articulate - adjective
1. having parts connected by joints, as in "articulated"
2. made up of distinct words joined together in such a way as to convey meaning
3. able to express oneself clearly and distinctly
4. well formulated, clearly presented

Friday, October 16, 2009

Behind the Face

Is anyone besides me fascinated with clocks?

Not the digital kind with their glaring lights and block numbers, loudly proc
laiming the waning of day with no time to spare for aesthetics.

No, what I'm in love wi
th are the beautiful old-fashioned timepieces that have faces and hands. The kind that have mysterious things going on behind the faces... gears moving and meshing and making them tick. They are precise pieces of machinery progressing at a steady rate no matter what else occurs. Thunderstorms may rage outside, but still the clock ticks. Earthquakes may shake us up, but the beautiful timepiece (hopefully) survives, marking our movement through our days. Life twists and turns and shows its bumps in the road, but still the clock moves faithfully ahead, unfazed, always doing its duty in a beautiful and efficient manner.

There are two types of clocks I have always longed for. One is the cuckoo clock made in the Black Forest of Germany, an area some of my ancestors hail from. Sometime maybe I'll tell you the story of the German baroness - my great, great grandmother - who ran off with the butcher - my great, great grandfather... but that's a story for another day. The cuckoo clock, with its intricate mechanisms and array of amusing movements, is the point here. I find them fascinating!

The other type of clock I dearly love is the grandfather clock. Originally called a long-case clock, it gained its current appellation from the childhood song that became popular in the nineteenth century, which I also learned as a child and eventually passed on to my children.

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf
So it stood ninety years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself
Though it weighed not a penny's weight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born
and was always his treasure and pride,
But it stopped
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick-tock, tick-tock)
His life's seconds numbering
(tick-tock, tick-tock)
But it stopped
Never to go again
When the old man died.

I first saw a grandfather clock in an old farmhouse in Virginia that belonged to long-time friends of my parents. I remember during my elementary school years making my first visit to the house of these friends, timidly approaching the entrance of this strange house and desperately hoping I wouldn't make any social faux-pas. The old farmer and his wife were gracious and welcoming, beaming their smiles and sparkling their glances toward me as they tried to make me feel comfortable in their home. I looked around in awe; I had spent the majority of my young life in the city, and a cool, spacious farmhouse was totally alien territory. The adults preceded me into the kitchen to visit around the worn table, but I took my time exploring the cavernous shadows of the living room with its vast, cushiony furniture. I ran my hand over soft chair backs, inspected - without touching, as a good girl should! - the ceramic figurines on the roll-top desk, examined the wall photographs which were arranged to display a family of offspring much older than I, who had all graduated from high school and begun to make their way in the world.

And then I saw it, and - just like in the song above - I stopped.


Never before in my life had I seen such a beautiful clock. I peered at it, loving the dark grain of the wood, examining the details of the face and the hands, wondering at the sun and moon depicted in a semi-circle above them. And what was that shiny brass pendulum thing doing at the bottom? Why were there chains and metal tubes hanging inside the cabinet? I was transfixed. Suddenly the chimes sounded, causing me to jump back in astonishment, then peer forward in curious joy. How did this item of beauty produce such enchanting sounds? What made it work?

Since that day I have wanted a beautiful grandfather clock of my own. Not a cheap, processed one made from a kit. A real one. Carved. Beautiful. Someday maybe I'll have one. Maybe not. I don't suppose it really matters. What matters is the memory, the treasure of the image I have in mind of a wonderful piece of working machinery, an instrument both beautiful and functional.

The clock pictured here is one that was owned by my dad, a lover of trains. He, too, was fascinated by gears and machinery, as well as by the lonesome call of a steam whistle and by the endless chugging of wheels passing by. Somehow this clock accidentally ended up in our possession three years ago after we moved my mom, a recent widow with still-gaping and raw wounds in her heart, into her new house. After settling her in as best we could, we packed up our belongings, hugged a lot and cried a little, and returned to our home 10 hours north of her. But somehow, in the confusion of packing the vehicle at night, we ended up with Dad's clock. I was horrified, upon my arrival at home, to discover that we had unintentionally stolen what might be treasured by her. It's not an expensive clock; it's just a piece of our past, something that belongs in our family history. An immediate phone call, a quick explanation and rushed apology later, and everything was settled. We could keep Dad's clock with Mom's blessing. Dad's train clock now sits on top of a bookcase in our living room, humming a steady accompaniment to our life's ups and downs. A treasure. Not because of its monetary value. Because of something far more important. Intrinsic value.

