Shamrock Surprise

Okay Folks! It’s been a while since I had a cake disaster and since the disasters are much more fun to write about than the successes, I have to skip sharing all the great cakes and share this one instead. 

Inspired by my family’s Irish heritage and the Today Show’s cooking segment yesterday, I decided on Shepherd’s Pie with a Champ Mash topping and Guiness cake for supper. However, impending hail storms in the area yesterday made a trip to the local package store to buy the Guiness less than advisable. 

Now this story does not involve any adjustments to the space/time continuum in my kitchen as last year’s king cake disaster did, but it does involve the need to improvise because of the weather. With the Guiness cake out of the picture, and my daughter calling for “something green” on the menu, I thought about the shamrock cupcakes I had seen on television yesterday morning. (We are out on spring break and morning news/entertainment is my guilty pleasure/time waster.)

I rummaged the pantry shelves looking for cupcake paper- I know there is a small package of them in there – but it has apparently gone into hiding. So, with time passing quickly and no way to do cupcakes I thought of doing a regular sized cake using the method they showed for the smaller version. To accomplish this, you have to use the paper in the cupcake pan so that you can place small rolls of foil or heatproof beads between the paper and the sides of the pan to squeeze the sides of the paper into the shamrock shape.  I should have used just a regular round cake pan I guess, but I thought the heart shaped pans I have would give at least two of the shamrock leaves a pretty, rounded shape and I would only have to shape the foil to pinch in the bottom leaf. 

I cut two big pieces of parchment paper to line the pans (which I could have done for cupcakes but cutting 24small circles is much more time consuming than just two big sheets of parchment).  I got them in place with the rolls of foil on the sides and noticed that I might need to line the point of the heart shaped pans with a roll of foil too – since it was pointed after all. That was trickier than I expected and the clock was ticking – the mash was almost done and I only had just enough time to bake the cake before  I would need to assemble the shepard’s pie and put it in the oven.  So I abandoned lining the bottom point of the pans and convinced myself that the parchment being pinched on the sides would round it out anyway. Ummm- yeah.

So batter (box of store bought butter yellow with a teaspoon of cream de menthe candy flavoring and some green food coloring added) went into the pans and I shoved them in the oven. 

Twenty five minutes later, this came out of my oven:

I snapped the picture and texted my mom and my sister – always my partners in crime and hilarity – and asked, “shamrock or leprechaun’s …?” (Use your imagination people.)

The texts themselves were truly hilarious and continued I as I debated conducting a bris for the cake and my teenagers argued over who would get to eat the cut off part.   I finally just iced it – and my daughter wrote “kiss me” on top in chocolate morsels.  

My husband even laughed and since he is the most Irish of us (he argues that my red hair and green eyes don’t count because I’m more Scottswoman than Irish) we asked him to bless the food. Heaven knows we all needed to be blessed at that point – well, maybe just forgiven. His blessing began and I heard a rare thing – spontaneous verse – in true Irish form spilled from his lips and gave us all the joy we needed.  

Here’s the whole meal: Shepard’s Pie, pea salad (for extra green), and the cake.  
My husband once said my china pattern belonged to an old woman – I told him to stick around for fifty years and it would match.  

We finished the night by watching Leap Year- which I always giggle through-while we ate our shamrock cake. It was delicious if you were wondering.

My sister has promised to blog our text messages since she is the media queen – go check them out on her blog Imperfectly Nice if you are brave enough.


What is it?

Ok. During the early 1990s, we called these something with a South American sounding name. My children just call them “drug rugs.” Whatever the other word was has been on the tip of my tongue for months because I’d like to give them a better name for this thing.  So blogging friends, anyone remember the word that I can’t?

Poetry with Middle School

Middle schoolers are so literal, that trying to teach haiku (5-7-5) while also explaining the difficulties in translation, become an excercise in futility. (Sorry for the bullet points – my app is not letting go of what looks to be a triple space at each hard return without them.)

Good Grades

  • Paper everywhere
  • Red pen ready for battle
  • Not much blood today

Who tied my shoes?

