Street corn chicken

Inspired by Mexican street food, this chicken bake is bursting with flavor! Baked with just a few simple ingredients and ready in just 35 minutes, this recipe may just become one of your new go-to’s. Serve with a simple salad, rice and beans, or tortillas!


Ingredients

• 4 chicken breasts • salt • 1 tablespoon chili powder • 8-ounce corn, drained (half of 15-ounce can) • 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed • 1 tablespoon chili powder • 4 oz cotija cheese crumbled (substitute feta if you can’t find cotija) • 3 green onions, chopped (optional) 


Directions

Step 1

Set your oven to 375 degrees F. Step 2

Add your chicken breasts to a medium casserole dish. Top with seasonings. Then, add corn and black beans. Add a little more chili powder. Step 3

Crumble your Cotija. Top the contents of the casserole dish with the crumbled cheese.Step 4

Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The chicken should be fully cooked through. Recommended internal temperature is 165 degrees F.Step 5

Remove from oven. Top with optional green onions for a garnish.

Deli Salad

What You’ll Need

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 6 (1-ounce) slices provolone cheese, cut into strips
  • 6 ounces Genoa salami, cut into strips
  • 1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and cut
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips
  • 1 (5.75-ounce) can large pitted black olives, drained
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar peperoncini, drained
  • 2 1/2 cups prepared vinaigrette dressing

What to Do

  1. Wash and dry lettuce and tomatoes then cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in a very large mixing bowl with remaining ingredients except dressing; toss to mix well.
  2. Pour desired amount of dressing over salad; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Icebox Salad

What You’ll Need

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (9-ounce) package frozen green peas, thawed and drained
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (3-ounce) container real bacon bits

What to Do

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and garlic powder; mix well.
  2. In a large glass bowl, layer half the lettuce, bell pepper, onion, peas, celery, mayonnaise mixture, and cheese. Repeat layers once more then top with bacon bits.
  3. Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving. Toss just before serving.

Notes

  • Using a trifle dish or large glass bowl with straight sides allows us to see all the colorful layers of this salad.

The Grapes of Wrath in 1962By Chris Rosati

When I was about 10 years old, my family lived on an older road in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. Behind our home was a dead-end alley, and beyond that was a farmhouse with a large field.Our group of neighborhood kids-nine girls and three boys-must have looked like urchins to the old man living alone in the big farmhouse. We were constantly playing in the dirt and temporarily lose our shoes, to our parents’ chagrin.While we “hung out and stuff” in the quiet alley, we’d watch the man’s large rows of grapevines mature into fountains of desirable fruit.On one particularly hot summer day, watching wasn’t good enough. We threw our collective conscience to the wind and Snuck over to the grapevines, where we hurriedly broke some branches off ? but not quickly enough.A booming, deep voice came at us from out of the clear, blue sky, “Hey, what are you kids doing there in the grapevines? Get out of there right now!”We headed for hiding as fast as our feet could carry us, the girls huddling together to watch the sky for the face belonging to the giant voice.One of the girls finally said, “That was God! He knows we stole the grapes, and now we’re all going straight to hell!” In only a moment, we also realized that our parents most likely heard God’s loud voice, too, and hell took a backseat to our new fears.Finally, one of the boys, after scoping out the area and becoming annoyed with the “sissy girls,” said, “Nah! Look up at the back window of the farmhouse.” He pointed out a loudspeaker mounted on the windowsill and explained that the man who lived there was a signalman for the railroad that ran right past his house.We all breathed a sigh of relief, until we thought of our parents again. But apparently, our parents hadn’t heard the booming voice after all.The next day, the man from the farmhouse came to the alley with a paper bag and called out to us, “Hey, you kids, come over here!” We were all shivering a bit now, but we approached the man as a group.”Here’s some grapes for each of you,” the old man said. “Next time, ask me for grapes; don’t steal them.”He went on to explain that we could easily and permanently damage the vines. We voiced many repentances and thank-yous before the man returned home, leaving us to those wonderful gifts of nectar.We never helped ourselves to grapes again, nor did we ever muster the nerve to ask for more grapes. But every once in a while, the old man would call us over and hand us a bag full of the fruit, plenty for us all and then some. It’s one of the fondest memories from my childhood summers.

