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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homemade Italian Bread Bowls

I was looking for something unusual to take to my in-laws' for a 'Bring a Dish and Come' Friday. These bowls were beckoning to me for a long time. Now, be warned... this recipe made 14 bowls and I think I made mine pretty big. Its a whole lot of dough to knead! I'm pretty sure you can halve it if you don't want to make so many.

Homemade Italian Bread Bowls


5 cups warm water
2 Tbs instant yeast (or 2 pkgs)
2/3 cup sugar

Let sit for about 10mins until creamy. This step isn't really necessary with instant yeast, but I find that the warm water helps to mix the other ingredients better and because I buy my yeast in bulk I can make sure that it is still alive this way.


2 Tbsp salt
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp garlic powder
3 cups flour

Beat vigorously (you can also start this off in your mixer), gradually adding remaining flour one cup at a time until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. I used a total of 15 cups from start to finish.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes) adding more flour if necessary. Your dough shouldn't be so sticky that it sticks to your hands and the board, but a little soft is okay.

Place in a well-greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth, allowing to rise in a draft free place (I use  my oven or I make a place in a kitchen cupboard) until doubled in bulk. Mine took about 45 minutes. 

Because I live in the Caribbean it is naturally warm in my kitchen, but you could try this trick. Place the bowl of dough into your oven and place a pan of boiling water on the rack below.  The steam will help the dough to rise. 

Punch down dough. Divide into 12 to 14 equal pieces, depending on the size you want your bowls to be. Shape each piece into a round ball and place on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise again in oven or cupboard until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush loaves gently with egg wash ( 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water. You can sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, sea salt, oregano, or rosemary or any combination of the above.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden. I put mine back into the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up when we were ready to eat them. They were nice and crusty. 

To make bowls, cut a half inch thick slice from top of each loaf and scoop out centers, leaving a 3/4 inch thick shell. 

These bowls are great with any chowder, stew or thick soup. We had it with a yummy cheesy corn chowder. I'll share that recipe next time.

My family really enjoyed these. I hope you do too!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Romantic Marriage - a fairy tale?

I'll be the first to admit...I'm big on romance. I've always been a romantic at heart. I devoured romance novels throughout most of my life and I suppose I'm the roses, wine and sunset lover that typifies a hopeless romantic.

Going into marriage with all these pre-conceived ideas of what romance ought to look like was definitely not a bonus. From the time girls are little, most of us are dreaming of a Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet and ride off into a golden sunset with us on his white charger.

Its not our faults, really. We are raised on fairy tales and the prince and princess always marry and the story ends "Happily Ever After". Just ask my five year old who is obsessed with them already and constantly asks her father and I to tell her the story of when we got married (Bible stories for bedtime from now on and Barbie is going to take a little vacation).

Growing up, my father had a huge collection of records...you know vinyl... Lp's, 45's?  I know I'm showing my age here, but I used to pull out his old records and listen to that 'old-time rock n roll". I absolutely loved music of any kind and he had a wide variety to choose from. 

Among them, I discovered the Everly Brothers and an old song called 'Dream'. It was redone by Andy Gibb and Victoria Principal in the '80's so maybe some of you might remember that one... but you can check out the song here.  Where am I going with this? Well, one line stands out right now "Only trouble is...gee whiz, I'm dreaming my life away."

Basically, that is what we do when we expect romance to be like those novels, fairy tales and all the stuff we've filled our minds with. We end up fantasizing about how we want it to be and not accepting that our husbands are not perfect Prince Charmings and we are not perfect, pink, princesses (what an alliteration lol!) When we do that, we become discontent with the romance in our lives, with our spouses and we start focusing on what it isn't instead of what it could be.

I wrote a few posts tackling just this problem, you can read them here, here and here, but today let me share with you how  my husband and I keep the romance alive in our marriage.