I get caught up in my own contributions to things sometimes. Concerned about: my ability, my time, my space, my privacy, my peace of mind. 

Then I am reminded that this life really isn’t about me.  How many times do I miss opportunities to be a good friend because I’m either more concerned with the advice I can give or the advice I need, than with anything the other person may need or have to offer?   

My self tries to justify moments like those with thoughts like: “but you wouldn’t give advice if they didn’t ask,” or, “but you were transparent enough to recognize you needed their advice.”

True – but what drove my communication to start with? Sometimes it’s just me. And that isn’t always good. I wish I could say that my advice giving were based on God’s inspiration more than my experience. I wish I could say my search for advice came from a willingness to change rather than a feeling of hurt that needed to be soothed. 

I’m thankful for wise friends who do soothe my hurt emotions with insight beyond my words. Their offering may actually sting my hurts, but it’s like an antiseptic – cleaning out the part of me that really needed it instead if the part of me that was insulted. 

I am thankful for God’s patience with me, and his assurance that whatever I think I’ve suffered – he has suffered more. He knows my hurt and whether it is real or merely a result of my choice to take offense.  And even though I may have every reason to be offended, according to any sense of decorum, I don’t necessarily have the right.

God is so patent, so good, so willing to hold my hand through everything I go through- why do I try so hard to be an independent and grown-up person? I picture Him laughing at me so often: like the smile on a parent’s face when they are watching a child’s attempt to tie their shoes – enjoying the child’s attempts, yet knowing that they will be called on to untangle the laces before much longer.

Thank you, God, for never tiring of tying shoes.

Veteran’s Day Preparations

Please, take some time to show your gratitude for those who have fought to preserve the life you enjoy today. 

I’ve enjoyed the tears that came so swiftly while helping students to write letters that will be given to local veterans at our school’s celebration tomorrow. I’ve been embittered at a world so torn that soldiers fear the situation at home more than the enemy at their side. I’ve been overwhealmed with pride as a tradition of loyalty and patriotism is passed to new generations. And all of that has only been on Veteran’s Day Eve.

I cannot imagine what I will feel tomorrow!
I’ll share more later – it’s been a long day, and I have miles to go …

Aaaaannnnd… They’re Off!

NaNoWriMo with mostly sixth graders is a truly unique experience. They start out thinking that they should have a word count goal to rival the adult sized 50,000. Then it hits them that they have to work hard to get anywhere close. And when even the ones who write nonstop during their waking hours – annoying all but their wonderfully encouraging English teacher (haha – ’tis I, ’tis I) – realize just what 30,000 words has to look like as a daily goal, they start to freak out just a little bit. And the ones on the other end that realize their dreams of fan fiction stardom still include – gasp! not plagiarizing someone else’s work- and actual writing an original idea about the characters they love so, it can get to be a fairly sticky wicket.

On the other hand- they are writing – without me having to threaten bodily harm (who me? Never!). It’s a beautiful thing. 

What I’m learning:

  • Word wars work
  • Allowing secret stashes of food for writers is engenious 
  • Earning Badges for crazy mad writing skills is one of the coolest motivators I’ve come across in the educator forums
  • Having “old fashioned,” no-tech allowed writing days, keeps the slackers in PE and keeps their negativity from invading the writing space of the tried and true (because skipping PE to predend to write isn’t cool guys – and while your crashy road score is your highest priority, it isn’t helping your brain or your body like what you should be doing will).

So that’s where we stand so far – trying to hit our first ten percent on word counts and finding the motivational secrets to good writing habits. I’ll keep you all posted.

    Saying maybe to Na NOOOO WriMo!!!!

    I love the idea of inspiring writers and NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is a great club-type activity for middle schoolers. 

    I’ve sponsored it before and had half of my students reach their goals – which, honestly, was more than I expected. I was given permission to see if there was any interest at my new school and had 20+ students sign up. 

    I’m excited, but concerned. Will they really commit? 

