Bears, Bees, Baseball and Knitting

Blog Baseball Bears and Knitting 003I like minor league baseball better than the majors.  Oh, I loved going to see the Dodgers play when I lived in California.  I especially enjoyed the team during the time Orel Hershiser was pitching.  But seeing the Salt Lake City Bees play is much more fun.  The stadium isn’t fourteen stories high and you don’t need to walk three miles from the back edge of the parking lot to the stadium.  Actually, you can park a few blocks away on the city streets if you want and not pay for parking.  We sat in the lower level and could actually see the faces of the players without binoculars.  Beyond the baseball field, the Wasatch Mountains rose up to a beautiful sky.  We ate free peanuts and dollar hotdogs and the kids got to meet Bumble, the Bees’ mascot.  After the game there was the best fireworks show I have seen in awhile.  And the evening ended with the kids getting to run the bases and get a set of the team’s baseball cards.  Oh, did I mention that the Bees won, 10 to 5.  Sorry, Nashville.

Wednesday night was the 4th annual Stitch ‘n Pitch.  The Salt Lake Knitting Guild presented over 200 teddy bears and other stuffed animals, all dressed in fun knit or crocheted outfits to the Cottonwood Police Department.  These were made by members of the guild and are given by the police to children in crisis situations.

The majority of these were made over the course of one weekend Knit-In.  The Unraveled Sheep yard shop, where I go to knit with friends, got together with Three Wishes Fiber Arts shop and challenged each other to knit the most outfits during the weekend.  The shops also had members drop off outfitted bears during the weekend.  We all had a great time sharing stories and coming up with new outfits.  Unraveled Sheep won the bragging rights this year with over a hundred dressed animals lining the shelves and bookcases. 

Someday, I will finish the many knitting projects in my closet.  For now, when I think of the great time I had knitting into the wee hours with friends, I smile.  This year or next, each of those animals may bring a smile to a child in need.

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Apricot Pineapple Bread and Muffins

8.11.09 033 

We have had a couple days in the low 70’s.  For the Salt Lake Valley, that feels more like fall than summer.  Great baking weather.  I have been changing recipes to work with my stewed apricots instead of the dried apricots most recipes use.  I love apricot and pineapple together so they were a natural for this recipe.  These muffins are not too sweet.  They taste great alone or with a dab of butter and some honey.  The recipe makes a dozen muffins and one loaf.   Jeff has been eating up my baked good as quickly as I make them, so, as he was devouring the muffins, I wrapped the loaf and got it into the freezer quickly.  My goal is to have the freezer full of goodies ready to pull out when we entertain.

Stewed Apricots

Wash and pit fresh apricots. Put a small amount of water in your pot, about one-quarter inch deep. The apricots will quickly make their own juice. The water is to keep them from scorching at the beginning. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a steady simmer and cook for thirty minutes or longer until they are soft. If you are doing a large amount, like I did, you can let them cool and then pack measured amounts into quart freezer bags. I made up one cup and two cup bags which I labeled. Cool them sufficiently in the refrigerator and then freeze.

Apricot Pineapple Bread and Muffins

This makes a large amount of batter. Use an extra large mixing bowl, or cut the recipe in half.

1 cup stewed apricots 

2 cups drained crushed pineapple

1 cup oil

2 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups sugar

4 cups flour (white or whole wheat)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

3 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ginger

1. Grease one loaf pan and a muffin pan or two loaf pans.

2. Mix together apricots, pineapple, vanilla and oil in an extra large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and sugar and mix well.

3. Combine the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add to the apricot mixture and stir just enough to get all the dry ingredients moist.

4. Fill the muffin tins and loaf pan. Bake at 350º.  Muffins take about 35 -38 minutes.  Bread takes about 70.  They are done when tester comes out clean. 

You might try dried prunes that you stew in place of the apricots.

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Chicken and the Egg

I must have been about nine or ten when we got Roady.  We lived in an agricultural area with varied crops, dairy and chicken farms along with lots of horse ranches.  In spring we would drive down the country roads by the pastures and see the new calves and fouls.  We also had rodeos every summer.  One year they had a kid’s event where they released young pullets and let the kids run and try to catch them.  Must have terrified the poor chickens.  My parents were sure that there was no way we would catch one and so they let us try.  To their astonishment, my brother returned with his prize.  Oops!  What to do now? 

On the way home we stopped at the Alpha Beta market and gathered some wooden orange crates.  The next day Dad and my brother added some chicken wire and made a nice coop.  I was so excited.  A bit of farm life in our backyard.  Each day we would eagerly check for eggs.  We knew little about chicken husbandry so the fact that this pullet might not be old enough to lay escaped us.  When weeks went by and Roady didn’t produce the longed for eggs, my brother’s interest waned.  I begged to take over the task of caring for the bird, but my parents said no.  I think they were glad to have a reason to say good-buy to the unplanned Rodeo surprise. I can’t blame them, as farming was not part of their dreams.

But it is my dream.  When we started planning for our farm, I quickly borrowed books on chickens from the library and I searched the internet for information.  When I was checking the various local venues for places to buy chickens from, I looked on our local newspaper’s website and found many ads from backyard farmers who sell eggs.  I now buy fresh eggs that taste better than the organic range free eggs from the market and are cheaper.  And they are huge!  They make the extra large variety at the store look like pigeon eggs. 

Along with the eggs, I am enjoying a new friendship with my egg lady.    She is delightful.  We hit it right off talking about organic gardens and local growers.  Yesterday, when I mentioned the apricot blessing and stretching the dollar, she gathered various recipes for zucchini along with tomatoes and zucchinis from her garden for us. 

