Did I Say That?

Ever say something you wish you could jump out and grab back? I admit I hear myself say things and then ask myself “Who said that?” Raise your hand if you’ve said: “You’re wearing that?” “Because I said so.” “If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” “I’m the parent, that’s why!”

But what about the icky, heavy, negative things that came out of your mouth you wish you hadn’t said? How about those phrases you promised yourself you would never say. No matter how hard we try, there is the instance when we’ve said the wrong thing.

I struggle with keeping my mouth shut sometimes and am, by no means, the epitome of self-control. Sometimes I look at myself and ask, “Where did that crazy woman come from? Who let the lunatic into my home?” But I am also learning a valuable lesson: God gives us a beautiful gift of grace. No matter how ugly our words may have been, every morning the sun rises and with it, His promise of a fresh start. A new day. Another chance. Our Heavenly Father piles on the love every single day and tells us to try again. When your heart calls to Him for help, He is there with a big hug and all the help you need for a “do-over”. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

We can’t beat ourselves up for mistakes. After all, we are human and God knows we goof up. Our words have the potential to be the worst weapons available, but we can make amends with honest apologies and second chances. (Are you singing Veggie Tales right now? No? OK, maybe it’s just my crazy self.) Try again. Apologize for something you wish you hadn’t said and then soak in God’s grace. Improve the next time. Ever hear that phrase “When you’ve reached the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on”? Better yet, tie two knots around an old tire and swing! Swinging is fun and will make you feel young and free again.

God knows where you are. He speaks His love to us all the time, but sometimes we don’t listen. Instead of loudly announcing a suggestion, He softly whispers His ideas. Try this: sit quietly and listen. Deep down we can hear Him. God will show you what to do and say when you ask yourself, “Did I say that?”

Push the Rock

Have you ever heard someone say that your frame of mind is ultimately your own? We decide to be a happy person or a grouchy one. If a rude driver cuts in front of us, do we rev up our engine and display a gesture that means something far from “Have a nice day”? Does a nasty phone call throw us into an angry rage? When we see water dripping into the basement again and again and again, what do we do? Toss in the towel? (Soggy towels and dry ones) Sometimes, wouldn’t it be easier to stop trying to find the silver lining? I mean, how positive can we be as we mop up basement puddles, search for lost keys or decide how to divide the contents of the bank account amongst a pile of late bills? I know that sinking feeling when we ask ourselves, “How much more do I have to take? How do I persevere?”

My first day at the church I now call home was a God moment for sure. I walked in the door and was warmly greeted by a smiling gentleman who shook my hand and asked me if this was my first day here. I obviously looked new and unsure and when I affirmed that I hadn’t been there before, he said “Great!” He asked if I had ever been to church and when I answered him, although it had been awhile, I used to attend a place with much formality, rules and procedures. “Well”, he replied enthusiastically, “it’s nothing like that here. As a matter of fact, we have a guest speaker today – a mime!” A mime? As the guest ‘speaker’? I figured since I was already through the door and I actually did want to check out this church that promised to be a safe and accepting environment, I would stay and ‘listen’ with an open mind.

Little did I know that God had more in store for me than just a casually observing morning. The mime was interesting and I had never seen Bible stories played out in this way before. But what hit me over the head, loud and clear, was the message. The mime acted out the story of a man who was told by God to push on a nearby boulder. “But God”, questioned the man, “this boulder is gigantic. I can’t move it.” God again told the man again to push. Being a good follower, the man pushed. Of course the enormous boulder did not budge an inch, although he used all his force against it. The story continues with the man pushing and pushing, using every muscle in his body. Sometimes he questions God, asking Him, “How much longer?” “Why the struggle?” He doesn’t understand the need to persist when, obviously, nothing was happening. Days and nights go by and still, no apparent change that the man could see. But since God continued to tell the man to push, he persists and pushes.

