Jan 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

For some reason I'm usually a hard person to surprise. That's sad, because I LOVE surprises! Yesterday I found a really nice one over at Rebecca's blog where she featured me on my birthday. That sure made me feel loved and special and was a sweet way to start my day! (thanks again Rebecca!)

It was a babysitting day for me, and my five year old granddaughter insisted she was going to make me a cake "all by myself!" I told her she could do that in the afternoon...that we needed to make breakfast first. So she set out to make some pancakes from scratch...

I like mine with peanut butter and maple syrup! I love it that she loves playing in the kitchen with me.

A little later on she was ready to do the cake. I told her I'd like to try a Red Velvet Cake with Fluffy White Frosting. She asked me to just set all the ingredients on the counter and she could handle it. Ah...not quite so fast there sweetie :) I did the measuring and she did the dumping, pouring, and stirring. The recipe for the cake was given to me by my aunt back in 1967, the year I graduated from high school! I didn't have buttermilk, so I "made" some by adding vinegar to the milk. The frosting recipe I took off the internet.

Red Velvet Cake

2 oz. red food coloring (usually 4 liquid bottles) *

3 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk (or put 1 Tbsp. vinegar in a 1 cup measure and add milk to make 1 cup liquid)

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (or regular white flour)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tsp. baking soda

Mix food coloring and cocoa to make a paste and let stand. Cream shortening, sugar, eggs, then add cocoa paste. Beat well. Add buttermilk, flour, salt and vanilla. Beat well. Add vinegar and soda, then mix by hand.

Pour batter into two 8” greased and floured round cake pans. Bake in 350℉ preheated oven for 30 minutes.

*I used the 2 1/2 bottles I had in the house and it was plenty.

Fluffy White Frosting

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine milk and flour in saucepan and cook till thickened, stirring occasionally. Cool. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla with beater. Add milk/flour mixture. Beat until frosting thickens and becomes fluffy.

This was really easy to make and oh so delicious! I told Elylah it was the best birthday cake I ever tasted, and she said "well you're the best grandma!" ahh...

My mom had us over in the evening for a birthday dinner...

And she surprised me with a yummy pineapple upside down cake, which was always my dad's favorite (big smile)...

The kids entertained us with this game of ring toss (a paper towel holder and a bunch of bangle bracelets)...

I started to sit down by hubby and the babydoll said, "hey, I was going to sit there!" So funny...

Another birthday surprise that I received came in the mail from an old friend that I have reconnected with on Facebook. Thank you Leslie!

Hubby has an electric throw on mail order for me. All the stores were out of them...(can you imagine THAT?) Then there was a Starbucks gift card from my kids...and a dozen or so birthday cards...

One of my funniest cards I received was from an old friend who is just about my age. It said: "I know your real hair color, your real weight, and your real age...guess you're stuck being nice to me the rest of your life."

The last surprise of "my" day was a nice long phone conversation with my son who lives in SC.

I had several birthday "outings" with family and friends that were on the calendar for this weekend. I had to take a rain check on all of them because...I ended up coming down with a head cold of some kind. So I'm lying low for a couple of days so I can get well.

Thanks for sharing my day with me!

Jan 25, 2011

Breaking all the rules...

I'm not a huge fan of blog awards because of a couple of reasons. First, I like to think that gifts come with no strings attached, and usually there are "requirements" to be met in order to accept the award. Secondly, I really don't have the time. It's all I can do to get around to all the blogs I want to read, plus write my own. Thirdly, there's always the chance of offending someone who you didn't "choose" to pass the award on to. A year ago this month, a sweet blogger friend tried to give me an award and I turned it away and posted one of those "award-free blog" signs in my sidebar. Now I'm ashamed and sorry I did that.

Today I have re-thought my attitude. Nellie over at Nellie's Cozy Place blessed me with a blog award and I am graciously receiving it. Thank you Nellie for thinking of me! You have been a great blogging friend and a wonderful encouragement to me! Visit Nellie if you have a chance and introduce yourself. You will find lots of love over there, as well as all kinds of interesting things.

