Holiday Pies – Visually Beautiful, Deliciously Delightful!!!

I’ve never been a baker.  I LOVE to cook though, and reading cookbooks at night is something I’ve done for fun 🙂  Back when our oldest was little, and I had more time to venture out, we would go to a beautiful bookstore, and he’d play while I thumbed through French Cookbooks – even the memory of that is so blissful!

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But baking?  It’s just not something that comes natural to me at all, but  I force myself to do it anyway 🙂 , and along the way I’ve found some tricks that have made it a lot easier than I thought baking would be.

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Every year over the holidays I always get the chance to make something to bring to our family feasts.   Since I’m usually the youngest woman there and at the bottom of the family female totem pole 😀 for years I’ve only been allowed to bring the Green Bean Casserole LOL (you know… the meal thats like super easy and if you mess up you’re an idiot – kind of dish)!  But along with that, I’ve also been allowed to bring a dessert pie each year.  And THIS year, this past Thanksgiving, lo and behold I got the privilege of being in charge of ALL the dessert pies, and wow was it a lot of fun!  And a serious privilege I didn’t take lightly.

My older son also loves cooking, and so he’s kind of come with me on this journey of trying to become a baker 🙂  He and I have perfected our own Cherry Pie with lattice work and cut out designs – made from our own homemade pie crust (which is SO delicious you can actually just eat the crust by itself)!

Here some of the things we’ve tried (or similar ones since some I didn’t blog about):

Cherry pie

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Here’s a great cherry pie recipe (not our’s but very good!)

Pumpkin pie (from Pioneer Woman’s amazing recipe!)

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Sweet Potato Pie (a classic of the SOUTH ❤ and one I made a few years ago and blogged about it)

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Chocolate Tarte (the most AMAZING chocolate dessert I’ve ever eaten and super easy! Find it here)

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White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie (still working on perfecting, but THIS  girl’s recipe is what we go off of)

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Marshmellow Fluff Pie Topping:

for the marshmallow fluff:

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 scant cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (if you want them stark white; if you don’t mind a little ivory color, use the pure vanilla extract)

from: http://aperiodictableblog.com

 

Great video on homemade pie crusts:

 

If I had to pick a favorite one we’ve tried to perfect over the years, it would definitely be the Chocolate Tart recipe.  It is just TOO easy, and yet it is beautifully presented visually, and never fails to impress with it’s immaculate taste.

I hope you readers get to eat some pie this year!  If you don’t have time to make one, I know restaurants tend to make some really great homemade-style ones.  And if you’re in a pinch, I’ve found some brands are VERY good at making pie filling (like for cherry pies) – that along with a homemade crust makes it hard to tell if you made the filling or not.

Enjoy all the eating and drinking!

Stephanie

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Christmas Season Joy!

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A half-done tree 😉  We waited until my husband got home to do the star at the top, which is always down by the youngest in house who is able to walk ❤  Watching my husband pick up our 2nd son and let him put the star on is like winning the lottery.  So. Much. Love.

We got our decorations up last week, it’s been so much fun decorating with the kids and seeing all the ornaments come out again.  I get so much pleasure from just seeing everything again – like seeing old friends… LOL.

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My mom got us this sweet decoration a few years back.  I know Santa is a controversial figure, but I do love the story behind him, the legend if you will.  And I love this decoration because it kind of epitomizes the importance of Jesus’ birth amidst all the craziness of Christmas shopping, Santa visits, or whatnot.  It’s really about this, when it comes down to it.  None of the other stuff matters, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.  We can have all the other joyful stuff, as long as Christ is still the at the center.

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Love lights ❤

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And at night….

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Our famous skyline.

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The top of the building in the center of the above pic, is where my parents bought their chunks of land in the country back in the 80’s.  All the way at the top in the penthouse.

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So cute… 😀

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Our river ❤  There were less lights for some reason this year.  It was still gorgeous and we can’t really complain – but apparently we have new boats that light up the water below them.  LOL

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Our cutie…

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Christmas Candle… I always try to get one every year and light it every night, at least through dinner.  It’s just a simple tradition, and the light is beautiful for the kids (and me) to look at.

LOL our mischievous one!  Wait… they’re both mischievous… oh well!

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Enjoy this season readers!  Please go out and have fun!  Do joyful things… go listen to some carolers, or watch a ballet of the Nutcracker.

