Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Perfect Peach Salsa!

Sweet, East Texas peaches . . . they are a summer tradition!

Last week I headed to Eford's Orchard in Pittsburg, Texas and bought a bushel.

They weren't quite soft enough, so I let them sit out a few days.

This week I made jam . . .

and salsa . . .

Several people asked for the salsa recipe, so here it is:

The Perfect Peach Salsa

10 soft peaches (peeled and chopped - no seed!  : )
1/2 lemon - juiced (watch those seeds!)
1/2 lime - juiced
6 ripe tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 large yellow pepper - chopped
1 large orange or red pepper - chopped
2 white onions - chopped
2 jalapeno peppers - chopped (remove seeds if you want less heat)
6 cloves of garlic - chopped
1 bunch of cilantro - rough chopped
3/4 c vinegar
1/2 can tomato sauce
1/2 large can tomato paste
1/2-3/4 cup liquid honey (depending on how much sweetness you want)
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbs ground cumin
2 Tbs Kosher salt
1 Tbs course ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot.  Bring to a boil on med. high heat.  Continue to boil for about 3-5 min.  Turn down the heat and simmer for an additional 20 min.  Remember to stir often to prevent burning as some of the liquid will evaporate.
Taste often and adjust seasonings to taste.

Pour hot salsa into sterilized jars.  Process jars if you will be storing for later use.  

Here is where you can read about the sterilization and canning process.  Don't skimp on the details!  You don't want anyone to get sick because of improperly canning!

We sure are - finished a jar last night with a big plate of nachos!

Friday, March 8, 2013

She is Seven!

She is Seven!

And she loves talking, 
and reading, 
walking her dolls,
playing with Gran Gran,
riding her bike,
making all kinds of crafts,
watching a movie with lots of popcorn.

She is Seven!

And she loves to make and give gifts,
play with smaller children,
give lots of hugs and snuggles,
take care of the sick,
play musical concerts,
ask questions and questions and questions,

She is Seven!

And she is 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Parable of the Rich Man, Part 3

Welcome to Part 3!

I have been thinking about what God has shown me in Luke 12.
I've been looking for even the slightest evidence of Kingdom thinking in how I look at/think about/spend money and possessions.
I have to be honest, I fall short, very short.

As He almost always does, God is making His Teaching very practical in my life.
During this time, He gave our family an unexpected, very generous gift.
My first thoughts about this gift were, "What does God have for this?" and then,
 "What can we buy?  How can we spend it?"

Back to Luke 12 - - 
After Jesus tells the disciples to trust God to care for their needs, to change their thinking and way of living from gathering to giving, He goes on to tell 2 more parables about how Kingdom people are to live.

These parables are about Servants and how they act when the Master is away for a while.

First Parable:
Master - has gone to a wedding feast and is away from his home.
Servants -  while their master is away they stay ready, dressed, lamps are lit, waiting to immediately open the door when their master comes home and knocks, they are on alert, they are ready for their master even if he returns during the late hours of the morning.

           Master will:       1 - get himself ready to serve and will serve the servants himself
                                     2 - have the servants relax and recline at the table
                                     3 - come up and will wait on his servants himself

At this point, Peter, Jesus' special student, asks:
 "Is this about us, or is it to everyone else, too?"

Jesus answers with another parable about servants and a master who goes away for a while:

Second Parable:
Master - goes away for a time, puts an overseer in charge of feeding and caring for his servants
Good Overseer - is blessed, his master comes home and finds him giving servants what they need at the proper time
Result:  Master puts this overseer in charge of all his possessions.

Bad Overseer - thinks in his heart, "My master will be gone a long time . . . "
                      - beats the servants 
                      - eats and drinks and gets drunk
Result:  His master comes home on a day he doesn't expect and finds the overseer not doing his will.  The master cuts the overseer to pieces and assigns him a place with the unbelievers.

Moral of the Story:  The Master will make a judgement about His servants.  Everyone who has been given much - much will be required of them, more will be asked of him.

Both of these stories teach that those in the Kingdom of God are to live lives READY for the Master's return.  We know that Jesus is coming again and He has left us here, on His earth to do His Will.  He has given us clear instructions.  We are to be at work doing what He has left for us to do and ready at any minute for Him to return!  We can expect reward or punishment for our behavior.

God's Judgement is Coming - Be Ready!
Verse 49 - Jesus teaches that God's Judgement is coming.  Jesus came to bring this Judgement - a fire that will destroy all that is not of God.
First, there will be a clear division of those who follow Jesus and those who don't - none so clear as in earthly families themselves.
He warns that we are to be wise and look at the signs of the times.  The times are changing.  Something new and different has come.

