Easy Corn Chowder

I love fall! It’s my favorite time of year. I love the colors, the smells, and especially the tastes! And I really like the taste when it’s easy to make (because I’m busy writing, don’tcha know). Fall means soups, chilis, and stews. Warm bread with melted butter. Apple crisp (with vanilla ice cream, of course) for dessert.

So how about this yummy, easy soup (a Pampered Chef classic)?

Easy Corn Chowder
2 medium unpeeled red potatoes (1/2″ cubes)
1 c. cubed cooked ham (1/2″ cubes)
1/2 c. diced red bell pepper
1/2 c. coarsely chopped celery
1 tsp butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour1 can (14-14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 can (12 ounces) fat free evaporated milk
1 can (15 ounces) creamed corn
2 tablespoons sliced chives
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Cooked crumbled bacon (optional)

* Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add bell pepper and celery; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in flour; heat until bubbly. Gradually whisk in broth, evaporated milk and corn.

* Add potatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, uncovered, 10 minutes (or until potatoes are tender). Stir in ham; heat through. Remove from heat; stir chives into soup and season with salt and pepper.

* Ladle soup into bowls, top with bacon. Enjoy!

E is for Eager

I love fall, especially September. I was one of those kids who loved school. I was ready for it to start by mid-August (but I always had to wait until the Tuesday after Labor Day). I still wander through the school supply aisle when summer winds down – what writer doesn’t love new pens, pencils, and paper?

Living in Minnesota, I love the change of every season. Even when we first head into winter. (The problem is, it takes MONTHS to head from winter into spring so to say I’m eager for warmer weather by then is a huge understatement.)

candy cornI’ve been eager for September to arrive, eager for the cooler weather, although we had a really lovely summer here, and for the smell of bonfires and the sound of football games on a Friday evening. And my hubby is eager for candy corn and those candy pumpkins.

The changing color of the landscape is always something I look forward to, although I can’t say I’m quite as excited by how quickly the yard gets piled with leaves needing to be raked. I’m eager for the amazing smells of fall – baking pies,  crisp fall air, evening fires, and apple orchards.

I’m also eager to see where God is leading me in the coming months. To book publication? A new job? New writing friends? My eagerness can easily slide into impatience when change is slow to come. In the midst of the life’s occasional harshness, I have to cling to His enduring promises. And yes, be eager for whatever He has in store for me, because it will only bring me closer to Him.pumpkin pie

What are you eager for as we head into fall? Are there potential changes looming? A particular dream you’re waiting to see realized? Are you eager for that first taste of pumpkin or apple pie, or to eat smores around a blazing fire? Whatever it is, I pray it’s all that you hope it will be.

 

Community

The past year or so of my writing journey has been a bit rocky, to say the least. The worst part was fearing I’d truly lost my love for writing. It seemed to be totally dried up. I couldn’t write new words. I didn’t even have energy for editing (my favorite part of writing). I felt like my grandbaby looks in the photo below (no, she didn’t get hurt!).

Six month baby! 186The last few months, however, I’ve noticed the tiniest flicker of interest deep inside. I pulled up a story I hadn’t worked on for quite awhile. It was fun getting reacquainted with the characters. I puttered around with it, writing in fits and starts.

But last week, things changed. I climbed into my car withCamp Utmost 3 other women writers and off we went to a writer’s retreat in Missoula, Montana. Four women in a car for hours on end. We could have gotten lost in the wilderness of North Dakota (I think that’s an oxymoron) and had plenty to eat for a month. Chocolate, fruit, licorice, brownie crisps, nuts, crackers… We ate for 16+ hours out and 16+ hours back, and still had food left over! And the amount of luggage for a long weekend? Too ridiculous to mention…

But it wasn’t the food that got me energized about writing again. And much as I love, love, LOVE the mountains, it wasn’t the scenery that did it. It was the writers, most of whom I didn’t know before the retreat started on Friday.

Writers can be weird people. We live with movies playing non-stop in our heads (complete with theme music), have conversations with people we make up, and get upset if those people do things we don’t want them to do. Definitely weird. But also sensitive, caring, hopeful, expectant, faithful, and encouraging. Best of all, encouraging.

Group shoulder rubThese gals (and 1 guy) were at all stages of the writing journey – just starting out to multi-published. Many were stuck in their plots, or wrestling with unruly characters. But what struck me the most was how absolutely encouraging everyone was to everyone else. (We’re giving shoulder rubs in this photo, not doing the bunny hop!)

