Holy Week – “Do You See This Woman?” I Do, Lord.

And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

Now when the Pharisee, who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

She has always intrigued me. Haunted me. Called out to me.

I require His forgiveness equally. But I don’t easily recognize it.

Have long prayed to be this aware of what I have received from Him.

May gratitude overshadow all pride, fear, insecurity – and overflow in humble expression.

No matter who’s looking.

And, turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.

Luke 7: 36 – 47

Spending today asking to be searched and made aware of sin.

So that I can recognize the expensive gift He gave.

So that I can give freely, lavishly, and expensively.

Not safely and comfortably – but expressively, demonstratively.

Also re-reading Bold Love by Dan Allender…

In order to talk about the love of God – His merciful gift of forgiveness – one must be deeply sincere, almost driven, to face the darkness, the foul blight, the oozing stain of sin. This is not a terribly popular thought, an even less attractive exercise. Why, when so many suffer from severe self-contempt, poor self-images, and profound relational emptiness, would anyone, especially a psychologist, encourage wounded strugglers to ponder wickedness? It sounds cruel, but it can be life-giving. How?

The answer is as complex as the convoluted, fallen human soul, but it can be addressed in simple terms: Mercy is persistently meaningful only to the degree I am silenced by the enormity of my refusal to love God and others with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Yes. I want to be searched, and acknowledge that which keeps me from loving Him and others fully.

And trying to be faithfully expressive, not withholding of my love to Christ and to those He’s given me when it IS revealed to me. For example…

A few weeks ago, at our weekly couples’ Bible study, a new couple joined us. They are delightful, academic, devout, European newlyweds! We greeted them in the kitchen, took their coats, and began introducing them to the others in the group. Some time later, Kory (my oldest), walked in to the kitchen, smiled, thrust out his hand, and confidently, with eye contact said, “Hi, I’m Kory.”

Now that may not sound like a big deal to you, but this Mama was so proud. There was no prompting needed. No sullen, apathetic, rude teenager here, but a humble, respectful, polite, and welcoming young man – whose comfort zone, that gesture was probably a bit out of. I was sincerely amazed. I mean he’s a great kid, but this was grown-up stuff!

I mentioned how proud I was to Robert later that night. I even thanked the Lord for the work He is doing in my almost 15 year old. And then it occurred to me….why have I not expressed these sentiments to the one who made me so proud?

So, the next night as I was putting the boys to bed (yes, they still expect us to do this, and I’m not complaining!) I said, “Kory, I just wanted you to know how proud I was of you last night when you welcomed Luca and Jennie, and introduced yourself to them. That was a very kind and loving thing to do. Adults are especially blessed when a young person shows that kind of maturity and respect. Thank you so much for doing that.”

And this may also seem like no big deal to you, but recently I’ve realized that this is an area of sin in my life. Withholding love, affection, encouragement, compliment, appreciation. I might think it, but something keeps me from saying it, and I know it has so much to do with my pride (Appreciation requires humility) and a sense of entitlement (My kids should act this way, and without acknowledgment.). And not always. I’ve definitely grown in this area, but I’d like the prideful restraint to be gone completely. I think Jesus would, too. For my own benefit. Because He knows I will be more joyful. More free.

I’d like to more fully recognize the unrestrained love and acceptance of Christ – and that when I had done NOTHING pleasing to Him – and then return it lavishly in my devotion to Him and my love for others.

Being forgiven much. Loving much.

Like her.

Havin’ Fun at the Beach – On Ice !?!

Kayla’s ice skating show was today, and she did a great job! The theme was “A Skate for all Seasons,” and her number happened to be during the “Summer” part of the show, called “Havin’ Fun at the Beach.” There were about 8 other girls in that number – all at or around the same level as Kayla. There are 8 levels in the Learn to Skate program and Kayla is on level 4. (She’s actually stuck on a particular skill needed to pass this level. Maybe by the end of the school year she’ll get it!) This is her second year to be in the program. Not sure she’s too pleased with these photos as she was NOT happy that the wrap-around style skirt showed too much leg on the one side. (Have no idea where she gets these clothing/modesty issues. ; ) )
And afterward, to celebrate her great performance, we headed to a local cafe for a gluten free cupcake, a drink, and quite a bit of silliness!

