Always Winter

It is culturally unacceptable to be cheerful about winter time. People bundled deep in layers of coats and scarves swathe themselves with grumbling as if in added protection against the cold. They range from startled to offended if you dare to suggest that the snow is actually rather pretty. And that’s on an average winter.

When the temperatures stay low for longer than normal and the clouds are thick with any manner of winter precipitation about to drop down on our heads and power lines, the only acceptable response is grumbling. After all, clearly, if God really loved us, it would be spring. Right. Now. (And probably forever.) A few little rays of sun between the clouds are not going to cut it when we know we deserve better.

And obviously, with our clear vantage point on all eternal knowledge, we know exactly what God should do if He really loved us.

Or at least, isn’t that what we’re really saying when we complain about what God is sending us?

Now I know everyone is rolling their eyes, because I’m that crazy winter person who really does think the snow is pretty and rarely gets cold and doesn’t even like summer all that much. But before you tune me out entirely (and leaving aside the fact that even I reach the point where I start thinking green plants might just be prettier than gray slush), let me remind you that I know something about waiting.

I understand being stuck in a season that you can’t change that feels like it should have been over a long time ago. I know what it feels like to ache, not in a theoretical sense, but in a physical, ‘I wonder if this is what a heart attack feels like’ kind of pain in the chest, every time you really know that God is saying ‘not yet’. I know that feeling of convincing yourself that you’re really perfectly fine and being slightly exasperated to find tears rolling down your face anyway.

And if you think I’m going to try to downgrade Winter to the status of a lesser problem, you’re mistaken. Winter may qualify as a major trial in your life, but even if it’s a small trial I wouldn’t write it off as nothing.

Sometimes the ‘big’ trials in life are, in a way, the easiest to deal with. They come at you head on, over and over again, and you can’t ignore them or pretend that you’re not supposed to be dealing with them. I can go straight from working through big trials in my life, and finding a place of peace and calmly trusting, to being completely exasperated that I can’t find a clean pair of socks.

Because overarching life stages are one thing, and God probably has those planned out, even when I don’t like it so well. But really, I have a morning schedule to keep, and I can’t do that if I spend ten minutes trying to find a decent pair of socks to wear, and since I don’t know of any huge life altering consequences to having clean socks, clearly God just doesn’t care enough to arrange these details for me, exactly the way I want them and on my own schedule.

Clearly.

Not like there’s any obvious pride issues that need to be dealt with there or anything…

But the funny thing is, if we can just accept the fact that God really does know what He’s doing, that He really does love us, and it’s all part of this huge happy ending fairy tale He’s writing in the world, it changes how we see things. Instead of being an insult to the eternal summer we think we deserve, that tiny ray of sunlight between the clouds is a promise that it won’t be gray forever.

A Not So Perfect New Year

Every year (several days after the new year starts) I post something about how the last year went and how I’m hoping the next year will go better. This is usually accompanied by me making many lists, coming up with way too many areas in which I want to improve, and angst over the fact that it’s January and I’m already behind on my blog posts.

This year I didn’t really feel like analyzing 2013. Good stuff happened, my health improved and I failed a lot. Moving on. Rah 2014! Maybe 2014 will be the year I stop failing! More lists! More goals! More… angst…

I didn’t even plan on starting my brand new 2014 schedule on January 1st. The fact that this new clean slate of a new year begins immediately after staying up past midnight the night before has always seemed a bit ironic to me. Plus, Colton was able to get quite a few days off around Christmas and New Years this year, so I figured vacation would just stretch until he went back to work. My official new year blank slate would start on the first Monday of the new year.

On the first Saturday of the new year we discovered that we were about to have lots of snow and the coldest temperatures in a long time. We could have just holed up at home for the weekend (church had already been canceled due to the uncertainties of travel in those conditions) but the dangers of being snowed in during a record cold and then having our power go out seemed a little too risky. We could handle a power outage, and we could handle record cold, but not at the same time.

So we spent the weekend with Colton’s family, experimenting with how long we could stay out in subzero windchill throwing snowballs at each other and then proceeding to play games and watch Bleak House (which I must say, is less depressing than it always sounded from the name). Not my plan for the weekend, but fun.

This is where my plans for the new year really started to fall apart. A frozen car meant not getting back to Peoria until Monday evening, which meant skipping my new Tuesday schedule so as to do my Monday chores, notably laundry. Wednesday, the cold I’d had was finally getting quite miserable and my husband made me take a sick day. Thursday I finally caught up on dishes and got the laundry folded, but still lacking a car, grocery shopping was not going to happen. It wasn’t until today that I really got to try out my new schedule, and by then something had changed.

This wasn’t the new start to a new year I had planned, but somehow it was exactly the start I needed. It was the start of letting go of my plans and my lists and my schedules. It was the start of refusing to feel guilty for getting sick while I had work to do. It was the start that forced me to relearn what it means for God’s grace to cover my failures.

