Tag Archives: winter

Picture Books in Winter


Picture Books In Winter

Summer fading, winter comes–
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children’s eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

Robert Louis Stevenson

More time indoors means more time spent in books, online and watching movies.  I do all of these things with my son and daughter.  We love to read books together–the more pictures the better!  Pictures and words can transport us from the cold, grey existence of a Wisconsin February to a myriad of places, times and circumstances.

This time of year I’m spending a lot of time looking at seed catalogs, gardening books, websites and magazines.  The colorful photos are inspiring and thinking about all those different fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers makes me happy.  I do feel a bit like a wide-eyed child enjoying a picture book and all the wonder of imagination it sparks.

Since I’ve begun gardening, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) cannot affect me.  I have found a way to cope with this season.  I have found peace in the fact that my garden needs the rest that winter provides.  I appreciate the time that I have to plan for the next season.  And I also find that having a winter makes spring, summer and fall that much more a thing to savor.  By the time the ice starts melting I’m more than ready to delve into another gardening season.  It’s the time off that makes the time on so much fun.

You know, life has seasons too.  Of course I’m not the first person to make this comparison.  But there are days that seem very cold, unproductive–sad even.  Other days may be warm and abundant, joyful!  And every kind of day in between.  I’ve experienced them all.  I’m guessing most people have.

So, how to cope with a wintry time of life?

Thanks be to God that all we have to do to remember the spring, summer and fall of our life is open up that old familiar book and dig in.  The Bible shines with all the SONshine we could ever need, giving us hope for our future and a reason to keep on going throughout our winters.

This reminds me.  Besides spending time in picture books with my kids this year, I’m going to spend more time in the Bible with them.  We have some really nicely illustrated children’s Bibles here at home.  Often, in the excitement to hear Mommy stumble through Fox in Socks (again…) the Bible books get passed over.  What an opportunity we are missing to let some SONshine in! 

Here’s to Winter!  The season that makes the other seasons–and God’s love–seem even more bright.  Thank you Winter for your quietness, your grayness and your coldness.  They are blessings too.

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Beans: Really Slow Food


 

Tongue of Fire beans.

About a year ago, I decided I would grow some pretty little beans that would add color and interest to my garden.  I did not have a long-term plan for the actual dried beans, but I thought it might be nice to have them.

Now it is time to do something with these beans.  This is new territory for me, I’ve never cooked a dry bean in my life.  And like anyone who has nursed anything into existence, I’m a bit reluctant to get started for fear of messing something up.  After all, these beans have been a year in the making.

I first chose these beans from Johnny’s Seeds based on their lovely color photo and the promise that these Tongue of Fire beans retain their flavor no matter what you do with them, and could double as snap beans if I chose to pick them early.

I was pleasantly surprised when they poked out of the ground in early June, ahead of the other beans I had planted and much healthier looking.  They further pleased me by not being eaten by whatever ate the other beans.  I’m not sure if it was the sunny location, or the constant tending by my son, but these beans looked great for the entire season.  They were the beauties they promised to be.

Bean seedlings emerge, sharing space with marigolds and tomatoes.

 

I’ve decided on a recipe for Pasta and Bean Soup from We Called It Macaroni by Nancy Verde Barr.  This cookbook is written in such a way that it’s hard for me to stop reading Nancy’s personal stories and anecdotes.  I’m drawn to her simple Italian bean recipe by her memories of running her hand through the bags of dried beans at the local Italian market of her childhood.  She has a knowledge and love for beans!  How perfect.

I love this Italian American cookbook.

 

It’s a multi-step process to take beans from dried to mouth-watering.  And let’s not forget the months already spent growing the beans, the weeks drying them, and the time they’ve spent on my pantry shelf awaiting this day.

Out of the jar and ready for action.

 

There is so much to love about these beans.  Each bean has its own unique design, and the colors are terrific.  (Please forgive some of these photos… apparently a snow storm is not the best time to photograph food in natural light.)

Pretty beans.

 

I have to admit I had some fun playing with these beans in their dried form.

 

Now that I’ve had my fun making bean arrangements and photographing them, it’s time to begin the bean bath.  Dried beans need to be soaked overnight, or they can be subjected to the “quick soak” method which involves heat and less time soaking.  For my purposes, overnight soaking worked just fine.

Following the overnight soak, they were drained, put in a pot with cold water to cover 2 inches and a bay leaf, brought to a boil and then simmered for an hour.  I couldn’t resist stealing a few from the pot here and there and calling it a “taste test”.

The cooked beans had a pleasant texture and great bean flavor.

Soaking and cooking the beans.

 

Now the beans were ready for the recipe, twenty-four hours after I pulled them out of the pantry and one year since I purchased the seeds to grow them.

Beans were added to the Bean and Pasta Soup, then served with a smile. Delicious!

 

I think the lesson here is that sometimes slow is good, really good.  In a world where we are accustomed to instant gratification, it seems odd to wait so long for a bowl of bean soup.  It might even be kind of backwards if I thought about it too much.  I could probably buy a bowl of bean soup for $2.00 at the local deli.  Instead, I’m sure I spent at least that much on the envelope of seeds.  I had to use garden space and water to grow the beans.  It took time and energy.  Cooking them involved even more time, the purchase of a few ingredients, and of course that dreaded chore: cleaning up the kitchen and dirty dishes.  It was an effort that seems a bit out of proportion to the result.

Or was it?  As a gardener, I get so much satisfaction out of eating something I grew.  Especially when it turns out so well.  As a mom, I am able to glean so many lessons from the simple task of making this soup.  My kids know how a bean grows, they know what a bean–both raw and cooked–tastes like.  They know the joy of running their hands through a bowl of dried beans, just like Nancy Verde Barr remembers from her own childhood.  They know that God gives us the resources we need to provide for ourselves and our bodies, if we will just put in the effort.  They help with measuring, stirring, “taste tests” and serving the final product.

We pray over this bowl of soup: “Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest; and let these gifts to us be blest. Amen.” 

We look outside, where a five-foot snow drift rests against our patio door.  How awesome is it to enjoy something from the garden on a particularly wintry day when I can’t even walk out the door if I wanted to?  It is awesome indeed. 

It was worth the wait!

Glimpse of Winter


Enjoyed the very reasonable amount of snow that fell here yesterday.  While out with the kids I captured a few photos in our backyard.

Praise God for the delicate, beautiful features of winter.  The cold, gray months can be harsh and difficult, but nature has many reminders of God’s promises, particularly that spring will come again.  Just check out those tiny pinecones above!  Like little love notes from God.