Monday, August 31, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - August 31st Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a cool fall-like morning. Blue skies, crisp air, still and quiet.
I am thankful... for my lazy afternoon yesterday. Boy, did I need that! It was a nice weekend.
From the kitchen... probably not a whole lot this week. State Fair tonight, leftovers tomorrow night, gnocchi on Wednesday, and then the hubby's gone for the weekend - so I can make WHATEVER I want! Ooooo - the options....
I am wearing... my plaid flannel pj pants, a red tank top, and a red sweater coat - it's been a COLD morning!
I am creating... a Bed and Breakfast idea binder... Yep - starting the research!
I am going... to the State Fair tonight! I used to hate State Fairs... I can't believe I'm excited to go! (And I'm going to eat mac and cheese on a stick. Yum.)
I am reading... "So You Want to be a Innkeeper" and a Dean Koontz book in those rare moments when I can read for fun.
I am hoping... for at least one more day at the pool before it closes for the year!
I am hearing... the neighbor's air conditioner. It's 48 degrees outside. I don't get it.
One of my favorite things... having fresh flowers on the dining room table. Thanks, babe!
A few plans for the rest of the week... a visit from Em and Elly, the State Fair, work, book group, open sanctuary, lunch with a friend, the Minnehaha Bluegrass Festival, maybe some Renaissance Festival? Maybe some pool time?
Here is picture thought I am sharing... my little friends. The bird feeder has been hopping this weekend - sometimes with 8 birds at a time! (Even a downy woodpecker stopped by!) Don't you love the little guy staring right at the camera - I think he thinks he's a STAR!
Things I am thankful for today:

1. Waking up early and getting some work done!
2. A visit from Em and Elly!
3. Elly's giggle.
4. The beauty of Em being such a good mom.
5. Elly and my dog are starting to be friends...
6. State Fair!
7. Mac and cheese on a stick - yum. Fried pickles - I've had much better. Tom Thumb mini-donuts - the best!
8. People-watching.
9. Getting home in time for a normal bed time. Perfect.
10. Good shoes. I love coming home and not having sore feet!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Thanks

Today I am thankful for:

1. Quiche for breakfast. Yum.
2. Trying out "Open Sanctuary" in worship this morning - dimly lit, candle-lighting, silent space - in the middle of our Sunday worship service. Beautiful.
3. Lunch with our Children's Ministry team.
4. Fireworks last night - we could see them from our driveway!
5. Watching the dog, watch dogs, do agility courses on TV - too funny!
6. Lounging around in sweats all afternoon!
7. Curling up with a book and a blanket.
8. Grandma's Christmas dessert... leftovers. Oh darn.
9. A visit from Em and Elly tomorrow!
10. And a visit to the State Fair tomorrow night!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Today we hung out with my sister-in-law, Shelly, and her family. We went to the park and the kids (Lauren, 7, and Evan, 4) played and played and played. They had their cousin, Avery, with them - going up the rope ladders and down slides, spinning in the shade of the trees, seeing who could run up the giant hill first, and who could roll down the fastest! They chased Uncle Mike and laid in the grass, looking at the clouds. We ate hot dogs and chips... And enjoyed the day.

Later, they all came to our house for a pizza dinner - and to celebrate, belatedly, Lauren's 7th birthday. The kids ate - and then ran upstairs taking turns "running" "2 miles" on our elliptical machine! We actually had to lure them back downstairs for the much anticipated frozen oreo dessert! We lit birthday candles, sang "happy birthday" and watched Lauren blow them out - and dug in! Yum.
The kids scarffed what they wanted - and went back to the elliptical... If only the adults were that anxious to exercise! Instead, we ate what the kids didn't want of their desserts...

Anyway, so here's 10 things I am thankful for about Lauren:

1. The twinkle in her eye.
2. Her giggle.
3. Her stubbornness. Ha!
4. Her willingness to try new things.
5. She's very smart.
6. She gives good hugs.
7. She's creative.
8. She likes to play (nicely) with our dog.
9. She likes games and "I Spy" books.
10. She used to let me read to her when she was little.

Happy Late Birthday, Lauren - We love you!

Friday, August 28, 2009

And the Winner is...

Kayla Noelle!

I used - #4 was the winner. Congrats, Kayla!

Friday Fave Five - August 28th

It's that time again - already! Time to look back over the week and notice five things that brought joy to my life! If you'd like to join in on this reflection, link up to Living to Tell the Story! We love to share in the joys of each other's lives!

Here's my five:

1. I got to spend last Friday morning with my sister, Emily, and her husband, and my niece. They were here on a quick visit on their way to Alaska (where they will be moving to this fall). I only had a couple of hours with them - but it was a sweet couple of hours!

2. My visit to Wisconsin to visit my dear friend, Cheryl. The drive was nice and relaxing, the dog loved making new friends and showing off, I loved chatting about old times and new, and I always feel more at peace after spending time with Cheryl.

3. Confirmation at church! Two of my youth completed the three-year confirmation process and took their membership vows last Sunday, and one of their mothers officially joined the church, too! A wonderful celebration!

4. This may sound weird... but planning for this Sunday's worship service is one of my highs. I was asked to speak about something in particular - and when I had an idea to do more than just talk about it - but offer a way for the congregation to experience it, the idea was accepted and praised! I'll have to fill you in next week as to what this is about!

5. Lastly, the hubby called and woke me up early this morning because REI is starting their annual Labor Day sale. He saw some of the things I've been watching for, majorly marked down and in my size, and wanted to let me know before they were gone! So cute.

What are your fave fives this week?

Remember to check out my
GIVE-A-WAY! Entries must be in by TODAY at noon!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Slept in really late!
2. Stayed home most of the day.
3. Very friendly service at the pharmacy (no worries - just refills).
4. Close parking spots.
5. Yummy dinner with the hubby - kabobs on the grill!
6. Talking about Bed and Breakfast daydreams over a glass of wine.
7. My windwall jacket - perfect on these windy, cool nights!
8. All the birds that have been visiting my feeder! So fun!
9. Getting my first B&B book - and it's funny!
10. Making Grandma's Christmas dessert for our niece... It's delish!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Hubby Rocks

Nice title, huh?

Today, while reading We Are That Family's blog, I came across a website for Union 28. Union 28 is a t-shirt company that makes T-shirts that say things like "My husband rocks." Here's what it says in their "about us":

"Union28 (formerly From*me Tees) was started by a married couple who knows what it is like to work through hard stuff and yet stay together and stay committed, choosing to forgive and be forgiven, only to grow in our love for each other MORE through it all.

"One of the great and wonderful mysteries of life is that loving each other in action--what we do and say--produces romance. Everything in our culture today teaches the opposite, that romance turns into love, but nothing could be further from the truth. Love is a choice and we decide how we're going to treat each other in the good and in the not-so-good times. What a hope-giving reality that a strong, loving, thriving relationship can be built, simply by changing how we interact with our spouse.

"Marriage was created to be a blessing and a little kindness, selflessness, and respect goes a long way. Accept the fact that your spouse isn't perfect and then start taking notice of all the good things they bring to the table! Pretty soon you can train your mind to be grateful for who they are as opposed to feeling disappointed about who they are not. When you allow yourself to believe that your spouse rocks, you will free yourself from the downward spiral and temptation of self-pity, disappointment, and even despair. The fact is, your spouse is probably a greater blessing than you allow yourself to lay down your expectations and praise your spouse for his/her attributes. After all, the key is to change yourself! And you'll be surprised at the positive affect it has on the one you choose to love...and you!"

