Thursday, November 27, 2014

What Are You Thankful For This Thanksgiving?

People around the world are going through incredibly difficult times.  Yet is there something--anything that they can be thankful for?  An article I just read tonight (well this morning since it is already past midnight) reminds us of 15 blessings that we should not take for granted.  One of the points made in the article speaks of freedom of religion.

"The majority of the world's population—75 percent—live in areas with severe religious restrictions. And Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ. About 1.6 billion people in the world live in repressive societies where they have no say in how they are governed."

We are living in the end of the year 2014, and with all the progress that has taken place in the world today, you would think that there would be no more countries where people were treated so poorly and human rights so disrespected.  Yet here in America we see a large minority seeking to increase the repressiveness of our own government.  These people don't seem to understand that governments that have too much control over the people, the institutions, and the businesses in a country have the power to reduce the population to slaves.

There are race riots going on in a city in Missouri called Ferguson right now.  One hundred and sixty years ago our country was in a civil war over race and slavery.  We don't want to see our country return to slavery, however, too many people in this country are not educated enough to know that they are pushing the limits of our government and that if they are allowed to keep this up, all of us could end up slaves to our government.  And if that happens, it won't matter what race any of us is.  We will all be at the mercy of a government with too much power.

The rights we have in America are unique in the world.  Other countries have tried to copy our government and form democratic republics like ours.  Some have succeeded.  But still, the statistics around the world are bleak when it comes to the kind of human rights we have right here in America.  We need to wake up and realize that at any time our government could turn against us and our rights could be taken away overnight.  All it would take would be a few more uprisings such as what is happening in Ferguson for the government leaders to declare martial law.  If that happens, it could lead to another civil war and if that happens, it would be more bloody than the last one.  The American Civil War was between the Northern States and the Southern States.  But this time it would truly be neighbor against neighbor, city against city, state against state.  Because our values and beliefs spread all across this mighty land, values and beliefs that, up until now, we have been able to express freely without fear of reproach, each of us may have values and beliefs that are the opposite of those of our friends, neighbors, and relatives.  We wouldn't know when we walked into work the day after war broke out, if we even had a job left.  We wouldn't know who we could trust and who we should think of as our enemies.  We do not want or need another Civil War in America.  But people are angry and if things don't change, who knows what will happen next?  Our rights are very precious things that none of us should take for granted.  If we do not honor and protect them, we could lose them overnight.

Right now there are terrorist organizations in the world threatening to take over America in the name of Islam and force Sharia Law upon all of us.  For many decades there have been communist countries promising that someday America would also be a communist country.  Unfortunately for all of us, the American school system has not been educating children about the threats of communism and what communism is all about.  While this was something my generation grew up knowing much about, the youth and young adult populations in this country no very little about it.  In fact, they know very little about their own country, including why and how it was founded, and what the Constitution and Bill of Rights says.  As a result, they have very little respect for documents that they believe are nothing more than old pieces of paper that should be done away with.

So, while you are enjoying your Thanksgiving celebrations this weekend, I hope that you will also consider being thankful for all of the rights you have in this country.  Don't take your rights for granted.  I also hope that you will read the full article mentioned above because the other 14 items on the list are things not to be taken for granted as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

So Much to Catch Up On

Wow!  This has been an eventful summer for someone who rarely goes anywhere.  I am still amazed at having my art in an online gallery belonging to a legitimate store front gallery in Arizona.  In September I was able to get started on my own business domain, for Capirani Photography and it is connected to the online gallery site as well.  This was truly exciting for me because I have always wanted my own domain and a professional website.  Although I have not yet sold anything, I was contacted last week by another photographer in the online gallery.  He does abstract work also, but his work is done with a program he actually designed himself.  His work is really one of a kind.  I hope you will take a look at it.  His name is Allen Hirsh and if you read his bio on the page, you will see what I mean when I say that his work is unique.  You can also visit his business website from that link as well.  Tell him I sent you.

Whew!  What else?  Oh yes.  I'm teaching myself Hebrew!  Yes you read that correctly.  This is something I have been wanting to do for many years but thought maybe it was too hard for me.  And until the availability of the internet, how would I hope to be able to learn?  Who would teach me?  But over this summer I have become interested in Messianic Jewish praise and worship music, which is often sung in Hebrew.  I wanted to be able to sing along, so I started trying to find the lyrics online.  I even wrote to the church in Jerusalem that puts out the YouTube videos of the music I am learning. The church is called King of Kings Community Church of Jerusalem and I really enjoy the music as well as the preaching.  It is a combination Christian/Messianic Jewish community church located in Jerusalem, Israel.  The playlist link I gave you above lists the first few songs I am learning, but I only have the words for three of the songs so far and parts of the others.  I will probably end up emailing them again for the words to the rest of these songs.  But in the meantime, teaching myself Hebrew makes me feel like I belong to their church and that I am doing something to draw myself closer to God.

Okay, so where and how am I teaching myself Hebrew?  Well, I started out looking for different websites on the subject and found a couple that seemed to be easy enough to get started with.  And I then went to YouTube again to find videos so I could actually hear the words pronounced as I learned.  I ended up narrowing it down to two sites so far, plus the YouTube.  The YouTube site is actually connected to one of the regular websites so I don't even have to use YouTube now.  The first site I chose was Israel Hebrew: Learn Hebrew and Stay Updated With Israel News.  Through that site I went on to download a pdf file they suggested that was supposedly used by the US government for learning Hebrew.  You can find that on the link above.  They give some good options including some books you can buy if you want to pay for instruction.  The pdf file is free, however.  After that I went to Hebrew Pod 101 and that is where I went after finding their videos on YouTube.  YouTube only has a few of their videos so to get the most out of the lessons using the website is better.  In all honesty, other than the different form of writing, and alphabet, it is a lot like learning Spanish, which I took in high school and college.  Doing this by myself is not so fun, but I am really motivated to learn.  It fills some of my time as well as exercises my mind.  There is really no downside to this.