Ditch the novels but don't stop reading
First of all, I stopped reading all those romance novels. Instead, I started focusing on creating romance, using what my husband and I have and not what we don't have.  I will say, though, that back in the days of reading about the characters' hot romances made me want to hotly romance my husband too *blushing*,   but there are far more negative than positive results from reading a novel and trying to re-create it in one's own life.  Having said that, reading is what educated me to what my husband's needs might be, which then opened up the dialogue process.

The right resources can be very enlightening and open the doors to a whole new perspective.  There are amazing books out there that can help you to revitalize your relationship as well as your sexual intimacy. Two key elements to romance...in my humble opinion.

Communication is not so over-rated
One thing most of those romance novels have in common is that the man always seems to know just what the woman needs and he does it. Wake up to real life! No one, man or woman, instinctively knows everything about the needs of his or her spouse! That's why you have to communicate those needs. If you express your desire for something, you give your spouse the opportunity to do it for you. If you wait for him to guess you'll be in for a disappointment, which  then, for most women, becomes a little bubble of resentment because 'he just doesn't understand you' or 'he's so insensitive'. Men aren't naturally intuitive or considerate as women are. Don't keep him guessing.  For years I didn't bother to tell my husband the little things he could do to rock my boat. When I finally started saying them, I was amazed that he, not only would do them with me, but he actually wanted to! What a waste of  so many years!

Size Doesn't Matter
Don't wait for 'grand gestures'. The small things count big in romance. Your husband doesn't have to whisk you away on a mini-vacation for it to be romantic. Based on what the media makes romance look like, the poor man may actually think he has to spend  a lot of money to make a good impression, roses and expensive wine and chocolate (don't get me wrong I LOVE all that stuff) and certainly if you can have a mini-vacation...go for it! Who doesn't love to get flowers...roses especially?

I suggest, however, that any gesture that says I love you, I'm thinking about you and I wanted to do something to make you happy...that's real romance!  My point is romance is about making the other person feel cherished, happy and secure in your love. Its about creating an atmosphere, a chemistry that no sum of money can be applied to.

What's Romantic?
Romance ultimately is defined by the individual, but for me it is this: any opportunity in which I feel closely connected to my husband and I am the focus of his love and attention is one that I consider to be romantic. 

Holding hands...any and everywhere. Sitting close together, a back, foot or (you fill in the blank) rub.

I'm not just talking about the physical kind...that's a given! The kind where your eyes meet and you know each other's thoughts. The kind of intimacy that's bred by soul-baring and knowing each other as no one else ever could.

Words are important but so are actions:
When I was a newlywed I thought that if my husband would say I love you every single day I would be happy. If he could say in words how he felt about me it would be enough for me. Well, he didn't and I felt my little pink coloured glasses crack a bit.

As an older, wiser woman, I came to realise that he could say those words but it was the action behind them that really made a difference. I still get goosebumps when he says something romantic to me, but I've come to treasure the countless little ways he ACTS in a romantic way.

Keeping romance alive can be really difficult as married people who have children, all sorts of responsibilities and the worrisome and burdensome aspects of life. There are so many factors against it sometimes...time, finances (who can feel romantic when you have debts to pay and are short on cash and how can you plan a date night without cash?).

Lack of privacy is a biggie in a house full of teenagers who observe EVERYTHING or young ones who demand all your time and energy in their waking hours. Which brings me to my next point...energy (sorry honey, can't cuddle tonight I'm falling asleep with our youngest while I read her a bedtime story).

My suggestions are:

  • Make every moment count. You don't have to go on a date (although that is the ideal) You can hold hands in the car and have intimate moments even doing the shopping (whoops..busted!), snuggle and cuddle on the couch after everyone else went to bed...you get the picture. 
  • Make use of the media (text, e-mail, Skype). It can be very liberating to know that I can delete stuff after so my husband gets the message without our privacy being invaded.
  • Do something different and new every now and then to add some spice to your lives. I sent flowers to my husband's office for our anniversary, something I'd never done before and I prayed he wouldn't think it embarrassing. Guess what? He loved it!

