March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February on the Farm

My blogger friends from Maine are "hunkered down" waiting out a blizzard that has deposited several feet of snow, but here in Kansas we have had almost spring-like weather.  This morning's temperatures were a bit more in tune with the date on the calendar; it was 32ºF as I started out on my walk this morning about 9 a.m.

It was a blessing to be outside, walking.  I have just come through an arthritis/fibromyalgia attack that was the worst I've experienced. I kept remembering my grandmother talking about "the rheumatiz" and I wonder whether she suffered something like this. It was so uncomfortable that just turning over in bed was an ordeal; the weight of the blankets was painful to lift and rearrange.

But--I'm better!  And I walked up the hill across from our house this morning!

Farmer John was feeding cattle, and stopped to open the wire gate for me.  He is not a happy camper today; he has a cold AND a toothache. He is the hale and hearty member of our partnership, the cinch pin that holds our family together. Our adult kids call me with prayer requests, but John fields all other needs for his elderly parents and for all of us (driving to appointments/moving furniture/mechanic work/help with projects/etc.).  Even beyond my empathy and prayers for him there is just an uneasy feeling when he isn't well because we all depend on him so. Here he is, opening the gate and holding his aching jaw; please say a little prayer for Farmer John (dental appointment this afternoon!).

Our big, goofy dog Moose has always been an escape artist. No fence could hold him, and so he had to leave his home with our daughter's family in town and come to the country to live with us.  But he somehow instinctively knew the way back, and would travel over 4 miles back to their yard.  And so we spent $300--yes, THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS-- on a perimeter collar for this beast.  And it worked.  He became trained, we thought, and we stopped making him wear it.  This was a mistake.  He ran away this past weekend and we spent two anxious days searching for him.  He has to wear the collar once more.  But need I say it--I am SO glad to have him back.  I don't know why I love him but I do!

Finally, here are a couple of shadow photos of Moose and me from our walk this morning...Happy February everyone, no matter the weather in your neck of the woods:  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

And one more January photo...

This photo was taken just west of the little yellow house on January 6.  Love our Kansas sunsets.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Super Bowl Chili Recipe

Someone once said that The Children Are Tender was perhaps "....sort of how you wish things would have been."

Well, no.  I would not have wished for Abby to have to quit her job to take care of her mother with scarcely a blink of the eye on behalf of folks who ought to have been sorry to see her go.  I would never have wished for a little boy to be spirited away in the night by a birth mother who did not have legal custody, and for that boy's teacher never to see that child again.  And I certainly would not have wished for Jeffrey to risk a shocking experience as he did in chapter one.

However, having said that, I must also say that January here in our real-life version of my fictional community of Karola has contained elements I wouldn't include in a book that, while is intended to spur empathy and action on behalf of innocent children who suffer, is also intended to leave readers with a sense of hope for the future.  But for the Lord, I'd not have felt much hope at the end of our difficult January.  

I'll quickly list the struggles we've faced: life threatening conditions that caused hospitalizations for both my husband's parents, several financial surprises of the sort that made our hearts sink and our minds go numb (did anyone else's insurance premiums double?), and last and albeit least, our dog ran away.  Not a banner month.  

I'm happy to report that as of February 1, my in-laws have recovered, we've adapted to our financial status quo, and today, the dog came home. And, last Sunday afternoon I won a chili cook-off at our church!  

You read that right.  God does have a sense of humor!  I've just completed a book on Christian weight loss, but during this stressful January I have spent an inordinate amount of time cooking and...well...I did not lose weight this month.  But I by golly won a chili cook-off. 

The recipe, as near as I can remember (I don't measure ingredients when I cook) is printed below the photo of me with my beautiful gold-spray-painted-tin-can trophy.  And by the way, that book isn't really about losing weight so much as it is about putting Christ first in everything, which will release us from the power of whatever ails us.  You can have a look at it here:  One Hundred Days to Freedom.  

Meantime, try a savory pot of chili for the Super Bowl this weekend.  

Chili, brown sugar/maple cupcakes, and chicken and noodles are some of the comfort food dishes I prepared during this dreary January.  '

Kid-pleasing Chili
(named on the spot to justify all that brown sugar when I was asked the name of my recipe). 

4 pounds ground beef
2 medium onions finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
3 teaspoons salt (less if chicken stock is salty)
2 packages (for four pounds of meat) Williams Chili Seasoning Mix
1 28 ounce can crushed Tomatoes
About 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
About 3 cups or so chicken stock—add it gradually until chili seems the right consistency. 
About 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
About 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
About ½ teaspoon or so liquid smoke—go easy, it can make things bitter
¾ to 1 cup brown sugar
1 can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1 can seasoned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Tabasco sauce to taste—I like about 4 drops per pound of meat...

Brown the beef with the chopped onion, drain most of the juices/fat.  Stir in the garlic, salt, and Williams Chili Seasoning Mix.  Add all remaining ingredients except beans, stir well. Simmer about 10 minutes to let flavors blend.  Adjust seasonings—too bland?  Add more salt, Tabasco, and/or red wine vinegar.  Can you taste the smoke at all? You can add a little more. Now you’ll probably want to add the last ¼ cup brown sugar if you didn’t earlier.  Add beans, simmer a few minutes longer, stir, can add more stock as you prefer for consistency.