Tuesday, December 22, 2009

in a manger

"And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,  and laid him in a manger."    Luke 2:7

I brought this nativity set home from a visit I made to Israel about 35 years ago when I was a college student. It's made from the wood of an olive tree.

When I saw the olive wood nativity sets for sale there, I thought that would be the perfect souvenir and I looked carefully for just the right one that was in my price range. I hated having to bargain for a price, but endured it to get what I wanted. It looks kind of crude now. But at the time I was thrilled to find it.

I’ve put it out every Christmas since that time.

Having a nativity set that kids can handle is a good idea, but in spite of that, one wise man has lost his hand somehow.

Baby Jesus also had to get a new bed because his disappeared. His original manger was an oval shape with notched edges. My mother gave this one to me when she saw my poor Jesus with no bed. It’s from a nativity set she got in Mexico. Isn’t that just like a mom? I wonder where her poor baby sleeps.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

Even if the Pilgrims hadn’t started things, harvest time is naturally a thanks giving time. Spade and I are in the autumn of our lives and that’s a harvest time too. We have a few different kinds of harvest going on right now.

One is the fruit on our citrus trees. It’s not a bounty you can put aside to keep yourself alive all winter, but we love our orange juice - or tangerine or tangelo or grapefruit - whatever happens to be ripe from now on for the next few months.

Spade’s like the Little Red Hen who made bread after she grew the wheat and ground it into flour. He planted the trees, keeps them alive and healthy with fertilizer, water, pruning and cold protection. Then he picks the fruit and brings it in the house, where he usually squeezes the juice out. (And even cleans the mess up too!!) That juice is so sweet, and how it comes to us makes it all the better. I’m grateful for it, and for Spade and his work.

I get a miniature thanksgiving feeling when I bring groceries home from the store. I have nothing to do with producing the food, but I’m so thankful while I unpack the bags and fill the refrigerator and pantry. If I happen to have stopped for gas in the car on my way home from the grocery store, then I have double the gratitude. We can eat. We can go somewhere. That’s security and freedom. And I love that feeling.

I’ve been straightening up the house today and I feel so thankful when I look around at it. I like our house, and I’m thankful for it, and I also have a sense of satisfaction when I see the order and cleanliness that my work has created. I like the results of my work. That’s a kind of harvest. It’s nice to step back and admire what I’ve accomplished.

Another harvest is the one from the work we've done in our family.  The hardest and most satisfying work we've ever done was raising our children. And the best part is that they aren’t messed up. :) Well, that's a bit of an understatement. And we’re thankful for that every single day.

We'll be counting our blessings on Thursday and enjoying a feast with family and friends. But we can find harvests and blessings in the normal events of every normal day. There are enough to bring a thankful feeling every day of the year. I hope we remember to do that.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shine on

“There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.”          

Robert Alden

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fast Food

Tali uses just five ingredients to make a great breakfast sandwich that you can be feasting on within five minutes of walking into the kitchen.

You need a couple of eggs, a slice of ham, a slice of cheese, butter and an English muffin.

Break the eggs into a small microwave safe bowl, and stir them with a fork.

Then, put the English muffin in the toaster.

Now put the eggs in the microwave and cook for about a minute.

Slice the cheese.

When the English muffins are toasted, butter them.

When the eggs come out of the microwave, they are in a cute round shape, perfect for an English muffin sandwich. You can melt the cheese a little by putting it into the bowl with the warm eggs for a second or two.

Then, assemble your sandwich. Eggs, ham and cheese on the buttered English muffin.

Fast! Easy! Tasty!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


He's grown about 10 inches and gained nearly 20 lbs.

He's learned to pick up tiny objects using his thumb and forefinger, and has invented a language of his very own.

All in just one year.

Happy Birthday Wally!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One In One Out

Do I love it? Does it fit? Have I used it lately?

I’m cleaning out my closet, and what doesn’t make me happy is going out. If I haven’t used it, if I don’t feel great in it, if I don’t love it, out it goes!

Parting with my clothes is painful! Especially things I’ve enjoyed but that aren’t useful anymore. But at the same time it’s a relief - I enjoy a neat closet and when I clean it, I usually find some long lost stuff.

