About the blog

Welcome to my blog. This is a place where, as time allows, I will post comments, inspirational words, favorite things and short essays about daily life. I get to meet and interview interesting people through my job, so why not share some of it with all of you? If you like what you see, please forward a link to your friends and family.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just noodling around

Eldora Cleland, the matriarch of my husband's family, died this year, but the many traditions she created will live on. Anyone who knows her knows these things: her family always came first, nothing but made-from-scratch food ever made it to her table, and there wasn't a card game you could beat her at.

This post is about one of her food traditions: homemade egg noodles, which were present at a majority of meals she made. Not a holiday or family reunion passed without a pot of her noodles laced with chunks of chicken. (Just as an aside, every time she made noodles she also made an angel food cake because the egg noodles are made with egg yolks only and she refused to throw away the whites. So, the egg whites were always turned into an angel food cake which she slathered with homemade white frosting.)

For years I've said that I wanted Eldora to teach me to eat her egg noodles. But every visit to Indiana (spring or summer) or Florida (fall or winter) passed without her teaching me this Cleland-Cowen family tradition.

So when my in-laws, Peggy and Dick Cowen, visited at Thanksgiving, I asked my mother-in-law to finally teach me the zen of noodles. It wasn't hard, and we made 3 or 4 batches, cooking one for dinner one night and saving the rest for me to make for Christmas Day.

Here's the recipe:

5 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
A few drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons milk
2/3 cup flour

Rather than give you straight instructions, I'll embellish a bit with family lore.

Start by beating together the egg yolks, salt, food coloring and milk. The food coloring is totally optional; it won't really change the flavor of the noodles at all. Eldora bought yellow food coloring by the quart and used it in many dishes. Her theory was that it made foods look rich and buttery and -- in addition to the fact that she was a wonderful cook -- she claimed that it was the secret to everyone thinking her cooking was the richest they'd ever tasted.

As a nod to this wonderful woman, I'll always add food coloring to any noodles I make. You, however, can consider them optional.

After you beat these ingredients together with a fork, start adding the flour a little at a time until it forms a ball. It should come together quickly into a ball that isn't sticky. Work it with your hands, folding the dough underneat, tucked in until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough no longer has an elastic feel.

Lay out waxed paper to cover a broad area of your kitchen counter and dust with flour. Roll out the dough, working from the center out, until the sheet of dough is very thin. Allow it to dry for 90 minutes to two hours, flipping it over occasionally so it will dry evenly.

Then cut the dough into strips about one inch wide. Stack the strops and slice into very thin noodles.

When you're ready to cook them, cook in chicken broth and add chicken to suit your family's tastes. Many families prefer beef with noodles, like mine did. But the Cleland-Cowen family always had chicken in their noodles, and since this is about Eldora's famous noodles, we'll just leave it at that.

You can make several batches at once and freeze them; they'll last several weeks in a resealable bag in the freezer.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Sunday Dinners," the story

Wednesday, Aug. 1, was a big day. It was the day I turned in my manuscript for "Sunday Dinners: America's Favorite Pastors Bring Food, Family and Faith to the Table" to my editor at Andrews McMeel Publishing.

As you likely know, I've been working on the book for some time. But getting a contract suddenly gave everything a deadline. Details that I'd left to finish later, suddenly all had to be done. I was lucky that at the time I signed my contract, the book was already three-fourths finished. I had four or five chapters to finish, but that still was a lot of work.

Perhaps even harder, I had to finish testing all of the recipes. It was fun hosting parties for my friends to "taste" all of the dishes. Better yet, it meant I didn't have loads of leftovers to eat all week long. It had me roasting lamb chops and slow-cooking pork roasts for sandwiches, tacos and a glorious Puerto Rican entree called "Pernil."

I baked flan (two ways) and layered a strawberry cake. I made cookies (chocolate and not), pies and pound cakes. And I made what just might be the most beautiful dessert I've ever made: banana pudding.

I actually made this banana pudding twice, first in a pie pan, as the recipe dictates. But I thought it would also be pretty in small, individual crocks. I'm not super crazy about the flavor of meringue, but it certainly makes any dessert look prettier. And it makes you look like an expert baker, because - unless you actually forget the pie in the oven - you can't mess this up.

So let me tell you about my book. It is a reflection of what I do in my job as a features editor at the Houston Chronicle. Among other things, I am the editor of our food section (Flavor) and our religion section (Belief). One day it occured to me that I could produce something from the best of both. So my book focuses on famous and notable church pastors from all over the country. I tell the narrative of their family's Sunday dinner traditions, then include a handful of their favorite recipes. Each chapter opens with a small prayer written by the pastor, a prayer suitable to be said at mealtime.

