Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Review: Eat, Shrink and Be Merry!

I got an email weeks ago asking me if I'd be willing to review a book on my blog.  Although it surprised me (why me?), I was more than willing to and looked forward to getting the book.

Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! Great-Tasting Food That Won't Go from Your Lips to Your Hips!

I loved it! It was hard to get to the cooking part because I enjoyed the corny jokes so much!  It was written by two sisters (Janet & Greta Podleski) that I believe would be a blast to have a cup of tea with... I think you will enjoy it too - let me tell you what I liked about it...I'll just go cover to cover.

The cover is just what all cookbooks should have....it is easy to wipe clean.  I wish they were all this way. Often, during cooking, I've moved a cookbook to a different counter and accidentally laid it onto something I've spilled while cooking.  No worries here.

Great table of contents that lets you go right to what you need, although you will have to learn to talk their language.  These girls are really funny - here are some examples translations:  Appetizers?  You'll find those under "Hey, Hey...We're the Munchies!" Vegetarian Meal?  "Don't have a Cow, Man!" Dessert?  "A Sweet Carb Named Desire" You get the picture....if you are under 30 and bewildered - ask your Mama.

The page layout is great - each two page spread consists of  4 columns.  The outside two columns each contain a recipe while the inside columns consist of cooking tips, trivia, corny jokes (food related), exercise tips, cartoons, nutrition facts and more.  Although the recipes have silly names (Tuskinny Chicken) right under the name is an explanation (A hearty, one-pot Italian dinner that is sure to become a family favorite).

These are normal recipes that normal people like to cook...and to eat!  No need to run to the nearest exotic store (translate expensive!) and look for strange ingredients.  This is real food....food my boys like to eat! Food I like to eat!

At the bottom of each recipe it lists a "per serving" chart for calories, fat, saturated fat, protein, carbs, fiber, cholesterol and sodium.  The theme of the book is "low fat", but I watch my carb intake.  This chart makes it is easy for me to use.....and will make it easy for others to use who are concerned about cholesterol, their sodium intake and so on.  Sort of a cookbook for all.

Although I haven't read every recipe, I haven't found any use of artificial sweeteners (you know those are very bad for you right?) or pre-packaged junky food items.  How refreshing.  I have declined to purchase so many cookbooks whose recipes consist of open a can of this, a bottle of that, and a purchased mix.  That's not cooking...that's probably more like chemistry.  These recipes avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined foods, trans-fats and sugar...for the most part.  They see these as "anti-nutritional fiends".  How refreshing!

There is a great dessert section - yes dessert!  I think this is what I like the most - this book is about moderation.  It is not a "total deprivation" cookbook (I don't buy those either....I'm southern remember?!). There is a "Died-and-Gone-to-Heaven Chocolate Layer Cake" at the end of the book - I'll be baking that this week.  Jeremy and I have been on the pursuit for a wonderful chocolate cake recipe for about a year now. This one looks great!

There are metric conversion tables in the back for volume, weight and temperatures.  There is a comprehensive Index so that you can look up ingredients - great for finding a recipe so you can use up what is lurking in your pantry.

This is a fun book that I think will appeal to all.  The bright colors, the names that are a play on words, the funny facts, cartoons and corny jokes would probably make this the perfect cookbook for guys. Have a young man you are teaching to cook - this can make it fun.  Young people will enjoy the layout and us... ahem!...more mature types will get a kick out of the trivia and the play on words used so often. Those watching their weight (or fats, carbs, sodium, cholesterol etc.) will find this cookbook makes it easy and delicious to do so.

Anyone who loves good food will enjoy this book - the recipes I've tried have been delicious and I look forward to trying many more!

If you have this book, leave a comment and let me know if you like it.  If you have their other cookbooks let me know if they are as good as this one (I love cookbooks!).  If you'd like to purchase this book just click on the link at the top of the page to purchase.

This was so much fun to do that I will probably be doing other book reviews from time to time....and not just cookbooks.  We are all avid readers in this house...we have bookcases in almost every room. Perhaps, as I get through the stack on my nightstand, I'll share what I liked, or didn't like, about some of them.


UPDATE: I was just informed that you can get a two for one deal here.  Christmas is coming!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Last Political Post...I hope!

I received a comment on my recent posting of Obama videos.  I was responding in the comment section but thought twice about it and decided to address it here.  This will be the last political post...well, unless something wild happens.  Everyone has opinions - and we are all entitled to them.  But this is my blog and it isn't about politics.

First, the comment by Zoe:  please note I removed the links that she included - for various reasons.
Okay, I’m sorry, but I have to debunk what I can of this. This is outright slander and libel.

1st point: Barack was born in Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama Sr, a Kenyan and lapsed Muslim, professed Athiest and to Ann Dunham, an American. Barry is a nickname of his.

