So we’ve been living in Scotland since the end of July (2017), and every single day has be absolutely amazing.  I cannot tell you all the incredible experiences I’ve had just in the short time we’ve been here, but I can tell you about one of the most awkward moments I’ve had to date.

At the end of September one of our friends was celebrating a milestone birthday, and his lovely wife decided to throw him a surprise birthday part to mark the occasion.  On the day of the event she asks me to come over and give her a hand is setting everything up.  Fine, no problem, I was very happy to help.

She and I and another lass spent the morning wiping down patio furniture and halogen lights,  setting up a number of extra chairs, a buffet table, and a large outdoor tent – thank goodness I’ve had lots of practice at craft shows setting up those foolish things!  While we’re setting up the tent my friend accidentally stumbles into the flagstone patio and promptly breaks her pinky toe.  I cringe at the memory of the “crunch” her poor wee piggie made.  In spite of the pain and nausea she soldiered on though, because that’s what Scottish women do!

That evening, after a much needed shower and rest we returned to the party scene.  The house was packed with folks, and everyone was doing what strangers do at a party….milling about making small talk over glasses of champagne.  Men were clustered around the BBQ grill, beer in hand, talking about the latest football matches.  The hostess was running around like a chicken with her head cut off, making sure everyone had drinks and appetizers, offering introductions, and generally looking frazzled.  Of course, me being me, offered to give her a hand with the final dinner preparations.

At the offer of help I was promptly put in charge of boiling the potatoes for the buffet.  No problem!  Cooking, I can handle.  As I stood at the stove in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by slightly buzzed strangers I felt right at home.  When you’re the help, no one takes notice of you, unless you do something really stupid, like drop a tray full of champagne glasses on the floor.  Thankfully I wasn’t in charge of the drinks table, so I was safe from scrutiny…for the most part.

As I stirred the pot of potatoes I found myself approached by several middle-aged men who had obviously come with a spouse or date, but had managed to lose them at some point.  I was quite flattered by their curiosity and attention, having never really spent much time on the receiving end of pick-up lines,  being married by the ripe old age of barely 22.  But it didn’t take long to go from being a curiosity to being a spectacle, because that’s how I roll.

Flattery over and taters cooked, I had one task left before my hour of service was over and we could all settle into an evening of music, dancing, and well mannered birthday frivolity – the taters needed to get to the buffet table so dinner could begin.  No problem, right?  Um, yeah….you keep telling yourself that….

crock pot w locking lidSo I’ve got this pot of boiled taters transferred to my brand new slow cooker, the kind with the snap-down top.  By the way, this slow cooker is fantastic!  Whoever thought to put a snap down lid on a slow-cooker should win a Nobel Prize or something.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spilled chili and other soups in my car, down the front of me, and all over the floor because the lid of the slow cooker didn’t seal properly.  But I digress…

I pick up the slow cooker, considering for a minute whether or not I should snap down the lid, thinking to myself, “I’ve only got to get from the kitchen to the back yard, but deciding to not risk it since I had on a thin, silk top and didn’t really fancy wearing salty tater water down the front of my blouse the rest of the night.  Thank you Jesus for that moment of sanity!

I make my way through the press of people in the kitchen and down 3 stairs to the conservatory.  I could see the buffet table set up just off the flagstone patio about 30 feet from the back door.  It was a beautiful, bright, {rare} warm Scottish evening with a faint breeze and not a cloud in the sky.  The sun was beginning to make its way toward the horizon, the sea taking on the characteristic late summer afternoon shift from green to blue-black to golden as the sun dropped lower in the sky.  Most of the party attenders were in the conservatory around the drinks table and milling around the patio in groups of three or four, admiring the view and talking in subdued tones.

Dodging around a couple of women who were teetering on their heels and giggling over their glasses of champagne at the opportunity for a Friday night out of the house, I picked up my pace, wanting to deposit the heavy slow cooker full of hot boiled taters onto the buffet table so I could find my own drink and re-join my husband and friends.

The next thing I know, I’m lurch forward through the air as I step out the back door.  Both my feet have left the ground, and somehow I’m making a nose dive toward the rough flagstone patio directly in front of me. Now a normal person would probably have thrown the slow cooker away from their body, allowing for themselves to brace their fall with their hands to avoid a face plant.  Not me though!  For some unknown reason, I folded the slow cooker against my chest, the lid pressed tight against my ample bosom, fingers clenched around the plastic handles on the side of the pot like I was heading out into the ocean for an afternoon of body surfing.

