Thursday, September 30, 2010

Creating A Beautiful Home~Alexandra Stoddard Bathrooms

It's already Wednesday and what have you done to the house?
Me either...but I would like to inspire a small change in your house--whether a new rug or maybe even a change of curtains. My friend, Alice, regularly changes her comforter for a coverlet or a bedspread. She adds a lamp to match and Voila! a new look to the room. And on that she's more industrious than I am. Changing summer to winter looks can create a nice lift to the room.

But today, I simply want to give you a few ideas for the bathroom. I chose this picture because most of the bathrooms were too luxurious for real people. And Alexandra Stoddard suggests white fixtures. So here is a list of suggestions that she makes in her famous book "Creating A Beautiful Home" for bathrooms. These are Grace Notes:

1) I encourage my clients to select all-white appliances. The deeper the color, the more dirt shows.
2) If you are tall, raise the height of the sink counter to approximately 34 inches.
3) Select clear Lucite towel bars with simple brass brackets.
4) Select a tall brass goosenecked tub and sink faucet on a swivel.
5) Towels help set the color scheme. In my daughter's blue and white bathroom, the towels are bright blue. The walls are white tiles with hand-painted blue clover leaves. When you limit the colors in the bathroom, the effect is striking.
6) Twelve-inch white ceramic floor tiles are ideal for almost every bathroom because they're easy to clean, don't discolor, and can be livened up with colorful area rugs.
7) Don't hide away all your colorful towels in the linen closet. Keep a generous stack of terrycloth towels and washclothes on a low, small white wicker table.
8) For everyday use, a selection of kitchen towels folded and rolled in a basket on the sink counter is colorful and practical. Unlike most cotton hand towels, they won't require ironing.
9)A basket with favorite soaps, bath salts, lotions, and powders is nice to have next to the tub. 
10) If your bathroom needs renovation and you want an old-fashioned 20-inch-deep porcelain tub, housewrecking and salvage businesses carry them. The outside of this tub can be painted any color with regular high-gloss oil paint. If the tub itself requires resurfacing, it can be sprayed with a special epoxy porcelain paint.
Surely you can find one thing you think is a good idea for your bathroom! If not, maybe a hint of something for the future. I have again included my bathroom jacuzzi tub filled with a sudsy bath and ready for me to jump into. I DO enjoy a good soak. I couldn't resist putting my shells from Florida on the side. And in the basket are washcloths, a foot scrubber for heels, and packets of AHAVA Dead Sea Mineral Mud, which is for aching backs and sore muscles. I also have large jars of epsom salts and baking soda--both for sore muscles and aches. 
It's important to give thought to your house and how your family moves around in it and uses it. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. The children are usually the happiest about your attention to their bath or their room. They love change and freshness, I think.

So have a good Thursday with your family. Thank God for indoor bathrooms!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creating A Beautiful Home~Alexandra Stoddard

As I get older, I'm trying to decide where my home should be. I have many reasons to be in New Mexico, but I'm missing the rest of my family in Tennessee. The terrible truth is that I'm not good at visiting. But to give up big blue skies, sunshine & dry air for the heat & cold, humidity & overcast skies of Tennessee is not an easy decision. Evidently it's so difficult I can't make it!

You probably knew that I'd get around to the decorating of houses. Alexandra Stoddard's books on creating beautiful spaces--and all the reasons we can and should do so--are nothing short of wonderful! The title of the one I'm taking my information from is "Creating A Beautiful Home." And all I'm going to do is give you some guidelines to read and think about in relation to your own house. The picture you see is a living room. I chose it because I'm potty over bookcases. They warm up the room and give it an aura of life that nothing else can...I feel the lives of the authors stirring on the shelves. Now here are a few "Grace Notes" about the living room from Stoddard's book.
1) The living room is not for guests only, but should be set up as a useful, practical area where you spend a large part of your time.

2) Paint all trim semi-gloss enamel white. This paint is a superior pigment that is pure, and picks up reflections of all the surroundings colors.

3) Determine what your focal point will be. If you don't have a fireplace, consider a high piece to focus your attention and draw you into the room.

4) Let your room grow slowly. Don't crowd it with too much furniture. Let the space "breathe."

5) One of the most important pieces of furniture will be a sofa. If the room is large, an 84-inch sofa that seats three people is ideal.

6) Keep a "Home" section in your personal notebook that goes with you wherever you are. This should include all measurements, paint chips, and fabric samples.

7) Paint the ceiling flat Atomosphere Blue. Use full-color, Fuller Obrien 1-0-47.

8) Invest in a sturdy 12 to 25-foot Stanley Powerlock tape measure at your hardware store. Also buy a small 5-foot measuring tape to carry in your purse or briefcase at all times.

9) Consider framing your watercolors using Solar Museum glass to protect them from fading in the light.

10) One of the best furniture polishes is Goddard's Fine Furniture Polish with Almond Oil.
These are just a few examples from the many pages on Living Rooms in this book. I thought it might wake you up to the possibility of changes in your living room before winter. And I'll give you a few suggestions for other rooms another time.

Bless your home every day and thank God for the place where you live.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Muffins for Autumn~

I know! It IS Monday! And to lift your spirits after the weekend, I want to remind you all of our beautiful harvest moon with harvest muffins made with lots of cranberries and nuts, served with coffee or hot tea. Perfect for cooler weather. I haven't mentioned one of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten, but I really like the way she simplifies recipes for everything, especially French food. With her, it's all easy. Her favorite line is, "How easy is that!"

