Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for ZKC

Here we are at the end of the month, the end of the A to Z challenge, the end of the alphabet. And to be quite frank, at the end of my desire to crank out one more mandatory post.

Don't get me wrong; I always enjoy the writing process, and have enjoyed this theme I chose (food memories and lessons learned from them), but I am ready to pull back from the keyboard and throw myself into other creative and productive callings.

ZKC--Zubrowski Kids' Cafe. That's what we named our kitchen once upon a time. When the kids were 8, 7, and 5  (long before our last child came along), I thought it would fun to host special brunches for grandparents, elderly neighbors, and a couple (beloved friends of ours) who were, at that time, childless. 

The idea was to our dining room as a restaurant and our guests as guests who didn't have to pay for food or service!  

The kids would dress up as waiters and waitress. Paul would cook.  I would manage both the "front of the house" and the "back of the house." To be clear, the distance between front and back was five  feet.

We had a menu and always a theme, of course.

Valentine's Day Love Brunch

Columbus Day  Brunch


. See our choices of "Nina," "Pinta," and "Santa Maria"?  


A New Year's Day brunch in 1998. 

Somewhere in an album I have pictures from these events, but I neither took the took earlier, nor have the time now, to pull them out to scan or shoot. But the memories are precious.

Grandparents tipped generously, which made grandchildren smile generously.

Kids learned some serving skills. Widowed guests felt honored to be included in family social gatherings.

Friends without children enjoyed looking forward to the day when their table would be full of children (and it is). Paul got to stay behind the scenes doing the task of cooking and playing chef  (one of his little passions).

Lesson learned: Theme or no theme, I've always loved a creating a memory from start to finish with the people I love most in the place I love the most. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yogurt

Our third child had chronic ear infections from birth to age 5.   Round after round of antibiotics proved essentially futile in curbing the frequency.

I balked at the idea of having tubes inserted in his ears, for two reasons.

1.  Maybe we were missing something we hadn't tried, just short of surgery.  Perhaps antibiotics weren't the answer, but neither was surgery.

2.  I was afraid the tubes would become embedded in his ear canals. A rare complication, but it happens.

So before consenting to surgery, Paul and I prayed for wisdom more sincerely than we had been. You know, in this modern age of medicine, it's very tempting to run to the doctor or pharmacy instead of to God for healing.

It seemed almost immediate, although it's been over 15 years since this happened, that my husband asked
if maybe we should cut out the yogurt. Stephen would eat it morning, noon  and night if we let him.

Cut out the yogurt?  That was my go-to easy "pacifier" for my hungry boy. Hey, I had three kids in four years and it seemed they were always hungry. I was tired, okay?

But we made Stephen go "cold turkey" without yogurt. Boy, was that fun. Not.

And guess what? It was months before he had another ear infection.

We told the doctor that taking our child off yogurt was like magic; he seemed unconvinced. He gave a polite eyebrow raise and a half-shrug of one shoulder. Basically, dismissed my husband's hunch and our decision that was non-medical.

Eventually Stephen did start having ear infections again, and not because of yogurt (because we really limited it).  Maybe we didn't make the whole dairy connection. I don't remember. And he did eventually get one tube put in his ear (didn't need treatment in both ears). And after almost a year, the tube DID start to become embedded, so it had to be surgically removed.  He didn't have chronic trouble after that.

Lesson learned: When God gives wisdom to parents, don't worry how doctors react.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

101 in 1001 List Update

I've decided that my 101 in 1001 list could use an updating.  

1. Sponsor a new child Joel's age (8/15/12, Marcos)
2. Pack boxes for Samaritan's Purse at a packing facility at Christmas
3. Make tempanadas
4. Learn watercolor
5. Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art
6. See NYC
7. Lose 2 dress sizes by June 1, 2013 (as of 8/15, down 5 lbs), 3 sizes by Jan 1, 2014) and 80 lbs total by 4/28/15) Went back up 5 by Oct 1, but went off gluten Oct 1 and lost 10 lbs that month.
8. Sand off faux finish in the master bathroom
9 Strip wallpaper from master bathroom
10. Give away 27 things a month 12 times (2x in Aug '12) (27x2 bags Nov '12, 1 in Dec 12, 1 in Jan, 1 in Feb, 1 in March, 2x in April, 1 in May) 
11. See S&A get married
12. Find a good chiropractor and have at least 6 adjustments
13. Read a book on classical education
14. Visit friends in KS again
15. Make a trip out west
16. Give blood
17. Talk with my folks about their will and final arrangements :(
18. Get 200K miles out of van
19. Write 3x to female soldiers
20. Join a nursing home ministry visited n. home w/ school kids May 2013
21. Teach more art camps at home
22. Host 3 game nights with friends
23. Get my hair cut by Mario (8/25/12) not worth the cost
24. Find a new church home  (been attending the same one since Dec; not sure it's home)
25. Sell the Victorian organ
26. Replace all carpet in LR, hall, and BRs
27. Get new mattresses for the boys
28. Make a guest room when SG moves out  (in progress)
29. Make a hobby room when S moves out (in progress--J's room to become something else)
30. Write a song
31. Send 24 greeting cards (Christmas doesn't count) (12 to date)

