Monday, March 31, 2014

Hurricane Oatmeal Cake . . . Again

{I'm reposting this recipe today at reader request. Enjoy!}

Dh asked me to make a treat for him to take to his grad class on Saturday. I love this cake, but have no self-control when it's in the house. It's best if I make it and send it away. I got one piece, which is plenty (even though I'd love to sit down with the whole cake and a fork!).

FYI, I have no idea how it got this name.

1 cup oatmeal
1 1/4 cups boiling water
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine oatmeal and boiling water; set aside. Beat together eggs, sugars and oil until blended. Add flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; add oatmeal mixture. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

Mix together 1 cup coconut, 1 cup brown sugar, 6 tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, and 1/4 cup evaporated milk until moist. Spread over cake; broil until topping is light brown and crunchy -- about 2 minutes.

Serves 20-24.

linking up with Made by You Monday

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mighty Mom to Save the Day

When I was a kid we watched "Mighty Mouse" on TV. I always loved the idea of this adorable, tiny creature with that high pitched voice suddenly breaking out into incredible feats of strength. Most of the time he was just this ordinary, kindhearted mouse, but when the need arose he became MIGHTY MOUSE.

I think that's what moms are. We go along all day doing our mom stuff. We wash clothes and buy groceries. We cook meals and wipe counters and snotty noses. We read books (over and over and over again), and sing endless rounds of "Baby Beluga" or whatever the current favorite is.

We are ordinary, kindhearted moms. Until. Until that need arises to become MIGHTY MOM. We race to the rescue. We save the day. We scoop up hurt kids, wiping away tears and blood and hurt. We do our best to save the day or at least the moment.

My kids are grown up now (well 23 and 20), and this is what I've learned. They will never stop needing MIGHTY MOM. The scrapes and hurts are different, but I'm always going to be there to do what I can to save the day or the moment. Because that's what mom's do.

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Gift of Travel

When I married my husband I'd never been to a foreign country. Truthfully I'd barely been west of the Mississippi River. He on the other hand had been to Europe several times, not to mention a cruise, and a vacation to Grand Cayman where he'd learned to scuba dive. He was 20 when I met him.

Over the years one of the best things he's given me is the gift of travel. Our first year of marriage he took me to Disney World, and his business trips have taken us to lots of other fun spots in the U.S.

His mother died in 1988. She was born and raised in Austria and France. He still had family in Austria, so in the summer of 1989 his father and he went to Europe and traveled around a bit. Alan (my husband) stayed in Europe at an intensive 6 week German language course as part of his grieving and recovery from the loss. I flew to Germany and met him at the end of his course and we traveled for 10 days.

So the girl who had never left the country -- had never even been to either the east or west coasts of the U.S. -- flew to a foreign country BY HERSELF to reconnect with her husband who'd been gone for 6 weeks! I navigated flight changes and customs and crossing multiple time zones. 

He met me at the airport in Munich with a friend from his language program. I almost didn't recognize him -- he'd grown a beard. We took the train into Salzburg and went to his little room in the quaint B&B and "reconnected" with each other.

Once his classes finished, we traveled around Salzburg and visited with his relatives in Linz and Bad Ischl. We stayed with relatives and checked into B&Bs well off the beaten path. I learned to smile and nod a lot, and drink hot cocoa and eat semmel rolls with real butter and jam for breakfast.

It was a wonderful, terrifying, bonding experience for me with my husband. 

Over the years we've gone back once with our children. A lovely trip, marred by lost luggage and the early summer snows that we were unprepared for clothing-wise. He's taken me to Mexico several times and I've learned to scuba dive as well. But that first trip abroad with him, that's the stand out. Becoming an adult in a new and different way. Realizing in some way that this was my life and I'd better learn to enjoy it. That trip was the beginning.

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . March 25, 2014

Outside my window . . . it's overcast and cold this morning. We've actually got snow flurries as well!

I am thinking . . . end of the semester school stress. Dh is in grad school and ds in college. Both of them are feeling the panic/excitement as this semester is winding down.

