Did You See the Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse?

Last night there was a very special lunar event! Did you get to see it? January’s full moon is always called the “wolf” moon. (I’ve heard it was so-named by American Indians because that’s when the wolves howled most fiercely outside their villages 😦 ).  Last night there was also a “super” moon, which means the moon was full while it was at its closest point to the earth in its rotation, making it look especially large and luminous. Every year we get two to five supermoons, and this year there are three: the one last night, one on Feb. 19 (which will be the closest and largest full supermoon of the year), and one on March 21.  A “blood” moon refers to the color the moon appears to be during a total lunar eclipse. Instead of disappearing altogether, there is still some light that reaches it from the sun, although the rays are refracted in such a way that blue light is filtered out, leaving the sunset glow of red light. A super blood moon is a rare occurrence with gaps between six months and three years. Last night was the only  super blood moon in 2019, and there won’t be another one like it visible in North America until May 26, 2021. Lunar eclipses occur during a full moon, when the sun and moon are perfectly aligned on opposite sides of the Earth so that the moon falls completely under Earth’s shadow. Last night’s eclipse lasted just 72 minutes, between 11:41 EST (January 20) and 12:53 EST (January 21, the wee hours of this morning).  The moon appears red only during the eclipse. Once the moon enters Earth’s shadow, it will turn red throughout the full eclipse.  But, once the moon begins to lose its red hue, you know the full eclipse is over.My photos of the blood moon and the lunar eclipse were not taken last night, however! They were taken in Italy last July while I was visiting my kids who lived there. Michael and Grace were all excited about the special event, and we were perched in place, watching so we wouldn’t miss this opportunity! We knew the eclipse wouldn’t be visible anywhere in America that night, which made it all the more exotic and unusual! Last night, Alan and I admired the full moon rising on our way home from visiting with friends, but we were oblivious of the momentous event about to occur just a couple of hours later. When we got home, we watched our son, Joel, out skating in the moonlight and thought about what a beautiful evening it was, but we fell right to sleep without any portend of “things to come!”I wonder, friend, as you look up at the night sky, do you know some day a blood moon will portend the Lord’s return to  Earth? For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Are  you prepared for that day? Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:6-13).

But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” Matthew 24:37-44).

And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:19-21).

(Photo Credits: Best photo of the blood moon [#3 in order] was taken by NASA. I took #2. photo at a showing in our local planetarium and the rest on July 27, 2018 near Costozza, Italy.)

Sugar-Sweet Steamed Pears

All of Michael’s kids seem to have inherited the family sweet-tooth, so there were lots of requests to make desserts while I was visiting. If you’re looking for an easy and pretty nutritious dessert to make with your children or grandchildren, this one is perfect for the fall, when all the pears are sweet and juicy! Their Uncle Joel had sent along as a gift The Redwall Cookbook, in honor of Eowyn finishing the twenty-two book fantasy series, and they were very eager to try the recipe for sugared pears found within! Although we made them together, I didn’t write down the recipe, so this will be “inspired by” but not a 100% replication (which might be against copyright law at any rate)!                                             Sugar-sweet Steamed Pears

Prepare your pears. Choose one firm and ripe (but not mushy) pear per two people. Wash the pears, slice lengthwise, and core (but do not peel) them.Melt over medium heat in a frying pan (one with a lid you can use to cover it):
1 tablespoon butter per pear
1/4 cup granulated (or brown) sugar per person; we used white, but I’d use brown next time
Dash of cinnamon per pear (about 1/2 teaspoon for four pears)  Stir until the mixture is bubbly and completely melted. Turn the heat to low, and  add the pears, flesh side down. “Fry” for one minute, or just long enough for the flesh to begin cooking and absorb with sugar and butter. Gently turn the pears over and repeat on the skin side. Remove pears to a plate just long enough to add to the frying pan 2 tablespoons of water per pear. Stir until you have a light syrup in the pan.  Return the pears, flesh side down, into the pan and cover with a lid. Allow the pears to steam for about 10 minutes on very low heat, or until fork tender. (This could take 6-12 minutes, depending on how ripe the pears and high the heat!) Check the pears every few minutes to make sure they aren’t burning and there’s still liquid in the pan. If there isn’t much syrup left, add a little water as needed.  When the pears are steamed, gently remove them from the pan and place them in a dish, spooning out all the syrup from the bottom of the pan. Keep warm in a covered dish until you’re ready to serve them, hopefully after you’ve had a delicious and nutritious dinner! Although they can be served with whipped cream, ice cream, nuts, or caramel syrup on top, they are excellent just the way they are: warm & sweet! Speaking of God’s wisdom, the Bible reminds us: “My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:19).

