Monday, November 28, 2011

Maple Nut Pie

For our Thanksgiving feast this year, we tried something new.  Generally, we have pumpkin pie, apple pie and perhaps pecan pie.  However, with most of our pie pans packed away in anticipation of moving, I had to choose two pie with which to grace our table.  Due to the fact that my pumpkin pie recipe makes three pies, we opted for pear pie and maple nut pie.

As much as we love pecan pie, the allure of maple and walnuts was too much to resist.  We tweaked the recipe a little (I just can't keep my hands off anything!) and the results were divine.

Start with a single 9" pie crust.  My favorite pastry is a buttermilk pie crust.  It makes enough for 3 single crust pies or 1 double crust and 1 single crust pie.

Buttermilk Pie Crust
3 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 C shortening (or lard)
1/2 C butter (chilled)
about 1/2 C buttermilk (can use sweet milk with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry cutter (or your fingers).  Stir in the buttermilk lightly with a fork.  Divide the dough, press gently into disks, wrap and chill.  Roll on lightly floured surface.

Rolling crust onto rolling pin to transfer to the pie pan
The finished crust

Maple Nut Pie
2 C roughly chopped walnuts (or pecans)
2 eggs, beaten
1 C real maple syrup
2 tsp. maple extract (or 1T rum)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T melted butter
2 T flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°.  In a bowl, mix together the beaten eggs, maple syrup, maple extract, vanilla extract, melted butter.  Sprinkle with flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk until smooth.

Spread the chopped walnuts (or pecans) over the bottom of a prepared pie shell.  Pour the maple syrup egg mixture over the walnuts.  Place in the preheated oven on the middle rack.  Place a cookie sheet on the rack underneath to catch any drips.

Bake at 375° for 40 - 45 minutes.  Halfway through the baking time, you may want to tent the pie to prevent over-browning of the crust.

The surface of the pie may crack while cooking - that's fine - it will deflate while cooling.

Pie crust full of walnuts
The maple/egg mixture poured over the walnuts
Oh, so good - especially when slightly warm!  Enjoy.

Liberty Alert!

I watch in awe as our liberties and rights are eroded one by one!  Will we stand by and allow this tyranny?  Will we meekly accept the "inevitable"?  Would  you be willing to trade liberty for "safety"?  Would you be defined as a "terrorist"?  This is our watch, people.  What are we going to allow.....


Senate Moves To Allow Military To Intern Americans Without Trial

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NDAA detention provision would turn America into a “battlefield”
Paul Joseph Watson
Monday, November 28, 2011
Arrest Americans
The Senate is set to vote on a bill today that would define the whole of the United States as a “battlefield” and allow the U.S. Military to arrest American citizens in their own back yard without charge or trial.
“The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself,” writes Chris Anders of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
Under the ‘worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial’ provision of S.1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which is set to be up for a vote on the Senate floor this week, the legislation will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who supports the bill.
The bill was drafted in secret by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), before being passed in a closed-door committee meeting without any kind of hearing. The language appears in sections 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA bill.
“I would also point out that these provisions raise serious questions as to who we are as a society and what our Constitution seeks to protect,”Colorado Senator Mark Udall said in a speech last week. One section of these provisions, section 1031, would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil. Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. That alone should alarm my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but there are other problems with these provisions that must be resolved.”
This means Americans could be declared domestic terrorists and thrown in a military brig with no recourse whatsoever. Given that theDepartment of Homeland Security has characterized behavior such as buying gold, owning guns, using a watch or binoculars, donating to charity, using the telephone or email to find information, using cash, and all manner of mundane behaviors as potential indicators of domestic terrorism, such a provision would be wide open to abuse.
“American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?” asks Anders.
The ACLU is urging citizens to call their Senator and demand that theUdall Amendment be added to the bill, a change that would at least act as a check to prevent Americans being snatched off the streets without some form of Congressional oversight.
We have been warning for over a decade that Americans would become the target of laws supposedly aimed at terrorists and enemy combatants.Alex Jones personally documented how U.S. troops were being trained to arrest U.S. citizens in the event of martial law during urban warfare training drills back in the 90′s. Under the the National Defense Authorization Act bill, no declaration of martial law is necessary since Americans would now be subject to the same treatment as suspected insurgents in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
If you thought that the executive assassination of American citizens abroad was bad enough, now similar powers will be extended to the “homeland,” in other words, your town, your community, your back yard.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Life in Pictures