But I AM breaking the rules. I'm listing 8 (not 7) blogs that I enjoy reading regularly and I think you might enjoy them too. Please copy the award onto your blog only if you WANT to. You may have reasons for not doing that, and there is no need to explain if you choose not to. Pass the award on only if you WANT to and have the time. It can be 7 people or as few or as many as you like. Lastly, list 7 things about yourself that people may not know if you WANT to and have the time. I'm going along with this just because I think it is fun and MAYBE someone will be interested! Oh and don't forget to tell the people you've awarded, but only if you WANT to! I'm not going to tell them...I'll see if they are reading my blog!

So here are some great blogs that I recommend, in no special order. Thank you ladies for being my friends in the blogosphere. I left off some of my favorite reads if I saw a "no awards" sign on your blog, but if you reconsider, let me know! Oh and by the way, some of these ladies have more than one great blog going, so be sure to check their sidebars.

I recommend you visit:

*Brenda - Beesnest

7 Things you May Not Know About Me

1) My hubby Bob and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this year. We have to make it last at least until September 25th because I've already ordered and received a snowflake Christmas ornament with that fact engraved on it! (Lisa Leonard Designs)

2) Bob and I were high school friends. We met at a splash party at Water Works Park in Cuyahoga Falls, OH when I was 16 and he was 17. We went our separate ways and while we remained friends, we didn't marry each other until 11 years later.

3) His mother and I and most of our family still call him "Bobbie".

4) I used to love outdoor ice skating when I was growing up and walked after dark to skate at "the gorge" ~ a nearby Metropolitan Park. I had to slide on my bottom down a huge wooded hill with my skates slung over my shoulder to get down to the skating area, and then climb back up with my skates still on to make it back up the hill. I never gave a thought to being afraid.

5) One time when I was about 13 I threw snowballs at passing cars. I have no idea why. It was dark and it just seemed like fun. (???) An angry man stopped his car, got out, and chased me all the way home, about a half block away. My dad actually got mad at the man for chasing me. It was probably the worst thing I ever did as a kid, with one exception. You'll have to ask me if you want to know the other thing...

6) I'm the oldest of 7 in the birth order of my family.

7) In two days I will be old enough to collect Social Security. No kidding.

Just having some fun today.....

Jan 24, 2011

Velvet Lady and Bow Tie Man

OK, so here we are, hubby and me, getting ready for church a week ago Sunday. Please don't look at the house, it's a mess.

Rebecca over at Thrifty Style at 62 is always talking about her favorite black velvet skirt, so I decided I would pull mine out of the closet and give it a wear. It's about 10 years old. It hasn't fit very well even though it is "stretchy" but I lost a few pounds and it felt pretty good. It was nice and warm too, with the single digit temps we've been having this winter.

Hubby is sporting his Christmas present, a bow tie I ordered from our daughter-in-law, who has a fast growing cottage industry going called The Cordial Churchman. She can't keep her sewing machine running fast enough and has been selling her fantastic bow ties all over the world. Levi-Strauss has them on mannequins in all their stores in the country as well, as they fit in nicely with the big retro fashion push they are promoting recently. So go to her blog and have a look. If there is a man in your life who would like to try a bow tie, well, now you know where to go!

Jan 21, 2011

Shopping for fun and thrift...

I had a couple days to go thrift shopping recently and here are some things I came home with. The AmVet truck comes to my house next Tuesday, so I will make up for bringing more stuff into the house by donating some other things. I've been told more than once that I have a good eye for bargains, which only feeds my habit! All of these came from the Salvation Army and Goodwill Stores. What do you think?

Meet Noah. He came in his original box with all the annoying packaging so he's brand new. He also came with twin elephants. By squeezing his thumb, you can get him to talk to you. His hands are also magnetic, so he can pray. He is very soft and cuddly. Not bad for $1.99.

I am a soft touch for Christmas tree ornaments no matter what the season. My grands have been "riding" mops and brooms lately so I had to snag this. He'll look adorable on my tree this year, and especially for only 29 cents.

