Saturday 28 February 2009

Finding rainbows in the clouds . . .

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars."
~Henry Van Dyke

Dying comes naturally to us all, having the courage to live does not. Let’s face it . . . our lives are pretty much ours to do whatever we want with. Full of it’s ups and downs, we can either accept what comes to us with a sad sort of acceptance and resignation, or we can rage against what drops on us with human passion. We can choose to find life as an exaltation or as a subjugation, as cause for bliss or something sad that we pound ourselves with every day, happy and full of joy, or sad and empty. The choice is ours to make.

I’m not little Miss Sunshine or perfect to be sure, but I like to think that I approach life with a most positive attitude most of the time. When I hit a big bump in the road, I try to look at it with a positive perspective, hang on and enjoy the ride as much as I can. In short, when life hands me lemons I make lemonade . . . Or lemon cake, lemon cookies . . . Lemon pie. I do try to make the best thing possible from it. That way I can remind myself daily of the pleasures that life has to bring, rather than it’s grim offerings. Walking around in doom and gloom really doesn’t help. I may cry briefly and deeply at times, but then I try to shake whatever it is that is causing me angst or sorrow off, and pick myself up and move forward. I make a pro-active choice to live and forge ahead, instead of giving in and dying. There is ever so much more good to find in this life, than there is bad. Why dwell on the negative?

Each day I am greeted by ordinary miracles . . . The sun comes up, whether it is cloaked in rain or not. The birds still sing. The grass still grows. What a wonder these small things are, and still we take them for granted. I am reminded of one day when I was working hard at the kitchen sink polishing copper. It seemed I had been doing it for hours. A menial task, I often lose myself in thoughts and imaginations as I work away. As I looked out the kitchen window, and across the courtyard, my mind lost deep in thought, a rainbow appeared in the sky just above the hedgerows. It was not a really bright one and I would have missed it, had I not been looking so closely at the clouds that the wind was pushing past my window's view. How beautiful it was, however faint, and what a reminder to me of a God’s promises that are true and sure. It made me glad to be alive, even though I was standing up to my elbows at a sink full of soapy water. Let's face it . . . the alternative hardly bears thinking about!

Today I pray that, no matter what challenges you are facing, or that I shall face on this day . . . that we shall all be able to look through the clouds and see a rainbow . . . the promise of better things to come, hope in the midst of dismay.

My grandmother’s sister, Orabel, lived in a big white house up in a small rural Nova Scotian village on top of the South Mountain called Inglesville. As a child, my mother used to take us up there to visit her on occasion. She seemed quite old to me and to be perfectly honest, we children were more interested in feeding the old half blind horse that lived in the field next to the house than to be sitting in the kitchen listening to old people talk. I wish now that I had stayed in the kitchen and listened more, but such wisdom is wasted on the young. She did make awfully good date squares though . . . another recipe from my big blue binder.

*Aunt Orabel’s Date Squares*

Makes 16

These were always a childhood favourite and remain so to this day. I try to tell myself when I am eating one of these that they are good for me. Dates and oats can’t be bad can they? In some circles these are also known as "Matrimonial Bars." I have no idea why!

2 cups chopped dates
2 TBS brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 cup plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
¾ cup butter
1 cup packed light soft brown sugar
2 cups oats (not instant)

Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/350*F. Lightly butter an 8 or 9 inch square baking tin and set it aside.

Put the dates into a saucepan along with the first amount of brown sugar and the boiling water. Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer for about five minutes, until the dates are soft and smooth and most of the water has been absorbed. Mash with a fork and set aside.

Put the flour, soda, salt and brown sugar into a large bowl and give them a good mix together. Rub in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the oats and give them a bit of a rub again to mix well. The mixture should stay quite crumbly.

Put half of the crumbs into the prepared pan and press it down evenly. Spread the cooked date mixture evenly over top of it, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over top. Press them down very lightly to even them out.

Bake in the heated oven for 25 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cook before cutting into squares to serve.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Why the bird sings . . .

