Friday, December 12, 2014

On the Nature of Sin and Faith - Terry Pratchett

I've been re-reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld books - two of my favorite, thought-provoking quotes are these gem from Carpe Jugulum:

"...There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin, for example."

"And what do they think? Against it, are they?"

"It is not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."

"Nope."

"Pardon?"

"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

"It's a lot more complicated than that--"

"No it ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."

"Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes-"

"But they Starts with thinking about people as things…"

and

That’s people for you. Now if I’d seen him, really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. 

If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ’em like a father and cared for ’em like a mother . . . well, you wouldn’t catch me sayin’ things like ‘there are two sides to every question’ and ‘we must respect other people’s beliefs.’ 

You wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgivin’ sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, ’cos that’s what it’d be. 

You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just . . . is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbors.”


She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice: “Anyway, that’s what I’d be, if I really believed. And I don’t think that’s fashionable right now, ’cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say, ‘oh deary me, we must debate this.’ 

That’s my two penn’orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don’t chase faith, ’cos you’ll never catch it.“ 

She added, almost as an aside, “But, perhaps, you can live faithfully.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

The 2015 Planner



I love planners. I love lists.

I love pretty pages in a notebook.

Back in the day, I would buy several planners each year - a small planner for personal dates that would live in my purse, a junior sized weekly/monthly planner for business items that would live in my attache (or backpack, depending on which office I was in) - and a large calendar for home that I would scribble entries onto each week.

This was not the most streamlined system, but it worked.

Once we entered the computer age, I stated experimenting with electronic versions of planners. From Outlook calendar reminders to my Palm Pilot (those were the days) to the various apps that abound now. But they are limited - and not very pretty.

I like visuals - I like to see the sweep of events - I like pretty pages.

So I started making my own organizer pages - pretty pages based on the classic daily/weekly/monthly calendars I had spent so many years working with. And I tweaked them to my own needs.

I made them pretty and colorful!



This year, I will share them with you.

I am offering a printable version of my Daily Planner for sale at my Meylah shop - and I will share free printable add-ins on Blooming in Suburbia over the next few weeks time.

These pages are meant to be printed and inserted into a letter-sized (8 1/2 x 11) binder. I use a simple binder from Staples - but fancy binders can be fun, too!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christmas Gifts Worksheet - FREE Printable


I like to make lists. I like pretty worksheets and cute reminders.

I like to make organizing my home and my finances and my life a beautiful task (when possible). 

Here is one of my Christmas Planner worksheets - just click on it and print it!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Breakfast Feast


Thanksgiving morning is a hectic time - roasting the turkey and preparing all the wonderful side dishes takes a lot of work and concentration! So how do you serve your family (and maybe those out of town guests?) something special and holiday-delicious? By preparing everything a day (or two) ahead of time!

My Thanksgiving breakfast menu includes an assortment of miniature muffins, crock-pot oatmeal with "fixings" on the side, a savory quiche, and an assortment of seasonal fresh fruit. I like to serve this buffet style, with pretty dishes and flowers. Coffee, tea, cocoa and juices round off this special tasty feast!

Pumpkin Mini Muffins

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a smidge more to taste)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned)

Method
Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease mini muffin tins (or you can use standard muffin tins, yield 12)

Sift or stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl. Stir together the wet ingredients in another bowl.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until moistened - about 15-20 strokes. Do not over-mix muffin batter or the resulting muffins will be small and hard - a few lumps are ok!

Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full (they will rise a bit).

Bake 15-20 minutes until done (skewer inserted into muffin will come out clean if done).

(Yield 24 mini muffins)

These spicy muffins are tiny preview of the desserts to come after dinner! I love to serve muffins on a tiered stand, with small side dishes of butter, cream cheese and jam for my hungry eaters to choose from!
   
Applesauce Mini Muffins

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a smidge more to taste)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup applesauce (I use my homemade applesauce!)
Optional: 1/2 cup raisins,1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Method
Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease mini muffin tins (or you can use standard muffin tins, yield 12)

Sift or stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl. Stir together the wet ingredients in another bowl.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until moistened - about 15-20 strokes. Do not over-mix muffin batter or the resulting muffins will be small and hard - a few lumps are ok! 

Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full (they will rise a bit).

Bake 15-20 minutes until done (skewer inserted into muffin will come out clean if done). Cool and serve with butter or jam or other goodies.

(Yield 24 mini muffins)

Crock-pot Oatmeal is the ultimate in make-ahead deliciousness! I like to add in various dried fruits for variety - experiment and learn what your family likes!


Crock-pot Oatmeal

Ingredients
1 cup steel-cut oats (NOT quick oats!)
4 cups water
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup maple syrup OR brown sugar
1 Tbs butter
1 Tsp Cinnamon
Optional: 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries, 1 cup diced fresh apple

Method
Combine all ingredients in your crock-pot. Cook on "LOW" for 8 hours.

