Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Big Dose of Today

Skyline of the Great North Coast

Two very happy beach-goers

The waves were perfect...and lots of fun to walk through

Caleb could have hung out here all afternoon

Evan, still mostly dry at this point

I told the kids yesterday (on Mad Monday) if we could get all our indoor work out of the way, we could spend the next seven to ten days enjoying what the local weatherman is promising... absolutely perfect weather. Can I just say, "It's about time!" We've had so much rain that even my impatiens were getting water-logged.

So this morning, on a whim, we hopped in the car, picked-up my sister-in-love and her two younglings, and drove to the beach. It was a picture-perfect day with a back drop of sapphire skies and wonderful warm sunshine. Oh, did we ever need a big dose of today!

There's something to be said about hearing the surf constantly breaking on shore. I found it to be so comforting. I think I could have parked myself on a blanket and stayed there for hours on end. It was only about 70 degrees today and the water temperature was 65...not exactly great swimming weather, but fantastic walking-in-bare-feet weather. The kids have already asked if we can go back tomorrow.

While walking on the beach, a fairly sizeable inlet had formed from the tide waters coming ashore. At the far end of it, an adult could easily take a couple steps and be on the other side. And that's exactly what Caleb did. My little almost-four-year-old nephew, Evan, decided he was going to do the same thing. The only problem--Evan is just a little guy and, what was an easy two-steps for Caleb, ended up being many steps for Evan. And then he decided running might help. We saw what was going to happen just as it was about to happen. The soft sand gave way under his little feet, he lost his balance, and ended up, fully dressed, in the water. The look on his face was priceless. Somewhat of wonder and shock at the same time. Then, we find out later that after he stood-up and got out of the water, he looked at Caleb and said, "I didn't mean to do that!" Not exactly what you might expect to hear from an almost-four-year-old. How absolutely adorable is that?

It was truly a wonderful day. I am so thankful that God sees us where we are as we walk along this journey of life. He knows exactly what we need. And to top it all off, He blesses us with magnificent beauty. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the wonder of it all.

1 Corinthians 2:9
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Amazed again,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Not really. Just a little note to say my ISP has been down more than it's been up for the past week which has lead me to say, "You've got to be kidding me!" multiple times each day. Blah.

Here's hoping I can get my blog posted tonight. I am missing my little creative outlet and the thought there's someone out there missing my little creative outlet too.

Did I hear someone say, "Why not do it right now?" Because I am in the middle of Mad Monday. No, I'm not mad (although some might have a different opinion on that). Mondays for me are mad because it's my big cleaning day of the week. And today's Mad Monday confronted me with the need to scrub all the tile floors.

Get it done.
Get it over with.
Don't think about it again until next Monday.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Presents in the Morning

Sometimes God has a way of giving me a gift that only He knows brings such joy to my heart. I love His wonderful creation. Everything about it. From intricate leaves on trees and soft flower petals to finding unusual bugs and spiders to the more breath-taking creatures (at least in these parts) like a coyote or a fox. And don't even get me started on birds!

Ever since we moved into our home 13 years ago, we have had a herd of deer that come through every morning and every evening. They travel along the same path on the woods edge. They rarely come up to the house (although a couple of years ago a big buck was standing just outside my office window nibbling on a hemlock branch...I pounded on the window and scared him away!). It doesn't matter if we see the deer every morning, the next morning they are just as wonderful.

That first June in our home I saw for the very first time in my life, a mama and her newborn fawn. They were standing together in the front yard. It was as if she was presenting her baby to the world--it was an incredibly poignant moment. Then several years ago there was the time a huge thunderstorm cropped up in the afternoon scaring a newborn fawn out into the open of the backyard. It's mother was no where to be found and I, umbrella in hand, went out to save the poor thing. Yes, this was before I knew mothers often leave their babies hidden in the underbrush while they go off to feed for several hours at a time. I never caught that baby (thank goodness), but the Lord was kind enough to reassure us he was OK. I was convinced at the time the mother had been hit by a car leaving the poor baby all to himself. A couple of days later, his mother presented her baby to us by walking him right through the front yard.

And so yesterday morning Rachel spotted movement in the back woods. I had seen a doe lingering there a couple of times over the past week or so. This is unusual especially during the day, so I couldn't help but wonder if she had given birth somewhere close by. Sure enough, it was a mama and her youngling! Rachel and I watched as the fawn nursed and its mother cleaned her baby from head to toe. We were glued to the window! I grabbed my camera and was able to take a couple pictures along with a couple of videos.

This little guy came out of the woods in the backyard and slowly made his way to the front. His mama stayed about 15 feet behind him, letting him have a little space. We watched until they both disappeared into the kids' hideout...a perfect place for deer to hide. Just ask Rachel. She went in there to play a couple of years ago and got the shock of her life to find a deer standing there staring at her!

I don't know about you, but I'd be happy to spend a little time like this every morning. I felt like I had received a wonderful present! It is such a great reminder to me that just as this mama deer cares for her young one, God cares for His children so much more.

P.S. I have tried everything to directly upload a video to my blog. It hasn't worked yet, but I'm bound and determined to figure it out!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day 2010

We usually always celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day on Saturday. We get up way too early on Sunday mornings to try and squeeze in the wonderful surprises the kids usually have in store for us. This year was no different. I think the pictures and video speaks for itself. Needless to say, it was an emotional Father's Day, even for the wife of the father being celebrated.

