Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

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I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

After walking through A Great Challenge, in the middle of an everyday ordinary moment, when rinsing out the upteenth glass of chocolate milk, filling the dog’s water bowl, or clearing away the clutter on the kitchen table –  that is when the courage, strength and resilience dissolve, leaving me nothing with which to hold myself together. Maybe it’s just God’s timing, telling me that it is in the everyday ordinary where it is safe to let go, to let the frayed edges recognize they are frayed so they can then mend, the tiredness rest, the bedraggled soul refresh.

No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Mending time is where I need to give myself space for healing to wholeness. The Everyday Ordinary can be a re-set space, where the hum of routine soothes, even familiar acts of organizing the forks, knives and spoons, of rummaging through the socks for mates. . . of measuring ingredients for the green beans. Routine allows thoughts and emotions to simmer, to steam up and release in the mending space of. . .  the everyday ordinary.

I cook maybe like some men fish. I imagine fishing centers one into an everyday, ordinary hum of a routine, a kind of going home where the right now can be poured through the sieve of memories of those who mentored, teaching things about fishing that were more than fishing, to better process what needs processing – and, by remembering, ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly – or the aftermath of a challenge.

Cooking is that kind if processing for me – connecting to the past – to the future and to the right now. Cooking allows a particular kind of busyness that allows the spiritual and emotional effects of challenges to safely bubble to the surface, letting me face issues at first indirectly, then directly.

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My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Sunday I made a pot of green beans, just the way Aunt Joyce showed me not quite 36 years ago when I married. She doesn’t remember anymore, how to make her green beans. Dementia steals the good stuff: the stories, the good conversations, even the recipes. She is 3 1/2 hours away – and I miss our conversations about the nothing going on or about the challenges, the quirky stories and the recipe sharing – and so I make her green beans, the everyday, ordinary, home-cooked but not garden-fresh green beans (I fail at cooking fresh green beans) because in the challenges I miss being with these women who taught me to be resilient enough to overcome the challenge. That Never-Give-Up Spirit is a Pass-It-Down Thing – and it’s something I want to pass down to those God gave me – and to show them how to never-give-up with God beside me! Cooking in the kitchen reminds me of them, which reminds me of the things they taught me, which always leads me to inviting God into whatever has led me to stirring, mixing or whipping up an idea of something that tastes like savory or sweet, feels like a warm hug, conjures joy – whatever the needs in the everyday ordinary.

Cooking Aunty Joyce’s green beans makes me feel less alone in the challenge. Making my mom’s caramel icing or chocolate fudge or creamed spinach, though she’s eight hours away, makes me feel the same way, like she’s right there, encouraging me.  Fry Chicken – well, that’s time with Grandmother – nobody could fry chicken like she could – or make a Charlotte Russe. When I cook, sometimes all the women who poured into me, are there – and, though I’d rather they all be there still, sitting in my kitchen pouring into me, I remember the lessons they taught me, and it encourages me.

Sometimes, the fried chicken is more than fried chicken, the caramel icing is more than caramel icing – and the green beans are more than green beans. Sometimes God uses the recipe to do a healing, shalom kind-of-work within me.

Cooking takes me back to the kitchen where I grew up – filled with Grandmother and Mom, and then later to Aunt Joyce’s kitchen, filled with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce – and I miss those kitchen moments of long-ago home, and this sadness has indirectly created a release valve of today’s challenges walked through -where the courage, strength and resilience can dissolve making space for mending, resting and refreshing – and it started with those never-ending glasses of chocolate milk that needed cleaning out, followed by the green beans that needed making, my mind a rabbit warren full of memories, and a soul desperately trying to rest in its creator but not quite knowing how to achieve it on my own.

Maybe the kitchen isn’t your refreshing, soul-mending space. I’d love to know 1) what you busy yourself with to ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly, and 2) the mentors who poured into you as you grew into your soul-mending space.

Aunt Joyce doesn’t remember the recipe anymore, but I do – and my grandson loves them by the plate full, my husband by the heaping big spoon full.  The boys?  I’m not sure they really care about green beans. Me? They taste best right out of the pot!

 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 10 The Message

Aunt Joyce’s Green Beans
(I’d never measured for green beans before, but I did for this. I’m sure if you love them as much as I do (and my husband and grandson), you’ll soon get into pouring and mixing without needing to measure.)

Green Beans (50 oz can), drain,  rinse and pour them into a pot. Fill the pot with water, turn on medium heat.
Add the following:
1/2 the juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon. summer savory
2 tablespoon bacon drippings (or vegetable oil for a healthier choice)
2 bouillon cubes
1/2 a regular onion, quartered (quartered so those who don’t like onions but respect the flavoring they add can easily remove before serving)
salt/pepper to taste

Bring to a boil for 15 minutes, then simmer on low for hours, maybe all day. Some think green beans are best when cooked all day and served the next. I tend to agree. Like a good marriage, the longer some things simmer together, the more they blend into something delightfully more savory.

“What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith.” ~ Saint Augustine


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Let me set the table here – the historic table – about recipes and reputation. Growing up in my grandmother’s house, I had the luxury of learning all sorts of recipes – daily recipes, bridge day recipes, celebration recipes and feast recipes. It was long after I married that I came to recognize that a recipe wasn’t just a recipe – a recipe had the potential to be reputation defining – if you could create a delightful dish others couldn’t, then the day you hosted a table full of ladies for bridge was a guaranteed culinary success – because bridge was so much more than bridge.

As I collected recipes for my family cookbook, I also collected their history – the story of how they came into the family. Machiavellian cunning in the kitchen? Deliciously so!

For example, Aunt Joyce’s Grits Gruyère recipe came from her husband’s Aunt Ruth who had been trying to wrest it from one of the ladies in her bridge group, Mrs. Curry, for quite some time. Not one to concede failure, Aunt Ruth called Mrs. Curry’s youthful daughter, inexperienced in Machiavellian tactics, when the lady was out of town – and successfully filched it. Aunt Ruth had the ability to play a deep game – with gloves, cotton or kid, on or off.

I was oblivious to the undercurrents, the power plays, the Machavillian side to these sweet ladies – probably just like Mrs. Curry’s daughter who so trustingly gave over her mother’s secretly guarded recipe. I can understand, looking back. We hadn’t yet entered a world of culinary competition and intrigue. We were just babes in the kitchen, enjoying plateful after plateful of deliciousness, year in and year out, who never imagined a good recipe was social currency. We probably didn’t even know what social currency was.

Years later, I remember watching a dining-room table discussion with two of my very favorite aunts about whether or not to share my great-grandmother’s, their grandmother’s Corn Fritter Recipe. It was a contentious moment, a throw-back moment to a time that doesn’t really exist any more. It both saddened and gladdened me.

The internet, cooking blogs, and cooking channels have changed how women by their cooking. Recipes are neither soul defining nor social currency. Instead, cooks are defined by the generosity of spirit of not just recipe sharing but showing how to make it successfully. That is one change I adore!

I grew up with good cooks who enjoyed kitchen competition in a very lady-like fashion (a competition probably born out of The Depression and WWII when produce was so hard to come by),  but when I met my husband’s family, I learned it was a grace thing, too.

Recipes, expectations and cultural differences have the potential to create big messes, little messes, short-term messes and life-long messes. Messes, I have learned, are happenings in need of God’s kind of grace – not just given, but received, too!

Saturdays and Sundays always contained the ability to burst into family day at my husband’s parent’s house – both when we were dating and after we were married, living down the road, over a few hills, around a few curves. It’s where I learned a bowl of ice cream was more than a few tablespoons, and hot chocolate didn’t just come in tea-cup sizes – but tumbler sizes, too. Mountain Dew came out  of the water faucet – Really! For a girl who grew up not even having one coke a week, it sure seemed like it did!

I remember the first time I had soup beans. My father-in-law showed me the best way to eat it: take a peeled onion, bite into it, along with a spoon full of beans – and, well, I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as he did. I remember trying to make Soup Beans early in my marriage because my husband so enjoyed them (sans the onion). I threw in salsa, cheese – and, well, utterly failed with the soup beans. For about 30 years, I gave up on Soupo Beans.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when someone used the words, “Chow-Chow” that I was able to cook them without trying to make them something they weren’t. I just put some Chow Chow on top! Success!

But one day, after the souop beans and onion,  Ann had a pot of Chili cooking on the stove, simmering, just getting ready to fill a bunch of bowls. Thinking Keith’s mom had been waiting for the chili to simmer before she added the spaghetti, I thought I’d help her out. I pulled the spaghetti out of the cupboard (we must have been engaged by then), broke it into pieces and was stirring into the chili when she came in from the other room. Remember the girl who haplessly, naively gave Aunt Ruth her mother’s prided recipe? I think this was my haplessly, naive moment – totally unwary, unsuspecting of potential territorial recipe undercurrents.

I met the Grace of Ann, not in the breaking of the spaghetti into the chili, but in the no-turning-back, stirring-it-into-the-chili moment. There I was, eager-to-please, oblivious to the fact that people outside of Louisville, Kentucky ate chili without spaghetti. Face-to-face with my mother-in-law who’d just walked into the kitchen, I learned my lesson – but there was no territorial battle, no sulks, just unmerited favor, forgiveness and acceptance. She gave me grace – and I gladly took the grace she offered.

I remember both of us laughing, but I am sure she must have thought her son was marrying one crazy girl.

I’ve spent about 36 years trying to pin down my own recipe for making chili. I haven’t had any complaints, but I hadn’t yet been satisfied enough to write one down and say, “This is it.”

I believe I finally have a chili recipe for my family cookbook! Yes – there’s spaghetti in it because that’s just the Louisville girl in me! That it took me 36 years is just the never-give-up in me!

Maybe it will be made even more complete when one of my boys brings home a girl with enough good kind of crazy in her to add a special ingredient from where she comes from to make it even better. But for now – this is what’s in the family cookbook:

Chili Recipe
Brown 3 lbs. and drained and place in dutch oven
In a food processor, dice up the following:
One large sweet onion
1 green pepper
10 oz. cans whole green Chile peppers
Add onions, peppers and Chile peppers to hamburger mixture, let simmer for 5 minutes, then add the following:
1 – 46 oz. V8 Bloody Mary Mix, original
2 packet/boxes Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit mix
Stir well.
Next blend in the following:
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Dark Red Kidney Beans (Dark Red for Color)
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Black Beans
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Chili Beans
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring to a simmer.
Add 8 oz. spaghetti, broken into 2-3 inch pieces
Simmer until ready to serve.

