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The Joy of Chocolate Pie and Friendship

I am an infrequent pie maker, usually only baking pumpkin pie for family holiday celebrations. Still, while I was in the book department at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (a place I love to be), an unusual recipe book called “Pies & Tarts – How to Make More Than 50 Scrumptious Pies and Tarts” captured my attention and ignited my imagination. I flipped through the colorful life-sized photos and recipes of everything from Lemon Tart to Neapolitan Pie and envisioned myself creating each one. I justified the impulse buy when I saw the $3.99 price tag.

Later last summer, with several chocolate pie recipes in mind, I had the opportunity to taste Dove Chocolate Discoveries products and to stock my pantry with a good bit of their Chef-Series Dark Chocolate. A year went by, and I only used the book once to make an Apple and Blueberry Pie.

As my turn to host my BUNCO group for dessert and dice rolling approached, I passed over all of my tried-and-true recipes and decided to prepare something new for my guests. Looking through Pies & Tarts, I selected the Chocolate Raspberry Pie. The instructions were straight forward and I already had the chocolate. The only catch was that it, like most of the recipes in this book, was to be made in a removable bottom tart pan, something I did not own.  I decided to settle for using the glass pie plate in which my mother-in-law had created so many family desserts.

On the Saturday before my BUNCO event, my husband and I were in Columbus to celebrate Father’s Day with our sons and found an hour to visit the just-opened IKEA store.  Son Kyle came along out of curiosity and none of us planned to make a purchase.  But, I wandered off of the path (IKEA guides you through the store) to peruse kitchen gadgets and, lo and behold, my eyes fell on the tart pan of my dreams priced at only $6.99! As store closing approached, my awesome husband went through the crowded check-out area, coming out with my prize.

On Tuesday, the day before my event, Dave was headed out the door for a business trip when the new pan caught his attention. He asked me how I planned to remove the outside ring. I hadn’t planned it at all and had a vision of myself, alone in the house, holding the pie flat on my left hand and wiggling the ring off the crust with my right hand. Then I would have the ring dangling from my arm and likely have messy crumbs everywhere. “I don’t know,” I answered. He took a moment to come up with a suggestion. He would set the pie on top of an upside-down bowl and use both hands to wiggle the ring off, letting it drop down to the countertop. During that day, as I made the cookie crumb crust and luscious chocolate filling, I thought about what a wonderful gift God has given me in my husband. He cares enough to use his solution oriented nature to help me with the challenges in my life, and I am thankful. Still, I took a minute that evening to GOOGLE how to remove a pie from a tart pan. The culinary experts described the exact procedure Dave had come up with.

On Wednesday, less than thirty minutes before my first guest arrived, I set the pie on the bottom of a bowl, said a prayer, and wiggled the ring off, leaving a perfect pie in place. My BUNCO friends and I indulged in the rich, creamy chocolate pie with raspberries on the side. I was not disappointed to have several servings to put back in the refrigerator.

On Thursday morning, two friends who also play the flute came over for a trio practice. As we finished, one needed to hurry off and I invited the other to have a piece of chocolate pie with me before leaving. We sat at my dining room table, enjoying the rare chance to share leisurely conversation over a yummy dessert. She liked the pie so much that she wanted to make it for her dark-chocolate-loving husband’s birthday, so I washed the pan, shared my tips for a good result, and sent her on her way with the pie book and my pan. Hers came out beautifully, too, and was enjoyed by all at the birthday dinner on Sunday.

I was blessed with JOY during this string of commonplace happenings as they resulted in a goal accomplished, a wonderful pie, and most of all the chance to bless several friends with a homemade dessert while we enjoyed each other’s company.

I can hardly wait to use my book and tart pan again! I’ve got my eye on the Banoffee Pie recipe (banana + toffee = banoffee).

From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. Proverbs 12:14

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Summer in Ohio

Yesterday, June 21, I sat outside on my deck surrounded by potted herbs and flowers enjoying the 80 degree temperature.  In our corner of the world, the U.S. state of Ohio, it was the first official day of summer, having more daylight than any other 24 hour period of 2017.  Sunrise was just before 6:00 a.m. and sunset didn’t occur until 8:56 p.m., giving us more than sixteen hours of daylight.

I have lived in the state of North Dakota where the sun did not set until 9:49 p.m. yesterday.  Having daylight until 11:00 p.m. was fun, but caused me to experience some summer insomnia, having wakeful energy well into the night and needing to get up with kids shortly after the 6:00 a.m. sunrise. I did prefer this, nevertheless, to the December days that had as little as eight and a half hours of sunlight.