What a great message!

I ordered a shirt. ...and maybe one for my hubby... Ha ha ha! (Remind me sometime to tell you the "I'm a Keeper" story!)

Remember - GIVE-A-WAY! Comment by Friday at noon to enter!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A late start to work today.
2. Inspired ideas and collaborating with my pastor.
3. Getting a whole lot done!
4. Henri Nouwen - love his stuff.
5. Companies that promote positive messages and values!
6. A nice training at church tonight on facilitating small groups - a BIG group!
7. Magic wands, finger puppets, and prayer balls... Toys are good.
8. Open Sanctuary - so peaceful.
9. Laughing with new friends.
10. Coming home - to a clean house!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Mom's Quiche

I thought I should take a break from dessert-like breakfasts and make something with eggs, cheese, and bacon... Yum. I love breakfast - and this is one of my favorites! I believe it originated from our family friends, the Bryants, in Colorado... and now we call it "Mom's Quiche." Either way, it's delish! And may whoever blessed our family with this recipe - be truly blessed in return!
Mom's Quiche

1 frozen pie crust (I use the deep dish crust)
3 eggs
3 tbsp flour
1/3 cup mayo
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 slices crumbled bacon
1 (10 oz) package frozen broccoli and cheese sauce (defrosted)
1 jar (2. oz) sliced mushrooms, drained

Bake pie crust for 5 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove from the oven.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, flour, and mayo until well blended.
Add in cheese, bacon, broccoli and cheese, and mushrooms - mix well.
Fill the pie crust with the egg mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean (I always need to cook it much longer... maybe 50 minutes? Just keep an eye on it!)

Ladies of Grace - August 26th

Today I'm linking up to the Ladies of Grace carnival at Walk a Mile! We take a moment to recognize the grace in our lives over the past week - where did we receive it? Where did we give it? Where did we notice our hearts hardened and cold - and what did we do to open and soften them to a situation - or what did someone do for us, to soften our hearts? If you have a story, please link up with us, or leave a comment! We learn so much about each other, ourselves, and our faith journeys when we are willing to share our stories!

So this weekend, one of my youth group kids offered me grace... by shedding tears. She's one of the few youth group kids that honestly cares about me just as much as I care about her - she asks how my day was, she checks in on me when I'm sick, we joke about stories of first kisses, we comfort each other in times of sadness... She's off to college this weekend - and it's harder than she thought it would be.

In church on Sunday, we celebrated Confirmation - and sang a hymn that this girl helped make our "official Confirmation hymn." Her and I made eye contact - and goofy faces at each other. It was a song that (secretly) recognized her last Sunday with us - as well as challenged our confirmands to a life of faithful living.

After worship, and greeting visitors, and talking with numerous people... I made my way into my office to find this girl facing away from me, blowing her nose. I teasingly said, "Oh don't cry! I know you'll miss us!" She turned around - and was sobbing! She realized during worship that she was really leaving and how sad it made her! She would miss her church, the community of people - and me.

Man. Talk about a softened and warmed heart. We hugged and cried together for a moment. I gave her words of encouragement, and told her we'd all be here waiting when she came home. We cried some more, hugged some more - and then I started teasing again. Her tears dried into laughter and we were able to face the world once again.

Every year I mourn the kids that are "all grown up" and off to college... I spend years getting to know them and then one day they are gone... Some come back and stay in touch - some I never hear from again. It's an amazing gift to know when I will still be part of their life years from now... That I will be missed in the meantime. That I meant something to them. Grace in a world of disposable relationships.

Good luck, Kelsey - I'll be praying for you, thinking of you - and right here waiting, when you come home (ready to re-live the freshman year of college through all your stories!).

OH! And check out my GIVE-A-WAY! Entries must be in by Friday at noon!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A heavy quilt on a cool morning.
2. Ladies of Grace - what a neat idea to look over your last week and remember a moment of grace!
3. My ideas being taken well - and praised!
4. Planning worship for this Sunday... Some surprises in store...
5. Getting a lot done in the office today.
6. Meeting one of the hubby's new friends - very fun.
7. New friends who appreciate that I work in a church - rather than shy away from me. (When you work in a church, people tend to treat you like you're fragile...)
8. Stopping at Pottery Barn just to drool.
9. Coming home to a happy dog.
10. Getting ready for bed nice and early.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It's one of those days - cloudy and dreary. I have a scratchy throat and don't feel the greatest... So, to cheer myself up - I'm doing a GIVE-A-WAY!

Check out this beautiful little key chain:
"Life is good."
"Enjoy the little things."

And I would add: "and be grateful!"

Leave a comment on this post by Friday at noon - and you will be entered into a random drawing for this little reminder that "life is, indeed, good!"


"I know more about grace than I did two weeks ago. For instance, that Auden was right when he wrote, 'I know nothing, except what everyone knows - if there when Grace dances, I should dance.'

"...I understand that Auden meant grace in the theological sense, meant it as the force that infuses our lives and keeps letting us off the hook. It is unearned love - the love that goes before, that greets us on the way. It's the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate, and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you. Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there...

"...It was amazing. I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or in tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt. I gobbled it, licked it, held it down between my little hooves."
--Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott

How are you dancing with grace today?

PS: Need a smile? Check this out!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A rainy morning.
2. Cuddling with the dog.
3. Google search and
4. Bison Tacos.
5. Pjs.
6. Coconut banana bread.
7. Flowers that are on my table - still going strong for a week!
8. Making plans to catch up with some friends.
9. Give-a-ways!
10. Not leaving the house for a whole day! (Didn't do my hair, no make-up, comfy clothes!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - August 24th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a crisp, clear, Monday. Blue skies, sun is out, slight breeze - perfect.
I am thankful... to be home today. It's was a busy week and weekend - it's nice to have quiet day at home.
From the kitchen... I have no idea yet! Ha ha ha. Groceries will be bought tonight.
I am wearing... black capris and an orange tank top. Good lounging wear!
I am creating... menus for the week and a grocery list. I'm so excited to cook again! I've been too busy...
I am going... to enjoy an evening with the hubby! When we go our ways for the weekend, it seems like forever since we spent any time together!
I am reading... "Traveling Mercies" by Anne Lamott, and something about congregational development (it actually is quite good!) Oh! And a Dean Koontz book in those rare moments when I can read for fun.
I am hoping... for a quiet week. I need it.
I am hearing... crickets, birds, and contruction workers. Ahhh... the sounds of summer!
One of my favorite things... dreaming about the future.
A few plans for the rest of the week... work, book group, open sanctuary, facilitator training, a visit with my sister-in-law and her family, maybe some State Fair? Maybe some Renaissance Festival? Maybe some pool time? I like the options....
Here is picture thought I am sharing... my favorite part of the MN Renaissance Festival - "The Court Revelers." A day is not complete if I don't catch their performance at the Queen's Pub, at the end of the day!
Things I am thankful for today:

1. A day at home - much needed.
2. My tummy is so much better today!
3. The book, Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott. This is the third time I've read it - and I still love it.
4. Pastor Penny asking me to talk about Open Sanctuary on Sunday.
5. Giving the dog a bath - she smells so much better now!
6. A little pool time.
7. Grocery shopping with the hubby - in, out, done.
8. Making mussels for dinner. Still experimenting - but still good!
9. Venetian Moon Pinot Grigio. So good.
10. Hearing that my sister and her husband had a good trip to Alaska! Sounds like things are falling into place.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


"Infinite riches are all around you if you will open your mental eyes and behold the treasure house of infinity within you. There is a gold mine within you from which you can extract everything you need to live life gloriously, joyously, and abundantly."
--Joseph Murphy

"Sometimes the task we agree to take on seems virtually impossible. We think we don't have the time, talent, resources, or support to achieve it. But we are intrigued by the possibilities... Our authentic longings embolden us to obey the command: spin straw into gold or suffer the consequences. Let the dream die and with it will die the authentic life for which we long...
"...Hold the vision of the completed dream in your mind. See your heart's desire. Feel the thrill of accomplishment. Offer grateful thanks in advance. Don't ask how it will come to pass, just know that it will. Now go to work."
--Simple Abundance

Ok, here's something you may not know about me: I've dreamed of owning a Bed and Breakfast for many years now. In fact, I think I even thought about it when I was in college... So it's been a long time! I daydream about it now and then... And then realize I could never pull it off, and put the idea away.

This weekend, while I was visiting my friend, Cheryl, she brought it up - she told me that the hubby and I would be great Bed and Breakfast hosts. I laughed. I hear that a lot - but usually think people are just being nice. But it's also one of those few things in life I just feel in my bones. I know I would be good at it! Ha ha ha - I love to decorate, to clean, to cook, to chat - and to open up my home. It seems like it should be a done deal! (Except for the whole "money to start up" stuff.)

I've had dreams at night of the hubby and I running a B&B that is mostly environmentally sustainable, with our own garden, trying to use as many local vendors and products as possible, and building or renovating the property to be eco-friendly. I think it would be so cool to make a place that is completely comfortable and inviting - but also might give you an idea or two on how to make your own home more "green" or energy efficient. The hubby likes the idea, too.

After Cheryl got me thinking again this weekend, I daydreamed again - all the way home on my 4 hour drive! Ideas have been running through my head like crazy... I played on the web today looking to see if there's such a thing as grants and financial assistance to those who want to provide more environmentally friendly places - and there are some! So, I did something a little crazy. I thought I'd start some researching... I ordered some used books online about starting up a B&B - what it takes, what to think about, the ups, the downs, all the little details that daydreamers like me never think of...

Who knows? The interest and excitement could fade away again - as reality usually makes it do... But like the quote above says, I am intrigued by the possibilities... and maybe... it's time to go to work!

(I'm kind of thinking the hubby and I should really do some more research by visiting our favorite inn on the North Shore... You know, to interview the Innkeepers - again. Ha ha ha.)

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A cool, beautiful morning.
2. A nice celebration of Confirmation at church today.
3. My confirmand, Jason - confident, fun, curious, and faithful. He's a great guy!
4. My confirmand, Carissa - feisty, thoughtful, strong, and searching. I'm so proud of her!
5. Soon-to-be college students sad to leave... It means they'll miss us, right?! (I'm sad, too, Kelsey - but you'll be home again soon!)
6. Proud parents and mentors.
7. An afternoon at home - resting.
8. The hubby got home safe and sound!
9. An unexpected - and very generous - gift!
10. Daydreams.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


"Friends help us feel secure. Our footing is surer when we know that someone accepts us as we are, someone has our best interests at heart, someone is always glad to see us, someone plans to stick around. There are few blessings like the blessing of a friend."
--Emilie Barnes and Donna Otto

I went to visit my friend, Cheryl, last night. I drove 4 hours to the town where I used to work as a Youth Director - just to see Cheryl. And it was good.

Cheryl is one of those friends who has always supported me, encouraged me, daydreamed with me, fought injustice with me, laughed with me. She was a mom-away-from-home and a girlfriend to share the ups and downs of life with. We've tackled life's struggles together, we've shared the joys of milestones, and we've encouraged each other to reach for our dreams. We've opened each other's minds to new ways of looking at the world and at our faith and we continue to support each other in the journey.

We don't talk often. We see each other only about once a year. Emails are sporadic. But... When we get together... It's like I never left. It's easy and comfortable, and just right.

Cheryl is one of my guides through life. I look up to her (ha ha ha - even though she's shorter than me!). I love her.

So, yes, Cheryl - it was totally worth the drive for me to come by myself just to see YOU.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Cheryl.
2. And her husband, Wayne - who is always so sweet to me and my dog. (Even though, I'm sure he thinks I'm a little nutty! Ha ha ha.)
3. Going for walks on their land last night and this morning - what a peaceful place.
4. A mama deer and her 2 fawns meeting us on the trail. So pretty.
5. My dog showing off with her frisbee - what a ham!
6. A nice, uneventful drive home - on a beautiful day!
7. Eating lunch at the Farm Market - one of the only businesses still open in Wautoma! It's still yummy as always!
8. Talking about the daydreams of opening a bed and breakfast - and getting encouragement. *smile*
9. A quick chat with the hubby on the phone today. I can't wait til he comes home tomorrow!
10. Sleeping in my own bed tonight!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fave Five - August 21st

It's Friday - again! Time to look back over the week and remember those things that made me smile! If you'd like to join in, simply go to Susanne's blog at Living to Tell the Story and link up!

Here are mine for this week:

1. Wow - it's been a good week! On Friday, I convinced the hubby to take me to see "Julie and Julia." LOVED it. I haven't giggled through an entire movie in a long time. It combined two of my favorite things - food and blogging. Perfect.

2. Saturday night, the hubby surprised me with dinner at a restaurant I've been wanting to try AND a night of music at a local bar with a musician that I adore. Priscilla Ahn. Voice of an angel. Lyrics of a spunky, cute girl in her 20s. A fun night out!

3. Sunday we spent the afternoon with some of the parents and children from our church at one of our favorite parks - Minnehaha Falls. It was fun to be with the kids, fun to get to know the parents better, we had a good lunch, some yummy ice cream, and got to be outside on a chilly, but nice day.

4. Tuesday night was book group at my house! What fun! I enjoy this group so much - it was such an honor and gift for me to share my home with them. It was a great night of laughing, eating, discussing, teary eyes, more laughter, and more food. A good night.

5. Wednesday night was dinner with Kelsey, a youth group member, before she leaves for college. Another very fun night, full of laughter and silliness. I don't know what I will do when she leaves!

and Oh! Two more -

6. Thursday night I took my youngest sister to her first real concert - Jason Mraz. Awesome night! So fun.

7. This morning, my other sister, Emily, and her family were here for a quick visit - so fun!
And now I'm tired. Just looking back over the week, I'm realizing how little I have slept... But it sure was fun! Life is good.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Waking up to the sounds of my little niece's feet running across the dining room floor upstairs. (They're visiting, and because we got home so late last night - I hadn't seen her yet.)
2. Finley's pigtails. They make me giggle.
3. Hugs from my sister, Emily. I miss her.
(Em and Fin on our walk - so cute!)
4. Joking around with my brother-in-law, Karlin.
(Karlin and my dad on the motorcycle - being silly.)
5. Going for a walk around Round Lake with the WHOLE family!
6. Getting a quick visit with the hubby before we went in our own directions for the weekend.
7. The dog and I had safe travels driving to Wautoma, WI.
8. The dog deciding she would be my co-pilot, by sitting atop the console between the seats and watching out the windshield. She balanced very well for awhile - and looked like it was totally natural to be perched right there. I got to laughing so hard, I made her move. It was too distracting. I would have taken a picture if I wasn't driving!
9. My friend Cheryl having a soft spot for my dog... Ha ha ha. No other dogs are allowed in her house - but I think Bailey was loving the lovin' from Cheryl and Wayne!
10. A campfire at Cheryl's house - a perfect night to sit under the stars and catch up on what's going on in our lives. I loved it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


My youngest sister, Kayla, and I headed to the big city tonight for a little Jason Mraz concert! Kayla's first big concert - at the Xcel Energy Center. 2 great opening acts - K'Naan and G. Love and Special Sauce. 11,000 fans. High energy. Great music. Awesome seats. A marriage proposal on stage. Positive vibes all around. Gotta love it. Totally. Love it.