MY FIRST FRIEND By Beth Fryer

Don’t know what brought him to mind. I was doing the laundry and he just flew into my mind. I thoughtAgain about sending him a note or giving him a call. But that would beGoofy, I suppose. Guess he’d think I was pretty crazy. I’d thought aboutDoing that before, but always figured it was a goofy idea. He was my first friend. He lived next door to me back in the fifties when life was new andFresh and summer mornings woke up slowly, with my mom and his mom chattingAcross the fence below my bedroom window. He had a family that spannedGenerations — his oldest sister was only a year or two younger than myParents, he was a year and a half younger than I was. And he had a brotherAnd four other sisters in between, and many of those sisters played with usAnd took us for popsicles. Life was simple and grand. We spent lots of time on the swings in my yard. Eating purple grapesOn our vine and the green ones on his. Visiting his grandmother who livedOn the other side of the double home that was his. She always had HersheyBars for us and they were always in the refrigerator! And that’s the bestWay. Even now. You remember the things you did with first friends. Like openingUmbrellas in his living room and pretending we were camping. That was ourTent, and we always figured our parakeet was camping with us in that littleCage the umbrella has at the top! And the fish worm farms. What fun it was to dig deep holes andCollect the fish worms. I can only imagine how his mom felt about the factThat we then housed them in her basement. Needless to say, they neverLasted long there! But bless her heart, it wasn’t because SHE said get ridOf them… It was because fish worms don’t live very long in basements! I had a little blue car with pedals. He had a little red fire engine.We’d ride all the way to the other end of the street, over and over.Years later, a woman who lived at that end of the street reminisced aboutHearing us, parked in our little cars, discussing getting married some day. But that didn’t happen, of course. I went to school two years beforeHe did. We made friends of our own gender and our own grades. But I’dFollow the changing music choices coming from his bedroom across theSidewalks from mine, and sometimes we’d talk across those windows from eachOther. And summer nights every now and again, we’d sit in our back yardsAnd remember. I suppose we were young adults the last time that happened. And hisParents died, and mine moved away, and then so did he. And I moved 35Miles and a lifetime away from that town, and we lost touch. He neverMarried, and I don’t know what he did with his life. I married, divorced,Doted on my daughter and her family, and taught in an elementary school. And every now and then, I thought about contacting him. On Thursday, my dad told me. Paulie died. I thought of him last Tuesday. He was my first friend.

APRONS

Living on the farm and raising my four boys was a delight for me. I used to spend afternoons in the kitchen, making apple and cherryPies for my hungry crew. I remember one day when I was up to my elbows inFlour when my second oldest son came in, looked at me and asked, “Why areYou wearing that thing?” He was referring to my red and white striped apron. I didn’t wear one that often, but there were times when one wasNeeded. Making pie crusts from scratch or making cookies were among thoseTimes. My aprons were all made in similar fashion. They were cut from theSame pattern, but these were very special. You see, each one was made whenMy sons reached eighth grade. Each boy in that class had one specialproject to complete and that was to put together an apron. Each wasUniquely finished and I still treasure them. One is a royal blue. Its special feature is the button that sits aLittle low. The red and white apron has a unique tie. A hole was cut inThe side of the apron and the end of the tie simply knotted through. TheThird was a denim blue with its pieces cut a bit jagged. The last is justA red one, my favorite color, but not finished. Each one is so special andI still wear one to this day. No one seems to wear aprons anymore. Yes, you can see them on theChefs in each restaurant and at all the fast food places and pizzaEstablishments, but you don’t see them in the kitchens of today’s homes. I think my mother wore one every day she spent in the kitchen. I Ever remember her being there without one of her terry clothCreations. I can see her frying chicken for us, wiping the sweat off herBrow as she stood over the hot stove. A real trooper! I’ve never tastedchicken as good. I can still see her wringing her hands on the apron asShe stood at the phone hearing some bad news about the neighbor. I canRemember going to her apron on the day I broke my collar bone ridingHorses. She dried my tears and comforted me. That comfort was extendedMany times as I was growing up and still today. That apron was alwaysThere. Maybe in the future we’ll go to a museum and see a fascinatingArtifact through a glass window. It will be called an apron. The Will read something like this: a piece of cloth or leatherWorn on the forepart of the body to keep the clothes clean or defend aPerson from injury. In the early days it was used to dry the tearful eyesOf troubled youngsters and often became a source of solace. Worn from theEarliest part of creation until the early twentieth century. These are nowNon-existent. It may not seem important, but in truth our use of the apron is fadingAway. It’s sad to me. It is just a simple piece of cloth, but I can’thelp thinking of its significance — the pilgrims, Florence Nightengale,The pioneers, Aunt Bea, Dennis the Menace’s mother, Mrs. Wilson, my motherAnd grandmother. Will it someday become extinct like the dinosaurs? WhatDo you think? Now that I’m a grandmother, there are times when I still slip my apronOn and stir up big beautiful meals in my little kitchen. Instead of mySons, it is now their precious little ones who run to me with their tears.Those tears are buried in the folds of my apron and sealed over with myHugs and kisses. I hope that someday they will look back and remember the softness ofMy apron. — Mary Frank