Finally, the man is exhausted, sweaty and above all, frustrated. I thought, as I watched, that the boulder would at least slide a smidge. After all, God told him to push. Was He just wasting this man’s time and efforts? (Side note: I wondered why each row of seats had full boxes of Kleenex. This is the time I found out.) The man cried out again to God, “Look, I haven’t even moved this thing. I tried and tried but I’ve failed.” The man hangs his head low in defeat. Our loving, Heavenly Father speaks gently to the man. “No. You have not failed. You are right; the boulder did not move. I didn’t ask you to move it. I just asked you to push on it. But you cannot see what I see. You are exactly as I planned for you to be. Look at yourself. You have persistence. Your muscles are strong. You are trusting and mighty. I am with you, and always was. You haven’t let me down. On the contrary, you are just right. You are now ready for what I have in store for you.”

I had never turned on the waterworks at church so much in my life. Goosebumps and tears were all over me. My walk into that church, on that day, to hear that specific message, was planned out by God. There is no doubt in my mind. But also, my walk was heavily burdened with an upcoming change. A big, scary life-change that I did not want and was deeply afraid of. I didn’t know what would be on the other side of my boulder, but I heard God telling me to push anyway. The man in the story could not change the situation. That big ol’ boulder never did move. We may push and shove our ‘boulder’ until we are blue in the face. Guess what? Just like that man wasn’t supposed to move his boulder, maybe we are not supposed to move ours either. Perhaps we’re just supposed to be obedient and push. God uses our persistence and new muscles for exactly what He has planned. And until we follow, we won’t be ready.

No matter what frustrations you are fighting, God can take them and turn them into amazing, miraculous stories. Keep pushing and then share your story. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:21 NIV)

The Kindness Rocks Project

When I was a kid, I remember my mom setting up scavenger hunts for my brother and me. Little clues hidden in one spot that led us to another location for another clue, and so on. She’d send us all over the house searching for the next note. We’d run from the kitchen cupboards to the backyard swingset to the space under the bed. At the end there would be some little reward for finishing. It was a blast for us, although I’m sure it was a lot of work for her. I seem to recall these were reserved for rainy days or times where everyone was so bored and ‘needed something to do’. These scavenger hunts go down as one of my favorite memories.

Another favorite thing of mine is the trend of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’. I’m sure you’ve heard of small, sometimes anonymous, little gestures that are simply nice things to do for someone else. Sometimes it’s picking up the tab for someone at a restaurant; leaving a note of appreciation for your mail carrier; or maybe shoveling snow for a neighbor before they notice. Even though these seem like ‘little’ things, in actuality, they are ‘big’ things.

Recently I found a rock at our church. I was walking into the building and saw a painted rock with a note taped to it. Of course I snapped a photo then picked it up for a closer look. The note referenced a facebook page for Michigan rocks and a date. The instructions were to post a photo and re-hide the rock someplace else. How fun! Kind of like a scavenger hunt. That afternoon, I hid the rock at a local outdoor mall and I hope someone else finds it and has fun posting their own photo and hiding it again.

That got me thinking and browsing around for other rock-hiders. After all, decorating rocks, writing little messages on them and tucking them into hiding places could be fun! Google brought me to “TheKindnessRocksProject”. Wait a minute – kindness rocks? I was intrigued.

Come to find out, the project is simply about using rocks to provide encouraging words to folks in hopes that they find them when needed. I could do that. Easy peasy! I read on. The instructions were simple and being the crafty soul that I am, I set out to make some kindness rocks. I already had a can of spray paint and a bag of rocks, (anyone think of ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’ and poor Charlie Brown right now? Yep. Me too.)

I made a quick stop at my favorite craft store, Hobby Lobby, (twist my arm!), and picked up a couple oil-based paint pens. Then I jotted down a few inspiring phrases and quotes and got started. Knowing that I could perhaps give a little bit of encouragement to someone was a good feeling. I thought about what would be nice to read in a random situation, starting with simple ones like “Be kind” and “You are loved”. Then as I thought about where I would hide the rocks, different types of messages came to mind. At our local community college, I could tuck little rocks with supportive phrases: “You got this” and “Don’t stop believing”. Hmm… what if I was feeling bummed out, what would I like to hear? “Every little thing is gonna be alright” and “You are enough” came to mind. I was on a roll. Library, park, grocery store, hiking trails…where else could I go?

