Thursday, March 30, 2006

Goodbye, Dear Jeanne

Jeanne with another friend at church.

I have a dear, dear friend named Jeanne who is crossing over today. She had a massive stroke yesterday. This morning the family decided to remove the life support system; it was expected she would die in a short time.

Jeanne is in her late 70s, probably. She was like a mother to me, offering her support and wisdom countless times. Every Sunday I looked forward to seeing her at church because she always wore a hat, and I could count on a hug and kiss from

her as we checked in with each other. It was never a passing "how are you?" It was more of a "let me look into your eyes and see how your heart is this week." We never let each other off the hook with surface talk.

In the past year her eyesight started failing because of macular degeneration, so she had given up her duties as an usher (perhaps the first woman usher we'd had.)

She had been married before her current marriage. From her first marriage she had a son, a doctor, who died about the same time I lost my brother. We gave each other a lot of support and sympathy during those days.

From time to time she gave me great advice about life after divorce. She told me that it's often worth the investment to go to a garage sale, buy old glasses and dishes, invite a friend over and throw the dishes against a brick wall. Very therapeutic, she said. She was right.

On remarriage: "When Mel and I were talking about marriage, he said 'Jeanne, I'll always be there as a safety net for you. But don't you ever lean.'"

Jeanne never was the kind of woman who would lean. She was very self-sufficient and had her own career in the petroleum industry when it was uncommon for women to do so.

A couple of months ago Jeanne came rushing up to me after church to tell me about a dream she had had. In the dream, she and I were dancing together. The way she described it made me weep. I hope her spirit is dancing with God today in heaven; I look forward to the day when we can dance with the angels together.
Jeanne in December

I will miss my dear friend so much. Saturday is my birthday. I think I will go shopping for a hat to wear to church Sunday in her honor.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Is it spring fever?

I don't know whether things in the blogging world are slower because of spring in general or if people are just busy or bored or what.

I just know that y'all are not entertaining me as much as you should be and I've had to step outside our relationship to find fulfillment (now there's a statement I never dreamed I'd make!!)

Yes, it's true. I've gone blog reading and I've found some very interesting sites. No, not the ones with naked photos!

It started with Trixie in Transit, who has posted here. There really is another blogger named Trixie; I'm not talking to myself, at least not in public! I'm amazed at the things she's doing. Go look at her blog and see all the things she's done just today and in the past week! She must have boundless energy as well as tons of friends and interests.

Through this Trixie, I've found a whole world of other knitters. What fun! One has led to another, and I've discovered interesting people EVERYWHERE! Here are a couple of the ones I'm hooked on lately: The Casting On Couch and Crazy Aunt Purl. Both of these women can WRITE and they have tremendously interesting points of view on life. The fact that they knit is gravy for me.

Through this maze of links and such, I've found other blogs -- some are knitters, some are friends of knitters or others whose blogs I've enjoyed a great deal. One that is just heart-melting sweet is Kuky Ideas. It's a sweet, lovely journal of a baby girl's milestones seen through her parents' eyes. The mom is tremendously gifted as an artist and she uses her gifts to make her blog so much fun! She is a knitter, too. Best picks: The "Silly Parent" series.

Another writer in this bunch is I once was HP, now I'm Mommy. This is her non-mommy blog. She has good mom-family-kids slice-of-life blogs as well which are great fun.

I hope I don't sound like a weirdo finding so much joy in reading about other people's kids. The fact that these are so well-written and just exude family love is so charming. And that's made my life better since I found them.

A kindred spirit is Genevieve, who has posted here. Her blog is Prairie Bluestem, which is the Kentucky version of what I would love my blog to be. Genevieve shares her observation of the life around here with photos and great essays. Sometimes I am stunned that we have so many common interests and seem to have similar outlooks on the sacred bits of our ordinary lives. I'm glad she posted here so I could find her.

Here's wishing all of you great happiness as you, too, explore the blogging world!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Irritated by thieves

Tech ranted last week about the low-lifes who steal a writer's work. Little did I know that it would happen to me this week.

And to make it worse, it was done by the publication for which I do most of my paid writing.

A message was left on my answering machine to call someone at the office. I figured from the name and phone number that it was someone in a different part of the company (usually it's subscriber services if I don't immediately recognize the person, but not this time.)