How could I pass up this Cuisinart stainless steel can opener? It's heavy and extra tall...and I tested it before I left the store. For $3. I was really excited!

Near the can opener, I found this Oneida stainless steel shaker. The top twists to reveal three different sizes of holes. I plan to use is mostly for cocoa to top off tiramisu or homemade lattes, or for powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of pizzelles. What a deal at 50 cents.

My older two grands, Deacon and Elylah, are really into board games right now. This Veggie Tale game wasn't missing any pieces and is fun to play. I thought it was well worth $1.50.

I'm fairly sure this is a towel holder. It has a place on the back of the blue star to affix it to a nail. I love Americana things for the house and I'm planning on re-doing our upstairs bathroom some time this year, so I thought this would be my "inspiration" piece. 50 cents is all I paid for it.

This may have been my riskiest purchase. I shelled out $5 for this S'mores maker kit and I haven't even opened the box to see if it is all there yet. I must have been dreaming of summer, and I don't know, it just seemed like it could really be something fun to do indoors over this cold, cold winter we are having. I'll let you know! I hope to try it this weekend.

I think I'm the most excited about THIS purchase. I have needed an ice bucket for quite some time now, and this thing is brushed stainless steel with a plastic lining. It's about 10 inches tall and about 7 inches in diameter and will go well with other stuff I have in the kitchen. I did not mind paying $5 for this item!

Drum roll please........grand total $17.78.

Jan 20, 2011

Awake my soul and smell the coffee...

I think it started about the time I turned 50 years of age. I really didn’t “feel” as old as the over-the-hill jokes that came my way implied I should. But I did the math and by no stretch of the imagination could I any longer consider myself “middle-aged”. I don’t personally know anyone who has turned 100 years old, though I know there are a few out there.

But, I certainly did not consider myself as “elderly” either. So what WAS I anyway? Or rather, WHERE was I on this timeline called life? While no one is guaranteed the number of years they will live on this earth, I decided to mentally divide up the years of life into quarters. In order for this to work, I had to make an assumption on the length of my life. So I picked 80 years. After all, the Bible says in Psalm 90:10:

“The length of our days is seventy years-

or eighty, if we have the strength...”

It will be noted that by choosing 80 years as my life span that I made another assumption too: that I would be one of the “strong” ones. If I’m granted any more years than 80, I would just consider it a plus. That’s where assumption number three comes into play. My grandparents and my parents have lived past the octogenarian mark. Surely I will too.

Next I decided to name the four quarters of life by using the names of the seasons. Up to age 20 would be called spring; 21 to 40 would be summer; 41 to 60 would be the autumn season; and 61 to 80 would be the winter of life. The term “elderly” would only apply to those past 80 who could no longer get around and live an active life. My only relative that met this criteria was my grandmother, and that was in her 93rd year.

All this kind of thinking took place about a dozen years ago. During the years since, thankfully I have become less preoccupied with trying to put my life on a timeline and figuring out where I might be. Instead, I have come to understand this with certainty: no matter how many years I might have left on this planet, they surely were fewer than the number of years I have already lived. And so I have been busy trying to live them to the fullest.

The shift in thinking was subtle, but very real. Somewhere along the way I have gained an increasing awareness that life is short no matter how long one might live, and that I wanted to major in the majors.

A lot has happened in my life since the year I turned 50. My kids grew up, went to college, got married, had kids of their own, and now have their own mortgages. My father died, my mother was declared legally blind, and I became a part-time care-giver for her and for a couple of my grandchildren. My empty nest doesn’t seem the least bit empty, I still get up early to make breakfast and see my husband off to work, and my car racks up as many miles as it did when I was a taxi driver for the kids. I’m playing with a life long dream by doing a little writing here and there, and I’m tending to my spiritual life daily. I have peace with God and make time to serve Him by serving others.

Some of my friends don’t approve of my lifestyle. Many of them think I should be living more for myself, whatever that means. Actually in many ways I am living more for myself...I’m doing the things that matter to me the most, even though my energy level obviously can’t compete with what it used to be.