The last thing I wanted to talk about here tonight is the idea of making a possible change to this blog.  This is still in the brainstorming phase and since I am brainstorming with myself, who knows where I will end up.  The thing is, I want to do something to be an influence to others in some way.  Although I post a lot of things on Facebook, it isn't what I really want to do with Facebook.  I want to work with Facebook more to promote my photography and just hang out with friends.  Plus if I do this right, I can reach more people with a blog than I can a private Facebook account.  The question is, in what way do I want to do this?  There are a lot of thoughts going through my head at any given time on this topic.  Sometimes I want to talk about how I wonder what happened to everything?  I mean, America...people...values...morality...and so much more.  So I think it will probably end up being more in that line.  But I also want to help people who are searching to find the Lord and be saved before it is too late.  I want to leave something online that could maybe be found after the Rapture to help guide people to the truth so that during the Tribulation, they can read and learn and find truth.  But right now, as I said, it is still in the thinking phase.  I don't really know how to start.

It's colder outside.  Autumn is much cooler this year than usual.  It makes me wonder if winter is going to be like last year.  I hope not.  It makes things really difficult for me when there is so much snow and ice that I end up really locked inside.  Odd though, because this spring, and summer, I did not spend much time outside at all.  It was mild enough to enjoy too.  Aside from the photography, I'm dealing with some personal issues that keep me occupied and it just seems to make things harder for me to want to do.  Well, it's almost 4 a.m. here and I really should start winding down to try to get some sleep.  Please do take a look at the websites I've posted for you.  Especially if you are also interested in learning Hebrew.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Developments For Capirani Photography

I have been truly blessed to have my photography represented by Xanadu Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ in their online gallery.  You can find me at the following link in their gallery.  You can also find my art now on Flickr.  Both of these new adventures are very exciting for me.  It also somewhat explains why I have been absent so much from this blog.  I've been busy with the Capirani Photography  blog.  So if you have missed me, take a hop over to one or all of these places and find me there.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


As of a few moments ago, I have deleted all my Squidoo lenses and my Squidoo account. It is sad, really, because Squidoo used to be such a great place to write. But they have become so controlling about what can and cannot be part of the lenses, basing everything on precious Google, so that creativity was being stunted. Apparently the concept that creativity is important was being overridden by the desire for more and more money and sales. I don't write sales articles. But they continually were saying that our lenses had to meet certain sales requirements. I was what was called a "Giant Squid" because I had more than 25 lenses. In fact, I had close to 50 lenses. Then they started censoring lenses to say that people could not have more than a certain number of particular modules. Then they started saying that Giant Squids needed to reapply by writing 3 specific types of lenses, two of which I rarely, if ever, even write. So that meant I could not be a Giant Squid anymore. That meant I lost different creative perks that Squidoo gave to the Giant Squid members. I followed rules and regulations to keep my lenses active, but they continually found reasons that many of my lenses did not qualify for their new rules. Finally, I just had enough and deleted everything and closed my account for good. Blogs are good, but Squidoo had these cool modules that made writing more creative and fun. But they started removing some of them and they changed the rules about how we could use the others. There are other websites that are somewhat like Squidoo. I may check them out to see how they operate but I am not sure I will try any others. I did enjoy that I could write creatively and sometimes make some money. Although I had given up using Squidoo as a way to make a living from my writing, it was still fun. But once they changed everything, they ruined it. There was no fun in the creative process any longer. How sad.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Preacher Who is Changing My Family With the Word of God

A couple of months ago or so (I think) as I was browsing on YouTube looking for videos on Christian topics, I discovered a Bible teacher/preacher/missionary who speaks from the Word of God in the way I knew many years ago and have not seen in almost as many years since.  Honestly, I believe the Holy Spirit led me to these videos just as He has led me to so many other things that increased my learning and closeness to God.  All these years I have been searching and searching and didn't know what it was specifically that I was searching for, only that I knew that I was not finding it in any church I was attending.  Always there was something crucial missing and I would leave each service at whatever church I happened to be attending at any given time feeling as though I had gone to a great feast only to be fed a cheap appetizer.  I couldn't even put into words what was missing.  I just knew that these churches were doing something wrong.

Over the years, I've read and heard about how in America the Gospel has been so watered down and sugar-coated that it was rare for anyone to hear the true Gospel being preached or taught anymore.  I KNEW this was a problem, yet I didn't understand the problem until I found these videos.  The more I watched, the more I learned.  The more I watched, the more I felt that finally I was being fed of the Lord.  So I shared the videos with my son and his wife and gradually they began watching as well.  Now we are into these videos for a maybe a month or more and with more and more regularity we are finding more to watch.  The whole family is sitting down together to watch the videos together and then discussing what we've heard afterwards.  All of us agree that we've never heard such truth being preached as we are hearing now.  This man is not intimidated by governmental threats or threats from those in a congregation that he should not preach this way.  He fears no one but God and in so doing, does his best to make sure that what he is preaching or teaching is directed by the Holy Spirit and is straight from the text of the Bible.

Who is he?  His name is Paul Washer.

Paul Washer's preaching is sometimes thought of as controversial by those in the Church who want to make salvation a simple thing to achieve. He sometimes makes people upset when he says that salvation is not something that can be gained by only saying a simple prayer asking Jesus to come into our hearts if that person praying has not been taught about the Holiness of God and the depravity of man because of sin.  And the thing is, Paul Washer is right about it.  If people are not shown that all mankind are sinners, and shown what all that means, they will not fully understand the gift of salvation and what it cost God for Him to allow His Son to suffer and die on the cross for us.  If people are not taught what was in that cup that Christ prayed asking if it could be taken from Him that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, then they will have no understanding what Christ did for us on that cross.

