Thursday, November 29, 2012

Daybook 11.30.12

An entry inspired by The Simple Woman's Daybook, which I'm writing at 1:05 a.m.  Friday.

Outside my window...

is a cold, dark, silent night.

I am'd be wonderful if someone would go to see The Nutcracker  at the local college with me this weekend.  My girl has never been into ballet, and my husband rolled his eyes when I suggested it for a date (I knew he would).  But it's a production I've always wanted to see from start to finish, not excerpts in kiddie recitals of friends' children (sweet as they were). In fact, it's on my 101 in 1001 list.

I am thankful for...

so many good churches in the area. I am eager to settle into one as a family, but the hunt continues.

From the kitchen...

sits a half-eaten tray of brownies.

I am wearing...

one of my favorite winter staples of the closet--a faded, black, GAP, half-zip sweatshirt, a pair of grey PJ pants, and some thick white socks. I am cold and my leg bones hurt.

I am creating...

a pillow cover for my old dog because she destroyed her nice storebought pillow bed, and the thing she's laying on now in her crate is an older kitchen chair pad. My plan was to use scrap green fabric
to cover an old flat bed pillow completely so she can't claw it to shreds. I was in the middle of sewing it when I took a break, and when I returned, couldn't get the upper thread to pick up the bobbin thread. My husband--who can fix just about thing short of a broken heart--gave up trying to fix it.
I gave up after 2.5 hours of trying, too, but I simply HAD to try everything, because if there's one thing I hate to spend money on, it's repairs. Especially repairs on a machine I seldom use, but when I do, I really enjoy making things.

I am going...

to decorate for Christmas this weekend, starting with getting a tree.  I am excited. If you want to take pictures of your home decor and join my Christmas Tour of Homes, I'm kicking it off December 6th.  At least that is my goal.

I am reading...

Child of the Holocaust  (A True Story)  -- so gripping, and there are no chapters, so I have to force myself to find stopping points!  It starts right off with the author telling of how, when he was nine years old, he went away from his Polish hometown with a friend of the family, and when he returned, his entire town had been attacked by the Germans, and the Jews taken away. He was suddenly orphaned.

I am hoping...

I can figure out why I've been experiencing vertigo. If I change positions too quickly, I feel off-balance.

I am hearing...

the heater working hard.  We think the system is on its proverbial last legs.

Around the house...

are four people sleeping. I should be the fifth.

One of my favorite things...

is that magical moment when I drift off to sleep. What a mystery sleep is, what a gift, what a necessity!

A few plans for the rest of the week...

At noon, my friend Marilyn and I have plans to do lunch together. In the evening I'll  watch kids while their parents are in shabbat service. Saturday, the ballet  perhaps (?) and/or tree selecting. Sunday, church, then napping, then watch the Ravens/Squealers game while decorating.  If all goes well, we will be putting the angel on top while watching Baltimore come out on top!

A picture thought I am sharing...

/                                                      Albrecht Durer's face intrigues me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Feel Stupid and My Keys Wrote a Motown Song

I wrote my Hodgepodge post late last night thinking of the title "Hello" by Lionel Richie but having Neil Diamond's lyrics stuck in my head. I even googled and watched Richie's "Hello" video on YouTube and still  did not catch my mistake when writing my post title and intro.  (Actually the video is a bit creepy, since he is the teacher hitting on a student, right? Ew.)

Wow, do I feel stupid about my Diamond/Richie mix-up!  What can I blame for that lapse o' mem-o-ree?

Age, of course!

 You see, if you rocked out in your college dorm to Diana Ross and the Supremes, drove to work singing along with Marvin Gaye, and wished your boyfriend (if you had one) would sing love songs a la Lionel, you probably have a few similar memory lapses yourself these days.

And now, I have people to see and places to go.

I think I just heard my keys sing their own Motown song...

"Hello"  by Zoanna's Keys
I've been alone with you
Inside your van
And in your purse I've kissed your phone
A thousand times
I sometimes see you
Pass out looks that I abhor
Is it me you're looking for?
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your stride
I'm all you've ever wanted
you say it with such snide..
'cause you know just the other day
And it was almost half past two
And I wanted to tell you so much
"Ha ha on you!"

Enough of that. Time to wipe the egg off my face. If any of my Hodgepodge readers caught my musical faux pas and kept quiet, thank you. I do prefer to think that, even when my memory gets short-circuited, I can find the missing pieces with a bit of sleep. Or coffee. Or Google.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hello Again, Hodgepodge. Just Called to Let You Know...

I think about you every night....


But on Tuesdays nights we have our little special time together, don't we, Hodgepodge?

1.  "...I think I need to dive right in to some Christmas related questions, don't you? Which do you prefer-pretty gift wrap with a bow or a pretty gift bag with/without a bow? What percentage of your holiday gifts are currently (as in right this very minute) wrapped in some form or fashion?

I love to open pretty packages tied up with ribbons and bows. It's like getting an extra gift. I also enjoy wrapping gifts with pretty or fun paper and finding creative little toppers. Not that I keep up this pace as December wears on and my umph wears out; I am a better starter than finisher.     I have a tradition to wrap a few last surprises on Christmas Eve when everyone's in bed.  ( Sounds so much better than "I have this habit of procrastinating," doesn't it?)  That's when I become the "bag lady."

I've only wrapped two gifts this years so far, and that was in early November--my shoeboxes for my Samaritan's Purse, one with a teen girl in mind, the other for a 10-year-old boy in mind. That is really the kickstart to my Christmas, and something I love to do.

*I ended up, after taking this photo,  having to do some mending and blending to fix the edges of the paper that kept not cooperating. I loved finding that pre-wrapped blue snowflake tin for the pens I included because we all now by now that I have this penchant for pens and pretty containers.

2. What is one item on your Christmas list this year?

Intangibles too personal for the worldwide web.  But as for something that money  can buy, I'll go with watercolor pencils .

3. What makes a home?

Every which way I've tried to write my answer sounds cliche,' so I'm going to swap that question out for another.  You know, sort of Scrabble tiles except not?

This question comes from a little second grader in chapel today.  Normally the head chaplain tells some corny jokes the kids love, but he was sick today, so his assistant chaplain asked for kids to come up and tell jokes. Keep in mind this is a Christian school, okay?  Little girl comes up to the front and says, "What did the pepper say to the salt?...'I'm hotter than you.'" 

