Monday, February 28, 2011

Gratitude Journal

Linking back up with Ann today. My list grows. And so does my heart.

90. A full day of quiet to write.

91. Freshly fallen snow, a blanket of white.

92. Unbelievable opportunities for an unbelievable group of people from our church to travel to France.

93. Women reaching out to refugees.

94. Missions festival at church yesterday--it always makes me weep to think of the work those people do.

95. "Growth opportunities."

96. A wonderful dinner made by Julia.

97. Having Caroline back from retreat.

98. A long walk with my middle girl--doesn't happen often.

99. Oh-my-goodness friends who are willing to sacrifice for me.

100. Getting an important appointment in just one day when I thought I'd have to wait weeks.

101. Reaching 100.

102. College girls filling my house with laughter.

I'll be honest, looking for the gifts around me hasn't been as easy as I thought it would. I forget. I'm lazy and don't write things down. And then I forget some more. But I'm not giving up because this week it got just a little bit easier. And I know it's going to get easier still.

Here's what I read this morning--one of my favorites: "The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." Lamentations 3:22-23


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Good Reads

Oh my goodness, I've saved so many great and thought-provoking posts lately that I just have to share them with you today.

Let's start with some fun. Gussy (my friend from Blissdom who saved me a seat on the airplane) shows how to make this adorable craft with old spools. I'm not crafty, but this just inspires me.

Talk about inspiration! Do you have a dream? Do you believe you can achieve your dream? This post at Success {Your Way} really encouraged me to keep trying and to keep believing that I do have what it takes to accomplish my dreams.

But then again, we can't just sit around dreaming, can we? We have to sit down (or get up) and do the work, as Donald Miller explains here. And here. I love this!

This post goes back to January, but I think it's still applicable. Emily (who is sweet and dear and wonderful) wrote some things at (in)Courage that I could have written about living more simply, more intentionally, and just enjoying what's around you.

Finally, my sweet friend, Glenda, who recently moved to Chicago, gave me an award this week. Woo hoo! I'll write more about that next week, but I just wanted you to go over and say hello to Glenda today. Tell her thanks for me. :)

That should keep you reading for a while. Happy Weekend, friends!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabulous Friday Food - Molten Chocolate Cakes

I know, I know, Valentine's Day has come and gone, but I still have to share with you the dessert we made that night. It's one of our favorites because it seems a little fancy, but it's oh-so-delicious. And perfect for Valentine's Day.

So, since it's still technically February and I'm still in love (tee hee!), I thought I'd share our Valentine's Day dessert with you.

I'll be honest--it's Giada's recipe. So if you want to just use that, you are more than welcome to go there and print it off. I don't use the liqueur or the berries, so I guess you could say that mine is a variation.

And if you've ever thought that making Molten Chocolate Cake is just too hard, think again. It's not. It's a little more involved than, say, making a cake from a box mix, but not too much more. The key is in the beating of the eggs. If you can beat eggs, you can do this.

Here we go. Assemble your ingredients (don't I say that every week?): Butter, flour, sugar, chocolate, eggs, and coffee. Super-basic, don't you think?

Chop up the chocolate.

Melt the chocolate and butter and instant coffee over a double boiler, but don't let it get too hot.

Here's my helper mixing the chocolate and butter.

Butter and flour the ramekins--the full recipe will make about 8 individual cakes (we only made four on Valentine's Day and made the rest the next day).

Put the egg yolks and eggs in a mixing bowl. Room temperature eggs work best.

Add the sugar.

And beat the heck out of it. Really. I mean, like, beat it for a few minutes until the mixture is nice and thick.

Add the melted chocolate and butter once it's cooled a bit (you don't want to scramble the eggs).

Add the flour. (It's crazy, but this recipe only takes 4 teaspoons of flour!)

Pour into ramekins.

Mmmmm. I could dive in right now, but you have to bake these beauties for 8-10 minutes.

Now, the tricky part, of course, is turning the cakes out of the ramekins. Which I can never do like they do in a restaurant. What can I say? It's my one cooking weakness.

But we've come up with a happy solution in our family . . . don't turn them over. Just serve them in the ramekin.