There is nothing sweeter of a morning, than to listen to the birds as they wake up and begin their dawn chorus . . . so melodic and beautiful to hear. It really fills my heart with joy. It is in the spring time that their little chirps and cheeps become even sweeter and more pleasant to listen to, making each early morn a pure delight to listen to.

An Ornithologist might well tell you that birds sing merely to attract a mate, and, while that may be true, I prefer to think of the following explanation . . .

There is an ancient Jewish legend that tells us that, after creating the world, and before creating Man, God took a break. He gathered all his angels around and asked them what they thought of His work thus far. All agreed, to the very last one, that the Earth was, indeed, a beautiful masterpiece.

Then, one angel dared to suggest it lacked a little something. All gasped in dismay . . . how could this be . . . and then he explained himself by stating that the world lacked only the sound of praise for it's Creator.

And so . . . God created birdsong.

I think I like that little muse . . . birdsong does very much sound like a celebration of praise for all the Creator's hard work. What a wonderful thought . . .

Sometimes I feel really nostalgic for years gone by and I crave something to eat that is totally homey and comforting. This cake fits that bill perfectly. It is a basic cake that my mother used to make for us during the whole time I was growing up. A plain and simple sponge, she always filled it with raspberry preserves, as that is the way my father loved eating it most of all. I have always loved it filled with lemon curd, but . . . my Todd is much like my father, he loves it with raspberry preserves as well. It's a beautiful little cake, very moist and delicious, no matter what you choose to fill it with.

Sometimes the simple things are the best of all things. I think one bite of this lovely cake may very well cause you to agree . . .

*Mom's Hot Milk Cake*
Makes one 7 inch square cake

The original recipe for this cake is written on a scrap of paper, with only a method laid out and the ingredients interspersed. Old recipes often are put down in this way. It's all a part of their charm, I think. I have tried to explain it in a more understandable way here. Once cooled the cake can be split in two and then filled with lemon curd and topped with some whipped cream, or . . . you can do as my mother did, and simply fill it with some raspberry preserves. Either way I am sure you will love it. We do.

3 large eggs, separated
1 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk, heated until quite hot,
with 1 TBS butter melted into it
1 tsp vanilla
To finish:
Fruit preserves or Lemon curd
Icing sugar, optional
Whipped cream, if desired

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease a seven inch square baking pan and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl until light in colour. Slowly beat in the sugar, beating it until the egg yolks form ribbons when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Stir together the hot milk, butter and vanilla, stirring until the butter melts. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat this into the egg yolk mixture alternating with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with dry.

Carefully fold in the egg whites, folding gently until they are totally amalgamated into the mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until well risen and the top springs back when lightly touched, or a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool for five minutes before removing the cake from the pan completely and allowing it to cool on the wire rack until cold.

Once cool, split into half horizontally and fill with the preserves or lemon curd and top with either a dusting of icing sugar or some whipped cream.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

A day well spent . . .

"If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went -
Then you may count that day well spent.
~ George Eliot

Each day I live is far to precious to me for me to let it pass by without taking note. Each evening I like to spend a few moments quietly thinking about the day that has just passed, a moment or two to ponder and to take stock of the day I've just finished.

Have I been the friend I should have been today?

Have I worked as hard as I could have?

Have I shared a kind word when the spirit has prompted me to?

Have I prayed for those that really need my prayers?

Have I prayed for those that are too afraid, or too humble to ask for my prayers?

Have I acted in kindness in love?

Have I done all that I could, when I could, and where I could?

Do I need to try harder tomorrow?

It often doesn't take the big magnanimous gestures to make a difference, but the small and simple things. These are the greatest gifts of all and oft-times mean the difference between having a wasted day or a day well spent . . .

I got quite a lot accomplished on my half day off yesterday. I got a new picture painted. Here's a little teaser below.

Of course, if you are interested you can see the full picture here. I called this one, "A Friend Loveth At All Times." I just love the scriptures and Proverbs is one of my favourite books.

