From my Booklist

bb20b0143b4a314e235a4f05f8199af5Hi Reading Friends– First can I let you know I’ve added a new page here.  It’s the tab below The Thankful Heart title– and it’s called Booklist.  For a long while I’ve kept a list of books-read in a little binder–just to remember good authors, titles I’d recommend. But I’ve moved them on to my blog–mostly because I love seeing other people’s books lists!  As when you visit someone new and have the urge to saunter over and browse through the books on their shelves…  So take a look of you’re equally nosey about what other people are reading!

And here’s a few recent books read, that I would say are worth your while…

5175kwhmhl-_sy346_Written by one of my favorite favorite bloggers, Shannan Martin– This books tells the her story. She and her husband Cory had prestigious jobs, their dream farmhouse on acreage and 3 beautiful kids adopted from around the world, when they felt God’s call on their lives to a new way of living.  She’s funny and frank and feels like your best friend by the end of the book.

51w6qupzcll-_sx319_bo1204203200_A Man called One by Fredrick Backman is the story of a Swedish curmudgeon who despairs of life after losing his beloved wife.  When new neighbors moving in next door knock down his mailbox, it sets off a series of events that rattle Ove’s world. A tender book about an odd, but lovable man.  (now a movie)

unknown-6I ran out to find another Fredrick Backman book, soon as I had finished reading Ove!  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is the lively story of a young girl who delivers a series of apology notes from her crotchety grandmother after the old woman passes away and in the process our little heroine learns a lot about her family.

One of the most gripping books I’ve read, When Breath Becomes Air, was written by Paul Kalanithi in the last year of his life. Kalanithi was a 36 year old neurosurgeon, graduate of Stanford, Cambridge and Yale who talks about his life as a surgeon, a husband, a eventually a new father while he faces his last months fighting lung cancer.  A brilliant man who continues to give through his writing.  Epilogue by his wife, also a doctor.

unknown-2When I read this story of one family’s amazing struggles living in the slums of India, I thought it was heart rending fiction.  Only afterward did I find it was a story told from years of research in that actual place in Mumbai based on scores of interviews.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers will change your heart toward India and it’s beautiful people.  (Author Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize winner)

unknown-4In Pursue the Intentional Life, Jeanne Flemming wrote out of her collected quotes and writings and conversations she’d collected in her “old lady file”– things she wanted to remember when she came to this stage of life.  It’s an insightful look at what is true and real and eternal.  I loved her book A Mother’s Heart when I had small children, and now this new book is just what I need as I step into retirement!

512JUvlc8bL._AC_US320_QL65_Well, if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey (and I am!) you’ll love this book by Downtown’s script writer Julian Fellowes.  Belgravia is the story of two families whose fortunes and family members intertwine and secrets are revealed as the book progresses.  Set in the 1800’s after Waterloo in London’s fashionable Belgravia neighborhood.  Great fun!


Thank you for the book in a pocket pic.

Yogurt Banana Muffins


Good morning!  I’m still here in San Francisco with Baby Lois and her dear parents, Ani & Brian.  This morning I grabbed her early and she laid in her rocker in the kitchen and “helped” me make banana muffins for breakfast.  The sun was shining in the windows and she just squirmed and made her little “turkey sounds” while I mixed and stirred.  It was a fine time in the kitchen!

5175kwhmhl-_sy346_These muffins are from one of my very very favorite bloggers– Shannan Martin Writes.  She’s funny and fresh and has so much to say about family and faith and seeing the beautiful in every places.  She occasionally puts a recipe out there–  AND she recently published her first book– well worth reading, Falling Free, Rescued from the Life I’d Always Wanted .

The muffins (back to the real subject here) are tender and spongy and pretty on your plate–with a sweet crunchy coating on top.   A great start to your morning.

2 smashed bananas
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup unflavored yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (or a bit more if you love nuts like I do!)

1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Smash the banana with a fork in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the sugar, yogurt, egg and oil.  Then mix in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nuts just until it’s all blended.

Spoon the thick batter into a muffin tin lined with paper liners.  Makes 12 pretty muffins.  Mix together the 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon and then sprinkle it over the unbaked muffins.

Pop them into the oven and bake them at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, until they are nicely browned and springy to the touch.  Best warm with mugs of tea and sunshine coming in the windows!

And I just can’t resist putting up a photo of my baking buddy– Baby Lois!  (I’ll really try not to over do it on baby pictures!!)
Here she is sleeping– it’s what she does best!

Roast Sweet Potatoes with Feta, Cilantro & Walnuts



Hello there– Is there anything homier than a piping hot sweet potato?  One winter when we were visiting our son in China, there was a man on the street roasting hot fragrant sweet potatoes– the perfect street food to counter the winter chill.

So this is my not so Chinese version of a hot from the oven sweet potato–salty feta, flavorful cilantro and a little walnut crunch against the sweet flesh of the potato– pretty perfect.  We had them them for dinner with just a salad, but they’d be a nice side dish with ham or even chicken.  Good fall/winter food.

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup cup feta, crumbled
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
drizzle of olive oil

Cut the sweet potatoes horizontally and brush the cut sides and the skin sides all with olive oil.  Set them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes (until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork).

Take the sweet potatoes from the oven and turn them over, cut side up. Scrape the flesh with a fork to expose the interior of the potato.  Salt & pepper the potato.  Top them with the garbanzos, feta & walnuts and return them to the oven for 10 minutes.