I am thankful . . . for prayer and scripture. The older I get (and hopefully the more spiritually mature I become) prayer and scripture mean more and more to me.

In the kitchen . . . last night was bean burritos. Tonight I may do one final batch of chili since the weather is cold and snowy here today.

I am wearing . . . my nightgown, robe, and slippers. 

I am creating . . . a change in my attitude. My Lent fast has been -- "fast from feeling guilty and angry at yourself for things you have done wrong, instead remember God's great love for you". I have leaned into this fast differently than traditional Lenten fasts. Instead of working at it, I have been (trying) letting God lead me into it.

I am going . . .  on a Silent Retreat this weekend. Sponsored by Dovehouse Ministries at St. Joseph's Monastery in Whitesville, KY.

I am wondering . . . about energy that expresses itself in anger. I see this frequently in young people and wonder how to harness that energy to greater benefit.

I am reading . . . These Granite Islands by Sarah Stonich.

I am looking forward to . . . my weekend retreat and a trip to Gatlinburg, TN that dh and I have planned for next month.

I am hearing . . . silence (except for Yaya's wheezing).

Around the house . . . LB and I worked in the kitchen yesterday. We sorted and got rid of things that just weren't getting used. I feel as if I have some breathing space now in my cabinets.

I am praying . . . for newborn twins and another newborn with an infection. For Ukraine and the ongoing unrest there. For the families and friends of those lost in the Malaysian plane disaster. And for personal spiritual issues within my family. 

One of my favorite things . . . is sitting outside on my swing. There won't be any of that today, but the other day I got to sit out there and do my devotional and a bit of crocheting. So lovely!

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . counseling today, a haircut tomorrow, Bible study and then tea with my mother on Thursday, and then I'm heading to KY for my Silent Retreat weekend.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chess Squares (aka Dessert Crack)

Last week I went on a baking extravaganza. My bestie was responsible for dinner for a group of homeless people at a local church and she asked if I could help with dessert. I took her on and found myself needing to provide pick up and go dessert for 100 people. In an effort to, mostly, use what I already had on hand, I baked 2 angel food cakes, 5 dozen cookies, and 3 trays of chess squares. I was reminded why I only bake chess squares if they will be leaving my house -- they are the dessert equivalent of crack cocaine!

So here's the recipe I used (from a really good blog post, btw) and a few pictures of the day o' baking.

Chess Squares

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 300 and spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray. Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg to a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan. Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1-2 mins. Pour on top of crust. Bake at 300 for 40-50 minutes until top is golden brown.

Happy eating!

linking up with Made by You Monday

Saturday, March 22, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Joy of the Lord

Joy -- the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :  delight

I'm not feeling it this morning. I read that definition and I know that joy has been in short supply in our house of late. There are no great tragedies or difficulties going on in our lives. We are just short on joy lately. 

I wonder how to bring the joy back. I look at that definition and I see "the prospect of possessing what one desires" and I think that's part of the problem. Me wanting to have (hold, control) what I want. 

It's all about me. Things rarely turn out well if my focus is that me-centered

But if I turn it around and remember: the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh. 8:10) -- suddenly it's not about me anymore.

It's what God desires that will bring me joy. But first I will have to listen.

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Story of Little Black Sambo

Your favorite children's book --

Again with the pick just one! You know how difficult it is for me to narrow things down to just one.

The first book that came to mind gave me pause. I don't want to hear about it. The fact is my favorite book as a child was Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman. 

Now I know there's been some controversy, and I also know some of you will be totally unfamiliar with this title. You can read more about the controversy here.

What I remember about the book was the loving family. Sambo's beautiful clothes. How he was resourceful and clever in protecting himself in a way that was recognized and benefitted his family.

The idea of having tigers run around a tree and melt into butter (scary becomes yummy) was fascinating to me. Sambo had power! Then sitting down to a dinner of pancakes with his family just made everything wonderful.

Regardless of various interpretations of the illustrations, the story stands as a classic in my heart. While I'm deeply attached to the original story and illustrations, some of the re-tellings are quite good as well. So which ever edition you choose enjoy. And eat pancakes for dinner!

linking up with Writer's Workshop


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . March 18, 2014

Outside my window . . . it's overcast and cold this morning. Hoping to see the sun before it sets tonight.