All these years I have watched and wondered what was wrong with the churches and why people were not getting saved like they used to.  I wondered why those who professed salvation did not live like they were saved.  I wondered why there was so little power in the church and I took it for being something else as the problem because I just did not know what the true problem was.  Honestly, I believed that the problem was a lack of faith in the gifts of the Holy Spirit that caused the lack of power in the churches.  I wondered why revival services were so short and right to the strict schedule instead of lasting for days or even weeks after the start of the revival.  I wondered why there was no revival with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit like there were in other times past, such as in what was known as The Great Awakening, where towns and cities were so taken by the Holy Spirit that even the bars and saloons closed their doors as their owners and workers found Christ.  How I've longed to see that type of revival in America during my lifetime!  But why wasn't it happening?

After watching only one Paul Washer video, I realized something.  Back when I was in college there was this man who was what you would call a "street preacher" and he was just standing there on campus preaching the Gospel.  But he was talking about the wages of sin and hell and really laying it on about how sin was causing this rift between us and God.  He told of how Christ was the only way back to God.  What I remember most about his preaching was that there were very few listening and of those who were, some were criticizing him about all that "hellfire and damnation" preaching.  I remembered other times when I was still a young Christian not quite out of my teenage years that I attended other churches where the pastors, or maybe guest pastors would preach in this way.  And as in any crowded room, you can hear the mumblings and grumblings of those around you as they whisper to those sitting next to them about how they do not appreciate all that "hellfire and damnation" preaching.  Some would even get up and walk out.  What I remembered mostly, however, was my own day of salvation and how that came about.  It didn't happen through any little booklet such as "The Four Spiritual Laws."  It happened when I was just 14 years old as my neighbor and best friend at the time, who was 13, took me aside one day as we were playing our girlhood games, and asked me if I had ever been "converted."  Well, I had never heard that terminology before in my young life.  What did she mean by "converted" anyway?  So I asked her and she began explaining in as simple of terms as any 13 year old child would be able to about sin, and hell, and how all of us were sinners, etc.  She didn't leave anything out.  She told me about how Jesus Christ went to the cross for my sins so that I could be saved and spend eternity in heaven with God instead of in hell.  She explained to me about being "born again" which I also had never heard about before.  I was not in church at that time.  In my younger days I loved Sunday School and I also loved Jesus.  By the end of 4th grade, however, I had quit going to church due to certain classmates who were bullying me in school that were also in my Sunday School class.  No one in my family that I knew of actually went to church other than the children going to Sunday School.  If we did not go any particular Sunday morning, we knew that we would not be allowed outside to play until after lunch because our parents didn't want neighbors to know that we children were not in church.  This was not just in my home, but also in my cousins' homes and in other children's homes.  But all those years, I grew up loving Jesus.  Only I had never been told these things my friend was now telling me.

Over the next few weeks, as we continued on with our childhood games, we would often go back to that discussion and I would ask more questions.  Finally, one night, Thanksgiving night, after I was in my bed, before going to sleep, I understood it.  And I prayed that I might also be born again and converted so I could spend all eternity with the Jesus that I loved.  But I did not go back to church right away.  At some point in high school, I started attending the youth group at the church.  Even there we didn't talk about the things I had learned from my friend.  But even there, I knew that I had something different, or that I was different, than most of the others.  I knew it because of how we all talked.  I just thought and talked differently, I guess.  It's hard to explain, but it was like when I spoke, the others did not comprehend what I was saying.  After high school as I was trying college, working, and just being able to grow up, I would go to this other town where my great aunt lived to visit with her for weekends.  I loved that town.  The spring of the year before I turned 19, I got a job working in a nursing home there where my aunt had been taken due to decreased health.  There I met a woman who was 70-ish and we became great friends.  She inspired me concerning my future career as she was the Activity Director there.  I moved to that town (which is also where I currently live) and through my silly kitten, I met a neighbor who invited me inside.  She and I sat and talked for awhile about Jesus (which was actually my favorite subject of all) and she told me about her church and about a group they had for young unmarried adults my age.  She made arrangements for me to go there one evening to meet the leader of the group.  When I walked into the church I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit even though there was no church service that evening.  I knew that I wanted to go to that church.  I went there whenever I could even after I moved back home with my mom, and even later on in life.  In 1976 I joined the church after having membership class where I learned even more about salvation, sin, hell, heaven, and the Bible.  I remained a member there for the next 24 years even though I did not always attend or join in the activities.

Anyway, I do not mean for this to be my testimony here, but more of a background for what I've seen over the years.  At some point, and I don't remember exactly how or when, but I was still young--maybe even still a teenager--I joined up with some others in what was called the "I Found It" movement.  We had classes on how to witness the Gospel or the Good News to others, and we used a little tract called "The Four Spiritual Laws."  Being so young, I didn't know a lot.  To me the whole thing was wonderful and I wanted so much to help others find salvation as I had.  "The Four Spiritual Laws" seemed to simplify the message in such a way that anyone could easily understand that we were sinners in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ.  Through this I was introduced to "The Sinner's Prayer" and believed that this would work wonderfully to bring people to Christ.  Then we set out two-by-two to go door-to-door giving this message and telling our testimonies to all who would invite us in to listen.  Then we learned how to do the same by telephone.

From that time on, outside of the church I had been going to, I never heard anything other than this message.  Even this church would use that tract along with others to help bring people the Gospel message.  But at least for awhile, my church pastor was still preaching about hell, sin, being sent to hell because of our sins, and that Jesus Christ could turn our lives around and we could be born again and go to heaven with Him.  But that pastor eventually retired, and over the years as I went away to college, got married, and moved out of the area, I rarely went to church.  I would look for a good church but always felt out of my element no matter where I went.