Another clock I treasure came from my grandmother as a gift for a birthday when I was a teenager. It's packed away now, or I'd take a photo of it to share with you. It's about five inches tall, a round face sitting on a ceramic ledge, framed by a ceramic girl on one side and a boy on the other side, stretching on tiptoe to reach each other and share a kiss across the top of the clock. Even the thought of it makes me smile. Another inexpensive treasure of intrinsic value.

Intrinsic. Now there's an interesting word. I wonder what it means. Time for a blogging rabbit trail....

An online dictionary proclaims intrinsic to mean "basic and essential; belonging to something as one of the basic and essential features that make it what it is."

How intriguing. Thought-provoking.

When I started writing today, I had no idea where this blog posting was headed. There are dozens of directions this could take. Somehow I started out thinking about clocks and ended up thinking about intrinsic value. But the thought that sticks in my mind is how people are often similar to clocks. Some are apparently as mindless as a digital clock seems to me, proudly - even blatantly - displaying all they know. Perhaps efficient, serving their place in the world, valued by those who appreciate that type. But others are the type I treasure, the kind with working motors behind their faces, with intricate gears moving and meshing in the background... the kind who ponder life and its purpose... and this is what produces and beautifies the proclamations they make. These are the people who bless the lives of others around them. These are the people who - in spite of their ups and downs, their good days and bad - bless my life.

Thank you, my friends, for being a beautiful treasure to me of incredible intrinsic value, basic and essential to my life. I appreciate you!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Wow, has it really been 6 months since I've posted anything?

Looking back, I can't pinpoint a reason why. Sometimes the river of life runs too deeply to babble about.

Today my second-born turns 21 years old. Twenty-one. (I'm pretty sure I was 8 when he was born!) In the past year of his life, he has entered a bad relationship, grown, and exited it. He has returned to college full-time while still holding down a 32-hour/week job. He has pursued challenges, knocked on doors, made choices, found a new relationship, stayed with the old job, loved his family, hated his job, and laughed out loud. Ever impulsive and hungry for new horizons, he has opted to remain where he is for now, learning and stretching his brain while ignoring the chafing in his spirit to move quickly. Has it been a good year? It's been a growing year. How could that not be a good thing?

Tomorrow my first-born moves 200 miles farther away from us. His job offered him a transfer to Chattanooga, a city he has never seen. In the past year of his life, he has struggled with a broken heart, hated his living situation, loved his job, moved to a new place with a new good friend, asked questions, pondered life and the unfathomable female mind, commiserated with others, smiled quietly, squirmed under the weight of no future direction, and actually laughed out loud a few times. Never the impulsive one of the family (his brother had that one locked up), he is suddenly picking up his roots and moving on, heading out to meet the unknown challenges of life face-first, head up, shoulders squared. It's been a tough year, but he has grown. How could that not be a good thing?

The other family members and I have also faced changes, growing changes... but these are the big ones staring me in the face at the moment.

A popular song proclaims, "Time may change me, but I can't trace time."

But maybe we can trace time.

Just look for the growth rings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Colorful Mystery

Don't you love those fun little surprising moments that brighten your life in unexpected ways? You can be sailing along on your normal routine, and all of the sudden, POP! up jumps a funny little bump in the road. It doesn't have to be life-changing. It can be as inconsequential as most of life itself. But with its unexpected arrival comes a bright little ray of sunshine into your day.

Now that the snow is melting more, it's funny to drive down the road and see all of the neighbors' mailboxes lying at strange angles along the side of their driveways. Spring is definitely a time of renewal around here! First, finding the crushed or dented mailbox under the mountain of snow, digging out all of the pieces of the splintered post, designing new plans for a mailbox that's CERTAIN to outwit the town snow plows, and finally crafting it. John's current project features two mailboxes - one larger than the other, with the smaller one inside the larger one and the space between them filled with concrete! I'm not sure what the post will be like, but he's working on plans! Meanwhile, we're still picking up mail at the PO a couple of times per week.

