Freezing Fresh Basil

Last week I joined several ladies at the church for a “Canning Bee” as we sliced, cooked, squished, and bagged countless apples into over 20 gallons of applesauce. It was all spooned into plastic bags and frozen and it made quite a windfall for the Community Table! While I think it is really great to give food to community organizations that provide meals to those who need some assistance, I also think it’s pretty awesome to give them really GOOD food–good tasting and good for you, too!

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That same day, the woman with the proliferation of apples brought an equally abundant harvest of basil. In fact, it was so much basil that the whole church smelled deliciously of basil even the next day long after the apples were gone.

Ultimately, I was the recipient of the lion’s share of this harvest (two gallon sized bags crammed full!) and was delighted but clueless as to what to do with it all. My hope was to make pesto at some point but that point was not any time soon, so the only option I could come across was freezing.

However, I’ve never frozen basil before. One suggestion I had been given was to place them flat in a ziplock and freeze them that way. Then they could be crushed when frozen and wouldn’t have to be chopped. I was pretty worried that they would turn brown or black if I did that. I did a small sample of leaves in this way and while it was super easy to “chop” them by simply squishing the bag, they did indeed turn quite dark.

Even though I was willing to use a small portion of the enormous bounty of basil for that test, I wasn’t willing to risk it all, so I found a solution on Pinterest. (see my Pinterest page for my boards.) Here’s what I found and it really does a super job and it’s part way towards the pesto I want to make, too, because it involves olive oil.

You will need: fresh basil, olive oil of your choice, some kind of container to freeze it in that is (my suggestion) no larger than a 1 cup size.

Wash the leaves, trimming off any flowers and long stems. Let them air dry on a paper towel or clean dishtowels. This took about 20 min for me and I wasn’t super patient about the drying part! It was really late at night and I’d been chopping and squishing apples all day!

There seem to be several options at this point.

Chopping: fine or coarse. I chose coarse because, as I said, I was tired. Plus, my little tiny food processor would have taken FOREVER to do this much basil–if, of course, I could find the blades!

Containers: some people choose to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. I thought that was a brilliant idea! I didn’t have any, though, and I did have a few of those ziplock type small plastic containers. I think you could use anything you wanted but I’d guess it shouldn’t be more than about a cup size since you’ll have to thaw the whole container when you’re ready to use it.

Pour a layer of olive oil in the bottom of the container and swish it to cover the sides. The OO is what keeps the leaves from turning dark, so you want as much of everything covered as possible. Pack in the leaves, covering with the oil, and stick in the freezer. I did mine in layers since it was a rough chop: put in a bunch of basil, pour in some OO, squish, repeat.

Yummmy! I’m looking forward to making pesto soon!

Shepherd’s String Band

Our church has, thanks to massive amounts of previously undiscovered talent, added not one but TWO additional choirs to our music department. And this is a congregation that only worships about 40-50 people a week. Who knew we’d even have a ‘music department’? Most notably is the fact that there are no overlapping members–no one is in more than one of the choirs.

Last Sunday in July we had our traditional 5th Sunday covered dish lunch and the Guitar Choir played for us. I’d never heard of or even considered such a thing as a guitar choir. It is awesome! They played I’ll Fly Away, Do Lord, Tennesse Waltz and a few other standards.

We also now have a Handbell Choir as well, and they are equally as awesome, too! They’ve played in worship twice and it’s just lovely.

We’re having our annual Octoberfest the first Saturday in October but this year we’re going to add music from all of our choirs and…. it is rumored… there may even be a flute player in there somewhere. I am to shoot photos of the guitar choir tomorrow evening and make an appointment for the bells sometime soon. It’s my job to do the publicity and such, so I’m really hoping lots of people from the community will come.

Where do you spend your money?

Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with a friend about books. Not just reading books but also where to buy them. She was lamenting the plight of our local independent bookseller and how she does not see how they can compete with Amazon and B&N and that she, who is a big ‘buy local’ kinda person, has given in and ordered from Amazon quite a bit. Because money is tight. Because there is free shipping. Because it is 40% off.

Well, money is tight for all of us, that is for certain. But here is a different way to put things in perspective. When money is tight for everyone, and with the exception of the super-rich, it is tight for all of us, we tend to think we have less buying power. Well, we do have less money to buy stuff with, that’s a mathematical reality. But that also means every cent is more powerful in its affect upon the world around us.

This is far easier to see in non-profit areas, such as the church. During the fat times, people can give to multiple charities and it is not as much of a strain. The choice of who you wish to support is not as difficult to make. But, during the lean times, tougher choices have to be made. Do you give to your local congregation? Disaster relief? The arts? World Wildlife? Etc etc. Every dollar has to be thought through and its destination carefully chosen. In turn, each dollar is prized more by the recipient because there simply isn’t as much to go around and you know that if your organization received the donation it was far more likely that the support was genuine, deep and abiding. Organizations in the non-profit field stand or fall in lean times based not on services provided to the money sources but on the quality of life they represent or purpose and meaning they espouse.