This cookbook of Ina's is The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and on the front it says: "Secrets from the East Hampton specialty food store for simple food and party platters you can make at home." Hmmm...she has a lot of faith in you. And I do too!

Ina had her specialty store for 20 years and many of her recipes for creating wonderful parties in a few hours are in this cookbook. Make ahead dishes, such as, crab cakes with remoulade sauce, cheddar corn chowder , and grilled salmon salad can all be prepared ahead and put together before serving.

Ina got this wonderful autumn recipe from Sarah Chase's Open House Cookbook, which has inspired her for years. Sarah had a famous store appropriately called Que Sera Sarah, on Nantucket, where cranberries are harvested. And Ina has definitely road-tested these muffins, as she and her crew made them thousands of times at The Barefoot Contessa, her specialty store, where they were a hit every time.

Cranberry Harvest Muffins
Makes 18 large muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 extra-large eggs
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup medium-diced Calimyrna figs
3/4 cup coarsely chopped hazlenuts, toasted and skinned
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the milk, eggs, and melted butter. Stir quickly just to combine. Add the cranberries, figs, hazelnuts, and both sugars and stir just to distribute the fruits, nuts, and sugar evenly throughout the batter.

Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned on the top and a toothpick comes out clean.
Note: This batter can be made a day ahead, and scooped and baked before breakfast.

I remember that Linda, Kelly's mother-in-law, made a cranberry bread, and I still have the recipe as I've made it several times. It's very good.

I hope you have a great week! Remember to do many acts of kindness and thank God many times a day for all your blessings.

Blessings to you all...Mimi

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dolls, Dolls, and More Dolls!

It's Saturday and all's well! So I want to talk about my dolls. I wasn't a "doll" person until Quinlyn, my 12-year-old granddaughter who lives in this town (she's in the picture on the left) told me that I should get one. I thought about getting an American Girl doll, but I didn't. Then Quinlyn discovered the Life of Faith dolls through her blog site: And I fell in love with them!

She found out that they were no longer going to be available, so we began to plot and plan to get one. And because there were sales at different stores, we ended up getting all of them over a fairly short period of time! And they sit on my fireplace where they make me feel very happy. I can't look at them without smiling.
Now I have six Life of Faith dolls--five 18" dolls and one 8" doll. And one beautiful, blonde doll--which I have shown before--Louisa, from Ginger Brook Hollow. She is in the third picture. And I hope to get more of them, except that they are expensive if they aren't on sale.

The doll in the coat and hat is a Life of Faith doll. I made 4 of the coats for Quinlyn's dolls and have one more to make. I made a pink coat and hat that is soooo beautiful, and Quinlyn may have a picture, which I'll share when I can. I also have pics of dolls in a red and a blue coat & hat, which I'll also share later. Quinlyn creates vignettes with her dolls and takes pictures or makes videos. They are really nice and fun to look at. Quinlyn has a real talent for it.

You might find these dolls on eBay or a few at stores like Family Christian, but they are becoming more and more rare. It's so sad that a company so dedicated to a "life of faith" has gone out of business. Each doll comes with a little Bible on her arm. I hope it isn't a sign of the times that they weren't able to survive. I hope you enjoy the dolls...I can see myself coming back to this topic again!
Have a wonderful weekend with your family.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Thoughts on "The Mainspring of Human Progress"

{Continued blog}
The image on the left depicts the Israelites gathering manna. It's appropriate, I think, because they were completely dependent on God as they made their exodus from Egypt. What was God leading these former slaves toward? Their own land. Their own life. As they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, He was teaching them about responsibility. And about progress. The Hebrews were the only nation on earth who understood it!

And that's what our book is talking about today: freedom and responsibility. To get the full message, you'll have to read the book, but it's well worth your time and effort. Easy reading. But the point of the book is that America covers all the human needs and many of its wants, because the mainspring of human progress is responsibility, and Americans have taken responsibility for their lives and families since the beginning of this country.
Freedom and Responsibility: If a robber breaks into your house with a gun, you'll probably tell him where your valuables are. A kidnapper might be a different story, but in both cases, you're in charge of your own thoughts and acts. Thousands of people have suffered torture and death without saying a word that their persecutors wanted them to say. The point is that whatever the circumstances, no amount of force can make you act unless you agree to it. This fact sets up two conclusions:

1) Individual freedom is the natural heritage of each living person.
2) Freedom cannot be separated from responsibility.

Your control over your own life-energy was born in you, along with life itself. It is a part of life itself. No one can give it to you, nor can you give it to someone else. You can't hold someone else responsible for your acts. Control can't be separated from responsibility; control IS responsibility!

Results versus Desires: To use any kind of energy effectively, you must understand the nature of the energy and then set up conditions that will permit it to work to its best advantage. To make the most of human energy, you must reckon with the nature of man. Other species follow certain patterns of behavior and action, but a man is different because he is a human being, who has the power of reason and imagination. He can capitalize on experiences both past and present as bearing on problems of the future. He can even change himself and his environment. In fact, he has the ability to progress and keep on progressing.

Plants contend for space, and animals are possessive of their space, but man has enormous powers to make new things and to change old things into new forms. He not only owns property, but he can also create property. In the last analysis, a thing is not property unless it's owned; and without ownership, there is little incentive to improve it.

