Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Katie Loves to Cook

Kate makes the best chocolate chip cookies. She has made them so many times she has memorized the recipe. She bakes cookies at least once a week, and they are always delicious. Soft and chewy, just like we like them. But she wanted to branch out, and what better place to do something amazing than at Mimi’s house?

She browsed through Mimi’s recipe books for pictures of appetizing desserts and chose a recipe that looked promising. It was a challenge because of several steps in the recipe, but she was ready to dive in!

She and her Papi went grocery shopping for all the ingredients.

For this recipe, Kate rolled out four Pillsbury Pie Crusts.

Then she scalloped the edges using the tip of a teaspoon.

She placed the pie crusts on a cookie sheet and pricked them with a fork. 
To be safe, Mimi helped put them in the hot oven.

She made Jello Instant Pudding and Pie filling according to the directions.

She chopped walnuts for the candied walnut topping.

She cooked the topping mixture, and after it thickened, 
she removed it from the heat and added vanilla.


She folded whipped topping into the chocolate pudding mixture.

Part of the fun was assembling the layers.

WOW! The impressive finished product!

So sorry there are no pictures of everyone eating this beautiful and delicious dessert, but we were too busy enjoying it and forgot to take pictures. We all thought it was SCRUMPTIOUS.

Thanks to Kate’s sister, Allie, who helped snap photos!

Katie said, “The reason I like baking so much is because I love to know I make a lot of people happy doing what I love.  It brings joy to my heart that I know I make people happy when I cook something!”

Thank you, Katie, for a delicious dessert!

Friday, September 12, 2014

On the Death of My Dear Friend

Let sorrow come. It is okay
For us to weep and grieve today.
The hurt and pain reflect the depth
Of family ties and friendships kept.
It is all right to shed our tears
In recollection of the years
We spent as friends and loved ones dear --
We're sad for she's no longer here --
And that's okay.
                             But be it known:
We're confident of her new Home.
It's our Home too! and just a breath
Deprives us of that friendship yet.
So sorrow, come:  it is all right.
We feel the warmth of Heavenly Light
And Love, for Death has lost its sting
And no more has the victory.

Let sorrow come.
It is okay.

Monday, August 25, 2014

For Richer or for Poorer, in Sickness and in Health: Happy Anniversary

They lay together, then, face to face, their limbs like wisteria vines cultivated over four decades, twirled and tangled into one inseparable sturdiness. They gazed without spoken word, open, relaxed; their eyes alone reading hearts and deep histories in the coolness of the linens that cradled them as softly as each easy breath.

The hint of a shadow crossed his face.

“What,” her eyes asked. She exhaled. “What is it?”

“I was just thinking about everything changing,” he whispered. “Nothing lasts.”

A conviction rose in her chest. The weight of her joy and gratitude for this man, for their marriage, burgeoned, uncontainable, until it blossomed into a tender smile that turned up the corners of her mouth and broke into a fresh sparkle in her face. Light shone from her eyes and spread over him, as reassuring as a warm blanket.

She reached up and rested her hand on the outline of his face. “Some things do,” she smiled.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

The quality called “motherly instinct” did not come to me until I held my firstborn in my arms. Throughout my pregnancy, I worried that I wouldn’t be a good mother. I was inexperienced with babies and children, and what seemed to come so naturally to my parenting peers did not seem natural to me at all. But in those seconds of that first fresh holding, mothering took up residence in my heart with such a comfortable finality that suddenly I could not even imagine or remember how life had felt without it, only twenty minutes before. It was a sharp corner I turned. But since the night of June 2, 1980, I have never looked back to wish for or long for the time “before kids.”

When I look at my children - all adults now and taller than me - I see them through the lens of a lifetime of memories. I recall each of their births distinctly and clearly, as if they happened in slow motion so each detail would be etched in my mind as permanently as children’s handprints in concrete. I remember the first time I felt Nathan, my oldest, kick in the womb, Karen’s maturity and leadership when she was yet in elementary school, John’s metamorphosis from boy to man during a summer of work with my Dad. I remember their spiritual crises, their first cars, their weddings, their first homes, new jobs, the births of their children . . . and I remember all the moments in between. My heart swells and my breath catches at the joy I feel in my sons and my daughter. They make my eyes light up and my soul feel satisfied. Oh kids, you are loved beyond imagination. I am honored that I get to be your mother.

Their own eyes shine when their daughters walk into the room, and their faces break into smiles as they scoop up their little ones for a hug and a kiss. They listen with amusement and adoration to kindergarten jokes and made up stories, and they applaud at impromptu dances, cheers, and gymnastics. They grieve at nightmares and sorrows felt in young hearts.  I catch them in the act of loving their children unconditionally, abandoning their hearts to chubby toddler fingers, delicate fairy-princess curls, and long-legged pre-teens, and see a mirror image of my own love for three children born in 1980, 1981, and 1988. I know in a few years they will also love their teenagers and their young adults with the same pathos, wringing their hands and their hearts as they whisper:  Please God, let them be safe.

Sometimes when I look back on my childhood, I dwell most on the angst of my teen years and the ways I intentionally or unintentionally caused my mother pain. But I understand now:  it was not the tension and conflict that weighed more in Mama’s thinking. Rather, she looked at me with my lifetime of memories shining behind her eyes, her mind etched, from my Day 1, with things special, precious, unique, her heart swelling, her breath catching at her joy and pride in me. Oh Mama I understand, I get it -- I was loved beyond imagination, and I thank you.

It is indeed a good day to be a happy mother. And without reservation, I am.

Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just By Being You

A dog adopted us. Last week during one of the nights of bitter cold, she came to the back door and looked in longingly, and whined. We thought she had somehow gotten into the back yard and could not exit, so we opened the back gate, called her out, closed the gate, and then went to bed.