I also got busy last evening and made my first Sock Monkey. He's all done now except for his eyes and I also want to make him a little vest to wear and a hat. I really hope my grandson likes him. I only have one more to make now and then the two older ones will both have one. It's Gabriel's birthday on the 7th, so I really need to get this first one finished and out in the post and on it's way across the Atlantic! It is hard to believe that he will be three already! The time has just flown past! Before we know it he will be starting school Jonathan will also be three in May! They're growing up quickly. There is a little girl in our chapel that was born just a few weeks before Gabriel and she is turning three on Friday. I am always watching her and thinking to myself that the things that she is doing are the things my grandson's are doing. It helps me to keep a perspective on where they are at!

I had some chicken breasts in the fridge that I wanted to use up yesterday. I love chicken breasts. They are so versatile and easy to prepare. They don't really take that long to cook and you can easily adapt them to most flavours. This is one of our favourite ways of having them.

*Crunchy Chicken*
Serves 4

Quick, tasty and very easy to do. I think this will become a family favourite!

1 (10 1/2 ounce) tin of condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
1 TBS onion, finely chopped
1 TBS fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 large, skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup herb seasoned stuffing cubes, finely crushed
2 TBS butter melted

Preheat the oven to 200*C?400*F. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish and set it aside.

Combine 1/3 cup of the condensed soup, 1/4 cup of the milk and the onion and parsley in a shallow dish. Set aside.

Place the crushed stuffing mix in another shallow dish.

Wipe the chicken breasts and then dip them into the soup mixture. Allow any excess to drip off and then roll them into the crushed stuffing cubes. Place into the greased baking dish, right sides up. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts, placing them all into the dish without the sides touching. Drizzle the melted butter over top evenly.

Bake in the heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are nicely browned and the juices run clear when you pierce them with a fork. Do not overcook as they will dry out too much.

Combine the remaining soup and milk in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring now and again. Serve this sauce spooned over the chicken when you are ready to eat.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Gracie Needs Your Prayers

This is Gracie . Gracie was born last March with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS. This past year has been one ordeal after another for Gracie and her family as she went through one complication and procedure after another. You can read all about it on their BLOG. This picture is of wee Gracie as she waited to go in for a heart transplant this past Saturday. This should have been the miracle they were all waiting for . . . alas, the new heart is not working right. There is always a 1% chance that a new heart will be defective and Gracie got the heart that was 1%. Unfortunately they didn't know this until they had already removed Gracie's heart and put in the new one. She is now waiting for another heart. Could you please put your hands together and pray for this wonderfully brave little girl and her family? They need a miracle and we all know who the giver of great miracles is. Please pray for Gracie. Thanks so much. Let's put a smile back on her face.

I felt the earth move . . .

What's brown, blue and white and should come with a health warning? Why it's the Tuesday's With Dorie baking group of course! Welcome to Tuesday's With Dorie, that wonderful baking group that gets together once a week and bakes the same recipe from the same delicious Baking book . . .

Baking, from my home to yours, by the equally as delicious Dorie Greenspan! Over this past year I have baked my way through some pretty incredible recipes . . . cakes, muffins, tortes and gateaux, not to mention cookies, squares and puddings. All have been fabulous. All have been delicious. But this week . . . the recipe this week absolutely takes the cake . . . (no pun intended) . . . this week I literally felt the earth move beneath my feet.

This week Whitney of What's Left On the Table chose Caramel Crunch Bars, page 112-113. Oh my goodness Whitney . . . these really should come with a health warning. Not only are they incredibly delicious, but, they are incredibly addictive!

Imagine a bar that has a totally buttery and crunchy base choc full of bits of milk chocolate!

Top that with more milk chocolate, melted and luxuriously spread over the top . . .

Then add incredibly moreish toffee bits, sprinkled over the top . . .

You would be right in thinking that these don't look like toffee bits.

