Summer Reading 2018

Hi Reading Friends–  Do you have a stack of books waiting for time you can snatch for summer reading??  Here’s a few recent reads that I really enjoyed, memoirs, fiction and an amazing story of WWII.  What are you reading this summer??  Would love to have your suggestions!!

The Middle Place — by Kelly Corrigan
A memoir of Kelly’s growing up in her close knit family, alternating with chapters about her cancer treatments as a young mom and her father’s battle with cancer at the same time.  Sounds grim, but Kelly’s honesty, humor and love of family make it a book you won’t want to put down.  Love all her relatable books.

The Dirty Life, On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristen Kimball
Memoir of the author’s falling in love with her husband Mark and falling in love with organic farming.  It follows the first year they spend developing their farm in upstate New York–so many informative stories about crops and cooking, about animals and how to care for them.  Makes me appreciate all that goes into the food we eat!

by Sophie Egan
Egan goes in to detail about how and why American’s eat the way they do.  Topics: How work affects our eating, Diets, the rise of wine consumption, how Italian food became so mainstream, fast food marketing, the popularity of brunch, organic, gluten free, non-fat options, family meals…  Fascinating and sometimes surprising.  Loved it.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Riveting from the first page, the story of the bright and prosperous Richardson family and their renters, artist Mia and her smart daughter.  Their lives intertwine to the breaking point and divisions over the adoption of a baby, personal choices provide all the plot twists and turns.

The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
The story alternates between 3 brothers returning to their dilapidated manner house after WWII and an enchanting young singer who helps bring it back to life– and then the story of one of those brothers 50 years later, training his grandson, the piano prodigy and reliving the turmoil of his life.  British family drama wrapped in music.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
A small girl is found alone on a ship arriving from England to Australia in 1910.  She is taken in by the harbor master and his wife.  But her story is a mystery.  It takes 500 pages and 3 generations of women to tell the true story.  Sort of a mix of Charles Dickens meets Downton Abbey.  Very readable and graced with likable characters and an involving plot line.

A Higher Call: an incredible true story of combat and chivalry  — by Adam Makos
The true story of an American pilot in WWII who was flying a battered bomber out of Germany, when a German fighter pilot, Franz Stigler flew along beside him and escorted him out of danger.  The book gives the two men’s backgrounds and stories through the war and their meeting finally many years after the war.  Interesting to have an anti-Nazi German pilot’s point of view.

Illustration at the top by Andre Pecoud.


Morning by Morning

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing yet had been done.”
— C.S. Lewis (British writer, theologian, Oxford professor, 1898-1963)

I love that each morning as I wake up, I know God is close, listening, ready to share the day ahead with me.

“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
morning by morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.  — Psalm 5:3


P.S. Photo from John & Laurel’s wedding in Wisconsin last summer.

Easter Again

Hello friends– I wonder if you are celebrating Easter this year.  We are.  I have the ham in the fridge, the table pulled large and to set for family. And Easter eggs waiting to be hidden for the grand-girls.

But my true celebration is in the quiet of my heart and mind.  I pretty much wept through the Good Friday evening service tonight– full to overflowing with the depth of God’s love for us.  Jesus giving himself to make us children of God. So grateful.

“Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and to go the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of this love.”         John 13:1


Painting– The Resurrection by Rembrandt

A Quiet Anniversary

Hi friends–  This week Larry and I marked anniversary #43!  It is one of those “how can that be?” kind of numbers.  But then again, I can barely remember when we haven’t been married.

So yesterday we headed down toward the beach to mark a quiet celebration– pizza lunch at Mozza (a fancy day out for us!), a walk around the perimeter of Balboa Island and a stop for a frozen banana (Larry) and an ice cream (me).



We have a couple big trips in April, and Easter and lots of hub bub in between.  So I liked our quiet day– walking, talking, planning some things ahead.  So thankful to be married to this guy.

Mocha Cheesecake

Hi there all–  Here’s a cheesecake made for a game night with friends– lots of talk, laughs and a dose of noisy competitiveness!  Finished off with a couple cheesecakes.

