Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

As good as Ninfas!

It's been months, if not years, since I posted any recipes or cooking experiments over here.  So, for your eating pleasure here's a recent adventure in cooking!

Last year I saw an episode of Rachael Ray during which she cooked Cuban-style beef tacos with green salsa.  She mentioned eating Ninfa's green salsa during a summer trip to Texas and she asked what all they put in their salsa and recreated it.  Well, this is my recreation of Rachael Ray's recreation of Ninfa's green salsa, or salsa verde if we're gonna be authentic.

I bought these tomatillos from the local $0.99 Only store.  It contains 1 1/2 lbs and I used roughly half the package.  So in the recipe below I put 1/2 lb of tomatillos but go ahead and use two or three more if you're not convinced that's enough.

Here's a close up of my sizzling veggies.  I put them all in there whole.  You can see some of the smaller tomatillos on the top left of the photo are starting to soften and brown.  You don't want to burn them, but it's okay if they get a little brown.  I coarsely chop the onion and place the whole wedge in there; it will break up as it cooks.

The finished product!
Salsa Verde
1/2 lb tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1-2 fresh OR canned jalapenos, stemmed; (optional: remove the seeds if you're worried about heat)
1/2 large yellow onion, quartered
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 T olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
1 ripe avocado, pitted
1 tsp cumin
2 small handfuls fresh cilantro (that's coriander, for you gringos!)
salt to taste (I use about 1 tsp)
Dash of chili powder & paprika optional

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, tomatillos, jalapenos (only if using fresh) and garlic WHOLE (all of these first 4 ingredients).  Cook, turning so that all sides are cooked through and start to brown.  The tomatillos will be soft and start to release their juices, the onions will be translucent, the jalapenos will soften and the skin will brown, and the garlic will soften.  (If you're worried some of the veggies will get overdone then go ahead and remove with a slotted spoon and place in blender.)
Once all veggies are finished add contents to a blender or food processor.  Add the remaining ingredients (this is where you add the jalepenos if using canned).
Blend until creamy and serve with tortilla chips or on tacos, taco salad, steak, chicken, etc.

 Hope y'all enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

No Girls Allowed

No Girls Allowed by Jayce O'Neal is a devotional geared towards boys ages 8-12.  An odd choice for this single mother of none, I know.  However, I AM a teacher and an aunt of two boys within this age bracket.

I specifically requested this book for my nephews.  As expected, the puzzles and secret codes were a hit (although the crosswords are probably a bit difficult for the younger boys since there is no answer bank and not all the questions are taken word-for-word from the text).  I particularly like the basic format of having a scripture to start with, a little story or scenario and then ending with a short prayer.  The puzzles and secret codes reinforce the theme and there's even an application section that gives the boys some suggestions for applying what they just read about to their lives at home and/or at school.  After the application section are a few scriptures to give more biblical backing to the theme.  I love that there are three quotes printed to the right of the scriptures at the end of each devotional selection; it makes my English major heart go pitter-patter!  The quotes are taken from famous authors, historical figures, christian intellectuals, superhero movies, athletes, etc.  I personally think it's good exposure for the kiddos.

Another thing I like about O'Neal's devotional is that he keeps it real.  In a gentle way he explains that life is not always ice cream and action figures; bad things happen, even when you did nothing wrong.  He encourages your child with the fact that God is still there and still loves him and will help him through the difficult times.

If you homeschool your children OR if they are particularly sheltered then this might not be the best fit for your child.  O'Neal makes references to classroom scenarios that homeschool kids have never been exposed to so may not connect with.  He also makes connections to movies and tv shows extremely sheltered kids may not be exposed to (SpongeBob, Batman, Star Trek, Hulk, Transformers, Starwars . . . just to name a few!).  Not to say that these show or references are bad, just that they might pique your child's interest before you are ready to show them those particular things.  But if you're willing to work through and discuss the book with your child then you both should be fine.

Overall, for content and ease of reading & understanding, I'll give this one a 4 out of 5 stars.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting a review on my blog.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm a girl with glasses!