Moments later, the serenity of the party is broken by the ungodly screeching sound of metal against stone as I land on top of the slow cooker, sliding across the uneven flags of the patio in a spray of sparks from the bottom of the cooker.  As my ears are processing the high pitched wheal I can feel my feet gain momentum faster than my body and my legs begin to curl back over my body, and I’m feeling pretty certain that I’m about a heartbeat away from flipping over this crazy slow cooker in a bloody face plant.  Somehow, I managed to press my legs to the ground to halt my progress, stopping the ear splitting screeching, and as I abruptly ceased motion my glasses flew off my face and skidded a further 6 feet in front of me, thankfully coming to rest upside-down on the frames rather than the lenses.

I took a breath.  And another.  The crowd had fallen completely silent and in the absence of noise I could feel every pair of eyes at the party trained on my back.  My own eyes popped open and I realized simultaneously that my face was only inches from the rough flagstones, and I was somehow perched on top of the slow cooker like a hen on top of her nest of eggs.  I felt Sam lay his hand on my back, bending down to see if I was alive.  Prompted by a mortifying sense of embarrassment I heard myself repeating, “I’m okay,” two or three times before my brain had a chance to take stock of whether or not the words were true.

As my brain began to engage my body, I could feel the lid handle pressing hard against my breastbone and every breath I tried to draw in sent a twinge of pain through my chest.  The heat from the boiling water and hot potatoes was radiating through the glass lid and thin silk of my duck-egg blue blouse, causing my chest to burn as hotly red from the contents of the cooker as my face was from embarrassment.  My knees had slammed sharply against the flagstones and they felt like someone had run a hot poker against the kneecaps.  I silently cursed myself for wearing my favorite jeans, figuring they were probably ripped and ruined.

And then the gravity of the situation hit me…I was laying on top of a slow cooker of boiled potatoes in the middle of a crowd of strangers, and the worst part of the whole situation was, I was going to have to try and get up off the ground, preferably without looking like a turtle that was flipped over on its back, and without showing off my extra-large bum.  If I made it off the ground, I was going to have to find a way to exit the party quickly, most likely covered in a ruined top of smashed taters and hot salty water…. In that moment I was certain the social gods hated me.

Thank you Jesus for adrenaline.  In the time it took for a party-goer to retrieve my glasses from the patio, I had managed to burpee off the slow cooker into an upright position.  Sam plucked the slow cooker from the patio, which was somehow, miraculously still in one piece (although it will never sit level again), lid securely clipped down, and not a drop of hot contents spilled!  And I found that while my knees burned like fire my jeans were not ripped, and my bum had been securely covered by the tails of my silky blouse the entire time!  Within 90 seconds the party began buzzing again, and I was able to retrieve the vestiges of my dignity, smile at a few of the remaining gawkers, and sachet to the drinks table like nothing had happened.  Of course my cheeks never did lose their rosy red glow, and I noticed several of the chaps who’d paid me complements 15 minutes earlier were shooting me mischievous smiles of amusement before turning their attention back to their dates.  Oh, what a night to remember.

Only me, right?!  *sigh*



I'm back

Hello friends!  Wow, it’s been a while, right?  I can’t even believe this site is still an active site on WordPress, but hey, that’s the beauty of technology.  So I’ve got a wacky idea, lets resurrect this blog and see what happens.

I noticed my last post was written 5 years ago.  What?!  That’s crazyness!  And what’s even more insane is how different my life looks today from way back then.  To say a lot has happened in 5 years is really just an understatement, so let me catch you up on all the madness…

Is this not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?! This is Romeo and he’s babysitting by also doubling as a jungle gym!

2012: sold our dream home and move to a tiny little repo’d farm in the middle of no-where Georgia.  Seriously guys, I traded in my heels and designer handbags for rubber boots and overalls.  I know, insane, right?!  We downsized from a 4,000 s/f home in an upscale neighborhood to 1153 s/f of double-wide trailer on acreage.  Talk about a step or ten down in the world, BUT……the farm was PAID FOR in CASH from the sale of our house…..so that really made it a step UP!  Sadly, I broke my back at the end of the year and it’s really put a damper on my dancing days since then.

2013: husband was downsized from his extremely well paying corporate job in the beginning of 2013.  We knew it would happen, but that doesn’t make it any less painful psychologically.  Thankfully we had sold our house in town and were living in a place with no mortgage and lots of land to grow our own food, which we did.  That was an experience, for sure.  But God is good, and we never missed a meal, never had unpaid bills, and never felt we were going without.