The Ultimately Creamy Tiramisu: With or Without

Tiramisu has long been a favorite dessert in our family, especially when we eat Italian food, so my son Joel has been practicing this year and has it down to an art. He even tried making his own ladyfingers (although he says it’s a lot easier to just buy a couple of packages), and he’s perfected the balance of cream with the other flavors to make a memorable dessert that can last several days in the refrigerator and just seems to improve over time! Previously, tiramisu was a dessert I never really attempted to make, I think because I don’t like the heavy alcohol flavoring common in most batches. However, I was surprised but very pleased to discover that the tiramisu I bought for my son Michael’s family in Italy this summer had no alcohol whatsoever, so it emboldened me to work  out an authentic, non-alcoholic recipe that tastes great. You may wonder why I have such a vendetta against alcohol (some of my own kids do), but it’s because I have so many friends who have been hurt by the impact of immoderate alcohol consumption. Just this week, a report came out from the WHO (World Health Organization) stating that 1 in 20 deaths world-wide is due to alcoholism. That’s a shockingly high statistic to me when you consider war, accidents, and disease. Sure, alcohol is probably related to the majority of mechanical accidents, but alcohol is one of the few things in life that we absolutely do not need in order to carry on life (unless someone becomes addicted…which is what unfortunately happens all too often). Therefore, why take a chance with a non-essential substance that gives you a 1 in 20 chance of either killing yourself or someone you love? (And, if you’re in your 20’s, the chance goes to 1 in 7.)Well, I’ll get off my soapbox in a minute and share the recipe, but I also wanted to point out an article from The Washington Post entitled, “Americans Are Drinking Themselves to Death at Record Rates,” which states that 30% of Americans don’t drink at all.* So…if you don’t drink, please don’t feel like you’re the only one out there (which has happened to me a few times). There are a lot of fellow water or Pepsi totters, so the resistance movement is strong!

Ultimately Creamy Tiramisu

Custard:

In a quart-sized sauce pan, whip together:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar. When well blended, add
2/3 cup milk
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until it bubbles and thickens. Cool and refrigerate until well chilled. Then carefully whisk in:
1 pound mascarpone cheese until it’s all smooth and uniformly mixed. Refrigerate this mixture until you’re ready to assemble everything.

Whipping Cream:

Whip together until stiff peaks form:
1.25 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Coffee mixture to soak the lady fingers:

5 tablespoons espresso coffee mixed with 6 tablespoons of “something.” Many recipes call for rum or amaretto, but you can also use:
5 tablespoons of white grape juice plus
2 teaspoons of almond extract

To assemble everything:

Lay out one 3-ounce package of ladyfinger (spongecake) cookies flat in the bottom of a 13X9″ pan. If they aren’t already split in half, split them. Drizzle half of the coffee mixture over the cookies, then add half the custard gently, spreading it carefully until all the cookies are covered. Next add half the whipped cream, spreading it over the top. Then, carefully arrange a second 3-ounce package of split ladyfinger spongecake cookies on top of the mixture. Drizzle them with the rest of the coffee mixture. Add the rest of the custard, and top with the rest of the whipped cream, making sure everything is level and covered at each step. Sprinkle liberally with sifted cocoa powder. Ideally, chill it for 4-6 hours at least before serving to let the flavors meld. (As a side note: soft ladyfingers are best, but if you can only find the hard kind, dip them individually into the coffee mixture to make sure they’re soaked before arranging them one by one in the pan. Also, use 6 tablespoons each of coffee and white grape juice instead of 5.) Tiramisu is best if it’s allowed to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving, and it continues to taste great for several days (although it never lasts very long at our house)!                                               Enjoy!! We sure do!  🙂

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1)

*https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/americans-are-drinking-themselves-to-death-at-record-rates/?utm_term=.b105c5ec4cfd

 

No More Sixteen Going on Seventeen: Meet Number Seventeen!

