Beautiful Day

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Royal Birthday Tea

My Tender Warrior recently spent some time in Hawaii.  Yes, it was for work.  No, I didn't get to go with him.  Don't ask me how hard that was sometimes most of the time!  It fell during the time of my birthday even, which never sits very well with me. 

I had been wanting to have a tea party with friends for quite some time.  When all of the Diamond Jubilee and Titanic celebrations were taking place this year, I kept thinking of hosting an England-themed party.  So, I determined to host my own birthday party!

Birthdays have always been a big deal to me.  I wish I could think of something grand to do for every one of my dear one's and friend's birthdays all the time, but the truth is I can't.  So if you've ever felt slighted by me on your birthday, please don't take it personally.  Know that I probably thought very much about it but didn't have time to implement what I thought about!  I do have limits.

I do, however, do my best to make birthdays special for my husband and children.  We have had so many fun themed-birthday parties over the years.  The memories of them fill me with joy and make me smile!  I'm pretty sure they made my loved ones smile too.

So, I was determined to create something fun that would help me not to pout over the fact that my husband was missing my birthday this year (and spending it in Hawaii).  I may not have entirely escaped the pouting, but this did accomplish my purpose of bringing joy and something to anticipate!  It was great fun to plan.  I wanted to give all my friends the gift of delectable food and a sweet ambience with laughter and fellowship.  I did end up taking a few friends' offers to bring food because I started to realize that things were a little hectic without Warrior.  It WAS a busy week, and a crazy one for me.  But so worth putting this party together!

My party had a mixed theme of British royalty and Jane Austen.  There are so many lovely ideas out there for Jane Austen-themed parties.  To begin with, I made these invitations, combining my themes by giving the Jane Austen silhouette a crown!

I spent a fair amount of time considering how to decorate.  I was really pleased with the final results. 

The Jane Austen banner tutorial came from here.  I half-envisioned it being a backdrop for friends to take fun photos.  I had a bench with some lovely props to go with it.  But I neglected to tell people early on.  Conversations were so lively among the ladies that I didn't want to break them up.  So by the time I thought to mention photos it was getting dark and I didn't think flash photography would be so nice.  Oh well!  It was a nice idea.

I created a welcoming spot on the front porch as guests arrived.

The table is always my favorite part to dress-up for tea time.  I borrowed my Country Girl's crown from one of her past birthdays and set it around a vase of roses which my children had picked from our garden for my birthday.  After all, one cannot have an England theme party without roses, in my opinion! 

Each guest had a place card with the title of "Lady" in keeping with a Royal theme.  I also used these little Jane Austen mini-books to decorate the table.

And then, there's the food! Some of my treats included finger sandwiches (which friends helped with), blueberry cream scones, lavender tea cookies, fresh raspberries, a tossed green salad, a wonderful chicken curry salad brought by a friend, and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

The teas?  Well, since this was a Royal Party, none other than my English-themed Harney and Sons teas, of course.  The Royal Wedding Tea, which I mentioned here, and the Chocolate and Roses Tea were perfect for the occasion.  I also served a raspberry-infused Coconut-Lime Juice.

My little crowning glory was this Strawberry-Rhubarb Trifle.  Oh, almost anything strawberry-rhubarb is my favorite! 

One of my sweet friends gifted me by starting a round of blessings on my behalf.  How dear and encouraging it was to be uplifted by their dear words--even more so when it was a particularly difficult week!

And they insisted I get a candle for the trifle so all could sing "Happy Birthday."

We rounded out our evening with a couple of party games in keeping with our theme.  One was a Royal Family quiz.  Yes, I even had a guest who remembered Queen Elizabeth II's coronation day when she was a little girl.  I thought that was very sweet.  She won the Royal Family quiz, by the way.  We also played a little Jane Austen quiz.  I read quotes from her books and all had to guess which book the quote came from.

It was a late night full of laughter, fun, beauty, fellowship with people I love, food and drink, and even a few tears.  I couldn't have asked for more blessings!  Even if part of my heart was in Hawaii with my Beloved. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rooting out Weeds

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure[a] hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, and may[b] the Lord give you understanding in all things.
~2 Timothy 2:1-7

I have this insidious weed growing in my gardens.  I don't know what it is and haven't bothered to find out.  I just know that I find it extremely annoying.  It is everywhere.  It's this clover-like weed with little yellow flowers and tiny little thorns.  It spreads like crazy, it seems.  As soon as I pull them up, I find them growing somewhere else!  As I was weeding this evening, I was reflecting on this and how it relates to the condition of my heart.  It's another one of those times where my studies in the Word with 2 Timothy are coming to life!  I love that!  (Love the lessons, though not the weeds)


This past week in our Sword Studies, we studied the three examples Paul gives in 2 Timothy of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer.  I can identify fairly well with each example.  Though I am not personally a soldier, I live very close to one and know quite a bit about the world of a soldier.  I probably most identify with the athlete, having been a serious one at a stage of my life.  I also grew up on a farm and know about the work entailed in farming.  As I was weeding, you can guess I was thinking of the farmer.  And "hardworking" is sure a good description of a good farmer (and a good athlete and a good soldier)!