IMG_20150223_172030722_HDR2014 – 2016: I started my own soap company as a way to bring extra income to our little homestead.  I was fairly successful in our area of north Georgia, and I loved making body products.  I was a terrible businesswoman though, so I really kept it from growing as much as it could, but I enjoyed every day of my work, plus I got to meet so many amazing people, both in the business and from the business.  I sold the business in January 2017 and it’s still going strong, which makes my heart very happy.

findochty harbor

2017: began fundraising for our international move to Scotland!  Yes, that’s right folks, I’m sitting in my office in the north of Scotland, looking out over the sea.  We live in a little coastal village called Buckie on the coast of the Moray Firth (North Sea).  Our view is amazing!  Okay, I’m bragging a little bit, I know it.  But y’all, it is so incredible here!  My beloved is the pastor of a wee little congregation and our life is like an episode of the Vicar of Dibley…well, not exactly, but sort of.

Honestly, I know it doesn’t look like much has happened from that brief explanation above, but it really has.  If I were to write about every single event that’s happened over the past 5 years this blog would be super long and y’all wouldn’t stick around to read it anyway.  I’m a realist, and what you really need to know is that I’m back, at least as much as I can be, and as often as I’m inspired to be.  I have no idea yet where this blog will go in the future, although I suspect it will probably be very much in the same vein as before with my crazy musings, my two-cents worth on social issues, and my story-telling ideas, plus a little bit of cooking, crafting, and village life thrown in for good measure.  I’ve missed y’all, and I’m looking forward to us getting to know each other all over again.   So until next time…


The cake stand

Several years ago I inherited this beautiful cake stand from my Oma; and with the exception of a baby shower or dessert party I rarely have the opportunity to use it.  It’s  by far one of my favorite pieces of glassware and has a designated spot on my buffet.  The etching is immaculately crisp, and yet the design is simple.  The flowers are randomly placed around the globe, and every time I gaze at it I feel as if I’m looking out onto a wildflower meadow.

I have no idea how my Oma came to possess such a delicate cake stand, but I can imagine her assembling an extra tall Black Forest cake on it, or a German chocolate cake slathered in thick caramel-coconut-nut frosting.  I myself have used this stand for a strawberry margarita tall-cake, with fluffy strawberry pink cream cheese frosting, and artistically topped off with plump, juicy, bright red strawberries.  It was beautiful and tasty, and I can imagine that my Oma would have winked her approval had she seen the masterpiece.

Yesterday, as I was tidying up the house, the summer sunlight spilled through my front windows, glinting off the cake globe, showering rainbows across my dining room wall.  And in that  moment, I knew I needed to make a cake, even if it was just to display in my Oma’s cake stand.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hankerin’ for a Tortuga rum cake, and I thought to myself as I admired the sparkling globe, what better way to honor my Oma and her cake stand than to put one of the most flavorful, moist, scrumptious cakes under that etched glass.  I just love random inspirations!  The end result is a cake that looks better than it tastes (I used too much rum in this batch), but never-the-less, I felt honored to see my Oma’s beautiful cake stand sitting on my kitchen table, plumb full of cake; and it made me feel especially close to her today.

Our new adventure into lunacy!

Sam and I have officially stepped off the ‘path of least resistance’ and have jumped on the lunatic-mobile.   We’re now farmers.  It’s official.  It’s scary.  It’s exciting.  It’s completely and utterly nuts is what it is!  And yet we can’t imagine doing anything else with our lives.  We secured a land lease on five acres near our house (this in itself is a gift from God and completely confirms our vision for the future), and have begun assembling New Zealand Whitesour menagerie, which is coming together much quicker than we’d originally anticipated.

So far we have five bunnies, with two more arriving on Saturday.  We’re starting out with New Zealand Whites – not our first choice, but the most readily available and the most popular meat variety.  Yum!

We ordered our chickens on Tuesday night – Buff Orpington’s to be exact.  We made a slight ordering mistake (actually it was the website’s Buff Orpington henordering system, but who’s pointing fingers?!) and instead of ordering 2 straight runs (that’s 50 chicks) we ended up ordering 4 straight runs (that’s 100 chicks!).  They will arrive Wednesday, May 12th.  Our plan is to split the order with another farming couple we know, but they’d only planned for 25 birds.  This means I’ll have 75 little poopers running around my sunroom until they’re big enough to go out on the farm in their coop.  Thank goodness for access to air conditioner boxes and wood chips!

We already have a lead on a milk cow as well.  We were initially hoping for a Jersey as they’re great milkers and have some of the richest milk for cheesemaking, but it seems that these girls are in high demand and short supply as of late.  There is a dairy farmer Brown Swiss cowsnear us who has a variety of mixed breed dairy cows that he’s willing to sell us, including a lovely little Brown Swiss.  She’s just thrown her first calf and is only making enough milk for her calf, but by next year she’ll be in full production, which gives us time to get to know each other before I start fumbling around with her………..well, you know whats.  We’re gonna drive up and meet her soon.  It’s likely she’ll be coming home with me!  What would be a good name for a milk cow?