Serve with milk or cream. I often offer a selection of "toppings": raisins, dried cranberries, copped nuts, shredded coconut...whatever your family loves!

(Yield 4 servings, this recipe easily doubles)

This is basically a Quiche Lorraine, without the fancy name. I like to add in random bits of veggies to my quiches, or try different combinations of cheeses and meats - some minced ham with Swiss cheese and mushrooms, or bacon with cheddar and tomatoes - don't be afraid to try your favorites! 

Breakfast Quiche

Ingredients
Pastry for 9-inch crust
4 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked and finely minced ham or cooked and crumbled bacon
1 cup mixed diced vegetables (I use onions, mushrooms and tomatoes - you use what your family loves!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Method
Preheat oven to 425F. Fit pastry into your pie pan. Some people like to pre-bake their crust for quiche, but I don't like to ass steps.

Beat the eggs with the cream. Add the other ingredients and stir well.

Pour into pie pan and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300F and bake an additional 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middles comes out clean.

If serving immediately, let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. If making this ahead, let cool thoroughly and wrap in foil before refrigerating. (If you do not cool before wrapping, the quiche will get soggy!) This quiche can be gently reheated in a warm oven.

If you are going to use a "wet" ingredient (zucchini, tomatoes, etc), try sauteing it first to release the water - otherwise the quiche might not set. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

GOALS and PLANS: 2015

Its that time of year again!

No -  not Christmas time - not yet, anyway...

Its time to plan for 2015. Because if we fail to plan....

 
2014 has been a tumultuous year - some of my goals were met, some of our plans were  changed to meet new circumstances and challenges. But our process has always been the same - year after year.

Evaluate - Decide -  Plan -  Execute -  Re-evaluate as needed

Over the next few weeks, I will share our process - and my tools!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reasons to Be Thankful - a Free Printable

Sometimes we need a little prompt to remember the blessings in our lives, our reasons to be thankful in this season of Thanksgiving... here is mine...printable cards that I keep on my table to fill out (or hand out to a loved one as a prompt) when I feel the need for a reminder!

Free Printable!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top 10 Oatmeal Stir-ins to Make Breakfast Special!


I love oatmeal for breakfast in the colder months - warm, filling, and so darned healthy! We buy rolled oats in bulk (think 25 or 50 lb sacks) - which makes for a frugal breakfast (and ensures I have enough oats for baking treats as well).

But plain oatmeal? Sorry, doesn't do it for me. I like to jazz mine up with various stir-ins.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to make oatmeal special!

1 - Pumpkin Spice: this is a treat! Stir in 1 Tbs pumpkin puree, 1 tsp maple syrup, a few drops of vanilla extract, and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice to taste.

2 - Chunky Applesauce: this is my regular standby. I stir in a heaping Tbs of my homemade chunky applesauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

3 - Cinnamon Raisin Maple: stir the raisins into the oats as they cook. I use about 1 tsp per 1/2 cup of uncooked oats. The raisins will plump as they cook. A sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup (the real think, not the pancake topping stuff) make for a comforting start to the day.

4 - Peaches and Cream: I freeze peaches in the summertime, and noting is sunnier on a blizzardy day than stirring little chunks of peachy goodness! I usually add a drizzle of honey and a splash of milk or cream.

5 - Raspberry Jam: stir in a tablespoon of raspberry jam for a sweet treat. When I was in England many years ago as an exchange student, raspberry jam stirred into my porridge was an essential start to the day!

6 - Blueberries: stir 1/4 cup or fresh or frozen blueberries and a splash of milk. I sometimes add a tiny drop of almond extract and a dash of honey for an extra special treat!

7 - Classic Cranberry-Orange: stir in 1/4 cup of cranberries and a splash of oj for a unique breakfast twist! Only have craisins? Cook them along with the oats, just like raisins!

8 - Creamy Banana: I like banana slices in my oatmeal...but I love creamy banana even more! Blend 1/2 banana with a splash of milk so its thick and creamy, and stir into the oatmeal.

9 - Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: this is more like dessert, but once in a while it makes a nice treat. Stir in brown sugar (to taste) and chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, whatever), add a dollop of heavy cream, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

10 - Tropical Delight: stir in shredded coconut, small pieces of mango and pineapple, and a spoonful of brown sugar.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spicy Pumpkin Pancakes Recipe


Spicy Pumpkin Pancakes Recipe

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice (you can use 1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon and allspice)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

Method

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Lightly spray a griddle pan with oil OR melt 2 tsp butter on the griddle pan on medium-low heat. Keeping the pan on medium-low heat, heat the pan until a drop of water "dances" and sizzles away. Use a measuring cup or a scoop to drop pancake batter onto the griddle. Cook until the pancake is dry at the edges and there are little bubbles all over the top - then carefully flip over with a large spatula. Continue to cook for another minute or two til the pancake is done.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.


I love to make these as silver dollar pancakes for children...drizzle with maple syrup and for an extra special treat drizzle on a little Salted Caramel Sauce as well!

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