Saturday, June 17, 2017

Power Food


No fifty-something year old woman with no children or grandchildren around and who is fairly competent in the kitchen should be making a special trip to the grocery store to buy cream cheese, pretzels, Cool Whip, and Jello, all to be used in the same recipe...and be excited about it.  But, this is exactly where I find myself today.  I partially blame my Sifted Together blog buddy, Tracey, for this predicament in which I find myself.  She gave me a subscription to Taste of Home’s Simple & Delicious magazine for Christmas and this recipe is on the front cover of the June/July issue.  However, I can’t let Tracey take full blame for my enthusiasm surrounding the making of this recipe, most of it really is couched in realizing the power of food.

Let’s start with the individual ingredients…

Cool Whip - Most people won’t admit it, but almost everyone has a personal relationship with Cool Whip.  It may not be a basic staple in their diet, but I bet there is some family recipe that shows up at family holiday gatherings, probably made by grandma or passed down through her, that has Cool Whip as an integral ingredient.  And we all know that the holiday feast would not be the same without this dish. 

Cream Cheese - Cream cheese is the secret ingredient in  many dips, sauces, appetizers, and desserts.  I’m not much on eating plain cream cheese spread on my bagels, but I am as guilty as the next guy of using cream cheese for that extra oomph in a recipe, especially mashed potatoes.  But, don’t tell anybody!!!

Pretzels - I have to admit that pretzels, as far as I’m concerned, are a basic food group.  They are my favorite “chip” alongside a sandwich, afternoon snack with a Diet Coke, dessert when dipped in chocolate, and the perfect complement to a nice cold beer.  I’m not much of a drinker, but when I do indulge an adult beverage, my preference is a good beer.  That right there probably explains why I am excited about this Pretzel-Cool Whip-Jello recipe! :-)

And then there’s the Jell-O

I have a love-hate relationship with Jell-O.

As a child, Jell-O was a mainstay dessert at my house, made a bit more “healthy” with the addition of canned fruit salad.  Those of us of a certain age will definitely remember this combo.  And if you do, you will also remember that the flavor of Jell-O didn’t matter.  Whatever mom had on hand would do.  I was OK with this “dessert” except for the grapes in the canned fruit cocktail.  They brought the whole experience down a notch.  Grapes should not be canned under any circumstances!

I didn't carry on the family tradition of this Jell-O fruit salad dessert with my girls, but the canned grapes are not the reason.  My girls are the reason.  Let’s see if I can explain this delicately.  When I was pregnant, I had terrible morning sickness…and afternoon and evening and night sickness…and it lasted from conception to eviction.  My inability to keep any food down landed me in the hospital numerous times with both girls.  As any of you who have been in the hospital and on a liquid diet know, Jell-O is served at every meal.  I ate, and often returned, Jell-O in every color and flavor…except strawberry and cherry because they don’t give you red Jell-O in the hospital.  Apparently my prenatal Jell-O experience affected my children because neither one of them has ever really liked Jell-O.

Fast forward sixteen years, when I had suppressed the many episodes of returned Jell-O and other unpleasantries of pregnancy and childbirth, and Jell-O makes a fresh appearance in my life.

Weber, Offspring No. 2, and I went to Delaware to visit my dad.  While there, we had a lunch date with Dad's side of the family - his mother and my grandmother, his sister and my aunt, and one of my cousins.  We met at a local restaurant that was a cross between your typical local diner and Luby’s cafeteria.  As I was perusing the menu trying to make my lunch choice, my aunt and grandmother both said that I HAD to try the Jell-O Pretzel Salad.  For an instant, visions of canned grapes whirling around with pretzels danced in my head until I read the description of said “salad.”  Thankfully, no canned grapes were used in the making of this salad.  Frankly, there was really nothing about this side dish that resembled anything that I would call a salad.  Not only were no canned grapes harmed in the making of this salad, no fruit or vegetable of any kind was used, according to the menu description.  In this case, I think the word “salad” was attached in much the same way that “natural ingredients” is used on chocolate chip cookie packaging; these terms are meant to make us feel better about making not the healthiest food selections.  Whatever.  That day was about time with family, not about obsessing about food choices.  That said, I ordered the Jell-O Pretzel Salad and it was delicious!

After we returned home from that trip, I made the "salad" a time or two.  I hadn’t thought about it much since then until it appeared on the cover of the current issue of Simple & Delicious.  When I saw it, my first response was that I needed to make this recipe right now!  Usually when I thumb through food magazines, I make a mental note of recipes that I want to try.  Eventually I come back to them; or, I don’t.  I resisted the urge to go to the store and buy the ingredients right then, however that self control lasted less than twenty-four hours.  In the middle of the day, with a heat index of 105 degrees, Weber took me to the grocery store for pretzels, cream cheese, Cool Whip, and Jell-O.

I got to work making the “salad” when we got home.  Despite its simple ingredients, this is not an immediate gratification kind of dish.  The pretzel crust has to be baked and cooled completely before the cream cheese and Cool Whip layer is added.  This layer must then chill.  The Jello is made, cools, and partially sets before it can be poured atop the the pretzel and cream cheese base and sets completely.  The whole process takes a couple of hours

My creation was ready to be sliced and eaten about 10pm.  Jell-O Pretzel Salad…it was what’s for dinner.  Yeah, I completely forgot about making real dinner.  Sorry, honey!  Weber sat down with me and we enjoyed our treat together.  It was every bit as good as I remember even though I used black cherry Jell-O instead of the “traditional” strawberry.

