Tuesday, May 29, 2007

According to...

...my uncle. A laugh to get you back into a pleasant mindset for a (shorter!) work week.
A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre. After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings and made it safely to his van.

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied, "Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings. I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Smoked Oyster Potato Salad

Memorial Day Weekend is here! It's time to break out the BBQ sauce, the baked beans and the traditional (German) American potato salad. Here's a great version I made yesterday for our al fresco caregroup grill party. Sorry, but there's no picture; the last of it is currently getting consumed while writing this post. Enjoy this unusual twist on traditional potato salad--it is a smoky sweet version that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Smoked Oyster Potato Salad
2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
3 large eggs
4 Tbs. vinegar
1 can smoked oysters
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. EV olive oil
2 Tbsp. mustard powder
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. raw sugar
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 red onion, minced

Bring potatoes and enough water to cover to boil in a large stockpot. Place eggs on top of potatoes and continue to boil 10 minutes. Drain and remove from heat. Remove eggs and let cool then shell and chop coarsely. While potatoes are still hot, sprinkle vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes until cool. (Can be refrigerated at this point overnight).
Combine remaining ingredients and toss into potatoes until combined. Season to taste.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

According to...

my cousin Brandon... way to go B! Although he didn't win the watermelon eating contest, they had to pick his cute face for the picture! The event was sponsored by Good Earth- which was a produce stand started all the way back when I was seven in Olney... I'm happy to know that good small businesses don't have a problem outlasting the super grocery stores.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

According to...

my beautiful mother and father.
This week, check out my parent's inspiring story about giving generously to the mission of their home church in the movie on the Covenant Life Website.
PS-I can't help but comment on my dad's "frown" which is actually just an incredible effort not to cry :) Love you Dad!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Iowa Moments

I know you all are dying to know about Iowa.
I mean, come on, isn't it one of the most popular destinations for traveling Americans?
Well, I'm here as a firsthand witness to tell you that it should be.
Why? Because it is a true American city-- full of surprises, funny stories and a small town feeling.
Some examples:

Our first night at the hotel, we pulled our suitcases to the doorway at the La Quinta Inn to discover that we were not alone in our discovery of Davenport, Iowa. We were preempted by the dog show that was apparently going on the next day... Our greeters were 4 poodles with ponytails.

Another shared Midwest experience-- traffic in Chicago.
One wrong turn after a delicious pizza meal and it took us an hour to go 7 miles. Then once we were finally on the right highway, it was 20 miles an hour all the way outside the city limits. A less than 3 hour trip took us 5.5 :) But at least we were full on stuffed deepest dish Chicago pizza.

Did I tell you that we visited a children's paradise? We also got a private ride on a locomotive... at least a gas powered one. And it goes FAST. I probably would have done it ten times. Not kidding.
It was on the property of Travis' aunt's parents home. They have a castle, a bus with a slide, a pond, swings, dogs, a summer cottage ...and did I mention the train??
Apparently that same family has a summer home called Lansing that overlooks the Mississippi River and houses 25... another stop on the future cross country trip with children.

The best local food, since I know some of you want to know, was the kettlecorn. We didn't venture too far into local culture, because we feasted on delicious kabobs at the relatives one night and another we hit up Applebee's. We did Starbucks, but Iowa was not lacking in coffee culture. There were several unique coffee bars and shops along mainstreets-- we ate at one in downtown Davenport that had a very good homemade Potato and Leek Soup and flavored coffee with live music. Who can turn that down? I just wished we could have nosed around longer in Iowa. Guess that means I'll have to go back. Who would have known the adventures that marrying a Shank would lead me on?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hello and Goodbye

The trip felt that quick. No sooner were we saying hello to Chicago than were we saying goodbye to the city. It was a wonderful trip-- it was a hello, it was a homecoming, it was a goodbye.

We flew into Chicago and then drove to Davenport, Iowa, were Travis' grandfather, Robert Brown, lives. In between and around visiting with him, we returned to Travis' mother's childhood city-- Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We stayed with her brother's family--the Browns, who were lovely hosts and fun company, full of laughter and friendliness.

We primarily went to visit Travis' grandfather, who is ill; but he was still very lucid and sharp, just weakened by his emphysema and his compromised heart. We spent some time with him, talking and he told us stories-- how he met five presidents, his job as a reporter, magic shows, mind-reading tricks, his favorite books, and his life mottoes. He also escorted us down to a street fair on the street parallel to the Mississippi Rive. There we ate the best kettle corn, straight hot out of the kettle, hearing stories of the magic shop he owned on Pershing Street.

He reminded me of my own grandfathers. One died when I was ten. The other's death is a distant memory from my early childhood-- I was only two when he passed away. Certainly, as I was older, the second death left an indelible mark on my life.
I have shreds of memories from Tom Jansen's life-- his knee-bouncing game, his cigarette lighter, his paper and press, gardening. Now, I have a few photos and a few pieces of his life--two pictures from his travels to the Polynesian Islands during his time in the Dutch Merchant Marines, a copper scale, and a wooden card file box. I have heard a few stories, but he was a quiet and gentle man, living far from his home country with a thick Dutch accent but surrounded by those who loved him.
The other grandfather was closer; but just as much of an unknown. He was a smart man, a passionate pianist, a world traveler, an international economist. He bought me dolls from around the world and he took me to the Kennedy Center as a little girl two seasons in a row to a children's program. I have more memories, but just a few before he got sick-- like the time he kept telling me "F sharp" as I fumbled through a piano piece. He always had a funny sharp small about him and bristly speckled gray hair-- enough to go around too for it was always poking funnily out of his ears and nose too.
I never had the opportunity with either of them to know them as an adult. My childhood sensibilities were young and impressionable. An adult grandchild probably sees more. We know more about the world and how a grandfather could too. I just know that I wished I still had one living, no matter their state.
As Janis said, there is a "deposit" left in all of us from those we meet. I know I will take our trip to Iowa and put it in safekeeping for a long time, in hopes of returning to it's beautiful simplicity. This is the deposit Bob Brown leaves with me-- the lessons of simplicity. He grew up very poor and shared with us how he, to his regret, got it wrong for a long time about things being more important than people. In that little room in downtown Davenport, he reminded us to get it right: to love others and to give your life away. I will try, Grandpa Brown.