With a dollop of fresh whipped cream, of course.

If you want the printable version of my take on Giada's recipe, you can click here.

Have a great weekend!


Five Minute Friday

I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo again today for her Five Minute Friday prompt. Today's topic is "Five Years Ago."

Now remember, the idea behind Five Minute Friday is to just write . . . quickly and without edits. Just get something down on paper and see what happens. So that's what I've done. It's always fascinating to me to see what comes out.

Anyway, here's my Five Minute Friday on Five Years Ago.


Five years ago my girls were in 2nd, 6th, and 8th grade. We were looking forward to high school and trying to survive the middle school years. College plans and dreams seemed a long way off.

Five years ago we lived in the cocoon of sameness. Our house had recently been remodeled, and we were trying to figure out who would occupy which room. We felt (and still do!) incredibly blessed.

Five years ago we met Matt “randomly” in the church lobby, and he moved in with us for a few months. The girls got their first taste of living with a big brother. Awesome to share what God had given us with someone who needed a place to stay, but more awesome to gain a “son” and a friend for life.

Five years ago seems like forever ago, and yet it seems like the blink of an eye. Second grade has turned into seventh grade with contacts and braces and not-yet-makeup. Sixth grade has turned into eleventh with college searches and ACT tests and almost-senior-year. Eighth grade has turned into college with new friends and interesting classes and dreams of the future.

Five years ago, my life was just fine with three little girls under one roof. My heart did not know how much it could hold, nor how it could miss someone so much.


So tell me, where were YOU five years ago??

Also, don't forget to come back again later for Fabulous Friday Food. You're gonna like this one!!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Would YOU Like to Say?

Earlier this week Megan at Fried Okra was telling about a friend of hers who recently lost her husband. She said her friend had a good sense of humor, but that even a good sense of humor just wasn't enough to handle all the strange, rude, inappropriate comments she sometimes gets.

Megan came up with a great solution for her friend:

"So I was thinking . . . maybe she [Megan's friend] WOULD be comfortable, and maybe would even ENJOY, having a stack of brightly colored business-sized cards to keep with her that just say, Bless your sweet heart for wanting to help me. What you are doing right now ain't helpin'. If you really want to help, shut up and bring me another glass of wine!, that she could hand to people when they're saying or doing something that isn't hitting the mark with her. It'd all be in good fun, of course, but would also be her get-out-of-jail free card, in a sense, and may perhaps light-heartedly open a dialogue with people as to how they could better support her. You think?"

Well, that just made me laugh, and I got to thinking about all the business cards that I'd like to pass out in my life.

Like to the person who just will. not. shut. up.: “Could you stop talking now? I’ve had enough.”

You could just put this one underneath the windshield wiper: “You’re going to get rear-ended with all those bumper stickers on your car.”

Oh, I could use this one every now and then: “Hey, mom-in-the-grocery-store-yelling-at-your-little-kid, calm down.”

For when you find yourself just plain incredulous (like I do . . . a lot): “Dude. Really??”

I'd like to have this one in the library or in a book store. Of course, you'll need an attachment: “Here’s a Kleenex. Use it.”

And my favorite, for when you're waiting to get on an airplane and everyone is crowded around the gate, just clamoring to get through the door so they can be the first to get their carry-on luggage in the overhead bin: “You just cut in line. Go back. Allllll the way back. And start over.”

How about you? What would your business card say?


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Behind My Bedroom Door

I caught the bug when I was about ten years old.

My grandpa had it too—he passed it on to me. And even though my poor grandma didn’t have it, he made her take part in it.

The travel bug.

Grandpa Earl retired early, and he and my grandma spent probably 20 years traveling all over the world. Twice that I recall they went literally around the world. They went to Europe several times, to Central America, to Asia. And every time they got back from a trip I’d say, “So, Grandpa, where are you going next?”

He always had an answer for me.

I knew I had it when I started pilfering the Travel section of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday afternoons. I’d take it to my room, close the door softly, and grab my scissors and tape.