32. Design a set of 4 songbird greeting cards (1 chickadee 8/5/12)
33. Paint flowers A to Z
34. Give Daddy my first landscape painting (for his birthday ,Nov 2012)
35. Choose the new mailboxk  (installed 4/26/13)
36. Design the remodel of the kitchen
37. Walk 26.2 miles a month 3x
38. Ride a horse
39. Test drive an Audi A6 or A8  (tested and bought A4)
40. Host international students for an American holiday
41. Have a personal or mini-retreat w/ praying friend(s)  (4/27/13)
42. Troll around in a boat on a lake
43. Get piano tuned
44. Learn to draw 3 animals well (horse, bird, golden retriever)
45. Brush up on my Russian
46. Visit TX and NM relatives
47. Read a biography of a martyr
48. Get my tooth implant done
49. Start Joel's school memento book and do up thru grade 5
50. Develop the rest of my old film
51. Do J's baby scrapbook
52. Buy B&D's wedding photos
53. Frame and hang wedding photos
54. Take a drawing class (10 weeks, fall '12)
55. Read Battlefield of the Mind
56. Help S set up her new classroom (8/7/12)
57. Serve my three friends who have MS in a meaningful-to-them way
58. Make a pie crust from scratch
59. Sew two new family room pillows
60. Fast from the computer on Sundays, at least 7 times
61. Teach Reilly a new trick (play hide-n-seek with tennis balls I hide in house, per Andrea, 10/12)
62. Get zoom lens repaired
63. Make Christmas stockings for everyone (made 4 thus far: B,D,St,A ...12/12)
64. Clean out one drawer a month (kitchen junk 1/14/13, FR 2/13, SG's 3/13, DR 4/13)
65. Sell, give away, or repurpose old entertainment center
66. Organize all important phone numbers and addresses (11/1/12)
67. Play the hammered dulcimer
68. Have a mega-cooking party to serve singles and/or the sick (Mama, post-op, Sept 2012)
69. Get mammogram again
70. Serve a military family in a practical way
71. Go on a school field trip **Franklin Institute, Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit
72. Shop for master bath fixtures w/ hubby
73. Take an elderly or non-driving person to the polls to vote in Nov (offered, none needed)
74. Take a Chinese cooking class w/ hubby from his cheffy friend
75. Make an Indian dish
76. Host a birthday party for a friend
77. Learn Pachelbel's Canon in D Major on piano
78. Read through the Bible chronologically
79. Keep a prayer journal with columns (Request, Date, Answer) (ongoing)
80. Attend a horse show, race, or other event
81. Host a ladies' brunch
82. Make a baby quilt
83. Make curtains for basement in Ravens colors
84. Watch an old home video with the kids
85. Watch Ben's wedding video for the first time
86. Have a conference call w/ my 3 sisters at least 3x
87. Sell the Saab  May 18, 2013
88. Visit Savannah, GA
89. Meet a blogging friend for 1st time in person
90. Exchange 2-3 hours of cleaning for someone
91. Do a Daniel diet (10 days in a row meatless)  Jan 2013
92Complete a women's Bible study with a group   Feb 2013
93. Thank a good employee in front of his or her manager
94. Repaint wicker porch furniture
95. Learn to make sushi
96. Do something scary (face one of my big fears) Packed an evacuation bag . Oct 29 for Hurricane Sandy .
97. Attend a professional performance of the Nutcracker (not professional, but saw it for first time 12/12)
98. Apply for tutoring job at local college (writing lab) OR be hired by school for art
99. Encourage hubby to have Manhood Weekend with the boy for "that talk" on his 11th b'day
100. Do deep purge of the basement storage area (see #96)
101. Hold an Ebenezer dinner to recount answered prayers in the last 6 months

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for eXercising Her Gift while I was in eXcessive Pain

Thursday afternoon I was rearended on the Baltimore beltway in rush hour traffic.  I was stopped when the lady behind merged over into my lane--much too closely. She barely bumped me, but it was enough to rattle me. Cars and trucks zoomed past with the two of us in the middle lane. That was scary, so I called 911 just to get a cop out there .

A state trooper showed up and held back traffic with his lights and sirens. He asked the lady and me to pull clear over to the left shoulder.  I looked at my van and couldn't see any new scratches or dents, so I agreed to let her go. It's how I would've wanted her to treat me if the circumstances had been reversed.  It could have been so much worse.

This morning I left the house at 8:30  for a much-antipicated ladies' event at a wooded retreat area close to home. A mini spiritual retreat with about 70 Christian sisters, a few of whom I already knew from my Bible study.

I felt good from the inside out as I closed the front door behind me. Hair was cooperating, make-up was set, outfit was comfy.  In my hands I carried a  Bible and journal,  and my keys. Over my shoulder, my good camera, because I wanted to document the beauty of the setting today.

Sunshine, blue skies, a cool breeze, birds singing. All was lovely until..

I rolled my ankle going down from my front steps.  

Splat! Fell flat into my freshly-mulched front garden. A flash of blackness filled my eyes as  I collapsed in pain. All my stuff landed with a thud.

For a few seconds I lay there, stunned. Then I started to cry a little. 

My ankle was throbbing , my knees were scraped, my pride hurt (had my neighbors seen me fall?) and I was covered head to toe in dirt and mulch.  I knew I'd have to go back in and change tops, at least.  Not wanting to be late, I limped as fast as I could, changed, whimpered to Paul to please start praying for me (and I was thinking he hadn't  been or else this wouldn't have happened). 

I got in the car and said, "Satan, you are not going to defeat me! You have discouraged me. You are trying hard. First the little accident on the beltway and now this. I see what you're up to. You don't want me to hear from God, to draw close to him, to get fellowship, to be strengthened. You want to keep me bumped, bruised, shaken up. But listen here! The harder you try to upset me, the more I'm gonna run to God!"

Then I texted my friend Bonnie to tell her I'd be there a few minutes late and briefly explained my little injury.  She texted back, "God love ya. But you shouldn't have told me you had a mouth full of mulch. That made me laugh."

As I drove, I also thought of something that made me laugh: I took God literally when He said He wanted me get on my face before Him.

I also knew that I would have Christian sisters ready to minister the healing grace of God once I got there.
Sure enough, Therese greeted me and brought me an  ice pack.
Someone I didn't know had ibuprofen.
Kim, my Bible study leader,  is a nurse and asked if I needed a walker or crutches! Oh, goodness, no. I'm hurt but not THAT hurt.
Gwen remembered that I had weak knees to start with and did I think that contributed to my fall?  I said it could have. I had been yardwork for four hours with Paul yesterday and was still sore from head to toe from that.