So what is the conclusion of this whole matter? That America is a great nation because our people took responsibility for their lives and their families. Our good lives are based on our economic wealth. If we go too far toward a society that doesn't add to that wealth, and instead drains it, our society will suffer. In other words--and in Weaver's words--we can't fall for the false idea of a Utopian society. We must hold steadfast to the faith of our fathers and become alert in resisting the promises of false Utopias, which for over 6,000 years have kept the vast majority of people starving, poorly clothed, fighting wars, and surrounded by famine, disease, and degrading lives.

I have used 3 blogs to talk about this book because I believe it's important for all of us to think about these kinds of principles. If you want to pursue this line of thinking, buy the book! Life is good and we are soooooo blessed!

Blessings to all of you...Mimi

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Thoughts on "The Mainspring of Human Progress"

The Real Answer

{This is a continuation of yesterday's blog.}
Weaver says that the real answer--the only answer--is the fact that we in the U.S.A. have made more effective use of our human energies than any other people on the face of the globe--anywhere or at any time. It's a very simple answer, perhaps too simple to be readily accepted. He says that the purpose of his book is to dig beneath the surface and to seek the reasons underlying the reason.

In other words, just why does human energy work better here than anywhere else? And answering that question leads us into a whole string of questions, such as:

1) What is the nature of human energy?
2) How does it differ from other forms of energy?
3) What makes it work?
4) What are the things that keep it from working?
5) How can it be made to work better? more efficiently? more effectively?

The answers, even the partial answers, to these questions should be extremely helpful in contributing to future progress. In the last analysis, poverty, famine, and the devastions of war are all traceable to a lack of understanding of human energy and to a failure to use it to the best advantage.

Weaver says that textbooks stress war and conflict, rather than the causes of war and what might be done to prevent war. Instead, he's trying to see what can be learned from history as bearing upon the effective use of human energy, which advances progress--as against the misuse of human energy, which retards progress and leads to the destruction of life as well as health. So he reviews a few elementary facts--things we already know but often overlook.

Energy: Human vs. Nonhuman
1) This entire planet is made up of energy.
2) The atoms of air surrounding it are energy.
3) The sun pours energy upon this air and upon the earth.
4) Life depends on energy; in fact, life IS energy.

Weaver further says that doctors and nurses, farmers, sailors, construction engineers, weather forecasters, etc.--are keenly aware that men and women survive on this earth only because their energies constantly convert other forms of energy to satisfy human needs, and constantly attack the nonhuman energies that are dangerous to human existance. And he ends by saying that we shouldn't forget that there can be no progress except through the more effective use of our individual energies, personal initiatives, and imaginative abilities--applied to the things and forces of nature.

Energy at Work
Weaver next takes a closer look at human energy at work. He reminds us that we are the dynamos that generate the energy to turn the page of a book. Your brain-energy makes the decision and controls the movement of the muscle-pulleys and bone-levers of your arm, your hand, and your fingers. The energy used to turn a page is the same energy that created the book, down through centuries of time.

And it all comes down to the effective use of human energy, which operates according to certain natural laws, such as, your decision to turn the page released the energy to do it. Your will controlled the use of that energy...nothing else can control it. The decision to act and the action itself are always under your own control.

Half the week is gone! I'm sure you have accomplished a lot this week and I'm very proud of you.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some Thoughts from "The Mainspring of Human Progress"

Progress! We all want to make some progress, don't we? One of the most interesting books I've ever read was written by Henry Grady Weaver titled "The Mainspring of Human Progress." He had read Rose Wilder Lane's book "The Discovery of Freedom" and asked her if he could use it. And he notes that his book is almost a condensation of hers. Her book is also fascinating.
I'll give you some of the information in the book and you can decide if you'd like to read it. I give you more, because of the questions addressed that we are all interested in answering.
The Questions
1) Why did men die of starvation for 6,000 years? Why is it that we in America have never had a famine?

2) Why did men walk and carry goods (and other men)on their straining backs for 6,000 years--then suddenly, on only a small part of the earth's surface, the forces of nature are harnessed to do the bidding of the humblest citizens?

3) Why did families live for 6,000 years in caves and floorless hovels, without windows or chimneys--then within a few generations, we in America take floors, rugs, chairs, tables, windows, and chimneys for granted and regard electric lights, refrigerators, running water, porcelain baths, and toilets as common necessities?

4) Why did men, women, and children eke out their meager existence for 6,000 years, toiling desperately from dawn to dark--barefoot, half-naked, unwashed, unshaved, uncombed, with lousy hair, mangy skins, and rotting teeth--then suddenly, in one place on earth there is an abundance of such things as rayon underwear, nylon hose, shower baths, safety razors, ice cream sodas, lipsticks, and permanent waves?

What Are the Anwers?

It's incredible, if we would but pause to reflect! Swiftly, in less than a hundred years, Americans have conquered the darkness of night--from pine knots and candles to kerosene lamps, to gas jets; then to electric bulbs, neon lights, fluorescent tubes.

We have created wholly new and astounding defenses against weather--from fireplaces to stoves, furnaces, automatic burners, insulation, air conditioning.

We are conquering pain and disease, prolonging life, and resisting death itself--with anesthetics, surgery, sanitation, hygiene, dietetics.

We have made stupendous attacks on space--from ox-carts, rafts, and canoes to railroads, steamboats, streetcars, subways, automobiles, trucks, busses, airplanes--and attacks on time through telegraph, telephone, and radio. (I could add to that list. This book was first published in 1947.)