My husband has a one in, one out policy in his closet. When he gets something new, he gets rid of something old. His side of the closet is balanced. I want mine orderly and color coordinated! I might be in the one in, three out state of closet organization, but I'm determined to find out if less is more.

As I’ve been sorting through my clothes, I started to get the idea of sorting through my habits. How about tossing out the thoughts that don’t make me happy, or just aren’t what I want to be like. Too bad changing habits is a bit harder than changing a shirt!

OK, what habits should I toss? Complaining. No, criticizing. No, worry. Being mean. Being sarcastic. Well, I have a nice list of negative thinking to choose from.

Usually I don’t even notice that my mind is full of dark/sad/mean thoughts, and then I suddenly find myself in the middle of a sad day and I might even be making it a sad day for somebody else!

So how do you wake up and throw out those thoughts and non-thoughts? Waiting for them to show up and then using hand to hand combat to toss them out seems like a slow way to make changes. What if I don’t have a chance to get mad today? Or nobody makes a mistake for me to criticize?

The one in one out idea might be just the thing for my dark thoughts. What would happen if I get my mind so full of the positive that there’s no room for darkness to sneak in? In with the happy, out with the sad!

I’ll try Alex Haley’s motto, “find the good and praise it” and apply it everywhere, to people, to the weather, to whatever happens today.

I knew of a man who hummed a hymn to himself when he felt angry. He looked like a happy guy. And he was. He was a guy who was keeping the door locked and bolted against emotions and thoughts he didn’t want.

Instead of fighting negativity, I’m going to keep my mental closet so full of kind, cheerful and optimistic thoughts that there’s no room for whiney, mean, sad ones.

There really is so much good all around every day, it shouldn’t be hard to find it. That quest actually sounds kind of pleasant.

So it’s one in one out for me. With clothes, habits, thoughts, whatever I feel like changing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

another ratatouille moment

Spade recently came across another favorite treat from his childhood and this one is courtesy of Angie also. It seems some of his favorite foods had skipped a generation, from his mom, past me and showing up again with our daughter-in-law. (Not that I didn't try!)

Here are Angie's Ginger Cookies

Measure these dry ingredients into a large bowl:
4 ½ Cups flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ t salt

In a mixing bowl, cream together:
1 ½ cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup molasses

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.
Form the dough into balls about an inch in diameter.
Put about ¾ c sugar in a bowl and roll the cookies in the sugar before placing them on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 8-9 min.
(Mine seem to take a couple minutes longer than that.)

This makes a big batch of cookies. After I cook one cookie sheet full, I form the rest of the dough into balls, roll them in sugar and place them on waxed paper on a baking sheet, then put that in the freezer for a couple of hours. When the cookie dough is frozen, I put all the frozen dough balls in a large zip lock bag and keep it in the freezer.

Then, when we're in the mood for cookies, I just put the frozen cookies on a cookie sheet, pop it in the oven and cook it for a minute or two longer than unfrozen dough would cook.

Having a bag of frozen cookie dough in the freezer is a great thing that lets you go from hungry for a cookie to eating a warm one in about 15 minutes time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

now you tell me

When I was growing up, macaroni and cheese was not on the menu. But since it is was a favorite in Spade's family, I've made it often for the last 32 years.

I've used the same recipe, with minor variations, these past many years and never felt a need to venture from it. Then last week I came across a recipe that Angie had copied for me from the New York Times a couple of years ago. It had been sitting in my notebook untried when I came across it and I suddenly felt like doing something new.

Everyone loved the results and later Spade told me that that was just like his mother used to make and he liked it more than my faithful recipe that I've been using for three decades. :)

It's not the creamy dish I usually make, but it's plenty cheesy with a nice crispy cheesy crust on top.

I don't have the link to the original recipe, I'll just copy it for you the way Angie did for me.

Crusty Macaroni and Cheese

Time: 1 hr 15 minutes
Yield 8 to 12 servings

3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
12 ounces American cheese or cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 pound elbow pasta, boiled in salt water until just tender, drained and rinsed under cold water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
2/3 cup whole milk

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Combine grated cheese and set aside two heaping cups for topping.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheeses, cayenne (if using) and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more until crusty on top and bottom.

