April is NaPoWriMo! Are You Ready to Celebrate?

Ever heard of National Poetry Writers Month (NaPoWriMo)? Well, this year it’s become GLOBAL Poetry Writers Month (GloPoWriMo), so let’s go, GloPo! The challenge is to write 30 poems in 30 days, and I’d like to encourage you to try . . . even for one poem in the next 30 days (which might be more my speed)! If you write a poem and would like to share it, please add it in the comment box below whenever you get it written, or you can email it to me with a photo (kathrynwarmstrong at gmail.com), as I’m hoping to feature some poetry by friends at some point this month.

During the insecure hush that’s fallen over our world, poetry might come more readily than during the crush of business as usual. Trying to write a poem would make a fitting assignment for a home school English class or a challenging occupation for a quiet evening’s reflection either alone or with family members all sitting around the kitchen table or fireplace!

When I was young, one of the hardest things about poetry was trying to make it rhyme and ensuring there were exactly the right number of syllables per line, but neither rhyme nor meter are mandatory requirements for poetry today. Modern poetry is often more about saying something worth pondering in an artistic way.

If you’re interested in exploring more about poetry, here are a couple of links that might help get you in touch with your poetic potential:

https://www.slowdownshow.org/ This daily poetry podcast is hosted by America’s former Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, and yesterday’s reading (March 31, 2020, called “Interesting Times”) is perfectly apropos for the COVID crisis!!

http://www.napowrimo.net/ This website was developed by Maureen Thorson back in 2003 as a venue for sharing poetry. If you lack for ideas or inspiration, she will be suggesting prompts every day (which you don’t need to heed, of course!). You can also submit poetry into her comment box or submit a link to your website if you’re writing poetry on your blog for the 30 days of April each year. Maureen’s website is totally non-commercial and exists out of the generosity of her heart as a way of sharing people’s love for poetry.

My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1).

Surviving Covid-19 with Couped Up Kiddos

Are you or your kids bored now that the world is supposed to be practicing social distancing for the next 2-8 weeks? Obviously, enterprising senior citizens can use the time to clean their closets and organize their homes better. But, what about kiddos? I have a young friend in Indiana who said her kids are driving her nuts . . . to the point of making her depressed. I get it! While our Chicago kids were home last week on spring break (before everything shut down), Gerlinde and I put our heads together to come up with some ideas for what to do (especially with little ones) during the interim. So, if your kids are going crazy, consider some of these ideas:

  • Organize. First and foremost, we need to become unified under God within our individual home units. Children thrive on order and routine, and regularity makes them feel secure. What about starting with a family-wide prayer meeting, asking God for direction, help, and wisdom?
  • Call a family meeting. Explain what’s going on as best you can. So often children are left out of the loop on the theory that this will relieve their anxieties, but in fact, nothing relieves anxiety like honest, open communication. Hardship can either drive a family closer together or further apart, depending on whether or not you get everybody to sign on to working together to overcome the challenges.
  • Allow your kids to express the way they feel without criticism. Let them voice their disappointments and insecurities. Reassure them where you honestly can; sympathize with their losses and frustrations; encourage them to be patient and hopeful while we all wait to see how this crisis is going to play out. Keep calm and prayerful.
  • Brainstorm as a family: Create a few guidelines and goals that everybody can sign on to together. Ask each person what they need to feel loved and secure during this time. What can each person do that will help contribute to the harmony and health of the family community? What would people like to do for fun? Perhaps older children could help younger children learn their lessons, babysit, or help with routine housework. You may know this already, but many young children can be very helpful in the kitchen, and most kids respond well to working with a beloved parent. Do you have a fun-loving child? Maybe they could be in charge of organizing games or evening fun times. I had one enterprising 6-year-old who was happy to be paid $1 per hour to babysit his younger sibs (with the understanding that his 12-year-old brother would be available in case of trouble).
  • Here are a few ideas from Gerlinde:
Free virtual museum tours

https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html?fbclid=IwAR1WxQBjFf-BeMjg21BYNmiZ4d3haFD-aRpFhGYue32YdL5KTPoLBGFX9nU

I’ll try to come up with more ideas soon, and please feel free to add links to educational resources that you find in the comment box below if you can. Thanks!

Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Classic Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is another family favorite, particularly for Alan.

He rarely misses an opportunity to try a slice wherever it’s served,

whether at home, or abroad,

or anywhere at sea!

Carrot cake was made especially famous after our grandson, Samuel, started requesting his mother’s amazing carrot cakes (along with bowling parties) for his birthdays!

You know a cake is extra special when a youngster asks for it starting at age two (decorated like a ball, of course) and keeps wanting it again and again!