I always serve with some kind of hot sandwich. Grilled Cheese, Bacon Cheddar Twists, or Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls are my favorites. See recipe or links below.

Grilled Cheese Recipe:

Melt butter and dip both sides of two pieces bread in the butter.

Depending on size of bread, I use one to two pieces of cheese (two much cheese makes it just too much) and possibly a slice of country ham.

Grill until golden on each side.

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Bacon Cheddar Twists from Farm House Rules
Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls from Jen Around the World (When you run out of croissants – biscuit dough works just as well! Made mine with Mild Italian Sausage! Held some filling back for my low carb diet. It’s a recipe that makes for happy people in my house!)

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Muddy’s Corn Fritters

Last week, I pulled out an old recipe. It my great-grandmother Muddy’s recipe – her corn fritters. I don’t know why I hadn’t made them in such a long time. For a season, Muddy’s Corn Fritters were a dinner-time staple. . . until they weren’t.

The old recipes, like Muddy’s corn fritters, handed down for generations mother to daughter, from Mary Francis to Sue Eva to Mary Eva to Mary Edna to Linda to me – Maryleigh –  always reminds me of this scripture: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6: 16).

There is comfort in the old ways – in handmade quilts that Nanny made, canning tomatoes and pickles like my husband’s grandmother taught me, in walking the same paths to church on Sunday morning, and meal-time prayers . . . and recipes handed down. The old ways aren’t adventuresome. They comfort and are comfortable.

My youngest son walked in – the one who last Spring had stood in the kitchen telling me, “Mom! You’re slipping. You used to make the BEST breakfasts. What happened? You have only two more years before I’m gone, ” he said, waving two fingers at me, moving into his oration zone. The zone where it’s time to just take a stool and listen because there’s no entertainment better in town. “Mom! Mom! You need to push through. You need to start making all those awesome breakfasts you used to make: the eggs and bacon with ketchup on toast, the chocolate chip pancakes – and those things with the chocolate chips and the stuff that’s in the box with the man in the white wig!”

That gave me pause – who was this man in with a white wig in my  kitchen! Then I remembered.

The man in the white beard is the Quaker Oats man – and, he was talking about my granola bars.

I’d felt hugged and loved in the kitchen that night.  I pushed through the rest of the year to cook up some good breakfasts – with the old and true recipes.

Last week, he walked into the kitchen, saw Muddy’s Corn Fritters and didn’t remember them. The older boys did, though. That inspired look came into his eyes.  He drew himself up into his oration stance. It wasn’t those beautiful corn fritters that inspired him, though.

It was the deep-fryer.

I tried to steel myself against the effectiveness of this son in his oration zone. Really! I did!

“Mom! Mom! You need to make some deep-fried Oreos,” he said, waxing eloquent about the country fair’s deep fried oreos. He felt sure I could make them.

Dazed, I almost regretted enrolling him in a school a few years ago where he learned about logic and its fallacies, Socratic circles and argument development training, and oration.

There I stood with Muddy’s Corn Fritters stacked high on a plate. It was such a good thing – those corn fritters. An old way of doing things – and he was asking me to do something different. Something I’d never done before. Something radical.

Not just radical – I wasn’t sure Deep Fried Oreos was something a mama should  do: Unnutritional Decadence beyond anything I’d ever done.

“I don’t have a recipe,” was one excuse I used.

He found one on the internet similar to the corn fritters I’d just deep fried. I had the eggs. I had the pancake mix. Too late to hide them! Drats!

Really – wasn’t one deep fried dish enough for one day?

“I don’t have Oreos,” was another excuse I pulled out.

“I’ll go get them,” he said. Double Drats. (The silver lining of my son being able to drive himself to soccer practice betrayed me at that moment).

I tried negotiating: “How about I do them tomorrow?”

“You already have the deep fryer out,” he said. “Besides, aren’t you the one always telling me, ‘Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.’”

I cannot explain the combination of annoyance and pride I feel when these boys to men of mine throw my words back at me.

Exasperated and wise enough to recognize I’d been out-maneuvered, I threw out: “I don’t have any cash.”

“I have $5,” he said. “Mom. Mom! This is the best time to make them. You can do this,” he said – and he was out the door, triumph oozing.

Drat! Drat! Drat!

I’d made a stew with chuck roast, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and and turnip greens, which they thought were carrots, potatoes and spinach (laughing emojis here if I knew how to put them), and Muddy’s Corn Fritters. Wasn’t that enough?

Did good moms even make Deep Fried Oreos? Words like nutritional negligence, deep fried imprudence, fatuous fatty-liver enabling came to mind.

About 40 minutes later, those Deep Fried Oreos fried and bubbled happily in my kitchen. I wasn’t going to eat one – really I wasn’t. Who wants to fully participate in something they’ve been run rough-shod into, cornered and corralled?

But I wanted to take a photo of what the inside looked like. Just one bite – for the photo.

It was delicious. I ate more than one. It was a beautiful thing.


Deep-Fried Oreos

Someone I loved had walked into my kitchen on an ordinary everyday with a radical recipe. Maybe not radical to you, but it was decadently radical to me. Radical is not something I easily step in to. As a matter of fact, it makes me want to settle back more deeply into the comfort of what has become everyday ordinary – even if right now my everyday ordinary was once a radical idea (Let me just insert here, 5 sons was a radical way of living at one time. Now it is my everyday ordinary. That would be fun to do – to list what we do today that is everyday ordinary but was once something radical to our experiences).

Those Deep Fried Oreos aren’t a God-radical thing, but God calls us to radical living. Radical living is where we let God take our ordinary and turn that everyday ordinary into something extra-ordinary. As we draw closer to God, God draws us away from comfortable into a different way of living – a new way of living. New things are always uncomfortable. God-new things are worth being uncomfortable for.

Feeding my family is something everyday ordinary. Yet, God wants to turn the dinner table or kitchen counter living into something radical, something extraordinary.

He wants us to feed his sheep.

 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” ~ John 21: 15-17

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to talk about living a lifestyle to Feed God’s Sheep by making room for one more at the table. We’ll discuss who our sheep our, our responsibilities to those sheep,  and how to feed them.

Let’s turn the dinner table or kitchen counter living into something radical, something God-extraordinary.

I hope you’ll join me.

Deep Fried Oreo Recipe
(Modified from Lil’ Luna’s recipe my son found)

1 home-friendly deep fryer (size determines how many you can fry at one time)
1 large egg
1 cup Milk
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pancake mix
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar
One package double-stuffed Oreos or any other cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies. This recipe does not use up all the cookies.

  1. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the pancake mix until smooth.
  3. Dip the cookies into the batter one at a time, turning them 2 or 3 times until the tops and sides are fully coated.
  4. Carefully place into the hot frying oil. Avoid over-crowding. How many depends at a time depends on how the size of your deep-fryer. 
  5. Cook until the cookies are golden-brown, about 2 minutes.
  6.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate before serving.
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: A Heart Looking with Joyful Anticipation


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flowergardenthere’s no lasting comfort in my wild apple ginger tea and honey,
or my Muddy Cakes, chocolate chip pancakes or scones.
none in the seed packets I so determinedly spilled out over my garden in springtime cool dazzle
or the brandywine’s ripening just red right
No lasting comfort the summer gazpacho made with my garden cucumbers and tomatoes and the farmer’s market onions and corn.
No comfort at all,
no lasting comfort, that is
in the hydrangeas that bloom blue
bloom riotously after we’d almost lost the dear beauty
in a hard challenge when we ourselves had been transplanted.
no comfort in the chocolate mint and lavender, the oregano and thyme
no, there’s no lasting comfort in them except for a fleeting pleasure,
a seasonal indulgence to satisfy a flighty temporal
but for the priceless notes and stories my Savior left in them
To remind me he is both seed time and harvest
loss and new beginnings
the potion for my healing
the faith in the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen
the refreshing in the chocolate mint, the soothing in the lavender,
and the savory of the trinity
the trust that the planting will yield
something God-worthwhile
if I but plant and tend to the God in it
no there’s no lasting comfort in these things
by themselves they are vanity
but let God into it,
and each becomes a salvation story
a lasting comfort



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When the words don’t come, it puts me at a loss. That the words don’t come doesn’t necessarily herald a hard season. Sometimes it heralds a season to be savored. A season to just pause and take it all it – the sweet and the sour, the high and low,  the tough and the tender.

It’s been a year! Not a 2017 kind of year. Just a 365 days kind of year. This time last year, walking was terribly painful – after pneumonia and surgery – my muscles thought it was time to curl up and stop. Thanks to yoga, muscle stretching and time, I am myself again – which means I am still not an Olympian, but I can get the job done and then some!

These 365 days have been full of loss, birth and the in-between stuff.  I haven’t known how to write about it. God stayed my hand from writing, so I just watched and soaked. . . soaked up family during the loss of my aunt – the oldest of the sisters –  in September and my mother-in-law in early November . . . soaked up my 4th son’s final soccer season and graduation . . . soaked up a crazy-wonderful holiday full of laughter and adventure . . . still soaking up my first grandson that came over a week ago.

Soaking meant an lot of watching, a lot of listening and a lot of quiet, like watching one son face challenges to gain something more than he imagined – not what he wanted to gain – but something more valuable in the long run.

The daily living in between the mourning and the celebrations was the mortar that bound the bricks and stones of my soul house together during this year of extreme highs and lows.

No, I didn’t journal the tender or write through the tough. I took a lot of photos that helped me process – and I cooked through – and shared the fruits of both with family and friends.


There were stews, and soups, pasta and chicken, fried chicken and gravy, grilled cheeses, bacon and cheese pastries, and garlic butter biscuits.


There were scones, chocolate chip cookies, garlic buttered biscuit, and all types of Muddy Cakes: Muddy Cakes for birthdays – friends and family. Muddy Cakes for celebrations. Muddy  Cakes just to love others when I wasn’t sure what else God wanted me to do (Muddy is my grandma name – so I started calling them Muddy Cakes).


Someone said, “You need to open a bakery.”


No – they’re not for sale. They’re for love and friendship.

Toward the end of the school year, the boys had had enough cake.  I detected a potential revolution ahead.

The  youngest, he said to me, “You’re slipping, Mom. You used to cook the most amazing breakfasts. Remember those granola bars you used to make with the stuff with the man with the white hair?”

“You mean Quaker Oats?”

“You only have two more years, Mom. You need to push through.”

I pushed through, finishing the school year with granola bars made with the oatmeal that has the man with the white hair. I made eggs and bacon on toast with ketchup. I did it all – and then bought some Lucky Charms to give me a brief rest.

