THE JOY OF A SUMMER’S RAIN


At first the summer heat was just mildly uncomfortable. Next it
became tiring, and then, oppressive. By July, it felt a lot like
working in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day — like standing in front of
a hot oven for six straight hours. Yet the temperatures continued to
rise, until finally, in the dusty, dried up days of August, the rain —
at last — came.
After day upon day of parched summer heat, the rain was such a
welcome relief! The children shrieked with joy and begged to go out in
it. I said “No” at first, almost automatically. But one look at their
crushed expressions and I reconsidered. It had been much too hot to
play outside lately — how could I say no now?
“Well… OK,” I said with a grin. “But stay on the porch. And
keep an eye on your little sister!”, I called to the back of their
heads.
As they headed out the front door, I felt an almost forgotten rush
of glee. Smiling to myself, I ran to get the towels and umbrellas and
soon joined my children on the front porch. There, they danced and
giggled, and leaned out as far as they could, catching the rain on their
hands. They squealed in approval whenever the wind blew the rain their
way. Only Abby was timid. She stayed safely near my side, and when the
wind tickled her face with moist spray, she shivered and clung tighter
to my hand.
After a while, I timidly stepped out from under the porch roof,
safely beneath the protective waterproof fabric of the umbrella. I held
my navy parasol in one hand and Abby’s drippy little fingers in my
other. Finally, I couldn’t restrain myself anymore.
In a burst of childlike impulsiveness, I tossed my umbrella aside.
Feeling like a kid again, I gathered my two-year-old and headed out into
the downpour. She blinked and scrunched up her wee nose in
disapproval. Before long, however, she was tilting her face to the sky
and catching raindrops in her mouth.
“Come on!” I called to the boys. “Come out here with us!”
Daniel and Thomas looked surprised (like Mom had gone a little
mad), but they didn’t argue. Eagerly they grabbed the big black umbrella
that had been their grandfathers. I watched them as they struggled to
raise it, and as they fumbled trying to share the handle. They squished
together, trying to make themselves fit under the very center of the
dome.
Something about my funny little boys and that big umbrella made my
eyes unexpectedly fill with warm tears, which ran unrestrained down my
already soaked cheeks.
The rain intensified. Still, we stayed. The gutter in front of
our house had become a small stream. It actually bubbled and rippled as
it grew and tumbled toward the water retention basin at the end of the
block.
Suddenly inspired, I sent the boys inside for a few supplies. In a
jiffy they returned from the house with a grocery bag holding the simple
construction supplies they had procured from the kitchen.
For the next hour we made makeshift tinfoil boats. Then we sailed
them, skippered by toothpick-and-scotch-tape men. Abby giggled with
glee as she watched her brothers and I race our shiny little vessels
down the river of rain.
Later that night, after warm baths and a nourishing dinner, I
tucked my children into their beds with a heart full of joy.
It had been an unforgettable day, thanks to a little inspiration
and a summer’s rain.

— Natalie Whitlock Walker

Easy Asian Beef and Noodles

What You’ll Need

  • 1/2 pound boneless sirloin steak
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups prepackaged coleslaw
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages beef-flavored ramen noodle soup
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

What to Do

  1. Cut steak diagonally across grain into very thin slices. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove steak mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan, and keep warm.
  2. Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use. Add water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook until thoroughly heated.

Pineapple and cherry dump cake

What You’ll Need

  • 1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 (15-1/4-ounce) box yellow cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 stick butter, melted

What to Do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Combine pie filling and pineapple with liquid in prepared baking dish; mix well.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine cake mix and cinnamon. Sprinkle dry cake mixture evenly over fruit. Top with walnuts and drizzle with butter.
  4. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm or cold.

