Thursday, December 1, 2011

When Beauty is More Than Skin Deep

Beauty is only skin deep. An old saying, one that is heard less nowadays than in the past. But shouldn't a more accurate phrase be, "Beauty is more than skin deep?" My mother was the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

She was beautiful at the age of 18, and equally as beautiful, at least in my eyes, at the age of 80. Her smile had a sweetness that could melt my heart and was matched only by her sweetness of spirit.

Today is the birthday of a young woman whom I met when she about one year old. She has had a fascinating, and at times, difficult life. She was a beautiful child and remains a beautiful young woman. She too has that sweetness of spirit that age will never be able to conquer. 

She is an artist who paints beautiful memories for women; She paints their wedding gowns. Her inspiration came following a 5 story fall from her fire escape in 2004. The following is an excerpt from her website,

Ever since the accident, beauty helps. It has become so important because beauty possesses an ability to heal. It just speaks something to my heart that I need to hear, to feel, to know. Beauty reaches inside and touches the surfaces of desires so deep that we dare not speak of them. Beauty in its purest and truest form makes our hearts ache, numbs our minds, and makes the whole world stand perfectly still, even if just for that one moment. Beauty cannot be contained and our hearts long for its freedom, a moment of sweet ecstasy from the hardships of our broken lives. Beauty speaks to the truth hidden deep inside each of our hearts. We were made for this, to be made whole through its perfection. The universal desire and longing for beauty exists because beauty is a reflection of God. I believe this longing for beauty is actually our hearts yearning to be united with Christ in his radiant beauty. When we encounter beauty as a bride ready for her groom, or watching a sunset, or walking on the beach, or being in the mountains, or watching the snow fall, or even simply admiring a daisy after a really tough day; each time we experience a bit of beauty it is like getting a glimpse of heaven and our hearts recognize that they are home.

In addition, Stephanie has started a foundation to aid victims of the sex trafficking industry. The Stephanie London Foundation exists to raise both monies and public awareness of this very troubling issue.

What a truly beautiful way to celebrate a birthday.

Blessings ~Marla

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas in January?

If I could change only one thing about our calender, it would be the moving of Christmas to January 25th. Think about the plus side of this idea:

  1. Fall favorite...could remain out a month longer.
  2. Christmas decorations...if you prefer...could remain out a month longer.
  3. The likelihood of a white snowy Christmas is greater in most areas in the month of January.
  4. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) would be easier to manage with less winter letdown time. Spring would be just around the corner!
  5. An extra month of good children awaiting Santa.
  6. Maybe retailers would wait until after Halloween to start their Christmas ads...yeah, that probably wouldn't happen.
  7. All the people born around December 25th would get a well deserved break from those dual "Birthday/Christmas" presents.
  8. God wouldn't is very unlikely that Jesus was born in the month of December...September is a better guess.
  9. The early church began using December 25th because it coincided with a pagan holiday Saturnalia...I say we give them their holiday back!
  10. I need more time to get ready!!!
Well there you have it, my very persuasive argument for moving Christmas to January...anyone with me?


Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday Travels: Grandeur of the Seas, Costa Maya, Mexico part 1

Costa Maya, Mexico. A port made specifically for cruise ships. Yep, look up the history of Costa Maya and you will find it is quite short, as in non existent. Built by savvy developers in 1995, its purpose is simply to bring in tourists. 

As a port it tends to bring mixed reviews. The shoppers are not impressed, though the pier does offer the "International" experience, Diamonds International, Tanzanite International, color changing clothing International...OK, you get the idea. But if you want to hang out in a fancy pool all day, it does have that! Seriously though, it is a great area...if you get away from the port.

We did just that, though we did divide up. DH and I, along with our DS and DDIL, decided to explore the nearby Mayan ruins. Meanwhile, DD and DSIL decided a lazy day at the beach was more their speed. We all had a wonderful day, but today I will focus on the Mayan experience.

Once again, after some intensive research, I decided to forgo the cruise ship tour and go with an independent local company. What ensued was one of the most memorable days of my cruising experience. I found a gem in this company, and we had an amazing experience that put the cruise ship version to shame. Our trip to the Chacchoben ruins was led by a man who actually grew up playing among the ruins. The Native Choice is run by Ivan Cohuo, who's father built next to the ruins in the 1940's. His knowledge is incredible! You will not find this on any cruise ship excursion.

Chaccoben was wonderful, and as Ivan was training to be a Mayan healer, his botanical knowledge was fascinating! We learned so much, and with a small group it was easy to ask questions.