If you haven't heard of Jason Mraz - here's his latest hit "I'm Yours." Listen to it. It will make you smile and want to dance. Love it.

Here's a couple of quick pics from the show:
(No, I didn't take that one - that's thanks to the Star Tribune. I was close, but not that close!)
(And this one looks much farther away than we actually were... I had to take it with my cell phone... But you get the idea.)

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Remembering my overnight bag and concert tickets when I left the house!
2. A quiet day at the office.
3. Getting an unexpected chance to go home for a quick nap before the big night out!
4. Seeing the hubby for 10 minutes before I had to leave (I thought I wouldn't see him at all today...).
5. A fun meeting with one of my youth group kids, Jason. He's great.
6. Taking the back way into St. Paul. Kelsey - thanks for showing me!
7. Kayla's excitement over the concert. So fun to be able to do that for her!
8. Great seats! Even I was impressed with myself!
9. An easy drive to my parents' house after the concert - it was unexpectantly easy to get out of the city!
10. Having a sleepover with Kayla at my parents' - laughing at her talking, and giggling, in her sleep!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Grandma's Minty Dessert

This is a favorite recipe in our family (always served on Christmas, and now my hubby's birthday request, too!) - and one that wins rave reviews wherever you go (from kids and adults alike!). And the best part - easy as can be!

Grandma's Minty Dessert

1/2 gallon Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream (or at Christmas-time, get Peppermint Candy ice cream!)
1 jar of Smucker's Hot Fudge Sauce
1 package Oreos
1 small container Cool Whip

Crush the entire package of Oreos, and cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan with 1/2 of the crushed cookies.
Thaw the ice cream in a bowl until it's easily stirred.
Transfer the ice cream to the 9x13 pan - spread ice cream on top of the crushed Oreos.
Place in the freezer and freeze until firm.
When the ice cream is frozen, spread the room-temperature hot fudge sauce (the whole jar!) on top of the ice cream.
Freeze once again, until the fudge is firm.
When the fudge is firm, spread the Cool Whip over the top.
Then, sprinkle the remaining crushed Oreos on top.

Mmmm.... Minty, fudgy, creamy, oreo-y Heaven!
(Next time, I'll get a picture of a slice... Once you serve it up, be quick or it's gone!!!)


Ladies of Grace - August 19th

Today I am linking to my friend, Beth's, blog at Walk a Mile to share stories of grace in our lives. We're focusing on where we've experienced grace, where we've given grace, and how grace affects the state of our hearts in any given situation - are they hard and cold in a given situation, or warm and soft? If you have a story you'd like to share, please feel free to link up at Walk A Mile! We all learn so much from each other's stories!My story for this week happened yesterday at Target. I was picking up some last minute things for a dinner party last night and just wanted to get through the check out line and be on my way. I ended up in a check out lane with a young girl, who was obviously new to her job. I watched her with the customer in front of me, not knowing how to answer questions or print gift receipts... and my heart began to harden. I thought the usual, "Why me? Why do I ALWAYS pick the slow lane?!"

She started to scan my items... one... at... a... time... (For reference, I had 8 little paper gift bags to begin with - most people would scan one and type in the number.) Most of my items were in multiples - but she continued to scan one... at... a... time. None of the things were fragile, but she carefully placed each item carefully into a bag. All the while with a cheerful smile on her face.

I realized, as she was new in her job, she was trying to do everything right. Trying to do everything with a pleasant customer service attitude. And, unlike most cashiers, was being extremely respectful of these items that I was spending my money on! Rather than throwing them in the bag to crush each other, wrinkle, and tear - she was being mindful of getting them home whole and intact.

My heart softened. Warmed. And appreciated her devotion to doing a good job. And I told her so. Her smile grew even bigger and we wished each other a good day.

I've worked in customer service - it's a thankless job. Be sure to smile and thank those people in your life this week - it will mean the world to them!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Rain - lots of rain!
2. Ladies of Grace - I like that it makes me pay attention to how I treat others.
3. Turning frustrations into opportunities.
4. Tornado sirens - otherwise I would have had no idea about the severe weather in the area!
5. That my house and dog were just fine after the storms. A funnel cloud was seen over my house, and severe damage happened just south of us!
6. A great Missions Team meeting - feeling good about what we are doing in the coming year!
7. The one man on the Missions Team, walked in saying how glad he was to be visiting his harem! Ha ha ha.
8. The hubby and I taking Kelsey out to dinner before she leaves for college. Lot of laughs!
9. I didn't get a parking ticket... (but the hubby did...)
10. A cute text message from my dad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


"Friends are God's way of taking care of us."

Tonight was book group - and for the first time, we ventured to the coziness of someone's home. Mine! It was so fun to open my doors to these friends - to eat, laugh, share, discuss, and pray together. These are some amazing people and I feel so very blessed to have each one of them in my life.
Thanks for a great night, Ladies!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Alarm clocks.
2. Clean laundry.
3. Meeting up with Kelsey while she was on a walk.
4. Hugs.
5. Feeling a little lost and overwhelmed - and then having someone else put you back together.
6. Fresh flowers.
7. All kinds of yummy foods brought to the house tonight: bacon and cheese dip! fruit pizza! strawberry poppyseed salad! chips and dip! chocolate cake! Delish!
8. Hosting a dinner. So fun.
9. Wonderful friendships with amazing people.
10. Praying together.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - August 17th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a beautiful night - cool, calm, and crisp.
I am thinking... it's time to go to bed...
I am thankful... for a clean house. So nice to relax.
From the kitchen... Hawaiian pizza tonight. Chicken tacos tomorrow night - with the book group ladies! And our new thing to try this week - chocolate-covered blueberries. Tasty.
I am wearing... black capris, a white tank top, and a green hoodie.
I am creating... ideas for our table setting tomorrow night...
I am going... to see Jason Mraz in concert on Thursday night with my little sis, Kayla. I can't wait!
I am reading... "Traveling Mercies" by Anne Lamott, and something about congregational development (it actually is quite good!) Oh! And a Dean Koontz book in those rare moments when I can read for fun.
I am hoping... to see my sister, Emily, and her family for a bit on Friday before I head to Wisconsin to visit a dear friend. (Em and fam are on their way to Alaska for a visit - and passing through on a 24-hour layover.)
I am hearing... crickets, sprinklers, a soft breeze, and the neighbor's AC.
One of my favorite things... my hubby's clues for his surprises. Last weekend's clues were "Grand Marais" and "Elvis." I figured out Grand Marais (2 years ago, I had the best sandwich EVER at a restaurant in the town... It was a muffuletta sandwich. There's a restaurant in St. Paul called "Muffuletta." Ding ding ding!). Elvis eluded me. I was supposed to link it with "Priscilla" - for a musician, Priscilla Ahn, whom I really enjoy. Ha ha ha.)
A few plans for the rest of the week... meetings, youth meetings, book group dinner at my house, dinner with a youth group kid headed off to college, Jason Mraz concert, visiting with my sister's family, going to WI to visit Cheryl (Yippee!), and our Confirmation service on Sunday... Phew.
Here is picture thought I am sharing... a muffuletta sandwich. A beautiful thing... (Have you seen Julia and Julie - the movie? I fear I'm as obsessed with food as they are... Hmmmm.)
Things I am thankful for today:

1. Working from home. I got so much done this morning!
2. Feeling inspired.
3. Getting the house clean - feels so good!
4. Hanging new white curtains - so fresh and clean!
5. A nice walk tonight - with beautiful clouds!
6. Playing with the dog - can't help but smile and laugh.
7. Highlights. Epescially the ones with little post-it notes!
8. Sunshine.
9. Lavender-scented detergent.
10. Being excited to have friends over tomorrow night!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Church

"Why I Make Sam Go To Church... The main reason is that I want to give him what I found in the world, which is to say a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want - which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy - are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians - people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful. I saw something once from the Jewish Theological Seminary that said, 'A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be a part of a great meaning.' Our funky little church is filled with people who are working for peace and freedom, who are out there on the streets and inside praying, and they are home writing letters, and they are at the shelters with giant platters of food.

"When I was at the end of my rope, the people at St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. The church became my home in the old meaning of home - that it's where, when you show up, they have to let you in. They let me in. They even said, 'You come back now.'"
--Anne Lamott, from the book "Traveling Mercies"

I love this book. I love her vision of spirituality, her descriptions of her church as a family, her humor and love of life (after a very rough beginning)... I love her 'human-ness.' She's real - with doubts, fears, frustrations, and laughter. She sees life for what it is - and loves God through it all. I love this book.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A great sermon at church today.
2. A beautiful duet sang during worship.
3. The Children's Ministry picnic - so fun to hang out with parents and kids! (And marvel at the GIANT mushrooms! Then, as all kids will do... They destroyed them...)
4. Minnehaha Falls Park and Sea Salt Eatery. A great way to spend an afternoon!
5. Banana Cream Pie Ice Cream. Mmm Mmmm Mmmm.
6. And yes... a nap.
7. Grocery shopping - finally!
8. Cooler weather - turning the AC off!
9. Hot dog for dinner - with all the fixins. (It's been a great food day!)
10. Cuddling up for "Army Wives."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Great Day

Saturday... Typically a day off. A day to rest and play and relax. Today? Not so much. I had a leadership retreat at work this morning. And actually... I found it uplifting and fun! We're beginning to concentrate on some ideas and practices at church that I've wanted to focus on for a long time - so I'm energized and ready to go! It was a great morning.

Then, I went home and took a nap.

Then - surprise DATE NIGHT! The hubby's been planning something all week... and it was totally worth it! We went to dinner at a wonderful little place called "Muffuletta." Yum-o. Quaint, cozy, romantic, and delish. What else could you ask for?

After dinner, we headed into Minneapolis to go see Priscilla Ahn (a singer that I saw in Austin, TX, last Sept.). There was a great opening band, Priscilla was sweet and beautiful - as always. And then, we were happily surprised to betreated to a great, fun, and lively band the rest of the night - Steph Devine and Friends.

A wonderful night - fun, relaxed, romantic, silly, and entertaining. Perfect.

Things I am thankful for today:
1. The hubby made me coffee this morning.
2. Not needing to present anything at the retreat. That was nice.
3. A great group of people working together - we had some laughs, some honest comments, and some great ideas!
4. Realizing that some of my recent ideas have been right on track with what our Congregation Development Director is suggesting. Cool.
5. A nice, long nap.
6. An amazing muffeletta sandwich for dinner. Hot, salty, spicy, ooey-gooey deliciousness!
7. Discovering a new fun little bar in Minneapolis - great place for music!
8. Priscilla Ahn. Voice of an angel.
9. Steph Devine and Friends. What a fun group!
10. My hubby. He's good stuff.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fave Five - August 14th

I can't believe it's Friday again already! Goodness, the summer is flying by and fall will be here before we know it! Anyway, today I'm linking up to Susanne's Living to Tell the Story to share our Fave Fives of the week... So here's mine:

1. Going to Irish Fair last Sunday afternoon. So fun to hear some music, listen to people speak with the accent, see art work, smell foods, and look at crafts... It made me miss Ireland already! I can't wait to go back again...

2. The ability to take it easy on the days I have migraines and bad headaches. I'm blessed with understanding friends, co-workers, and family. I'm able to close myself off from the world for a few hours of rest in quiet and darkness - and know that the world goes on.

3. Nutella addictions. I'm afraid I've created some monsters by introducing friends to Nutella. Try it only if you dare... You may find yourself putting it on everything you eat... except maybe Cheese-its. I hear that's not so good! Ha ha ha.

4. A girls' day out to lunch and services at the Aveda Institute with my youngest sister, Kayla. We had awesome lunch at Wilde Roast Cafe in Minneapolis. She got a beautiful haircut and highlights... I got an 80 minute massage - focusing on migraine pressure points. Awesome.

5. A fun night at the movies with my hubby! He took me to see "Julie/Julia" - Junior Mints and all! Such a great, fun, delightful movie! I loved it! (Really not so much a "guy" movie... He was a great sport!)

Things I am thankful for today:

1. No traffic this morning in the metro area.
2. The guy riding a REALLY tall bike in Minneapolis! I would have taken a picture if I wasn't driving...
3. Getting a parking spot at both places in Minneapolis - that NEVER happens!
4. A grilled cheese with bacon, tomato, and avocado. Yum.
5. The boy-child that did my massage today (I swear he was maybe 19 years old!). Goodness. He could have been one of my youth group kids... But. He did know what he was doing - it felt great, and I haven't had a neck-ache or a headache all day!
6. Being told I had great eyebrows. Ha ha ha.
7. The hubby agreeing to go to a movie - and THEN agreeing to see "Julie/Julia."
8. Junior Mints. The only time I eat them is at the movies. We go to a movie maybe three times a year. They're a treat!
9. Have you seen this picture?! It gives me the giggles everytime!
10. I have a surprise waiting for me tomorrow... As much as I hate not knowing what it is... I kind of like it, too. The anticipation is kind of fun!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


"We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts."
--Madeleine L'Engle

"Don't worry that your talent won't be adequate to the task. Spirit always chooses us as servants of work perfectly suited to our personal gifts, even if we beg to differ. A low opinion of our abilities is a handy cop-out when facing creative challenges, but the Great Creator is on to us by now. Actually, feeling inadequate to the task we're asked to do seems to be a spiritual prerequisite.
"Anyway, our degree of talent is a moot point, because the Work always knows more than we do - a fact for which we can all be eternally grateful. Agreeing to serve really means just showing up to make the calls, mix the paint, pick up the pen, pluck the strings, shape the pot, and get out of the way..."

