Books, Reflections

Little is Much

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Turkey day approaches. In some ways I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the rush of the holiday season.

Then at other times I just want to tuck into a good book and forget about things for an hour or so. One book out of 10 in my book stack is the Lark Rise to Candleford series, by Flora Thompson.

It is a book that follows the life of a young girl who lives in a tiny hamlet (or village) in England called Lark Rise. Her community is very poor but oddly very happy. It is set in the late 1800s, one of my favorite time periods. Early on in the book I came across one of those quotes that I read over and over.

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“People were poorer and had not the comforts, amusements, or knowledge we have to-day; but they were happier. Which seems to suggest that happiness depends more upon the state of mind-and body perhaps-than upon circumstances and events.”

from Lark Rise, chapter 3, by Flora Thompson

I finished the book a few days ago and it ended with a description of harvest days and feasts. The hard work and sweat and subsequent festivity and joviality.

The scene put me in mind of another feast day, of a story told long ago.

There was a kingdom where dwelled a wealthy King and his grown son, the Prince. The Prince was to be married, to have a wedding feast and the invitations were sent. But those invited responded with scorn and violence. And so the King, enraged, did away with the violent men.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (From Matthew 22:1-10)

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I’ve always pictured this as a beautiful scene. Full of warmth and cheer and happiness. Everybody is there. Young, old, rich, poor, outcasts, knights in shining armor. Everybody. All were there. All were invited in.

And its always put me a little in mind of Thanksgiving.

The goodness, the plenty, the laying aside of differences just to be together and be happy and grateful for the blessing of harvest, and most importantly for the blessing of family.

And at the banquet scene, who was most blessed? The King was The Giver of blessings. And I imagine those who felt least deserving were most blessed. For they had nothing to recommend them to attend the feast of a King. They had little. But little was much.

This story speaks of God’s gift of salvation and grace. It is a gift of much to one who has little. Once upon a time, as a young girl that person was me.

And as I’ve gone through life I’ve seen this beautiful pattern. The times I’ve had less have been the times I’ve had more. Less in the material world. Less comfort maybe. But more room for cheer and love in my heart.

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Life gets simple. And when life is simple, it forces you to look within.

Looking in to see what you value most when you have little.

A simpler life, a shorter budget, it is a gift. So enjoy it. Enjoy your life amidst the harships. The scrimping and saving. The wondering. Enjoy your family and friends, one of life’s purest and greatest gifts. May you be blessed. And well stuffed with stuffing!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to my readers here in the U.S. 🙂

~Rachel

Yes I know it’s early yet to be saying Happy Thanksgiving but if I don’t say it now I’m liable to forget! Mom brain 😛

Beverages, Food, Reflections

Roasted Dandelion Root Tea {First Impressions}

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The foraging adventures continue! I wanted to harvest some dandelion roots this fall with the intention of making roasted dandelion root tea.

It sounded interesting. And every single source said the health benefits of the plant were numerous.

According to learningherbs, dandelion roots are good for liver health. And because the liver affects many other parts of the body, dandelion root helps with a lot of different things. (The recipe I used can be found through the above links as well.)

As livestrong mentions, dandelion root has a lot of potassium and “It also contains high levels of iron, boron, calcium, silicon [and] vitamin C.”

Super-healthy? Sign me up. I can get it for free from my own yard? I’m on it.

And so I grabbed my shovel and I wandered about outside looking for some good-sized dandelion roots. The kids were mostly good enough not to wander too far from sight 🙂

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Here are some of the largest roots from some of the biggest plants. I harvested about 7 or so roots total.
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After scrubbing, chopping and air drying the roots completely they were ready to roast.
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The finished product. I sorted the pieces and discarded the blackened ones. I had exactly 2 Tablespoons the recipe called for.
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Here you can see the difference in color.
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After simmering the dandelion root for about 20 minutes I had a very dark tea, similar in shade to coffee and somewhat similar smelling.
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I blended the liquid with about a Tablespoon butter as directed.

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And then I took a sip. I immediately made a face. It was very bitter. As I expected. Somewhat like coffee but not as…warm? Flavorful?