    I’ve never tried to write my own book during November since it contains three birthdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas planning and shopping. And this year includes hosting my neice’s baby shower.

    And anyone who follows me knows that my writing has slowed down considerably  since school started. 

    AND I have no clue what my novel would even be about.

    So there are all my excuses. 

    But – I still have the nagging feeling that writing with them would set a visible example.

    Maybe I can write more here while they write novels?

    Decisions, decisions.

    My Anchor

    You all know how I dearly love my little country school. The community in the woods is truly centered around the school; sporting events for that part of the county are not high school events, but Jr. High because the school only goes through 8th grade. The children from my school feed into one of three high schools in the district. 

    There are problems with that setup: our kids have a higher drop-out rate from high school, they experience some teasing because of their homes in the woods, they don’t get to start participating in the full range of sports, performing arts and clubs until two years later than the children who attend the other feeder school that is located across the street from the high school, etc.

    Two days ago the school board agreed to allow the superintendent to devise a plan, to be presented for approval at a later date, to begin bussing our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to the other feeder school. The hope would be that then all of the students would have access to the activities allowed by a greater population, they would assimilate better at that age, etc.  

    There is no official plan yet, they only agreed to allow the research to be done to create the plan. The plan hasn’t been approved. There is no room for more children at the other school yet, so part of the research needing to be done is a plan for new construction. 

    All of that withstanding, the community in the woods is outraged. They feel as if the school board went behind their backs, etc. So much misinformation is being passed around on social media. The plan isn’t approved yet. The buildings have not been constructed yet. Bus routes have not been changed, teachers are not going anywhere yet. Nothing has changed yet. 

    But children are overhearing  parents who are panicking over the misinformation they have received. Two days in a row I have had to assure children that they are not going to have to meet new teachers, make new friends, or even find different colored uniforms anytime soon. It would take a minimum of two years for any changes to be made. And there is no plan for any of it yet. 

    I know that my life is in His hands. I know their lives are in His hands. I am praying that they will begin to understand all that being in His hands truly means and that they can confidently go forward knowing that whatever comes can be used of Him for their good. 

    I am also praying that this post may be read for what it is: a cautionary tale, a plea for adults to see the impact they have on children (even if it is an unintentional outcome of trying to do something in their interest), and a statement of faith.

    Faith that comes from knowing that God placed me here, that he isn’t amazed by the goings on, and that He isn’t through yet. So many have responded first out of shock, fear, anger, or even smug take-that attitudes that belie their lack of trust in Him. 

    I’m not advocating that this should be an emotionless situation, but I am suggesting – requesting rather – that there should be a change in attitude. We are all in His hands. He’s got this. 

    He will, if we call on Him in prayer, bring about the absolute best for those who are His. Whatever it may be.

    He’s got this.  

    We are so fond of  quoting things about God being our anchor when we feel shaken and are trying to bolster our own emotions regarding His faithfulness. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But is it really faith? 

    I’m used to being the oddball and I guess I am again. I prayed for God to lead me – and I know He did. I prayed for Him to place me – and I know he did. I prayed for Him to use me for students’ lives – and I know He is. So I also know that He will continue to do so – here, there, or yon. 

    He doesn’t bring us to leave us. He brings us to instill in us the trust in Him that is essential to our existence. We must rejoice that the manna arrives each morning and that the doves fly low occasionally. We must lean more into Him in the good times because we have come to know His faithfulness to us, His steadfast purpose for our good, and His patient leading of us in our weaknesses. For then we are strong in Him. For then we can truly claim Him as our anchor – because He was already tied to us, holding us, securing us. 

    How can it be otherwise?  How could we truly claim Him as our anchor if we don’t trust in His strength, but try to act in our own emotions while incorrectly invoking His name as the anchor that is barely keeping us from saying those words that fly from angry lips and hearts that are hurting? Do we do that because we remember that we were supposed to trust after we have already been mistrusting? 