Rolling Down Summer’s HillsBy C. S. Dweck

We run through the August night with only fireflies lighting our way, feeling the freedom of time that only children of summer ever know. The echo of our laughter sails through darkness, while we chase each other in tag. Soon we become silent, hunting through the tall, damp grass punctuated only by the beating of our hearts. A hand pierces through the night, grabbing me. Our two bodies fall entwined into a huddled mass of legs and arms with her gaining the upper hand because I let her. She pins me down upon my back, her hands holding mine outstretched upon the moist grass. Straddling my chest with her knees, I sense her head slowly growing ever nearer. We’re so close that I can feel the ins and outs of her breath upon my lips. She covers my mouth with her own and I am lost in the newness of my first kiss. Before I can speak or think, she pulls away. Running off, she leaves me there dazed. That was how the night ended; this is how it began.It’s the summer of my thirteenth birthday, and I’m enjoying these majestic Pocono days. Our cabin overlooks the endless rolling hills carpeted by sweet-smelling grasses and black-eyed Susans. My younger brother Mikey and I climb to the highest point and then, lying down on our sides like two bowling pins, we close our eyes rolling wildly down to the bottom. It’s a dizzying sensation to feel the world spin around and around this way. Sometimes I lose control and go careening off into some unplanned foreign destination.And so it is when I first see Carly, hanging out among the other girls at Lake Wallenpaupack. I didn’t know then that I’d go careening off sideways and smack straight into her world.She hangs with this group of thirteen-year-old girls who’ve teamed up more out of convenience than common interest. Her long black hair falls in waves against her pale white skin, and she has this unique ability to smile at me with her eyes.My posse looks like an odd assortment left over in some thrift-shop clearance box. First off, there’s me. I had a major growth spurt this summer, and my limbs feel way too long. It’s weird to suddenly tower over your own mother, the person you’ve looked up to your whole life. Now a good three inches taller than she, I can easily pat her on the head. Yet no matter how much I eat, my pants hang low on my gangly, 105-pound frame. Everything is changing around me and inside me. I can’t even count on feeling comfortable in my own skin, which is now riddled with acne.Then there’s my ten-year-old brother, Mikey. He hasn’t found any other kids his age around, and appears to be going through severe Nintendo withdrawal. It’s my responsibility to watch out for all four fast-moving feet of him. We make an unlikely pair. Although only three years come between our ages, almost two feet separate our heights.Finally there’s Ron, who’s fourteen, a full year older than I and so much more wise in the ways of the world. He shoves his Mets cap low on his head to shield his eyes from the sun and any parent’s watchful gaze. In his left ear he sports a fake diamond stud, which denotes the coolness he envelops.Ron and I sit on the dock, dangling our feet in the water’s edge, while Mikey floats carelessly in his black inner tube. Once in a while we have the nerve to dart our eyes over to the girls who are taking turns diving into the water in their bright bikinis, giggling and trying to peek over at us as well.Ron shares his experiences with women and I wonder how much of it is really true, but I listen closely just in case it is. Some of his stories are funny, and others are just really gross, but I tuck all of what he tells me safely away in the annals of my mind for future reference.My only other experience hearing about sex was back in health class, and there it seemed like such a crude joke. There was this one jerk in the back of the room who’d laugh whenever the teacher mentioned anything sexual. He was the same guy who’d repeat over and over that there was going to be a “teste” on Monday and then die laughing at his own wit.At home, my parents speak in strictly medical terms. The way they tell it, the whole thing sounds more like a painful procedure for wisdom teeth removal than a pleasurable experience. Here, sitting on the dock with Ron, it seems a lot more real. I watch Carly in her red two-piece. Her shining black hair reflects the noonday sun, and I wonder what it would be like to kiss those peach-colored lips. So far it’s taken all the courage I can muster just to say hi as we pass each other every day at the lake.Soon, night falls and Dad calls us around the dinner table to have an informal family meeting. He says he wants to talk about our “future.” The cabin is hot and noticeably un-air-conditioned. The sweat on the back of my legs causes my skin to stick to the vinyl-covered dining chairs.My dad sits at the head of the table with his elbows resting on the yellow Formica. He hasn’t shaved since we arrived here, and the gray stubble on his cheeks and chin make him look old. My mother sits at the other end of the table still wearing the same swimsuit she wore earlier today down by the lake. She pulls the seat of her suit down over each thigh, fidgeting more than her usual calm demeanor allows. Mikey sits lazily dipping his Oreo cookies into a large glass of milk and then sucking them down over his wet lips.My dad tells us he’s been laid off from work – straight out with no beating around the bush. I can’t say I’m shocked; we all saw the writing on the wall. Dad’s a textile man, and the industry is dying. I know this because I’ve heard the hushed conversations between my mom and dad. With most labor now going overseas, there’s just not enough work to keep the U.S. sewing factories alive. It’s not as if Dad has a profession where he can just slip comfortably into a new opportunity. Finding another job at forty-six years old is rough.Mikey just keeps sucking down his cookies. He’s too young to understand that there is no magic that will make everything better, and that Dad doesn’t have all the answers.In between frantic thoughts, I hear Dad saying something about our home; using words like “scaling down” and “tightening belts.” All I keep wondering is, How is this going to affect me? Will I still be able to afford to go to the movies with my friends, or will I be left at home? And where will my home be? I hear Dad saying something about our horrendous taxes and the possibility of moving to a smaller apartment.I want to grab him and yell, “Stop! Don’t you know you’re ruining my life? I can’t move . . . this is where all my friends are . . . this is where I go to school. We had a deal, remember? You would take care of me, and I would never have to worry about these kinds of things, because I’m just a kid.”And then this feeling gives way to a sickening rush of guilt for being so selfish. I look over at my parents who seem small and vulnerable. Who are these pathetic imposters whose words change everything for all of us, and how should I react to these strangers that I love so much? Should I lie and tell them everything will be okay? And is that what they need to hear, or is that really what I need to hear? I suddenly feel like the parent.That night I run out to play tag with all those kids whose lives are still unchanged. I run through the night hoping to knock the wind out of myself – running to forget about my dad or maybe to stumble onto an answer that will save us. That’s when Carly’s arm reaches out to grab me. She kisses me, and I forget for one moment about all the uncertainty.Then she’s gone, and I lay there in the pitch-black darkness with my head spinning the same way it did when I rolled down those long summer hills. I feel that same dizzying disorientation lying there alone in the darkness, and I realize that sometimes there are no real answers, and life goes on.