Dunham married a man named Soetoro and moved to Indonesia. There is no proof he attended a “muslim school” Soetoro is described as very Western in his beliefs.

I find it odd that people are so willing to smear Obama’s ties to whomever, or whatever, and yet rarely bring up George Bush’s ties to the bin Laden family or McCain’s ties to G Gordon Liddy, one of the masterminds behind Watergate who kidnapped journalists and sent them to mexico, planned to bomb a building, and planned to have another journalist murdered. They also can’t seem to offer hard evidence. But I can.

This is why I don’t like conspiracy videos - they appeal to the layman who might not know much about the subject and make it seem plausible. However, they fail to offer it to someone who has the means or the expertise about the subject, who could debunk it (9/11 conspiracy theorists immediately come to mind). It’s dangerous, hive-mind tactics that are frighteningly effective.

Now, the African American comment I found down right racist. His father was African, and he’s an American. Alright, what’s wrong with that? A black person here in the states, regardless of parental origin, still faces massive discrimination here in the states. This is the sad truth. You know what is even more sad? So many people are making race an issue when we’re supposed to be beyond that as Americans.

Oh, and Obama’s connection to Odinga?

Odinga, for lack of a better term, was attention mongering.

Again, I take no sides, but I stand up for truth and this video is nothing but lies and fear mongering in my opinion. It is outdated and invokes a racist and xenophobic tone I am ashamed to say I noticed right away.

If there was a similar video about McCain, I would be doing the same thing.

It’s late, I can’t do the 2nd video. Forgive me for the novel and please do not take offense at my humble rebuttal.

My response.

First of all - I have removed your links.  Some were from what I considered unreliable sources, such as Barak's books, and others were not actually related to the statements made...close but not the same.

I will address this and then close this political discussion - this is not a political blog.  We all have our opinions and I am not asking you to agree with me.

Obama's birth certificate is being called into question - even by members of his own party.
Why doesn't the man simply provide the document in person - instead of an "image"? It would certainly put the rumors to rest and seems a reasonable thing to do.  By not doing so, he is funding the rumor mills himself.

In one of Obama's books he talks about the fact that he attended both Catholic and Muslim schools - although he says his mother was not as concerned with the religious aspects of his schooling as she was with the fundamentals.  We all know that the teachings we are exposed to influence us...whether we realize it or not.  This is especially true the younger we are...

I agree completely about Bush and McCain - unfortunately our media doesn't lay it out like it should.  Anyone who thinks we have an open, honest and free press today is living in the past.  The evidence is there as you said...people need to turn off the T.V. and search for the truth - it won't be fed to you on the evening news.

I agree - race should not be an issue.  However, politicians and newspeople will never let that die.  It benefits both to constantly stir the stick in that pot.

Your "source" for Obama's connections to Odinga were in reference to an email hoax.  Not applicable here. However, at the very least, his connections and what he did for Odinga show a great lack of judgment and discernment.  Something our next president needs.  At the worst, well....

Odinga may have been attention mongering but Obama was involved... regardless of how involved or for what purpose it was poor judgment on his part.

His relationship with, and the fact that he considered his "pastor", Mr. Wright, a close confidant, shows more lack of judgment.  Mr. Wright's teachings are horrific...talk about racist!  And to sit voluntarily under those teaching for years....beyond believable.  And if you think those teachings had no influence, or if Mr. Wright's close personal relationship had no influence....naive.  He left that church only under great public pressure.  And to state that he never happened to be there when these vile things were being "preached"....give me a break!

Obama is a socialist.  His ideas are pure socialist ideology.  His "plans for the future" violate many aspects of our constitution...he is, in my humble opinion a dangerous man who would bring our country to it's knees.  It matters not whether he is black, white, mixed or pink and purple.  Color has nothing to do with it - it is his "vision" for the future of America that is dangerous.  Redistribution of wealth is only the beginning of the damage that Obama could do.  I will never vote for a socialist.  Socialism is an experiment that has been tried over and over...it always fails...althought the elitists at the top get very wealthy and powerful...the common people, like you and me, always suffer.

Zoe, just so you know...I don't like Bush - didn't vote for him.  Don't like McCain - wouldn't vote for him either.  I loved Ron Paul.  I worked on the Hill many years ago and he was one of the few men there that I thought was honest and had integrity.  I do not want to elect a politician.  I want to elect someone who will actually support and follow our Constitution.  Obama certainly won't - he's already promised us that...neither will McCain.

In truth, I believe that who wins is always determined by our Father - for whatever His purpose whether it be blessing or judgment upon our land.

