Welcome to my corner of the world. I believe our experiences are not only for our benefit, but should be shared. I hope you will find something in my journey to encourage and inspire you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mom's BBQ

Growing up in Delaware we didn't eat real pulled pork, or beef. I thought Mom's version was the real thing. I was disappointed when I first had pulled pork. I still prefer Mom's.  I think of her every time I take my leftover bits and pieces of meat and simmer them with barbecue sauce.

Really, it's that easy. When I have a leftover piece of chicken or beef or pork that sits in the refrigerator for a few days, you know the ones -too big to throw away, but too small to do anything with - I wrap it up and put it in the freezer. A gallon size bag keeps all of them together. When there is enough for a meal, I put the frozen meat in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and some BBQ sauce and simmer it for several hours. The slow cooker would probably be perfect for this, but I always do it the way Mom did. After a while you can start to shred the meat as you stir it. And you need to stir it occasionally. The sugar in the sauce makes it easy to burn. (I guess the slow cooker would solve that problem.) I frequently make my sauce these days, but there is always a bottle of store bought in the pantry just in case.

I remember putting pickle slices on the sandwiches when we were growing up. I married a southern boy, so now I make Cole slaw for our sandwiches. French fries are a classic side and they frequently are served here too. Though those are almost always frozen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chocolate Pie

Last night, we went to Towson to take Carrie out to celebrate her birthday. It is nice that she is nearby so we can celebrate with her. Dan and I got to have dinner out with five beautiful young ladies. (Carrie, her sisters, and her roommates. Then we went back to her apartment for dessert and presents.

Two thirds of our family love this pie. The other third might if they didn't know it contains tofu. I also love that it is ready to be chilled in fifteen minutes or less, and there is no cooking. This is one of very few recipes that I actually follow as written. It is Alton Brown's Mooless Chocolate Pie. Follow the link to get the measurements for each ingredient.

 There are just six ingredients, if you buy a chocolate cookie crust instead of making one. You could use 1/3 cup of coffee instead of the Kahlua, or a little less than 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee mixed in 1/3 cup of water. Leave it out altogether if you must, but coffee brings out chocolate's flavor, so it will make a difference. If you are not using Kahlua, taste the filling after everything is blended.  You may want to add another tablespoon of honey since the Kahlua would have added some sweetness.

 A B uses a double boiler to melt the chocolate chips with the Kahlua. I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, then stir and microwave another 15 seconds. I stir the honey into the chocolate with the vanilla extract since I sometimes have a problem with honey sinking to the bottom of my blender and not getting mixed in.

Pour the chocolate into the blender with the tofu and mix until smooth. Stop and scrape the sides once.

Finish blending and pour into the crust. A note about the tofu: Silken tofu makes a creamy pudding-like pie. I have used firm tofu when I can't find silken and like the firmer texture almost as well. The firmer pie is a lot easier to serve. Chill for two hours before serving.

There wasn't room for all the filling in this crust, so I got to sample the pie without waiting. Some whipped cream or berries would have been good on top. I wish I had thought of that yesterday. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pizza Night

Setting pizza dough on the island to rise is a sure way to get my family involved in making dinner. Everyone wants to help and choose what goes on our pizza. Pizza night often becomes movie night when we decide to take our dinner in the family room. Finding a movie we all want to watch can be a challenge, but that's another story.

Around here anything goes on pizza. Michael has even used macaroni and cheese - which was surprisingly good. It is a great meal for cleaning out the refrigerator. We don't often use pizza sauce or Mozzarella.

I always start with fresh pizza dough, but pita bread, tortillas, English muffins,... can become pizza crust.  A lot of stores have pizza dough available. (Wegman's is our favorite.) If not fresh, then try in the freezer cases. I used frozen bread dough before I discovered pizza dough at the grocery store. For a while I made my own pizza crust, but with inexpensive, delicious fresh dough available it doesn't seem worth the time and energy involved. Bake according to package directions until just beginning to brown.

