Favorite Food Surprise in India and Nepal

Alan and I are at last home after an unforgettable trip to India and Nepal.  We tried all sorts of interesting and unusual dishes that we’d never tasted before, including water buffalo (which tastes like tough beef)!Goat was a common delicacy, and I do like goat meat, but my favorite surprise was Indian bananas.

They’re served green and spotted, and so Alan and I were slow to try them, but they’re actually perfectly ripe when they look like this, and they’re even sweeter than the South American bananas we’re used to here in America. So, once we discovered them, they became a staple part of our meals! (They were also very digestible, which was an issue for everyone on our trip.)  Although I never really had fried bananas on this particular trip, I do love them, so I thought this Saturday, in honor of our trip to the tropics, I’d write about how to make this easy and delicious dish! (Besides, it’s a perfect way to use up bananas that are getting super ripe.)

Bananas Foster Aboard Norwegian Star copySweet Fried Bananas
(serves 2)

Heat 2 teaspoons butter and 2 rounded teaspoons of brown sugar
in a frying  pan.  Heat and stir until the sugar melts and starts to caramelize.  Peel two ripe bananasSlice them in half and add to the syrup. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Fry for one minute on medium heat, then flip them over and fry for one minute. The goal is to heat them through and glaze them, but if you actually cook them through, they’ll become too mushy, so be careful.  They’re delicious right out of the frying pan, but they’re scrumpdelicious if you add a scoop of ice cream, spoon out the rest of the syrup on top, and crown them with whipping cream. Bananas Foster on Celebrity Cruise The only difference between this and the famous “Bananas Foster” so popular on cruises  would be rum, but my theory is that no one needs rum!  🙂 Bananas Foster on Celebrity Summit Cruise (The last two photos were taken on a Southern Caribbean cruise aboard the Celebrity Summit.)

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).



Closed Doors

Carri and I used to be in the same small group (years ago), and she’s been writing poetry even longer (since she was twelve)! I hope some day she will publish a book of her poems, but in the meantime, she’s letting me share this evocative  poem about grief with you.

Title:  “Closed Doors”
Author: Carri Casserino
Date: 02/12/16

Grief came and sat next to me a time ago,
The death was hurtful and unexpected.
I sought God’s face in the midst of my pain,
And He looked at me, “Seek my way,” he said.So, I stumble around seeking answers,
And what I see are open doors.
Why? Is it not finished?, What are the reasons?
Will there ever be peace, hope and not war?As time moves along, I find I can close one door,
And then another, as I find an end to the thing
I do for you, my loved one, my heart.
Each closed door is progress to my grief vanishing.
So, as I find ways to say good-bye, I can close a door,
And this closing puts away my pain.
Surely there is peace somewhere, there is purpose,
As I look to God’s face for the end to my heart’s rain.But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

(Carri allowed me to use the photo of herself and the radiant sunset. The rest are pictures I took last spring at Clos Luce Manor [french home of Leonardo da Vinci in his latter years] in the Loire River Valley of France.)

Happy Ninth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPresses’ “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

Now, you may be alarmed that I’d notice or care about “how many” people are interested in my blog, since ultimately whatever we do should be “heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). You are right, and I should not be driven by human approval. However, the reason I’m passing this along to you is because it occurred to me that you might be a lot like me…trying hard in your own way to make a positive impact on your world without getting a lot of obvious response. However, beneath the surface, every good and right thing you do will add value to our world, whether or not anyone recognizes it, and it may be that there are more people who are being positively impacted than you realize. (Which is sadly also true when we make selfish, sinful choices.) Think of us as being blood cells in a body. As individuals, we have a minuscule role, but what we do affects many to most of the other cells in the body.

Feeling discouraged? If you’re a believer, know that Jesus is our “boss,” our Lord and Savior. If He’s smiling, that’s really all that matters. However, if He’s smiling, there are probably others who are feeling warmed by the sunshine as well, whether or not you can see them.

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” (Numbers 6:24-26).

