Thursday, January 27, 2022
Thursday, January 20, 2022
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Though I will also be the first to say that many days, I wonder.
I wonder why the world must often be such a difficult and dark place.
I wonder why we humans can be so blind and indifferent to each other’s suffering.
I wonder why evil is allowed to not only exist but to flourish.
And I wonder why, if God loves us as deeply as he claims to, he allows innocent children to suffer.
^ Clouds over Kalaloch in 2011 with my two younger daughters and our beloved Ranger.
So I wonder and I question and I doubt, but always I come back around to telling myself that I can’t make any sense of my life if it isn’t in the hands of a loving creator. I’d rather find out at the end of my life that there is no God and the joke’s on me than try to live with the despair and pointlessness of a life without God.
And I look, in my life, for signs of God’s presence, for proof of his being, for evidence of his love.
Last night, I stepped outside and was immediately aware of being wrapped in a surreal pink glow. Every corner of the sky was flooded with rosy light, but to the west the sunset was cooking up a masterpiece. I have no words to describe the color, the texture, the overwhelming majesty of the clouds caught up in whatever atmospheric event was causing this beauty.
And I felt God stir within me.
“That’s me,” he whispered. And I whispered back, “I know.”
And that was lovely. But it was a few hours later that I felt the full force of God with us. In my social media streams, I saw photo after photo of these very same breathtaking clouds, captured over the heads of my friends and neighbors. And though no one said it in so many words, I’m pretty sure they heard God whispering in their ears too.
Sharing God with one another. That’s what makes him real to me. That's why I believe
* * * * *
Sunsets are wonderful examples of God's fingerprints but they don't hold a candle to the holy power of the solar eclipse. Read my story of that amazing and life-changing experience here:
Thursday, January 13, 2022
I opened the door and there she was, brown button eyes snapping with delight, red shaggy tail a-wagging. As I stood back, she leaped into her new home and began a top-to-bottom inspection, charging through each room, running her nose along every baseboard, and introducing herself to three startled cats along the way.
^ At first, she chased them unmercifully but now they kiss noses.
Yes, she literally showed up on my doorstep, a 2.5 year old orphan already acquainted with the hard knocks of life but ready, bless her joyful heart, to try on a new family for size.
And thankfully, we all fit each other perfectly.
Now I'll be the first to admit that a dog like Gracie may not be everyone's cup of tea.
^ Big world, chilly little dog.
She is big.
Eighty five pounds worth of big, and more than happy to stretch out by standing upright at a kitchen counter, deftly pulling at the tea towel draped over the cake to guide it toward the front edge of the counter, or even delicately pawing at the upper shelves in hopes of getting one of those peanut butter cookies on the cooling rack to fall the right way.
^ Swamp queen rules over her domain.
She is boisterous.
Oh, to her credit, she does doze peacefully at my feet through many hours of the day. But when the lady gets charged up - usually before her walk or when she knows food is about to be delivered to her ever-ready lips - she leaps, hops, spins, dashes and bounds through the house with considerable vigor.
^ Problem solver.
She is headstrong.
I may have forgotten that I set a dish of meow mix down on the laundry room counter for a finicky cat who nibbled a few bites and then walked away. But Gracie has not, and you better believe that the instant my back is turned, she is going after that tasty amuse-bouche with a vengeance.
^ Strangers often tell me she looks like a little bear, and I agree.
But Gracie's considerable charm more than outweighs her challenges.
smart as a whip
and always down for a ride in the car.
^ Dialed in on the birds. Always.
In short, my good dog, Gracie, is the perfect dog for me, and on this, her seventh birthday, I still can barely believe my incredible good fortune that she found her way to me.
* * * * *
If you enjoy reading stories about cheerful big red dogs, or even just gazing at their adorable photos, let me recommend to you a journey through my Pet Love collection which will definitely scratch your itch.
Sunday, January 9, 2022
^ My own cozy house, snug in the snow.