Colorful Shades Of Gray

Moths are very ugly creatures. At least that is what IAlways thought until a reliable source told meOtherwise. When I was about five or six years old, myBrother Joseph and I stayed overnight at our AuntLinda’s house, our favorite relative. She spoke to us Like adults, and she always had the best stories.Joseph was only four years old, and still afraid of the Dark, so Aunt Linda left the door open and the hall Light on when she tucked us in to bed. Joe couldn’t Sleep, so he just lay there staring at the ceiling. JustAs I dozed off to sleep, he woke me up and asked, Jennie, what are those ugly things near the light?(I had always liked that he asked me questions Because I was older and supposed to know theAnswers. I didn’t always know the answers, of course, But I could always pretend I did.) He was pointing to The moths fluttering around the hall light. They’re Just moths, go to sleep, I told him.He wasn’t content with that answer, or the moths Near his night light, so the next time my Aunt Walked by the door he asked her to make the ugly Moths go away. When she asked why, he said simply, Because they’re ugly and scary, and I don’t like Them!She just laughed, rubbed his head, and said, Joe Just because something is ugly outside doesn’t Mean it’s not beautiful inside. Do you know why Moths are brown? Joe just shook his head.Moths are the most beautiful animals in the Animal kingdom. At one time they were more Colorful than the butterflies. They have always Been helpful, kind, and generous creatures. One Day the angels up in heaven were crying. They Were sad because it was cloudy and they couldn’t Look down upon the people on earth. Their tears Fell down to the earth as rain. The sweet little Moths hated to see everyone so sad. They decided To make a rainbow. The moths figured that if they Asked their cousins, the butterflies, to help, they Could all give up just a little bit of their colors and They could make a beautiful rainbow.One of the littlest moths flew to ask the queen of The butterflies for help. The butterflies were too Vain and selfish to give up any of their colors for Neither the people nor the angels. So, the mothsDecided to try to make the rainbow themselves. They beat their wings very hard and the powder On them formed little clouds that the winds Smoothed over like glass. Unfortunately, the Rainbow wasn’t big enough so the moths kept Giving a little more and a little more until the Rainbow stretched all the way across the sky. They had given away all their color except brown, Which didn’t fit into their beautiful rainbow.Now the once colorful moths were plain and brown. The angels up in heaven saw the rainbow, and Became joyous. They smiled and the warmth of Their smiles shown down on the earth as sunshine.The warm sunshine made the people on earth Happy and they smiled, too. Now every time it Rains the baby moths, who still have their colors, Spread them across the sky to make more Rainbows.My brother sank off to sleep with that story and Hasn’t feared moths since. The story my aunt told Us had been gathering dust in the back corners of My brain for years, but recently came back to me.I have a friend named Abigail who always wears Gray clothes. She is also one of the most kind and Generous people I’ve ever met. When people ask Her why she doesn’t wear more colors she justSmiles, that smile, and says, Gray is my color. She knows herself and she doesn’t compromise That to appease other people. Some may see her As plain like a moth, but I know that underneath The gray, Abigail is every color of the rainbow.