And one other lady exericsed her gift. She loves--absolutely LOVES--to cook. She catered lunch for the women--fruit salad, kale salad, chicken salad, ham salad, Tuscan vegetable soup, strawberry iced tea, and a variety of cupcakes. AND she came up to me and said she knows my future daughter-in-law and said what  an amazing young woman she is.  It does something to my heart every time I hear confirmation of what a gift she will be to my son.

The Lord ministered through many testimonies of women speaking today. Healing to my withered soul was taking place while my ankle responded to ice and ibuprofen.  Satan fled at the name of Jesus. God's Word flooded that retreat room with peace, hope, light, encouragement, conviction, and healing.

I'm doing a lot better.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wobbly Eggs

When our oldest son  Ben was about nine years old, my parents took all  the kids and us to IHOP for breakfast.  My mom was seated next to him, and I was across the table.

Ben ordered eggs overmedium, with toast and bacon.  His plate came and he just stared dubiously at it, instead of digging right in.

The waiter left when all the food was served.

"What's wrong?" my mom asked Ben, whose nose was wrinkled in disgust.

"My eggs are... wobbly," he said.

My mom burst out laughing. The eggs were undercooked and yes, "wobbly" was a perfect description.  It just struck us all funny.

A few minutes later the waiter came back to check on us.

"Is everything okay?"

My mom swallowed her bite so that she could speak up for Ben, who was afraid to complain about restaurant food at his age.

"Actually, no," my mom said,  her shoulders starting to shake, her lips curling in. "My grandson... would like--"

We could clearly see her trying to hold back her laughter, which, of course, made me giggle.

"My grandson...would like eggs... that--"

She began to wheeze. By this time all of us were howling into our napkins.

The poor waiter smiled sheepishly, and Mama tried again.

"I'm sorry. My grandson would like eggs that aren't,,,,,,,,,, WOBBLY!"  Her voice went up two octaves and squeaked on the last word.

I was pounding the table laughing so hard. Silverware clanked and orange juice leapt out of glasses.

"Ma'am, did you say the eggs are wobbly?"   the waiter asked matter-of-factly.

My mom nodded vigorously. "Yes! Look at them. Wobble wobble." She jiggled Ben's plate for proof.

 I spewed coffee through my nose.

That's the last thing I remember. "Wobble, wobble."

Lesson learned:  Some descriptions never leave your mind.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Venison in Verse

Verily, verily, I say unto thee
Venison--the first time-- I ate unwittingly.
How so? Well, my brother-in-law made chili;
I was half through it when he asked ,"So, you lke Bambi?"

Vomit I didn't, but felt like crying.
For the taste I enjoyed some deer went dying.
That was the first time I started trying
To come to terms with self-denying.

For I must admit, that venison was moist,
Juicy, and tender, so my spoon I did hoist.
But my opinion? You know it got voiced.
"Why'd you dupe me? So you could rejoice?"

Well, I got over it, and came to terms
With the fact that it's deer meat-- not worms.
I fought my conscience as if fighting germs.
My principles? Label them "flabbies", not "firms."

Those principles wiggled and jiggled like my upper thighs.
When I tasted the venison, my resolve went bye-byes.
Down my gullet, fooled by my eyes.
Deer meet is no longer just a hunter's sweet prize.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sewing/Craft Room to Drool Over

Talk about a room having  the 'wow' factor! I found it while tooling around online.

If you sew, eat your heart out admiring this room.  If you don't sew, you can still appreciate its beauty and organization.

Here is the room.   What do you like best about it?

U is for Umami and the USS Hodgepodge

If you're here from the A-Z Challenge and want to know what my letter "U" post is, it's abbreviated today in #8 below .  Call me a slacker; I have no food or drink memories associated with this letter and my theme.  (Well, I have one; I almost called this post "Underwear Joe," but --in the wise words of  The Lion King's  Timon--"best to keep the past behind ya!")

If you're here From the Other Side of Pond, welcome aboard,  where I sometimes give dinghy answers as long as a yacht. Thanks, Joyce, for putting wind in our proverbial sails with this fun little meme called the Wednesday Hodgepodge.

1. April showers bring May flowers...what have you been showered with this month?

Extraordinary expenditures. Car payment (unusual for us--we've been four years without one), wedding rehearsal deposit, queen mattress for guest room, and a microwave for my son and his bride-to-be.

2. What is the nature of compassion? Is it learned or innate? Can compassion be learned? If you're a parent is this something you've purposely sought to instill in your children, and if so how?

The best definition of compassion that I heard about 15 years ago:

"Compassion is not warm fuzzy feelings. Compassion is seeing a need and doing something about it."

Some personalities are more sensitive to other people, more observant, and more prone to do act on their senses and observations.  But I definitely know that when compassion is modeled, it is more likely to be emulated.  And there is no substitute for becoming compassionate than by being someone in need who has received kindness and "pays it forward."  I don't believe that someone who has grown up in the lap of luxury can ever really feel what it's like to be in want for very long unless he or she is forced to be in want for an extended period.

I have experienced both poverty and prosperity. My favorite line from "Fiddler on the Roof" sums it up: "It's no shame to be poor. On the other hand, it's no great honor, either!"

We have tried to instill compassion in our four children by having them be part of  what we're doing when possible and appropriate. Obviously I never took one to the crisis pregnancy center where I counseled, but we have brougth them alongside us in other ways.  I have watched my older sons give up their Saturdays to work on a Habitat for Humanity house in the inner city. One son is now part of an outreach to people diagnosed with HIV AIDS.   I have admired two of my kids who worked at a summer camp in a remote Pennsylvania town for a stipend that amounted to a dollar an hour. Our daughter was happy to be hired as a teacher in a  Title I school (low income) because she is more rewarded by seeing kids succeed who don't have means and support at home.  Our youngest gave his second Capri Sun drink to a friend on the field trip yesterday when the boy said he was still thirsty.

3. Do you prefer to watch romantic comedy or romantic drama...or are you rolling your eyes saying bring on the action flicks?