And the most amazing addition to our little gaggle of animals is going to be sheep – both dairy and hair varieties (hair sheep don’t have to be sheared each year – they ‘shed’ their coat much like a dog would.  Hair sheep are used for meat and have a much sweeter and milder tasting meat than traditional wooled lambs do.).  To be honest with ya, sheep weren’t even on our radar until just recently.  Most people automatically think of goats as companion animals to cows and chickens, but I don’t like their escape tactics – especially since our property borders a very busy main road and a large subdivision.  Plus I’ve never been a big fan of goat’s milk or their stubborn attitudes.  And they have horns too – even some of theEast Friesian dairy sheep girls.  My butt presents much too large a target and I just prefer to not tempt them in that way!  However, sheep are content to just stay put and munch on the grasses and weeds that the cows won’t.  They are gentle (and mostly horn free), and provide some additional sources of income that goats don’t – wool, milk, and meat.   We’re going to be traveling down to a farm near Savannah the second week of May to pick up a couple of lambs from a dairy herd.  They won’t be ready to milk until next summer, but I’m really excited to give sheep’s milk cheesemaking and lamb meat a try (I’ve never liked lamb meat before – always tasted to ‘muttony’ for me, but fresh is always best so perhaps I’ll like it better this way).

So yes, friends, we’ve officially become weird, and I’m okay with that…………..I think.

Maui – its a whole lotta fun!

Monday afternoon Sam and I returned home completely exhausted and jet lagged from our trip to Maui, but with so many special memories.  This trip was an achievement award through Sam’s work, and this is the third year we’ve been invited to attend (first year was Cancun, and last year was the Dominican Republic).  This year was by far our favorite!

Hawaii has always been one of those places we’ve both wanted to go to; however living on the East coast makes it nearly impossible – between the travel time and the airfare expense we just could never quite justify it in our budget.  So when the announcement was made on our last night in Dominican Republic the year before we were more than hopeful that Sam would earn another spot in the exclusive Wolters Klure Achievement Club.  I love my husband – he’s such a hard worker!

The trip over was fairly uneventful – we left ATL around 9:00 a.m. and flew to Dallas.  We only had an hour layover in DFW, so we grabbed a quick sandwich on the way to our next gate and promptly boarded our plane.  It was a biggie!  We pulled out our noise-cancellation headphones (TIP: never travel without them!), our books, the Kindle, and our travel pillows.  We chatted briefly as the remaining passengers boarded the air-bus and then settled in for a butt-numbing eight and a half hour flight.  There were two in-flight movies, which were both surprisingly enjoyable and we only encountered an extra hour’s worth of travel time due to a storm that had settled over Maui airport.  Upon arrival, we laughed ourselves silly as we watched hundreds of folks pry themselves from their seats and proceed to deplane with obviously numb limbs.  There was all sorts of flailing going on (and plenty from us too)!  Gosh I love long flights…….NOT.

Anyway, we arrived to our resort around 5:00 p.m. and were greeted with an authentic lei reception – purple plumeria leis for me and a braided jade lei for Sam.  We were quickly ushered to our registration area where we each received a free pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, our room keys, some spending cash, and complementary (virgin) Mai-Tai’s.  What a great start to a perfect vacation.

Our room was lovely.  Painted in a subtle lime-y yellow-green with crisp white linens, and floral pillows.  The balcony over looked one of the many gardens, and the ocean was visible through the palm canopy.  Our first dinner was planned for 7:00 p.m. so we set to unpacking – only to discover that the bottle of Downy wrinkle release had leaked all over Sam’s luggage.  Ack!  Potential disaster……but fortunately, I’d packed his suitcase in layers so only the top third of his clothes were really wet (mostly his drawers).  Disaster avoided, but ironing was certainly in order.

Dinner our first night was lovely, but freezing.  Because of the earlier rain storm (the one that delayed us by an hour), the night temperature dropped significantly once the sun set, and the wind was just howling.  Our dinner was outside, of course, and most of us hadn’t thought to pack jackets, even though all the literature we received prior to the trip suggested we bring a light jacket or sweater.  My thinking (as was most people’s) was, it’s the middle of April…in Hawaii…how cold can it get?  I was wrong.  Very wrong.  It was cold.  And I was wearing a dress.  A short dress.  Needless to say, I had to shave my legs again before I went to bed.