I was talking to an older pastor’s wife a couple of years ago, and her advice was to “run the last lap the best”. And that is what I want to do. I want to live each day intentionally and with the full knowledge that every day is a gift. I want to keep a short account of offenses. I want to leave some kind of legacy that will matter to someone. I can’t assume anything about when my life on earth might end, except that it is inevitable that someday it will. And by my own definition, I am in the winter of my life. I’m OK with that.

Jan 18, 2011

One blessing after another at Blessings...

Some of you know that my hubby and I are becoming involved with our church's local outreach ministries. Specifically, we are getting to know the various ministries first hand, finding ways we can serve here and there, and we are doing a blog for our church to help create a connecting point between needs and servants.

One ministry our church supports is called Blessings, which serves teenage parents. I've been so touched by learning not only what this ministry is doing, but also about the commitment of the high school girls who are also moms who have chosen to keep their babies. I thought I would provide the link to the blog I wrote in case you would like to see it. Click here.

Thanks for reading,

Jan 9, 2011

Living out the Good News...

Dear faithful readers and friends,

My post today by necessity will be on the vague side. I wish I could give you every detail but for safety's sake, I cannot. But I CAN ask you to pray because this is a very real person and a very real situation.

A friend of mine has been waiting for a long time for all the paperwork to be cleared and now the day is approaching quickly. She will soon be leaving the comforts of home, family, friends, and church to travel to an Muslim country where she hopes to serve in a humanitarian capacity for 1-2 years. She has prepared herself for this venture as much as she possibly could, but there will still be many challenges ahead.

My friend is one of the most visionary and capable women I've ever known, but she will be living in a country where women have notoriously been held back from education and other basic rights we enjoy daily. She will be exchanging her normal western clothing for the traditional styles of the local people she will serve. Then there is the language barrier. As a committed Christian, she will be a distinct minority. There will be health and safety concerns. By modern western standards, living conditions and practices are unsanitary. There is always the potential of violence and other safety issues.

So WHY is she doing this? One word would sum it up: Love. The love of Christ fills her, inspires her, calls and compells her. Would you pray that her every need will be met, physically, emotionally, financially, logistically, and spiritually? Will you also pray that while she serves in her capacity that God will redeem her time there and that she will be able to play a role in the spread of the Gospel in a land that is so needy? That is her heart's desire, above all else.

Thank you friends, I know you will. God bless you!

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:4-6

Jan 6, 2011

What does your home smell like?

When I clicked onto Facebook this morning, I saw a post by "Home Made Simple", a website I enjoy looking at from time to time. It offers all kinds of tips for home organizing, recipes, etc. Today I saw this question: "What's your home's signature scent?" Some suggestions for winter are pine, vanilla, cinnamon, cranberry, peppermint, gingerbread...you get the idea.

I was reminded of a scripture verse found in II Corinthians 2:15. Depending on the translation you may be looking at, it goes something like this:

"Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God."

This verse has challenged and encouraged me over the years. Does my life smell good to God? Is my home filled with the sweet aroma of Christ? Do visitors feel a sense of peace here or is the air filled with tension? Are kind words spoken frequently? Does chaos reign in my life and in my home or is there order and rhythm that allows time for meditation, reflection, prayer, planning ahead, connecting with old friends, making new ones?

Today I'm thinking about the New Year and what I'd like to do differently to make my life and my home smell better to God and to others. I want to bring a little more order to the hours of the time I am given to make room for the things I know are important. Simple things like making phone calls to elderly friends and relatives, reading to my grandchildren, serving in the local outreach ministries our church supports.

This will be no easy task. I like to say that even though I am officially an "empty-nester", my life is anything but empty. In fact it is very busy and very full. But as another year has passed and another birthday approaches, I have to admit my energy levels are not what they used to be. And how ever many days I have left to live, they surely are fewer than the number I've already lived. I want to make the signature scent of my "home" the sweet aroma of Christ. I have a little cleaning up to do. How about you?