Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

After a week of the most tempting sugar laden Christmas cookies, candies, cakes and pies, I thought I'd try a sugar and flour free cookie recipe to share with my health conscious company.

Peanut Butter Cookies

A rule of thumb is that if a product doesn't have many ingredients then it is less likely to be bad for you. Here's a cookie with only three ingredients.

1 cup Truvia (Nature's calorie free sweetener)The container says 3/4 tsp Truvia = 2 tsp sugar. This recipe originally called for 1 cup sugar. I liked the cookies better baked with 1 cup Truvia than with just 1/2 cup.

1 cup no sugar added peanut butter

1 egg

How's that for easy to remember ingredients? You can double the recipe and use the whole 16 oz. jar of peanut butter.

I use Truvia because it has the weight and texture of sugar.

I use Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter, creamy. Chunky would probably be good too. This peanut butter only has two ingredients: peanuts and salt.

No comment on the egg.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease cookie sheets (I use Pam Olive Oil)

In a medium bowl mix the three ingredients until well mixed.

Roll the dough into one inch balls. I have a hard time keeping them that small.

Place the balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Flatten each ball slightly.

Spray Pam on a small cookie cutter (I got mine out of a holiday Play-Doh set), dip it in Truvia (or not) and press into the center of each cookie.

Bake about 9 minutes or until the edges are set and bottoms are slightly browned. I found it is easy to overcook these cookies.

On a cookie sheet ready to bake.

Out of the oven cooling.

Only thing left to do is wash the dishes and eat the cookies.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mari & Shawn are here!

More Christmas, more presents,
more laughter, more fun.

This is the beginning
of more days of fun.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Blogs for Writers

Want to be a better writer? Want to be paid to write?

Check out Top Ten Blogs for Writers for the list of the blogs that won this year's Blogs for Writers contest.

The content of these BEST blogs includes:

1. how to get your manuscript to be better than perfect

2. advice on writing, blogging, and business

3. what it really takes to make a living by writing

4. how to get more visitors to come to your blog

5. advice for freelance writers

6. advice on agents, editors, and writing in genre fiction

7. how to become an author

8. podcasts with more solid advice on writing

9. the art and craft of writing fiction

10. and a personal blog about one writer’s journey as he writes his first novel.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On the Second Day of Christmas...

Good things come in twos:

Two grandmas
Two parents
Two sisters
Two daughters

Two aunts
Two uncles
Two nephews
Two nieces

Two jobs
Two libraries
Two bosses
Two paychecks

Two arms
Two legs
Two eyes
Two ears

Two in a couple
Two in a marriage
Two testaments in the Bible
There's love in each pair

Pair of shoes
Pair of socks
Pair of gloves
Pair of glasses

Mary and Joseph
Angels and shepherds
Sheep and a manger
Matthew and Luke

Hope and Peace
Joy and Love
Advent and Christmas
Twelve days of Christmas end at Epiphany

Ash Wednesday and Lent
Easter and Pentecost
Ordinary time and Christ the King Sunday
We're back to Advent and Christmas, start over again

I'm sure there is more. What have I left out?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Today isn't the official holiday, it isn't even a holiday at all in Oklahoma, but since it is a holiday somewhere, I'm going to celebrate.

I don't have any servants so there was no one to give gifts to. Tomorrow is the official holiday, it would be nice of me to leave a gift in my mailbox for the lady who delivers my mail. Beyond that, I pretty much serve myself.

My sister-in-law, my daughter and I took presents to aging relatives in Frederick. We found Norma Lee asleep. She wasn't feeling well this morning. The staff at her nursing home said she and several other residents stayed up well past midnight. Norma Lee got jittery and shaky so the doctor gave her a Valium at 10:15 a.m. and out she went. We were there at 3:00 p.m. and she was still too groggy to keep her eyes open.

We went to our next destination, Jean and Toby's. They were awake and chipper, both looking quite well and in good moods. We hadn't them our gifts. Toby looked at hers while Jean kept his held tightly in his hands. The presents were really secondary, it was our visit that brought them the most joy. Daryl, Roy and Mo arrived to fix Jean and Toby's back door which was a good segue for our departure.

Back at the nursing home we were able to raise Norma Lee from her sleep. She was still a little disoriented but at least she knew we were there and was able to visit and enjoy the company. We showered her with gifts and got her a much needed diet Coke as a bonus.

Owen and I walked the halls smiling and saying hello to other residents and then sat and watched the gold fish in the large aquarium at the entrance. We talked to several interesting characters there.

When it was supper time for Norma Lee, we left and went to Sonic for some sustenance before the drive home.

At home we found Gran rested and watching "The Sound of Music." We looked through Gran's old jewelry, some of which belonged to Grandam Dolly and Grandma Jewell. We got out old quilts and looked at crocheted baby blankets that Gran has made for future great-grand children.

I hope you had a fulfilling Boxing Day too.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

What does it take to make Christmas merry? What does it take to make any day merry?

A time that is "supposed" to be happy, often isn't. Why?

After our Christmas program I saw a friend standing alone at the back of the church, wiping tears from her eyes. I went and talked to her. Both of her parents died this year and she always came to the Christmas program with her mom to watch her kids be angels and shepherds. But this Christmas she has no mom, she has no dad. Her sadness is heartbreaking.

The holidays (late November to early January) are also times of bizarre expectations. The parties and get-togethers, every gift given and received, the Christmas cards, each food item on the table, all of the decorations, everything is supposed to be perfect and provide happiness unknown at any other time of the year. It's enough to drive anyone mad.

