Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

True Romance June 30, 2009

Filed under: friends,hope,love — Mary @ 9:12 pm

I have this friend who, while I haven’t known him all that long, I know is a very dear man.  Recently he met and then started dating a girl I don’t know first-hand at all.  But I have heard about her through various different trusted sources, and I’ve also heard about her family.  All of it is good news.  By every account this girl and her family are kind, loving and true people.  So it makes me very happy for my friend as I have watched him walk out the door on his first meeting with her and then in subsequent conversations we’ve had about her since then.

I have been honored to have my friend ask me, a married lady, for advice and insight as he’s pondered this relationship, and I am so touched by the care that he’s using as he approaches this whole thing.  I am touched, too, by the careful and respectful boundaries they are setting for one another, within which they hope to continue getting to know each other and finding out God’s will for this budding relationship of thiers.

And you know, it strikes me, that in seeing this happen I sense more out and out romance than just about anything I have ever seen before.  It isn’t lines crossed and passions out of control like we see so much in our culture lauded as true romance.  No, instead I am seeing this man utterly concerned with showing how wonderful he thinks this girl is by handling her as though she is precious and to be protected — and he’s doing it not only out of his admiration for her, but also his desire to honor his Savior.

I won’t go on.  I don’t want to embarrass my friend should he ever run accross this blog.  But really, it’s brought me so much joy considering his good intentions toward this girl today and it has inspired in me a desire to cover and protect them with prayer as they start out on what could be a lifelong journey.

But it brings to mind the quote from Lewis that helped me title this blog:

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I guess that’s some of what makes this all so deep and lovely.  He isn’t aiming for what the world is telling him would be enough to be labeled “true love.”  He’s hoping according to a different standard and that makes his aim more true.

Poorly written tonight, my friends.  But completely sincere.


What a Way to Spend a Day June 29, 2009

Filed under: family,parenting,rambling thoughts,thanks — Mary @ 9:50 pm

This is short and I’m positively flowing over with things to share but I have to use some restraint for at least a few more hours. (Nope, not pregnant…yet.)

However, today I:

Went to the park and swung with toddlers, chased my boy, and helped my niece across monkey bars.

Then after daddy got home, we watched Narnia with our son.  I was Captain Mommy and he was I Boy (we don’t know but it’s his super hero name of choice).  We held drumstick swords and every time a bad guy came on the screen we shot them with our swords.  (That’s what I said.  Stop asking questions and just go with it!)

Then we ate leftover chocolate cake with fudge icing.

Then we sang songs.

Then bed.

It’s been a good day.


3 Easy Breads June 28, 2009

So, my sis-in-law, Michele, made a great New Year’s resolution a few years back: She decided she was going to learn to make bread.  And that girl didn’t just learn to make a loaf of white bread and call it quits.  She learned to make some fantastic artisan breads.  My appetite wasn’t so great for a few months during my mom’s illness and following her death.  But I remember Michele made a loaf of sesame challah that she brought over to my dad’s house on afternoon before Easter and Crista toasted it up for us with butter and jam.  Honestly, it was like mana.  I couldn’t eat enough.  It was so good and I decided then and there that I’d learn to bake bread, too.

The three breads I’m sharing here are some of our favorie staples at home now.  One doesn’t require any kneading at all.  One requires kneading in a food processor or a mixer with a dough hook.  One allows for kneading by hand or with a hook.  All of them are easy, inexpensive and, best of all, delicious!

Tip:  I highly recommend pricing out flour and most especially yeast at a big buy store near you.  One of the no-fee stores near me, for instance, carries 2 pounds of yeast (no joke, 2 pounds!) for less than what I pay for a jar of yeast and about the same price as a set of three packets in the grocery store.  I bought mine a year ago, store it sealed in the fridge, and my little yeasties are still going strong in any dough I make.

No-Knead “Sour” Dough What you need to know about this bread is that you have to plan ahead.  If you want to eat it, start making it the day before because time replaces work here.  It is excellent sliced with butter, dipped in hummus, as a crouton for bruschetta, or dipped in oil and vinegar.  There are lots of variations of this recipe online.  Look around and get some creative ideas!  Mary at uses a different variation from the one I use.

Amazing White Bread (or wheat, if you want!) Trent, over at The Simple Dollar offers a step-by-step-with-pictures lesson on making white bread yourself at home.  You can modify this recipe to include whole wheat flour for something healthier.  I’ve also done this and then added flax meal for additional nutrition and to moisted the bread which can get a little dry with the WW flour.  Let me tell you, there are few things that make my toes curl the way a slice of this bread toasted and then buttered and drizzled with honey can.  Goodness gracious.

One note: if you’re using a stand mixer to knead this dough:  Just knead the dough with the hook for about 4 minutes on setting 2 or 4.  Much more than this can over-knead your dough and keep it from rising.  I had never used my mixer for bread before and found this advice on the Kitchen Aid site itself.  Very helpful!

Home-Made Pita Bread This recipe is the most labor intensive simply because you have to roll out your dough.  But it’s tasty and well worth the effort.  Because there is lots of standing time for the dough, I find that I can have my dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up before the last batch comes out of the oven.  This means I often get to stand at the counter and eat some warm with homemade hummus before I put the rest away as a reward for my efforts.

1/4 oz dry yeast (1 pkg or 2 1/4 tsp loose)
1/2 cup warm water
1 additional cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. additional sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
(you can use all white if needed)

Mix up yeast, 1/2 C warm water and 1 tsp of sugar and let proof for ten minutes.  It will get bubbly.