They are M&M's. I could not find toffee bits anywhere, and because of time constraints, I ended up not having enough time to make my own . . . . nevermind . . . .

These bars rocked my world anyways! (I'm pretty sure they'll rock yours too!)

If you haven't already bought the book, Baking, from my home to yours . . . the question begs to be answered . . . What are you waiting for??? This book is totally worth every penny, not a dud in the bunch. I hold it singularly responsible for my two axe handle wide hips, but don't let that deter you. Tis a wonderful way to go.

Be sure to check out Whitney's PAGE later today for the recipe and in the meantime make sure you check out the Dorie Blog Roll to see how all the other ladies did with their crunch bars.

I think I read somewhere once upon a time that if it crunches there are no calories involved . . .

Next week Lyb of And then I do the dishes has chosen Chocolate Armagnac Cake - The Cake That Got Me Fired on pages 279-281. This bears some thinking about . . .

Monday 23 February 2009

The Simple Woman's Day Book . . .

FOR TODAY, February 23rd, 2009 ...

Outside My Window...

The dawn chorus is beginning to twit and twitter. What a difference from this same time a few weeks ago. Light is beginning to appear across the horizon and the earth is waking up to face a new day. Can spring really be very far behind? I think not . . .

I am thinking...
About the lovely talks given in Sacrament meeting yesterday. The theme was on God's Love, something that I am so very familiar with. I know God loves me. It was not always so. As a child I always knew that there was a God and that He loved people, I just didn't consider myself one of the ones He loved. I am so grateful that changed, and that I now KNOW He loves even me.

I am thankful for...
the life that I am living. I have a secure roof over my head, clothes upon my back, a job to go to, family and friends that care about me, my faith . . . what more could a body want or truly need.

From the kitchen...
Oh my . . . there's some yummy bars for tomorrow and a nostalgic cake sitting there waiting for me to show you. I made Todd pancakes yesterday in honor of pancake day, which is tomorrow by the way. Oh and there are a few Eccles Cakes left from Saturday. You can find my recipe and some yummy pictures for them HERE.

I am wearing...
No new song to sing here, it's my pajamas of course! Pink and grey flannel ones. Comfy, comfy, comfy. I sure with I could wear them all day! Truly, madly, deeply and forever.

I am creating...
I have a sock monkey waiting for me to sew him up. I had better get cracking on him, as my grandson's birthday is on the 7th! Not much time left to get him done and in the post! I have sketches waiting to be put onto my art paper and painted and songs in my heart waiting to be sung . . .

I am going...
hopefully to the Temple later this week. I was thrilled to have been able to see the Salt Lake Temple when I was in Utah, something which I had always wanted to see, both in the night and all lit up and then in the day time. I got to touch it. I had planned on going inside, but woe is me, didn't I go and forget my Temple recommend at home! I know!!! What am I like!!! Never mind . . . it just means I have another excuse to go back, and the thought of that makes me smile. I did get to go to the open house at the new Draper Temple and walk through it. What a beautiful building . . . but then again, all our Temples are beautiful and I am so blessed to be able to go inside them and worship with my Heavenly Father in a special way.

I am reading...

A delightful and compelling mix of the story of a polygamous wife from the 1800's and a murder mystery in a modern day polygamous sect. It's very, very good and I am really enjoying it. Oh and before anyone asks . . . No, true Mormons do NOT have more than one wife. It is NOT allowed. Any man who did that in this modern age would be excommunicated!

I am hoping...
I have so many fingers in so many pies that I am hoping that I get them all baked! I think I am a bit adhd. I always have tons of projects on the go. I get bored quite easily and so I like to keep my brain active and moving forward. Does this mean it takes me a long time to finish something? Well, err . . . yes, if I am being honest. I have a whole room full of boxes of unfinished projects. (Don't worry if you come to visit, I won't make you sleep there!) The only ones I seem to finish these days are my art pieces. I suppose those are the projects that inspire me the most. I used to do a lot of counted cross stitch and make dolls and teddy bears. I haven't made a new doll since last year . . .