This desert has two layers of creamy cheesecake, one coffee flavored, one chocolate, topped with a creamy chocolate ganache.  Pretty irresistible!


1 prepared Oreo piecrust*
2 tab. butter, melted

2 tab. instant coffee granules
1 tab. boiling water
1 cup chocolate chips
32 oz. cream cheese (4 –8 oz. packages)
1 cup sugar
3 tab. flour
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Ganache topping:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tab. butter
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Mix the Oreo crust and the melted butter in the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.  Press the crumbs to make a uniform thin layer covering the bottom of the pan.  Set it into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Dissolve the coffee granules in the boiling water and set aside.

To make the filling, use an electric mixer the beat together the cream cheese and sugar until it’s creamy.  Then beat in the flour, eggs and sour cream.  Divide the batter evenly between two bowls.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes and then stir until it is smooth.  Fold the chocolate into the fist bowl of batter until it is thoroughly blended.

Stir the dissolved coffee granules into the second bowl of batter until it is all incorporated.

Spoon the chocolate batter over the crust and smooth out the top.  Add the coffee batter over the top and spread it evenly over the top.

Pop the cheesecake into a 350 oven for 50 to 60 minutes until it is firm to the touch and just a little wobbly when you shake it.  Open the oven door, turn off the heat and let the cheese cake sit 1 hour in the cooling oven.  Then take it out, slide a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cheesecake from the pan and set it into the fridge for 3 or 4 hours.

To make the ganaches, heat the whipping cream and butter in a small pan on the stove until it just starts to simmer.  Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and beat for 3 or 4 minutes until it’s glossy.  Let it cool and when you’re ready to serve up the cheese cake, drizzle it over the top.  Delish!

*The recipe I worked from used 20 Oreo cookies, crushed.  But getting the pre-made Oreo crust was cheaper and already to use.

Pumpkin Bran Muffins

Hello all–   I promise– this is the last pumpkin recipe until next fall!  But I was thinking maybe you have a half a can of pumpkin lurking in your fridge still!  Use it here.

These were breakfast one morning last week when the kids were here for a few days of Thanksgiving.  Hearty and warm– perfect with a slash of butter and a little marmalade.  Breakfast!

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, oil, brown sugar and egg.  Then mix in the flour, bran, baking powder, salt and nuts.

Spoon the batter into a muffin pans lined with muffin papers (makes 10).  Bake them in a 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  They’re done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Happy eating!

November Thanksgiving

Hi friends– I love this month, when many people turn their hearts to thanksgiving.  Not just the turkey and pie Thanksgiving, but the opening of hearts to number all the reasons we have to give thanks.

To help, I’ve made a list to get me started, one reason to be thankful for each day of November.  I thought maybe you’d like to give  thanks each day as well…

#1.  Which friend are you most thankful for? Why?
#2.  What makes you thankful about the place you live?
#3.  What made you smile today?
#4.  What have you learned from a hard experience?
#5.  What about your parents makes you thankful?
#6.  What did you see today that is beautiful?
#7.  What is different than a year ago that makes you thankful?
#8.  What accomplishment makes you thankful?
#9.  What was your favorite outing in the last year?
#10. What beauty in nature makes you give thanks?
#11. What is a childhood memory that makes you thankful?
#12. What do you love about the current season of your life?
#13. Which family member are you most thankful for?  Why?
#14. What kindness have you received to make you thankful?
#15. What is something about your job that makes you thankful?
#16. Which comforts in your life make you thankful?
#17. What gift you received made you thankful?
#18. Which day with friends has filled you with thanks?
#19. What is something you’ve read this year that has provoked thanks?
#20. What about God in your life makes you thankful?
#21. How are you thankful for something you are looking forward to?
#22. What spot in your home makes you most thankful?
#23. What do you see in nature that inspires thankfulness?
#24. Which music are you thankful for?
#25. What talents are you grateful to have?
#26. What memory are you thankful for?
#27. What struggle can you be grateful for?
#27. Which family tradition are you most thankful for?
#28. Where do you thankfully find peace and rest?
#29. What has given you most joy in the past year?
#30. How can you continue to be thankful though the year ahead?