Rachel and her daddy aka Mr. Wonderful

The cupcakes were baked the night before, but to keep everything a secret Rachel woke up at the crack of dawn so she could make the frosting and decorate all of the cupcakes into the amazing (drum roll please) 18th hole of a golf course! She received an adorable book for her birthday from her friend, Ari, on decorating cupcakes. Isn't it just incredible? The sand trap is made from crushed Nilla Wafers, the golf balls are gum balls, and the hole is made from one chocolate chip. How fun is that?

This is what greeted Daddy as he came downstairs for his morning cup of coffee. You should have seen his face. You should have seen her face when she saw his face! And oh goodness, the handmade card was a tear-jerker...wah!

Everything tasted as good as it looks! Dee-lish!

Then there's Caleb. We knew he was up to something because he would disappear for hours at a time. He did a great job keeping this a complete secret. On Saturday morning we were directed to sit on the sofa and close our eyes. Our boy had somehow gone through hundreds and hundreds of digital photos, selected the ones that met his criteria, arranged them in chronological order, copied them all to his MP3 player used for French lessons (I am still amazed by his use of technology), and then took Rachel's Taylor Swift CD and ripped the song which was to be the background music. Then all of this was hooked up to his PS3 and at the click of a controller, this beautiful montage of pictures along with a song that went straight to the heart started playing on the television. All four of us were sniffling! I know it sounds like we're a bunch of crying fools, but we're not really. At least not usually. I think we have been reminded that time does not stand still...not even for a moment.


If you watch this video, look at the pictures, but try to listen to the words of the song. It's called The Best Day by Taylor Swift. I can't say I had ever heard this song before Saturday morning. But it certainly has taken on new meaning for all of us. I know I'll never be able to listen to it and not think of Father's Day 2010.

Honestly, I don't know how I didn't get a photo of Caleb and his daddy. I'll get one soon. I think I must haven gotten all caught up in the moment and forgot about the camera!

Every day should be Father's Day...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cartoons and Crying

Toy Story 3 with Woody and all his friends

While waiting for the sun to come out yesterday, without telling me, the kids decided to pull out a stack of the old home movies. I had no idea what they were up to until I walked past the family room and saw two little blond-haired kids splashing in a kiddie pool. I stopped dead in my tracks. It has been so long since I've seen any of our old home movies, I was somewhat stunned to see my man-child sitting in the chair watching himself as a three-year old. And then there was Rachel smiling as she watched herself as a one-year old who would trip over the side of the little pool every single time she tried to "jump" in. I had to stop what I was doing. I sat down and watched and was mesmerized.

How is it even possible that eleven years has gone by? How can that little boy on the television screen be that man sitting in the chair five feet away? How can that little girl with the tiny pony tail be the tall girl with the big pony tail? I don't know. As I sat there, I felt like I was outside myself. I remembered the scenes like they had just happened yesterday.

One of the videos we watched was of Caleb's 4th birthday. I must have been one whacked-out woman! Our driveway is over 150 feet long. Do you know that I hand-painted huge purple T-Rex tracks from across the street (where a house was being built) all the way up our driveway? As the tracks disappeared into the woods, the little party goers found a huge dinosaur nest filled with dinosaur eggs (the kiddie pooled filled and covered with straw and then filled with big white water-filled balloons). And then there was the sandbox perfectly lined with little shovels and buckets. Buried beneath the sand was bone-shaped dog biscuits, you know, so the kids could be paleontologists and dig for dinosaur bones. I found myself laughing...at myself. I thought I had done it all for the kids, but I think I must have done it for me. Oh, to have that much creativity and energy again! What wonderful fond memories.

So today we took the kids to see Toy Story 3. Caleb and Rachel have grown-up with Woody and Buzz Lightyear. I knew the story line of the movie, but I was not at all prepared for the emotions that hit me as I sat there and watched a cartoon mother walk into Andy's empty bedroom. "What will I do without you?" she asks. That was it for me. Tears started welling up in my eyes and then spilling out onto my cheeks as I sat there sniffling. Honestly, I had a big ugly cry right there in the theatre. Even now the tears come.

Are you planning on seeing the movie? If you're feeling emotional, do yourself a favor and follow these guidelines, especially if you have kids in middle or high school:

1. Do NOT watch home videos of your children when they were little before seeing this movie
2. Do not wear mascara unless it is waterproof
3. Have a stack of tissues in hand
4. Sit in the back row where it's darkest
5. Wait until the movie is completely over, including all the credits, before leaving
6. Have your sunglasses on before you walk out in public
7. Realize there's nothing you can do about your red nose

If your husband is anything like Mr. Wonderful, he will cry sympathy tears for you.

If your child has just graduated from high school and will soon be leaving for college, you might want to skip this movie for now. Really.

Cartoons and crying doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Please let me know if it was just me. If you see this movie and then wonder what all my hub-bub was about, then I'll know I was just being an emotional woman. But I am telling you, I'm almost positive I wasn't the only one crying.

Oh Woody! What will we do without you?

Armenian Rice

Did you know that white rice typically stores for 10 years?