Thinly slice 1 medium tomato and place on paper towels to drain before seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella and place between layers of paper towels to drain. Lightly spray or brush crust with olive oil and top with cheese and tomatoes. Add about ½ cup arugula leaves then spray with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Place in oven for 2 minutes to heat everything through.

Pizza Margherita
This is similar to the arugula and tomato, but just top the pizza with olive oil, tomato and cheese before returning it to the oven for 2 minutes. When it comes out add thinly sliced basil leaves. (The easiest way to slice the basil is to roll the leaves together into a cylinder then slice.)

BBQ Chicken/Bacon
Spread BBQ sauce on cooked crust. Top with diced cooked chicken, crumbled cooked bacon and grated sharp cheddar cheese. Bake for 5 more minutes.

 This one takes some planning ahead since the onions take so long to cook, but it is our favorite right now:
Caramelized onion/goat cheese
Cook 2 or 3 medium onions in 1 or 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until golden brown. I add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, which adds flavor and draws moisture out of the onions. You can add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, which will help with the browning. (It's not enough to make them sweet.) You have to watch them and stir every few minutes or they will burn. This will take 20 to 30 minutes. (It is worth it. – Really) Spread cooked onions over baked crust. Top with 5 ounces of crumbled goat cheese. Place in oven for 2 minutes to heat everything through.

Monday, October 22, 2012


 I love the juxtaposition of old and new in cities like Boston. Here, it was the reflection of the old in the new that caught my eye.

It made me think about what I am reflecting. What is it that people see in me? Do I reflect the hurried, harried pace I often try to keep? Or is it the strain of my daily struggles that shows on in my countenance? I'm afraid it is rarely the love, joy, and peace of my Savior that is reflected.

(Trinity Church, Boston)

If I am living truly surrendered to God, it should be the fruit of the Spirit that people see in me. God's presence allows us to live beyond our circumstances. I'll still be aggravated by difficult people, and discouraged at times, and just weary. I do have a tendency to be worried and anxious too. Will I give all of that to God so people will see Him when they look at me?

I'm working on it. Though as I learn to surrender everything to God, I've just been grumpier. (Hormones may be partly to blame.) Satan doesn't want me to be a reflection of Jesus, so he tries to get me to react poorly. It is my family that receives the brunt of this. It frustrates me and makes me want to quit trying, but I won't.

(Old South Meeting House, Boston)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ; against such things there is no law." Galations 5:22-23

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finding purpose in my days

 My Purpose

As our children have become busy with jobs, interests and activities, and have left for college,  I have found myself with time on my hands.  I need to know God’s purpose for my life, so I can find the best way to fill my days.

God’s answer to my cry: “To glorify Me.”

But how?  God’s answer was “by giving my very best to the task at hand and to quit worrying about a year from now, a week from now, or even an hour from now.”  So I will do the laundry, the grocery shopping, the cooking and cleaning, the planning and the homeschooling to the glory of God. In Taking Up Your Cross, Tricia McCary Rhodes,  answered my heart’s cry in a way I didn’t expect.

“The reason we don’t come to God when we’re busy, or tired, or
emotionally distraught is because we believe we come to give
instead of to get.  We see quiet times as our Christian responsibility
and therefore we must do them when we are strong and in good
spiritual condition.  But God doesn’t call us to Himself for what we
might bring, but that we might know the delight of finding our
deepest needs met in all that He is.  What really glorifies Him are
empty, needy people being filled and made whole by His

“When the driving passion of our life is to find joy and delight in the
pursuit of God’s glory, then we have discovered our reason for being. “

I believe part of glorifying God is showing others His glory.  Again, I have struggled with how to do that.  When Moses had been in God’s presence his face shone so brightly that the Israelites were frightened and he had to veil his face.  I think as we spend more time in God’s presence, His glory will overflow from our lives onto those around us.

I guess I will keep pursuing God and wait for Him to show me what to do next.

