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Oct. 3, 2017

“I’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow!”

L. Frank Baum The Wizard of Oz

Sierra Madre has a scarecrow contest in October and, being a connoisseur of scarecrows, when I came across this lovely couple, I had to stop and take their picture for posterity. Now I ask you, are these guys not incredible!!

It’s officially Fall and persimmons are appearing here, there, and everywhere and, being a persimmon lover, I want to share my persimmon story with you, dear friends and neighbors..

Some years ago, my Dad lived on four acres of lime trees in Valley Center, a community up in the hills between Temecula and San Diego. As Valley Center is not far from the Mexican border, my Dad always had plenty of guys who were looking for work to help him with the trees. He would practice his Spanish with them, give them food, spend time talking to them about their lives in the country they had just left and what they hoped to find in America. My Dad loved to talk to people, any kind of people. Many of these guys who wandered into his yard were from Guatemala, which is a very long way from the border. They told tales of murder, desperate hunger, desperadoes waiting to rob these migrants and were beyond grateful for a few sandwiches and a bottle of water. But I digress...we were talking about persimmons.

While he still lived in Valley Center, before his wife passed away and he moved to Ajijic, Mexico himself, he had an extremely prolific Hachiya persimmon tree. I would go down for the day to visit them and he would give me a big bag of persimmons. I would send some to my cousin, Cindy, eat a lot of them and occasionally make persimmon cookies. I’m still mad that he sold that lovely home and moved to Mexico. He’s been in heaven for a while now, but I treasure the memories of those days in Valley Center, Dad’s persimmons, and the delicious champagne we occasionally sampled together.

At one time a persimmon tree grew down in the lower reaches of our yard.  It sat down there doing its job for years and then one day, apparently tired of life, it broke in two. What a disappointment, as the fruit was delicious and I had finally learned how to do something with them, other than just wait greedily for them to ripen and devour them.

Fortunately, it was overlooked.  No one was in a hurry to tear it away from the last shred of stump the tree was still clinging to.  For a while, I forgot about it and then one morning walked down to look at it, and discovered there was more fruit than I could count!  Hard and pale orange, but they would ripen beautifully by November. Persimmon cookies!

One windstorm too many separated the tenuous coupling between branch and root and that was that  Some years later I planted a persimmon down there in the lower region, a Fuyu. I have never had even one persimmon from that tree. It’s really in a bad spot, forced to fend for itself as far as water and sunlight are concerned. If it ever bears anything, the squirrels get to them first.

It struck me that the broken persimmon is a picture of what God could do with our lives if we would let Him have his way.  If we could cling to Him, as the persimmon clung, tenaciously, to its roots, God would fill us with his grace, his spirit, and we, too, would provide a harvest of good fruit; love and peace, patience and self-control, joy… oh yes! a huge crop of joy, regardless of circumstances.

Now that our persimmon tree is gone, Dad and his persimmon tree are no longer within my reach, I look longingly at the few persimmon trees in our area and consider introducing myself to their owners, somewhat like Oliver Twist, “Please sir, could I have some more?”

Persimmon Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup persimmon pulp (Hachiya persimmons, not Fuyu)

2 cups flour

½ tsp. cinnamon (I like cinnamon so my tsp. tends to be heaping)

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

½ cup butter (softened)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

You can also add a cup of chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chips or some of all three.

Puree persimmon pulp in blender. If you cut the top off the persimmon and squeeze the ripe fruit over the blender, it will spill right out. Then dissolve the soda into the pulp.  It will become very thick, like pudding.

Blend together flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.

Stir in dry ingredients, persimmon-soda mixture and raisins/nuts/chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto well-greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 10-12 minutes.  Makes 5-6 dozen.  These freeze well.

Drop a dozen in a Ziploc bag and give them to someone you love, or someone who needs to be loved. Or hide them in your freezer and eat them all yourself one rainy day (I use that term laughingly as Southern Californians get a spoonful of rain infrequently) in February.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Ps. 133

It is said that this precious oil is oil of persimmon... anyway, enjoy the cookies!

