Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Champagne Mangos and Bananas

Several years ago, a friend was visiting and while we perused my local grocery aisle, she softly gasped, "Champagne mangos! Oh! They are my very favorite fruit!" She lovingly placed a few in the cart. You just have to know Anita, she does so many things lovingly. I was pleased to be able to provide the store which catered to her delights.

Back at home, I watched her peel the skin from this yellow fruit, a soft palm-fitting curve to it's lovely shape. Inside was revealed a golden interior smooth and sweet. Nibbling on a small section, I could see what all the raptured enthusiasm was about. Of course, anything that includes "champagne" in its name has to be special. Secondly, these really are a step up in flavor over ordinary mangos, both mellower and more flavorful at the same time. And as the years have passed, their rarity has impressed me. Try as I might, I have not come across them again until this week - in my local Wal-Mart, of all places. Mangos, champagne or otherwise, offer a bevy of health benefits to tempt you to try them. Like Anita, I have fallen in love with the Champagne Mango.

Health Benefits of Mango :

  1. Mangoes contain phenols, this phenolic compound have powerful antioxidant and anticancer abilities.
  2. Mango is high in iron, pregnant women and people with anemia are advised to eat this fruit regularly.
  3. Mango is effective in relieving clogged pores of the skin.
  4. It is also valuable to combat acidity and poor digestion.
  5. Mangos are low in carbohydrates.
  6. Mango is a rich source of vitamin A(beta-carotene), E and Selenium which help to protect against heart disease and other ailments.

I tried them this morning with my ritual coffee with cream and sugar. Their delectable sunburst arcs alongside the light, fresh mildness of banana circles played a breakfast cantata for my senses. The first meal of the day should make you smile, don't you think? I'm sure Anita would lovingly agree.

I am posting this on GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Power Behind Praying Hands

I have seriously been needing a break.

"Yeah, yeah, tell me about it." I can hear the response of most anyone who might be reading this. It seems to me the stresses and strains of life build up in degrees of intensity, straining for the release a respite can bring.

1) Firstly, there is that general longing that is universally shared most days.
2) Continue on and you get to a more forceful ache that can ebb and flow but never quite leaves.
3) A bit further down the chain lies what could be described as a strong desire.
4) We then move into a constancy of need, relentless and at times teetering on the edge of a very steep precipice.
5) Finally there's the pressure cooker effect that has built up to the point of volatile explosion. (Or maybe that's just me.)

Prior to this weekend, I was at about a 4. Thankfully, I was blessed to be able to get away for a Women's Retreat in Asheville with ladies from my church. I hate to say it, but my stresses had built up so much that I was really on auto-pilot for most of the time, unable to truly connect and plug in, although I did try. Before leaving home, I had decided to stay in that beautiful area for another night, and another lovely lady from church agreed to share room and board and time with me. It wasn't what I'd had in mind originally, but it was what I needed. We were able to relax, drink some wine, get to know a new friend a little better, and simply unwind. The next morning, we had a delicious and leisurely breakfast with the other patrons of the Wright Inn and Carriage House (prepared by others' hands - aaah, what a gift), and made our way to Grace Centre church to hear a wonderful message.

I got a very special treat Sunday morning. This church hosts the work of local artists on a rotating basis in their entry foyer. The exhibit being displayed there currently are works that truly moved me to stillness. I stood in front of each piece, looking and looking... and experiencing. The artist is Elizabeth Polfus. On her website you can look at the Unveiled Series to see some of the works she has on display - some are there at the church but not available to view online, I'm sorry to say. Each and every portrayal is amazing, not only to see, but to contemplate. I have carried them home in my memory and continue to reflect upon them and let them rest on my mind's eyes. The one I chose for this post is titled Conduit, as in a channel, course, or carrier. I loved it because I see the hands of a prayer warrior, pressing the light of His truth into the darkness. It is such an active, giving, life-affecting painting. It inspires me.