In 2000 I was divorced, and was looking for a new life.  I knew I had strayed from church and wanted to go back but just didn't know where to go or how to fit in.  But eventually I found a church and left my previous church to join this one.  By this time, I was really trying to find the answers to the questions I wrote about earlier in this post.  I was seeking the teaching that I had had all those years before, but just could not seem to find it.  Anytime it got even close to it, the pastor, or maybe the evangelist for annual revivals, would just shut it down because of the time on the clock or the date on the calendar.  I became so frustrated because I was not seeing the moves of God I had seen so long ago when I was first saved.  But I didn't know why except for that the calendar and clock seemed to be in control instead of the Holy Spirit.  I started to realize that churches were controlled by so many different factors.  My mom had told me something about the original church where I had gone to Sunday School and that every time they got a good pastor in, there would be people in the church who would run them off.  I started to see this trend in churches I was going to as well.  I would hear the grumbling and criticizing if the pastor started preaching about certain topics.  I also started seeing how pastors were afraid of the government and would say that they could not preach about anything the government did not like, namely political topics.  I saw the damage done as one pastor would leave and another pastor would come in.  The churches would sometimes split because some people did not like this new pastor or that new pastor.  Some split over the evaluation of candidates for pastor!  Revival services would come and go with evangelists and the churches not allowing the Holy Spirit to be in charge.  Revival services would be nothing more than something to temporarily recharge the church-goers rather than something to bring a community to salvation.  Like appetizers at a fancy restaurant, my appetite for God would make me more hungry during different services, only to have the main course, the whole meal be cut short because time ran out and it was time to close the doors and send everyone home.  So we would appease our appetites with earthly foods instead of the meat of the Gospel.

When I got sick and had to cut short my attendance at church and church activities, that was when I learned the hardest truth about church and church membership.  Rumors abounded as to why I wasn't there anymore.  My friends who did not even attend my church would hear the things said about me, especially that I must be going to some other church since I wasn't going there anymore.  Hardly anyone seemed to notice or even care that I was very ill, even though my name had been on the weekly prayer list for months.  Those friends I had spent many years with did not even inquire about me, or call to see how I was doing.  Earlier as I dealt with health issues I realized that people picked and chose who to visit and help out more based on popularity than on need.  I also realized that as long as I had a good income and could participate with the others on their outings, I was one of the group.  But when my income would evaporate, I had to almost beg just to get transportation.  No, this was not church the way it was supposed to be as taught by the disciples.  It was very frustrating all around.

What made all this even more difficult for me was that outside of the church was a different thing than inside the church.  Some in our group called me "the church lady" because I tried to keep certain activities within Biblical guidelines.  For example when we would have game nights where we played various types of table games, one game in particular could tempt players to say and think things that were impure.  I suggested we either not play that game or leave those question cards out of the game.  Nobody agreed with me until our group pastor and his wife joined us.  Once they left again, it was back to the impurities.  I had a very, very difficult time making friends throughout all my church life for the reason that I did not fit in with the others.  I wanted to honor Christ.  Apparently, even though it wasn't like they went out to the bars or anything like that, the activities were not always so Christ-honoring.  I had other friends outside the church that I fit in with much better, even though they didn't even always know anything about salvation and Jesus.  My life was what some called sitting on the fence between two options--with one foot in the world and the other in Christ.

My children, although they both accepted Christ according to the simple "sinner's prayer" method, have also spent most of their lives fence-sitting like me.  Only they usually had more of a worldly leaning than I did.  Then my son and his wife started watching Paul Washer videos with me and on their own.  And our home is changing from the inside out.  Their lives are changing.  I am watching and praising God.  Even the children seem more at peace and there are not so many issues between the adults and children or between the children themselves as there used to be.  The Bible is becoming a center of conversation.  We are changing what we watch on television, the music we listen to, the books we read.  Only tonight I saw my family relaxing in the living room as they listened to the audio Bible videos on YouTube while my daughter-in-law was on the floor reading along.  Almost every day at some point there is a Paul Washer video being watched somewhere in the house, either me watching on my computer, or the family watching on the big screen tv with which they can watch the YouTube videos.  So far at least once or twice a week we all gather together to watch and talk about the messages.  My son and his wife continually exclaim that they have never heard this kind of preaching before.

What are the pastors and church leaders so afraid of?  I don't know.  But maybe they should be more afraid of God than of our government and those within the church who give the most money.  It's time to bring the whole Gospel back.  For so many years I have tried to make sure I was in a church that taught the "full Gospel" which for them meant that they did not gloss over the gifts of the Holy Spirit as some churches do.  What I did not understand until now was that most churches today, even if they do teach about the gifts of the Spirit, are not teaching a full Gospel as taught by our church fathers.

I know this was lengthy.  That's part of who I am. I find it hard to keep things short because I don't want any part of the meaning to be missed out on.  But now I will post a few videos that I feel are important to start with.  You decide.

This was the first video I watched. I've watched it now at least 2 more times. Many videos I watch over and over again because I want everything I can get from the Lord and I just cannot get it all in one viewing.

