Monday, August 22, 2016

What can you do with hard cooking pears?

When I moved to the south and go to the apartment I'm in now, I was excited to see there were many fruit-bearing trees and vines in the yard. Fig, apple, pecan, scuppernong, and pear trees abounded. The first time I picked a pear and bit into it, I just about broke my teeth. I waited and waited for the pears to get ripe, but they never softened.

That is because they are windfall pears. I do no know why they are called windfall pears, other than the fact that "they are so hard to eat that they stay on the tree until the wind makes them fall, and even then, the squirrels won't eat them." That's my definition.

But us frugal people hate to see a lovely looking fruit go to waste. There must be something one can do with them? Isn't there?


After my first year here trying to freeze them, cook them, poach them ... I gave up. I do not enjoy making jam or jelly or dealing with sterilizing jars, so that seemed to be that.

But the other day a friend gave me a bag of hard pears, and so here I go again. This time, I decided, I won't give up.



The thing is, I don't like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That's why I do all my cooking on Sunday for the week ahead. When you live alone, every single thing that has to be done in my life, has to be done by me. So the more things I can collapse into a convenient bundle, the better.

I also don't like coring or seeding fruit. I don't like being sticky. I know, I know, I'm persnickety about a lot of things.

I decided to boil the 12 pears I had been given with skins on and pare them when they cooled. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with seeds and cores. Ha, HA, take that, cores! I washed them, took the stems off, and simply popped them into a large pot with water. What I didn't do is add something to the water for flavor, such as cinnamon or lemon or other spices. I forgot. That would have been good to do.

I brought the water to a boil then turned it to simmer until the pears were soft. I don't know how long it took, because I was happy not to have to babysit the pears and I went off to do other things. It was a good while though, about 45 minutes.


Bring to a boil,

Then simmer

They were done when a knife went through them easily. I cooled them on a clean towel.


When they were cool enough to handle, I cut them up with skins on. There is a lot of flavor in the skins. Plus, easier. The dozen pears even after having been boiled, yielded a lot of meat.


On the left in the small pot, a simple sugar. Also, I finally dragged out the lemon juice from the fridge. I added both to the chopped pears and simmered again. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the pears further along, but I knew I wanted them soft, really soft. I used 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water. I used two caps full of lemon juice. I also added ginger.


Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Actually, no trouble. It's a mainly hands free process. The only time I really had to handle them was cutting up the softened pears. The rest of the time, it did its thing on its own!


I simmered until the liquid was gone. I cooled it and popped it in the fridge. I now have a mound of soft, tasty pears. Today for lunch I put a few spoons of the pear compote into my fruit salad. I will also use it in oatmeal, on cottage cheese, and in yogurt. You can also add raisins, craisins, almonds, or walnuts. Add to ice cream, top pound cake, or just plop some whipped cream on a mound of pear compote for a yummy dessert. What other ways can you think of to use a pear compote like this?

Anyway, that is my easy-peasy method of using up windfall pears!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Announcing my new eBook: Encouragement in Grace

I am happy to announce that I have written an eBook which is now for sale at Amazon! It's titled "Encouragement In Grace: Devotions & Inspirations for Christian Women" by Elizabeth Prata. The book is the first in a series of three I've written. The second two, Prophecy In Grace and Discernment In Grace will be in December and in April, respectively.

Jesus saved me, in grace. His grace is sufficient, His grace sustains me, and it's His grace that is so amazing. So I named the series In Grace as a tribute to Him who is grace personified.

I pray the essays in the eBook shine His glory back onto Him.

Thanks!

Cover photo by EPrata, cover design by Liliana McAndrew


Sunday mornings: cooking & sermons

I've mentioned before that I'm frugal. I'm frugal with my time and my money. I work hard all day (who doesn't?!) and when I come home I shift gears into ministry and writing mode. It's my second shift. As I get older I notice my tiredness creeps in earlier and my attention flags sooner. I need to budget my time in order to capture my best.

I buy the reduced fruits and veggies at Kroger whenever I see the red sticker. The food is perfectly fine, it just needs to be eaten sooner rather than later. This week there were two eggplants for 99 cents, a bag of red potatoes for 99 cents, 4 beefsteak tomatoes for 99 cents, and purple cauliflower for 99 cents. A friend gave me some hot red and green peppers from her garden. Another friend had given me 10 lb of lentils two weeks ago. A third friend gave me a tray of fresh eggs from her farm. OK, what to do?

