Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Slice of Life: The Cookie Trials

I wrote about try, my OLW for 2019 in this reflection early in December. But it wasn't until I was thinking about today's post that I realized how easily our OLW can creep into our daily activities. I'm actually closing out 2019 with my own cookie trials by trying new cookie recipes. Every year I bake the same tried-and-true cookies to share with family and friends, but this month I ventured off that path for my own Great Cookie Bake-Off.

I kicked off my cookie trials with a recipe for Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies clipped from a mailing and stashed in my drawer of recipes for years. I've been trying to replicate a favorite double chocolate cookie from The Bryant Corner Cafe for several years and this one comes very close. I took it to a cookie exchange earlier in the month. It's a keeper!

I tried Scrumptious Orange Bites yesterday. This recipe (torn from a 2012 Christmas Cookie magazine) combines dates, orange juice, orange zest, and butterscotch chips all in one delicious cookie. I'll be sharing them with some friends today. Too bad that my blogging buddies all live too far away for a New Year's Eve plate of cookies.

And today's trials? Part of my ongoing quest to replace the shortening with butter in two of my favorite cookies, Snickerdoodles & Molasses Crinkles. I've been trying for some time and somehow the results never match up in taste to my old, tried-and-true recipes with Crisco. I've already had one failed molasses cookie attempt this month. Fingers crossed that today's trials become tomorrow's blue ribbon winners!

And because I know some of you will ask . . . pics of the recipes!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Slice of Life: Favorite Books of 2019

Our yearly Christmas card includes favorite books, movies, TV, and events for the year. My favorite books for 2019 were An American Marriage by Tayari Jones; They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott; The Line Tender by Kate Allen; Baking Day at Grandma's by Anika Denise; and A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy. 

And then because I have a tough time limiting my favorites to five books, I added a note to my book-loving friends with more favorites. And because I consider my fellow slicers and bloggers part of my community of book-loving friends, I'm including that note for each of you. 

Dear book loving friend,

This note was born when I realized that I left A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader off my list of favorite books for the year. If you haven’t read this beautiful book, stop now and request it from your local library. And then I fear that you may have the same response I did, “This is a book that I simply must own.” Even though I’m at that stage in life where I’m trying to get rid of things, once in a while a thing enters my life that I simply must own. This book deserved a place on my shelf and in my heart this year.

Another book I bought for myself this past year was Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver. Every single time I pick it up and read a poem or two or three, the words fill me with wonder. I’ll share three I loved this morning: “Mysteries, Yes” (p. 85), “Praying” (p. 131) and “When I Am Among the Trees” (p. 123).

And three more favorite picture books – The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry; Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus; and A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein.

Do let me know some of your favorite reads of 2019!

Warm wishes for a wonderful season of joy, light, rest, and of course, some time for reading.

Friday, December 6, 2019

SJFT: Try, My OLW for 2019

It's the first Thursday (acutally it's Friday 
and I'm a day late) of the month and time to show up 
with my friends for Spiritual Journey Thursday. 
Irene Latham at Live Your Poem is hosting this month
and asked us to reflect on our OLW for 2019. 

I usually write several OLW posts during the year, but I failed to do so this year. There's something that made me feel like I hadn't been trying hard enough each time I contemplated a post. So for this year-end reflection I've pulled a few quotes with try in them from some of my posts this past year.

"And when I make time to be still and listen, I feel fortified and more balanced. I feel more capable of stilling the distractions and of feeling the love of my Savior.  And it doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but I keep trying (and try is my OLW for 2019)."
SJFT post about balance

"I write about my One Little Word that I've chosen each year since 2013 - listen, savor, stretch, abide, nourish, and delight. And I write about it multiple times during the year as I try (my OLW for 2019) to remember it as a focus for my year."
"I write about celebrations. Our Celebrate This Week group doesn't gather weekly any more, but I still try to round up monthly celebrations in a post at the end of each month. Sometimes I fall behind and celebrate two months at once."
Answers written in response Lindy's question, "What do you write about on your blog?"