(Tricia’s website has a lot of articles and devotional materials

(Originally written July 3, 2008, but I am struggling with this again as I work myself out of a job.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Artichoke Chicken

This recipe is a family favorite. It is quick to throw together and special enough for company. I've been cooking for 40 years and tend to write recipes with just enough information for me to make them. That can leave a beginning cook with questions. Here, I went through step by step and gave more instructions so anyone should be able to successfully make it. Unfortunately, we were hungry and in a hurry so there is no after picture. I'll try to remember to add one the next time we make this recipe.

First you need to drain a 14 ounce can of artichoke hearts. I put them upside down on paper towels while I get the other ingredients ready.

You will also need:
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 or 4 fat garlic cloves (mine are pretty small)
Chop the artichokes, but not too finely, you want to know what you are biting into. Add the garlic that has been minced (chopped very finely) or put through a garlic press. Mix with the Parm, mayo.
Choose a baking dish that you can fit 4 boneless chicken breasts into without crowding. My 9 by 9 inch dish is a little too small, but it will work. Spray baking dish with non-stick coating or coat it with oil. Put in the chicken and season both sides with salt and pepper. You are trying to create layers of flavor. The salt in the topping or that you add at the table won't add the same flavor.
Top the chicken with the artichoke mixture. There is a generous amount of the topping. I have used it to cover six chicken breasts and had plenty. It is also yummy scooped up with crusty bread. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. You know your oven. If everything is usually done early, try a little less time. If you aren't sure whether or not the chicken is done, cut into a piece to see that there is no pink and the juices run clear.

Artichoke Chicken

14 oz can artichokes, well drained and chopped
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup real mayonnaise ( low fat or fat free do not work as well)
4 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

In a bowl, combine artichokes, Parmesan, mayo, and garlic. Place chicken in an 11 X 7 baking pan that has been greased or lined with parchment paper. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread with artichoke mixture. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25- 30 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

4 servings

Friday, October 5, 2012

Desert Places


Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at
There have been many times when I have struggled to hear God speak to me, or to feel His presence. I've cried out to Him feeling like my prayers bounced off the ceiling. Sometimes, those times have been brief, others they have lasted weeks or months. This is what I have learned in those dry times.

When we find ourselves in dry places, we need to remember that God still loves us and is still there even when we can’t find him. He still has a purpose and a plan for our lives. Look for Him everywhere: in children’s laughter, the buds on the trees, and the concern of a friend. Listen for Him in birds’ songs, a rain shower, music, and the voice of a friend. Tell God what you are feeling - all of it. Are you disappointed, angry, discouraged, and weary? You can’t tell Him anything He doesn’t already know. He longs for us to fall into His arms and pour out our hearts to Him. Trust Him!

Stay in the Word. Don’t stop praying.

Praise Him even though you don’t feel like it.

The Psalms express the whole range of human emotion. Find a Psalm that speaks to you and camp there a while, letting God minister to your soul.

In the times when I am not hearing from God, I’m grateful that I have verses that are meaningful to me marked in my Bible. In those dry times, I search for those underlined passages and often God will use them to speak to my heart again.

Sometimes I feel abandoned by God, but He promises He will never leave us:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Desert Song always touches my heart.

What comforts you and gives you strength when you are struggling?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A mother's value

I came across a book a few weeks ago that I hadn't read in a while. (With hundreds of books in our bedroom alone, that happens often.) A Mom Just Like You, written by Vickie Farris, is an encouraging glimpse into what homeschooling and parenting look like in the Farris family. It reminded me why we are homeschooling and of the ultimate goal of parenting. For us, homeschooling has been more about relationships than academics. We cherish the closeness that has developed as we do life together. Our kids have done well academically, but more importantly, they have learned to love God and to serve others. I look back rather wistfully at the days when three of our four children were at home. I loved the time I was able to spend with them. Our baby is a senior in high school now, and our home school journey will soon come to an end, but the lessons learned by all of us, go with us for the rest of our lives.