The menu we eat is pretty simple and we do it almost the same time after time. We have the macaroni and cheese along with broccoli and canned stewed tomatoes. (or canned diced tomatoes or one of the variations of canned tomatoes). It sounds so boring when I write it out, but it's really a favorite meal and doing it just this way is a familiar ritual we always enjoy.

Except that now I don't have to make the white sauce and melt the cheese! After all these years! I'm loving the change!

Friday, August 21, 2009

happy birthday joelle

the world is a brighter place since you came along

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

Friday, July 31, 2009

a quarter of a century!

For a quarter of a century we've enjoyed our front row seats watching the adventures of Tali.

We're looking forward to what the next quarter century will bring.

But for today, we wish her a very happy birthday.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

when the wrong road is the right road

Greg Mortenson took the wrong path while hiking down from his failed attempt to climb the Himalayan mountain K2, and it changed his life.

He was weak and ill because he had spent three days and all his strength to help rescue a fellow climber. After that effort, he realized he could not recover his strength enough to safely attempt to climb the summit. He decided to head back down to the town where he had set out from three months before.

During seven days of walking, he became separated from his porter. He missed the turn to civilization and instead found himself in a tiny remote village, the first foreigner ever to enter there.

The villagers welcomed him warmly, generously shared their meager food and shelter, and Greg began to recover his strength.

As he became stronger, he gave what he could to the villagers. He distributed the possessions from his pack, the nalgene bottles and flashlights, the camping stove, his warm clothing. But what was of most help to the villagers was Greg's nursing skills. He used the medical supplies he'd brought and his training as a trauma nurse to help with all manner of health problems among the villagers. He became known and is still known as "Dr Greg."

It was when he visited the village "school" that Greg Mortenson found the way he really could show his gratitude to the villagers for their kindness to him, and it has become his life's mission. He saw the children of the village meeting in the open air, sitting on the ground, copying their multiplication tables in the dirt with sticks. He saw their eager desire to learn and felt his "heart was being torn out."

That day Greg, who had only enough money to pay for his trip back to California, promised to return to the village and build a school.

Three Cups of Tea is the story of how Greg accomplished that. And of how in the process, he has been kidnapped, has received death threats, and even fatwas issued by angry mullahs. In spite of all this Greg has gathered the resources and found the people to build not only the school in the village of Korphe, but 178 schools in villages in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has also set up many schools in refugee camps.

This is the story of a determined man who has really given his heart to his project of helping people in remote areas whose own governments have neglected them. It's an exciting adventure as well as a heartwarming tale of sacrifice and work.

In the 16 years since he strayed off the trail, Greg's work has served 28,000 students and is still growing - this month he opened a new school in Afghanistan. Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was there, and so was Thomas Friedman. You can read about it here.

Greg's approach could be summed up by this bit of wisdom. "When your heart speaks, take good notes." As his heart has spoken, not only his life, but many others' as well, have been profoundly changed.

Three Cups of Tea is written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin and published by Penguin Books.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

she's golden

Happy golden birthday to our golden girl.

She's much more than a ray of sunshine in our lives.

Monday, July 27, 2009

dive buddies

From our trip to the Bahamas

Saturday, July 25, 2009

happiness is a bowl of cherries

When I was a child I loved to climb any tree, but to climb a cherry tree was pretty much to climb to heaven.

My grandparents had cherry trees in their yard and I would take a bucket to put some cherries in, but instead of filling the container, I'd sit in the tree and feast on cherries until I couldn't eat any more.

I'm still inclined to eat too many cherries, and I while I do it, to think back to those happy times in a tree surrounded with that sweet, juicy fruit.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

birthday donuts

I would guess that most parents are pretty sure, from the moment their daughter is born, that there will never be anyone good enough to be her boyfriend, and certainly not her husband. We sure felt that way. Until we met Paul.

Happy Birthday to our favorite son-in-law.

Too bad you're not here to help us eat the donuts.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Eliza M Hickok

I know not by what methods rare
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His Word,
Which tells me prayer is always heard,
And will be answered, soon or late.
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blest.