When I returned the call, I got a breathy, fast-talking woman who sounded like what she is -- an advertising employee.

"I just needed to get your OK to use a couple of your stories in our special style section we're publishing this weekend," she started. Then she started reading off a list of stories she plans to use.

"None of those are mine," I said. And I told her where my work usually appears.

"Oh yes, I remember," as she lists off some other stories I didn't write.

"No, no, and no," I replied.

Finally she hit on a couple that ARE my work.

"We're just repurposing your stories to use. We're reprinting them straight out of the archive."

"Repurposing?" I said. "And by 'repurposing,' what you really mean is you're stealing my work and not paying me for it, don't you?"

Giggles from her end of the line. "No, (giggle), we're repurposing it. (giggle.)"

Well, this call took place on Thursday afternoon. She wasn't getting my permission. Maybe she thought I had just fallen off the turnip truck, but I know that the presses on these special sections start running about 8 a.m. Thursday.

It wouldn't have mattered at that point what I said about whether it was OK or not. The woman had already stolen my work, for which I hold the copyright. The publication has a contract with me that it has rights for first publication ONLY. They don't get a second run at it, legally.

Nothing I can do about it. The deed was done before I had a hint of it at all. And when I suggested that she really ought to pay me for a second publication, what do you think I heard from her end?

(Giggle) "OK then, I just wanted to let you know we were repurposing it and get your approval. Thanks so much for calling back. Bye now!"


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just BE

Thanks so much to Trixie of Trixie in Transit. After my tantrum posted last night, she kindly has reminded me to take some time to just BE.

So well I recognize the difference between BEING and DOING. Our value comes not from what we DO, but simply from BEING. We have value just because we are here. It's that easy.

It's a hard lesson that was refined for me after spending my life with a mentally handicapped brother. Bob was 16 months older than me and died Nov. 17, 1997. I wrote this essay, which was published on his birthday just a few weeks later, Dec. 12, 1997. When I need to remember the value of BEING, I pull it out again to reread. I hope it helps others as much as it helps me.

He loved Paul Harvey, Lawrence Welk, public television and listening to
country gospel records.

He filled his days listening to the police scanner for the town gossip,
figuring out how things work and playing with his beagle, Tippy.

Today is his birthday; my brother would have been 44 years old.

Bob never worked; his job in life simply was to be who he was, and he did
it well. These days the politically correct term is "special needs;" in our
childhood, less kind terms were applied to his condition. It's best that
those words stay in the past.

We were blessed to have grown up in a small Oklahoma town. Bob had the
chance to be at home there, which wouldn't have been possible in a larger
city. People knew Bob, and were patient with him. They listened to him even
when it was hard to understand him. And that's all that really mattered
to him, because he liked to talk.

But the blessing also had another side. Education and training opportunities for
Bob and his peers were severely limited in our hometown in the 1960s. Bob attended special school until he was 12; from that age on, he was at home, under our
mother's care. There was no need for assisted living, or group homes, or
institutionalization in our family. We were lucky that it was possible for
Bob and Mom to live together and take care of each other.

He was fascinated with power tools and electricity, and his week was not
complete without several hours of how-to programs on public television.
Employees in all the hardware stores in town knew Bob and his latest

He finished few, but finishing was never the point to any of Bob's
projects. One work he did complete has a permanent home in my kitchen - a
simple wooden stepstool he made so I could reach my cabinets. I use it
every day.

Yes, Bob's main job was simply to be who he was. He needed no day planner;
scheduling wasn't important. There was no rat race, no corporate ladder
that needed climbing. He lived on God's timetable.

His needs were simple - eating a grilled cheese sandwich, visiting with
his bingo buddies, studying the displays at the hardware store, playing
the piano by ear.

But he had goals, and worked toward those until he achieved them. Most of
them were goals he had for helping someone else, including me. I learned
how to rewire lamps by watching him.

Last year, his big goal was to help me buy a dishwasher for the old house I had
recently bought. Last Thanksgiving, he handed me an envelope filled with
money; he had saved his $2 a week allowance - the same $2 a week we got as
an allowance when we were children - until he could afford my
Christmas present, the dishwasher.

