Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Memories We Cherish

After my son Daniel died at age four, I asked family and friends to send their memories for a memory album I created. Here's one from my Dad sent from Japan where he and Mom were missionaries for 38 years.



It doesn't take long to write a memory of a loved one. Write one to cherish and don't hesitate to ask others to write memories of their own.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Spring From the Eyes and Nose of a Puppy

I turned 60 this January and aside from the few minutes it takes to get out of bed to feel fully functional each morning, I consider myself healthy. However, with the shutdown/lockdown that we continue to face, I find myself feeling a bit less healthy. I want to rip off my mask; I want to jump on the direct flight from Raleigh-Durham to Vegas like Carl and I used to (without masks); I want to go back to church and stand with the congregation and sing----even if my voice is off-key. I want to have friends in my home and make dinners with pasta and lots of cheese.

I stop from my whining because someone is at my knee. It's my seven-month-old puppy, Bella, who has brought a squirrel toy to me and wants me to play. I take the toy and toss it across the hardwood. She chases after it, stops, grabs it with her mouth, and races back to me. We go outside into the sunshine where I toss a tennis ball and she follows its path along the driveway, picks it up, and returns to me. She drops the ball and jumps into a pile of raked leaves we keep for her to play in (yes, it's spring and yes, we still have fallen leaves from the 40+ trees on our property). She looks at me with her beautiful expressive face and then makes a bed inside the pile.


When the first iris bloomed---the first iris Bella had even seen----she introduced herself to it. She was curious and cautious. Her approach to the iris made me think about trying new things, about wonder, about curiosity. I felt that perhaps in a season of dismal (not only the continuing pandemic but the excessive government spending, our southern border crisis, etc. and etc.) it was time to take a break from the daily news and see the world through the eyes of a puppy.
I walk around the yard and take photos of the flowers, and then take a few of one of our neighbor's trees with the large pink blooms. I breathe in the fresh warm air and note the blue in the sky. Bella skips over to me and I watch her nose sniff scents that I cannot smell. "It’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people," writes Lynn Buzhardt, DVM. "Dogs also have a great homing instinct that depends on their ability to smell. Since dogs move their nostrils independently, they can determine the direction of an odor and use their sense of smell like a compass."

I sit on the back stoop with Bella, together--she with her compass-nose twitching in the air, and me with my camera----focused on the magnitude of creation supplied by our Creator. All of this new life for us to take in. Every year I have enjoyed the season through color, touch, smell, and that sense that causes me to say: With so much beauty, how can life not be good?

As Bella snifs my hand and rests against me, my prayer is: Don't let me be so bogged down by the way things are (things that I cannot control) that I miss the wonder and beauty of my 60th spring.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Broken Faith

The first Christmas without my child was one I wanted to avoid. Yet bereavement is not a journey we get to bypass; bereavement is a journey made to go through, and discover how to live in spite of sorrow.

December 1997

At the strip mall I entered a chain Christian bookstore I’d been to many times before. A Christmas tree with red bows and silver and gold ornaments greeted me. I was aware of the piped-in music because it was one of my favorite carols that played, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. Whoever was singing had a rich, soulful voice, which transported me back to last Christmas.

Last Christmas we had our own decorated tree, expecting to spend Christmas at home with my brother and his girlfriend who had come to visit. But days before the 25th Daniel ended up in the hospital due to some unknown cause. He’d spiked a fever, was delirious, but although numerous tests were done, nothing grew in the Petri dish. Next Christmas will be different, I had thought, as I sat by his bedside reading books to him. Next Christmas he’ll be done with his protocol and we’ll be able to celebrate at home like a normal family.

We were now living next Christmas.

As the music in the bookstore continued, I walked down the aisles. One aisle was stocked with motivational books, books with titles that were all about how to increase your faith and trust Jesus in all things. Book after book. Believe, grow, love, trust!

I made my way toward the door, ready to leave. I'd been crazy to think that I could shop during this season. With a hand on the door, I paused. To my right I saw a table that had a sign on it: Discount.