“What do you write? How is that going for you? How can I help you?” Over and over these questions were asked as we got to know each other. Asked and answered. It was amazing. At times we laughed ourselves into tears. We hugged. We wrote ideas and encouragement on post-its for each other. We shared communion, worshipped together, and Human foosballlaughed hysterically while trying to play human foosball.

It was EXACTLY what I needed. And God knew that. I believe He handpicked everyone who was there so just the right group gathered to worship, write, and encourage. Next year the group may look completely different, and THAT will be just the right group. But this was the right group for me. And the right time and place.

I returned home tired, stiff (after hours and hours in the car), and totally re energized. I WANT to write. I’m excited again about this journey. I’m eager to see what’s around the next bend. And most importantly, I believe in myself and my writing again.

Book displays and photo bombersI prayed that the weekend would bring much-needed answers and renewed energy. I got that and so much more in the community of other writers. What a blessing!

 

Have You Been Spammed Lately?

In honor of Rose’s new release, Sweet on the Cowboy, the Inkspers are taking time to talk about products that were invented in their home state (or even their home town), as well as anything rodeo, among other topics. Definitely check out Sweet on the Cowboy. It’s another fun read from Rose Ross Zediker.

In Minnesota, we’ve invented a lot of things. Like the Post-it Note from 3M (the headquarters are just north of St. Paul). Who doesn’t love post-its??

But today I’d rather tell you about an amazing food (at least, I think it’s a food) that I think everyone has heard of – SPAM!

I asked my son the other day if he’d ever had SPAM. (I must have seen a commercial with Sir Can-a-lot.) When he said no, I realized I had failed him. How was it possible that I never fed him this Minnesota original when I practically grew up on it? One of these days I’m going to buySir Can-a-lot a can just for him. The biggest question will be how to prepare it. There are SO many options. But before I share a few, here’s a little history of this national icon…

First of all, what IS Spam? According to RoadsideAmerica.com: “Made of pig parts and secret spices, cooked in it’s own cans right on the assembly line, SPAM rolls out of its far-flung factories at a rate of 44,000 cans an hour.” According to Spam.com it’s made of “six simple ingredients – pork with ham (2 parts of the same piggy), salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate.”

The name SPAM comes from what it’s made of – “spiced hormel-logoham.” The brother of a Hormel executive came up with the name when the luncheon meat was introduced in 1937 and won $100. (What? No SPAM for Life?)

In 1946, a troupe of former servicewomen formed a drum and bugle corps to spread the word about SPAM. Known as the “Hormel Girls,” the group grew to 60 members by 1948, including a 16-piece orchestra. The popularity of the troupe led to a national radio show featuring (you guessed it) SPAM. The group disbanded in 1953.

In 1959, the one-billionth can of SPAM Classic was produced. In 1970, the two-billionth. In 1994, the five-billionth. And on it goes.

There are 18 varieties of SPAM including SPAM Lite, Turkey SPAM, Jalapeno SPAM, Hickory Smoked, SPAM with Cheese, SPAM Spread, and SPAM Singles.

So where dSpamMuseumAustinMN2006-05-20o these amazing fun facts come from? The SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota, of course, which opened in 2001. Here’s their boast: “The family-fun packed museum features 16,500 square feet of tastefully presented SPAM®-filled history. You won’t have to fight for tickets because admission is free. Visit and you’ll be tinkled pink by the SPAM® trivia and vintage SPAM® brand advertising. Plus numerous SPAM® displays including the World War II exhibit, SPAM™ Game Show quiz, Monty Python tribute (Spamalot!) and more. There’s even a SPAM® store so you can stock up on priceless SPAM® collectibles on your way out.” Within the SPAM Museum is the current radio station, KSPAM. (No, I’m not kidding.)

So let’s get to the meat of this blog – SPAM recipes! Since I don’t have room to provide the whole recipe here, I’ll just give you a taste by rattling off some yummy ideas. You can find them on the SPAM website.

SPAM Mini Maple Doughnuts

Maple SPAM Doughnuts
Buffalo Spamburgers
Huevos SPAM Cheros
SPAM Musubi
SPAMSGiving Day Delight (in case your turkey doesn’t turn out)
Veggie SPAM Skewers
Bacon Wrapped SPAM Bites
SPAM French Toast Sticks
SPAM Thai Style Meatballs
SPAM Benedict
and SPAM Apple Turnovers (the top photo is that delicious treat!