Verse 58 - Jesus warns that we should settle the case against us before going to court.  I believe He is talking about the Judgement of God that will take place in His Holy Court.
Jesus is warning the people in the crowd to make every effort to settle our case with God before going to His Judgement Court.
Why? - because we are all guilty and we will pay everything we have as our sentence.

Natural Question comes to mind here? -  How can I settle?  What can I do?

And, this is where Jesus wants us to be . . . facing who we really are and asking God,
"How can I change this?  Help me!"

My Summary:
-God cares for His People.
-Those who live in God's Kingdom give freely to others in need because God takes care of our every need.
-We think like this:  "To whom can I give?  How can I give?  Whom can I bless?"
Not like this:  "I better hold on to this because I might need it in the future.  I better get stocked up in case something happens."
-People in God's Kingdom know that whatever they need, God will provide, whenever they need it.
-People in God's Kingdom are serving God, ready for Jesus' return - even if it seems like He is taking a long time to come back.  We believe He is coming and we live like it - taking care of all He has given us to do in the mean time.
-People in God's Kingdom know how to read the signs of the times.  We know the time of God's Judgement is coming and we have settle our case!  Jesus is our settlement.  He has paid the fine!

WHOO HOO!  How I want to live my life in this TRUTH!  I want to walk out on the water and trust God to care for me - freely giving and holding nothing back!  I want to be found a faithful servant of my Beloved Master!

I know there is so much more to be found in the study of God's Word!
I am so thankful for my precious Teacher, the Spirit of God, that leads me into all Truth.
If there is error in any of my ideas/writings, I know HE will correct me and set me on the right path - the Path that leads to Life!

I encourage you to study for yourself God's Word!  Let Him be your Teacher!
You will never regret it and you will never be the same!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Parable of the Rich Man, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

In Part 1 we had a bit of an overview of the Book of Luke in the Bible.

Chapter 12 of Luke is the chapter that stopped me in my tracks.  

I can't wait to get to that point, so let's move on!

Chapter 12

Jesus warned His followers against the teaching and lives of the religious leaders.  He said the path they  walked would lead to death.

A natural question at this point would be:

If the religious leaders didn't know God and their way would lead to death, then, 
how can someone know God?  What is the way to Life?

Ok, because I believe that the things Jesus teaches are Truth, let's switch to present tense.  Try to imagine you are one of His followers or maybe one in the crowd, interested in what He has to say . . .
He is speaking now:

Jesus warns His followers that if they believe what He says and start to live the way He teaches, they will be hunted by the religious leaders, too.  His teachings are so revolutionary that they will be treated like criminals for following them.

He spends a lot of time in this chapter reassuring His followers that God loves them and God will take care of them.  

He tells them not to be worried about what they will say when they are brought to trial as criminals.  He says the Spirit of God will teach them what to say right in that very minute they need it.

What does Life in God's Kingdom look like?  How do people live there?

(Oh, man, are you ready?!  This is pretty amazing stuff and you may not ever be able to go back after hearing it!)

Jesus says that people who live in God's Kingdom trust God to care for them.
He says that God loves His people so much that He cares for their every need.  

God gives them food and drink.  
God gives them clothes to wear.  
     God gives them everything for life.  

Instead of worrying about these things and living their lives to provide themselves and their families with these things, people in the Kingdom of God seek God and believe that He will provide what they need to live.  Free from worry about "tomorrow," they use what God gives them to serve others, today.

Jesus tells a story to emphasize his point.  And, as many of His stories are, it is a parable.

The Story of the Rich Man

“The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’  

The Rich Farmer is a negative example.
He is rich already.  He has land that is very productive.  The land produces a great harvest.  
He has a barn but it isn't big enough to hold all the harvest. 
Problem:  What to do with the extra that he doesn't have room to store?

His Solution:  Find a way to store everything in his harvest.  Tear down his barn and build bigger ones.
Why does he want to do this?  - So he can stop working and not worry about what he will eat.  He can retire and live off his stored goods and grain.
God says to the Rich Man:  You fool!  Tonight you will die.  Now, who will own what you have prepared.

Jesus' Answer to the Parable

Don't worry, God will give you everything you need, including food, drink and clothes. 
God cares for the tiny creatures of His Creation and He will care for you. 
You are so much more than what you eat, drink or wear.
Seek God's Kingdom and then all these other things will be given.

Are you ready?  Now He tells them what they are supposed to do. . . 

Instead of worrying and storing up for themselves for the future, the people in God's Kingdom:
1.  Sell their possessions.
2.  Give to charity/to the poor and needy.

WHY? - People in God's Kingdom don't store up things here on earth.  They give!  God provides for them and they are free from worry.  They are free to think and live eternally - with a view toward Heaven.  Treasures for Heaven are found in giving to those in need.  