The chapters are about some of my favorite Texas people, like Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen at Lakewood Church, the Rev. Dr. Ed and Jo Beth Young at Second Baptist Church in Houston, the Rev. Kirbyjon and Pastor Suzette Caldwell at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, the Rev. George Foreman of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, all of whom are in Houston; Bishop T.D. and Serita Jakes of the Potter's House in Dallas; and the Rev. Randy and Rozanne Frazee of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.

Outside of Texas, I intervewed the Rev. Martin Lam Nguyen, C.S.C., a Holy Cross priest and art professor at the University of Notre Dame; the Rev. Jim and Barb Dixon of Cherry Hills Community Church in suburban Denver; Pastors Sam and Eva Rodriguez of New Season Christian Worship Center in the Sacramento, Calif., area; the Rev. Mike and Jeannie Glenn of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn.; Pastors Matthew and Caroline Barnett of Angelus Temple of Los Angeles, Calif.; Apostles Ron and Hope Carpenter of Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C.; and the Revs. Floyd and Elaine Flake of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, New York.

Over the past couple of years that I've worked on this book I've met some wonderful people and tried a lot of great recipes. And I wrote a book that is scheduled for publication September 2013.

Between now and then I promise to blog more frequently to tell you what I can about these extraordinary people.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

All-American holiday

Today's the Fourth of July, our nation's birthday -- and one of my favorite holidays.

I love its patriotic nature, and the old-fashioned celebrations it inspires: Parades, cookouts, days at the beach (or poolside, depending on where you live). I love the fireworks, red-white-and-blue themes and Stars and Strips flying high everywhere.

In addition to reminding me of the freedoms we enjoy in America, it also makes me grateful for those who serve our country to keep us free and to help others gain freedom or escape oppression all over the world.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pot roast, Part II

I try a lot of recipes ... some work out and some don't. Some just don't deliver what I -- or my husband --think they will. Some just don't suit our tastes.

So for Easter when my in-laws were visiting, we made pot roast, one of her family favorits that she hadn't had in a long time. Not long after, my husband came home from the grocery store and announced that he'd bought a roast and wanted pot roast again. (He even invited a close friend whose spouse was out of town.)

So I got out the roasting pan and tossed in some carrots, celery and onions and chicken broth. Shoved it into the oven at 350 degrees and checked on it three hours later. This version differed from my mother-in-law's version because hers included a couple of cans of cream of mushroom soup. (Mine's soupless.)

It was great and I imagine that until the weather here in Houston hits the true summer highs, we'll likely have pot roast a couple more times.

Along with the pot roast I made some mashed potatoes. I also made green beans and biscuits, recipes borrowed from Potter's House first lady Serita Jakes. They're simple, but familiar and comforting. Serita's recipes will appear in my cookbook, "Sunday Dinners," which is under way now and will be out in the fall of 2013.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter, everyone

I haven't posted in a while, but today seems as good a day as any to get started again. Today's Easter, and I'm enjoying spending time with family.
My family is spread out -- in Florida, Indiana and California -- but the Florida side came to visit for several days. That means my in-laws, Peggy and Dick Cowen, have been here for a five-day visit. We celebrated my father-in-law's birthday and did a little shopping.

Today we got up and made the Cowens' Sunday dinner from years ago: pot roast. It's just so easy putting the roast in the oven with some veggies and letting them slow cook for three hours. We riced some potatoes and made green beans and corn, too. One "borrowed" touch was the recipe for baking powder biscuits that I got from Serita Jakes, First Lady of The Potter's House church in Dallas.

I've gotten to know the Jakes family through interviews I've done as religion editor at the Houston Chronicle. Also,  I've interviewed them for my book, "Sunday Dinners (Andrews McMeel; September 2013) and her biscuit recipe will be in the book.

This afternoon we've been flipping TV channels between watching the Masters golf tournament and keeping track of the Astros v. Rockies game (the Astros won, 3-2). Pretty soon we're going to hit the kitchen again to get out the key lime pie I made this morning.

All in all, it's been a good day, a good Sunday and a peaceful Easter.

So Happy Easter, everyone. I hope your day was filled with more than chocolate bunnies!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lesson of a lifetime

I love rooting for underdogs, and the underdog story-of-the-week is one worth blogging about. The young men who play varsity basketball at Houston's Beren Academy -- a private school for Orthodox Jews -- made national headlines for playing well and staying true to their faith.