The bottom line, ladies it that romance doesn't have to look like it does in the movies, but when it does...ooh la la! I stuck that one in there for my friend Kris whose husband just whisked her away on a surprise trip. Lucky girl! I hope she's having a ball.  I'm not green with envy, really I'm not...I had my romantic interlude with my husband on the couch last night while pulling an all-nighter for a very sick puppy. Doesn't sound too romantic to you? Well, a girl's got to take what she's got and work with it...that's my advice!

Click on the link below to see more on romance from all the lovely ladies in the Marriage Monday community.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Love, Respect & Sub-what?

We have come to an interesting part in our bible study. Many of you may have read or heard of Dr Emerson Eggerich and his book "Love and Respect". If you haven't, check it out on the link below:

In Ephesians 5:21-33, we are shown how husbands and wives should treat each other. As one who has read  'Love and Respect', I've covered this somewhat.  Let me share with you what I've learned.

In Ephesians 5:21-24 we are told that we, husband and wife, must "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ".  We focus a lot on wifely submission, but what I get out of verse 21 is that we are supposed to compromise and respect each other. We are instructed that wives must submit themselves to their husbands as they do the Lord. The relationship between a husband and wife is compared with the relationship between Christ and the Church. We wives are to submit to our husbands as the church submits to Christ. 

This isn't groundbreaking news for most of us, though I know that there may be people who will read this and think "Sub-what? This is the 21st century and women aren't chattels or doormats."  Biblical submission isn't equal to some form of slavery. In fact, its the opposite...here are a few of my observations:

First of all, it isn't easy to live a life of submission...as I'm sure a lot of you know. Doing anything that's right and good isn't easy. Very often, its easier to do the wrong thing.

God had a particular balance in mind when he created man and woman. In Genesis 2:20 we are told that Adam gave names to all the creatures God had created "but for Adam there was not found a helpmeet for him."  Many women take offence to the word helpmeet, but there it is in the bible! This is why God took Adam's rib and created Eve. Genesis 2:21-22.  Clearly God's plan was for Adam to be the head and Eve to be his mate and helper.

There are clear instructions within Ephesians for creating that balance that God intended.  It is not just about wifely submission, but also about how a husband should treat his wife.

Oh, some of us are blessed with husbands who live out the instructions of St Paul and as one of the members of GMG International said recently...its easy to submit to a husband who treats us the way we ought to be treated:

Ephesians 5:25-29 "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. After all no one ever hated their own body, but they  feed and care for their body*, just as Christ does the Church for we are members of his body."

*the NKJ version uses the words  "nourishes and cherishes". I find that interesting...do you?

Let's examine this a little closer. If you read between the lines do you see what I see?

  • Christ gave himself up for the church...that's sacrificial love. 
  • He regards the church as radiant, holy....that's pure love. 
  • He has promised to be with the church always, even until the end of the world (Matt 28:20)...that's faithful love. 
  • Christ (nourishes and cherishes us) feeds and cares for us...that's nurturing love.
Also, in 1 Peter 3:7 "Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

So here are clear guidelines for how a husband ought to treat his wife. In here, I believe, is also a mandate for respect for the wife as well. Many of you might be feeling the same way that I felt when I first came to this knowledge. My husband doesn't treat me right! Look, its right there in the bible!  My husband has never nurtured me or sacrificed for me. Love me with pure love?  Hah!  Love me as he loves himself? Never! Cherish me? I don't even think he knows the meaning of the word!

Let's check out this passage:

1 Peter 3:1-2 "Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

See that line... "won over without words by the behavior of their wives". Ask yourself...does my behaviour encourage my husband to be the man that God wants him to be? Do I inspire him to treat me the way I should be treated by the way I conduct myself? Am I living a life of purity and reverence so that my life is an example to him? We are told in vs 3-4 that it is not our outward beauty or adornments that are important, but  our inner selves and "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit".  