Do something to remind yourself of beauty this season!  To recapture how you felt when you were a child.

Go see some glittering, brilliant lights around in your city.  Really look at a well-decorated Christmas tree at a hotel.  Enjoy some wine!  Go out dancing!

Do something this season to bring more joy into your life, please.

Stephanie

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Just wanted to post some pretty pictures and wish my readers a Happy Thanksgiving!  We’ve been pretty busy… lots of baking, decorating, and going to the park nearby to see lights each night!  And just dwelling on the gratitude of all our blessings.

I love this time of year.  I actually enjoy the wildness of it all.

Today we had some of my older son’s friends come over – the house was full of boys running around like crazy 😀 playing loud music in our “music station” of our game room, being silly and dancing around the house ❤

I baked cookies and set the boys all up to decorate some to take home when they got picked up.

It was SO. MUCH. FUN. ❤

I don’t think I’m ever happier than when our house is full of people – or kids – especially crazy boys 🙂  Makes my heart warm seeing them have so much fun.

 

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It’s been so beautiful here lately, and with perfect weather – and just cold enough at night to warrant hot chocolate drinks!  😀

Same scene as above, but this is what we’ve been seeing every night we’ve been able to go:

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The Christmas trees are suspended above a lake to look like they’re floating on top of the water.  Just amazing to see in person!  I tried to get a good pic.

So romantic, and so magical ❤

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Like a winter wonderland. 😀

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I love this time of year… focusing on what we’re thankful for, seeing family and friends and lots and lots of cooking and baking!  It’s hard to imagine a happier time ❤

Hope all you readers have a happy Thanksgiving!

Peace in the Face of Death & Persecution

This is part of Lori Alexander’s most recent post, I thought it was an amazing testimony many of you would like to read and think about.  It was from a woman in her online chat room:

 

“Friends, I know that with the church shooting, many are experiencing fear and apprehension that such a thing could happen. Mentally, we know God is sovereign and in control, but we still experience worry for our families and ourselves. Could this happen to us? I wanted to tell you my story, not to sensationalize, but to testify to God’s faithfulness to his promises. (Warning, it may be upsetting to some.)

During my senior year of nursing school, I was sitting in class taking mid-terms when a classmate came in and began shooting. This was fifteen years ago when the only school shooting had been Columbine. No one knew what was happening and it took a while for us to realize. He shot one professor immediately. Our second professor was very vocal about her Christian faith. (She would always end her lectures telling us that she couldn’t talk about it in class, but if we ever wanted someone to talk to about where she found hope or someone to pray for us,to call or visit her any time after class.)

My classmate then turned, pointed the gun at her and asked, “Where is your God now?” She answered boldly, “Whether I live or die, does not change that God is right here, right now.” He then killed her and turned the gun on the class.

Countless times in scripture God tells us, “Do not be afraid.” I want to tell you that He is faithful to His promises. Hiding under the table that morning I knew I was going to die, but the most amazing thing happened, I felt no fear. There was only peace. I remember being sad about how upset my parents would be, but also at peace that God would take care of them.

The most real and authentic prayer of my life was also going to be my last. It was: (CLICK HERE TO READ THE END).

How Do You Deal with a Critical Christian?

This is another idea that is fascinating to me… that a Christian would continually give themselves over to being critical, nit-picky, or sarcastic (which means using humor to try to partially cover up the sting of their criticism).

A critical-spirit Christian, just like a “grouchy Christian,” is a walking oxymoron!

No Christian should allow themselves to be critical, sarcastic, or grouchy toward others, because by definition, those behaviors are behaviors of the flesh, and are no way representing Christ to the world.

But what about the benign Christians who are always critical and try to be humorous about it, and genuinely see nothing wrong with their hidden contempt?

What do you do with a woman who is intent on enjoying pointing out the flaws of her Christian brothers and sisters?  All the intricate ways they are “getting it wrong?”  What do you do with a Christian woman who loves to nit-pick, harp on her many pet peeves that annoy her, and allow these things to bother her so much that they get in the way of her enjoying Christian songs – things that should be enjoyed with a kind spirit?