A Triply Blessed Thanksgiving

family-celebrating-grand-sons-birthdayDid you have a happy Thanksgiving Day? boy-with-a-balloonOurs was really special. basket-ball-birthday-cakeFor one thing, Thanksgiving Day
coincided with our grandson Samuel’s second birthday.
taking-a-selfieSamuel was a little micro-preemie born at 27.5 weeks with translucent skin and looking so fragile it was hard to imagine he could survive,
although by God’s grace he did, and look at him now! baby-dedication Last Sunday Dan and Brianna dedicated Samuel to the Lord.  blowing-out-birthday-candlesSunday was also Daniel’s thirty-first birthday,
so we’ve had one super happy week!little-boy-playing-with-a-balloonToday Sammy is a happy, healthy, bouncy little boy who is madly in love with all things ball! and lights up our lives with his laughter and joyful presence. birthday-celebrationLast night we joined Brianna’s family in celebrating Samuel’s second birthday. expectant-momI am so thankful for his life and health, and we’re delighted to be looking forward to Daniel and Brianna’s second baby, due to arrive next April!

family-funAlso, our son Stephen didn’t think he could make it home (from New York) because he was over his head with work. However, Wednesday night I heard his voice in the rainy twilight just about the time Alan was due to arrive home for dinner. WOW! What a treat to have him surprise us with a visit! child-stacking-blocksTonight, we’re having our GR kids over for a thanksgiving dinner of goose, and tomorrow we’re going to Plymouth to share in a Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter Kathy’s family, so this Thanksgiving seems like a celebration of firecrackers going off pop, pop, pop! children-playing-with-balloonsNot long ago, someone mentioned to me feeling like a failure because they didn’t feel very loved.mother-and-sonIt occurred to me that success isn’t in being loved, it’s in loving others. God doesn’t say “Be loved,” He says, “Love” and defines success as loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbors. couple-enjoying-autumnGod is the source of all genuine love, and as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves: “When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained, and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because [it was] His.” child-opening-birthday-presentsThank you, Father, for loving us. Help us to experience your love for us, be overwhelmed by love, and able to love others as a result.  stacking-blocksMy prayer for you is what Paul asked for the Ephesians: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Finding the Perfect Apartment in the Heart of Paris

paris-springIt was true, although it seemed too good to be true. But, there was one catch. strolling-in-paris-springtimeFirst of all, let me tell you about our apartment. view-along-the-seine-riverIt was just 31 £ per person for the 4 of us,the-river-seine a block from the Seine, notre-dame5 minutes from the Notre Dame, outside-the-louvre-museum-parisand only 15 from the Louvre and d’Orsay. crossaint-and-coffee-parisI feared it might be infested with cockroaches, but it wasn’t, breakfast-at-terressa-flat-parisand we discovered that “Terressa Flat” referred to the fact
that it was a flat with a terrace garden perfect for dining outside! rue-des-lombardsWhat I hadn’t realized was that “Rue des Lombards” is a very famous street,
full of nightlife and jazz clubs.rue-des-lombard-paris-by-night In fact, it was more crowded near midnight than it was in the mornings! paris-springSo, it was an ideal location for experiencing Paris,
but it was absolutely harrowing trying to access our apartment! paris-sightsFor a starter, our sons flew to Paris from Boston and NY,
arriving early the next morning at different times.

street-vendors-along-the-river-seineThe theory was that they would be able to drop off their luggage and pick up a key so they could spend the day exploring before Alan and I arrived about suppertime from Grand Rapids. The realities were that no one was available at the place of residence. No one received them, gave them a key, or offered to hold their luggage. In fact, no one even appeared to speak English or understand rudimentary French.  😦

picnicking-in-the-park-paris-srpingAfter hours of attempts to contact the owner, Stephen was able to communicate (in French…thankfully he’s knows some French) via email, and late in the afternoon he was able to meet “a friend” of the owner who gave him a key and wanted cash (which Stephen didn’t have) for payment. By then, Stephen and Joel had both missed a night’s sleep and were really tired. The man said they could stay, but that he’d return the next day for the rest of the payment.

rue-des-lombards-at-nightAlan and I had had a delayed flight (which is getting to be almost more usual than timely flights) and didn’t arrive until nightfall (long after Stephen and Joel were expecting us) after the taxi driver dropped us off several blocks away, pointing and gesticulating with untranslatable French phrases in the direction of a dark and very busy alley. We slowly mazed our way, dragging our luggage, to what we thought must be the door to our apartment above a very crowded street, but inside the door marked “8” were about 12 possible choices for apartments to ring, none descripted as “Terressa Flat.” One by one we pushed all of the buzzers, to no avail. I think perhaps none of them worked, but I know that the one for our apartment certainly did not, because neither son appeared. We tried calling, but our phones (despite having paid good money for the privilege) didn’t connect.

