Monday, October 31, 2011


I love surprises, when they are good ones!

Yesterday we hosted a surprise party for our good friend John Holmquist who turned 50. He is a crime scene investigator and very keen on picking up things so his wife and I weren't sure if we'd be able to pull it off. It helped that we were one week removed from his actual birthday and that we had had a small gathering on his actual birthday. So to have them over for dinner the following week was just business as usual.

However, it was NOT a usual gathering at all. His parents and sister's family came as well as quite a few friends. We had people park at my parents' house so that he wouldn't see all the cars parked out front (and you can be sure he knows who drives what car). His wife, Denise, called to ask if there was anything she could bring. That was our clue that they were on the way so we could hide. Annie had decorated the kitchen and dining room but the living area wasn't decorated so he couldn't see anything suspicious from the door. We got a little silly as we waited for the birthday boy to arrive.

 Finally he arrived...
He was pretty surprised! (See how red he is here?!)
Quite a food spread. Everyone brought something and it was all yummy!
My brother, David, was the grill master. He did a great job grilling chicken and brats.
Tracy, whose birthday was the previous day, and Michael were the wing fryers. They, too, did a wonderful job!

As you can see, everyone had a wonderful time!
We had an extra little surprise when it was time for cake...Tracy had one too! Louise Glennon, baker extraordinaire, made John's cake. Tracy, who loves ice cream, didn't have a cake per se. I made him John's recipe of oreos layered with chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream. It was a hit.
We finished off the night by sitting by the fire pit. The weather was PERFECT for it! I was too busy sitting and enjoying to take pictures. You'll just have to imagine it. All in all, it was a perfect surprise party.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Scones!

I was browsing some blogs last night and found a recipe at Bakeaholic Mama who had adapted the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker (who apparently adapted from another blogger but I stopped the hopping with BEB).

I had already defrosted some homemade pumpkin mash that I usually use to make these delicious muffins. But we had some leftover mash so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make them! (I really really love scones!)

I had gone for a five mile run this morning so I thought I was entitled to them (big grin!) but after reading through the recipe I thought I could lighten the recipe a bit (thank you Cooking Light for teaching me a few things!) So I decreased the 6 T of butter to 4T and increased the pumpkin to 3/4 cup (to make up for the lost moisture the butter decrease and increase the "good for you" part of the scone). They came out beautifully! I wish I had a picture to show you but we devoured them hot out of the oven. 

The other adaptation I made was to use my large pampared chef scoop to drop them by scoopful instead of shaping, cutting, etc.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe in case you want to give them a try. They were quick to mix and bake. Dangerously quick. I haven't calculated the calories on them yet. Kind of afraid to...

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze
Yield: 12 scones (actually only yielded 11 for me using the scoop)
For the Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
7 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
4 Tablespoons cold butter
¾ cup canned pumpkin
3 Tablespoons half-and-half
1 large egg

For the Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
2 Tabelspoons milk

I made it with the Powdered Sugar Glaze. But these sound yummy too:

For the Spiced Glaze:
1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat mat or parchment paper; set aside.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious; set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, half-and-half and egg. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. When sufficiently combined, drop by scoopful onto prepared pan. 
Or if you prefer the traditional way, form the dough into a ball. Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle about 3 times as long as wide. Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut each of the portions in an X pattern (four pieces) so you end up with 12 triangular slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet. 
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.
4. To make the powdered sugar glaze, mix the powdered sugar and milk together until smooth. When scones are cool, use a brush to spread plain glaze over the top of each scone. I just used a spoon and put the glaze on when it was still warm. I placed the scone on the plate first so that it would melt onto the plate and we could lick it up all that delicious sweetness.
5. To make the spiced glaze, while the powdered sugar glaze is firming, combine all of the ingredients for the spiced glaze. Drizzle over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (about an hour). I did not try this but it sounds good for another time.
This went tremendously well with a cappuccino using Lavazza Blu. Che delizia! 
Be sure you let me know if you make them! Post in the comment section.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Years ago, when we were still in youth ministry, Michael and I attended a Youth Specialties convention where we heard a speaker whose message has stayed with me all these years. He encouraged us to have "a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy." In other words, to have someone that you are under (that is mentoring you), someone who is a peer (who is encouraging you) and someone you are mentoring. I have tried to live that way.

