I Heart Winter?

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Dear Professor Whose Name I Do Not Know,

Thank you once again for helping Ren and me find our way in Central Park last week. It was so kind of you to lend a guiding hand when you saw us engaged in a “discussion” over the map we held. Walking with you through your native territory on that misty, spring day was a genuine pleasure. As we related, you were one of several locals who went the extra mile to assist us as we explored your city.

As you probably remember, after giving us directions and offering to walk with us you asked what part of the Deep South we were from. (Clev-ah girl. I guess that’s why they let you teach at Columbia.) During the next few minutes we chit-chatted about our visit, the conference at which Ren was presenting and his field of expertise, the sights we’d seen, what you thought we would enjoy seeing and so on. You asked if we had any place in our home state like Central Park. I laughed and said that ALL of our state is like Central Park. Then, remembering my manners, I asked about you and you told us of your career and the places you’ve taught – Jerusalem, NYC, Singapore (I believe), London, and (for a year) Tuscaloosa, Alabama …. Ah, and how was that, I asked. With a slightly wrinkled nose, you replied, “Well, you know, it was… the South. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. No museums. No restaurants. Nothing to do. I don’t know how anyone stands it.”


Strangely, this did not halt or even give pause to our discussion. (Perhaps this was due in part to the fact that we Southerners are known to be gracious conversationalists.) I simply redirected and we walked on. You asked what it was that I did when I was not “being the mommy.” When I explained that I taught remedial studies at a community college, you said surely this did not require a Ph.D. I could tell that you were unsure of how to take my smiling “No, you barely have to be able to read to do it.”  (That was impertinent of me. Sorry, my graciousness slipped.) Then we reached the fork in our path and you offered a bit more advice. We exchanged pleasantries, repeated our thanks and parted company. Chances are slim that our paths will ever cross again.  I doubt that you have given our meeting another thought.

But I’ve been thinkin’.

(To be continued…)

Menu Plan Monday


Welcome to my kitchen – a place where Southern Living and Moosewood coexist peacefully!

Here’s my first attempt at Menu Plan Monday. Since I am a rebel, I’ll actually begin on Sunday with supper menus for the week. It’s Spring Break here, so I’m not writing this in stone or anything.


Playoff Chili (from Southern Living with tweaks from me)

(sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese for toppings)

Fruit salad

Here are the tweaks – 1) If you DARE, use Rotel with habaneros. Double dog dare, ya. 2) I left the sugar out and added a tad more salt. 3) I converted it to a crock-pot recipe. 4) I think I would be quite happy using ground turkey, too. We don’t eat much red meat around here.


Citrus Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Green Beans

Baked Sweet Potatoes


Chicken-Vegetable Stir fry

Brown Rice

Egg-drop Soup (Ren’s secret recipe. It is the BEST.)

Fortune Cookies


Turkey Spaghetti Sauce (my recipe) on Barilla Plus Pasta

Tossed Salad


Cajun Skillet Beans (recipe follows)

Cheese Grits (recipe follows)

Sauteed Spinach or Kale


Homemade Pizzas with pre-made crusts (Hey, I said it’s Spring Break.)


Cajun Skillet Beans (from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 celery stalks (about 1 c. chopped)

2 green or red bell peppers (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp ground pepper (or more to taste)

pinch each cayenne and salt

2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes (14.5 oz can- I like petite diced)

1 tablespoon honey or molasses (I prefer molasses)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 16-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained (Don’t use cheap peas. They are too mushy. I like a brand called The Allen’s Black-eyed Peas. They are small and firm.)

In a heavy saucepan or skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the oil on medium heat. Chop the celery and bell peppres and add them to the pan. Continue to saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add spices. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden, stirring once or twice. Add the tomatoes, molasses, and mustard, and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the beans, cover and stir occasionally until thoroughly  heated (about 10 minutes or so.) Top with scallions if you like.      

Cheese Grits 

3 cups water

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup quick (NOT INSTANT) grits

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

ground black pepper (if you like)

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. When the water boils, slowly whisk in the grits. Lower the heat to medium, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grits are soft and thickened. Add the cheese and continue to stir until it melts. Remove from heat. Add the pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

Happy cooking, y’all!                                                                 

Christopher, my brand new eight year old, has been the leading contributor to “I’ve got to remember to tell my husband this” of late. Here are just a couple of the items that I can think of now.

Example One:  As Christopher and I approached the grocery store parking lot, I spotted an elderly lady in the car just ahead of us who was sporting a Phyllis Diller hair-do.

Me: Look, C., that’s probably what my hair is going to look like when I get old.

C:  Huuummm, she must live with a lot of cats.

Me: Why do you think that?

C: It looks like they’ve been sucking on her hair.

Example Two: Once again in the van.

C: Hey, Victoria, look at that truck ahead of us. It’s got training wheels. (It was a dually.)