All this makes the wait to have our own flock easier.  Meanwhile I read and dream.  Do you have dreams of the country?

Psalm 91:4 (New International Version)

   He will cover you with his feathers,
       and under his wings you will find refuge;
       his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart

Psalm 33:18 (New International Version)

 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
       on those whose hope is in his unfailing love

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Toss the water, but keep the baby

We live on a beautiful planet.  As some scientist search to find life beyond our earth, I am overwhelmed often with the beauty God gave us right here.  Today I was taken anew with the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains that edge my eastern view.  While the beaches of my youth in Southern California are lovely, my heart always used to ache to see the Sierra Nevada range that we vacationed in when I was a child.  Now I revel in seeing the immense mountains that rise straight up from the valley with their rugged granite peaks and the lush green of the aspen and pines and I love being able to take a short drive and be in them.  Oh, I feel so blessed. 

God has directed in His scriptures to be stewards of the earth.  Yet, in the argument over capitalism verses communism and right verses left, many conservatives devalued the entire liberal platform, including the environment.  I know I have, and I grew up loving Jacques Cousteau and all of nature.  When I changed from a democrat to a republican because I couldn’t go along with many platform issues, I blithely started ignoring the reality of what many business practices were doing to the environment.  I had tossed out many things of value with that bathwater. 

But God is faithful to turn us back to His plan, which includes Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” 

In recent years many are now giving more attention to being faithful stewards of this wonderful planet we call home.   People from many churches and religious organizations including Southern Baptists, Wesleyans, Foursquare, National Association of Evangelicals, and World Vision are taking a stand. See http://www.creationcare.org/conference/.  

There is lots of debate on this as a quick Google on the subject shows.  Jeff and I have decided that, for us, serving the Lord includes wisely caring for this planet we call Earth.

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Apricot Encouragement

Being  jobless is hard on most people but, I think, especially for a husband and father.  A few days ago I started my day doing my best to encourage my man.  His faith in God is strong, yet the financial pressures were pressing in.  Just as we were ending our prayers, his phone rang.  Some new friends called and asked if they could bring dinner over.  Phone hug.  Later, my mom, who was over for the day, came with me to my chiropractor.  When I went to pay, I found out she had taken care of it.  Then, leaving the doctor’s office, I did a u-turn on a side street.  As I was turning, my mother read a small sign, “Free apricots, u-pick.”  So we did.  The tree was old and huge.  The apricots covered the bending branches in clusters more than twelve inches long.  The full bag of apricots spoke of God’s provision. 

We returned the next day with our children.  As we picked we dreamed of  a farm with fruit orchards of our own.  Though we left with several bags full, the old tree looked much as it did when we came; so much was its bounty.  After hours of washing, pitting and stewing, my freezer is loaded with measured bags of goodness waiting to be baked into crisps, bread and pies.  We truly have a Father who will not let his children go hungry.

Acts 14:16-18 (New International Version)

16In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (New International Version)

 10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery

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A garden with Grandpa

One of my early memories is of planting and tending a carrot patch with my mother when I was four.  I loved it.  When I was about eight or so, my dad’s father came to live with us.  Grandpa built a bedroom and bath addition to our house and put up a fence to make a separate space that would be our garden.  Just his and mine.   Grandpa helped me mark out rows for flowers, form hills for squash and sting line for pole beans to climb.  The garden grew well and I even enjoyed weeding it when Grandpa was there.   From this early beginning a dream of living on a farm began.  

When I was thirteen, my family drove from southern California north to Montana to visit Grandpa’s sister on her and my great uncle’s dairy ranch.  My brother and I entreated our parents for some western wear.  We had grown up with the Lone Ranger and High Chaparral after all, so we were sure our cousins dressed in western clothes.  Those cousins must have chuckled when they first saw our dude and dudette outfits.  Even so, they welcomed us and we were soon off with them exploring the ranch. 

Grandpa had told me often of his niece, Jessie Mae’s, large flower garden.  It was even better than I had imagined with flowers of every color and many varieties I had never seen.  Flowers and vegetables, cows and a peacock, along with great horseback rids with a cousin near my age, stirred my heart’s wish for a farm life of my own.  I wanted a large white house like Aunt Mary’s and a vista of rolling hills with cattle grazing.  I wanted to hear the chickens clucking in the front yard and feel the warm soft head of a new calf.  

The desire for a country life stayed with me through life, though I never thought it would actually be possible.  Yet here we are, heading toward my husband’s and my dream.  Then impetus was good old American debt!   Not exactly a plan I’d recommend.  We had amassed a rather large red ink hole from a combination of moving expenses (to Utah in 2001), stupid spending and hospital bills.  Several years ago, our church held its first Financial Peace class (http://www.daveramsey.com/) and we cut up the credit cards and started working with a budget.  It also showed us we would be at it a long time, the way we were going, to pay off all off the debt”.  We decided it was worth selling our home and getting something smaller in order to pay it all off except a mortgage.

We had a great desire to live more sustainably, not always subject to the economics of high energy costs and excessive grocery bills. One day when I was cruising around the web to see what condos were selling for, I wondered how far away we would have to live to be able to afford a bit of acreage.  To my surprise I found out that it wasn’t very far at all.  Yeah, Utah!  So here we are with tables covered with books (most borrowed from the library…saving those dollars.) on small scale agriculture, chickens, goats, sheep, cheese making and straw bale houses.  Dreaming big time.

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