I could go on and on but we’d be here all day (and forever – the list is endless). Check it out for yourself.

I will leave you with one final piece of trivia from Wikipedia:  “On average, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of SPAM each year and consumption is similar in Hawaii, and Saipan. These areas have the only McDonald’s restaurants that feature Spam on the menu.” So the next time you’re in Hawaii, skip the fish and order some SPAM.

Oh, and don’t forgSPAM Lapel pinet to stop by the SPAM store to pick up a gift or two. For those hard-to-please people, consider the SPAM Lapel pin.

Do you have a favorite SPAM story or recipe?

 

Every time you leave a comment between Monday, August 4 and Friday, August 15 at midnight, central time, you are entered to win a copy of “Sweet on the Cowgirl.”

sweet on the cowgirl2

When in Rome

My husband has been teaching himself Italian for 8 years now. The last few years he had a teacher for private lessons, but most of it he’s learned on his own. My Italian vocabulary consists of “Si.” As he walks around practicing phrases, he’ll ask me questions. Since I have no clue what he’s saying, my standard answer is “Si.” That seems to work for both of us.

DSC03686Finally this year we got to take our long-awaited trip to Italy. It was fabulous. For 10 days, we traveled from Venice to Assisi to Florence to Pompeii to Rome and on down to Sorrento. We stopped for lunch at a winery near Monte Cristo, and had dinner at a farm in Tuscany. Did I mention it was fabulous?

We stayed 3 nights in Rome. The Coliseum was just blocks from our hotel, as was the Roman Forum and remains of the emperor’s palace. We sat on the Spanish Steps, stood in silent awe of the Sistine Chapel (if you weren’t quiet, they yelled “Silencio!” which struck us funny), and threw pennies into Trevi Fountain (or the little bit that had water since it was mainly under scaffolding).

As we toured the Coliseum, my mind constantly went back to one of my favorite serieA voice in the Wind1s by my favorite author. Getting to stand where her characters stood, walk the streets that her characters traveled, and study drawings of what it all looked like centuries ago made me anxious to reread the series as soon as we got home.

The Mark of the Lion, by Francine Rivers, is a historical series set in Rome and Ephesus. Many of the scenes happen in Circus Maximus (which is now just the oval track in the midst of a park area) and in the Coliseum. While much of current-day Rome bears little resemblance to the books, much of it does.

DSC03803Ancient Rome is still there. Modern day Rome just developed around it. The Coliseum sits amidst racing traffic. There are modern toilets within the Forum. The Spanish Steps, upon which people rest while talking on cell phones, are surrounded by billboards and fashionable shops. Illegal vendors are everywhere selling cheap trinkets (much to the annoyance of the crowds).

Once we were home, and I’d recovered from jet lag, I jumped back into the world of Hadassah and Marcus, Julia, Atretes, Phoebe and Decimus. I loved the books the first time I read them, but this time they’ve come alive as I can now picture the streets, the monuments and Roman architecture, the river and palaces.

I just might need a field trip to Ephesus soon as I delve into the rest of the series!

This Little Light of Mine

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.   Matthew 5:14-16  (NIV)

With this passage, it’s easy to see where the song This Little Light of Mine originated. Light is such an important image throughout Scripture – starting with creation and on to the very light of the world, Jesus. And this particular passage speaks directly to us also being light. I like how these same verses in The Message Bible give the idea a little twist:

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16  (Message)

Bringing out the God-colors. What a neat visual. In yesterday’s post, Kav talked about the darkness in the world, and how God’s Word illuminates a path for us. These verses build on that idea by calling us light, and directing us to use that light for the world, to bring out the God-colors.

Perhaps you see yourself not so much a light on a hill but a teeny spark that occasionally sputters to life. Nothing big, just sort of…ordinary. God can, and will, use that spark as well. (I don’t believe the word ordinary exists in God’s vocabulary.)

Do you like to sing? Use that gift to spread joy in the world (even if it’s just in the shower!). Do you enjoy having people over? Then by all means, do so! Invite them into the welcoming light of your home and your faith. Perhaps you like to paint, dance, cook, teach, clean (yes, there are people who love to clean and who do it well for others), visit, drive, lead, serve…

photo Rise0011
photo Rise0011

God designed each of us to shine brightly in our own way. Don’t compare your light to someone else’s. Don’t worry that another’s light is bigger, brighter, more colorful. Focus on fanning your light into a flame for Jesus. He’ll put that light exactly where it will bring out the most color, right there in your little corner of the world.

