Category Archives: Around home

A Study in Aging Beautifully: Gardenias

As I mentioned yesterday, Alan and I just celebrated our 44th anniversary
this past weekend, and it occurs to me that we’re getting pretty old!gardenia-plantHere’s just a little thought, but I have a gardenia plant,
and I’ve been so inspired by watching it bloom! wilting-roses-at-nelson-mandelas-homeDo you know how most flowers turn brown on the edges as they get oldwilting-roses-in-africabecoming wilted and all bedraggled by the time they die? gardenia-flower-unfurlingWell, my gardenia blossoms unfold like a pinwheel of pure white…white-pure-rose-africa-copy-2slowly unfurling their petals day by day until their blooms
are as full and fragrant as the finest rose. gardeniaHowever, as gardenias age, the blossoms don’t turn brown like withering roses, they gradually turn deeper and deeper shades of yellow.gardenia-plantI would like to learn to age beautifully, like gardenias,
continuing to flourish and produce fruit until the day I die!   baobab-tree-the-big-tree-zimbabwe12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
(Psalm 92:12-15, NIV, emphasis mine)

(The baobab tree in this last photo is called “The Big Tree.”
We saw it recently while we were in Zimbabwe. It’s somewhere between 1000-1500 years old, and it’s still producing flowers and fruit!
Talk about incredible and inspirational!!)

 

Chocolate-on-the-Face Mousse…Guaranteed to Please

chocolate-on-the-faceWhen our kids were little, we had a secret password. Whenever someone knocked on our bedroom door, Alan would call out, “What’s the password?” If the child answered, “Chocolate on the face,” Alan would tell them they could come in, on the theory that any kid with chocolate on his (or her) face probably belonged to us.enjoying-chocolate-mousse                     Now we’re on to our next generation of chocolate lovers! baby-eating-chocolate-mousseI know I should be passing along healthy recipes for  things that are super nutritious, but given that last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day and today is Alan and my 44th anniversary, I thought it might not be too off side to share my favorite recipe for chocolate mousse, which is actually fairly healthy as far as desserts go, not to mention so elegant that people think it’s difficult to make (although it’s not, at least not the way I do it), and so delicious that kids will definitely end up with chocolate on their faces!

creamy-chocolate-mousseChocolate-on-the-Face Mousse

Boil 1/4 cup white sugar in 1/2 cup water until sugar has dissolved into syrup

Add 18 oz. chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate, but dark works well too),
1 stick of butter
, and a pinch of salt. Heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Beat 4 eggs (yes, I use the whites and the yolks) with an electric mixer until frothy, then add  1 cup heavy whipping cream and whip until soft peaks form.

Slowly add the hot chocolate syrup in a small stream to the whipped mixture, continuing to whip everything together until it’s of one gloriously frothy, consistent texture. Immediately spoon into individual serving dishes and chill thoroughly. You can garnish with more whipping cream and shaved chocolate or fruit, but it’s pretty yummy just by itself! Also, this can be divided into 6-8 servings, depending on how much room you think people will have for dessert.

Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
(Psalm 145:16, speaking of God)

Yummy Cheese Fondue for a Cold Winter’s Night

cheese-fondueBack in the Days of Hippiedom, when Alan and I were first married (long before the bride and groom registered for gifts at Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond), we received fondue pots from two different wedding guests! (That’s just to let you know how popular fondues were in the dark ages.) As a matter of fact, we were delighted, because we had one pot for cheese and another pot for chocolate, so both the main dish and dessert were dreamy, creamy, and always a hit with company (even it the company was just the two of us). Somewhere amidst the madhouse moments of rearing our big brood, having nine hungry hippos stabbing bites of food with long, sharp forks and jockeying for space around rather small and possible-to-knock-over pots poised above candles lost its romantic charm, and the pots got stored in the basement where they gathered dust for many years. table-set-for-cheese-fondueHowever, on a cold winter’s night over the Christmas holidays, I dug out the pots and decided it was high time to restore this candlelit tradition to our now civil home of high society twenty-something sons and ourselves. Fondues had not lost their charm, and so another generation is enjoying the ambience of slow and measured culinary delight.

If you’re interested in having your own fondue for dinner, you don’t really need a fondue pot with a candle underneath (although it helps). You can set any small pot on top of any incense burner that houses a candle underneath, or you can make your fondue in a double boiler (like I do), and just leave both the pot and the pan of boiling water underneath it sitting on a hot plate. Or, you can set them on a  wooden block on the table, and it will still  keep warm for a good 10-15 minutes (and can be rewarmed as needed).