Maybe this pushing through made me remember other recipes from other times – tasty memories. This Spring, in the middle of soccer season, I remembered the Thousand Island dressing I’d made in high school for school lunches. It was a tasty memory that started a craving. Timing was somehow right, too. I found myself rummaging through Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook that I received when I married. It had the recipe for a salad dressing from my grandmother’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (not so new I guess) that I’d used in high school. About 35+ years later, I wanted to see if it was good now as it was then.

I modified mine a bit, probably just like I did all those years ago – the spices, pantry items and fridge contents aren’t all that different. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all. I mixed and stirred – and tasted.

Thousand Island

I cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup relish and 1/4 cup ketchup (not chili sauce)
2 finely choppped hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons each finely chopped: green peppers, celery, and onion (I spun mine in a food processor)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
If  you think it’s too thick, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk

It was – as good now as it was then.

Then, during our family holiday in France, yes –  France! I’ve always wanted to do a bicycle tour through the Loire Valley! And we didn’t because, well, I said I wasn’t an Olympian. ! We drove – through the Loire Valley, up past William the Conquerors place over to Normandy’s Utah and Omaha beaches and on to Paris. There was still miles and miles of walking a day.  I got the job done and then some!

Three of our sons went with us to France. After 48 hours, they missed my cooking.

“Mom,” they each said.” You could open a restaurant here, and it would be packed every day.” To them, I was the best cook in France. I tried to explain that the French would be just as miserable with my cooking. McDonald’s was greeted by these guys as a long lost friend after three to four days.

The most gorgeous art work was in the patisseries – Delectable! Divine! Delicous! Besides the patisserie offerings – one cafe’s buttermilk dressing on a salad made me want to make a Mason jar of it when I got home.

This newly discovered appreciation of my cooking increased my value in their estimation. When we walked – and we walked a lot, I found myself hedged in before and behind me. Losing me seemed a real possibility. Of course, the time in Chambord Chateau their dad offered them 5 Euros to whoever could find me first might have had something to do with it. They weren’t taking any chances of losing me again.

I found unlooked for treasures in France. Maybe these young men did, too.

I’d tried one of the buttermilk dressing packets months ago, but it just didn’t dazzle me like the recipe at the little French Cafe. I decided to try Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Dressing. I didn’t veer much from her recipe.

Buttermilk Dressing

3/4 C. Buttermilk (I used whole Buttermilk)
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)(I used a garlic press)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt (I used celery seed)

I made it when I got home – and it was a good thing! Martha’s tasted like the little French cafe’s buttermilk dressing that was so very delightful. I will admit that I just might have possibly fell in love with shallots!

My youngest, he tasted my Buttermilk Dressing – and liked it. “Not for salads,” he said. “Great for dipping. It needs to be thicker or salads – so just pick that up at the grocery story”

However, he’s keeping me busy keeping the mason jar full. I have trouble keeping this one for more than 3 days. It goes fast.

There’s a bit of chard in my little patch of garden. The cucumbers are ready. The tomatoes are taking their time. The grocery provides the broccoli – my youngest’s favorite. Carrots, onions and other items Peter Rabbit would appreciate come from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I wouldn’t want to grow everything, I enjoy my Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings too much.

Then there’s Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing. I make it year round (you can find the recipe here). Aunt Joyce started making it my freshman year of college.  It reminds me of all those nightly dinners with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce. I miss a kitchen filled with these women. I guess that’s the price you pay when your husband says “You’re a pioneer woman” when his company wanted him to move to Detroit and he found a different job in this little town in Tennessee about 26 years ago. We both left our families, packed up our red Ford truck, our first little boy and set up house in this sweet town. It’s our boys’ hometown now. All 5 of them. Except they’re not boys anymore. Not really even boys to men. They’re men – even the 16 year old. If you treat them like men, instead of boys, they tend to act like how you treat them.

Good recipes, like these salad dressing recipes, are reminders of the good things from where I came from and where I’ve been.

Someone messaged me wondering how I managed to do everything I do. To be honest, there’s a lot I don’t do – or do well. The dishes get stacked up, the socks left unmatched, this and that piles us. I plan for a Monday stew to last through Wednesday (Is that cheating?). There are dayswhen I feel like I’m being whirled in a lettuce spinner.  It takes me 3 hours to create a spotless kitchen that takes someone else 30 minutes. There are days when I need either to have taken more seriously conversations with my sons – and other days when I need to have been less serious.

“Mom, do I need a sign on my head that says, ‘Sarcasm?” the 4th one, the one with the humor so dry it is self-combustible asked.

“Ummmmm, Yes! Can you take care of that?” I say, really hoping that one day he will have one for me. It isn’t encouraging when your mom laughs at the wrong time or takes jokes seriously resulting in unwanted lectures.

This has been a year where doing what I love for the ones I love has also meant doing something things I love rarely, like writing.

In a soaking year, when the words don’t come, and loved stories ended, other stories wove themselves while all I could do was watch, love, and cheer – cooking was one of the few things I could do.

It feels like a new season is beginning. Something different is in the air. The words finally came. I knew God would send them when He was ready for me to have them.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a Muddy Cake! It has been an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of post – but it felt right to do it this way.



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gespachocc13Saturday, I jumped in my canoe and paddled to my garden for dill. The day before, during a lull in the rain, I’d spotted my youngest one, sitting on the raised garden edges, slipping his hand into the tomatoes, chard and peppers to pinch off a few leaves of chocolate-mint and stuff it between his cheek and gum.

On Saturday’s in the summer, I make my Life-Gets-Sweeter Every Day Gazpacho – and so I’d come for dill.

The first thing I ever cooked was a prune cake in the 7th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I knew how to make Divinity, a meringue cookie, cakes, dips – and cucumber’s with vinegar, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Summer suppers tasted better with a small helping of cucumbers.

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
½ cup mayonnaise,
½ cup sour cream,
salt and pepper to taste

It was a beginning this learning how to make life a bit nicer, sweeter


Another day, a few years later, all starry-eyed and in love with my new husband,  cucumbers nestled on a plate next to summertime tomatoes. Separate – but so close. Sometimes they both found themselves on the same fork – at the same time. Oh my! Summer Delicious!

Life’s sweetness didn’t just stop growing there. A few more years, time enough for a little boy to grow up and say, “I Do” to his sweet heart, a subtle step was taken in my life, not a leap, just a step when tomatoes fell into the cucumbers, all in a single container in order to take a bit of outside summer with me to lunch when I’d started part-time job editing for an on-line gardening company. As I said in my previous post, God never meant work to be a place where I stop finding His kind of sweet living.

dillAs sons 2 and 3 tumbled into the teen years, challenging us, stretching us – a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of living – I was determined not to let my life be defined by the heart-ache in the challenge.

The bigger the challenge in the daily (see post here), the more I burrowed into Him, like St Teresa of Avila in her book Interior Castles describes – I was wandering through the 6 crystal castles, weaving my way closer and closer to the 7th castle -where He welcomed me at its steps,welcoming me with a chalice of living water,  wrapping me in His arms pulling me into His shining castle – and finding His peace – His amazing comfort – and suddenly, even in the challenge – life felt sweeter – 6 sensory sweeter – the 6th sense being a spiritual sweetness.

Just because I’ve been in the interior castle – doesn’t mean I stop wandering back out to exterior castles.

Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean I’ve yet tasted all the sweetness He has created for me – for you.

Christ in his mercy leads me to the interior castle; my imperfect humanity finds me sometimes wandering all over the place, in the interior castle, through the rooms of the exterior castles.

Day by day, season by season, life marches onward –  2 more boy stepping toward independence, 2 others on deck. Challenges flow and ebb – moments of blessing crash against a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen moments – and life became a bit sweeter:

Honey and Cream corn, until the white corn showed itself, found it’s way into my container with the cucumbers and tomatoes.

Oh My! – the result was heartier – so much more of something than a side dish yet not a main course, not a hot soup – and as my mind reached out to place this concoction of summertime – gazpacho came into my vocabulary.

Gazpacho: a cold, summer soup

The daily has changed some out our house – only 2 fully in the nest – another half way in, one a fly by – and one fully in his own nest. The challenges are different. The stretching is different. The sweetness is there – available for the taking . Jjust like always , the choice is there to grab bitterness or sweetness.

Over Independence Day celebrations, friend sat around our table – and I passed some of this Gazpacho for them to test-taste – to see if they thought it was as delightful as I thought – had the recipe finally “arrived” – or was I just, well, nuts in the taste buds.

My friends sampled it, taste-tested it, asked for a bowl of it.

“Add an apple,” one said.

And I did. . . .add an apple, a red delicious apple.

the dish became more . . . hearty, rounded, complete – sweeter not as in sugar but as in so terribly nice.

Kind of like life – if we let it, don’t give up on it, keep adding good things to it, it just gets sweeter and sweeter, heartier, more filling, better for you. . . . in a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-evidence-of-things-not-seen- kind of way.

The more I hold on to things of Him, as we come and go, sit and stand –
The more I trust He is not surprised by teen challenges and boys-to-men dealing with growing up responsibilities
The more I see His love letters in the daily
And know He is beside me everywhere I want and don’t want to be
That He’s got my back
The sweetness into everyday rises like a fragrance
out of any situation, complex things
things that bring tears
that tear at the heart
simple things like blueberries
little boy hugs and gazpacho
It’s there
waiting to be chosen
this attitude of life getting sweeter daily

Today’s Summer Gazpacho Recipe

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
½ cup mayonnaise,
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together and add the following:

Ripe Tomato cut into bite-sized pieces (or, when not in season, use the cherry tomatoes sliced in half)

Fresh, sliced off-the-cobb corn (one to two ears), precooked in butter and cooled (leftovers in the summer are great. Frozen corn in the winter. Not canned corn)

(Optional: Add a tablespoon of honey or an apple sliced about the same size as the tomato).

Serve fresh or refrigerate to allow the flavors and juices to blend.

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“Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).

“Don’t worry about cooking. Just rest and enjoy,” my husband encouraged, as I stuffed mason jars and lemon curd into a cooler on wheels, to be packed in the back of my van. All that was missing was my kitchen sink!

He wanted me to take a vacation. Vacation: a period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation (dictionary.com)

I didn’t want a vacation – I wanted a Holiday!

Holiday: festive, joyous, celebrating important values steeped in faith and family with opportunities for rest, pleasure allowing the inner-man to soar(blue cotton memory definition).

IMG_0958When we arrived at the beach, we set up our umbrella city. All together there were 34 of our family – some vacationing – some on a holiday. We celebrated family – from great-grandmothers to great-grandbabies. Afternoon soccer with cousins from 39 to 5 – lines drawn in the sand for good-time rivalry. Some of the boys practiced their Italian and Portuguese (for soccer aficionados- that’s the falling-on-the-ground-faking-injury skills).