I had to add things to it to make it drinkable. First, a bit of vanilla, cinnamon and honey.

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It was still too bitter. More honey and a lot of unsweetened vanilla almond milk were added. And then I ended up adding a spoonful of coconut palm sugar before I was happy with the taste.

I’m trying my best to avoid refined sugar. It’s been hit-and-miss so far. But this time…victory 🎉

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Afterwards…heavy on the sweeteners and milk.

Oh my it was so bitter. But tasted rather good in the end.

I couldn’t help but think about bitterness as an emotion, as opposed to a taste.

I remember my son when he tasted cocoa powder for the first time. It smelled like the chocolate he loved but left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitter rot.”

from Uninvited, chapter 7, by Lysa TerKeurst.

But tempered with sweetness and mixed into the cookies he loved, the bitterness was transformed. It was the same for the tea. Bitterness transformed was a pleasant thing instead of a thing almost poisonous to swallow.

As I battle bitterness threatening to overwhelm me, this lesson hit quite close to home. I’m grateful for the lesson so gently revealed.

And I enjoyed my cup of tea 🙂

Any coffee drinkers out there? Have you ever tried roasted dandelion root tea? If so, what was your impression?

~Rachel

Caturday, Reflections

Hold On To Love

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Stella is not a cuddler by nature. One of these days I’ll get a cute pic of her showing her loving side. But it is not this day.

Today Caturday is taking a more serious turn as I reflect about the atrocities committed against humanity in Las Vegas. I heard about it from the day it happened of course but it wasn’t until recently till I saw this picture and story that the reality of it all really sunk in.

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This is my country. This happened here. These are real people that lost their lives. I can’t point a finger. I can’t blame. I won’t give attention to the whims of a madman who deserves no mention. Yes, I had anger. But there was something else..

As I read that article, saw the picture of the army soldier tenderly sheltering that woman…I thought of Him.

Of how this must break God’s heart. Of the gentle love that He has for those who suffer. Who have been through fear and pain. He holds those people with tenderness. That is what I see when I looked at that picture.

And I thought of this verse.

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He holds us in His hands. He carries us in His heart. He has great love for humanity. Not only for His church, His bride but for us all. Every person who has ever walked this earth.

And I can’t get over the picture. Because not only do I see God’s tender love, I see His Son Jesus. So willing and ready to give up his life to save mine and yours. He took my place on that cross. He loves with an everlasting love.

This post has went much deeper than I originally planned but these words have been heavy on my heart. I know that talk of God and deep spiritual things is not what everyone desires. It’s ok. I understand. But my Lord is so much a part of my life that the light has got to have somewhere to shine. I thank-you for reading 🙂

So what can I do? You do? We do? We love. We go on. Hold those close whom you love. Even those whom to love is difficult. Trust me, I know. Be kind. Kinder than necessary.

Each one of us has a gift and a purpose on this earth. And I believe our highest calling as human beings is to love.

Love each other. Even when it’s hard. Even when that person drives you crazy. In some cases discernment and common sense is needed. We are not doormats. But love all the same.

And if all else fails, cuddle your kitty. Or puppy or (insert all other animals). Because pets just seem to understand.

Hold on to love.

~Rachel

Reflections

Poet’s Heart.

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I’ve been looking through old poems and came across the one I wanted to share today. Well. I didn’t want to share it initially. I felt the nudge, the push to share it but I fought it for awhile.

This poem means a lot to me. It was written in my early 20’s not long after my Grandpa passed away. I was already familiar with depression. But this was different. This was worse. I was dating my (later-to-be) husband and the joy of our relationship was a deep feeling in itself. In spite of this I found it difficult to balance my emotions.

There is no correct formula in life. But sometimes I like to sit down and ask myself deep questions, figure things out. This is how much of my poetry is written and I imagine other poets might think the same.

I enjoyed sharing my other poem “Nothing Is a Mystery” (you can read about that post here) so I thought I would share another. I need to get back to writing more poetry so I can share some recent ones.

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~*~

Perspicuous Heart of Mine

 

Bleeding heart,

Bruised heart.

I’m suprised you feel

A thing.

