Saturday, August 07, 2010

Running a Business

Did you hear about the county health inspectors who shut down a 7-yr-old's lemonade stand because she hadn't paid for her $120 temporary restaurant license? Later, the county chairman apologized and instructed health dept officials to "use professional discretion" in enforcing the rules. A city commissioner, however, defended the enforcement of the regulations.

My friend Glenda was notified not to bring homemade treats to an upcoming pastors' wives' retreat. Too dangerous, y'know, for those pastors' wives to bring cookies that haven't been inspected by the government. About 15 years ago, my nephew's school (in the same state) required that all cupcakes for classroom parties be purchased at a bakery and arrive at school in a sealed container. That was to Protect The Children. But see how it's expanded! The government will guard everything that goes into your mouth. Homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies -- too dangerous. McDonalds fries and Pepsi -- perfectly okay.

The nanny state has run amok. And we have a President and lawmakers who claim they support small business. Sure they do -- so long as the person providing the service jumps through every hoop and pays for every permit before starting a mini-business.

Paul's Viper

In Acts 28 we read what happened to Paul after they were shipwrecked on their way to Rome. The kind natives built a fire to warm the weary, wet crew and passengers. When the poisonous snake attached itself to Paul's hand, the natives said that he must be a murderer and, although Paul had lived through the storm and shipwreck, obviously justice was being meted out through the snakebite.

"No doubt this man is a murderer..."
A murderer? They didn't suspect him of theft or political rebellion. They said "murderer." Paul indeed had been a murderer many years earlier.

Then Paul shook the snake off his hand. He suffered no ill effects from the snakebite. And the natives concluded he must be a god. In a way, they weren't entirely wrong.

Luke writes that "no harm came to him." No harm [that is, permanent harm] will ever come to those who are in Christ.

Today's Laugh

Friday, August 06, 2010

Do Not Worry About Your Life

Pastor's on vacation. Gary is preaching on Sunday. He says the last time he preached this text was nearly three years ago. It is the invitation from Jesus to rely on Him for all our needs (Matthew 6 or Luke 12).

Thirty-five months ago we had no septic. We weren't supposed to be using the water in the house. If we did, we had to dispose of it by carrying it outside and dumping it. After a few weeks of this, some wonderful and generous homeschooling friends got together and provided a night for us in a hotel. Do you know what hotels have? Showers. Toilets. Sinks with running water. And DRAINS on all of those items! Such a helpful gift! Such love shown in the giving of the gift!

When we came home that evening in late September, the evening was cooling off and it promised to be a chilly night. We discovered that we were almost out of fuel. No propane for the furnace or for the water heater or for the stove. For the next two weeks I had to cook next door at church and wash dishes at church. And we had to boil water on the church stove for washing ourselves up.

And that was the weekend Gary last preached on this particular pericope.

A lot of memories.

But as Staupitz said in the Luther movie, "We preach best what we need to hear most." God grant that it be so.

Garden Report

Fungus continues to attack the tomatoes, but most of the fruit (so far) continues to grow and ripen. A few tomatoes succumb to blossom-end rot. I should be making salsa, but can't seem to get to canning with the deck a driveway repairs, the conference we attended this week, and some house re-arrangements in anticipation of next week.

It is not good to flood a garden. Your green bean vines may decide to grow mold. But hey, they were getting near done bearing anyway. The beans in the raised bed should be ready for harvest in another week or so. I wonder if it's okay to throw moldy vines into the compost heap? I have to keep telling myself that, as long as we have a stocked grocery store, it's far better to have had the garden flood than to have suffered the basement floods that so many people had.

I hope it won't do the potatoes any harm to stay in the ground for a week or so after the vines shrivel and die. I'm not going to get around to digging them until next week or the following week. There are a LOT more potatoes in each hill, and they're much bigger than last year. Chalk up one for old wive's tales.

