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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Your Recipe

Photo Credit: SDRandCo from
Hey there!  Is that a tissue in your hand?  You might still be a little weepy today reflecting on the fact that your baby started Kindergarten…or college this year.  You may be a bit worried and anxious, hoping that you planted enough good seeds as you sent your child off to junior high or high school for the first time.  Or, you could be wiping away some happy tears, rejoicing that there is finally some sort of normalcy in your household with what now resembles a schedule…and a decent bedtime.  Whatever you might be feeling, I pray that all is well with each of you.

Each summer, my kiddos seem to find their inner “foodie.”  What does that mean?  Well, during the longer days of June, July, and August, we find ourselves tuning in to the Food Network a whole lot more often.  Whether it’s a cupcake war, seeing someone’s special dish being “chopped,” or empathetically watching those poor chefs prepare meals while being blindfolded; we all seem to get our gourmet groove on when the temps rise outside.

The fact that my kiddos love to experiment in the kitchen really works for me in the summer.  It keeps them occupied and fosters creativity.  Most of the time, I just let them have full access to any and all ingredients and utensils.  Of course, I occasionally check on them for fire hazards and I do remind them that the clean-up will be equally as fun – hee hee!

Earlier in the summer, they didn’t measure any of their ingredients whatsoever.  They literally grabbed whatever they found, poured it in a bowl, mixed, and baked.  So, we ended up with rock-hard cookies, gummy bread, and cannot-scrape-them-off-the-pan-pretzels.  After a few days of this type of baking, I encouraged them to check out some of my recipe books.  Basically, their daddy doesn’t like wasting food and frankly…I think he was getting tired of taking the experiments for lunch.

Once I convinced the kids that it was still very cool and chef-ish to follow a recipe (for the most part), the fruits of their labor were well-received…and delightfully delish, I might add!  They still used their inner foodie to add a dash of vanilla or a bit of honey or other ingredients when they weren’t called for, but that’s how great recipes are made.

Over the summer, I also fell in love with my brother’s homemade pico de gallo.  Yes, it was magical.  He made some of his unforgettable pico while we were vacationing at the Frio River.  I didn’t know if it was the hot sun, the fact that we had floated the river all day, or that I was famished…but, I had NEVER tasted pico like this.  I thought I might have been in heaven for a second there.  Poor guy made a bowl of it to share with the family and I’m quite certain that I ate 95% of it.  Possibly more.  Of course, I HAD to have the recipe.  I knew the basic ingredients that could be in pico de gallo…tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lemon or lime juice, garlic, jalapeno or serrano peppers, salt, and pepper, etc.

So, as I prepared to write down the long list of super-duper-secret-special ingredients, he rattled off the following:  2 tomatoes, ½ of a purple onion, 1 jalapeno pepper, salt, and pepper.  No way.  That seemed too simple.  However, I was confident enough that I could easily duplicate it at home with just five ingredients.

When I got home, I bought the ingredients and was salivating at the thought of making my very own bowl of pico.  Yum.  Now, let me share with you my attempts…that failed.  Seriously.  I made it with the same ingredients, but it was NOT the same.  NOT. THE. SAME.

1st attempt:  I used a food chopper and then found out that my brother chops the veggies by hand.  So, I chopped them by hand.  Could that be the difference?  Nope.  NOT the same.
2nd attempt:  I didn’t peel the onion enough, so half an onion turned out to be too much onion on this try.  I peeled the heck out of the next onion.  NOT the same.
3rd attempt:  I used tomatoes, but they weren’t vine-ripened or homegrown.  I made the switch to vine-ripened.  Still NOT the same.
4th attempt:  I made the pico at the beach using the ingredients that my brother actually brought to make the pico.  Sweet success.  WHAT?!  You’ve got to be kidding me!

How in the world can the five same ingredients taste so different…and be so difficult?  What was I doing wrong?  Guess what the difference was?  Come on…just guess.  Yes, it was the salt.  The SALT?!  Yep.  I found out this summer that there is in fact a definite difference in the type of salt used.  He uses Redmond’s “real salt”…unrefined, and full of natural minerals and flavor.  There are even flecks of color in this salt (that are supposed to be there) because of the 60 trace minerals.  Who knew?!  Yea, so now my brother and I make this pico regularly and text each other pictures of it just to tempt each other’s taste buds.  Fun times, bro!

 As many of us embark on this new school year, there are countless papers to sign, supplies to buy, clothes to purchase, to-do lists to mark off, practice and game schedules to coordinate, lunches to pack, and homework to complete. Do you have tissues in one hand and possibly a bit of your hair (that you pulled out) in the other hand?  Hang in there, Sunshines!  It will get better.

We just need to find a recipe.  A what?  Yes.  Have we given much thought to what our recipe will be this year?  What will be our go-to “recipe” for dealing with the stresses and anxieties that are a part of our day-to-day comings and goings? 

There is oodles of research out there regarding stress management.  Many recommendations include rethinking how we talk to ourselves, decreasing our caffeine intake, exercising, slowing down our breathing, eating a more balanced diet, enjoying the precious present moment, and strengthening our spiritual life.  What a great list of ingredients, huh?!