Looking for a fun little project? Have a few rocks lying around? Grab some paint or sharpie and a jar of modge podge and make a few kindness rocks of your own. For quick and very easy notes on how I made them, click here. Have fun hiding little rocks of encouragement around your neighborhood. Oh yeah, and if you happen to find one of the rocks I hid, I’d love to see a photo! Snap a pic and post to Instagram or facebook with the tag @prayerstew. Feel free to re-hide or keep it for yourself. Let the hunt begin!

Giving credit where it is due: Thank you to #TheKindnessRocksProject for your simple, inspiring story and the ‘OK’ to mention your site on my blog.

watch and see

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

God is faithful. He knows all about you. Maybe you are stuck in a traffic jam. Maybe you’re drowning in bills. Are you freaked out about classes? Perhaps you are potty-training an unwilling toddler. Perhaps you’ve shed your last tear and sit next to a huge pile of crumpled tissues. God knows where you are. If you are praying for answers, listen. Listen hard.

Answers to our heartfelt prayers will come, but in God’s timing, not our own. In a world where we tap our fingers waiting for high-speed internet and expect everything to be as speedy-quick as possible, it is SO HARD to wait! As the self-described Queen of Patience Deficiency, I understand your agony with waiting. I cannot wait for medicine to take effect. I cannot wait for microwave popcorn to pop, (well, I CAN, I just don’t like to). I cannot wait for water to boil.

Watch and see.

God plays out the coolest scripts. He aligns everything just right before His plans come into fruition. He knows your needs and He is ready for them. Maybe we don’t see the end of the line, but God promises that He is there, waiting for us. Sometimes we wish for a “sign” of some kind to affirm for us that there is a plan in our future. My dear friend tells me over and over again, “Watch and see.”

When you do get your sign, move on it! In the Parable of the Great Banquet, (Luke 14:15-24), Jesus tells of a man who prepared a fabulous meal and invited many guests. When everything was ready, his servants went to tell the guests, “Come, for everything is now ready!” But guess what? They all had excuses about why this was not a good time for them to come. One had a new field he needed to tend to; another had new livestock to train; and another had just gotten married. The man ended up inviting strangers from the streets to share and celebrate instead! There was no rescheduling. The original guests missed it. They missed the opportunity to dine and have a great time.

Watch and see.

God will answer our hearts, but we need to listen also. Listen for His soft whispers and when you know – go! Act on your answer. It may be a part-time job you have been praying for. It may be a person you are supposed to meet. Maybe it is a door opening to your dream. Let God handle all the details. When He has it all in place, you will see! At that time, move on it! God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t put the food right into the nest.

Watch and see.

You may be praying for your children. God hears you. Watch your little one pray with his eyes closed and hands lifted. See your sweetie sharing a good deed out of the kindness of her heart. Shed a thankful tear and praise Him. He always hears you!

Watch and see.

Mr. Tony Mac-n-Cheese

Going away to college = mac-n-cheese. The end. It’s cheap, and as gross as it may sound, it can be made without the butter or milk recommended on the box. (Speaking from experience, of course.)

My college roommates and I would make mac-n-cheese whenever someone had an extra dollar to buy a box or when someone received it inside a lovingly-mailed care package. Wa-hoo! Mac-n-cheese! Which was odd for me, because I had never really been a big cheese fan. I know, weird. I didn’t like it on pizza, sandwiches, fries, omelets or burgers. And don’t even get me started on fake cheese. Ew! But, college does funny things to one’s taste buds. I remember coming home from school once and ate broccoli. My brother thought I was crazy. “Since when do you like broccoli?”

You know how you can over-eat something and then never have a taste for it ever again? Back to that mac-n-cheese. After graduation, I had no desire to eat it again. Ever. Until I had children. Mac-n-cheese enters the picture once again. I tried eating it. I really did. But just had no taste for it. I didn’t understand why people made such a big deal about it. It’s simple and economical, I understood that much. But the excitement over a big blop of it on my plate, when I wasn’t in school anymore? No thank you, I’ll pass.