A battle is about to ensue
Maid Elizabeth tightening the solar panel supports
Miss Calamity stacking firewood
Sir Knight and Master Calvin pushing around the first snow of the season
Somehow, I think they are having fun!
Miss Calamity giving Princess Dragon Snack an Ooh La La Spa
Looking every inch the Princess
Miss Calamity's newest sewing project - a hot water bottle cover!
Isn't it pretty?
Master Calvin filling the wood box
Maid Elizabeth rolling out a pie crust
Ready to receive filling
Baking our Thanksgiving pies
Walnut Maple Pie, Pear Pie and rolls, all being
cooked in the wood cookstove at the same time!
A fresh, hot Walnut Maple Pie
See what you're missing Jason?

Our kitchen cupboard originally came out of restaurant built in the early 1900's.  We started to sand it, but had to get it into the house before the snow flew.  It ended up in our kitchen with chippy paint and lots of character.  I love it the way that it is, but, the bead board that was behind the faucet was terrible.  It was filthy and swollen with water and it wouldn't scrub clean.  I would sit and drink tea and devise different plans to put a new back splash on it.  No matter what I thought of, there was something to make it untenable.  And then, out of desperation for a cleanable back splash, I hit on an idea - galvanized sheeting.  It took a little doing - and the job is less than professional, but, I now have a scrubable back splash!  Master Hand Grenade snipped the tin, Maid Elizabeth held it in place while I used the skill saw to cut it.  As I said, it is less than a professional job, but it will do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lewis' Logic

As a prepper, it seems that more often than not, I am called on to defend my preparedness position.  Whether it is a fellow Christian questioning my faith or just some curious soul baffled by the notion that I think there may come a time when electricity, food or medical care may not available, I have to be ready with an answer.  I have written numerous blog posts defending our lifestyle and even a post, Preparedness Apologetics, which biblically exhorts readiness.  But still there are skeptics.

As I pondered the skeptics, I thought of C.S. Lewis.  Years ago, I read a little volume written by Mr. Lewis entitled "Mere Christianity".  It was a wonderful book, filled with wisdom, but one story, in particular, stuck with me like a burr.  The story of which I speak told the tale of Mr. Lewis engrossed in a conversation with a rather stubborn non-believer.  Mr. Lewis worked his way through all of the standard pro-Christ arguments, to no avail.  The non-believer was having none of it - he was convinced that there was no greater point to life than living for himself.  He was certain that death was final.  Lights out.  Darkness.  Nothing.  Why, he questioned, would you bother burdening yourself with "right and wrong" and "good and bad", when, in the end, it didn't matter anyway?  Why would you struggle and suffer to serve a god you couldn't see and touch, that you couldn't KNOW was really there, when you could take the path of least resistance and still have the same end result?  Why, indeed.

C.S. Lewis, listening to this mans reasoning, was struck with a logic so simple that it was perfect.  He reasoned that if this man was correct in his conviction that life was nothing more than a temporary adventure into conscious thought which concluded with drawing your final breath, then he (C.S. Lewis) was covered - he would be O.K.  He concluded that because he served God, his life had been well lived.  He had lived with meaning and purpose, discipline and conviction.  He had helped the poor and treated others kindly.  He had lived with joy.  If life was nothing more than an adventure on the road to death - he would have made the most of it.  And in the end, he would be fine.

