Category Archives: Holidays

When Do You Know If It’s Your Last Holiday?

happy-anniversary-card-for-spouseToday is Presidents’ Day…a special holiday set aside to honor all the amazing men who’ve shaped our country. I really want to share some thought-provoking quotations on time today rather than discussing the attributes and weaknesses of our various presidents (although I will confess to having done more than my fair share of complaining over the years and felt admonished by reading in Acts 23:5 last week, where Paul said, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people”). card-for-appreciating-spouseLast Tuesday was Valentines Day, and last weekend Alan and I celebrated our 44th anniversary. As we are now 66, that means we’ve now lived two-thirds of our lives together! That’s almost hard to imagine, even for us!!  🙂

I’ve really been thinking a lot about the privilege of still having a mate with whom to share holidays in the light of an increasing number of friends who’ve lost their mates in the past 10 years. In Sunday school, one of those friends, Jay Link, passed along some good food for thought on the topic of time, and I’d like to share a few of his quotes with you today:

“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Theophrastus

“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” C.S. Lewis

“Time is what we want most, but…what we use worst.” William Penn

“We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.” John F. Kennedy

“Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.” Thomas Hardy

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” Tennessee Williams

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.” William Shakespeare

“Time = life; therefore, waste you time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” Alan Lakein

“The key is not in spending time, but in investing it.” Stephen R. Covey

“Mind the moments because they become your memories.” Jane Anderson 🙂

valentine-for-wifeJay’s thoughts: Allot time to each season of life with care and intention, learning to grow in wisdom as we go. Each season of life is new to us, and it represents a path we haven’t traveled before. If it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become proficient at something, that’s about as long as many of the stages of life we pass through. I don’t know who said it, but Jay mentioned that in a car, the front windshield is larger than the rear-view mirror, because what’s in our future needs more of our attention than what’s already behind us.happy-anniversary-cardAnd, here’s my humble thought from becoming increasingly appreciative of every day Alan and I still have together: You never really know when it’s your last holiday, so “Savor each holiday as if it might be your last, because it might.”

heart-shaped-valentineSo teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

 

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)

In the Spirit of the Ides of February

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Maureen Churabrutus-and-the-ghost-of-caesar-public-domain-wikiMost people know about the Ides of March, March 15, which was made infamous by the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and continued in infamy by Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, written some 1643 years later.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

However, did you know that February 15 also has special significance historically? February 15 was the date of an ancient ritual of purification, particularly washing with water, to purify people and their city from any evil spirits, which would allow the blessings of health and fertility to flourish as the citizens prepared for spring. februar_leandro_bassano-public-domainI don’t know about you, but I find all the dissension in America deeply disturbing, and I’m wondering if we might honor today as a day of personal purification coupled with earnest prayers for the healing of ourselves and our nation. It’s so easy to be critical of others…to make ourselves and our own values  into a gold standard for the way things should be. Can we instead humble ourselves and ask God to purify our hearts and straighten our thinking, so that we can see clearly and become a positive influence for good instead of adding to the cacophony of discord? There’s an old saying that “Charity starts at home,” and I think it’s just as true that “Purity starts with me.” Are we casting stones because we’re perfect and angry, or are we throwing mud because we’re frustrated that life is unfair and things aren’t going the way we think they should? Instead of adding to the problem, let’s pray that God will make us part of the solution by purifying our hearts and the hearts of our people. We can’t change others, but by God’s grace we can change ourselves. Then, I do believe God himself will rise up and move to work all things together for good…something no amount of fighting and anger will accomplish.mourning_mingrelians_pranishnikoff_1884“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” (James 4:7-9)

Groundhog Day Giddies

ground-hog-dayIn honor of Groundhog Day and the prospects of 6 more weeks of winter, getting-to-know-youI thought a few good jokes might brighten our scans! marajuanaEvery once in a while I get cartoons passed along that make me laugh, the-children-of-israel-with-cell-phonesand I just need to share them!  birds-need-potty-breaks-tooToday is one of those days. o-c-d Hope you enjoy!  biscuits-and-gravyHere’s lookin’ at you, Rick,tire-pressure-tool and here’s one for your sweet wife, Cheryl (or me). bearsHere’s one for my dear friend Sarah up in Alaska, whose husband actually saved a man’s life by shooting the bear who attacked him.  smart-car-and-a-smart-aleckAnd here’s one for my son Michael and all lovers of especially small cars.
(Some of these jokes are only funny if you don’t think about them too hard.) trying-to-pound-sense-into-someoneSome jokes are funny but make a serious point & could be used against any of us. greatest-accomplishmentAnd, some cartoons are pretty much right on for all of us! 🙂

“Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise:
and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding”

(Proverbs 17:28).

