Tag Archives: Christianity

Artwork: Guarding His Herd

I have finally finished the oil painting that I have been working on for the past six months.  It is a large canvas…24 X 30.

The vision for this work began as a challenge to myself.  I wanted to paint a thunderstorm over the Badlands.  My goals were to create distance; capture the back glow of light in a storm and the roughness of the Badlands terrain; and to improve my drawing skills by including animals….Hereford cattle.

The biggest challenge of this painting was the sky.  I just could not get it right.  Then, I realized I was painting a Minnesota sky.  The clouds were too close.  Once, I got that right, the painting started to work.

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My goal with the cattle was to paint a very strong bull lovingly guarding his family.

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That is how I think of God.

 

 

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Recipes: Yo, Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum for a Yummy Rummy Cake

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As I have mentioned before, I am not a drinker of alcohol. I have never been a drinker of alcohol, because when I was a teenager my grandmother asked me to promise her that I would never smoke, drink alcohol, or take illegal drugs.

In those days, if you gave someone your word, you kept that promise, unless prevented by an act of God.  According to my grandmother, other than communion, there is no act of God that requires alcohol consumption.

I have always kept my clean and sober promise to my Grandmother Esther.  Contrary to what many people would think, going through life completely sober has its advantages. The only problem I have ever encountered has been the challenge of purchasing alcohol as a gift or for cooking.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed an alcohol purchasing system.  Being Swedish and knowing that genius has been defined as simplifying the complex, I kept it simple.  My alcohol purchasing system is based on two fundamental principles. Pretty is as pretty does and it is best to go with what you know. Therefore my purchases are based on bright shiny labels or on something I’ve tried. The only wine in this home is Mogen-David.  It is what is used at my church for communion.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I wanted to make a rum cake for my brain tumor fighting neighbor.  Therefore, I needed to purchase a bottle of rum.  So, off to the liquor store I went.

Since I have always been easily distracted by pretty colors, it took me a while to find the rum area, after wandering into the wine aisles.  Such creativity in labeling. Kudos!

Finally, I found what I was looking for….rum. When making an alcohol purchase, it has been my experience that price is not much of a deterrent if the picture on the label reels me in.  I immediately knew just which one I wanted. There was a pirate on the label! How can you go wrong picking a pirate? I was sold.

I took my purchase up to the counter and the fellow working at the store, narrowed his eyes to assess my purchase and immediately concluded that a rum rookie had entered his establishment.  He asked me, “Just what do….you….plan to do with that rum?”   I told him about the rum cake.

With several other people standing in line behind me, he laughed and said the pirate rum would not work for cake.  He found me a nice golden rum for the cake and a bottle of Mogan-David wine as it is the end of September and opening day of beef stew season begins with the first frost.

The golden rum worked great for the cake. The cake was outstanding!  However, I would like to suggest to the folks that bottle that stuff that they should seriously consider finding their own pirate for the label.   After all it’s..Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!

Yummy Rummy Cake
This recipe is from, “Once Upon a Chef”.

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

Grease the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan with butter, then coat the pan lightly with flour. Tap pan and tip out any excess flour.

Cake:
4 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup golden rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups cake flour (must use cake flour)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

In a medium-sized mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, rum, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Set aside.

Into a large mixing bowl add cake flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix dry ingredients together.  With an electric mixer on low speed beat in the butter until well combined.  Next add in the liquid ingredients a third at a time, just until combined.  Be sure to wipe down the edges of the bowl after each addition.  Once all of the liquid has been added, increase mixer speed to medium and beat for an additional two minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool the cake on a rack for ten minutes.

While the cake cools make the glaze.

Glaze:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus two Tablespoons of rum

In a small sauce pan melt butter.  Add the water and sugar and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for five minutes stirring constantly.  The glaze should thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and stir in rum.