Let's take a look at 1 Peter 3:5 "For this was the way of the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands." If I interpret these verses correctly...our gentleness and attitudes of humility and kindness will win over our husbands. As we treat them with the respect and honour that we are instructed to,  they will treat us with the kind of love that Christ has exemplified.

This, my friends, is what winning him without words means! Dr Eggerich's concept of Love & Respect is based on this principle. In giving to our spouses what they need of us, they will give to us what we need of them. Isn't this also a biblical principle?  Luke 6:38 "Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over..." 

St Francis of Assisi wrote a beautiful prayer which you can find here. Here is one of the verses..."it is in giving that we receive..."  Let us give freely to our spouses and embrace and live out our God-given roles knowing that we are blessed when we are obedient to Him...because that is what I believe it is all about. In obeying God's perfect plan for us, the husband and wife each giving what his/her part is, we create the whole.

Winning Him Without Words Book Cover
Click on the link above to check out this book by a duo of wonderful women who are all about 'winning him without words' in spiritually unequal marriages. Lynn and Dineen are sure to bless you with their wit and grace. You can also find their blog here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Multitude of Heavenly Kisses

Last week, sweet Angela over at Good Morning Girls wrote this wonderful article.   In it she introduced the idea that God gives us 'kiss marks.'   Are you asking yourself what that's all about?   Well, go on over and read it. I'll wait for you....

I couldn't get the thought of Heavenly Kisses out of my mind and I reflected on the multitude of ways that I have received 'kiss marks' from my loving Father. A Father who is so faithful to His promises.

How could I ever count those kisses? They are innumerable! I'll share the latest with you:

A few weeks ago, I had to take my daughter to the ophthalmologist. She was prescribed glasses in October 2010.  She had only just turned four. My heart broke,  so did her glasses...well, not break exactly but bent out of shape so many times...more times than I care to say! I was embarrassed at how often I had to take them to be repaired.

As time went by I would ask God to please, pretty please, if He would... heal her eyes. She started off wearing those glasses faithfully for school every day, for over a year, but around January, I noticed that she would not have them on when I picked her up from school. She argued that she could see without them, I argued that she needed to wear them, though a little hope fluttered in my heart...could God have answered my prayer?  I made an appointment for her with my own ophthalmologist and spent the time in the waiting room  praying fervently (both for strength, because she hates when the drops go into her eyes and for healing).

Kiss Of Healing
The first little butterfly kiss was this... while praying for her I felt God saying to me "Do you want me to heal her or you?"(That story is coming up next.) I said "Heal her Lord!" with tears in my eyes and fear clenching my heart.  I left that doctor's office with tears in my eyes and so much gratitude in my heart. My daughter doesn't need to wear glasses. My doctor said her prescription is so mild it isn't necessary right now and we'll monitor her on a yearly basis! What an awesome God we serve!

Meanwhile, I knew that I needed to check up on my own eyes. I've neglected my health for a long time and about seven years ago, the pressures in my eyes were high...a sign of glaucoma, a disease which leads to loss of eyesight. I was supposed to follow up on it and didn't. The following year I became pregnant and just focused on my baby. As the years passed, I didn't think about it until recently when I felt that my eyesight was deteriorating.

Kiss of Consolation
I knelt in church one morning, fretting about this and the cost I could incur doing all the testing and the cost of new glasses. I was anxious too about whether I could be losing my eyesight. I glanced up and there in the sanctuary, fluttering about in the roof above the altar, were two little birds. Immediately, peace filled my heart as I felt His voice reminding me of His covenant with me. "As I clothe the birds of the air, so will I provide for you."

As the day of my appointment drew closer, I visited with Him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel almost everyday. I knew that I had asked Him to heal my daughter instead of me, so I begged Him to give me the courage and strength to face whatever the outcome would be of my visit. I was afraid, yet I knew I had to surrender to Him. The words of Matt 6:27 filling my mind ...I had no control over this and so I had to trust in Him.