Day two was just as windy and cold, but fortunately we had the awards meeting in the morning, so we were all hunkered down in the ballroom until lunchtime.  Sam and I spent the remainder of our afternoon snorkeling.  Yep, that’s right people, I voluntarily swam in a gigantic toilet.  And I liked it.  Believe me, this is truly a first.  I hate the ocean.  Correction, I’m afraid of the ocean.  Sharks live in there.  In case you haven’t seen Shark Week on Discovery channel lately, sharks still eat people.  They find us irresistable.  I look like a giant, white, marshmallow floating around in the water – and who doesn’t love marshmallows I ask you.  Anyway, after much reasoning with myself, I decided that if I’m going to die of shark attack, I would rather do it in Maui than anyplace on earth.  So I forced myself to get into the water.  I thought Sam was going to die of excitement.  I was sure I was just going to die.  But in the end, it all worked out fine, and we even saw a few fish – small fish, which were obviously vegetarian, based on the fact that they didn’t immediately attack me and start devouring my flesh.  I felt comforted by that.

Dinner was once again outside, and this time I dressed a bit smarter – long capris.  It wasn’t warm enough though, so we left early and headed for the shops in the resort.  Yes, that’s right, I way overpaid for a hoodie.  But it says Maui on it, so what do I care?!  I think I nearly lived in that sweatshirt the rest of the trip, only taking it off for our hike through the jungle.  It was a god-send really.  But, I wasn’t the only one who was being a baby about the cold weather.  Sam bought himself a jumper as well.  It’s red and looks very snappy on him.

Friday was our excursion day.  When we received notification that we’d been invited back to Club this year, we received a whole list of optional excursions we could do.  There were the typical things like zip-lining, ATVing on the beach, Jeep rides through town, horseback riding, spa packages, snorkeling and catamaran rides, and then there was hiking and waterfalls.  That’s what we choose – we wanted to see some of the island while we were there, and we figured we wouldn’t get a chance to rent a car and go driving around on our own.  I think Sam would agree that this was by far the best excursion we’ve ever taken, and that’s saying something, because we loved the one last year in the Dominican Republic.

Our guide, Tony, was awesome.  If you ever get to Maui, I encourage you to check out Hike Maui Tours.  Tony has been with this company for years, and he knew everything.  He shared with us about the history of the islands, their peoples, their cultures, and some fun facts that none of us would have ever guessed.  He told us about Maui’s unique climates (there are 11 of them on this one tiny island!), its agriculture (or lack of), its indigenous plants and trees, and tons of other stuff that I just can’t remember.  The hike itself wasn’t hard at all, even though we were traveling up the side of the mountain (really, I’m not kidding you – I wouldn’t lie about something like that – I’m not big into sweating), and we made frequent stops along the trail for photo ops and botanical lessons.  Once at the top of the trail we had a quick lunch overlooking a breathtaking waterfall, and then climbed down the side of the mountain on a rope – really, a rope.  I can’t make this stuff up.  I was scared out of my mind – I hate heights.  I made Sam go first, in case I fell – at least I knew I’d have a softer landing that way!  I know, I’m a giver.

At the bottom of the cliff we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the waterfall pool.  It was freezing cold, and completely exhilarating – I’d so do it all over again.  Sam was the first one in the water (after the guide that is) and he goaded the rest of us into following him into insanity!  Boy am I ever glad I listened to him – it was the most amazing experience of my life.  We took a group photo under the waterfall – it was better than any massage, I can assure you of that!  We spent close to an hour playing and swimming around before heading further down the river to the next waterfall.  It was a twin falls, and the current was much stronger.  The guide didn’t think we could get in, but that didn’t stop Sam – he headed straight for the water like a dog to a fresh bone.  The guide shrugged his shoulders, smiled and headed in after Sam.  Again, after a few minutes of photo ops, we all stripped down (to our suits – don’t get excited here – we’re not that kind of crowd) and headed in.  I didn’t think it was possible, but the water was even colder than that last pool.  But we didn’t let that stop us.  We dove off the cliffs into the waterfall, we swam under the falls, we splashed around like a bunch of school kids at summer camp, and one of our group even found himself a coconut!  I felt like a kid again.

Dinner on Friday night was a picnic under the stars on the top of a golf course overlooking the ocean.  This had the potential to be the most romantic night of them all had we not been so exhausted from the activities of the day.  The view was spectacular.  The sunset was magnificent.   But the wind was bone-chilling.  The food was highly disappointing.  The music was jazz (translation: it stank majorly).  And we left early.  We weren’t alone.  People were lining up to catch the fist bus back to the resort, and you could tell how disappointed the organizers were.  But how can you predict the weather?!  It wasn’t their fault, at least the weather part.  Everything else, well, it just wasn’t our tastes.  No biggie – there’s always one major disappointment in every vacation.

Saturday was originally planned as a free day.  On our way down to the garden Sam and I decided we were going to eat, grab our snorkel gear and head back out to the beach before it got too crowded.  Then we were going to move to the pool area, hit the water slides and the water elevator, and spend the remainder of the day lounging by the pool scoping out all the celebrities.  Did I mention the celebrities to you yet?  No?  Okay, I’ll get to that in a minute.

