Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

30 March 2010

The Year of the Roast - 30th March 2010

I have a friend who lives in a suburb where the blocks aren't square and the roads don't run east to west, north to south.  Her suburb features windy streets, cul-de-sacs and loop roads squiggling all over the place.  For one as directionally challenged as myself, it is next to impossible to navigate.  I go to her house quite frequently.  During the first year after she moved I had to check the street directory EVERY time before I left home and most times I would still end up getting lost.  One day she gave a me a piece of vital information. 

"When you reach the reserve, turn right.  And then it is the first left after that."

It's easy.  I go there now and I can't actually imagine HOW I managed to get lost.  It's almost embarrassing.  One piece of vital information was all I needed.

What has that got to do with The Year of the Roast?  Well, tonight I have experienced a similar phenomenon.  I cooked a roast.  And it was a snap.  And I can't actually imagine why I have thought this is a difficult thing to do for all these years!  It just took one piece of vital information...Sharon's advice to par-boil the vegies.

I decided to take the plunge when I was planning out the meals for the week last Saturday.  I looked in my diary to see what lay ahead for the week - when the evening meetings were on, when there were visitors, needing to factor in the evening when we are late from swimming and so on - to find that today is Passover.  So what better day than to cook a lamb roast.

4:30pm

1.5kg of lamb spiked with rosemary and rubbed with olive oil, sea salt and garlic, ready for the oven. 


One and a half hours at 160 to 180 degrees C.

5:00pm

Potatoes, pumpkin and carrots ready for par-boiling.


5:20pm

Par-boiled vegies in the baking tray with the meat.  Into the oven.


Husband on standby to look after the boys at 6pm when peas need to be cooked, gravy made and meat carved.

6:00pm

Knife stuck into side of meat.  Juices NOT running clear.  Don't panic.  Stay calm.

And I did.  It's OK.  It is my husband's day off.  There are no meetings for anyone to attend tonight.  The boys are big enough that if tea is a bit late it isn't going to ruin everyone's evening. 

Diagnosis of problem...temperature may be a little low but probably the oven rack is too low.  Move the oven rack up and boost the temperature a bit.

6:30pm

Juices still not running clear.  And we like our lamb cooked.
Still not panicking.  Clear-headed enough to make the decision to finish it off in the microwave for ten minutes.

6:40pm

Meat cooked and resting.  Vegies cooked and keeping warm.  Peas in the microwave.  Gravy on the go.

6:50pm

Carving the meat.  Boys beginning to show signs that they need to be fed and put to bed.

6:55pm

Dinner served.  Only an hour late...but not feeling stressed.


Dinner in Review

First up, everyone enjoyed dinner! 

In some ways it felt like a lot of time in the kitchen but that is probably because I am used to the "preparation to table in 30 minutes or less" routine.  And when I think about it, while it took two and a half hours to cook, I managed to supervise homework, prepare some fiddly props for tomorrow's Scripture lesson, write the text for this post as it was happening, do bath time for the boys and do various other jobs all while it was in the oven.  So in reality, it's not all that labour intensive.  Mind you, washing up is a bit labour intensive.

I think the slower than expected cooking time will correct itself with better placement in the oven.

Tonight's feast fed our family of four with leftover meat and only a couple of extra-to-requirement vegies.  The big aim is to be able to put on a roast for lunch after church.  (I figure I can dash home straight after church, turn on the oven, go back to church to chat and things will be all ready at a respectable time with par-boiled vegies and the baking tray higher in the oven.)  But there was no more room in the baking tray.  It's not the biggest of baking trays.  I think I could fit a bigger tray in the oven so I will need to go and find one of those.  And if I do a rolled roast rather than a leg of lamb, that would leave more room for vegies.  (And it would be easier to carve!!)

