Rainbows in Paradise for this Fantastic Friday

In drought, in flood, come rain or come shine, the promise of the rainbow remains.

We’ve had plenty of rain in central Iowa this summer, but the same was not true in Idaho during my visit a few weeks back. They are having the hottest, driest summer anyone out there can remember. So this Idaho post from July of 2011, when Family Camp began with a cold and rainy bang, caught my eye. As did the rainbow on the mountain. Lovely!

As was mentioned in yesterday’s entry, the weather introduced a chilly, wet number on the first official day of camp. Day 2 dawned sunny and cool, but by lunchtime the clouds moved in, turning things chilly again. The showers held off until supper, but we stayed happy, safe and dry beneath the pavilion.

After the meal was over, folks stayed put, talking while they waited for the rain to end and the hymn sing to begin. The sun, on the other hand, didn’t wait for anything. Not even for the rain to stop. It showed up for the hymn sing a little early, and pretty soon our side of the mountain echoed with shouts.

“A half-rainbow!”
“Everybody, look at the rainbow.”
“It’s getting bigger!”
“It’s all the way across the sky.”
“Come quick!”
“Look before it fades away!”

The cries of wonder faded with the passing of the fractured light. But a bit of magic, a touch of promise lingered all around, weaved in and out of the music, breathed hope into every heart. We sang with fervor, and our voices lingered over the words of the last song, unwilling to let go of the rainbow, determined to cling to the promises of our faith.

We lift our eyes up unto the mountains.
Where does our help come from?
Our help comes from you,
Maker of heaven, Creator of the earth.

Oh, how we need you, Lord.
You are our only hope.
You are our only prayer.
So we will wait for you to come and rescue us.
To come and give us life.

We lift our eyes up, unto the mountains.
Where does our help come from?

Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Come!

Three Thoughts for Thursday

The man who's really behind those photos of Pluto, Andy Griffith, and the difference between men and women in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. While the rest of the world is oohing and aahing over the New Horizon pictures of Pluto, the Man of Steel, whose grandmother was a Tombaugh, and his rellies are basking in the glow of Clyde Tombaugh’s renewed fame as the man who discovered Pluto. (He’s the man in the picture above.) They count it as quite a comeback after Pluto was demoted from planethood a few years back.
  2. The difference between men and women: I was captivated by the movie Inside Out. The Man of Steel thought it was too emotional.
  3. I refuse to believe Andy Griffith is dead. You?


The Best Peach Pie Recipe Ever

This recipe makes the best fresh peach pie recipe you will ever taste. It is dairy-free and low sugar, but can only be made during peach season.Peach season is a terrible thing to waste. To avoid that tragedy, I devoted part of last weekend to making 2 fresh peach pies using a recipe that’s been in our family for over 50 years. The Man of Steel and I will be celebrating peach season with a pie every week or so until peach season ends.

Without hesitation, I can say that this recipe makes the best peach pie ever. So good my mother-in-law from Alaska scheduled her summer visits during peach pie season.( I’m not making this up.) That’s why, even though this recipe has appeared on the website before, it’s worth being featured again today.

Good as the recipe is, it is also simple to make. I’ve only changed two ingredients over the years. First, I cut the cup of sugar in the original recipe to 1/2 or even 1/3 cup, depending on the sweetness of the peaches. Second, I use Earth Balance Buttery Vegan Stick instead of butter so the pie is dairy-free.

What are the secrets to making the best peach pie ever? First, you have to select good peaches. Where we live Missouri, Colorado, or Michigan peaches are best. California, South Carolina, and Georgia peaches have to travel too far and never work as well. Second, use lard in the crust. Now, here’s the recipe for the best peach pie you will ever eat.

Fresh Peach Pie

5 large or 7 small to medium peaches
1/3–1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Stick)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Slice three large peaches into a nine inch baked pie shell. In a sauce pan, crush two large peaches. Mix together sugar and tablespoons of cornstarch and add to crushed peaches along with water. Cook and stir constantly until mixture boils, thickens and turns clear. Add butter or Earth Balance and almond flavoring and stir. Pour hot mixture over sliced peaches in the pie shell. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving.