License to Smile

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.~William Arthur Ward

Anyone who knows me well would almost certainly label me an optimist. I believe in embracing hope and finding something positive even in the most difficult circumstances. My own optimism stems from a strong, personal faith in a loving God who I believe is very interested in the personal details of our lives, not just the “big stuff.” I also believe that things happen for a reason and that if we keep our minds and spirits open, our invisible God often becomes visible, sometimes in ways that are quite humorous!With that being said, even optimists can temporarily lose hope. This was the case for me on a particularly cold and gloomy January day. I felt overwhelmed by the painful challenges I was dealing with in my personal life. Marital, health, and financial struggles had joined forces to create a tornado of emotion that threatened to crush my spirit. I felt angry, frustrated, burdened, and distanced from the presence of God. The weather seemed to reflect my mood—the gray sky blocked even a single ray of sunlight. As I drudged through my workday, I just couldn’t shake a sense of hopelessness and despair.About midway through the day, I left work to get some lunch. Still feeling pessimistic and negative, I noticed that the sun had come out for a brief moment. I began to think about my negative attitude and reminded myself that I was responsible for choosing my state of mind. While I could not ignore the pain I was going through, I could choose to dwell on the negative or I could choose to shift my thinking to a more positive focus. Even as I consciously reminded myself of this truth, I felt incapable of making the shift. So I gripped the steering wheel and prayed an honest, heartfelt prayer. “God,” I cried, my tears ready to spill out, “where are you? I don’t want to feel this way but I am miserable and hopeless today. Please lift me out of this dark, gloomy place!”As I stopped at a red light, I looked at the car directly in front of mine. The personalized license plate caught my eye—it read “SUNZOUT.” This brought an immediate smile to my face. It felt like a reminder from God that the sun was shining after all, and in the midst of the longest, darkest, coldest winter in years, this in itself was a blessing. But then my eyes moved to the car that was perfectly parallel to the SUNZOUT vehicle. The license plate on that car read “GROUCH.” So as I read these two license plates side by side, I said out loud “SUNZOUT, GROUCH.” This brought more than a smile to my face as I laughed out loud! Seeing the two very opposite license plates right next to each other at that exact moment in time also strengthened my previous recognition of my ability to choose my outlook despite my circumstances. I felt my spirits and mood lift as I made the conscious decision to choose a positive attitude.I returned to work and shared my story with several co-workers who responded with warm laughter at what I referred to as my “message from beyond.” I learned that day that when we are feeling too discouraged to bring ourselves out of a state of negativity, relief is only a prayer away!~Julie A. Havener

Cherry kuchen bars

What You’ll Need

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling

What to Do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening, and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly beat flour mixture into butter mixture until well combined. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of dough; set aside. Spread remaining dough in a 15- x 10- x 1-inch baking sheet.
  4. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spread pie filling over crust. Spoon reserved dough in small mounds on top of pie filling.
  5. Continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is lightly golden. Let cool, then cut into squares.