By Jennie Gratton

The atheist

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods. What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!” he said to himself. As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7 foot grizzly charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.At that instant the Atheist cried out: “Oh my God!…” Time stopped.The bear froze. The forest was silent. As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky: “You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don’t exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?” The atheist looked directly into the light, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps could you make the BEAR a Christian?” “Very well,” said the voice. The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and bowed his head and spoke: “Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”

A Heaven-Sent Message in His Recurring Dreams by Douglas Scott Clark

Blueprints for my next construction job were spread out on the kitchen table before me, but I couldn’t focus on them. My mind was on a different kitchen table, one I hadn’t seen in decades. “What are you thinking about?” my wife, Arbutis, asked me. She could always tell when my mind was somewhere else.

“I had that same dream again last night,” I said. “Night after night, the same dream.”

“The one about your grandmother?”

“That’s the one.” In the dream, I was sitting at Mamaw’s kitchen table. I recognized it right away. Growing up, I spent summers with Mamaw. In the dream I was alone at the table—or at least I seemed to be. I could hear Mamaw’s voice speaking to me, but she wasn’t there. It was troubling.

“Didn’t you and Mamaw used to sit together at that kitchen table at night?” Arbutis asked.

“We did,” I said. I remembered just how it started. I was seven years old, spending my first night by myself with my grandparents. Sometime after going to bed I woke up. I looked around the bedroom, lit by the soft glow of an old kerosene lamp outside the door. I heard a sound. Someone was in the kitchen.

I sat up and looked out the window at the star-filled sky. There wasn’t a hint of daylight. It must be the middle of the night, I thought.

From the kitchen, I heard someone speaking. It was Mamaw’s voice, but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. So I slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the kitchen door.

Mamaw was alone at the kitchen table, her hands folded as if in prayer. She was speaking, but when I poked my head into the kitchen, I couldn’t see anyone else there.

“Come in, child, and sit with me for a while,” Mamaw said.

I pulled up a chair and climbed into it. “Who are you talking to?”

“God,” Mamaw said, as if the answer was obvious.

“Does he listen?” I asked.

“Of course he listens. The creator will listen to all who call upon him in Jesus’ name.”

“Does he ever talk back?” I asked. I tried to imagine what Gods voice would sound like. It would probably be big and gruff, like a bear’s growl.

Mamaw gently touched the side of my face. “God doesn’t always speak in words,” she explained.

“If he doesn’t use words, how does he talk to you?” I asked.

“Sometimes his message may come in a dream or a feeling deep in your heart. That’s how he talks to me here in the kitchen.”

I looked around doubtfully. The kitchen seemed very big and dark so late at night. As if anything could be hiding, waiting to jump out and get me. Mamaw must have seen I was afraid, because she turned up the kerosene lamp to show me there was nothing there.

“Now I’m going to dim the lamp,” she said. “This can be our quiet time together.”

Mamaw lowered the flame to a soft glow, then blew it out completely. It was so dark I couldn’t see Mamaw. She might have disappeared completely. Then, out of the dark, I heard her voice. I didn’t speak Cherokee like my grandmother did, so I couldn’t make out what she was saying. But God understood all languages. The slow rhythm of her chant was like a lullaby, and I lay my head on my arms and fell asleep.

When the rooster woke me up the next morning, I was back in my room with sunlight streaming across my bed. Mamaw’s voice in the dark kitchen seemed like a dream, a wonderful dream. Had it really happened at all?

“It wasn’t a dream,” Mamaw assured me when I asked her about it. “You were with me last night during my quiet time with our creator, and then I walked you sleepily to bed.”

“If I promise that I can be still and not talk, could I share the quiet time with you again?”

“Nothing would make me happier,” she said.

For the rest of the summer, every morning before daylight Mamaw and I would sit at the kitchen table. She talked to God and I listened. Those times always filled me with peace.

But Mamaw was gone now. Gone from her prayer time at that kitchen table, gone from this world, gone from me. Maybe that’s why the dream I’d been having all week left me feeling so unsettled.

“If you really want to understand your dream,” Arbutis said as I rolled up my blueprints, “you should do what Mamaw would do. Get up before dawn and listen to God.”

Getting up before dawn wasn’t as easy these days as it was when I was a young boy. “You know what? I think I should get my rest instead of trying to talk to God,” I said.

Arbutis raised an eyebrow. “No one said you had to talk,” she said. “Just listen.”

So there I was the next morning, alone on the sun porch, darkness surrounding me like a black shroud, Venus shining brightly in the eastern sky.