What has happened to the "merry" in Merry Christmas?

What does any of this really have to do with Christmas anyway? The celebration is to remember and rejoice in the fact that God came to earth in human form. That's Christmas, the fulfillment of ancient prophesies. A baby born in a manger, with angels singing and shepherds worshiping. There were no parties, no fancy foods, no presents (the Wise men did not find Jesus until he was about two-years-old), no decorations, just a homeless couple and their new baby in a stable.

Even so, I love the trappings of Christmas. We hung stockings at work and dropped presents into each others stockings (secret Santa with no pressure). I sent a section of my Christmas cards so they arrived at their destination before Christmas. I mailed presents to out-of-towners in time that they could be opened on Christmas. No decorations save the poinsettias around the trees outside. I made cranberry salad for Christmas dinner and wrapped a lot of gifts. I got great presents this year and the ones I bought for others were received with true feelings of joy and gratitude.

But there is something better than any of that, my nephew and his wife, who were told they would never get pregnant, are! Their baby is due July 11. It's a Christmas miracle. Everything else pales by comparison.

Here's my heartfelt, albeit simplistic understanding of Christmas as Christ's mass, that is his sacrifice for us that began when he gave up his throne in heaven to be born and live on earth in a human body so that we might be saved. It is so simple but can get so complex and requires a measure of faith to believe.

Let Jesus dwell in your heart and keep your eyes open for the miracles of God around you and you will surely find the merry in your Christmas and the happy in your new year.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I sit in comfortable darkness, knowing that you will soon arrive. Make me ready to receive your blessings and share the good news of your arrival. Come soon, Holy One. Amen
Beth A. Richardson, The Uncluttered Heart

People entered the church through the front and the back. Meeting, mingling, talking, laughing, bulletins were handed out and people found their seats.

Piano music playing while the acolytes brought in the light of Christ.

The pastor said a prayer and read the Christmas story from the Bible alternating with corresponding Christmas songs. We sang a lot of our favorites: O Come O Come Emmanuel, What Child is This, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, and We Three Kings.

The ritual of Holy Communion. On the lighter side, my six-year-old grandson said, "These crackers don't have any salt on them."

In the dark we sang Silent Night, Holy Night and passed light around the sanctuary candle by candle. The people walked out of the church singing, the wind blew out each candle, we huddled together as the pastor said a closing prayer.

Hugs and Merry Christmas wishes, "I'll see you Sunday!" "Good Night!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When you ain't got nothin'...

When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose.
Bob Dylan, Like A Rolling Stone

I've been reminded of this phrase often in our recent economic turmoil. People in Oklahoma start out having less than people in most other states, so the recession hasn't hit us as hard. When you are already unemployed, there's no job to lose. When companies can't afford to hire nonessential employees, there's no one to lay off. We have had to tighten our belts in many areas, but it has not been as devastating as in states, say, like California.

I was reading Jim Daly's blog post DEAR SANTA about Operation Santa and helping people in need at Christmas. One reader commented that she and her family had nothing to give this year but she would pray for the children and Operation Santa. She went on to say that instead of going out, her family watches a movie together for entertainment. They have a TV and electricity and maybe cable and/or a DVD player. They go for drives to look at Christmas lights. They have a car. She bakes cookies with her children. She has an oven, maybe even gas, and money to buy the ingredients for cookies. That's a luxury for people on food stamps.

Having nothing may be a matter of perspective. Our most poverty stricken people are much better off than many people living in third world countries. We have homeless people in Lawton (the Salvation Army calls them professional hobos) who choose to live on the streets. They can spend the day at the public library and get a meal at the Salvation Army and a place to sleep on the floor when the temperatures dip below freezing. (The Salvation Army provides housing for people who want to move out of their homeless situation.)

My town of Indiahoma is poverty level living, but a lot of neat things happen at Christmas. The Sheriff's department delivers Christmas dinners to people in need around town. We have an angel tree program at the school. Teachers recommend children for the tree, parents given permission and then community members, churches and other groups buy the things on the children's wish lists. Churches go caroling which is fun for the kids and a joy to the people who open their doors to a Christmas serenade. There are Christmas programs to attend that include goodie bags and refreshments. This all may not sound like much, but it makes Christmas time special here in Indiahoma, and it's free! This is what we are used to, we haven't lost a thing.

No man is poor who has friends. In Indiahoma we are more family than friends because we squabble and are mean to each other. But, bottom line, when it matters, we are there for each other.

Jesus came to reconcile people to God, not to give us material wealth abundant. (Although the Wise Men did bring Jesus some interesting presents.) Focus on the people around you, concentrate on relationships, and you will have the merriest Christmas ever!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are You Interesting?

Copyblogger has some of the best articles on blogging. Here's another one that offers 21 ways to be interesting. This is how I scored on the interestometer:

1. Be Wrong: I'm very good at being wrong. So far so interesting.

2. Be Right: meaning be really good at something. I don't know if I am superior at anything. I know my strengths but I'm not necessarily the best in any of those areas. Not so interesting.

3. Communicate in ways others can't: I agree that many/most people do not like to write, can not write well, and do not want to write. But I don't see them in awe of my writing abilities either.

4. Do something (important): This is in the same neighborhood as #3. I think what I do is important---my life as a Christian, my role in my family, how I deal with people at both of my jobs...but does that qualify me as being interesting?

5. Surprise people: This is something I need to work on. At our teacher inservice, Allan Johnson told us not to get in a rut with the students. Do unexpected things to keep their interest. Keep their interest, hmmm...that probably has something to do with being interesting.