I made this for the sisters-in-love get together this past Wednesday. It's quick and easy and tastes great. And leftovers warm easily. It's a great side dish for just about any meal. The only think it's lacking is a little bit of color. If you have an herb garden, sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley on top.

Armenian Rice

What you will need:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dried vermicelli (Angel Hair pasta), broken
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups beef broth

Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and vermicelli; saute until onion is tender. Stir in rice and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Makes 10 servings.

Note from Michelle: I would estimate a cup of vermicelli to be as much as a quarter is round when you remove the pasta from the package. How's that for estimating! Use a food processor or I broke it in half and then in half again and placed it in a tall bowl. I used my knuckles to break the pasta into pieces about a half an inch long.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Little Things

Some memories are stored in my mind's eye like a movie. I can see everything around me. I can remember all of the subtle details, even details that have no importance. For some reason, this is one of those memories.

When I was a business owner, it always seemed like it was pay day. Of course it wasn't always pay day, but it was one of those tasks that required my attention in many different ways. The most important thing I needed to know was if there was enough money in the payroll account. Some months were smoother than others. I don't remember any of those. It was the times when things were running a little too tight for my comfort level that I remember best. But as the old saying goes...

God is never late, but seldom early.

Waiting often causes me to cling to Him all the more. And I have found Him to be faithful to me in those times, even if it seemed I was down to the last possible moment.

Anyway, this particular incident happened while I was away from the office for the afternoon. I knew today was the last day a check could arrive in time in order to meet payroll. But long before today, I had been bringing my need before the Lord.

Listen, this was before cell phones, or iPads or texting, my friends.

I happened to be close to my father's house and decided I'd stop there to use the phone to call my office to see if the mail had arrived. To find out if the check was there. I explained the situation to my father as I stood by the breakfast bar with the phone in my hand. And I told him I had been praying about my situation. I just remember him telling me that God didn't care about stuff like that. I was wasting my time. I immediately responded with a somewhat hurt but confident, "Oh, yes He does!" I made the phone call and found out the mail had arrived. And the check was in the mail. Of course, I was so encouraged, and so very thankful. No, I don't think that made my father change his mind about wasting my time nor God's for that matter.

When my children were little I would pray a little prayer as I would head out grocery shopping or to run errands and ask the Lord to provide a close parking spot. It was hard sometimes having a very independent two-year old and a very dependent baby. I cannot even tell you how many times I would find a parking spot right in front of the front door. "Thank you, Lord!" I guess I never learned there were some things you just didn't pray for.

Imagine the smile that came upon my face and the flood of joy that filled my heart when I read these words once again:

Childlike confidence makes us pray as none else can. It causes a man to pray for great things that he would never have asked for if he had not learned this confidence. It also causes him to pray for little things that many people are afraid to ask for, because they have not yet felt toward God the confidence of children. I have often felt that it requires more confidence in God to pray to Him about a little thing than about great things. We imagine that our great things are somehow worthy of God's attention, though in truth they are little enough to Him. And then we think that our little things must be so insignificant that it is an insult to bring them before Him. We need to realize that what is very important to a child may be very small to his parent, and yet the parent measures the thing not from his own point of view but from the child's. You heard your little boy the other day crying bitterly. The cause of the pain was a splinter in his finger. While you did not call in three surgeons to extract it, the splinter was a great thing to that little sufferer. Standing there with eyes all wet through tears of anguish, it never occurred to that boy that his pain was too small a thing for you to care about. What were mothers and fathers made for but to look after the small concerns of little children? And God our Father is a good father who pities us as fathers pity their children. He counts the stars and calls them all by name, yet He heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds.

The Power of Prayer in a Believer's Life
by Charles Spurgeon

1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Remember to pray for the little things too...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Come Rain or Shine

Here are a few pictures I've taken over the past few days...

My little boy, Caleb, who is no longer a little boy. He will celebrate his 14th birthday in July. I'm already looking forward to that post! He took over all of the mowing last year. This picture was taken a few days ago (a day the rains held off in the morning only to rain minutes after he finished mowing) when he decided to mow diagonally for the first time. We were all impressed with the very straight diagonal lines. Not an easy thing as you dodge trees and landscaping!

This is my oldest and dearest garden statue. I bought her right after we moved into our house. I've never brought her in during the winters and as you can see, she's very weathered. Her little skirt has held tea candles when evening guests were arriving and bird seed to feed our favorite woodland friends. This year, there's a chipmunk that has the audacity to perch himself on top her pretty little head. The lavender was given to me by our dear friend, Adam (Mrs. Nagy's brother) three years ago. He's our favorite bee keeper, you know. We have fallen in love with providing beautiful flowers to our bee friends. Our five little lavender plants have grown into a huge lush patch which provides a stunning backdrop for the Stella Dora day lillies. We're just waiting for the rains to end so our bee friends can come and feast. I'll try and take pictures. It's an amazing sight!