So, ice skate show down – now on to baseball (2 sets of practices and games each week – starting tomorrow!), a ballet, piano, and choir recital between now and the end of May, Protocol Matters Night (fancy dinner and the theater with my 9th graders), and Memory Masters for Classical Conversations. (Coop’s got it just about down – $50, here he comes!) Whew! Feels like I won’t be breathing until mid-June.

Off to make Tuesday’s Latin and government quizzes now….Good Night!

(But, hope to see you some during the coming Holy Week.)

Dave Ramsey & The American Frugal Housewife Circa 1950?

This could be me.

(And, that could be Robert in the background, listening to his new Dave Ramsey CD’s while washing his car(truck). Himself. At home. With rags made from his old white t-shirts.)

Just wanted to share some exciting new kitchen goodies and gadgets that I recently acquired. Sadly, I left one of the most fun ones out of the picture – the salad spinner! Oh – it has saved many a dish towel and paper towel in the short amount of time I have owned it! I used to spend a WHOLE LOT of time submerging lettuce in a bowl of water, letting it drain in a colander, and then patting it dry with some sort of towel. That was a lot of prep work prior to the actual MAKING of the salad! I think I’m saving a few steps and some time with this $12.00 investment. (I’ve managed to hold onto a stash of birthday/Christmas money specifically for a few new kitchen items and a new pair of Dansko’s (or two) which has become an annual tradition. It’s all gone now – fun while it lasted!)

And the other fun new items that you see here are a new garlic press, (the old one was chipping – paint chips and pesto, anyone?), magnetic measuring spoons (no chain needed, no more scattered spoons in the drawer), a new grater/zester (had been using a large standing grater for this), a whisk (would you believe I didn’t own a whisk?) and last, but not least, local MAPLE SYRUP! A bunch of my mom-friends sent half gallon jars with a volunteer mom to get fresh syrup from a local sugar shack. I bought only one gallon – for $45, which is a really good deal – prices had been up to $70 per gallon. And as you can see, I’m not doing a very good job of rationing the stuff – I’ve only had mine for a week! I bought a half gallon of grade A and a half gallon of grade B. So far, we’ve only had the grade B, and it is delicious – has a stronger maple taste than grade A. I’m posting a recipe below that is one indication of why so much of this precious commodity is GONE!

This is beginning to feel like a chapter out of
The American Frugal Housewife, 1832 – Dedicated to Those Who are not Ashamed of Economy

Oh! And the other NEW item in the photo is the oven. Our old one (circa 1947) was still working alright, but beginning to show its age. For example, the front left burner decided to stop working at the end of last year. Then, the”broil” feature decided to quit. The rubber seals became very brittle and had all but completely broken off, making the oven a means of not only heating the food, but also the entire house. After we came home from Texas in January, we received an electric bill that was about $100 less than or usual bill. We thought is was due to the new frig and deep freeze some friends had generously bought for us, and they did probably help. But, then we asked our friend who house-sat if she had used the oven at all. “Not once,” was her reply. So, as much as I didn’t want to get rid of my cute retro oven with the double doors, it became evident that it was time!

(Oh – and the rattling frig got fixed by replacement this week!)

And don’t tell Dave Ramsey, but we did put it on our Sears credit card and plan to have it paid off with no interest within the next few months! (Did the same thing with a new washer last year – and just finished paying that one off with no interest, so I guess that meant it was time for another appliance to need replacing! Ugh. Why does that always seem to happen??!)

Here’s the adorable retro oven that now sits in the garage awaiting a new Craig’s List owner! (And I loved how it went so nicely with the retro checked floor. Oh well.)

I actually had it appraised once and found that it is worth about $500. It would be worth even more if it had a fancier style and attached canisters for sugar, tea, flour, etc. as some from the same era did. I really hate parting with it, but I’m hoping the proceeds will go to a good cause like summer day camp for three children!
(Or maybe we should pay off the new oven. Dave can be kind of a downer.)