Last Thursday I left off my tale at the point where my over-due daughter-in-law and I had just spent a marvelous day at Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Padova, Italy) but had no clear memory of how to retrace our steps to find our car, wherever it had been parked on some side street with a name we couldn’t recall.

Truly, I attempt to practice the advice to “pray without ceasing,”  but normally there are many lapses. Not so this late afternoon! “Which way, Lord? Ah, I remember that shop. Now what? Which way did you say? Down there? Oh, yes, that patch of grass looks familiar. Thank you. Oooo… I don’t remember anything here…” About then Grace would remember something, and together the three of us (Grace and I, led by the Holy Spirit) slowly made our way back to the car.  Thank you, Father! Grace was super tired but still not having contractions, so we drove through quite a thunderstorm the forty miles back to Vincenza, where we were greeted by our family and this rain-drenched rose. We stopped briefly on our way home to buy some herbal teas and other homeopathic medicines the midwife suggested to stimulate contractions, and I picked up a tiramisu to thank the home team for letting us be gone all day. The night passed quietly, but just as we were getting ready to leave for church Sunday morning, Grace’s water broke, and eventually (with the help of two midwives and a lot of hard labor), their new baby was born at home. So, welcome to the family, Baby Marius Rive! His first name is in honor of the character, Marius Pontmercy, who is saved by Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and later marries Valjean’s daughter. Grace had just finished reading the book and felt that Marius was going to carry on his father-in-law’s legacy of grace and forgiveness. “Rive” is an ancient french word that means “river bank,” and Michael and Grace put the two names together as a blessing and prayer that Marius Rive will be like a river bank to channel God’s grace and forgiveness to others. Isn’t that beautiful?

Channels Only
(Mary E. Maxwell, 1900, Public Domain;
This song is a great favorite of our family)

  1. How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
    That Thy love laid hold of me;
    Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
    That I might Thy channel be.

    • Refrain:
      Channels only, blessed Master,
      But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
      Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
      Every day and every hour.
  2. Just a channel full of blessing,
    To the thirsty hearts around,
    To tell out Thy full salvation,
    All Thy loving message sound.
  3. Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
    A clean vessel in Thy hand;
    With no pow’r but as Thou givest
    Graciously with each command.
  4. Witnessing Thy pow’r to save me,
    Setting free from self and sin;
    Thou who bought me to possess me,
    In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.
  5. Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit
    Hearts that full surrender know,
    That the streams of living water
    From our inner man may flow.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Isaiah 41:17-19)

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(John 7:37-38).