You sort through

All my thoughts.

You sift through

So much pain.

Where is your limit?

Does sorrow

Have a bottom?

Does happiness

Have a boundary?

Is grief eternal?

How many wounds

Does time heal?

Only some…

Or none at all?

Why do you suffer so?

Why does happiness

Or joy

Not stay long with you?

How I wish you weren’t so sad.

Moon

And sun.

Sorrow

And perfect ecstasy.

It’s ying and yang

But not with you.

Can’t you open up?

Sorrow and Love.

Keep them equal.

Mirror images

Dancing on a line so thin.

-*-

~Rachel

Reflections

Bravery in Motion: 10 Ways to Help Overcome a Panic Attack

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Here is a subject that is not easy for me to talk about. And yet I feel a super-strong pull to write about it.

To be transparent.

I have been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks for 2 years. It came back with a vengeance fairly recently. I felt so defeated and broken. Alone. And scared. I realised I needed a game plan. Change. And a greater push back in the area of self-care.

I say “push-back” because that’s what it is. As a mom I literally have to push back against the heavy burden of day to day demands and carve out a bit of time for me.

I research. I claim time to be alone while others watch my children. I invest in me. I seek out wise counsel. I realise that mind, body, spirit and emotions are connected.

And I look at all the things that have helped me fight against the pull of an attack.

This is my list of things I have learned throughout the years. It is by no means a complete list. But I hope it can be a help to get you thinking about what best benefits you. You are not alone in your struggle, my friend.

 

10 Ways To Help Prevent a Panic Attack

 

1. Deep breaths.

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The simple act of focusing on your breaths and nothing more can have a calming effect. Oxygen flowing to your brain & body is a good thing 🙂

2. Focus on magnesium.

Add magnesium through diet. Many many Americans, myself included are deficient in magnesium. It helps so much to add more magnesium-rich foods. Ancient-minerals.com states that “Magnesium-rich foods include whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and seeds.”

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Lately I love drinking nettle and chocolate mint tea and eating pumpkin seeds to up my magnesium. There are tons of foods to choose from…most nuts and seeds, black beans, bananas, avocados, brown rice. All good.

3. Cut that sugar.

Decrease or cut out sugar completely. This article is one among many that explains how a high fat and high sugar diet does not work in your favor. Sugar depletes magnesium and cutting it out, hard as it may be, will work in your favor and help decrease your anxiety. (Trust me I have a huge sweet tooth and this is hard for me too but it helps!)

4. Epsom salts.

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A good soak in the tub with 1-2 cups of Epsom salt (depending on your body weight) is very beneficial for mind and body. I purchsed the book Epsom Salt: Natural Remedies for Health, Beauty and Home, by Josephine Simon a few months ago and I have enjoyed learning more about this stuff.

Epsom salt soaks will relive aching muscles and will give your body a good dose of magnesium via absorption through your skin. Just don’t use soap as it interferes with this absorption.

5. Chanting (out loud or to yourself).

Chant a soothing short phrase and focus on it completely. Sometimes I choose a scripture and other times its just whatever helpful phrase comes to mind.

6. Carry a small object with you.

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I kept a lavender sachet in my pocket for awhile. Something that gives you comfort and peace. Things that engage one of your senses is good for diverting anxiety.

7. Herbs can help.

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This tea is very soothing. A bit on the strong side if seeped for too long. I also love Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea.

Camomile and lavender are well known for their soothing properties. Passion flower as a tea, supplement or tincture can also be helpful. I’ve also heard good things about valerian root capsules. Check with your doctor and do your research to find what works best for you.

8. Aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy can work wonders. Again chamomile and lavender are great. I also love the Skin Restore synergy blend. Formerly called anti-scar stretch blend, it is a lavender and neroli combo from Plant Therapy.

I use it in my car diffuser or simply smell it straight from the bottle.

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Love this stuff.

There are tons of resources out there for essential oils to use for anxiety, calming and sleep. All of these categories will help with anxiety.

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For me, the best and most soothing essential oil has always been lavender 🙂

9. Get a pet.

Since we got a cat I have felt more calm & at ease. I love my kitty Stella. She gives me much joy.