Black Jellybeans By Margie Seyfer

I’ve never read an official study on the matter, but I’ve Noticed that in animal shelters, black cats are the most overlooked. Black seems to be the least preferred of cat colors, ranking below All combinations of white, orange, gray, spotted and striped. Black Cats are still stereotyped as Halloween cats, creatures of bad luck, More appropriate on a witch’s broomstick than curled up on your Pillow. To make matters worse, in cages, black cats become close to Invisible, fading into the dark shadows in the back of a stainless-Steel cage.For eleven years, starting when I was ten years old, I Volunteered at an urban animal shelter. It always struck me as Particularly unfair that, time after time, I’d get to know Affectionate, adorable black cats, only to watch them be passed over By adopters merely because of their color. I assumed there was Nothing that could be done.One day, many years into my work at the shelter, I spent a fewMinutes petting a sweet, black half-grown kitten, who had been found As a stray and brought to the shelter. The slender thing purred Warmly at my attention, gently playful as she patted my hand with one Paw. I thought about what a shame it was that the kitten was already Too big to be adopted on baby-kitten appeal alone, and so solidly Black that most people wouldn’t even pause in front of her cage. I Noticed there was no name written on the informational card on her Cage. Since volunteers were welcome to name the strays that came to The shelter, I thought for a moment about what I could name this Black kitten. I wanted to think of a name that could give the kitten The kind of appealing “color” that might encourage an adopter to take A second look. The name Jellybean popped into my head, and I wrote It on the card, just as I’d named thousands of cats in the past.I was taken entirely by surprise when, later that afternoon, IOverheard a woman walking through the cat room say, “Jellybean! What A wonderful name!” She stopped to look more closely at the kitten, Now batting at a piece of loose newspaper in the cage. She asked me If she could hold Jellybean, and, as I opened the cage, I sheepishly Admitted that the kitten didn’t know her name, as I’d named her just Hours before.I lifted her into the woman’s arms, and the kitten leaned into The woman, looking up into her eyes with a purr of kitten bliss. After a few minutes, the woman told me that she’d like to adopt this Black kitten, and, when the paperwork was approved a few days later, She took Jellybean home.I was pleased, of course – adoptions were always what nourished My soul – but I chalked it up to a lucky break for one black kitten, And moved on.I was surprised again a few weeks later when the woman came back To the shelter. She found me refilling water bowls in a cat room and Said, “You were the one who helped me adopt that black kitten a few Weeks ago, remember? Jellybean? I know you were the one who named Her, and I’ve been wanting to stop back to thank you. She’s the Sweetest thing – I just love her to pieces. But I don’t know if I Would have noticed her if she hadn’t had that great name. It just Suits her perfectly. She’s so bouncy and colorful – I know that Sounds crazy. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you.”I told her I was touched that she had stopped by and thrilled to Hear that Jellybean was doing well in her new home. Then I explained How I thought black cats were often unfairly overlooked and admitted The name had been my conscious attempt to get someone to notice a cat Who would probably not have been adopted otherwise. She said, “Well, It worked! You should name all the black cats Jellybean.”I smiled politely at the suggestion, thinking to myself that thisWoman knew nothing of the harsh realities of animal shelters. JustBecause I named one kitten Jellybean and it had gotten adopted didn’t Mean anything – it had just been a stroke of luck. Black cats were Still black cats, after all, and most people didn’t want them.As the day went on, I kept thinking about the woman’s advice: “You should name all the black cats Jellybean.” As crazy as it Seemed, I decided I had nothing to lose. Pen in hand, I walked along The cages, looking for a black cat without a name. There was only One, a small black kitten alone in a cage, sleeping. I Wrote “Jellybean” on its cage card.Later that afternoon, someone came along and said they’d like to adopt that little Jellybean. Well, I thought to myself, that wasn’t really a fair test – it was so cute and tiny.A few days later, a nameless black cat came along, fully grown. I named it Jellybean. It was adopted. Days later, another. Adopted. The process repeated itself enough times that, after a while, I had to admit that maybe there was some magic in the name, after all. It began to seem morally wrong not to name black cats Jellybean, especially ones who had a bounce in their step and a spark of joy in their eyes. Although I’d usually refrained from using the same name for more than one cat, after a while, my fellow volunteers ceased to be surprised when they came across another of my Jellybeans.Of course, we’ll need more far-reaching solutions to ensure thatevery cat has a home. But for my black Jellybeans, sitting in sunnywindows, sniffing at ladybugs walking across the kitchen floor, snuggling in beds with their adopted people, a name made all the difference.”Jellybean” allowed some humans to see beyond a dark midnight coat into the rainbow of riches in a cat’s heart.