I am hearing...
my play list playing softly in the background while Jess snozzles at my feet. I love my play list. It is filled with music that at once inspires me and fills my heart with joy. That is the kind of music I love to listen to. Music that swells the heart and fills the mind.

Around the house...
Um . . . err . . . I am ashamed to admit it but I still haven't finished unpacking. I must do that today, I absolutely MUST. That is one of the failings of the creative mind. We find it very hard to do boring things like unpack suitcases, or put things away. We take things out and there they sit . . . until someone makes us put them away. I know I drive Todd crazy, but in a good way. There shall never be any doubt in his mind that he is not alone, not ever again.

One of my favorite things...
is sitting in the garden early in the morning on a warm spring day. I can almost hear the earth waking up as the dawn chorus starts . . . at first a few twitters here and there, building one bird song at a time, until it grows and echos all around me. The rising sun warms my face and I can almost hear the dew drops tinkle on every blade of grass. It is my favourite time of the day . . .

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
I have a seminary lesson to teach on Thursday night and we are having a combined Young mens/Young women's activity on Thursday night as well. I am hoping to get to the Temple and we have the missionaries coming over for their tea on Saturday evening. I just love feeding the missionaries. It seems like not that long ago my table was filled with the hungry faces of my children and now it seems a bit bare with just Todd and I, so the healthy appetites of the missionaries do my heart good! I also love the wonderful and caring spirit they bring into my home. It's truly a double blessing!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

No, you are not imagining things. That is Todd having a conversation with Lamb Chop. (although to be sure it looks to be a bit one sided!!!) I got this Lamb Chop puppet when I was away. I saw it in a shop in Sun Valley and it was love at first sight. It's the only thing I got for myself and is totally unrelated to the Winter Games, but . . . I loved Lamb Chop when I was a child and I still love Lamb Chop. I have so many happy memories and warm feelings associated with her. Besides . . . it's fun to sit on the sofa and make irreverent faces at Todd with her . . . especially when he tries to change the channel.

And that's my Simple Woman's Day Book for today. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! )

When I was a girl, Pancake Night, or Shrove Tuesday, the last Tuesday before Lent started was one of my favourite nights of the year. My mother would cook us oodles and oodles of pancakes and we would gorge ourselves with them! That was the only time my mother ever made pancakes. Small wonder . . . I think we must have tired her out with the amount that we ate!!! When my own kids were growing up pancakes were very often my traditional breakfast offering on Saturday mornings and always, always when we had company overnight! Here in the UK, pancakes are quite different than they are in North America. They are more like crepes and they eat them sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar and rolled up. Quite good actually. I have an excellent recipe for the British ones HERE. Yesterday though I made traditional North American Buttermilk pancakes, just for you . . . and I served them with Erin's wonderful homemade syrup. Oh my but it is delicious!

*Rise and Shine Buttermilk Pancakes*
Makes about 8 large ones

These are the epitome of the perfect pancake. I've tried many versions, but this one remains my favourite.

1 cup flour
2 TBS sugar
1 heaping Teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 TBS melted butter
Syrup and butter for topping

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together well. Set aside. In another bowl beat together the buttermilk, egg and butter. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and whisk together only to combine. It's ok is the batter is a but lumpy.

Lightly grease or oil your skillet. Preheat over medium heat until hot and then spoon the pancake batter into the pan by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook over medium heat until the surface fills up with bubbles and they are lightly browned on the bottom. Carefully flip over and cook until the other side is lightly browned as well. Remove to a plate in a warm oven to hold until you finish cooking all the pancakes.

Serve warm with plenty of syrup and butter for dotting on the tops. Delicious!

Have a Happy Pancake Day!!

