Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Heart Recipe

 "I have good news and bad news.  Which do you want to hear first?,"
I asked my parents as we arrived to our annual trip to Cambria.
"The good news I guess," my Mom answered.
"I've cracked the code!  I've finally figured out Grandma's cinnamon rolls!"

For as long as I can remember, my grandparents would come visit us from Illinois and my Grandma would bring a large shopping bag filled with small tin foil packages.  Each one contained a single cinnamon roll that she had made.  She would bring these delightful treats hundreds of miles to us and we'd be over the moon about it!  The tiny foil packages would quickly go to the freezer where they'd remain until we took a selected amount out and placed them in a hot oven to warm up.
Grandma Jones' cinnamon rolls are a part of my childhood like roller skating, water skiing and ballet.
As I got older, I begged to learn to make these fantastical buns and finally, with my crimped hair and acid-washed skirt, Grandma Jones and I made her cinnamon rolls in our very own kitchen.
She was rather particular.
I don't think she liked much help in the kitchen and liked to do things herself -
especially her famous cinnamon rolls!
But she let me help a little, grabbing the rolling pin out of my hands from time to time and correcting my mistakes.
Boy I wish I would have paid more attention that day! 
I was probably a junior in high school and had no idea then that those rolls would stump me for years to come!
My Grandma passed away just after I graduated from college.
Years later I decided to try to make Grandma Jones' cinnamon rolls on my own as a surprise for my family.  With her bread recipe I jotted down on some scratch paper, I started out on the all day adventure.
"Place 3/4 of a 5 pound bag of flour in a large bowl.  Heat the milk and let it cool, test the temperature with your elbow..." These mysterious instructions left much room for interpretation!  My first batch was pretty, but lacked flavor.  There were not many specifics on what exactly to put in the rolls.  Cinnamon, sugar and butter obviously, but how much?  So each year I added more ingredients to try to make the flavor match my Grandmothers, and each year mine came up short.
My Grandma never frosted her cinnamon rolls,
so I couldn't mask the mistakes with a layer of sweet, white confection.
I began to write notes on the recipe of what I tried and if it worked or not.  What became my New Years Day tradition of making Grandma's cinnamon rolls, also became the day of trial and error!
This year my children were eager to help in the day long festivities.

 I did a little research of other cinnamon roll recipes to see what I might do differently. 
For the past several years, my focus has been on the filling of the rolls - more butter, more sugar, sprinkle sugar in the pan and on top before baking, more cinnamon, try brown sugar...  They just needed more flavor!

I snapped a quick photo to text my mom, announcing what was filling my day.
Her reply said it all! 
"Remember, Grandma Jones put a bag of sugar on top!!"
In other words:
If we're going to eat these things one more year, please, for heaven's sake, add MORE sugar!!!!
 The dough was mixed and rising for 2 hours.
It looked like a cream colored moon, rising to fill the sky.
My favorite part came - "punch it down."  There's nothing like putting your fist in the center of a heaping mound of soft yeasty dough!
The dough was turned over and let to rise again for 1 1/2 hours.
All was going well.
It was now time to punch it down again and start rolling out the rolls.
Looking at the tempting ball of dough, I pinched a small piece off and put it in my mouth.
The sensation was not what I expected.
I rushed to the recipe.
Had I forgotten the salt?  Had I put in the right amount of sugar?
This dough had no taste!
Making Grandma Jones' cinnamon rolls this year was different.  Over the past year, I have started baking my own bread almost weekly and by now I have the recipe almost memorized.  I know that for 2 large loaves of bread I need 1 Tbsp. of salt and 1/4c. of sugar or honey.  With my Grandma's bread recipe which yields 3-4 loaves of bread there is less than half that amount of salt and sugar! 
AH HA!  I've cracked the code of Grandma's cinnamon rolls!
It's the dough that's the problem, not my lack of cinnamon and sugar in the rolls!
The dough itself lacks flavor!
Remember at the top of this tale I said I have good news and bad news?
Well, you've heard the good news - I figured out why for years my cinnamon rolls don't taste as good as Grandma's!  And now for the bad news -
I figured this out after I made this labor intensive batch!

The parallels to real life are all over this cinnamon roll fiasco!
There is something missing in our life, something just isn't quite right.
We search for answers in our attempt to have the fulfilling life we long for, but adding more things just doesn't seem to make the difference.
Year after year we make new resolutions, try new things, buy new clothes, new cars, change careers... we do everything we can think of to change the flavor of our life, but the problem doesn't lie on the outside. 
More cinnamon and sugar won't change the heart of the cinnamon roll! 
What we need to change is our heart!
A life that is following God's recipe for living is a full, flavorful, delicious life.  When we lay down our own thoughts of what life should be and surrender the recipe we've always used, then God opens our eyes to all sorts of surprises and possibilities we never imagined.
We often place our time and energies in things that won't yield eternal rewards and we keep coming up short, year after year, trying to dress the problem in a different outfit, but the problem still remains.

Until we change our heart recipe, we will continue to lack flavor.
What recipe are you following to live a flavorful life?
So look out.  Next year I'm changing the bread recipe and making the best cinnamon rolls yet!