We have moved from backbreaking drudgery into the modern age of power, substituting steam, electricity, and gasoline for the brawn of man; and today the nuclear physicist is taking over and finding ways for subduing to human uses the infinitesimally tiny atom--tapping a new source of power so vast that it bids fair to dwarf anything that has gone before.

It is true that many of these developments originated in other countries. But new ideas are of little value in raising standards of living unless and until something is done about them. The plain fact is that we in America have outdistanced the world in extending the benefits of inventions and discoveries to the vast majority of people in all walks of life.

This is Tuesday and you are already having a good week! Great! I'll give you more of this tomorrow.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Challah: A Delicious Bread & A Jewish Tradition

MMMMMonday is here! And I seem to share recipes on Mondays. So here goes.

Yes, I made this challah. I made it especially for Christmas, putting two loaves into one. And I'll tell you what made me decide to make it the very first time. I watch Food Network and enjoy a show called "Follow that Food." The food for the day was mushrooms, and the host was in Australia to show us a chef who was making a real Australian breakfast.

It consisted of brioche, a very rich French bread with eggs, sugar, butter and milk. The mushrooms and onions are sauteed together, a little fresh basil is added before putting it over the brioche. It sounded delicious to me, and I wanted to make it, but I didn't want to eat all that rich brioche. I remembered another egg bread that wasn't so rich--challah. Challah is an egg bread, but it is made with water, a little vegetable oil, and eggs. Only 2 tablespoons of sugar. So I looked and found the following recipe in my King Arthur Flour Cookbook and made the dish. I have made it many times since, and it's very good. The cookbook has this to say about challah:

This bread is one whose origins lie deep in Jewish history. It is baked in many Jewish households on Friday night to welcome the Sabbath. The bread itself, while not overly sweet, is rich with eggs which make it golden in color and like the French Brioche, almost cake-like in texture. Because it is contrary to Jewish dietary laws to eat milk and meat together, this bread is usually made with water and a vegetable oil or shortening so it may be eaten with any meal. It is traditionally braided and sometimes sprinkled with poppy seeds.

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
wash made of 1 egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water
poppy seeds (optional)

Mixing: Pour the water into a mixing bowl, add and dissolve the sugar and then the yeast. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and let this work until bubbly and expanded, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, beat the eggs until light. Beat the vegetable oil into the eggs and then add this to the yeast mixture. Blend in the salt and 4 1/2 to 5 cups of flour and stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Kneading & Rising: Turn out onto a floured kneading surface and knead for 3 or 4 minutes, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. Give the dough a rest while you clean out and grease the bowl.

Knead the dough another 3 or 4 minutes, place it in the bowl, turning it so the top is greased. Cover and let it rise until it has doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Braiding & Rising: When you can poke your finger in the dough without it springing back, knock it down and turn it back out onto your floured kneading surface. Knead out any stray bubbles and let the dough rest for about 5 minutes.

Cut the dough in half and each half into 3 equal pieces. Roll these out until they're 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. You may need to let the dough relax from time to time.

Take 3 strands and braid them together and repeat for the second loaf. Pinch the ends together tightly. Place the braided loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover and let rise for about 1 hour.

Baking: Fifteen minutes before you want to bake your bread, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the surface of the loaves with the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds if you wish, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

If you have a large enough baking sheet, it's fun to bake this as one large braided loaf. (Which I did.) Increase your baking time by 10 to 15 minutes and reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. during the last 10 minutes of baking.

As you can see by the pictures, it turns out to be something to celebrate on any day, but on a holiday, it is especially festive. You can add raisins or make it round for a holiday. The round loaf represents the cycle of the year, and with the raisins and a brushing of honey, you'll have a perfect loaf for "a sweet new year." The round loaf in this picture is sprinkled with sesame seeds. Yum!

Today I decided to have two for a personal side and one for the Bible. I'm giving you the recipe for this bread, and I'll be putting more of the history of the bread on my Bible blog: I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up the two blogs, but I'll see how it goes. I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it as much as I and my family have.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living Stones: Sages Among Us

"Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?" Job 12:12

In Chapter 5 of "Meeting God in Quiet Places" F. LaGard Smith compares the beauty underneath all the dirt, ivy, grass, weeds and brambles on an old stone wall after it is cleared, to uncovering gifts and talents--he calls them "gemstones of character"--within every person. We tend to be shallow when it comes to looking for treasures in other people.
When you see an old person--perhaps not even a very attractive old person--have you thought about what that old person might have learned in their life? When you think of the tales an old stone wall could tell, and as we say, "If only stones could talk," you might remember that old people are living stones that have a lot to say: not only have they seen it all, but they still have the ability to get back to basics and true values.
It's what I call my lifetime of learning, so that I can share wisdom with others. As I've said repeatedly: I enjoy being older because I have finally learned to do some things well. And I've learned not to try to run other people's lives. Yes, I fail sometimes, but I'm aware that I shouldn't do it, and back off sooner. Now I'm able to see "through" things and don't take them at face value.
And that's what LaGard is saying here: many people have trouble letting their inner beauty show. Circumstances beyond their control, such as child abuse, or an alcoholic parent, or an abused wife, who has spent most of her marriage trying to cope--all hide the inner beauty of people in your life. These people have a story to tell. I have a story to tell. You have a story to tell. Painful--yes. Scarring--yes. Blighting--yes. So blighting of your true value, that it's hidden beneath briars and brambles. Only One can uncover your true self.
Only Jesus can bring out your true beauty. It was something He specialized in. Whether Jesus was talking to a hated tax collector, a beggar, a cripple, or even a prostitute, each person was important, and each person had a story to tell. Each person had wounds to heal and sins to be forgiven. Shame--yes. Guilt--yes. But that is what Jesus came to do! He came to take away the guilt and sin. Jesus saw through their suffering to their penitent heart.
Once a person had been with Jesus, they were never the same. Not only was their body transformed, but their mind and spirit. Would they ever have a lapse in faith? Yes. Would they ever need to renew their faith and weed out the evil thoughts and deeds? Yes. But the difference would be that they would never again completely give in to the ways of the world. And now they knew where to turn for the reassurance to go on.
It's one thing to uncover an old stone wall. And while it's worth doing and is gratifying, think how much more wonderful it is to uncover the beauty that is hidden all around you! If you had the eyes of Jesus, you too could see the people around you with His eyes. You could touch the hearts of those who are forgotten, because their problems isolate them. It is just those people who need to feel a sense of belonging. It is just those people who want to feel useful and get a bit of encouragement from you. And many times, that is all they need to move on.
Then what happens? When you allow the love of Jesus to move through you to others, YOU are never the same. You will blossom as well! This beautiful hymn says it all:

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
May His Spirit divine all my being refine;
Let the beauty of Jeus be seen in me.
George L. Johnson
Will you see things in yourself that you must keep weeding out? Yes. But have you noticed a big difference since you took the time to clear out most of the debris? I believe you'll say YES!
The attention you give to your spiritual life makes a difference in the beauty that is seen by other people. And eventually by you, looking at yourself. Unlikely people can be shown to be so much more than you ever imagined. Look at unlikely people and see if you can uncover their story and their beauty. You'll be adding gems to your collection!
If you're feeling disconnected, it is simply your own lack at the moment. God is waiting for you to approach Him! He will reward you with His healing warmth.
This blog is dedicated to my grand-daughter-in-law, Jill, because she read the blog "Church Bells: Reminders of Holiness" and said she wanted to feel holier. I believe this blog will help her--and all of us--to do that.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

A No Brainer

 I read an article in a paper today that is by Barbara Strauch, deputy science editor at the New York Times and author of "The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain." I thought it sounded very interesting for those of us who are creeping toward old age...did I say creeping? Flying! is the article.

For years, scientists thought our brains lost as much as 30 percent of their neurons as we got older, an idea that led researchers to largely ignore the brain as it aged. After all, why waste time researching something that was going to decay on schedule no matter what we did?

Now, new research shows that, in fact, we keep most of our brain cells for as long as we live. This means that the quest for ways to maintain those cells is now being taken up in earnest. But as this idea has emerged, so has the hype. We are bombarded with ads and articles telling us to eat blueberries, drink red wine, do crossword puzzles. Does any of it work?

Luckily, science is beginning to sort out the beneficial from the bogus. And there are a few things that do make a difference. {Here I'm leaving out the material about diet, because it ends by saying that eating a healthy, varied diet remains the best advice.}

The current star in brain science research is exercise. The brain is much like the heart. It needs oxygen and blood flow. Not only does exercise pump blood through our brain's blood vessels, but it also prompts the creation of new brain cells, even at older ages.

Scientists at Columbia University and elsewhere have watched the birth of new cells in the brains of animals and humans who have exercised vigorously. Although it's still unclear what the new brain cells do, a leading neuroscientist, Fred Gage of the Salk Institute in San Diego, believes they help us better integrate and cope with the new--from ideas to places to people--and may even help ward off depression.

We now know that crossword puzzles are not enough. To keep our brains sharp, we need to move beyond just recalling information we know (the main activity with crossword puzzles) and instead push our brains to actively embrace the new, an effort that will create and nourish new brain connections. That means anything that gets us out of our comfort zones: making new friends, learning to play the cello, taking a new route to work, even confronting ideas and people you disagree with. To stretch our grown-up brains, we have to present them with "disorienting dilemmas"--concepts that challenge our view of the world, says one Columbia University Teachers College researcher.

By middle age, we've all developed millions of connected pathways in our brains. These well-worn paths can help us size up familiar situations and actually reach solutions faster than our younger peers. But if we always use the same routes to process information, our brains may not get the stimulation they need to flourish. We need to, as one brain scientist puts it, "shake up the cognitive" egg and force ourselves to seek in new directions.

This is something I found interesting and hope you will too. I, for one, am very thankful to have the use of my brain to connect with all of you! Tomorrow is Saturday as you know, and I hope you all have a lovely day with the family.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Who Wrote the "The Thirty-Nine Steps?"

Yes, you're right! It was John Buchan. And although I'm more interested in his writing than his life, his life reflects the talented man who wrote the books. I'll give you some information about him, so you'll see what I mean. I think a few facts will show you that he was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life--a Renaissance man, who used his many talents to good purpose.
1) John Buchan lived from 1875-1940. Son of a Calvinist presbyterian minister in eastern Scotland.
2) Classicist at Oxford.
3) Read for the bar, but never practiced as a barrister.
4) Government administrator in South Africa after the Boer War.
5) Editor of "The Spectator."
6) War correspondent for "The Times."
7) Member of Parliament for the Scottish Universities.
8) A Director of Reuters.
9)A director of Thomas Nelson Publishing House
10) His Majesty's High Commissioner General Assembly of the     Church of Scotland twice.
11) Wrote over 100 books