I recently used an example to teach other women, of what a Critical Spirit looks like, where a woman was so annoyed by the lyrics of Christian worship song, she let it occupy her thoughts so much, that she felt she just had to share her annoyance publicly with others from her blog.  Not only was this woman a perfect example of tearing down another Christian’s work for the pleasure of humor, but also of letting her annoyances and “pet peeves” dictate a pretty big part of her mind and work for God (her writing).  It’s consistently become part of her blogging career bread-and-butter, this delighting (with humor!) in the ways other Christians are “getting it wrong.”  She saw nothing wrong about her actions, literally felt no prick in her conscience when confronted.

People like this perplex me, because while they’re SO critical of their Christian brothers and sisters, they often fail to see the giant plank in their own eye.  They literally have zero concept of their own sin in their behavior that makes them so critical or annoyed or “worried.”  LOL… they will forever be “worried” over all the Christians “doing it wrong,” only so that they never really focus on what God wants them to be learning or discovering about themselves!  To them, seeing other’s flaws is much more interesting!  And a very convenient distraction from growth.

No Christian should be dwelling so much on the ways other people annoy them.  Not only is it sinful thinking that will eventually find it’s ways into our words and actions, but because it will actually cause them to be that much more critical of someone or something basically good (not worth being so critical over), the next time they’re tempted to.  Giving in to constant criticism (that springs from an untamed Critical Spirit) is allowing themselves to continually sin in their hearts toward others.  It’s a pattern of behavior that if they see nothing wrong with it, they will continue to engage in without feeling guilty.  Obviously, sinning continually and never feeling guilty for it, is extremely dangerous.  No Christian should be focusing so much on their brothers and sisters failings that they make their blog or writing career based on pointing those things out, even if it is for humor’s sake.

For a woman who consistently behaves this way, always finding something new to be annoyed or “worried” about, always focusing on outward annoyances around her instead of inward where she can actually change something, is she truly living the Christian life the way she’s meant to be?  Is she really allowing her words and actions to impact the world for greater, or for worse?  I personally believe it’s for worse.  I think a Critical Spirit Christian tempts other men and women to become equally sinfully critical as well, and what’s worse, they learn to hide their sin underneath a facade of humor so that it’s more socially acceptable.  I also think it’s catching, and the fact that many of the people who have this sin tend to act more perfect or righteous (of course!  Because if they didn’t feel this way, they wouldn’t be so critical of other people!), and deny that they are sinning at all, makes it even harder for their community to be at peace with them.

How can you deal with someone so obviously living in sin against you and others, when they are adamant that they’re “right” and doing nothing wrong in harming the unity of the Body of Christ?  How do you make someone take their sin seriously, when they’ve so carefully hidden it in humor, that it almost looks socially acceptable?

Basically?  You can’t 😦 .

I believe, and am teaching other women, that for Christians like this, the best “tools” in your spiritual tool box is simply prayer and avoidance.

A hardened, yet saved heart that enjoys the sin of focusing on their annoyances about other Christians, can only find healing and help when they begin to see themselves in actual sin.

You can’t help them with this unless you’re an older, trusted adviser – an outsider will be brushed off quickly and without any prick to their conscience.

Since they already believe they are so much better, and “doing these things (that they are so annoyed or critical of others about) right,” it would be extremely hard to get through to them.  It would take a lot of humility on their part, which usually isn’t the case.

It’s just one of those situations where it’s explained perfectly in the Bible:

 

Philippians 4:8-9? “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, [for good] will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

From here: The Bible doesn’t promise peace to those who dwell on the faults of others! It says, “[The Lord] will keep them in perfect peace, whose minds are stayed on [Him]! (Isa. 26:3).

 

Criticism & Being a Stumbling Block

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A couple of years ago, one of my mentors told me that you’re never more tempted to sin, than when you’ve been sinned against.

I think it makes a good quote deserving of all caps…

 

YOU’RE NEVER MORE TEMPTED TO SIN,

THAN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SINNED AGAINST

 

I went to her after I had gone through a time when I was being criticized by a woman running a gossip/slander blog that has now since become private.  Every post I made, this woman found a way to turn it into something to mock… right down to attacking my husband and children.  Other women, even Christian ones I looked up to previously, jumped in on the mocking and gossip, and it was weird to see that even the supposedly Christian ones were doing this.  It lasted for a good half a year before I confronted her at her blog source, only to have the confrontation end in more pain and frustration.  Talking about it being sin with other people was labeled as “gossip.”  It was a very interesting time as I tried to figure out how to handle slander (being called a whore, slut and a bitch by a Christian man) as well as this being tailed for half the year by this Christian woman.  What was even stranger were the other Christian women who regularly commented on these posts mocking what I was writing, yet they couldn’t see they were doing anything wrong.