night-scene-rue-des-lombardWe tried asking help from a couple of sympathetic looking young people, but no one knew anything about that particular apartment and using their cell phones didn’t help make a connection. At long last, Stephen (who’d set his alarm for the occasion) came down to see if we’d arrived yet. Whew! We kissed our sons, kissed the floor, and flopped into bed. What a dreary and inauspicious beginning! However, our holiday in France turned out to be quite the opposite: It was marvelous and memorable!

door-for-our-apt-on-rue-des-lombards-in-parisI’ve thought a lot about how hard it was to get to Terressa Flat, but how much we loved it once we finally arrived. I’m betting heaven will be like that for some. springtime-in-parisIt sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. rue-des-lombards-at-night-2It’s not full of cockroaches (things we don’t like),
but it will be full of music and life. river-seine-on-a-sunny-spring-dayIt will be the perfect location…just down the street from the River of Life
and a place of worship…and close to our favorite attractions.
(For me, that’s going to be loved ones!)walking-along-the-seine-river-paris-springHowever, it may seem almost impossible to figure out how to get there, despite having a reservation. If you’re confused, please pray and ask for help.
(Feel free to ask me in the comment section.) walking-along-the-seine-riverIf you see somebody who looks confused and you understand the language,
reach out and help, will you?

the-river-seine-2And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him…And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:1-3;17)

Rise Up, My Love (172): What’s With the Beard?

David's Mighty MenSong of Solomon 5:13 “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers…” In the Old Testament, a man’s beard signified his strength and honor. It was a great disgrace to have one’s beard shaved off. Do you remember the account of David and the King of Ammon? When the King of Ammon died, David sent a delegation to comfort Hanun, the king’s son. However, the new king’s advisors didn’t believe David’s noble intentions and thought he was sending in the men as spies. So, instead of receiving comfort, King Hanun seized the men and disgraced them but cutting off the skirts of their robes and shaving off half of their beards. This shamed them so deeply that David told his men to tarry in Jericho until their beards had grown back before returning to their homes (2 Samuel 10:4-5). Epictetus stating he would embrace death before shaving. Wiki In the Old Testament, a full beard was synonymous with the dignity of manhood.
(In this picture, the philosopher Epictetus is stating that he’d rather die than have his beard cut off!) Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_RijnAccording to the Law of Moses, a man was not even supposed to trim off the corners of his beard (Leviticus 19:27). Rembrandt. The Face of Jesus. DIAWhen Jesus had the hair of his beard plucked out, it was not only terribly painful, it was as if mankind was trying to destroy the manhood of Christ. Can you imagine how you would react had you been Jesus? I’m sure if I had been in Jesus’ place I would have been tempted to think, “If they want to deny me and reject that I am a man…so be it! I will call ten thousand angels and show them that I am God. I will burn them up in an instant, like the fire that devoured the wicked men trying to capture Elijah (2 Kings 1:10)…and I will have the earth swallow them down, like the 250 wicked sons of Korah who offered strange fire before God in Numbers 17!” Murillo_Bartolome_Esteban Crucifixion How hopelessly human I am. But, how divinely perfect Jesus was, who bore the beatings and the plucking, and the pain. Blessed Jesus, exalted now and forever at the right hand of God. When we see him in glory, I believe he will be radiant with manliness, his cheeks “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers.”The Resurrection of Christ. Van Dyke


Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Week 29)

Six Months Old198. Growing and Exploring

“And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great.” Genesis 26:13

PRAYER: Oh, God…you are so great and so good! How wonderful that the Creator of the ends of the earth is all goodness, righteousness, and holiness…the joy of the whole earth! You are my joy. Please bless Baby. Help us to delight in your presence and find contentment in belonging to you—today and forever!

THOUGHT: Some household items make fabulous toys. Think creatively as you go about your day, always looking for new, safe ways for Baby to interact with the real world of objects and experiences.

ACTIVITY: Wooden clothespins (without wire parts) make great toys. You can draw faces on the heads, and suddenly you’ve got puppets. You can use them to close up bags of potato chips, cookies, and bread. They float in the bathtub and can be used to make trains or be cars on the floor. They can be arranged into geometric designs and even used to spell out letters or count numbers (no more than one, two, three at this stage). They can be dyed with magic markers and used to teach colors. You can hide one in your hand to play a guessing game: “Which hand has the pin?” They roll across slippery surfaces and can be fun to chase. You can give Baby a handful of clothespins and a wide mouth (plastic) jar and see how many pins he can get in and then take back out. In a pinch, Baby can even suck on one when he’s bored, and he won’t get indigestion. If you haven’t yet, make friends with your local clothespins! A bag of 100 usually costs very little and can be found with laundry supplies at your local grocery store.