“God, you know these dreams I have been having. The ones I just can’t understand. Just me alone in Mamaw’s kitchen. I hear her voice, but I’m still alone…”

I could almost see that kitchen, just the way it used to be. Mamaw should be there with me, I thought, closing my eyes. Listening.

A feeling of well-being passed through me, as gentle as a baby’s sigh. And I dreamed again, a daydream with Mamaw right there with me, dressed in white. She touched my face, just like she had all those years ago. I reached out for her, and though she faded from my vision she in no way faded “away.”

I blinked my eyes open to a bright morning sun. And deep in my heart I knew the message of my dream.

Mamaw was as close to me now as she was when we sat together praying at her kitchen table. She was still talking to God. And she wanted me to keep listening.

Refrigerator bread and butter pickles

  • 5½ cupsabout 1½ pounds thinly sliced (about ¼-inch) pickling cucumbers
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  1. Combine cucumbers and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1½ hours. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl and toss with the cucumbers.
  2. Combine the granulated sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and ground turmeric in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 month.

FEATHERED FIDELITY- Michael Smith

It’s a sad reality. All relationships start with love and promise, but all too often We see them weaken, crumble and finally fail. It’s too bad all relationships don’t go to the birds. I know that sounds strange, but read on. Many years ago, when I was just a young boy, a small yellow bird Hit our front door. When I looked outside, I saw its tiny, unmoving Body on our deck. I opened the door to see if it was just stunned, Or worse, dead. I was kneeling over it when my mom joined me. “Michael, I think it may be dead. I heard the bang on the Glass. It hit pretty hard.” “Mom, should we bury it?” “I’m not sure, Michael. When I first looked out I saw another Bird land beside it. It looked like it was trying to pick this one Up. I think we should let nature take care of this. Let’s put it on The roof of the car and see what happens.” We placed the unmoving, little bird on the roof of my dad’s car And went back into the house. From our living room window we watched as the bird’s mate flew To its side, carefully grip the back of the dead bird’s neck in it’s Tiny beak, and with a strength only love and devotion could provide, Lifted its mate in the air. It carried the body from the car, across the street, over the Meadow on the other side and into nearby trees. It flew only a few Feet off the ground. Sometimes it would get up to six feet high and Then the weight of its companion would pull it lower again. Its Struggle was great, but the desire not to be parted from its mate was Greater. Thirty-five years later, I stepped out of my home on a warm Summer morning. I looked toward my next door neighbor’s — we lived In attached townhouses — and noticed a single strand of a spider’s Web strung from the bush by the corner of their townhouse to the Wheel of one of their cars. I thought it was strange for a spider to Spin such a web, especially just one tiny strand. I moved closer to investigate. When I reached down to break the Web I discovered it wasn’t a web at all. It was a piece of fishing Line. I gave it a tug and saw it was tangled in the bushes, and the Other end was knotted under the car. One of the boys was sitting on the front deck of the house. I remarked, “Looks like someone booby-trapped your friend’s car.” He came closer to see what I was talking about. I gave the line A tug. It was tightly jammed under the wheel of the vehicle. “Strange, it seems to go all the way under,” I said. I walked to the back of the car and saw a robin. It fluttered To get away, but the line, which was wrapped around its tiny leg, Held it firm. The poor bird flapped around on the pavement with only A foot of line for it to move. Slowly I approached and reached to grab it. When my fingers First touched his feathers it squawked and flapped away from me. I Moved faster on the second attempt and managed to get a grip around His trembling body. It squirmed and twisted its head to snap at me, But I held tight. The boy came closer for a look, and then went for a knife. When He returned I realized he would probably break the poor bird’s leg When the knife pulled the string tight before cutting it through, so I sent him for scissors. He came back and we carefully removed the String. The bird was free, but I held him a little longer, so I could Remove one last strand of the line from his tiny leg. It made a Great effort and escaped from my grasp. He flew low across the Pavement, under a row of mailboxes, and up into a tree. It was free again. Then I noticed a second robin fly down from a nearby tree and Land next to the newly-freed robin. It had stayed close by, as its Mate struggled for freedom, and would not have left until freedom or Death ended their relationship. The birds I witnessed mated for life and the struggles that come With it. Now don’t you wish a lot more relationships would go to the Birds? I know I do.