I placed it on my computer background so that I can look at it each time I come here. This afternoon, I find I am looking back over how this time of weekend away refreshed me. That little break has helped me return to love my family better, penetrating calming peace into my heart in a way that is evident in my relationships with others and myself.

I consider those hands of prayer, and I realize that while at times they are my hands, tending to and strengthening, interceding for and aiding others; first and foremost they are the powerful hands of His Spirit. I am blessed to place my hands in His, to come alongside Him in prayer for my own needs and those of others.

And I see that His hands were ministering to me in prayer all along.

*The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.

*Romans 8.26

Monday, April 12, 2010

Anne Frank With A Rake

Last night I watched Masterpiece's
Diary of Anne Frank. I have to admit, I've never actually read the much acclaimed work. I wondered how much liberties were being taken, or how much the story was altered to reflect a more true story, given the recent exposure of previously censored sections. I read a very good review on this BBC production here. Actually, it was rather comforting to have my evaluation of Anne confirmed elsewhere. I thought she was really quite self-absorbed, and wondered if I wasn't judging her too harshly based on living with two 12-14 year old daughters of my own.

Some might say, 'what do you expect from an adolescent cooped up in a small space for two years?' But I think that far too much "out" is given to young people behaving in selfish and foolish ways, quietly condoned with a resigned shrug of the shoulders. Why is that? There were seven other people living behind the bookcase. They all had varying levels of patience, intolerance, thresholds of forbearance, compassion, acceptance, and generosity. Their weaknesses and virtues were tested alike within their stifling confinement, trusting in the care of others to keep them secret, and fearing the hostile threat of a world gone mad outside.

What I saw, speaking strictly of Anne here, was a delineation between what a difference a life based on personally-motivate decisions looks like versus one for who's heart is the Lord's. Initially Anne speaks of gladly being willing to sacrifice in some way for others, of the importance of remaining cheerful. But as time goes by, she increasingly blames just about all of her problems on her parents, lashing out at her mother in a demeaning fashion, writing a very hurtful letter to her dear father. She encourages other younger friends to do so as well. She is manipulative and exceedingly selfish and sees these indulgences as necessary to being true to herself. Her family seemed at a loss, even, for how to handle this headstrong woman-child and I was deeply moved for them. I saw almost everyone else there as being made of deeper stuff than this narcissistic girl. I felt the story was honest, but I did not see Anne as a true heroine for young people and that saddened me.

(I do think I need to read the book myself before making a full and fair judgement.)

Today was hard in our home. My own dear daughters are undergoing their own personal battles for self over sacrifice. We all experience this lifelong struggle, being dragged or willingly entering the ring to grapple with our deepest darkest selves. Mouthiness, arguing, bickering, willfulness, sullenness. These are the foes that I see are at war for dominance in their beings. I cannot let them skulk by unmolested, allowed to rule over my dear ones' hearts. They are called out and challenged, and I put a rake in one girl's hands, a pencil and His word in the other's. I draw them into the ring, giving them time to maneuver and engage with their shadowy sides. And I pray for victory, not just this day, not just for my daughters' character, but for His name sake and the touch of His hand upon their hearts and minds.

*It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them.

Oftentimes, when I am faced with dealing with my girls' emotional, hormonal growing pains I remember my own willful, rebellious heart as a young girl. In particular I recall a photograph taken with my back to the camera, arms crossed, profile set in stubbornness, all resistance. And that picture just so happens to also include my Mother, hands upon my shoulders, turning me towards the camera, making me do what I would not. Although it is a very embarrassing reminder of the self-indulgent struggles I put my own parents through - what a serendipitous moment for the camera to capture. ;D

*Psalm 44:3

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Seasonal Thoughts of a 46 Year Old Mermaid

Well, the changing out of winter's wardrobe for that of warmer seasons will certainly make you face up to some things if nothing else will. Here in North Carolina the spring brings with it fickle and fluctuating temperatures. This past weekend we saw 90 degrees, tomorrow it will be in the mid-60s. So it's a bit like dipping your toe into the water - and out again, and in again, until you've had some time to get adjusted to simple hot and humid - Summer. I love the things I've always loved about summer, but there are the things I really don't.