Out to Eat199. Where is Thumbkins?

“The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:5

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you are not only the great creator, you were the first handyman! We see your handiwork in the creation, and we know that in you “we live, and move, and have our being.” Thank you for continuing to care for your creation, feeding even the ravens and counting each tiny hair on our heads. Thank you for holding the entire universe together! Thank you for holding the whole world—including Baby and me—in your hands! May we remember that we are safe in you, because you’ve assured us that no one can “pluck” us out of your hand!

THOUGHT: How about a hand game to keep Baby occupied while at a restaurant?

ACTIVITY: This is a simple one, but it can amuse Baby until you’re quite bored! Sing quietly (to the tune of “Frère Jacques”):

“Where is Thumbkins? Where is Thumbkins?
(Start with hands behind your back.)

“Here I am! Here I am!
(Each time, bring one hand out to the front,
formed into a fist with your thumb sticking straight up.)

“How are you today, Sir?”
(Have one thumb bow toward the other thumb.)

“Very well, I thank you!”
(Have the other thumb bow back.)

“Run away.”
(One hand disappears behind back.)
“Run away.”
(The other hand disappears too.)

Repeat the game, this time using your index finger and saying, “Where is Pointer?” Then, “Where is Tall Man?” “Where is Ring Finger?” “Where is Pinkie?” Finally, let all the fingers wiggle and say, “Where is Family?” If Baby is really into the game, he may want to touch each of the fingers each time.

Great tongue action!200. Imitating the Real Thing

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and…
he was buried, and…he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4

PRAYER: Dear God our father, thank you for loving the world so much that you sent Jesus to die for our sins. Thank you, dear Jesus, for your willingness to suffer so much for us! Dear Father, we thank you that after Jesus died and was buried, you resurrected him from the grave, and that now he is sitting at your right hand, reigning over the universe with you. Thank you for your desire for each of us to be imitators of Christ. Thank you for calling us to be your children, to repent of our sins, to be born again into the family of God by faith in Christ, and to grow up spiritually, learning to walk in his steps. Continue your wonderful work in us, precious Father. Help us to become more and more like Jesus.

THOUGHT: There is no higher calling than to be like God, and in the Bible God does call us to be like him: “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36). “Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). May God give us the grace to study his Word and become good imitators!

ACTIVITY: If Baby likes to imitate, it’s not too early to play a rudimentary game of “Simon Says.” This can be used to keep Baby entertained in the car, although it’s a fun game for any time! Except at this age, don’t try to trick Baby. Always say, “Simon says…” and then do something that Baby can do too: Wrinkle your nose, yawn, lift your arms, wiggle your fingers, stick out your tongue, touch your head (or all sorts of other body parts), clap your hands, shake your head, lean to the left, kick with your feet, etc.

I want it!201. Of Rivers and Strings

“He that believeth on me…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
John 7:38

PRAYER: Oh precious Lord, how we long to experience the fullness of your river of life filling our lives and flowing out from us to provide love and refreshment for those around us. So often I feel like I’m running on empty and need refilling myself. How rare it is that I feel like I’m overflowing and have an abundance of grace to share with others! Please help me to grow in my faith and experience of you. May I refill my spirit every morning by soaking in your Word. Please renew my mind and refresh my spirit. Help me to keep from quenching the Holy Spirit in my life so that I will feel the fullness of his presence and have joy and grace to be a blessing to Baby and all around me.

THOUGHT: By our nature, humans look to other humans to fill their emotional needs. God calls us to himself and promises that he will fill us with his Holy Spirit if we will only believe. If you find yourself exhausted, of course try to get your physical needs met, but also remember the resource of praying for God’s grace and mercy to bridge the gap between what we need to do but can’t seem to accomplish by our own human resources.

ACTIVITY: When Baby’s sitting and you want to see if you can encourage him to crawl, try pulling some interesting things slowly by him, across his lap and legs, and away from him. Try a ribbon, a string, a piece of yarn, or a rope. If Baby has trouble catching it, try attaching a toy to the end and see if he can grab that! If Baby is really good at it, try dragging the string slowly by just out of reach and see if he will go into a crawl in order to “catch” the string! Be sure to reward him with lots of approval, hugs, and kisses after he’s had a chance to play with his prize.

