Sometimes there are just no answers

April 28, 2010 | My Jottings

Something mysterious happened yesterday. Maybe those of you reading can come up with some plausible answers.

My husband Michael ran some errands with my son-in-law Chris. He then went out to lunch (at Coney Island, of all places!) with his lovely daughter Daphne from Red Wing, Minnesota, who was in town visiting her son Jordan, who’s a student at UMD. Then Michael, Daphne and Jordan went to take a peek at Sharon’s new yarn studio downtown. Then they all said their goodbyes and Michael came home.

Michael needs to take an occasional nap because of his PD, and he did that as soon as he came back. Like he always does, he laid down on top of the black and white toile comforter on our bed, and then forty-five minutes later was awake, refreshed and starting on another project.

I went upstairs to fold some laundry on our bed right after he got up, and I noticed a small something on the covers, on his side of the bed, right where his middle back would have been laying while he slept.

This is what it was:

A small clove of garlic. With a bit of the paper still on. On the bed where my husband had just napped.

I went through all the possible explanations. He had not been in a restaurant where fresh garlic was hanging, and even if he had, why would one clove have stuck to the back of his knit shirt and come all the way home with him as he drove in his truck and then laid down to take a nap?

I had not cooked with garlic recently and besides, a stray clove of garlic has never before attached itself to me and ended upstairs on our bed.

There was clean laundry on part of the bed waiting to be folded, but why would a clove of garlic have been in the clean laundry and rolled to the side on which Michael sleeps? It had clearly not gone through the washer or dryer, since the clove was firm and intact and showed no evidence of being washed in the whites cycle and tumble dried for sixty-five minutes.

Our dogs don’t like garlic (we know all the things they love: carrots, broccoli, grapes, ice cubes, cucumbers, and very expensive dog food) so I don’t think Edith or Millie would have delicately picked up a clove with their teeth — if there had even been one on the kitchen floor — and deposited it on our bed upstairs.

The children in the house can’t reach where the garlic is stored in the kitchen, so they aren’t the culprits.

When I showed Michael what I found he looked at it blankly and had no answer as to why he laid on a clove of garlic while napping.

Vampires? Does someone suspect that we need protection?

So there you have it. Garlic on our bed. Under my husband while he took a nap.

There are brilliant minds out there reading this, I know there are. Any thoughts?

Household Hints

April 26, 2010 | My Jottings

My daughter Sharon used to go to library when she was a little girl and check out the books by Heloise on household hints. She used to pronounce the author’s name “HELL-loyz,” instead of “hel-lou-EEZ,” and we had a few good chuckles over that. Years later, my friend Kathleen and I wrote a song for Sharon (“You’ll Always Be HELL-loys To Me!”) and performed it at her bridal shower. It was a great blessing to her that she still holds extremely dear to this day.

Anyway, today I’m thinking about household hints. I have a few hints myself on keeping house (even though I don’t use most of them), but I could always use new ones.

Here are a few household hints I would highly recommend:

1.  Do not let paperwork pile up in your office.

2.  Do not let the dogs come in the house after it rains without washing their feet in the sink.

3.  Do not let your house get messy.

4.  Do not just throw random things into kitchen drawers.

5.  Do not eat in your car.

6.  Do not cook meals.

If you follow all of the above invaluable household hints, you will definitely have time for pursuing your other interests rather than being a slave to your house.  🙂

Seriously, I will offer one household hint that can work pretty well, and then I would like you all to share a few of yours.

Household hint: get a laundry basket for every person in your house and write their name on it in small letters with a Sharpie. Keep that basket in their room and have them throw all their dirty laundry (towels included) into that basket. Assign a day of the week to do that person’s laundry. Do that person’s laundry on that day of the week. As soon as it’s washed and dried, fold that person’s laundry (unless you can coerce them to fold their own) and put it away as soon as you have folded it. I’m guessing that unless the person you’re doing laundry for is a city sewer worker or works on a Texas oilfield, you would have only one-two loads to do each day of the week. And if you don’t have seven people in your family, you would even have days when the washing machine and dryer are silent.

