Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How much are you worth?

What are the things you value?  What things do you cherish in your life?  For most of us, the things we list would be intangibles… such as love, family, friends, good health… and those are all valuable.  But seldom do we think of ourselves in that light.  There are perhaps a few who place themselves as a priority above everyone else, whose only concern is what they want or need, to the exclusion of everyone else.  That is the other extreme, and like the first group, it leaves much to be desired.  Age figures into the equation, as well.  When we are children, we are mainly concerned with our own needs, but somewhere along the way to growing up, we begin to think less of our needs and begin to see the needs of others.  Is it part of maturing, or the way we are raised to see?  We learn to be compassionate, caring beings.  When we have serious relationships and begin having children, most of us place our children as our priority, but there comes a time when we need to pull back and let our children test their own “land legs”.  A minister friend once said that we Americans spend too much time preparing the road for our children when we should be preparing our children for the road. 

I think of my grandmother, who had a linen closet filled with beautiful handwork that she “saved” and never used.  After she passed away, those lovely cherished items were relegated to a cardboard box in basement storage waiting to be distributed or donated.  How sad that no one ever was able to enjoy the things she so lovingly created.  Perhaps it grew out of the poverty of depression years, but some of us still “save” our good things.  We don’t use our “good china” and silverware tarnishes in the chest.   I was thinking these thoughts the other day, when I pulled out a tea towel from the drawer, and saw that it was getting holes it in from wear and laundering.  It was one I’d embroidered for my hope chest (does anyone remember having a hope chest?) and actually “saved” the set for probably twenty years before actually using them.  Now, thirty years later, they are wearing out.  The little Dutch girls still are busy with their task for that day of the week, but the towels are disintegrating around them.  I enjoyed embroidering them, and I have enjoyed using them.  I am worth it!  I wish my grandmother had felt her worth and could have enjoyed the sensation of her pretty pillowcase under her head. 

The gifts my grandmother gave me… teaching me to crochet and embroider, I am now passing on to my own grandchildren.  All of them, boys and girls, have learned to embroider skillfully, and I tell them some day they may be sitting with their grandchildren, teaching them things my grandmother taught me, and telling them stories about times they spent with me.  They look at me and smile, because life seems eternal to them now.  They can’t imagine a time when I won’t be in their lives.  They are learning to sew on a machine… simple things, but they feel a sense of pride in their creations.  They don’t realize it at this point, but the time we share is the most valuable commodity I have to give them.  Grandparents have time and patience to listen.  My youngest granddaughter is five, and she rarely shuts up!  She follows me from room to room, talking.  One time my son asked her why she never stops talking, and she said it is because she has so many things to say!  She is a delight!!! 

My children are grown now, and I learn things from them quite regularly.  My youngest son recently made some baking powder biscuits that were the most beautiful biscuits I’ve ever seen!  I told him I’ve been on a quest my whole life to make biscuits from “scratch” that rose that beautifully.  He gave me his recipe, and the only thing that was different is that he used bread flour, because that was the flour that was handy when he was making them.  I have made the biscuits, and they rose, as his had.  I won’t say I can die now that I have made a perfect biscuit, because that would be tempting fate at my age!  But I will say that those biscuits deserved some superb jam!  My sister made some delicious cherry jam that she brought for me during one visit… it was the best jam I’d ever had (well, one of the best, at least) and I thought she’d picked the cherries and made it the old-fashioned way.  She hadn’t.  It was made with rhubarb, cherry pie filling, and jello.  Here are the recipes.

Buttermilk Biscuits:
2 cups bread flour (I haven’t tried making them with half all-purpose flour yet)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and blend for a pulse or two. 
Cut up one stick (1/2 cup) salted butter into small pieces and add it to the dry ingredients in the food processor.  Pulse a few times until the butter is integrated evenly into the mixture.  It will not be lumpy, but will be like a dry texture.  If you process it too much, it will be a lump.  Pour mixture into a bowl and add 1 cup buttermilk.  Buttermilk will separate somewhat, so be sure to shake the container before measuring.  It’s a fairly wet mixture, and flours vary… if it is too dry, add a bit more buttermilk.  Stir with a table fork just until the flour is all incorporated.  Then I kneaded it in the bowl, turning it over on itself as I kneaded it, five or six times.  Don’t over-knead or over-mix or the biscuits will not be as light and tender. Sprinkle a bit of flour on a board or counter and put the dough on the floured surface.  Pat it into a circular shape, and about 3/4” to 1” thick.  Cut into shapes.  You can use a glass that has been floured for your biscuit cutter, if you don’t have a cutter.  Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and bake them at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven.  They should be golden brown on top and bottom.  Son Donavon made sausage gravy to go on his biscuits, but I made a batch of cherry jam for mine.

Cherry Refrigerator Jam:
3 cups fresh rhubarb, finely cut
½ cup water
Bring the rhubarb/water mixture to a boil in a fairly large pot, turn down to simmer, cover and cook until rhubarb is tender. 
Add a scant 3 cups granulated sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Add 1 can cherry pie filling, stirring well.  Cook for 8 minutes.  I mashed the mixture with a potato masher to break the cherries up somewhat, but still have large chunks of cherries.  The mixture should be very hot but not quite boiling.  Add 2 packages of cherry jello and stir until well dissolved.  Pour into jelly jars and cover.  Let cool, then refrigerate.  This makes a bit more than three pints of jam. 

Bake some beautiful buttermilk biscuits, split a couple if they are small, and top them with a bit of butter and cherry jam.  Get out a pretty china plate to eat them on, and pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea in that lovely cup you save for company.  YOU are worth it! 




  1. Great start, Alaena! I'm bookmarking it.

  2. Enjoyed your blog so much that I think I am "really" going to make those biscuits. I've made food making promises in the past and never got around to making them.
    Hopefully I get these made. I liked the part of your blog about your minister friend telling you we spend to much time preparing the road for our children when we should prepare our children for the road. Very true. Also, Yes, I remember hope chests. My mother gave me hers and I filled it with goodies I made and bought for a upcoming relationship/marriage. Wow that brought back memories. Thanks! PC

  3. I remember hope chests and wondering why my family "saved" their good stuff for that some day that I knew would never come. It wasn't as though we had plans to entertain the queen or something. Strangely, they held on to broken junk that would never be fixed. I try to use my nice things because my husband bought them for me and I want him to know I like them. I hope to spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephew to pass along my skills, but they are getting older and have less time for that, but I'll make time when they do.