As Orthodox Jews, they cannot - among other things - play sports during the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So earlier this week when the team drew a 9 p.m. Friday TAPPS semifinal game time, the boys, their coach and their rabbi/principal were all prepared to simply forfeit the game. They didn't want the rules changed for them and observing the Sabbath, or shabbot, was more important than basketball.

It wasn't until community members, who, incidentally, are not Jewish, came forward did the Beren boys and their boosters decide to challenge the 2 p.m. time. Everyone in Houston suddenly became fans of the Beren Stars. We learned about the strict ways of Orthodox Sabbath, and we spoke loudy - and in unison - to say that since no game times are set on Sundays as a Christian observance, well, no Jews should be expected to play at a time considered sacred to them.

The boys won their early Friday afternoon game, but lost to Abilene Christian on Saturday night. I'd say the teens are winners nonetheless. They've learned about faith and fairness, hard work and hard play in the course of one week. They learned that their Orthodox community may be very small, but there's a big world of people of all faiths who were rooting for them all week long.

Their season is over now and they can savor the memories of the shared experience. Ultimately, they didn't have to sacrifice their faith or their sport.

Sometimes, things work out exactly as they should.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Biscuits, sweet or not

Today I'm in recipe-testing mode. I'm about two-thirds done with my "Sunday Dinners" cookbook, but have only begun to test recipes. Today I tested two for baking powder biscuits. One is from Serita Jakes, the pastor and first lady of The Potter's House in Dallas; the other is from Pastor Suzette Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, the largest UMC church in the country. Both of them are yummy. I'm giving you Suzette's recipe, with an option for turning the dough into into sweet cinnamon-raisin biscuits.

Baking Powder Biscuits

4 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups heavy cream

§         Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
§         Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk together well.
§         Add butter, and using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
§         Add heavy cream, and stir just until dough comes together; mixture will be sticky.
§         Transfer to lightly floured work surface, and, with floured fingers, knead dough until it forms a ball. Sprinkle flour on work surface and lightly dust dough to keep from sticking. 
§         Using a rolling pin, roll out dough to a 1-inch thickness. Use coffee mug or cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. 
§         Arrange biscuits in a lightly-greased 13x9 pan. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve hot with maple or blueberry syrup or strawberry jam.

Tip: To turn these biscuits into sweet rolls for breakfast, add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the flour mixture. Then add 1 cup of raisins when heavy cream is added to the dough. Finish with a powdered sugar glaze.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remembering William Burns

Sad news arrived on Sunday. William Burns, the father of my longtime friend DeAnne (Burns) Kinsey, passed away. He had been battling cancer for some time, and had a huge setback when he contracted a dangerous staph infection, MRSA.

I’ve known DeAnne since we were 4 years old and my mother was our Sunday School teacher at Christ United Methodist Church in our hometown of Lafayette, Ind. During junior high, her family moved to a subdivision across the street from the subdivision where I grew up. She and I became better friends in high school, once we were not only members of the same church and neighbors, but also finally attended the same school.

The Burns home became my second home during high school and college. I spent a lot of time there and have so many memories of DeAnne and I trying to get her dad to make popcorn for us or trying to trick her younger brother Jeff into getting refills for our glasses of Tab. We were two goofy girls making our way through our teen years one awkward moment at a time. As we did, both Bill and Mary Burns watched with knowing smiles, filled with both pride and joy.

Bill Burns was a sweetheart of a guy. He was a high school science teacher who could have been a stand-up comedian. I loved listening to his hilarious stories and jokes. I knew that every time I went to their home, I’d spend the whole afternoon or evening laughing and having fun. He had a way of telling a joke that not ony made you laugh, but also made you part of the joke. I’ll never forget the time when DeAnne and I were students at Purdue and we went to visit our friend Kelly at Indiana State. Bill thought that it would be safer for us to drive his Ford Pinto, so he, in turn, spent that weekend driving my VW Bug. You can imagine the jokes he had for us when we got back to town. He concocted an elaborate story in which he allegedly struck a poodle while driving my car, and the poodle got up after the incident and ran off. We were so gullible – and he was so convincing – that we actually thought some of the tale might actually be true.

In addition to the laughter, love filled the Burns household. DeAnne’s mom, Mary Burns, was – and still is – a stunningly beautiful and elegant woman who always made me feel not just welcome, but also wanted.