I can’t believe this entire post is ending up being about my kitchen, but while I’m at it, I might as well also tell you that TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Pier 1 are where I got deals on all of the small kitchen gadgets. They are better quality, and were priced much lower than ANY I found at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Linens and Things. I just kept refusing to pay $15 for a lemon zester, and then one turned up for $5 at Pier 1 while I was shopping there for a birthday gift.

And here are the things I didn’t buy, but hope to with the next round of holidays:

a juicer
a good blender
(Mine works OK – but also circa 1950, from my grandmother. Don’t know if I’ll ever let myself buy this one, but it will even grind nuts and grains! Wow!)
an ice cream maker
a set of good knives
a mortar and pestle

I did recently receive THIS from J&K for my birthday, and can’t wait to post an attempt at one of Julia’s recipes!
(When I told Jack that I would whip him up a fancy French dish the next time he visited, he said, “The only French dish I’d like you to make for me are some of those fancy French FRIES.”

And aside from a round of Sunday night pancakes, here’s the recipe that required a good portion of my new maple syrup:
(And speaking of recipes, I’ll try and update the recipe index tonight as well.)

Baked Chicken with Maple Glaze

1 whole roasting chicken
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

3/4 cup apple cider

1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place rinsed chicken in roasting pan and brush with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for one hour at 375 degrees. While chicken roasts in oven, stir together apple cider and cornstarch. Pour this, the maple syrup, and the pumpkin pie spice in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-4 minutes until thickens. Brush some of this glaze over chicken and then continue to bake another hour at 325 degrees – brushing more of glaze on once or twice in the hour. Keep glaze on low heat while chicken bakes. When done, cut chicken into serving pieces, arrange on platter and brush with remaining glaze.

(I doubled the entire recipe for our weekly Bible study/potluck dinner.)

And now let me leave you with some “chicken instructions” from Mrs. Child of early 19th century Frugal Housewife fame…..

“An hour is enough for common sized chickens to roast. A smart fire is better than a slow one; but they must be tended closely. Slices of bread, buttered, salted, and peppered, put into the stomach (not the crop) are excellent.”

and an economical choice for children’s playtime….

“Provided brothers and sisters go together, and are not allowed to go with bad children, it is a great deal better for the boys and girls on a farm to be picking blackberries at six cents a quart, than to be wearing out their clothes in useless play. They enjoy themselves just as well; and they are earning something to buy clothes at the same time they are tearing them.”

Pretty sure Dave would approve.

Gluten Free Friday – Finally, A Recipe Index (In Progress)

I’ve been meaning to do this forever! I know you’ve been able to click on “Gluten Free Recipes” in the “category cloud” over there in the right sidebar, but to find a certain kind of recipe – say, a soup, or side dish, would require you (and me!) to scroll through three years worth of Friday recipe posts! So, here is the first portion of a recipe index. If you read the last post, you know that I really don’t have much time to breathe, let alone blog, but I do enjoy it, so I’ll do another section of the index each Friday for the next few weeks until I’ve got them all in order.

(FYI – sometimes there are two recipes per post, so if the one you’re looking for doesn’t show at first, be sure to scroll down and see if it’s the second recipe listed in the post!)

Sweet Stuff, Breakfast Stuff, and Crunchy Stuff
( Desserts, etc)