Did you know that cats purr for different reasons? They purr when they are happy, but also purr to calm themselves or to help heal themselves. I can’t help but wonder if a cat’s purr can soothe and heal the human spirit as well.

10. Guard your thoughts.

An episode can sneak up on you so easily. 9/10 times I notice it happens when I let my thoughts totally run away with me.

I have to focus on what I am thinking about. Know when I am feeling overwhelmed and know how to put a halt to the anxious thoughts. It isn’t easy.

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But with focus and practice it can happen. Don’t discount what you are worrying about. Recognise it as a real issue but rationalise it. Sometimes I get to thinking that an issue is the most important thing in the world when its not. What is important is my health and balancing self-care with responsibilities.

~~~

I want to add that it is ok, completely ok to seek help. Go to counseling, take a perscription for awhile if your doctor agrees it is needed. Do not be afraid to seek care for yourself. You are not a failure if you need outside help to get you going. I know it can be so easy to feel defeated but you’re not alone. There is help & hope ❤

~Rachel

Reflections

A Rainy Day Poem of Yesteryear

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We have had an insane amount of rain lately. At times one of my old poems comes to mind as it did today. So I wanted to share it. It is truly from yesteryear…written over a decade ago in my teen years. I did alter it slightly for clarity.

This poem is about storms, mysteries and my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

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Nothing Is a Mystery

The sky

Is 42 shades of grey

Come what may

A storm won’t make me cry.

I smile when

The clouds break

Then in a minute-give or take

The earth soaks in H²0.

Thunder dispels my fear

God’s power is in the storm

This is my refuge, my dorm

To know the God of all the earth

Holds me dear.

How I love

This moment, how I hold it dear.

My Creator-God

In all majesty.

A redeeming Lamb

He died and shed blood for you, For me.

I’m not a scholar, but I know this key…

Jesus took all the blame.

Romans 8:1 is a breath of peace

I was shown the way, a place

To release.

How I love You, God, how I need You.

I know not what to do.

Lord, our lives seem so full of trouble.

But really, we’re so enclosed in

A bubble.

Break us free.

So we can be

Everything You set us out to be.

Please change me.

Bring me beyond

All the boundaries

Make me free to

Live.

See the rain,

I’ll never know some things

But I know Someone who knows all.

I have a long line of questions

One day I will see the One

Who knows all mysteries.

Job 36:22-33

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~Rachel

Reflections

Can a Christian Read Fifty Shades of Grey?

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This post is an edit of the one I wrote March 23, 2015.

Oh boy. You’re writing about that?! You bet. I spent a lot of time figuring out my thoughts on this topic. And originally I had a lot to say, but I realized that the direction that I was taking wasn’t what God wanted me to write. So over a period of time I have written and re-written this post.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are we not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”                  1 Corinthians 5:12-13a (NIV)

I have chosen to address this post to a Christian audience. This is mainly because my viewpoint comes from a Biblically based Christian standpoint and it doesn’t seem fair to subject unbelievers to that. Throughout this post, I will share some scripture and my thoughts on why a Christian must abstain from reading this specific brand of literature.

I began this post because I needed to figure out the whys of what I believed about this book. I didn’t agree with those believers who thought that reading Fifty Shades was ok. So I looked at things objectively. I did a lot of research. I also spent a good bit of time seeking understanding in this matter so that I could respond with care.

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I wanted to know, really know why I shouldn’t read these books which had become so popular. And I also wondered why they were so popular. Aside from the obvious “it’s about sex”.

I see this genre as a response to fill a problem that many women face. I think that this is much of the reason why the Fifty Shades of Grey literature gained so much popularity.

A Few Reasons for Popularity

1) I see that this book is geared towards women, especially moms who might wish to escape from a sometimes busy and demanding life. There is no harm in a novel, but the morality of the content is also important.

2) Women want to be seen as desirable. One of the major themes in the Twilight books and Fifty Shades is that a woman is pursued, wooed and made to feel desirable. Which is something that I would say we all want as women. Again, nothing wrong with that. But God created that desire to be met in courtship and marriage. He created and wanted that exclusivity that existed between husband and wife from the very beginning with Adam and Eve.