Only 40 of Buchan's books are fiction, the most famous of which is "The Thirty-Nine Steps." It was his 17th published work. It was very successful, and he became a best-selling writer of thrillers and adventures for another 20 years, publishing 29 novels in all, as well as nine collections of essays and short stories, and nine biographies. He also wrote historical novels, historical studies, and a textbook for accountants, "The Law according to the Taxation of Foreign Income." Are you impressed yet?
"The Thirty-Nine Steps" was followed by other novels with the hero Richard Hannay: "Greenmantle," "Mr. Standfast," "The Three Hostages, and " The Island of Sheep." Penguin Books has published "The Complete Richard Hannay," which has all of these novels in one book. Buchan wrote to his friend, Thomas Arthur Nelson, saying that he wanted to dedicate "The Thirty-Nine Steps" to him:

"My Dear Tommy, You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the 'dime novel" and which we know as the 'shocker'--the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myself. This little volume is the result, and I should like to put your name on it in memory of our long friendship, in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than the facts. JB"
The novels are absolutely riveting. I read them after watching "The Thirty-Nine Steps" on PBS. In my opinion, it was a wonderful version, and I got the Penguin book to see if the adventures continued in such fantastic form. And they do! Many people reviewing the movie on Amazon's site didn't like the PBS version, but maybe they hadn't read all the novels, and didn't realize the PBS version has elements from all of the Richard Hannay novels. But if you've read the novels, you might be confused by how early the female interest is brought in and some other things that were switched around or changed. Unlike many people, I didn't like the Alfred Hitchock version of "The Thirty-Nine Steps"...titled "The 39 Steps" where two actors go from one frenetic scene to another. Perhaps I'm too nervy myself!
Leaving the movie versions, I'll say that from the time I began reading the first novel, I was hooked! I couldn't put the book down, and ended up reading all 5 of them, one after another. And you can ask anyone who knows me...I don't read novels! But I will say, you must be ready for more difficult reading because of the time period in which it was written, and some unfamiliar words, Scottish in origin, but filled with mysterious connotation.
John Buchan married into the minor aristocracy, had 4 children, and was made a Baron on receiving the appointment of Governor-General of Canada in 1935. He died in 1940 as Lord Tweedsmuir, who had been very popular while serving Canada, and will always and most especially be remembered for "The Thirty-Nine Steps." I hope you'll take time to look at not only Buchan's novels, but all of his works. I think you'll be pleasantly engrossed for a long time.
Thankfully, it's Friday! I hope all of you have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Walking at Home with Leslie Sansone

I love to walk, but don't always want to get out the door for one reason or another. So I was happy when I came across Leslie Sansone. I started out with Leslie Sansone's books, which talk about walking and changing your diet--really good. Then I saw these DVDs on a shopping network and decided that it would be nice to have them for support with my walking routine. And they are really fun and easy to follow, and she gives instructions in regard to those with limitations.

The set I got from either QVC or HSN has four cases with 7 different DVDs. You start off with 1-mile walks in a room with a group of women who are in Leslie's class. The music starts and she warms you up with movement, then goes into a full walk in place. The really nice part is that she started this class because so many older people had to stop walking when the weather was bad or cold. It grew from there--and for good reason!

The next DVD has a 2-mile walk, which I still haven't done. I recently had a long bout with sciatica that still isn't completely resolved. But I'm looking forward to working with all these DVDs and going from the 1-mile to the 2-mile. Then there's the 3-mile with boost cables if you want to use them, and the 4-mile with the boost cables. And in each DVD, I believe, there is a segment with Leslie talking about what you eat and how to burn it off. I've optimistically bought some light hikers, so wish me luck as I get the courage to join Leslie and her class of walkers. The music is nice and the time flies by as you follow the routine. The 1-mile walk is about 20 minutes, and, if nothing else, gets your system reved up for the day!

Leslie's books and DVDs are on But please read the reviews! There's no better indicator than the people who have used them. One of her books that I have is: "Walk Away the Pounds," which has a DVD with it; and another is: "Eat Smart, Walk Strong," which has over 80 delicious recipes included.

So if you're so inclined, or better yet, if you're not so inclined, but need to stretch yourself in more ways than one--get up and enjoy the pleasure of moving your body. You'll be healthier and happier, and your family will be happier with you!

Have a great Thursday!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Italian-Style Chicken

This is a recipe for chicken that I think you'll like for its taste as well as its easy preparation. It comes from the "French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook" and Mireille doesn't mess around when it comes to good food made easy.
And best of all for me are those lovely olives that I keep going on about! You may know that the Italians use different ingredients depending on the area where they live. A recipe for spaghetti can take on a completely different character if it is from northern Italy or southern Italy. And there are many "states" in between. I don't know which area this recipe comes from, and I don't think it matters to Americans who just love Italian food of every kind.

Italian-Style Chicken Serves 4
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (5-6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, drained and chopped
8 black olives, pitted and quartered
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sauteed spinach for serving


1) Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt an pepper and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

2) Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons water and reduce until syrupy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the
tomatoes, olives, capers, and chicken and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Correct the season and add the cayenne. Serve immediately over spinach sauteed with garlic and lemon.

Voila! Fast, easy and delicious. I have been buying fresh produce from an organic farm--Los Poblanos--that also sells organic frozen chicken breasts from Organic Prairie, a part of the Organic Valley group of farms. So I'm looking forward to making this dish with them. They are so fresh-tasting and convenient for me to use. And they deliver free of charge! Love it.