In a male-dominated house, I seldom get to watch anything romantic.   Over the years, I  have adapted to  the likes of the guys--action flicks--and actually those types of movies tend to leave me satisfied.  Best not to even  try to let romance films entertain me-- or I start to do the old sinful-comparison thing.  It's neither good for me nor fair to him. 

My man shows his love best by acts of service, like painting "my" craft room a shade of yellow I chose, over a shade of green he painted for our girl many years ago.  My man might not be a smooth talker nor able to "cut a rug," but he is smooth in the paint-rolling kind of way and keeps splatters OFF the rug!  Teehee. And those socks are just sizzling hot, aren't they, ladies?

The short answer now? Give me the Bourne series any day and keep your Jane Austen. 

4. It's April , which means baseball season is officially upon us here in the US of A. Humphrey Bogart is quoted as saying "A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." Agree or Disagree?

Hmmm. That's a great quote I've never heard.  And I wish I had a fast and easy answer.  I have to really be in the mood for a hot dog, even at the ballpark. On the other hand, I don't think I could be comfortable eating roast beef at the Ritz, either. Both are wasteful--what's a pack of hot dogs cost? Less that one single hot dog at Camden Yards.  What's a  serving of roast beef at the Ritz cost? More than some families make in a month in certain parts of the world.  I guess I could probably live with myself better by splurging on a hot dog at the ballgame than by eating hoity-toity food elsewhere.  And that's coming from someone who loves fine dining.

5. What's something in your community or city that needs fixing or improving?

The mayor. Most Marylanders would say that Mayor OweMalley (O'Malley) needs his sense of right and wrong fixed when it comes to taxing us.  More than a few middle-agers approaching retirement are talking about (and actually) moving out of this state for that very reason. Just this weekend Paul said we ought to move to Delaware. Of course my first reaction? "Not if the kids and future grandkids stay here!"

6. Share a song you enjoy that mentions flowers or a specific flower in its title.


Edelweiss Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

This song takes me back to childhood when my dad would sometimes have us all hold hands around the table and sing grace to the tune.

 We would sing, "Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
praise the Lord, hallelujah.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, hallelujah!"

By the way, did you know that the edelweiss is of the sunflower family?

7. April 22nd is Earth Day...do you believe there's life on other planets? That wasn't the question you were expecting, was it?

Earth day, birthday. April 22nd is my daughter's birthday. Had to throw that in. (See yesterday's post if you want.)

Life on other planets? I don't think so. Everything I've read about earth says that life is possible here only because we are the ideal distance from the sun. Any closer, we'd burn up; any farther away, we'd freeze to death.  I tend to think that when the Bible says God created heaven and earth and all the people and animals and plants therein, it means literally this planet Earth. Period. No life as we know it elsewhere. Then again, we know so little and maybe God is enjoying the lives of angels and other creatures on a different planet. Hey, He's God and anything's possible with Him!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Umami   is a word I just learned about two weeks and tucked into the back of my little bloggy mind for today.  It refers to that quality of yummy goodness in food that is hard to describe. Let me borrow from Wikipedia for a bit of help.  Basically, now that I know what it means, I think I'll start saying it with a Mae West accent. "Oooh, Mah-mee!"  Last thing I had that made me say "umami" were these little raspberry-filled cream pastries, made my Earth Day birthday girl.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Umami /ˈmɑːmi/, a savory taste,[1][2][3] is one of the five basic tastes, together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. A loanword from the Japanese (うま味?), umami can be translated "pleasant savory taste".[4] This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai (うまい) "delicious" and mi (味) "taste". The kanji 旨味 are used for a more general meaning to describe a food as delicious.
The human tongue has receptors for L-glutamate, which is the source of umami flavor. For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.[5]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Tortellini in a Teeny bit o' Time

I don't remember the first time I ever ate tortellini, but I was hooked.  It might have been at my sister-in-law Pat's house. She used to buy spinach-mushroom tortellini from Aldi.

What's so great about tortellini?

1.  It's quick.  Boil 2 inches of water and drop those puppies in.. When they float , they're done. Don't let them float around or they'll get mushy. Drain them, add red or white sauce if you want, and then eat.

2.  It's hearty.  Because there's filling inside, unlike regular pasta,  it'll stick to your ribs longer.

4.  It's versatile.  You can serve it with or without sauce. Yes, that's right. Sometimes all I do is toss mine in olive oil and then sprinkle a generous handful of grated Parmesan over that.

5.  It sounds cute: tortellini. Say it five times fast and see if you don't find yourself smiling.

Bam! A hot lunch in under five minutes and it wasn't microwaved!

Put a salad with it, maybe a slice of garlic toast, and perhaps a glass of wine.  If you want some meatballs, they take just a little longer, but still, this is a super fast meal that satisfies the teeming masses. Okay, maybe you don't typically serve teeming masses, but if you were to do so, they'd be satisfied and you wouldn't  have slaved over a hot stove all day.

Tortellini. You've got a delicious, no-fuss, honest-to-goodness  meal right then and there.

 If, however, you do want to fuss a little to make a sauce from scratch, check out this blog where the photo is from. Looks yummy, huh?

Lesson learned:  Keep tortellini on hand at all times.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Sweet Sarah's Sweets


Happy birthday to our one and only daughter, Sarah.
She is 24 today.
She learned to cook and bake at an early age, but never wanted the toy baking stuff--always the "real" mixing bowls, whisks, spatulas, and ingredients.

I especially appreciated her yen for baking, because it's something I'm
seldom in the mood to do.  For one reason, once I'm done, I'm done. Cooking a meal
is the end of my day in the kitchen, if I can help it.

Many evenings her dad and I would be watching TV and get a hankering for something
sweet. One of us (usually he) would ask, "Sarah, do you feel like baking something? Cookies? A cake?"

And she would say yes or no, but usually yes.  In a half hour's time, she'd be pulling
brownies or coffee cake or mini muffins out of the oven, delighting us all.  The house has been
noticeably devoid of the aroma of cinnamon and chocolate since she left home.