Actually, there are tons of natural ways to decrease stress.  Some of them include:  hugging or holding hands (for at least 20 seconds, peeps!), eating favorite foods (pico, anyone?!), good music, singing, laughing, being listened to, making eye contact, talking, dancing, kissing, praying/meditating, massaging, holding a baby, being generous, and cheering on your team.  How about adding a few of these special ingredients to your recipe?

In essence, each of our recipes will look a little different and that’s okay.  They may change a bit over time as well.  That’s what makes us unique.  Some folks will add a dash of this, a pinch of that, a cup of this, and a little less of that.  But, as we go along, we will tweak it and make it our own.  Overall, we will want our recipe to be one that promotes love, contentment, compassion, inner peace, kindness, and generosity.  We will want our recipe to help keep our stress at a tolerable level.  We will want our recipe to assist us in connecting with or rediscovering Jesus along the way too.

What is YOUR recipe?  Mine will certainly include a little salt…Redmond’s real salt, that is.  Let’s do ourselves a “flavor” and bless others with our words and actions this school year.  Leave others wanting to know the ingredients in…your recipe.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finding the Keys

Photo Credit: mzacha from
Our family gathered together in Port O’Connor last week to celebrate with my cousin’s daughter for her 7th birthday.  When we arrived at the party, I noticed that my dad was a bit (okay…a lot) preoccupied with something.  I asked my mom if there was anything wrong and she said that Dad had lost his keys.  Now, for some, this is absolutely not a big deal.  Losing keys can be a weekly, daily, or hourly thing for many folks.  Countless people out there might even lose their head if it wasn’t attached to their body.  However, my dad just doesn’t lose things…especially not his keys.

So, it became a family hunt.  We all wanted to help my dad find his keys and assure him that he wasn’t losing his mind.  He was extremely bothered by the missing keys, to put it mildly.  Oh, how we searched and searched and searched some more.

After the party, we went back to my parents’ house to continue the quest for the missing keys.  Furniture was turned over.  Dust bunnies were evacuated.  Bugs were relocated.  Not a nook, cranny, or crevice was left unscathed.  Countless prayers for St. Anthony’s intercession were lifted up.

We even climbed a ladder to examine the pear tree branches in the event that he just might have hung them there when picking pears earlier that day.  Nope.  Did we look in the fridge?  Yes.  Freezer?  Yep.  Toilet?  Unfortunately…yes.  We explored every square inch of the yard like a starving bird looking for a tiny morsel of food.

No keys.  We felt defeated, exhausted, and royally bummed.  With our heads hung low, we all returned home, thinking about the new places we could investigate the next day.

Later that evening, we received a text.  My cousin’s daughter was opening her gifts and exclaimed, “Woo-hoo!  Somebody got me a car for my birthday!  Look at these keys!”

Mystery solved. 

Somehow, my dad’s keys had fallen into the gift bag for the birthday girl.  We could have looked for the next fifty years and would have never found the keys.  In order to find the keys, the gift had to be opened.

Yes, that’s right.  I found a deeper meaning in all of this key-searching-fun.  In order to find the keys to a life of peace, joy, contentment, happiness, and love…we have to open the gifts God has given us.

One of the many gifts He has given us is His Word.  I know I don’t open the Bible near enough, but have you ever read Psalm 139?   On days when you feel unloved, unnoticed, or uncared for, I recommend this Psalm.  Here are a few of the verses that I think you will enjoy as much as I did:

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit or stand.  When far away, you know my every thought.  You chart the path ahead of me, and tell me where to stop and rest.  Every moment, you know where I am.  You know what I am going to say before I even say it.  You both precede and follow me, and place your hand of blessing on my head.”

“This is too glorious, too wonderful to believe!  I can never be lost to your Spirit!  I can never get away from my God!  If I try to hide in the darkness, the night becomes light around me.  For even darkness cannot hide from God.”

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  It is amazing to think about.  Your workmanship is marvelous.  You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion!  You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.  Every day was recorded in your Book!”

“How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly!  I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me.  And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!”

Wow.  That’s good stuff.  Right?

You know I am a huge fan of laughter too, so why don’t we open up that gift with a few funnies today.  This one is from my Uncle Erol:

Two nuns were shopping at a convenient store.  As they passed by the beer cooler, one nun said to the other, “Wouldn’t a nice, cold beer or two taste wonderful on a hot summer evening?”

The second nun answered, “Indeed it would, sister, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying beer since I’m certain it would cause a scene at the check-out stand.”

“I can handle that without a problem,” the other nun replied, and she picked up a six-pack and headed for the check-out.  The cashier had a surprised look on his face when the two nuns arrived with the beer.

“We use beer for washing our hair,” the nun said.  “At our convent, we call it Catholic shampoo.”  Without blinking an eye, the cashier reached under the counter, pulled out a package of jumbo pretzel sticks, and placed them in the bag with the beer.  He then looked the nun straight in the eye, smiled, and with a wink said, “The curlers are on the house.”

Love it!  And, in honor of the birthday girl who found my dad’s keys, let’s remember that birthday cake is the only food you can blow on and spit on and everybody rushes to get a piece! Ha ha!  (from Mikey’s Funnies)

So, let us remember to open the countless gifts that God has given us…His Word, and the gifts of love, generosity, laughter, smiling, sharing, and listening.  If we do this, we’ll be sure to find the keys to a life of peace, joy, contentment, happiness, and abounding love.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!