That's it for today. I hope your week is going very well for you.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

10 Things You May Not Know About Your Body

Psalm 139:13-14 David says: "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
I'm searching through my books to share with you some of the ones that made me sit up in amusement or curiosity, or added something to my life. When I saw the book "Fearfully & Wonderfully Made," I was reminded of the amazing facts I first read about our bodies that were given by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. The intent of the book is to increase our faith, help us to appreciate God's creation, and help us connect once again to the physical world around us.

Here, I'm going to give you 10 things to get you thinking more about your Creator. This list is so minor that I will revisit this book. Quoting from Yancy's introduction: "Hopefully, the book will also offer insight into the mysterious, organic relationship that exists among the people of God. New Testament writers kept drifting back to a single metaphor to express this relationship: the Body of Christ." Dr. Brand says: "I recall the apostle Paul's use of analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul compares the church of Christ to the human body." 
Here you can see what is meant by the many wonders of the body:
1) The body is one unit, though it is made up of many cells, and though all its cells are many, they form one body.

2) The human body grows from the fertilization of a single egg. It is a miracle that a sperm and egg combine in a process that results in a human being.

3) Over nine months the cells divide up functions in exquisite ways: billions of blood cells appear, millions of rods and cones--in all, up to one hundred million million cells form from a single fertilized ovum. Then a baby is born!

4) The small bones in your foot are half the width of a pencil, and yet they support your weight when you're walking.

5) The familiar "seashell" sound when you cup your hand over your ear is actually the sound of blood cells rushing through the capillaries in your head.

6) Your arm has millions of muscle cells expanding and contracting together.

7) Rubbing a finger across your arm will allow you to feel the stimulation of touch cells, 450 of them in one-square-inch patch of skin.

8) Your stomach, spleen, liver, pancreas, and kidneys are packed with loyal cells, working so efficiently that you don't perceive their presence.

9) Fine hairs in your inner ear are monitoring a swishing fluid, ready to alert you if you suddenly tilt off balance.

10) There are nerves for pain and cold and heat and touch, but no nerve gives a sensation of pleasure. Pleasure appears as a by-product of cooperation by many cells.

These 10 facts were taken directly from the book for you to contemplate. Cells specialize and cooperate with each other in order for life to exist. And, as Dr. Brand says, the church of Christ should be doing the same thing. The first step is to understand our Creator's wondrous gifts & blessings within our own bodies!

What do you think of this quotation from Philip Slater, a sociologist? I am quoting it here because the point of this book is that through science and technology, we have gotten away from our connection with nature and so with God. Understanding nature's amazing characteristics allows us to have awe and respect, as well as connection, with our Creator.  Slater says: 

"An enormous technology seems to have set itself the task of making it unnecesary for one human being ever to ask anything of another in the course of going about his daily business. We seek more and more privacy, and feel more and more alienated and lonely when we get it."

Something to think about! Everyone should take time to contemplate these things. It's for the good of ourselves and our families.

Blessings to you all...Mimi

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Cream Biscuit Recipe for Monday!

I can't believe it either! It's Monday again! I seem to give out recipes on Monday. After the long blog on Sunday, I suppose a shorter one is in order. One of the recipes I've used for many years--a treat in every way--is Cream Biscuits. I pulled out James Beard's American Cookery and wondered how many of you know of him. This cookbook came out in 1972, and I bought it in 1975. I was fascinated by the a column in a magazine, telling the cook all about the recipe--where it came from and how to go about making it.
But I can't say that I've used very many of the recipes from the cookbook. I have chosen a few favorites and moved on. This recipe seemed to be a quick and delicious change from regular biscuits and saved just a little time--enough that I think of it when I'm in a hurry. The basic recipe is for Baking Powder Biscuits and is on page 793, but there is a little twist that takes it up a level in taste and quality.

Cream Biscuits

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4-1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt (and sugar if used) into a bowl. Add the milk and cream and stir quickly until the dough clings together. Turn out on a floured board, knead a few times, and pat or roll out 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a floured cutter 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Place on a buttered cookie sheet, or, if you like biscuits crisp on top and bottom and soft in the center, place in a buttered 9X9 inch pan. Bake at 450 degrees 12 to 15 minutes, or until light and brown.
Note: For richer biscuits, turn each one in a bowl or pan of melted butter before placing on the baking sheet. To make Baking Powder Biscuits, substitute 1/4 cup shortening for the cream and cut it quite finely into the flour mixture.

If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, this recipe should cheer you up and make life brighter. So have a good Monday!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Church Bells: Reminders of Holiness

"Among those who approach me I will show myself holy." Leviticus 10:3
In today's parable from Chapter 4 of Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith, he equates the ringing of bells to holiness. I looked at info about church bells and church towers in England. There are around 160,000 bell towers in England. In fact, most villages have bells in the church tower to tell the villagers that something important has happened. Births, deaths, weddings, and times of peace after a war are all cause for ringing the bells.

Some of the bells are over 10 feet in diameter and very heavy, weighing tons. And in England, there must be bell ringers who have practiced the art of "change-ringing." This style of ringing dates back at least 3 centuries. {The series All Creatures Great and Small had some episodes of a group meeting to practice their change-ringing.} The bell ringers are proud to pull the ropes of the bells perfectly.
But what has this to do with holiness? LaGard tells us that bells are mentioned only twice in the Bible. The garments of Aaron the high priest were sacred and included a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a tunic, a turban, and a sash. Instructions for making the robe say that it shall be made of blue cloth with pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn around the bottom of the robe with gold bells alternating between them. Aaron wore it when he ministered as a priest before God in the Holy Place. The explanation for the bells is: "Their sound will be heard when the priest enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die." DIE???!!! The tiny golden bells were a matter of life and death!

