Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Cookie Paradise

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I don’t cook. I occasionally bake, and since dessert is the best meal of the day, you wouldn’t think this chocoholic would mess up goodies. Guess again. I do have one specialty, though, one cookie which the hubby asks for year round and I have to tell him he needs to wait until fall.

I was working in the lab years ago when a co-worker brought in the most wonderful cookies. I begged her for the recipe. The next year when I brought in the same cookies, this co-worker asked me for the recipe. I was stumped. Isn’t this your recipe? Nope, she denied it. So I really don’t know where this came from. I have to tell you though that the key is real pumpkin, not the stuff from a can. So here we go. This is how I spent my weekend. 

Cut open a pumpkin, cut it in a few pieces, clean out all the seeds and gunk. Bake it in a 350 degree oven until it feels soft when you poke it with a fork. I have no idea how long that is – always longer than I plan for. I also did two pumpkins, two different varieties. 

When the baked pumpkin is cooled, cut off the dried edges and cut the good stuff into pieces which your food processor can handle. I really did not take enough pictures of this messy process. These are times when it would be nice if the hubby would take pictures for me.

Then you have to take a break and get some sleep. I told you this is a process, by which I meant a two-day process.

Ok, the cookies.

I mix the dry ingredients first – in a huge bowl.
                4 cups four, sometimes if the pumpkin is really juicy, I add another cup of flour
                2 cups rolled oats
                1 tsp salt
                2 tsp baking soda
                2 tsp cinnamon

Mix the moist ingredients and blend well.
                1 ½ cups margarine, softened
                2 cups brown sugar
                1 cup white sugar
                1 egg
                1 tsp vanilla
                2 cups pumpkin

Dump the moist ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add one to two cups of chocolate chips.

Drop the dough onto greased cookie sheets – they must be greased and you have to grease them if you reuse them. I also use one of those cookie scoops, it is way easier than using two spoons to make the cookies.
 Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. This makes a huge batch – I got just shy of seven dozen today – and because they take so long to bake, plan on spending the day in the kitchen. But it is so worth it! These freeze great also. And freeze the remaining pureed pumpkin in freezer baggies or containers, measuring out two cups in each, so that they are ready to go for the next batch of cookies. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What's in a Name?

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.(Isaiah 9:6 New King James Version )
When I was a kid, dreaming of someday being a writer, I knew I always wanted to write under my maiden name. At the time, I think that I mostly never imagined getting married and changing my name in the first place. After getting married twice and changing my name twice, more than ever, I wanted to recognize my maiden name. But not for myself.

My dad, Paul Loehmer, was the smartest person I ever knew. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade  to work to support his family. But he read everything he could get his hands on. He self-taught himself anything he wanted to know. His most amazing gift was that he could pick up almost any musical instrument and play any tune on it by ear. That is certainly a gift I didn’t inherit.

My sister, Patricia Loehmer, was the second smartest person I knew. She too read everything she could find. She’d inhale books like the rest of us inhale the air around us. On top of her massive intelligence, she was stubborn. Maybe a more positive synonym to use is tenacious. If she was given any task to do, she would work day and night until it was finished and done to perfection.  

And so everything I write is in tribute to these two people. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also pay tribute to the one on this planet, in this present life, who supports me the most. That would be the hubby, Mr. Kincaid,  Ricky to my Lucille Ball. My other half, my better half.

I would’ve stuck with my given first name, Christine, but I thought my handle was becoming long enough the way it is. And so I write as Chris Loehmer Kincaid.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 The Message Bible

The shepherds had been told about a baby born in Bethlehem and the angel was there to convince these men to go visit the infant. The angel told them several of the names that the baby would one day be called. In Isaiah 9:6, there is an even longer list of names: Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Throughout Scripture, Jesus has even more titles – the Anointed One, Redeemer, Emmanuel.

Why so many names for one person? Well, why not? There are not enough superlatives to describe Jesus. There is not just one name that expresses who He is. He is the One.

Do you have a nickname? Does your spouse call you "sweetheart,” or "honey,” or some other affectionate name? Did your mom call you by your full name when you were in trouble? The name we were given at birth is important, but sometimes the names that we go by matter just as much.

From The Christmas Story in 40 Days, out by mid-November. Currently available for pre-order from the publisher, Life Sentence Publishing. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another two for one

That time of the month has rolled around again where I should write a book review. I don’t think I will ever get the hang of this. I sit here staring at the book I finished reading last week, and even though I liked it, I can’t think of a thing to say. So I turn my attention to the book I finished reading just before that one and still my mind is a blank. Some things I guess a person simply does not have a gift for doing. Give me two yards of fabric and I can cut it into pieces and sew you a scrub top. Give me a book, I can read it, but that’s all I can do with it. Seems a waste. I should be able to finish the job by writing a review of it. I will try this again.