"And no, I won't get them all read, but it's fun to try. " On my post "Checked Out" in reference to the 39 books I had checked out of the library

"When you read about habit change, one of the truths that emerges is that it's easiest to change bit by bit, not leap by leap. Another one is that you change what you monitor. So I'm trying (ohhh, there's my OLW for this year) again to keep track of how often I hit my 10,000 steps goal for the day. And how am I keeping track? With stars on the monthly calendar in my planner. And how am I doing? Well, a quick look at July shows 13 stars. I only reached my weekly goal (4 days out of 7) one time. But I'll continue to monitor and I'm hopeful that next month will be better. " SJFT post about change

 'I write to try to figure out our world in all its complicated messiness." Slice of Life, Why I Write for National Day on Writing

And so, here I am, one day late, trying to write about my experiences with try. I've experienced a few successes. I've kept track of the days I reached 10,000 steps since July with stickers on the calendar in my planner - 13 times in July & I've done better every month since then with October's 16 times as my best month. I've managed to lose ten pounds this year by taking small steps toward behavior change which works so much better for my personality. And the best try has to be this past week when I finally managed to make a blog book. I've tried several times before and always gotten frustrated, but something about the 45% off Black Friday offer led to a dogged determination this time. As my dad used to say: "That makes twice I've done that, the first and the last." Let me know if you've had success in making blog books and what platform you used. Because mine took hours and hours and I still wasn't completely satisfied, but I decided it was good enough.

I'm already looking forward to a new word for 2020.  I think I know what it will be. But I have a few days of 2019 left to try to find the best word for this upcoming new year!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Slice of Life: Passey Pie Party!

If it's November, then it's time for pie at the Passey home. My daughter and her husband kick off the cozy season of the year by inviting friends and family to join their pie extravaganza. Pie night has become pie afternoon so the youngsters can join in. This year's event included 15 adults, 9 children, 9 pies, a pot of meatballs and a fruit and cheese tray. In case you're wondering our pie menu included orange cream, a Nutela cream, a lemon meringue (my favorite this year!), a pecan, a key lime, a chocolate cream, a peanut butter, an apple cranberry, and a Tollhouse pie! Each pie is cut into sixteen tasting-size slices. Everyone ate to their fill and perhaps a bit beyond. Leftover pie slices were slid into cardboard boxes for travel across town to various homes as tasty treats for the next day.
A successful Passey Pie Party
has to include play!
My favorite pic of the evening when
Judy Moody & Harry Potter joined our party!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Poetry Friday: Maple Musings

Head over to Michelle's blog, Today's Little Ditty,
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness. 
Michelle is celebrating her latest TLD anthology. 
You 'll recognize many PF friends in its pages 
and can get your copy here.
Thanks, Michelle, for hosting this week!

And so November comes.
Early darkness.  Shorter days.
Overnight blazing red!
The window calls
Radiant ruby red leaves 
Wonder-struck, I pause.

Leaf littered path
Red leaves decorate foliage
Christmas tiptoes near.
- Ramona Behnke, November 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Slice of Life: Prodded by the Newspaper

It's been almost a month since the three retirees have spent time together. One of our number has moved almost two hours away and the other just returned from a trip to New Zealand and Australia. So when we got together yesterday, I mentioned an article I'd noticed in the Sunday newspaper about Kubota Gardens. I've lived in this area for more than two decades, but I'd never been to this garden just a mere fourteen miles away. We were a bit late for the peak viewing of leaves, but we still enjoyed our stroll. We plan to return for spring blossoms and an earlier fall visit next year. 

The article in the paper mentioned that the Kubota Gardens Foundation will publish a book in December, Spirited Stone: Lesson from Kubota's Garden and is producing a short documentary, Fujitaro Kubota and His Garden that will be shown locally on December 10. You can read a short history of the gardens here.

Here's a link you might enjoy, Website Photos of Kubota Garden by Mary Austin. And here are a few favorite snapshots from our visit yesterday.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Poetry Friday: "All That Is Glorious Around Us"

Head over to Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem, 
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness. 
Thanks, Irene, for hosting this week!

Margaret encouraged us to write about ordinary saints yesterday for Spiritual Journey Thursday. Thinking about that post led me to Barbara Crooker's celebration of "...this radiant world..." and these favorite lines from her poem, "All that is Glorious Around Us."
"...watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn's bright parade...."

Click on the poem's title to read the entire poem, shared at The Writer's Almanac. I hope you'll find much to celebrate in this radiant world of ours!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Noticing the Ordinary Saints Among Us

It's the first Thursday of the month
and time to show up with our friends
for Spiritual Journey Thursday.
Margaret is hosting this month and chose
the words ordinary saints as our theme. 

When I read Margaret's poem, "How to Be an Ordinary Saint," I remembered a reflection I wrote several years ago for our church ladies' group Christmas party. It was about angels among us, but it could just as easily be about ordinary saints. So I've changed a bit of the wording to share some of the examples from this refection. It shows the ordinary ways that we minister to each other as a community of believers. We refer to each other as brother or sister in our church congregation, so you'll notice my use of the term sister to indicate the ordinary saints in our midst. 

