Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Dixie


I am a special pine cone, made with love just for you.

My journey has been long, but there is still much more to do.

You see I don't just come from any old tree...

The place I call home is somewhere near the sea.

My hope is that I bring fond memories of someone you hold dear

 So that every Christmas you can feel that she is near.

By now you may have guessed, and yet it is true, I came from Granny's house to share her love with you.




Noel,

Amy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sprinkled with Memories


Decorating Christmas cookies is one of my favorite things to do with my girls. Last night we had a decorating party at our house for my small group of 6th grade girls from church. It was fun to watch them giggle while they worked and created their own beautiful cookies, sprinkled with memories of the most wonderful time of the year. This is the best recipe I have found for baking sugar cookies, and I have used it for years to make cookies througout the the year to give as gifts:



This recipe is GREAT when using complex cookie cutters. The dough holds its' shape and won't spread during baking. Make sure you let your oven preheat for at least 1/2 hour before baking these or any other cookies.



6 cups flour

3 tsp. baking powder

2 cups butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract or desired flavoring (I like almond myself)

1 tsp. salt



Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little at a time to butter mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together.



Chill for 1 to 2 hours (or see Hint below)



Roll to desired thickness and cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350

degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges. This recipe

can make up to 5-dozen 3” cookies.

HINT: Rolling Out Dough Without the Mess -- Rather than wait for your cookie dough to

chill, take the freshly made dough and place a glob between two sheets of parchment paper.

Roll it out to the desired thickness then place the dough and paper on a cookie sheet and pop it into the refrigerator. Continue rolling out your dough between sheets of paper until you have used it all. By the time you are finished, the first batch will be completely chilled and ready to cut. Reroll leftover dough and repeat the process! An added bonus is that you are not adding any additional flour to your cookies.






1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

assorted food coloring

Directions

1.In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.

2.Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. (I use a small knife to apply the icing, a small paintbrush would work also.) For easy piping, add a small amount of icing to a ziplock bag, twist the bag until the icing accumulates in one corner. Snip a small hole in the corner of the bag with scissors.






Enjoy,

Amy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Etched in a Stump



One of our family's favorite Christmas traditions is taking a trip to a tree farm to pick out and chop down our tree. Daddy cuts off the stump, and each year one of our 4 girls gets her turn to draw a picture, which daddy then carves into the stump to be displayed in our home and etched in our memories, precious memories of Christmas past that bring joy to Christmas present. Thanks to my friend Lori for this great idea. We began this tradition in 2004.









"Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days..." Psalm 34:11-12




Amy

Date of Infamy


Five years ago, my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Hawaii and visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Today we remember the attack on Pearl Harbor 69 years ago where 2,390 Americans lost their lives, a "date that will live in infamy." Never forget.










Still seeping...



"May God grant His face to shine upon them and grant them peace."



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living a Legacy



Today I had the privilege of teaching the conclusion of the Ruth Bible study at Second Baptist Church West campus written by Kelly Minter.  The theme of this study is "Love, Loss and Legacy." I taught from Psalm chapter 1 on how to live a legacy:

Be firmly planted where God leads you in each season of life.


Be firmly fixed on Christ and God’s Word.

Be strengthened, not blown away, by the buffeting of the winds of life.

I shared the journey of my dear friend Tina, a modern day Ruth, who by the age of 31 had suffered the loss of a husband and young daughter. She is living a legacy, and I am thankful to witness it. This is her story in her own words:

The story of Ruth is a beautiful picture of how God reaches into a life filled with tragedy to offer guidance, encouragement, provision, and above all, love. It reminds me of His redemptive power in my own life. No matter what comes my way, God remains faithful.

Newly married, we were so young and so carefree. I often thought back over Jimmy's four years of cancer treatment and how he had defied doctors' predictions over and over again. How he had come back to college & graduated. How God had led him into the ministry and provided this wonderful little church for him to pastor.

Now here he was shuffling to the pulpit trying to stand and speak in spite of the pain from the cancer that overtook his young body. He had always been tenacious, so strong, and here he was again determined to accomplish a nearly impossible task to share his heart and say goodbye to this precious congregation.

Memories flooded my mind. Packing for New York City where he would get the best medical treatment available. On our knees praying, confident of God's healing power. Years of prayers... worn out scripture cards. And hadn't we been amazed at God's goodness in spite of the difficulties? I couldn't make sense of it all. What was happening?