6. Make people laugh: I think I'm a funny person in real life but I'm not sure it translates to the blogging world. I mean to be a humorous writer, my blog address is

7. Offer them an aspirin: or solve a problem. Maybe that was why Dear Abby was so popular. It would be fun to write a column like that. I have three newsletters, maybe I could try a help column in one of them.

8. Show a (half) naked woman: No matter how interesting a half naked woman may be, I will never put one on my blog to be interesting, or for any other reason.

9. Tell them who they are: like Steve Pavlina does with his blog, Personal Development for Smart People. I feel smarter and more interested in him just telling you about his blog.

10. Predict the Future: I'm not very good at looking at trends and then predicting what will happen. I'm always surprised by the future. I guess the future is interesting to me.

11. Unleash your Inner Dork: All right! Something I'm good at and something I enjoy. and who knew it made me interesting!?!

12. Be courageous: That is contrary to my nature. I am a peacemaker, I want everyone to feel good and be happy. I probably won't forge ahead, making waves and making a point. Back to being dull.

13. Be startlingly honest: meaning write blog posts that blow people away. They can't even believe you wrote that. I've read and admired people who tell a difficult story honestly. It is an admirable quality, one that I don't have.

14. Be irreverent: make fun of what others hold dear. Not me! I respect people and won't belittle their beliefs. Do unto others...

15. Tell a good story: a really good story. I think my stories are interesting but I'm not sure others do. I do get some positive feedback, but not a lot.

16. Break an important piece of news: I could do that. I wonder how I could ever be the first one to know anything when I am totally out of the loop.

17. Disprove the proven: Wow! That sounds like yo have to be a scientist. I can see how it would get you a lot of attention. Exercise is not important to a healthy life style---I'll start working on that one.

18. Pick the perfect picture: This is so true. A picture is often the reason I stop to read a blog. The pictures are my favorite part of the Advent posts I've been reading. I wonder what picture would go good with this post.

19. Master the metaphor: Metaphors make interesting communication. Using one now would demonstrate how interesting I can be. Oh well.

20. Create a work of art: I most always spend time on my posts, writing, rewriting and polishing. I rarely post a first draft. You tell me, does that make them more interesting?

21. Put your reader first: This list should have been done in reverse order...and the number ONE way to be interesting is, "Put your reader first." This is something for me to mull over. I mostly write because I love to write. I hope that someone will like to read it (I can always count on my daughter). That's why letter writing is a good thing. Who doesn't enjoy reading a letter?

I fear my interestometer is reading rather low. I'll have to give this all some thought and decide if I want to be interesting or not. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Embarrassing Situation (plus: your Christmas gift)

Jon's reply to my request to repost his email message:

Sure. Go for it. :-)


Merry Christmas to me!

Here it is, a reposting of Jon Morrow's email message:

----Original Message-----
From: Jon Morrow
Sent: Mon, Dec 20, 2010 2:47 am
Subject: Embarrassing situation (plus: your Christmas gift)

First, a quick confession:

Yesterday, I got caught doing something embarrassing.

With Christmas less than a week away, I still haven't bought any gifts for anyone, and I was beginning to think I was going to have to brave the shopping malls with all the other crazies. But then I noticed something:

The family Christmas tree is already loaded with gifts. Probably like five for each person. All the gifts also have those little cards saying who it's from and who it's for.

And that's when it occurred to me: why not just grab a pen and sign my name to a few of them, claiming the gift is also from me?

For one, five gifts should be enough for anyone, right? I mean, come on. You only need so many new sweaters and pairs of socks.

For two, the only other person in the house was my mother, who was cooking some Christmas cookies in the kitchen. So, nobody would even find out until Christmas.

For three, EASIEST CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EVER. No trips to the mall. No debt to pay off. No guilt about buying the wrong thing. Hell, I'll be as surprised as they are when they open the present.

It was brilliant. A perfect solution. So, I grabbed a pen and went to work.

Unfortunately, I was so enthralled with the idea that I missed the buzzer going off on the oven, signifying the cookies were done. So, in comes my mother with a tray of hot cookies, ready to offer me some, and she catches me in the act.

The end result: I'm off to the shopping mall to fight with all the crazies. (She also refused to give me any cookies.)

But let's get to what's important: your Christmas gift.

Here I am, smarting over the failure of my brilliant scheme, and I get an email from Johnny Truant. For a Christmas special, he's offering to setup WordPress for anyone wanting to start a new blog, free of charge.

Check it out here:

My first thought is this is great for beginners. If you're thinking about launching a new blog but you're worried about doing all of the technical stuff, this totally takes care of that for you. And Johnny isn't even charging you anything.

But then this also occurs to me:


I can forward Johnny's gift over to you and totally take credit for it. It's the exact same thing as signing my name to the gifts underneath the tree, except this time, there's no one to stop me.

*evil laugh*

All joking aside though, this is really cool of Johnny. He's not paying me a dime to send this to you, and I'm really not sure exactly how he benefits from it, but you should take advantage of it while you can. He's only doing it through Thursday, the 23rd (lazy bastard doesn't want to work on Christmas), so you only have a few days.

Here's the link for all the details:

So, that's all I've got. If you don't actually need a new blog setup, then I'm afraid you're out of luck with me this Christmas. I mean sure, I appreciate you and everything, but I haven't even bought a gift for my mother and father, you know? A guy can only do so much.

I'll do my best to make it up to you next year by helping you make your blog bigger and better than ever. 2011 is our year, right?

Merry Christmas and a happy new year,


PS: Don't you dare tell my mother about this. I still haven't given up on those cookies.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is Monday Ever the Best Day of the Week?