Absolutely everybody looks forward to Brianna’s carrot cakes (and Samuel’s birthday parties). However, with the corona virus crushing cruises and vacations, I’ve developed such a hankering for a carrot cake lately that I decided to learn how to bake my own!

I consulted with Brianna but made up my own rendition, which passed muster with Sammy (and his grandpa) last weekend, so I’ll pass it along to you today, just in case you—too—have a penchant for this rich, moist, vegetable . . . I mean cake! 🙂

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Grate 2-3 large carrots (enough to make 4 cups)
Pulverize 2 cup walnuts or pecans (depending on which you like better)

In a mixing bowl, combine:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup softened butter, and whip until airy and smooth, then add:
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until well blended.

Next, add:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice and whip in mixer until completely smooth.

Then add:
4 cups fresh, grated carrots
1 cup crushed nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts are also classic; use 1 cup in the batter, and the other cup goes on top of the frosting later)

Divide evenly into two 10-inch well greased and floured cake pans.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350°F. or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set on the counter and allow them to cool, loosening the edges with a knife after about 10 minutes to help keep the sides from sticking.

Cream Cheese Frosting for Carrot Cake

While the cakes are cooling (or while they’re baking), make the frosting:
In your mixer, add:
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz) softened butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light cream (or milk)
Whip until completely smooth and a bit airy.

Turn the first cake upside down on a platter and frost.

Add the second cake upside down on top of the first and frost.

Next, completely cover the tops and sides.

Press the last cup of crushed nuts around the edges, and whatever falls off, sprinkle on top at the end.

Voilà! A rich, super moist carrot cake fit for a king or a prince and versatile enough to be popular on cruise ships and bowling parties!

Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:20, spoken by Jacob while blessing his children before he died. Oh, that everyone in our world were able to enjoy “royal dainties”! I believe that someday, when the Messiah returns to rule the earth in righteousness and peace, there will be no more corona virus or other plagues, and there will be plenty for all. I wish He would come today! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!)


It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Speaking of loving your neighbor as yourself, the 2019 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is so much more than simply a true life recounting of the friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod!

It’s a story about learning to love and forgive.

Of love lost and love found.

Of reconciliation after injury.

Of Hope.

The real journalist, Tom Junod, with the real Fred Rogers

It’s a wonderful example of how a modern-day saint (Fred Rogers) loved a cynical stranger (magazine journalist) and turned him into a lifelong friend.

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers in It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This beautiful day in the movie world is G-rated and perfectly appropriate for young kids.

But, like the true classic it is, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood has a deeply personal message for adults on emotional wholeness and healing.

I was also blown away by Fred’s genuine love for people (all people—great and small) and his gentle wisdom in living out what it looks like to be a good neighbor.

Matthew Rhys as “Larry Vogel” (script name for Tom Junod)

At one point “Larry Vogel” asked Fred’s wife what he did to keep being such a genuinely good person. Among other healthy habits, she mentioned that he read the scriptures every day and prayed for people by name. In an interview that I read after watching the movie, I found this quote by Tom Junod: “He clearly wanted me to pray. He clearly believed in prayer as a way of life. He prayed every day of his life. He woke up in the morning and prayed, and wrote, and prayed for people. And so I wrote that. The answer to: What did Fred want? He wanted us to pray. I have actually tried, since that moment, I’ve tried to pray.”

A generation of children (and adults) singing to Mr. Rogers on the subway

What a legacy to leave: A life of living like Jesus, loving your neighbors, meditating on the scriptures daily, praying constantly, and encouraging others to pray!

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood ran for thirty-three years, beginning in 1968—the year I graduated from high school. His lifetime commitment to helping children earned him more than 40 honorary degrees and international fame, but he remained steady, kind, and humble throughout . . . using his life to serve others in love. What a beautiful legacy! I am sorry that I was “just the wrong age” to profit from his gentle teaching, but I am very thankful to Lion’s Gate for producing this inspiring story for all of us to enjoy!

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).

(For more information on Fred Roger’s life and legacy, I reviewed the 2018 documentary about him, with some additional quotes, which can be found here:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/wont-you-be-my-neighbor-would-you-have-liked-mr-rogers-for-your-neighbor/

Also, I’ve noticed that you can get dozens (hundreds?) of half-hour episodes from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for free on Amazon Prime and can probably see most of his programs for free on Netflix or YouTube. My guess is that these gentle shows about life, our world, and learning how to deal with our emotions would still be helpful for small children today.

S’mores in a Pan (So Easy Even Grandpa Can Make This One!)