All the upper school kids laughed and all the teachers blushed and stifled giggles. The Pre-K aide whispered to me on the way out, "Um, ya think we need to screen our comedians next time?"

4. Motown founder Berry Gordy celebrates his birthday on Hodgepodge Day-November 28th. Are you a fan of the Motown sound? If so, who's your favorite Motown artist and/or song? Here's a list in case you're stuck.

Yes, I love the Motown sound. In college, my roommate Mary got me hooked.
My favorite Motown artist is Lionel Richie. Oh, my heart be still.  When he sang "Hello" on the radio, I know he was singin' to me. I know it.  In fact, I think this question just inspired  me to say "hello again, hello" to Lionel tonight.

Excuse me while I slip away and swoon...


5. Red or green-which one is more prevalent in your closet?

On my side, they're about, cranberry, pink. On honey's side of the closet, more green. 

6. True or false-bacon makes it better? If you answered true, what's your favorite dish made with bacon?

True, true, and more true.  One of my favorite dishes is one I tweaked. It has shrimp and bacon, along with spinach and pasta. I call the dish "Don't Invite the Rabbi, Just the Pasta."
I used to have it on my blog, but one night when I was in a very bad mood, I went deleting a whole bunch of posts and was about to delete the whole blog.  Then I realized I really didn't want to be that drastic. But it was too late for the recipe.  I regret that decision.

7. Share a favorite holiday memory.

I remember when I was in third grade I really, really, really wanted a little multi-colored paisley overnight bag fom  Gimbels ("the five and dime") in the tiny little Kansas town located a few miles from our TEENY TINY town.

I spotted it there  with my mom and dad in the very first aisle. Coveting the prize Container for the WanderLuster, I begged and begged for it. They said, "We'll see. It's a lot of money."  They managed to get my eyes off the bag and on to other desirables, but eventually I went back to gawk at the pretty piece of luggage. Lo and behold , it was gone! Somebody bought it just that fast??!!! 

Heartbroken, I burst into a thousand tears, drama princess that I was.  Of course it doesn't take more than an elfin leap to figure out  that you-know-who opened you-know-what on Christmas morning. I finally had a suitcase of my own to pack for spending the night with my besties Brenda and Barbie.  I have grown up and moved away from Kansas, but still love to pack my suitcase and go to Barb's house in Kansas! Maybe I'll put "ticket to Wichita" on my Christmas list. Hmm..... "Hello!"

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Hey, Hodgepodgers? Want to join my Christmas Tour of Homes?  Read the post I wrote before this. Get ready to show us how you've made your house a home at the holidays. Are you in?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Tour of Homes, Beginning Dec 6

Dear Fellow Bloggers,

I'm excited to decorate for Christmas this year. I haven't started, but I know some of you have--and a few have already finished. I can't believe that!

Do you find it fun to take a virtual peek into other friends' homes at the holidays? I do.  And I find it super motivating to declutter, clean, and decorate for an upcoming blog photo shoot of my own! 

If you want to participate in the Christmas Tour of Homes on your blog, let me know. I'll look forward to visiting you from the comfort of my recliner.  And you can come back here and check out what this house is looking like. I'm kicking off the Tour  on Thurday, December 6th.  I don't know how to use Mr. Linky yet, but I'll try to figure it out. (Techy stuff is not my forte.)

HoHoHo, it's off to deckin' the halls I go! See you soon!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 with 12 People and 60 Counted Blessings


 I was so eager for this holiday this year.  Last night I set the table, thankful for the joy of anticipation.  Thankful for flowers and color and candles ...

and a daughter, and dishes from my grandparents, and deep red cloth napkins...
for cranberries and lemons in pretty parfait glasses...
but mostly for my family whose presence made this day  a beautiful celebration.

Every year until this one we have kept a tradition of  using a construction paper leaf and writing five things we're thankful for. Then we share all five in order before we eat. This year I changed it up a bit, and I liked it better. We ate first, since we were hungry at 1:00 and the food was hot and ready.
After we'd had our fill, we went alphabetically around the table five times, each person sharing one thing per round.  Five rounds took us a good hour, full of joy and thoughtful answers and love.  Perhaps my favorite Thanksgiving ever.

While memories of the blessings shared are still fresh, I am going to try to journal them as best I can recall.

Ambrey was thankful for:

1. Steve (of course) , the godly man he is, smart, funny, hard-working, loving, the guy she can hardly wait to marry
2. her grandparents' example of a loving marriage that lasted for 68 years (her PopPop passed away a couple weeks ago)
3. school, her cohort and professors
4.  her family and the one she'll be marrying into
5.  modern luxuries, namely a comfy bed, hot showers,  and running water--things she didn't have as short-term missionary in Zambia

Ben said:

1.  his loving wife and the joy of being married , growing closer together
2.  his job--good boss, coworkers, benefits, and the hope and possibility of a raise
3.  great car (97 Audi) that's paid off and reliable
4.  Joel
5.  his own place, their place, to go home to

Deirdra (our very expressive new daughter-in-love) was thankful for:

1.  Ben, what a great husband he is--hardworking and good provider; she doesn't work because she has to, but because she wants to right now
2.  her mom's sacrifices as a single parent to give Dee and her twin a good life
3.  her job as a nanny of adorable 8-month old twin boys
4.  her boss's generosity in paying for the labor on her car repair
5.  a place of their own ("not the Zubrowskis' basement on the weekends, as nice as that was, or my mom's house--don't get me wrong, that was nice, too-- but our place to be together in, alone in, where we can learn together, and a place I get to decorate!" This is what she emphasized with her hands). She can hardly wait to start decorating for Christmas tonight, starting with the tree. He strings lights and puts the star on top (which he can reach easily without a chair).

