November is a month to think about gratitude. One definition of gratitude that I like is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. I like thinking of gratitude as a quality; something we might have in us all the time, not just when a moment calls for it. And I like the idea of returning kindness. When we receive a kindness, we might not be able to “return” it to the person who bestowed kindness on us, but we can return it to the world by being kind to someone.
Next week we will travel to our daughter’s home in Kansas and share Thanksgiving with her, her husband, our son and his family. I am thankful we are able to have this time together, that we can afford to travel and that food will be plentiful, that their house will be warm, and there will be clean running water. I look forward to the conversations and laughter that will be shared and to the wonder that will come in seeing our grandchildren, observing their minds growing right before us.
For many this holiday will not hold joy and warm feelings. Many do not have the basic needs of life, others face a holiday without loved ones. May those of us who can, return some kindness into the world this week. Maybe it will find someone in need.
Peppermint Chiffon Pie is often served on Thanksgiving (along with Pumpkin Chiffon). Both pies are family recipes and made often as you can see by my well loved recipe card! This pie and yummy and pretty!
Hint: Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are usually found by the topping for ice cream sundaes
Have you ever wanted to run away? Maybe you are thinking, YES, just yesterday when the work was crazy, the car needed an oil change and the refrigerator had somehow eaten all the food and was wanting to be filled AGAIN.
Now you do remember wanting to run away when you were a child? I think most children do at some point. The injustices of childhood loom large. Everything happens above you. Decisions big (we’re having another baby) and small (blueberry yogurt instead of cherry) are made without you. Just when you are in the middle of something important (the biggest block tower ever) it’s bedtime, and it seems the rules are constantly changing (don’t lie, unless the neighbor got an ugly haircut).
In Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells and A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban the main character feels ignored and replaced because a new sibling has arrived. And Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has suffered the injustice of being sent to bed without any supper. And so, they run away to escape. In my book, The Day I Ran Away, Grace feels she’s been wrongly banished to her room and packs up to run away only to be thwarted by the fact that she’s not allowed to cross the street.
As a child I remember one time packing my little suitcase and heading down the road (I actually just went next door), but mostly when I needed to “escape” I picked up a book. When the weather allowed, I took my book to swing under a willow tree. Books allowed me to forget my problems big and small and they gave me examples of how others solve their problems.
Being a child or a grown up can be difficult. Wanting to run away may just mean we need to escape for a bit so we can face our problem with fresh eyes. And when we return we might hope a good dinner is on the table!
Grace comes home for Spaghetti and Meatballs, her favorite! I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s her favorite because it’s a family favorite often requested when my kids are returning home.
In honor of Pasta Day (yesterday) this month’s recipe is early!
The Niner meatballs and sauce recipes. Be sure to use the slider to see both!
If you’ve been reading my blog you can’t help but know that I love to bake and cook with pumpkin so, as you might imagine, I love fall. But it’s not just the pumpkin that shows up in things from coffee to ice cream that I love.
Fall commands the attention of all my senses. The crisp air that requires a jacket. The leaves in hues of orange, yellow and red capture both my eyes and my ears when the crunch underfoot. That crunching creates a leafy aroma like the grinding of spices. I hear the geese call good by as the cross the sky in perfect V formation. The Red-winged Blackbirds gather and put on a nightly show swooping as one for weeks before they too head south. As the sun moves south it sets earlier and earlier. Walking in the dusk of evening, house windows glow and I imagine the of families gathered inside. And when I return home the warmth of a fire greets me. It’s fall!
When you are writing it is important to think about your senses. What senses are awakened by a place, season, or activity? Including such details, not in a big paragraph as above, but slipped in here and there will enrich your story and help your reader feel like they are in the story with you!
Now, who wants some Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Loaf?!
One of the things I love about being an author is meeting other authors! Writers are a welcoming lot. They understand the ups and downs of the profession. They are always there to cheer the successes and offer support in the failures. I have author friends that live right here in Indiana. Ones I’ve meet at book events and others I’ve only meet online. I love connecting with all of them. So I thought I’d share books from some of my friends.
And a recipe!
Robin’s book has some persistent peacocks trying to get their wings on some mac ‘n cheese. Once they do they’re not so sure they like. That made me think of a recipe I enjoy
It’s time for the end of the month recipe! And a book, of course!
I love breakfast foods any time of day. Because it’s easy, my go-to weekday breakfast is cold cereal, but on the weekends or at a restaurant I love waffles, pancakes, omelets, biscuits, French toast, eggs benedict and whatever else might look interesting.
So I loved this book! Doesn’t everyone want a waffle?