This is where Tony comes in. We met him and his amazing family in a small group through church. A bunch of us studied together, shared life together, prayed together and ate together. A lot. Every time we met, we had potluck. Who can resist a great potluck? Fill up a plate with a little of this and a smidge of that – delish!

One group meeting, Tony brought three cheese mac-n-cheese and said, as he often does about his dishes, “It’s awe-some!” He is enthusiastic about his food creations and proudly regales how his dishes are made, what special ingredients are inside and downright makes you want to try everything. Again enters mac-n-cheese. Not wanting to hurt Tony’s feelings by passing it by, I gave it a taste. OMG. Can we talk about what makes this recipe great?

Starting from the top: breadcrumbs. And not just any breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs. Those light, flaky, golden bits of deliciousness that, when mixed with butter, are irresistible! Now each bite can have a teensy bit of crunch to it. Mmm-mmm!

Next comes cheese: If you’re an upscale home-cook like Tony, you choose fancy cheese like gouda, smoked cheddar, whatever you like! Honestly, I usually make it with common cheese like sharp cheddar, colby jack and parmesan/romano. Easy peasy.

Let’s not forget butter. I know, I know. Butter is not healthy. There’s not a ton of it in this recipe, so don’t worry. If you must substitute it for a healthier option, feel free. I have no doubt it will still be amazing.

Another great thing is the cost. Look at what you’re purchasing to make this recipe. It’s all quite affordable. If you shop my favorite store, Aldi, then you can easily make enough for two batches. One for your family to polish off, and one to share.

Last but most certainly not least: love. My friend’s enthusiasm about sharing a special dish with our small group was evident. Whenever I make this for my family, it makes me happy because I know I’m making, with love, something they will enjoy. Every time. Even better, it’s now a requested dish in our home. Mr. Tony’s Mac-n-Cheese has been to many places including high school marching band tailgate parties when the kids needed to bring a ‘dish to pass’; and my son’s baseball gatherings at the end of the season. “Mom, can you make mac-n-cheese?” Absolutely. Every time. A bit of love goes into each batch. Good thing, too. Because even though the dish doesn’t last long, the love behind it sure does.

Giving credit where it is due: Recipe shared by Tony Curtis, used often by me. When you want to make a pan of your own delicious yummy-ness, click here.

And yet we all have our limits

The ‘Unattainables’ – you know them. They drive clean mini-vans to soccer; they volunteer; they fix cars, plunge toilets and bake cookies (OK, not at the same time!). They’re like superheroes. They never have a bad hair day; their children were potty trained early and they have houses fit to be in Better Homes and Gardens magazine!

While it may appear that some people do it all, let’s face it, we are human and cannot possibly do everything. And guess what – God made you that way! He knew exactly what He was doing when He designed you. He knew you weren’t capable of doing everything. But guess what else? Maybe you don’t know how to snake a drain. But there is a wonderful, honest and fair plumber out there who does. And you know something else? God designed that plumber to do the very task they do so well.

So let’s see, God made us to do some things, and not to do others. I have a friend who explained something very important in this way. “When you don’t ask for help from someone who can help you, you’re denying them of a blessing.” Who am I to deny a blessing? If you like to be in control, like me, asking for help may be incredibly difficult. But remember God wants to bless someone here. Maybe you are the tool He needs. Open the doors to blessings! Ask for help – whatever it is: tutoring a child, lifting something heavy, teaching you how to put up drywall, tie a decorative bow or scoop a dead mouse. (Yes, I do know lovely, dear folks who will eliminate a dead rodent. I love my friends!)

While on the topic of rodents, I digress to share a haunting story and make a suggestion. Get to know your neighbors! Find out who is squeamish and who is not. Find out what treats they enjoy and plan to repay favors with baked goodies. I tell you this because here’s a spooky story about a most-unwelcome rodent!