But that doesn't mean she has stopped baking for us. A couple of weekends ago she made plenty of blueberry muffins to feed her roommates and had a lot left over. She delivered them cheerfully to us
and we cheerfully ate them!

Thankfully someone at work made her an Oreo cake. What's a birthday without a cake? And flowers from people who love you...delivered to your classroom...and then taken home to your bathroom for a facebook photo shoot!

She's been sick with allergies or a  cold today, poor thing,  and all she wants to do is sleep, but she has "school crap" to take care of. She has no medicine for her symptoms and so I offered to take some to her.

"Mom, I could be to the store and back before you got here."  She's right. It would take me nearly an hour to make such a delivery. Not that I mind. She's my baby girl, after all, no matter how old she is. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Rachel's Stuffed Shells

I've told this vacation-to-Texas story before, but the food memory didn't take center stage.

I was two months pregnant in September of 1999, not feeling queasy, with the flexibility of traveling whenever we wanted because we were homeschooling.  We chose September because it would be slightly (one degree?) cooler in Texas.  The vacation was supposed to be a leisurely 12 days in the van with three kids, roundtrip to visit my two sisters. Andrea lived near the border of Mexico, Rachel  five hours north.

We spent three days getting there and three days getting home, but while there, I remember snippets.

The first full day was great--I got to watch my kids ride Andrea's horse. 

The second day I started experiencing a miscarriage.  I knew the symptoms all too well; I'd lost a baby in my second trimester in 1996. It could take a while and I decided to go ahead and do some sight-seeing just over border with my family .Between the poverty, the begging native children, the heat, and the pending loss, I pretty much spent the day crying and letting Rachel know we would have a change a plans once we got to her city.

The third  morning  someone broke out the back passenger window of our vehicle, so we wasted half a day getting that fixed.  Our oldest son got stung by a fire ant while checking out the broken glass. 

The fourth day I was in the emergency room at a small hospital.  I honestly don't remember a single nurse or doctor. I just remember a painful labor of sorts and realizing the exact moment the baby passed, and my husband consoling me as best he could.  While we were at the hospital, Rachel's husband and Andrea took the kids tubing on the Guadalupe.   I spent the afternoon recovering on the sofa, holding Rachel's  four-month-old baby,  while she fixed dinner I still remember how satisfying the meal: stuffed shells.  Comforting, filling, delicious stuffed shells.   Great food also for the terribly sunburned kids after their tubing trip. 

On the way from Rachel's to our hotel, we witnessed a plague of grasshoppers. Apparently every seven years or so there's an outbreak along the Guadalupe River. They attacked the van, they covered the exterior walls of the bookstore, they crackled under our flip-flops as we entered Walmart, they buzzed in the air like electric clouds. I was going out of my mind with fear and disgust.

Not even our hotel room was bug-free: one grasshopper jumped out from under the pillow, and another on the bathroom counter made me scringe (scream and cringe at the same time). It took me till midnight to fall asleep, and when I awoke at four, I was having a private funeral in my mind and mourned the loss of my fifth child. 

But I was grateful that I hadn't been through this experience alone. My sisters had played key roles in my comfort and healing, not the least of which  was Rachel's fabulous cooking of stuffed shells.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Q-cumbers

All right, so I had to take some literary license with today's letter, considering that the only food I've ever had that starts with "Q" is quinoa.  And it left no lasting impression worthy of a blog post.

Q-cumbers, on the other hand--the very mention of them, will always transport me mentally back to Russia. I  had the great privilege of being a short-term missionary to Vladimir, Russia, in 2007. My daughter had just graduated high school at home, and wanted no ceremony and no gift other than the opportunity to go with Global Aid Network (GAIN) to visit orphans there.  She needed a  chaperone, right?

With overwhelming financial and prayer support from people who gave generously, the two of us got to share the dream-come-true.

I had no expectations for culinary experiences there; it wasn't a big deal to me what we ate. I like just about everything. My parents had raised us not to be picky, only grateful and experimental. In doing so, she raised at least one missionary-at-heart.

What I found surprising was just how many cucumbers and tomatoes Russians eat. Except for breakfast, I think cukes and maters were served at every meal. Always simply diced and salted, or sliced and salted, but there they were, as common as a fork on the table.  I don't remember them tasting outstanding or blah; it's not really the taste I remember at all, but the company I was with. This loving, fun bunch of 14 Christians from all over the US who spent every waking hour of 10 days together, sharing humanitarian aid, playing with orphans, sharing the gospel through song, drama, and personal interaction.

Say the word "cucumber" to me and I am immediately, in my mind, sitting in a stuffy little fifth-floor apartment of a worn-out, old, sick, hospitable woman who (through the interpreter) asked me many questions about Jesus and eternal life and who or what is the Holy Spirit. Her Russian orthodoxy was more of a hindrance to her understanding of truth than the language itself.  I remember vividly the clarity  I had in my mind and heart, undistracted by the language barrier, undisturbed by the heat, unabashed by message of forgiveness and salvation that is mysteriously simple and profound all at once.

The only picture I can find from our trip that has cucumber and tomatoes at the table would be this one. The gal with longer blonde hair, one of our intrepreters, has that combo on her plate. I think we Americans ate so QUICKLY that our Q-cumber salad plates had already been cleared by our delightful Russian Christian host and hostess.

Lesson learned:  Every time I eat a Q-cumber,  I remember with great joy the unity and love we experienced in Russia, serving Christ and enjoying fellowship even with all our differences. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pic-a-Nic Food

How long it took me to condense the word "picnic"down to its rightful two syllables, I am unsure.  For the longest time, I said "pic-a-nic" which was probably too cute for my mom to correct. We moms know how that is. 

The first pic-a-nic food I remember were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was six years old.  We were living at seminary in Kansas City, in a cul-de-sac on campus referred to as "the teardrop."  I think it was called the teardrop because of its shape, but maybe for what the final exams elicited from students. 

