Saturday, 4 April 2009

Stick to your task . . .

Stick to your task,
Till it sticks to you.
Beginners are many
But enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise,
Will come in the time of him who stays.

Stick to your task,
Till it sticks to you
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too,
For out of the bend, the sweat, and the smile,
Will come life's victories,
after a while.
~author unknown

There is a beautiful view out one of my kitchen windows at work. It looks out onto the back patio, surrounded with beautiful gardens, just filled with one gorgeous plant after another. This time of year, I can look over and see red tulips, flanked by blue forget-me-nots and a host of other early flowering plants. It is quite breathtakingly beautiful, and the sight of it all blesses my work day in unimaginable ways.

Along one side of the patio, there is a lovely wooden pergola that runs down the length of it, and underneath sits a long wooden table and chairs . . . In the summer, this lovely pergola is covered with climbing plants and flowers, giving most welcome shade to the table underneath, and it is a most pleasant place to relax and entertain guests on warm summer evenings.

The other morning, as I puttered away in the kitchen, I noticed what looked to be some straggly bits of straw and grass hanging down along the side of one of the pergola posts. As I looked closer, I could see that it was twitching and shaking. Pretty soon, I saw a song thrush hop down onto the table and gather up the bunch that was hanging, before she flew back up behind the post. She was building a nest, and sure enough not too far away, I saw the male thrush, sitting there watching her at work.

Off and on all morning, each time I looked out the window, I could see her flying off and coming back with various bits for the nest. Sometimes she would drop pieces and fly back to fetch them. Other times the bits were so long and straggly, it seemed a great encumbrance for her to actually be dragging them over, but she did it . . . little by little and step by step. She worked so hard and so very long . . . I haven't checked but I just know there is a lovely nest there now, possibly even eggs, and it will be interesting to see just how things progress . . . I truly hope it is a story with a happy ending . . .

A part of me fears for her young, because . . . in truth it is probably not a really great place for her to have built that nest. The family cat lives very close to there and is quite often out in the garden sunning itself, and it would be very easy for the cat to jump onto the top of the pergola from the stone wall that runs along next to it. And then too, there is the possibility that there will be times when people will be sitting out there around the table, and that might be disturbing to her and her young as well . . .

I was struck while I watched all of this going on, by the determination and strength of this wonderful little creature, and of the beauty of nature and instinct that fueled her work. She didn't give up, but kept plugging away, step by step, dogged and determined, no matter how hard the task, how time consuming, or how often she had to back track. I am assuming that the end result was a comfy home for her soon to be family, a choice reward after all that hard work.

It struck me while I was watching her and thinking. Life is kind of like that. The things in life that are really worth having are quite often the things that come to us after having put in a lot of effort and hard work, sometimes hours of pain and drudgery. Determination and steadfastness are two qualities that most often reap huge benefits . . . rewards that quite often are all the more magnificent because of the effort that it has taken to achieve them. I have often heard it said that , "Nothing worth having, ever came easy." I believe that is true.

I truly pray that I can be a better finisher of those tasks that I start, and that I am able to enjoy the journey along the way. A journey that is indeed, a part of the reward. How about you?

Quite a lot of you have asked about my meatloaf recipe so I am pleased to share it with you this morning. There's no picture of it, because, to be quite frank, meatloaf just doesn't photograph well, and I never thought to take a picture of it. I never thought anyone would be interested! I have tried many versions of meatloaf through the years, but I always, always come back to this recipe that I developed. It is a compilation of the best parts of several recipes and uniquely my own. It is the best . . . moist, flavourful and delicious.

*Marie's Meatloaf*
Serves 8

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 cups freshly made bread crumbs
1 onion, peeled
1 fat clove garlic, peeled
1 small green pepper, trimmed and cut into chunks
2 medium eggs, slightly beaten
2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a large loaf pan. Set aside.

Place the beef and the breadcrumbs into a large bowl. Set aside.

Put the remaining meatloaf ingredients into a blender and blitz until pureed. Pour this mixture on top of the beef and breadcrumbs. The best tool to use here for mixing is your hands. Dig in and mix all the ingredients together until the liquid is well mixed through the beef. Pat into the buttered loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Stir together the brown sugar,ketchup and mustard powder. Remove the meatloaf from the oven 15 minutes before it is done and spoon this mixture over top before returning the loaf to the oven to finish.

*Note - Sometimes I lay several slices of bacon over top of my meatloaf before I bake it. This is a delicious touch!