Back to the surprise, though. Recently, a package arrived in the mail. My daughter came in carrying several days' worth of letters, flyers, and junk mail, and handed over a box with a puzzled, "Were you expecting a package?"

No, I wasn't. I turned it over in my hands. It was a small package, about 4"x5"x1.5"... just a plain brown box fashioned from a piece of non-corrugate cardboard, slit and folded and taped shut. My name and address were printed - computer-style - on a plain white mailing label and "Frigo" was stamped in the return-address section.

"Who's Frigo?" asked one of the kids.

I had no idea. Since I was in the middle of fixing a meal, I let it sit on the table till I could get to it. A family friend was visiting, and in the course of chit-chatting, setting the table, and eating, I forgot all about it until the meal was over and Bethie handed it to me again. "Aren't you going to see what's inside?"

Oh yeah. I felt in my pocket for my pocketknife, but I had forgotten it that day. Immediately, three other hands slapped pockets with the same results. Finally someone grabbed a knife Dave had made in welding class and slit the packing tape for me.

Released from its bindings, the cardboard relaxed open, revealing a few papers... coupons. I set them aside without really looking at them, and looked under them to find...

a box of 64 Crayola crayons.

What in the world???

There was nothing else in the box.

No packing material. No note. No clue as to the identity of the sender, no reason for the package.


We discussed all the possibilities we could think of... a prank gift, a sales gimmick, a rebate I might have sent in 10 years ago and forgotten about, a freebie I might have received since I am an educator... and shrugged it off. No matter, we now have a NEW box of crayons!

What could be more fun than looking into a new box of Crayola crayons? (Sorry, RoseArt fans; we've never liked anything as well as Crayola.) With great anticipation, everyone - even the boys! - watched while I gently slit open the perforation around the front and two sides and folded back the top. Simultaneously everyone sniffed... the waxy aroma of new crayons filled the air. At once, everyone leaned in, focusing on 64 fresh, sharp points of color poking up at us. What fun!

Bethie was the first to notice the birthday cake on the front of the box, advertising that, in celebration of the 50th birthday of the 64-crayon Crayola box, this box featured 8 new Kids' Choice colors. Oooooo, another mystery! What is a "kids' choice" color?

Politely restraining her enthusiasm, Bethie held out her hand and asked, "May I take a look?" and I reluctantly handed over my new box of treasures.

She soon discovered that each of the Kids' Choice crayons sports an off-white label, which made them easier to locate. Pulling out a bright orange one, she read the label aloud.

"Kids' Choice Colors, trademark, inc. By Kids - About Kids. Fun in the sun. Diversion bajo el sol. Aventure au soleil."

Ignoring her attempts at the foreign pronunciations, we considered. What? No "Burnt Sienna"? No "Orange Red" or "Red Orange"? Not even "Macaroni-and-Cheese?" Just "Fun in the Sun." Bright orange. Fun in the sun. Yeah, it works. Find another, Bethie.

I'm pretty sure that the next crayon she pulled out was fuschia; at least it was a shade of hot pink. But what will the "Kids' Choice" name be? Bethie rolled the crayon in her fingers till she found it. "Famous," she said aloud.


Okay. Looked like fuschia to me. But I suppose "fuschia" didn't make it to the Top 10 list of Kids' Choice labels nowadays. It's probably not even in their vocabulary. "Famous." Right. Try another, Bethie.

She pulled out a dark gray. "Pewter," my mind informed me. "Bear hug," my daughter corrected.

We burst out laughing. Bear hug????

The others quickly followed as Bethie lifted each crayon tip, gave it an expert twist, and read the title aloud:
"Best friends" (lilac),
"Giving tree" (dark neon green),
"Super happy" (neon yellow),
"Awesome" (red-orange),
and "Happy ever after" (teal).

Quiet descended as we mentally tried out the names. I pictured myself as a happy little 8-year-old, coloring in a big book on the kitchen table, and asking my cousin to pass "giving tree."

Okay. Whatever! It was time to clear the table.