Ima (what the kids call my mom) said she was grateful for

1.  the joy of being in her daughters' homes ("you all decorate so cleverly in ways that reflect who you are and the lives you've made as adults")
2.   my dad-- the way God brought them together and kept them together these 51 years, the man of godly character he is; his being her caregiver pretty much from April till October, when he was her nurse and working set of eyes after her corneal transplant surgeries
3. eyesight--especially being able to see the beauty of "templed hills"  (from a line in "America the Beautiful" that's been playing her in mind) --the templed hills which she saw in Sedona, AZ, on a recent visit to my sister's place. She called it "Garden of the Gods on steroids." )
4.  Joel's school and the classical Christian education he is getting that she wishes every child could have; the  godly, mature adults that her grandchildren have become and who have chosen meaningful jobs to support themselves (so many of her friends' generation have grandkids who are demanding, listless, unemployed by choice, stealing drugs or money for drugs from the grandparents)
5.  truce in Israel  and safety for our friends who escaped to bomb shelters during the attacks this week

Jay said he was thankful for :

1. his wife Jill who is very good with finances
2.  Jill's patience during hunting season
3.  a boss who allowed him 17 days off to go hunting in Iowa this month
4.  his truck
5. that we have only 4 more years of Obama and that he can't be reelected again  ( a statement which we all cheered and clapped for!)

Jill, my beautiful blonde baby sister, was grateful for:

1.  Jay cooperating with their debt-reduction plan
2.  her job that has paid time off
3.  Jay's housekeeping standards that make their home neat and clean (all 4 of us girls married neatnik, which is blessing but doesn't always feel like it when they're being "particular")
4.  her family--the one she came from that started her on the right path
5.  wisdom from God (not that she claimed to be wise, but let me just say that my baby sister is a wise young woman from whom I've learned a lot)


Joel (our 10-year-old baby who hates to pose for pictures) said:

1.  his friends
2. video games
3. "me, myself, and I"
4. his family
5. Ben (his big brother and favorite person)

Pappaw (my dad, celebrating his 78th birthday) was thankful for:

1. everything his parents provided for and instilled in him
2.  his government job from which he retired that has allowed him and Mama to live comfortably in their "old age"
3.  Mama -- her companionship, her putting up with his poor hearing, her intelligence and care, the children she produced
4.  the unity in the congregation he pastors
5.  freedom of speech

Insert a note here: I gave my dad my first landscape painting as a gift.  He genuinely loved it.  I forgot to take a picture of him opening it and delighting in it the same way he did when I was a little girl handing him a silly little picture of a house with a sun over top.

Paul, who loves to play chef,  said:

1. his wife (aw, that's me!)   and children (the paths they've chosen well without much guidance)
2. hobbies and skills that enrich his life,  and knowledge of things he has learned that his parents did not teach him about (politics, economics, financial stewardship)
3.  his job and that he's never been unemployed
4.  a good night's sleep last night (in the midst of a respiratory ailment of late)
5. being able to thus far pay for our kids' college tuition without debt

Sarah, our one and only daughter whose eyes I love,  was thankful for:

1.  humor  ("but not parental humor--I'm talking GOOD humor!")
2. her teaching job and the people there (students, other faculty and staff, some of whom are fellow Christians)
3. that both sides of her family have long, committed marriages, something she doesn't see enough of in her generation, and even less in her students' generation). She noted that the best behaved kids  in her class come from two-parent families.  The majority of kids live with a mom, or a "mom and her friend" or , two moms (which the little girl said, "this one's my mom and that one's my dad").
4. her five senses
5.  that God never changes in the midst of some major changes in her life (namely change in church, the only church she's ever gone to)

Steve, our recently engaged son and most studious one,  said:

1. Ambrey (of course) and the joy of being engaged, looking forward to marriage and making a home with her
2.  his job and the flexible hours and the pay that will support a wife
3.  education, specifically biology this semester and how studying DNA and botany has increased His gratitude for God as genius designer
4.  education,   the joy of reading good literature (or hearing it on his commute) and  studying theology for pleasure
5.  his family

Yours truly said I'm thankful for:

1.  my husband--he works hard whether on the job or at home; that he has made good choices in behavior that, I believe, have helped him stay employed, that he knows so many different things and can converse about them intelligently
2. for my drawing class that I've taken at the local college; studying art has helped me appreciate God's order in things and the fact that He never has to use an eraser
3.  having my entire family  around the table today. I don't take it for granted any more that my parents will always be there, nor that as I have to "share" the married kid with another family on for holidays  (I cried before I could even get those words out, and admitted, truly how happy I am today for the blessing of all 12 of us around the table.)
4.  that my daughter, DIL, and DILTB all know how to cook and bless their loved ones with good food
5.  for my new daughter-in-law, Dee, and how well she takes care of Ben, and vice-versa. It's heartwarming to see the love between them.

Thank You, God, for all Your blessings, and for a special day to sit down and count them one by one while eating, drinking, and making merry.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Tablescape Prep

Creating the tablescape is my favorite part of holiday decorating.  Flowers are my friends, and I just love color. I'm loving the golds and reds of the season this year more than ever before, for some reason. They inspired the purchase of a new tablecloth recently.  The tablecloth inspired my napkin choices, and Pinterest inspired the "envelopes" (hiding the silverware, a special set from my grandmother). 

(That's glare, not crud, on the fork and spoon; I checked.)
Today I was in the grocery store and was choosing flowers, when I noticed a bunch sitting in a jar of cranberries--fresh cranberries.
Then on Pinterest I saw a bunch of flowers resting in a mason jar filled with lemons. I decided to combine the two ideas, keeping the flower purchase to $8 and shopping my house for the other stuff.

I had the glasses already tied with yellow bows from some other occasion.  And I had the cranberries and lemons because I'll be using them in recipes.

And I got a harebrained idea to make this tray at 2:30 in the morning.   I painted it a year ago but chose tonight, of all nights, to cut out magazine foods and Mod Podge them on.  I might or might not actually use this serving tray on Thanksgiving, but at least it's ready.

And finally, I found this idea on Pinterest. The apples are real. So is the paper, and the people whose names are written thereon. Looking forward to having a dozen folks around the table soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Joining my social network of Hodgepodgers today.  Thanks for hosting, as usual, Joyce.

Why am I doing this?  I really don't have time. I'll tell you why. Because it's my escape from the stress of everything still left to do before Thursday. And it's one thing that'll stay done when it's done, unlike most other things.

1. Turkey-love it or leave it? White meat or dark? What's your favorite thing to make using leftover turkey?

Somewhere in between. I really like it, and Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without it, but our family has concluded that a whole bird goes to waste since no one likes the dark meat very much,, so I just bought a turkey breast this year. The good thing about that is how much less oven room it takes up!