I decided to make lentil soup and include some of the potatoes in it. I decided to roast the potatoes, since whatever I do with them after, they will have built-in flavor already. Oops, they all would not fit in the pan, so I boiled a few to have on the side. I had bouillon, onion, and carrots already. So, soup.

The eggplants...two is a lot. I decided to make baked eggplant and use them for sandwiches with the tomatoes. I had plenty of eggs to drench the rounds in, and bread crumbs. One thing I like about frugal cooking is using only a few ingredients for each dish, and keeping my options open for the item later. I could use baked eggplant rounds as a snack, sandwiches, salads, or toss into spaghetti. But I really like eggplant and tomato sandwiches so that was my main goal.

As I cut and peeled the two eggplants there turned out to be a lot of rounds, or half circles as some of the rounds were big. I ran out of scrambled egg to drench the last few rounds in and I did not want to use up a third egg, so I decided to simply saute the last few bits and use them in pasta.

I would roast the cauliflower. That will be a side dish to my lunches. I'd roast the peppers too, and added half the onion I didn't use in the soup. I like scrambled eggs N peppers so that would work.

I began at 6:45, a few minutes after I got up. One way for me to budget my time is to launch right in. If I sit down, I start reading, or answering emails, or just start vacantly viewing cat videos or Big Bang Theory clips, lol. So I put on Expositor.FM, a 24 hour sermon radio stream and listened to Donald Grey Barnhouse, James Montgomery Boice, Steven J. Lawson, and Martyn Lloyd Jones. Cooking took two hours, with an occasional pause to write a note of an especially good nugget from one of the preachers.

Something I'm never good at is proportions. I always mess that up. I used too many lentils for the soup, it was way lentil-y and the potatoes, onions and carrots were lost. So I took some time to remove several ladles-full of lentils and put them in a separate container. I'll likely use these outliers for a salad later in the week. Good thing I love lentils!

The friend who gave me the peppers from her garden also gave me hard pears (these are pears from trees that always stay hard, and must be cooked), and a big bag of turkey figs. On Monday I'll cook the pears, probably using this recipe, http://southernforager.blogspot.com/2013/08/what-to-do-with-hard-pears.html, which requires some work to be done to them tonight as they soak in the fridge for 24 hours.

I had a few grapes left and I transferred them from the large container I'd put them in at the beginning of the week to a smaller one so I could use the larger for the cauliflower. My friend Susan had given me a set of Rubbermaid containers for Christmas last year and it was a great gift.

Here are the photos of the end result:



It looks like a lot but it's not. These containers, plus the figs and pears in the fridge, represent lunches and dinners and snacks for the week, until next Saturday. (I grocery shop on Sunday after church). So there are ten meals, plus snacks, plus some to share with friends. I might make hummus later in the week, if I need to.

It took two hours, and now I'm done for the week!

I use Saturdays to prepare the scripture pictures I post on my blog and Facebook Page all week. I make 6 of them. I also write 5-6 blog essays to be ready to publish each morning before I head to work. I study the Bible and I listen to sermons all throughout the day. I also began a free study of the Book of John, through Dallas Theological Seminary, and I completed Unit 1 on Saturday.

All of Saturday is spent this way, every week. In October I have plans to go out to the pumpkin and sunflower patch on a Saturday but other than that one social engagement, I just spend Saturdays and Sundays at home, quietly, recovering from the week. I need it. I find that as I get older, managing myself in public as an autistic person is also getting harder and harder. Recovery is taking longer.

After I finish cooking, the rest of Sunday morning I listen to instrumental hymns and read the Bible. I might nap. At 2:30 I dress and get ready for church. Our church has service at 3:30. We are a new church plant and are renting a place that has time limits, so that is the time. I love the 3:30 time! I leave at 3:00 and enjoy a stellar church service until 5:00. I stop at Kroger for quick grocery shopping on the way home and I arrive back by 6:00. I spend the evening reading and preparing mentally and emotionally for the week ahead at school. Sundays are quite relaxing this way. I feel my time is used well for the Lord and by Monday I've rested and been refreshed.

During the week, when I get home I answer emails for the ministry, from women who have messaged me with questions or prayer requests. I write, getting my next book ready. I do my daily Bible reading. There isn't a whole lot of time after school. I get home and settled between 4:00 and 4:30 and I go to bed at 9:00 or so. I like to watch TV or movies, so I might tune in at the end of the day to wind down and relax.