This is such a simple treat that you might wonder why I’ve bothered to “write it up,” but it never occurred to me spontaneously, so maybe you haven’t thought of it either! It’s a great way to enjoy s’mores in the winter, passed along to me by my daughter.

Toasting marshmallows over coals on a warm, sunny day

Traditionally, (at least in our home) making s’mores has been a summer treat reserved for camping trips or backyard picnics after the fires have burned low. Outdoors! Where the kids can run around accidentally dropping burned marshmallows off the ends of their roasting sticks and smearing gooey fingerprints everywhere without making too much of a mess. It’s just too risky trying to make s’mores inside, even if you do have a fireplace. However, somebody thought of this:

S’mores in a Pan

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In the bottom of a cast iron griddle, spread:
2-4 oz. of chocolate chips per person
Cover with miniature marshmallows
Heat on top rack of oven for 3-5 minutes, or until chocolate is melted and marshmallows are starting to turn golden. (If the marshmallows haven’t browned, you can turn on the broiler, but then you really have to watch it carefully; I almost burned this batch, as you can see!) **Obviously, your cast iron pan will be burning hot, so make sure everyone knows NOT to touch the sides of the pan!

Serve immediately with graham crackers. Each person can dip in his own crackers and make his own s’more as he pleases. If kids stay at the table, it’s possible to eat the s’mores in a semi-reputable fashion, although the crackers will break apart (as always), so plates are good!

For chocolate lovers, chocolate graham crackers are a bonus, but they’re really yummy either way!

If you have little ones at home, or your grands come over unexpectedly, this is the perfect way to make a guaranteed-to-please treat in about 5 minutes!

Maybe not quite as thrilling as burning your own marshmallows over an open fire, but definitely great fun in winter! 🙂

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:24-27).

Homemade Glazed Donuts

Every autumn, at least once, our family likes to make homemade donuts, and I’ve found a super simple way to make them so you can make 12-36 without much fuss, so even if we have a lot of our kids home, I’m not slaving for hours over homemade yeast bread, kneading it, punching it down, and letting it rise for hours.

Simple and Yummy Homemade Glazed Donuts
(feeds about 4-6 per loaf)

Start by defrosting enough frozen bread dough to suit your needs. (I defrost it on a well buttered pan covered with saran or other wrap to keep it from drying out.) One 1-pound loaf will make 12 donuts and 12 donut holes, but if you love donuts as much as we do, that really only feeds about 4-6 people. 🙂

Once the bread has completely thawed (about three hours), roll or press it out until it’s as thin as you can easily make it. Taking a donut-press, cut out 12 donuts and 12 donut holes, and line them up on well buttered cookie sheets with ample separation between them so they can rise without touching each other. Cover with waxed paper or press-n-seal wrap to keep them from drying out while they rise.

Let them rise for about an hour before frying them. This is a good time to make the glaze. For 2 pounds of bread dough (24 donuts and 24 donut holes):

Glaze for Homemade Donuts

In your mixer, combine:
4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick (4 oz.) melted butter
3/4 cup milk. Beat together until completely smooth. It will be quite thin.

I use my biggest frying pan filled with about 1.5 inches of cooking oil (I use canola). Heat the oil until it sizzles if you flick a drop of water into it. When it’s sufficiently hot, gently add the donuts one at a time until your pan is full. It will really only take about 1-2 minutes per side to fry the donuts, so you need to work fast and consider this a full-time job!

Frying homemade donuts

As soon as the donuts are golden on one side, flip them over (using big spoons; don’t pop the bubbles!) and fry them on the other side.

Once they’re done, take them out and lay them on cookie sheets lined with towel paper to absorb the extra grease.

Making donuts can be a family affair, although the grease and fresh donuts are dangerously hot, so I often conscript adult help for the frying and glazing. Little ones can help with cutting out the donuts, although they might end up a little misshapen. (But, who cares??)

My number # right hand man keeping the kids
happily occupied while the donuts fried

Our grand kids were busy playing Mouse Trap and Codenames, so they were content to let their parents help me in the kitchen, ’cause if you want everything to turn out “hot and now!” then it’s really ideal to have two people working: One to fry and the other to glaze.

To glaze the donuts, drop them one at a time into the bowl of glaze, make sure they’re covered on both sides, and then immediately lift them out and place them on a fresh cookie sheet (no towel paper, and no additional butter or grease).

The glaze will drip off the sides of the donuts, but that doesn’t matter!

The important thing is to serve them while they’re still warm and sticky.

Fried Donut Holes

The only down side is that they go down like popcorn, so take that into account when you’re figuring out when to make them.

We made ours late in the afternoon after having no dessert with our Sunday dinner. Actually, we didn’t need a lot of supper that night, either! 🙂

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great;
thou art clothed with honour and majesty” (Psalm 104:1).