The Burns family’s Sunday Dinners were legendary – at least in my mind. Mary Burns was an amazing cook, and she’d prepare elaborate meals. Her dining room table was decked out with formal china and that meal was a big event followed by hours spent talking and laughing around the table. The time spent together was magical and during it all, Bill Burns held court. He’d beam with pride at the loved ones gathered around his table and when we were done eating, he’d encourage conversation that could go on for hours.

So today I say goodbye to Bill Burns, a man who had a bigger impact on my life than he probably ever knew. He showed me what a family really could be at a time when my own home life felt fragmented. Despite the tears I’ve shed thhis week I won’t remember him with sadness. I’ll remember him with laughter and love. I will miss him dearly.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Kirk Cameron wants every husband to be a heartthrob

At 41, Kirk Cameron is probably better known now for his Christian marriage ministry work than the seven years he spent as teen heartthrob Mike Seaver on the TV sitcom "Growing Pains." I suppose he gets tired of hearing about the fame he earned on that show, but it is what a certain generation remembers of him.

But I can't help connecting the dots between his role as a teenaged hottie to wanting to help couples add a little heat to their marriages. His movie "Fireproof" - the highest grossing independent film of 2008 - and related "Love Dare" book bring tools to couples to strengthen their marriages.

Kirk Cameron believes the Bible
provides great instruction for a
good life and great marriage.
Photo credit: Lynn Freeney

I interviewed Kirk on Thursday for a story that ran in the Houston Chronicle and he was sincere and down to earth. He explained his conversion from atheist to born-again Christian as happening through a couple of ways. One was that he was always curious and questionning, but simply didn't believe in God. A friend invited him to attend a church service and "found the message from the pastor (Chuck Swindoll) captivating to my intellect and my sense of morality. It caused me to ask more questions and seek more answers," he said.

He explained that neither his parents nor his siblings attended church nor believed in God. His parents had periods of difficulty that even included separation. Eventually they all became Christians and he said their deep faith has brought them peace and happiness.

The two things he said can help any marriage are finding joy and practicing forgiveness. I'd say those are two things that can make your whole life better. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 will be a "happy" year

My friend Joy told me about an interesting book and web site called The Happiness Project the other day. Started by a New York lawyer, Gretchen Rubin, the web site began as a venue for her to work on being a happier person. Along the way she has inspired others to work on their own happiness.

The site is all about being happy, what it takes to be happy and how you can find happiness in things large and small.

It made me think about my own emotional state right now: happy, but with too many fluctuations. I believe that no matter what we may think other people are doing to us, our happiness is really in our own hands. Do others sometimes make me unhappy? Sure. But how I react to others can make things right -- i.e. happier -- in a hurry.

So here are Gretchen Rubin's 12 personal commandments, adapted just a bit to fit everyone.  (Personally, I plan to pay more attention to Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 9. What about you?)

1. Be yourself
2. Learn to let things go
3. Act the way you want to feel
4. Do it right now
5. Be polite and fair
6. Enjoy the process
7. Spend out
8. Identify problems
9. Lighten up
10. Do what ought to be done
11. No calculation
12. There is only love

Friday, January 20, 2012

Serita speaks out for women

Serita Jakes is the soft-spoken wife of Potter's House powerhouse Bishop T.D. Jakes, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have anything to say. Just the opposite.

Serita Jakes (Photo credit: The Potter's House)

Serita has made fighting domestic violence a priority at the Jakes' Dallas-area megachurch, with some 30,000 members. In addition to a counseling center that helps churchgoers and others copy with all kinds of problems, the Jakes work hard at promoting stronger self esteem in women  as well as strong, appropriate family roles for fathers.

The West Virginia native was on the Dr. Phil Show this week to talk to a woman coping with a violent relationship. She related a story from her own childhood: She was raised by an aunt and uncle in a coal-mining community. Often their disputes were settled with shouting, broken glass and physical abuse. So when she met Penny, a women on Dr. Phil's show who was there to talk about her own situation at home., Serita Jakes counseled her to reach out for help and safety for herself and her children.

Find more information on the Rahab Ministry at the Potter's House here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We all want "More!"

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Osteen Comes. I'd say that she's the younger sister of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, but that would sound like Lisa isn't important without that connection. In fact, Lisa Osteen Comes is an amazing woman who as just written a new book "You Are Made for More!" that has already made me stop and think about my own life.

The Osteen family pastors Lakewood Church, the largest church in America. So they live lives of privilege compared to the way most life, but Lisa is transparent when it comes to the real problems she's had in her life: born with a birth defect, divorced in her 20s, infertile in her 30s and low self-esteem for much of her life. Having been raised by deeply religious parents who also were pastors didn't make her immune from the very real problems that affect the rest of us.