I am thinking . . . about the day and how to best use my time.

I am thankful . . . for a day spent with my bestie yesterday. We sorted and organized at her house, and talked A LOT!

In the kitchen . . . pot roast last night that I had cooked over the weekend. Tonight is apricot pork tenderloin, rice pilaf, steamed asparagus, rolls, and blackberry crumble.

I am wearing . . . my new nightgown, robe, and slippers. 

I am creating . . . Chaos or at least that's what it feels like. 

I am going . . . to do laundry and go to the grocery store today. 

I am wondering . . . about dealing with current stresses without going back and wanting to redo my life to somehow "fix" things.

I am reading . . . Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts. It's kind of historical fiction meets fantasy meets romance. Parts of it are quite good, but it's a lot more "romance novel" than I had anticipated.

I am looking forward to . . . Fun Girls' Day with my besties on Saturday. I need to plan what I'm going to take to work on though. The past few times I've gone I haven't really gotten much done other than visiting.

I am hearing . . . music and showers running. Dogs trotting around, and my hands tapping on the keyboard.

Around the house . . . I really need a day or two at home to clean. Not sure exactly when that's going to happen though.

I am praying . . . for a lowering of stress around our house, and an increase in kindness and compassion.

One of my favorite things . . . feeling centered. Over the weekend I attended a Quiet Day at Sisters of Mercy Convent. Meditation and prayer are so soothing and enlightening. I am working to make more time for those in my daily life.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . a dinner guest tonight. Helping with a dinner for the homeless tomorrow. Helping my sister-in-law pack to move, and then my fun day!

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cranberry Chili Chicken

This kind of recipe is why I like to keep my pantry stocked with odds and ends. I ran across the recipe in a cookbook a friend passed on to me which I then passed on to another friend. Incredibly easy, flexible, and tasty. You can use this on any type of chicken -- whole, bone in pieces, boneless breasts or thighs -- whatever strikes your fancy or you happen to have on hand. You can cook it in the oven or in the slow cooker. You could probably simmer it on the stove top in a dutch oven if you want!


1 12-oz. bottle Heinz Chili sauce

1 14-oz. can Ocean Spray cranberry sauce (I use the whole cranberry because I like the texture)
Stir these 2 ingredients together and pour over chicken (around 3 lbs., but whatever!), cover the baking dish with lid or foil, and bake at 350* for 45 minutes. Check to see if your chicken is tender and adjust time as needed. (Bone in will take longer.) When done serve over rice, if you like.

See easy, flexible, and tasty!

I used boneless chicken thighs

Happy eating!

linking up with Made by You Monday

Saturday, March 15, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Madding Crowd

I used to be afraid of crowds. I was so tiny (as a child) I couldn't see anything. I feared getting lost. As I got older I learned to navigate the crowds and relax my breathing.

When all the memories flooded my psyche, that old fear was resurrected. I panicked at the thought of being in a crowded place. So many people! I might be swallowed up by them -- or worse.

I still don't like crowds very much, but most of the time the panic doesn't escalate, and that old breathing technique works. I'm still short, so I've trained myself to make eye contact. Finding eyes to connect with helps me recognize that within this mass there are individuals. Some of those people, maybe most, are good, kind people with stories to tell. Individuals who need to be heard. They, too, are lost in the crowd.

The eyes are the windows to the soul they say. Even in a crowd of hurried people, eyes are the windows to the individual.

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Snack History

Let me start by saying I don't think I remember snacking very much as a kid. That doesn't mean it didn't happen. I just don't remember it.

But of course there were snacks, so here we go:

1. potato chips -- that should be enough in and of itself. Back in the day there were no flavors. They were just potato chips. But . . . 

2. Pringles -- my maternal grandparents had Pringles, more than just potato chips. Stacking and duck lips were involved here.

3. Potato sticks (are you sensing a them here?) -- my paternal grandmother provided these. Matchstick fried potatoes that it was simpler to pour directly into my mouth than try to pick up.