I haven’t always done this, but doing Foster care has helped me stick to this most of the time. It makes laundry seem manageable, and only doing one to two loads in the morning seems less daunting. There are exceptions to trying this, I know. We have family temporarily staying with us right now until they move into their lovely new house, so we all just use the washer and dryer whenever we can, which works for us. Also, if you are the Duggar family, my method would not work for you.

Now if I could only follow my own advice regarding paperwork.

What household hints do you have to share? What things do you do in your home that save time, help things run more smoothly, or give you a sense of calm and order?

Or if you have a question on how to do something more efficiently, ask your question and maybe some readers will have answers for you!

Serious and funny comments are welcome…

His Hem

April 22, 2010 | My Jottings

My daughter Sara went to New York recently with two friends, Jenna and Jill. They were able to attend Easter services at The Brooklyn Tabernacle. While in New York, they were in another church that had many of Ron DiCianni’s paintings hanging in the foyer. One of his works called “Divine Healing” really touched Sara, and she came home and told me about it.

I looked it up online and as I studied it, my eyes filled with tears. I found a video of the artist talking about this painting and he said he intentionally made the woman in the scene look more like a modern woman. She has a current hairstyle and clothing, and if you look closely you can see she’s wearing a watch and a cross necklace. The message is clearly that the mercy and power of Jesus was present for those who saw Him walk the earth, and it is present for those of us who walk in faith without seeing Him today.

From Luke, chapter eight:

40Now when Jesus came back [to Galilee], the crowd received and welcomed Him gladly, for they were all waiting and looking for Him.

41And there came a man named Jairus, who had [for a long time] been a director of the synagogue; and falling at the feet of Jesus, he begged Him to come to his house,

42For he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As [Jesus] went, the people pressed together around Him [almost suffocating Him].

43And a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed by anyone,

44Came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, and immediately her flow of blood ceased.

45And Jesus said, Who is it who touched Me? When all were denying it, Peter and those who were with him said, Master, the multitudes surround You and press You on every side!

46But Jesus said, Someone did touch Me; for I perceived that [healing] power has gone forth from Me.

47And when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came up trembling, and, falling down before Him, she declared in the presence of all the people for what reason she had touched Him and how she had been instantly cured.

48And He said to her, Daughter, your faith (your confidence and trust in Me) has made you well! Go (enter) into peace (untroubled, undisturbed well-being). The Amplified Bible

The rest of the story is that Jesus healed this desperate woman, then raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead that day as well.

Jesus brought hope and mercy to women who had been disdained or given up on by their society. Prostitutes, empty, immoral women, ceremonially unclean women, poor, neglected women, demon-possessed women, widows. He was scandalous in the way He took time with them, sat at the same dinner tables with them, elevated them and restored their dignity, respected them, healed them and gave them hope and power to follow Him and live differently.

We can’t see His face here in this picture, but just the sight of His sandaled feet makes me cry. “Heaven is His throne and the earth His footstool” (Isaiah 66:1) — in this painting, those feet are now pausing on the way to Jairus’s house, turning slightly to see who had touched His hem and why.

No one else could do a thing to help her. Money couldn’t buy what she needed. But when she reached for the hem of His garment, everything changed.

I may not have the same needs that woman had. My culture may not dismiss me as hers did. But I believe we all need things that only Jesus can give to us.

In faith, I am reaching for His hem today. What about you?

Edition 38 – Wednesday’s Word

April 21, 2010 | My Jottings

“Everywhere I have sought rest and not found it, except sitting in a corner by myself with a little book.”

Thomas à Kempis

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April 19, 2010 | My Jottings

My friend Jessica, whose blog is linked on the home page of my blog, gave me a blog award recently, and with it comes seven directives. Here’s what I’m supposed to do:

  1. Thank the person giving you this award. Thank you Jessica! I’m glad you read my blog and I love it when you leave comments. I also love to read yours, and think you should write more often.
  2. Copy the award to your blog. Here’s the icon:
  3. Place a link to their blog. Check Jessica’s blog out here. She’s a really good writer and she makes me laugh and think. I actually own an electric broom because of her blog.
  4. Name 7 honest tidbits people don’t know about you from reading your blog. Oh dear. I think I’ve done this a few times before. But maybe you’re all like me, with minds like sieves, and don’t remember any of it.
    1) I count my claps when I’m in an audience and the applause starts.
    2) I would really like to live in a little cottage in the Highlands of Scotland.
    3) I cry at least once a day. It’s not something I plan, just usually something that happens.