Aug. 19, 2017

“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

“There is always, always, always something to be thankful for!”

Are there ever moments in your life when you feel like you’re kinda down at the bottom of some pile of never-ending stuff you wish you didn’t have to do and you’d like to sit down somewhere and whine. Well, friends and dear family, I’ve been sort of in that place lately but yesterday, the nicest thing happened. I got a card from my sister, Heidi. On the front it says, “Whether sisters live near each other or far apart...” and then the inside says, “Sisters are there for each other through everything that matters. They are connected at the heart, and no one can ever break their bond. I’m so glad we’re sisters. Love, Heidi” Inside the card was an exquisite butterfly with a tag attached to it that says, “There is always something to be THANKFUL for.”

Her card arrived at exactly the right moment. I’d started making strawberry preserves and feeling sorry for myself. Not exactly crying in my strawberries, but close. Then I opened Heidi’s card, the butterfly flew out, my spirits flew upward and I had a moment to thank God for Heidi and for all of my family.

The picture here shows a few, just a very few, of the things for which I am thankful: My adorable husband, John, yes, still adorable after 50 years together; my Texas girls Jessie and Emily, a few flowers left from the bouquet my son gave me almost two weeks ago, and, of course, Heidi’s card, the butterfly, and the strawberry preserves.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done.” Jonathan Oatman, Jr. 1897

If you’ve never made strawberry preserves, you should give it a try. Strawberries are fairly inexpensive right now and look fabulous. There are recipes all over the place for strawberry preserves. You can google. But here’s how I make them:

Strawberry Preserves

2 pounds of strawberries (strawberries are packaged in those plastic boxes by the pound!)

2-1/2 cups sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

1 TB butter

Wash and hull the strawberries. Pick out half, preferably the largest and firmest and put them in the big pot you plan to cook your preserves in. Add half the sugar and the lemon juice and crush the berries with a fork. Add the remaining sugar, the rest of the berries and stir well.

Cook over high heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a full rolling boil. That’s a boil that can’t be stirred down. Transfer this to a 9 x 13 glass dish and set it aside, uncovered, overnight.

Next day, get out your canning jars and new lids. 2 lbs. of strawberries will make about 4 half pints of preserves, more or less. Sterilize your jars and lids and set aside so they’re ready when your preserves are ready.

Bring berry mixture to a boil over high heat in that same pan you used yesterday. Cook, stirring, until mixture jells. Now, this is the tricky part. You keep holding your spoon up out of the mixture while you’re stirring, and when it’s really jam, it will drip off the spoon at different points, rather than running off in a smooth stream. Trust me, this works! Add the butter at this point, which keeps foam from forming that you need to skim off.

When you know you’ve got jam, take your pan off the range, set it on a hot pad and spoon your preserves into the jars leaving about a quarter to a half inch of room at the top. Immediately put your lids on and screw the bands on tightly. I like to invert my jars so they’re standing on their heads till they cool. That way the fruit is all the way through the jar instead of crouching up close to the top. The lids should not spring back when you touch them.

When you spread your own strawberry preserves on your toast, you will be filled with gratitude and thankfulness. Honest!

“So, amid the conflict whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”

Thank you, Heidi, for being my angel yesterday. I love you.

 

Jul. 12, 2017

 “The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” George Bernard Shaw

“Fer-til-iz-er: A substance which makes soil more fertile.” (Webster)

When last we chatted, I waxed rhapsodic on the joys of homegrown tomatoes and now I've moved along in the garden to zucchini - a bane or a blessing?

Having grown zucchini and pumpkins, fertilizer is a superfluous frill as far as they are concerned. Put a couple of seeds in the ground, go away for the weekend, and be astonished when you return to find that their vines have cascaded all over the geraniums, the Dutch Iris and zinnias are fighting for their lives and thse greedy little tendrils are eyeing the garage. Zucchini is delicious when it’s small and tender but neglect to pick it and a day later, it has metamorphosed into a club the size of a baseball bat. You can grate one all day to make zucchini bread and never finish. Neighbors see you coming and won’t answer the door. The zucchini phenomenon is sort of like Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia!  with his enchanted broom and buckets of water. The zucchini inexorably keep coming and coming!

