Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cherry Pie Under a Blanket of Stars

This has been the summer of the cherries in the Mitchell home! Fresh cherries have been about 10 NIS/Kilo, with the best price around 8 NIS/Kilo at the Shuk this season. Besides the fact that they can be a bit labor intensive when dealing with pits and stems, we have feasted on cherries in fruit salads, muffins, and our favorite... the cherry pie!

I've made several cherry pies this summer, all of which turned out more yummy than my expectations. I can't take credit, though. God grew the cherries. I just followed His instructions to subdue the earth, and found a creative use for them.

Funny story about one my cherry pies...

We had plans to celebrate the Fourth of July with a group of American friends in Yemin Moshe. Somehow we managed to be the first guests to arrive, even before the host! Our travel bag, filled with homemade baked beans, and our pie was sitting on the ground. Sweet little Aviel came running through, tripped on the bag and landed his knees smack dab into my star covered pie! Poor guy! It was totally an accident, but I was so sad! Since it was well covered, it was still eatable, but it certainly had a giant crator on one side! LOL. God knows how to keep me humble for sure... humble pie.

A few weeks later, I decided to make another one for the birthday party at Yad HaShmona, for our friend, Rinat. This time I took some photos to share!

Let's get started!


Here we have one recycled hummus container's worth of hand pitted cherries (Thanks Devin!) mixed with cornstarch, sugar, vanilla and almond extract, and a pinch of salt, setting aside while I assembled the crust.


Next, I rolled out the crust for the pie pan. I made it earlier that morning and allowed it to refrigerate for probably an hour or so. Aviel is preparing a cutting board with flour for the top crust. He said he was making "train tracks."


After I rolled out the pie crust and pressed it into the pie plate, Aviel helped me make the top crust. We like to be a little bit festive, so I rolled out small amounts of crust and let him use a Star of David cookie cutter for the topping. My dear friend, Cassidy, gave us cookie cutters as a wedding gift. They have been super handy now that I'm a mom. My little guy loves using them.


He does a good job, too. I have to remind him to not overlap shapes, but he knows how it works. We sat together and cut stars until we used up all the dough.


Then I poured the cherry filling into the pie crust. Look at the rich color! Yummy!


Next, I covered the filling with our stars, working from the crust to the center. I like to try to balance how much the stars overlap while allowing some openings to see the pretty cherries underneath. The contrast makes the stars more visible, too.

After covering the filling with stars, I dust the top crust with a little mixture of fairly equal parts white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon, then pop it in a pre-heated oven about 40 minutes. This is also when I clean up our beautiful floury mess! We had a few stars left over, so we made "crust cookies" after the pie was finished!


And here's the final product! Yum! Yum!


***

Pie Crust

Ingredients

• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
• 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces, or 226.81 grams) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch (2 -3 cm)cubes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 6 to 8 Tbsp ice or very cold water

Directions

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix.

2. Add butter, one cube at a time, pulsing after each cube until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter.

3. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough doesn't hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.

4. Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape and knead into 2 balls.

5. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
I've also found that this recipe freezes and defrosts really well, too!

6. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate.

7. Add filling to the pie.

8. The second ball of dough can bed Rolled out and placed onto the top of the filling in the pie, or saved and used for a second pie that if you are making pies that don't require a top crust!

***

Cherry Pie Filling

Ingredients

• 4 tablespoons corn starch
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup white sugar
• 4 cups pitted cherries
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

2. In a large mixing bowl combine cornstarch, salt, sugar, cherries, and extracts. Let stand 15 minutes.

3. Turn out into bottom crust and dot with butter.

4. Cover with top crust, flute edges and cut vents in top. Dust with some sugar/brown sugar/cinnamon if desired.

5. Bake for 40- 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Let cool before slicing.

***


Enjoy!

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Adventures in England

Back in June, the three Mitchells had the blessed opportunity to travel to England! Devin needed to do a weeks worth of job training in London and Cirencestor, and his boss blessed Aviel and I with permission to travel, too. We then received plane tickets as a generous gift from my mom!

In the 3 1/2 years we've been married, and the 2 years we've had Aviel - even with all the traveling we done - this was actually the first family vacation we've had! It was a wonderful and much needed experience!

We started our adventure in London.

Before we left, I did tons of research and planning to help things go more smoothly. Since Devin would be working during the day, it would be just Aviel and I out and about by ourselves and I wanted to be able to anticipate what our travel needs might be.

The first day, Aviel and went by bus, then train into the city to visit the Natural History Museum where we saw giant rocks, learned about earthquakes and volcanoes and the best part... DINOSAURS! I planned this outing first because it was easy on the Underground! I wore Aviel in my green peanut shell sling so I could get him in and out easily through out the exhibits. It worked great and we had tons of conversations with others about babywearing (or at this point... twoyearoldwearing!)

I'm sorry I don't have any photos to share... with just the two of us, I wasn't able to take any!