In bowl of mixer combine flour, salt, 2. tsp sugar and mix on very lowest setting.  Add yeast mixture, oil and water and mix until combined.  Remove mixing paddle and replace with dough hook.  Knead on low setting for ten minutes.  Remove, fold over on itself several times with floured hands and then form into a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl (glass or porcelain is best) and turn over a few times to evenly coat with oil.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until it doubles.  (Anywhere between 1 and two hours depending on the temp in your kitchen! Tonight it took barely an hour.)

Position rack in lower 1/3 of oven and preheat oven to 500.  Punch dough down and let rest 5 minutes.  Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  The best explanation I’ve found for what to do next with the dough is out of an Armenian cookbook my friend Ani gave me:  “Taking one piece at a time, flatten and fold sides over toward the center like wrapping a package.  Seal together on all sides.  Turn sealed side down.”

Let dough rest an additional 10 minutes, covered with a towel or plastic wrap on a lightly floured surface.  Next, roll each piece of dough out into a circle and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake approximately 7 minutes or until slightly golden and puffy.  Cool slightly on racks and then place in a plastic bag for storage while still warm so that bread remains moist.

A REALLY good way to eat this (though I’m not sure how healthy it is!) is to cut pita bread into triangles (like a mini pizza) and lightly fry them up in olive oil or vegetable oil.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and then dip in hummus.  The soft bread takes on the consistency of a savory doughnut.  Delicious!

So there you are.  3 easy breads. Enjoy!


Happy Birthday, Dad June 27, 2009

Filed under: family,thanks — Mary @ 10:10 pm

Tonight we celebrated my dad’s birthday with him, all the way down to chocolate cake with a candle.

I could easily fall right into the most gushingest post about my dad in honor of his birthday and, rest assured, he’d be absolutely worthy of every word.

God has blessed me with the parents he gave me so tremendously it takes my breath away.

Daddy, happy birthday.  If the guys at the seminary hadn’t already started your fan club and if John Terrell hadn’t already elected himself president, I’d have campaigned heavily for the position.  But since I missed out on that one, I’ll settle happily for “just” being your daughter.  You are wonderful and I love you.


United We Paint

Filed under: family,friends,thanks — Mary @ 10:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

My sweet hub agreed to come with me to a United We Paint event that our community group at church was participating in.  If you’re looking for a way to reach out in your community and UWP serves in your area, I highly recomment it.  It was well organized and very fun and, quite honestly, I was shocked at how nice the house looked with two new fresh coats of paint.

The lady who lived in the home where we worked moved into our community in 1939!  She’d lived in that house since 1954.  I just can’t imagine all of the changes she must have seen living in that little neighborhood right down the street from us for all these years.  Amazing.  This whole area used to mostly be farmland and flower fields leading up almost to the shoreline itself.  I wish I could have seen it back then.

There was something especially sweet about being with Ryan doing this today.  I watched how hard he worked at the painting we were doing, going back over spots that needed extra work and kindly admonishing me when he found some areas where I had not paid enough attention.  His kindness and the obvious capability with which he worked as we painted our way along our assigned area rounded out my love for him just a little bit more today.

Love really is a process, isn’t it?  It stretches and grows and fills out and cracks open and fills in again in ways that we can never really anticipate.  It’s beautiful.  I am very thankful to be married to him.


Why I Don’t Have a Garden to Post About June 26, 2009

Filed under: garden,Gardening,ivey ranch,loss,thanks — Mary @ 9:45 pm

Some of you might have noticed that I haven’t said anything about my garden for awhile.  That’s because I don’t have one right now.  As much as it broke my heart, I had to give C10 and B10 up this year.  The drive was getting overwhelming (it could be a long one in traffic), I was having trouble keeping Eamonn interested, and the rates were raised this year. 

Ivey Ranch is extremely reasonable in its rental rates — so much so that it’s almost embarrassing to say we just couldn’t swing them this year.  But, with our budget and because we used the garden plots to save money on food (and therapy!), it financially just wasn’t feasible anymore.  With tearful farewells, I bid goodbye to my plot mates and donated what garden items I couldn’t use anymore to a swee set of German retired couples who had come out to start plots of their own.

The great blessing in this is that I will be starting a new garden this July.  It’s free, it’s within walking distance if I want, and it is in a contained yard where Eamonn is free to run and play.  A very good friend of our family, Murray, has kindly donated the space in his yard to me and even worked to clear out planting room.  I am contractually obligated to pay him in salsa.

So, that’s why you aren’t hearing about Ivey Ranch these days.  I miss it.  But mostly I just miss the folks and some of them I couldn’t have back even if I was still there.


Taco Salad Dressing

I was looking online for a good salad dressing to put on taco salad and I really couldn’t find anything that quite suited my tastes.  So I made one up and we really liked it.  I don’t measure much so what I’m writing down is extremely approximate.  I hope you like it!

Mary’s Taco Salad Dressing

3 good glugs of olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
Dashes (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) of each:
1 tsp chili powder
4 Tbsp medium salsa (we use Trader Joe’s regular salsa when I don’t have homemade on hand)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 or 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste
enough water to dilute the flavor if it’s too overwhelming

It was a good enough dressing that my husband said, “you should make notes on this one.”

I make a lot of things that I forget about later.  I’m so glad he knows me well enough to remind me of such things.

One note:  I really like sour cream but my hub does not.  If I had not had him to consider, I wouldn’t have hesitated to make this a creamy dressing with some sour cream or yogurt.  To accommodate both our tastes, I just added sour cream on the side with my salad and it was really fantastic both ways.  This should keep well too, since there’s enough lime and vinegar to help cure your other ingredients for a bit.  I’ve got my leftovers in the fridge but I don’t think it’ll last long enough for me to figure out its shelf life. 



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