I stood up and started gathering plates, only to realize that Bethie, my 17-year-old college student, and Jeremiah, our 18-year-old visiting friend, had become involved in a tug-of-war over the crayon box. Bethie thought the crayons ought to be reorganized into horizontal rows of similar hues - dark blue, medium blue, light blue, etc., lined up side-by-side like soldiers, while Miah thought the colors ought to be sorted into sections - blues in this area, greens in that group, reds over there, etc., like flower garden plots.

I laughed. These kids, great friends since birth (does that make them sort of lilac-colored?), were having a super happy moment (yeah, I guess bright yellow works for that), as they worked on their awesome (red-orange? okay) reorganization project. I'm not sure anyone became fuschia-ly famous, but an unexpected package in the mail sparked a fun (bright orange) moment, and we ended Miah's visit with bear hugs. (They weren't pewter-colored bear hugs, but even kids can't get it right all the time!)

So, whatever the source of the mystery, we were glad to have our unexpected surprise. And it brings with it the potential of lots more fun.

Come to think of it, didn't everyone say this was the one night this week we'd all be home together? I'm thinking it's time to dig out the old coloring books and break those new, sharp points in.

"Happy ever after," anyone?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Vagrant Thoughts...

2009 has been a tough year. And it's only the beginning of March!

I'm not going to try to make much sense this time, just post some random thoughts and quotes. I'm still trying to muddle through right

In a search for an image of hope struggling to survive in the midst of hard times, I tried googling for a picture of a crocus blooming in the midst of snow. As you can see, I found it. It's now my laptop background, a constant reminder that spring IS coming... hope still survives...

On the page with the photo, however, I found much more - a blog written by a person who
struggles much the same as I do at times... They posted a song, "Anthem," by Leonard Cohen. He's not one of my favorite artists, but these lyrics caught my attention:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

...And I wondered if part of my struggle is the unnecessary desire to produce the perfect offering.


If only.

And since I can't achieve perfection, why try?

Now THERE's a great recipe for disaster!

My attention was caught by another image in the Google search -

These were the words below it:

beneath the snow, there lie the roses
there's a crack in every heart of stone
an open door that never closes
there's a light to guide you safely home
as time goes by..


Just thoughts I'm chewing on right now.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wake Me Up in June, Please

So it's after 11:00 a.m. and we're up to 4 degrees outside!!! Woo-cottonpickin-hoo.

Bethie left this morning for Albany. She was chosen to go represent the college with the dean, a staff member, and another student. I hope she has a blast! Now she'll be able to say she's been somewhere I haven't. Good for her.

Btw, we stopped at the PO on the way to town this morning to pick up the mail (the snow plow killed our mailbox), and Bethie got her grades for the previous term - she made 4.0 GPA again. I guess she was ready for college even with skipping a year of high school!

The Explorer is in the shop (bad U-joint) and the tank (Excursion) has a dead battery, so since Dave doesn't have classes this morning and is on the night shift at work, I borrowed his pickup truck to take Bethie to catch her ride. I'd forgotten how helpless a 2WD pickup is on slippery hills, and I couldn't get it to go into 4WD. So a good time was had by all. I finally made it home safe and sound (it was a little iffy at times), so we'll forgo the detailed description here.

But I think I'm going into hibernation mode. Wake me up in June, please.

Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Random Things About Me That You Really Don't Need to Know...

I keep getting tagged. By now, some of you should know my life story! This one hit me several times on facebook, so I'll repost it here. Beware: family secrets are about to be unveiled!

The rules: If you read this you have to post 25 Random Things About Yourself Most People Don't Know (or need to know). Then you're supposed to tag everyone you know, including me, so they can do the same thing, and so that I can read your goofy stuff, too. Have fun!

25 Random Things About Me That You Don't Really Need to Know...

1. Ever since I was a child, my favorite colors have been red, white, and blue. The reds and blues can come in shades (as long as they're not orangey or greenish) but the white must be pure white.

2. One of my least favorite animated Disney cartoons is "Snow White." How does she sing so high?? It hurts my throat just listening to her. And who would kiss a dead stranger entombed in glass??? Eww. Creepy.