With summer comes the trying on of last summer's clothes, which always seem to have gotten snugger during their period of hibernation in a box. That all goes with the territory of being a woman I guess and is predictably forseeable, as is it's accompanying partner - dread. But within the past few years, there has been a new certain something that has shadowed the perimeter of these rites of transition, lurking with sharp edged teeth. I see it in my reflection and it colors my thoughts with questions and unbecoming self-evaluations.

Isn't that shirt a bit too young for you now? When did those lines get to be so permanent? And why do they have to be etched downward? I'd so prefer them to slant upwards. Are ruffles too much? Does my hair color look natural? How much is really grey now, anyway? What would be the best pant length for legs shaped "like mine"? Why do all bathing suits assume we want to show cleavage? I need to find a good cover-up this year... Why can't we see a resurgence in the bathing trends of, well... I'm not exactly sure how far back the style trend eras go for acceptable swimwear - but at least something more naturally becoming? I could just keep my cover-up on. I know someone else who does. What is an acceptable hairstyle and cut for a woman my age anyway?

And there - I've said it - a woman my age. I've just classified myself in an unflattering way simply because of the candles on the cake. For at least five years I have made it a point to steer clear of sidling alongside anyone who references themselves as old. I avoid statements of joking self-deprecation that are anywhere near geriatric in humor. I have quoted Chuck Swindoll on numerous occasions, "Once you start calling yourself old - you are." No thank you! A poem flies to my thoughts - Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night. I am wrestling in an attempt to understand my own struggle.

I do not wish to cling to days' past like the faded Miss Havisham. The melancholy that overtakes my sentimental husband when looking at photos of our children as little ones does not overtake me in the same way. That was then, precious and dear but of an intangibility called memory. This is now, a gift much more easily grasped and handled and if I don't pay attention I will miss it - even if it is wrinkled and creaking. Given my practical nature, I did not expect to really find aging to be any sort of upset. After all, given time it really is rather predictable.

I just thought I would do it so much more gracefully.

As I turned from my bathroom mirror to hurry to my computer to write this post, a sharp pang shot without warning through my foot. I limped gingerly to the dark screen and keyboard. Like most difficulties in life, suddenness is often part and parcel of the package. And regardless of our preconceived notions of how we will handle such and such, reality is much more intense and bracing.

Eventually, I suppose I will get used to the waters in which I find myself swimming. Regardless of the suit I wear, it is the soul that glides through the blue. And a toe at a time, I will become accustomed to the changes. Still... may I do so with grace, Lord? It seems I need your help with this as well.

* Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

*Isaiah 46:4

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thai Beef Liver with Coconut Rice and Green Sauce

I should have added Beef Liver to my list of New Year's Resolutions - I love being able to put checks in little boxes. I'm the kind of person who goes back and adds things to my to-do-list if I did them but they weren't on the list in the first place. They should have been, and I want credit for them. I feel so certain that this is right and just that I don't begrudge anybody else doing the same. ;D

Like most American kiddos, I have memories of the occasional sight and smell of liver and onions showing up for dinner. It wasn't bad necessarily, but it wasn't quite up there at average on the tasty response meter either. Well, this ain't your Mama's liver, honey! My family says the sauce is what really pushes it over to the category of "welcome back" meals they'll be pleased to see again. And they ate what was leftover for lunch the next day without a word of encouragement from me!


1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 T garam masala
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T minced ginger
2 minced cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 good sized pasture-fed beef liver cut in slices 1/4" thick

Mix marinade ingredients in non-reactive bowl and place the liver in to rest at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Saute in batches that will fit your pan without crowding in 1-2 T coconut oil on med heat until cooked through. I had heard that liver curls in an unruly fashion, so I made intermittent cuts every inch or so down each slice. That seemed to help quite well.

