My Times Are in Your Hands

We all get words, phrases, songs, limericks and sayings stuck in our head. Some weeks I'm humming a top 40 chorus, some days I'm recalling a movie line. For the past two weeks a Bible verse hasn't left my mind or my heart for more than a couple of hours.

My times are in Your hands... Psalm 31:15

Time. The precious commodity. The fleeting one. The thing we always want more of and yet the thing we often neglect to prioritize properly.

Today, a missionary my age, who I graduated Bible college with many years ago had a sudden heart attack and passed away. Leaving a wife and three small children behind in Indonesia.

Yesterday, at the gas station not too far from our sleepy little neighborhood, a random robbery ended in death.

And this week I lost someone very dear to me to cancer. I'm heartbroken at his passing.

Time is not guaranteed to us and it is most definitely not in our hands. Yet each day that it is gifted to us, we have the amazing responsibility to use it at our discretion.

I have always had an immense respect for time. Call me sentimentalYet because of my awareness of it, I have always managed it properly and re-evaluate where I spend it, making course corrections when things get out of whack. I am thankful for it and I treasure each moment of it I get here on this Earth. And I am resolutely aware, that my times are not just in my hands. They are in the One who gave me life and who keeps hope in my heart each day.

But what I do with my time, each day~ each year matters. My children are growing up and my relationship with my husband is evolving. This new thing in my life called "career" is blossoming and new opportunities open each day. My friendships are expanding and my closest ones remain dear to my heart.

And each day I want to use my time with wisdom and thoughtfulness. I don't want to spend 15 minutes scrolling through Instagram photos when my 7 year old is sitting on the couch next to me staring at a TV. I don't want to schedule unnecessary meetings when I could be putting it towards mentoring another or helping a friend in need. I don't want to be missing out on the chance to bless my neighbors with kindness, send a letter across the miles or make a candlelit dinner for my family at the end of the day. friend who passed away this week...Steve and I would write letters to one another. He was a mentor since I was 13. He gave me the only nickname in life I've ever been given, MP (Megan Page). The time he invested in my life is incalculable. He cheered me on through those confusing middle and high school years and made sure I never forgot my worth, value and beauty. He was a father figure to many and I'm so blessed to have been one of them.
Last month, knowing he was growing weaker by the day, I stopped in the middle of dish washing and sat down to write him another letter. A longer letter. A walk-down-memory-lane letter. A thank you letter. My last message from Steve was a note on my Facebook wall thanking me for it. I only wish I could have had time to hold his hand and tell him those things in person.


Football Season's Sweet Ham and Yeast Rolls

It’s football season. Oh, and it’s consistently 42 degrees outside. And my yoga pants, fuzzy boots and cozy over sized Abercrombie & Fitch sweatshirt has become my daily wardrobe.

What is it with these cold weather months? In the summer, I can go weeks on salads, grilled chicken and pineapple (and large doses of ice cream too, of course). But the minute that thermometer dips below 60 degrees, I’m scarfing down every carb-ridden, mayonnaise-laden, rich-sauced bit of food I can find, like a Survivor competitor winning the food reward at a challenge. (Hence the yoga pants reference up there.)

And with all of this hunker-down-and-enjoy-the-snowfall goodness, the Smith Homestead kitchen has officially made its annual rotation from summer menu to winter menu.

This weekend we spent much most of our Saturday watching those incredible rivalry match-ups happening on football fields around the country. And forgoing the typical pizza and chips route, I dug through some of my favorite Fine Cooking back issues to discover this gem of a recipe for yeast rolls…the foundation (and roof) for dozens of mini ham sandwiches to feed this small army of men in the house. 

You could really dress these little sandwiches in all sorts of garb. Relishes, mustard, veggies, cheeses, sauces, etc…. But honestly, nothing is more pure than some sweet ham and a warm roll. Quintessential simple food.

And what I love most about this entire package is that is just so, so simple. The yeast roll dough can be made the night before, shaped and left to rise in the fridge. I did a variation on this recipe. 

I put the ham in the slow cooker for a couple of hours while we went to pick out our Christmas tree and then made a really basic sugar glaze, spread it over the cooked ham and popped it under the broiler till crispy. 

All this to say….on game day, I wasn’t slaving in the kitchen. I was cuddled under the quilt with those sweet boys of mine, cheering on my beloved Buckeyes to their victory over Michigan~ and munching on some really great wintery food. 

Make Ahead Dinner Rolls

4 cups AP flour
1 package (or 2 1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 t salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook (or by hand), combine dry ingredients. Mix gently. Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan (or microwave...that's a little more volatile...keep a watch out for pour over.) Warm the butter and milk to 115 degrees. (If you don't have a thermometer, put your index finger in the milk mixture. You want it to feel quite warm but not hot to the touch.) 

Add the warm milk/butter mixture to the bowl with the egg yolks. Mix on low speed until it comes together and then allow the dough hook (or by hand) knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until it looks and feels smooth as silk. 

Shape into a ball and place the dough in a buttered glass bowl~ one large enough to allow for ample rising. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise...about an hour. 

Butter a 13 by 9 baking dish. 

Turn the dough out on the counter and divide the dough into 16 pieces. I like to use a kitchen scale and weigh to ensure all dough balls are evenly sized. If you go this route, the magic number on the scale is 2oz. per dough ball. As you shape the balls, place them in the buttered baking dish. You should get 16 rolls total. 

**To make ahead: At this point, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. The following day, remove the pan and let it sit at room temperature for 4-6 hours before baking. Proceed to baking as follows.

If baking immediately: Cover the baking pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap when the rolls are puffy and ready for baking. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Basic Sugar Glaze:

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water

Mix all three in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until it liquifies. With a pastry brush, brush the cooked (hot) ham with the sugar glaze and  place it under a high broiler until the sugar has browned and the ham is looking glorious.

**Little scrumptious tip: Take a bit of that sugary glaze that has dripped off the ham and into the pan below and brush it on top of the roll. Seriously heavenly. Makes your fingers slightly sticky and best-of-all, deliciously sweet.