We had gravy made with gravy powder, although I did mix some pan juices into it.  I think in the absence of a sous chef, this is probably as good as it will get although the option is always there, if everything ran exraordinarily to plan, for real gravy made from scratch.  And if it isn't running to plan, the Gravox will be there!

Roast dinners seem within reach.  And it turned out to be a meal that everyone in this house enjoyed - a very rare occurrence.  So the next thing to do is try the rolled roast and then to get some sympathetic people over from church one Sunday for an attempt at the Sunday lunch thing.

I'll keep you posted. 

23 March 2010

Smelling the roses: Check!

Things I've done in the last two weeks while I haven't been blogging...
  • lots of Bible reading
  • lots of praying
  • talking with a few people about the issues filling my head at the moment
  • watching WAY TOO MANY episodes of West Wing during the evenings (I think I have devoured four disks worth in the last fortnight, but wow, it was good!  Series four was sensational!!)
  • got the amount of time I spend in front of this computer back under control
  • cleared my head
  • came to some conclusions and made some good decisions
And now, even though I said I'd be away for six weeks...and it has only been two...I'm back - in part inspired by this post by Simone.  I've missed being a part of our little community.  And hey - there are things to be said.  For a start, there was a very big storm here last night.  More on that as soon as I have written it.  For now, it is bath and dinner time.

17 March 2010

Off to smell some roses...

I haven't written a post in a week.  And truth be told, the posts of the previous three weeks were, by and large, hard won. 

I can't quite put my finger on what the problem is.  I don't feel like I have blogger burn out.  I have made a point not to put myself under any pressure to post at any time and I usually rest from blogging during the school holidays - more for the sake of our children...but there is a benefit for me too.  I would certainly be loath to shut this blog down - I have made some lovely friends and my relationship with God has deepened amazingly this last year or so as I've put my mind to writing about the things of Him in (I hope) a faithful way.  I love writing - it is a great form of recreation for me.  It's not like I don't have anything left to say - I have a nice, long list of ideas in my notebook to explore.  And I have been enjoying using some of my own photos this year - not that this rose photo is an original!

But somehow I have just lost my voice at the moment.  Certainly reading Calvin and Winslow have deepened my thinking and I while I find myself in the process of realigning my thoughts as a result of being on this steep learning curve, I wonder whether I'm just sounding plastic or worse still, self righteous just at the moment.  And I guess too I find my thoughts in other places just now - this year our youngest started Kindy and I have found the transition between what was last year and what will be next year surprisingly and unexpectedly...well, it has occupied a great deal of my brain space, which I didn't anticipate.

I have a couple of beautiful quotes that are scheduled to pop up over Easter and I may do a Calvin Club update but otherwise I'm pulling up stumps until after the April school holidays and then I will see how things are going.  I'm going to keep reading a few blogs - although I am going to narrow the field down there too. 

I have no idea how many people read The Key to the Door - it doesn't boast a huge readership but amongst its ranks are some very special women and so to those dear friends I wanted to say, I am off to smell a few roses until mid-April.  And maybe to cook a roast as well!

10 March 2010

Jesus - the Name above all Names

I have just come home from teaching two Scripture lessons at our local primary school.  This was my second class for the year.  Last week we looked at names...finding out what our own names mean (Meredith apparently means "guardian of the sea"), wondering why our parents chose those names for us (if we were named after someone or if there was some sort of history behind the choice) and so on. 

Today, after a lightining quick tour of the Bible (two sections, 66 books, chapters and verses and summarising the Old Testament as the history of the people of Israel as they waited for Jesus to come to earth and the New Testament as being all about when Jesus came - his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension - and what various people as a result of Jesus' time on earth) we looked at just a few of the names Jesus is given in the Old and New Testaments.  Via a fast, fierce, fun and highly competitve game we looked at seven short passages from Isaiah, Matthew and Luke and ended up with this list...