"Though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." The scriptures alone brought me comfort. How many weeks had it been since I had sat with his doctors as they shared through tears that the end was near? Was there no deliverance from this body of death? The weeks turned into months... it was a blur of days and nights, always wondering when relief would come.

We were 22 years old when Jimmy died. As I stood by his casket and slipped off his wedding ring, the inscription stared back at me, Romans 8:35-39. We are more than conquerors through him that loved us… I am convinced that neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God...

This didn't feel like love. I began to set aside the lamp of God’s word. It was hard to find my way. I stumbled into Satan‘s pits, believing his lies. A year and a half later, I lifted my eyes... eyes dimmed by grief and pain... to the Maker of heaven and earth, where true help comes from. He gave me courage and walked with me through the lonely tunnel of grief. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. He restores my soul."

Joy is so much sweeter after sorrow. Every good and perfect gift is from above. God surprised me with one gift after another. Another wedding day... the birth of a son and two daughters.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him" In all your seasons of life, in everything life brings you, Acknowledge - yada (know Him, find out, discern, be instructed by Him) In all my ways, Lord? Yes, even in this.

At 3 months old, Samantha was diagnosed with Miller Dieker Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that would ultimately take her life. No, Lord, not this. It had been 9 years since I had felt this kind of pain.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."

She was 2 1/2 years old on Valentine's Day when I held her for the last time. And I knew that God loved her as much as He loved me... The words sung at her funeral service went straight to my heart. Jesus loves me, this I KNOW; for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is STRONG.

Yes, Father, strong enough for me even in this... loving enough to make a way for us to know you...even in this.

Praise God, we have a Redeemer who LIVES.


"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours...you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Honor to Serve


This week George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, released his new book Decision Points, an "extraordinary memoir." As Governor of Texas, he contributed a writing titled On Family Values to the book released in 2000, Forever Texas: Texas, The Way Those Who Lived It Wrote It:

...while the world may be changing dramatically , remember that families are the backbone of our society.  Families must endure.  In our families we find love and we learn the compassionate values essential to make us good citizens of the world.  When the time comes for you to start your own families, I hope each and every one of you will strive to build not just a house, but a home.  It takes hard work and dedication-just ask your parents.  But home is where our hearts find peace, and home is where our dreams take wing.
Government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in our hearts or a sense of purpose in our lives.  A successful career can put a fancy car in the driveway, but it cannot fill the spiritual well from which we draw strength every day.  Only faith can do that.
The riveting, down-home Texas-style interview with Sean Hannity at the Crawford Ranch aired last night, and in case you missed it, it is worth your time, a unique glimpse into the heart of a man who, according to a July 2000 USA Today article Bush: Faith more than a Sunday formality:


...issued the most spiritual presidential campaign autobiography since Jimmy Carter, taking its title A Charge to Keep, from a Charles Wesley hymn:

''A charge to keep I have, ''A God to glorify..." As governor, Bush sent a memo informing his entire staff that this hymn was the motto for his administration because ''we serve One greater than ourselves.''





 



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Because We All Can't Come and Go By Bubble

About 12:30 yesterday afternoon, I pulled a surprise out of the mommy fun bucket and bought tickets for me and the 3 big sisters to see a 2 pm Wicked show at the Hobby Center.  We almost needed to "defy gravity" to make it downtown in time, but we made it and what an afternoon at the theater it was.  The "thank you, Mommy" responses were priceless, the tickets and souveneirs, well, not so much, but worth every penny. Thank you, Daddy, for making it possible. A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for a wickedly good peach cobbler by Patti LaBelle which I made with the peaches we picked from E and B Orchards in Navasota.




1 Piecrust for Double Crust Pie (I used ready-made pastry crust dough)

3 lbs Medium Peaches , peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch slices

2 Tbsp Cornstarch

1 Cup Sugar

2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon , plus more for the top of the crust

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) Butter , chilled, cut into small pieces

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. In a medium bowl, toss the peaches, cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Fold in the butter. Spoon half of the peach mixture into a prepared dish.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the smaller disk of dough into an 8-inch square about 1/8 inch thick, trimming the dough as needed. Place over the peaches in a baking dish. Top with the remaining peaches. Roll out the larger disk of dough into an 11-inch square about 1/8 inch thick, trimming as needed. Fit over top of the baking dish, letting the dough hang down on the sides of the dish. Pinch the dough firmly onto the top edge of the dish. Press the overhanging dough onto the sides of the dish. Cut a few slits in the top of the dough. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips. (I used a star cookie cutter to make the shapes for the top crust.)