As I cleaned up our dishes from this late night treat, I started thinking about why I was so intent on making this recipe.  I realized that it had little to do with the food itself - don’t get me wrong; this is delicious! - and more to do with the circumstance around which I first ate it.

That trip to Delaware and seemingly casual lunch back in June of 2009 was so much more…
  • It was my first trip back to Delaware since  my mother’s funeral in January of 2007
  • It was the first time I had seen my dad since I got divorced.
  • It was the trip on which I introduced Weber to my dad.
  • It was the first time in many, many years that I had seen my grandmother, aunt, and cousin.  (My mom was not much of a family person unless it was her side of the family.)
  • For the first time I saw my dad and his sister banter back and forth like brothers and sisters do, yet there there was an undercurrent of unmistakable and unconditional love.
  • That lunch was the last time that I saw my grandmother alive, the last time that I would be part of a four generation gathering of my family.
  • At the end of our stay in Delaware, despite me being forty-something, Weber asked my dad for my hand in marriage.


Looking back, I now understand why the Jello-O Pretzel Salad elicited such a visceral response in me.

And today as I sit here writing, I am facing the third Father’s Day without my dad and realizing that this day marks the fifth anniversary of my grandmother’s death.

Thank you for the memories, Jello-O Pretzel Salad.  You and I can enjoy one another remebering the first time we met and being thankful for those memories

Here’s to the power of food…


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Many Shades of Friendship

It's been a whirlwind of celebration and good times around our house for the last five days or so.  I know how blessed I am to be able to say that as there are so many people in the world who have nothing to celebrate and not much to call good in their lives.  My hope is that I'll never take any of the gifts of this life for granted.

A good friend flew in last Thursday to spend a few days with me.  It just so happened that Thursday June 8th was National Best Friends Day.  I got to celebrate well!   It was also the randomly assigned date that I was given to write a daily devotion to be shared worldwide by my church.  I have written here before about how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life to call friends...people near and far, old and young, male and female.  To be assigned National Best Friends Day as the inspiration for my devotion was perfect!  I'm not sure that I can call any one person my "best friend" because all of those that I call friends are near and dear to my heart and all add their own unique gifts to my life.

Here is part of the devotion that I wrote on and for National Best Friend's Day.   It is based on the  passage from Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10
It's better to have a partner then to go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps.  But if there's no one to help, it's tough! 
A Word of HopeToday is National Best Friends Day, "a day to honor that one special person you call your “best friend”.   This day is a time to show them how much you appreciate them, how special and important they are to you and how you cherish their friendship."
As an only child and thus never having a sibling relationship, my friends have always held an extra special place in my life.  Whether swapping my favorite marbles on the elementary school playground, lamenting the woes of adolescence, or sharing the joys and sorrows of adult life, friends have taught me that it is most certainly better to have a partner than go it alone.  In many circumstances of my life, I know that my friends have been the hands, feet, and heart of Christ.  And like Jesus, they are the ones who have shown me unconditional love, often when I didn't deserve it. Friends are those people with whom we are comfortable and willing to share trust, support, sympathy and empathy.  But, how often do we think about those particular words when we think about our friends?  
The Urban Dictionary defines friends in this way: [Friends are] "people who are aware of how retarded you are and still manage to be seen in public with you, people who make you laugh till you pee your pants, people who cry for you when one of your special items disappears. When you don’t have enough money to get an ice cream, they chip in. [A friend] knows all of your Internet passwords. They would never make you cry just to be mean."  
Though this definition may seem a bit trite on first reading, it exhibits trust, support, sympathy, and empathy.  It is, at its core, the picture of what we value most in those we call our best friends,  painted in a way that most of us can easily relate.

Yes, the official day to celebrate our best friends has come and gone; however, we can and should be thankful for those people and our relationships with them every day.  

Who are your best friends?  Do you see the hands, feet, and heart of Christ in them?  Can they see and feel Christ in you?  Do you see your friends as a gift from God?  Think about your friends today.  Tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life.  Thank God for them.
If I had to name one best friend, it would be Weber.  He is the one that knows everything there is to know about me - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and is still willing to go to sleep next to me every night and wake up and stand by my side every day.  I'll be the first to admit that some days that is not easy!

One of the reasons that my friend Joni came to visit was to help us celebrate Weber's 60th birthday.  I have to say up front, he is not a birthday party kind of guy.  His dislike of birthday parties is less about the aging thing and more about the party part.  We had to have a little "come to Jesus" discussion about how life is a gift and allowing your friends to celebrate your birthday is a way to say thank you for that gift of life.


We spent Saturday evening, his birthday, surrounded by friends, family, and barbecue.  It's hard to be grumpy when your world is filled with such awesome people!  Banana pudding, instead of birthday cake, helps too!

And as if Saturday night's festivities weren't enough, we reconvened with many of the same people Sunday morning in church  to worship together and afterward to break bread.  Several of us were together again Sunday evening to watch the Tony Awards.  Yep...that's what friends do - celebrate together, pray together, eat together, relax together.  And sometimes we share hugs, tears, laughter, and hard truths.  Oh...and banana pudding!