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While the cake is still in the pan use a toothpick to poke holes all over the bottom.  There should be lots and lots of holes.  Slowly, brush or spoon half of the glaze over the holes in the bottom of the cake and let it soak in.   Remove cake and place on a plate. Poke holes in the top of the cake.  Slowly brush remaining glaze on top and sides of the cake. Let glaze soak in so that it does not run off, but is absorbed into the cake.

Let the cake sit for about a hour, then serve with ice cream or whipped topping.

What is On My Mind Today: A Good Habit to Have….Reading!

In addition to working on the same oil painting for the past six months, I have been reading lots of books.

Many of the books I have been reading are historical diaries.  It is fascinating to read first person history to learn about the situations and challenges faced by past generations from those who were actually there.

As a college-educated woman, I took several courses dedicated to instilling fear into the hearts of historians regarding the twin bogeymen of bias and braggadocio and how they taint first person historical accounts. Being able to discern fact from fiction is a good skill for any reader to have…especially historians. It seems to me that too few of today’s “historians” or historical experts immerse themselves in primary sources before diving headlong into the the shallow water of secondary sources such as the ever present, easily accessed and factually challenged internet.

A good example of this type of study would be of the Christian who reads a lot of Facebook posts about scripture and who can expertly google biblical verses required to further a narrative, but who neglects spending time reading the actual Bible.

While I do read my bible frequently, I must confess that I have never read the whole Bible from cover to cover.  After applying some thought to the matter, I found the situation unacceptable.  So,  I have spent the past several months doing just that.  I am through the New Testament and am in the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament.

What a wonderful experience it has been!  I have learned so much.  There is definitely only one God and he’s it;  Jesus is the Messiah; and creating us humans and giving us free will must make God constantly bang his Holy Head against a heavenly wall. And yet, he still loves us.

In addition to working through reading the Bible, my reading list from this summer has been somewhat extensive and I must say there has not been a dud in the bunch. Well, one was close to being a dud, but I muscled through.  I strongly recommend picking up any of these books and giving them a read.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This World War II story will clue the reader in pretty quickly as to why you stand for the national anthem and our flag.  This book puts you right along side the downed airman and his trials adrift in the ocean and vividly describes the horrors he experienced as a Japanese prisoner of war.

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The Classic Slave Narratives edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr.   This book includes:
The Life of Olaudah Equiano; The History of Mary Prince; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  These accounts are real and heartrending.

Eyewitness to the Alamo by Bill Groneman.   I may have never physically been to the Alamo nor seen the American’s fight to prevent the Mexican Army from taking the fort; however, after reading this book, I have in my mind.

Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel.  This is a thoughtful read even though about two-thirds of this book is dedicated to Ms. Schlissel advancing her theory that women were the great bulwark and victims of western expansion. According to her, they did more than their share of the work and suffering.  Not only do statistics undermine her conclusions, but so do the actually women in their diaries. This book is a good example of a modern Monday morning quarterbacking type of historical bias.  As to  her repeated claim that women cared more for the dead along the Oregon Trail than did men, because women kept count of the graves in their diaries and the men just noted the death.  I would like to point out that the men were driving a large oxen team and the women were riding in the wagon or walking behind it.   Once the gals made sure that all of their kids were accounted for, and not likely to fall out the wagon, what else did they have to do?  It’s not like there were telephone poles to count.

These Is My Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1902, Arizona Territories, by Nancy E. Turner.  This book is a fictional adaptation of the author’s great-grandmother’s diary.   For those who are familiar with the desert southwest, this is a quick must read.  Good story.

The Ox Team on the Old Oregon Trail 1852-1906 by Ezra Meeker.  Ezra was there, did that and then, many years later, did it again to teach a nation just how hard pioneers on the Oregon trail had it.  It is a great read and a “how to” book on going west with oxen. Theodore Roosevelt even gets a mention.

The Fetterman Massacre by Dee Brown.  This is a military history about the second largest massacre of United States troops by Indians where no white soldier’s survived.  I had never heard of this event and thought it would be good to learn about it. The battle of Little Big-Horn where General George Armstong Custer died was the largest Indian Battle with no United States military survivors.

