Cucumber-Onion Salad Encore

This recipe for cucumber-onion salad was passed down from Grandma to Mom to me and my siblings. It's easy, inexpensive, non-dairy, healthy, and keeps well.Thanks to our weekly CSA share, the vegetable bin is overflowing with cucumbers. So cucumber-onion salad is gracing our table almost daily.  Because today is my birthday and I’m celebrating by not experimenting with a new recipe, I’m rerunning this one that was first featured on Down the Gravel Road in July of 2012. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s non-dairy, it’s low-cal, and the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it tastes. No wonder this recipe has been consistently discovered and repinned on Pinterest since the day it first appeared there.

Cucumber-Onion Salad

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced into thin rings*
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place vegetables in a small serving bowl. In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, mix vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well and pour over vegetables so they are completely covered with liquid. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. This salad can be stored for several days or a week in the fridge.

I try to make it at least 8 hours before serving so the flavors can meld and the vinegar has time to pickle the vegetables a little. Also, more cukes and onions into the brine after the original veggies are gone. I usually do that once before discarding the brine and making a completely new batch.

*I used red onions, which is why the salad looks so pretty in the picture, but any type of onion is fine.


Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Mind Turning 60

What's to love about turning 60? In my opinion, a whole lot of things.Tomorrow’s my 60th birthday, and I’m looking forward to it. Really I am, and for these 10 good reasons.

10. Ordering off the 55+ menu at IHOP will be easier. Five years ago, doing so made me feel like an imposter. Now I feel like I’ve earned it.

9.  The AARP has lowered their annual membership price to $12 in honor of my birthday. Thoughtful as the gesture is, I’m not taking them up on it.

8.  Tomorrow morning, I will be grateful for the ability to walk 6 miles pain free…even at my age.

7.  German Chocolate Birthday Cake! Need I say more?

6.  When people inquire about my age, and I tell them, with suitable self-effacement that I am 60, they will have all the more reason to respond, “You certainly don’t look your age.” (And this would be your cue to type something similar in the comment box.)

5.  Being 60 makes the fact that my mystery novel, set in the decade when I was in my 20s, is considered historical fiction a little easier to swallow. Mainly because I can wash it down with birthday cake. (See #7)

4.  On my official birthday, all those early Facebook birthday wishes will no longer feel like being pushed into old age.

3.  Once I’m 60, the Man of Steel, who hit the same milestone waaaay back in March, will no longer feel as though he robbed the cradle.

2.  The day will remind me of Mom’s 60th in 1988. Our son was 6, and our daughter was a newborn when the sibs and I hosted a gigantic surprise birthday shindig at her church in Le Mars. She was clueless, and the many friends and family members who gathered to honor her, was a glorious tribute.

1.  I’ll be celebrating my birthday with my family. What could be better?

I’d love to hear bout your 60th birthday memories in the comment box. If you don’t have any, see #6.

No Sweat for This Fantastic Friday

This Fantastic Friday look back recalls a favorite Family Camp memory and showcases the Jolly Green Giant on a mountaintop.This Fantastic Friday post looks back at a favorite camp memory…four generations of family enjoying a magical evening on a houseboat. Though that was our one and only houseboat adventure, my camp job is still photographing the week’s events while other people sweat and toil on logging, construction, and cooking crews. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Camp Photographer, No Sweat!

Though we’re not at Family Camp any longer, I wanted to share a photo taken during Friday night’s jumping-off-the-top-deck-of-the-cruis-boat-highest-cannon-ball-splash-contest. I took hundreds of action shots, hoping to get a few good ones, and ended up with this one of the Jolly Green Giant crouching on a mountain top.

One of the pillars of Family Camp is a couple hours of hard work for everyone, every morning. Some people do sweaty and generally disgusting work like digging trenches, insulating walls, hanging sheet rock, mudding seams, logging, or hauling rocks from the river. Others do fun but complicated work like fixing three meals a day for 30 – 40 people.

A couple years ago I was asked to be camp historian and photographer. “So,” I asked by way of clarification while stilling the little flutter of joy that comes with being excused from sweaty, disgusting work and kitchen duties, “you want me to take pictures and write commentary about people doing sweaty and disgusting work and the cooks in the kitchen?”

“Yes,” the boss man said. “That’s what we want you to do.”

I waited for him to say, “Fooled ya’. Grab a pick ax, sucker,” but instead he said, “Have fun,” and walked away. I jumped on that order like a tick on a dog’s back and have been wielding my camera and computer ever since. But guilt has plagued me all along, when cool, clean and sweat free, I record the hard work and play of others.