He wanted to make sure I bought it before Christmas. I did, but it remains
in the carton, still uninstalled, because I haven't made the time in my
over-scheduled life to get it put in. Be assured, it will be in place
before this Christmas. I wish he could be here to see it work.

I last saw him the day after Halloween, and remembered a particular autumn
in our childhood 35 years ago.

We had a ritual of raking the leaves together, and the sounds and smells
are forever imprinted in my memory. There's a photograph of him next to
a pile of leaves, wearing a scarf and beret for his part as a Frenchman
in a school play.

That same fall, our grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Even though the grownups were all busy, our grandpa made the time to
play his banjo for us, and then gave us a pumpkin from his garden to make
a jack-o'lantern.

Days before Halloween we were playing tag and telling ghost
stories. Bob picked up the pumpkin as he chased me, making up a tale of
some headless monster. About the third time around the living room, he
tripped, and our cherished pumpkin went flying, landing in a shattered mess
on the floor. It was like losing a member of the family.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Pumpkin!" Bob exclaimed.

That bittersweet phrase has been repeated nearly every fall since.

Despite that sad Halloween episode, many autumnal events brought joy to
Bob's life: pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, followed by
our ritual of decorating the Christmas tree on his birthday. He
loved flowers, too, and managed to grow amaryllises so he nearly always had
a bloom open on his birthday.

Christmas was the big day of the year for him, because that was when he
could give his presents. It was impossible for him to keep a secret, though,
so we always knew what was under the tree before we unwrapped our packages.

Bob didn't understand much about religion or theology, but he knew the
Christmas story, and he believed in angels and heaven. Before it became
physically difficult for him to attend, he enjoyed going to church,
especially to hear the music and to visit with his friends.

He prayed for people instinctively. I think that's why he loved gospel
music so much; the messages in the music were already rooted in who he was.

Bob's not here to celebrate his birthday today; he died, peacefully,
in his sleep a couple of weeks ago. Mom tried to wake him so he wouldn't
miss hearing Paul Harvey on the radio, but the angels had already visited
in the night, and he already knew "the rest of the story."

It seemed right, somehow, that many of his bingo buddies heard the news
on the police scanner.

Happy birthday, Bob. I'm putting up my little tree after work tonight, and
I'll put a bow on the dishwasher for you. Sissy misses you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wouldn't it be lovely?

Today has been a really stinky day, so by mid-afternoon the seed of a thought started taking root.

Wouldn't it be lovely to drop out of sight for a while? To give up all the meetings and the rehearsals? To suddenly fall into that "perfect" job, at least for a little while -- you know the one that pays you what you're worth, makes you feel as though you're really respected as a productive human being? The one where effort is rewarded and initiative is applauded instead of ignored?

The rut is getting deep and I look around and find many of my fellow rut-walkers are absent. The excuses are thick -- spring break; obligations with children; illnesses; overscheduled. I need to drop out for a while too, because I'm so very tired of walking in this rut alone.

It was a bad day. I can't say much more about it.

I'm tired. I'm going to go punch my pillow and crash. Tomorrow's another day.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Could this be my next knitting project?

I laughed myself sick over this one. I think I am destined to make...

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I know a certain redneck editor/writer who NEEDS one of these to wear at work. Yup.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A good Friday night; a great rainy Saturday


I haven't done this for decades. My high school journalism teacher (who I went to visit in October in Vancouver, Wash., with friend JT) and her family are in town for a wedding. Her grandsons (8 and 11) were not invited to the rehearsal dinner last night so she called to see if I could take them to a movie.

We went to see the Pink Panther, sat on the front row, ate popcorn and drank sodas. Then we walked around the mall, and listened to some Andean Indian flute musicians. I bought them pan flutes and we watched the fountain water show.
Then we watched the lady at Godiva Chocolates do chocolate-covered marshmallows and we bought a candy each.
Then they played on the computers at the Dell kiosk. And then they wanted to go home. They weren't hungry for anything in the food court (drats!).
Then we got back to their Holiday Inn, and they wanted to go to the fitness room, so we went down there and walked/ran on the treadmills and pedaled the bike and watched cartoons on the TV.
Then we went to the pool so they could splash around and toss a nerf ball with the other kids who were hanging out there.
Then we went back to the room and they got back in dry clothes.
Then they watched cartoons for a few minutes, and wanted to go back to the fitness room, so we repeated that.
Then we went back to the room and they snacked on stuff and we watched Ed, Edd and Eddie while I pulled my hair out.
Then the older one went in to take a shower. AHA! While he was doing that, I turned the TV to Roseanne. The little guy was thrilled because he never gets to watch it if big brother is around.
FINALLY the parents came home at midnight. I didn't mind them being that late at all, it was just that none of us had any idea how long the rehearsal dinner was going to be. (This all started at 5 p.m.) I was getting sleepy and hungry so I was glad to see them.
They were good kids. I think they had fun. I hope they remember that they had fun.