Today, June 13th, is  International Albinism Awareness Day.  Though albinism is something I have lived with for my entire life, it is not something that I have ever thought deserving of a celebration.  It wasn't until about seven years ago when I became active with the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) that I allowed albinism to be more than just a part of me, but a part of me that is deserving of a celebration every day.

Through NOAH, I have many new friends with whom albinism was the commonality that brought us together, but our friendships are bound together by the things mentioned above - trust, support, sympathy, and empathy.  We are now the kind of friends that will cry together when one of your special items disappears (like those stitches on your sock gusset, Joni), lend money for ice cream (Becca), and hopefully will never make one another cry just to be mean!!!  Stealing your salad fork does not count as being mean, Becca! :-)

Here Joni and I are rocking our friendship and the albinism twin thing.  Lol!  We got to share most of International Albinism Awareness Day together before she headed home.


Thank you to everyone that I am blessed to call friend.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What If...???


If you ignore the weeds, eventually they will take over.  Just as if we allow people to make the same mistakes over and over and over again, the wrong or hurtful or dangerous ways will take over.  Why is it socially unacceptable to point out the error of one's ways?  Why is it wrong to acknowledge that making mistakes is natural.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Yes, even you!  When did it become a sign of weakness rather than a sign of humility to admit when we are wrong?  If not from mistakes, and even failures, how do we learn?  How do we grow?  How do we become better people?  Why do we consider a life lived unaware of our personal shortcomings to be a life of luxury?  

When did discipline, personal and parental, become passe?

When did relationships with power and money become blatantly more important than relationships with people?

It used to be that money, politics, and religion were forbidden topics of conversation even among friends.  What did people talk about?  What would Facebook look like if posts relating to politics, religion, and money were forbidden?   If the conversations that dominate are not about how we spend and/or waste our money, or debating whose religion is best and why most of the world's population is going to hell, or defending and criticizing political moves that have nothing to do with governing this country and everything to do with using, abusing and manipulating people so that a handful of undeserving individuals gain personal power, what would we see in our news feeds?  Lots of kittens and puppies?  That would be OK with me.

How did we get here?

Why are we still here?

Yes, we need to acknowledge and try understand the weeds.  We also need to learn how to tend our gardens...

...how to tame the weeds...

...how to keep them from choking out the roses.









Monday, June 5, 2017

About The Books

I said yesterday that I am a minimalist.  I don't like to be surrounded by a lot of "stuff."  I also said that the one exception to my own "if I can't use it right now then get rid of it" philosophy is books.  I like books.  All kinds of books.  Weber likes books too.  This is good for our relationship and bad for our bookshelves.  When we got married, we had limited shelf space.  We agreed that we would both purge our collections until our combined books would ALL fit on the shelves that we had...nothing stored in boxes or double-shelved.

That was seven years ago.

We have more books now.  We did not purchase shelve space at the same rate that we purchased books.  The books were double and triple stacked on the shelves and the floor.  We couldn't find the ones that we wanted.  I didn't even want to look at the shelves because it just made me sad.  This whole scenario was not pretty.  We finally decided that we needed to bite the bullet and do something proactive.  It was time for some new shelves.

Well...not some new shelves; it ended up being all new shelves.  We went the built-in route.  Fortunately, we have a very good friend who is very capable, talented, and more importantly, was willing to take on our shelf building project.

When it came time to install the shelves, we had to pull all of the books that were fortunate to be on shelves and add them to their friends on the floor.  Our library was a chaotic maze of towering stacks of books.  One false move, window-rattling clap or thunder, or cat who thought stack hopping her next new sport would cause the tenuous at best piles to be reduced to something that looked like a demolition site.

Fortunately the cat stayed away and the weather cooperated.  It was not until the new shelves started being moved in that said cat became interested.  I think she saw the new installation as six story kitty condos.  She spent a great deal of time choosing her perfect unit - checking accessibility and view from every possible location.


This photo makes "the neighborhood" look much more desirable than it really is.  There is just no truth in advertising!!!

Blueper B saw the the real deal and was not at all impressed.


He was not interested in renting a condo anywhere near here. Lol!

Once our friend got the shelves installed, my job of reshelving all of the books began.  I have no idea how many books we have, bu I do know we have approximately 160 linear feet of shelving, that's 1932 inches.  If we assume that the average width of a book is 1.5 inches and that most of our shelves are full, I'd say we have well over 1000 books.  That is a lot of putting book on shelves!!! Our goal was to get them on the shelves grouped in broad categories - poetry and prose, history,  biography, language, creativity, writing, photography and so on.  We will make a second pass and fine tune our categories and alphabetize the shelves a little later.  At this point, we just needed the books off of the floor and in some semblance of order.


Who knew that we had two copies of the Tao of Pooh and three of the Te of Piglet, Dr. Seuss titles in five different languages, two editions of Grimm's Fairy Tales - the happily-ever-after version and the not-so-happily-ever after earlier edition, an American history book with a publication date of 1865, family Bibles dating back to 1890, and a ridiculous amount of poetry.

Though it seemed next to impossible, my goal for today was to get everything off the floor and on a shelf.  This is where I was at lunchtime.


And at dinnertime...Voila!