3. I have very vivid dreams. Consequently sometimes my CHILDREN will tell ME to shut my eyes during a movie! They don't want me running through the house in the middle of the night, trying to escape the bad guys who have invaded my dreams. Again.

4. My mother handmade all of my clothes - including underwear and jackets, but not including socks and shoes - and all of my food (including bread) when I was growing up, besides working a full-time job. She was amazing.

5. My dad was one of my heroes. He loved people. I never doubted his love for me. He led the family in prayer every night before bed. He prayed for me. And his sense of humor was a blast! I miss him immensely.

6. Ever hear the saying that every strong character trait has a down side? My dad's weakness was that he enjoyed visiting with people so much that he'd lose track of time while talking with them. Because of this, we often ate WELL-done Sunday dinners, and he almost made me late for my wedding! We had to rearrange the entire schedule at the last minute!

(PS - I wonder how many people remember that?)

7. Our house was always open to visitors. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of the impromptu jam sessions we'd have in our living room when friends would bring over their musical instruments and we'd all play together. We also always kept out-of-town church visitors (like musical groups or special speakers) at our house overnight, and would stay up till the wee hours of the morning visiting and laughing together. Then Mom would fix a huge southern breakfast for them and we'd all gather for prayer before they left. They all left with smiles and hugs.

8. All of my grandparents came from the south - one from New Orleans, one from Huntsville, AL, and two from the area around Murfreesboro, TN. Both of my parents and my only sibling were born in Washington, DC. I was born in MD. Now I am the only one living north of the Mason-Dixon. *sigh*

9. My best friends during my childhood years were my cousins, partly because they lived with us for a while. I wouldn't trade those memories!

10. I tried to elope with my cousin Scott, but the grandparents heard of it and wouldn't let us. "Cousins can't marry," they told us. "It's illegal. Besides, you don't have permission to cross the street."

11. I despise the taste of Zest soap. Even the smell of it makes me choke. But I learned a very important lesson about not telling lies when I was a very young child!

12. I tasted Zest after my cousin Scott and I had spent our entire nap time decorating my parents' bedroom walls with magazine pictures and glue. When our efforts were not met with the undying gratitude we had anticipated, I told the parents and aunt that it was all his idea and I hadn't had anything to do with it. Right. They didn't believe me, either.

12. Although I did use the mouth-washing form of discipline on my children, I learned on my first try that you don't feel sorry for the poor child afterward and let him wash his mouth out with water. They'll wind up blowing bubbles as they cry, and the sympathy you just showed will evaporate when you can't contain your laughter at the sight. (Sorry, Pete!)

13. Another valuable lesson from childhood was that if you need to get out of the bubble bath to use the "facilities" (since the cousins in the tub with you do NOT appreciate it if you do not make it out in time), you should always dry off thoroughly before using said facility. If you do not dry off first, you will slip right through the toilet seat and end up with your little behind stuck in the toilet. Once you're stuck in this rather uncomfortable - not to say embarrassing - position, helplessly flailing arms and legs over the edge like a strange little octopus fighting to keep from going down the drain, rather than having pity on you and jumping out to rescue you in sympathy, whoever is left in the tub (SCOTT!) will call the entire family (aunt, cousins, siblings, parents) to come view your discomfort with great peals of laughter!

14. I love my cousins anyway. :)

15. I grew up without a TV; consequently I rarely find anything worth watching on it.

16. Some of my favorite summer memories are of family camping trips across the US, or of venturing into DC to listen to the free military band concerts at the steps of the Capitol.

17. I met my husband during a college freshman orientation ice breaker game. All of the girls had to take off their left shoe and throw it into a pile, and the guys had to pick a shoe. Whoever owned the shoe he picked had to be his date for the night, holding hands with him during all of the games. John picked my shoe. Although neither of us was interested in a relationship at that time, we immediately became great friends. (Playing soccer while holding hands with a cute guy is kinda fun!)

18. Although my mother has a room filled with bookcases which are filled with cookbooks, I rarely use a recipe when I cook.