Kiss of Faithfulness
My appointment was on Friday morning, last week. My husband took me, since with the drops in my eyes I wouldn't be able to see properly for a few hours. I sat in the waiting room, my humanity trembling, my heart lifted to the One who holds me in the palm of His hands. My husband whispered a prayer with me before I went in.

It was a lengthy visit as I also had to do a 'vision fields' test, which determines whether or not loss of peripheral vision is evident. My doctor is very thorough and he checks for all diseases of the eyes, measures eye pressure etc. I was given a clean bill of health, but I have to have a check up every year. The icing on the cake...I didn't need to change my glasses!

I can't begin to tell you how my heart swelled with love and gratitude to Him! The visit was costly because of the vision fields test, but so much less than I would have paid for new glasses! What a faithful God He is! I place my faith and trust in Him and He rewards it with more than I could ever hope for.

These are just three examples of 'kiss marks' the Father has bestowed on me. If I had the memory, time and space, I could probably write into eternity about His kisses. He kisses us from the moment of conception! Isn't that an awesome thought!

I reflected on this as I listened to the Second Reading at Mass yesterday. Ephesians 2:4-10 "But God, being rich in faithful love, through the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, brought us to life with Christ..."  Of course, there is more:

Thank you Father for your faithful love and all the ways you touch us with Heavenly Kisses.

How has God left 'kiss marks' on you? I'd love to hear your own stories.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do You Straddle?

Do you straddle?

This may sound strange, but that is how I refer to the situations when I have one foot on the side of the fence that is the world and the other on the side that is all things holy.

St Paul's instructions in Ephesians are very clear! In Chapter 4:22 "You were to put aside your old selves which belongs to your old way of life..."

We are reminded throughout Chapter 4 and the first few verses of Chapter 5 that we are to choose to emulate Christ and to give up our sinful habits. He particularly mentions sexual impurity (in all its forms!) and foul language, coarse jokes, salaciousness and greed...which we are told is the worship of a false God! Wow!!

Ephesians 5:5 "For you can be quite certain that nobody who indulges in sexual immorality or impurity or greed, which is worshipping a false God can inherit the kingdom of God"   Double Wow! Could that be said in any stronger language? Well, listen to this...

Ephesians 5:6 " Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is such behaviour that draws down God's retribution on those who rebel against him" SUCH BEHAVIOR DRAWS DOWN GOD'S RETRIBUTION!!!

So, let's back up a bit...

  • We are to choose to emulate Christ
  • We are to let go of all our old sinful ways
  • We are not to let ourselves be deceived into sin

So again I ask...do you straddle?

When you go out with friends do you gossip about others? Do you sometimes read books or watch shows that have immoral values or suggestive references, if not outright sexual matters, lewd jokes or foul language?  Do you feel like you have to laugh along if someone cracks a tasteless joke that is either racial or prejudiced or contains some reference to sex?

This, my friends, is what you call straddling!

I know how tough it is to live in this world (especially when you have teenagers) and try to maintain your value system. It ain't easy friend! My husband would screen every movie  via  a parental control website, before he would let our children see it...regardless of the rating. This DOES not earn us any popularity points with them...trust me!

When other parents thought nothing of dropping off pre-teens and early-teens to the mall to meet friends...we said no! When other parents were allowing sleep-overs and out of town visits...we said no! When everyone else would let their under-age children go to parties where alcohol would be served and there would be little adult supervision...we said no. We've gotten a lot of flack over the years for our views, since even family members aren't this rigid with their children.

When my husband and I as adults have to make the choice to go along with what other people are doing...because "its only a little movie", or "its just a couple of curse words", or "everybody else is doing it" or TO CHOOSE TO EMULATE JESUS and remove ourselves or our children from the potential for sinning...we are deciding whether or not to straddle!