"And he changeth the times and the seasons; He removethkings, and setteth up kings; he giveth wisdom unto the wise,and knowledge to them that know understanding. He revealeththe deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness,and the light dwelleth with him."                     ( Dn  2: 20-22 )

"Thou, O king, art a king of kings, for the God of heaven hath given

thee a kingdom, power, and strength, glory.”

( Dn  2: 37 )

"13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold,

a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven. 14 He cried

aloud, and said thus….. 17 This matter is by the decree of the

watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the

intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in

the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and

setteth up over it the basest of men."

"25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling

shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee

to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of

heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know

that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and

giveth it to whomsoever He will. 26 And whereas they

commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom

shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known
that the heavens do rule."     ( Dn 4: 25-26 )

"31 While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice

from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is

spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 32 And they shall

drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts

of the field; they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven

times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High

ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He

will." ( Dn 4: 31-32 )

"Then saith Pilate unto him: Speakest thou not unto me?

Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have

power to release thee? Jesus answered:Thou couldest have

no power at all against me, except it were given thee from

above. Therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the

greater sin."                                         ( Jn 19: 10-11 )

Now, dear readers, I consider this discussion closed...although you are welcome to send comments, I most likely won't publish them if it is an attempt to continue this debate.

I will add this suggestion on how to pray for this election...and we should all be praying...fasting also!
Prayer Guide for the Election
Begin with Heart Preparation:
Come into God's Presence with Worship.
Thank God for his great mercy and many blessings.
Ask God to extend his mercy to us and to our nation.

Pray for the upcoming election -

1.    Those running for office nationally:

Instead of praying for specific candidates or political parties - Pray that the person of righteousness, the person of God's choosing, would be selected in every congressional district, every senate race and for the office of President.

Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs

2.    Those running for office at the state and local level:

Pray that the person of righteousness, the person of God's choosing, would be selected in every elected office at the state and local levels.

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the
people groan. Proverbs 29:2

3.    Those voting:

Pray that each person voting will be convicted to vote for the person of
righteousness, the person of God's choosing, in each elected office and in
each ballot initiative. Pray for God's Presence to overshadow each person
as they make their decision.

The Spirit of the Lord will be upon him - the Spirit of wisdom and
understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge
and of the fear of the Lord - and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he
hears with his ears; Isaiah 11:2-3

4.    Those involved in the election process:

Pray that every official involved in the election process would serve with
honesty and integrity of heart.

The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.
Proverbs 11:1

5.    Those praying:

Pray that God would empower intercessors and people across the nation and
around the world to call out to Him day and night in extraordinary prayer
during this season.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem
a Spirit of grace and supplication.  Zechariah 12:10

6.    The Church:

Pray that the Church would be fully awakened, engaged and empowered during
this critical season. Pray that we would understand the urgency and importance of this election and the implications for the advancement of God's purposes in our nation and around the world.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7

7.    Our nation:

Pray that God's plans and purposes for our nation would be established
during this election season. Pray that we would be a nation who follows
God and is a blessing to the nations of the earth.

Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10

It is time to get back to the normal business on this blog - which will start with the next post...join me for my first book review...I'll be posting a short review of a cookbook called "Eat, Shrink and be Merry".  I think you'll enjoy it!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jew or Gentile....this man is dangerous!

This sent chills down my spine.  I believe, personally, that if this man is elected to office, it will be God's judgement on this nation.  And we are well deserving of judgment....it is amazing to me that He has stayed His hand this long.

Please take the few minutes necessary to watch this...it is eye opening.

Part 2

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saving Basil Seeds

Saving Basil seeds is easy!  After the plant produces those pretty little white flowers along the stems at the top, you will see them began to turn brown and form circles around the stem.

Here is a stem that is ready to harvest for seeds.

I pinch my thumb and forefinger together over the base of the stem and slide them up the stem over a bowl.  All of the seed pods will drop into the bowl.  You  might want to wear gloves if you are going to be doing a lot....blisters will form!  You also will want to wear gloves if it bothers you to have stained fingers for a day or two.

Here is what came off of the stem above....note the stained fingers!

You can then, if you are only saving a few, break open each seed pod like so:

Out of each seed pods comes:

Pretty little basil seeds!

If you only need to grow a couple of plants you are done...however, I like lots of basil and grow quite a bit.  I also grow to sell.  Each spring I contract with people who want their garden starts to be organic.  They tell me what they want and I start all of their plants for them.  I also grow herbs to sell.  I need lots of seeds!

So, if you need more seeds,  keep placing the seed pods into a bowl until you are done.  I ended up with a lot!

Now, the thought of cracking all of those seed pods by hand was a bit daunting.  Who has the time?  So, what I have done over the years is to put them into a zip lock bag and either smack them with a meat mallet or use a rolling pin.  This year I opted for the rolling pin.