19. Ephesians is my favorite book of the Bible. Or maybe Romans. Hebrews is good, too. And Luke...

20. Words - especially written - are very important to me.

21. I hated grammar in school but aced it anyway. Not sure how that happened.

22. I love to read, but hate most fluffy Christian romance novels. I want something I can sink my teeth into. Consequently, some of my favorite books are Ivanhoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour (as well as almost anything else he wrote), almost anything by Dee Henderson, and the suspense or mystery books by Davis Bunn. I'm saving Joel Rosenberg's books that I got for Christmas until spring break, when I hopefully will have time to read without putting a book down!

23. Good music is essential to my life. Piano, french horn, cello, and of course all percussion instruments (since I played them), are my favorites to listen to. I still play percussion. The steering wheel is probably my most-played instrument now. (The passengers I have most often have caught on and provide "ching"s for cymbal crashes on cue now!)

24. I am allergic to cats, but have had a dog in the house most of my life.

25. My in-laws have always had cats. Go figure.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Angry Face and a Happy Cake

Isn't this a great face??? It cracks me up. I ran across it while researching something on the internet and couldn't help but wonder WHAT in the WORLD put this face on this boy.

Maybe he had some great idea for a wonderful project, and it was thwarted.

Maybe he couldn't get his own way.

Maybe he was just really frustrated by the people in his life.

Come to think of it, I can relate!

This has been one of those days. Actually, January has been one of those months! (I really hope this isn't an omen for the coming year!)

Three separate projects I am working on are stalled.

I can't get the things done I want to get done.

And sometimes I get really frustrated by the people in my life!

Do you suppose the boy in the picture felt better after making that face? Maybe it will work for me...

*scrunching face muscles around nose*

*drawing down eyebrows*

*baring lower teeth*



and cracking up!

Yep, it made me feel better!

For some reason, that reminds me that I need to update you on the wonders of the 5-minute cake recipe from the previous posting. Cake is such a happy thing... provided it's not smothered in store-bought frosting. But something with the recipe just wasn't quite... right. So we analyzed the final product (of course, like in any good test process, this required repeated experiments), researched, tweaked, and adjusted. Here are the results.

First of all, the men in my life hate digging a cake out of a mug. And if you dump it onto a plate, it wobbles there like a brown, rubbery tower of ... well, never mind. But you sure don't want to eat it after that mental image. EWW.

There was also that rubbery issue. I suspected we were cooking the cake at too high power, researched, and confirmed that our microwave does cook at more than the required 1000 watts when on HIGH setting.

Then there's the kind of eggy flavor. What if we only use an egg white, or half an egg? We could make two cakes at a time (baking separately, though, for this trial run), and split one egg between the two.

Time for more experiments! YES!

Cooking the batter in a bowl instead of a mug proved to be a minor adjustment. So did convincing my son we need to use Level 8 instead of Level 10 on the microwave. Splitting an egg was a different matter!

Even Tim knows that you can't split a raw egg in half right out of the shell. So we broke the egg into an extra bowl and beat it up with a fork... but then it came time to pour half of the beaten egg into one cake bowl and half into the other. Don't do this. That little bugger actually developed a life of its own! It was determined to slither entirely into one bowl, and when thwarted, morphed into a slimy space alien creature right out of an old Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, and splashed all over the floor. UGH. Even the dog wasn't happy with that mess.

So - rather than giving up and just using an egg white, we got the brainy idea of beating up a new egg with a fork in the abandoned bowl, then taking a soup spoon and dishing out one spoonful at a time into the two separate cake batter bowls. THAT worked. HA! We beat the egg, We divided, We conquered! Julius Ceasar should be so victorious.

The adjustments really helped. The end result was two fluffy, non-rubbery, non-eggy tasting dome-shaped cakes when dumped out onto a small plate. Nice. I'm thinkin' the boy in the picture needed a piece of it!

But what if you're craving a quick cakey snack but - perish the thought - don't want chocolate? I do have some friends who can get enough chocolate, and although I don't pretend to understand them, I'm willing to try to accommodate their taste preferences. (Leaves more chocolate for me!)

Time to research and experiment some more! (There goes the New Year's diet.)

So here's what we found on the internet. We tried the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake and found it deeeelicious! The only down side - once you invest the energy into making two of these cakes, you might as well make a whole regular cake and cook it in the regular oven! But that takes some of the fun out of it, don't you think?