At any rate, when my older sister and I wanted to pack a little lunch and go off our own little adventure (always "within earshot" of my parents), we wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
My mom would take the crusts off and cut one sandwich in quarters, on the diagonal. We'd each get two cute little triangular PB & J sandwiches which were packed with love and perhaps a sigh of relief that two girls out of the house meant 20 minutes of P&Q (Peace and Quiet), for a change. Mama sent us skipping off with our brown bag, holding hands, promising her we'd stay together.

Other pic-a-nic foods have played two-bit roles in the movies of my memory. Of those that start with the letter "p,"  I think German potato salad deserves a nomination.  So does Pretzel salad (a jello-cream cheese-and pretzel dessert so loved by my husband that my mom calls it Son-in-Law Salad).
And let's not forget pork & beans (which, for the longest time I thought was one word: porkenbeans).  Every can of them had a floating cube of lard like a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks, except no one wanted it.

Many pic-a-nic foods have been packed, eaten, and forgotten in my life, but my favorite, by far, was the first one, shared with my seven-year-old sister on a hot Missouri day.

Lesson learned:   PB & J   packed in a pic-a-nic by a proud parent for her precious pig-tailed progeny  presides perfectly in posterity.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Onward to the Hodgepodge

I'm fairly worn out (in a good way, though) from blogging every day in a systematic way. So glad I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge--it's bringing up good memories for me-- but I'm also glad I decided to put a 26-sentence limit on my posts.

I promise not to use more than 26 sentences total here, either, today.  Thanks, Joyce, for coming up with the questions. I enjoy hopping around to get to know my "Hodgepodge family" better every week.

To make it fun, all my answers will start with the letter "O."

1. April 15th is the deadline for Americans to file their state and federal income tax returns.  What's a job you do on a regular basis that could be described as 'taxing'? 

Obligatory grading of art projects.  After coming up with the project, doing a sample, creating a rubric, setting up the supplies, teaching the lesson, helping clean up, and wondering if I've added any joy to my students' week through art, I  really do not like picking apart a project according to the rubric and assigning a grade--unless it's an obvious A+.  

2. I'm participating in the April A-Z blog challenge, and the Hodgepodge happens to fall on Day O this week. In keeping with that theme...olives, onions, oysters, okra...of the foods mentioned, what's your favorite O food?

Olives I like, but accidentally bit into one several years ago that still had its pit.  Broke my tooth and ended up with a root canal and now I need a tooth implant.  Onions are a staple in my kitchen. Oysters? Yuck (tried them twice).  Okra--I almost decided to write about my memories of sitting in the garden as a girl, with salt shaker in one hand, okra in the other.  I eat a lot of onions, but have to say OKRA is my favorite because it's never given me gas, tears, or dental disasters.

3.  What is something memorable you experienced as a child that your own children (or future children/nieces/nephews) will not get to experience? 

Outdoor playing from sun-up to sundown , virtually unsupervised, with neighborhood kids.  

4. Term limits for our elected officials...your thoughts? 

Oh, that's simple: I would like the power to kick out whomever,  whenever,  I wish.    There is one I would start with, whose name just happens to coincide with the A to Z Challenge letter for today.  

5. On April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere made his famous 'midnight ride'...when did you last make a midnight ride?  Perhaps the fate of a nation wasn't hanging in the balance, but tell us where you were headed anyway.

On the way to BWI to pick up my girl arriving home from Florida on spring break.

6.  What would freak you out more...a mouse running across your floor or a big fat hairy spider? 

Other than snakes, no animal freaks me out like a mouse.

7. I love it when people ask me

(the) origin of my name. I get to say "Zoanna comes from the Greek "zoe" which means "life abundant" which Jesus promises to give His followers, and from the Hebrew "Anna" which means "grace," another gift He freely gives.  Having an unusual name that kickstarts a conversation with strangers about Jesus is a wonderful thing my parents gave me.

8.  Insert your own random thought here. 

One special thing brightened my day. It was a card from my future daughter-in-law, thanking me for  the shower gifts and the chicken salad sandwiches I made. But that was just the beginning. She  added, among other things, "I love Steve so incredibly much!  I can't wait to marry him! Thank you for raising the man of my dreams!"    

Word to moms of young'uns and teens: Be encouraged that you are raising someone's dream. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Naan

A few years ago I had the unforgettable experience of living my dream as a schoolteacher.  I had one little combined class of fifth and sixth graders in a small Christian school. 

Every afternoon I  co-taught my favorite subjects: writing, history, geography--and once a week I  got to teach art. (My co-teacher taught the other subjects in the morning.)

        She and I being goofy at the Indian restaurant.

As part of our World Cultures studies, we traveled to India through the stories of Amy Carmichael, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa (whose birthday I share, by the way).  We drew maps and learned all  about Mumbai, Calcutta, and Delhi.   We heard a presentation from one of our pastors and watched a slideshow from his trip.

In just fifteen afternoons, we were scholars on India. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.

I've always been one to teach hands-on, using as many of the senses as possible to engage students. Naturally  they loved when my lessons included food.  One favorite field trip of all time was our visit to a local Indian restaurant.

I had prearranged with the owners to eat their lunch buffet which would allow us to try "a little of everything."  Of course I briefed the youngsters on etiquette and expectations; they would be polite and taste an array of Indian food for the purpose of getting as close to a different culture as we could without an airplane.  (The funny part was hearing one boy tell the others firmly, "Remember not to order cow. It's sacred." And another kid say, "You don't order 'cow' anyway, it's beef.")

Some of the kids with more sophisticated palettes (or at least adventuresome spirits),  sampled an array of curries and meats and rice and yogurt. Others, whose typical dinner consisted of chicken nuggets, pizza, or hot dogs, only scooped up a small bit of what they assumed might taste like spaghetti sauce. 

Regardless, one item on the menu was a big hit for everyone: naan.

Light, warm, airy bread with golden-brown or golden-brown crust. Yum! We ate  the garlic style, the onion style, and the plain. More naan, please.

Every student ate naan as if their grade depended on it.