Oh my!  We are free!  Free to give and give and give from all the abundance God provides!  

This is so deep and wide and high; I can barely put my brain around it.  

Need some time to let it soak in?  
Me, too. 

to be continued . . . 

Parable of the Rich Man, Part 1

I love studying God's Word.  I hear God speak to me and I come away changed.  
Sometimes the changes are so world-shattering; I can never go back.  

This month God has had me in the Book of Luke.

I will never be the same. . . 
Luke was a physician who traveled with the ex-Pharisee, now follower of Jesus the Messiah, Paul.  Paul had a dramatic conversion where he claimed he heard the voice of Jesus and then was blinded for several days.  He was now traveling all over the Roman world teaching Jews and non-Jews about Jesus and why he believed Jesus was the Messiah - the Son of God sent to earth to proclaim that The Kingdom of God had come again on earth.

Luke also believed that Jesus was the Messiah  He wrote a book for a man named Theophilus (Lover of God) who was probably a Roman official of some sort.  Luke tells Theophilus that he has investigated everything carefully from the beginning and is writing it out for Theophilus in consecutive order, "... so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught."  
Luke's book to Theophilus is a biography of Jesus.

What did Luke write about Jesus?  What did he tell Theophilus - - over and over?

1.  Jesus proclaimed and taught about "The Kingdom of God."  
                   Jesus told stories that explained what God's Kingdom is like, 
                   what the people in The Kingdom are like,
                   and how people can become part of The Kingdom.  

2.  People were sick and dying.  
                   Jesus healed sick people and brought dead people back to life.  He made them 
                        healthy and alive.

3.  People had demons and spirits living in them - making them sick, "crazy," and slaves to the demons.  
                   Jesus cast out demons from people.  He set them free.

4.  People were living in the terrible consequences of their sin.
                   Jesus forgave people's sin.

5.  Jesus said He was the Son of God, The Messiah.

Jesus had thousands of people coming to hear Him speak and teach.  They followed Him wherever He went.  They asked Him to heal them and to cast out demons.  Jesus had a smaller group of followers that He hand picked to teach personally and intimately.  He trained these followers to also go into the villages and towns and teach about what He called The Kingdom of God.  They, too, healed the sick and cast out demons from people.

Not everyone who heard Jesus teach liked what they heard or believed He was teaching the Truth.  Many of the religious leaders disagreed with what Jesus taught and what He did.  They believed  He was actually a servant of Satan, not God.  They wanted to trap Him somehow in His Teaching so they could prove He was wrong and have Him discredited with the people.

Jesus had very harsh words for these religious leaders - priests, experts in the Law of Moses, members of very conservative religious groups.  He said that they tried their best to look and be important and "God-like" but they were really dead men on the inside.  He said that they didn't know God at all.  He warned the people following Him to stay away from the religious leaders and not to follow what they taught.  Jesus told the people that the way of the religious leaders would lead them to death.

If the religious leaders didn't know God and their way would lead to death, then, 
how can someone know God?  What is the way to Life?

Ok, let's stop here.
It brings us up to about Chapter 12 in Luke's book. 

The real meat of what God opened up to me this week is still yet to come!  
Be warned!! 

to be continued . . . 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Crimea - Our First Family Vacation

Our view of the Black Sea from the apartment we rented just outside Yalta.
This spring we went South!
Well, first we went North, then we headed South . . .
It was quite trip . . .

We had some business to take care of in Smolensk so we 
flew from Houston to Moscow, 
drove to Smolesnk, 
then, a few days later 
we drove 24 hours to
The Crimea - on the Black Sea in Ukraine!

Masha and Sophia enjoy ice-cream in Yalta

We met up with some mountain biking buddies just outside of Yalta. 
 And, stayed in a hostel that caters to those who love downhill riding.
Every morning, the guys went up and down the mountains a few times 
while the women and children took in the area attractions.
Can only imagine what these Babushki are talking about . . . and what they have lived thru . . .
 Yalta is a quaint sea-side town.
It feels very Old World.

- a mix of Europe, Russia, Asia - 
- of Islam and Christianity-
- of The Empire and The Soviets - 

Anton Chekov "The Lady With the Dog (and 3 crazy kid)" statue in Yalta
The history alone is complicated 
with groups coming and going,
wars raging,
dreams of a New Constantinople,
of a pure people and a true faith . . . 
nothing new under the sun, it seems.

Yalta - I love how the mountains fall into the Sea and bump right up to my dear husband, keeping all in line.

The topography is amazing.

For some reason I always imagined the Black Sea to be murky, grey . . .
and, it can be, just before a rain.
But usually it is a brilliant blue.
Not bright, like the Mediterranean,
but brilliant, almost royal.