As for leftover, just more turkey over white bread with gravy.  Yeah, buddy, that's comfort food right there.

2. Gotta burn off all those carbs the day after a holiday feast so which would you rather do-run a 10K or climb a mountain?
Is there a third option?  If not, I guess climb a (flattish) mountain because this girl doesn't run.   My knees can't hack it, nor could other body parts that don't need mentioning after turning 40 and giving birth to 4 kids. Although, by that reasoning, I take back my climbing a mountain statement. Who am I kidding? The body parts that still work will be stiff and sore from bending over into the oven and lifting my fork to my face.

3. Do you feel like social networking has made your relationships better or worse? Explain.

Great question, Joyce. Too bad I don't have the brain power to think through my answers. In some ways I wish I'd never ever started Facebook. What  a time waster for the most part. On the other hand, I can keep up with my adult children whose paths barely cross mine some days.
I have found out some things via Facebook that I never would have suspected of some people, and I would say that might be a downside. I definitely feel more connected to family I rarely see and who don't call or don't get called often enough.  Blogging makes me feel like I know some people, but my hubby has to remind me I really don't, and we only see what people put out there, so is it "real relationship"?   Some people  who I know in real life communicate ONLY online but ignore me in real life or pretend everything is fine online when really it's not.  I don't use Twitter and feel no compulsion to check one more thing electronically. Social networking has its pluses, but  I think that writing out my feelings here has helped me conclude that there are perhaps more minuses.  The main negative I think is that I tend to feel like I'm keeping in touch with a lot of "friends", but really have a teeny sliver of what is truly going on . 

4. How do you find and express gratitude for the hard things in your life?

Sometimes I have to look really, really hard to find a reason to be grateful for the hard things. But I have learned that I can always be grateful that God is with me, or God knows what He is doing even if it makes no sense whatsoever to me"  I can be thankful that He keeps His promises even to the degree that He will punish the wicked someday. No one gets away with sin forever, and whatever God is capable of is far worse than anything a court of law, or I, could do.

5. In the US, the day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed 'Black Friday'. Is most of your holiday shopping done live and in person, or is it done more through the magic of the Internet? How do you feel about stores opening at midnight Thanksgiving night? Will you be out amongst the masses on Friday?

I like live shopping if I am inspired or know exactly what I'm looking for. I'm leaning more toward online shopping for things like clothes and books that I can't get as cheaply in person.  I am totally against stores opening at midnight Thanksgiving. That is a commercial encroachment on ONE HOLIDAY I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE COMMERCE-free! Sit down and relax, people!!

And no, I will not be out with the masses on Friday. It has zero appeal to me.

6. Speaking of the color black-which black item in your wardrobe would you say is your favorite?

Hands down, a black cardigan I practically live in during from October till March.

7. What do you appreciate about your life today?

I'm well taken care of. 

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I wish I had a housekeeper coming tomorrow. Or any day. I like to cook and I really like to set a festive table, and I don't mind baking (if I'm in the mood) but I just really don't enjoying the  cleaning. So, what can I can be thankful for? That I have a home to clean, supplies that smell good,
a body that will usually somewhat/kinda cooperate with my mind. That my husband took this week off and is a hard worker even on his off days. That I was taught how to clean and wasn't raised to feel entitled to have servants.  Although, if you ask my kids, they will say that's what they were born for, .

Coconut Pie Disaster: A Poem

A repost from Thursday, November 24, 2011


Sure hope this is just a repost, and not a replay, this week.  


Pie Gone Awry: My Thanksgiving Poem

On Wednesday night I put a pie in the oven
It's hubby's favorite and a way I show lovin'.
I set the timer and then shut the door
While Sarah took a mop to the kitchen floor.

A half hour later, I went to check progress
But the pie slipped and dumped quite a mess.
"Oh, no-no-no-NO! Gooey coconut paste
All over the door and racks, what a waste!

Determined to salvage at least part of the pie
I gingerly slid it back in, "Worth a try."
Baked it for thirty more minutes or so,
Then I checked again, and whaddya know?

All was not lost--the dessert was redeemed--
But the mess in my oven has got me steamed.
I can be such a klutz, but why on Great Pie Day?
Guess who'll be scraping black yuck on Black Friday?

Monday, November 19, 2012

10 Pieces of Kitchen Advice

Being older has its advantages. I've been cooking for over 25 years as a homemaker, and have learned  a few things that have really helped me. I would like to share the first 10 things that came to my mind . Perhaps you'll benefit, regardless whether you're just starting out or have been "at home on the range" longer than I have.  There's always something new to learn to make life more pleasant and simpler.

1.  Invest in good knives.  I don't mean expensive, but not cheap either. Sharp knives will save you time and energy, and give you great results.  You can get by with a butcher knife, a long bread knife, a paring knife, and a set of six steak knives for guests.  Using dull knives is actually more dangerous. If you find yourself pressing, pulling, or pushing a knife instead of gliding through meat and veggies, you need to get sharp ones.

2.  Use a Crock Pot.  I wish I'd done this as a single girl or newlywed. I thought a Crock Pot was just for big families or crowds. Not so. It's great to make a large quantity at once and have it hot and ready when you return home from a long day out AND for future meals.  A tip I recently learned on Pinterest is to prepare everything and put it all in one or two gallon Ziplocs the night before. (Use the zipper kind; the plain seal kind sometimes pops open.) Don't even wait till morning to open  the canned goods or add the spices. Put it all into the Ziploc bag, store it in the fridge, and dump it all at once into the Crock Pot . Then don't forget to actually plug the pot in and turn it on. (I didn't make that mistake twice!)

3. Double your meals and freeze leftovers as often as possible. You'd be surprised how much time and money will save you in a month.   While you have the knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls, spices, and whatnot already out, go ahead and make extra. Or do everything shy of cooking it, then simply label the meal with cooking instructions.  You'll thank yourself when tempted to just do the ol' drive-thru thing when you're hungry and tired. Tell yourself to drive on home and put that yummy homecooked meal in your microwave.

