Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Library Chapter 2

When Sean came to visit us, he offered to make Tiramisu for us and other guests at Christmas time. Sean is an excellent cook, so this was a special treat. We went shopping for the dessert's ingredients, and I nearly choked when I saw the price of the marscapone cheese. There wasn't a substitute for it, and Sean needed not just one container, but several.

A few weeks ago, while browsing at the local library in South Lansing, I ran across a cookbook that touted that I can make my own dairy products, like butter, yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, cream cheese and more. Because I was interested in saving some cash and wanted to know more about yogurt making, I checked it out and after turning a few pages, I found the recipe and technique for making marscapone. It was amazingly simple and much, much less inexpensive. All it requires is a double boiler, heavy whipping cream and a small amount of white vinegar. And a little time.

The book that illuminated this and other gourmet treats, such as goat cheese, is The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley. When I checked it out, visions of having to get a small cow to live in our back yard plus a couple of huge vats to store all the milk danced in my head. A nice fantasy, including a chicken coop to produce our own eggs every morning. Or bring to my own imaginary booth at a local prestigious Farmer's Market in Okemos. Maybe become a guest on Eric Villegas' award winning program on Michigan cuisine "Fork in the Road" (on your local PBS station. Yup, sought after by culinary afficiendos from all over the world. Don't tell them that LeBlanc Farms is about as big as a postage stamp.

But coming back to earth, I know that animal husbandry and farming is no easy way to make a living. But I sometimes do dream of being a small food processing company--all fresh, organic and lovingly produced. It started about 17 years ago, when I contributed baked goods to our church rummage sale. Dennis, husband and delivery man, told me that the ladies snatched up the cappuccino cookies (wrapped in plastic and put in white lunch bags tied in a black grosgrain bow) before they even hit the sales table. One of those ladies had a famous catering company and pursued me for the cookie recipe. When that happened, I knew I had something and it wasn't just the cookies. But I also learned that I should have charged more for the cookies and should have asked for compensation when I gave away the recipe.

So I've had my eye out for ideas for unique products. I had gone to a couple of fancy food conventions and I know who gets the attention easily and who has to work harder for it. But these days, I think, everyone has to work harder than usual. Is anyone going to snatch up my cookies before they even have a chance to cool anymore? At a profit?

I've been watching and it seems the most success goes to the ones who know who they are and are able to draw from that innate creativity to bring to the market something that no one else could possibly duplicate. And instead of the business becoming their life, their life becomes the business and they work hard to bring it to its fullest potential because of their passion. And I guess passion is what I have in spades.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Library

After I graduated from college I lived with a mentor who specialized in helping post college transitions. After a few weeks of observation, she decided to go with the theme of acheiving balance to help me adjust. After a few more weeks, she helped me discover that I had no life outside of work and ministry on campus. She asked me to find a hobby. I was in shock, I had no idea that I had become boring. I also had become insulated from the outside world.

Usually, hobbies equal money and I had none. So, I decided to make reading my hobby and I got a library card at the local public library. That was 23 years ago, and ever since then, whenever I move to a new community (which has been often) one of the first things I do is get a library card. But to get back to reading for pleasure was life-changing for me. It opened up a whole new world.

The first books I checked out were novels I read in junior high school but I felt warranted a re-read. One was "The Grapes of Wrath" by Steinbeck and "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck. Not long after I finished them, my mentor and I were invited to dinner at our landlord's home. Our landlord was a retired professor and was very accomplished and a world traveler. His wife was one of my favorite people, intelligent and gracious.

I can't remember how it started, but a discussion of current events allowed me to bring up some thoughts from the books I had just finished. I do remember having the professor and his wife's complete attention, as well as a satisfying discussion not just about literature but also the problems in the world like poverty. To be able to converse on this level with a professor and be interesting as well as interested was an amazing development for me. It showed me that one can be educated, but you have to keep disciplining yourself to be a lifelong learner. And you have something to say.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


There is a certain discipline needed to live for God, and it begins with the little things. The discipline of doing, thinking and saying something that is right, loving and peaceful even though you feel like acting out on what is wrong, unloving and unpeaceful. I don't claim that I've mastered this discipline, on the contrary, I have failed at it more often than I care to think about. I confess my rebellious and selfish feelings and ask God for strength and grace to be the woman He wants me to be. I can not do it on my own.