    4) I used to be an avid scrapbooker (when I had time to myself years ago) and I actually had some of my work published in
    Memory Makers magazine.
    5) I consider a yummy snack a spoonful of peanut butter and grape jelly.
    6) I used to be deathly afraid to speak in front of an audience, with uncontrollable trembling, and now I’m not at all.
    7) I hate, no, I
    loathe, tuna.
  5. Award 7 other bloggers. Some of my favorite bloggers are: My daughter Sharon at Three Irish Girls, my niece Savannah, John and Sandy Halvorsen’s account of their current prayer walk across Europe and Asia, Beth Moore’s blog, and I love the design photos at Holly Mathis Interiors. That isn’t seven, but maybe I’ll put some more on soon.
  6. Place a link to those bloggers. Check.
  7. Leave a comment letting those bloggers know about the award. Will do that soon, but I have a basement floor to mop with bleach water since I came home from SAGs last night to find a flood from the sewer having backed up. We had to call several companies before we found one to come out at 11:00 at night. Now that spring is upon us, there were tree roots growing in our lines. How many of you might guess that these kinds of services don’t do that kind of thing at that time of the night for just a few dollars?  🙂

Anyway, thank you for tagging me, Jessica. I read your blog every day.

What blogs do all of you read often? I would love to know. Feel free to leave their names and/or URLs in the comments too.


Better than a hallelujah

April 16, 2010 | My Jottings

Once in a while I post a song here on the blog that’s meaningful to me. This is one of those songs. It’s on Amy Grant’s newest CD release called Somewhere Down the Road.

The song is called Better Than A Hallelujah and I keep playing it over and over because the lyrics are profound and so comforting to me these days. I hope you can take the time to read the lyrics (below) as you listen, and that the song blesses you in some way.

The song is sung by Amy, but written by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart.

God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a hallelujah sometimes
God loves a drunkard’s cry, the soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah

A woman holding on for life, a dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a hallelujah sometimes
Tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing, better than a choir singing out, singing out

We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah

My Beloveds

April 14, 2010 | My Jottings

My youngest daughter Sara turned twenty-eight the day before yesterday. How can that be? I remember well the night I labored to give birth to her. I was twenty-three years old and Michael and I decided to have her at home, with a midwife. We had to turn the furnace up to 95 degrees so the house would be warm enough for her when she made her appearance, since we didn’t have any spare isolette incubators sitting around. It was a wonderful experience (aside from the intense pain and travail, but that would have happened in the hospital anyway since I was determined to have her without any medication).

To celebrate her birthday, this year Sara chose to have just the four women in our family go out for dinner at a restaurant with some of the most unique and delicious food around: The Scenic Cafe on the north shore of Lake Superior. We usually celebrate birthdays with anyone and everyone in the family who can attend, including children, so having a quiet foursome was new and nice.

Here’s a photo of my lovely Sara holding up a couple of birthday gifts drawn by her nephew and my grandson Elijah David. The one on the left is of a skeleton and the one on the right he labeled “musle,” from some anatomical drawings of bones and muscles Elijah studied recently. They seemed to have made an impression on him. 🙂

Carolyn and Sharon gave Sara a pretty salmon/coral colored top with some neat jewelry to go with it. The card they chose for her was so funny we couldn’t stop quoting it all night and have continued through today. Maybe it will even become a tradition between the four of us. It was one of those goofy cards with the black and white Victorian photographs of stoic, unhappy-looking, corseted women with word bubbles above their heads saying ridiculous things that probably no Victorian woman would have thought, much less spoken.

One of the somber-looking women on the card said to the other, “You’re intelligent, talented…and a fabulous shopper. Your turn.”

The next woman said, “You’re sensitive, a good listener…and you dress well. Your turn.”

Then the first one answered, “You have a beautiful body, a positive attitude, and a great personality. Your turn.”

And the last one was, “You have lovely skin, you’re generous…and nice to be with. Your turn.”

Inside the card the verse read, “We turn to each other for a lift, a laugh and to remind us how really great we are.” And how true that is.