So I’m going to let my light shine for Jesus. It may not burn as brightly as the next light, but it’s mine to shine and that’s exactly what God wants me to do.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Won’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gonna let it shine.
Won’t let Satan blow it out. I’m gonna let it shine.
Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Family Camp

This has been so fun celebrating Shari’s Camp Club Girls release, McKenzie’s Oregon Operation included in the 3 in 1 volume, Operation: Excitement!. Like most of the Inkspers, I don’t have any of my own camp experiences (barely made it through Girl Scout Day Camp – I was lonesome!!), but we had wonderful family camp experiences through our church. I coordinated many of the weekends, which was a HUGE amount of work, but camp itself was soooo much fun, it was worth it.

Family Camp was at Camp Lebanon in Upsala, MN, about an hour and a half northwest of our home. A perfect distance for driving with two little kids anxious to get to camp. As you an see from the photo, it’s not exactly roughing it at Camp Lebanon! It’s definitely “camp” but along with the requisite cabins, there’s a lovely A-frame Lodge (air conditioned!), and the remodeled main lodge (at left in the photo).

Family Camp-Camp LebanonThere was always something to do during Family Camp – either our organized activities or those put on by the camp. We provided lots of large group and family things to do – Olympics (a huge hit), kick ball games (required every year, the adults and kids had so much fun), a talent show, hikes, bonfires with s’mores, morning worship together, boat rides, fishing, paddleboats and canoes, swimming at the beach. And lots of camp crafts (which always seemed to include popsicle sticks and colored pipe cleaners – lots of popsicle sticks).

We’d all cheer each others kids on as they tested to be allowed to swim out “to the raft.” For those who couldn’t pass the swimming test (done by the lifeguards), we made sure they had fun in the shallower water. And we’d celebrate when they passed the following year.

We attended family camp for eight years – the kids were teeny the first year, and in upper elementary by the time we stopped. They couldn’t WAIT to get there – once we unloaded the car, they were gone! And the best part was that our church group took up pretty much the whole camp so we were all watching out for each others kids (and the kids knew it so they had to behave because there were dozens of parents watching them, not just their own!).

We also went to Camp Lebanon for Marriage Retreats. Without kids. It was heaven.

I could fill pages sharing memories of this wonderful time (including the time I had strep – at both the Marriage Retreat in the winter and at Family Camp the following summer), and stories about the lifelong friendships that were made. It was a time that truly blessed our family, and many other families as well.

Comment or share your camp experience to enter the drawing for a copy of Operation: Excitement!

Operation Excitement!Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.

Special Note:  I won’t be able to respond to your comments as I will be in Italy when this post hits the Inkspirational Messages blog, so have fun answering each others comments!! Sorry to miss the fun!

A Child of the 70’s – Faaaar Out!

I have loved all the Inksper choices of crooners so far. What a great mix of talent!

My heart throb growing up was John Denver. I’m a child of the 70’s and one of the biggest names in music back then was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. Well, okay – maybe that was his REAL name. We all knew and loved him as John Denver. I still do!

John DenverHe started as a folk singer and ended up as one of the biggest names in music worldwide. I think either you were (are) a John Denver fan or you weren’t (and probably still aren’t!). What I loved about his music was the often profound messages (especially about the environment) usually wrapped in fun. Okay, so Grandma’s Feather Bed wasn’t exactly profound but it was fun!!

His concern for the environment went far beyond his songs. He lived what he believed, spoke often about conservation issues, and actually walked his talk. But for this teenager, it was songs like Annie’s Song, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Rocky Mountain High (now one of Colorado’s 2 official songs), and my all time favorite, Sunshine on My Shoulders, that touched my heart.

I went to many of his concerts (like every time he came through town), andJohn Denver2 loved the fact that he was married to a Minnesotan for many years (Annie Martell). Somehow that made him a kindred spirit!

He died in 1997 flying his experimental plane, which was a sad way to silence his music and his passion for the environment.

So were you a John Denver fan?