“Rome is for Lovers”

“St. Barts: A Romantic Getaway”

“The Stunning Beaches of Puerto Rico”

“Switzerland on $10 a Day”

The headlines grabbed my attention, not so much for the content, but for the place names. I would carefully cut out the name of each place that sounded romantic, mysterious, or intriguing—places I wanted to visit someday—and then I’d tape the names of these places to the back of my door.


“St. Barts”

“Puerto Rico”


The back of my bedroom door was the perfect hideaway for my dreams. During the day, while my door stood open, the names could not be seen, so my sisters couldn’t tease me about them.

But at night, while I studied or read or got ready for bed, the names remained fixed in their spot, for my eyes only. For my dreams only.

Throughout junior high and high school I continued to steal the Chicago Tribune Travel section, and I continued to cut out names of places I’d someday like to see. By the time I graduated from high school, the back of my door was completely covered.

I still remember the day I left for college and had to remove those place names, those destinations that had become very much a part of me. I slowly peeled back the tape so that I wouldn’t rip any of the newsprint, and I remember thinking for a minute that I should save them but then chastising myself for the ridiculousness of it all.

After college I got married, but before we ever walked down the aisle I made sure that B understood that I was just like Grandpa Earl, always dreaming about the next trip. I would happily forgo a huge house or nice car for a trip.

I indoctrinated him before we had kids by taking him to England to see many of the places I had seen in college. We backpacked and stayed in Youth Hostels and did the entire trip for $2,500, which was an absolute fortune to us back then.

Since then I have seen a lot of those places—St. Barts, Puerto Rico, and Switzerland, even—and we have made family memories to last a lifetime. And I still contend that spending money on travel is never a waste.

Nor is spending time in your bedroom cutting out place names from the Travel section of the newspaper, dreaming of the next trip you will take.

The world is vast and huge and diverse and a blessed place to be. When I travel I sense that God is in it all and sees it all and controls it all. I see His creativity and His ordering of things and His hand reaching out to the world. I feel a part of the vastness and hugeness and the diversity of God.

And that is a blessed place to be.

Now tell me, do you like to travel? Why or why not?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gratitude Journal

This has been a week.

A week of travel.

A week of sorrow.

A week of sorting out.

A week of dear friendships.

A week of thankfulness.

I've been in Florida for a few days. Just arrived home last night to the arms of my family whom I love. I hated to leave all that warm sunshine (it really did me a world of good), but it just doesn't sit right with me to be away from them all for too long.

I went with my mom to sort through my grandmother's things. Grandma Nell, whom I visited last November, passed away a couple of weeks ago. She had obviously lived a good, long life, but she couldn't hold on any more. She would have been 100 years old on May 16 this year.

Our time there was bittersweet, but mostly sweet thanks to my dear friend, K, who opened her home to my mom and I. Mom was able to rest and gain some strength while we were there, and I will be forever thankful for K's hospitality.

My list continues . . .

77. Warm sunshine kisses on my back.

78. Palm trees
79. Crazy-cawing birds
80. Long, loud laughter
81. Generous friends
82. A family heritage worth sharing
83. Bonds broken and the grace that breaks them
84. Safe travels
85. A family to come home to
86. Kate, who made the effort to come see me when I got home.
87. Fun family times around the table.
88. Girls who actually WANT to go shopping with their mom.

89. Red shoes (they make me smile)

Tell me, how was your week?


P.S. I'm posting over at MODsquad today about How to Really Love our Daughters. Come check it out!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Coming!!

Since it's going to be in the '50s today in Chicago and we're all getting a little Spring Fever, I thought I'd share this with you.

(Thanks, Jenn!)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Blizzard Edition

Because I just couldn't let it go . . .

Personally, I'm kinda glad I don't live in the City when it snows.

Let the melting begin!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Religious Climate in the World

This post really grabbed my attention yesterday. Go read it and come back (it might take you a few minutes longer than you usually spend on a blog, but it will be well worth your time). We have some things to discuss.

I've linked to Conversion Diary here a few times in the past--I find Jennifer's conversion from atheism to Catholicism fascinating. Although we don't necessarily share the same "brand" of Christianity, I find Jennifer's faith to be vibrant, thoughtful, and sincere.

Last week she asked the question, "What is the religious climate in your country?" And, boy, did she get answers!