"Several years ago, I mentioned to a sister in our congregation how much I had enjoyed her roasted veggies at a church event.  Imagine my surprise when she showed up at my door the next day with a package of the vegetables in hand and the recipe attached.  An angel (ordinary saint) on my doorstep and during the very busy holiday season!

When I returned to full-time work, I was lucky to have a sister in my workplace.  She found me more than once, overwhelmed by my new challenges and always offered friendship and support.  She also blessed me with a mug and a note every month of that first year.  And did I mention that she’s the best gift giver ever?

A certain sister called me very frustrated after a recent event because she went back to the church to collect the tablecloths and SOMEONE had taken them.  She wanted to launder them and return them to the closet.  Since I was that SOMEONE, and the tablecloths were in the trunk of my car, I promptly delivered them to her doorstep.  She blessed me by taking one of the things off my “to do” list.

I faced a particularly difficult time, and my husband was out of town.  When I phoned my own sisters, I sobbed  . . . wishing that they were here to buoy me up during this challenging time.  Within the hour, several sisters arrived at my house, offering their wisdom, their love, their hugs, and close shoulders to cry on. 

I’m always surprised to learn of the countless acts of service provided by sisters with no fanfare, just a gentle reaching out to a fellow sister in need.  One such sister provided housing for a sister’s family who were in town for a family funeral.   Love extended and a roof provided.

This sister is a true angel with a genuine smile that blesses all of us.  I know she is supposed to remain unnamed, but you may know our particular chocolate angel.  Her sweet compilation of our yearly chocolate orders blesses our families with sweetness and hot chocolate throughout the year. 

This sister used to be my visiting teacher and oh, how I loved her visits.  She’s one of the quiet sisters in our congregation.   But she always provided a spiritual message and knew me well enough to share the best treats imaginable – a book, a notepad, a bit of chocolate, blackberries, a magazine article that she knew I would enjoy, and always her friendship.

Some of you know this story because I’ve shared it before about my visiting teacher who gave me a small flashlight for my car  - to brighten those dark winter nights when we fumble at the mailbox.  Her pink light has accompanied me through many winters and reminds me of her thoughtfulness and also of the light of the Savior illuminating our paths. 

I love how the talents of so many sisters bless our congregation – you may know some of these sisters – the one we always turn to for that decorative touch needed for a display, the sister who provides flowers for our meetings, the sister who blesses us with her ability to find a theme and create a beautiful evening for us to enjoy together, the sister who is efficient and accomplishes whatever she is asked to do in record time, the sister who cooks a ham and delivers it to a dinner, the sister who uses her culinary talents to create beautiful and tasty desserts.   I feel truly blessed to know a host of earthly angels (ordinary saints) who strengthen me through their examples of service and love."

I love these closing words from Margaret's post: "Living in gratitude, noticing the little gracious things people do, spreads all the saint juices around and fills our world with love." Let's look for ways to spread the saint juices around and fill our world with love as we enter this busy, joyous season. 

(Adding a link to a poem I wrote which reflects my thinking about angels at a beautiful time in my life as we awaited and celebrated the birth of grandson Jack.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Slice of Life: Thinking about Tough Topics in Kids' Books!

Our lunchtime book club recently discussed why so many kids' books feature the death of a parent. The response from one of our members, brought a smile to my face, "They have to get them out of the way." A sentiment that might be shared by other middle schoolers. 

As I continue to read Newbery possibilities this season, I continue to see tough topics. A quick perusal of my 100 middle grade books I love list reveals that many of my favorite books also deal with tough topics. Here are just five that jump out at me today - One for the Murphys, Counting by 7s, Ida B, The 7th Most Important Thing, and Three Times Lucky.

So you may be wondering about some of my favorite Newbery possibilities for 2020. At the top of my list are The Line Tender by Kate Allen and The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.  I can't stop thinking about the debut novel I just finished last night, The Miraculous by Jess Redman. All three books are about grief and loss. 

I'm ready for something different. So my next read will be Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis. You can read Betsy Bird's glowing review by clicking on the title. Graphic novels aren't usually my thing, but I can't say enough good things about They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. I was inspired to pick it up after reading Cynthia Kadahota's Newbery hopeful, A Place to Belong (not a graphic novel).

If you have a favorite that you're hoping will win the 2020 Newbery, let me know in the comments. We still have almost three months of reading before the winner will be announced. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Poetry Friday: "Parents" by Ted Kooser

Tabatha Yeatts at  The Opposite of Indifference
is hosting this week's round-up of poetic goodness.