If, however, he (C.S. Lewis) was right, and there was one true God and Jesus Christ was His son, he would still be fine.  He would have served his Lord well, he would have finished the race and he would hear the words "Well done my good and faithful servant".  The stiff, necked unbeliever sitting next to him, however, would not be O.K.  He would be cast into eternal damnation, separated forever from the God who created him.  There would be no second chance, no do-over.  There would be nothing but fire.

The same logic applies to life as a prepper.  What if TEOTWAWKI never happens?  What if the lights stay on and food is always readily available?  Will I have lived my life burdened by overwhelming foreboding?  Heaven forbid!  I will have gained wisdom, skill and contentment.  I will have served my family.  I will have cared for my neighbors.  My children will be disciplined and creative.  They will have marketable skills - medical, technical, organizational, food preparation, high density storage, mechanical, sewing - the list goes on.  Our family will have played together, laughed together and pulled together.  If nothing ever happens, we will be O.K.

But, what if something does happen?  If you haven't prepared, what will you do?  If the lights go out, will you be O.K.?  If you can't find a doctor or a dentist, will you know what to do?  Can you provide food for your family and the other people that will depend upon you?  If the world as you know it ends tomorrow, will you be O.K.?  I will.

And, there you have it - the logic of C.S. Lewis.  Preparing for tomorrow, whether you are preparing your soul for eternity or your larder for TEOTWAWKI, is the wise choice.  When the end of the world comes, whether the grid goes down or I draw my last breath, I will be O.K.  Will you?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Women of Honor

Recently, a reader posted (actually, I think it may have been spam) on my blog denigrating American women.  His opinion was thus:

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

Now, to be sure, I am an American woman that meets one of those criteria.  To my great shame, I am overweight.  However, the more I thought about this rant, the more I realized the man was off the mark.  The reality is, being American has nothing to do with being a dishonorable woman.  Being a feminist does.  The enemy's lie of feminism has stripped women of their natural beauty, rendering them ugly in the sight of men seeking feminine beauty.

As I contemplated true feminine beauty, I realized that the bible has given us all of the tools necessary to be truly beautiful.  Titus 2 tells us that older women should not be false accusers, shouldn't drink much wine, be teachers of good things.  It goes on to say that we should teach the younger women to be sober, to love their husbands and to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands.  Does that sound anything like what the commenter described "American Women" to be?

In 1 Peter 2 servants are told to be subject to their masters, with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward (difficult to deal with; contrary), but the real kicker happens in 1 Peter 3.  Here is says LIKEWISE, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversations coupled with fear.  As women, we are to be subject to our husband EVEN if (and when) they are contrary!  How is that for a hard task!?!  And then, in Ephesians 5 it says, Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.

We American Women need to take back our femininity.  As beguiling as the world is, with it's promises of freedom, glory and fulfillment, it really is nothing more than a pit of emptiness.  While it's true that women are capable and strong in their own right, our true strength is uncovered when we submit to our husbands.  It takes great strength to submit.  Being kind and gentle when your husband has been angry and unreasonable with you is truly a difficult task, but an unsurpassed thing of beauty.  Loving your children with patience at the end of a grueling, stressful day appears as pearls around your neck.  And the eternal value of being a woman of honor is unparalleled.  You, as a Godly woman, can affect your children's, your husband's, and untold other souls for eternity.

There is humility and self-sacrifice required to be quintessentially feminine.  You will have to deny yourself and serve others.  But the process will eternally change you.  Your beauty, once fading, will begin to emanate from your very being.  Every time you gently touch your cranky child or caress your contrary husband, looking adoringly into his eyes, true beauty will envelop you.

You don't have to be a quintessentially American woman.  You can be a quintessentially feminine woman.  You can wear your femininity like a garland around your neck.  All you have to do is obey God.  Love your husband.  Love your children.  Live for them - not for you.

Being a Woman of Honor is not for the faint of heart.  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  But, it is rich, it is fulfilling and it is right.  And, it is truly beautiful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What would it take......