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Apple Crisp
Lemon Poppyseed Cake
Zucchini Quinoa Cake
Fudge Pops
Java Crunch Fudge Pops
Honeydew Mint Popsicles
Cherry Chocolate Chip Popsicles
Tropical Popsicles
Chunky Monkey Popsicles
Pan Roasted Granola
Homemade Lemonade
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Buttermilk Pancakes
Cherry Vanilla Muffins
Peanut Butter Macaroons
Energy & Protein Bars
Coffee Cake
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Tartlets
Baked Apples
Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake
Graham Crackers
Blueberry Muffins
A&J’s Chocolate Crispies
Microwave Caramel Popcorn
Betsy’s Brownies
Pumpkin Pancakes
Sugar Cookies
Pie Crust
Pumpkin Souffle
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Goat Milk Biscuits
Meyer Lemon Jelly
Best GF Yellow Cake
Beet Speckled Cake
“Bran” Muffins
Gluten Free Cranberry Almond Granola
Lemon Bars
Raw Vegan “Almost” Cheesecake
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins
Almond Macaroons
Lazy Puffy Pancakes
Roasted Chickpeas
Roasted Almonds
Chocolate Waffles
Energy Bites
Kale and Egg Scramble
Quinoa Peanut Butter Blondies
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars
Michelle’s Baked Oatmeal
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
Cinnamon Bundt Coffee Cake
Triple Chocolate Cake
Chia Seed Pudding ~ for Breakfast!
Fruit, Oat & Chia Overnight Breakfast Jars
A 7-Day Breakfast Plan
Snack Ideas!
Paleo Almond Butter Bars
Paleo Crackers

Shakes, Smoothies, and Drinks

Key Lime Pie Shake
Cilantro-Pineapple Shake 
Farm Fresh Smoothie
Banana Latte Smoothie
“Get Yourself a Date” Smoothie
Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie
Pumpkin Love Smoothie
A Green Smoothie
I Need Some Green Stuff Smoothie
Nutty Fruit Smoothie
Running Recovery Smoothie
Coconut Milk “Coffee”


Roasted Tomato Soup
Meaty Minestrone
Lentil Vegetable Soup
Baked Potato Soup
Easy Beef and Bean Chili
Matooke (Ugandan beef and plantain stew)
Southwestern Vegetable Soup
White Chili
“Creamy” Chicken and Rice Soup
Lentil Chili
Turkey Tortilla Soup
Black Bean Soup
Triple Squash & Apple Soup
Sweet Potato Turnip Soup
Beef Stew
White Bean & Keilbasa Crockpot Stew
Homemade Chicken Broth
Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream
Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
Creamy Chicken Stew

Main Dishes

Maple Glazed Baked Chicken
Sesame Maple Chicken Wings
Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata
Sausage & Potato Frittata
Brunch Casserole
Pesto “Pita” Dinner
Spaghetti Pie
Chicken in Garlic Sauce
Turkey, Spinach, & Goat Cheese Lasagna
Barbecue Baked Brisket
Peruvian Potatoes with Chiles and Cheese
Broccoli & Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche
Mexican Cornbread
Butternut Squash, Onion, & Saffron Risotto
Mexican Steak
Thai Chicken & Rice
Crispy Chicken Strips
Bison Burgers
Portabella, Italian Sausage, and Butternut Squash Lasagne
Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps
Herbed Goat Cheese and Flank Steak Sandwiches
Chicken Tenders & Creamy Cider Sauce
Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado & Cheese Sandwiches
Coconut Chicken Curry
Sweet & Crunchy Chicken Salad
A 7-Day Dinner Plan
A 7-Day Lunch Plan
Ginger Orange Chicken
Totally Awesome Tilapia
White Bean & Pesto Spread on “Pitas”
Coconut & Red Lentil Curry
Baked Chicken with White Beans & Tomatoes
Honey Garlic Lemon Chicken Thighs

Sides, Dips, & Salads

Southwest Quinoa Salad
8 Layer Mexican Dip
Praline Sweet Potatoes
Cheese and Pesto Straws
Homemade Crackers
Hot Artichoke & Spinach Dip
Curried Quinoa
Twice Baked Potatoes
Pesto (& Pesto Pops)
West Lynne Cafe Pasta Salad
Puree of Beets
Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas
Peas & Rice Pilaf Salad
Italian Dressing
Christina’s Chicken & Wild Rice Salad
Sweet Potatoes with Baked Apples
Homemade Salsa
New Lane Peas
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
Black Bean Dip
Avocado Salsa
Homemade Barbeque Sauce
Potato Pancakes
Garlic Hummus
Warm Lentil & Red Potato Salad
Sweet Potato Fries
Kale, Carmelized Onions, & Pepperoni
Kale Pesto
Garlic and Parmesan Brussels’ Sprouts