Discount tables and I have always gotten along. I’ve never met a discount I didn’t like. On the table among plaques, and tree ornaments, a stocking hanger with the manger scene piqued my interest. There in the middle of the decoration was baby Jesus in the cradle with Mary and a lamb to the left of him. Joseph crouched by Mary and the three wisemen with their gifts were together. A donkey relaxed by the foot of the cradle. I picked the item up, turning it over in my hand. I noted the weight of it. It was a heavy piece.

As with anything that’s placed on sale, I want to know why. Peering closely, I saw the tiny star at the top of the hanger had a faint diagonal line underneath that didn't look like it belonged. Two of the points of the star were chipped. The donkey was missing an ear. The item had to have been dropped or hit; the star must have broken away from the rest of those below it. Someone had used glue to seal it back to the roof of the stable. I suppose the donkey's right ear was never found. I ran my fingers over all the edges and figures, over the defects. I had never had a stocking hanger before, but that was not why this decoration continued to stay in my hands. This object connected to me.

It belonged to me.

I purchased the discounted broken item. It was right within my frugal budget; it had been marked down from twenty-five dollars to just seven-ninety-nine. Now it really was mine.

On the way home, I drove past homes with festive lights strung from eaves. Plastic blow-up snowmen and big, happy Santas waved from neighbors’ lawns. Wreaths graced front doors. Inside the windows I saw decorated pine and spruce trees, their twinkling lights bright and warm.

When I got home, I hung my new purchase on the mantle in the family room. I told my husband that the item was the beginning of a collection of Christmas decorations, decorations for the broken.

Next year, maybe it would be easier to breathe during the holiday season. Next year maybe the air would not be thickened with brokenness. But maybe not. There were no promises for an easy life; but there was the promise of Emmanuel always with us.



O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.


Friday, February 5, 2021

An Irish Soda Bread Day

Irish Soda Bread is one of the first recipes I recall making as a child. I made a loaf the other day and fell in love with the bread once again. I found some recipes online and using a few of them came up with this one.

Quick and Easy Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients

• 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

• 1 large egg

• 4 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

• 3 TS sugar

• 1 ts baking soda

• 1 ts salt

• 5 TS unsalted butter, cold and cubed

• 1 to 2 cups raisins (you can eye-ball this; I like a lot of raisins, you might want less)

• 1 ts caraway seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-10 inch cake pan or pie plate/dish. Or you can place a piece of parchment paper on top of a baking stone. (I used a baking stone I have from Pampered Chef.)

Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. In another bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. Work the dough until into coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture.

Fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. With floured hands on a lightly floured surface, work the dough into an (approximately) 8 or 9 inch round loaf. Knead the dough lightly. Make sure all the flour is moistened.

Place the dough onto/into the prepared pan/stone/pan. With a sharp knife, make an X into the top. (You can melt 4 TS of butter and brush it on the top at this time if you would like.) Sprinkle with caraway seeds.

Bake for 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Test the center with a chopstick or toothpick to make sure it has been baked through.

Remove from the oven and allow the loaf to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Cut a slice, spread real butter on it, and enjoy!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

For the love of dogs

In the mornings I wake to low whimperings and deep breathes. Bella, our 5-month old boxer, is on the other side of the closed bedroom door. Carl usually gets up before me and takes Bella from her crate to the backyard to "be quick". After she's inside the living room and he's at the computer, she runs upstairs to find me. I get dressed to the sounds of her sniffing and whimpering at the cracks in the door. When I open it, there she is----almost-40 pounds of her leaping toward me. Before I take a step from the bedroom into the hallway, she is a ball of wiggling energy. She has learned not to jump on my legs. I make a fuss over her, reaching down to cradle her head. "Good morning, sweet girl." On a whim, Carl and I drove over 1,000 miles to Tennessee and back for this brown and white furry creation. From the moment I saw her photo on the computer screen in the ad on Craigslist, I knew that she and I were going to be friends.

The reason I knew I could bond with this puppy was not because of my inherent love for dogs or because I have always been a dog owner. The ability to get close to this puppy and let her lick my ears and climb into my lap was because of a different dog. The kids named another boxer, our mahogany and white Levi.

