Thursday, December 17, 2015

Can't Help But Love Luci








Have I ever mentioned how much I love Luci Swindoll? Actually I think I have, but I feel the need to gush about her again.

My first taste of her infectious enthusiasm for life came back in 2010 when I read her wonderful book Doing Life Differently: The Art of Living with Imagination.  
The book is so frankly and personally written that I couldn't help but fall hard for this crazy lady chock-full of wisdom and creativity, all wrapped up in an over-sized shawl of humility.

The story of her life is fascinating. She's chosen non-traditional paths in both her personal life and career and God has blessed her, and millions through her, in those choices.

Now in her eighties, Luci's "retirement" job has been one of encouraging speaker/motivator/helper to millions of women through the Women of Faith Tours.

She's written numerous books and I've read them all.

I have to agree with Jen Hatmaker who recently said," Luci Swindoll is my spirit animal."


I particularly enjoy reading little snippets of her interviews or quotes from her - here are some of my favorites:


Don't take yourself too seriously. It just makes life all the harder. It'll all come out in the wash anyway, because God's glory eventually will eclipse everything that goes wrong on this earth. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself. None of us is infallible. We make mistakes in life, and more often than not, they're funny. Sometimes, being your own source of comedy is the most fun of all.



The next time you stand in front of a mirror and want to scream, try to remember that God made that face. That smile. Those big eyes...and chubby cheeks. You are His creation, called to reflect Him. Spiritual transformation doesn’t come from a diet program, a bottle, a makeover, or mask. It comes from an intimate relationship with the Savior. He...appreciates us for who we really are. So we can too.



The most interesting people I know drink in life and savor every drop-the sweet and the sour. The good and the bad. The planned and the unplanned... Right in the midst of what seems to me to be a detour from the map, I'm often gifted with something precious and unforgettable. Capturing the moment is a choice, a way of life. It requires us to wake up, live life, and be present-here, there and everywhere. Sometimes that's scary; sometimes it's exhilarating. Always, it's an adventure I keep learning to welcome with a full and grateful heart.


And finally, this answer she gave to an interviewer's question,

"What do you know for sure?" 


Oh, many things—I am happy in my own skin. Jesus loves me, and I have a future with Him. Life is the greatest gift ever given. The world is full of fun and surprises. We’re the product of our choices. It takes a village to do anything well. We have only time, energy, and money to spend, so handle all three wisely. The richest life isn’t about wealth or prestige—it’s about love and caring. We only have what we give away. I’m rich. If I didn’t have a penny in the bank, I’d be a millionaire until the day I die. Everything has been paid for me; I’m the recipient of the One who became poor so I’d be rich. With Christ everything starts with life abundant: revel in it and doors will open. Will it be easy? No, but you will have Someone with you all the time—giving you life and breath and hope and joy. You can’t know ecstasy without knowing crucifixion. You can’t know health unless you have been sick. You can’t know victory unless you’ve known loss. You have no basis of comparison unless you’ve experienced opposites. I have worked hard to get the wrinkles on this face and to get to this stage. I’m very happy in the confines of a screwed-up world and a lot of challenges. Every day I draw in breath I say to myself, this is a gift. If God takes me today, I’m going right into His presence, and it gets even better.
But until then I want to be totally me, so that when I'm with the Lord face to face, it is my own life that I lay down and not the prefabrication of one who always tried to be somebody else.

So how would you answer? What do YOU know for sure?

Have a great day!

Monday, December 14, 2015

B and B






I'm guessing that some of you might soon be expecting a houseful of guests. I'm also guessing that houseful might expect and be delighted by a hot, tasty breakfast at some point during their visit.

The holidays can be hectic and at times a little exhausting, so spending just a few extra minutes to serve something special really shows how much you care.

I can't recommend these biscuits enough. While I've served many a biscuit that I've popped out of a can, nothing beats something homemade and these are simply some of the best. Flaky and tender, they practically melt in your mouth.


And also the taste? So worth it.

Try to handle the dough as little as possible to end up with the most tender, fall-apart biscuits.

Try to channel Mrs. Wilkes. Evidently she was one great biscuit maker.

Enjoy!

 Boardinghouse Biscuits


1/2 c. butter, chilled
3 cups flour (I use cake flour for this)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. buttermilk (or maybe a little more)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter (or spray) a 9 inch cake pan.
Cut 1 T. off a stick of butter (set aside). Cut the rest of the butter into tiny cubes.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Put one cup of this flour mixture into a pie plate and set aside.
Cut the butter cubes into the remaining flour mixture with two knives or a pastry blender. It should resemble coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. It should kind of look like really thick oatmeal. You can add a tiny bit more buttermilk if you think it's too thick.
Just don't stir too much.
Using an ice cream or cookie scoop (sprayed with cooking spray) scoop up a ball of the dough, plop it into the reserved cup of flour, roll it around to cover with the mixture, then toss it back and forth with your hands to remove the excess flour and place it in the cake pan. Be sure to place the biscuits quite close together.
Continue with the remaining dough. You should have about 10 biscuits. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from oven when golden brown and brush the remaining tablespoon of butter over the hot biscuits.







Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It's Good Different






Sometimes pictures just can't do a subject justice. Especially poor quality pictures.

I apologize.

Case in point: This easy, yeast-y cake is absolutely incredible and something well worth trying this special time of year.
It's a little bit unusual and a whole lot impressive.