We went back to the hotel for a rest and met up with Devin. Then the three of us headed back out to Westminster. We rode the train back into London and when We walked out of the train station, we immediately looked up and saw...

BIG BENTLEY!

Well, actually Big Ben, but if you have a little boy... you know the Cars reference! Aviel was pretty excited about this stop. He looked up and said, "Holly, Mater, and Fin McMissile in there!!" He knew exactly what it was!

Here's a few photos of things we saw in Westminster.





After site seeing a bit, we ate a lovely dinner, (I had lamb and mash pototoes, Devin had curry... Aviel ate both), then headed back in for the night.

The next day, Aviel and I ventured to Borough Market and Tate Modern. I think I would describe Borough Market as a cultivated or well groomed version of our Jerusalem Shuk. It was full of a variety of different food stands and vendors, many of whom offered free samples. We ate our fill and even bought Abba a container of Fenugreek, a spice used for making curry. Then we headed down the street to Tate Modern.

Pre-trip, I found out that Tate Modern has quite a few family friendly initiatives in place. On Weekends, they offer an art studio where the kids can create, and all week long, children eat totally free in the cafe. They are trying to make a family friendly environment and encourage conversation rather than a quiet viewing experience. Still, though, I was a bit nervous about how a two year old would fare in an art museum.

My concerns were put to ease when we first walked in the building. The design of the bottom level includes a giant concrete ramp in the bottom level interior. The ramp was full of kids riding up and down on scooters! I love when architecture/interiors can be used in such a playful way... especially in such an intellectual environment. Also, a man at the information desk informed me that the 5th floor has a little play place for the kids between exhibit halls.

It wasn't a slow paced, read every info sign about every piece, sort of visit. I went back and forth between letting Aviel walk on his own and carrying him in the sling. We flew through some places, and others we lingered a little bit. There were a few works I wanted to make sure he saw, particularly some by Matisse. I mostly was interested in seeing what he was drawn to, and what sparked his interest. Of course it was the more spatial projects, whether it was actual sculptural projects, or the ones that simply made use of the space they were in. He especially liked one that was a series of red rectangles on two walls, meeting in the corner. I wish I had noted the artist.

Being the architect that I am, I wanted to help Aviel learn about critical review. I asked him questions, like "what makes this one special?" He made comments such as, "Its red." Or "the circles." He tends to make drawings with with circles, and quite a few of the paintings looked like giant versions of his art. LOL. At one point he looked at one and said "That's scary!" But he wasn't scared... just commenting that it was scary! I thought it was funny and honest, because modern art can be pretty scary looking!

After our adventures through the exhibits, we went downstairs where we made a visit to the gift shop. I purchased a copy of This is London by M. Sasek. Sasek was an architect who wrote and illustrated a serious of travel books for children in the 1970's. I love how his books capture what we designers call genius loci (spirit of place), and hope to collect the entire series for my children. After shopping, we went to the cafe to eat where we both had glorious Fish n' Chips. Then we headed outside on the lawn to play for a bit. Aviel needed to have some freedom to run!

Just beyond the law is the Thames River, where we stopped to look at all the boats. Then we crossed Millenium Bridge and headed back to the hotel.



That evening the three of us went to Kensington Gardens where Aviel played at the Diana Memorial Playground. This playground is designed around a Peter Pan theme, complete with a giant pirate ship.




Devin and I thought the pirate ship was great, but Aviel was a little more interested in the sand!

The next day, Devin went down south to Cirencestor, and Aviel and I headed up north to Bedford to visit some very close friends of mine, the Dwights. Many of you who attended our wedding might remember Faith and Simon who performed our music. Faith was one of my roommates while we were in school together at UNC-Greensboro. She ended up in England after she Roped an Englishman while studying abroad. I was blessed to be able to spend a few days with her, Simon, and their precious son, Adlai. What I will remember most from our visit is how full their home is with the presence of the Lord. It was great to catch up! I didn't take my camera, due to back packing with a two year old, but hopefully I can get some photos from Faith and add them later!

After our visit with the Dwights, Aviel and I took three buses down to Cirencestor to catch up with Abba. We saw all sorts of sheep and horses on the double decker bus ride down. Then we stayed in the most glorious hotel, The Fleece. I could have stayed a few more days at the Fleece! It was one of my favorite hotels, ever!

After a few relaxing days, we headed back up to London and boarded our El Al flight back home to Israel.

England, we miss you dearly.

