blogging · me · Gratitude · Hobbies · Keto

Day 3 of a Keto Week

And a note to my new followers

If you’ve just subscribed or followed; Hi! Delighted to have you along. I must explain my plan behind this blog. Not every post will be about cooking or the Keto way of life. Keto is just one of three sections of this site, as you see from the top navigation menu:

I’m also very much into Books and Gardening. And in the weeks to come, I’ll probably add a Writing section as well. So, if later today you see a post that isn’t about Keto at all – well, just skip over that if you want! Or enjoy – up to you.

Day 3 – Danger!

Today could have been better, but it also could have been MUCH worse. I took my Keto Chili to work and that was delicious. But work ran long, and I got home late – with only about 15 minutes to spare before Bible Study group with the ladies of my church. There, I succumbed to the lure of pigs-in-blankets. And two munchkins (donut holes.) It could have been so much worse, but not by much! Ah me. Tomorrow is a new day and a new attempt to eat and live the Keto way.

Accentuate the Positive! · Beauty · Christmas · Family · Gratitude · holiday · Something wonderful

Still shining brightly

This Christmas tree always brings joy

This is a re-run of a post I put up several years ago – which is a reprint of an article I wrote in 1993 for a small weekly paper. When my parents downsized they gave me the tree. Enjoy!

Tonight I put up the tree I “inherited” from Dad when they downsized to a patio home. Here’s the story I wrote about that tree 17 years ago for The Georgia Guardian newspaper. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll post pictures of the decorated 2010 tree. Tonight you’ll have to make do with a picture of Pickles sitting underneath the tree:

Pickles poses by a copy of the original story of our family tree. Dad loved the story so much he matted and framed it. Once you read it, you’ll see why.

Pickles underneath the Christmas tree.
Pickles poses by a copy of the original story of our family tree.

A Tree for All Seasons

First published in the Georgia Guardian, Dec. 24, 1993
Copyright Jennifer Rust

Every family has its Yuletide traditions, and ours is no exception. We’ll be going to parties, attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church and decorating the tree. Yet we do something lots of people would never dream of: We pull our tree out of the attic each year.

Yes, we have an artificial tree. During my impossible-to live-with teenage years, I continually referred to it as the fake tree. I would groan and roll my eyes each time my dad pulled it out of its box, telling the story of how he bought it in 1968 for only $15. (What a bargain, I can hear him say.)

When I was in high school I would beg my parents to buy a real tree. We could decorate it with strings of popcorn and other “natural” ornaments. But each year we’d re-assemble that same old tree, sticking branches into the holes on the trunk pole and bending them into place so they’d look right.

As time passed, my brother and I graduated, left the house, got jobs. Now, I have only a few days at home to celebrate the holiday. And I’ve noticed a change in the way I feel about that tree. It happened the year before last, when my dad said, “I think we might replace this one with a new tree.”

You would have thought he suggested we replace Mom. I gasped, “No! You can’t get rid of this tree!” Even as I said it I realized why.

Because of all the laughs we have putting it up each year … because all the made-in-kindergarten ornaments look just right on it … because we’ve had it for 25 years, and how many things last that long? Heck, that tree is the same age as my brother Bill and we’re keeping him.

That artificial, fake but eternal tree has become so much more than a decorative centerpiece upon which to hang the ornaments. It is a symbol of all those Christmases past and all the memories we share. That glorious fake fir has become a holiday tradition of its won. I wouldn’t trade it for the most majestic blue spruce around.

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Cooking · Family · Gratitude · hostess with the mostess

More holiday fun!

I can’t believe I forgot….

Life has been very, very, busy at Aunt Gem Manor since the week of Thanksgiving. But I did take a few pictures of the beautiful Thanksgiving feast, and wanted to share them with you.

First, a nice setting is always key. I only get to use this runner once a year. Next year, a cornucopia!

Loved making the desserts beforehand. I couldn’t believe Publix didn’t have any pecan pies. So I made my first pecan pie.

The feast itself, with only slightly frazzled cook.

And leftover custard cornbread – it was perfect!

That gooey, creamy cream center – bliss!
Accentuate the Positive! · Cooking · Family · Gratitude · Hobbies · holiday · just plain fun

Stirring up a taste of Christmas…

Yes, even before Thanksgiving! Today in the Anglican church calendar it’s the last Sunday before Advent, also known as Christ the King Sunday. This Sunday’s collect, from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican church started with the words “Stir up…”:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 1549

I’m starting the process of making a fruitcake, which does have to age a full month. For the past few years I’ve been making extra-special fruitcakes – not the bricks of old, but something that people may actually like once they take a bite out of politeness. I love seeing the reaction of people who hate fruitcake. No, you don’t. You hate Claxton fruitcakes. So do I!

This year I’m making a recipe which calls for 6 full cups of candied citrus peel. The sweet teenager at the Publix didn’t have a clue what I was asking about, and we both started consulting Google Images. He finally led me to the fruitcake ingredient aisle (they move it EVERY YEAR.) The only thing there were those icky-sweet pieces of “fruit” that were in neon colors. Time to make my own. I searched for a recipe and found an easy one on AllRecipes.com.