*Mashed Carrots and Parsnips*
Serves 4

These two vegetables go really well together. I could eat a big bowl of just this and nothing else.

4 large carrots (about 1 pound) peeled and coarsely chopped
6 large parsnips (about 1 pound) peeled and coarsely chopped
3 whole cloves
2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS butter
2 TBS brown sugar

Place the vegetables into water to cover in a saucepan, along with the cloves, white sugar, and salt. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until very tender. Drain well, removing the cloves. Return to the hot pan. Place over the residual heat on the burner and give them a good shake to dry off any remaining water. Add the butter and brown sugar and mash together with a potato masher. I like to leave some chunks in mine, but you can mash them as smoothly as you prefer. Serve hot.


  1. Ali from Ireland4 April 2009 at 10:19

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely story - I think we can learn a lot from animals and nature. And thank you so much for posting your meat loaf recipe - it sounds delicious. Meat loaf is one of my husband's favourites but, despite trying numerous recipes, I've never made one I've been really happy with. I look forward to trying yours next week!

  2. So lovely, Marie...And the sights of birds nesting and forget-me-nots...Oh, I'm soooo glad spring is here! Thank you for the meatloaf recipe. Yours is so very much like my mother's good recipe for meatloaf--very uncanny. But I love the potato & parsnip recipe...mmm...Happy Saturday to you & dear Todd. Hope we get to chat hope so! :o) LOVE YOU LOTS!! ((BIG HUGS))

  3. What a great reminder to persevere so that we might succeed in all we want to do! I love meatloaf so I'll want to try this recipe. blessings, marlene

  4. What a beautiful entry! Thanks for the recipes. Would it be possible for you to post a picture of the pergola with the tables and chairs? It sounds lovely.

  5. My mom used to quote that poem to us all the time. I imagine she still does with the younger kids still living at home. Such memories. Thank you for that beautiful post!

  6. Have I ever told you that yrs ago when I was married the first time my family took a vote and said I wasn't allowed to make meatloaf anymore...yeah that's how bad I am at it. I'll have to try yours Marie it sounds wonderful. I alos love the mashed carrots and parsnips they look great!!

  7. Hi Marie! Thanks for two excellent recipes! We just love meat loaf and I've never had mashed parsnips before....hardly waiting to try that recipe (with carrots), too. Have a "great" weekend!


  8. I once watched the same thing marie only a little wren and it was wonderful.I rememeber learning this poem off by heart at school when I was about ten yrs old.

    The Thrush's Nest
    Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush
    That overhung a molehill large and round,
    I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush
    Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound
    With joy; and often, an intruding guest,
    I watched her secret toil from day to day -
    How true she warped the moss to form a nest,
    And modelled it within with wood and clay;
    And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,
    There lay her shining eggs, as bright as flowers,
    Ink-spotted over shells of greeny blue;
    And there I witnessed, in the sunny hours,
    A brood of nature's minstrels chirp and fly,
    Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.

    I hope you see the minstrells one day.Have alovely weekend Take Care God Bless Kath xx

  9. I love that saying, and yes we can all learn from that little bird. Thanks for sharing, I will have that thought in my head all day. Stick to it till it sticks to you. Great moto to live by.

  10. What a lovely story about your little bird friend. I am wishing her and her young well. I too hope that her story has a happy ending.

    I am hoping that my children have happy endings to their stories too.
    It looks like this weekend is bringing happiness our way... We will know for sure by Monday. We are excited and I can't wait to tell you all about it when all goes as planned.

    I was trying to think of what to make for dinner... meat loaf sounds good to me... maybe we will have a "Marie" dish for dinner tomorrow...then it will seem like you are with us.

    I was so happy to talk to you today. I love hearing your voice and sharing a few minutes with you..your are a dear friend...a sister of my heart...Thank you for being so special and dear.XOXOX Lura

  11. You know what Marie? No matter what life has been throwing at me, no matter what I'm feeling, I know that when I come over to Oak Cottage I'll always find a little corner full of calm and peace and lovely smells.

    Your word pictures are so beautifully painted as to make it possible for us all to see what you see. Thanks for sharing your gift with us lovely friend.

    love, Angie, xx

  12. Sheesh Mom! You forgot the secret ingredient for the sauce... you know what I'm talking about!

    Dried mustard!

    While other children would turn their nose at even the thought of meatloaf, our house regularly witnessed an almost magical disappearance. Even if two meat-loaves were made, they wouldn't last long!


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