Three Thoughts for Thursday

Contentment, discontent, grandkids, and curly hair in this week's three thoughts.

  1. What it means to be content: Knowing you are right where you should be, doing exactly what God spent your lifetime preparing you to do.
  2. What it means to be discontent: Knowing you are right where you should be, doing exactly what God spent your lifetime preparing you to do, while constantly wishing you had thick, curly hair and missing your grandkid so much it hurts.
  3. How to overcome discontent: Write a mystery novel with a fictional protagonist with thick, curly hair, lives near her grandkids, and is right where she should be, doing exactly what God prepared her to do

What makes you content? Leave a comment.

Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Protein Bars

These protein bars are low in sugar, high in flavor, and a perfect meal on the go.My daughter and I went to a coffee shop in Madison during my last visit. We spied homemade peanut butter protein bars in the cooler. My daughter picked one up. “These look good,” she said.

“Too bad they probably have whey in them to jack up the protein,” I said.

“No dairy,” the woman behind the counter said. “But they do have flax seed.”

The daughter and I were ravenous as we’d eaten only salad for lunch, so we laid two bars on the counter, ordered our coffee, and sat down to enjoy our treats and watch my adorable grandson be adorable.

The protein bars were delicious. So good we spent every minute we weren’t laughing at the grandson’s high jinks deciding what ingredients were in the bars so we could make them at home.

Here’s the recipe I created after arriving home. That means the daughter hasn’t taste tested them. But the Man of Steel and I both think their pretty good. The recipe’s pretty forgiving, so you can add your favorite ingredients to the mix so they tickle your taste buds, too.

Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Protein Bars

1 cup natural peanut butter (the gooey kind)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Kirkland chocolate chips
1 cup puffed rice
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons honey

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well mixed. Press into a greased, square 9 x 9 pan. Put in refrigerator until firm. Cut into 12 bars. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Top Ten Reflections on Four Days in DC

Thoughts about a recent trip to DC for a special needs ministry conference.What might Iowans reflect upon after a few days in the DC area speaking at a special needs ministry conference? Here’s what I’ve been thinking about the trip.

10. The bushes around the Pentagon have been trimmed with military precision. Imagine the standard military haircut. On a bush.

9.  Savoring a really good cup of decaf coffee during an airplane delay makes everything better.

8.  The overwhelming number of people of color in service positions at airports, hotels, and restaurants waiting on an equally overwhelming number of Caucasians is troubling.

7.  Sometimes, Iowans have to travel all the way to DC to meet people who live only 45 minutes from them to learn that exciting special needs ministry events are being planned in our home state.

6.  A dawn trip to the airport on a route that go past the softly lit Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Memorials is a wonderous experience. Much prettier than the opening credits for House of Cards.

5.  When Midwesterners shake hands with people of Asian, Indian, and African descent during the “say hi to your neighbor” portion of Sunday worship, they realize they’re not in Kansas anymore.

4.  Anyone who presents a workshop at a conference really should bow down and kiss the feet of the tech people who make sure equipment runs properly. But they won’t let you. Don’t ask how I know this.

3.  Rule of thumb for speaking at special needs conferences: The speaker will cry at least once. Possibly more.

2.  When co-presenting a workshop with Katie Wetherbee, it’s like being at a party.

1.  Going out to supper with friends only seen once a year, after 36 intense hours at a special needs ministry conference, is an amazing blessing from God.

Have you ever been to DC? What do you remember? Leave a comment.

Erma Bombeck Did Her Own Housework, Too

2 Saturdays ago Katie Wetherbee & I were at the Accessibility Summit. This Saturday Creeping Charlie & I were in the rhubarb patch. That's the author's life. A week ago last Saturday, Katie Wetherbee and I were at the Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church near Washington, DC. In the morning we put on our fancy duds and facilitated a workshop called How to Become a Special Needs Ministry Master Chef, based on our book Every Child Welcome. After that we hung out at our book table.

Which turned out to be the party table in our part of the Exhibition Hall.

I can’t speak for Katie, but for the first time in my life I knew what it was like to sit at the popular table in the high school lunch room. People visited our table all day long. They signed up for the email newsletter, asked to take pictures with us, and bought books. Lots and lots of books. So many that several titles sold out, and I only had to lug home 5 of the 60+ books I lugged to DC.

It was pretty heady stuff.

Then I came home on Monday, put on yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and spent the rest of the week doing every day stuff. Unpacked and started the laundry. Cleaned the kitchen. Caught a cold. Got a haircut. Paid the bills. Grocery shopped. Started a diet. Cooked low fat meals.

Then another Saturday arrived.

There wasn’t a party table in sight. Just Creeping Charlie in the rhubarb to pull and quack grass in the flower beds to hoe. Cilantro to sow. House plants to move to the sun porch. Grass to mow. Three pans of buttermilk brownies to bake and Rice Krispie Treats to make for Sunday’s fundraiser for my mission trip to Latvia. Just me and the Man of Steel working side by side. He didn’t ask for a picture with me. But I didn’t ask for a picture with him either.