One of the questions my husband and I are frequently asked are "what would it take to set up an off grid system and not change my lifestyle?".  Sir Knight turns to them, with a level gaze and replies unflinchingly "anywhere from a quarter of a million to half a million dollars".  They stare at him, flabbergasted, their dreams of living the off-grid life vanquished.

The reality of an off-grid life is that unless you are independently wealthy and have a crew of technicians at your disposal 24 hours a day, you will have to change your lifestyle.  Gone will be your electric stove, electric dryer, forced-air electric heating system and electric hot water tank.  You will never again own an electric stock tank heater or an air conditioning system.  A large freezer is a thing of the past (you might not even get away with a small one) and that cute little electric fireplace - not so much.  Without an endless stream of money, you are going to have to make some changes to the way you live.  And that is really the point, isn't it?

When Sir Knight and I used to dream of being off-grid, we planned an elaborate system that ran perfectly and allowed us to live in the way which we were accustomed.  Oh, there would be an adjustment here and there, but really, nothing too major.  Then suddenly we were unwillingly thrust into the real world.  The world of faulty generators, broken inverters, wind that blows too much or not enough and sun that just won't shine.  Out went our plans for a propane dryer (they use way too much propane!) and our idealistic notion of powering our generator with homemade bio-diesel (when would one find the time?).  The farther down the road of off-grid living we traveled the more convinced we became that being off-grid was not for the faint of heart.  We had to change our expectations and our lifestyle or become nothing more than urban folks who said "I once had an off-grid farm in Idaho".

As I watch the survival/preparedness movement take root and gain steam, I have noticed the same trend among preppers.  The basic motivation seems to be "what would it take for me to take care of my family when TEOTWAWKI happens, and not change my lifestyle".  This cannot be!  If our world crumbles we are going to have to change the way we live.  Regardless of what kind of preparations you have made, how much food you have stored up and how many knowledgeable members you have in your group, life will not go on as normal.

Think of it.  The electrical grid is down. Chaos reigns.  People are starving.  Dying.  And you are living, fat and happy in your off-grid, stocked, armored up enclave.  Really!?!  No.  Truth is, you have no idea how long the world will be turned upside down.  You have to start food rationing immediately.  Your solar system works great for the first 6 months and then, in your attempt pacify your sick children, you allowed them to watch a few hours of cartoons while you conduct perimeter patrols and care for livestock.  Your batteries become depleted (not as much sun as in the summer - and you didn't want to attract attention by running the genset).  The winter temperatures drop to an unheard of low of -10°.  You wake up in the morning to battery acid all over the bathroom floor.  Your batteries froze and the cases split.  No more solar.  Now you are truly "off-grid".

Then, your area is hit with an epidemic.  People (the few who are left) start showing up on doorstep, begging for antibiotics to save their children.  They had some stocked up, but they went through their supplies in the first few months.  Your are their only hope.  You have a store of Amoxicillin (you bought in bulk from a pet supply website).  You know that it takes 24 pills (500mg every 8 hours for an eight day run) to cure this particular bug.  There are 7 people in your family.  They haven't come down with this nastiness, but how long can that last?  Just your family would require 168 doses.  You have stockpiled about 500 doses.  But this is just one bug.  And you are only into TEOTWAKWI 6 months.  What do you do?  I know what you don't do - you don't live your life as if nothing has happened.  You change your lifestyle.

The bottom line is this - we don't know what tomorrow holds.  There is no possible way that we can be prepared for every eventuality.  We can't possibly expect to have every base covered.  And really, we need to change our mindset.  We have to expect to have to go without.  We are going to have to be ingenious, inventive and creative.  We have to think outside the box and not expect to maintain our current lifestyles.  We need to think of the possibilities and work out solutions ahead of time so that we are not caught off guard.

If we don't expect the unexpected, we are sunk.  If we really think that we can stockpile enough to insulate ourselves from the end of the world, we are sadly mistaken.  Just because we have antibiotics doesn't mean we will survive the epidemic.  Just because we have a solar system doesn't mean we won't end up with the unprepared masses, burning candles to light our nights.  Survival isn't about the stuff.  Survival is about cultivating the proper mindset and attitude to make do - whether you have gear - or whether you don't.