Today it is. It's the beginning of Christmas Break.

Owen doesn't have to go to school today and neither do I, so he got to spend the night with us last night and I got to wake up to his sweet little boy breath this morning and a retelling of his dream about a T-Rex who doesn't eat meat.

Monday is always a day off at the public library for me so I have the whole day to do whatever I want. The top of my list is to get Christmas cards written. It's been several years since I've sent cards before Christmas. Some people may be disappointed to hear from me before Christmas since they now expect a Happy New Year/Merry Epiphany letter. I like to write, so maybe I can do both.

I received an hysterical email from Jon Morrow of Copyblogger today. A pleasant way to start the day and the week with a smile and a hearty laugh. I would link to the story if I knew where it is posted. Maybe it's "just" an email. I wrote and asked Jon's permission to repost his story on my blog so there is a possiblity that you'll be able to read it here.

Speaking of Copyblogger, they have some really cool T-Shirts for sale. 100% of the profit goes to Reading is Fundamental (child literacy organization) whose "vision is a literate America in which all children have access to books and discover the joys and value of reading." The link to the T-Shirts is HERE.

One thing I always love about Mondays is the new A.Word.A.Day theme. This week's theme is particularly appropriate: No el. Huh? The five words this week will contain all the letters of the English alphabet except L. As a bonus Anu gives Noel's history: it started in Latin (meaning birthday), became French and now is part of the English language. During its journey through time, Noel has taken on the more specific meaning of Jesus' birthday.

Today's word is Katzenjammer. (No el) Check it out.

There's no telling what other fabulous features will unfold on this first Monday of vacation. I may have to do a second post this evening. For now, I'm off to start writing Christmas cards.

Joyeux Noel!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

First the Teacher, Now the Preacher

Who knew James Patterson, THE #1 New York Times Bestselling Author James Patterson, is writing Children's picture books? Our preacher read Patterson's picture book SANTA KID to the children at our Christmas Program this evening.

Does Santa HAVE to be at our Church Christmas Program? Can anyone tell me what Santa has to do with Church/Christian Christmas?

The message of the book is believe but it never says believe in what. The last line of the book is, "And kids are the ones who know how to believe." Sure they believe. They have not yet figured out that adults lie to them.

Our preacher built on the believe concept and said that we need to believe in Jesus, the baby in the manger whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. But that point could have been made without reading a book about Santa.

Beth is considering asking the preacher to have a talk with Owen explaining to him that Santa is not real, but Jesus is.

I wish someone would explain to me why adults have so much fun pretending about Santa.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Themes at Work

Some days at the public library have a definite theme to them. There are days when you'd swear Nurse Ratched just dropped off a bus load of people from the cuckoo's nest. There are other days when gratitude is the theme and most every patron appreciates whatever is done for them. Of course there are slow days, computer chaos days, and days when students fill the library because an assignment is due the next day.

Today's theme was "Children Run Amok." Why would two parents bring their infant to the library so they can use the computers? Each adult gets on a computer, the baby lays in the carrier and at some point screams its lungs out. The parents seem not to notice. They have to be told to take their baby into the lobby and comfort it. And they resent this. They've got Facebook to do.

Parents with older children leave them in the children's area. There is no children's librarian on duty on Saturday so the kids are in this area without adult supervision. They turn on computers that are supposed to be left off, pull books off the shelf for the fun of it, jump off the tables, and play chase which brings them out of the children's area and into every part of the rest of the library.

I'm sure it's fun to run around the library but unfortunately it gets on the nerves of adults who are there without children. I try to reunite the children with their parents. But what parents in their right minds want their kids bothering them when there's email to read?

I had a mom ask me what our policy is for children being left alone in the children's area. I thought she was concerned about the kids and wanted me to talk to their parents telling them to take care of their kids. I was mistaken, she was the parent of 3 of the runners. She was hoping our policy allowed her kids to have fun without her having to be responsible for them.

Moments later another lady came and tattled on three kids who were kicking her daughters as they read books in the children's area. That's right, the three darlings in need of a policy discovered new havoc to wreak.

And that was the thread that strung today at the library together.

That aside, I had a great day at the library. After getting a patron's computer to work with our WiFi, we gave each other a victory hug. Another patron brought me a Merry Christmas bottle of Bath & Body Works lotion. A coworker made me muffins. A patron who I hardly know came up and told me she missed me yesterday (I don't work Friday if I work on Saturday) and she hoped I was having a happy holiday season. The two Marys both came in and we had nice conversations. Sarah showed me pictures of her wedding.

And at the end of the day I'm left saying, "There isn't a better job in the world, for me anyway."

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Santa Conspiracy

I read recently "Santa is an anagram for Satan." The author was making a humorous comment, I think it was after working as a Santa's elf in a large department store in New York City.

But is it really funny? Is there truth in it? Who is Santa? Where did he come from? Why is he more popular than Jesus at Christmas time? And why am I the only one bothered by him? Have you ever read a paragraph with nothing but questions?

When I was a child I believed in Santa, truly believed. Was I the only one? Did everyone else know it was just pretend? When a neighbor told me that there was no such thing as Santa, that my parents put the presents under the tree and filled my stocking, and that the Santa at the mall was just a guy dressed up in a costume, I was devastated. A truth I believed in crumbled. My parents had lied to me, my teachers had lied to me, people I didn't know lied to me when they asked me, "What's Santa bringing you this year?"