Such a come down from the Accessibility Summit.

To be honest, this author’s life is pretty mundane. Lots and lots of weeks of solitary writing, waiting for those rare moments when the right words combine to say exactly what you want. Doing housework alone and yard work with the Man of Steel. Dotted with those unexpected weekend stints at the party table. But I’m in good company.

After all, Erma Bombeck did all her own housework, too.

Banned Foods on this Fantastic Friday

Though I love to cook and eat, some foods aren't fit for human consumption. Here are the top 10 that will never grace my table.It’s spring again and time to ensure the safety and well-being of my family on this Fantastic Friday. This post from April of 2014 does the trick with its list of the top ten food banned from my table. Can I hear an amen?

10.  Oatmeal raisin cookies. They are nasty imposters cursed by chocolate chip lovers everywhere.

9.   Any baked good with fruit that turns the bread part soggy. Think apple cake, rhubarb bars, and oatmeal raisin cookies. It’s a texture thing.

8.   Rice pudding with raisins. See #9 for further clarification.

7.   Salmon patties. I’m referring to the kind my mother used to make with canned salmon, bread crumbs, eggs, and who knows what else. They were a mushy mess, except for the bones that could lodge in the throat. No food should be both disgusting and dangerous!

6.  Calamari. Like salmon patties, this food is a mix of disgusting and dangerous. The tentacles and suction cups are disgusting. And think about those suction cups attaching themselves to the inside of a person’s esophagus (it could happen). Dangerous!

5.   Oysters. Slimy on the outside. Sandy on the inside. Add this one to the disgusting list.

4.  Milk toast and poached eggs. Combine the soggy toast (see #9 for clarification) with the runny yolks of poached eggs, and you’ve got a food worthy of involuntary shudders. Why did my grandpa make this for us when we were already sick?

3.  Canned vegetables with the life boiled out of them. Spinach and brussel sprouts are prime examples. Canned hominy is another.

2.  Any animal organ or strange body part: tongue, heart, liver, gizzard, brain, or testicles. These foods are particularly objectionable to those with a keen visualization skills or active imaginations.

1.  Asparagus in any form. Them’s fighting words for asparagus lovers, I know, but this is my list and asparagus tops it.

Add your objections to #1 and your additions to the list in the comment box below.

Old Stuff for this Fantastic Friday

IMG_0737This Fantastic Friday post is a trip down memory lane. First stop is seven years ago, when Mom broke up housekeeping. Second stop is almost fifty years ago. Third stop is the present, with the pictures framed and on the wall, as the new photo above shows.

I’m a sucker for old stuff. And a whole bunch of old stuff found its way to our place after Mom sold her house last March. My original plan was to immediately do some creative decorating with the treasures. But with weddings, one niece graduating from high school and another from college, and a new book contract the original plan got sidetracked.

But in this brief respite, I hope to find time to play with my favorite goodies – three brightly colored, cardboard Disney puzzles. They’re relics from the late 1950s which somehow survived our childhoods in almost perfect condition. How  a miracle like that happened, I don’t know, unless Mom stored them on a high shelf and allowed us to play with them under her watchful eye only after washing our hands thoroughly. If that’s how she did it, we kids must have thought she was the meanest mom in the whole world. However she managed to preserve the puzzles, fifty years later, I am thankful.

Every time I see the puzzles, it’s Sunday night in Le Mars again. Mom and Dad are playing cards with my aunt and uncle in the dining room. My sister, brother, and our three girl cousins are in the living room, watching Walt Disney, eating popcorn, and shooing the dogs away when they get too close to the popcorn bowls.

Walt Disney, the most creative man in the universe, is talking directly to me. He’s dropping hints about a new movie called Mary Poppins, inviting my family to visit a theme park named Disneyland in California. While his attention turns to Mickey and Donald, who are up to their usual hijinks, I daydream about visiting Disneyland and meeting Walt at the gage. Then, I remember that my dad’s in a wheelchair, so even if we could afford to drive across the country, he couldn’t ride the rides.

For a little while, I’m sad and jealous of my sister who got to go on a camping trip to California with my aunt and uncle a few years ago. But I break out of my funk during the commercial. My brother and I go to the kitchen to get more popcorn from a huge Tupperware bowl.

Our uncle stops us. “Hey, Jo-Bo. Hey, Johnny. How would you like to go with us to the Black Hills and Colorado this summer? You girls can break in the new TeePee pop-up camper.” He turned to my brother. “And you and me, we’ll sleep in the trunk of the car every night. Whaddya think?”

My brother and I look at each other. We grin and nod furiously, then run to the living room to spread the good news. Before long, the popcorn is gone. The dogs are scavenging for crumbs. We’re wrestling on the floor with our cousins. Walt Disney’s voice mingles with my parents’ voices and my aunt and uncle’s as they say good-bye and push our protesting cousins out the door.

Every time I see those Walt Disney puzzles, I smell the popcorn and hear Walt Disney saying good night and asking us to come back next week. I remember our trip to the Black Hills and Colorado and see the morning light glowing outside the canvas sides of the Tee-Pee camper. I am jealous of my brother who is sleeping in the trunk with my uncle. I am wading in a mountain stream, building a dam across it with my cousins.