And the mountains . . .
great slides for a giant's water park,
 just roll into the sea.
This, my friends, is a great invention!
 Masha and Sophia spent hours catching fish while the parents rested!
Experiencing a new part of the world with my husband - LOVED IT!  (Can you guess my love language?)
 We had so much fun strolling along the boardwalk,
eating ice-cream, fishing for magnet sea creatures, and people watching . . .
old Ukrainian,
New Russian . . . 
"The Swallow's Nest" - a small castle built by a Baltic German oil magnate for his ballerina mistress.

Sophia and Masha in awe as we ride up the mountain.

We climbed the mountains . . .
Going up! 
In large gondolas - 
 moving rooms with a view,
barely missing the jagged cliffs 
just inches from our fingertips.

What a view!
 Mountains over-looking the sea.
 Look at the colors in the sky and water . . .
 No wonder artists flocked to live here 
and the nobles summered every year here.

Dressed in Crimean Tartar hats on top of the mountain.
 At the top of Ai Petri (Greek for Saint Peter)
we met a community of Crimean Tartars.

These people were deported from their native land 
during WWII.
Stalin wasn't sure of their loyalty, 
so to get the problem out of the way,
he had them all sent to Central Asia.

In a matter of hours, 
they lost their homes and most of their possessions.
Just recently, the Ukrainian government has invited the Crimean Tartars to return home.
Many are now living on their family's land again.
There is still tension, 
still some mistrust. 

Anton getting ready to ride - and what a view!
While some of us took the "sissy way" up the mountain,
others braved the serpentine twists of road 
so they could fly down and off the sides.

Here he comes!

Mt Bike Heaven!

Biker in Black! - I think I see a smile of anticipation!
The bottom of the trail . . . 
This is a whole new culture 
invading The Crimea.

It has its own language, armor,
costume, code of ethics, and rules of engagement.

My cool biker dude!
But still, it is young men,
looking for adventure 
and adrenaline rush.
Pushing themselves to the limit 
physically and mentally.
Conquering their fears 
and the mountain.

 Yep, nothing much new under the sun . . . 

Secret mount lake known only to those who ride the trails!

"The Littlest Mermaid" - Sophia and the Black Sea
 The Sea!

Every morning, after a common breakfast,
 the men went off to battle the mountains
and the women and children inched carefully 
down the steep slopes to 
The Sea!

"OOOooo!  It's COLD!"
The sun was warm
 the Black Sea is cold in May!

We sat on a rocky beach.
The children ventured into the water to 
catch jellyfish that didn't sting.

They built rock castles
and buried each other up to the neck in hot rocks.

Some people pay big bucks for a hot rock treatment!

Volodya - riding on the back of a beautiful Beluga whale.

One day we visited an aquarium.
The white whales allowed Volodya to swim with them.
They took him for a ride in exchange for fish and approval.
I wish I could have captured his beaming smile
and saved it to share on difficult days.
BFF! - "Best Friends Forever" 
 Smiles and ice-cream.

ICF! - " Ice-Cream Forever!"

 Sun and Sea.

A Room With the Most Incredible View!
 Mountains and Sea
and Sky.

The Yastrebov's Family Vacation
The Crimea.
 A wonderful first vacation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Texas Spring

Sophia in the middle of Mrs Lee's daffodil garden.

This is my first Texas Spring in many years . . . and it is Anton and Sophia's first . . .  ever.

Texas Springtime is full of SUN!  
Bright, harsh, full-blast SUN!

"Do daffodils smell, Mom?"

There is no "Big Thaw" here.
No standing water.
No piles of trash and dog poop that suddenly appear after the cover of snow is gone.
There are no slip-sliding days.
No need for galoshes at all.
There is no mud.

In Texas, we slip 
quietly, warmly
 into Spring.

Just a few weeks of beautiful weather.
Blooming everywhere - full of bright green and technicolor
Before the heat begins.

Holding hands in the garden.

In Texas, the daffodils show their heads in March.
They are the first heralds of Spring!

Then come the dogwoods.
Their delicate white sprinkling hope in the dark, still-barren woods.
A signal for the blooming and budding to begin.

Delivering St Patrick's Day goodies!

The flowers come out  - and so do neighbors!

Little princesses, in their tiaras and best bright green
Sharing goodies in celebration of Spring!

And, women in hats 
Gather for a Southern salad luncheon
On the lake where azaleas bloom.

Seven and eight feet tall
Bushes awash in soft vibrant flowers.

Mom won in the "Makes Me Smile" category in the hat competition.

Even prize-winning Springtime hats 
Pale in comparison.

Thank you, God, for a Texas Spring!
Thank you for each budding, growing thing!
Thank you for friends with whom to share
Your great Beauty 

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