In the last two weeks I finished reading “A Beggars Purse” by Toni Nelson and “TheSecret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister”. Both are memoirs, both set in very different times and very different places, yet their messages fall upon the same path.  

Toni Nelson wrote about her life as a child, befriending hobos who would come to her grandmother’s house in search of a meal. As an adult, it wasn’t as easy for her to accept the homeless, but with time and the Lord’s guidance, she did, offering a meal to anyone who asked.

Nonna Bannister’s childhood was filled with relatives gathering for meals, but those happy times would soon end as Nazi Germany began pushing into her world. Some days she would be the one looking for a meal from anyone who had anything to offer.  

Both books remind me of the good and the bad sides of people. We are capable of causing great suffering, but we are equally able to share all that we have, our food, our shelters, our compassion. Our stories. I believe the authors of both of these books would want us to cultivate our good sides, would want us to learn from the mistakes of others, would want us to help any brother or sister in need. 

In the words of Anne Frank, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Every time a bell rings . . . "

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

My husband has been an usher at our church for many years. Most of the time, I get roped into helping out, which is ok. And if anyone reading this belongs to our church, he gets credit for making up the usher schedule, but I am the one who actually does it.

We have a lot of traditions in our church, as most congregations do, and one of those traditions is that one of the ushers rings the bell three times during the Lord’s Prayer, after the first “heaven”, the second “heaven” and “evil”. My husband asked a while back why we do that. I didn’t know the answer (there are more things I don’t know about church practices than things I do know).

I finally got around to looking it up on line. I thought it had something to do with those particular words, or maybe someone wanted the bell rang three times in remembrance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and they just randomly chose those particular three words. My husband thought it was something to do with life, death and resurrection.

According to the internet, it is nothing that deep. The bell is rung for the benefit of those outside and not inside. Back in the day, not everyone could make it to church; they had a valid excuse, unlike people of today. Workers in the field or servants who had to stay home to make the meal while the masters were in church would hear the bell ring as a signal to begin the Lord’s Prayer. The second ringing would let them know where they should be in the Prayer and the third ringing would indicate they should be finished praying.

Most churches had at least two bells. The larger and louder one tolled at the start of the service to call parishioners to worship. The smaller bell was called the “Pater”, after the Latin name of the Lord’s Prayer, Pater Noster or Our Father.

The German in me likes the other name this bell was often given, the Kartoffelglock, or potato bell. When the servants working at home heard the bell it was their signal that the church service was almost over. Which meant that if dinner was to be on the table when their masters got home, it was time to put the potatoes on to boil.

I don’t know if any of this information is going to inspire you today. If nothing else, whenever you hear a bell ring, instead of just repeating “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings”, maybe you will say a prayer as well. 
One of the many churches I saw in Ayacucho, Peru. Which bell was the Kartoffelglock? Or would it be cuy campana

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Vacation - Final Day

Last spring when we were trying to figure out where to go on our vacation in September, we first threw around going to either Washington DC or the Black Hills of South Dakota. We opted for Southeast Wisconsin because we decided we were far enough in debt and didn’t need to go on a long expensive vacation. I know, as if South Dakota is expensive. (Washington is.)

Events did turn out in our favor. South Dakota was hit by a massive and unseasonable blizzard about the time we would have been leaving there to head home. And Washington DC? Since they shut down the federal government about that same time, perhaps that trip would have been filled with peril as well. But even my little home state was hit that week.

Our last day of our fall vacation, we decided to head home via Horicon Marsh. We didn’t hit impressive flocks of geese or breathtaking autumn foliage, but it was awesome just the same.  Did you know that only one-third of Horicon Marsh is run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources? The rest of the wildlife area? Run by the feds. I know. We had just gotten home when we saw the news on the internet that the majority of this Wisconsin treasure had been shut down due to the federal government shutdown. But I won’t get started on politics. Here are the pictures. 