Sandwich & Savory Breads

Birthdays, Girlfriends, Cousins, Magic Envelopes, Concerts, and Quadratic Equations

The Classical Conversations Challenge program that I have been teaching this year has proved to be just that: A Challenge. And not just for the students, but for ME – the teacher. Do you remember being in college, and feeling like your weekly reading/writing load might not be humanly possible? Well, that is how I’ve been feeling about my teaching prep load, and I am barely keeping my head above water. Here is just a sampling of what has to be accomplished in a week’s time:

Read Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Read “The Northwest Ordinance”
Read “The Missouri Compromise”
Read ” A House Divided” by Abraham Lincoln
Read “A Question of Slavery” by John Calhoun
Create a government quiz on the above items
Grade previous week’s quizzes
Create a Latin Quiz on The Present System Passive
Grade previous week’s quizzes on The Perfect System Active
Prepare 4 Algebra 1 lessons
Create an outline of the Physical Science Module and prepare experiments
Read 3 chapter’s of Sophie’s World and prep bios/discussion on 3 philosopher’s

and MORE!

I’m not sure why I thought I could fit this into my schedule, but it’s there – until the end of May, and I already committed to teach the same level again next year! The only way I could agree to this is that I have already put in the hard work of preparation this year – like being a first year teacher ALL over again!

So, in the midst of all this, I decided I could also fit it into my schedule to still go on a long ago planned girls’ road trip to North Carolina to see one of my favorite music artists – Sandra McCracken. My sweet friends, Lois and Cindy planned this trip for my 40th b-day. It was also a way to celebrate their recent milestone b-days: Lois turned 35, and Cindy turned 30. One person described our group as “the old lady, the middle aged lady, and the squirt!” : )

I was feeling pretty apprehensive about going on this trip with my current workload, but somehow couldn’t pass it up either!

Lois picked me up in a rented PT Cruiser, and then we headed to the church to pick up Cindy. After we were on the road a little while, a magic envelope appeared with lots of green stuff in it. “It’s magic,” said Lois, “and I guess we get to use it for our trip!”

Our first stop was in Baltimore, MD. We arrived VERY late at night to a warm and welcoming Dan and Jessie – old friends from church. They had everything ready for us – even a special batch of gluten free chocolate chip cookies!

The next morning, we were off again early to Charlotte, NC – our final destination. We stayed with my sweet cousin, Megan, her husband Fred, and their adorable kids – Freddy and Taylor, pictured above. Megan and Fred have an absolutely beautiful home near downtown Charlotte, and we felt like we were in a five star hotel with our comfy beds and in-room bathrooms! I just loved getting to know my little cousins-once-removed I believe it is!? Taylor and Freddy are just precious, and they are eagerly anticipating a new brother or sister in May. My cousin, Megan, is about the cutest pregnant lady I’ve ever seen, and it was really fun to catch up on their lives in North Carolina.

We also got to catch up with some other old church friends, Matt and Mya – and new baby Madeleine. Matt used to lead worship for our church here in MA, but moved to North Carolina to go to seminary. Mya is homemaker, mommy, and baker/cake decorator extraordinaire. We even went to a coffee shop where Mya’s homemade gluten free peanut butter bars, homemade yogurt and GF granola are for sale. You should definitely check out Mya’s website – Flutterbye Cakes. She’ll accommodate any special needs diet!
And then it was the occasion for which we had driven over 20 hours – the Sandra McCracken concert. First, we had dinner here – and I had my first fish tacos – Mahi Mahi – yum. (And they were very GF friendly!) And guess who Lois spotted eating at the bar, not too far from our table?? Yep…it was Sandra! (The restaurant was right next to the concert venue.)

And guess who was just nonchalantly standing near the door of the concert venue near her CD table as we walked in?? You guessed it. So, we got to meet her, got to tell her our favorite songs, and even confessed that we had driven a VERY long way just for her!