Stella Dora Day Lillies and Lavender...what a gorgeous combination

We went to my sister-in-love's house last Thursday so the kids could swim for the first time. It's the first time this year because it's been raining (as I've mentioned now at least fifty times). The pool water was 71 degrees. I think the kids kept saying, through chattering teeth, "It's not too bad once you get used to it!" Mmmm hmmm. The bucket above, used to wash feet before entering the pool, was much warmer. As you can see, Rachel decided to take a dip in the bucket in order to try and warm-up. I made her stay there just so I could take this picture. Someday she'll be happy I took this! For now, I am absolutely certain that never in my lifetime have I ever been able to fit into a five-gallon bucket. Never.

Rachel's first French manicure. Some time ago, Rachel developed a bad habit of peeling her fingernails (otherwise, she's perfect). She doesn't bite them, she peels them. A little while back I told her if she let her nails grow out, I'd give her a French manicure. Incredibly, that was all the motivation she needed to stop her peeling habit. A few days before this picture was taken, we met with a wonderful piano teacher who spent a lot of time asking Rachel questions and evaluating her progress. She ended our time together by mentioning to Rachel that she might want to cut her nails since they would interfere with her piano playing. We just looked at one another and giggled. French manicure first. Nails shortened a little later...by clippers, not peeling. Oh, that sends shivers up my spine.

Tomorrow is Wonderful Wednesday. Lord willing, the Sisters-in-Love will gather with the all the cousins to spend the day together. What fun we share together, come rain or shine.

P.S. I'm already feeling so much better than yesterday. It's amazing what some homemade chicken soup will do along with love and hugs and wonderful friendships.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wanted: A Little Cooperation

My favorite garden fairy...at a time when I planted impatiens in the ground

Some random thoughts for today...

I made an attempt to change my blog format from a 2-column to a 3-column layout. As you can see, that didn't work out too well. I actually edited the HTML code (which, for me, is pretty impressive), but I just could not figure out how to move the header photo along with all of the Blogger gadgets to the new 3-column set-up. They just would not cooperate. That's the kind of a day I've had, so why not. Back to the 3-column format for Blogger drawing board for me!

I stayed home from church yesterday. Actually, I slept in. Oh, don't get too excited now. Honestly, getting up and going to church on Sunday is such a vital part of my week that it's very hard not to go. And I missed being there terribly. But I've been coughing my head off since Thursday night and I just couldn't torture everyone around me (or embarrass my family). The Friday before Memorial Day I found myself at the doctor's office because of this cough. I was prescribed a Z-pack and felt much better within 24 hours. That antibiotic lasted 10 days and on day 11, the cough was back with a vengeance. So, on Friday, I called the doctor's office and told them what was going on. The doctor phoned in another antibiotic which Mr. Wonderful was kind enough to pick-up for me on his way home later in the day. Well, imagine our surprise when we found out the prescription was $193. We should have gone with our gut on this one and said, "No thanks, we'll need something a little more economical." But, no. I didn't want to upset the apple cart, so to speak. We went ahead and had it filled since there must be some really good reason why it was prescribed. Did I mention I have an acute sensitivity to medicine? Yep. It's not a fun thing. You know how you'll get a printed page or two listing side effects and minor side effects and this doesn't ever happen to anyone, but we'll mention it anyway, side effects? Well, I'm the girl that gets all of the side effects. I'm thankful that I hardly ever have to take anything. So guess what? I had a reaction. Heart palpitations that lasted for several hours and, to top it off, I actually felt worse. And my cough wasn't even the slightest bit better. Not after 3 days worth of pills and heart palpitations. So I called the doctor's office first thing this morning. I was told the doctor would be notified and something else would be called in. In the meantime, I called the pharmacy to inquire about the $193 prescription and was told very kindly, "I feel for ya, but we can't refund any of your money for the prescription. It's against the law. Just throw them away. That's what we would do." Nice, huh? I called the doctor's office again and asked them to let the doctor know that I just couldn't afford another expensive prescription and to please try and choose one that had few side effects and was a little more reasonable. So guess what happened? I had grocery shopping to do and stopped by the pharmacy as soon as we arrived at the store. They hadn't even received the new prescription...six hours later. They recommended I stop back after I finished shopping. I returned to find there was still no prescription. I once again called the doctor's office only to find they were closed for the day. And it was only 4 o'clock. So I find myself still coughing my head off and grossing out my daughter.

Do you know it's been raining here for almost 100 years and the humidity has been around 90% and the temperature has been about 85? Is it any wonder I have such a terrible upper respiratory infection? As of this afternoon, my right ear is now filled with fluid and I have that lovely plugged-up-ear feeling. I think it's time to pack my bags and head west to the desert. Upon my arrival, it'll probably start raining for the first time in 500 years.

Here's to hoping tomorrow will be a little more cooperative,

P.S. Come on. You do feel just a little bit sorry for me, don't you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Corn and Bean Salsa

My Sister-in-Love and her sweet baby, Allison

As you know, I usually try to post a recipe that I've recently made. I had one in mind, but my sister-in-love had to go and make this fabulous salsa for our get together the other day and, well, this recipe became an easy decision. I'm thinking if you had to live on this, say if you were stranded on a deserted island, you could.

Here's to getting lost at sea!

Corn and Bean Salsa

What you will need:

1 can shoe peg corn, drained (I used a cup of frozen corn)
1 can black eyed peas, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 jar chopped pimentos
1 can chopped green chilies
½ cup red onion, chopped small
1 ½ cups celery, chopped small

Mix all the above ingredients.