I roll over the bag many times.  Then I begin to dump the contents of the zip lock into a mesh strainer over a bowl a little at a time.  Don't put in too much...or you will make it hard to do the next step!

Begin to gently shake the strainer or tap it against the bowl.  I sat and had a pleasant conversation with my Mom while I shook this strainer.  When you aren't seeing any more seed drop...dump the strainer (save for the compost bin!) and add some more.  Keep going until you have worked your way through the entire bag.

The fruits of your labor will begin to gather in the bottom of the bowl.  I ended up with about 1/3 cup of basil seeds....plenty for next year!

The neat thing about saving seeds, if you do it every year, is that you will be saving seeds from plants that are learning to acclimate to your garden.  Each year your plants will become stronger and healthier.  This shows me that our Father definitely planned it this way!

Yes, it is easier to buy seeds, but why spend the money if you can save your own?  This only takes a few minutes and the rewards are many...saving money, self-sufficiency, better plants next year....go for it!

We've been saving seed from many things...peppers (all kinds), tomatoes, herbs, watermelons, beans (all kinds) and more!

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Last of the Basil

We've been busy these last few weeks finishing up the garden and putting it to bed.  I'll post later about how our garden fared this year but today I wanted to talk about basil.  We use a lot of basil.  I put it in the spaghetti sauce that I make, use it to make basil oil, tincture it and I also add it to many of the salad dressings that I make.  The most popular one is a creamy Basil Dressing.  It is wonderful!  I got the idea from a recipe given to me by a good friend.  Of course, I had to tweak it a bit.  If you've read here long you know I love to tweak recipes!  Basil oil is a wonderful base for salad dressing and is easy to make....and of course there is always pesto!

My goal was to gather the last of the basil and save it for winter use while at the same time saving seeds to use next year.  I thought I'd share with you how to do that.  Today I will teach you how to freeze it for use over the winter and tomorrow I will talk about saving seeds. You should never need to buy basil seed again!

I started by cutting all the basil that remained in the garden.  I sat outside under a tree and cut the seed pods from the plants.

Seed pods on basil plant

As we gathered the plants we laid them across our hammock for air circulation.  This was because we had so many and I didn't want to stack them and end up with a wilted mess and bruised leaves by the time I got to the bottom of the pile.  The hammock provides a nice outside "table" with great air circulation. This picture is the top of a basil plant.  You can see the brown seed pods.

I separated the seed pods from the plants and set them aside. Then I began stripping basil leaves into bowls.  I pull at the stem so I don't bruise the leaves.  You want to handle the leaves as little as possible.  The more they bruise the more essential oil you loose from the leaf and then you also loose flavor and medicinal value (yes! basil has medicinal value!).

I ended up with a lot of basil.  I filled these bowls several times.

Then I very gently washed them in a sink of cool water and laid them on towels to drip dry.  I wash mainly to get rid of the spittle bugs. They dry very quickly.  Again...handle very gently!  I was pleased with the amount we got from the last harvest of the season!

I take the basil and gently pack two cups into freezer bags.  I hate to use plastic (and avoid it most of the time) but I haven't found a work around for this....yet!  I need two cups for each batch of dressing so this makes it easy throughout the winter!  I need enough to get through till April when I will once again have a lot of basil in my greenhouse.  These bags will join the others I have harvested throughout the summer in the "herb" basket of our freezer.

I then take some of the basil and tincture it for medicinal purposes.  Did you know that basil is listed as being beneficial for fevers, colds, flu's, tummy cramps, vomiting, indigestion, and for increasing the milk of nursing mothers?  I keep a tincture on hand at all times.

Basil oil is a wonderful base for salad dressing (as is basil vinegar!) and is easy to make....and of course there is always pesto!  You can also dry basil for culinary purposes.

I encourage you, if you haven't already, to gather the last of your basil and save it for winter use before the first frost.

Join me for my next post on saving basil seeds!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Class - what fun!

I had SO much fun with this last class!  It was very full so space was tight as you can see.  I had students from Tennessee, Virginia and Florida!

[caption id="attachment_891" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="My students!"][/caption]

Everyone worked hard and we accomplished a lot...even though we traveled down a few rabbit trails!

We all took turns peeking at the olive oil to make sure it was ready to make a maceration....

Passing the herbal cheese and crackers....about half-way through the afternoon we needed a snack!

Here we are getting ready to make a poultice...the herbs are ready!

[caption id="attachment_896" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Listening attentively!"][/caption]

Learning the fine art of folding a poultice.

Every time I teach a class, I try to find some aspect to improve.  Up until now, I only demonstrated making a tincture.  This time I  had several herbs available so that my students could choose one that would benefit them and make their own tinctures to take home.  After spending a few minutes preparing the herbs that they chose, they passed around the vodka to fill their tincture bottles.  Labels, dates and they were good to go!