4. Bake until the fruit juices are bubbling and the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the dough with cinnamon. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.




Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Star-Spangled Tribute to The Forgotten Verses

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor


The Star-Spangled Banner


Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?



On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner!

Oh long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.



And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out of their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave'

From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.



Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto:

"In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Words by: Francis Scott Key

Music by: John Stafford Smith
Adopted: 1931



 
"Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die." ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

The final two word political testament of John Adams that he sent to the Selectmen of Quincy, Massachusetts in June 1826—“Independence Forever.”

God bless all the brave men and women who have served and are serving to defend our great nation and preserve the freedoms we hold so dear. Happy Independence Day, Happy 234th Birthday America! As Michelle Malkin states, "As an annual public service reminder of the reason for the season," here is the Declaration of Independence transcribed in its entirety via the National Archives.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Be-You-tiful You

Finding your identity in C-H-R-I-S-T


Created wonderful- Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Held- Psalm 18:16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me.

Redeemed and Restored- Psalm 103:4 Praise the Lord who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.

Image-bearer of God- 2 Cor. 2:14 through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.

Sufficient- 2 Cor. 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you.

Taken care of- Deut. 33:12 Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mother of All Meatloaves (aka Gonzales Meat Loaf)

Meatloaf  is classic southern comfort food, and when I discovered this recipe a few years ago, I have never looked at another. Hence, the mother of all meatloaves.  This is a favorite in our home.  Gathering around the table for a good home-cooked meal with the family is a perishing art form, sadly.  It doesn't have to be gourmet.  It just has to be done.  And to be done, it has to be planned.  Take some time, grab your favorite cookbook, search for simple recipes online, make a list, get to the store, simplify your schedule, and serve your family.  It will be the simple times around the dinner table and the aroma in the kitchen that your children will remember when they are grown, more than any expensive meal out. Cherish the miracle of ordinary days, as Emily is advised in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Our Town, when she is allowed to revisit one ordinary day from her past, "At least choose an unimportant day.  Choose the least important day in your life.  It will be important enough."

Gonzales Meat Loaf Recipe
Prep: 15 min., Bake: 1 hr., Stand: 10 min.
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground sirloin
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium-size red onion, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons hot sauce (I use only one)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Preparation
Combine all ingredients. Shape into a 9- x 5-inch loaf, and place on a lightly greased wire rack in a baking pan.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes; increase heat to 425°, and bake 15 more minutes or until done. Let meat loaf stand 10 minutes before serving.

Southern Living, OCTOBER 2004
(I have found that it is best to make it a longer and thinner loaf and bake at 375 for the first 45 minutes before increasing the heat to 425.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Remember the Dream. Remember November.

"We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow."
President Ronald Reagan



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cumberland Island, Wild and Beautiful


"A grand and graceful mansion located on Georgia's Golden Isles on the state's southernmost coastal island, Cumberland Island was the 19th century retreat of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie who, in 1900, built Greyfield for their daughter, Margaret Ricketson. Converted to an inn during 1962 by her daughter, Lucy R. Ferguson, and family - who oversee the daily operation - Greyfield Inn exudes the welcoming atmosphere and charm of a family home."



We had the pleasure of spending several days here celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. Every part of our stay was charming, like stepping back in time, graced by nature at every turn. No cars are allowed on the island except for a few service vehicles and very few residents. 80% of the island is part of the National Seashore with 18 miles of pristine white sand beach.
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

No wonder that John F. Kennedy, Jr. chose this enchanted island for his wedding to Carolyn Bessette in 1996 at the First African Baptist Church.
Photobucket

Photobucket


We gathered unbroken fist-size shells and loaded as many as we could in our luggage and headed home grateful to have experienced a natural Camelot where wild horses, deer and turkeys roam, with memories of Greyfield and Chef Georgia's brownie recipe to savor for a long time to come.
Photobucket
Photobucket


Georgia's Yummy Brownies

1 cup butter
4- 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1- 6 ounce pkg semisweet chocolate pieces

Melt butter and chocolate squares. Remove from heat. Beat in sugar, add eggs, stir in vanilla and flour. Spread in a 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the top, pressing lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.