"Spirit speaks to you constantly throughout the day. You may experience a hunch, perk up at the suggestion of a friend, or follow an urge to try something new on a whim. Train your heart to listen. Today, adjust your spiritual satellite. Tune in to a higher harmonic frequency for help as you continue your authentic, artistic pilgrimmage to Wholeness."
--A Simple Abundance

I'll be listening today... and I'll let you know what I hear!
In what ways is the Spirit challenging you to use your gifts and talents?

Things I'm thankful for today:

1. Toast with Nutella.
2. Feeling good today.
3. Getting a lot done today!
4. Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott. I love this book.
5. Funny Facebook notes.
6. Sharing my lunch with Carol.
7. The paraments that Carol is making for our sanctuary - beautiful!
8. Making an appointment for a massage tomorrow... Mmmm...
9. Venting.
10. No bad headache today! Yippee!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Chipotle Bison Tacos

Yum! I used to hate tacos... to my husband's dismay. And now, I LOVE them! We could eat them once a week and I would be a happy girl! Here's how I like them -

Chipotle Bison Tacos

1.5 lb ground Bison meat (check out the health benefits here!)
1 packet Ortega Smokey Chipotle Taco Seasoning
Shredded cheese
Sour Cream
Taco shells, Tortillas, or Tortilla chips

Prepare the meat according to the seasoning directions - 1 packet/1.5 lbs bison is perfectly spicy!
Then prepare your taco or taco salad as you'd like! (I like lettuce, tomato, shredded Colby Jack cheese, a little Trader Joe's Medium Chunky Salsa, and a dab of sour cream - with tortilla chips crushed on top.)

Mmmmm.... Now I'm hungry! You'll never go back to ordinary tacos again!


Ladies of Grace - August 12th

Today is our second chance to link up to Walk A Mile and share a story about where we have experienced grace - or given grace to someone - in our last week. If you'd like to share a story, feel free! This is an experiment in how grace affects all of our lives everyday! My story this week happened last Friday. I was on my way to Vacation Bible School and had to stop at the grocery store for some lunch items to share. I quickly picked up my items, went through the self-checkout lane, and avoided all contact with other people at 8am on a busy morning... I don't know that my heart was "hardened" or "cold" - it was just hurried!

As I headed out the doors on my way to the car, this older African-American gentleman comes through the door and says, "GOOD MORNING!" I smiled and mumbled an unenthusiastic "good morning" to him too.... Then he said, "You, my dear, have a beautiful smile!" I smiled again, turned to him and said, "thank you," as he quickly said, "no offence, miss, no offence!"

Now that just made me laugh. I stopped hurrying to the car, turned around, smiled, laughed out loud, and said, "You've given me a nice compliment - told me I had a beautiful smile - no offence taken. Thank you so much!" Laughing, we wished each other a good day and I turned to go.

I smiled all the way to work.

He seemed like one of those people who just has "good vibes" and is kind and friendly to everyone. He seemed like someone who truly understands what it means to give grace to those he doesn't even know - to brighten the days of all who cross his path.

I hope I can be like him when I grow up...

Where have you experienced grace this week?

Things I am thankful for today:

1. An understanding staff.
2. Headache drugs.
3. Darkness.
4. Air conditioning.
5. Suprisingly, the book, "Changing the Conversation: a third way for congregations." VERY good book about working with congregations.
6. Orange bell peppers and ranch dip. Yum.
7. Going for a walk when the day cooled off.
8. Planning a trip in November for a friend's wedding.
9. Great air fare deals!
10. Oh! Waking up at 3am for the Perseid meteor shower! For living in the suburbs, it was still pretty cool!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Present

"Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

"The men talked for hours on end... They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

"The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

"As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

"Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

"Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed. It faced a blank wall.

"The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

"She said, 'Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.'

"Epilogue: There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

"Today is a gift, that is why it is called, 'The Present.'"
--Anonymous, from a forwarded email

What a beautiful story... How are you sharing happiness today?

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Snuggling with the puppy this morning and hitting snooze.
2. An interesting discussion about passionate spirituality.
3. Getting lots of planning and organizing done today.
4. Managing to keep my headaches away today!
5. A GIANT size nutella jar!
6. A fun and lively discussion at book group.
7. An awesome sunset - a huge ball of fire on the horizon!
8. A nice walk with the hubby and dog.
9. Taking some reading for work to the park today. So nice.
10. Popcorn prayers... Go Team!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Simple Woman's Daybook - August 10th Edition

For Today...

Outside my window... a partly cloudy day, still and warm.
I am thinking... of all the things I would like to get done this week. It seems like so much!
I am thankful... for finally not having a headache! It may be short-lived, but this respite is wonderful!
From the kitchen... trying another new recipe tonight - turkey chimichangas!
I am wearing... army green cargo capris and a black tank top.
I am creating... more fun decorating ideas for our house. A visit to a junk market, an art fair, IKEA, and getting some new catalogues have inspired the hubby and I!
I am going... to go batty this week wondering what the hubby has up his sleeve for Saturday night. All it says on our calendar is "Date Night." He does good surprises! I'm excited!
I am reading... "Traveling Mercies" by Anne Lamott, and something about congregational development (sounds fascinating, I KNOW!). Oh! And a Dean Koontz book in those rare moments when I can read for fun.
I am hoping... for my headaches to stay away for a few days. I'd LOVE to feel fully human again!
I am hearing... summer bugs, birds, air conditioners, and kids playing outside.
One of my favorite things... the Irish accent. Ha ha ha. I loved hearing it again at the Irish Fair this weekend!
A few plans for the rest of the week... meetings, book group, working with some youth group kids, open sanctuary, coffee with friends, date night!
Here is picture thought I am sharing... I still don't have my camera... Hopefully it will come back to me today! So I thought I'd show you one of the art pieces I LOVED at the Uptown Art Fair. This is by Rick Loudermilk - so cool!
Things I am thankful for today:

1. A day at home.
2. Kelsey being so willing to reschedule - and include the hubby!
3. A few hours pain-free today.
4. Some nice notes in my email!
5. A new recipe - Turkey and Cheese Chimichangas (Weight Watchers) - turned out good!
6. Going for a long walk.
7. A beautiful sunset.
8. The hubby making malts again tonight.
9. How I Met Your Mother. TV show. Makes me giggle.
10. Looking forward to a full day tomorrow!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gifts and Harmony

"Discerning our personal gifts in essential if we are to experience harmony in our lives. 'Because our gifts carry us out into the world and make us participants in life, the uncovering of them is one of the most important tasks confronting any one of us,' Elizabeth O'Connor writes in The Day of Creation: Gifts and Creativity. 'When we talk about being true to ourselves - being the persons we're intended to be - we are talking about gifts. We cannot be ourselves unless we are true to our gifts.'