Additionally we had the experience of eating a traditional meal with a Mayan family at their home in the nearby village. Again, a very unique experience that the ship didn't offer. 

They had the typical Mayan kitchen...a small open air hut separate from the main if there is a fire their home will not burn down. No gas, propane or electricity to cook with, Just good old man made fire.

We learned to make corn tortillas and learned a lot of fascinating cultural facts. Mainly that a bride is valued mostly for her tortilla making skills! You see here our DDIL trying her hand at it. Behind her is Ivan.

The meal was delicious and most the ingredients are actually found in the garden surrounding the home. The Hibiscus tea was wonderful!

After lunch one of the woman put on traditional dance clothes and shared their dances with us. She began with a traditional woman's dance which included a beer bottle balanced on her head, then had others join in. My DS and DDIL had a blast!

We finished with a tour of their home, a single room hut. They are actually quite well to do, as they have a concrete foundation and electricity in their hut. They even had a 10" TV and a sewing machine. And yes, they do sleep in the hammocks, which are tied up out of the way during the day.

They were a wonderful, gracious family, and we enjoyed our time with them. Looking at this picture you can see why we decided that our DDIL must be of Mayan descent! My DS, at 5'10", was a GIANT!

Upcoming: DD and DSIL's beach experience in Majahual.

Bon voyage! ~Marla

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown

Today was the day. The day all the grocery ads came out for the week before Thanksgiving. This is always a big day for me. It is the closest I come to extreme grocery shopping. The coupons are clipped and ready and my grocery list is made. I spent today planning...who has the best deal on turkey, butter, pumpkin, celery...and whatever else I need for the big day. I have my game plan ready and tomorrow I shop!

It seems a little funny until I think about how much money goes into this one meal. Every penny does count! To me this is much preferable to black Friday shopping...for one thing, I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn. Also, though the grocery stores are a little busier this time of year, I rarely have to stand in a long line for check-out. 

I am not sure at what point Thanksgiving overtook Christmas as my favorite holiday, but it has been for at least 10 years. Less stress, less decorating. More relaxed, more tradition. Not to mention there is no post holiday letdown.

A time to reflect and eat the same foods I did as a child. A time to be thankful that I am able to buy, cook, and host my family for this very traditional meal. So begins one of my favorite weeks of the year.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Maxine's Homemade Noodles

Last week we started a new family tradition. We had a noodle making day! A few of the women in our family got together for a day of floured fun and made noodles from a recipe that was my mother's. Of course my mom never actually wrote down a recipe...she learned from her mother and her grandmother Mary Ann. I actually wrote the recipe down the last time I made noodles with my mom. 

Making noodles with Grandma was something that both my daughter and my niece got a chance to do when they were younger. The memories in the kitchen last week were wonderful. Mom has been gone for 7 years now, but it seemed she was there with us as we clumsily tried to mimic her skills. Enjoy the recipe and the pictures...we had a great time! (A big thanks to my niece who isn't in these pics, because she was busy taking them!)

Maxine's Homemade Noodles

3 cups flour
3 eggs

Flour a large working surface very generously...a counter or table, covered with tea towels or pastry cloths, works fine. 

In a large mixing bowl scoop in the flour and form a well.

In a small mixing bowl add 3 eggs, reserving an egg shell. Using half an egg shell, measure in a half shell of milk for each egg used.

Whisk together eggs and milk and salt and pepper as desired...I am fairly generous with the salt and pepper as it will be mixed into the flour. Pour this mixture into the flour well.

Using a fork begin stirring egg mixture allowing flour to be slowly pulled in from the sides of the well.

As the dough thickens into a ball, use your hands to work the flour in until the dough is fairly stiff. Don't worry about any leftover flour in the it for later. Place on floured surface and roll with a well floured rolling pin.

Using rolling pins, roll dough until very thin. No points for presentation here! Just make sure it is very thin and very well floured. This is where that leftover flour comes in handy...sprinkle it on the dough as needed during rolling.

Roll well floured dough into a tube and let dry for at least 15 minutes.

 We took a lunch break while our dough dried. 

We made a lot of batches!

Time to cut the noodles! Cut them a little thinner than you want them...they will expand during cooking. You can cut them on a diagonal for shorter noodles, or straight for longer ones. 

As you cut them place in a bowl. Make sure you unwind the noodles and flour them well. All this flour is a great thickening agent when you are ready to cook them.

 We were saving ours for the holidays, so into plastic bags they went. They can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months. No need to thaw before cooking if frozen.