So we have our day all planned out – we’re both happy with the plan, and looking forward to relaxing.  We get to the chapel lawn, and we see hats on the tables.  Color coordinated hats, to be exact.  Ugh-oh.  We quickly feel our daily plan being sucked down the drain.  As we sit down to breakfast we’re informed that these hats indicate our “team” for the morning event.  We had been previously led to understand that this “activity” was completely optional…..oh well, so much for a relaxing day at the water’s edge.  We were team khaki.  We didn’t win.  But we had fun.  Well, at least I did.  Sam’s not much for games of any kind.  He got over it though, and at least pretended to have fun.  Well, fun might be a bit of a stretch – he’s competitive at least.

After lunch we managed to find our way out to the pool and we enjoyed the water slides, water elevator, lazy river, and several mean games of water volleyball.  My team got beat 4 to 1, but I had a blast anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever been invited to play water volleyball – I’m not the most athletic sort of gal, but I was actually not the worst player on the team.  Kegan was.  He was 7 and could barely touch the bottom of the shallow end.  It made me feel much better about my own ability to have him as a part of our team.  As always, the ‘Big T’ (definition: this is my phrase for too much testosterone) made an appearance, and there were a few people, who shall remain nameless at this time, who got a bit too competitive about it, but overall it was a great afternoon.  And I didn’t even get sunburned too badly.

After we were thoroughly wrinkled up we headed back to our room for a wee rest.  It was about 4:30 p.m. and our final gala dinner was at 7:00 p.m.  Warm showers were the first order of business.  Once my body was thoroughly washed and slathered in the resort’s amazing Honey Mango lotion I found myself propped up on the bed.  My first thought was, “I can’t go to sleep.  I can’t go to sleep.  I need to get dressed………….”  The next thing I knew, someone had stepped out on their balcony and sneezed.  I jumped to attention, only to realize I had in fact fallen asleep.  And not just lightly.  I was dead asleep.  Mouth wide open, drool runnin’ down my cheek, snoring.  The whole shebang.  Crap!  I jumped up and loudly blurted out in sleepy slurs – “Sam, quick, you’ve gotta wake up…we’re gonna be late.”   Then I looked at the clock – certain it was past 7:00.  I’d only been asleep for 20 minutes!  Whew.  That was a close one.

The gala dinner was the typical fare – surf and turf, tatters, salad, rolls, and dessert.  There was live music – thankfully it was much better than the night before.  We stuck around for the toast and then headed out for a quick constitutional around the grounds before slipping off to our room and back to dreamland.  I’m sure there was more snoring and drooling, but I can’t confirm anything at this time.

Sunday arrived too soon, as usual.  We stopped into the chapel on our way to breakfast for a quiet Sunday morning prayer.  The chapel was beautiful and old, and it smelled like every old church I’ve ever been in.  The stained glass windows were colorful depictions of the Polynesian culture.  There were no Bibles on the intricately carved pews.  There where however kneeling benches.  Sam found that useful as a foot rest.  It was somewhat disappointing to us though.  The only Christian symbol in the entire building was a large, golden cross on the communion table, and even that could be put away if the user so desired.  But I’m sure our prayers were just as loud in God’s ears as they would have been if we were standing in the middle of the Crystal Cathedral.

Our flight out was at 5:00 p.m. and our shuttle was set to leave the resort by 2:30 p.m.  We spent the rest of our morning and afternoon wandering the gardens, gazing at the ocean, holding hands and lazily strolling through the lobby, and people watching.  As I mentioned above, our resort was flooded with celebrities.   Reba, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Anniston, Nicole Kidman, Andy Roddick and his supermodel wife, and a bunch of other people I don’t even recognize.  They were getting ready to film a movie at the resort, and there were paparazzi everywhere.  I’ve never seen so many SLRs and telephoto lenses in once place at a time!  I must tell you that in all the excitement, I didn’t see any one of these people; but I also wasn’t looking for them.  Strangely, I’m not one to get star-struck.  I don’t watch many movies, and all the junk I see on the tabloids just turns me off of the celebs.  I appreciate their talents – they truly do have a special kind of craft, but other than that, I think their lifestyles are mostly despicable.  Call me prudish if you must, but I just don’t see the glamor in it all.  Anyway, several people in our group did see them though.  Lot of them had their  photos taken with the stars; shared quick conversations, and were caught in the act of general star-gazing.  It was amusing.