Life Lesson: Easy is not the same thing as Fast. Or Cheap.

– Aunt Gem

First, my actual cake recipe called for six full cups of candied peel. I shrugged and bought up two bags of Cuties (easy to peel!) and a bag of lemons. I’m $10 in and I haven’t even started on the almonds. Then I started peeling.

Only halfway to 2 cups of peel

Finally, I hit two cups after I emptied an entire bag of clementines. I have a lot of fruit to eat in the next few days. Fortunately, I’m making ambrosia for Thanksgiving.

This is what two cups of peel looks like at the start of the process.

First, you bring to a full boil. Then, you let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Then you drain everything – and repeat the whole process two more times. Finally, you wind up with this:

The two cups I started with shrunk.

And now, over an hour later, I still have four more cups to make. This fruitcake better be worth it, Martha!

Books · Gratitude · Hobbies · just plain fun

Adventuring with The Hobbit

Dear readers: as you know, my site now focuses on four things: gardening, baking, cooking, and books. Today it’s time to focus on my love of reading.

So many books have famous first lines. There’s “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Herman Melville started Moby Dick with “Call me Ishmael.” And “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.” My favorite is from the book I just finished with my book club: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Of course, that’s from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

As much as I love the first line, the first paragraph of this adventure is what truly draws me in:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Tolkien’s verse

We gathered Tuesday night for the final session on The Hobbit, and we all were sad to leave it. Everyone was quoting favorite lines from the book to each other, just to hear Tolkien’s lyrical prose. One of my favorite parts of the book, aside from the sheer adventure of it all – the dramatic journey of our little hero, the modest hobbit, fighting with evil spiders and a DRAGON – was some of the poetry Tolkien crafted as the songs sung by the dwarves and the elves. The songs reflected the characters’ nature: light, cheerful verse for the elves, cruel consonant-heavy lines for the goblins. And of course, our hero Bilbo Baggins, invented silly verses on the fly when he distracted the spiders away from his friends.

Old fat spider sitting in a tree!

Old fat spider can’t see me!

Attercop! Attercop!

Won’t you stop

Stop your spinning and look for me!

-The Hobbit, chapter 8

A complete world

Beside the poetry, everyone who has read Tolkien knows about the care he takes with what the sci-fi community calls world building. I’ve always thought of it as scene setting. The maps on the inside covers of the book were created by the author. But you can get it all from the descriptions Tolkien gives of the Shire, of Bilbo’s very nice hobbit hole, of the paths the adventurers take through the deep forest of Mirkwood, the wastes near the Lonely Mountain and finally in the dragon’s cave. Everything is described so beautifully that I can picture every scene of the book. But of the first Hobbit movie – I remember nothing except the first dinner scene. That’s the magic of books – you, as reader, collaborate with the author in creating the story in your mind.

Finding the Lonely Mountain

A brief, final battle

I’m thankful that Tolkien resorted to the “Deus ex Machina” technique of the using the Eagles to shorten the final battle – because it nicely shortened a brutal war scene. I thought that at least 30 minutes of graphic fighting could have been cut from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies – which I DO remember – without sacrificing the story. And it was somehow so hobbit-like for Bilbo to be conked on the head with a rock, causing him to go unconscious and miss the last part of the battle.

A humble hero

Bilbo Baggins is described as a hobbit who “looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father” and indeed he lived a decorous life until he was 50 years old. But then, with the visit of Gandalf the wizard, the part of him from his mother’s people, the adventurous and less respectable Tooks, came out. The two halves of his personality warred within him starting with the unexpected tea party he hosted for the 14 dwarves. In shock the dwarves were expecting table service (and knew his larders better than he did) he muttered “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” Then after being thought a grocer instead of fierce, he marched forth to join the fray. On the journey Bilbo went back and forth from bemoaning the lack of a pocket handkerchief to devising ingenious plans to save his friends from danger. That was Bilbo’s charm: he was a hero who didn’t think highly of himself, who forgave those who did him wrong (witness his weeping over Thorin) and who was pleased to be “quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

Notes

I’m sure I don’t have to tell this erudite audience from whence the lines in the first paragraph came, but in case you don’t know:
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The cover of the copy I have – the 75th Anniversary edition.
Accentuate the Positive! · Gratitude · Hobbies · Introspection · just plain fun

Watching Life Instead of Living It

Now that the COVID-mania of 2020 and 2021 seems to have lifted, I want to live life instead of watching it happen. Doing, instead of being in the audience, is my thing. That’s why I joined the choir in my church – I didn’t want to just watch other people sing; I want to be in on it too! Why be a spectator?

I’ve made strides toward more living, less watching before. When I first moved into my house in December of 2016, I moved my circa-2000 television with me. That thing was an old bulky set – definitely not a flat screen. The remote control stopped working sometime in the late 2010s.

My TV looked a LOT like this one. Heck, it could have been this model.

I worked around it by actually getting up to change the channel, like in the 1970s. I started watching less and less television over the years, and I decided once I moved, I was going to put that old wreck on the curb and run an experiment: how long can I go without a TV in the house?