So please use your imagination - it's cinnamon roll-ish, with a lovely, soft, pillow-y texture. The wonderful aroma of it baking is second only to it's delectable taste.

You need one.
I need one.
We all need one.

Don't let some of the odd ingredients (mashed potato flakes? powdered milk?) deter you!


Moravian sugar cake was evidently traditionally served in Moravian households as a breakfast bread at Easter and Christmas. I think you'll find that you don't need a holiday as an excuse to enjoy this comforting treat.

Follow the directions carefully and whatever you do don't be tempted to add any additional flour. The dough (batter) will be very sticky (almost gooey) but that's how it should be,

Let's hear it for gooey.





Moravian Sugar Cake

Ingredients:
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup water (110 F)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons non-fat powdered milk
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted cooled butter
2 eggs
3 cups flour
butter
For Topping
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup melted cooled butter
Directions:

Sprinkle yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar into the 1/2 cup of warm water then set aside until yeast bubbles, and mixture is foamy.

Add the next 7 ingredients, and about 1 cup of flour and beat with a wooden spoon.

Add remaining flour or a little more if needed, until sticky bread dough consistency.

Place in a greased bowl and turn it to coat.

Dot dough with butter, and let it rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

Then, punch dough down, and place in a greased shallow baking pan (about 17 x 12 inches) Let rise 30 minutes, then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Punch your fingers into the dough making indentations.
Pour on remaining 1/2 cup of butter, and let dough rise another 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated 375ºF for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Lashing Out



So this will be a little change of pace.

It's rare that I would publicly recommend any kind of product, especially a beauty product, as you would be terribly hard-pressed to find someone more blatantly SKEPTICAL than me.

I'm not necessarily proud of it, but I have a ridiculously hard time accepting all the broo-ha-ha (this is so a word) that goes along with companies trying to make money on their products. And of course, we do know that's the bottom line, don't we?

In addition, there's no one who enjoys ensconcing themselves in a beauty/skincare/hair care rut and just hunkering down there for the long run like myself. This is evidenced by my long-time and exclusive use of only Vaseline for eye-makeup removal and lip gloss, and Dove soap as my ever-so-fancy facial cleanser. With the exception of a few forays into more expensive brands (it's all about the fragrance), I've used Suave shampoo for years now, and never use a conditioner or any other products at all.

Clearly I am not one to run out and try all the latest products, as I'm not exactly perched on the cutting edge.

This disclaimer then brings me to a little story about my eyelashes.

(Understandably, all of you are on the edge of your seats now.)

I've always had pretty good eyelashes, fairly long and sufficiently thick. As a teenage girl, when vanity rules most everything, my eyelashes and hair were both something I could typically hang my hat on. Other girls had other things (!), I had decent hair and lashes.

(Well, lets not forget that my feet have always been nicely arched) (Except that's not really something you can play up to get a date) (At least not a date with someone who doesn't also have a weird  "foot thing")

(Creepy)

Anyway, that's all to say that I've never had to worry too much about the state of my eyelashes. Until about a year and a half ago.
Over a period of about 4 months I suffered a strange, scary, and frankly, hideous infection of the eyelid. There was pain, significant swelling, and (I'm so sorry) oozing. I made numerous trips to the opthamologist and was treated with antibiotics/pain medication, etc.
(And for all you armchair physicians out there, the Dr. assured me that it was not the use of my beloved Vaseline that caused any of the problem).
At the worst point the Dr. suggested that the next step would be to lance and drain (again, sorry) the affected area and in almost hysterics I actually begged him to please, Sir, do it that day because THE PAIN. He was concerned, though, that the swelling was so severe that if he did the surgery at that point the skin would never recover it's original shape.

Awesome.

My actual eyesight was beginning to suffer as well.

With continued treatment it thankfully and finally cleared, but not without some collateral damage. My eyelashes (especially on the right eye) were almost gone. They eventually recovered a little, but I was convinced they'd always be sparse and short.

While I'd heard claims of various eyelash treatment products for several years, I'd paid them little heed.
But on a whim one day as I was perusing the aisles of Ulta, I stumbled upon Rapid Lash. I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a try- I mean I really had nothing to lose in the eyelash sense.
It's simply a clear liquid you apply (like a liquid eyeliner) at night before you go to bed.

I've been using it for almost three months now, and I can definitely see honest-to-goodness, significant improvement in both the length and thickness.

It's what I might even call nearly amazing. I would seriously not make this stuff up.

Yes, perhaps it's a coincidence, maybe my eyelashes just finally began to recover from the infection. All I know is that I've been using it for a certain number of weeks, and have seen a HUGE improvement over that very specific period of time.


Oh! And 2 things:

1) I know that in the scheme of things this is so far down on the list of "Life Problems" that it doesn't even deserve a number.

and

2) I am in no way being compensated by the Rapid Lash people. They have no clue at all who I am.

It all just seemed so unlikely that I felt obligated to share.

Hope you're having a great day!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

C'est si bon!





First.

Thanks so much for all your messages and comments about the Pumpkin Crunch! It was fun to hear your stories of making and sharing that simple but delicious dessert. Whether you made one or seven (what?) I hope you savored it and plan to keep it along with other favorites in your very own repertoire.

It's natural, no matter if you're a seasoned cook or beginner, to stash away a few special recipes in your own personal arsenal. Those become the favorites that you rely on over the years whether for their ease of preparation, wonderful flavor, or simply for their familiarity.
The Pumpkin Crunch is certainly in my own favorites stash.