There are things I wrestle with.  Insidious weeds like to take root in my heart and choke out the seeds of the gospel.  I'm not always sure how many of them get there and others I can have some idea about.  I find that some of these weeds have strong roots.  I'll pull them up from time to time and sigh a breath of deep relief, only to have them grow back again.  Not only that.  It seems they can spread sometimes and become bigger.  Just like that clover weed in my garden, it annoys me terribly.  For I wish that I could pull it up and have it be gone forever.  Somehow it doesn't seem to work that way.  It usually comes back. 

I think the enemy knows our weakness.  In fact, I am convinced of it.  I am regularly attacked in that particular place of weakness.  In my ear I can't help hearing Dorcas Lane in "Lark Rise to Candleford" as she always says--"It is my one weakness."  When I pull weeds in my garden and ask the Lord why it is that I can't seem to uproot this weedy seed in my heart permanently, I tend to think it is time to get out the big guns.  You know, some Spiritual Roundup or something.  Surely it exists somewhere.

How do I continue to be that hardworking farmer?  I keep working on those weeds.  I must take my thoughts captive (hard as it may be).  Part of cultivating good fruit seems to be the inevitable pulling of weeds.  It is one way I "endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."  And who can forget elsewhere that Paul says that His power is perfected in my weakness?  Ouch.  Must it be so?  I rather like operating from a position of strength better.

To help counteract these weeds, I find the best solution is to feed and cultivate the fruit.  Where more fruit lives, there is less space for weeds.  The biggest antidote is to feed on the Word of God.  Over and over and over again until it sinks into my heart.  I'll admit there are moments I do this and think, "It's not working!"  That usually means do it again.  And do it until it starts to sink down deep into the roots.  This summer the verses I am memorizing are really being called into action many times.  And I have to keep saying (or singing) them over until I "get it."  It really does work if I keep at it.  Must be why this is called a spiritual discipline?  I think so!

.  It is a race that is run with perseverance.  It's not a sprint, but a marathon.  Like a soldier, I must arm myself.  Like an athlete, I must train hard and diligently.  And like a farmer, I must work hard toward that harvest.  By faith, I am trusting that the harvest of righteousness will come.  I do not work in order to receive any righteousness.  I am justified purely in Christ alone.  No, I work hard because He has saved me and can use me to point others toward Him.  Yes, with me He is very longsuffering!

15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
~1 Timothy 1:15-16

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
~2 Timothy 2:15

Truly, one of my greatest joys in gardening is that it provides me with endless lessons about my life in Christ.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Strawberry "Julius" Drink

It's been strawberry-picking time around here recently.  Though the weather has not always been cooperative and the strawberry yields seem down this year locally, we still managed to pick our quota for the year!  I credit my very helpful pickers (my children) entirely.  I was happy to manage a couple of bowlfuls while keeping Littlest Warrior occupied, but if it depended on me I would have to pick an entire day or two, I am sure! 

On our Pancake Saturdays we like to often make a special drink. Sometimes that's just plain orange juice.  Often I make an orange "julius"-style drink.  So, when it's strawberry season I love to make strawberry "julius" (I write that word in quotes because I know that it is trademarked).  It's very simple and easy with the right tools!

I love, love, LOVE  my Blendtec blender!  I use it every day, often several times a day.  One of its most useful purposes is to make smoothies and these "julius" drinks.

You'll need:

4 cups whole (2 cups pureed) strawberries
1 cup milk
1/8-1/4 cup sugar (depends on just how sweet your local berries are.  Ours are very sweet!)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups ice cubes

Blend everything together and enjoy!  One blender full will make generous glassfuls for 4 people.  We make two blenders worth and usually have some leftover (for only a little while!)

**Nutrition tip:  Did you know you can throw those strawberries in your blender with the tops on?  They add chlorophyll to pack some extra nutrients in this fun fruity drink.


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