High Teas and Birthday Parties: Killing Three Birds with One Party

high-tea               Well, hopefully we didn’t really kill any birds, bees, or bodies, quichebut we really did have fun last week with our annual high tea, and I wanted to share recipes for a couple of high tea staples: cucumber sandwiches and scones. lettuce-wraps      But first, the story, since if there’s anything I love, it’s to repeat a good tale! candle-in-a-tea-cupAfter meeting for several years to spoil each other on our birthdays, Cindi, Susan, and I started feeling a bit guilty for not including our spouses somehow,birthday-cake-flourless-chocolate-torte since they were always working hard to make it possible for us to be “at home” moms who could celebrate birthdays together (now that our kids are grown up).birthday-cakeSo, we started the tradition of a winter high tea (given that the way to a husband’s heart is half through his stomach). birthday-partyRex and Steve’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it’s pretty easy to celebrate both their birthdays by scheduling the tea on the weekend in between! korean-beef-kabobsWe each bring two savory and two sweet offerings, drink many cups of tea, savor the sweetness of a leisurely evening together, and go home feeling quite happy. sesame-seedWhen I was a young bride, one of my mentors said her theory on marital contentment was, “Keep him jolly from a little too much eating and groggy from a little too much lovin’.” sharing-a-high-tea-together     In forty-three years, I haven’t found a reason to dispute her wisdom!  🙂

Here’s my recipe for cucumber sandwiches, which I’ve eaten at every high tea from the great Northwest’s Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, to the Southeast’s Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian in Disney…to London’s Harrod and on many a Princess cruise sailing in the deep blue seas of the world. If you’re going to have an authentic high tea, you really need cucumber sandwiches, and they’re about the easiest thing in the world to make!

cucumber-finger-sandwichesCucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 cucumber sliced very (key word) thin, preferably in a processor. I learned this secret from someone married to an Englishman: Press the cucumber slices gently between paper towels to remove the excess juice.

8  oz. well softened creamed cheese. Stir together gently (not in a food processor).

truffle-saltFlavor with a pinch each of truffle salt (okay, sea salt or table salt works too), pepper, garlic and onion powder (powder, not salt; be careful not to oversalt), basil, dill weed, and chives. Chill.

To serve, slice the crusts off plain white bread and prepare them, but don’t fill the sandwiches until the very last minute, because they’ll get soggy in no time if they sit around. Make up your sandwiches and cut them in half  just when you’re ready to serve them.

gluten-free-blueberry-sconesGluten-free Blueberry Scones

Scones with clotted cream and jams are another classic staple of high teas. Susan needs gluten-free options, so I made these with gluten-free flour, but you can make them exactly the same way using regular flour:

gluten-free-bisquick2 cups Bisquick (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter
3 eggs
1 T. milk

Blend in a mixer only until all the ingredients are mixed. Don’t overblend, or it will make them tough. Add 1 pint blueberries, stirring them in very gently by hand with a spoon. The mix will hardly stick to the blueberries, but it needs to be coarse or the scones will be too wet when they bake. Form into 12 balls (flour your hands if you need to) on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350° for 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to 400° for 5 minutes or until just starting to turn a golden brown.  Serve warm with whipped cream and jams. (The classic term is “clotted” cream, but I make mine “clotted” by whipping it until it’s almost stiff…but not yet butter, and I add 1 T. sugar per cup of cream, but I’m a sugar hawk. You don’t have to do that.)

plate-of-finger-foods-at-high-teaThere is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)salami-and-pepper-roll-ups

 

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).

 

The Janus of January

fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanThe Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and time…
of beginnings, transitions, and endings.

janus-vatican-museum-by-loudon-dodd-wikiJanus was depicted as having two faces, one that looked back and one that looked forward, and it’s commonly thought that Janus was the god for whom the month of January was named by the Romans…a god who looked back over the past year and looked forward to the coming year. 2002_austria_100_euro_sculpture_wikiIt’s been a long time since I’ve really thought about the development of our present calendar, but I learned that the Roman calendar (which may be 2,700 years old) was updated in 46 BC. by Julius Caesar. However, that calendar—though an improvement over the 304-day Roman calendar—only had 355 days, and it wasn’t until 1582 that Pope Gregory X111 introduced the Gregorian calendar (our present calendar) which has 365.25 days (365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds to be precise). This calendar is the world’s most commonly used international civil calendar today. Sorry if this was too much detail, but the thing that really caught my attention was the description of Janus, because it made me think of the God of the Bible, who also declares himself to be the God of beginnings and endings. Revelation 22:13 proclaims: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-2      However, the God of the Bible says He is “God of gods and Lord of Lords
(Deuteronomy 10:17). fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-4He is the God of Janus and the God of all gods…not just the god of beginnings, and gates, and transitions and endings, but the Creator God, who made the sun and moon and stars and everything we see and every concept people try to worship. He is also the most worshiped God in the world today, did you know that? high-speed-train-on-way-to-fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanThis God is my God, and I am thankful that through all the stages and transitions of life, I can rest in this ineffable God, who is not limited to sovereignty over certain aspects of life, but who is sovereign over all of life. kathi-at-fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japanEven more wonderful, the God of the Bible is a God of compassion and mercy. He was merciful in the past before we lived, He is merciful today while we live, and He will be merciful in the future. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). He’ll never change, and that gives me great hope and peace.  fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-mother-and-small-son“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-3Are you worried about what might lie ahead of you this year? Let’s not fret. Rather, let’s trust in the God of gates and passageways…the God who not only knows but is Himself the beginning and ending.

Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:5-8)

fushimi-inari-shrine-%e4%bc%8f%e8%a6%8b%e7%a8%b2%e8%8d%b7%e5%a4%a7%e7%a4%be-fushimi-inari-taisha-kyoto-japan-5(These photos of the beautiful orange gates are of Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) near Kyoto, Japan, and were taken while Alan and I were visiting with our kids and grand kids.)