I've never considered myself a Calvinist, or any other -ist, other than that I do not follow any particular denomination. I am non-denominational. There are criticisms out there that Paul Washer is a Calvinist. I know he himself says he is a Baptist. I don't know Calvinism from any other -ism other than that I have been told that Calvinists take the meaning of predestination in the Bible to mean that God decides who will be saved and who won't be, so there is really no need to evangelize. Paul Washer evangelizes. He does speak once in awhile in these videos very briefly about election and that he believes what Jesus says that no one can come to the Son unless the Father first draws them. But he also states that God wishes everyone to be saved. If this makes him a Calvinist, so be it. However, what I believe is that those who do not like him preaching the way he does about hell, damnation, sin and man's depravity, will take anything and criticize him. Check out what he says by the Bible. I have yet to find him out of step with what the Word of God says. What I do find is that he tells it like it is, straight from the Bible, just like the apostles told it. I have not found anything to argue about in his teaching. What I have found is the meat I have hungered for all these years. I've found the teaching I've been looking for all these years. And I've found what this country needs most to survive the current onslaught of depravity today. I leave you with one more video and this link to his website where you can find even more sermons to either watch via video or listen to via audio. This last video I have watched at least 4 times and continue to watch because the message is so important to me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Irish Cooking and Irish Music Just in Time for St. Patrick's Day

Foods of Ireland

this lens' photo
Would you like to take an exploratory trip with me through the delights of Irish cooking? Growing up in a family of mixed heritage (Irish and German) I had a large variety of foods that were sometimes Irish and sometimes German and often times combinations of both along with other styles blended into some wonderful tastes. As an amateur genealogist exploring my own family tree, the ethnic foods I grew up with have become an interest to me. This lens will take us on a journey to learn what constitutes Irish cooking. While climbing that Irish family tree, for instance, I learned that simple mashed potatoes with a well of melted butter in the center is an Irish tradition. I only knew of one sure Irish meal while growing up and that was Corned Beef and Cabbage. My mom would make this for us every St. Patrick's Day. Over the years I learned that she did not make it the same way you see it made in recipe books. Her version was more of a soup and we ate it with crackers. She also used the canned corned beef. I've never had a real brisket of corned beef and some day look forward to trying it. The recipes and stories shared here have caught my interest. I hope they interest you as well.

Public Domain Photo Credit Bantry Bay. County Cork, Ireland. All the photos shown on this lens are from the Library of Congress photos of Ireland. To see all the photos in this set click here.

A Traditional Irish Blessing For Ye

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

My Mom's Way

Glenoe Village. County Antrim, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Glenoe Village. County Antrim, Ireland
Almost every year I try to remember to make my mom's recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage. It is a very simple comfort food soup that I have loved since the first time she had me close my eyes and open my mouth as a child and guess what it was that she was feeding me. That was my first taste of corned beef. Out of a can, yes, but oh so good. It doesn't get much easier to make her soup. Depending on the size of crowd that is going to eat it and how long you want leftovers to last (and leftovers are so much better the second and third day) the recipe basically consists of a can or two or more of corned beef shredded up into a large kettle filled with cabbage and potatoes both cut up into small bite size bits, salt and pepper, and enough water to cover and make soupy. She would boil this until the cabbage and potatoes were soft. We ate it just like any other soup, with crackers. I already have everything ready to make this for myself this year after letting it slide the past few years. I can't wait and probably won't wait all the way until the Big Day to cook it.

So now knowing that my mom's version wasn't quite the big deal that Irish people usually make out of the meal, let's explore what we can find online about Corned Beef and Cabbage. 

What is Corned Beef Anyway???

Glenariff. County Antrim, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Glenariff. County Antrim, Ireland
Contrary to how it sounds, corned beef has nothing to do with the vegetable corn. The beef is treated with what is called "corns" of salt for curing it. Currently corned beef refers to three different distinctions of meat.
"Wet-cured in spiced brine products are more supple and tender due to the brining, and in modern times, is usually made from brisket or round steak.Dry-cured with granular salt beef is much drier and firmer in texture, even after rehydration, and can be made from various cuts of beef. Canned minced salted meat is ground salted beef that is crumbly and oily, and made from various portions of beef." (Wikipedia)

For more information about corned beef and how it is processed, please visit Corned Beef Here to learn how it's done.

Another place to learn more about corned beef is at here .  

A Little Taste of Corned Beef History

Poulaphuca Fall. County Wicklow, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Poulaphuca Fall. County Wicklow, Ireland
At this site you will be shown some video history of Corned Beef and cabbage. It will possibly surprise you to find out that it isn't a fully Irish tradition brought here from Ireland, but began with Irish-American immigrants once here in America.

Finally, another good article about the how this dish became the main St. Patrick's Day meal here in America, read this

To be So Blessed

May God grant you always...
A sunbeam to warm you,
A moonbeam to charm you,
A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.

Breakfast in Ireland

What's for breakfast, you ask? Well, let's find out what you might find cooking in an Irish kitchen on a typical morning.
Traditional Irish Breakfast
This meal looks like what I have heard called a "Fry Up" in the UK. Lots of food on this platter! I do hope you are hungry.
Recipes Inspired By Traditional Irish Breakfast
Here you will find 12 Irish breakfast recipes with photos. They make me hungry just looking at them. Maybe I should have had something to eat before I looked at these.
Breakfast in Ireland by Mr. Breakfast
This is a very nice website with lots of descriptions of the various parts of a traditional Irish breakfast, along with pictures to help you when you are ready to start cooking...or well, maybe when you are ready to go shopping.
The "Full Irish Breakfast"
A website about Ireland including what you can expect for breakfast.

Follow the Links For the Road to Good Food

Onward with our journey into Irish cooking. What follows here is a listing of some good Irish cooking websites. I am hoping to gather up enough of a variety to show us as many different types of foods that are typical and traditional in Ireland.
Cooking Traditional Irish Recipes
Irish Potato Soup, Nettle Soup, Seafood Cockle Soup, Irish Skink, How to make a full Irish breakfast, and much more.
Real Irish Cooking
Looking at Irish cooking from a totally different perspective you will have to see to believe.
Traditional Irish Cooking
Breaks the meals down into segments and gives the recipes by segment.
Dochara Your Irish Friend
A very interesting blog about Irish foods and traditions.
An Irish travel guide complete with a section on traditional Irish cuisine.

