Friday, January 22, 2016

My One Word for 2016: Wisdom

"I need wisdom."

Wisdom?  I'd asked a sister in Christ, who was terminally ill, how I could pray for her, and that was her reply.

"I need wisdom."

She didn't ask me to pray for supernatural healing, for relief from pain, for endurance, for a lessening of medication side effects.  She asked me to pray for wisdom.

That was a few years ago--she has since gone home to the Lord--but it still sticks in my mind.

Lately I've been finding myself praying for wisdom, too.  Seems as though I need it in so many areas of my life.  That's why I'm choosing Wisdom as my One Word for 2016.

A lot of times I need wisdom to keep from putting my foot in my mouth!  As I've been feeling better and become more confident, I've started to speak up more.  Now I need to seek wisdom to know when to speak and when to Just. Keep. Quiet.

I need wisdom to know how to handle various situations with an 18-year-old son.  Having an adult child is a whole new ball game.

I need wisdom to have the right words to speak the truth in love, especially in delicate situations.

So I'm depending on God's promise in the words of James 1:5-7 (emphasis added):
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
I believe!  As I have been asking the Lord--often several times a day--for wisdom, He has been faithful to give it.  So my focus for this year is to keep praying with the faith that He will provide all that I need.

Do you have One Word--or a theme--for 2016?

photo credit: Wisdom (62/365) via photopin

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Walkers Shortbread - The New "Gingerbread" House! (Review and #Giveaway)

What do you think of, when you think of Scotland?  Cookies might not be my first thought:  I'd think of whisky, but we don't purchase or consume that.  But Walkers Shortbread?  I'll take that any day!

I received an assortment of Walkers Shortbread, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  I'd had it before, but I didn't know about all of these shapes!  For me, Walkers Shortbread is the gold standard of shortbread:  buttery, tender, and just sweet enough.

So, first, a little about the Walkers company and its products:
  • The company was started in 1898 as a village bakery in the Scottish Highlands.  It's still family-owned.
  • According to Wikipedia (but I can't confirm this), Walkers is Scotland's biggest exporter of food.
  • Walkers Shortbread is baked with the same recipe that founder Joseph Walker used, with only four ingredients.  And though the factory employs modern equipment, the shortbread is still baked in small batches to ensure quality.  They're still baked in two small villages, one of which is the original location, and if you go to Scotland, you can visit the original store.
  • All products contain absolutely no artificial flavoring or coloring and no preservatives.
  • The products are non-GMO, vegetarian, and kosher, and the butter contains no antibiotics or bovine growth hormones.   The dairy cows are even free range and grass fed.
That's the history and the quality measures, so what's new at Walkers?  Let me tell you about something really fun.

Walkers has a partnership with the hit Starz show, "Outlander."  (If you're a fan of the show, be sure to click through that link for all kinds of cool stuff.)  We don't have the Starz channel, so I haven't seen the show, but I've learned that at least the first season is set in the Scottish Highlands.  It was a natural for Walkers and "Outlander" to have a tie-in.

What they did is find a baker to create an "Outlander" castle with shortbread.  Think of a gingerbread house, but made with shortbread instead.  Check out the time lapse video:


This is the finished castle:

Interested in how to make a shortbread castle?  It doesn't have to be as complex as the one above!  (The full-size image is huge.  Click on the image, then enlarge to make the text large enough to read.  You might need to right-click to open it in a new tab, then click the image to enlarge it.)

Now you have the chance to win the Walkers Shortbread "Outlander" Assortment box!  Just use the Rafflecopter widget to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

MARY's secret ingredients Winter Box (Review and #Giveaway) @msifoodiesbox

Yay!  Another surprise box from MARY's secret ingredients!  I received this box at no cost to me--and when you get to the end of this post, you'll have a chance to win one of your own!

I've written about the summer and fall boxes from MSI.  (Click through the links in the previous sentence to read the reviews.)  For now, here is the description of MARY's secret ingredients:
MARY's secret ingredients is a limited edition culinary surprise subscription box containing unique, gourmet products you've probably never heard of, along with a small kitchen tool, delivered right to your door. Every season, a limited number of curated boxes are filled with lovely surprises to inspire your cooking. Mary creates custom recipes using each product and emails them to you. We are in partnership with Feed The Children to end global hunger.
This is the Winter Box that I received ...

... and these are my own unboxing/sampling pics:

Inside the box

Cover of the booklet with product information

According to The Little Book of Ingredients, this Winter Herb Blend is a delicious mix of white peppercorns, thyme, oregano, savory, tarragon, sage, and a few other spices.  It can be used on chicken or veggies.  It's from RawSpiceBar, a subscription service which I've reviewed in the past.  I haven't tried this blend yet.