4. Krispy Kreme Crullers -- there for awhile my mom would bring home a box of these each week from the grocery store. We ate them after our frozen pizza or Little Caesar's and drank grape juice with them. Pardon me while I go take an antacid.

5. Grapes -- interestingly these game home on the same day as #4 and were devoured in the same afternoon.

6. M&Ms or Three Musketeers -- my great-great aunt and uncle provided one or the other of these every time we visited their house. Three Musketeers still make me think of Auntie and Uncle Horace.
7. homemade shortbread cookies -- my mom didn't bake cookies often, but usually around Thanksgiving we'd get a couple batches of these. She had cookie cutters shaped like pilgrims -- a man and a woman we dubbed Horace and Eudalia.

8. Kraft Garlic Cheese Roll with Vienna Sausages and Keebler Clubhouse crackers -- this was actually more of a lunch thing with my maternal grandfather. The salt and preservatives alone should keep me alive for at least 100 years. Did I mention we drank Kick along with this smorgasbord? 

9. popcorn -- my great-grandmother would walk us down to the convenience store and get us popcorn they popped in the store and an RC Cola.

10. homemade graham cracker pie crust -- yes, you read that correctly. My mother would mix up crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl, hand me a spoon, and that was my after school snack. Now as a kid I was not complaining, but as a parent I think, "What was she thinking!?!?!"

So there you go. Ten snacks I remember from my childhood. Is it any wonder I've turned into a bit of a Nazi when it comes to processed foods?

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Erica Place

Occasionally I drive by the house were it happened. It's not someone's home now. It's a business.

I've walked around the outside of it, acknowledging the changes and additions. In some ways it looks nothing like the house I lived in from the time I was 2 until I was 7. I don't get physically ill when I see it anymore. My head doesn't spin. Instead there is just a feeling of being slightly off kilter. I look like everything is fine, but in my head I have a little trouble staying in the present. There is a pull to the past, but not a past I want to revisit.

We went to dinner, my husband and I, at a little restaurant one block over from the house. And we talked about whether or not I want to go into the house again. I did, but not alone. 

After dinner we drove by the house. There were lights on. The front door was open. I could see people inside. I pulled into the parking lot (what would have been my front yard and gravel driveway). My husband looked at me and I nodded. He was out of the car and up the stoop before I had killed the engine.

He asks if we can come in. "My wife used to live in this house," he says. They are so warm and welcoming. Come in, come in! Introductions are made. The owner asks me questions about changes. Does the house look different? Was this part of the house when I lived here?

I am still wavering between past and present in my head. Getting my bearings. It is different and the same at one time. The living room is now a reception/office area. Doorways have been moved or enlarged. The garage is another room now. Additions have been added to accommodate the business. 

I look around and see it as it is now, but with an overlay of how it was then. The door used to be there. The couch went under those windows. The TV sat in that corner. The wingback chair there. The step down into what had been the dining room. 

The hallway, bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen the same but different. Memories both good and bad flooding over me. 

I ask if the study is still there. It had been my father's with floor to ceiling bookcases and knotty pine walls. He says yes, but the pine's been painted over. We head to the back of the house. The door to what had been the patio and backyard. Where I sat with my sister the day Martin Luther King was killed, wondering if we were safe.

I turn and there it is. The same but not. The step down. The tiny hall/entry, and I pause. Just like I do in my memory before walking into that space. My stomach flips and my heart rises into my throat. That room. Why would I choose to go back into that room? 

My husband asks if I'm okay. I nod. The gentleman are talking and asking questions. Your father was a professor? What did he teach? American literature, I answer. Well, I have done some good writing in this room. Must be a good vibe here. I smile and nod, but he's wrong there is not a good vibe here.

I am standing by the French doors. The ones she kept watch through. There is the fireplace. The corner windows too high for anyone to see in. 

The room is creamy and warmly lit now, but it used to glow in a haze of reddish orange because of the pine and the curtains on the doors and window. Early American prints in orange and red and gold. Late afternoon sunlight filtering through as he molested me.