Let me tell you about another.

I first had these delicate and scrumptious muffins at the home of my dear friend, Ann. Her Mom made them for breakfast one morning when I visited there on a weekend break from college. Just the name, French Breakfast Puffs, sounded pretty fancy to me. I had certainly never been to France and was pretty sure I'd never eaten anything that could be classified as French. Unless you counted fries.

As it turns out, they're not even particularly French. But in this case, as with many old, popular recipes, no one really cares. As a matter of fact, I made these so many times when my boys were at home that the name simply evolved into their favorite "Brown Sugar Muffins." (even though there's no brown sugar involved) It seems we were not particularly fancy (or French) at all.

Since my very first taste of these all those many years ago, I have in fact enjoyed visiting France and have therefore decided that they likely got the french part of their name purely from the fact that the French, without doubt, are the undisputed experts in all things pastry. The delicacy, the texture, the taste? Incredible. It was a chore to tear myself away from all the pastry shoppes just to be able to say I saw the Eiffel Tower.

I recently served these in mini size at a Brunch Buffet and was surprised at how many people had never had them before. I think it's only fair that I get the word out.


So whether you make these for your family for breakfast, or make them mini-sized to serve alongside a fruit salad and some Brown Sugar Bacon on a Holiday Buffet, consider this an early Christmas present from me!

And not that I would know, but they also go especially well with Mimosas!




French Breakfast Puffs
                                       

1/3 c. shortening
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. milk

butter
extra sugar and cinnamon

1. Mix shortening, sugar and egg in electric mixer.
2. Sift together the flour, Baking powder, salt and nutmeg
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the shortening mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
4. Fill a 12- cup muffin pan. (or use a mini-muffin pan to make about 24)
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. (slightly less if using the mini pan)
5. While still hot remove from muffin pan and roll each muffin in first melted butter, then in a mixture of about 1 cup sugar and 1-2 T. cinnamon (depending upon your taste)


Friday, November 27, 2015

Bonus!






Just a quick unplanned bonus recipe.

I thought you (like me) might have a little leftover pumpkin puree that needs to get used up. If that's the case, then this is the perfect thing. Hot from the oven, these little jewels are the perfect morning treat.
Or for those of you who do the Black Friday thing, just an after-shopping pick me up.

Hope you're having a wonderful holiday weekend.






Pumpkin-Chocolate Swirl Buns




Dough:
1/3 cup warm milk
1/3 cup plain pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons unsalted, softened butter

Filling:
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 ounces (1 cup) chocolate chips, or chopped bar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 Tablespoon cream

sugar for sprinkling (I used Turbinado sugar)


In measuring cup, combine milk with yeast and a pinch of sugar. Allow to proof 5 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and the egg. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, remaining sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the yeast-pumpkin mixture and mix on low to combine. Add the butter 2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing until the butter is incorporated before adding the rest. Scrape dough from the paddle, add the dough hook attachment  and knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky and stringy. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

(I let mine rise closer to two hours...)

While the dough rises, make the filling. In the bowl of a food processor, process all ingredients until all of the butter is distributed and you have an uneven, gravely mixture. Set aside.
Liberally butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Set aside.

Once dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Allow to rest 5 more minutes, before rolling the dough out into a large rectangle, the short end measuring about 12 inches–the long edge can be about 18-22 inches. Sprinkle the chocolate filling evenly over the rectangle, it will be bumpy, and begin rolling from the short end all the way up into a 12-13 inch log and pinch to seal. Gently saw off about 1-inch spirals, placing each into a prepared tin. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350*F.
Whisk together the egg and cream, brush gently over the tops of the proofed buns and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake in the center of the oven for 15-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Oh! I added a glaze made of orange juice, lemon juice, and powdered sugar.

Enjoy!



















Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Back By Popular Demand!



That is, of course, if you consider requests from two whole people "popular demand".

I first posted this way back in 2012, and it has deliciously stood the test of time.


I'm not sure if this will catch most of you in time (especially those of you who are the list-makers, planners, and the not-put-every-thing-off-to-the-last-minute-ers...)
Seriously, you guys are on your own. You've already bought all your groceries, made all your plans, and nothing I do can help you.


But! For my people! Those who will still make at least two trips to the grocery store before Thursday! The ones who will cuss and complain "why are all these people still at the store! why aren't they home cooking and being with their family!" as you wedge yourself into the last parking space within 2 miles of  The HEB.

This is for you.

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

And also, conveniently, something that could successfully be made by a trained monkey.
With his hands tied behind his back.

You see a lot of recipes for something similar to this, but I guarantee that this is the best.

Make it! Take it!

And for all that is good and perfect in this world, Please Don't Forget The Blue Bell.

Happy Thanksgiving!




Pumpkin Crunch
Lu

I  (15 oz.) can pumpkin*
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
1 yellow cake mix
1 ½ c. chopped pecans
2 sticks butter (melted)

1.       In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, cinnamon, and eggs. Beat about one minute on med. high speed. Pour mixture into a buttered  9x13 in. baking dish.
2.       Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Do not stir!! Sprinkle the nuts over the dry cake mix, and then pour the melted butter evenly over the top.
3.       Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. Until golden brown on top.
4.       Serve warm with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

*Make sure that you are using canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie filling (yuck)






Monday, November 23, 2015

Dear Students



Well Hello!