We are just waiting on drawer and cabinet fronts.  I have a few little aesthetic things left to do, but for the most part I am done!  Even though things aren't alphabetized yet, I am confident that I can now put my hands on any book that I want in no more than a minute or two.  What a great feeling!

The dogs now think the real estate here is pretty nice.  That cat's final choice for her abode is a single cat residence in the form of an upholstered chair rather than in a multi-story cat condo.

Now to take time to relax and read, read, read!!!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Celery Leaves

My dad was raised by a single mother who grew up during the Depression.  From this experience, he learned the importance of hard work and to not waste anything.  Dad would save anything and everything and repurpose it.  Plastic soda bottles with their bottoms cut off became mini greenhouses over pots containing cuttings that were rooting.  He had an unending supply of rubber bands collected from years of morning newspapers.  We won't talk of the many collections that were safely stored in butter tubs.  I did not inherit this practice from my dad.  I am a purger, a minimalist, an if I can't use it right now, don't save it kind of person...except for books.  I guess its a good thing that books can't be stored in butter tubs!

And food...I can't stand wasting food.

This is the first year that we have grown celery in our garden.  It has done quite well.  Over the weekend we harvested four bunches.  Yes, that's a lot of celery, but for me celery is like potato chips - a vehicle for dips of various kinds and, of course, nobody can eat just one.  Peanut butter, hummus, cheese, even the occasional Ranch dip are all fair game as companions for celery.  We cut and stored the stalks so they can be quickly and easily grabbed for snacks or meals.  Did you know that peanut butter and celery is indeed a meal?  When all was said and done, we were left with a huge pile of leafy greens from the tops of the stalks.  Most of the time these have already been removed from the celery when you buy it at the grocery store so you don't have to worry about them.  This big pile of beautiful greens sitting on the counter caused my don't waste food gene to kick in.  The problem is that I had no idea what to do with celery leaves other than make soup or toss them in salads.

Enter Google.

SEARCH: what to do with celery leaves

This search yielded quite a few articles.  Soups and stews, salads, homemade celery salt...the usual and expected suggestions were all mentioned.  The one thing that I had not thought about was celery leaf pesto.  I like pesto.  Celery leaves have a somewhat sharp taste unlike the sweet flavor of the basil used in traditional pesto, but it was worth a try.  I read several recipes, all very similar to one another and to basil pesto except for the celery leaves.  I ultimately chose the recipe I used because it called for the largest amount of celery leaves of the recipes that I found and it did not use parsley.

This is the recipe that I settled on, though I substituted pine nuts for the walnuts.





As is often the case with dips and sauces, the celery leaf pesto will probably be best once it sits for a day and the flavors have a chance to meld.  Though even at this point, it tastes better than it looks.  Lol!  Celery leaf pesto can be used as a dip, sandwich spread, over pasta, or in any way that you would use basil pesto.  Other than a few licks from the spatula as I was cleaning up, I haven't tried this yet "in context."  I'm giving it its time to "age."  I'll give you a full report once I have explored all of the possibilities.

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IN OTHER BLOG NEWS:

Pastries, Pies, and Tarts on Sifted Together

Blueper B and The Turtle Creek Chorale on Blueper B's Blueprints

Friday, June 2, 2017

What Day Is It Anyway?

My world has always revolved around the academic calendar.  I calculate every day and date around the start and finish of my semesters.  I know what day of the week it is based on my MW or TR Thursday schedule.  For the past several summers, I have taught summer school so my reference points have remained in tact all year long.  This summer, however, I am not teaching and I realize that half the time I have no clue what day it is.

I recognized when Weber retired that he lost track of the days of the week.  He'd ask me what time I'd be home and I'd say something like, "Well, it's Wednesday and I teach until 3:30 so I should be ready to come home around 4:30, just like every Wednesday."  His response was always the same..."I forgot what day it is."  Then, I couldn't wrap my head around this absolute disconnect from day and time, but now I am beginning to get it.  When you have been used to a rigid daily and weekly schedule and all of the sudden you don't have that, its absence is a bit crazy-making.

Most days this summer, we have no real need to set an alarm clock.  We rely on the canines to wake us up.  That can happen anywhere between 5:30 am and 9 depending on how late we all stayed up, how cozy they are in bed, or how hungry they are.  Essentially, we all get up when we get up, whenever the dogs are ready to get up.  And breakfast occurs equally as leisurely.  There is time for as many cups of coffee as I can drink without floating away.  I have time to enjoy my breakfast rather than slamming it down just because I know I need to eat or I won't survive six hours straight in the classroom.  Or, we can even go out for breakfast...on a Thursday!  At least I think it was a Thursday.

Sometimes lunch happens and sometimes it doesn't.  That too depends on how late the dogs sleep.  If we sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, it may be almost lunchtime before we are done eating and cleaning up.  Even though the clock says that it is lunchtime, no one's hungry.  When it gets to be mid afternoon and the hunger pangs start, it's almost dinnertime so we skip lunch.  Sometimes.  Or we might just move dinner.

Like getting up,  dinnertime can be a movable feast, happening anywhere between 5 and 9.  There is no real reason for it to be routine.  Lol!

For someone who is a slave to her planner and calendar most of the, this free form lifestyle is disconcerting and hard to get used to!  I feel out of control, but there is little for there to be control of.