4.  Lay a wooden spoon over the top of a boiling pot to prevent it from boiling over.

5.  If you're making a cake from a box mix, empty the mix into the bowl but keep the box out on the counter to put your trash into as you go.  It keeps things neater. Not that I always follow my own advice. Ahem.

6.   Keep a bottle of lemon juice on hand. It's useful for many things, not just for the best homemade lemonade or lemon-pepper chicken.  Rub it on your hands to take off onion smell.

7.  Purchase a cookbook that appeals to you on many levels: glossy pictures, easy-to-understand recipes, ingredients you use every day, a lay-flat binding, multiple categories, etc.  Then, when you use a recipe, jot down notes in the margin --on how you may have tweaked it, the occasion you made it for, and how it was rated (I use a 5-star scale or put quotes in the margin from family member)| For example, "4/5 stars, "A hit with everyone at church picnic 7/2/01" or "Don't make this if hosting; too time-consuming."  Don't forget the negative comments: "not worth the effort" or " only makes 5 doz, not 6" or anything else that will help yu next time.

8.  Make food look as pretty as you can. We eat first with our eyes.  Think how NOT to make a monochromatic meal such as golden baked chicken with yellow corn and mac ' cheese.  Sure it tastes good, but colorwise, lackluster. In the event that's what happens, add a slice of tomato or a bunch of grapes for color.  By the way, all food looks good on white or ivory plates. Avoid greyish white plates.  

9. Photograph your food when you like the way it looks. I like to print a photo and keep it with the
recipe for future reference.  Or, more often, I post it right here on the blog. (Try to take the pictures before calling folks to the table. They won't appreciate cold food that's supposed to be hot, no matter how pretty it is. Ask me how I know.)

9.  Always taste your food while cooking. Don't wait till you've served it. Take a bite and hold the
food in your mouth a few seconds with your eyes closed. Ask yourself what it needs to be better. Salt is usually the first thing to start with. But it might be too salty by accident; if that's the case, add half a potato to absorb the salt.  Trust your taste buds. Sometimes you need a pinch of sugar or a green herb like dried basil or a dash of red pepper. Don't feel like you've got to be Bobby Flay or Paula Deane to make good food. 

10.  If you're going to add a hot spice like cayenne or green chilies to soup, dot it at the end.
Foods get more flavorful as they simmer and sit.  You can ruin a whole pot of soup by adding hot spice too soon. Remember you can always add more later or at the table.

I hope you've been helped. Happy cooking!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday's Letters


Dear Business called Epic Sports,

I gotta say, what you make your customers listen to while they're on hold is unique.  Most companies play advertising, trying to get (already upset) customers to buy more from them (oddly enough) while they impatiently hold the line. Some companies play elevator music. But not you.  You play corny jokes and only semi-funny headlines. Super corny. I checked the website when I asked myself, "Where in the WORLD are these people from anyway? I mean, these jokes sound like the kind I heard growing up and can't get away from!"   Well,  whaddya know? Epic Sports is located in Wichita, Kansas. That explains everything.

Dear Ladies in my new Bible Study,

You warm my heart. Your faith builds my faith. The way you pray so hard for people
and make a point to send emails that follow up with praise reports or to ask for more prayer, I just love that. Today I thought Kim's roof was going to lift off as we were "storming heaven" on behalf of someone they know who is a believer but has gotten back into the bondage of drugs. You ladies care for each other so diligently and aren't satisfied with good intentions; you follow through and act on them. You are generous. Thank you for financially blessing friends of mine who are adopting four boys from Brazil. You don't even know them, but you gave more than enough to outfit those boys with new winter coats.  And when one of the ladies said, "Can we provide meals for "Louise" who is caring for her three grandkids while her daughter is in the hospital," many of you jumped at the chance!"

Dear TakeThemaMeal.com,

What a Godsend you are. When a group of folks want to provide meals for a needy person or family,
you make it easy to coordinate. One person gathers the facts from the recipient about how many people to feed, the dietary restrictions/preferences, how often the person needs meals delivered, and the rest is just as easy.  There's a chart for each cook/deliverer to fill in with his or her name, meal bringing, and date. Easy peasy. I have been blessed by TTAM as both giver and receiver of meals. You can click on and see who is bringing what when. It cuts out so many phone calls and emails, insures a sick person won't get five lasagnas in a row, and just takes a burden off the recipient when the burden of  sickness is already heavy. 

Dear Gluten-Free crackers,

I like you.  Too bad you cost a lot. But at least I can afford you since I've given up a whole section of the store called The Bakery.

Dear Piece of Fallish Fabric,

How do you like being tied with a rubber band and hanging on the front door?  You were just laying around taking up space in my basement, but so pretty that I chose you to be the first thing I see when I get home.  I'm sorry you have to put up with corn. You had enough of that on the inside of the house, didn't you, poor thing?  Thanks for cooperating when I scrunched you into a bow of sorts. I could've taken a needle to you, but thank goodness I'm lazy.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hodgepodge 101

I have 101 things to do before hosting Thanksgiving next week, so I will be taking a blog break for a week. I will probably write and upload pictures like a madwoman tonight and schedule out the posts that are in my head.  So, in case you just don't feel complete without a daily dose of my blog--hahahahahhahaha--I will have something for you when you stop by.

The first post before my timeout is the Hodgepodge.  

1. What rule of life should never be broken?

I was going to say, "Ladies first," but I can think of plenty of scenarios in which I'd MUCH prefer to see a man go before me, or instead of me.  In battle, for instance. Or out to  a frosty car to heat it up.  Upon more thought to this question, I'm going with The Golden Rule. If that's the most popular answer to this question, then all I can say is, "Wonderful!"

2.  What is your favorite family recipe?

I don't know that we have just one.  We have a slew of good cooks on both sides of the family. One of my prized possessions is  the Dauber Family cookbook that's  filled with recipes (and humorous anecdotes) from my dad's side of the family.  The best part of the cookbook is the genealogy in the front. Seeing the many branches that go way back makes me feel a deep sense of belonging. The family cookbook is a kind of metaphor for the recipe titled "me." All those crazy genes from the beginning of humanity, created and measured by the Great Chef God Himself, stirred into one big family pot, simmered for eons, distributed throughout a myriad of "kitchens" over the centuries, refined over decades, and then transferred into one tiny portion to my mom's "oven" to be baked for nine months, and delivered to the "table" of parents hungry to meet their new concoction.  