Captivity of the Oatman Girls by R. B. Stratton.  The Oatman Family was massacred in 1851 by the Gila River while on their way to California.  Two of their daughters, Mary and Olive, were taken captive by those who had slain the rest of their family.  One brother, Lorenzo, also survived the attack when he was left for dead.  I decided to read this book, because I saw a picture of Olive Oatman and her facial tattoos.  I wanted to know her story. It’s quite a story! It includes Mormon church history, bravery, love, cowardice, slavery, and freedom.  What a strong beautiful young woman!

Olive Oatman
Olive Oatman

Adeline and Julia, edited by Robert Myers and Janet Coryell.  These two sisters kept diaries.  The younger girl describes a very thorough picture of what growing up in Victorian times meant for a principled feisty female child who liked to be a tom boy. The older sister and a couple of her friends, decide to try their luck at homesteading in Kansas Territory.  These girls have a good time, survive hardship and always seem to make money in their business adventures including running a sod house boarding house.  This is a great book and should be required reading for all young women.

Butter in the Well by Linda K Hubalek.  This sweet bit of fiction is based on the Swedish homesteader’s experience.  It even comes with traditional recipes.

Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart.  This is the best woman’s diary I have ever read!  I read it a second time, because it was hard to believe that it is a real account of Elinore’s life, but it is.  Ms. Pruitt-Stewart has many virtues that I admire: bravery, independence, kindness, practicality, a sense of adventure and excellent marksmanship skills. I strongly recommend this book.

 

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Elinore Pruitt-Stewart

Life in the Far West by George Fredrick Ruxton.  After reading so many stories about people who decided to leave everything behind and go west.  I decided to try and find one of the books that these early pioneers had read that inspired them to take on such an adventure. Mr. Ruxton, an Englishman,  died before reaching the tender age of thirty, but he packed a lot of living into those few short years.  This book was first published in 1849 and describes the life of a fur-trapper in the Rocky mountains.  Surprisingly, this book is written like a novel using the vernacular of time which has been sprinkled lightly throughout with wit and where the author adds a pinch of  ironic humor and observation now and again.  It is a book that is hard to put down once began. He ends this account of his life in the mountains on a surprisingly pleasant and happy note.

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I also have read a book on German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and a rather long history of the Rothschild banking family.  My current read is a book called, “A Woman in Berlin.”  It is an anonymous diary that a woman began keeping in April of 1945 just as the Russians entered Berlin at the close of World War II.  This book graphically tells about the fall of Berlin from a woman’s prospective including her victimization by Russian soldiers.

I hope you find time, even if it is just a half hour a day, to pick up a book and read!

 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today? I Just Don’t Believe It…

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There are some things in this world that I am never going to believe.

That there is no God.

That trying to follow the ten commandments would be a bad thing.

That Bible and science are contradictory.

That vaccines cause autism.

That essential oils are essential to anything except the plants from which they are extracted.

That homeopathic medicine is equal to modern medicine.

That what pharmaceutical companies charge for drugs isn’t larceny.

That social media has been good for humanity.

That video games are better for young people than going outside and playing.

That texting isn’t the kiss-off of personal communications.

That the United States is not a great nation.

That Russia looked at all the 2016 Presidential Race candidates and said, “Trump, now, he’s the pony I’d put my money on!

That Russia doesn’t always try to meddle in our elections.

That Congressional Republicans support the president.

That Speaker Paul Ryan’s Healthcare plan has anything to do with either health or care.

That repealing and replacing Obamacare would be better for the people who need affordable healthcare than fixing it. Especially, since Republican leadership tried to repeal it time after time, year after year and all the while no one in leadership saw fit to draft a humane, fiscally responsible, workable, passable alternative.

That there are not current democratic members of Congress, and in state legislatures, from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, who had ancestors that were confederates.

That historical statues are more of a threat to a person’s mental, emotional and physical health than what is viewed on television, in video games or at the movies.

That black on black violence is less news worthy than statue intimidation.