In addition to the tinctures the students made and took home, they also made Chamomile tea (and drank it!), Lavender Lemonade (drank that too!), Horehound cough syrup (each student took home a jar) and Lavender salve (everyone took home a tin).  Although they worked hard and listened attentively, there was also lots of laughter and fun.  I heard some great stories and got to tell a few tales on myself.

I found out that one of my students, Aggie, and I attended the same high school for two years.  We didn't know each other back then but what a small world we live in.  I really enjoyed meeting her and look forward to a deeper friendship if they end up settling here.  This is the one of the benefits I see with my classes, I get to know my students, end up corresponding with a great many of them and have developed some really close friends!  Of course, I'd like each and every one of you to move here!

After the class, I called the boys and they began breaking down the tables, putting chairs away and cleaning up.  My two Florida students, who willingly submitted themselves to be guinea pigs for my Bed and Breakfast experiment, pitched right in cleaning up and doing dishes. Julie worked up my bread dough to make dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls for breakfast while I whipped up a Pineapple Coconut Chicken Salad.  In the meantime, Elijah took Kay and Pam (our guinea pigs) on a tour of the farm.  Knowing Elijah and how thorough he is, I shudder to think of all that they were exposed to.  I believe they sampled some apples from the trees, a few figs and actually took a tour of the shop where the boys are incubating eggs.  Here on Stonewater Farm, Elijah leaves no stone unturned....if you come for a visit and ask for a tour you better bring your walking shoes!

I had asked Pam and Kay to share supper with us and Julie stayed to do the same.  We had a long leisurely meal while we got to know each other better.  Julie brought her famous Apple Cake...YUMMY!  Pam and Kay were a bundle of fun.  They have sweet spirits and wonderful testimonies.  How delightful to get to know these sisters in Christ.  Believe it or not, they came armed with gifts for Julie and I....wonderful, huge jars of orange blossom honey from Florida!  My favorite honey!!!

After the meal, they helped clean up just like family!  We got them settled in the "Cardinal Room" (my that sounds official!) but we really weren't ready to stop visiting.

Although Julie needed to head home, the three of us ended up in my personal sitting room and visiting for another few hours...what sweet fellowship!

Next morning, we had a lovely breakfast.  They asked for something light, so there was home churned butter for the fresh baked banana bread along with cinnamon rolls, hot tea and orange juice.  Again we got to visit, share and pray together.  They have really spoiled me.  I loved the B&B experience with them but realisticly I know that it won't always be this much fun.  Although I will always enjoy having guests in my home....this was more like having your best friends come for a visit.  Yup!  I'm spoiled.

[caption id="attachment_900" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Pam & Kay"][/caption]

Pam and Kay! I miss y'all already.  I want to thank you both for your encouragement and the blessing you both were to me....y'all come back now...y'hear?

Now, it's time for me to scoot...I'm terribly behind on email and comments - if you are waiting to hear from me, I'll do my best over the next couple of days to get caught up.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Class, new friends, blessings and more

I'm sorely behind on emails, responding to comments and more!  I've been busy getting ready for the Basic Medicinal Herb class that I am teaching here on the farm this Saturday!  I plan to take plenty of pictures and bring you a nice long post about that day.  We are also going to be using two lovely ladies as guinea pigs delving into the world of providing a Bed and Breakfast stay!  If these two ladies survive and are happy with our efforts, we may be doing more along this line...we'll all let you know!  Brave souls these ladies :)  I am looking forward to making new friends on Saturday...can't wait till class!  This sweet lady will be joining us for class and staying for dinner with our guests.

I had a WONDERFUL surprise last week.  I had just finished canning the last of the jalapeno peppers and was getting ready to can tomatoes when a friend of mine called.  She was "in the neighborhood" (she's a realtor so she is on the road a lot) and wanted to stop by for a bit.  Now this lady is more like family so the fact that I was wearing my "farm clothes" for canning and my house wasn't exactly in tip top shape (did I mention that I was canning?)  didn't bother me.  But, being the stinker that she is, she didn't tell me the whole story.

When I opened my door she wasn't alone, she had a couple with her....a thousand thoughts raced through my mind. "Yikes, look what I'm wearing...how does the house look...am I a mess from being in the kitchen?" "Did I list the farm for sale and forget?"  "Does someone want to buy a farm and Sue hopes mine fits the bill?"  "Is this part of her family?"  and so on.  She said to me, as she was giggling uncontrollably, "I just thought I'd bring Marci and Michael by."  Well, I didn't know why she was bringing them by but that was fine by me, so I invited everyone in.  Seemed like something was up because Sue kept laughing but I, evidently being very slow on the up-take, wasn't getting it.