It's been a glorious, wonderful rainy Saturday. This is our first really great rain in months and months. I celebrated by sleeping really late and listening the National Public Radio (Bits of "Car Talk"; a little bit of investing news, then "The Splendid Table.")

Being that it's a good, rainy day, I decided it must be celebrated out in the elements. So I pulled on my clothes (jeans and a cozy sweater) and topped it off with my leather jacket. I just spent a fortune on my car last week with major repairs and maintenance, the least being new windshield wipers and new tires. Time to test them out to make sure they work while wet!

There's a favorite coffee shop in Bethany called The Java Joint (It's on NW 38 and Donald for those in the Oklahoma City/Bethany area, just south of the Goodyear store on NW 39 Expressway). I don't get to go there very often but I love the place, especially if I am alone and can sit and just watch people. Don't worry, I usually pretend to be reading while I do this, trying to be fairly discreet. I don't just pull up a chair and stare.

Anyway, I splashed through the parking lot puddles to the entrance, walked in and ordered a huge blueberry muffin and a tall mocha with whipped cream. Then I found a little table, grabbed a paper and staked my claim. As I reached for the paper, another patron picked up a $10 and asked if it was mine. I immediately recognized it was, as I have a pretty odd way of folding my paper money when I stuff it in my pocket. I gasped and thanked him for noticing, because it surely would have been a painful loss for me considering how drained my accounts are these days. His random kindness and honesty kept me smiling through the morning.

I leisurely read through the paper, taking time to enjoy Billy Graham's column and Dear Abby, a couple of old favorites I hadn't read in a considerably long time. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a guy at a nearby table with a laptop. He was joined, one at a time, by three other folks who gathered round to see what was on the screen. They were too old, really, to be typical college students at nearby Southern Nazarene University. Maybe faculty members? Maybe business partners starting up their own company? Oh I could make up stories but probably will never know the truth.

A staff person picked up my empty muffin plate as soon as I devoured the last bit. How kind, I thought, as I turned to the comics, another rare pleasure. When did Gasoline Alley take a violent turn?

Finally, a final swish of the mug so I could down the last bit of my mocha. Yummy! Time to think about where to go next. I looked out the window to make sure the rain hadn't stopped. I would have felt so cheated if this had been another teasing sprinkle, but no, it's still a slow, soaking, rich rain. I smiled again, thinking maybe this will give us a chance to keep some grass in our yards this spring.

The coffee shop was once a small house and still has some of that feeling to it, though it has been opened up. You can tell where certain rooms used to be, and the garage was converted into a large sunroom. The original garage door is still in place, but panels have been replaced with glass. On really nice days, I've been there when the doors were rolled up.

Today a group of Red Hat ladies were gathered in the garage room for some sort of party. What fun, with their purple dresses and fancy red hats and boas! I'm finally old enough to be a member, but I haven't found a chapter yet that has an opening. Maybe soon!

But back to my ponderings... what to do with the rest of the day...

AHA! I figured out where I wanted to go next. A yarn shop! I'm interested in finding some different types of yarn for more knitting projects, since there's such a generous selection these days. Sure there are tons more yarns than the Red Heart worsted I learned to knit on four decades ago.

I had found an online listing for a yarn shop near The Village, in Cassady Square. Splash, splash, splash through all the puddles between hither and yon. The windshield wipers are great! (Not that the old set got that much use, but they do get old, you know.) SPLASH! The new tires are so happy to show off what they can do. SPLASH! What a happy sound!