Be Ye Blessed

May the saint protect ye-
An' sorrow neglect ye,
An' bad luck to the one
That doesn't respect ye
t' all that belong to ye,
An long life t' yer honor-
That's the end of my song t' ye!

Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes

Killybegs. County Donegal, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Killybegs. County Donegal, Ireland
To the Irish, the potato is a staple of life. It shouldn't have surprised me so much when I discovered that mashed potatoes with a well of melted butter in the center was a traditional Irish dish. The Great Famine, or as those of us outside of Ireland call it, The Irish Potato Famine, changed lives in Ireland drastically. From 1845 to 1852 nearly 1 million Irish died of starvation while another 1 million emigrated to other countries for survival. The Irish population dropped by 20% to 25%. Everything changed in Ireland because of the potato blight that caused the famine. Political, social, and economic changes caused Ireland to mark The Great Famine as a dividing line of history in Ireland. For more information on the Irish Potato Famine, go here.

For more interesting history about Ireland and the potato, click here.

What is an Irish Potato? According to the Irish potato is another name for our common white potato. Even though the potato was not originally native to Europe and Ireland until it was brought there from the Americas, because of the Great Famine, the potato has become known as the Irish potato.

Potatoes have great versatility for making all kinds of foods including breads and candy. My favorite way of making potatoes is...well...ummm...I don't know if I have a favorite kind of potato dish. I love potatoes pretty much anyway you can think of to make them from simple mashed potatoes to loaded baked potatoes to steak fries and au gratin or scalloped.

Check here for Irish potato candy recipes. I've never tried it myself, but after doing this lens, I think I might.  

That's an Irish Recipe?

Just to give you a variety of Irish recipes along with maybe some good Irish folklore, I've made this list of favorite Irish cooking websites.
Irish Recipes and Baking
A very good start for a variety of Irish dishes.
Irish Abroad
A very full website of Irish culture including recipes.
Top 10 Irish Recipes and Food Terms
A brief but interesting glossary of Irish food terminology.
St. Patrick's Day Celebration
A listing of recipes especially for St. Patrick's Day
Irish Food and Gift Store
A little of everything from Irish breakfasts to Irish cheese.
Irish Recipes-Home Cooking
Another listing of good Irish recipes
Irish Recipe Tips
Check this out for good Irish cooking tips and recipes.

Breakfast's Over, Time For Lunch

Lunchtime in Ireland

After a full Irish breakfast maybe we won't really be too hungry for lunch. But just in case, here is what you might find on the table at lunchtime.
Raglan Road Lunch Pleasure Island Downtown Disney
Just for fun, here is the lunch menu from March 2012 at Raglan Road, Pleasure Island Downtown Disney, at Disney World in Orlando, FL. I've never had the opportunity to visit an Irish restaurant. Have you?
Traditional Irish Foods For Lunch
eHow brings us another article on what you would find at lunchtime in Ireland. I am thinking that you would have to work very hard physically to use up all the calories eaten in an Irish home every day. Maybe that's my problem, since I am partly Irish and really love food.
Irish Ploughman's Lunch for St Paddy's Day
I found this blog with an article about the Irish Ploughman's Lunch. I had never heard of this before finding the article. And I call myself Irish? Hmmmm.

We Can Never Receive Too Many Blessings

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.
Lullabies, dreams and love ever after.
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes...
That's the Irish for You!

An Irish Supper

After all this food, are we ready for supper yet?
A Fieri Irish Supper
Irish supper made the Guy Fieri way.
Ireland Steak and Guinness Pie
It already sounds good.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Irish Lamb Stew

Gap of Dunloe, Killarney. County Kerry, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Gap of Dunloe, Killarney. County Kerry, Ireland
Okay, okay, I'm not about to tell you to go find Mary and cook her little lamb. But lamb stew is another traditionally Irish meal. In my locale finding lamb to cook is not easy. In fact, I haven't seen lamb at the local stores in years. I used to get lamb at Easter time and make my own lamb stew. I don't know if mine was Irish or not, but I loved it. Now that I have done this lens I might have to try harder to find some lamb in the very near future to see if I can make my stew again.

For my Lamb Stew, I basically just cut up the lamb into stew size pieces and browned it, then put it in a kettle with potatoes, onions and carrots and let boil until done. I didn't do much to thicken it like I do beef stew.

I've seen the lamb in the stores with the little green packet of mint sauce. I've never used the mint sauce. Have you? I don't know really how to cook lamb other than the way I just mentioned but I would love to try some other recipes. 

Shepherd's Pie

Menawn Cliffs, Achill. County Mayo, IrelandPublic Domain Photo Credit Menawn Cliffs, Achill. County Mayo, Ireland
Another traditional lamb recipe is Shepherd's Pie. I've never made it with lamb, but I have made it with hamburger. I think hamburger is more normal for the typical home cook in America to use when making Shepherd's Pie. It is funny, I think, that I have so much Irish blood in me and my mother cooked Irish food (mixed a lot with the German foods) but she never made Shepherd's Pie or taught me how to make it.

For 47 various Shepherd's Pie recipes, click here. All these recipes are already making me hungry. Gotta take a quick break now just to get the baked potatoes out of the oven. See? Talking about potatoes made me decide to bake some.

May It Be So

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play-
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song-
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!

Irish Afternoon Teas and Irish Desserts

After the filling meals the Irish prepare for breakfast, lunch, and supper (dinner), it's hard to imagine having an afternoon tea and any desserts added at the end of the regular meals. But who doesn't love dessert?   

How To Throw An Irish Tea Party
eHow is back with more help preparing an Irish menu. This time it is an Irish Tea Party. I've never been to a real afternoon tea party. Have you? The closest thing I ever got to this was either my mother getting me a child size folding table and chairs to have tea parties with friends, and later in life drinking the hot tea with cream in it.
The Ultimate Irish Dessert Recipe Collection
How many of these Irish desserts have you had?
Irish Tea Traditions
After you scroll past the ads on this site you will find a nice page full of ideas for Irish teas.
Delia's Irish Tea Bread
This recipe takes two days, so make sure you are prepared before you plan to have it for tea.