That the average person under the age of fifty could tell the difference between a statue of a Union or Confederate General if they were placed side by side.

That the democratic party has the best interests of minority groups in mind.

That it is ever a waste of time to vote.

That sexism doesn’t exist.

That there is such a thing as a “woman’s” brain.

That female genital mutilation is ever all right.

That female subjugation is ever all right.

That all cultures and ideas are of equal value.

That law’s weren’t meant to be followed and enforced.

That there are not bad laws.

That bad laws do not need to be repealed.

That peace can be found through violence and intimidation.

That the generations that passed civil rights laws and spent a lifetime teaching children and grandchildren not to be racist are now all of a sudden racist.

That racism doesn’t exist.

That only white people can be racist.

That all police officer’s are racist.

That Antifa is peaceful and law abiding.

That white supremacists are not a threat to minorities.

That the age of enlightenment is now.

That any higher education institution should receive federal funding if they support segregation of any kind including “safe zones.”

That any higher education institution should receive federal funding if they discriminate against any group…minority or majority.

That past generations should be known only by their faults.

That the people on earth now are just the smartest ever.

That freedom of speech is not under attack in our public squares, institutions and places of work.

That political correctness hasn’t gone off the rails.

That ideological social media censorship doesn’t exist.

That theater arts majors know how the run the world and what’s best for everyone.

That mainstream media strives to report news factually and without bias.

That truth is not close to being declared officially dead.

That everything is relative and there are no longer any absolutes.

That our society suffers from an excess of personal responsibility.

That our society suffers from an excess of self-determination.

That our society suffers from an excess of humility.

That anyone who has been married to Bill Clinton could honestly be creeped out by any man in shoe leather.

That diet Coke tastes as good as regular Coke.

That margarine tastes like butter.

That Elvis is still alive.

That if the people supporting Kaepernick don’t watch NFL football and those offended by players not standing for the national anthem continue to boycott the NFL, that it would be wise to buy advertising time during the games.

And, what set me off today….

That anyone wants to see Amy Schumer or any other member of the Schumer family naked.

Just saying….

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Power Without the Destruction.

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2016 Painting of St. Genevieve Church in Centerville, MN. 

For weeks and weeks I have painted and repainted the sky on the same canvas.

Whenever I start a painting I have the exact image in my mind.  I can actually see it on the white canvas. As an artist, my job is to make the image appear for others to see.

I like painting landscapes especially ones with vivid skies.  I have always had a fascination with clouds.  I remember spending many hours as a small child, resting on the lawn just watching them change shapes.  Quietly watching clouds on a calm summer’s day is a very peaceful and relaxing activity, which I highly recommend.

For me the peace of clouds disappeared in an instant when I was about eleven-years-old. Cloud watching changed forever on a stormy day while traveling in a car on Highway 12 just east of Litchfield, Minnesota.  At the precise moment we were along side a huge metal factory, a tornado dropped out of the sky and shredded the big building.  Huge pieces of metal ripped through the air and rained down all around our car.   The destructive power of that small tornado was horrible, yet so very awesome.  From that moment on, I had a very healthy appreciation for power, especially power that originates in the heavens.

After experiencing that tornado up close, instead of looking for the peace in the clouds I looked to find evidence of their power. It is exhilarating to stand in an great empty field and watch a thunderstorm explode on the western horizon and come barreling at you.

It was even more exciting to stare down a menacing mesocyclone astride my Arabian mare.  Animals are naturally much better forecaster’s of weather that humans. My mare could sense stormy weather hours before it developed.  Her restlessness and whinnying told me it was time to saddle up.  Down to the edge of farm we’d gallop and wait for nature’s big show.

Radiant white clouds billowing upwards with great speed and purpose announced that the guest we were waiting for so impatiently was on its way.  Just as the first gust of wind rushed up to make our acquaintance, I would pivot my  mare and give her, her head and we’d race the storm home.

It was all speed, wind, water and…..power. Intoxicating!

I like power.  I love the power of storms.