How could this be? Because the high priest was the only mortal man who went into the presence of the God of all creation. Anyone else entering would die. It seems the bells were to announce the coming of the priest before the Lord--the unholy one before the Holy One.

It was 1,000 years later when Zechariah prophecied about the day the Savior of the world would revolutionize the nature of worship before God. Zechariah says: "On that day, 'Holy to the Lord' will be inscribed on the bells of horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar." What a dramatic change from tiny golden bells on a robe to bells on horses! How could there be such a shift in attitude with the enormous
"holiness gap."

We don't understand all the underlying meanings, but the message for us is clear. If you have ever felt that you aren't worthy of being loved by God, or felt at such a distance from Him that He doesn't even care you exist, or that your guilt is too great for Him to cover, then read on.

I quote LaGard: "The good news is that, with the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, we are no longer kept at arm's length from God." Christ has himself completed the work of the high priest, bringing our guilt and unworthiness before God. He offered himself as the sacrifice, and while we are unworthy, He is worthy for us. Where we are unholy, He is the holy Lamb of God. This means that Jesus has given you and me unlimited access to God. You can reach out and touch God. AND...because of the cross... God has reached out and touched you!

The moment of Jesus' death, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." This "curtain of separation" is no longer between you and God. Through Jesus, you can now approach the throne of heaven--an act that could not happen when Aaron was high priest.

LaGard says: Jesus is our announcement, like the bells announced the priest. In one single hour of history, His crucifixion became the greatest moment of mourning, celebration and peace ever witnessed by humankind.
Jesus' death was the loudest anthem of bell-ringing the world has ever heard!
Please take these words into your heart and change your life for the better.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Puzzler for You: J.R.R. Tolkien

Who is this man? (Love the wool jacket!)
He is J.R.R Tolkien (1892-1973), a good friend of C. S. Lewis.

His chief interest: Literary and linguistic aspects of the early English written tradition, especially Beowulf, the Ancrene Wisse, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but even as he studied these classics, he was creating a set of his own.
MY QUESTION IS: In which of Tolkien's books is the following quotation found? Who said it and who was it about? The Hobbit, published in 1937, catapulted him to fame and gave rise to other major works, including The Lord of the Rings. To date, Professor Tolkien's works have been translated into 25 languages. It has reached and entranced some 12 million readers.

"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."
It should sound familiar to many of you--you've seen the movie, I'm sure. And I know that some of you have read the book! Please let me hear from you, if you think you know. I know you don't want to think on a weekend, but your brain will thank you for it. And I will thank you for it!

This book is in the Fantasy category. Here is what C. S. Lewis had to say about it: "No imaginary world has been projected which is at once so multifarious and so true...Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." Who doesn't enjoy everything Lewis has to say???

I will say that my area of emphasis in college was the Medieval Period, and I wrote a paper for Dr. Connelly in English at Middle Tennessee State U. on "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." I think it's the best paper I ever wrote, and if I can find it, I'll share part of it with you. I think I said in my intro that I began college work at age 33, so it was serious business to me.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend with the family, and give some time to thinking about your Maker, your Savior, the Holy Spirit, and all your Blessings!

Blessings to all of you...Mimi

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quick Rosemary, Asiago & Olive Bread

Good morning! I'm taking a break from the Old Testament today to give you a recipe for what appears to be a delicious bread. I'm a big fan of King Arthur Flour's catalog, as well as their cookbooks. I received their catalog yesterday and saw this QUICK bread recipe that looks delicious. Of course, you can substitute ingredients--like the Asiago cheese with sharp cheddar cheese--or the rosemary with your favorite herb flavor. You can even choose black or green olives or both. Lots of choices and a quick mix up. Have a tomato or vegetable soup and Voila! You've got a delicious meal.

If you've never seen the King Arthur Flour catalog and you love to cook, you're in for a treat. They have everything (almost) you would want to bake in. And also all kinds of flours. Their newest addition is gluten-free flour and mixes, such as: a bread mix, a pizza crust mix, a brownie mix, a pancake mix, a muffin mix, a cookie mix, and a chocolate cake mix. The gluten-free flour is a multi-purpose one with white and whole grain (brown) rice flours, tapioca starch, and potato starch. You can check out this company and their catalog online too: Very nice site! Now to the recipe. The picture is the actual bread from their site.

Rosemary, Asiago & Olive Bread

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1/4 cup Vermont cheddar cheese powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh or dried rosemary, snipped into small pieces
1 cup grated Asiago or sharp cheddar cheese, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
1/3 cup fresh parsley, cilantro, or green onion, finely chopped
1 cup olives, drained and chopped (black, green or a combination)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9"X5" loaf pan, or 3 mini loaf pans.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl until well-blended. Toss in the cheese, herbs or onion, and olives.
In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, oil, and eggs until foamy. Stir into the flour mixture, then spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated cheese.

Bake the bread for 55 to 60 minutes (30-35 for mini loaves), until a tester inserted into the middle of the load comes out clean. Remove it from the oven, and after 10 minutes, turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
Yield: 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves.

YUM! And as Ina Garten--The Barefoot Contessa--would say:
How easy is that?!!!

I'm off to get ready for lunch with my friend, Alice, today at Cracker Barrel. We're both from Tennessee, so feel like we're going home when we eat there. Have a great day!