Yesterday she listed out a generous sampling of answers she received from her readers around the world. To say a chill went down my spine would be an understatement.

I was brought back to my first visit to England in 1984. I was a college student traveling around the country and studying at Oxford, and I was struck mainly by two things during the eight weeks I was there. First, I was profoundly affected by the history all around me . . . and the lack of it in my homeland. It's true, America is such a young country. Seeing the sights in England--buildings that were centuries older than our entire country--helped me put my upbringing into a perspective I had never had before.

The second thing that struck me was how much the people of England, and the United Kingdom in general, needed Jesus. As I walked around I noticed that something seemed to be missing from the faces of many of the people there. Was it hope? Was it faith? I wasn't sure, but it was palpable, this lack of something. For the first time in my life I was confronted with what a society without a firm spiritual footing--a Christian footing--looked like.

And it made me sad. And it made me pray deeply for the people of England.

It also gave me a sense that more and more missionaries need to be there. Just living lives that are different among people who have no hope.

But who wants to say they are missionaries in England? It's like being a missionary to Switzerland! Ha!

Anyway, Jennifer's post really gave me so much to think about, to pray about. Some of the more chilling answers, in my opinion . . .

To the question "At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?" one reader from Luxembourg said it would be "odd and slightly inappropriate." Really.

To the question "What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? " a reader from British Columbia said, "The more a politician discusses his religious affiliations in public the more suspect he is."

Jennifer asked about the size of the average family and most readers said that the family is declining in importance (especially in Europe) but Muslims all have big families.

She asked, "What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?" One reader from the U.K. said "shopping." Others said "apathy" or "indifference."

Finally, when asked "Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?" most readers from Europe seemed to think that religion in their part of the world is dying out completely. A couple of people said that there are some thriving Evangelical churches in London, but outside of London the church is dying.

Of course, there were some bright spots. The church in Africa seems to be thriving, as does the church in the Philippines. China seems to be easing its restrictions a bit.

But this thing about Europe . . . oh, it breaks my heart.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to know.


Monday, February 14, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

"Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives."
Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts"

Oh boy. Just . . . oh boy.

I’ve started reading a new book—Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”—and I can see that this is going to be profound. Moving. Life changing.

I’ve only read three chapters—chapters that need to be savored, not devoured—but I can already tell that this is a book that will have a deep impact on me.

Ann begins her book (a memoir, my favorite genre) by telling the story of her younger sister’s death when Ann was only four years old. An accident; she was run over by a truck in the yard of their farm.

After many years of questioning God, harboring bitterness and anger, Ann learns to release these feelings through what she calls the gift of gratitude. A friend challenges her to write down One Thousand Gifts, daily reminders of God’s grace in her life, to see what would happen.

Things happen alright. Even in just three chapters, Ann shows what the deep roots of ingratitude can do to a person and how just thinking of God’s goodness every day has changed her.

I’ve been trying to chronicle my own “Gratitude Journal” here over the past few weeks, but I haven’t been consistent. I’ve even thought about stopping because I didn’t see the purpose in it clearly. But now, after just three chapters of “One Thousand Gifts” I’m beginning to get it. And I’m beginning to see how thankfulness can root out the ugliness of bitterness, anger, discontentment.

I’ve been through a bit of what Ann has. Many of you know (but many don’t) that I lost a brother to an accidental drowning when I was eleven years old. I have much to say about that, but not here and not now. I only mention it to say that I get where Ann has been. I’m not sure I’ve held on to the questions about God the way Ann has, but I’m sure I have suffered the discontentment she talks about. The questioning of God’s ways in our lives.

And I’m on the other side of it now too. Not quite sure how I got here, although I’m fairly certain it wasn’t through counting my blessings.

It should have been.

And so I count them now. The blessings. They are all around me, so deep, so vibrant, so real that I can touch them every day.

I’ll keep counting. You can keep reading. And we’ll all keep growing.

If you’d like to read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” you can order it here. And if you’d like to follow along with (in)Courage—they are hosting a book club with Ann Voskamp every week—you can find the interviews here.

