Friday, September 21, 2012

A Thought about Individualism from Romans

For those that don't know, I grew up in Alaska. It's a great place, and one of my favorite things about it is how free the people are to be themselves. I think individualism became a kind of ideal for me, and perhaps it's a state of being that is easy for me to idolize. I can tell because whenever people try to lump me in some generic group, my entire being screams out to correct them in some way. I want to be in a category by myself--I don't mind being associated with people as long as it's clear that I'm different in obvious and important ways. (This is how I feel when I'm idolizing my individualism.) 

I started thinking about this again this week because Paul and I started doing a Biblical Counseling (as in, learning how to do it...) small group at our church, and this last week's lesson stepped on my individual toes a little bit. Or at least I thought so at first. 

Within the lesson was an exercise thinking about our relationship with Christ, the assets he brings to the relationship, and the "assets" that we ourselves bring -- and how they are really not assets but liabilities. I understand this. I don't have a problem believing that everything good about me that I bring into a relationship can also be a bad thing. 

But if all Christians bring nothing positive into the relationship and if Christ fills all, then do we all have the same identity in Christ? (Here my individuality gasps for air.) After meditating on Christ's work in us, I am satisfied that we do in fact, still all have an individual nature. 

In Romans 8 (which I have recently finished memorizing) it talks about how our bodies are sold under sin--it is our physical nature, which is still in bondage to sin, that makes our assets into liabilities. But when we put our faith in Christ, he gives us his Spirit (a sort of down payment on the full redemption to come)--so that although our body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness--his righteousness. This is the same righteousness he gives all his children. And we aren't perfect right now, but we await (with eager longing) our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. This will be the completion of our salvation. 

So that means that our physical bodies, which includes all our quirks of personality, talents, and preferences will be redeemed in the end. They will be made perfect as our Lord Jesus is perfect. And because of that, we will not all be the same! Because of the perfection we will receive when we are reunited with Christ, we will never use our "assets" as "liabilities". And it is this hope that I can long for! (The hope of one day being more completely myself than I've ever been--with all my personality, but being perfect. Never doing the evil that I hate, and only doing and loving good.)

Of course we do not have this now ( one's perfect.) But we can hope for it. If we had it now, we wouldn't be hoping for it. But since we don't have it...but we have the promise of it, we can hope for that day to come, believe in it, and wait for it with patience. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Lime Frosting

Here is yet another recipe that I tried out of the fabulous Chocolate! Cookbook by Kathryn Hawkins. The Man and I rated this cake just as highly as the previous Chocolate Truffle Cake but it probably took me 1/4 of the time to make it! This pretty much automatically makes it better, because I am less exhausted at the end, and more ready to eat cake!

The trick with this cake is that it uses the shortcut of mayo instead of mixing in the fat and eggs separately. Since mayo is kind of tangy by itself, it probably wouldn't work in every cake. But since this cake has a very lime-y flavor simply from the icing, I think it works very well, beside making it easier to make, and incredibly moist!

2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar (I used dark brown)
1 tsp vanilla extract
scant 1 cup cold water
scant 1 cup plain good-quality mayonnaise

3.5 oz white chocolate
1/4 stick unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
finely grated rind and juice 1 lime

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 in cake pan. (She says it should be 2 in. high, but I used my 1.5 in pan and it did ok.)

2) Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking powder together into a mixing bowl and stir in the brown sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the vanilla, water and mayo. Whisk all the ingredients together until they form a thick, smooth batter.

3) Transfer to the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 40 min (or until the cake feels firm to the touch.) Allow to cool in the pan for 30 min.

*note: I saw Julia Child do a cake show once, and once she poured the batter in the pan, she tilted it around so that the batter oozed up to touch the very edge at the top of the pan. This is a precaution for if the cake rises, then tilting the batter around the edges of the pan will help the cake not to sink in the middle when you take it out. I did this with this cake, and it worked wonderfully!


