65-74): $45 Super Senior (75+): $19 Teen (13-17): $45 Child (6-12): $19 Child (5 & under): FREE Northstar-at-Tahoe: April 18 Official Site Lift Tickets: Adult (23-64): $84; Half Day $74 Young Adult (13-22): $74; Half Day $64 Child (5-12): $32; Half Day $27 Senior (65-69): $74; Half Day $64 Super Senior (70+): $32; Half Day $27 Parents Predicament (interchangeable): $84 Sierra-at-Tahoe: April 18 Official Site Lift Tickets: Super Senior (70+): $20 Senior (65 - 69): $43; Half Day $36 Adult (23 - 64): $69; Half Day $59 Young Adult (13 - 22): $59; Half Day $49 Child (5 - 12): $17; Half Day $15 Child(4 & under): FREE Parents Predicament: $69 Alpine Meadows: Full operations until April 18; Limited operations until May 16 Official Site Lift Tickets: Adult (19-61): $69; Half Day $54 Teen (13-18): $52 Child (5-12): $15 Senior (62-69): $52 Super Senior (70+): $20 Heavenly Mountain Resort: April 25 Official Site Lift Tickets: Senior (Ages 65+): $71 Adult (Ages 19-64): $83 Teens (Ages 13-18): $71 Child (Ages 5-12): $46 Sugar Bowl: April 25 Official Site Lift Tickets: Super Senior (70+): $5 Senior (60-69): $56; Half Day $44 Adult (23-59): $66; Half Day $54 Young Adult (13-22: $56; Half Day $44 Child (6-12): $20; Half Day$15 Child (5 & under): FREE Active Military: $33 Kirkwood Mountain: April 25 Official Site Lift Tickets: Purchase Online Option Super + (70+): $19 Senior (65-69): $49; Half Day $39 Adult (19-64): $74; Half Day $59 Junior (13-18): $59; Half Day $47 Child (6-12): $9 Squaw Valley USA: May 9 Official Site All day and afternoon tickets include FREE night skiing and riding when night operations are in effect. Lift Tickets: Senior (65-85): $20 Senior (65-75): $55; Night $15 Adult (19-64): $83; Half Day $62; Night $22 Youth (13-18): $61; Night $15 Child (12 & under): $10; Half Day $10; Night $5