Lemon and blueberry bread

1-1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. flour, divided

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup oil

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup blueberries

~~~~~~~~~~

Heat oven to 350°F

Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

Whisk eggs, sugar, sour cream, oil, lemon zest and vanilla until blended. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended.

Toss blueberries with remaining flour; stir gently into batter.

Pour into greased and floured 9×5-inch loaf pan.

Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 5 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 min. Remove bread from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Potato Salad and PicnicsBy Nancy B. Gibbs

Life is like potato salad; when it’s shared it becomes a picnic. When my three children were young, my husband Roy and I were very busy. He was working on his masters degree while working three jobs and I had three jobs of my own. There was very little time that wasn’t crammed with stress, busy-ness and term papers. “Can we go on a picnic, Mama?” my six-year old daughter, Becky begged. “Please.” I had said no so many times in recent months, I decided the usual Saturday morning chores could wait. To her surprise, I agreed. I prepared a few sandwiches and filled a cooler with ice and drinks and called Roy at work. “Meet us at the college pond for a picnic at twelve o’clock sharp,” I said excitedly. My eleven-year-old twin sons loaded the cooler and the picnic basket in the trunk and off we went to spend some quality time together as a family. I glanced at the kitchen counter just before heading to the car and spied a package of stale hamburger buns. I thought about the family of ducks living at the pond. We stopped and picked up a bucket of fried chicken at a fast-food restaurant on the way. Becky and I spread the tablecloth on the cement picnic table while Brad and Chad tossed a football back and forth. In no time flat the ducks joined us. Becky squealed with delight as the ducks begged for breadcrumbs. About the time I got the lunch spread out on the table, Roy arrived on the scene. We joined hands and bowed our heads. As the wind blew and the ducks quacked, he thanked God not only for the food but for our family. That was one of the happiest meals we ever shared together. The gentle breeze God sent our way caressed my face, as the sunshine warmed my heart. The meal was graced with giggles and laughter. We felt a closeness that had been hidden by work and school-related responsibilities for so many months. Once the food was consumed, Roy and the boys skipped rocks on the lake. Becky continued to feed the ducks and I sat quietly on the picnic table, thanking God for blessing me with such a wonderful family. Too soon, Roy had to go back to work. The kids continued to play together while I watched. I put the many things which I needed to do on the backburner of my life and simply enjoyed sharing the day with my children. Seeing the joy on each of their faces made me smile. When we got into the car to return home, Becky crawled in the front seat with me. “Here Mama!” she exclaimed. She was holding a tiny yellow wildflower. Happy tears came to my eyes as I reached out and took it from her. When we arrived home, I put the tiny flower in a toothpick holder and placed the remaining food into the refrigerator. That night as I tucked our children under their covers, I kissed their cheeks and realized what a wonderful life I had. “Thank you for the picnic,” one of the boys whispered. “My pleasure,” I whispered back. As I walked out of the room it dawned on me that even the busiest lifestyle could become a picnic when it’s shared it with the ones you love. Even though the kids have now grown up and moved away from home, I can still remember how I felt that day while sitting on the picnic table. Maybe today would be a good time to cook potato salad, call all of my grown kids, feed some hungry ducks and throw a few rocks into the lake. Since life is like potato salad, let’s make it a picnic.

The Old Man & A Bucket of Shrimp

It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean. Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier.. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now. Everybody’s gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts…and his bucket of shrimp. Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier. Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’ In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place. When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home. If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like ‘a funny old duck,’ as my dad used to say. Or, ‘a guy who’s a sandwich shy of a picnic,’ as my kids might say. To onlookers, he’s just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp. To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant …. maybe even a lot of nonsense. Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters. Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida . That’s too bad. They’d do well to know him better. His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in World War II. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft. Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were. They needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.. Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck.. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal – a very slight meal for eight men – of it. Then they used the intestines for bait.. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait…….and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued (after 24 days at sea…). Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull… And he never stopped saying, ‘Thank you.’ That’s why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.