Levi entered our lives as a puppy over ten years ago. Carl is a lover of boxer dogs and wanted one. I had barely agreed. We already had a dog----the kids' beagle named Dixie. Why did we need another? I had plans that when Dixie went over the Rainbow Bridge, that would end my dog responsibilities. No more puppy chow to purchase, no more dog hair to sweep, no more vet bills. But something unexpected occurred. Levi did something to my heart. He wormed his way in with his expressions, his love of ice cubes, his soulful "singing" when Carl played the harmonica and the way he'd rest his head against my thigh when we'd watch TV. He gave me confidence in how to train a dog and how to enjoy dog antics. He was stubborn, he was handsome, he barked too loudly at any UPS truck, he smudged windows with his nose, he pressed against my side when I cried over things that hurt my spirit. The dance he performed whenever he saw kibbles being poured into his bowl was enough to show me that while he made us happy, we could make him happy, too. The simple things in life are worth rejoicing over. Every night he twirled around until his bowl was filled and dinner was served.


And when he was gray and suffering from seizures brought on by a brain tumor (the tumor was an educated guess by our vet; we did not get an MRI done), I told him to rest and if his resting took him to the Rainbow Bridge to cross it, by all means, cross it. When he died an hour after I'd whispered those words into his ear, I sobbed.



Bella and I walk down the carpeted stairs to the landing where the staircase turns. There's enough room for both of us to sit. Bella sits beside me and when I put my face by hers, she licks my neck. I feel a connection to Levi at this spot. I tell Bella that this landing is where Levi liked to lay and watch the world through the smudged-by-his-nose window below. In the late mornings the sun makes its way through the window and warms the carpet. I suppose the older boxer liked the way it warmed his fur.

Bella and I sit together for a few minutes even though the sun has yet to reach us. We see a young woman in a florescent hat jogging on the street. Next, we watch a boy on a bike. The bike's front wheel hits something in the road and the bike halts. The boy calls for his mama. A woman rushes toward the boy. We can't hear what she says, but the boy nods and starts pedaling again. Bella moves closer to me. I don't know how much longer she will put up with my ritual of sitting, but I'm grateful for her company. She waits until I stand and then together we continue down the last steps---me, slowly, she, scampering----into the hallway and living room.

We are ready to face the world and all the challenges it offers.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Cooking With Author Susan Mathis!

Today we welcome author Susan Mathis who has a new novel for us. She also has a recipe from that novel. Welcome, Susan!

“Gloom turned to joy, and it was time for cake. Mr. Bernheim led them to the dining room and even invited Daniel to join them. When they were all seated, a waiter served them a layered orange sponge cake with pecans on top and tart lemonade with raspberries floating in it. How elegant!”—from Reagan’s Reward by Susan G Mathis

In Reagan’s Reward, Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and they celebrate their ninth birthday with Orange Sponge Cake. But Reagan's life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca becomes frustratingly complicated when service to a Jewish family when she is a Gentile and tending to eight-year-old, mischievous boys yields challenges galore.

Here’s the recipe for Jake and JoJo’s Birthday Orange Sponge Cake

Prep: 30 min. Bake: 45 min.

Ingredients

8 large eggs, separated, room temperature

1 cup flour, sifted

1 1/3 cup sugar, divided in two

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar



FROSTING:

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons flour

2/3 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons grated orange zest

2 large eggs

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°

CAKE:

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, beating until thick. Beat in orange juice and orange zest. Fold in sifted flour.

Add salt and cream of tartar to egg whites; with clean beaters, beat on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until soft glossy peaks form. Fold a fourth of the egg whites.

Pour into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Bake on lowest oven rack 45-55 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool cake in pan, about 1-1/2 hours.

FROSTING:

Mix sugar and flour in a large saucepan. Whisk in orange juice and orange zest.

Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk a ¼ cup of hot mixture into eggs; return to pan, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a clean bowl.

Cool 30 minutes. Press plastic wrap onto surface of orange mixture; refrigerate until cold.