Eliza M. Hickok, “Prayer,” The Best Loved Religious Poems, ed. James Gilchrist Lawson, New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1933, p. 160

Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) memorized this poem as a boy growing up in Idaho and he used to quote it from time to time when he became a church leader. I always enjoyed hearing it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lost and Found

You wouldn't expect to discover a great recipe in an orthodontist's office, but that's where I found the recipe that foreshadowed this Asian Pasta. I was browsing through a magazine when a recipe caught my eye and I hurriedly scribbled it into a little notebook I had with me. I tried it out right away and we loved it. I thought my sister-in-law would love it, but I procrastinated sending it to her, and then, before we could even enjoy the recipe a second time, I lost it!

At the next orthodontist appointment I looked for the magazine and it wasn't there. Then I looked for the magazine in the library with no luck. I pined for it and really regretted that I hadn't shared the recipe when I first thought of it. (Always share your recipes, you'll know who to call when you can't find one!) I wished I'd typed it out and added it to my recipe book. And I started a quest to find that recipe somehow.

It was several years later when I discovered a similar recipe in the newspaper and we've been enjoying it ever since. Every time I make it I'm glad I was able to discover it a second time.

Asian Pasta
1 (8 oz) pkg linguine

1 chicken breast or two thighs, cooked and cubed

1 bunch green onions (about 1/2 C)
about half a pint of grape tomatoes halved or 3 med tomatoes to make about 1 cup diced
2 med ribs celery (about 3/4 C)
1 med cucumber (about 3/4 C)
(or try some other vegetables, like carrots, and/or sweet pepper)

1/4 C vegetable oil
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
a half inch piece of ginger, minced and crushed or 1 t ground ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

1/4 C unsalted peanuts, chopped


Cook Linguine acccording to package directions.

Chop vegetables and place in 3 qt serving bowl along with the chicken.

Mix all sauce ingredients together until smooth. Set aside until pasta is done.

Chop the peanuts and set aside.

When pasta is tender, drain and add to bowl with veggies and chicken. Then pour the sauce over it and stir it all together. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the mixture and serve right away.

This makes a nice meal for four. For our family of six, I always doubled it.

We served this last week when our neighbors came over for dinner, and I left the sugar out of the sauce. It tasted fine. So you can cut the sugar down to nothing if you'd like, without ruining the flavor at all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

roommates with recipes

One of the good things about having kids go away to school (and I have to admit that I hate it that my kids have gone off to school, or gone off anywhere for that matter -- in my perfect world they'd stay right here with Mommy forever. :) ) But anyway, they do it and one of the good things about that is getting to meet their roommates and friends.

It's been so interesting to see the friends from time to time over the years and if we don't see them, then to hear about their lives and jobs and families and adventures, etc.

Some of these friends have found a place in my kitchen as well as my heart. Tali's been especially good at teaching me the cooking tricks and recipes she's learned from her roommates. She made some very tasty brownies for Mother's day and they're easy to do. It was basically a doctored up brownie mix, but you could use your favorite recipe and doctor it if you wanted to.

Presenting: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies

You can use your usual brownie recipe or get any brownie mix you like. Prepare it according to the package directions. When you have the batter ready, take a knife and dab pea sized globs of peanut butter in the bottom of the pan. Imagine where you'll be cutting the pieces and put one or two globs in each piece.

Then spread the brownie batter into the pan. Now sprinkle chocolate chips over the batter. I don't know how much she used, but I'd start with 1/4 cup and see how that looks. I also might try the bittersweet chips, just because I'm so addicted to dark chocolate. The tiny chips are especially good for sprinkling over things. Or regular chips could be chopped into little bits...

Bake according to the package directions.

That's it!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father is another name for love

Earlier this week, when Barack Obama was asked to compare his duties as a parent to those of the President of the United States, he responded, “There’s nothing more fun than being a father.”

And nothing more important.

Here's a beautiful tribute from a son about his father, made in about 544 BC.

"...my father... was a just man -- for he taught me in his language, and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord -- and blessed be the name of my God for it--
...and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart."

Enos wrote this about his father Jacob, who had been a prophet and teacher. (Book of Mormon p136.) It's not surprising that Enos became a spiritual leader and teacher as well.

And blessed be the name of God for all the men who are caring for and influencing the children of today in ways that will lead them to live happy and productive lives. There's nothing the world needs more than that right now.