The flight home wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the flight down – the flight was packed, and we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep.  But the plane had other plans for us.  There were some mysterious electrical issues that weren’t discovered until after we’d taken off.  Oh it wasn’t life threatening, just annoying mostly.  The reading lights were completely possessed.    We tried to turn them on and they wouldn’t work.  No biggie, we’ll just sleep.  Wrong!  Just about the time we’d drift off to sleep the lights would pop on.  And not just our lights.  The lights in the seats in front of us and behind us would come on too.  It was intermittent and completely distracting.  It was like trying to sleep in a disco.  It wasn’t happening.  The in-flight movie was a dud too – the Incredible Mr. Fox (or something like that) – I do not recommend this movie unless you’re already catatonic.  Oh, and did I mention that the air wasn’t working either?  Yeah, it was lovely…and aromatic.  By the end of the flight I was certain we’d gone to India, based on the odor in the plane anyway.

All complaining aside, it was an amazing trip – so worth it!  If I had the opportunity to go back, I’d take it in a heartbeat.  Sam and I both agreed that we could easily live in Hawaii.  The landscape is rugged and beautiful.  The people were so friendly.  The pineapple was to die for.  The prices were astronomical though, so I don’t see us moving there anytime soon.  Although we are considering a church plant.  Anyone want to support us?

Science Fair 101

In the last couple of weeks Sam and I have been playing around with a bunch of different recipes, and not just recipes for food.

Sam has successfully bottled his first batch of home-brew, which tastes exactly like a German-style light beer.  I used most of a bottle of it yesterday in some beer biscuits.  They were tasty as well, but what I liked most was the texture of the biscuits – they were the lightest, fluffiest, most scrumptiously delicate biscuits I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a lot of really good biscuits in my time.  I believe I’ve accidentally discovered an amazing biscuit making secret that I’ll share at a later date after I’ve thoroughly tested it.  Lets just say, it’s not rocket science, but it’s not something I’ve ever thought of before….

I’ve also been continuing my experiments with fresh ground wheat in breads.  So far I’ve only managed one roll recipe that I thought was really good.  The breads all taste alright, but they don’t have my usual fluffy and picture perfect look to them.  I’ve tried hand-kneeding, mixer-kneeding, and bread machine-kneeding, and the tops keep sinking when I cook them.  Also the texture is just too dense and bland for me.  I’m going to persevere though and find a fail proof recipe that I’ll be able to share here, because I know all of you are just looking for an excuse to go out and use your tax refund money to buy a grain mill!

Another experiment I’ve managed is making my own laundry soap and multi-purpose cleaner.   The cleaner was a cinch – distilled vinegar, water, and rubbing alcohol – no rocket science there.  The laundry soap was also not difficult to put together and since today is laundry day the soap is being field-tested as I type this out.  My first two loads of laundry seem to be just as clean, and maybe even more fresh than when I use regular, commercially produced laundry soap; minus the cost, artificial coloring, and added fragrance of course.  The clothes are white, clean, soft, and feel residue free, so I’m excited.  The recipe is super simple and only requires three readily available ingredients, plus a couple gallons of water.  I’ll post all the details here soon for those of you who are interested in trying your hand at a piece of homemade life!

And the granddaddy of experiments is going to happen in the next couple of days.  I’m going to begin making my own cheese.  Since locating an awesome, local source of fresh, raw, cow’s milk I’ve become incredibly interested in making my own cheese.  I love cheese and could eat it at every meal.  But the cost of cheese just won’t allow me to do that.  And all the preservatives, artificial colorings and flavorings just put me off too.  Not to mention the animal cruelty associated with commercial and factory farming – yes, even commercial dairy farms are cruel and disgusting places for both the workers and the cows.  Since I’m brand new at home cheesemaking I’ve decided to do something not like me – I’m going to start simple instead of diving into the hardest types of cheeses to make (that’d be the mold enhanced cheeses like blues, white, and red-bacteria cheeses).  This week I’ll be making fresh cream cheese as well as 30-minute mozzarella cheese.  I promise to post the results here.

Cheese trivia: Did you know that traditional (and authentic) buffalo mozzarella cheese comes from the milk of………..water buffaloes?  I did not know that, but I guess it makes perfect sense – hence the name ‘buffalo’ mozzarella.  In India people do not use (or eat) any products from cows as they’re sacred animals, but everyone has at least one water buffalo tied to the front of their house.  When Sam was in India a few years back he ate tons of water buffalo cheeses (not mozzarella though), butter, yogurt, milk, and meat.  He didn’t like it very much.  He said it had a stronger, soured, more ‘musky’ flavor to it.  It might have had something to do with the fact that the entire country smells like urine, but I can’t be sure….I know it’s gross, but I’m just sayin’….

So that’s what’s been happenin’ around our place in the past couple of weeks.  What new things have you tried lately?