So, my goal for this canvas was to paint a beautiful powerful mesocyclone with all of its whirl and swirl.  No matter how many skies I painted none of them seemed to meet the vision of my mind’s eye.

Since, I don’t tend to give up, I had to just keep trying and trying to succeed.  Becoming more and more frustrated with a process that is usually as easy for me as falling off a wet horse.

Last week a very good friend of mine, who knows me extremely well, called to say hello. I told her about my canvas of perpetual repainting and how frustrated I was not being able to  produce the image I wanted.  I explained to her that my goal was to capture the winds and the beauty of a great storm, but I wanted it to be a friendly storm.

As always she listened to my concerns very carefully and then responded, “So, you want all of the power without any of the destruction.”

Yup, that would be it.

 

 

RECIPES: Church Ladies Critique and Chewy Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Yesterday my parents came down for a visit and I made them lunch.  The menu included sauced pulled beef, Aunt Ida’s Two-Hour Buns, potato salad and cherry pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

There is just no way to serve pie and ice cream without remembering the many ice cream pie socials I attended in my youth.  I have baked a lot of pies.  The pies shared at a community events were always special.

Baked goods delivered to our church pie socials were as expertly critiqued as any work of art ever entered into a juried art show.  I have many fond memories of watching the faces of the grandmothers, mothers, aunts and neighbors as they assessed each newly delivered donated baked item.   So many of these dear ladies are now gone and live with the Lord.

These gals could convey a complete critique of  your pie baking performance with a single look or a gesture.  The silent language used by church ladies for bake good assessment had been passed down from generation to generation and mastered by each. So it paid to pay attention and learn to read faces.

However, unless you wanted to live in a state of perpetual self-disappointment, it was best, at a very young age,  to acquire the skill of recognizing people who never have anything good to say about anything or anyone.  I have always felt sorry for folks like that. It must be awful to always live in darkness and never see sunshine.

Once you have learned to “dust off your feet and move on” to people who actually have good intentions in mind, being judged by others, while not always fun, is a great opportunity for self-reflection, personal and professional growth.

Our church ladies could judge the quality of your pie and render a verdict without uttering so much as a word. I can still picture the sad shake of bent curly heads sporting raised eyebrows with a lone dimple appearing in a cheek above tightly compress lips when improvement was required.  And, remember the proud sense of mature accomplishment when you finally received the coveted in unison nod, slight grin and and saw that quick wink from behind bespectacled eyes.

As a Lutheran Swedish farmer’s child growing up in rural Minnesota, understanding nonverbal communications was a necessary skill.  To actually confront or praise someone in person was just not done. Outrageousness such as that would have been terrifying for entire congregation, sent some poor old soul into instant menopause, and probably would have lead to the cancellation of any future church activities that included the word social.

Church ladies taught life lessons. Such as, there is always room for improvement, and to get used to being judged, because its going to happen. They taught me that people are a lot like pie pastry production.  Oh, sure there are times when I want to just flatten an ornery one with my rolling pin. However, I know that only leads to a tougher crust.  So, when you are the object of judgement, fair or unfair, its best to think of the butter in pie crust. The total excellence and success of the pastry depends on the butter’s temperature which, like a person’s temperament, needs to remain a cool as possible.

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Chewy, Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies have become my husband’s new favorite.  The trick to getting them chewy is the baking time.  Since you cannot see if a chocolate cookie is browning, you cannot see when they are getting done.  You must rely on baking time.  These cookies do not look done when you remove them from the oven and are quite soft.  They need to remain on the hot cookie sheet for about a minute before you remove them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two cookie sheets.

1 cup butter, softened
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of flour
3 cups of chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer cream together butter, oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Blend in cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add flour and mix until completely combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop heaping teaspoon-sized pieces of dough onto a cookie sheet.  Bake for 11 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand on cookie sheet for one minute.  Remove from cookie sheet.  Cookies will flatten and firm up as they cool.

These cookies are great alone, but with a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two cookies, they become a fantastic quick ice cream sandwich dessert.

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Matthew 7: 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? …