* * * * *

Gratitude Journal

66. Sunlight streaming through my bedroom window.
67. Long walks with Thunder
68. Temps above freezing.
69. Safety through the blizzard.
70. Little girl hugs after a weekend away.
71. Our church. (Do I say this every week?)
72. Birthdays.
73. Long talks over lunch.
74. My Bible study co-leader.
75. Opportunities to wait and see.
76. All the people I love and who love me so well.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Fabulous Friday Food - My Favorite Angel Food Cake

Need an easy Valentine's Day dessert that will make your family squeal with delight? I've got your answer. It only takes three simple ingredients and your family will love it--I promise!

My mom used to make this for us when we were younger, and every time she made it we all got excited, jumping around the kitchen and making all sorts of ruckus.

You should have seen the smiling, happy faces in my kitchen when I put this together yesterday. And all the ensuing ruckus. It was a party . . . of four.

Alright, here we go. Ingredient number 1 is an Angel Food cake, one of my personal favorites. Please, for the sake of all that is right and good in the world, go ahead and bake your own cake. It only takes water and one minute of mixing time. So easy, you can't even imagine. And you will have a cake that is ten times . . . no, one hundred times . . . (hyperbole, much?!) . . . better than those yucky cakes they sell in the grocery store.

Seriously, if you've never made an Angel Food cake at home, try it. You will thank me. Your family will thank me. Your dog will thank me.

Just try it.

O.K., now that I've convinced you to make your own Angel Food cake, and you've done that--baked it and cooled it completely--now you are ready to assemble your three ingredients.

Drum roll, please.

Angel Food cake, Cool Whip, and a very big Hershey bar. That is all.

Put the Hershey bar in your food processor (I have a handy-dandy small chopper for just this kind of thing) and grind it up.

See? All ground up.

Add the Hershey bar pieces to the Cool Whip that has been thawed in the refrigerator overnight.

Mix it together . . .

. . . and frost the cake with it.

That's it! That's all it is. But, trust me, it is SO good! Serve it with some sliced strawberries and you've got yourself the all-time easiest Valentines Day (or any day) dessert.

Side note: If you're a real big chocolate fan, you might want to consider using two of the giant Hershey bars. Just sayin'.

Second side note: I am not a Hershey fan. I'm more of a Dove chocolate girl. Hershey is too grainy for my refined palatte, so this is pretty much the only way I truly enjoy Hershey bars.

Third side note: If you don't want to keep the cake in your refrigerator, you can use the Cool Whip/Hershey mixture as a dolloping device rather than as frosting. That way you just put the whipped cream in the fridge and keep the cake on the counter. Oh, I am so full of tricks today, aren't I?

Final side note: This is kind of a blue-collar dessert. I suppose if you were a true food snob you could use real whipped cream and Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate. If you were a true food snob. Not that I am or anything.


Five Minutes

I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo today for Five Minute Friday. Today's theme--what happened in your week this week?

Well . . . you all know what happened in my week this week--my personal email got hacked. I have more than five minutes worth of thoughts about all this, but I thought I'd quickly jot down five lessons I learned when my email got hacked.

One minute for each. And then, I promise, I'll be done with this episode.


1. Having your email hacked is a pain. And stressful. Just last night I was looking for some information for a trip I'm taking next week and, of course, the email was gone. I had no idea what time my flight was. Or even which airport I was supposed to go to. And it put me into a stressful funk which I then imposed on my whole family.

They sent me away for the evening.

2. Having your email hacked feels like a violation. Because it IS. Somebody came into my "home" and stole a bunch of important stuff from me. And not only that, they took all my friends with them. I can't shake the feeling that I've been robbed.

3. There are a lot of evil people sitting in front of their computers right now. As I write, I'm sitting in Panera, and there are a lot of people sitting in front of their computers (thanks, Panera, for the free wifi!). I wonder which one of these people is a hacker. And if you're one of the ones trying to hack into my friends' email account or trying to fill my blog with spam comments, just do me a favor and get a real job.

4. There are a lot of good people out there too.
I have been so humbled and amazed by the number of people who took the time to check in on us. Most knew that the "Help!" email they got from us was a hoax, but they just wanted to check in on us anyway to make sure. What wonderful friends we have.