I lost the ability to know what was true and what wasn't. I seriously wondered if school was a conspiracy. Maybe we were just told we had to go to school but some day down the line we'd find out that it was all a hoax. They were just pretending about the things they taught us. Have you ever seen the Matrix?

When I had children, I did not tell them about Santa. I try not to lie to my children. I want them to trust me and know they can always believe me.

I am blessed with a six-year-old grandchild. My daughter has not "done Santa" with him either. When he started to school she had a talk with him and told him not to tell the other children that Santa isn't real. He did fine in pre-K and Kindergarten but this year the teacher had a talk with Beth. Apparently Owen told some of the kids that he doesn't believe in Santa. I don't know what the teacher wanted Beth to do about it. I mean, Santa isn't real. Is it strange to anyone else that the parent of the kid who is telling the truth gets a conference with the teacher? You better do something about Owen telling the truth about Santa. We do not want the truth about Santa to get out. How is that right?

Tonight Owen started a conversation with me:

Owen: Gingie, I want to put cookies out for Santa this year to see if he is real.

Me: Santa isn't real. You don't have to put cookies out to make sure.

Owen: But some adults believe in Santa.

Me: No they don't. What adults do you think believe in Santa?

Owen: My teacher. She said she believes in Santa. He lives in her heart.

Me: Your teacher knows Santa isn't real. He doesn't live anywhere because he doesn't exist.

Owen: Santa lives in my heart.

I'm starting to get steamed at this point: No Owen, Santa does not live in your heart. Who does live in your heart?

Owen: Santa and God.

Me: No just God.

Owen: Jesus lives in my heart. I love Jesus. And I love Santa.

Me: Oh for Pete's sake!

I feel like the teacher meant well but was out of line. How is forcing Santa down Owen's throat any different than trying to convince a student that Jesus is Lord? And we all know that's illegal.

It really bothers me that Santa is center stage at Christmas. It's the birth of Jesus. The beginning of God living on earth with us. Why can't the fake fat man in the red suit take his holiday and celebrate it some other time?

The Night Before Christmas is a great poem. Who knew it would create such chaos?

Maybe there's something to Santa being an anagram for Satan.

Does anyone have wisdom for me or stories of your own? God Bless us every one!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Life as a Reader/Writer

I am newsletter queen, writing school, church and public library newsletters. I publish all in both hard copy and email.

With all this newsletter experience, you’d think I could write a Christmas letter in my sleep. But after listening to Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family by David Sedaris, I’m somewhat hesitant to try. His parody of a Christmas letter was so disturbing that it’s hard for me to write something that might inspire someone to further satire a treasured holiday tradition.

My Christmas newsletter would answer the question, "What have I been reading?" I've read 37 books this year and am about to finish number 38. 20 mysteries, 5 humor and 5 inspiration/motivation, 3 adult book club titles, 2 nonfiction and 2 young adult books. My current book is a mystery, no surprise. Should I list the titles or make a top ten list?

The other side of my life is writing. I already mentioned my newsletters. I get a break form my weekly school newsletter in the summer and other school holidays. I do the church newsletter 52 weeks a year. The library newsletter is monthly. They keep me busy for sure, but not as busy as blogging. I am in the middle of my second month of daily blogging at NaBloPoMo.

I also have several blogs besides "Welcome to My World," the source of my NaBloPoMo fodder. I started a WordPress blog doing Bible verse commentary based on daily lectionary readings. I quit after a while because it was too depressing. I began in the midst of the prophets speaking doom and gloom. I still blog there every now and then. I also update my church blog, blog on my grandson's blog with my daughters, and blog at school with my students. Yo Ho Yo Ho the writing life for me.

I wonder if I could turn this post into a Christmas newsletter. Or maybe I'll just wait and do my annual Epiphany newsletter instead.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Characters

I have a bag full of characters who presented themselves to me in flesh and blood at the public library. I added a new one to the bag today.

A four foot something Asian woman greeted me at the Reference desk. Sweet smile, soft spoken, not a fluent English speaker, she communicated to me that she wanted a book of do-it-yourself forms for legal problems. I got out our book.

She looked through the binder that was almost as big as she was but didn't find what she was looking for.

She told me that she was helped before with a different legal problem by another lady or maybe it was me. We all look alike. If it wasn't me, and it wasn't, then it had to be Roxanne who is younger than me, blonder than me, shorter than me and thinner than me, but we were indistinguishable to my new Asian (I think Vietnamese) friend.

She explained more about the problem and asked, "You look up on Internet?" That's no problem, but her legal issue was. She wanted to know how to legally dissolve her relationship with her daughter, like a divorce only with a child.

Upon questioning her further I discovered that her daughter is 35 and insists that her mother is still responsible for all of her bills and her boyfriend's too. I printed off some pages for my friend from the American Bar Association listing the "rights" of an 18 year-old. It started with, "You're 18, your responsible for yourself, your mother isn't."

She smiled, thanked me and left with two print out pages but I know she would have been happier with a form to be filed at the courthouse.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Feed the Bellringer's Bucket

The bell rang for lunch and my 5 pre-teaching students and I headed for the AG pickup. We were delivering our plarn* sleeping mats to the Salvation Army.

*Plarn is a word made by combining plastic and yarn. It is made by cutting WalMart bags (any store bags will do) into strips and looping then them together. Voila: plarn.

On most Fridays we work on our sleeping mats: flattening bags, folding, cutting, looping the pieces together and crocheting. We often enlist the help of 6th graders. They love to help us. It's wonderful working at a preK-12th grades school.

I take the remaining plarn home and crochet over the weekend and in the evenings until it is Friday again. It's a slow process. We finally got two 6 feet long mats made so we planned a field trip to Lawton to give our mats to the Salvation Army.