I'm sure their "little entree" was too spicy at times and they asked the Chef to please go easier on the Tabasco next time. (He did. My younger sisters are like mac 'n cheese compared to me.)

3. Is the media manipulative?

Yes, it certainly is. I have to keep in mind at all times that the news is always being "spun." When I took journalism and had to write news articles, I remember that the professors could not stress enough to our classes, "Keep all your opinions out of the news. Report the facts. Save your opinions for feature articles. Otherwise you are editorializing, and that's unacceptable for journalists writing news." Nowadays, it's tough to read or watch anything called "news" that doesn't have the author's bias in it.  As a Christian, I have to make sure I "renew my mind" with truth of scripture so that I'm not taking on the biases of the culture.  That's exhausting. It's easier to just not watch.

Of course, when it comes to advertising, the media is supposed to be manipulative. It's called good marketing-- or "creating a need people didn't know they had."

4. Hubs and I saw Skyfall last weekend...are you a fan of the Bond films? If so, who's your favorite Bond?

Not a big Bond fan. I might get sucked into one if I walk in while others are watching, but I don't think I'd choose it on my own.

5. What is one thing you hope people never say about you?

"I never knew she was a Christian."

6. What's a nearby tourist attraction you'd like to see, but haven't gotten around to visiting?
The Philadelphia Museum of Art.  It's on my 101  in 1001 List.

7.  Where's your favorite tree?

I have two favorite trees, and both were  (are?) on my late Grandpa's 480-acre farm in Valley Falls, Kansas.

One was a sprawling oak near his pond, where the cows would find shade, and they'd rub their itchy backs against its bark, and is locked in my memory along with learning to fish and just loving my
grandpa's company. It was a rare treat to spend time with him.

The other tree was another sprawling oak, located in his front yard. I remember sitting under it with him on my last visit before he died. We held my babies, his first two greatgrandchildren. Under that tree,  holding the fourth generation in his lap, he was a happy, old, satisfied man in tan coveralls. Under that tree, holding squirmy beings who wore me out and filled me up at the same time,  I felt I had given him two of the best gifts a granddaughter could ever give her grandfather. He adjusted his glasses, chin going up and down, and he smiled. Then he said,  "Well,  I'll tell you what, Zoanna.  Ya done good. Ya done real good."

8.  Insert a random thought.

I thought for sure Joyce was going to say something about 101 Dalmatians as a segue into asking about dogs or age spots or having too much of a good thing under one roof.  So I'll ask, what good thing do YOU have too much of in your house?  I have too much paper clutter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Twelve Questions Tuesday

This is just a little meme I made up.  There are 12 questions;  the one "rule" is that you have to limit each answer to 20 words.  Want to join? Sure you do! Simply copy the questions to your blog if you have one, and leave a comment so we can find ya.

1. How often do you eat off paper plates at home?

 Twice a month, maybe.   I don't get much "dining pleasure" from paper, and easily fill a dishwasher  daily around here.

2. Do you have a favorite mug, cup, or glass? Describe it.

It's a heavy, earthy mug that features a songbird. It says, "Be still and know that I am God."

3. What laundry detergent do you use most often?

Arm & Hammer.  It does a good job cleaning, smells fresh, and fits my budget.

4. If you were a new bride registering for wedding gifts, what are some things you would put on your registry?

Good knives, white stoneware plates, Calphalon cookware, plush bath towels, lavender massage oil, Scrabble , hammer, screwdriver, nails, stainless trash bins.

5. Assuming your spouse is your best friend if you're married,  how would you describe your NEXT best friend? If you're not married, describe your best friend.

Loyal, funny, intelligent, hard-working, good listener, generous, kind, honest, adventurous, animal-loving, encouraging, creative, God-fearing, feisty, compassionate, talented.

6. What kind of music did you most recently listen to, and was it played on something electronic, or did you hear it live?

Praise music yesterday at church, so 'twas live.  Ironically we sang "We will wait upon the Lord" at breakneck speed.

7. Do you have a special Thanksgiving tradition that you really look forward to every year? What is it?

Writing on a paper leaf, 5 things (each eater) is thankful for, then hang on centerpiece "tree." Take a look here.

8. The last time you injured yourself, how did it happen?

Wore the wrong kind of shoes all day. Hurt my back after a while. Not very dramatic, huh?

9. What is your typical Tuesday evening like, from about 4-10 pm?

Facebook, Words with Friends, dinner, feed dogs, homework oversight if needed, TV, write my Hodgepodge post.

10. How long does it take you to get out of bed once you wake up in the morning ? Do you hit the snooze a lot, do you not even use an alarm, or are you a "rise and shine!' kind of person, eager to start the day?

Takes me a good half hour. Or bad half hour. I don't mind getting up, but give me time!

11.   What shoes do you wear most often?

They're similar to these Clarks side-zip shooties.  Good support, stylish, and go with jeans or slacks.


12. Ibuprofen (like Motrin or Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or aspirin (like Bayer)? Which one do you reach for most often for aches and pains? Or do you try other remedies first?

 Tylenol toxicity killed my SIL's mom.
 Ibuprofen seems to works best for my headaches and joint pains that occur occasionally.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Twelve Question Tuesday Questions

Using 20 words or fewer for each question, answer the following 12 random questions.

I created this meme last week rather spur-of-the moment. Join in if you want to. Think "2012" and you've got the idea. Come back tomorrow, read my answers, and then link up with a comment. Simple, huh?  (Your comment can exceed 20 words, by all means, but not your answers when you blog them.)

1.  How often do you eat off paper plates at home?

2.   Do you have a favorite mug, cup, or glass? Describe it.

3.   What laundry detergent do you use most often? 

4.    If you were a new bride registering for wedding gifts, what are some things you would put on it?

5.   Assuming your spouse is your best friend, how would you describe your NEXT best friend?
If you're not married, describe your best friend.

6.   What kind of music did you most recently listen to, and was it played on something electronic, or did you hear it live?

7.    Do you have a special Thanksgiving tradition that you really look forward to every year? What is it?

8.    The last time you injured yourself, how did it happen?

9.    What is your typical Tuesday evening like, from about 4-10 pm?

10.   How long does it take you to get out of bed once you wake up in the morning ? Do you hit the snooze a lot, do you not even use an alarm, or are you a "rise and shine!' kind of person, eager to start the day?