Sunday 22 February 2009

An extra special smile maker

I forgot someone very special this morning when I was doing my Smile Makers. It ocurred to me when we were driving to Church and I slapped myself the side of the head and said out loud, "What am I like!!!" How could I ever have forgotten Lura's lovely husband John!!! Not only did he drive Lura all the way from California, through some pretty nasty weather just so she could be there in Utah when I arrived, but he put up with me monopolizing Lura for the whole week I was there, and also he had to cope all on his own while Lura and I were having so much fun together up in Idaho!

He is a lovely sweet man and I can tell why Lura loves him so. He's a wonderful father, a loving husband and a fantastic grandpa! He's funny and kind and very lovable, and so very supportive of Lura and our wonderful friendship and their sweet family. So John, please accept my most gracious thanks for all that you did for me, both in the background and in the foreground. You are a real gem, and YOU make me smile too!

Marie's Sunday Six Smile Makers

As you can well imagine, this Sunday I am just full to the bursting with my Sunday Six Smile makers. I have had so many blessings to experience these past few weeks and so many reasons to smile, it has been hard bringing it down to six, but here I go!

Lura (Grammy's News ) makes me smile. Yes, that is a pair of ear muffs warming her nose. And not only that, they have hand warmers stuffed inside. How can that not make you smile. But it is more than that about Lura that makes me smile. She is the warmest, kindest and nicest person you could ever want to know. She's fun to be with and generous with all of herself. She epitomizes everything that an elect lady should hope to be. She is a loving and caring wife, a generous, kind and understanding mother, a fun and loving grandmother . . . not afraid or too busy to give of her time, and a most wonderful and loyal friend . . . a friend that I am proud to call my friend. We had such a wonderful time together. We laughed. We cried. We talked for hours and hours. We snored together. We froze together and we even ate bologna sandwiches together! Only the best friend ever would drive all the way from California to freeze her arse off with you in a cold place like Idaho and smile while she was doing it. Lura, she warms my heart. I love her to bits and she makes me smile in a really big way.

Dick and Lenis make me smile. They are two of the nicest friends anyone could ever want. I fell in love with them both when they were over here doing their mission. Everyone in our Ward did and it was so wonderful for me to get to spend some time with them over in the US. Their generosity and kindness in driving us up to Idaho bowled me over with gratitude. This was an extra blessing that I had not counted on. Dick never complained once. Not during the long drive. Not during the hours and hours he had to spend freezing in the cold. Not during the other hours and hours we had him traipsing around the different shops in Ketchum whilst we ladies oohed and ahhed at everything. Not many husbands would be so patient. Lenis, she was a rock to me. Steadfast and steadying, never giving up, even when I was so sad that I was not able to see my daughter at the first. She's just a wonderful lady and I love her so much! I spent my last night in America in their beautiful and cosy home, and she made her infamous German pancake for breakfast! (It was delicious.) I think they think their mission over here was a failure because they didn't get to Baptise anyone while they were here, but I am here to tell them it was not a failure in the least. Their many kindnesses to members and non-members alike will never be forgotten. The sweet and gentle spirit that they brought to our meetings and activities, those too, will never be forgotten. They were more than just missionaries to us all . . . they were and are . . . eternal friends. And that . . . makes me smile.

Erin and Patrick of Once Upon a Time make me smile. Erin is Lura's daughter, and Patrick is her lovely husband. They were so kind and generous to allow me to stay there the first couple of nights I was in Utah. They are such a cute couple and so very devoted to each other. It is clear to see they are very much in love with each other. Erin is a wonderful gal. Not only is she very smart and pretty, but she is very talented. Did you know she teaches sign language and that she went on a sign language mission? Not only that, but she went, all on her own, to Africa to teach sign language in Ghana? Not only that, but she founded a non profit organization that now sends 1o to 15 volunteers each summer to go to Ghana and teach at the deaf schools there. She does it out of genuine love and concern for her fellow beings. Patrick is no slouch either. Always with a wonderfully warm and genuine smile on his face it was very plain to see that his nephews and his niece clearly adore him in every way. I could tell he is their favourite Uncle. Erin and Patrick, together, they make me smile. (not only that but Erin makes a killer buttermilk pancake syrup to die for!)