We spent more time deciding where to have lunch than we did on anything having to do with the mats. It came down to Olive Garden or Golden Corral. We had to draw for the winner: Golden Corral.

Golden Corral is a buffet, all you can eat, super yummy bread restaurant. Great for hungry teenage boys. Not so much for a senior citizen who no longer burns very many calories. I did OK though. A tossed salad with EVERYTHING on it including a broccoli salad that I used as the dressing. I had grilled chicken that was really good and cooked broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. And for dessert...a dinner roll.

Captain Hall was delighted to receive the mats. He told us about the Salvation Army and what they do to help the homeless. We felt good about making and donating our mats.

On the ride home, the boys kept yelling, to no one in particular, "I just helped the Salvation Army!"

I've already started our third mat using the plarn we made last Friday.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crazy is as Crazy does

At my daughter's recommendation, I've been listening to Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. The first story is about being a Santa's elf in Macy's when he was in his 30's. Funny, quirky and embarrassing as the people in Macy's are, I'd put my public library patrons up against them any day. The only things is, David didn't know the people he wrote about. I know my patrons and I wouldn't want them reading about how funny, weird and embarrassing I think they are.

I received a phone call from a stranger today and I don't care if he knows how crazy I think he is.

Hello! This is Joe Blow from whatever book company and I want to talk to the librarian.


Oh good, great, wonderful. Did you know that ALA changed the subject heading from Black to African American?

Thinking he might be taking some kind of weird survey I said, "Yes."

You did? Well good for you. Must be because you're a librarian. I thought they were still called blacks but our Encyclopedia of Black Americans has a new name. Now it's called the Encyclopedia of African Americans. I don't know why they want to be called African Americans instead of black. I guess our old set of encyclopedias had them out pickin' cotton and spittin' watermelon seeds. The new one portrays them as scientists and inventors.

Are you trying to sell me something?

Oh, no no no. I just want you to preview our new set for...

I have no budget. Zero money.

OK, thank you.


Crazy man, wherever you are, I hope you lose my phone number.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday In My Town

Sunday begins with church. Getting ready for church, dressing the grandson, walking the 1/2 block to church and settling in with the congregation that worships together weekly.

One of the first parts of church is bringing in the light of Christ.

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent.

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower---Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color. Isaiah 35:1

Patsy reads the advent story while her mother lights the candle of joy.

Advent is the special time before Christmas. Preparing the way for the birth of Jesus.

I received this link in an email today.

It's a music video called "Where's the line to see Jesus?" It says a lot about Advent and the way we celebrate Christmas.

My daughter and I completed the Third Day of Advent in our town by leaving it and going to Lawton to get some Christmas shopping done. Old traditions die hard. :~)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dinner Theater

A collaboration between a Methodist Church and a Community Theater group resulted in an evening of holiday entertainment: It's a Wonderful Life, the Radio Show.

The show was an amazing adaptation for radio-on-stage by Tony Palermo. The stage replicated a radio studio and we, the audience, played the part of a live radio studio audience. What fun! The actors were impeccable ranging from small children to senior citizens. They brought this Christmas classic to life in a new medium. We laughed and cried with them and applauded when we were given the stage direction to do so.

But what would dinner theater be without the dinner? Another challenge on my part. The meal was served at 6:30 p.m. before the performance at 8:00 p.m. Church ladies know how to cook. They served us tuna noodle casserole with a blanket of cheese on top (reminded me of tuna lasagna), a tasty green bean almondine, a tossed green salad and a cranberry salad that tasted like dessert. For those who didn't consider the cranberries as dessert, there was pie of several varieties. Tea or water to drink and some of the best coffee, especially being served at a church. I asked what kind of coffee they used and was told Douwe Egberts. I should have asked where they buy it.

There was also a silent auction for the table decorations. Daughter Beth had her eye on the Joy to the World/Peace on Earth decoration so I put in a bid and I won! She paid for it and took it home. During intermission, the man running the lights came over to me and told me that during the performance the church's women's group texted him and asked him to make sure that I paid for the table decoration before I left. We both laughed. They had already been paid.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Just Say No

Christmas Dinner at Work,

I should have known better.

I ate lunch before I went to work

to avoid temptations.

I got to work early so Roxanne could go to lunch.

I already ate lunch, you go eat. No, you go. No you.

I won,

Roxanne took a short lunch break.

She came back and insisted that I go enjoy the Christmas banquet.

I've got to learn to say no.

A platter of potato and rice dishes,


The refrigerator full of desserts,


Baked bean,

I love beans but

These contained more sugar than beans.


I love hamburger meat but

These were slow cooked in sweet Bar B Q sauce.

Chinese vegetable dish,

Usually a favorite of mine but

These were served with sweet red sauce.

Homemade French bread,

Delicious but

The Glycemic index for glucose (sugar in the blood) is 100, white bread 70 and table sugar 68.

I’m on sugar overload,

heading to a sugar coma.

I’ve got to learn to say NO

And mean it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Did You Know?

These are things you may already know, but I want to share them in case something might be new.

Fresh nutmeg. Nutmeg comes "fresh" in a spice bottle. I can't remember how much it costs, it may seem expensive, but there is a lot of nutmeg in those nuts and it lasts forever. You can get a special grating tool or just use the tiny holes on your regular grater when you want to use nutmeg in a recipe. Fresh is always more aromatic, it makes you feel good just to smell it, and I think it tastes better too.