Anyway, when the zucchini overwhelm you, chop up some in your salad, sauté some in olive oil with tomatoes and lots of onions, drain and stir in some sour cream and top with a little parmesan cheese for a really great veggie dish. Or get out your Cuisinart and grate some for bread. This one is particularly good. This recipe originally came from Dorothy Reinhold’s column in the Pasadena Star News in 2011. In it, she described her son’s ecstasy about the zucchini bread that his 3rd grade Webster Elementary School instructional aide, Mrs. Corinne Le, had baked and brought to share.  “It’s soooooo good,” he said, “and she gave me the recipe. It’s really really good!” And it is, too! So, thanks Dorothy and Mrs. Le.  This is the best zucchini bread I’ve ever had. It’s neat to think that these third graders got to taste something fabulous that a teacher wanted to share. Teachers ARE exceptional people!

Zucchini Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 8” x 4” loaf pan.

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

1 cup finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 tsp. grated lemon peel

½ cup chopped pecans (optional), dried cranberries are good in here, too, and maybe a little chopped apple.

In a medium bowl combine first 6 ingredients.

In another medium bowl combine sugar, zucchini, oil, egg and lemon peel. Mix well.

Add dry mixture to zucchini mixture, stir just till moistened (batter will be lumpy)

Add nuts and/or cranberries, and apples.

Spoon batter into greased pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan or on a wire rack for 10 minutes. When your bread has cooled off a little, cut yourself a slice and sit down and enjoy it with a cup of coffee.  You deserve a break after all that planting, fertilizing, harvesting, distributing and baking! This freezes well, too, so you can double the recipe, which just happens to be in my book, “A Tablespoon of Love, A Tablespoon of Laughter.” 

“In simple humility, let our Gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation garden of your life.” James 1:21

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.” David Hobson

 

 

 

“The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” George Bernard Shaw

 

Apr. 11, 2017

I’d like.... another yesterday.

Turn back the hours, make it yesterday.

Go back to when I was your trusted friend,

What would I give to start with you again, beloved friend?

I’d like.... another yesterday.

Turn back the hours, make it yesterday.

I’d walk these roads again with you,

Share wine and bread and share the laughter, too.

I’d like.... another yesterday.

To feel the sun again upon my face,

To listen to the things you say,

This time, believe you really are....The Way.

And now it’s all come down to this,

I’ve betrayed you.....with a kiss.

These silver coins fall through my fingers,

Just like petals from a rose....

Too late to change things.....I suppose,

Too late to change things.....I suppose.

I’d like.....another yesterday......”

Good Friday is coming up in just a few days. Having wondered many times if Judas regretted betraying Jesus, I wrote these lyrics as part of “Hands!” The Musical and my co-writer, David Wheatley, wrote beautiful music for it. He has sung and played it several times for Good Friday services and it is very moving. We don’t really know, do we, what happened with Judas, except that it all went wrong.

Maundy Thursday services are coming up, commemorating Jesus’ breaking of the bread, “This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And taking the cup he shared it with his disciples and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” We’ll remember, too, that Jesus washed his disciples feet, Peter protesting all the way.

The Good Friday service will end in silence and darkness, but we know Sunday is coming! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! We know our Redeemer liveth! Easter at last! A time of celebration that has absolutely nothing to do with bunnies (chocolate or otherwise), exhaustive hunts for hard-boiled eggs or even honey-baked ham.  It might have something to do with new outfits, but extensive biblical research has not proven that, one way or the other.  "Before Dawn…Sunday" celebrates the fact that Jesus did, indeed, rise from the dead and lives today.  Which is an exciting thought, an amazing concept upon which we base our lives.  And beats the heck out of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs….unless they were dyed personally by your favorite four year old. 

Before Dawn….. Sunday  

The sky was gray,

The world was hushed,

Before dawn… Sunday.

The women walked

Toward a tomb,

Jars of spices in their hands,

To tend the One,

The One Who died,

Crucified that Friday.