The Jacobsons. They make me smile. Lynell is another one of Lura's daughters and she and her husband Dathan have the most wonderful family together. They were so much fun to be with and so inspiring to me. Those kids are all great kids. Lynell and Dathan love each other so much and love their family equally so. They are good people, kind people, thoughtful people. They are dedicated parents, and so good with their children. It was so wonderful to have been invited to be a part of them for the time I got to spend with them. Warm and welcoming I felt like I was just another one of the bunch. They inspired me to want to be a better me. I loved listening to Lynell read to her family and I loved being included in their family prayers. No, things are not always easy for them, but they pull together through the rough times and shoulder each other up when things get bad, and they laugh together and most important of all . . . they love together. The Jacobsons . . . they make me smile.

Eileen makes me smile. How could you look at that beaming face and not smile. Her strength and determination are inspiring. This is a girl that was often made fun of by her school mates when she was growing up, and sometimes even today is ridiculed by ignorant people just because she doesn't fit into their idea of what is "normal." She never lets them get her down. She knows her own worth. She is able to rise above their pettiness and to soar like an eagle, like the special spirit that she is. I am so proud of her and not just because she is a gold medal winning athlete, but because she is good people. Kind, generous, and loving to all. Honest and hard working, caring and full of integrity. She loves the Lord with all of her heart. She hasn't got a mean bone in her body. She'd do anything for anyone and do it with a smile on her face as well. She cares about others, genuinely. She's fun to be with. She's good people. I love her with all of my heart.

Todd and Jess make me smile. It is nice to know that no matter how far I may wander, or how near, I always have them to come home to. They love me, warts and all. They are here for me and always will be. Home is where you hang your heart and they are my home.

Okay, so this may not be very healthy and it's probably not something you should eat very often, but once in a while, this is good for the soul. (Not to mention cheap, easy, quick and delicious!)

*Taters and Dogs*
Serves 4

Your kids will love this, both big and small.

6 low fat hot dogs, sliced
4 TBS canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
garlic powder to taste
salt and black pepper to taste
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Place the oil in a large skillet and heat it over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the hot dogs and cook, stirring until well browned. Stir in the onions and seasonings and cook for one minute, stirring. Add the potato and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender and nicely browned. Sprinkle with the cheese, allow to melt and then serve.

Saturday 21 February 2009

On to Idaho and the Winter Games

After a couple days rest, (not to mention site seeing) and finding my feet again, recovering from any jet lag from the trip over to the US, it was time for Lura and I to make our way up to Idaho to view the Winter Games.

I had been worrying a bit about how we were going to get there. I knew it would be pretty snowy. Lura, was used to living in California. It doesn't snow in California, or at least where she is from at any rate. It has been about 9 years since I have had to deal with driving in the snow. However were we going to cope? I give us both credit though as we were willing to be brave and try.

However, here is another example of Heavenly Father's providence, and a fine example of how He knows us and takes care of us.

About a year and a half ago we had some lovely missionaries over here. You may remember me talking about them on my other journal . . . Lenis and Dick MacDonald, an older couple who had come over here to serve on a couple mission. Our whole ward fell in love with the MacDonalds when they were here. They were such a wonderful couple and they were more than just missionaries to us all, they were friends. I was especially close to Lenis (although I couldn't call her Lenis when they were here). I could really identify how she felt, being a stranger in a foreign land, far away from her children and grandchildren and everything that was familiar to her. One of the things I had been looking forward to on this trip was to be able to see them again and as luck would have it . . . they were looking forward to seeing me, so much so that . . .

Dick had very kindly offered to drive us up to Idaho, along with Lenis of course and then they were going to stay up there with us through the games and drive us back down after! These were not just two good friends and people I loved very much, these were angels in disguise as friends! I don't know how Lura and I would ever have coped with that long drive on our own. What a wonderful answer to prayer, and the icing on the cake was that I got to spend some time with my much loved friends!