I love summer and everything about it. Living in Michigan where we have winter temps below zero, I soak in the warmth of summer with great joy and anticipation. Although I realize that summer brings with it a share of irritating pests. Mosquitoes, seagulls and moles are animals we expect to see at home in the summer. But I tell ya’, when my kids and I found a BAT IN THE HOUSE I was less than enthusiastic! A bat at a time when trick-or-treating was long gone was not enjoyable, to say the least. I was scared to death! When I saw the flapping wings of a bat upstairs in my home, I admit, I could not play mature parent who doesn’t loose her cool. Instead, I locked myself and my sweeties in my son’s room and sat there wondering what the heck was I to do! Of course I remembered to bring the phone with us and close the door upon the room the creature had flown into. Ha-ha! It was more like this: I trembled with fear as I cracked my son’s bedroom door open just enough to reach out and grab the phone. I called my wonderful neighbor and begged for rescue! If that’s not a neighbor going above the call of neighborly duty, I don’t know what is! After the flapping creature was disposed of, I made not only dinner, but a bat-shaped cake for my neighbor to express my heartfelt thanks! Squishing spiders is one thing, but there are some things I just cannot do! Realizing my limits has been insightful and scary at the same time. My neighbor and their teenage sons not only received a blessing of satisfaction from that haunting experience, but a good meal to boot.

Receive God’s blessings, and let those around you receive them too. We are not designed to be all in one. But the One who is, designed us just way we are supposed to be. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”. (Psalms 139:14). Celebrate your uniqueness and your abilities, and share a blessing with those helpers around you! And God bless all you rodent-removers everywhere!

pen pal scarf

Today it is eighty degrees. I made a scarf. Of course, what else would one do in eighty-degree weather? There’s a method to my madness, (not always, but in this case, there is!) Remember back in the day when people would write letters in school? Not notes that we would sneakily pass back and forth with friends, but an actual letter with an envelope. I can recall a lesson or two on how to properly address an envelope; the correct placement of the salutation; and how to construct a full-body letter that was interesting and informative. My handwriting was horrible so these lessons were agonizing! Sometimes the assignment also consisted of who the recipient would be – perhaps grandparents, a friend who had moved away, or a random pen pal. Those were pretty cool. Writing a letter that would introduce myself to someone far away, and then anticipating a letter in return was fun. Yes, yes, yes, I know. Email is faster. Much faster. Social media has made the process of mailing a letter feel old-fashioned. Why spend money on a stamp when I can message someone online for free?

I get to experience the best of both worlds. I’m in a pen pal facebook group. It’s all about crochet and sending a fun little something to another crochet-lover. Doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro. Doesn’t matter what your age is or where you live. All that matters is that we like crochet-related stuff and packages in the mail. We usually include a letter too, which is so nice because it gives a little insight on a new person in another part of the world.

So I made a scarf. It’s time to pop a package in the mail to my pen pal and I thought it’d be nice to include a finished item as well as the pattern. This pattern is so pretty because it looks like knitting, (the little ‘V’ shaped stiches), but it’s all done in crochet. A bulky-weight yarn is used so it works up rather quickly. The trick is working in the ‘third loop’. Something new to me and a very cool stitch. It’s kinda like the loop in back of an actual stitch. The process pushes your work towards the front and makes the end result squishy and cozy.

Being a self-taught newbie, I don’t write patterns. But I certainly appreciate all the time, precision and hard work that goes into writing them, and support giving credit where it is due. This particular pattern is from http://www.allaboutami.com/tripleluxecowl/. The author has a lovely website with a ton of really nice things.

Off to mail my pen pal’s package. Wonder what what will be in mine? I may or may not be peeking on the porch waiting for the mail soon…

The Accidental Tomato

My dad is a gardener. His mother was a gardener. Her father was a gardener. We always had a garden when I was a kid. We tried growing corn and other veggies. My mom loves geraniums. Her mom loved red begonias. As the phrase goes, gardening “is in my blood”. I’m not actually using blood to garden, like in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, but I think you know what I mean.