From Just Cook Foods comes this Herbed Coffee Rub.  The cute little tin (it's 3.2 ounces, not really that small) holds a blend of brown sugar, coffee, kosher salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, chipotle, thyme, sage, and molasses.  The mixture is light brown, and the aroma that stands out to me is cumin.  The label says it's good on pork, beef, and lamb.  I'm thinking I'll try it first on pork!

Laiki is a rice cracker with only three ingredients:  rice, oil, and salt.  They're naturally gluten-free, vegan, and allergen friendly.  Each package contains about 16 pieces (about one square inch each) and 100 calories.  My initial sensory response started at light-textured, then went to salty, crunchy, and finally oily.  I wasn't a fan when I first tasted them, but when I tried them again, I liked them more.  I can see these crackers being good for someone who's watching calories but looking for a snack that's crispy and slightly salty (80 mg per serving).  What I don't love is that the oil is (sustainably farmed) palm oil, which gives each serving 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of which is saturated.

This Pistachio Rawbar from Nutraw Snacks was gone so quickly that I didn't even get to take notes on what my family thought of it!  I do remember that it was quite sweet (presumably from the dates), and that I liked it more than my husband and son did.  According to the booklet, it's the first and only 100% raw pistachio bar, and it's made with just five organic raw ingredients:  pistachios, dates, almonds, coconut oil, and cardamom.  Similar to the rice crackers, it contains an oil that adds 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of which is saturated.


Okay, serious fun and yumminess here.  Michel et Augustin (two kooky cookies) at the Banana Farm make these Cookie Squares--"actually, rectangles ;)" as the package says.  The dark chocolate variety is a good crisp shortbread cookie filled with a fudgy dark chocolate center.  We liked the texture, though we found no noticeable salt grains from the "pinch of sea salt."  My husband thought that the chocolate flavor overpowered the cookie, while my son preferred this one and said he would purchase it.

The cookie with milk chocolate was also crisp, more of a graham cookie than a shortbread.  The filling is fudgy with a mild caramel flavor blended in.  In this one I could taste the little bit of sea salt.  This cookie was not what I'd expected, but I really like it!


Finally we come to the Rose of the Dolomites candies from Loacker.  These rose-shaped chocolates are filled with a light creamy hazelnut-studded filling.  We very much liked the filling, especially in combination with the thin, light, crisp wafer on the bottom.  Both white and dark chocolates are high quality.  The only drawback was that the dark chocolate kind of overpowered the subtler flavor of the filling.  We liked both flavors, but the combination was out of balance.

So no kitchen gadgets in the Winter Box, but six fun and delicious new food items!  Opening this surprise box is always a blast, and I get no complaints from my family when I ask them to try new foods and give their input!

So you remember I said that you'll have a chance to win a MARY's secret ingredients surprise box of your own, right?  It won't be the same box I received, because then it wouldn't be a surprise.  Instead, one reader will get the Spring Box, which begins shipping on March 26.
About MARY's secret ingredients:
This spring, MARY's secret ingredients is offering a great surprise collection of unique gourmet food products and kitchen tools you've never heard of that will inspire you to cook delicious meals. Need help with the recipes? Mary's special recipes using each product from the box are emailed to you after delivery.
Entering is super-easy.  Click through this link and fill out a very short form for MARY's secret ingredients.  They're taking entries through Friday January 15.  After that I'll draw a winner and MARY's will contact that lucky person to get shipping details.  Can it get easier than that?

Have fun and good luck!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Quiet, but Still Here

image credit
Usually when I'm quiet on the blog, it's because I'm struggling with medical issues.  This time, however, it's exactly the opposite.

Everything is great!

After at least ten years of constant pain, I am nearly pain-free!  A long and winding road led me to a physical therapist who is amazingly good at what she does.

She released years' worth of tension in my neck and shoulders and she taught me exercises to strengthen my upper back.  She did something called craniosacral therapy; the online description sounds kind of New Age-y, but I can't deny its effectiveness.

So the past couple of months have been hectic, since I've been going to appointments.  But I'm also seeing great improvement with respect to my depression.  I hadn't realized that chronic pain could be so debilitating.

Anyway, I've been away from the blog because my schedule has been busy, but also because I've been feeling better.  You see, for years I was unable to do a lot of things that I wanted to do.  Now that I can, I am!  Not all of those things are fun--I've been trying to catch up on housecleaning--but it's wonderful to be able to do them.

We hosted Thanksgiving for the first time in years.

I've learned to bake a mean apple crumb pie.

I've been cleaning house and actually having fun with my new vacuum cleaner.

I've been making greeting cards to keep on hand for whatever occasions arise.

So for the few of you who are still here, I didn't want you to think I'd vanished.  Thanks for sticking around!

I'll be back online, but in case it's not in the next week or so ...  Have a beautiful Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year!