Thursday 3 November 2011

Embracing the "you" in You . . .

“Conformity is one of the most fundamental dishonesties of all. When we reject our specialness, water down our God-given individuality and uniqueness, we begin to lose our freedom. The conformist is in no way a free man. He has to follow the herd.”

~Norman Vincent Peale

It seems I’ve always walked a few steps out of beat with those around me. I suppose I have been a bit of a rebel . . . but not in a bad way. Some might think me a bit odd. I have come to realize that it’s that "oddness" which opened my heart to this weird and wonderful church which I belong to. When I am at church and I reflect on those around me . . . pondering their unique ways and personalities . . . I can see that we are all a little bit odd, but in a very beautiful way. I’m really quite glad that we are. We are known to be a "peculiar" people . . . and I, for one, am quite happy to embrace that peculiarity!

When I was 14 and 15 years of age, I went through a very difficult time at school. I was bullied mercilessly . . . so much so that at one point during those two years, I was actually physically ill because of it and stayed at home for several weeks with the "mumps!" How I managed to every make my mother think I had mumps remains a great mystery to me, but I did. I think the main reason that I was bullied was because I was "different" . . . because I didn’t fit in the same as the rest of them did. It was the wolf pack mentality of the others, the law of the herd, that made them feel the need to weed out all that were different, or that they deemed as weaker. Quiet and sensitive, I was probably a sitting duck for all their slings and arrows.

Looking back . . . I am glad I was different . . . and I’m glad I was strong enough to withstand their aggressiveness and cruelty. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I truly believe that through those difficult two years I learned a lot about compassion and forgiveness . . . and tolerance and endurance. Thankfully, we moved after a few years, and so the teasing stopped, but I do still carry some of the scars on my heart and in my mind. You never really forget, even if you do forgive.

In my later teen years, I'm ashamed to say that I did follow the crowd a bit, . . . whilst trying to maintain as much of my uniqueness and individuality as I could. I was everyone’s friend, even those that nobody wanted to be a friend to. I always had great compassion for those sorts of people . . . for the underdog . . . having once been ostracized in much the same way. Besides, secretly . . . deep down . . . I knew I was still one of them. I had just not been found out yet. As we got older too, the bullies were fewer and far-er between, and most of the people I knew were starting to strike out a bit more as individuals anyways.

I guess I’ve always known that I was special, even if I didn’t always act like it. I did have to endure a lot of bullying in my last marriage . . . and perhaps I even felt for a time like I wasn’t worth not taking it . . . but deep down something inside whispered to me every once in a while that I was special and unique. For the most part, I allowed him to squelch it through the years. Occasionally though . . . this unique and peculiar person that I was would stick her head up above the mire and wave her arms, trying to be heard. When you are busy raising a family and taking care of a home you hardly have time to think about your own needs and wants, your days are so full of taking care of others. It's quite easy to get lost in the business of the needs and wants of others for a time. And as a mother, how can you do anything but?

In my later years, I have come to realize just who I am as an individual . . . and to embrace that unique and wonderful person. Yes, I DO celebrate her for who she is and for all of her differences. I am a special individual, unique in all ways, and I love who I am and who I’ve allowed myself to become. I still walk a few beats out of step from everyone else, but I am quite proud that I do. I love that I stand out in a crowd. I am still a bit of an odd duck, but I love my oddness. It works for me. I have come to recognize my God-given talents and embrace them . . . explore them . . . use them . . . I relish every opportunity which comes my way to share them with others and to help my fellow beings in some way and in any way that I can . . .

I look at my life as being a huge piece of embroidery that I have been working on for years . . . quite different than anyone else’s, perhaps a bit unusual . . . but every bit as beautiful and even more so in some ways for it’s individuality. I have stitches here and stitches there . . . it’s randomness creating something quite wonderful and unique and special, this tapestry of my life. I suppose when it’s finally finished I will be able to look back and count all the stitches and be quite proud of my accomplishments, but in the meantime I’m just enjoying creating it, in my unique and sometimes beautiful way.

Just my thoughts this morning . . .

Here's my latest piece that I worked on yesterday afternoon. I had ever so much fun doing this and trying to make it look like she is standing in a field of dandelion fluff at the end of a golden day. I had paint all over me by the time I was finished . . .