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1 cup olive or canola oil

Heat dressing ingredients on the stove to melt the sugar; let cool; add to the veggies; refrigerate for a few hours or overnight; serve with nacho chips.

Note: You could probably cut the dressing in half or drain off most of it after it has marinated for a while.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ask Questions!

This is not what you think it is...really!

I learned many, many years ago while employed at a large computer company that when asked a question by a potential customer and being unsure of the answer (or if you need to stall for more time to think), ask a question back.

Question: “Will you give us a discount?”
Question back: “What part of our service don't you want to receive?”

Question: “Why is the color of the monitor gray?”
Question back? “Why is that important to you?”

Get the idea? A little abrupt at times, but it works well in most situations.

And so I have used this technique many times over the years with my own children. Here’s a little sampling that comes to mind…

Caleb: “Mama, how is a baby born?”
Me: “How do you think a baby is born?”
Caleb: “I think a baby crawls up through here (pointing to his throat) and out your mouth.”
Me: “No. Actually, God gave mamas a very special place called the birth canal. At just the right time, the baby comes through the birth canal.”
Caleb: “Oh.”

And he skips away satisfied.

You see, I could have gotten all technical and started talking doctor talk, but he was only two or three years old and just curious. Or I could have lied and said something silly like, "A stork delivered you to our door!" A very simple and truthful answer satisfied his curiosity.

Given its extreme popularity in today's culture, some of you might want to skip this next one…

While walking on the beach at a lake, Caleb (who is six years old) sees a woman with tattoos all over her back.

Caleb: “Mama, is it OK to have tattoos?”
Me: “What do you think?”
Caleb: “I don’t know.”
Me: “What’s that Bible verse you just memorized?”
Caleb: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19”
Me: “So, what do you think?”
Caleb: “No.”

He answered it on his own after filtering his own question through God's Word. I'm good with that!

I am seated on a chair wearing a pair of shorts. Caleb is only three years old at the time.

Caleb: “Mama, what’s that?”
Me: “What do you think it is, Caleb?”
Caleb: “Thunder and lightning!”
Me: Immediately starts laughing out loud.

Oh, yeah. He was pointing to my leg where there’s a cluster of beautiful varicose veins. Come on, now. Do you really think I should have answered, "Varicose veins?"

And so remember this all you young mamas out there. Give yourself some extra time...ask questions. Lots of questions!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paid in Full

Have you ever heard the saying, “You owe me a thousand dollars for every tooth in your head!”? I suppose it’s old school talk. Kinda goes along with, “You know, when I was your age, I walked four miles to school every day, and it was uphill coming and going.” I was brought up with the “$1000 tooth” mantra. In the long run, it didn’t go over very well with me.

I’m going to get ahead of myself on this one, but this story came to mind a couple of days ago and I just figured I might as well insert it here. I realize this would probably be a good story to tell after I share the story when I started my own company. But, no, I’m going to tell it now. I’ll fill in the “started my own company” blanks another time.

Once upon a time there was a young woman (that would be Yours Truly) who, having started her own business, found herself one day with the dilemma of having to decide whether to pay the mortgage or buy food. She had quit her job only eight months after buying her first home. She took a step of faith when she started her business and she believed God would provide for her every need. She had been brought up being very responsible and had never even considered paying a bill late. Not a day late, not an hour late, not a second late. And so, you can guess when it came time to choose between the house payment and food, the house payment was made without a thought.

It just so happens this young woman was involved with a cooking club which consisted of a number of young professionals. They met monthly and everyone brought a recipe item which would be included in the making of the meal. The host of this particular cooking club get together was a doctor and she lived in a beautiful home. The doctor called the young woman and asked if she would bring the main ingredient…chicken breasts. The doctor asked many questions about her purchasing habits and made it clear that these particular chicken breasts needed to be purchased at a particular store. A store that was well-known in the doctor's part of town. A store that probably never had the words “Sale this Week!” anywhere on the premises. The young woman hung-up the phone and was angry, upset, and embarrassed. Why on earth would the wealthy doctor ask this poor young woman to bring the most expensive item to the cooking club?

A great excuse was thought-up (which is not remembered) and the young woman, at some point in time, called the doctor back and told her she wouldn’t be able to join this month’s club activity. This brought on a phone call from another club member who was wondering if anything was wrong. Well, the young woman poured her little heart out and without thinking blurted, “I can’t even afford to buy food and she asked me to bring the most expensive item!” Whah! The young woman felt so much better just being able to tell someone and hung-up the phone. End of story.

Or so she thought. A few days later the young woman hears a knock. There, standing at her door, was a very handsome young man telling her that someone must really care for her and proceeded to point to the back of his car which was filled with bag after bag after bag of groceries.

Yes, of course, the young woman’s mouth dropped open. Yes, her heart started pounding. Yes, she was astonished to the point of tears. Yes, she was embarrassed. And yes, most certainly yes, she was humbled. HUMBLED. After all, how on earth did anyone even know about her foodless situation? She had long forgotten about her blurted out words.

To this day, the young woman remembers opening each bag (not the little plastic bags, but the big brown paper bags) and seeing how each item had been carefully selected just for her. She received food she would have never even considered buying for herself. That food lasted a very long time. There was a lot of it. I don’t think she ever ate a bite of that food without thinking of her unknown angel friend.