And here’s the grand-girls with their own form of thankfulness last Thanksgiving.  Those girls are one of the things I’m very most thankful for…

P.S. Thanks to for the Thanksgiving graphic.

Worth Reading…


Hi Reading Friends– here’s a couple engaging books that I found worth reading.  Both historical fiction from the last century, based on actual people– a look at some fascinating lives.


Set in WWII, We Were The Lucky Ones, spills out the stories of the the Kurcs, a prosperous Jewish family from the Polish town of Radom.  In the course of the war they are scattered– to a Siberian work camp, the beaches of North Africa, a ghetto in Warsaw, the Italian front, taking refuge in Rio de Janeiro, and hidden away on a farm in the countryside  The author, Georgia Hunter, is the grand daughter of Addy Kurc, escaped Europe on one of the last ships to carry immigrant during the war.  She brought to life the resourceful, determined Kurcs, telling their stories with her well researched details and a great heart for the the people of her family– harrowing escapes, loyal love, imprisonment, torture, amazing bravery and the beloved traditions of a family tied together even as they were torn apart.

Anne Morrow was a college girl, daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, when she met Charles Lindbergh, now a celebrity since his 1927 flight in the Spirit of Saint Louis across the Atlantic.  They wed and Anne becomes famous as the Aviator’s wife, living in the shadow of her famous husband.  She weathers the kidnapping of her 18 month old son, raises a house full of children and eventually comes into her own, as an aviator and author.  Melanie Benjamin gives us a picture of a troubled marriage, reflecting the times and the price of fame– a fascinating look at a complicated woman and her bigger than life husband.


P.S. Painting at the top by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Danish).

Thankfulness & Gratitude


“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.  Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.  Thankfulness may consist of merely words.  Gratitude is shown in acts.”
Henri Frederic Amiel –(1821-1861) Swiss philosopher & poet

Hoping and praying I can translate my thankfulness to gratitude– moving on from just feeling thankful, to caring well for people around me to show real overflowing gratitude.

“‘So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to lives your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  –Colossians 2:6-7


P.S. The Matilija Poppy at the top was blooming everywhere in Ojai on a recent trip there– so striking, large as my hand!

Stacked Green Chili Enchiladas

Hola!  Here’s dinner with a crowd of friends who came in last week.  Happily, it was pretty easy to make two big pan-fulls–using pre-roasted chicken from the market.  Instead of rolling all those enchiladas, you just stack the ingredients in a baking dish and pop it into the oven.

And I think they all loved it because there was only 1 serving leftover to take a picture to show you!

1 grocery store roast chicken,
deboned & cut to bits
1/4 cup butter
2 tab. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup flour
14 oz. can chicken broth
1 cup milk
4 oz. can diced green chilis
1/2 cup salsa verde
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated cheddar jack cheese
12 to 14 corn tortillas
garnish: avocado and a little more sour cream

Remove the skin, debone and cut the chicken to small chunks.  Cut the tortillas into 6 triangles each.

Melt the butter in a large skillet of pot.  Add the olive oil and garlic.  Bring it to a simmer and stir in the flour until it’s a thick paste.  Keep simmering and stir in the chicken broth a bit at a time.  Then add the milk the same way.  Continue to stir until it thickens.

Mix in the green chilis and salsa verde. Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream.

In a 9″x13″ baking dish, pour 1/4 cup of the sauce to coat the bottom of the dish.  Layer 1/3 of the tortilla triangles to cover the bottom the baking dish.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the chopped chicken over the tortillas.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese on top.  Then drizzle 1/3 of the sauce over the cheese.

Repeat the same layer process two more times, topping with a full cup of cheese.

Tent foil over the baking dish, so that it doesn’t touch the cheese on top.  Bake it all up at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Take off the foil and cook 10 minutes more to melt the cheese completely.

Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a little avocado.

Open Heart, Open Home

Table ready for friends to sit and eat and talk 

Hi friends– The year we lived in Costa Rica, we attended a small church in a village, a bus ride and then a kilometer walk from our home.  We loved those people, who opened their church doors and their arms to us.

