Lately I was really impacted by a song I happened to hear on Air1 Radio when we were driving to church. The song is “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells. (Man that guy has an awesome voice!) I’m pretty sure I heard the song before Sunday, but this ...

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You are not alone -- "Hills and Valleys" and more...

You are not alone -- "Hills and Valleys"

Lately I was really impacted by a song I happened to hear on Air1 Radio when we were driving to church. The song is “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells. (Man that guy has an awesome voice!) I’m pretty sure I heard the song before Sunday, but this time the song was really catchy and stuck with me, so I bought it on iTunes right away.

The lyrics are simple but so powerful, especially because the one thing I want all my readers to know is that no matter what happens to you, no matter where you’ve gone, Jesus loves you and you are not alone.

 


I've walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I've felt the pain of heartbreak
And I've seen the brighter days

And I've prayed prayers to Heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I'm standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
And I am not alone


I've watched my dreams get broken
In You, I hope again
No matter what I know
I'm safe inside Your hands

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
And I am not alone


Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all, You will remain
Over it all

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all, You will remain
Over it all

On the mountains, I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley, I will lift my eyes, yeah

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there (to the One who set me there)
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone (I'm not alone)

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (yeah)
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (You're the God of the hills)
And I am not alone

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (yeah)
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (You're the God of the hills)
And I am not alone (God of the valleys)


And I will choose to say
Blessed be Your Name
And I am not alone
      



Camy's Hot and Cold Brew Fruit Iced Tea

At first I thought this was a stupid recipe to post, but then I thought I’d just post it in case someone hadn’t thought of this and was interested in it.

Captain Caffeine has been known to remark that I’m very picky about my tea, although I don’t consider myself a real connoisseur. I don’t like tea that’s been made in a coffee carafe because I can taste the old coffee and it’s nasty, but I will not scoff at using a Lipton tea bag if there’s nothing else available.

However, as the weather has gotten hotter I’ve been searching for the perfect fruit iced tea to drink. I love those fruit flavored black teas like mango or peach or strawberry. However, I notice that in restaurants, especially, many times the tea is bitter because they oversleep it.

However, I’ve found that in order to get a strong fruit flavor, especially when steeping real dried fruit as opposed to just artificial fruit-flavored tea, I need to use hot water and a long steep time. It’s also generally recommended that you hot-steep fruit and herbal infusions to eliminate any possible bacteria since the fruit isn’t always heated during processing (it depends on the company who makes the infusion).

So I decided to combine hot and cold water steeping to create my perfect black iced tea for this summer.

I steep 2 tablespoons of black tea in 1 quart of cold water for at least 4 hours in the fridge. It can go even longer, 24 hours or longer, and still taste fine—I haven’t been able to oversteep a cold black tea yet. I use a mason jar and throw the tea leaves in directly so they have lots of room to float around.

I then steep 2 heaping tablespoons of my favorite fruit blend infusion in 1 quart of near-boiling water (205 degrees F) in a teapot or a tempered glass pitcher made specifically for steeping hot teas. These fruit infusion blends are non-caffeinated—my favorites are Mango Melange, Wild Strawberry, and Berry Blues from Adagio.com. (If you want a $5 gift certificate for Adagio, let me know and I can email it to you or message you on Facebook.)

I let the fruit infusion steep for at least 15 minutes, but usually closer to an hour since I tend to forget about it. (FYI, I’ve tried a quick rinse of boiling water and then a cold brew of fruit teas, but I just don’t get the bold flavor I like when doing a long hot water steep.)

Then I combine the cold brew tea and the fruit infusion in a pitcher. I typically add the juice of one lemon (to promote good kidney health) but that’s optional if you don’t like the flavor. I pour my cold brew tea from the mason jar through a strainer (to catch the loose leaves) into the pitcher. Then I pour the fruit infusion into the pitcher through the tea strainer. I then refrigerate for an hour or so before drinking.

Mango Melange iced tea with roses from my garden
I like this iced tea because the cold brew black tea is sweet and non-bitter, but with that nice tea flavor. And the fruit flavor is also strong and bold from the hot water steep.

Online articles say that the more expensive white and oolong teas are better for cold brewing, but I haven’t yet tried that. Adagio has actually offered me a gift certificate to buy some of their teas and blog about it, so I intend to try some white tea and blog about that later.

I’ve had decent results when I cold-brew David’s organic whole leaf Darjeeling black tea from Amazon. There’s a slight tannic taste to the tea, but it’s more mild than other cheaper black teas.

I like Adagio’s Ooooh Darjeeling (an unusual oolong tea from Darjeeling) as an iced tea also, but I tend to like the oolong flavor better when I instead hot brew that for 3 minutes and then cool it in the fridge, and I don’t drink that with fruit infusions.

A random note: Another cold brew infusion I really like is Mugicha, which is roasted barley. It’s non-caffeinated, and I buy that on Amazon and enjoy that all summer long.
      



How can I pray for you?

Photo credit: lalalime.blogspot.com
I asked God to make me a prayer warrior, and I realized I was missing out on the chance to pray for all of you, my online friends! So how can I pray for you? I will try to remember to post this at least once a month so I can pray for you.

Prayer requests can sometimes be private things, so to keep your privacy, I’ve made a form you can fill out that will keep your requests just between you and me. Also please be sure to fill out the form again to update me if you sent me a prayer request in the past. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

      



"Mr. Darcy Would Be Appalled" White Soup

I made Regency-era White Soup again, this time an easier way than the original 1811 recipe. It is almost nothing like the elegant cream soup Mr. Darcy would have been used to—it turned out more like a hearty blonde stew. However, I thought it was very tasty.