As everyone was coming in, this lovely lady said to Sue, "She isn't making the connection..".  Oh, boy...I'm thinking...no I'm not getting something that everyone else knows.  So, this lovely lady, re-introduces herself.."I'm Marci...of Amazing Graze Farm!"  Oh. my. goodness.  Marci was standing in my kitchen!  I did what any good southern woman does...I screamed and hugged her neck!  Probably a couple of times!  I was so excited to finally meet this lady that I have enjoyed online for so long.  Blogs and email are nice but this "in person" stuff is great!  We had a lovely visit, I got to hear all about the wedding, and they were looking for farms in our area.  Now I know they are looking in other areas too but I am choosing to ignore that piece of information and hope they buy that lovely little place up the road that just went up for sale :)  Thanks Sue, for bringing them over and surprising me (I will get you back)!

After they left, I had an awful thought...I didn't even offer them a glass of sweet tea!  Marci, you will just have to come back for another visit ....I owe you a cuppa tea!

And lastly, our Father has been blessing us again..this one is a doozy and I'll post about it soon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The truth

In the last 10 years, church life for us has been a struggle.  Not that we didn't love the pastors, or the people. It was the traditions that I was having trouble with.  Traditions that I couldn't find in the Word.  As I teach my boys, the Word must be our "plumb line".  If it doesn't measure up to the Word, then we toss it.  This goes for movies, books, habits, choices...and even churches.  I saw way too much money going for buildings, salaries, programs while I knew there were members hurting, hungry and in need of help.  What about the plumb line? How was it being justified?  I saw women in leadership, with young children, overwhelmed at their responsibilities...and the pressure was on that the "business of the church" was the most important. What happened to the teachings in Titus?  I saw people sitting in "pews" who were living lives that blatantly contradicted the Word...blatantly! Yet, they were given leadership roles.  I saw youth groups that exposed my children to the very things I was trying to protect them from by homeschooling because they wanted to "reach out" to the unsaved youth of the community....without requiring them to change. Did you know that 75 years ago youth groups were open only to the youth of the church?  Oh, they reached out to the unsaved but the weekly meetings focused on discipling the youth of the church.... and helping them to grow in their relationship with our Father.  It just didn't add up.

When I ventured to ask about some of these things I heard excuses such as "lifestyle choices", "can't pry into their business", "need to cover church expenses so we can keep operating", "programs are important", and so on and so on ad nauseum.  What I saw was that the American church "system" (for the most part) is built upon the traditions of men....and doesn't look at all like the description of a New Testament church.  Please don't take this to mean that I think all churches are bad...I know that there are many wonderful churches doing things the right way....I just couldn't seem to find one.  Everywhere we went it was "business" as usual.  I really mean that....the church system in America had turned into a business.  Follow x.y.z pattern and you should get a.b.c. results.  No wonder the world sees nothing different about us anymore.  We have collectively reduced our Father to a heavenly vending machine!

In the last 10 years, I have come to believe that the "Christianity" being practiced by the American Church is not at all what Jesus taught or modeled.  It was a long and painful process to get to that belief.  I held onto my Christian traditions tightly....but they just didn't measure up to the plumb line.  That may offend you but I can't find the picture of the typical American church system anywhere in the Word of God.  I am sure that my opinion will not be a popular one.  That's ok.

At the same time I have been going through the above, I have had this question burning in my heart because of the Thalassemia..."who am I" ?  Where did I come from?  Who are my people?  I didn't lie awake at nights because of this but I pondered it often.  I felt that my Father was wooing me down a path but I really didn't know where we were going.  Again,  a matter of trust. So we have been reading, learning about what church was supposed to be like, studying feasts and festivals and digging into the Word as a family...searching for His truths.

I was on the phone with my brother one day and told him we were thinking about trying to celebrate Shabbat.  We wanted to try that....sounded like heaven to me...great food, lots of family time and no work....lest you misunderstood that readers I said NO WORK.  What's not to like about that?  (By the way, it was a wonderful celebration!). My brother was asking me why (think about it...why would a woman who has been a Christian for 30 years be interested in celebrating a Jewish holiday!).  I explained my theory to him.  I told him that I thought there was a good chance that we were German Jews...I went through the whole story about our ancestry and the Thalassemia and the history of the settlement of Prussia, what I found in searching records from the Holocaust.  I also told him about the DNA testing that I fully planned to do someday when I had money to spend.

Mark was very interested.  He asked for more information and links.  He did his own reading and called me back to tell me he had ordered the DNA testing kit!!  Woo Hoo!  I was really excited.  He kept me informed when he got it, what he had to do and when he sent it off.  Then he gave me the links and passwords so that I would be able to look for the results when they were posted on the website.  I checked everyday.  EVERYDAY....for weeks!

