Wednesday, September 21, 2011


"Home! That was
what they meant,
those caressing
appeals, those
soft touches
wafted through
the air, those
invisible little
hands pulling
and tugging,
all one way!"

Kenneth Grahame

Friday, September 16, 2011

Only This Moment

Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity; we have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand --- and melting like a snowflake.

MB Ray

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Painting with Puff


When I was a child, my first grade reading book was Dick and Jane and they had a dog named Spot and a cat named Puff.  I always thought Puff was a cute name for a cat!  But this post isn’t about reading or about cats.  It’s about a fun art project that uses ingredients mixed together that create a paint that puffs up when microwaved.  How fun is that?  Here’s the recipe.  May it keep the kiddos in your life happily entertained for at least an hour or two!

In a small bowl, combine:

2 Tbsp. self-raising flour
6 drops of food coloring
2 Tbsp. salt

Add enough water to make into a creamy paste.  Using a paint brush or sponge, create a design on tagboard or cardboard.  Make another ‘batch’ of puffy paint in other colors if desired.  Paint, paint, paint.  When done, microwave the design on high for  15 – 30 seconds.  The paint will puff and should dry completely.

*To make your own self-raising flour, blend 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 Tbsp. baking powder.

Encourage Another

Give the young and struggling a word of encouragement when you can.  You would not leave those plants in your window boxes without water, nor refuse to open the shutters that the sunlight might fall upon them; but you would leave some human flower to suffer from want of appreciation or the sunlight of encouragement.  There are a few hardy souls that can struggle along on stony soil --- shrubs that can wait for the dews and sunbeams --- vines that climb without kindly training; but only a few.  Utter the kind word when you can see that it is deserved. The thought that "no one cares and no one knows" blights many a bud of promise.  Be it the young artist at his easel, the young preacher at his pulpit, the workman at his bench, the boy at his mathematical problems, or your little girl at the piano, give what praise you can.

Signs magazine

September 14, 1882

I really love old-fashioned wisdom.  This advice is as good now as it was back in 1882.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chilled Cucumber Soup

My mother would sometimes serve a chilled cucumber soup on special occasions. She would add all the ingredients to a blender and puree them. Always refreshing, this was a summer soup recipe I always enjoyed. When I decided to make a chilled cucumber soup of my own, I was dismayed to find that most of the recipes I found contained canned soups, like chicken or potato. The delightful freshness of cucumbers would be lost in the sodium and preservatives of the canned product, so I kept searching and ended up adapting a recipe to create my own. This is my vegan version of a summer delight.  It's a great way to use the cucumbers in your September garden!

2 cups soy milk
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. parsley, fresh and snipped
2 tsp. chicken-style seasoning*
1/2 tsp. dillweed, dried
1/2 cup English cucumber, seeded and shredded
2 Tbsp. onion, finely diced
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a quart jar. Lid and shake. Place in fridge to chill for several hours before serving. Serve cold with a sprig of mint and toast points.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Baked Pepper Cup Quiche

Late summer is the perfect time of year to try these little quiches that are baked in bell peppers.  They make such a tasty and beautiful presentation!

6 large bell peppers, green, yellow and red
1 lb. firm tofu
1/2 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. chili pepper
2 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup Ortega chilies, sliced
1/4 cup scallion, chopped

Cleam and cut tops of peppers, set aside. Blend cashews with water until very smooth. Add tofu, cornstarch, garlic, and seasonings and continue blending until smooth. Fold in olives, sundried tomatoes, chilies, and scallions. Spoon mixture into prepared peppers. Place in baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

The Season's Change

Are you enjoying the last weeks of summer? As autumn nears, I enjoy the last bits of the season. Flowers are blooming with renewed vigor and the lawn is a vibrant green. It's as though they are saying "hurry up and enjoy us, 'cause it won't be long and we'll be just a faded memory". In addition to the flowers, produce from the garden is the centerpiece of every meal. Tomatoes, new potatoes, corn on the cob, cucumbers, sweet onions, watermelon, and zucchini in abundance are tasty and useful for creating a plethora of dishes. They will be missed in the winter months when meals center more around legumes and whole grains. Children return to school (older children return to university and will be greatly missed at home). The flow of life changes. Seasons come and are enjoyed. And seasons go, missed, yet there is something wonderful about living in a climate that has seasons. Four times a year we start anew and four times a year we anticipate what comes ahead. Can you feel your season change?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Gathering the Pieces

"Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." John 6:12

I'm reading a little book that was my mothers, especially enjoying the segments that she felt so meaningful she highlighted them. This morning's reading was about pieces; how life is like a quilt where new is created by rearranging the pieces of the old. It goes on to include this paragraph that says so much:

"It is quilting theology. God takes the pieces of our lives and stitches them back together, working His will for the good of those who love Him. With His handiwork, life isn't limited to one square. It is a pattern of squares where beauty depends on variety and no single square tells the whole story. They must be seen together --- like a quilt." [Quilted with Love by Goodwin]

[This is my 4,000 blog post on Gracious Hospitality]

Spicy Vegetable Curry

2 c. potatoes, cubed
1 c. cauliflower florets
1 large onion, slivered
1 c. carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium eggplant
4 Tbsp. oil
2 - 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
one 2-inch piece ginger, finely minced
2 Tbsp. green chilies
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2-3 Tbsp. curry powder
1 1/2 c. vegetable stock
3 c. canned tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2/3 c. coconut milk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper 
salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, potato and cauliflower and cook gently for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, green chilies, ginger and spices. Cook and stir for 1 minute.