    I picture the old joke where the boy wants to look tough so he tells his adversary that they better be glad his friends are holding him back. But then he must tell his friends to hold him back so that he doesn’t have to fight after all.  How many times do we tell others that “God will take care of this!” but we are really just hoping God agrees with our take on things?

    We must become truly anchored in Him. So much so that we, like Jesus sleeping through the storm, don’t have to be alarmed by circumstances. So much so that we, like Jesus, can speak for those around us saying to the uproar, “peace, be still.”

    Too Much or Too Little

    I wonder sometimes, if I’m not writing as often because I have more to write about than time to write it, or whether it is because the time I’m spending on other things makes my writing ideas seem unimportant.

    I am struggling with disciplining myself to do anything with as much consistency as I should. But I’m  learning to ask God to stand with me when I would rather procrastinate than show the discipline that brings so much more order and peace to my life.

    I’m seeing in new coworkers my old faults that I never recognized before the sabbatical, and wondering how to best help them to avoid the inevitable end that they are creating for themselves. Then I stop myself and thank God for showing me (from the outside) what I used to look like to others. I ask, “God are you showing me this stubbornness so that I can know why you have allowed me to endure certain things and to bring me to an even greater depth of gratitude for saving me from myself? or are you asking me to help this person in some way?”  I am inadequate to truly help others who refuse to hear, but I believe in prayer and know that my intercession is the most powerful thing I can do until He leads me in another direction.

    I see my children, in each of their new schools, and wonder if I am involved enough, or am I trusting them to grow into the lives and characters we have raised them to have.

    I write to my husband each day (just texting really) and know that much is lost in the time difference and awkwardness of a phone interface, and I hope that my heart shows through. Should I write more, fearing to burden him with my day to day struggles? Then a gentle nudge reminds me that keeping him aprised of the mundane, (which the so called experts will tell you not to do to help them focus on their current duties) is actually helpful to him and eases his mind. He needs to know so that he can check those things off of his mental list, and that list will not become a cluttered distraction.  

    (Experts think that men don’t worry about whether the car is washed or the deck is swept unless their wives remind them.  But my husband does think about those things, and trying not to talk about that stuff just makes us both nuts. Talking about it gives us some sense if normalcy in a very un-normal situation.)

    I am reminded by all of these small juxtapositions that questioning brings hesitation in my faith. (God loves good questions, but my questioning has been of myself – not of Him.)  I am reminded that many of my questions come from old habits of people pleasing and self-doubt. I must trust Him to turn my questions into declarations. 

    I am not controlled by my imperfections and my desperation to avoid them – God has begun a good work in me and he is faithful to complete it. 

    I am not controlled by the need to prove myself – God is my strength and my shield. He has redeemed me.

    I am not controlled by doubt – He is my certainty and my reward. 

    I am not controlled by silly advice given by so-called experts who fill us with band-aid cures for long term issues – God is the great physician, who knits us together in our mothers’ wombs, and He knows what brings healing to every hurt and peace to every situation.

    It matters not whether my thoughts are too little or too much, I am held in the hands of the most high who places me just where He needs me whether for my good or the good of others. I will trust in Him.

    Saturday Slideshow:  A Walk Around My Yard

    Earlier today I reflected on my husband’s request to send “visuals” often. He is a very visual person and doesn’t get the same satisfaction from texting or emailing that I enjoy. I have been trying to send him (ugh, must I even say it?) selfies each day. 

    As I get older, I am realizing that with each picture I am watching my cheeks turn into my grandfather’s jowls and my nose turn into my grandmother’s beak. Granted those two were some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known – physically and spiritually – but feature by feature all of us look a little goofy.

    I sent some pictures of the yard to him today because the landscape where he is is much more monochromatic than ours at home.  I figured if he likes seeing my aging self, that he might enjoy some landscape too.  

    I haven’t done a Slideshow here for a while and thought it could be a good reminder for myself to take time for the things that rejuvenate me like pictures rejuvenate my husband. 

     The last of the cannas.   

    Tucker doesn’t like okra (at least he wishes I didn’t take so long to pick it).

    KitKat in the green onions.