Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Uncategorized

A Super Christmas — Act II

This is the second part of the performance, and one of my favorites.  That actor in the white beard — and with the long light brown hair you can just barely see from the back as he walks down the aisle — is my son. Plays a good old man, eh?

This particular episode brought up discussions in our household about Joseph’s actual age. Was he much older than Mary, or were they close in age. The answer doesn’t really change the story, but it is one of the perennially debated things.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Music, Uncategorized

O Come, All Ye Faithful

This is what everyone braving the cold, and possible rain/snow will be doing today as they attend Sunday services here in Kansas City. For no matter what the weather, we, the Faithful, are Joyful and Triumphant during the Christmas season.

Below is the Avondale United Methodist Church Chime Choir playing O Come All Ye Faithful on Christmas Eve.

I was thinking, when I was about on Saturday, that most people stop wishing people Merry Christmas after Christmas Day, but we are now in the Christmas season, and I need to get over my reticence and say what I feel like saying, and wish people Merry Christmas during the entire Christmas season. For we need to show ourselves Joyful and Triumphant.

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Baking a memory — for Grammy Robords

I was baking cookies during a vacation day on Tuesday, when a shade of Cedar Sanderson gave me a wonderful idea. I wasn’t exactly baking cookies — these were more of a cooked cookie — and I was rolling the cookies into neat balls, admiring how they looked, when I realized I could do a blog on making the cookies. I just needed to take pictures to go along with it.  Fortunately, I had this thought while making the first of three batches, so I had two more batches where I could take the pictures.

I like to make these cookies every year at Christmas time. I first made them as a kid. My Grammy Robords, Gladys Robords, introduced me and my two siblings to these cookies as something we could help make. I didn’t like coconut at the time, but I ate them because I made them, and didn’t mind the coconut as much as I thought. It was fun to butter our hands and handle the hot cookie dough and roll it into balls.

Grammy Robords was a very educated, elegant, practical and loving woman. We always got the best educational toys from her (the ones that were also fun to play with), and we always had special moments with her, special weekends.

She and Grandpa Robords were snowbirds with a place in Florida, and they always left a couple weeks before Christmas. So Santa always came to their place before they left.  We always got two Christmases, one with them, and one at home on Christmas day.

I still carry those memories, even though my times with here were brief. She was diagnosed with colon cancer when I was 11, and died not long after my 12th birthday. My one regret them was that I didn’t get a chance to see her one last time.

These days I make the cookies by myself, but always think of my grandmother when I make them. Unlike me and my siblings, my kids don’t find these fun to make. Apparently I have a higher tolerance for heat than they do. None of them can stand to roll the hot dough into balls.

So, now that I’ve given the long introduction, I am going to give you the recipe. After that, I’ll give my narration, with pictures, of how I actually make the cookies.

Date Cocunt Cookies

1/4 pound butter

1 cup chopped dates

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

Mix and simmer in fry pan until chick (about 5 minutes). The add 1 cup chopped nuts, two cups rice crispies.

Cool until manageable.Roll into balls (butter your hands) roll in coconut.

You have to work FAST!

And Now, how I actually make the cookies.

First thing, make sure you have all the ingredients before you start!

 

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All ingredients laid out.

 

 

I lay out all the ingredients, along with cooking implements. In past years I would cook them all in a a large 6-quart pot and make a quadruple or sextuple batch. But this year I decided to make 3 double batches and do them in the 3-quart sauce pan that goes along with our precision induction cooker.

 

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Precision cooking with an induction cooker.

 

I added to the cooker the first ingredients: the butter, the dates, the sugar, the vanilla and the eggs.

 

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Add all ingredients to the sauce pan.

 

Once the ingredients are in the saucepan, I stir until they melt into a sauce and come to a boil. I have found that a temperature of 300 degrees is perfect for getting the right sort of simmer.

 

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The mixture melting and simmering.

 

In the past I always was uncertain when the mixture had thickened enough. But over the past few years I have confirmed that if you make sure it is actually simmering before you start timing, that 5 minutes is enough time to get it thickened and ready for the next stage.

 

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Adding the Rice Crispies to the gooey mixture.

 

The next stage is to mix the rice crispies and nuts into the mixture. It has been several years since I’ve actually used nuts. Some people don’t like them, and they are more expensive, so we have tended to leave them out and just add extra rice crispies instead.

I try to make sure to turn the mixture over several times, but no matter how thoroughly I mix them in, there always ends up a spot that doesn’t get as many Rice Crispies and is gooier than the rest.

 

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The butter and the ball of coconut prepared for rolling the cookie balls.

