Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daily Epiphany: November 19

My family has a great collection of Nativity scenes. My parents have been collecting them since before I was born. I love this tradition, but have realized that I need to create one of my own--or just copy theirs! So, today when I went to go buy some yarn at the fabric store, I brought my first Nativity scene. It's a simple carving of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and an angel. I am super excited to set it up, come November 30th.

Every year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving my familly (I used to join them before heading off to school) would head out to the Christmas Tree farm and chop down a lovely Charlie Brown tree (i.e. scraggly little pine, like in A Charlie Brown Christmas!). Then we'd go home, pull out all the Christmas things and start decorating. For me, this was the official start of a sacred tradition called Advent--the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christ's birth.

Although we have a tree, my family does not buy presents to put under it, instead, the tree showcases ornaments from our various advent calendars. As the number of holiday advertisements increase, I am more and more saddened by our society's commercialization of Christmas.

It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but may we all look ahead and seek to put Christ back in Christmas. After all, it is His birthday we are celebrating.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I illustrated my first children's book . . .

So, back in May I started working on my own little children's story about a girl that goes to an art museum for a field trip. I'm still working on it, but along the way, a more exciting illustrating "job" popped up. My friend Hannah wrote a little story for her son, and wanted me to illustrate it. Now, being the perfectionist that I am, I devoted myself to making this the best book ever, plus it was my first complete book of illustrations, and I wanted to do a good job.

Watching election coverage a couple weeks ago, I finally finished all the pages! We decided to publish it with, a print-on-demand website I had used for a class project last semester. In the website's bookstore, you can view the first 15 pages. Check it out!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumnal Baking

As most of you know, in addition to history, I have other talents and interests. One of these is baking. This fall has been a season of breads. Not normal bread, but yummy desserty and fruit filled breads.

This summer I began with Carrot Cake, but it wasn't fall yet, so it doesn't count.

In October, I helped break the fast on Yom Kippur with Betty Crocker's Harvest Pound Cake--an apple-based bread/cake that showcases a homemade caramel glaze.

Cake base: mix together . . .
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs

3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

3 medium apples, chopped
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Glaze: heat to boiling, boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp milk

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour

Towards the end of October I bought a little pie-pumpkin. Because I believe pumpkin pie should not be eaten before Thanksgiving, I decided to make Pumpkin Bread--my mom's famous recipe. I cooked up the pumpkin (and roasted the seeds!); it made two loaves. One for a church potluck, and one for me. :-)

2 2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. oil
4 eggs
16 oz pumpkin (can or real pumpkin cooked)
2/3 c. water
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 c. pecans (optional)

Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes

Also in October, I had the opportunity to bake Challah with my friend Leah. I had grown up baking Challah with my mom, but since leaving home, I have not been able to get it right (yeast can be tricky). Leah provided a recipe different from what I was used to, but the bread turned out marvelous, and quite delicious! In addition to eating Challah on Friday night for Shabbat, I also love making it into french toast on Saturday morning. Super good.

[Let me know if you want this recipe, the instructions are fairly lengthy.]

That same night, Leah gave me her Banana Bread recipe. Tonight I tried the recipe, making Banana Bread November's bread. Three bananas made two loaves--one for my church small group, and the other I'm going to put in the freezer for later.

3 bananas
1 c. oil
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sugar (this can be half white and half brown, or all of one)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. flour
8 oz. chocolate chips (optional)

Bake at 350 degrees. For bread: 45 minutes-1 hour. Muffins: 20 minutes.

*Note: In all these recipes I used King Arthur white berry whole wheat flour. This light whole wheat flour can be found at Trader Joes.

Next, I'll have to try Chocolate Zucchini Cake, and maybe my cousin's Strawberry Rhubard Coffee Cake, or Blueberry muffins . . . or maybe I'll just move on to pies. :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on the election . . .

Preface: I do not want anyone to be offended by this. These are just some thoughts that I feel need to be said.

When George Bush was re-elected in 2004, many Christian liberals (Yes, we do exist. I happen to be one) questioned the sway of conservative Christians and their idea of American democracy. All through that election, I followed the discussions of Jim Wallis and others who created the catch-phrase: God is not a Republican, or a Democrat. I truly believe that those of faith do not need to be pinned down by only the "big" issues (i.e. abortion, gay-marriage, etc.). There are other issues that are important to our Heavenly Father. He cares about all of our lives, from conception to dealth. (READ: Psalm 139) God is sovereign. He has the power to righteously control those issues whether a republican is in office, or a democrat.

With the election of Barack Obama, many conservative Christians are now thinking, "What is this world coming to?" I believe it is now time for the tables to turn, and for conservative and liberal Christians alike to trust that God knows what He is doing, and PRAY. Change is not bad, in fact, political change can help this country recover from these economic woes. Unfortunately, politics tend to run rampent in this country. But there is hope! Christ gave the Church a huge responsibility, and if we really want to see change, the Church must take up the burden of the cross and work to God's glory.

May we not be bogged down by feelings of personal calamity or self-rightousness. Let us lift up our new president to God, placing him in HIS sovereign hands.
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