More daylight means more time to enjoy the sounds, sights, and activity of Summer in Ohio. The sound of our summer day begins well before sunrise. Our early bird, a robin soon joined by friends, begins singing around 4:00 a.m. and continues until after dark. There are more bird songs in the air than I can identify. The robins’ and cardinals’ tunes are blended with chirps and trills of song sparrows, finches, and mourning doves with occasional blue jay and crow calls. Most days I forgo turning on music, content to listen to nature’s song. Yesterday’s breeze stirred the leaves of our backyard trees, creating a swelling and subsiding soft percussive sound.

I also enjoy seeing a variety of birds and other wildlife visit our yard throughout the summer days.  We recently installed a bird feeder near our bird bath. The menu is limited.  Today’s feature is black sunflower seeds. Tomorrow’s feature will be the same. Our patrons don’t complain. Many varieties of birds frequent the feeder, but often find it empty due to the hoarding instincts of our chipmunk and the persistent squirrels who scurry up and down the pole for a bite to eat.

We are blessed in our neighborhood to have a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern Gray Squirrel who also likes black sunflower seeds.

The bird bath is popular for more than washing up, and serves as a  watering hole for birds, squirrels, and occasionally a white-tailed deer.

I had the great pleasure of watching a days-old fawn from our dining room window for a couple of weeks this year and expect him to be back for snacks throughout the months to come.

While summer in Ohio has its rather laid-back  warm hours, it is not void of activity. Both my husband and I were born in the Buckeye State and enjoy traveling a few hours to our family reunions – a Lake Erie Fish Fry for the Frisch side and an August Sweet Corn Roast for the Vent/Pfeiffer side. Celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as the patriotic holiday weekends often find us driving two hours to spend time with our sons and daughter-in-law in Columbus. I enjoy the lighter packing and freedom from fear of snowy or icy roads.

During this stage of my life, I have several volunteer commitments that follow our nine month school schedule. That frees up time during the summer to accomplish some practical projects at home. This year I am sorting through closets, cupboards, drawers and boxes for items to include in a summer garage sale. My husband and I are working together on some home improvement projects including reupholstering dining room chairs (complete) and remodeling our upstairs bathroom (in progress).

I have come to anticipate the weeks of summer as a time for personal renewal and spiritual growth. I seem to find more time for lunch with a friend. I feel free to take the time to sit on the deck and read a book, not wanting to waste the season by remaining in the air conditioning. It has become important to me, also, to spend some hours considering what God’s current assignment is for me. Are there things I’ve been doing that can be considered finished? Is there something He would like me to start doing? It was  during this prayerful openness to His plan for my life last summer that I heard the words “begin a blog.”  There are some stirrings in my heart this summer that need more definition and I joyfully anticipate the unfolding of new things.

As the afternoon of the First Day of Summer gave way to our longest evening of the year, a dark cloud rolled in bringing the threat of rain and I heard our garage door going signaling my husband’s returned from a two-day work trip. Since I had not started our gas grill to prepare dinner yet, he took me to a Chinese restaurant where we chatted about our day as the shower passed. No matter that it was 8:30 p.m. until we began our evening neighborhood walk. There was still plenty of daylight as we took in the stunning summer sunset.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

 

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This Father’s Day, Say It With Respect

What do you respect about your father? Does he make sacrifices to provide for his family? Is he great at solving a problem or fixing what is broken? Have you ever thought about what he would do to keep you safe? Is he the one who takes you on vacation or spends time outside with you? Do you call him when you need some advice?

Fathers have a unique and very special place in our lives. Father’s Day is a great time to express that to them, often with a card.  It takes some effort to find cards that honor men rather than make fun of them. Sure, he’ll laugh at the fart or beer joke, but doesn’t he deserve some heartfelt appreciation for who he is and what he means to you?

My husband and I have two grown sons who are terrific at selecting cards for us. The guys consider our family’s blessings and challenges and present us with printed cards or handwritten notes that come from the heart. When we read those messages, we both find ourselves tearing up a bit.