Same thing is true of for-profit businesses. Each dollar we spend during the lean times has an impact upon which companies stand or fall.

As of late, there have been many pleas for Americans to revive their interest in choosing to buy American made products over those made in other countries. This is important for the very reason I just stated: each dollar has greater weight, goes farther and has more lasting impact in the lean times. I contend that we need to examine something else which is, most likely, even greater in significance: who are you buying from?

Extra discounts, free shipping and the like are all so very tempting. But what are we supporting? Better said, what are we choosing not to support? I’ll confess that I have an Amazon wish list and there are things I still order from them. But not books. I am slowly whittling away at my book list by ordering them one at a time from City Lights Books here in town. And the same is true for any gift or item I need. If it is at all possible, I will buy it from a locally owned business in the town where I live. If I can, I’ll buy it from someone who made it themselves.

Recently, I purchased an oil lamp for the frequent times the power goes out in this area. I could have gone to Wal-mart and gotten one for fairly cheap, but I went to the local hardware store instead. I chose to buy the same lantern, which was moderately more, and a smaller bottle of oil than I would have purchased at the big store. In the end, I spent the same amount I would have at Wal-mart and ended up with the same lantern and less oil. I’ve used the lantern several times and still haven’t run out of oil, so I didn’t even need the larger bottle I would have purchased at the store where I would have gotten a “better deal”. Wal-mart doesn’t really care that I did not buy from them. The hardware store does.

I may buy fewer books, bottles of oil, odds and ends and smaller portions of the necessities, but I want the money I do spend on these items to help the survival of a local business owner. Is it better for me to be able to buy as much as I want in a gluttony of false purchasing power, or is it better to moderately purchase and do so in such a way that it supports people who live in my own town? Amazon, Wal-mart, B&N and all the other big box companies will not feel the loss of my dollars but the local businesses here will feel their addition. They are investments in the future of their companies and, in no small way, investments in the local communities.

Here’s some other interesting information from the 3/50 Project:

If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, etc. (and that’s true whether the item you purchase was made in the USA or China or anywhere else, for that matter.) If you spend the same $100 at a national chain store, only $43 stays in the community. If you spend it online, NOTHING returns to the community. Get That? NOTHING. Not A Penny.

So buy a book from your independent bookseller, tools and supplies from your local hardware, cards and gifts from the little shop on the corner, eat at the small owner-operated restaurant, and get produce from the farmer’s market. Use the power of our fewer dollars to invest in local businesses and in our own community.

The Turning of the Wheel of the Year

leafThe changing, growing, dying, rising of the year are marked with the earth’s living breath. Seasons color our lives and make us part of it. There are seasons in the church, too. Sights smells sounds and stories bring us round the year and back again. Some things are constant like the sweet taste and smell of communion wine, the sounds of music and voices blending together, the words of the liturgy and prayers. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And yet so much does change as seasons move us forward. The church year tells the story of the life of God and our life with him. It is an emotional, spiritual and mental journey that becomes a part of your heart and mind and even, if you will let it, a part of the very fiber of who you are. We have come to the end of the church year. In fact, next Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, is kind of like the ‘new year’s eve’ of the church. And the year begins afresh with Advent.

Leaves turning colors.
Crows cawing at me in the parking lot.
Where are you getting pecans for holiday baking?
Frost on the ground in the mornings outlining dying leaves with a crisp, white line.
Mountains have changed out of their lush green robes and into yellows, reds, oranges and stately browns.
Clearly marked is the turning of the year.
Halloween candy is nearly gone.
Thanksgiving is chasing quick on our heels.
Small rings of smoke crown houses on my street.
Smell of the ancient earth and dampness from raking leaves.
In Advent we anticipate.
We await the coming of our Lord.
Coming as tiny helpless baby born to Mary.
Coming again to complete the renewing of all the earth.
We light candles to watch for the messiah.
Wrapped snugly in manger and riding high upon clouds.
Blues and purples fill days of mystery and wonder.
We delve deeper into darkness of fall and winter.
God shines his light of hope even brighter.

Christmas follows—the Festival of the Incarnation!
Immanuel—God with us!
Joy! The priceless gift of the Son of God!
Angels from the realms of glory sound their trumpets in celebration!
White and gold cover the altar to honor this great returning of God.
Chrismon tree glitters with golden ornaments rich in symbols of names and titles of the One.
Wise Men seek the child, bringing gifts.
Incense that surely filled the room with fragrance.
Exotic, thick, mysterious, prophetic.
Gold fit for a king of kings.
We are made hopeful: this child is for us, too.
This child is for all of us.
The Epiphany: ah ha of God-for-us shines.
Brilliant stars in the ever lengthening night sky.
Rising sun making diamond dust out of snow.
Beneath the other gifts for the Child is the myrrh.
Bitter death perfume for the tomb.
What a gift for a child! A foreshadowing.