But it did help her have context for them. Instead of letting them rule her life, she moved beyond them. She told me that her divorce was a complete shock and, to this day, she doesn't completely understand it. After receiving divorce papers in the mail, she holed up in her parents' home for six weeks until a kind person told her she had to get up and get out. "Turn your scars into stars," he told her. And she did.

Today she's a married mother of three and, now the author of a terrific book that will make you see your glass as half full. You'll see the good in the world and in your life.

Lisa Osteen Comes, author
of "You Are Made for More!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jimmy Carter, the most famous Sunday School teacher

I read a story today about former President Jimmy Carter's newest book, "Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President," and remembered a time, more than 20 years ago, when I attended an event where Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter were being honored.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, has written a daily devotional,
based on his years as a Sunday School teacher. Photo credit: Time Inc.

It was when I was the education writer for the South Bend Tribune and someone from the p.r. office at the University of Notre Dame called to tell me that the Carters were being honored and there'd be a big event for them. My mother lived just a few hours away and she greatly admired the Carters.

So my mom and sister drove up for the event -- it was open to the public -- I asked Notre Dame p.r. folks if there was going to be any kind of meet-and-greet at which my mom could meet them. Believe it or not, it hadn't occured to them that people might want something like that, and the Carters were such a low-key couple that they'd never ask for or expect it. But my friend said he would check to see if there was time in the schedule for my mom to meet them.

When the day of the event rolled around, my mom and sister arrived and we learned that just before the event, my mom and our local Congressman, Tim Roemer, would be taken back stage to meet the Carters for about 10 minutes. As we waited for a Secret Service man to signal the two to come back, we talked about what my mom would say and do. She was nervous and wondered what on earth she could say to such important people. This was a big deal for my mother, a very religious woman who was raised on a small farm in central Indiana. 

Notre Dame had prepared beautiful programs for the event, so I urged her to get autographs from the Carters in the three programs we had between us. Suddenly the man in a dark suit and an ear bud in one of his ears peeked from behind a black curtain and made a "come here" motion with his index finger. My mom, just 5 feet tall, sashayed down that aisle like she was floating on air.

My sister and I giggled a little, wondering what must be happening. Soon enough, the curtain parted and my mom and the Congressman emerged. Both were grinning from ear to ear. Never in my life have I seen my mom so excited. She talked a mile a minute, telling us how nice they were. She could barely remember what anyone said, but she did remember to get their autographs.

Apparently the small group just stood in a holding area just off of the stage and chatted. When it was autograph time, Rosalyn couldn't hold the program and sign it and juggle her handbag at the same time. So looked over at my mom and asked her to hold her purse for her. "Can you believe it," my mom told us excitedly. "I held Rosalyn Carter's purse! I feel like Elizabeth Taylor tonight."

I'm certain the Carters understand the impact they've had on the world. They've lived a life of honor and integrity in their post-White House years. Through the Carter Center they've eradicated the horrible guinea worm that leads to blindness in Third World countries. They've stood for peace and justice in places where dictatorships and chaos reign.

And the most famous Sunday School teacher and his wife gave my mother something to smile about for the rest of her life.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cookies say 'Thank You' ... with chocolate

Last week I had an ugly encounter with a virus. Not the kind that people are calling the creeping crud: the bug that makes you hack, cough, sniffle, sneeze and makes you feel like the equivalent of a wet dish cloth. It was the kind of virus that renders your laptop useless. Sort of the same feeling, minus the Dayquil and Kleenexes.

Anyway, my husband was surfing the net and suddenly said: "Something is wrong with the computer." Those are not words you want to hear. So I took my laptop to work the next day, hoping that a friendly co-worker in our IT department could help.

So this very nice man named David took my computer and with the help of a few of his co-workers tricked the virus into letting them kill it. They are my heroes. (David is the same guy who did CPR on my work computer when the Dell "blue screen of death" took me by surprise.)

I thanked them all profusely, but mere words are not enough. I like to say "Thank You" with baked goods. My dilemma is, what to bake? Mexican wedding cookies, chocolate chip cookies or maybe some jam-filled thumbprint cookies?

Mexican wedding cookies are one of my favorites. My recipe is ancient ... dating back to when I was in elementary school -- or was it junior high? -- and I was in 4-H. (Funny aside: My friend Kathy calls them "Nun's Farts." It seems her mother called them that, so she does too. I'll have to find out why, because the back story has to be funny.)