The question isn't "what would it take for me to survive the end of the world and not change my lifestyle".  The questions is "what would it take for me to survive the end of the world".  That is what being a prepper is all about.  Get the gear.  Stock the food.  Beans, bullets and band-aids, by all means.  But - get your head in the game.

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.
            Old Pioneer Saying

Don't expect to go to the end of the world and have it look like your world looks now.  Plan to change your lifestyle.  It is much easier to prepare for a difficult lifestyle than it is to be thrust into a difficult lifestyle.  And so, I urge you - prepare.

Wildcrafting- Elderberry Wine

As part of our homeschool, my children and I take nature walks, pick up samples along the way and tote them home.  Once back inside our snug little shouse, we research the samples, draw pictures in our nature journals and record all of the new information we learned with vast diagrams and essays.  This is a favorite class in our school - blending a pleasant afternoon stroll with the exploration of God's creation.  It is also the perfect way to teach our children the significance of education - how reading, writing and even drawing helps us to know about the world around us.

On one of our excursions, we plucked a number of humble Elderberries from their bush.  The research we conducted on Elderberries was fascinating!  It seems as though Elderberry is a scientifically valid remedy for both Influenza A and Influenza B, affecting a complete cure within 2 to 3 days.  Elderberry is also high in Potassium, rendering it a very effective, locally obtained ingredient in Oral Rehydration Solution, which is used to treat Cholera and other diarrhea producing illnesses.

As I sat contemplating the numerous health benefits of the Elderberry, I struck upon an idea that generations before me knew instinctively.  Why not Elderberry wine?  Think about it - the main ingredient in most flu and cough medicines on the market is alcohol.  Why not combine the health benefits of Elderberry with the sleep inducing attributes of a glass of wine?  Now, to be sure, we are not drinkers.  Truth be told, I hate the taste of wine.  However, if we can't get cough medication, or a flu remedy or a sleep aid, wouldn't it make sense to have something on hand to help care for your family when they have been laid low?  Particularly something that would be more effective than the store bought stuff anyway?

And so, we made Elderberry wine.  I sought a recipe that would use only what we had on hand - nothing exotic or fancy.  I ended up with an old recipe that came from the Scottish countryside.  It uses nothing more than berries, sugar, lemon juice, raisins and yeast - all things that are easily stored.  Of course, it will take many months for the wine to ferment and then age, so we will have no idea how it tastes for some time, but I will keep you posted.

Elderberry Wine                                        What I used
3 lb. elderberries (remove stalks)                11 lbs berries
3 lb. sugar                                                   22 cups sugar
1 lemon                                                       3/4 cup lemon juice
1 lb raisins (could use sultanas)                  3 1/4 lbs raisins
1/2 ounce of yeast                                       1 pkg. vintners yeast (Bordeaux)
1 gallon water                                           3 1/4 gallons water

To remove the berries from the stalks, use a fork.

Put berries in a sanitized bucket and pour on gallon of boiling water.  Mash the berries against the side of the bucket, then put in the raisins.  Cover and leave for 3 or 4 days.  Strain and tip the liquid back into the bucket; add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Squeeze the lemon and add all the juice.  Sprinkle on the yeast.  Cover for 3 days, strain again and pour wine into demijohn.  Fix airlock and leave until bubbling completely stops (about 5 months).  Strain and bottle off.  The wine could be ready to drink in about 4 months (if too young leave it for much longer).  Has a lovely red color.

Using a fork to strip the berries
Pouring boiling water over the berries
Mashing the Elderberries
Adding the raisins
Straining the wine through cheesecloth (and a strainer)
The spent berries and raisins
Bubbling away
Pouring the strained wine into the demijohn
We mixed our wine in two 4 gallon buckets that we had sterilized.  We did buy a demijohn (also known as a carboy) at our local wine shop, along with an airlock.  They were both relatively inexpensive ($25 and $1.50 respectively) and can be used virtually forever.  Also, we bought vintners yeast, however, it is possible to use regular baking yeast, although the flavor will be different that what you would expect from wine.

