My First Cookbook

What I am about to share started as a Facebook post, then I realized there is a whole story here, so decided to spare everyone the mega-post and make it a blog post instead.

You’re welcome, Facebook friends.

My daughter (age 3) and I read a Laura Numeroff/Felicia Bond treasure this morning, If You Give a Moose a Muffin. It is not as widely known as their Mouse book, but I assure you it is just as adorable and fun.

If you read a toddler a book about muffins… she’s going to ask for some actual muffins to go with it.

As usual, I grabbed my iPhone to look up a recipe while she pulled a chair up to the counter and climbed on. Then I put down the phone and, instead, grabbed this:

Cookbook

The 1981 Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

And my very first cookbook.

It’s nothing fancy. No agenda, no celebrity chefs, no fad diet recipes, no gimmicks. Just your average, run-of-the-mill cookbook from the early 80’s.

Let’s rewind to 2001. I was twenty-years-old and living in a converted garage apartment with two wonderful roommates in Bemidji, Minnesota. I had moved the 400 miles from Norway, Michigan to Bemidji two years earlier to attend Oak Hills Christian College, which is where I met my roommates, along with countless other awesome people, and spent the formative years of my young adulthood.

Side note: If you are unfamiliar with Bemidji or Norway (MI), get crackin’ on Google because both are stunningly beautiful towns, each with a lot to offer. And are, obviously, both very dear to my heart.

Anyway…

During the years I lived in Bemidji, I dated a man who happens to be a Palestinian Arab. Thanks to him, I got to enjoy many invitations into people’s homes where they would want to hear all about his life, about growing up in the West Bank, etc. I was more than happy to tag along, especially when dinner was involved. Ha!

One evening, we visited the home of a lovely couple who were both in their late sixties. Both of them had been northern Minnesotans all their lives. To this day, when I listen to “Tales from Lake Wobegon” on NPR, I am immediately transported back to the eat-in kitchen of their split-level home on the lake. Garrison Keillor’s fictional hometown took on a nail-on-the-head anthropological splendor as I sat in their presence. I mean this in the most respectful, kind, and literal way possible.

We had just enjoyed a delicious meal of “wild rice hot dish” followed by a tumbler towering with warm butterscotch pudding topped with freshly whipped cream for dessert. Butterscotch usually does zilch for me as I strongly favor all things chocolate. But this pudding was ridiculously yummy; I had to consciously keep my eyes from blissfully rolling into the back of my head with every bite… so I inquired about the recipe.

I wish I could remember our hostess’s first name (though I do remember their last name). When I asked for the recipe, she gently took me by the hand and led me to the kitchen sink. Next to it was her well-loved copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. She flipped to the butterscotch pudding recipe and laid it before me on the counter. Then, with an air of one about to impart the sagest of sage wisdom and with the hushed voice of a secret-teller, she started, “Honey, this is the only cookbook you will ever need. Any Better Homes and Garden cookbook will do… I can promise you that.”

A couple weeks later, I was browsing a yard sale and came across the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that is pictured above. It wasn’t the same one she had, but, as she pointed out, any BH&G cookbook would do. So I paid a dime for it (I remember because the masking tape price tag remained intact until about five years ago) and it officially became the very first cookbook I ever owned.

Though I have acquired many more cookbooks over the years, she was right. This probably is the only one I would ever need… of all the cookbooks I own, none of them have gotten near the use this one has. All of my most oft-repeated and entirely-from-memory recipes have come from this book. As a brand new adult living far away from my mama, usually broke and with meager kitchen wares, I taught myself to cook from this book.

Today, as I paged to the index and guided my daughter’s tiny finger along until we found “M” for muffins, the lump in my throat shouldn’t have caught me completely by surprise, but it did.

Shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen with my little one, poring over a recipe from my very first cookbook. A book that is falling apart from use and was already “old” when I bought it. A book that was written long before any of us concerned ourselves with chia seeds, einkorn flour, and coconut sugar (all of which were adaptions we made today), a book that was written before GM crops, as we know them, ever existed. Before allrecipes.com. Before carbs were a dirty word. Before so much of what impacts our cooking habits today.

It’s strange… the ordinary things that surface as most-treasured possessions over the years, those tangible pieces of our history breathing life anew into the stories and memories that shape us. It wasn’t until I opened the cookbook with my daughter today (who, up until this point, only knew of recipes existing on a screen) that the history of this book came whirring up in my mind and gained any kind of importance for me. In a moment, it went from being just another cookbook in the jammed-full cookbook cabinet to being THE ONE. Just like *that*… This will be the one I save for her. This will be her first cookbook, too. This will be the one that I mark notes and dates in, our very own kitchen autobiography. This will be the one that she reaches for when she wants to make something that reminds her of home and her mama.