Chocolate chip cookies, on the other hand, are a universal favorite. My husband Steve LOVES these and even has adopted the Jacque Torres recipe for chocolate chip cookies as his favorite. He makes huge batches of them and freezes dough balls so he can pull them out a few at a time to have fresh-baked cookies whenever he wants. (Who am I kidding? He never eats just a few!)

Chocolate chip cookies are best when you use real butter, Madagascar vanilla and the best chocolate chips you can find.

Monday morning I'll preheat the oven, pop in some dough balls and, maybe, the chocolate chip cookies will still be warm when I get to work.

What baked goods do you think say "Thank You" the best?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My not-so-corny friend, Joy

Today I added a "gadget" - in blogspot-speak - to my site to start listing the blog sites of people I like to read. If you like to read what's on the mind of others or if you just like a laugh or a little inspiraton sometime, please check them out.

So the first one I added is the blog of my work-friend, Joy Sewing, one of the best-dressed people I know. She's the fashion/beauty editor at the Houston Chronicle - where we both work - and every morning when I stand in my closet I ask myself a simple question: "What would Joy wear?" She challenges me to wear less boring clothes. She challenges me to wear less black. And, because she knows I'm not likely to make great big changes to the way I dress, she challenges me to make little changes that have a big impact.

She rubs elbows with famous fashion designers such as Manolo Blahnik, Rachel Roy and House of Dereon designers Beyonce and Tina Knowles. She's written about Beyonce and her family - natives of the Houston area - many times - from their Destiny's Child days to superstardom. Here she is, with Miss T and Beyonce.

At the bottom of my blog site, I've included a recipe from Joy, called "Joy's Jalapeno Corn Stuff." She shared this recipe with me recently and when I made it for a recent get-together with friends, every person there asked for the recipe. The list of ingredients is odd, but the result is crazy good. You can add more or less heat, depending on how you like it.

From left, Beyonce Knowles with Joy Sewing and Tina Knowles.

Monday, January 2, 2012

In 2012, I resolve to "make room"

     It's Jan. 2, and I find myself facing a list of hopes for the New Year that looks remarkably similar to the lists I've made in years past. Lose weight and exercise more, shop less and save more, tackle a new project or two.

     But this year, my overrriding theme will be to slow down and enjoy life a little more than usual. I have plenty of friends and am close to family, so it's not as if I never have fun. But I recently read a book by Rozanne and Randy Frazee (pictured below)  called "Real Simplicity: Making Room for Life." Randy is senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and shares pastoring duties there with Max Lucado.

     In their book, the Frazees offer up a blueprint for what they do best: making connections with people. Randy Frazee recounts the time in his life when he was so obsessed with his job as a new, young pastor that he had literally disconnected with his own family. When a therapist helped him realized where he'd taken his life, he resolved to find his focus again.

     The Frazees are an incredible couple and their book is a fun and interesting read. Mixed in with their story of faith, family and friends, are some of Rozanne's favorite recipes. Many are simple and easy, so you can throw together a yummy lunch or dinner without taking time away from the people you've invited to the table. The family has many dinner-time rituals, two of which I'll share here. The first is that during dinner each person at the table has to describe, in some detail, their day. Children cannot simply say: "went to school; it was boring." They have to start with getting out of bed and work through their day, hitting on enough highlights to let parents and siblings know what their day was really like. Their other ritual is that when dinner's over, everyone at the table helps clean up. That way, no one person - that would be Rozanne - is stuck with a big mess to clean up later.

     Along the way, the Frazees have made deep, meaningful connections with family, friends, neighbors and people at their church. I have plenty of people in my life, but I'm afraid that, especially lately, I haven't tended my connection to them with the care I should. This year I didn't get to visit family (spread out in Indiana, Florida and California), nor did I spend much time buying gifts. I know that people never turn down cash or gift cards, but I love the process of selecting a thoughtful gift, wrapping it and handing it to them.

     So this year I resolve to slow down a little and make room - and time - for the people who are important to me. What do you resolve to do?

     Here's a recipe from Rozanne Frazee:

Simple Spiced Coffee
5 cups of water
1/2 cup strong ground coffee
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup unpacked brown sugar (or Splenda brown sugar)
Whipped cream topping

Mix ground coffee, spices and sugar together and put in coffee filter basket. Pour water into coffee maker and brew. When coffee is done, pour into cups and top with whipped cream. Relax and enjoy!