While the cake is baking, break the chocolate and butter into a small heatproof bowl and melt over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Remove from the water and sift in the confectioners sugar. Add the lime rind and mix together. (At this point it should be on the dry side and extremely stiff.) Add sufficient lime juice to form a thick, smooth frosting. Spread over the cooled cake, and decorate with lime rind or slices.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monogrammed Coasters

(the top side)
Until this weekend, we had maybe 2 or 3 drink coasters in our house. I'm not sure why this was, but my husband and I have spent the last three years making soggy rings on pieces of paper and cheap books. And of course, for someone who can knit or crochet, this state of affairs is clearly unacceptable. Or at least, last weekend it became unacceptable to me. So, I made some coasters! I think I put this off for so long because I thought they would be boring to make--no challenge. But I decided to dress up some simple coasters by monogramming them with our last name initial! They were, in fact, very interesting to make, and I think they look fantastic.

(the bottom side)
 I'll make a set of 4 for $10 for anyone that wants them (with any letter monogram!). I think I may start making some of these as wedding shower gifts...coasters are always so helpful and versatile.

How Many?
Monogram A-I
Monogram J-R
Monogram S-Z

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Baby Boat Shoes

I love this pair of baby boat shoes! They're a fun change from the Plain Booties, while still being very gender neutral. This pair is already sold (only $7.00!) But I'm happy to make more. If you order more and pick a color, you can either send me a message saying what you want the contrasting color to be, or I will simply pick something neutral: cream or white, or a different shade of your chosen color.

Small: 0-6 mth
Medium: 3-9 mth
Large: 6-12+ mth


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spiced Molten Puddings

This is another recipe out of the chocolate cookbook that I mentioned in an earlier post. I don't think it turned out as well as the Chocolate Truffle Cake, but I don't think that was the fault of the recipe. I happened to be in Colorado Springs while making it, and (not being used to cooking in altitude) didn't realize what a difference location could make while baking. This recipe makes four puddings, and all but one seemed a bit underdone. I suppose we could have put them back in the oven, but by the time you dump them out on the plate, it seems a bit too late. One of them turned out very much like the picture in the book (though oddly, much darker), but even that probably could have been cooked longer--perhaps it would have lightened some like the one in the book picture. The fortunate thing is that it's an extremely easy recipe, so I hope to try it again sometime soon in my own kitchen and see if that does any better.

My husband and I both rated this a 6.5 out of 10, but that was only because of the consistency of the dessert. We probably would give it at least an 8 for flavor if the outside part of the puddings had been more done. So the take away is: Try it! And make sure they're done before you dump them out!

40z unsweetened or 85%  cocoa bitter chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter (in small pieces)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 tbsp superfine sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp all purpose flour
4 small pieces white chocolate

2 tsp confectioner's sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
light cream, to serve

1) Grease and lightly flour 2/3 cup custard cups or ramekins. Break the chocolate into pieces and place them in a bowl with the chunks of butter. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and allow to melt, then remove from the water and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together until thick and creamy. Whisk in the warm melted chocolate, and stir in the cinnamon and flour to make a thick batter.

3) Divide the mixture among the cups. Push a piece of white chocolate into the center of each pudding. Place the cups on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 6-8 minutes at 450F, until the sides are set but the middle is still *wobbly--insert a toothpick carefully into the center to check that the white chocolate has melted.

4) Immediately invert the puddings onto warmed serving plates and let stand, still in the cups, for 30 seconds before removing. Serve immediately dusted with confectioner's sugar and then cocoa, accompanied with light cream.

(If you want to make the puddings ahead of time, cover them and refrigerate for up to 24 hrs. When you are read to cook the puddings, let them warm to room temperature.)

* A note about the "wobbly" center. I found that it was nearly impossible to tell if the center was wobbly or not. When something as small as a custard cup is as hot as 450 degrees, it's hard to get a good hold on it to give it a jiggle. When I do this again, what I'll do is check that the outside is done--and as soon as that seems true, I'll take them out and hope that the inside is still "molten".

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Plain Booties (S-M-L)

 These are the plain booties. The pink and purple are both the "medium size" which I would probably get for babies between 3 and 9 months. "Small" would be for newborn-3 mths, and "Large" would probably be for 9mth-12+mths. It always depends on the size of the child! The booties come in solid colors, or with contrasting soles, like the small-sized green/teal pair below. Only $5 each!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Edith Nesbit wrote The Railway Children in 1906, which makes one of the earliest children's books I've read. Nevertheless, the story will certainly appeal to children of any generation. The three siblings, Bobbie (Roberta), Peter, and Phil (Phyllis), have to move away from their beloved home into the country. They don't know why this must be; all they know is some tragedy has befallen them and taken their father away. But the move really isn't so bad. There's the railway, where they "wave their love to Father" every morning as the 9:15 went by to London. And there's the station master and engineers and all the friends that they make who are able to tell them anything and everything about the trains.