My heart is pounding. But other things are happening as well. The room is smaller than I remember. It is a lovely room now. Welcoming and inviting. Warm lamps and a leather sofa. A TV mounted about the fireplace. If I can remove that overlay, I can see that this is a nice place to rest and relax.

I ask if may open the French doors. It's a breezeway now. It used to open onto the patio and the backyard where my swing set waited. The yard is covered now with building additions. My sanctuary smelling of honeysuckle is gone.

We say polite things. Tell them how much we appreciate this opportunity. The owner tells me to stop by anytime. And I wonder if I will go there again.

Those rooms have been frozen in time in my head. The study is always filled with a glow, but now the room has an overlay. Office space. Smiling people. Cream walls and warm light. Perhaps, in time, the overlay will replace the past with an invitation to rest.

You may read more about the house and the study here, here, here, and here

linking up with imperfect prose and just write

Swinging into Spring

linking up with Wordless Wednesday & The Jenny Evolution

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . March 11, 2014

Outside my window . . . we have beautiful blue skies. Already up to 52* and heading up to 77*! We may have some rain later tonight, but for today it's a top down day :)

I am thinking . . . about changing things up a bit. Dh is in grad school and we have been discussing the possibility of me getting a part time job. Trying to figure out what that would look like.

I am thankful . . . for a good day with my bestie yesterday. We ran some errands, talked A LOT, and even got a walk in. It was a good day.

In the kitchen . . . last night we had Orange-Balsamic Glazed Chicken, Cranberry Nut Rice Pilaf, and steamed asparagus. Tonight's going to be clean out the refrigerator/leftover night.

I am wearing . . . my new gown that dh gave me for my birthday. You know how I feel about cotton gowns by now.

I am creating . . . still can't seem to get those creative juices flowing. I think I have too much on my mind and too many people in my house to focus properly.

I am going . . . swim at the indoor pool this afternoon. I haven't been swimming since last summer. It used to be one of my favorite activities, so I'm trying to get back into it before summer arrives.

I am wondering . . . about signing up for a year-long spiritual exercises retreat. It is a time and money investment. I am very interested, but don't want to get in over my head and not be able to invest in the opportunity fully.

I am reading . . . Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny. It's the one I was waiting for last week. These Granite Islands is on hold while I finish this plot line that was started in the previous novel in the Chief Inspector Gamache series

I am looking forward to . . . a Lenten Quiet Day on Saturday. An entire day of prayer, meditation, and rest. Lovely.

I am hearing . . . the quiet of the morning house. 

Around the house . . . things need a good dusting and a bit of straightening. I'm needing to shop for a new sofa for the den, but my heart's just not in it.

I am praying . . . for peace in Ukraine. 

One of my favorite things . . . is sunshine. We have had a very dark and dreary winter, so 3 days of sunshine in a row are a real blessing.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . most of the usual activities and my quiet day on Saturday.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . . 
a few goodies from my trip to Old Time Pottery

Saturday, March 8, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spirit and Flesh

It is a beautiful, sunny day. We haven't seen much of the sun lately, so it's a pleasant sight. It should make me blissfully happy. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but I'm tired and I'm sad and I'm down in the dumps. Truthfully I been feeling this way for a while now. I've blamed the weather. I've tried to explain it away. I've tried to find a specific reason. I've tried to force the feelings to go away. None of that is working.

The phrase that came to me this morning was "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". And I wonder, is my spirit truly willing to move through this funk . . . again? Thankfully, I believe the answer is yes. I just wonder what I keep doing wrong to have these recurring blahs, blues, funks, dumps -- whatever you want to call them. 

But there is a lesson in everything I experience. Sometimes it takes a long time to understand that lesson. There is something to be learned from this time -- this place -- these feelings. And anything that turns me closer to God is a blessing.

I square my shoulders. I look these feelings in the eye. And I say, "I am willing."

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's my birthday & I'll smile if I want to . . .

I'm a big believer in birthdays, and today is mine! So here a few things that make me smile. I hope they make you smile too!











linking up with Writer's Workshop