We had a fabulous weekend, and hope you did too!

The weather is picture perfect here in Aggieland with the clearest blue skies and temperatures that are seasonably crisp and cool. I'm currently fighting an overwhelming urge to go to every restaurant in town that dares to have an outdoor patio and eat something outside in this awesomeness.

Because if not now, then WHEN?
You know I'm right.

It's so hard to believe it's just a few days until Thanksgiving, and many of you fortunate ones have probably already started your vacation or at least the preparations for it. You may know (or could guess) that some of my favorite TV watching comes courtesy of the Food Network, and I've already seen a couple of Thanksgiving Specials geared to helping us prepare the perfect feast for family and friends. I even heard one of the TV Chefs refer to Thanksgiving as the "Food Holiday".

And while I would enthusiastically agree that the food is an always much anticipated part of the celebration, I hope we don't forget the Thanks Giving part too.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the traveling and cooking and forget to let those you care about know how thankful you are for them. Like me, you may be missing someone this holiday, or find yourself wishing that the circumstances of your life were just plain different. Although it's rare that anyone would rate every season of their life perfect, I do believe that whatever our circumstances we should make every effort to look beyond what's not perfect and concentrate on each and every blessing.

Big or small.

I'm sharing a letter with you today that I sent to all my Aggie students. They've been a huge and wonderful part of my life for the last few months.

By reading this I hope you will be encouraged to take the time to consider some of the unexpected blessings of people in your own lives.
And remember, it only takes a minute to tell someone how grateful you are.

Happy Thanksgiving!




Dear Students:

It’s almost Thanksgiving, an especially appropriate time to show our gratitude for special people who impact our lives. I’d like to do that today, because for me, you are some of those  special people.

Just think.
Many of you were convinced you’d never make it this far. That seemingly far-fetched dream of going home, seeing your families, and eating your Mom’s cooking has sustained most of you through the last few challenging weeks.

Oh, and the chance to sleep. You all really, really want to sleep.

Dragging yourself out of bed each morning for formation and PT has become an autopilot thing. On certain days making it to class is a triumph!
Sometimes I see you and think: “Look at them! They’re walking! Their clothes are all on straight! Their eyes are open! It’s a great day!”
You are truly a wonder.

Most of you know by now that I’m an ISFP- one of the “PEOPLE WITH ALL the FEELINGS”. So please, all of you “thinkers” just bear with me on the next part.

There have been days when I want to put my hands on your collective faces and say:
(Please pardon the following sentimental movie reference…)

You is kind
You is smart
You is important
(And yes, sometimes You is late with your assignments…)  J

But.
Here’s the thing: I am so thankful for you. For the opportunity to share this little chunk of life with you. To be a part of one of the scariest, most challenging and exciting times of many of your lives. To be able to look back at your official “freshman photograph” taken what seems like eons ago at your New Student Conference, and see how much you’ve changed.

First, your hair. It’s gone. Bless it. May it Rest in Peace.

Your faces are slimmer, more chiseled. Sometimes I do a double-take when I pull up your pre-Corps photo online. Is that really you? I can’t imagine how many miles you’ve run, push-ups you’ve done, sandbags you’ve carried, and obstacle courses you’ve conquered.

You continue to have your uniforms altered to fit your taller, thinner selves. Oh, as a middle-aged woman to have that very problem for myself…
(Clearly, if I was more of a “thinker” I would be out on those runs with you.)

Most of those old pictures show excitement (and maybe a little apprehension) but now I see more of what appears to reflect determination and drive in your eyes. And pride. You’ve endured and accomplished things you never thought possible. You’ve proven that you are capable. You are able to think beyond your circumstances.
Well done. Very well done.

I have delighted in being called Ma’am so many times that I occasionally have to remind myself that’s not actually my given name. Many times I get a “Ma’am Sandwich”, starting and ending your sentence with that word of respect.
Thank you, by the way, I can’t tell you how honored I feel.

We’ve laughed together and cried (OK, fine. Maybe it was just me who cried).  We’ve commiserated over un-shined shoes and brass, a pesky lack of time management skills (or should I just say lack of time…), sophomore woes, and the nasty “fish” trap of procrastination.

We’ve read a novel, written goals (I promise you that Great and Glorious day will come when you all have time to meet girls!) We’ve discussed leadership and values and what it looks like to own the decisions that you make in college.

More than anything I think we’ve all learned a lot about each other and ourselves, and for that I hope you feel the class was worth the effort.
What I know with all certainty is that regardless of your age and life experience, you are some of the brightest, most talented, and exceptional people I’ve ever known. You make coming to my office and classroom each day a joy.

I am forever grateful for my time with you, and am a better teacher/person as a result.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to you all- enjoy each and every minute.

My Best!


Mrs. D-T














Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Heed the Call









There's just something about cooler weather that screams MUFFINS! Well maybe not that loud, but it at least says muffins!!!!

We had quite a storm around here yesterday morning, and with it came some much anticipated lower temperatures. In my mind cool weekend mornings just beg for slow beginnings, a quiet breakfast on the back porch, and hot muffins. And nothing says fall like tart cranberries with some bright orange citrus flavor thrown in for good measure.

These muffins are perfect for weekends, holidays, or any time you want something comforting and homemade. Share them with your family, or with next week's Thanksgiving guests. Make an extra batch, let them cool completely, then freeze for up to two weeks. Pull them out and reheat for a breakfast on the run or an afternoon snack.