Field of Joys

Sometimes along life’s pathways – There will come along a Friend,Who gets to know you inside-out right to the very end,And depth and height and width, of all that makes you ‘You’And they continue liking you no matter what you do.They get to see inside of you, where others dare not go.And soon they are a part of you and, oh, you love them so.They let you laugh. They share your joy.They help you through the day.And no matter what you’ve said or done.They will not turn away.Sometimes, when things are getting rough,And when the crying’s done,They’ll join with you in games and play -Just like when you were young -And had a special playmate who would run the Field of Joys,That children find around the bend with girls or with boys.They’re honest. They are faithful. They try never to betray -The precious trust between you – as you live from day to day.It’s so hard to describe them. And though it might sound odd.My best way to describe them is – They are a gift from God.And so, my Friend, I’m writing with a thankful heart to say -I’m so glad I’ve a friend like you – You’ve helped me on my way.So, thank you for just being there. And thank you for the toys.But mostly -Thanks for running with me through the Field of Joys.

A Special Angel Helped Him Open His Dream Restaurant

FOR SALE. The sign on the pizza joint that winter taunted me. From the time I was a kid I’d dreamed of owning my own restaurant. Now here was the perfect place. Not so big that my wife and I couldn’t handle it on our own. A great location, right on the main drag, Route 15. Ideal for hungry skiers passing through northern Vermont in winter. Or the leaf peepers in the fall. There was just one thing standing between me and my dream: money. I was flat broke. No way could I afford to buy, let alone run, my own business. Every day, driving to my job managing the housekeeping department at the Smugglers’ Notch ski resort, I slowed the car to a crawl as I passed by the place, hoping against hope for some burst of inspiration. It was called Papa Joe’s and was literally the only restaurant in tiny Cambridge. I’d tried every way I knew to work something out, even asking the owner if she would be willing to lease it to me. But her husband had died and she needed the cash. I understood. But what could I do? Outside of divine intervention I didn’t see it happening. Early one morning I actually parked my car out front and sat wishing there was something I could do to make it my own. It wasn’t owning a business that excited me. I wanted to cook delicious food for people to enjoy together. Good food, to me, was the greatest gift you could share. It was a gift my mother gave our family every night. Growing up, I’d gotten my love for cooking from my mother. Anytime she was in the kitchen I was there watching, eager for a chance to lick a spoon or help add some spices. We were Italian, and for Mom, cooking was as natural as breathing. I loved watching her stir together tomatoes, onion, garlic and a handful of oregano, letting it all simmer until it became the consistency of gravy and tasted downright heavenly. When she made the meatballs the size of my fists, she always set aside a couple for me to eat on my own later. We couldn’t count on leftovers, but there was always enough to feed whoever dropped in. “Delicious, Angelina!” “My compliments to the chef, Angelina!” Everyone loved Angelina’s cooking. Mom told me her name meant “little angel” in Italian. I didn’t know much about angels, but if they were anything like my mother, I knew they must be warm and loving beings I definitely wanted to have around my establishment. I felt a little silly, sitting in the parking lot, dreaming my dream. But dream I did. I wanted to be able to tell Mom I’d turned that Papa Joe’s FOR SALE sign into one that said SOLD. She liked to tell the story of my first job at the restaurant where my dad worked. I started out as a dishwasher, but one day I asked the cook if I could roll out the dough for a pizza, then layer on the sauce and pepperoni. What a feeling of accomplishment, watching the pie come together before my eyes. “You’re ready to put it in the oven,” the cook said. “You have to zap it in.” He showed me how to slide the wooden peel under it, then with one motion slide the pizza off onto the baking rack. I did it my first try! “I’m going to open my own restaurant,” I told my parents that night. “You better get a business degree then,” Dad said. “It’s not enough just to know how to cook.” I’d done that. Twelve years later I was married with a young son but no closer to my dream. Dad had died without seeing me succeed, but I hoped Mom might live to see it happen. Perhaps it was time to give up. I pulled away from the restaurant and headed to work. Maybe God has other plans for me, I thought. A few weeks later my brother called. My mother had suffered a heart attack and was near death. I dropped everything and caught a plane to Georgia, where she’d been visiting my brother. She spent her last hours surrounded by me and my siblings. Letting her go was the hardest thing I have ever done. After the funeral, we learned that Mom had left each of us a small inheritance. It was just shy of what I needed for the down payment on Papa Joe’s. I knew it was meant to be when the mortgage company allowed me to make the purchase with a second loan. My wife and I stood together in the parking lot, admiring the sold sign on Papa Joe’s. “What should we call it?” I asked. “We should name it after your Mom,” my wife said. “Angelina’s. She was the one who made it possible.” I hired an artist to paint a large red-and-white sign on the building: ANGELINA’S RESTAURANT. HEAVENLY ITALIAN FOOD. Looking down on the words was an angel with wings and a halo, tossing a pizza crust. Behind the counter I hung a framed photo of Mom. When people ask who Angelina is, I point to the picture and tell them about my mother, how she had inspired me to want to cook for a living. Of course, we use her marinara-and-meatball recipe in the restaurant. We don’t see many leftovers. The dining room is big enough for only five tables, seating 20 people at most, but our business is largely takeout. From Day One customers loved our homemade thin-crust pizzas and deep-fried calzones. The top selling pizza is the Big A, covered with onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni and sausage. We get the skiers and leaf peepers, just as I’d imagined, but most of all Angelina’s is a community fixture. A gathering place to catch up on local news, to celebrate birthdays, graduations and anniversaries. A place of warmth and love, just like my mother’s kitchen. After 30-plus years in business, some of my employees are the children of my earliest employees. I can tell you some stories, all right. Like the time a car missed a turn and plowed right into the dining room at dinnertime. Miraculously no one was hurt—not even the driver. It’s been an amazing journey, truly a dream come true. People don’t ask so much about Mom any more, or about the angel gracing the sign out front. They’re used to it by now. Sometimes, I admit, even I don’t stop to take it all in. One day I was sharing a pizza with Father Robert, the priest from St. Mary’s Church, which is directly across the street from us. I was telling him the story of how Angelina’s came to be, about the joy I’d been blessed to be a part of. “It’s like someone’s watching over us,” I said. Father Robert bit into a slice of pizza and nodded. “It’s your mother,” he said. “She’s with the angels.” “That’s right,” I said. Maybe Mom wasn’t an actual angel. But she’ll always be the little angel to me, looking down on this little bit of heaven along Route 15.

