One Minute Past Midnight

2021-12-31 One Minute Until MidnightThere is something sobering about getting a couple phone call messages, texts and emails from your favorite doctor concerned with your latest lab results, especially on December 30, so close to the year’s end.  Sobering, but not frightening, as it may be for those who do not have hope in Jesus.  I know where I am going and I know the One who knows the way. (John 14:1-4)

All six of my strokes since 1999 have been ischemic (clot) strokes, meaning my body likes to throw coagulated blood at my brain.  But getting a lab result that suddenly and without warning shows one’s ‘blood-thinning’ medication makes you at significant risk of a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke is cause for concern.  No changes in diet, no alterations in activities, no travels to strange lands (like Norway 😉), no deviations in sleep nor major stresses; so why the drastic change in medical results that two weeks ago were fine?

Suddenly my mortality faces me like an impressive off-season Halloween costume, trying to scare me by telling me I could have died this week if a significant blow had struck me, or I had fallen with just a simple trip on the sidewalk.  But the Spectre does not alarm me; death has lost its victory; the grave has lost its sting because my life is hidden in Jesus, the Christ, and nothing will happen to me that my loving Lord does not allow for my good, even it the event is to take me Home. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

So as 2021 comes to its finale, I consider the New Year’s Resolution I made in 1969 at 18 years old and have faithfully kept every New Year: “Resolved, I will never make another New Year’s Resolution!”

This is not to suggest that we should not look back at the fading year and evaluate what we could or should have done differently.  Nor does it mean that we should not plan some improvements and developments in the approaching New Year.  However, as noted on , most resolutions do not make it to January 31!  And none of us has any guarantee of tomorrow, much less the whole year ahead.  Whether one runs like James Fixx or manages one’s food with self-control like Ang, there are no warranties we can claim any more than righteous Job.

Thus, I encourage you at this changing of the days to consider your life: its value, its impact on others, its final destination.  And walk in fear of The God Who Is, one who loves you more than we can grasp in this life, and who has revealed Himself most clearly in the God-Man, Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Then you will not fear when the clock turns to midnight, just because one minute after midnight you could find yourself in His arms and in His kingdom in Heaven.

2021-12-31 One Minute Past Midnight

Happy New Year to all who are reading this, and with all my heart I hope to meet you someday around the Throne of God to praise Him together.

yours and His,
c.a.

___________________________________________________

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God; Psalm 90

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of Adam!”
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

January 2 – An Upside Down Cake for An Upside Down World

IMG_1722January 2 finds us anticipating virus vaccines across the US and a finalization to our November 3rd presidential and vice-presidential elections in just four days.  What ever happens, we hope it is finally over!  However, based on the last four years, it is unlikely politics will slip away into the background for a couple years the way it used to after elections.  Mid-term balloting is “only” two years away when Americans will go back to the polls to choose lawmakers for whichever Senators are coming to the end of their six-year terms, and all the Representatives, who serve two-year terms.

And no one expects a reprieve from presidential hopefuls.  Vote for ME in 2024!  I’ll give you bigger stimulus checks than the other guy and unite the country around my partisan positions on abortion, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, the environment, what to call people who gender identify, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel and Social Security.  Okay, on Social Security almost everyone actually agrees.  But otherwise the parties and the national factions are poles apart, whatever the polls say.

So I decided to make an upside down cake to celebrate our upside down world.  Variation on a theme, I made a Pineapple Almond Upside Down Cake that actually came out pretty easy to do.  Hey, if I can do it, YOU can! 🙂

It is always safest with any recipe to assemble all your ingredients before beginning.  It would be a shame to make the caramel for the bottom/top and then find out you did not have cornstarch . . . course, at that point you could always claim you wanted to make caramel!  Actually, guess no downside there! 😉

So get together the following for your Ingredients:
Topping (which will go in the bottom of the cake pan):
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (salted/unsalted does not matter)
Pineapple slices, one 20oz can or enough fresh to cover the bottom of your cake pan
Cake Mix:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup ground almonds
(I like leaving some small chunks for crunch: I just don’t grind too finely.)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (soften to room temperature)
1 teaspoon almond extract (If you are afraid of too much almond, you can substitute vanilla extract here.)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
Pan – 8″ x 11.5″ x 2″

Generously grease the pan with butter.  You can use the stick you have for the topping, but make sure you reeeeally cover the corners and the sides up to the rim!  This butter greasing will make your cake smoothly come out of the pan when you flip it at the end.
Melt the butter at medium heat in a small saucepan and add the brown sugar, stirring until it dissolves. But after the sugar melts, STOP stirring, and let it simmer until the mixture just begins to bubble.
Pour the mixture into the pan and level it out. 
Next add the pineapple slices, arranged in a single layer to cover as much as you can of the caramel mixture.  As you can see my slices were not very pretty like the canned ones, but I was using a fresh pineapple and had not planned on the cake when I cut it up.

While making the cake mix, preheat your oven to 325⁰F.