But this year the guilt evaporated when I started running a slide show of each day’s pictures after supper. People smiled and laughed and remembered as the pictures floated by. And I finally understood the boss man’s wisdom in rustling up a camp historian. The construction and preservation of memories, while not sweaty and disgusting, is as necessary as cabins and meals. The record of our time together is shelter and food for our souls.

Thanks, Tom, for knowing what our hearts need and allowing me to provide it. I’ll do it again next year, no sweat.




Three Shadow Valley Family Camp Thoughts for Thursday

Favorite camp sound, packing tip, and celebrating anniversary #39 in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. Top sound at Family Camp 2016: Baby giggles in stereo.
  2. Top Family Camp tip: Do not pack for an upcoming Family Camp based on the weather from the previous camp. Or you may wind up with a stack of tank tops when you really could use more sweatshirts. Don’t ask how I know this.
  3. Top Family Camp 2016 memory: Celebrating our 39th wedding anniversary with a dinner on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille. What a view!


Family Camp’s Brown Sugar Snaps

These Brown Sugar Snaps are easy to make dairy-free, but way too addicting to have in the house.Galavanting from here to there and back again doesn’t leave much time for cooking. So today, because of present galavanting at Shadow Valley Family Camp, this recipe comes from the camp cookbook. A dairy-free fix would be easy with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and coconut or cashew milk. But even if there was time to fiddle with the recipe, I wouldn’t dare…because having a batch of Brown Sugar Snaps in the house would be way too tempting.

Family Camp Brown Sugar Snaps

Warning: These cookies are addictive. Unless you like to live dangerously, don’t read another word.

Truth be told, all the food at Idaho Family Camp is addictive. Every time a nummy recipe is posted, I’m enabling an addiction. Usually it’s my addiction. But post-wedding and post-family camp, inundated with veggies from our CSA, and deep into a twelve step, healthy eating program (which means Hiram puts the key to the padlocks on the fridge and pantry twelve steps up on a ladder I’m scared to climb), I’m feeling strong enough to resist temptation.

I’d never tasted these before or even heard of them before this summer. Brown sugar snaps are sort of ginger snap meets snickerdoodle, molasses crinkle meets sugar cookie. And as mentioned before, they’re addictive. Very addictive. Give them a try and leave a comment with your description. But remember, you’ve been warned. So don’t blame me when you can’t stop eating them!

Brown Sugar Snaps

2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 sticks butter
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Add: 2 eggs and beat again,

5 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into balls, dip in sugar, and place on a cookie sheet. Turn oven down to 375 degrees just before putting in cookies. Bake about 9 minutes. Cookies should have nice deep cracks. You will need to reheat the oven to 400 degrees between pans.



Top Ten Differences Between Latvia, Istanbul, and Idaho

Travels to Latvia, Istanbul and Idaho led to these top 10 comparisons about 3 very different places in the world.Thanks to 2016 summer travels I have set a globe-trotting personal record which quite possibly will stand for the rest of my life. In the past 2 weeks I have sojourned in Latvia for a special needs family camp, in Istanbul during a 24 hour lay over, and in Idaho for our annual Shadow Valley Family Reunion Camp. Below are the top ten differences observed in the three places recently visited.

10.  In Latvia, the coffee is delicious. In Istanbul, the teas are delicious. At Shadow Valley, anything on a cool, mountain morning tastes heavenly.

9.  The Soviet-era accommodations at the Latvian special needs camp were adequate. The small, newly renovated, family hotel in Istanbul where we stayed was a beautiful jewel. Our pop-up camper on the side of an Idaho mountain feels like home.

8.  The streets in the old city of Riga, Latvia are immaculate and populated by tourists. The streets of Istanbul are filled with people and garbage. The mountains of Idaho are reached by winding along gravel roads traveled by very few people.

7.  The Latvian countryside sports the biggest snails I’ve ever seen. Cats swarm the streets of Istanbul. Giant slugs slime any Idaho gravel road that skirts a river or stream.

6.  In Riga and Istanbul, there’s no lack of pigeon poop. Deer poop rules the roost in Idaho.

5.  Latvian vistas are Narnia-like. Ocean vistas are breathtaking in Istanbul. Mountain vistas stretch deep, long, and wide in Idaho.

4.  In Latvia, I answered to “Jolee” because most people there dropped the final “n.” In the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, I was called “La-dee, La-dee” but rarely answered because my suitcases wouldn’t hold the carpets, purses, scarves, and trinkets street hustlers were selling. At Family Camp I answer to whatever I’m called: “Jo,” “Jolene,” “Aunt Jolene” or “Miss Jolene” depending on the age of whoever is speaking.

3.  Most Latvian food was an adventure in unfamiliarity. Kabobs in Istanbul were amazing. Food at the Idaho camp is a parade of yummy family favorites.