I found a parking place between the quilt shop and a needlepoint shop. Glancing around, I'm not seeing the kind of yarn for knitters, but there's a puppy in the needlepoint shop. Who can resist? I go in and love on the puppy, a Yorkie. A Yorkie in need of grooming, with very long hair standing straight out from its body because of static electricity. Puppy has been wallowing on its back on the sofas in the shop and looks like Frankenstein's hound. I love it. We cuddle and kiss while the owners are rolling with laughter at the hound's hairdo and my heart is melting, wanting a pupster of my own. Another customer comes in, so I let Madge visit her and I look around at the needlepoint canvases for a few minutes before slipping out.

The sidewalk is fairly well covered by canopies, so I stroll around looking for this alleged yarn shop. Oh, there it was, a place that was called The Linen Sisters. Alas, the store closed Feb. 28. It looks like they just walked away from it and left the stock, shelving and everything. What a pity, but I can tell by staring through the window that it probably didn't have the kind of stock I was really hoping to find.

That's OK. I do a little more window shopping, puddle stomping and browsing before deciding to drive on up to Edmond to the big Hobby Lobby.

SPLASH! SPLASH! the new tires are thrilled to be running along on the highway.

I pull into the shopping center to a large sign proclaiming SERENDIPITY! Indeed, this has been a day filled with serendipity. Oh, but they are talking about a shop, which used to be a crafter's mall. Today, I can resist because I'm on a yarn-seeking mission. Hobby Lobby is at the end of one of the wings of this shopping center.

One final SPLASH as I pull into a parking space just a few spaces away from the door.

I love Hobby Lobby, but this one is set up backwards from my usual haunt. It takes me a while to get my bearings (yeah, right, I was browsing. I admit it.)

WOW. When I finally find the yarn section, I discover a half-price sale on certain brands of yarn. How lucky am I? Serendipity, I tell you. I go into a trance, floating from one segment to another, synapses flashing as my eyes take in all the colors and textures. Somehow my hands have become tangled in the skeins feeling the fibers. Gaaahhhh. My mouth is watering from all the yarnalicious delights!

Is it any wonder? The colors have names like "bubble gum" and "cake frosting." Yum!

Oh look! There's a whole wall filled with mounds and mounds of Red Heart Yarn. Yes, the old standard, in all the old familiar colors. Basic, good old yarn. Inexpensive, durable and oh, so practical and utilitarian. Definitely not what I'm looking for today.

The fancy yarns are the ones on sale! What good fortune. I finally settle on Yarn Bee brand in a type called Frosting. The color is named Baltic Cream. It's kind of a periwinkle -- halfway between lavender and light blue. It's a beautiful color and the yarn has a little sparkle to it with the feel of a chenille. Normally it is $4 a skein, but at half price I can get five skeins for the $10 the guy returned to me at the coffee shop. Serendipity! This will be a future prayer shawl. It is as soft as the too-long hair on the electrified Yorkie.

I carry my purchase back out to the car, jumping in one more puddle out of pure joy.

Oh look! There's the Delta Cafe at the far end of the other leg of the shopping center. Guess where I'm having lunch!

I ordered the light portion of meat loaf, with mashed potatoes and fried okra. I can't even eat half of the meal before I'm too full to breathe. Oh yeah, I just had that huge muffin, didn't I? OK, I'll get a go-box and take this home. It'll save me a stop at the grocery store.

So now I'm home, telling you my story. I think this afternoon calls for a nap to top things off, then when I wake up I'll get some writing work out of the way.

Later, I'll see if I'm ready to finish that meat loaf or maybe test out the new yarn to see how it looks made up.

I hope you have enjoyed a splash or two of your own today. It's too good to waste it by staying inside!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why, oh Why?

Saw this at that crazy Frenzied Feline's blog. Why, oh why, I ask again, would I have to take the donut test while we're all working on losing weight?

I have wanted a hot Krispy Kreme donut for weeks now, but to acquire one requires great effort and a lengthy drive through a construction zone. Believe me, resisting them has nothing to do with willpower and everything to do with a hatred of backed-up traffic.

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.
You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.
You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The prayer shawl is finished!

No more photos after this thread, I promise, but I did a progression of finishing off the prayer shawl.

First, the instructions say to cut 76 pieces of yarn, 54 inches long. Hmmm. Let me find something that's about 27 inches so I can wrap the yarn around it.