This coming Umbrella City gathering was a fluid thing.  Great and small, old and young -moved from beach to pool to lazy river – group and individual time. Some shopped, napped, read books, lunched, cooked, watched World Cup soccer, dined all the while coming and going, sitting a spell, going, coming back, going. . . just like waves on the beach.

What am I saying here? Everyone took the opportunity to soar, to let their interests gallop through the duration of the holiday.


All the intrinsic things God placed in me, make me who I am, bring me immeasurable joy, that I sometimes have trouble fitting into the busy daily – they soared over the holiday.  I took photos, spent time with family, wrote, read books, looked for God letters,  bobbed on inner-tubes in the ocean- and made Mason Jar Summertime Pies – because one of my very favorite nieces asked.

I chose to live holiday over 5 days off then vacationing any day! When something is just so wonderfully delicious – food or just life, it should be shared. Below is the recipe for my Mason Jar Summertime Pies! Wishing you a little holiminute, holihour or holi in your day! Praying that today you taste and see the Lord is good, whether it is tasting a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonaise and pepper, Mason Jar Summertime Pies, a hug savored by the soul, a moment that fills you up with Him, joy spilled everywhere – I pray that you catch those moments, your eyes not bigger than your souls – and see, really see, God’s goodness!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! “ (Psalm 34:8)

Lemon Curd
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 Cup butter
Zest from one lemon
Mix well. Then put in a double boiler, cooking 30 minutes until thick. Put in jar and refrigerate until ready to use. I make a day ahead so it is good and cool.

1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker cumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons into bottom of 8 oz mason jars, hollowing out the middle.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Let cool then add Lemon Curd.

4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Top the Mason jars with swirls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(This works great with chocolate pudding, too. I cheated and used Jello Cook and Serve).


lemoncOther Lemon Curd treats from the Blue Cotton Kitchen


Dessert at the Grown-up Table, click here

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Recipe Updated with journaling of their story in the family:

March 4, 2019: One of the first things I’d cooked in over a week, my blue cotton granola bars, – and the littlest who’s not little any more said, “It’s the best ever.” Maybe it was the sprinkling of pecan dust. Maybe it was just because mama cooked – and the world righted itself – and my soul sighed a restful sigh, sinking into this – a sweet part of what home is. #homeis #granolabars #bluecottongranolabars #lovemyboys #theyreallmyfavorite

September 24, 2018: For his birthday, the littlest turning 18 didn’t want cake or chocolate mousse. That was hard for me – to not bake him something. Then, last night he said, “Make the good stuff, Mom. Make your granola bars” – and I did!


When I make my Granola Bars, a lot of things come to mind: chocolate, smiles, happy breakfasts, happy afterschool tummies, pain, lots of pain, moderation, fiber, mis-diagnosis, God’s Great Mercies! My second son tried to convince me that the Bible does not pertain to everything.  I think I need to create a name for a theme, kind of like my Simply Saturday or Scratching Post – but another theme where I can tell a story about an unlikely place biblical principles apply(please feel free to leave any suggestions). My Granola Bars are like that, an unlikely desert that taught us about faith and self-discipline. 

Just to clear this up from the start, if you add raisins to your Granola Bars, you have Quaker Oats Granola Bars.  If you add anything in my list below, ESPECIALLY CHOCOLATE, well, then we’ll call them Blue Cotton Granola Bars.

Where can one find God in a Granola Bar? Well, not really in the Granola Bar itself, but in the journey the Granola Bar took with my family. One of my boys developed a stomach ache in the first grade.  In the 3rd grade, we took him to a renowned children’s hospital. They, ahem, studied his stool sample and said, “More Fiber.” (I saw the sample, but it did not send red flags in my mind). They recommended 5 grams of fiber + their age. 

I was a mom with a mission, a quest – anything to make my little guy feel better. So I found recipes, including a fiber-licious recipe on the back of a box of Quaker Oats. And I commenced to fill my little guy with fiber one recipe at a time.  My boys dislike raisins, so Chocolate Chip Granola Bars was the lure to more fiber consumption.

My boys love my Granola Bars!  A box of Quaker Oats Granola bars average around $2.75.  Five boys could go through 2+ boxes a day (breakfast, before sports, or after school snack to destroy those grumpy Hungries). That can really add up. Homemade Granola Bars cost less and were more filling.

However, the stomach ache persisted and increased.  Finally, in the 6th grade, with my son struggling in school, running like someone’s grandma on the soccer field, and bearing a haunted look on his face, I was angry enough to punch a hole in a wall.  After a battery of x-rays and ultrasounds, the pediatrician determined it was all in his head. We were flummoxed.  Was our child lying to us? Was he just making it up? Did he really just not want to play soccer or do his school work, so this was his “out.”

I had prayed.  However, I had not reached my emotional bottom, until one afternoon. If I had steam pipes, steam would have spouted out of my head. Combine not-quite  but something like fury at the unknown, confusion, love, helplessness and every other emotion within any pore of my being somehow creating an emotional implosion that literally dropped me to my knees. 

I have learned on two occasions that this experience is a righteous-riled-up-ness.  This occurs when you are walking in faith with full confidence God is taking care of everything. You speak your faith.  You walk that faith. In these situations, God just wants us to stand, believe and wait.  There is something Godly in the waiting. However, sometimes God’s plan requires movement on our part – a call to action. I dropped to my knees in prayer, crying – out of confusion, love for my son, and emotional short-circuiting. I think I was emptied of all inside of me at that point.

Three days later, I was talking to a parent at my child’s school and for some reason, I told her about my son’s stomach problems. Have you every done that? Just spill an emotional story all the while wondering, “Why in the world am I saying this?” Well, sometimes it is a God thing. Her daughter had a similar problem and she gave me the name of a physician who treated stomach issues more aggressively than the children’s hospital we had attended previously. Those laborers I pray for?  Well, that day she was one of God’s laborers sent to point me in a direction.

This physician scoped my son and identified the issue.  Not a fiber issue at all.  He had esophagitis.  Some people have severe acid reflux while others have severe stomach pain, severe enough to make a man think he is having a heart attack.  Our son had lived for 5 years with a level 7 to 9 out of 10 stomach pain. Caffeine, mint and . . . chocolate are main contributors to this. And I was throwing chocolate into as many fiber recipes as I could get my hands on to increase his fiber intake – and making his pain worse the entire time.A mis-diagnosis years earlier had set us on a path that made the problem worse.

 He took Nexium for a couple of years and monitored his diet.  He had to rebuild his ability to run.  His grades went up.  He was an all district soccer player in the 8th grade. His teacher’s commented on the radically changed young man, the young man who looked them in the eye and greeted them in the morning.  A young man who engaged and led class discussion.  A young man who led his group presentation without much help, earning a commendation from a teacher who rarely gave those commendations.  The haunted expression faded. My joyful son re-emerged from the darkness in which he had increasingly existed.

Thankfully, God sent a laborer across our path to point out the road we needed to take. Sometimes, God wants us to stand in Faith for healing without physicians.  Sometimes, He wants our healing to come through physicians.

My son has learned the self-discipline of moderation.  He has also learned the power of God.  He asked God to heal him during a healing service. Through the years, I have come to believe that sometimes God requires self-discipline of us to maintain healing. My son is Nexium free. He can eat chocolate now. As you know, teens like being able to make choices, to have control with training wheels in their lives. His diet is one of those areas that allows him to practice being a man about his choices.  He has done a marvelous job!

I had to learn something new – how to cook without chocolate. Some of you can imagine how hard that can be.  I probably made scrambled eggs with chocolate before his diagnosis! An entire new recipe world opened up to me. I embarked on a quest for the perfect white cake recipe. I learned to cook with white chocolate. I learned to make Granola Bars chocolate-free – and I have those suggestions below. I learned to – gasp !-  celebrate without chocolate. We are no longer a chocolate-free zone, though. We are . . . balanced, more diverse in our ingredients.

Today turned into a Chocolate day! One of my sons asked for my Granola Bars.  Everyone unanimously agreed that today’s Granola Bars should include chocolate. Remember, balance? Self-Discipline?.  I made a caramel cake for his birthday last week. So today? Chocolate!  Won’t you join us? Just do not eat too many!

My little guy did the stirring. Mix the following:

3/4 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Cup granulated sugar

one 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt

2 egg whites

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. milk or 1/2 and 1/2

2 tsp. vanilla

Stir in the following:

1 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Gently turn

3 Cups Quaker Oats

At least one Cup Chocolate Chips, White Chocolate Chips, raisins, Caramel Chips or cran-raisens, gummies worms, apricots, pineapple, M&Ms, Heath Bars crunched up.

Update addition: Sprinkle before baking with pecan dust. Pecan dust is made by spinning pecans in a food processor until they are of a pecan dust- like consistency, which is larger than ground

Bake in a 9x 12 dish at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

 What kind of mood?  A healthy kick-off to the day? A play hug after school? A cool send-off for after-school activities? This is one recipe that allows safe play with successful results! Choose your ingredients with care, though!

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These are not my grandmother’s Salmon Croquettes – because she did not make them.  Nobody cooked like my grandmother.  There a few recipes, though, that are hers that when served – are 100% grandmothers right down to the eye-rolling, cannot-resist it taste.

During Lent, grandmother would make Salmon Croquets with a little pink sauce.  They were one of my favorite childhood meals – a Friday night meal.  However, I have never been able to master the skillet Salmon Croquette.  Until one day, Paul Dean, kitchen angel, sent me a message from my grandmother: “Use the Deep Fryer, Darlin’ ” (funny how my grandmother never said “darlin,’ ” but I imagine heaven changes people – and apparently gives them an even more southern accent)

And I did!  I rummaged through recipes trying to figure out where I always went wrong (crumbling, grease filled disappointment) – and, ladies, here it is – and, yes, Paula Dean, the secret is in the sauce (not Paula’s).

Salmon Croquettes:

2 Cans Salmon, flaked

2 eggs (one if you use less bread crumbs)

1 1/2 Cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Mix Bread Crumbs (the blue bag)

1/4 Cup Parsley

1/4 Cup Celery

1/4 Cup Asiago Cheese (My grandmother is shaking her pointing finger at me calling me a 21st Century upstart)

1/4+ milk to soften (until you can pat mixture into a hamburger sized patty)

Now, ladies, here is another key secret to successful Salmon Croquets. Refrigerate – reducing breakage while deep frying.

I recommend a Fry Baby, but go larger if you’re like me and have 5 sons.