The variety of blackberry I planted is weird. The canes want so badly to grow horizontally, right smack along the ground. That makes for very dirty berries when ripe. But the size! Oh my goodness! Some of those blackberries are nearly as big as my thumb! And oh-so-sweet! It seems that the vines are more willing to be vertical (or at least off the ground) as they've been in the ground longer.

The hubbard squashes are growing and looking good! There's fungus on the sole zucchini plant, too, but it's managing to limp along. (And with zucchini, you don't want it going like gang-busters! "Limping along" is just fine.) There's a volunteer vine coming up where the spinach was. For curiosity's sake, I didn't weed it. It now has fruit and appears to be a Delicata Squash vine (a small heirloom winter squash I planted last year). On the topics of volunteer plants and fungus, it's interesting that the volunteer tomatoes coming up in the compost heap are not speckled with evidence of the fungus.

The basil is growing like crazy, thick and tall and bountiful, but I still can't grow any cilantro this summer.

The carrots are finally showing evidence that they exist. I've been planting and replanting since late March. Hooray! We may eat some after all!

Today's Laugh

Two Arabs boarded a shuttle out of Washington for New York. One sat in the window seat, the other in the middle seat. Just before takeoff a fat little Israeli guy got on and took the aisle seat next to the Arabs. He kicked off his shoes, wiggled his toes, and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, "I think I'll go up and get a coke."

"“No problem," said the Israeli. "I'll get it for you." While he was gone, the Arab picked up the Israeli's shoe and spit in it. When the Israeli returned with the coke, the other Arab said, "That looks good. I think I'll have one too."

Again, the Israeli obligingly went to fetch it, and while he is gone the Arab other picked up the other shoe and spit in it. The Israeli returned with the coke, and they all sat back and enjoyed the short flight to New York.

As the plane was landing, the Israeli slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.

"How long must this go on?" he moaned. "This enmity between our peoples ... this hatred ... this animosity ... this spitting in shoes and peeing in cokes?"

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Zucchini Boats

We all know that you can blink in summer, and your tender 6" zucchini will suddenly gain enough length and weight to intimidate a football. After the near-constant rain and flooding recently, I squished my way through the wetness to the garden, and found zucchini-on-steroids. Well, really, now, what did I expect after three days of ignoring the garden?

Zucchini boats are good for cleaning out the fridge of leftovers and using up fresh produce from the garden. The guts of the boats are similar to what might go into stuffed green peppers: tomatoes, hamburger, rice or bread crumbs, some of the vegetable shell.

This time I happened to have one thawed chicken breast in the refrigerator, so I used chicken instead of beef. I had a cup of leftover mashed potatoes, two cups of leftover rice, and some home-made bread that turned out not-so-hot [oh, I'm SO embarrassed!!] which lent itself to being hidden in the boats. I also had about 12 ounces of leftover marinara sauce.

You scoop out the pulpy middle of the overgrown zucchini. Depending on how big the zuke is (thus, how edible the middle is) you could chop up the middles, or you could have a nice little zucchini or two to chop up for the boat-guts.

It's best to par-boil the empty boats for 3-5 minutes. If you do, the stuffed boats will cook in about 20 minutes. If you don't par-boil, you'll have to put foil over the boats as they're cooking, and bake them for 40-70 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the zucchini shells.

Saute the onions, peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, meat, etc, until nearly cooked. Add your cooked rice or your croutons. You may wish to add shredded cheese to the mix, or lay cheese slices on top of the boats in the last 5 minutes of baking. Spice appropriately; we like Italian seasonings: salt, pepper, basil, oregano, garlic.

Fill the boats with the veggie-guts. Bake in medium oven until hot and zucchini is tender. Add cheese at end if desired.

Today's Laugh

A property manager dies and soon finds himself standing in front of Saint Peter. Peter tells him, "You have a choice of going to heaven or to hell, and I suggest you check them both out before deciding." So he chooses to check out hell first.

