Tuesday, February 22, 2022


   Six years ago today my mother passed away. She died in my home, in my bedroom that we made into her bedroom. I am frequently reminded of her life and death there just for the fact of it being there. Everyone loses their mother and I'm not different than anyone else. But the baggage of childhood, the love of mother, the connected spirit and flesh that we share with our mothers makes that relationship, and loss of it, especially poignant. For my own sanity and self preservation, I push those memories aside because they are too sad and painful for me to recollect. I cope in ways that I am still learning and I focus on the good and I try to stay in the present. Now and then it is a little harder, like on anniversary days like today. For the final three days of her life my mother was unconscious. I sat by her bedside, held her hand, prayed, sang songs, and talked to her. But mostly, I listened to her breathe.

   I learned long ago, when studying Genesis, that when God created man he breathed life into him. Man's first breath was God's breath. In Exodus God tells Moses who he is by simply saying, "I am". God was was telling Moses his name and his name is existence itself.

    These days, I am learning how important it is to breathe. I have learned that when we are in fear or under stress, or extreme anxiety, we tend to hold our breath or we breathe fast and shallow. Part of meditation is to find "the breath" and ground ourselves simply by breathing. If our mind is going haywire, our heart is racing, and panic fills our head, these can all be brought under control by our conscious breathing, among other things. 

     A friend shared this writing today and it was timely for me on this day. It brought me great comfort and something to ponder.

 written by – Sandra Thurman Caporale

There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what his name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name he gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.

Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels.

But scholars and Rabis have noted that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing.

YH (inhale): WH (exhale).

So a baby’s first cry, his first breath, speaks the name of God.

A deep sigh calls His name – or a groan or gasp that is too heavy for mere words.

Even an atheist would speak His name, unaware that their very breathe is giving constant acknowledgment to God.

Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filing their lungs.

So when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out His name?

Being alive means I speak His name constantly.
So, is it heard the loudest when I’m the quietest?

 In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs. 

In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst.

In fear we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down.
When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.

When I think about it, breathing is giving him praise. Even in the hardest moments!

This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought. God chose to give himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive.

All of us, always, everywhere.
Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Coconut Cravings


   I have been craving coconut custard pie for two weeks. I tried an online recipe last week that called for a fancy butter crust. I made the pie and shared it with friends only to be dismayed at the tough and soggy crust. Not to be deterred, and still craving coconut custard pie, I made another attempt last weekend. This time I used my plain, tried and true Crisco pie crust that my mother taught me to make decades ago. It was my intention to halve the recipe and make three small pies because this time only Steve and I would eat them. But then I got thinking that I was craving coconut custard pie pretty severely so why not make the whole batch of filling and cook the extra as custard. 

I haven't made custard in years but I knew it needed to cook in custard cups placed in another pan of hot water. I got out my mother's cook book for the cooking directions for custard and went to town. It felt really good to have the kitchen in full baking mode. This was something I did almost daily years ago when all the girls were young and we had lots going on. Now I mostly bake only if someone is coming over to help eat it or if we need desserts at church for something. The little hand pie in the photos is made from a leftover scrap of crust, not to be wasted. I filled it with a spoonful of raspberry preserves and a few frozen blueberries. It was a success it in own right and held up strong in competition with the coconut custard. Everything was delicious and four days later only one pie and one custard remain to be eaten. We will take care of that today.



    For instructions on baking the custard, I referenced this thick and heavy cookbook which was my mother's. She once told me she received it from the publishing company for selling magazine subscriptions sometime around 1942. This cookbook has everything you need to know about cooking anything. There are things in here that most of us would never cook today, like Pheasant Soup, Boiled Oyster Plant, or Sweetbreads Supreme. Clam Juice Cocktail anyone? However, this book is a wonderful resource and some of my happiest childhood food memories came from this book, like the recipe for Brown Beef Stew. Years ago I spotted a copy of this cookbook at a yard sale in Massachusetts and bought it. My mom was still alive at the time and still used her copy and I wanted one of my own. I think my sister has one copy and I have the other now. I know most of us don't bother with cookbooks anymore when you can quickly look up anything you want to make on the internet. I search recipes all the time that way. But when it comes to the old tried and true foods like coconut custard pie, mom made it best.

Friday, February 18, 2022

At the Bird Feeder


Everyone gets along for a moment

    Steve and I are entertained every day by the bird activity outside our kitchen window. For years we have had a birdbath next to the patio and we often laugh at the birds' antics in the water. This year, Tess and Blake gave us a bird feeder which we hung on a tree a couple of yards away from the birdbath. Both of these items are on the patio right outside our big picture window in the kitchen. From here, we can see the comings and goings of the birds all day long. In addition, the girls gave Steve a trail camera for Christmas. He has gotten creative with it by setting it on the ground beside a tray filled with birdseed in order to capture photos of the birds. The camera is motion triggered and takes a photo every so many seconds. By the end of the day we have hundreds of bird photos. Between the birdbath, the feeder, and the camera we have quite a thing going on. Who needs TV?