See you all sooner than later.





   Cranberry Orange Muffins
Lu

8 T. (I stick) butter
1 cup sugar  
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking powder      
2 cups flour
½ c. (4 oz.) milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ c. fresh cranberries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling
2-3 T. finely grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly spray 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until light in color. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition.   With a wooden spoon stir in the vanilla, the cranberries and the orange peel.
Fill 12 muffin cups evenly with the batter and sprinkle coarse sugar over the top of each.
Bake for 25-29 minutes.
Let cool just a few minutes and then carefully run a knife around the sides of each muffin and turn the muffin sideways in the muffin pan.  This keeps steam from forming a tough crust and it keeps the muffins from sticking to the pan.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's About Time






In the last few days I've had a few people (OK, three. Just three measly people) ask me for a soup recipe. I suppose it's the onset of a bit of cool weather. Finally.

"What's your favorite soup?" they inquire.

Well, it's this. Spinach Lemon Orzo Soup

There's just something about the tart citrus-y lemon mixed with the goodness of spinach and the comfort of pasta and chicken that makes this my absolute, hands down first choice.

Another plus? You can have this ready in about 20 minutes. 

Really.

So if you're in need of some comfort for your stomach or your heart, try this.

I promise you'll love it.




Spinach Lemon Orzo Soup
(By Lu at Mudpuddle)

2 T olive oil
1 whole large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole lemon, zested and juiced (I used a HUGE Meyer Lemon)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, packed
1-½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 T water
1 T cornstarch
About 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use a deli chicken!)
¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (or how much you like!)


Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or stock pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Add the lemon zest, red pepper flakes and thyme and cook another 3 minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Turn the heat to medium and add the spinach and orzo. Cook for 1 minute and then add the broth and lemon juice.
Bring to a light simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until the orzo is barely tender. Whisk the water and cornstarch in a small bowl. With the soup at a light boil, whisk in the cornstarch mixture and stir rapidly. Allow the soup to thicken, about 3 minutes. Adjust the thickness with additional broth or water.
Stir in the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Serve immediately garnished with freshly grated Parmesan.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Bacon Bacon



Certain things bear repeating.

And this Brown Sugar Bacon is one of them.

A few weeks ago at our Tailgating Brunch one of the most popular dishes was the Brown Sugar Bacon. Everyone gobbled it up. I've made it before many times- even for a event with 100 people in attendance (don't let anyone tell you that Church Ladies can't eat some cured and sweetened pork products!) and every single time it's been a rousing success.

This takes the goodness of bacon to an entirely elevated level.

I know many of you are preparing to cook for family and friends as Thanksgiving approaches, and thought you might enjoy making this super simple and tasty dish to serve. You'll be the object of many people's thanks!

1) Prepare the pan: I use a cookie sheet that has been carefully lined with foil. On top of the foil I place a cookie/cake cooling rack.

2) Place as many strips of thick sliced bacon as you can on the rack. Try to make sure the strips are not touching. 





(Also, please try to take a better photo.)


3) Sprinkle the strips with coarsely ground black pepper.





4) Then generously sprinkle with brown sugar!


That's it! Three ingredients!



5) Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.




6) Let cool, and then break each strip in half. (At least do this to the ones you don't immediately eat.)



You'll love it- guaranteed!



Friday, October 23, 2015

Ball of Fire


We had just the best time last weekend at our Brunch/Tailgate before what might have been the all-time hottest game on record at Kyle Field. It wasn't the temperature that was necessarily the problem, but the Sun. The most brutal, scorching sun ever positioned itself right over the newly renovated stadium and did it's dead level darndest to fry over 105,000 people.
The student section took the worst hit, of course, and the bowels of the stadium filled quickly with overheated (and somewhat depressed...) fans.
Six American dollars for a bottle of water? Why yes! I'll take 4 and please just pour the last two directly over my head.
So hot.

I suppose it would have been easier to look past the scorching heat if we had been winning, but we weren't. And we didn't. Bless.

We had the privilege of field passes, and before the game JT had to hold me back from doing a little field goal practice.


And please forget you saw me looking so frumpy and awful- did I mention the heat almost killed us?

I also had the chance to get a picture with my A&M Class of '79 classmate (and my boss...) General Joe Ramirez, Commandant of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.

Whoop!


I repeat. Bad hair day.

But. Before the game the weather was awesome and at the brunch we enjoyed great, great friends and family along with some wonderful food.

I forgot to take any pictures of the actual event (as I do) and only have the pictures I took before of the front porch before the festivities



(mainly because I was so proud of myself for putting out the pumpkins and the mums).

I admitted a long time ago that I have a "decorating phobia."


Don't even get me started on the front porches/yards/walkways I saw decorated in the Highland Park area of Dallas a few weeks ago. Talk about elaborate.
My word.
I assure you none of their décor included rusted buckets from the barn.  I suppose they haven't heard yet that they're all the rage.

It feels good to be on the cutting edge, doesn't it?

I love my porch.


And here's the back where most people ended up eating all their delicious brunch food...


Hope all of you are doing great- I'll check back in soon.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Too Late, Too Soon



Wow. Call me a slacker and then call yourself correct.

The last month has been a tough one. I've had the plague of sorts. The consumption. Some malady that has just about killed me. A lingering, hacking, bronchial-busting cough has prompted more than one person to suggest I give up chain-smoking. (I might note here that I have never once in my entire life smoked.) But things are looking (if not sounding) a little better and I think I just might live.