Now, back to the $1000 mantra. You see, growing-up and hearing over and over and over again the words “You owe me a thousand dollars for every tooth in your head!” had embittered her heart. It felt as if there was always a heavy weight of debt hanging around her neck. It probably was not meant to be taken that way, but that was how it settled in her heart. She had decided at some point in time (a number of years before this foodless situation), that she would never, never, ever ask anyone for anything. Ever. She would just as soon starve to death than to ask for help.

Obviously her God knew she had a major heart problem. Her heart was very full of pride and self-reliance. He knew she needed to be humbled. He knew she would never humble herself on her own, you know, in a little subtle and quiet way. Oh, no! It would take a car load of food.

This was the dropping off point, for sure. Her heart was pierced and she was changed. But pride has a way of settling in deep and it likes to raise its ugly head from time to time. It took many years before the young woman could ask for help and not feel a heaviness. Mr. Wonderful was the first one to come into her life and help her realize it’s all right to ask for help. It’s all right to receive help. It’s good to let others help when there’s a time of need. And it doesn’t have to involve being foodless.

And so our story ends with the young woman, who hasn’t been a young woman for quite some time, knowing her loving Heavenly Father always has the perfect way to reveal those hidden things of the heart. One way. Or another.

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward him for what he has done.
Proverbs 19:17

My debt has been paid in full, how about yours?
P.S. If you want to know if it was Mr. Wonderful that delivered the food, the answer is no. We hadn't even met at this point in time. My baby brother was the handsome delivery man. And yes, over time I think I figured out who God had used for His purpose. Matthew 6:1-4 (Go on, look it up right now!)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Random Beauty

One of seven vases filled to overflowing

I wish you could smell the fragrance

It seems my mind has been unable to join more than a couple of sentences together of late. Too much going on, I suppose. Here's a few rambling thoughts that have been stirring around in my brain...

Is it possible that all of my peonies have bloomed, been picked, arranged in seven vases, and placed in rooms throughout the house. The beautiful fragrance of peonies has been everywhere. After almost two weeks, sad as it made my heart, they were gathered together and thrown away. But not until my face was buried in the depths of the soft pillowy petals and I took one last very long and deep breath as a way to remember their fragrance until next year.

Isaac Shaw, a pastor from North India, spoke at our church a few weeks ago. I have not been able to shake from my mind his words that day. I hope to write about it soon (although you can hear it here... www.parksidechurch.com/learn/sermons, May 16, 2010, archive). If they had failed in Chapter 1, they would have failed in Chapter 3. A compromised lifestyle eliminates the possibility of standing for Jesus. Referring to Daniel Chapter 1 and Daniel Chapter 3.

This is one of the first hymns I taught my children many years ago. This verse in particular has been on my heart.

This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

Maltbie D. Babcock

Every year I plant annuals. A lot of annuals...7 to 10 flats worth. I used to plant them in the ground. Then I moved to pots and in the ground. Last year was the first time I planted all the flowers in pots, all 20 pots worth. I found pots were a little more difficult for the chipmunks to destroy the flowers when they burrowed under them. That is, until this year. My biggest pot, filled with beautiful impatiens, has been destroyed. One. flower. at. a. time. I have no idea how (it's not slugs), but every flower has been clipped off at the base. So far, none of the other pots have been attacked. Just this one. The really big pot. The one with a zillion flowers. One. flower. at. a. time. I guess this is payback for not planting any in the ground. Nice.

I was reminded last night as I stood at my counter making a coconut cream pie (to take to my dear friend, Teri's, this afternoon) that it wasn't too long ago that the thought of making a pie made me sweat. Honestly, I would never have even given it a thought...making a pie. As I stood there rolling out the pie crust, I found myself so thankful for the opportunity to make something and give it to someone else. It's always good to give. A smile. A hug. A tissue. A pie. Time.

The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The grass is green. The roses are red. The lavender is purple. The day lillies are yellow. The hydrangeas are just starting to bloom and they are blue and pink. It's a rainbow of random beauty just for today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Michelle's Cupcake Cheesecakes

Cupcake Cheesecakes...these aren't mine, but close!

I love cheesecake. I love making cheesecake. I love serving cheesecake. Everything about cheesecake is simply fabulous. I don't know if I've ever met someone who doesn't like cheesecake. Well, at least not any adults I know. I never liked cheesecake as a kid. I'm certain it's because I thought any cake that was made from cheese had to be a big mistake. I had no concept of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Cheese in my book was, you know, cheese...as in Swiss, American, and Cheddar. I didn't start experiencing cheese until I was, oh, probably 30 or maybe even 35 years old. Yeah, I know. I'm sure there's some childhood trauma somewhere that I just can't remember (probably something like, "You will eat every bite of that Limburger cheese or you won't ever eat again!"). Thankfully I got over it and now I think cheese is great. Whew!

We host Thanksgiving dinner at our house every year which includes the now very famous Thanksgiving Dessert Contest. The first time I won the trophy, I made Warm Fudge Filled Cheesecake. The recipe was from the $100,000 winner of the dessert contest held by Southern Living Magazine. The crust is made with pistachios and, yes, the center of the cheesecake is loaded with almost an entire bag of mini chocolate chips. This cheesecake is served just slightly warmed with fresh whipped cream and huge chocolate curls. I'll post this recipe sometime when the weather calls for comfort food. If you just can't stand it, let me know, and I'll get you the recipe. Otherwise, you might even be able to find it at Southern Living Magazine recipes.