     We have observed that there is definitely a pecking order with the birds based on their size. It goes like this; crow, woodpecker, blue jay, red wing blackbird, cardinal, finch, titmouse, sparrow, chickadee. We have mocking birds and bluebirds here but they don't seem to visit the feeder, although they enjoy the birdbath. The littler birds all get along and are very sweet about dining together. The bigger birds, not so much. 

Look at those red feathers!

      Two weeks ago we saw huge flocks of robins in the field. Their numbers could be heard every morning from a quarter mile away. There was chatter all over the county about sightings of these flocks. As quickly as they appeared, they seemed to be gone. I assume they briefly stopped here on their migration back to the north. Yesterday was especially exciting because we saw red wing blackbirds at the feeder. As a young child, my father taught me that these birds were the first harbingers of spring in upstate New York. Each March my father would stand at the open front door and listen for them. He would get very excited when he heard those first calls of, "Cock-a-ree!" I can recall huddling by his side at the door straining our ears to catch their call. After those long winters up north, that call was a welcome sound to be sure!

     In a short while the birds won't need our seed anymore. We have already noticed that on the milder days they don't take as much seed from the feeder. They will still be very active on the birdbath throughout the summer. We will be watching them from the screened porch rather than from inside the cozy warmth of a winter kitchen. Knowing Steve, he will find a way to photograph them in the bath. He will move the trail camera to some other locations on the property with hopes to catch pictures of the elusive bobcat that I saw twice last year. If we are lucky enough to spot it on the camera, I will share it. Fingers crossed!

Little bird waits his turn.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Book Reviews

 Who doesn't love a good book? I feel lost when I don't have a current book to read. Like everyone, I have my favorite genres and I get excited when I hit the jackpot and find a good book to read. I would say that out of every four or five books I read, one of them is really good. I don't read romance novels nor much fantasy. I also can't read  anything containing graphic violence or sex. I don't find it entertaining or enriching. I decided these past few weeks that I needed positive, happy, interesting subjects. So the following list will reflect that trend. Although I linked these from Amazon, I don't always purchase from them. I like used books, Kindle books, borrowed books, Audible books (which is Amazon), and library books. I have used Goodreads for years as a way to keep lists of the books I have read, what I want to read, and what I never finished reading. It's a great website for browsing book reviews, too.

Every Day is a Holiday by George Mahood

This author decided to celebrate each day, for six months, with whatever national holiday it was assigned. There was National Walk Barefoot Day, National Curmudgeon Day, and all kinds of other zany holidays. He gave each day his all and celebrated it in whatever meaningful way he could devise. Being a dad with three children and a wife, he would often include his family in those celebrations. I laughed out loud at many of his stories. I listened to this on audible and the narrator's English accent reflected that of the author's. It's definitely a happy, funny book. To note, there is a bit of swearing if your listening aloud with young children in the room or car.

Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The author owns the second largest bookshop in Scotland and he has many stories to tell about the everyday running of the shop, the customers he encounters and the townspeople he crosses paths with. Shaun is sarcastic and a bit ornery but his sense of humor had me laughing at his tales. The audio book provided over nine hours of witty, interesting topics and a peek into a life of bookselling that I never imagined. It will definitely leave you with a desire to support your local bookshop and shaking your head at the crushing power Amazon has over small booksellers.

Three Men in a Boat (Not to Mention the Dog) by Jerome Jerome

This book was first published in 1889. It is a jovial story of three friends and a dog who decide to take a float down the Thames. It's a simple story reflecting the humor of the time yet remains thoughtful, witty, and often very funny. The boaters get tripped up on many occasions and have interesting encounters with local folks. "The story describes the incidents of their river journey, along with a multitude of humorous digressions and anecdotes, and musings upon the historical associations of passing towns and landmarks." The telling of how girls tow the boat along the canal had me laughing out loud.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Steve and I listened to this book on our drive to Savannah and back. It was an amazing science fiction adventure that had us engaged at every minute. Weir is a meticulous writer of science fiction, describing that math and reasoning behind his characters actions and encounters. The main character, Ryland Grace, is just an average scientist and middle school teacher who ends up needing to save the earth and other planets to boot. A great book for all readers, not just sci fi fans.

Next up on my list is, "Journal of a Trapper" by Osborne Russell and "Fifth Business" by Robertson Davies. I'll let you know how they go!

I did read three other books between the above listed and they were OK but not close to being a favorite. They were, "The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot" by Marianne Cronin, "The Rose Code" by Kate Quinn, and "One Two Three" by Laurie Frankel.