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Adventures

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blessed Laws of Motherhood

Since living in Israel, the Lord has opened my heart to understanding Levitcus in new ways. Seeing so many psalms where King David - the archetype of intimacy and relationship with God - would say things like "I love your law." has challenged my thinking on what my heart posture should be towards the old covenant. Growing up in the generation of "freedom," David's words really struck me. I didn't think we were supposed to love His law because I equated it with religion. Seeing this man after God's own heart, proclaiming this so freely caused me to pause. I started asking God about this in my prayer time. Biblically speaking, intimacy with a relational God is not at odds with God's Law. Using the law for a standard of righteousness is at odds with grace for salvation but using the law as a source of wisdom, and living well, is actually a provision of grace that God gave to help us to thrive on this earth. Being a new mom, His first revelation came to me through the Lev 12 passage, The Laws of Motherhood, and what a gift that time is for mothers and babies!

After reading this passage, with new eyes, I could see what a tremendous blessing of rest these laws offer to new mothers!

"Rest? How did you get rest out of that?" A friend asked.

First of all, its important to clarify that I'm interpreting this passage based on my own personal world view of scripture. I fully trust that we worship a God of grace from Gen 1:1 to Rev 22:21. His character is unchanging from the beginning to the end. With that in mind, in simple terms, I believe and all commands of God are present to bless us.

Consider that Duet 6:1-3:
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, 2 so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. NASB

In summation, this passage explains that the commands of God are to be passed down so that our days might be prolonged, and it might be well with us. The law can be viewed as a gift of grace for wellness, health, and good relationships.

Next, its important to get past the word "unclean" and not let that be a stumbling block for missing a revelation. In the Hebraic context, unclean means just that... unclean. It has more to do with health and susceptibility to contract and spread illness than how we typically process it as "dirty" or "unholy." Historically, the women's movement has used the laws of motherhood and niddah to paint the bible as anti-woman, portraying menstruation and childbirth as sinful and dirty because of the word "unclean." That's simply not the case. A women in this situation isn't dirty, but rather vulnerable.

Then, you have to use some inductive understanding about what it means to be unclean to get the full concept of the Laws of Motherhood, and Niddah. An unclean women wasn't permitted to have sex or go into the temple, and she also wasn't permitted to participate in society. She was socially isolated because anything she touched, person or object, became ritually unclean. That's one of the things that makes the story of the woman with the issue of blood so profound. When she touched Yeshua, she knew she was making him ritually unclean. Lev 15 offers some further explanation. In terms of objects, this passage explains that chairs and beds associated with an unclean women also become unclean. Traditionally with niddah laws, this idea is extended to other house hold objects and food as well.

The pattern goes as follows:

Anything an unclean women touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touched something ritually unclean also became ritually unclean until evening.

So if she cooked in a pot.. the pot became unclean through her touch... and anyone who ate from the pot would also become unclean. This might simply be a rabbinical application of this passage, but its derived from other Levitical passages about how to deal with objects that have become ritually unclean. Because of this, I speculate that this is possibly how this Law was literally interpreted by the early nation of Israel as well.

Now, a women who is not permitted to go into the Temple, be out in society, or cook or clean for her family is bound to what?

REST!

I look at the laws of motherhood and interpret that passage as a special time the Lord has designated to set a woman and her new baby apart for bonding and postpartum recovery. By limiting her social and family responsibilities, the Lord is giving provision for her body to heal and the breastfeeding relationship to be established. Other women of the community were likely present to care for her, and the needs of her home. She was blessed to be totally free to focus her care and attention on the new baby, because she's not busy with household chores. In the words of the doula movement, I suspect the community was "Taking care of the mother so she could take care of the baby."

The laws of Motherhood also differentiate between the requirements for the birth of baby boys and baby girls. The instruction is that a mother remains set apart for 33 days postpartum after the birth of a boy and 66 days after the birth of a girl. Because God is infinitely wise, I suspect that there is more than just symbolism involved in this difference. Just recently I found out that girls are more likely than boys to sustain injuries or death in car accidents because their pelvic bones are not fully develop until puberty. That makes me wonder what other sorts of mysteries surround the health of new born baby girls, and their mothers, that would double the time of separation. Of course, this is just my own heart's wonderings as I personally seek the Lord's wisdom.

In all posts about the Law, I also like to clarify this primary point: We are not bound by any measure of the Law for righteousness. The NT is VERY clear about that. Our righteous standing is through the Blood of Yeshua alone. But if we believe that God loved Israel and instituted the Law to bless and prosper a nation set apart, we can also trust that many of those same laws carry blessings for us today. God is the unchanging creator of the universe. He knows how we work even if we don't fully scientifically or medically understand it today.

Are we sinning if we are out and about, and busy at home, earlier than 33 or 66 days? I don't think so, but we could be missing out on a blessing by not abiding by the principle behind the law. And I think that's just it... we don't follow the letter of the Law, but rather say, "Ok, God... your word gives women a time to be separate after childbirth. How do you want me to implement this in my life... my family... so that you might be glorified and our days might be prolonged?"

And the great gift of grace:

God loves mothers and babies so much that He ordained a set apart season for bonding! Embrace it, and love on your little one!

Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all for the Glory of God. 1 Cor 10:31

Resting with a tiny Aviel... just days old. Where does time go?



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