Muffins

Oh, and the muffins turned out scrumptiously. As always, from my trusty cookbook.

Miscarriage: A Brief Testimony

Last April, I was asked to share my testimony regarding miscarriage and “how God met me there” during a special service of remembrance (specifically for those who had experienced the death of a child during pregnancy or early infancy) hosted by Wilmore United Methodist Church here in Kentucky. I thought it was a wonderful way for a church to support grieving families and I was honored to be a part of it. Today, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (October 15), seems like an appropriate day to share that testimony again, which you will see below. I end three of the paragraphs with the phrase, “He is” because this is a testimony of then and now. I am still walking with God on this path and he is still healing, guiding, and loving me every step of the way.

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All four of my pregnancies ended in miscarriage. There was little intentional grieving with the first three, so the fourth loss, which occurred in 2010 during the 13th week of pregnancy, left me physically, spiritually, and emotionally broken. God, in his mercy, met me in my grief.

And, perhaps for the first time, truly, I met God.

When I was heartbroken and lonely, God comforted me. He whispered songs over me, which I still readily recall today. He tenderly turned my heart toward his people who loved me and restored my strength through their kind words, their prayers, their hugs, their food, and their friendship.

When I was angry, God listened, embraced me in my tantrumed state, and (through the counsel of my husband) reassured me that he was more than capable of handling my big, raw emotions. And He is.

When I was a wanderer lost deep in the rocky dessert of envy and yearning, God found me, held out his hand, and said, “I am the good shepherd, I am all you need.” And He is.

Through God’s gentle healing, my womb—which I once disdained as one who had been repeatedly betrayed—I now regard as a beautiful and sacred space where my four precious babies quietly lived and died, deeply loved and wanted.

Miscarriage often renders to those of us who experience it a heightened awareness of the thin veil between life and death as we’ve experienced both so intimately, in body and in heart. I once feared the thinness of the veil, now I marvel at it.

Sometimes the veil seems not thin enough.

Miscarrying my babies placed me on a path where I am constantly – vividly – reminded of God as my loving father and the source of all life. And He is.

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Please remember to pause and light at candle tonight at 7:00 p.m. (all time zones) to participate in the annual Wave of Light. I’ll be remembering my babies and your babies, too. ♡

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Quilling is a wonderful hobby I picked up back in 2007, promptly after Jared left for his first deployment with the Army to Iraq. I was student teaching full-time and staying with my parents, but I still had a lot of time left at the end of the day and a lot of worries heavily weighing on my mind.

I went to get a haircut one dreary January afternoon and, among the few Christmas decorations that remained in the shop, a small dove caught my eye. It was gilded with gold leaf, absolutely stunning. I remember asking out loud to no one in particular, “What is this craft?” And a voice in my head (weird, I know, but just go with it… I did.) responded, “I think that’s quilling.” Mind you, I had never heard of or seen quilling before this moment, at least not according to my conscious memory. So I decided to go with the voice in my head and Googled “quilling.” Sure enough, that’s what it was. I was hooked. That night, I bought a whopping $30 in supplies (which got me everything I needed to get started and then some… money goes long way in this hobby, which is one of its many benefits).

This was the first “big” project I completed a couple weeks later and the only piece I have never parted with:

produce

Before we brought home our baby girl in 2012, I did a lot of quilling. Elaborate custom orders, gifts, quilling just for fun, Etsy orders, etc. I always had a quilling project going. Quilling has a rich heritage and is especially popular in Europe, but there is a North American Quilling Guild as well, which I was a member of for years. Some serious talent in that crowd!

The best part for me is that quilling helped get me through both of my husband’s deployments and a host of other transitions since 2007. Busy hands tend to keep my spirit light and my worries at bay. I know many can relate to that…

I do not quill as much in this current season of life; however, I always find time as Christmas approaches. In fact, I find the desire to quill irresistible this time of year.  Last year, I decided to put that quilling to good use and offered some of it for sale. The response was fantastic, so I’m doing it again this year. Between now and December 1st, I’ll be taking orders for these tiny quilled Nativity keepsakes. $12, shipped, $10 without shipping local orders. Though they are handmade entirely out of paper (sealed with a matte finish), they are quite sturdy and will be a wonderful addition to your Christmas (or everyday) decor for many years to come. If you would like to order one (or more), feel free to email me at TwirledPeace@gmail.com or look for me on Facebook at Twirled Peace: Quilled Creations and I’d be happy to share more details with you about how you can get a quilled Nativity of your very own.

Plus, it’s totally an excuse for me to do something Christmasy in October. 🙂

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