And that, I think, is an excellent way to start 2014.

A New Month (and a new youtube channel)

I had intended to continue my daily thankfulness posts through the end of November, but I got distracted by actual Thanksgiving celebrations and didn’t have a chance to write anything. I briefly thought about trying to catch up on on the missing posts at the beginning of December, but instead I caught up on dishes and cleaning that didn’t get done during the week of stomach flu and Thanksgiving.

Today I launched into Christmas cooking with a triple batch of salted caramel pretzel bark and it’s too late to go back to Thanksgiving. Forward! Never look back! Or something like that…

Today I also launched my new YouTube channel: Good Bad Food. My first video is of my making my amazing slightly famous homemade ketchup, and you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdX2RphlJ3A

I also started a new cooking blog to go with my youtube channel: http://goodbadfood.wordpress.com/

I’ll still be posting daily life type stuff on this blog, which may even sometimes include cooking, as there’s a lot of that in my daily life, but the majority of my food related posts will now be going on my new blog. (I think. We’ll still have to seek how this new blog arrangement works out over time.)

So, everyone who enjoys my recipe posts here needs to go subscribe to my youtube channel and my new blog. The rest of you can now be relieved that will be less of that recipe stuff cluttering up this blog. :-)

Daily Thanks #27: Homemade Ketchup

This morning I made ketchup before breakfast.

We’ve been out of homemade ketchup for a few days, and also out of the tomato paste I use to make the ketchup. While we do have a half bottle of store bought ketchup sitting in the fridge from before I started making my own ketchup, it is increasingly just not worth it to the eat the store bought stuff.

I’ve become accustomed to thinking of ketchup as a healthy addition to a meal, an option for adding a probiotic boost to my food rather than a shot of chemicals. The idea of squirting corn syrup and msg all over my food suddenly makes the whole idea less appealing.

So, when we got tomato paste back in the house I took my first opportunity to make a new batch of ketchup while frying up some (organic) potatoes for breakfast.

It’s really good to be able to have healthy yummy food around the house, and to be so used to it that it’s a shock to have to go without it temporarily is clearly a blessing I should appreciate more often. (Did I just say I should make fried potatoes more often? I think maybe that is what that means…)

Daily Thanks #25: Sick Days

I know it sounds odd, but it’s true. I really am thankful for sick days. And not even just the fact that Colton and I actually get the opportunity to take a day off when we’re sick, though I understand that’s a privilege in itself.

After Colton spent the weekend taking care of me while I crashed on the couch trying not the think about food, he finally came down with the stomach bug today. I was feeling better enough to tackle some laundry and dishes, but still pretty tired. He came home from work about lunchtime and I got to spend most of the rest of the day just hanging out my favorite person in the world.

We talked about nothing in particular, but whatever it was must have been funny because Colton made me laugh a lot. I fell asleep while he watched a movie, then he told me all the good parts while I folded laundry, all to the permeating smell of peppermint oil.

Being sick is not much fun, but I have to say, sick days are pretty good anyway.

Daily Thanks #24: Milk Frothers

Many months ago I picked up a cheap milk frother on sale. It was a little wobbly and despite being touted as useful for beating an egg it froze up in any liquid thicker than milk. Still, it produced a reasonable layer of froth on top of my flavored milk steamers and hot chocolate, and I used it fairly often for such purposes.

And then it died. Whether it simply succumbed to the rigors of months of frothing milk or got water inside it’s motor housing I have no idea, but one thing was clear: I wanted a new milk frother. And, having already established that I would use a milk frother on a regular basis, this time I was willing to shell out money for a shiny new stainless steel Aeorolatte milk frother with four and half star rating on Amazon.

I waited eagerly for my new milk frother to arrive (along with my new cleaver and metal basket for my kitchen scrubbies). By the time it did arrive I had no milk in the house and had to wait until I got more. (Technically I did have sour milk in the house, but as there is clearly no point in frothing sour milk, it is irrelevant to this post.)

By the time I got more milk I was, unbeknownst to myself at the time, on the brink of coming down with the stomach flu. I drank a sip of milk and my stomach *hurt*. I decided this was a bad time to fix myself a latte or frothed hot cocoa.

When I finally got past the stomach pain of the bug I had, having eaten not only rice, but meat and potatoes and butter, I knew exactly what I wanted: a peppermint steamer. The new milk frother didn’t wobble at all and it whirred with a power suggesting that it might not balk at scrambling several eggs at once. It created a thick layer of, not just froth, but full blown foam on my peppermint steamer. It was amazing.

So here’s you, odd little gadget that looks like a battery powered whisk. You make this world a place with a little more foam on lattes and peppermint steamers and hot chocolate, and that is something this world needs very much indeed.