(Note the American Flag in the background. I'm just pointing it out.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall Vacation Continued

I hate to do this to you two Sundays in a row, but I once again am going to astound you with my lack of knowledge regarding the Catholic faith. Please bear with me; isn’t all of life a learning process.
Earlier I was sharing stories from our fall vacation in September. On Tuesday of that week, when we checked out of the hotel and started driving, we weren’t sure where we were headed. I told the Hubby that, as usual, I had it covered. With an old Wisconsin Gazetteer, my decent sense of direction and a vague idea, I directed him to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. Goodness, now that is a handle. I think that in general it is called simply Holy Hill.
Ok, so I researched some on the internet. The Hubby called this place a monastery, but I don’t know what qualifies a place to be a monastery. I thought it had to have monks, but this place doesn’t have them. It has friars. Not being Catholic, I don’t know the difference. In fact, to add to my confusion, these guys aren’t only friars, they are Carmelites, members of the secular order of discalced Carmelites. Now, that piqued my interest until I discovered that a Carmelite has nothing to do with caramels. They are brothers of Mount Carmel, again which I think you have to be Catholic to understand. They show their devotion to Mary by wearing a scapular. Ok, I think I’m done with that, I’ll remain a Lutheran, but I do think it is interesting. Oh, and one other thing - these guys can be married.
Whoever it is that lives and works here, they let you climb to the top of one of the bell towers. I did climb all of the 178 stairs, clinging to the railing like a baby. But this acrophobic did it, I climbed to the top. And it was worth it. What an awesome view!

As we were leaving, a young mother with her two young children were heading towards the sanctuary. The mother said to the little girl, “How can God be three persons in one? Well, your daddy is not just your daddy, but he is my husband and he is your grandma’s son, so he is three different people.” Well, that made it seem pretty simple.

"Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28:19-20, Good News Translation

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Want Food!

This is another post on behalf of the Personal Photo Challenge. When they posted back in September that this month's challenge was pictures of food, I once again said to myself, "I got this one". I had hoped to take some new pictures of food, but I just do not know where the month went. Luckily, it seems that I have always been drawn to taking pictures of the things I ingest. What could that possibly tell you about me?

We must always start with dessert. What a sad world it would be if we were too full after the main course to enjoy the decadent pleasures of chocolate. This picture was taken in 2011 at the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference. Yes, we are always spoiled with good eats!

The cuisine that I have enjoyed in Kenya hasn't been that much different from home. Random meat and vegetables in some sort of gravy or broth, served with potatoes, rice or pasta. While in Kenya this May, however, our host took us to the Ethiopian restaurant my last night there. Ethiopian food was not at all what I expected (are you thinking bread and water too?). The main dish to order is injera, which looks like a white and airy pancake, but doesn't taste like much of anything. You break off pieces of it to use to scoop up the rest of your food.
What is the point of food, if not to eat it? Joe, one of the Kenyans who worked with us, was skeptical about this dish. After trying one bite, he declared that he now knew why Ethiopians were so skinny, and I don't think he ate anymore.
While in Ayacucho, Peru, in 2009, we were served one of the their most popular dishes, cuy. I was there with three other Americans, and one of these women couldn't bring herself to try it. The other two ate it with reservation, claiming it tasted "gamey". Sorry, ladies, you hadn't grown up in the Northwoods, and have never eaten genuine wild game so you don't know what you were talking about.

I thought the cuy tasted just fine, a bit like Cornish game hen. You can look it up on line or on a previous blog post.
My last night in Peru we also went out to eat. We were in Lima waiting for our flight home and stopped at the mall in Miraflores and had dinner at Mangos restaurant. I had a wonderful dish with chicken and greens. I can't take credit for this picture; one of my traveling partners took it for me. But like I already said, what's the point of food if not to eat it. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Vacation Day 2

Actually this is still Day 1 of our vacation, but since it is Day 2 of posting about it, I thought I would just go with it.

I have known about the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, for nearly as long as I have known about places like Pewaukee, Mequon and Brookfield. I really haven’t spent that much time in and around Milwaukee, but I still was raised with that German Wanderlust, so if I haven't been someplace, I have still seen it on a map. 

I obviously haven’t been to Waukesha, though, because I always pictured it as being an extension of Milwaukee, filled with skyscrapers, hectic traffic and questionable neighborhoods. I am so glad I was able to broaden my horizons and get over that stereotype.

First thing we discovered in Waukesha was this cute little park. Named after the Frame family, the space along the Fox River included a children’s park, formal flower garden, and outdoor amphitheater (which I already blogged about). We ate lunch here and then wondered about the grounds.

The caretaker of the formal garden (which was just barely past its peak) told us he had seen practically a swarm of hummingbird moths in the last few days. And that two were still hovering in that general direction, he told us, pointing. Sure enough, we found the huge moths. The size of a small hummingbird, they suck the nectar from the flowers with their long beaks – ok that’s not the right term – and their wings beat much slower. They are very cool.

Downtown Waukesha, there is a river walk with some interesting features. Can you read the sign about the granma bear? What a great story, huh?

After walking the three blocks down and back to the car, we had some gelato. And called it a day.