As William Wordsworth said, "Father! - to God himself we cannot give a holier name."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

wildflowers in wild places

Today when I left on my walk the sun was obscured by a light fog, but look what greeted me from a ditch beside the road.

A friend once told me that if you just show her a yellow flower on the side of the road it will make her happy. She loves yellow that much.

If you show me any flower on the side of the road it will make me happy. I love wildflowers that much.

But if you show me a flower in a ditch, that will make me really happy.

Flowers in a ditch make me feel closer than a few eons away from that time that "God said let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself...."

I imagine the seeds that have laid in the ditch waiting through drought and cold and flood for just the right conditions to grow and blossom are descended from the original "herb yielding seed."

All the roadside flowers that grow without any cultivation, fertilizer, irrigation or even notice from humans make me happy because they thrive where it's surprising to even see a plant at all.

It reminds me of the familiar saying "Bloom where you are planted."

Which, if we remember who the Gardener is and what He can do, should give us confidence that we really can.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

some assembly required

This is our favorite spaghetti. I got the recipe when we were on a sailing trip in the Virgin Islands about 20 years ago. The sailboat was from Spain, so this might be Spanish style spaghetti. We call it Bacon Spaghetti.

Here's what you need to make it:
1 lb box of spaghetti
bottle of marinara sauce
pint of whipping cream or half and half
package of bacon
parmesan cheese

Here's how to do it.

Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces, then cook it in a sauce pan to the doneness you like. Drain the grease.

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti. If it gets done before the sauce, drain the water and add a little olive oil and keep it covered.

Then add the marinara sauce to the bacon and heat through. Add as much of the whipping cream as you like. I usually use almost the whole pint. (I've also saved calories on this recipe by using turkey bacon and evaporated or skim milk.) Heat but don't boil.

That's it! Pass the Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thanks Mom!

Holding hands - Joelle and Wally

"I have learned to place a high estimate upon the love of mother. I have often said, and will repeat it, that the love of a true mother comes nearer being like the love of God than any other kind of love."
(Joseph F. Smith, “Love of Mother and Father,” Ensign, Aug 2004, 8–10. Joseph F. Smith became an orphan at the age of 14. He served a mission to Hawaii at the age of 15, where he became deathly ill and was nursed to health over a period of months by a Hawaiian woman who he later referred to as "My mother, my dear old mother.")

Saturday, May 9, 2009

don't be a goat

What did the goats do that was so bad?

In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the goats end up in everlasting fire after the King has separated them from the sheep. When I read this, I imagine you have to do a lot of really bad things to be sent off to everlasting fire with the goats rather than to be called blessed and welcomed into God's kingdom with the sheep.

As He separates the sheep from the goats, the King does explain why the goats are sent one way and the sheep the other. He tells the goats that they did not help the hungry or thirsty, did not take in a stranger, didn't give clothes to the naked, didn't visit the sick or those in prison.

And when they didn't do those things for the people around them, they didn't do it for Him.

So it turns out that the goats didn't do a long list of bad things, or really, any bad things. They just didn't do the good things.

Now that's a sobering thought.

Friday, May 8, 2009

proverb from the philippines

The early bird may get the worm
but the late rising worm lives.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

dessert for breakfast

This is my favorite way to have oatmeal.
Use a pretty big bowl.
Scoop 1/2 cup oatmeal into the bowl and add 1 cup milk.
Cook in the microwave for 2 mins or so, be careful that it doesn't boil over.
Slice a banana into the warm oatmeal, slice a few strawberries in, break up a few pecans over the top. (You can use any fresh or dried fruit you have.)
You'll think you're having dessert for breakfast!

Monday, April 27, 2009

take off your shoes

Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every common bush is on fire with God;
but only he who sees takes off his shoes;
the rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barret Browning

I take my camera on my walk each day, but I just can't capture the way the sun reflects on the leaves and the grass. It's like diamonds.
There are some other things I wish I could capture.
The feel of the breeze at the perfect temperature.
And the scents. Today there was sweet jasmine, fresh mowed grass and woodsy piles of leaves and pine needles.
And the sound of the birds who greet each day so exuberantly.
It really is a bit of heaven right here on my street.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Birthday pie

Thirty years for Ajay!
He wasn't here to celebrate, but we didn't let that stop us.
Nobody could have a better friend or a better son.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

with the blink of an eye

When Jean-Do Bauby set out in a chauffeured car to take his son to a play one night in Dec 1995, he could not have known that his trip would end at Berck-sur-Mer, a rehabilitation hospital. The turn his life took that night was one that no one would ever anticipate. Who has even heard of “locked-in-syndrome”?