Many of my students have also been ill with what is traditionally referred to as the Corps Crud, and their poor, tired, stricken faces make me want to give them chicken soup and insist that they take a nap.
But alas, that's a no-go.

I think the weather is a factor too- it's cool for a few hours (at least cooler than blue blazes) then back to hot so many times in a week that it makes my head spin.

Then there's been Aggie Football.

Whoop and Amen.

And the farm and cows and hay.

An ill-timed conference in Dallas in the midst of the Red River Rivalry (who plans these things?) topped off this past weekend.

And although the traffic was awful and the hotel was packed we did have a great time and managed to do some fun things and eat at a few great restaurants while we were there.


A particular favorite was Toulouse which is located on Knox Street just on the edge of the Highland Park area.



We scored a great table on the patio, and with lots of string lights for ambiance, really great seafood and pasta dishes, and an attentive waiter (Jeff), it was quite a memorable evening.

We so recommend!


We also absolutely loved Mama's Daughters Diner which is in the Design District not far at all from  Market Center.


As a matter of fact, we loved it 2 times in 2 days! It's home cooking at it's best. Order the "Meat and Three." Everything we had was scrumptious.
Don't get me started on the cornbread. Crunchy crust. Light, rich, and "just right sweet" on the inside. Or the peach cobbler (which was practically forced on us by our waitress!) To die for.

One of our happy trips to Mama's Daughters even began with a police escort...






We happened to turn down the wrong street (I am notoriously bad at reading a map/GPS/directions of any kind...) when looking for the restaurant and luckily happened upon two of Dallas' finest who not only offered directions but also a personal escort directly to the restaurant! We offered to buy their lunch, but unfortunately they had just eaten.

A delightful weekend all around.



We're gearing up to host an in-home Tailgate Brunch this Saturday before the Texas A&M -Alabama game, so I'll likely have pictures of food, friends and fun to share.

Hope all of you have,unlike me, successfully avoided the plague!


See you soon.











Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Just As We Are


Someone will always be better.

A better parent. A better teacher. A better friend, cook, decorator, or dresser. Someone will inevitably show up who is faster, wiser, funnier, smarter or prettier.

There exists on the internet a virtual multitude of more eloquently written and entertaining blogs than the one you're reading right now.

In our "Pinterest-esque" society someone will give a better party, set a prettier table or make a fancier wreath to put on their door. Just when you finally get the creative inspiration to spray some pine cones gold and use some RIBBON THAT IS WIRED for goodness sake, that very afternoon someone will post a tutorial on how to transform an "hideously ugly" wreath (that looks mysteriously just like your proud new creation) into something presentable.

But just barely.

Do you, like me, have a tendency to compare yourself to others? To always feel slightly behind? To get tied up in the almost arrogant pursuit of perfection?

Anyone?

(I'm raising two hands over here)

Let's think about it. Do we desire to adopt a platform that makes us appear not necessarily perfect, of course, but just almost? Are we too afraid of transparency to go to the grocery store without makeup, send our kids to school without loving messages air-brushed on their lunch box bananas or admit to the world that we just absolutely cannot do it all?

How sad for us.

The arrogance in this is certainly unintended. Hopefully we don't set out to make ourselves the better one. In most cases it's purely the result of impossibly high internal standards. We truly want to be better for our family, our students, our friends. And this is perfectly good to a point. We all need to strive to be the best "us" that we can.

But what if we lose sight of the uniqueness in which we were created? What then? What happens when the 'march to perfection' mentality makes us virtually indistinguishable from one another?

When we disguise the perfection that comes from God reflected in us by donning a picture-perfect human facade, we deny the beauty and transparency that we all individually offer.

Without improvement.

Without a spotlessly clean house or a designer wardrobe, model children or gourmet meals. Without a better wreath, a more fashionable haircut or a more amazing kid's birthday party plan.

Let's stop waiting til we have more, know more, can offer more. Let's blog and teach and parent and friend the best we can with all we currently have.

Let's be us right now. This very minute.

Just as we are.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Alpha, Busy, Charlie, Delinquent.



A while back I think I mentioned something about my new job, and now it's officially time to trot out said job as an excuse for my absence in blogging. You see, I have a perfectly good reason for my delinquency.

At least I like to believe I do.

About a month ago I started a wonderful new position in the Office of the Commandant at Texas A&M. I have a kind of long and complicated job title (Scholastic Performance Specialist III), but basically I'm an Academic Advisor to the Corps of Cadets and teach a freshman level course to cadets in the School of Military Science.

About face and all of that.

Don't be concerned. I'm not teaching military tactics or maneuvers or anything.
(Insert collective sigh of relief)
The class is all about study skills and time management, learning styles and personality type. Basically a course that helps the cadets deal with the rigors of the Corps experience while maintaining a full class load in a very challenging academic environment.

Whew.


I really love it.

Love the people I work with, the students, the teaching, the advising, all of it. The busy factor,though, has been ratcheted a little high for the past several weeks as I try to navigate my way through this fun, challenging, and somewhat unfamiliar territory.

Zulu

and

Hullabaloo.


Sometimes I feel like I want to do this...





These are some of the "fish" Corps members after a computer session we did a week or so ago. In their defense I told them they could do whatever they wanted after they were finished with the work, so you can see a lot of them chose the popular 'falling asleep in their chairs' option.

Their new 5:45am  'Reveille' call has clearly been tough on some of them.