Hidden Treasury of Religious Art at Scrovegni Chapel…Lost in Padua

The baby was due Wednesday, and Michael predicted that it might be a photo finish between Baby Cakes and me as to who would arrive first. We had a “Plan B” in place while I was in transit from America just in case the baby came and Michael couldn’t meet me at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport. However, Mike was there smiling when I emerged from the baggage claim area. That was Friday.  By Saturday, Grace was more ready than ever to deliver, but Baby was unwilling to participate in a premiere showing, so Michael valiantly offered to take care of their four kids so Grace and I could visit the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, about a 40-minute drive from home. “Intrepid” is perhaps a modest understatement of Grace’s enthusiasm for life, and she’d really been wanting to visit this acclaimed masterpiece of Western Art before they left Italy, so we decided to take our (a?) big chance and go. Having GPS is one of the world’s finest exploration conveniences…when it works. The first time Alan and I visited Venice (about fifteen years ago), our GPS kept telling us to exit off the highway where there was no exit (all new construction), and we had a terrible time finding our way to our hotel. That particular terror was in the back of my mind when Michael warned us that the GPS wouldn’t really bring us to the right spot. He said we’d have to cross the Brenta River, so that we did. Then, our GPS said we were just three minutes from the chapel, but it didn’t seem able to direct us further, so we found a parking space (which is definitely a driver’s pot of gold  in this area of Padua) and began to walk. Many Italians know a little English, but few with enough facility to actually give adequate directions, and we quickly became completely disoriented on the twisty streets. I should have thought to take photos on my camera every time we turned a corner, but I didn’t. For future reference, if you’re traveling and unsure of where you’re going, take photos, and record where you’ve parked your car on your phone’s GPS if you have a smart phone. This works great for recording trail maps, too!At one point, we saw a young, professional-looking woman and approached her, thinking at last we’d get help. She’d never even heard of the Scrovegni Chapel (aka Cappella degli Scrovegni in Italian) and wondered if it might be downtown. After bumbling about like the blind leading the blind for half an hour, we finally found the chapel, which is part of the “Museo Civico of Padua.” Whew! The Scrovegni Chapel is filled with frescoes painted by Giotto in 1305 and is the forerunner to the exquisite works that Michelangelo painted two centuries later in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Although it’s virtually unknown relative to the world-famous Sistine Chapel, people do come from all over the world to visit, and we were give a twenty-minute slot with a small group in a carefully temperature and humidity-controlled environment to view the life of Christ as depicted in this chapel. (If you’re going to visit, reservations ahead are almost mandatory! We were late, but they graciously allowed us in with the next group. Thank you, Italy!)One of the most famous scenes is Joseph kissing Mary at their wedding. I was told that this is the “first kiss” ever depicted in Western Art (perhaps the world?).The Museo Civico of Padua is filled with literally thousands of pieces of artwork.                       They even have their own Pieta, by Antonio Bonazza.Grace and I spent hours marveling at all the gorgeous religious art, and it made us all the more amazed that so many people within a few blocks of this world-class treasury seemed to have no knowledge of its existence. How could that be? Did we fail to ask the right questions? Use the right words? It reminded me of my son Jonathan trying to find an evangelical church in Germany. He lacked the vocabulary to explain what he was looking for and so stumbled around for a long time before he found a very vibrant congregation of spiritually-minded believers.                 (Thankfully, he did, because that’s where he met his wife!) At any rate, we spent a glorious day standing in reverential awe of God as we experienced this beautiful chapel/museum hidden away in the heart of Italy.I fear that all too often Americans (myself included) fail to help others find their way to Christ. It’s easy to be like those busy Italians who lived and worked outside the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel but were oblivious to its existence. They never visited, had no clue what was inside, and couldn’t tell anyone how to get there…yet people from all over the world are seeking.  Can we open our eyes to the gospel message, believe it, receive it, and share it with others? For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).

(P.S.—The end of this story will have to be told next time. Do you think we found our way back to the car? Before Grace went into labor?  Tune in next week… 🙂  )