We are anxiously awaiting our finished wine.  It is actively bubbling along, on our counter.  There is nothing like a science experiment in your kitchen.

I can't help but think that the more we can do for ourselves, the better off we will be.  Knowing your local plant life could be the difference between life and death.

Our in-kitchen science experiment

Monday, November 14, 2011

Going to War with the Gear You've Got....

As we go about our lives - eating, drinking and being merry - our newspaper headlines are unfolding like a poorly written end-of-the world novel.  The Euro is on the brink of failure, with the dollar quickly tumbling into the abyss.  Social chaos, once unthinkable, has now become commonplace.  This nation, planted by free men and fertilized by the blood of patriots is being ravaged by petty tyrants spouting equality and justice.  Smooth words oiled with lies provide a balm to the people while these tyrants establish for themselves empirical kingdoms - kingdoms whose very foundations crush the freedoms of men.

For those of us who see the signs of the times, all of this can be more than a little disturbing.  In fact, it can be downright scary.  My first inclination is to circle the wagons.  I want to make sure that my house is in order.  Do I have enough wheat?  What about antibiotics?  I'm pretty sure we could use some more olive oil.  The list is endless.  And then, what about our living situation?  This is not where I want to be.  I'd like to be a little more remote.  A root cellar sure would be nice.  And what about a milk cow - how can I survive the end of the world without a cow?  The worries pile up, one on top of the other, until they threaten to crush me.  And then I remember.  You have to go to war with the gear you've got, not the gear you want.

The reality is that when our country was hewn out of the forest, it was done so with little more than a few tools and a whole lot of heart.  The men and women who so desperately wanted a new life were willing to work, suffer and even die to establish a new country.  They relied on God and each other to survive.  They were willing to suffer, I mean really suffer, in order to secure a better life for themselves and their children.  They were always cold, always exhausted, always dirty, but they soldiered on because they knew that to turn back meant to live their lives at the mercy of someone else rather than living as free men.  They didn't have very  much in terms of "gear", but that didn't matter.  They chiseled a new world with the tools they had, not the tools they wanted.

I could come up with list after list of gear, equipment and provisions that I "need" to survive the-end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it, but the truth is, that it would never really be enough.  I would never feel like I had "made it".  I don't think I will ever utter the words "We're there - we don't need anything else".  It is just not human nature.  I can, however, go to the end of the world with what I have.  I have the most important things.  I have God.  I have my family.  I have skills, toughness and optimism.  And I am not afraid to suffer.

Too many times, in our rush to prepare for an uncertain future, we stock up, pile up and store up things, but we forget what we really need to be preparing - our minds and our souls.  Any of you who read this blog know that I think there is prudence in long term food storage and accumulating medical necessities and tactical gear, but, I urge you to realize that you will really never have enough of these things. You need to ready yourself for battle by preparing yourself for deprivation, for suffering and for hardship.  You cannot insulate yourself from the realities of the "end of the world" with storerooms full of stuff.  You will have to be able to go without and to make do.

No matter what you do, you will never have enough to last you through the end of the world.  Store what you can.  Learn what you can.  Do what you can.  Then, go to war with what you've got, not with what you want.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

God, the Marines and a 10 Year Old Boy

Almost sixteen years ago, Sir Knight and I were blessed with a wonderful little boy.  Master Hand Grenade was perfect, but when he was 8 days old an unexpected illness left him compromised.  After spending a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, his prognosis was dim.  We was never to see, walk or hear.  He would be plagued with seizures and there was not much of a chance of him ever living a normal life.  God had other plans.