The wheel of the year turns.
Days begin almost imperceptibly to grow longer.
The earth, as if knowing what lies ahead, cannot wait to share it.
It is Ash Wednesday and light in the world gently, slowly increases.
Lent begins our descent into penance and richer, fuller meanings.
This baby, now grown man.
Journey of 40 days in the wilderness.
Our road, deep purple, begins with cross-shaped ashes.
Baptismal cross of Christ marked on faces.
Visible to all the world.
Remember o mortal, you are dust and unto dust you shall return.
Palm Sunday.
Light spring air smelling like fresh grass and melted snow.
Warming earth all around.
We stand outside, palm branches waving.
Hymns of triumph—but a triumph as yet unfulfilled.
This is as much preview of royalty as spring is hint of summer’s thriving glory.
And yet.
There is more in this story before real triumph is here.
It is Maundy Thursday and the worship area is cruelly stripped.
All adornment, gone. All celebration, gone.
Seemingly all hope, gone. The altar is bare.
The sanctuary is vulnerable and empty.
Good Friday arrives. Black on the cross.
Stark contrasts with Palm Sunday are palpable.
The tomb closes round.

Suddenly, it is Easter!
White and Gold drape the altar as rivers of light and hope.
Halleluiahs and lilies fill the air.
Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Halleluiah!
And the Halleluiahs echo on for a very long time.
The wheel of the year turns again.
Through heat of Summer when the whole world seems buzzing, humming, blasting life.
Pentecost explodes like wind and fire!
Spirit blows through the church: filling, calling, gathering.
Growing.
Brilliant red on the altar turns to green.
Color of growing things. Of life and hope.
Season of the Church, as it is called.
Season of the church, growing lush green.
Innumerable shades of green growing throughout the ancient mountains rising all around us.
Even as those mountains begin to dress in first gold and red, then brown.
A color-slide down the hills.
Even as the winds get just a little cooler once more.
Butternut squash and corn and pumpkins are ready.
Even as the great round Harvest and Hunter’s moons declare again the turning of the year.
Even so, the church remains green.
Evergreen, like our God.
Ever growing, roots deep in dark, rich earth.
Nights lengthen and light is more and more precious, golden, fleeting.
Trick or treaters and tons of candy and costumes.
It’s All Saints’ again.
Lighted candles warm the sanctuary and our hearts.
Aroma of burnt tapers, extinguished.
Salty tears on cheeks, awaiting the hand of the Lord to wipe them all away.
To make all things new.
Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord, keep watch take heart.

It is the church’s New Year’s Eve again.
The wheel of the year turns.
Winds grow colder, nights longer, but hope stronger.
Light one candle to watch for Messiah.
Pray: O come O come Emanuel! Ransom us!
With anticipation and excitement, mark off the days because He is coming!
Coming as tiny baby in the manger and coming in clouds descending.
Coming again in dark, cold night.
In star filled sky.
In gold and incense of wise men.
In greening up the mountain.
In ash marking foreheads and the purple Lenten journey.
Coming again out of the myrrh scented tomb to walk in lilies and brilliant summer riot of color.
In wind and fire and ever-green growing church.
Coming again to wipe away all tears.
Coming again to make all things new.

 

first posted at Shepherdess Writes

Ah the Church Yard Sale!

While I do not know if it is, in fact, a universal practice to have church yard sales, it certainly is a significant tradition at nearly ever church with which I have been associated.  And what a fascinating thing it is, too!  People bring all kinds of things to a yard sale and is is wonderful that they are willing to share their extra with the church.narthex

 There are always interesting things and strange juxtapositions when people start bringing in their treasures for the sale, like a treadmill, rolltop desk and daybed in the Narthex. Not something you see every week.

 

 

Yes, it looks like an episode of Hoarders, but it’s just our choir room filled to the brim!

hoarders

Then there are other treasures as well……..

 

 

 

knots

Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one absolutely amazing squirrell! He appears to have antlers and is eating a bunch of grapes. I’ve never seen anything like it!

squirrell

candles

rowdy boy

 

 

 

 

 

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And this year we’re doing a craft sale and bake sale as well.deer

quilt

Ultimately, what is wonderful about all of this is that after Saturday all of this will be converted into funds which will be used to sustain ministry at this church. Same thing that happens at churches around the country all the time.

Sometimes, it is hard to let go of our extra things in life. How many times have I thought that I should keep this extra whatever-it-is because someday I might break/loose the other four I have already? How often have I looked at the same items in a box at my house and remembered some funny story or important person that the item brought to my mind?  Countless times! We do not want to let go of the security that things provide. But, perhaps most of all, we hold tight to these things so that we may hold tight to the people and the memories that are so tenuously attached to them.

Letting go of things is letting go of people. Letting go of memories. There is something particularly healing about letting them go at the church. Yes, the ministries that are supported are a good cause, but it is more than that. The truth is we must let things die so that they might be resurrected. Crazy as it may sound, leaving our things–our possessions, the vessels of our long-clutched memories–at the church seems to emphasize the resurrection end of that truth. They and we go on to new life.

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