Castles in the Clouds and A Castle in a Cave

When you were young, did you imagine meandering into castles built amongst billowing cumulus clouds in the sky?  I did.  When our children were very little, one of their favorite books was named
From Castles in the Clouds,  and when I visited Michael and Grace last summer, I couldn’t help but think of  how their home reminded me of a magical castle floating on a cloud,  although it’s really a villa built into a mountainside in Italy.  I’m not exactly sure how they found this enchanted villa,  but I am sure it was in answer to our prayers for “just the perfect” place to live.  It was constructed in 1690, is on the national register of historic places,  and the count who owns it had three requirements if they wanted to rent:  They had to be rich,  they had to be romantic,  and they had to be strong. (There are 51 steps from the kitchen to the garage!)  I’m not sure if an army dentist qualifies as rich,  but they are certainly romantic and strong. . . and the count must have liked them,  because he came down in price so they could afford it. Although it’s really just a villa set near vineyards where Galileo used to star gaze, there’s such a grandeur about it that it really does remind me of a little castle! Every door has bolts and locks to secure it like a fortress. There are aged lamps with cobwebs way high up that remind me
of Disney’s Haunted Mansion! There are trap doors  and secret passageways,  and even one room that conjures up images of serving as a dungeon at one time. The ceiling in the ballroom is painted with ethereal frescoes, and some of the doors and walls are adorned with colorful murals
painted by the count’s wife, who is an artist. There are beautiful woodland gardens and pathways, and lots of little castley touches, like gargoyles under the roof tops.Nevertheless, if it’s a “castle,” it’s not a castle built on the clouds.
It’s a castle carved into a mountain and rooted firmly to the earth. In fact, this villa has its very own secret cave for playing and getting cool.
(Its was 98°F. some days!)Everywhere I could see evidences of just how difficult it must have been to carve this castle out of rock. As children, we dream and imagine, but building a good life takes a lifetime of hard work,and it’s a never-ending process. I don’t think any of us will ever live in a castle built in the clouds, But by God’s grace, if “every man’s home is his castle,” then each of us has the potential to live in a little castle here on earth, built into the side of a mountain. (And, to me that Mountain is God, our heavenly Father)! We may not get everything we imagine,
but we often get so much more than we need! Michael and Grace’s castle in a cave has been “just perfect” for them these past three years, but yesterday they moved out…off on a new assignment! How about you and me? Have you built a little castle in a cave dug into the side of the Mountain? I have. Are you ready for a new assignment?  I’m very content, but just like Michael and Grace, I want to be ready to ship out and move on whenever my Lord calls, to wherever my Lord leads!  Because, thankfully, this world is not our final resting place! Someday, if we are saved by faith in Christ,
we’ll be called from this life to the next,not to live in a castle in the clouds, but to our Father’s home in heaven.

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).When Michael was little, his favorite song was “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” I taught it to his kids, and we sang it every night when I was taking care of them, so  I thought it would make the perfect ending (for a new beginning):

  1. When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
    And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
    When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

    • Refrain:
      When the roll is called up yonder,
      When the roll is called up yonder,
      When the roll is called up yonder,
      When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
  2. On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
    And the glory of His resurrection share;
    When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
  3. Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
    Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
    Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
    (—James M. Black, 1893, Public Domain)  God bless my kids, and may God bless us all as we adventure forth!

 

Meringues: Fun and Fancy

While I was helping out with Michael’s family when their new baby was born this summer, my two oldest grand daughters were really interested in cooking with me, and in particular, they’d tried to make meringues but couldn’t get them to turn out right. They were either burned or gooey. So, we worked together and made some that turned out just lovely! After leaving their home, Alan and I went for a three-week cruise, and meringues were part of many dessert options (like this one, called “Mixed Berries Pavlova”), so I decided they are popular with everybody these days and worth writing up.  I think the secret to success is more sugar than you’d think (to help them keep their shape) and a longer, lower baking temperature than is often prescribed to help them keep from browning or burning (or at least a lower temperature than was prescribed in the kids’ cookbook).

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meringues

Preparations:
1.  Preheat oven to 275°F
2. Grease large baking sheet with shortening and sprinkle with sifted flour or line with parchment paper
3.  Cut small opening into bottom edge of a gallon zip lock bag and insert a fluted cake-decorating tip.  Ingredients:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2. Beat until soft peaks form
3. Then, slowly add
2.75 cups granulated white sugar, beating until stiff peaks form Shaping:
You can spoon out the meringues, but I think they’re a lot prettier fluted. To flute them, carefully fill the zip lock bag with the mixture and seal. Then, shape the meringues into little 1.5″ rounds with peaks on top Baking:
The trick with baking is to cook them slowly at a low heat so that they harden but don’t turn brown. This is best achieved by popping them straight into an oven preheated to 275°F. and baking them for 2 hours, then shutting off the heat, leaving them to continue drying in the oven overnight. It would be good to check them after an hour and a half, just to make sure they aren’t browning. In the morning, carefully scrape them off the cookie sheet and store them in an airtight container. Humidity or any type of moisture can make them sticky, just like cotton candy.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
” (Psalm 119:103). Meringues on Celebrity Summit copy