Lesson learned: When it comes to getting kids to eat Indian food, it's a "naan-issue."  (Sorry. Couldn't help the pun.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Mayonnaise Bread

Growing up, we buttered our bread.

Sometimes we'd put peanut butter and jelly on it.

Once in a while, for lunch, my mom would fix us bologna sandwiches--and if money were flowing freely--we'd get cheese and lettuce on them. The sandwich was made with white bread, a thin layer of mayonnaise, bologna, and the occasional luxuries. That was it.

Mayonnaise was always topped with other things, in my experience. I never ever thought of it as a stand-alone condiment, like butter.

My husband, however, grew up eating what they called "mayonnaise bread."  It was simple: mayonnaise on bread.  Nothing added--and not just because they were poor, but because they loved mayonnaise bread.

"Ick!"  I said to him the first time I saw him make it for himself, when we were first married.

In fact, I didn't say "Ick!" right away, because I thought he was building his sandwich from the ground up, with a mayo foundation. To my horror, he lathered that bread up with white caps of mayo, put the knife in the sink, put the Hellman's away, and proceeded to chow down.

"What are you doing?" I asked, half shocked.

"I'm eating mayonnaise bread."

"You mean mayonnaise ON bread?  Are you so hungry you can't add a slice of turkey and maybe some lettuce?"

He informed me that this was a family tradition he grew up with and that I should try it.

No, thank you! It's not complete and it looks gross.  Besides, we're a new family. We can start our own traditions.

And we did. It's called he eats mayonnaise bread and I don't and whaddya know? It's been 26 years since we started that tradition and we're still together.

Lesson learned:  What's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander, at least as the goose defines "good." 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Love and Bridal Shower Food

Today was the bridal shower for my future daughter-in-love,
  Steve got her to the church under the pretense that
their last premarital counseling session would be held in the main 
building, not the annex as usual. She went right along with it
and was duly surprised. 
The banner behind them, with their formal engagement picture, 
says, 'I have found the one whom my soul loves." -Song of Solomon

The theme was Bridal Gown. Look how cleverly those cupcakes are arranged to 
form a wedding dress! 

My daughter, my mom, Ambrey, and my sister. 

A bridesmaid made the coasters . 

Her sister-in-law made about 70 of these bride dress cookies as favors, and
no two were quite alike!
Her mom and the bridesmaids assembled a Rubbermaid bin
full of  practical cleaning, laundry, and hygiene items, given with a a cute presentation
of advice.
("Pledge your lives to each other and Snuggle often." )

 I snapped a picture of the clothesline photos that
decorated the main food table (during clean-up, actually). 

My girls. 

Steve gave a short speech about the three things he admires most 
about his bride to be: her sweetness, her encouragement, and her  thoughtfulness. 

She listened with delight, of course, 
while my mom and sister took 
notes (for some reason). 

Even the great outdoors looked bridal. 

Photos of  her and him when they were little (Steve was modeling
his ringbearer tux and not happy about how hot he was.)

Zoom in on the photo in front which is a photo of 
Ambrey as a baby sitting in this basket 
on the counter when she was two weeks old. 

She loves babies' breath. I hope that's a prophetic statement. :) 

She loved playing bride when she was little. 

The happy couple after most of the loot had been loaded into 
vehicles.  Gifts, gifts, and more gifts. There's no way all that stuff
will fit into a one-bedroom apartment.

Lesson learned, as said best my sister: "That's what being sweet gets you."

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Karo Syrup

Once upon there was a young mother whose firstborn baby got constipated. The mother, accustomed to the thrice-daily deposits of waste material from her baby, became worried after 15 hours of "non-productivity."  

She called her friend.

The friend said to give him more water. So she did.

Twelve more hours of no poopsie-woopsies and the mother called the pediatrician. "Two days is not a concern," said the expert.

Day 3 came and the mother still had not seen any stinky diaper activity.  Panic began to set in for the  inexperienced 23-year-old mommy. So she did what all young mommies do when they are fretting about raising babies: she called the grandmother.

Grandmother had two words for infantile irregularity: Karo syrup.

She advised one big tablespoon; it's sweet so the baby will like it, sticky so he can't spit it out, and
magical in a way to move those bowels in no time. Just be prepared for a mudslide.

Actually, Grandmother didn't say mudslide but that was the image her daughter reemembers.
Grandmother also said if it doesn't work in an hour, give two more tablespoons. 

It took exactly one hour for  one tablespoon of Karo syrup to rev up baby's intestinal engine.

Lesson learned? Grandmother knows best.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Junk Food

Here is literally my eleventh hour post.  It's 11:18 EST and I have not been home since 8:30 this morning. I've traveled to at least five counties in Maryland, DC, and Virginia today, and I am whooped.

The reason I was in Virginia was to accompany my husband to buy his new car!  But let me not get sidetracked talking about that beautiful speed demon that I got to drive part of the way home.

Four hours ago I was hungrier than an I-don't-know-what (how's that for an 11th hour analogy?)
and went on the hunt for a vending machine in the car dealership.  You'd think that they'd throw all the food in for free, but that's a whole 'nother post.  What I really wanted was Chinese food, but last I checked,  Kung Pao chicken doesn't vend easily.

Anyway, I found a machine and was going between sweet and salty, AKA the lesser of two evils.
As I scanned the vast array of nutritious and  delicious options, one caught my eye.

Butterscotch Krimpets.

While I'm sure they contain no natural ingredients yet deliver a taste I'd give my eye teeth (and half my others) for --or as a result of-- I LOVE Butterscotch Krimpets. Light and airy, quintessential angel food cake, so slathered with copious amounts of buttery scotchery frostery, so delightfully sticky that fingers retain the gooey goodness long after the vitamins and minerals have made their presence  absence   presence known.

One look at those Krimpets and I was back in the high school cafeteria selling my birthright squandering my milk money (25 cents) plus a nickel (bummed from a friend).  My poor mother--
she was so careful to give us anything BUT junk food. She was a "crunchy mama' long before anyone had heard the term. We ate okra and peas right out of the garden, for goodness sake. And here I was, behind her back, with Daddy's hard-earned money, using my protein drink money on monkey dung.