1 package of beef neck (1 pound) and 1 (cooked) chicken carcass or equivalent (cooked) chicken bones
OR
1 quart beef stock and 1 quart chicken stock

2.5 pounds raw chicken (I used thighs)
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 pound rice (the original recipe called for 1/4 pound, but I added extra rice to make it more hearty)
2 anchovy fillets, minced
5-6 peppercorns
2 Tb minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch of celery, chopped
(Optional) 2-3 cups of chopped veggies, whatever you have in the fridge. I added 2 cups of chopped kale
1/4 - 1/2 pound raw almonds, pounded fine (I used a Ziplock bag and my meat pounder, and I ended up putting 1/2 pound in, but the original recipe only had 1/4 pound)
(Optional) 1 egg yolk
(Optional) 1 cup half-and-half (The original recipe called for cream, but I thought it was a bit too heavy when I used the cream last time, so I used half-and-half this time. I think I could have even used whole milk and it would have tasted fine, although perhaps without as much richness in mouth-feel as with the half-and-half.)

The last time I made this, I tried to follow the original recipe and simmered it for 4 hours. The recipe had you strain out the solids and only serve the liquid, but I added the solids back in (everything except the bones) to make it more hearty. However, the long simmering had made the chicken and vegetables overcooked. This time, I made stock in the pressure cooker so that I wouldn’t have to simmer the chicken and vegetables so long and they wouldn’t be overcooked.

I made stock in my pressure cooker with the beef neck and the chicken carcass. I’m afraid I didn’t measure the water, I just put the solids in and filled it to the max liquid line. I boiled the water first so I could skim off all the scum from the beef neck, then put the cover on. When the rocker started shaking, I lowered the heat and let it go at a gentle rocking motion for a full 90 minutes. The resulting stock was full of gelatinous goodness. I removed the meat from the beef neck and shredded it into the stock, then stuck the stock in the fridge overnight. Surprisingly, the overnight cooling did not reveal much fat in the stock, barely a scraping layer on top, so while I made the white soup/stew the next day, but I probably could have made it the same day and skipped the overnight in the fridge.

If you use packaged stock, you unfortunately won’t have the meat from the beef neck unless you cook it separately. However, even if you parboil the beef neck in a separate pot to skim off the scum, then rinse it and add it to the soup with the stock, I’m not sure if the cooking time is long enough to make the meat tender enough to eat.

I fried the bacon to release the fat, then sautéed the onion for a couple minutes. I browned the chicken thighs skin side down for a few minutes, then added the other ingredients except for the egg and cream. (If you are adding extra vegetables and want them crisper, omit them at this point and add them later to cook them just until crisp-tender.) I brought the soup to a boil and then let it simmer for one hour, covered. I ended up adding a little more water when it got too thick near the end.

In hindsight, I should have just used a crockpot. While on the stove, I had to stir it every 15 minutes or so (especially near the end) to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom and burning. In a crockpot on low, it would have taken longer but I wouldn’t have had to stir so often, and the chicken would have come out very tender.

I whisked the egg yolk, then tempered it by adding hot soup a little at a time, whisking in between until the yolk was hot enough, then whisked the egg into the soup. Then I stirred in the half and half and added salt and ground pepper to taste.

I tasted it before adding the egg and half-and-half (it was already extremely thick), and thought it actually tasted rather good without them. But I added the last ingredients anyway. I couldn’t tell much of a difference after I added the egg, but the half-and-half added a very decadent, rich finish to the soup. If you’d like, you can omit both and it’ll still be a good stew, and lower in fat.

When eating it for dinner that night, I realized the stew was very similar to Minnesota Wild Rice soup, sans the wild rice. This version was good for wintertime—the wind and rain were howling outside the dining room windows while we ate, and it seemed to taste even better that way.
      


Chihayafuru is available in English!

My absolute favorite manga series is now officially licensed in English and available on Kindle and iBooks! I first saw Chihayafuru the anime series (watch it free on Crunchyroll) and fell in love with the storyline and characters.

There was a combo English/Japanese print version of volumes 1 and 2 that came out earlier, but it was rather confusing to read (but I still bought them). This, which was just released, is an English language-only version on ebook.

Here’s the blurb:

Chihaya is a girl in the sixth grade, still not old enough to even know the meaning of the word zeal. But one day, she meets Arata, a transfer student from rural Fukui prefecture. Though docile and quiet, he has an unexpected skill: his ability to play competitive karuta, a traditional Japanese card game. Chihaya is struck by his obsession with the game, along with his ability to pick out the right card and swipe it away before any of his opponents. However, Arata is transfixed by her as well, all because of her unbelievable natural talent for the game. Don't miss the first volume in this story of adolescent lives and emotions playing out in the most dramatic of ways.

Camy here: I hadn’t heard of karuta until watching the anime and reading the manga series, but it’s really fascinating. It requires immense mental stamina and memorization skills as well as a physically demanding aspect in terms of quick, accurate reflexes. The series also highlights a key cultural component, the beauty of these extremely old Japanese poems.

If you’re not sure if you’d enjoy this series, watch the anime on Crunchyroll first (it animates the storyline up to about volume 9). I was hooked immediately and have been buying the Japanese-language manga series ever since (it’s still ongoing in Japan), even though I don’t understand Japanese all that well yet. There are illegal translations online, so I’m really glad to finally be able to support the author by buying the official English translation version.
      


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