I keep planning to be a regular for Poetry Friday, but a quick check shows my last appearance was in September. However, there's no time like a new month to initiate change. I'm sharing "Parents," a favorite Ted Kooser poem. I love these words from Rita Dove's introduction to the poem:  "Perhaps the best way to keep the spirits of loved ones alive is to allow them to continue living within us."

And yesterday, I opened up Writer's Almanac to discover a new-to-me Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, "Haunted Houses." These lines are particularly poignant:
"So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,"

The Day of the Dead is a wonderful time to celebrate the spirits that surround us! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Slice of Life: Why I Write

I write because I found my peeps at Two Writing Teachers, a community of fellow teacher writers. I wish I could say that I love writing, but it's not the case. Given the choice, to read or to write, I'll pick reading every time. Even today after writing almost every week for eight years, I must prod myself to pick up the computer and craft a slice.

I write to capture the beauty of our world. 

I write to try to figure out our world in all its complicated messiness.

I write to discover more about myself.

I write to share my joy of books. 

I write to reflect on my journey as a daughter of God.

I write to explore the adventure of being Grandma to three marvelous grand boys.

I write because your words on the page inspire me!  

It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
Click over to Two Writing Teachers to read more slices!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Slice of Life: Two Year Olds and Trucks!

It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
Click over to Two Writing Teachers to read more slices!

Last week I mentioned that my grandson Jack asked for truck books on my most recent library trip. Unfortunately some other truck enthusiast must have beat me to the shelf. The closest I could come was Chugga-Chugga-Choo-Choo! Any self-respecting two year old will tell you that a train is not a truck!
After hearing his plea several times, "Grandma, I wanted truck books," we went to the library web site and did a search for truck books. Then we scrolled through the list and he would point to the ones he wanted (which happened to be all of them). 

Unfortunately, none had arrived before his Friday time at our house. So I went to the library on Thursday evening once again in search of truck books. And I'm happy to report that I was successful!
I went to the library last night since more than a few truck books have now arrived on my holds shelf. I'm covered for truck books for the next several weeks.
I bring at least three books in our special book bag each day I watch the boys. And one of Jack's first questions is always, "Grandma, did you bring any books?" And those words are music to my ears!
(I always sneak in at least one book that isn't truck related. I love Henry Cole's Spot & Dot, a new-to-me wordless picture book.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Slice of Life: 3,000 Steps Needed!

I stopped by the library to return two bags of picture books with instructions from Jack to check out some books about cars and trucks. After picking up books on the holds shelf and spending some time in the children's section, I head to the car with (you guessed it) two new bags of books. Glancing at my fitbit and the evening sky, I decide I have time to pick up 3,000 steps in order to reach my 10,000 step goal. You probably think that 3,000 steps shouldn't take long, unless you realize how smitten I am by the splendor of fall. While I have many pics of these same spots over the course of the past decade, today's pics capture a typical gray, misty Seattle evening.

 I begin with this splash of color just outside the library.
 Two and a half blocks away
at Emanuel Episcopal 
is one of my favorite trees.
 I meander the paths around the church.
 I return to the library, one of my favorite places,
for these last three shots.
Lucky me, that I had these gorgeous colors
to fill my soul as I walked!
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
Click over to Two Writing Teachers to read more slices!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Beauty

It's the first Thursday of the month
and time to show up with my friends 
for Spiritual Journey Thursday. 
Karen is hosting this month and
selected the word beauty for our theme.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I read Karen's choice of beauty as our theme for this month was the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth." I love the simple rendition of this hymn in the movie "Little Women." I love thinking of all the beautiful things mentioned in the hymn - earth, skies, love, each hour, day, night, hill, vale, tree, flower, sun, moon, stars of light, love of family, love of friends. 

The second thing that I thought of was this scripture, when Isaiah speaks of the Messiah: "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." (Isaiah 61:3) The refrain to the first hymn, "Lord of all to thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise," and the words from the scripture, "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," remind us that praise to the Lord can indeed lighten our burdens, something that all of us need.

I can't write a post about beauty without reflecting on the difference between the world's definition of beauty and the beauty that is reflected in the face of a life well lived. It's a beauty that isn't defined by the world's standards, but rather by what is given in service to others. This philosophy is best summed up in a quote by Marjorie Pay Hinckley: "I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sisters Schenk's lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."

My "beauty" google search reminded me of this quote I love by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting." And there's also this favorite quote by Lucy Maud Montgomery: "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."  And so I close with a dozen pics of October's beauty and magnificence!