I love my little gardens. I like getting my fingers dirty and smelling the earth on my hands. There’s something grounding, (no pun intended), about digging a hole, putting in a plant and tending it into something either beautiful, nourishing, or both. As soon as my kids were big enough to ‘help’, I introduced them to a bit of gardening too. We had raspberries that grew out of control. My daughter picks pea pods off the plant and appreciates their freshness just like I do. We planted peanuts once. (They tasted horrible, but it was still fun!) I have an adorable pic of my son when he was little assisting me in the garden by popping off tulip flowers leaving behind strong, plain, green stems. But it’s tomatoes that are the enigma for me. Not a fan. I’ve tried. Yes, numerous times. I do not like them Sam- I – am. I grow the tomato. I do not eat the tomato. I love how the plant smells when I prune it. I still do not eat them. I grow them for my husband who likes them as a snack. It’s incredibly rewarding to see him enjoy something I grew solely for him.

It’s nice to be appreciated, isn’t it? Not like you do things for people only for the purpose of getting thanks in return. But when you think about it, isn’t it nice to know something you spent time, energy and perhaps poured a bit of love into is appreciated by the receiver? Sometimes we get busy and forget to notice. Sometimes the idea of mailing a thank you note may seem old-fashioned.

This summer we were on vacation during traditional planting time. I have two great garden boxes my husband made for me and I was sad when we came back from vacay to find I was growing a healthy collection of weeds. A week later, I put on my grubbies, hooked up my ipod with a great playlist and vowed to get started cleaning out the garden beds. At least I could put in a few plants this year.

When I started pulling the weeds out, I was surprised to find a tomato plant. And not just one, but eight tomato plants growing, on their own, amongst the icky weeds. They weren’t planted by me. I figured they must have sprouted by remnant tomatoes from last season. I couldn’t help but smile and notice how cool it was for God to give us a few freebies. See the cool cycle? God gave me the tomato plants to enjoy and I can return the favor by tending them so they produce tomatoes that my hubby enjoys. What a shame if they hadn’t been noticed and just tossed with the weeds.

How about a challenge? Find someone to thank today. Someone who isn’t expecting it. Maybe leave a note for your mail carrier. Thank the kid bagging your groceries. Tell your kid’s coach how much you appreciate them. Say thank you to the cook who serves your food in the lunchroom at work. Take a minute to be aware of who might appreciate a bit of gratitude.

I remember when my kids were little and we would drive to school. There was a great clearing where you could see the sun coming up. I would make a point of telling them, “Look! Look at what God made for you! Isn’t it wonderful?” As cliché’ as it sounds, stop and smell the roses. Or the jasmine, or hollyhocks. What a shame to miss what God created for you to enjoy. Take a moment and say thank you.

Hmm, maybe I’ll have to give eating a tomato another try…

capes and slippers

It was a long-time dream of mine to write a book. I’m a ‘planner’. Are you a planner too? Having things all laid out, “ready to go” and in order makes me feel productive, secure and in control. Guess what? Life is messy. We aren’t in control. My garden needs weeding. (I’m pretty sure there’s a bean in there somewhere!) Socks are on the floor over there, there and there. I’ve got piles of ‘stuff’ everywhere and I work best in clutter and noise. As a matter of fact, don’t you feel like you’re riding on a wave of chaos at times? What happened to those plans? What happened to the dreams we had? I’ve recently come to realize that our dreams aren’t entirely our own. God plants dreams into our hearts and it is up to us to tend to them. Unfortunately, as we grow older and ‘mature’ many of us give up and squelch our dream of becoming a beautiful ballerina or a brave superhero. Waiting for dreams is just not realistic in our adult, grown-up world of bills, grocery shopping on a budget and piles of laundry reaching up to our eyebrows!

But God never gives up. He never gives up on us, or on that childhood dream. What was yours? Think back and allow yourself to remember. Did you want to grow up and be a fireman, an astronaut, an athlete? Maybe you wanted to be a singer, a teacher or a movie star? Perhaps your wishes were to travel, own a cute little bakery or paint beautiful landscapes.