Snow lay deep and lush on the ground, typical of a mid-century Michigan New Year's Eve, and all was quiet and calm.
But as afternoon turned to evening, sleet began to fall from the sky in dazzling drops of freezing rain and soon every inch of landscape was coated in ice.
Wasn't I a brave little thing to choose this night for my entrance into the world?
^ The Douglas firs outside my neighborhood embrace the snow like few other trees can. Love.
Aware of the weather's growing menace, my parents set out to the hospital plenty early, around ten p..m.. Expecting the interstate to be an ice rink, they inched along on Old 23 and slowly crept the 18 miles to Ann Arbor.
University of Michigan's Women's Hospital sat halfway up a hill near campus, and as they approached, my folks saw the evening's celebratory pedestrians navigating the ice-covered sidewalks on their hands and knees.
^ My own second-born was born in midsummer and barely waited till I cleared the elevator before she was born. But that's a story for another day.
Inside, as my mom approached the maternity ward check-in desk, she noticed that they'd already broken out Happy New Year signs and streamers; the nurses were all wearing party hats and tooting party horns. Not realizing that the precarious drive had taken hours and that it was now well past midnight, my mom wondered why they had prematurely begun their celebration. One quick-witted nurse quipped, "We're celebrating because you're here to have your baby!"
My mom just loved that.
^ My dog-ter was also born in January, though in central Florida,
so there was probably not much snow.
Hours passed and soon I was born. It was quickly determined that I was suffering a cold and I was whisked off to an isolation nursery where the only people allowed in the room were my mother and one nurse. Happily, I recovered quickly and before my mom's then-standard week in the hospital was over, I was finally introduced to the world.
Soon after, we drove home through pristine snow to our snug little house on the shores of frozen Ore Lake, and my life properly began.
^ A perfect day for a snow baby like me.
It makes perfect sense for a baby born in a winter storm to feel most at home in the snow. And so last week, as I celebrated my birthday with a most unusual foot of sparkling white blanketing the ground and temperatures riding down in the teens, I reflected on my birth story and decided that it felt just right.
Friday, January 7, 2022
Our 2021 Christmas trifle.
One day, my naughty little sister put on her best party dress and skipped off to the birthday party of her friend, Bad Harry. While the other children played ring-of-roses, these two known trouble-makers snuck into the kitchen and dragged chairs to the larder shelf to admire Bad Harry's birthday dessert. Soon they were picking silver balls off the top, sticking their fingers into the cream and ultimately devouring, all in one go, the huge bowl of spongy trifle which had been prepared as the centerpiece of the feast.
His mother discovered them in flagrante and was not impressed. Bad Harry was sent to bed, and my naughty little sister ran out the door and all the way home. That evening, neither one of them felt at all well and they never ate trifle again.
This is not a factual account from my own life, but a delightful story that I read many times to my daughters when they were young.
We chortled as each step of mischief unfolds, and roared with delight as the children are caught red-handed, up to their elbows in the trifle bowl, mouths overflowing and creamy bits dribbled down the front of their party clothes. But always, just one question remained.
What exactly is a spongy trifle?
In pre-Google times, finding that answer took a bit of old-fashioned resourcefulness. At the library one day, I stepped into the cookbook aisle while my daughters entertained themselves with a game less naughty than stealing fancy desserts, and researched the matter.
Spongy trifle is a traditional English layered dessert: cake spread with jam, fresh fruit, custard, shortbread, and whipped cream, often decorated with - you guessed it - silver balls.
As we admired the photos of gleaming glass-footed bowls filled with these lovely layers, we determined to make one for ourselves.
So we did.
And we are still making them to this day.
Spongy trifle is standard fare at our Thanksgiving and Christmas tables and even after years of perfecting our favorite flavors, we have barely scratched the surface of all the variations I found on the pages of those cookbooks in the library so long ago.
Looks like we are going to be making spongy trifles - though hopefully not eating them all in one go - for many delicious years to come.