Except our comments to each other were slightly different than the ones on the card. One of my daughters said to me, “You need a new shirt. Your turn.” And we cracked up. I said to Sharon, “I prefer your hair blonde. Your turn.” And we laughed hard again. Maybe you had to be there, but I’m telling you, we cracked ourselves up.

Below, here is my lovely Carolyn, smiling at her son’s artwork gifts for Sara. Isn’t her necklace fabulous?

Below is my lovely Sharon and me. I am blessed to be the mama of this remarkable trio of young women. I grew them all, as Sharon says about her own children. Now that Sharon and her family have moved to American Siberia the four of us can be together more often. We can go to dinner on dark rainy nights and have four different desserts so we can share and each moan over what the other ones ordered. On Sara’s birthday night this tactic enabled us all to have a little bit of chocolate espresso cake, a couple of bites of creme brulee, a teeny bit of blackberry cream cheese tart, and small portions of flourless chocolate cake with fairy floss.

Each of us could use “a lift and a laugh,” these days, as Sara’s birthday card suggested, and I won’t speak for Sharon, Carolyn or Sara, but that’s exactly what I got by being with my daughters.

These young women are my treasures. They are my beloveds.

Psalm 27

April 13, 2010 | My Jottings

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

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April 12, 2010 | My Jottings

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

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Stuffed Baked Potatoes

April 6, 2010 | My Jottings

I hope your Easter was a special day touched in some way by the love of friends, family, and God. Easter reminds me that with Jesus there’s always hope, no matter how occasionally hopeless things might seem. Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but His resurrection power can bring other dead things to life. Dead hearts, dead relationships, dead people – nothing is too difficult for Him.

We went to church where we could hardly find a place to sit, so our family had to sit two here, three here, two here, etc. Then we came home and started the food preparation for our Easter dinner. Later on in the day the grandbabies had a good time searching the big yard for candy-filled eggs.

My son-in-law Chris was in charge of the ham. I’ve always been so ho-hum about ham (that sounds like the title of a book – Ho-hum About Ham) until I try the baked hams that Chris prepares. He rubs some stuff on the ham, puts it in the oven in a roaster for 90 minutes, and then it invariably turns out so scrumptious that I rave about how ham is my new favorite meat. Then in a few days I’m back to being ho-hum about ham, until the next time Chris makes a ham and I’ll be all wound up about it again.

My daughter Sharon made roasted fresh asparagus, which I had never eaten. I could have written an essay entitled Ambivalent About Asparagus, but after tasting this, I have changed my tune on a food once again. Sharon also made spring-like desserts: homemade lemon squares and made-from-scratch carrot cake, the latter of which I am enjoying while typing this blog post.

Sharon and her middle child Mrs. Nisky made their famous Nisky’s Biscuits as well. Nisky’s Biscuits have two ingredients, two, and they are the flakiest, tastiest biscuits ever. Have you ever made delicious biscuits with 1) Self-rising flour and 2) whipping cream? Neither have I. I will be making them soon, however, because Nisky’s Biscuits are easy and yummy.

I made my favorite salad, Panzanella, that’s the most wonderful salad I’ve ever tasted and that is no exaggeration. If you want to make something that everyone will rave about and will require you to have printed copies of the recipe nearby each time you serve it, go to the Food Network’s site and check out The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for Panzanella.

I also made a staple that I’ve been making for at least twenty-six and a quarter years: Stuffed Baked Potatoes. Many of you probably make your own version of these, but I’ve been surprised lately to hear of enough people who’ve never made these, so I thought I’d share. Stuffed Baked Potatoes are easy and most people think they’re fancy and delectable. I make them at least twice a month – they’re a nice change from regular baked or mashed potatoes.

Sharon took the photos of my Easter journey through Stuffed Baked Potatoland, and I hope you’ll try them and let me know how they turned out for you.

You will need large baking potatoes, cheese (I used colbyjack but you could use cheddar, jack, pepper jack, whatever), blue cheese dressing, parmesan cheese, butter, green onions, and McCormick Salad Supreme.

First, bake your potatoes. I have two ovens, which comes in very handy on holidays. I baked my large baking potatoes in the smaller upper oven (you can see the pizza stone I store there) while the not-so-ho-hum ham was cooking in the larger oven below.