*all photos on this post were taken by my children!
**my apologies to all the friends I dropped off a hot batch of these tasteless rolls to! Next year will be different - I promise!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Grateful Heart Friday

A few years back I did a little something on my blog called "Grateful Heart Friday."
I still hold to the truth that we're not born with grateful hearts, we need to cultivate them!
Which means we need to practice gratitude everyday until it becomes like breathing - it just happens naturally on it's own without trying!
Last year I did an amazing study with some friends on the beloved book
 "1000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. 
It was incredible to say the least. 
Haven't read it?  Do it!
A huge part of being content (*my word for 2015),
 is to recognize and receive the gifts that are all around us, everyday. 
If we are always looking for something other than what we've been give,
we miss out on the gift that is right now.
When I say, "thank you," I am receiving what is being offered in the moment and I am filled.
I am content.
With that, let's stop and say thanks for all the gifts we received this week as
 Grateful Heart Friday commences!
I'm grateful for a dear friend who took my 3 children for the evening so that I could bless another friend with a ride to the airport.  I'm grateful for a soft-start to our homeschool week.  I'm grateful that my children love to learn and are eager to work! (at least this week they were!!)  I'm grateful for Downton Abby starting!!!  I'm also super grateful for American Idol starting!!  It's those simple pleasures!!  I'm grateful for a new lamp.  I'm grateful for an awesome hike in our town with beautiful views and mountains.  I'm grateful for fabulous friends that live across the street.  I'm grateful for a husband that took off work to get our plumbing issues fixed so I didn't have to.  I'm grateful for the Cooking Club.  I'm grateful for fun kiddo activities starting up.  I'm grateful for the start of award season!  I'm grateful for cloudy days and sunny days at the beach.
I'm grateful for hot cocoa with my hubby and his willingness to step out.
I'm grateful for a God who never ceases to extend great gifts to His kids!
What are you grateful for?
Make it known!
"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done."
Psalm 105:1

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Just after Christmas a word popped into my head for the New Year. 
 Many years ago I talked to a friend who always adopts a word for the new year - listen, try harder (that's 2 words, I know!), rest... and I thought that was so cool.  But as I sat and tried to think of my word for the new year, I panicked with the pressure of choosing the right word!  So I let go of the whole "word for the new year" thing!  Until a few years back when I was sitting at Westward Beach, partaking in my New Year's tradition of sitting at the beach alone recapping the year that just ended and looking forward, prayerfully, to the one just beginning.  It was that day that God impressed a word upon my heart for that new year, or phrase rather, "Be strong & Courageous."  Little did I know that I was entering the start of a 2 year battle with loss and anxiety.  God knew what He was doing that day - encouraging me to be strong and courageous for what was yet to come!
Since then, I have been grateful that on my traditional New Year's Day at the beach, God has given me a word for the year. 
This year it came early! 
That was the word the came like a lightening bolt, striking my heart.  Content.
Being a former perfectionist, I've been programmed to always be looking for things to be better, stronger, faster, more productive...  Nothing wrong with striving for better things in life, but taken to an extreme, it can kill you!  Also, there can be an undercurrent of discontentment that always drives someone to have a wandering eye or change things and "make them better." Towards the end of 2014 I began to see how discontentment has crept into many areas of my life - family, friends, home d├ęcor, church, me... 
If we are always looking for something other than we've been given,
we miss out on the gift that is right now. 
 I realized that I've been missing out on a lot!
2015 is the year that I'm going to be content. Not because I'm going to suppress any desires I have for something new or different, but because I'm going to trust that God is for me, has my best in mind, and He has given me all I need in this moment.
Psalm 23  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
He is sufficient.  He is all I need and all I want.
Happy 2015!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So Long For Now

When I first started this blog about 4 years ago, God gave me a vision for this space and it was a gift to get to write and express what God was teaching me.  As the years went on, I've drifted in and out of that vision and as of late, I just have no vision at all.  I miss the words coming to me freely.  I miss the intimate moments with God as I'd write.  And I miss the clarity of "why" I was blogging.

I recently finished the Beth Moore study, Stepping Up - a study of the Psalms of Ascent.  It was awesome!  She kept saying that if we're going to take the next step with God on this journey, we're going to have to let go of somethings, lighten our load, so that we can move forward.  I immediately thought of this blog.  It's kinda been weighing me down.  I seriously think about it all the time!  Mostly about how I don't want to write and have nothing to say!

Well, I've decided that I'm going to step away for awhile, perhaps forever.  I'm ready to move on to where God is taking me and for now I need to shed a few pounds!  I'm leaving this blog by the side of the road.  Maybe I'll come back to pick it up one day.

Until then.  Blessings to all and perhaps there is something in your life that you need to let go of for a season so God can bring new life into another area!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Little Adventure

Me and the monkeys have left for a little adventure!

We'll be back next week.  Happy Summer!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Yummy Summer: Celebrate

I have a Summer birthday.
As a kid I always missed getting cupcakes at school and the big celebration in the classroom,
but my mom always made up for it with super fun birthday parties!
Now I love to throw fun birthday parties for my kids because it's a great creative outlet for me and I get to relive all my fun parties as a child!
But, my children can't really understand why as adults we don't really have birthday parties!
(I kinda don't understand it either!!)

So for my birthday "party," this little dude wanted to set up a hot dog stand!
(I'm in love with his knee highs and cowboy boots!)

"And Daddy, there must be tikki torches."

We brought a table in to our pergola to eat our dinner and it was so much fun until someone screamed, "dead rat!"  Super cool birthday surprise!
(they weren't kidding!)

I love this picture for many reasons, but mostly because I really look 41 in it!
(tired, a few more wrinkles, slouchy)
"WHAT?" you say, "there is no way you could be 41!"
You're too kind.
I am.

My mom always said she hates photos of herself blowing out the candles.
I can't imagine why!

I made it - another year older!

Summer is a great time to celebrate someone you love.
It doesn't have to be their birthday, it doesn't have to be fancy,
just throw on some knee highs and cowboy boots, light some tikki torches, serve hot dogs and homemade cake (leave out the dead rat) and let someone know how much you love them!

How are you making this Summer Yummy?


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