Oatmeal Peach Crumble Bars

INGREDIENTS

Oat Crumble – Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ⅓ cups rolled oats
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup unsalted buttermelted and cooled completely

Peach Filling

  • 2 ¼ cups peaches peeled and cut into small pieces (4-6 peaches, depending on size)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt optional (brings out the flavor more)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice can also use orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 inch baking pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on each side for easy removal after it’s baked.

Peach Filling

  • Chop the peaches into small chunks about a ½ inch to 1 inch thick. Larger chunks result in peaches not being cooked through.
  • Mix the peaches with lemon juice and vanilla extract. Next, add in the cornstarch, sugar and salt (optional) and toss together. Set aside.

Oat Crumble – Crust

  • Mix the flour, rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt well in a medium bowl. Then add the cooled melted butter and stir with a spoon or spatula to mix together. Will resemble crumbles, but will stick together.
  • Place ⅔ of the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread and press the mixture evenly using your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup.
  • Next, cover the crust with the peach mixture, spooning out the peaches by leaving most of the juice in the bowl as much as possible. Over excess juice is not needed, so it’s better to drain the juice off.
  • Sprinkle the remaining dough over the peaches. Use your fingertips to press to the crumbles down a little so they can stick to peaches.
  • Bake for 35-37 minutes until the top becomes golden brown and the crumbles are crunchy.
  • Let cool at room temperature for almost 1 hour.
  • Keep bars in the fridge for extra 1,5 hours until it is completely cool so you can have nicely cut bars.

Spinach artichoke quesadillas

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 8 oz artichoke hearts chopped and drained (1 cup)
  • 2 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese shredded
  • 2 large tortillas

Instructions

  • In a large 12 inch frying pan over medium heat combine olive oil and cream cheese until cream cheese has melted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir in minced garlic, artichokes, and spinach. Cook until spinach starts to shrink, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add in mozzarella and parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
  • In a clean and dry frying pan over medium heat, place one tortilla in the pan. Scoop out ¼ of the spinach mixture and spread it out across one half of the tortilla. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling side. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.
  • Cut into 3 triangles. Repeat steps with remaining mixture and tortillas.
  • Serve hot or warm.

Notes

Use a dry frying pan because the tortillas would soak up any grease. A dry pan ensures a crispy quesadilla.Be careful not to overfill the tortilla to ensure the filling heats evenly and doesn’t ooze out the sides.Tortillas burn easily; fry on medium heat. The result will be golden, crispy outsides, and melty insides.

Lemon Pie Love


If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.~Linda Henley

Many years after my grandmother passed away, I received a gift in the mail from her. I was about to turn thirty and my mother sent me an envelope. “I know this isn’t her famous lemon pie,” my mother wrote, “but it is the next best thing.”Everyone eats cake for their birthday, right? Well, not our family. All we asked for was Grandmother’s famous lemon pie. This was the one thing she wouldn’t teach anyone, not even me. She was tight-lipped with this recipe. When asked what was in it she would say, “A little of this and a little of that.”Inside the envelope was a small index card. My throat tightened as I viewed the handwriting. “Famous Lemon Pie” was the title. Measurements were scratched out and rewritten. Clutching the card, I went to the kitchen to call my mom.“Where did you get this?” I asked when she got on the line.“I was cleaning out the attic and found a small box of her things. From the looks of it, she wasn’t even sure what she put in that pie,” my mother said.My grandmother was famous in her circle of friends. She was known for her handmade crafts, her acre garden that all the neighbors helped with, but most of all she was famous for her baked goods that she shared with everyone. The best thing about my grandmother is that she taught me everything she knew, almost everything.When I work on a craft, I feel her words of approval tickle my ears. Tending to my small but rewarding garden, the sun kisses the top of my head and I can feel her happiness wash over me. However, I never feel her presence more than when I am in the kitchen whipping up one of her favorite desserts.Now I was determined to have her lemon pie for my birthday. I lined up all the ingredients on the counter and began to work. The first pie was soupy and sloshed in the crust when I pulled it out. The second pie began to burn even before it was cooked through.I made lemon pie over and over, observing every little thing she scratched out and recalculated. By the time my husband got home from work, the kitchen was a minefield of defective pies. It looked as if each and every ingredient had abused me. I lost control when I saw the look on his face.