I have a little box of glass bottles in my garage tucked in beside the bikes and yard equipment. It makes me happy, even a little bit proud. It’s my recycling glass. I live on post and we have curbside recycling, but they don’t pick up glass. I’m not sure why they won’t pick it up along with the plastic and paper. However, glass does get recycled on post. There is a collection area where anyone can drop off items like ink cartridges, oil, antifreeze, wood, and all that glass they won’t pick up.
When we first got to Fort Campbell and I realized that they wouldn’t pick up my glass, I decided to just throw it away. After all, we don’t use much glass. I cook a lot and use a minimal amount of prepackaged stuff; most of what I do buy comes in cardboard or plastic. I figured it couldn’t hurt much. But just as soon as that first olive jar hit the can, I felt compelled to pull it right back out; I just couldn’t throw that jar away. Why?
Was it habit? No, extra effort has never really been my habit. What about laws, ordinances, or rules and regulations? No, we aren’t required to recycle here. What about global warming? Nope, I’m pretty much a skeptic. It has nothing to do with party affiliation, or where I fall on the political spectrum, or shaming, or club memberships, or anything social at all. It’s about something deep inside me that tells me right from wrong. It reminds me about personal responsibility and Biblical edict.
In the Bible, God tells us that He created the Earth (Genesis 1), that He owns it (Job 41:11), and that He loves it (Psalm 33:5-6). He also commands us to take care of it (Number 35:33-34). The whole Earth and everything in it calls out to Him and rejoices in His glory (Psalm 96:11-13). Who am I to silence that joy and mask that glory with my trash? God placed it on my heart to live up to my personal responsibility, place my glass jars in a little cardboard box and drive my lazy butt a couple of miles to the drop off center.
Now, you don’t have to believe as I do to want to clean up after yourself. It could be because, like me, you are a Christian and want to live up to God’s commands. It could be because you are in business and see the financial advantage in recycling. Maybe you believe deeply in the spirituality of the Earth itself. Perhaps you just have your mama’s voice ringing in your head to “PICK UP YOUR OWN MESS!” There are many reasons, and yet we’re all working toward the same goal.
Let me make myself clear. This is not a call for more rules and laws. We have criminalized human behavior to the point where it is hard not to break some sort of regulation on a daily basis. It’s ridiculous.
This is a call to stop fighting each other. To not assume that someone doesn’t care simply because their reason for caring is not your own. To just work together.
Almost 80% of all glass containers used are currently recycled. That’s a huge number! That’s a lot of people doing the right thing. Does it matter why?
I don’t think this one needs too much explaining. We’ve all been there.
threatening to explode and overflow
This, the corrosive result
of the wrong done to me
It lengthens the transgressor’s grasp
reaches into my soul
grips my life
I hold onto its
unsure if I am gripping it
or it is gripping me
My focus has shifted
I cannot tell
My only escape from
this destructive circle
is a supernatural journey
from anger to forgiveness
Forgiveness granted to the undeserving
I take a step
Last Sunday, the pastor at my church gave a lesson on Song of Solomon, Chapter 7. For those of you who may not know, Song of Solomon is a passionate book of the Bible describing the love and marriage of King Solomon to his bride. Chapter 7 gets a little hot and heavy, making you want to check the cover to make sure you are still actually reading the Bible! Solomon starts it off by describing the beauty of his love. It is after they have been married for a while, and the beauty he describes is so much deeper than surface. Sure, he admires the way his love looks. But when Solomon tells his wife how beautiful she is, he uses language that describes her as intelligent, safe and comforting. It is a beauty that comes from the inside and affects everything Solomon sees when he looks at his wife.
This is how a man in love with his wife sees her, and the pastor made the point that as women, our beauty is so much more than how we often measure ourselves. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I need to accept the wonderful fact that, no matter how I see myself, my children and my husband see me as beautiful. This sermon came right on time and reiterated exactly what I have been trying to learn. I decided to meditate on this and try to write what beauty like that looked like and felt like. At first I started writing in third person. It didn’t work. I needed to own it, to personalize it, and so I started again. The following poem came out.
My beauty is a flame that
burns from deep inside
where love grows
It passes through the warm chambers
of compassion and understanding
Gently making its way around the
fires of intelligence
Until it emerges
My heart exposed
When you see it, you will know
This is not the beauty sought
by the shallow empires of gloss and sell
This is not the beauty captured
on the pages of a magazine or
in the numbers on a scale
It cannot be marred by growth or
greyed by time
No, my beauty is the everlasting solace
of a gentle spirit and an
Want to see something beautiful?
Isn’t that gorgeous? That’s a potato flower and my trash can potatoes are covered in them. The plants have grown so much that the dirt reached the top of the can a couple of weeks ago. I have been waiting to see how long it will take from the time it reaches the top to the time the plants die and I get to harvest the taters. I stopped adding dirt on June 20th, so that makes today the 18th day of growth. The plants are are still going strong and my trash can looks like the world’s largest and most awkward potted plant. I love the reaction when people come over. It’s always the same question with the same odd look and slightly disturbed tone: “What do you have growing in your trash can?” Look at this! I’d ask too.
That lovely little split is on all three of them. The other two wouldn’t allow me to take a picture of their cracks. They were so ashamed! I’m so sorry, little tomatoes, it’s me not you. Really, it is! We went through a couple of weeks of no rain up here in Tenn-tucky and I watered often. I did not, however, water deeply enough. Then, we went through a week of Heaven unleashed! The rain was incredible. My little maters do what maters do and sucked up all that water and grew quickly. But, because I had not watered deeply enough during the dry weeks, the insides grew faster than the outsides and they split. If I start watering more deeply during the dry spells, this should keep the growth even and all of the other green tomatoes should be fine. You can eat a split tomato, but they aren’t pretty and they won’t last more than a day or so.