2. Add stock, tomatoes, and eggplant and season with salt. Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

3. Mix cornstarch and cold coconut milk together until smooth and stir into mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with Basmati or Saffron steamed rice.

Yield: 18 half-cup servings

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The First Day of School

It seems like summer arrived just a short time ago.  It was so slow to get here this year, but already autumn is not too far away.  The first of September always makes me think of beginning of a new school year.  Yesterday the school bus arrived to pick up school children on our block.  It arrives like clockwork, exactly at ten after seven every morning.

As children, sis and I always looked forward to the beginning of a new school year.  Our mother would sew us some new dresses to wear to school and would always pack us a daily lunch in our red, plaid lunch boxes.  Since our community was small, there was no bus service and we would walk the six or eight blocks to school each morning.  Friends who lived along the way would join us and we would arrive at school together, chatting cheerfully as we looked forward to the day.  It was always exciting to have new pencils, erasers, crayons, and notepaper that we organized carefully in our desks.  Textbooks were distributed by our teacher and they were carefully arranged in our desk with our notebook and other supplies.  Seating charts were the standard, even in first grade.  If we got to chew gum, it was only for an hour after lunch because sometimes a teacher thought it would be good for our digestion if we chewed gum after meals.  Otherwise, it was completely taboo!  At recess we enjoyed dodge ball, jump rope, and dare base.  It always seemed like there was someone stronger and faster who played the game, making it somewhat inhibiting for those of us without superior physical skills!  Elementary school passed quickly and graduation from grade eight was a big deal!  We were the class of a year that ended in zero and that was a very cool thing!

High school brought new learning adventures.  The first day was exciting, as it meant not only acquaintances from our old elementary school, but students from another school in town as well.  The melding kids from both schools made up the bulk of the student population with some new students from other places added in for spice!  We went from class to class, and the campus was "open", meaning that we could leave for lunch!  Every day started early with a short walk to school for band and choir practice.  Playing flute and vying with Pam or Fred for first or second chair always kept me on my toes!  From there on, the day sped by.  English, algebra, biology, art, history, and applied arts filled each day.  A required daily assembly with required seating was always grumbled about, but we had to admit that it always was fun to have the entire student body in one room at one time.  After school events seem old-fashioned now, but the beginning of the year ASB Handshake, or the autumn hayride, moonlight hike, and barn party were events no one wanted to miss.  Four years flew quickly by, adventures in study and friendship filling the days.  Our class that year was the largest in school history and those 85 graduates still communicate to this day.

From the tight-knit days of high school, college days seemed large and overwhelming at first.  There was so much to learn that first day of school.  Academic standards were high and classes were large.  The best of the best came from all over the country to attend a university that took pride in its high standards.  More friendships, more books, cramming for tests, enjoying labs, and wishing for fewer required speeches in speech class or a bit more lenience in chemistry was the norm.  Again new friendships were formed and relationships developed.  A career path was chosen and the class of green and orange set out to make their mark on the world.

For some of us, this mark meant starting school again in the fall, but this time as teacher rather than student.  Stomach butterflies and jumpy nerves started the first day of school.  I think it was scarier for teacher's first day than it had ever been as a student.  As middle school students entered the halls of a school that was five times larger than the high school I had attended, emotions were a mix of excitement and fear.  But the 'can do' attitude prevailed and the daily flow of teaching eager students soon took the fear away.  Those were happy days filled with the voices of eager 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who were happy to explore and learn new things.  Each day held new adventures, both in the classroom and in the extracurricular of being drama coach, school dance chaperon, and advisor of student clubs.  After six years of the intense pace of middle school, I followed an eighth grade class and a progressive principal to the high school down the road.  It was again time for another 'first day' of school.  Learning continued as curriculum and programs were developed.  The after school responsibilities continued on a new level, both with student associations and as a team-member of curriculum committees and planning boards.  They were years of intense growth and much joy.

Although the first day of school was experienced in many forms and at many levels over the years, the excitement of the first day never wanes.  The smell of newly waxed floors and chalk on the board mixed with the colorful, new attire of everyone entering school doors on the first day changed little from the time a small  girl entered the school door for the first time in first grade to the last time she passed through her own classroom door as a teacher at a busy public school.  First days of school evoke pleasant memories and happy thoughts all the years through.  Do you know a student who started their first day this week?