The bible is very clear! It tells us "DO NOT BE DECEIVED".   Pope Pius XII said, about fifty years ago, that "the greatest tragedy of our time is that the world has lost its sense of sin" How much more so today! What is accepted as the 'norm' is very often far, far below the standards that God has set before us.

Sometimes it is so tempting to just give in because it would be easier to do that than to fight for what is right. Believe me...I know! There is no person more argumentative than a teenager who is trying to persuade you to his or her way! They try to break you down with so many arguments that  your head begins to spin!

Stand firm my friends, choose Jesus and beware of doing the Straddle!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why God?! and a Humble Request for Prayer

Hello there friends!  I am so sorry about the past three weeks of silence but there's been a lot of things going on around here.

Have you ever been tempted to feel like this cartoon?  "Why God?!!"  "Why me?" "What have I done to deserve this?"  Lately, I have felt this way... I'm ashamed to say! I guess we all do at some time in life. When life becomes burdensome and we feel overwhelmed and that cross seems to become unbearable. Sickness strikes, debts pile up, relationships become strained...whatever the problems they all seem to pile up into something we half carry, half drag around.

Sometimes we feel that God has abandoned us. We seem to be sinking into some kind of mire. We know that isn't true though. No matter how bad things are they could always be worse. We could never know how much God's grace has already averted or lessened for us.

When we sink... its because we have taken our eyes off of Him. Remember Peter? Faith is what keeps us walking on water,  it is what gives us eagles' wings. The moment we focus on the problems, the situations that we face and take our eyes off of Him, we begin to sink.

There is also the question of gratitude to God. Remember the Israelites? This mighty God removed them from slavery, parted the Red Sea, provided manna from Heaven and water to drink and yet they could turn from Him!  They whined like spoiled children when the heat became intense, when they needed food or water. They complained that He had freed them so that they could die! Are we like that sometimes?

Do we fail to remember all that God has done for us in moments of trial?  Psalm 103:2 says "Praise the Lord my soul and forget not all his benefits" NIV. The New Jerusalem Bible translates "and never forget all his acts of kindness".  We could never merit all that God does for us, yet His love is so powerful and His mercy so unfathomable, that He continues to pour out His grace upon us. LET US NEVER FORGET THAT!

Today,  I humbly would like to request prayer for my mother in law who has cancer and began treatment last week. She's had some adverse reactions to the treatment and the family has been quite worried about her.  I also want to lift up my sister in law, Francine, in prayer because she is the primary care-giver and has her own health problems. It has been a very stressful time for the family. This lady has been so strong...the backbone of the family. She has always been there for us. It has been so difficult to see her decline... not only physically, but into depression and what seemed to be a loss of will to fight.

For all of my married life (22 years), I have seen the strength of my mother in law. As I grew to learn her life story she became a pillar for me. I grew up with so much negativity and it was  my mother in law who taught me to see the silver lining in the clouds. I have never known anyone who kept up a positive attitude in the midst of adversity as she has done. No matter what...she has  kept a smile on her face and a cheerful attitude. It breaks my heart to see her sink so low.

Seven years ago, she was first diagnosed with cancer and she fought bravely. Her faith in God grew by leaps and bounds and she trusted Him as never before. She had faith that He would heal and restore. She has had a good seven years and we are grateful to God for her continued presence in our lives and the stalwart she has been. Now it is our time to support her. We are praying for strength and courage for her to fight this but we know how tired, weak and discouraged she is. Still, God is a God of limitless power and who knows what He will do in this situation!

Please join me my friends and pray for Joan, for healing of her heart and soul as well as her body. Please pray for the family to understand her needs and to have patience and strength to give to her. As you can imagine, when it is the one who has been the pillar that has been felled, the rest of the structure is weakened.

I want to say a special thank you to Angela and the Good Morning Girls International Group for the prayers they have been saying for the past few weeks. Thanks to you too all my friends...may God bless you all!

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