Today I met with my "Paul." She may not even know she is my Paul but she is someone who, over the years, I have been able to ask all sorts of questions..."How did you handle _____?" "What did you do about _____?" "I'm about to lose my mind over __________!! Help!" She has patiently listened to me, offering advice and prayer. Typically, every 4 to 8 months or so, I would shoot her an email asking for a coffee date. We would pick a day/time/location and I would come, pen and paper in hand with my list of questions, ready to take notes.

Today was a little different. We met for coffee but this time I didn't have "a problem". It was refreshing to just catch up and check in with each other. I updated her on all the goings on in my life, and she told me about new challenges in her life. Two hours rushed quickly by and I've been ruminating and smiling to myself all day thinking of our time together.

How about you? Do you have a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy? If not, then I encourage you to look around. Who do you admire that you would like to spend time with or learn from? Ask her out on a date! Who is your peer that shares your same woes and delights? Meet with her and share prayer requests. Bear one another's burdens. Laugh and cry together. And finally, who are you mentoring? Titus 2 tells older women to teach the younger women. There is always someone younger than you! Even high school gals can teach a middle schooler or 4th/5th grader.

I encourage you to find partners in accountability. It's all part of living in community!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebrating 20 Years!

We recently passed a milestone...our 20th wedding anniversary! I have heard from several friends who passed that same milestone and they did nothing special to celebrate. That made me sad. I really like to celebrate important dates/achievements/completions/milestones!

We decided 10 months ago that we would celebrate by going to Paris! We had both been to Paris before, just never together. Plus I had this wish of going to the very TOP of the Eiffel tower. Twenty-one years ago I had gone to the second level, but never to the top. So Michael and I had decided years ago to go to the top together.

As a special treat we also decided we would eat at the Jules Verne which is a one Michelin star restaurant located on the second level.

The trip proved to be as magical as we had imagined it would be. We visited Ile-de-la-Cite' and Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle and le Musee du Louvre. 

We walked all over, rented bikes and biked around, took a cruise on the Seine and a tour on Les Cars Rouges.

We rode the metro up to Montmartre and visited Sacre Coeur and saw le Moulin Rouge. We feasted on pain au chocolat, cafe', croissants, steak frittes, fromages, baguettes, vin.... and more!

But perhaps the most memorable experience was the time spent on the Eiffel tower since it WAS the whole point of the trip!

 Taxi ride to the tour to make our 1:00 lunch reservations.

 20 years and counting....!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life saving

Today I attended my brother's (second) life saving award. It was moving to listen to the Sheriff recount the story of how David's intervention saved a baby's life.

He was called to the scene of a car crash where he found a baby in the car (unrestrained) who had suffered injuries. The baby wasn't breathing so he performed artificial resuscitation and then, using his nursing skills, he was able to stabilize the baby and begin an IV (which he is so good at doing, even starting a line on himself when he gets sick!). When Jacksonville Fire Rescue showed up at the scene a short while later they were able to quickly transport the baby to a hospital, saving the baby's life.

I attended another award ceremony a few months ago given by the Rotary club and when they told the story, the officer sitting at our table was amazed. She knew the baby. The family went to her church and they had prayed for the mother and child after the accident.
Isn't it cool how God answered their prayer by sending my brother who is also a registered nurse?
God is in the business of saving lives! It's cool when he uses people to help him. David, you're my hero!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Oh my poor poor blog! It's been languishing for over a year now. I've had some guilty thoughts about it but not enough to stop what I was doing and go visit. I've decided mid-year, actually late in the year, to go BACK! To start again! It's not a new year, a new school year, a new month or even a new DAY. Nothing new about it except that I want to get back into it. Beginning NOW.