Jesus 
Messiah (or Annointed One)
the Son of God
Emmanuel (God with us)
the holy Son of God
Saviour
Christ the Lord
King of the Jews
Son of the Living God
Wonderful Counsellor
Prince of Peace

Having explained some of the more technical terms and allowing the children to complete the obligatory word sleuth in their workbooks, I read the list out again very slowly and quietly and then asked the question, "Even before we learn anything about Jesus from the Bible, before reading any stories at all, what do we learn about what Jesus is like just by knowing these names?  Was he just an ordinary man?"

They got it.  And I got it just a little more deeply too.  What a fantastic lead in to Easter.

08 March 2010

Morning Needs

I thought I might start sharing, from time to time, the occasional prayer from The Valley of Vision which is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions edited by Arthur Bennett.

My first choice, "Morning Needs" (p. 218), steeped in direct and indirect references to Scripture, is an amazing prayer for starting the day.  I have enjoyed using this prayer some mornings, especially when I am at a loss to know what to pray in my own words.  It captures the needs of my day so wonderfully.

O God, the Author of all good,

I come to thee for the grace another day
    will require for its duties and events.
  I step out into a wicked world,
  I carry about with me an evil heart,
  I know that without thee I can do nothing,
    that everything with which I shall be concerned,
    however harmless in itself,
    may prove an occasion of sin or folly,
    unless I am kept by thy power.
Hold thou me up and I shall be safe.
Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error,
  my affections from love of idols,
  my character from stain of vice,
  my profession from every form of evil.
May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore thy blessing,
  and in which I cannot invite thy inspection.
Prosper me in all lawful undertakings,
  or prepare me for disappointments;
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with food convenient for me,
  lest I be full and deny thee
  and say, Who is the Lord?
  or be poor, and steal, and take thy name in vain.
May every creature be made good to me
  by prayer and thy will;
Teach me how to use the world, and not abuse it,
  to improve my talents,
  to redeem my time,
  to walk in wisdom toward those without,
    and in kindness to those within,
  to do good to all men,
    and especially to my fellow Christians,
And to thee be the glory.

Amen


[Photo of a Galapagos tortoise at our local zoo, having his morning shower. 
We were there at just the right time!  With a camera!!]

04 March 2010

The Year of the Roast - the Baseline

It's been far too hot all year to be thinking about roast dinners around here.  But now that we find ourselves in Autumn (not that the change in season is apparent as yet), it will soon be time to start thinking about roasts.  Particularly as I declared 2010 to be the Year of the Roast.  So this is what I can do at the moment...

I can roast meat in the oven - I've done them in oven bags and in baking trays.
I can roast vegetables in the oven - and have done this often, especially as a first step for delicious soups.
I can roast meat in the microwave.  Yes!  True!  Lamb is especially good done this way.  It looks like nothing is happening and then all of a sudden it browns up just at the end and it's delicious.  It does create quite a lot of cleaning up though.
I can do the meat in the microwave and then do these frozen vegies in the oven and have it all ready at the same time.


They aren't THE nicest vegies in the world but the benefit is that they have very specific instructions on the back of the pack in terms of timing.  And microwaving the meat has the meat cooked at a predictable time too.

So really, all I can't do is roast meat and vegetables in the oven at the same time - in order to have everything cooked and ready at the same time.  I have tried to do both together once or twice and ended up with half cooked vegies.  And felt stressed. 

The aim is to learn to cook the meat and the vegetables, in the oven, rendering them all cooked at the same time and find myself at the table with a fully cooked meal, including gravy, without feeling like I am about to have a stroke!

I only have one oven rack so it will all have to be done in the one baking tray.

So once the temperature has dropped below 30 degrees (celsius) on a consistent basis, I shall be reading up my Jamie Oliver books.  He can pretty much take the credit for the rest of my culinary skills so he may as well get me up to speed in this area too.  And I shall also heed the good advice from dear person who commented here - although maybe not so far as the goose fat!  Any other good tips warmly accepted.

I'll keep you posted.