The women walked,

Toward the tomb,

Mary Magdalene and another.

They walked, and worried, wondering,

Who, would roll away the stone.

The sky was gray,

The world was hushed,

Before dawn, Sunday.

They stopped to rest,

Await the day,

Sad eyes filled with tears,

Sorrow for the One Who died,

Crucified that Friday.

Another dawn, another day,

What did it matter, anyway?

The One who loved her as she was,

Who changed her life, was gone.

She raised her eyes to see the sky,

Streaks of pink and gold.

And then they saw,

The guards were gone,

The stone was rolled away!

The grief she’d felt since Friday,

Like the stone, was rolled away!

She grabbed that jar of spices,

And running like a child,

Climbed the hill,

To tend her Lord, early on that Sunday.

They looked inside that borrowed tomb,

Petrified with fright,

An angel sat there on the stone,

Clothed in brilliant white.

“I know the one you seek,” he said,

"Jesus, crucified.

He is not here, he is risen!

He’s risen, as he said

He’s risen!  He’s risen!

He’s risen, as he said!

Now go!  And tell the others,

He’s risen, as he said!

Look not for the living,

Here among the dead!

He is not here, he’s risen!

He’s risen, as he said!”

We rejoice on Easter as we KNOW that Our Redeemer liveth!

 

 

 

Mar. 24, 2017

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matt. 10:29

This picture shows what our front door usually looks like with this colorful wreath which has been up there forever because it’s sheltered from the rain, wind and sun. I say ‘usually’ because until this past week, nothing has come along to bother it. However, last Monday I noticed a whole bunch of twigs on our doormat and thought, cleverly, “where did all these come from?” So I picked them up and my eye caught on the wreath. There on the inside were a whole bunch more twigs and further inspection revealed that a sparrow or some other tiny bird was building a nest in our wreath. “Oh no, you’re not!” I thought, took all that nest stuff out, tossed it underneath the tree by the front walk and proceeded inside. I know, I sound really mean.

Later that day, went outside, more twigs on the mat, nest rebuilt. Again, removed it, and went to the market. Returned with groceries. Nest rebuilt. Removed. Next day, nest is back and I realize this little bird is going to win so nest removed and wreath taken down. I noticed that all the nest stuff that was under the tree was gone so, hopefully, she found a better spot to build her nest. You’re thinking, my gosh, what a meanie! Well, there’s a reason, friends and neighbors.

A few years ago, another little bird built her nest in a different wreath. We were thrilled! We quit using the front door, walking all the way around from the back every time we wanted to use the front gate...and when I say ‘all the way around’ – trust me on this – it’s quite a ways around! So we’re not using the door, creeping up every now and then to check on the nest and soon there are eggs in there, two of them. We feel like midwives! We caution family and friends not to go on the front porch as the little mother is nervous and flies frantically off when the nest is approached. Time passes, we’re getting a little tired of carrying groceries an additional mile and up the stairs to get them inside, but now there are little peeps coming from the nest and the eggs have hatched. We are thrilled! Our babies are finally here!

This joy and jubilation don’t last long. We come home a couple of days later to find the nest, pieces of baby bird, and a lot of ugly stuff on the doormat. One of the neighbor’s cats has found the nest and.... well, you can imagine the rest. We were devastated! We both cried as we were really invested in this little family’s success, imagining little birds learning to fly out of our wreath, taking test runs around the yard, landing in our trees.

You can understand my strong desire not to go through this again, I’m sure. I still feel mean, but it was the right thing to do. Our front door is a war zone. But this much I know, God cares a lot about sparrows:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matt. 10:29-31

“The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.” Ps. 84:3

This poem about God and sparrows was written by Civilla D. Martin in 1905. The next day she mailed it off to Charles Gab­ri­el, who sup­plied the mu­sic. Sing­er Ethel Wa­ters so loved this song that she used its name as the ti­tle for her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

“His Eye Is On The Sparrow”

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I’m pretty sure God helped our sparrow find a better spot to lay her eggs, where He could keep an eye on her.