5. Change your passwords. If there's anything I have learned from this experience that I want to pass along to you it is this. We had not changed our passwords in two or three years (I'm embarrassed to admit this), and that's what hackers look for. I learned from AT&T security that we should change our passwords every six months. A pain, to be sure, but also very, very essential.


There. I'm now officially done talking about the hacker on my blog.

Be sure to come back later, though, because I'm going to post a quick and EASY dessert you can serve on Valentine's Day. I promise it's easy--only three ingredients.

Now tell me, what happened in YOUR week this week?


Thursday, February 10, 2011


Lately when I've been working out at the gym this song has been coming up on my playlist, and I love it. This morning I listened to the words very carefully. I may have even closed my eyes while I was riding the stationary bike. (Thank goodness I didn't fall off!) The words are amazing and they spoke to me in a big way this morning.

Anyway, listen to this song today. And whatever's in front of you, I hope you'll sing "Hallelujah."


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Situation of Things Right Now

Just when you think you don’t have anything to write about . . . wha bam! . . . life just comes at you and hits you over the head.

Who says life isn’t exciting? It’s always an adventure!

So yesterday started out just like any other Monday. I got up, made coffee, took Julia to school, and headed to the gym. When I got home I had really high hopes of doing some writing for a couple of hours. I was psyched and ready to write, so I showered and got dressed like I usually do (I’m one of those people who can’t get anything done unless my hair is dried and I’m wearing makeup. Don’t judge.).

And then the phone rang.

And rang. And rang some more.

People were calling to tell me that my email had been hacked.

Oh yes indeed, it had been hacked alright.

Unless you’d believe that my husband and I took a quick trip to London (as soon as the Superbowl was over) and were being ROBBED AT GUNPOINT (as soon as we got off the plane) and that the robber took all of our money and credit cards and that we needed exactly $2,250 to get the entire family home from England. The letter explained to all of our contacts that they had better hurry to send the money because of "the situation of things right now." (All of this, of course, happening in one tragically eventful day.)

What kind of evil person sits around thinking up stuff like this? Seriously!

There’s just so much wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.

First of all, my husband’s name was spelled wrong. His name is common. It’s not easy to misspell. So that should have been the first clue.

Second, have you checked airfares lately?? Believe me, it’ll take a whole lot more than $2,250 to get a family of five home from England.

And for that matter, have you ever been to Heathrow? You can’t even get out of the shopping area for less than that! It truly is a shopper’s paradise in there--the most exclusive kind of mall because you have to have an actual plane ticket off the island to even get in there.

But I digress . . .

Third, robbed at gunpoint? In England? They have laws, my friends. And their laws don’t include guns. In fact, their laws EXCLUDE the use of guns for pretty much everyone, including the police.

After a quick glance at the email that went out under my husband’s phony signature, I called our internet provider to get this whole mess sorted out. Let’s not go into the gory details here because there just may be a couple of people overseas who are crying in their soup today over some possibly harsh words I may or may not have said to them whilst asking to talk to their supervisor because MY EMAIL HAS BEEN HACKED AND I MUST CORRECT THIS SITUATION RIGHT NOW!!

Finally, after about an hour, talking to two or twenty different people named “Cindy” and “Paul” (such perky names . . . so completely fake . . . you aren’t fooling me AT&T!) I got through to a new level of security that even I didn’t know existed. And it was here that my nightmare turned Freddy Kreuger-ish.

You don’t know nightmare until you’ve got a security expert from AT&T on the other line saying things like, “I’ve never seen anything like this. This is so strange. I really think you should call the police.”

(*Insert Psycho chopping noise here.*)

Here’s the weird part . . . the hacker was on my account at the same time AT&T was trying to fix it. They would give me a secure password to get into my account and within a minute, the hacker would change it.

Freaky? Um, yeah!

After a couple of hours of dealing with AT&T security we finally got the “issue” (that seems like such a subdued word for what I was dealing with) resolved.

I think.

I hope.

I pray.

We now have the ability to send emails, which would be great if we had any email addresses. You see, our contacts were erased. Our emails were erased. Our saved email files were erased, including all the pictures that people have sent me over the years.