In a large bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form; fold into orange mixture. Run a knife around sides and center tube of pan. Remove cake to a serving plate. Using a long-serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into three layers. Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake.

Sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate until serving.

About the Novel

Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. He tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, but she calls into question his own faith background and forces him to face the hurts of his past. Then there’s the jealous lady’s maid who seems intent on wedging herself between them. Can he and Reagan ever find common ground on such a small island?

About the Author

Susan G Mathis is an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award and the Indie Excellence Book Award. Visit her website for more.

Connect with Susan

Read more about Susan and get a copy of Reagan's Reward on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Cooking With Author Jim Baton



Today I welcome author Jim Baton to the Patchwork Quilt Blog. Jim has a fried rice recipe I will have to try. I was born and raised in Japan, so I make yakimeshi (Japanese fried rice) often. Fried rice holds a special place in my arena of comfort food.

Jim also has some novels I know you'll want to read.

Here's Jim!

Baton Family Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Indonesia’s comfort food! And a quick favorite of nearly all Westerners who visit us in Indonesia.

Ingredients

CHICKEN

• ▢1 tbsp vegetable oil (unflavored)

• ▢5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• ▢1/2 yellow onion, diced

• ▢1 tsp salt

• ▢2 slightly beaten eggs

• ▢5 oz / 150g chicken breast, chopped in small squares (or other protein)

• ▢3 tbsp fish sauce

• ▢3 tbsp Asian cooking wine

RICE

• ▢Choice of 2 vegetables: shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, green peas, mushrooms, mustard greens, (or chopped red or green chilis for an extra kick)—only 2, because too many vegies make it watery

• ▢1 tsp white pepper

• ▢1 tsp tomato ketchup

• ▢1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (or regular soy sauce with a pinch of sugar)

• ▢3 cups cooked long-grain white rice, day old, cold (warm rice becomes gooey)

• ▢1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped

GARNISHES / SIDE SERVINGS (OPTIONAL)

• ▢1 extra egg per person, fried to taste

• ▢Tomatoes and cucumbers, cut into wedges/chunks

• ▢Fried garlic and fried shallots, store bought (optional)

Instructions

1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.

2. Add garlic until fragrance rises, then add onions and salt, stir until color is clear.

3. Add beaten eggs, cook until it’s no longer runny.

4. Add chicken, cook until it mostly turns white, then add fish sauce and cooking wine and cook until chicken is fully cooked.

5. Add choice of vegetables, stirring in white pepper, ketchup and soy sauce. Mix for a few seconds only.

6. Add rice, stir in thoroughly, then taste. You can adjust the taste to be sweeter or saltier at this point. When you’re happy with the taste, turn off the stove and mix in the green onions (and some fried shallots if you like).

7. Serve, accompanied by garnishes of choice. (Serves 3-4 people)



About the HOPE Trilogy

Seventy-five years ago, fifteen-year-old Hope McCormick disappeared. To remember her, the newly incorporated town was named “Hope.” When high school friends Kelsey and Harmonie begin looking into this unsolved mystery, they discover that someone will do anything to make sure the town’s secrets never come to light.

As the violence increases, God raises up a house of prayer to wage war in the heavenlies. Angelic appearances and miracles give Kelsey and the other intercessors fresh hope that God is about to break through. A showdown with the dark forces that have dominated their town is inevitable.

This action-packed series reads like Frank Peretti novels set in the chaos of 2020. Jim Baton believes revival is coming to America. After reading the HOPE Trilogy, perhaps you will too.



About the Author

Jim Baton is best known for his award-winning PEACE Trilogy—Christian thrillers about confronting religious extremism with extreme peacemaking—based on his 20+ years of serving the Lord in the world’s largest Muslim nation. His brand-new HOPE Trilogy mysteries address issues of social justice, police brutality, illegal immigration, and other issues that strike close to home, while demonstrating a clear pathway forward to revival in America. Learn more here at Jim's website.

Get Your Copies of Jim's Books

Head to Jim's page on Amazon.

See the full PEACE Trilogy and learn more.