I awoke early the next morning to find her there again, sitting in the snowdrift against the door, shivering. We could tell she had been well cared for and hoped her true owner would drive by any minute and find her; I tried to ignore her throughout the morning.

By late morning I could not take it anymore and opened the back door and asked her in. She wagged her tail and gratefully laid down on the warm cushion I had prepared for her. Later in the day I went to the store and bought some dog food. The following Saturday I posted a "Found: Shepherd/Heeler Mix" ad on Craigslist with my phone number.

She is a great dog! She can sit, down, and stay, sort of. It's as if she's been to puppy school and obeys about seventy percent of the time. She does not like potato chips or salted nuts (what?!) and will mostly just eat meat or cheese. She's more attached to me than to Pancho, and likes to sleep near my side of the bed. Only once have we heard her bark, a deep, strong, confident bark, when one day he came home from work and she must have thought he was an intruder.

The granddaughters love her. She is animated when they're here and races around them in wide circles, then narrows in, trying to herd their excited affection into a little grouping.

She does not know how to play fetch, and does not know how to heel in a walk. She is used to being inside and is calm in the house, but she likes to jump up on the beds or furniture to sleep. The house appears to be in disarray as we try to hinder this inclination of hers. All the beds are barricaded by closed doors, all the chairs and sofa covered by hard objects like books or picture frames.

I have called her Sunny, because she brought sunny happiness to those cold, glum, snow-bound days we kept having. Like our other dogs, she approaches me for a morning greeting, head to head, and even if she is comfortable on her mat, wags her tail and comes to me if she sees I am gazing at her.

This morning I awoke to a text message from someone who saw my ad on Craigslist. They sent me their own picture of her, claiming her. So today, likely, our fostering situation will end and her true owner will come pick her up.

Opening your arms in welcome to some living thing opens your heart and love flows out. But the outflow does not empty you. It nourishes and replenishes, and grows stronger. It is like Elijah's magic on the cruse of oil and jar of flour belonging to the Widow of Zarephath: it is poured out and used, but never diminished.

Opening your arms in release of some living thing opens your heart, too, and love still pours out, but is mingled with grief. Perhaps in some cases the grief is so acute and enormous it appears to overcome the love, to scar over a wound or staunch the pain. But love is stronger, stronger than separation, stronger than grief, than scars, and will find a new way to flow from a heart freely and jubilantly, welcoming and releasing yet again, but still never diminished.

Sunny, I opened my door one day and asked you in. I open again today to release you. There is indeed grief in separation, but right now, I hallow the moments I enjoy with you: the little, short life that is thoroughly delightful, the brief days with which we are gifted. And until your true owner arrives to take you home, I take every opportunity to honor the living thing you are, and gratefully accept the joy you bring me just by being you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Weekend Grilled Meal

Daddy and Bianca had given us a whole sheepshead which had been taking up space in our freezer. Its eyeballs stared at me when I opened the door. Its tail hung out of its freezer bag. I was intimidated by it, but Internet research convinced me not to be afraid of cooking an entire fish. I decided to get Pancho involved in the entire process by grilling it.

I am usually responsible for planning and cooking the food we eat unless it involves the grill, in which case Pancho will don his apron and gather his cooking utensils, adjusting the heat and nurturing the food until it is perfection. Kitchen relief is just one of the many reasons I love grilled food.

Pancho seasoned the sheepshead inside and out with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.   

He grilled it about 7 minutes on each side, occasionally squeezing fresh lemon juice over it. A sheepshead is a saltwater fish with teeth like a sheep, made for gnawing and eating its favorite foods:  barnacles and shellfish. Because of its bony skeleton, it's difficult to filet. It has mildly flavored white meat. The perfect fish for grilling whole.   

He grilled a few tomatoes and a jalapeƱo until the skins were charred.

After removing the skins, I roughly chopped it all, adding olive oil, a few capers, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, salt, and pepper, for a delicious warm tomato relish. 

Asparagus and portobello mushroom caps rounded out the meal.

It plated up beautifully. The evening was perfect for eating outside. Thank you, Pancho dear! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Harvest Undeserved

Today's harvest

Beginning last April, I maintained a vegetable garden. I spent time throughout the summer weeding, watering, and fertilizing. With abundant daily harvests, I froze some of the bounty and gave some away, yet still had enough to preserve jars of pickles, jalapenos, and salsa.

The pleasure was not only in the harvest, but also in the tending. Hours might pass while I pruned tomato plants or spaded in more compost. Pulling out deep-rooted, pernicious Bermuda grass was especially satisfying. 

About mid August my work schedule stepped up, and evenings as well as days were consumed with interviews and reports. Garden maintenance suffered. High winds knocked down the 5’ tomato cages, and I couldn’t replant them properly. So by late September, the garden was not only weed-ridden, but the once-tall tomato plants were twisted askew with unpruned tomato stems and shoots growing through the wire cages at all angles. It was depressing. I quit spending time on it entirely and simply went out to harvest every week. Or two. Or three.

Today the garden caught my eye. I examined the tomato vines, an inseparable, crazy tangle, and spied ripe tomatoes and numerous blooms. I looked at the parsley, basil, thyme, and rosemary. Is it possible these plants reseeded and matured again? For there, undaunted by the crowding Bermuda, grew healthy herbs. Parting the weeds, I saw red and green jalapenos and sweet peppers cheerfully hanging from sturdy stems, as if I’d been taking care of them all along.

In spite of my lack of attention, my good plants have carried on. As I harvested peppers and tomatoes, I felt grateful to a God who continues to be good to me even if I am neglectful; and who continues to bless, even though I am undeserving.