It’s time to frame the puzzles and put them on the wall. They should be where I can see them.

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Spring fawns, Dolly Parton, and cherry blossoms in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. Dear Doe, I hope your spring fawn is adorable. Consider having twins to make up for eating the bark off the trunk of the new tree in our yard.
  2. Dear Dolly Parton, On the rare occasions I google my first name, the song you recorded in 1973 pops up. It’s haunted me since my senior year in high school. Perhaps we should consider sharing the royalties. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
  3. Dear Mother Nature, I would love to see the cherry blossoms this weekend during my trip to DC. Could you arrange it? Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

Need to write a letter to someone? You can leave it in the comment box.

Carrot Bread with Dairy-Free Cream “Cheese” Drizzle

The non-dairy carrot cake was such a hit with the Man of Steel, I'm working on an even healthier quick bread, low sugar version.About a month ago, I posted a recipe for the Dairy Free Carrot Cake with Cream “Cheese” Frosting our family enjoyed at the Man of Steel’s 60th birthday party. The Man of Steel, who usually avoids sugar, asked if there was any way to adapt the recipe even more. So he can have it more than once a year on his birthday.

After thinking on his request, I decreased the amount of the sugar in the batter and baked it in bread pans. Next, I halved the shortening and cream “cheese” in the frosting, added a little almond milk and cut the powdered sugar even more to create more of a drizzle than frosting. The resulting carrot bread was delicious, and the recipe is below. However, the Man of Steel says it’s still too sweet, so I’ll be making it again with even less drizzle and decadence. Stay tuned for the next update.

Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

Ingredients

6 cups grated carrots
1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

 Instructions

  1. Combine the grated carrots and brown sugar in a medium bowl and set aside for an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF, and grease and flour three bread pans.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and briefly set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, and gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. Stir the flour mix into the wet mixture, being careful not to over mix. Gently fold in the carrot mixture and nuts.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into your prepared pans. Bake for 40–45 minutes until the loaves are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool for 10-20 minutes before removing them from the pan.
  6. Once the bread is completely cool, drizzle with icing.The non-dairy carrot cake was such a hit with the Man of Steel, I'm working on an even healthier quick bread, low sugar version.

Dairy-Free Cream “Cheese” Frosting

Ingredients

4 ounces vegan “cream cheese”
2 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, melted
2 tablespoons almond milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Using an electric mixer or in a large bowl with a hand held mixer, place the “cream cheese” and melted butter vegan stick. Cream them together. Add almond milk and beat until smooth
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, and continue to beat the mixture until smooth. Drizzle over cooled loaves.

Top Ten Items in My Suitcase

Since becoming an author and speaker, the contents of my suitcase have changed as a recent trip to DC shows.This weekend I’m traveling to a special needs ministry conference in the DC area. While packing my suitcase, I couldn’t help noticing how its contents have changed over the years. Way back when, it consisted mainly of clothes and shoes, as one would expect. Not so much anymore as this list reveals.

10. Gadget chargers. For Square chip reader, cell phone, computer, and the good camera. Along with the electronic equipment not packed in carry on luggage.

9.  A small insulated cooler. With cold packs. Surrounding a tub of fake butter, a bottle of fake milk, and probiotic capsules. Because they must be kept cool at all times.

8.  Work out clothes. Tennis shoes, yoga pants, sleeveless shirt, sweatshirt. You get the picture.

7.  Exercise equipment. As in a flat bed sheet folded lengthwise over and over and over, secured with rubber bands at both ends and in the middle. For hooking around an ankle while lying on one’s stomach and pulling to stretch a leg toward head. Not a pretty picture, but effective.

6. Composition notebooks. Used for Bible study and prayer journals. With a favorite Zebra pen clipped to the cover.

5. Pillowcase and fitted sheet. As in the allergenic variety to keep the hotel dust mites and bed bugs at bay. (Even though that the 1960s era Weekly Readers or my childhood announced that bed bugs had been eradicated.)

4. A Felix Unger look alike pharmacy. Complete with allergy drops, vitamin and calcium pills, immune booster capsules, allergy pills, empty capsules, oregano oil, and dropper for putting oil in empty capsules. (Disclaimer: I do not yet clear my sinuses with loud “Mwa.” )

3.  Paper copies. For hand outs and speaking notes. Along with corresponding electronic documents on a flash drive. Just in case. Because you never know.

2.  Book table paraphernalia. Gold tablecloth (purchased for $5 in Walmart clearance aisle), business cards, teddy bear, book stand, newsletter sign up sheets, bookmarks, and lots and lots of books. Which make for a very heavy suitcase.

1. Clothes. A professional outfit or two, shoes and tights to match, along with comfy travel clothes. Minus the pantyhose and slips that thankfully have gone out of style, leaving room for at least a couple more books for the book table.

Any changes in your suitcase over the years? Leave a comment without giving TMI.