I spent all day today convinced that it was Saturday.  It felt like Saturday because we were home most of the day.  I took a short nap this afternoon, usually a Saturday occurrence.  We also had symphony tickets for tonight, again,  usually a Saturday night event.  We got home and I realized that its only Friday so I don't have to set an alarm for church tomorrow morning.  Woohoo.  Now if the canines will just sleep late tomorrow morning!  And I need to remember that tomorrow night is Saturday and I do need to set an alarm for church on Sunday morning.

Is this what it will feel like once I retire?  There will be Sunday, church day, and then one other day each week, a 144 hour day, created from all the other days of the week that have all melded together into one big duration.  I don't know about this.  Without my planner and my routine, I may never accomplish anything ever again!

Oh, you mean I have to create a new routine???

But I don't know what day it is!

The only consistency in our week right now are the trash days.  How pathetic that trash days are becoming the defining moments in my week, assuming I can figure out when Monday and Thursday are actually happening!

Maybe I need to find more consistent things to be doing over the summer.

Or. maybe it doesn't matter what day it is.

I'll think about that tomorrow, Tuesday.


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Here is something for you to think about...name three consecutive days without using the names of any of the days of the week.
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Today's photo prompt was Sports.  The only sport happening in my world was amateur pie crust wrestling...and professional napping, but that picture would not have been pretty! :-)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Feeling Blue in June

In the eleven years or so that I have been blogging, I have written this same post countless times...the one about having gone missing for months and now being back.  They always come with a promise to do better.  And countless times I have failed, but I keep coming back and trying again.  Before writing this tonight, I have given some serious thought to why I keep falling short with regular posts lately.

It is easy to blame a busy schedule and too little time.  I know that's an excuse, not a valid reason.  And not even a good excuse.  I find the time to write my weekly contribution to Sifted Together, the blog I co-author.  I write a monthly devotion that is distributed by our church.  I helped Blueper B write a post on his blog every day during the month of May.  I have faithfully taken a photo a day for four and a half years.  Yes.  Time is at a premium some days, but I manage to accomplish all those tasks to which I have a commitment.  Apparently I have not made a serious commitment to regularly writing and posting here despite knowing deep within that that is something that I want to do.

Admitting to a lack of a commitment, I was still in search of a reason, a reason that I am able to keep so many other commitments but not this one.  Here's what I am exploring.  I think that perhaps social media, Facebook and, too some extent, Instagram, might be the issue.  I post my daily photos to both, usually with a bit of verbiage that places the photo into the context of the day.  My day is usually what I write about here.  Once I have posted my photo, I feel like I have said what I have to say and to write a blog post is redundant even though what I write here is usually a more developed version of my daily musings.  I don't know that this revelation about my relationship with social media is the real reason for my inconsistent blogging.  If it's not, at least I have a point from which to depart on  my quest for the real reason.

For the time being, I will continue to post my photos on Facebook and Instagram, but I am going to refrain from writing any commentary to go along with them and save that for here.  We'll see what happens.

So here is today's photo...


...taken at a local park at the blue hour, that magical time of day right after sunset (or right before sunrise) when the minimal light bathes the subject in a veil of blue thanks to the residual indirect sunlight that is below the horizon.  This image is intentionally unfocused.  Art mirrors life.  At the moment, I am feeling a bit unfocused and like my world has been colored blue.  Beginning again here is a first step to regaining some clarity, particularly with my creative life.

Today, right here in writing, I am making a commitment to post something here every day throughout the month of June.  If I can do it for Blueper B. I can do it for me!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Toothaches and Sin

This is the daily devotion that I wrote and was published as part of our church's daily devotion ministry. Don't ask me how I know so much about toothaches and sin. :-)

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A gift from Kris Baker, Order of St. Francis and St. Clare at #cohdallas, a United Church of Christ congregation, today's devotional is based on the following scripture :

Scripture
Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. James 1:15 The Message (MSG)

A Word of Hope 
Today is National Toothache Day, a seemingly odd thing to celebrate. Have you ever had a toothache? If you haven't, count your blessings! If you have, this scenario may sound familiar. Occasionally when hot or cold food or beverage touches your tooth, you feel a slight tinge of discomfort. You ignore it for awhile. When the discomfort becomes a little more persistent, you make a conscious effort to eat or drink on the other side of your mouth so as not to aggravate the untoward tooth. Eventually, the pain becomes incessant. You try to end-run it with some OTC pain-killers, all the while never stopping to think about what is really causing so much pain in your mouth. Then the inevitable happens...you wake up in the middle of the night (I don't know why it is ALWAYS the middle of the night!) in unbearable pain. Nothing will even dull it, let alone stop it. You count the hours, second by second, until you can call the dentist and plead with him or her to make the pain go away right now!! By this point, you don't care by what means this happens...drill, pull the tooth, cut off your head...just do something, anything to make this excruciating pain go away. Morning finally comes and you make the call to the dentist; the receptionist says, "Good morning. How can I help you?...I can get you in next week on Friday."

We treat sin in much the same way that we treat a toothache. We ignore the slight twinges of pain caused by our lusting. We find ways to justify our less than healthy attitudes and behaviors even when we know that there is something not right. "It was just a little sin."  We think that we are in control...until that dreadful moment in the middle of that dark night, when sin reaches adulthood and, as James writes, "becomes a real killer."