11.   What shoes do you wear most often?

12.   Ibuprofen (like Motrin or Advil), acetomenophin (Tylenol), or aspirin (like Bayer)? Which one do you reach for most often for aches and pains? Or do you try other remedies first?

There ya go.  Answer away, and remember every word counts.  Only 20 per answer. Can you do it?

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Smell of Wood

cast iron
an old tyme country kitchen

These are the six words that Delores chose on Wednesday. The idea is to use the words to inspire a short piece of poetry or prose. 

Jumping in a tad late, but I feel a limerick coming on, and I can't suppress it. Heaven help us all.


There once was a  cab driver named Wood
Whose cologne had an aroma  so good
That it worked like a siren, and could melt cast iron
in the hearts of women , it could!

Along came a fair fare named Gwendolyn
Whose hair and skin smelled of cinnamon.
Long ride from her apartment, it cost much green parchment,
But the smell of Wood kept her grinnin' .

She used to bemoan the twelve and a half blocks
From Old Tyme Country Kitchen to home
But now her olfactories are zinged in the taxi
When she inhales Mr. Wonderful Wood.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

20 and 12: Wanna Play Along?

Since our beloved hostess Joyce is taking a necessary and well-deserved break from the Hodgepodge this week (for things like...oh...recovering from Superstorm Sandy), and since so many of us love to answer questions and keep in touch, I'm going to start my own sort of  meme today.

I Call it TWELVE QUESTION TUESDAY, but feel free to jump in on Wednesday or whenever you catch this post.

No cute button to grab here, but if you want to play along, leave a comment in the box telling us. We'll use your name to link.  Copy and paste the questions to your blog, but replace my  answers with yours.

The idea is "2012"; you answer 12 questions with 20 or fewer words. Ready to play?

1.  So,  who do you think will win the 2012 Presidential election?  Why?

Tough call, but I think Mitt Romney will be moving in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I will be smiling.

2.  Do you have a pet or two or more? Tell us about them .

Two dogs.  Brownie, adopted GSP, 98 years old and sweet. Reilly, 2.5 Golden, fills a room with his personality.

3.  Have you experienced a blizzard, and if so, how deep was the snow?

A few Maryland blizzards.  Deepest I recall was 28 inches in 2009.  I loved it, quite honestly!

4.   What are your favorite hours of the day? Why?

I like 8-11 a.m.  New energy, fresh coffee, quiet house, most productive, chats with my fifth grader in the van.

5.   What is your favorite color? Has it always been, or has it changed through the years?

Purple. It's usually been purple, but I've sometimes swung toward green, red, and pink.

6.   Paper or plastic? What type of MONEY do you usually pay with? (Debit, credit, cash)?

Credit. But we pay off our balance every month. I prefer  the feel and smell of
cold, hard cash, though!

7.   Do you enjoy a mani-pedi?  Just a manicure but not a pedicure, or vice-versa?

Don't like feeling nails cut or filed, but the massage and the prettying-up and softening, yes.  Maintenance/luxury combined.

8.    Have you ever witnessed or been victim of a robbery or burglary?

Twice. Once in Canada while sleeping above a radio store.   Once at Christmas, while we were out tree shopping.

9.    Would you prefer to spend your sunset years at the beach, in the mountains, or on the prairie?

Anywhere the grandchildren are (and they aren't yet born or conceived, that I know of).  Preferably here in Maryland!

10.  Which color of fall leaves is your favorite?  

Gold.  I am smitten with gold!  Yellow gold when it comes to leaves!

11.  Are you a game player? Which one(s) do you especially enjoy?

Yes, word games like Balderdash, Scrabble, Words with Friends. Also Pit, Clue, Battleship, Masterpiece. Not Sorry, Parcheesi , Bop-it, or chess.

12.  Would you consider yourself a Type A or Type B personality? Why? 

Mostly B ( social, leisure-oriented, emotional, somewhat flexible). But type A (pretty competitive, decisive, goal-oriented). Married an A+ guy!


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Praise of Man vs. Praise of God in Music

These past two Sundays I have been to two different churches.  I'm constantly making observations about what seems right and what just provokes that sense of "this isn't quite right, but it's not exactly wrong, either."  The very fact that I wrestle with the question impedes my worship during the singing time.

Mind you, I come from a background where music was a rich part of my heritage. My dad sang and directed church choirs. I sang solos as a child (Daddy was a  pastor) and later joined youth choirs.
At the same time, though in a scholastic setting, I performed in piano recitals and competition. 

The emphasis both at church and school was excellence. In a Christian school, we were taught that God gave us gifts and we should practice them and use them for His glory. I agree; however, I know my heart and I heard from the mouths of many of my musically talented peers, that we really wanted to win competitions and be recognized for our excellence. 

That "insider knowledge" has always "rubbed me the wrong way."

Let me explain the scenarios of the past two weeks. At the first church, there was  a children's choir.
They sang a song about the coming of Jesus as a baby, and how  He came to be the savior of the world. I completely agree; that's biblical truth being sung.  There was also a woman playing flute; she wasn't too bad, though her flute squeaked in the higher registers. My husband said it was out of tune (he has a better ear than I do for pitch).  

The woman's playing was not excellent and I sat there trying not to judge, but to enjoy. However, I was waiting to cringe on the high notes. And cringe I did.

With the children's song, it was sweet and they enunciated well and no one overpowered anyone else (as children are wont to do).  But I noticed how many parents and grandparents had their videocameras running. Okay, so I get that cute kids make for cute videos, cute keepsakes.  But I ask you, as I ask myself, what message does it send to our kids--and to God--when we run videocameras during worship services? How about when we clap when the song (performance?) is over?  Are we clapping for the praise of the kids? For the praise of the flutist?

This Sunday I attended a church where I've been a few times before.  Every single time I have felt I was at a concert. The leader on guitar is a talented musician, instrumentally and vocally.  The band
is good.  But  each time I visited, I looked around and saw very few people wholeheartedly singing because they didn't really know the words, or because the band leader kept changing things up in a way that I (can't speak for others) had to concentrate too hard. I was afraid of "singing out" at a point when the leader had abruptly halted for dramatic effect between lines. I would much rather sing a hymn or song that is so familiar that I can abandon the self-consciousness and simply plunge into the worship of Jesus.  When I stand there with eyes open staring at an overhead screen and think, "Wow, great words, but the tune is hard to catch on to, "  or "Great voice, but too high for the average Joe  to sing," then I feel like I'm a spectator, not a participant. 