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Talking About Judgement

Is it my place to be judgemental? Yes and no. If it wasn’t my place, then I wouldn’t have felt the prompting to write this. However, I am not of the school of thought which says, “Slather on that judgement!”. Judgement should be made and delivered with a great amount of prayer, thought and wisdom.Thus it is important to remember the words Jesus spoke.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1 (NIV)

Don’t judge? For this passage, I dug out my commentary and took a gander at the insight offered there.

“Before presuming to help others, one must undergo some self-discipline and yield to the discipline of the Lord (Ps. 51:10-13).”                                                      -Moody Bible Commentary (2014)

And oh yeah, that happened. The Lord very much worked on my own heart as I began to write this post.

The Flesh and the Spirit

I’ve been reading in Romans chapter 8 where Paul talks about the flesh and the spirit. How they battle for control in the believer’s life. We have to choose everyday which we will serve. Who we will serve. It is not an easy task. I myself have difficulty keeping that balanced mindset.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6 (NIV)

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Be Selective About Your Reads

I could easily choose to pick up Fifty Shades and read it. Give in to the voice that says it is ok.

But I’ve heard that gentle voice, that quiet but firm word of caution saying, “Stay away”. And I know I must stay far away from temptation because the Holy Spirit is there to guide me. To help and protect me. My mind, my spiritual health is valued by God. And He wants me to value it too.

Just like what you feed your body determines your overall health. Your skin can show if you’ve been eating your fruits and veggies. Found that one out lately. Your mind, your actions, emotions and thoughts can show you what you have been reading, watching, dwelling on. Even things that you have viewed or read long ago can come up again. Which is why it is so important to be on your guard.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

There was a time in my life when I was not as guarded as I should have been when it came to my choice in literature. I learned a very valuable lesson from that and now I am very careful to avoid what is not wholesome. Am I perfect? No. But I do know firsthand that choosing what is unwholesome can haunt, can trouble and linger.

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Conclusion

Ultimately, I do not believe that reading these books or watching the movies are compatible with a life that is devoted to following after God. I can find no scripture that would support that stance.

In conclusion, I have to ask: is it a sin to read this Fifty Shades series? To watch the movies? Everything I’ve read in the Bible and what I know about the series points to a yes. Fifty Shades of Grey is not compatible with the believer’s life. Much caution is needed here. Think twice about reading this book, about watching the movies and listen intently to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

~Rachel

Reflections

“Light Will Come Bursting In” (Plus Pictures of a Few Hatian Souvenirs)

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I am long overdue for this promised post. On June 16th, I mentioned in my post Where Dirt Meets Light and Love that I was walking into a difficult week. That day seems like a lifetime ago. That Friday was the day my husband left to go on a long journey to a far away place. He was 6 days in the country of Haiti.

What was he doing there? He was part of a team from our church that built 5 houses for 5 separate Hatian families.

It was an interesting time. For me and for him as well, but in a different way of course. I meditated on Psalm 112, especially verses 4-7.

Verse 4a says that…

“When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in.” (NLT)

As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, this verse was particularly meaningful to me. Situations of stress and sadness can amplify those issues and so I knew it was important to cling to positivity. And hope.

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the LORD to care for them.” (verse 7, NLT)

So yes, the days were long and the evenings difficult. But my sleep was sound.

Nothing compares to the ache of missing the one you love. But such joy in being reunited. Such peace and sweet relief.

I wanted to share some pics of a few things that my husband brought home from Haiti.

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Pikliz, mother and baby figurine (I adore it), bracelet, wooden bowl, vanilla.

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The vanilla I have not tried yet but it smells amazing. Some of it leaked into the gallon ziplock during travel. The label says it is a vanilla concentrate. I’ve been running low on vanilla so I will have to add some to a recipe soon.

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Close up of the Pikliz.