Vickie ends her book with this:
"Just as Christ both used and transcended earthly elements like loaves, fishes, water, and wine, so will He both use and transcend the simply little acts of faithful service that mark our daily lives. God can do extraordinary things through moms just like you. I am confident that as you yield to Him, even in your frustration, fatigue and weakness, He will use you to impact the world in mighty ways. God can grow strong trees of righteousness-a mighty spiritual heritage-from our small seeds of service. Until then, let's simply be faithful to plant, water, and weed, expectantly waiting for God to give the increase."

In a world that places little value on motherhood, I often need to be reminded that what I do is important. Unlike many careers I could have chosen, motherhood has eternal value as I shape our children's minds and values and leave a legacy that will continue long after I am gone.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What home schooling has taught me

Have you ever really made a mess of things? I have, too many times to count. My selfishness and pride have caused so many problems with the people I love. I like to have things done my way, because that is the only right way. Of course, there are five other people in our house who think their way is the one that is correct. I have had to learn to let go of my expectations and accept other ways of thinking. Usually, the other way is as good as mine. And sometimes it is even better.

Homeschooling gives me many opportunities to lay down my ways - often after a battle. Of our children, the youngest is the most different from me, and the most headstrong. Pretty much every day, I have the chance to face my selfishness and pride as we learn to live and work together. I am not the person I would have been if we had chosen a different path to educate our children. I am much better for it. I cherish the relationships that have been forged in the last eight years and the ways God has used our children to change my heart.

We have just begun a year of "lasts". Jen will graduate from high school next spring. I anticipate a lot of tears (of sadness and joy) as we move into a new season of life. God has blessed us greatly as we have raised our family and I look forward to the way our relationships will continue to change and grow as our children move out on their own.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Enter His gates...

When we were in Lancaster last weekend, I saw a framed print of a gate with Psalm 100:4 on it. It made me think of some pictures of gates I have taken in Williamsburg.

 This one was too elaborate for my purposes.
 This just didn't evoke the right feelings.

This one was perfect.

Now to upload it to Zazzle and wait for a sale.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Everything in the Kitchen Sink

Many times in the last month, I have gotten frustrated by the never ending sink full of dirty dishes. It seems that by the time the dishwasher has been run and emptied, we have filled the sink and it starts again. I have actually been annoyed often in the last 20 plus years by the fact that vacuuming, dusting, laundry, dishes, etc. are never really finished. As a full time homemaker, mom, and homeschool "teacher", I rarely get to enjoy the fruit of my labors. The shining sink will be full of dirty dishes. The hamper will be full again. The cleaning will need to be done again next week. Lessons need to be planned and taught.

I have realized that I sometimes often have the wrong attitude about the things I do each day. Caring for my home and family full time is what God has called me to for now and I am grateful for the opportunity to pour myself into my husband's and children's lives. It can be a chore when I forget that  whatever I do should be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I am reminded too of a verse about oxen in Proverbs (14:4). Here is my paraphrase for moms -Where there are no children, the kitchen is clean, but from the presence of family comes an abundance of joy. The needs of a family, especially when our children are young, can be overwhelming.

Day to day I don't see how the things I do make a difference, but as I look at our nearly grown children now, I see how my investment is bearing fruit. You may be discouraged today by an attitude, a cranky baby, tantrums, teenagers testing every limit, but you CAN do this. Don't stop working, investing, praying. We are so blessed that our children are becoming our friends. And I have almost worked myself out of a job - but that is another post for another day.

2 Cor 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Banana Walnut Bread (w/ Chocolate Chips)

There are two extremes in our house when it comes to bananas. Either they are gone before they really are ripe, or they sit until they are too speckled with brown for anyone to want them. Today, there were three bananas that needed to be used, so I made muffins. The recipe I adapted is from the Batty Crocker cookbook my mom gave me when I moved into my first apartment. I got 23 muffins out of the recipe. Because it is a loose batter and doesn't have a lot of fat, it is probably better as bread, but that would have meant having the oven on for an hour instead of about half that time. I baked the muffins for 17 minutes.