"Love wants, wishes, and wills nothing less than your unconditional happiness, harmony, Wholeness.
Commit to discovering, acknowledging, appreciating, owning, and honoring your personal gifts."
--Simple Abundance

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Church this morning: a message that we are all supporting characters in the greater story of faith. A challenge to think about my gifts and talents and where I am using them to share my faith... Cool thoughts.
2. New members at church - so fun! Welcome Ryan and Ben!
3. An adventure at IKEA. Ha ha ha. A few new goodies and some ideas for future redecorating!
4. Air conditioning.
5. Irish Fair - so fun to be reminded of our trip last March! (I just loved listening to the presenters talk!)
6. The hubby surprised me with tickets to go see David Gray in October! Yippee!
7. A new recipe - chicken sausage, bell pepper, and red onion pizza on a whole wheat tortilla - cooked on the grill! Surprisingly yummy!
8. The hubby taking care of me when I have a migraine.
9. Eye masks - great for headaches!
10. The hubby making me laugh even when I feel miserable.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet."
"Physicians and psychologists say that loving, caring for, and spending time with animals enhances our well-being. Anyone, who has ever been adored by a dog or adopted by a cat probably can't convey in words the emotional bond that grows between them. That's because dogs love us unconditionally and cats are big on redemption. Our sins and shortcomings don't bother them as long as we delight in their presence...If you do have pets, don't just feed, walk, and ignore them. You invited them into your life, so open your heart. Pets need to be stoked, cuddled, caressed, indulged, pampered, and played with; dote on them and they'll return the kind of devotion most of us can only dream about receiving from human beings. Talk to them and you'll discover a trusted confidante who'll never betray your secrets. Laugh a their silly antics - a sure stressbuster - and learn how to live by observing them...
Today, be grateful for the gift of sharing your earthly span with creatures who comfort. Animals are our spiritual companions, living proof of a simply abundant source of Love. None of us need feel alone. And if there is a gift, then surely, there must be a Giver."
--Simple Abundance
Things I am thankful for today:

1. Sleeping in really late!
2. The hubby did the grocery shopping... again!
3. Pool time!
4. Reading a book just for fun - what a "novel" idea!
5. Dinner with my family.
6. The hubby making my mom giggle and horrifying my sister - great stuff!
7. Mom and Dad's encouragement.
8. The bad thunderstorms and funnel clouds went just north of us.
9. Warnings on the radio - glad we weren't listening to the ipod!
10. My dog and buddy, Bailey.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Fave Five - August 7th

As I'm sitting here, ready to write my Friday Fave Five - I'm enjoying a crazy thunderstorm! Pouring rain, wind, BRIGHT lightening, LOUD thunder! The whole house is shaking... AWESOME.

Anyways... Here are my favorite things about the past week. Feel free to check out some more reflections at Living to Tell the Story!
1. Last weekend we went to Illinois to visit our friend, Mark, and his beautiful new fiance, Lindsey. We got to hang out in the town we used to live in, eat at favorite restaurants, and enjoy a relaxing weekend with friends. It was so nice!

2. Vacation Bible School at church this week. I forgot how much energy it takes to keep up with the little kids! But their imagination and innocence is so fun! I was the snack lady and really enjoyed the funny snacks that went along with the message of the day - and seeing how the kids tied the food to the theme... Goodness, they could be creative!

3. My friend, Beth, started a blog carnival on Wednesday - all about grace and where we experience it (and offer it) in our daily lives. Such a cool idea! Feel free to check it out at Ladies of Grace - if you have a story, link up!

4. Open Sanctuary on Thursday night. AMAZING experience. Check out my story here.

5. A night on the town tonight. The hubby and I met up with another Beth tonight at a local art fair, then headed out to dinner, and out to coffee at a favorite hangout from my college days. A fun evening - art, food, drinks, laughter, memories, stories, and a fun walk to the car through a quaint downtown neighborhood in the rain... A nice end to a crazy week!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. The nice man at the grocery store at 8am this morning, telling me I had a beautiful smile. He started my whole day out in such a nice way!
2. Last day of Vacation Bible School - it's been fun, but I'm ready to get back to a normal schedule...
3. A full night of sleep last night, and a 2 hour nap today... I'm starting to feel human again!
4. Squeezing in a workout today.
5. The Uptown Art Fair. I just love going every year.
6. Rain and thunderstorms. I've missed them this summer.
7. New friendships.
8. Uncommon Grounds coffee shop. Many memories there - and it's still the same! I've been going there for over 12 years - and they still make the best white chocolate raspberry mocha around!
9. Jambalaya for dinner. Hot and yummy!
10. Sleeping in tomorrow.... Yippee!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mysterious Ways

So, I don't usually do two posts in one day - but I had to share this!

I take turns with my pastor hosting an "Open Sanctuary Night" at our church on Thursday nights - a time when the sanctuary is open for anyone who'd like to come pray, mediatate, clear their head, or simply relax in a quiet and peaceful setting. We have the lights dimmed, candles ready to be lit, prayer helps, and a inspirational reading for anyone who'd like it. We've been doing this since June and on an average night we might get 2-3 visitors, some repeats, some just checking it out. Almost everyone has said what a wonderful experience it was for them.

Small attendance, but so worth it for me to be there. I think it's so easy to get caught up in the "busy stuff" in church life, that we forget to stop and make space for God to speak to us... I LOVE my Thursday nights. And tonight was a winner!

I haven't been feeling well this week - headaches, unusually tired, today I felt achy and had an upset stomach... I was very tempted to have someone else unlock the church and lock up - even if it meant there wouldn't be much hospitality for Open Sanctuary tonight... But something kept tugging at me. Something told me to go anyway. Find a quiet seat in the darkened sanctuary and enjoy the peace and quiet...

So I did.

First, our church secretary stopped by - as she does almost every week. I can always count on her presence for at least a little bit!

Then, people from the community started showing up for our church's Job Club (for people who are currently looking for work). Their leader hadn't arrived yet, so I invited them to wait in the entryway sitting area - or spend some time in the sanctuary. One man was thrilled to have the sanctuary available to him. He went right in and lit a candle and spent some time in prayer. I was so excited that he felt comfortable enough, on his first visit to our church, to go right in!

Next a couple of ladies from our congregation stopped in, lit candles, and prayed by themselves. When one of them left, she grabbed my hand and thanked me for this wonderful opportunity. She said that this experience "helped her breathe again... and refreshed her life." Her husband (who's in his 80s) had recently undergone a risky hip replacement and is healing wonderfully! She was simply there to say "thank you" to God. My eyes filled with tears at her sincere gratitude...

Once she left, the man from the Job Club came back out and tapped me on the shoulder. He asked me if I'd be willing to do him a favor. I said, "of course." He told me his name and asked that I'd pray for him. Wow. Of course, I would.

By now, the evening is over half over. I'm overwhelmed and shocked at how God works in people's lives... and I look up and find another woman standing next to me. She's not a member of the church - in fact, I've never seen her before. She asks if I'll be at the church for awhile and I said yes (even though, I would normally start packing up in about 10 minutes!).

She proceeds to tell me that she is staying with her daughter-in-law down the street. The daughter-in-law had just recently had a baby and it sounded like her husband was out of town. The woman proceeded to tell me that she had been awakened the last three mornings with horrible nightmares and was now having trouble sleeping and just felt terribly overwhelmed by these dreams. When she told her daughter-in-law, she was surprised by her advice. Her daughter-in-law is from Sri Lanka and has never talked about faith with her before... but her advice, was that maybe she needed to pray... The mother-in-law was shocked! She thought about it and decided to go for a walk tonight - up the street to our church... Which happened to be open! She walked in to see the sanctuary lit by candlelight and knew the Spirit was calling her here... She asked if she could go get her daughter-in-law and if I would wait for them.