While your potatoes are baking, take some green onions and chop them up pretty fine. I used about 4-5 onions. One nice thing about this recipe is that you can just put in as much or as little of everything as you like. Experiment with the flavors and adjust as you go. You’ll see how I did that later. I use the green and the white of the green onions. Some people call them scallions but I never have. Maybe one of you can tell us why they’re called scallions – is it a regional thing? I don’t care as much for that name because it reminds me of the word scallywag, and the word scallywag reminds me of a certain person that I would prefer not to be reminded about when I’m making Stuffed Baked Potatoes.

This next part is important. Have all your ingredients ready in a bowl while your potatoes are baking, because it’s the heat of the baked potatoes that will cause everything to melt together nicely. Below you can see that I tossed in about two heaping cups of grated colbyjack cheese. We were feeding a lot of people on Easter.

Next, I added about 3/4 cup of blue cheese dressing and about 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. You could use less or more of either ingredient. I happen to love blue cheese dressing so I put in a lot. Maybe it was even closer to a cup of blue cheese dressing.

If you look closely now, you can see that the first potato is in there (I’ll get to that in a minute) and I also threw in about 3/4 of a stick of butter. This is Easter, so don’t worry about fat grams. You could worry about that the day after Easter. Oh wait – Easter is already past. Well, don’t worry about things anyway.

Now I just started to mash things together a little bit. My potatoes were done baking. I smooshed things around with the fork while my daughter took photos with her very nice camera that she uses on her very nice website for her very nice yarn business.

When the potatoes are done, I take them out one by one, hold them in an oven mitted hand, and gently cut them in half, taking care not to ruin my beautiful oven mitts.

I take a large spoon, and while cradling the hot potato in my mitt (please try not to notice the holes in my mitt) I gently scoop out the very hot potato innards.  I try not to ruin the skin, but sometimes it happens. See how there’s very little left of the innards? Then you can just set these forlorn looking skins on a baking sheet.

And they will look like this. Sort of like sad spudwaifs.

Because I have made this recipe hundreds of times, I can tell by looking if it’s what we’ll like. I could see after smooshing and mashing that for the number of people we were going to feed, we needed to add another handful of cheese. Just stir and mash with a fork until the hot potato innards have melted most of everything, and until you don’t have any clumps of unmashed potato left. If you do, that’s okay though. Potato clods never hurt anyone.

Now you can take your holey mitts off and start to fill the empty potato skins. The mixture will be cooled off enough to use your hands. Grab a few globs of cheesy goodness and press them into the potato skins.

Make sure you delicately lift your little finger as you do it, as a polite Englishwoman would do when sipping her afternoon tea. I’m not sure why this important, but just take my word for it.

When you have enough in a skin, it will look like this:

Not too much – just a little mound of the potato/cheese mixture will do.

You can find this product in the spices aisle at your grocery store. I’ve used it for years for just this one dish, and it adds color, great flavor and interest. It’s supposed to be for salads and pasta and I’ve never used it on either. Just on my Stuffed Baked Potatoes. (When McCormick comes out with a new product called McCormick Stuffed Baked Potato Topping, maybe then I’ll try it on my salads and pasta.)

Here are all the potato halves, stuffed with that delicious cheesy mixture, sprinkled conservatively with the Salad Supreme, and lined up ready to go back into the oven. If you lean to the left politically, then you could be a liberal sprinkler. For the most part I’m a conservative sprinkler.

I then bake them at about 375 or 400 degrees (I can’t remember which) until they get hot all the way through, maybe about fifteen minutes or so. Then about five minutes before I’m ready to serve my Stuffed Baked Potatoes, I turn on the broiler and begin to watch them carefully. I want them to get just a little bit darker and start to bubble. You could let them get browner than this if you like – just keep an eye on them.

Above, I took them out and thought they needed another two minutes under the broiler. Here’s the final result below:

And they are all gone.

These also freeze really well, reheat really well, taste good the next day for leftovers, and some people even like them packed in their lunches.

How do you fix your Stuffed Baked Potatoes?

Sharon and I were talking about all the variations that would be good with these – bacon bits, broccoli, rosemary, and a few other things I can’t remember now. What else would you add to your Stuffed Baked Potatoes?

Let me know if you try them.  Have a wonderful week…