A 3 egg batch will serve 4-6 people. They can be cooked in broth, stock or water. Simply drop into boiling liquid slowly, stirring as you had the noodles. Cook until tender. Add leftover flour from bag to thicken. 

Bon appeit! ~Marla

Monday, November 7, 2011

And They Lived Contentedly Ever After

What? That isn't how the story goes? Well, maybe it should be. We live in a culture where happiness is the expectation. After all, as United States citizens it is one of our unalienable rights! OK, maybe not, but the pursuit of it is. The problem is, happiness is difficult to catch, and in all reality it probably should not be our priority.

In many studies wealth and happiness have been tied together here in the USA. Higher incomes equal more happiness. Yet we rank far below some poorer countries, such as Nigeria and Mexico, when comparing happiness among its citizens. Hmm...what does this say about our culture? We can conclude that wealth in itself does not directly influence happiness...but the perception of how important that wealth is, does. 

We are a society that tries valiantly to yoke material item and happiness together. Don't believe me? There are plenty of commercials on TV this time of year that lend evidence to this. Your loved ones will only experience happiness if you shower them with material goods. Family time is great! But gifts are better! No wonder lower income people feel less happy in our materialistic is a game they can't afford to play, let alone win.

Then we add to the mix a group of misdirected people who will tell you that God wants you to be, as a believer you can be expected to be blessed financially. If you are not? Well, maybe you just aren't living right...more unhappy thoughts.

Maybe we need to look a little deeper into God's word. I find references to contentment to be much more apparent. Additionally, the few references to happiness in the Bible do not refer at all to the gain of material wealth, but as happiness as the result of living a Godly life, irrespective of finances.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content
~Philippians 4:11

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
~Hebrews 13:5

And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
~1 Timothy 6:8

I believe contentment is what we should be striving for. Learning to find it in all of our circumstances. Comparison then becomes meaningless to our situation in life. Very likely if we master contentment, we will find that happiness follows closely behind.

Blessings ~Marla

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Second Guessing

Ever have one of those weeks that you seem to question yourself constantly? It has been one of those weeks for me. A situation arose this week and I have been second guessing my handling of it ever since. The nurse part of me says I handled it fine. The Christian side says I overstepped my place. 

What do you do when you see someone headed for a fall, but they don't want to see the chasm in front of them? In my case I think my passion for the situation overrode my sensitivity to the situation. I wanted to help...but I am pretty sure I instead pushed the person away. Were the words I spoke, though in love, still my own words...or were they Gods? I don't know the answer to that.

But as I sit here writing I am still amazed at the ability of God to guide and direct. This very moment I realized I have a resource for this problem. A Christian friend who's husband actually ministers to those with these very issues I was attempting to address. Someone who knows when to push, and when to step back. God answers prayers! Even in ways that are totally unexpected.

Thank You God for once again showing your confused child the Light.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Chili

Nothing welcomes in the fall like a big simmering pot of chili! I grew up without even knowing that you could purchase chili in a can; My mom's homemade chili was delicious and nothing could warm you up on a cold night quite like it. I still love homemade chili. I do not make it exactly like my mom's I am sure...after all, she never followed a recipe. And I have learned a way to cheat just a little without affecting the taste at all. I use a convenient package of spices instead of measuring them out myself. It saves me a little time measuring and replenishing my spices. But the end result is still a wonderful, flavorful, thick bowl of chili.


1 box Carroll Shelby's Chili Kit
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. flank steak, cubed
2 cans Chili Beans
2 cans diced tomatoes, chili style
1 can tomato sauce
1 medium white onion, diced
14 oz. water, use an empty can

In a large pot, brown meat and onion over low heat. If you use very lean beef, you will not need to drain it and it will retain more flavor.

 Open the Chili Kit and add the Chili seasoning, salt and cayenne packets to the browned beef. Use the cayenne according to how hot you want your chili. I use the entire packet for moderate heat. Stir well and add the  tomato sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes. Add chili beans, tomatoes, and about 2/3 of the can of water to beef. Simmer for 1/2 to 2 hours. The longer it simmers, the richer the taste.

 About 15 minutes before serving add the masa flour if a thicker chili is desired. To do this mix the remaining water and masa flour together to make a slurry. Add this to the chili and stir well. It will thicken the chili. 

You can add and subtract to this recipe depending on your tastes. Add bell pepper, remove the onion, more cayenne, no beans, etc. Serve with whatever chili fixings you like. Green onion, sour cream, cheese, and Frito's are my favorites!

Bon appetit ~Marla