We did our best to raise our son like the rest of our children.  We expected things from him.  We taught him to love God, his family and his country.  As he grew, we saw a distinctively warrior mentality developing in him.  I don't mean that he wanted to do battle with us, but instinctively he wanted to protect the innocent.  He was willing to stand in the gap between good and evil.  And in his four year old mind, that meant that he had to be a Marine.  Not Army. Not Air Force.  Not Navy.  There was nothing on his horizon but the Marine Corp.

Wanting to encourage our son, but knowing his limitations, we told him that God might have other ways for him to serve.  We told him that God had called him to be a warrior, not for the Marines, but for God himself.  Hand Grenade would soak this information in, enveloped in the knowledge that God had given him the spirit of a warrior, yet never losing his affinity for the United States Marine Corp.

All of Hand Grenades play revolved around being a Marine.  He would dress up in camouflage (always 3 sizes too big), crawl through the trees on his stomach and shoot imaginary bad guys.  He would arrange troops (rocks and sticks) in mock battles making sure that the Marines always proved victorious. He had me buzz cut his hair, making sure that I left the appropriate "helmet pad" and always strove to be "high and tight".

The older Hand Grenade became, the more certain we were that he would never be able to enter the Marine Corp.  He had the heart of a Marine, but his hearing loss and involuntary movements would make him ineligible to stand with his brothers in the Corp.  He was undeterred.  He knew that one day the Marines would see him for what he was - a fellow Marine, and they would have no choice but to accept him as one of their own.

One day, when Hand Grenade was 10 years old, his childhood faith in the Marine Corp bore fruit.  Hand Grenade was helping his Grandpa haul rifles into a gun show to set up a table, when they crossed paths with a retired Marine, arrayed in his uniform.  Hand Grenade immediately grew tall, pulled his hand out of his pocket and saluted the Marine with a respectful "Sir".  The Marine smiled down at the little boy in grubby BDU's, hands shaking and said, "Carry On".  Hand Grenade beamed, as if the Lord himself had bestowed a blessing on him.

During the course of the gun show, Hand Grenade's grandfather had an opportunity to talk with that Marine.  He told him about the little boy with the heart of a Marine, but whose body would never cooperate with him to reach his goal.  He told him about Hand Grenade's tenacity.  His persistence in overcoming every obstacle.  He told him about a little boy that didn't have the word "quit" in his vocabulary.  He told him about a child who was a natural born warrior - who would always stand between the innocent and evil, no matter what the cost.

As they talked, the Marine's eyes began to gleam.  While the grandfather spoke of his great love for his grandson, an idea was born in the mind of the Marine.  This Marine, this man of honor, would do what Marines do - he would stand up for the innocent.  He saw, in this little boy, the soul of a Marine, and, as it was in his power to do something, he acted.

About two weeks after the gun show, that Marine Corp. Lance Corporal (retired) called.  He spoke of meeting Hand Grenade and his grandfather and he wanted to have a ceremony at our home to induct Master Hand Grenade into the Marine Corp.  Excitedly (without telling Master Hand Grenade) plans were made.  We washed and ironed Hand Grenade's best BDU's, gave him a fresh buzz cut and called  my folks so that they could make plans to be here.

The appointed day arrived.  Electricity filled the air, although Master Hand Grenade had no idea why.  Slowly, a car drove up our driveway, depositing a retired Marine, in full dress blues, at our front door.  Master Hand Grenade opened the door and his excitement was palpable.  He immediately recognized the Marine from the gun show and saluted without hesitation.  After explaining the situation to Master Hand Grenade, the Marine proceeded to hold an induction ceremony for our son.  As Hand Grenade stood at attention, he was inducted in the United States Marine Corp as an Honorary Marine with the rank of Lance Corporal.  He was presented with a certificate documenting his induction, along with a cake bearing the Marine symbol - the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.  Other Marines, hearing about a 10 year old boy that was really one of theirs, contributed to this occasion.  One sent a DI hat (from WWII) another sent his Marine Corp ring.  BDU's, packs, bricks of .22  - gifts just came flooding from the trunk of the Marine's car.  Never before has a 10 year old boy overflowed with such grateful thanksgiving.