As the only female in our family, I’ve been quick to express my love to my husband and my sons. About six years ago, I began to understand that there are other sentiments and words that have special meaning to men – words that women can be more intentional about using. “I love you to the moon and back” may be how we feel, but a message that conveys respect reaches the hearts of our men and boys . My understanding of this difference between men and women has come from the Love and Respect teaching of Emerson Eggerichs that I first heard in 2011. As Father’s Day approached that year, I used Walmart’s website to make this custom card for my husband:

   

The Father’s Day cards I purchase are not for my dad since he passed away many years ago. I’ve taken some time to remember the eighteen years I had with him and to recognize the honorable man that he was. I would want my card for him to say “Thank you.” Thank you for building us a great house to live in, complete with my own chartreuse bedroom. Thank you for going to work every day to provide for our needs and to make it possible for Mom to stay home with us. Thank you for supporting me in my activities and goals. Thank you for the camping trips to Michigan. Thank you for the day trips to fun places like the Columbus Zoo, where I took photos for my 4-H project and realized after we had walked through the rain to our car that I had left my camera on a picnic table. You went back for the camera.

Dad has his hand on my head as Mom turns on the lights.

See how my sister’s bedroom in the background is elevated?

Mom designed our unique split level home and Dad made it happen.

It’s not always easy to tell the people who mean so much to us how we feel. Many of us have felt regret for not noticing and appreciating the day-to-day efforts and sacrifices of our parents. A card may be the way to tell your dad what it is that makes him special. You might do it by adding a personal note after the punchline of a funny card. I found a  list of meaningful Father’s Day messages for fathers, husbands, and grandfathers at LovePop if you need help getting started.

Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly, and the pride of sons is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6

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Wear Out Your Chairs

I was alarmed to recently discover that the fabric on one of our dining room chairs had worn out, revealing the foam padding underneath. In fact, I tried to deny the issue by stitching the hole together and moving that chair to a spot seldom occupied. When a second seat developed a hole, I had to face the facts.

As we moved into our home nearly twelve years ago, my husband and I selected a beautiful new table with six chairs and a china closet for our new dining room. While the construction remains solid, I admit that I only looked at the pretty pattern of the fabric in 2005 without considering its durability.

Years ago, when the vinyl seat covers of some of our chairs split open, we opted to purchase a replacement set.  This time, reupholstering was the answer, so I checked with friends about who to call and started browsing through fabrics. The two of us were still sitting on perfectly good cushions, though, and didn’t feel much urgency to get the work done. I ordered a few samples from on-line stores, but weeks went by until a deadline presented itself.  (Deadlines are often-needed motivators for us. Last year I decided that we would install a long-overdue handrail in our stairway just three days prior to my mom’s weekend visit. Dave was a good sport, enlisting a handy friend’s help to complete my hastily planned project.)

This time, I gave about six weeks’ notice, telling him that I wanted the chairs ready for my Bunco group’s gathering in June.  As he wondered aloud whether we could get someone to complete the work in that time frame, I shared that I would love it if we could do them ourselves. We decided that if he could figure out a way to remove a seat, we would attempt our first upholstery project. He rounded up the necessary tools and I ordered the fabric.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, we worked together, with him removing seats while I measured and cut fabric. I then carefully stretched the pieces tightly over the old fabric for him to staple in place.

The first one was nerve wracking, mostly because I wanted them to look professionally done even though we were completely inexperienced! It turned out pretty well. (We went back later to fix one little thing.)

Old on the left – New on the right

Feeling more confident, we did another chair that day and the remaining four on Sunday. With the Monday holiday to spare, we successfully completed the project.

As I researched fabrics, I realized that a more heavy duty material would outlast the original quilting-style fabric. That made our task of achieving a smooth fit a little harder, but I hope that it will be decades before I notice any holes.

Our dining room chairs have always been well used. In each of our homes, we have set up a table near or in the kitchen for family meals and have not opted for a formal dining room. We are on our third table (fourth if you consider our kids’ table).

 

Son, Eric, on the right and friend, Jeff, on the left in 1988.

Our first table came from my grandma’s home in 1984.

Our first purchased set lasted until 2005 after these chairs were replaced.

Our current table with the newly re-upholstered chairs.

Gathering these photos, I was surprised at the sentimentality I felt about all of the times we’ve used our chairs.  Most of our family meals have been simple, but we have been nourished physically, relationally, and spiritually as we have made it a priority to eat together after bowing in thankful prayer. With our kids grown and on their own now, only two chairs get used these days, but I treasure the meals that Dave and I share at home and our evening games of Quiddler played at our table.

I’m convinced, and research backs it up, that families who eat together are more likely to flourish. A 2014 article from The Atlantic states, “children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

So, wear out your chairs! I’ll let you know if we hang out our upholstering shingle.

 

 

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