And then they came!  As I read, my heart began to pound....I began to understand....my theory proved to be true!  I am Jewish....not only that but they can actually tell you what tribe and who your oldest known relative was (don't ask me how....but they do...and they explain it to you but it's very technical DNA jargon).

Our oldest known relative was Aaron, brother of Moses.   If I was to introduce myself to you as a Jew, I would tell you that my name is Chaviva bat Avshalom, daughter of the tribe of Levi, child of Yahweh, the most high God.

I felt like I had come "home".  I am, however, still trying to understand "home".  I have an entire heritage, a history of a people, customs and more that I am ignorant of....it will be a steep learning curve.  I feel like a toddler in a grown up body suddenly enrolled at college....what a lot to learn and I am way behind. Oh, how I would love to spend time with Messianic Jews, to glean, to learn more quickly...to understand.

The boys and I are continuing our Torah study, studying the holidays and trying to learn more.  Lest you worry, I have not fallen into the sector of the Hebraic roots movement that places people back under the Old Testament Law.  Jesus is the only way to our Father and He paid it all, took all our sins upon Himself on the cross at Calvary.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.  He is our righteousness.  It is a gift from the Father, not of works, so that none of us can boast.

However, I have studied enough in the last 6 to 8 months to know that there is a flavor and richness that is missing from our faith if we do not understand our Hebrew roots.  We have just cracked the door to understanding and the taste is sweet as honey.  We crave more.  It is a long way to the nearest Messianic assembly so we will have to content ourselves with our online studies and pray that our Father will place Messianic Jews in our path that can share with us...teach us some of the Jewish customs and their meanings.  Until then, we muddle through as best we can.

We would love to hear recommendations of books, links to websites or any other information that you, my dear readers, can share if you are further down this path than we are.  I've added a new category to my sidebar, Jewish Roots.  I am sure I will blog on this from time to time as we learn more so it is best to have a place to file the posts for those of you who are interested.

Oh, and one more blessing...at the same time we were going through all of this, our Father saw fit to direct our paths to a new church....whose goal is to operate exactly how the Word says a group of believers should operate.  It has been an exciting journey and our Father has been gracious and merciful to us.  That will have to be another post in the future.

L’Shana Tovah!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Theory

I spent a lot of time pondering over the years about where we got our Thalassemia.  It was brought to mind with each pregnancy (7 in all!) as I wondered if this child would also be affected.  We certainly didn't look Greek (the most likely guess according to Dr. Stam).  When I started studying Prussia I learned that it became the immigration destination for many people from Israel.  Seems that massive persecution was happening in Israel and many were fleeing.  Hhhhmmmm.....could my ancestors have immigrated and then kept their heritage a secret?  The idea fascinated me and thrilled me at the same time!

I looked back on my life and realized that I had always had an interest in Israel and all things Jewish.  I had  attributed that to two close friends of mine during high school....one was Jewish but her family wasn't active in their faith and my other friend's father was an Orthodox Rabbi.  I spent a lot of time in their home.  It was always fascinating to me...especially Shabbat....no electricity, many rituals, they even took the light bulb out of the frig!  And their children drank wine during the meal....wine! I then remembered that most of my papers in high school and college had to do with Israel or the  Holocaust. I have always had an interest in Israel and the Jewish people.

I began to do some research on my maiden name....turns out that many with that name perished at Auschwitz and other concentration camps....next to the listing of their name was the word "Juden".  Another piece of the puzzle?

About 20 years ago, I bought my first book on learning about the "Biblical Holidays".  I put it on the shelf.  I always meant to use it but you homeschooling Mom's know how that can go.  I usually either pass on or sell curriculum that doesn't work for us or we don't use. I never was comfortable passing it on.  Why?

As I began to consider all of these things, I began to wonder if we were Jewish. If, perhaps, our ancestors fled Israel because of persecution and settled in Prussia, keeping their faith a secret.  Could they have kept it so secret that even their descendants didn't know?  About a year ago, I came across some used books on Jewish feasts....I bought them and did some reading.  I found my Biblical Holidays book and the boys and I began reading.  If I was  Jewish, I thought perhaps I should try to learn more about the Jewish faith.

About 6 months ago, a dear friend who was considering missionary work in Israel told me about an online Torah Study being led by a messianic Rabbi.  The boys and I decided we wanted to participate.  It has been fascinating!  Jesus and the disciples were, after all, Jewish.  Learning more about their faith and customs has greatly enhanced my own faith. I have learned that the Jewish feasts are such a clear reflection of Jesus as the Messiah.  I have also learned that by going back to the original Hebrew, many passages became much clearer....or their meanings were actually totally different than what I had been taught.  Jeremy and I have had many of those "aha!" moments.  Strong's and Zodhiates have become very good friends to us as the boys and I have studied.  We often stop the transmission so that we can look things up and double check what the Rabbi is saying.