It’s really sad that we humans operate this way, myself totally and thoroughly included.  It’s part of our “normal” sin nature, but it’s so ugly and harmful, I surprise even myself with how easily I can give in to this temptation.  And rest assured, I’m talking about myself here, having a sin nature is not fun.  It is kind of shocking how bad we can be when we’re not actively guarding our mouths and minds and spirits.  It reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:18-22, where he wanted so badly to do good, but would sometimes find himself backsliding into the flesh behaviors that he hated in himself.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

I think it’s crucial to be honest that everyone has these feelings and temptations from time to time, even a man as godly as Paul.  I believe that, ultimately, it’s how we choose to deal with the temptations that matters in the long-run.  We have to strive to be like Paul and avoid and flee temptation, repent when we do give in to sin, and then allow for enough grace for ourselves and others when or if we backslide.

Last week I was wondering why someone would focus so much energy on giving in to sinful temptations… specifically, the temptation to engage in destructive criticism about another person (aka: Gossip & Slander).  I did an experiment to try to get someone engaging in it to see what they looked like, and to understand it within myself.  I succeeded in making them understand how bad it looked, the experiment definitely worked.  Overall, it was enlightening… and scary at how once you start (even if you think you’re only going so far) it can quickly go down hill.

I think I’ve found the answer… the root of why criticism can lead to being a stumbling block, and it comes from this quote at the beginning of the post that was told to me by my mentor:  “You’re never more tempted to sin than when you’re sinned against.”

 

Being a Stumbling Block through Criticism

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Romans 14 has always fascinated me.  I’ve written on it before, here , but I wanted to look at it again from a different perspective.

There used to be a pretty benign young woman who commented fairly frequently here.  I always had a feeling that she was trying to get me to change my views on each post I made – she was always so full of constructive criticism and gave it out freely.  Everything about me was up for criticism from this young woman – from the way I dressed to my diet and breastfeeding.  A lot of it was good, and I’d take it and make necessary changes, or try to see if I was getting it truly wrong, but overtime, it started to feel more like purposeful fault-finding or destructive criticism, and I felt myself changing inside toward her as well.

It got to the point where I would find myself starting to see flaws in her posts and arguments, whereas I’d never argued with her before over her writing.  And instead of minding my own business (something I’ve written about before!), I’d feel rightful in pointing them out to her publicly – in a “constructive” way like she did though 😉 .  I knew it was probably not the right thing to do, even if I couched it in “constructive criticism“… it’s a little much to be “correcting” someone all the time so why was she doing this?  I justified my fault-finding habit at her blog by telling myself that well, SHE was doing it to me, so why can’t I do it back to her?  Let’s just say being criticized by her nearly every week affected me lol.  I actually still try not to go to her blog because all I see are the flaws and faults in her biblical arguments.  It’s amazing how the way we act toward others has so much power over the way they in turn feel tempted to deal with us.

Why are humans like this?

I think Romans 14 holds the key to this.  Criticism, especially over issues that don’t really matter that much, make us become stumbling blocks.

“Therefore let us stop criticizing one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  (vs 13)

Why does the Bible warn us that criticism can be a “stumbling block” to other believers?  I think the answer is that when it’s not done in love, or even when it’s done over and over again in a constructive way, it’s actually sinning against the person you’re criticizing or leading them to exasperation with you.  So when you SIN against that person, you’re TEMPTING them to sin back.  Or if you’re trying to just constantly correct someone on their convictions (which Romans 14 tells us blatantly not to), you’re going to make them tempted to view you negatively.  This is especially true if you’ve been overly harsh or engaged in sinful destructive criticism, you’ve just become a stumbling block for that person, making it harder for them in their spiritual walk.

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Wow, right?  Pretty scary how criticism, even when we think it should be “constructive,” can be so hurtful and harmful to our Christian brothers and sisters in damaging their walks with God.

Pretty serious stuff.  Now that I carried out my own psyche experiment on this topic, I think I understand even more so just how important this post was in the past.

Instead of being a stumbling block, why not become a stepping stone to helping build others up on their spiritual journies?  I’m talking to my own inclinations here 😉

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Good food for thought.

Stephanie

 

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