Top Ten Things to Dislike About Getting Older

A recent birthday led to this top ten list about what to dislike about getting older.

I recently celebrated a birthday. Not one of those momentous ones with a zero at the end. But getting close. Getting very, very close. Close enough to get me thinking about what’s to dislike and like about getting older. This week’s list hits the dislikes. But you’re invited to come back next week to see what’s to like about getting older too.

10. Getting older means not being able to eat as much as and that more of what’s eaten makes its presence known in uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing ways as it makes its merry way through and out of the digestive system.

9.  Some people–and this may or may not include the author of this post–become less patient as they get older. Especially with a spouse–who may or may not be the Man of Steel.

8. Replace the word “patient” in #9 with “flexible.”

7.  No matter how fit and trim a person is, aches and pains increase with age.

6.  As do trips to the bathroom in the night time.

5.  The older a person is, the harder it is to learn a foreign language.

4.  Year by year, the number of opportunities a person “has missed it by that much”–to use the words of Maxwell Smart–increases. That realization is a source of sadness for opportunities missed that had the potential of accomplishing great good.

3.  Getting older does not mean people worry about their children any less.

2.  Being older means more times when a person’s heart torn in two when moving away from dear friends or when dear friends move away.

1.  Being older means saying final good-byes to loved ones more and more frequently with each passing year.

What do you dislike about getting older? Leave a comment.

Home Again Pee-Soaked and Happy

Here's why I'm home again, pee-soaked and happy, after several weeks of travel and busyness.Home. I’m finally home after several weeks of travel. All to see family. All of it good. But I’m glad to be home and in one place again, with time to think and reflect and process the experiences.

And to do laundry.

Because our very precocious and gifted almost 4-month-old grandson proved to be very adept at peeing on my lap. By the end of 6 days of snuggles, the little rascal had soaked through his diapers and every pair of pants in my suitcase.

And that’s saying something.

Because I’m one of those people who throws in an extra of everything. Just in case. And then an extra extra of everything. Just in case the just in case extra of everything might not be enough.

And it wasn’t enough.

Which means I now need to pack an extra extra extra of everything. Just in case. Or–paradigm shift–I could do laundry at the grandson’s house. Why didn’t I think of that before?

I know why.

Because I’m too busy thinking about that sweet little boy who found his fists this week, learned to put them in his mouth, who grasped his rattle for the first time, who cooed and smiled at his grammy, and stole her heart.

And her mind.

So she paid scant attention to the time or the gleam in his little eye that means, “I’m going to pee now.” Which is why every pair of my pants came home pee-soaked and pee-stained.

And I came home happy, exhausted, and utterly content.


If My Name Was Alexander on this Fantastic Friday


Sometimes, the best way to get through a no good, very bad day is to go to bed and wake up when it's tomorrow.Rereading this post about a series of no good, very bad days in July of 2008 made me smile. It made me think of how my mother used to say, “This too will pass,” when I got riled out about nothing much. I hope it makes you smile, too.

If my name was Alexander, I’d be writing a children’s book about the last few no good, very bad days. But since my name’s Jolene and you’re adults, I’ll skip the illustrations and tell you what’s been going on.

I haven’t posted to my blog the past few days because I’ve been working on a big media project, and I hate media projects. Every time I opened anything, even my email, I got a nasty message saying I was dangerously low on disk space. So it was no iPhoto or iWeb until the project was done and burned on a DVD.

The project was hard to burn onto a DVD, and I hate burning DVDs. My daughter helped me and after a while we both hated burning DVDs.

I’ve had two writing projects to edit. They popped up all of the sudden and had very short deadlines. I hate short deadlines. They fluster me so much I sometimes forget to save my editing. Yesterday, I forgot to save some editing and had to redo the whole thing. I hate redoing the whole thing.

The weather’s been really hot and humid for the last few days. I hate humidity. It’s been so miserable, I’ve been running the air conditioners a lot, and I hate air condiditioning.

But last night, my daughter got the DVD burning to work, and I was able to trash the project and free up space on my computer. I finished both editing projects, saved and sent them. And the weather broke in the night so this morning’s walk was glorious. As I walked I thought of a sunrise picture I took a few days back, before the no good, very bad stuff started. I knew I should share it with you since you listened to me whine about the no good, very bad stuff.