Photobucket
Photobucket

"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Photobucket

Thursday, June 3, 2010

SHMILY


Written by Laura Jeanne Allen

My Grandfather and Grandmother were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more.

They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where they always had warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring.

"Shmily" was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath. At one point, my Grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet.

There was no end to the places "shmily" would pop up. Little notes with "shmily" scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards and car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows.

"Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of their house as the furniture.

It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparents' game. Skepticism had kept some of them from believing in true love-one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection which not everyone is lucky to experience.

Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble.

My Grandmother whispered to one of her friends about how cute my Grandfather was, how handsome and old he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em." Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other.

But there was a dark cloud in the couples' life: my Grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, my Grandfather was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside.

Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my Grandfather's steady hand, they went to church every morning. But my Grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, my Grandfather would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over my Grandmother.

Then one day, what everyone dreaded finally happened. My Grandmother was gone.

"Shmily." It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my Grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time.

My Grandfather stepped up to my Grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her.

Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby.

Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty.

S-h-m-i-l-y:
See How Much I Love You

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ordinary Days Extraordinary God

A few weeks ago a man approached my husband Matt as he was walking from his building in downtown Houston to the parking garage. He thanked Matt for not walking away and simply asked Matt if he could help him. The man never asked for money, just that he was in a desperate situation and did not know what to do. Skeptical at first, Matt asked for more information. His young son was in critical condition at Texas Children's Hospital with a clot in his brain. They are from Beaumont and were not able to get a room that night at Ronald McDonald House, so he and his late-term pregnant wife were staying in a shelter downtown. Their truck had broken down, so he was taking the train back and forth to TCH with passes the chaplain had given him. Matt felt like God was leading him, so he opened his wallet, thinking he may have at least $5, but to his surprise, there was a 50 dollar bill. He gave it to the man who was so grateful and said it was more than they needed. Matt replied "oh, no, it isn't." Just 2 years ago, we were living at TCH and the surrounding area for almost a month with Jackie, staying in the RMH rooms when we qualified, but by God's grace, in hotels when we didn't, so we could be close to our baby fighting for her life with a congenital heart defect. Now, this man could have been making it up, but Matt said if he was, then he deserved the money for trying so hard! But regardless, Matt said he knew God was teaching him obedience. It amazes me that out of all those people leaving downtown at 5 pm on a Monday, this man walked up to my husband...which reminds me of how much I love the man God gave to me, and on June 3 we will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. A friend posted this new video by Dave Barnes on her blog, "Marital romance doesn’t get a whole lot of press in our culture so we’ve gotta savor it when and where we can." Thanks, Miss Fitz.

God Gave Me You..."I've been a walking heartache...you stay here right beside me, watch as the storm blows through, and I need you...for the ups and downs...God gave me you." Click on the image to watch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Operation Jolly Rancher


A third-grader at Brazos Elementary was given a week’s detention for possessing a Jolly Rancher...thus, Operation Jolly Rancher: Send a bag of Jolly Ranchers and support the cause of common sense to:
Brazos Elementary School
Attn: Mrs. Jeanne Young
9814 Kibler St
PO Box 30
Orchard, TX 77464

To contact by phone 979-478-6610

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Something Old, Something New


It was a perfect Houston day, a blue, no cloud in the sky, low humidity kind of spring day. With a little Buble-Sinatra mix on the stereo, we set out to make something old and something new for dinner. We fried up some shrimp with my Nana's recipe that I have made time and time again, an old southern classic batter made of buttermilk and cornmeal. For dessert, we tried something we have only had in restaurants, Tres Leches. It turned out scrumptious, using a recipe from Texas Highways magazine. The girls and I "styled" our cake with strawberries and a dusting of cinnamon. The man in the house was horrified that we did so.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Remember November

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." Abraham Lincoln

Remember November: "so that we can return America to its founding principles of freedom, personal responsibility and economic liberty. We Remember November so we, our children, and grandchildren can live with the freedoms our founding fathers intended.

We Will Remember from Republican Governors Association on Vimeo.