Banana Walnut Bread (w/ Chocolate Chips)

1 cup chopped walnuts
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in oven for 5-10 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool while you prepare the batter. Grease the bottoms only of two 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ inch loaf pans. (Or use a vegetable oil spray. If you coat the sides too, the bread won’t rise as much, but it tastes the same.) In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl mix the sugars, oil, milk, banana, and egg. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients. (By adding about a quarter at a time, you get fewer lumps.) When the flour is almost completely mixed in fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Divide evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before loosening sides of loaves and turning out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who Am I Trying to Please?

Have you ever listened to the way birds sing their hearts out. They just do what God made them to do. It reminds me to do the same. 

I have a tendency to want to please people. I don’t feel valuable unless I have had my efforts validated by those I care about.  Is that just human nature? We want to feel loved and accepted unconditionally. I was in my thirties before I began to understand that what people think about me isn’t important. Here is part of a devotion on who we should want to please:

“Someday soon this earthly life is all going to be over! And what will matter then?
    How smart, capable, or successful we were? How loved, appreciated, or applauded we were? How much we possessed? How much we achieved? How much we accomplished?
    Will it matter whether we were attractive or ugly, smart or dumb, sick or poor, known or unknown?
    When this earthly life is over, when all is said and done, none of these things - which now seem so important – will matter.
    Only one thing will matter on “that day”… the only thing that will matter is that you and I have glorified [God] on earth and have finished the work that He has given us to do individually.”
Kay Arthur, His Imprint My Expression

    You see, in this life as in the next, we will only find unconditional love and acceptance from God. When I am failing at pleasing people, I tend to think I need to be more like those I look up to in order for God to use me. When I still can’t please those I care about, I withdraw and wallow in self-pity. In that condition, I’m of no use to anyone.

Last week I came across some letters dear friends have written. When I read them, I realized God made me exactly the person I am supposed to be. I have the strengths and weaknesses, the gifts and talents, and the personality traits I need for the circumstances I will encounter and for the ministry God has planned for me. If I will focus on Him and be myself, I will bless the lives of those around me. I still won’t please everyone, but I will bring glory to my God and will please myself.

Along with that realization last week came something I have prayed for over several years. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, but it was missing from my life. When I saw that I am good enough for God there was freedom – and joy.

It is time to stop hiding from the world, rejoice in who I am, and just shine. I will need to make sure I spend time listening for God to show me the way to go. I can’t please God if I don’t know what He wants me to do. It will be hard to make that time, but I intend to cherish every moment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taco Salad

The weather today makes me think of salads. Unfortunately, That's not what we'll be eating tonight. This one is quick to throw together and has been a family favorite since I was a teenager. (Too many years ago to think about!) Change it up to suit your families tastes. Maybe shredded chicken and black beans, or leave out the olives, add green pepper or  jalapeƱo.

Taco Salad  

1 pound lean ground beef
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 15 oz. Can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 6 oz. Can small black olives, drained (optional)
2 small heads Romaine lettuce, washed and torn
8 oz. vinaigrette style Caesar salad dressing
7 oz. Bag Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips, broken
2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Brown and drain ground beef.  Add the taco seasoning mix and the water the package calls for. Cook over low heat until most of the liquid is gone. Allow to cool while assembling salad.  Place all ingredients except tomatoes in large salad bowl.  Toss well.  Top with tomatoes and serve.
(If you anticipate having leftovers, serve dressing and chips on the side instead of mixing them with the salad.  Soggy chips and limp lettuce do not make a good lunch the next day.)

6-8 servings

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I've spent weeks agonizing over what to write here. I don't want to write for the sake of writing. If no one benefits from my words, then I should be using my time to accomplish other things. Ultimately, I believe that each of us has a story to share. God didn't create us who we are or give us the experiences we have only for our own benefit. We are created to live in community and share our lives. My struggle today may serve as an encouragement to someone in a similar situation or as a warning to one who is at a decision point. So I will prayerfully put my thoughts into words and trust God for the fruit they will bear.