Bless.



In contrast...

We've had some crazy days that included a water fight between almost 900 freshman...



Photo by Tim Lai- The Battalion



Photo by Sam Craft- The Eagle



Watch for yourself!!   Class of 2019 Water Fight



And a lot of marching and physical training.




(Don't look for me in the marching and physical training pictures)

(I.am.not.there.)

I am, however, somewhat of an expert at watching.



Then to add to the busy-ness, we've also:

-Taken numerous trips to the farm.

-Gathered up way too many errant cows who have wandered through way too many fences that have been damaged by WAY too many toppled dead trees.

-Repaired many of the aforementioned fences.

-Attended a joint Birthday Party.

-Had dinner with dear HS friends in town to drop off their freshman Aggie daughter. Hey Ann, Chad and Caroline!

-Kept a keen eye on the construction progress at Kyle Field. (!!) You'll be amazed, by the way!

-Set some kind of record for mowing at the farm and here.

-Held a Bible Study.

-And counted our blessings every single day.




I hope it's been busy-good in all of your lives too.

You're all one of those blessing I count.




Monday, August 17, 2015

Sweetest. Funniest. Best.







I've known for a long time that this was a post I needed to write. Didn't want to, but needed to.

Just a few days ago (August 9th) marked exactly one year since we lost this precious friend to lymphoma. There. I said it.
It was just so hard to speak of, so hard to think about. Many of you heard about it in other ways, but since I wasn't blogging at the time, some of you never knew the story. Weegie was such a very big part of this blog. My goodness, he even wrote a post here and there making it even more difficult to imagine this little blog without his sweet spirit infusing everything from the stories and photos all the way down to things like recipe selection.
A recipe that included blueberries? A must have. Bacon? You betcha.

Weegie was almost 9 years old. He should have been around for a few more years.

Or forever.



When he was diagnosed in October of 2013 the veterinarian guessed he had 2-3 more months. I can't and won't begin to describe that day. It's etched in my brain and psyche forever. But.I don't want this to be a mournful post.

(By the way, in typical Weegie fashion, he stubbornly defied the odds and lived almost 10 months after the diagnosis.)

He was the sweetest, funniest, best dog.

No, today I want to celebrate. Celebrate God's goodness wrapped up in the gift of a slightly overweight, sometimes impertinent, hysterically funny, big-hearted dog with extremely short legs.

Weegie loved blueberries, bacon, cheese and pancakes. The pancakes had to be eaten outside. On the grass. Who knows why. But he insisted on it.

He disliked thunder, the hairdryer, and the vacuum cleaner. All evil, he thought.


He loved to eat, sleep in odd positions, ride in the Mule, chase the cows, eat, swim and poop (sorry). He was what we called a show-pooper. He liked an audience, and that's all I'll say about that.




Weegie loved water. Loved it. He was the Mark Spitz of the doggie world.







He was the sweetest, funniest, best dog.








The Mule did not move unless The Weege was in it. It just wasn't done.






For years, Weegie also enjoyed a special on-again-off-again friendship with Donkey. Honestly I believe they were kindred spirits with their penchance for rule-breaking and disdain of the establishment.

Weegie let us know early on that he would pick and choose the rules he would follow. He absolutely excelled at house-training.  I bet he had no more than two or three accidents ever. Period. On the other hand, Puppy School Training was not his forte. He did not enjoy any of the parts that involved sitting and obeying. He did, however, enjoy the copious amounts of attention that he received as the all time cutest Corgi puppy ever, and he loved to steal the treats from the other dogs in the class while they were, in fact, distracted by all the sitting and obeying. Brilliant.
He graduated with his class, but we always suspected that it was simply because of his perfect attendance.
Hey. He has a diploma. It counts.

Like I said,

He was the sweetest, funniest, best dog.

He had an incredibly high tolerance for pain. The doctors were always amazed. When he had a completely torn ACL (either from his running back days in the NFL)(or chasing the cows) he was almost impossible to keep still. On the day after surgery he escaped his tiny enclosed pen and made his way upstairs. Oy.

When the lymphoma slowly worsened, the vet said he had never seen a dog tolerate it with so much determination.
Weegie was tough. And smart.

For the last 8 months or so of his life, we were at the farm together. Mostly just the two of us. 24 hours a day. I will cherish every single one of those days with him.

In his last few months he loved to lay on the hill in the front yard at the farm. That place is shaded by a huge oak tree and from this vantage point he could keep an eye on his kingdom, the cows, and be in earshot of the Mule starting up.

We buried him on a very hot August afternoon in that exact spot.





If someone ever tells you that a dog can't make a difference in your life, you can be absolutely sure they never had a Weegie in theirs.

He was the sweetest. The funniest. The best.

Always in my heart.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Just a Little Grace



Let's Talk.

Last night some friends and I had Bible Study together. It was a special time as always with lots of talk, many laughs, and as you would suspect, a good amount of food. I mean everyone needs to eat, don't they? And what better time to do it than when you're discussing The Word.

Praise God and Bless all the Hearts.

A particularly lively discussion ensued when we reached the section on the prevalent societal problem popularly identified as "Pride of Lifestyle".  And although we hear about and see this in myriad ways, it's most often glaringly revealed in the posts and photographs we scroll through every day when looking at social media of all types.

To be clear- we all think posting and sharing with friends is good. It's just that it's hard to ignore the fact that in all too many a few cases it's also clear that the person posting has, let's say, an agenda.