But fortunately for us, he produced a memoir of his experiences. There's probably no way to really understand what this new life was like, but it's fascinating and inspiring to read about.

Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the French fashion magazine Elle and was only 43 yrs old when he suffered the stroke that left him completely paralyzed. Well, not completely, he had the use of one eye. It was by blinking his eye that he was able to communicate and that is how he dictated his book.

He called the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, representing his physical body trapped in a diving bell and his mind, free to wander about, as a butterfly.

The story is heartbreaking, but it’s told with optimism and humor and ends up being uplifting rather than depressing.

The book was made into a very beautiful movie that does an amazing job of showing the world from Jean-Do's limited point of view. Unfortunately some of the movie is fictionalized, which is too bad because the true story is powerful enough and needs no embellishment.

Read the book. See the movie. It will open your eyes to see the world in a new way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Banana bread... with chocolate.

This is another recipe from my mother-in-law with a couple changes.

Cream together:
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened margarine
1/4 cup sour cream (or buttermilk)
2 eggs
2 mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together in a separate bowl, then add to creamed mixture:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Then fold in:
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, chopped into small pieces

Bake in a 5x9 inch pan at 325 for about an hour.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Life

Spring is a perfect metaphor for the message of Easter. The new growth everywhere reminds me of the new life promised to us through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Because of His atoning sacrifice and death, we are raised, after our death, to eternal life through the power of the resurrection.

His sacrifice allows us to look forward to eternal life, and it also allows us to begin a new and better life every single day. As we repent, we leave the mistakes of the past behind and become a new better person. It's Jesus Christ who gives us the chance to change and the strength to do it. Because of Him, each new day can be a fresh new start.

In any difficult time, but especially with the death of of a loved one, the promise of eternal life is the best comfort. But even in our daily troubles and shortcomings, the mercy offered by Jesus Christ brings hope and peace.

Easter is a one day celebration, but its message is a blessing every single day. Not just for the big challenges but for every little one as well.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

Thursday, April 9, 2009

five dozen

seconds in a minute
minutes in an hour
years for Spade

Sixty used to seem old, but not on you.
Happy Birthday, Spade.
And many more.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Italian Potato Soup

I tried to re-create a soup we had at an Italian Restaurant. It turned out easy and tasty!

These are the ingredients:
1 package Italian sausage (1 to 1 1/2 lb)
1 onion
1 3 lb bag red potatoes
soup base, or bullion cubes, or broth (I use Better Than Bullion chicken or vegetable flavor)
1 pint half and half ( or milk)
2 oz arugula
oyster crackers

Here's how to do it.
Break the sausage into small pieces and cook.
Chop the onion and add to the sausage toward the end of the cooking.
Wash and slice the potatoes and add to pan after onions are translucent. Add enough water to barely cover (about 4-5 cups) and some soup base (about 2 Tbs) and cook until the potatoes are done. ( about 10 mins or so).
Add the half and half.
Add about 2 oz of arugula. (that's about half of a bag)
Serve with oyster crackers.
This makes about 8 servings.

Friday, March 27, 2009

be glad

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Thursday, March 26, 2009

dark chocolate + coconut = brownie bliss

This is a recipe I adapted from the brownie recipe on the back of a Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate baking bar. It's like a Mounds brownie.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter and flour an 8" x 8" baking pan.

Melt 2/3 cup (4 oz) Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup unsalted butter.

Let cool to room temperature.

Stir in 1 cup brown sugar, packed and 1 tsp vanilla.

Add 2 eggs, mix well.

Sift together:
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup & 2 Tbsp all purpose flour

Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut.

Pour batter into pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Try not to eat the whole thing at once.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Invincible Summer

In Florida, we don't see much change around us as the seasons go by, but I was in northern Virginia earlier this month and signs of spring were everywhere. It started with noisy birds at dawn. Little flowers coming up through the grass. Buds opening into new leaves and flowers on trees. A fresh scent in the air.