Giveaway:

Shannon will be sending a copy of Rodeo Song to one lucky commenter. Every time you leave a comment in the next two weeks, your chances of getting your hands on it will increase. The giveaway ends on Friday, June 20 at midnight, central time, and is open to continental U.S. residents only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firmly in the Middle

We have an interesting setup in our family when it comes to birth order. My sister is the oldest, but my older brother is just 14 months behind. And they BOTH act like first borns. The baby of the family (the guy on the left) is 2.5 years behind me. So whether we have two first borns, or a first and second born, I’m still firmly in the middle.

My family is loud and crazy and funny. When the four of us get together, no in-law can get a word in edgewise. (So Mike, Mark, Linda and Nan have formed their own set of siblings! The in-law siblings!)

My sister, Sue, is a natural caretaker. She has plowed the road for all of us over the years, defending and supporting us without a second thought. She hasn’t always had an easy go of life, but she’s quick to make sure the rest of us are doing fine. She’s extremely responsible and focused on making sure everything runs smoothly. And we’re all happy to let her lead.

The older of the boys, Steve, is a natural leader. He’s been an award-winning, nationally recognized college cross country coach for decades. Without a dad in our lives (he chose a different family when we were all pretty young), Steve stepped into that role (occasionally to the frustration of Sue), especially with our younger brother. A man of strong faith and convictions, he watches out for the whole family, especially the nieces and nephews.

Uncle Scott and Kaira - 9 weeksThe younger of the boys, Scott, is a natural born baby of the family. He’s quick witted (leaning toward strange, in our opinion!) and extremely verbal. None of us were surprised when he became a college professor (with the PhD to boot). He loves to entertain and finds himself extremely hilarious. So do we! He also cares deeply about the family, and has a huge heart. (He took this selfie when he met my granddaughter. She wasn’t too thrilled meeting him, apparently!)

Then there’s me (I’m second from left in the top photo). About 2.5 years behind and in front of my brothers. I’m the peacemaker in the family (I HATE conflict, even at this age). I want people to get along, and can get my nose out of joint if things aren’t going smoothly. I’m funny, but not funny like my siblings. I’ve tended to feel several steps behind them as they all marched through life seemingly in control while I flailed around behind them (middle borns aren’t great decision makers). While the other three are competitive, I’m more cooperative. (That’s not to say I don’t want to win every game of Farkle but it doesn’t really matter if I don’t.)

The best part is – I’m very happy being the middle born. It feels secure – siblings ahead of me to pave the way and watch my back, and a sibling behind me so I was never left behind. I’m firmly in the middle and happy about it!

While we had the usual sibling issues growing up, we’ve been blessed to be truly friends as adults. So though we have our unique birth order characteristics, we’re able to work around them as we continue life’s journey together. What a blessing!

While Love Stirs Promotion

Leave a comment for a chance to win the prize package. It includes a copy While Love Stirs, a Fannie Farmer cookbook (Charlotte goes to Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery), and a Recipe for an Amazing Woman cutting board. 

Giveaway ends at midnight  on Friday, May 23, and is open to those in the continental U.S. only. Winner will be chosen by Random.org. The more comments you leave, the more chances you’ll have to win.

 

A Favorite Author

Spring is finally here in Minnesota. Time for a lounge chair on the deck with a new book, and some nuts and dark chocolate – life is good!

One of my new favorite authors is Katie Ganshert. I loved her first book, Wildflowers from Winter – the characters, the story, the setting. When she came through Minneapolis on a booksigning, I found her to be a delightful, down-to-earth woman with a wonderful sense of humor.

Wishing on WillowsHer second book, Wishing on Willows, continued the story with the focus on one of the secondary characters in book one, along with new characters that were equally as interesting and endearing.

I’m SO excited about her newest book, A Broken Kind of Beautiful. Katie has a knack for creating characters we A Broken Kind of Beautiful-Gimpcare about and stories that pull us in until the very last page, so I can’t wait to dig in.

Here’s the blurb.

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong
     Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white. 
     If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

Can’t wait to dig in!

The book I just finished is Brenda Anderson’s Chain of Mercy. Loved it. Fascinating characters dealing with real-life, heart wrenching struggles. This story will bring tears to your eyes even while it makes you laugh. A definite thumbs up.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

balloonsWe’re celebrating Brenda’s release over the next two weeks. Every time you leave a comment, your name will be entered in a special giveaway for an autographed copy of Chain of Mercy, a box of Fannie May chocolates, and Phillips Craig & Dean’s “Breathe In” CD.

Chain of Mercy Giveaway