So, here's my version of cupcake cheesecakes that can be served at a picnic or a fun family gathering. Depending upon how you decide to top them...whipped cream and fresh berries or chocolate fudge frosting or even turtle tops made from melted caramel and chocolate ganache...these cupcake cheesecakes can be casual and easy or made to look fancy and decadent. Regardless, they are the perfect size and always a huge hit.

Michelle's Cupcake Cheesecakes

4 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
28 Oreos
28 Sandies (or Pecan Sandies)
Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style Frosting Chocolate Fudge
Foil cupcake liners

Usually makes about 28 cheesecakes...cut the recipe in half if you don't need so many.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; use middle rack.

With mixer, cream sugar and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy; add eggs one at a time (on slow speed) and mix just until the yellow disappears; stir in vanilla.

In cupcake pans, place one foil cupcake liner in each cup of pan and place one cookie in the bottom. Fill cup almost to the top of each foil liner with cheesecake mixture.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes; let cool in pans on cookie rack. Use the edge of a knife to remove cooled cheesecakes from pan.

Cheesecake Toppings

For Fudge Topping: Place a dollop of fudge frosting in the center of each cheesecake by either using a spoon or a piping bag (or use a heavy-duty Ziploc bag with a corner cut out). I use the largest star tip I have with a piping bag to create a big star of frosting. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. The frosting will set up and taste like fudge.

For Whipped Cream and Fresh Fruit Topping: Unless you want to use Cool Whip, only top with fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit (blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, strawberry slices, red raspberries, etc.) just before serving. Whipped cream will melt in about an hour. Serve immediately.

For Turtle Topping: Use a thick caramel ice cream topping (Smucker's is great), slightly heated and pourable; pour the caramel onto the centers of each cheesecake. Keep about a quarter of an inch the edge of each cheesecake plain. Then top with chocolate ganache all the way to the edge so the entire top of the cheesecake is chocolate. Top with a candied or roasted pecan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Chocolate Ganache: 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Heat half and half on stove top or microwave until it just begins to boil; remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips, stir until melted; stir in vanilla. Fill tops of cheesecakes with warm ganache.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grandmothers and Hankies and Irons

My ironing board happens to be locted in a wall in my laundry room which makes ironing lessons rather difficult. This set-up worked just fine.

When I was a little girl my grandmother taught me how to iron. Actually, come to think of it, both of my grandmothers taught me to iron. I have many fond memories of spending time with my grandmothers standing next to an ironing board, watching, talking, learning, and trying.

My Grandma Meme ironed everything. And I mean everything. From sheets and pillowcases to my grandfather Ralph-E's boxer underwear. Meme had a ringer washer in her pristine basement. She only used the ringer washer for delicate things like slips, underwear and braziers. I remember standing over it learning how to wash things by hand and loved watching the rollers squeeze water out. Hey, it didn't take much to entertain me. Well, the ironing board was right next to the ringer washer. A glass pop bottle with a red rubber cap sat on the end of the board along with the iron. She would shake the pop bottle and stuff would come out and onto the item she was ironing. I didn't know it at the time, but it was starch. I'm sure this isn't true, but I wonder if Ralph-E's underwear could stand up all by themselves! Knowing Meme, who did everything perfect in the eyes of this little girl, just the right amount of starch was sprinkled to smooth out the wrinkles and make those boxers perfectly presentable to her husband...who happened to be a mailman.

Can I mention here that Ralph-E only ever kissed us with his signature Ralph-E kiss? My kids and I give one another Ralph-E kisses to this day. Wrap your lips around your teeth (you know, like someone that has no teeth), and then suck in. It makes a wonderful little popping noise. See there, now you can give someone you love a Ralph-E kiss too.

Let me digress for another second...I made a wonderful little discovery about 12 years ago as I was creating slime for my two-year old son to play with (yes, what on earth was I thinking!). The recipe called for starch as one of the ingredients. I had never bought a bottle of starch before. I'm sure I had never even used starch before. Well, when I opened the bottle and poured some into a bowl, memories came flooding back. I remember standing there in my laundry room just smelling the smell of starch. Honestly, that smell catapulted me back in time. Meme died when I was only 10.

Anyway, Meme let me iron the simple things at first. Hankies (this is when people actually used hankies) and pillowcases. I'm sure I must have burned myself at some point or another, but I honestly don't remember.

My Grandma B lived just down the little country road from where we lived. I would walk to her house as a little girl. I can remember her teaching me to iron the harder things and then giving me a little basket of items to press. To this day, because of my beautiful red headed grandmother, I can still remember the order in which to press a dress shirt.