We haven't tried the Jello Cake or Spice Cake recipes yet, so if you try them, you'll have to let us know how they turn out.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate 5-Minute Cake

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons peanut butter (add more if you want)
1/8 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Egg white (or half an egg)
4 Tablespoons milk (or soy milk)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (or unsweetened applesauce)
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 Cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Microwave-safe bowl or mug

Mix flour, sugar and baking powder
Mix in egg white
Add in milk, peanut butter, oil and vanilla, and mix well
Put in microwave for 2.5 minutes (add 30 sec if necessary) on 1000 watts
Wait until it stops rising and sets in the bowl/mug

Jello 5-Minute Cake

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Teaspoon sugar-free jello powder, any flavor
1/8 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Egg white
3 Tablespoons milk (or soy milk)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Heaping tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Microwave-safe bowl or mug

Mix flour, sugar, jello and baking powder
Mix in egg white
Pour in milk, oil, applesauce and vanilla, and mix well
Put in microwave for 2.5 minutes (add 30 sec if necessary) on 1000 watts
Wait until it stops rising and sets in the bowl/mug

Spicy 5-Minute Cake

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Teaspoons spice (cinnamon, ginger, whatever you like. Add more/less if you want)
1/8 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Egg white
3 Tablespoons milk (or soy milk)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Microwave-safe bowl or mug

Mix flour, sugar, spice and baking powder
Mix in egg white
Pour in milk, oil and vanilla, and mix well
Put in microwave for 2.5 minutes (add 30 sec if necessary) on 1000 watts
Wait until it stops rising and sets in the bowl/mug

Have fun! And don't forget to let us know your results!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Week's Second Favorite: The Most Dangerous Cake in the World!

I discovered this week's second favorite yesterday afternoon.

Tim and I had finished our schoolwork, and he decided to make lunch (cheddar-chicken ramen noodles - yum!). We ate together on the couch, discussing the inauguration ceremony. Then when he asked if I wanted anything else, I told him I wanted just a little something sweet and chocolatey. He thought a moment and then jumped up and left the room. I thought he was going to raid his "secret" stash of chocolate candy for me, but he didn't come back for a while, so I went looking for him.

He was running back and forth between the computer and the kitchen, making me a "surprise!"

This is what it turned out to be:


1 coffee mug
4 tablespoons flour (that's plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
Small splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to share!)

Tim slathered peanut butter over the top, and it melted and drizzled down into the airholes of the cake in ooey-gooey goodness. It was far too rich for one serving, though. He ate the top half, then gave me the rest. It was delicious!

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world?
Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

This Week's First Favorite: A Phone Call. A Gem. A Reminder.

Looking back through old blog postings reminded me of the fun I used to have posting weekly "favorites." They gave me something good to look for each week and something to write about while keeping in touch with my friends and family. The former smiles returned as I looked back over these seemingly inconsequential moments of my life.

Vagrant thought: How can any moment that brings a smile be inconsequential?

Somehow in the dry spell I've been traversing, I've lost sight of the wonder of looking for the bright spots. And I've decided it's time to do that again. And guess what! No sooner did I start looking for blessings than I started noticing them everywhere! Amazing how that works.

So the #1 Favorite of this week so far would have to be the unexpected, totally out-of-the-blue long-distance phone call I received this morning. It put a giggle in my voice, a sparkle in my eyes, and a huge grin on my face that has lasted a few hours now. Not so amazing, because that phone call brought me a visit with my old college friend, SueSam, pictured here.

Don't ask about her nickname. It was a college thing. I could explain it, but suffice it to say that it's one of the links that still connects us after 20-some years.
Ask me instead what it is about this particular person that always brings a smile to my face.

Unfortunately, I can't explain that. She's bubbly and funny and serious and thoughtful and kind and outgoing and introspective and a gem in my life.

I have a few such gems, a handful of enduring bright spots in my life, each one harking back to days of long ago, each one more precious to me than any earthly treasure.

They bring to mind the song we often hear during this month - Should old acquaintance be forgot?



A thousand times NO!

I don't do New Year's Resolutions, but if I were to make one this year, it would be to keep in better touch with the gems in my life. For as another song reminds us:

Make new friends, but keep the old... One is silver and the other gold.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proud to Be an American

Today, as part of our homeschooling, we watched the inauguration ceremony of America's 44th president.