I love sunrises. I hope you do, too.

Three Origami Thoughts for Thursday

Three thoughts about why I've abandoned my lifelong dream of becoming a world renowned origami artist.

  1. As a child I dreamed of a career as an origami artist even though I was the only student in my elementary school who couldn’t make a paper airplane or make boats out of newspaper by following the step-by-step illustrations in Curious George Rides a Bike.
  2. As an adult, I clung to my dream even though I have never successfully completed a make-this-out-of-a-dollar-bill origami features found in the back of in-flight magazines.
  3. This past Wednesday morning, the dream was abandoned once and for all. Why? Because when my grandson wore a diaper I had folded following to a tee the steps his mother had demonstrated, he peed through a gap in the misshapen, sorry excuse of a nappy, soaking my shorts, my undies, and my skin. Yes, this grammy knows how to take a hint.

What career dreams have you abandoned? Leave a comment.

Non-Dairy Shrimp Scampi


Well, I jumped straight from the family camp frying pan into the helping with the 3-monty-old grandbaby fire. Which means that while the Gravel Road kitchen remains closed, this grammy is flexing her cooking muscles on a daily basis. Especially today which is the birthday of the baby’s mommy.

The birthday mommy requested shrimp scampi for supper and cherry pie instead of birthday cake. Because all the adults at the table couldn’t eat dairy, I jimmied the original scampi recipe to make it non-dairy. Also, we didn’t have dried cranberries, so I substituted fresh sweet cherries. They were a worthy stand in, but the tang of cranberries is even better.

Non-Dairy Shrimp Scampi

1 ½ pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped parsley leaves
¼ cup lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, if possible)
¼ cup dry cooking sherry or dry white wine
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped, sweet red pepper
1/8 cup dried cranberries

Wash shrimp and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add shrimp and cook until pink. Do not overcook. Remove from pan and place on serving platter. Sauté garlic, green onions, and sweet peppers for about a minute. Add sherry or wine and lemon juice. Cook and stir until liquid boils, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Stir in lemon zest, cranberries and chopped parsley. Pour sauce over shrimp and serve over rice or linguini.

Top 10 Reasons This Post Almost Didn’t Get Written

feet-619534_1280I’m spending the week with my daughter, son-in-law and their 3-month-old baby. You know. Helping out so Daddy and Mommy can get some things done. Like sleeping, showering, and going to the bathroom while I take care of the adorable grandson. Who is also quite distracting, and for the following 10 reasons is why this post almost didn’t get written.

10. My adorable grandson has been drooling and needs Grammy to wipe it away.

9.  My highly aware grandson doesn’t like wet diapers and needs to be changed again.

8.  My adorable grandson used up all the diapers and Grammy is folding clean ones.

7.  My adorable grandson is fussing and only Grammy can make him happy.

6.  My adorable grandson is sleeping so Grammy and Mommy are madly working their ways through their to-do lists.

5.  My adorable grandson is cooing so we have to Facetime with Papoo and Great-grandma Dorothy so they can enjoy his adorableness.

4.  My adorable grandson’s smile melts Grammy’s heart, and she forgets all about social media.

3.  My precocious grandson just figured out how to put his hand in his mouth, so we are planning what to wear for his presidential inauguration.

2.  My adorable grandson’s mother and I went grocery shopping, which is much easier when the adult to baby ratio is 2 to 1.

1.  My adorable grandson didn’t fuss during the shopping trip so we went to the coffee shop to celebrate.

What kept you from blogging today? Leave a comment.


Kohlrabi, the Family Vegetable

Some families have a family crest, but ours as a family vegetable...the humble and delicious kohlrabi.Today’s post comes from a very distinguished guest blogger, who also happens to be my sister, known to anyone who reads the comment section of this blog as “Sis.” Sis recently wrote this ode to our family vegetable, and gave me permission to publish it here. Reading it makes me as greedily hungry as a hobbit for mushrooms. You?

Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.

My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.

These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.

“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”

I took this seriously. I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.

Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.

Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.

If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.

family-crest-1When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers. We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.

***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!

What would you include on your family crest?