What's the proper thing to do when one wants to enter worship through singing, but is impeded by the leader's style?  I am not saying the style of worship has to be "my cup of tea" every week, but when it
makes me wonder "who are we worshiping, anyway?"  I wonder if I need to say something, keep silent and do my best to focus on the Lord, or go a church where the musicians are both excellent and God-focused, and where no one takes videos.  I am okay with clapping when one is really enthusiastic, but not to clap--and certainly not to give a standing ovation to every performance!--unless the excellence merits it. Even then, I  am not at peace about whether it's right.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Post-Hurricane Sandy Post

Well, I just  wrote 92 percent of my post, and just like that, it was gone. ARGH! And no, I am not saying that as a clever illustration to segue into my post-hurricane post. I honestly lost about nine paragraphs.  Why can't I lose nine pounds by simply hitting "delete"?

Guess I'm supposed to do a Reader's Digest condensed version of an update. Okay, so I will. 

No pictures, sorry. (Of all the batteries I charged, the Nikon battery was not one of them. And my little pocket camera goes through AA's like kids go through shoes.) The only thing different on our personal landscape is that the deck and yard are entirely covered in wet leaves. But thankfully there are still plenty of leaves left on the trees to make for an extended fall kaleidoscope outside my windows.

This is my recap of the "superstorm Sandy" in our corner of the East Coast.  Thank you all very much for your prayers. We felt them.  Thank you, Rachel, my dear bloggy buddy in Texas, for the shout-out on your blog today.  (Yes, I cooked food in anticipation of my "power-less" friends to come eat it it in a warm, bright kitchen, but the friend didn't see my invite on Facebook and besides, is prego-sick and wouldn't have felt up to venturing out to be social. I know she would've made the same offer to me, as  so many folks who had electricty were extending hospitality.  It just feels good to know we all care about each other, and to reflect on how good it feels to turn on a light switch or stove knob and see the positive results!)

1.  We live an hour from Baltimore, a half hour from the Chesapeake Bay, and in our neighborhood there was no loss of electricity.

2.  Our property sits halfway down a steep hill and so all the rain kept running right on down to our stream.  The sump pump did a good job keeping any potential standing water from collecting in our basement.

3.  My parents also didn't lose power. I was concerned they'd get really cold if so.

4.  The state of Maryland was declared a state of emergency and was shut down for a couple days.
That meant that Paul was off work and the kids were home from school.  Nice family bonding time.

5.  My younger sister and her husband DID, however, lose power.  But their kind friends lent them
a humongous generator, so they could run the fridge, freezer, laptop, and other thngs. Jill enjoyed the camping on the living room floor, in front of the woodburning fireplace, with her dog, cats, and books.  Jay is not a reader, and was going stir crazy. He's an outdoorsman.

6.  We were much better prepared for this storm than previous ones, logistically. The Hard Knocks School charges quite a high tuition for its learners, but it does help get students ready for "higher education."

7.  I got to cross off another item from my 101 in 1001 list.  Face  one of my fears.  I've alwoays been afraid to be homeless, or to have to take refuge in a public shelter.  So my way of dealing with that fear in the past was to never think about how I'd prepare for that scenario in an emergency.  I really believe God gave me the grace to pack a garment bag for us to live out of for three days.  Without announcing what I was doing, I simply went to everyone's dresser drawers and found comfy outfits, long and short sleeved, that could do double duty for sleeping or surviving.

8.  The hardest part for me personally, which is an ongoing thing at the moment, not hurricane-specific, is that I am between churches so don't have a pastor to call.  Just writing that sentence brings me to the verge of tears. Yes, there are pastors I could call, but it feels really awkward, as if I'm taking without giving.  How do people live without a church family? I don't get it.  I feel like a sheep without a shepherd.  At any moment one could have  a crisis of faith, a family emergency, a loss to deal with. All of that are things I've always said, "Should that occur, I'll just call my pastor."  But I don't have a pastor right now, and it's one reason I am desperate to find a new church home.  For me, it's scarier to think of continuing life like this than it was to listen to the howling winds and rain threatening to topple tears on our house.

But I know that even without a human shepherd I feel near to, I have Jesus, my Good Shepherd who will never leave me nor forsake me.   Had the hurricane devasted our house, cars, or life as we know it, I am sure that I am safe in His hands. There's never  a safer place than that.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hallowed Gossamer, Batman! She Writes Crazy Stuff.

Susan, a wonderful wordsmith not just on Wednesdays, writes with wit and wisdom over at her blog,  thecomtemplativecat. 

Delores, another clever blogger, came up with a creative writing prompt for the midweek, for whomever needs or wants to "give it a whirl." On Wednesdays she challenges bloggers to look at her string of selected, random words and then compose a short piece of prose, poetry, or what-have-you that ties them together.  (Or not. You may choose one, some, or all to craft your piece.)  Serious, funny, doesn't matter.  Most importantly, it should  not gag anyone on alliteration  or assonance as my first sentence just did.  Sometimes I just canst helps meselfs.

Anyhow, Susan teamed up with Delores to provide this week's batch of words.

 Susan's words (for yesterday, actually) are these:

fluttering      cry      candles        gossamer        echoing       hallowed

Here's my first attempt at this prompt.

Fluttering candles cry, "Gossamer!"

Echoing candles cry, "Gossamer! Gossamer! Gossamer!"

Darn de person h'allowed dat blankety blank gossamer t'get so close t'dem candles in de first  place!

Cute Cousins

The cousins in our family  are rather spread out geographically, so we didn't get to see them in person for Halloween, but thanks to Facebook, I get to see pictures. 
One of my nephews is a police officer. Here's his 13 month old son in his Halloween costume.  

And  the cop's older sister, Rapunzel.

And a local cousin...quack, quack!
And that adorable little punkin born a couple weeks ago...
And his older brother.  (This wasn't his Halloween costume, by the way. But my, how handsome!)