2.  In Old Riga, there are churches everywhere. In Istanbul, there are mosques everywhere…though the Armenian Orthodox Church was across the street from our hotel. At Idaho Family Camp, church is a gathering of people rather than a place.

1.  The special needs family camp in Latvia provided the blessing of time to talk to moms. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul offered the blessing of time to walk and drink in a foreign culture. Shadow Valley Family Camp gives the blessing of time to connect with family and to think and dream and write.

Where have travels taken you this summer? Leave a comment.



Do Not Hinder Them

Today I am grateful for the volunteers and donors who removed every hindrance so children with special needs could see the compassion of Jesus.And they were bringing children to Him…but the disciples rebuked them.
But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them,
“Permit the children to come to Me;
do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark 10:13–14, 16

In the 1960s, getting to church was no easy feat for our family. Mom not only had to corral and spit shine three young children, she also had to wheel Dad to the car, lift him into the passenger seat, and stow his wheelchair in the trunk. After we arrived at church, she completed the process in reverse order before negotiating the parking lot curb and the steps leading to the front door of the building. Once inside, the only place for Dad and his wheelchair fit was behind the last pew, under which he discreetly hid his urinal. When he needed to use it, Mom wheeled him to a dark, rarely frequented corner of Fellowship Hall because his chair was too wide to enter the men’s bathroom.

Looking back, I wonder why my parents bothered to go to church with so many hindrances stacked against them. But I’m glad they persevered. Because of their determination, I came to know Jesus, and my life was changed. And because my life was changed by Him, I spent the hot and windy weekend of June 10–12 at Hidden Acres for the first annual Wonderfully Made Family Camp for kids with special needs, their siblings, and their parents.

Our goal for the weekend was to remove obstacles so kids with special needs and their families could enjoy camp. To that end, sidewalks were poured so wheelchairs could get from here to there easily. A special dock was constructed so every child could give fishing a try. A pool lift was installed. In the barn, ramps and stairs were built so all kids could ride a horse. A personal buddy accompanied each child do outdoor activities: to the pond for boat rides–the first ever for many families–to the climbing wall, the zip line, and the giant swing. Buddies helped kids complete crafts, learn Bible verses, sing songs, and play games during program time. While their kids were in being cared for, parents enjoyed a program with Gary and Barb Rosberg Friday evening, attended support groups on Saturday morning, enjoyed massages in afternoon, and had a date night on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, every elementary-age child–and I mean every, single one–went on the stage to sing Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, the song they learned over the weekend. Proud parents stood to record the moment on video in photos. For many dads and moms, it was the first time their kids had participated in such an event.

I stood in the back, watching the door in case one of the kids who tended to run made a mad dash for the exit. I failed miserably at the job because my eyes were filled with tears as I watched the children on stage. I thought of how delighted Dad would have been to see every child included and of how he would have reveled in the luxury of bathroom privacy.

I also thought of how delighted our Father was in His children–those who donated funds and materials, as well as the 104 volunteers who served throughout the weekend alongside the Hidden Acres staff members–who obeyed His Son’s command by removing every hindrance so little ones such as these could come to Jesus and be blessed by Him.

Absurd Airport Announcements for a Fantastic Friday

Airplane adventures from years past in this week's Fantastic Friday post.Today’s Fantastic Friday post was easy to choose after my recent overseas airport adventure. The adventure featured in this look back occurred in July of 2011. Not overseas, but right here in the United States. The Man of Steel and I are off to Idaho tomorrow, and we’re hoping the warnings to parents regarding the whereabouts of their children continue to be heeded and only baggage is to be seen on the carousels this trip.

Keep Your Children Off the Baggage Carousel

After an entertaining and/or character building (depending on your perspective), virtually un-re-create-able travel adventure, we are finally home.


Perhaps the deer that darted onto the busy highway between Sand Point and Coeur d’Alene in front of our driver’s car was an omen. But since the car missed the deer or the deer missed the car (depending on your perspective), we blithely continued onto the Spokane airport and arrived there with time to check in and eat lunch. We even snagged a free pizza since whoever ordered before us never picked up theirs.

Buoyed with the anticipation of snarfing down free pizza once we landed in Denver and ran to catch our connecting flight, we blithely walked to the gate and waited to board our Southwest Airline flight to Denver. Maybe strange overhead announcements were an omen of what lay ahead, but we and the other passengers only laughed harder as the warnings progressed:

ANNOUNCEMENT #1: It is against safety regulations to allow children to sit on the edge of a baggage carousel. Please do not allow children to sit on the edge of Baggage Carousel #2.