Deep fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

You can either go to The Secret in the Sauce here or try the Secret in my Sauce further down.  Maybe you just ought to eat the one while reading the other.  That would probably be best.

The true secret to so many sauces and recipes can be found in the 1954 Cissy Gregg’s Cookbook and Guide to Gracious Living.  A lot of my heart-stopping recipes are from Cissy (Hot Brown, Egg Nog,  Charlotte Russe and so much more).  But since I cannot keep a secret – I’ll share the Secret to the Sauce:

First you make a Bechamel Sauce

1/3 Cup butter (6 tablespoons)

1/2 medium-sized sliced onion, minced

1/3 Cup flour

3 Cups hot milk

1 tsp. salt

A dash of red pepper

A couple sprigs of parsley

a dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan.  Add onions and cook slowly until a light brown.  Add flour and blend until the flour makes a smooth paste but of course the onion minces are still in it.  Add milk and other seasons, stirring constantly and briskly at first until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Sissy Gregg recommends you strain it.  I did not.

To turn this delicious Bechamel sauce into a Mornay sauce you do the following:

Add 2 egg yolks

1/2 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tablespoon butter

Heat the Bechamel sauce and combine with egg yolks.  Stir constantly and remove from the stove as soon as it starts to boil.  When hot and thick add cheese and the butter.  The sauce must not boil or it will curdle.

This saucy sauce is used for many delicious dishes, including my hometown favorite, the Kentucky Hot Brown.  Or just drop a dollop on your morning hard-boiled eggs.

When the sauce is finished, spoon over Salmon Croquets. I just tossed some radishes, squash, zucchini and spanish onions with my Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing – oh, this dressing is from heaven! – But I’m not sharing it today.  I’ll share it next week.  One can only share one secret sauce at a time!

Saucy Salmon Croquets

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I wish I could take credit for these Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights. I discovered them at my 3rd grader’s Christmas Party.  This must-have recipe was pulled out of thin air the night before by a very creative mom.  I encouraged her to submit it to a contest. She demurred, but shared the information – a magical recipe that has all my sons happy to visit me in the kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights are so easy you could almost feel guilty. That guilt evaporates when you see the older ones stealing a few when your back is turned and the younger ones begging for more – the guilt is replaced by a happy heart – the kind of happiness moms find in a variety of ways – a hug from a son,  “I-love-mom” written in the snow – or devouring the cooking and asking for more’!

Recipe: One large Nestles Toll House Refrigerated Cookie Dough.  Slice cookies between 1/4 to 1/2 inch and then cut into 1/3s.  Roll into balls and place in non-stick mini-muffin tins.  Cook according to directions.  (If you want a homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, check out Type A Mommy’s recipe – She claims it’s the BEST  Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe ever.

You can either make homemade brownies or buy them pre-made.  I prefer Kroger Bakery Brownies because they are so moist.  Keep in mind that I am focusing on an easy after-school surprise – a no-frazzle approach on those days when I just want to be a happy mom making life a little sweeter for my boys.

I slice the brownies into 1/3s and place on top of the piping hot Chocolate Chip Cups the muffin tin creates through baking.  The heat melts the brownies a bit in a carmelizing kind of way.

Let cool before removing from the tins.  If you remove too soon, they will lose shape and fall apart.

There are many different ways into the hearts of our children.  Some are direct – “I love you.” Or with words of praise about their nobleness, their talents, their hard work, their uniqueness.  Sometimes we love our children invisibly but powerfully – through prayer.  Sometimes, it is indirect – like Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights.

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loaded potatoe soupcc

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – right?  So what did I learn to do when I, um, married a man and had a bunch of sons – learned how to cook some mighty fine fixin’s, that’s what!  Let me tell you, it has not been a cake walk!

My husband could care less about food – and he married the woman who believes to the tips of her toes that all moments are not complete without a food moment!

My oldest son grew into a health-conscious individual whose high nutritional ethical standards could not be tempted with his mama’s cooking (well, the oysters work their magic – and a pint of Marble Slab ice cream). He turned his nose up at the birthday cake I made him a few years ago. Sigh!  He was on a sugar diet.  The next day, I found him devouring my Marble Slab Deep Dark Chocolate with Key lime.  He’d finished his sugar diet.

You have to hide food from the second one.  Mid-night snack?  That’s him.  Left-overs?  Gone before the clock strikes mid-night. He loves it when I cook my yum (or rather Southern Living’s yum) shrimp and pasta or Giada’s grandmother’s spicy shrimp and rice.  Savor?  I don’t really think he knows what anything tastes like.  He inhales his food.  However, he avoids vegetables like a good Charles Dickens novel.

The Joyful one – he just smiles, looks in the oven and asks, “Can Nanny come over and take it out.  It’ll taste so much better if she’ll do that.” I just stand there blinking.  He left me speechless when he asked if I could take Wal-Mart’s frozen lasagna over for Nanny to cook because it would just taste that much better. And then he smiled that great big joyful smile.  No matter what your opinion is, you cannot say that your cooking is better than your MIL.  The stinker had me in check-mate-kitchen style!

The youngest one just wants white sauce (Alfredo)  on everything.  And dipping sauce for his vegetables.  He misses the food from his “old” school.  He cannot stand the new school’s food.  This is the boy who cried when he got in the van after I made him take his lunch on spaghetti day. He loves cereal, pancakes, broccoli and carrots. If I’ve got the sauce – I’m the kitchen queen.  Oh, he adores my mashed potatoes.  I had to give Nanny the recipe so he would eat hers! LOL

 The way to one son’s heart is through a bowl of Loaded Potato Soup – O’Charley Style.  However, since we cannot go to O’Charley’s all the time, I searched for a recipe that would soothe the soup beast within.  About nine  years ago, a lady at church gave me the following recipe.

2 packages Pioneer Brand Country Gravy Mix (instead of 1 cup of water use 1 cup chicken broth)

1 lb. Velveeta cheese

One handful of shredded cheddar cheese

8 to 10 Potatoes, cut in small cubes, simmered until soft

2 cups milk


Prepare gravy mix according to directions.  Add 1 lb. velveeta cheese cut up to help melt.  Stir until melted in mixture.  Add 2 cups milk.  Then add the cooked potatoespotatoes. Simmer until warm.  Serve with 1/2 tsp. Bacos sprinkled in the middle.

Whip up a little Loaded Potato Soup and watch those hugs come in! What could be more beautiful, more Simply Saturday!




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coffeecakeccIt’s beginning to look like Christmas – the mantle is decorated, the snowman wreath is on the front door, and the stockings are up. That means it is time for my Grandmother’s Christmas Coffee Cake which can be found coming out of my oven through Valentine’s Day. A teacher’s gift, a Christmas morning staple, and some warm tangible love for my boys’ tummies – that’s Grandmother’s Christmas Coffee Cake.

Cream 1 Stick Butter and 1/2 Cup Butter-flavored Crisco  Baking Stick
Add 1 and 1/2 Cup Sugar
Blend two together until creamy
Add the following mixture 1/3 at a time to the creamy mixture: 2 Cups Sifted Flour, 1 tsp. Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda.
When mixed, add 3 well-beaten eggs (room temperature)
Next, add 1 Cup Sour Cream

Make a 1 tsp. cinnamon/3 tbsp. sugar mixture. Line 2 loaf pans with wax paper and scoop 1/4 + 1/4 of mixture into the bottom of each loaf. Sprinkle sugar mixture liberally over the batter. Scoop the remaining 1/4 + 1/4 into the loafs, topping of with liberal sprinkling of sugar mixture.

The recipe originally called for an 8-inch bundt cake or tube cake pan, but they were too big for basket gifts and teacher gifts, so for gifts, I use loaf pans (one recipe makes 2 coffee cakes in loaf pans). They freeze great, too, so you can make bunch and store for winter usage!

Bake at 350° for one hour.

From my house to yours, a very Merry Christmas – may this recipe bring to your house the smiles it brings to mine!


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Yeah, ladies!  Oysters are the key to a true feast – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January Fun-feast meal!  The pre-requisite feasting delight is not the must-have turkey and my especially yum dressing or whatever feasty dessert conjured up.I refuse to be shewish and withold the key to Feasting Success from you – though my grandmother would be so tempted to do so!

You know how your children bubble excitement to share a turtle, or slimy worm, or somthing unrecognizable which you truly wish to never see again.  Well, right now, I am so excited – just like my boys are when they present me with what they think are great gifts.  So, even if you feel repugnance, just turn on that Mom-Mode smile and encourage me in my Joy of Feasting Moment.

I have been waiting months to share this with you – and did not want to wait until it came out of the oven on Thanksgiving Day!)

Christmas Oysters (Scalloped Oysters)

From the Cabbage Patch Cookbook (sadly out of print)

 3 pts oysters (2 large fresh containers)

Cracker crumbs (hand crushed) (Zesta Crackers)

2 eggs

1-1/2 Cup half and half

½ Cup oyster liquor

Salt and pepper to taste

½ lb. Butter or margarine

 Cover bottom of baking dish with cracker crumbs.  Put in layers of oysters.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bits of butter.  Repeat until dish is almost full.  Sprinkle cracker crumbs, salt and pepper on top and dot with remaining butter.  Beat eggs with half and half and oyster liquor.  Pour over oysters. (Aunt Joyce and I pour extra half-and-half until you see it just below surface) Bake in moderate oven about 30-45 min.(more like 1 hour) until custard is set and top golden brown(it will soufflé up while in oven and settle down when taken out)

This great Holiday-Feast-Must-Have comes out of the over a lovely looking souffle!  Can it get better than this? I do not think so!


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Come join me with my friends, my BFFS, my peeps that I left behind in The Promised Land when I moved out of state.  We created a blog, The Friendship Table, where we can still share recipes for a friendship dinner – the next closest thing to being there. Friends are such gifts from God! 

Here is my desert contribution:

Tres Leche Cake
Evaporated, condensed, and whole milk are combined in this cake for just the right amount of sweetness. Make the cake up to three days in advance and refrigerate it. It’s traditionally served chilled and topped with whipped cream but is also delicious with chopped pineapple.
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for baking dish
100_26296 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can(12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold whites into yolks until almost combined. Gently fold in flour (do not overmix).
Spread batter in prepared dish. Bake until golden and pulling away from sides of dish, 20 to 25 minutes. Using a small knife, scrape skin from top of cake; discard. Cool cake 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the three milks; pour evenly over cake. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
To serve, prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, whip heavy cream with sugar to soft peaks. Chill cake and cut into squares; serve topped with whipped cream.