I like The Great British Bake Off and Australia's The Block, competitive cooking and renovation shows, respectively. I also like Longmire, a modern cowboy/sheriff show, and Canada's Private Eyes, a lighthearted detective show. All of these will begin their new season in late August or early September, so there will be good TV to watch. I found Heartland, a gentle show about a family and horses, from Canada. There is less and less to watch these days, that my conscience can handle. But I'm grateful for these good shows. I do like to end the day with some tube.

I do it this way every day. Routine is king at Casa Prata. I do not vary. This way not only do I enjoy the comfort of my routine, and it IS a comfort, but I know I am using the time well. I don't like to waste it. Even at that, I am well short of maximizing my time for the Lord when I see what Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Charles Spurgeon did every day, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

But I try. I try. Have a good week ahead everyone, and remember to shepherd your resources, use the time well, and enjoy the bounty all around you. :)




Friday, August 19, 2016

Kindergarten Lunchroom Duty

Lexington KY Principal Gerry Brooks is one hysterical guy. He makes short Youtube/Facebook videos recounting life in a school, and his charming and funny look at school life never fails to hit the funny bone. But this one, THIS clip, got me laughing so hard I watched it three times, holding my belly and wiping tears.

It is the end of our second week of school. I no longer have kindergarten lunchroom duty but I did do it for years. I also to this day work with kindergarteners. I'd been laughing over the funny and random things they say, like today I'd recounted a random kindergartener comment and the other day, a random kindergartener grandma comment. It happens just like Gerry said.

And yes, the Pizza Lunchable is a nightmare. It is for me because I want to be sure and get TO all the kids in time to open all their things so they can have a relaxing lunch with enough time to eat it, AND for the child, who manages never to get the circle holding the sauce and the cheese to their mouth before the cheese falls off and the sauce drips on their inevitably new pants/dress/sweater... And you don't forget their little face of total disappointment when they're tearfully staring at an upside down plopped circle on the floor with tomato sauce splatter radiating out from all around it.

Watch this and laugh.


By the way, the stress eases up after a few months. It's so cute to see the little guys being more independent and eating and talking and being their silly ol' selves. :)


Long Heat Wave Breaking Records

I am so blessed to live in a rural area. I drive up Route 98 to school every day, it's 99.9% of the drive. LOL, "Route 98" looks like this.



For it to be named a 'Route' makes it sounds more traffic-y than it is. The gas station intersection is the most populated part. It's a cross street that brings commuters from Elbert County and the eastern part of my county, to the route that takes them to Athens.

As I approach the intersection it is actually the top of a long, slow hill. There is a canola field on the left. The sunrises over the field are spectacular. Because of the hill,  I think, dramatic clouds always gather in that spot and it's too tempting or pull over and snap a few photos.

It's August and that means haying. We are smashing records all over here in north Georgia. We have topped 90 degrees every day for the last 51 days, and the other record we are smashing is that the low temp has not gone below 70 for the last 51 days. In other words, it's been HOT! My poor air conditioner is getting a work out. Though one expects hot weather in GA in the summer, this one has been long and hot, with no cool night breaks or even lower temps briefly from passing thunderstorms. Phew.

But I can't complain, I'm not out in the fields doing the haying. It has been really hot for those guys. The second photo above is of a nice line-up of many rolls of hay you see as you go down the road. The few you see in the photo are just a few of the stubbly soldiers guarding the field. I pulled off Rt 98 to take this, then paused for a moment on my drive home to enjoy the green field, the pond, the gorgeous old growth trees...ahhh, Such scenes really do lift the spirits.

Well, the weekend is here. I hope you all enjoy, if you get the weekend off. I'm going to read by my air conditioner and thank the good Lord for electricity!


Friday, August 12, 2016

The unreality of vacation

One of the places I enjoyed taking a vacation best was the extreme eastern edge of Maine, bordering Canada, in a town called Lubec. There, the tides rose 25 to 30 feet, all in the space of 6 hours. The rushing waters, the granite edged seacoast, the ever-present fog bank, and the remoteness, all captivated me. For some reason, the blues of the ocean seemed bluer, the green of the pine trees seemed greener, the tang of the salt air seemed tangier. Or was just that my imagination, as holiday fantasy took hold and the real world receded, even for just a week?