This is close enough. It's a Flip 'n' Fold! It's a fringe maker! Woo hoo!
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OK, so round and round the yarn goes. I lost count, but if I need more, I can make another wrap.
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Cut the yarn at one end to make the strands the right length.
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Take two strands, then fold them in half twice to make eight strands. Aha! One end has four loops. Poke a crochet hook into the edge of the shawl, grab those four loops and pull them through.
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OK, take the other end, thread it through the four loops, and then pull down to make a tassel.

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Trim the ends of the tassels and tie a knot at the end of each strand (This yarn unravels like crazy. Might not need to do this on other yarns.)

Repeat all the way across both ends of the shawl.

And look here: it's DONE!!

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It's now had a bath in the washing machine and is drying on towels spread out on my bed. The fringe tangled up pretty bad in the wash because it is so long. After it dries, I may need to trim the frayed ends off the fringes. I'll see how it looks. Next time: much shorter fringe or a knitted border instead.

Thanks for following the progression of the prayer shawl! It'll go to church tomorrow to be given to someone.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tending to my knittin'

Here is my current project in process. I'm more than half-way through. There's not an exact measurement given for the finished length -- the instructions say "from wrist to wrist" but since I am short, and my arms are short, I'll make it a little longer, then there will be fringes on both ends. This is a prayer shawl, which is made for the church and then given to someone who is ill or troubled. The shawl is made while the knitter says prayers for the recipient. When it's going to be given to someone, it'll be placed on the altar at church, and then after the service members of the congregation can come and pray while they add a knot to the fringe.

Here's some closeups of the yarn and then of the knitting. Maybe this will show the colors better. It seems to be reading more brown in the first photo, and there's no brown in it. The color is called "Mexicana." The main colors are purple and orange. There's a bit of gold in it.

It is very soft. Sometimes I just have to stop and snuggle it. It's an acrylic yarn so it's machine washable and dryable. (Lyon Brand Yarn, Homespun)

I'll try to remember to take more photos after I finish it. And I hope that is soon!

Friday, March 10, 2006

How you doin'?

I'm feeling a little like this today:

I have a headache and my blood pressure is through the roof. I don't think bopping anyone would help, really. I just like this smilie.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ponder me this

Let's make this a meme, shall we? Answer these questions here, and if you wish, tag five folks and have them answer the same on your blog.
Fasten your seat belts; here we go!

1. What is the best thing you've done this week (since Sunday)?

2. What's the most meaningful personal issue you've thought about this week?

3. What's the biggest nuisance task you have gotten out of the way this week?

4. What's the biggest annoyance hanging over your head this week?

5. What has made you happy this week?

6. Have you cried this week? Why?

7. What are you looking forward to most this week?

8. What has just flat made you crazy this week?

9. What bliss have you experienced this week?

10. What have you prayed to change this week?

Tagging: E.R.; Frenzied Feline; Tech; Dr. E.R.; Jeannie Diane.

Recipes for Lent (meatless)

Here are some meatless recipes for those who have given up meat during the Lenten season. They all make fairly large quantities.

Basic Veggie Soup
Serves 12

2 cans diced tomatoes -- undrained
1 large onion -- chopped
4 cloves garlic -- pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil -- divided
2 large carrots -- chopped
2 small celery stalks -- chopped
1 medium turnip -- chopped
2 cups green beans -- cut in 1" pieces
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 head cabbage -- chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 small russet potatoes -- peeled and chopped

In a large soup pot, heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil over
medium high heat. Add the onion and cook till nearly translucent, now
add the garlic. Don't let the garlic brown and saute another couple
of minutes.

Add the rest of the chopped veggies, sauteing for just a minute or
two; the extra tablespoon of olive oil is if you need it for the rest
of the veggies. Remeber--you're not cooking them-- just sauteing them
for the wonderful flavor this quick step will infuse in your soup.
Add the thyme and salt and pepper while sauteing.

Now put the veggies in the crockpot, add the tomatoes and broth. Cook
on low 7-9 hours (depending on your crockpot) or high 4-6 hours. Just
before serving, gently mash some of the potato chunks against the
side of the crockpot to thicken the soup, give it a stir and serve.