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hallowween5I love Fall.  The smell of crisp, musty leafy air.  The crunch and skittering leaf sounds.  Blustery wind that sasses. It is the only time of year that I orange is my favoarite color.  Otherwise, I abhor it.  It is the only time of year a black cat gives me pause.

Walking up the main street of my hometown every day to visit my aunt, my feet kicking through red, orange, and brown leaves that crackled.  Robin’s egg blue skies and clouds, so white, so full as though they were heavy with the winter snow to come–the sky seemed like the roof of an old house, too low and me too big, like I could almost touch the ceiling–that’s autumn. Autumn is full of memores that wrap around you like a old, warm quilt made from blue cotton memories.

bigsnowtreesWhen autumn comes, I pull out my very favorite autumn children’s book, “When will the Snow Trees Grow?” by Ben Shecter. The little guys and I wrap up in our blankets, snuggle up with some hot chocolate for them and warm apple cider for me.  Because the “lemonade isn’t as sweet.”  The blankets feel just right.  And the wind rustles around the house trying to find a way inside. Shector poignantly shows how tastes and needs evolve with the seasons.

 English Ghost storiesAnother favorite book pulled out, for the older, more adventuruous among us is The Oxford English Edition of Classic Ghost Stories.  The stories collected in these pages are to horror movies what Belgian truffles are to cheap chocolate. No gimmicks, just stories passed own through folklore, sprung out of supersitition, imagination, and a dark night.  It is one of my husband’s favorite books to read, too  I heartily enjoy it, but don’t like reading it if he is out of town–BOO!

ciderOf course, since lemonade doesn’t taste as sweet, it’s time to pull out the crock pot and stir up some mulled apple cider, topped with homemade whipped cream and Starbucks Caramel Sauce. My favorite hot chocolate recipe is the way my aunt used to make it when I’d spend the night.  Milk warmed with Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa and made just like it says on the back of the box:


  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • Homemade whipping cream


  1. Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t scorch. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature. Top with real homemade whipping cream. 


smoremakerOne of my favorite parts about autumn will be different this year.  For years, the boys and the neighborhood kids would stop by in the midst of their afternoon play, no matter how cold the weather.  I would pull out my S’More indoor grill. The gaggle would pull up the stools to the counter, and S’More Snacks for everyone-a regular autumn event! The neighborhood kids might be in another state, but the S’More Maker is with me! 

The weather is cooling, the trees green, but have a washed out look about them.  The sky feels like it is starting to press downward.  The quilts feel snugglier.  I’m getting thirsty for some yummy cider.  The urge to curl up with a book that will make my hair stand on end, no matter how many times I read the stories, beckons, and, for some reason, the color orange is my very favorite color right now, a fiery, pumkiny orange. My scardy cat seems a little braver, her coat a little darker for some reason.

I so love the Fall!

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masterdetectiveMy youngest has a solution to his Dad’s snorning.  While he’s sleeping, dress him up as a racoon, and carry him outside. What a solution!  I can’t stop visualizing that.

However, most problems that need solving cannot be done with such cute, creative fixes. Some problems take years to resolve.  Why?  For some reason, we have to walk down that path, study the problem, try varying solutions, search for clues.

A dog-with a bone, never-give-up, always-reaching-for-resolution attitude.  When I took this job as “Hey, Mama,” I had no idea of the high-level problem solving skills that would be required.  I probably wouldn’t have applied if I had known.  How many of you would have run screaming?  No, don’t raise your hands.

However, on the day my first son was born, something inside me was born, too.  God’s pretty amazing.  He doesn’t let us realize all the abilities He stuffed inside us all at one time.  It is almost as though there are boxes and boxes of amazing gifts, like on Christmas, all wrapped up.  Except, we don’t unwrap them until we need them.

It’s almost like on the Wizard of Oz when the Great Oz presents the scarecrow with a sheet of paper:

Wizard of Oz:: Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitartus Committiartum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of ThD.
Scarecrow: ThD?
Wizard of Oz: That’s… Doctor of Thinkology”(Wizard of Oz).

RumpoleProblem Solving?  Unraveling mysteries, deciphering handwriting, solving a riddle.  Sherlock Holmes, watch out, Ms. Marple, step aside. Rumpole, it’s not your turn..  The Great Mommy Detective – that’s me.

I’ve solved the following mysteries:

The Case of the Missing Turtle Head

The Case of the Missing Homeschool Work,

The Case of the Missing Ice Cream,

The Mystery of the Missing Words

The Case of the Missing Cell Phone,

The Case of the Missing Fire in the Belly for Life,

The Case of Not Being Able to Pass an Open Book Test,

The Mystery of the Big Kitchen Mess

The Case of Not Following Directions,

The Case of Sitting on the Bench,

The Mystery of the Door Knock

The Case of the Stalking Stomach Ache,

The Case of the Missing Passing Grade, 

The Case of the Sore Knees and Feet,

The Missing Thin Mint Mystery

The Return of the Stalking Stomach Ache,

The Case of the Son who Would not LISTEN to Lectures,

The Case of the Missing Child

The Case of the Problem Logic Couldn’t Solve,

The Case of the Missing Facial Cleanser,

The Missing Sub Sandwich Mystery

The Case of the Empty Laundry Detergent Bottle,

The Case of the Stinky Feet

The Great Christmas Present Mystery

The Case of the Missing Dr. Pepper Inside the Bottle

The Case of the Blown Transmission

The Case of the Mysteriously Appearing Tinkle on the Toilet

However, I cannot take credit for the trickiest mysteries.  In the most difficult cases-I was just the ghost writer for God. After I had collected all the information, stacked up all the clues, consulted with specialists, I found myself missing the key information that would solve the mystery. I had followed all the leads, logically approached the problem from every angle.

No, I didn’t pick up the phone.  I dropped to my knees, bowed my head, and through my tears, gave the case to God.

He has people. When He sends His people, problems get solved.

From 1st to 6th grade, one son had a stomach ache that grew and grEW and GREW.  In 3rd grade, we sent him to one children’s hospital for tests. “Just give him more fiber,” they said.  So I did, and chocked it full of chocolate, so he’d eat more.

We spent 3 hours a night just to help this son who had once been an top student make Cs.  He ran more and more like his great-granny ran, this one son who had run like a gazelle.  The 6-pack he had been born with disappeared.  A haunted look appeared on his face.

In 6th grade, his pediatrician did an x-ray and ultra-sound.  Nothing.  “It must be in his head,” I was told.  I was angry, angry at my son because he was either lying to me and at the pain, because if it were real that meant there was a problem.

I literally wanted to punch a hole in a wall. How emasculating to be a woman and not be able to do that!

Instead, at 4 p.m. in the afternoon one late Spring day, I dropped to my knees.  I prayed, “You know what is in him God.  You put it there.  You planned his days before he was born.  YOU know what is going on.  YOU know what he needs.  YOU know the solution.”  And I cried.

Three days later, I was talking to someone at his school about the pain. Sometimes, when God is moving, you end up telling people your need story.  While you’re telling it, you wonder, “Why am I doing this?  Why can’t I stop this?”  Because, for that day, that person is one of God’s people He sends to give the key to unlock the mystery.  She gave me the name of a doctor her daughter used.

Sitting in his office 2 weeks later, the nurse asked, “On a level of one to 10, what would you say your pain level was?”

painscale“Nine,” he answered.

When she left the room, I said, “Really? You’re a nine.  One more and you’d want to go to the hospital?”

“Yes,” he said.  His answer humbled me.

When the doctor came in, he pushed around his stomach.  At one point, my son about came off the table.

The doctor informed us that where the pain was located was not an area where “in the head” pain occurred.  I hadn’t even said anything about that.  He scheduled a scope.

He had esophagitus.  Where some people have really bad acid reflux, others have pain that resembles pain from a  heart attack, which is what he was having.  Imagine, you ladies out there, having severe menstrual cramps 7 days a week.  It would wear you down, be difficult to concentrate at school, interfere with you athletic ability, and give you a haunted look.

They put him on Nexium.  He cannot have chocolate, caffein, or mint. The pain went away, but the real work was ahead. The re-emergence of my son began.  He had to rebuild his strength, re-learn how to run, and re-build his grades.  His teachers were amazed at the difference in the boy who came to class.  He greeted them with a smile, participated, led.

This was one of my biggest mystery cases.  However, I cannot take credit for resolution.  I have to give that credit to The Master Detective, God. Thank you, God!


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Swine Flu has turned a family member into a boarish-feeling, snout-snuffling, grunting, hacking, coughing, retching statistic of a media-hyped illness.   How to turn this Swine Flue victim back into an up-right walking, clean-nose, easy breathing, content-containing-stomach owning homosapien?  A Harry Potter Spell?  Rabbit hair and dirt stirred into a paste and rubbed across the forehead?  Definitely not.

 Media coverage has bumped this flu up there with the plague.  “It’s not as bad as the yearly flu,” medical personel said. H1N1 tests are now only given to health care personal, prison inmates, and pregnant woman. Medical personel said only 40% of the H1N1 tests were correct.  By the time a positive result is received, it is too late for Tamiflu.  The Type A flu test is the alternative for the comman man.  Our Swine Flu victim literally hurled to a positive. Bingo!

I am rather piggish when it comes to my personally-developed household Illness Protocol. Quiet, Please!  No squealing  or complaining.  Just follow the mom-established guidelines for disease control.

  • Go to the doctor
  • Earn a positive test result
  • Fill prescription for Tamiflu and what other recommended meds
  • Tuck the patient in bed for a long nap
  • Make Swine Flue Soup!
  • Coat Lysol on all household surfaces
  • Wash hands as though you were a surgeon

All 5 boys love this recipe.  I have served it at church functions where everyone was supposed to bring a pot of soup.  Everyone raved so much over the soup that I almost felt guilty.  The recipe is incredibly simple, but good to the last drop. You’ll have your Swine Flu victim turned back to normal soon enough.  It might take awhile for the snout to disappear, though.

  • 100_2482Simmer one chicken in a soup pot with celery.  Puree the celery in the food processor if you want your kids to eat all the soup and not leave little green chunks.  Add salt and pepper while simmering.




Remove chicken from pot.  While cooling, add 1 family-size can of Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Stir until blended. 




100_2485Add spaghetti or bow-tie pasta.  Chop chicken while the soup simmers.  Add to pot. Soon you will hear slurping and spoons scraping the bottom of the bowl, in addition to voices asking, “May I have some more?”  Afterwards, wrap up in a quilt and sleep off that dead boar of a flu!