 

Once you get the mixture thoroughly combined, the next step is to butter your hands so you can take small amounts of the hot mixture and roll them into balls. I have taken to using a stick of butter, and running my hands along it gently, then rubbing my hands together to spread it out. I add the lightest bit of butter between each ball, and the stick lasts a long time, and my hands stay sufficiently greased so the hot mixture doesn’t stick to them. If it does stick, you can burn yourself, so this is important.

 

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A ball sitting in the coconut being covered with coconut.

 

The recipe says to roll the balls in the coconut, but I have discovered it is just as easy to place the ball in the bowl of coconut and sprinkle coconut over it. When I try to roll them in the coconut they are more likely to fall apart and lose their shape.

 

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Three dozen freshly rolled Date Coconut Cookies.

 

Once each cookie is rolled in the coconut I place it on a sheet of waxed paper to let it finish cooling and setting up before packing them away in containers to store until they are ready to serve up.

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Only One More Sleep ‘Till Christmas

I did a post a few days ago on The Muppet Christmas Carol, what I consider one of the best retellings of Charles Dickens’ classic story. In that movie, one of the songs is One More Sleep ‘Till Christmas. Kermit, as Bob Cratchit, is singing on the way home from the office after closing up on Christmas Eve.

My son, Nathan, sang that song this past Sunday for our church Christmas Musical Celebration. Since it is set on Christmas Eve, I felt it appropriate to use it as today’s post:

You will notice I sing a short tag with Nathan at the beginning:  The Christmas Scat. In the movie this is actually a scat tag that occurs after One More Sleep ‘Till Christmas. But since it was shorter, and since they both begin in the same key, we decided to do it as a short intro to the longer, feature piece.

 

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#54: For the Beauty of the Earth

(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

For the beauty of the earth,

For the glory of the skies,

For the love with from our birth

Over and around us lies:

CHORUS

Christ our God, to Thee we raise

This our hymn of grateful praise.

2

For the wonder of each hour

Of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale and tree and flow’r,

Sun and moon and stars of light.

CHORUS

3

For the joy of human love,

Brother, sister, parent, child,

Friends on earth and friends above,

For all gentle thoughts and mild:

CHORUS

4

For Thy Church that evermore

Lifteth holy hands above,

Off’ring up on ev’ry shore

Her pure sacrifice of love:

CHORUS

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A Clean Kitchen

OKay, yesterday’s project was cleaning the kitchen. I spent pretty much an entire work day’s worth of time cleaning and rearranging everything in the kitchen.

It is amazing all the stuff you acquire over time. That you cram into the empty corners that you don’t have. And how the way you arrange things doesn’t change over time, even though your patterns and practices do.

We have a dishwasher. Never worked well. Started to leak. Got repaired and still leaked over the floor. So we haven’t used it in years. Wasted space in the kitchen. Can’t remember who I was listening to that mentioned they never ran their dishwasher, so they stored something in there. And I said: BINGO! That was the start of solving our kitchen space situation.

We have a lot of plastic storageware. It was kept in a under-the-counter cupboard, and items always fell out the door and had to be washed whether they were used or not. Well, the top rack is an excellent place to put all the lids, and all the containers stacked well on the lower rack.

That let me move all the trays and cutting  boards, that were stored horizontally in the bottom shelf of the pantry, into the former plasticware cupboard but vertically.

Then I did a major cull of our cooking pots. We basically had two or three full sets, and I culled a whole set out, leaving us with all the induction cookware that goes with our induction cookers left. I moved those pots out of the pantry and into the now available space in the drawer under the oven.

Then  I juggled everything in the pantry, cleared all the utensil drawers, moved all the baking supplies into the pantry, and started shuffling all teh other drawers around. A lot of things down low got moved up, and fewer things got moved down.

There always comes a time in a project like this when you are near the end, you know you are near the end, but it feels like you are never going to get there. I reached that stage when it got to cleaning up all the items that were stacked/stored on the top of the cupboards. All the dust and grease gathers on the items up there. It is also the place where the “pretties” are placed, and everthing you don’t know what to do with, but expect to use, goes.

Well, It was amazing how much of it I could decide to get rid of, and rearranged the rest to cover the same amount of space. No one will look there, but if they do, hopefully it looks pretty, neat, and natural.

Then it was putting everything away that was still left on the counters, and cleaning the counters. At this stage you feel like you are already back to the stuff things in available corners phase that led to the need to clean, but you do it anyway.  And I got all the counters cleared, really cleared.

Of course, I couldn’t have gotten it done without a lot of help, mostly from the boy. He kept cleaning/rinsing items that were being moved around so they could be put back in their new locations. He never complained when asked, and he actually finished after I did. Because after I was satisfied with the cleanliness of the counter, he had to scrub it even better, and finish washing dishes that were available from the day.

So now we will see if the kitchen is more usable, more livable, and more easy to keep clean than it was.