The good news is that we don't have to wait until morning to call for help. And no receptionist will offer us a ridiculously long wait for an appointment. God answers our calls 24/7. Once we name our sin (admit that the pain of the toothache is too much for us to bear on our own), unlike the dentist, God is immediately available and ready to relieve our pain. The treatment is always the same...forgiveness and God's unconditional love, freely given to us.

Prayer
Holy God, I bring to you a heart broken and hurting because of my sins. Please help me. Please heal me. Please hold me. Amen

Sunday, February 5, 2017

About the Pot

I ordered a new pot last week...a four quart dutch oven.  I'm not sure why I ordered a new dutch oven other than it was on sale and it is a pretty blue.  I don't have a dutch oven and I make a lot of meals that could be prepared in a dutch oven, but I do have lots of sauce pans and stew pots that have served me quite well up until now, so I could have easily done without a new blue four quart dutch oven.  But I don't have to do without because now I have one.

Okay.  I fell prey to a sale email.

The pot is enameled cast iron made by Staub...in France.  Not that it matters, but I think staub is the German word for "dust."  I don't know what that has to do with cookware made in France, but whatever.  I'm just easily amused and entertain myself pondering such inconsequential things.

My new pot is quite pretty!


Just in case you don't believe that it was made in France, it tells you so right on the lid.


And I don't know what the Nike swooshes have to do with a dutch oven made in France...maybe a new ad campaign...Just Cook It!  Who knows?  This pot was becoming more entertaining by the minute.

Then I saw this:


Apparently this pot requires an instruction manual, a 100 page instruction manual!  How can that be?The pot has no cords, or dials, and doesn't even require an app to use it.  
And to further confuse things, this!


These 100 pages are the mini manual!  If this is the mini manual, I wonder what the maxi one looks like!  Forget that.  Let's start with what's in the mini manual.  

Relief!  The manual contains information in nine different languages so the required information for use only encompasses ten pages per lanuguage and within those ten pages, there are lots of pictures.  But still...

The manual begins with some history about the Staub company and then moves to an explanation of their unique manufacturing process.  Interesting, maybe even a little bit fascinating if you are sucked in by reading about resistance to thermal shocks and majolique enamels.  I did learn that the Nike swooshes aren't really Nike swooshes; they are "spikes"to help with humidity retention and even basting.  Just Baste It!

The important stuff, which is the same important stuff they tell you when you purchase almost any new pot can be condensed into about four sentences.
  1. Wash with warm water, dry, and season with a light coat of oil before using.
  2. Use either wooden or silicone utensils only.
  3. Use a pot holder when handling and do not place hot pot on unprotected surface.
  4. Do not use abrasive cleansers or sponges to clean and do not put pot in the dishwasher.
Pretty much common sense.

I should not make fun of these instructions.  They assume a far greater level of intelligence than do such instructions as the one included with a hairdryer that says, "Do not use while sleeping."  Or, "Do not iron clothes while on body." as instructed in the manual to a Rowenta iron.  

It does seem to me that all of the necessary information needed to successfully use my new pot could have been contained on a concisely written single page, even a mini single page.  And even if all nine languages must be included, still a mere nine pages.  But, because booklets must be constructed in multiples of four for pagination purposes, this leaves three pages available for a nice cover, some pictures, and space to print the company's web address so that I can go there to read all about the company's history and manufacturing process on my computer in something larger than 5 or 6 point type!

All that said, the first meal that I made in my new pot was a hearty vegetable beef soup and it was delicious!  It cooked and simmered beautifully.  Yeah, I do like my new pot very much!



And as per the instructions, I used a wooden spoon!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On A Somewhat Positive Note

A friend recently texted to ask if I was OK because I haven't posted here in the last week.  I am as OK as anyone is who is sad and angry about what is happening in this country right now.  I have not written because all I had to write about were things that I didn't want to write about.  Lol!  More words about discrimination, families being torn apart, innocent people being treated like criminals, power and money prevailing over wisdom and service are not needed.   I have chosen to keep quiet.  I remember learning that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.  I don't always adhere to that teaching, but I have in the last week.

And now I have some more uplifting things to share...

The first month of 2017 in pictures.  Its hard to believe that we are 31 days into the new year already.




And, today's post from Sifted Together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Looking for Inspiration

I am kind of in a creative slump right now, but I keep on keeping on, trying to work myself out of it. One thing that always helps is seeing this sweet little face...even when this face is up in my face at 3am because it needs to go outside.  No matter what she does, it is impossible to get upset with Piper because she is such a happy and lovable little girl.


Today's Capture Your 365 prompt was open.  You know you are still in the slump when you take a photo of an outhouse as a daily photo.  Lol!  But, as the quote says, you never know where you will find inspiration.


I will also share here the link to my Tuesday in Texas post on Sifted Together.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Nature of Things

There is so much going on in this world right now that is not pretty that for the last few days, I have tried to stay away from the media, searching elsewhere for alternate truths. :-)  It hasn't been easy, but even in the midst of winter, the natural world is still full of beauty; it and my camera provided just the diversion that I needed!




Seeing the movie Lion on Friday evening and the musical 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Saturday night rounded out the weekend's retreat from reality.

Oh, and a trip to the Lego Store!