This same friend sent me a link to a place that did DNA testing.  They were working on something called the DNA Ancestry Project.  Looked interesting but I couldn't afford it.  It went on my "someday" wish list.

And then, one day, in the middle of a phone conversation, an exciting thing happened....

Stay tuned to find out how my theory proved out ;)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Look what turned up at our farm

I'll get back to my story tomorrow...I just had to show you what showed up here on our farm.  This little fellow was spotted in our garden last week.  Our garden was such a mess (a post for another day!) that although we saw him, we couldn't catch him.  However, yesterday afternoon we were working to clean up the garden and he turned up again.  We chased him again till we caught him.  I use the "we" word figuratively.  I assure you the boys were having a wonderful time chasing him while I watched safely from a distance....like in the yard on the hammock where nothing of my body touched the ground....while I promised the boys that I would never step foot in the garden again.  I assure you I have improved....before I came to the farm I believed that the only good snake was a dead one...I may have mentioned this before.  I now believe that there are good snakes...as long as they stay out of the yard and garden.  A woman has her limits!

This guy is now living in the barn so he can eat all the mice that my boys say we are being overrun with...more about the mice problem below.  I think it is a creative ploy to keep a "pet" snake in the barn. Dear readers, I have to go in the barn!  Frequently!  What's a mother to do?

Then these three little cuties arrived....look at that boy and tell me if you could have said no.

The calico has a name, Lily.  The others are still waiting for theirs.  Three kittens, three boys....what are the odds?  The boys are busy convincing me that we are struggling with the rat/mouse population and thus we need all these additional kitties.  I hope they are good at catching said mice because I can't afford to feed them all kitten chow!

Speaking of said mice.  I don't have pictures of this next critter.  We had a young couple from church to dinner last week.  We had a lovely meal and played some board games as we got to know them better.  Good food, great conversation and lots of laughter - the perfect evening.  (Never believe this until your guests are in their car headed home.)

As they were gathering their things, I let the dog out the door.  We stood there chatting and saying good bye when I let the dog back in the door....Jeremy said (way to calmly in my opinion) "She has something in her mouth".  I am thinking great, what embarrassing thing did she drag in...until she dropped the furry gray thing and it RAN UNDER THE CHAIR! RAN UNDER THE CHAIR, PEOPLE! In front of our company....these were city people who long for a country life...at least they did till they came to my farm....not sure how they feel now that they watched our dog "fetch" a fat and furry gray mouse and deliver it to the middle of our living room!

It was great "fun" watching the boys grab gloves and try to catch the mouse.  I don't think it was moving very well - perhaps the result of being in a dogs mouth for a few minutes. They did finally catch it or I would be writing to you from the safety of a lovely hotel room!  I would have taken pictures of all of this but I couldn't reach my camera from the chair I was standing on....do.not.laugh.  I do not like mice confined in small spaces...such as...oh.... any type of building.  Perhaps a leftover reaction from the ten million times I read  "A Mouse in the House" to Elijah or maybe it is because of the time a mouse ran up my leg and was headed for my face....I survived....just barely!  Now, I have decided that a chair is the safest place to be when confronted with a mouse in the house.

Perhaps the kittens are a good idea after all....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Mystery Deepens....

Let's take a brief look at Grandma's family.  Now, Grandma was a beauty....albeit a country beauty.  Here she is with her sister Ruth.  Grandma is on the left.  They either loved each other or hated each other - you never knew from day to day and that never changed their entire lives.  Sort of a can't live with her/can't live without her situation.

With this next picture,  I have finally found proof that farming is in my blood and just perhaps......just perhaps....I am related to the Clampetts....of Beverly Hills.

Grandma is the beauty all the way to the right...evidently at some point she was in the "can't live with her" period and scratched her sister's face off of the photograph...I.kid.you.not.  I love how the hound dogs were held by my Uncle Ray so that they were included in the picture with the family.  And these were their good clothes?!  Must not have been wash day! They were dirt poor....back then you gussied up a lot if you were gonna fork over money for a picture.  Frightening isn't it?

The really scary part?.... I'm related to these people.....sssshhhhhhh!

Here's Grandma on a better day....with her husband...not long before his death.

As I began to put all of this information together, I began to wonder about the Thalassemia.  It is not common to people from Germany.  I began to ponder about other possibilities and then began looking into the history of Prussia.

What I found amazed me and I developed a "theory" about where the Thalassemia came from. For years I wondered about my theory...but without any means of proving it...until now!

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