Well, who knew that a few weeks ago as Rachel and I were spending the afternoon at Mrs. Nagy's house, Mrs. Nagy turns to Rachel and says, "I'm sure you know how to iron, right?" My little heart stopped on the spot. Rachel looked at me. I looked at her. Then I looked at Mrs. Nagy and said, "Um, no. Oh, Rachel, I'm so sorry!" Then I poured my heart out and confessed to Mrs. Nagy that I had never taught my daughter the very thing my grandmothers had so lovingly taught me. You may not believe the reason, but I can assure you it's absolutely true. I was afraid. I was afraid she'd burn her hand or her beautiful slender fingers that spend so much time on the piano keys. I didn't want my little girl suffering from an ironing catastrophe. That's how I pictured it in my mind...a third-degree burn and a trip to the hospital. I know. Honestly, what was I thinking. I apologized again and committed myself to teaching my only daughter how to iron.

A few days later, I happened to wash all of the sheets and pillowcases and found it was a perfect opportunity to teach Rachel how to iron something simple. I'm afraid to say there's no one I know that uses a hanky (it's not even in the Blogger dictionary!) these days. My family happens to be very good friends with Puffs Plus. Do you think it's a little more sanitary to throw away stuff that comes out of your nose than to carry it in your pocket? I suppose so. Sigh. It's no wonder ironing has gone by the wayside. How do you start ironing lessons if there aren't any hankies that need ironing?

By the way, Rachel loved ironing the pillowcases. I suspect she'll enjoy learning how to iron a dress shirt too. And just for the record, Caleb's going to learn how to do that too. I mean, at some point in his life, he will need a crisp dress shirt that isn't provided by his mother. Yes, I still iron dress shirts. I happen to think there's just something wonderful about a perfectly ironed shirt. My grandmothers thought so too.

Iron't you glad you stopped by today?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Princess and The Spy

Doesn't this picture just bring a smile to your face?

I thought it might be fun to pull a couple little stories from the archives. As I've mentioned before, I've tried to make it a point to write down things the kids have said and done over the years. I have a folder filled with scraps of paper with scribbled handwriting as I quickly tried to record an incident while it was still fresh in my mind. Then there's the e-mail archive...hundreds and hundreds of them. It became easier to e-mail the story to myself and store it away than to write it down on paper (yes, they are backed-up in three places). Regardless, I tried to capture things that seemed important at the time--things I would never have remembered otherwise. The kids love to read these cute little stories. I hope you do too!

October 6, 2001 -- Rachel is three and a half years old

Rachel is whining and crying after trying to convince Caleb to marry her. In between her sobs she chokes out the words, "I don't want to marry a cowboy and I don't want to marry a spy! I want to marry a prince!" Unfortunately, Caleb wasn't interested in pretending to be a prince in order to marry Rachel. He was, after all, pretending to be a spy. Do you know any married spies? Me neither.

July 6, 2003 -- Caleb is exactly seven years old

While sitting at the table eating dinner, somehow the conversation turns to "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Rachel has us guessing her future profession. It's something that starts with the letter "b". After many guesses we finally get it right...it's a ballerina. Caleb announces in a rather confident voice, "I am not going to work when I grow up!" then leans over and whispers in Rachel's ear, asking her to tell us what he said. Rachel quickly informs us that, "Caleb is going to serve the Lord." Caleb then repeats his calling, "Yes! I am going to serve the Lord!"

Caleb means dog. One who serves His master with his whole heart.

Whether to a princess or ballerina, a spy or a servant, I am certainly one very Happy Mama,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Expect Trouble

Charles Haddon Spurgeon 1834-1892

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite devotionals. I came upon this entry a number of years ago and realized it just happened to fall on my birthday. I was struck by this coincidence since tribulation and I seem to know one another on a first-name basis. I found these beautifully written words so helpful and encouraging that I decided to frame the morning devotional and then hung it in our guest bathroom where it can be read often. I know I certainly need to read these words often, much more than once a year. The look within part always grips my heart. It's no wonder I'm so well acquainted with tribulation.

JOHN 16:33

Are you asking why this should be, believer? Look upward to your heavenly Father, and behold Him pure and holy. Do you know that you are one day to be like Him? Will you easily be conformed to His image? Will you not require much refining in the furnace of affliction to purify you? Will it be an easy thing to get rid of your corruptions and make you perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect? Next, Christian, turn your eye downward. Do you know what foes you have beneath your feet? You were once a servant of Satan, and no king will willingly lose his subjects. Do you think that Satan will leave you alone? No, he will always be at you, for he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”¹ Expect trouble, then, Christian, when you look beneath you. Then look around you. Where are you? You are in enemy country, a stranger and an alien. The world is not your friend. If it is, then you are not God’s friend, for whoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Be certain that you will find enemies everywhere. When you sleep, remember that you are resting on the battlefield; when you travel, suspect an ambush in every hedge. As mosquitoes are said to bite strangers more than natives, so the trials of earth will be sharpest to you. Lastly, look within you, into your own heart, and observe what is there. Sin and self are still within. If you had no devil to tempt you, no enemies to fight you, and no world to ensnare you, you would still find in yourself enough evil to be a sore trial to you, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.”² Expect trouble then, but do not despair on account of it, for God is with you to help and to strengthen you. He has said, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”³

¹1 Peter 5:8 ²Jeremiah 17:9 ³Psalm 50:15

Morning and Evening Morning--May 3
Charles H. Spurgeon

But do you see how this devotional ends? Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. I will deliver you. There's no "maybe" nor "I might". God says I will.

Resting in His promises today,