Fresh ginger. A tip from Rachel Ray: you can store ginger root in your freezer. When you want ginger, slice off a bit and chop it up. Easy and tasty.

Pepper corns that come in their own grinder jar. How convenient is that? I love freshly ground pepper on food and this is just so easy. I also like easy.

Wheat Germ. Packed with fiber and iron and a plethora of vitamins, wheat germ is good for you. I sprinkle it on foods for a nutty taste. I put it in my omelet egg mix to make pseudo pancakes.

Non fat plain Greek Yogurt. Do you like sour cream? Try Greek Yogurt. It is much better than fat free sour cream. It's good as yogurt too. You can buy it with fruit and sugar already mixed in, but of course I add my own fruit and if needed some Splenda.

Fat Free Half and Half. Isn't that an oxymoron? It's got a nice creamy taste with zero fat. It does have the dreaded corn syrup in it and 1 g of sugar per 1 tablespoon (part of that is the natural sugar in the milk) so use it with that information in mind. It's great in a cup of coffee or poured over hot steel cut oatmeal.

Steel Cut Oatmeal. It takes longer to prepare steel cut oatmeal and it's more expensive so why bother? The taste is creamy with a nutty flavor, thick, rich and delicious. The nutritional benefits include B-vitamins, calcium protein and fiber. One cup of steel cut oats contains 8 g of insoluble fiber. (That's the fiber that flushes fat and cholesterol out of your body.) I cook my oatmeal in a small crock pot. I put the water and oats in the crock pot and let them warm up together. Steel cut oats are traditionally grown in Ireland. My tin of "Irish Oatmeal" comes with an Irish blessing: May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face.

100% pure pomegranate juice. Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants which can lower blood pressure, have a cancer fighting agent, and are beneficial to heart health. My favorite way to drink Pom juice is to add a little to my Merlot therefore increasing the antioxidant power of my red wine.

I do believe it's time to have my glass of pomerlot. What are your favorite healthy, tasty foods?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eating Out

It isn't easy eating healthy at restaurants. You never know how things are cooked or what ingredients are used. How much and what kind of fat? Salt? Sugar?

But when your girlfriends want to meet for lunch, of course you go. I went to one such lunch with the library ladies on Monday. We meet at a Chinese buffet that has more choices than I've seen anywhere else.

So how does one navigate through the rows of steaming dishes? I skip the American aisle of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, French fries, pizza, etc. I also skip the egg rolls, fried sweet breads, and other deep fat fried foods.

The salad bar has good choices: bowls of greens, raw vegetables and fresh fruit. I avoid the puddings, Jello and pasta salads that are on the same table.

Our restaurant has poached salmon. Not my favorite way to cook salmon but it's most likely a healthy choice. On Monday I went through the rows of combination foods like beef and broccoli, and picked out a few veggies from each. I tried to get as little sauce with the veggies as possible since there's no telling what was in them. I got a bunch of crunchy green beans out of a bowl of their own and a mushroom dish that was so tasty I'm sure it was cooked in something decadent. Water to drink and a fortune cookie for dessert made a satisfying meal.

I had a great time catching up with friends. It's important to put more focus on the people while choosing what you eat with care.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Flavor of Friendship

At church on Sunday my friend, Katherine, handed me two jars of homemade sugar free jelly. She has pear trees that produced abundantly this year. Among other things, she made pear jelly. Then she branched out into pear/plum jelly, pear/pineapple jelly and at my suggestion pear/pomegranate jelly.

It was because of me that she branched out to sugar free jelly. This brings up the point of healthy and what does that mean. I believe sugar free is healthy, but I am also OK with sugar substitutes which others might view as unhealthy. Many people think honey is a healthy sweetener. I have to agree that it tastes great, it is God's original natural sweetener, and those bees are so clever to be able to make it. But I avoid it because it spikes blood sugar almost like table sugar and causes cravings for more sweets.

The jelly that Katherine gave me on Sunday was a masterpiece: Pear/Pomegranate/Merlot/pecan. Can it get better than that? I spread it on toast without butter and eat it like it was a piece of pie. Friendship is sweet and it tastes good.

Katherine's Sugar-free Pomegranate Jelly Recipe

I peel and cut small pieces of the pears off the core and put them into water with Fruit Fresh in it. After they soak, so they do not get dark in color, I remove them from the water and put them in the mini food processor and grind them til they look like applesauce.

I use:
2 C of ground pears.I add 2 cups of pomegranate juice
I put them in a deep sided pan and bring to a boil. I stir in 1 package of sugar free Sure Jel and bring back to a boil and boil at least 2 minutes.

Add 4 C of sugar substitute all at once and stir in. Bring back to a boil and boil 3 minutes.

Then I pout into hot jars and screw on hot lids and place in a hot water bath.
(Hot water over the top of the jar) and bring to a boil, boil for 5 minutes or more.

Set them out of the water on a rack and cool, make sure they seal.
This will make 4C and maybe a little more so 2 pints or 4 1/2 pint jars.

Same recipe for all whether it is pear, pear pineapple, pear/persimmon or pear with anything else...

Sure Jel has good advice in the package. The sugar free does not talk about pears but the regular Sure Jel does and I have found anything that applies to peaches applies to pears.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Grocery Shopping

I shop for groceries in Lawton, Oklahoma. The best prices are at WalMart and today I got two good deals: Butterball turkey for 50 cents a pound and sweet potatoes for 25 cents a pound.

The only other grocery store is Country Mart. In a city with a population of approximately 93,000 people, I can't find whole wheat phylo dough or chestnuts, even though both recipes say they are "available at your local grocery store." They haven't been to Lawton.