He goes down to hell and finds himself in the middle of the biggest party he has ever seen. People are dancing and drinking and doing the limbo (and nobody's doing the Macarena!). Everyone is laughing and having a great time.

Next Saint Peter takes him up to heaven to look around. Everything is white and pristine. People are speaking softly about philosophy and mathematical formulas. Others are simply contemplative and serene. He's bored in about five minutes. Saint Peter then says to the property manager, "I want you to sleep on it and meet me back here in the morning to let me know your decision."

The next morning he comes back and says to Saint Peter, "Heaven is very nice and all, but hell looks great, so I've decided that I want to go to hell." So Saint Peter puts him on the escalator down to hell.

When he gets there he sees Satan whipping people and there's fire everywhere and everyone is screaming in pain. So he goes over to Satan and says, "Hey, what gives here? Yesterday I came here to check the place out and everyone had me partying, and it looked like a great time. What happened?"

Satan looks at him and says, "You used to be a property manager so you ought to know the answer to your own question. Yesterday you were a prospect. Today you're just another resident."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Soap Mold

Soap molds tend to cost a fortune. But it's a major disincentive to me to mold soap in the ends of frozen-juice containers, or to prep (and later, clean) the plastic box I've been heretofore using as a soap mold. I lucked into finding ONE soap mold (instead of a whole kit) and it was just the right size for the batches I make (3# of Crisco, 6 oz lye, 12 oz water).

It's so easy to grease the mold with Vaseline. So easy to cut the bars: just slice into slightly stiffened soap with a 3" putty knife. So easy to remove the soap when it's fully set: loosen the wing nuts and let the sides of the box fall right off. So easy to wash the flat pieces in the sink. So easy to reassemble the mold for the next batch.

With the hand blender and the new mold, making soap is no longer a dreaded chore, but quick and simple.

Today's Laugh

Manufacturer's instructions on products

On the Clorox disinfecting wipes container: Not to be used as a baby wipe or for personal cleansing.

On a baby stroller: Remove child before folding stroller.

On a bar of soap: Use like regular soap.

On a frozen dinner: Serving suggestion – defrost.

On a hotel-provided shower cap: Fits one head.

On a package of bread pudding: Product will be hot after heating.

On children's cough medicine: Do not drive car or operate machinery.

On a sleeping aid: Warning – may cause drowsiness.

On a kitchen knife: Warning – keep out of children.

On a string of Christmas lights: For indoor or outdoor use only.

On an airline packet of nuts: Open packet, eat nuts.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Faith Quote

Faith is always believing WORDS that experience tells us are not true.

-- from Pastor in Bible class last week

Joy Quote

If we seek joy for its own sake, we will not find it.
If we seek Jesus, we shall be engulfed and inundated by joy, and quite by surprise.

from "A Little Book on Joy" by Matt Harrison (page 9)

Today's Laugh

The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street. I was crossing with a blonde co-worker of mine when she asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?"

Monday, August 02, 2010

Prayer Against Our Enemies

I have long been confused about how "praying against our enemies" fits with loving our enemies and forgiving those who spitefully use us. The psalms are full of prayers against our enemies, calling down God's wrath. While David, king-to-be, is hiding in the desert from King Saul, David prays that God would destroy his enemies. And yet, David has compassion on Saul, and refuses to lift his hand against God's anointed king even when he twice has the opportunity to reach out and easily kill Saul.

Finally, Pastor gave me the missing piece of the puzzle: "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6). Oh, so it's the demons and the anti-God forces we pray against. Oh. Of course. It is okay to love those who are filled with hatred and destruction; it is okay to pray for them; they are souls for whom Jesus died. (This may sound like a no-brainer to you, and I suppose it was for me too. But when people tell you to hate God's enemies and pray against them, and use Bible passages as back-up, I was unable to respond coherently. It was nice for Pastor to clarify how it all fits together.)