While scrolling through Facebook in the wee small hours of the morning I came across a link from a friend.  Following the link I found this sweet little blog post about a mom wanting to help her little one transition into the wonderful world of glasses.  The poor dear is only 5 years old and is worried about what the other kiddos might say about her new look.  So her wise mom put out a plea for "girls with glasses" to share their pics so her little pumpkin can see a variety of cool girls rocking their specs!  Besides my Blogger profile pic, here are a few others I dug up:

Fall '08: Kicking it outside of Big Ben w/ my friend Debs, a fellow "girl with glasses"

July, '10: My niece, Abby, trying to make me smile this summer (note the smiling mouth she drew and taped on me)

Abby loves wearing my glasses when she gets a chance...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Her Daughter's Dream

Q&A from author Francine Rivers
How has exploring the relationship between your mother and grandmother helped you understand yourself?
This is a question I would love readers to ask themselves at the end of Her Mother’s Hope. I realized early in the story that I have many of my grandmother and mother’s character traits, both good and bad. They both had tempers. So do I. They both had low self-esteem. I’m always striving to “measure up”. They both chose spouses who respected them. So did I. Both women had strong faith and servants’ hearts, something they encouraged in me. My mother extended grace to others -- a trait I want to cultivate to the end of my days. By holding onto her anger, Grandma lacked the peace and joy she could have had in her last years. I tend to relive past hurts. Writing about Marta made me decide to let go, forgive and move on. For whatever reason, Grandma couldn’t and missed out on so much joy in her last years. Sometimes people deeply hurt as children take offense where none was intended. Holding a grudge causes suffering, especially for the one who won’t let go. Jesus said to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. Forgiveness frees us, even if the other person refuses to join in the process of reconciliation. As I examine my own life, I see how much I’ve been forgiven. How can I not extend God’s grace to others? The best way to experience the fullness of God’s presence in my life is to surrender it to Him. And in that surrender, we are made more complete and joy-filled.

Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated and fraught with emotional land mines. What was your approach to exploring the complexity of those relationships in a fictional setting?
Questions, lots of questions! Every time I told someone I was working on a book about mother-daughter relationships, people wanted to share their family stories. As I wrote Her Mother’s Hope, I wanted readers to see through each woman’s eyes, and understand how the past shaped each in the way she responded to her mother. Hildemara doesn’t believe her mother loves her, but it is out of Marta’s pain and loss that tough-love techniques were forged. Marta wants to strengthen her daughter for whatever lies ahead. Sometimes what we view as rejection can actually be an act of sacrificial love. We seldom know the experiences that shaped our mothers, the deep hurts, traumatic events, broken relationships. I hope women who read this book will want to share those things with one another.

Writing a novel is not for the faint of heart. What was the most difficult part of writing this family saga? What came the most naturally to you?
The most difficult part of writing any novel is getting out of my own way. I have to get rid of preconceived notions about themes and characters and plot. The first draft of this novel came in at over 1000 pages and was too biographical. I wanted the story to shift back and forth from present to past, trying to show what happened to create the rifts and valleys between Hildemara, Carolyn and May Flower Dawn. I was too cautious, too afraid to harm to my grandmother and mother’s memory.
A wonderful editor wrote me an insightful letter in which she listed what she wanted to know about each the characters. Her letter got my creative juices flowing. She helped me look at the story in a new way. I set the first manuscript aside and started over. I found it better to move from one generation to the next in a linear story. This time the characters followed my grandmother and mother’s timeline, but took on a life of their own. They became unique individuals rather than the shadow of real people.

After readers finish this series what do you want them to remember? What questions and feelings do you want it to provoke on a spiritual and emotional level?
I hope and pray readers who have had difficult relationships with their mothers or daughters will let go of the pain and anger and allow God to work in their lives. God can work all things together for good for those who trust and love Him. Following Jesus’ example changes the way we see people. It changes the way we relate to one another. Even when the chasm is too deep to cross, we can decide to forgive. Some people wear grievances like a dirty coat. With God’s strength, we can strip it off and be free. When people finish reading Her Daughter’s Dream, I hope they will want to extend God’s grace and forgiveness. I hope they will tear down their walls and use their life experiences to begin building a bridge.