Per serving: 88 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (35% calories from
fat); 5g Protein; 2g Dietary Fiber; 9g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol;
658mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 1 Vegetable; 0
Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates


This one is so easy:

Mexican Pasta Vegetable Bake
3 cups rotini pasta, uncooked (curly noodles)
2 jars (16 oz. each) chunky salsa
2 cups 2% milk reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1 can (16 oz.) black beans, rinsed, drained
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen whole kernel corn, thawed, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

COOK rotini as directed on package; drain.
MIX rotini, salsa, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, beans and corn. Spoon into 13x9- inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese.
BAKE at 375°F for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Serves 8
(I find it can serve more).

Diet Exchange:
2 Starch,1 Vegetable,2 Meat (L)

Nutrition (per serving)
Calories 300 Total fat 7g Saturated fat 4.5g Cholesterol 20mg Sodium 1240mg Carbohydrate 42g Dietary fiber 7g Sugars 9g Protein 19g Vitamin A 20%DV Vitamin C 4%DV Calcium 35%DV Iron 10%DV


Another super-easy one:

Cheesy Bean Enchiladas
1 can (16 oz.) Refried Beans
1 jar (16 oz.) chunky salsa, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped onion
8 flour tortillas

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Mix beans, 1/2 cup of the salsa, 1 cup of the cheese and the onion until well blended.
SPREAD remaining 1 cup salsa onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish. Spoon 1/4 cup of the bean mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place, seam sides down, over salsa in baking dish. Top with the remaining salsa and cheese.
BAKE 20 minutes or until heated through.


Macaroni and cheese doesn't have to be orange and it doesn't have to come from a box.
I love this recipe -- use a sharp cheese with some flavor. Would also be good as the foundation of a tuna casserole.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring revival ends

My church concluded a three-night revival this evening. Excellent preaching by Dr. John Holbert, on the faculty of Perkins School of Theology, and excellent Southern Gospel music from an Oklahoma quartet, "Forgiven."

Check out the quartet's web site at Forgiven.
This quartet formed in my hometown, Ponca City, 25 years ago. Through many combinations of singers, they continue to bring the message in a way that warms the soul and leaves a lump in the throat.

For a snipet of their "Valley of the Shadow" (based on Psalm 23), click here. Other samples are also available on their web site under "Products."

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Lenten altar

(clicky biggie)

Has spring really sprung?

The robins have started playing in my yard, scratching around for worms. And last Monday I looked up at my Bradford pear tree, shocked to find it in bloom. I kept thinking we'd get some winter before that happened! One good ice storm a couple of weekends ago was it, I guess.

Anyway, here's a photo of the tree:

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Which Muppet are you?

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Greetings to Junior the Bear

Junnior the Bear is a well-traveled Plush-American who has a blog over at Xanga. He posts photos and stories about his travels. (See Junior the Bear -- he's even posted a map showing all the states he has visited.) And he celebrated a birthday not too many days ago.

I had promised Junior that I'd post some of my bears, so here you go. These are a few of my favorites. I've sent some of my others on to new friends who needed someone special to love on. It is, after all, their job.

This Mama and baby, however, will probably always be with me, since they were given to me by my own Mama, after I was all grown up. And yes, I get all weepy about it.

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This one isn't a bear, but the closest I have to a puppy-dog these days. It is so incredibly soft and looks enough like my dear Fefe-girl that it always brings a smile to my face.

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And here's a little pink bear. This will sound terrible, but you know what? I can't remember who gave this one to me. Obviously it was a gift, and I feel rather embarrassed that I don't remember its history. You would think that would be hard to forget. But here it is, more proof that my memory is not as sharp as it used to be.

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This is not a bear either -- perhaps you can tell. It's a baby picture of me I recently stumbled across. Everyone say "Awww."

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Where have you been?

Down the road and back again!

Here are the states I have been to. How about you?

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

And now, as requested ...

Vienna sausages!

Oh. My. How my taste buds have changed in the last 30 years!

I had a request from Trixie in Transit to post about Vienna sausages.

"Sure," I thought. "I used to love those when I was a kid -- even in college!" So I went to the store and discovered there is a whole range of Viennas these days. There's a couple of major manufacturers -- Armour and Hormel. And each has its own special types of Viennas now. You can get the regular, the light, the chicken, the barbecue ... I think I even saw a turkey version.