V: (Mercifully distracted by the book in her hands.) Cool. (She never looked up.)

Example Three: 

Christopher: I think Dot (school hamster that we were caring for over the holiday) is pregnant.

Me: (frantically) Really? Did Victoria put her hamster in the cage with Dot?

C: No. But she put the cages close enough that Teddy and Dot could smell each other.

Me: And…

C: Well that’s how they get pregnant. They smell each other. That’ll do it every time.

I didn’t even touch that. It seemed a good idea to let him hold onto that for a little while.

She Speaks


Don’t ever say, “I have an idea.” in a Southern Baptist church. People will listen carefully to what you have to offer and then vote unanimously for you to head that right up. At least that’s been my experience.

A couple of summers ago, I attended a women’s bible study in a neighboring town. The ladies in that church were so excited about their growing ministry. Just hanging out with them inspired me to talk incessantly chat with my friends about the opportunities (both personal growth and ministry) that were developing in their community. I was, as they say, fired up.  Apparently, I yammered on so much that word got out. Shortly after I started running my mouth, my pastor approached me and asked me to start a study in our church.  I was flattered until I asked him why he had thought of me. (See opening paragraph.)

I wish that I could say that I prayerfully considered the idea and received a definite sign from God, but the truth is that I lifted up a hasty prayer for help and plunged in.  In all honesty, this was done out of desperation and selfishness. I had come to a point in my Christian walk where I needed company. If the only way I could obtain that fellowship was by leading a study then, by golly, I’d lead that study.

Now please don’t judge me too harshly. While it is true that I started out in a fever hotter than a pepper patch using my own strength, I did commit to genuine prayer and study. God blessed what could have been a mess and twenty-five women signed up for the study.  It was a great beginning. Since then we have worked on trusting one another. We have found that we have similar struggles and questions. And we have realized that God can use us in our church, our homes, our community and our world.

During my prep time before that first study, I searched for on-line resources to share with “my” group. Somehow I stumbled upon this little site called proverbs31.org. There were great daily devotions that I recommended to the girls. The women who wrote them seemed genuine. They shared their personal stories – warts and all.  We were touched and challenged. Several of us have followed the ministry as it has blossomed. And you’d better believe that it is blooming like crazy.

This summer the Proverbs31 team will be holding their 8th annual She Speaks Conference in Concord, North Carolina. This event, which will be held June 20-23, includes tracks for speakers, writers, women’s ministry and the next generation. Many of the speakers are those sweet ladies who have touched my heart for several years. And I would. really. really. like. to. go. While I do not fancy myself to be a speaker or writer, I have been given the role of “leader.”  Our women’s ministry is still in the fledgling stage and I know there is much to be learned at this conference. (Boy, do I have much to learn.)

I could go on and on, but it would probably be better if anyone interested would head on over to the conference website and check out the abundant information available there. It is a blessing that you do not want to miss.


Lysa TerKeurst is also offering a scholarship contest here. Hurry and check it out, too.

A bio of today’s guest writer: She enjoys reading, writing, decorating, playing basketball, listening to music, watching old movies, practicing the piano, baking homemade brownies (it’s a secret recipe), scheming with friends and climbing trees.

Her name is Victoria and she is nine years old.

My serious, auburn-haired, freckle-faced thinker of grand thoughts and lover of words falls exactly in the middle of our family line-up.

She is sometimes sassy, often obstinate, frequently irritated by some or all of  us and never amused by silly or sarcastic banter.

She is an impatient learner who expects to understand something immediately, yet her teachers tell me that she is an encourager of the children in her class who require a little extra help.

She knows the “right” way things should be done or situations should be handled.

She is a hater of injustice and hypocrisy and has been known to call me on both.

She is moody and spirited and fiercely independent.

She remains cool, calm and collected in pressure situations.

She is her father without the off-beat sense of humor.

She is both a blessing and a challenge from God and I can clearly see His fingerprints all over her.

(This piece was written entirely at school for an upcoming creative writing competition connected with her TAG class.)

Mary’s Summer Adventure            

On a late spring day, ten-year-old Mary was walking home from school. It was the last day of the spring school session. She lived 3 miles out of town in a cozy brown cottage with her mother and baby sister, Anna. Her father, a medical doctor, had died in a shipwreck two years earlier. Since then the McLanes had been scrimping and saving just to keep their small vegetable garden going.           

This year her mother had been able to pay off a couple of their debts because she had taken a job as an assistant at the hat shop. It was good that she was able to take Anna with her to work.  She walked to town each morning with Mary so she could drop her off at school. Then each afternoon, they were able to walk back home together. One afternoon on their way home, Mother asked, “How was Amanda today?” “She was no worse than usual!”           

Amanda was the mayor’s daughter. The mayor himself was a kind and just man, but his wife and daughter were cruel people. Amanda thought she should act like her mother and pick on anyone who she thought was below her station in society.           