I was so hoping that my friend Stan would jump on Facebook tonight, and he did! Want to know why I was hoping for that? Well, I took my kids last week on the first part of our summer adventures. That consisted of a one week journey from Tenn-tucky to Chicago, on to Michigan, and then a quick stop in Indianapolis before it was time to head back to Tenn-tucky. We logged 1408 awesome, and fuel efficient, miles on the Honda. I took a truck load of pictures, of which I have edited exactly one. Hey, I’m learning!
There was one picture that I was particularly wanting to edit, so that’s where I started. The pic is of my darling niece on top of a sand dune in Michigan. This is what it looked like when I pulled it off my camera:
Not bad. A little dark, but you can tell there is potential there. The problem is, I do not exactly know how to unlock that potential. But, I did get Photoshop for my birthday this year, and I have been playing. So, I tried and this is what I came up with:
Definitely better. Something, however, was still missing. The picture was much brighter and the colors more intense, what else could I do? Hmmm… put the picture on Facebook and see what people thought! In particular, I was hoping Stan would give me his opinion. He’s an excellent photographer (you can check his FB page out here), and he’s a technical genius. He does some sort of computer work that is way above my head, and spends his time gaining as much knowledge as he can about whatever interests him. In other words, he’s a super smart perfectionist whose opinion is good to have!
Good news! Stan was on line and he gave his opinion. He said I should crop a little to bring more focus to my subject, and that I should brighten her as well. Umm, crop I got. How do I brighten one subject and not the rest of the photo? This is what he taught me. In expert mode (slightly laughable for me to be there!), I chose the smart brush tool. In the smart brush tool tray, I clicked on the square that said “brighten your image.” With that tool, I was able to individually select what I wanted brighter. I followed Stan’s advice and only brightened her skin and hair; her clothes were bright enough. I’m really happy with what happened next. I ended up with this photo:
I’m not even close to pro, but with this new trick, I think my photos are going to improve a lot. If that means I can make better pictures of my kids and make some nice gifts for my friends and family, then that makes me very happy!
Oh, side note and one of the best things about this picture. I was shooting from pretty far away and with a 200X zoom. Laney saw me and, after she realized I was taking her picture, looked smack into the camera and flashed that adorable grin. Such a natural!
If you are poking around the internet, trying to find the perfect cupcake recipe for your Independence Day cookout tomorrow, well then, this post is right on time. If you’ve already got that covered, don’t think of this post as too late for this Fourth of July, but early for your Labor Day picnic. I have last minute-itis, please just go with it!
Anyway, a little background on this yummy creation. My husband’s favorite birthday treat is a Publix white cake with fresh strawberry filling and whipped creme frosting. Well, last year, this Army family was stationed in San Antonio and guess what they don’t have in Texas? You guessed it! Publix grocery stores. Being the awesome wife I am, I attempted to recreate his favorite cake and hit a home run. So, while I was poking around the internet and trying to find the perfect cupcake recipe to take to that Independence Day cookout, I decided to make my husband’s favorite cake into its diminutive little sister.
But wait! That filling is blue. That’s not fresh strawberry! You are very observant and very right. It’s July 4th, so I made half of the cupcakes blueberry, and half strawberry. I also changed the fresh strawberry filling to a more cupcake friendly version by using the strawberry filling created by a blogger named Sally. She’s got a great recipe there. It looks a little runny in the picture, but it’s not at all. Apparently, I just need to learn how to use a knife. To make the blueberry version, I only had to replace the berry and adjust the cooking times slightly to accommodate the blueberry’s quicker juicing time.
The white cake is a classic Better Homes and Gardens recipe. A tried and true that I deeply love. For the whipped cream frosting, I actually found a shelf stable whipped cream recipe on All Recipes that is out of this world! It is not too sweet and a perfect balance to the fruit filling. I don’t know who you are, creator of the frosting Jo-Lynn, but well done indeed.
Speaking of the fruit filling, this recipe actually makes double the amount you need. You can choose just to halve the filling recipe, just make one fruit, or make the whole recipe and have extra. What can you do with the extra? Why, use it top pancakes the next morning, of course! Or waffles. Or french toast. It would also make a sassy little topping for some buttermilk biscuits, seeing that you might have some buttermilk left over from making the cake.
If you’ve never filled a cupcake before, don’t fear the filling. All you have to do is cut out a small hole in the top of the cupcake. Some people use a large frosting tip to do that, but I picked up my favorite little cupcake gadget (pictured below) for about $3 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It cuts a hole of the perfect depth and size, and then easily plunges out the cut cake. You can cut the top of the “hole” off and cap off your filling, or you can just ice right over the filling. Works either way. The leftover bits make a yummy ice cream topping. Waste not, want not!
2 cups diced strawberries or blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or shortening, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1. Make the strawberry filling first. Place the strawberries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 4 full minutes until the strawberry juices have been released. Add the sugar and cornstarch and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. The mixture will be much thicker. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prepare the cupcakes.
When making the blueberry filling, It will takes about 2 minutes for the juices to release, and then 4 minutes to thicken after you add the sugar and cornstarch.
2. Make the cake next. Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place 24 cupcake liners in cupcake pan. I like to spray the liners with Baker’s Joy so that they release from the paper more easily, but it’s not a necessity.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add egg whites 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Spread batter into the prepared liners.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake. Remove from oven to cooling racks. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before filling and frosting.
5. Make the frosting last. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.
6. Now, fill, frost and enjoy!
Makes 24 cupcakes.