Glorious Super Hero Muffins (Gluten-Free but Super Cool!)

Would you like a recipe for super yummy, super healthy muffins . . .so good that even if you don’t need to be gluten-free you’ll still enjoy them?

Recently my Chicago kids visited, and Linda helped her oldest (aged 7) make us “Super Hero Muffins,” which were so moist and delicious that it was hard to believe they could also be good for you, but I think they are! 🙂 Want to know how? Here is Linda’s recipe (inspired by but considerably changed from what she could find online):

Super Hero Muffins
(Makes one dozen)

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. and then grate:
1 cup± carrots (about 2 medium carrots; you can give or take a little on the one cup)
1 cup± zucchini (about one large zucchini)

Place in a large mixing bowl, and then add:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons melted butter (can replace with 3/4 cup coconut oil if you want your muffins to be dairy-free as well)
1/2 cup sugar (can also use maple syrup if you want)
2 cups almond meal (if you don’t need to be gluten free, you can use regular flour)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free if sensitive)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 1/2 cup raisins or currants if you prefer)
Optional:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or other favorite nuts)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix in the blender just enough to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed, then scoop out and divide the mix evenly into twelve cupcake liners in a baking tin.

Colorful and flavorful “Super Hero” Muffins!

Bake at 350°F. for about 30 minutes±, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

A Plate of Warm Super Hero Muffins!

Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner, or midnight snack . . . anytime you need to be a super hero!! 🙂

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip (or Spread)

Looking for a new twist on a dip this autumn? My sister passed on to me a recipe for a pumpkin dip she had at a party last weekend, so I thought I’d try it with my grand kids. The original recipe called for nutmeg, which my body reacts to, so I used allspice instead . . . and a little more to bring out the flavor.

Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip

I liked it, but I wasn’t sure my grands would, so I added touch of salt and a half a cup of peanut butter. With that bit of kid magic to enhance the flavor, it was a hit, so I’m going to pass it on to you with those modifications.

In a blender, combine:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) softened cream cream
1 cup (8 oz.) pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or whatever you use for syrup)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)

Blend until completely smooth. (I had to open and scrape the sides down once, because the maple syrup didn’t get completely mixed in the first time.)

I served it with red pepper strips, apple slices, and bananas, but I’m sure it would taste great with most any veggie, fruit, or cracker you like. I was going to try it on fresh bread, but the bread disappeared a little too fast last night!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spread on a Bagel for Breakfast!

However, I put the leftovers in the refrigerator and tried some this morning on a bagel with some hot chocolate. As a spread, it’s not as caloric as cream cheese or peanut butter, nor as sugary as jam, so it made a very yummy, pretty healthy breakfast! 🙂

He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:10-12; Job’s confession . . . and oh, that it might be ours too!).

Little Samuel’s Wish Comes True

I’m wondering if our grandson Samuel is a bit of a budding prophet . . . maybe a little like his namesake from the Bible!

Last year, before his mother was pregnant, he asked her if she had a baby boy in her tummy named Alex (with whom Samuel planned to shoot hoops).

Brianna thought Sammy’s question was cute, but she did take note, and when she became pregnant soon afterward, it made us all wonder if the baby was going to be a boy . . . especially since Sammy had informed us all the his first younger sibling was going to be a girl . . . and she was!

Brianna and Daniel like to be surprised so don’t test for gender but rather wait until delivery to learn the good news!

Can you guess?

Samuel was right!

We are now celebrating the birth of our 18th grand child,
a beautiful baby boy.

Vision of Cornelius the Centurion by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout,
1664, Public Domain

Dan and Brianna have named him Cornelius both to honor Brianna’s grandfather and because the Cornelius in the Bible was a very honorable person who sought out God and opened the door to the gospel in Caesarea, where he became the first gentile convert to Christ.

However, Cornelius is going to go by the nickname “Neil”
(rather than “Cory” or whatever).

The New Neil Armstrong

We are all overjoyed with Baby Neil Armstrong and hope he lives up to the virtuous examples of those brave and godly men who’ve come before him.

Oh, and for the record, his mom and daddy blessed him with the middle name of “Alexander,” which means “Defender of the People,” so Sammy can call him “Alex” any time he wants!

We are all in love with our new grand child/son/nephew/cousin/little person!

May he grow up to be a man of great faith and courage, one who is full of good works and prayers and loves God and man.

May he walk in the Truth, defend the just, and live a long, fruitful life!

Baptism of Cornelius

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway . . . Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee . . .

34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (The entire story can be found in Acts 10.)

God bless you, Baby Cornelius!