Sunday, February 25, 2007

Aunt Susie's Cake

From The Body in the Snowdrift by Katherine Hall Page


1 box good-quality yellow cake mix

4 large eggs

¾ cup canola oil

1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges packed in juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cake mix, eggs, and oil in a bowl. Mix according to the directions on the box. Fold in the oranges, including juice, and mix well. Pour into 3 greased round cake pans. Be sure the orange pieces are evenly distributed. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. Remove cakes from the pans and cool on racks while you make the frosting.


1 small package instant vanilla pudding

1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple packed in juice

1 large container Cool Whip or other whipped topping

Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Mix together the juice and the instant pudding. Add the Cool Whip and drained pineapple, then mix. Spread some of the frosting between the layers and use the rest on top and sides of cake.

A couple of notes from Julie:

- Divide up the cake batter evenly between the pans. This may seem obvious to most people, but because I only have two round cake pans, it was hard to eye-ball it because I had to bake the layers in two batches.

- I only had a regular sized Cool Whip (actually generic brand), and there was more than enough frosting.

- I made this the day ahead, so I refrigerated it overnight. I don't know if that's necessary, but with the cool whip and fruit, I figured it might not hold together if it was room temperature. That, or maybe it would start to ferment.

- This is from a series of "light" or "homespun" mystery novels by Katherine Hall Page. I actually liked the first couple much better than the more recent ones. This one was so-so. The Body in the Attic was pretty good.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Someone in Pittsburgh really loves us because we just got a pan of fudge in the mail. It is so yummy. The sad part is that it was to "Pastor and Julie" but Scott is out of town until Thursday night. So...hmmm...I will try my best not to scarf down the whole pan. It is yummy, Judy! I was reminiscing with Jacob about how fun your wedding reception was with all those yummy desserts and the chocolate fountain.

Anyway, happy 1st anniversary, Jeff and Judy!!
A Photo Essay of the Seminary
Thanks to Cyberstones for linking to this Fort Wayne website which shows off the beauty of the seminary's campus. Here's the direct link to the website which showcases the sem.

Monday, February 19, 2007

In the last week, I've had two different fortune cookies. Here are my fortunes:

"You have the ability to sense and know higher truth."

"Genius does what it must and talent does what it can."

The first one is just weird. Is there "higher" truth apart from "lower" truth?

I have no idea what the second one even means. I understand if it would have been talent only takes you half way to your goal. The other half is hard work. But this? I don't get it, which means I'm neither a genius or talented, apparently.

What's the deal with fortune cookies these days?

Clearly, I'm avoiding anything that could be called work, which is why I'm posting about inane things.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Oh the states I've Seen, Part 2
Well, my mom helped me remember all the states where I've been, and I missed a few.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

A Poem for a Friday on Psalm 46:10.


I visit the night,
see my breath hang silent
against the darkness.
Ice in the pond has frozen
into its shores.
Branches of the oak have softened
under starlight.
Snow has settled
between blades of grass.
I close my eyes
under heaven
and I am also

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bethany and the Home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

I've been doing a little reading about the village of Bethany to find a cultural connection to the story in Luke 10 about Mary and Martha and the "one thing needful" -- to listen to Jesus.

I found some interesting websites (here's another) that show an ancient home (which might have been Mary and Martha's) in addition to photos of this beautiful church called the Franciscan Church of St. Lazarus.

The interesting thing about the account in Luke 10 of Martha being worried about many things and Mary listening at Jesus' feet is what comes before and after the narrative.

Before it is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and after it is the giving of the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-12). God's Word - the "one thing needful" that Mary discovers - is highlighted even more by these beloved and important sections in Scripture.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Psalms of David" CD, Part 2
I was out and about this afternoon and in the car I listened to track 15 of this CD which I wrote about yesterday. If you can listen to it on the website, or get the CD, you really must listen to this track at least. It is "O Praise God in His Holiness." The Psalm goes through a list of instruments--praise God with a trumpet, praise God with the cymbals, and then ends with this magnificent "Let everything praise the Lord." Ethereal, exquisite, celestial, heavenly, angelic--all those words work. It is fine choral music.
Laundry Frustration!!!! (which calls for multiple exclamation points)
So I tried all of your suggestions to get the blue paint out of my son's shirt, and nothing is working!! The amount of water I have spent washing those two shirts is getting ridiculous. I tried every spot cleaner known to man (okay, maybe not every one, but a lot). I also tried to Rit dye products--a whitener and a color remover. Neither one did much good. So I'm frustrated.

I'm ready to have two new dust rags. Grrr...
Oh, The States I've Seen
Here's my map of the states I've been to. I think I may have been to a couple more, which my mom can remind me of. I'm not sure about Nevada or Idaho. I could've been in Kentucky when I was young too. There are a few places I know we passed through on family vacations when I was young, and I don't remember all of them. Anyway, I've been to quite a few states. I had no idea!

Thanks to: Jane and Melynda.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

All Things British
The last couple of hours I've been listening to a CD which I love called "The Psalms of David" sung by the Kings Choir of King's Chapel in Cambridge (notice that you can scroll down on this link from Amazon and listen to portions of each of the tracks). Listening to a CD of church music sung by a boys' chapel choir makes me think of a PBS miniseries from awhile back called "The Choir." I also keep thinking of Susan Howatch books which are often set in cathedrals. (Her books are only okay, in my opinion. I mean, the plots are engaging and the characters are interesting. But I guess I just got tired of reading about clergy who are devoid of any redeeming quality.) Listening to the CD also makes me think of my favorite Agatha Christie book, "Murder in the Vicarage." Of course, I also have in the back of my mind lots of other beloved authors from the UK. There are some days when I wish I had a little English cottage and could be a member of the Cambridge singers, and drink English tea at teatime. But most days, I'm a very happy American.