Friday, May 11, 2007

To the Heartland

Travis and myself, along with his brothers and sister and mother, will all be in Chicago and Iowa this weekend visiting Travis' ill grandfather. Please pray that we will have an opportunity to share of the love of Christ with a dying man as well as spend meaningful time with the Browns, Janis' brother's family.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

According to...

I just had to put this one in from my Tante Bobbie, my spry 91 year old aunt in California. (She really isn't my aunt but my dad's mother's cousin, who incidentally, introduced my Oma and Opa to each other at one of her famous Sunday church lunches!) She is still busy with life-- all of her "greats" keep her hopping. She recently went on the teacups at Disney Land and "felt like a teenager" she writes in her monthly letter to me. What an inspiration. What a hoot.
Here's her clipping for the month:
Dear Abby: So many people can't seem to get off the couch and into an exercise program. May I offer the following "Exercise Program for Lazy People"?
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Beating around the bust
  • Climbing the walls
  • Passing the buck
  • Dragging my heels
  • Pushing my luck
  • Making mountains out of molehills
  • Hitting the nail on the head
  • Running around in circles
  • Climbing the ladder of success
  • Opening a can of worms
  • Starting the ball rolling
  • Jumping on the bandwagon
  • Picking up the pieces
  • Going over the edge
Dear Anne: What I like best about your "exercises" is they require no particular talent and no expensive equipment. However, my favorite wasn't listed: Putting your foot in your mouth.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Breakfast for Dinner

Summer days are here. The temperatures are soaring. We went from a high of 75 last Saturday to a predicted high this Saturday of over 100 degrees. We have this energy saving plan that charges you 1/3 of the price to use energy at off-peak hours. The downside is that you have to pay 3X the amount to use it during the evening. From now on, dinner will be a simple affair. Only on the weekends will the oven get attention.
So, here's a small offering for a low energy, small appliance meal: Cinnamon Cornmeal Waffles. Besides, what could be a more comforting smell than the wafting of cinnamon and carbohydrates? These waffles also have several healthy ingredients in them like flaxseed and mostly oil for some healthy fats to slow that carb-crash, and a little extra cottage cheese for protein. Since Mother's Day is coming up, I thought I would credit some of my cooking expertise in another direction-- all my waffle and pancake skills come from direct, serious tutelage for years under the Master of the Breakfast, my dad. Thanks Dad!
Cinnamon Cornmeal Waffles
makes 12 waffles
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup light cottage cheese
2 tsp canola oil
1 Tb. melted butter
1 cup white/whole wheat flour blend
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp. ground flax seed
1 Tb. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1 Tb maple syrup

Blend wet ingredients on high speed in a blender. Add dry ingredients and blend to mix. If too thick, add 1/4 cup more buttermilk, but not too much. Heat griddle until hot. Brush with melted butter and place 1/4 cup batter in each square. Close lid and cook until crispy brown on the outside. Resist the temptation to peak-- it will cause the batter to fall and not crisp. Use your nose to smell the steam escaping the sides; also, look for other signs like once the steam has slowed, the waffle will be crispy.

Thanks to Google for the image...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

According to...

Peter, my other brother...
There was a recent discovery of a cow with six legs.
Thanks for the news-breaking update, bro.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


As I am learning again what faith really means through my reading of The Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson, I ran across this podcast on Risk by Piper through a blog post through Josh Harris' blog through the NA website written by none other than my friend Michelle! Long sentence, but isn't that what the blog world is all about?
The podcast is such a good illustration of what we are doing, living for Christ, involves sacrifice. Faith involves risking everything for the good of knowing our Savior.
By the way-- only a few more days until New Attitude registration is closed... check out the link for the NA website and GO if you can. Last year was the first time I missed that awesome conference. I'd gone to every other single one until last year. It is full of fond memories and historically significant to Travis and myself.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

To help my husband, I try and prepare a little "snack" for when he returns home from school. This week and next are the end of his first trimester. One down, a lot more to go. I had a few minutes this afternoon before a meeting, so I opened up the best cookie cookbook ever by Maida Heatter. It opened to these little gems, Chocolate Molasses Cookies. I altered it a little by adding vanilla extract and rolling the dough in sugar before baking.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies
6 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 oz peeled fresh ginger (about a 2" x 1" piece), finely grated
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tb. ground ginger

Cream sugar and butter. Add ginger and vanilla and beat until combined. While beating on medium, add molasses and beat until thoroughly combined. Add egg and beat until lighter in color. Sift dry ingredients together and then add to wet ingredients. Combine until batter is just combined. Refrigerate for several hours until dough is chilled or scoop small teaspoons of dough and freeze. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake at 350 for 13 minutes.