Though these ingredients are unavailable in Lawton, rest assured that LARD is readily available.
Can anyone tell me why a person would buy a big tub of lard?

My 86-year-old mother-in-law told me a story about when she was a girl. Whenever her father butchered a pig, they would grind some of the meat into sausage and stuff it into crock pots then top the meat with melted fat. Later, when they wanted to cook some sausage, they'd reach through the fat and pull out the sausage. Gross? Lard might have been useful back in the day. But now, why?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

What Not to Eat

It's church dinner day.
Let's walk through the line and talk about healthy choices.

Bacon is delicious but the fat clogs arteries and leads to heart disease. Beans are naturally heart healthy. You can learn to love them without bacon.

Chicken and fish are two healthy sources of protein. But bread and deep fat fry them and they lose their healthy status. Try grilling or baking or other cooking methods that don't add fat and calories.

Go easy on the sugar. Everything doesn't have to be sweet. Cut sugar out of your diet and you will begin to taste the natural sweetness in fruit and vegetables.

Choosing whole grain over processed white flour pasta is always a good choice. Processed flour has much of its nutrients stripped away and it turns quickly to sugar once eaten. This causes you to feel less satisfied and wanting to eat more and more.

Choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes for the same reason. Plus sweet potatoes are loaded with extra health benefits.

When it comes to desserts, I have to just say no. I am a surgarholic. I can not have one cookie or one small piece of pie. As soon as the sugar touches my taste buds and enters my blood stream, I am too weak to resist the second cookie and the third and the fourth...It is much easier for me resist the first one.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Church Dinner Tomorrow

First Sunday of the month means church pot luck dinner (lunch). With a church full of old fashioned country cooks, your taste buds say, "We're in heaven." Your arteries say, "We're feeling clogged." And you blood says, "Whoa! I'm spiking!"

The ladies cook the yeasty white dinner rolls in the church kitchen. The heavenly aroma fills every corner and makes your mouth water. There are usually more dessert choices than anything else. Almost everything has sugar in it: the salads, the vegetables, the sauces, the salad dressings, the fruit dip... No wonder diabetes abounds.

I try to bring something healthy (no sugar, no animal fat, no processed flour, little to no salt) which means I often take most of my food home. Oh well, I keep trying.

Tomorrow I am going to make chicken and stuffing. Not the best time for that since so many people just had their favorite version at Thanksgiving and will probably have it again at Christmas. I live in cornbread stuffing country, something I never heard of before moving to Oklahoma. I was raised on wheat bread stuffing spiced with sage. And my parents were from Kansas, just north of Oklahoma.

My stuffing has no bread in it. The replacement ingredients are a mixture of whole grain brown rice, whole grain wheat, and a little bit of steel cut oatmeal, which I cooked together today. I meant to add quinoa too, but I forgot. Maybe next time.

I'll add 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, sage and nutmeg then let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.

In the morning I may add some chicken broth, depends on what it looks like, then put it in a casserole dish topped with cooked chicken and let it warm up and bake in a very slow oven while I'm at church. I live two doors down from my church so it's an easy walk to go home and turn up the heat if needs be and be ready to walk back to church for the dinner at 12:30 p.m.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

~ 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (only ingredient - pumpkin)
~ 2 small sweet white onions, cooked and diced (left over from last night's dinner)
~ 2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked and diced (also left over from last night's dinner) You could puree them if you want your soup smooth.
~ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
~ 2 cups chicken broth (from last night's dinner, fat removed)

Place all ingredients in a small crock pot. Add canned chicken broth if needed to fill crock pot near to the top. Stir to mix. Cook on low for 5 hours or longer.

Salt and pepper to taste, eat and enjoy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet Potatoes

Some people call the sweet potato a nutritional All-Star, one of the best vegetables you can eat.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest ranked the sweet potato #1 in nutrition of all vegetables.

The sweet potato has a low glycemic index number meaning that it is digested slowly and does not cause a spike in blood sugar. That keeps the cravings for junk food away.

Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts for one medium size sweet potato:
Calories - 130
Fat - .39 g
Protein - 2.15 g
Net carbs - 31.56 g
Dietary fiber - 3.9 g
Calcium - 28.6 mg
Sodium - 16.9 mg
Potassium 265.2 mg
Folate - 18.2 mcg
Vitamin C - 29.51 mg
Vitamin A - 26081.9 IU
source: US Department of Agriculture

Not only nutritious, the sweet potato is also tasty and easy to cook. I like to microwave a sweet potato, cut it in half, smoosh the sides, add and dollop of olive oil margarine, sprinkle cinnamon on top and eat. Sweet & delicious.

Have you ever had sweet potato fries. Yummo! Bake them in the oven instead of frying for a healthier treat.

Tomorrow I am going to try making sweet potato soup from what's left of tonight's roast chicken and sweet potatoes dinner. I hope my soup will be as tasty as the Butternut Squash Soup I had at Atlanta Bread.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December, an Introduction

The only complaint my daughter had about Thanksgiving was the lack of healthy food choices. I made a sugarfree cranberry salad and a broccoli feta cheese salad, two of the dishes deemed healthy.

This got me thinking about a holiday dinner table laden with healthy foods where one who chooses not to eat white flour, white potatoes, sugar or ghastly fats can still feel like it’s a special, festive meal. Why not join the ranks of food bloggers and try out recipes that could be served at such a feast? It’s not like Christmas isn’t just around the corner. I’ve talked myself into using December as a month to discuss food, recipes, and healthy eating.

Do you have a healthy recipe that I could try?