A basic recipe for fondue is:

1 cup white grape juice in a pan on your stove. Bring to a simmer and add:
1/2 pound shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 pound shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons flour (or thicken to taste)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but use whatever you have and like)
1/4 teaspoon ground white (or black) pepper

Stir until all the ingredients are melted and uniformly smooth. If you don’t want to spend the money on Gruyere or don’t like the taste, you can use mozzarella, Parmesan, cheddar, pepper jack, or any other type of cheese you love, including cream cheese. Just remember, it’s your pot and your taste! Many people use one cup of cooking wine rather than juice, but I don’t actually like the smell or taste of wine, so I use white grape juice, which works great.

Ideas for what to dip (all cut in approximately one-inch cubes or chunks):bite-sized-veggies-bread-and-meat-for-cheese-fondueFresh bread cut into one-inch cubes (the classic “must”)
Steak cut into one-inch cubes and sauteed lightly with seasonings
Veggies: grape tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, (anything you like as a
finger food)
Fruits: Apple, pear, grapes, raspberries, (anything you like as a finger food)
Weird but fun things to try: pickles, chips, marshmallows, olives, pickled veggies  Cheese Fondue                      The most important things are to eat well and have fun!

But he [Jesus] answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God
“‘ (Matthew 4:4).

 

What’s Under the Mantle of White?

img_7265It’s snowing and 8° here in Michigan this morning.snowy-lake The sky looks almost foggy,img_7263 and everything is wrapped in a mantle of white as luxurious as ermine fur! img_7262Don’t you love how snow softens lines and covers over the deadness and defects img_7273of our landscapes after the cold has killed off everything green? img_7272-2It occurs to me that it’s almost impossible to guess what’s under the soft, glistening mounds of white unless you know the landscape well.
img_7270For instance, wouldn’t it be impossible to know what’s under the white mounds of snow in the preceding photos grill-buried-under-snowunless you’re able to back up and see the bigger picture?  (Outdoor grill)snowy-stack-of-wood(Not a bed, but a stack of firewood!) img_8471Makes me think of God, who covers over our sins with his grace and makes us clean, not only on the outside but on the inside too! (Kayak on our dock.) overturned-row-boat Thank you, Father, for a new year and the chance to be renewed again!  picnic-table-covered-in-snowPurge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow
” (Psalm 51:7).  huge-snowy-doghouseWhoever covers an offense seeks love” (Proverbs 17:9).

When is it Time to Say Goodbye to Traditions?

creche     Have you taken down your Christmas tree and all your decorations yet? putting-away-christmas-ornamentsDo you do a good job of purging out old decorations that have lost their luster, christmas-card-children-drinking-cocoa-on-front-stepsor do you— like me—cling to every little, ratty decoration
because you cherish the associated memories?

christmas-card-children-looking-at-moonWe have (scratched) glass bulbs and birds that hung on my parents’ Christmas trees, and oodles of dilapidated designs created from popsicle sticks, ceramic figurines painted by clumsy little hands, and tattered felt decorations made in Sunday school classes and as home school projects over the years. green-christmas-tree-bulbThis year, Joel masterminded the Christmas tree decor, and I noticed that none of these beloved treasures merited even an honorable mention in his artistic arrangement. needles-from-a-christmas-treeI’m sure our world would be a more beautiful, neatly organized place if sentiment didn’t cloud our judgment. Or, what is the right word? Alter our judgement? Distract? Affect? Inform? Some traditions are good, right?creche-painted-by-childrenBut, what about the decorations that have been glued back together after curious grandchildren accidentally broke off the heads of the skaters or knocked over (and cracked) the wise men? When is it time to let go of the past to make way for the future?christmas-tree-skirt-and-needlesI’m pretty sure I am way over on the semtimental-to-a-fault side of the bell-shaped curve.thomas-kinkade-home-in-country-wallpaper-trim My Lant Henna (Aunt Helen) told me that her son arrived to visit one day with a stack of new towels for her house and replaced her entire stock. tinsel-for-christmasLast week, Alan pointed out that we need to do the same. Really? I hadn’t even noticed. What’s wrong with 20-year-old towels?? At any rate, you get the picture! watchnight-service-candleI think we all grapple with the same questions, and the answers will be different for each of us, but I am going to attempt to loosen my grip on clinging to the past in order to make room for the future this year…at least a little…and if you’ve been a nostalgic-to-a-fault, hopeless pack rat like me (spiritually and emotionally as well as physically)…I hope you’ll do the same!blur-of-red-and-green-lightsPut off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness… And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:22-24,30-32, ESV).