The Goldfish

Little Lucy was in the garden filling in a hole when her neighbor peered over the fence. Interested in what the cheeky-faced youngster was doing, he politely asked, “What are you up to there, Lucy?” “My goldfish died,” replied Lucy tearfully, without looking up, “and I’ve just buried him.” The neighbor was concerned. “That’s an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn’t it?” Lucy patted down the last heap of earth then replied, “That’s because he’s inside your darn cat!”

TENDING YOUR FIREBy Joseph J. Mazzella

When I was a boy, every summer I spent a wonderful week at 4-H camp. It was always so much fun. Delicious meals were served in the dining hall three times a day. There were fun classes to go to in the morning and sports and swimming in the afternoon. There was a friendly competition between the four tribes for the spirit stick all through the week. And there were long nights spent lying awake, laughing, and talking with our friends. We seemed to sleep only a few hours a night but we were enjoying ourselves too much to be tired.At the end of the week, we all gathered together at the final council circle. The campfire in the center was carefully tended until it blazed brightly, lit up the circle and flickered off our happy faces. Songs, cheers, skits, challenges, and laughter would fill the air as the night went on. Later the awards for the week were given out. Everyone got something to take home and cherish as well as a tiny candle to hold.At the very end of the night, the person who was awarded the spirit of the camp would take his candle and light it by the last embers of the dying fire. Then he lit the candles held by the people around him, who would in turn light candles held by others until every one of us held a little light in his hands. As the camp ended, we all walked out into the night with our own little fires beating back the darkness.Remembering those nights makes me wonder what this world would be like if each of us tended our own fire. How great would it be if we all fed the fire of goodness within us? How beautiful would it be if we all let our love burn bright? How wonderful would it be if we all shared our light to help others beat back the darkness?God gave each of us a fire of love in our souls. It is up to us to tend it, turn it into a brilliant blaze for all to see, and share its light with the world.