Green Sauce
In blender mix this all up well:
2 cups fresh cilantro
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 T fresh chopped ginger
1 tsp comino
2 garlic cloves
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp sea salt

We tried an online recipe for coconut rice a while back, and my kids clamor for it every chance they get now. Serve plates with rice, then liver placed on top, graced with some of our zesty green sauce, and a sweet sprinkling of toasted coconut for a pretty finish.

I am going to post this at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesdays. Let me know what you think! If you've been wanting to try making liver for your family because of it's nutritional benefits, perhaps this will give you just the incentive you're looking for.

ConsumiciĆ³n sana feliz!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

His Earth: The Rare Exception...

I enjoy listening to NPR. I tune in regularly, because for a Mama who spends a good deal of her time running to and fro, it has been a great source of at least some of the news. There are times when I catch just a part of a piece and am so intrigued, I simply must go sleuthing to listen to it in it's entirety. Such was the case last Thursday, when I hopped into my car, turned on the radio, and began listening as I drove to pick up my son. All Things Considered was broadcasting The Fruitless Search For Solar Systems Like Ours. It took quite a bit of work to locate it, I must say, but I felt it was worth the time to put it out there for others to hear - at least whoever happens upon my little blog will be able to.

(A little background) My first job was at a health food store - it was an appropriate fit for this earth muffin girl. For years, I attended Earth Day fairs on April 22nd with annual regularity (didn't even need to look up that date.) ;D I shared my shower with empty milk cartons in which to collect water to use upon my lawn, shoved a weighted piece into my toilet tank so as to take up space and waste as little water as necessary, and drove my recycling material to the center long before the city did door-to-door pickup on trash day. My children knew about the plastics and paints we strove to avoid in our foods - artificial fillers and colors.

I could very well have been on my way to a hedonistic, kumbaya sort of existence, wearing crystal amulets around my neck - if the Lord had not reached into my life and whispered of His love for my wandering little organic soul. The dusty dirt that covered me, the water He washed me with, the very skin I live in, the blood in my veins and the blood He shed for me, the clean cotton I envision my robe is made of - He made and purposed it all. I thought of using a pic of the earth amid it's solar system for this post, but I just loved the Godly earthiness of this painting.... it is filled with the smells and sights and touch of that other rarity - the intimacy of God and man in personal relationship.

I have no trouble reconciling my earth-loving ways with a heart given over to my Maker. He is the Creator of all men may ever know, see, discover, find, or feel. *"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." My stewardship of what he blesses me with, whether material or immaterial, springs from a heart and mind that responds to Love with Love.

I did find it ironic that NPR chose to broadcast this little piece on April Fool's Day. They really need to learn a bit more tact if they want to convince others that they are really impartial. (Wink!) I also found it providential that it preceded our celebration of His resurrection as well.

*Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature
of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
hat at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

And on bended knees to Him....
*May you be blessed by the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

*I Cor: 26
Phillipians 2:5-11
Psalm 115:15

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mayacobas y Verdes

In English: Mayacoba Beans and Greens. I have long wanted to try my hand at just such a dish. I am posting this at Food On Fridays w/ Ann Kroeker. I picked up this bag of unusual beans at my local grocery store. I sound a bit like I'm cousin to Jack and the Beanstalk, don't I? These beans have become a quick favorite with my family - smooth, buttery, and filling. You may substitute cannellini or another of your preference.

Mayacoba y Verdes

1/2 bag of washed Mayacoba beans, soaked overnight, pressure cooked in fresh water for 30 minutes, allowed to cool to release pressure. Then add:
1 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/2 T comino
1 T Mexican oregano
1 T chili powder
salt to taste
2-6 cloves of minced garlic tossed in

In another pot throw in 3 lbs. of mixed greens - turnip, mustard, collard, etc. or one of your choice. Add 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth and 2-6 more minced cloves of garlic. Cook down til as soft as you like them, stirring from time to time.

Add to the beans and stir to combine nicely. Serve sprinkled with queso fresco and the comfort that you are ladling out health and contentment.

"Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite." Auguste Escoffier