One Sunday Eunice asked us to her house for tea after the church service.  She stopped by a little roadside market for a couple tea bags and a small packet of soda crackers.  We sat in her small home cobbled together from scraps of boards and a tin roof,  talked over the tea from chipped cups– and never felt more cared for, more welcome.

I learned a lot about hospitality from dear Eunice.  And learned how to meet friends at the door with welcoming hugs from our buddy Jenni.  And from Tim and Jill, how to make conversation around the table sparkle. I’ve learned impromptu meals can be the best from Carmen–as we carried the table and chairs up stairs onto the roof on a sweltering summer night in southern Spain, to sit and talk and sing over plates of simple tapas.

I’ve learned from Jen Hatmaker, who wrote in her book, For the Love–

“A shared table is the supreme expression of hospitality every culture on earth.  When your worn-out kitchen table hosts good people and good conversation, when it provides a safe place to break bread and share wine, your house becomes a sanctuary, holy as a cathedral.”   (page 116)

There’s a joy to setting plates around a table, anticipating friends in the door, praying for them and the time you will spend together.  And also there’s chocolate cake–that’s always good too.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.   Romans 12: 12-13

Farro Enchilada Bowl


Hello Blog Friends– We could eat Mexican-ish food 7 days a week around here.  On one of those questionnaires you see that ask, “What 5 things do you always have in your fridge?”, tortillas would be at the top of the list.  Last night it was left over try-tip in a quesadilla with avocado and chicken fajitas is a staple on our table.

But here’s a tortillas-less bowl of Mexican flavors, topped with sour cream and guacamole. It was just right for a warm early summer supper with a cold glass of “tinto de verano” (Fresca, red wine & lemon).

2 cups farro
1/2 tsp. salt
2 chicken breasts, but to smallish bits
2 tab. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 large avocado
1 cup cherry tomatoes
a couple shakes of garlic salt
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
1 can chili beans, rinsed
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen, microwave 2-3 minutes until tender.
garnish: sour cream, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), cilantro

Cook the faro according to the directions on the package.  (Mine cooked with 5 cups water, 1/2 tsp. salt for 10 minutes) Drain extra water, if there’s some in the pot.

While that’s cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add in the chicken chunks, cooking until they are well browned and cooked through.  Stir in the cumin, chili powder and 1/2 tsp. garlic salt along with a couple tablespoons of water.

To make the simplest guacamole, smash the avocados along with a couple tablespoons of tomato cut to tiny pieces and a couple shakes of garlic salt.

Then layer it all up in a bowl– the farro, chili beans, corn, chicken, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes & pepitas– and tuck in!


Daily Mercies

by Thomas Cross, line engraving, 1646

by Thomas Cross, line engraving, 1646


“A nobel heart is a thankful heart that loves to acknowledge whenever it has received any mercy.”
—Jeremiah Burroughs  (Puritan preacher, England, 1600-1646).

Acknowledging any mercy—love that idea.  And it makes me want to be watchful for the God’s tender mercies, to see his loving merciful care each day.

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”       —Psalm 23:6

Cranberry & Candied Pecan Poke Cake

IMG_2580Hey all–It’s been a week.  So much Christmas.  We’ve been out to eat with friends every night but one this past week–Pub dinner with close friends, a quiet dinner out with J & L, who always make you feel a little wiser just listening to them, a winery dinner and performance of the Messiah with old friends… It’s been grand to sit and talk and laugh and hear Christmas plans…  Last night it was a potluck at Caroline’s.  I brought along this cake (in fact I’m eating a leftover slice right now).

It’s fruity and nutty, but nothing at all like fruitcake.  Tender white cake underneath and a swath of whipped cream on top.  The berries are tart and the pecans sweet and crunchy.  I’ll be making it again this Christmas.