A serious word of caution:  One member of our family had it before the second member was diagnoses.  We had no idea the first family member even had the flu.  We thought he had a cold.  He plays a lot of sports, runs hard, and sometimes experiences nauseau after exercise.  Another athlete on the team had the flu previously.   Though H1N1 is not dangerous to healthy people, it is dangerous to those with reduced immunity, like cancer patients, people with asthma, and our elderly.  Take care of them!


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heartsccKatie over at From the Heart has a post that speaks right to my heart, How Do You Love?  Some love with words.  Some with hugs.  Some with helping hand.  Some help just by spending time with you. Some help by giving.  By giving, I mean giving holistically: words, hugs, help, time, and gifts.

I love easiest by words.  I feel most loved with words.  However, not all my sons feel hugged by my words.  One feels loved just by rubbing my fingers on his cheek or touching is arm in the car.

One feels all loved-up when we spend quality time together.  A simple trip to Petco or even Panera Bread Co., giving him time to talk without interruption, allowing him to be the star of the moment, makes him feel special, loved.

chessOne son loves to give, but he does it with wisdom and insight.  Not rashness.  Not guilt.  When you receive a gift from him, you know he puts a lot of thought into it.  He and the oldest one gave me a chess set one year on my birthday.  They planned, saved their money, and gave me the most perfect gift.

I try to love holistically.  I’ve knitted blankets and prayed for the son I was knitting it for. I’ve knitted baby hats, girl-friend scarves for my sons, teacher scarves.  I’ve baked casseroles for friends who needed meals.  I’ve extended myself in friendship because I assume that there’s someone out there like me who needs a good friend.  I pray.  I try to encourage.

However, love isn’t always pretty.  Love is tough.  Love holds the feet to the fire.  I used to teach college composition. Many students loathed me because I just wouldn’t give them a grade.  They had to work for the grade.  I pushed them hard.  I loved them enough to risk their contempt and hatred because I knew they needed to be prepared for writing requirements in college and in the job market.  One student sent me a note last year thanking me for teaching her to believe in herself.  Another told me how she had lectured a couple of students complaining in the library about my class.  Then she told me that my class gave her the tools to succeed without sweating in the other classes.  Love is tough.  Love is not a popularity contest.


My older sons complain every now and then about me holding their feet to the fire, fighting the good fight.  Yes, I love them enough to make them mad.  Some get made like a massive hurricane storm, some brew like a hot muggy day that just simmers with no relief, some just thunder for a moment and then it blows over, some are like upper level clouds where the rain evaporates before it touches the ground.  Stealth Temper.  It still needs to be recognized even though it’s hardly noticable.

Some people believe in quota love.  Quota love is where you only love a select group.  God calls on us to love beyond that quota we have set in our heart.  God needs us to love not only inside our family circle, but outside that circle as well.  We are called to be spiritual mothers as well.  A smile, an encouraging word, a prayer might be the hand-up a child or another mom needs in a moment of crisis that we don’t see. The love within us is big enough to love as many people as you want.

I do not always love well, but I never give up.

Love never gives up! Love feeds!  Love cuddles!  Love disciplines! Love knits! Love stares down pressure! blueberryLove hugs with food when hugs aren’t “in.” Love opens your heart to your kid’s friends.  Love quilts! Love prays! Love hopes in the face of adversity! Love lectures! Love sees past the tantrum into the goodness! Love is unconditional!  Love offers friendship!  Love Champions!

Paul says it best, though:

Love is patient, and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the TRUTH. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Read more about the diversity in love in Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love LanguagesHow do you love? Please share with me in a comment.  I’d love to read about it!

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My aunt was so proud of my pickles and preserves that she entered them into the state fair.  My big head was brought down to size when we discovered the difference between county and state fairs. At the county fair, the judges didn’t taste the preserves.  Mine were just the prettiest.  At the state fair, they tasted.  Mine didn’t win. This goes to show beauty only counts in county fairs and beauty pagents!  It’s what’s inside that counts!

Blackberry Hand-me Downs

By Maryleigh at Blue Cotton Memory

“Hand me down some summertime, Darlin’,”

asks breakfast table relations,

“Some of that blackberry summer time.”

“Blackberry jams all gone,” comes the answer

“All Gone till summer time.

When berry time comes, I’ll preserve


some summer time.”

drops of lemon and sugar pounds,

bitter-sweetened blackberries

picked in the chilled sweat

of morning’s summer sun

oozes juice



a cotton apron.

sweetly to syrup it cooks


to the rumbling Galaxy fan

blowing hotness

against salty sweat that balls

like candy


down flushed cheeks.

stirring carefully,

sometimes carelessly

damp hands swat flies

and the noon siren hollers from town

as shoes stick to the jelled linoleum.




hot clean Mason jars and

settle in a water bath.

tidy up

cool down

fish out

jars glisten on cheesecloth rows

lined like plowed fields

in pink watermelon prints

and in the falling of the day

when shades are pulled

dry coolness draws heat

from sweaty skin twitching

to a tin beat




sealed and saved

until little and b ig

voices around the breakfast table say,

“Hand me down some of that Summer Time.”

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Noah Webster’s 18 28 Dictionary provides the quintessential defintion of education.  Sadly, it probably wouldn’t be allowed reading in public schools today.

“EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties(http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/education).

This is true holistic education!  What do you think?

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A mom’s birthday is so different from the parties planned for a mom’s child.  As a mom, I gather my sons’ friends, design a cake that will inprint in their memory, fill up water balloons until my fingers are sore, puzzle over party favors that are cost efficient but are die-to-take-home favors.  A day of celebration, a day that hugs all around and down the years. 

Love is a determination that finds a way to re-bag   a surprise 16 party that a “friend” let out of the bag.  I’ve planned 2 surprise 16 parties.  It is so fun to be able to lie for 3 weeks about everything in a surprise party and not go to hell for it.  For example, one 16th party, I reminded my son that one set of neighbors was having a family reunion.  I was making lemon-curd meringue shell pies to help them out.  By the way, watch out for all the cars.  The reunion folk would be parking up and down the street. Not a word that was true!

My husband and I had worked out a plan. He and Perceiver of Truth were going to the movies with Perceiver’s best friend.  I was going to send out an SOS emergency call about a snake on the porch, a poisonous-looking snake.  They would return to save the fear-stricken family.  It worked out “perfectly.”  Of course, it helped that the night before, an actual snake curled up on the column of the front porch. 

My birthday, though I boast it’s the 3rd most important day of the year (after Jesus’ birth and resurrection), is filled with ecleticly mom-moments.  For example, when I was 40, I planned my own surprise party. I think my husband was the most surprised because I actually did it.  Of course, I wasn’t really surprised, but it was so fun planning it!

For two years in a row, I cancelled my birthday, rescheduling it for another day.  The boys, snarly and snipping , were in such foul moods.  One shouldn’t celebrate in the midst of such unpleasant tempers.  Birthdays should be laughing, smilling, hugging occasions. 

One year, on the way to Outback Steakhouse (so totally yum), the two littlest cried in perpetual chorus, “I want to go to O’Charley’s.  Why can’t we go to O’Charley’s?”

As we were driving closer to my happy birthday dinner, the lyrics to Rodney Atkin’s  song, “If You’re Going Through Hell” came on the radio:

“If your going through hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there

Yeah, If you’re going through hell
Keep on moving, face that fire
Walk right through it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there”

This is a song you don’t want to live on your birthday.  However, that song is now a thread in the tapestry of my birthday memories.  Funny, my husband and I don’t have a special song, but I have a special birthday song. 

A Mama’s birthday!  How different!  Today, how perfect, in a mama-kind-of way.

We went to church.  I couldn’t have picked a sermon that I wanted to hear, or my sons to hear any better.  God did a great job planning my day.  Our minister spoke about the power of words, that what you speak is what you get.  In other words, speak Faith.  Speak God’s promises on your life! 

  • “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit”(Proverbs 18:21)
  • “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Proverbs 10:19)
  • “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight”(Pslam 19:14)
  • “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”(Ephesians 4:29)
  • “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”(Jeremiah 29:11)
  • “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life”(Proverbs 10:11)
  • “For we all stumble in many ways.  And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridlge his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at the ships also:  though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directions.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things”(James 3:2-5)

This was accompanied by a story of one of our high school graduates who would be going to the Citadel.  Teachers and counselors told him he would never get accepted.  He applied anyway. His father finally told him, after he hadn’t had a response, to speak his Faith.  He did.  He’s going.

I’ve had so many people do the same to me.  My high school counselor and mom talked.  They decided that I should not go into journalism.  I just really did not have the talent, they said–just because your mama thinks you are good doesn’t really mean you are.  That I was editor of the school paper who earned special recognition meant nothing to them. 

I could have said, “Oh, well, you’re a failure.  They say so.”  Instead, I went to college, wrote for the local newspaper for about 2 years before I entered graduate school.

In graduate school, my thesis advisor dropped me.  He didn’t think I had it.  The graduate advisor told me I had no creative ability whatsoever. I was in the wrong area.  I was 8 months pregnant.  I went home, cried, pulled myself together, delivered a baby and an honorable mention short story in the Sigma Tau Delta national literary magazine.  I found a new thesis advisors, finished my creative thesis, and turned it in.  The Dean of the Graduate School called our department chairman, declaring it the best creative thesis that had come over her desk.

Other people’s words have the power to tear down.  However, what we speak about our gifts and ourselves, well, that is up to what comes out of our mouths.  We control that.  I am a firm believer in what you speak is what you get.  There are enough people in the world willing to stomp on dreams, without the dreamers stomping on their dreams, too!

After church, we had Chess and Checkers time.  I was soundly defeated in both by my oldest son.  I rarely lose, but having all my boys around  just playing Chess and Checkers was a win for me.

We went to my favorite restaurant, Crawdaddy’s, for my favorite meal.  No crying this time.  Sweet Sallies Bakery made my favorite chocolate ganache cupcakes ( I ordered too late for a cake), but everyone loves a cupcake. 

Not mentioned in my day was rampant house cleaning during Chess and Checkers because we’re moving, trying to sell our house, and the realtor wanted to show it during my birthday lunch.  Not mentioned was that after my birthday nap, we drove 3 hours to where we’re going to move to get things set to move at the end of the week.  A mom’s birthday is uniquely different from our children’s.

However, at the end of my uniquely perfect birthday, I sat down to write this post for Blue Cotton Memory, my dream come to life!

Thanks ladies, for making my birthday so uniquely mom-perfect!

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I got the most beautiful gift hug from Mika today at Not Really Homeschooling, also known as Little Nut Tree.  Mika’s blog provides fun, easy-to-do hands-on activities for children.  She’s definitely the mom I was always trying to be when my guys were littler.  She also does it better! 