Tomorrow it's back to the real world.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

One Down, Fifteen To Go


Week one of the Spring 2017 semester is over.  Let me just say that re-entry was tough!  Though I never really slept late over the holiday break, I was not up any day at 5:30 like I have been every day this week.  This adjustment to my morning alarm would have been much more tolerable if I had made a similar adjustment to my bedtime, if it also had moved three hours earlier.  I missed that step.  The result?  Three hours less sleep every night followed by a full day of work.  This definitely was not a good combination!!!  On the bright side...I have a great group of students.  Except for one...

Why is there always one person in every situation that upsets the chi?  One person who doesn't want to play by the rules.  One person who has to be in the spotlight all of the time.  One person who spends all of their energy trying to figure out how to beat the system rather than how to succeed within it.  Right now, my tolerance for such behavior is bordering on non-existent.  This may be because in almost every circumstance in which I find myself these days, not just at school, "this" person exists.  Perhaps it is all just some cruel learning experience that the universe is foisting upon me.

Dear Universe,  
I am too tired for this lesson right now!  Can we please wait until I am getting more than four or five hours of sleep at night to start this?  I will be a much better student then.  Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely, 
Me

In all seriousness,  I really do have a great deal of patience with those who are sincere, genuine, humble, compassionate, humorous,  a hard worker and responsible.  Conversely, I have zero tolerance for insincere, fake, arrogant, hurtful, mean, lazy, and irresponsible people.  Yes, I know we all have moments where we are not our best selves; however, for most of us, such instances are infrequent.  My rant here is directed toward those whose normal modus operandi is to consistently put themselves first, never considering how their actions and attitudes affect those around them.  Sadly, there are more people like this than I wish there were.  And right now, they all seem to be too close for comfort.

The best I can do when my final nerve has been stepped on is to put myself in time-out.  Some alone time with my camera, or a book, or my knitting will usually calm me down and help me to gain perspective and patience.  But not always...

This afternoon, I had camera time and knitting time.  This time to chill out made me fit to spend time in public having dinner with some close friends,  people who are good and thus are capable of restoring my faith in humanity.

A good ending to my day.

NO ALARM TOMORROW!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Body - 1: Mind - 0


I made healthy food choices today, which my body greatly appreciated, but it is not at all happy  with the "sleep diet" that has been imposed now that I am back in school.  Though my mind would like to tackle a few things on my need/want to-do list tonight, the body said, "NOOOOO!!!!"  For once, I am paying attention.  No mind over matter.

Goodnight!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Double Dipping

I am double dipping today...

It is Tuesday In Texas  post day on  Sifted Together, the blog I co-write with my friend Tracey.  We started blogging together two years ago and have just recently reworked and renamed that venture.  We just launched Sifted Together  on January 9th so you've only missed a few posts.  To see what's going on in my world today, as well as what was going on Monday In Michigan from Tracey's perspective,  hop on over to www.siftedtogether.com.  You'll also find some great biscuit recipes in last week's Food Friday post.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 8-16: Cleaning, Friends, and Tornado Sirens

Only sixteen days into the new year and so many good things have already happened!  Yes, I have taken a week long hiatus from writing here; though that was not exactly what I had planned, it is a good thing.  Last weekend, while on retreat, I felt compelled to write even though I was not supposed to be.  And this week, I have been at home with access to my computer, but other things were more important.


I returned home from last weekend's retreat tired, but ready to take on some tasks that I had been putting off for way too long.  Our guest room has been a storage unit rather than usable space in our home since I brought things back from my parents house over a year ago.  I have had lots of reasons excuses for not going through all of the boxes, but it was now time.  I needed a "good" reason to get started and get it done.  I finally had it!  My friend, Joni, wanted to come visit from Wisconsin for a few days.  Asking her to sleep either on the couch with the dogs or on an air mattress on the floor did not seem very hospitable; I had the impetus I needed to attack the guest room chaos and get it done!

It is hard work going through several generations of family papers trying to decide what to keep and what to toss.  I had lots of photos of people that I could not identify in places that I could not identify.  I finally had to tell myself that if the photos did not have meaning to me, they weren't going to have meaning to anyone else.  With this realization, I was able to part with a lot of them.

Then there was all of my dad's Navy stuff...his sword, medals, uniforms... It's funny.  I know that my dad was career Navy and I am proud of his service, but that is not how I knew him.  To me, he was not a Navy Captain, he was my dad...the guy who gave me piggy back rides, taught me to garden, talked to me about Carl Sagan books, educated me about investing, tried to convert me from a Coke drinker to a Pepsi drinker,  did not share my political views, called me Peanut, and shared my love of Sudoku puzzles.  And this is how I want to remember him.


I hung his sword on the wall in our library, sorted and packed the medals in a box, and safely stored them in the back of a closet.  This is not a permanent solution, but it is progress.  It is the best I could do right now.


We did the same sorting and thinning of boxes of stuff that Weber had.  Again, we are not done but now have labeled boxes. The most difficult part of this whole process is now done.  Our hands have touched every piece of paper and we know what is in each box.  We also sent items to other family members, various historical societies, and other agencies.  Our goal is to make sure that the things that we have that we are choosing to part with go to people who will appreciate them.  When Weber and I got married and combined our belongings,  our test for whether something stayed or went was, "Is it useful, beautiful, or joyful?"  If the answer was "no," then away it went.  We did have to think a little harder before answering this question during our latest round of purging.