Perhaps for today's society, the children seem unrealistically good. But if you take into account that they all respect and adore their mother and they all know that she's having a very hard time with their father gone, well...maybe it's reasonable that they put their heads together and tried to agree to get along and stay out of trouble until everything is right again. That's not to say they never fight. But they always make up well and seem very mature in their understanding of their duty. (I like this part about their characters. But it definitely stands in stark contrast to modern stories where children who are disrespectful are portrayed as somehow being brave.)

In many ways the chapters are episodic. One big exciting thing happens in each, and often it ends up being the children helping or saving someone. They save a train from running onto a pile of trees that fell across the tracks. They save a baby from a burning freight boat. They save a boy with a broken ankle who is stuck in the train tunnel. But all this rescuing is interspersed with other fun episodes. Bobbie, for example, gets some train engineers to fix her brother's toy engine. And in another chapter, all the children together plan a birthday party for Perks, their best friend who works at the station, who hasn't celebrated a birthday in years because he "has the kids and the missus to keep." (The birthday party is probably my favorite part of the book.)

Even with all this do-gooding, the children are fun and realistic. Sometimes they get in trouble, but they always have a rollicking good time. Though it's not an animal book, I would probably put it in a category with Charolotte's Web. It's a simple, tender, fun story, good for younger grade school children. Of course, an adult could read it aloud, but as soon as a child is ready to read chapter books on their own, they are ready to read The Railway Children!

*A movie has been made out of the book, and after reading the book, I am quite interested in seeing it...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Cake

A couple Sundays ago, my husband and I went to explore the American History museum. I had wanted to go because there were a lot of exhibits that had switched over since the last time I was there, and I wanted to see the new exhibit on the Presidency. (And very interesting it is too!) But toward the end, we went downstairs to the basement where Julia Child's kitchen is, and we looked around and watched some of her shows that they have running all the time. It was inspiring for both of us to cook more and to try more exotic recipes. So, through the next few days, I looked through a bunch of my recipe books and when I came to this one, I discovered that I really and truly wanted to cook every single recipe! Well then, I thought, I'll just start at the beginning! And so I did. This Chocolate Truffle Cake was the first recipe.
It called to make it all in one cake, but I didn't have a cake pan big enough, so I made two smaller ones and put them together. It was easy and amounted to the same thing. It says at the top that it serves 12, but I cut mine into twelve pieces and decided that it could easily be 20. The cake is so rich, you can be quite happy with a very small piece.

15 oz 70% chocolate
2 sticks unsalted butter
6 large eggs seperated
scant 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
6 tbs dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup ground almonds
1 quantity glossy chocolate cream
few raspberries to decorate
light cream to serve (optional)

1) Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the chocolate. Allow to mt, then remove the bowl from over the water and set aside to cool for 15 min.

2) Meanwhile, in a clean bowl,  whisk the  egg yolks and sugar together until thick, pale and creamy. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry.

3) Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the whisked egg yolks and sugar. Add the rum and vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and add the ground almonds and whisked egg whites. Carefully fold the ingredients together until well mixed, taking care not to beat too much air out of the mixture. I put mine in two 9 in cakepans, and baked them together for about 15 minutes. (She calls for one cakepan, and baking it for about 50 min.) Allow to cool completely before spreading with the icing. (the glossy cream is just melted chocolate and whipped cream...delicious, but another chocolate icing would be lovely too.) 

 You can see that my icing is not as stiff as hers. I'm not sure why. I followed the glossy cream recipe, and it said that it should get hard, but mine never got more than "pretty stiff." So the stars were to be like the hearts in the picture, but they were never hard enough to just peel off, so we just ate them.

All in all, we give it an 8 out of 10! Very decadent and full of chocolate yumminess. (By the way, don't try to eat this when you're full. Have a small dinner, then wait a while and have it... or better yet, have it before dinner!)