On the nearby island of Campobello, which is actually across the channel in New Brunswick Canada, there is a lighthouse one can visit...if only at low tide. As the tide rushes out to play among the whales in the deeper ocean, it leaves behind a temporarily exposed spit of sand attached to the lighthouse island. If you dare climb down the granite cliff on a nearly vertical rusty ladder, you can walk over the spit of sand and inhabit the lighthouse, imagining keepers and storms and swells and another era. However, if you linger there too long, you will be stuck. As the cold Atlantic tide returns, fresh from its swirl among the whales, it will fill in and cover the spit with a speed that will at first astound you and then claim you, if you are unwise. See the sign?

lubec 3lubec 4lubeclubec2

On summer days such as those, with clear blue sky and old cannery brightly adorning the wharf, you never imagine a harsher time. One of unforgiving Maine winters, Atlantic spray, fog, ships blindly creeping in among jagged rocks desperate for harbor. On vacation, I only see the blue skies, calm waters, and town charm. Vacation has done its job, presenting another reality, if only for a week.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Back to School

It has been a good summer but this past Friday it came to a screeching halt, as all the children streamed back inside my elementary school, and we began another school year.
I loved seeing the little kids in their "First Day Best" outfits and hairbows and new backpacks. They are so eager and hopeful, aside from the little ones in Pre-K and K who cry for mama and don't want to let go.
Going from a sedate speed of 2 miles an hour during the restful and leisurely summer to 1000 miles an hour with a million things to do each minute, takes a toll the first few weeks but we all eventually get used to it again.
The school year might have begun but we are still in the throes of a full Georgia summer. The flowers are still blooming and the landscape is still pretty. I took a few shots as I went to the bank this afternoon.
comer

comer 2a

comer 3
Here's a nice shot of some yellow roses from the yard and also some rocks I've collected and enjoy looking at on my picnic table.
yellow roses

rocks

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Conditions at Casa Prata

Morning:

Backyard next door.



Mama bird busy feeding young. This birdhouse is used year after year.



Morning glories and other items on my patio potting table.



Inside, meanwhile, Bert likes to stay close to me as I write. He doesn't like to get on the table like Murray does, but he does like to be comfy. So I give him Murray's kitty bed while Murray is holed up under the covers for the better part of the day in the bedroom, even though Bert is big for it. Somehow he makes it work.


Afternoon. As the morning slides to afternoon, I take a cup of tea. Clipper teapot, Tuscan bone china teacup & saucer, Duchess pattern.



Uh-oh. It's 3:00 and Murray woke up and is looking for both his kitty bed and his dinner. I feed the boys at around 3:00-3:30 or so, and after that, Bert will go into the bedroom and snooze and Murray will spend some time with me at the table in the kitty bed. I love it when siblings get along.


In two weeks I'll be back at school, and these nice quiet days will end as I return to my job at the elementary school with all its bells, hustle, bustle, and children. Even then, all will be well because I love kids. I'll miss my kitties though, Bert and Murray and I have had a good summer together.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Some photos

We've been spared so far of the hundred degree heat, but likely that is coming in August. The drought is ongoing but a few drenches of rain here and there enlivened the lawn to a greenish-brownish instead of crunchy dark brown. I'm still enjoying the leisurely days at home with the cats. Murray especially seems to appreciate me being home. He's been a cuddle bug. I still have two and a half weeks to go before school starts, which is still longer than many people get for a vacation all year!

The walk around the yard yielded up these beauties the other day, to which I added some Pixlr gizmos and overlays:






Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mixed Media Morsels

I found a mixed media tutorial on Facebook that I really like. It's called Morsels because she shows how to do techniques in small format, a "morsel" as it were. I can handle small. A regular sized journal page or a canvas scares me. As you can see by my 81/2 X 11 journal which has a painting that only uses half the page.



So morsels is good. The lady put up an 18 minute video which I watched last night and tried the technique this morning. I'll leave it to you as to whether my attempt was successful.





Her collage was on a 3X5 card.


My collage was on a 4 1/2 X 6.


I was sad to discover that I'd brought my colored pencils to school, and I have no crayons or colored markers here either. So I used paint for the stems and cut out green paper and glued them onto the stems for leaves. I don't have sequins or buttons for the flower center. I used watercolor paint to make a background for the paper, but next time I'll use watered down acrylic so it comes in thicker and hides the words more, and I'll use two colors like she did.

Live and learn!