Sandra seemed pleased to learn that Cindy, our current worship leader, (in the purple shirt) has used a couple of Sandra’s songs in our services – said she always wonders if her music is filtering down into the churches. She asked if we had any requests, and of course, we had SEVERAL! She was a very sweet (and very tiny!) lady.
We got a shout out from the stage before she sang “Halfway” (I think) – “for some friends who drove all the way from Massachusetts.” And I did have the privilege of getting her water from the bar and taking it to the stage before she began. Yep, we were groupies, and it was great!

Oh – and all those 20 hours of driving? Well, Lois and Cindy were gracious enough to be the only 2 drivers for the rental car. (You have to pay extra for a third!) So… that meant that for most of those hours, I sat in the backseat and read The Northwest Ordinance, et al., re-learned how to factor polynomials and solve quadratic equations, and studied the philosophies of Democritus, Socrates, and Plato! Thankfully, car sickness has never been an issue for me. And thankfully the magic envelope held out not only for fish tacos, and peanut butter bars, but also for plenty of Starbucks stops all along the way!

Leaving you with some new favorite lyrics from Sandra:

Oh, the pain
It makes you feel alive
Oh, the broken heart is the tie that binds
And I pray to God these things will be made right

When the morning shines
On tear stained eyes
Oh, we shall overcome
The Father gave the Son
To break the curse we are under

Oh, the pain that no man can escape
Oh, the sting of death, the empty grave
And I pray to God where comfort has no place

When our tired eyes look through the veil
The colors are so pale, but we raise high the sail
And call the winds to carry us home
Call the winds to carry us home

from “The Tie That Binds”

Oh – if you’ve never listened to her music, you simply must! So thorough, so meaningful, so authentic. Real life stuff. Real life in Christ.

So thankful for friends, cousins, and the Lord’s provision in so many ways.

Gluten Free Saturday – Late Valentine’s Treats

Well, this is really late, but I still thought I’d share a few recipes I used for my family over the Valentine’s weekend. It’s really fun for me to use the holidays as an excuse to spoil them and try out some new recipes. I found this first recipe in a Food and Wine Magazine Cookbook – a compilation of recipes from their magazine from 2006. This cookbook was just sitting amongst a few other recipes at my dad’s house in Texas. Being fairly certain that he was not actually using this cookbook to feed himself, I decided to bring it home and add it to my collection! Here is a recipe for a wonderful way to eat your citrus fruits. I added honey to the recipe, because my taste testers said that it wasn’t sweet enough. You could add stevia or agave, too – if you want to stick with natural sweeteners. I always sprinkle stevia on their breakfast grapefruit instead of sugar!

Citrus Gratins with Toasted Almonds

2 grapefruits
2 oranges
2 tangerines or clementines
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest
3/4 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp canola oil
pinch of salt

Using a sharp knife, peel the grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines, removing all white pith. Cut in between membranes to release sections into bowl. (That’s the hard part!) Gently stir in the lime zest, honey, and cinnamon. Spoon mixture into 4 individual ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, toss the almonds with the brown sugar, oil, and salt. Sprinkle over each filled ramekin. Broil for 2-3 minutes, rotating ramekins until almonds are golden brown. Serve immediately.

These muffins are from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe Cookbook – I just substitute the flour, and this time I used this cute cast iron heart mold that I received as a wedding gift from my friend Kelly. (That’s you, Mrs. Witt.)

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

2 1/3 cups GF flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
6-8 Tbsp cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 stick butter

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder in bowl. In a second bowl, beat together ricotta, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Melt butter and add the ricotta mixture and butter to the dry ingredients. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes @ 350 degrees.

And, I’ve been looking for a way to easily make hot chocolate without using the store bought packets with their long lists of semi-recognizable-corn-syrup-solids-whatever-that-is ingredients. Well, there are many ways to do this, but here’s an easy one that I found online, and that the kids have been enjoying. They woke up to new mugs filled with chocolates which were quickly dumped out so they could be filled with this warm goodness on heart day morning!
Homemade Creamy Hot Chocolate
(serves 4)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup half and half cream

Place sugar, salt, and cocoa in bottom of a saucepan and stir together. Add boiling water and stir until thoroughly combined. Bring this mixture to an easy boil and stir while simmering for about 2 minutes. Stir in milk and heat until very hot. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Divide between mugs, and add cream to cool and add richness!

