Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Perfect Night for a Fire Pit

On Friday, Youngest Son surveyed weather, date, and occupants of the house and pronounced it a perfect night.

A perfect night for making a fire in the fire pit.

Weather - clear and cold.  Mom can, therefore not make the excuse "too wet" or "too hot."

Date - no school in the morning.  Mom can, therefore, not say, "No fire pit on a school night."

Occupants - no older siblings home.  Therefore, no all-knowing brothers to be telling Youngest Son how to build a fire, tend a fire, or put out a fire.  No smugly confident older siblings to criticize the accidental burning of marshmallows, sparks on the deck caused by over-zealous stoking, or an entire 2-weeks worth of newspapers crumpled and added to the blaze.

No, altogether a perfect night for a fire in the fire pit.

The building and tending of a fire is a wonderful, earthy experience.  Bringing out all the primal feelings of joy in the ability to put together gathered wood (okay it came pre-wrapped from the local market), set it to burning (yes, we were helped out by the Diamond Match Company),

nurse it through its fitful starts and stops and then through much blowing and poking and arranging and sighing suddenly come up with a magical source of warmth to all around its circle . . . holding forth against the 33 degree air at our backs.

Of course there were marshmallows and gooey fingers, faces that got too hot and backs that got too cold, smoky hair and eyes that got red and teary.

And when the discomfort of the gooeyness, heat, and stinging eyes overcame the delight of the stoking, roasting and warming hands, we all headed inside and sipped home made hot cocoa and agreed with Youngest Son.

It really was a perfect night for making a fire in the fire pit.

Home Made Cocoa

Pour the following ingredients into a blender. 

4 cups of whole milk (sorry, but if you want the full, decadent flavor, you've gotta use whole!)

1/2 cup of sugar

3 teaspoons of vanilla

5 tablespoons of cocoa (I used Hershey's)

Blend away on highest speed. The frothiness this creates makes the beverage even more delectable!

Pour into a pan, heat to desired heat, serve to adoring children and/or adults . . . or yourself!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Quiet Kind of Contentment

It's gone.

And I'm ever so glad it is!!

By the time Christmas had blown in and out and the ball had dropped and all the plans for the new year were put in place, the only thing I wanted in the whole world was for Christmas around the house to be gone!!

Really strange, actually, because when those same decorations came out last year, my heart melted over them.  I sat charmed and dreamy on the sofa, looking at twinkling lights, antique paper chains, and wreaths stuffed with all matter of natural materials.

This year, it just never felt right.  Tree too big.  Antique paper chain getting a little shabby, gaunt garland several years past needing replacing.  Pieces falling out of the wreath.  It all seemed tired and spent and secondhand from the moment the boxes were cracked open.

Christmas was fine.  Christmas was good.  It's just that I felt rushed and the house felt incomplete and the people that came for Christmas were Christmas-ed out upon arrival, after having already had 4 Christmases with various sides of their own families to attend.  And they tried, they really did.  But, actually, if you've already had Christmas 4 times and everyone has wanted it to be the absolute fun-est day of your life and the nights get longer and the desserts get richer, when you get to Christmas #5, you just might be yawning and you just might have your eyes glazed over and you just might be not quite so perky.

It's not their fault.  It's not my fault.  It's just life.  And life doesn't always look like we want it to.

Some Christmases are charming and fresh and warm and your heart hurts and your toes tingle and you find yourself floating around with scraps of overplayed Christmas songs humming through your head.  And other Christmases just feel a little . . . flat.

I'm learning to be okay with that.  That there can be a quiet kind of contentment, even in a Christmas that is a little less than . . . in every way.  There are bigger pictures, deeper fulfillments.

So, it was with a little too much gusto that we lit a fire, put on Peppermint Winter, stripped those trees bare and unceremoniously yanked off the garlands.

And while children dismantled (the decor that is!!), I heated up a skillet and got to work on hot Spiced Apples, to complete the comforting feeling of clean floors, order, and fresh starts.

Tart, thick wedges of very green Granny Smith apples, butter browning in the pan, and heavy sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Okay . . . there's sugar in there too!!

And then as those apples gave in and yielded themselves to the caramel-y buttery-ness, the house filled up with smells that could fool you into thinking a juicy pie is baking.

The storage boxes were eventually filled.  The wood floor strewn thickly with Frasier fir, swept.  Furniture scooted back into its familiar places.

The feeling of a fresh start hanging in the air . . . along with the heady scent of apples and spices.

And I'm reminded that the joy of life isn't in the perfection of a dreamy Christmas but rather in the never-changing faithfulness of my Father.  His mercies new every day.  His provision complete.

And if the year starts with a delicious plate of Spiced Apples too . . .well, all the better!

Spiced Apples

1/4 cup butter
6 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 3 pounds)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt butter in large skilled over medium high heat.  Add apples and remaining ingredients.  Saute' 15 to 20 minutes or until apples are tender.  Serves 6

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I love the idea of picking a word for the year.

I do not in any way think that it has any magical quality about it, and I would be quite unsurprised should I pick the word "feast" one year and find myself put on a green bean and water diet.

But I love the idea . . . the focus.  The urgent heart cry of where I want to be.

Sunday I had big things to contemplate

As I sat snuggled in my pew between Youngest Daughter and Youngest Son and soaked up the last remnants of the book of Ruth.

And the final refrain that would not go away

Was that my satisfaction is found not in shooing all troubles away

Not in figuring out all mysteries

Not in locking in to a way of thinking that will keep my mind always at rest.

But rather that my satisfaction and peace is to be found as I focus on glorifying Him.

The reason I was created.

It seems very backwards.

I want to glorify me.

I want to make sure I'm taken care of and get the love and attention I'm sure I need.

"Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all will be added."

It was a change of focus.

And it gave me my word for this year.


I want to learn what that is this year.

What does it look like in my life to glorify Him . . . for me . . . for now?

It's a word to give focus to my days for 2013.