You know the one. The friend(s) who constantly posts about their frequent travels to exotic places. And yet instead of just the lovely shots of scenery and informative suggestions (which we might love) on where to visit in case anyone else gets the opportunity to go (give me a beautiful picture of mountains and/or trees any day!) you seem to get lots! of photos of them with their spouse/significant other holding a wine glass up to the sunset on the balcony of an expensive hotel or restaurant patio. Or the pictures of the expertly plated (3rd) gourmet meal of their day. Vacations are great. We all love them, and usually desperately need them. Perhaps, though, in our enthusiasm to occasionally overshare it might be wise to edit the re-cap of the trip to include some photos that actually show the place that you visited and not just you in that place. It's possible that we (myself included)  might send the message: Look where I was! I drank lots of wine, took lots of selfies, and most importantly did not do all the boring everyday things that all you other people did while you were not here too.

Then there are the exercisers. They are so tired because they ran/walked 16 miles in the awful heat this morning. And just to help you visualize, they post a map of their route. Thank you. I was concerned about which direction you went. They played two rounds (matches? sets? quarters?) of tennis just before lunch, but that's OK because it was certainly easier and less strenuous than the 4 hours of Crossfit they did at dawn. Meanwhile you are reading this in your hole-y yoga pants that you fully intend to wear ALL DAY LONG. And frankly there will be no yoga involved. That would require getting off the couch and entirely too much exercise.
In all seriousness, people might want to think a bit about their motivation for these posts. Are they motivational/inspirational to others? Is your honest intention to encourage others to get healthy, or to invite friends to join you?
Or is it possible that you're saying: Look what I did! I'm not on my couch like you! My yoga pants are aptly named! As a matter of fact my second yoga class of the day starts in 20 minutes and I need to start running there now. I should hydrate more.

(No need for me to include myself in this group because, you know, EXERCISE.

Let's also consider those who like to share photos of what they just bought. Things like clothes or jewelry, or your 19th pair of fancy and expensive cowboy boots (you just can't help yourself! although you never wear most of them! they're just so cute! and after all! you didn't have a turquoise and red pair!) Really?
Now if you just bought a much anticipated new house (Yay!) or a new car after driving a beater for the last 10 years? Post away! We celebrate with you! The friends who know and love you will always appreciate you sharing milestone and life-changing purchases. And by all means, if you got a cute new (or old) dog (I mean pet...) you cannot post enough pictures. All dog All new pet pictures and stories are appropriate. The more that involve weird pet sleeping positions and doggie "bloopers" the better. Pet photos are cute and entertaining. Bring them on.

But shoes. Accessories. A fur jacket. Let's re-evaluate here.
Are we seriously considering our motivations when we post pictures of these purchases? Do other people really need to know that we just bought that? Is someone out there waiting to get this news?

Or are we saying: Look what I bought/have/own/just got! Do you have one too?



I'm aware that many of us have small group pages on social media made up of good, extremely close friends with whom we can share anything at all. No holds barred. This is good. We love to see all things from all the people there.

But your public, everyone sees it place? Not so much.


Despite my obvious cynicism on the issue (please forgive) I hope you're able to glean my point here.
 I think social media can be wonderful (Hello, my name is Lu and I'm kind of a blogger.) We can use it to keep in touch, be informed, and share important (or even not so important) news. We can make people laugh, encourage, and love on people in ways in which they may never be touched otherwise.


All it takes is a little self-evaluation and showing some grace. Because we can all use a little grace.

All the time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

But I Do Not Want To Turn To The Left


Some (four to be exact) things:

1) The heat. So very hot.


2) Parking Garages. I think we can all agree, can't we, that they can be exasperating. One unfortunate afternoon years ago I drove in some kind of circular/elliptical/spiral-y pattern for a good 20 minutes trying to locate the exit to one. Please do not ask my sons about this.
And today I experienced another new Parking Garage Low when I could see the row of spaces I was trying to park in, but I could. not. get. to. it. So many arrows. So many signs. So much turning to the left. So much unnecessary confusion.
And why is it when you have to swipe your permit (and OK, you also might be going the wrong way)(because of the confusing signage, of course) that there is always, always another car right on your bumper? I find this grossly unfair,and it also gets on my very last nerve.
I know you all share my disgruntlement.
Tell me you share it.

So just a shout out to all the Parking Garage Engineers out there: Let's get it together, OK?


3) The Extra Toasty Cheez-its? A real joy and a blessing, that's what they are. Please hop in your hot car right now and go get some.

4) Collateral Damage. I have this incredible new office and right now it looks infinitely boring and sterile, so today I came home and decided I would choose one of the beautiful plants off my patio to take there to make it look more homey and pretty and you know, plant-y. And what do I discover but that a rabbit has eaten every single solitary one of the lower leaves off of most of my plants, and that the others, which are obviously not to the rabbit's liking, are infested with fire ants.  I put a fair amount of thought into all the bad and horrible things that I could (and rightly should) do to that rabbit and those ants because they had clearly ruined my life and my day (not to mention my greenery) and WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE ANYWAY? Until I realized that perhaps I was a little over-invested emotionally in the thought of the plant and the office and the perfection it would all be. You do that too, don't you?

Maybe it was the heat.

So, fine. Boring and sterile office? Check.




I hope all of you are having a glorious week. Do me a favor and make someone smile tomorrow, will you?


Much love,