Wood Pecker Wants a Waffle By Steve Breen HarperCollins 2016
Benny the woodpecker wakes to the delicious smell of waffles coming from the grand opening of Moe’s-Home of the Waffle Breakfast. He tries various funny ways to gain entrance into the Moe’s, but they all fail. The animals gather as he is wishing for waffles. They think it’s silly for a woodpecker to eat waffles. But Benny replies, “why not?” At first the animals don’t have an answer, but finally Bunny said, “because I said so.” To which Benny replies, “I really don’t have time for this ‘said so’ nonsense.” Don’t all kids feel that way sometimes! Benny shares an elaborate plan to get the waffles involving, cannons, juggling and fireworks. But when the animals show up at Moe’s to see Benny in action he isn’t there. Or is he? When the people in the dinner come out to see the animals, Benny sneaks in and finds some “sweet” waffles!
Memorial weekend may find many traveling this year as vaccinations are allowing us to visit with family and friends. (Please get vaccinated! Please continue to mask up where appropriate.) We will be traveling 10 hours to Lawrence KS to spend time with our daughter and her husband. They moved there a little over a year ago as the pandemic was changing our lives. This past year even families that lived in the same town weren’t visiting, but somehow having our daughter 10 hours away instead of the previous hour and a half felt worse. For them it meant moving with no in-person good byes to family and friends, no going away parties. And the pandemic made getting acquainted with their new town and making new friends difficult. I’ve mentioned before that books are an integral part of our family, so it was fun to hear that Beth and David started a book club. Just the two of them! I love it and it will be wonderful to see them, their home and their new life, and discuss books.
When I visit our kids I usually bring some kind of baked goods. Eating together was also a big part of our family! So the recipe for today is one that my sister made MANY years ago. Since then, Chocolate Chip Apple Cake is often requested and loved by all!
I would have been seven with Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban hit the shelves. Many years later I read it to my children and now my grandson enjoys it. What makes a picture book timeless? It’s the writing and illustrations, but it also has to touch on a universal feeling or truth. Francis is a picky eater. There will always be picky eaters and their parents. It’s frustrating for the adult, but as we see in Bread and Jam, it’s the picky eater that is losing out. Mother and Father know that. They give Frances the space to figure it out. They don’t say “I told you so” or “I knew you’d get tired of it”. Another universal truth,in parenting patience isn’t easy, but it can pay off.
Frances only liked jamon her bread but when I was a child a peanut butter & jelly sandwich was often in the brown paper bag for lunch. And I have memories of my dad eating it right out of the jar, often immediately after dinner! It was his dessert. I still love a PB & J or a peanut butter cookie or a Reese’s cup or any ice cream with peanut butter something stirred in! So, when I ran found a recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly Cheesecake, I tried it! It was loved by all the PB & J lovers in my family!
1 cup graham cracker crumbs 3 Tbsp sugar 1 tsp cinnamon 6 Tbsp butter, melted 1 tsp cinnamon sugar 1 jar (16.3 oz) creamy peanut butter 2 Tbsp milk Filling: 3 pkg (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened 1 cup sugar 2 tsp vanilla extract 4 Large eggs, lightly beaten 1 ½ cups seedless raspberry preserves 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350. Place a greased 9-in springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Wrap the foil securely around the pan. Place on a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon; stir in butter. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until crust starts to brown, 6-8 minutes. Cool on wire rake. Reduce oven setting to 325.
Beat peanut butter and milk until combined. Spread over cooled crust; set aside. In a large bowl beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until blended. Pour over crust. In a saucepan stir together preserves and lemon juice over medium heat until preserves melt. Spoon mixture by tablespoonfuls over top. Cut through the batter with a knife to swirl. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 inch of water to larger pan.
Bake until center is just set and top appears dull, about 1 ¼ hours. (Center of cheesecake will jiggle when moved). Turn oven off and leave cake in oven with door closed for one hour. Open door. Seal with plastic wrap and let cool in oven. Chill before serving.
I need to gather some words, mix them together, and hope people will want to read them.
It’s been brought to my attention that I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. Since the last post was June 4, 2019 that is an understatement. My first thought is to make excuses, I have lots of them, but that would be a waste of words. Instead, I need to begin again.I need to gather some words, mix them together, and hope people will want to read them. That is the twitter length version of what a writer does. A writer is always beginning again. Always hoping their words matter, that they connect with someone. Always saying to a reader, here is something I made for you. I hope you like it.
Food is another way to connect with people. I like to cook and bake. I like looking at recipes, gathering ingredients and creating something to share. I say, Here. I took the time to make this for you. You are important to me. I hope you like it.
Just like writing sometimes the food is good and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s appreciated and sometimes it’s not. In most things we only get better by doing. So the trick with writing and baking is to not get discouraged, to keep practicing. To keep beginning again!
So I’ll start again. Reaching out through this blog hoping to connect with parents, teachers, grandparents, and writers. Offering thoughts on writing, the power of words and the importance of reading. There will be some shameless promotion of my books and reviews of other books. I’m sure Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang will pop up from time to time because I find his take on life insightful.
And occasionally, like today, a recipe in case you like to connect with people over food too!
It’s February, but I am one of those people who collects cans of pumpkin. I love to use it year-round. So it wasn’t odd for me to make The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls You’ll Ever Eat from Ambitious Kitchen for my husband for Valentine’s Day this year. They were delicious!