Thanks to our friend Paul, who helped us rearrange some furniture, hang some pictures, and built us shelves in a closet, the house was in the best shape it has been in a long time when our friend Joni arrived.  Perhaps even more importantly,  I felt good emotionally about all that we had accomplished.  I was exactly where I needed to be to fully enjoy our visit.

I keep coming back to the importance of friendship.  I was touched and honored that someone wanted to spend their vacation time with us.  Of all the places to go on a vacation...Dallas...to spend time with us?  My heart knows that when push comes to shove, it is the who that is most important, not the where or the what.  My head, however, has a hard time really embracing that notion, especially when I am the who.

Thankfully, the frigid temperatures from the previous weekend gave way to springlike weather.  We were able to have a meal from the grill and also walk around downtown Dallas and visit the Sixth Floor Museum, the old Texas Book Depository, the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots at JFK.


(Ignore Snorri.  He thought it was still 17 degrees outside.)


Joni and I also spent a lot of time knitting together.  I am doing well with 2017 goals!  More knitting and a clean guest room!


I did have to start my Temperature Blanket over twice; the first time because an animal accidentally pulled my first few rows off of the needles and a second time because apparently my knitting skills are rusty and I made some stupid mistakes.  I am happy to report that now I am caught up on my blanket and I'm planning to roll smoothly through the rest of the year one row at a time!

On Saturday, Joni and I met up at the mall with another one of our pale pals.  We behaved fairly well while we were out unsupervised! :-)


On Sunday (yesterday), Joni got a taste of ugly Texas weather!  We had a terrible thunderstorm with high winds and the threat of tornadoes.  The tornado sirens did go off and we spent a few minutes huddled in the "safe room" with all of the animals.  Isn't that how everyone wants to spend their vacation?


I truly enjoyed my time with Joni.  I did take time out of each day to take my daily picture, but I did not want to lose any more time, so I chose not to write here.  I am happy about that.  The memories that I have of cursing knitting mistakes, making (and eating) cookies, downing a six-pack (of Diet Coke) every night, and getting to know each other a little better are far more meaningful than any words that I would have written here.


For that, I am thankful...

Friends are the siblings God never gave us. Mencius

True story...

Friday evening we went to a production by our local community theater.  Joni and I were in the restroom at intermission.  An older woman asked, "Are you girls twins?"  We both answered, "No."  She then said, "Oh.  Just sisters."  Again we both said, "No."  At which point she headed into a stall a bit confused.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Little Cheating on Retreat

I am on retreat this weekend and am supposed to be "fasting" from technology.  I'm not doing terribly well with that.  I am addicted to posting my daily photos, and I really don't want to lose my blogging momentum.  I don't have the time to write a full post today, so I am sharing a daily devotion that I wrote that was published today.

******

Today's devotional is written by Kris Baker, Order of St Francis & St Clare, at #cohdallas, a United Church of Christ congregation, based on the following scripture:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
A Word of Hope
Today is the feast of The Epiphany, the day when the three kings from the east, who had traveled afar over field and fountain, moor and mountain following yonder star, made their way to Bethlehem bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn king. The word epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphainen, meaning to shine upon, to reveal, to manifest, or to make known. On this day we celebrate the manifestation and revelation of God in Christ. We celebrate the Christ child who is the light of the world.
Are we not like those three wise men on a pilgrimage to find Christ? Have we not asked, perhaps many times, where we can find him and pay homage to him? As modern day Christians, our call is to keep our eyes and heart on that guiding star, on Jesus, the light of the world, and to let that star be our guide. That is not easy. Stars are sometimes hidden by clouds; clouds of fear, despair, insecurity, and hopelessness obscure the light. And even when we can see the stars, they often appear far beyond our reach. We need to remember that Jesus is never beyond our reach. He is with us in every step of every day. Jesus is the light that shines in our darkness. He is the star that, like the one that lead the wise men to Bethlehem, guides us through our daily lives. The three kings came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Jesus. In the words of Christina Rosetti, "What can I give Him, poor as I am?...[I can] give my heart." That is enough. The only thing that Jesus desires of us is our hearts. In giving Christ our hearts and following Him, the light of the world, all things are made possible.
What do you see when you look at the stars? Do you see stars of hope, peace, love? Stars of compassion, justice, mercy? Stars of contemplation, prayer, action? In the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, "You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart." (MSG)
Prayer
Creator of the stars of night, help me to always trust in You and be guided by Your light. I pray that I will be a beacon of that light for others. Amen

******

In other news, we had snow in Texas today!  There was only a light dusting where I am, but at home, apparently there was quite a bit more, enough to wreak havoc on the roads at rush hour.  I did manage to sneak outside long enough to snap today's picture of the day, "Where I Stand."


Brooke is at home dog sitting.  Today's snow was Piper's first time ever to see the white stuff.  Her "big sister" kindly sent me a video.



 I was sad not to be there. I hate to admit that  I felt like a parent who was missing a significant first in her child's life.

Obviously it it cold here in here in Texas!  Despite that, Weber was excited last night to get to drive the golf cart back to our cabin.  Apparently, I am not a woman who chooses a guy based on the "car" he drives. :-)


I am going to stop here and go repent for my rule breaking sins.  I wish you all a blessed Feast of the Epiphany.

This was a light on the foot path and the pattern that it cast.  Perfect for today!