To make the cake batter, whisk all the dry ingredients except the sugar in a large mixing bowl: flour, corn starch, almonds, baking powder and salt. 
In another mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter and flavoring (almond or vanilla).  Use the larger bowl for this, not like I did with a small mixing bowl.  Add one egg at a time and beat each one before adding the next.
Add about half the dry mixture and mix into the butter mix, followed by half the sour cream.  Repeat this step with the remainder of the dry mixture and sour cream.  This process it to ensure smooth blending of the batter without overbeating the eggs. 
Once you have a consistent texture throughout the batter, pour it over the pineapple and caramel; smooth it out so that it is fairly uniform on top.

Bake at 325⁰F for about one hour until a tester (e.g. butter knife) comes out clean.  If you have a baking thermometer the center of the cake should reach 205⁰F.  If you stop before the tester comes out clean the center of your cake will be mushy; tastes good, but not great presentation.
Allow the cake to cool in its pan for five minutes, off any source of heat; i.e. out of the oven and not on a hot rack.
Carefully flip the cake smoothly onto a platter.  If some of the topping that was on the bottom of the pan sticks to it, start over and butter the pan more generously! 🙂  Not really.  Just scoop it out and patch it onto the top of the now Upside Down Cake.

If you use canned pineapple or cut your fresh stuff into pretty rings, you can dress it up with cherries in the center of the rings for decoration.  The cake can be served still warm from the oven or cooled.
With the fruit on top, I recommend refrigeration after cooling to room temperature unless you are eating it all within 24 hours.
Next time I am going to try overbeating the eggs.  It is delicious as it is, with the texture of a pound cake, but I think overbeating the eggs before adding the dry mixture will make it lighter.

Bon appétit or maybe Nanea i kāu pāʻina!
And to end the year, one of the most spectacular Christmas musical renditions I have ever heard; the caption says it all: It Will Give You Chills!

 


Intermezzo: Coming New Year’s Day

2020-12-29 New Years Day Coming SoonWell, it’s almost that day of the year when we turn over a new leaf (or snowflake if you’re lucky enough to live far enough north to enjoy the miraculous white powder).

In any case, lots of leaves have been turned over this year that many of us did not expect!  Job losses, especially in the service and food sectors, mandates from new czars formerly known as governors, isolation from nursing homes and hospital patients, mistreatment or murder of citizens based on the color of their skin, Marxist style riots dubiously based on claims of racial profiling, conflicts of electoral processes with questions of electoral integrity, a Supreme Court confirmation liberals detested, deaths of dear friends or relatives with the Wuhan Virus (I am NOT racist against Chinese – I MARRIED one! Wuhan was simply where the virus started.)  Yes, lots of changes none of us could have predicted.

So now there is another “leaf” to turn over.  We pray that things will begin to return to “normal” with the virus vaccine roll-outs from Pfizer and Moderna promising that we may see a flattening of the pandemic curve after a year of spikes and information overload that reported too quickly on social media what would best be left for biologists to work out over a couple years. 

The election should be finalized January 6th with Congress certifying the results of the electoral college, and we may have a politician for president who used to be a good compromiser with opponents in the Senate.  We’ll see if he is as good at getting compromises from extremists in his own party or in getting concessions from conservatives who think the election was stolen.

Conspiracy theories filled the “fake news” on both sides of the liberal/conservative divide.  They rivaled Hilary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy,” but put the blame on her camp this time round with the Democracy-Alliance attempting to overthrow the next mid-term elections.  “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” = “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” 

2020-12-29Anita and I walked around our neighborhood and enjoyed the Christmas decorations, especially those that acknowledge Jesus’ real purpose in coming to earth.  He was uniquely born to die, not as an accident of activity or disease.  His express reason for creating a body inside Mary, using her DNA, was so that He could go to the cross and pay a penalty for our sin and selfishness, giving of Himself freely to redeem us into eternal life.  So now, though the outward man perishes the inner man can be renewed day by day until we pass from this vaporous short-term existence into the Real Life that Jesus initiated for us by rising from the dead.

2020-12-29 LuminariaOur subdivision, Copperfield, put out Luminaria by providing everyone in our 433 houses with paper bags, sand and tea lights.  Though slightly sparse (only five per house), it gave a sense of community to our neighborhood that has been missed this year with no Clubhouse activities and restricted pool use.  The display turned out very effectively to show we are all responsible for the light we shine.

2020-12-29 Christmas TreeOur Christmas tree has so many ornaments collected on our travels that we only use a few of the usual generic bulbs.  The tree that went up just before Thanxgiving Day will probably stay up through January.  Christmas is not even celebrated in some places until January 7, and Candlemas, the celebration of the traditional view of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple is not until February 1.  Besides, the lighted tree with all its memorial embellishments makes the dark wintry nights feel just a little brighter as the days begin to slowly lengthen since the winter solstice is past.  A friend in Johnston, Rhode Island used to leave their Christmas tree up all year long, just covering it with a sheet to keep dust off . . . unless someone came to visit; then they would reveal the tree in all its glory whether the month was May or July!  Here are a few of our “annual” ornaments.

So now another year ends and another begins, as we count the years.  (We have not always counted this way, and even now, other cultures . . . count differently.)  Several people have asked me what I do in my days now that I have officially retired.  These days, memberships, subscriptions, and a dizzying array of content to watch and listen to abound.  In fact, I still have not begun to clean my basement (now my excuse is that it is too cold 🙂 ).  Enjoy your time with your family.  Stay safe and healthy into the New Year, and we will see what Father has planned for us in 2021.