Ah, Fudge

The leftover evaporated milk from last week's fudge-attempt sat in the refrigerator, begging, "Use me! Use me! Use me to prove to yourself that you can make fudge!"

So, before it spoiled, I indulged the little jar. (Me? NO! Don't you say, "Silly girl, you indulged yourself!" That would just make this whole venture, like, selfish, instead of, y'know, helping the little jar of evaporated milk to take pleasure in serving its neighbor. Yes, indeedy.)

I carefully tested the boiling candy in icy water without trusting my lyin' candy thermometer. Turned out that the candy reached softball stage at a whoppin' 225 (as opposed to the 236 that the thermometer should register for softball stage). No wonder the last batch was so terribly overcooked!

We let the fudge cool. Then I beat it. And I beat it. And I beat it some more. Hey! This should take a few minutes. But 30 minutes is NOT "a few minutes." And still the fudge refused to stiffen. Suddenly, we realized that a thermometer that's reading low would have lied to me about when the fudge had cooled enough to be beaten. Uh oh. When I had blisters on both hands from stirring and stirring with the wooden spoon, I quit.

How do you fix fudge???

I found loads of very unhelpful answers on the internet. But I did learn that it's not good to make fudge on a humid or rainy day.


Given that my fudge had made a feeble little attempt at stiffening, and given that I knew the weather was a contributing factor in my failure this time, I decided to try something, anything. I buttered the sides of a fresh saucepan. I transferred the candy to the pot. I added 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. I heated the candy and let it boil for another couple of minutes. I let it cool again. And when I beat it, this time the gloss dulled and the candy stiffened.

IT WORKED! I poured the fudge into the dish, and it set up nicely. It's smooth and creamy and ... well ... fudgy. Excellent!

Today's Laugh

There's this guy on at bar, just looking at his drink. He stays like that for half an hour. Seeing him so morose, this big trouble-making truck driver steps up next to him, takes the drink from the guy, and gulps it down.

The poor man starts crying.

The truck driver begins to have a little a pity and says, "Come on, man, I was just joking. Here, I'll buy you another drink. I just can't stand to see a man cry."

"No, it's not that. This day is the worst of my life. First, I fall asleep, and arrived late to my office. My boss, outraged, fires me. When I leave the building to go to my car, I found out it was stolen. The police say they can do nothing. I get a cab to return home. Just after I get out of the cab, I remember I left my wallet and credit cards on the back seat. But the cab driver just drives away. I go home, and when I get there, I find my wife in bed with the gardener. I leave home, and come to this bar. And when I was thinking about putting an end to my life, you show up and drink my poison!"

Sunday, August 01, 2010

For Rulers Hold No Terror ...

From the Table of Duties, "Of Civil Government"
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right,
but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?
Then do what is right, and he will commend you.

(Romans 13)

But what Joe the Plumber? The folks in power sure dragged him through the mud. What about the Resistance in Europe during WWII? They had to hide their activities because the rulers were terrifying. Same for Christians in Soviet Russia. And then there's Jesus Himself. The rulers took an innocent man and put Him to death, even though the evidence was clear that He had done nothing wrong.

Our ever-burgeoning mass of bureaucratic codes and laws means that everybody is guilty of breaking some laws, even if we don't realize we're doing it. So we have reason to fear the authorities: Who knows what we may have transgressed?? And then you hear about some of those lawsuits that the judges allow. Kinda scary.

But ...
In Matthew 10, Jesus says not to "fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather fear Him who can harm both soul and body in hell." And Psalm 91 tells us that we will not be terrified if we have made the Lord our refuge.

Ah ha! Romans 13 isn't a promise that law-abiding citizens will never face trouble from their own rulers. It is instead a general principle that you won't get into trouble if you're being a good guy. And more importantly, there is the sure-fire guarantee that the Lord will work for good even when temporal matters don't work out right and even when things are supremely unfair.

Today's Laugh

My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce."

He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.