The need to be obedient often drives me to God. When I see it in my life, it isn't my own effort that I can congratulate myself for. It humbles me that God is working in me and through me, to Him I give the credit. And what is obedience for one person may be different for another.

For example, I swim or do some sort of aerobic exercise at least four times a week. If I don't, I'm not in obedience or submission to God. Why? Because my body is His temple and it is diabetic. My Lord has chosen my diabetic body to dwell in, and I need to take care of it. God in His kindness has provided the means for me to do this. Neglect would be sin. If I had taken this attitude a few years ago, I probably wouldn't have diabetes because I would have made choices that pleased God. I knew that polycystic ovary syndrom (PCOS) makes a woman insulin resistant as well as infertile and when it counted, I did too little about it. I wanted to, but it wasn't enough.

But not everyone has to work out like I do out of obedience to Him. For some people, the obedient thing in physical discipline might be applied in another way. But my focus has to be like Apostle Paul who said "I beat my body and make it my slave..." 1Corinthians 9:27. In other words, I must repent of my lazy bone ways and get out of my comfort zone and sweat a lot and make sure I breathe faster, with God's help. And you know, I've come to like working out. And I like to believe that John 14:21 applies to this.

"The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show [reveal, manifest] Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.] AMP

And that is all I want.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I'm swimming again. I took a hiatus, tried other things to work out but only swimming does it for me. I missed the pool.

Today, another woman around my age or older asked to share my lane. I was stopping to rest after pushing myself hard on a fast lap as she jumped in. I was glad to share but I warned her I was slow. She asked how long I had been swimming. I didn't know how to answer that--I'm not a beginner but I'm not advanced. So I said I just swim laps, but I'm still slow. She said, yeah, it takes awhile.

I've been picking up speed this week, though. For me. When I get to the other side, I'm surprised I'm already there. This is not a big deal for most people, but it is for me. When I get in the pool, I remind myself that I'm rebuilding what was lost over a miserable summer. It won't be back over night. But it will be back. Sometimes on those swift and smooth laps, it stops being an effort and begins to feel like flying.

Today, I swam to the other side and stopped to move a buoy to help me keep track of laps and as I reached over, some guy a few lanes over was looking at me in amazement. Yeah, I move faster than I look. It took awhile. But in a matter of time, I will be faster.

What do I like about exercise and particularly swimming? I think feeling connected to my body is something I don't experience much and a good work out helps with strengthening that bond between the physical, emotional, intellect and spiritual. There was a movie about an Olympian sprinter saying that he felt God's pleasure when he ran. The man whose life the movie is based on was Eric Liddell, the winner of the 400m in the 1924 Olympics and who afterward worked as a missionary in China until he died in an internment camp Wiefang in 1945. His daughter remembers him still being fast in during that time, so quick he chased and caught a hare for dinner during food rationing.

I can't say that I feel God's pleasure when I swim, but I feel more joyful and more connected to Him afterwards, and I know that my diligence in taking care of myself is something He likes to see.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Gran Torino

We went to see "Gran Torino" Saturday night. Clint Eastwood movie. Made in Michigan. I've liked nearly everything by Eastwood. But this one is the best.

It's been out awhile, so we were surprised that we couldn't find a seat in the auditorium (we hate the previews, so we pretty much slip in 10 minutes late). We ended up in the front row, and there's nothing like a close up of Eastwood's glare while sitting practically next to the screen. Our bad.

Most of the humor is questionable--where you laugh says a lot about yourself. But it isn't meant to be funny ha, ha, it's meant to make you squirm. Well, I did. Because, I don't care who you are, racism is ignorance. And Walter, the character that Eastwood plays, is about as ignorant and racist about his neighborhood as Archie Bunker. But you get to laugh at him, too.

He starts to warm up to his Hmong neighbors and get involved because he cares. In the process, we discover that he isn't who we think he is. And he does, too. Wouldn't it be great if all racist geezers reach down deep inside themselves and find out they have a heart, after all?

Well, do ya', punk?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I didn't watch the Superbowl, just kept tabs on the score, the game was in the background Sunday night. Didn't even pay much attention to the ads, but when I heard "Forever Young", it got my attention...and I've been a diet Coke fan for years.