I told B this morning that I not only felt like I had been robbed, I kind of felt like our house had burned down because there is so much that cannot be recovered. Obviously it would have been much, much worse if our house had burned down, and I’m thankful it was just a computer issue, but still . . . it feels like a violation.

Sure, it’s frustrating, but there is a silver lining to all this . . . all the people who have reached out to us over the past 24 hours. Phone calls (close to 100), emails (tons), and people reaching out to us on Facebook. It has been amazing to see. Humbling, really.

From the many, many people at church who were concerned about us to the mom of a friend of Kate’s from kindergarten who said she could offer $100 to help. God bless her! (It reminded me of the scene from “It’s A Wonderful Life” where the people were staging a run on the Building and Loan and the little old woman stepped up to the counter and said, “I could use $17.50.” So sweet.)

But the best were the two friends who called to say, “I know you. You’re a writer. There’s no way you would have sent a letter like that—your letter would have been grammatically correct.”

At least I came through all this with my reputation still intact!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Fabulous Friday Food - My Sister Jodi's Homemade Salsa

You thought I forgot about it, didn't you? You thought I forgot that two weeks ago I promised you my sister Jodi's homemade salsa recipe. Didn't you?

But, ah ha!, the joke's on you because I didn't forgot. And just in time for your big Superbowl party, too.

But first, I have to tell you a little story. (I know, you're surprised that I would have a story.) See, there's a restaurant here called J. Alexander's. Maybe you have a J. Alexander's where you live too. It's always been one of my favorite places because they have THE BEST salsa in the world.

It's not like I'm a salsa freak or a salsa connoisseur or a salsa junkie. I mean, I like salsa. Salsa's O.K. with me. But that J. Alexander's salsa . . . oh my! There is something different about it.

So one time when I was in there guzzling salsa like a crazy woman, I took a break from licking the bowl to ask my server if there was any way the chef would share their recipe with me. (I happen to know that sometimes when you ask for a recipe in a restaurant, the chef is more than happy to share.) But no. Not this time. J. Alexander's would not share their salsa recipe with me for any amount of money. (Don't put it past me!)

I went home disappointed.

I'd like to tell you I never returned, but that would not be the truth because every once in a while I just get a craving, a notion, a hankering if you will, for J. Alexander's salsa. And I return. Tail between my legs. (Figuratively speaking.)

I tell you all this because once I tasted my sister Jodi's homemade salsa I was transported back to J. Alexander's. And my tastebuds tingled and I got so excited that I may have just jumped up and down a few times.

It may not be an exact match (only the chef at J. Alexander's can tell), but it's pretty close. It's got that fresh taste that I loved the first time I tried it. And the cilantro. Mmmmm.

So I just made a batch . . . or two . . . and I'm pretty much set for Sunday. Pretty much all you need to serve is this salsa and a few chips and your guests will be very happy campers.

Alright, maybe a couple more options. But the salsa is key.

Now, Jodi tells me that she got this recipe from her Texan mother-in-law, so if it's good enough for a true Texan, it's good enough for me. Oh, and the measurements are kind of loosey-goosey. You'll have to experiment to see how you like it. Everything's negotiable here.

So here we go. Collect your ingredients: 1 can of Hunt's (yes, it must be Hunt's) stewed tomatoes, 1 can Hunt's (yes, it must be Hunt's) diced tomatoes with sweet onion, 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers (depending on taste), 1 clove garlic, cilantro, cumin, lime, and salt.

Put the garlic clove in the food processor.

Clean the ribs and seeds from your jalapeno peppers. Unless you like it stinkin' hot. Then go ahead and leave them in. Me? I'm a de-seeder.

Toss those into your food processor along with the garlic clove.

Pulse a few times.

Take some cilantro (be sure to wash it--cilantro can be gritty and nobody likes gritty) and give it a rough chop.

Put everything else into the food processor, including just a pinch of salt.

Give it 3 or 4 quick pulses and voila!

The best homemade salsa I've ever had. Serve it up with some chips and munch away!

Click here to print or view the recipe for My Sister Jodi's Homemade Salsa.

So tell me, what are you doing for the Superbowl?