Ingredients: Vinaigre, Choux, Piment, Poivron Rouge, Carote, Sel, Echalote

I thought this was Creole but google translator translated it better when I selected “French” as the language although some of the words were spelled a bit differently.

Therefore: Vinegar, Cabbages, Pepper, Red Pepper, Carrot, Salt, Shallot are the ingredients.

The best way that I can describe the Pikliz is “a spicy coleslaw without the creamy sauce”. I haven’t been adventurous enough to try it yet but my husband did and said it was super-spicy (even for him). He said they had it on everything during super in Haiti. But the stuff they had there was milder in flavor.

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50 HTG (Haitian Gourde). US $1 is equivalent to 62.7106 HTG)

 

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When my husband gave me this rock he said, “Here, this is the most precious thing that I can give you from Haiti”. And yes it is special. But its not the most precious thing that he brought back from Haiti.

The most precious thing was not a thing. It was himself.

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~Rachel

Note: First picture is of Melbourne, Australia. Source: Pixabay.

Reflections

Lessons In Caramel Sauce

As I sat down to write this post, I am thinking of two things. One, Lemony Snicket quotes. Because the title of this blog reminds me of something that he might say. Something like:

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That is from the book The Grim Grotto. Which yes is a kids book and yes I am admitting that I read it. I really like Daniel Handler’s writing style because I do believe that we have the same sense of humor. He has a very unique writing style which I appreciate, as I’m drawn to things that aren’t quite as mainstream.

So now that I’ve divulged that bit of info…the second thing on my mind as I write is that I’m working on expanding the blog to other subjects. Last month I wrote a blog post titled “A Grace-Filled Approach To 50 Shades Of Grey”. (You can read the edited post here.) After writing that post, I realized that I wanted to expand the blog to include other topics. Hence, in the future you may see some diy posts and maybe other reviews of books or movies. Also maybe some gardening stuffs. There’s a reason I chose the name @thehonestherb you know.

Also, I am currently working on narrowing down my posts so my readers can feel like they are reading an actual blog post and not someones med school thesis.

So here is what I learned from caramel sauce last week.

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Yummy carmelitas

Last week a had a dear friend visit me from out of state. So I thought it would be nice to make this dessert to share, since I’ve had it on my pinterest dessert board for forever. I got all of my ingredients together and was feeling very smart and prepared. Problem was, I don’t typically bake anything with caramel sauce in it. Make that I’ve never..somehow..made a dessert with a caramel sauce in it.

But I was feeling very confident. And you know what they say, “Pride comes before a fall.” So I realized afterwards.

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I have destroyed my oven.

This is how it happened. There was a sheet pan in the oven when I put the carmelitas in. From one of those I’ll-just-hide-this-dirty-pan-so-all-my-guests-won’t-see-it type of situations. I took it out, thinking, “Oh I know what I’m doing I won’t need this!” I was sitting visiting with my friend when I smelled a peculiar smell. The caramel sauce had overflowed onto the heating element and had caught fire. I turned off the oven. But. The dessert was not cooked completely to my liking so after the oven had calmed down I turned the oven back on and put the dessert back in. A larger piece of the element caught on fire and broke off. Way to go. I had ruined my oven element trying to cook this dessert.

Lesson learned. Put a sheet pan under the dessert item before baking. Because the caramel was full of sugar, when it burned it heated super hot and apparently had the capacity to catch a red hot element on fire. I wasn’t even aware that this was possible.

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Fixed! Horray!

Because I have the sweetest, smartest and bestest husband in the world, he fixed the oven for me 🙂 He removed the old element and got a new one and installed it. Also he cleaned the outside of the back of the oven and fridge. He made me laugh when he said, “I think I found Jimmy Hoffa!” when he discovered the epic dust ball that had probably never ever been touched since said refrigerator had been purchased. (Notation: we rent and said appliance has been in our apartment for awhile.)

All in all these carmelitas were very good. The top and bottom crust are very comparable to the top crust in an apple crisp. And there is melted chocolate and caramel sauce in between. It was super hard to wait until it had cooled down to try it! I was telling my friend that it really reminded me of a snickers bar meets (some sort of a) crisp. A snickers version of apple crisp.

There you have my latest adventures in baking! What humorous escapades have you had in the kitchen lately?

~Rachel