ANNOUNCEMENT #2: It is against federal safety regulations for children to sit on the edge of a baggage carousel. When it starts moving, they could be injured. Parents, be sure your children are not sitting on the edge of Baggage Carousel #2.

ANNOUNCEMENT #3: This is the third warning about allowing children to sit on the edge of the baggage carousel. It will start moving in 2 minutes, and they could tip onto the carousel or lose fingers when it starts moving. Please remove your children from the edge of the baggage carousel immediately.

ANNOUNCEMENT #4: Parents, this is your third warning. (Apparently, the announcement maker had lost count.) Get your children off the edge of the baggage carousel immediately. The luggage will be arriving soon. Remove your children immediately.

We were still chuckling about the announcement 2 hours later on our approach to Denver, but the laughter dried up when the pilot mumbled, “The Denver airport is closed due to a severe thunderstorm, and we’re being rerouted to Amarillo, Texas.”

Amarillo, Texas?

No one was laughing fifty-five minutes later when we landed in Amarillo. No one laughed when the pilot continued his mumbling. “The storm has moved out of Denver, so we’ll get gas and go back. All your connecting flights have been delayed, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to make them.”


Except that half of the 200+ passengers were in line to use the 2 tiny airport potties, and  the good news went right over our heads. The other half were staring out the windows at the oddest looking aircraft we’d ever seen.

“Looks like a dolphin,” said the young woman next to me. “And it has NASA printed on it.”

“Or it could be Shamu,” I suggested. “Who knew there was a Sea World on the Amarillo, Texas airport? Or we’ve been rerouted to a hush, hush NASA site for flight training.”

Pretty soon, we were on our way and arrived in Denver just in time to board our connecting flight to Omaha, snarfing free pizza as we ran.


That flight was uneventful, as was our late night drive home and our arrival at 3:30 AM. We were asleep in our beds by 4:00 AM. Our luggage, which did not make the connecting flight is supposed to arrive tomorrow. And I cleared up the NASA Shamu mystery with a little online research. It revealed that our NASA Shamu is really a NASA Super Guppy. Which leaves only two loose ends to wrap up right here, right now.

To the person who ordered and forgot to pick up the Hawaiian pizza at the Dave’s House of Pizza Kiosk: It was delicious. Thank you so much for sharing your supper with us.

To anyone who was in the vicinity of Spokane Airport’s baggage claim area between 2 and 4 on Tuesday afternoon: If you know what happened to the kids on Baggage Carousel #2, please leave a comment. We could use some closure and a final hallelujah!


Three Thoughts for Thursday

Ramadan, Istanbul, and the prayers of the people in this week's three thoughts.

  1. If you want to avoid crowds in Istanbul, schedule your sight seeing between thunderstorms on the morning Ramadan ends. The streets will be completely deserted.
  2. If you want to stay awake on the drive home from the airport after a 11 hour flight from Istanbul, schedule your return trip for a sultry July night when thunderstorms are building before your eyes.
  3. If you want to feel loved, schedule a trip to Latvia with Istanbul lay overs that bookend a terrorist attack in the airport where you are flying in and out, and know that your friends and family are praying you home.

Thanks to all of you and to the great God who chose to spare my life when others perished. Please pray for the victims of the bombing and for the innocent people of Istanbul who have been tarred with the terrorist brush.

Top Ten Thoughts While Preparing for a Trip to Latvia

Only 2 days until my friend and I board a plane to fly overseas. My mind is spinning with packing thoughts.In a few short days, a friend and I will drive to Chicago, and board a Turkish Airline flight bound for Istambul. After a 36 hour lay over, we’ll catch another Turkish Airlines flight to our final destination–Riga, Latvia–where we’ll spend a week ministering to moms at a special needs family camp. Here are 10 thoughts swirling in my head while packing for the trip.

10. Where’s my passport? In the lock box at the bank. Better get it and put it in the Latvia trip file.

9.  I sure hope the Turkish Airline customer service representative understood me better than I understood her while asking for a dairy-free menu and getting seat assignments.

8.  How much cash should I take? Where’s my debit card?

7.  Oh, I probably need to buy an adapter for my computer and phone chargers.

6.  What? My blow dryer won’t work even with an adapter? What am I going to do?

5.  Where’s my passport? In the Latvia trip file. Better move it to my nifty money and document purse.

4.  Hmm…what’s the weather like in Latvia this time of year?

3.  How many books can be packed in 1 suitcase without exceeding the weight limit?

2.  Where’s my passport? In my nifty money and document purse. Maybe I should just wear it until we leave.

1.  Clothes. I need to pack clothes. What kind? How many? Maybe a burka for Istambul?

What do you think about when packing for a big trip? Leave a comment.