Pity Party & Perspective

Been feeling pretty swamped with an endless to-do list this week. Yesterday, I was standing in the kitchen cleaning and preparing for our couples’ Bible study, and helping the kids with school, and having a little pity/reprimand party for myself regarding the obligations I currently have, misunderstandings by a few close to me, and overall overwhelming tasks ahead. Adding to this was the fact that I could not leave the house, because the Sears repairman had not arrived to fix the rattle in our brand new refrigerator – for the second time. He was over an hour late. Right about then, he called and apologized profusely for being so late.

“I am not a man who feels comfortable saying that I’m going to do something, and then not doing it,” he said.

Back to waiting. Back to being sad, overwhelmed by tasks, etc.

When he finally arrived, he came in, listened to the rattle, and said he needed to go out to the truck to get some tools.

“I’ll just head out to the truck now. And if I look a little dizzy walking out there, it’s because my wife just called me to tell me that my son-in-law died this morning.”

He began to sob.

“Oh. I’m so sorry. Was he sick?”

Through tears, he told me that his son-in-law had an accident of some sort when he was younger. It has caused arthritis and other complications. They knew that they would probably outlive him, but of course, you are never quite ready to hear the news that he’s gone. He was only 44. Wife. 3 kids. Then he apologized and headed outside for awhile.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing…..” (1Peter 4:12)

“…casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you into his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1Peter 5: 7-10)

These are the verses that came to my mind as he went for his tools. I am not the only one suffering here. And really, am I even technically suffering? Everyone’s life has pain and struggle. It is the nature of this fallen world. Lord, please give me perspective. Give me gratitude for your many blessings, and give me joy even in the midst of extreme busyness, countless tasks, tensions, frustrations, and a very full life.

When he returned he said, “Ma’am, please forgive me for unloading so much pain and emotion on you. It’s just that the call just came and….”

“Not at all. Please, don’t apologize. In fact, what you shared just brought a couple of verses from the Bible to mind.”

(I did not know if he was a Christian or not, but still felt compelled to share.)

“There are a few verses in First Peter that talk about ‘not being surprised at the fiery ordeal among you as though something strange were happening to you’ and ‘knowing that the same experiences of suffering…’ “

“…are being accomplished by your brothers who are in the world.” he said, finishing my sentence.

“I’m very familiar with the Scriptures, Ma’am.”

We shared a knowing smile.

“Well, it’s just that, here I was, standing in the kitchen feeling sad and sorry for myself for a variety of reasons, and then you come in here with real pain and suffering, and it is just a reminder from the Lord to me that things could be much worse.”

“Well, I’m glad my situation could be a help in that,” he said.

Oh, what maturity. What trust. What understanding of the ways of the Lord, I thought.

As he worked on my rattling refrigerator, I asked a few more questions. He was going straight home after this job to be with his wife and make plans to be with his daughter and grandchildren. He broke down crying with his head in my freezer several times. I longed to send him home myself – I could live with the rattle a few more days – but he seemed intent on finishing the task.

While we talked, a couple of other verses came to mind…

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones. Psalm 116:15


Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried… Isaiah 53:4

While he went out to his truck to get my receipt, I wrote the verses down on an index card to send with him on his drive home to his grieving wife. I signed the slip, and handed him the verses…

“I pray that you and your wife find comfort in the Lord today,” I said.

“Oh, Ma’am. There IS no other comfort. Thank you for listening. Thank you for the verses.”

No, thank you, Lord. For this angel sent from you as a reminder of your love and grace. You never leave me in places of despair. You are faithful to give a gentle rebuke. You are sovereign over even the subtle wanderings of my heart and thoughts, and you draw me back to the only place of true refuge and hope. Thank YOU.