Here I was tonight, umpthirty (i.e. way past umpteen) years post-high-school-cafeteria and I'm contemplating forfeiting not a QUARTER but a DOLLAR for Butterscotch Krimpets.

Do I dare?

Had age not sprouted wisdom as generously as unwanted facial hair? Would I still make a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad decision to say yes?

No, I did not.   Krimpets would not get the victory.

M&Ms did.

Lesson learned: nothing except that I can now agree when my friends from high school see me and say, "Why, you haven't changed a  bit!"

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I is for Intrepid and Ingenious in the Hodgepodge

Joyce took a much needed spring break last week from posting a Hodgepodge, but is back this week. Yay!  

For anyone here from the A to Z Challenge,  I am taking this day to veer away from my theme since Wednesdays are my fullest days and I need a bit of margin.  So instead  
of writing two posts, I am writing one. 

Read the answer to #2 if you'd like to focus your eye on my I. 

1. Share one fun thing you did last week, while the Hodgepodge was on 'spring break'.

Found curtain material for my new craft room. And, might I add, at quite a bargain.  It's a nubby, pale yellow fabric with flecks of pastel jewel tones, regularly $19.99/ yd. With sale and coupon, I got enough to do the two windows and a matching throw pillow for just $12. Woot!

2.  April 10th is National Sibling Day...do you have siblings, and if so are you close? Share a favorite story featuring one or all of your siblings. If you don't have siblings, did you ever wish you did?

I have three sisters and we are close in heart, though two of them live in the south and southwest. But they are all coming to the wedding in June!!! Favorite story. Oh, there are so many, but I was reminded of one this past week when I was getting rid of my daughter's old trophies (at her request).

We lived way out in the country in a split-level home.  Houses were far apart and the closest police station was 20 miles away. I always felt safe unless home alone at night. My sisters provided some comfort, but no real sense of protection.  My older sister, Rachel, being the brainiac of the family, has amassed a veritable shrine to her intellect with all her trophies--French I, French II, Creative Writing, Speech, Math Tournament, you name it. I had one or two. Mama kept them on top of a low bookcase in the living room.

One night we three girls were home while my parents were at choir practice.  (We were teenagers.) It was a dark, hot, summer night when the windows were open and we heard a car come up the long, gravel driveway, but its lights were off. The car stopped at the side of the house, and did not pull around to the parking area. We knew it couldn't be our parents. They always drove with lights on and pulled around back.

I ran and hid in the hallway near the top of the stairs.
My little sister ran to her bedroom.
The shelties ran around in circles, barking wildly.

Rachel ran to the bookcase and grabbed her biggest trophy to use as a club. She hid in front of me, ready to clobber the bad guy if he broke in.

We heard a second car door shut. Two bad guys?? One trophy to kill them with?
I was huddling behind my killer sister . Her arm was raised, the sharp part of the trophy poised to stab the intruder.

Someone jiggled the front door knob. The dogs charged down the stairs.  The door opened, a man stepped in, flipped the light on, and we screamed, "HYAH!!!!"

My dad yelped like a girl and my mom stumbled backward, nearly falling off the front stop.

"What on EARTH are you girls doing? Why, you scared us half to death!" Daddy said.   "And what is that in your hand, Rachel?"

By this time we were doubled over, laughing so hard at the thought of committing murder with a French trophy, we couldn't explain.  When we finally did ask them about their strange behavior, they said they didn't want us to know they were home so they could stay out and "talk" more.

3. Is it important to you to 'buy American'? Why or why not? How much of an effort do you make to 'buy American'? If you're not American, insert your own country in the blank. 

It's important, but not AS important to me as trying not buy from China. Which, of course, is nearly impossible. We are car shopping now, and we are fond of German engineering, so our vehicle will most likely not be American.

4. Besides The Bible, what book has impacted your spirituality in some way?

Because He Loves Me, by Elise Fitzpatrick. It really convinced me of my identity in Christ. I had really struggled to understand that I am in Christ, and this book clarified and solidified the truth of that.

5. April showers bring May flowers or so the saying goes.  Do you find rainy days calming or depressing?  When were you last caught in a rainstorm? What's blooming in your neck of the woods today?

I can handle rain  for two days. By the third day, though, watch out! I'm cranky and depressed. I am only calmed by the naps I can take on rainy days, but the grey and cold affect my mood something awful.  Last caught in a rainstorm? Well, it was pretty nasty last Thursday at midnight when I went to pick my girl up from the airport. My wipers were dull and I was praying that God would halt the rain so that I could see the lines and signs.  It did, after I picked her up.  Daffodils are in bloom, lots of grass, certain trees. Did you know that depresssion is an allergic reaction to things in bloom? Every April for 8 years I have not been able to pinpoint why in  April do I feel so angry, so down, so lonely, so sad? My sister (the brainiac) told me to take an allergy pill even though my symptoms aren't itchy eyes, sneezing or typical allergic reactions. It has helped.

In Maryland, more suicides happen between April and June than any other time of year, and many people just do not understand that there's a real link between spring blooms and
sudden depression.

That said, I'll gladly take prayer whenever you think lovely spring thoughts. Sometimes mine are dark and make no rational sense during this beautiful season.

6. What's your favorite yellow food?   

Mac 'n cheese.

It's one my husband wrote to me as a gift one year. My prized possession. But I have given him my solemn oath I won't share it in public. He is self-conscious about the "quality" of it. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

One day during spring break last week, I was feeling sad and missing our old dog Brownie. I hadn't really missed her since we put her down on Valentine's Day. That day, though, I was suddenly sad  I was missing her sweet spirit and gentle face, and the way she'd blink when I asked if she was happy here.

Imagine my reaction when I found this surprise waiting on my porch. It was from the sisters whose mother had owned Brownie and couldn't take of the dog any longer last June.