What’s On Top Of Your Pole?

snowy-michigan-gardenI’d been thinking a lot about those baboons sitting on top of the fence posts when I took a walk down our lane after the last big snow storm, and it occurred to me that I don’t have monkeys perched on my fence posts, I have snow! Lots of snow!snowy-swampOf course, I didn’t really place the snow on top of the posts, God did! Still, it made me think about the fact that—symbolically—we each have posts in our life. super-snowy-morning-in-michigan As we begin 2017, what’s on your post? What’s on the top of your pole?  Snow? Something that comes and goes with every gust of wind and change of weather?totem-pole-in-alaskaI’ve been examining my life and thinking about priorities…what I value and what I want as my highest priority…at the top of my pole. I don’t want it to be pleasure, or wealth, or even happiness or being loved by others (although those are all good things). I want God—the living, personal God who created the universe and everything in it, and yet who loves us with everlasting love—I want that most wonderful of all gods to be at the top of my pole. How about you?  old-fence-around-a-garden-in-winterAnd if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

(In case you hadn’t guessed, that totem pole isn’t at our home; it was taken when we were in Alaska years ago.)

Merry Christmas!

alan-and-kathi-in-africaWill you forgive me for writing you a Christmas greeting online?summer-reunionI’ll try to make it relatively short and sweet (with lots of photos)!christmas-card-depicting-jesus-in-mangerI haven’t attempted sending Christmas cards for several yearschristmas-card-home-in-snowbut still love receiving cards, e-cards,refrigerator-full-of-photos-and-drawings and joyful photos and drawings—which go right up on our refrigerator.refrigerator-full-of-photos-and-drawings-2016Thank you to each dear person who has blessed our family in this way!tahquamenon-fallsAlan and I have had a memorably happy year
despite the fact that he’s working harder than ever.srping-bouquet-on-tableWe love living in Grand Rapids! eiffel-towerOf course, we also love touring with our kids, medical-meeting-in-hawaiimedical meetings in Hawaii,the-devils-pool-victoria-fallshanging out at the top of Victoria Falls, etc! mink-on-our-dockWe have no plans to retire any time soon, our-snowy-drivewayeven if does get pretty snowy around here, magnolia-blossomsand we’re acutely aware that every new day is a gift from God.couple-searching-for-christmas-treeConcerning Aaron’s family, Carlie pointed out off-to-school-oh-4-boysthat they are suddenly at a crucial new threshold with everyone out of diapers, speaking clearly and totally mobile. gingerbread-house-and-eager-eaters They’re having lots of fun adventures in California,canoe-trip-down-rogue-river although they’ve been very faithful about returning to visit, little-boy-in-canoeand we enjoyed a memorable canoe trip with them last fall. mike-and-grace-at-partnach-gorge-germanyMike’s family is living in Italy now, family-in-europewhere Christmas is foggy and neither white nor bright little-boy-with-ice-cream-cone-in-venice-italybut life is beautiful anyway.
family-playing-of-stand-up-paddleboard-supThey came home to visit us here at “Tanglewood Cottage” last summerfun-in-the-rvand then went on a U.P. road trip “in the RB” (aka/recreational vehicle)mackinac-island-waiting-for-the-ferry with “Papa and Nana.” playing-with-grand-son-at-the-big-boy-marquette-miSuper fun!three-sistersJon and Gerlinde welcomed their third daughter into their home last summer, riding-on-a-merry-go-roundand Nana and Grandpa (different families have different designations for us) beautiful-babywere able to visit during that most happy occasion! manito-park-spokane-waThey’ll be in Germany this Christmas with Gerlinde’s family. young-family-near-harbor-springs-miDaniel’s family lives here in GR, so we are blessed by getting to see thembaby-watching-youtube-dude-perfectnearly every week and watch while Samuel grows up right before our eyes.little-boy-walking-through-autumn-leavesWhat a special joy it is to have them living close by!
young-family-with-babyBrianna is expecting Baby #2 in April. I can hardly wait!

guys-having-fun-togetherStephen is home for the holidays between semesters at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he is working on a PhD in music history. He also plays part-time at a local church.  Joel decided to drop his graduate studies to take a position as assistant editor with Kregel Publishers here in GR. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been having him back at home! He adds a dimension to life that I’d forgotten how much I missed until he came home again. “The more the merrier” and the more the emotionally richer too, I think!hiking-along-dead-river-falls-mi     Life for me is happiest when lived in community with other loved ones.sunshine-on-river-abstract In fact, I can’t imagine anything better than graduating to heaven one day, where I will share a “mansion” (abiding place) with all those who have become God’s children by faith in Jesus. I am hoping and praying I’ll see you all there!  boy-playing-in-water-in-sunshine                 Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! May you have a splendid 2017!

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)