Watching all this brought to my mind Camus' statement, “In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.”

Then I started to wonder if I had an invisible summer within me, and what it might be.

One thing I know I can always count on is my family and friends. For love, encouragement and help you couldn't find any better support group.

But abundant love and kind intentions isn't enough to really be an invincible summer. My dearest ones are totally there for me the best they can be, but sometimes it just isn't what I need. All people have their own needs... they get busy... they don’t always understand...

Occasionally I think I know how Abraham Lincoln must have felt when he said, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day."

My problems are nothing compared to what Lincoln faced, but I do know that when there's no where else to turn, we always have help through prayer.

No matter what might be going on around us, what might be disappointing, painful or troubling, there is a completely reliable source of help. We can find it in the midst of any winter, no matter how dark or cold. That is Jesus Christ. For love, mercy, kindness, wisdom, strength, peace, help, hope. He is the Invincible Summer. He is just a prayer away.

I love this hymn.

Where Can I Turn For Peace?

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

Emma Lou Thayne, b. 1924© 1973 IRI

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Very Tasty Curry

Several years ago a friend from Hong Kong showed me how she made curry. Joelle and I made it together recently and it was the best we'd ever made!

We used the list of ingredients from my friend's curry and added a few touches of our own. Here's what we did.

First we chopped
half an onion, a shallot,
half a yellow pepper and minced 3 cloves garlic. Then we heated olive oil in a large pot and sauteed them.

Then we chopped 3 chicken breasts and 6 or 7 small white potatoes into bite sized pieces and added them to the pot, and stirred it all for a few minutes.

Then we added enough water to cover the chicken and potatoes, and 3 tablespoons soup starter and brought to a simmer. (You can use bullion cubes or broth if you want to.)

When the potatoes and chicken were cooked, we added:
one can of coconut milk
one medium sized tomato, chopped
a half cup of frozen peas
one tablespoon thai curry paste
one teaspoon of yellow curry powder

And cooked this until it was all warm.

We served it over jasmine rice.


This is about four generous servings.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Love ever gives.
Forgives, outlives.
And ever stands with open hands.
And while it lives, it gives.
For this is love's prerogative --
to give and give and give.

John Oxenham 1852-1941

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Alternative Chicken Soup

Chicken noodle soup is the best therapy for a cold. Unfortunately we've needed it the last couple of weeks. I was in the mood for something a little different the other day and I tried adding a few different spices to my chicken soup and ended up with an interesting soup, more like a stew, that I think is as good for a cold as chicken noodle.

I'll give a recipe for about 8 servings, because when I make soup, I like to make a big pot so we can have leftovers once or twice. Cut the recipe down if you want a smaller amount, or if you don't have a nice big pot to make it in.

Chicken Soup, Moroccan Style

I used
3 chicken breasts. Cook them anyway you like and cut or tear the meat into small pieces. If you cook it in water, save the broth to add to the soup. (I had about 5 cups meat - but you could use a lot less or even leave it out.)

Chop the following and saute in
olive oil:
3 stalks celery
4 carrots
an onion
a sweet pepper, any color you like

(If you cook the celery and carrot alone for first for a few minutes, then the pepper and onion won't get too overdone.)

water, (use the water the chicken cooked in.) I think I added about 9 or 10 cups water total, but you don't need to start with that much, 6 is probably enough to finish cooking the carrots and the pasta. Add soup base, probably 2 Tblspoons now and 2 later, as you adjust the seasonings. (You can use bullion cubes instead of soup base or you could use broth.) Bring the water to a boil and add 1 1/3 C orzo. (about half a 1lb box). Cook 10 minutes.

2 large cans diced tomatoes
2 cans garbanzo beans
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger and cumin
3/4 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
pepper to taste, maybe a heaping 1/4 t
a couple more Tblspoons of soup base
you probably don't need any salt
more water if you need it

(The orzo absorbs the water and the soup gets thicker after a little while. And especially in the refrigerator overnight.)

Heat through.

I like this soup because it smells fantastic and the flavor is so interesting. And almost all the ingredients can be found in the pantry. I hope you like it too.