I am never quite sure when I finish something if I really like it or not. I have to step away from it for several hours and then go back and look at it again. I am always pleasantly surprised when I do, which is a good thing!

I am a real pizza lover. I could eat pizza three times a day every day . . . cold, warm, hot . . . it doesn't matter to me. I just love pizza. Todd now . . . he is not so fond. It doesn't matter how many times I tell him it is just a sandwich with the filling on the outside . . . he's not quite buying that idea! This is one of my favourite versions. I also love Chicken Caesar Salad . . . combine the two and you have a heavenly pizza . . . A Chicken Ceasar Salad Pizza! Voila! It's fabulous! (Trust me!)

*Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza*
Printable Recipe

Don’t you love it when you are able to bring together two of the things you love and they work in such a delicious way as this wonderful pizza does? Try it, I think you’ll really like it!

1 12-inch thin pizza crust (purchased or make your own, see below)
1 cup of cooked chicken, cut into cubes
2 ounces thinly sliced proscuitto ham
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded havarti cheese
¼ cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
½ cup good quality Caesar Salad dressing (I used Hellman’s)
A handful of dry cured pitted black olives

Salad Topping:
1/2 head of shredded Cos (Romaine) lettuce
A handful of rocket leaves
2 green spring onions thinly sliced, using all the white and a bit of the geen
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
¼ cup good quality Caesar Salad Dressing
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup good quality garlic croutons (make your own, see below)

Pre-heat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. If you are using your own homemade crust take out a large baking tray and lightly grease it. Spread the crust out onto the tray into a large thin rectangle, about 9 inches by 15 inches in size. Prick it all over with a fork and then bang it into the heated oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

If you are using a purchased ready made crust place it onto a large baking sheet.

Take the first quantity of salad dressing and spread it evenly over the top of the partially baked crust. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over top as well as the havarti cheese. Scatter the cooked chicken and the black olives over top. Tear up the proscuitto and scatter it over top as well. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese.

Return to the heated oven and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbling.

Ten minutes before you are ready to take the pizza from the oven toss the lettuce , rocket and green onion with the lemon juice. Add the ¼ cup of salad dressing. Toss well together and set aside.

Once the pizza is done, remove from the oven. Scatter the prepared salad over top and sprinkle with the ¼ cup of Parmesan Cheese. Sprinkle on the croutons and serve immediately.

*Thin Crust Pizza Dough*
Makes 2 twelve-inch crusts

I love a thin crust on a pizza, slightly crispy and not too doughy. This fits the bill on all counts.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may substitute whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose)
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water, with 1 tsp sugar dissolved into it
1 tablespoon olive oil
cornmeal, for sprinkling on the pan

Put the warm water into a large bowl along with the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let it sit for aobut 10 minutes until it gets all foamy. give it a stir. Add the flour, salt and olive oil all at once. Mix in well and then dump it out onto a lightly floured board
and knead it for about 6-8 minutes until you have a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic, adding a bit more flour if you need to. Shape into a round smooth ball.

Wash out the bowl with warm water and dry. Grease with a little olive oil and then put the dough into this bowl, turning it once to coat it with the olive oil. Cover and let sit in a warm place for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Lightly grease with shortening two 12-inch pizza pans. Sprinkle each with some cornmeal.
Divide the dough in half and place each half on a pizza pan. Spread and pat it out with your fingertips until it stretches to fit the whole pan, making it a bit thicker around the edges. Prick it all over with a fork.

If desired, pre-bake at 205*C/425 *F for 10 minutes, then spread with pizza sauce and use the toppings of your choice.

*Note. This can be frozen quite successfully if you don’t want to use both crusts at once. Just divide in half and place the portion you want to save in a good freezer bag. Place in the freezer. When you want to use it, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

*Homemade Garlic Croutons*
Makes 2 cups

These are so easy to make and so much tastier than any you might buy in a shop.

2 large crusty white or whole wheat rolls
2 TBS good quality olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed (bruised)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut your rolls into 1 inch cubes. If you’re a purist you can remove the crust bits if you want first, but I leave them on as I enjoy the variety of texture.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the garlic cloves and heat until just becoming fragrant. Toss in the bread cubes and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time until lightly browned all over. Dust with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Allow to cool and then use as you wish.

Baking in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Candy Apple Cake!

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