1 white cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 tab. cornstarch
2 1/2 cups cranberries (about 1 bag)
1 1/3 cups water
1 1/2 cups peans
3/4 cup sugar
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 rounded tsp. powdered sugar
1 rounded tsp. vanilla instant pudding mix*
a few more cranberries
2 tsp. sugar

Make the cake mix according to the instructions on the box–mine used 3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil and a cup of water.  Spoon the batter into a 9″x13″ baking dish or a 11″spring form pan** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake it 30 to 35 minutes, until it is lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Let the cake cool.  Then with the handle end of a wooden spoon, poke small holes all over the top of the cake.

To make the cranberry layer, Mix the cup of sugar and cornstarch in a pan and mix them thoroughly to break up any cornstarch lumps.  Then add in the 1 1/3 cup water and the cranberries and stir over medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes until the berries all pop! The sauce will thicken and the berries turn soft and sweet.

Spread the berry mixture over the cake the pat it down into the holes.  Let it cool.

To make the pecan layer, put the pecans and 3/4 cup sugar into a nonstick skillet and stir over medium heat until the sugar melts into a golden color and coats the pecans.  Keep stirring or it can burn!  Turn the pecans out onto a piece of foil and let it cool.

Then break the sugared pecans into smaller pieces and layer over the cranberry layer.

Whip the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla pudding mix until it’s stiff. And then spread it over the pecan layer.  Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes or more to set.

Garnish: Mix a handful of cranberries with a couple teaspoons of sugar in a plastic bag and pile them in the center of the cake– finish off with non-poisonous*** (!) leaves from your yard.

*The pudding mix sets the whipped cream, so even out of the fridge it will hold up firm.
**I like to use a springform pan because you can lift the cake out of the pan on to a plate to serve it up pretty.
***We have lemon geranium in the back yard with these leaves and lots of mint.  Check to see if your leaves are good to use.



Elliot-Elisabeth-3“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

Elisabeth Elliot, Christian author, speaker, missionary to South America (1926-2015)

Hello friends– I loved reading this.  It helped me know what to do with all those uncertainties, my unanswered questions, when life get complicated.  It’s a comfort to know I can lift up my heart to God–all the while I’m waiting.

“Wait in hope for the Lord; for he is our help and shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”   Psalm 33:20-21

The Opposite of Busy


“Busyness is the enemy of spirituality.  It is essentially laziness.  It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing.  It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attentions to God’s actions.  It is taking charge.”  –Eugene Peterson  (American clergyman, author of 30 books, scholar, poet)

Hello there blog friends–  When I ran across this thought from Eugene Peterson, it was like he had just written it for me (and few of you other busy-bodies out there). Why is it so easy to fill my time with all things I think I need to do and find so little time to sit silent before God?  It’s summer and I’m hoping to be less busy, more open to God’s call on my time and attention in the days ahead…

Chili Tilapia with Avocado Relish

Hi all– This is just another example of “everything tastes better with avocado.”  The spicy chili tilapia has just enough spice and the smooth avocado sets it off just fine.  With a bright salad and a hearty chunk of bread it’s a quick dinner on the table.  Hope you like it as much as we did…

1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tilapia filets
1 tab. olive oil
1 avocado, cut into small chunks
1 tab. red onion, chopped fine
1 tab. red pepper, chopped fine
garlic salt to taste

Mix the chili powder, salt and cumin together in a shallow dish.  Heat the oil in a pan.  Dredge the tilapia into the chili mixture on both sides and cook it in the hot pan for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the fish). Remove from the pan and keep it warm on a plate in a low oven.

Gently stir together the avocado, red onion, pepper and garlic salt in a bowl.  Set out the fish and top it with the avocado.  Serve up warm.



I love this thought, when life itself is laced with unexpected, sometimes unwanted changes.  God, our eternal God, is the same, as loving, as merciful, as as faithful as ever.


thank you for the quote–Jesus-is-for-you.tumblr.

Psalm 89


“O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”    Psalm 89: 8

God, mighty and faithful–  There’s a lot of comfort and deep joy in those words.


photo: redwoods along the  East Bay Skyline Trail (Oakland)

Wherever we go…





.Hello All–  I’ve loved these words since I learned them as a girl.  And now I have a handful of friends who are courageously facing some hards things ahead, knowing God is with us wherever.  What more could we ask? It’s a comfort.


thank you indigoSDM for the graphic.