The next year, when Hand Grenade was 11, he (and our family) was invited to be the guest of honor at the Marine Corp ball (in Montana).  The Marines payed for our trip, donated our lodging (the hotel was owned by a former Marine) and even presented Master Hand Grenade with a beautiful, refinished .22 rifle.  As he stood, side by side, with a Marine recently returned from Iraq, his induction into the brotherhood was complete.  The Marine leaned down, whispered some pearl of wisdom into Master Hand Grenade's ear and Hand Grenade squared his shoulders, turned on his heal to face the Marine and saluted.  In a moment of abandon, the two Marines embraced - one fresh from the field of battle, the other readying himself for a battle of a completely different nature.

Over the years, the Marines have come into our lives to bless us and enrich us many times over.  They have never forgotten that little 10 year old boy.  He is one of theirs.  They stand by their creed "Leave no man behind".  Not only did they make a little boy theirs, they have never left him behind.

Master Hand Grenade is now almost 16.  He is tall and straight.  He has the bearing of a Marine, although he will never be one.  He is as earnest about standing between the innocent and evil as he was when he was 10.  He is more of a warrior now than ever, but he has a new understanding that we battle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities.  And, he is still a Marine.

This year, our family was once again invited to be guests at the Marine Corp Ball.  As Hand Grenade walked into the room, he was met by Marines in dress blues, clapping his back and shaking his hand.  The hugged his shoulders and called him son.  He stood tall, looked them squarely in the eyes, and knew he was home.

Thank you.  All the veterans of our armed forces, I salute you.  Not only do you protect our way of life, you honor and protect what is most important to us - our families.  You are what is best in us.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Its been too much!  We have been on the go, running from one appointment to the next - fulfilling one obligation after another.  We have been, quite literally, running around like chickens with our heads cut off (they really do that!).

Finally, we have gotten a little sense back into our lives and are in the process of regrouping.  I have to admit, I am a homebody.  Being gone day after day leaves me worn to a frazzle, and then even a tiny mole hill becomes a mountain.  Our family thrives with a quiet, peaceful, simple life.  We can muster what is needed to tackle whatever mountain presents itself, but after the battle, we require peaceful restoration.

Today was a day for peaceful restoration.  I puttered around the house, cleaning, straightening and putting to rights.  I planned menus, planned school and planned holidays.  I fussed with furniture and table settings and drank in the cozy atmosphere that is home.  I sang praises to God, danced through the kitchen and delighted myself in serving my family.  This is home sweet home.

One of my great joys is making my home a pleasant refuge for my family.  I love to cook wonderful meals, prepare our daily tea and draw my family homeward by making home too alluring to abandon for any length of time.

As I marinated in the comfort of home I indulged my homebody tendencies by whipping up a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies (baked in the wood cookstove, of course - they really are better that way!).  When Sir Knight arrived home the tea table was set, awaiting flowing conversations and cups of tea.

Cookies baking in the cookstove

Ah, the wonderful refuge that is home.  I pray that you all enjoy the simple pleasures of a humble home filled with the love of family.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 C butter (softened)
3/4 C brown sugar (packed)
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 C flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 C chocolate chips

Cream softened (not melted) butter with brown sugar and granulated sugar.  Add vanilla extract and eggs.  Mix well.  Add flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix well.  Add chocolate chips (I always go light on the chocolate chips) - we like the cookie).  The dough should be soft but not sticky.  If it sticks to your fingers, add a little flour.  Continue adding flour until the dough no longer sticks, but be careful not to add too much flour or your cookies will be as hard as rocks.  This dough also works well wrapped up, stored in the fridge or freezer and made into fresh cookies later.  It is wonderful to make one sheet of cookies at a time and always have warm, fresh out of the oven cookies in the blink of an eye.

Bake at 375° (or a very warm wood oven) for 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned.  We love soft cookies, so we are sure not to over bake.