And today I am so proud to be an American.

How do the song lyrics go?

I'm just a flag-waving American,
A citizen I'm really proud to be!
I'm just a flag-waving American,
Liberty-loving, red-white-and-blue variety.
I love to sing --- of Dixie Land! ---
and Yankee Doodle;
I thrill to see Old Glory flying high!
O, I'm just a flag-waving American,
Who believes there's no better land beneath the sky!

Sorry - couldn't lie - we don't sing "The Battle Hymn" in our house. But you can. I'm okay with that... because I am so thankful to be part of this wonderful nation.

The inaugural ceremony never fails to thrill my soul, no matter who I voted for the previous November. The ceremony itself is a symbol of something far greater than any man, more vast than any political party. It represents a belief in the right of man to govern himself, under God, as he sees fit. What an amazing opportunity we have!

The words of another great song run through my head...

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God bless America, land that I love;
Stand beside her and guide her
through the night with the light from above.
From the mountains
to the prairies
to the oceans
white with foam,
God bless America, my home, sweet home!
God bless America, my home, sweet home!

I'll save the critique of why songs like this can be sung and prayers can be prayed during a national ceremony - but are barred from public schoolrooms - for a later time. Right now I'm just proud to be an American.

Monday, January 19, 2009


First of all, happy Robert E. Lee Day! As soon as the kids haul themselves out of bed, we're planning to celebrate with a big pot of cheesy grits. Maybe we'll throw in some diced ham, too.

I wish I could get out of the house today, but my lungs tend to get unhappy with me when I expose them to single-digit temperatures. Since it's only up to three degrees right now, I think I'll hibernate a few more days! But if I could go out, I'd stop at the county
library and check out an old book I discovered a few years ago - it's pictured here on my coffee table. See the antique look of it? The cover really is fraying cloth, and the pages smell like they're centuries old. The fact is, what's written on the pages IS over a century old! It's a collection of the letters written by Robert E. Lee, compiled by his son. What a treasure! They reveal who the man really was, as he expresses in his own words his love for his wife and children, his up days and down days, his struggles and his faith. I'd love to curl up with a cup of tea and browse through it today.

For some reason it's been really hard to post lately. Just running through a dry spot, I suppose. I never even got a Christmas letter written this year for the first time in ages! I hate feeling disconnected, but sometimes I wonder what the purpose of writing these things is in the first place... Christmas letters and blog posts seem to run the gamut of either appearing to brag about all the wonderful superlatives in our lives, or to vent all the disappointments. Probably neither one is a true picture; reality is somewhere in between.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not condemning anyone for writing about the highs and lows of their lives. Not at all. I really enjoy reading what my friends have written. I just temporarily - I hope! - misplaced the reason for it in my own life.

So the lack of purpose for writing has been churning in the back of my brain lately, and this morning at o-dark-thirty when I was fixing my hubby's breakfast and lunch-to-go, that lack of purpose collided with the thought of the man our family chooses to celebrate today, Robert E. Lee. I won't say anything derogatory about Martin Luther King, Jr. - he accomplished some good things - but I think if I wanted a hero, Robert E. Lee would be a lot closer to someone I want to emulate. He was staunch in his beliefs, straight as an arrow in his morals, and loving, gentle, and humorous with the people around him. He connected with them.

Even more intriguing is the fact that not only did he connect with the people he touched daily, his writings and example touch people's lives today. Back in the mid-1800s when he wrote something seemingly mundane in a letter to his family, he had no idea that someone like me would be reading it over a hundred and fifty years later, mulling it over, responding to those ancient words...

Personally, I don't expect anyone to be reading my blog musings in a month-and-a-half, much less a century-and-a-half! But it gives a different perspective on connections, doesn't it? What you and I write today or tomorrow may seem insignificant to us, but who knows what person it may touch, what soul it may affect, what life it may bring sorrow or joy to?

I don't know that this thought, in itself, will restore my enthusiasm for blogging... but it's definitely added a different view to it. And for those of you who enjoy connecting with me through my inconsequential postings, thanks for hanging in there with me through the dry spots. Yours are the connections I truly appreciate.