“What happened here?” he asked.“I just want lemon pie for my birthday!”“I will buy you a lemon pie.”He didn’t understand. I left the kitchen and ran upstairs with a dusting of flour trailing behind me.I went to bed that night with the feeling of defeat. Why did my mother have to send me that recipe? I drifted off to sleep with pieces of crust still in my hair and lemon scent on my hands.My dreams were filled with memories of my grandmother and that pie. I kept trying to see what she was putting in it but she hid it behind her back. “Please tell me what is in that pie,” I begged. She smiled as the dream dissipated.I trudged to the kitchen the next morning and all the pies had been carted out to the garbage. The counters were spotless. It was as if the pie incident had never happened.The next day would be my birthday and all I wanted was lemon pie. I pulled the ingredients back out of the cupboard. “I can do this,” I whispered to myself. There are two things I pride myself on. First, I am the best baker in my circle of friends. Second, I don’t give up.I started mixing the ingredients and when I got to the cornstarch I couldn’t scrape enough out of the box for the pie. Doubt was creeping into my thoughts. “I can do this. I can do this,” I repeated to myself as I grabbed my car keys.I stood in the aisle looking at the multiple brands of cornstarch. What was I doing? I felt like I was having a mini meltdown over a pie. I pulled a box off the shelf and rolled it around in my hands as I walked to the register. My eyes settled on the recipes on the back. Lemon pie. Maybe I should use this recipe. I looked closer. It couldn’t be.I rushed home to view the precious index card sitting on my counter. I scanned the ingredients as I looked from card to box and back to the card again. Impossible! Was it this easy? I could see my grandmother smiling as I figured out her secret recipe. It seems it wasn’t a secret to anyone who had bought this brand of cornstarch.For my birthday, I made not one but two lemon pies. I was so pleased with myself as everyone inhaled the pie and dished out the compliments. Now I have a famous lemon pie recipe, but I’m not sharing!~

Helen R. Zanone

It’s A Monk’s Life

In an ancient monastery, a new monk arrived to dedicate his life to God and to join the others copying ancient records. The first thing he noticed was that they were copying by hand books that had already been copied by hand. He had to speak up. “Forgive me, Father Justinian, but copying other copies by hand allows many chances for error. How do we know we aren’t copying someone else’s mistakes? Are they ever checked against the originals?” Father Justinian was startled. No one had ever suggested that before. “Well, that is a good point, my son. I will take one of these latest books down to the vault and study it against its original document.” He went deep into the vault where no one else was allowed to enter and started to study. The day passed, and it was getting late in the evening. The monks were getting worried about Father Justinian. Finally one monk started making his way through the old vault, and as he began to think he might get lost, he heard sobbing. “Father Justinian,” he called. The sobbing grew louder as he came closer. He finally found the old priest sitting at a table with the new copy and the original ancient book in front of him. It was obvious that Father Justinian had been crying for a long time. “Oh, my Lord,” sobbed Father Justinian, “the word is ‘celebrate’!”

Stairway to Heaven-By Sylvia Gardner

When I was growing up back in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Mother prided herself on preparing us kids for anything life might send our way. Her own mother had suffered a massive stroke when she was only five years old. As the oldest of four children, my mother professed that it was hard work and a strong faith in God that got her through those rough years. She was a shining example of Yankee faith and fortitude, and she passed along those values to each of us.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for the void that Mother’s death on October 14 would cause. She’d lived 96 healthy years and passed quietly in her sleep after enjoying a wonderful visit with the four of us. I was grateful for that. But now the person who’d helped me get through everything was gone.

Never again would I dial her telephone number after a difficult day on the job as a nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center. Never again would I hear the dearly familiar pearls of wisdom that had shaped my life.

Sometimes when a patient was going through a trying time, one of Mother’s little sayings would come to mind and I’d share it with them. I remember the first time I met Mr. Sampson, a World War II veteran with emphysema and arthritis.

I’d just moved to Appalachia from upstate New York, and my accent quickly branded me as a northerner and the new kid on the block. Mr. Sampson wasn’t at all happy I’d been assigned to his care. “I’m short-winded and can’t get around good anymore,” he practically barked at me. “It takes me twice as long to cut the grass as it used to. And then they give me some foreigner like you.

After an introduction like that, I said a quick prayer, and all of a sudden a memory of Mother and me on our dairy farm back home came surging back. The minister had stopped by for a visit; our big black and white Berkshire pig that thought he was a watchdog had gotten loose from his pen and wouldn’t let the minister out of his car. Mother and I leaped over the barbed-wire fence to catch it. I didn’t quite make it.