Later that evening after a small dinner they were having a conversation about their summer plans. Mother had more practical plans, such as enlarging the vegetable garden, but Mary wanted a more adventurous summer.            

That July,  Mary blindly followed her mother’s summer plans. She daydreamed about being the Queen of England as she hoed the new larger garden. She was jarred out of her daydream by her mother’s voice calling her to put on her sunbonnet before her complexion was completely ruined. Mary sighed and looked at her mother’s fair skin and beautiful hair. Then she looked down at her grubby hands and freckled arms. She knew she would never be as beautiful as her mother.           

A few moments later her mother came to the gate of garden and called out, “I’m going into town and I’m taking Anna with me.”  “Yes, ma’am,” she answered. “Are you sure you’ll be all right by yourself?” Mother anxiously asked. “I’ll be fine. I always am.”           

About 45 minutes later, Mary heard horse whinnies and hounds barking and someone crying for help. She quickly threw down her hoe and ran out of the garden. As she ran in the direction of the cry, she was thinking that this could be the day of her big adventure. Instead of slowly making her way through the fallen leaves and crowded underbrush, she deftly made her way through the woods. She had walked these woods so many times with her father; she knew them like the back of her hand. As the cries grew louder, she saw a lovely chestnut brown horse. Then she saw the rider. She was lying crumpled on the ground. With a gasp, Mary realized who the rider was. It was the Queen of England! Mary knew who she was because she had noticed her crown and who besides the Queen would wear such a magnificent riding habit as that! The Queen finally noticed someone was there. “Francis,” she called out weakly. Mary stopped quickly and said, “No ma’am I am not Francis. I’m Mary McLane and I can help you. My father was a doctor.” Mary bent down and felt the Queen’s arm. “I’m afraid it may be broken. Wait here while I go get the doctor.”            

She quickly ran into town and burst in on Dr. Smith just as the old doctor was sitting down to tea. “Come with me quickly. The Queen has been injured in Barrow’s Woods.”  That brought the doctor to his feet. “Let me get my bag,” he said as he quickly walked off.           

 As they rushed through town in the doctor’s buggy, Mary explained what had happened. When they got to the edge of the woods, Mary jumped out of the buggy and raced toward the Queen. When the doctor got there, he examined the Queen and then said, “I’m afraid you have a bad sprain in your arm, Your Majesty. Let’s get you back to my office so we can bandage it up. Once it was bandaged, the Queen said, “You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever been in this part of the kingdom.” So Mary took her for a tour. As they were going down Main Street, they saw Mother McLane and baby Anna walking out of the General Store.           

When Mother McLane saw the Queen, she curtsied. But the Queen said, “There’s no need for that. Your daughter rescued me.” “I’d be honored if you’d attend dinner with us but I’m afraid we do have some company,” said Mother. “Well, if I’m not intruding, I’d love to.”           

Two hours later at the McLane cottage the mayor’s wife and daughter stared open mouthed as Mary related her tale of the afternoon. Later that evening after supper, the Queen climbed back on her horse and called out thank-yous and good-byes. “Are you sure you’ll be able to get back to your hunting lodge safely?” called out Mother McLane to the Queen. “I’m sure I’ll be alright. I’ve been coming and going to this lodge since I married the King.”            

Later that evening as they were sitting on their porch discussing the events of the day, Mother asked Mary, “Did you enjoy your summer adventure?” “Oh, yes, Mother, it was the best ever.”           

Suddenly a piercing voice rang out, jarring Mary from her daydream, as Mother cried, “Mary, Mary, why are you just standing there? You know the Mayor and his wife are coming to tea!”

The End   

(Her momma hopes this is just the beginning.)

Tastes just like water.

(The date stamp says January 20, but this was posted on January 19. I can’t seem to get this blogging thing right at all.) 

This morning we had a blizzard light snowfall here in Dixie. None of my three youngest children remember seeing snow before. It was quite a joyous few hours for Christopher and Victoria; Catherine, however, cared none at all for the cold, wet experience. Extremes in temperature are not her cup of tea.

As I stood shivering in the doorway, snapping pictures like crazy, a neighborhood boy joined Christopher in some snowy escapades. I beckoned for them to come have their photo made and they willingly agreed. I asked them to try to catch some snowflakes on their tongues. They were all for it and I got some cute pics. As they were running away to resume their play, Isaiah said to Christopher, “It tastes just like water.” They are just babes in the semi-frozen wilderness.

Here for your viewing pleasure are some photos of our “frozen water” day.

That’s a magnolia tree covered in snow of all things.

snow magnolia

Below is a closeup of our coral bark maple.  This thing is beautiful in all seasons.

coral bark w/snow 

Apparently I am obsessed with snow-covered horticultural type things.


One of the kids at a church basketball game this morning said that he knew God loved us because He sent us snow. I’m quite sure the boy was right.

Y’all stay warm.


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