All I want for Christmas…

Do you listen to a radio station that has a Christmas Wish list? I do. It’s one from Northwest Arkansas. I used to live there. Its a beautiful, peaceful, place full of people who are really kind and caring. But I digress…

Every year for the last several years this particular radio station puts up a Christmas Wish list on their website. They invite people in the listening area (for me it was listening via the Internet) to post their Christmas wish on the website and then for other people in the area to grant those wishes.

Most of the wishes were for genuine needs like furniture, financial help, health care issues, childcare, and other similar things. As I read through some of the wishes my heart just broke for all the single parents (and grandparents who were raising their grandchildren) who were trying to find ways to provide some kind of Christmas for their kids. Some of them didn’t even have enough groceries in their house to feed their kids that weekend. Oh, I just wanted to reach through cyberspace and fix it all for them. I used nearly a whole box of Kleenex that day just reading through the wishes.

So what does this have to do with me?

Well, for the past six or seven years I’ve been trying to locate my baby brother. When our mother died in December of 1996 he was thirteen years old. My brother and I were living in Florida at that time and we begged our baby brother to move down there with us. But he’d grown up in Northwest Arkansas – his family was there, as were all his friends. He didn’t want to move to Florida and try to start all over again. In the course of our discussion on where he was going to end up, one of his aunts offered to take him into her home so he could stay in Arkansas, and we all agreed.

We made an effort to stay in touch, but unfortunately, circumstances and time make it harder and harder to call and write. And it didn’t help that I was a self-absorbed twenty-one year old, who was more focused on what made me feel good rather than what was the right thing to do. Within a few months we just stopped talking. And then shortly after that I got married and moved away to Iowa….and then to Kentucky…..and then to Maine…..and then to Georgia.

Over the years I’d lost track of my baby brother and time was slipping by at an alarming rate. Before long I had no idea how to even begin to get in touch with him. I started searching the Internet for him – trying to find anything that would point me in the right direction and give me a place to start. But there was nothing. I checked into hiring a private investigator, but without a social security number that was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I wrote letters of inquiry to a few people I could remember who might have had contact with him. But those letters came back return to sender – these people had moved too. It was as if he’d vanished – disappeared off the face of the Earth.

So I started to pray. I begged the Lord to help me find a way to get back in touch with my baby brother. I just had to know that he was alive. I prayed for six years – the same prayer, over and over and over again. And then one day I found this Northwest Arkansas radio station. As I listened I kept hearing advertisements for their Christmas Wish list. Eventually, out of curiosity I checked out the website. And after reading through the wish submissions I decided to take a chance. I mean, what was the worst that could happen? No one would answer my request. Silence was something I was already familiar with. So I submitted my wish.

Days went by with no response from anyone. I checked the website almost hourly, hoping and praying that someone would have some information – anything that would give me a sliver of hope that he was still out there somewhere. And then one day my phone rang. The caller ID displayed an unfamiliar Springdale phone number. I held my breath as I picked up the phone.

The man on the other end was quite nice as he explained who he was and why he was calling. He’d seen my wish on the radio’s website and wanted to help. He’d looked in the phone book and had found an address for a person with my brother’s name – it was in Fayetteville. I took down the information and thanked him for his interest and help. I said a quick prayer for reassurance, and then dialed the phone number he’d given me. Within seconds that annoyingly familiar voice blared through the receiver….”We’re sorry, the number you’ve dialed is no longer in service. Please check the number and dial again.” Three times with the same message.

I hung up the phone in disappointment and decided to Google the address. There was a street-view photo of the house, so I knew it really existed. I called one of my Aunts and asked her to drive by the house and see if anyone was home. She did, several times, but the house was abandoned and none of the neighbors were ever around to ask. {Sigh} Just one more dead end. At least it was worth a try. Back to my knees…

Fast forward six months. It’s a sunny, summer Sunday afternoon. Sam and I had been at church all day long for meetings and we were getting home later than usual. He headed straight downstairs to feed the dogs and I checked the voice mail display on our phone. One message.

I smiled, certain it was my Dad giving me his weekly call to say ‘hello’ I clicked the speaker phone button and started toward the kitchen sink to make a pitcher of iced tea. I hadn’t taken more than two steps when the voice on the phone stopped me dead in my tracks. It wasn’t my Dad…..it was my baby brother! Immediately Niagara Falls started to flow down my cheeks and I scrambled for a writing utensil and a scrap of paper. I hastily scribbled down his number and saved the message.

As I stood in my living room in overwhelming disbelief, bawling my eyes out, Sam popped up the stairs and rushed over to me. He was certain that the message had been from my Dad, and obviously it had been bad news of some kind. I could barely get the words out for the tears.

It……….wasn’t……….Dad…………….it……………..was…………………Jon Dylan………

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16(b)

I’m convinced – prayer works y’all! So how has God answered your prayers lately?