* * * * *
Angel food cake or pound cake. Home baked from a box mix is fine Our family is divided into two camps on this front so we go back and forth.
Blackberry or raspberry jam. I live with jam snobs and they always prefer Bonne Maman preserves.
2-3 cups of fruit: We like fresh kiwi, bananas, and berries as well as canned mandarin oranges which are surprisingly good in a trifle.2 cups of vanilla pudding, prepared ahead of time and cooled to room temperature - Jell-O Cook and Serve or home made. We avoid instant pudding at all costs.
- Cut the cake in half; freeze one portion for your next spongy trifle.
- Cut the remaining cake into 1/2 to 1-inch slices.
- Spread half the cake slices with jam; top them with the remaining slices as if to create sandwiches. When they were young, my daughters adored this step and still line up to do it every year.
- Cut the cake and jam sandwiches into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes and arrange in the bottom of the glass dish. Use a spoon to gently pat into place. This layer will be bumpy but the next layer will smooth things out a bit.
- Wash, peel, and cut the fresh fruit into bite-sized pieces, as needed.
- Drain the mandarin oranges.
- Mix together in a bowl and carefully arrange on top of the cake cubes. Use a spoon to gently arrange the fruit into the nooks and crannies of the cake bits, creating a somewhat flat layer.
- Ever so carefully spoon the room temperature pudding in an even layer atop the fruit.
- Take exquisite care not to dribble the pudding on the inside of the glass bowl.
- Gently shaking the bowl sometimes helps to coax the pudding into an even layer.
- Put half a package of cookies into a plastic food storage bag; bash it with a rolling pin to break the cookies into crumbs. Great job for a toddler.
- Spread the cookie crumbs atop the pudding, striving for an even layer.
- Freeze the rest of the cookies, or eat them for nourishment.
- Top off the dish with a luscious layer of cream.
- If your dish is too full for a generous portion, serve the extra cream on the side.
- Cover with plastic wrap taking care not to let the plastic wrap touch the surface of the cream. If your dish is heaped with cream, use toothpicks to hold the plastic above the surface of the cream
- In this case, beeswax wraps are not your friend. Use actual plastic wrap. Sorry, earth.
My Homemade Pasta Primavera
My Homemade Pad Thai
My Homemade Quiche
My Homemade Potato Salad
My Homemade Cobb Salad
My Homemade French Toast
Thursday, January 6, 2022
Last week, I celebrated my birthday by blowing out a mountain of flaming candles on a banana cream pie.
Sigh. Yawn. Not exactly a riveting report, I know.
But here's the plot twist.
For the past, oh, I don't know, at least fifty years – ever since I was in middle school - I've requested for my birthday an angel food cake.
That, my friends, is a LOT of angel food cake. So much so, in fact, that somehow the tangy, tender mouthfuls of light and airy bliss have become entangled with the idea of my birthday - my very sense of myself - to the point that neither I nor my family could imagine one without the other. In honor of this beautifully simple and long-lived tradition, I simply MUST have angel food cake for my birthday, right?
Every year for the rest of my life, right?
Well, I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but this year it just felt all wrong.
My life has been wonderful, and I've carried many beautiful traditions worth upholding, but I suddenly realize that I'm not tied or beholden to any of them. The past does not dictate the present moment, nor the future. On any given day, I am free to reinvent myself however I want.
No matter how many years I may have left to live - we never know for certain, do we - I'm sure as heck not interested in just sitting around as the same old me, unafraid or perhaps more accurately, unsure of how to launch new directions in my life.
While I'm not about to throw out the baby with the bathwater - after all, just like every other year, I did request from my family a special birthday dessert, beamed in silence as they sang to me, and blew out a forest of blazing candles – I’m feeling bold and determined this year to reinvent myself however I may see fit.
So cheers to you, banana cream pie, for setting me squarely back on a path of discovery and adventure.
And as for you, angel food cake, I
still love you. And who knows. I may just come back to you next year.