Ready to go!202. Encouragement Through Help and Delight

“For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.” Psalm 44:3 (ESV)

PRAYER: Oh Mighty God, thank you for being our savior! Thank you for doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves! We could never save ourselves from our own sins, and without you, we would never be able to do so many of the things that we aspire to do! Thank you for saving us so often from ourselves and our weaknesses, and thank you for being willing to forgive us for our sins and failures. Help me to be a merciful and forgiving mother, just as you are a merciful and forgiving Father! May I save Baby from himself, too! May I learn to live in the light of your presence and understand your delight in me, and may I be a blessing to Baby by delighting in him and allowing him to bask in feeling my love through the light of my countenance.

THOUGHT: If you study Baby carefully so that you’re aware of how he’s changing and enter into his joy with each new discovery and acquisition, he will feel so loved! Try to notice Baby’s progress. What one new or different thing did he do today? The more you understand your child, the more you can help him and cheer him on as he grows. Baby gnawed on this one!ACTIVITY: Don’t you love how clever your baby is?! To encourage crawling, put a small, interesting-looking cardboard box or laundry basket several feet away. Put in several toys, so that once Baby reaches it, he has some prizes to explore. The prizes could even be items from your rag bag: clean, old towels, pants, socks, shirts, wash cloths, etc. As with all games, eternal vigilance is necessary to make sure Baby doesn’t choke himself. (Note: a 6-month-old chewed this foam ball…)

Horsey Back Rides203. Soarin’

“He made him ride on the high places of the earth.” Deuteronomy 32:13

PRAYER: Oh Father! You can ride on the wings of the morning, and the clouds are just the dust of your feet. Help me to be faithful to wait on you so that my strength is continually renewed and I can “mount up with wings like eagles…run and not be weary…walk and not faint” like the faithful ones in Isaiah 40:31.

THOUGHT: This is a bit of a non sequitur, but I wanted to comment about stools now because you may be noticing some differences if you started solids around six months. It is totally normal for stools to firm up and become browner once Baby starts solid food. The up side is that stools usually become less frequent, but the down side is that even if they look like melted candy bars, they sure don’t smell like them!

ACTIVITY: Although “horsey” is the perennial favorite, there are a couple of other options that can be lots of fun. On laundry days, try taking Baby for a streetcar ride in a laundry basket. You can make stops at various streets along the way to pick up passengers: (in your best announcer’s voice) “We are now stopping at Kitchen Counter Street. All wash cloths and terry towels aboard. Now calling at Tubby Time Terrace. If you want a bath, it’s time to get off. Stopping for bath towels…time to board! Next stop: Bedroom Boulevard. Any socks or shirts want a ride? Oh, too full! Standing room only…” Another less diverting but possibly even more thrilling trip is a ride on a Magic Carpet pillow. Daddy can probably make the rides higher, but even Mama can take Baby for a short ride, especially if Baby will lie down on the pillow and be carried mostly under one arm (with the other arm supporting underneath).

Mother and Baby in flowers204. To Love and Be Loved, THAT is the Answer!

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
John 15:9

PRAYER: Father, thank you for loving Jesus. Thank you for Jesus loving me. Thank you that you call us to love you and each other. Bless us, dear Lord. Help Baby and me to experience your wonderful love for us so that we know what it feels like and will eagerly love each other and continue in your love!

THOUGHT: One of the most ethereal experiences in life is giving and receiving love. “As much as lieth in you,” shower your baby with godly, joyous affection! Warm smiles, laughter, and loving gazes are expressions of affection that hopefully all babies receive and probably give almost from birth, but it is thrilling when your child starts to initiate affectionate touching.

ACTIVITY: How about an affectionate touching game that also teaches the names of your eyes, nose, and mouth? Take both of Baby’s hands in yours, and touch one right next to each of your eyes, saying, “Eye!” Have both her little hands touch your nose while you say, “Nose!” Finally, place both her hands on your mouth and say, “Mouth!” Then, immediately say, “Smooch!” and give her a kiss. You might end by singing:

Oh, be Careful Little Eyes
“Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.”

Other verses can be:

Be careful little ears what you hear…(etc.)
Be careful little mouth what you say…
Be careful little hands, what you touch…
Be careful little feet, where you go…
(Author Unknown)