Hmmmm. I stood there looking at the section with these tiny 5-ounce cans filled with seven mini-weenies. Finally I decided you can't beat the original, so I tossed a can in the cart. Hmmm. Two for 89 cents? Why not try a barbecue? So for research purposes, I invested about a buck, with tax.

Well. There's a buck that'll never fund my retirement, but if I eat these things again, I won't live to retirement age!

Here's what Wikipedia says about these tubular meat treats:

"Vienna sausage is a term used for a canned sausage. The term means essentially the same thing as Wiener, as the latter means Viennese, and is short for Viennese sausage.

"Canned Vienna sausages are generally made using a simplified adaptation of the process used to mass-produce other sausages. Meats, such as chicken, beef, and pork, are ground finely and mixed with salt and spices, especially mustard, and formed into a batter, which is poured into a long casing and smoked. The sausages are cooked, chopped into equal size segments, and placed into tins or jars, usually without the casings, and, with broth or brine added, processed the same as other canned goods. They also figure into the diet of many in the US."

Each one of these little dudes has 45 to 50 calories (I think the barbecue versions have more calories because of the little glop of sauce that coats them. And guess what -- a serving size is THREE sausages! What??? THREE out of SEVEN? Well, that makes it easy, huh?

Things I can tell you about these:

In Oklahoma and other states in our region, "Vienna sausages" are simply called "Viennas." And no, it's not pronounced like the city in Austria. It's "vi-EEE-na" or "vi-EEE-nees."

Babies love them. They are a great finger food for little ones transitioning into solid foods. But do good parents really want to feed their babies a weenie made of chicken, beef and pork that's been trimmed down and jammed into a can?

They used to be recommended as part of a weight-loss diet, back in the '70s. (Hence them being a part of my college diet -- that and the fact that they are so cheap.) It makes a little sense. Easy portion control, handy protein source... easy to carry while on the go.

Anyway, here's supper:

Wanna bite? It was the perfect 400-calorie accompianment to tonight's edition of "American Idol." Canned meat. Yum.

Come and Find the Quiet Center

Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead.
Find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed.
Clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear the eyes, so we can see
All the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

--Shirley Erena Murray

Text of a hymn from "The Faith We Sing", a supplemental hymn book of the United Methodist Church. To hear the tune, click here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Today is Ash Wednesday

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

It is the first day in the Christian season of Lent.

I'm finding that many people think Lent is observed only by the Catholic church. This is not true. Lent began in the apostolic era and was universal in the ancient church. For this reason, Lent is observed by the various Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Anglican denominations, by Roman Catholics, and by Eastern Orthodox Churches. (If you want to know why some churches don't observe Lent, go Google it. There's plenty of information out there.)

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Originally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized, a time of concentrated study and prayer before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord early on Easter Sunday. But since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation. Also, this was the time when those who had been separated from the Church would prepare to rejoin the community.

Today, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. It covers the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter (excluding the Sundays, which are "mini-Easters," when fasting is not appropriate).

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Penitential prayer, fasting and almsgiving are common Lenten practices, meant to help Christians focus on their spiritual journey with God. Today, many congregations have a dual emphasis -- "giving up" something that contributes to a flabby spiritual life while "taking on" spiritual exercises to strengthen the relationship with God.

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God, a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. The ashes are created by burning the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations.

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Ash Wednesday is a somber day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to be fully Christian.

Lent is a season during which we find ourselves completely humbled before God, confessing our inadequacies. We come before Him in dust and ashes, emptied of our pretenses of being righteous. It is a way to empty ourselves of our false pride, of our rationalizations that prevent us from seeing ourselves as needy creatures, of our "perfectionist" tendencies that blind us to the beam in our own eyes.

It's a time for us to stop praying for others, believing that we are "higher spiritual creatures" than "they." It's time for us to realize that WE are standing in the need of prayer. WE are the sinner for whom Christ came to make sacrifice.

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Christianity isn't just about the celebration of Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter morning. It's also about this darker season. Without going through the darkness we will never understand the purpose of the Lamb's sacrifice, and the glorious celebrations will never have their full value for us.

Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.