Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pumpkin Crumb Coffee Cake

I love Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting, Pumpkin Roll, pretty much anything Pumpkin. When I came across this recipe in the latest All You magazine, I knew I would be trying it. We were having guests for a meal on Sunday and I needed a dessert. I followed the directions exactly and it turned out absolutely delicious. Monday morning came and I knew that there was a large piece wrapped in Saran Wrap sitting on my counter. I got the children off to school and had a little smile on my face as I made myself a cup of nice strong black tea and reached for the Pumpkin Coffee Cake. I looked around and realized that it was GONE! I knew who had done it! My six foot tall, high school senior had snagged it to take with him to school. After my initial selfish disappointment, I smiled even more. It made me happy that my son loved it enough to grab it on the way to school. I asked him about it later that night. He rolled his eyes with pleasure at how good it had tasted. I knew I had found a keeper of a recipe! Honestly, you need to try this! It's THAT GOOD! By they way, it tastes even better the day after you bake it. It's so moist!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1. Make topping: In a bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add butter and combine with fingertips until mixture is crumbly. Refrigerate while making batter.
2. Make cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch cake pan. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, applesauce, pumpkin, vanilla and both sugars until well mixed. Whisk in eggs. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined; do not overmix. Pour batter into cake pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with reserved topping.
3. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack at least 20 minutes.
Nutritional Information
Fat:13g (sat 4g)

The Sparrow at Starbucks

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square. Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it's enough to send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.
For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right. Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing.
It was a fun, low-pressure gig.I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the '40s to the '90s with a few original tunes thrown in. During our emotional rendition of the classic, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.
After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.
"No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?"
To my delight, she accepted my invitation.
"You choose," I said. "What are you in the mood to sing?"
"Well. ? do you know any hymns?"
Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."
"Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."
"Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"
My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one."
She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.
Why should I be discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion.
I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free.
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me. Holy moment!
When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, "Oh, y'all go back to your coffee! I didn't come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin' to drink, just like you!"
But the ovation continued. I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"
"Well, it's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.
"Why is that?"
"Well . ?" she hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song."
"Really!" I exclaimed.
"Yes," she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."
I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence.
"Are you going to be okay?"
She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine."
She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.
Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it.
God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting him and singing his songs, everything's gonna be okay.

Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today's Christian magazine (formerly Christian Reader).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Treasures

I love this time of year. I love the crisp air, the feel of the warm sun on your face. It's great to wear jeans and sweaters again too. Nothing like a hot cup of tea and some homemade soup in the crock pot. For 10 years I lived close to the Adirondack Mountains. You just can't beat the colors of fall there. I also miss warm homemade Cider Donuts made from freshly pressed cider and dredged in cinnamon-sugar. MMM! I found this sweet little muffin tin at my favorite thrift store. It was calling out to me to fill it with some Autumn inspired treasures. These are the shabby little treasures that almost jumped into the tin! It makes me smile.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Last night, I decided to be brave and go out again. I carefully avoided that particular storm drain and had a wonderful walk. It was 80 degrees with a nice strong breeze. I reminded myself that there may not be many more nights as perfect as this one! As I am finishing my walk, I look down to the street corner under the lamp and what do you know! There are TWO raccoons sitting on the corner! He has friends! Bold as you please, sitting there, waiting for ME to saunter past their "home". No thanks! You can have your corner and your little underground home. I will not be walking by you anytime in the near future! You still are very cute, but I will give you some space! So, what do you think? Am I brave or a big scaredy cat?LOL

Night Walking

This summer I have been enjoying walking around my neighborhood at dusk or shortly after dark. I find this clears my mind, gives me opportunity to pray for my friends and family and burns off some extra calories. I enjoy listening to the night sounds and seeing the cozy lights in my neighbor's windows as they are settling down for the night. I live in a very safe little town and I have no fear of walking. I grew up in NY so I still have my street smarts about me and I do carry my cell phone. Once in awhile, I will text my dear daughter a loving thought as she is beginning her night shift as a nurse in a big city hospital. I enjoy seeing the houses that might be FOR SALE, having a few friendly pups yip at me from their post on their porch,and pass a few other night walkers like myself. All was well, until one night last week when IT happened. I was just about to turn a corner and head for home when I see something out of the corner of my eye. Under a street lamp, I see a furry, ringed tail scuttle down into a storm drain. Growing up in the country, I say to myself,"Oh, a cute little masked fellow."I have always defended raccoons as being cute and cat-like with their little masked faces. I know they can be pests but I have always thought them endearing. No problem, I think to myself. But, I decide,well maybe, I will walk another block and not get too near him. The thought of rabies doesn't really set well with me. As I pass quietly by the storm drain, I get the feeling I am being watched. So I slowly turn around,and there he is! Mr. Masked-Man is in his little drain, but he is watching me VERY closely. I walk a little faster and keep looking over my shoulder. He continues to watch me with his little face sticking out of the drain and his chin resting on his little paws. "Well, he is cute. I will give hime that." I say to myself. I might have said it out loud, just to comfort myself. So I walk for another block and turn towards home. I look from a distance and can now see him clearly under the street lamp. He is sitting outside of his storm drain, looking down the street at me. I'm sure he is! I wish I knew what he is thinking!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Beatrix Potter~Enjoy with a cup of tea


Fall has definitely arrived in the Midwest! Crisp nights with temps down into the 50's and sunny days in the low 70's. It is my favorite time of year. I find it comforting to wear jeans again and cardigan sweaters. The only part I dislike about the season is knowing what season comes next!
I have a crabapple tree in my backyard. The woodpeckers have drilled it's bark and it's not the healthiest tree but it's beautiful for about a week or so in the spring with soft pink blossoms. But right now, it has dying leaves and little red apples that are very hard. I have made crabapple jelly before from these little apples and it is very good. I have included a recipe with elaborate directions for you to give it a try too. It tastes especially good on toast with a cup of hot tea! Enjoy!