Take them out of the oven and transfer the sweet potatoes to a pretty serving dish.  Drizzle with old oil and garnish with the cilantro.  Eat them piping hot from the oven.  Enjoy!!


Early Thanksgiving


Hello all– Of course I have my share of cranky wake ups, but like Emerson, I woke this morning full of thanksgiving.  This past week has been one of the sweetest– the safe arrival of little baby Lois, days caring for her with Ani & Brian.  And it’s been made all the more sweet sharing the joy with family and friends, old and new.  So any notes, happy phone calls, texts, encouraging words…  Joy passed all around.

So I thank God for this new little soul–so much ahead for her.  It makes me happy to imagine her years to come ( I told her about reading books together and going to the zoo).  And I am utterly thankful for Larry (my co-grandparent), for family who’ve called and texted and (kindly) demanded daily photos!  For friends with beautiful thoughts and words of love.  And the happiness of watching Ani & Brian step into parenthood so deftly.  My heart is full.  I am thankful.

Here’s Ani & Brian with little Lois at the Apple store (Thanks Bri for helping get my laptop fixed!)

thanks anchor-imparo for the Emerson quote.

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes


Good morning friends– It’s about time to make breakfast here and this is what we’re setting on the table!  I’m sure it’s the recipe on this blog that we’ve eaten more than any other.  And I have to confess, I’ve already posted it– back in 2011– back when I had my trusty little silver Kodak point and shoot camera.  The photo is terrible!  I cringe each time I run across it.

So– since the this recipe is truly worth your notice– and I have this pic from when we ate these pancakes with Jodi and her sweet friend from China a couple weeks ago– I’m giving it another go.

I’m off to the kitchen to smash bananas and mix up another batch.  Breakfast this morning is here in San Francisco with Ani Brian and new baby Lois.  I’m wishing I could give little Lois just a couple pancake nibbles, but that will have to wait for quite a while!


2 smashed bananas
3/4 cup unflavored yogurt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup oats
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
garnish:  bananas, nuts, maple syrup, butter,powdered sugar, jam, berries… (take your pick!)

Smash the bananas in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Then mix in the yogurt, milk, eggs, vanilla and oil until blended.  Next stir in the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and walnuts.

Heat the griddle to medium* and spray with cooking spray (or coat with butter if you feel indulgent!).  Pour the batter in about 1/3 cupfuls onto the grill and flip when browned.  Makes about 14 pancakes.

*I cook the low end of medium, because the pancakes are nice and thick and if you cook them too fast, they brown on the outside, but don’t cook through to the middle!  (if you want thinner pancakes add a splash more milk).

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry


Hello all–  Up in San Francisco with our kids and new little Lois (did I mention baby Lois??!!) and it’s chilly and rainy!  Love the actual weather up here.  So if you are managing to have a real fall where you live and want something warming and flavorful on your dinner table, you might try this pretty plateful.  Just a little spice (although if you are not a spice wimp like me, you can heat it up with more ginger and cayenne!) and a little sweetness from the sweet potatoes.  It’s a rainy day, cozy in the house kind of meal.  I hope you try it…

1 large sweet potato
4 chicken thighs*
3 tab. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cumin
a couple shakes of cayenne pepper
1 tsp. curry powder
2 tab. tomato paste
1 tab. cornstarch
1/2 cup water
garnish: yogurt, cilantro


Pierce the skin of the sweet potato a couple times with a fork (to avoid microwave explosions!).  Then pop it in the microwave for 6 or 7 minutes until it’s tender.  Cut it in half horizontally and set aside to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then drop in the chicken thighs.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side until the chicken is nicely browned.  Take it out of the pan.

If the pan looks dry, add a bit more oil.  Then drop in the onions and cook 3 or 4 minutes until the onion begins to brown.  Add in the garlic and cook a minute longer.  Then stir in the chicken broth, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder and tomato paste.  Blend it all up in the pan, set the chicken into the mixture and put on a lid.  Let the chicken cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes.

While that’s happening, peel the sweet potato skin off and cut it up into smallish chunks.

Raise the heat on the chicken to a rolling simmer.  In a container with a closed lit, shake together the cornstarch and water until it’s completely blended.  Stir the cornstarch mixture into the sauce around the chicken until the sauce thickens– just 2 or 3 minutes.  Drop in the chunks of sweet potato and simmer on low a couple minutes more.

Serve the curry over a bed of rice and garnish with yogurt and cilantro.  Spicy good!

*I used boneless chicken thighs, because they were on sale at our market.


Wonderful News


Hi friends– Thursday was a day of hope and happiness.  I had planned to come up that day to stay with our Ani and Brian on “baby watch,” waiting for baby Lois to arrive.  But Lois surprisingly came 10 days early, safe and sound!  Born the day I was driving 9 hours up the Interstate 5.

It was a glorious trip, singing along with Fernando Ortega (hymns) – praying and thanking God for her beautiful arrival.  With the sun shining in the windows, I was in wonder, imagining all the days she has ahead….  And then, finally, I made it to SF.  There she was, in the hospital with her mom and dad– her first day in this big wide world.  She was perfect.  Everything had gone quickly and so well.  I am so grateful.

image     img_2680-2
photos:  Lois on her ride home!  Holding that brand new grand-girl on her very first day.  Ani & Brian and bundled up Lois, leaving the hospital.  (they’ll be great parents…)