It took us about 5 hours and I could really feel my excitement building when I saw the mountains off in the distance! I knew my baby girl was not all that far away then, and that I would see her soon. It had been a long two and a half years and I was really looking forward to getting to spend some time with her, but, as you all read while I was away, that wasn't possible that first night in Sun Valley.

Lura and I both went to bed a little bit disheartened that first night. I was so disappointed, even though I knew that Eileen's coach only had her best interests at heart. I, too, wanted the best for my girl, even though my heart and arms longed to hold her.

The next day dawned clear and bright, and somewhat cold, well, err, especially for that California girl Lura! Bless her heart! That is the love of a friend, when they are willing to brave sub zero temperatures for you when they are used to a much warmer climate! We all bundled up warmly, and with hand warmers stuffed in our pockets we went up to the cross country ski venue and settled in for a long day of watching and wondering.

I had no idea of when my daughter would be competing or any other information. In fact, Lenis was the first one to see her. I was off wandering around to see if I could find anything out and Lenis just happened to wander into the Athletes Tent and find her. She came back to find me, all excited and anxious to take me to see my girl. Alas . . . the cloaking device that had allowed her to pass by all the security had stopped working by then, and there was no way I could get past it . . . so our efforts were foiled once again . . . sigh . . .

As luck would have it though as we were standing outside the fence line at the Athletes tent, a woman volunteer (she surely must have been a mother) very graciously went in to get Eileen and bring her out to see me. It was a very tender moment and I cried buckets of tears of joy as I was finally able to put my arms around her and wish her well.

We watched her win a Bronze medal that day and another Gold medal the next day. It was so amazing to me to see my girl in action and I was further blessed in that the coach also let her come out and spend some time with us in the Sun Valley Lodge that first day as well, so I got to spend some real time with my daughter, which was very precious indeed.

I have to commend all the volunteers that so freely gave of their time to spend that whole week in service to others. They truly were special and kind people. The support and love that they gave to all the athletes was exemplar. You could tell they really cared and it meant to very much to me to see this love in action.

My heart was touched over and over again by their example, and by the very athletes themselves as I watched them work so very hard and try so very hard to do their best in all that they did. Their courage and dedication was so wonderful to see. The families that were there supporting their loved ones, they too were a wonderful example to me of love and dedication.

There were no losers here. They were all winners in my books.

It was so wonderful to get to see my daughter compete and to spend time with her.

It was so wonderful to get to spend this time with Lura and cement our friendship.

It was so wonderful to get to spend this time with Lenis and Dick and re-kindle our friendship as well.

It was so wonderful . . . full stop!

We all hated to see it end . . .

This probably isn't very good for you, but it sure tastes mighty good. As a once in a blue moon treat, this is sure to become a much loved family favourite. I know it is in this house at any rate!

*Chicken Fried Steak, with Cream Gravy*
Serves 4

I think this comes from Texas, or at least the Texans claim to have invented it. It doesn't really matter where it comes from though. The fact remains that it is totally delicious.

oil or shortening for frying
4 tenderized beef cutlets (round or cube steak)
1 cup of well seasoned flour
(Use lots of pepper, some salt and garlic powder)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
For the Cream Gravy
2 heaping Tablespoons of seasoned flour
2 cups milk

Place about 1/4 inch of oil or shortening into a large skillet and heat over medium heat.

While the oil is heating, beat the egg together with the milk in a shallow dish. Place the seasoned flour in another shallow dish. Dredge the beef cutlets in the flour, and then in the egg and milk wash, and then once again in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.

Place the dredged cutlets into the heated oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to drain on a plate that has been lined with paper towels while you make the gravy.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pan. Stir in the flour and cook for about one minute, then slowly add the milk, stirring and scraping all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the gravy is thickened, for about 10 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Serve the steaks with a little of the cream gravy spooned over, and pass any extra gravy at the table.