God whispers to us that our dream is still there. Not only is it still present, but it patiently waits for us to tend it. There is still time to give a little water and TLC. We are superheroes when we squish a spider or toss a ball back and forth with a child. I can’t imagine a better way to feel like a princess than when my sweeties were little and used to decorate my hair with clips, give me a sloppy smooch and tell me I am their beautiful mommy. Of course we can pursue our dreams, because God gave them to us and He is with us as we do!

And what if the superhero cape doesn’t fit and the ballerina shoes are worn out? Does that mean our dreams and plans aren’t valid anymore? Of course not! God takes all the seemingly random pieces: the dreams, the desires of our hearts, life’s curve balls and works them all together into an amazing plan. Why? Because He loves us. Because He gave you those dreams and had a plan to create something amazing for you all along!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” You know this one. You’ve most likely heard it before. It’s from Jeremiah 29:11. If you didn’t know this verse before, now ya’ do! Dream away…

state fair cookie

Raise your hand if you like a yummy chocolate chip cookie. (You can’t see my hand up, but trust me, it is indeed raised.) Once in awhile I enjoy a good contest. I’ll be honest here. The possibility of being really good, or even the best, at something is pretty cool and feels great when it actually happens. There’s even a little sense of identity with a contest. You know what I mean – a bit of bragging rights. You can walk around knowing that you scored the highest amount possible in a singing competition. Or perhaps you’re the sixth best tuba player in the state. Or maybe you won a chili cook-off and now you reign chili royalty. I’m not encouraging boastfulness, just saying contests can be fun.

Fairs are also fun. The animals, the tradition, the smells, and can we talk food? I don’t know about you, but my standard fair menu consists of fresh squeezed lemonade with the sugar crystals that get stuck in your straw, french fries with a bit of potato skin still on and spritzed with salt and vinegar, and if there’s a possibility of any real estate left in the ol’ stomach, a scoop of ice cream. Only if there’s top quality ice cream available. Otherwise, deal’s off. I pass on elephant ears unless, of course, someone is willing to share.

I also appreciate the entries. Things people worked hard to make or put together solely for the enjoyment of their craft and the thrill of a bit of ol’ fashioned competition. Traditions like pie contests or quilting exhibits are rich and I cherish homemade. One year I decided to venture in and enter a few things in our state fair. It was really exciting! On the scheduled day, I brought in a few photos I took and framed as well as some homemade, fresh-picked strawberry rhubarb jam. The few days in between drop-off and opening day of the fair seemed like forever. Finally, the fair opened and I rushed in to see if my goodies were ribbon-worthy. I was elated to have won a few! Then and there I was hooked. What could I try next? Long story short, my unique chocolate chip cookie recipe was born. During the trial phase, I don’t particularly recall anyone complaining about taste-testing, so it must not have been too hard on my family. In the end, I came up with what I think is a pretty good recipe. Plus, it earned me a blue ribbon and a few placings in local newspaper contests. Heads up if you’re going to try it, there are two ingredients that can be a bit pricey. This is why I usually reserve making these only for Christmas or special occasions. Speaking of Christmas. My dad has asked, year after year, that a batch of these be his only Christmas present. With that in mind, if you need a different type of gift for someone, don’t overlook baked goods as viable options!

P.S. I always taste the cookie batter. One bite. Well, maybe two! After all, how will you know if it’s any good? (Plus sometimes cookie dough is just pure delish!) With that being said, eat raw dough at your own risk. (That’s my version of a disclaimer regarding consumption of raw eggs.)

Give ’em a try! Click on link here:
Cherry Choc Cookie Recipe

Giving credit where it’s due:
Recently stumbling into the world of indie nail polishes, I found this beautiful magenta-ish color with a touch of gold in it called ‘Prickly Pear Margarita’. (In photo above.) I’ve never actually eaten a prickly pear, but it doesn’t matter because this shade is fabulous! (I admittedly also picked up a few others which are just as lovely!)
Thank you www.topshelflacquer.com for your work.