Who do you see as the audience for this story, and does that differ from your previous readership?
I am fortunate to work with Tyndale House. If a writer does well in one genre, publishers encourage the writer to continue in the same genre. Tyndale has given me the freedom to go wherever the story leads. I have done historical as well as contemporary. This two-part saga was intended to be one LONG book. Splitting the story into two parts made it more affordable for readers, and eliminated the need to delete entire sections. Hopefully, both women and men will enjoy Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream. Men play a strong role in the lives of all four primary characters: Marta, Hildemara Rose, Carolyn and May Flower Dawn. And both books have much to do with faith, how it presents itself, how it grows, often under difficult circumstances and in unexpected ways.

Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of HER DAUGHTER'S DREAM?
I would love for you to visit my web site at, browse through the various events and other resources available, as well as sign up for my mailing list. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at for more information about blog tour management services.

Book Description

Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers (Tyndale House Publishers, September 2010)

In the dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best seller Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers delivers a rich and deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart and the grace and forgiveness that can heal even the deepest wounds.
Growing up isn’t easy for little Carolyn Arundel. With her mother, Hildemara, quarantined to her room with tuberculosis, Carolyn forms a special bond with her oma Marta, who moves in to care for the household. But as tensions between Hildie and Marta escalate, Carolyn believes she is to blame. When Hildie returns to work and Marta leaves, Carolyn and her brother grow up as latchkey kids in a world gripped by the fear of the Cold War.
College offers Carolyn the chance to find herself, but a family tragedy shatters her newfound independence. Rather than return home, she cuts all ties and disappears into the heady counterculture of San Francisco. When she reemerges two years later, more lost than ever, she reluctantly turns to her family to help rebuild a life for her and her own daughter, May Flower Dawn.
Just like Carolyn, May Flower Dawn develops a closer bond with her grandmother, Hildie, than with her mother, causing yet another rift between generations. But as Dawn struggles to avoid the mistakes of those who went before her, she vows that somehow she will be a bridge between the women in her family rather than the wall that separates them forever.
Spanning from the 1950s to present day, Her Daughter’s Dream is the emotional final chapter of an unforgettable family saga about the sacrifices every mother makes for her daughter—and the very nature of unconditional love.

About the Author
Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English and journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market, and her books were highly acclaimed by readers and reviewers. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, a mother of three, and an established romance novelist.
Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith. First published by Bantam Books and then re-released by Multnomah Publishers in the mid-1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea, set during the time of the California Gold Rush, is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction. Redeeming Love continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association's top-selling titles, and it has held a spot on the Christian best-seller list for nearly a decade.
Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published numerous novels with Christian themes—all best sellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the globe. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Gold Medallion, and the Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for inspirational fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame. Francine's novels have been translated into over 20 different languages, and she enjoys best-seller status in many foreign countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
Francine and her husband, Rick, live in northern California and enjoy time spent with their three grown children and taking every opportunity to spoil their grandchildren. Francine uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and she desires that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.

Hello, my long-lost blog

Sorry to have neglected you for so long.  It's not for lack of words or time or life events.  (Well, perhaps a bit of the latter since I feel as though I've just been spinning my wheels the past few months...)

I suppose I just don't know how to communicate my thoughts these days.  Or rather, I'm not at complete liberty to communicate them all in such a public forum.

I don't intend to promise new posts; I'd like to, but how many times before have I made such empty promises? 

I'll do my best.

In the next few days there will be posts of book reviews.  Did you know that there are companies (publishers, advertisers, authors, etc) that send you FREE books in exchange for posting a review and book and author details?  Brilliant!  (I'll post buttons on the sidebar that will link to the various companies if you're interested.)

So, I'll see you later, my friend.  I'll try to write again soon.

But I make no promises . . .
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