I had a six-inch gash in my left knee after my attempt. Mother rubbed some of the same Bag Balm we used on our cows on my cut, taped it up just so, and pronounced me as good as new.

“Can’t someone else milk the cows, just for today?” I pleaded.

“You can do it, Sylvia,” Mother replied in her no-nonsense voice. “It may take you a little longer, but you can still do it. The angels will help you.”

The message was simple, and it had gotten me through more than a few hard times in nursing school.

That memory of Mother and the Berkshires was all I needed. I shared the story with Mr. Sampson and even showed him the scar I still have on my knee.

Turned out, he, too, had been raised on a farm and had a mother whose practical faith was a lot like my mother’s. When he left my office, he was still laughing about that pig and was reciting Mother’s words and promising to put in a garden.

Next time I saw him, he was loaded down with tomatoes and green peppers for our entire department. The only thing he requested in return was another installment of Mother’s faith-filled counsel.

But with Mother gone, her words of wisdom seemed empty. The evening of her funeral, my husband and I drove through a misty rain just as the sun was setting below the trees somewhere between Chambersburg and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I felt completely overwhelmed. “God, where are You?” I prayed.

“Please let me know that Mother is with You.”

All at once, the rain stopped and the most spectacular neon light show arced across the sky. Vibrant red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple—the colors were every bit as brilliant as the highlighter pens I used to mark points I needed to remember in my nurse practitioner journals.

The display reminded me of a time when I was nine years old. Mother was driving us kids to the Eastern States Exposition to show our Holsteins when this huge, beautiful rainbow lit up the sky. She pulled our 1936 Buick off the road, and exclaimed: “Kids, whenever you see a rainbow, that’s God’s angels dropping down His stairway to heaven for someone who has died.”

As I recalled that unforgettable day, tears fell down my cheeks, blurring my vision. I did a double take, stunned by the sight, for there was not one, but two, rainbows spread across the sky. It was so spectacular that cars began parking along the side of the road to take pictures. My husband and I kept on driving, seemingly forever, toward Mother’s double neon staircase and God’s unmistakable sign for her doubting daughter.

When I returned to work after Mother’s funeral, one of the nurses tapped on my office door. “There’s a man out in the waiting room,” she said. “He keeps telling everyone he’s got to talk to Sylvia.” She pointed to a gray-haired man in khaki slacks. I recognized him right away, Mr. Sampson. I hadn’t seen him since he moved several years earlier and he looked terrible. He must have gotten some really bad news, I thought.

When I called his name, he looked at me and began to sob. I wrapped my arm around him and led him to a chair in my office. “My mama died October fourteenth,” he told me. “I came back home for her funeral and to get the farm ready to sell. She was my best friend in all the world, Sylvia. I know how you loved your mother, so I knew you’d understand.” Tears glistened in his eyes as he fixed his glance on an educational poster hanging on my wall. “I’ve got to have one of your stories, Sylvia . . . one of your mother’s sayings about God’s angels.”

My words came out barely above a whisper. “My mother died the very same day as yours did, Mr. Sampson. But there’s something she used to say that I believe might help you.”

When I told him what had happened and Mother’s angelic philosophy on rainbows, Mr. Sampson’s face lit up. “You’re not going to believe this, but I was driving to my mama’s funeral that same day. And there were two rainbows in the sky for me too. I didn’t know rainbows meant anything. I just thought they were pretty. I guess God must have thought He’d better send us a pair of them, as hardheaded as we can be. Huh, Sylvia?” He paused, his eyes filled with peace.

“Can you imagine what a great time our mamas are having in heaven right now?

While we’re down here worrying how God’s going to take care of us. We’ve got to start living what our mamas taught us. We’ve lived off their faith long enough.”

And that’s what I’ve done ever since. For I know firsthand that no matter how far away we are from our loved ones, God and His angels are always near. And whether by a spectacular show in the sky or a whisper to my heart, He will find the perfect way to send me a mother’s comfort and guidance when I need it most.

Until my time on earth ends, and His angels drop down His stairway for me.

Bisquick apple cobbler

Ingredients

  • FILLING:
  • 1 c . sugar
  • 2 tsp . cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp . cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp . allspice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp . butter
  • 5 c . apples sliced
  • 1/2 tsp . grated lemon peel
  • TOPPING:
  • 1 c . homemade bisquick mix
  • 1/4 c . milk
  • 1/4 c . sugar
  • 2 tbsp . butter melted
  1. FILLING: In a sauce pan, blend sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add butter, apples and lemon peel. Pour into a buttered baking dish.
  2. TOPPING: Mix bisquick with milk, sugar and butter until well combined. Drop by spoonfuls on top of apple mixture.
  3. Bake Bisquick Apple Cobbler at 350 F (175 C) for 35-40 minutes (fan oven 25-28 minutes) or until golden brown.