Irish and Celtic Instrumental Music

this lens' photoPhoto Credit: Public Domain Photo
Whether or not Irish blood courses through your veins, getting a chance to listen to traditional Irish and Celtic music can be a very nice change of pace. In my case, the Irish blood mixes with the German and all the other blood types, and sometimes the Irish music seems to call to me to come listen and take a vacation in my mind to the green grasses of Ireland. As I write this, it's one of those times when my Irish roots tickle my senses until I just have to find some good music to listen to. So at this moment I am listening to an older CD by Sunita Stanislow and Northern Gael.
To share some Irish/Celtic music with you, I have added quite a few videos from YouTube. I am aware that for some this makes a page a bit slow when it loads, however, I am sure that you will find this worth the wait if you love Irish/Celtic music or if you are just wanting to hear it for the first time. 

What Do You Mean Celtic? Isn't It All Irish?

The best way for me to respond to this question would be to let you read the same places I searched for the answers myself. In some cases it almost seemed as though the answer is not really that well defined or known. But to learn about the differences and similarities of Irish music and Celtic music would involve some information about history. Being that the Celts were in the land now known as Ireland prior to it becoming known as Ireland, Celtic influences abound throughout all the culture. However, apparently much of what is considered Celtic music is more of a labeling or branding rather than a difference in style. In other words, the word itself is being used to market the music according to different websites I have found. This is one of the sites where I found a good explanation of the difference between Irish and Celtic music.

You can learn more about the traditional musical instruments here and here. Many of the musical instruments of Ireland are the same as other areas of the world. For instance the violin (or fiddle) is a well known instrument around the world. On the other hand, the bodhran may not be so well known. Many of us, if we are old enough, have heard of a tin whistle, but do many of us know what a tin whistle is? Another instrument, the flute, may not be the same as the flute we are more familiar with. Mandolins are commonly used in Irish music. One of the interesting things I have noted over the years is how much Irish music resembles the music of the hill country of Tennessee and other southern states. Could it be that when the Irish settled in those areas that the people there have chosen to keep the music as a part of their culture, whereas the rest of our country seems to have tossed aside much of the traditional music of the various countries our ancestors came from? Well this could be a question to be answered at another time. For right now, please sit back and enjoy the music brought to you on this page. Photo Credit: Public Domain Photo
YouTube has tons of great Irish and Celtic music for you to enjoy.  To end this blog I will leave you with one of my mom's favorites.

Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Season and Care For Cast Iron Skillets

Looking for a non-stick frying pan that you know you will be able to fry the perfect over easy egg?  Look no further than your own cast iron skillets.  "What?" you ask.  It's true.  With a properly seasoned and cared for cast iron skillet you will be able to fry anything in it with all the confidence you get from current non-stick cookware on the market today.

In this article I will show you how to wash your skillet and how to season your skillet so it will remain non-stick.  In general, you will learn how to take care of the skillets that have been in the family for years but are probably stuffed in the back of your cabinets getting rusty.  When you are finished, your cast iron skillets will be like brand new, and will be healthier to cook with than any brand of skillet you find on the market today.   

In my opinion, nothing cooks like a good old-fashioned cast iron skillet.  My great aunt even made her delicious homemade butterscotch for her homemade pies in her cast iron skillet.  Fried chicken tastes better when fried in cast iron.  When properly seasoned, your cast iron skillet will out-cook and out-last any other cookware you own.  I am using skillets that were my grandparents' as well as those I purchased on my own throughout my lifetime.  That means that the newest of my skillets are at least 30 years old and the oldest are far beyond 60 years old.

If you are like me, cooking websites might make you hungry.  The sooner you have your skillets seasoned, the sooner you can make those wonderful eggs!  (Cooking those eggs will also require the thinnest metal spatula you can find so that when you flip the eggs, you have not cut into those beautiful yolks.)

Washing Cast Iron Cookware

If you have not used your cast iron for awhile, it might be a little (or a lot) rusty.  Even if you have been using your cast iron recently, you will probably still have to season it properly.  If you have cooked things like gravy or other items that will soak up the previous seasoning, you will have to start from scratch with these washing instructions.  In fact, it is a good idea to start from scratch every now and then anyway, just to make sure your skillet has the best cooking surface possible.
For the initial washing of your cast iron, whether it is old or brand new, wash in warm soapy water.  If there is rust or stuck on food, you may use a copper scrubber to clean it.  Even if all the rust does not come out right away with this washing, that is okay.  It will be cleaned out with the seasoning procedure.

One time many years ago I read a story about a woman who would put her cast iron skillets into the fireplace and burn off all the old crusted grease and food that accumulated over the years of use.  She left the cookware in the flames until the flames died down and the iron was reddish in color.  If you choose to try it, make sure to allow the iron to cool sufficiently before trying to remove from the fire.

How to Season Cast Iron Cookware 

After you have thoroughly washed your cookware, it is time to season it.  This takes time to do so you can stop periodically and let the cookware cool in between steps.  The more your cookware has been neglected, the longer this process will take.  You will need to make sure you have plenty of paper towels available for this process.  You will also need to stay close to your stove while seasoning your cookware so you don't let a fire get started. (I have read about those who do this in the oven rather on top of the stove, but I have never done that.  I prefer having the cookware where I can control it in case it gets too hot and starts a fire.)

To begin, place your cookware on a burner and turn the heat on high.  Make sure the burner is the proper size for the cookware. Allow the cookware to heat up until you can feel the heat on your hand when you hold your hand above the pan.