Mike has also been such a great encourager to me on this great adventure.   God always sends beautiful encouragers on our dream quests! Stop by and give her some of those  Words of Affirmation hugs that we all need!

blogaward To accept the award, I have to pass it on to 15 blogs that I have newly discovered and enjoy reading. (Oops!  I couldn’t narrow down further-I have 16).  Of course, since I’m new, all of them are newly discovered.  The blogs listed below have encouraged the mom, the girl, the writer, the cook, the home decorator, and the simply maryleigh in me.


  1.  Seasons of My Heart:  A faith blog for moms with children who are getting ready to leave the nest.  Beautiful!  Our job doesn’t end when they graduate from high school.  It’s a blog that makes motherhood seem as fresh and lively as it did when our children were 4, 6, 8, except we get to be all put together, elegant, and fresh again.
  2. It’s Almost Naptime:  Mother stories with positive, uplifting humor.  Anyone who recognizes the value of naptime has my vote any day.
  3. From the Heart: A college student presents ideas that affirm the best in their peers using solid language skills that  reach out in a lovely way!  Isn’t this what we’d like our own children to do?
  4. I Choose Bliss:  Her blog makes me smile.  It reminds me of the Quaker song, “Tis a Gift to be Simple. Tis a Gift to be Free. Tis a Gift to come down where we ought to be.”  It’s like being loved by your grandma, though she’s not a grandma. 
  5. He Gave Me A Dream:   This blog is a hand reaching out to pull you up when you’re down.  Not through humor, but through encouragement.
  6. Crown of Beauty: A Spiritual Mother kind of blog that just hugs ever so gently. 
  7. Let’s Embellish:  Artsy mom uses her art as craft for her children!  I can’t do it, but I love to look at it!
  8. Tutus Bliss:  Visually Beautiful!  Fun content!  The colors just snap, crackle, and pop .
  9. Misty Dowdy Family:  Good old family love raising two boys
  10. Smelling Coffee Today:  A heap of family, a sprinkling of good food, seasoned with Faith
  11. Cinnamon, Spice and Everything Nice:  Beautifully staged recipes that really deliver.
  12. Sunny Brook Tales:  Stories woven by a southern writer 
  13. Seedlings in Stone:  I don’t know if Seedlings in Stone really wants this.  I’ve been to craft blogs where the craft is art.  I’ve been to food blogs where food is art.    This is a blog where writing is art.  
  14. Lemonade Makin’ MamaAll about being a Mama, but, as you probably guessed, has the best lemonade recipe in the world! My boys love it!
  15. A Soft Place to Land:  This so speaks to the girl in me! 
  16. The V Files: This one is particularly close to my heart.  The author  introduced me to blogging, opening a door to make my dream a reality.

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03-06-2009 04;17;10PMDid you know that if you say “Gullible” real slow, it sounds like greenbeans?

That’s what my third son told me.

And I fell for it!

Much to his amusement.

He says I owe him $15 dollars every time I use that joke.

He should have been named Joyful.  He has such a joyful spirit: good humored, mischievous, comfortable-in-his-skinness, gladness.  Nehemiah says, “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength”(8:10).  Strength implies that there something beyind a good laugh.  Strength with joy says, “I won’t be a victim” when challenges come.  An I-will-approach-challenges-with-a-hope kind of  attitude. 

Sometimes I call him The Freshness after the Storm.  I love storms, the sound of the rain, the way the wind can buffet the house, even the thunder.  As much as it sometimes scares me and I like to cuddle up on the couch with the blanket, sometimes I like to stand on the porch and just watch.  A storm is feisty and gentle all at once. You have the booms, jagged lightening that explodes, rain pelting  and chilling.  You also have the gentle palpitating drip of water off the eaves and leaves, the gurgling  going down pipes, the soft sound of rain droplets hitting the pavement.

After the storm spends itself, you have the freshness after the storm.  Sweet sunshine, red, blue, green, yellow, purples—all the colors rebrightened from the washing.  Peacefulness.  Calm.  Joy.

03-10-2009 01;56;41PMAll the boys communicate differently.  When they’re all together communicating, it can resemble a Hurricane with its force or a Tsunami, a big wave hovering, threatening by its very presence to run over you.

Separately, they all communicate differently.  Heart-to-heart sit-downs where you talk about everything from politics, to God, to whose scones are better—yours or mine—that’s Perceiver of Truth.   Everybody talks.  Everybody voices.  Each mind brews ideas, sending them through a discerning filter of appropriateness, creating a rich conversation.

Faithful spills the beans, verbally and emotionally, about what’s going on in life.  It is like an Octopus-in-the-Box.  Sometimes you just wish some of those legs would stay in the box!  Unfiltered communication tossed, sometimes hurled, like a baseball in a tournament.  You’re left trying to catch it without dropping the ball, trying to figure out strategic, skilled response.  I teach my college students about writing dialogue.  In a dialogue between two people, you list not only their conversation, but the conversation in their head.  Great on paper, not in real life.  However, what you see is what you get, honest, unalloyed, unvarnished truth.

Deep verbal discussion?  Emotional outpouring of life’s ups and downs?  Not Joyful.

Conversation requires purpose.  Purpose can be to encourage—“Great dinner, Mom.”  Or what he said to the girl down the street in the 5th grade.  She was to compete as an 8th  grader in our county’s Fairest of the Fair.  “If I were a judge, I’d vote for you,” he told her.  So young!  So pure of heart!  So not 14!

Joyful has grown beyond snugglebuggles and telling me he loves me, but he communicates in code now.  Let me give you an example:

“Mama?  Can I have a pet anaconda (or warthog, sheep dog, otter, or any animal of the week)?”

That’s code  for, “I love you, Mom.”  Now that I have broken the code, I just smile, saying, “I love you, too.”  Funny, he hasn’t asked for a pet anaconda for awhile. 

Then there’s this question.  “Mama,” he asks (mama is the word of choice when he wants something.  Mom is for the really serious stuff). “Mama, can I have $15?”

After hearing this question for months (of course, I didn’t turn over the money), I broke another code.  Money was code for hug.  The amount he asked for determined how many hugs he really wanted.

He hasn’t asked for money in quite a few weeks, either. 

He no longer brags on my food.  Instead, he will say, “Great dinner, Mom. . . . Not.”  I’ve learned that’s code for “YUM.”

barrettpumpkin2Joyful is a giver spiritual gift and love language.  He actually likes to buy gifts for people. He initiates the gift giving.  When he was about 5, we were Christmas shopping.  He saw a brightly painted ceramic gift bag.  He thought Dad should have it.  He was determined Dad would love it.

He and Perceiver of Truth always pick out my birthday present together.  One year they bought me a marble chess set.  It replaced the one where some other little guy dropped all the mable pieces to watch their heads fall off.  I love playing chess with the boys–and winning!  Another year they bought me a great sign that said:  “There will be a $5 Charge for Whining.  $20 for Being a Real Pain in the Butt.  Gift givers gifts are not shallow gifts.

In 7th grade he was “going out” with a girl.  On Valentine’s Day, he bought her a box of chocolates.  She loved them.  She ate all of them.  She threw them all up—can’t eat chocolate.

When I’m cooking dinner, he comes in the kitchen and gives me hugs.  When he was little, he used sneak up and hug me.  Now he hugs me with one arm and steals food with the other.  Silly me.  I stand there in a quandary.  Should I let him eat everyone’s dinner, or I just be a hug hog!  The older I get, the more hug hog trumps kitchen rules any day!

barrett2His teachers love him in class.  He answers questions, participates in discussion, and adds humor to break tension.  He used to write lyrics to songs.  I haven’t seen any in awhile, but it showed me that while he doesn’t jump in with the political discussion or emotionally vent, he has big, deep thoughts that amaze me, thoughts about God and plain living. 

 He’s starting to realize his gift with words.  At the beach, he asked a girl, “Can I take a picture of you with my cell phone, so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?” 

 Sigh!  Each gift is a double-edged sword.

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GIjoe Seventh and eighth grade are rife with drama.  Young boys and girls budding into young men and women – wanting to be all grown up.  Gymboree is all packed away – no more Baby Gap.  Disney is passé and, suddenly, you realize most movies aren’t what they used to be.  However, it’s the relationships that rule the day – and the emotions.

 One son was particularly dazzled during this  period of angst.  However, the drama would not be blinded by . . . dazzle.  That’s the best word for it: brighter than sparkle, deeper than a crush.  Entranced, fascinated, stupefied—all of which ultimately leads into perplexed, staggered, astounded, confused . . .  because they’re cakes!

 Let me explain it the way I explained it to my son, his friends, and, yes, all those wonderful girls fluttering around the soccer fields, the football fields, and, even church.lilipopcake5.jpg

 You’re a cake.  She’s a cake. 

 As you mix the cake – add the eggs, flour, butter, sugar, cocoa et al, you are filled, consumed with tremendous expectations for the cake.  You can imagine what it tastes like, looks like, and how it makes you feel. 

 You have appropriate expectations of your relationship with that cake.  It should have 2 to 3 layers.  It should come out of the oven the edges slightly pull away from the sides, determining the structure’s firmness.  The toothpick test proves the inside isn’t uncooked.  If you lightly push into the cake’s center, the cake immediately springs back to its pre-pushed shape.  These are tests for doneness.  Behavior that proves it is able to fulfill your expectations.

If the cake is done, it is satisfying – yummy!  Fulfilling!

justbaseballcake However, if you take the cake out of the oven too early, it is frustrating, disappointing, and a little bit yucky. 

 That’s how a relationship is in the 7th and  8th grade .  Seventh and Eight graders aren’t “done” yet.  They aren’t ready for the relationships they have expectations for.  They’re still cooking, getting ready, not done yet.  They need to be firmer in their character, more resilient in their response to pressure.   As a result, a relationship during that time period reeks, oozes, whines, and yells frustration, disappointment,  leaving a bad taste about relationships.

When my son would come home, complaining about the drama, I’d say, “What did you expect?  She’s a cake.  You’re a cake.  Wait a while.  Neither of you are ready for a relationship yet!  Just like that cake isn’t ready to come out of the oven before the required cook time.  You’re still cooking! 

 The visual message allows them humor, to receive the message in a non-threatening way.  It also allows them to realize that these early broken relationships aren’t a result of not being pretty or handsome enough, smart or witty enough, or even cool enough.  It is not because they lack something dazzling.  Rather, it is just because the internal timer has not buzzed, “You’re Done!” 

Of course, the girls liked to tease my son, “You’re such a cake.”  I bet they realized they were cakes, too!

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