Continue reading “Watching Life Instead of Living It”
blogging · Gratitude · Sunday lesson

Sunday thoughts

One of my favorite blogs, Maggie’s Farm, publishes the gospel message from the lectionary each Sunday. I’ve always loved that. Maybe I should do that? At the very least, I can send you over to Maggie’s for the gospel lesson today. And stick around and read more from the group; for a bunch of Yankees they aren’t bad:

We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn’t pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does “try my best to be just like I am,” and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.

MaggiesFarm.anotherdotcom.com
Accentuate the Positive! · Beauty · Gratitude · Introspection · me

Moving toward the Spirit, part 7

Thoughts on growing in faith. Last in the series. To catch up: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

My quest to draw closer to Jesus continues, no matter where I go. At times I’m very good about devotions in the morning, praying and reading my Bible; most of the time, I honor daily devotions in the breach by thinking about it for a few minutes. And then feeling guilty. Every time I deviate from my ideal I realize that I’m falling away from relationship with the Lord. He doesn’t move away from me; I’m the one straying. That’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The structured Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and sometimes Compline have been a super way to keep me praying, reading Scripture, and spending time with God. Not that I do them all the time. Like I said, I’ve been much better at observing them as something I should do.

I decided to get a leather-bound copy of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. Built to last!

When I discovered podcasts devoted to morning prayer, I was thrilled. Finally – a way to listen to Morning Prayer while walking my dog! (Usually, I’m listening to something that isn’t filling my head with good news.) CotA’s church plant, All Souls, created the wonderful 10-minute podcast Lord, Open My Lips and I use that. Another way I’m focusing on God is to go to the Wednesday morning Eucharist our church offers. I’d been off and on, but on my birthday last October, I decided my goal for the next year was to go each week. I’ve been more often than not and I’m keeping on.

It’s not usual to find an Anglican running around in my part of the South; anybody seeking out liturgy is usually an Episcopalian. Most of my friends today in Columbia are Southern Baptist. That only makes sense, because 1) I spent 20 years in a Southern Baptist church, and 2) the top three religions in South Carolina are Baptist, Methodist, and SEC Football. But over the years my spiritual journey, ever since I was 12, has led me to going to where I truly think the Spirit of Truth is. I felt that in my time with Wesley Monumental, with Lamb’s Chapel, and then RHBC. Right now, that is in the Church of the Apostles, a member of the ACNA. In my Apostles 101 class I loved how our past Dean (that’s a fancy Anglican word for the head priest at the cathedral church of the Diocese) described the church: the place where the Scriptures are rightly taught and the Sacraments observed. At least that’s how I remembered the saying. And everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been looking for a place that carefully paid attention to the Bible and actually believed it.

I think I’ll end my journey written journey here, with part 7. It is, after all, the perfect number.

Accentuate the Positive! · Beauty · Gratitude · Introspection · me

Moving toward the Spirit, part 6

This is the next-to-last post in this series. If you need to catch up, just look at the previous five weeks of posts!

It started with an Excel spreadsheet. Wait: before the Excel spreadsheet, there was an unfortunate administration change at my old church. RHBC’s beloved senior pastor was retiring after a long career. And the new guy was (is) hard-charging, young, enthusiastic, with clear vision and purpose. Unfortunately, his vision didn’t include the outstanding choir director who had led our choir for the past 10+ years. After he was shown the door, I waited until Christmas, to sing in one last Christmas cantata. (I wouldn’t have done that again to witness the chaos resulting from a choir that wasn’t fully in sync with the director and vice versa – missed cues, botched songs. Ah, schadenfreude!) I waited some more, thinking we’d get a new permanent choir leader and everything would start afresh. When that didn’t happen, and the temporary director became the director, my last day was Easter Sunday 2018.

Here’s where the Excel spreadsheet came in. I put together a list of the requirements I was looking for in a church and decided to start visiting around. Here’s what I put them on a spreadsheet:

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 6”
Gratitude · Introspection · me

Moving toward the Spirit, part 5

Hopefully I will wrap this multi-part series up soon, but no promises….

That Disciple Bible study was the first time I had done in-depth Bible study. I wouldn’t study the Bible so thoroughly for another two years. I finished the course and put the Good Book back on the shelf to gather dust. In the meantime, I left Savannah, took a job that kept me working afternoons and evenings, and stopped going to church for quite a while.

It wasn’t until I started attending Lamb’s Chapel, a non-denominational church in my next town that I truly started reading the Bible again. I went there because a couple of friends I made in my new town were attending. It was as different from the liturgical United Methodist church as could be … there was no liturgy. Instead, we sang all out for about 30 minutes, followed by a few announcements. Then, the senior pastor would commence to preach, straight from the Bible, for 45 minutes. And what made it fascinating was that I actually liked hearing his sermons. They weren’t the dry sermons I was used to hearing. I actually started taking my new copy of The NIV Study Bible with me to church and making notes in it. I marked up that new Bible completely with notes from those sermons. I stayed at that wonderful, non-denominational, Bible-filled church until I left Florence about 18 months later.

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 5”