The best part, of course, about the CD are the lovely settings of the Psalms, which are always so comforting and reassuring. "The Lord of hosts is with us!" "The Lord is my shepherd." "I was glad when they said unto me, 'let us go unto the house of the Lord.'"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Shape of Trees
Awhile back, when Jacob was still young enough to be home most of the day, I would frequently take him and my dog on walks in a park in Pittsburgh called the Arboretum. It was really just a small tract of land left to go wild in the middle of a neighborhood. I liked it because, as the name suggests, it was mostly wooded. Around that time, I found a little guide book which showed the shape of trees in the winter. It was a neat little book that I can't find right now (grrr...moving sometimes makes me cranky). It shows how every tree has a distinctive shape and character--the width and height, the openness of the branches, etc. Here is kind of a cool website that describes this further.

On a beautifully sunny day like today, I tend to notice the shape of trees against the blue sky or against the white backdrop of the snow. Some of the tree trunks are straight and narrow, others more gnarled and curvy. I like to look at the lines of the branches with birds flying overhead. It's one of my favorite things about winter.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Songs in My Head
In addition to the BeeGees, I often have a variety of other songs that slip in and out of my head during the day. Neil Diamond songs, folk songs, hymns, The Wheels on the Bus, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Etc.

Five minutes ago, this song, "What'll We Do with a Drunken Sailor?" came unbidden. Why? Why? My mom used to sing this. My favorite song she ever sang in her programs was "Hush Little Baby."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Childhood Memories
Since I write for children, I often think about childhood and how children think, partly from my own recollections and partly from observing children as an adult. I'm working on a series of stories right now that feature a toddler and some of the first things he goes through, like a first sled ride, a first hair cut, etc. A lot of what I am writing is based on what I have observed as a mom, but I also find it helpful to think back to my own childhood to try to capture what it felt like to experience things.

The earliest thing I can remember from childhood is sitting in the grass in my yard with my friend and next-door neighbor, watching the garbage truck come up our street and pick up trash. I was probably 3 or 4 years old. That seems like a weird thing to remember, but in a way, I think it characterizes childhood. What seem like non-events to adults are often new and different for children. Children work hard at trying to figure out the world, understanding routine and why things happen.

If I think about it for very long, I can remember that feeling of being completely happy-go-lucky, having that whatever-comes-next-is-fine attitude, glad that I get to play kick the can with my friends on my street or stay home and play by myself. I remember getting hurt and running home to my parents for help--that vulnerability of crying and running home, but also the comfort of being taken care of.

I remember little things like my dad bringing me a new book home on days when I was sick. And things I couldn't explain, like the time my brother and I heard this huge crash upstairs when we were home alone. When we went to investigate, we found the glass shower door had shattered inexplicably. I remember lying in front of the Christmas tree staring at the bubble lights, using my dog as a pillow, just lying there enjoying the tree. I remember all the best places in the neighborhood to hide when we played green ghost or hide and seek and the way I would stop to let roly poly bugs cross the sidewalk in front of me as I walked to school. I remember making weird drink combinations, like Dr. Pepper and orange juice or grape juice and milk (which we called a purple cow). I loved tater tots, hated salmon loaf, and loved fruit cocktail--mostly the cherries.

Anyway, if you care to comment, I'd love to hear about some of your childhood memories are.

Monday, February 05, 2007

On Being a Famous Author
Thank you, Judy, for sending me this hilarious article by Dave Barry on his recent book tour.
I laughed so hard that my dog looked at me like I was a total weirdo.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Could it be?
Seriously. We lived in Pittsburgh during last year's Super Bowl. We live near Indianapolis this Super Bowl. Are you telling me there is no coincidence?? The Stiegemeyer effect is going strong, John Scaer.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Yesterday, my dear husband indulged me and took me to lunch at the Saigon Restaurant and then to the new library downtown. We had yummy Vietnamese coffee for lunch (as well as food) and then I found two bird books at the library (in addition to a couple of novels).

Well, I think I identified the bird that has been coming to my feeder in the last week, and it's...the yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Isn't that hilarious? There actually is a bird with that name, and he likes the suet I put out. It's a kind of woodpecker, and the woodpeckers love the suet.

A little while ago, my dog Lucy was going crazy at the back window because a squirrel kept coming right up to the glass (within about a foot of Lucy) and eating the bird seed that I spilled as I was filling the bird feeder earlier this week. Lucy cries and scratches at the rug by the window. The squirrel is wary, but also hungry.

Friday, February 02, 2007

After finishing my big writing assignment and sending it off yesterday, I am now cleaning my office, which has become a pig sty over the last weeks since all my attention has been devoted to Old Testament lessons. I don't enjoy cleaning, but the finished product, the blank slate, the dusted desk is a wonderful relief. Clutter stresses me out. I can't think straight. Some people do just fine ignoring the piles of old magazines gathering in the corner of the room. But I can think better when clutter is--at least--at a minimum.

I came home cranky from church last night--not because anything that happened at church. It was actually quite a wonderful sermon. But I was just tired of my week, tired of being awake, tired of helping my son make sure he had his spelling words down, tired of doing dishes, just tired. An hour of reading a decent book did me a lot of good. My brain gets tired of thinking so much sometimes.

But today the sun is shining off the snow, the geese are honking as they fly above my house, and my dog is sitting at the back window, watching the birds gather at my bird feeder. Morning is a gift.