Oh, and to get back to the wanderlust thing and my German roots, this is the restaurant across from our hotel. No, we didn’t eat there. The price was way outside our budget.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall Vacation Day 1

Hard to believe that two weeks ago I was on vacation with the Hubby. Not so hard to believe how fast that week flew by. No more vacation plans on the horizon; I need to change that quickly!

This year we only traveled for a few days and bummed around the Southeast part of the state, between Milwaukee and Madison. There really is so much to see and do there and I must admit that we missed a huge part of it.

One place that I have wanted to visit is the Mitchell Park Domes. It has been over forty years since either I or the Hubby have been there. (Does that mean we are old?)
 The Show Dome had a 1950's theme. 
There was a school field trip in the Desert Dome. They were on a scavenger hunt and running all over looking for things like frogs, and snakes, and boots. 
The Tropical Dome was closed, so that was rather disappointing.

 I’ve also always wanted to visit the Pabst Mansion. It is horrible that so many beautiful homes like this have met the wrecking ball. In fact, this house was slanted for demolition and had been saved within days of meeting its end. It is sad enough that it is surrounded by modern buildings instead of its contemporaries, other stunning old mansion of a gone-by era.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

I am so sorry that I haven’t blogged in an entire week. No matter how busy I have been in the past, I managed to post something for my faithful few. On Monday, I received the first round of edits on my manuscript, so I spent every moment possible pouring over it, accepting changes or making new changes of my own. This seems to be the most stressful part of publishing for me, getting every word just exactly right. But enough of my excuses, here are new words, some of which need lots of editing.

When I was in my second year of college, my friend and I went to her sister’s house in Rochester, Minnesota, for spring break. I know. Who goes to Minnesota on spring break? Starving college kids on a tight budget.

My friend’s brother drove us. We woke that Saturday morning to snow, of course, because I live in Wisconsin and I was heading to Minnesota. Why would the weather not be horrible. By mid-day, as we were one-third of the way to our destination, the snow had started to cause a whiteout on the highway. We were crawling along, only guessing that we were still on the road, snow blowing everywhere. We decided we needed to stop.

We pulled into the city of Chippewa Falls and the first hotel (perhaps the only hotel) in town was the Indianhead Motel. We got one room. Remember we were all starving college students. I believe my friend’s brother was in veterinary school at the time. Anyway, yes I spent the night in a hotel room with a guy, who was in the other bed, while my friend and I slept in the second bed. Except I didn’t sleep; I was too scared coz there was a man I hardly knew just ten feet away. Even though I was twenty years old at the time, I was nearly as pure as the driven snow outside.   

Anyway, why this story now. I was at a meeting on Thursday over past Chippewa Falls. On the way home, when I got to that point in the trip, I thought it was time to stop for something to eat. I’ve been through this town many times. The highway used to go right through town and only what seems a few years ago did they finish the bypass.

I took the exit ramp. The roads had changed, the strip mall just outside of town was nearly deserted. Even Wendy’s was closed up. The Indianhead Motel however was still there and though they didn’t have the “no vacancy” sign out, they had business.

Just then Neil Diamond came on my radio. I know, you are thinking Neil Diamond, seriously? Seriously. The night we had been stranded at the Indianhead, we had watched “The Jazz Singer” with Neil Diamond on TV.

I looked up the hill on the east side of town, to the steeple of the Catholic Church. Really? God, you want me to go up there. Apparently He did.

It was getting late in the day, and was dreary. The rain had stopped, but the clouds still hung heavy. I turned the car to the right and climbed the hill to the church.

My friend’s family was devote Catholics. That night we spent in town, when the snow had abated around supper-time, someone consulted a pamphlet in the hotel room and found that mass would be starting soon. The three of us piled back into the car and headed up the hill.

I never knew until this Thursday what the name of that church was. Notre Dame. I wandered the grounds in the fading light, taking pictures and wondering why I had been sent up here. I sighed and returned to my car. I still had a two-hour drive ahead of me.

Friday morning, October 4, which happens to be our anniversary, I went on-line to find out more about the Notre Dame Church of Chippewa Falls. The first thing that jumped out at me was that it was St. Francis of Assisi day.

You probably have picked up by now that I am not Catholic. I have a lot of friends who are, so I know a little about their faith. I know about, but don’t understand, their allegiance to the saints. A lot of their saints are pretty obscure. (For example, who has been a follower of St. Bruno?)

I think, though, that most of us have heard of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and nature. Also, the guy that our current pope honored by taking his name. And so, it was after sixteen years of marriage, that I discovered that the date we chose is the feast day of this saint.

I think there is more to the story, but I need to wait on God’s time to find out what it is. So please stay tuned. 
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

(Called the prayer of St. Francis, but history is pretty sure he never wrote it)