They returned a little while later - with her 23 day-old granddaughter. We chatted for a bit and they spent some time lighting candles and talking and praying together. When they left, they asked if I would be here next Thursday - they plan to return. And were excited to say, "See you Sunday!"

As they left the church, I stood in the sanctuary shaking, covered in goosebumps, with tears in my eyes. I always talk about how we should always have big expectations of God working in our lives and in our congregations and communities... But God was messing with me tonight! I've been humbled in my faith - and can't wait to see what else is up God's sleeve!

God does work in mysterious ways. I have no doubt about that.


"Love is an opening of the heart. It's like the sun shining. The sun just naturally shines. It doesn't discriminate, shining on this person but not on that one. It just shines, because it's the nature of the sun to give warmth. Some people go inside and close the doors and windows; that's their problem. The sun is shining anyway. And it's that quality of heart which we have to develop. That quality of open, unconditional loving, no matter what."
--Tenzin Palmo

In light of the kick-off of Beth's blog carnival, "Ladies of Grace," I thought this was an interesting quote!

I even found another example of being aware of the condition of my heart on the way to work this morning... A woman, in an obvious hurry, totally cut me off in traffic this morning - almost running me into the wall of a bridge! Now, I normally can't stand bad drivers... and sometimes have used some choice words to describe my distaste for their behavior... But this morning, as my first reaction was to get mad, I found myself wondering what was she in such a hurry for?

Was it work? Was she going to her child? Was someone in the hospital? Was she emotionally upset and just unaware of her surroundings on the road? I found myself praying for her... for her safety the rest of the way to her destination, for other peoples' safety while she was driving in this state of hurriedness, and for the rest of her day to be filled with blessings that will help her to take more time in her journeying...

Totally not my usual reaction to such rude behavior while driving! But it was interesting to feel myself notice my hardened heart once again... and to do something about it.

I hope your day is filled with the shining of the sun, with the unconditional love of God, and with an amazing joy!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Not getting into a car accident this morning.
2. A softened heart.
3. Funny responses to the snack at VBS today.
4. The other VBS volunteers - it's been so fun getting to know them better!
5. The dog's cuddles when I don't feel good.
6. Beth and Jason graciously letting me re-schedule our meeting for next week.
7. Open Sanctuary tonight. Wow. Read about it here.
8. My hubby made the snacks for tomorrow's VBS while I was at church tonight. What a sweetie!
9. He also picked up the house, left me a nice note, and took care of the dog when she wasn't feeling well either... I love him.
10. Hopefully, going to bed early.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yummy Wednesday - Tiramisu

Mmmm... Who can resist some Tiramisu?! I tried this recipe, from Pioneer Woman, earlier this summer - and have already made it twice! If you like the stuff you get at restaurants - you'll LOVE this! And guess what?! It's so easy to make! So have fun and enjoy the deliciousness of this wonderful creation...Tiramisu

5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup + 4 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup Marsala wine, Brandy, or Rum (we use rum)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 lb Mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups espresso or very strong coffee
1 tbsp vanilla
2 packages Savoiardi cookies (ladyfingers)
Cocoa powder
Chocolate shavings (optional - but yummy!)

First, make the zabaglione:
In a bowl that will fit over a pot of hot water (or a double boiler), beat eggs and sugar together until mixture is a pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
Bring water to a boil in pot, then reduce to a simmer.
Place bowl with eggs yolks mixture over water and gradually beat in the wine, brandy or rum.
Keep beating continuously.
Cook about 7 minutes, stirring to scrape sides and bottom of bowl.
Mixture will be thick. (It always takes me a lot longer than 7 minutes - so be patient! You'll know when it's thick and ready!)
Cover bowl and refrigerate 45 minutes.

When zabaglione is chilled:
Whip the heavy cream and 4 tbsp sugar together to form whipped cream.
Gently fold Mascarpone cheese and zabaglione into the whipped cream. (Be very gentle! If you over do it, you will get a watery mess!)
Set aside.

Now mix together the espresso, 1/4 cup wine, brandy or rum, and vanilla.
Set aside.

To assemble:
Arrange ladyfingers in a single layer in a 9 x 13 pan.
Spoon about 1/2 to 1 tbsp coffee mixture over each cookie.
Spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the cookies.
Sprinkle with cocoa powder.
Repeat two more times: cookies, coffee, cheese mixture, cocoa.
If you wish, you can add chocolate shavings on top - it looks pretty, and it tastes nummy!

Refrigerate and serve! I let it set up in the fridge for about 3-4 hours before serving.

Ladies of Grace - August 5th

Today is the kick-off of the "Ladies of Grace" blog carnival at WalkAMile! We're encouraged to look back over the week and recognize a moment when our hearts were opened, or warmed - or a time when we noticed our hearts closed, or hardened. It's an experiment in awareness - awareness of the grace that God offers us, and the grace that we can offer to others. When we take a moment to notice our reactions to the world around us, we can experience God's grace in new ways. If you'd like to share an experience you have had recently, feel free to link up to Beth's blog!

My experience for this week happened last night. My pastor and I were invited to the National Night Out block party that was taking place in our church's neighborhood. Both of us being shy introverts, we were pretty nervous and a little intimidated by the idea of walking into a neighborhood party without really knowing anyone. I have to admit, I started out with a somewhat closed heart...

We arrived (after driving around the block several times, due to the party getting going much later than we were told!) to a crowd of people who were obviously friends, and not the friendliest to the new visitors at first. We introduced ourselves to a couple of people... Only to have them say "hi" and turn back to the person they were talking to. My heart continued to harden. I felt so unwelcomed, and as though I was intruding... I wondered, how often do people enter my church and feel this way? (Lesson #1.)

Finally, after a half hour or so, a few more people began to talk to us - and once they did, they really opened up about who they were and what was going on in their lives. We talked about some fascinating careers and hobbies, some who had lost jobs recently (a few, actually), one person who's husband had a horrific accident last winter... My heart began to warm as these people saw us as caring friends in the neighborhood and shared their burdens.

I even finally got to meet the mom that I wave at several days a week when her little girls are riding their bikes on our street or in our church parking lot, as she protectively looks on.

It's amazing how resistant you can be to an experience - whether it's out of shyness or skepticism... and how a situation can unfold in such a positive way. (Lesson #2.) I hope this has been the first step to a relationship between our neighbors and the church - a sense of community where we can all experience God's grace!

So where has your heart been warmed or hardened this week? How is God's grace working in your life? I'd love to read your stories!

Today I am thankful for:

1. Excedrin. Ugh. Headache all day.
2. Madison, a little girl at VBS, running out to greet me when I arrived. Nice to feel wanted!
3. A fairly low-key day at VBS today.
4. Being able to come home early today. Nice to work and rest at home... I miss that!
5. Going to the "Cottage House" antique market with the hubby this afternoon. Got a couple of fun decorations - a HUGE black bowl (it might get painted... we'll see), and a pretty barn-red and yellow wall bucket thingy... Fun fun fun.
6. A funny response to my "Ladies of Grace" story - a man who wrote a book about introverts in the church emailed me to tell me about the book! LOL I'll have to check it out! Thanks, Adam!
7. The hubby helping me make treats for VBS tomorrow - he's so much better at certain things!
8. A beautiful night for a walk - gorgeous sunset!
9. Offers to do cool giveaways and product reviews on the blog. Kind of fun!
10. This picture of my goddaughter, Elly, and me swimming and making fishy faces!
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