Next, pour enough vegetable oil into the pan to cover the bottom of the pan completely.  You will need to watch the pan carefully from here on so that the oil does not get so hot that it catches on fire.  Once you see the oil is getting hot, remove the pan from the burner and set aside on a cool burner until the oil is cooled enough to not burn your hands.

Once the oil has cooled, fold some paper towels thickly and rub the oil around the entire inside of the cookware.  You will see that the paper towels have become discolored as they pick up rust and other residue from years of use and neglect.  Throw away the used paper towels and set the pan back on the burner to heat up again.  If you previously wiped out all the excess oil, add some more.  (During these cool down periods you may walk away and do other things before continuing the seasoning later.  Just make sure to turn off the stove first.)

When the oil has reheated, again set the pan aside on a cool burner for awhile.  Repeat the process of wiping out the pan with the paper towels.  Each time you repeat this process of wiping out the inside of the pan with the paper towels you will see that they come out cleaner.  Continue to repeat the heating and cooling proces until the paper towels come out clean except for the oil itself.

Allow the pan to cool completely and wipe the entire pan inside and outside with a clean paper towel to make sure the entire pan has been coated with a thin covering of the oil.  Doing this on the outside of the pan helps prevent it from rusting while it is not in use.

At this point, your skillet is seasoned.  The heating of the pan allows the iron to expand and the oil soaks into it.  When the pan cools, the oil is trapped into the iron and this gives your pan a non-stick finish as well as prevents it from further rusting.  Rust, by the way, is the byproduct of iron being oxidized when it comes into contact with the oxygen in the air.  It will not hurt you.  But it is unappealing and will cause foods to stick.  Wiping the rust out with the paper towels helps get as much of it out of the pan as possible even after washing.

My grandfather would reuse his skillet with the same fats and oils in it from previous uses, causing the cast iron to pick up the meaty flavors.  He especially used bacon grease repeatedly.  Reusing your skillet between washings makes the skillet even more non-stick.  But wash it out once there are food particles in the grease.  You don't want food poisoning.  If foods begin to stick, that is another sign that it is tie to wash the skillet.  There are washing instructions further on.

A side note:  Even when you have seasoned your cast iron cookware in this manner, if you have not consistently used it, you may need to do a quick seasoning again before each use.  All this entails is to quickly heat up the pan with the oil and wipe it out once with the paper towels.  You can go ahead and cook with it immediately after this.

How to Wash and Care For Seasoned Cast Iron 

The more you use your seasoned cookware, the more non-stick it will become.  However, to keep it that way you have to wash it properly.  When I was growing up my mother always used SOS pads to wash the cast iron skillets.  She taught me to wash them that way too.  I hated cooking with cast iron because everything stuck to it and cleaning it up was a pain in the neck.  Once I learned how to season it and wash it properly, I've never had a problem with it since, and I've never bought another SOS pad.

So how do you wash a properly seasoned cast iron skillet?

It's simple.  Wash your seasoned cast iron in very warm water (as warm as your hands can stand) and use only a plastic scrubber.  Do not use soap.  Do not use a dish cloth.  Do not use a copper scrubber or one of those green scrubbers.  All of those will remove the seasoning and you will have to season the cookware all over again.  You will be amazed at how easily the cast iron cleans with this method once it is seasoned.  The only thing I ever have problems with are scrambled eggs and only then if I have used a pan that was not fully seasoned.  The plastic scrubbers take even scrambled eggs out easily.

You will notice that water bubbles off of your cast iron and that it does not stay wet as long as it did before it was seasoned.  You will want to allow the cast iron to air dry again because using a dish towel wipes out the oil that you have seasoned it with.  But overall, you will have cookware that is much better than the non-stick pans and won't leave any of the chemical residue so many warn us of from use of those pans.  The iron from the cast iron is not harmful and is a naturally occurring nutrient in our foods.

You will want to store all your cast iron cookware together because of the seasoning.  This is another reason to keep the outsides wiped with oil occasionally as stacking pans inside each other will cause rust without the oil coating.  Do not leave them so coated with oil, however, that they puddle because that can cause a fire when you put them on the stove.  Make sure that all the excess oil on the outside is wiped clean before storing or cooking.

Now that you have learned how to season, wash, and care for your cast iron cookware, I hope that you get a lot of enjoyment out of using it daily when you cook.  You can even bake safely with it.

Utensils For Cast Iron Cookware

When you are cooking with the current, modern idea of non-stick cookware, you are supposed to use either rubber or plastic, or wooden utensils so you don't scratch the surface of the cookware.  Scratched non-stick cookware is no longer non-stick, and it is said that it will leach harmful chemicals into your foods.

With cast iron you don't have to worry about scratching the surface or about harmful chemicals leaching into the food.  You can use any type of utensil that you wish to use when cooking with cast iron.  It will just depend on what you are cooking, not what you are cooking in.  Of course, for fried eggs, you might need a specific type of spatula to be able to pick up the egg and/or flip the egg over without breaking the yolks.  I have found that the rubber, plastic or wooden spatulas are too thick to do this well.  Most metal spatulas are also too thick.  The best spatulas I have found for making eggs are very thin metal spatulas.  I've been lucky and still use the spatula that my mother used way back when I was a child.  It is slightly cracked at one of the rivets and I treat it very gently so I can keep it around for many more years.  I've only found a few spatulas in the stores that work for me with eggs.  If you are lucky enough to find a thin metal spatula, take good care of it.  In fact, I have found that my spatula is also pretty well seasoned from years of use, and if I wash it the same way I wash the skillets, I have very little trouble cleaning it.  Sometimes I do have to break down and use the copper scrubber on the spatula, but not often.  Most of my skillets and that spatula are as old or older than I am.  Can you say that about products manufactured today?